When working with children with special needs, developing effective tasks and materials are crucial in the process of teaching and learning. Our children with autism often can process visual information very well, but their challenge lies in processing the relevant information needed. When required to complete tasks, autistic children may tend to over-focus and over-examine particular details, as observed in behaviours like stimming.
We can help our children to use their visual processing strength more efficiently and effectively through the 3 Vs: Visual Instruction, Visual Organization, and Visual Clarity.
1. Visual Instruction
Visual instruction is to visually represent a clear start and finish in tasks, instructing the child what and how to complete the task. One common way to provide clear visual instruction is to make use of blank boxes and lines.
The above is an example of a matching task; the student refers to the small coloured box above and takes the corresponding matching alphabet card to match and paste in the box. Visual instructions are implemented in the following ways:
- Visual instruction 1: Blank boxes and velcro dots on the sheet visually instruct the student to fill them up with something.
- Visual Instruction 2: At the top of each box is a small coloured box with a letter, indicating what needs to be filled in the blank boxes.
- Visual Instruction 3: Once all blank boxes are filled up, the task is completed.
Clear visual instructions show where to start the task, what to do during the task, and when it is finished.
2. Visual Organization
The second V is Visual Organization, which refers to showing how space is utilized and how materials are arranged.
Some common ways to provide Visual Organization are arranging your materials in a natural way such as from left to right, or from top to bottom, using a visual jig and marking out a designated space to complete the work, or using containers to separate the materials.
At TRS, handbells are incorporated in our classes, and Visual Organization is utilized in the following ways:
- Visual Organization 1: A mat (the visual jig) tells the student there is a designated space for using the bells (i.e., place the bells on the mat, and not anywhere else on the table).
- Visual Organization 2: The coloured circles indicate the exact position for each bell.
- Visual Organization 3: Finally, the bells are arranged from a left to right sequence, similar to the piano.
Visual Organization shows a natural sequence of materials and space.
3. Visual Clarity
The third and last V will be Visual Clarity, which is to present important information in salient and easy-to-process ways. Common methods to achieve this are highlighting information through labelling, underlining, bolding, boxing, using larger fonts, or colour coding.
The piano has many black and white keys, and you might have experienced your child hitting all the keys and not knowing how to tell your child where to start playing. At TRS, all students began at the piano with labeled keys, providing them with visual clarity, as shown in the photo below.
- Visual Clarity 1: Labelling tells the student which are the particular keys he/she is to focus on.
- Visual Clarity 2: The labeled portion of the piano becomes more visually salient and obvious to the learner, creating a highlighting effect of a particular portion on the piano.
Visual Clarity shows important information through differentiating from the rest.
Visual Instruction, Visual Organization, and Visual Clarity
In summary, knowing the three Vs better can help you choose more appropriate and effective materials to work with your child. These materials can be individualized to suit your child’s needs. You will soon realize that some small changes can deliver pretty great results. Have fun working with your child!