* 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…

View original post 63 more words

* Extreme weather

Should teachers focus on natural weather-related disasters or try to steer clear of those topics?  What about kids who already obsess about thunderstorms or tornadoes?   Since weather and climate are taught from elementary school on, there’s no avoiding some discussion of extreme weather.  In fact, many fears can be allayed by effective units on this topic.  Tornado and earthquake drills are also a routine part of the school year.  What school library doesn’t include some of the popular “I Survived” series by Lauren Tarshish or other nonfiction accounts of disasters?  As hurricane Hermine rakes along the southeastern US right now, with schools canceling classes, I think it would be scarier for kids if adults avoided the topic altogether.


Having taught students who suffered from weather-related fears, here are some strategies I’ve found effective in helping kids manage both extreme weather and safety drills:

  • Work with parents to coordinate a consistent approach for dealing with fears about storms, etc.  Enlist the help of your school counselor.
  • Occasionally, students with serious weather phobias might need to work out of the class during weather-related discussions.  Again, this is something to be determined with the parents and mental health professionals.
  • Set limits on how much time can be devoted to weather discussions, especially during unstructured periods such as recess and lunch.
  • Use social stories for kids with strategies for managing scary thoughts, especially those on the autism spectrum.
  • Provide information and guide discussions using a matter-of-fact tone and limiting exposure to videos of disasters.
  • Emphasize effective precautions and scientific analysis of severe weather.
  • Provide distractions (books, stuffed animal, social story) during lengthy weather-related drills or warnings.

Many kids (and adults) are fascinated with extreme weather and natural disasters.  Take advantage of those interests by allowing students to engage in projects and writing on those topics.  There are many online STEM resources available to support classroom teachers.

Bottom line: Know your students.  If you have a group of potential storm chasers, expect questions and interest in wild weather.  If you have just one student who is terrified of severe weather, you might need to save those extreme weather discussions for times when the anxious student is out of the classroom.


* #BeReal – DREW SHELDON — cabbagesandkings524

Written by an abuse survivor, this post describes the lifelong journey of accepting the truth, dealing with pain, and acknowledging personal failure.  Can you be that teacher, that mentor, that relative, who will make a difference in the lives of abused kids?  I covered up my wounds to avoid repercussions, but many teachers loved me.  Reach out to needy children.  Make a difference in the lives of silent sufferers.

Originally posted on HASTYWORDS: Please welcome Drew Sheldon to #BeReal. I couldn’t believe it when Hasty invited me to take part in #BeReal, I was quick to say yes. I was not, however, quick to write this. Writing has been quite a slog recently. The more I work at being real, the more I struggle…

via #BeReal – DREW SHELDON — cabbagesandkings524

* 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®

* #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

* A is for Anxiety

I’m kicking off my A to Z blogging challenge with anxiety.  Can I do it?   What will others think?  How can I pretend I am good at this or at least hide my inadequacies?   Will I be asked to explain what I mean?

anxiety.JPGThose are questions that special needs kids frequently ask themselves as they tackle school tasks, both academic and social.  Let’s examine the underlying issues.

  1.  Can I do it?  From an early age, kids with reading and math disabilities are typically aware of their limitations.  They do notice other kids reading “chapter” books or solving math problems with relative ease.  When given a novel assignment, these struggling students lack confidence.  This anxiety further limits their flexibility and problem-solving ability.   Early intervention is crucial!
  2.  What will others think?  The age at which this becomes a troubling question varies significantly among students.  Kids with a supportive family and opportunities to shine in other areas (at school or elsewhere) are more likely to withstand the blows accompanying a disability.  I’ve noticed kids seem hard-wired for the relative intensity of their responses, although a harsh environment (school or home) can bring out the worst in anyone.
  3.  How can I pretend I am good at this or at least hide my inadequacies?  I know kids who pretend to be many things other than disabled.  It’s common for some to prefer acting “bad” than looking “stupid.”  To quote 0ne dyslexic kid: “I act up so they won’t think I’m retarded.”   Some resort to crawling under tables or hiding in the bathroom.   Other kids become masters at copying classmates’ work or simply pretending to work.
  4.  Will I be asked to explain what I mean?  Many kids with learning challenges have language and social issues which affect their ability to explain themselves.  Some twice exceptional students have literal and divergent views of subjects which seem incomprehensible to both teachers and peers.  An inability to provide a “correct” answer can become a paralyzing fear, especially if students are required to respond in a whole group or public manner and are not given sufficient forewarning to compose their answers.

I’ve noticed that experienced bloggers often share tips for novices like me who are likely to worry about these same issues.   Are blogging stats comparable to end-of-grade tests?  Oh no!


* InspirED by EQ.org

I stumbled across an intriguing website, EQ.org, and found myself cheering!  This site offers educators an opportunity to improve their own EQ (emotional quotient/intelligence) and that of their students.  In fact, it’s hard to imagine teaching students to improve their social emotional intelligence without having a grasp on it yourself.  meditation-651411_960_720


The inspirED educator toolbox offers three modules on becoming an EQ educator.  The module on improving classroom EQ is particularly interesting, including topics such as how to reduce boredom in the classroom and assessing the emotional climate of your class.  All their practical suggestions seem congruent with the latest neuroscience findings on how kids learn best.  For those teachers who are already aware of brain-friendly strategies, these modules are a great reminder to USE them.  I need those reminders myself!  The EQ site also offer links to several other free courses on improving your understanding of social emotional learning.

It’s been years since researchers validated what we know intuitively: kids with better relationship and emotional skills are more likely to succeed, regardless of their intellectual prowess.  In “The Case for Emotional Intelligence in Our Schools,” Joshua Freedman writes: Several organizations have emerged to help schools and organizations implement emotional intelligence and social-emotional learning programs, including The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), The George Lucas Educational Foundation (GLEF), The Center for Social Emotional Learning, CSEE, and Six Seconds, The Emotional Intelligence Network. 

Six Seconds, the parent organization behind EQ.org, has a stated goal of “working toward one billion people practicing emotional intelligence.”  They offer certification in their methodology, an online store for materials (and kid-friendly games), training for organizations, scholarships, and grants.  As schools struggle to eliminate the racial achievement gap, this type of intervention could prove effective. Schools should be a safe place for kids of all races.

* Starving

Reblogged on WordPress.com

Here is a link to a powerful post written by a mom as she watches her son struggle with anorexia.  It is worth reading.  Mental illness has such a stigma, such shame associated with it.  This mom’s writing helps to demystify her son’s condition and provides hope that they will make it through this very hard journey.  I appreciate her willingness to share their struggle.

Source: Starving

* Early concerns, part 4

My dear Stacey, a kindergartner at risk for reading and language disabilities as well as autism, always triggers my special education radar when she speaks.  Or doesn’t speak.  Or just makes noises.  Granted, she has suffered serious emotional trauma, which can lead to regression in social interactions.  She also has an older autistic sibling.  On the other hand, she has older siblings who are excellent communicators and role models for appropriate language.

Stacey has been using an app to create her own “movies.”  The Disney Princess Story Theater app allows kids to create scenes and then add their own voice to three-part stories.  I thought this would be a good opportunity for Stacey to practice sequencing events, using her beloved Disney characters.

Disney Princess Story Theater

Once Stacey learned how to record her voice, her first recordings were predictably filled with shrieks and other oddball expressions.  After giving her time to  exhaust the Silly Factor, I recorded a model of a simple story with her.  We listened to the British voice give us a brief overview of each scene and we then recorded an appropriate follow-up sentence.  She can add words that logically describe what is happening in that scene or what might happen next.

After listening to all her recorded stories and scenes (my phone is full of princess videos!), the following features are consistent:

  • Stacey has difficulty recalling character names.  Despite her love of all things princess, Stacey has demonstrated consistent word finding problems, often recording, “Who is that?”
  • SInce she never knew how to begin any story, I modeled, “I am Ariel.”  Stacey continues to copy that phrase, with lots of “I am…. Who is that?”
  • She has not yet created any coherent story in sequence.  Her recordings are a jumble of words, with a lot of the repetitive phrases she’s heard from her autistic brother (“And blow your nose!”).

Conclusions:  The task is too difficult for her, although it has not diminished her thrill of recording “stories.”  Stacey remembers what she has heard and that overrides the pictures she’s seeing.  For instance, one of the stories describes Ariel hiding from some eels.  Stacey adds a part of that sentence to all stories about Ariel, even though the pictures are quite different.  Once she has “mastered” (memorized) a sentence, it seems to become her default sentence, regardless of the context.

Next informal step:  Purchase a sequence game of Princess cards (Tell Tale Disney Princess Game).   We can still record her stories from picture cards, if she prefers, but this should give her an opportunity to practice with more support from me and more time to think through her ideas.

* Early concerns, part 3

How do we know if a child would benefit from early intervention?   I’ve already described my concerns about this kindergartner’s possible delays in reading, language, and social development (see parts one and two).  Not only does she have a strong family history of those issues, but has also experienced significant emotional trauma, which can lead to delays and regressions, as well.  I have not yet completed a systematic informal evaluation, but I keep gathering clues.  I was thrilled when Stacey grabbed a marker and wanted to write.

Stacey writing

We were doing some roleplaying, with Stacey creating signs that identified her as a doctor and dentist.  The paper above, if rotated, says, “I am a dentist.”  She wrote “I am a” without any assistance and left decent spacing, too.  Without lines.  Stacey got bored with that activity and turned most of the letters into happy faces.  While she was in a writing mode, I decided to check out rhyming again.  Without any graphemes, Stacy had typically become anxious about rhyming, even in a game format.  But when I asked her to use letters for rhyming, she was intrigued.  We started with cat and bat, both of which I modeled for her.  Stacey smiled and wrote my prompt, then created her own rhyme!  She was able to segment phonemes and identified three out of five short vowel sounds.  I did tell her to add a k after the c in ‘back’ and ‘black.’  Eventually, Stacey ran out of interest and said, “Period!” as she added punctuation after the word ‘hit.’  I asked, “What does that mean?” and she answered, “You are done… the….”  I suggested, “Sentence?” and she nodded.

Other observations: Stacey recognized individual one-syllable words in a sentence, blended phonemes without distortions (“k-æ-t” instead of “cuh-ah-tuh”), and demonstrated confidence and pleasure at her ability to write!  Woohoo!

Does this mean I can pack up my reading concerns?  Not until I’ve done more systematic work with her.   However, I am very encouraged with these skills!