Helping Kids With Special Needs Get the Picture

By Leann Reid
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email
Nathan Yoder
Try cartooning to better communicate to children with special needs

One of my students, Chris, had a crush on his tablemate, Mallory. Unfortunately, he showed his affection by kicking her under the table.

“Don’t you think it hurts Mallory when you tap her under the table with heavy boots?” I asked him.

Chris, diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, needed frequent redirection. After a moment, he agreed that kicking can hurt. But he wasn’t sure what I wanted him to do.

As a special education teacher, I know children with special needs don’t typically pick up on innuendo or indirect questions. They often need a direct approach — something I hadn’t given him.

I decided to try again, only this time I used pictures to help get my point across.

Cartoon to help communicate with special needs kids

Cartooning is a fast, easy and fun way to correct mistakes and clarify your message. Don’t worry if you aren’t an artist — you can use simple stick figures. Here’s how the process works:

  1. In the first frame, write the words you want to say in a speech bubble coming out of your mouth. It might also help to draw a thought bubble above your head to let the child know what you’re thinking.
  2. In the next frame, draw the child using a bubble to show how he or she responded. Draw a thought bubble above the child’s head. The child can fill it in to let you know what he or she thought about your comments.
  3. Use as many frames as necessary to demonstrate how you can resolve the issue together. Some children like to take over the cartooning themselves, which helps them accept responsibility.

As I drew what I wanted to communicate, Chris’ eyes lit up with understanding.

“I won’t kick Mallory anymore,” he told me.

“Thank you, Chris,” I wrote in my cartoon bubble. I reiterated it to him aloud.

Problem solved.

I’ve experienced the effectiveness of cartooning with children who have all types of special needs. If your words aren’t getting through, a picture can sometimes make all the difference.

© 2018 by Leann Reid. Used by permission.

Share:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

About the Author

Leann Reid

Leann Reid is a freelance writer and a special education teacher.

Thank you [field id="first_name"] for signing up to get the free downloads of the Marrying Well Guides. 

Click the image below to access your guide and learn about the counter-cultural, biblical concepts of intentionality, purity, community and Christian compatibility.

(For best results use IE 8 or higher, Firefox, Chrome or Safari)

To stay up-to-date with the latest from Boundless, sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter.


If you have any comments or questions about the information included in the Guide, please send them to [email protected]

Click here to return to Boundless

Focus on the Family

Thank you for submitting this form. You will hear from us soon. 

The Daily Citizen

The Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family exists to be your most trustworthy news source. Our team of analysts is devoted to giving you timely and relevant analysis of current events and cultural trends – all from a biblical worldview – so that you can be inspired and assured that the information you share with others comes from a reliable source.

Alive to Thrive is a biblical guide to preventing teen suicide. Anyone who interacts with teens can learn how to help prevent suicidal thinking through sound practical and clinical advice, and more importantly, biblical principles that will provide a young person with hope in Christ.

Bring Your Bible to School Day Logo Lockup with the Words Beneath

Every year on Bring Your Bible to School Day, students across the nation celebrate religious freedom and share God’s love with their friends. This event is designed to empower students to express their belief in the truth of God’s Word–and to do so in a respectful way that demonstrates the love of Christ.

Focus on the Family’s® Foster Care and Adoption program focuses on two main areas:

  • Wait No More events, which educate and empower families to help waiting kids in foster care

  • Post-placement resources for foster and adoptive families

Christian Counselors Network

Find Christian Counselors, Marriage & Family Therapists, Psychologists, Social Workers and Psychiatrists near you! Search by location, name or specialty to find professionals in Focus on the Family’s Christian Counselors Network who are eager to assist you.

Boundless is a Focus on the Family community for Christian young adults who want to pursue faith, relationships and adulthood with confidence and joy.

Through reviews, articles and discussions, Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live.

Have you been looking for a way to build your child’s faith in a fun and exciting way?
Adventures in Odyssey® audio dramas will do just that. Through original audio stories brought to life by actors who make you feel like part of the experience; these fictional, character-building dramas use storytelling to teach lasting truths.

Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored all-inclusive intensives offer marriage counseling for couples who are facing an extreme crisis in their marriage, and who may even feel they are headed for divorce.