The picture chart can be hand drawn or made with photos of actual objects. It is a chart hanging on the wall. The child points to a picture on the chart to communicate what he wants.

pexels-photoParents can buy picture charts or make picture charts of their own. If you have any artistic ability, a simple doodle can usually suffice.

If not, just take photos of the objects you want to feature and print them together on a single page. This should be displayed in a place that is easily accessible to the child.

To demonstrate the various ways a picture chart can be used, we relate several anecdotes for how to use it in therapy.

To facilitate communication for children with autism or children with language delays

Jared is a two-and a half year old recently diagnosed with autism. Jared sits on the floor or at a table and does structured activities to work on his skills.

Each activity lasts between five to ten minutes and then, it is “play time”. Present a hand-drawn picture chart. It is divided into six squares. In each square is a single picture. There is a ball, a sensory bin, paint markers, a child and adult playing “ring around the rosie,” and a toy guitar.

Jared’s favorite activity is “ring around the rosie.” He knows how to point to the picture to select that activity. Now Jared points to the chart, and says the word “rosie” as well, in order to select his favorite activity.

For children who have difficulty selecting appropriate play activities.

Mary is almost three years old. She presents with hyperactivity, some language processing difficulties, and expressive language delays.

Mary can sit for forty-five minutes with an adult and engage in a structured activity like a puzzle or craft project. However, when left to her own devices, she clings to Mom, fights with her brother, and does not chose or engage in play activities.

Mom and Mary’s therapist are working together to create a picture chart that will help Mary make use of her time in constructive play activities.

The chart will feature four to six of Mary’s toys and activities (crayons, blocks, play tent, etc.). They work on teaching Mary to use the chart and then engage in the selected activity for at least five minutes. Mom will need to be there to reinforce this behavior with attention and praise.

Over time, Mary will build sustained attention for longer periods of time, and with less adult reinforcement.

For children who have difficulty expressing needs and wants.

kidsMany children experience profound frustration when they cannot express to their caregiver what they want.

A picture chart for this child would feature the basic things he or she needs on a daily basis including:

  • Food
  • Drinks
  • Snacks
  • Favorite security object
  • A diaper to indicate the child needs a change

The parent teaches the child to use the chart by pointing to pictures, then handing the desired item to the child. This can greatly reduce frustration for both parent and child.

The child can then progress from pointing, to pointing and saying one word, pointing and saying two words, and finally will not need the chart at all.