Sunday, September 3, 2017

First Day of School Poem

I can't believe that Tuesday is the first day of school.

Are you ready?

I'm not sure I am. I'm excited and I must admit a little nervous.
The first day is always a bit nerve wracking. 

I know that my students are excited though.

I also know that on the first day of kindergarten, the most nervous people will be the parents.  Many of them have never been away from their child before.  This is new.  This is scary.  

Special needs parents are a unique bunch.  Imagine having a child that can't talk, can't walk, can't do anything for themselves.  It would be the most terrifying thing in the world to entrust your most vulnerable child to complete strangers.   

That's why on the first day I like to do a little hand print poem.
It's something to show the parents that their child did have a great day.  
They accomplished something. 
They participated.

It's something they can keep forever.

Better yet, it's free.
To grab the poem, click on the last picture.

Have a great first day!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

6 Ways to Help the Sensory Sensitive Child

Have you been told you will have a child or children in your class with sensory issues?  
Did you say to yourself "What on earth does that mean?"
Do you have a child you think might be autistic but isn't diagnosed or the testing has come back negative? 

If that's the case, you might have a student that is sensitive to sensory input.

Each year I seem to get more and more students with sensory issues, with or without another diagnosis such as low/high tone, autism or CP.

Let's take a closer look.

What do they look like?

They may be the child with no friends. The one who sits alone. The one other children avoid because they are "odd".  They may become overwhelmed or distracted in situations in which they become over stimulated.  They may seem like they have autism or behaviour problems because of the coping mechanisms they have been using to get through the day.

They may......  

Chew:  On their hands, on their clothes, on toys, on virtually anything.
Scream:  Loud and often.
Hide: These are the kids hiding under the desk or the table, curled into a ball.
Cover their ears: Having their hands over their ears is common.
Throw things: When frustrated, things go flying including their own body.
Spin: Round and round, with or without their arms out.

They may be sensitive to.......

Loud noises

They may have difficulty:

Staying still
With transitions

What can we do for them?

Whether your student has been diagnosed or not, here are 6 easy to implement ideas for you to try in the classroom.

1.  Use chew toys

There are lots of inexpensive commercially available chew toys (Chewlry and Chewigem are just two names).  They come in necklaces and bracelets, pencil tops and clip-ons. They have both boy and girl styles and have age appropriate models for any age.

2.  Use headphones

In order to block out loud noises in the auditorium, gym or classroom,  you can get noise cancelling headphones or a regular headset depending on how much sound needs to be muffled.  Some students prefer wearing hats or hoods over their ears if that is enough to make them feel secure.

3. Weighted toys.

Adding weight often helps a child with sensory issues feel more secure and less fidgety.  You can buy commercially made toys or vests in various weights or you can make one yourself.  Add beans or rice to long socks and sew up the end.  Add googly eyes and you have a snake.  Drape over the child's shoulders or across their lap.  Simple and inexpensive.

4. Alternate seating or flexible seating.

Letting your student pick how and where they sit may help reduce off task behaviors.  If they need to stand, let them.  If they need something firm or soft, let them pick.  This ties in with self regulation and advocating for themselves as well.  Giving them control of their environment will reduce their need to fight back against it.

5.  Quiet area

A quiet area is important for the child to have.  They need a space they can go to, to get away from everything that is overwhelming them. This gives them an area to be able to calm down in that is safe, is familiar and has calming items in it such as books, pillows or a favorite toy. 

6. Sensory Area

Having a sensory area available to students with high sensory needs is important for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it can be quite calming.  The deep pressure of pushing and pulling putty or other gooey substances can be soothing while working on fine motor skills and strength.  For another, many children find it calming to look into sensory bottles or lava lamps.  Add these items to your quiet area if they help.

I hope I've given you a few ideas that you can take back to your classroom and implement with the students in your class that are sensory sensitive.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Free Calendar Pieces

I can't believe that the end of summer is around the corner.  Where did the time go?  Are starting to panic a little like I am?  Do I have everything?  Am I ready?

To help you get a little more organized I put together all of my free calendar pieces in one place for you.

Whether you need numbers for a specific month, such as March.

or you are doing a special theme, such as pets,  I've got some numbers for you.

Also, you can print out 2 sets of numbers and use them in your math centers for a memory game.

Click on the pictures below to get your free numbers.

If you download any of the calendar numbers, I would love if you leave me some feedback.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

3 ways to increase vocabulary using word wall cards

Many special education students don't have the experiences that their typically developing peers have.  If a child cannot walk or talk, cannot hold things or turn their head in certain directions, then their view of the world is different from other children.  Autistic children often experience the world in ways that differ from those of other children due to the nature of their condition.

Because of this, it is very important for us as teachers to make sure that our students have experiences to expose them to situations, events and vocabulary that they may otherwise not experience.

Word walls cards also known as flash cards are a great tool to use for testing and practicing new vocabulary.  How to you use them in your class?  Here are 3 ways that I use word cards in my class to test prior knowledge and increase the vocabulary skills of my students.

When introducing a new topic to my students, word wall cards are a great way to see what they know.  When we started our farm theme I asked my students if  they had been to a farm before.  Did they know what a farm was?   What kind of things would we see on a farm.  We made several CHARTS which demonstrated what they knew about farms.  Testing prior knowledge is very important to know where you are starting from.  We started out by just putting up words they knew such as the animals on the farm.  As the month progressed we added vocabulary that did not belong on a farm and I had the children tell me what did belong on farm and what might not be on a farm.  You can make charts of farm animals and farm people and farm equipment.  The possibilities are endless.  Display the charts around the room for your students to refer to throughout the day.

Do you have a child that can't talk?  No problem.  Hold up two pictures, one that belongs on a farm and one that doesn't.  If they can point, have them point to the correct answer.  If they can't point, have them look at the right answer. 

Once I've determined what vocabulary my students know and what they have to work on, I add the word cards to my WRITING center.  Students can practice writing just the words, they can use the cards to help with spelling in their stories or they can use them as story starters.

Did you have a child that can't print?  Put the cards at the computer station for them to type.  Even children using assistive technology can practice typing.

The third activity I do with my word cards is to put them in a literacy center as a CONCENTRATION game.  I make two copies of the cards and put out a varying number depending on the group and how well them know the pictures.   The kids love this game.  It's also great for working on turn taking.

For children with poor fine motor skills, laminate and put Velcro on the cards.  Attach them to a Velcro board so they don't get knocked to the ground.  

How do you use word wall cards in your class?

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Spring Adapted Readers

April is Autism acceptance month and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to show you how I use my adapted readers with ASD students.  My students often have several  characteristics that impact their learning such as little to no speech, poor or no fine motor skills and poor attention skills. 

  The first thing to remember is that all children, including those with autism, CAN learn to read.  The second thing to remember is that a child does not need to be able to speak in order to read.  
So how do we teach students with little to no verbal skills?  How do we prove it?

I had been adapting some of my commercially bought leveled readers by reproducing the text and then having the children move the words to make the sentence in the book.  The only problem was that because my students needed so many opportunities to practice the same words over and over again in different contexts, I ran out of books that were simple enough for them to read.

The other issue was that some of my students had poor fine motor skills and pieces would often slide off slant boards or get knocked to the ground by shaky fingers.  I needed Velcro.

I decided then that I would have to make my own. 

Since spring was coming up, this first set is geared toward spring activities.  Book one has three words per page and book two has four.

By limiting the options that I give to the children, I gear it to their level.  Once the child gets good at finding words, I will add some distractors to make sure they are reading the words in the book.

I also made some take home books that the kids could cut and paste, color and then share with their family.

Flash cards with some of the vocabulary in the books were used for "write the room" and comprehension activities.

The problem with standardized assessment kits is that the comprehension question require verbal skills.  How do we prove a child with no verbal skills can read?

Can they pick out sight words?
Can they match sentences to a given picture? 
Can they answer comprehension questions?

I made some comprehension questions to go with my stories.  There is one question per page.  Some of the questions require general knowledge and some require relating the story to their life.  All the questions can be answered without verbal skills.

I've included an assessment sheet to keep track of your students answers.
Comprehension question choices can be reduced to three or even two choices if students need more limited options.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Spring Alphabet Freebie

I can't believe that spring break will be over tomorrow.  
It hasn't felt much like spring here yet.
It's been too cold.

 I thought I would brighten up the day with a little freebie for back to school.

I still have some students that don't know all their letters yet, and those that do, still need to practice matching upper and lower letters.

Here are some pictures of it in action.

Click on the last picture to grab it for free.

Match the upper case bears with the lower case flowers.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

More Pigs

Pigs, pigs and more pigs.  

My kids are totally into pigs right now, so I decided to make up some more pig books.  

I love making interactive books.  Designed especially for my SPED students, I find that interactive books improve expressive and receptive language skills while allowing my students with poor fine motor and attention skills to participate.  Interactive books also allow children with no verbal skills to participate in the reading process by using eye gaze.

I made three different books so my students could work on number skills at the same time.
The first one has a blank spot in the sentence that the kids have to put the right number in.

Count the pigs and add the number.

Switch the numbers for number words if your students are working on words.

The second and third books are the same (one has the number word and the other the numeral).  In these books, the children have to add the right number of pigs to match the sentence.  There's a surprise at the end of the book.

My students always like to make their own books too, so I also made black and white take home versions.

I also made some flash cards.  I find them handy for students to refer to.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Hungry Pigs Core Boards

When I got "Ten Hungry Pigs" in my Scholastic book order a couple of months ago, I instantly fell in love with it.  It's cute, funny and perfect for working on counting skills.  I knew this was the next book I wanted to adapt for my students.  

Core vocabulary is at the heart of all we do.  It's so much easier to work activities around core vocabulary (those set of words that we use most often) and add some fringe (those words specific to an activity) than to make theme or activity boards.  This way the children begin to learn where certain words are on their boards and learn to communicate faster.

When I do shared reading activities with the children, I read the same book everyday but vary the activities each day.

On the first day I have the children work on making the sentence "I see # pigs" by pointing to the words on their board.

We then make a large class book.  Each child makes one page and then we bind it together.  Some children are ready for the number word and some are working on the numerals.  The aim of this activity is to work on sentence structure.  Just because my students can't talk doesn't mean we can't be working on proper sentences.

On the second day we worked on making a big chart about what food each pig liked.  Again, we worked on making sentences and putting words together.

The children then made individual books to demonstrate their learning.  They completed the sentence and added the picture of the food item.  For children who are able to draw, I had them draw a picture of the food item.  For child who are non-verbal and have little fine motor skills, I held up two food item choices and had them eye gaze to the one they wanted.  I then used hand-over-hand to help them glue their choice into their book.

On day three we talked about personal preferences and what the children themselves liked or didn't like. These types of questions are great for getting to know the likes and dislikes of our class.  Don't worry about the vocabulary being exact on their communication boards.  "Not like" is perfectly acceptable.  Remember, we want them to use what they have to get their point across.  There isn't room on the boards for every negative.  Teaching the children to use the "not" symbol, opens up a wide range of options when it is combined with other words ( ie. "not happy" rather than "unhappy").

On the forth day we talked about what each pig put on the pile in order.  In this way we are retelling the story in order.  The children have practiced using a lot of the vocabulary already.

On the last day I concentrated on asking the children questions about the story.  It's important to practice answering questions that require more than a "yes/no" answer.  I tried to include some fringe vocabulary that would lend itself to questions.  The response sheet is made up of yes/no questions so that we practice both.

I hope you enjoy this book as much as I have.