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2   Physical structure

How is the classroom structured for an pupil on the autistic spectrum?

Physical structure in the classroom

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Physical structure refers to the way that we set up and organise each area of the room, where we place the furniture and materials.  Austistic children may know the details, but not how they fit together.


          A          Clear Physical and Visual Boundaries

Boundaries help the child understand where each area begins and ends.  Boundaries help establish context and segments the environment.

A room with well defined boundaries
This is a well defined area for relaxation.


          B          Minimize Visual and Auditory Boundaries 

Help the child focus on the concept and not the details.


          C        Develop Basic Teaching Areas




                    Work   (a) Individual workstation (one to one)

One to one teaching station

                                 (b) Independent workstation

Independent workstation

Every autistic child is unique.  They range from prodigious speakers to the non-verbal, from very disruptive to quiet and reserved.  Each child must be assessed on their own merits.  Some will need more physical structure than others. 

Here are some examples of children who will need a high degree of physical structure.

                    the child who runs with a spade of sand the length of the room and deposits it in the bookcase.

                    The child who incessantly goes to the toilet to flush and turn on the water.

                    The child who climbs in inappropriate places.

                    The child who is so distracted by the environment that he/she cannot focus or stay at one activity.

                    The child who opens and shuts doors at every opportunity.

                    The child who constantly tries to leave the room.

                    The child who is intolerant of others either invading his space or touching what he considers to be his.


For more information on Structured Teaching go to 
Division TEACCH
University of North Carolina


Introduction * Deficits of autism * Five Reasons for using structure
* Five elements of structure * routines * physical structure
* daily schedules * individual work systems * visual structure
* www links