Setting Up Your Classroom for a Student with Autism
Use visual supports
Be aware of noise many students with autism process normal sound as too loud or quiet. It can be difficult for these students to filter out background noise. Have the autistic student sit away from the hallway, pencil sharpener or water fountain.
Have a seating chart ready before the student with autism arrives. Have a plan in place to help them identify and find their seat. Try to place the autistic studentís desk away from windows and doors and near the front of the class, so they have a clear view of you. If the student with autism is a distraction, set them to the far side of the front.
Children with autism pay attention to details and can miss the big picture. Wall charts and posters can distract from your teaching. While teaching, try to teach in front of a blank background (i.e. a chalkboard with nothing extra written on it).
To help keep down visual distractions store unnecessary or large equipment in closed cabinets.
To help increase independence think through where materials for student activities will be stored. Try to keep these materials in a regular location for student access.
Often students with autism have a difficult time understanding personal space. Define personal space by drawing masking tape outlines on the floor. Make sure there is plenty of room between desks.
Take time to set up your classroom and once it is set up avoid changes. If your classroom will have stations, use furniture to help define these spaces.
If possible provide a quiet area for your autistic student to go for breaks. This could be a table with dividers by it or a small area in the corner of the classroom with a bean bag chair and some headphones. The area should be free of visual distractions.
Be aware that students with autism can be very sensitive to smells avoid air fresheners and perfume.