Sunday, June 16, 2013

Setting Up My Autism Class- Step 4: Set Up "the schedule"

Setting "the schedule" is by far the most intimidating part of setting up a classroom to me.  There are two different types of schedules that need to be determined- the class schedule and then the students' individual schedules. Let's talk about the class schedule first. There are so many factors to consider- student needs, attention lengths, therapy times, school times, specials classes, breakfast and lunch, and the list goes on. First, I always look at the school times- when students arrive, when they need to be ready for dismissal, when we are assigned breakfast, lunch, and recess, and if any of my students will be going out to specials or time in gen ed classes. I write all of that down along with therapy schedules and then look at the rest of the times available. The autism program in our school district endorses the use of discrete trials for individual instruction. So that tells me we will be doing a lot of rotating through centers during the day to ensure that each student gets their individual instructional time while other students are working on other readiness or functional skills. My two paras will assist my students in rotating through the centers (reading, computer, listening, leisure, work station, table time) while I am working one-on-one with students. We will complete this rotation 3 times a day and each student will work with me at least once. We will also have a layered whole-group circle time at the beginning of the day. Some students will only be expected to stay for one activity (singing good morning song) while others will stay for two or three or more activities- based on their attention spans. Since my kiddos will be in Pre-K and Kindergarten, our circle time will probably not last for more than 20 minutes. That will probably include 10 minutes of singing/reading time and 10 minutes of an interactive activity. TEACCH recommended only 15 minutes with preschool students and no more than 30 minute activities with elementary students. Of course those are only guidelines and as usual, the amount of time should depend on individual students. They also recommend separating work times with play or leisure times.

When setting up the class schedules, it is important to create a schedule for paraprofessionals or aids as well. I have learned that it is easier to be up front about expectations- people cannot read my mind. When I create the class schedule, I will include a column next to each activity detailing what I will be doing and what my parapros should be doing during the activity.

{Visual Class Schedule}

It is important to set up individual daily schedules for each student. TEACCH stresses the importance of making the schedule meaningful for each student so that they could achieve independence in this area. As crazy as it sounds, using detailed schedules allows the students to be more flexible- something that is very important to teach students with autism. There are a couple of things that you need to consider when developing the detailed student schedule: type of schedule, length of schedule, and manipulation of schedule.

Type. When thinking about the type of schedule you have to consider the individual needs of the kids. Some students may need an object schedule, some a picture schedule, and some may be able to use a word (written) schedule. Most of my kids will probably be using a picture schedule.

Length. I have tried to do a full day picture schedule in the past with students and it was extremely difficult for me to manage it. I will not be doing that this year. I am going to stick to using a First/ Then schedule that is located at each center and at our individual work table. I will put two pictures on it- one of the activity they are currently completing and one of the activity that they will transition to next.

First/ Then Schedule

Manipulation. Will the students mark through or check off the activity completed if using a word schedule? Will they match the picture to the one at that center if using a picture schedule? Will they match the object to a photograph if using an object schedule? I think I will have a laminated page with the picture symbol for students to Velcro their pieces to when they arrive in the right location.

Check out my Autism Schedules Pinterest board for tons of ideas for setting up autism class & individual schedules.


  1. First of all I love your blog, there aren't a lot teachers who blog about special education and I truly feel like you have helped X a million! Thank you for posting all of this great information. :)
    I have a question I was hoping you could help me with:
    I am a specialized support/ALE/Self Contained teacher. I am struggling and struggled last year, my first year with making an effective schedule within my classroom. I have all students attending at least inclusion one subject, specials and recess. Last year I pulled and worked with each student through out the day either small group or one on one in each subject area. While I was working with students then the other students I wasn't working with would be on break, inclusion or independent work. I just felt like this wasn't consistent and students breaks would go over the amount of time and it wasn't efficient. We do whole group for calendar/social studies/science.
    Is there anyway you can help me? If not I know that is a HUGE long question. Thank you so very much!!

    1. I'm so glad you've found my blog helpful!

      First of all- bless your heart! Scheduling specials, inclusion, whole group, and individual instruction can be crazy! I have a couple of suggestions for you:

      Stations. While you're working one-on-one with students, have your para supervise the others rotating through stations. You could use a smart board visual to ensure that everyone is participating in each station. Some can be more academic- work stations for a math worksheet- while others are more functional or fun- fine motor station or leisure (depending on their levels).

      Small groups. Take advantage of para support and get them to run a small group with you are doing a small group or individual teaching. She can run a fluency group, assist in completing work, run a guided reading group, or supervise an academic game.

      Independent games. I found several math games last year that my kids could play somewhat independently. It's a great way for them to practice skills, have fun, and stay busy while you work with someone.

      I hope you can use some of these suggestions. Feel free to email me with more questions. I'd love to help more!