In my imaginary Land of Quadrants (algebra), I tell the visual students that the aliens sometimes take on the forms of fruits and vegetables. When they see a term such as:
2t + 3b + 5t + 6c + 2b - 3c
they need to be reminded that in the L.O.Q. these people do not mix (add) together. There is NO FRUIT SALAD in this alien land. They may, however, combine, like variables.
If they look at the variables in the above term, the bs are bananas. The t is a tomato. The c's are carrots. I tell the students to assign shapes to each of the fruits (variables) in the terms to be simplified. I would use a circle for the tomatoes, a rectangle for the bananas, and a triangle for the carrots.
The top line of shapes above is the original term in shapes. The bottom row is the answer in simplified term. Remind students that when drawing the shapes, the sign goes with the variable (always) and into the shape itself.