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Getting Through The Pandemic With Art-Fueled Joy

Sunday Stillwell For the past three years, I have worked in a local elementary school as a one-to-one support aide to a handful of K-2 students with various intellectual disabilities, in a self-contained functional academic life-skills (FALS) classroom. My job is to assist the student I am working with in all aspects of their day. I sing songs during circle time, help them learn to request items with their communication devices, teach ABCs and 123s, and during recess I play tag because it made everyone giggle and little bodies have a lot of energy to burn in the last two hours of school. But, hands-down my favorite days are the ones when we draw pictures, sculpt creatures out of clay, or create masterpieces in art class using bits of rolled up tissue paper, glue, and a vivid imagination. My favorite days. Then, in March 2020, COVID-19 hit, and those in…

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OK, So We have AAC: Now What?

Photo courtesy Miss A [image: An iPad screen with the app Speak for Yourself, and a list of animals in the message bar: banana, cookie, cat, dog…”] Miss A teachingunicorn.com Access to AAC—Augmentative and Alternative Communication for people with speech disabilities—is a fundamental human right, but it’s one still that tends to be forgotten and overlooked in many spaces today. And many people are just hearing about AAC, or gaining access to it for the first time. The first few steps in using AAC can feel overwhelming to families and professionals new to this journey, because it is essentially learning a new language. Many people have fears about “doing it right” and “doing it enough.” I promise that you can do AAC. You can do it. You must do it. And it will be worth every step. How? Get excited. It can be really easy for AAC to be seen as…

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How to Be The Teacher Our Autistic Students Need

Photo © US Department of Education | Flickr / Creative Commons [image: A Black adult with curly medium brown chin-length hair and glasses reading a book with a young Black student with long black hair in cornrows.] Miss A teachingunicorn.com I am a special education teacher who happens to have an autistic teen and a recent autism diagnosis of my own. I’ve sat on multiple sides of the table; I’ve seen a lot. And we’ve all seen the headlines where professionals have demeaned or abused students in their care. We all think, “I’m not like that!” But I’ve seen professionals limit or take away a child’s voice. I’ve seen students given mindless and meaningless tasks. I’ve heard terms like “pre-learner” and “so low.” I’ve seen students spend years without access to reading and writing instruction. And I’ve seen professionals doing all of these things without realizing the harm they are…

Autism and the Quest for Knowledge

Jennifer Byde Myers jennyalice.com  Jack doesn’t fit the mold. Not the mold for a typical kid, not the one for cerebral palsy, not autism, not ADHD. Whenever we try to “box him up”, another piece of him pops out, unexplainable by a typical convention. I like it that way. I know I didn’t fit into the parameters that were set up for me as a kid, and I do my best to keep growing and changing so I can steer clear of the typical; “what I am supposed to do.” The problem with being outside of the norms is that other people don’t always know how to handle you, or help you, or befriend you, or teach you, or be your doctor, or your therapist. People sometimes become exasperated, or assume less of you, or ignore you. And some of that might happen out in the big bad world, but…

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Learning to Play a Musical Instrument is for People with Autism too!

Stephen M. Shore, Ed.D. www.autismasperger.net Preparation  “Can you help me draw a straight line down the middle of the page?” I ask my student upon our initial meeting. Done! “How about three more lines, going sideways?” Done! Soon we have eight empty squares on what was a blank notebook-sized piece of paper. “A!” responds my student when I ask for the first letter of the alphabet. I then ask him to write that letter in the first box before moving on to B through G. The 8th box is filled with the word “extra.” “Excellent!  Gee, could you finish writing out a line of ‘As’ on this specially prepared yellow stickie™?” Done! “Now let’s write up some ‘B’s…” And we continue until we reach the letter G. Now with a “bank” of letters I’ll have the child use a scissors to cut the bottom part of the stickie™ off before…

Writing Effective IEP Goals and Objectives: Suggestions for Teachers and Parents

Daniel Dage http://specialed.wordpress.com Note from the author: This article is part of a larger series about Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and the IEP process in which I go over each part of the IEP in-depth and describe the process from both a teacher perspective and a parent perspective. By far, this article seems to be the most read and searched for of the entire series. However, in actual practice I have not attended many IEPs where the goals and objectives were actually the subject of enough scrutiny by the attendees. Most of the time, the biggest issue of contention is during the discussion of placement. What most parents (and an embarrassing number of teachers) don’t realize is that goals and objectives are what are going to drive the students’ placement and services during the coming school year. While a Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP) is the most abused part of the…