Universal Design for Learning (UDL) should be the bedrock and foundation in which we design any distance learning curriculum. I teach in higher education and encourage my future teachers to become flexible educators who use UDL strategies whenever possible!
Universal Design as a Support For All students
UDL strategies can be used for all students in your class to minimize barriers and maximize learning opportunities. I would love for you to watch this video lecture which describes UDL in more depth.
Getting the chance to watch Dr. Temple Grandin talk has been a career long dream of mine!
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.
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!
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).
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
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
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
As teachers, we may start the school year full of enthusiasm, excitement and a positive outlook, but as the year goes on, we may start to feel teacher burnout. Over years of teaching this burnout may intensify and become obvious to colleagues, parents and your students. Here are some signs of burnout and a 5 ways to avoid teacher burnout.
Signs of teacher burnout:
Feeling hopeless and overwhelmed by the paperwork and workload of teaching
Feeling as if nothing you do will help your students
Not wanting to go to work
Withdrawing from your work colleagues
Catching yourself always speaking negatively about your colleagues or students
Mental, physical or emotional exhaustion that persists over time
Five ways to avoid teacher burnout
1.) Send out an SOS
Reach out to your support network. Tap in to the supports you have in your life including friends, family and trusted colleagues. If your mental health is suffering, set up a time to talk to a mental health counselor. If you teach at a public school, the school counselor may be able to give you a referral for a professional to talk to.
I risk coming across like your grandma here but bear with me for a minute…The thank you note (or email) is one of the most powerful and effective ways to make you stand out. This “tool” is simple but has almost been forgotten recently. I want to see it come back because EVERYONE loves receiving a hand written thank you note. Nobody will balk at receiving a genuine “thank you” note. At this point, the rarity of receiving one will make you stand out among your peers in the job interview process as well.
When to write one:
If anyone goes out of their way to help you with anything, this is a perfect opportunity to write a thank you note. Here are some examples of when to write a thank-you note:
Use your voice as a tool: As teachers, one of the best tools we have is our voice. Ensure that all students can hear you by projecting your voice. You can make your voice louder or softer as needed. Work on developing a ‘stern’ teacher voice to use when you need it, but be careful not to overuse it. If you use a soft-spoken or quiet voice while teaching, students may talk over you and start to take over the lesson. Practice using your voice as a tool in your car on the way to school, at home, and during lessons to see the impact it has on your teaching.
Pre-teach behavioral expectations BEFORE starting the lesson:Be pro-active rather than reactive. Spend a few moments before teaching your lessons being explicit about your behavioral expectations. What do students’ bodies, voices, and eyes need to be doing during the lesson? Be specific: “Eyes on me, hands in your lap, bottoms on the floor.” Use the same language as your motor teacher so students hear the consistency.
Notice or ‘catch’ students who are following through on the behavioral expectations:During the lesson make sure to ‘catch’ or notice the students who are following the behavioral expectations you explained at the start of the lesson. This can be as simple as saying “I notice Johnny has his hands in his lap, thank you Johnny.” Follow through on the same language your mentor teacher uses to praise student behavior for consistency. Do you have a classroom-wide behavior incentive in your classroom? If so, follow through and use the plan throughout the lesson.