The use of visual aids to help our students with Autism succeed at school is often a common practice for many special educators. Visuals are extremely useful when our students are at home, too. I was reminded of this while recently visiting a friend’s house who has a high-functioning student with Autism. For the purposes of privacy, I’ll call him Bobby.
Bobby is a very bright 6th grader who does well at school. He is capable of carrying on a conversation about his preferred topics. He gets along well with his three siblings. Sometimes his parents “forget” that Bobby may need support to do every day tasks. On this particular day, the whole family was to do chores around the house to get the house ready to have guests over. Everyone was to pitch in until the work was done. For Bobby, this was daunting! Every time he was given a new task, he would ask, “is this my last chore?” to which his parents replied, “probably not.” This caused Bobby’s anxiety to increase and his questioning and frustration to increase, which then led to his parents becoming equally frustrated with Bobby. Bobby needed to know the answers to the basic questions: 1) what work, 2) how much work, 3) how will I know I’m finished, and 4) what do I do next. A very simple way to do this for Bobby would have been to make a list. If he had been assigned 3 chores (or whatever was needed) that were written on a piece of paper/dry erase board/etc. along with a quick verbal description of the task, he would have been able to complete his chores without any difficulties. For example, his list may have included: 1) put the clean dishes away, 2) pick up toys in the basement, 3) vacuum the carpet in the basement. This, along with quick synopsis of what the task required (ie: put all of the toys in the toybox), would have really been helpful.
For students who are not readers, using pictures, symbols, or objects to indicate chores or activities is a great idea. The student can move the picture to a “finished” area when it’s completed and see what is next.
For specific ideas and/or visual aids, please feel free to contact your school’s WAT representative.