When we use visuals to communicate

What tools do you have in your tool chest? Have you purchased particular items because of where you live? Were you able to get access to them easily or did you have to search for them? Or did you not know that they were even there in the first place? I didn’t. I don’t have access to a range of colours to use because they weren’t standard in the packages that were sold. Yet they are and have always been available. I just didn’t know that they were important for me to purposefully have available. There are times when we force our opinions on others and there are times when we lack comprehension of how complex something is. Working with drawing the visual of being ‘able’ to communicate with this method was more important than the colouring materials or shades used simply because of what the purpose of communicating needed to be for the environments that the kids that I work with are in e.g. school, sharing details of their day or stories and ideas with their parents. In my specific individual world I wasn’t being communicated to that the need to have specific visuals to tailor for colouring was important because the families and children that I worked with weren’t talking about that as the goal through drawing. It wasn’t about protecting themselves through accurate portrayals of themselves on paper, it was about expressing ideas and completing school work and developing fine motor and cognitive skills and enjoying themselves. Its only when school assignment and curriculum demands for getting enough marks to pass come in that priority is given to the small details, because in my world being able to draw the shapes is more important than expressing with colour.

Yet. Colour is so hugely important for how quickly it can convey details of information that are categories. I’ve scanned in one of the high school students drawings and used it so that I can show you how quickly the ‘tone’ of the conversation can change simply through the use of colour..

How easy is it to identify someone from their hair colour? So as a student talking through my drawings / pictures about who these people are I ‘could’ just include the different peoples hair colour and that ‘might’ be enough to differentiate them from each other. E.g. If my best friends hair is brown, another one has light brown and another one has dark black hair then that is easy for anyone ‘reading’ my picture / drawings to know who I am talking about instantly because they have the colour cue to use as a symbol for that person. Issue is.. Do I have those colours in a standard container of crayons / markers / pencils in the first place? Nope..

So I would need to be TAUGHT this as a skill because it isn’t something that I could explore easily because the materials are not available. An adult would need to go make a specific trip to the store to purchase them otherwise I would never know that I COULD use this as a tool to communicate..


When I add in skin tone, does it make it easier to identify someone and differentiate amongst friends with similar skin tones and hair colours that have subtle variations?

Issue is though. How many pencils do I now need… How big does that make my pencil case? How much does that cost?


Simple changes in the pencils that I use can have a significant difference in what I can communicate knowledge wise.. I might not be able to talk but I can see those around me. So I might be able to non-verbally communicate my internal not seen knowledge about people, groups or categories of concepts such as what I have hand drawn myself are then a collection of people within one class because all of the people are wearing the same clothing, so does that mean that they go to the same school? Cant tell, but these are children’s drawings, everyone is of the same height because I struggle with my drawing skills AND I struggle with my hand control AND I haven’t learnt that this is an expectation or an OPTION yet. I could represent different football teams for the Super Bowl by simply colouring enough people for one team and enough people for another one. Yet I here in Australia don’t see those types of colouring books on the shelves in Big W or Kmart or Target. I could represent two people standing next to each other from opposite teams as being in the middle of a dual for the ball if only I could colour one person in the colours for that uniform and the other person in the colours for their uniform. But I didn’t know that clothing colouring was an important skill for communicating content about knowledge (despite having seen some information passed on to me before in detail via email which has been passed on to legal representatives)..


Different countries and different schools and different teachers use different strategies to communicate through drawing. These resources are helpful:

Martha Horn and Mary Ellen Giacobbe (2007) Talking, Drawing, Writing: Lessons for our Youngest Writers.

Richard P. Jolley (2009) Children and Pictures: Drawing and Understanding.

Jill Mullin (Editor) (2014). Drawing Autism.