Organizational Strategies for Students with Autism

Posted by Debbie

Jan. 28, 2017 in Classroom

Take that desk and clean it!

Those tiny spaces called desks, have a big job to do. They have to hold notebooks and binders, pencils, paper, crayons, and glue. And, oh yes, a student, too! I don’t know about your kids, but mine shove everything inside of their desks. What doesn’t go in, piles up on top and eventually forms a “paperfall”, where the mounds of paper cascade down the side of the desk. It’s definitely not as scenic as it sounds, but messy, for sure! After way too many of these incidents, I finally thought of a way to help my disorganized young learners.

As our students leave Kindergarten and First Grade, the layout of the classroom may change. Even though many Special Education teachers create their own layout of desks, tables, and chairs to keep their students in designated areas, having individual desks helps to get our students ready to transition to a General Education classroom, if even for a brief period of time. You can teach your students how to be organized learners in both settings with a couple of simple accommodations.


Place two desks together.

This provides a boundary for the student so he or she can understand that this is their designated area. I overlapped the desks a bit and you’ll see why in a moment.

Provide a physical desktop boundary.

Use cardboard to provide a “blocker” to prevent materials from “cascading” over the desk. I used an extra strip of a bulletin board border that was left over from the beginning of the school year. By adding this one simple item to a student’s desk, you’ll rarely see a paper on the floor again!



Use “To Do” and “Finished” desktop stacking baskets or trays.

Because this student found it challenging to leave his area without a paper trail behind him, I found stacking green and red baskets at the local Dollar Tree store. If you catch it at just the right time, you’ll find baskets in every color and size. With Easter approaching, ‘tis the season for baskets! Now, this child never has to leave his area to turn his finished work in, or to retrieve new work! He knows that he can find new work in the green tray, and place finished work in the red tray. At the end of the day, I collect his finished work.




It’s quite amazing how this small accommodation helped organize this student! Here are a few editable labels for you to place on your baskets to help organize your students. Please follow this link, download, and print to use in your classroom today!

For us, an empty desk is a sign of success!

Consider sharing this post with others who may find it valuable.

About Autism Educators

Terrific Tools for Teachers

Work towards mastery of IEP goals with creative, engaging, and classroom-tested learning materials. IEP goals included with every product.

Support for Parents

You'll find helpful resources and materials for your child related to academic, social, communication, and behavior growth.

Our Education Team Members

Our incredible Education Team Members have decades of experience as teachers or parents, and come from all across the globe.