* 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.


* Developing Leadership, part 2

In an earlier post, I described the benefits of using science and social studies content to develop leadership in our twice exceptional and high-functioning autistic students.  If your child/student has special interests in science, let me refer you to The Happy Scientist website. happy scientist 2

Robert Krampf is the brains behind this wonderful site.  He’s a smart, funny, and down-to-earth teacher who uses videos and photographs for sharing science in a range of topics: life science, earth science, physical science, chemical science, space science, and the process of science.  With over 200 videos and about a 1,000 photographs (accompanied by puzzlers), this site is very user-friendly for our kiddos who learn by watching and doing.  Krampf is a good role model for our budding science leaders.happy scientist 3

The Happy Scientist keeps a blog, along with opportunities for questions on everything posted- and more.  His videos often end with bloopers, which are hilarious.  Yes, his site has standards and units of study, but I see this as an opportunity to model what we hope our kids can do as “mentors” in their small groups.  For example, the videos provide opportunities for kids to learn a clever way of presenting topics.  One video asks students to think of ways to reduce the speed of a ping pong ball in motion.  Our student presenter can model some strategies and then let the group try their hand at it.

Another idea for developing leadership abilities is the creation of a digital portfolio of experiments.  If the student is uncomfortable with live presentations, what about making use of recorded ones?  In this era of technology, kids could share their expertise with classrooms, scout meetings, or science clubs quite easily.  Even if the videos are strictly for home use, they will certainly be confidence boosters.  For those kids who MUST be perfect, Krampf’s video outtakes illustrate the fun of errors.  Many of our autistic kids are quite adept at drama and might want to add the flair of “space suits” or other props, just as Krampf does.  Some kids would also enjoy an online dialog with The Happy Scientist’s website.

Bottom line:  We must be proactive, pushing back the negative feedback these kids have often suffered at school.  Take advantage of your child’s strengths/interests while helping them SEE how smart and capable they are.

* Quirky: Understanding the “different” learner

quirky 2Over time, I have seen an increase in the number of kids who don’t quite fit into any special education category, who don’t quite fit in socially, and who don’t more-than-quite achieve their academic potential.  This “increase” in number is probably due to three factors. First, there’s an improved level of appropriate identification of kids with special needs.  Early intervention is occurring.  Parents and teachers have access to better resources and legal support.  Second, as a society, we examine ourselves and one another in ways that would have been unimaginable 20 years ago, mostly due to changes in technology.  We have new, often-used labels like “geeks” and “nerds,” along with a wide assortment of labels related to interests in music, pop culture, etc.  Third, there are some actual increases in the number of kids who are now labeled autistic.  Along with that increase, I now see more “quirky” kids.

“Quirky” kids come very close to looking like twice exceptional students.  They are bright but not dyslexic.  They are bright but not autistic.  But they come mighty close to having a disability.  Their reading or math difficulties are typically camouflaged by their high IQ.  Their social difficulties are viewed as annoying but not disabling.  Their parents and teachers wonder why they don’t get along so well with others.  They wonder why these kids don’t score as high on standardized tests as expected.  These students are proficient but there’s a nagging sense that something isn’t quite right.  Another feature of these quirky kids is their own nagging sense that they don’t measure up.  School is boring but not always easy.  Last but NOT least, they are a joy to teach!  They respond extremely well to individualized support and tackle tough issues with perseverance.  With the right level of support, these underachievers gain confidence and begin to enjoy their school experiences.

In my next post, I’ll examine the social skills weaknesses of these kids and some practical ways to address them.  (I’m trying to keep my posts a bit shorter!)  Look under Quirky Learners for the follow up.