Planning Strategies Improve Behavior

The FAB List, Picture schedule, Praxis comic, 3-Comic, Schedule story, and Coping card strategies describe planning with visual supports to improve self-control.  These FAB planning strategies improve behavior in children and adolescents with sensory processing, developmental, trauma history, and mental health challenges.  Learning routines, rules, and structure enhance self-control.

The FAB List strategy helps organize children and adolescents who move rapidly throughout the class or therapy room making a mess and getting more disorganized. The therapist or teacher keeps all materials locked up then has the child make a sequential list of up to six activities they want to do that day.  They are then given access to the first activity, and must clean up and check it off the list before beginning the second task.

A similar strategy for students who learn best through visual prompts is the FAB Picture schedule strategy.


This FAB Picture schedule strategy was individually developed by this student’s speech-language pathologist and occupational therapist using board maker.  The child’s individualized picture schedule helps the student identify when he is angry and/or mad (the feelings that most often precede his aggressive behavior), then choose one of his three most effective coping strategies to stay in control.  The picture schedule also designates that the student will be rewarded with an extra fifteen minutes long session with John (his occupational therapist) if he uses coping strategies.

The FAB Praxis comic strategy guides children and adolescents in understanding and sequentially following multiple step activities.  Below is the 4-part FAB Praxis comic created and used by a small occupational therapy group.  Group members are guided to describe, draw, and color 4 comic strips depicting the sequential components of every group. 


The students dictate and write the captions of the group sequence, (with the sensory purpose of the activities described here in parenthesis): 1. Move the chairs (e.g., specifically involving slow linear movement combined with deep pressure through the joints to facilitate self-regulation) 2. Throw the ball underhand (a sequential movement task that is combined with the verbal expression of feelings). 3. Sit (a calming activity during which students construct a feeling wheel or coping card, given the environmental structure of a seated position) 4.Play Frisbee ending the group (e.g., the final routine regularly done as a transition before moving the chairs back to end the group). Another FAB Praxis Comic is presented that is used in groups and individual sessions with adolescents learning to cook.


For these students hand washing before cooking and sitting to plan the cooking were major steps they needed to remember.  For other students I stress other steps of cooking like a reminder to shut off the stove when done cooking.

The FAB 3 Comic is used to help children understand the trigger and consequences of their problematic behavior.  3 comic strips are constructed using drawings and captions.  The child begins by drawing comic 2 depicting the problematic behavior, draws comic 1 next showing the antecedent trigger, and finally comic 3 illustrating the consequences.

3 Comic Chain

It can be done with the child when they are calm following the problematic behavior, and be reviewed repeatedly.

The FAB Schedule story helps children understand and follow structure, and is particularly useful for promoting self-control during transitions and situations with little external structure.  The first example was done to assist a girl I worked with Autism Spectrum Disorder to leave the class for her speech language and occupational therapy sessions.


The second schedule story was constructed with a small group who had difficulty independently selecting and carrying out free time activities.  INSERT  The children dictated the captions and drew the picture of their favorite free time activities.  For example, the teacher posted the Build Model picture on top of the cabinet where the models were kept.  When it was free time the student who liked model building would get the schedule story, select the picture Build Models, match the picture to the same picture on the cabinet where the models were kept, and play with the models.


The FAB Coping card strategy concisely integrates on a laminated index card the child’s preferred interest, behavioral goal (selected to be incompatible with aggression), coping strategies and equipment, and reinforcement schedule.


For example, a student who frequently bit his own hand when peers teased him helped construct a coping card with a drawing of his preferred interest Sponge Bob, coping pictures of his chewy, weighted blanket, and listening to music (colored, cut out, and pasted on an index card from the FAB Trigger & Coping forms), with the written caption: “Keep safe hands don’t hurt myself when I get upset”.  On the reverse side of the coping card was his reinforcement plan: “Safe hands for one 10 minute activity earns one sticker (five stickers= 1 toy car)”. The coping card is worn or posted on the desk to remind the child and all staff of the child’s behavioral goal, preferred interest, coping strategies, and reinforcement schedule.

The FAB List, Picture schedule, Praxis comic, 3 Comic, Schedule story, and Coping card strategies assist planning with visual supports to improve self-control.  These FAB strategies involve students in developing organizational strategies that improve their behavior.  These FAB  planning strategies can be individualized to best meet each child’s needs and integrated into their daily routines.


Diamond, A. & Lee, K. (2011).  Interventions shown to aid executive function development in children 4-12 years old.  Science, 33(6045), 959-964.

Gray, C. A., & Atkins, T. (2010).  The new social story book. Arlington, TX: Future Horizons.

Miller, A.L., Rathus, J.H., & Linehan, M.M. (2007).  Dialectical behavior therapy with suicidal adolescents.  NY, NY: The Guilford Press.

Spencer, V., Simpson, C., Day, M., Buster, E. (2008).  Using the power card strategy to teach social skills to a child with Autism.  Teaching Exceptional Children Plus, 5(1), 1-10.

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