The Power of Routines
Have you ever been frustrated when your favorite, regularly scheduled TV show was replaced by a news or sports event? Had your morning ruined when you discovered you were out of coffee? Your routine was thrown off!
All people depend on routines. Routines provide a predictable framework to our days and reduce stress. Changes or unexpected events can cause stress.
For children—and especially for children with deaf-blindness—routines provide consistent, repeated experiences that allow them to anticipate what is about to happen, communicate in a structured and familiar setting, and actively participate to the greatest extent they can.
In a routine, the steps happen in the same order, in the same way, at an expected time, and at a good pace for the child. Through their regularity and familiarity, routines provide additional information that may not be available to children as a result of their hearing loss and visual impairment. As children learn routines, they also learn about the world (concept development). The stability of the routine creates an environment in which children are available for learning. Without routines, children may react negatively out of fear because they don’t know what might happen or be done to them next.
Formalizing an activity into a routine may be referred to as “routine-based intervention” or “activity-based learning.”
Why use routines?
- Routines provide “a systematic approach that is individualized to meet the child’s skills and preferences” (FACETS, 1999).
- Routines provide opportunities for consistency, predictability, anticipation, and repeated practice (Smith, 2002).
- Using routines creates stability (Aitken et al., 2000).
- Through a routine, the student has the best chance of recognizing an event, feeling secure, learning, and responding (Aitken et al., 2000).
What does it mean to identify an activity as a routine?
To be identified as a routine, the steps in an activity must be formalized. In the beginning, the structure and sequence must be identical each time the steps are performed. For an activity to be considered a routine, it should initially meet the following criteria (Smith, 2002, p. 1):
- There is a clear signal to the student that the activity is starting. The steps of the activity occur in the same sequence.
- Each step is done the same way each time (same materials, same person, same place).
- Assistance is given in the same way each time until the student is ready for a lower level of prompting.
- The pacing of instruction is precisely maintained until the activity is finished (no side conversations, no going to get something you forgot, or spontaneously adding new or different steps that won’t happen the next time the activity is done).
- There is a clear signal to the student that the activity is finished.
Once a child is familiar with a routine, it may be possible to vary the materials, the person helping the child, or where the routine takes place. As a child is able to accept small changes, he becomes capable of generalizing concepts and activities. Parents and teachers must assess each child’s readiness for changes to a particular routine.
Aitken, S., Buultjens, M., Clark, C., & Eyre, J. T. (2000). Teaching children who are deafblind: Contact communication and learning. London: David Fulton Publishers.
FACETS (1999). Tip sheet: Considerations for planning routines based intervention. Retrieved on July 10, 2009 from:
Smith, M. (2002). Routines. Retrieved on July 10, 2009, from: http://www.tsbvi.edu/Education/vmi/routines.htm
Ready to Change
FACETS: Considerations for Planning Routines Based Intervention
From a joint project of Kansas University Affiliated Program and Florida State University. Discusses important considerations when planning routines, including targeting goals, identifying opportunities for teaching and learning, the role of facilitators, inclusion of a variety of intervention strategies, considerations for choosing cues, natural consequences or contingencies, and identifying environments.
Incorporating Active Learning Theory into Activity Routines
By Kate Moss & Stacy Shafer – Education Specialists, TSBVI Outreach
Focuses on Phase IV and V of Lilli Nielsen’s five educational phases of educational treatment outlined in her book, Are You Blind?, and addresses how active learning principles can be incorporated into routines.
Make It Routine
By Robbie Blaha & Kate Moss – Texas Deafblind Project
Discusses the benefits routines provide for a child, including opportunities for communication, emotional support for learning, a framework for learning, method for building procedural memory, and a way to highlight new information. Offers suggestions on choosing activities, developing the routine and setting up a family-friendly schedule. Includes sample schedules and a sample routine.
By Millie Smith – TSBVI
Addresses the criteria necessary to call an activity a routine. Includes a sample activity.
The Deafblind Disabled Baby:
Program of Care for Parents of the Deafblind Baby with Multiple Disabilities
By Peggy Freeman
A chapter on routines from a longer work by Peggy Freeman. Takes an in-depth look at the various stages of learning that take place in a variety of areas, including feeding, sleeping, bathing, dressing and undressing, as well as toileting. Offers examples outlining ways to adapt and change routines as a baby grows and develops.
http://documents.nationaldb.org/products/freeman-2.doc Select Routines (from the offered list on this web page)
Social interactions in routines: The framework for communication.
By Kathleen Stremel (2009)
Addresses routines within the context of communication and social interactions with others giving examples and forms that can be used (from the offered list on this web page).
Routines to Consider (adapted from a list in Stremel, 2009):
- Social routines
- Play with objects/constructive
- Pretend play
- Physical play/recreation/leisure
- Social games/activities (e.g., selling chocolate bars for club, attending school dances, eating with peers)
- Caregiver routines
- Personal routines
- Comfort related
- Dressing related
- Hygiene related
- Food related
- Work and Volunteer routines
- Greeting co-workers
- Getting ready for work (coat off, lunch in refrigerator, workstation readied)
- Work tasks to be done
- Lunch routine
- Community activities
- Library, park, playground
- Visiting grandparents
- Fishing with Granddad
- Restaurants, post office, coffee shop
- Grocery store, hair salon, bookstores
- Pre-Academic/Academic routines
- Reading books, shared reading
- Songs and rhymes
- Computer, TV, video
- Art play
- Early number sense/math
- Classes: band, art, computer