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Why is classroom routine important for children on the autism spectrum?

22 May 2020

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All teachers understand the importance of structure and routine for a child’s development, but effective classroom management is even more critical for children on the autism spectrum to thrive academically and socially.

Here we explain why classroom structure and routine is so important for children on the autism spectrum, as well as how the approach at Aspect Schools is informed.

What is routine and structure in a classroom context?

Routine and structure are words we use quite often, but what exactly do they mean in a classroom context? Routineis a well-rehearsed series of positive behaviours, taught with the intention of maintaining consistency. Structure, on the other hand, is the hierarchy of individual behaviours that comprise the routine, and the rules that the teacher uses to maintain consistency in the classroom.

Why is consistency important for a child on the autism spectrum?

Structured classroom routines set expectations and create order for all children, but this consistency is particularly important for children on the autism spectrum.

Children on the autism spectrum feel safe when there is a consistent and predictable routine in place. They can become overwhelmed when there is a lack of structure, or routines suddenly change. Inconsistency causes anxiety and frustration, which is often expressed in what adults perceive as challenging behaviour. This is because many children on the autism spectrum don’t have the communication skills to verbally express how they feel.

By creating a consistent environment, with familiar smells, colours, sounds and textures, children on the autism spectrum feel safe, which means it’s much easier to help them focus and engage in their schoolwork.

What are some common classroom routines and strategies ?

Speaking generally, teachers can implement a variety of strategies as part of their classroom routine to create consistent expectations and a structured environment. Some common examples include:

  • Lining up before class in a particular spot
  • Roll call first thing in the morning and after lunch
  • Silent reading before lessons begin
  • A timer for transitions between activities
  • Posting a learning calendar on the wall or whiteboard
  • Clear expectations about when computers and technology should be used
  • A system for the use and return of pencils, pens and other stationery items
  • A bathroom policy or pass system
  • Designated turn-in trays to allow more independence for students
  • Hand signals to indicate the student needs the teacher’s support to complete a task
  • Dedicated group activity or story times

This is not an exhaustive list of examples, but just some of the most commonly used and effective strategies.

What is the impact of classroom routines on students’ learning?

Classroom routines impact a students’ learning by establishing and reinforcing patterns of positive behaviours. Because routines structure the day into predictable segments, the classroom environment becomes a familiar and safe place to learn.

For children on the autism spectrum, this predictability is key. Teachers with strong classroom routines establish familiar and consistent, classrooms that accommodate a range of needs effectively.

What is the Aspect approach to classroom routine and management?

At Aspect schools, we provide children on the autism spectrum with the routine and consistency they need to thrive academically and socially.

Our approach to classroom routine and management focuses on:

  • Strengths and interests: We focus on students’ strengths and interests to develop routines that motivate learning and celebrate their diversity and individual talents.
  • Positive Behaviour Support: We understand that if challenging behaviour is occurring, it’s happening for a reason. Our educators work with parents/carers to meet the individual needs of students in the classroom.
  • Structured Supports: We adopt an organised approach to the way we work with students so all support is tailored to individual needs.
  • Learning and Participation: We work in different ways to ensure that we provide diverse learning spaces for students. We focus on active engagement and full participation for all students in all experiences.
  • Technology: Our approach to delivering programs and lessons through technology is individualised and closely monitored for consistency.
  • Research: Classroom routines and management procedures are structured through ongoing reference to research and clinical literature.

We take a comprehensive approach that is support-focused and structured around all areas of a child’s development.

Donate now, and help provide a structured learning environment for children on the autism spectrum

The security and consistency of a structured classroom routine will help improve academic performance and skills development, as well as build positive behaviours at school.

Our goal is always to provide the best opportunities for students on the autism spectrum. Your donation can help children continue their education with as little COVID-19 related disruption as possible. And if you donate any amount above $2, your donation to Aspect will be entirely tax deductible on your next tax refund.

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My name is Trudy, I am a high school teacher, a case manager of students with disabilities, a proud autistic woman, a passionate autistic advocate and a proud gay woman. And this is What Matters to me...
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