Showing posts from July, 2010

Thursday Think: Organizing All These Activities

My room is PACKED full of various activities.  I try each year to organize them by skill but we often go back to the old tried and true and don't get around to using all the neat hands-on stuff that is in the room.  I once tried to create an inventory but this proved to be difficult as some of the activities have such similar names that you don't really know which is which from looking at the activities. 

This year I decided that I woud approach this a bit differently. Its taking some up-front work but its starting to work out really well and I'm excited.  What I'm doing is taking pictures of every activity/program that we have in the room. I'm printing them off as photos and typing up any information about those activities that I think is necessary and gluing that to the back.  Then I'm taking photo boxes and sorting them by type of skill.  If something fits in more than one skill, I'm putting it in there.  I'm planning to expand this over …

Wednesday's Weekly Comments - July 21-27, 2010

M.I.A. at Adaptations 4 Kidz: Just adding our prayers that Junior feels better soon.

Brainstorming: Back to School Bulletin Board and Project

I'm brainstorming a bit on our back-to-school project and bulletin board.  I like to do something that has the students make a poster or booklet about themselves so that we can put them on display in the hallway. Our students love making these and the others in the school love reading them. This is always the most interacted with board in our school.

This year I want to stick with the movie theme.  My thought is that the board will mostly be set up before students arrive.  The title of the board will be "Introducing the Stars of L.A.P."  There will be stars and lights and clapboards...etc.  Each student will have a picture of themselves and their names with stars to highlight.  Somewhere on the board, I will also have the "Production Team" (staff) but that will be smaller - probably infused on a roll of film.

I am also going to put up a poster advertising "Living and Learning Biographies" magazine.
For the first couple of weeks, students wi…

Classroom Set Up, Organization and Decorating

It is getting closer to the time where I have to think about classroom set up. This year is going to present a lot of challenge as our room will be fuller than ever with ten students, nine learning assistants and one teacher.
So I thought I would start my "to do" list related to classroom set up here.  These are things I am planning to change or need to get done before the year begins.
"At the Movies" Theme: I don't like to go overboard with classroom decorations as it can just create a lot of extra visual clutter for my students so I will keep it simple.  On the outside boards we are going to have a "Coming Attractions" board where the students make movie-like-posters introducing themselves to the rest of the school. I've done this for a couple of years in different ways and its always well recieved by both our students and the rest of the students in the school.  I will be creating something on boardmaker (similar to what I've do…

Changing Plans Part 2: Individual Programming Binders and Tracking Forms

I'm still in the middle of this one but as I'm getting in to actually putting this all in to place I'm finding that the method that I've used to organize binders for the past four years might not be the most efficient method.  I'm now in the process of changing plans so that my binders are organized by "focus area" instead.

What this will entail is that any given section of the binder will include the IEP goals and objectives related to the focus area, an outline of the activities to do for achieving these goals and objectives and all the tracking forms.  In the front of the binder will be a weekly checklist of the things that need to be accomplished in a given week.  These will be checked off when completed.  Here is an outline of what I'm thinking: Weekly Activity Tracking

More coming on this as well.  I'm feeling like I'm heading in the right direction now.

Changing Plans Part 1: 2010-11 Themes

It seems as I develop plans for the year I'm filling up a bit more of the time on "Individual Programming then I was originally thinking.  My group work theme time look like its going to be three times a week (one full afternoon and two parts of the afternoon).  I'm also looking at everything else I'm bighting off and wanting to make sure we have enough time to do things right.  I am therefore putting my themes I was planning on hold for the year and am going to use the group work time for "fun stuff" instead. 

Kate's post over at "Teaching Learners with Multiple Complex Needs" got me thinking about my desire to do an "At the Movies" theme for the year and to study different movies throghout the year.  So... I'm jumping in with this plan for this year.  Here is what I'm thinking...

Mama Mia (August 31 to October 7, 2010)
Still trying to think this one through.  I'm putting it first because of the tie-in to findin…

Wednesday's Weekly Comments: Week of July 14-20, 2010

iPad/iPod Touch Apps at Exceptional Students in the Classroom: Always interested in what others are trying ouut on the apps front these days.

Free Download on Teaching Life Skills at Your Therapy Source: Downloaded this simply because there are a lot of great reminders in how to functionally focus on "life skills".

Make a Table at Achieving Success Daily!: A great story about a young man who really knows how to follow directions. This might be one of my favorite stories ever :).

The Princess Bride Revisited at Teaching Learnings with Multiple Special Needs: I eventually want to do an "At the Movies" year long theme so am always looking for ideas of which movies to do. I would love to do more with the movie "Wizzard of Oz" because we ended up with a lot of sick staff and students when we tried to do it last and it didn't work quite the way I had envisioned it.  Perhaps the movie theme will be what I do for 2011-12 :).

Yuck: Nasty Switches at One Swit…

Monday's Motivation: My Friend Charlie

Every once in a while you find a piece of writing that puts everything that is inside you down in words.  This is one of them.  Amazing!  I have linked to where this was originally posted and hope its okay that I also copied and pasted it here :).


My Friend Charlie
Nate Hajdu shared this heart-felt poem at the Interfaith Disability Pre-Summit in Washington, D.C. on Sepetmeber 22, 2005

He is my friend: I am his friend I help him out: He helps me to learn I help him to learn: He helps me to grow I help him to grow: He teaches me to accept
His struggle: Is my struggle His vulnerability: Leads to my respect My respect: Leads him to trust His trust: Leads to my devotion
His availability: Feeds my desire to be needed I keep his secrets: He keeps mine We have an arrangement His lack of self-consciousness: Leads to my tolerance His constant need for stimulation: Leads to my patience His discomfort: Sharpens my sensitivity His unhappiness: Is my …

Individual Programming Binders: Still Organizing

Lots of table making going on around here! I continue to work on streamlining these individual programming binders. My problem is to ensure that I'm including enough information but not too much information.  I know I have written about these several times before but please bear with me as I try to piece it all together and make this as efficient and effective as I can.  So here, once again, are some notes on each section of my programming binders.

I.P.P. Goals Section
This is just a summary of the student's I.P.P.  Rather than putting in the whole I.P.P. I'm looking to put in the section that staff would refer to the most often which is the goals and objectives.  I have set up most of the activities to incorporate the rest of the I.P.P. so although its important for staff to read over the rest of the I.P.P. I don't feel its important for it to take up space in these binders.
Students have between 4 and 8 "areas of need" that include an overall goa…

How to Address a Variety of Communication Purposes?

I have been spending a lot of time this summer researching communication.  Our classroom has been labeled a "communicatin-focused program".  This aligns nicely with my philosophy that we need to fous on communication first and foremost and from there we can take care of so much else (behaviour, academics, social growth...etc.).  We do focus on communication but I've been feeling lately that we need to grow our focus and therefore I've been spending some time researching a variety of approaches and items related to communication.  
I have spent a fair bit of time checking out websites and you can't research communication for our population without spending at least some time on  Linda Buckhar's website.  I was going back through the article entitled "Key Concepts for Using Augmentative Communication with Children Who Have Complex Communication Needs" this morning and it started me thinking a bit more about the various reasons we use commu…

P.O.D.D. Communication System on Proloquo2Go?

Reading this P.O.D.D. material really has me rethinking how passive a role my students have been playing in the communication process.  It always seems to be us setting up the communication exchanges rather than the student truly directing them.  As I've been making these P.O.D.D. communication books I'm seeing that we are missing so many communication opportunities and I'm excited to see the doors this will open for our students this coming up school year.

There is a comment in the manual about how we often try to start using communication devises by teaching students to use them around the tasks that they are already able to communicate (appropriately or not) around and that this leaves little room for student motivation.  This is so true.  I've found again and again as I've tried to use communication devises that we are already aware of a lot of what is coming becuase the student has their own system they have already put in place.

I bought Proloquo…

Pragmatic Organization Dynamic Display (PODD) Communication System

A while back, I ordered P.O.D.D. (Pragmatic Organization Dynamic Display) materials that included a manaul on the system as well as a bunch of files on disks to use with Boardmaker to create P.O.D.D. Communication books.

I have been hunting high and low for and SLP in the area that I live in who has some awareness or experience with this communication system but keep coming up short. I'm also only finding training sessions that are a great distance from where I live.

Although I seem to keep running in to hurdles in regards to finding resources to learn more about this system, I am finding that by just creating some books using the files that are included, reading the manual and finding information by searching online (lots of summaries and power points related to P.O.D.D.) that I'm wrapping my mind around the concept on some level.

Some of the key things that I'm liking about this system include:
How active the student needs to be in the communication process.  They are th…

Wednesday's Weekly Comments: Week of July 7-13, 2010

iPad for Communication post at Adaptations 4 Kidz: I just recently bought an iPad and want to spend some time playing with it this summer. I am enjoying finding these "success stories" that are starting toc ome out.  I'm also looking forward to seeing what new special education applications will surface as more people start to use the iPad with special education students. I am actually starting to compile a list of hte applicatins that I would like to try (or am already trying) that I will post in the next few days.

Learning to Read the Junior Way post at Adaptations 4 Kidz: Love the ideas presented on this blog and this is one that I immediately linked to one of my students. I have been looking for ways to grow his language arts program and this is a great approach. We had this phonics book already so I'm well on the way to adapting some of the materials. I know this particular student that I'm thinking of will shine with this approach and its so nic…

My Latest Idea: Messy Monday!

The second Monday of every month is going to be "Messy Monday" in our classroom this year.  I have often done messy activities with the students and everyone has a great time doing it.  We all get to the end of the activity and are giggling and laughing and stating that we should do it more often.  Yet I only get around to it 3 or 4 times a year. I want to do it more and so this I figure I will just set the plan in motion to make sure it happens. So I'm creating "Messy Mondays".  Each month I will come up with some messy activities that we can complete during the aftenroon that are related to our monthly theme.  The focus will be the process rather than the product (but really it almost always is anyway). 

I'm going to post my original ideas here.They are not finished yet but wanted to get this started in case there are any readers out there that have ideas or suggestions to add. Here is what I have so far..

September 2010: Individuality: Paintin…

Summer To Do List

So we are now about two weeks in to the summer break here in Alberta.  I am feeling like I'm rested up a bit and am now starting to think about the things that I would like to accomplish this summer.  Its a big lit this year as I feel like I need to be over-prepared going in to next year.  I am also really excited about several of the things on the list so that is also driving me to work more this summer.  

Hopefully I will be starting my Masters program next summer which will mean three summers where I spend the whole month of July taking classes (and probably the whole month of August finishing up papers and assignments for those classes).  This is kind of my last summer that I have free for a few years to just pick and choose what I want to do so its also important to get a lot done.

Here is my ever-growing list of things to do...

Learning and Planning through Reading

I have several books that I have either started reading or I plan to read this summer.  Some of them …

Found Another Great Blog :)

Looks like I know what I'm going to be doing for the next few days.  I just stumbled upon this really great blog with tons of links and ideas.  Check it out: Teacher Space

Wednesday's Weekly Comments (June 30 - July 6, 2010)

The Special Educators Friend:  It is interesting to read of someone who is going down the "back-to-school" road just shortly before I intend to do the same.  (Summer Update)

Teaching Learners With Multiple Special Needs:  Although the post that I responded to truly spoke to my heart, I mostly responded to it to say that I love the new look of the website :). (Living the Least Dangerous Assumption)

iPad: a Near Miracle for my Son with Autism:  I just bought an iPad this week and am so excited to spend some time this summer playing with it.  I can't wait to see what we can do with it for myself, my son and my students :).  I hope to posting abou the miracles I see soon.  On a side note with this, RJCooper has also been doing some work to make sure that hte iPad will be assessible for all students :).  Woo hoo!

Monday's Motivation: Never Underestimate the Power of a Smile :)

Every graduation there seem to be some great speeches that get "put out there". I wanted to share a couple of my favorite from this year's bunch.
-------------------------------------------------------- Number one is a young man who uses an augmentative communication devise to deliver his speech:

Here is a blog a blog entry about this young man:
-------------------------------------------------------- Number two is a young man who didn't say his first word until he was 5.  Check it out here:;_ylt=An9F4WcNOhkilI78s_0pWXuz174F;_ylu=X3oDMTE3NnJwdnRlBHBvcwMzBHNlYwNtb3N0LXBvcHVsYXIEc2xrA2F1dGlzdGljc3R1ZA

Just Ordered 50 "Voice Overs"

They are mini-recorders where you can re-record a variety of 10 second messages.  They have a little clip on the back so you can clip them on to pictures or other thin objects.  I went looking for them after reading the book "Teaching Conversation Skills to Children with Autism: Scripts and Script Fading" as they outline ways to use them when working on conversation skills.  I recognize that not all of my students will be able to push the small button to activate them but for the students I'm thinking about right now these are going to be great!
I ordered them from Voice Express. They do have other mini recorder types of products that are worth checking out.  I'm planning a future post outlining some of the uses that I found for these little treasures :).

Program Review: The STAR (Strategies for Teaching Based on Austim Research) Program

Title: The STAR Program (Strategies for Teaching Based on Autism Research) Contributors: Joel R. Arick, Lauren Loos, Ruth Falco, David A. King
Publisher: pro-ed (

Over the past year the distribution of my class has gone from having one out of nine students on the Autism spectrum to having five out of ten on the Autism spectrum this fall.  My class... it is a changin'!  With this change I have been seeking out more resources that are autism-specific to use.  I have gathered severl books along the way that addess teaching techniques such as discrete trial training and pivotal response training but without concrete approaches I hae struggled to implement the approaches appropriately.

This program is not cheap - approximately $325 per level and there are three levels (although you can buy the three levels together for about $850).  I would venture to think that people who are trained in the area of autism and have their he…

Book Review: Teaching Conversation to Children with Autism (Scripts and Scrpit Fading)

Book Title: Teaching Conversation Skills to Children with Autism (Scripts and Script Fading)
Authors: Lynn E. McClannanhan Ph. D. and Patricia J. Krantz, Ph. D.
Publisher: Woodbine House, 2005

Thought #1: I was very excited about some of the practical strategies that I could put in place while I reading this book.  When I came to my classroom four years ago, there were these two autido card readers along with a thousands of cards that the machine could read.  At first we used them as part of the reading program that a couple of the students were working on but they didn't seem to do any good in achieving the reading goals that had been set out.  Eventually I just packed them away in the closet and we haven't used them since.  I was excited to learn a new way to use these audio recorders as a way to encourage spontaneous social interactions.  For the non-verbal students that I'm working with this would intially mean that …