Making and Using Keychain Rules to Help Behavior for Children with Autism

Q: “I’ve heard that if my son (who is on the autism spectrum) is having a problem staying on task while in school that he should use the “keychain rules”. Would you please explain this term to me?”  – Curious in Nashville, Tenn

Rules listA: Keychain rules are short statements or phrases of desired expectations that capitalize on the tendency toward rules and structure.

They serve as reminders in a quick and easy format that prevent much discussion about them. Rather than say, “stay in your seat” over and over without much impact, the teacher can now say, “Please check keychain rule number 4”. Again, if the rules are attached to a heightened interest, their effectiveness is enhanced.

This student’s interest in Greek mythology was incorporated to his keychain rules as much as possible through the addition of pictures.

Keychain Rule #1: Use appropriate words and voice

  • Say nice things to others
  • Speak in a respectful tone [level 1, 2, or 3]

Keychain Rule #2: Follow directions from teachers

  • Teachers and Mom are trying to help me, so be sure to say “O.K. I’ll try”
  • Give my teachers and Mom a smile or a “thumbs up”

Keychain Rule #3: I will be in control of my body

  • Stay in my assigned seat
  • Keep hands and feet to myself

How to Use Keychain Rules for Self-Regulation for Those with Aspergers

In a previous blog we discussed how to create keychain rules. This week, let’s look at a few more intricacies of this quick and easy strategy. Keychain rules can be cut up separately and placed on a binder ring or keychain for quick and easy access. A back-up version can be placed in a notebook or binder.

Red Book

Leave at least one of the keychain rules blank for the student to create their own. If they have written one of the rules themselves, then they are more likely to consider these to be important and relevant. One student wrote “Have a great day!” on keychain rule #4.

During times of stress, this rule proved to be very soothing and helpful.

This same student travels from class to class, so she keeps her keychain rules in the back of her schedule notebook. Each of her teachers also have their own set available, just in case they get “lost”.

Keychain rules can be written in a different format for students that are motivated by video games, and other type of competitive activities, such as sports.