Category Archives: SPED Support Strategies

Special Education Support Strategies

Behavior Boot Camp: Provide Positive and Constructive Feedback

Please watch the YouTube video which shares more about this positive behavior support strategy.

YouTube video talking about providing positive and constructive feedback

How do you feel after receiving positive and constructive feedback?

As an adult, how do you feel when your coach, supervisor or boss gives you positive and constructive feedback? Does it encourage you to continue working hard or make you feel demoralized? Most likely it will make you feel amazing! You have a clear understanding of what you are doing well and what you need to work on.

Make the feedback specific…

When a student get’s specific positive and constructive feedback, it is not just a “good job”. With the student’s goals and targets in mind you are helping inform them with the feedback. The feedback will give specific information how to improve and what is going well.

How do I give feedback?

Feedback in written or verbal forms are both great ways to give feedback. Make sure the feedback comes relatively shorty after the student performs the task and provide ongoing feedback until the student reaches his or her goals.

This behavior support strategy comes from High Leverage Performances…Here is a screenshot of the High Leverage performances number 8. I reference this in my YouTube video.

High Leverage Performances screenshot

Behavior Boot Camp: Routines and Procedures

Please watch my YouTube video…and subscribe https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgQ8h0a1a59gTbXetGlEGGA?view_as=subscriber

Benefits of developing routines and procedures

Well thought out routines and procedures help create a calm, organized classroom. Students know what to do and how to do it. Without positive, routines and procedures, a classroom can easily fall into total chaos. Examples include: how we manage materials, enter the classroom, transition, and turn in work.

How do we teach routines and procedures?

Teaching routines and procedures starts at the beginning of the school year with explicit instruction. Just like academics, routines and procedures need to be taught, and reinforced. Establishing routines and procedures is one of the High Leverage Practices for special education and will be the bedrock for your classroom environment. I have linked more information about High Leverage Practices here. https://ceedar.education.ufl.edu/portfolio/ccsc-2017-high-leverage-practices/

Things to think about when setting up routines and procedures

Consider the age of the students. What is age appropriate for them? For example if you teach Kindergarten, the routine for entering and leaving the classroom will look different from a fifth grade classroom. Can your students handle materials being on the desks in tubs or do they need to be stored out of reach? There are many considerations but speak to your team, observe other classrooms and know it is ok to change a routine if it is not working for your class.

Support for students with special needs

Students with autism or other special needs respond well to classrooms with well established routines and procedures. Students with autism feel safe when they know what to expect. Focus on the transition routines for students with autism. Transitions are when we often see behavioral challenges from our students with autism. One great way to teach routines to students with autism is by using a social story. Here is a link to my YouTube video sharing what a social story is. https://youtu.be/lKl6cafmdVY

Consistent routines provide structure for students with autism which makes them feel safe secure and helps them understand what is going on during the school day.

Support for all students

Positive behavior support strategies such as this are helpful for all students. Students will be productive, calm and organized with these routines in place. Watch your mentor teachers around you and see how well run their classroom are. What would you do the same? Also think about what you would change or do differently? All of this reflection is important in developing safe and well run classroom routines and procedures.

The difference between an IEP and a 504 plan

Section 504 plan: 

The Law: A 504 plan is governed by a civil rights law 

Students with 504 plans: Qualify under the section 504 Rehabilitation Act 1973 (PL 93-112)

“No otherwise qualified handicapped individual…shall, solely by reason of his/her handicap, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance”

To be protected under Section 504, a student must be determined to:

(1) have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; or (2) have a record of such an impairment; or (3) be regarded as having such an impairment. 

  • A 504 plan is a plan to ensure accessibility but does not include specialized instruction and services such as occupational therapy, speech therapy etc. 
  • the child’s disability must be negatively impacting his learning in the general education classroom
  • If your child has a disability and it is impacting their educational experience, and accommodations are all that are needed, a 504 plan is ideal.
  • An example is a quiet place to take a test.  
  • A 504 plan can stay with a person for a lifetime 
  • A written plan is created 
  • Periodic “evaluation” is required but no annual review is required 
  • There are no goals or progress monitoring 

The student’s 504 team will determine what these accommodations 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.

IEP-Individual Education Plan 

The Law: The IEP is governed by special education law 

Students with IEPs qualify under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): Public Law No. 94-142 (last amended 2004)

  • A student must have one of 13 “disabling” conditions to qualify for an IEP. 
  • The disability must negatively impact the students access to the curriculum 
  • The IEP includes specialized instruction 
  • An IEP is used in public schools for students between the ages of 3-21 
  • A written plan is created 
  • Initial assessment is based on standardized assessment tools and a student must be re-evaluated every 3 years. Every year the team must meet for the “annual” IEP meeting. 
  • Goals are written and reviewed at least every year 

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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

What teachers need to know about autism sensory issues

  • Behavioral issues may be caused by a student’s unique sensory needs.
  • 85% of students with autism have sensory processing disorders.

Did you know that there are actually 8 sensory systems in your body, not just 4?

Our bodies take information in through the following sensory systems:

The The functional four:

  • sight
  • taste
  • smell
  •  hearing

and then we have the foundational four: “body based”:

  • tactile (touch)
  • vestibular (movement)
  • proprioception (input from muscles and joints)
  • interoception-A lesser known sense:  (internal sensors indicating physiological conditions)

Sensory Processing: A person’s way of noticing and responding to sensory events that occur during life. These patters of responding affect how people respond in situations. (Dunn, 1997)

Occupational Therapist (OT): An OT is the experts on sensory processing. They will work with the family and the IEP team to conduct screenings and assessments to determine the needs of the student within the context of the school environment. The goal of looking at sensory processing is to improve participation, NOT to change the sensory processing patters. To learn what an IEP is please read What is an IEP?

The DSM-5 includes langauge about sensory processing and autism as part of the diagnosis for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)…

 Hyper- or hyporeactivity to sensory input or unusual interests in sensory aspects of the environment (e.g., apparent indifference to pain/temperature, adverse response to specific sounds or textures, excessive smelling or touching of objects, visual fascination with lights or movement).

To learn more about the DSM-V and autism please read Changes In The DSM-V For Autism

Neurological Thresholds: Describe the level at which the brain will respond to sensory stimulation. When a student has a low threshold they respond to everything around them and often have sensory profiles that are “sensitive” or “avoiding.” Students who have a high threshold can appear be passive and don’t respond often to sensory stimulation. They may have sensory profiles that are “low registration” or “seeking”

Unique Sensory Profiles:

Low Registration: Indicate a high threshold and a student is slow to respond to stimuli in the environment.

Seeking: indicate high thresholds and this student will often add movement, touch, sound and visual stimuli to the school day.

Sensitivity: Indicate low thresholds and children detect more details than others and may be more hyperactive, distracted and easily upset because they notice more things in the environment than their peers.

Avoiding: Indicate low thresholds and children may avoid work to reduce input. They may seem resistant and unwilling to participate in activities, particularly in unfamiliar ones.

Check out this “model of sensory processing” chart and watch the linked Youtube video for more detail on how to interpret this chart…

Screen Shot 2018-11-07 at 7.31.28 PM

References:

Learners on the Autism Spectrum 2nd edition by Kari Buron and Pamela Wolfberg

Dunn, W. (1991a). The impact of sensory processing abilities on the daily lives of young children and their families: A conceptual model. Infants and Young Children, 9(4), 23-25.

What is a “social story” for students with Autism?

Social Stories are another great visual support and intervention for students who experience Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Visual supports are valuable in helping students structure and understand communication and social interactions.

  • Social Stories were developed by Carol Gray in 1995 as a way to teach children with ASD how to read the intricacies of the social environment and to teach new skills.
  •  These techniques use a brief narrative that describes a situation, relevant social cues, and responses.
  • They can teach multi-step situations. Similar to “Task Analysis” a skill is broken down into smaller steps for a student to learn and understand.
  • There are a variety of social skills training programs available, but Social Stories can be created by anyone including teachers, parents, speech language pathologists, and they can be used with all ages of students.
  • Read and review the social story when the student is calm to teach the behavior or social skill. Review the social story often and reinforce positive student behavior related to skills in the social story
  • Social Stories are simple narratives, written in positive language that support a student’s communication in a way that makes the new skill or social environment more personal and concrete
  • For more specifics on Carol Gray’s system of creating social stories please check out Carol Gray’s Social Stories

 

What is a first/then schedule for children with autism?

Please check out my youtube video where I share a first/then picture schedule.

In a previous post, I shared about picture schedules for children with autism Visual Support : Picture Schedule For Students With Autism.

Picture schedules provide supports for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) which are part of the environmental supports many students with ASD respond well to. Some students with autism may need a schedule that is paired down a bit and a first/then schedule is ideal for them.

Picture schedules help students with ASD understand what is happening during the school day and is a tool to help them navigate successfully through their day.

Some things to think about when using a first/then schedule:

  • materials needed-file folder, laminator, velcro, picture icons
  • this low tech first/then board can be created with a file folder. Laminate the file folder so it can be wiped clean if it gets dirty. Set velcro strips on the outside and long strips inside to store the images
  • create images that reflect all parts of their daily school schedule
  • create images to reflect referred activities and reinforcers
  • real photo icons may be needed first for younger students or students with ASD who are level 3. Ideally all icons should contain a picture and a word so students will get exposure to written language. Pairing a picture with a word will help a student eventually transition to only using words for their schedules.
  • focus on a work task or non-prefered task for the first item on the schedule and a preferred task or reinforcer for the “then” item on the schedule
  • complete “reinforcer assessments” often to insure students with autism are motivated to complete the work task or assignment
  • first/then boards are portable and you can keep all picture items you need inside the schedule
  • this schedule is portable and should be taken with the student as he or she navigates around the school
  • higher tech options are available through apps if a student uses a tablet
  • if you put the first/then on the white board or smart board for all students, then it can become a universal support and many students can benefit from it
  • IMG_2605

    First/Then schedule on the board 

     

  • this visual support may be part of a student’s IEP What is an IEP? but it is OK to try this strategy to provide more structure doing any student’s day
  • communicate and collaborate with the student’s IEP or 504 team to let them know you have started this visual support
  • encourage and support parents to use a first/then picture schedule at home if they are needing more structure in the home environment

Have first/then picture schedules been helpful to your students in the past?