Easy Ways to Individualize Visual Supports (Ep 154)Oct 12, 2022
Individualizing visual supports can feel overwhelming for both parents and teachers! Barriers like time, manpower, and lack of training can cause us to cut corners when it comes to customizing visual supports. I've got some easy ways to help support our students, schools, and families, starting with Smarty Symbols, an online visual support resource that you need to know!
Why Do We Need a Solution?
Let's face it... our go-to inclusion experience happens inside music, art, and gym class (and if you know me at all, you know I've got major feelings on this, but that's a discussion for another day). So, inside that art classroom, students are exposed to a different environment, new tools and supplies for their use, brand new learning concepts and projects to attempt, and more new experiences that are unique to that particular classroom. With all the different things that happen in that room, a student who needs visual supports may feel overwhelmed by the pace and scale of these new challenges, leaving much of the learning lacking. If we take the time to think ahead and set up that student for success before they ever step foot in the classroom, then we can greatly increase the impact of learning inside this inclusive experience!
That's where resources like Smarty Symbols can come in handy! Smarty Symbols is an online resource creation platform that allows its users to create custom visual support materials with easy drag-and-drop tools and contemporary images that students will love! By giving the art teacher access to Smarty Symbols, she can help create some of the visuals that are needed to help support a student through an activity. Getting the art teacher involved can better help students access that particular learning environment.
This has to be a team effort and to do that it has to be affordable and accessible. Special Education teachers often carry the lion's share of creating these visual supports, but it doesn't have to be that way. Many parents and specialized general education teachers would be willing to create the needed materials, but they don't have access to the programs needed to do so. Getting the full team on board with creating and implementing visual supports is Step One in truly individualizing a child's learning experience.
Modern and Meaningful Visuals
Always remember, updating our visuals for our older students so that they are age-appropriate and reflective of the activities that they are doing in high school (and beyond) is very important. High school students don't need the same types of visual supports that elementary school students would need, so we have to consistently customize the visuals to be truly meaningful and useful for the student's current activities both in school and beyond the classroom.
Prioritize Access and Training
We have to give access to not just the special education teacher, but also to general education teachers, paraprofessionals, special area teachers, librarians, and families of the students, and make sure that they have the necessary training needed to use these tools. Visual supports can be included in assistive technology and therefore have the training for it be covered by IDEA laws for all teachers and families! I know your workload is already at the max, but it's really important that we prioritize individualizing support systems for our students that need them. Take the time to simplify and individualize the materials for your students, rather than just making more and calling it good enough.
Make a Plan
Now that you've got access for the whole team, create a concrete plan for who is going to create and implement the tools. Lean on the whole IEP team to break up the responsibility of creating what's needed and working with the other members of the team to ensure that a child's entire day is readily accessible and supported, from transition time to class time to secondary transitions and even at home. That's another reason I want you to take a peek at Smarty Symbols. Their focus is making sure that visual supports are accessible in all environments and that they're easy to use!
Here's Your Homework
Double-check your visuals for the following:
- Are they being used in all environments?
- Do they need to be updated?
- What other team members need to get involved in creating the visuals to make sure that we're staying on track and fully supporting the student in all environments?
Here's a glance at the episode...
[3:50] "By giving the art teacher access to Smarty Symbols, she can help create some of the visuals that are needed to help support a student through an activity."
[9:40] "I know your workload is already at the max, but it's really important that we prioritize individualizing support systems for our students that need them. Take the time to simplify and individualize the materials for your students, rather than just making more and calling it good enough."
[14:00] "Now that you've got access for the whole team, create a concrete plan for who is going to create and implement the tools."
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