Parent Q & A: How do I get my child to carry out routines without reminders?

Having your child to complete routines with little or no help creates independence for the child, increases his/her awareness to his environment and increases his attention in accomplishes a given task. However, a routine can often be disrupted when the child loses his/her attention or being distracted by the environment, resulting in parents having to provide reminders for them to continue or guiding them quickly to finish the routine.

In the following, I will be sharing with you how we can adjust the choice of routine and the assistance provided to your child to increase his/her independence and reduces the need for constant supervision from an adult.

For your child to perform/learn a routine effectively, he/she would need to have some prerequisite skills such as the skills to complete the individual step of the routine, able to use a visual schedule, able to sustain attention for a period of time.

Choice of Routines

Although we would like our children to accomplish the given task on their own, it will be necessary to understand your child’s strengths and decide which routine to start, or to teach! The routines should consist of skills that your child had already acquired earlier on. For example, a routine that involves changing/wearing of shoes would require the child to already have the skill to put on his/her shoe with minimal assistance. Focus on basic, simple routines before moving to complex routines to develop your child’s independence.

Type of routines Simple Complex
Getting ready for school Changing into uniform Changing into uniform follow by packing of school bag
Mealtime Washing of hands Washing of hands follow with setting up cutlery/dining area
In school Placing school bag into the right cubby and bring along snackbox/bottle into class Placing school bag into the right cubby and bring along snackbox/bottle into class follow by taking attendance on classroom chart



1. Types of assistance

Physically guiding the child or telling them what to do for each step of the routine decreases the child’s independence. Usually a visual schedule will be selected as a prompt as it minimizes the assistance from an adult and heightens the child’s attention and awareness to his/her environment.

Visual schedule can come in different forms. It can be a flip chart (like a calendar), a strip of pictures indicating each step or a written checklist.

The choice of which visual assistance to use depends on your child’s strength. If he/she has prior knowledge in using a flip chart, then a flip chart will be a more preferred mode of assistance for your child.

2. Providing the assistance

Start by placing the visual schedule in a location easily accessed by your child. For example, if you are doing hand washing routine, have the schedule by the sink or on the wall. This reduces complexity for your child and allow him/her to continue each step of the routine with ease.

Initially you may want to fully guide your child through the routine to ensure he/she understands what each picture/description of the step means. After a few rounds of practise, begin to fade off your assistance. I’ve provided an example below of how assistance can be faded off in a systematic way.

Phase 1: Gesture to the picture and guide your child physically to finish the step

Phase 2: Gesture to the picture and point to the item/location for your child to finish the step

Phase 3: Gesture to the picture without providing any further guidance to complete the step

Phase 4: Allowing your child to complete the step on his/her own


Encouraging Independence

1. Adult’s Supervision

When your child is able to complete the routine on his/her own, start reducing the supervision you are providing to create more independence. Gradually increase the distance between you and your child until you are able to be out of the room. If the routine requires supervision for safety reasons, you can progressively reduce your attention given to the child while being in the same room. It can look like this:

Phase 1: Adult is watching the child within a small distance

Phase 2: Adult is watching the child 80% of the time within a small distance

Phase 3: Adult is watching the child 50% of the time within a small distance

Phase 4: Adult is watching the child 20% of the time within a small distance

2. Fading of Visual Schedule

When your child is more fluent in completing the routine, you may begin to fade the visual systematically in a few ways.

Phase 1: Fading out the pictures/sentences:

For pictures, you may fade out the colour of the pictures so that it will not be as obvious. For sentences, you may replace some of the words with blanks.


Phase 2: Fading out from the last picture/sentence:

Leave a blank space of the last step of the routine to reduce the visual assistance provided to your child. Continue to delete the next last step until you are left with the initial picture/sentence.


Ideally, a visual schedule should be faded off completely. However, depending on the child’s learning abilities and the complexity of the routine, a visual schedule may be helpful for your child to continue to use in his/her daily routines to achieve minimal adult’s supervision.

Tips for Success

  1. Practise makes perfect! For a child to perform routines smoothly, he/she would need time and opportunities to practise. Pick a time that you are not in a rush to practise the routine with your child. When a mistake happens, it gives you time to correct and practise with your child again.
  2. Start with routines that are meaningful for your child. If your child enjoys going to the playground, a meaningful (and motivating) routine to start with will be getting ready to go out or changing of clothes.
  3. If your child makes a mistake while doing the routine, stops your child from continuing and provide a feedback to let him/her know why he/she got it wrong (eg. “That’s wrong, you did not turn on the tap”). This helps to increase independent learning and reduces the reliance of others to assist him/her after mistake.
  4. Routines can be a difficult task for young children. Providing lots of positive attention (eg. praises) and reinforcement ensures future success from your child!

Renee Pang

Behavioral Consultant

Information provided by:

Renee Pang holds a Master of Education in Applied Behaviour Analysis from Monash University, Australia. She joined Autism Partnership, Singapore, in 2010 and worked with children on both one-on-one and group settings and provided shadow-aide support in mainstream schools. In 2013, Renee became a Program Supervisor where she worked on designing and tailoring curriculum for the child’s needs under the supervision of the consultants. Additionally, she also ran social groups in mainstream schools and collaborated with teachers and principals to devise integration plans. Renee also provides staff and parent training sessions locally and overseas. She is also fluent in English, Mandarin and Cantonese. Since 2019, Renee currently works with Autism Partnership, Hong Kong, to provide consultation, parent training, and staff training for clients in Shanghai.

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