Children living with autism are visual thinkers. Bright Tots - Information on child development - Autism information.
Children with Autism are Visual Thinkers
Many children with autism are visual thinkers. The best way to help an autistic child manage change is to understand the way
they think, so you can offer ideas and situations to them in a way they will successfully understand. Children with autism may
be frequently aggravated by their inability to make themselves understood, they need coaching and guidance.

The average child with autism thinks in pictures. This thinking process is known as visual thought. Visual thought is when a
person thinks in illustrations, images or plays a movie, instead of actual words and ideas. Consequently, for most children with
autism, words are like a second language. Written and spoken words are translated into moving pictures with sounds in their
brain. It is through the impression of their visual thoughts that they can either identify with a situation and words, or not
comprehend. When giving instructions to a child with autism, one should avoid long sentences of verbal information. Supporting
oral commands with visual cues and symbols will help the child to better grasp the request.

Using Visual Aids

The most widely recommended method for teaching children with autism is to use visual aids. These children often exhibit
useful abilities in detailed thinking, rote memory, and visual learning. However, they have trouble in simple thinking, social
awareness, communication, and attention. When teaching general ideas and fictional thinking use specific examples, and vary the
examples so that the idea is not mistakenly learned as pertaining to only one approach.

Using visual supports allows the child to focus on the message. Visual aids and symbols range in difficulty from simple and
actual to hypothetical. The range shifts from real object or situation, to make-believe, color photograph, color picture, black and
white picture, line drawing, and finally to graphic symbol and written language. Using a line drawing to support learning when
the student needs color photographs in order to comprehend will only frustrate everyone.

Visual supports are very useful and can be used to:

• Organize the child’s daily activities, schedules, calendars, and choice boards with colored picture cut outs.

• Provide directions or instructions for the child through visual display of home, flash cards with directions for specific tasks and
activities, by drawing or a graph or chart with symbolic figures representing a certain number of people, places, foods, etc. with
written instructions for learning new information.

• Assist the child in understanding the association of their surroundings by labeling of objects around the home.

• Support appropriate behavior by posting rules and images to show daily routine.

• Teach social skills - illustrate social stories by describing a social situation with the social clues and appropriate responses,
developed for a specific situation for the individual child. The most effective plan for a story is a booklet with one or two
sentences on each page, and a single page including one situation.

• Teach self-control - drawings, which offer cues for behavior expectations.
Choose visual aids on the basis of understanding of the student and her or his abilities and response.

Children with Autism Need Extra Support

Children with autism may need longer to respond than typically developing children. This may be connected to cognitive and/or
motor difficulties. Children with autism may need to process each separate piece of the meaning or request, and consequently
need extra time to respond. Allowing for sufficient time between giving instructions and the child’s response are both important
approaches for supporting children with autism.

Parents may need to break difficult tasks down and outline it into small, teachable steps. For each step of a difficult task, the
child needs to have the basic skills. These sub-skills may need to be taught and strengthen in order. For example, when teaching
a self-help skill such as brushing teeth, the task may need to be broken down into sub-skills: getting the toothbrush and
toothpaste, turning on the water, wetting the toothbrush, unscrewing the lid of the toothpaste, putting the toothpaste on the
toothbrush, etc. Life skills, social skills, and academic skills can all be considered and approached as tasks and sub-tasks, with
each step taught and then linked to the next in a series sub-tasks.  

One of the benefits from using visual aids is that children can use them for as long as they need to process the information. Oral
information may cause difficulties for children who have trouble processing language, and who require extra time. In addition, it
may be difficult for the child with autism to focus on significant information and to block out background stimulation.
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Children Living with Autism are Visual Thinkers
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