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How to Elevate Your Practice with Visual Language in Autism: Insights from Shane and Weiss-Kapp

How to Elevate Your Practice with Visual Language in Autism: Insights from Shane and Weiss-Kapp

In the field of special education, particularly when working with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), visual instructional supports have shown significant promise. The book "Visual Language in Autism" by Howard C. Shane and Sharon Weiss-Kapp offers a comprehensive guide on utilizing these supports effectively. This blog aims to help practitioners enhance their skills by implementing the outcomes of Shane and Weiss-Kapp's research or by encouraging further exploration into the topic.

Shane and Weiss-Kapp's work, which is grounded in their clinical experience at the Boston Children's Hospital, underscores the benefits of visual instructional supports for children with ASD. Their Visual Immersion Program (VIP) is designed to maximize these benefits. The book is divided into seven chapters, each offering valuable insights into different aspects of visual language and its application in therapeutic settings.

Key Takeaways for Practitioners

Understanding Visual Supports

The first two chapters provide a solid foundation on the historical uses and benefits of visual supports. Practitioners will gain an understanding of the different applications of visual systems, such as communicative devices, scheduling, and language learning. The authors also highlight the limitations of existing systems like Picture Exchange Communication Systems (PECS) and introduce the advantages of the VIP.

Assessment and Evaluation

Chapters 4 and 5 focus on the assessment of a child's visual instructional support needs. Key principles for evaluating children with ASD are discussed, including the use of both standardized and adapted assessment measures. The book provides practical tools such as checklists and questionnaires to assist in the evaluation process, ensuring that the VIP is tailored to the child's specific needs.

Implementing the VIP

Chapter 6 is particularly valuable for interventionists, offering basic instructional objectives and principles for using the VIP effectively. These include:

The chapter emphasizes creating a symbol-rich environment, integrating all aspects of the VIP, ensuring success, and then gradually fading the supports.

Special Considerations

The final chapter addresses special uses for the VIP, such as managing difficult behavior in children with ASD. The authors suggest that the VIP can help decrease episodes of difficult behavior by improving the act of requesting, supporting transitions, assisting in coping with surprises, and expressing pain or discomfort. The program can also be adapted for use in inclusive classrooms and by parents at home.

Encouraging Further Research

While Shane and Weiss-Kapp provide a robust framework for using visual instructional supports, they also acknowledge that their program is not a standalone approach or a core curriculum. Practitioners are encouraged to explore further research and adapt the VIP to fit their specific needs and contexts. The book includes extensive examples and practical tools that can guide junior professionals and educators in their intervention programming for children with ASD.

To read the original research paper, please follow this link: Visual Language in Autism - Howard C. Shane and Sharon Weiss-Kapp.

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