Monday, April 21, 2014

Don't Reinvent the Wheel! {FREE visuals, choice boards, etc, YAY!}

Don't you just LOVE when you come across something that will save you time?

Today I found this website, and I screamed I was so happy! FREE boardmaker visuals already pre-made and ready to print!

Happy printing, laminating, cutting, and velcro-ing!!!!! :)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Earth Day Activities {Craftivity Foldable, Audio Book, Student Readers, & Take Home Activity}

Earth day is Tuesday, and for ONCE I actually have a product ready! In our classroom, we love to do arts & crafts, but we have to somehow make these projects meaningful to the students and not just "cute."

In my new Earth Day pack, I've included an Audio Book PPT (fancy!) and student readers, materials & visual directions for the foldable, and a take-home activity for students to complete with their parents and bring back. I even got tech-savvy this weekend, and learned how to many VIDEO previews of my products -  SO much easier than a bunch of little pictures. Be sure to take a look!

Psssst - Right now its on SALE (along with my whole store!)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Data - Discrete Trial vs Fluency {Guest Post from Sasha Hallagan - The Autism Helper}

I'm so excited to share today's post! I've asked the AMAZING Sasha Hallagan from The Autism Helper to help explain how we should be effectively teaching new skills through Discrete Trial Training, as well as how we can make those skills more functional through Fluency Instruction.

Enjoy, loves... :)

When it comes to academic data, all of my goals and programs fall into two categories: Discrete Trial Training and Fluency Instruction. I choose different skills for different reasons. It's essential to include both types of programming into your classroom curriculum in order to develop skills that are mastered and functional. So let's scale back and review the what and why behind each type of instructional approach.

Discrete Trial Training
What?: Discrete trial training is a one-on-one teaching strategy that teaches a new skill in a structured and controlled setting. Each trial has a defined start and end point (hence discrete).

Why?: Discrete trial is all about repetition and reinforcement. You want to present multiple trials and provide immediate reinforcement for correct responses. The idea is the more times the correct response is reinforced, the quickly the learning will occur.

Fluency Instruction
What?: Fluency is accuracy plus speed. We want our learners to have skills that can be produced quickly and correctly. A fluency program looks at the rate of performance - how many responses can the student produce within a specific amount of time.

Why?: Fluency is all about being functional. We live in a fast paced world. Nobody is waiting behind you in the grocery store while you painfully count out each an every coin to pay your bill. We want the skills we teach our students to be second nature. Fluency builds that.   In a perfect curricular world, we need both.

Using Discrete Trial Training to teach a new skill and then use Fluency Instruction to make that skill functional. Don't linger in Discrete Trial too long we want to make sure the student is not relying on reinforcement for every response.

Let's run through a sample skill set and see how this would look in a classroom setting. Let us the example of teaching Expressive Color Identification. Start with a specific set of color options. Never pick only 2 options. They will have 50% chance of getting the answer correct! I like to use 3-5 options depending on the student. Make sure you use multiple exemplars. Don't use only type of blue. Use a range of blue shades, shapes, and depictions of the stimuli.

  The Autism Helper - Data 

The teacher will present the color and say, "What's this?" If the student answers correctly, provide immediate reinforcement for the response. If they answer incorrectly, provide error correction. I write out the complete program script and staff expectations. This is essential when you are having paraprofessionals run a program like this. Lay out exactly what should be done and said. Also, lay out the order you will be introducing new stimuli. Be sure to include discrimination trials. Once you have two sets of colored mastered, next include a set of all colors within both sets. Also include mastery criteria.

Here is what a sample data sheet would look like:

The Autism Helper - Data

Once one set has been mastered, move to fluency instruction. Start with a short time period if fluency instruction is new for your student. Begin the timer, scroll through the flashcards, put corrects in one pill, and incorrects in another pile. Count up the piles when you are done and fill in the data sheet. Easy peasy.

The Autism Helper - Data

Fluency instruction makes it easy to compare data and gives the most information. You know how many they got correct and in how long. Percentage, consecutive opportunities, etc, doesn't tell us all that. If we say a student can identify letters with 90% accuracy - what does that really mean? How many letters? How long does it take them? Taking 2 minutes to identify each letter is not functional and will not pave a yellow brick road toward reading. If we say a student can identify 20 letters minute - that gives us a ton more information. Fluency instruction is a classroom must have. It's easy to run, relatively easy to set up (check out my fluency mega pack), and is perfect for a paraprofessional to run.
Although this seems like a whole lotta hoopla just to learn colors, for many of our students - they require this structure and consistency in order to fully master and generalize new skills. As a teacher, I love seeing the skills progress. Tracking data can be so rewarding because we see our hard work pay off!

Sasha Long, M.A., BCBA
The Autism Helper
Helping You, Help Children With Autism  

Thanks SASHA - You ROCK! 
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Saturday, April 12, 2014

#willworkforcaltrans Spotlight on Special Thinker: Diego

Today we get to meet Diego, son of Dori (autism mom & special education teacher, too!)

Check her out on Instagram @DORI510

“You need a sign," Diego informed me.  He was going to be 5 soon and had just slipped on the wet tile in the kitchen. “Make me one then,” I told him.  Famous last words.  I had wanted him to start writing his named but this stubborn child refused to use markers, crayons or pencils.

What started as a slip and fall evolved into a full blown obsession.  Diego makes signs for everything and out of anything.  It’s how we got him to start writing and reading.  For Sale signs started simple then started including details; red bike, fast scooter.  Anything that helped him become interested in words and their meaning.  Before you knew it, our house was covered in Post It’s with directions, exit signs, and warnings.  But I wouldn’t change it for the world.

We were blessed with Diego in 2006.  I quit my job as a Special Education Teacher so I could stay home and spend the first few years with our child.  I imagined days of scrapbooking while the baby (or babies) played.  We’d bake cookies and sing songs together.  We would take long walks to the park so he could play while I chatted with the other moms.  You know, all the fun things that parents are supposed to do.  We waited so long to have kids, this was supposed to be IT! 

That first year and a half we hit most of the typical milestones- sitting up, rolling over, crawling, walking, but there were a few things that made me think- no language, fleeting eye contact, obsession with the blinds in our house. Open, close, open, close.  It felt like Autism. I didn’t want to say it.  I didn’t want to think it.  But it was there. Trips to the park were few and far between.  Diego was more interested in a tree than kids or playing.  His little chubby legs stumbling along, around and around while his hands simply dragged around the trunk.  Same tree every time. 

On a long car drive, I shared my concerns with my husband, hoping he would say I was worried about nothing.  That maybe I’m making too much of little things.  That’s not what he said.  He said, “That makes sense. Autism.  Yeah, I see it too.” Damn. Then then doctor agreed.  Damn. Then the psychologist agreed. Damn.  And two more after that.  Double damn.

Then it was time to get to work.  And work we did.  We had in-home services, OT, speech, and of course my own home therapy.  It was a full day of work for both of us.  It was the most difficult time of our lives.  I felt cheated out of his childhood.  What should have been easy was a battle.  Learning to use a cup was painful.  Saying words was agonizing.  Potty training was simply impossible.  Every little change in our routine triggered big meltdowns.  Our house had double locks for fear of him escaping.  We couldn’t go anywhere and he never slept.  It was exhausting.

He started preschool at 3 in a visually structured class and I decided to go back to work.  I just needed time to think about other people’s problems for a little while.  We also enrolled Diego in daycare with support services to be provided at the daycare center. We lucked out with a simply amazing team!  They worked at the daycare center for 2 hours a day, 5 days a week.  With the school support, the daycare support and still visiting a speech pathologist twice a week, we were getting somewhere!  Words like “Legos, milk, food, snack, green, orange, mom, dad, more,” became part of his vocabulary.  Tantrums began to fade.  A little loving boy started to be understood.  He was finally able to share things with us!  

It was a whirlwind of emotions.  Time always seemed too short.  Days flew by.  But strong connections were made.  I called in favors when needed.  Working in Special Education, you never know who you’re going to meet.  That parent, she runs the local park for kids with special needs.  That other parent is a psychologist.  The program specialist; she’s BFF’s with a service provider I’ve been wanting to touch bases with.  When it’s your own child, everyone is fair game.  And lucky us- the people we reached out too wanted to help. They became our support network and us a part of theirs.  It was simply a blessing. 

Fast forward five years- Diego is now seven, and he’s simply amazing!  He talks non-stop about earthquakes and fault lines. He can build machines out of cardboard and make them work.  He’s able to get up on stage and perform in plays and dances.  Of course, he still has challenges (classroom noise is upsetting, personal space is always an issue, making friends is HARD) but we are focusing ourselves on the positive and counting the blessings he has brought us.

Diego is amazing to me.  Simply amazing.  He has friends of all abilities.  He understands what it’s like for his friends with limited vocabularies and reminds us, “When I didn’t have words, I was mad and threw things too.  She’s just mad.”  He takes dance classes and goes to Lego camp.  When people mention a country, he has to know if it’s above the equator or below.  He loves to see traffic signs from other countries and still points out orange construction cones when we’re driving around.  He’ll even tell you what kind of cone it is.  Yes, they have names.  Who knew?  With time, I’m praying and hoping that his social interactions become easier.  Although, I have a feeling when he’s an adult, it will be okay. 

Before Diego was born, I remember thinking, I just want a child who is average and has a fun life.  Well, Diego is certainly not average but he does have a fun life!  Give him cardboard, tape and markers and he’ll build you a trash compactor.  I know for a fact, that kid will work for Cal Trans.           


There was once a lazy dinosaur laying in the jumbo hot tub. And suddenly, a crazy UFO swooshed through the area. There was a navy radio. Weird? A lady appeared with a sword. What she did with it was she made dinosaur soup out of the dinosaur.

The end

^story written by Diego :)

WOW! Thank you so much for sharing Diego with us, Dori!!!! He is truly something special! :)

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