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Joint Action ROUTINES

In the classrooms of DB students, you will probably hear a lot about “routines.”  In her article "Routines," Millie Smith (a TVI whose expertise in working with VI and  DB students is widely recognized) defines a routine this way:   

A routine is an instructional strategy developed to increase the level of participation in activities for students who require consistency and repetition in order to learn.

Educators use joint action routines for two primary purposes:

At its most basic level, a joint action routine has these features:

Linda Hagood’s book, Communication: A Guide for Teaching Students with Visual and Multiple Impairments,(see reference section for ordering info)

Why Use Routines?

Admittedly, joint action routines have been developed by educators to promote language.  Not necessarily “speech” (spoken language), but any form of recognizable communication.

Occupational and Physical therapists are not typically part of the process of teaching communication, but for children with deafblindness and difficulty with communication, therapists can often be essential in the establishment of meaningful communication because the activities they do with students so often focus on  movement, and incorporate objects that children enjoy using. 

You may be using a therapy ball to do Bobath activities with your DB student who has diminished trunk control, but that’s not the only benefit to the child.  In these gross motor activities, there are multiple opportunities for establishing choice-making, turn-taking and representational communication.


Research shows that all children use routines in the development of early language (See Hagood).  Games like peek-a-boo, pat-a-cake, and even simple “routines” such as a parent going to get the car keys, picking up a briefcase, waving and saying “Good bye,” all show a young learner that there are many predictable actions which are done in a predictable sequence and always (or almost always – there’s always that “Where’s my wallet” moment!) have the same outcome. The language associated with these routines is learned first, because the multiple reinforcers (repeated events, linked to objects or movements that are always associated with the event, the easy combination of movement and spoken word) make it is easier to comprehend.

Even before a child actually understands the true meaning of a word, the routine provides a structure for using language – in any of its forms.   A child may use the word (or sign or symbol) for “ball” in reference to an activity she does every day several months before she understands “ball” in other contexts. For example, a child may sign “ball” to ask her therapist to play with a ball during their time together weeks before she will notice and identify the relationship between that ball and the one her dog plays with at home.



Your best comprehensive (and short!) guide to the use and development of routines with DB students.

Make up a routine FOR THE CHILD (not for the individual discipline)

Everybody has input on what the steps will be, what each step’s focus will be, target language, etc.

A sample meal routine

Mealtime is a good activity to develop into a routine because it usually happens three times a day. Practice opportunities are frequent. The team's plan might look something like this. (taken from What do routines look like? )

More information on levels of routines

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