Using Family Photos in Therapy

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words.  In therapy, I have found using family photos (and photos of classmates and teachers) extremely successful.  This is particularly true for children who are making slow progress.  It has also been helpful for children who are diagnosed with Fragile X syndrome or Autism.   Using family photos is functional because you are using pictures of people who that child sees frequently and will be talking with or about them. This then helps with generalization.    Lastly, the children really respond to seeing photos of people who are important in their lives.

How do I use them?

Using family photos is effective for working on grammar, building vocabulary and semantic relationships.  Here are just a few areas I target:

1.  Pronouns: Pictures are particularly effective when children have the I/you confusion.  Pointing to pictures of themselves or others seems to help reduce this confusion. It’s also great for teaching he/she/they.  It also works well for possessive nouns and pronouns.

2. Is/Are verbs:  Here using the pictures along with strips have been very helpful.

3. Teaching verbs:  Along with using sentence strips, I will also have the family members take pictures of them doing a variety of actions (e.g. run, carry, open etc..).  Have the child take the pictures and direct their family members.  This is fun for the student and it works on their goals at the same time. They are great for use with sentence strips and for making books to take home.

4. Teaching emotions:  Again I will get family members to take a variety of photos showing different emotions.  These I can use like cards or I can make stories about different emotions (e.g. Dad feels mad when you don’t pick up your toys.  Sister feels mad when you go in her room.)

5. Categorization:  Have pictures of family members out and then sort different objects.  E.g. Mom only likes forest animals.  Dad only likes farm animals.


While this has been very successful, it can be time-consuming and works best if the parents are willing to take photos.  I will typically give them a list of the kinds of pictures I need.  I then have them email them so that I can resize them or duplicate them as needed.

If you are taking pictures of other children, you need to make sure that you have their parent’s permission.  I typically don’t let children take any materials home if they contain pictures of their classmates.   Overall, I feel the benefits out way the challenges.  Do you use photographs of family in therapy?