A “first [Symbol] then” chart can look different depending on the level of communication that a child uses. Some children require a visual (see below), while others can understand a simple verbal exchange of “First eat your dinner, then you can have ice cream for dessert!” When facing any challenging behaviors at home, “first[Symbol] then” charts can be helpful in decreasing the occurrences of these behaviors. This is due to the fact that when a child is motivated by a reward (the ‘then’ portion of a first [Symbol] then chart), they are more likely to engage in an activity they don’t necessarily enjoy doing.
It is important to remember that if the child completes the ‘first’ activity, they also get to participate in the ‘then’ activity that has been set prior to beginning the non-preferred activity. Even if it takes longer to complete the task, or a child needs help to complete the task, they still get to participate in the ‘then’ activity that they were promised when the “first [Symbol] then” chart was brought in to help provide instructions and a reward for completing the less preferred task. If the ‘then’ activity does not occur after the child has engaged in the ‘first’ activity, they are not likely to trust that what the chart says is true and will be less motivated to engage in the non-preferred activity. When used correctly, “first [Symbol] then” charts can greatly increase the likelihood of your child participating in household chores, completing homework, or listening to adult instructions.
Image taken from: http://www.autismcircuit.net/tool/first-then-card