Visuals That Should be Available at School

Visual supports are an essential tool for school staff use to help students when at school. Visuals can also be a pain and time-consuming to make. A valuable tip is to have some basic go-to visuals ready (pre-made) for when you need them. But what are those basic visuals? Here are the basic visuals that should be available at every school.

Visuals that should be available.

Visual Schedule

An example of a schedule.
An example of a schedule for a speech session

Visuals schedules help students organize their day or part of their day. They provide structure and take the guesswork out of their day. While schedules are usually in most classrooms, they are particularly crucial for children with language disorders or cognitive delays. Visual schedules are essential if a student has a different schedule from the rest of the class or for kids who struggle with change.



First/Then Boards

First/then board with two preferred activities.
An example of a firstthen board with two preferred activities

Now I don’t prescribe to the idea that First-Then Boards have to be something a child doesn’t like and then a reward. We tend to bribe students, especially students needing supports, way too much.  We need to change how school is organized so that school meets the needs of all students. Back to visuals, I tend to use them to break down schedules or activities into smaller units. First-Then boards can help children focus on the task at hand by giving them an idea about what is going to happen next.


Choice Boards

Choice board with four options to choose
A choice board for picking four different songs

They do exactly what it says in the title; they help children make choices. They can help with making choices for the order of activities during therapy. They are most frequently used to help children with what toys to play with or centres the kids can go to. They can also be used to help children pick regulation tools.



Visual Strips to Help with Routines

An example of two routine visuals. One the pictures are removable. The second the pictures are fixed.
An example of two routine visuals

These visuals help learn routines, learn the sequence of the routines, or help remind a child of all the steps in a routine. Think washing hands after going to the bathroom. These visuals help students to do a task more independently. Visuals work really well for getting dressed, washing hands, and going to the bathroom.



Break Cards

Picture of three different sizes of break cards
An example of break cards

These are for students who are learning or have learned when they need a regulation break. These cards help students self-advocate and not ask to go to the bathroom whenever they need a break from class. These are definitely not magic bullets and tend to take a while for students to learn to use appropriately.


Wait Cards

An example of a wait card with three traffic lights for "not yet," "soon," and "Now"
An example of a wait card

Shocking (not really), but children have trouble with waiting. Using wait cards can help students know that an activity isn’t going to immediately happen. I like to use the “not now, soon, and go” to include on the wait card. This provides even more info about when the activity will happen.



Feelings Cards

An example of a feelings visuals including the feelings mad, angry, sick, happy, excited, and worried.
An example of a feelings visual

This can be contentious. These cards help children identify how they and others are feeling. It is important to model how you and others are feeling. Make sure that you use a variety of emotions, including ones that people often classify as positive (e.g., happy) and negative (e.g., mad). I also tend to include states of being pictures (e.g., tired and sick). Remember, we are not happy all the time, and we shouldn’t expect our students to be happy all the time.

It is also important to note that neurodiverse children can process emotions differently. They may not feel emotions the same way as neurotypical children. For example, when nervous, they may not feel a tightening of the stomach or their stomach may not “tighten.” Emotions are complicated and teaching about emotions is just as complicated.


Using more standardized visuals for the ones described above can really help reduce prep time and increase the speed at which students have access to these tools. Now, these are not all the types of visuals you might need, but they are visuals that should be in every school. Also, depending on the student, you may need to personalize these visuals.

If you are interested in learning more about visuals, click on the photoPicture of a visual manual.. If you have any questions about visuals, you can check out other blog posts in this series (go here) or contact me, and I’d be happy to chat.

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