Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sensory Saturday--Classroom Reference Guide FREEBIE

Over the last several weeks I have featured many sensory items that I feel are "must haves" for the special needs classrooms.

I have compiled all of these ideas in this easy classroom reference guide FREEBIE.

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Friday, October 19, 2012

Apple Art Activities

Every fall we do a unit on apples. There are so many awesome apple resources out there and it is such an easy topic to integrate across subject areas.

This year we tried two new art activities that incorporated apples. The first project we did was stained glass apple art using contact paper and tissue paper squares. 

I loved this activity because it was easily accessible for my student who struggles with fine motor control. I just had to hand him the tissue paper and point to where he should place it and then he would stick it to the contact paper. Typically if we do cutting or gluing activities we have to work hand-over-hand so it was great to have an activity that promoted his independence.
Putting the tissue paper on all by himself!
The table easel helps him see his art.
Our finished stained glass apples

I got the idea for another fun art activity through pinterest. We did apple rolling painting and the kids LOVED it! We used it as a language building and direction following activity. The kids each took a turn making their painting but their classmates gave them directions on which color to use and how to tilt the box. It was fun and since we used a box it was fairly mess free (my hands were the only messy ones from taking the paint covered apples in and out of the box). 
Getting started
Using Proloquo2go to tell a friend which color apple to paint with next
Telling a friend which way to tip the box
Tipping the box to make the apple roll
More tipping and rolling!
Looking good so far!
A finished creation!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Think About It Thursday--Paraprofessionals

Karlie at We Are ALL Special! recently wrote a post asking about the roles of paraprofessionals in our classrooms. Originally I was going to just comment on her post but as I started thinking about all the things my wonderful paras do I realized it was too much for one comment! So I decided to sum it up on this week's Think About It Thursday post...

I have two paras (Miss J and Miss T) that have been with me for 6 years (which is my entire classroom teaching career!). Since we all started out together and have been together for so long we have really developed an amazing team (if I do say so myself!). I have a hard time envisioning my classroom without them. We each have different strengths and weaknesses and we have learned over the years how to balance each other out and I plan our schedule and assign roles accordingly.

For instance, I can be a scatter-brain during the day because I am always thinking about the 22 emails I haven't read yet, which IEP is due next week, how to change this students communication device and that students behavior plan, and who hasn't turned in the permission slip for our field trip. Therefore, I have no room in my crazy brain for the "every day" stuff like setting up visual schedules, resetting penny charts, heating up lunches, clearing out the fridge, and stacking chairs. This is where Miss T comes to the rescue! If it wasn't for her I wouldn't remember half of these things until the kids were walking in the door at 8am and then I would really be a scattered mess!!

Miss T is also unbelievably patient. So she is the go-to person for working with kids who can push buttons (who my kids?! NEVER!) or for working with kids that need 10000000 repetitions to master a skill.

Miss T is also the lead para for our "medium" group of kids. So while we rotate reading, writing, and math groups she stays with the medium group and takes care of all of their needs. This includes helping with sensory concerns, redirecting, bathroom breaks, progress monitoring, 1on1 work to differentiate, group material prep, and whatever else might come up!

Miss J is my organizer. She keeps all of our theme files from getting out of control and gets our materials copied and prepped each week (If my brain sounds scattered you should see my desk!). She is also extremely independent so I have her lead a lot of small groups. I provide guidance as far as group goals, daily focus, and overseeing activities but she takes charge of planning her own activities and making modifications as needed. This is wonderful because I think when you plan your own activities you have more ownership so you a) better understand the desired outcome and b) are more likely to be invested in them. For example, I would much rather implement a lesson I personally created than implement a lesson out of a teacher's manual.

Miss J is also the one I rely on to help me figure out all the "bugs" in a plan. Since she leads her own groups, she sees the kids perform some skills more regularly than I do. Therefore, she knows if something isn't working and she will come to me so we can find a solution. Sometimes when I present my aides with an idea, it still needs some work. Miss J will be the one who asks all the questions that make me think "Hmmm I didn't think about that!". This is great because it helps us work out all the variables before trying something new. I would much rather my aides look at me like I am crazy when I come up with a plan than have a group of students looking at me like that! Additionally, Miss J is my confidant. She is the person I know will give me honest feedback about what is going well and what we need to work on. This type of communication is key to creating a great team.

These are just a few of the things my paras do for our classroom. Here is a general list adapted from my Paraprofessional Handbook

  • Supervise students in hallway, lunchroom, and playground situations
  • Assist students with daily toileting, self-care, and feeding needs
  • Lift/transfer individuals from floor to wheelchair, chair to floor, chair to various other furniture/equipment (after receiving proper training from therapist or teacher)
  • Supervise free play activities.
  • Attend team planning (we meet for 1 hour weekly after school to discuss student/classroom concerns and plan for the following week)
  • With classroom teacher guidance, fill in weekly lesson plan template for groups
  • With classroom teacher guidance, lead daily groups
  • Gather needed materials for groups
  • Record data for groups and transfer to IEP progress monitoring sheets
  • Collaborate with classroom teachers and paraprofessionals to plan group activities
  • Assist with additional classroom material prep (copies, lamination, cutting)
  • Make Boardmaker visuals as requested by classroom teacher
  • Assist students with end-of-day jobs
  • Sanitize desks and tables, student chairs, and counters in bathroom and kitchen area
  • Supervise students during morning work
  • Grade papers (non-IEP related)
  • Gather needed supplies needed for weekly cooking/art activity (my paras each teach one of these)
  • Sharpen pencils
  • Assist classroom teacher with reading parent notes in student binders
  • Refill reinforcer bins

As I am sure you can tell, my paras are busy, busy, busy in our room! How do you utilize the paras in your classroom? Or how are paras used in your building?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I've been BOO'd!

I am so lucky to have been "BOO'd" by Karlie at We Are ALL Special! Karlie is a fellow SpEd who always gives me great ideas in her blog posts and great feedback on my posts. Thanks Karlie!

Cynthia at 2nd Grade Pad is hosting this BOO'D linky.  Here are the rules:

1. Choose a fellow blogger that has MORE followers2. A blogger that has about the SAME number of followers3. Someone that has LESS followers4. Highlight their blogs with links to encourage others to check them out
5. Don't forget to let your fellow bloggers know that you shared about them.  6. Lastly, leave them some love by offering them a goody from your store as their "treat."

MORE Followers
Alicia at Keeping it True in K-1-2

Alicia also has a self-contained K-2 classroom so I get a lot of great ideas from her that I can use in my classroom with my kiddos. In addition to great ideas, she also has awesome freebies & TpT stuff!

SAME Followers
Sarah at Learning is for Superstars

Sarah is a First grade teacher with tons of cute activities and ideas that I like to use for my "higher" kids who work on typical academics.

LESS Followers
Amy at The Puzzling World of Autism
I love finding fellow bloggers who work with kids with autism since that is my passion. Amy has a wonderful blog with lots of practical ideas for making a classroom autism-friendly.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Take a Break Tuesday--Slow Cooker Chili Chicken Tacos

Today's post is another amazing recipe from Martha Stewart...Slow-Cooker Chili Chicken Tacos. Unlike the Shepard's Pie I posted on a few weeks ago these are super easy since you basically just have to throw everything in the crock pot and let it do all the work for you. 

Another reason these tacos are awesome is because they are lighter and more refreshing than their ground beef counterpart. I have been making them for years and everyone who tries them always wants the recipe. 

Here are some tips that I have learned:
1. I prefer using soft tortillas over corn shells. 
2. Use fresh salsa or pico de gallo from the deli instead of jarred salsa...huge difference!
3. Look for big bushels of cilantro in the produce area instead of the little packages near the other fresh spices. The bushels are cheaper for tons more!

Here are some tips specifically about Chilis in Adobo:
1. Chilis in Adobo are hard to find. They are usually in the international aisle by the authentic canned mexican salsa. 
2. Chilis in Adobo are HOT! Use sparingly especially since you are adding chili powder unless you really like spicy food. Once my boyfriend didn't read the recipe and put in the whole can. I couldn't even eat the tacos! If you don't like spicy food just skip the chilis. 
3. Chilis in Adobo can be pricey. Remember my trick about freezing pesto in ice cube trays? This is perfect for the chilis as well. 

Slow-Cooker Chili Chicken Tacos


  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 6)
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup prepared tomato salsa, plus more for serving (optional)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 8 hard corn taco shells
  • Cilantro, shredded cheese, lime wedges, and sour cream, for serving (optional)


  1. In slow cooker, combine chicken, garlic, salsa, chiles, chili powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and teaspoon pepper. Cover; cook on high, 4 hours (or on low, 8 hours).
  2. Transfer chicken to a serving bowl, and shred, using two forks; moisten with cooking juices. Serve in taco shells, with toppings, if desired.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Fall and Halloween Gross Motor Movements FREEBIE

Our kids only get MD gym once per week because we split our large group into two smaller groups. On the alternate day when a group is not at specials we do gross motor or modified yoga.

Typically we try to align our gross motor activities with whatever theme we are studying that week. A lot of our activities we stream from Activity TV which is a super awesome site that our kids love. We use the yoga videos and pretend play videos (which we make visual cue cards for).

Over the past few weeks I have seen some great themed gross motor cards on different blogs and I decided to compile some ideas and make some of my own for our morning movement time to go with our fall and Halloween themes.

Enjoy these cards as this week's FREEBIE!

Click HERE for this Fall & Halloween Gross Motor Movements FREEBIE!

Welcome Manic Monday visitors from Classroom Freebies! I hope you like this fall FREEBIE and come back soon for more freebies and fun!

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sensory Saturday--Seating

There are tons of seating options available that also provide sensory input. 

Therapy Balls
Therapy balls are great for kids who need an alternative seating option. Students need to be alert in order to balance their weight on the ball. I also use the therapy ball to provide proprioceptive input (deep pressure by rolling it firmly over a student who is laying on the carpet). A therapy ball can also be used for students who need vestibular input  (rocking back and forth or bouncing). 

"Wiggle" Cushions
I typically use these with my "wiggly" kiddos. Wiggle seats can give some of the same input as the therapy ball but are easier to implement in the classroom (especially in the general ed room) because they are smaller and don't stand out as much. There are a lot of varieties and textures. Last year I had a student who needed something to do with his hands when he was trying to focus but was easily distracted when given a fidget and didn't like using a fidget in general ed. Sitting on the wiggle seat he could rub the texture and it was more discrete and less distracting.

 Howda Hug
I have a student who is unable to sit "criss-cross" on the carpet because he doesn't have the needed core strength. Additionally, he struggled with boundaries and would often be turned completely around by the end of activity. At first he used a preschool cube chair but I wanted something to help him sit on the carpet like the rest of the kids. The howda hug has been perfect for this. It provides a backrest for core support as well as a boundary.

Like a therapy ball, a T-stool requires focus to balance. I have used the T-stool for those students who have not had success with a wiggle seat or therapy ball. A lot of students get frustrated at first with the T-stool because they are hard to sit on but when used correctly (intermittently with breaks) they work well for helping kids focus.

Rocking Chair
A rocking chair can be a way to provide calming, vestibular input and give students a break. 

Bean Bag Chair
A bean bag chair is a great place for a student to take a break and listen to music or read a book. The “hug” of the chair around students can provide some deep pressure input and for students who struggle with sitting due to weak core strength it gives their body a break too.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Match-Select-Say Reteaching Procedures FREEBIE

In Monday's post about Teaching Numeration to Students with Moderate-Intensive Needs, I shared a very specific procedure that I use when introducing new concepts to my students that I adapted from the book Teaching Reading to Children with Downs Syndrome by Patricia Logan Oelwein.

I refer to this method of teaching as the Match-Select (Receptive ID)-Say (Expressive ID) procedure and I have found it to be extremely useful for the neediest of my students. Additionally, the procedure can be modified to teach a variety of concepts. This is especially helpful when working with students who have a large variety of concepts they need to learn. Typically this is my severely autistic population who generally do not pick up on basic concepts through exposure in their environment. The procedure of matching can be used to match identical pictures, matching pictures to objects, or (for higher students) for matching words to the picture. The receptive and expressive identification is used on whichever concept I am targeting (object vocabulary, picture vocabulary, word vocabulary, etc).

Typically during a one-on-one session with a student I will start with quizzing them on previously introduced topics. It is this quiz data that I use to determine their level of mastery. Then, I reteach any missed items using the procedures in this handout FREEBIE.

I hope that my readers find this handout to be helpful. Once I learned these strategies it greatly changed the way I introduce and review material with my neediest students. I think it has made an incredible difference in their ability to retain information. Additionally, it has provided a much needed structure to my vocabulary and sight word curriculum that I did not have previously because I do not follow a specific program.

Enjoy!! :)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Take a Break Tuesday--OCD Closet

A benefit of living in a 3 bedroom house with no kids is LOTS of closet space. This is half of my "work clothes" closet. (I have a "play clothes" closet in our office room). Having two huge closets is AWESOME! But they can easily get messy so its a good thing I am a little bit OCD! 

First, I have hangers turned inward and outward depending on when the clothes were last worn. At the end of last school year, I turned all of my hangers the wrong way. Throughout this year as I wear and wash an item I will return it with the hanger the right way. Then, at the end of this school year I will take any clothing that is still turned the wrong way and donate it. This is a super simple organization tip given that makes cleaning out the closet each year so easy! No more "I think I will wear this again" when you haven't worn something for a whole year! It also makes outfit planning kind of easy because I can see what items haven't been worn in a while. The one thing that I cannot part with however is all of my button down shirts that I wore student teacher. For some reason I think I will some day be in a job that doesn't involve getting down on the classroom floor doing yoga, getting slobbered on, and constantly fearing getting splattered with paint, food, or snot. As an elementary MD teacher that day is not in the near future! 

Another OCD thing about my closet is the way it is organized by length. Bottoms are organized by leg length: skirts/shorts, capris, pants. Shirts are organized by sleeve length: tanks, short sleeve, 3/4 sleeve, long sleeve. Then come the sweater-wraps and dresses. Sweaters and school logo sweatshirts are in a hanging sweater box. This organization makes it SO much easier to pick an outfit in the morning. I am totally not a morning person! (I do try to pick out all of my outfits for the week on Sunday evening but sometimes I forget due to Sunday night programming. I love Big Brother, Celebrity Apprentice and especially WALKING DEAD!!

The final thing is just a little OCD. I have to put all of my empty hangers in a crate. I cannot leave them hanging. My boyfriend leaves his hanging and just grabs them at laundry time. I don't know why that bugs me so much! Especially since we don't even share a closet! 

Does anyone else have any OCD closet tendencies? What are they?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Teaching Numeration to Students with Moderate-Intensive Needs (with FREEBIES!)

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Welcome Manic Monday friends! I hope you find this week's numeration FREEBIE to be useful and that you see some other helpful information on my blog. 

This year I have 7 students who are just beginning to learn their numbers. Initially, I tried finding cutesy number activities that aligned with our weekly theme. However, I quickly learned that these activities we too complicated for this particular group of kids. 

This group has many needs. Most of them struggle visually, either due to vision issues such as difficulty with tracking or visual attention or due to visual sensory sensitivity. Therefore games that featured apples or buses that just happened to have numbers in the middle of them were too hard for these students to process visually and they were unable to focus on the most important aspect of the activity, the number. 

Additionally, this group needs TONS of repetitions and structure. The need to repeat saying the number, seeing the number, and counting that number of objects. Additionally, I needed to find a way to present the new information/number in a similar way to how I taught the previous number. This eliminates several variables such as needing to teach them new directions to an activity or the students needing to learn to process information given in a different way. The most important goal was for them to learn the numbers. After they master the numbers, then I will begin using other activities to assist with generalization. 

Finally, due to the visual and processing needs, these students also struggled with any one-to-one correspondence activities. Again, I felt I needed to find a way to teach the act of counting in a very structured way. 

I am now in the process of creating a modified numeration curriculum for this set of students. This is what I have created so far:

1. Daily Powerpoint Review 
(requires 1 copy of powerpoint presentation to be projected)
  • Project number review powerpoint on whiteboard 
  • Have students take turns identifying previously introduced numbers. 
    • Hide any slides of numbers that have not been introduced. 
    • Various colors used to address visual sensory needs.
  • For additional sensory input have students stand on an uneven surface (one foot on phone books, rockerboard, etc.)
Click Here to Download Powerpoint FREEBIE!

I adapted steps 2-4 from the book Teaching Reading to Children with Down Syndrome. I have found this match, select, say method to be extremely useful when teaching basic concepts (sight word reading, vocabulary, numbers, letters, etc) to my neediest learners and it is my form of Discrete Trial Training since I don't have a specific DTT program. In my opinion, the most important aspect of this method is keeping it very fast paced. This keeps the student engaged and trains their brain to work quickly. Here is a great example of DTT. I love her pacing. 

2. Match
(requires 2 sets of flashcards, copied on cardstock and laminated for durability
  • Introduce target number flashcard, say number, and have student repeat
  • Lay flashcard in front of student.
  • Introduce identical flashcard, say number, have student repeat
  • Give flashcard to student and instruct to match (“Put 3 on 3”).
  • Repeat 5x.

3. Select (Receptive ID)
(requires 1 set of flashcards, copied on cardstock and laminated for durability)

  • Lay out a field of 3 number cards (1 target, 2 mastered)
    • If introducing number 1 use 2 blank distracter cards
  • Direct student to touch cards in random order (Touch 2, Touch 1, Touch 3)
  • Rearrange cards and repeat 5x
    • If students struggle with this step, return to Matching and repeat steps
4. Say (Expressive ID)
(requires 1 set of flashcards, copied on cardstock and laminated for durability)

  • Shuffle cards and have student identify each one
  • Place easily ID’d cards aside and shuffle missed cards back into stack
    • If student struggles with this step, return to Selecting and repeat steps

My Number Book 

  • MODIFICATION: Fold along solid lines to limit visual field if needed
  • Color Number
    • extra exposure to number
    • repeat number several times while students color (“I like how you colored number 2”, “You’re 5 looks great”, etc)
  • Touch and Count
    • Have students point to the numbers as they count
  • Color and Count
    • Have students count as they color the stars
    • MODIFICATION: Use bingo dotters if student is unable to color quickly while counting
  • Cover and Count
    • using counter discs or tokens, have students cover black dots as the count out the designated number of items
Click Here to Download My Number Book FREEBIE!

Generalization/Multisensory Practice

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Sensory Saturday--Deep Pressure

Proprioceptive (also called deep pressure or heavy work) input is the type that I use most often because it is sort of the "default" that you should use when you aren't quite sure what the student needs. This is because deep pressure has a calming effect. For more information about deep pressure you can read about it here

Weighted Vest
Some students need deep pressure during activities. Typically these kids are the ones you see bouncing off your classroom walls or who seem overly anxious. A weighted vest provides a calming effect. 

This is another way to provide proprioceptive (deep pressure) input. We have our steamroller in a sensory room at school and kids who need a break will go to the room and roll through the steamroller several times. 

Weighted Lap Pads
Some students don't like the constricting feeling of the weighted vest but they still need the weighted pressure so I give them a weighted lap pad. This is also the more discrete option for general ed classrooms.

Pressure or Benik Vest
A pressure vest provides deep pressure to a students torso. The vest pictured is a Benik vest which is typically sized specifically to one student. I am sure there is a method to when to use a weighted vest and when to use a pressure vest but I don't know what it is. I typically try both and see which one the student prefers. 

 Body Sock
At first I thought Body Socks were bizarro! But they worked so I quickly started to love them. They are great for those kids who have trouble with boundaries and knowing where they body is in space because it makes a physical boundary around them.

Therabands are also great for working on strength and resistance. Another great way to use them is by tying them to a child's chair leg for those kids who seem to constantly be kicking you under the table. The band allows them to kick but protects your shins by providing a boundary.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Take a Break Tuesday-- Blogging Desk

Greetings from my "blogging desk". I do most of my blogging from my desk in my home office because that is where I am most focused. At school I always have a million other things to do, while on our laptop I am typically too distracted by the TV, and I hate typing long posts on my phone (although I do use the Blogger app to attach most of the pictures to my posts because it is SUPER EASY!).

Some things I love about my desk area include:

  1. Mug of Tea: During the school year, I am constantly drinking tea between the hours of 7:00 and 4:00. On weekdays it is for necessity. On weekends it is to relax. The biggest difference between weekday and weekend tea is I actually have time to drink a whole mug of weekend tea before it gets cold. This NEVER happens with weekday tea!
  2. Newspaper Baskets: Anybody who has read a few of my Take a Break Tuesday posts has probably figured out that I LOVE PIER ONE! And these were another great Pier One find. The small one on the far left is for electronic stuff (USB cords, old cell phones, camera chargers, etc), the one in the center is for papers that need to be filed, and the one on the right is for papers that need to be recycled. 
  3. Blog Notebook: As you may already know I am a list-aholic. I keep this notebook full of ideas for future blog posts. 
  4. Desktop Post-its: In addition to the adorable picture of my little cousin, my desktop has several desktop post-its which I think are the best thing in the world! I list movies and books I am interested in and I keep the link on how to embed a hyperlink on a blog comment there because I can NEVER remember it! If you have Windows 7 you should already have desktop post-its. 
  5. Stereo: You can hardly see the speaker here but while blogging or doing anything on my computer I am always playing music on Spotify. 

Where do you do all your best blogging? Do you have any blogging must-haves?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sensory Saturday--Auditory and Visual Sensitivity

 Gym Mat
A gym mat is a very versatile sensory tool. It can be use for practicing yoga or s'cool moves, made into an awesome tunnel, or used to block off an area that is too distracting or a child who is too distractable. 

I have only started using music frequently in my classroom over the past couple years. Last year I used it for a student who would continually chatter during group work. We felt he was doing this because he was trying to cancel out some of the other classroom noises and it was like he was creating his own "white noise". Although this chattering may have been calming to him it was awful for the rest of us to endure! Playing  steady, calming music through headphones on low enough volume that it gave input but he could still hear me teach did the trick. I also use this calming music for kids whose engines are too revved up or for a calming break between activities.

Light Covers
A lot of my students are sensitive to the awful fluorescent lights that every school seems to have. In my little classroom I am able to switch off one of the light switches and my room is still lit fine throughout. However, in some of the bigger rooms switching off lights means a whole section of the room is dark. These blue light covers are perfect for this. Another option if you can get maintenance to do it is taking out some of the bulbs from each of your lights. I have one student who is still sensitive and he is allowed to wear a baseball cap all day.

Noise-Cancelling/Reducing Headphones
School can be a noisy place! Especially during assemblies or for my students with autism who are super sensitive to noise. Over the years I have had students who were "screamers" and I wish I would have had a set of noise-cancelling headphones for the whole class (including me!). 

It is common for kids with sensory issues to need a safe place to "escape" from the stressful school environment. Scheduling time for a student to have a tent break is a great way to provide a place for this escape. The tent can block out all of the visual stimulation of the classroom. I have had several students who were not quite ready for the classroom due to their sensory defensiveness. Typically these kiddos were kindergarteners with autism who had had limited experiences outside of their own homes. For these students, I allowed them use a tent within my classroom. At first, they would spend a lot of the day within the tent coping with the new environment. The tent was a safe place for them in the stressful new environment. Gradually we worked on getting them more accustomed to us (either by sharing the tent with them for play activities) or by setting up opportunities that were fun and not threatening outside of the tent. This eventually led to less and less time in the tent and eventually full inclusion within our classroom.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Take a Break Tuesday--Cheddar Topped Shepard's Pie

My boyfriend loves shepard's pie and when we first started dating I hated it! That was until I found this amazing recipe (from Martha Stewart of course!). 

I will not lie, this recipe is on the more time-consuming side, however it makes enough to feed two people for 3-4 days and it is super yummy so it is worth it! According to the website the filling and topping can be made a day ahead of time. I have never tried it but that is good to know! Another tip that I have used is freezing the extra tomato paste in an ice cube tray to save for next time since you will not have to use the whole can.

Martha's Cheddar-Topped Shepard's Pie


  • 2 pounds baking potatoes (about 4), peeled and thinly sliced
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, such as safflower
  • 6 medium carrots, halved lengthwise, quartered if large, and thinly sliced
  • 6 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 pounds ground beef chuck
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded sharp white cheddar (6 ounces)


  1. Preheat oven to 450. Place potatoes in a large saucepan, and cover by 1 inch with salted water. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife, 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium-high. Add carrots, celery, onion, and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add flour and tomato paste; cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add beef; cook, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink, 6 to 8 minutes. Add 1 cup water; bring to a boil, and simmer 1 minute. Set beef filling aside.
  3. Drain potatoes; return to pan. Cook over medium, stirring, until liquid has evaporated and a thin film covers bottom of pan, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat; add milk and 1 cup cheese. Mash until smooth; season cheddar-potato topping with salt and pepper.
  4. Pour beef filling into a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Drop dollops of topping over filling; spread to edges with a spatula. Using a fork, make decorative peaks; sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake until topping is browned and filling is bubbling rapidly, about 20 minutes (if topping and filling were chilled, increase to 35 minutes). Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sensory Saturday--Movement

Mini Trampoline
A mini trampoline can give vestibular input (from jumping up and down) and proprioceptive input (from the pressure of jumping). I have used a mini trampoline for kids who need to wake up their systems in the and for kids who need to get some energy out.


A swing is another way to provide vestibular input and can be calming. 


A scooterboard can provide a range of movement input. By pulling a student on a scooterboard you can provide vestibular input which is calming. If you whip the scooterboard in a circle (safely!) or zig-zag it back and forth this input would be alerting. If you have a student pull themselves with their ahands (as pictured) or if you sit on the scooterboard and have them pull you it is proprioceptive input.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Take a Break Tuesday--Girly Spare Room

I use our spare room to get ready before school every morning so I have completely taken it over. For this reason it is the "girliest" room in the house. Here are some of the girly decorations:

The lighting of this pic isn't ideal but this is showing the "girly" 3D flower decorations from Bed Bath and Beyond that are over the bed and stretch to the adjacent wall. 

Here is one of my favorite "girly" and functional pieces. It is a homemade earring holder. I love having my earrings on display and it makes picking a pair easy in the early morning hours. 

Here is my "girly" necklace display from Pier One (favorite decorating store ever!). Again having them all on display it makes it very easy to pick a necklace in the morning.

Here is my vanity area. Some of the "girly" features are the cotton lace runner (Target--second favorite decoration store), cute straighter plate (Pier One), picture tree turned bracelet holder (Pier One), and antiquey looking jewelry box (not an actual antique... it is of course from Pier One). 

Some features are just sentimental too. The mirror my mom has had since she was in her twenties, the dresser was from my first very own bedroom set that I picked out when I was about 9 (notice those super cool chunky drawer pulls!), and the bowl in the back I purchased at a local art high school fundraiser where the students made the bowls and served soup in them.