Excited Woman with sunglasses on holiday

Using Visuals to Support Your Holiday

Holidays are wonderful times spent with family exploring and having fun, but they can be tricky if you have a child with a disability. Here are our top tips for using visuals and getting your child prepared for a holiday – no matter how big or small your getaway might be.

1. Use a social story

Social stories are simple stories (often with photos or visual supports) that help explain routines, social communication skills, social situations and changes to routines. For more information about Social stories try Raising Children or Carol Gray’s website

Example of Social Story Pages

Social stories commonly use simple language and are often read a few times per day to teach the new social cues. You can look at the Small TALK social story here for some ideas.

You might like to include some of the following things in your social story:

  • When you are going
  • Where you are going, including where you are staying
  • How you are getting there
  • Who else will be there
  • What you will do while you’re on holidays
  • Any pre-identified difficulties (e.g. ‘I won’t be able to use the internet on the plane’)
  • Some options if your child becomes overwhelmed (e.g. ‘I can ask for my iPad and have some quiet time’)

When writing a social story, try to use simple text (1-2 sentences per page) and simple images to make your story clear and easy to follow.

You can find lots of pre-made social stories online, or if you would like to try your hand at making your own , there are some great How To’s out there like this one from Teach Hub. We use Microsoft PowerPoint to make our social stories, but there are a range of computer programs and apps that can also be used. For images to add to your social story, try using a Google Image search, or use a dedicated program for making visuals such as BoardMaker or LessonPix

2. Use a visual schedule

Visual schedules are a visual breakdown of an activity or event. They can be for an activity (or part of), or for activities for an entire day. These can be particularly handy for holidays to let your child know what to expect each day, or to provide them with the sequence of a particular event in the day (e.g. going through the airport).

You might like to use one visual schedule, or a range of schedules for your holiday. Some ideas for different schedules are:

  • a simple first/then board to demonstrate what will happen first (or now) and what will happen next
  • a visual schedule for the entire holiday – this might include days/dates and where you will be on each day of your holiday
  • daily schedules – to let your child know what to expect on each day of their holiday
  • activity specific schedules – to let your child know the steps in a particular activity

Small TALK have a range of visuals packs that might just help you get started!

There are also some great apps available that you can customise with your visual schedule such as Visual Schedule Planner and Choiceworks.

3. Make your visuals accessible

It is important to make sure that you have access to the visuals (or a version of) at all times during your holiday. You might like to consider some of the following ideas:

  • Making wearable visual wristbands, like these from LessonPix. These are easily edited to add your own images and can hold 1-10 images or a string of text
  • Having a printed, portable copy of your visual schedule and/or social story. Lanyards are useful for making sure these are visible and accessible
  • Downloading a visual schedule app on your phone or tablet

Examples of access to visuals. Wristband, iPad and lanyard.

4. Check Initiatives at airports and tourist attractions

Many airports around Australia (as well as some international airports) have great initiatives that provide additional support and offer free materials in preparation for flying with a person with a disability. Melbourne Airport has the Hidden Disability Program which includes a sensory map of the airport and social stories for international travel.

Many tourist attractions also have Autism and Disability friendly resources, such as Melbourne Museum. To find out if the attractions you are planning to visit have accessible resources, we recommend visiting their website, or contacting the attraction directly.

Collage of Travel Images

5. Make a ‘ready pack’

A ‘ready pack’ might include a scrap book of photos and clipping from newspapers and travel magazines. It might also include keeping a folder of screenshots of places you are going to visit.

Once you reach your destination, find brochures (hotel foyers are often a great source for these!) to read about where you’re going, look at pictures and place on a map.

Be prepared before you go, and remember, you can always ask your Speech Pathologist to help out with your visuals and social stories!

Don’t forget to share and download our travel tips with our FREE PDF:

Read more about using visuals at school and making a simple daily routine schedule on our blog.