Category Archives: Pre-Service Teachers

Parents as change makers in the history of special education inclusion.

On this MLK weekend, I would like to honor the heros of inclusion and the work parents have done. Tireless effort over the years have created change and much of the credit is due to families of students with special needs. If you are a parent of a child with special needs you are my hero! Please watch this brief history of special education which started with exclusion and ends with inclusion. Lets keep advocating on behalf of our most precious and valuable students and know how far we have come!

See video for details:

Respectfully,

Sarah

How to give constructive input in the IEP process: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Parent-Input-form-for-the-IEP-meeting-4864867

Autism Eligibility in Oregon

Oregon ASD Eligibility

As a teacher in higher education, I love working with teachers who are just starting out in the field. Their enthusiasm and willingness to learn is so heartening!

I put together this video lecture for them to learn more about the Autism (ASD) evaluation for our state of Oregon. I decided to publish it on my blog so parents/caretakers and others can learn more as well!

Respectfully!

Sarah

I think my student has autism…what can I do NOW to support them?

What can I do now to support them?

I have general education teachers ask me for ideas and suggestions to help students who may be on the spectrum. It is encouraging to see teachers who are willing and interested in helping their students be successful in the general education classroom. 

This is not an exhaustive list of supports and suggestions but it is a place to start. Please check out this youtube video slide show.

Thanks for following this blog, and my YouTube channel. This blog is intended for my college students but I love that the ideas and suggestions I give them is accessible to people around the world.

You can get a free PDF file of this resource here: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/I-think-my-child-has-autism-what-can-I-start-doing-right-now-to-support-them-4902846

Thanks for reading!

Sarah

10 tips for student teachers

Now that the school year has started, I am so excited to see all of the student teachers embarking on their new careers as teachers!

Being a student teacher can feel nerve wracking and kind of intimidating at first.

I created this short video on my 10 tips for student teachers!

If you have been a student teacher, what tips do you have?

Book Review: The Reason I jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism

Title of the book: The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism. By Naoki Higashida

Summary of the story/book content:

This is a fascinating book written by a 13-year old boy from Japan who experiences autism. His autism impacts him to the point where he is non-verbal. Unlike some of the other books on the market about autism written by parents, or professionals, this first-person account gives insight into what life is like for individuals with autism. As stated in the forward by David Mitchell, “The book goes much further than providing information, however: it offers up proof that locked inside the helpless-seeming autistic body is a mind as curious, subtle and complex as yours, as mine, as anyone’s” 

Even though the author, Naoki is nonverbal, he was able to write the book with the use of an alphabet board. This relatively low tech augmentative communication device is how he communicates in his daily life and he has written some poems as well. My initial reaction when I heard this was concern that they used facilitated communication which is not an evidence based practice. Naoki does not however receive any type of physical assistance or facilitation while using the alphabet board. The book was translated from Japanese to English and is now a best seller around the world. 

Parents and caregivers are now able to hear directly from someone who experiences autism which can give hope, and a deeper understanding of what is needed to support their child on the spectrum. In the past, we have had limited access the first-person accounts on autism besides that of Dr. Temple Grandin. She, as an adult, has become a voice for those who are not able to share their reality. This book is interesting and easy to read as it is from the point of view of a child. What struck me was the absolute profound and deep way this child was able to articulate his experience. Many neuro-typical children with autism are not as adept at sharing with others how they feel as well as Naoki has done. 

Reflections on the ways the individual described in the book demonstrate the characteristics of a person with Autism, as well as his strengths and needs: 

This book is written in a question-answer format and many of the most common questions that many of us have about living with autism are asked and answered. The answers are fairly brief and easy to read and digest. I will share a few of my biggest takeaways from the questions and answers he provided.

Question #13: “Do you prefer to be on your own?” 

Naoki dispels a commonly misunderstood trait of individuals with autism when he describes “No, for people with autism, what we’re anxious about is that were causing trouble for the rest of you, or even getting on your nerves. This is why it’s hard for us to stay around other people. This is why we often end up being left on our own.” He goes on to describe how he likes being around people, but because things don’t go well with people he has gotten used to being alone. He said that when he hears people say that he would prefer to be alone, it makes him feel desperately alone. When I read this, it was such an eye-opening thing to learn. Although he does not speak for all individuals with autism, I have always made the assumption that children with autism want to be left alone. Now that I have learned about the desire to be with others, I will be more cognizant of their deep desire to be around others. I may be more attuned to creating situations for students with autism that go well so they can experience success. 

Question #30 “Why are you too sensitive or insensitive to pain?”

In this answer, Naoki describes how some children with autism will cry out in “pain” when their nails are clipped or have their hair cut while others who have a serious injury will stay calm and not react. He does not believe this has all to do with nerve endings but is more about “inner pain” expressing itself via the body. This again is a very deep answer that I did not expect. He notes that bad memories of these events may come back as flashbacks and become expressed in a way that looks like a negative reaction. The memories of students with autism are not stored in a clear and chronological manner he writes so many of the reactions are based on these fragmented memories coming back to the child. Now that I know this “inner pain” idea I will be more careful in approaching a situation that may “hurt” a child or trigger a bad memory. 

Question #31 “Why are you so picky about what you eat?”

This is a question I have often wanted to know more about for children with autism because I have worked with many children with very restrictive diets. In the book, Naoki states that he does not have issues with having a narrow diet and he acknowledges that trying new foods isn’t just about nutrition but is also about enjoying life. The routine of liking the same food and not giving other foods a chance is the main reason for the picky eating. The child may think all other foods don’t have any taste and discount them as tasteless. Beyond the thought that their sense of taste is messed up, he encouraged us to give children with autism more time to try the foods and to continue to encourage them to eat a variety of foods. 

Question # 33 “Is it difficult for you to choose appropriate clothing?”

I have worked with many children with autism who insist on wearing the same clothing regardless of the weather. If the weather is hot, they still wear the same hoody sweatshirt and have to be encouraged to take it off to cool down their body temperature. Naoki confirms that its very common for children with autism to “forget” to take off or put on layers of clothing based on the weather. For children with autism, he said clothing can be seen as an extension of their bodies almost like an outer shell and they may find it reassuring to stick to the same outfit day in and day out. Protecting themselves from uncertainty and wearing comfy clothing is one way of doing that. Knowing this is so interesting and I never thought of clothing as being reassuring for the child with autism. This information is valuable and can help parents and teachers support the child with autism while being sensitive their unique needs about clothing. 

Final Thoughts:

This book provides so many gems of wisdom and insight for teachers and parents of children who experience autism. Many of the children we work with are unable to express their needs and wants. It is reassuring to learn that even the most seemingly unaware and “in their own world” child is still aware and attending to the life around them. This book gave me greater sensitivity to the deep and unique way children with autism experience and view the world around them. I highly recommend anyone who works with children with autism pick this up for your library as a valuable resource. 

Here is a link to the book: https://www.amazon.com/Reason-Jump-Inner-Thirteen-Year-Old-Autism/dp/081298515X/ref=asc_df_081298515X/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=312154663427&hvpos=1o1&hvnetw=g&hvrand=13651881292818639831&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9033107&hvtargid=pla-432564544453&psc=1

Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew

A mother of a child with autism wrote an article called Ten Things Every Child with Autism Wishes You Knew. In 2005 it become a book. The latest revision was in 2018. Even though this is not a new book, I wanted to take a moment to share it and encourage both parents and professionals to put this in their library!

Here is a copy of the original article written by Ellen Notbohm

Please watch my Youtube video where I share my thoughts on this book…

Here is what is inside the book…

Here are the chapters. Each chapter gives tangible examples and straightforward advice on how to handle each topic. It is easy to read and digest for people who are just learning about special education. When a topic as complex as autism can be boiled down to easy to understand terms it really helps the community understand this topic.

1. I am first and foremost a child. I have autism. I am not primarily “autistic.”

2. My sensory perceptions are disordered. 

3. Please remember to distinguish between won’t (I choose not to) and can’t (I am not able to).

4. I am a concrete thinker. This means I interpret language very literally.

5. Please be patient with my limited vocabulary. (updated: listen to all the ways I’m trying to communicate

6. Because language is so difficult for me, I am very visually oriented. (Updated: picture this! I’m visually oriented)

7. Please focus and build on what I can do rather than what I can’t do.

8. Please help me with social interactions.

9. Try to identify what triggers my meltdowns.

10. If you are a family member, please love me unconditionally.

Here is a link to the most recent edition on amazon.

p.s. I am not an affiliate for this or any products. I just want to share my knowledge and passion for autism supports .

If you have read this book please leave a comment and tell us what you think…

Myths of autism

The other day I had someone ask me if people with autism die young and I realized there are still a lot of unknowns and myths out there about autism.

I decided to create a YouTube post all about dispelling the myths. If you have any other questions please contact me. I would love to discuss this further.

I used this book as a guide to share some common myths about autism:

Thank you for reading and following my blog and my youtube channel. I feel so lucky to be able to share my knowledge and passion on autism with the world.

Thank you for reading, following and sharing my blog.

Sarah

P.S. I am not an affiliate for this book or anything on my blog. I just want to share great resources with my network.

How to survive and thrive your first year teaching!

Guest Q and A with a kindergarten teacher.

Erica, is now half way through teaching her second year in kindergarten.

I reached out to her to get some advice about how she survived and thrived during her first year teaching kindergarten. Here is some of her great advice:

Where and what grade do you teach?

I teach kindergarten in The Grants Pass School District.

One of Erica’s students creating chalk art

What was your favorite thing about your first year teaching?

My favorite thing about my first year teaching was building such strong relationships with my coworkers. When you are student teaching you build relationships at your school but the most important relationships are still related to your college. During your first year it’s really important to create strong relationships with the people around you because they will help you with understanding the curriculum, helping specific students, and making sure you get the supports you need to be successful and thrive.

What was the most challenging thing about teaching your first year?

The most challenging thing about teaching my first year was accepting that I can’t help every single student but instead I can only give them the tools to be successful. It was painful to let some of my kiddos who didn’t reach all the grade level standards or who didn’t get the proper supports in kindergarten go to first grade. Accepting that I can’t fix but instead can only support has made my second year emotionally easier.

What surprised you the most about your first year teaching?

What surprised me the most about my first year teaching was how much poverty/ trauma  there is in Southern Oregon. For some of these kids, we are ALL they have. Some of my students have gone through life events that I could not even imagine going through as an adult and all we can do is give them a hug and make sure school is full of love and support.

What is your advice for handling challenges communicating with parents?

I think the best thing you can do is rely on your teaching team and principal when it comes to challenges with parents. If you have a parent who is being unkind, I would advise telling your principal and asking for advice. Always ask for advice when you don’t know how to handle a situation. 

How have you navigated work/life balance?

This is one of the biggest challenges that every teacher faces. You always have a long list of things to finish and it never seems to end. Remember you are allowed to say no! I made a promise to myself that unless there are special circumstances I will not stay past 4 PM and I do not go to work on the weekends. I work through my lunches and prep during every prep period so I can leave on time. Its worth it for me! I am a planner so Sunday nights I pre-plan dinners with friends during the week to make sure I still socialize. It’s easy to make school your life but balance is so important. I always plan a special event for the weekends as well so I have something fun to look forward to(this can be as simple as a Saturday morning hike)!

What are some ways you have taken care of yourself this first year?

Self care is so important! Some things I do include going to the gym after work, taking my dog to the dog park, meal prepping on Sunday’s so I have healthy food for the week, leaving work by 4pm, going to bed at a decent hour so I have energy for the next work day, and talking about how I feel with friends, family, and/ or coworkers. Remember that you can’t be your best self for your students if you aren’t taking care of yourself.

As a student teacher, what are the best ways you can prepare while in your teacher preparation program?

While in your teacher prep. program take advantage of the opportunity to learn about different teaching styles and classroom management systems. You will develop your own teaching style/ management system but it’s wonderful when you have ideas to build off of.

What advice do you have for job seeking when the time comes?

My advice for job seeking is to apply to as many districts as you can via the online portals. There are so many amazing job opportunities in the Rogue Valley, and outside of the Valley, and you will find the best fit for you. Don’t give up! Job interviews are very stressful but when you find the right school you will know!
When it comes to interviews you need to be yourself. You will be asked questions about concepts that you learned in your prep program but that’s only about 30% of the interview. The other 70% is if you would fit into their school culture. Be honest about who you are and what you believe!  

THANK YOU Erica for taking the time to share your insights and wisdom with us!

We are so proud of you and know you are making a huge difference every day when you show up for your students!