A DAY IN AU {Morning Routines: Unpacking}

For students with autism, the ultimate goal is complete independence. As teachers, we really need to push our students to do functional activities (like unpacking their things) on their on through routine, structure, visuals and work systems. Because we split our kids up at pick-up time, we are able to spend the time needed in the morning to work on unpacking and bathroom goals, as well as reinforcing student schedules.

Our students are SO CAPABLE and sometimes it takes us a while to realize their true capabilities because we are too quick to assist them. Now I will admit, I am the first one to give into helping a student hang up their book bag, unzip their jacket, etc. when I am in a hurry to get the day started, but what will happen when that student doesn’t have me right there to help?

At the beginning of the year, our younger students did require a lot of hand over hand assistance to put away their things. Some of our students just don’t have the fine motor development yet to unzip their bookbag or jacket. Instead of doing everything for them while they stood there, we really try to “make” them do it with their own hands while we guide them with ours (hence – hand over hand). Now, as students make progress, the level of prompting has gone down. They know what to do and where things go, and some just require either verbal or visual cues or gestures like pointing to prompt them. We try to give them a lot of time to figure it out before we prompt, so they don’t wait for us to prompt them to do everything, but do it independently.

For some of our kids, we have a small “work system” along their cubbies with visuals for the steps of unpacking in the morning. Through this system, we can point to the picture of what he or she needs to do rather than verbally give directions. The student can remove the picture as he or she completes the activity. Unfortunately, I don’t have a close up of these work systems; however, you can sort of see them in the picture of cubbies below. For some students still learning PECS, I use real pictures taken of their items (bookbag, lunchbox, folder, bathroom)

Here is a list of what is generally included:

-sign in 
-check schedule card

Some students require all the pictures, some only require a few for reminders, and some require no pictures at all to unpack. In the above picture, you can see the student cubbies with the unpacking work system strips beside the cubbies. Sorry I didn’t take a better close up picture!

After the student has unpacked, they are to use the restroom and sign-in on the Promethean board, and then they are to check their schedules. For students that still need prompting to check their schedules, we use check schedule cards. This is a way to remove verbal directions from the equation and helps our students to be less dependent on us. We keep these cards at the front of the room at the bottom of our master schedule.

Our daily sign-in “sheet”
Students trace or write their names and move their picture by it. 

Check Schedule Cue Card

Color coded system: In our classroom, each student is assigned a color. These student remain this color all year, and usually the entire time they are a student in this classroom (K-3). For example, “Johnny” is the color blue. Johnny’s schedule is blue, his cubby name is clue, his footprints are blue, any file folder that is his is blue, etc. This organizational system not only helps them, but helps us too. I will explain this in more detail in the “schedules” post.

Once they get to their schedule, whether it be a picture, word, or first/then chart, the first card is MORNING WORK, and is color coded yellow to match the yellow work sign on their desk.

I will be posting all about our morning work system tomorrow and schedules will be later in the series but here are some pictures to show how I set them up.

Enjoy this beautiful Saturday & please contact me if you have any questions!

post signature


  1. Kate on March 2, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    I love the idea of a first then card on a dvd case! I am going to have to do that. Will you be sharing your parent communication folders? I would love to see them!
    Fun in ECSE

    • Mrs. Dixon on March 2, 2014 at 3:55 pm

      Thanks Kate! The DVD cases are great because they can store all the pictures so they are right there. That was my huge struggle with first/then charts because I was always scurrying around to find the pictures for the next activity! I completely forgot about posting the sheet I use for parent communication – I'll have it up soon! 🙂

  2. Christine Reeve on March 2, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    I love the folders for the morning and afternoon schedules. What an awesome idea! Really glad you are doing this series!
    Autism Classroom News
    A Special Sparkle

    • Mrs. Dixon on March 2, 2014 at 3:56 pm

      Thanks, Christine!

      They really help us stayed organized with all their schedule pictures 🙂

  3. Mrs. S on March 15, 2014 at 2:29 am

    This is wonderful! I was wondering if you have any ideas for teaching sequence routines for using the restroom. Some of students will not go unless it is in their schedules, and even still not without their routines. Thank you!

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.