Picture schedules provide supports for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) which are part of the environmental supports many students with ASD respond well to. Some students with autism may need a schedule that is paired down a bit and a first/then schedule is ideal for them.
Picture schedules help students with ASD understand what is happening during the school day and is a tool to help them navigate successfully through their day.
Some things to think about when using a first/then schedule:
this low tech first/then board can be created with a file folder. Laminate the file folder so it can be wiped clean if it gets dirty. Set velcro strips on the outside and long strips inside to store the images
create images that reflect all parts of their daily school schedule
create images to reflect referred activities and reinforcers
real photo icons may be needed first for younger students or students with ASD who are level 3. Ideally all icons should contain a picture and a word so students will get exposure to written language. Pairing a picture with a word will help a student eventually transition to only using words for their schedules.
focus on a work task or non-prefered task for the first item on the schedule and a preferred task or reinforcer for the “then” item on the schedule
complete “reinforcer assessments” often to insure students with autism are motivated to complete the work task or assignment
first/then boards are portable and you can keep all picture items you need inside the schedule
this schedule is portable and should be taken with the student as he or she navigates around the school
higher tech options are available through apps if a student uses a tablet
if you put the first/then on the white board or smart board for all students, then it can become a universal support and many students can benefit from it
this visual support may be part of a student’s IEP What is an IEP? but it is OK to try this strategy to provide more structure doing any student’s day
communicate and collaborate with the student’s IEP or 504 team to let them know you have started this visual support
encourage and support parents to use a first/then picture schedule at home if they are needing more structure in the home environment
Have first/then picture schedules been helpful to your students in the past?