Visuals – A whole school approach

Visuals are a great way to support young people who have communication difficulties.

They can promote independence and help deescalate situations if a young person is feeling anxious or overloaded.

Important: Visuals is images,photos,real objects. PECS is a structured communication system.

A whole school approach is most effective and makes embedding the use of visuals and supporting each student much easier

How to use visuals?

  • Visual timetable – these can be used to help establish routine and reinforce structure. They should be used throughout the day to discuss the day’s activities and highlight those that are finished and what comes next. This will ensure that the children feel secure and have some independence in understanding their daily routine.

Individual timetables can also be used for individual children

  • Staff visuals

It is often useful and supportive for all staff to have a copy (on a lanyard, attached to their belt etc) of general visuals to support choices and promote desired behaviour.


Examples would be pictures of rooms within school that might be shared eg the hall, foyer, dining room, gym, Playground etc


Other useful signs are stop, finished, and time out.


  • Now and Next

Now and next boards can be useful for students who need extra support with the structure of their day


  • Working for boards

Working for boards are similar to now and next but add the visual of a desired activity to aid motivation.

Stars can be used to denote success as in this board or pictures of the activities that need to be completed before the reward is claimed can be used instead.



Visuals can also be used to encourage communication in a child who is non verbal. They can be trained to show a picture of what they want or need . The visuals need to be accessible for this to be successful. EG a picture of a particular toy or activity can be displayed on the cupboard where it is stored for the child to bring to staff or to take staff to.

A picture of a drink or a snack can be exchanged for the real item