Wednesday, March 5, 2014

February was fantastic!

When I think about the months of the year, February seems like an odd one to feel packed. Being the shortest month, it's strange to think it likely to be one that feels so full! But February was fantastically full this year! Between the fun activities and unexpected learning opportunities, February provided us with so much growth!


The beginning of the month greeted us with extremely cold temperatures and an unusually severe snow storm. This provided us many opportunities to review our seasons unit, but also to talk about the importance of being properly prepared for cold weather! Many students in our program struggle with consistently wearing a coat due to sensory issues or overall rigidity within routines. When it's 55 degrees and sprinkling, this is a very different battle to fight than when it is 18 degrees with a bitterly cold wind! Some students chose to bundle up more than normal, because they recognized that they felt better with extra layers. Some students chose not to, and due to our discretion (in the interests of safety in the cold weather) were offered an indoor recess. This was a big lesson in terms of appropriate dress, and natural consequences. Hooray for teachable moments!

Another great lesson in kindness

In the snowstorm, everyone seemed to pull together to make sure we all got home safely. As students left, we made sure to let adults that lived in more treacherous driving conditions leave early. I live on the east side of the river, so Marcia, our amazing OT stayed with the last of my students until they got picked up, thank you Marcia! Also, one of our bus drivers was having a very hard time putting chains on the bus, as his gloves were soaked through and the snow was pouring down. So Mr. Pfaff, one of our general education teachers, spent extra time helping him put the chains on the tires. Thankfully we all made it home safely, and the SRC awarded Mr. Pfaff a surprise "golden chain" award at our end of the month assembly, to recognize the great example he set.


Our classrooms are brimming with language and excitement every day! We have all been working so hard to talk to one another, and have so many exciting things to say! It is important to remember that our kids are at a very interesting stage in their language development, and are soaking in everything they hear like little sponges. So while your child may have been less verbal or non verbal a few short years ago, now it is more likely that he is repeating everything he hears...everything. So occasionally we hear some less appropriate exclamations pop out of our kids' mouths, and 9 times out of 10, they do not know that what they're saying. Generally, it is something they heard from an adult, or in media, expressing a moment of sadness, happiness, anger--some heightened emotion--and they observed the power those words had. So they want to repeat it, to get that effect. I will caution though, that what I have seen in working with individuals with Autism over the years, we have to be careful in our response. If a student is repeating something because of a heightened emotion (even positive!) and we respond with a heightened emotion (often negative), we may unintentionally reinforce those words. Something that we will typically do is look at the bigger picture...Did he say it once and then go on talking? Chances are, he may not use it again, because the weight of the word didn't have the same effect he previously observed, so it can be safe to ignore it (without having a heightened negative emotional response). If it is something that is repeated multiple times, we try to label it as a non preferred exclamation (e.g. "Friend, that is an angry word. We don't use angry words at school. We can use safe words. You can say ____") while maintaining a calm facial expression and voice. We then will give the student a word he can substitute because it is very challenging to eliminate any behavior without offering a replacement. And, above all, we make it a point to model appropriate exclamations in excited tones! Often! This way our kids are learning the words to associate to those feelings. Our favorite right now is to look at the weather forecast and shout, "Aw, man!" when we see rain. This delights me in how wonderfully appropriate it is! For your reference, I have included our list in the pages section on the right. Jessi helped create this list and we have it posted all throughout the room so that we can consistently model great exclamations!


Recently the district sent home the policies on illness in the district. As a reminder, policy states that a student must be fever free and vomit free (without the aid of medication) for 24 hours before returning to school. Oftentimes, our students are such resilient little guys that they tend to happily go about their business even when they are feeling pretty crummy. I'm adding this in my blog to remind everyone that staying home when we're sick is not only good for us, but those around us. When I first started teaching, I had a really hard time taking a sick day. I love my job and care about my students and staff so much I never wanted to burden them with substitutes or the horrible possibility that my job wouldn't get filled and they'd end up short staffed, ekk! But I learned over the years that my being here was more harm than good. I didn't teach well, I didn't have patience, and I spread germs! These days, I have certainly built up a pretty awesome immune system, but I also know my limitations, and know that it will be better for my staff and my students if I take care of my body. It is the same for our kids. When they're sick, they aren't their best selves--their patience dips, they're tired and they aren't learning. We want to make sure that kids are ready to learn every day at school, and that starts with happy, healthy bodies!

Library due dates

The snow days threw our specials schedule off a bit, so we've all been bringing our library books back at different times. Here are the library days for the rest of the year:

March: 6, 17, 21
April: 3, 9, 17, 23, 30
May: 6, 12, 16, 22, 30
June: 5, 12

Oregon Gymnastics Academy

This month we learned about sports. Students learned that sports are activities where we compete with a team, with one other person, or to get better individually. They learned that while it is fun to win, it is important to be a good sport, and to congratulate one another. We also learned that exercise keeps us healthy. It was fantastic to see this enjoyment and sportsmanship carry over into our OGA field trip and our SRC Olympics!

I am SO proud of our kids for the amazing way they handled this field trip. We took THREE trimet buses there and TWO back, and had to wait on several rainy, windy street corners for our buses. By the time we got "home" to school, I think the adults were more tired than the kids! Way to go SRC students! A big thanks to OGA for providing such a well organized and sensory sensitive experience for our kids!

SRC Olympics

Our February sports unit also aligned well with the 2014 Winter Olympics! This month we read about the Olympics, did math work with an Olympic theme, and watched videos of Olympians talking about good sportsmanship. We also learned about this super cool concept of medals.... When the idea was introduced that we could earn medals by WINNING at sports, the kids were very excited... So, that gave Amanda and I the idea that we should hold our very own SRC Olympics. We learned about the luge, ice skating and ice hockey, and made our very own versions. The results were more magical than we could have imagined. The kids LOVED this day!

Special thanks to:
Mr. Hayhurst for the medals
Mr. Miller for help in setting up equipment and letting us use the gym space
Teacher Stephanie for letting us use her Olympic music
Ms LeAnne for being our photographer
Our wonderful staff for going above and beyond to make this happen 
Our kids for being the best friends and cheering each other on so enthusiastically!
Miss Amanda, for everything

Some pictures are below, but there are many more, so email me if you'd like more!

Cutting out the custom medal decals

Working hard on our Olympics banner

Our victory podium

Medals donated by Mr. Hayhurst, custom pictures colored and cut by SRC students

Our events: Hockey

Our events: Ice skating (on carpet squares)

Our events: Luge (on scooters, through mats)

Looking forward to a fantastic spring!