Classroom Management




  • CDC reports that 1 in 88 children will be diagnosed with some form of autism by the time they are 8 years old.
  • No two kids with autism are the same.
  • Autistic kids have delayed verbal communication or social interactions. They often don’t make eye contact or have conversations, though may respond when approached.
  • They do best with routines and familiarity.
  • Can be unusually focused on pieces and parts rather than an entire toy or game. Often prefer repetitive activities.
  • Are very passionate about their interests, have great memories and attention to detail, don’t judge others.


  • The main symptom is significant difficulties in social situations. Asperger’s kids have trouble picking up on social cues, body language, and tone of voice.
  • Asperger’s Syndrome is on the Autism spectrum, but Asperger’s kids tend to have normal language and intellectual development and are more apt to make an effort to make friends and engage in social situations and activities with others.
  • No two kids with Asperger’s are alike.
  • Dislike changes in routine, may talk out of turn or say inappropriate things, have trouble with transitions.
  • Have sensitivity to light, sounds, textures.
  • Are persistent, passionate about their favorite interests, don’t lie or intentionally harm others. Have above average intelligence and love facts and information. Often very accepting of others and easily forgiving.

ADD/ADHD- Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

  • Seven to ten percent of the students in any given classroom exhibit strong characteristics of ADD/ADHD and may or may not have been diagnosed. 
  • ADD/ADHD is a condition best known for hyperactivity, but can also have symptoms such as inattentiveness, impulsivity, learning disabilities, distractibility, forgetfulness, and poor organization.
  • Can be overwhelmed by too much information, too many directions or steps, or complicated processes.
  • ADD/ADHD is a spectrum condition. Just like Autism and Asperger’s, people with ADD or ADHD have a wide range of symptoms and impairment. Poor parenting or too much sugar do not cause ADD or ADHD.
  • Many kids with ADD/ADHD are very bright and are very good at “thinking outside the box.” They often are very creative and talented in specific ways. They tend to be ready to take risks, have lots of energy, and like to try new things. They love to help and are very friendly, chatty and eager to do well. 


  • INDIVIDUAL STRATEGIES: What works for one student on one day make not work for the same student on a different day. Talk to the teacher or aide to make sure you understand what each child needs each time you give a lesson. Get to know the kids personally. Figure out what project or art medium inspires them the most. 
  • GETTING THE ATTENTION OF THE CLASS: Find out what strategy the teacher uses to get the students to quiet down and pay attention. Some teachers do a call and response (clapping three times, using a phrase then the kids respond) or a hand signal. Use that same strategy. 
  • TACTILE: Some kids don’t like to be messy or don’t like the feeling of different materials. Clay, chalk pastels, and finger painting can be a challenging to use.
  • LIGHT SENSITIVTY: Never use the strategy of turning the lights on/off rapidly to gain their attention: it is like fireworks going off in their brain. Fluorescent lights are distracting enough with their flickering and buzzing: students do better placed by a natural light source like a window.
  • SOUND SENSITIVITY: Loud noises, fire alarms, etc can be disturbing. Some autistic students find noise canceling headphones helpful.
  • LANGUAGE: Metaphors, sarcasm, facial expressions, and body language can be lost on these students. They are literal, concrete thinkers, and so our language must reflect that so we can be understood.

Example: “Good job.” means nothing. “I like the color you used for your sky.” is better.

Example: “Can you help clean up?” is unclear. “Can you put these paintbrushes in the sink?” is concrete.

  • ONE STEP AT A TIME: Avoid giving too much information at once. This is a good tip for any student. If the project has many steps, giving them all up front can be overwhelming and confusing. Give them what they need to know when they need to know it. Break instructions down and give students time to perform each step. 
  • TRANSITIONS: These students have trouble transitioning from one activity to the next. Give them warnings ahead of time: announce that in 5 minutes it will be time to stop working on their project.
  • MODIFY: Especially in the upper grades, some projects may be too much for some students. Be prepared to modify an art project/medium as necessary.
  • POSITIVE FEEDBACK: All students thrive on specific praise, but these students in particular perform best when they are rewarded for positive behavior. Motivate them by giving a privilege for good work. Ask kids to help with passing out materials, cleaning up, putting things away. Pair them with another child who can help them do the job you’ve asked them to do. Allow students to move around the room. Be specific in your praise about the work they’ve done. Thank them for being helpful or for paying close attention.
  • HAVE ENOUGH HELPERS: Make sure your helpers know which students need extra attention. Be specific about what helps individual students. Some need follow up on the directions to make sure they understood, some need help using the materials, some just need help getting started or finishing up on time.
  • CAN THEY DO IT ON THEIR OWN? In the past, there has been a tug-of-war between having an autistic student do a modified project that they can do entirely on their own vs doing the same project as their peers but with a lot of help from a parent or aide. On the one hand, imagine the pride such a student would feel knowing they could complete this work all on their own! On the other hand, imagine a parent working so hard to have their child belong, only to have a modified art project pointing out yet again that their child is different. There are no easy answers to these questions, but it’s worth some thought.