Free and Low-Cost Images for Communicating with Autistic People

Most autistic people are visual learners; here are sites to find those visuals

If you work with a person on the autism spectrum, you probably know that pictures are worth a thousand words. But where do you find free or low-cost pictures that illustrate potty training, grocery shopping, or tooth brushing? From clip art to high-quality photographs, there are plenty of resources available; you can also create your own images for PECS cards, Social Stories, and visual schedules.

Once you start searching, you'll discover that not all visual resources are created equal. Some are bright, simple, and easy to understand while others are much more complex or poorly drawn. Some simply show objects or activities that might be of interest to an individual with autism, while others are intended to teach concepts, processes, or correct behaviors. You'll need to search through the options to find (or create) images that really meet your needs.


Print Your Own Cards

If you work with a child or adult on the autism spectrum who has a tough time with spoken language, you may want to select and print images to meet their particular needs. You can often find what you need by searching Google, clicking on images, and then clicking on "tools." There, you'll be able to select the size and type of image you want (drawing, clip art, photo, etc.). Of course, most of the images available in this way are copyrighted, so while it's fine to use them for your own daily needs it's not appropriate to share them with others.

Another option for creating your own cards is to take photos of real-world items, places, and people, size and organize them, and print them out. There are a lot of benefits to this approach; not only are these images free and available to use in any way, but they're also representative of an autistic individual's real world. This expands communication possibilities dramatically and makes it easier to create just the card you need.



While not an autism resource per se, Pinterest is a rich source of images of virtually anything in the world. Search for PECS, Visuals, or Clip Art, and discover a world of options.


Trainland Images

Scroll down this page to find the link to dozens of "PECS Pages." These are photos and graphic images of an incredible range of items—all printable, and all free. They're relatively small (only about an inch and a half square) but they're full color. Also on the page are links to additional image sites and pages full of sign language images.



This collection of free images includes both simple and complex topics, as well as sets of images to describe processes such as hand-washing and toileting. In addition, you'll find printables with lessons about speaking at the right volume, making choices, asking for help, and other key concepts.


Silver Lining Multimedia

This is not a freebie site, but it does offer an extraordinary value: CD's of thousands of high-quality photographs for $40-$80. You could spend hours sifting through free sites, or own and print these materials which include not only items but also processes. If you expect to use specific, hard-to-find photographic images on a regular basis, these CD's are well worth the investment.


Ellie Cards

Ellie Cards offers a complete PECS set, including velcro book, photo cards and "choice board" for $239. Obviously, this is not the lowest-cost option on the market. But for teachers or parents who intend to use the PECS (Picture Exchange Card) system as outlined by Pyramid Products, Ellie Cards may be a great option -- especially since they offer a customized selection of cards at a reasonable cost. According to their website: "The Early Learning Images product includes a master binder containing 192 separate photos of items...commonly used by young children and therapists. Each photo is laminated and affixed to the pages of the binder with Velcro®. The binder is organized into categories by plastic color-coded pages. The complete set also includes a “choice board” where a smaller number of the images can be easily mounted and interchanged for travel or training exercises."


Super Duper Publishing

You'll find decks of picture cards for every occasion at this site. They're not especially inexpensive ($10.95 for 31 cards), but they are large (3X4 inches), laminated, and full color.

Even if you don't use picture boards to communicate with an autistic child, you'll find a huge range of uses for pictures of everyday places, things, and activities. Use these images to create Social Stories, visual schedules, or behavior boards, and discover the power of pictures for teaching and connecting with people on the autism spectrum.

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