* AlphaBooks Blogging: J is for The Jacket

The Jacket by Andrew Clements is a story I’ve used with kids who have social skill weaknesses, especially around the issue of race and skin color.  Although it’s an older book (with odd technological references), the story line is simple and provides a starting point for introducing the concepts of racial stereotyping.  I’ve worked with a number of kids on the autism spectrum who’ve had rigid ideas about skin color.  Some of these kids hadn’t even recognized their own racial identity.  I recall more than one parent of an ASD student feeling mortified by their child’s unique and public ways of categorizing skin tones.  This book is also a good starting point for helping kids who have grown up with more “typical” racist stereotypes.

In The Jacket, Phil, a white boy, accuses a black student, Daniel, of stealing his jacket.  Phil had outgrown the jacket but passed it along to his brother. The jacket had been given to Daniel’s grandmother, who gave it to her grandson.  The conversations and relationships depicted in this book are straightforward.  The story line is also simple.  Phil eventually wonders if he would have reacted so angrily had he seen a white boy wearing a jacket that looked like his.  Phil must also confront his father’s racism, while Daniel deals with stereotypes of his own.  The story has a simplistic ending, but for kids who are just starting to address the effect of race and skin color on their social relationships, The Jacket has been a helpful tool.  It’s a quick read and provides vocabulary for discussing more complex issues.

Weirdness: The cover picture above is not from the original book, which features images of middle school kids, in keeping with the story line.

* An effective hook

telephone-23249_640It’s often occurred to me that teachers and parents could easily “capture” kids’ attention if they use a strategy employed by many businesses and other offices.  Have you called a doctor’s office where they use an automated answering system?  What’s the first (annoying) thing you hear?  “Please listen carefully, for our menu options have recently changed.”  In my experience, that is never true.  The menu is the same, call after call.  But I hang on, just in case.

To be equally annoying to your kids, you could say, “We’ve done this before, but listen carefully, for some directions have changed.”  OK, that’s just mean, but varying the way you give directions could be novel without being annoying.  While predictable routines are usually beneficial to a lot of kids, predictable directions may lull them to sleep.  What about trying this?  “Don’t follow the next direction I give you.  Line up.”  It’s a variation on Simon Says.  And half your group will be charging for the door.  You’ll have everyone’s attention and some fun if they have to hear, “Mrs. Teachezwell says…” before responding.  Try it for half an hour and you’ll discover that the kids are reminding YOU to give them a listening prompt. Enjoy!

* AlphaBooks Blogging: I is for If You Give….

This If You Give… series, by Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond, started with a mouse and a cookie.  You probably know what happened then.  If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, then kids, teachers, and librarians will like your book.  If they like your book, you’ll win a bunch of awards.  If you win a bunch of awards, you’ll write more books about a mouse.  If you write more books about a mouse, you’ll be encouraged to Give a Moose a Muffin.  If you write that book, you’ll write a bunch of other books with the same idea.  If you write all those books, an advertising agency will think about selling products with the “if you give” idea.  If the ad agency makes those commercials for Direct TV, everyone gets rich.  When everyone gets rich, many other people copy the idea and post their own videos with the same idea.

Bottom line:  If you start AlphaBooks Blogging now, you’ll probably win a prize.

* Day #170 – My Student Is Not An Honor Student

Another inspirational post AND Nichole shares some insights on preparing kids for the future. What do employers value? Can it be measured by an end-of-year test? Read on….

366 Days of Autism

I was born to teach. It’s the only thing I ever wanted to do.

Why?

Not because of the pay…or the summers ‘off’…or snow days.

I wanted to teach because I wanted to inspire, to change lives, to ignite a passion.

To my fellow teachers,

“Do you remember why you wanted to teach?”

I would bet the answer is somewhat like mine.

To inspire
To change lives
To ignite a passion
To make a difference
To continue learning
To change the future

If your answers match those then I would pose the next question, “Why don’t you like challenging students?”

Students with an IEP
Students who need to learn in a different way
Students with difficulty in understanding
Students who challenge
Students who need differentiated instruction
Students who don’t care

It would seem to me that the MOST growth (thus satisfaction) could come from these very special students.  The students who are…

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* Day #169 – My Child Is Not An Honor Student

As testing looms ahead for local families, this post is a good reminder that tests do not measure some of the most important qualities we possess. Look how long it took this outstanding mom to move past her own “crushing” test scores. And note how she is shaping her kids’ sense of worth. Awesome!

366 Days of Autism

And it’s okay.  Seriously, it’s okay.

Maybe your child is an honor student. That’s okay too…

Not that you needed me to tell you that.

The Iowa Test of Basic Skills are coming.  Let me tell you, these things cause me anxiety.

Last year when my children came home with their Iowa Assessments they were both concerned that their ‘bold, black lines’ didn’t go into the 90th percentile like many of their friends. Commence questioning, “I guess I’m not very smart.” “I’m sorry that I’m not good enough, mom.” “I wonder what questions I missed.” “See I told you I wasn’t very good at math, here is the proof.”

I wanted to scream. I wanted to rip those ridiculous pieces of paper into a million, zillion pieces. I wanted to yell “These bold lines DO NOT show your worth or value as a human.” Instead, I went to the storage cave in…

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* Reminiscing about toilets

toilet-paper
My first post ever referred to a classroom adventure with a Niagara Falls-type toilet.  And I fear that toilets have crept into other posts as well.  Perhaps it was my early experience of British humor, often involving toilet jokes.  Is that a 40-year-old stereotype?  My favorite uncle was a plumber near Liverpool, so perhaps that’s the connection.  At any rate, as I was visiting a restroom today, I laughed at a sign on the door.  Written in both English and Spanish, with a mass of exclamation points, it reminded patrons not to flush certain objects, including diapers.

Diapers?  Now seriously, who would flush a diaper?  But as I laughed at the sign, I recalled my very first babysitting job.  I was totally not ready to be a babysitter.  Never held a baby and never really wanted to.  Our neighbors must have been extremely desperate when they enlisted a 12-year-old to watch little Maria.  My mother arranged the deal and obviously confused me with some other child.  When I arrived, the couple were dressed for a formal event, long gown and tux.  They took me into Maria’s room, where she was sleeping like an angel, dark curly hair and pierced ears.  Her parents spoke softly, assuring me that their baby would sleep through the night.  If she should wake up, which would not happen, I needed to change her diaper.  The mom pointed to a stack of neatly folded cloth diapers.

We crept back out to the living room and said our goodbyes.  I heard their car drive away, followed by unmistakable sounds suggesting that Maria was awake.  What?  I tiptoed to her door.  She was clinging to the bars of the crib.  Crying.  I pulled away but her baby radar sensed my presence.  Maria wailed.  I stood out of sight, sweating bullets.  What should I do?  Finally, I went into her room, turning on the light so I could see her.  Not a good idea, because she could see me, too.  A total stranger.  Maria shrieked so loudly that I was scared of her.  Bravely, I went to the crib and lifted her out.  My gosh, she weighed a ton!   She had soggy wet cloth diapers, slippery sweating skin, and enough tears for both of us.  I tried to comfort her but I don’t think she heard me.  All I knew was that I should change her diaper.  How?  I had no idea.  Where?  I did have the sense to realize I should change her in an enclosed space.  Unfortunately, I did not memorize how that diaper was folded before I unpinned it.  Yuck!  Poopy diaper!  An evening of horror for both of us.

Did you know that an unfolded diaper is actually large enough to serve as a tablecloth?  I had no idea.  I’d never heard of origami then, although I tried to fold that stupid clean diaper into something smaller than a suitcase.  Did you know that they used pins on diapers?  What a dangerous idea for kids and diaper-changers alike!  Did you know that it is incredibly difficult to change a shrieking, poop-covered baby in her crib when you can hardly reach over the bars?  Did you know that a baby will fall asleep from exhaustion after screaming for TWO hours?

Once Maria fell limp in her crib, I was forced to deal with her poopy diaper.  I went into the bathroom and held that diaper over the toilet.  My goal was to shake off the poop while flushing the toilet.  That smell!  Unfortunately, as I flushed, I lost my grip on the diaper and flushed it down the toilet.  Sort of.  It was mostly down but still wedged.  My biggest mistake was flushing the toilet again.  I will leave the rest to your imagination.

* AlphaBooks Blogging: H is for How To Talk To Anyone

How to talk to anyone“How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Little Tricks for Big Successes in Relationships” by Leil Lowndes, is a chameleon of a book.  I was thrilled when my husband brought it home; he’d had a long wait at an airport and obviously thought of me.  He knows I am always struggling with my social skills and this book is chock-full of tips for listening, making small talk, and transforming a social faux pas.

First I started reading, then backtracked to the table of contents.  I was nonplussed.  “How to Get What You Want on the Phone from Big Shots” and “How to Make the Sale with Your Eyeballs” made me think I had entered the world of multilevel marketing.  Yet when I read some of the apparently “offensive” tips, I found integrity, humor, and commonsense.  What kind of book is this?  The author’s preface says it all:

There are two kinds of people in this life:

Those who walk into a room and say,

“Well, here I am!”

And those who walk in and say,

Ahh, there you are.”

I have discovered that “How to Talk to Anyone” is a perfect guide for people-pleasing, socially inept individuals like myself.  I also think it would be a good read for older teens and adults with high functioning autism.  Lowndes provides specific examples of sparkling introductions, conversation starters, and conversation repairs.  And who knows?  You might find yourself successfully selling used cars!

* Chris Pratt (Run!) on political correctness

I just read a hilarious post on Chris Pratt’s Facebook page.  In case you don’t know who Chris Pratt is, he starred in Guardians of the Galaxy and heads up Jurassic World, another probable hit in the Jurassic Park series.  I can’t wait!

Here’s Chris’ preemptive strike against all things PC:

I want to make a heartfelt apology for whatever it is I end up accidentally saying during the forthcoming ‪#‎JurassicWorld‬ press tour. I hope you understand it was never my intention to offend anyone and I am truly sorry. I swear. I’m the nicest guy in the world. And I fully regret what I (accidentally will have) said in (the upcoming foreign and domestic) interview(s).

I am not in the business of making excuses. I am just dumb. Plain and simple. I try. I REALLY try! When I do (potentially) commit the offensive act for which I am now (pre) apologizing you must understand I (will likely have been) tired and exhausted when I (potentially) said that thing I (will have had) said that (will have had) crossed the line. Those rooms can get stuffy and the hardworking crews putting these junkets together need some entertainment! (Likely) that is who I was trying to crack up when I (will have had) made that tasteless and unprofessional comment. Trust me. I know you can’t say that anymore. In fact in my opinion it was never right to say the thing I definitely don’t want to but probably will have said. To those I (will have) offended please understand how truly sorry I already am. I am fully aware that the subject matter of my imminent forthcoming mistake, a blunder (possibly to be) dubbed “JurassicGate” is (most likely) in no way a laughing matter. To those I (will likely have had) offended rest assured I will do everything in my power to make sure this doesn’t happen (again).

You just gotta love this guy!

* Survival Tips for Testing, part 1

board-361516_640It’s that time of the year.  The End-of-Grade Tests loom large and special needs kids are not the only ones who dread the upcoming weeks.  Instead of debating the pros and cons of testing, I’m offering some survival tips.  Here’s a starting point.

1.  Listen and watch.  Before you jump in with a hundred reasons why your child will survive the tests, listen to their test talk, their fears and worries.  Watch their behavior.  There’s a place for dialog or responses to anxiety, but start with an assessment of their reality.  It’s easy for all of us to project our own uncertainties onto kids.  It’s also easy to make light of something we don’t fully appreciate.

2.  Ask for specifics, using your child’s language.  “What is most boring about the tests?”  “What are you most afraid of?”  “What do you hate most about the tests?”

3.  If you can come up with a single, practical response to their greatest fear, do it, but don’t belabor the point with too many words.  Give them time to process your suggestion and come back to it later: “So, what did you think about ignoring the kids working around you?”

4.  Take your time.  It’s better to spread these conversations over a period of time instead of one onslaught against Test Anxiety.  Kids will get even more anxious if you start an intense, hour-long review of everything that relates to tests.

5.  Put testing in its place.  I have observed that many schools, after a year of teaching to the test while pretending it didn’t matter, have ratcheted up their test fervor to amazing heights.  Therefore, you are already at a disadvantage if you are attempting to put testing in its proper place.  If you spend every moment talking about and providing last-minute strategies and encouragement for tests, you will deepen the child’s perception that this is the most important event of the school year.  It is NOT the most important event in the school year.  “But my child may fail!”  “He’ll feel stupid!”  If you are only now just considering the trials facing your special needs child, you’re a bit late.  If your child has consistently performed below grade level expectations, nothing has changed.  Most likely, this test will not measure the actual growth your child has made this year.  Progress on IEP goals should be a better indicator of growth.

More child-specific suggestions in my next post on test survival.