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Autism Communication Cards | Free Printables

My nephew can’t always use words to tell me what he wants or needs. Sometimes, he points, grunts at something, or maybe looks my way – he wants to share something with me, but getting that message across can be frustrating and lead to meltdowns. I’ve learned tools and tricks to help my nephew communicate more effectively, and one of the best ones has been communication cards for autism. These cards can help people with verbal expression difficulties communicate. They can use pictures, symbols, words, or photographs to ask for things, comment, or answer questions. Most importantly, I’m offering a downloadable PDF of free communication cards you can try with your child to see if they make a difference in their ability to communicate their wants and needs.

What exactly are autism communication cards?

Autism communication cards are simple tools that can make a big difference for nonverbal or minimally-verbal autistic people. Here’s what you need to know:

  • They can take many forms: Cards might have pictures, single words, whole phrases, or combinations of all three.
  • They promote communication: These cards help with requests, commenting on observations, answering questions, and more.
  • They often target specific situations: Some cards are designed for daily routines like dressing or mealtime. In contrast, others might focus on emotions or sensory needs.
Read more: How to Teach Sight Words to Your Child

Why use autism communication cards?

Communication cards can be game-changers for many people with autism, especially kids. Here’s why they’re so impactful:

  • Reduce frustration: When kids can’t express their needs and wants, it can lead to frustration and meltdowns. Cards offer a simple, visual way to communicate, lessening the likelihood of those difficult moments.
  • Boost independence: Being able to communicate effectively fosters independence. Kids can ask for help, express themselves, and choose independently.
  • Increase participation: Social situations can be challenging for nonverbal or minimally verbal people. Communication cards help them join conversations, make friends, and fully engage in life.
autism communication cards. a grandma and granddaughter communicate with each other while making a dish in the kitchen together.

How to Make Autism Communication Cards

You can create communication cards yourself or find premade sets. Here’s a quick overview:

DIY communication cards

  • Choose your images: Consider simple drawings, photographs, or free printables from online resources (check out my free printable below!).
  • Add text (if desired): Include a word or short phrase with the picture.
  • Laminate for durability: This makes the cards more resistant to wear and tear.
  • Organize them: Consider using a binder, keychain ring, or a specific communication book.

Premade communication cards

Many premade sets are available online, often categorized by topic or function. You can find options for feelings, activities of daily living, and much more!

Where to Find Printable Autism Communication Cards

I want to make this journey as easy as possible for you! That’s why I created a free printable set of communication cards. Click the button below to download them and start using them with your child today.

Here are Some Things to Consider:

  • Pictures and symbols: Pictures and symbols can help people with autism communicate their needs and preferences in social situations. For example, a picture of headphones can indicate that someone is sensitive to noise.
  • Use simple phrases: Autism visual cards can have simple phrases or sentences that match clear illustrations.
  • Use a designated communication book: A communication book should include commonly used pictures and/or symbols, which should be organized by theme.
  • Use emotion cards: Emotion cards can help autistic children identify their feelings if they cannot express them using words.
A close-up image of an adult demonstrating a speech sound, featured on the best tablet for kids by Goally for AAC learning

Goally | Teach Kids AAC & Core Words

Is your child facing challenges in expressing themselves or communicating effectively? Goally’s language apps support their journey in building essential communication skills! All of these apps are included our skill-building tablet made for kids.

Goally's AAC Talker app and Word Lab app displayed on 2 Goallys. There's text that reads "Teach AAC and Core Words."

The Word Lab and AAC Talker apps provide a simple, engaging platform for your child to learn core words and become a functional communicator right from the start. Customize the experience with a voice that suits them, and watch as their confidence grows in expressing their thoughts and needs!

But we don’t stop there. Our Balloon App helps build the skills needed to use AAC by engaging your child with fun, interactive “pop the balloons” exercises. It’s a game-changer for kids who need that extra boost in communication.

Autism communication cards offer a simple yet powerful way to help autistic kids bridge the gap between what they want to communicate and what they can say. Giving them a visual tool reduces frustration, increases independence, and fosters a greater sense of connection. Remember, communication is a two-way street – be patient, model how to use the cards, and celebrate every success along the way!

Further Resources

Here are a few credible sources to find further information on autism communication cards:

  • Autism Speaks: Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS): This site offers detailed information about PECS. This popular communication system utilizes cards. 
  • The Hanen Centre: Using Visuals with Children with Autism This organization provides resources and support for parents and professionals working with kids with autism, including specific guidance on visual supports.
  • National Autism Association: Communication Interventions: Find articles and resources about communication challenges and autism, including strategies for supporting communication development. 

FAQ’s About Autism Communication Cards

What are autism communication cards?
Autism communication cards are picture cards that help people with autism who have limited verbal skills express themselves. The cards have images, words, or both, and can be used to make requests, express needs, and share feelings.

How do communication cards help kids with autism?
Communication cards provide kids with autism with a visual way to communicate. This helps reduce frustration, increase independence, and improve their ability to participate in social situations.

When should I start using communication cards with my child?
You can start using communication cards with your child at any age, as soon as you notice any communication difficulties. The earlier you start, the better!

How do I teach my child to use communication cards?
Start with a few cards for things your child really wants. Model how to use the cards yourself, and offer choices to help your child practice.

Where can I get autism communication cards?
You can create your own communication cards or find many premade sets online. Be sure to choose cards that are personalized for your child's needs and interests.

This post was originally published on 02/14/2022. It was updated on 02/22/2024. 

Article by

Emily is a seasoned blog writer for Goally, leveraging her extensive background in child psychology and special education to provide valuable insights and resources for parents. Her commitment to understanding and addressing the unique needs of these children, combined with her expertise in educational strategies, makes her a credible and empathetic voice for families.