5 Steps to Setting Up Structured Learning Stations at Home
As a parent, you have a significant amount of power when it comes to influencing your child’s education and helping them flourish.
This power comes from the strength and quality of the relationship you have with your child.
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This post is part of a 13 part series. Each post in the series will explain an evidence-based strategy used by professionals for managing behavior with children on the autism spectrum. Each part of this series will contain a table of contents so you can easily navigate to the different strategies.
Table of Contents:
- Strategy 1: Build a Relationship
- Strategy 2: Individualize Motivation
- Strategy 3: Observe, Listen, then Join
- Strategy 4: Optimize Language
- Strategy 5: The Premack Principal
- Strategy 6: Basic Redirect
- Strategy 7: Breaks
- Strategy 8: Picture Rehearsal
- Strategy 9: Add Structure at Home
- Strategy 10: Teach Independence with Prompting
- Strategy 11: Transactional Supports
- Strategy 12: Add Structure to the Learning Environment
This strategy about how to structure learning is based on the TEACCH program (which is a program used at schools all over the country). This program was developed to help students with limited interests who struggle to follow adult-directed routines to be successful.
The TEACCH philosophy focuses on the individual’s strengths to enable the development of independence and supports weaknesses to enable maximum success and reduce stress.
Why Structured Learning Works
Structuring learning based on the TEACCH program is highly successful for six key reasons.
- It helps children with autism to understand expectations.
- It helps children with autism to be calm.
- It’s tailored to suit their individual learning style.
- Structure helps children with autism to achieve independence.
- Structures are a form of behavior management. It teaches your child appropriate behaviors and then generalizes the behavior through visual systems.
- It promotes flexible thinking.
Use in Schools
Independent Work Stations
“Workstations” are commonly used in schools as part of TEACCH. Effective workstations include structure, routine, and visual cues while limiting distractions in order to promote independence, organization skills, and the concepts of working in an ordered manner.
Tasks selected for an independent workstation are those that have been taught by the teacher until mastered by the student. At this point, the student moves to an individual workstation, where work tasks for specific skills are set up in work systems that are comprehensible by the individual with ASD.
A good workstation will show your child:
- What they are expected to do
- How much work they have to do
- How to know when they are finished
- What they need to do next
The Workstation activities will:
- Be at your child’s developmental level insuring a high chance of success with minimal support
- Be naturally interesting to your child, centered around their interests
- Require no organization of materials by your child, they are already set up
- Have limited distractions
- Develop the concept of working in a standardized way – left to right, top to bottom, etc.
Setting Up Workstations Using the TEACCH Philosophy
1. Pace Tasks At Child’s Level
Often, kids with autism need more time to process new information than their typically developing peers. Children should be provided with extra time to complete tasks and should also be given extra time between instruction and expected response, to help ensure their success.
2. Provide Concrete Examples
Children learn Kinesthetically. In other words, they learn best by seeing and doing. A concrete example should be given to supplement all oral instruction. For example, in school a teacher assigning a project should show an example of what the finished product should look like.
At home, for example – if you instruct your child to clean their bedroom, also show them a photo(s) of their bedroom when it’s clean.
3. Introduce New Tasks in a Familiar Environment
Does your child seem to resist trying new activities or learning new skills? Whenever introducing something new to your child, it’s helpful to do it in a familiar environment first (such as at home), before getting them to use that skill under other circumstances or in other environments.
4. Plan for Transitions
Transitions should be carefully and thoughtfully planned. Whether your child is moving between classrooms at school or different areas in the same room, or from home to daycare, daycare to school, and even from one task to the next within a workstation, it is a good idea to prepare the child in advance of the change.
It is also important to prepare any people who may be receiving the child – another parent, caregiver, teacher, etc. All caregivers need to be on the same page and consistent with your child.
5. Use Consistent Cues to Signal Your Child
When the same cues are used consistently and repeatedly with your child, it’s easier for them to learn and follow a routine, and anticipate upcoming activities. For example, playing the same song before
Best Practices for Structuring Learning at Home
When you’re using the TEACHH approach at home there are a few best practices to consider. Following these best practices will ensure the greatest chance of success for your child to practice working independently at home.
This setup is ideal for both homeschooling parents and for those who want to reinforce learning concepts from school.
Creating Workstations At Home:
- Label everything
- Have visual supports
- Have boxes for each activity
- Have every step of the process defined with a visual
- Have a clearly defined way to mark tasks “All Done” – for example an all done bin or folder.
These are just a few items I recommend if you’re creating a workstation at home for your child.
It’s ideal to use a laminator and dry erase markers because your child will complete the same activities multiple times as practice and this will save significantly on paper.
I love the dry erase markers below just because there’s such a large variety of colors.
The velcro pieces can used with a variety of different activities and visual aids so they can be reused again and again.
Free Printable TEACCH Tasks
- I can count task cards
- Letter worksheets (includes printing practice and upper/lower case matching)
- Color and shape sorting
- Big and small sorting
- Addition game (up to 25)
- Number matching practice
- Telling time
- Vocabulary word matches: Macaroni/French fries, hamburger/cereal, pizza/popcorn, eggs/hotdogs
Blanktemplate to create your own matching tasks