Friday, July 11, 2014

Attainment's Early Numeracy Program

The first two thing that jumped out at me as I read through the Implementation Guide are these quotes:
This curriculum is intended to help students become fluent in early numeracy skills to better prepare students to participate in the general education curriculum.
The Early Numeracy curriculum is not a precursor to teaching grade-aligned academics in mathematics, but should be used concurrently in order to strengthen students' numeracy skills while also providing opportunities to practice the skills in different contexts, environments , with different material, and possible with different instructors.
The curriculum focuses on counting with one-to-one correspondence, number identification, naming numbers, rote counting, creating sets, beginning addition with sets, identification and understanding of numeracy symbols, identification, extension and creation of ABAB patterns, using and understanding calendars and measuring with nonstandard and standard units.  These skills are the foundational skills that students need to be able to meaningfully participate in mathematics learning of general education curriculum.  This program is designed in a way that allows for the flexibility of supports, instructional methods, materials, and time needed to ensure that students are able to master the concepts.  
 The program includes teacher-directed lessons that include direct work on rote counting and number recognition, a math story that include several opportunities to stop and work on early numeracy skills, math skill practice time and a game to review the concepts from the lesson.  The lessons are meant to be repeated over several days with different practice work each day.  Hands-on student materials and organizational mats are included so students are able to actively engage in their learning. In the context that I work in, I'm envisioning these lessons as being pull out lessons with me going through the lessons with student and learning assistant (in groups or individually dependent on context) once a week. A learning assistant would then repeat the lesson each day that week with the student doing a different practice set each day. The practice sets are set up on worksheets.  This allows me to assess where students are at each week and to ensure that we are using methods that are working for the student.
The second part of the program is related to finding times and ways for the student to continue to practice the same skills within the general education mathematics context.  This is done in two ways. The first is to find natural times during the class to work one-on-one on the skills that are being worked on in the lesson.  The second is by embedding the skills in to the lesson that the rest of the class is doing.  The later does involve some brainstorming and thinking through when what is being done in the class can be used as the context for working on these specific skills.  An example would be to take work that is being done on finding the area of rectangles and use that as an opportunity to practice counting with one-to-one correspondence or measuring with standard or non-standard units. A nice thing about the processes is that they are ones that can be taught to peer supports with the guidance of myself or the learning assistant so as opportunities for this present themselves in class they can be capitalized on.

With the students that I'm working with, I'm also looking to embed as many opportunities for communication as possible.  A couple of them already have math page sets (either tech or non-tech) but I'm looking to expand these based on what is in this curriculum and what I'm learning as we keep moving forward with what we are doing.  I will post about this later in the summer as I'm still thinking this part of things through.

We still plan to continue to find the opportunities that students can engage in the same mathematics as the rest of the class be it through modifications, peer supports, use of manipulatives (virtual or concrete), use of a calculator...etc.  Some of my students are past this stage and I'm looking at other similar ways to supplement their programs so that we are continuing to move toward finding that balance between remediation (working on foundational skills where they are at) and compensation (finding the work-arounds that allow them to participate in what is happening in the community around them). 

I'm excited that we will be taking another step in figuring out how to do this and so glad to find a resource that starts from the idea of supplementing participation and learning of general education curriculum for students with complex needs. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Mommy Walk Down Memory Lane

Nine years ago today, a couple of weeks after my son Mikey had finished Kindergarten, I sat down and wrote a document titled "My Vision for Mikey".  I wanted to have some record of the dreams that I had for him as he ended in to the world of graded education. 

I went back to look at it last night and I can't say that my dreams for him have changed all that much.  I still very much want him to have a life that is his own.  The steps that we need to continue to keep trying to take to achieve that can be both frustrating and wonderful.  In the nine years since I've written this, I've come to realize that the road is not always easy but it is meaningful and worth it. 

Here is the statement I wrote back then. Original post can be found on my personal blog which I no longer write on. Link:

I believe that each person on this earth has their own special gifts and talents and when these gifts are discovered and nurtured, they become the passions that make up the meaning of life.  I see my role as Mikey's mommy as being that of providing him with the opportunities and support to ensure that he is able to discover his own unique gifts and talents and then to ensure that he has the tools, supports and proper environment to nurture these.  Ultimately, the goal would be for Mikey to take charge of his own life and understand and be proud of what he contributes to our world. 
I believe in Mikey's uniqueness and do not want him subjected to pressure to conform to standards that may not be right for him.  The struggles he faces in day to day living activities need to be balanced with many success activities throughout the day.  I want him to feel success more often then he experiences failure.  I want him to understand that success is not only in the final product but in the effort put in to get to the final product.  I want him to believe that he can do whatever he sets his mind to but at the same time, I want him to be the one in control of what those goals will be.  I believe people who come in contact with Mikey should set realistic, yet challenging expectations of him so that he can learn to do the same for himself and strive towards being the best Mikey he can be.  I want him to have a full understanding of the difference between doing his best and being the best and to be proud of the times when he does his best without comparison to others. 

I want him to lead a life full of love, joy, discovery, real relationships, balance, and a positive sense of self.  Throughout life, I want him to strive towards independence.  I want him to take responsibility for himself - to make his own decisions and to take responsibility for the way those decisions play out.  At the same time, I want him to understand that true happiness for anyone is found in interdependence and not in independence and I want him to have a full understanding of who is in his support system.  I want him to turn to these people (or seek out new people if the situation demands it) when the need arises with the understanding that he is showing strength and not weakness.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Great Video on How to Model AAC for Communication Partners

ISACC (International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication) defines communication as "the essence of human interaction and learning"...
The nature of communication is dependent on interaction between two or more individuals and understanding is constructed through that interaction.
Communication is a basic human right and essential to our quality of life as a social species.  As human beings, we use communication to: relate to others, socially connect, greet, call attention, share feelings, express an opinion, agree, disagree, explain, share information, question, answer, tease, bargain, negotiate, argue, manipulate, compliment, comment, protest, complain, describe, encourage, instruct, provide feedback, show humor, discuss interest, be polite, make friends, express interest or disinterest...etc.  
As both a parent and a teacher I feel a level of urgent anxiety around figuring out how to support my son and the students in the area of AAC. It feels like there is some illusive magic bullet to making this happen.

Tonight Lauren Scchwartz Enders, an AAC consultant that I follow on Facebook shared a training video related to modeling the use of an AAC system to the user that I thought was really well done.  Many wonderful reminders in the video of staying the course when it comes to Input before Output.  I am sharing the video here as I think it is worth spreading around to teams who are working to support students develop communication through an AAC system. The story at the end of the video also spoke to me as a parent about the need to be modeling the use of the system at home.