Friday, December 14, 2012

Finding hope during tragedy

 Today was a hard day for many families and educators across the country, and this is very true for the staff in the SRC. We were, as I'm sure you were, very shocked and saddened when hearing about the news of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. It was unimaginable to think that these things can and do happen, and that innocent children suffer.

Today at school, while we as adults were fighting back tears, our room was filled with laughter, language and learning. Our children are amazing little people, and have grown tremendously in the last few months. While our hearts are heavy for the loss, our children did great work filling us with hope. Our children, still exuberant from our recent gift of the golden tray, are working hard at being good friends. At school, we practice "calm, safe and happy" ways to interact with friends, and it is clear that our students are working hard to do so. They crave interaction from others, and are so proud when their hard work and prosocial behaviors are reinforced.

Each day we work on these things...but today, seeing their fierce efforts, unwavering perseverance and innocent and optimistic attitudes about the world was inspiring. Another of the countless times I can say I have learned from them. Grieving and sadness is natural, but in time, all we can do is move forward and strive to make the world a better place...just like the students in SRC Primary.

I am so proud to be their teacher.

Miss Ashlee

*If you or your family need any additional support during this difficult time, please do not hesitate to contact me, so that I can direct you to wonderful resources *

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Donors Choose

Donors Choose is a website that allows teachers to create projects that they would like funded, and allows any donor in the world to bring these projects to life. Called “a revolutionary charity” by Oprah, Donors Choose allows both the teacher and the donor to see every step of the process. Teachers “shop” for their items online, and an itemized price sheet is created for all involved to see. Teachers also write a narrative explaining their project and the impact they believe it will have on learning. Once donors fund a project across the world, Donors Choose purchases the items and ships them to the classroom.

I have used Donors Choose in the last few years and had very positive experiences. 2 years ago I created a sensory project and received almost 700 dollars worth of sensory supports that we still use in our classroom! Last year I had a project funded for color printer ink so that we could create colorful visuals supports for our classroom. Each time the Donors Choose team was very helpful, and support from donors was amazing.

This year, I have decided to request funding for an ipod. With higher demands on staff time this year, my assistants and I spend every moment of non-instructional time planning sensory activities, social skills instruction and academics. One of the things we have less time for is planning for songs and stories. I am asking for an ipod so that all of our songs and read aloud stories can be on one device that we can easily access at any time. This would allow us to further enrich our students’ experience with literacy by adding in new sounds, songs and readings.

Please use the link below to find more information about our current project:

Miss Ashlee

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

December Newsletter

Structured Routine Center
Primary Classroom
December Newsletter

Holiday Season

Hopefully everyone had an enjoyable thanksgiving weekend.  I know that here at school we are ready for a fun December.  As I discussed with some of you at conferences the holiday season, while fun and exciting, can sometimes be a bit overstimulating for our students. The noise, the lights, the subtle changes in routines—all of these things can be overwhelming for any child, and these changes can sometimes be especially challenging for students impacted by ASD.
Here at school, one of the things we work hard on is teaching children social skills, and coping skills that can translate across environments, so that when things are especially challenging, they are that much m ore prepared. In preparation for the exciting holiday season, we will be talking about a few things students may experience this month that are different, like Santa and reindeer, snow and snowmen, and decorating trees inside the house. J We will not be talking about these with any religious implications, but as recognition of things that are different in December.  If you have any questions about our activities this month, please do not hesitate to ask.
Also, another thing to remember—your child may be very aware of your excitement and stress level this holiday season. J

Report Cards and Progress Notes

This Friday report cards and progress notes will be sent home district wide.  I want to take this opportunity to remind everyone that this looks a little different for students in our program.  Each student in the Beaverton School District will receive a report card.  These report cards rate each students progress against grade level state standards.  This will mean that on your student’s report card, you will see some marks that indicate your child is not meeting standards.  This in no way means that your child is not making outstanding progress!
In addition to the report card, you will be receiving progress notes on your child’s progress towards their IEP goals.  Much like the progress notes that you received on your child’s IFSPs, these progress notes are written by your child’s specialists and myself, are based on your child’s individual progress against their individual goals, and are based on data collected here at school and hopefully it will give you a detailed understanding of where your student is at with their academic progress.
Each and every child in our class is making great gains, and we see more and more of their exuberant personalities every day.  If you have any questions about report cards or progress notes please let me know.

Jessi’s Speech Corner
Appreciating the good stuff

Greetings from the Speech Corner!  The holidays are well under way and I know that I am starting to feel the stress of work and family and other commitments that seems to make this time of year harder than most.  The stress of the season is always one of those unwanted things that comes along with the celebrations, decorations, and time spent at home with family.  However, remember how important it can be to take time to step back from the chaos and observe and appreciate what you have in your life.

Therefore, for this month, I would like to challenge you to take some time out of your busy schedule to spend some quality time with your child.  The holidays are usually a time to reflect on the past year.  Remember back to where your child was at this time last year and look at all the progress he/she has made.  Communication is the most rewarding when both parties are receptive and appreciative.  Make sure to include some rewarding communication with your child in your holiday festivities, both for you and your child’s happiness.

If you ever have questions or concerns, please feel free to call or email me at

Have a great December! J

Marcia’s OT Edge
The importance of learning to draw shapes……

Most school based OT’s write objectives to be able to draw basic shapes under a visual motor goal.  This seems so simple, and why is it so important to master shapes before handwriting is successful?

The ability to draw shapes from lines to at least a triangle, is the visual motor foundation to writing letters.  By having the eyes and hands work together to copy basic shapes, the child is ready to write and draw in school.

At the age of 2-3 years, a child should be able to copy a vertical line and a horizontal line as well as a circle.  These are single stroke shapes that teach basic directionality.  At 3 ½ to 4 years,  the child will start copying a cross with intersecting lines that signifies crossing the midline of the body, and a square, which requires the skills of stopping and changing pencil direction, all critical skills for forming letters.  At 4 ½ to 5 years diagonal lines will come in, and the child will be able to form an X and eventually a triangle with clearly angled sides.  Around this time you may also notice the child may learn to skip, which is a prerequisite as crossing midline with gross motor actions coming first in development.

In school, therapy, and at home, it is important to practice drawing shapes using a multisensory approach.  Examples include:  drawing in shaving cream in the bathtub, in a tray full of cornmeal or flour, or in sand outside. Form shapes with playdough, cookie dough, pipe cleaners, straws, popsicle sticks, or string.  Write with anything but  a pencil:  sidewalk chalk, markers, paintbrushes, window markers, fingerpaint, etc…

Grading Day-No School                          :           December 3rd
Progress Notes go home                         :           December 7th
Barnes and Noble Book Fair                   :           December 7th (4-8 pm)
            (Tanasbourne Store)
Budget Reduction Day-No School        :           December 10th
Winter Party                                              :           December 20th
Winter Break-No School                          :           December 21st-January 4th

I hope that you each of your families had a wonderful Thanksgiving. All of our students were so excited to spend time with their families and talk about food! They had so much fun with our food unit, and several of our students are able to demonstrate an emerging understanding of the food groups using the plate! Way to go! In December, our thematic unit will be giving. We will practice giving and receiving gifts, and talk about the importance of saying thank you!

Thanks for all you do!

Ashlee Yokom
Primary Classroom Teacher
Structured Routine Center
Sexton Mountain Elementary
(503) 672 3560

Thursday, November 29, 2012

An extraordinary act of kindness

Today at school, we got to be a part of one of the most touching acts of kindness and compassion I have ever seen; a gesture that will significantly change the lives of many deserving children, and have a ripple effect that will inspire a generation of compassionate agents for change. And it was all initiated by third grade students.

Here at Sexton Mountain, we have monthly “golden awards”. Each month, the classes that best demonstrate our school rules of safety, respect and responsibility are awarded a golden award for behavior from each of our specialists, and at lunch. Each class works very hard for this honor, and gets to keep the golden book, or shoe, or lunchtray all month, as a symbol of pride, and reinforcement for their efforts.

This morning, Mr. Pfaff’s third grade class won the golden tray, for excellent behavior in the lunchroom. The representative from Mr. Pfaff’s class walked to the front of the assembly, and instead of taking the golden tray, she took the microphone. She then explained to all the students and teachers of Sexton Mountain, that their class had decided that if they won…they wanted to give us their award instead. They have noticed how hard our students are working, and how well we follow the rules at school. They asked their teacher what they could do to show us how proud they are of us. Mr. Pfaff and his students talked about the golden awards, and they decided that if they won…they wanted to give their award to us.

A student from our class and I walked to the front of the assembly to receive our gifted award. When we brought it back to the classroom, the students were so excited about our award. We talked about how our friends in Mr. Pfaff’s class saw what good friends we are, and gave us their award. The kids cheered, shouted “we did it!” and oohhed and ahhed out our golden tray. It is displayed proudly in our room. I know that they realized that this was a different day, a different assembly, that this was special, and they were proud.

The students and staff of this school are beyond amazing. Later, in the staff room, another teacher shared with me how his class discussed this gesture, and asked what they could do to. They were suddenly abuzz with all the ways they could show us they care. “Saying ‘hi’ in the halls”, “Playing with them at recess”, “Telling them they’re doing good” are some of the few ideas this second grade group was excited about. This act from Mr. Pfaff’s third graders did not end at the assembly. This will positively inspire so many Sexton Mountain eagles to be agents of change in their community and will reinforce to the students in the SRC how included they are in their school.

I am so thankful to work in a building that looks to inspire, excite and unite our children, even when times are tough. The fact that these students felt empowered give to us in this way shows what fantastic leadership they have from their teacher, and what a loving, inclusive climate looks like for a classroom and school.

Thank you to every student, teacher and family at Sexton Mountain, and a very special thank you to Brian Pfaff and his third graders. You are going to change the world. 

Miss Ashlee

Monday, November 5, 2012

November Newsletter

Structured Routine Center
Primary Classroom
November Newsletter

Labeling Emotions
As we all know, kindergarten and first grade are big transition times for every child, and dealing with all the changes and new expectations can be stressful for any 6 year old. Since our students are also impacted by ASD, the struggle to communicate these concerns tends to compound the problem. 
Something that we stress in SRC Primary is the power of language. So when a student is exhibiting a behavior that demonstrates an obvious emotion, we encourage them to label that emotion. Pairing the use of that language (student saying “I’m sad/mad/etc.”) with an adult’s immediate response encourages the student to use those labels to gain attention in the future rather than relying solely on the behavior.
As your student settles into the program, labeling the emotions they feel is a powerful tool they’re practicing to express their wants and needs with adults. As they begin to see the power in their words, they’re more likely to use them.

Learning about nutrition

Here in the SRC Primary, we work with students on academics, social skills, fine motor skills, life skills and functional communication. And imbedded throughout our entire curriculum are thematic units that give students some insight into the world around them. Our monthly thematic units are designed to teach students about a concept that they will be exposed to naturally. This month we are focusing on food, which will likely be something they are exposed to more intensely with Thanksgiving, but is of course a facet in their daily lives. We are using “My Plate” by the USDA (which replaced My Pyramid) to talk about the basic food groups, and to suggest ratios of needed foods.  Students will learn basics about food groups (i.e. “we can eat lots of vegetables every day” or “grains give us energy”), as well as begin to label and sort types of foods. In the first grade, students begin to understand that they need at least one of each of these food groups on their tray at lunch every day. This exposure typically leads to increased tolerance to new foods, and some exploration of tastes and textures. Already this year our students have increased their food repertoire and explored foods that are different. Way to go!

Jessi’s Speech Corner
Fun with Technology

Greetings from the Speech Corner!  This month, I am talking about technology. What we do in the classroom, the possibilities at home, and how to incorporate communication into those experiences.

I hope you are all aware that we have a SMART board in our classroom and that we use it ALL THE TIME!  If you came on Curriculum Night, you were able to see it in action and even use it a little bit.  If you weren’t able to come, and don’t know what it is, here is a picture.

The SMART board allows us to do interactive activities in circle time on any topic imaginable.  We target social skills, reading, math, categories, predicting, sequencing, functional routines, and so much more.

Also, in Speech this year, my students have access to an iPad!  The functional and motivational aspects of this device are more numerous than I can relate in a little corner of this newsletter.  If you are interested in the apps that I use in speech, please let me know!

I think the bottom line is that your child is a “digital native” (yes, that really is a term!), and he will have to interact with technology for the rest of his life.  Let’s use this knowledge and motivation to increase comfort and reinforce communication!

If you ever have questions or concerns, please feel free to call or email me at

Have a great November! J

Marcia’s OT Edge
Pencil Grasp

Now that we have focused on hand dominance, the next step towards real skill development is pencil/crayon grasp.  Using a correct or mature pencil grip allows for efficiency while writing or drawing and enables your child to write neatly and a reasonable speed without tiring.  The tripod fingers (thumb, middle, and index fingers) work together separate from the rest of the hand to control the pencil and write small and neat.  By stabilizing for resting the side of the hand on the table while writing or drawing, the fingers holding the pencil develop the ability to move smoothly in and out for a fluid flow while writing.  Your child needs to move through various stages of pencil grasp development before a mature 3-finger pencil grip will develop.  Normal stages of grasp include:

1-2 years-  Gross grasp- whole hand wrapped around the pencil or crayon, using the whole arm to move the pencil.
2-3 years-  Pronated pencil grasp-  hold the pencil with your fingers pointing towards the paper, still using the whole arm to color or write.
3-4 years-  Tripod grasp-  hold the pencil with 3 fingers, pinched between the thumb and index finger, and resting on the middle finger.

The staff in the classroom are working with the O.T. to encourage the correct level of development in pencil grasp, and may choose to use an adapted pencil grip to assist in encourage the correct finger position or use a simple statement of “fingers only”. 

The best way for families to help encourage the appropriate pencil grasp to participate in a variety of hand strengthening activities and finger exercises including playing with play dough, using tongs to pick up small toys, playing with pegs or putting coins in a slot, practice cutting, help in the kitchen with stirring and rolling out dough, or crumbling up paper in your palm for example.

Important Dates to Remember:

Picture re-take day                                          :           November 6th
Staff Development-No School                        :           November 9th
Veteran’s Day Holiday-No School                  :           November 12th
Family Dance                                                    :           November 16th (6:30 pm)
Budget Reduction Day-No School                 :           November 21st
Thanksgiving Holiday-No School                     :           November 22nd-23rd
PTC Holiday Bazaar                                          :           November 30th

Grading Day-No School                                  :           December 3rd
Progress Notes go home                                 :           December 7th
Barnes and Noble Book Fair                            :           December 7th (4-8 pm)
            (Tanasbourne Store)
Budget Reduction Day-No School                 :           December 10th
Winter Party                                                       :           December 20th
Winter Break-No School                                   :           December 21st-January 4th

I am SO proud at all our growth over the last 2 months at school! I am looking forward to many new adventures as we explore fall, and our new thematic unit: Food!

Thanks for all you do!

Ashlee Yokom
Primary Classroom Teacher
Structured Routine Center
Sexton Mountain Elementary
(503) 672 3560

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Creating Memories and Practicing Social Experiences

As you know, a few weeks ago the SRC Primary and SRC Upper classrooms participated in "pretend pumpkin patch". This was a incredibly fun activity for the kids in our classes--we got to be outside, we took fun and silly pictures, we got to pick our own pumpkins, and we got to be together!
Throughout the month, we have talked many times about things we see at a pumpkin patch, and looked at pictures of OUR common experience.

And even though it was a very fun activity, it has been one that we are using to build skills. Looking at pictures, and talking about our experiences deepened our students' experiences of fall, harvest and Halloween. I have also had many families share with me that their children were EXCITED for family trips to the pumpkin patch that they otherwise were indifferent to...why? Because they got to practice! Sometimes for children with Autism, not knowing what to expect can take some of the fun out of an activity. Practicing walking through grass, looking for a pumpkin, carrying a pumpkin, being with new people and taking pictures gave our students something to build from, so that when they did this with their families, it was not TOO new to be fun!

Here in the SRC, we look for these opportunities for social practice whenever we can. Building academic skills, functional routines, communication skills and social skills is hard work! And it's even more challenging in new environments! Stay tuned for more fun social practice experiences throughout the holidays.... tomorrow where we will practice trick-o-treating using the sequence below:

1. Walk to the door with an adult
2. Knock on the door
3. Say, "Trick-or-treat!"
4. Get candy!
5. Say, "Thank you!"
6. Walk with an adult

Hope you have a safe and happy holiday!

Miss Ashlee

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Running with our friends

Last week all the students in the SRC Primary class participated in Sexton Mountain's jog-a-thon! Our students ran around our track with grade level peers from the general education classes to fund raise for the PTC. The money raised at this event will support classroom funds, great social events at Sexton, and other resources that each child in the school benefits from.

In addition to being a great fundraiser, the jog-a-thon provided a great opportunity for fun in the sun, exercise and meaningful inclusion. Here in the SRC, we strive to participate in as many activities as possible with the general education students, in ways that are relevant, meaningful and positive for our students. We eat lunches and have recesses with our same-age peers, attend fun events like assemblies and field day, and work our hardest to follow the PBIS rules of the school so that we can be safe, respectful and responsible students.

Sometimes, the activities we participate in are a bit harder for our students to understand. We work to explain, practice and modify these activities so that we can participate as much as possible. Sometimes, these activities are too overwhelming...and that's okay too, because at Sexton Mountain there will always be new opportunities ahead.

Our participation in fun activities like the jog-a-thon helps enrich our students lives, deepens our place in an already rich community, provides great life lessons for typical peers, and helps show our students that not only can change be okay, it can be fun!

Thanks for all your hard work and fast running!
Miss Ashlee

Friday, September 28, 2012

October Newsletter

First month

We are having so much fun here in SRC Primary! Each day the students come in and unpack their own backpacks then start the day by “checking their schedule”.  The cue “Check your schedule” is one that they hear a lot, and are responding to better and better with each day they practice it.  When cued, students are given a token by an adult. The student then takes their token to the schedule boards.  They find the schedule with their name and picture, and place the token in a cup.  Once they put in the token, they pull off a visual cue card from their visual schedule. There is a different cue card for each session of their day. 
Because research indicates that children with Autism often work well with visual supports and systems, the SRC program (as well as other programs in the district with Autism support) employs visual supports like the visual schedule throughout the school day. In the primary classroom, we are working very hard with students to utilize these visual supports and connect them with our consistent verbal and gestural prompts.  As such, we are working to lay the foundation for success with visual, verbal and gestural supports in further educational programs as well as outside settings.
In addition to working hard on following visual schedules and routines, a big skill that we are working on in SRC Primary is that of communication.  The SRC program is a social communication intensive program that challenges the students to use communication positively and effectively throughout every facet of their day.  The goal is for students to see the positive power of using communication. More information and tips on expanding and generalizing communication can be found in Jessi’s Speech Corner.
In addition to these basic skills, we are also continuing to work with students on their specific academic, social and behavioral goals throughout the day.  Each student receives one-on-one academic sessions with a trained staff, as well as guided playtime, supervised independent work time, facilitated game sessions, group instruction in class-wide circle times, as well as free choice and sensory activities. If you have any questions about your student’s daily activities or progress, feel free to contact me at any time.
New foods

As you all know, eating can be a unique challenge for children with Autism. Due to things like the tactile sensations, or the change in routine, mealtimes can often be stressful. We understand this and are doing our best at school to introduce students to a variety of food choices, with the goal of at least increasing tolerance, so you will have more options for foods at home. One strategy that some parents are utilizing is the option of “hot lunch” at school.  If you would like your first grader to go through the cafeteria lunch line, and at least try some new foods here at school, we can help facilitate that.  Many families will send in money for hot lunch, and then a “backup” lunch, so that the student will have food to eat, even if it’s not the new food.  If this is something you would like to try, you can send in a check to “Sexton Mountain Elementary” and let me know what you would like to start with!


Parent teacher conferences are coming up soon. Below is an excerpt from our principal about conferences, taken from a past newsletter:

Parent Teacher Conferences
We look forward to seeing families at Parent-Teacher conferences in October.  Students will not have school on October 18 or 19 so that teachers can meet with families for parent conferences.  The purpose of the conference is to review the child's educational Plan & Profile that will assist students in pursuing their academic and personal goals. This means that beginning in Kindergarten, families will be able to chart their child's course to academic and personal success. The Plan & Profile will provide student achievement data. Teachers and parents will work together to set learning goals.  Because of larger class sizes, conferences will be a bit shorter this year and teachers will have a focused agenda.  Teachers will hold one conference per family this year unless there is legal documentation that shows parents need to conference separately (i.e. restraining order).  Thanks in advance for your focus and flexibility!

Our conferences will look a little different, since our students’ IEPs drive our instruction, and at some places do not fit the district’s learning targets exactly, but we will still talk using the Plan and Profile sheets, and we will still hold 15 minute conferences, to be respectful to the time for other families. Attached to this newsletter (or sent home in your student’s backpack if you’re reading online) you will find confirmation of your conference time. Looking forward to talking with you soon! 

Jessi’s Speech Corner
Requesting 101

Greetings from the Speech Corner!  Well, the days are flying by and we have finished our first month here in the SRC Primary class.  As you can see, we have been having fun, getting comfortable, and learning lots of new things. One thing that we focus on here in the SRC Primary class is being able to get our wants and needs met in a functional way.

There are many ways in which we as people request things. Here are some of the ways we do this and in a hierarchy of simple to complex:
      1 - open hand toward desired object
      2 - pointing at desired object
      3 - pointing and vocalizing (not specific to the name of the object)
      4 - pointing and verbalizing (typically starts with the first sound)
      5 - verbalizing the name of the desired object (can be an
approximation, or sound as close as possible to the name of the object)
      6 - using a carrier phrase to create a complete sentence (e.g. “I
      7 - using a variety of carrier phrases appropriately to get needs met
(e.g. “I need,” “Can I have,” “Pass the,” etc.)
8 – using multiword phrases to get needs met in a variety of
environments and situations

Do you know at which level your child is requesting?  Are they in between two levels?  How often are they successful in requesting at the higher level?  Being aware of these levels of communication can help you be more in tuned to your child’s communication and the progress they make!

If you ever have questions or concerns, please feel free to call or email me at

Have a great October! J

Marcia’s OT Edge
Hand Dominance- why is it so important?

When one hand is consistently used more than the other hand, and is more skilled at tasks than the other hand, then that hand is considered the dominant hand.  Research supports that hand preference is established by 2-3 years and hand dominance is necessary by kindergarten for skill development.  This will help the dominant hand with speed and accuracy for fine motor tasks, especially handwriting.  It is far better to have a specialized hand to do the job well than 2 mediocre tasks doing the job!

This does not mean that the other hand gets neglected!  In fact, the other hand has an important role to play as the “helping hand”, for example holding the paper still while writing, manipulating the paper while cutting, and supporting the body weight while the dominant hand drives a race car through a track. 

Dominance also affects and is affected by the wiring and functions of the brain.  A strong one-sided dominance allows for optimal brain functioning.  Organized, efficient brainpower creates the strong preference for either the right or left side. 

The easiest way to tell hand dominance is to observe which hand your child uses to feed himself with finger foods or utensils.  Your Occupational Therapist and teachers will help determine which hand your child prefers and which hand demonstrates more control and accuracy for tracing, drawing, cutting, and if ready, handwriting. 

Marcia Loggins, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist

Important Dates to Remember:

Jog-a-thon                                                  :           October 4th
Staff Development-No students               :           October 12th
Family Bingo Night                                     :           October 17th (6:30 pm)
Ashlee out at training                                :           October 16th-17th
(substitute teacher in)
Conferences-No students                         :           October 18th-19th
Scholastic Book Club Orders Due            :           October 26th
Harvest Parties                                            :           October 31st

What a fabulous month it has been so far! I am looking forward to many new adventures as we explore fall, and our new thematic unit: Shapes and Colors!

Thanks for all you do!

Ashlee Yokom
Primary Classroom Teacher
Structured Routine Center
Sexton Mountain Elementary
(503) 672 3560

Thursday, September 6, 2012

September Newsletter

Welcome to Sexton!
We are so excited to start another fun-filled year of learning here in the SRC! I look forward to working with you and your child to create a learning environment that fosters growth in the areas of social communication and interactions, life skills and academics.

SMART board technology
Last year our fantastic SLP, Jessi Lynch, wrote a grant that provided our classroom with a SMART board. This innovative piece of technology enables children to receive multi-modal input with each action they perform on the board. Pulling all this sensory feedback to a single source is a powerful tool with children with Autism, and helps them attend to instruction. Last year we collected pre and post data and found that with the SMART board in place, more kids were attending more of the time, maladaptive behaviors decreased and kids responded faster. At curriculum night, I will model for parents some of the activities that we do on the SMART board.

Arrival Routine
As you know, our classroom focuses on functional, structured routines throughout our day. One of those routines is our arrival routine. Since some parents drop off their student, I want to outline that routine here, so that you know how to facilitate your child’s success with that routine:

            -walk to classroom
                  -wait in line outside door
                  -say “Good morning” to teacher
                  -find name in box
                  -write (or trace) name
                  -place name in finished box
                  -say “Goodbye” to parent
                  -enter classroom, and begin unpacking

Signing in and saying goodbye outside the door helps orient your student to their school day, and having a consistent and familiar routine first thing in the morning helps them start their day in a predictable manner.

Specials and Specialist Services
Here at Sexton Mountain, we are on an 8 day specials rotation, so the “special” your child attends will be different each day. Our special will be posted outside our classroom door, and will be discussed at school each day. Our first graders will attend music once every 8 days, and each library and technology twice every 8 days.

The first week our occupational therapist, Marcia Loggins, our speech and language pathologist, Jessi Lynch, and our adaptive PE teacher, Stephanie Gacinya, have been in to observe our students. The week of the 10th they will start their services with your student as directed by their IEP. Stay tuned for exciting stories from these services.

Field trips
As a teacher, I am a BIG fan of field trips. I feel that the social and life skills gained from these trips are essential in the lives of children with Autism and fully support the district’s learning targets and our students’ IEP goals. That being said, having a split class can make this somewhat difficult. In order for us to take a field trip more than an hour or so, we would need all kindergarten parents to be in support and/or participation. So we would need PM kinders to be able to be dropped off, and AM kinders to be picked up at different times. I understand that this may not be feasible, but I wanted to check in at the beginning of the year, to see if we could make some trips work out. On the form attached you will see a question about field trips. Thanks!

Thematic units
Throughout the year we will always work on our math facts, reading goals, writing, life skills and of course social skills and communication.  The difference in a “thematic unit” is that we will also be looking at one core theme in every subject for a whole month. 
For example, since we have just started school again, we are talking about school as our thematic unit for this month.  We are reading stories about school, working on school themed math problems and practicing some good social skills that we need at school.  We also plan on taking a tour of our Sexton Mountain, and interviewing some important people, like our principal, Ms. Clemens-Brower.  We will learn more about Sexton Mountain and our mascot, Sparky. 

The thematic units for the school year are as follows:

September: School
October: Colors and Shapes
November: Food
December: Giving
January: Transportation
February: Friends
March: Animals
April: Weather
May: Bugs
June: Camping

Scholastic Book Club

Scholastic offers many books for purchase through catalogs I will send home as well as online. Additionally, they also provide helpful information on reading levels and special interests in reading topics. To make ordering books easier for families and beneficial for classrooms, they have created online book clubs for classrooms. When you create an account and use our class activation code and order books for your student, not only will books be shipped to school quickly for your student (which I will send home in your child’s backpack), our classroom will receive vouchers for free books for our classroom library. If you have any questions, please let me know.

Class activation code: HCM7Y

Due Date for September: 09/28/2012

Jessi’s Speech Corner
Choosing the right time and place

Greetings from the Speech Corner!  We have had a fabulous first week of school and it has been so much fun to get to know our new students.  With this addition to the monthly newsletter, I hope to be able to describe some communication tips and techniques to help facilitate and/or expand your child’s communication at home.

To work on communication, it is important to work in as ideal a situation as possible.  As lives and schedules are hectic at home, it is helpful to choose one or two times in the day to focus on communication, both for your sanity and your child’s frustration level.  These times should be low stress and only last for short durations (e.g. 5-15 minutes).  Play times that are for you and your student alone (no siblings), during bedtime routines, or snack times, tend to be easier and more productive than during morning routines, while in the car or during play groups.  The key is to make it a time for you and your child to connect and communicate distraction and stress free.

If you ever have questions or concerns, please feel free to call or email me at

Have a great September! Jessi

Important Dates to Remember

First Day of School                :                       September 5
PTC meeting                         :                       September 7
Curriculum Night                   :                       September 13 (6:30 pm)
Picture Day                            :                       September 25