Autism and the First and Then Technique


When Ethan was first diagnosed with autism his family support key worker introduced us to a First and Then board. We would use the board with PECS to visually show Ethan the activities we wanted him to do. This was also used at his nursery and we found it a great help.

Since Ethan has started school he has refused the use of visuals at home but over the past few months, with his increasing use of words, he has asked us about First and Then. We use this to tell him that it’s a school day, when he is going swimming and when he is going to his after school club. We can tell that the use of First and Then is also promoted in his class at school and we know that every morning they visually tell the children what they are doing that day.

With the arrival of the summer holidays we could already tell Ethan was upset by his lack of school routine. Last years summer holidays were really hard work for us and our plans to keep Ethan busy just made us exhausted. This isn’t helped that Ethan’s upset about his routine change also upsets our already fragile sleep pattern. Last year it was in the summer holidays that Ethan’s use of words exploded and he started to copy us using echolalia. He also started to question us by discovering how to ask ‘What is it?.

This year it is clear that Ethan is using his First and Then technique to help manage his uncertainty of the summer holidays. He has got a bit of a fascination with morning time at the moment. We are having to make it clear what is happening up to morning time every day. We have to vocally reinforce our plans through the day, keeping it clear what is happening. I have made the mistake of asking Ethan if he would like to see the fish film at the cinema. I have discovered that there is an autism friendly showing of Finding Dory and I wanted to gage if it is something he would like to see. Every hour Ethan is asking us about the cinema, we have a long wait for our cinema day!

I’m sure this summer holiday will still be a challenge for Ethan but just being able to vocalise our plans with Ethan is a big help.

3 thoughts on “Autism and the First and Then Technique”

  1. Awww love him! I hope you have a lovely time. We’re not quite at cinema stage yet, but I cant wait to see that film myself! Hope the anxiety he’s feeling can be managed with firt and then or visual schedules this holiday #SSAmazingAchievments

  2. Being really precise with things like first and then (and generally any language is something we have to be so aware of – a word wrong and we’re in for trouble) It’s so great that he is using ways to communicate to help him cope with things! Hopefully he will love Dory! 🙂 #SSAmazingAchievements

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