When you have a child who struggles with language, how do you help them structure the day? How do you communicate the impact of choices in a meaningful way? You could use a picture schedule, but what to do if you are in the middle of Target and you don’t have enough options in your picture book? Or what if you want to go beyond pictures and get into choices/consequences, or negotiation?
My friend Rita Roem wrote a delightful blog outlining a simple technique that was introduced when her child was young. The technique is “first, then.” As Rita wrote, “First the big ball, then Play-Do, then trains.”
OR my favorite, which involves negotiation and the impact of choices. As Rite wrote: “First school, then therapy, then Happy Meal!” We can now negotiate. I can say in reply, “No, first school, then therapy, then bath, then Happy Meal.” He’ll agree and what could have been stressful for us both, isn’t. Or he can say, “No bath.” To which I respond, “Ok. No bath, no Happy Meal.” He’ll think about it. “Ok. First school, then therapy, then bath, then Happy Meal.”
As adults, we use “first, then” in our minds all the time, but we probably don’t label the technique as such. We have a series of tasks that must be completed to get the kids out the door, or get ourselves to work. We negotiation with ourselves (First workout, then brownie. Or First coffee, then phone messages), and with others (First homework, then tv time. Or First mortgage, then new shoes.).
Try this technique. Observe how you navigate the day, and then see if first/then plays a role in your everyday life. (Hey, that technique was JUST in that last sentence: first observe, then assess.) Rita makes the concept delightfully simple, applies it to a variety of life situations, and empowers us to use the technique. Try it, you’ll like it!