I have written about this topic before, but I didn’t have a “proper” blog, as they say. Also, this topic is timeless since every year a classroom has to be set up and every year, saving money in the process is favorable. So here is goes again. We do know that if you let it, setting up a classroom for students with autism can be time consuming and expensive. In today’s economy, with budget cuts and school districts cutting back on expenses, that challenge is intensified. From communication tools to printables and apps, the price list seems endless. However, there are many ways that a person can create a useful and effective autism classroom on a budget. Designing the classroom is an important element in creating the type of room that fosters successful students. Here are some creative ways to save dollars on the materials and items used to design the classroom.
When designing a room, a teacher can use dollar store templates for creating name cards instead of buying expensive name cards. Or, just print out your own using a really cool font. Clear packing tape can be used to “laminate” items by sticking the tape to both sides of the item. Teachers who currently teach in a school that they will be returning to the next year can ask the administrators if they can check the school art closet at the end of the school year to prepare for next year. There are usually a bunch of items in the art closet that are just sitting there waiting to be used to create useful materials. For example, construction paper, 3-hole punch devices, glitter, finger paint, scissors, clip boards, permanent markers, note pads, folders, tape, poster board, staplers and other good finds are just waiting. Just ask the principal or secretary if it is alright to take a look in preparation for the school year.
Index cards are another item that are inexpensive, but can reap large benefits. Index cards can be used to make a number of teacher-made items such as matching games, alphabet flash cards, number cards, picture identification cards, labels for bins and more. Simply use a permanent marker and good handwriting (or if handwriting is a problem, print out what you want on the computer and glue it to the index card) and you have teaching materials that are also easily replaceable.
Decorating can be cheap too. Teachers can start by making their own bulletin board boarders by using construction paper strips and gluing on small designs created by the students. (This can be done as an art lesson with the students.) Bulletin board paper can be used in other ways too. If needed, a teacher can use bulletin board paper to cover distracting items or shelves that appear cluttered. If a teacher's school will not order one of those expensive carpets from a catalog or an online store, he or she can try putting together two or three “furry blankets” from a discount store like Marshall's, TJ Maxx or Ross.