Visuals for Social Interactions

What is a “Key Chain” Script?

key_chain_scripts_02Children with autism respond to visual, verbal, and gesture cues when they are first learning to use language in social situations. They need to be taught the “rules” of how to use language in many different settings. A visual script can cue the child about what to say in particular situations with a peer. These scripts are created for a specific child, for a certain developmental age, and for a particular social conversation.
Once you make a set of scripts for a child in a certain situation, practice with him before he encounters the situation. Then, when the child is actually in the social setting, keep the scripts on a key chain for when you need to cue him. If the child looks anxious as he approaches a peer, take out a script and show it to him. Imitating the script will help him when he doesn’t have the language to express his needs and ideas.

Once he practices the language with the visual script for a few days, he won’t need it any more. His peers will give him the feedback he needs to know that his language was appropriate. In this way, the response from peers will help him learn what to say. After several experiences in the social situation, the child usually uses variations on the visual scripts and creates his own language. These key chain scripts are not substitutes for the child’s own language. They are only a stimulus, a starting point for the child to begin to communicate in a social situation.

How to Create a Key Chain Script:


Symbols from Boardmaker Software (


  1. Consider the age of your child and what his or her peers are talking about.
  2. Pick one social situation.
  3. Plan a list of activities for a social situation.
  4. Write a series of language scripts (see examples):
    • Write in a “dialogue” form.
    • Keep the scripts short.
    • Use action words to narrate the child’s own actions.
    • Use action words to narrate the peer’s actions.
    • Limit questions.
    • Talk about emotions.
    • Talk about the environment.
    • Talk about the child’s interests.
    • Use compliments.
    • Use comments about specific activities.
    • Use language that fits the child’s developmental age.
  5. Print the scripts out in a large font.
  6. Cut the scripts up in strips.
  7. Laminate them and punch holes in the end of each script.
  8. Put the scripts on a key chain, organized by situation.
  9. Use no more than 6 scripts per key chain.
  10. Help the child practice for a few days with a peer in a quiet setting.
  11. Use figures to role play.
  12. Join the child in the social situation and show him the script only when he hesitates and needs the cues.
  13. Encourage the child to vary the scripts and use his own language.
  14. Eliminate the scripts as soon as the child begins to use his own variations and make his own comments.

Language Key Scripts Download

The following language scripts are protected by copyright. Anyone who wants to use them in working with a particular child may print them out and copy them for that use. The only thing that we ask is that you send us an email to tell us what strategies worked and what you liked about our website. All other uses will require permission on a case-by-case basis. Thanks!
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The following files are available in PDF format.

Please email us about your experience using these strategies.

Free Time in Class Download (approx file size: 25kb)
Play For Young Children
Playing with Cars on a Track with a Peer (age 4-6 years) Download (approx file size: 29kb)
Play Date (2-3 year olds) Download (approx file size: 14kb)
Playground Talk Tot Stop/Bikes Download (approx file size: 12kb)
Playground (4-6 year olds) Download (approx file size: 14kb)
Swimming Pool Talk (5-7 year olds) Download (approx file size: 23kb)
T-Ball Talk (4-7 year olds) Download (approx file size: 15kb)
Field Trips
Going to a farm: (4-5 year olds) Download (approx file size: 13kb)