Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Implementing a sensory curriculum

As my students are new to school and routines, I am working on extending the time they will engage in seated activities. As part of my writing, handwriting and math's programme i implement sensory based learning activities as well as seated work tasks so that students who are unable to focus for long periods of time get a "sensory break".
There are heaps of ideas on Pinterest for "sensory tubs". This week i put the "letter of the week" in a tub with jelly balls (can be found at most $2 shops), and words we are learning from our word wall in shredded paper (purchased from looksharp). Other sensory tubs i have used in the past are:
-shaving foam
-colored rice
-kinetic sand

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Addressing sensory needs

My students need regular sensory input throughout the day in order to focus for extended periods of time. For some students this means implementing a "sensory diet".

"A sensory diet is a carefully designed, personalized activity plan that provides the sensory input a person needs to stay focused  and organised throughout the day." (Patricia Wilbager, OT)

When i look across my group of students i can recognize that most of my class are sensory seeking;  weather it is rocking on their chairs, walking around the room before sitting down, jumping off the chairs, or seeking tactile stimulation. I have worked with students in the past who were tactile defensive (refusal to explore tactile surroundings) and the class OT (occupational therapist) implemented a Wilbarger brush programme as part of a sensory diet. I was amazed at the success of using a brush to stimulate the skin in order to increase active exploration.

My class programme caters to the sensory needs in my classroom with regular sensory breaks offered to my students in order to increase their focus during work tasks. I timetable a movement break every 30 minutes. The breaks vary from jumping on the trampoline, going for a run, sensory play, swing and a exercise circuit. Some of my students such as Benjamin need more breaks in order to remain on task in the classroom. I make sure he goes on the swing for 2 minutes before he is expected to sit.

I am currently trialing a few alternative seating alongside the OT that works in my classroom. If you have a student who struggles to focus you could try using a swiss ball to sit on, inflatable cushion, fake grass under their feet, weighted blankets for pressure or a fiddle toy to maintain focus.

Image result for swiss ball child sittingImage result for inflatable cushion otImage result for fiddle toy

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Making reading accessible through AAC

As mentioned in previous posts, i now have 4 out of 7 students using AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication). I am working on implementing all devices into my class programme which is no easy feat considering one person needs to work individually with that child while using their device and i only have 3 staff members.

However creating opportunities for communication while it should come naturally i have found it is best to plan sessions where i will use each device. I am trying to get my students to carry their devices with them so that they can take ownership over their own communication as well.

Each week i make an activity specific language board to go with their communication device for a student to use while they are reading. This particular student was trialing a device that has sound output and recordable buttons. I used language from their weekly reader and recorded the symbols on the device. For the first time, this student was able to answer questions about the story, and  they were able to answer correctly! Because of the success we had during reading, this student is going to trial a similar device with more icons available. From 9 icons on a screen to 32!

Planning communication opportunities isn't always easy in the chaos of a busy classroom however making it part of your new "normal" makes it manageable; especially when you start to see success for that student.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Engaging students in reading

Since introducing personalised books into my class library i have seen an increase of independent reading by a student who otherwise would have refused to read.
By engaging her in books about topics that she is interested I have been able to assess her pre-reading skills. I know that she is able to hold the book correctly and turn the page. When looking at the book she can look at the pictures and words on the left and then on the right which shows me she knows the left to right direction that text is read.

I download most of my individualised books from a website called Taheel Reader (link is supplied). Taheel Reader is a fantastic resource where people make books and upload them online. They are switch adaptable if you have a student with limited mobility who uses switches and they can also be used on a touch screen. I download and print them out to put in my library however last year my students were able to access them on the computer during independent reading time. I usually always have books in my library printed that are based on my topic as well.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Ready to Learn

I currently have 7 students in my classroom, 6 out of the 7 students have an individualised reading programme using the reading packs i make up each week.
One of my students has taken much longer than the others to settle. Last term she got upset when asked to complete a request. Once upset she would cry for an extended period of time. My main goal for her last term was to follow the class routines rather than complete work. She was encouraged to sit while the other students were sitting during circle time and meal times. When the other students were moving around activities for writing and math's she was expected to stay at the table but was not expected to complete work. Along with the behavior therapist we decided to take away all the demands. This was a very hard decision for me as i want all of my students to have the most learning opportunities throughout the day. Not encouraging her to complete a work task went against everything i believe in however it allowed her the chance to observe what the other students were doing and learn the class routine.
This term she has come back to school and is now very settled and calm. Her family said she missed school over the holidays, often putting her bag on wanting to come to school. I have reflected on her progress recently and how far she has come. I think the reason she is more settled this term is because we let her to settle on her own time, giving her opportunities to join in but not forcing her to be ready before she was ready to learn. Learning readiness is something that we need to take on board as educators, especially when that student has additional needs. They need to have the foundation skills in order to be able to engage in a learning programme that is designed for them.
Last term gave me the chance to be able to reflect on my own practice
, i needed to change the way i approached a student in order to cater to their individual needs

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Implementing AAC

In my clasroom I am fortunate to have a diverse range of students with a range of communication tools. This term many of my students are trialing different communication systems to find the best system which allows those students who are non-verbal to communicate. 
My current challenge is implementing all of the different devices into my class programme to ensure they are getting ample opportunities to communicate. A trial is usually a maximum of a few weeks if they are trialing a device that is in high demand. 

In my class i currently have:
- 2 verbal students, one with wide range of vocabulary and another who uses key words to communicate
- 1 nonverbal student has trialed a ipad mini with touch chat installed (the student presses the symbol / button which reads out the words). We are awaiting his device to be funded and in the meantime we are using a paper version of the ipad. 
Image result for go talk 9
- 1 nonverbal student is trialing a Go Talk 9 which is a system which you have to pre record language you want to use. 
- 1 nonverbal student is trialing a core board where he is learning to point to the symbols.
- 2 nonverbal students are awaiting a communication system  but are currently learning to use visuals in the classroom before moving to a complete system.

Over the next few weeks my aim is to integrate these systems into my reading programme to show how multiple systems can be used in one classroom to model language and encourage my students to use their AAC systems to communicate. I am looking forward to seeing what my students have to say with the chance to now be able to do so.
Lastly i wanted to share a powerful blog i came across. It really encouraged me to think of my learners and how they must feel with limited means of communicating. In the chaos of a special needs classroom with so much going on it can be difficult to walk across the room to get their device when it took so long to finally get settled in the activity. However after reading this blog it has driven me to do what i can to give my students a voice.  
Blog link here

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Practice makes Perfect!

Each afternoon I do individual reading with each of my students. Some students are able to sit and attend to a story and others are not yet ready to read. 
I have a student called Benjmain who has recently been able to show me many of the skills he has. After 9 weeks at school he is now able to sit at his seat for the majority of circle time, attend to a shared reading book and complete a work task. I knew that if i persevered with trying to get him to participate in reading he would become familiar with what is expected. 
After 2 weeks of bringing him to the table and getting him to point to the words and turn the page, he started to stay in his seat for longer and longer. At first he would turn one page and walk off; over time he increased the sitting time and participated more and more. 
Benjamin will now sit and participate in individual reading for the duration of a story. 
I am also able to send his reading book home so that he can read at home. His family commented that they were surprised he was able to sit for the length of time as he had never shown much interest in books. For the family, this was a huge milestone and one they were able to see him achieve at both home and school.