An Autism Connection

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Paraprofessional handbook

We are almost at the beginning of the school year. My room is in total chaos right now but I hope to be mostly ready to start on Wednesday when the new 6th graders start. All of the students will be here on Thursday. Because we are a new program, I also get new IA's. One of them I worked with last year, but we hired a brand new person a couple of weeks ago. I also have a 1:1 starting with one of my new students. One has no experience with working with students with disabilities, one has some experience, but has limited experience in working with students with autism, and  the last one has experience in working with students with autism, but not at the middle level.  So we are all at varying degrees of comfort with this new program. This is the perfect opportunity for me to train them to my procedures and processes, educate them about autism in general, and just inform them about what to expect. So, I put together a handbook, with liberal borrowing from Miss Allison's class blog. I also included our schedule and a brief description of each of the centers. I will be training them on it on Tuesday.

Here's an example of my general building procedures. It's pretty encompassing, and I am glad I spent the time to put it together.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Back To School Pin Party

I am joining  the Autism Tank, one of my favorite blogs, for her pinning linky party.

 I have been spending way too much time on Pinterest lately, into the wee hours of the night to the point of addiction, so this one was easy. Basically, since I am starting a brand new Autism program, I am starting from scratch so I need everything, for every subject.

Here are my pins:

1. This one is my most favorite pin. I am not technologically inclined, as I have mentioned over and over again, but I want to improve my skills this year. I want this to be one of my first projects, and part of an "All About Me" unit that I want to do the first week or so of school. I hope to complete this photo part of it the quickly so I can have them on display for Open House. This is from Matt Gomez' blog and he has some wonderful technology hints and advice. I love how it is visual and think my students and their parents will love it . His post says you can also just add words, so I might try them both. His blog, and Matt Sutton's Digital Divide and Conquer are my go- tos for all things technology.

2. I wrote a mini-grant to my schools PTSA for an iPod touch and an IPad, and it was granted to me, yay. They want Data to prove it was a good investment, so I am looking for tons of Apps to use for my students and found this one for social skills. It has 100's of apps, with an approximation of the cost, since it was compiled in 2012. It was put together by Jessica Chase, who is an SLP. Now I just need to figure out how to prove it to them with data.

3. I know this is supposed to be back to school, but I found these cute painted pumpkins that I thought I would try with my class at the beginning of October. Then we could have them as decorations before I send them home. Next to Christmas, this is my favorite Holiday.

4. I have limited storage space in my room. It's a brand new building, just 2 years old, but whoever designed it was not a teacher. There is no built in storage whatsoever, so I have some  stand alone cupboards and some book shelves and that is it. I need something to store classroom supplies by my whiteboard, where we will be having 3 groups throughout the day: Morning group, ULS (Unique Learning System for science/social studies) group, and our reading groups.I need something sturdy since the supplies will be used a lot. I found this great organizer on Kindergarten Kel's blog that you can get at IKEA. I hope they'll let me drill holes in the wall.

5.  Finally, here is another list of iPad apps, but in a wheel form, that I could put on my bulletin board by my desk. It is a little more comprehensive.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)

We have 2 1/2 weeks left of summer break here in Seattle and my brain is slowly returning to that razor sharp edge I normally have during the rest of the year...NOT, lol. I can barely remember my student's names and that gets worse each year. It will help having only 8 students.

Last week my boyfriend and I attended a small party-get together for a friend of his. I met this woman there and it turns out she is a neighbor of ours here on the island. During the course of our conversation, I told her I would be a teacher in the autism program at my school and she told me that her young son running around the party was on the spectrum. She was very disappointed with the school that her son was attending because they were not willing to use, or just didn't understand, cognitive behavioral therapy, which is what the parents were using at home to deal with their son's issues. First, the teacher didn't know what it was, and then was not willing to use the concepts in class because they were an ABA program.

There is a motto I have heard used over the years that is perfect for this and that is, "If you have met one student with Autism, you have met exactly one student with Autism". As with anyone else, people with autism are unique individuals and I have yet to  meet a person with the same presentation of "symptoms', for lack of a better word. You can't generalize anything and have to be open to using all the strategies and therapies out there, as long as it is safe (there are some crazy therapies out there, but that is a topic for another day). And another thing I have discovered is that parents know their child the best. Are they perfect?? Nope, but if they have tried something at home and it works, why not get more information on it and try the strategies at school, that way you can be on the same page with the family which only benefits the student.

So exactly what is CBT? First let me tell you it is not ABA. ABA, or Applied Behavioral Analysis, looks at the function of behavior, and then comes up with solutions on how to deal with it. It can work wonders with students on the spectrum. CBT, however, looks at how students are thinking, and then teaches them to change this thinking.

 It has worked wonders with students with Aspergers and higher functioning students with Autism who have anxiety.  The focus is basically two pronged: skills training and skills practice.

In skills training, students understand anxiety and their body's cues. They also work on emotion education and thought monitoring using visual stimuli, as well as friendship and self-help  skills. They teach positive self-talk and coaching oneself through situations that arise. Using positive social stories that praise correct behavior is another great tool to use, as it highlights what the individual is doing well, instead of focusing only on what needs correction.

In skills practice, the students  slowly attempt the challenging or feared situation to develop confidence and mastery.

A good resource for CBT in school aged kids is Michelle Garcia Winner's website, which goes into more depth on social thinking. She also has a bunch of resources and books to help students from preschool all the way through high school. I have ordered a ton of stuff for the beginning of the school year and will let you know how it goes once I start using it.

The big take away is to not lock yourself into one way of doing things; BE FLEXIBLE. I plan to use both CBT and ABA strategies in my classroom with all of my students. If I hear of anything better, I will give that a try too.