Having a clear and predicable pattern in the work day is so important when employing someone with Autism and Intellectual Disabilities.


  • Reduce anxiety
  • Give a starting point each day
  • Save time having to give directions or instructions
  • Ensure the most important jobs get done
  • Lead to far greater independence
  • Build confidence, job satisfaction and self esteem
  • Lay a foundation which can be steadily built upon

Routines have definitely contributed the success of Madi’s employment at Starfish. But they have also, I think, helped create a happy work life for Madi. This is because she doesn’t have to worry about what she can expect each day or what is required. But it is also because she has her own tasks, and can do them independently.

Madi ticking off her job list.

My tips for routines in the workplace are:

  • Time frame – Start work experience (or paid employment) on the first day with a very short time frame. SLOWLY increase the time at work in accordance with how quickly the employee masters each stage of the routine. For example, Madi had two visits to our store before starting on a two hour shift. Gradually Madi’s the hours we increased from 2 to 3 to 4hrs. Once Madi started working on two days, we opted to have Madi have a morning shift (so she would become familiar with the opening of the store routine) and an afternoon shift on the other day (so Madi would know how the process of ending business and closing for the day).
  • Teach one task at a time.
  • Layering – Add one task, skill or extra bit at a time onto the routine. Think of it as layering or building a strong and sturdy wall with bricks.
  • Visual Chart – Create a personal job list and maybe a visual routine chart, if needed.
  • Stick to the routine. A routine is a routine. No point having it if you don’t stick to it. Nor will you get the benefits if you don’t stick to it – at least in the early few months.
  • Change? – If there needs to be a temporary or permanent change in routine try to give plenty of warning so your employee can prepare. At one stage I had another employee away on “leave”. I asked Madi if she could possibly work the morning shift rather than her scheduled afternoon shift. Madi had been with us for over 8 months. I do try to avoid changes but felt that Madi would be able to manage this temporary change. I messaged her the day before and was mindful that it might be a challenge for Madi. She was absolutely fine.

Main Take Home

Routines will set you and your employee up for success. Start with a short time frame and gradually “layer” the bricks (tasks, information). We use a job chart and that works really well for us.

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It is so worth it.

Want to learn more about employing someone with Autism and Intellectual Disabilities, the things we’ve found to be crucial (and at times surprising) to making “it” work so well for us? We’ve put together a series of posts so everyone who needs this information can easily access it.

  • The Accidental Employer: the back story of how we came to employ someone with an intellectual disability
  • Perfect Match: getting the right fit
  • Savvy Collaboration: Communication with ALL the key players
  • Taking the Pressure off: when employing someone with Autism and Intellectual disabilities.
  • Eye on the road but hand on the wheel: having flexible goals when employing people with disabilities.
  • Longing to Belong: truly inclusive practice at work.
  • Teach then train: best way to push beyond the present.
  • Making the most of support: accessing what is available.
  • From work experience to employment: the time frame
  • A moment with Emily: a sister’s perspective
  • A moment with Janelle: a family’s experience of the process
  • A moment with Julie: observations from The Disability Trust Business Development Officer

Kirstie xx