Simple Tools


A simple tool for correction

I simply call this tool “the cards system”. It is a disciplinary tool that can be made at home and it doesn’t cost a penny. I spend maximum 10 minutes to make it.

For consistency reasons, it would be great if both, parents and school used the same tool. Parents, who implemented the idea and applied it at home, helped their child tremendously to become more disciplined and compliant. School and home should always be on the same page; it is in the child’s best interest for both to communicate.

It is an old tool, but not many people know about it. For classroom use, there is the equivalent tool that serves the entire class. It can be found in the teacher’s and school supplies stores like Lakeshore. It is definitely not my invention.

When to use cards system?

At all times throughout the day, if the child is exhibiting an undesirable behavior, or refusing to comply.

Who would the cards system work for?

Children who understand the concept of consequences, and children who really care about certain things, and children who dread certain things or certain people. For kids with depression, it will be harder to find something that they really care about, if they have no motivations at all.

How does it work?

Explain to your child the meaning of each color.

Green means he/she is doing a great job. Remember to catch your child doing something good and praise her/him. Who doesn’t need encouragement?

Yellow is a warning that means that the child is doing something wrong and she/he needs to change or stop the undesirable behavior.

Tell your child about what would happen if she/he were not going to stop or change the undesirable behavior. (E.g.: cannot play her/his favorite game, will get time out, go to the principal’s office, call parents, go home, removal of a privilege, like not going to certain places or seeing certain people). Choose whatever works best for the child. You know your child best. Children with autism are so different, and what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for the other.

Usually, we give three chances before we change the card to red, simply because if you decide to go to red, you are stuck in a no choice position. Which means the consequence should be applied.

Red means applying the consequence you’ve talked about when she/he was on yellow.

Change the card back to green after the consequence has been applied. It gives the child the opportunity to modify her/his behavior.

The cards system should be used consistently in order to be an effective tool.

It is one of the simplest and most effective tools.


You may include a transition time between yellow and red to allow more thinking time and more chances. Insert a blue card between yellow and red and talk more about approaching the last chance. Some children need more processing time and this blue card allows the child more chances to make the right decision. It all depends on the child, but most of them respond easily to green, yellow, and red only. Based on the child’s needs, it is up to the adult to choose to add the blue card.

Start off the day with a green card, and remember that every day is a new day. Start with a clean slate every day.

How to make the cards system?

1- Use any color paper: green, yellow, red, and black (instead of black you may use any other color of your choice different from green, yellow, red, and blue). You may add blue if you decide to have a blue card. I personally use construction paper.

2- With the black paper make a pocket.

3- Cut out 3 rectangles green, yellow, and red (or four if you decide to add a blue card) of the same size.

4- Insert the 3 (or 4) cards inside the pocket.

5- Label the pocket and write the child’s name on it.

6- In the classroom we keep it on the board using a magnet. At home you place it where the child can easily see it. Make sure it visible to allow the child to monitor her/his behavior.

7- If the child goes to mainstream and needs constant reminders, this tool works very well because it doesn’t require too much talking. We always look for less

Children with autism have great visual skills. This tool is very easy for them to understand. When they get used to it, you’ll notice that you will not even need to talk anymore. Just by pointing to the cards the child would modify her/his behavior.

In a later stage, you may refer to the cards without even having them available, like being in place away from home or school. Just by mentioning the cards the child will consider changing her/his behavior. If the child is acting up tell her/ him: “Do you want me to change your card?” The immediate response would be: “No,no, no”.

Hope it works well for you.

Contributed by Mrs. A from Autism Tips

2 Responses to “Simple Tools”

  1. Eunice Khan

    Hi Sam,

    The card system sounds great and I am going to try this with Elijah!!! 🙂 I did have a question for you in regards to some stimming behaviors that Elijah seems to engage in that we have a difficult time redirecting those behaviors. Elijah’s main interest are fans and right hand flapping (which he says its “his” fan). We have kept them off for the most part to see if he can move onto other things, but there are many times he will cry and say, “fan on” and he can go on like this for a couple hours. He’s also been hand flapping alot more, we are not sure how to help him with this. We have tried putting the fan on for a certain amount of time and then try to explain, that its time to do something else, which ends up in major melt downs, and now we are at the point where we have kept it off, but still deal with the melt downs because its all he wants to focus on. We face this problem when we are out of the home as well, any time Elijah see’s a fan in the vicinity. Can you give us any suggestions as to how we can better help Elijah in this area. We’d really appreciate it!

  2. Craig Johnson

    we have had to work with our son on stimming with electronics. And we did have to remove them completely out of his sight. It’s a bit harder to remove fans out of sight obviously. I would say to just keep them off. I know the melt downs are hard, but in time he should move on. keep introducing new toys and activities to him to allow him to develop new interests. As far as the hand flapping, sometimes the child really needs something to comfort themselves. I wouldn’t worry as much about that at the moment until you can work through the fan issue. Hang in there, I know its hard. God will give you the strength you need.


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