Visual Support Strategies


Visual Support strategies refer to the presentation of information in a visually structured manner.  These teaching strategies are effective in helping students with autism to understand what is expected of them and how to function appropriately. They support the student's strongest processing area - visual.


Visual cues help the learner to focus on the relevant and key information. Visual support strategies help students with autism to learn better and more effectively. These strategies also minimize stress and anxiety by helping students comprehend their environment. Some examples of visual supports or visual communication tools are:


  • real objects;


  • miniature objects;


  • photographs;


  • line drawings;


  • picture symbols;


  • choice boards;


  • activity schedules;


  • daily schedules.


There is a hierarchy of complexity in visual supports. The easiest to understand and use are real objects, followed by miniatures of real objects, photographs of the real objects, line drawings, symbols and finally the written word.




Intensive Interaction

Intensive interaction is an approach to teaching the pre-speech fundamentals of communication to children and adults who have severe learning difficulties and/or autism and who are still at an early stage of communication development.


The fundamentals of communication can be characterised as things like:


  • Learning to give brief attention to another person;


  • To share attention with another person;


  • Learning to extend those attentions, learning to concentrate on another person;


  • Developing shared attention into 'activities';


  • Taking turns in exchanges of behaviour;


  • Using and understanding eye contacts;


  • Using and understanding facial expressions;


  • Using and understanding non-verbal communication such as gesture and body language;


  • Learning use and understanding of physical contacts;

  • Learning use and understanding of vocalisations, having your vocalisations become more varied and extensive, then gradually more precise and meaningful.





P.E.C.S.: Picture Communication Exchange System



The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is an augmentative communication system developed to help individuals quickly acquire a functional means of communication (Bondy and Frost, 1994).Typically there are six phases to be taught.


Phase I Teaches students to initiate communication right from the start by exchanging a single picture for a highly desired item. Phase II Teaches students to be persistent communicators- to actively seek out their pictures and to travel to someone to make a request. Phase III Teaches students to discriminate pictures and to select the picture that represents the item they want. Phase IV Teaches students to use sentence structure to make a request in the form of “I want _____.” Phase V Teaches students to respond to the question “What do you want?” Phase VI Teaches students to comment about things in their environment both spontaneously and in response to a question.


Expanding Vocabulary Teaches students to use attributes such as colors, shapes and sizes within their requests.
















Makaton is a system of communication that uses a vocabulary of "key word" manual signs and gestures to support speech, as well as graphic symbols to support the written word. It is designed to help people with learning disability to communicate.  Communication using Makaton involves speaking while concurrently signing key words.  Makaton uses speech and gesture, facial expression, eye contact and body language.  Makaton is based on a selected list of everyday words, such as Daddy, Door, Fall and In.   






Makaton uses speech together with a sign (gesture) and/ or a symbol (picture) for example: ​

Makaton users are first encouraged to communicate using signs, then gradually, as a link is made between the word and the sign, the signs are dropped and speech takes over.


Augmentative and Alternative Communication


Augmentative and alternative communication, or AAC, is a term that is used to describe various methods of communication that can help students who are unable to use verbal speech to communicate. AAC methods vary and are personalised to meet each individual's need.

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