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Special education teachers who work with autistic students can help them best by creating what’s known as a structured classroom environment.
All young students thrive in stable situations, where the only surprises are related to what they’re learning. Autistic children benefit even more from well-organized places, where they aren’t easily distracted and are able to focus on their language, sequential memory and social skills.
According to a TEACCH article entitled Structured Teaching, teachers should set up classrooms so their students can act more independently and know where to be, what to do and how to do it. Here are specific questions to help create the right environments:
* Is there space provided for individual and group work?
* Are work areas located in least distractable settings?
* Are work areas marked so that a student can find his own way?
* Are there consistent work areas for those students who need them?
* Does the teacher have easy visual access to all work areas?
* Are there places for students to put finished work?
* Are work materials in a centralized area and close to work areas?
* Are a student’s materials easily accessible and clearly marked for him or her?
* Are play or leisure areas as large as possible? Are they away from exits?
* Are they away from areas and materials that students should not have access to during free time?
* Are boundaries of the areas clear?
* Can the teacher observe the area from all other areas of the room?
* Are the shelves in the play or leisure area cluttered with toys and games that are broken or no one ever uses?
Another excellent source of information about how to structure classrooms for student success can be found in this article: Classroom Structure: Introduction on the Autism Network website.
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