George Lucas Educational Foundation

Tips for Setting Up a Special Education Classroom or Autism Classroom

Tips for Setting Up a Special Education Classroom or Autism Classroom

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Back to School Part 2-- A Blast from the Past. A Classroom Team’s Recipe for Success © 2003 Reference: How to Set up a Classroom for Students with Autism Book In effort to promote and maintain a level of excellence, there are some items that you will want to consider in your classroom. Free downloads of some of these materials are on the Materials Page (look in the menu bar.) Below is a list of items that your classroom, which teaches children on the autism spectrum or with special needs could benefit from having. 1. Schedule - A classroom schedule should be posted that reflects the following: independent work time, 1:1 (or 2:1) work time, small group instruction, social skills instruction, sensory play, structured play/structured recreation-leisure opportunities, fine motor work opportunities, personal management opportunities, limited large group activities. 2. An engineered environment created specifically to meet the needs of students with Autism. These items, such as visual supports, creating boundaries, individualization and organization should be present. (See Classroom Set Up App for Android and iPhone/iPad.) (Also see the iPad app store for ”Room Layout,” the app for teachers to design a classroom layout.) 3. Data Collection System- A data collection system should be in place to measure each student’s IEP (Individualized Education Plan) objectives. Develop a system that can be ready for the start of school. 4. Written Plan for Classroom Roles and Responsibilities- Your classroom should have a posted written plan that designates the major responsibilities each staff member assumes. 5. Team Meetings- It is extremely important to meet with your team members concerning the needs and issues of your students. Try having at least 1 weekly debriefing session before or after school. 6. 3-Step Prompting Series- To serves as a guide for making requests of students should be used consistently in the classroom. 7. Language Based Techniques/Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) – These techniques and strategies must be embedded in all activities throughout the child’s day. 8. A Written Behavior Plan- A plan should be in place for each child’s targeted behaviors. If students have inappropriate behavior(s), there should be a plan for dealing with that behavior(s). All staff members in your class should have a copy of the behavior plans. 9. Sensory Issues- Sensory issues should be addressed throughout the school day. Sensory issues should be identified for each child, when applicable, and programmed for and incorporated in the daily schedule.

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Alyson's picture

Excellent list of tips! I have seen some of the tips on the list incorporated in classrooms which include students who have autism. A visual schedule with pictures and graphics is excellent to include in the classroom for all students. The schedule establishes needed structure. Another favorite tip of mine from the list is designing a classroom that specifically meets the needs of the students. Students need to feel welcomed in the classroom. If not, they may not enjoy school. This tip reinforces the need to be flexible and accommodating, putting the students first. One other accommodation for students who have autism is to have a classroom attendance chart. Make name cards for each student. You may want to put their picture on the cards too. When students enter the room, they will post their card in the "I am here" part of the chart. This tip adds to creating a classroom community. Additionally, students have a task to complete, contributing to their independence.

Jessica's picture
Building Confidence in Students, One Child at a Time

Thanks for sharing this post with us! I believe this kind of special education will be helpful for many students who are suffering from autism. Children who suffer from this kind of problem require special kind of treatment. I am sure after your tips will be very valuable for many parents.

MissRachelGoss's picture
Senior Early Childhood and Special Education Major

Thanks for this great post! I think all of these are excellent things to consider when planning a classroom set up. When planning a visual schedule, you should check out the Choiceworks app if the student uses an iPad. This app allows you to create visual schedules from preloaded images and images that you take yourself. You also have the ability to turn a schedule that you created into a PDF that you could print out. A print out would come in handy if the technology is ever not working. It is a very user-friendly app to navigate. To learn more, check out

Emily Levine's picture

Choiceworks sounds like an awesome app! Some students need constant reminders of their schedule, so it would be very easy to carry it around instead of just having it taped up on the wall or written on the whiteboard. I went on the website you posted, and I noticed that the app has a waiting board and a feelings board in addition to a schedule board. This would be excellent for students with autism to learn more about expressing their feelings and learning how to wait their turn. Individuals with autism sometimes interject during conversations at the wrong times.

Aly Koplin's picture
Aly Koplin
Pre-service teacher at Elizabethtown College.

This is a great post and very informative. I especially like the idea about visuals and making sure that visual schedules are posted. It is essential that children with Autism are aware of what they need to get accomplished, as well as what is coming up in their day. It will definitely help with transitions and keeping the student more calm.

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