Articles > For Special Education > First Then Boards

First Then Boards

What is a First Then Board?

A First Then Board is a visual strategy used to help children with language and/or behavior needs complete specific tasks. This strategy displays two pictures. The "first" is usually a picture of a non-preferred activity and the "then" is a picture of a preferred activity. The child must do the first before being able to do the second activity. It helps with both receptive and expressive communication. Children benefit by know exactly what is expected of them. In addition, by using pictures, the visual is there for the child to refer to even after the word is gone. 
 

How does it work?

To help with specific task completion, the adult (teacher, therapist, parent) will place two pictures on a First-Then Board. These pictures may be a sequence (ie: first potty, then wash hands) or separate tasks (ie: first writing, then play trains), or a task and reward (ie: first math, then cookie). The pictures should be given along with the words and/or signs. 
 

Who can use this?

A First-Then Board is a visual strategy that parents, teachers, and therapist use to help a child complete desired tasks. Most children can be taught simple routines at a very young age with a First - Then Board. A child with Autism who has language and behavior needs will respond much better when the expectations are clear and simple as shown on a First-Then Board. A child with cognitive delays can refer to this simple schedule of what to do. A child with behavior needs can understand there is a set end to the non-preferred task and they can make it to the preferred choice. With the choices displayed, they become more concrete and almost contractual to both the child and adult, so the child knows if I first... then I will...  (Keep in mind it is only effective if the adult follows through as well.)
 

When can this strategy be used?

This visual strategy can be used to teach a new skill, manage challenging behaviors, or support a simple schedule / sequence. It can be used throughout the day from morning routines (ie: first dressed, then breakfast), to schoolwork (ie: first clean-up, then outside), to meal times (ie: first carrots, then dessert). 
 

What do I need to make this strategy work?

There are many ways to create a simple First - Then Chart.  Let's start with the board itself. Start with a First - Then page with the words along the top. You may print this on cardstock or glue to a piece of cardboard and cover with contact paper. Another effective strategy is to slide the paper in the front clear cover of a three-ring binder (This is great because pictures can be kept inside in pencil pouches).  Put soft velcro in each box so pictures can be easily attached and removed. 

For the pictures, photographs of the task or the real items work very well. For example, use a picture of the child brushing his teeth and reading a story. You may also use simple clip art. LessonPix provides an extensive library of clip art that is easy to print in the size needed.  Laminate the pictures or cover with clear contact paper. Place a piece of the rough velcro on the back of each picture.

If you use an iphone, ipod touch, or ipad, there is an application called, "iprompts" that will allow you to import pictures and comes with a small library of pictures. It is an expensive application, however, it can be a tool that is easy to carry.