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Posted on April 9, 2017

Our Education Specialist began making these classroom grids with, amongst  others, our Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) users in mind. Given that it is Autism Awareness Month, Kerry thought she’d finish them off to share them with you – and give you some more ideas about how to use Grid 3 in the classroom!

classroom grids

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Breaking information into manageable chunks

The right classroom supports can be so beneficial for students with ASD. It can really help organise their environment and help them make sense of the school day, reducing anxiety and therefore enabling them to engage more with classroom activities. The sample grids in this grid set are focused around organisation of information, and the different ways we can present it and/or break it down to make it manageable.

We all benefit from being able to organise information and break it down into manageable chunks, and we all present that information to ourselves in different ways be it lists, bullet points, spider diagrams, flow charts and so on. Finding the right way of organising information is important, as is recognising the right amount of information to present to individuals. Quite often, less is more. With Grid 3 you can choose to have as much or as little information as you want on each grid. You can use jump cells to link grids together so you can easily move through and between grids.

Whilst I have aimed these supports at the classroom they could easily be adapted for use at home or in a variety of settings.

Visual Timetables

Visual timetables, as the name suggests, offer a visual way of organising information with the use of symbols or other pictures as supports. These supports help reinforce the text, and make items easy to decode and recognise on the timetable – making the timetable simple to use and process.

The idea would be that a visual timetable does not have a heavy cognitive load. It is not overwhelming and it uses familiar and consistent pictorial and/or text support. This grid set has two visual timetables.

Visual Timetable – Finished

complex visual timetable

This first visual timetable is the more complex of the two, in terms of how it is made and the amount of information portrayed. It can be easily adapted to change or display less information however. This grid is for users who prefer to see something ticked off after it has been completed, but also need to know where that item sits in terms of the big picture of events.

Each item therefore, does not disappear after it has been ticked off – but it does show a check mark and the word ‘finished’ next to it, to show it is done with. There is also a verbal reinforcement of ‘Circle time is… finished’ spoken after each item is ticked.

For a lot of users, there will be too much information on this grid at one time so I would suggest you edit it for individual users. You may want to break the information across two grids – morning on one grid for example, and afternoon on the other. I’d suggest you do this by making a copy of this grid in edit mode under the ‘Grid Set’ tab, and then editing each grid accordingly.

Visual Timetable – Simple

simple visual timetable

This simpler version of a visual timetable has less items on the grid. Rather than adding ticks (and therefore more information) to represent a finished item, items are greyed out reducing the amount of information on the screen. I’ve also broken up the information more in this grid, separating AM and PM by rows rather than columns.

This grid utilises the new single activation command which is really easy to set up and use. As with other grids, it can be easily edited to change the content.

Again, this grid may still contain too much information for some users. You could break it down beyond AM and PM to Now-Next-Then, or even First-Then with just one lesson after each heading. This might be where you could add in some jump cells, to effectively split the timetable across multiple pages and really reduce the amount of information on the screen.

First/Then Choice

making choices

This is a simple First-Then grid. First-Then is a common way of breaking down information into two sections, and providing the timing of each activity – what is happening first and what will happen after that. It is also often called Now-Next rather than First-Then. The idea behind First-Then charts is that they present a small amount of information at a time, for users who are unable to manage larger strings of information.

The Choice Grid is really simple. Each cell on the grid reads the content of that cell if you need it to, so provides a verbal support/vocalisation for students when making their choice. This also provides verbal reinforcement for the facilitator when selecting the cells.

This grid would be equally as useful as a printout, given to the student as a visual reminder and choice sheet to point at their chosen activity. As with the other grids, the idea behind this is that the information is provided in manageable chunks.

Star Chart

star chart

Reward charts work for many students as a way of motivating them to either maintain positive behaviour, work, an activity and so on, in order to receive a reward. This could be a sticker, note home or a choice of activity for example – or the number of stars on the chart themselves could be the reward. Individuals will be motivated in different ways. However you use the stars, they offer a visual representation of the reward and progress towards it. These can be presented as individual, group or class charts.

Stars may not be the thing but again, as with the other grids this can be edited. The idea behind this grid is that the stars represent working towards something – in this case free choice time. As each star is selected/rewarded, it is greyed out on the screen to show the user how many more stars they need to earn the reward. The final star plays a little ta-da fanfare but this can be removed if it will be too much of a distraction for some students. I’ve put four students on one grid but you could choose to have more or less students shown on the grid. This grid again, uses the new single activation command.

Low tech resources

One last thing to add would be the value of using printed copies of the grids as well as having them onscreen. Students can have their own personal copy where appropriate, can mark items off on their copy as well as the copy on the screen – to give them ownership of the activity and to reinforce what is happening on the interactive whiteboard.

I really hope that these grids prove a useful tool in the classroom, and spark some ideas or different and new ways to use grid 3 as an education support beyond AAC.

I’m sure many of you will be making fab resources that would be relevant for our users with ASD, so please share your resources via the Smartbox Community group on Facebook and Online Grids.


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