Header/Navigation Bar/Social Media Icons

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Special Education Summer Blog Hop Week 2!

I am so excited to be participating the Special Education Summer Blog Hop hosted by Kyle from kinderspedadventures.blogspot.com!  You will want to tune in each week for the five week series of informative posts from some awesome special education teachers!   This week is all about classroom set-up!

A while back I posted about the physical set-up of my classroom in my series on Structured Teaching.  You can find that post here.  I don't want to duplicate that post, so today I am going to talk about the importance of using Universal Supports when planning the set-up of your SPED classroom.

Universal Supports are strategies designed for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). These are system-wide supports to help educators create an inclusive environment, promote independence, prevent problem behaviours, increase learning opportunities, and assist students in accessing the curriculum.

“Universal” refers to strategies being applicable to the vast majority of students with ASD. They have been proven to be highly effective practices in teaching and supporting students with ASD in integrated and special education environments. Although beneficial for all, the strategies and intensity required are individualized to each student. Overall, they provide students with a solid foundation to learn and access the curriculum (Michigan START project, 2006).

This comprehensive approach was created by the Statewide Autism Resources and Training (START) at Grand Valley State University in Michigan and is based on school-wide positive behaviour support (Michigan START Project, 2006).

Now, even though Universal Supports were designed specifically for students with Autism, they can be applied to many students with special needs.  In my school board we have a saying, "Necessary for some, beneficial for all."  We use this when we talk about evidence-based practices and strategies that have been specifically designed for students with Autism, however, these practices and strategies can be used for many students with a variety of special needs and in a variety of classrooms (regular, special education, etc.).

There are six Universal Supports that I am going to discuss today:
  • Functional Communication
  • Visual Supports
  • Instructional Strategies
  • Classroom Supports
  • Peer Supports 
  • Consistent Behaviour Programming

Functional Communication is a method of communication that allows a student to communicate his or her wants and needs. Communication is not only the spoken word, but includes the use of pictures, gestures, and technology to communicate. If a student does not use speech, he or she will require an individualized and appropriate method to express needs and desires.

A student with ASD who uses speech may not have functional communication. For example, he or she may have a large repertoire of words but is unable to ask to go to the washroom. Some students who use communication systems may also have difficulty.  Their communication device may be understood only by the teacher or Educational Assistant (EA), or their device may not be portable.

Research has shown that if a student does not have an efficient way to communicate his or her wants and needs, challenging behaviours may appear. Success for students with ASD is associated with the ability to engage in functional, spontaneous communication (McEachrin, Smith, & Lovaas, 1993).

Questions to consider when setting up your classroom:

1. Does the student use an effective method of communication to get his or her wants and needs met?
2. Does the student communicate in all environments (i.e., library, gym, classroom)?
3. Can supply staff understand the student’s communication method?

Visual Supports are supports to enhance a student’s understanding of communication. Speech is fleeting, and messages disappear once spoken. Visual supports are stable over time, so they are available as long as needed for interpretation (Surrey Place Centre, 2008). In addition, students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) have demonstrated a stronger understanding of visual information compared to auditory (Hodgdon, 1995).

The format of visual supports vary depending on the interests and abilities of the student.
Visual supports can include the written word, line drawings, picture symbols, photographs, miniature objects, or real objects. Visual supports should be similar and as easy to use as those commonly used by peers (e.g., agendas, checklists, reminder notes, iPods, pictures for primary students, text for students who can read, binders for adolescents, etc.) (McClannahan & Krantz, 1999). Visual strategies are most effective when they are used independently and across all environments.

Questions to consider when setting up your classroom:

1. Are visual schedules displayed and used independently by the student?
2. Are visual strategies used to help the student with pro-social behaviour and social skills?
3. Are visual strategies used to display work expectations and enhance student motivation?

Effective Instructional Strategies that are tailored towards students with Autism
Spectrum Disorder (ASD) help promote task completion and decrease challenging behaviour.  It is important that instructional strategies are individualized to each student’s current skill level. 

Research has shown that instructional strategies based on Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) are effective for students with ASD. “ABA can be used to increase positive behaviours, teach new skills, maintain behaviours, generalize or transfer behaviour from one situation to another, [and] restrict or narrow conditions under which interfering behaviour occurs” (Ministry of Education, 2007, p. 53).  The goal is to fade adult supports, and increase system-based supports, such as the use of visual strategies to allow the student to independently complete academic and social tasks.

To promote student success, provide various means for learning, incorporate specific interests or motivators, and break skills into small teachable components. The ultimate goal is for the student to access the curriculum or alternative program to attain the required skills to have a high quality of life and be an integrated member.

Questions to consider when setting up your classroom:

1. Is the curriculum/alternative program accessible for the student in all areas?
2. Does the student have various ways to demonstrate learning?
3. Are the student’s interests and motivators identified and incorporated into lessons and activities across the day?

Classroom Supports:  Having a student with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the classroom may require additional support to ensure he or she is an active participant. This can be difficult for the classroom staff. Prioritizing goals, establishing routines, scheduling regular team meetings, and identifying roles and responsibilities will promote a team approach to create opportunities for the student to access the curriculum as appropriate.

Consider communicating amongst team members: important classroom routines, the educator’s teaching style, personal space issues, and location of team members’ desks in the classroom. Identify the team’s training needs early in the school year to increase the team’s ability to meet the needs of the student with ASD and promote his or her independence.

Questions to consider when setting up your classroom:

1. Have classroom team roles and responsibilities been defined?
2. Does the team agree on guiding principles and support one another with consistent practice?
3. Has the team determined when the student requires support and independence?

Peer Supports:  Using social skills appropriately in multiple settings can be difficult for a student with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Typical social skills deficits include difficulties with: reciprocity, initiating interactions, sharing enjoyment, empathy, and inferring the interests of others (APA, 1994). Many individuals with ASD desire social involvement, however, they typically lack the necessary skills to interact effectively.

An effective strategy to teach social interaction is a peer-mediated intervention. This involves training peers in social skills and how to interact with the student with ASD. Social skills training, however, is still required for the student with ASD. Once peers are taught how to interact in formal and natural situations, this enhances the number and quality of potential interactions.

Questions to consider when setting up your classroom:

1. Are there opportunities throughout the day for the student to interact with peers?
2. Have peers been taught how to interact with the student?
3. Are peers coached daily on how to interact with the student in natural situations?

Consistent Behaviour Programming:  Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has been associated with behaviour that is challenging for educators. The first five universal supports create an environment and educational program that promote pro-social behaviour, learning, and communication for students with ASD. This last component focuses on preventing challenging behaviours that may remain.

A comprehensive educational program for students with ASD includes strategies to prevent challenging behaviour based on evidence informed assessment and data. Consistent behaviour programming emphasizes important preventative strategies for educators to use on a daily basis. These strategies reduce the likelihood of the need for a behaviour support plan.  The resulting decrease in challenging behaviour will lead to an increase in the student’s on-task behaviour while promoting access to the curriculum.

Questions to consider when setting up your classroom:

1. Are programming decisions based on data and evidence-informed assessment?
2. Are preventative strategies used to address the student’s challenging behaviour?
3. Is the student reinforced for demonstrating new skills and desired behaviours?

I find that reviewing the universal supports is useful, whether you are a first year teacher, or a seasoned veteran!  Every year, I review them to ensure that I have everything in place for my students, especially when I have new students or staff coming in to my classroom.  I also use them when students transition out of my classroom to assist their new school team with ensuring that they have everything in place.  Reviewing these supports on an ongoing basis ensures that you will have a successful school year for both staff and students.

I have made a printable planning kit based on the Universal Supports that you can download (for free!) in my TPT store.

Do you have any tools or kits that you use to help you plan the set-up of your classroom?  I'd love to hear about them!  Leave me a comment below!

And don't forget to hop over to Special Little Learner's blog to find out how she sets up her SPED classroom!

Until next time,


  1. I love that you use Universal Supports to design your classroom! That makes everything about your room so much more intentional. Thanks, too, for the freebie. I look forward to downloading it and reading it. I know I'll find great ideas that I need to add to my classroom this year!
    Mrs. H's Resource Room

  2. I love this post! I like the program and how you wrote about it!! Thanks so much for sharing it.
    Autism Classroom News

  3. I have a fondness for your post. I think that you are very smart and knowledgeable. Your articles contain so much insight and information. They help me when I need to solve problems. Thank you for sharing what you know. đăng ký gói cước B30 Đăng ký gói MAXSV2 Học sinh sinh viên , Đăng ký gói cước VD300

  4. Thank you for your sharing articles. I have been finding interesting posts and your articles are what I need. They are really useful and engaging. They are precious pieces of advice. I can branch out with new knowledge. Learn captivating things. Hope you will upload more me.Discount master apps shopify Discount master

  5. While confused about the methods used to treat water, the disturbance of the product also makes it impossible for people to believe that their decision is true or not. Their desired water quality is solved when the purchased water purifier can not determine the origin of the water. There are too many brands to choose, many products with the same model, but the price difference again large, ...
    gái gọi, gai goi ha noi, gai goi cao cap, Gái gọi Xã Đàn, Đống Đa

  6. I accidentally read this and it really made me think. I will have to work hard to make my website useful and more popular. Everyone please refer to offline !!! thank you very much
    Product discount master
    Product discount master app

  7. This post really attracts me from the first minute I know it, share it extensively so that more people know it, I think it is very necessary for all of us, thanks for reading it. this comment of mine.
    https://bit.ly/2y8RMwK , https://bit.ly/2QslLr4, autoketing.com

  8. I am very interested in this post, let's discuss it because I think there will be a lot of opinions and different views on it, let's share it so that we can receive it properly in the best way.
    Shipping Bar for Shopify, App Shipping Bar Master, autoketing

  9. It is a good source of information, people should know more about this site, share it with others, I would like to discuss it too, thank you for posting this post. This really helps a lot.
    currency converter box
    currency converter box app

  10. The small kitchen accessories such as the hanging bar can bring great use. In addition to providing a neat little kitchen, these accessories help you dry the appliance more easily. Besides, if these accessories are attached to the lamp will look extremely luxurious and convenient for the kitchen. However, Thu Anh Kitchen Cabinets recommend that you do not overdo the hanging bars that will make the kitchen mess, the places should hang hooks like between the sink and the cupboard, the position to take advantage of the corner ...
    gai goi sinh vien, Gái gọi qua đêm, gái gọi Cầu Giấy, Xuân Thủy, Gái gọi Giảng Võ, Gái gọi Đào Tấn


  11. This is great, this post gives me a lot of information and opens up my knowledge, let's discuss this issue, I'm very excited, thanks so much for posting it.
    facebook inbox messages, facebook chat login, best autoketing

  12. This is really a great and useful article for me, I think it is also very necessary for many people, we should visit it regularly.
    email with love, email app download, best autoketing app

  13. People should know more about your article, it's really great, it's worth the time to read it.
    friv 4 school 2017 free games, abcya club games boys, friv 2018 for school

  14. I like this post because it contains a lot of useful information to read, maybe everyone will like me.
    apple shooter interesting games, madalin stunt cars 2 free online juegos, happy wheels good games for kids

  15. This is a great source of information, I will keep track of your posts and share them with everyone.
    Decorating For Christmas games online, Gold Diggers Adventure free online, Cyber City for kids

  16. Anyone who reads this post will find it great, me too, I will continue to follow your posts.
    Wheelie Challenge 2 interesting games online, Hobin Rood free online games, Icy Purple Head for school to play

  17. I admire the person who wrote this post, you are so talented, hope you will promote them and become more successful. I do not feel sorry for taking the time to read this post, it is really nice and useful to me, thanks for posting it.
    free kizi Games, pbs Games for boys, jogos friv gratis


  18. food games online
    basketball games 2019
    soccer games online
    dmire the person who wrote this post, you are so talented, hope you will promote them and become more successful. I do not feel sorry for taking the time to read this post, it is really nice and useful to me, thanks for posting it.
    free kizi Games, pbs Games for boys, jogos friv gratis

  19. Took me time to read all the comments, but I really enjoyed the article. It proved to be Very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commenters here! It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained!
    jogo io jogar
    frivgame 2019
    2player games for kids

  20. Took me time to read all the comments, but I really enjoyed the article. It proved to be Very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commenters here! It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained!
    miniclip jogos free,
    play free a10 game,
    jogos para crianças

  21. Given that Ben was only 39 when he wrote this letter, he seems to have already amassed considerable mistress experience, getting an early start by fathering a son out of wedlock when he was 24. His presumably-long-suffering wife raised the child in her own home.
    online games free
    jogos friv 4 school 2019
    jogos online 360

  22. For my husband and I and our children, we all have a considerable distance to travel to get to the church. From Dubai for Peter and I and 2 of our children in Australia and Northern Ireland. This means we need accommodation either near the church or the reception and often in areas of the country we are unfamiliar with.
    io jogo
    play friv


Recommendations by Engageya