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Sequencing Picture Activities for Autistic Children

by Shellie Braeuner, studioD

The ability to organize and manage time is a necessary skill to function in the world. It starts early for many children. However, for autistic children these skills are often challenging. The National Autistic Society of the United Kingdom points out that many children on the autistic spectrum have problems processing information, predicting what will happen and, in some cases, understanding the passage of time. Using pictures, colors and other visual cues helps your child understand and organize his time and follow the sequence of events in stories and activities.

Visual Schedule

Help your child understand the rhythm of his day by creating a picture schedule. Take digital pictures of your child as he gets up, brushes his teeth and completes his other daily routine. Print out the pictures and stick a hook and loop dot to the back of each picture. Place two strips of hook and loop tape on a piece of cardboard -- one on the left side of the board and one on the right. Placing the strips vertically helps the child see the activities as a list. Stick the pictures in order from the top to the bottom of the strip and put the chart at eye level for your child. As he completes each task, he moves the picture from the left strip to the right one. When he has completed the entire list, he knows he is ready to move to the next part of his day. Creating a list for the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and other areas helps your child remember what to do and be self-sufficient.

Learning Vocabulary

Many autistic children learn vocabulary through pictures. Nouns are easily illustrated through photographs or drawing of people, places and things. Adjectives and adverbs can be shown in relation to each other. For example, a picture might show a large and small apple. A short series of illustrations are needed to illustrate verbs such as someone building a house or driving a car. Picture dictionaries can be useful tools to help enhance your child’s vocabulary.


Help your child learn to predict what happens next by inspecting visual cues. Read a picture book to your child. As you turn the page, pause before reading the text and encourage the child to predict what will happen next by inspecting the illustration. As your child becomes more adept at reading the visual cues, give him pictures of familiar stories. Ask him to color and assemble the pictures in order to tell the story. For example, you might have pictures of a pig with sticks, a pig with straw, a pig with bricks and a wolf sliding down the chimney. Lay the first picture on the table, and as you tell the story, ask your child what happens next and ask him to find the picture that illustrates the action.

Color Coding

Color coding can help your child rank his needs. For example, you might present your child with a list of things to do. Those items with a red dot are important, and he must complete those tasks before he can play. You can also use color coding to help your child choose appropriate clothing for his day. You might put a green dot on the tags of all of his clothing that he can wear to school and a blue dot on clothing he can wear for play. Dress-up clothing might have a red dot on the tag. In this way he can make independent choices and still dress for the occasion.

About the Author

Based in Nashville, Shellie Braeuner has been writing articles since 1986 on topics including child rearing, entertainment, politics and home improvement. Her work has appeared in "The Tennessean" and "Borderlines" as well as a book from Simon & Schuster. Braeuner holds a Master of Education in developmental counseling from Vanderbilt University.

Photo Credits

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