Lesson Planning for an Autism Classroom

Lesson planning for an autism classroom can be a scheduling NIGHTMARE. Figuring out how to incorporate a class full of different IEP goals for learners who can sometimes be at almost opposite ends of the spectrum. How can you work on literacy and life skills similtaneously? I have tried tons of different systems and formats for scheduling, lesson plans, and data collection. I feel like a broken record but figure out what works for you! If it doesn’t work, switch it up until it does.

My recommendation for lesson plans – talk to your principal or case manager to see if you can do an adapted format. Since the needs of our students can be so different, I think that warrants our lesson plan format being a little different, right? My principal is very flexible on letting me design my own template and creating something that would be useful to our class setting. Here is my adapted format – It looks complicated but there is a method to the madness (I swear).

To start off – I make a one page ‘cheat sheet’ for each students’ IEP goals. I keep these with the lesson plans to refer back to since throughout my lesson plans I refer to the goal by subject area for each student (ie. I say Brittany’s math goal not telling time to the minute – mostly to save space). These goals are based on State Standards and Common Core – and these related standards are indicated in the IEP.

Static Centers: The first page is ‘static centers’ – these are the centers that pretty much stay the same throughout the year. Mostly independent work task stations. I write in student initials across the top (in the gray boxes) and use the abbreviations to indicate what goal is worked on. Once you make this – it pretty much stays the same throughout the year. With some stations – the work might change (ie. different work tasks) but the content is staying relatively the same.

Changing Centers: The next few pages are the centers that change. The centers that change in my room are morning group, teacher time, language, math, and reading. I have one page each of these centers. Student names go in the far left column. Then I write the activity and then the abbreviation for the goal. This has worked really well because then I can post the one page at each station so everyone (aides, therapists) knows what is being worked on each day/for each student.

Here is a sample of what it looks filled in:

I use a monthly version of this form for the lessons I teach in groups. I follow the same procedure as the center lesson plans but do not need to differentiate for each individual student since students are grouped by level and working on the same things. I teach reading and math this way. FYI: I post my monthly reading lesson plans at the start of each month so you can get ideas. Here is a sample:

The Autism Helper - January Plans


Special Events: Last page is weekly special events, community based instruction, special activities etc.

In the start of each school,  I also submit my student schedules (schedules) and the minutes form. These can be then viewed in conjunction with the lesson plans. You can view the student schedule to see when the student is at each station, the lesson plans to see what they are working at each day at the station, and the minutes form to see which IEP goal minutes are work on where.  So it all kind of works together. (if you present it like this to your principal – they seem to like this!) I also include a lengthy description of how each center is step up, how data is taken, who works at each center, what types of task done etc.

I have used a bunch of different methods and I think this has worked pretty well! What types of lesson plan formats have you used?

Here is a PDF download – Lesson Plan Template PDF.

For other lesson plan forms and templates check out my Must Have Forms and Templates Packet and Ultimate Guided Reading Resource.


  1. love these forms! I have adapted them to my classroom needs; my question for you is, how and when do you sit down and plan? Do you plan a week ahead or 2 weeks ahead? Do you pick a particular day each week to sit and plan all your subjects, or plan 1 subject one day, another on a different day? I’m always interested in how other teachers plan. Thanks!

  2. I feel like all I do is plan !
    I try to plan each week, but I find myself tweaking my plans at the end of each day .
    This depends on if they liked the activity, too hard , too easy etc .
    Do t be afraid to be flexible . Go with what works 🙂

  3. I plan a month at time and then re-evaluate on a weekly basis. That way I can just rearrange and reorder things each week but I already have content to work with!

  4. best lesson plans ever

  5. You are my teacher idol. I don’t know how you manage to do it all and run this resource center so flawlessly. I started teaching a high school autism class about a year and half ago and I have received so much insight from your methods and beautiful materials. I’ve found a lot of inspiration and comfort from you so thank you!

  6. Aww thank you so much for those amazingly sweet words!!

  7. First year teacher… is it normal for it to be November and still feel like I don’t have a clear lesson planning system? Plans are not required by my district so I’ve fallen into a horrible habit of surviving day to day…
    Am I alone or is this the reality of first year teaching?

  8. SO NORMAL! I don’t think I got my lesson planning under control until a few years in and even then it was always a work in progress. Take it day by day and slowly start picking small parts of your day to plan. You’ll probably realize that the planning makes things easier in the long run! Good luck!

  9. When I try and download your lesson plan template as a Word document or a PDF, an error message appears. Any way around this?

    Thanks so much!!

    • Hey! Thank you for bringing that to my attention- I corrected the link!


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