An Autism Connection

Sunday, July 28, 2013

New blogger find

As the school year approaches (although not until Aug 27 for me), I am getting a little more anxious about having enough ready tasks for the students to do while I assess them and finalize schedules, etc. Since I am starting from scratch, I am having to spend a lot of time putting together curriculum, file folders and work tasks. Even though I am also creating some of my own, any time I can save by finding materials other people have put together, is time well spent. So TpT and pinterest have become my best friends, and I literally stalk blogs looking for items that will work for me and my students, and checking out the blogs they follow, in hopes of finding something new. I have discovered we all basically follow the same ones, but occasionally, I stumble upon a blog that is a gold mine, which happened yesterday. The added challenge for me is that I am teaching middle school, so there is more of an emphasis on life skills than what you find in elementary. This blog is perfect for me as she emphasizes life and vocational tasks, but has some other curricular tasks thrown in as well. These are images of some of the tasks she has put together:

Her tasks are amazing and I love the real life photographs. These pictures don't show all the parts associated with the tasks itself, but many have additional tasks associated with it such as filling orders, adding up a total, writing, etc. These are just a few of the tasks she has on her site. Her name is Dianne Matthews, and she is a Para-educator in a high school. You can find her blog here.  She has recently started selling on TpT and I have wish-listed almost everything in her store. Here is a link to her site. In addition, she has written a book called Table Top Tasks which she is selling on Amazon that details many of the tasks on her blog, as well as others. Here is a link to her book on Amazon.. Since I am not nearly this creative, I am grateful to find others that are and are willing to share, even at a cost. The amount is negligible when compared to the time and money I would have to spend to create it myself.

Friday, July 19, 2013

tentative schedule

 I have been agonizing over working on my class schedule for next year. Which centers was I going to use? Should I follow our bell schedule or do it according to the clock? If I follow the bell schedule, that means we will have breaks in between that will need to be filled. Is this too many? Do I have enough time to do everything? Am I planning too much? etc etc. The questions never end and it was starting to stress me out.

 So even though I know this schedule will change since I have a couple of kids who will be  mainstreamed or placed in a different SPED class for reading and/or math, and I haven't got materials for all of my centers yet, it was a relief to have a working document. I can fine tune it later once I know when my 2 students will be out and I find out who my 3 paraprofessionals will be (2 class-wide and one 1:1). I understand that even what I teach might change depending on the materials I have, funding, etc. I plan to use ULS and News-2-you for science and social studies, as well as for morning group, but that is if the funding I requested kicks in. I might embed some of it in other places as well.

 Unless the principal decides to change it at the last minute, which he has been known to do :), they will be having PE in the middle of the day so I can have a planning period. My own lunch (which is when they have theirs) will be attached to that so I will have a nice long break to plan or meet, or whatever I need to do. It's hard to schedule my own lunch, as well as the Paraprofessional's lunches, and still have adequate coverage, but when I started with the assumption that it was going to happen, it fell into place. More on that later.

 I have been teaching long enough to know this will change many times but having it completed eased my mind. I have the classes broken into 12-14 minutes for each subject I wrote in there, but  it will look a little different for each student as they all have such different abilities. Anyway, here it is.

I tried to get it to show here on my post, but I have spent a few hours trying to figure it out, by following all kinds of  other blog's directions, youtube videos, etc, but try as I might, none of it worked. I wasn't able to embed the code and so I made do with a link. Technology will be the death of me, I swear!

Update: here is the image. It was as easy as right clicking and copying the image and pasting it here (Duuuuuh, hahahaha). Anyway, there are no changes to my computer skills, I am still a techno doofus, although I am slowly learning.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Summer, social skills

This is the first week since school ended that I actually feel rested. I stayed a couple of weeks after school ended and purged and cleaned. I got everything done except my file cabinets. Then I went home and tried to focus on our new house. It's been difficult to shut my brain down because I am a little freaked out by the upcoming school year. I have perfectionist tendencies but lean more to organized chaos in follow through. I am itching to get back in there and re-arrange my furniture but I promised myself I would wait until the beginning of August. In the meantime, I have been trying to relax by walking. Here's  a couple of pics of my walk this morning. It's a pond really close to my new house. I ate my way around the pond (huckleberries, sallal, thimbleberries, salmon berries, and wild blackberries, yum) and sat and observed the beautiful bird life on the pond.

Then I went home and played with my dogs a little before crackin' open the ol' computer and checking on the blogs I follow. There was one from Jill Kuzma,  check out her blog here, who is an SLP in Minnesota that specializes in social skills. Her blog is filled with all kinds of tips and tricks related to social skills and language, as well as book reviews, etc and her blog has been incredibly useful to me when I have needed help with certain social skills I was addressing with my students.
This is one area where I feel more comfortable. I plan to explicitly teach social skills 3-4 days a week, and then embed it throughout the day. I have ordered materials and books from Michelle Garcia Winner's website which you can access here because Jill Kuzma has recommended them for students with Autism. When I checked out Ms. Winner's website I was truly impressed. She comes highly recommended by co-workers in my district too, so I look forward to getting the materials and figuring out how to use them. I was a little concerned at first that her materials might be a little "young" for my middle schoolers, but I have been assured that it will be perfect for them.
 One of the blessings of Jill Kuzma's site has been her link to youtube videos which address specific behaviors. Since my students have always been visual learners, I often started my social skills groups with short clips that addressed the topic at hand, before we started on seat work or role plays. I am not certain how this will all play out with my new students, but I am  glad I have this as a resource. She includes a very brief description of each video with what social skill it addresses and then a link. Here's a link to that part of her blog.
I hope you find something you can use in either of these websites.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Trayvon Martin aftermath

This is a departure from what I will normally be discussing in this blog, but my heart has been heavy for the last 24 hours after hearing the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case. I have run the gamut of emotions. My thoughts keep going back to the class I have been teaching for the last 5 years, which is a self-contained moderate needs classroom. Most of the students have severe learning disabilities. In the last 3 years, I have shared 27 students with two other teachers.  Most of the students are males (we had only 4 girls), and a good number of them are African American. When Trayvon was killed, we didn't get much of our curriculum in as we had to spend the day calming the students down. There was a lot of open and frank discussion about racism and students shared their personal experiences.

I can't help but wonder how my students have taken this news. I would imagine with a lot of anger. I wonder how I would have handled this. Would there have been a meeting ahead of time with our school administration to discuss the issues and come up with a plan? Would there have been a crisis team in place as we had earlier in the year after one of our students died in a car crash? We had counselors available all day so that students who were overcome with grief could talk to someone about their feelings. This obviously is not the same thing, but the emotions would have been just as strong.

In many respects, I feel inadequate talking with students about these issues. What do I, a middle-aged white woman know about being a young black boy? On the other hand, my ex-husband was African and my own children are bi-racial. I have first-hand experience with racism and have seen multiple incidents regarding my children, so I am not totally clueless. Still, it's not the same.

As a school, we also have our share of behavioral issues and the equity issues that come with that. We are a very diverse school, with roughly 1/4 each of our population being African-American, Hispanic, Asian, and white. We have high poverty and transiency. We have high numbers of ELL  and Special Education students. As a result of some of these factors, many of our students struggle. In order to help us understand better, we had a speaker come in and talk about trauma and how it affects students, and how we as teachers need to understand this in order to help. I thought it was excellent professional development, and there will be more coming in the fall. Here is a link to an article that explains it in more detail, with a focus on the Trayvon case.

Teaching is more than just reading, writing, and math instruction, and the other things we teach. Our students come to us with all kinds of baggage and we need to be able to deal with it  in order for our curriculum  to sink in.