How to use First and Then Visuals

Children with SPED can sometimes find a classroom a bit confusing and can quickly become distressed with all the changes that are taking place around the room. My job is to help keep them calm and cope with what is happening. Sometimes I use visual supports to prepare and explain what is happening next.

I have found the “First and Then” Strategy a visual way of understanding what is expected throughout the day and a simple start to scheduling. As part of my structured teaching environment I use this simple timetable with individual work and in class activities.

Before starting a task and after a motivator assessment my young learners are offered a selection of visual reinforcers to choose from, this icon is placed in the “Then” side of the board.

And I place the icon of the task to be completed on the “First” side of the board. While teaching this strategy for the first few times I use quick errorless tasks and partially prompt my student if they become distressed.

Once established, my student will learn to follow the first activity independently and transfer to the next activity shown.

For More information click here

My Calm Down Corner

I’ve been creating behavior supports for my classroom and I particularly love the calm down resources that iv finally put together. The system works great especially for children that needs to calm themselves and rely on clear visual instruction to help process what they need to do.

So I started with a sign, a “Calm down” sign … before I even put together a selection of fidgets! A couple of cheap fidget toys that I knew my kids would love and the first part of my kit was done. Then I sorted out a corner of my room with a beanbag on the floor and a little book shelf for privacy, I kept it very plain and simple with just the calm down tools on hand… WOW it looks great, and my kids love it!

Next I wanted to gave my kids a chance to take a break before things got to tricky, so I made these colourful break cards and purchased a sand timer. I added Velcro to the break board and attached it to the side of the bookcase, a good place to put the break card, I thought, before they grab a timer and sitting down. I knew this skill would take a bit of practice but was surprised at how quickly I saw results… its well worth the effort.

In a crises a visual choice of nice, peaceful activities would help to distract for a moment until we could sort out what was wanted.

And my all time favourite support! (already established) that always seems to work and get the little learner back on track is the REWARD BOARD and MENU CARD!


Tips For Special Ed Teachers

The four functions of behavior are, Sensory, Escape, Attention and Tangible. Effective intervention involves identifying the function of a behavior and incorporating strategies to replace it.

Attention – if the student is pinching you to gain attention, then teach her to request attention appropriately with e.g. visuals such as “will you play with me” icon.

ESCAPE – if she’s hitting her head to avoid a task, teach her to request “help” or a “break” with a timer.

Tangible – crying while in a cue to get lunch, teach her to “wait”

Sensory – biting her hand, then teach her to request a “chewy toy”.

When planning these new skills always remember that the replacement behavior must serve the same function as the one displayed.

More Ideas

SENSORY SIMULATION – Offer opportunities for bouncing on a large ball or trampoline, spinning, squeezing sensory balls, chewy toys, sand play, water play, banging a drum.

ATTENTION SEEKING – Give non verbal students a voice with visuals to request time with a favourite person, play games or work together. Model with hand over hand instructions to tap your arm and get your attention in structured sessions.

AVOIDANCE – Teach students to request a “break”, “help”, Give a choice of what to work for with a Token Reward system. Motivate with a choice of reinforcers and keep them fresh and handy.

Plan fun activities, maybe short to start with. Tailor learning with individual interest in mind.

TANGIBLE – Redirect to requesting items using visuals or voice, Use “First and Then” strategy and schedules. Token Economy with a reinforcer of their choice should incorporate their favourite items and snacks.

For more tips and ideas follow me on my TPT Store

Behavior Problems you can Fix

Tips for SPED Teachers

Number 1

Tantrums, anger and aggression can be triggered for a number of reasons, usually sensory stimulus, demands for items or food, are often communicated in these negative ways. Teaching more appropriate ways to recognise and communicate these feelings is one way to start fixing such behaviors.

Number 2

To prevent problems and support appropriate behavior there are general principles to keep in mind. Use structure, take control and set boundaries.

Number 3

Once anger, fear or panic is displayed I redirect my student to a quiet area and give him opportunities to use these visuals to identify and understand how he is feeling and what he needs to help him feel better.

Number 4

Reassuring students and offering opportunities to teach calming strategies should be taken often, even before situations arise.

Number 5

Learning these new skills using a visual support system will help your students to see what is expected and accept what’s needed to develop important functionable social skills and independence.

For more Tips and Ideas visit and follow my TPT Store

Improve the most Challenging Behavior

Being proactive is the key to avoiding a meltdown in your classroom, but you’ll need to know your students motivators, behaviors and triggers first!

Improving the most challenging behavior can be a challenge on its own ! Finding a strategy that suits individual needs can have you pulling your hair out.

Before I begin to implement any strategy I give each student a motivator assessment, keeping a note of the highest reinforcers to help them replace particular behaviors for positive ones.

When a behavior does arise, I remind the student of what went wrong with visuals which allows them a choice of what would have been a better approach in that situation. Using a “How did you feel? What did you do? What should you do next time? strategy, students are able to point and reflect what should have happened.

Once established, Positive Behavior must be managed with a consistent approach to maintain these new learnt skills.

A Simple token board in my opinion is the life saver in my classroom. I always accompany this strategy with a reward choice board, where I give my student a choice from his rewards….. (the ones he’d chosen in the motivator assessment) at the beginning of an activity. The number of tokens I use with these boards are 3, 5, 10, to use with different abilities and are given during tasks, then exchanged for the motivator.

I use Token System during all teaching and learning throughout the day!

For more information on behavior tools you can visit my TPT Store where you will find many more strategies, tips and tools!