Teaching Wait: The Wait Basket

Teaching students to wait is hard stuff! Check out how I use a wait basket in my special education classroom to help students with Autism and other disabilities.

Who likes waiting? Not this girl! And I can guarantee our students don't like waiting either. If you teach students with special needs you know that asking a student to wait can cause a full on melt down in the middle of a seemingly normal Tuesday. And guess what, our classrooms get interrupted for questions, phone calls, and consultations ALL. THE. TIME. Oh yeah, and don't forget when you need to step aside for a problem behavior.

Well, I had more than enough of the meltdowns happening in my classroom, so I decided there had to be something I could do to help my students wait appropriately while my time was occupied by other staff members.

Here’s what I did in 3 easy steps and how you can set up a super Wait Basket in your classroom with zero fuss.

STEP 1: Find a basket or container that will be used just when students are waiting. I had a cardboard storage box I picked up from the Dollar Spot lying around. It was just right for creating a Wait Basket in my classroom.

STEP 2: Label said basket. Students need to know they are accessing this basket ONLY when they are waiting. I labeled it with the wait cards we use while teaching the PECS lessons for Wait.

STEP 3: Fill the basket. I have filled my basket with small containers of theraputty. There are enough containers in the basket that my students are able to each have their own container while they are waiting. No need to divide putty for students to share. It’s already divided. Also, you don’t have to fill your basket with putty. Fill it with anything that is a low level reinforcer that engages busy hands.

A couple things I like to keep in mind while filling my wait basket are: find an item that will keep students hands busy, find a quiet item for students to engage in, and make sure students have practiced with the wait basket a few times before you leave them to engage with it independently. Make sure they understand the rules of the box and can engage with it appropriately for a few minutes before expecting them to do so independently.

Need some ideas for Wait Basket fillers? Here are some ideas: squishy balls, (plastic) Slinkys, salt filled balloons, sensory bottles, glitter wands. Seriously, anything that students can keep their hands busy with makes for a great Wait Basket item!

Why use a low level reinforcer?
We’ve successfully avoided the “Wait, please” tantrum. Why do we want to have a tantrum when they’re done waiting? Allowing students to switch from this low level reinforcer and continue to engage in the activities where they are working towards higher level reinforcers should help you ease the transition back to work. A simple reminder like “Remember, you’re working for computer time,” should get you right back on track after students have finished waiting.

What if my students want the wait basket items when they aren’t waiting?
Simple! Make a version of that reinforcer that is available in a different setting or keep it on hand as a regular reinforcer students can work for. Keep Wait Basket items sacred for waiting. Don’t give students the idea that they can use these items any time they want. The purpose of this basket is to wait.

1 comment

  1. Love this idea! I could have used it today..I'll definitely be looking for some items to put in one for my room.


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