Guided actions are actions that help direct a person in situations that they may otherwise feel “lost” or unsure of what to do.

Have you ever noticed a child freeze when provided open-ended materials or they go outside and they just stand there? While there are so many options, guidance is needed as there may be too many choices or open-ended play is just, well, too open. This is often why neurodivergent children often prefer scripted play or base their play off real-life–guidance.

The other day when my daughters needed some outdoor time they didn’t really know what to do. I never start with guided actions and always wait to see if they are needed. I do this because, over time, as these options are used and remembered, they will likely start to come back to them or come up with their own. Regardless, I don’t want to rob them of that opportunity or that time to try. If we offer too quickly, we potentially prevent the feeling of boredom and problem-solving.

In The Autistic Guide, these are areas where I provide options of direction for parents. To just throw out information and not provide ways to implement it may lead many unsure of what to do.

Choices are recommended for children, too, as well as, “I think I’m going to…” E and V weren’t feeling the best and didn’t know what they should do when we were outside. To encourage movement, we used ‘touch the garage door then run and touch the house door’ as a guided action after walking around the house was no longer appealing.

When working with families we often turn to guided actions as it’s not uncommon for a child to need a parent or caregiver to play, finding difficulty playing alone, as it’s guidance and structure they seek.

Dice and cards are great encouragers for guidance on what to do.  If playing cars, rolling a 3 may mean to turn left or perhaps drawing a card that says to drive to the bookcase.  For E and V we use a colour die to encourage play and movement through aided direction.  They don’t know how to play with these particular coloured stepping stones, but if they roll a colour die and ‘red’ shows, they each find and climb a red stepping stone.

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