Routines and structure

Playgroup NSW

Categories: Repetitive and Restrictive Behaviours

In this section, we explain why routines are so important to ASD children and what play activities are adequate to announce that a change is coming.



Sara must follow a strict routine or else she becomes very distressed and insists on repeating the steps in the “right” order.

Why does this happen?

Children with ASD have a great need for predictability and feel safe when there is a predictable routine to follow. Changes or disruption to a familiar schedule can be very unsettling.

 When the children are not equipped with verbal or visual ways to express their anxiety about the change, this can result in meltdowns, which can be perceived as challenging behaviour.

What can I do?

  • Maintain a consistent routine whenever possible.

  • Make a visual schedule of the day for all children to view so everyone knows what will happen next. Visual cues are often an effective way to communicate with children with ASD.

  • Use a quiet space when children may be feeling stressed to help lower levels of anxiety.

  • When the routine needs to change, try to make gradual changes only and inform children about what will happen next. This will help the day feel more predictable and less anxiety provoking.


Play activities

  • Transition song – indicates change from one activity to another so the song becomes a familiar cue for knowing that a change is about to happen

  • Social stories

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