The Power of the “Pause” Card

Many of the TEACCH Tips relate to schedules and transitioning, but sometimes an extra step is needed to help the person with ASD stay regulated and on task.

  • Often a person with ASD struggles to transition away from a preferred activity even with the use of other visuals and reminders.
  • Nearly everyone is familiar with the “pause” symbol – it is on all of our electronics!
  • When the person with ASD is having a hard time leaving an activity, place the pause card on the activity, such as a jigsaw puzzle, drawing activity, or even a tablet.
  • This indicates the activity is “paused for now” and they will be able to come back to it.

Steps to introduce the concept:

  • First introduce the concept with an activity that is very quick.  For example, we are all washing our hands more regularly now.  If your child sneezes and needs to wash their hands, the pause card can be used to indicate they will come right back to their activity after washing their hands.
  • Next, practice using the concept with something that will take a little longer, for example, a lunch break.  When it is time to eat, the pause card can be used to show that after lunch they can get back to their activity.
  • Finally, this concept can be used for activities that may take until the next day, such as a large puzzle or complicated Lego activity.  In this example, the “pause” is much longer, but it can be indicated on the next day’s schedule that the activity will be “unpaused”.

Helpful Hints:

  • Remember to put the activity back on the person’s visual schedule so they can see when they will be able to come back to the activity.
  • The pause card is a promise that the activity is NOT finished, simply set aside for later.
  • The pause card can be used out in the community (once we are back out there) to let the individual know an activity is paused for now, such as time on the playground, or being out for a walk.  Just be sure they know when they will be coming back to this activity.

Download Pause cards to use at home:

“I can finish later” pause cards   |  Pause cards – small


In times of uncertainty, everyone benefits from predictability!