What are visual supports?

Communication is the exchange of messages between at least two people i.e. sending and receiving messages so that we can understand each other. Visual supports are a communication tool that can be used to support communication and benefit an individual with autism in many different ways such as:

  • Assist with planning and organisation thereby supporting executive function impairments.
  • Provide structure and reduce stress and anxiety around transitions
  • Enhance comprehension, processing and support deficits in the working memory
  • Enhance communication skills
  • Increase independence
  • Teach new routines, rules and procedures
  • Offer choice and encourage decision making
  • Teach social skills and emotional development
  • Promote positive behaviour and teach students to manage their own behaviours

Why are they important?

Visual supports provide information that is clear, to the point and stable - it can be looked at many times and checked before and during the activities they support. Visual Supports can provide an individual with an effective method for communicating needs, wants, information, feelings and ideas. Visual Supports can form the foundation of communication skills that may allow verbal communication at a later point but most importantly can be of great help during this transitional time.

Examples of Visual Supports

  • Choice Boards
  • Emotion Thermometer
  • First-Then sequences
  • Labels
  • Visual Schedule (Morning, Day, Night)
  • Turn Taking Wheel
  • Timetables
  • Social Stories
  • Play Sequences
  • Checklist
  • Calendars
  • Shopping Lists
  • PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System)

To sum it up, visual supports are an evidence-based practice. They can be used effectively to help support social interaction, communication, behaviour, play, school - readiness, academic, motor and adaptive skills.

If you have some specific queries about using visual supports or need help in setting these tools up please contact us at admin@hanrahanhealth.com.au or on (02) 4862 5063 to book an appointment with a certified practising Speech Pathologist.


Wong, C., Odom, S., Hume, L., Cox, K., Fettig, A., Kucharczyk, A., Brock, W., Plavnick, A., Fleury, S., & Schultz, M. (2015). Evidence-Based Practices for Children, Youth, and Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Comprehensive Review. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 45(7), 1951–1966. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-014-2351-z

Bhargava, D. (2010). Getting Started !!! Using Visual Systems to Promote Communication Accessed on the 21/12/20 from: http://carsonst.wa.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/gettingstarted-visualsystems.pdf