Does your autism classroom have “good bones?”

Eventually teachers will get back into their autism classroom. A lot of things in each room will be different. It has a lot to do with preferences and personalities.

In spite of that, there are some essentials that will need to be there to help students orient to their new environments. These essentials are essential, no matter what other kinds of classroom supports or decorations you need.

I admit. . . I’m a fan of HGTV
Watching Chip & Joanna fix up homes to create wonderful transformations is a favorite. They often talk about homes that have “good bones.” Did you know classrooms are a bit like that?

A new school year guarantees changes in a student’s life. Some changes may be easier to handle than others. Some new environments will be easier to navigate than others. The question is WHY?

Want to know what good bones are?

Sometimes people will say a house has “good bones.” That means the designer can look past the pink and purple polka-dot wallpaper and orange shag carpeting. What he sees is a great basic floor plan that needs some help.

A classroom can have good bones, too. Basics. Essentials. Things that help students navigate for the fundamentals. Here are some visual essentials that can give a classroom good bones.

Daily Schedule
This is a must have. No arguments. Students need to be told visually what is happening today. This gives them the big picture “He already knows the schedule” is not an excuse. (That statement is usually followed by, “He only has a problem when the schedule changes.” Remember, one of the reasons for the schedule is to tell students about changes.)

Mini Schedules
The daily schedule gives a picture of the whole day. Mini-schedules (visual, of course) break down what will happen during a smaller part of the day. Mini-schedules can describe the routine when going to the library or during a specified activity time. They contain specific information not included in the daily schedule.

Classroom Rules
The rules exist. Are they visual? They need to be. Just a few simple ones. Review them at the beginning of each day. Refer to them regularly as you correct student behavior.

Floor Plan
How is a classroom organized? Can a student tell by looking around where the activity spaces are? Furniture arrangement, tape on the floor or a sign on a table are visual ways to help students know where he is supposed to be.

Signs & Directions
Think about how the outside world communicates important information to us: wait here until it is your turn, stop, go, put your card here, do not touch. . . A few well placed visual prompts can guide students toward appropriate behavior. Aim for the right amount. Don’t go overboard with this.

Go beyond the classroom
Creating a classroom that supports students is not enough. Think about how much time they spend outside of that room.

Where else do they go? Lunch room. . .gym. . .library. . .playground. . . music, art and more. . . Do those places have good bones?

Set a goal for the whole school
Look at the entire school building to identify areas of need. Remember, good bones help all students, not just those with learning challenges. Can you create a whole school building with GOOD BONES?

The school year is just starting
Many school programs are just beginning this month. That’s a perfect time to build your bones. But don’t dismay if you are on another school calendar. Any time is a good time to introduce your visual supports.

One place is to address the “problem areas.” What was a challenge today? Create a visual tool to use tomorrow to solve the problem. It doesn’t need to be hard. Just do it!

The beginning of the school year is a perfect time to think about remodeling student environments. One way to ensure success is to start with good bones.



I want to help YOU get a strong start to your new school year. (Or a strong next step if you are in the middle of your school schedule.) Visual strategies are essential for those with ASD and related learning needs to achieve success.


I’ve created a special VISUALSTRATEGIES BIGGIE BUNDLE to help you do that. Check it out! All the most popular support materials at a great discount.



This bundle will provide what you need to: 

  • Quickly get new staff trained
  • Provide all staff with support and a common goal
  • Engage parents with meaningful training
  • Supply answers to “how to” questions
  • Help students transition to a successful school year
  • Plus lots, lots more

Please share below what your most essential “good bone” is in your classroom!






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