Saturday, August 29, 2015

Morning Meeting Update

My first full week with the kids is complete! After having a couple tough kids the last few years, this year I have been majorly blessed with what appears to be a pretty amazing group of individuals! This is also the first year that I have had all readers! The kids are so close to the same level both academically and socially which is great. They all seem to be completing their work right about the same time too.

I'm proud to say, I have been diligent with my morning meetings and they seem to be going really well (hey it's been 8 days!). I have been brainstorming and pinning ideas so that I can keep them interesting and engaging. Up until Friday I was just ending each morning message with a question. Since all my kids are readers and can write with minimal help this has been working. One day I mentioned the weather as it was going to be over 100. So I ended the message with "do you prefer when it's hot or cold outside? Why?" They are to answer their question in their journal and when we meet after breakfast I have one student read the morning message then we go around the table and everyone answers the question verbally. 

Friday I changed it up a bit and we used these pretty sturdy paddles I ordered last year from Oriental Trading. After asking everyone how they feel today (which by the way is so much fun because they are changing their word everyday and I'm loving the variety!), read the morning message (no question this day), did our calendar skills, counted money, and talked of our day, I passed them out. I then asked them 10 questions which they had to answer using their paddle yes or no.

 I can't remember them all now but here are some: 

I have built a snowman
I have been to another country
I have swam in the ocean
I was born in Bakersfield
I have been ice skating

Some of them we discussed after each poll, asking which country they had visited or where they were born if not here.

So, new plan. I think we will be doing two individual board questions a week, one team building activity, one similar to this one I did Friday, and one challenge (hold the door open for someone, introduce yourself to someone you don't know, ask someone to dance, invite someone to sit by you for lunch or on the bus). I want it to coincide with a lesson we worked on the day before. We can quick discuss it again and even do a couple role playing. After lunch when we come to group we will discuss if anyone was successful.

I am really hoping that with my kids all being on the same level, and me not having to differentiate their lessons too much AND freeing up my aides who no longer will need to work 1 on 1 with them, we can come up with some new exciting ideas for our class. I am excited, and can't wait to see what lies ahead for us this coming year!

I have pinned a few ideas on a Pinterest board HERE for the team building activities if your interested. If you have any you would like to share, please do so below!

I hope you have a great weekend,

Monday, August 24, 2015

Autism Update

With the new school year arriving, I have had little time to get out this plethora of information I hold from the conference I attended in Southern California. So, I thought I would start with a few facts and figures which headed off the keynote speaker on day one.

Facts & Figures

  • Over 1.77 million cases of autism in the US
  • New cases are diagnosed every 20 minutes
  • Estimated 1 in 68 children, possible as high as 1 in 50
  • 1 in 42 boys on average as high as 1 in 12
  • Boys are 5x more likely than girls
  • Autism is the fastest growing disability in the US
  • Costs of 126 billion annually
  • 2.3 million dollars to care for an individual with autism over their lifetime

Staggering isn't it?

****If you know anyone planning on getting pregnant in the future, you may want to pass on this bit of information too:

Folic acid taken pre-pregnancy and for the 1st 2 months of pregnancy can reduce autism rates by 40%. Also ASD moms should have their homocysteine levels taken. Mothers of autistic children show higher levels. They should have blood workup done before getting pregnant again. Elevated levels also showed a risk factor of heart disease and blood clots.

There was also talk of a medication that seems promising in reducing autism like symptoms in mice (for up to 8 weeks) and according to our key note speaker they will begin human trials in the next few weeks. You can Google Prof. Robert Naviaux if you want to learn more on this.

Is anyone else worried about the rise in autism and what this means for the future? 1 in 68 children??? The amount of kids with autism that have entered our program alone in the last 5 years is staggering. Are there enough adult programs set up for them? What's the plan? I don't feel like this is being taken seriously and I worry that our kids will not have the adequate resources available to them as they age out of the school system. Who's going to fit the bill? 

So many questions, so very few answers. 

I have many more things I want to talk about regarding this conference and will try really hard to find time in the next couple weeks to get it down in writing for you! I feel like there are not enough hours in the day lately!

Hope you year is starting out amazing!! I know mine is!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

New "school" Years Resolutions!

It's that time of the year again folks. The time of year teachers make our new school year resolutions. Whether it's new things we are going to implement or old things we are going to stay more diligent towards, the commitment is there!

I have two things this year I am going to work on. The first one, which I heard about at the autism conference I just attended comes in two parts. #1 I am no longer going to say the words NO or Don't to my kids. I don't think I say it often, and when I do, I back it up with reasoning "NO, we don't have time to play with that now, but later, after lunch you will". So, I am going to try to leave the "NO" part off. Be more positive. Instead of saying "don't slam the chair down" I will say something more like "I understand you are upset, but let's think of other ways to get out our frustration". Or maybe instead of "NO we can't go to the snack bar now" I can say "now is not a good time, let's see if we have more time later".

#2 Instead of telling the kids what to do "go wash your hands", "go get your folder", "sit in your seat" we will say "what would be the proper thing to do after we sneeze?",  "what do we need to have to start out our day?", "where should we be if we are ready for our lesson?". Does that make sense? The speaker expressed that we feel the need to rescue them. While he was talking I totally saw that this is what we were doing all day in my room "go sit there" "go get your book" "get your jacket" "line up for breakfast". Not that these are bad things, but we are not allowing them to make any of their own decisions or to even think about what it is they need to do. We need to be teaching them self-regulation.
  1. Self-regulation is the ability to monitor and control our own behavior, emotions, or thoughts, altering them in accordance with the demands of the situation.
I am going to really make this a priority in my room and model it for my aides so I can get them on board as well.

Ok, my second resolution is to hold a morning meeting with my kids everyday. It's so hard to find the time mostly because my kids arrive separately over a 45 minutes period. So here's the plan. When they arrive (7:30 - 8:15), they write their brief morning message, and work on one functional academic page in their folders. Then off to breakfast (8:15). When they come back (8:45), I am going to take this time for no more than a 15 minute meeting. I am going to really try to not go over that time frame as they will still need to finish their work and be out at the buses by 9:30.

I want it to look something like this:

Good morning ..... 

Ask students how they are feeling this morning and let them share that.

Go over the calendar for the day.

Count coins together from the wall (nickels, dimes, quarters)

Include a question: ex. "if you could go anywhere in the world where would you go?"


short teamwork activity ....  ex. block tower, ball toss

"I hope you have a fantastic day".

So, that's the plan and I'm sticking to it (fingers crossed)!
Do you have any new resolutions for your classroom this year? I would love to hear about them!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

GPS For Our Kids

I have sooooo many things I want to tell you that I learned at the conference I just attended!! But, before I get to all my notes and try to rewrite everything to where it makes sense to you, I wanted to ask you about this device that a mom talked about today right before the conference ended. The topic was about safety and our autistic children. A mother raised her hand and told us about this arm band called a GizmoPal she uses with her son. It's from Verizon and costs about 75 dollars with a 5 dollar monthly fee. It can call two preset numbers with one touch and receive calls from those same two numbers. You can also set it to auto answer which means if the child doesn't answer it within 10 rings it will automatically answer. Now for the best part.... it has GPS on it!!! 

So I'm curious, do you know any kids who are using these? Any that could benefit from it. Pros, cons? I think the GPS is great. I assume the student would have to be above a certain level to understand that you can't be calling mommy and daddy all day long.

Let's chat....