The Bridge School

Communicative Competence

Social Routines

When adults vary an established routine slightly, they create opportunities for students to communicate. Students may comment on the change, request the next part of the sequence. gain someone’s attention to point out the change or protest the change and request the typical routine sequence.

Social routines are embedded within our daily activities and are often repeated frequently (e.g., daily or a few times a week). They often take place in the same locations with the same partners. Social routines can last from a few seconds (e.g., a short greeting routine) to a half-hour or more (e.g., a routine for participation in a language arts lesson with 3-4 student communication scripts within the routine).

Bridge School staff create unique social routines for individual students and for groups to help them learn to use new modes and/or AAC tools within established routines. For example, in a greeting routine, a student might initially be taught to respond to a greeting by orienting to the person, smiling, and/or producing a touching/reaching gesture.

Once this routine is well established, the teacher might introduce a digitized single message speech-generating device (SGD) so that when the student activates the switch, she says “Hello!” in response to the educator’s greeting. Later, the same student might be taught to initiate the routine by using physical proximity and then saying “Hey there!” using her SGD. The Bridge School staff find that the familiarity, regularity and enjoyment of social routines lead to interventions that promote communicative competencies.

Miss Suzanne and Will establish a social routine around his morning arrival, where he looks at her, smiles, gives her a high-five, and takes his hat off and gives it to her. Over time, more communication support and opportunities will be incorporated into the routine.

Will learns to use his SGD to communicate in a brief social routine for ending an activity.


Warren, S., Yoder, P., & Leew, S. (2002). Promoting Social-Communicative Development in Infants and Toddlers. In Promoting Social Communication: Children with Developmental Disabilities from Birth to Adolescence. Goldstein, H., Kaczmarek, L.A., & English, K.M. (Eds). Baltimore: Brookes Publishing Co.