Routines and Relationships: Strategies from GWAEA’s Autism Team

The Autism Team would like to highlight two strategies: Routines and Relationships! Routines and relationships are both key to classroom management for all — and this is especially true for students with Autism.

Routines and Visuals 

Establishing routines and presenting them visually help direct student focus and engagement. Without them, students may spend a significant amount of time and/or energy wondering, remembering, or worrying about what will (or won't) come next! When students are spending time/energy recalling and/or wondering about routines, it may appear to staff as though they are engaging in unexpected and/or challenging behavior (refusal, for instance.) We can support all students by providing visual representations of routines!

  • Definition: A routine is a series of specific steps that occur in the same order every time, and is repeated over and over again.
  • Examples May Include: lining up, lunch routines, getting dressed for recess, finding a partner, transitions (to carpet, specials, etc,) and more
  • Important: When teaching routines, it’s important to explicitly teach them and provide guided practice. The routines should remain consistent, the visual available at all times, and the visual referenced during the routine. While many routine visuals can eventually be faded, many students will continue to use (and benefit from) them for extended periods of time.

Five Strategies to Build Relationships

We know relationships are key, but it can sometimes be hard to know where to start. Here are five strategies that can go a long way in building relationships:

  1. 2x10 (a team favorite!)
    Here’s how it works: For two minutes per day for 10 consecutive school days, give the target student your full attention and talk to them only about something they are interested in (not related to school.)
    Read More: "The Two Minute Relationship Builder" from ASCD
  2. Greet students at the door. Use their name, have a brief positive interaction, and direct them to their first activity.
    More information about this strategy (from PBIS) can be found here: Positive Greetings At The Door
  3. Carefully provide praise. Survey your students to find out how they prefer to receive praise, and use that method to praise them. Public praise can be very uncomfortable for some students and, therefore, harm the student-teacher relationship.)
    A survey like thisHow Can I Tell You I’m Proud” survey can help identify which methods your student(s) prefer!
  4. Offer choices in lieu of demands.
    Become a master of offering controlled choices using this infographic from BIAS.
  5. Beef up the nonverbal communication strategies (especially during challenging moments.)
    1. Sit next to the student instead of across from them.
    2. Use calm, neutral tones.
    3. Get on their level to talk with them.
    4. BONUS: When a student doesn’t respond verbally, do not take it as a sign of disrespect.