What if the child with autism could ‘fast forward’ school?

What if the child with autism could ‘fast forward’ school?

What if we gave the child with autism a magic remote control?


Buttons would allow them to have control of their school day. They could ‘fast forward’, ‘pause’ and change the volume at will. No one would question them.


Would they ‘fast forward’ that time before registration, when it is too noisy, unstructured and socially confusing?


Would they ‘fast forward’ registration all together? Is it fun?


What about Maths, Story time, Spelling, Handwriting, P.E? Would any of these subjects escape that button?


What about lunchtime – the noisy canteen, the disgusting smells, the noise?


Never mind ‘fast forward’ – would the child with autism just press the ‘skip day’ button and be back at home, safe in their comfort zone?


What if you had a magic remote?


Imagine stepping onto a crowed underground train and being able to fast forward the journey. Bliss!



Make journeys faster.


Inventors are always trying to make transport faster, smoother and more comfortable, but until they develop teleportation for commuters we must spend time getting from ‘a’ to ‘b’.


Most commuters are not looking out of the window admiring the views or engaging in social chat. Their attention is fixed on their mobile phone, their laptop or newspaper. Or maybe they are taking the time to catch up on sleep. Distraction helps the journey go faster…


On the underground we use a visual map to count down the stops. Knowing where we are headed – where we are ‘now’ and where we will be ‘next’ is comforting. The map helps us to prepare so that we can get off at the right stop. We can mentally prepare our walk to the door, pressing the button, getting passed obstacles. The knowing and preparing eases our anxieties.


That map helps us stay on the train until we reach our destination. The destination (even if it is work) is our motivator.


Underground maps have a similar function to the child’s schedule.


The child’s schedule helps them get things right, eases anxiety and helps them stay on track.


Underground maps also visually depict the time between stops. The length of the line between stops correlates with the distance and time between stops. This helps us gage our journey and work out how long we have left.


Timetable line




Timers provide a visual for how much longer a favourable or unfavourable activity will last.


Sometimes timers can bear the brunt of frustration. They may even be broken in attempts to thwart time.


By adding visual time symbols to the schedule, which link with timers we give the child additional information. We show ‘goodbye’ will be ten minutes, but lunch will be half an hour.


Each orange sand timer represents ten minutes

A time timer and ‘Now’ and ‘Next’ schedule with time timer symbols


Knowing helps the child feel less anxious.


Knowing helps the child prepare.


Knowing breaks the school day journey down, making it all seem less interminable.


Lost in technology


Oh and when the child with autism tries to lose themselves in technology to help their school day pass quicker, think back to those commuters.


Making a ‘no tech’ rule on trains would be impossible and unfair. The way to get commuters looking out the window is to provide an exciting view. The way to get them communicating is to provide them with a good reason and motivation.


We cannot provide that magic remote, but we CAN provide the visual structures to make school days seem more manageable.


Once we relate to why the school day can be challenging, we see why having good visual supports is such a necessity.


Note: Symbols, schedules and timer symbols are all included in the resource CD that comes with ‘Colour Coding for Learners with Autism: A Resource Book for Creating Meaning Through Colour at Home and School’ published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2014. http://www.jkp.com/uk/colour-coding-for-learners-with-autism.html

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