Before we get to the supplies necessary to create autism visual supports, let’s talk about why you MUST use visuals. Using visual supports for students with autism isn’t just a recommendation. It’s best practice and downright necessary for a smooth and successful classroom! Autism visuals can honestly make or break your classroom or therapy room. Examples of visuals are schedules, task lists, communication, to do lists, behavior management, social stories, rules and on and on.
Visuals aren’t just for students who are non-verbal. This myth drives me bananas. Everyone uses visuals throughout their day. Children and adults alike rely on visual information in all areas of their life. Do you put appointments in your phone? Do you make to-do lists? These are visual supports! Even something that is simple text is visual. Anything that doesn’t rely on auditory processing of your speech is a visual support.
Students with autism are naturally more likely to understand and retain information presented in a visual manner. Visual processing is often a strength! Most of the visuals I create pair pictures and words but that is not the only type of visual you can use. For example, let’s pretend your student is laying on the ground refusing to transition to the next task. Here are 5 ways to tell him to stand up:
- Say “stand up”
- Sign “stand up”
- Write “stand up” on a piece of paper
- Show him a picture of “walk” or “stand up”
- Give him an object representing the next task
If you use the verbal command to “stand up” it is gone and over with as soon as it leaves your mouth. If your student doesn’t stand up, you have to repeat yourself over and over and your student will quickly tune you out. Using basic sign is better because it is visual but still short lived. However, if you present a visual to your student like an object or picture, it stays on the floor next to him or in front of his face until he does it. It’s a constant reminder what he should be doing!
Now that you know you need visuals to support students with autism in your classroom, you’ll need to collect the ‘stuff.’ I love creating visuals and like most educators, I love the supplies. There’s nothing better than warm laminate and fresh Velcro. Okay sure, scissors and packing tape may not provide the same punch as color coordinated totes and room decor but my supplies make me happy!
- Laminating pouches – both 9×11.5 and 12×18 (file folder size if you purchase a larger laminator)
- Scissors – 2 pairs!
- Adhesive Velcro tape – 3/4 inch
- Adhesive Velcro dots – 3/4 inch
- Paper cutter
- Goo Gone
- File folders
- Glue stick
- Three hole punch
- Single hole punch – I like this smaller hole (1/8 inch) when I’m using binder rings. It seems to rip less often.
- Binder rings
- Packing Tape
- Page protectors
Most of the list is self-explanatory but I’d like to note a few things. I have a GBC HeatSeal QuickStart laminator (now called the Swingline GBC Thermal Laminator) because I wanted to ability to laminate file folder and 11×17 sized activities. I know plenty of teachers and therapists like the Scotch Thermal Laminator that I linked to above and that should serve your purpose just fine. You can even get a file folder through that one with a little creativity and care.
I also always have 2 pairs of scissors on my desk. One for sticky things (adhesive Velcro)…one for non-sticky things (everything else) and they are labeled as such. There is nothing worse than trying to cut paper with scissors full of gooey adhesive because you recently cut Velcro with them. Which brings me to why you need some Goo Gone. It’s the most efficient and effective way I’ve found to remove adhesive. I’ve tried hand sanitizer and WD-40 based on others’ suggestions but neither are as effective in my opinion.
At school, we only have Velcro tape but at home I spring for Velcro dots. While creating visuals is fun for me, cutting 1000 1 inch pieces of Velcro is not. In fact, it’s usually the first task I pass to my sweet husband when he offers to help. I use the tape when I need a longer strip and the coins for individual pieces.
So that’s what you need. Next up, time to create!