May 9, 2016

Are you Teaching in a Special Education Class or at a Special Needs Camp This Summer?

Sometimes teachers will make a change during the summer and work at a summer camp or work in a special needs classroom for the summer.  When they do, they usually have a great and rewarding experience.  The time is getting closer, so I thought I would provide a few tips for teaching in a special education classroom or at a camp for students with special needs for the summer.  

  1.       Be sure to prepare. Have a plan in place for lessons and activities.
  2.       Read the background information about your students or campers.
  3.       Call or visit the current teacher and paraprofessionals before the school year is out. Ask them for specific strategies and techniques that may work with each student.
  4.       Read over any behavior plans for students.
  5.       Find out the location of resource materials for specific students who need them.  For example, if a student uses a communication book, find out where it will be located during the summer.  Or, if the behavior plan says a student uses a checklist to complete their work, find out where you can get access to the checklist.
  6.      Set up the space to include small group activities.  Small groups can provide more individualized attention to students and provides movement for them as well, as they move from group to group. 
  7.      Practice the skill of “never letting them see you sweat.” Mishaps will happen in the classroom or at a camp, but try to remain calm and be the voice of reason in each situation.
  8.       The voice of reason is sometimes quiet.  Some kids need quiet and peace to help them calm down and defuse a situation.
  9.       Have fun. A little shaving cream, bubbles and water play in the summer goes a long way!

Here is a list of the summer products and resources available at the Autism Classroom Teachers Pay Teachers store.  The first few are directly related to summer.  The last few are freebies that could be used year round.  Spread the word.  Enjoy.

Apr 3, 2016

Spring is Here: A Peek Inside of the Morning Work for March and April

I was really hoping to say it is Spring and the weather is beginning to feel great, but, today feels colder than most typical winter days around here. However, it is time to start exploring the March and April Morning Work.  As you can see it is filled with pictures of sunshine, flowers and rainbows.  I just hope after a day or two the weather lives up to it.  Let's take a look.

As usual, the Morning Work for Students with Autism provides hands-on activities for students.  This March and April edition is no different. Here students can complete a task related to spring related words. 

They can cut the items themselves, or you can have the items pre-cut for them.

Keep their  hands busy and keep them focused.

They can work on reading, cutting, gluing, matching and coloring skills all at once.

This activity was fun.

Next, there is a page on descriptive words where the student can match the phrase to the picture.

And, what would a spring resource be without a rainbow?  On this page, they simply color in the rainbow, then draw a line to match the individual letters in the word "spring."

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The page with "Wh" questions provides an opportunity for students to show what they know about spring weather.

These work great for students with limited handwriting skills, young students and those with special needs.  They can still practice skills and show what they know without the requirement of too much writing.

Enjoy your Spring!!!

 March and April Morning Work
Click here for the March and April Morning Work 

Mar 24, 2016

What to Teach When Teaching Play Skills to a Child with Autism (Play Series Part 3 of 3)

Play can be serious business.  For young children, play is where they learn important concepts and new skills. For some children, this comes easily, and for others, it does not. Sometimes, we have to teach play skills...but where do we even start?  

First, it might help to have the definition of the various types of play.  For example, some types of play are:

Solitary Play- playing without seeming to notice others who may be close by.
Onlooker Play- watching others play, but not participating in the play.
Parallel Play- playing with the same toy or set of toys but not necessarily playing with other children who are nearby.
Cooperative Play- playing with a common goal or a shared activity.
Open-Ended Play- a play activity with various outcomes and no set limits on how to interact with the toy.
Close Ended Play- a play activity with one set outcome or a set expectation of how to play with the item.

Each of these skills can be fostered with a little support and guidance.  Having a plan is essential for knowing what to teach.  Some important elements of that plan are to include what vocabulary to teach, what visual supports to use and various ways to expand the play. 

 Play Skills Interactive Notebook
Play Skills Interactive Notebook (Click on the picture to learn more.)

Additionally, consider these questions when teaching play:

What is this game that is being played?
What is this toy all about?
How does this toy work?
How does this activity go?
Is there a different way to play this game or is there only one way?
What visual supports can help the student understand and communicate during the play period?

The next consideration on what to teach might include teaching techniques that facilitate play.  For one, some students may need help with establishing or adhering to boundaries. This may mean planning to use furniture, rugs, tables, and chairs to help establish boundaries.  Some students have difficulty if they see a large open space.  Sometimes by simply adding a chair and a table you can help them concentrate on the game or toy a little better. Also, just having a rug that serves as a visual reminder of where the toy play can take place could help some.  For example, adults may remind the child, that toys stay in the rug area or that they should sit in this chair when playing this board game.

Another skill to teach during play is communication.  One communication technique may be to include incidental teaching during play to increase communication.  In incidental teaching a teaching scene might look like this:

After the child has approached an activity or object, or has attempted to get the object through a gesture or vocalization, approach the child. Your goal is to require him or her to elicit a more sophisticated response. Attempt to use a 3-level prompt hierarchy for this technique (Mirenda & Iacono I988):
1. Natural Prompt- “”What do you want?” or a questioning look.

2. Minimal Prompt- nonspecific verbal direction. “You need to tell me what you want, say, ‘want ____.”

3. Medium Prompt- request imitation. “You need to tell me what you want; say ‘want ____” and spontaneously sign or point to the communication symbol.  The child must communicate to receive the item.

Other teaching techniques might include floor time, discrete trial teaching, pivotal response training, among others.

Having a support like the Play Skills Interactive Journal may provide guidance and a starting point. It provides ideas on what to teach.  It includes ideas for each of these topics: Imitation, Play Skills, Cause and Effect, Cars and Trucks and Water Vehicles.  It also includes visual supports that can aid with communication during play.

Visual Supports for each play theme. 

Happy Playing!

Mar 20, 2016

Why Structure the Play for Students with Autism? (Play Series Part 2 of 3)

In the last post, the discussion focused on why we should teach play skills to students.  However, it is important to remember to structure the play period for the child. What does structuring your play session accomplish?

For one, it helps establish some clarity for the student.  Clarity makes it easy for them to see what the task is.  Second, structuring the play session helps with the fact that some children have trouble with  organizing.  The adult can organize the play session, prepare the correct materials and serve as a guide for the student. Third, some students with autism have difficulty with sequencing events. Providing visual cues or reminders may help students needing to sequence during play. Using an interactive notebook before the play period to show the sequence of the play skill may help as well. 

This Play Skills Interactive Notebook section focuses on teaching the sequence of steps for playing with cars.    

The student glues in the number strip, then glues in the steps for playing with a car.

Another reason for structuring the play session for students with autism is to teach the rules and directions in a game. It is kind of hard to play a game if you do not know the rules.  Within the structure of the play session, you can teach the rules of the activity or you can review the rules ahead of time, as is shown in the picture below.
 Special Education & Autism Interactive Notebook – Play Skills (Part 1)

Limited imitations skills are another reason to structure play. Students who can imitate are likely to be better at playing and interacting with others. They tend to be watching and learning by doing what others are doing. Some students have not gained this skill, but they can usually gain this skill when taught.  It takes a structured, systematic approach to try to teach this skill. Additionally, as mentioned in the Why Teach Play Skills to Students with Autism post, building joint attention in students who do not currently have joint attention skills is important.  Structuring your play can help teachers and parents to focus on this skill.

Have Fun!!!

Play Skills Interactive Journal

Mar 19, 2016

Why Teach Play Skills to Students with Autism? (Part 1 of 3)

Autism, by definition includes difficulties with social  skills, communication skills and sometimes behavior skills.  Although not everyone with autism has difficulty in all of these areas, each of these areas affects the ability to play.  Joint attention, which is the shared focus on an activity or an object is absent from many younger individuals with autism (until it is taught.)  However, joint attention is needed to learn new skills, to share emotional states, to imitate actions and to learn.  The hope is that if you increase joint attention, you will increase the other skills as well.  One way to increase and teach joint attention in students could be through play.  


I always wondered how I could target the play skills of students in a more structured and focused way. Then, I started to see the increase of teachers using interactive notebooks for topics like reading, science and math.  It dawned on me that this might be a good the way to approach teaching play skills to students with autism.  We already know that most lessons for our students require direct instruction, then practice. So why not for play?  Enter.......the Play Skills Interactive Notebook!!!

This Play Skills Interactive Notebook (Part 1) is made up of activities that are meant to be worked on prior to the play period.  They are meant to build the student's vocabulary and skills related to playing.  After they topics are addressed in the notebook, then it is time to practice the skill in a real structured play situation.  The topics covered in Part 1 are:

Imitation Skills
Play Skills
Cause and Effect
Cars and Trucks
Water Vehicles

Students can cut and paste the items into their notebooks.  For example, one page has them sort pictures of children working and children playing.

Another activity has students coloring in letters to spell P-L-A-Y, then gluing them inside to make a mini flap book.

Cause and effect is addressed by having students make a flap up foldable.  They choose an animal to open the flap for, and then, the student or the adult make the animal sound.  This can be expanded by writing the name of the animal on the inside of the flap.

Matching is included as well.  For this section of the interactive notebook, the students have to match 4 words related to playing.

While getting there, they work on pasting skills.

They also work on scissor skills during this activity.

Best wishes and have fun playing!!!

Click for here to see the Play Skills Notebook

Mar 12, 2016

Language Based Activities and Printables for Spring

Who is ready for Spring themed lessons?  I think it's time. These language based lessons have a spring theme.  They cover a variety of spring topics including weather, Cinco de Mayo, graduation and others.

There are  printables about flowers as well.  Students can count flowers and select the correct number.  They can also search for the beginning letter "f" as the class discusses the spelling of the word "flower."

I decided to include many activities that have bunnies, butterflies and flowers among other fun spring things that kids like to talk about. In this one, the teacher reads the poem and the student has to cut out the pictures of the bunny and place the bunny high or low when the teacher asks. Teachers can emphasis "high" and "low" before, during and after the activity.

Don't forget the spring weather bonus file folder game!

These activities highlight the match to same activities that are in the resource.  Students can practice cutting as well as matching with this task.

Finally, for June, the printables include pictures that can be colored in and cut out to make a Father's Day card.

The printables are available now.

Spring Lesson Plan Printables