Start and finish

Before starting any task, make clear what it is about and make sure it has a beginning and an end. We copied the traffic light system they used to use at Becky’s school. Green for start and Red for finish.

Step by step in colour

My daughter loves numbers and is obsessed with the colour blue. To get her to go to bed I made up a list for her. I call it the countdown to bedtime. I numbered it from 1-6, and typed it up in blue font. It tells her exactly what time to go to her bedroom and when to put her pyjamas on etc. The fact that it uses a numerical order, and is in her favourite colour keeps her motivated and on board. Hope this helps!

Don't forget

We stuck a photograph of David showing his keys on the inside of the front door saying "Don't forget your keys". Works a treat!


We really like They provide print off series for lots of different activities which you can use around the house such as washing hands, using the toilet etc.

Photos of me

People with communication needs find it very useful to have pictures of themselves. For example, cleaning bathroom, washing dishes, hanging out the washing, cooking etc - these photos can then be put on a rota on their kitchen pin board (or wherever they choose), to use as prompts for daily living.

Wipe off check list

We have drawn a colourful tick-box check-list for getting ready in the morning which is wipe off. Molly likes ticking the tasks off after she has done them.

How many sleeps

When trying to build up the concept of time, talk about ‘sleeps’ instead of ‘days’ such as “ten more sleeps to go until Christmas”.

Participate and focus

During tidying up time we give Joel a basket to put everything in. This allows him to participate and encourages him to focus on the task.

Tidy up time

We have a count down before tidy up time. You can use a 5 minute egg timer. Using words such as – ‘in 5 minutes/when the egg timer is finished it is time to tidy up'.

Kitchen timer

I use a timer for some activities like watching TV or playing on the computer. This gives Chloe some idea that there is a timescale for the activity. You can also use this for turn taking.

Talking clock

Nick is an ‘early riser’, so we use a character speaking alarm clock, and set it to the time we want him to get up. He has to go back to bed unless 'the clock' has spoken. At weekends we set it an hour later which allows all of us to have a 'lie in'!

Nag free zone

To avoid lots of nagging and clock-watching in the morning use multiple alarms, maybe ones on mobile phones, to indicate time things should be done by. (We used to say first ring was dressing bell, next ring was teeth cleaning bell, next ring was shoes on bell etc).

Song cues

Try using a rhyme or song such as a hello song for snack time, group time, toilet time, lunch time etc to communicate a transition within the day’s routine.

Visual timetables

Visual timetables help coping with transition between activities, and provide a sense of security. There are some great free resources available on the internet for visual timetables, including and

Advance notice

When we need to break a routine I have found that giving Sonya as much advance notice as possible, explaining why, works for us. We also try to offer something pleasurable in exchange for her co-operation and flexibility with the broken routine. She copes with the change better when she is able to process it in advance.

Don't get stuck

If you are firmly fixed in a routine at home and nothing will change it, try going somewhere else and doing things differently. After a while routines at home could change too. a) John would not try feeding himself (finger feeds) until we started having picnics out and about in in the summer. b) Going on holiday forced a change of cereal, which he refused at home prior to this.

Vary the journey

Vary the route to and from school or other places you visit regularly. We have found this helps with rigid behaviour about travelling somewhere. This is very helpful when there are roadworks or accidents on road and you are diverted. We have used visual support for this by showing where we are going so John realises there are different ways to get to the same place.

Key routines

Just like 'key words' we have some 'key routines' of daily activities as they build up a structure to each day and this helps to anticipate what is going to happen, like stepping stones through the day.

Put yourself in their shoes

Remember that routines are important in everyone's life and missing a step can make you feel "not quite right". Think about how you feel if you sleep in and don't get to eat breakfast or have a shower. This can be useful when trying to understand why an individual is struggling when they can't complete a routine.

Small changes

We try to vary routines very slightly by introducing small changes to prevent obsessiveness. For example, don't always watch TV at the same time every day.

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Using these tips

These tips have been contributed by members of our online community. We hope they will give you some ideas to try, but if you need further help why not post a question to the community or talk to one of our community advisors. If you have any concerns about your health or the wellbeing of someone you are caring for, please consult a doctor or qualified professional.

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