November Newsletter | Independent Work Success

Working independently is one of the most important skills to foster in students with autism and other developmental disabilities. Independent work is beneficial to students at all learning levels because it offers each child the opportunity to exercise ownership of their work. Here are some tips to help you make independent work time a success for all of your students. Read the following tips on how to use the free resources at the end of this article!

Consider your students’ individual learning levels 

The purpose of independent work can differ greatly from student to student. For early learners, the primary goal of independent work is to gain the skill of sitting and working independently. Intentionally teach the student how to complete the task during a period of teacher-directed time, prior to putting it in the student’s independent work bins. For a student working at this level, all tasks in the independent work system should be tasks that they’ve already mastered. At a more advanced level, on the other hand, students are working on generalizing skills they’ve learned in other areas of the classroom, including DT, PRT and classroom routines. Use the Student Learning Profile (SLP) or Links Assessment to identify mastered skills that can be used to teach the independent work routine (e.g. assembling puzzles, matching numbers, completing simple play routines, etc.).

For advanced students, consider using independent work time as an opportunity to teach them to request help when needed (an important skill in the general education environment). For example, you could “forget” to include a pencil to complete writing tasks, thereby setting the child up to advocate for their needs. Be sure to consider the flexibility and temperament of the student prior to intentional sabotage, since the goal is to teach them how to meet their needs—not to frustrate them. 

Streamline independent work systems in your classroom

Get everyone on the same page with a consistent process that functions well both for students and staff in your classroom. Independent work systems provide students with the visual and environmental supports they need to complete work independently. They answer student questions like . . .

  • "What do I need to do?"
  • "How much work and in what order?"
  • "How do I know when I'm finished?"
  • "What do I do next?"

With this in mind, we designed the Routine Essentials Independent Work suite to provide teachers with practical tools to help implement independent work systems and support their students in reaching success. It can be overwhelming to set up new systems in your classroom when you’re already running low on resources and time. So, in addition to tip sheets and step-by-step guides, you can find tons of photos, illustrations, diagrams, and printable supports to make your own system work for your students’ unique needs. 

Choose independent work tasks wisely

When it comes to picking specific tasks for students to complete, consider activities that will make independent work a successful learning experience for each individual student. Identify preferred tasks for students to increase the likelihood of compliance. Make considerations for things like fine motor difficulties to ensure students are facing tasks that they can physically complete on their own. Create your own tasks customized to your students’ needs or choose from STAR and Links independent work tasks designed for students at a variety of learning levels. STAR and Links monthly themed activities include:

  • Task boxes
  • File folder tasks
  • Worksheets

Want to try? Use the task box activities for primary school students at levels one through three and the "How to Do My Work" visual for supporting older students in completing a self-guided individual assignment.

Find these and other curriculum materials in the 
Theme's First! section of the STAR Media Center.

For older students, a variety of independent work tasks 
are available in our Links Routine Teaching Units. 

Have you used the new independent work templates? Let us know what you think. Please take 2 minutes to complete this 5 question survey so that we can continue to improve the practical tools we provide for teachers!