How to Make and Use a “First and Then” Visual Board


Written By:  Elizabeth McMahon, MA, CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist

Visual boards are a great way to help children learn and complete targeted activities.  Sometimes, children may need to have a visual board to help them understand “first we do this” and “then we do that.”  For example, in the picture above, “first we string beads” and “then we play ball.”   There are some apps available that work on visual boards, but I find that children have responded better to using objects and picture cards that are more concrete and hands-on.  Here are some easy ways to make and use a “first and then” visual board.

  1. Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper or cardstock.  Then, laminate it.  I like to use cardstock because it’s a little sturdier and doesn’t bend as easily.   You can find a basic laminator at any craft store.  I found one at Costco and it works really well.  If you don’t have a laminator, you could use contact paper.  Contact paper can be found at stores like Wal-Mart or Target and is usually in the kitchen liner section.
  2. Place a square of Velcro on each side of the line on the laminated cardstock.   This is your visual board.
  3. Find pictures to use as the activity you are requiring them to complete and then those you are using as a reinforcing object.  This is something that your child will work for.  What do they like?  What’s their favorite toy, food or activity?  You can find pictures online or take a picture of the object with your camera.  If your child is working with a speech pathologist, they may have the computer program called Boardmaker and can print some pictures for you.
  4. Laminate the pictures and add Velcro to the back.
  5. Introduce the “first and then” board to your child.
    • Provide your child a few objects and find out which one is motivating to them.  Then, place that picture on the right hand side of the board (e.g. ball).
    • Place a picture of the targeted activity on the left hand side of the board (e.g. stringing beads).
    • Tell your child “first we string beads and then we play ball.”  Show them the visual board and point to each picture as you give this instruction.
    • Provide the activity on the left (e.g. stringing beads).
    • Once this activity is completed, tell them, “all done stringing beads” and have your child take the picture off the board.
    • Then say, “now it’s time for ball” and immediately give them the desired object and let them play with it for a few minutes.

The “first and then” visual board can be used throughout the day at home, during therapy sessions and in the classroom.  You will need to change the desired object in order to have something motivating for your child.

Now It’s Your Turn:  Have you used a “first and then” visual board with your child?  How did it go?


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