ASD visual IPad SEN

Let’s get vis-u-al


Image used @MaddieMaker 

Drawing an incident for a student with social communication difficulties is a revealing way to find out how the situation had been interpreted by them, and what might have triggered an unwanted behaviour.

Before the iPad I just used paper but now my app of choice is Paper53; designed for architects so I imagine my match stick people are virtual heresy.

It comes from Carol Gray’s Comic Strip conversations (author of Social Stories). Rather than using them to explain social situations before an event however I often use them to unpick an incident.

The more forensic the investigation, the more successful the analysis becomes and the more the student begins to link behaviours to triggers (making the connection is often difficult for a child on the Autistic Spectrum).

*I have changed parts of these stories to protect individuals but I hope they still reflect the usefulness of this approach*



This student had a melt down during registration and began running round then hiding under a table, refusing to come out.

The picture was interesting as we used colour to show feelings. The student was still red under the table – not feeling calm (blue) until we were chatting in another area. I had assumed under the table was a safe haven but anxiety levels were still high.

The main benefit of these pictures for the student was linking his anxiety and subsequent behaviour with the disappointment of not receiving the prize.


This student was in trouble for hitting another student.

She told me this had happened:


During our comic strip conversation it transpired that while she was going to her lesson some older students had thrown something at her.  She had not told anyone about this incident – to her they were unrelated.


During our session she asked me ‘do you think I might have hit him because my neck was still hurting?’.  Of course there is still no excuse for what she did but it is a significant piece of the social jigsaw which needed to be made explicit.

We talked about what choice she could have made:


The student thought that as her neck was still hurting (red dot), she could have gone to a member of staff to tell them what had happened.

Further Education


This student found drawing comic strips really useful and we would do one every time I saw him.  I probably learned as much as he did during these tutorials.

Here he explained how he’d got upset as he hadn’t understood the instructions during a practical work based session.  Many thought bubbles were linked to too much information, too much happening around him and the perception that everyone else knew what they were doing except for him.

We came up with targets such as asking staff to give instructions one at a time or asking a peer for help.

Comic Strips are not useful to reprimand a student but are great to explore triggers for a behaviour.

And you don’t need to be good at drawing as I demonstrate perfectly.

7 thoughts on “Let’s get vis-u-al”

  1. Hi Jules,
    Great blogsite!
    This does work well; used to do similar. There are links with art therapies, IMO. It can also help with parent discussions, to track potentially significant events in a child’s development.
    Storyboarding, timelines can serve similar purpose.
    Hope to meet up some day.

    1. I hadn’t thought of art therapy – that is such a good point. Yes I agree regarding parents, also teachers and year heads. Sometimes, the student hasn’t come under SEN radar due to good literacy and numeracy skills. The iPad is great as I can email them to relative parties.

      Thanks Chris, hope to meet you too – were you thinking of going to the SEN Teach Meet in Oxford?

  2. Excellent! I love this. I can see how the approach works to unpick behaviour but then how it also frames it, allowing the student to objectify the experience, distance themselves from it and learn from it to move on and do better next time.
    In terms if apps, you could then import your images into the ‘comic strip’ app and frame each scene with a movie reel border 🙂

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