“First, Then” Schedules within an ABA Treatment Plan

Learning to plan and schedule is an incredibly important skill for children to learn from an early age. For children who are on the autism spectrum, these executive function skills can be quite challenging, and oftentimes, applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy will focus on improving these skills. One of the most helpful ways to teach these skills can be through visual supports and “First, Then” schedules.

A “First, Then” schedule will provide a visual representation of the order in which tasks need to be completed. The goal of a “First, Then” board is to build and practice positive behaviors within a child’s ABA therapy treatment pln.

“First, Then” schedule examples:




If an ABA therapist or teacher is using a “First, Then” teaching strategy with a child, the child would have a board where they are able to stick on different icons for various activities throughout the day (activities both at home and at school). As shown above, the schedule will include daily routines that the ABA therapist is working to reinforce throughout ABA therapy sessions.

Why do “First, Then” schedules work?
“First, Then” schedules are incredibly helpful for children with autism who might struggle to transition from one activity to the next throughout the day. By breaking these activities down with a structured, concrete image, children can easily predict what will come next, since transitions can be stressful for children with autism. A “First, Then” board is easy to follow and can easily be implemented into ABA therapy, routines at home, and school-day schedules. A visual support, such as a “First, Then” board, also provides ample time for the child to process the instruction (as opposed to an auditory cue or verbal instruction).

“First, Then” Schedule Apps
Technology can be a great way to engage students, and nowadays, there’s an app for everything. If you would like to try out First Then schedules for your child in their ABA therapy sessions, it may be helpful to download an app if you use an iPad or Android tablet. Many of these apps can be customized to fit the goals that are being targeted in ABA therapy.


Here are some “First, Then” apps:

First Then Visual Schedule: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/first-then-visual-schedule/id355527801?mt=8
or the FTVS HD version: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ftvs-hd-first-then-visual/id624035410?mt=8

iPrompts: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/iprompts-visual-supports-schedules/id410386084?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D4

Time Timer: http://www.autismpluggedin.com/2012/01/time-timer-app-helps-autistic-children-visualize-time.html

Visual Schedule Planner: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/visual-schedule-planner/id488646282?mt=8


Want to learn more about “First, Then” schedules?
Contact us or call (773) 630-4400 to learn more about the range of services we provide for children who are on the autism spectrum at Chicago ABA Therapy, including applied behavior analysis therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology.