Skip to main content


It is common for most individuals to experience anxiety and stress throughout their daily life. However, for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), daily situations can result in significant emotional stress and anxiety. In addition, individuals with ASD have difficulty self-regulating emotions, stress levels, and very often, sensory overstimulation from the environment. When this occurs, they may benefit from an area designed with specific, tailored strategies to help them cope and regulate their emotional state. A Structured Break Area is an environmental area that provides support. This module will provide information on the importance of Structured Break Areas, when an individual might need to utilize the area, as well as how to design an area in the home, school, work, and community environments.

Estimated Time to Complete: 1 1/2 hours

  • What's Included
  • 17 pages
  • Pre/post-assessments
  • Optional $15 certficate
  1. Describe the importance of structured break areas
  2. Illustrate examples of structured break areas for use in home, school, work, and community environments
  3. Identify resources and related evidence-based practices helpful in implementing structured break areas
  4. Recognize when individuals should utilize a structured break area

Module Authors

Amy Bixler Coffin, M.S. is the Autism Center Program Director at OCALI. She coordinates and provides regional and statewide trainings for districts and organizations; manages the consultation services provided by the Autism Center; leads the expansion of the Autism Internet Modules; supports the development of online learning offerings. Coffin has held positions as program director, director of special education, LI supervisor and intervention specialist. She has presented at national and state conferences, written articles and book chapters and has authored a book on supporting individuals with ASD within the community. Coffin is the 2016 recipient of the Kathe Shelby Leadership Award.

Julie Short is a regional autism consultant at OCALI. She coordinates and provides regional and statewide PD, consultation services and technical assistance to improve outcomes for those with ASD. Short has participated on the National Community of Practice of Autism Spectrum Disorder. She is a member of the National Autism Leadership Collaborative and Statewide Autism/Low Incidence Collaborative. Short has co-developed online electronic book studies for autism focused professional learning communities. She is an adjunct professor at Shawnee State University. Prior to OCALI, Short taught elementary and middle school, teaching both general education and special education.

Wendy Szakacs is an OCALI Regional Consultant for northeast /eastern Ohio. She develops evidence-based materials, provides technical assistance and professional development leading projects in social competence, bullying, behavior, communication, and executive function. Szakacs collaborates with regional partners in the creation and presentation of professional development to local school district staff and families. She has presented at local, state, and national conferences on various topics about autism spectrum disorder, including comprehensive program planning, structured teaching, social competence, challenging behavior, and executive function.

Modules on this site are always free. If you would like proof of completion, you can purchase a certificate when you have successfully completed this module. The certificate will provide contact hours for this module.

Graduate credit for courses is available through OCALI's partnership with Ashland University. Access information about course options and semester dates in the Search.

Continuing education credit from providers such as ASHA and NASW is in progress. For questions contact

Glossary Start Access and
Translation Tools