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How to get started with “Bucket Time”, “The Box” or Attention Autism – Stages 1 and 2

Updated: Nov 23, 2023

The Attention Autism Programme, also known as “Bucket Time” or “The Box” is one of the most fun and engaging ways of developing attention and listening skills.

Devised by Gina Davies, Speech and Language Therapist, it aims to engage children and give them an “irresistible invitation to learn” to develop essential attention, listening and interaction skills.

Most children I work with absolutely love taking part in these sessions and it is also exciting and fun for us to lead the sessions too. Over the years, I have seen brilliant results from using this programme. It is accessible to all, irrespective of diagnosis.

The Attention Autism Programme is made up of 4 stages:

  • Stage 1: focussing attention

  • Stage 2: sustaining attention

  • Stage 3: shifting attention (turn taking)

  • Stage 4: shifting and refocusing attention

I mostly work with preschool aged children and those with significant attention difficulties and complex needs, so am frequently using Stages 1 and 2 in my sessions. As I need resources to run these sessions a few times every week, I make sure that I always have a box or bucketful of toys available in clinic and in the boot of my car for when I am visiting nurseries, schools or children at home. Ideally, the sessions are run in small groups, however I have found that stages 1 and 2 do also work well individually, providing there is another adult (in addition to the person leading the session) to provide a model of good attention and listening to the child.

To get started with Stage 1, you will need:

  • A small whiteboard and pen (to write and draw the order of activities)

  • A box or bucket with a lid that NOT see through

  • A selection of fun, exciting, noisy, flashing, dancing toys

  • To remember to use single words to describe the toy or activity and leave pauses so that the child may join in with words like “more” or “go”

  • Enthusiasm to give it a go!

Some of my favourite stage 1 toys are:

Once a child is able to attend to 3 items, you may think about adding a Stage 2 activity after you have finished Stage 1. You will need:

  • Resources for Stage 1

  • A big bag to contain your box/bucket plus resources you will need for Stage 2

  • A shower curtain to cover the floor – activities are usually messy!

  • To think about an activity which will engage your child for a few minutes (they will need to watch as you put down the shower curtain, then set up, carry out and tidy away the activity)

  • To remember to use single words or short phrases to comment on what you are doing throughout the activities

Some of my favourite stage 2 activities are:

Flour shaking - I either shake the flour over a stencil and then reveal the shape, or draw pictures in the flour on the paper (I usually use black paper for the contrast with the flour).

Shaving foam splat - children seem to love hearing the sound of the shaving foam squirting onto the paper and then the anticipation of seeing it being splatted!

Treacle Trails - the treacle makes a loud sound if drizzled over foil – it also smells amazing!

I hope this has given you an idea of how to get started! The most important thing is to give it a go and have fun!

You could also follow “Attention Autism Centre” on social media.

The above blog is available to download and print below.

Attention Autism Blog - TCT
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