Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Victory Garden!

For one of our monthly field trips, we were able to visit the Wayne Auto Spa. Another teacher's husband owns this car wash, but it's not just your average run of the mill car wash! This car wash runs its very own " Victory Garden" along with a chicken coop, and is home to Prim, the bunny. Crops produced from the garden help supply food and raise money to neighbors in need, such as the local flood relief centers. Veggies grown at the auto spa include peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, garlic and celery. 

The owner quizzed the students on the life cycle of a plant, then had each student plant a pepper plant. 

 Pepper planting!

 The students were also allowed to feed Miss Prim, the bunny. 

And check out the coop! They looked happy to see us...

Somehow a squishy ball that my student squeezes for sensory input ended up accidentally thrown into the chicken coop. The owner was not happy. I believe his exact words were, "Throwing an item like this into a chicken coop is NEVER a good idea". Sorry!! It was completely accidental, but apparently never a good idea. 

On another note, look how tall garlic grows! I had no idea...(front left)

Last, we got to check out the car wash in action, from start to finish. 

All in all, it was a pretty educational trip! Leave the squishy balls at home.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Cicadas are back...!

After 17 years the Cicadas are back on the East Coast!! Now that the weather has reached above 64 degrees, these bugs are climbing out of the ground at a rapid rate, ready to crawl, lay eggs, mate and die! While outside for recess, my students have been noticing these bugs. Some students want to touch them, and the others are deathly afraid! I used this as a teaching opportunity, and we went inside and looked them up on the computer. Good old Wikipedia..

Next, I made sure to show my student that they are not harmful to humans, and that they do not bite or sting (unless they sit on human skin for an excessive amount of time and mistake the human for a tree..)

One of the first grade teachers was nice enough to share this diagram with me. It shows the cicada in the form of the nymph, and what it looks like after it sheds its skin and turns into an adult. I showed this to my students; they were initially freaked out but then after lots of reassurance that the cicada was not alive, they were able to take a look (from about three feet away!) I have to admit, this diagram is currently sitting on my desk, and every time I catch a glimpse of it, I jump a bit. I think it's time to return it to first grade...

Happy Memorial Day weekend everyone!!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Visual Learning (Part 2)

More visual cues in the classroom! My students work from a full day schedule in order to ensure that they know what is coming up in their day, and this helps to decrease anxiety and promote independence. One of my non-reading students uses a picture schedule with verbal prompts, and my other student uses a written schedule.
  Picture schedule with verbal prompts:

Written schedule with choices
We found that by giving my student a "choice" as to which program he wanted to complete, negative and non-compliant behaviors decreased greatly. Choices (even the simplest of choices) empower the student, and we make sure that we present a choice to this student in every situation possible. All of the selections on the right are programs that he is working on, so even though he is picking which activity he will do next, we have control over what activities he is doing.

He also completes an independent activity schedule, and is up to 20 activities. This schedule is an application on his ipod called Taptodo (free)
He is able to transition independently to each activity (the activity must be previously mastered so that he will not need help from an instructor or parent) and he is also able to reward himself as he completes the schedule. After he collects five checks on a check board, he is able to earn a break. The app is great, because it allows you to type in an activity, and place a check mark next to it after completion.

And lastly, my staff and I could not function without our own schedule! During one-to-one instruction, my staff and I are on a rotating schedule, and take turns completing activities and programs with our students. I made a schedule that sits in the front of my desk, and it has the day broken down into half hour increments. Each student name is on top of the schedule (not shown) and under their name tags are the names of each staff member that will be working with them, or special services that they may have that day.

Have a great night!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Visual Learning (Part 1)

Students with autism and other special needs may require lots of visual cues to help support independence throughout the day. Visual supports may supplement verbal instruction, and help to make auditory information visual. Visual supports can also help to encourage communication in the classroom and at home. In order to facilitate communication at home, one of my students fills out a daily communication sheet about what he did that day. I made the communication sheet using Boardmaker, and laminated it so that it can be used daily. He uses a dry erase marker and circles what he did that day. When he gets home, he can tell his mother what he did, using the visual cues as a prompt to help him remember.

The next morning, he fills out another communication sheet so that he can tell his teachers what he did the night before, at home.

 Over the weekend he fills out another log to let us know what he did while at home. Monday morning we have a conversation about where he went, what he did, and how his behavior was.

Another one of my students needs to be reminded that she cannot leave the classroom without an adult. We have placed a visual aide on the door (using velcro) and she has to pull the picture cue off of the door, find an instructor, hand it to the instructor and say, "Let's go".  We have started to increase the distance between the instructor and the student, and she has to seek out the instructor (from up to 12 ft away) and ask to go outside of the classroom. So far this has been successful, and she uses the visual aide for self-prompting. This has been generalized to the home setting as well, using the same visual prompt. Slowly the picture cue will be faded out, and the goal is for her to always find an adult before leaving the classroom or her home.

I have listed the "Important Times" in the classroom, because no matter how many times we remind one of my students what time lunch is, he still seems to ask each day. After putting up a visual reminder of what time lunch, recess and going home is, he now independently will get up and look at the clocks instead of asking his teachers over and over again.

Visual cues are so important! I know that I cannot function without them (calendars, schedules, to-do lists, cookbooks, maps etc). Students with autism need these visual supports; typically developing students and adults alike benefit from visuals everyday. Have a great Monday!!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Queen for a day

Happy Mother's Day to all the mommies! Here are a couple of Mother's Day crafts my class put together this week, thank you Pinterest!

I love you with a cherry on top! This craft targets spelling, gluing, fine motor skills and handwriting. I cut out the pieces of the ice cream and my students did the gluing. They were asked to write down words used to describe their mother, and glue the words on to the ice cream. They also used a model to write the phrase on the cone.

Next, we decorated crowns so that our moms could be the Queen for the day.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Ariel the little...

Therapy dog! Once a month Ariel and her owner come visit our classroom and a few others throughout the school. Ariel is a trained therapy dog, and my students love her! We pet her and read her stories. recommend looking into your community for volunteer therapy dogs and setting up some sessions with your school district!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

App review!

There are so many apps out there, especially benefiting students with autism. I am constantly downloading and deleting apps, trying to find ones that will work for my students. This year i have been relying on recommendations from the amazing speech therapist that I have been working with. Here are a few of her favorites that we have both used with my students:

Spelling Star ( $.99) is a great learning tool for students that need extra help with spelling. Spelling star is perfect for practicing spelling lists and sight words for school, home and spelling bees. It is really easy to use, and the teacher or parent can import their own personal spelling lists. You can even record audio of the word for the student. Each time the student spells the word correctly, they earn a star. After three stars, the word is considered mastered. We use this app on a daily basis for my students weekly spelling lists, and he loves it!

Here is a tutorial: spelling star

Here is one more app that I have been using a lot lately. It is called MyPlayHome. I am currently using the free lite version, but the extended version seems to have a lot more activities. It is an app that can be used to facilitate language and direction following. It is basically an electronic doll house, and the student can manipulate various items in the house. It is a highly motivating app, and students can explore and use everything in the house. The characters eat, sleep, shower, brush teeth and more. I have been using the app mainly for receptive and expressive language, and following directions.

Here is a tutorial to check out:   Tutorial

...Also..Happy Teacher's appreciation day!!!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Cinco de Mayo!

Sunday was Cinco de Mayo, and to help my students understand what the holiday means, I made a social story on my favorite program, Boardmaker. For the reading comprehension component, I created easy multiple choice questions. I love Boardmaker because it literally has thousands of images to use, and my students often learn best with lots of visuals. I love how the program also gives the option of pairing a picture with each word, making it easier for my non- readers. Here is what I created:

Hopefully you can read it, and not sure why Ireland was the only country with a visual. Oh well!
Here is a last minute super easy taco/burrito craft using strips of colored construction paper (yellow for cheese, red circles for tomatoes, green for lettuce, and brown for meat) and a lighter color brown circle for taco shell. Felt probably would have looked better but it was a last minute thing :) have students glue on the paper then fold it up and glue into a taco.

Here is a simple cutting and gluing project. Students can work on fine motor skills with the cutting and gluing, and letter matching. Found the worksheet on Boardmaker share, just search Cinco de Mayo.

Lastly, a guacamole recipe from Boardmaker share. My class did not get around to making it this year; however with my class of picky eaters and special diets, I think I would have ended up eating all of it anyway!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Functional Life Skills

This year my students are aging out of elementary school (K-4) and currently there is not a self-contained middle school program. Guess who is piloting one this upcoming school year? Yup, we are. With the help and support of my supervisor and district BCBA, we are creating a completely individualized community based program. My students will practice self- help and daily functional living skills in the classroom, which in turn, will hopefully generalize to the home setting. We are also planning weekly field trips to work on safety, community and social skills. I already started to turn my classroom into a functional living setting for my students. Here are a few examples of what I've been working on:

Sort the recycling!
I ordered three cheap recycle bins from amazon.com and labeled them paper, plastic and glass. Recycle bins

I made these file folders by laminating pictures and using Velcro. My students have to place the right picture on the right page, depending on the item. 

These recycling visuals can be found Here on the amazing autism helper blog. I get lots of inspiration from that blog, along with The autism tank blog. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

My first post! A bit about me..

I started out as an instructional aide in an ABA classroom for students with autism. I am now going into my fourth year of teaching in a Multiply-disabled/self-contained classroom for students mainly with autism, in New Jersey.  I am ALMOST finished with grad school where I will be earning my master's degree in special education along with an LDTC certification. I am starting this blog to create a space for support and resources for other teachers, and to document our adventures in room 117! Here is a picture of my husband and I, and our pride and joy, Miss Bella.