Number strips are among my favorite visuals for kids with autism. Hands down, I find them to be the most helpful and easy to use. One of my favorite things about them is there are no loose parts. You don’t need check marks or smiley faces that are easy to lose. It’s an all-in-one support that can be used in all aspects of your school day.
We know that using visual aids is usually more effective than verbal instructions particularly for people on the autism spectrum. For non-preferred activities, students may feel like the task will go on forever and refuse to participate. Number strips allow students to see there is an end in sight and you can stop saying “almost done” “keep going” “three more” over and over and over. Despite our best efforts, we all get tuned out eventually. Let your visual supports do the talking!
For preferred activities, they can help you set limits. No one wants to be the bad guy and this simple visual lets you off the hook!
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- Old file folder (or new but you only need the spine so it doesn’t matter if it’s a little ratty or the tab is labeled)
- Scissors and glue
- Laminator and laminate
- Adhesive Velcro – hard and soft
- Number printout (free download) or sharpie
- Cut the spine off the file folder – you want about 3 inches on each side of the fold
- Glue the number printout just under the fold (or write the numbers with a permanent marker)
- Run a strip of hard Velcro along the top of the upper flap
- Run a strip of soft Velcro along the bottom of the lower flap
- Make sure when you close the mini folder, the Velcro lines up
- Cut strips in the upper flap that align with the lines between the numbers on the lower flap. You should have 10 flaps when you’re done
- You can cut off the remaining file folder on the right side or you can attach another piece of Velcro to place a picture card of what happens when the student finishes the task (stop sign, break card, snack, reinforcer, schedule card etc)
- Rejoice in the ultimate autism visual aid you just created!
- Determine the number of trials you want your student to perform.
- Open the flaps so that number is showing.
- Simply point to the number strip or use a simple verbal prompt such as “5 more, then break” or “3 turns, then all done.”
- As students perform each trial, lower the flap to cover the number.
- If students are able, they can close the flap – this provides some ownership of the task.
- Once all flaps are closed, you can provide verbal praise and/or point to the card for what is next.
- If you have Velcro walls or boards, attach a piece of Velcro to the back of the number strip for easy storage. Having it up on the wall will make it easy for you to grab and use.
- If you have a student who is rough on materials, you can use clear packing tape to reinforce the flaps after you’ve laminated them. This will help prevent them from ripping off.
- You can use the numbers to indicate an amount of time rather than individual trials. You can require “x minutes” of something and use the number strip as a visual representation of time.
More awesome visual aids:
My Special Education Visual Aids Starter Pack includes 23 more visual aids to support your students in any part of their day!