* Working memory

Working memory is this week’s emphasis in an online class I’m taking.  What is working memory?  It’s our brain’s sticky note, where the information we have just received has been jotted down temporarily.  We “hold” that note in mind to use it in the completion of other tasks.  If our sticky note is incomplete, we only carry out part of that task.  If the note is lost, we must start all over again with that information.  For example, a teacher gives a three-step direction to the class (“Put your paper in the reading folder, get out your math journal, and come to the carpet”).  If this is not a predictable or rehearsed procedure, some kids will  arrive at the carpet with their paper in hand.  Others will look around to figure out what everyone else is doing.  Some kids may be reminded to “pay attention.”  Working memory is seriously taxed by writing assignments and other tasks which have multiple steps, such as long division.

working memoryReading Rockets has a great article which includes 10 strategies for enhancing working memory.  The following tips were written by Glenda Thorne.  She provides detailed explanations of each of these strategies in her article.

1. Give directions in multiple formats

2. Teach students to over-learn material

3. Teach students to use visual images and other memory strategies

4.  Give teacher-prepared handouts prior to class lectures

5. Teach students to be active readers

6.  Write down steps in math problems

7. Provide retrieval practice for students

8.  Help students develop cues when storing information

9.  Prime the memory prior to teaching/learning

10.  Review material before going to sleep

 Now what was I doing? 

* Skype and literacy

Skype 3Skype is a powerful tool for connecting with others, as many families can attest.  Skype In The Classroom allows kids all over the world to connect with one another.  Currently, Skype’s primary classroom focus is literacy.  Want your students to talk to an author?  Sign up as a teacher, list your location, student ages, and available times, and you’ll get a long list of participating authors.  (My initial search garnered 50!)  From there, narrow down the list by selecting authors who meet your needs.  Skype 2

What about Skype literacy lessons? There are over a thousand available lessons, with over 300 on reading and writing topics.

Many classrooms are eager to share their own books with another class.  What a terrific way to connect with other cultures from around the world.  Want to integrate geography with literacy?  Set up a Mystery Skype, which allows you and another classroom to discover where you are each located.  Skype 1

Skype In The Classroom is a terrific tool for teachers to motivate writers, encourage readers, and integrate content areas into literacy.  And it’s FREE!

If you’ve used Skype int he Classroom, please share your experiences!

* What does your Autism look like?

Here’s a special parent’s perspective when asked about her son. What a wonderful mom!

Square Peg in a Round Hole

One fine day, not too long ago, I was asked what kind of Autism my son had, and I didn’t really know how to answer that question. The way I see it is this: no two Autism’s are alike. Sadly, I almost thought about it like Salsa; there’s mild, medium (moderate), and Spicy (severe). Yeah, I know it’s not exactly a politically correct way to look at it, but I did.

This is usually how it goes (not for everyone, but for some. One day a red flag or two presents its self. It might be ignored, because kids can be quirky sometimes. Right? But then it happens again. And again. And again, until someone else notices it before you do. They approach you very carefully about it. But you pooh-pooh it, because hey… “kids can be quirky.”

… right?

Mild, moderate, and severe cases are being diagnosed everyday, and…

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* Presidents and Americans with Disabilities

Thankful for the leadership and advocacy of untold numbers of parents, teachers, and students. These pieces of legislation form the foundation of support for special needs kids.

All About Autism

In honor of President’s Day, I decided to reflect on some of the Presidents who played a significant role in improving the lives of children and adults with disabilities. Up until the 60s, most families were ashamed to admit that they had a child with a disability. President John F. Kennedy’s sister Rosemary, who had intellectual disabilities, served as an impetus for the President’s push to establish the President’s Panel on Mental Retardation in 1961.

The Presidents Panel on Mental Retardation, 1961 The President’s Panel on Mental Retardation, 1961

Comprised of 27 members, the panel reviewed the country’s current intellectual disabilities programs, eventually presenting the President with over 100 recommendations for the first comprehensive federal approach. Dr. Gertrude Barber, our founder, was a member of this panel.

A year later, President Kennedy signed the Maternal and Child Health and Mental Retardation Planning Amendment, which incorporated many of the panel’s recommendations and provided planning grants to enable states…

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* A proposal for beginning well

I know I would enjoy meeting the parents of Dynamic Community Charter School! Here’s a Community Individualized Plan, suggested by a parent to avoid “crumbling” the school from within. It really makes sense when you have a passionate group of parents who have been “burned” in their public school experience. It can be hard to reestablish trust in the the system. Please check out their site and offer any support you can!

Dynamic Dragons Speak Out!

Okay, let’s admit it:  When it comes to our kids, we can be fierce.  Protective, sensitive, and commanding, even.  As a group, we’ve been knocked around a bit by “the system,” and we can smell the runaround from a mile away.  We’re not new to advocating, and we’re seasoned fighters.  One of us says, “But now, mess with my kids, and,” and another of us nods in agreement.  It’s these realities about us and our parenting that make us strong, committed, invested, resourceful, and willing to hang in despite formidable odds.  As a community, we can, will, and have harnessed this Dragonish Force to build an excellent school for our children.

But the same facts that offer us considerable collective strength could, if not carefully guarded, also cause us to crumble from within.

Every time my children start at a new school, I have to start all over establishing a…

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* Snow Day, aka mental health day for kids

Snow-Days-Fb-UploadA snow day has finally arrived!  Woohoo!  If I can put aside my personal delight in snow days for a moment, I highly recommend that special needs kids be allowed guilt-free mental health days.  If you’re a parent of an autistic or twice exceptional student, you understand how fatiguing school can be.  If your child is struggling with social issues as well as academic problems, a mental health day can be a life saver.

You may battle your child about going to school fairly often.  I know parents who’ve had to literally drag their kids out the door or chase them across an apartment complex.  If that’s a common occurrence in a typically compliant or predictable kid, you have probably already recognized the stressors.  If your child is typically non-compliant, that’s a sign that you need to establish order in your household, a conundrum that is more likely to occur when parenting is fueled by guilt, such as domestic violence or handicaps related to heredity or accidents (at any rate, get help from someone).

For the special needs population described above, extreme school avoidance can be a fact of life.  You make it through most weeks but then anguish reaches a climax.  That’s when some parents give their child (and themselves) a mental health day.  But what if you planned your mental health days?  As we approach the spring of the traditional school year, kids are wearing thin.  Instead of just being your best response to a major meltdown, could you schedule a day off?  That might lift your child’s spirits (and yours), like a light at the end of a tunnel.  A planned day could give your child the determination to struggle through, and it would allow you to organize your work schedule.

Be sure to check the school calendar when planning these breaks.  As Nerd In the Brain commented, “I would suggest that if the mental health days are going to be planned in advance, parents may want to contact the teacher to make sure their child doesn’t miss anything awesome that’s planned. You’d hate to accidentally keep your kid out on the day of the ice cream and pizza party…or that might be the very best day to keep your child out of school, depending on the circumstances.”  (Check out her website for all kinds of cool tips, freebies, and nerdish delights.)

Do you have to make it a “secret” that must not be mentioned at school?  I wouldn’t frame a mental health day that way. That puts undo guilty pressure on some kids and others will make that the topic of every conversation they have.  Just schedule the day (of course you have a family calendar so kids can see that school has an end point, right?) and decide the best way to use it.  If your child asks, tell her you will send the teacher a note like you do anytime they are sick.  Allow them the freedom to truly relax and forget about school for a day.  If you are a single parent and must go to work, can you arrange for a relative or friend to supervise?

What do you tell the school?  If a mental health day isn’t related to staying healthy, what is?  Call it a sick day, so sick of school pressures that you will all go crazy if you can’t take a short break. OK, I am stepping off my soap box.

* In his own words {why it’s the first time he’s excited about school}

In His Own Words: Life with Asperger’s Syndrome, written by a precious kid who seems to be finding his way at Dynamic Community Charter School. Hope you can help contribute to their important cause!

Dynamic Dragons Speak Out!


a post by Bailey Gladden, one of our amazing students

My name is Bailey. I am 15 and starting Dynamic Community Charter School as a 9th grader. You should know that for the first time in a long time, I am excited for the school year to start.

For as long as I can remember, I have dealt with living with Asperger’s Syndrome. It is a form of Autism that causes me to have high anxiety, problems understanding appropriate responses in social situations, vocal and physical tics, ADHD, and depression; but it may not be the same for everyone. While my coping skills and behaviors are now a source for others to ridicule and bully me, it wasn’t always that way.

When I was in elementary school, I had fun in school, or at least as much fun as you can have being in school. I didn’t see myself as…

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* A bit about Sotos Syndrome and one of our Dragons

More on the parents and kids who love their Dynamic Community Charter School. Let’s give them a hand!

Dynamic Dragons Speak Out!

Our journey with Sotos Syndrome began on 12/14/2002 when my son Daniel was born. I didn’t know it then, but we were about to go on a very long journey together. Daniel was diagnosed just five days before his first birthday.

Sotos Syndrome is a deletion or mutation on the NSD1 gene, which is a fancy way of saying that Daniel has an overgrowth disorder. Sotos causes OCD, ADHD, hypotonia (low muscle tone), anxiety and developmental delays. It’s a very complicated disorder because it presents differently in each individual and causes a wide-range of challenges. For example, some kids with Sotos will never speak, but those that do tend to talk a lot (which is Daniel’s case).

Early intervention is the key to helping Sotos kids get further in life, so needless to say,  our first three years were a blur!  Most parents mark a child’s first year by the…

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* Math: Process Matters

I LOVE the way this blogger views the world of math (and other topics, as well). The best math instruction allows kids to construct their own solutions. One algorithm does not fit all. Read on….


One subject probably causes more apprehension among students and parents than any other: math.

You (and your teachers) might be doing it wrong.

Let’s take a bird’s eye of Monday’s “speed test” of multiplication facts, shall we? In a class of 30 students; one or two wunderkinder speed through the trial. Others lag behind them. The bottom ten or fifteen are in despair. These children, under stress, are forgetful. They grow up to fear and hate math. As adults, they may have trouble computing a 10% tip; a 15% tip will confound them.

It need not be this way.

Way back in the day, when I was writing out my multiplication tables, I observed many patterns. For example, do I need to memorize that 7*5=35? Why bother, when I know the general pattern: to multiply by 5, first multiply by 10, then divide by two. Add a zero and divide…

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