How visual aids can be used in your setting to aid communication
Visual aids can support many areas of a child’s language and communication development. Listening and attention can be enhanced through these aids, enabling a child to keep their concentration and focus on something visual whilst listening to instructions. Understanding skills are also enhanced, allowing children the time they need to process what they are being asked to do. It is important that visual aids are not used to replace language, but used alongside it to aid communication. .
Children with additional needs can use visual aids to communicate their needs and feelings with practitioners. It is a good idea to make visual cards accessible to the children so they are able to access them at all times of the day.
Visual aids come in many forms to support communication and language
Communication can be in the form of picture cards. Cards may include photos or clip art images of different parts of a child’s routine or objects they may use. These can be used to communicate their needs if they do not have the adequate language skills or help a child to associate a word with an image or action. Picture cards can support children in understanding their routine, allowing them to see what is going to happen next. These cards can be laminated and presented on a keyring or attached to a routine board with velcro, allowing easy access and use for all children.
Puppets are a great way for children to interact with others and support their understanding. Puppets can increase children’s communication and social skills by providing structured opportunities to interact with the puppets. Children can also practice these skills by using puppets to interact with other children. They allow children to develop empathy skills and think about the effects of different situations. Circle times or group story time are great opportunities to use puppets.
Objects of reference
When developing language and understanding skills, children respond well to using actual items as a visual aid. It is a good idea to create an object of reference bag for the children to access. The bag can include items that are used often such as a juice cup, a nappy and a bowl. The adult should use the bag when giving information, for example “it is time to change your nappy.” The adult should then show an object to correspond with what they have said. This enables the child to gain a better understanding of what is being said.
Photo albums are a great way to aid communication and understanding with children. Each child can have their own album containing photos of family, friends or their favourite things to do. This gives children the opportunity to talk about their likes, dislikes, thoughts and past experiences. Some children may not display any language whilst using the photo album, however sharing the album with another person will support their non-verbal communication skills.
Sand timers are a beneficial visual aid for young children. It teaches children about waiting, enhancing their attention skills. Sand timers can be used in a variety of ways and enable children to visually observe the time they have left to complete an action such as tidying up or waiting for a toy. Sand timers should be accessible for children to use in play and support them in managing their own routine.
Makaton is a language programme using hand signs and facial expressions in order to communicate. This visual aid was created in order to aid the understanding of language for children who are unable to communicate through speech. With Makaton, children and adults can communicate straight away using signs and symbols. Many people then drop the signs or symbols naturally at their own pace, as they develop speech. There are many training courses available to teach practitioners how to use Makaton.