Sunday, August 26, 2012

School Daze

Well, it’s that time again; class is back in for many of the local schools, and others start this week. I’ve noticed that many of my readers and facebook members are teachers. I think that’s awesome. If you can use some of my jibber-jabber to help you in the classroom then I feel like I’ve accomplished something.

Often times we see teachers who think that it is a hassle to have children with disabilities in the classroom. They have to modify things and change their way of teaching. This can be more so for older teachers who have a set way of thinking. I don’t blame them too much. After all, we are all creatures of habit and don’t like change. However, with inclusion in the classroom being a big help to our children and huge issue lately, it’s time to conform. It’s especially important for children like Konner who really needs the social aspect of a classroom. He has the academic side down. It’s the interaction that he really requires.

With that in mind I’m going to share some things that I have found this week that might help my teacher-readers in their classroom.

The first thing I’m going to say is you need to get to know the child you are teaching early if possible. If you can contact the family and have them bring the child in early to get acquainted with you and the classroom it will help with the first couple weeks. I know this is not always feasible, but if you can I promise it will help. Also, just expect the first two weeks to be a little hectic anyway. Remember, this child is in a new environment, with new sights, smells, and obstacles to overcome. It’s going to take some time to adjust. Don’t automatically think that the rest of the school year is going to be horrible or that the child is a problem and/or doesn’t like you.

Think about some things to help with the atmosphere. Senses are a major factor.

Smells can be a huge issue. If you have an air freshener you may think about how strong it is for a child with sensory issues. Perfume may cause problems as well. Just remember to go light. Also, if you change any of these throughout the year it can throw their world off as well.

Think about lighting in the room. I’ve seen classrooms where the teacher has placed tissue paper or a neutralizer of some sort over the florescent lights. Remember that these types of lights, even though we can’t see them, flicker constantly and can cause an autistic child to become over-stimulated quickly.

Sounds are another problem at times. Just because you can’t hear the fan kicking off and on in the room doesn’t mean that a child with acute hearing issues can’t. It can actually seem amplified for them.

I’ve said this before, but it is worth repeating. Children on the spectrum lack a filter that others have. While we can concentrate on the teacher and block out the air conditioner, the kid behind us with stinky feet, the aroma of food bleeding in from the cafeteria, the sound of the other kid next to us tapping their feet, and the red light flashing on the computer across the room, a child on the spectrum can’t always do that. Think about how distracting this can be when you are trying to learn.

I’d like to share a couple resources that might come in handy for all the teachers, and parents out there.

I’ve found a few apps that I want to draw attention to. The first one is This one includes activities that you can use to help with different skills. Some of the categories include Joint Attention, Imitation, Communication, Independent Skills, Social Skills, Play Skills, Sensory Involvement, and Fine Motor, just to name a few. Each category has some great learning games and activities to help with the corresponding skill.

This one also includes a classroom checklist. The checklist includes:

Activity Specific Classroom Areas
 Clear Visual Boundaries are Evident
 Student Belongings are Labeled
 Classroom Distractions are Limited
 Appropriate Furniture is Used
 Various Schedules are Available
 Visual Supports are in All Areas
 Data System is Organized
 Staff Breaks are Clear and Defined
 Behavior Plans are in Place

Another app is Class Set Up. This one is basically an “E-Z Guide to Setting Up Your Autism Classroom.” This one has some great advice as to what you should and shouldn’t put in a classroom.

Behavior Support App includes a list of apps, books, websites, and other resources that will help with behavior issues in and out of the classroom. You can search by target specific behaviors such as aggressive, has outbursts, runs away all the time, etc. The app then gives you suggestions of how to curve those behaviors.

A book that can really help is “1001 Great Ideas for Teaching and Raising Children with Autism or Asperger’s” by Ellen Notbohm and Veronica Zysk. This includes many activities and games that can help with skills and behavior.

These are just a few things though. I would recommend you check out websites and think about the room layout as well. Hope this helps.

I would like to say congratulations to my wife Jennifer. She was recently named the new special education teacher. I am very proud of her and feel that she is going to be a huge asset to the school and the lives of the students.

Disclaimer: I am in no way claiming to be an expert. I’m just a father who is trying to learn as much about Autism as I can to help my child. I hope that you all can learn from me, and I from you. I ask anyone who has questions or comments about something I have written, or autism, please contact me at I will try to answer questions as I have time, and if I find it interesting enough I may touch on it in my column

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