Establishing Routines: Tips for Success

Routine is a good thing for all of us. You most likely followed a certain routine in order to get ready for work this morning. Routines are especially important for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Here are some of the reasons why:

Order and Stability

Routine creates order in the life of a person with ASD. Making sense of everyday movements, sounds, and actions can be challenging and anxiety producing. Routines create a safe and secure environment in which life is predictable.

Stress Relief

Routine is known to relieve stress in almost all individuals. It can be stressful for the student with autism as he tries to make sense of his environment. All students in the classroom can benefit when routines are a part of the school day.

Increased Learning Potential

Once we can ease the stress of our students it is easier to help them learn new skills and expected behaviors. Routine is a powerful learning tool in the ASD environment.

Tips for Establishing Routines

There are plenty of ways to help students establish routines. The following tips are helpful for students who have ASD but also for those who don’t.

  1. Structure the Day – Define routines clearly and review routines daily. Let students know as soon as possible if there is a change in the schedule. Model and practice coping skills from the safety plan to manage upsets resulting from changes in routine and teach the concept of flexible thinking. Check out this resource from Speech Paths for some examples of how to introduce the abstract concept of flexible thinking in a concrete way.
  2. Use Visual Supports – Visual supports can help provide structure and routine, encourage independence, build confidence, improve understanding, avoid frustration and anxiety, and provide opportunities to relate to others. They can make communication substantial and consistent, rather than fleeting and inconsistent like spoken words can be. Check out The Autism Helper Blog for easy-to-use and ready-to-implement strategies and ideas that incorporate visual supports.
  3. Create Schedules – Students with ASD feel secure when they know what to expect. Schedules help students know what’s ahead. A visual schedule can be created using photographs, pictures, written words, physical objects or any combination of these items. Schedules can be put into notebooks, onto a wall or schedule board or onto a computer. Picture schedules are powerful because they help a student visualize the actions. Schedules can be broad or detailed. You can use them with any sequence of events. Some students may require a personal daily schedule while other students may only need a daily schedule for the classroom.

To learn more about ways to help young people reach their potential and succeed in their homes, schools and the community, visit the PEP website at



Why Routine is Important to Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. (2018, September 10). 

Top 5 Things to Consider when Setting up a Classroom to Support Students with ASD.