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Visual Communication Workshop: Group Guide

The Visual Communication workshop has been created to help parents and caregivers expand their communication through the use of simple but powerful visual tools.

Before the Session Starts

Materials Required:

  • Icebreaker
    • option one – picture symbols of bottle shapes
    • option two – picture symbols with words in a variety of languages
  • Velcroed picture symbols as described in slides 6-8 & 9-12
  • Toy, photo of a person or a toy, picture book
  • First/then board
  • Picture symbols of routines as described in Make and Take section, bristol board, scissors, glue, and MacTac (available in Supported Inclusion Visuals Engine)

Workshop Content

Introduction of speakers and content.

Hello everyone. Tonight we are going to be talking about how you can improve your child’s ability to communicate with others. You’ll find many aspects of your and your child’s life improve when s/he is better able to communicate with and understand others. My job tonight will be to facilitate the discussion, to keep us on track and to record some of our thoughts. So let’s go around the room and introduce ourselves and maybe say what brought you out this evening. What would you like to get out of this session?


Option one: Ask participants to form pairs and hand out picture cards of bottle shapes without labels on to each person. Instruct each person to guess what their partner’s picture is. Do not give any answers. Have pairs report back to the large group by showing their picture card and telling what it is and how they knew they were correct. The purpose is to demonstrate that visual cues were used rather than any verbal cues.

Bottle Shapes

Option two: As in option one but using picture cards with corresponding words in a variety of languages. Instruct each person to cover the picture and show only the word. Have people try to guess what their partner’s word means. Have people guess what it is once the picture is revealed. This also demonstrates that visual cues are used more than verbal cues.

Variety of Languages

Either icebreaker can be carried out in the large group by using an overhead or powerpoint projector.


  1. Introduction to Visual Communication
  2. Using Visuals with Children
  3. Choosing the Type (or Level) of Visual
  4. Promoting Receptive Language
  5. Promoting Expressive Language
  6. Make and Take

Large Group Discussion:

(Prep: flipchart and markers)

There are many forms of communication. We usually think of speech as the main form but in fact 90% of our comprehension comes from visual forms of information. What do you think is meant by “visual forms”? (Flip chart answers such as gestures, facial expression, objects, pictures, printed words.) Can you think of visual aids that adults use in their daily lives? Add examples to flip chart: e.g.,traffic signs, calendars, grocery lists, day timers, clocks, etc.

View Slides 1-3

Large Group Discussion:

(Prep: flipchart and markers)

Children who are having difficulty with understanding and / or using language can benefit from visual supports because they show what’s expected of them or what is coming up. Does anyone use any visuals with their children right now? What kinds of objects and pictures can you use with your child?
Record participants’ examples on a flipchart. Possible answers to get the group started if needed: showing your child her shoes or your keys for “going out”, showing a bottle for “bed”, showing a book for “storytime”, showing a favourite toy for “play time”, showing a video or t.v. remote for “television”; use of gestures and pointing.

View Slides 4- 5

Large Group Discussion:

(Prep: toy, photo of a person or a toy, picture book)

Choosing the appropriate level of visual to use is very important. Always use the highest level your child understands. How do we know which level to use with our child?

Presenter should be holding concrete items to model the following questions.

  • Can your child reach for or point to desired objects?
  • Does your child recognize people and items in photographs?
  • Does your child recognize pictures in books? (you can tell if s/he points to objects named)

Once you know what level your child understands you can use visuals to give your child information or to receive information from him/her.

View Slides 6-8

Large Group Discussion:

(Prep: velcroed pictures of eat breakfast, get dressed, go to daycare)

Discuss the mini-schedule and demonstrate removing the pictures from the schedule. Explain that you remove the pictures from the schedule so that the child can see what is finished and what activity is coming up. This can be done with objects if your child’s understanding is at this level.

The next few slides show ways to use visuals to tell your child what is expected and how to do things. Specific skills that you would like to teach your child can be shown step by step visually. While you watch the next few slides, try to think of a skill that you would like to work on with your own child.

View Slides 9-12

Small Group Discussion:

Divide people into small groups (3-5 people) and ask them to discuss a skill that they would each like to work on with their child (they have to decide together as a small group). Brainstorm possible pictures or objects that could be used to teach the skill.

Large Group Discussion:

(Prep: first/then board, picture symbols of office, needle, lollipop (all labeled “doctor”), picture symbols of fries, toy, play area, McDonald’s symbol (all labeled McDonald’s).

Have the groups report back on the visuals that they would like to use. If possible, show how the same skill could be taught in different ways depending on what aspect is most relevant to the child. Give examples such as “First doctor, then McDonald’s” and how the doctor symbol should be something that the child would understand (office, needle, lollipop, etc.) and the McDonald’s symbol should also be what is relevant to the child (specific food, toy, play area).

We’ve looked at how visuals can be used to tell children something. Now let’s look at how to use these tools so that your child can give you information.

View Slides 13-14

Large Group Discussion:

So you can see that there are many uses for visuals and that they help children be able to understand others more clearly and express their needs and interests more easily. A question that often comes up is “won’t pictures make my child not want to speak?” This is a valid concern. However, we know that the visuals support learning of spoken language for several reasons. I think of the visuals as cue cards I might have for a presentation. I feel less anxious knowing that I could refer to them if I need them. But it doesn’t mean that I’ll read my entire presentation from the cards.

View Slides 15-16

Large Group Discussion:

There are many reasons to use visuals. Both adults and children benefit from having visuals available. Now we would like to give you the opportunity to make some visuals that you feel would be useful with your child.

Make and Take:

(Prep: examples of choice boards, schedules, and first/then boards, bristol board, scissors, glue, MacTac, a variety of picture symbols or pictures from flyers and magazines for routines including activity choices, washroom, dressing, bedtime, songs, etc.)

Provide participants with the above materials and offer advice on which pictures to use and how to prepare them.


This concludes our workshop on “Visual Communication”. Are there any questions about the material presented or any other questions? I would like to thank you for coming to the workshop this evening. Please take a moment to complete our workshop evaluation. Have a great night.

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