I sometimes hear people worry that students will become too dependent on visuals. It has been my experience that our students need continued use of visuals to become and stay independent. The alternative is often that they are dependent on adults. The thing is…it is sometimes harder to see this dependency. People sometimes remove visuals and then offer verbal or physical prompts instead.People are often unaware of how many prompts they are giving students.
Another dependency that is quite common and even more difficult to notice than verbal prompts or physical prompts is “relationship dependency”. Often students’ “independence” is based on a relationship with one particular adult.
Here is what I mean, there are many kind, patient and supportive adults working with students in our schools and communities. They create positive relationships with students and in return students are generally cooperative with them. They navigate their days with minimal struggles. However, when a new person starts supporting the student, behaviours start to surface. Often this is because the student is dependent on the positive relationship with one, or only a few, staff members.
When I see this happening, I encourage the person with the positive relationship with the student to focus on introducing more visuals and routines so that if someone else starts to work with this student there is a greater chance that their success will transfer to the new person. The person with the positive relationship will often not feel the need to introduce visuals because the student doesn’t “need” them when they are working with them, however, this person is in the very best position to teach visuals to students.And likely the student will need them when they no longer work together.
My vote will always be in favour of using more, not less, visuals…even a ridiculous amount.