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).
Many times, when University practicum students start volunteering in the schools, they are unsure of what their role is in the classroom. Your supervising teacher may give you direction or an idea of what you can do to help in their class. Some teachers will ask you to lead a small group literacy or math activity or do a read-aloud for example. Some teachers however may not give you as much direction. This may happen because teachers are very busy or there is not a built-in meeting time for them to fill you in. You may step in to the classroom when the teacher is teaching and therefore there is no time to chat.
I am offering some tips and ideas of what to do if you are not given much direction in your setting:
Observe and Reflect:
It is ok for the first visit or two to observe the class. Run this by your mentor teacher so they know what your thoughts are about observing the class. If observing the first time or two makes you more comfortable than practicum is an ok time in your pre-service teaching experience to do this. Practicum is a chance to get a feel for what different classroom settings are like. You will be able to volunteer for 25 hours in five unique classroom settings. If you choose to observe, take the time to jot some notes down about what you are seeing in the class. Some guiding questions and things to look for include: Continue reading →
When you go into an interview, you may be faced with a panel of people in front of you from administrators, teachers, and sometimes parents sitting in on the process. How can you stand out among the many job applicants for the job openings? Here are a few suggestions on how to stand out and put your best foot forward:
Attire: Dress in a professional, clean and polished manner for the interview. Stay away from an outfit you would wear for a day of teaching, and opt for something a bit more formal. A suit is an ok choice for either men or women. A modest, solid colored, conservative looking skirt, blouse and low pumps are also good choices.
Attitude: Lead with enthusiasm during your job interview. If the interviewer asks you to tell about yourself, stay positive and tell them something unique about yourself. As a new teacher, you may be not able to provide years of teaching experience, but one thing you CAN control is your attitude. Most districts may prefer working with a positive, can-do new teacher rather than a burnt-out, negative experienced teacher.
Preparation: Prepare a few items and artifacts for the interview that will help demonstrate and highlight your skill as a teacher. First you will want to make sure your Resume is up to date, proofread and copied. Creating A Great Resume For Pre-Service Teacher Have a few letters of recommendation copied and ready to leave for the interview committee. A couple of sample lesson plans, your behavior support plan, and pictures of you teaching are great items to bring to the interview. If you have an e-portfolio, blog or website, provide the link, or bring a tablet for them to look at.
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.