How I support children with autism as a one to one in pre school

Communication & Autism

Today’s post is a guest post from Caroline who was 1-1 for my youngest at Pre-school. I can’t thank her enough for supporting him and helping to get him ready for school. I asked if she would share her experience with us:

As you can see from the title, I am a SENCO support (SENCO meaning special educational needs coordinator). I get the enjoyable and rewarding part of the job to meet amazing children, care for them, watching them develop and thrive. I love my role and the family’s I support along the way.

Every child I have worked with is completely different, meaning the way in which I support them is different to. This means every day is different and varied as a result.

The training I have in order to do my job role is a CACHE level three diploma in childcare and education. Alongside this qualification I have completed placements in special needs departments following then working in a special need’s schools for a number of years.

I am doing this little write up to give you an insight into how I support the children I work alongside and some of the techniques I have used to support them.

Structure & communication

As you may or may not know children with autism love structure, don’t we all!! Put yourself in a child’s shoes who likes structure, they are getting on a bus but haven’t been told where they are going or informed of the next location, how would you feel? You wouldn’t get on a bus without knowing where its going or what is about to happen next. For a child with autism if the structure is broken this can become extremely distressing for them.

For example, they may go to catch a bus with a guardian, the bus doesn’t turn up and they need to walk to the next location. They have been told the bus is coming and that is what they are expecting. This becomes very confusing for the child who may struggle to communicate their thoughts and feelings on this. My role is to help support the child in teaching them how to communicate their feelings at times when structure becomes broken. If the child is using PEC’S (Picture Exchange Communication System). This is a good opportunity for the child to use symbols and pictures to express their feelings, wants and needs. Should a child be using PECS they would have undergone a training structure to help them use and understand this tool.

Blue PECS Book
PECS book

Visual timetables

Obviously, I try to keep the children feeling safe, secure and stable in their environment and emotions. Having spoke about structure another tool that assists this is a visual timetable, these are a great visual/physical aid and have really worked well to support the children.

PECS Schedule Board Kit
Using the PECS visual schedule

I made mine from a couple of A4 card pieces to which I laminated and I then stuck sticky back Velcro tabs onto the sheet of the laminated card. I also stuck sticky back Velcro tabs to the back of the symbols so that the symbols can be stuck to the visual timetable and be removed and repositioned when needed.

I find the visual timetable to be extremely helpful as the child is able to remove the symbol/activity that has just happened and place them in a completed box this shows the task is now complete in a physical representation. They would then be able to look back at the timetable for the next activity/mealtime to say for example “Playtime finished now time for bubbles”. By using a visual timetable this helps support the child’s understanding of what will happen throughout their day and also allowing them to have the structure to keep them calm and feel in control as you move between activities.

The Bag

One session I love to run is called The Bag. I find it to be incredible constructive and a productive activity to carry out I think you will find it helpful to take a look at Jades write up on this using the link above.

TEACCH at Home

I found the bag to be a very enjoyable session as the children have loved the structure and layout as they become familiar with the sequence that the activity follows. I have used these sessions to teach children with Autism how to play and interact with the toys/resources around them, how to initiate their own play and enjoy their environment. Although this is a learning time, I also use this time to build a caring and nurturing bond with the children that I work with. By showing the child I care should the activity become distressing or to challenging at any point. Only stepping in once they have had a go at completing the activity allowing them the opportunity to learn by giving them the knowledge I am hear to help and not alone when they feel frustrated. Also allowing them to know that I can see and understand when their frustrations are building and in some situations are able to work this out simply from knowing them and their reactions.

Is the nursery setting right for you and your child?

Last but not least I thought I would give you some pointers to use as a guide to know if the nursery setting is right for you and your child. From my experience I believe the below factors are all good points to consider when choosing a setting.

  • Are there physical needs met?
  • If they use a wheel chair are there ramps?
  • Are they able to use the available play equipment?
  • Are their sensory needs met?
  • Is there opportunity for them to develop their sensory needs i.e. possible sensory room and sensory play using food/playdough/gloop ect?
  • Would their dietary needs be met?
  • Are the activities that they carry out within the setting appropriate for your child’s needs for age and stage of development. If not, would there be support given from a member of staff like myself to help those activities be accessible for your child.
  • How busy is the room/setting that your child would be accessing, how many children would be in the room at any one time and would the noise volume be ok in this situation or would this be distressing for your child.
  • Are you looking into a mainstream nursery or a special needs provision for your child, take time to look around both you know your child and what’s best for them and what will meet their needs?

Most importantly I believe having fun and making a bond with the children I spend time with is of up most importance to me as if we never make a bond with them how can I expect them to learn from interactions with me. I hope the above information’s has given you an insight into what we do to support children with autism in a nursery setting. I hope this has been helpful and please do take a look around the remainder of this website as there is plenty of valuable information that can be of help and support to you and your child.

For anyone in Somerset or South Bristol / BANES are Caroline is now available for private specialist childcare or family support roles. If this of interest get in touch ( and I can pass on her details.

Was this article helpful?


  1. 8th November 2020 / 3:42 am

    There’s a lot to consider there, but I love the last bit about the bond and having fun. #KCACOLS

    • admin
      8th November 2020 / 10:13 pm

      We all learn far better when having fun xx

  2. Jed and Jen
    8th November 2020 / 10:50 am

    Thank you for what you do! Like Lydia, I also like that piece about intentionally bonding and having fun. I think that is so important for all kiddos.

    • admin
      8th November 2020 / 10:12 pm

      Thank you and I totally agree x

  3. 11th November 2020 / 2:59 am

    Interesting read. There is so much that the general public still needs educating on. Thank you for helping me to gain greater understanding #KCACOLS

    • admin
      11th November 2020 / 6:54 am

      You are very welcome and thank you for taking the time to read the post

  4. Shelley Whittaker
    11th November 2020 / 12:53 pm

    Another really interesting and informative read. Thanks for sharing #KCACOLS

    • admin
      11th November 2020 / 1:42 pm

      Thanks Shelley.

  5. 13th November 2020 / 10:42 am

    Your explanation into how important structure is for an Autistic child makes it super understandable. I love the way you use the visual diaries, I will introduce this to my son whom responds positively to a structured plan xx #KCACOLS

    • admin
      13th November 2020 / 3:56 pm

      Most kids do really well with structure and visuals it would be a good thing to introduce.

  6. 21st November 2020 / 11:16 am

    There’s so much to think about – these all sound such fun! #KCACOLS

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