Visuals help our students understand their world. They help gives cues of how to act, where to go, and what to say or do. It’s no surprise that visuals can be immensely helpful when teaching social skills. Visuals can serve not only as a method of communication but also as a prompt for showing our students when and how to respond. Basically – when in doubt – use some visuals!
You may embed some specific parts of your day when you work on social skills. Whether you have turn and share or group work, there may be parts of your students’ day when they have to effectively interact with their peers. If your students are in inclusion settings, there will likely be lots of opportunity for peer engagement. Navigating the world of appropriate interacting with classmates can be tricky! I like using simple step by step cues with coordinating visuals to add some structure to these times of the day. These actually work really well in general education classrooms because typically there are several students struggling with these social skills.
The written list of steps can be enough of a visual cue for some of our learners. Some of our kids can be very rule governed. But in many social situations the rules are unknown. There definitely are rules but they often aren’t stated concretely. For example, we all know that it’s a rule not to ask someone how much they weigh, not to ignore someone’s questions, and not to stand two inches away from someone’s face. Now let’s make sure our kids know these rules too.
You can of course also use visuals as method of communicating and engaging with peers. Check out this post on greetings, this post on commenting, and these visual questions. It doesn’t necessarily need to be fancy. I love simple “my turn” cards, adding visuals to greeting and question cards, and one or two picture phrases for interacting with peers and adults. The goal is just get interactions going and then building in the complexity later!