I sometimes wish I had a magic wand or magic book of tricks to share with you all. I get many emails regarding curriculum and vertical planning and I always feel so bad responding. I wish I could send a quick link to some kick butt, all encompassing, perfectly individualized curriculum unit on amazon.com but alas – no such mystical and magical unit exists. You have got to get down in it and get dirty. We aren’t just special education teachers – we are curriculum planners.

I shared my reading group lesson plans last week but no worries friends – that’s not the only way we teach reading in my room. We start our day off with reading instruction in morning group – often in the form of thematic and seasonal activities. The next major reading components are run by my aides. Yep – that’s right I give my paraprofessionals some real academic responsibility and they shine! I think they love getting to take a real part in the classroom curriculum and be more involved than just redoing file folders. One of my aides runs the fluency station and the other aide runs the spelling station.

Our spelling instruction is based on Words Their Way. This book is as close to a quick fix as you will get! I think the writers of this resource secretly had kids with autism in mind while creating it. I love it. It’s hands on. It’s visual. It’s repetitive. It’s structured. Hmmmm… sound familiar?


I like the Within Word Pattern Spellers Book. It’s great for my emerging readers and my more advanced kiddos! Here is how the how process works. First, you give all students an assessment that will show where their spelling weakness are. I love this because it’s all about efficiency. Don’t waste time working on short vowels if your student has it mastered, right?! Sometimes I am surprised by the results of these assessment it gives some incredibly valuable information!

autism - spelling


Once you realize where the student is at – you know where to beging. Whichever section has the lowest score – begin instruction there. The student on the assessment above has initial and final consonants and short vowels mastered. He is working on digraphs. I used this assessment in the beginning of the year to assist me in my schedule planning when I paired my students together for center rotations. I put student working on similar skills together.

With my assistant, student work on a word sort each week. The begin the week with a pre-test and finish with a post test. Here is the data sheet:

autism - spelling

I also plan which sets are coming up next. Sets are all numbered which makes things easy to organize. Mondays sneak up on me and this way I am ready and set up for a few weeks. My aide and I discuss whether each pair is ready to move on after the post test. I have a pencil case for each pair of kiddos and keep the upcoming word sorts in the pencil case in the Reading Data binder.

autism - spelling

 autism - spelling

During the week, students complete the word sorts with the help of the paraprofessional. This system is all based on repetition – which I love. They put sort the pictures based on the pattern and say the whole column of words each time they add a new word. Students take turns sorting words. They also do ‘blind sorts’ with dry erase boards- where the aide says a word and they need to write it under the correct heading.


I printed the word sorts on different color paper according to type of word sort and keep each set in a baggie.

autism - spelling


Like I have said repeatedly – I really love this system. Once you print the sorts – it is easy to organize and I love how clearly the assessment shows student growth and progress. We also throw in some fun word games – don’t you worry.


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