Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Quest for Learning

The Northern Ireland Curriculum offers a number of materials for teaching and assessing learners with profound or multiple disabilities. Among these are the Quest for Learning assessment materials and inclusive literacy materials. Check them out.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Donors Choose has Issued a Challenge

If teachers enrolled in Donors Choose can inspire 5,000 people to donate (as little as $5) they will release $100,000 in additional funding!

So, would you consider donating $5 or more to one of my projects?

  • Avoid the Void - to provide sensory items for students to use when positioned out of their wheelchairs
  • Switch - to give us a broader selection of switches to use in our classroom
  • What We Really Need is Storage - to give us a rolling storage rack that will provide counter space and 16 cubbies for storing all our belonings
Thanks so much!

Free Online Activities for Intensive/Multiple Special Needs

Sharing of Activities for Specialized Software
See also Power Point Collections, Online Timers, Symbol Based Websites

Monday, September 28, 2009

Unique Learning System October 2009 - EcoSystems

This Post Under Construction - Contributions Welcome!

This is based on the Middle School level, your level may be different.

Topics Covered in This Unit
Migration, Dressing for the Weather, Seasons, Biomes (Tundra, Deciduous Forest, Grassland, Desert and Taiga), Crops by Biome, The Eagle: Our National Emblem, Terrariums, Plants and Animals of My State, Food Chains, How Rivers are Made, Little House on the Prairie Time Line

Check out the great links about Biomes at the Missouri Botanical Gardens.

Online Activities
ScienceEnglish/Language Arts
Social Studies

Arts and Crafts

Adapted P.E./Fitness
  • dress for the weather relay race



Survival Skills 101

Survival Skills 101 is an online interactive activity for learners with special needs. There are three types of activities, money, weather and community. The money section focuses on having enough money for a small purchase, the weather activity on dressing for the weather and the community activity on knowing where to go to make certain purchases/run certain errands. The activities are touchscreen or interactive whiteboard accessible. (Being a flash activity tab/enter does work to some degree for two switch scanning on some activities, but I would not consider this a switch accessible activity).

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Happy AAC Awareness Month!

Every year the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ISAAC) celebrates the month of October as AAC Awareness Month. A poster can be downloaded to advertise the story contest. There is a list of ideas on how you could celebrate AAC in your community. You can also join AAC Awareness Month efforts on Facebook. Finally you can download a bookmark, which would make a fun vocational/community service to print, cut out, laminate and distribute at your school.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pogo Boards

Update: September 25th, 2009
Pogo Boards now offers a 7 day FULL feature free trial.

Pogo Boards is a new online communication board making resource in the same line of thinking as Mrs. Riley It's In the Cards, which was actually the first, full featured online board making and sharing program.

Pogo Boards was developed by Talk to Me Technologies and had 800+ beta testers (I assume in private beta). They have had 12,000+ people sign-up for the limited use version of the online program since debut a few days ago.

First off Pogo Boards has some quirky, and in what may have been an isolated case for me, very annoying, software and hardware requirements. You must have Adobe Reader (or another Adobe Reading software) installed as well as Microsoft Silverlight (which is not a program most of us have installed, like Adobe Flash or Java). Thus if you are at work, work in a school and do not have administrative privileges you might as well stop trying right here. (That's probably 75% or more of us.)

(The advantage of Silverlight is if you are using Microsoft Office 2007 the interface will feel very familiar, but we are working in education, so chances are you are using Office 2003 or earlier, or you have switched to an online word processing program.)

The next issue would seem that the "basic account" which is advertised as "free" is pretty worthless because you cannot print boards without a watermark across them and it is very limited. They should call it a "limited feature trial membership". Nor is there a 30, 14 day, 7 day or 1 day free trial in which to see all of the site features. Trainers and district purchasers who have asked for full access to show Pogo Boards or determine if the product is appropriate have been told this is not an option. If you do want to take advantage of the "basic account" the registration form is lengthy, which is unusual as most web 2.0 applications have learned that folks do not generally want to fill out long forms just to try things out.

Also the "basic account" is in many ways "nagware" because whenever you try to do anything such as save, print, or even delete or replace symbols you get an error message that you need to upgrade to a paid account to enjoy that feature. I used to have a student who would say, "Nag, nag, nag!", whenever he knew he was being a little annoying about asking for something over and over and all I could think was, "Nag, nag, nag!", while I was using my "basic account".

The boardmaking interface itself is a bit clumsy. You search for your image and then "check" the one you want and mouse click on the square where you want it. Not exactly the drag and drop beauty that is Mrs. Riley It's In the Cards. Nor does it have the features we all know and love from Boardmaker... or maybe it does, who knows with the limited trial.

Another bug is that it took a very long time for each of the computers I tried the program on to open up the Silverlight based boardmaking window. Which is usually fine with me, school computers and special needs software running computers are notoriously slow, however Pogo Boards won't let you do anything else when you have the Silverlight/Pogo Board application open (or trying to open). Thus I couldn't just click to another tab on my browser and read e-mail or my RSS reader. This alone would make me never use the website, so I hope they fix that bug.

Support wise there are online videos for training and place to submit forms with questions.

Finally there is the issue of combined symbol sets, Pogo Boards offers a new symbol set called PiCS, the SymbolStix set by the News-2-You people, images from Google Images and clip art images. Many users may not understand the importance of a cohesive set of symbols (not mixing symbol sets), using the same symbol to mean the same thing across multiple boards and the heirarchy of using photos to picture symbols. This means that shared boards, which is one of the lures to entice subscription, may be of little value and may actually be confusing and cause problems with some learners who have communication and intellectual disabilities.

The cost for Pogo Boards is (buried deep in the FAQ and is) tiered based on the number of subscriptions. One year, for one user, is $69.99. This compares to Mrs. Riley It's In the Cards at $45 for one year. It also compares to $79.99 for one year's access to Adapted Learning's Print Editor (which allows you to change and print boards on the Adapted Learning website if you have a valid license number for a Boardmaker disc).

For my money, were I not already totally satisfied with just using my trusty Boardmaker SDP and Adapted Learning (without Print Editor), I would subscribe to Mrs. Riley It's In the Cards. (Read my original review of Mrs. Riley It's In the Cards, from when it was in public beta trial, here.)

(The only appeal of Pogo Boards to me is the ability to make boards that have Symbol Stix to match my Unique Curriculm, but that is not enough of an appeal to make me join and pay that price.)

Internet Safety and Individuals with Disabilities

Childnet Know IT All is a UK company that provides resources for teaching all learners how to have a safe an positive experience on the internet FOR FREE. Lucky for us when Childnet says all they mean all. Childnet has a number of resources for teaching learners with exceptionalities about the internet and internet safety.

Their website explains some of the risks for some users, for example individuals on the autism spectrum may take things literally and believe that if they are asked for personal information they must give it out. In order to assist in using their Know IT All curriculum with individuals with special needs Childnet offers a number of additional free resources.

These include computer rules in British Sign Language, advice for parents in BSL, computer safety rules in Widgit Literacy Symbols, relevant Widget symbol flash cards and lotto games, safety rules and games in Clicker 5, text files of the script of the program, and visual print outs of the script.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Unique Dreams

I couple of months ago I shared my thoughts about using the Unique Summer Curriculum with my middle school moderate special needs class. Now that my intensive special needs high school class is finishing up our first full unit in the Unique Learning System here are some of my thoughts and wishes. (For the record, although we are a high school class we are using the middle school level of Unique.)

  • print, copy, laminate and go materials
  • pretty looking products
  • knowing other teachers across the state and country who are using the same curriculum
  • being able to access materials from any computer
  • less time spent on theme unit design (but just as much time spent on lesson planning and more time on adaptation)
  • the possibility of data collection
  • the connection to our state standards
  • key symbols available in a format that can be imported into Boardmaker or another photo editing program, especially since students with visual impairments may need larger symbols to access the program (my class needs 3x3" symbols at the smallest)
  • when the lesson plan for the "access" or most intensive level of special needs calls for pressing a switch it would be nice to have the symbol to place on the switch available to print out in the common sizes/shapes of commons switches (2.5" and 4" round)
  • recipes that keep in mind students who may have common allergies (nuts, soy) or have swallowing concerns (no raisins, popcorn, or similar choke hazards in the recipes or at the very least one low choke hazard recipe a month (I didn't use any of the recipes this month!)
  • a little more attention to the flow of the simplest level of story/chapter readings because some of the chapters made absolutely no sense in the simple format (I had to re-adapt on the fly or read both levels)
  • more advanced knowledge to teachers on what is coming up in units, I planned this months unit about citizenship because that is what the Unique Materials told me was coming, however any middle school teacher who used this unit can tell you in reality the unit ended up being about Abraham Lincoln, I would have planned differently had I known; also I would like to decide what my one field trip this year is and tie it to a unit, but I am hesitant since I am not sure what Unique really means by the titles it has put on the units (not that we didn't love learning about Abe Lincoln, because we had a great time)
  • more very simple science experiments (one is not enough)
  • some very simple art projects
  • life skills activities that fall into domestic, community and social and leisure categorizes of learning, these should be kept concrete and simple
  • more very simple math problems (sequencing, patterns, basic money, very basic time telling, etc) (We ended up making some very cool books about Penny Patterns using picture symbols of heads and tails of pennies for math.)
  • science, math, art, life skills nicely integrated into the unit, not all lumped at the end so I need to revise the order I present the lessons.
  • pre-made materials on Classroom Suite, Choose It Maker or similar for those who really need to use assistive technology to access the curriculum
  • multiple levels of all lessons with all adaptation included (i.e. the "Ron's Rules" was not accessible for my learners because it requires students be able to point to small symbols for the answers, so I had to create larger symbols to use on eye gaze boards and rocking plate switches, yet in other lessons these larger symbols were created for me)
  • suggestions for material adaptations for low vision
  • more integration of AT overall
  • overlays for common mid-tech AAC devices (Go Talks, Cheap Talks, AMDi devices)
  • essentially I would love a "severe" or "complex" special needs strand within each grade level that addresses students who are accessing the general curriculum while working on cause and effect, simple choice making and basic life skills while keeping in mind the significant medical and physical challenges these students face

Idaho Video Fact Sheets

The Idaho Training Clearinghouse has a set of video fact sheets which explore Pre-Symbolic Communication. The video fact sheets cover assessing communication skills, asking for more, making choices and getting attention. Some of the benefits of the fact sheets are how they speak to teaching students as they work from reacting to an interaction or termination of an interaction to intentionally communicating "more" to making choice through movements, eye gaze and other forms of communication.

While the video fact sheets feature very young children with disabilities the lessons taught in them apply to working with all learners, of all ages, who are pre-symbolic or emerging symbolic communicators.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

One More Story

One More Story is a subscription interactive book site in the same vein as Tumblebooks, Bookflix and RAZ Kids. What is really great about it for our student is how accessible it is for a switch user. Like most interactive books our students can "turn the pages" by placing the mouse cursor on the turn page arrow, however what is really spectacular is that the turn page arrow does not appear until all the text on the page is read! No more 5 minutes stories finished in seconds by kids who just love to hit their switches!

A subscription is $44.00 a year.

Try out the book Pete is a Pizza now.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Upset because... You can help me by....

A few times in the past I have posted about the success of using a "Upset because/You can help me by" set up on a communication device, book or in a separate binder.

(Link to the first post and the second.)

The "Upset because/You can help me by" framework was something the SLP and I created at my old job to assist a student and have since used with many, many students. The general principal is that when a student with communication challenges becomes upset (angry, sad, irritated, frustrated or any other version of upset) a staff member cues the individual to use the framework to identify the feeling, the cause of the feeling ("I don't know why" and "I am a teenager!" are both acceptable) and how a staff member can assist in easing the situation.

This booklet is also available on Adapted Learning.

Currently this framework is being used in my classroom, yet again, with a student to ease in periodic distress. This morning myself and the other adults in the room were quite convinced of the power of this method when an AAC user, whom was just introduced to a page set using this method, was able to go from vocalizing in distress to communicating "sadness" because of a "schedule change" and requesting "explaination". Once the staff member responsible for the confusion (that would be me, oops) apologized and promised to make sure to communicate better next time the student pressed, "Sweet!"

The power of simple communication never fails to blow my mind.

All behavior is communication.


Storybird is an online collaborative storytelling application in open beta testing, which means for now anyone can sign up and use it for free, but at some point there may be a charge.

Storybird has a simple drag and drop interface an allows you to select some beautiful images to illustrate a story you or your students write. The story can then be posted online or e-mailed to friends and families.

Children and adults can also read stories others have written and create a reading list. These stories have an age range the author(s) assign and allows comments. The stories can also be read on an iPhone.

Their blog says that coming soon you will be able to upload images, which would be perfect for social stories, and to print out stories.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Relevance and Phrase Based AAC Programming

Many of our users with severe access issues use phrase based or full sentence based programming rather than letter, word or semantic based programming on their communication devices. While a long and lengthy exchange could happen about the benefits and drawbacks of phrase/sentence based programming (and it has in many, many other places) another consideration is how we as communication partners understand these phrases or sentences when out of context.

For example, in my classroom a student loves to say the Pledge of Allegiance and it was always part of his routine with his former teacher. However it has not typically been part of my morning meeting routine (as most high schoolers don't spend time on the Pledge of Allegiance and our morning meeting often tops 60 minutes as is). Yet I have changed my morning meeting agenda to add the Pledge in because it is so motivating to this student. Sometimes I forget and the student with start "saying" the Pledge during a pause in the routine or in the middle of something else. I tend to view this less as the student "saying the Pledge" and more as the student reminding me that I have forgotten to say the Pledge, thus responding with something like, "Thanks for reminding me!" Basically I would say that this is a relevant comment (where as the Pledge during, say, cooking is not relevant, nor would the Pledge be relevant during morning meeting if I had remembered it and we had already done it).

When I think back to the beginning of my career I remember sitting in on a group counseling session with ten teens with developmental disabilities, one of whom used high tech AAC (which at the time was a laptop that weighed about nine pounds mounted to his wheelchair, loaded with Boardmaker Speaking Dynamically - not called Pro yet - and all sorts of cords for switches, interfaces and speakers hanging off of it - he was waiting for a Freestyle AAC device which had just come on the market). The group was about abuse prevention and the AAC user answered a "what would you do if" sort of question with, "My phone number is ________", followed by, "My mother's name is __________". Everyone was very impressed that this student had used the "About Me" page to answer the question and essentially say, "Call my mother", as an answer to the question.

How do we, as communication partners, train ourselves and others to be flexible in our understanding of the phrases and full sentences used by our students when out of context? What sorts of things do you do in your classrooms to aid in AAC use and partner understanding in such situations?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Show Before You Go

One of the things our classroom is working very hard on is integrating use of our visual schedules or calendar boxes. We are trying to adopt the motto of, "Show Before You Go." Since all of our students are dependent, on some level, for mobility within and outside the classroom, we decided that the adult who physically assists the student in moving from one activity to the next is the person who is responsible for carrying out the use of the visual schedule or calendar box.

This seems like a minor point, which adult should demonstrate the visual schedule/calendar box during the transition, but it is not. Our classroom staff works well as a team and we are generally able to move from one activity to the next and incorporate all of the little "between activity" things that need to happen (like removing leg braces, reclining a wheelchair or toileting) without much discussion; yet that was creating as one staff put it a, "too many cooks spoils the soup" situation. We never knew if, when or who had enacted the system. Now that we are clear that who ever physically assists the student to the next area is in charge this is simplified.

What small, but infinitely important things have you and your staff implemented to help in making the day go more smoothly?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Some Interactive Story Sites

  • Myths and Legends is a website dedicated to the tales of the British Isles. There are thirty plus stories here which are read aloud while a picture with animation is also shown on the screen. You can set the narration to auto or turn auto off and place the mouse arrow over next page and put a switch user in control. (The site also contains teacher resources and a story creator program.)
  • Rockford's Rock Opera is an interactive, beautiful, audiobook you watch as on the screen as it plays. It is about a dog named Rockford and his adventures as he learns about ecology. The first chapter is free. It was created, in part, by the World Wildlife Fund.
  • Europe of Tales is a site which shares stories from all around Europe. This site is interactive but is NOT narrated (though a teacher could read aloud the content).
  • FableVision has a variety of telefables and audiostories.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Tray Rack

Some folks out there are envious of our tray rack (and rightly so). Here is the back story on our splendorous tray and backpack storage center. The week before school started at my new job the assistant teacher in my classroom volunteered to help me set up the room. At some point she asked about tray storage and I told her that at my old job we had once had a tray rack built of PVC that lasted about five years before it feel apart (due to poor epoxy) and that it had worked out really well for us. She offered to have her husband make us one if I could find some plans for it.

I scoured the web (which I am quite good at) and could not find plans for a tray rack. I did, however, find some pool float racks sold commercially that were similar to the tray rack we had and an Instructables tutorial to make a tee-shirt drying rack, that with some changes to spacing would work as a tray rack. I sent all of this information along to the assistant teacher.
With the Raft Caddy, you can store pool toys and inflatables without having to deflate them.
The next time she came in she took some measurements of the largest tray (including elbow blocks and other tray add-ons) and brought them back to her husband. Low and behold the next week she came in with the amazing tray rack/backpack shelf you see in the pictures. It is made of wood instead of PVC as he happened to have some extra lumber around which was cheaper than using PVC pipe. Yes the posts of the rack are decorative railings. Aren't they pretty? There is soft foam on the bottom to prevent the trays from being scratched as well.

Across the top of the rack we laid some old clear desk organizer pads we had in a box of old stuff. That little addition makes the tray rack perfect for holding all of the students backpacks during the day. Our tray rack/backpack center is awesome and is working out great.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Join Us!

More and more special needs teachers serving learners with low incidence, intensive or multiple disabilities are joining in discussion at the TLWMSN Ning. Some great discussions have included schedules, morning meeting routines and more. Come join in!


You Don't Say! AAC Conversation of the Day.

The Setting:

Science Class, playing a teacher made game called "5 Healthy Habits" which involves rolling a die, moving your game piece and answering yes or no as to whether or not the picture on your square is part of a healthy habit.

The Conversation

Teacher: You landed on exercise! Yes or no, is exercise a healthy thing to do?

Student, verbally: "No." Followed up by, "Nope!" on AAC device.

Paraprofessional: "Let's call the nurse over and ask her..."

Nurse comes over.

Teacher: "In our game we have the question is exercise a healthy habit. Someone says the answer is no. What do you say as a nurse?"

Nurse: "Oh, yes! Exercise is very healthy! It very important!"

Student: With AAC, "I don't like it!" then with voice, "No!"

Teacher: "Well, just because you don't like something doesn't mean it isn't healthy..."

Student: With AAC device, "I don't like it!" then crosses arms indicating the conversation is over. Then changes mind and presses, "Please, go away!"

A note about the AAC device used: this student uses a Go Talk 20+, upgraded from a Go Talk 9+ just under a week ago. The top row core vocabulary used is "yes", "no", "more", "all done" and "my turn". Across most boards several other squares are also reserved for core vocabulary including the third row down, last two squares, "I am great!", "I am terrible!" and the end of the bottom row, "Please, go away!", "I like it.", "I don't like it! The student is now, in a very short period of time, spontaneously using most of the core vocabulary. This student does not generally visually scan well before choosing, thus static location of core vocabulary is key. The rest of the boxes are used for fringe vocabulary and right now the student has a total of three overlays, morning meeting, social and art (which also works for Unique Curriculum since it usually involves cutting and gluing our answers). We are waiting to see what will be the most useful for the last two overlays.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Cause and Effect for Touch Screens/Interactive Whiteboards

Check out this cool kaleidoscope to use on a touchscreen or SMART board.

Hint: Click on one of the resolutions at the bottom of the screen such as 800x1200 for fullscreen.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Some Stories from the Start of School

Less than a day after a student is upgraded from a Go Talk 9+ to a Go Talk 20+ the teacher and a therapist encourage a student to scoot a chair back, the student does so and is given much praise, looks up and spontaneously presses, "I am great!" on the new speech device.

Teacher and student are leaving the main office, having finished their errand. The student steps (accidentally) on the teachers foot and says, "Ow!" The teacher laughs and says, "You stepped on my foot and you said 'ow'?" The student laughs. A passing instructional assistant says, "That's just a verbal cue to remind you what to say!"

Student (using high tech AAC) requests a particular Barney toy. The teacher, with a lilt of humor in her voice and her hand banging the table says, "There are no purple dinosaurs in high school!" The student smiles and repeats the request. The teacher repeats the reply. This continues back and forth for some time until the teacher records her reply onto a Step-by-Step and allows another student to answer the repeated request. Later in the day the high tech AAC user leaves for a walk outdoors with another class and then returns only to have the Step-by-Step user greet him with, "There are no purple dinosaurs in high school!" The paraprofessional pushing the high tech AAC user's wheelchair jumps in and says, "Oh, my nothing has changed in here since we left! Can you believe that?"

Students are gathered around for morning meeting, which ends with a Video of the Day (VOD) on the big screen. A student makes a request for a certain song and the teacher clicks on it and the video starts. The teacher comments, "Oh my, now I see why you wanted this video, those are some pretty ladies!" Without missing a beat the student blows a huge kiss to the screen.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

More things to do with a switch:

This post is a follow up to 60 Things To Do with a Single Switch. Battery operated items below can be adapted with a battery interrupter and electrical items with an environmental control box like a Power Link.


Arts and Crafts
Cooking/Life Skills

Perma Post Updates

Alternate Format Books and Stories has been updated.

The Learning Program

The Down Syndrome Foundation of Orange County has a free and comprehensive set of learning materials that are appropriate for learners with many different developmental or intellectual working on their Learning Program website.

Included are (you must be logged in to go to most links):

Literacy Materials

Math Materials

Daily Activity Guides

Significant and Profound Disabilities:
Many of the materials would be great for students with very significant to profound intellectual disabilities who are not necessarily working on literacy or numeracy per se. The introductory sight word readers make fantastic photo based vocabulary concept books for our learners working on earlier cognitive skills, as do the Count to Ten book and Counting Fruit book; textures or objects could be added for students with low vision.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Views of Our Room

Disability Awareness

Creature Discomforts is a new site by Leonard Cheshire Disability in the UK which supports and advocates for individuals with disabilities in the UK and around the world. The site features animations that use the real voices and words of those with disabilities as well as games, e-cards, quizzes and screensavers to teach people about disabilities. The games should work on an interactive white board or touch screen or with a mouse emulator such as a joy stick or head tracker. The Flyzz game comes in sight based or audio version and the Tim game works the best of all the games with a single switch (I spent quite a bit of time playing it with a single switch myself).

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Daily Schedule Systems

Visual Schedules
  • use text or images that are typically used in the students communication systems and/or curriculum by that Mayer-Johnson PCS, Tango Images, Imagine Symbols, clip art, Minspeak/Unity symbols - consistency is key
  • use the least restrictive means of conveying the schedule
  • highly recommended in Down Syndrome, Autism and other disabilities where students are typically visual learners
  • highly recommended for students who have difficulties with transitions
  • some specialists recommend presenting the entire schedule in the morning and others recommend a first/next or now/next with and all done box approach; data are scare but it is generally believed that so some students a full schedule is too overwhelming and a first/next is easier to cope with; some teachers only present as many schedule items as the student can cope with in a choice making array (i.e. if a student can make choices from a field of four then now and the next four items in the schedule are presented but if the child makes choices from a field of one, an error free field of two or two then first/next is used)
  • many, many formats can be used, right to left is preferred for pre-readers, but vertical may be useful as well, divided flip charts (I have one of these posted at Adapted Learning) can be used or a whole class schedule can be used if everyone follows the same schedule
  • consider fading use of the system as you would any other support or fading to a more natural system like a to do list, day planner or a cell phone calendar as to be more like typical peers
  • many companies sell commercially made visual schedule systems such as AugCom Resources, Silverlining, Enabling Devices and more

Object Schedules A/k/A Calendar Boxes
  • used for those who are blind, deafblind or pre-symbolic communicators - consistency is key (only know as calendar boxes in deafblind field)
  • always use the same object for the same activities
  • use the same objects as are used for communication
  • objects should be those used in the activity or otherwise be part of the activity (spoon for mealtime - not just any spoon but their spoon or one that is exactly the same) if a real object cannot be used/found (it is too big) use a part of a real object (vinyl to represent the physical therapy mat table or a chain to represent a swing outside); consider having them actually use the item in the calendar box in the activity (bring the spoon to the table and eat with it); try not to use miniatures unless you are sure the student understands them
  • allow students and families to be part of the process of choosing objects
  • it is recommended to present objects from left to right (pre-Braille/pre-reading)
  • there is some debate over attaching or somehow embedding objects into or onto a card or book as this may cause the object to loss meaning as it is loses a dimension, think carefully before you decide to attach objects to tri-wall or some other material, ask yourself, "Will this still be a ____ to this student if it is attached?" (For example is a spoon a spoon to Joey if it is glued to a card?)
  • some specialists recommend presenting the entire schedule in the morning and others recommend a first/next/all done approach; data are scare (see above)
  • as symbolic communication emerges grow the system with the vocabulary of the student
  • use plastic or cardboard shoe boxes attached together and tactically labeled or commercially sold calendar boxes
Texture Symbol Schedules
  • used for students who are blind or deafblind and are symbolic communicators
  • students should choose textures with staff/family
  • otherwise same as above
Visual Schedules
Object Schedules A/k/A Calendar Boxes

My Teacher, My Hero

My Teacher My Hero
Launching today is a new website, My Teacher, My Hero, where individuals can post the story of a teacher who inspired them. Starting with six stories including a MLB player, an Olympic Champion, a CEO, a blogger and more the site promises to show the world the difference a teacher can make.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Lincoln Links

For those working on the Middle School level of the Unique Learning System this month.

Interactive Websites/Power Points
Arts and Crafts
  • sensory bin filled with pennies (not for kiddos who will mouth them)
  • sensory bin filled with Lincoln logs, build with them and use switch toys to knock them down
  • sort coins/wrap coins, especially pennies

Germs and Flu Prevention

Re-Post from September 23, 2007

School is back and session and thus student and teacher exposure to colds and flus is back as well and the special needs room is no exception. During my camping trip this weekend I was hit with the nasty head cold that several of my students and a few of the adults in my room had during last week. That means it is time for me to teach my annual germ lesson.

Green Glitter Germs Lesson Plan

Lesson objective: to teach students how germs spread and techniques for minimizing the spread of germs

Materials: green glitters, Kleenex, sink (or a basin and pitcher of water) soap ( preferably pump soap), sequence strip of hand washing steps, fantastic or another cleaner, paper towels, sequence strip of washing surfaces with a spray cleaner, large picture symbol and text based rules depicting germ protection rules (cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and/or crook of arm, wash hands before and after sneeze, cough, nose blowing, touching face, eating and using rest room, wash tables and desks every day and more often if you are sick, stay home if you are sick, wear a germ mask if you have a cold and come to school)

1. elicit a working definition of "germs", usually something along the lines of tiny bugs that cannot be seen without a microscope that can make people and animal sick
2. explain to the students that during this lesson the green glitter will be germs
3. Without the students seeing loisten your hand and fill the palm of with green glitter and then pretend to sneeze tossing the glitter out in front of your mouth as you do. Most students will have a big reaction to the "germs" landing on them.
4. Elicit an explanation of what happened when you sneezed. Ask the students what you could have done differently, try to get to the answer, "covered your mouth with a tissue".
5. As you are having this discussion pat the students on the shoulders, give high fives and shake hands with students and adults -- get green glitter on as many people and surfaces as possible.
6. Secretly get more glitter and "sneeze" again, cover your mouth with your tissue and your hands. Put the green glitter covered tissue (the green glitter you just rubbed all over the tissue) down on the table or desk in front of the student the most likely to tell you to get it off and throw it away. When asked to do this elicit a reason why and then throw it away.
7. Keep sneezing or coughing and shaking hands and giving high fives talking in complex terms about germs and viruses and how viruses dock into mucous membranes. It is not important that the students retain any of what you are saying at this point you want a visceral reaction to how the green glitter germs are getting on everything and everybody. For good measure touch your nose and around your mouth to be sure there is green glitter there. Keep going until it appears everyone gets the idea and is at least noticing how pervasive the green glitter has become.
8. Stop talking and ask the students who are having the most visible reactions what is wrong. Establish the fact that the green glitter germs have spread all over the room and are now on the clothing, hands and faces of many people. Ask to students to write a plan to eliminate the green glitter germs.
9. Write out the plan on the board or a flip chart. It should include everyone washing their hands and faces with soap and water, all of the tables and chairs being sprayed and washed with Fantastic or 409 or another cleaner.
10. Review the steps for hand washing with the sequence strip, post the strip and have the students line up and wash faces and hands, starting with you as a model. Have them stay standing in a line when done as to not get more green glitter on themselves by sitting back at glitter covered tables/desks.
11. Review the steps for cleaning tables desks with the sequence strip and then assist the students in cleaning the tables and desks.
12. Once the clean up is done have the students brainstorm a list of rules for stopping the spread of germs and then have them all sign it. Consider making a strip of symbols of each rule for each desk, tray or table.
13. Finish by drawing off a section of the board and asking students to report places they see green glitter germs over the next few days (you will be shocked at how far the glitter gets).

1. keep data on how frequently students engage in germ stopping behaviors, challenge them to get better at it
2. give a germ stopper quiz you design to be appropriate to your ability students

I strongly recommend the It's A SNAP link. It is a curriculum to help a team set up an absenteeism prevention campaign based on hand washing. But even if you aren't interested in setting up a campaign the tool kit has great ideas, curriculum, connections to standards and more.

More Social Skills Stories from Mayer-Johnson includes "Scott Snot" and "Sneeze Louise"
The Common Cold Prevention and Treatment
Kids Talk: An Ounce of Prevention
Germs at Adapted Learning
Flu at Adapted Learning

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Kisses Are For Home

With the H1N1 Swine Flu and the importance of preventing the spread of germs and universal precautions plus the need to pay attention to age appropriateness and abuse prevention there is a need for some students to work on remembering that "Kisses are for Home". Of course, when changing any behavior it is important for us as educators to realize the function of the behavior (all behaviors are communication) and then teach and reward a replacement behavior. One function of kissing (and hugging) staff and peers at school is simply that a kiss (or hug) is easier than using verbal or augmentative communication to express affection or appreciation. A high five, smile and wink (depending on the setting) or a sign language "I love you" can be taught as a replacement. Verbal or AAC using students can be taught replacements phrases as well. Below is a communication board I will be introducing to a student next week.

On an RSS reader? You may need to visit the site to see the board.

Another New Blogger on the Block

Exceptional Students in the Classroom is another new blog to join the intensive special needs/multiple disabilities blogging party. Head on over and check it out. It is so exciting how many blogs are now out there written for and by teachers in this small corner of the special education field!

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