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Maximizing Visual Aids at Home

An ABA therapist’s best friends are visual aids. However, it’s not so much the visual aide that is important but rather its location within your home. As a parent, you may wonder why visual aids (schedules, reminders for brushing teeth and to turn off the light or to flush the toilet) don’t seem to help your child at all. You still have to use constant verbal reminders until you are blue in the face. You probably find yourself thinking “I have visual aids all over the house, but they aren’t working!” This could be a simple issue of finding the right placement.

One of my favorite professors in college clarified the issue of placement issues with visual aids by using a universally understood sign in public bathrooms to “wash your hands”. Have you ever noticed that all of the “wash your hands” signs in public restrooms are right above the sink? You might be thinking to yourself: “What is the issue with that? You wash your hands at a sink, so of course the sign would be located at the sink!” The problem is that the sink itself serves as a visual reminder to wash our hands. The sign is not necessary. The problem arises when people use the restroom and walk out the door, avoiding the sink area all together. In this case, the person does not go near the sink area and therefore, they will not see the sign reminding them to wash their hands!

A great way to remedy this situation is by changing the location of the sign. Placing the sign at eye level will allow each restroom visitor to have clear view of the reminder. Try placing the reminder sign in the bathroom stall or on the back of the bathroom door. Make the visual reminder unavoidable.

Now apply this idea within your own household. Are there any visual aids that might benefit your child more if they are simply placed in a different location? For example, place the “turn off the light” reminder on the back of the bathroom door at eye level, so that it may be seen as your child opens the door to leave, rather than on the light switch, which they rarely glance at. Place a visual aide, such as “backpack” written on a post-it, on the back of the front door, near the door handle. As a result, there is a better chance that your child will see the reminder and remember to grab their backpack when leaving for the bus.

Visual aides are a Behavior Therapist’s best friend. Make visual aids a part of your strategy to help your child develop independence before your very eyes! Remember: location, location, location!

Sarah Barry is a BCBA/LBA Supervisor at Beyond Boundaries.
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