August 4, 2015

Top Five Things to Consider When Setting Up a Classroom to Support Students with ASD

The beginning of the school year is right around the corner! Many teachers are setting up their rooms in order to provide their students with the supports needed to ensure success. As you set up your classroom for the upcoming year consider the following:

1. Structure your day
Children with autism thrive in a structured and predicable environment. Establish routines early on and keep it as consistent as possible. In a world that’s ever changing, routine and structure provide great comfort and support to a child on the autism spectrum. Define routines clearly and review routines daily. When you must deviate from your schedule provide warnings as soon as possible.

2. Use Visuals
A picture speaks a thousand words! Use them whenever you can. Children with autism learn faster and with greater ease when you use visuals. In fact, we all respond better to visuals. Show visuals of what to expect on the trip such as getting on the bus, arriving at the destination, planned activities, eating a snack and returning to school. Give written instructions instead of verbal whenever you can. Highlight or underline any text for emphasis.

3. Use Schedules
People with autism like order and detail. They feel in control and secure when they know what to expect. Schedules help students know what’s ahead. Picture schedules are even more powerful because they help a student visualize the actions. Schedules can be broad or detailed. You can use them with any sequence of events. Some students may require a personal daily schedule while other students may only need a daily schedule for the classroom.

4. Minimize Distractions
As you set up your classroom pay attention to where your students with autism will be seated. Windows, the hallway or free time areas can cause many distractions. Try to seat your student in an area that gives them an unobstructed view of your teaching. Look at your classroom walls. If anything on your wall does not support your teaching take it down. You don’t want your student focusing on a cute picture at the expense of valuable learning time!

5. Have a Calming Space
Stress, anxiety, and misunderstandings happen in the best classroom situations – so be prepared have a calming area for your student with autism. This area doesn’t have to be large, it can be as simple as a small corner behind the students desk with a chair or beanbag, some noise cancelling headphones, and a few fidgets. Practice visiting the area while the child is calm and happy. It may be helpful to have the child sit in the calming space when performing tasks that are known to upset the child.

How To Videos Provide Guidance for Environmental Considerations

Check out the VCU-ACE How To Video Series section on environmental considerations. These three How To Videos focus on physical structures, schedules and routines. The videos are brief (between five and ten minutes in length) and are packed full of information and examples for how to best structure the environment for your students with ASD, though all students will surely benefit!

Check out these and other great How To Videos to be one step ahead for the school year!

Prepare for the New Year by Taking an Online Course

Whether you are new to ASD and teaching or are an old pro, we have the online course for you! For those who are new to ASD, check out our Foundations of Autism Spectrum Disorder course. This course provides participants with an understanding of the primary and secondary characteristics of ASD, and the impact ASD has on the person as well as the family unit. Veteran teachers will benefit from the Improving Goal Mastery through Data-Based Decision-Making course. This course outlines how to write objective and measurable goals, how to collect data, and finally how to graph data and use that data to create new goals. This course is self-paced and can be started at any time.

Both of these courses are certain to increase your understanding of ASD!

Structure Your Environment Using Our Seminar Series

VCU-ACE has three exciting seminars on Environmental Structure and Supports. A properly structured environment is important when supporting students with ASD and other disabilities. Introduction to the Use of Schedules with Individuals with ASD is designed to enhance knowledge regarding the use of visual schedules. The seminar focuses on the purpose and importance of schedules, types and composition as well as how to implement schedules. Visual Supports with Autism Spectrum Disorder discusses the different learning styles in relation to ASD and specifically looks at the use of visual supports to assist individuals to become more independent and self-sufficient. The final seminar, Structuring the Environment and Tasks for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder explores the use of physical organization and structured learning tasks to facilitate the learning of individuals with ASD. It focuses on arranging elements of the physical environment to increase understanding and foster independence. These seminars are each about 30 minutes in length.

Everybody Goes Back to School!

Adults can go back to school as well! The Department of Special Education and Disability Policy at VCU offers a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Autism Spectrum Disorder that prepares personnel to educate and support individuals with autism spectrum disorder in the educational setting from early intervention through adult services. The certificate program trains participants in the wide range of competencies necessary for the provision of effective educational programming. The course sequence enables personnel to develop comprehensive knowledge and experience in assessment, teaching strategies, and curriculum development. Participants earn four graduate credits as part of this post-baccalaureate certificate. Make a commitment to your education today!