Thursday, August 30, 2012

Think About It Thursdays--Growing Number of High Needs Kids in Lower Grades

As most of my readers know, I was just moved to a new building in order to combine our districts 3 elementary MD units. Due to numbers we originally decided to split the kids by gradeand ended up with 2 K-2nd units and 1 3rd-5th unit. Since then our numbers in the K-2 units have increased even more! Now we have 15 kids split between the K-2 rooms, and 6 in the 3-5 room.

What is going on with these K-2 kids?! Not only is there more of them but their needs are significantly greater. This is especially true when it comes to the medically fragile kids. I have learned more about trachs, seizures, feeding tubes, Diastat, medicine pumps, and shunts than I ever imagined I would when I started!

We have a high military population and our local base (WPAFB) is known for having a program for families with children with special needs so this could very likely be the reason so many kids are flooding our rooms. But I was wondering if other elementary SpEds in other areas are seeing this significant increase in special needs within the younger grades too?

What do you think the cause of this increase is? I find it really interesting that the increase in my building is so significant from one three year band to the next!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

How to Help a Student in a Wheelchair--HELP!

This year has been the craziest yet! The challenge of moving to a new building has been magnified by the addition of two more EXTREMELY needy kids!

I have one student in particular I was wondering if any readers could give me some ideas on. I have concerns in several areas of our school day:

The student has a wheelchair, but is able to physically sit in a regular class chair for up to 30 minutes. However, while at the table he bangs his hands on it, kicks the foot support, and grabs at other student materials. Needless to say, this is not ideal table behavior and it makes the other kids very uneasy.

Everything I put in this child's hand either goes straight into his mouth or is thrown across the room. He has also hit other kids with things he has thrown which again makes them uneasy. Mom has been sending in a blanket that he enjoys chewing on which reduces the chewing on everything else. However, this does not address the issue of not being able to put anything in his hand.

A lot of our school day takes place up at the board whether that means placing manipulatives in the pocket chart or on the calendar or using the interactive whiteboard. This poses an additional issue for this child because it is hard for him to physically get to the board either because his wheelchair won't fit or because he really resists walking (with assistance).

I don't have any specific questions beyond WHAT DO I DO?!?! I have never felt this clueless about a student. And I HATE having to resort to a paraprofessional taking him to the other side of the room to work privately. This is just totally not my style! I pride myself on being able to differentiate for all of my kids and this child has really got me stumped! Additionally, with 7 other high-need kiddos being short an aide is awful!

To top it all off I need to write a 30-day review IEP by September 21st and I have NO idea what to do!! The last IEP he had addresses locating his name, matching objects, and receptively identifying colors. None of these things seem realistic at this time.

Any ideas or links to resources would be GREATLY appreciated!

Thanks blog friends!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Take a Break Tuesday--Hoover Vacuum

Last Christmas the biggest gift I wanted was a new vacuum. So I did some research using Consumer Reports and was very excited with this find:  The Hoover T-Series Wind Tunnel Rewind Plus Bagless Upright.

I HATE  DESPISE   LOATHE vacuuming...but I was super excited when I got this little gem (You know you are getting old when the gift you get SUPER excited for at Christmas is a vacuum). Here are some of the wonderful things I love about my vacuum. 

  1. It was cheap (about $100 at Target)
  2. The cord retracts at the push of a button... how cool is that?! Probably my favorite feature
  3. No bag and a washable filter
  4. Canister is very easy to empty and clean (gets pretty dusty in there though!)
  5. Super light
  6. Cute green color which matches my kitchen walls 
  7. Great suction... cleaned up dirt even after 2 previous steam cleans
  8. Attachments are really easy to attach 

An added bonus is that my boyfriend also loves this vacuum because I will actually help with the vacuuming instead of running away and/or getting all whiny about it! 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Paraprofessional Survival Kit--FREEBIE

This year we have six paraprofessionals that we truly could not live without! This summer my teaching team and I worked hard to come up with a paraprofessional handbook to streamline our classroom procedures and communicate our expectations to our paras (old and new!). 

To go with our handbooks, I made these Paraprofessional Survival Kits. They include lots of the essential items (mostly office supplies) that our paras will need this year. It was a great, practical back to school gift and it also aligned with our handbook. For instance, one thing we want paras to do this year is share their thoughts or concerns on a Concern Clipboard in a central team communication area in the classroom so we included post-it notes in the bag. Also, we have paras leading groups so we want them to record student progress and take notes to let us know how things are going. Therefore, we provided each para with a notebook. 

I made up cute cards to attach to each survival kit. Click on the link below the image to get your Paraprofessional Survival Kit FREEBIE!


Paraprofessional Survival Kit

Welcome visitors from Classroom Freebies! I hope you enjoy this Manic Monday treat!
Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Think About It Thursday--New (School) Year Resolutions

If you are anything like me you have probably completely forgotten what resolutions you made back in January. With the new school year starting I felt it was a perfect opportunity to come up with some new resolutions. I didn't want to overdo it so I have three top resolutions for this school year...

1. Go to bed earlier!- I have been a night owl for as long as I can remember. I swear my best ideas happen after 9pm which is horrible because no one likes tossing and turning at night because you can't stop thinking about how you are going to change a lesson or rearrange your desk! I need to go to bed earlier.

2. Get up earlier!- Anyone who has taught with me and pretty much anyone who has tried to meet me somewhere knows I am always late! This is mostly due to the fact that I am NOT a morning person. I move so slow in the morning and on most days I wish caffeine could be injected intravenously! I think a lot of this stems from the problem in resolution #1.

3. Leave school earlier!-(Hmmm I am beginning to sense a theme here.) As I mentioned last week, I am a bit of a perfectionist which leads to many late nights at school "perfecting" whatever project I am currently working on. This leads to getting home late... eating dinner late... and going to bed late. It's a vicious cycle!

Wish me luck on my resolutions and leave comments on what resolutions you want to have for this school year! Best of luck to all my readers on a new school year!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Take a Break Tuesdays-- Bathroom Basics

Our bathroom is pretty small and I don't have much to really share, however there are a couple basic organizational things that visitors have commented on so I wanted to share them anyway.

First, is our toilet paper holder vase. I hate when I go to someone's house and they run out of toilet paper and I feel like a creeper checking through their cabinets looking for a spare roll. In my bathroom, this should never happen because we just stack the spare rolls in a tall glass vase so it is easily accessible.

The other simple organizational thing is our loofah holders. I just used some old curtain hooks to hang our loofahs off of our wire shower caddy. They won't rust, they allow the loofah's to hang dry, and they are out of the way. Problem solved!

P.S. I know I am supposed to be taking a break from teaching today but it is our first day back with the kiddos.... Wish me luck! :)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Back to School To Do List FREEBIE

Yesterday was our first official day back and it was a teacher in-service day. During our staff meeting, I was flooded with a million things I realized I a. didnt know about the new school and b. still needed to get done in my classroom. By the end of the morning, my To Do list looked like this......

Is it bad when you have to put "Re-Type To Do list" on the top of your To Do list!?!?!  

And I probably looked like this.....

I am a total list person though! My boyfriend is always teasing me about my lists because whenever we have chores around the house or shopping to do the first thing I always say is "Let's make a list". At school, I honestly MUST have a list (especially since we've had so many changes this summer) or else I would just walk in circles around the room and get NOTHING done (This is not an exaggeration! My boyfriend actually witnessed this when he came to my classroom to help this summer!).

Right now I am heavily reliant on my typed To Do list because I have SOOOOO much to do and it's easier to edit and organize the list when it is on the computer. However I saw an awesome idea on pinterest for a framed Teacher To Do list.

I am also a pile person so sometimes my list gets lost in the piles on my desk so I thought it would be a great idea to make a framed To Do list for my desk. Although you can access the original template through the pinterest post, I wanted to make a template that matched my classroom polka-dot "theme".

So here it is for you to use too (click the link below the image to go to Google docs). Thanks to The 3AM Teacher for the cute border!

Enjoy! :)

Miss Allison's Class Teacher To Dos

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Saturday, August 18, 2012

HUGE giveaway at Mrs. Wheeler's First Grade Tidbits!

Mrs Wheelers First Grade

My coworker and pal Megan at Mrs. Wheeler's First Grade Tidbits is having an AMAZING giveaway to celebrate 2 years of blogging and 1000 FOLLOWERS! Way to go, Megan!

I absolutely had to pass the word to my readers because this giveaway is just too good to pass up! There are tons of great prizes and better yet there will be lots of winners! Plus, I highly recommend following Megan because she has so many awesome ideas!

Here is the link to the giveaway:

Now what are you waiting for?! Go sign up! (But come back soon :) )

Friday, August 17, 2012

Classroom Before Pictures

I'm linking up with Karlie at <a href="">We are ALL Specials</a> for her Classroom Before and After Pictures Linky Party.

We are All Special!

As I shared back in May, my district moved us to a new building. My wonderful paras helped me pack about 100 BOXES!! Eeeek! So walking into my classroom looked like this....

I could hardly even get into the room to start unpacking! It was such a disaster. Then, I started getting things organized and then maintenance came in to do a variety of things (paint, install projector, retile bathroom floor, install shelving, etc) and EVERY time they moved a bunch of stuff and didn't put it back. GRRR!

After lots of organizing (and reorganizing!), I am almost done! I REALLY hope everything is ready for the kiddos' arrival on Tuesday. I will be sure to share some "after" pics then!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Think About It Thursday-- High Expectations

I am a total perfectionist! Anyone who knows me and has worked with me knows this about me. I have super high expectations for myself. I love a challenge and I love pushing myself to be my best.

I admit I push others to be better too. I try not to do it in a crazy Sue Sylvester way, but in a way that makes them see that there really is no other way. I have been super blessed. I feel my paraprofessionals respect that the reason I push our team is to give our kids the best education and quality of life that we can. I know they worry about the stress I put myself through to get us there but they work with me and it makes us a remarkable team.

However my high expectations for myself and my team is not what I find most important or fulfilling. It's the high expectations I have for my students and their ability to exceed them which are the most rewarding. My last couple Think About It Thursday posts have been about labels and all the things they imply students cannot do. If I focused on my students' labels and what their disabilities imply they cannot do, then I really shouldn't be teaching... especially not special ed.

I admit sometimes when I push my kids they push back! I have had people tell me that if one of my students doesn't want to do something and they put up a fight it would be better for me just to not make them do it. Ummm hello?! What kind of teacher would I be if I just let my students do whatever they want and stim in the corner?! Yeah, not gonna happen! Sometimes it takes meeting a student half way and then pushing them a bit slower than the rest of the kids but  in my experience they all get there eventually. 

Where do you feel like you fall when it comes to expectations?... for yourself, your team, your students? How do others perceive your expectations? Have as anyone ever suggested your expectations were too high for a student or that you shouldn't push your students to be better? 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Take a Break Tuesday-- Why I Love My Kitchen

I love my kitchen! It is the brightest, most colorful room in the house and I LOVE color! It is actually the only room in the house that doesn't have white walls (we rent or else my house would be full of colored walls!).

For today's Take a Break Tuesday, I am going to share the wonderful things I love about my kitchen....

1. I love these vintagy orange bar stools that we were surprised to find at Value City. Our apartment had a rather high breakfast bar and these were the only stools we could find that were affordable and adjustable. Now they have been adjusted to fit perfectly at the table. I also love my placemats (Pier One) and bowl centerpiece (Steinmart)

2. I really wanted a funky clock for the kitchen and this was the perfect Pier One find. 

3. I love our cute spoon chalkboard. We have never actually wrote on it because the chalk got lost on the way home from the store. You would think as a teacher I could find some chalk but I keep forgetting to bring some home! Another Pier One find.

4. My dad got these awesome vintage milk bottles from my grandfather. I love having something in my kitchen that is actually vintage and not just designed to look that way!

5. With my love for color I couldn't just leave these canisters white! Of course I needed to add some color with  these letter stickers I found in the Target dollar bins (who doesn't love the Target dollar bins?!)

6. The copper tile was here when we moved in. I fell in love with it right away because I had never seen anything like it! 

7. I looked everywhere for some curtain tie backs that I liked but didn't find anything that I thought was cute and affordable. So I used these colorful, sunflower napkin rings from Pier One.

8. I do not have a green thumb at all so these awesome self-watering Groball herb planters are perfect. I just watch the water window on the side and it shows me when they are out of water. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Social Story Saturday #5-- BONUS FREEBIE!!

Okay this social story is one of those that reminds me of the saying "it's a dirty job, but somebody has to do it". Six years ago, when I was fresh out of college, I would have never imagined having to write a story about keeping your hands out of your pants. However, this is a social story that has been useful several times in my classroom especially with my 3rd and 4th grade boys.

Even if you don't need it in your classroom, you may want to read it for a laugh!


Hands in Pants Social Story

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Think About It Thursday-- Autism

Last week I discussed how I felt about labels and how I didn't think it was fair for a child's label to dictate the services they receive. This made me think of the label/diagnosis of autism.

Autism is basically diagnosed from a list of things a child cannot do...

He cannot relate to others.
She cannot communicate appropriately. 
He cannot stop obsessing about that toy or TV show.
She cannot handle loud noises.
He cannot handle changes in routine.
She cannot understand the risk of danger.
He cannot stand being touched.
She cannot make eye contact.
He cannot play with toys appropriately.

I hate all the focus on cannot for two reasons.

1. There is no mention of any of the things the child can do! And kids with autism can do some pretty amazing stuff! I admit some of what they can do may be unconventional but how many of us can repeat a Disney movie verbatim, determine what day of the week someone was born on just by knowing the date, or recite the first 100 players drafted in the NFL including where they went to college and their position?!?

2. It implies that the child will never be able to do any of these things. And from experience I can say this is 100% not true! Although I love teaching all students with special needs, working with children with autism has been remarkably rewarding for me. They have awed me again and again by exceeding expectations. Being able to help a child develop meaningful speech, eliminate difficult behaviors, and/or take interest in their classmates makes my job totally worth it.

I think a lot of what makes my students so successful is intensive intervention. For my kids who are on the more severe end of the spectrum I try to provide 1-3 ABA (Applies Behavioral Analysis) direct teaching sessions daily in addition to group activities (cooking, theme reading, specials). I started out doing ABA before I was even interested in special ed so I am a strong proponent. I wish all of these kids received in-home ABA in addition to what I provide at school. However, unfortunately, a majority of my students come to me at age five with no early intervention. And if they do come with early intervention it is typically preschool which provides no ABA.

I just don't know how in 2012 the awareness is still not out there about intensive early intervention for children with autism... specifically ABA? I wonder what resources doctors give when a child is newly diagnosed? Whose job should it be to educate these parents? Doctors? Parent Advocates? School Districts? It seems like no one is helping these parents unless they do the research themselves. Teachers and parents of children with autism... what have your experiences with early intervention been? Parents, how did you know where to go for help? Teachers, how do you approach parents when you think a child needs more intensive intervention? Perhaps a younger sibling of a student comes in and all of a sudden red flags start going off... what do you do?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Take a Break Tuesday-- Pressed Ham and Pear Sandwiches

One of my favorite magazines is Martha Stewart's Everyday Food. Early this summer I went through all of the Everyday Food magazines I had and pulled out any recipes my boyfriend and I wanted to try. Since I have subscribed to EDF for 4 years this was quite a task! 

The first recipe we tried were these awesome Pressed Pear and Ham Sandwiches. It may not look like anything special in my picture (mostly because I was too busy chowing down and I forgot to take a picture as soon as we finished making them) but they were pretty easy to make and so yummy! The only thing I wish I would have done differently was slice the pears a bit thinner. 

my pic

8 slices rustic bread (1/2 inch thick)
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 ounces Gruyere cheese, very thinly sliced
4 ounces thinly sliced deli ham
2 cups baby arugula
1 pear, such as Anjou or Bosc, cored and thinly sliced
Ground pepper

1. Brush one side of each bread slice with oil; spread mustard on other side. Layer half the cheese on mustard side of 4 bread slices and top with ham, arugula, pear, a sprinkle of pepper, and remaining cheese. Sandwich with remaining bread slices, mustard side down.

2. Heat a large skillet over medium. Working in batches if necessary, place sandwiches in skillet and weight with another skillet. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook sandwiches, pressing down firmly with skillet, until bread is golden and cheese is melted, 3 to 4 minutes per side, flipping once. Serve warm.

Martha's pic

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Social Story Saturday #4-- Going to Timeout (FREEBIES!)

This is my final set of social story and sort FREEBIES! I hope everyone has gotten a chance to check out my other social story FREEBIE story and sort sets: 

Being a Good Friend 

Work Time

Circle Time

This set is geared towards proper Time Out Behavior. Several of my students were having meltdowns when I would send them to timeout. In retrospect, I think this was because they had nothing better to do than meltdown. Since the implementation of Think It Over sheets and these Time Out Sorts, these meltdowns have greatly decreased. However, they still happen once in a FULL moon (I have a theory that my kids go crazy whenever there is a full moon... does this happen in other classrooms as well?!).

Click on the links below each picture to take you to the pdf... ENJOY! and stop back next week for a BONUS Social Story FREEBIE!!

Choices Sorting Mat

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Think About it Thursday-- Labels

Nobody likes labels. Labels always bring with them certain connotations. As a special education teacher, I have personally struggled with what to call myself and I often find myself tailoring it to meet the needs of my audience (is it a fellow educator or a parent of an intervention student?). Some of the "labels" I have given myself over the past 5 years include:

Intervention Specialist
Special Education Teacher
Cross-Categorical Teacher
Multiple Disabilities/MD Teacher
Resource Room Teacher

Honestly, it doesn't matter to me what label I am given as long as I get to work with my special kiddos each day! 

However, labels can be a very tricky thing when it comes to my students. Typically in special ed, a label defines all the things that child cannot do... He cannot see. She cannot hear. They cannot sit still.

Since they have moved all of our "MD" classrooms (which were labeled Cross-Categorical classrooms until they were conveniently relabeled this year for the move), they have began to restrict which students can receive our services. In the past, I have worked with a wide variety of kids and I have LOVED it! Kids with more severe needs were with me all day in the self-contained classroom (they would be included for specials and lunch/recess) while kids who just needed intensive academic intervention would come to my room for pull out. It is challenging for sure but it provides my students with experiences with peers with a range of abilities. It has allowed my kids with lower IQs the opportunity to see skills modeled by peers with higher IQs and it has allowed my kids with higher IQs the opportunity to be leaders (which they would have not been able to do in the typical classroom). But now they want to limit us to only serving students with the educational disability of "Multiple Disabilities". In my classroom of 9 last year only 4 of them were labeled MD. The rest had a CD or Autism label. Of my kids labeled CD and Autism, half of them were non-verbal and all of them were 1-2 years (if not more) behind grade level. Where are these kids supposed to go? We have ISs in the other buildings but they are generally doing all inclusion. Additionally, of my kids with an MD label, half of them were only with me for pull out and not all day.

Fellow special educators and parent readers, how does your district meet the needs of identified students? Do you like the system your district uses?