Sunday, June 18, 2017

Groups: The art of teaching students with special needs how to play well with others!

To negotiate the world independently, we need to function in situations where there are others. We take our turn in the grocery line, share space in the elevator, sit near others in the theater, wait to use the gym equipment, and so our day goes. By the time we enter kindergarten, we have already learned many of the rules that govern group interactions. We are ready to be group learners. Playing and working with others have become satisfying parts of our lives.

What if we are asked to participate without knowing the purpose, would we be willing to sit still, remain near others and be quiet?

And, thus, the text of our book Tasks Galore Making Groups Meaningful begins. Based on our experiences with 100’s of students with autism spectrum disorders and other special needs, we describe the strategies and tasks in words and pictures that have helped our students find group settings and interactions more meaningful.

Including group times for students with special needs is essential. If the students know their role within the group and that role is understandable and meaningful to them, they adopt the appropriate group behaviors. They begin to find groups enjoyable and realize being with others is fun. Learning to be part of a group enables our students to become more integrated into school and the community and even their own families.


  • Chapter 1: Structured Teaching Strategies Give Meaning to Group Learning
  • Chapter 2: Visually Structured Routines Make Group Expectations Understandable
  • Chapter 3: Integrating Students’ Individualized Goals Makes Groups Meaningful
  • Chapter 4: Circle Time
  • Chapter 5: Project Groups
  • Chapter 6: Movement Groups
  • Chapter 7: Music Groups
  • Chapter 8: Parties


Multiple examples of visual strategies for group times are included in Tasks Galore Making Groups Meaningful. Here are a few helpful ideas for creating work systems, communication cues and making smooth transitions during a circle time. 

Individualized work systems for circle times, let students know what is to happen.



Word + picture list tells one students what will happen in group while actual objects tell another. Keeping track of when the activities are finished (by placing an X on the list or putting away the object) and knowing what happens next encourages attention and participation.


Rings indicate how many laps to run in P.E.


Teacher-made book for circle time has a page for each teacher whose class students attend. This helps students learn names of their teachers. For non-readers, the ball is an object that represents P.E. class.


When students go to P.E., Coach B, wearing the same picture as in the book, greets them. Beside the picture is a written + picture reminder to say “Hello, Coach B.”


Students place instruments under their chairs when done. This routine helps ease their transition to a new activity.

You can currently find a great sale on Tasks Galore Making Groups Meaningful by checking out our Amazon listings. As the saying goes “it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful”. The books on Amazon have slight cover defects but are, otherwise in excellent condition. They are being sold at $19.95 due to printer error and we are passing on the savings of $30 to you! As always, proceeds go to support organizations that provide services for people with autism spectrum disorders and their families. Please take advantage of this offer while the copies last and enrich the groups experiences for your students.

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