* Another rubric for recess

In a previous post, I shared a recess rubric for students on the autism spectrum.  Here is one that may be helpful for students with a learning disability, especially twice exceptional (2e) kiddos.  These kids are often desperate to get out of the classroom, away from tremendous stress (and boredom, in the case of 2e kids).  Why would LD kids benefit from a recess rubric?   Again, stress.  They often feel stupid and invalidated in a classroom, no matter how smart they may be, no matter how supportive their teachers are.  When they hit the playground, these students are often over-eager to show off athletic skills.  They may vent their frustration on peers or withdraw from the group altogether.  Social skills intervention is helpful when LD students find themselves in constant conflict at recess.  Remember that you cannot toss a rubric at a student and expect it to “work.”  Kids need to rehearse needed skills and rubrics should be modified to match individual needs.  A rubric can be used to measure progress over time, which is very important for kids who face an uphill battle with academics.

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* Christopher and me: tools for replacement behaviors

If you’re new to this series, Christopher is my nephew with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder, aka A Sweet Dude).  We work on academic and social skills, along with shaping his behavior towards more mature responses to frustration.

Here’s the big idea:  You cannot “modify” all maladaptive behavior out of existence.   And not all “maladaptive” behavior is actually maladaptive.  One example is finger sucking.

Finger sucking:  Christopher has been sucking his fingers since he was an infant.  It provides him a sense of comfort, and as he approaches his 11th birthday, is quite an ingrained habit.  His teeth protrude somewhat as a result of this habit and his saliva now covers most surfaces in our house.

Replacement behavior:  No matter what we do right now, Christopher is going to put something in his mouth.  A more age-appropriate replacement is sucking on the end of his pencil.  After purchasing pencil toppers from Therapy Shoppe and watching him chew them vigorously at times, it’s obvious that finger sucking provides needed sensory feedback.  His guardian adapted one of them to fit on a necklace since Christopher would run around with a pencil sticking out of his mouth.  The necklace is not quite as subtle, but significantly safer and readily accessible.

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The next challenge is supporting Christopher in his regular classroom.  He’s a sweetheart in a one-to-one setting but can drive teachers nuts in a large group.  Does he deliberately sabotage classroom environments?  Not at all.  He’s a rule-follower who does his best to please, while working towards his idea of school goals (primarily, survival).  His “disobedience” is a signal that he needs some modifications to his schedule and workload.  More to come!

* 3 Keys for Avoiding Drama!

blah blah blah.jpgRead on for some great tips for students, parents, and teachers. This is a good time of year to start these conversations with kiddos.

iepsurvival for parents and teachers who work with special education students

Is your student surrounded with school drama: gossip,and bullying? Middle school and high school students often find themselves in the middle of drama as they spend their time learning about who they are and asserting their independence. There are three keys that teens should be reminded of for making healthy decisions and avoiding drama.
First, teach your student to always be true to him or herself. When things don’t go well, let your teen know that it is okay. I always encourage self-forgiveness over peer pressure with both my students and my children.  Empower your student to say, “No, that is not right for me.” Empower your student to find new interests and new friends.
Second, teach your student to respect him or herself by making decisions that reflect his/her morals and values as well as your families. Always share that before your student makes a decision to ask, “If what I am about to do is filmed for the nightly news, will…

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* Christopher & me & Bowser makes three

If you’ve kept up with my blog, you know I’ve been tutoring my 9-year-old nephew, Christopher, this summer.  He’s on the autism spectrum (ASD, aka A Sweet Dude).  Christopher has many strengths, narrow range of interests, and has floundered in school.  Lacking appropriate early intervention, combined with a tumultuous family life, academics and social relationships have been challenging.

This is where Bowser comes in.   You can’t teach social skills in isolation.  And we need a fall guy, someone who cannot keep up with Christopher’s newly emerging language and reasoning skills.

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As a powerful rascal and consequently a source of delight to powerless Christopher, Bowser provides me ample opportunity to develop a closer relationship to my nephew while exploring my nephew’s world of crime and punishment, idiosyncrasies, and failures.  Since he excels at video games, it would be natural for Christopher to gravitate to a Boss.  Bowser is the winner that Christopher wants to be, the embodiment of success and power in a predictable digital world.  Yeah, like lots of us, Christopher is a rule-bound judicial expert entangled with anxieties, competitiveness, and despair.

While Christopher is learning to replace finger sucking with pencil toppers (more in next post), Bowser engages in silly taunting, risk-taking, and surprisingly, academic support from his “protege.”   Christopher is learning skills that Bowser can use.  Bowser remains powerfully wild and ridiculous, but allows us to explore winning and losing, taking turns, answering complex questions, and exploring those gray areas of real life.

I imagine Christopher’s brain as one filled with a LOT of carefully filed information on video games, for instance, but little connection to real world problem solving.  He hasn’t grasped how the physical world operates and has a limited vocabulary outside his digital life.  He can identify social problems but gets stuck at sequencing and cause and effect levels.  My goal has been to broaden his connections, taking the jumbled information he already has and helping him to place it in “folders” for easier access.  Christopher’s idiosyncratic responses are diminishing as I prompt him to use categories for analyzing problems.  And Bowser?  He makes Christopher laugh with wildly improbable comments and behavior.  Bowser continues to rock and roll as Christopher makes sense of the world.

* Show me the money

Or show me the ice cream?  Working with a twice exceptional student who loves ice cream has its advantages.  That’s especially true since that 2e student is headed for an entrepreneurial lifestyle, aided by his organizational skills.  For some kids, I need to plan and rehash and continually tweak the reward system.  This kiddo had it all worked out.  Due to travel issues and my ridiculous health problems, he is behind in getting “paid,” but he’s ready to score some major desserts!  I wouldn’t support this kind of plan if he had eating or weight issues.  In fact, he’s a stringbean and eats really healthy stuff that I only learned to enjoy as an adult.

We are sharing this Google doc (a great feature, by the way).  He developed and I “decorated.”  That means I corrected spelling errors so he might notice that “whipped” has an h, “chocolate” doesn’t have a k,  and the plural of “cherry” requires changing the y to i.  I do plan to ask him to spot the differences.  Practice makes permanent.  Oh, I also added the color.

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I think I might drop by his house some evening in the near future.  I hear they are due for some ice cream parties!

* Blossoming in the new school year

It won’t be long before school is back in session.  For those on a year-round calendar, the new year has already begun.  How do we help our special needs kids flourish this year?  I’ve been inspired to write this by Cee’s photography, of all things.  Here are two images to consider.  (The crepe myrtle on the left belongs to a neighbor; the one on the right is ours.  Bummer.)  Which image best represents our hopes and dreams for kids this school year?

 

Since I am far more adept at teaching than growing plants, here are some tips as you prepare for the new year:

  • Make sure you start adjusting bedtime schedules.
  • Start building stamina for longer periods of sitting and listening.  The local library is a good option for this.
  • Let your child help select lunchboxes and backpacks, where possible.
  • Get your child the school’s tee shirt (often available from thrift shops).  I have seen these add social credit by creating a sense of belonging.
  • Start preparing a daily/weekly routine for school days, most likely with some kind of break when kids get home.  The light at the end of the tunnel is important.
  • Assuming your child has issues with behavior and/or attention, plan or resurrect a reward system for extra motivation.
  • If your child’s IEP does not already include an individual orientation with the classroom teacher, ask for one.
  • Start spending time around the school with your kids.  You could probably find a garden bed to weed and trash to collect.  You might ask the secretary for some other ways to help.  Perhaps there are boxes to recycle or catalogs to file in teacher mailboxes. I’ll bet the office staff would enjoy a homemade treat.  Bribery works.
  • If homework was an unresolved nightmare issue last year, face it head on.  If your child is too worn out after school to effectively complete homework, strategize how you might approach this problem more successfully.  Talk to other parents and/or sympathetic teachers for advice.
  • Watch some “back to school” movies as a family.  Care has a list of 10 good ones, including a favorite of mine, “Akeelah and the Bee.”
  • Parent’s Choice also has a great list of back to school books.  “Thank you, Mr. Falker” by Patricia Polacco is terrific.

Do you have any other tips to share?

 

* Why Manners Cannot Be Forced (And What To Do Instead) | Happiness is here

http://happinessishereblog.com/2016/07/manners-cannot-be-forced/

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Sorry I could not upload a great photo from the Happiness is Here blog. This will have to do, since silliness is also something I encourage in kids. The post shares some real wisdom about guiding children into positive, enduring paths of caring for others.

P.S. Ah, the dangers of posting from my phone in the doctor’s office!

* Using FAB Strategies® — FAB Strategies®

This approach uses some effective strategies for kids with sensory and behavior challenges.  I haven’t used their program but recognize many of their effective ideas.

“Functionally Alert Behavior” FAB Strategies® is an evidence-based curriculum of environmental adaptation, sensory modulation, positive behavioral support, and physical self-regulation strategies for improving the functional behavior of children, adolescents and young adults with complex behavioral challenges http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED555615.pdf Complex behavioral challenges involve a combination of inter-related mental health, developmental, sensory and environmental challenges. The FAB Strategies® curriculum is individualized […]

via Using FAB Strategies® — FAB Strategies®

* Loving when it’s hard

So thrilled that Lizzi is on the upswing, thanks in large part to blogging friends.  In fact, she’s a giggly, PG13 bogger this weekend, creating body parts… (  )(  )  Her new word, frivolyptic, is inspiring me as I explore my own Ten Things of Thankful.

I am thankful to be loved and forgiven when I stay up late playing computer games, when I take offense, when I talk too much, when I am irritable.  I’m thankful for a gentle, patient widower who enriches my life in every way.  I am grateful for an adorable son and daughter-in-law who enjoy spending time with us.  When I drowned my phone a couple of weeks ago, we had the finances to replace it.  Last week’s graduation party for a student was THE most delightful event of the year.

I am also grateful for ongoing opportunities to grow in love.  The kiddos that spend a lot of time here are teaching me how little love and patience I really have.  (“Oh, you’re a special ed teacher- you must have SO much patience!”)  Granted, much of my impatience is buried in silence, which is better than lashing out.  I felt like screaming when the most hyper kiddo gave a friend a bloody nose.  When he spilled two bottles of juice all over the carpet.  When he barely missed our huge TV with a Wii remote.  Or when his sib had a tantrum because everyone wasn’t playing the game he wanted.  Or when his other sib wet her pants once again and would not listen to me as I said she must stay downstairs while I fetched a replacement pair of undies.  Or when another sib slammed the weakest of the lot to the floor.  Or when yet another sib locked me out of my computer and wouldn’t release the password.  There.  Can you tell I still need more opportunities to love?  I will have them all day tomorrow; I am genuinely excited that there will be new ways to grow and cherish these kids as I am cherished and loved.  Praying for grace!

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We all survived on our last excursion to the park!

 

* U is for Useful Strategies

In previous posts, I mentioned the difficulties that Christopher is experiencing at school.  Here is some good news!  Thanks to the persistent efforts of Christopher’s guardian, these useful strategies are now in place for this sweetie on the autism spectrum.

  1. A small picture on his desk of the Lego he can earn by keeping his “behavior points” (a classwide management system).
  2. A picture easel on his desk with his dad smiling (“green zone”) and frowning (“red zone”).  I am second-guessing this one and would prefer words and symbols, not an actual face, but it seems to help.
  3. A picture of 2 cues for deep breathing (flower and candle) from a class on managing his stress levels.  He needs an adult to support his use of this strategy, but Christopher has positive associations with those images, so he is eager to cooperate.
  4. Stress breaks.  He walks down the hall with a whiz kid from his class.  I think these work best when they are added to a picture/written schedule so ASD kids know there’s a light at the end of the never-ending tunnel.

I think another useful strategy would be sensory breaks (and the hallway walking provides a little of that).  Some students benefit from weighted vests, blankets, or “huggy” bean bag chairs.  Other need to push or pull on something; it could be the wall, a pillow, or a custodial cart.  I found a rubber-coated, flexible something at a home improvement store and a student regularly went in the cubby area to stretch it.  Other useful strategies are discrete headphones to block out sounds, “swinging” time on the playground, and a clipboard (with prompts) to hold during group time.

Many ASD kids thrive with access to a personalized schedule at their work space.  If this is laminated or plastic covered, the teacher or assistant can easily mark adjustments BEFORE they occur.  For example, if the teacher realizes that there won’t be time for sharing or a project, that activity is crossed off in time for the student to process the change.

Finally, one of the most useful strategies for ASD kids is sticky notes.  A quick, short written prompt works much more effectively than 15 minutes of talking.  Who wouldn’t want to get a note saying GREAT COSTUME!?!!

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