Category Archives: Early Childhood Education

Dr. Temple Grandin-My biggest takeaways from her keynote speech

I got to meet Temple!!! 

Temple Grandin at the US Autism Association keynote address 

Getting the chance to watch Dr. Temple Grandin talk has been a career long dream of mine!

I ran into Dr. Grandin at the airport!!!

When I started working with children with autism back in 1997, her book “Thinking in Pictures” was one of my first introductions to autism.  

Dr. Grandin was one of the first individuals with autism who could articulate what life is like for people on the autism spectrum. Parents and professionals both clamored for her knowledge, expertise and valuable insight. 

Here is a link to the first book I read…

https://www.amazon.com/Thinking-Pictures-Expanded-Life-Autism/dp/0307275655

Temple Grandin’s book 

I just had the amazing opportunity to hear her speak at the US Autism Association! 

Here are the major takeaways I had from her keynote speech: 

  • Limit screen time for children with autism to less than 1 hour per day. She noted that many of the children who could succeed in computer science are sucked in to video games and no longer can access their full potential due to their addiction
  • Parents need to “start letting go”-foster independence from a young age. She likened this to the adult cow who still wants to nurse from the mama cow. She said we need to “wean our children” so they are not dependent on us
  • “don’t over-protect”the child with autism
  • Allow children a multitude of hands on experiences because true learning takes place with hands on experiences not through screens
  • Teach young children how to “wait” and how to “take turns” and use board games as a way to teach these skills
  • Having real jobs are important for young adults with autism starting at age 13 (or so). 
  • Don’t get hung up on the label of autism
  • Focus on the strengths of the child not the deficits-build upon a child’s special interest which could end up leading to a valuable career one day. As an example, a child who is interested in pipes can become a plumber. 
  • Don’t make kids with autism do “baby math” if they excel in math. Allow the child to excel in the area they are gifted in
  • Encourage friendships through shared experiences such as cub scouts, school clubs etc. A shared interest will help build the friendship 
  • There is NO need to disclose autism diagnosis for milder cases due to some prejudice surrounding autism. Instead, tell what you need “those lights give me a headache”
  • Stretch students to grow and don’t overprotect them!
  • Allow for choices

If you were at the conference or have learned from Dr. Grandin yourself, please share what your biggest takeaways are in the comments! 

Here is a link to a youtube video of her (not from the conference I went to). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWePrOuSeSY

Creating (Functional) Micro-Routines For Kids With Autism At Home

Functional Routines: STAR autism strategies

Functional Routines are predictable events that involve a chain of behaviors. Routines are generally associated with a functional outcome for the child. Some common example routines that all children engage are: the restroom routine, arrival routine and snack routine. The functional outcome of a routine usually serves as the reinforcer for typically developing children. These routines provide meaningful contexts for using, generalizing, and maintaining receptive and expressive language, social interaction skills, and pre-academic concepts. The STAR Program provides the teacher with the needed programs to systematically teach children to independently participate in most common school and self-care routines. Guidance is provided for the creation of a structured learning environment for young children with autism. The STAR Program also provides the teacher with a system to integrate and thus generalize the use of skills taught in discrete trial and pivotal response training.

References for Teaching Functional Routines: Falco, R., Jansen, J., Arick, J. and M. Deboer (1990). J. B. Ganz (2007), R. Lovannone, G., Dunlap, H. Huber, and D. Kincaid (2003), B.T. Ogletree, T. Oren, & M.A. Fisher (2007), Brown, Evans, Weed, & Owen, (1987). Cooper, et. Al., (1987). McClannahan & Krantz, (2000). Olley, (1987). Arick, J., Young, H., Falco, R., Loos, L., Krug, D., Gense, M., and Johnson, S. (2003).

As a teacher, I have been asked often to help establish routines at home. It may feel out of the scope of our jobs, but the more our students are calm, organized and adapted at home, the more likely they are to come to school rested, and ready to learn.

What part of your day (at home) is most stressful with your child? Where are the most breakdowns, meltdowns and power struggles? The answer to that question is where the functional routines can be worked on to create structure and support.

Some common areas of struggle include: getting ready for school, homework time, meal times, bedtime. Sometimes the whole day is challenging and filled with struggle. We can’t fix the whole day at once. As parents, it can feel daunting when people tell us to create a daily routine…A long expansive day feels like a marathon to get through and routines end up breaking down when we try to set the whole day into a predictable, calm and well oiled routine machine. Our goal is to help kids with autism have a calm and organized home life which carries over to school.

boy child childhood happiness

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So let’s focus on creating micro-routines….

What is a micro routine? Start with one small routine during the day. Let’s pick a challenging one to start. You can establish more routines as your child becomes more comfortable with them.

Why? Routines are so important for kids with autism. Kids with autism thrive on predictability, structure and routine. Following and completing a routine can feel naturally reinforcing and organizing. Routines bring order to your day…

How to get started: Let’s pick dinner time as an example: Some children with autism have a hard time understanding what is expected of them at mealtimes. They may have become accustomed to grazing or snacking during the day but not sitting down and having a meal.

white ceramic mug on black dining table with four chair set

Photo by PhotoMIX Ltd. on Pexels.com

Here is what a dinner time routine can look like:

  1. wash hands
  2. set the table. The child can help. They can do as much or as little as they can.
  3. light a dinner time candle or LED candle
  4. say a prayer or one thing we are grateful for
  5. sit down and eat a meal
  6. ask to be excused
  7. clear their plate
  8. tell mom thank you for dinner

Within any routine, each step can be broken down into a task analysis if needed. If a child needs more support, take a look at Task Analysis For Students With Autism

Over time our routine has improved and what was once a chaotic and un-enjoyable time of the night has become something to look forward to.

This micro-routine may only realistically last for a short amount of time but building predictable and clear routine will help carve this time out for you and your family.

Add visual supports for extra clarity and guidance:

Low Tech Options: Real pictures, line drawings or words can work as a way to support the micro-routine.

How to Teach: Model, practice, support and reinforce. Each step of the routine may start as a brief or fleeting moment but reinforce each step. If your child has never sat at the table for dinner, set a visual timer for a few minutes to encourage them to sit. Why I love My Time Timer for Visual Support. As time goes on, lengthen the time they are at the table.

You may think a daily routine will be impossible to implement so start with a micro-routine and stick with it. Every day is a chance to practice the routine. Stay positive and encourage growth even micro-growth because over time, the predictably will become part of your daily life.

 

 

5 Ways To Support Students With Autism In The Mainstream Classroom

All students who experience autism are unique and have their own strengths and needs. Here are 5 common supports for students with autism in the mainstream classroom:

1. Read, understand and implement the student’s accommodations page of their IEP. 

  • As a classroom teacher you will be given a copy of the accommodations page of the IEP. To review what an IEP is please read What is an IEP?. You are responsible for knowing and implementing any and all accommodations on this page in your classroom. Written directions, an outline of the schedule, and short breaks are examples of accommodations. If for some reason you were not given the accommodations page, make sure to reach out to the student’s case manager (special education teacher) to get a copy of this before school starts.

2. Work closely with specialists to provide support for the student

  • Something I love about working in special education is that you always have a team of people working to support the student. You are never alone! Reach out to any and all of the specialists who are on your student’s team. The student’s IEP will outline which specialist he or she has on their IEP team. Examples of specialist include Speech Language Pathologists (SLP), Occupational Therapists (OT) and Physical Therapists (PT).

3. Collaborate with parents Continue reading

Teacher Self-Reflection- End Of The School Year

The end of the school year is a great time for teachers to spend some time deeply reflecting on the school year. Carve out some time to fill out this fun self-reflection tool I created.

You can download and print it out here: Self-Reflection For The End Of the School Year

Share your thoughts: If you have a team of other teachers you work with, take some time to share some of your reflections and ideas. This self-reflection tool would be great for a grade-level team to fill out and determine what items are similar and different on each teacher’s page.

Student Teachers: As part of what is recommended in 5 Things To-Do Before Student Teaching Is Done  take some time to reflect on what went well and what you would change. Using this self-reflection tool will help guide your thoughts and have something tangible to look back on before the school year starts back in the fall. Although it might be tempting to cut and run, take the time to self-reflect while you are still in your final days of your placement.

Changes To Make: What are some changes you would like to make?:

  • Do you want to change your classroom layout, organization or design? Make note of those changes now.
  • Do you want to look for a new newsletter or parent communication log?
  • Do you want to change your classroom job chart? The Importance Of Classroom Jobs-Community Building
  • Do data sheets and student progress monitoring need to be changed? How well did they work? Now is the time to think about all of the many things in your class that you would like to change.

Screen Shot 2018-05-25 at 6.35.58 AM

Best Lessons And Activities: What were the best lessons and activities this school year? Continue reading

The Importance Of Classroom Jobs-Community Building

I wanted to share some examples of classroom job charts I have seen out in the field. If you have a great job chart, take a picture and post in the comments. Having examples will help you for when you set up your classroom in the fall. Take pictures of everything now so you will the examples later 5 Things To-Do Before Student Teaching Is Done

Room 51 staff

This is a 6th grade classroom job board which include the following jobs: Lunch Manager, Custodial, Desk Doctor, Pet Patrol, Materials Manager, Teacher Assistant and Secretary.

What are the benefits of having classroom jobs?

  • Provides structure for students who benefit from knowing what their role is in class
  • Creates a sense of community where all learners are committed to the good of the classroom
  • Encourages students to give back and become helpers

    Job Chart 2nd grade

    This job chart is from a second grade classroom. Jobs include paper passer, line leader, door holder, flag salute, lunch tub monitor, chair monitor, librarian

 

How many jobs should a classroom have?

Continue reading

Cultivate Gratitude For Students With ACES

Students who experience Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) can benefit from a focused practice of cultivating gratitude.

One research article states the importance of:

“providing ways to action gratitude through student initiatives”

 

for children who have ACES.

The full article is linked here: Teaching With Strengths in Trauma-Affected Students: A New Approach to Healing and Growth in the Classroom  

This text box comes directly from the article and shows the increased psychological capacities and strengths in trauma-affected students.

Aces and gratitude

A daily home practice I have instituted is a gratitude jar:

Continue reading