Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Living Autism Day by Day

I hope you enjoyed yesterday's guest post from Pamela Bryson-Weaver.  She is a mother of 3 children, one of which has autism.  

A few weeks ago, Pamela, offered to send me her book. Anytime a parent of a child with special needs writes a book, I want to read it because they have a whole different perspective than I do as a teacher.  I learn so much from reading books written by parents/families of people with disabilities.  I especially liked the way Pamela wrote the book in a diary like manner because like most parents, I don't have time to sit and read for hours like I used to.  Pamela's book was very easy to read, did not require much time, and was very uplifting.  If you are a parent or caretaker of a child with special needs, I highly recommend her book.  
Each day of the year, has a short 1 page story or note.  The book is filled with:

  • daily reflections and strategies
  • autism awareness & practical advice
  • humor, anecdotes, paradoxes
  • tips, references, and resources
  • self-awareness, managing emotions
  • space for your notes
  • inspiring quotes,
If you want to know more about the book or order your own copy, you can find it {HERE}


Monday, September 28, 2015

Dear Teachers, I Wish You Knew This About Kids With Autism

Life has never been the same from the day my son John had his autism diagnosis. This pervasive developmental disorder has changed a lot in our lives and even more so when he was in school. It is common for most, if not all, children who have autism to struggle in social situations. It is ingrained in their system. What may seem natural to other kids do not simply come as naturally to other children with ASD and this makes school a rollercoaster ride for them. 

To parents, leaving their children with autism in the care of school teachers can be both a breath of fresh air and unending worry. I believe it is common for parents to feel this way. Parents are “born” to be worrywarts, they say, and this is even amplified to those who have autism in their midst. John will be in 12th grade and up to the this minute, amid the compassion and patience his teachers, there is always that lingering fear—and if I am to repeat the whole thing over again, these are some of the things I would want a teacher to know when dealing with a student who has autism:

1. All individuals are unique and autism is no different. There are kids who have a hard time speaking even in grunts or nods while others are complete chatterbox. Some kids may show high intellectual thinking, have penchant for music and math, the arts and the logic. But there are also others who are on the opposite side of the spectrum. In this regard and if it is possible, a flexible academic curriculum should apply. The teacher handling the class should know better what to do and discussing it with parents instead of forcing the kid to cope with the rest of the class would be best. 

2. Children on the spectrum have different interests. Let this be your guide in motivating them to learn. My son John has a penchant for sea creatures and he would listen intently on activities that mention them. All other kids in a class have different interests, too. Perhaps, finding a common interest among them will not only increase their interest, it will also improve their socialization skills.  

3. Be perceptive of their behavior. To others, a meltdown and negative behavior are just that. No, these things happen for a reason. This is their way of telling you something that they cannot verbalize. When a child “misbehaves,” try to look beyond the misconduct. Take note of what triggered such a behavior and from these observations, finding an alternative for him or her to learn. Patience is a virtue and this is what counts more in this aspect.

4. Sensory issues are common not only to children with autism but with their peers as well. Loud sounds, rowdy behavior and other discomfiting gestures are just too much for them to take. Schools have occupational therapists and reaching to them to ask for sensory-friendly ideas would help a lot. 

5. Be precise in giving instructions. If you want a child to clean up a mess he made, scolding him won’t help. Teaching him how to do it properly, however, will deliver a more positive reaction. Instead of telling a child with autism to “clean up his mess,” be precise by telling him to “throw crumpled paper into the trash bin.” Metaphors and generalized thinking are foreign to them.

6. Never use a child with autism’s weakness when stressing a point.  Their brains do not work like others. Precision—this is where they thrive. When you say something in the negative, they will simply perceive it as it is. 

7. Be sensitive to their needs. Parents do not ask teachers to give special attention to their kids with autism but, as much as possible, teachers should know when to impose discipline. Never do it when they’re hungry, over-stimulated, fidgety, angry, nervous, or any situation where they are emotionally unstable. Shouting does not help. Talking in a calm soothing voice or leaving him in a quiet corner to feign for himself (but still maintaining your eyes on him) will help bring back his emotions in check.

8. Last but not least, never attempt stereotype his behavior with that of others. Telling him “kids like you are all the same” will only confuse him. Telling him precisely what is and not acceptable will make him learn more. Instead of lumping him in an over-generalized category, providing him with a concrete example on how to do things will come a long way in shaping up his behavior.

Teachers are supposed to be role models for fortitude. They are considered as second parents to our kids. There is no doubt that working around kids with autism and other disabilities can test their patience and endurance. Human as they are, keeping an open mind and reaching out to parents will help ease their burden. Autism or not, our children are works in progress. We are just here to support them. All they need to do is call our attention.


Pamela Bryson-Weaver is the author of Living Autism Day by Day: Daily Reflections and Strategies to Give You Hope and Courage, an award-winning and #1 bestseller on Amazon. A staunch advocate for autism, she is also the mind behind the powerful website—www.livingautismnow.com—an online portal for parents, caregivers, individuals with ASD, service providers, and experts to interact with each other, to raise awareness, and locate the best possible services for them. Bryson-Weaver is uniquely qualified to speak on autism as she is the past president of the Autism Society in New Brunswick, and has promoted a resolution on autism that was presented locally, provincially and nationally, and was passed nationally in Canada 2004. To date, all children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in her province receive S20k per year for treatment. Married with 3 children, the main driving force in this advocacy is her youngest son, John, who has autism.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Writing Programs for Special Education Students

If you're anything like me at all, you struggle with how to teach children to write.  Writing is hard.  There are a million rules to learn and most of them never made sense to me as a kid.  I was good at memorizing and was able to skim by.  As a teacher, I read as much as I can about teaching writing.  Since all of my students have some type of learning disability, writing is often a painful subject for all of us.

Until now, that is.  I spent my entire summer working and revising a writing curriculum that would fit my kids.  It offers lots of repetition and each skill builds on previous skills.  I have laid out the skills in such a way that it  makes sense to my kids.  And best of all, it is no prep (other than printing and grabbing chart paper.)  How awesome is that!

We started the first week of school working on how to write a basic sentence and complete/fragments.    This is the anchor chart that we created.  We added a bit to it each day.  We also learned about nouns.   We created a noun anchor chart to help with spelling and generating ideas.  On Friday, we went back and circled the nouns in the "who" part of our sentence.

 Week two we added a new part to our chart, "where?".  I ask the kids, "Who?" and they give me a noun.  Then, I would prompt the kids with, "Did what?" and they would give me a verb/verb phrase.  "Where" and we filled in the last part of the chart.  We would go back and read the whole sentence to make sure it made sense.

We also spent the week adding as many verbs to our anchor chart as possible.

We also made an anchor chart with "where" words.  (I LOVE my anchor charts!!)

I line up my anchor charts in this order: nouns, verbs, where/when.  This allows us to find a word from each chart to write a complete sentence.  This helps my students who really struggle with writing.

Week three, we talked about adding when things happen into our sentences.  This is the anchor chart at the beginning of the week.  (I didn't get a picture at the end of the week.)  The daily lessons have the class brainstorm as many different ways to tell when as possible.  For example, one day the students have to make a list that tells when they change clothes.  We came up with answers such as after school, before bed, and after my shower.  This really helped my kids know that they didn't need to state a specific time to tell when.

 Week four, we added in adjectives.   We continued with the same process that we have been doing each day.  (I added my adjective anchor chart before my noun anchor chart on the board. ) Look how much our sentences have grown.

Each lesson begins with a warm up.  The students are expected to label each part of the sentence that we have already learned.  Here are some examples of my students' work from last week.  (This is 7 of the 9 students in my writing group.  2 were absent.) I had them label the sentences independently.  I read the sentences aloud and said, "Divide your sentence between your subject and predicate.  Mark your nouns.  How many nouns are in this sentence?  Mark your verb.  What did you do?  Mark your adjectives.  Look at your nouns for a hint.  Underline your prepositional phrase.  Remember where or when?"  These were the only prompts I gave my kids.  I think this is AMAZING progress!!  At the beginning of the year, only 1-2 kids knew what a noun was and now they are identifying nouns, verbs, adjectives, and prepositional phrases!

If you are interested to see if this special education writing program will work for your kids, you can get a full two-week sample to try for free.  


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Talk Like a Pirate Day

Talk Like a Pirate Day is September 19th! Want to celebrate in your homeschool or classroom? Check out these easy & creative ideas to get in the spirit!   Pirates - Educents Blog

Pirate Treasure Hunt - This is a great activity for pirate fun at home over the weekend! Make your own map, hide pirate treasure, and watch your little ones follow directions to search for the Pirates’ Gold! Island Adventures Reading Program - Join Pete Pirate and his crew with instruction and practice in advanced phonics skills, sight words, vocabulary, fluency, and reading comprehension! 75 lessons teach fundamental reading skills for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades. Recommended ages 6 to 9.


Treasure Map Pizza - Decorate your homemade pizza with olives, peppers, and a tiny red pepper for the pirate ship! Meet the McKaws - This is such a fun pirate-themed book for Kindergarteners! Captain Stan and Tiny McKaw are rough-and-tumble pirates. Whether it’s searching for treasure or battling on the high seas, this adventurous duo is up for anything. Pirates’ Treasure &Crafts

Pirate Math and Literacy Activities - The pirate literacy activities include wall words, syllable sort, picture bingo, and more! The pirate math activities include four math activities that would deb a great addition to any pirate-themed unit. Pirate Crafts and Treasure Chest - Make a pirate hat, homemade pirate hook, spyglass, treasure chest, gold coins and more!

Pirate Craft

Paper Plate Pirate Craft - Use household items to craft a happy pirate face! This is an easy activity for kids and parents to complete together at home. Exploding Treasure Chests Pirate Science - Dive into some pirate science with Exploding Treasure Chests!! It’s a great sensory experience as the solid, freezing cold chests turn to mush and expose treasures hidden within. Pirate Theme Classroom Mega Bundle - Want to set your classroom in a pirate theme? This package includes pirate-themed word wall cards, calendars, customizable name tags, classroom jobs poster, time telling posters set, and more!


Friday, September 4, 2015

Teacher Week 2015: Friday

Today is all about your favorite subject.  I LOVE to teach math.  I love math because it doesn't change.  In the world of special education, learning new skills is challenging especially when there are so many rules that have exceptions (like in writing and reading.)  The rules really don't change in math.  I love that you can take something a child already understands and show them how to relate it to a new skill.

Check out my blog post on how to teach subtraction with borrowing or how to multiply large numbers when you barely have your facts memorized.

I also have some great Smartboard files in my store that you can use to teach kids how to multiply, divide, and simplify fractions.  You can check them out {HERE}

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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Teacher Week 2015: Tuesday

Spicy Chicken Crockpot is a favorite meal of my family.  I love because it's yummy, healthy, easy, and cheap.  What more can you ask for?!!

1.  Put boneless chicken breast in the crockpot.  (It can be frozen!!  That's the best part because I never remember to plan ahead and defrost chicken.)
2.  Rinse and drain a can or two of black beans and dump in the crockpot.
3.  Pour in some frozen corn.
4.  Add a packet of taco seasoning.
5.  Pour in a whole jar of salsa.
Cook on low all day.

(I don't measure anything.  The more chicken you use, the more other ingredients you will want to use.  I used 3 chicken breasts, 2 large cans of beans, a whole bag of corn, and a large jar of salsa for my family of 4 recipe.)

Just before supper, take a fork and stir it all up and this is what it looks like. You can eat it on nachos or as a taco/burrito.  Add some cheese and you are ready to go!  It freezes well and makes great leftovers for lunch.

Head over to Blog Hoppin for more yummy meal ideas.

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