Creating Independence in the Autism Classroom

Happy Saturday, friends!

I am here today to talk all about creating independence within your special education classroom! Independence is the NUMBER ONE thing we are ALWAYS working on in our classroom! It is SO important that our students start learning how to work and complete tasks independently from an early age. As they get older, this skill will be key in real life situations and the work place.

There are countless ways you can promote and establish independence within your classroom, but here are just a couple big ways I promote it daily!


It is no secret in my classroom that I LOVE file folders. They are easy to make, easy to store, and the possibilities are endless. You can use them to help teach a skill, or you can use them after a skill has been mastered to promote independence.

In my classroom, I have two independent work stations FILLED with file folder tasks. There are counting, ABCs, sight word match, patterns, color sorts...the list goes on. Each work station has an assortment of levels to fit all of my students different needs.

When a student works in the independent work area, they are typically given 4 tasks to do. This number varies depending on the student, however this is the number we like to get to in my classroom. If a student is just starting out in my classroom and has trouble working independently for any amount of time, we will start with just 1 bin and then slowly increase over time!

All of the tasks that the students do during independent work time are already mastered skills, which set them up for success. A student will work from left to right with the work bin labels, matching each picture to the corresponding bin as they work. When a bin is finished, it is placed on the "finished" spot. This is ALL done independently, which is not only great for the student, but also great for me to be able to get some 1:1 time in with other students! :)

The key to file folders is to keep switching the work tasks up. Our students get tired of doing the same things every day, and although they might need to continue working on the same SKILL, they need to feel like they're doing something new! I've created file folders for the entire school YEAR that have all of the same skills month to month, they are just themed and have different clip art! These are a huge hit with my kiddos! You can check them out here:


We all have those students that work QUICKLY and need something to keep their little hands busy. Bonus to early finisher activities? They do them independently! Here are some of my favorite activities that we are using right now!

This interactive bulletin board is from Melissa over at Autism Adventures of Room 83. Such a great way to keep my kiddos busy, engaged, and working independent!

We are also LOVING these adorable cookie tray tasks from Erin from Creating and Teaching! I love that there is a variety of activities to switch out every week and fit each student's needs! Another GREAT way to establish independence!

There are SO many other ways that we can help our students become more independent throughout the school day. What are some of the ways you promote independence in your classroom?

Classroom REVEAL!!! #2getherwearebetter

I am SO excited to finally be linking up with my WONDERFUL and amazingly talented coworker Ashley over at Schroeder Shenanigans in 2nd and with Angie at Lucky Little Learners for the #2getherwearebetter link up! This month's linky is CLASSROOM REVEAL!!!

Each year, I spend SO much time before school starts adding touches to my room, reworking some areas, and putting together some ideas that have been brewing in my head over summer break! This summer was no different, and I spent some time making little changes to my classroom! It will FOREVER be changing, but here is my classroom for the start of the 2015-2016 school year!!!

To start, here are some panoramic shots I took of my classroom!

special education classroom

special education

special education

special education

Lets start the tour as you walk in my classroom door...

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The view from my classroom door!
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special education

fine motor skills

As you walk in my door, the first section of my classroom you see is our Fine Motor area. In this spot, there are many fine motor activities such as sorting, writing, twisting objects, etc. This area is still a work in progress as I develop new fine motor work bins! I am LOVING this area! My students are given 2-4 icons depending on their ability and complete them independently (once they are shown how to complete the bins). This makes for a great center to keep students working while other students work on IEP goals.

After the fine motor area, you will see our computers:

special education

This is where students might use reward time or where they work on math goals, typing, spelling, or reading skills! It is also the home of our new Instagram picture wall! :)

Near the computer area are our two 1:1 work areas. This is primarily where students work 1:1 with either myself or a paraprofessional on their IEP goals.
special education

special education

These 1:1 work areas are side by side. In the second picture, you will see our "goals wall" and all of our carts FULL of materials & manipulatives to work on those IEP goals. I also added the magazine holders with each student's photo that holds any worksheets we can use for IEP goal work as well. I LOVE this method and it worked great for us last year. Everything is organized & easily accessible. My parapros can easily look at a student's goal sheet and say "Hey, I need to work on counting objects & identifying numbers with _____ student today!". It makes it SO easy for me AND my paraprofessionals!

Next to the 1:1 work areas is my teacher desk. It's nothing beautiful and there's still some work to be done, but I really don't know how people live without a desk! On my desk I have a sorting system for completed student work (I make copies of almost everything paper they complete) and schedule cards.

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PS-Look at that ADORABLE puzzle piece sign with my name on it. Um, LOVE.

Next stop on the tour, our sensory/library area:


I need new bean bags desperately. I'm on the lookout for seating, not sure I want bean bags or something different! In this area, there is a mini trampoline for sensory, books to chill out and read, and some sensory items on the shelves (weighted vests, squishes, brushes, etc). This is a top area my students choose to work for! They love it!

Right next to the sensory area are our cubbies:

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Every morning, students bring in their backpacks and hang them up here. They each have their own bin up top that we keep communication binders in & any other stuff that needs sent home! All of the other bins are for things like changes of clothes, pull ups, and wipes. You can also see our lunch count strips on the side. Each morning we go over the menu and students one by one move their name to buying or packing and let me know what they are buying if they aren't packing that day!

Next up, independent work!

TEACCH method

TEACCH method

We have two independent work stations side by side. We use the TEACHH method and I LOVE independent work. LOVE.

Here is the back of our classroom, full of tubs and tubs of stuff AND our tiny bathroom!

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I started in this classroom in 2012 and STILL haven't gotten through all the extra junk. I do little by little, but lets just say there was some SERIOUS hoarding going on here. However, love all the bins and ONE day it will be organized to my liking. :)

Here we have our play/swing area:


FINALLY cut down on some of the stuff in our play area. When I started, there was SO. MUCH. STUFF. Aka there was a huge mess every day to clean up when the kiddos went home. This year, there are games and just 5 bins of different items (animals, blocks, nuts/bolts, Potato Head items, and cars/trucks). The labels give my students the ability to sort and put away their toys and makes for a MUCH happier teacher. Also, the swing has a "Do Not Enter" sign on it when it is closed. Hence the sign :) (some days it works, some days the swing just needs to come down!)

And finally, my favorite spot, our Group Work area! This is where students do morning work, calendar time, and whole group. We spend some time here and there during the day other than these main times, but I just love the area and them having their OWN space, rather than a big kidney bean table. (Did that my first two years in my district & just not a fan!)

PCI Reading Program Level One
Our PCI Word Wall

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supplies and worksheets sorted with labels

my special learners
morning work

my special learners
morning work
We are blessed with an Interwrite Board in the whole group area that we use daily during group time! Each morning, students come in and complete the work placed on their desks (seen above) to keep their hands busy as we get unpacked and all that!

I hope you enjoyed the tour of my classroom for the 15-16 school year! I can't wait to see everyone's classroom pictures as the year goes on!! :)

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