Set Up An Independent Work System At Home For Your Child With Autism

Benefits of independent work systems:  

Independent work systems are evidence-based practice for students with autism, but they are very helpful for any child who needs some structure to be able to work on his or her own.

Most children benefit from structure in their environment

My son who started Kindergarten, now has homework so I set up a structured work system so he has somewhere in the house dedicated to completing his homework.

Special education classrooms use a variation of these work systems and supports to help teach independence and provide structure.

♥ I want to share this technique and show how easy this independent work system is to create and use at home. Even if you don’t work with an autism specialist or have in-home Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapist, this is something you can create with a quick trip to the dollar store and moving around some furniture.

Materials Needed: 

  1. small table and chair set
  2. low table or shelf to put the bins on (see my red small table)
  3. 3 clear plastic bins

4. index cards to write numbers 1,2,3 and create a schedule strip. If you child doesn’t know how to identify numbers, you can use matching stickers. Some children will need to physically match them to know what is next, but others will look at the schedule to know what comes next.

Schedule Strip

5. All done (Finished) bin. I used a large black wicker basket but many people use plastic laundry baskets.

Research Based:

Independent structured work systems originated with the TEACCH program.  TEACCH® Autism Program, was founded by Dr. Eric Schopler in 1972.

TEACCH developed the intervention approach called “Structured TEACCHing”, an array of teaching or treatment principles and strategies based on the learning characteristics of individuals with ASD, including strengths in visual information processing, and difficulties with social communication, attention, and executive function.  In response to this profile of strengths and challenges, Structured TEACCHing includes:

  1. External organizational supports to address challenges with attention and executive function
  2. Visual and/or written information to supplement verbal communication
  3. Structured support for social communication

Important points to know about structured work systems: 

  • Each task must have a clear beginning and end. One example is a worksheet which is clearly done when it is all complete or a puzzle.
  • The main point of this work system is to promote independence so work should be previously mastered skills not new concepts to teach. New ideas can be worked on together then put in the work zone to practice. For example, teach the letter R and make sure your child can write it independently, then put the worksheet of letter R in the bin to work on independently. Letter R
  • Set up the work system from left to right (like literacy)
  • Have a “finished” bin for all work to go in. I used a large black basket (see pic.). Many people use plastic laundry bins.
  • Try to use non-verbal supports to this area remains an independent area. All help and prompts are easier to “fade” or get rid of when they are non-verbal.

After you set this up, teach your child how to use it, you can enjoy a few minutes of peace and quiet as they learn to work independently.

Check out the TEACCH website here: TEACCH website to learn more…

My son working on his homework in his independent work system! 🙂

Great free product to get you started in setting up an independent work system

With gratitude,


Set Up An Independent Work System At Home For Your Child With Autism

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