Visuals in Special Education Classrooms

Visuals are a great prompt for any kid, but very few kids with multiple and severe disabilities can get through a day without visuals. Visuals can remind kids of appropriate behaviors, daily routines like hand washing and the schedule, of personal space and so much more. I have five favorite visuals that I will always have as part of my classroom.

1. Transition objects
A transition object is an object or picture symbol that a student carries with them during a transition (for example: from the classroom to the bathroom). Transition objects for kids with disabilities (especially Autism) can be very helpful at reducing problem behaviors due to the student not knowing where they are going or what to expect. I use transition objects in a variety of ways. For one student, we have a pull-up and bathroom picture symbol by the door. The student removes the pull-up from the board and carries it to the bathroom with him when it is time to transition from the classroom to the bathroom.

2. Duct Tape Lines and Boundaries
My students struggle with boundaries and space. When lining up, students stand on a line of duct tape. This visual is great because it shows them the exact space they should be in.

3. Schedules
Everyone in sped. knows that schedules are crucial if you don't want pure chaos and tantrums. I have a picture symbol schedule posted for all students to see and use. A few students also have individual schedules that are set up on First/Then boards. 

Note: You can also use a picture (photos) or object schedules!

4. Communication Visuals
I have a few kiddos are reluctant to talk without verbal prompting. In my eyes, when a student is requesting help, a verbal prompt from a teacher is much more intrusive than a visual prompt. One of my students NEVER asks for help to open food/drink items during snack time... We are constantly asking him, "What do you need?" to prompt him to ask for help, which gets incredibly tiring and frustrating. Now he has a "help button" that is simply a picture symbol that says, "help" to remind him to use his words when he needs help.

5. Technology Center Visuals
Our students LOVE LOVE LOVE technology. They get so excited when the iPads are out that they can't contain themselves. We have two visuals in our technology center that help to manage the chaos... First, we have pieces of tape down the table to separate students' space. Each student knows that they have to keep their iPad in their square, and that they aren't allowed to touch an iPad that isn't in their square. We also have "wait" and "my turn" cards. Students who have the iPad get a "my turn" card to keep in their square on the table, while the other students' pictures are posted under a "wait" picture symbol on the board at the technology center.

Do you use any visuals in your classroom that are completely crucial to your classroom? I'd love to hear about them because I'm always looking for ways to make our day go smoother!