10 Task Box Ideas for Students with Autism

If you are a special education teacher, you know that task boxes, sometimes called work tasks or task cards, are must haves in a special education classroom. These tools help students who are on the Autism spectrum build independence, work on new skills, retain old skills, and overall builds confidence. 

What are task boxes?

Task boxes are essentially portable learning tasks designed to provide hands-on activities for special education students. These boxes contain materials and sometimes instructions for completing specific tasks or activities related to academic skills, life skills, or behavior goals. 

They are often used in special education classrooms to support individualized instruction and promote independent learning. They can be used during independent work, for independent work systems, during small group instruction or even during whole group instruction. 

Each task box focuses on a particular skill or concept, allowing students to practice and master it at their own pace. It makes differentiating easy because each student can get a task box at their own level.  They can also be aligned with IEP goals. If you have specific task boxes made for each IEP goal, it allows easy practice of the skill as well as the ability to easily progress monitor.

There are different ways to store these task boxes. My favorite is using this photo storage box because it is space saving friendly. However, you can use pencil cases, shoe boxes, baggies, and some can even turn into file folders if you are really short on space!

Why do task boxes work well for students with Autism?

Task boxes work well for students with Autism for several reasons:

1. Structured Learning: Special education teachers know that Autistic students thrive in structured environments. Task boxes provide clear, predictable activities with step-by-step instructions, which can help students feel more comfortable and engaged in learning. They can be used during the same part of the day to create a routine the students come to expect and anticipate. It is a great way to build in structure just to your daily routine.

    2. Visual Supports: Many task boxes utilize visual supports such as pictures or symbols which are beneficial for Autistic children who may struggle with verbal communication or understanding abstract concepts. Visuals are a great idea to add to any type of lesson you are doing with a student who has Autism. Want to learn more about visuals? Read this blog post.

    3. Hands on learning: Autistic learners do not learn as well with just verbal language. Sometimes they are unable to process the information and other times they are unable to expressively demonstrate their knowledge. This is another powerful aspect to work task boxes. Students can receptively demonstrate their understanding of certain skills that they previously would not have been able to demonstrate (like phonological awareness).

    4. Repetitive Practice: Repetition is one of the best ways for students with Autism to learn and retain new skills. Task boxes offer opportunities for repetitive practice of a simple task in a structured and controlled manner, which can lead to greater mastery of these skills over time. Since they are not just another boring worksheet, students do not get bored with these tasks either!

    5. Promotes Independence: Task boxes are designed to be self-contained and easily accessible, allowing students to do independent work tasks within the classroom without constant supervision. This promotes independence and autonomy, which are important skills for students with Autism to develop. You can also work on creating independent work stations where students develop these independent skills at certain points in their day.

    6. Decreases problem behaviors: Because students are more engaged and the learning is at their exact level, there is going to be less escape maintained behaviors. Students are going to have less behaviors that could look like ripping up their papers or melting down due to frustration. This can be a huge change in your classroom if you are constantly struggling with this.

      10 Different Task Box Ideas

      1. Math

      Math task boxes can focus on a variety of mathematical concepts, such as counting, sorting, addition, subtraction, and more. For instance, you could create a task box with counting bears and numbered cups, where students match the correct number of bears to each cup. This hands-on approach helps reinforce mathematical concepts in a tangible way.

      You can get a complete task box set of a variety of these math task boxes here where all you have to do is prep them. If you check out these sets here, they are full of a variety of skills.

      But I always found that I wished I had task boxes that spanned one skill, just at a variety of levels. So here are some skill packs that you can check out. For example the addition can go from very basic addition with pictures to word problems, Within the addition skills pack there are 16 different skills- so you can move your students as they master each skill.

      2. Phonological Awareness

      Phonological awareness task boxes help students develop skills related to understanding and manipulating the sounds of language. I have always found this to be extremely challenging skill for my students with Autism. However, I then realized they knew the information, they just couldn’t do it orally (which it mostly is).

      So making them into task boxes has been so eye-opening. I can now work on skills with students I previously did not think I even could. We know these skills are the fundamental building blocks to reading, so it is essential they are learning them! If you need to learn more about phonological awareness, read this blog post now!

      Check out the phonological awareness task boxes here.

      3. Phonics

      Phonics task boxes focus on letter-sound relationships, decoding and encoding skills. You can create independent tasks with letter tiles and picture cards, where students match each picture to the corresponding beginning, middle, or ending sound.

      This hands-on approach reinforces phonics concepts and keeps students engaged. It gets away from reading the same CVC words over and over again or doing yet another worksheet. It you want some phonics for your task box system, check them out here.

      Grab them here!

      4. Comprehension

      Comprehension is something that is SO challenging with our learners. When we can add visual supports to our comprehension tasks, it can make it so much easier. This specific skill requires a lot of repetition and practice.

      That is where task boxes can really make an impact. Students can rotate the comprehension tasks they are using from day to day to be sure to get the practice they need while not getting bored!

      5. Fine Motor

      Believe it or not, you can make task boxes to work on fine motor skills. You can work on writing by putting in task cards that you need to trace words or letters. Or you can make tasks that require using the muscles in your hands through various hands on tasks such as putting beads on a pipe wire.

      For these, I suggest putting in a visual picture of how exactly to complete the box along with the materials needed. This will help your students be even more independent with the task!

      6. Social Skills

      Social skills task boxes focus on practicing social interactions and communication skills. You could create a task box with scenario cards depicting social situations, and students role-play appropriate responses or problem-solving strategies. These activities help students develop empathy, perspective-taking, and conflict resolution skills.

      These can take a lot of time to create, so not to worry- I did all the hard work for you. I created social emotional learning task boxes that align with CASEL to support these important soft skills. You can choose a targeted skill like relationship skills or self management or a grab this set of general social emotional learning skills.

      Click here to check them all out!

      7. Errorless Learning

      Errorless learning task boxes provide activities where success is guaranteed, helping to build confidence and reduce frustration. It is important to make sure these are truly errorless in order to find success.

      Chalkboard Superhero has a ton of these and they are so helpful with many students.

      8. Pre-Vocational Skills

      Pre-vocational skills task boxes focus on activities that prepare students for future work and employment opportunities. (You can do these with young kids or in high school). You could create a task box with activities such as sorting by color or shape, assembling simple puzzles, or following step-by-step instructions to complete a task.

      These activities help develop skills such as following directions, attention to detail, and task completion.

      9.Functional Life Skills

      Functional life skills task boxes focus on activities that promote independence and daily living skills. You could create a task box with activities such as sorting laundry, setting the table, or matching grocery items to their corresponding pictures. These activities help students practice essential basic skills they will need for everyday life.

      10. Science

      Science task boxes offer hands-on exploration and experimentation to deepen students’ understanding of scientific concepts. For example, you could create a task box containing materials for a simple experiment, such as a mini volcano eruption or a water cycle demonstration.

      How do I make task boxes?

      Well first, you need a variety of tasks. There are a TON of teachers pay teachers, the largest marketplace where teachers make materials and post task boxes (and another supports) that work well in their classroom and post them for other teachers to purchase and use. TPT sellers have so much experience with what works for students, so you know you are getting high quality resources. Click here to go right to the site.

      Step one: Print out the learning materials either on regular paper, or for extra durability, print them on card stock.

      Step two: Laminate all the pages.

      Step three: Add any velcro that is needed. 

      Step four: Purchase a container to store them in. My favorite is the colorful photo storage box from amazon. Grab that here.

      Step five: Tape the cover to the outside so you always know what is inside the box. Store any other materials that are needed for the task right inside the box as well.

      Now you are ready for start! Remember, you can use these in small groups, for important life skills, and functional skills- the options are really endless. 

      Where can I get free task boxes?

      As teachers we are always looking to save a bit, so there are some free ones you can snag for your autism classroom.

      Here are four different math task boxes you can grab to practice just math skills.

      Here is one set for young children to teach them how to practice breathing so they stay calm when they are frustrated or upset.

      & finally here is a set that has three different skills, phonological awareness, phonics AND math! 

      Grab one or grab all three freebies!

      In conclusion, task boxes are a powerful resource for special education teachers working with students on the autism spectrum. These versatile learning tools offer a multitude of benefits, from promoting individualized instruction and skill development to fostering independence and reducing anxiety. 

      By incorporating task boxes into your classroom, you can create a supportive learning environment where students are engaged, motivated, and empowered to succeed. 

      With their emphasis on hands-on learning, structured routines, and targeted skill practice, task boxes play a crucial role in helping students with autism reach their full potential. As educators, we always continue to explore innovative approaches to support student learning, and task boxes are a valuable tool in your toolkit, providing endless opportunities for growth, discovery, and success.

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