What If My Students Aren’t Ready For Independent Work?

The title of this post is really a trick question. I am a firm believer that all learners are ready for independent work in some capacity. A learner at any age or with any score on an assessment is able to work independently, even if for a certain amount of time. Whether you are in a classroom or clinic setting, the independent work tasks and areas should be individualized to each learner.

The first step to setting up an independent work station is to gather the furniture and materials that will be needed. The next is to get work tasks gathered, prepped and ready. Making more than you think you need will help prepare for the future. When implementation begins with independent work, the more you have, the more opportunity you will have to rotate through.

Types of work stations

There are many types of work systems that can be used in the classroom, in centers, or even in home! The following work systems are ones that I have used and implemented with my students. Comment if you have a favorite, or something else! All students are ready for age and developmentally appropriate independent work tasks and systems.


  • Traditional TEACCH 3-Bin Work System: TEACCH’s has a very structured teaching approach to independent work systems. This system is very structured for both learners and adults alike. It is concrete and wonderful for foundational skills of young learners. This is where I like to use Shoe box tasks and other homemade work tasks using real, hands-on materials.
    Check out these posts from The Autism helper {Independent Work SetupVideo TourIndependent Work Tips} for more information and how to get them set up! Grab the color coded task list here:  Archive
  • Binders: Binders are a great way to store and use tasks and worksheets. I have made work tasks in binders for learners to bring on the go to use in the car or while waiting in a restaurant. I made them user friendly for the families to set them up and rotate tasks and materials to decrease memorization. Here we use laminated workbooks and file folder whether they involve matching or errorless tasks. 
  • Advanced Systems: Advanced work systems are great while working on generalizing skills. These are ways to increase independence that can be done in the home and in inclusions or general education. Can your learner follow directions on a worksheet that has been handed out? Would it be beneficial for your learner to have worksheets and work tasks that go along with the lessons and activities?

What will I need to start?

Prepping and storing more than you need in terms of independent tasks is the first step. When I first began implementing this in my class I had enough tasks ready for each of my learners to have different tasks every day for 1 week. If one of my students went to independent work twice a day and they were using a 3 drawer system, then I prepped 30 work tasks for that learner. That was just the beginning! Independent work is such a must, we can’t be 1:1 with each learner all day. Working on their own in some capacity for some duration is a good skill. Teaching them independence and endurance to continue and increase is part of our job. We want our learners to be independent and to grow and have the ability to get jobs and be meaningful members of society. Working independently is where that all starts. 

Rotation is key. We can’t have our students working on the same task multiple times a day, let alone multiple times a week. Creating tasks that work on skills that the learner is truly independent in is a necessity. The goal is to have our students actively engaged at all points of the day. Even when they aren’t with us, we want them to be working and practicing skills. This will make your life so much better. Especially in the start of the year, there is a lot we need to do. We need to train our paras. We need to teach students new schedules. We need to take data. We need to implement behavior plans. While we are doing all of this – what are the other kids doing? If you haven’t planned for that – it’s going to be a hot mess. I promise. But if the other kids are actively engaged in independent work tasks – winner, winner chicken dinner.

The following are some more resources from The Autism Helper on independent work. This is so beneficial for every classroom and every learner!



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *