Saturday, March 18, 2017

Update and social story freebie

I moved to Colorado last June and truly enjoyed my environment and my new school. I was sharing a caseload with another teacher. We combined an Autism program with another program that serves students with more severe disabilities. The big focus was life skills in an authentic setting, which meant that we went out into the community a lot to practice these skills. Of course, there was academics too, but this was geared to support the life skills programming.

All was great until I got my paycheck. I thought there was a mistake, and since it was my first one, I assumed there had been days left off. Then I got my second one and realized there had not been a mistake at all. It was over $2000 less per month than what I made in my previous job and frankly not enough to pay all my bills, including my student loan. So I checked on the laws regarding leaving in the middle of a contract, found I could do it if I gave 30 days notice, and I told them I was leaving. It was too bad, especially since I loved that job, my students, and the people I worked with. In addition to this reason, I also had a personal reason to come back to Washington, so it wasn't just the money, but that played a big part.

So I moved back to Washington, contacted my previous school and they had an opening in a different special ed program. I started in November. It is a self contained program with 9 students. Most have  moderate to severe learning disabilities but socially are fairly close to grade level. It has been a nice change of pace to work with students that are verbal, that can read and write, although 3-5 grade levels behind, and don't need as much support. I provide support to students in their gen ed science and social studies classes, and they are with me the rest of the day except for electives.

It has been a whirlwind of moving and changing jobs, but I am hopefully settled for awhile.

As a reward for reading this post I am including a  poster  and a social story about nose-picking. It's a gross habit but I am surrounded by them. This was very helpful in my classroom so hopefully it will help you, too.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Five For Fraturday Linky post

I have always liked this linky.  I have found many wonderful bloggers through here, and enjoy reading everyone's 5 things for that week. I feel like I get to know the bloggers a little better, too, as there are often personal items added in to the 5 things. As I struggle with my health issues (mono and more recently a case of the flu), and prepare for my move, I don't want to go too long before posting each time. So each Friday (or thereabouts ;) )I am going to start using this linky as a structure for my posts. Most items will be about stuff that has happened that week, but could also be stuff that has happened recently or will happen in the future.

It was recently Syttende Mai (17th of May), which is constitution day in Norway. A fellow teacher brought this Norwegian flag over to my classroom and we had someone take our photo. In Norway, there is a HUGE celebration.

I live on an island and commute by ferry every day. This was one of the sunsets as seen from the ferry this week. So beautiful!

I have been healthy my entire life. Although I am overweight, I have never had any health problems because  of it. I rarely get colds or any kind of sickness. I have weeks of accumulated sick leave from my job as a result. But in the past year, I have been diagnosed with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, Mono, CMV, and I recently got the flu, resulting in a pretty severe case of Bronchitis. I was out for an entire week. Bleeeech, I hate being sick. My doc told me it was all related to stress from my job (and we all know it's bad right now in education) and to a leaky gut. So, I need to change what I am doing, which is hard. I am trying to eat Paleo (grain, dairy, legume, and sugar free). I use the above  shopping list from WHOLE30. I feel SO much better when I eat this way. As well, I have a Fitbit and am using that on my hikes with my little dog Murfee, trying to get my 10,000 steps in.



I have a student obsessed with My Little Pony. He's also into rainbows, so I see the attraction. He drew this during choice time. I just love all of his drawings and wanted to feature one.



I tend to obsess over stuff, it's part of my work personality. You would think that being obsessed with work would make me more organized, but it doesn't.  I have been packing my classroom up and boxing stuff in cupboards ever since January. I have tossed stuff, made decisions on what to leave, and organized and labeled contents, with thanks to my wonderful Paras. I am almost all done except for the stuff we are currently using. This will allow me to start the new school year in the best organizational shape ever. I am giddy with excitement over the thought. With this thought, I put together my plan book for next year and it contains everything I will need to start the new year off with an organizational bang. More to come on this baby in a different post. But it feels good.

And that is all for this week.

Link up with Doodle Bugs Teaching here

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

New state, new position

Starting this fall, I will officially be a Colorado blogger. AND, I am moving to High School! I am pretty excited about this change. Not only will it be sunnier (that's a big deal for this Seattleite!!!), but the focus is on life skills, which to me is where the emphasis needs to be as our students approach adulthood/post secondary life.

Yesterday, I spoke to the teacher I will be collaborating with, as well as the program specialist, and got an outline of what my position entails. I am starting a brand new ILS (Intensive Learning Services) program and working with the Autism teacher. As luck would have it, there was only one ILS student this year so we are splitting the Autism caseload.

We will be going out to the community for a 2 1/2 hour block of time every day, doing a variety of different activities related to transition/vocational needs. They will have adapted PE, electives, and 2 classes where we work on IEP goals and objectives/academics. The rest of the time, I am planning/case managing.

I am so excited to be starting this new chapter of my life!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Sensory diet

What exactly is a sensory diet? It is basically a schedule of sensory input deliberately placed into a student's day that helps them to regulate their sensory (touch, taste, smell, auditory, visual, proprioceptive, and/or vestibular input) needs. It's important to help a student find the optimum amount of input  they need in order to help them function at their best throughout their day. By scheduling the input, we are being proactive, rather than reactive.

In a school setting, the best person to assess the need and put this into place is the Occupational Therapist. They are usually the experts in sensory processing and are a font of great ideas to try.

So what does this look like in practice? It's different for each student since each has their own unique sensory needs. Typically, though, there is a break and sensory activities scheduled every 45 minutes to 2 hours, but again, this varies between students. Students can choose their activity or it can be chosen for them.

All of my students have breaks in their day where they can choose an activity, and we have an assortment of sensory aids available at all times if the student needs it or requests it. Some of these items are headphones, fidgets, weighted vests and blankets, joint compression, squeezes, rocking chair, body sock, light-up and spinning toys, etc, just to give you an idea.

I have a schedule in place for 3 of my students. One student does heavy work twice a day, and receives squeezes and tickles at least twice a day. His heavy work consists of sweeping, stacking chairs, and moving furniture. He is in love with cleaning up and stares at our custodial staff with wonder in his eyes at lunch time. He will on occasion help them after  he has eaten his lunch. He usually reorganizes our calm area where we have a sofa, a comfy chair, a rocking chair, and a thick, fold-able floor mat. Then he stacks all the chairs in our room. As a result of these activities, he has relaxed enough to spontaneously greet people, something he wasn't doing before.

Another student has many gross motor/ oral input activities built into his schedule multiple times a day. Typically, he enters the classroom, does a few minutes of work, receives a food reward, then has either a quiet time where he falls asleep, or he has a gross motor activity. He has difficulty sleeping at home and he often comes to school not having slept the night before. His gross motor consists of walks around the perimeter of our school and/or time on the trampoline in our sensory room. If he needs calming activities, we take him to the sensory room and he gets onto our crash pad and we fold him in it, or into a sleeping bag in our tent area, or he lays on a mat and we roll a ball over his body.

In the quiet area in our room, he gets his hair brushed and his joints compressed. Once he is calm, we do another work activity followed by a food reward. We repeat this throughout the day, and as needed.

A third student has silly putty at all times when his hands are not otherwise occupied with work.

He has a tendency to have meltdowns at 9:30, so we are now scheduling a sensory room break at 9:00, where he lays in the crash pad.

He also has a schedule of activities he can choose from at 11:15 when he goes to PE. Shortly after that, he goes home. These activities have helped limit some aggressive behavior.

Typically, these activities last for about 15-20 minutes but it really depends on the student.

These have all worked wonders for my students and the overall level of negative behavior has reduced tremendously as a result of these interventions. If you've never done this, I would highly recommend consulting with the OT and setting  some activities in place.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Update/Cool life skills website

I will be moving to Colorado at the end of June. I have applied and interviewed for several positions. I have another interview on Monday and likely a couple more in the next week or so. These are high school and middle school life skills programs.  I am pretty excited, especially at the high school opportunities as I have wanted to get back to that setting for a long time. I just love knowing that I can have the most impact on a student's adult life at this level. Stay tuned for job updates later.

As for the Mono, I am on the mend, finally and am beginning to have energy for stuff other than work.

While contemplating high school, I started a new board on my Pinterest site titled High School Life Skills. I love Pinterest as you can find all kinds of cool and interesting ideas. Check out my Pinterest site here. While following one pin, I found this awesome interactive website called GCF You can go to this site HERE.

They have tons of technology tutorials, but they also have  some  real world skills that are interactive. Here is a menu of the skills, besides the technology tutorials, that I thought were wonderful.

 The following are some of the choices you can click on. There is a screen to push that gives you a tutorial on how to play. You can replay it as many times as you want. There is also a print-out of the steps.

This is the screen for Time Sheet. There is a person that speaks. You click to open the wallet and you input the information from the ID card and the small note card onto the time sheet.

Students need to be able to read and follow simple commands in order to do this, but I have always had a few students for whom this would be totally appropriate.  This is an awesome way to practice real life skills before doing it in the real world. In any case, it's free and I will definitely be using it as a tool in my classroom.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Long time no see

It's been awhile. It's been an exhausting year and one of the first things to go was this blog. First a Hashimoto's diagnosis and recently Eppstein Barr and Cytomegalo Virus diagnoses. What all that means is I am DOG TIRED.  You get the idea.

It's a struggle just to get out of bed in the morning and go to work. I have just enough energy to do what needs to be done and no more. On top of all that, I am planning a move to Colorado and am applying for work down there. This blog has really been the last thing on my mind as I try to scale down what I am doing outside of work and home. However, I am not quite ready to give it up yet as blogging in the past has been a great source of clarification of my day to day role as a special education teacher, as well as personal satisfaction  and a way for me to give back. So  hopefully I will post more as I find out the where and what about my next job as I am in the midst of applying right now. Wish me luck!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

New Schedules

I have 3 new students this year that have very limited academic skills, are low, or not verbal, and/or have many behavioral issues (aggression, running, screaming, yelling and growling, hitting, hair pulling, biting, pinching, kicking, spitting, masturbation, clearing surfaces, throwing things, etc).

The schedule I originally had in place was just not going to work for these three. They are unable to sit in group settings and participate, they can't read, or have low to no academic abilities, poor fine motor skills, and they have very limited abilities to communicate anything. In addition, these 3 need one to one help and I just don't have that support in place yet.

It's a fine balance in creating a schedule that works for a group of students that can read and write and need direct instruction in these content areas, as well as science and social studies, can participate in groups, and can work independently (mostly), and students that cannot do these things and need  a dedicated work space and schedule, and very simple tasks. I have had to go through several changes to my schedule to accommodate these needs and my current lack of sufficient adult support.

This is the schedule I put together before school started. The color coding is for the adults, for example, I am yellow, so that we can tell at a glance which students we are working with, what class period, and what we are doing. I do put together a more detailed schedule of exactly what the Paras are doing with these students, etc. Each column is a student. The schedule changes every 15 min or so and students use either a wall schedule or a binder schedule to transition. There are several Para run centers in this schedule (fluency, Binder, Morning meeting).

 This was my second attempt  a schedule. We got a temporary 1:1 for a student and I added her to the mix. She is the one in Pink. This lasted for 1 day.

This is the current schedule. We went through several iterations of this. But we had a few students with too many needs and not enough help to do a lot of stations. The students that are able, have to do a lot of independent work throughout the day. My students that need more support, are in designated areas and work on a first/then schedule and get frequent breaks and rewards throughout the day. 

So far, this seems to be working. I am still putting together their designated areas and more appropriate tasks, because there is limited time in a day and I am only one person. I hope to have it all up and running smoothly shortly.