An Autism Connection

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Good manners = Expected behavior

I still have not gotten any funding for the classroom, although I was told on Thursday it will be coming in 2-4 weeks. This has made my life difficult and I have had to work 60 hour weeks to plan for everything. Sometimes it's been fun, and other times not so much. I am exhausted at the end of the week, but despite all of that, I am loving my new job. The kids are great and super funny and the new IA's are fantastic.

 I have had to make many changes to the class schedule as I get to know my students. And my centers are still a work in progress. I thank  The Autism Helper, Autism Tank, Autism Classroom News, and The Autism Adventures of Room 83 for providing a framework for me to build on. Their links should be to the right. Since I haven't received the funding YET (crossing my fingers that they mean it), their blogs and products have literally been a real time and life saver for me. So THANK YOU!

For Science/Social Studies, I plan to use Unique Learning System.

But, since I am not currently signed up yet, I decided to start the Family Life and Sexual Health (FLASH) curriculum that our district uses. It was actually created by our county's health Department and is free to anyone. I am using the Special Education version. Here is a link to the site.

 In our school, this curriculum is taught by the science teachers. According to ARC, up to 80% of people with intellectual disabilities are sexually assaulted at some point in their lives. I want to do everything I can to help my students protect themselves. Plus, although my students are delayed in many ways, their bodies develop typically, just like their peers. Middle school is where it starts and I want them to develop appropriate ways of handling their sexual desires and feelings right off the bat. I was a nurse before I became a teacher so this is not a subject I shy away from or find embarrassing at all. So to start with, we are working on Public versus Private places, leading  eventually to Public vs Private behavior. I also plan to use aspects of the Circles curriculum, which teaches students about how to talk, touch and trust different people in a broadening circle of relationships, from people close to them, to total strangers. I had planned to do these units during the shorter months where ULS does not have a planned curriculum, such as December and June, but I have needed to start them now as I wait for the funding to come through. I have had the students cutting inside and outside places out of a magazine and I have been laminating them for future use. We will be sorting them this week.

The FLASH unit also ties in loosely to our social skills unit, which is unexpected and expected behavior in many different places. We have been able to generalize this language to other times throughout the day and the kids get it! When they are engaging in poor choices we just tell them this is unexpected behavior and they STOP, can you believe it??! This is from Michelle Garcia Winner and really is a WINNER, lol. This week we will be talking about good manners as expected behavior. My students really need to work on this as I am getting tired of students picking their noses (it is CONSTANT and totally grosses me out) and touching and adjusting their privates, among other behavior. We will get to this in due time. However, we are starting small with with saying Please, Thank you, I'm sorry, and Excuse me. I have created a sort of 10 different behaviors for each category that I have observed or I know is important to them. I am including a link to this activity through my Google Docs for you to download if you want to.

That is all I have for now. Basically it's all I have the energy for. Have a great week!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Emergencies Book

Two posts in a weekend, who would have thought. I should be cleaning the house as we are expecting people to stay overnight sometime this week and next. My boyfriend works with the road crews fixing our main highway here on the island. Many of them live far away and when you add in a ferry commute, it can take a couple of hours to get here each way. So he has generously offered our place to stay for those that want to. So I should be getting the house ready... but it's more fun to play on the computer.

As part of my huge order for my new classroom, I ordered lots of curriculum, but since I don't have any of it yet, I have had to improvise for everything. One of the units I have been working on is emergencies. I originally wanted to just start with several social stories regarding our emergency procedures, such as fire drills and lockdown drills, but decided to make it a whole safety and emergency unit. I purchased ALL About Emergencies from The Autism Helper, and you can find her unit here. But I found that it was a little too high for some of my lower kids. So I made a book that will be adapted once I get on boardmaker this week. I will upload those icons when I am done. But here are snapshots of the book and if I can figure it out, I will stick it on my google drive so you can get a copy of it. I also have made a few file folders to sort and match different emergencies and emergency vehicles and personnel. And I plan to add more to it. But I will post those later.

Here is the link to the book on google documents.

This is the cover page


I am covering just 4 kinds of emergencies: medical, police, fire, and natural disasters

Brief description of medical emergencies

Police emergencies

fire emergencies

Natural disaster. Since we live in Seattle, I included possible natural disaster we can have here, but I also included tornadoes and hurricanes which we don't have in our neck of the woods.

We will role play this.

Covering why it's important to call 911 only in emergencies.

We don't actually have tornado drills here, but I will tell them other places do. We do have the others, so we will practice those.

And then a series of social stories for the various drills.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

First full week

I made it through the first full week and boy were we all exhausted at the end. I focused on the schedule and stuck specifically to my Monday schedule, which is the simplest one. Next week I was going to add in all the other days, including going out to the community on Tuesday and Thursday, but I am not quite ready yet. I think we'll keep to our Monday schedule for the first three days and we'll start our community outings on Thursday and have our Arts rotation on Friday. Our service providers also start this next week and I have Open House Thursday evening, so I think those are enough changes for one week. We can start fresh the following week with the full schedule.

Speaking of schedules, I am going to have to tweak mine. I have one student that is light years ahead of everyone else. I had this student last year, and he was a very nervous and anxious student, constantly worried about everything. We started to see some improvements in the spring, and this fall, he is like a brand new person. The family put him on anti-anxiety meds and it has changed him dramatically. Without all the anxiousness and stress, he can focus on learning. He grew leaps and bounds in Math last spring and I am seeing the effects of that again this year. As an example, we were doing calendar concepts and working on our number of the day, which was 11. The students had to come up with a number sentence that equaled 11. It was a struggle for everyone except him. His number sentence was 600 + -589=11. So I put him in a resource room for Math. The teacher will work on grade level concepts, but it is slower paced and is a small class of 6 students. I send him with an Instructional Assistant.

On a different day, also at calendar time, we were talking about the weather, which was foggy. Some of them struggle with looking outside and telling us what they see, so it's obvious that we need to keep working on this concept. But my previously anxious student told me it was foggy, and then went into great detail about the water cycle, naming and describing all of the parts. So I decided to put him in a General Ed science class, where he will start on October 1st. And their first topic? The water cycle,where he will shine. And while I was add it, I put him in Social Studies, which is taught by a brilliant teacher who will work with him as much as she is able. I send an IA with him to both classes.

 The only reason I am able to do this is because even though I am an 8:1:2 teacher, and self-contained, I only have 6 students. On paper I have 8, but one student went to a different school, and one student moved to Alaska. Plus, one of my students has a 1:1 aide because he is a wanderer, but he is fairly stable in class, so I am able to utilize the IA's help. Without it, I couldn't do inclusion at all. To accommodate his needs, I am revamping our entire schedule to make sure he gets what he needs from me: reading, social skills, and community trips, and making sure I have adequate coverage in my room for the students I have left when he and the IA are gone.

Chappel Hill Snippets did a wonderful blogpost today on inclusion, which I am a big believer in. Her point was that students shouldn't have to earn the right to be in a regular education class, that all students should be able to be included. Another point she made was that there are many regular education students that have problems and behaviors but that it is not questioned that they have a right to be in those classes. To prove her point, she had a wonderful picture showing a group of students sitting on the floor and she asked if we could tell which was a Special Education student. There is one girl in the photo who is doing a yoga pose, but she is not the one. She said with the inclusion of her students, she has seen more growth since school started than she had seen the entire previous year. Of course, she is elementary and I am in middle school, which is an entirely different story. But if a student is capable, even if he isn't up to grade level in all of his skills, I am going to include them, and make sure they have the support they need to have a successful experience. He has a ton of accommodations, and I will modify his grading scale. He can also have modified work, but I want to see how he does first.

It was a successful week as far as students go. I am still spending many hours after work trying to come up with work that doesn't need velcro, lamination, a book binder,or any of the other materials I still don't have, which can be difficult for my lower students. But I am still glad I am in this program and enjoyed my week.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Rehash of the first 3 days of school

The start was a little stressful.

1. I was given the go ahead to order furniture, equipment, curriculum, and therapy items from a suggested list for a new autism classroom by my school district in June. I was so excited looking at all the catalogs and websites. For curriculum, I ordered tons of items from one of my favorite teacher materials store: manipulatives, many items to support literacy and math, and so forth.

I also got the Edmark Reading Program CDs. I have some of the print materials. Even though I am doing Guided Reading for my literacy component, I also have a rotation where they do computer work followed by free time on the computer. I have had some success with this program in the past and having extra literacy instruction doesn't hurt.

For social skills, I want to use curriculum from Michelle Garcia Winner. She has a ton of material on her website

For Science and Social Studies,  I ordered the Unique Learning System. When I looked over the curriculum for middle school, I was pleased to see that the units they offered overlapped with the middle school topics in these classes in my district. I like how there are new units every month. I plan to use News-2-You as part of our Morning meeting, and Symbol stix offers another picture based writing and icon option for my students.

In addition to these items I ordered storage bins, tons of velcro, laminator and equipment, a book binder, more ink for my color printer, a kidney table and some more bookshelves, carts to store student work, etc. I worked with the OT and PT to get therapy items for my room such as therapy balls, sensory items, a rocking chair, spinners, etc. All told, I spent over $10,000. I was basking in the glow of knowing I would have materials ready to set up a stellar program for my students.

Guess how many of those materials I had when school started this past week??????? Give the person who said zero a kewpie doll. That's right folks, nothing, nada, zippo, zilch. I was told it was a "performance issue". Basically, someone forgot to order it. Now mind you, my district is in trouble with the govt. over how they handle Special Education issue in our district, and this same issue was in the paper a year ago about how they start new programs and then don't provide materials for set up, leaving classrooms with NOTHING to start the school year with.  So you would think this would be a priority for them, sigh.

 I am a veteran special education teacher and am basically a hoarder of materials because I have learned that if you wait for the admins to help you, it might be a long wait. So I have some materials to get by until I get my stuff. But folks, I am irritated beyond belief because I started to ask for materials when I knew I was moving into this program last January. JANUARY!!!!. However, I am trying to relax and not let it get to me (although I vent a little here and there), and just go with the flow. I spent over $1000 of my own money to get some basics like velcro to at least get schedules up and have work tasks for the students to do, so we have been ok. But I decided on Friday that I was putting a stop to the Jannike money drain.
Talk about stressful. And I have told them they are reimbursing me which has been agreed to. I am putting the receipts together this weekend and submitting them on Monday.

So all is not totally lost. I have religiously been following the guidance of The Autism Tank, The Autism Helper, Autism Classroom News, and The Autism Adventures of Room  83. I believe the links are to the right. These blogs have been a godsend, and thanks to their advice, tips, and practical knowledge specific to this disability, I did not flounder. We stuck to building a routine schedule, which went well, and I had materials at every center to keep them busy. I will continue this next week, as most of my students have never used a schedule before (a topic for another post), and not worry about curriculum. 

And that is my first week. Despite the stressful nature of no materials, new Paraprofessionals, and new middle school students, it went relatively well.