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September 29, 2023

How to Use Visuals in Individual Support Plans

3 suggestions around how to use visuals in individual support plans to improve understanding and co-collaboration.

An Individual Support Plan can go by many names: Behaviour Plan, Individual Education Plan, Positive Handling Plan, Support and Intervention Plan, or Individual Care Plan, to name but a few. Whatever they are called in your setting, these plans are a personalised document about an individual, and contain vital information to help you provide the best possible support and care.

Working in education, health, and social care settings, we want to avoid producing a document that is crammed full of irrelevant, indigestible information about the individual. Many plans simply become too long and complex to be a practical tool for ongoing support. Others are rarely updated and contain out-of-date information that is no longer relevant.

For an Individual Support Plan to be useful and really serve a purpose, it needs to be simple and accessible to all. This means accessible not just to us and other professionals, but also to the child, young person, or adult we’re working with. The more the individual feels like they have ownership of their plan, the more useful it becomes for everyone.

Sometimes, there will inevitably be information that needs to remain confidential, but we can make efforts to ensure that pertinent information is shared in an accessible way, with as much co-collaboration with the individual as possible.

How can be visuals be useful for Individual Support Plans?

An effective Individual Support Plan should include a snapshot of the child, young person, or adult we’re supporting. It’s about their likes and interests, specific challenges, and the strategies that best support them; it is key to making connections and developing levels of trust. This is particularly important when many professionals are involved in the individual’s care.

Most plans include:

    • The individual’s interests, likes and dislikes, and personal strengths

    • Relevant contextual information

    • Preferred methods of communication

    • Supportive strategies

    • Potential trigger situations and challenges

    • Medical conditions

    • Potential risks and/ or safeguarding considerations

    • Frequency and date of when the plan will be reviewed (in addition to ongoing notes made on the working document)

Whether it’s following a set of instructions or understanding how something works, visuals are great for breaking information down into bite-sized pieces. Having an image of something in our heads can help us remember and remind us of what to do next. We can also be imaginative in how we use visuals to engage the individual in their own care, so they have a greater understanding of why something is happening, not just what is going on.

Using visuals effectively

So how can we incorporate visuals into our plans to make them more accessible? While individual needs should always be taken into account, here are a 3 suggestions of ways to use them in plans.

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