Monday, November 14, 2011

Setting the table

Each day, the students in SRC Primary have a 20-minute “jobs” session where they work on functional life skills tasks that they can generalize to current and future home environments as well as future vocational environments. This year they have worked on folding clothes and putting them away in a dresser, sorting silverware, shredding paper, basic alphabetizing and sweeping.

I have received a lot of positive feedback from families about their child’s sudden interest in (and ability to successfully complete) chores at home. This is great to hear! I hope that these skills will continue to develop over the years so that our students will have increased independence in home, self-care and job skills.

This November we decided to add a new job with the holidays in mind. Each day all of the students will practice setting a table for four! Using visual instructions and a placemat, students prepare place settings including a plate, cup, knife, spoon, fork and cloth napkin.

All of our students are doing well with this skill. Practicing at home would give them one more opportunity. Maybe they can even set the table for Thanksgiving dinner!

Happy November!


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Here's how you can help...

Hello Families and Friends!

Over the last several weeks I have had many parents and friends ask how they can help support our classroom. In these uncertain economic times, we have been fortunate to maintain such a skilled staff, supportive administrators and creative solutions for lack of funding for supplies.

This year has presented new challenges. With the funding being reduced district-wide (and state-wide, and nation-wide) we are being asked to significantly reduce our consumable supplies. This includes paper, paints, markers, glue sticks, and printer ink. Since our students do so well with visual supports and instruction, Amanda and I create a lot of visuals to specifically support new games, expectations, and to help students cope with life changes. Having these visuals has supported increased independence in our students and facilitated outstanding progress in functional communication. With our budget restrictions, we no longer have enough funds to purchase printer ink for our color printer, which we use primarily to make these visuals. So this year I have created a donors choose website to ask for assistance in purchasing ink. The concept of donors choose is simple. Teachers create a page, requesting specific items for their classroom. Donors from around the world read about the need, and donate money. Donors choose then purchases the supplies, and delivers them to the classroom. Some of you may remember that we received a fully funded donors choose sensory project last year and received some fantastic sensory supports for circle. We are hoping that this year we will receive the same support, and we will get to purchase new ink cartridges. I am asking that you spread the word about our page to friends and colleagues that may be willing and able to donate. Thanks for your support!

And, another fantastic FREE way you can help!!! Our fabulous speech pathologist, Jessi Lynch, wrote a grant proposal for the Pepsi Refresh Project! If we win, we could get a SMART board! How do we win? Simply by voting! Every day!

Here’s how:

1.    Go to HYPERLINK ""

2.   Click on the "Vote for this idea" button, and create an account through Pepsi, or you can login through Facebook.

3.    Now just remember to go back every day to vote for us!! 

The grant is through the Pepsi Refresh Project and we need your votes to be in the top 20 in order to get funded.  Every person gets to vote every day for 5 different projects.  Please make sure ours is one of them!!  The voting only lasts for the month of November, so please start now and keep going through Thanksgiving.  These SMART boards are amazing and will make an incredible difference!  And all it will take is a minute of your time every day! :)

Thank you so much for all that you do for your students each and every day!

Happy November!


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Functional Routines

Here at school, we spend a lot of time discrete teaching functional routines. Brain research indicates that individuals with Autism tend to naturally learn in routines, and when one is not taught, they will often create their own. Sometimes this is great, other times our student might add or omit steps that make the routine less functional. Based on this information, in the structured routine center, we try to teach students routines for areas in life that can be appropriately generalized to help them lead happier, easier lives.
Each day we teach and practice skills in a variety of settings taught through functional routines. With instruction though, comes prompting, and assistance. But if we’re pushing our students to be independent in routines, how to we gauge their growth, and thus know when to pull back? Once a week, we completely pull back from these targeted routines, and watch and take data on the level of independence the student has on each step. Then we are able to reassess our prompt level.  By doing this, we will sometimes find that maybe we have been prompting more than necessary, and can allow the student to be more independent in the future.
I encourage you to try this at home sometimes as well. You might find your child has become more independent in certain areas!

Some especially tough steps in functional routines:
Zipping up a coat: This is a tough skill! Now that coat weather is upon us, maybe take a step back and see how much help your student truly needs. This is a great way to target functional communication too!
Opening containers: There are some tough toy packages and milk cartons out there!
Problem Solving: The paper towel dispenser is jammed! Oh no! Our students are expected to at least try to fix it when this happened at school. Maybe see if they can do this in the grocery store too!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Teachable Moments

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “teachable moments” over the last few years. According to Wikipedia, a teachable moment is “the time at which learning a particular topic or idea becomes possible or easiest”. In special education, I’ve often heard this idea referred to when an educator is following their student’s lead, or using high-interest topics to motivate students that are more resistant to mainstream curriculum. I think that both are accurate. I also think that teachable moments happen all the time: at home or at school, with your child with Autism, with your neurotypical child, with your partner or friend. All of us have the potential for growth, and I think that opportunities to learn are presented throughout our lives.

I decided to share about teachable moments on my blog today because of a fun experience I had with my students this afternoon. One of our families graciously donated a play structure for our kids to use in our sensory area. This afternoon, we put a sheet over the top of it and made a fort! The kids had a GREAT time, and it gave me an opportunity to talk about prepositions! Prepositions are words that link nouns together in a sentence, and here in the SRC primary class, we are working on basic spatial prepositions (in, on, under, beside, between). In our fort today, we talked about who was in the fort, who was out of the fort, things beside the fort, who was between who inside the fort, what was on the fort, etc. Great examples of student language:

“Come in!”
“Ashlee beside the fort”
“Between friends!”
“Oh no! Put on!” (when the sheet fell off)
“Climb under!”

What great language, using such challenging concepts! We work on prepositions throughout the day, but I felt like this was such a great teachable moment, in a naturally reinforcing environment, that would truly promote generalization!

In the fort! : )

I am so proud of our students!

Hope you have a nice long weekend! Thanks for reading!


Thursday, October 6, 2011

October Books

In October we are focusing on colors and shapes! The shapes we are specifically targeting are: circle, square, rectangle, triangle, oval, octagon, heart, diamond and star. Some of our favorite books about shapes are:

-My Heart is Like a Zoo
            by Michael Hall

-Shapes that Roll
            by Karen Nagel

And we are also learning about fall, so we are reading lots of books about leaves and seasons, but also about Halloween! These are some of our favorite Halloween books:

-Five Pesky Pumpkins
            by Vaughn/Garofoli

-The Legend of Spookley the Square Pumpkin
            by Joe Troiano

-Go Away Big Green Monster!
            by Ed Emberley

-Midnight Fright
            by Kathryn Heling & Deborah Hembrook

-There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat!
            by Lucille Colandro

-T. Rex Trick or Treats
            by Lois G. Grambling

The students are really enjoying singing songs, reading stories and doing projects around our seasonal and thematic units. It’s been great to see their social awareness increase as we talk about shapes we see in our world, as well as different Halloween festivities.

Thanks for reading!
Miss Ashlee

Friday, September 30, 2011

Cooking Program

Hello families!

Today we started our cooking program here in SRC Primary. We used a visual recipe to make chocolate pudding. The recipe shows a picture of each step, as well as a written direction. I pointed to the picture, read the instructions, and helped each student complete the steps. When the pudding was finished, all the students in the class got to enjoy our creation while watching a sing-a-long, it was a great Friday treat!

With today's cooking activity, the students worked on:
-following a visual schedule
-following verbal instructions
-gathering necessary ingredients
-opening packaging (milk carton and pudding package)
-cutting (pudding package)
-pouring (milk and pudding)
-transferring from one location to another (with 2 hands!)

So far, we have only had two families show interest in the cooking program, so only two students participated today. In the future, I would love to have more students participate. Because of the cost of materials, I do ask that participating students contribute $20 for the program (for the year), but if cost is an inhibiting factor for your student's participation, please let me know and we can see if we can work out a payment plan or another alternative. I would love to have all our students working together in the cooking program--it provides a naturally reinforcing way to practice motor skills and life skills.

Below are some pictures from today. Hope you have a great weekend! Thanks for reading!

Miss Ashlee

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Hello families,

Welcome to my new blog! This is another way for families to keep up to date about what is going on in the SRC Primary classroom.

I will post newsletters, pictures and updates about what we are working on in class.

As you know, in September we are talking about school! The kids have read stories and made projects about school in general and specifically Sexton Mountain. They are very excited to talk about our new principal, Mrs. C-B, our specials library, technology and music, and getting to work with their friends in Miss Amanda's class.

We are also beginning to learn about seasons, and what we see in fall. This is something we will continue into October, along with our October themes of shapes and colors!

Feel free to post questions and comments, thanks for reading!

Miss Ashlee