Must-Have Visuals for Art Projects

Visuals are the key to successful art instruction and to making your instruction meaningful, functional, and relevant to your IEP goals. But where do you start? What visuals do you need?


Reduce the Prompting

I am being sneaky here. This visual is not for your students – it’s for you and your staff. For ever art activity, in order for your students to get the most out of it you need to back off. Really work on reducing the prompting. Guess what? It’s okay if the final project doesn’t look pretty. It’s okay if the final project doesn’t look remotely like what it’s “supposed” to. What’s important is that your student has some meaningful practice on their IEP goals and gets to be creative and use their imagination along the way! Embrace your inner artist and back off!

{Download this prompt hierarchy for staff in this post}


 Mini Schedule

Sometimes in art class, there are several activities to complete. Or one activity has many steps or components. Behold the power of the mini-schedule! Learn all about mini schedules here. This is something you can share with the art teacher, it’s low maintenance, easy prep, and honestly will be helpful for all students! You can grab this mini schedule in the Visual Resource for Art Class. This is a great end of the year gift for you art teacher! 🙂

 Reinforcer Visual: Mini Token Economy

Even though this is a fun activity for some of our students – it is still work. Don’t pull away all of these important supports because you fall into the “should” sinkhole {He should be able to do this. This should be fun. He shouldn’t have to work for something during this activity}. Make sure you still use your token economy and first/then visuals etc!

Expressive Visuals

Sarah has a specific art PECS book that she brings to sessions with all of the visuals she will readily need organized in the pages. She can quickly grab the pictures she needs to put on the front cover so students can request specific items using detail. This is easy to differentiate. Some students can focus on single picture exchange like asking for the “glue” or “scissors” while other kids can request using a full sentence and detail like “I want two green pom poms.”

Behavior Visuals

We still want to make sure we are maintaining appropriate behavior during art activities. Sometimes it can easily slide from an organized art activity to a free-for-all. I love using the volume color coded visual to make sure the volume of the group doesn’t get too over the top. The behavior visual rubric is also a great one to keep students in touch with our expectations.



  1. I would like to know how do you work with first/ then and token economy systems, how can these 2 strategies complete each other?

  2. I think you can definitely do both, you can have the token economy embedded into the first then (ie. first get 3 tokens, then get break time) or use both simultaneously – i.e. first/then for academic tasks and token economy for behavior. Hope this helps!


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