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Setting up the schedule in special education can be a bear. Check out this example of an elementary schedule along with why we scheduled it as we did.

Back to School: Setting Up Classrooms for Students with Autism #2-Set the Schedule Part 3

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Today I wanted to share an elementary schedule with you.  This schedule is for a self-contained classroom for students with a variety of disabilities and skill levels.  There were 7 students and 3 staff (a teacher and 2 paraprofessionals).  I believe the class was kindergarten through 3rd grade.  Some of the children went to the general education classroom for specific times of day and the group that went joined the same classroom with aide support.  I’ve put a larger copy of the schedule down below that is clearer to see.

To check out other posts in this series, click here.

Setting up the schedule in special education can be a bear.  Check out this example of an elementary schedule along with why we scheduled it as we did.What I Like

I like this schedule as an example for a couple of reasons.  The teacher had fewer staff to support the group that remained in the classroom when the others went to general ed. for group time.  Also we didn’t want to start a center rotation until the class returned.  This made the morning meeting time smaller but also gave use some time before centers could begin.  We decided to use that time as choice time.

Choice Time

Choice time is not free time in our classrooms.  We set up choice time so that students make a choice of available activities.  We choose the activities as leisure or work skills that we want the students to try to expand the number of activities they can do independently to keep engaged as well as to have enjoyable leisure skills.  I was talking to a family last week at camp about this specific issue and they were noting how difficult it was for them to find things their child with autism liked and would engage with for any amount of time other than TV or computer.  Choice time is a time for children to sample and master some of the skills needed to keep themselves entertained when someone is not right there with them to keep them engaged.

Another goal of choice time is to learn to make a choice.  Many students with ASD really struggle with making a choice.  It’s also an opportunity to work on communication as they either verbally or with a picture or speech generating device choose an activity.  They are expected to stay in the activity for the length of time designated and can be reinforced for doing so if that is difficult.

Finally, choice time addresses the goal of how to behave when the choice you wanted is not available.  If computer time is on the choice board, most of the students really want that time. However, generally we have a limited number of computers available.  The number of visuals on the choice board let students know how many spots are available and when it is no longer an option (because the center is full).  This gives visual support to the situation so it appears less arbitrary and helps the student understand why they cannot make that choice.  I have sometimes had a reinforcer students earn to have first choice so that they can get to choose the favorite center.

Setting up the schedule in special education can be a bear.  Check out this example of an elementary schedule along with why we scheduled it as we did.

Center Rotations

I also like this schedule because of the center rotations.  Few of the students in the classroom were independent, so structured / independent work systems had to be staffed (IW).  This limited the number of centers we could have to 2 plus independent work for 3 total with the available staff.  This was a class where students worked better in smaller numbers, so the speech therapist that served the class stepped in and did her speech sessions as a center.  This allowed us to have 4 centers with 1 student getting 1-1, because he needed it to stay focused, and the others being in groups of 2.  This worked really well in this classroom and was a good reminder to think outside the box in designing the schedule.

Afternoon Centers

In the afternoon we had centers set up with school jobs like delivering the mail, watering the plants, taking care of the class garden, and cleaning the classroom.  We assigned students jobs , but could also have a choice of jobs to do.  There also was a game center that was designed to work on basic social skills like turn-taking and some language concepts, as well as the ability to learn to play common games.  And the third center was the computer, which we included with educational software, because it was a center that students could be independent in since they liked the computer and this freed up staff members to take rotating lunch breaks.  Finally in the afternoon their specials (except for Art on Wednesdays) were all at the same time, making it easier to make the schedule consistently.

What types of issues do you have with schedules for your classroom?  Share in the comments and get ideas from others about how to solve them.  For ideas for a high school schedule, check out my post on A Special Sparkle on Secondary Life Skills Classes.  In my next post I will share a preschool schedule and then I will start to talk about physical environments.

Until next time,

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6 thoughts on “Back to School: Setting Up Classrooms for Students with Autism #2-Set the Schedule Part 3”

  1. I love your idea of schedules! I am going to be starting my second year as an autistic support teacher. I am looking for a good, neat, and successful way to display schedules for the adults in the classroom. Any tips? Hope to hear back from you!

    1. I actually display the grid you see above the students' visual schedules and then I break down center rotations and parts of schedules and tape them to the tables and desks where the activities take place. This way I always have which group is coming next during the rotation. I also create a zoning plan or a staff schedule which I will talk about later in the series to help staff know what their responsibilities are at each activity of the day. Hope that helps!

  2. Christina Rodriguez

    I love this schedule and I’m wondering how would you do this schedule with inclusion where the students are going to specials (music/computers/pe,etc.) at different times each day of the week? Do you suggest I create 5 of these schedules; one for each day of the week?


      Yes, if they all go at different times, that is what I have to do. Once I do the master it gets a little easier to do the other days. Sometimes I can write it in if only one day is different, but overall it’s easier to just draft schedules for the rest of the days.

  3. This is similar to how I set up my schedule, but I’m curious about the work/instruction then that occurs during the times for ‘reading’ and ‘math.’ How can you fit in all the content needed in only 20 minutes? (i.e. for reading there’s comprehension, word recognition, phonics, etc.) – do you just rotate the topics? Like on Mon/Wed you do reading comprehension, Tues/Thurs you do sight words, and Fri you work on phonics? I know we can’t do it all in one day, but where do you fit all of that in with only 20 minutes?


      That’s a good question. We don’t confine teaching those subjects to just those times…so for instance, there might be a story in morning meeting where we fold some reading in and literacy. Same with math. Generally we are working on a specific reading or math curriculum so we would use those during that time. We might also have some reading being worked on in computer using the Edmark program or Failure Free. It kind of depends on the students and is individualized to their needs. I hope that helps–not sure if it answers your questions, but perhaps it give some idea?

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