Using Visual Strategies to Improve Behavior
Using Visual Strategies To Improve Behavior
Children with special needs sometimes have difficulty remembering what is expected of them or deciphering cues from their social and physical environment. Frustration and confusion can interfere with children’s learning and participation in daily activities, as well as contribute to challenging behavior. Visual strategies can help parents overcome these difficulties.
Visual strategies provide more permanent, concrete information than verbal instruction. They help clarify expectations (e.g., what, when, where, who, how long), as well as promote choice-making (i.e., clarifying what items or activities available) and communication. They also support task completion, sometimes providing examples of final work products, and maximize independence in general.
Visual strategies often incorporate a variety of items to make circumstances more understandable for children. The items used may include objects, pictures, and symbols. If children can read, they can rely on written words, phrases, lists, or brief explanations. Below are examples of common visual strategies and tips on how they may be used.
Organization refers to arranging objects or the layout of a room or area. It also involves removing items that may be distracting or otherwise problematic. For example, you might place all needed hygiene or cleaning products where they are needed, as well as remove toys and other items that are unrelated to the activity. You might set up bins for particular items, labeled with pictures of what should go in them. And finally, you might establish physical boundaries (e.g., by putting tape across a threshold you do not want your child to pass. Simply organizing space effectively and making sure the right items are present can improve behavior considerably. As an example, notice how this ‘mud room’ is organized and labeled so that children know exactly where items should go.
Oftentimes, children are passive or misbehave because they do not know exactly what they should or should not be doing. Establishing expectations means clearly laying out what behavior is appropriate. This might mean posting household rules, with pictures to illustrate them as needed. The rules can be simple and straightforward such as “Use your words” or “Pick up after yourself” or more detailed such as written social stories that outline exactly what to expect in a situation. Expectations can also be tied to rewards (e.g., behavior charts that have items or activities that may be earned for rule-following).
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