An Autism Connection

Saturday, September 6, 2014

I have a new blog...

Just a reminder to folks that I have a different blog now to reflect my new job. My new program is severe/profound, although I still case manage inclusion students with Autism. However, I don't see them daily. Please head on over to A SPECIAL ED CONNECTION to learn more about my new classroom.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Heads up: New job, new name, new blog

I recently applied for and got, a teaching position at a high school in my current district. It's actually a feeder school for the middle school I have been teaching in for the last 6 years. My dream has been to get back to teaching in high school because that is where my heart is. There's such a focus on academics at the other levels. I believe that as they get older, the focus needs to change, so that by the time they are in high school, the goal is centered on life after school. This means a much bigger focus on life and vocational skills, and less on academics, although I never give up on teaching this, even when they have very low skill levels. It breaks my heart to think of my students after the age of 21, sitting at home watching TV all day, every day, dependent on others for their every need, for the rest of their lives. How boring, sad, and lonely that must be.  This has happened to a few students I have had in the past, and makes me so upset! Every person deserves a life where they are as independent as possible and contributing members of society,  enjoying life to it's fullest, no matter how severe their disability.  If I can do something so that this never happens to any of my other students, I will. This job is an opportunity for me to work on this.

The new position is working with students that are medically fragile, which is a good fit for me, as prior to being a teacher, I was a nurse. None of my incoming students have autism, although that is always a possibility in the future if they are also medically fragile. Since my focus is no longer autism alone, I thought it fitting to change the name. In order to have my URL fit the new name, I needed to change blogs. Without further ado, I redirect you to my new blog Special Ed Connections . I look forward to sharing this new journey with you.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

I'm Baaaaaaack

I just got back from my fabulous trip to Colorado, where I participated in the NEA Rep Assembly,




 went camping and hiking,
 Garden of the Gods




 The Great Sand Dunes National Park


Dry Creek Trail- Boulder


 and hung out with old friends.

Now I am starting to think about the next school year, even though I have a few weeks to go before I have to go back. Because I am anal, this Thursday I will be going back  in to my classroom to re-arrange furniture that was taken out into the hallway so the custodial staff could wax the floors and generally clean the classroom. I also plan to meet with my Principal since I am co-head of the Dept and to see about my supplies and curriculum. We'll see how that all goes. This year I am not so stressed as last year was fairly successful. I am just going to tweak what I did and try to be a little more organized and mindful. To help me out, I dropped about $150 on the big TPT sale that was happening yesterday and today. I will write more about what I got and what I am doing with them in my classroom in the next few days, so stay tuned.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Special Education Blog Hop

It's been awhile since I have blogged. I needed a mental health break, so I have taken one, and it's been great. I am currently in the great state of Colorado, enjoying the sunshine and great company of friends. I came for the NEA annual convention as a delegate, which was a marvelous experience. Afterwards, I met with old friends. So, I will be away from blogging for the next few weeks and will start again in August. But I am still reading blogs and wanted to participate in this blog hop. Unfortunately, I tried to do it by phone, and that wasn't working too well, so I am delayed in posting after I shared my link. However, I have brief access to a computer, and thought I would try to finish up.

You can find the other link-ups at the Tales of a Carolina Girl.

I wasn't able to add the template so I am just going to add my info below.

1. Name: Jannike (pronounced Ya-ni-ka and rhymes with Hanukkah). I'm originally from Norway.

2. Job title: Special Education Teacher, Autism Self-Contained; Co-Chair Special Education Dept.

3. Grades: 6-8

4. Number of years teaching: 12 years total. 1 year as a high school Autism teacher; 5 years as a life skills middle school teacher; 5 years as a self-contained resource teacher-middle school; 1 year  in my current position. Prior to that I was a Paraprofessional for 3 years in a life skills high school program/transition program; prior to that I was a Nurse.

5. Advice: I quite simply could not do my job without the support of the paraprofessionals in my program. When I first started, I tried to be friends with my Paras, since I had been one myself, which made it difficult when I had to give them direction they didn't agree with, or when conflict arose. This is different than being friendly. It took some time for me to see this difference, but I finally did. We might be the same age, or have lots of different or even more, experiences, but we have different roles. So  I  had to establish boundaries. One way to do this is to be very clear at the beginning of the school year what our individual roles are, and what my expectations are for the education of the students we all work with but that I am ultimately responsible for. I have written a very detailed Handbook that outlines all my expectations, our individual roles each day, and with specific students, as well as some educational info regarding Autism and other disabilities. I go over this prior to the school year so that we are all on the same page and I can answer any questions. I also do this with new Paras. I have shared this handbook with my administrators so that they know what is happening in my program. But I also listen to my Paraprofessionals and we plan many activities together. They run stations in my classroom depending on interest and need, and assist me in carrying out the IEP goals and objectives. I never forget that we are a team and I respect what they do, and show it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Winding down + freebie

I am sooooo ready for summer break!

We still have 17 teaching days left, though, so it'll be awhile yet. I have a few goals for the end of the school year. Here's a couple. More to come later.



1. For the first time ever, I plan to be out of there on the last teaching day. That has never happened before in all the years I have taught. But this year I am doing it because I am BURNED OUT, lol. No foolin'! I need up outta there as soon as possible!! So, to make it happen, I am cleaning/organizing/packing either 1 box, 1 shelf, or 1 pile every day. Room's looking better already. The one thing that might hold me up are my duties as a new Co-Chair  of our SpEd. Dept. But it doesn't pay enough for me to stay later so they better bring whatever it is soooon, or it will have to wait until the end of August. I am not joking!


2. I am also working on my units for the beginning of the school year. I adapted this book from tarheel reader and added some icons to match the pages. Here's one book, but there will be a few others as well in the next few days. I'll post them as soon as I'm finished. Naturally, I did desserts first, but the healthy stuff is coming.


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Social skills curriculum ideas for next year.

Since I have a year under my belt, I know what social skills lessons worked and didn't work this past year, and have ideas that I want to focus on for next year. The following is what I came up with for the entire year, just so that I have a framework to go with. Obviously, if an issue comes up, I can be flexible enough to change my plans, but I hate constantly flying by the seat of my pants, which is what I did a lot of this year, so I wanted a plan in place. It makes it easier to prep, too.

Many of these topics are ones I worked on this year, and there were some I identified as needing for next year, or wished I had time to work on. All of my current students are returning next year, as well as a couple of new ones, so I think this will work. They are broken into weekly themes. I do social skills in 20 min sessions, 3-4 times a week. They are short and sweet, with a day or two to practice. I find the curriculum itself in many places: Google it, TPT, pinterest, teacher blogs, or I just make it myself if I can't find something or it doesn't work. I will share more this summer as I start planning for the first few months.

SEPTEMBER- Skills in the classroom
Classroom rules/whole body listening/using a quiet voice
Asking for help /asking questions/interrupting
Expected and unexpected behavior

OCTOBER-Feelings
Identifying own emotions /Expressing emotions
Recognizing others’ emotions /Facial expressions / body language
Positive and negative emotions/making good choices
Halloween manners/trick or treating

NOVEMBER- Feelings Cont’d/Manners
Dealing with fear, disappointment, anger
Apologizing /saying sorry
Table manners/setting the table

DECEMBER- Caring about others
Understanding other’s behaviors/impact of your behavior on others
Kindness/ helping/caring/showing an interest in others
Social service project

JANUARY-Friendship
Acknowledging others /Greetings /Taking turns/waiting
Personal space /Appropriate touch
Good friends/not so good friends
Empathy/seeing other’s point of view

FEBRUARY-Conversation skills
Starting conversations /Taking turns in conversation /Ending conversations
Using humor/jokes
Body language review
Small talk/ conversation topics

MARCH- Problem Solving
Good/bad choices/Dealing with consequences
Bothering others
How big is the problem?
Solving problems/conflict

APRIL-Superflex
Introduction to superflex/Rock Brain
Brain eater
Body Snatcher
Mean Jean

MAY- JUNE  Superflex cont’d/Personal safety
Space Invader
Stranger awareness
Public  versus Private
Introduction to Circles curriculum









Saturday, May 17, 2014

Community based Instruction-McDonald's

At the beginning of the school year, I asked families for donations for the classroom and for $25 to be used in the community to practice money skills, etc. Not one person sent in money. I asked again, and nothing. Some of my families are low income but not all. So, not sure what I did wrong here, or if there's a different way to approach this, so if anyone has any suggestions, I am all ears. My original intent was to be able to purchase food for some small cooking activities,  purchase a meal, or to visit the dollar store. Basically activities that would have the student understand money and use it appropriately when out in the community. With no money,  I had to rethink what  we were going to do while we were out there.

We ended up going out into the community regularly, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, except when the weather was awful. But we've had some good weather recently and have ventured forth. I have done a variety of things with them while we were out. We practiced looking for our community signs, crossing the street safely, doing scavenger hunts in a variety of businesses, going to the library, our local community garden, and just going to the park to enjoy some relaxation. The students enjoy these activities and love it when they see the community PEC signs on their schedules. It ended up working out just fine.

This past week we had beautiful weather with temperatures in the 80s. If you know anything about Seattle, you know that is hot for us. The thought of going out anywhere in these sizzling  warm temperatures when we're not used to it was not a fun thought. I couldn't think of one thing any of us would want to do until I thought of ice cream cones. There is a McDonalds not too far from the school and I asked the kids if they wanted to go there for our next outing. Sheer excitement. At first I thought just ice cream but they have a dollar menu (and since I was paying, that was the menu we were going to use) and I have some students that are incredibly picky about food, so I thought I would let them pick.  I made this page with icons for them to choose what they wanted to get ahead of time and to practice ordering. Since we were doing it the next day, I didn't work with them on money. But it was relatively cheap, so I will do it again before school is out, and we'll practice with the next dollar strategy. Here is the menu I came up with. I got the idea from someone's blog and I searched for it but couldn't find it. If you know whose it is, please let me know so I can give them credit.



The outing went very well and the students did a great job. We had fun and I look forward to doing it again shortly. If you want a copy of this, I have saved it on google doc in a format so that you can change it to another restaurant, if you need to. I put velcro in the middle to store the symbols, and the sentence, "I want...Please",  goes on the bottom. There's enough space there for ordering up to 3 different items.


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Nutrition unit + freebie

So, last post, I wrote what my science and social studies units are going to be in the fall. I decided to get busy now, since that is a lot of ground to cover. Since the district didn't fund me in a timely manner, all the items I purchased during the year were reimbursed out of a different budget, rather than my classroom budget. So I still have my entire budget left. I am putting in an order tomorrow for the Circles Level 1  curriculum from The James Stanfield Company. I have used this before and it is a wonderful tool to teach students about touch, trust, and talk with people they know well, not so well, and with strangers.


I also got a new iPad, which will hopefully be three total for the fall. I already have 6 computers, but 2 haven't worked, and the others are super old. I think I will wean it down to 2 computers, and 2 iPads for the computer station, and 1 iPad for my teacher station.

The rest of the money I used to purchase items to  support the science and social studies units through December. I will have a new budget in the fall, and hope to supplement through Donor's Choose for the rest. We'll see how that goes as I have never tried them before.

Here are the items for my Nutrition unit. I chose to start off the school year with nutrition because food is a difficult issue for some of my students who are incredibly picky eaters. I have one student who has only eaten cheetos and drunk soda which has severely impacted his health to the point where he is in a wheelchair. This is probably one of the more important units I will teach this year for this reason, which is why I have so many activities. Anyway, here are some of the materials I have/will purchase.If I see items, or someone can recommend different activities or items you have used in your classroom, I am all ears.

 I got Nasco's Deluxe cling set from Nasco,
as well as this food replica kit and this one that is more multiculturalfrom Lakeshore Learning.





Also from Lakeshore Learning, I got My Plate Pop and Match,



I have also put this unit on my wish list for next week when it goes on sale,

as well as this lapbook project, which I will modify a little.


And then finally, here are some activities on Google Docs that I made to supplement. I am still new at creating, so please forgive my box sizes ahead of time. I' like to get them to match, but I am not there yet. There are tons of pictures to sort, pick as many as you need, titles for the sort, boxes for matching pictures to words, pictures to pictures (you choose which pictures for both),my plate sort, and then a graphing game with a die to cut out. I formatted the sorts and matching this way so that my students don't memorize which pictures go where. There are enough pictures so that I can mix and match and it will be different each time. Just print,  laminate, and cut.

That should get us through for September. Hope this helps someone.



















Monday, April 28, 2014

Changes for next year

 I have been thinking about next year and what our schedule is going to look like. I will still have the same 6 kids I have had this year, but I will get 2-3 new students, all with lower skills than my current group. So grateful that I know this now and can plan for it.

 I need to revamp a few things I've been doing. I have been doing ULS for science and social studies. I have to say I am a little disappointed. I had read a couple of blogs from people who were using ULS and they had said it was a little boring. Now that I have used it for most of this school year, I would have to agree. There are books and worksheets, and some recipes. The books are a little dull. I didn't get a chance to make them interactive, so that might help in the future. Their life skills pages that follow the lessons are also pretty good, as are the recipes. So I am not giving up on ULS, but I want to do something different, and then incorporate ULS into that.

 I decided to do thematic units for both social studies and for science. ULS alternates months of science and social studies but I will be doing both each month. I looked at what my school teaches in their science and social studies departments and decided to use these topics if I could make them concrete and fun. We are also an international school, so for social studies, I decided we would study 3 continents each year, and then each year pick a different country to study within each continent, to make it more interesting. Each unit will incorporate a field trip, an art project, and either cooking or drama, or both.These are the social studies units I chose for next year.



September- Emergencies- we will review our drills
October- Geography/map skills-
November- South America-
December-Holidays around the world
January- Australia
February- Africa
March- Washington state history
April-Recycling
May-Community helpers
June-Economics


For science, I chose the following topics.



September-Nutrition
October- 5 senses
November- Rocks/fossils
December-Animals/habitats
January- force/motion, sink/float, magnets, liquids/solids
February-Weather/Natural Disasters
March-Planets/solar system
April-Human body; puberty
May-Plants
June- Insects

I will start developing them over the summer. If I can find units on TPT, that will make life easier. I will create the rest and will share as I go.

More on other changes later.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

life skills

I am a middle school teacher, but I have also taught high school and transition. I know how hard it is and how long it takes for students to learn skills they will need to be as independent as possible as adults.  Ideally, teachers would introduce these skills in elementary. In middle school, I believe there should be a mix of both academics and life skills. As they transition to high school,  the shift ideally would be more life skills and the academic skills they need for after school. This of course, should be decided for each individual child. In my program there is currently a mix. Mornings are strictly academics, and after lunch, there is a focus on life, social, pre-vocational, and leisure skills.

 In our classroom, we have a separate kitchen area where we do the bulk of our life skills. We have an assortment of tasks we focus on, including workbox tasks. But in addition, we also wash dishes by hand and dishwasher, wipe counters, sort light and dark clothing, wash and dry clothes, fold clothes, hang clothes on hangers, and put an assortment of clothes on to practice various buttons and zippers. In addition, I also have cupboards and our refrigerator filled with empty packaging of different grocery items that students can practice putting away. This last one is still a work in progress, as there are so many tasks that can be done. I will share more when it is completed. I asked our school staff to donate clean empty packaging and  used clothing, we got some from our school clothing banks, and then our OT brought in a box of clothing items we still needed.  We go through a life skills rotation 3 days a week, and they rotate through the various tasks.
Here are some photos of my students practicing buttons and zippers and hanging clothes. I had asked for extra large items so that they can put the clothes on on top of the clothes they are already wearing.








What do you do for life skills?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

United Opt Out




The focus of this blog was not to be political, even though I am personally very political and have become an education activist of sorts. I am a part of my school district's union, and am an active member. I participate in demonstrations and marches, and am planning to attend 2 marches in support of education in June here in Seattle, and in Washington DC in July. I belong to the Badass Teachers Association (BATS)


 and numerous other organizations fighting so called education reform. I follow many blogs, evenly split between blogs that are similar to mine, and then blogs that are very activist in nature, like Diane Ravitche's blog, or Jersey Jazzman in New Jersey, to name a couple. All are enlightening and help me do my job. I am against the common core. I am against Teach for America. I am against charters and vouchers. In short, I am against anything that threatens public education and the lives of children, as well as my livelihood and chosen profession. No, this blog was not to be any of that at all, although sometimes it will creep in, like today, and I have seen it creep into other blogs as well, as teachers become overwhelmed with the new mandates and what it is doing to the children they care for each day. This creeps into their blogs as they share their frustrations. All are well received, as everyone one of us is impacted by reforms to one degree or another. We try to keep it all separate but sometimes you can't help it, it seeps out and we vent. This is my version.

I was outraged when I read the story of Ethan Rediske in Florida (read a newspaper story about this HERE).
 He was a student who was blind and had severe brain damage and was in hospice. Yet his parents had to sign letters asking for a waiver from the tests even as he lay dying. It was finally granted, and then the next day he died.

Then, I am sitting in an IEP meeting with our full team last month (March) . I have been very pleased with the progress of this particular student and the meeting has gone well so far. I have been slowly mainstreaming this student because he has done so well. However, I had some concerns because his anxiety levels seemed to have increased. Maybe I was pushing too hard. Parents, too, had been pleased with his progress, but had also noticed an increase in anxiety at home, leading to negative behaviors. Although most of my students do alternative testing, this student was going to be taking the regular state testing the rest of the students in the building were taking. In preparation, teachers in the building  had started test prep, and it turns out that this was what was causing the added stress.

Mom starts to get upset and almost cries. The tests don't begin until the end of April, and will last for 2 weeks. Each day his anxiety would increase, and she feared that the days leading up to the actual testing would undo all the progress her child had made. I sat and listened to her and wrestled with myself and made a decision. My job is this child, and what is best for him educationally. So I went against our school district policy and told her about opting out. She had no idea that she could do it. I told her about UNITED OPT OUT, where she could get more information, and that she could write a letter. I left the decision to her and told her she didn't have to make the decision there, that she could think about it and let me know. After a couple of days, she called me back and said, yes, she wanted to opt him out, so I put it in the IEP and she wrote letters. Her child's anxiety disappeared and he is back to making excellent progress.


School and tests should not increase stress and I refuse to participate if it is going to harm a child. These children are the reason I keep teaching and I won't stand back and watch if I see something that will hurt them. Every teacher has to draw the line somewhere, and that was mine.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Social story/freebie

I have one student that eats from the trashcan, that will pick stuff up off the ground and eat it, and that finds gum under tables and pops it into his mouth. This is definitely behavior we want to change!! It came to a head one day when we were at the park and someone had left a soda can partially filled next to a bench. He was far enough away that I couldn't see what kind of drink it was at first, and I was freaked out that it was alcohol, but it turned out to be Diet Dr. Pepper. Anyway, he drank the remainder in the can before I got there. This is the same student that I needed to create the poison lesson/unit for as he ate poisonous berries and plants while he was out in the community with us.  Definitely a problem. So then I created this social story to deal with the trash situation. He's done ok with it. He slips up occasionally, but isn't being sneaky about it like before, he just forgot. When we see this behavior and say something, he spits it out. I wish he would stop altogether, but baby steps work, too.

If you want a copy of the social story, you can find it HERE.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

How big is the problem? Social skills lesson/Freebie

One of the issues my students have is their reactions to problems that come their way. A pencil lead could break and there might be a total meltdown, or a student tells us he has to go to the bathroom, and we tell him to wait a minute as someone is in there, and there is a full blown tantrum. So we spent a few days and talked about problems. We put the problems on post it notes and put them on a big poster that had a line scale at the bottom and numbers 0-5. Number zero is a glitch or no problem at all. We put the pencil lead  breaking here. Number 1 is a little problem, such as waiting for the restroom. Number 3 is a medium problem, such as falling down and breaking your arm. Number 5 is a catastrophe, such as an earthquake or someone dying. We had the students list as many as they could, and then the staff listed problems that we had seen them have. We had a great list going on. Anytime we saw them have a problem after this, we asked where it was on the scale. I have pictures but all of them have  student in them and I don't know how to delete them or hide their faces yet.

Then in power point, I made a colorful chart to show our 5 levels and how they might feel at each of those levels.

Next, I created a problem arrow with the same color scheme and labels, along with another arrow that shows the reactions/ feelings  for each level, and an arrow between them asking if the reaction matches the problem. 


We then role played and reviewed. This has actually been a very helpful lesson. When we see meltdowns starting, we ask if the meltdown matches the problem, and it has stopped a few of them in their tracks. I have to love that! I am including a link to this if you want them in your classroom, just click HERE.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Five for Saturday

This week I am linking up with  DOODLEBUG TEACHING FOR HER FIVE FOR FRIDAY LINKY PARTY. This will be photos from this week and last month since I am such a slacker at blogging.

1.This past week was fairly mellow but  by the time Friday rolled in the door, my brain was crispy fried. It's Spring Break this coming week, so students were a little wild (in our building, that is). I am a strict follower of our routine, which really helps my students stay on an even keel, even when all around chaos reigns. We ended the week with a Jelly Bean taste testing event (thank you Autism Helper).
I am using her image because ours was very similar and because I didn't take a picture. Did I mention my brain was fried? We  used generic jelly beans, fruit flavored ones, sour ones, and hot tamales. The Autism Helper also had a wonderful freebie for the students to fill out. The kids loved it. I loved it because I have several students with food issues (one only eats blue food, another doesn't chew, another is incredibly picky), but I am very happy to say that ALL of them tried at least one from each category. I wish I had a camera because the faces they made were so funny, but at least they tried. I told them I was very proud of them. I think in order to broaden their horizons, I am going to have a vegetable and fruit tasting event before the end of the school year.

2.We also did this Easter Egg art project idea that I got from Pinterest:
All you need is sidewalk chalk, water, and painter's tape. Alas, I didn't get any photos of ours, but they looked very similar to these. Here is the original blog post the idea came from: http://thehappyteachertpt.blogspot.com/2013/03/easter-egg-art-project.html.

3. As I didn't post for St. Patrick's day, I wanted to share a couple of photos from that event. This was an idea I got from Pinterest, with original link here. It was called rainbow water and here is what hers looked like:
Here is what ours looked like. Major Pinterest FAIL, lol. Shoot, no one wants to drink black murky water, so I threw it away.
And here is a cute photo of one of my students. He was making a joke and did this and then he laughed. It was really cute!

4. Believe it or not, I actually am into this blog, but there's always one thing or another that pulls me away from it. This past month it was my Golden Retriever Thumbelina. She was diagnosed with cancer on her paw. Her options were to amputate it, leave it alone, or do radiation and chemo. As for the amputation, she's 12 and otherwise healthy, but has arthritis in here rear legs. It just wasn't going to work. If we left it alone, she would only have 2-4 months. If we did radiation and chemo, both with minimal side effects, we could have her for a year or two longer, so this was a no brainer. The problem is, the only place to do radiation was a 6 hour drive away, so that is what I did each week. I got up at 3AM, drove 6 hours over a mountain pass for her 1/2 hour appt, and then drove 6 hours back, all in one day mid week for 4 weeks. It exhausted me and it hasn't worked as well as we hoped, but she's still with us and relatively happy for now.


5. And finally, this is a picture off the ferry  I take to and from work each day. This is sunset and it was just beautiful. It's such a peaceful transition to and from my job each day.