Last summer I attended one of Temple Grandin’s conferences. During the conference she spoke about her brain and how she thinks in pictures. (She has a book and HBO remake of the book on the topic of thinking in pictures and they are worth checking out.)
To give an example we could all relate to, she shared that it’s like having Google images ingrained in your brain. What a fascinating way to describe the visual thinker and learner!
A light bulb went off in my head as I listened to Temple Grandin speak. I have always used pictures in therapy with children in one way or another. But now I had confirmation of something I have long suspected: Pictures have a very important and significant impact on non-verbal children with suspected and/or confirmed autism and Aspergers.
That said, regardless of whether or not your child has autism or Aspergers, they may also significantly benefit from using pictures to communicate if they are non-verbal or significantly limited in their spoken words.
So how can you use pictures to communicate with your little one? Here is the process of how to get started and what to do:
- Google and print off images of foods, toys, and other items your child loves and requests most often.
- Laminate these if possible (they will last much longer!)
- Stick a small piece of Velcro on the back (if laminated) and keep them on a chart or in a small binder on Velcro pages. This might look like the picture listed here of one of my sweet clients with her communication book we used before she became more verbal.
- For example, when your child goes to the fridge to show you they want milk, take their hand and with your hand over theirs, get the picture of milk. Say, “MILK! I want milk.” Then take the milk out immediately to reward them for tolerating you doing this with them! Each time they ask for milk, repeat this until they start to do it themselves.
- Practice this with different items throughout the day and your child may start to understand that they need to get the picture of the item they want to show you.
A few tips for this process:
- First, it is important in the beginning to reward them by getting the object they ask for right away when they ask for it with the picture (even if you have to help them).
- Second, if you don’t want them to have milk all day long, remove it from the chart so your child will choose among the items that are available. Eventually, children have to learn they cannot always have what they ask for, but that is not a beginning skill to work on when learning to use pictures to communicate!
Give this a try and let us know how it goes. Good luck thinking in pictures!