Monday, May 3, 2010

Are You a Special Education Teacher? Help Improve the Field of Education

Bradley Caro Cook, a doctoral student, needs the input of at least 1,000 special educators to complete his research.  Be a part of this important study on special educator burnout.

Show your support for a fellow educator by signing up to participate at

Friday, April 30, 2010

Capturing the Class' Attention: Signals for the Elementary Years

Recently, I found myself caught off guard in another teacher's classroom without a signal that would be appropriate for her group of students.  After sweating it out for a few seconds, I remembered a signal that was used at a recent training I attended.  "If you hear me, clap once." (Clap.)  "If you hear me, clap twice."  (Clap, clap.)  The signals I use with own students were developmentally too young for her group. This led me to investigate different ways to get a whole class' attention. 

Here is a list of signals I use and some that I have learned from other teachers:
  • Clap a rhythm and the students repeat it back
  • "If you hear me clap once." (Students clap once.)  "If you hear me clap twice" (Students clap twice.)  "If you hear me clap three times."  (Students cap three times.)
  • "Give me a clap."  (clap clap)  "Give me a snap." (snap snap)
  • Use a hand signal such as holding up a hand and saying "Give me five."  Each finger represents one of the following expectations which should be taught explicitly to students.

                         1. Eyes on the speaker
                         2. Quiet
                         3. Be still
                         4. Hands free
                         5. Listen

    I recommend that any teacher who uses this signal with students with developmental delays, speech and language needs, or English language learners also uses a poster to visually remind students of the expectations when the "Give me five" signal is given.  The "Give me five" signal is from The First Days of School by Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong.  
  • Teacher chants, "One, two, three.  Look at me."  Students respond, "One, two eyes on you."
  • Sound a bell, chime, triangle, or other musical instrument.
  • Teacher raises her hand, then the students raise their hands.
  • Teacher says, "Hocus, pocus" and students continue, "Let's all focus."
  • Sing "The Echo Song" to the tune of "Are You Sleeping?" 
                         Be my echo (Be my echo)
                         Listen up (Listen up)
                         Sitting in our chairs (Sitting in our chairs)
                         Voices (voices off)
  • Allow your class to decide on a silly code word or phrase, to be their signal for attention and quiet.  Some examples include:  macaroni and cheese, green eggs and ham, we eat worms.  
Before you use a signal in the classroom, be sure to explain, model, and practice appropriate responses to the signal with your students.  Never expect students to know how to respond to a signal if you have not explicitly taught them that, "When I [turn out the lights], I expect you to [have your voice off and freeze where you are]."

Do you have a signal you would like to share?  Inform the readers at Teaching and Tech Tinkerings by sending a comment.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Making Writing Centers Accessible for All through Voki

My most challenging center is my writing center. Most of my first graders are not quite yet able to read and comprehend written directions. By the time they rotate to the writing center, they forget most orally stated directions. Pictorial directions have helped with routines, and I allow free writes on topics of choice or picture cards for topics. They have access to all of the usual items a writing center has: lists, notepads, booklets, etc.

This week, I have decided to offer my students the opportunity to write to a writing prompt via their favorite tool- the internet. Each writing assignment, incorporated into the science content area lesson on storms, will ask students to respond to a pictorial weather scene and a Voki avatar verbally describing the scene. The student will be expected to write about the type of storm depicted. Students will be able to replay the writing prompt as many times as necessary. Here is a sample of a Voki we will use:

At the end of the week, students will create their own Voki avatars and describe a weather phenomenon for their peers to define. They will need to first write their description before recording it. During science, the avatars will be used to informally assess students on their ability to identify storms. My hope is that my students will be able to use the writing center independently, remain fully engaged throughout the writing time, practice writing, and reinforce science content at the same time.

Please share your favorite writing center tips and tricks in the comments section.

Classroom Project Funds- Where Can We Find the Money We Need?

Looking for funds for an exciting project? Or maybe you need the basics such as copy paper, crayons, and art supplies.

Check out these reviews of funding sources:

Heard of Classwish?
Donors Choose - Worth the Wait

Go directly to the sources:


Best wishes. Let us know how your funding search goes.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Autism Visual Aids Series #1: Show, Don't Tell

"A picture is worth a thousand words."
- Napoleon Bonaparte

What are visual aids?

The vast majority of children with autism depend on visual aids for organization, behavior support, social skills development, and comprehension. That being said, so do people who are neurotypical (without autism.)  So far this week, I have used several visual supports:

to do list
lesson plans
city map
street signs
day planner
sticky notes
grocery list
tv guide
store map

    How do visual aids help students with autism spectrum disorders?

    One of the characteristics of autism is impaired language.  So expecting a person with autism to take in verbal directions, understand them, remember them, and then follow through on them is a bit unrealistic.  I remember my friend and I being lost in Japan immediately after my arrival at the airport.  We knew very little Japanese.  When we pulled over for directions, I mustered up enough language to ask how to get to our destination.  However, I could not understand the verbal directions the man gave us.  He spoke too fast for my ability and there were words I did not know.  Noticing my confused facial expression, the man drew us a map.  That map got us home.

    "I see and I remember."
    Similar to the example above, our kids with autism spectrum disorders have difficulty with language.  As in my own scenario, they may struggle to make sense of what is being said.  Unfortunately, even if they are trying really hard to understand, spoken words disappear as they are produced.  This transient nature of spoken language makes processing and remembering verbal language difficult.  However, visual supports such as the written word or pictures, do not disappear.  Further, drawings, photographs, and actual objects can represent ideas and remove the added step of the student having to construct meaning or come up with a mental image.  You can re-read an item on a calendar as many times as you need to.

    Future posts at Teaching and Tech Tinkerings will provide examples of visual aids designed to assist individuals with autism.  Check back for images and descriptions of a picture schedule, a task list, and a first...then...grid. 

    Readers Respond

    Are there any visual aids you cannot live without? Send a comment or respond to the poll.  Results will be posted in the sidebar to the right and in the post below.

    Which Everyday Visual Aid Couldn't You Give Up?

    Saturday, April 3, 2010

    5 Steps to Helping Kids Who Hate Noise screeching down a chalkboard.  The booming bass on a car stereo.  These are just a couple of sounds many people find irritating.  For students with autism or other disabilities that affect sensory processing, many sounds that we take for granted can be difficult to ignore.  The humming of fluorescent lights, the swishing and gurgling sounds of a flushing toilet, and the crackle that comes through the speakers for the morning announcements can be sources of angst for a child with noise sensitivity.  Each child is unique, so what triggers one student may not bother the next and vice versa.  The sounds not only lead to distraction, but may also induce a fight or flight response that brings about a meltdown.

    1.  Name the Noise
    Help your student make a list of sounds that he finds so irritating that it interferes with his work, mood, or ability to interact with others.

    2.  Give the Reason for the Racket
    For each sound, discuss why the sound occurs.  For example, the fire alarm is loud and makes a strange sound so that people will want to leave the building.  This is to keep us from staying in the building if there is a  fire. The noise is to keep us safe. 

    3.  Label the Noise as Passing or Persistent
    Let the student know if an irritating sound that is currently present is likely to continue to occur.  This is important because the student may want you to make the noise stop.  Unfortunately, many of the sounds in the school setting that set off a student cannot be avoided.    You cannot make Ava stop scratching her head because it irritates Brian.  On the other hand, if a sound is in the environment temporarily, such as a fire alarm, then by all mean, emphasize the temporary nature of the sound.  The point of working on the student's sound sensitivity is to learn coping strategies in a world filled with sound.

    4.  Teach the Use of Tools and Techniques
    There are many tools and strategies that can help a student who is sensitive to sound.  Here are some to try out:

    • noise-canceling headphones
    • earplugs
    • mp3 player with music the student enjoys and headphones
    • white noise machine
    • fan
    • putting hands over the ears (for sudden noises)
    • access to a quiet place (a part of the classroom, a pass to another room)
    Be sure to work out a plan for where these items will be kept and who is responsible for implementing their use.  Ideally, the student will become independent with their use.  However, you may want to keep some items in teacher storage and have the student request their use (e.g. mp3 player, fan.)  Noise-canceling headphones can be kept in the student's cubby, desk, locker, or other central storage location. Be clear about the expectations for storing, obtaining, caring for, and using these items.  To avoid misunderstandings, specify if there are periods of time when and locations where these items cannot be used (e.g. when working on articulation during speech.)  Congratulate the student for using strategies to cope with sounds in his environment!

    5.  Plan for Noisy Times
    Some noise is predictable.  For example, many students who are sensitive to noise bring their headphones to the cafeteria and the gym.  These are places where students are louder and sounds echo off the walls.  I had one student wear his headphones at recess and this enabled him to climb on the play structures.  Without the headphones, he was too overwhelmed to climb and played alone most of the time. 

    Depending on your student's language and cognitive ability, you may wish to help him predict situations in which noise could become a trigger.  Develop a graphic organizer or a cartoon that depicts:
    1. the situational trigger (e.g. students sees the teacher getting ready to show a video clip),
    2. the student thinking, "I think I'm going to hear some noise, but I know what I can do," and 
    3. the student using a tool or a technique to cope with the situational trigger (the student puts on noise-canceling headphones).

    Plan for situations that may be too overwhelming.  If there is an assembly with loud music running for 2 hours, then you might want to plan an exit strategy. Let the student know how he can communicate with you that he needs a break.

    Saturday, March 20, 2010

    Poll: Are National Learning Standards Helpful?

    Friday, March 19, 2010

    "Teacher Said a Cuss Word!"

    Well, that's what he thought. Every time I said the word "hail" during our weather lesson yesterday, one of my little gems pointed to me and accused, "Awwww! Teacher said a cuss word!" I cued the video segment to the hailstorm and indicated that it was "hail"- frozen precipitation. I wrote it on the dry erase board.

    After yesterday, I thought we were clear.  But the bad word police was back on the job today. I had to write "h-e-[double hockey sticks]" on a sticky note and on a contrasting post-it write "hail."  (Can you guess which sticky note he wanted to take home?)

    Although the student is an early reader, he was able to visually discern between the two words.  He was very pleased to have a new word he could read by sight.  With help, he was able to derive other words from that word (pail, mail, and sail) and play a game of matching and then reading the words.  This student normally struggles with wanting to engage in reading tasks.  But he stuck with this activity and remained enthusiastic throughout. 

    Readers Respond

    What do you think motivated my student the most?  Do you think he was motivated because he thought "teacher said a cuss word?"  Or was he motivated because the lesson followed his lead?  How would you have handled his accusation differently?  Post a comment to respond.

    Wednesday, March 17, 2010

    Letting the Students Run the Show: Student-Led Inquiry

    So we decided to give student-led inquiry a try. As we embarked on our weather unit, I asked each student to be an inquirer. They each had to develop a question they had about the weather. Here are their (paraphrased) questions :

    1. How does the weather change?
    2. What kinds of weather are there?
    3. How can you check the weather?
    4. How can you catch the sun?
    So far, we have focused our science time on investigating responses to the questions including and similar to the first three.  Question #4 provided today's winner of a discussion.

    Me:(Reading the student's question.)  This inquirer wants to know, "How can you catch the sun?"
    Student #1:That's mine.
    Student #2:(Shakes his head.) You can't catch the sun.
    Me:Tell us more.
    Student #1Uh-huh. You get a cowboy and he get his um rope thing and he go like this (makes a lasso motion awfully close to Student #3).
    Student #4:Bird catch the sun.
    Student #1:Aint no bird catch the sun. Cowboy. Cowboy catch the sun.

    At first glance, you might think I led my students astray.  I, myself, was starting to wonder where this was going to end up.  But the information they provided was priceless.  Student #2 understands that the sun is really far away, too far to be lassoed in.  Clearly, I need to teach about how far away the sun is, how big it is, and how darn hot it is.  What would happen to the rope or the poor bird that tried to grab the sun?

    This also provided some information about how my students tackle problems.  Student #1 clearly is a risk-taker and is willing to try a creative solution.  Student #2 applies prior knowledge and logic to his problem-solving.  Student #4 needs to see an example before he takes a leap.  He then uses his prior knowledge to take on the problem.

    Yes, we have our work cut out for us.  But when the kids decide what they want to learn, the motivation is built in.  And we have touched on most of the learning standards for the unit by using their questions.

    Monday, March 15, 2010

    Teaching Vocabulary: What a Word Does and Does Not Mean

    "Write the definition of each word.  Then use each word in a sentence." I dreaded this assignment from elementary school through high school. The more words there were, the more tedious the task was, and the fewer word meanings I retained. Sometimes I was not quite sure what a word meant based on its definition, so I was able to pretend understanding by camouflaging the word in a vague sentence such as, "He [word] across the school."  Many verbs could fit this sentence- spit, cartwheeled, ran, walked, screamed, yelped, squealed, etc.  Only the strictest of teachers would not allow my ambiguous vocabulary use. 

    Vocabulary in a Primary Special Education Class

    Created at ImaginationCubed.Com
    Fast-forward to the lesson my student's learned today on precipitation. After discussing a brief video clip on types of precipitation, I asked my students to explain what precipitation is. They offered some one-word answers (later in sentence form with prompting): snow, rain, hail.  Based on what we know now about vocabulary development, I provided my students with graphic organizers on which they were to draw examples of precipitation. 

    Created at ImaginationCubed.ComHowever, one of the students provided that precipitation is "a weather computer" because he remembered there was a brief segment that showed a meteorologist using a computerized forecasting program.  This prompted a discussion of what precipitation is not.  As we continued the conversation, it turned out that some of the students were using precipitation and weather synonymously.  We needed to discuss weather on our weather chart (e.g. sunny, windy) that is not precipitation.  Students then completed the "not precipitation" graphic organizer by listing items in each category and depicting them. At the end of the lesson, all students were able to describe precipitation and name the kind of precipitation.  Our future lessons will further support meaning by discussing why precipitation is important and how it can be helpful or harmful. 

    Do you have a vocabulary success story or tidbit you would to share with Teaching and Tech Tinkerings?  Send a comment.  

    Saturday, March 13, 2010

    11 Autism Treatments That Really Work- Part III

    Five More Treatments That Earned the NAC Stamp of Approval

    Here are the final five treatments recommended by the National Autism Center (NAC) in its recent report (2009.)  To qualify as a recommended, or "established" treatment, the intervention had to undergo rigorous review.

    Peer Training Package
    Peer trainers, classmates or siblings of children with autism, are responsible for "facilitating play and social interactions" with children with autism after they receive instruction.
    A school counselor works with a group of teenagers in a social group after school.  The group involves social outings for students with and without disabilities.  Mirabelle, a 13-year-old with Asperger's syndrome, benefits from being paired with Lacita, a teenage peer helper who models social skills prior to and during the outings.  Lacita also helps Mirabelle with conversation skills by directly telling her that it is time to change topics and letting her know what nonverbal cues she was giving that hinted at the conversation needing a topic switch.

    Pivotal Response Treatment
    Pivotal skills are behaviors that are critical and have a synergistic effect on a child's development.  Examples include responding to multiple cues, improving motivation, and self-initiation (e.g. asking questions).

    Photo by WoodleyWonderWorks at
    Photo by WoodleyWonderWorks at
    Juan is a 5-year-old with autism.  His teacher is working with him to increase his ability to respond to multiple cues.  He is learning the names of his classmates.  Because Juan is overselective to stimuli, he usually attends to one cue to the exclusion of others.  For example, when he is shown a picture, shown a name in print, told the name, and shown the student in front of him, Juan only focuses on the printed name.  Therefore, when he is just shown the picture of the student, he is unable to identify the student.  The teacher emphasizes various stimuli by introducing and pairing only one of the stimuli with the actual student at a time. She eventually alternates the presented stimuli (printed name, spoken name, photo of the student) so Juan learns to respond to the multiple cues.

    The use of schedules, as intended by the National Autism Center's report, refers to breaking down activities into their steps and providing a list of these steps.  A visual schedule may be in written, pictorial, photograph, or even object form.

    A 4-year-old with autism is learning to wash his hands.  Above the sink at home, his parents have posted photographs of the steps involved in washing his hands.  As they are teaching him to wash his hands, they point to each step on the schedule. 

    Individuals are encouraged to regulate their own behavior by setting their own goals and recording how often behaviors occur (or do not occur.)

    Tyrone, a middle school student with autism, works with a special education teacher to set goals for his behavior.  He has been getting into trouble in English class for repeatedly calling out.  He decides he wants to work on decreasing this behavior.  He and his special education teacher develop a weekly sheet on which he will tally the number of times he calls out and the number of times he wants to call out but does not.  They will review the results of the data at the end of each week.

    Story-Based Intervention Package 
    Carol Gray's Social StoriesTM are the best-known story-based interventions used with individuals with autism. They are usually brief stories that assist a person in navigating a social situation. For a detailed explanation, visit The Gray Center.

    Michael, a 7-year-old with autism, is going to the dentist.  His parents write a story, which is accompanied by illustrations, to assist in alleviating his anxiety about the visit and to help him know how what his role is in the visit.  Here is a paragraph from his story:

    Photo by Suat Eman from
    By Suat Eman
    When the dentist is cleaning my teeth, I will keep my arms at my sides.  The dentist likes my arms to be away from my mouth so she can see what she is doing.  I will try to stay still.  The dentist is able to be more gentle when I do not wiggle.  She wants to be gentle. 
    Do you have a favorite intervention from the 11 Autism Treatments That Really Work?  An experience with one of the treatments that you would like to share?   Send a comment.

    11 Autism Treatments That Really Work- Part I
    11 Autism Treatments That Really Work- Part II

    Friday, March 5, 2010

    Even Princesses Are Bullied

    Apparently it's not easy being a princess these days- at least not for 8-year-old Princess Aiko of Japan, who has been skipping school in fear of a bully. 
    Not even a privileged place in the Imperial Family's lineage was enough to exempt Princess Aiko from the deleterious effects of bullying.  So what can we do to prevent childhood taunting? 
    • strengthen our bullying education programs
    • develop a zero tolerance for bullying
    • communicate acts of bullying with the parents of all parties involved
    • supervise settings where bullying tends to occur
    • prevent access to settings where bullying tends to occur
    Some states have laws that require these practices. 

    Here are is a link to website for kids:
    Stop Bullying Now

    Monday, March 1, 2010

    Food for Good Behavior? What Do You Think? Cast Your Vote.

    Do you think teachers should use food as a reward for positive behavior?

    Tuesday, February 23, 2010

    11 Autism Treatments That Really Work- Part II

    Green Light to Three More Autism Treatments
    I am including the next three treatments that earned the highest scores on the National Standards Report (2009, National Autism Center).     I will name each treatment, briefly describe it, and provide a hypothetical scenario of how the treatment could be implemented.  Treatments are listed in alphabetical order.  For the first three of the eleven established treatments, refer to the previous post at Teaching and Tech Tinkerings.

    Joint Attention Interventions
    -interventions that target sharing an experience about an object or event by pointing to show the object or event, showing items or activities to another person, and following another person's eye gaze

    Alicia is a six year old with autism.  She is able to verbally ask for snacks she wants, but she does not yet point to items she is interested in.  Her mother is teaching her to choose her snack by pointing to show the one she wants. 

    -demonstrating a desired behavior to the individual with autism through live or video modeling

    Students in a middle school attend a social skills group in which they view videos of students modeling appropriate social behavior.

    Naturalistic Teaching Strategies
    -interventions in which the teacher mostly follows the child's direction to teach functional skills such as self-care, communication, and community skills in the natural environment (e.g. incidental teaching, embedded teaching)

    Antonio, a kindergartener with autism, has a few favorite toys in the play center.  The speech therapist puts the toys out of Antonio's reach while playing with him and one of his classmates.  Antonio's classmate models how to verbally request the favorite items

    Stay tuned to  Teaching and Tech Tinkerings of a Special Educator for the remaining 5 established treatments. 

    Saturday, February 20, 2010

    11 Autism Treatments That Really Work- Part I

    The National Standards Report (2009) written by the National Autism Center, reviews studies on existing treatments for autism. The report categorizes treatments as “established,” “emerging,” or “unestablished.” The 11 established treatments are considered to be effective and beneficial to the individual with autism. The list below provides the name of each treatment, a brief description, and an example of how it may be implemented.  I have listed the interventions alphabetically.

    Antecedent Package
    -changing events that occur before a target behavior would typically occur.  The target behavior can be a behavior you want to see more or less of.  Examples include incorporating obsessional interests into activities, prompting, and errorless learning.

        Ellen is a seven-year-old first grader with Asperger’s Syndrome who frequently has tantrums when it is time for the class to begin a writing assignment. Given Ellen’s passion for locomatives, her teacher targets her behavior by encouraging Ellen to mark various locations she has visited via rail on a subway system map and bring in her photo collection of trains to serve as topics for her to write about.

    Behavioral Package
    -reducing challenging behaviors and introducing functional alternate behaviors (e.g. task analysis, token economy, discrete trial training, contingency contracting, chaining, shaping)

         Rashon, a nonverbal second grader with autism who enjoys music, hits himself in the head each time he ties his shoes incorrectly. The occupational therapist completes a task analysis in which she breaks down the skill of shoe-tying into its steps. She develops a plan for Rashon to experience the success of completing the shoe-typing task. That is, Rashon will learn to complete the last step in the shoe-tying process before he learns any other step. Through this process of backward chaining, the teacher will perform all of the steps leading up to the last step of tightening the two loops. Once Rashon has experienced success with this step, the teacher will complete the steps until the second to last step, and so forth until Rashon is able to successfully tie his shoes each time. At the same time, Rashon’s special education teacher suggests that they use a token economy system in which they give him a plastic token each time he completes the shoe-tying activity without self-injury. When he earns five tokens, he gets to choose from a variety of rewards which include musical activities.

    Comprehensive Behavioral Treatment for Young Children
    -treating children ages 0 through 9 with programs that have written instructions such as manuals, that specifically target the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder, and use a mixture of procedures from applied behavior analysis (e.g. incidental teaching, discrete trial training) Comprehensive behavioral treatments for young children include more than 25 hours per week of intensive intervention with a low student-to-teacher ratio. Of the eleven treatments, this one is the most difficult to explain as it combines many strategies from the ten other effective treatments listed in the report. Furthermore, the report does not list manuals that support this treatment.

         At the Sunshine Preschool, the speech language pathologist employs incidental teaching. She arranges the play area so that Jake’s favorite toys are out of his reach. He must communicate in order to obtain these toys. He is rewarded for requesting his favorite toy, the jack-in-the-box, when the teacher hands him the toy upon his request. 
         Throughout the day, a classroom assistant, Mr. Garrison, works with Jake on a variety of skills through discrete trial training. For example, Jake learns to identify his classmates in photos. Mr. Garrison asks, “Who’s this?” as he shows the photo of a student. If Jake responds correctly, Mr. Garrison says, “Good job” and gives him a token toward earning a reward from his menu of reward choices. If Jakes answers incorrectly (was unresponsive, gave an approximate or partial answer, or was uncooperative), he gives a pre-determined response such as, “No. It’s Sarah” and does not provide a reward token. Mr. Garrison records the number of correct and incorrect responses. He uses the data to determine when Jake has mastered learning a student’s name and can move on, when different prompts are needed, and if rewards need to be changed.

    The next few posts at Teaching and Tech Tinkerings of a Special Educator will address the remaining
    8 established treatments. Teaching and Tech Tinkerings will soon include links to treatment resources.

    Sunday, February 14, 2010

    Autism Teaching No-No's

    The National Autism Center has released its National Standards Report.  What practices should educators, parents, and others avoid in treating students with autism? 
    • Academic Interventions (defined as traditional teaching methods such as providing cloze sentences and answering prereading questions)
    • Auditory Integration Training
    • Facilitated Communication
    • Gluten- and Casein- Free Diets (which were determined to be harmful in some cases)
    • Sensory Integration

    Future posts at Teaching and Tech Tinkerings of a Special Educator will target "Established Treatments" and "Emerging Treatments."  For a free copy of the National Autism Center's report, visit their site.

    Saturday, February 13, 2010

    International Special Educator Burnout Study

    A doctoral student is studying special educator burnout in various nations to develop research that will help prevent exhaustion of special education teachers. Visit the International Special Educator Burnout Study to complete a brief contact form and share your thoughts about special educator burnout.

    Friday, February 12, 2010

    The Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act

    A 7 year old dies after being held face-down for hours.

    A 13 year old hangs himself in a seclusion room. 

    A 4 year old with cerebral palsy and autism experiences bruising and post traumatic stress disorder after her teachers restrain her in a chair with leather straps. 

    These are just some of the findings of the United States Government Accountability Office's May 2009 report  initiated by the Hon. George Miller, chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor. Chairman Miller is sponsoring the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act, which is awaiting Congressional approval. Tenets of the Act include permitting restraint or seclusion only under these conditions:
    • With appropriate training of staff
    • Given parental permission
    • Only when injury is imminent (to self, students, or school employees)
    • Parent notification must be provided after restraint or seclusion are employed
    The Act prohibits
    • Mechanical restraints
    • Chemical restraints
    • Restraints that restrict breathing.
    Mechanical restraints include securing body parts with duct tape or chair straps. Chemical restraints are defined by the Act as medications used for behavioral control beyond administration in accordance with a physician's prescription. Under the Act, students may not be denied food, water, or access to toileting facilities.

    The Act specifies that restraint and seclusion may not be written into any student's education plan, including behavior plans, individualized education plans (IEP's), and individualized safety plans.

    Click here to see an overview of the Act. 

    Thursday, February 11, 2010

    Adapting a Worksheet

    Here are a couple of great ideas for adapting worksheets for students with special needs. The students use the same worksheet as their general education peers with some creativity on the part of the teacher in differentiating to meet the student's needs.

    Check out the worksheet adaptations here:
    The Autism Teacher: Adapting a worksheet - an example

    While you're there, you might want to subscribe to "The Autism Teacher."

    What's in a Name?

    The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V), slated for release in 2014, will alter our current system of identifying individuals with autism and Asperger's syndrome. In the current DSM-IV, autism and Asperger's are listed under the umbrella category of pervasive developmental disorder, which would be renamed autism spectrum disorders in the fifth edition.   Asperger's would be completely removed from the nomencleture as members of the American Psychiatric Association cite lack of clarity and consistency in using the Asperger's diagnosis versus using a diagnosis of high-functioning autism.  DSM-V may instead provide a severity scale that categorizes the extent of social and communication impairment and the degree of fixated interests and repetitive behaviors.

    Sunday, February 7, 2010

    DonorsChoose- Worth the Wait

    How did I get a multi-function color printer and cartridges for our classroom?

    In mid-January, I began to give up hope that the project I submitted to DonorsChoose in September would be funded.  But just before it's deadline, I received an e-mail that my project was fully funded.  We will be publishing our thank you notes (thanks to our donors) on our new printer.

    Oh No! All That Snow!

    The largest snowstorm in Northern Virginia's recorded history has created excitement for many students who, so far, have received two snow days.  For students on the autism spectrum disorder (ASD), however, such an overwhelming change in schedule may be unwelcome.  Students with ASD have difficulty with changes in routine- altering schedules, caregivers, locations of activities, and the activities themselves are enough to stir intense anxiety in many children with ASD. 

    How can we quell snow day fears of our students with ASD?
    1)  Be proactive.  In advance of snow days, talk about what happens when school is canceled.  Create social stories and review possible scenarios for early dismissal, delayed school opening, and school cancelations. 
    2)  Provide students with a list of activities they can do at home on a snow day.
    3)  Provide a sample schedule for parents that they can use in the home on snow days.
    4)  Request that parents show their students visually on the calendar that school is canceled by crossing out the word or picture of school and drawing or writing "snow." 
    5)  Model using schedules throughout the day in the classroom.  Model crossing out items when they change and writing what the replacement activity will be.

    Friday, February 5, 2010

    Cartoons as Writing Prompts

    Need a creative way to motivate young writers?  Here is variation on a writing prompt.  Use a photograph or a cartoon as a writing prompt.  After offering your students a few prompts, you may choose to have them create their own labeled photos and cartoons as springboards for writing or as literacy activities themselves.

    Pikistrips offers an easy way to create cartoon strips.  You will need to create a free account.

    a comic strip!

    Google Earth: A Whole New World

    Despite our initial frustrations with Google Earth crashing our system, the Google Earth program packed a positive punch with our students that will leave a lasting impression on how they view the world. 

    We are currently investigating how maps connect us to people and places as an International Baccalaureate unit of study. As a techie, I of course wanted to bring in Google Earth because it looks cool and it has a wow factor. It certainly would motivate my students. For this reason alone, I decided to use the program.

    But my students taught me that the costs of using the program (having it crash several times, having my laptop crash, and eventually having to get a new laptop) did not overshadow the benefits. Here are the Google Earth features and a sample of the corresponding concepts and skills they learned:

    Day/night feature: The Earth’s rotation causes day and night and that when it is daytime where we live, it is nighttime in some other parts of the world.
    Zoom feature: A map provides a birds-eye view of a place through the zoom feature.
    Fly-to and street view features: We can connect with people through maps by flying to student neighborhoods and neighborhoods of people in Tokyo, Japan
    Weather feature: The weather is different in different locations. Our weather in Alexandria is similar to the weather in Tokyo because we are at a similar latitude, yet different because we are at a different longitude.

    My students have never mastered this content with the depth of understanding and level of interest before than they did through using Google Earth.

    Technology Integration-Reflections of a Tech Geek

    Lights out. LCD projector beaming. Laptop connected. Students eagerly awaiting the promised moment. Finally, it’s here. Eight students with special needs are going to get to virtually fly to their school and then to their homes via Google Earth. The program is running. We fly onto our continent and zoom into our country…and then our state…and then…we have no internet connection. The excited faces turn to dread. It is a familiar feeling. I troubleshoot while I have them recite their Seven Continents song, but I am unable to get a connection. Our virtual field trip is suddenly cancelled. Our lesson on our global addresses turns into a social skills lesson on coping with frustration. We have to use a variety of paper maps find our homes, but no one gets to actually see their home or how it fits into the scheme of the globe. The very technology I was using to give my lesson a boost also was a bust. (Yes, the next day, I am able to pull students individually to show them the Google Earth lesson. But, at what cost? My students were confused about the lesson’s intent. About the order of the lesson. I had already given them a roadmap for where we were going and then suddenly changed it. Yes, this happens in life. But I do not wish to make this a habit in my teaching.) This led me to think: At what cost am I integrating technology? At what benefit?

    I think that it is reasonable to develop solid routines for students when you are setting up technology activities or transitioning from one program to another. However, is it reasonable to always plan a backup activity for technology breakdowns? Given the amount of time it takes to create a strong tech integrated lesson and the other demands we face, how can we ensure fewer breakdowns in our technology? How can we cope when the technology does fail? Not only is it a dissappointment for the teacher, but the students are highly frustrated when the technology fails. The answer is not as simple as putting in a one-time request to HelpDesk. We will always have glitches with our technology as long as we work with dynamic, everchanging, growing, and complex systems.

    Benefits Costs
    Gains student attention Setup time
    Teaches students 21st century skills Tech breakdowns
    Is multisensory (can be auditory, visual, and hands-on) Takes a long time to create documents specific to class or individual student needs
    Adds variety and novelty (especially helpful for our students with ADD)Technology changes quickly over time-What will we buy into next- will we be able to use what we have created now in another five years?