Turkey, Pumpkin Pie & Meltdowns: How to get through turkey day with visual schedules, routine, and a little bit of grace.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it is important to take a little time to prep and plan not only the food and company you might be seeing this holiday, but also your’s and your kid’s sanity. The main thing I love about Thanksgiving is the FOOD. I love, love, love to eat and especially on this day. I get to eat food that I sometimes don’t see or smell all year-long. But I absolutely hate the organization of it all. The buying of the food, the prepping, the cooking, not to mention the cleanup. Gives me anxiety just thinking about it. Not joking. I have been known to throw hissy fits in the past a time or two just trying to get through this day. Something about the lack of structure, the chaos of baking, and the invasion of people in my house, just sends me over the edge. Thankfully, my wonderful father has hosted and organized Thanksgiving at his house for several years now, which literally has saved me from multiple meltdowns.

But, what about the kids? And especially the kids with disabilities? Holidays can be stressful and overwhelming for our kids with disabilities. An atypical schedule, new foods, and a crowded home can cause a meltdown (or a dozen!) quicker than you can inhale your pumpkin pie. Here are a few ideas for helping our babies who need those most supports.

  1. Prep your child! Just like you are going to prep that food, prep your kid! Sit down with your child and explain the day’s schedule as well as what will be happening and what’s expected of them. Use visual supports such as a visual schedule of the day, social stories about what behaviors are expected and perhaps behavior maps about expected and unexpected behavior and their consequences such as the one shown. 
  2. Prep your family! Yup, this has to happen. As uncomfortable as it may be (or hopefully not), you have got to prepare your family, especially those who may not have a close relationship with your child or who may not know them well. Let them know that you may unexpectedly disappear if your child needs to be taken to another room to calm down. Share that you may have to cook food that is only for your child due to their dietary needs or restrictions. Let them know that if your kiddo starts exhibiting any sort of behavior that seems “out of the norm”, you’ve got it under control.
  3. Give your child a visual schedule (or written one if that is more appropriate) of what the day will look like and TRY to stick to it as best as possible. Also, try to stick to your normal daily routine. If you normally eat at 5 pm, then schedule Thanksgiving dinner at 5 pm. If your child normally takes a bath at 8, then give them a bath at 8. Routine is key when trying to avoid breakdowns, meltdowns, or epic explosions.
  4. Provide an escape! If things start to become too much for your child to process, allow them to escape the environment or situation be giving them a room to go to, a calming corner or an area in which they can participate in sensory input. By providing such a space, you give the child an appropriate place to go to manage and control their emotions as well as their body. Make sure to include in your space things that will provide different sensory experiences such as different textures, smells, sounds and sights. Things to consider in your space would be bean bags, different colored pillows, a weighted blanket, books to read, calming smells such as lavender and soft lighting. Here are some fun examples:
     

 

Hope these tips help you get through Turkey day. Enjoy the food, enjoy your kids, and enjoy the moment. 🙂


Dyslexia Is Here to Stay (plus a shameless plug that KWT&S can test for it)

I feel like Dyslexia is the new BIG topic in the education and medical world, but in all reality, Dyslexia has always been here.

The awareness of Dyslexia first began in the late 19th century (1878). Adolph Kussmaul, a German Neurologist, took interest in adults who had difficulty reading and also suffered from neurological impairments. Dr. KKussmaul noticed that his patients could not read properly and would often use words in the wrong order. He called this “Word Blindness”.

In 1887 Dr. Rudolf Berlin, a German Opthomalogist, was the first to use the term “Dyslexia” in place of “Word Blindness”. Dyslexia comes from the Greek meaning ‘difficulty with words’. The first case to be reported was in 1896.

Dyslexia has been seen under the umbrella of medical diagnoses and treatments since it first was discovered. However, since the late twentieth century, this concept of children with specific literacy difficulties is no longer being considered under the jurisdiction of medicine. Educational and psychological research is broadening the understanding and refining concepts of child development.

Recently, within the last 5-8 years, there has been a huge movement from parents and Dyslexia specific organizations to make this disorder and other related disorders (Dysgraphia and Dyscalculia) a recognized disability within the education world in order to receive best practice reading teaching approaches, accommodations/modifications, and special education support. Their efforts have really changed the course of how schools respond to those with Dyslexia and other Reading Impairments and I say, good. Teachers now are getting the training they need to help all struggling readers. School districts now have to provide professional development to teachers, therapists, and other related staff on what it is and how to teach to it. School districts are now required to go find those students that they suspect may have a reading impairment such as Dyslexia.

 

 

In Missouri, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has created a Dyslexia task group to help support school districts, parents and students. You can find information about HERE about it. Probably my favorite thing from this site is the Serving Students At-Risk for Dyslexia Guidance for LEA’s 20-page resource document. It really provides educators and parents a step by step guide on what a school district’s responsibility is on finding and serving students who have reading impairments. It also boasts a professional development document that has 15 links for online videos, pieces of training, and different books or articles. Click HERE to access.

The question is now, what do we do? We’ve been giving the tools on what Dyslexia is, how to screen in the school and some “recommendations” on how to teach to it. But how can we really and truly help these kids? Well, we take those recommended practices and we become experts in them. There are TONS of supports out there for educators (see PD document above). Curriculums such as the Barton System, Sonday System, Wilson Reading System, PALS, and Pathways are just a few that districts can use. Additionally, there are a TON of websites out there that offer reading intervention approaches and FREE downloads including Intervention Central, FCRR,  and Reading Rockets.

Parents there are supports for you too! The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity has an AMAZING site for parents seeking advice, feel-good stories from other parents, and tools you can download for free. The International Dyslexia Association provides parents with a 12-page download on Dyslexia including seeking a diagnosis, working with school districts and therapists, and working with your child at home. It really is a user-friendly document. Click the IDA picture to access.

Nessy.com is a great website for parents & educators to gain a variety of information including online teaching strategies and videos that make learning fun. Lastly, the Learning Disabilities Association or LDA is an all-inclusive and very comprehensive website that covers every disability and everything in-between. You can spend hours on the website so pace yourself.

Parents, if you suspect your child has Dyslexia, however, aren’t for sure, you can always seek testing from either a doctor, a psychologist or someone who is specifically trained in this area. At this point, school districts WILL NOT test for Dyslexia. Dyslexia testing at KWT&S includes a very comprehensive assessment plan and an in-depth look into a child’s learning background. Testing includes phonological processing skills, phonemic awareness knowledge, phonics, reading fluency skills, and vocabulary & language understanding/knowledge. If this is something you are interested in learning more about for your child, please contact me at kwilson@testingservices.org or complete the Contact Form.


The Task of Creating Your Special Education Schedule (Yikes!)

Let’s be honest, creating special education schedules can be terrifying, overwhelming, exhausting and time-consuming. This daunting but yet oh so important task often becomes the bane of sped teachers existence.

There just seems to be SO much that needs to go into it. Needing your building master schedule, needing your grade level schedule, your individual cooperating teacher schedule (and PRAY that your coop teacher is not making their own schedule within the master schedule that doesn’t match what everyone else is doing), therapy schedules, and of course your IEP minutes. And IF you’re one of the lucky ones (note sarcasm) who travel to multiple buildings then that throws another curveball into the mix.

But, it need not be this way!

Here are some easy steps to developing your special education schedule that is first and foremost, a reflection of your student’s minutes (because let’s be honest again, that is what it always comes down to) AND allows you to have some time kid-free.

So, where do we start?? With materials.

Things you need:

Schedules~ Master Schedule, Grade Level Schedule (if different than the Master Schedule), Individual Teacher Schedules, and Weird Day Schedules (Late Start, Early Release, PD Day, etc)

Pencils

IEP Minutes/Locations (SpEd vs RegEd)

Computer or Paper <– I’m old school and want to be able to write my schedule down first before I type into a document. But, maybe you want to type yours. Whatever your heart fancys. <3

 

Getting Started:

  1. Whether on your computer or on paper, create a table that breaks your day apart. Ideally, you want to break your day apart by 15 or 30-minute increments.
  2. Next, I like to start with the grade level of students in which I have the most of. So for example, if I have 8 first graders, 2 fourth graders, and 2 fifth graders, I would make my first graders schedule first. Another note to add, I would block out the first grade plan time and teacher lunch time, as “my time.”
  3. Next, figure out and label within the schedule what I like to call, your “Non-Negotiables.” A “non-negotiable” is something that can not be touched within the schedule, meaning KID-FREE. Example, students eat lunch is a “non-negotiable.” Other examples, can include recess, specials or elective classes, specific related services times, teacher plan time and teacher lunch. Here is an example from Mrs. D’s Corner
  4. Then, start plugging your kids and their times in. You will want to make sure that your schedule follows the Master schedule and your cooperating teacher schedules pretty closely. It is difficult to service a child for Math Skills during their classroom ELA block. And while sometimes we have to resort to that, I always encourage trying to find a path.
  5. Once all your students are within your schedule, start analyzing and ask yourself the following questions:
    1. Am I meeting my minutes?
    2. Does this schedule allow for the most direct instruction to my students? (Be conscientious of transitions and interruptions! The more of these you have, the less instruction you have!)
    3. Are my “non-negotiables” safe? Did I leave them alone?

Lastly, remember that your schedule IS and ALWAYS will be a work in progress, changing and needs to stay flexible. NEVER laminate your schedule (haha, I did this my first week of teaching #firstyearteacherprobs).

 

Check out some of these resources to help with the task of sped scheduling and YOU CAN DO THIS!

5 Examples of Setting Classroom Schedules in Special Education: Special Ed Summer Blog Hop

Creating Your Class Schedule for SPED

http://theautismhelper.com/schedules-making-schedule/