Words are important! They hold meaning! Words have the ability to lift people up to promote and celebrate them and also have the potential to alienate and marginalize people. We must choose our words carefully so we don’t unintentionally get into a deficit mindsets with our students.
Condition First Language: This is when you put the condition first when speaking about people who have disabilities. An example of this is: A blind child
Person First Language: Put the child/person first before the condition. An example of this is: A child who is visually impaired (blind). Think of children with disabilities as children first.
Children with disabilities have a wide variety of skills. Some children with disabilities may be gifted in some areas. It is not helpful to think of any group of disabilities as a homogenous group.
Focus on what students can do to create a strength based approach. Before an IEP meeting, create a list of the child’s strengths to start the meeting with. What is an IEP?
Exceptions: The Deaf population typically refers to themselves as Deaf because they have a stand alone language (American Sign Language). They use the capital D in the word Deaf as well. Recently people with autism have been sharing their desire to be called autistic because they acknowledge that although they are not neuro-typical. They are proud of who they are and want to acknowledge their autism.
Check with the individual: It is always best practice to check with the individual to see what langauge they prefer. When you are in a school, defer to using person first langauge unless told otherwise.
Students with autism or other special needs, who have an Individual Education Plan (I.E.P) or 504 plan, will have a section in the plan detailing accommodations and/or modifications. The student’s IEP or 504 team will determine what these accommodation or modifications will be and it is the responsibility of the classroom teacher (and other members of the team) to follow through on the plan in class. To learn more about an IEP check out my link What is an IEP?
Students with IEPs qualify under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): Public Law No. 94-142
Laws require that students who have special needs have equal access to educational opportunities.
Equal access to general education curriculum
Schools are required to make reasonable accommodations for students identified as having a disability
Building resilience for children who are experiencing bullying or have Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES): When students are being bullied, they are more likely to experience:
Depression and anxiety. Signs of these include increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. These issues may persist into adulthood.
Creating Resilience– Focusing on gratitude Cultivate Gratitude For Students With ACES for what you have in your life has been proven to support students with ACES. Educators and parents can help young children focus on the support they already have in their lives. Here are two ideas to promote resilience in the home and in the classroom:
At home support: Heart Garland of Love and Support:
Hang a heart garland showing the names of people who care about the child where they can see it every day. We created it together and I allowed him to brainstorm the people in his life who care about him. He came up with 4 close family members and one teacher from his school. Every day when we wakes up and before he goes to bed, the garland acts as a visual reminder to focus on the people who have his back and care about him.
Alternative Ideas: For children who can’t read yet, you can put small pictures of the people. Gratitude: Each heart can contain one word signifying what the child is grateful for or positive core qualities the person possesses.
In School Support: Lace Up Your Best Personal Qualities Art Activity
One of my students at SOU created this fun classroom art activity for students to identify 5 things they notice about their peers that are great or positive. Each student in class has a shoe and the “laces” have a word or something positive about each student in class. Some examples of positive words include “reliable, kind, outgoing and good friend”
What are some ways you provide emotional support for students who are bullied or have ACES?
Transitions are when a student moves from one activity to another in the classroom. Going from small group work time to large group work, lining up for lunch, going home and going to P.E. are all examples of transitions.
Transitions are commonly a time when children who experience autism struggle. Wait time, uncertainty, and needing to go from preferred to non-preferred activities all contribute to this breakdown. Staying one step ahead of the curve and supporting the student with autism will help the school day go smoothly. Here are some tips for creating success with transitions during the school day.
Minimize wait time during transitions Hurry up and wait should not be the motto for your transitions. Waiting in line for example can exacerbate anxiety, frustration and uncertainty for students with autism. Continue reading →
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).
It’s finally summer break and now it is time to turn the attention back to ourselves as teachers. Summer break is a time to rest, recuperate and re-charge our batteries. If you just graduated, and will have your first teaching job in the fall, the summer is also a good time to prepare and start getting to know your teaching team.
Physically write down your goals and intentions. Huffington Post has an article that backs up the importance of writing down goals.
“You become 42% more likely to achieve your goals and dreams, simply by writing them down on a regular basis.”
I created a downloadable summer re-charge worksheet to write down your summer intentions so you can balance self-care, preperation and summer learning to get you started in your summer re-charge. Continue reading →
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?