How to Actually Help Children With Autism

Autism Awareness Month is in full swing. I am starting to see several friends on Facebook with blue frames around their profile pic. Other SLP bloggers I follow are talking about it.

And that is all great. Really, I think awareness is awesome.

But today, I want to discuss three easy ways to actually help children with autism. After all, that is the end goal, right?


1. Teach your child(ren) how to interact with children with autism
Children are great at including others in their play. But when it comes to a child with autism, sometimes neither of them have the social skills to make the play actually happen.

The good news is you can teach your child some basic skills that will make play easier.

a) Explain the play/game before it actually happens. Children with autism often need concrete expectations and rules. Teach your child to say, ” We are playing ____________, do you want to play?” and then, “This is how we are playing it.” Yes, I know that sounds bossy, but children with autism may need that structure.

b) Teach your child to be good conversationalists. Children with autism may perseverate on one or two topics, and may not notice that their conversational partner isn’t interested. Teach your child to be a good listener, and then move into teaching them how to guide a conversation.

I know, I know. Easier said than done. And since I remember less-than-fondly textbooks with vague concepts with no examples, here’s how I would approach this:

  • Play turn-taking games with rapid turnover. Go Fish, Candyland and Sorry all come to mind. These lay the foundation for the concept of taking turns, including transition phrases like, “Now it’s my turn.” This easily translates into a guiding a conversation.
  • Play games like “Telephone” and “Simon Says” to encourage a child to listen more carefully.
  • Talk about how some kids LOVE to talk about one or two things. Maybe teach your child to learn 2 new facts about a topic when talking to another child. Then they could suggest a different topic. I would role-play to practice this.

c) Teach your kids about “cool-offs.” Children with autism tend to get overwhelmed easier, and they may manifest it in different ways. Some will shut down, some will cry, and some will hit or push. Teach your child that when they see these “signs” to let their friend “cool-off.” They aren’t in trouble, but they need some time alone to have feelings and calm down. What’s important here is that your child doesn’t forget about the other child; give them 5 minutes and then check in to see if they want to play or need more cool-off time.

See, not so hard, right? I mean, these are basically teaching your child how to be a good person. They’re just tailored a bit to children with autism.


2. Offer Mom and Dad some down time.
I have such respect for parents of children with autism and other developmental delays. Day in and day out they handle the struggles of daily living, putting out one fire as two more start. They just want the best for their child.

If you personally know a child with autism, offer to watch them for a few hours. Don’t give the quintessential, “If you need me to watch him/her, give me a call.” Say, “I want to watch your child to give you a bit of free time or even (gasp) a date. What day works this week?”

If you don’t personally know a child with autism, look into respite care. Where I live, there is a great resource called Kids on the Move. One of the great things they do is offer childcare at their center for parents of special needs children. You can volunteer for two hours a month, once a week, whatever fits your schedule. It gives the parents a few hours to focus on their relationship or attend one of their classes.

We all know the rule: You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. This gives parents an opportunity to do so.

3. Change the conversation. 

As an SLP I am used to speaking the professional lingo and using/avoiding specific terms. While this is starting to become mainstream, I thought I would mention it here.

  • Most parents won’t object to “autistic child,” but the term “child with autism” is a little more appropriate. Autism doesn’t define a child; it’s only part of who they are.
  • I can’t believe I even have to say this in 2017, but words like “retarded” are beyond hurtful and not even accurate. The only appropriate use of “retarded” is when talking about flame retardant clothing.
  • Focus on the positives. Parents of children with special needs sit through endless IEPs, doctor’s appointments, and specialist evaluations outlining their child’s struggles. Try to mention positive things about their child or comment on their progress (if you have known them for a while).
  • Try to avoid using absolutes when talking about a child. Things like “never” and “always” can be discouraging. Instead, use phrases like “not yet” or “starting to” or “learning to.”

Well there you have it! Three ways to make a difference in the lives of children and parents dealing with autism.


Faster than the Drive-Thru: 10-Minute Dinner Idea

Yes, I know this is a speech therapy blog.

Yes, I know this is not a food blog.

But I consider this to be a life blog. A blog that bridges the gap between the speech therapist’s office and the home.

And that home requires dinner.


So today I have an easy non-recipe (because that’s how simple it is!) that will have dinner on the table in 10 minutes start to finish.

I can’t even get to Chik-Fil-A and back in 10 minutes.

For these Margherita Pizzas, you’ll need:

  • french bread, sliced
  • pizza sauce (canned, homemade, doesn’t matter)- I used an 8oz can of tomato sauce with italian seasonings added
  • mozzarella cheese
  • fresh slices of tomato
  • fresh basil (but really dried basil or even italian seasonings will work)
  • parmesan cheese and olive oil
  1. Turn your oven to the high broiler setting.
  2. Place your french bread on a greased baking sheet and drizzle olive oil on the bread.
  3. Put sauce and cheese on the french bread.
  4. Broil for 2 minutes.
  5. Once removed from the oven, place your fresh tomatoes and basil (or other herbs) on the pizza.
  6. Broil once more for 2-3 minutes until the tomato skin starts to look Trgrilled.
  7. Remove from oven and sprinkle parmesan cheese and pepper to taste.

That’s it, guys. There’s nothing else to do but plate and serve. Maybe make a green salad to go with it (and by “make” I mean shake some out of a bag and put dressing on it).

So the next time you’re in a pinch, don’t run through the drive-thru! Trust me, this is even faster and you get a totally homemade dinner!

What are your go-to fast dinner ideas?

Painting Pinecones Language Therapy


So I don’t know the weather where you guys live, but where I live the forecast is snow, then cold, then rain, then snow again.

While I am more than happy to bundle up my kids and send them outside to play in said snow, the reality is we spend 30 minutes getting all their winter clothes on and about 20 minutes actually outside in the snow.

That means we need to find things to do inside. Because even though I don’t think TV is wholly evil and brain-draining, I don’t want my children watching it for hours on end.

A few weeks ago, pre-snow, the kids and I (asked) and gathered pinecones from a neighbor. We washed and dried them, and I displayed them in a funky vintage bowl I have with a pumpkin candle in the middle.

(In the immortal words of A Goofy Movie: saaaaaaaaaaaa-wanky).

But as Thanksgiving passed and the snow started to fall, I decided it would be fun to bleach the pinecones and let my kids paint them with glitter paint.

It would also justify my buying a cinnamon-y holiday candle. A big one.

As my kids and I were cleaning up, I thought of three ways you can utilize this activity to not only have fun inside on a cold day, but also sneak in some language therapy.

Now a few words to the wise: pinecones do not bleach quickly. I don’t recommend doing it. Also, unless you absolutely drench the pinecones in glitter paint, it is a subtle effect (as you can see in the top photo). If you want more wow factor, I would spray paint them white before painting them.

So, without further ado, here are my three language activities for use with Painting Pinecones:

A “P” Party

Just, for heaven’s sake, don’t call it that in front of your kids.

  • As you are setting up and gathering your supplies, emphasize the “P” sound. The Paint, the Pinecones, the Paintbrushes, the Paper (to Protect your table).
  • Have your kid(s) repeat the sound. You can put it to a little tune and say “P makes the ‘P’ sound.” You could also put it to the tune of Mary Had A Little Lamb- ” The letter P says Puh-Puh-Puh…”
  • As you are painting, brainstorm with your kids about other words that start with “P.”
  • Once you are done painting the pinecones, give your child a crayon and have them look for the letter “P” in the sale ads you used to protect your table.
  • If your kid(s) are old enough, have them write the letter “P” on the sale ads. If they are very young, write a letter “P” with a highlighter and have them trace it.

Following Directions

Part of language development is learning how to follow directions. If your child(ren) are younger, give them opportunities to follow one-and two-step directions. These include:

  • Washing the pinecones (put the water in, add the soap/vinegar, add the pinecones, rinse them, etc.)
  • Setting up the art table (laying down sale ads, putting glitter paint on a plate, etc.)
  • Cleaning up (set pinecones out to dry, wash out the paintbrushes, throw away the sale ads)

If your child(ren) are older, talk about what might happen if you did the steps out of order. For instance, what if you painted the pinecones before laying down the paper? Or just put vinegar in the sink with no water?  This helps teach them to think about sequencing, which is moving towards high-level, abstract language skills.


No matter where your child’s abilities fall, all kids need sensory exposure as well as the language to go along with it. This activity lends itself to a lot of sensory experiences and opportunities to teach your child sensory words.

  • Gathering the pinecones- words like bumpy, rough, fat, or sticky (if there’s pitch on them).
  • Washing the pinecones- words like cold and wet. Also, as the pitch comes off, the water color will change- so sneak in color word like clear, blue, and brown.
  • Painting the pinecones- if you’re brave, let your child paint them with their fingers. Practice words like sparkly, squishy, bright, etc.

Part of sensory language is being able to compare and contrast things. Don’t forget to talk about the opposites of the above words. For instance, you can compare the fat, round pinecones to the thin, long pine needles.

Well I hope this gives you a fun idea for ways to incorporate language activities into your child’s (cold) day. I would love to hear more ideas from you guys!

A Hilarious Halloween Book


So…by show of hands…who grew up with Goodnight Moon?

I guess a better question is who didn’t grow up with Goodnight Moon?

One of the best parts of becoming a parent is reading the same books to your kids that you remember from your childhood.

Well, I’ve got a Halloween surprise for you:

Someone (Michael Rex) has written a Halloween version of Goodnight Moon. 

It’s called Goodnight Goon and it’s done exactly in the writing and illustration style of Goodnight Moon. 

I think I have read this book every day this week with my kids.

It is hilarious and charming and not too scary.

This book would be a great one to add to your holiday book collection.

You can purchase it on Amazon or check it out from your local library.

What I love about this book is it gives parents and educators a great way to practice compare and contrast while still feeling festive.

Can you imagine- comparing the original book and Goodnight Goon for similarities and differences?

You would win Halloween. Hands down.

Hope everyone has a happy and safe Halloween!

I Taught My Daughter to Fear

I taught my daughter to fear


I. hate. grasshoppers.

They have those big, bulgy eyes and they always wait until the last millisecond to hop away from you and…just…ugh.

Spiders? Unless they’re huge or venomous, not a big deal.

Snakes? Meh. (see the note on spiders).

But grasshoppers? They send me running back inside. Or at least give me an excuse to avoid yard work.

However, my daughter spent all summer catching them out in the woodpile, much to my chagrin.

Until last week.

I was fiddling around in the garage, and suddenly I heard this unearthly scream. Followed by, “Mama! Mama!”

And then, the words that made my heart drop.


I turned the corner and Chicka Chicka was frozen, with her bare foot at a funny angle.

My first horrible, terrible thought was ” She has stepped on a grasshopper with bare feet.”

Then I saw her shorts.

Apparently a grasshopper had hopped itself right onto her shorts and she panicked. Which, I can’t say I blame her.

I helped her brush it off (ew) and we went on with our day.

But something struck me.

I had taught my daughter to fear grasshoppers. 

I had never told her to be afraid of grasshoppers, and yet she went from delight in catching them to being terrified when one jumped on her.

What had changed?

She saw my fear. She saw the way my nose wrinkled every time I had to walk through the unmowed back lawn. She heard every time I said, “O I hate grasshoppers.”

Until she feared them herself. 

Now, here’s the point I’m trying to make: I accidentally taught my daughter to fear something. Granted, something kind of silly that hopefully will fade, or maybe just be a quirky thing about her.

But imagine what else I might be accidentally teaching her.

What about every time I sigh a little when I look in the mirror, or when I try to explain why I wear makeup? 

What about when I am having a bad day, and grab a huge Dr. Pepper because “Momma needs it?”

What about when I shy away from doing certain things or reaching my goals because it might be too hard or uncomfortable? 

What is she learning then?

I certainly don’t want to pass on my insecurities to my children. I want them to know that they have so many positive attributes and great capacity to make this world a better place (as I hope most parents desire as well).

But to do that, I think we all need to reflect on if what we want our children to learn aligns with what we are passively teaching them.

We can’t act one way and expect them to learn the opposite. 

Luckily, there are so many opportunities to influence our children. Much in the same way I accidentally taught Chicka Chicka to fear grasshoppers, I can also teach her things like:

  • We are a family and we work together to run the house.
  • We need to speak kind words, even when we disagree.
  • Always do your best.

But this time, it won’t be on accident.

Teaching When You’re Not a Teacher: Meltdowns

Teaching Special Needs Meltdowns

Does this post need more of a title?

Children can have irrational reactions to just about anything.

I think I’d be getting your hopes up if I said that I could teach you how to keep kids from having meltdowns.

I’m not some mystical child-whisperer. 

However, I can teach you some strategies for working through meltdowns when you a) don’t know the child super well, and/or b)you are in a small group setting and can’t devote 20 minutes to working through emotions.

Know the Child

This is where you have to do some leg work by talking to the child’s parents and, possibly, some trial-and-error.

  1. Does the child crave contact (cuddles, sitting on lap, etc.), or do they want to be left alone when they are upset?

It’s fascinating to me that children that have the same autism diagnosis can respond to touch in completely different ways. Some seek it, some abhore it, and others try to push you away but they actually do want physical contact.

*I think it goes without saying that if a particular child does respond well to physical contact, you need to talk to the parents and find out what they do and what they are comfortable with. *

2) Is the child able to be distracted from big feelings? If so, what does the trick?

This may be a phrase, it may be an activity (like coloring), or it may be something sensory like a squishy ball, a beloved stuffed animal, etc.

Just keep this info in your back pocket. You never know when you might need it.

3) Are there any triggers to avoid and/or things I need to know?

Some children may have fears or anxieties about everyday things and events we don’t even think about. Think bees (every time they are in grass), or electricity, or plumbing. Or there may be stressors at home such as divorce or a new sibling that can most definitely affect their behavior.

Taking a few minutes to talk to a child’s parents can make a world of difference and avoid unnecessary, unpleasant situations. Plus, it shows the parents that you care. 

Give Choices

When a child is melting down and you really don’t have the time or space to let them cry, or talk about it, etc., you can give a child choices.

I recommend only two choices, since his/her decision-making skills will undoubtedly diminish during these big feelings.

The choices need to encourage positive behavior without rewarding negative behavior.

Let me say that again: The choices need to encourage positive behavior without rewarding negative behavior. 

Rather than offer bribes of treats or special privileges if they calm down, offer them choices for how they calm down.

For the youngest kids, I use the “power of 5” strategies.

Yes, I made that up all by myself. So don’t google it, it’ll just lead you right back here. 

The “power of 5” strategies are:

  1. take 5 big breaths
  2. Take a 5-minute cool-off (basically a time-out but it’s not a punishment, it’s an opportunity)
  3. Count to 5 (or 10 or 15, depending on the child’s abilities)

Obviously, you can adjust these as necessary.

But the point is you are offering choices that allow them to calm down and re-enter the situation/group without rewarding the meltdown.

Be Gentle but Firm

It is completely acceptable to validate a child’s feelings, even mid-meltdown.

Technically, it goes beyond acceptable and I fully encourage it. 

I think it can even be harmful to dismiss a child’s emotions, however irrational they may appear to you.

When a child is having a meltdown, squat/sit down so you are eye-level with them, and say:

“I can tell you are mad (or sad, or frustrated, etc.). It is no fun to be mad. Let’s choose a way to feel happy again. You can choose _____ or _______.”

Personally, when in a small group situation, or one where time is limited, I do not acknowledge why they are feeling so upset. That often causes a resurgence of crying and sobbing- not exactly what you want. If you feel a discussion is in order, you can mention it to the parents or talk about it with the child at a later time (when they are calm).

Being gentle but firm is a good balance. You are not a pushover, but you also are not “laying down the law.” You show you understand why a child is upset, but offer healthy ways to deal with those emotions.

So there you have it! I hope this series has encouraged those of you who find yourselves teaching or interacting with children.

Final note: If you would like more posts about dealing with emotions, check them out here and here and here.

Do you have any questions or comments for dealing with meltdowns? I would love to hear them!



Teaching When You’re Not a Teacher: Promoting Engagement

Teaching SN part two

Hello again! Let’s jump right into part two of my series on effectively teaching special needs children.

So earlier this week we talked about how to set expectations with a child(ren).

I see that as the foundation of effective teaching.

Today we will build the walls.

That’s right- I’m talking about how to keep special needs children engaged.

I will start off by saying that it can be so tricky. 

Sometimes what works one day won’t work another day.

That’s why I like offering several suggestions-a toolbox, if you will- of ways to set up your interactions for success.

Give Him/Her a Job

My daughter Chicka Chicka has good days and bad days when it comes to listening and following directions.

But she takes the recycling out like a pro. 

And as I learned last week, she also excels at Magic Eraser-ing all the grubby doors.

Surprisingly, all the grubbiness is right at kid-level. Hmmmmmmm……

Kids love to be given jobs and it sets them up to receive praise. It doesn’t even have to be a crucial or involved job.

My favorite jobs when working with kids were ones that could also be used as leverage to encourage good behavior throughout the day/lesson.

Image result for pirates of the caribbean leverage

O, like you didn’t think of Pirates of the Caribbean.

Say you give a child the job of “light switch helper.” They get to turn on the lights when he/she/the group enters the room, and also turn it off when the room is vacated. You can remind them that they need to do xyz in order to be able to complete their job.

If it’s the right motivator, hopefully it will entice them to make a comment, or keep eyes on the teacher, or whatever you expect/want them to do (age- and ability-appropriate, of course).

Some other jobs include:

  • picture/book/”thing” holder
  • paper/crayon/scissor-passer-outer
  • line leader/caboose
  • prayer-sayer (if using this method in a religious setting)
  • teacher-bag-holder (assuming it doesn’t weigh 4.2 thousand pounds like my bag does)

Now, if you have other children in your home/group that will find it quite unfair that one child gets a job and they don’t, thank-you-very-much, I would randomly assign jobs to all the children. I think this is beneficial in that everyone gets a job, but it also teaches that not everyone gets the job they want every time.

Coping skills, people.

Reflective Listening

This is something I learned in college, and I luuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuurv it.

That r was in there on purpose. 

In your life, have you ever been listening to a teacher, worked up the courage to make a comment, and they just said, “Thank you,” and kept right on going with their lecture?

Did it make you feel good? Did it really encourage you to continue to make comments in future lessons? Did it lead to a good discussion?

Or did it mostly feel like you were in Professor Binns’ History of Magic class? 

Image result for harry potter fandom

When you use reflective listening, you validate a child’s comment, and then you integrate their comment into your next sentence. See here:

Child: I don’t think it’s okay to steal things. One time I saw someone steal a candy bar.

Adult: You are right. It is not okay to steal things. Now, if you did steal a candy bar, like Joey saw someone do, how would you fix the problem?

Obviously, not every comment a child makes is going to segway nicely into the message you are trying to get across. I can’t tell you how many random stories I have heard from children that were only slightly related to what we were talking about.

But do your best. At least validate their comment. After all, for some kids it takes a lot of courage to even say anything. It will also encourage them to keep making comments, thus keeping them engaged in the lesson.

Give the Answer in Your Question

As we’ve talked about quite a bit in this post, the key to promoting engagement in children (especially special needs children) is positive reinforcement and helping them feel successful.

This last idea is awesome for this because you give the answer to your question in your question. 

I know, I know, then what is the point in asking the question?

*allow me to stand on my soapbox*

Sometimes I feel we focus too much on cramming information into children’s heads. We focus on trying to teach them everything we know and want them to know.

But, more important than that, I think there needs to be a focus on learning how to learn. This is especially true for children with developmental delays/differences such as autism.

Now, I’m not talking about how to teach kids to score well on standardized tests.

Children need to learn how to think for themselves, how to be confident in academic and social settings, and how to handle the problems that will come in life.

But for all of that to happen, they need to have confidence in the little things.

*tuck soapbox into the closet for another day*

So how does this look? Here’s an example.

(adult is holding up a picture of a child crying over a broken toy.)

Adult: This child is crying. Her toy broke. Why is the child crying?

Child: Her toy broke.

Yes, it really is that easy.

And when a child gives you the right answer, give praise and encouragement to keep giving answers. See here for my post on giving effective praise.

Brain Break

This one is sort of a bonus tip, so I’ll just touch on it.

A brain break is exactly that- a set time or activity where a child/children disengage and do something completely different for a few minutes.

This especially helps children with attention span difficulties and sensory children who have trouble sitting still for long periods of time.

With younger children, this can be something as simple and silly as a 1-minute wiggle-fest or singing a “moving” song- Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes, If You’re Happy and You Know It, etc.

With older children it may be playing a quick game. I will be doing a post soon on the “Stick Game” in all its simple, beautiful glory. The Hungry, Hungry Hippos app is free and also works as a great “brain break.” There are also several group games that are fast that we all remember from childhood- Miss Mary Mack, the Cup Game, Ink-a-Bink-a-Bottle-of-Ink, etc.

It is important to use brain breaks when you first see signs of fatigue and fidgety-ness. It is much better to take 2 minutes and play a silly game than take 10 minutes trying to deal with a meltdown.


So there you have it. Four ideas that you can use to help keep children of all abilities engaged. I wanted to offer up these ideas as opposed to a token system (let’s call it what it is, bribery), because I feel that while that can be a good place to start, we ultimately want a child to feel intrinsically motivated to participate and pay attention in class.

Please email or comment with questions you may have. I want to be as helpful as possible!
Now, brace yourselves: Friday I will be talking about methods to deal with meltdowns. You know they will happen.

Teaching Special Needs Children (When You’re Not a Teacher)

Teaching Special Needs Part One

The national average incidence of autism is 1 in 68.

One in 691 babies born in the USA has Down Syndrome.

Now, I could just keep rattling off statistics, but here’s my point: whether it is babysitting, a church calling, or extended family members, chances are you will come into contact with a child with special needs.

In my life, I have seen several instances where an adult has the opportunity to interact with and teach a child, but they feel overwhelmed or don’t know how to effectively teach a child with special needs.

Because of this, I was inspired to write this series on teaching and working with special needs children when you are not trained to be a teacher.

I want this to be helpful to as many people as possible, so I am trying to offer basic principles that can be adapted for any age group or any needs that a child may have. If you have specific questions, please email me!

Set Clear, Simple Expectations

If it’s one thing I’ve learned as a speech therapist (and, let’s face it, more so as a mom) it is that I use too many words. I’ll completely botch a golden teaching moment by trying to explain it as an adult, rather than trying to explain it on a child’s level.

The best thing you can possibly do is set clear, simple expectations.

Notice I didn’t say rules. 

Rules sound so restrictive. Even though kids need (and secretly crave) rules, I think setting expectations puts it in a more positive light. As in this is what I expect and know you can do, versus you can’t do this or this or this.

Here are some examples:

Hands to self.

Raise your hand to speak. 

Eyes on teacher.  

Obviously, these are for little ones- probably ages 3-5.

You can adapt them as necessary.

Use Visuals

Pictures are great.

Pictures help enormously.

Pictures are even more helpful when your expectations are simple and direct.

It really is as easy as printing pictures off of the internet and gluing them onto construction paper.

Maybe cardstock if you wanna get fancy.

Children respond to visual input WAY better than auditory input. This is especially true for children with special needs. Pictures are tangible, and there’s no chance of the meaning getting lost in translation.

Use the Same Phrase

Children with special needs have brains that are wired differently. It’s not bad or wrong, it’s just different.

Whereas other children may have several synapses that can make connections, children with special needs tend to have “tunnel vision” when it comes to language comprehension and following directions.

What are you talking about woman?!

Basically, if you try to say the same thing fifty different ways in an attempt to help them understand, it will most likely not be beneficial because the child cannot comprehend what you are asking of them.

Buuuuuuuuutttt…….. if you have the same simple phrase that has meaning to a child, you are far more likely to get the response you want.

Can you tell what the word of the day is?

Remove the Unknown

Children with special needs often thrive on routine and “the known.” Some children have anxiety and/or will act out when they don’t know how long something is going to take, what is going to happen next, where mom/dad is, etc.

Luckily, you as the teacher can remove the unknown.

Depending on the anxieties of your child, you could use:

  1. a timer (for how long each task will take)
  2. a visual schedule or routine (ha! you’re in luck- I just did a post on this!)
  3. a whiteboard with the number of tasks (check them off as completed)
  4. a countdown timer with how many minutes are left in class (you could keep it on your phone so it’s not a distraction for other students).

I hope that this post has offered you some helpful ideas for working with students with special needs.

Stay tuned for my next post in this series- how to promote engagement with special needs children!


Why Visual Routines Work

visual routines header

So I know this post is a bit ironic, seeing as how I have definitely gotten out of the routine of blogging. My last post was over a month ago!

Y’all, blogging is hard. Starting a blog is even harder when you feel like a teeny-tiny guppy in a huge ocean of blogs.

Those of you who have left comments, liked my Facebook page, and shared with your friends, thank you.

It motivates me to keep going.

So to kick-off my re-emergence into blogging, I want to talk about visual routines; what they are, why they are awesome, and different ways to implement them in your daily life.

Visual routines are just that: you put what/how you want your child to do something in picture form.

Like this:


visual routines

Aren’t these beautiful? They just make my speech-therapist/momma heart sing. These are from a company called Easy Daysies. I found these ones in the clearance bins at Barnes and Noble, but it appears you can order them on Amazon. There also several different options, such as getting dressed, doing chores, etc.

They are so awesome, not because my little one needs help remembering the steps, but it encourages her to do it quickly. Mommy is not amused when a simple potty break takes 15 minutes and a miracle to finish.

But that is a tangent for another post.

As my example shows, visual routines can serve several purposes. They can introduce a new routine, they can help set expectations and maintain routines, and they can improve the frequency/speed of the routine.


Because most children are visual learners, at least in the early stages of life. Visual instructions are tangible, and the child can mimic them until they reach the rote memory, or muscle memory stage.

This is especially important for children who may be delayed in their development. They often need additional support to complete multi-step tasks; they may also struggle with cognitive processing- in this case, the ability to hear directions, process them internally, and then act on the directions.

Have I sold you on putting some visual routines into your child’s life?

Why, yes, Miss Haley, but you haven’t told me how to make them tailored to my child and my life. Also, I don’t have a laminator. 

Okay here are my thoughts for implementing visual routines at home:

  1. Think about the times of day that are the hardest for your child. Is it getting ready for the day, going to the bathroom, cleaning up, or getting ready for bed?

Not that I’ve ever experienced any difficulty in getting my children to cooperate during these parts of the day.

Start there.

2. The order of the routine has to be non-negotiable. If you have a particularly stubborn child (once again, no experience with that), you might want to involve him/her in deciding the order of things. Within reason, of course.

3. The pictures you use need to be simple and direct. No distracting details here.

When I made visual routines for the special needs preschoolers I worked with, I simply cut one long strip of construction paper and then printed the pictures out and stuck them on the construction paper.

If you doubt your creative abilities, I found some awesome FREE printables at Tools to Grow OT (and yes, sometimes occupational and speech therapy overlap. It’s just how we do.)

You could also use a product like the Easy Daysies I mentioned earlier.

Or, if you have a child that loves technology, there’s the Visual Routine app. It is 3.99, but it looks to be a great app to manage routines!

I hope I have inspired you to try some visual routines in your child’s life! They are so simple, but can make a BIG impact on your child’s ability to follow directions ( which is a nice way of saying KEEPING YOUR MOM SANITY!!)

Please give them a try and let me know how it goes!


The Funniest Book You’ve Never Heard Of….

book final

So guys…I have GOT to tell you about this book.

I grabbed it completely at random at the library.

We had gone to the library for storytime, and the librarians’ “tip of the day” was to use books-on-tape paired with the book because they engage both visual and auditory input.

Once storytime was over, me and my littles went over to the book-on-tape section. I found that most of the them seemed too advanced (after all, Chicka Chicka is only 4), but then I saw this one.

i want my hat back

I Want My Hat Back, by Jon Klassen.

Well, we’ll give it a go, I thought.

After all, it had a Theodor Seuss Geisel (re: Dr. Seuss) Honor sticker on it.

A few days passed, and on Saturday, while we were eating breakfast, my husband asked me, “Hey, so have you read that book?”


He started laughing and handed me the book.

And guys, this book is seriously so funny.

Not in the usual, only-makes-kids-laugh kind of humor.

It’s subtle- so subtle that my daughter didn’t get it until we explained it to her.

It’s like those gems of kid’s TV shows where there is humor for adults (not adult humor!), if you listen carefully.

So go check this book out! If your children are older than mine (probably 6 and up), it would be a great book for practicing inference.

And if your children are younger, read it to them anyways, and throw your head back and laugh while your children stare at you.