Aug 13, 2014

Setting Up an Autism Classroom On a Budget Series (Part 5 of 5)

Play time, sensory time and computer time.

Play time and leisure time products can be costly, but here are some tips for easing the burden on the wallet. Classroom teams can shop yard sales for “fidget” toys and age appropriate toys. A favorite yard sale find are the small wind-up toys usually found in kids meals at various fast food restaurants. They make great reinforcers and motivators for children (be sure to monitor their use closely if any students are prone to place things in their mouth.) At yard sales, sometimes someone may be willing to let go of a huge bag of these items for as little as $5.00. Swapping toys on a rotating basis with another classroom teacher in the building can help save some money as well. Additionally, games such as a matching game can be made pretty inexpensively using two identical decks of cards from the dollar store (shapes cards, letter cards, number cards, etc.) This theory works the same for paint “chips” from the hardware store or identical photographs, both of which can make simple matching games. File folder games are easy to store and easy to create. Simply take one set of matching game cards, glue it to a file folder, laminate and you have a sturdy teaching material. See this cute example of my Dalmation File Folder Game. Or for the teens and young adults, see this Teen Real Sports File Folder Game 

To assist with purchasing items for a sensory area in the classroom, teachers can ask parents or community supporters to send in items for a sensory area (ex. lotion, shaving cream, finger paint, weighted blankets.) If that is not possible, making sensory items may be the best solution. For example, a “weighted sock” can be created using tube socks and dry rice. Also, a teacher can try using three or four pillows inside of a sewn sheet as a sensory body pillow. If tactile sensory items are needed, creating a “squishy” toy using finger paint inside of a zippered baggie may just work. Just be sure to secure it with several baggies, duct tape and adult supervision!

Computers can offer value too. Teachers needing to create an autism classroom on a budget should take advantage of many of the free and low cost materials offered via the internet. For students, ZAC Browser (Zone for Autistic Children) is an internet browser that offers safe connections to websites for children with autism. is website for young children working on alphabet and reading skills. These are only two sites out of many that teachers can utilize for free. 

For the adults on the classroom team, the internet offers a variety of free trainings related to autism. For example,,, and all offer training and or videos with great information for educators and parents too. A fairly new site,, offers a full array of over 45 in-depth self-paced training modules that educators can take over the web. Lastly, low-cost books such as How to Set Up a Classroom for Students with Autism: 2ndEdition and How Do I Teach This Kid provide invaluable tips for little cost. These tips will hopefully help add substance to the classroom while keeping the money in the pocket!

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