An Autism Connection

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Utah Text Talk website-Tiered Vocab.

This week has just zoomed past. I am sorry to see it end, but still have one more day to go before I head back to my wonderful job.

Even though I have been on vacation (although packing is not really a vacation in my opinion), I never really leave the job far behind. I guess I am a little obsessed, or maybe a lot depending on your point of view. Anyway,  I was blog-hopping today and found a link to this really cool website at Chalk Talk! Speech Therapy  called Utah Text Talk, which was made by reading-first educators that lists 101 books for primary level, and all have tiered vocabulary lessons. Below is a partial lesson for Imogene's Antlers. How cool is this????. Definitely something i will be checking out when I start my guided reading lessons next year.

ISBN: 0­517­55564­6 (Trade)
ISBN: 0­517­56242­1 (Pbk.)
Potential Tier Two Words in the text:
· found
· difficult · fainted (in the text 2 times) · glared
· advice
· offer · consulted
· announced
· rare
· decked
· milliner · Voila (for fun) · Bravo (for fun) · Bravissimo (for fun) · overjoyed
Tier Two words selected for direct vocabulary instruction:
· consulted
· rare
· overjoyed
I selected these words because they would be found across many content areas and  due to their frequency in other texts.    I feel that they will have a chance to use these words in conversations at home.  These are also words they will encounter as they  have experience with different medias, such as T.V., radio and “the net.”
Step 1:  Doing the read aloud of the text with a focus on comprehension.
Procedures for Prereading, During Read Aloud of text with focus on Comprehension,  and Post
1: Introduce the story briefly and activate the student’s prior knowledge.  “Today we  will activate our prior knowledge by writing a story.  You all like to write stories for me  and we are going to use our prior knowledge to help us write together.  After we write  our story we will read Imogene’s Antlers and look at how the author, David Small,  organized his story.
2: Story Impression
· Imogene
· antlers
· home
· fainted
· doctor · principal
· glared
· hat191
3: “Now while we read we can look back at our story and see if we organized ours like  his.”
Note:  Show pictures as you read through the pages.
Stop 1: Read to page 6.  Ask the students “What do we know so far about Imogene?”
“When we wrote our story did we have this happen?”  Discuss why mother fainted.
Stop 2: Read pages 7­10.  “Why did Imogene’s mother faint again?”   “Did anyone
faint in our story?”  “What happened instead?”  ”Why do you think her principal glared
at her?”  How do you think Imogene became this rare kind of elk, did this happen in our story?”
Stop 3: Read pages 11­13.  “How did the rest of the house staff react to Imogene’s  antlers?”  “In our story ______________________________happened.  What do you
think the author is going to have happen next?”
Stop 4: Read pages 14­17.  “It looks like Imogene’s mother has fainted again.  What  do you think made her collapse this time?”  “Did we use a hat like this in our story?“
Stop 5: Read to the end of the book.  “When Imogene woke up the next morning did  she still have the antlers?  What did she have instead?    How do you think the family  will react to her new image?”
Step 2:  Direct Vocabulary Instruction of the Tier 2 Words

Friday, April 19, 2013

Spring break reading/life

Today is the last official day of Spring Break. It wasn't much of a break since we are packing to move. And the stressful part is we have to move by the end of the month and we have no clue exactly where we are moving to. Yikes!! Talk about stressful. We are keeping our fingers crossed about our financing for our new house but it is taking forever and the house is supposed to close on the 29th. If it doesn't work out, we have one day to find a place to live with 3 dogs and a cat. Double yikes!! With this hovering over our heads, as well as the bombing in Boston and the explosion in Texas, it has been a stressful week. Maybe going back to work will be a relief!!

Anyhow, aside from packing, I have also been doing some reading. I just finished this book by Temple Grandin. Temple is an animal scientist who teaches at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. She also has autism. She is renowned all over the world for her work designing animal movement systems. She lectures on her work and on autism all throughout the year. I have been lucky enough to hear her speak and her talks are incredibly interesting as she gives us a peek into the mind of someone who has autism. The book also helps explain autism by looking at animal behavior, and vice versa. I normally read novels and was expecting the book to be a bit boring, but it wasn't.

Another book I spent some time with was this one, written by Christine Reeve and Susan Kabot. Christine is on Facebook and has a blog: (I still have no clue how to write the word ' here', and have the word highlighted, so that when someone clicks on it, it goes right to their page. Still lots to learn about blogging). Since there are still many things I don't have for my new classroom, I have been gathering (read that buying with my own money) materials to make work tasks, so I am not inundated at the last minute (read that September, 2 days before school is about to start) with loads of work to do. Anyhow, this book was great for explaining the why of work tasks, how to set it up, and many examples of tasks to put together. It has great illustrations too, for those who are visual. I highly recommend this book.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Autism Reading Material

I am finally on Spring Break!! You have no idea how jealous I have been reading about all of your wonderful trips and fun activities while I was slogging away with my students. But, now it's my turn. Unfortunately though, my spring break will consist of packing boxes since my boyfriend and I are moving. Not as much fun as going to Mexico, sigh.

 I am also going to finish all the books I purchased to help me with my new classroom in the fall. I am kind of anal. When I am unsure about something, I try to find as much information as I can so that I am better prepared to make decisions. These were some of my selections. I got all of these on Amazon. Over the next few days, I will share a few of them with you. Here are the first three, that go over basic information on what autism is and how to create supports in the classroom that are beneficial and will make teaching easier.

This was written by Susan Kobot, and Christine Reeve  from AutismClassroomNews. It does just what it says in the title, with lots of color pictures across many settings to show you examples of how to set a good classroom up, how to organize it, and what visuals might be needed. Excellent resource. Another book along the same lines is this one by S. B. Linton.
This one is older and is more focused on the classroom procedures rather than classroom spaces. It has information on assessments, data tracking, communications supports, behavioral supports, and ideas for instruction. Another excellent resource for a brand new program.

Although this one says checklist, I didn't find it to be much of one. Instead, it is filled with comprehensive information for teachers and parents about the  basics of autism, and strategies for how to teach a student with autism in general education and special education settings, as well as a home environment. A good resource for any  teacher who will be teaching students with autism.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

What to teach?

This topic is something I have been pondering for the last few weeks. In Colorado, there was a heavy emphasis on academics and inclusion. I have had students at the middle school and high school levels where the parents did not want life skills at all, saying that it was the responsibility of the parents to provide those skills and for the school to provide academics.

 I both agree and disagree. On the one hand, having worked at the high school level, I have seen first hand how hard it is and how long it takes for students to gain the skills needed to be functioning members of society. In many cases it takes years for a student to learn to cross a street safely, to learn to take a bus, to bag groceries appropriately, etc., which are just some skills that we worked on with my students. I had parents who refused any of that help, and to my knowledge, all of those children sit at home now, watching TV all day, getting fat, and doing nothing. No job, no leisure skills, nothing. I don't want that to happen to any more of my students if I can help it. And even though I am working in a middle school, I know what a benefit it is to start the life skills early, so that when they get to high school and transition, they have a head start and can focus on more skills and not just the basics.

On the other hand, I have seen students finally start to read in the 8th, 9th and 10th grades. I had a student with Down's Syndrome be the only student in his regular education social studies class name all 50 states and their capitals on a quiz. The class and teacher were all amazed. You can not count out academics. Our students are capable if we give them a chance. I read some research once that said we are underestimating the capabilities of students with Down's in particular and that many students are not reaching their academic potential simply because we are not teaching them, and not due to their disability. I wish I remembered the name, author, or journal where I read this so I could give them credit, but I don't. However, I remember the message and use it to guide me when thinking of curriculum.

 Our students are delayed in many areas due to their disability. In my opinion only, I believe this to be true for academics as well. Regular ed. kids learn to read in k-3rd grades because that is when they are developmentally ready. But many of  our students aren't ready then. I can't tell when they will be so all I can do is teach the subjects and wait. I have seen kids stagnate for years at one level in math or reading and then all of a sudden  something switches on and they gain 2-3 years reading ability or math skills in what seems to be overnight. That happened to one of my students with Autism this year. He was working on beginning multiplication facts at the end of elementary and for most of the first semester. Now he is doing multiple digit multiplication and division in his head and is approaching grade level. I don't think it was anything I did since no other student showed this amazing growth. This student's brain just made a leap and opened up to the instruction, for whatever reason. If I wasn't teaching this to him, we might never have known. This is why it's important to teach both, and that is my plan.

I plan to teach guided reading as the research I did told me that this is one of the better methods for teaching reading to students with Autism  I will individualize the math and writing to meet the students needs. I will teach grade level concepts (one grade at a time since we are multi-graded) in science and social studies, but it will be modified so that students can participate at their levels. And I will also teach life and social skills, both in the classroom and school, and out in the community. I plan to be balanced, as that is what I think is appropriate for a middle school program.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A new beginning

A couple of months ago I found out our middle school was going to have a brand new Autism classroom in the fall. I immediately went to my principal and told him about my desire to be the teacher for the program. I was prepared to remind him of my experience and qualifications and to give him copies of my many letters of recommendations and even to beg and grovel if necessary. However, none of that was needed. In a nonchalant way, he told me that yes, I could be the teacher,and that was the end of the discussion. It took me a minute to remember that not everyone is as excited to teach in an Autism classroom as I am and that there was no one beating down the door to be the teacher.

After the initial elation wore off, sheer terror took over. 'My god, what have I gotten myself into now', was my prevailing thought for the next week before the elation kicked back in. My background and education is in working with students with intellectual disabilities at both the high school and middle school levels. When I moved to Seattle from Colorado, I applied for and accepted a special education position with the title "Generic", and was assured that it was a good fit for my qualifications. As an aside, isn't that a weird title???? When I first read it, I remembered wondering what it meant: off-brand special education, run of the mill, plain ol' special ed., so different it doesn't even rate an official title, etc, etc. What it turned out to be is a program with students who are 4 or more years behind their peers academically, for whatever reason. Most of the students just have severe learning disabilities but are like their peers in every other way. Some are on the spectrum but have never been diagnosed, some are oppositional and have other behavioral issues that impede learning, and others have chaotic home lives. There are three of us and we share 27 students in a rotation model. I teach science and math. It was lovely to have students that I could converse with and it has been great to be able to work together with other teachers as a team, which was a first for me. After 5 years though, I miss the challenge of working with students with more severe challenges so I jumped at the opportunity to teach in a program more suited to my background.

It has been daunting to think of everything that needs to be done to  be ready to go in the fall: visuals, schedules  work tasks, classroom organization, hiring new Paraprofessionals, file folders, reading, writing, science, math, and social studies curriculums, language, behavior, etc . To prepare, I have gone online and done research and found some wonderful teacher blogs that share their ideas and wisdom and I will be stealing many of their strategies and tasks to use.

I have been told I will be receiving start-up money but that has yet to materialize. So I am doing what I can with what I currently have, which is not much. I don't have Boardmaker, or a color printer, or velcro and have already spent a ton of my own money to make work tasks. Mostly I have been making lists, and blog hopping and trying to flesh out what I will be teaching, and taking deep breaths and trying not to get too stressed out about all that needs to be done. I still have plenty of time and I am confident it will all work out in the end.

Please join me as I share the trials and tribulations of this first couple of years!