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What Is a First Then Schedule and How Can We Use it With CVES™?

What is a First-Then Schedule?

A first then schedule or visual is a visual strategy that is used to help an individual with behavioral or language needs to complete an activity. Like the visual schedule, the use of pictures on a First-Then schedule helps an individual understand the order of activities to be completed.

first then card

Previously this visual strategy utilized two pictures with the “first” being usually a noun picture of a non-preferred activity and the “then” being a picture of a reinforcer or highly preferred activity.   For example, “First math – Then reading” or “First bathroom – then snack.”  While this procedure certainly benefits an individual by seeing what they will be doing next, it does not match our generative language system in the way that we speak to each other.  Noun words, or Fringe Vocabulary, accounts for 20% of what we say in conversation, with the remaining 80% being Core Vocabulary words including parts of speech like pronouns, action words, location words, determiners, and descriptors.    If we speak to each other in a ratio of Core and Fringe, then we can certainly provide that language for our students when utilizing visual strategies like a First-Then Schedule.


What Can I Do Instead of a Fringe Only First Then? Add Core!

Add a core word before a noun picture so that “first” consists of a core word and fringe word and “then” consists of a core word and fringe (personal core) word. 

The core word should be rotated so that a child can learn and generalize the meaning of each core word across contexts, communication partners, and environments. For example, when targeting the fringe word “lunch” the core word modeled may be “eat” (Eat + lunch); however, our language system is dynamic so we don’t always use the same core word with the same fringe vocabulary word.  In the example “lunch,” we can say “eat lunch,” but we can also say “go lunch” (go to lunch) or “make lunch” or “have lunch.”  This principle of using core words across contexts can be applied to any Fringe Vocabulary Word that we are using.  

Why Should I Use Core Vocabulary with a First-Then?

Pair generative language (core words) with fringe words

Increase Aided Language Stimulation Across Activities

Increase Understanding of Transitions and Expectations

Increase Opportunities for Learning Language and Fringe Word Meaning

Increase opportunities for generalization of word meaning across contexts activities and communication partners

Assist with behavioral regulation by teaching functional communication and the meaning of single core words paired with reinforcers

How Should I Use the First-Then With CVES™?

The First-Then Schedule should be used in conjunction with the Core Vocabulary Exchange System (CVES) to facilitate receptive and expressive communication skills.  The First-Then Schedule can be attached on top of the CVES communication binder, or attached inside the CVES communication binder using velcro.  Then, the practitioner can remove icons from the CVES Core Vocabulary Foldout and Binder Inserts and place those directly onto the First Then.  This allows the practitioner to quickly access icons within an activity.  Tokens can also be made and customized to the students’ interest and attached to the First-Then using velcro.  Depending on the activity, a token may be given to a child every turn, minute, response etc. until the desired number of tokens is achieved before transitioning to the expected activity (“Then activity”).

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