Many individuals with autism are spending some if not all of their time in an inclusive classroom. This, in my opinion, is where the best learning can happen and exactly where individuals with autism need to be educated. To make participation in the inclusive classroom successful, however, some accommodations may need to be made. Some of these accommodations could come int he form of visual supports.
Individuals with autism in the general education classroom may not initially understand the schedule within the classroom, so providing a schedule of activities which is presented using their current symbol level may help with understanding expectations and transitions. Aside from using a full-day schedule, shorter sub-schedules may also be helpful. There are times during the day when expectations may be unclear so using a schedule to clearly define what is to happen can be helpful. For instance, during a science activity the expectation might be to plant a seed, draw a picture of the newly planted seed, and write a description of the seed. This instruction, if given orally or simply written on the board, may not be clear enough for the individual. In this case, the instructions can be written out (or in some other way depicted) to make the expectations clear for the individual. The individuals should then be taught to use the schedule as independently as possible.
Visual supports can be used in the inclusive classroom to teach and prompt social communication. If the student needs reminders about how to ask his peers for things, a visual can be placed on his desk and used as a prompt when needed. A common goal during snack time is social conversation, but knowing what to talk about can be difficult for some kids. Creating a social conversation game as a visual support to give them ideas of things to say to their friends can be very effective.
If the student is working on decreasing their disruptive behaviors in the classroom, calling out for instance, a visual support detailing the expectations and available reinforcement can be a great strategy. The visual component of the behavioral management system should always be tied to a reinforcer. In this example, if the visual shows the student to raise their hand instead of calling out, the student should be reinforced frequently for raising their hand. Many times, using a self-management system in the inclusive classroom can be a highly effective strategy.
The key with all of these visual supports is pre-TEACHING. Individuals with autism are not going to automatically know how to respond to the visual support without some effective teaching and reinforcement. It may seem silly that I’m mentioning this, but sometimes it is assumed that just providing visual supports is enough. It’s definitely not enough. Visual supports are just that supports which assist us in teaching skills and helping individuals generalize those skills.
Share your tips for using visual supports in inclusive classrooms with the rest of the community!!