Frustrated Student
Learning Environment

Create a Better Classroom for: Kids with Autism, Part I

A typical classroom just won’t work for students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Learn what the environment needs for these students to be successful.

Children with ASD in some ways have a lot in common with typical students. Their IQs can range from low to very high. They struggle with social issues. They can be easily distracted. Yet their sensitivity to touch, noise, and environment creates very different challenges for them. Bright colors, noise, visual distraction and lots of activity are often enough to cause them overwhelming frustration and panic, impeding the student’s learning and disrupting the class.


Fortunately, modest adjustments to a classroom can make a real difference in their success at school. In this post, we’ll introduce ideas for classroom layout. Students with ASD operate best in a structured environment, with work and play areas clearly defined. In Part 2, we’ll cover important sensory issues to be aware of.


  1. Clearly define your classroom areas. Create visual boundaries using colored tape on the floor to define different classroom areas by colors.
  2. Use physical dividers such as bookcases, filing cabinets, seating and shelving, to divide up the space.
  3. Label the areas with pictures that match images on a visual schedule to help students transition from one activity to another.
  4. Assign each student a spot in group gathering areas to reduce anxiety that comes from choosing a place to sit.
  5. Provide an area where students can escape when they feel overwhelmed and need to self-sooth. They can observe activities at a distance until they’re comfortable enough to rejoin the group.
  6. Keep the classroom free of clutter as much as possible. Toys, books, school supplies and learning aids should be kept in bins on shelves, with picture labels on the bins clearly identifying the contents. Some students may even need the bins covered to lessen the distraction.


Just a few of these solutions can help your students with ASD feel more comfortable and confident at school. Sharing and comparing these ideas with changes parents have made at home may help you do even more for the kids in your classroom.


Read Part 2: Reducing Sensory Distractions.

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