Want to make your life easier, improve communication with your children, and have a better chance of getting your parenting expectations met without a fuss? Then it is time to bring visual supports into your home, and I am going to explain 5 big reasons why!
Before I do, let me first explain what I mean by visual supports. Visual supports make expectations readable for children of all ages. An example of visual support would be a snapshot of what a clean room looks like, or anything that you want to create an expectation around.
1. Visual supports help teach expectations and reinforce positive behavior. According to the Center on the Social Emotional Foundations of Early Learning, supports like choice charts (see below for more info) show children what to do and how to do it, explain step-by-step procedural directions, and reroute negative behavior to clear and productive tasks (n.d.).
When breaking down complex activities into steps, parents can decide if a simple or more detailed visual will help children master the task. Use images that are clear, uncluttered representations. Have an adult try out the directions before using the visual with children.
2. Visual supports enable children to express their inner world (thoughts, feelings, beliefs, wants, needs). Helping children become aware of their inner world and how to communicate their thoughts and feelings will allow them to develop a confident and independent perspective of themselves. According to relationship therapist Charles Whitfield, M.D., children who learn to express themselves clearly are more likely to form healthy boundaries (1993, p.48-49).
It’s important to select visual supports that meet your child’s appropriate developmental level. Click here to receive this month’s gift: Identifying Your Child’s Visual Stage & Types of Visual Supports to Use in Your Home
3. Visual Supports help communicate routines & expectations. Creating clear and aesthetically appealing visuals can remind your child what to do, when, and how. When reinforced with verbal direction, visuals help children know exactly what is expected of them (e.g., washing hands independently, cleaning up toys).
4. Visual Supports enhance memory & learning. Visuals activate prior knowledge and create a powerful neural bridge to new knowledge due to how the human brain works. According to the Syntactic Theory of Visual Communication, children remember 80% of what they see and do, 20% of what they read, and 10% of what they hear (Lester, 2006).
Just as adults use calendars, grocery lists, and “to do” lists to enhance memory, children also benefit from visual reminders. Parents can use charts, signs, lists that children can view regularly to improve memory.
Visual supports like graphic organizers and Do-What Charts can help children visualize academic tasks. For more ways to use visual supports to enhance learning, see this article.
5. Visual Supports cultivate independence and self-efficacy. Visuals are static, meaning that they remain present after words are spoken. Children can refer to them once the spoken words are no longer present. Regular routines, when represented visually, can be taught to children at a very young age. Once taught, the adult can fade out of the routine and allow the child to self-monitor the routine to completion (Tips and Ideas for Making Visuals to Support Young Children with Challenging Behavior).
As your child completes tasks successfully, they will gradually take responsibility for their actions and feel more confident in their abilities.
According to renowned psychologist Albert Bandura, self-efficacy is “the belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to manage prospective situations” (1997). Self-efficacy is a person’s belief in his or her ability to succeed in a particular situation. Cultivating self-efficacy is a powerful way to help your child set goals, follow through and become an empowered communicator.
When deciding which types of visual support strategies to use, consider your child’s learning ability and age of development. According to the Center on Social Emotion Foundations for Early Learning, your child’s “visual stage” (or combination of) may be identified by specific criteria.
Click here to receive this month’s gift: Identifying Your Child’s Visual Stage: A breakdown of age-appropriate visual supports & Types of Visual Supports to Use in Your Home
5 Ways to Incorporate Visual Supports at Home. (n.d.) Retrieved April 01, 2021, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hhpnv1MkRiI
13 Reasons Why Your Brain Craves Infographics. (n.d.). Retrieved April 02, 2021, from https://neomam.com/interactive/13reasons/
Bandura A. Self-Efficacy in Changing Societies. Cambridge University Press; 1997.
Greene, R. W., Dr. (n.d.). Identifying Problems and Solutions Without Words. Retrieved April 04, 2021, from https://www.livesinthebalance.org/art-for-problems-and-solutions
How to Teach Your Child Self Regulation. (n.d.) Retrieved from April 1, 2021, from https://nurtureandthriveblog.com/how-to-teach-your-child-self-regulation/
Lester, P. M. (2006). Syntactic Theory of Visual Communication.
Semetko, H. & Scammell, M. (2012). The SAGE Handbook of Political Communication, SAGE Publications.
Tips and Ideas for Making Visuals to Support Young Children with Challenging Behavior. February 2010. Retrieved April 1, 2021, fromhttp://csefel.vanderbilt.edu/modules/module3b/handout2.pdf
Whitfield, C.L. (1993). Boundaries and Relationship
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