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