I have gotten a few questions recently about if it’s absolutely necessary to use each center or table in your classroom for only one activity. Can you use the same table for multiple activities or stations?
My short answer: Yes!
My long answer: The rationale behind using one area or table for only activity is to provide additional cues and prompts for what the student will be doing. Many people with autism often do not pick up on social cues and/or expressive language. When they arrive at a new location, they often do not understand what is expected of them since they cannot comprehend cues and language. Using additional prompts such as visuals, routine, physical boundaries, and specific tables will help them understand what happens at each center.
For example, let’s say you got abducted by aliens. You’re probably freaked out, right. They kept talking to you but you don’t speak alienese. But every time they take you to the blue room they give you cookies, every time they take you to the green room you play checkers. Even though you don’t know what they are saying after a few days of this routine, you know what will happen when you walk into the blue room. Okay, fine stupid example but you get my point.
The one table for one activity setup is really just an additional cue for our kids with autism. It’s not a rule. You can use other cues if you don’t have enough tables.
- switch out the visuals: velcro your visuals instead of taping them as a label and switch them out for different stations/activities – easy implementation for a general education setting with students in inclusion
- use a time routine: this is a little bit what I do. I use the same table for morning group first thing every morning, then we use that same table every afternoon right after lunch for reading groups. Once you do this routine for a few days, many kids will start to pick up on this.
- therapist/teachers/aides as cue: another easy way to indicate what activity will be occurring. If you worked at the kidney bean table in the morning with your students on math, have your aide work at that table on math later in the day. The change in adult not location provides in additional cue on what the student will be doing at the station.
- switch different color table cloths or different colored worksheets: this would be a great accommodation for students with visual impairments. Switch out different colored table cloths for each subject/activity. For example, green table cloth means math, yellow table cloth means sensory time, blue table cloth means speech etc.
- different chairs/spots on carpet: this is my big recommendation when I help general education teachers with students with autism who are included. They can’t easily add a station for subject and most area are used for multiple things. However you could assign the student a specific seat (or area on the carpet) based on the activity. For example, when we do circle time you sit in the front right of the carpet on the blue block but when we do read alouds you sit in the back center on the green block. Or when you sit at the end of the table you are in your science group but when you sit on the right side of the table you are doing silent reading.