Setting up structured work systems correctly can be the difference between busy work and teaching meaningful independence. Independent work systems are an evidence-based practice for students with autism, but they are very helpful for any student who needs some structure to be able to work on his or her own. Reasons that they could be used in your classroom can be found in previous blog posts.
Structured work systems originated with the TEACCH program and can be used across the ages. However, as with any evidence-based practice, we have to make sure they are being implemented accurately.
Here are 10 things to remember when using work systems.
The Ten Commandments of Structured Work Systems
- Students work from left to right (it’s a literacy thing).
- Students have a place to put their work when it’s finished (this avoids the student taking her work apart and redoing it).
- The system only contains the work that needs to be done (no extra pieces).
- Work stays completed going into the finished basket (so teachers can check and students value their product).
- Use nonverbal prompts only to teach the skill (makes it easier to fade support).
- Tasks have clear beginnings and ends to the student (they have to know where to start and when it’s over)
- The systems contain ONLY mastered work (it can’t be independent if they can’t do it on their own).
- Students never see staff disassembling their work (it demeans their efforts).
- They must be tasks that don’t require a partner (again, has to be independent).
- Change the tasks at least weekly (or it gets boring).
Work systems can be used to meet many of the areas of the common core curriculum based on the tasks that are included in them. Information on the evidence base for the systems themselves and resources for implementation can be found be found at the following links:
http://www.autisminternetmodules.org/mod_intro.php?mod_id=6 (requires a free login)
In our book, Building Independence: How to Create and Use Structured Work Systems (affiliate link–see disclosure statement for more information)
And my Pinterest page where I post ideas for work tasks (drchrisreeve)
If you haven’t used work systems before, I created elementary and secondary starter kits that you can purchase through my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. Click the cover to check them out.
Looking for tasks for setting up structured work systems? Check out these bundles!