Header/Navigation Bar/Social Media Icons

Thursday 19 November 2015

Inside the HELP Part 2: Writing IEP Goals

Hi Everyone!  I am today's guest blogger for We Teach SPED and I thought I would share some information on writing IEP goals based on the Hawaii Early Learning Profile or HELP curriculum.  I wrote about the HELP curriculum a while back, but you can refresh your memory by reading this post.

Selecting IEP Goals
After working with several teachers on writing IEP goals and developing students’ academic programs, it became evident that the HELP© assessment is not being utilized as it was designed to be.  
Teachers are using the HELP© curriculum to choose IEP goals, however, they are not basing those goals on the student’s scores on the assessment.  In recent IEP meetings with teachers, the student’s HELP© Charts and Strands booklets were absent and this is a big mistake.

As a result, students are being taught skills that are either already mastered, or are too difficult for them.   Students are then seen as engaging in inappropriate or off-task behaviour because they are bored, or frustrated.  Therefore, it is important to follow these steps when selecting IEP goals.

Student Needs + Realistic and Obtainable Goals = Progress

Step 1:  Choose goals that are developmentally appropriate

Once the HELP assessment has been completed, the school team meets to select IEP goals.  Using the Strands booklet is the most effective way to choose IEP goals that are developmentally appropriate for the student.  
The Strands booklet contains developmentally sequenced items within each Strand that focus upon a specific underlying key concept.  The skills are also laid out in a hierarchical manner; one skill leads to or builds the foundation for the next skill.
Therefore, using the Strands booklet makes it easy to ensure that you are selecting IEP goals that are at the right level for the student.  Based on the student’s assessment scores, you can simply select the goal that follows the student’s last success within each strand.
For example, let’s say that within the Math Readiness strand you have been teaching a student to tell time, using goal number 1.274:  Read hour and half-hour time.  The student has mastered this skill and you are wondering where to go next.  
By referring to the stands booklet, you will easily find that the next goal for telling time is 1.275:  Matches time with daily activities.  Once a student has mastered this goal, the next goal in the strands booklet is 1.278:  Reads numerals on a clock face and associates time with routine activity.
As you can see, the teaching sequence is laid out for you, eliminating the guess work and ensuring a developmentally appropriate sequence for teaching skills. 

Step 2:  Translating HELP goals into well-written IEP goals

Once you have selected your developmentally appropriate goal for your student, it is time to translate that goal into an IEP goal.
Well written IEP goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound.  Using the HELP© strands booklet will help you to choose attainable and relevant IEP goals, but how you write your IEP goals will determine if they are specific, measurable and time-bound.
When translating the HELP© goals into well-written IEP goals, it is important to consult the HELP© manual.  Each goal in the HELP© manual has a definition.  These definitions will assist you in ensuring that you have written specific IEP goals.
Let’s review the definition provided for goal number 1.274:  Reads hour and half-hour time.  The HELP© definition for this goal is,”The child will identify the hour and half-hours on a conventional clock (hour and minute hands).  The child will specify the hour and half-hours by reading the clock, relating the hour or half-hour by activities or by setting a conventional clock to the hour or half-hour when requested.”
This definition provides you with a specific description for teaching, however, it is lacking the elements of measure and being time-bound.  A well-written IEP goal includes a way of measuring progress and outlines a time frame in which the goal should be mastered.
Determining how you will measure progress is an imperative part of writing IEP goals.  If you do not have a plan for tracking and measuring progress for each skill, then you might as well not have an IEP.
The most accurate tool of measurement for IEP goals is data collection.  Collecting data on each skill, each time the student demonstrates the skill or is taught the skill, provides objective and accurate information about the student’s progress.
Data collection eliminates any discrepancies there may be between staff on student performance and provides written information to review when determining if a skill is mastered.  Including the use of data collection in IEPs  for students with developmental disabilities, ensures that your IEP goals are measurable.
When considering the time frame and method of measuring progress for IEP goals, consider the components for mastery and generalization commonly used in ABA-based (Applied Behaviour Analysis) teaching.  A general rule of thumb for mastery and generalization is the ability of the student to demonstrate the skill across materials, people, settings and time.
If you consider these components when writing your IEP goals, it will help you to determine the appropriate amount of time it will take the student to master the skill.  For students with developmental disabilities, mastering skills will take days or weeks to master.
So, what does a well-written IEP goal look like?  Let’s refer back to goal Using the HELP© manual as a guide, this is an example of how an IEP goal may be written for this skill.
“Max will specify the time on analog and digital clocks according to the hour and half-hour by reading the clock and setting analog and digital clocks to the specified time upon request, 4 out of 5 times over three days (with a minimum of thirty trials) in a variety of settings.”
This IEP goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.  For more examples of how to translate HELP© goals to IEP goals, refer to my resource document, “Linking the HELP© to the Ontario Full Day Early Learning Kindergarten Program”.  You can access this document by requesting it through email:  nicole.leger@sccdsb.net.

Step 3:  Designing a plan for teaching

By using the strands booklet, you can quickly and easily lay out a plan for teaching based on developmentally sequenced goals for teachers and EAs to follow.  Using the stands booklet to design a sequence for teaching will save you time when writing your lesson or teaching plans.  The educational team will know what the end goal is and the sequence of teaching.
This method of teaching allows you to design lesson plans that begin at the student’s current level of developmental functioning and eliminates some of the frustration students experience when they are being taught skills that are too difficult for them.  When everyone knows what the end goal is for a skill and the appropriate sequence of teaching, the student will experience more success and growth in their learning.
For each goal in the developmental sequence, it is important to consult the HELP© manual for ideas on how to assess and teach the selected goal.  Within each goal description in the manual, there is a section called, “Adaptations”.  This section is particularly important to review when using the HELP© to teach students with developmental disabilities.  
This section will discuss prerequisites that you may not have considered when selecting a goal for teaching and provide ideas on how to teach and reinforce the skill being taught in natural settings throughout the day. 

Who do you write IEP goals?  Do you have a specific formula that you use?  I'd love to hear from you!  Comment below or send me an email!  Thanks for stopping by and don't forget to come back on December 3rd when I will be posting the third part in this series on data collection.

Until then,

Parks-Warshaw, S.  (1992-2007). HELP Strands.  Vort Corporation, P.O. Box 60132, Palo Alto, CA 94306
HELP, Hawaii Early Learning Profile, & VORT are registered trademarks of VORT Corporation. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2005-2014 VORT Corporation

Monday 2 November 2015

Teaching Functional Play to Students with Autism - Part Two

Hi Everyone!  It's my turn to post in the We Teach SPED group, and since I was't able to do my last post due to the election, I thought I would write it today!  Today's post in the second in my series on teaching functional play skills to students with Autism.  In my last post, I spoke about strategies for increasing engagement and social play.  Today, I am going to focus on playing with toys.

Cause and Effect Toys

Some of students who are very early learners need to be taught how play and activate cause and effect toys.  I like to use them with these students because they initially rely on an adult to activate them, thus increasing attention and engagement with the adult.  When a student does not yet know how to play with them independently and are reliant upon an adult to activate them, you can work on requesting with the student.  I also like to use them because they appeal to the repetitiveness that students with autism need and enjoy.  Once the student learns how to manipulate and activate these types of toys, they are able to engage in independent play, at the earliest developmental stage.

Using Closed-Ended Toys

When I start to teach a young student how to play with toys, I next begin with toys that have a clear beginning and end.  Toys such as stacking rings, texting cups, shape sorters and inset puzzles.  Some of these toys appeal to students with autism because they can line the items up in a vertical manner.  Others appeal to them because they are simple and quick to complete and play to their strengths of visual perception.  I like these toys because they are the building blocks of skills like matching, size concepts and ordering.  I also like using them because they are easy for the student to learn how to complete them and they quickly become the student's first toys that they play with functionally and independently.  Once a student masters these toys, they will choose to play with them during free time because they have been paired with reinforcement and the student knows how to play with them.  Students with autism like to repeat activities that they are successful with and that bring them joy.

Play Through Imitation

The step in teaching students with autism to play with toys is to teach them through imitation.  This skill is commonly referred to as Gross Motor Imitation with Objects in ABA terms.  This early skill is mostly aimed at increasing attention to instructors and imitating or copying models, but I also like to use it to teach students how to play with toys.  Students with autism don't know how to play with toys functionally.  They will often line them up, spin them or watch parts of them move, such as wheels on cars or trains.  By teaching play through imitation, you are showing the student different ways of manipulating or interacting with the toys.  When using this method, I like to choose a set of toys that are related, rather than a random selection.  So, I will begin teaching with a set of tools, a train set or cars, etc.  When you choose a set of tools, rather than random ones for GMI targets, you can teach the student to play with the same toy in a variety of ways.  For example, I have one student who loves the movie "Cars".  I was able to find a bunch of these toys at the Dollar Tree and then gathered a couple of other items like a tunnel and garage.  His teaching targets for these toys include pretending to drive the cars, crashing the cars, driving them off of the table, driving through the tunnel, towing a car, etc. Teaching a variety of play actions with the same set of toys helps to expand creative play and reduce repetitive actions.

Structuring Toys

After a student has demonstrated that s/he can imitate several different play actions, I will teach them to play with toys that have been structured.  By structured, I mean setting up toys so that students have some instructions as to how to play with them, or boundaries that assist them in playing functionally.  Some ways to structure toys include adhering them to a tray to create boundaries, or adding visual pathways.  Sometimes, students need to be taught how to play with these toys as well, but usually it is just a one time demonstration.  These play activities are short in duration and are great for early learners.

Play or Activity Schedules

Once a student has mastered several closed ended play activities or toys, we begin to teach them to build and follow a play schedule.  These schedules are particularly helpful for students with autism as it allows them to plan out their play activities and helps to deter them from engaging in self-stimulatory behaviour during free time.  These schedules are also helpful to parents at home, as they allow them a chunk of time to do make dinner or wash dishes, while knowing that their child is engaged in functional play activities.  Once a student has mastered using a schedule at school, I will coach the parents how on to set it up at home.  Basically, a play schedule is a series of play activities that the student chooses to engage in during free or exploration time.  All of the play activities or toys that the student chooses to play with have been previously taught to the student.  The student is taught to choose the activities to build their schedule and then how to follow the schedule, including locating the toys and putting them away before moving onto the next activity.  This video demonstrates a student using a play schedule in my classroom.

Building From A  Model

The next step in teaching functional play with toys involves teaching students to build scenes, or structures from a picture model.  The models can be presented in photos, drawings or clipart and can use legos, blocks, felt pieces or Mr. Potato Head.  Basically, the student is taught to replicate what they see in the picture, using the materials provided.  Teaching students with autism to play using this strategy is not only important for the development of their play skills, but also for teaching them to follow pictorial instructions, a skill they will use for the rest of their lives in a variety of situations, such as assembling furniture, and following emergency procedures, such as on airplanes.  I use this strategy as an introduction to playing with building type toys with my students, as some students with autism lack the imagination and creativity to construct their own structures or scenes when playing with these types of toys.  I also use this as a precursor to teaching students to use play scripts.

Play Scripts

Once a student has a strong base of imitation and copying skills and independent closed ended play activities in their repertoire, I begin teaching them how to follow play scripts.  In their most basic form, play scripts involve copying a series of actions as depicted in photos.  The students look at the photos and copy what they see with the toys provided.  These scripts provide students with autism a sequence of play actions they can engage in that encourage pretend play.  Most students with autism lack the imagination and spontaneity that comes naturally to most children when playing, as well as the language and social skills that are an integral part to children's pretend play.  Teaching students with autism to use play scripts allows them to engage in pretend play skills that can be expanded upon and easily incorporate peers into their play.  This video shows one of my students engaging in play using a play script.  Just a note, before introducing a play script for this toy, he would engage in self stimulatory and repetitive behaviours with it, such as pushing the swing and spinning the tic tac toe pieces.  Also, this is one of the first scripts we used with him.  Since then, he has mastered several more, which involve more creative play sequences.  You can download this play script here.

Video Models

Video models have been effectively used in ABA teaching for years for teaching a variety of skills.  I like to use them in my classroom to teach students how to engage in pretend play using sounds and language to enhance their play and for teaching them to play with peers.  Essentially, video models depicts a scene of play, such as playing doctor, house or grocery shopping that the student watches and then imitates with toys and/or peers.  What I like about using video models is that it adds the feature of language to the play and it also makes the student rely on their memory to re-enact what they watched.  And I have found that no matter how good a student's memory is, they ultimately alter the script from what they have seen and add their own imaginative element to their play.  I have found that using video modelling and play scripts ultimately leads to the expansion of pretend play with toys and eventually with peers.

Note Bene*

As a final note, I should add that as with all prompting used in teaching students with autism, it is important to fade the use of the visuals, scripts and video models that are used when initially teaching play skills to students with autism. 

Additional Resources

I recently purchased two books from The Hanen Centre that are easy to read and full of great tips and strategies to encourage, expand and teach play skills.  They are aimed at parents, but I found them very helpful for my EAs and students on placement.  They are the first two books in a new series called "Make Play ROCK" and are aimed at children with autism and other social communication difficulties.  The ROCK stands for: Repeat, Offer Opportunities, Cue and Keep it Going.  This term is referenced throughout the books and offers plans for play, as well as simple assessment tools so staff can evaluate their current way of playing.  The first book focuses on people play and the second book is all about playing with toys.  The third book in the series, which I just checked and is now available for order is about pretend play and the fourth book, which is not yet available focuses on playing with peers.  These books are great resources and are fairly inexpensive.  You can order them through the Hanen Centre website.

Thanks so much for stopping by!  I would love to hear about your tips and strategies for teaching students with autism to play.  Leave me a comment below or send me an email!

Until next time,

Sunday 25 October 2015

SPED Tricks and Treats Blog Hop!

Blogging has taken a backseat in my life over the last couple of weeks as I have been crazy busy with school and volunteer work.  But, the election is now over and I am hoping that I will have some more time to dedicate to my blog!  Today I am participating in the SPED Tricks and Treats Blog Hop with my favourite SPED teachers!  There's plenty of tricks (SPED teacher hacks) and treats to be had, so make sure you hop to every blog!

One of my favourite tricks to use in my classroom is how to store all of those little pieces for file folder games.  I love using file folder games with my students for independent work tasks, but keeping track of the pieces that go with them drives me crazy!  We used baggies for years, but they don't tend to hold up for long term use.  So, last year we switched to using these DVD envelopes.  They are easy to open for the students, but most importantly, they are durable!  And we have hardly lost any pieces since we starting using them!  Bonus!  We ordered ours through amazon.

There are several ways to use velcro in the SPED classroom.  We use it on file folder games, matching tasks, spelling tasks, to hang visual supports on the walls and chalkboards, etc.  Basically we use velcro like tape in my room!  We've also used it to dampen the sound of a slamming door when trying to decrease this behaviour with one student.  But, my favourite use of velcro in my room is to use it on bathroom stall doors when toilet training a student.  Before teaching a student to lock the stall door, we use velcro to keep it shut, but not locked.  That way we are teaching the importance of privacy, but can still get into the stall to help out if needed, or prevent a student from stuffing a roll of toilet paper in the toilet!

And now for a treat!  Halloween wouldn't the complete without a little treat!  My students love completing bingo dauber worksheets!  They are simple enough for them to complete independently and are perfect for students with poor motor skills or non-writers.  My Halloween Bingo Dauber Worksheets focus on basic math and literacy skills and are perfect for young students with Autism and other special needs.  You can grab them here.

Thanks for stopping by and Happy Halloween!  And be sure to hop over to All Things Special Ed for some more SPED tricks and treats!

Until next time,

Saturday 3 October 2015

Teaching Functional Play to Students with Autism

HI Everyone!  I am finally back with a new post!  September has been a crazy busy month with the start of school and it has been made even crazier with the EAs in our board on work to rule.  With the WTR campaign, I have had to do all prep for my classroom on my own and haven't had any time for blogging!  But, today is my day to post for the We Teach SPED group and I've got a great post of teaching play for you!

The Importance of Play

Play skills can sometimes be seen as unimportant, or delegated to the bottom of the list of important skills to teach to students with Autism or other developmental disabilities in school settings.  Play skills affect a variety of learning situations, and a child who cannot play appropriately will have a very hard time making social connections. This is because for children, much of their communication and interaction occurs through play. Small children don’t introduce themselves, shake hands, exchange business cards, and begin to debate the state of the economy. A child walks up to another child, says “Wanna play?”, and a friendship is born. If your students lack appropriate play skills they will be at a social disadvantage, as well as have difficulty with basic concepts such as: sharing/negotiation, conflict resolution, turn taking/reciprocity, manners/rules, etc. Small children often learn these basic concepts through the intricate complexities of play.

The Floor Time Model

When students first enter my classroom, I take two weeks to complete assessments on them.  This includes assessing their play skills.  For most of my students, especially my Kinders, they have severe limitations and deficits in their ability to play.  And because is so closely linked to social and communication skills for children, my students always have goals related to play skills on their IEPs.  In my classroom, we use a few different methods to teach and expand my student's play skills, including Greenspan's Floor Time Model.

Floor Time is child directed and adult supported. It provides an opportunity to transform perseverative play into more meaningful and developmentally beneficial behavior, and works to expand the play themes of children with autism spectrum disorders. At the same time, it is designed to help the child develop relationships with others. Floor Time involves five steps:
  1. The adult observes the child playing in order to determine how to approach him/her.
  2. The adult approaches the child and joins the activity while trying to match the child’s emotional tone.
  3. The child directs the action and the adult follows the child’s lead.
  4. The adult expands on the child’s chosen play theme without being intrusive.
  5. When a child builds on the adult’s input, the child “closes the circle of communication” and starts a new circle.

It is crucial that the adult does not use Floor Time as a time to teach a particular skill. It is also important to remember that the child is the leader of the activity.
Floor Time can be used to change perseverative behavior. For example, if a child is fixated on lining up blocks, the adult joins in and adds blocks to the child’s line. Then the adult may place a block perpendicular and start the line going in a different direction. When the child continues the new line, he/she has “closed the circle of communication.” Some suggestions for Floor Time include inserting obstacles into play and helping the child problem-solve. If a child has very limited play themes, it may be helpful to use sensory toys (e.g., sand tables, shaving cream, bubbles) or use popular characters that the child enjoys to gain attention.  This video is a great example of a Floor Time session.

Where do I Start?

The starting point for teaching play will vary depending on your student's abilities.  For the purposes of this blog post, I am going to focus on teaching early play skills for young students.  For these students, the first step in teaching play is to identify what types of toys they are interested in.  To help determine the types of toys or activities a student might enjoy, we can look at the types of self-stimulating behaviors he engages in and investigate the way he reacts to a variety of sights, sounds, tastes and movements in the environment.  

Many of the first toys and activities chosen to introduce to the child may be considered "stimmy" toys. For example, tops, spinning wheels, gears, or ribbon sticks. In other words, if left alone with the toy, the child may choose to watch it or interact with it over and over in a repetitive way.  It is important not to let the child "play" with the toy in this fashion because self-stimulating behaviors tend to reinforce themselves. We don't want to increase the child's self-stimulating behaviors by allowing them unlimited access to these toys. What we are trying to do is pair the reinforcer (stimmy toy) with talking and interacting with you. These are toys that should be kept up and away in a special place to only be played with when engaged with an adult. It is important that the teacher maintain control over the toy or parts of the toy to keep the child from "stimming" and ignoring the adult. If you find one toy or activity the child is interested in, try to find others that may offer the same or similar sensory stimulation to the child or use it to pair even more varied toys and activities.

Another set of toys or activities to look closely at are those which combine some "cause and effect" with pretend play. For example, a car wash that really squirts water, stoves that make bubbles when you cook or toy sinks that squirt out real water when they're pushed. If the child enjoys the "cause and effect" part of the toy, you can often get the child to respond to you by controlling that part of the toy yourself. For example, if the child wanted to see the bubbles from the stove, he's more likely to request, "cook" if you're holding onto the burner knob.

When playing with your student, try to avoid simply narrating what you see the student doing and instead participate in it. For example, if the student is rolling a train on a track, get another train and pretend to crash into his train or chase his train around the track. If he appears to be repeating the same activity over and over, interrupt him in a playful manner. For example, if the child is running in circles around the room, swoop him up into the air and "fly" him around the room instead.

Be aware that some children become increasingly excited when interacting with some toys, especially "stimmy" toys. If your student appears to become very active and seems to be unable to focus on what you're doing, take a break and do a different type of activity that involves different stimuli. For example, if a child begins jumping up and down and clapping while playing with a top you might ask him to sit then take a break and engage in an activity with a history of calming the child. You have to be careful not to unintentionally reinforce any negative behaviors by reacting to the student's behavior. Use the information but wait to switch to another activity when the student is exhibiting a desirable behavior if the new activity may be preferred over the current one.

Beginning Play

The following teaching techniques have been found to increase students' interest in people and/or toys. Remember the goal at this point is that the child "allows you" to enter his play and you become part of the reinforcement he is getting from the situation.
1. Build anticipation- Repeat the same words or sequence of movements over and over in the same manner then pause.
Ex: Play "Peek -a- Boo". Say, "ahhhhhh Boo!" as you gradually move toward your student and take a blanket off your head. As the student begins to attend to you, you will notice a smile and eye contact as you get closer. The student may begin to laugh as you remove the blanket. When you begin to see this happening, stop, right before you say, "Boo!". The student may fill-in "Boo" or try to take the blanket off your head for you!
2. Do something unexpected- Repeat an activity in the same manner then all of a sudden change the routine.
Ex: If your student is eating a cookie, say, "I'm hungry" and move toward the cookie taking a few pretend nibbles. After he has tolerated this a few times, move toward him and make loud, sloppy eating sounds!
3. Imitate what your student is doing then make a game of it.
Ex: The student is stomping on pinecones while you go for a walk. You take a turn stomping on the pinecones saying, "I found one! Stomp". Then tell him, "Your turn. Stomp" as he stomps on the pinecone. As this "game" progresses, perhaps you could find more pinecones and put them in a circle or another pattern to play the "stomp" game. I am not suggesting imitating stims, instead but turning them into meaningful play.
4. Interrupt the student's "play" by playfully obstructing.
Ex: The student is repeatedly going up and down an indoor slide, crashing into pillows at the bottom. Grab his leg (gently) at the top of the slide and "wiggle" him saying, "Oh, No! I caught you!" You will know whether or not the child finds this "fun" if he's smiling. Wait for the eye contact before saying, "Let go?" in a questioning manner then letting the student go down the slide. Or, if a student is running around in circles then crashing into the couch cushions, place some pillows on the floor and crash into them instead. Make sure you take turns crashing!
5. Pair words/sounds with what the student is doing.
Ex: As the student is drawing by himself, say "draw, draw, draw" or "around, around, around and stop", or "up and down, up and down." (Whatever describes what the student is doing.) Use the type of voice (i.e. sing-song, quiet, exaggerated) the student typically enjoys. Just the pairing of these words or sounds with reinforcement make it more likely that the student will use the words/sounds later. (automatic reinforcement)
6. Do something unexpected.
Ex: If the student is repeatedly scooping shovels full of sand or rice and watching it flow into a pail, pretend to eat it! Or bring a favorite character (i.e. Elmo? Barney?) over to the play to "eat".
7. Use exaggerated facial expressions/body movements to make yourself "stand out".
EX: Open your eyes wide, fall down with a big "boom!", cry with your mouth wide open and your hands rubbing your "tears".
8. Create meaning- Even if you don't think your student said a "real word", listen to the sounds he's making and act is if they have meaning.
Ex: While drawing, the student is babbling and says something that sounds like "sun". Quickly pick up a marker and draw a sun as if the student asked you to draw it. (A history of reinforcement creates "meaning".)
9. Introduce other "characters" into the play.
Ex: The student enjoys having you bounce him on a ball. Bring in other toys and let them bounce on the ball. If the student starts pushing these characters off the ball say, "Go away, Elmo" as the student pushes the characters away.

Most of these techniques are what parents naturally do with their infants and toddlers, but adults seem to forget about these when working with students in the classroom.  These techniques are very effective and I have used them in my classroom for years and have seen students who were initially very withdrawn and isolated in their own worlds become more social and develop more communication and language skills, not to mention expanding their play interests and abilities.

Have you used the Floor Time Model in your classroom?  What results have you seen?  I'd love to hear from you!  I also hope you will drop by on October 19th to read the second post in this series on Structured Play.

Until then,

Recommendations by Engageya