Seven Steps for Setting up a Stellar Autism Room

… or how to incorporate these steps into your general ed room

1. Organization and Planning

2. Classroom Structure

3. Schedules

4. Visuals

5. Data

6. Work Tasks, Academic Work, and IEP Goals

7. Communication



The next essential component of an autism classroom are the schedules. You need schedules for the kids and schedules for the adults in your room. Figuring out where and when each child is working throughout the whole day is tricky! I love working on the schedule and hate it at the same time! There is always some perfect solution and it’s like a puzzle to try and find it. Sigh … the life of a perfectionist.

  • My big recommendation is partnering up students whenever possible. With my group for this upcoming year, I have 6 students that have similar goals and are able to work in groups and 4 that need more one on one. In the past I have done 2 morning groups (or morning circle time) – one with students who are higher functioning (we work on more writing and academics) and one with students who are lower functioning (we work on more matching, weather, language building). That has gone well. While I run the morning group with students who are lower functioning, my high functioning students do some independent work (free printable for independent journal pages).
  • I run rotations with two groups (the ones partnered up and the one who need to work one on one). These students or groups rotated between teacher time for direct instruction with me, reading for spelling or other IEP goal work with an aide, and language for fluency flashcards with another aide. I set up the work and data sheets for the stations the aides run and check in with them daily. The other kids do independent work while we run the rotation. If you do not have 2 aides you could add in additional independent work centers, a puzzle center, quiet reading, break time, computer work, games, etc.
  • Figure out when your staff lunches and breaks are.
  • Figure out if your students are going to any inclusion subjects or specials (mine go to music, gym, library, and world language) and do they need an aide with them?
  • Once you figure out your schedule, you will need to try it out. I hate this because I always want to make a million copies of the schedules and have it all set but sometimes you gotta switch things around. Things may not always play out like you think!
  • Make detailed adult schedules! This will avoid staff issues later. I make an excel schedule for where the students are throughout the day and another one for where adults are throughout the day. Include in the staff schedule not only where they are assigned but what kids they are assigned to at that time and what they are working. Clarify your expectations as much as possible! This is key for one on one aides in the general ed rooms! 
So you’ve figured out where your students will be throughout the day. Now you need schedules for your students. A visual schedule can be extremely beneficial for children with autism, cognitive disorders, and a variety of other disabilities. Since receptive/expressive language and transitions can be difficult for some learners, knowing what is going to happen each school day can be a big source of anxiety. Some students may not understand when a teacher or parent explains the order of daily events. Pictures are a great way to help explain what is going to happen next. There are a few ways you can use a visual schedule.
  • Picture wall schedule: Put the pictures in the order of events with a finished envelope underneath. Students take off the picture, walk to the designated location, match the picture, and do the work at the center. When they are finished, they put the picture in the finished envelope and take the picture. (tips for setting these up easily!)

  • Color coded wall schedule: Or you can use a color coded version for students who need an additional visual cue.
  • Binder picture schedules: My favorite way to do schedules is in a binder! I think it is way more age appropriate for elementary aged and middle school aged kids. It takes up less room and lends itself WAY easier for inclusion. Your student can bring his schedule with him! Laminate a piece of paper and put a strip of hard velcro. Match the pieces along the strip of velcro. Put a finished envelope on the inside cover of the binder.

  • Binder paper visual schedules: So you think some of your students have graduated beyond the laminated picture schedules? Yea me too! So what’s next? What’s more similar to what the regular ed classes uses? What’s more socially appropriate? I think paper schedules. Start with pictures, fade the pictures smaller, or use words! Kids cross off the stations as they accomplish them. Print a set for the month and you only need to set them up monthly. Here are some examples of mine:




Phew – this was long! But guess that’s just how important schedules are! Coming up tomorrow: The equally essential – visuals!


Sasha Long
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