Tips & Tricks for Initial Observations

Categories: Data

Initial observations are something teachers and clinicians are sometimes asked to do. Whether it be to give a colleague a fresh perspective, conduct a needs assessment for an in-coming student, or consult with teachers in your building there are some easy ways to make these first impressions meaningful and successful. ABA Expert Grace will share her tried and true, Tips & Tricks on nailing that nitial observation:

This past week I was asked to do an observation for a student in a fourth grade classroom. These are just some of the tips and tricks that help me with this process!

The Autism Helper - Classroom Observations

Before the Observation

  • Talk with the teacher to get a general idea on the student’s problem behaviors.
  • Make sure the teacher is okay with you observing in their classroom
  • Schedule these conversations during the teachers’ preps so they have as little distractions as possible and don’t have to give up their lunch!

Some of the questions I asked:

  • What behaviors are the most disruptive to you and your classroom?
  • Are there times when the problem behaviors are more likely to occur?
  • Are you okay with me coming into the classroom to observe?
  • What times would be less distracting to you and your students for me to come and observe?
  • Does the student know I will be here for them?

The Observation and Data Collection 

  • Get the teacher’s schedule so you minimize interruptions. This way you can just sneak in during break times!
  • Write your notes! The sound of typing can be really distracting during quiet reading or quiz time.
  • Keep data collection sheets organized! Depending on how many behaviors you’re keeping track of, organizing by date or type of data are both useful to me and ALWAYS write the date and give a general time period. Keeping exact time stamps can be hard so just writing down, “math time,” can give you an idea of what time you were observing.
  • Give yourself breaks. I set 10-minute intervals and every three or four, I give myself a five minute break.
  • Graph your data at the end of each day so it is easier to remember all the little details.

Tools I CANNOT live without!!!

  • iPhone! It has so many amazing apps. I especially love the stopwatch function.
  • My GPS watch is perfect for setting interval times (boxing timers work too).
  • Post-its. Oh my! If you could see how many of these I go through in an hour of observation.


  • Go over your findings with the teacher.
  • Prepare a graph for the teacher that gets the main point across
  • Always thank them for letting you sit in!




  1. Thank you for your post. I am a NEW Autism Teacher and I will be starting February 1st (Midyear). The students have been in the class with a different teacher all year. HELP! What do I need to know? What resources should I absolutely have? How do I do this. Any guidance would help a lot!
    (Grace, Sasha, ANYONE?!)

  2. Lauren, I would start with visuals & structure! Have LOADS of independent work tasks – easy and time consuming work to keep those busy hands working! Good luck!


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