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Research Brief #1: Visual Supports

by Holly Whittenburg, Whitney Ham, & Jennifer McDonough

Available formats:    PDF   |    Word


What are Visual Supports?

Have you ever put a sticky note on the bathroom mirror to remind yourself to take medicine? Written a grocery store list to remember to buy the items needed for that Thanksgiving pumpkin pie? Placed a backpack right by the front door so that you do not forget it during the early morning rush to get ready? If you have done any of these things, then you have used a visual support. Visual supports are permanent, visual reminders of what to do or what to say during specific tasks or situations. In other words, they are -- “tools that enable a learner to independently trace events and activities” (Odom, Collet-Klingenberg, Rogers, & Hatton, 2010, p. 279). Visual supports can take many forms, including: scripts, cue cards, schedules, task lists, physically structured areas, organization systems, and graphic organizers. They can be composed of picture icons, photographs, words, or other kinds of visual markings. For individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), visual supports can help increase work independence and accuracy. Visual supports help make tasks and routines more predictable by focusing on the strengths in visual processing and visual memory that many individuals with ASD possess. (Download PDF or Word Document above for the full article.)