Independent Work Sessions

How to set up an independent work area in the home for special needs students this summer

Summer is here and, for many, the daily routines associated with the school day have stopped for a period of time. Families often scramble to find the right fit for young autistic children. With more “open” leisure time, families work to find the right kinds of programs that offer structured activities appropriate for their child's individual needs.

Skills acquired during the school year may become lost or rusty by summer’s end. It might be helpful to your child to set up an independent work table in the home (or encourage the summer program to do so if possible).

This type of structured activity can not only reinforce Independent action but will maintain skills already learned during the past school year. Consistency which allows routines to develop is important. Use activities that you know your child has mastered. We are not teaching new activities but are reinforcing the whole concept of independence which is critical for future success in school and work.

The set-up is as follows:

  • Designate a table and chair as the Independent Work Table. It should be the only activity done in this setting. If that is not physically possible, use a tablecloth to cover the table. When it is on the table, then Independent Work is happening.


  • Place the activities on the child's left. Work routinely flows in a left to right direction.


  • Have a basket or shelf to the child's right where finished work can be placed and later checked for accuracy.


  • Place an activity or visual symbol of an activity your child loves to do on the upper right hand corner of the table. This is the “what's next” activity and should be one that is highly motivating.


  • When the child finishes all the work and places it in the finished area, s/he then goes to the “what's next” activity (i.e. computer) or does it at the work table for a defined period of time.


This can be a valuable time for both child and parent. It does require set-up and it is recommended to work during the same general time/s each day. What I have described here is the most basic set-up. For information on setting up other types of work systems contact me at .





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