What do I show?
You choose an object or picture, which is relevant to the situation and one that makes sense to the child.
e.g. a biscuit you are going to give the child to eat
Objects associated with the activity
e.g. a biscuit tin/ packet/ cellophane to represent biscuit
e.g. a plastic biscuit to represent biscuit, a toy spider to represent the song Incey Wincey Spider
2 dimensional images: Photos
Some children find it hard to understand that objects can be represented by pictures. For some of them, photos are meaningful. Photos are a good system for children whose understanding of the world is limited to a small number of objects/ situations.
For all children, photos are useful for specific things that are hard to get symbols for .e.g. particular toys or people, where the photo has very specific meaning.
Be careful because photos can be too specific: a photo of outside school doesn't represent outside home, a photo of a Jaffa cake doesn't represent a rich tea biscuit.
Photos can also carry emotion. A photo of a child's mummy on their visual timetable, to represent home time might make it hard for them to be separated from her. This photo might also be confusing if someone else comes instead of the mum to collect them.
2 dimensional images: Picture Symbols
Symbols are line drawings generated by computer software. Symbols have the advantage of being easily created and reproducible. They can be used to represent the same word meaning from one setting to the next, e.g. preschool, home, school and from one class to the next.
How do I know if the child understands?
We learn the meaning of a spoken word, or learn to associate an object, picture (or smell or taste) with a particular situation because our memory records them together. The child will learn by experience. That is how we are teaching when we use traffic lights. We are building up associations by repetition.