Strategies for Classroom Management

This information is sourced from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Programming for Individual Needs : Teaching Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (2003)

Provide a structured, predictable classroom environment

A structured, predictable environment is not to be confused with an authoritarian approach. The environment should be structured in order to provide consistency and clarity, so that students know where things belong, what is expected of the min a specific situation, and can anticipate what comes next.

Provide a customized visual daily schedule

The individualized schedule for a student with ASD should fit comfortably into the overall classroom schedule. Vary tasks to prevent boredom, and alternate activities to reduce anxiety and possibly prevent some inappropriate behaviours. For example, alternate familiar, successful experiences with less preferred activities. Large group activities may be alternated with opportunities for calming down in a quiet environment. Incorporating physical activity and exercise throughout the day is helpful. Planned activities can be charted in a visual form and posted at or near the desks of students with ASD so that they can understand changes in activities and know what to expect. The student can be helped to learn to use the schedule independently. Staff can direct the student to the schedule when it is time to change activities ,which should smooth the transition times

Note aspects of the tasks and activities that create frustration

Examine the instructional plan and non-instructional activities for problem areas that may result in sensory overload or frustration for the student. Accompany sensory experiences that are calming for the student with potentially frustrating tasks. Adapt tasks and materials to promote successful participation. Decrease environmental distractors and reduce activities that confuse, disorient, or upset the student and interfere with learning.

Provide relaxation opportunities and areas

A calm, quiet, designated area where the student can go to relax can be helpful. Relaxing for some students with ASD may mean engaging in repetitive behaviours that have a calming effect on them. In some cases ,students who crave certain repetitive movement, such as rocking or other self-stimulating movements, can be provided with a time and space where this movement is permitted. This could be included as an activity in the student’s schedule. Other relaxation techniques to help students may include counting to 10, taking deep breaths, as well as tensing and relaxing muscles

Provide opportunities for meaningful contact with peers who have appropriate social behaviour

Students with ASD must be taught appropriate social behaviour and provided with situation-specific expectations for behaviour.Opportunities for contact with peers may include:

  • involving the student in shared learning arrangements
  • pairing the student with buddies for walking down the hall, on the playground playing games, and during other unstructured time
  • varying peer buddies across time and activities, to prevent dependence on one student
  • involving peers in providing individualized instruction
  • arranging cross-age peer supports/buddies by assigning an older student to assist the student with ASD
  • pairing students while attending special school events such as assemblies and clubs
  • facilitating involvement in after-school or extracurricular activities

If your school has an arrangement in which a class of older students is paired with a younger class, ensure that the older student with ASD is also paired, and provide the necessary supports for success.

Plan for transitions and prepare the student for change

Students with ASD often find changes in activity, setting, or planned routine stressful. Visual schedules can be used to help them understand and co-operate with necessary changes. Social stories with illustrations can also be used to prepare the student for new situations.

Consider the impact of sensory factors

An inventory of possible sensory factors can help minimize the negative effect that sensory information may have on students with ASD. Parents and others who have experience with the student are valuable sources of information about sensory difficulties. Here are some questions to ask and points to consider when developing an inventory:


  • Are there fans, loudspeakers, fire alarms, several people talking at once, air conditioners, bells, dogs barking, or scraping?
  • What is the general sound level and the predictability and repetitiveness of sounds?
  • What can be done to minimize the negative effect these stimuli may have on the student with ASD in the class?
  • What is the individual’s comprehension of verbal information?
  • What is the time typically required by the student to process auditory information and/or to shift attention between auditory stimuli?


  • Are there distractors, such as light, movement, reflection or background patterns, that affect the student’s ability to attend to the learning activity?
  • What is the eye level of the student ,the position of the teacher in relation to the student, and the distractors that may interfere with attention?
  • How much time is required to shift visual attention?
  • What effort is given to reducing the effects of aversive visual stimuli, so that the management of the student’s behaviour is facilitated, and his ability to learn is enhanced?


  • Are there textures that seem to be abrasive?
  • Are temperatures appropriate to minimize negative effect on the student?
  • Does the student demonstrate a need to explore through touch, and yet avoid being touched?
  • What is the level of ability or defensiveness in the use of certain objects intended to support instruction?


  • How is the student’s need to move and exercise accommodated?
  • What are the individuals reactions to movement?
  • How can the students program incorporate needed movement without unduly jeopardizing the attention and learning of other students in the class?

Gustatory and olfactory:

  • What are the students preferences in taste and smell with foods and other materials?
  • How are the students responses to the smell of materials incorporated into decisions made about activities?

-What is the appropriate behaviour, as affected by these smell preferences, suitable to teach for snack or mealtimes?

A number of resources outline multi-sensory activities to target tactile, vestibular and proprioceptive development. Strategies based on sensory integration theory can accommodate sensory needs and help prevent some inappropriate behaviours .Input from an audiologist and/or an occupational therapist may be helpful.

This information is sourced from the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Programming for Individual Needs : Teaching Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (2003)