Using Visual Supports in Speech Therapy

Visual supports offer many benefits, making them a great addition to any speech therapy session. These supports can be used to facilitate understanding, improve carryover of learned information, improve attention and behavior, and enhance communication (Shannon, 2019). These supports can be used in various settings, including in the classroom, at home, and during teletherapy.

Visual supports provide a more concrete way of presenting information and teaching new skills. They can also supplement verbal communication (Fors, 2022). Here are some of my favorite visuals to use with my students:

1. First/Then Boards: Students with low receptive language skills, autism, or anxiety may benefit from first/then boards (Shannon, 2019). This type of visual may also benefit students by motivating them to complete a nonpreferred activity before moving on to a preferred activity. This visual can reinforce what is coming next during a session, improving cooperation and reducing frustration.

2. Visual Schedules: Like a first/then board, visual schedules can help students understand what is coming next in a session. This type of visual support can help a student stay on task and remain motivated throughout the session to complete presented activities.

3. Visual Timers: There are many types of visual timers available online including online stopwatches and timers that slowly reveal a preferred picture (ex. Image of Paw Patrol) (Jenna, 2016). Sand timers from common board games can also be used as a visual support. Timers can be used for students who have difficulties with transitions. They can be used to help transition students from the classroom to speech therapy, between activities during a session, and transition out of speech therapy. They can even be made into a game (ex. How many words can you say in 1 minute? Can we clean up our game in less than 1 minute?).

4. Visual Reinforcement: Like visual timers, there are many types of visual reinforcements available. I like to use sticker charts to motivate students to complete activities and come to speech therapy. I also like to take something the student preferred (ex. Soccer) and use that to create an individualized visual reinforcement. For example, every activity completed, the student earns a picture of a soccer ball to place on their chart. The goal is to earn all 5 soccer balls by the end of the session. Visual reinforcements can also be used to elicit more trials throughout speech therapy (ex. Using a Pop It during articulation drills, Dot-and-Say worksheets, etc.).

Tara O’Connor, M.S. CF-SLP