Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder in Teenagers

Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder in Teenagers

In this post you will learn everything you need to know about sensory processing disorder in teenagers, including treatment approaches, resources, and more!

Whether we fully grasp that or not, so much of our day-to-day function is dictated by our senses. Smelling smoke, tasting how much salt or sugar is in our food, feeling our skin getting sore, or getting overheated during exercise are just a few examples where our senses make all the difference. 

So if our brains have difficulties with some sensory input, it only makes sense that our everyday functioning will suffer from it. That’s what sensory processing disorder is all about, and it’s a double whammy for teenagers. 

But how can we make it better for them? Thankfully, there’s a lot that we, as caregivers and professionals, can do. Let’s dive into everything you need to understand about sensory processing disorder in teenagers and the best ways to manage it.

What Is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory processing disorder, or SPD, is a dysregulation of how the brain reacts to sensory input. An individual with SPD could be hypersensitive to certain senses and/or hyposensitive to others. 

For example, a child or a teenager may feel physical pain in their eyes because of fluorescent light but wouldn’t notice if they had an open, bleeding wound.

Someone with SPD could be perfectly comfortable in really cold weather without wearing a safe amount of clothes but would get nauseated and highly irritable on a mildly hot day.

It’s important to note that the dysregulated reaction to sensory input isn’t just psychological; kids with SPD exhibit a measurable difference in their neurological response to stimuli.

Is It a Symptom of Autism?

As of this moment, SPD isn’t recognized as a diagnosable condition in the DSM-5, or at least not on its lonesome. It is, however, considered a symptom for multiple diagnoses, including ADHD, ASD, and schizophrenia.

What Is Sensory Seeking?

Just like some sensory input triggers discomfort and anxiety, some input brings visceral comfort and joy. That’s why some kids and teens with SPD (and other disorders) will engage in sensory-seeking behavior that ranges from harmless fun activities to dangerous or “weird” behavior.

Some examples of sensory-seeking behavior are touching different objects, surfaces, or people, repetitive motion, restless legs, hitting things, yelling or singing loudly, and thrill-seeking activities.

Sensory seeking isn’t problematic in itself but becomes an issue when the behavior is unacceptable like breaking things, deemed odd by the teen’s peers like rocking or petting people’s hair, or harmful to the individual like skin picking.

SPD Treatments

There’s a lot that you can do as an occupational therapist or parent of an SPD teen. One of the greatest things about working with teens is that they get to be directly involved in their own treatment. 

Working with a therapist may be really difficult for teens, but living in an environment where clothes feel like barbed wire and normal everyday sounds feel like nails on a board is harder.

Since this is a disorder of the nervous system, it’s crucial to establish a baseline of safety and comfort before attempting to develop better reactions. The following approaches can be done separately or in sequence, depending on how well-adjusted your teen is with their SPD.

SPD-Conscious Lifestyle Changes

The first and probably most important treatment of SPD is to construct an environment where your teen has sensory safety. The purpose of this approach is to eliminate sensory triggers and replace them with grounding ones. This is the most effective way to achieve comfort and trust.

It requires a full understanding of the kind of sensory input your teen struggles with and the kind that brings them comfort. This is also the one part that’ll win a particularly defensive personality over.

Want to listen to super loud music? Let me soundproof your room. Super picky eater? Let’s choose a collection of feel-good but also healthy snacks that are stocked at all times. That may also mean that they stop or replace activities that trigger them.

For example, a teen with tactile sensory issues may struggle with a sport like tennis because of the sweaty grip of the racket but feels right at home in the water. This means it’s time to drop tennis classes and explore the possibility of doing swimming lessons instead.

It also extends to accommodations at school and home, such as wearing noise-canceling headphones in class, allowing them to leave class early to avoid busy halls, getting them their own chair in the living room that has comfortable upholstery, covering fluorescent and harsh lights, etc.

Sensory Diets

If your teen has a sensory-safe environment at home and is able to minimize the negative sensory experience at school, then it’s time to think about planning positive experiences into their routine.

A sensory diet is a fancy way to say scheduled sensory de-stress time. A teen’s sensory diet probably won’t include a session of playtime with shaving foam paint, though it definitely could.

Some simple things you could plan for your teen include having dedicated walk times between classes (outside of recess,) allowing them to sit on the floor in class, or having alone time at the gym to stretch or move freely.


The final phase of managing SPD is talk therapy. I say final, not because it needs to be done last, but because it’s of a lower priority compared to establishing a sensory safe zone for your teen. 

There’s a lot that therapy can do for individuals that have SPD, and their chances of success are even higher if they understand that what they choose to focus on during therapy is in their control.

If you feel like your teen is ready to have that conversation, sit down with them to set goals for their SPD treatment.

Do they want to focus on getting more comfortable with new sensations? Are they more interested in learning to communicate their unique needs effectively to those around them? Do they still need to experiment with different sensory experiences to know what feels safe?

Talk therapy can help an individual with SPD understand their own sensory needs better and work through triggers with tools such as mindfulness and nervous system regulation activities.

Understanding Sensory Processing Disorder in Teenagers

Final Thoughts

For a teenager with sensory processing disorder, life can feel hard. Of course, as with all teenagers, their ability to translate their hard into your own can be uncanny.

If you feel like things are going downhill with your kid, don’t despair. Teens are usually resistant to everything, including things that used to work well for them, so it’s only natural that your journey with a teen will have some hiccups. 

In fact, this is such a recurring problem that it needs to be addressed in depth, which is why I made a Teen Sensory Processing Guide for parents, occupational therapists, teachers, and any professional working with SPD teenagers.

This ebook will help you understand SPD on a deeper level, come up with a plan for and with your teen to go about their day smoothly, and figure out their own sensory needs.

How to Promote Emotional Self-Regulation Among Autistic Teens and Young Adults

How to Promote Emotional Self-Regulation Among Autistic Teens and Young Adults

In this post you will learn helpful strategies for encouraging emotional self-regulation in autistic teens and young adults to improve their well-being and daily functioning.

Traversing the complex world of emotions requires self-regulation. However, young adults on the autism spectrum take a unique approach to controlling their sensory input, regulating emotions in a capacity different from others. 

As a parent or caregiver, you must understand the unique experiences and needs of an autistic teen to build an effective support system. 

To help you, I’ll discuss the value of focused interventions and approaches when addressing such demands. I’ll also explore evidence-based strategies and helpful tools that support emotional self-regulation in this demographic. 

Understanding Emotional Self-Regulation in Autism 

Self-regulation is essential in autism because it can help people overcome their daily difficulties. It requires mental, emotional, and behavioral control to support flexibility and well-being. 

We can empower young adults to thrive and realize their full potential by understanding emotional regulation in autism and helping them self-regulate. 

What Is Self-Regulation?

Self-regulation refers to the ​ability to control emotions and behaviors​, which helps people adapt and fulfill the demands of various situations. 

It is particularly relevant for people with autism, as it helps them manage sensory sensitivity, emotional fluctuations, and social interactions. It entails identifying internal states, using tactics to modify them, and adjusting behavior.  

Common Self-Regulation Difficulties Faced by Autistic Individuals

As a parent or caretaker, you may identify behavioral patterns in your autistic teens that point to problems with self-control. 

These actions could include meltdowns or tantrums due to sensory overload and struggles in switching between tasks. They could also be impulsivity or acting without carefully considering the consequences or difficulty regulating anger or frustration. 

For some people, a crowded place with loud noises can be overstimulating, whereas, for others, a shift in their usual patterns or daily activities may result in emotional dysregulation. 

Social interactions can be tough. Challenges with self-regulation can include the inability to read nonverbal cues or acting without thinking about the implications.

Impact of Self-Regulation on the Independence and Quality of Life

What may seem like a basic skill plays a transformative role in enhancing the well-being and independence of autistic children. 

Besides promoting independence and autonomy, self-regulation positively impacts their daily activities, social relationships, mental health, problem-solving, and decision-making. 

Young adults who are in control of their emotions, behaviors, and sensory sensitivity can live comfortably, form meaningful relationships, and constructively cope with their feelings. 

These benefits help teens make thoughtful decisions and develop the self-assurance to achieve personal goals. 

Strategies for Effective Self-Regulation 

Young adults must have a fundamental grasp of emotions and functional life skills to develop self-regulation abilities. These abilities include distinguishing between various emotions and how each feeling appears both externally and internally.  

Effective self-regulation strategies are essential tools for developing this foundation. They work in real-world situations and can help improve self-awareness, emotional control, and impulse management. 


Co-regulation from a loving and trustworthy parent or caregiver can do wonders for an autistic child or young adult. The adults must stay calm and reinforce the self-regulatory exercises through example, serving as role models. 

You can help your teens regulate their overwhelming emotions through emotional support and demonstrations of regulation techniques. Focus on their needs. Provide guidance at the right time and help them develop effective regulation skills. 

Provide Sensory Support 

Catering the sensory sensitivities of your teens or kids can have a huge impact on their development. 

Create a relaxing and sensory-friendly environment for your teens. Make it a place where they can thrive and explore their potential. 

Sensory support can be providing noise-canceling earphones if you live in a noisy neighborhood and playing their preferred music. It can also be offering fidget toys or other sensory tools to increase focus and self-regulation.

You can also use smartwatches as a sensory tool if they have sensory tracking and calming apps with features that can help people regulate their emotions. 

Use of Visual Support

Some people learn new information easier with visual aid. If your teens are the same, use visual support such as social stories, visual cues, flashcards, and practical demonstrations when teaching them self-regulation. 

Visual support will help them understand expectations and social protocols better. For example, emotion charts can depict different levels of emotions, helping your teens identify how they feel in certain situations.

Communicate Clearly 

Giving direct instructions and leaving no room for confusion is crucial in self-regulation. Make sure you don’t confuse your teens when you ask them to do tasks. The best way to do this is to simplify your language when communicating with them. 

Reduce the number of directions and break it down into manageable steps. Also, remember to keep your tone calm and understanding. 

Do Calming Activities 

When confronted with an outburst or an intrusive situation, teens and young adults with autism could benefit from soothing activities. 

Deep breathing exercises and calming activities are all beneficial under trying circumstances. These acts can distract teens from the issue and help them relax. 

Let your teens decide which calming activity they prefer, and help them practice it regularly. Soothing activities can be anything from using stress-relief items like a fidget spinner or stress ball to listening to music.

Engage in Physical Activities 

Many sports require team coordination and high-level communication, which might not be an autistic young adult’s strong suit. However, regular exercise, such as yoga or dancing, can help release tension.  

Swimming is a great sport for autistic teens because it involves water play and fundamental strokes. Such activities can improve self-control, increase bodily awareness, and release endorphins, improving their mood. 


Providing for the needs of autistic teenagers and young adults can be challenging and overwhelming. But remember that it’s normal to feel that way. It doesn’t devalue who you are as a person or parent. 

Be patient. Remember that you have been blessed with a child with needs that are a bit different from others, and you must adjust accordingly. Help them self-regulate to improve their overall well-being.

self regulation autism
5 Engaging and Meaningful Activities for Autistic Adults

5 Engaging and Meaningful Activities for Autistic Adults

Are you searching for fun activities for autistic adults to establish a new routine, promote sensory and processing abilities, and learn life skills?

If the answer’s yes, then this guide is for you. 

Encouraging adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to engage in educational, recreational, and social activities will have lasting benefits. In other words, these activities aim to help autistic adults lead a whole and more fulfilling life. 

So, for those interested in learning specific autism-friendly activities, make sure you check below.

Why Activities and Hobbies are Important

To maintain overall physical and mental wellness, you need to have adequate activities and hobbies. That applies to all people.

Through music, dancing, cooking, and even walking, autistic adults will experience an increased quality of life. It’s important to know that activities don’t stop at a certain age. On the contrary, they should be constantly promoted.

Hence, through activities, autistic adults will have a chance to:

  • Improve communication skills
  • Increase independence
  • Feel joy and fulfillment
  • Promote fine motor skills
  • Feel accepted as a member of the community 

However, it's crucial to plan all activities according to the interests, abilities, and strengths of the adult. So, let’s jump to it. 

5 Fun but Practical Activities for Autistic Adults

1. Music Classes

Music is a broad medium that surpasses all abilities and disabilities. And considering that sound, or, in this case, music, is a primary human response, many autistic adults have a positive reaction to it.  

Through music activities – repeating particular rhythmic patterns, repeating the melody, trying to remember a song, and eventually playing an instrument with or without someone – you’ll address behavioral, sensory-motor, social, communicative, physical, psychological, and cognitive functioning.

What's great about music is that you can adapt all the activities related to it to meet the needs of each individual since sound is flexible and malleable. 

The most common musical instruments used for autism are percussion instruments, ukulele, keyboard/piano, and guitar. 

2. Dance Classes

The aim of each dance is to raise awareness of body movement so that you can communicate through that movement. Note that the only universal language is the one transmitted through our bodies and moving patterns. 

Therefore, your goal is to join the moving pattern of the autistic individual through dance therapy or any dance-related activities so you can then modify, improve and grow that pattern. In other words, you’re communicating with them by moving with them. 

And, there’s no need to say that you’re improving sensory-motor skills, or in other words, increasing body awareness in the process. 

3. Arts and Crafts

A great tool for nonverbal expression is art. Painting, drawing, building, assembling, sculpting, and writing are therapeutic, calming, and, most of all, fun.

Autistic adults will have the opportunity to explore different mediums and learn how to express themselves by using those mediums. Art and autism complete each other, and by creating any piece of art, the person will improve his motor skills, increase self-esteem, develop social skills, and fulfill sensory needs.

Here are some fun arts and crafts ideas: 

  • Finger painting
  • Sensory bottles
  • Bubble wrap abstract painting
  • Sand art projects

4. Outdoor Activities/Sports

You don’t have to go to fancy gyms or sports halls; a simple walk in the park or the neighborhood can also do wonders for adults.

Spending time outdoors is healthy for both the mind and body, so it’s crucial to have regular outdoor recreational activities (adapted to the person's abilities). It’ll improve the person’s mood and help improve their attention span and motor skills. 

All the following activities are a great way to spend time with the autistic adult in your life:

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Hiking
  • Horseback riding
  • Biking
  • Fishing
  • Camping
  • Gardening

If we’re talking about a group of autistic adults, you can prepare simple obstacle games. They would need to interact with each other and be active all the time during the activity.

5. Cooking

Cooking activities are not only fun, interactive, and great for bonding but also essential for life in general.

Learning how to cook is fundamental to life. And, when you’re preparing the food together, you’re giving the autistic adult a sense of teamwork and connection. 

Before you start cooking or baking, make sure you’ve got the right recipe. Choose according to the autistic individual because they can be quite picky when it comes to the smell and texture of the food. 

Easy and quick meals would be:

  • Pancakes
  • Gluten-free pizzas
  • Smoothies
  • Sandwiches
  • Homemade chicken nuggets
  • Sugar-free blueberry muffins


Helping autistic adults learn new challenges and skills is not an easy task, but through certain activities, the process of learning can become, if not easier, more fun. 

The most important thing is to create a safe and supportive environment where autistic individuals have the freedom to engage. Try various activities, be creative, and pay attention to what the autistic adult finds most pleasing. And most of all, enjoy!

Let me know if you try any of these activities for autistic adults, and if you have more interesting ideas, don't hesitate to share them with me.

Practical Strategies to Help Achieve Social Skills Goals

Practical Strategies to Help Achieve Social Skills Goals

In this post you will learn about social skills and how to help your student's meet their social skill goals.

Social skills are, hands down, one of the essential life skills everyone needs in a lifetime. We interact with people. And for students and teens, these daily interactions can be their solid building blocks for healthy, long-term relationships with friends and family.

Helping students navigate unique social situations involves practice and setting realistic and measurable social skills goals encompassing different scenarios.

What Social Skills Learning and Social Skills Goals Should be About

One area to understand when it comes to social skills are non-verbal cues in conversations

Social skills covers areas of cognition, attention, language, emotions, and even more.

Therefore, learning social skills must align with the student’s basic personal skill sets so that the process can feel gradual instead of forced. It should be about the learner and what they need to succeed.

Identifying Social Skill Areas to Focus On for Goal Writing

There are multiple facets to socialization, but we’ll highlight these areas that are key in the early stages of building connections and struggling to express themselves in public.

Social Understanding

This has something to do with a person’s sensitivity to his environment. It’s an area where they learn the importance of listening to others in a group. It involves knowing how to participate in activities and give appropriate responses, both verbal and non-verbal. 

Peer Relationships

Building relationships with peers is about cooperation and the ability to work in a group. Strengthening this area can help people show more respect for other people’s views and allows them to accept compliments from others. They also feel more confident initiating activities or conversations with peers. 

Social-Emotional Skills

This is where friendship blooms. They start to understand there emotional states concerning various external factors, like a fun event at school. They learn to feel those unique connections with some people and recognize those who make them uncomfortable. 

Social Communications

A person’s ability to voice his opinions, ask questions, seek help, and interact with a group about a specific topic. Strengthening this area lays the foundation for widening their participation in different social scenarios.


This is where we can see confidence and self-esteem manifesting. They show motivation to learn new things, show a desire to achieve, and can make complaints without being argumentative. 

Now that we’ve identified these areas, creating a list of strategic activities that cater to each aspect will be easier. 

Practical Strategies to Help Achieve Social Skills Goals

Strategies to Achieve Social Skills Goals 

The great thing about teaching social skills is the vast opportunities you can try out. Here are proven-effective activities children can participate in to help them become more comfortable in social settings while developing the confidence to initiate a conversation with people.

Social Narratives

Social narratives are simple stories that visually represent social situations and appropriate social behaviors. The social narrative connects the important details of a setting or social situation to support the autistic person in understanding the social context and in developing a new social skill. You can learn more about social narratives here.

Comic Strip Conversations

Use illustrations to introduce different social setups. Choose a scenario and create a script involving various characters. For familiarity, you can add cartoon characters that children easily recognize. 

The script should focus on dialogues between two or more characters, showing proper responses and behavior in a particular scenario. 

Use a Research Based Program

A research-based program like Positive Action creates a unique curriculum suited to specific grades that helps with teaching social skills in the classroom

Video Modeling

Video modeling is a way to help an autistic individual learn new skills. This could include social skills, self help skills, or life skills. The video shows someone doing or demonstrating how to do the social skill or life skill.  

Use Video Clips to Teach Specific Social Skills

You show them specific video clips and have them give feedback about characters in video clips. Ask them to describe what the character did wrong in a specific situation first. Then you can have them share how they could do the specific situation differently.

Create Their Own Video

You could try having them create their own videos while they practice social skills. Creating videos lets them have fun with learning new and different social skills. They also may help each other learn by viewing their videos and offering feedback.

Real-life Digital Photography

Bring the kids out and encourage them to take photos. They can choose their subject and enjoy observing people’s behavior before snapping a photo. 

Afterward, you can ask them to share within the group what they think of the pictures and what they love most about them. 


Use this activity for scenario familiarization. For example, you can pick a scene where you visit a theme park. Prepare photos of the location, the attractions you’ll see, and the foods you’ll try. 

This prepares the child so they know what to expect upon their visit.

Use Structured Social Situations

You could try creating strutted social situations. You can teach a social skill to a group of students and then practice it together before generalizing it out in different contexts. You can have them learn something on their own or practice on their own, in a one on one environment, or in a small group setting.

Lunch Clubs

Organize a lunch where kids get to meet and say ‘hi.’ This is a great way to encourage a sense of community. It also helps them become more familiar with other kids in your neighborhood. 

Social Role Play Activities

Social role-play activities allow individuals to use their new skills creatively. Give them a scenario and ask them to come up with a short skit to act out.

You could have them come up with their own script or you could help create one for them to act out. You can include other students in the skit as well.


Think of a game where two kids can enjoy the continuous exchange and sharing of an item. Ball-kicking activity is a good example. One kid can signal the other that it’s his turn before kicking the ball across so the other kid can try it too. 

Board Games

These types of games have rules, which makes them a great pick for encouraging kids to ‘play by the book.’ They get to strategize and enjoy the game, all within the bounds of its rules.

Emotion Cards

Prepare creative cards with emotional pictures on each of them. Show it to the kids and ask them if they recognize the emotion. Don’t fret if they don’t. You can always name the emotion and tell them what it feels like. 

For instance, you can say, “When someone is confused, they might feel like they don’t know something that all of his friends know about.” 

Measuring the Efficiency of Each Activity

You can use different benchmarks to assess the responses to each activity. Below are common ones you can include in your checklist:

  • Engages in social play interactions.
  • Can identify feelings.
  • Practices safety measures and can identify dangers.
  • Follows classroom or outdoor rules as required.
  • Can work steadily and focus on a single task.
  • Shares materials with others.
  • Makes constructive remarks.
  • Maintains appropriate behavior without being reminded of it.
  • Asks questions about things they don’t understand.
  • Initiates conversations with peers.

Benchmarks help you gauge the student's progress in a given area, and you’re free to customize them the way it fits the student's learning curve. 

Remember, choose an area to develop one step at a time, and enjoy seeing the student progress at their own pace.

Everything You Need to Know About Visual Schedules for Autistic Individuals

Everything You Need to Know About Visual Schedules for Autistic Individuals

In this post you will learn about how to create effective visual schedules for autistic individuals.

Routines are particularly useful for autistic individuals, whether they’re children or adults. They provide a sense of stability and a sense of well-being because you know what to expect on any given day.

Autistic individuals tend to do well with repetition, so establishing a clear routine can lead to many positive changes in the individual’s life. These can include fostering better relationships with caregivers and helping them engage in activities.

And for some, a visual schedule presents the easiest path to creating an effective routine.

What Are Visual Schedules?

Visual schedules are a representation of a person’s day using a sequence of visual tools, such as objects, photographs, drawings, texts, or even multimedia content. They can help autistic individuals know what to expect in a day, new environment, or when learning new life skills.

Studies have shown visual schedules can lower behavioral distress in autistic children even when they are in an unfamiliar situation, such as a dentist’s appointment.

Other potential benefits of using visual schedules can include the following:

  • Better Perception: autistic individuals may have a stronger visual perception, which allows them to understand information better when presented in a visual format.
  • Order: A visual schedule creates a pattern the individual can follow and understand, even in a new setting.
  • Increased Independence: When the person is highly familiarized with their schedule, they can follow their routine unassisted.
  • Meeting Individual Needs: Visual schedules can be tailored to fit the needs of every individual. Parents and caregivers can use this tool for various purposes;
  • Easier Caregiving: Having a visual schedule also offers the caregiver freedom to allow others to supervise their autistic child and extend the child’s support network.
  • Decreased Stress: Both the autistic person and the caregiver can enjoy lower amounts of stress thanks to the additional clarity visual schedules can provide.

5 Tips on How to Create an Effective Schedule

Visual schedules are a versatile tool. They can be used at home or in a classroom to establish a daily routine for a child or otherwise help an autistic person develop new skills.

Here are five useful tips on how to create an effective visual schedule:

1. Identify the Goal 

For a successful visual schedule, you should assign a clear goal and use it to build the content and different stages.

It’s best to use multiple schedules when trying to support the different needs of the person. For example, instead of providing them with a complex board that combines both home and school activities, separate the two into distinct boards.

This way, the person has a better view of what to expect based on their surroundings or specific context.

2. Choose the Right Style

Use what you know regarding the autistic person’s preference to build a more effective visual schedule.

For example, if you’re building a schedule for a child who loves penguins, adding drawings or photos of penguins can help them follow the routine and encourage them to use the schedule.

You can use a wide variety of visual tools when creating the schedule, but it’s not always necessary. Some individuals only need a simple text list, which they find less distracting.

The style of the visual schedules must always be calibrated to the specific needs, preferences, and interests of the person relying on it.

3. Create Small Steps

The purpose of visual schedules is to remove uncertainty. They should provide all the information a person needs to complete a task.

Even if you assist your child in the beginning, through task analysis you can help them become more independent and complete any new activity.

It helps to break an activity down by taking yourself out of the picture. Think of it as a recipe, where you are laying out each step so everyone reading it can replicate it without your help.

4. Create a Monitoring System

Both you and the autistic individual will need a way to mark the completion of the different steps of the task or routine.

It can be something as simple as adding a sticker next to a completed task or underlining it with an erasable pencil. 

Keeping track of their progress provides both a sense of accomplishment to the autistic individual and helps you monitor their activity.

5. Plan for Change

Visual schedules can reduce the stress of unforeseen events even as they happen. You can establish a specific cue that signals a change in schedule, such as a card or a photograph.

When the cue is in place, it gives the autistic individual enough time to adjust to the change in schedule. You can also plan for specific schedule changes you know are likely to happen by swapping between two activities.

Teach Them How to Use Schedules

Once the schedule is complete, it’s time to introduce the person to it. Initially, they may need more assistance to understand this method through verbal or physical guidance.

But, you can gradually reduce the amount of assistance offered when the person becomes more comfortable with the tool. Eventually, they should be able to follow the schedule with little or no support from you.

How to Include Visual Schedules in a Routine

Adding a new learning tool can feel daunting when an autistic individual isn’t comfortable with new situations.

However, there are many ways to introduce visual schedules into a person’s life and make the most out of them.

Here are some tips that can help:

Include Them in the Process

Build the visual schedule with your child or the person it’s designed for. While the contents should be decided beforehand, you can add pictures, drawings, or other visual elements together.

Keep It in Plain Sight

The visual schedule should be easily accessible at all times. You can make several copies of it and place them in areas where the person is most active.

You can also opt for a digital schedule that is accessible through the person's phone or tablet.

Involve Other Caregivers

You can encourage other people to add items to the schedule or create their versions.

For instance, a child’s teacher can create a separate visual schedule of a school day and keep it in the classroom. The child has easy access to their school routine and knows what to expect during it.

Start Small and Build Up

If the person has difficulty adopting new tools, it may help to start creating a schedule for simpler tasks.

This will give both yourself and the autistic person time to adjust to this new tool. Then, you can gradually add new items to the schedule or create separate ones for new goals.

Visual Schedules for Autistic Individuals: Free Resources

To create effective visual schedules, you can use these free resources as inspiration:

  • ABA Educational Resources – provides simple printable schedules for daily planning, chores, setting up a rewards system, and more;
  • A Day in Our Shoes – includes several colorful visual schedules and printable routine cards designed for children, but adults can also benefit from them;
  • Geneva Centre for Autism – offers simple visual schedules and other resources that can be printed or used as inspiration for personalized charts;
  • Habitica – an iOS and Android app that relies on gamification to increase productivity. It can also be used as an engaging visual schedule for people with ASD;
  • Kids ToDo List – a task tracker for iPhone and Android devices designed for children. It uses over 100 types of cards and also supports voice notes. The app also allows users to upload their photos to create new cards.

Final Thoughts

Visual schedules can provide both autistic individuals and their caregivers with an effective way to manage new challenges, reduce daily stress, and increase engagement.

The number one rule when creating these schedules is to put the needs of the autistic person first. Everything from the content to the format, colors, and types of visual aids must appeal to the person who’ll benefit most from it.

Provided they’re tailored to the unique needs of the person, visual schedules can be a reliable daily support.

Help Teach Toothbrushing with Task Analysis to Break the Steps Down

Help Teach Toothbrushing with Task Analysis to Break the Steps Down

Learn how to get your free toothbrushing task analysis to help teach the skill of brushing teeth.

Toothbrushing is an important part of maintaining good oral hygiene and overall health.

Toothbrushing can be an overwhelming and hard skill to learn especially if they have sensory issues with brushing teeth.

Breaking the skill down and finding appropriate sensory strategies can help.

What is Task Analysis

Task Analysis is a systematic approach used to break down a task into smaller, more manageable components. This can help to define the sequence of steps needed to complete the task, and identify any potential problems or risks associated with the task. It can also be used to identify any skills or knowledge required to complete the task. Task Analysis can be used in a range of fields including education, engineering, psychology, and business.

How Can you use Task Analysis to Teach Toothbrushing?

Task analysis is a great way to teach any complex skill, including tooth brushing. First, break the task down into its component parts. For tooth brushing, this might include picking out a toothbrush, putting toothpaste on the brush, wetting the brush, brushing each quadrant of the mouth, etc. Then, provide a step-by-step demonstration of each part of the task. After the demonstration, have your student practice each step, giving gentle reminders and feedback as needed. Lastly, have your student practice the full task of brushing their teeth, with you providing encouragement and feedback. This process can be repeated as needed until your student has mastered the skill.

A Simple Toothbrushing Task Analysis Example

To help you understand the toothbrushing task, I will provide a step-by-step analysis.

  1. Gather your toothbrush and toothpaste.
  2. Wet your toothbrush and put a pea-sized amount of toothpaste on the bristles.
  3. Start brushing at the gum line using a gentle circular motion.
  4. Brush the outer and inner surfaces of the teeth.
  5. Don’t forget to brush the chewing surface of your teeth.
  6. To clean the inside of your front teeth, tilt the brush vertically and make several gentle up-and-down strokes.
  7. Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and freshen your breath.
  8. Rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash.
  9. Spit out the water or mouthwash and store your toothbrush in a clean, dry place.

Get your Free Toothbrushing Task Analysis Checklist

In less than 5 minutes you can get your free toothbrushing task analysis already written out for you in a step by step process to save you time and to teach the skill of brushing teeth.

Toothbrushing task analysis freebie

Helpful Strategies for Toothbrushing

Toothbrushing can sometimes be an overwhelming experience for some individuals, so it can be helpful to incorporate some sensory strategies to make the process easier. Here are some ideas to make toothbrushing more enjoyable and effective:

  1. Use a timer. Setting a timer for two minutes can help them know when the toothbrushing session is over. 
  2. Provide a variety of toothbrushes. Offering different textures, shapes, and sizes of toothbrushes can make the experience more exciting and fun.
  3. Use musical brushing. Playing music while brushing can help them focus on the task and even encourage them to brush longer. 
  4. Watch a video or use a toothbrushing app to distract or make it more interactive.
  5. Use flavored toothpaste. Toothpaste with interesting flavors, such as bubble gum or fruity flavors, can make brushing more enjoyable. 

Check out these Fun Flavored Toothpastes

Chocolate Ice Cream flavored toothpaste

Vanilla Ice Cream flavored toothpaste

Orange Ooh La La Flavored Toothpaste

Other Awesome Personal Hygiene Resources

Toothbrushing and Flossing Toolkit to help you teach toothbrushing and flossing with step by step instructions, visual sequencing, and data collection.

Teach Taking a Shower and Bathing to Autistic Teenagers

Get your Free Toothbrushing Task Analysis Checklist

In less than 5 minutes you can get your free toothbrushing task analysis already written out for you in a step by step process to save you time and to teach the skill of brushing teeth.

Toothbrushing task analysis freebie
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