These ideas are tried, tested, and are generally pretty useful on a daily basis.
Work Pacer Punchcards- Print on card stock. Cut and fasten the card inside a student's work pocket folder. This system works extremely well for students who do not manage their time well and also for students who are prone to tantrums because they do not know how long they have to work. The punch card is usually reinforcing for most students, as well, if they are able to punch by themselves. Of course, you first have to teach the concept of a "break". This is not too difficult. Begin with 2 worksheets. As soon as the student has punched his card after each activity and has finished both activities, emphasize the words Break time or Take a break. Let the student choose his free time activity from a choice board or whatever system you use, right away. If you are consistent with this work system, the student will soon learn the concept. I put the work to do on the left side of the pocket folder and the student puts the finished work on the right hand side.
Here's a Sticker Pacer version for students who do not have the manual dexterity to punch. Alternatively, they can color each circle after each activity is finished.
Themes and Ring Binders - I like to teach using a theme because I can target specific vocabulary and skills. Buy lots of binders and whenever you come across a worksheet, activity, recipe, song. or art idea that goes with that theme, put it in a designated binder. Never mind that the worksheet might not be at an appropriate level for your current students. The abilities of autistic students are so varied that chances are, you will one day have a student for which it will be suitable. Another advantage of themes is that although within your class you may have a wide range of abilities, you can still have students working on the same topic.
Boxes- Like ring binders, storage boxes dedicated to certain themes are extremely useful. If you make decorations, communication overlays, flash cards, themed bingo or folder games, collect and store them with your binder in a box. Pop in books and puzzles that go with the theme. This may sound a little fussy, but when you have put together a few of these. it is very pleasant to be able to put your hands on all your materials easily, every year.
Yes and No Board - Teach choice-making and increase communication skills with verbal and nonverbal children, print multiple copies of the yes/no board. Attach to work surfaces, cafeteria tables, doors, etc. Teaching students to make choices and to respond to yes or no questions is difficult. Begin by teaching it hand over hand - e.g., "Do you want a cookie? Yes ? " (touching student hand to yes symbol), "or no ? " (touching student hand to no symbol). If the student indicates in some way that the answer is yes, touch the student hand to the yes symbol, say "yes", and reinforce with the cookie, or suitable reinforcer. If the student indicates the answer is no, touch the student's hand to the no symbol, say "no", and withhold the cookie. This technique can be used in any setting: "Do you want to go outside? ", "Do you want to stop? ", "Is this red? ", and so forth."Yes and No" requires lots of practice in many settings, but it's worth it. Reliable student response to yes and no questions is a milestone skill.
Response Card and a brand NEW Bumper Sticker Communication Card, print this visual prompt and nonverbal response card to increase student choices and responses while they participate in daily classroom activities.
How to Make Folder Games Print and paste the pictures in a file folder (letter or legal, depending on the size of the pictures). Laminate the folder. For sturdiest results, paste the numbers or whatever to squares of foam board or heavy (box) cardboard and cover each piece with Contact paper. Get some hook and loop adhesive-backed Velcro to fasten little loop squares to the folder and corresponding matching hook squares to the Contact-covered pieces. This requires some time and effort but these games will last year after year if constructed in this way.
Conversation Boards - I put these in sheet protectors in a ring binder that I use in a small group, as part of a start-the-day routine. We go through a greetings and calendar script and then use the boards to extend conversation. Model and rehearse different responses so that students are less likely to become habituated to one response. I pass the book around so that students can point if they are nonverbal. Another teacher has made binders for each student. What is your favorite color? What is your favorite cartoon? What is your favorite drink? What is your favorite snack? What is your favorite toy or game?
About Schedule Cards - First read the great book Activity Schedules for Children with Autism: Teaching Independent Behavior (Topics in Autism) by Lynn E. McClannahan and Patricia J. Krantz. Copy the cards below or use Boardmaker to make daily schedules. Use the pictures that best correlate to your own classroom materials. Use them to signal visually that it's time to start an activity or to aid student choice-making and to build independent schedule following. Laminate or slip into the sturdier kind of individual baseball card holders that you can buy where kids purchase Pokemon and trading cards. Insert cards into a student's schedule book with velcro or into whatever schedule system you use in your class. Visual schedules really reduce student anxiety and help tremendously with transitions. Take photos of teachers whose classes are on the student's schedule. Post these photos on the schedule so the student can learn their daily routine.
Schedule Cards These fit into baseball card holders which are nearly in destructible Stick Velcro on the back and make an easily changed, durable class/student schedule. 1) breakfast, break, bathroom, calendar, snack, lunch 2) work session, aerobics reading, playtime, birthday 3) recess, morning circle, gardening, popcorn theater, feed the birds, clean up 4) sewing, community skills, crafts, music, go home 5) fitness, video games, ball games, bingo, swimming, reading 6) cooking, song book, brush teeth, cleaning, wash dishes, laundry
Activity Cards- Put these in baseball card holders( indestructible) and mount them with velcro on an activity choice board or book, so that students can make free time choices or work through several tasks. 1) clock, stacking toy, shape sorter, number pegboards, beads & laces 2) pattern blocks, blocks, chalkboard, puzzle, music center, duplo 3) potatohead, playdoh, video, sand, coin-u-lator, language master 4) magna doodle, etch-a-sketch, lincoln logs, lego, computer, slide 5) geoboard, pegboard, bristle blocks, sewing, bubbles, tinker toys
Pasta Fun - Dye different shaped pasta in food coloring and rubbing alcohol by shaking them in a ziplock bag. Dry on paper towels. Use appropriate shades for the seasons and make necklaces; get student to replicate patterns you make; glue on paper plates or heavy paper to create 3D collages.
Play Dough Recipe - Make your own long lasting dough! Color it in seasonal colors and add essential oils or peppermint or vanilla essence to make for a rip-roaring multi-sensory experience.
2 cups flour
1 cup salt
2 cups water
2 tbs. cooking oil
2 tsps. cream of tartar
a few drops of food coloring
Cook mixture in pan over medium heat, stirring all the time to prevent sticking. When mixture comes away from sides of pan remove from heat. Knead and store in airtight container or ziplock bag. Keeps very well. Use Kool-aid instead of food dye as it stains less and smells nice.
Sing - Use sung instructions or rhythmic and rhymed phrases to catch and hold student attention. Example: "Pat, pat, pat. Makes it nice and flat!" may be used for pasting, gardening, cooking - any activity that require a pat. Try it. It works!