Sep 7, 2014

Morning Routines in an Autism Classroom

We know that children with autism work better when a routine is established. But 
what makes a good morning routine in your classroom? The truth is that everyone's 
classroom will run differently. I think what is important, however, is that you establish some sort of 
structure to go along with the morning in your classroom. For some of us that involves organizing 
students getting off of the bus and thinking about what do we do after that? Do we go straight to 
breakfast, do we walk down to the classroom?  For each class it would be different. Some routines 
that tend to be standard in classrooms would be students entering the room or entering the space        where their lockers are, removing items from their backpack and placing those items and a 
designated spot. After that, students are most likely expected to find their seats and begin some sort of a morning activity. For some classes this morning activity includes toys or fidgets, and other 
classrooms this morning activity involves work tasks where students need to use their hands to 
manipulate the work task. In other classes, this morning activity may mean worksheets that the 
student is expected to complete. In either case, students will be more successful with completing the routine you establish if you have a visual support. 

A visual support is something visual that cues student to show what you want them to do. These 
visual supports can be in the form of pictures icons, photos, or words.  It really just depends on what     works best for the student who needs to understand the information. Use the visual supports as a 
guide for when you are not standing right next to the student; they will still have something to tell them what needs to be done even if you're a few feet away or attending to another student. 

I always like the idea of morning work for students just so that they come into school and begin 
 something constructive. I never felt like the students needed a break from the ride into school. 
Now again, this could mean work tasks where students are using their hands to manipulate a task or it could mean some sort of worksheet. Here is an example of my morning work packets related to back-to-school:

The morning work packet has worksheets that require variations in response style 
so that pen and paper are not always needed. They require variations in 
response styles so that writing is not always the only way to provide the 
answer. So for example, some of the response styles might include using string to 
match items, cutting and pasting answers, using bingo markers to provide the 
answer, coloring, making steps in paper, circling answers.

Sep 4, 2014

Getting on the Same Page with Your Classroom Team

Sometimes it is easier to set up your classroom and instruction for the kids then it is to collaborate with all of the adult members of the classroom team. Teachers and paraeductors all have to go through a phase of getting to know one another and getting to know each other’s style. Building relationships takes time. There are many ways that you can foster positive collaboration and clarity in your classroom with the adults.

The first way is to set up a responsibility chart. On this chart you would indicate what the role is of each member of the classroom team during the instructional parts of the day, during the planning parts of the day and in relation to gathering materials for lessons. For example, who will make the Boardmaker ™symbols, who will gather the lunches, who will check the back packs each morning, etc,  Other classrooms may want to decide who is going to actually run the art activity or who is going to pick up the students from the bus. There are a number of things that happen in the course of a day where it is a good idea to have one or two people clearly designated to take care of those areas. It's also great to have this written down because if it is not written down sometimes we might forget. 

A second way to help foster this collaborative communication would be with something called a zone schedule. In this schedule you would highlight the activities for the day first, and then highlight what each person will be doing in that activity. These are very specific to the activity and don’t tend to include the planning piece or the gathering of materials piece.

Another way to help everyone staying the same page would be to create a lunch time schedule and a break time schedule for each adult in the classroom. This way you are really clear that breaks did not occur during your key instructional times. And you're also clear when each person is going out and coming back. If it's written down and
posted in the classroom there's no room for misinterpretation.  

Organization Sheets for Self-Contained & Autism Classrooms (Bubble Design)

If you've been teaching for a while a lot of this might come easy to you.  However, if you are new to teaching or new to an autism classroom where the behavioral demands of the classroom are greater, it will be important to get these elements in place and underway so that your instruction can be as smooth as possible. What you don't want is to have to discuss these elements of who's doing what, what time are you going, what time are you coming back, when the students are there. We know, sometimes it only takes 30 seconds of your distraction for the students to be distracted and get off task. 

Talk with the team an tackle these components ahead of time.
            1. Start with a template.

            2. Talk to your team and ask about their instructional strengths and hobbies.

            3. Formulate a plan based on the best interest of your students.

Sep 1, 2014

New School Year - No Time Blues

This year, back to school has been absolutely crazy for me. With dropping off to school and picking up from school, homework, covering books, and all of the other things that go along with, it has felt like a mad rush. If you are like me, you just can’t wait for things to settle down and routines to settle in. And it always seems like the biggest thing that stands in my way is time. Time to fit in all of the activities that need to be done and all the things that I would just like to do for myself.

Now thanks to the long holiday weekend, I was able to do something that was on my to do list for a while. I was able to finish up my fall packet of lessons for autism support classrooms. Wow! I am so glad to have been checked off my list. I am pretty sure that this will be a timesaver for many of you who want to make the lessons but just cannot find the time. These have language-based activities for students with autism who may also have intellectual disability. Or, they can just be used for a pre-k, kindergarten classroom or as independent work for a first grade classroom. The subjects covered are fall, pumpkins, fall festivals, football, Thanksgiving, Halloween, and Veterans Day.

 Fall Printables for Autism Support Classrooms