Unit V: T-L Aids for Social Communication & Environmental Support

1. Visual aids: Picture cards, emotion & cartoon strips, maps, charts, schedules, CDs, 3D, 2D models, Visual schedules - Level of visual representation - Arrangement of visual representation - Mini schedules & task organizers

2. Auditory aids: tapes, musical instruments

3. Electronic aids

4. Teaching aids - mini books & notebook, Social stories

5. Communication boards & Choice boards, other AACs


1. Visual aids: Picture cards, emotion & cartoon strips, maps, charts, schedules, CDs, 3D, 2D models, Visual schedules - Level of visual representation - Arrangement of visual representation - Mini schedules & task organizers

Visual aids are an important tool because different people respond to different learning modalities. Visual aids also add interest to a discussion. In order to effectively use visual aids, one must learn from experience what will and won't work for an audience or group of students. Visual aids can take many forms and be presented in many formats. They may be used in different settings, from classrooms to board rooms, and anywhere that information is relayed to audiences on a regular basis.

Definition: A visual aid is an object or representation that may be used to clarify or enhance understanding of a concept or process. The best way to ensure success in learning is to present information in different formats for different learners.

In the earlier days, the commonly used visual aids in public speaking were overhead projectors, posters, and flip charts etc. but of lately most of them have been replaced with recent technologies. People generally think that “visual aids” for speeches or presentations simply means a PowerPoint Presentation but we must understand that it is just a type of visual aid. There are many other options available to make your presentation more appropriate and effective.

What is purpose behind using the visual aids?

Before knowing the types of visual aids that you can use in public speaking, we should first see why do we even need them? 

1.     Engaging the audience and holding their attention is the first and the foremost purpose of using visual aids.

2.     Most people retain what they see more than retaining what they hear.

3.     They help in summarising the information.

4.     Making things easier to understand.

5.     Using visual aids make your presentation more impactful.

1. PowerPoint

Microsoft PowerPoint is probably the most commonly used visual aid for presentations as one can easily create attractive and professional presentations with it. The advantage of being able to insert a wide range of videos, audios animations and other things into the slides helps in catching the audience’s attention better.

2. Whiteboards

Whiteboards work great when you have to give further explanations like explaining difficult words, explaining the order of a process, creating diagrams etc. They are generally used for writing headings, important information to be displayed for the entire duration, and to note the suggestions given by the audience.

3. Video clips

You can engage your audience really well by using an appropriate audio or video. This also adds variety to your presentation.

4. Charts and graphs

A variety of charts and graphs are available to assist you in various purposes like pie charts, line graphs, bar charts, flow charts and organisational charts. Choose the most suitable one to convey your points.

5. Handouts

The key information from your presentation or further information of your presentation may be given in printed form on sheet of papers. These are called handouts. They are generally used when your topic is too complex to understand just by speaking.

6.     Flip chart

In public speaking, flip charts are a low cost solution to record and convey information while you present. They are very low in technology. They prove to be beneficial when you have a small audience. They are often used for brainstorming sessions to collect the ideas easily and also to summarize the information given.

7. Props

A prop can be either an object or a model. An object is the actual item you are talking about whereas a model is a representation of the item you are talking about. Whichever prop you use, the purpose is to clarify the message and maximize understanding. They can make a dull topic really interesting.

8. Overheads

An overhead projector is an extremely popular device for using as a visual aid. They can be used to show how a machine works, how a building  has been built, to show some step by step procedures or processes.

9. Models

10. Maps

1.     Maps show geographic areas that are of interest to the speech. They often are used as aids when speaking of differences between geographical areas or showing the location of something.

2.     Pros: when maps are simple and clear, they can be used to effectively make points about certain areas. For example, a map showing the building site for a new hospital could show its close location to key neighbourhoods, or a map could show the differences in distribution of AIDS victims in North American and African countries.

3.     Cons: inclusion of too much detail on a map can cause the audience to lose focus on the key point being made. Also, if the map is disproportional or unrealistic, it may prove ineffective for the point being made.


What is Visual Scheduling?

Visual scheduling is a systematic technique that enhances learning and communication for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These types of visual support systems provide teachers and parents with the tools needed to help children reach development goals and achieve success in life.

What is a Visual Schedule?

A visual schedule is a graphic representation of scheduled tasks and activities. They are very useful for breaking down tasks that have multiple steps and ensuring that children follow rules and deadlines. Visual schedules reduce anxiety by providing consistency while also reducing resistance that comes with certain activities. Although most people associate visual schedules with pictures or photographs, events can be triggered through toys, objects and even word phrases. The visual schedule itself is a constant reminder to students where they should be, what they should be doing and when she should start and finish.

Implementing a Visual Schedule

There are some important considerations when implementing visual schedules:

• To be effective, teachers and parents should first ensure that the child understands the concept of sequenced activities. Visual schedules are often taught through pictures, photos, and role play. 

• The schedule needs to be manageable. When students are overwhelmed by the sequence of events they may give up. You want to teach them how to be successful and independent not overly frustrated. When you see a child struggling, you can break the schedule up into chunks to make it easier to follow. 

• Most educators prefer to mix preferred activities with non-preferred ones. This helps to motivate children to persevere through non-preferred activities. For example, a good primary intervention is a first-then board, in which students are taught that they will be able to do an activity they enjoy if they first perform a behavior that they don’t like as much.

• Personalize the schedule. The more the child can relate to the visual cues the more likely that they will understand them. For example, including photos of the individual student successfully completing the steps of the process will facilitate learning and improve self-efficacy. 

• Physical reminders are usually posted on walls, but they can also be portable through a binder or clipboard. Regardless of the locations, the child should be able to see the reminders to stay on track during the day. 

• When it is time for a scheduled activity to occur, children are cued with a brief verbal reminder and if necessary, physically guided to the posted visual schedule. 

• Prompts are given when necessary. Either a verbal or non-verbal prompt can be provided if the student does not respond to the initial cue. Ideally, prompts are phased out as the student learns. 

• Everyone likes to cross items off their list. It is important to give students a way to show that they have successfully completed an activity. For example, include a “done” checkbox at the end of each step. It will provide a sense of accomplishment and reinforce their efforts.

• Speaking of reinforcement, visual schedules need to be accompanied by some form of reward, especially when a student can complete a task independently. This can take the form of verbal praise, a treat, or a fun activity.

Dealing with Challenging Behaviors

There will inevitably be resistance against maintaining the schedule. When challenging behaviors occur, teachers focus on completing the task at hand. If the difficult behaviors continue, teachers may rearrange the schedule with a preferred activity as the reward for task completion. For important tasks that will create challenges, teachers often give a visual schedule reminder during a preferred task. Praise and positive reinforcement for following the schedule, completing tasks and successfully transitioning to other activities are very helpful. Some teachers find it is helpful to use a timer to help children stay focused and transition to new tasks.

How Teachers Organize Visual Schedules

When it comes to visual schedules, teachers creatively use everything from color coding to school bell synchronization. In order to maximize effectiveness, teachers individually organize visual schedules based on the learner’s preferences and personality. Every morning, the teacher will arrange the student’s daily schedule and associated learning materials before the student’s arrival. This may require them to verify if objects are gathered in task baskets or in handy aprons that special education teachers wear. It may be appropriate to empower older students to control and enforce their own schedules. For developmentally delayed students, it may be appropriate to physically coach and guide the student through the entire process.

Benefits of Visual Schedules

There are several reasons why visual schedules are both popular and helpful:

·       Structure and Predictability

Visual schedules provide structured predictability. Students with autism must know what is coming next so they can emotionally prepare for the upcoming activity. This presents the student with expectations that they can then manage, helping to ease transition periods. In general, the fewer surprises the better; unexpected events are usually unwelcome and may lead to acting out behavior. The predictability of a schedule provides a sense of security and eases anxiety.

·       Increases Learning

Visual schedules can be used to teach a daily routine as well as skills to perform a specific activity. For example, a teacher may post the day’s schedule on a wall or provide pictures that describe steps on how to go to the bathroom. Giving step-by-step visual cues appears to be an effective way for most autistic kids to learn and helps keep them on task. Visual schedules can be created for almost any set of skills, including social interactions, routines, academics, and daily living. 

·       Turns Abstract Into Concrete

The processing of abstract principles is difficult for any person but is more so for the autistic child. Visuals schedules help students understand abstract concepts including time and organization. Abstract ideas are transformed into tangible objects through visual cues. Turning an abstract concept into something accessible and concrete is crucial to enhance understanding.

·       Independence

The ultimate goal when working with autistic children is independent functioning. Visual schedules provide an opportunity for students to learn with minimal outside intervention. Besides mastering specific skills, students acquire the ability to organize, make decisions, and employ time management, all crucial abilities for independence. Eventually, they may be able to create and follow their own schedules, indicating their progress toward being more self-sufficient. 


There are many more visual aids which may be used as per the requirement of the presentation.

Effective communication can be quite challenging, especially when making a presentation or giving a speech. In order for the communication to be effective, you must keep the attention of the listeners and deliver the information in such a way that it is fully understood. One of the most effective ways to get your message across and make it memorable is with visual aids.

Memory Retention: The Office of Training and Education of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has reported that psychologists and educators have found that use of visual tools led to a retention of information rate three days after a meeting or other event that was six times greater than when information is presented by the spoken word alone. Visual aids allow the speaker to use verbal and nonverbal communication to solidify the message and provide a point of reference for the mind.

Attention Span:  Everyone has a limited attention span. Once this capacity is spent, the mind will decrease its ability to retain information and listen effectively. Using visual aids refreshes the mind and engages it in a different way, renewing the attention span. Visual aids keep the mind entertained and therefore sharp and ready to receive information.

Organizing Communication: Visual aids can be used to organize communication, making it easier to remember points made in a presentation. The introduction of a different visual aid for each point of a speech or presentation helps the mind to separate messages into smaller chunks of information. The visual aids also create a point of reference for the mind to quickly refer to when attempting to retrieve information. For example, the use of icons or labels helps trigger messages in the mind. When you see the McDonald's restaurant golden arches logo along an interstate highway, your mouth may begin to water because of they represent eating a meal.

Comprehension:  Not everyone understands concepts and information at the same rate. Some people can understand messages quickly while others need help to grasp what is being said. Visual aids are a way of further explanation. If some people are more visual than audio learners, the visual aids may be necessary for comprehension. Visual aids create repetition and the more repetition in communication, the greater the chances that your audience will understand and remember effectively.

Create a Focal Point: Visual aids help a speaker stay on track. If there is one central visual aid that the speaker can use, then the speaker's thoughts and the audience's attention will stay on course.

2. Auditory aids: tapes, musical instruments

Audio-visual is, of course, a combination of two words: audio referring to that which we can hear, and visual referring to that which we can see. The basic frame of reference here limits our application of the term to a speaker and his audience, although they are not necessarily in the physical presence of one another, as in the case of a motion picture or television presentation.

The term "aids," used in reference to the speaker, rules out his physical presence (visual) and unrecorded voice (audio). These are the essential elements which make him a speaker, and therefore cannot aid him (his voice cannot aid his voice).

Further, the uncontrollable physical surroundings are not audio-visual aids in themselves, although they can have a definite audio or visual effect and should therefore be considered, if possible, when preparing a presentation. These include such things as distracting street noises (a hindrance) or a soundproofed room (an aid); or a beautiful mural behind the speaker (a distraction), purple and orange walls (a hindrance), or a paneled, modern meeting room with indirect lighting (an aid).

Handouts, especially maps, charts or tables, make good visual aids. The audience, particularly a large one, can get a finer appreciation of details which cannot be enlarged in a suitable manner. However, the audience is left in a position to continue studying such material, both before and after the speaker refers to it, and thus he cannot "control" its use.

We are left, then, with audio-visual aids which the speaker can control, and which are suitable for use with audiences of widely varying sizes.

Audio-Visual Aids

The term "audio-visual aids" is commonly misapplied. The aids themselves must be something either audible or visual, or both. The common types of audible aids are the spoken word, recognizable sound effects, and music. The most frequently used visual aids are people, pictures, cartoons, graphics, maps, the printed word, and three-dimensional models. When we talk about a motion picture projector or a blackboard, we are talking about the means of presenting the aids, and not the aids themselves.

Audio-visual materials can be divided into those which present the aids in their original form, and those which reproduce the original form.

The types of sound reproduction equipment are fewer in number than those for visual projection. They are:

Phonograph. Equipment which will reproduce sounds recorded or transcribed in grooves in the surface of a hard, round, flat record.

Sound Motion Picture Projector. A film projector which also has equipment for reproducing sounds recorded along the edge of the film itself.

Tape Recorder. Equipment which will reproduce sounds recorded on a rolled tape. Most tape recorders can be used to place the sound on the tape, as well as reproduce it.

Audio visual aids are important in education system. Audio visual aids are those devices which are used in classrooms to encourage teaching learning process and make it easier and interesting. Audio -visual aids are the best tool for making teaching effective and the best dissemination of knowledge .

Engaging Auditory Learners

According to Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, students learn in a variety of different ways including through listening or auditory input. Some students are better auditory learners than others and may see more academic improvement when audio aids are used in the classroom. Teachers serve students best by instructing to all academic levels in the classroom. With students learning at different paces and through different methods, using audio aids in teaching is one way of achieving engagement and better retention of ideas. Rather than relying solely on speech through direct instruction, teachers can also include listening activities focused around music, noises and interactive listening assignments.

Novelty Gets Noticed

Students might get bored with more traditional methods. Advantages of audio aids is even more apparent in novelty teaching methods. Novelty audio aids can be used in the classroom as an attention-getting strategy and also as a way to increase student involvement. When experiencing something new that engages his senses, a student is more likely to be engaged in the task and to remember the experience and presented information. Using audio in an unexpected way can add novelty to a lesson and potentially spark an academic improvement. Teachers can try beginning a lesson with a song or use recordings of foreign languages when teaching about other cultures. The more unexpected the audio activity is, the more novel that activity is for the students.

Music and Mnemonics Help Memorization

To define audio aids, teachers might use a mnemonic device. Using music and mnemonics as audio aids in teaching has also been proven to help students with memorization. Mnemonics are phrases or rhymes that people use to memorize information. For example, the memorable saying, "30 days hath September, April, June and November" is a mnemonic device that helps students remember how many days are in each month of the year. When students learn assigned song lyrics or mnemonic devices, the memorized information stays with them longer and can improve their performance on related subject tests.


3. Electronic aids

There are thousands of technology types. They all help people with disabilities live, study, communicate, and work more conveniently.

Here’s a portion of examples of assistive tech that can be used in special education:

By being active learners, people with disabilities usually feel better about themselves and don’t see their limitations as obstacles. Just imagine, someone who isn’t able of speaking can use special voice synthesizers nowadays to participate in any lesson. Earlier, they would’ve been transferred to homeschooling or to a special group, which would put a lot of stress on them.

Such tech also provides teachers with many more educational possibilities. Making the learning process individual is sometimes impossible due to the lack of resources. Not everything depends on the qualifications of a teacher. So having the necessary services and devices at hand is enormously helpful.

Assistive Technology in Everyday Life

Assistive tech has also become a part of our day-to-day lives. For example, curb slopes and cuts that were initially created for people who had orthopedic difficulties. They are now also used in grocery shops and other places for stroller or grocery cart movement. 

A custom essay writing service is a part of a lot of students’ lives to provide a more understandable example of any assignment a child has to complete. Professional writing helps children hand in every paper in time. This helps if they have difficulties with studies connected to a disability.

A piece of technology like the optical character reader was created for people who couldn’t read written documents. It’s now widely used by businesses to convert written text into editable content. This saves hundreds of hours of labor.

If we can use such tech for our benefit, why can’t we provide schools with it? For a lot of people, those are just helping instruments so we don’t have to overwork or carry a grocery bag all the way to the car. But to many it’s essential for moving around freely and learning well.

The Importance of Assistive Technology

Technology has become an amazing equalizer. We’ve come a long way but there’s more to design, create, and implement in modern kindergartens, schools, colleges, and universities.

We have to learn more about disabilities. We should recognize not only those connected to mobility or senses. There are also difficulties with cognition and info perception. When only a little study was done, a lot of children were perceived as spoiled or unwilling to learn. But in reality, they had limitations like dyslexia and other conditions. Nowadays, all these don’t become an obstacle to learning if schools implement special education. And technology and services assist enormously in that.

It’s crucial that we realize that every child is different, whether they have a disability or not. Education must become more individually adapted if we want to achieve better results globally. The times are gone when the curriculum was the same for everyone – we have to pay attention to the needs of every child.

Assistive technology can be used to support and enhance communication for people with autism, regardless of speech ability.

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) is a specific type of assistive technology that can benefit people with autism of all ages by promoting independence, expanding communication, and increasing social interactions.

Speech Generating Devices

A speech-generating device is "a portable that contains one or more panels or switches that when depressed will activate pre-recorded digitized or synthesized speech output." These may be a standalone device, usually very small and light, or it can be software that is installed in a tablet or phone.

GoTalks are a type of speech generating devices. GoTalks are offered with various amounts of communication options and sizes.

Social Skills

People on the autism spectrum can have a hard time with social skills that may come easily to those who are not on the spectrum. Some caregivers or those on the spectrum may choose to try to develop those social skills with technology and methods that can help individuals recognize facial and behavioral cues that can help social functioning. Two examples of these methods include video modeling and script training, where individuals learn pro-social behaviors based on imitation. Individuals can learn these skills in games like the following:

FaceSay produces games that can help ASD children/adults to better recognize behavioral and emotional cues. Their focus is on students who can benefit from this software in school and friendship relationships.

Daily Living Skills

In order to function independently, daily living skills such hygiene, organization skills, and recreational skills are important. Caregivers can help those with ASD with these skills, but individuals with ASD can also develop these skills and independence. It is important to remember that ASD occurs in a wide spectrum and that some with ASD might never have problems functioning independently, while others may need more assistance. Life skills can be taught through instruction and presentations, and also through special software like

Life Skills Winner is an application that allows users to score points while learning daily living tasks in an interactive setting. The application is available through the web and also on mobile devices.


4. Teaching aids - mini books & notebook, Social stories

Social stories are simple stories that describe common situations which occur frequently in the classroom.

Social stories:

·       state a situation clearly

·       possible feelings that may occur

·       self-talk strategies that can be helpful

·       the desired outcomes.

These stories have been especially helpful for my younger students, students with autism, or students with self-regulation problems.

 The many transitions and social dynamics can cause “big emotions” that can be overwhelming to their young minds if they don’t yet possess the right tools to manage them.

Social stories give students the opportunity to learn, practice, and demonstrate appropriate social skills.

Here’s a quick guide to creating social stories with your students:

1.     Think about which social issues are causing the MOST disruption in your classroom right now.

2.     Write down what the problem is, and invite an open discussion with your students to gather specific details. Brainstorm and record ideas.

3.     Validate your students’ feelings when they are expressed, and then discuss the desired and expected behavior. Be sure to explain the reason for rules, such as safety or consideration for another student’s learning.

4.     Turn your brainstorming notes into a “story” in either first or third person. For example: “When I am walking in the hallway it might be hard to keep my voice quiet. It’s important to be quiet so I don’t interrupt other students. When I want to shout in the hall, I can use self-talk to remind myself that others are working. My teacher and friends will be happy if I am quiet in the hallway.”

5.     You can turn the story into a poster, or make it into a book with one sentence on each page.

6.     Invite students to illustrate the books! Illustrations are particularly important for younger students.


5. Communication boards & Choice boards, other AACs

A communication board is a device that displays photos, symbols, or illustrations to help people with limited language skills express themselves. The user can gesture, point to, or blink at images to communicate with others.

Communication boards are one type of augmentative or alternative communication (AAC) device. They can be simple, handmade boards or computerized programs. They can be useful in schools, homes, healthcare environments, or any community setting.

What is a communication board? 

Communication between someone who’s nonverbal and someone who uses spoken language can be difficult. Communication boards may cut down on some of this difficulty by providing simple, recognizable images and symbols to understand one another.

You can use communication boards to:

Communication boards help users express their immediate needs and preferences. These boards may increase autonomy by allowing users to make decisions about their own lives, as it allows them to communicate their needs to others more effectively.

They can also provide a way to learn and practice more advanced communication skills. And perhaps most importantly, communication boards can keep users safe by giving them a means to tell others what is happening in their world.

How do communication boards work?

Many communication boards group symbols by context.

For example, one screen or card might contain a variety of images related to a dentist’s office visit. Others might show a range of feelings, images related to a particular meal, or a sequence of steps to follow at a particular time of day, such as bedtime.

Types of communication boards and tools

According to the American Speech Language and Hearing Association (ASHA), there are two types of devices. Let’s look at each one in more detail.

Basic communication boards

A communication board doesn’t have to be a board at all. It can be:

Most versions use graphic symbols paired with words. Their complexity is determined by the user’s needs.

The primary advantage of low-tech communication boards is that they’re comparatively inexpensive and can be made from a wide range of accessible materials.

Augmentative or alternative communication (AAC) devices

These devices may be electronic or digital. Some are computer-based. Some are applications that can be used on a smartphone or tablet.

Some devices, called speech-generating devices, allow a user to project a synthesized or digital voice. Some AAC devices incorporate video clips that enable students to imitate model communications.

Multimodal devices unite several different communication methods into a single app or program.

A school setting for a child with autism should be highly structured and have familiar routines that the child can anticipate. Communication should be encouraged through speech as well as sign, symbols, photos and objects, depending on the ability of the child. A classroom set up specifically for autistic children should be low arousal (calm and quiet environment with neutral walls and dividers so it is not too distracting) with objects and toys organised neatly and clearly labelled (no clutter!).

To encourage communication for children able to understand symbols or photos, the child would have to ask for an object of choice through speech, sign or through giving a picture or a symbol sentence to an adult of the desired object in exchange for the object. You will be aware if  your child uses pictures or symbols at school.

The Home Setting:

The home setting tends to be less structured and toys and objects tend to be freely available and open to the child. This can be great for some children and families as it promotes independence and enables children to do things for themselves. In some circumstances, having every object freely available to a child can lead to a child having free rein of the house and taking whatever they want as and when they want it, which for some families can cause many difficulties.

If a child is using pictures or symbols to enhance communication at school, you can also implement them at home. Encouraging a child to ask for an object whether its is a favourite toy or a drink can promote good communication between the child and family members. Apart from aiding communication, having a picture choice board can also enable the child to use 1 object at a time and if managed consistently, encouraging a child to tidy a toy away if asking for a different one could also help to reduce the amount of mess and encourage independence!

The Aims of the Picture Choice Board

– Encourage communication by giving the child a means to request a particular object.
– Promote a communication exchange with a family member- the child requests by giving a picture card to a family member who then responds by giving the desired object.
– If a child can talk, it gives a child a visual prompt to say the correct word.
– Narrow the selection of choice down- there could be a selection of as little as 2 choices or 8 plus!
– Implement structure, routine and familiarity which could help to reduce anxiety

The picture needs to look the same as the actual object in order for the child to make the connection between the picture and the object. Alternatively, if you have a digital camera or phone with a camera, you can take a photo of the exact object. You may also be able to find symbols that your child can understand and generalise to different types of one object (e.g puzzle for multiple types of puzzle).