“How to tie their shoes”
Individuals with autism are often described as “visual learners” or “visual thinkers.” In fact, Temple Grandin, a well-known speaker on, and an individual with, autism titled one of her better known books, *Thinking in Pictures*. Experience has shown this description to be accurate. The more an activity can be moved from verbal to visual, the more successful kids are.
There is a wide array of visual supports that can be used in to assist visual learners. Visual supports can broadly be divided into three categories based upon the need that the support is trying to fill — pictures, symbols, or printed words.
I’ve had great success using my One Two Tie My Shoe kit to teach children with autism how to tie their shoes. The kit includes visual supports (simple diagrams and instructions), but I’ve found that children can learn with just the diagrams alone. And the kits also include “special rings” that help children make and hold the “bunny ears”, often the most difficult part of learning to tie shoes.
Of course, in addition to activities like shoe tying, there are many aspects of a child’s environment that can benefit from visual supports. This doesn’t mean that all of the verbal elements of the child’s environment should be replaced with visual. The goal is to have kids make a wide variety of responses to an equally wide variety of stimuli. So, try to use visuals to support kids who may have trouble, either expressively or receptively, with spoken language. The hope would be that these visual supports could be reduced to more typical levels over time, as the child becomes more successful in his environment, though some individuals may need such support for longer than others.