Category Archives: Pre-Service Teachers

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.

Behavior Boot Camp: Penny Token Boards

Why use penny token boards?

Penny token boards are one of my favorite individual behavior support strategies! It takes some planning and managing on behalf of the teacher but can pay off big time!

Which students benefit the most?

A penny token board can help students with autism or other special needs stay engaged, learn and be successful in class. The board helps promote inclusion and ensures all students are successful. The penny token board is a great individual reward system for a student who does not respond to the classroom-wide behavior supports. This system is a visual representation of how the student is doing and when he or she will earn the reward.

A penny token board is one example of an individual token economy. The principals of this technique are grounded in applied behavior analysis. http://applied behavior analysis

I got the penny token board I share in the video at:https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Penny-Token-Board-Set-3039344

Target Behaviors

Pick a target behavior you would like to increase. One example of a target behavior is for a student to raise his hand with a quiet mouth. To increase the likelihood that this target behavior continues, you can reinforce it with the use of the penny token board.

How to use the penny token board?

The pennies are considered the “consequence” for performing a desired behavior. Start the board when the student has gotten away from a 1:1 reinforcement schedule. Each penny then represents about 4-5 times of the student performs the target behavior. Teach this board by starting out with 4 pennies on the board so students will quickly “buy into” this system. When the student earns the penny, provide positive and constructive feedback. This feedback informs the student about what behavior earned the penny. To learn more about positive and constructive feedback please read:https://spedadvisor.com/2019/02/09/provide-positive-constructive-feedback/

Make sure students have “strong” reinforcers

The penny token board are only successful if students are motivated so use highly motivating rewards. Make sure reinforcers stay “strong” by conducting a “reinforcer assessment”. This assessment helps you stay on top of what is most reinforcing for the student.

Offer a few choices on a choice board that you know are highly reinforcing.

Only offer reinforcer choices that are doable for you and your classroom. Earning candy or other primary reinforcers may not be appropriate but a quick 5 minute break in the peace corner may be more reasonable.

Never take away pennies

Once earned, the pennies cannot be removed. If the student doesn’t earn more tokens then they just don’t earn their reward…The penny token board should never become a punitive or reactive system. Using the board as a positive reward system will create the long term change in behavior that we all want!

I hope this is helpful and fun to start using with your students. If you have experience and success using penny token boards please share in the comments…



What is “masking” and autism?

“Masking” and Autism- Sometimes this is called “camouflaging” 

On social media (twitter) I have seen multiple people who experience Autism describe the concept of “masking” and autism. At an autism conference I recently went to, a young man with autism described how he was able to “mask” his Autism and at the age of 22 has recently received a diagnosis. 

What is “masking”?

•Masking is when a person who has Autism tries to blend in or go unnoticed among their neurotypical peers. 

•They will fly under the radar, try to go unnoticed and copy or mirror as best as possible the social scripts of their peers.

•They work hard to be the “good student” and not bring extra attention to themselves. 

•Research shows that those who have Autism level one (aka. Asperger’s) often camouflage.

•Masking happens when a person with autism is more aware of their social differences to the neurotypical world. 

•Girls with autism tend to “mask” more than boys on the spectrum.

Why is masking an issue?

•Masking suppresses the natural state of the person with Autism. 

•Students who mask are often misdiagnosed because they have camouflaged their symptoms. A misdiagnosis of mental health difficulties may happen. 

•A feeling of social isolation may happen because they are not able to be their true selves. 

•Masking can lead to loneliness, depression, self-harm, self-medication, anxiety anger and is most notably it is exhausting.

If you suspect a student is masking, talk to your educational team, a special education teacher, school counselor or other professional. Getting others involved will help support you as an educator to determine the next steps to take in helping the student.

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

Weekly Self Reflection For Student Teachers

→Self-Reflection:

Why is self-reflection so important in teaching?

when we teach we learn about what works and what doesn’t work by using self-reflection. Teach a lesson, a day, a week and look back and take the time to examine what worked well, and what didn’t work.

Here are some questions to ask:

  • How did the students respond? Was the lesson too hard, too easy? How would you present the materials or lesson differently next time?
  • How are you feeling physically and emotionally? Are issues in your personal life creeping into the classroom? Are you able to leave stress from home at home?

Every facet of teaching and education including the teacher’s cognitive, psychological, social/emotional and professional characteristics can be reflected upon. How you show up in your classroom and your school matters! Every facet of you as a person and teacher impacts your students and the whole school is impacted on some level.

How you show up in your classroom and your school matters!

When we prepare to review dispositions of our pre-service teachers with self-reflection in mind, we have the following rubric and scale:

Take a look at this scale and see how you would rate yourself right now…

Screen Shot 2018-09-18 at 5.17.03 PM

We always want to see ourselves with a growth mindset and as a person who can grow and develop new skills.

Are you a person who is willing to put in the work to self-reflect so you can grow personally or professionally? If so how are you self-reflecting?

One student teacher I had two years ago said he had a long drive home from his student teaching placement. He took this long commute to run through his school day. He would think about the areas of the day that went well and the areas of the day that he would do differently next time. One suggestion I had for him is to have some type of journal or log to eventually (after he is done driving:) record those thoughts. Even though you think you would never forget them, the year is so full and there is no way to remember everything.

I designed this self-reflection worksheet as a way to encapsulate that self-reflection every week.

Think about:

  • Things that went well
  • Things you would do differently
  • Students you connected with (who and how?)
  • Questions or concerns

Download the weekly reflection document here

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Weekly-Reflection-for-Student-Teachers-4827240

Take a moment to fill this out each week. Create a file to keep the reflections and by the end of the year you will be so amazed at how much you have grown.

Weekly Reflection student teaching-2
  • Last night in our weekly guide meeting my wonderful pre-service teachers got into partners and used this self-reflection worksheet to reflect upon their week in the classroom. They enjoyed the chance to share with a partner and we will try this again next week.

The student on the left side of the picture, Hailey also shared her journal which she uses daily to write in. Her collaborating teacher encouraged her to use a daily journal to write notes about the day and questions that come up. I was so impressed to see this level of self-reflection from a student teacher!

IMG_2174
Two of my student teachers using the self-reflection worksheet to reflect on their week

©SPEDadvisor.com

Set Up An Independent Work System At Home For Your Child With Autism

Benefits of independent work systems:  

Independent work systems are evidence-based practice for students with autism, but they are very helpful for any child who needs some structure to be able to work on his or her own.

Most children benefit from structure in their environment

My son who started Kindergarten, now has homework so I set up a structured work system so he has somewhere in the house dedicated to completing his homework.

Special education classrooms use a variation of these work systems and supports to help teach independence and provide structure.

♥ I want to share this technique and show how easy this independent work system is to create and use at home. Even if you don’t work with an autism specialist or have in-home Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapist, this is something you can create with a quick trip to the dollar store and moving around some furniture.

Continue reading

5 Ways To Support Students With Autism During Transitions

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.

Give ample warning for transitions: Use a visual timer and gently alert the child verbally about the upcoming transition. Why I love My Time Timer for Visual Support

Time Timer

Time Timer for visual support

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

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