Sunday, November 29, 2015

Cyber Monday Sale 2015: What's in Your Cart? Linky

Happy Holidays!  This is one of my favorite times of the year.  Most of all I love being able to do fun holiday projects in the classroom.  If you are needing some inspiration for holiday themed activities or year round gems, you are in luck.  Cyber Monday is here!  Thank you to Jenna at Speech Room News for hosting another "What's in Your Cart?" linky party.  On 11/30-12/1, Teachers Pay Teachers will be holding a sitewide sale with up to 28% savings in most stores.

Here are my recommendations from my store:

Category Holiday Printables

Here are some other products that I'm excited about from my fellow sellers:

Winter Apraxia Activity Pack by Teaching Talking

Apraxia - Interactive Apraxia Activities (Winter Snow)

Parts of Speech Sentence Flips by The Dabbling Speechie

Parts of Speech Sentence Flips

This is a great opportunity to get those items from your wishlist or just stock up for the winter.  Don't forget to use the sale code: SMILE at checkout.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

SLP Bloggers: Our Weaknesses Turned Strengths

Hello!  This week I am joining the SLP runner's linky party to discuss one of my weaknesses turned strengths.  It took me some time to think about which weakness I wanted to share, as I feel there are many areas where I've refined my skills over the years. But if I had to confess to one, I'd have to say it's my ability to use each and every corner of my classroom to my students advantage.  In other words, visually structuring my class and using my resources to make it functional.  

First of all, I have to explain that I am an SLP, but I'm also a classroom teacher.  Here in California, SLPs can teach certain types of special day classes with the appropriate credential add-on.  So my day to day duties differ greatly from my itinerant colleagues.  I taught an Autism specific class for the first few years of my teaching career.  I'll admit that when I first entered the classroom I thought I could come in an just start teaching.  Wrong!  There are so many environmental factors that teachers have to consider to create that perfect learning environment for their students.  I think this is exaggerated when you teach an Autism class or any special education class for that matter.  I quickly learned that the layout of my classroom, types of furniture, choice of wall coverings, etc. made a HUGE impact on the day to day happenings in my classroom. 

Fortunately, I had some guidance from our district behaviorist on the topic.  She started by giving me a classroom checklist to complete.  The checklist broached topics such as how I was using my space, how I was visually structuring it for the students, and even how I was ensuring that my instruction and rules were supported by the structure of the classroom.  It truly opened my eyes and made me see my classroom in a different light.  Isn't   the saying: "You don't know what you don't know, until you know what you don't know?"  Yea, that was me.

Now, I have been told from outside observers that this is one of my greatest strengths.  When I enter another classroom that checklist immediately pops into my mind.  I start thinking about how I could move the furniture around to make the classroom more functional or how unused space could be occupied in a meaningful way.  I've also been told that my ability to re-purpose items in the classroom is a relative strength. 

I feel that in any profession, the key to growth is reflection.  If you have known areas of weakness, take a step back and ask for help.  Research what you can do to make yourself better.  Likewise if you "don't know what you don't know" and you are given some constructive criticism, don't scoff and ignore your colleagues.  Take time to investigate and grow your skills.

If you want to read more SLPs confessing their weaknesses turned strengths, hope on over to the SLP Runner's blog.  Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Incorporating Communication Goals into Sensory Activities

There are so many responsibilities that go into being a classroom special education teacher, that sometimes I forget my main classroom goal: communication.  Curriculum, state standards,  assessments, reports, behavior, data collection, parent communication, potty training, sensory integration diets...and the list goes on and on.  I often find myself overwhelmed with where to start at the beginning of the year.  In an ideal situation, I'd have a class free of behaviors, where data collection is done daily and all my staff was fully trained.  But we all know that this is rarely the case. So I do what I can with what I have.

With all that said, I have been trying to get away from the mindset that communication is taught at a specific time or during a specific lesson.  Sure, I do like to have set times of the day where I teach PECS initially or small group time devoted to phonology activities.  But really communication can and should be taught throughout the day in a naturalistic manner.

Many of my students have special sensory diets to help them focus during class time.  At first glance this can seem rote and not very interactive.  But there are many ways you can incorporate functional communication (both receptive and expressive skills) into sensory breaks.

Making a Choice

Provide your students with a choice board of the available sensory activities you have chosen for the day.  It will provide them with a sense of control, but also teach them how to make a choice.


Have a wait card ready (Click HERE to download my free functional communication supports) and have your student hold the wait card between activities while you set up.  This is an easy and basic way for them to practice waiting during a structured activity.  Of course you will want to reinforce your student when they are successful at waiting (it's a really hard receptive skill for many of our little ones).

Requesting an Activity

In addition to providing choices, allow students to request activities in their primary mode of communication.  It is also a good idea to hold back activities until they request.  Keep items in sight, but do not immediately offer unless the student appropriately requests or provides an approximation.

Requesting More

Stop an activity briefly and prompt the student to request more.  Eventually fade your prompts and require your student to request on their own.

Stop/All done

When you can see that a student is wanting to be all done with a task, prompt them to use appropriate language like "stop, please" or "all done."

Following a visual schedule

Sometimes I use a mini visual schedule for my students who have sensory diets to help keep behaviors to a minimum.  Following a schedule is a very important receptive skill that all students...actually all humans should know.

Finally, I used to get frustrated at how much staff support sensory breaks required.  Most of the time it's a one on one situation; and that can really take away from class time.  However, you can make that challenge work in your favor if you are also devoting that time to communication goals.  For me, it just makes the time more intentional, interactive, and meaningful.