An Educator's Overview to Setting Up an Autism Classroom

Inside: Information, Ideas and Materials for Setting Up an Autism Classroom

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Although it might seem daunting, setting up an autism classroom doesn’t have to be complicated! Here are the best methods from our strategies for teachers page that educators can employ to perfect their autism classroom setup:

1. Figure Out Your Starting Point
To properly set up your classroom, you need to find out how your student is functioning and which areas they lack. Figuring out their starting point is vital to develop plans and lessons that cater specifically to their needs. Use checklists and assessments to gauge where each of them is at. 

2. Use Schedules
Students with autism need structure and routine to learn new material better and focus on their tasks. Not only will scheduling help you organize and manage your classroom correctly, but it will also help your students become more independent learners. When you have consistent and visual schedules, the students become more capable and aware of their self-management.

3. Decorate and Organize the Classroom
It would be best to make your classroom feel like a supportive and welcoming environment for your students with autism. You should set up your room to have separate areas to allow for various types of work, such as small groups, individual, and one-on-ones. If you include labels, storage, and fun decorations, you also make the space more inviting yet functional. 

4. Monitor Progress
There will never be an improvement in your teaching unless you learn to monitor progress. Maintaining steady records and data sheets will help you understand which practices are successful and which need to be altered. Use assessments and check-ins to try out different approaches and teaching methods consistently.

5. Remember the Team Effort
It takes a lot of teamwork to succeed in special education classroom management, so remember to meet with your co-teachers and aides to determine how best to tackle the various duties. You can assign designated roles and locations, use shorthand or jargon to talk to each other during class, and hold regular meetings to discuss any issues. 

6. Use Evidence-Based Practices
There are dozens of research-backed instructional procedures that you should try out within your classroom. Focus on only one or two at a time and rotate through them to find out which ones work best for your students. Self-management, prompting, video modeling, and scripting are all standard evidence-based practices that you could try.

7. Focus on Communication
Not every student can communicate with speech, but they still have so much they want to say to you, regardless of whether they are limited in speech or entirely nonverbal. Figure out which methods work best in your classroom to enable your students to get their point across. Some popular autism teacher strategies are picture cards, voice apps or devices, choice boards, and more.

8. Utilize Antecedent-Based Interventions
Set up your autism classroom to stop behaviors before they begin. Create a routine, expectations, structure, and materials to support positive behaviors such as organized plans, visual schedules, verbal/visual warnings, and dedicated staff positions. Whenever these methods fail, conduct Functional Behavior Assessments (FBA) to help eliminate certain behaviors.

9. Respect Sensory Differences
Not every student will have the same preferences when it comes to sensations. They might dislike a particular texture or need to have something in their hands at all times--always remember to respect these differences! Fidget toys are a great option in any SPED class to keep their hands busy and help them focus their attention more on you.

10. Keep Hands and Brains Active
You should never set up your classroom like a typical lecture, where the students are forced to sit still and listen to you talk all day. Add movement, visual supports and other interactive elements. Carefully plan out your schedule and activities so they constantly think, respond, and react to the material. Try using visual response boards for the students to point out their answers and become active participants.
Try any of these ten strategies if you are trying to figure out how to support a child with autism in the classroom. Addressing these strategies are an essential part of our website resources that we share, our book for autism support teachers and our Foundation to Impact - Autism Teacher Prep Course.

Materials and Resources for Setting Up

The book How to Set Up a Classroom for Students with Autism (3rd Edition) gives ideas to teachers, student teachers, paraprofessionals, program coordinators and adminiatrators related to organizing an autistic classroom and practical materials and techniques to support students in ASD classrooms.  Support and information for each chapter of the book How to Set Up a Classroom for Students with Autism (3rd Edition) can be found below.


First Things First

Ordering Materials for Teaching Children with Autism

Office Supplies

Pictures of Real Classrooms

Pictures of Visual Supports

Labels for the Classroom

Strategy 1 Support (Assessment)

Free Behavior Support Checklist

List of Evaluations Link

Fine Motor Development Checklist

Communication Assessment Considerations

Assessment Considerations

Strategy 2 Support (Schedules)

Free Schedule Templates

Individualized Schedule

Opening (Morning Circle) Schedule

Sample Schedules Pictures (coming soon)

Blank Schedule Forms  

Lunch Schedule

Staff Breaks Schedule

Strategy 3 Support (Classroom Environment)

Independent Structured Work Tasks Ideas

Products That Can Be Made into Work Tasks

Products For Organizing Centers

Visual Strategies Link #1

Visual Strategies Link #2

Strategy 4 Support (Data Collection)

Blank Data Sheets

Instructional Data Sheets (TA) 

Behavior Data Sheets

Prompting Strategies Link #1

Prompting Strategies Link #2

Strategy 5 Support (Working with a Classroom Team)

Roles and Responsibilities

Debriefing Schedule

Debriefing Notes 

Strategy 6 Support (Teaching Strategies)

Evidence Based Practice Modules

Professional Learning Modules

Strategy 7 Support (Communication Supports)

Products with Communication Supports

Products with Token Boards

Playtime Communication Board (Fire Fighters)

Picture Communication

Picture Symbols

Topic Board

Play Skills Strategies Link 1

Play Skills Strategies Link 2

Teaching Play Skills Support

Strategy 8 Support (Behavior Supports)

Transition Support

FBA and Behavior Plan Links

Products for Behavior Support

Strategy 9 Support (Sensory Differences)

Sensory Differences Link #1

Sensory Differences Link #2

Sensory Support Link #1

Sensory Support Link #2

Products for Lessons with Sensory Input

Strategy 10 Support (Hands-On Leanring)

Activity Based Instruction

Photos/Videos of Autism Classrooms

Book Source: How to Set Up a Classroom for Students With Autism 3rd Edition - Book


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