We did it. We finally got through the 504 review and hopefully it will be last meeting of the school year. Each time I have to sit down face to face with this group of 6 people, my heart grows a little more heavy. Do people not know what they say? Or is it some […]
via And it Is Done — anewperspectiveperhaps
Read this post for more insights on why families are ditching schools and hunting desperately for a place that will readily differentiate instruction for their kids. For ALL kids.
My A to Z Blogging Challenge happens to be another challenge: clutter!
Visual clutter is a distraction for many special needs kids. For my students on the autism spectrum who were staring endlessly at something in the room, the best strategy was to ask what they found so irresistible. This led to the eventual removal of everything in their line of sight. Except me, of course.
Me: What are you looking at?
Me: What? (Turning around to hunt for THAT)
Student: He is at 12:45.
Me: 12:45? (Searching for ANYTHING that says 12:45)
Student: On Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Me: Oh. (Removing a miniature schedule, resting on a ledge behind my chair, so I wouldn’t forget the lunch bunch schedule) (Brightly) OK! Let’s focus on your writing assignment!
I have always been a cluttered teacher. I know where stuff is, even if it’s buried a foot deep in teetering piles of paper debris. The only time I reduced my clutter was when an overhead valve periodically spewed brown water all over my head and group table. Even with that threat, clutter started to reproduce like bunnies, so I used a shower curtain at night to cover everything. During the day, I continually scanned the valve for signs of growing moisture. I was a bit distracted by that valve, but if I moved the table, I wouldn’t have easy access to the whiteboard. And my students LOVED to work on the whiteboard and then stare at their remarkable efforts.
Me: What are you looking at?
OK, I eventually moved the table. Then I had to remove everything from that bulletin board behind me.
A photo for my Donor’s Choose request. Look at that bookcase! I think I got my project fulfilled because everyone felt sorry for my students.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if school were so engaging that all kids would be riveted by their activities? Allowed to move as needed? Where teachers and classmates assumed the best? Do teachers believe that students come to school deciding that they will be distracted all day? The truth is that no one can maintain attention for hour after hour. It’s not how the brain functions. For kids who struggle with attention, it may be a constant battle to stay focused. This student video on Understood provides powerful insights into the conflict that students experience as their bodies and minds pull against their best intentions. After months or years of this struggle, many students give up and become serious classroom disruptors.
Here’s a rubric I’ve used with kids struggling to pay attention. Many of these kids were medicated and just as many had parents who were adamantly opposed to meds. Regardless, we can help kids feel better about themselves by rehearsing strategies for paying attention. Students’ sticky notes can replace impulsive comments and record positive efforts to focus. Other elements of rehearsal include practice finding the best places to sit in a group, such as on the sides, near the teacher, and/or next to a supportive partner. Students should also practice making positive self-statements to combat that inevitable sense of failure. Getting the classroom teacher to support their plan is huge. These students should be allowed time to leave the group in a socially acceptable way, should be encouraged to advocate for privacy but not continuously excluded, and their efforts should be praised. They may respond well to a fidget item; a wristband can work if they have rehearsed keeping it in place (and not using it as a slingshot!). May parents can provide an after school outlet for energy, such as martial arts or sports. Some students benefit from an external reward system, especially one administered by parents. One student’s dad took him to the gym after a predetermined number of earned stars. Finally, these students should NEVER be denied an active recess.