What therapy tools could I not live without? My iPad is one, but even more basic than that is paper and colored pencils. A student walks in my office having difficulty with vocabulary, reading comprehension or understanding a concept from one of their classes and I roll over (literally, in my chair) to the colored pencils and snag a piece of white copy paper from the printer…and off we go.

I am a terrible artist, but if I can’t draw it you can bet my student can. We laugh about how bad I am at drawing, but even the horrible scribble I draw sticks with them – because it’s so absurd they remember.  If it’s a vocabulary word, we are drawing pictures on their flash cards. If it’s a lesson concept, we are drawing more expansive representations to solidify the concepts. If it’s a story, I am mapping out the story on paper and “drawing” attention to underlying meaning in the story. We break down the “big picture” or “gestalt” into smaller pieces so they can see how the parts relate to the whole story.

Why does this work? iCare4Autism published an article, Enhancing Reading Comprehension through Intensive Training last month. They highlight research by the University of Alabama researchers who studied 31 children with autism. These children were average readers, but had low comprehension skills. They used visual aids to help the children broaden their knowledge of vocabulary words and recorded neurological changes using MRIs. “By the end of the study, it was evident that children that participated in the intensive training had stronger connectivity within the language network.”

I’ve known using visual aids and drawing pictures with colored pencils and markers improves my students’ understanding of words and broadens their meanings. The study acknowledge the usefulness of visual aids with images of the brain. So add some color to your treatment sessions and break out the colored pencils.

Our vocabulary apps, InferCabulary and WordQuations, use beautiful photographs and video, because students benefit from visuals in a variety of forms.