Friday, November 9, 2012

Building Communication Around Routines

The WHY of Communication
There are a number of reasons why a child might use communication. Two very important and also very different reasons are:
to regulate others and get needs met
to share attention and experiences with others

For children with autism, while both of these communication functions may be difficult to learn, the second one is the most difficult. Our goals for communication training for children with autism include helping them increase both the regulatory function of communication and also increase their motivation and understanding of using communication in more purely social ways. We hope to help them realize that they can share experiences with others, that it is fun to do so, and that communication is a part of this sharing of experiences.

Why Use Routines?
Routines are of high interest to children with autism. Learning and using routines are learning strengths. They like the predictability of routines and, left to their own devices, often establish their own rigid routines and become very upset if they are disrupted. By establishing a positive routine, and then disrupting it, we create an incentive for the child to communicate in order to re-establish the familiar routine.

Joint Activity Routines
A joint activity routine is a powerful teaching tool for children with communication disorders. This term describes a routine in which the child and the adult engage in a meaningful activity together and communicative behaviors are taught within the routine of the activity. 

Key elements of Joint Activity Routines
·      They occur in a meaningful and functional context (such as a play routine, a bathing routine, etc.)
·      They use the child's interests and strengths.
·      They are social (involve 2 people) at the child's level of understanding (ranging from parallel, to cooperative, to turn-taking, to interactive)

The adult role is to:
set up the environment and introduce the activity
add visual supports to the routine (such as pictures, objects, print words)
repeat and establish the routine, and then
wait -- and cue the child with the visual supports as needed to continue the routine

Adapted from:  Susan Boswell, 
Division TEACCH,

Another resource puts it like this: “Choose a routine that’s easy to repeat and that your child enjoys.  It could be a people game, a song, a rhyme, or a routine you’ve created.  Once your child is familiar with the routine, you can use it to SPARK an interaction.


·      --Start the same way each time
·     ------- Plan your child’s turn.
·     -------------- Adjust the routine so your child can take his turn.
·   -----------------------   Repeat the same actions, sounds and words each time.
·     ------------------------------- Keep the end the same."

from:  It Takes Two to Talk, Jan Pepper and Elaine Weitzman

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