First and Then

Lewis is a young man I support, who adores music and Thomas the Tank Engine. We often sit together watching TV or listening to music. Lewis also visits Thomley Hall every Thursday as one of his weekly activities.

We use pictures to communicate ‘first’ and ‘then’ with Lewis. Lewis follows his whole morning routine using his ‘first’ and ‘then’ picture prompts. On a Thursday we show him his routine before leaving the house and we take it with us so he always knows what is happening next.

Lewis enjoys the car ride to Thomley Hall with the radio on and his shoes and socks off. When we arrive there he puts his shoes and socks back on, gets out the car, walks over to the buzzer, presses it and waits to be let into the centre. Once there he chooses where he wants to go and then when it’s time for the sensory room I show him his ‘first’ and ‘then’ cards again and he then takes us to the sensory room as he knows where it is.

Lewis loves the sensory room, he walks through the door and immediately takes his shoes and socks off, he then ruffles through cds finding one he likes to listens to. Once he puts the cd on he sits down on the sensory floor mat and the fun begins.

For the first few minutes Lewis watches the movements on the sensory mat and I show him things we can do such as clapping our hands and waving them over images to move the clouds to see what is hiding behind them, or hovering hands over the ball to score a goal on the football game, or splatting the caterpillars to turn them into butterflies. I place my hand over Lewis’ and we both continue to do this together. I know Lewis is happy and chilled as he makes his happy sounds: laughing and giggling.

If Lewis needs reminding what’s happening next, I step in to support him using the ‘first’ and ‘then’ cards. Lewis will then let me know if he understands by either following the request or he will choose his own activity such as going into the ball pool room or the music room.

For example one day Lewis arrived at Thomley Hall and before going into the sensory room he wanted to visit the music room. We went in there first, set up the music and listened to the different sounds and looked at instruments. I showed Lewis ‘its music first then lunch’. Lewis showed me he didn’t want lunch yet by taking the lunch picture off and throwing it. I then showed Lewis ‘first music then sensory’ and he was happy to stay in the music room longer and when it was time for the sensory room I gave Lewis a 5 minute countdown: we didn’t get to 3 minutes and this indicates Lewis wanted the sensory room now.

First and then definitely helps Lewis to make sense of his day and also to make choices.

Kaylee Stone
Support Worker
Masefield Crescent


  • Kate Webb says:

    I used to work with Lewis some years ago! When he attended Oakley College, a Macintyre service which then moved to Abingdon & Witney College. How lovely to hear how he is doing! Thankyou so much for sharing.

  • Tess Marshall says:

    So glad Lewis is finding this ‘first and then’ approach constructive, what a great idea.

  • Isalet says:

    Thank you Kaylee for sharing this. First and Then has worked brilliantly for Lewis. A nice capture for a Thomley hall day.

  • Emma Killick says:

    Thanks for sharing Lewis’ time at Thomley Hall with us Kaylee. It’s great that not only does “First and then” help Lewis make sense of his day but it also gives him control over what is happening and enables him to make choices. All of those things are so important and yet often overlooked because most of us are lucky enough to take such things for granted in our own lives.

  • Lyn Mawhinney says:

    Lovely to hear that this enables Lewis to make choices and to take control of what he would like to happen,

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