Time Management for Students With ASD Use these organizational ideas to help students with autism transition into middle or high school. School Matters
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School Matters  |   April 01, 2017
Time Management for Students With ASD
Author Notes
  • Gabriella Schecter, MS, CCC-SLP, works full time in a school for grades 6 through 12 in Manhattan. She posts regularly on Instagram (@middleschoolSLP), sharing ideas and activities for this age group. Schecter also contributes posts to The ASHA Leader Blog. middleschoolSLP@gmail.com
    Gabriella Schecter, MS, CCC-SLP, works full time in a school for grades 6 through 12 in Manhattan. She posts regularly on Instagram (@middleschoolSLP), sharing ideas and activities for this age group. Schecter also contributes posts to The ASHA Leader Blog. middleschoolSLP@gmail.com×
Article Information
Special Populations / Autism Spectrum / School-Based Settings / School Matters
School Matters   |   April 01, 2017
Time Management for Students With ASD
The ASHA Leader, April 2017, Vol. 22, 36-37. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM.22042017.36
The ASHA Leader, April 2017, Vol. 22, 36-37. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM.22042017.36
Moving into the upper grades poses challenges for many students. Who doesn’t find juggling multiple classes, notes and assignments difficult?
For students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the transition can be even more complicated. Many grow accustomed to spending most of their time in one classroom. Changing any routine—let alone one occupying a big part of their day—often generates added anxiety. In addition, just the act of moving from class to class with different teachers can overwhelm students with ASD.
Students in middle and high school are expected to keep up with assignments and due dates, manage time effectively, and maintain organized binders and lockers. All of these skills are components of executive functioning (EF). However, many of my students—especially those with ASD—struggle with these exact skills.
Over the years, I discovered and implemented several strategies targeting specific areas to help students with ASD successfully make the change to secondary school.
Google Drive
Students can access assignments from any computer, tablet or even smartphones through Google Drive. Most of my students working on EF goals tend to lose papers, so teaching them to plan and do tasks as Google documents reduces anxiety about losing papers and provides an easy organizational tool. Show students how to set up files for each class and organize assignments by subject. The fewer physical papers students have to track, the less stressed they seem to be.
Planners
Many of my students have forgotten due dates and been blindsided by an exam or project. Using a planner can help students avoid last-minute surprises. For those who prefer to write things down, find a simple portable physical planner. Others may prefer to use a tablet or smartphone. Spend a session showing them how to use their planners and setting up a reminder system.

Show students how to set up files for each class and organize assignments by subject.

Checklists
Some of my students need support planning exact steps to complete a project or essay. For example, when working on writing an introductory paragraph with my students, I always list what to include. They can check off what they complete and see what else they need to do. This approach also breaks assignments into smaller components.
I also have them use checklists for day-to-day activities. Often my students with ASD feel overwhelmed with weekly workloads, so we create daily lists and discuss focusing on one day at a time. Crossing off completed tasks feels rewarding—even for adults. You can also easily create checklists on smartphones.
Backpacks
Encouraging students to check their backpacks regularly can relieve a lot of stress. My students often experience panic attacks when they can’t find a homework assignment or project instructions. I spend many sessions going through folders and helping students determine what they need to keep in their backpacks and what they can take out. We create folders for each class and discuss what goes into each one.
This provides another great opportunity to incorporate technology by setting weekly reminders on any device with a calendar feature for students to clean out their backpacks! If students use physical planners, write down weekly or monthly dates for backpack cleanup.
Timers
Many of my students struggle with the concept of time, especially how to manage time spent on each task. They start with one project, then remember something else and switch to another assignment. Using a timer and helping them set appropriate amounts of time to complete each task keeps them focused and reduces distractions. During a homework session, they can spend the allotted time on one project, followed by a short break, then reset the time for another task.
Post-it notes
My students sometimes feel overwhelmed by the amount of reading assigned to them. When they need to get through a certain number of pages, I often break down the reading into shorter segments by sticking a Post-it at the end of each section. The notes give them a visual of how much they need to read each day rather than feeling anxious about the reading for an entire week.
These are just a few of the strategies I find consistently helpful for my students with ASD who work on executive functioning. Each student is different, however, so what succeeds for some—or even most—might not click for others. Keep trying different approaches or a combination of techniques, and see what best helps each student get organized.
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April 2017
Volume 22, Issue 4