When we refer to visuals, we are talking about those things we can use or look at to help us to process information and support the way we in which we communicate. We see and use visuals everyday – calendars, diaries, street signs, labels, iconic food restaurants symbols etc!
We rely on visuals each and every day to help us communicate, process, understand and retain information. They also help to build a person’s confidence, provide time to process information and are useful to be referred back to at any time.
We can provide information to someone verbally and they can hold onto it for a short time. But when we provide that information visually, the person can see it, retain it and check on it as often as they need it – for some people, they have stronger visual skills than they do auditory skills. Having the visuals always available to a person to check on or to simply prompt them, gives them a sense of control and stability.
There are many benefits of using visuals in the everyday environment and one such area is that of information processing. Information processing includes things like remembering a sequence of events/tasks or working out emotions/behaviours of others.
For many people, processing information may take some time and on some occasions, their response to something may occur hours or even days later. Support can be provided through the use of visuals to help with scheduling of events/tasks to enable consistency and structure. They are also useful for understanding and working through social situations where there may have been some miscommunication or misunderstanding. The use of visuals helps to reduce the impact of stress and anxiety on someone as they are more likely to have a clear picture of future events and changes to routines, allowing them the extra time to process the information – the more stressed or anxious a person is, the longer they will take to process information.
Providing choice and access to visual supports helps people to better understand the world around them and therefore feel more comfortable in their immediate surroundings (thereby reducing anxiety and stress levels).