George Lucas Educational Foundation

Autism Classroom Management

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In effort to promote and maintain a level of excellence, there are some items that must be basic foundations in classes that serve students with autism. Promoting a basic foundation for your classroom will help you create structure in your student's program. Classrooms serving students with autism should have basic items in place to help that student be successful in the school environment.

Below is a list of items that your classroom, which serves children with autism spectrum disorders, should have:

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 Effective Classroom Set Up/Engineered Environment for Students with Autism- An engineered environment created specifically to meet the needs of students with Autism is critical to the success of your classroom program. These items, such as visual supports, creating boundaries, individualization and organization should be seen, utilized and programmed into the daily operations of your class.

3. Data Collection System- A data collection system should be in place to measure each student's IEP (Individualized Education Plan) objectives. IEP objectives will need to be measured using effective data collection methods. Data collection sheets should 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. This plan should also include the areas of the classroom each staff member is responsible for during the instructional parts of the day.

For example, running the art lesson, recording attendance, preparing the snack time lesson, supporting the language lesson, preparing the daily calendar, may be the types of responsibilities noted. (Please understand that sometimes responsibilities overlap or change). Classrooms serving students with autism require a great deal of teamwork; a plan in which responsibilities are clarified will positively contribute to the productivity of your team.

5. Weekly Scheduled Debriefing Sessions- It is extremely important to meet with your team members concerning the needs and issues of your students. Your classroom team should have at the very least 1 weekly debriefing session before or after school.

Suggested topics during this session are discussion of students, review and revising communication strategies, teaching strategies, behavior interventions, scheduling and classroom roles and responsibilities. Input from all staff members should be encouraged to help create a successful learning environment for staff as well as for students.

6. 3-Step Prompting Series- To serves as a guide for making requests of students should be used consistently in the classroom. Posting this on the wall will help remind staff of the technique.

7. Language Based Techniques/Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) - These techniques and strategies must be embedded in all activities throughout the child's day. AAC methods can include picture symbol task analysis, picture exchange, natural aided language techniques, visual cues for behaviors, picture symbols, photographs, written words (if the child is reading), etc.

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.

The behavior plans can be very short or extensive depending on the needs of the student. Behavior plans can cover information as minor as "what to do when the child keeps taking of their shoe" to something as major as aggression, hitting, kicking etc.

In each case, you will want to conduct a Functional Behavior Assessment to develop a Behavior Intervention Plan. The behavior plans should be a written plan of action so that each member of your classroom team responds in the same way to a behavior.

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.

-Source: "How to Set Up a Classroom For Students with Autism" book

This post was created by a member of Edutopia's community. If you have your own #eduawesome tips, strategies, and ideas for improving education, share them with us.

Comments (11) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Kim Villa's picture
Kim Villa
Elementary SpEd teacher from South Dakota

Students do need supports, but supports don't always have to rely on a diagnosis. I have used methods effective with students of one disability with those of other disabilities with some success (ie: social stories with CD students, etc.). One question to ask is, if the family of this student filed a complaint about how this student is being serviced, would they win their case and find your school district liable?

Mrs R's picture
Mrs R
Special Ed Learning Support Paraeducator PA School District

I am stepping out of my bounds if I pursue the parent???

LPS's picture
Cross Categorical/self-contained - Teacher

[quote]I am a Paraeducator(teacher aide), in Public Education, Special Ed Elementary. I was just recently placed in this particular school. I have experience in "learning support". I have also worked in alternative ed and the intermediate units in our county.I am currently in a "learning support" setting with kiddos with IEP's. However, upon my arrival I was "given" this one student who seemed that he was alienated from the other staff and students in the small group setting. After working with him, I knew there was something not quite right. His IEP along with other info diagnosed him with Autism, aggressive disorder and ADHD. He has an extremely low IQ. He also has a fascination with scissors!! Why is he not being supported in an Autistic setting??? I approached the teacher and she said that his diagnose changed, but there is no updated paperwork. Shouldn't he be supported. Are we doing an injustice for his education, and disability?[/quote]
Is this student partial, or Fully included in GE or in a Self-contained setting??? First of all it is the SPED teacher's responsibility to do a task analysis or teach you how to do it. And the school Psychololgist should be consulted. Our district has Behavior Specialists that will come in and support staff, teach them how to implement behaviorial plans and work with everyone to make sure the student is receiving the services needed. Most of our Programs for students with Autism are full and we have waited for up to 2 years to get kiddos into those settings. Basically, if students are not correctly identified then the district doesn't know what types of programs/services need to be offered. I work closely with my Assistant Director and by January let her know if there are specific diagnosis that don't seem right to me, or if students need a different kind of service. Be careful about approaching parents. Talk with your team before doing that. You don't want to be held liable for incorrect/illegal acts. SPED/IEP's are a legal document and federal/state laws are applicable. The teacher of record has the responsibility of implementing the IEP, you are a support person not the "expert". Although, you are skilled and part of the team, it always falls back onto the IEP Team, for a team decision.'s picture

The free autism newsletter for May has increased in size!! The digital newsletter, Autism Classroom Magazine, is filled with information for teachers, strategies for parents and links to great sites. You can find a link to it on the front page of AutismClassroom's website or by using the link below Please spread the word about our newsletter to your friends, family and co-workers. You can forward or copy this Newsletter. Teachers can send a copy home to parents or share with the school team.

LPS's picture
Cross Categorical/self-contained - Teacher

[quote]The free autism newsletter for May has increased in size!! The digital newsletter, Autism Classroom Magazine, is filled with information for teachers, strategies for parents and links to great sites. You can find a link to it on the front page of AutismClassroom's website or by using the link below Please spread the word about our newsletter to your friends, family and co-workers. You can forward or copy this Newsletter. Teachers can send a copy home to parents or share with the school team.[/quote]
This is a great site for resources. Thank you

Jenifer Starnes's picture
Jenifer Starnes
5th & 6th Grade Special Ed

Just because the student has autism does not mean they cannot be served in another type of class or program. Maybe the parent does not want him to be in an autistic only class. The teacher can set up all of the things that are required for students with autism. These structured supports can be done in any setting. If he is with you for the majority of his day then his needs can be met.

As for approaching the parent, I would not do that. It is really not your place. Your job is to assist in following his IEP, not to make decisions on what type of program that he needs.

Mrs. W's picture
Mrs. W
5-8 Language Arts and History Teacher

I used to be a paraprofessional for 5 years in a severe disabilities setting, so I understand your concerns. There are probably several reasons the student is not placed in an autistic only setting. In our school district the autism class was full. The only students who got in were the students whose parents pushed for it others were sent to moderate or severe rooms. Sometimes autism is only the secondary disorder to just being severely mentally handicapped, ect. and then they are educated in the setting the team finds most appropriate. It could be because of the parents do not want them in a certain setting. Also depending on the age of this child it takes a while for the student to be diagnosed and paperwork to go thorugh.

Just being a para, it is not your place to approach anyone. Work with this student to the best of your ability following what the teacher wants. You can talk to the teacher about the needs of this student and how you can best serve them. If the teacher thinks this student is inapproiately placed, then they will talk to admistration and/or the parents.

All these strategies listed in the original post are great for educating the autistic student.

Mrs. Harvey's picture
Mrs. Harvey
Special Educator- High School

I am a special educator who services students with Autism. I would like to see more postings relating to strategies to better service students in high school.

Elementary Special Ed teacher

I wouldn't discuss ANYTHING with the parents, especially without your supervisor's knowledge or him/her being present. You could be opening up a really nasty can of worms, and putting your own job on the line. I speak from both sides of the coin...having been a para for 10 years, and seeing this happen to other paras AND now being a sped teacher, who would not want my paras talking to parents about specific matters without me knowing.

Laura RJ's picture

I agree with many of the people who say you should not contact the parent directly. It is not your roll. That being said, I understand your need to make sure that the student is properly served. I would talk to the teacher about what you are seeing and see if she is able to give you more insight into what the child's needs are and why they are in this setting. If you don't feel like you are getting enough support from the teacher after you have talked with them, then I would talk to an administrator.

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