Planning Matrix

This resource will help those involved with school aged children on the autism spectrum to develop a shared understanding of individual strengths and needs.

For every child on the autism spectrum, the characteristics of autism will affect every part of their life but in a unique way. Even when children on the spectrum share characteristics, the impact of these will be different and will depend on the age, developmental stage and individual strengths. 

To be effective, strategies need to reflect the individual’s strengths and needs. For this reason no two students will share the same matrix.

What does it do? 

The planning matrix enables parents, teachers and others working with a school-aged student on the autism spectrum to create a snapshot of the individual by: 

  • identifying the characteristics of autism and how these impact on the life of the student. 
  • outlining key strategies that work for that student. 

Who completes the matrix and when? 

The planning matrix is completed by a child’s support team. This could include parents or carers, school personnel, allied health professionals or others working with the child. A matrix can be completed at any time and will be particularly useful when a child is transitioning between classes, schools or settings.

What will a completed matrix provide?

Once completed, the planning matrix gives parents, teachers and others working with the school-aged child on the autism spectrum: 

  • a ‘snapshot’ of the student (as the child develops and changes, adapt and update your planning matrix so that it grows with the individual) 
  • a description of how the characteristics of autism present for the student, the impact of these characteristics and what the team can do to support the individual
  • a useful tool for reviewing or monitoring the child, as you will see the impact of changes or the strategies requiring adjustment
  • support for an annual review of their needs by pediatricians and allied health professionals
  • support for planning and transition
  • a tool to communicate important information about the impact of autism for siblings, extended family members, baby sitters, sports coaches and future employers 

Using the planning matrix

The child’s team will provide concise information within five columns. 

  1. Communication: How the student communicates with others, including how they express themselves and their ability to comprehend what is communicated to them.
  2. Social interaction: The student’s understanding of social rules along with their ability to make and maintain friendships, understand emotions, read and respond to other people.
  3. Repetitive behaviours & restricted interests: How the student responds to routines and change, the presence of unusual movements or vocalisations and any special interests.
  4. Sensory processing: The student’s response to sensory information - touch, taste, smell, sight, sound, proprioception (knowing where their body is in space) and vestibular processing (balance) information.
  5. Information processing / learning styles: How the child processes information including their learning strengths and difficulties and how they prefer to learn (e.g. better understanding of visual input compared to auditory input). It also includes the capacity to plan and organise, impulsivity, self regulation, concrete and literal thinking and attention difficulties.

There are three rows to complete for each of the areas above.

  1. Characteristics: The features, difficulties, strengths and differences that the student displays in each of the areas above.
  2. Impact: The effect a particular characteristic has on the student at home, at school and/or in the community.
  3. Strategies: Modifications, adjustments and activities to support the student. This will include strategies to minimise negative impacts and enhance the positive impact of the student’s identified challenges and characteristics. In an educational setting, this will include adjustments and accommodations.

A completed planning matrix will be a ‘snapshot’ of the school-aged student on the autism spectrum.  As the child develops and changes, adapt and update your Planning Matrix so that it grows with the individual.

See the planning matrix in action in this story telling animation: 

Three versions of the planning matrix are available for download: