This post was originally published on 12/09/13 at Nathan’s Voice
When I decided to homeschool my daughter, Bethany who has autism and other disabilities, I already knew that the majority of children with autism are visual learners.
I also knew through personal trial and error that processing language did not come naturally or easily for Bethany.
She simply did not seem to be able to comprehend wordy, complicated directions, explanations, or even the stories that I read to her.
I knew that Bethany would never learn by reading textbooks or listening to lectures.
So, somehow I would have to adapt and modify traditional lessons plans and learning materials in order to present educational concepts to her in a more basic and visual way.
After doing some research and scouring the internet for resources, I came up with some strategies and products that have worked well for us and may make learning more, visual, hands on, accessible, and meaningful for other children with autism as well.
6 Tips for Making Lessons More Visual and Hands-On!
1 Translate what you want to teach into realistic pictures, photos, or better yet use real objects.
For example, if you are teaching your child about the parts of a flower, you can take your child outside to pick flowers, then dissect the flower while naming all the parts and perhaps what each part does. You can reinforce the concepts taught by making flower part flash cards, labeling flower part diagrams, and even cutting and pasting paper made parts of a flower together.
2 Speaking of Cutting and pasting…Cut and Paste activities are perfect for hands on, visual learning assignments!
3 When explaining concepts verbally cannot be combined with a visual, pairing what you say with sign language gives your child something visual to associate with what you’re saying.
If your child can hear, I recommend using SEE or the Signing Exact English method rather than ASL. We want our children to associate each sign with the word. It isn’t necessary to sign words like the, and, a, or other articles. Just sign the important words of the sentence. For example: if you are teaching the parts of the flower, you might say, “This flower has a stem, petals, and leaves.” I would sign only the signs for- flower, stem, petals, leaves. I have found that it’s nearly impossible (at least for me) to sign every single word of a sentence as fast as I can say it anyway!
4 File folder games and shoe box tasks are both fantastic visual, hands on aids for teaching any number of educational concepts to children with autism.
There is a multitude of ideas and resources for constructing both file folder games and shoe box tasks online. Many are even available for free!
5 Check out the following helpful books that offer instructions in creating many useful, visual teaching tools for children with autism.
Teaching Math to People Down Syndrome and Other Hands On Learners by DeAnna Horstmeier, How Do I Teach This Kid?, and How Do I Teach This Kid to Read? by Kimberly A. Henry.
6 There are numerous companies online that offer educational products and games for children.
One product that I love is Versatiles. Versatiles not only make learning more visual and hands on but they also make learning more fun! Versatiles engage students with the challenge of a puzzle. They reinforce important skills and concepts. The activities are organized by grade level and subject. The subjects available are math, reading/ language arts, and science. Versatiles are perfect for independent practice and give immediate feedback for self-checking which is great for kids who don’t like to wait to see how they did!
Whether you homeschool your child with autism or are looking for new ideas and activities to meaningfully connect with your child and keep him or her engaged and constructively occupied during non- school hours, I hope that this list of suggestions will serve you well.
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Here’s a video featuring some of the products mentioned in this post! Be sure to click the link to check out all our Homeschooling videos!