October 3, 2011

Autism Classroom Organization

Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest for more creative inspiration!

EDIT: I made the hardest decision of my life so far, and decided to resign from my classroom teaching position in June 2012.  Please click through to learn more about why I made this incredibly difficult decision.


If you’ve followed this blog for a little while, you’ve heard of my classroom.  Not only do I love making thrifty projects, but I spend about 11-12 hours a day in my classroom from Monday-Friday.

I teach K-2 Autism Support in a school outside of the Philadelphia area.  I currently have 9 students on my caseload (will be 10 students later this month).  It is crucial for the population of students that I work with for my room to be organized and structured.

I shared about my classroom in this post last year, but I change my classroom arrangement every year.  Here’s newer pictures to show Autism classroom organization!

Let’s start with where I spend most of my day: the green center

I teach through small group and direct instruction at this table all throughout the day.  It’s actually set up for back to school night in the picture above.  I have visual supports that are used frequently in reach, as well as school supplies & workbooks.

Next, here’s the blue center.  I make up individualized plans for my assistants to follow at this center, and they are able to reinforce the direct instruction I give the students.

For the few times I’m fortunate enough to have my second assistant in the classroom, I have them run an alternative curriculum called “Language for Learning” at the Pink Center:

I also have my students do independent work at other centers, like the purple center:

The Red Center:

There’s also a center that had individual activities (the yellow center) that practice skills that have been recently mastered, but I totally forgot to take a picture of it!

We also use the computer as a center:

I also love my book nook:

And here’s where I teach “large group” instruction and we have our morning meeting:

Now for some of the logistics in my classroom.  Here is what my classroom’s schedule looks like:

All of the color blocks represent the different colored centers in my classroom.

We then use laminated pictures with velcro on the back to make individual student schedules.  Every 20-30 minutes, I have the children check their schedules, and they grab the next picture on their schedule and match it to the center they’re supposed to get to next:


I use cheap material to make “curtains” to hide clutter on ugly shelves:


If you hadn’t noticed – my classroom has visual supports for EVERYTHING…including the bathroom!

(Hello!  Can you see me in the mirror? 🙂 )


Four of my students work with “star charts” and they earn stars frequently so they can have reward time with their preferred reinforcer.  All of my students have a chance to earn a star sticker every morning and afternoon.  If they get 85% of the stars for the month – we will have a class party at the end of the month!:

I also have forsaken a true desk so I could have more space in my classroom for centers.  Here’s what I work on (the area on the right):

My students receive lots of related services (Speech, Occupational & Physical Therapies).  Because no one is ever exactly on time, I designated a specific “Waiting Table” this year.  It’s been so wonderful!

And we also welcomed a new addition to our classroom this week!  We took a vote, and the name the kids decided on for our new little Beta was “Ducky”:


I have honestly just scratched the surface of my classroom set-up in this post.  There’s so much more, but I don’t want to overwhelm you!  I plan to be posting more about strategies I use in my classroom with this amazing population of students 🙂

Let me know your thoughts – I love to hear every single one of them!


Linking to:

Shabby NestUnder the Table and DreamingBe Different Act Normal, Tatertots and JelloStories of A-Z, House of HepworthsCRAFTYoung and CraftyA Glimpse Inside,  Someday Crafts, Serenity NowMy Girlish Whims

Related posts:

SHARE THIS POST ON: Twitter | Facebook | Google + | Pinterest


  1. Hi Christina,

    Just to let you know, I’ll be linking this post to The Fridge Door Blog’s facebook page. My cousin’s son (my second cousin) has Autism and is home-schooled. Your post is full of great ideas that I think may be very inspirational to her, as well as her friends who have children with autism.

    Thank you for such a wonderful post.
    Chantelle xo

  2. Kymberly Pease says:

    I work adults in this population doing day-habilitation. Clients who aren’t able to handle a full day of work will come to our room to work on life skills such as socializing, hand-eye coordination, listening, etc. We find crafts are a great way to work on these skills. One of the problems I struggle with a lot is getting the clients to listen to directions. I’ve tried speaking slowly, giving one step at a time so as not to overwhelm them, and demonstrating the step so that they can see what they need to do, but they are constantly choosing not to listen and then getting frustrated when things don’t turn out like it’s supposed to. What are some of the things you’ve tried to get your students to listen and follow directions?

    • Hi Kymberly,

      Are you sure that they are choosing not to listen? I’m guessing that you work with adults with autism (???). I teach students with varying disabilities and have found that most students have difficulty with communication, not necessarily in their understanding of what’s being asked – but in their processing of the request. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes they’re choosing not to listen, in which case the tactics are different. You seem to be on the right track by speaking slowly and giving one step at a time. I thought that I might offer some tactics that have helped me.

      1. Simple, one step commands. I mean REALLY simple. A lot of the time I found that instructions that I thought were simple actually involved a few different steps. For example, when asking a student to paint, I can’t just say “Get some paint on the brush.” The steps are stripped down to. “Pick up the paintbrush.” (Wait for them to respond) “dip the paintbrush in the pain.t” (Wait for them to respond) “Put the paintbrush on the paper.” (Wait for them to respond) “Paint.” (wait for them to respond).

      2. Visuals are also great for instruction, as some people with disabilities find it quicker/easier to process these than verbal prompts. I might also mention at this point, that if it’s something that requires a few different steps, having an example of what the end result of each step should look like can also help.

      3. I have also found that anxiety over the end result can cause issues. The person creating the piece feels like it has to be perfect, and they have trouble focusing on the instructions because they’re so worried about the end result. I’ve found that having a ‘practice run’ of the task can help with this, as it gives them a chance to “do it the right way” once they understand.

      I hope that this has been useful for you. Feel free to take it or leave it 😉

  3. how fun! ive never had a classroom that looked like that before!

  4. My youngest is on the spectrum (PDD-NOS) and he would love this classroom 😀 He loves routine and structure and I am sure he would thrive here, thank you for sharing!

  5. What a great classroom! I taught SPED in an elementary school, and my room was divided into centers pretty similar to yours…but I think you are a little more organized than I was:)

  6. Kara Allen says:

    I have to say, I’ve been on a break from teaching for about 5 years to be home with my kids, your classroom made me want to go back. I teach kids with Autism and your students are lucky to have you. Thanks for the inspiration.

  7. Thanks for doing all you do for those special kids! We love our special needs extended family! We couldn’t do it without them! Love your classroom space!

  8. This is fantastic. I don’t work in a classroom at all, but there is so much good stuff here.:) I’m a new follower, and I’m eager to see what else you care to share.:)

  9. Angela Redden says:

    Awww, it’s so clear how much you love your job! Making all the visual supports and designing the layout of your classroom had to have taken an enormous amount of time. It’s not only functional but bright and cheery. As a mother of a child with autism (who happens to have an awesome teacher as well) thank you for caring so much. Special education teachers are the best!!!

  10. Wow! We need more teachers like you in our school system! Your passion is obvious.

    I would love for you to link up and share this over on my mommy resource/solution meme.


  11. My daughter is in an ASD classroom. What age level do you teach? I am impressed with your classroom.

  12. Structure is good for us all, but even more so for those with autism. All those visual supports are wonderful! As a parent of an adult son with autism, I am very impressed and touched by your thoughtfulness and attention to detail for your students.

  13. I love seeing everything you put into your classroom. I’m actually in occupational therapy school right now and my passion is children with Autism. I can’t wait to actually be out of school and practicing with these kids! Your classroom is wonderful and it’s wonderful to see that there are such amazing teachers out there that are so loving and dedicated to what they do!!! Can’t wait to see the rest 🙂

  14. What a cheerful, organized classroom! I currently teach 5th grade, but I have a degree in special education too. It is always fun to see other teachers’ classrooms and learn new ideas. Thank you for sharing!

  15. You did such a great job! My son Karter is almost 3, he was diagnosed with PDD a week ago. I’m still researching and learning what PDD is. But I will be following your blog to learn new ideas on how to help him. Thanks for doing this, your ideas are not just helping your students but other children in ASD. Thanks again.


  16. Your classroom is lovely. I have learned from my son the hard way. He is 18 now. Danny was diagnosed at the ate of 23 months and visuals were and continue to be the key to his success. When he doesn’t understand our world, visuals make sense to him. I have been making visuals for 16+ years now. Exhausted, burnt out, beyond my physical ableness are just a few things that I can put into words. I wanted to jump in and express no matter how light or severe the autism is – visuals are the key. Aspergers, High functioning autism, PDD, PDD-nos, Autism, Sensory processing disorder, Severe autism, Autism with a dual diagnosis (including mr) – visuals are the key. For my son, I want him to rely on a visual book when taking a bath (using the same words and pictures) so that when I am no longer here – he will only have to rely on an individual to help him through the parts he needs help with. No new confusing language or someone trying to do something different or skipping steps – the visuals ensure that the process is kept and maintained – for his dignity. I’ve thought alot about when I’m no longer here (I was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago)…. the visuals need to be put into place so that his dignity is the utmost importance. I hope that the future statistics change – when my son was diagnosed, they were one in every 10,000. Autism was rare – now they are one in every 100. When you have a child who cannot speak – the communication has to be taught – the visuals are key – the earlier the better – first start with teaching understanding of our words paired with visuals – then PECS – communicating with pictures for their needs – then directives – social stories – expectations – reading – etc – the possibilities are endless with visuals. What was told to me throughout the years to place my son in an institution b/c of his severity level – I fought like no other. Today – he does have severe autism – and profound mental retardation – and yes traumatic brain injury from a seizure he suffered two years ago – buttttt – he is a well behaved young man. No behaviors – none – the doctors are amazed. I home schooled him. I have visuals everywhere – when there was something he did not understand and there was an identifiable antedecent – a social story was written with visuals and read to him (over and over again) with other ways to handle things. More often than not – it was always pain or discomfort that brought on his behaviors. But it is the visuals – that has been the key. He is not in an institution. He is my hero. He is my best teacher in life. He taught me how to love like no other. He taught me to fight in what you believe in. Yes – visuals are the key.

  17. Laura Simmons says:

    My son is 19 months old and was just diagnosed with PDD and we are just are just starting to get him into therapy but the waiting list are so long. So I am trying to work with him at home and just want to know if you have any ideas on where to start or any info to help me so I can work with him easier that would be much appreciated. Thank you so much for this blog it was so nice to read.

  18. Jill Quigley says:

    Do you have any of your visuals available that I could use in my classroom? Thank you!

  19. I am absolutely in love with your classroom!!! I have a bachelors degree in speech-language-hearing, and I want to pursue a masters degree in special education. I would love to speak with you and possibly shadow you? What credentials do your assistants hold? Do you take volunteer assistants? please email me!! kmfa333@gmail.com

  20. I must know why you resigned!!? I was thinking of taking the position of ASD teacher next year & I’ve really been on the fence about what to do because I like where I am now. Please share, it could be very helpful in my decision making!! Thanks.


  1. […] My classroom. Seriously – 11-12 hours every day. […]

  2. […] I’m working lots of hours at my actual job this week, with a few hours every night of preparing for the Advent brunch this Saturday(remember how I still […]

Speak Your Mind