Structured work systems were developed by Division TEACCH at UNC Chapel Hill as part of the structured teaching programmatic approach to working with individuals with ASD. A structured work system, sometimes called an independent work systems or work systems, is a set up of work to be done within a visually cued system that answers four questions:
- What work needs to be done?
- How much work needs to be done?
- How do i know when I’m finished?
- What do I do next?
Some individuals can use a notebook system for paper and pencil tasks instead of bins, like the example below.
- Individuals with ASD frequently spend a great deal of time with high levels of support throughout their day and addressing their ability to complete tasks independently is a critical skill to teach. These individuals often become dependent upon the supports provided, as well, and having time during the day when they are expected to work on their own is one important component in fostering independence.
- Work systems help individuals practice mastered tasks to assure they maintain the skills with a variety of materials. For instance, students who have learned counting can practice counting with a variety of different materials.
- They give individuals a time when they can work on their own without adult interference. I have actually found that work system time is often the student’s favorite time of day.
- They give individuals a sense of accomplishment at completing tasks on their own.
- They provide a system that can be used in a variety of situations to help the individual be engaged in meaningful activities. For instance, parents can use it to keep their child or adolescent engaged in a series of leisure skills while they make dinner. Job sites can use the system to set up assembly and packaging tasks, among others, for workers to complete without supervision.
- In classrooms, when students can work independently while practicing meaningful skills, work systems allow the teacher to break down the class into smaller groups to work with while a group of students work on their own. In addition, in the general education classroom, a work system can provide a student with the opportunity to work on his or her own while the students are doing morning work or other independent tasks.
- Finally, the work system can be adapted to introduce new tasks in a variety of settings as well.