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All images and posts written by and copyright to Amanda Clements (nee Gray) 2009-2012 unless otherwise indicated.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Visual cues to help planning

Recently I wrote a post about the Stop, Think, Do! program on the Learn to be Buddies Series blog. This has been used with some success with children who have executive functioning issues because it helps with the planning process in social situations.

I will discuss the "Stop!" step when I address the inhibition element of executive functioning. In this post I want to focus on discussing the "Think!" phase.


The "think" phase is about helping children think ahead, identify choices and consequences for their actions before they act.

The catchy, simple phrase "Stop! Think! Do!" is acts like a script in a play. It provides structure to help a performance run smoothly. But the only way it can work is if it is rehearsed and if we have prompts in place to remind a child about what they should be doing if they get off track.


At first introducing a child to this phrase, you will need to discuss each step. When you come the the "Think" phase you will need to find ways to help children make links between the way they act and how this affects others.

One way can be developing "if ... then ..." visual or verbal statements depending on the child's way of learning. If you are helping a child with Autism, it is usually best to use visuals. If you are helping a child with ADHD, visuals may be appropriate but you may find that older children/youth can also learn through verbalising "if...then" statements.I made up this little visual prompt using microsoft clipart, but there are many different options for visuals. More and more schools, preschools and other services for children with disabilities have access to Boardmaker, which is a valuable tool for helping children who learn visually.

If you are using visuals, make sure they are hung in and around the places where the behaviour is most likely to occur. The example above would be hung in any room or space dedicated to craft activities. This way the child's memory will be constantly triggered every time they look up. Further, you will be able to use the visual to remind children about the consequences for their actions.


It is important that any script or prompt be used repeatedly. This repetitiveness helps children with executive functioning issues remember.

Executive functioning issues effect the working memory and so can make it harder for things to "stick". The more you use the phrase, "Stop! Think! Do!" and the same visual prompt, the more likely it is to "stick" with the child. The product of this is hopefully helping children plan and make more appropriate choices socially and in risk-management.

Just remember:

Children won't be able to plan if they don't first stop. Don't try to talk a child through a problem if they are in the middle of a melt-down. Help them relax and regain control first.... I will talk more on this when I come to discussing the "inhibition" element of executive functioning.


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