* THE City

This week’s fun challenge is All About Cities.  Well, we all know there is just one City: San Francisco.  As a former resident, we always referred to our home as The City and 5 million other people knew just what we meant!   Five million people can’t be wrong, right?

SF 3




SF 5

One of MANY steep hills to climb

SF 6

Coit Tower

* Everything I know, I learned from…

Speech Therapists!  That’s a slight exaggeration, but not far from the truth.  I have been blessed by the advice and mentoring of many excellent speech and language pathologists.  Why has their advice been so crucial?  They understand and work at the deepest levels of understanding, helping kids process information.  Speech therapists demonstrate how systematic and carefully sequenced instruction transforms language, which is at the core of most academic and social learning.

It was a speech therapist who first shared the TOPS 3 Elementary Tests of Problems Solving with me.  This test assesses critical thinking based on students’ language strategies, logic, and experiences.  For students with dyslexia and those on the autism spectrum, these language-based skills are sometimes assumed to exist and therefore receive cursory instruction.  For this reason, I’ve used the Tasks of Problem Solving workbook by Bowers et al. for social skills and reading comprehension instruction (see related post), as well as for specific skill remediation.

Tasks of Problem Solving

This workbook includes a description of the following skills with useful tasks of increasing difficulty.  Many of the lessons include visual cues (or these can be easily created).  It is quite simple to adapt any lesson to student interests and needs:

  • Identifying problems
  • Determining causes
  • Sequencing
  • Negative questions
  • Predicting
  • Making inferences
  • Problem solving
  • Justifying opinions
  • Generalizing skills

One caveat: Years ago, after observing me in the classroom, a speech therapist strongly advised me to speak more s-l-o-w-l-y.  I’m still working on that skill!

* Memorial Day

Thanks, Cee, for your Share Your World challenge, with a focus on Memorial Day

My strongest association with today’s holiday is James Bernard Williams, Jr. who was killed on May 29, 1969, only 3 months into his tour of duty in Vietnam.  James was a sweet young man, a football player at a local high school.  We shared a study hall and often chatted surreptitiously instead of working.  My last memory of him, apart from his funeral, was our dancing together at a high school senior prom.  We were already roundly ostracized because of our interracial friendship, but slow dancing?  James was a bit nervous; many of the students immediately boycotted the floor.  James whispered that this was just not done in Albany, Georgia.  I’d already had many slashed tires, a bomb through my car window, and other threats.  I laughed.  I thought we were invincible.  Vietnam showed me otherwise.


From the Virtual Wall memorial

* #LoveMyDetour — Bold Blind Beauty

In case you were feeling overcome by unexpected obstacles, read what Stephanae has to say!

Everyone Has A Story Everyone has a story and the most exciting part about your story is when you share your trials and how you’ve overcome you empower others who may be struggling. The ongoing process of living, enduring, conquering and sharing is what unites us and makes us stronger individually and collectively. This post is part […]

via #LoveMyDetour — Bold Blind Beauty

* Writing is like weightlifting: If you’re not careful, you’ll pull something — Ned’s Blog

I’m sure you will enjoy Ned Hickson’s humor!  In his own words, he’s a gas!

It struck me this morning at the gym while diligently pumping iron from a seated position at the smoothie bar. There are a number of similarities between reaching your fitness goals and writing goals. In both cases, you will likely fail if you attempt too much too fast. Especially if you’re trying to show off and accidentally flatulate […]

via Writing is like weightlifting: If you’re not careful, you’ll pull something — Ned’s Blog

* Reading comprehension strategies for ASD kids


At a recent IEP meeting, we discussed a reading profile of a student on the autism spectrum.  In my experience, there is often a wide gap between an ASD student’s vocabulary identification and reading comprehension.  How do we help remediate this gap?  Here are some strategies I’ve found effective:

  • Use reading material on topics of interest.  I have had to write my own materials at times, when a student has a particularly narrow range of interests.  The next best option is to find reading material that can be related to an area of interest.  Spend time exploring the student’s prior knowledge of that book/passage and provide/elicit possible questions the student may be able to answer after reading.
  • Teach students the differences between narrative and informational texts.  Provide graphics that outline these two formats.  Add question cards with single words or symbols to represent the types of questions associated with these texts.  Require students to make predictions at appropriate points in the text.  Provide visual cues to prompt these predictions as they read.
  • For teaching narrative features, use photos or illustrations of characters, the story problem, and problem resolution.  This could be organized like a trail or road, depending upon a student’s interests.  A Minecraft-style path may be engaging for lots of kids.
  • For teaching informational text features, an outline form or building block format is helpful.  Again, use a student’s interests to shape the graphic into an engaging tool.
  • Assess and teach specific skills related to reading comprehension.  Many of my ASD kids have had weaknesses in inference and prediction.  I have used “Tasks of Problem Solving” by LinguiSystems (now owned by PRO-ED) for both assessment and instruction.  (I’ll review this resource in another post).
  • Model and rehearse the process of summarizing short sections of text.  The challenge is to keep the dialog on task, not losing focus and momentum as small chunks are summarized.  Again, prepare visual cues that can be matched to the side of a paragraph.  Older students could create their own picture/word sticky notes, but when modeling this strategy, use pre-prepared images.  Verbal retelling is an instructional option, as well.  If that proves effective, students could record their verbal summaries independently on an app as they read.
  • Provide opportunities for students to share what they’ve read, especially in a leadership role.  They could be a mentor to younger kids or create a digital presentation to their class of what they’ve read.

To summarize, take advantage of your student’s strengths in using visual cues and their strong preferences for certain topics.  Identify specific areas of weakness in reading comprehension to address.  Teach strategies explicitly, providing a name and symbol for each one.  And enjoy!   Reading can be a passionate pursuit for our kids on the autism spectrum as it opens the door to more information and connections with others.

* Forgiveness and race

I was moved by an opinion column in today’s Chapel Hill News.  Anita Woodley‘s column focuses on forgiveness.  Forgiving those who have hurt her with racist remarks and forgiving herself for “feeling that [she] had to prove” that she belongs, that she’s “entitled to be somewhere.”  Woodley describes her experience at a workshop, “Race and Grace: Changing the Race Dance” where she was the only person of color in a group of about 20 folks.  She endured horrific stories, resorting to an emotional disconnect to protect herself.

The following day, Woodley started a two month self-esteem support group for women, where once again, she heard the N-word.  In this case, a woman actually tried to convince Woodley that the N-word is no big deal.  After all, that woman had been called “whitey.”  Woodley describes the emotional turmoil that eventually led her to forgive that woman, and in the process, to see herself as she is: courageous, loving, and strong.

I’ve been a part of these conversations for years.  It’s discouraging that whites still diminish the black experience in this country.  I see the legacy of slavery, I see undereducated black kids, I see a class system with widening chasms.  Woodley’s advice is sound.  Forgiveness is one place to start.  Playing an active role in changing hearts and minds is another.  We all lose when a single child’s potential is lost.

black woman

* Unrecognizable

I am once again MIA!  I had a procedure that caused me to look like a shrunken head, only life-sized.  I have spent much of the past few days putting ice on my face.  Have to wear gloves cuz it gets so COLD.  Brrr!  I am not sure I want anyone to see my face….