3 Items I’m Never Without

In my classroom there are 3 items I constantly find myself reaching for and using. I teach a K-2 self contained classroom and keeping my classroom safe, functional and happy is my top priority. I’ve found that these items help keep my days running smoothly, for both staff and students. 

Visual Supports

Visual supports are essential tools that provide structure, organization, and clarity to the learning environment. Here are some effective ways to utilize visual supports:

  1. Visual Schedules: Create visual schedules outlining the daily activities and routines. Use pictures, symbols, or written words to represent each task. This helps students understand what to expect and reduces anxiety associated with transitions. In my classroom I use Real Photo Visual Schedules.
  2. Task Directions: Break down complex tasks into smaller, manageable steps using visual task boards. Students can refer to these visuals to understand the sequence of actions required to complete a task independently.
  3. Social & Behavior Cues: Use visual supports such as social stories, comic strip conversations, and emotion cards to teach and reinforce social skills and emotional regulation. I wear a visual cue necklace to remind and prompt students of expected behaviors.


Timers are valuable tools for promoting time management, task completion, and self-regulation skills. Here’s how you can incorporate timers into your teaching practice:

  1. Visual Timers: Use visual timers such as hourglasses, countdown clocks, stopwatches or digital timers to represent the passage of time visually. This helps make time more concrete for learners. Set clear expectations for task duration and encourage students to use the timer to monitor their progress as they go.
  2. Time-based Schedules: Incorporate time-based schedules into visual supports, indicating the duration allocated for each activity or task. This helps students understand the concept of time and encourages them to pace themselves accordingly. This fits perfectly into the use of visual schedules! Just add a time.
  3. Transition Timers: Set timers to signal transitions between activities or tasks. Provide warnings or prompts before the timer expires to prepare students for upcoming changes, reducing anxiety and promoting smooth transitions. This can be effective for switching centers, or even moving from a highly preferred item to a non preferred task. 
  4. Reinforce Time Management Skills: Teach strategies for effective time management, such as breaking tasks into smaller time-bound segments, prioritizing tasks, and allocating time for planning and reflection.

Communication Supports

Effective communication is important to foster meaningful interactions and facilitating learning. Here are some strategies to support communication:

  1. Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Devices: With the help of our SLP, we use AAC devices such as picture communication boards, communication apps, or speech-generating devices to support students who have limited verbal communication skills. We work together to provide opportunities for students to practice using these devices to express their needs, preferences, and ideas. 
  2. Core Language: Implement the use of Core Language Boards to facilitate communication and language development. While complex systems like TouchChat and Tobii Dynavox are amazing, if you can’t get your hands on such systems, basic communication boards work. I use the Core Board set in my classroom. 

Incorporating visual supports, communication aids, and timers into your teaching practice can significantly enhance the learning experience for students with autism. By providing structure, facilitating communication, and promoting time management skills, you create an inclusive and supportive environment where all students can thrive academically and socially. You’ll never catch my classroom without these supports. Your day will be smoother, your time will be better managed and your students will be set up for success. 

Jen Koenig, B.S, M.Ed., LBS1
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