Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Visual Supports for People with Autism by Cohen and Gerhardt {Book Review}

The generous publishers at Woodbine House offered me an updated copy of the book: Visual Supports for People with Autism by Marlene J. Cohen, Ed.D., BCBA and Peter F. Gerhardt, Ed.D. Other than the complimentary book, no other compensation was received in exchange for this review. Opinions and reference to other materials expressed in this post are solely mine and unbiased.  

Visual supports are not only essential when working with children diagnosed with autism, but also beneficial for those with language and cognitive delays.  Even if you have worked in a special education for decades, there are always new developments pertaining to visual supports and opportunities for continuing education with regards to enhancing comprehension and improving behaviors using visuals.  In fact, the opening line in the Preface of the book: Visual Supports for People with Autism states, "Since the first edition of this book was published in 2007, much progress has occurred related to the use of visual supports for people with autism spectrum disorders.  This is an exciting time, since technology has changed quite extensively and costs are more affordable." Having worked in the field of speech pathology for over two decades and provided app reviews on this blog and for Teachers with Apps, I wrongfully assumed that this book about using visual supports would be a good review for me and I would likely learn a couple new techniques.  As it turns out, there were a multitude of strategies and techniques that I acquired while reading this tremendous resource.  I'm excited to both apply what I learned in my private practice work and share my top ten findings with you in this post.  I hope that this review will leave you wanting even more details and looking to add this book on your resource shelf.  If so, you can purchase it from Woodbine House at this link.

  1. In alignment to it's title, the book: Visual Supports for People with Autism contains a comprehensive assortment of visual support examples from graphic organizers to work/daily schedules.  
  2. Power Cards were developed by Elisa Gagnon for use with students who have autism.  These cards incorporate a student's strong interest as a way of motivating behavior changes.  You can find more details about this technique in the Visual Supports for People with Autism book and at this You Tube link.
  3. A visual approach can be used to teach English word order by creating a flip book with the parts of speech in the proper sequence.  This book will yield a meaningful sentence no matter the choice and can be adapted for non-readers.
  4. Color coding matching outfits using a permanent marker in an inconspicuous location can increase independence with dressing skills. 
  5. Video modeling can be used to demonstrate a wide variety of expected behaviors.
  6. Turn photographs of reinforcements into puzzles with the student earning a puzzle piece for each completed task and receiving the award when the puzzle is complete.
  7. Visually represent time remaining until a special event by removing a token, such as a marble, from a glass jar.  When the jar is empty, it is time for the event.
  8. Create a "Key Words" chart to enhance comprehension for mathematical word problems.  For example, list all the terms that relate to addition (i.e., together, total of, more than) in the addition column of the chart.
  9. Point to color coded cue cards on a student's desk to increase attention without verbal prompting.  For example, point to the green light on a traffic light image to communicate that the student is doing a nice job attending to the lesson.
  10. Apps such as iReward, iReward Chart, and Behavior Boost integrate a timer and reinforcement visuals for more discreet and natural supports in the community.
Thank you to Woodbine House for allowing me to review this great resource! 

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