Top 5 Ways to use Visuals in the Special Education Classroom

Using visuals in the special education classroom are essential for all learners.  They have so many benefits and can decrease problem behaviors while supporting learning.  Keep reading to learn the top 5 ways to use visuals in the Special Education Classroom.

1. Giving directions

You know that when you give a direction in a special education classroom, you are more than likely going to have to repeat that direction several times.  Why is that? Because as soon as you say the words, they are gone.  Students cannot just simply replay your words.

This means, if they were not listening or did not understand what you said- they will not know how to follow the directions given.

Instead, let’s give a direction and then pair it with a visual.  Take these lanyard visual cues for example.

Once you give a direction, you can simply hold up the direction you gave to then remind students what was said.  Therefore, students with attention difficulties can refer to it as well as students who have auditory processing disorders.

Using visuals with your directions will keep you from having to repeat yourself time after time.

2. Keep noise level down

The noise level can get rather loud when you have a classroom of students who need to make some noise, but then also additional adults to support students- 

This in turn can cause behaviors, as well as cause students to struggle to learn.

When a direction is given, paraprofessionals can remind students of it by referring to their own visuals.  (I personally make sure every adult in the classroom has the visual cues on their lanyard for easy access). Once a direction is given, a reminder can be shown to students who do not follow the direction or seem to be confused.

This dramatically decreases the noise volume and the consistency helps students understand what is being asked of them.

3. Showing What Comes Next

Have you ever been to a day of professional development and have no idea what time lunch was? I have, and let me tell you- I was frustrated.  I was hungry and all I could think about was when lunch was.  However, if the speaker had told me what to expect, I would have been much more able to focus and learn.

The same things happen for our students.  Always, always have a schedule for them- no matter the age.  Students, just like us, need to know what their day will look like.

Even when students start to learn the routine of the day, it is important to continuously refer to the visual schedule (whether it is for the entire class or an individual one) so when there is a change, students are okay with it because they have grown to rely on their schedule instead of the routine. Learn more about visual schedules here. 

4. Reminders of Expectations

Do you have that one student who is just always talking out? Maybe they struggle to keep their hands to themselves?


It can be so frustrating to constantly be reminding students of their specific behavior expectations.


When this happens, make an individualized behavior visual with reminders of expected behavior.


Then, when the student starts to engage in those behaviors- simply point to the visual.  This again, cuts down on the volume, is easier for students to understand, and saves you from becoming frustrated from repeating yourself time and time again.

5. Makes concepts more concrete

Some students struggle with understanding oral language.  As students become upset, their ability to comprehend language can decrease even further.

This is another crucial reason visuals are so important.  It takes language, which is fleeting and ambiguous, and makes it concrete.

When giving directions or required materials, students may miss what is said or not understand.  This can be easily fixed by printing out images of the visuals you use in your classroom and putting them on the board as you give out directions.  You can get your free set of images here.

Finally, students may not know what a “safe body” means, but a picture of a student sitting on the carpet with their hands to themself can help show them what it means.

Sometimes having pictures of the student doing it themselves can be even more motivating.


Using visuals in the special education classroom is essential for the success of all students.

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