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    Arts & Crafts Special Needs

    Where to start with visuals

    When we first started adding visuals into our home I found the process was quite overwhelming and time consuming. I was rather resistant to starting the process and at first it didn’t seem like they were helping much, but I was very mistaken about that. Now that our weekly rhythm during term time is mostly the same I do not have to always use visuals with Ariella, she has memorised the day and I can use them during days that change, on weekends or if I want to communicate something to her while distressed. When she is particularly unwell or struggling it’s good to revert back to a form of communication which helps her understand and we benefit overall as a family despite the extra work initially.

    I think to start with it’s worth investing in a few pieces of equipment and if that’s not possible then borrowing at least a laminator would save you a lot of money in the long term. With all the resources at home to create your own visuals a large portion of the hard work is done and it is a little easier to be proactive on the fly to prepare yourself for some outing the next day. I have definitely sat in the late evening laminating resources that I should have prioritised weeks ago.

    Where do I start?

    If you think visuals might be able to benefit your child then I would recommend you start with gathering the following items:

    • A laminator – you can buy one of these from Amazon online and store it simply in your home. They do not take up a lot of space and can be quite reasonably priced. This is the laminator that I have chosen to purchase, the Text A4 from Amazon.co.uk.
    • Laminating pouches – whether you decide to purchase a laminator or borrow one these will be crucial and again it’s worth having a good stack stored. Just be sure to purchase ones that match the paper size of your laminator, I picked these H&S pouches from Amazon.co.uk
    • A printer – you don’t need one of these but unless you want to be wandering out to use a public printing service or happen to have resources already printed then it’s very convenient
    • Velcro both sides – you’ll need some method of sticking the visuals and my preference is Velcro. You can buy this online too just make sure your reels have both the fluffy and the scratchy sides together as you’ll need both.
    • Card – white card is preferable, to print onto but if you want to make coloured pieces that’s okay too.
    • Blutac – you’ll need something to stick them up on the wall with and I found this the most useful. It does seem to leave marks on the wall so if you prefer something else then use that but be mindful about where you want to store and utilise your visuals.
    • Scissors – you will need a good pair of scissors to cut out your laminated cards.
    • A hole punch – if you want to put your visuals on a little ring then you’ll need one of these to make holes. It’s a good thing to have anything as so many visuals benefit from having some kind of string based attachment for ease.

    Making visuals

    My journey of accepting visuals into our daily life started with a very kind hospital nurse who made a visual timeline for Ariella to use in hospital. It followed a very traumatic period and Ariella’s anxiety in hospital was rife. I was skeptical about the benefits of using visuals when she could understand verbally my requests but in times of anxiety having the visual instructions and understanding what to expect has greatly helped her overcome her fears.

    I would start with a website called Twinkl, used by many teachers and it’s a great resource for free visuals. I would start with downloading this free pack of visuals for home which you can print and then laminate.

    • I would start with downloading this free pack of visuals for home which you can print using your printer or borrowing a printer.
    • Once printed take your laminator and laminator the entire sheets using laminator pouches.
    • Cut around each card leaving a little edging.
    • Cut small sections of velcro and stick to the back side of cards.

    Using the visuals

    Next you need somewhere to use these newly created visual cards, you can make an easy visual timeline to adhere these too by following these steps:

    • Using a sheet of A4 card cut out long strips of card, preferably white or yellow. Use a colour that is non offensive to your child. Make sure they are wide enough to fit the visuals onto in a line left to right.
    • Place the long strips into a laminator pouch and laminate them
    • Cut around the laminated card strips leaving a small edge to keep them sealed in.
    • Using tape stick the pieces of laminated card strips together, you can make as long as required.
    • Take the other side of the velcro, opposite to whichever you have used to velcro the card and stick a long line of this in the middle of the laminated card strips.
    • You can now stick this up on the wall, either from left to right or you can use from top to bottom depending on how your child prefers to read a visual timeline.

    After some time you may find storing the visuals can be difficult, for a long time I had all the cards on little ring binder rings but we have recently improved to a much more sensible storage method. After attending a workshop with Lets Talk Visuals our visuals are now stored in a folder like below which was kindly made for us. It allows Ariella to find the visuals herself and Bing is a highly motivating interest of her’s at present.

    It is really beneficial to use motivating subjects with children who have additional needs or ASD, it engages their interest, lowers their anxiety and you are more likely to get a more positive response. I have found that Ariella immediately took to this new method of storing our visuals and I have now received some new toilet visuals which I aim to introduced this coming Summer. Our first attempt at toilet training didn’t quite work out as planned, so I look forward to showing you these soon!

    I also used to use a smaller timeline strip for carrying visuals out and about, using a typical now and next approach. To replace this Lets Talk Visuals has created a folding timeline which works much better for storage as you can see. Ariella has a wonderful memory so I wanted up to five tasks, but you could request just three or whatever you feel is appropriate. If I feel Ariella is struggling with transitions I can fold down 4 & 5 showing her just 1, 2 and 3. I modified it slightly and place velcro on the back to store my visuals for the day so I have everything I need. It’s also tailored to be highly motivating to Ariella with Bing characters. I would highly recommend you go check out Let’s Talk Visuals if you are finding the process of moving to visuals daunting.

    Now and next, expanded to five options due to A’s memory. Folding and portable for my bag, I’ve added velcro to the back so I can stick visuals for storage also.

    Now that you know how to make some basic visuals I’ll be expanding on this further in future blog posts, we use visuals in a variety of ways. Some of the current methods are for toilet training, teaching emotions and learning early years self regulation. If these are some topics that are you are interested in hearing more about check back soon or like me on Facebook for instant updates for future blog posts.