An Autism Connection

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.

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