by A is for Apple, Inc. | Jan 18, 2017

Priming: Helping Your Child Succeed in New Situations

In the next few months there are many three-day weekends and long breaks from school. This can be potentially devastating to a child on the spectrum when they’ve just finally gotten back into the groove of therapy, school and a good home routine. In our blog post earlier this month, we talked about transitioning strategies after these breaks. In this newsletter, we are going to take a closer look at one of those strategies: Priming.

The idea behind priming is to preview activities or information with a child before the child participates in that particular activity. The goal of priming is to help children with autism to grow more familiar and comfortable with an activity. It is important to note that priming is not teaching, correcting, or testing. Priming consists of three components:

It is conducted prior to an activity and should use the same materials as the activity,Priming should be a low-demand situation, focusing on tasks that are easy for the child, andPriming should incorporate frequent opportunities for reinforcement.

There are many ways to use priming at home to prepare your child for the day’s activities. These may differ from how priming is used in therapy or at school, but they follow the same principles. For example, in school, before a test, a child may be able to preview the worksheet to prepare for the test they will take. They may also be able to practice with art supplies before a new art project is presented to the class.Using the same principle at home, you can prepare your child for the events of the day by using a calendar with pictures that show them what is planned for the day. You can practice bedtime routines before they happen, you can read a book or watch a video about travel, or talk about sights, sounds and expectations before a trip to the zoo. These are all examples of “priming”.

Priming Can Help:

  • To increase competence and independence
  • To familiarize child with the events of the day/material being learned
  • To decrease frustration/anxiety
  • Help set expectations

Make priming part of your every day routine and it can start to help start better expectations, set consistent routines, and maybe even decrease frustration in your household – even if schedules get thrown a little off balance.We’d love to hear about how you use priming in your home – tweet us or find us on Facebook to start the conversation.

Technology Spotlight

Time is a hard concept to teach. We can tell our children “We will be transitioning to the next activity in 5 minutes” but five minutes can seem like an eternity since time is such an abstract concept at this young age of development.


Using a visual timer can be extremely helpful at home or during therapy when children are having behavior issues, for motivation, to promote task completion, or when needing help with transitions. Counting down the numbers on a timer can still be very hard for children to decipher how much time they have left because digital clocks are still very abstract. Outloud Timer 2 is an app that is interactive, visual, and engages children all at the same time.

If you are looking for a timer, this is one to give a try. It is easy to use and you can set it up with minutes and seconds. Once you set the timer, the penguin appears. You or your child can draw a path to the treasure chest at the end. You can make the path as complex and simple, straight or curvy as you’d like. Once you pick up your finger, the timer starts. The penguin walks along the path you’ve drawn in the time that you’ve set, ending at the treasure chest.

What is pretty great about this timer is that your child can visualize how much time they have left based on where the penguin is. Is the penguin half-way there? How much of that path is left? This app teaches more about the concept of time, plus it is fun, with moving backgrounds, music, and virtual surprises when the timer is up.

This is available on iTunes for the iPhone and the iPad – check it out!

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