MGH Home SchoolPsychiatry Home Page
School-Based Interventions : Autism Spectrum Disorders
Interventions for Restrictive Routines/Interests

  1. Provide alternative tasks, particularly when the student is sensory overloaded

    Allow the student several choices within his/her daily tasks. The student can choose the order of tasks, or when/where to take a break.
  2. Use buddies/peer assistants to expand the student's interests/activities beyond current routines

    Identify other students (perhaps from other grades within the school) to assist the student or practice novel tasks/assignments.
  3. Tell the student the steps you would like him/her to take before he/she engages in a task

    Break down and clarify steps for the student to take to complete a task. ("First, hold your pencil; then, put your paper in the middle of your desk, then write on the line at the top.")
  4. Allow the student to have some choices with regard to performing instructional tasks

    Give the student an opportunity to choose the activity, location or materials for an instructional task.
  5. Have the student learn the daily routine by watching peers perform tasks

    Have a peer stand beside the student in physical education class to demonstrate/model exercise routines and movements.
  6. Specify the student's routine for asking questions or describing topics when the student seeks or presents information

    Explain that the procedure for asking questions is to limit him/herself to two questions, then allow others to ask; or to proceed with working two problems before asking questions. ("You can ask the two most important questions to begin work, then we will check in after you have completed the first two problems.")
  7. Apply the student's interests to classroom tasks to improve motivation

    If the student has a special interest in baseball, use baseball scores or averages for math activities and skills. Schedule opportunities to engage in special interests throughout the day as a powerful reinforcement for extended periods of hard work. top

Specialized Instruction

  • Use alternative sensory modalities when teaching in order to interrupt the student's restrictive routines and to engage the student

    In teaching fractions, present information in three ways: auditory instruction ("follow these three steps…"), visual representation (pizza activity) and students "acting out" the concept (2 out of 5 in the group are boys).
  • Alternate preferred and less preferred activities and note each on a visual schedule

    Begin and end the student's schedule with familiar and positive activities. Follow disliked activities with preferred activities to reinforce difficult work and to increase tolerance for undesired tasks.
  • Assess the demands of the next setting/transition and teach needed skills to deviate from current routines

    For a student transitioning from preschool to elementary school, prepare the student for how to engage in independent tasks and how to follow group and individual prompts. Provide the student with more opportunities to engage in these tasks before he/she begins elementary school.
  • Allow choices to support the student's preferences when given instructional tasks

    For instruction in math, the student can choose to do a related "math program" on the computer or to do a "math activity" with a peer.
  • Change at least one or several elements of the schedule each day while keeping the basic structure the same

    Introduce new elements within familiar situations to avoid overwhelming the student with too much confusing stimulation from new or changing events. Use a calendar to introduce variations and new activities.
  • Teach the younger student how to use toys and objects in appropriate activities to replace restrictive routines

    For a student who "lines up" toy cars, demonstrate how to roll the car down a "road" (board, desk, floor, etc.); adding noises ("vroom") may be necessary to help alter the routine. top

Behavioral Planning

  • Prioritize target behaviors

    Adjust instruction to first ensure the student's safety, then ensure the student is engageable, then focus on altering the current routine.
  • When the student is highly aroused/resistant to deviate from routine, attune by going "low and slow"

    Lower your body, slow down your speech and reduce language output to a few words every 10 seconds.
  • Provide visual cues and a work-reward routine to facilitate independent task completion

    Use a transition object such as a "ball" to remind/cue the student to go to the gym (without added verbal directions). top
    ©2010 Massachusetts General Hospital, School Psychiatry Program and MADI Resource Center
    Copyright | Disclaimer | Privacy Policy | Department of Psychiatry  | Site Map