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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Vinokurov

Environment and Visual Supports for Autistics

Updated: Mar 3, 2022

Modifications can be made to create a positive and supportive environment for people with ASD. Environmental and visual supports are modifications used in any school, home, and community setting, in order to help autistics grow and develop.

Environmental supports organize and structure physical spaces in homes, schools, and communities. Some environmental supports used for Autistics include visual boundary settings, labels, and visual schedules. Environmental support strategies can help children with ASD respond and adapt to daily activities in the environment.

In a school setting, a visual schedule in the classroom allows students with ASD to learn a classroom routine full of activities they will be participating in for the entire school day. This helps children with ASD understand expectations in the environment and helps them with transitions from one activity to another.

Autism society (n.d.) shares that in a home setting, using colored-tape boundaries lets the child with ASD know not to enter into a dangerous area in the environment. This allows the person with ASD to discriminate between off-limit areas and safe areas in the environment. In a community setting, a student with autism puts a puzzle game with a written-label on it away by placing it on the shelf based on the matching written-label while in the waiting area of their pediatrician's office.

Through written-labels, they help an individual with ASD learn more about their environment. Environmental supports help increase an individual’s independence and encourages communication. All in all, environmental supports are effective to help people with ASD in any setting. Another kind of modification in the environment that helps autistics are visual supports.

Visual supports help autistics process information in any setting and encourages communication. Some visual supports for people with ASD include first-then visuals, timers, social narratives, and visual communication cards. Visual supports teaches the child with ASD expectations in any setting, and procedures are consistent across people involved with the child. In a school setting, a one-to-one teacher aide can show a student with ASD a first-then visual that consists of two pictures: the first picture is an activity or main task, and the second picture is a reinforcer.

The one-to-one teacher aide uses first-then visuals while explaining to the student with ASD new activities or events, so they understand the activity or task, while learning a consequence or reward follows after completing the activity or task. In a home setting, a parent can use a timer to let their child with ASD know it's time to move onto a new activity after playing with their toys.

In a community setting, if an individual with ASD who is non-verbal needs to use the restroom, they can give the visual restroom card to the person they are with, so the person knows they need to use the restroom. Visual supports increase skills across curriculum areas, from social interactions to communication. Just like environmental supports, visual supports are effective to help autistics in any setting.

In conclusion, any setting can be modified for people with ASD by using environment and visual supports. Modifications made can ensure the safety of autistics by discriminating between safe and unsafe areas in the environment. These two kinds of supports help reduce problematic behaviors, and they help increase social interactions. They encourage communication and promote student independence. Any kind of modification made in a positive and supportive environment helps people with ASD grow and develop in life.


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