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Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Appy Autism Awareness Day!

It's time for another Tech Tuesday link up!  I am linking up to Once Upon A Classroom's blog to share some Appy news with you!

April is Autism Awareness Month, with April 2nd declared Worldwide Autism Awareness Day by the United Nations. To celebrate, oodles of developers kindly set their apps to free or reduce their prices for a limited time during the month. Some developers will do this on April 2nd for Autism Awareness Day, and that day only, while others will offer the discounts or free apps for the entire month. I would suggest looking for the apps on April 2nd to find out when the savings will be offered.  The only two sales that I can confirm today are for Proloquo2Go and the MES Speech Bundle.

Proloquo2Go will be on sale for $109.50 and the MES Speech bundle will be on sale for $29.99.  The MES speech therapy bundle, which has 10 of our 11 speech therapy apps, will be on sale for Autism Awareness Month. For $29.99, you'll get almost $90 worth of apps. I use both of these apps in my classroom and great for working on speech and language goals.  Click on the photos for more information on these apps.

Good Karma Applications Inc. will be offering codes for free apps throughout the day on April 2nd on their Facebook page.

Below is a list of app developers who have also offered free or discounted apps in the past for Autism Awareness Month.

Brain Parade
Touch Autism
Autism iHelp - John Talavera
Doonan Speech Therapy
The Language Express Inc.
Alligator Apps

Do you know of any developers that will be having sales or giving away free apps on April 2nd?  I'd love to hear from you!  Comment below or send me an email!

Until next time,

Monday, 23 March 2015

Hoppy Easter!

It's hard to believe that it's almost the end of March!  It's time to say good-bye to winter and hello spring!  I am so ready for warmer weather and longer days filled with sunshine!  With spring right around the corner, that also means that it will soon be Easter.  For the next two weeks we will be learning about Easter in my classroom, so it seems timely to share these Easter themed activities I made with you!  I am linking up with Jungle Learners today, so be sure to hop over there and check out everyone's Easter resources and maybe grab a freebie or two!

To help my students learn some Easter vocabulary, I made this interactive book to read together.  My students are much more engaged in reading when there is a more active component involved.  In this book, students find the correct picture and place it in the box on the page.  This helps them to attach meaning to the words they hear.  I have also included flashcards and spelling task cards that can be used to work on the vocabulary words in the book to enhance receptive and expressive vocabulary skills, matching letters and letter recognition.

To work on colour identification and counting, I made another interactive book.  In this one, the students count the eggs, find the corresponding number symbol and place it in the first box on each page.  They then identify the colour by choosing the corresponding colour symbol and placing it in the second box.  Then the teacher reads the completed sentence to the student.

I have one student who loves to colour, and others that need to work on their grasp and fine motor control, so I made these mini colouring sheets.  There are four colouring sheets to a page that can be printed and cut apart.

And finally, I made these matching and sorting tasks at varying levels of difficulty to match the varying needs of my students.  These will be used to teach matching and sorting for some of my students, and for others they will be independent tasks.

You can get any of these activities by visiting my TPT store:  https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Adventures-In-The-Atc.

What activities do you have planned for your students?  Have you made any resources that you would like to share?  Leave me a comment below or link up at Jungle Learners.  I'd love to hear from you!

Until next time,

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Tech Tuesday Linky Party!

It's March Break here in Ontario and I couldn't be happier to have the week off!  Today I want to share another one of my favourite apps for the Tech Tuesday Linky Party at Once Upon a Classroom.  Kid's Journal is a great app to use to work on recall, time and communication skills.

Students can record their feelings, where they went (i.e. home, school, on vacation), or the weather. Kid’s Journal entries have the option to post a photo and include room for text to add more details about the day.  I especially like this last option, as students can include photos of themselves in an activity and describe what they did either by typing a sentence or two themselves, or telling an adult who can type it for them.  This is great for my students with Autism who have a difficult time relaying information about their day to their parents.

The other nice feature is that Kid’s Journal entries can be exported in their entirety or as a range of dates. The exported files can be read in iBooks, Notability, and a number of other applications, like popular screencasting apps, on the iPad. If imported into Notability, their entries can be then be emailed to their parents to read.  Kid’s Journal is a great option for sharing learning experiences with parents.

That's it for me today!  Off to enjoy the day with my nieces and nephew!  I'd love to hear about any of your favourite apps!  Leave me a comment below or send me an email!

Until next time,

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Tech Tuesday Linky Party!

It's time for another linky party hosted by Marie from Once Upon a Classroom!

Today, I'd like share a document I created as part of our 2012-2013 TLLP project, iSkills for Autism. the focus of this project was on using iPads as learning tools to help increase skill acquisition, levels of engagement and independence in learning in students with autism. I will not go into great detail about this project now, but if you are interested in learning more about it, click here. For this project, we were required to create 3 learning artefacts. One of our learning artefacts was a list of apps we tested in our classroom that we found to be beneficial for students with Autism.

I am aware of the many app lists that currently exist, so you might ask what sets this one apart? This list is organized into categories based on the developmental domains outlined in the Hawaii Early Learning Profile. The Hawaii Early Learning Profile, or HELP, is HELP is a flexible curriculum based assessment system that includes a variety of assessment and intervention components such as assessing a child's developmental strengths and needs, identifying family concerns priorities and resources, and planning interventions to address assessment findings. HELP is one of the most widely-used (if not the most widely used) curriculum-based assessments in the world. The reasons for HELP's success and popularity are most likely the breadth and detail of the skills covered, the structure of the skill domains and the Strands, the important and excellent family-centered design and support materials, and the optional and practical formats. It is an excellent alternative curriculum for those students who cannot access the Ontario curriculum and is the curriculum that is used in both local school board’s in my area.

This list of apps has been compiled to provide a starting point for choosing and using apps in your classroom. The apps and resources included in this document were selected based on numerous recommendations from colleagues, paraprofessionals (SLPs, OTs, etc.), and personal research. All of the apps in this document were chosen based on their suitability for teaching skills outlined in the HELP and their use of evidence based teaching practices, specifically Structured Learning and Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA). If you are using ABLLS, VB-MAPP, or the Carolina Curriculum, you will still find this document useful as many of the skills in HELP are similar to those in these curriculum tools. And while the apps listed in this document were chosen specifically for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), they can be used with a wide range of students, both those who are developmentally disabled and neurotypical students. Whenever possible the description from the iTunes store was included, and it should be noted that many apps could fall into more than one category.

The apps have been grouped according to the six developmental domains included in the HELP: Cognitive, Language, Gross Motor, Fine Motor, Social, and Self Help. The apps in this document have been categorized based on these domains and also by the Assessment Strands within each developmental domain. The goal of this system of categorization is to make it easy for teachers and educational assistants to find an appropriate app for teaching a target skill based on the student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP).
I have tried to create a comprehensive review of the app features that are most relevant for use in school settings. These include comments on accessibility, differentiation, reporting and feedback, publishing and connectivity. These fields correlate to many of the app rubrics that are used to determine the effectiveness of an app in a particular setting. The apps detailed in this document are just a sample of the exciting apps currently available. New apps are being created every day and it is good practice to research the web regularly for apps that could enhance the teaching and learning in your classroom.

If you are interested in downloading this document, you can find it in my TPT store, by clicking here.  And for today only, you can get it for free!  So, head over to my store and get it for free while you can!

What are your favourite apps?  Is there a list of apps that you love?  Comment below or send me an email!  I'd love to hear from you!  Thanks of stopping by!

Until next time,

Sunday, 8 March 2015

April is Autism Awareness Month!

As most of you know April is Autism Awareness Month.  It's a time for us to raise our voices in support of children and adults diagnosed on the autism spectrum. April is national Autism Awareness month, the official month designated to bring awareness to world about this complex disorder.  Our classroom team will be spreading awareness and raising money for the purchase of educational learning materials in a few ways.

1)  We will be participating in Autism Ontario's Raise the Flag day on April 2nd for World Autism Awareness Day.  I missed the registration deadline, but thankfully the president of our local AO chapter was able to get me a flag to raise at our school.  Thanks Lori!  For more info on Autism Ontario's campaign and how you can get involved, click on the image below.

2)  We will also be wearing blue pin support of Autism Speaks Canada's Light It Up Blue campaign.  I am also hoping that the teachers in my school will use the lesson plans provided by Autism Speaks with their students to educate them about Autism.  Autism Speaks is an organization that is very important to me as they gave us grant money so that we could provide 12 students leaving our classroom with iPads and iPods to support their learning in inclusive classrooms.  Click on the image below to check out their website for the free educational resources for your classroom, Light It Up Blue merchandise and how you can get involved with this campaign.

3)  I will be selling Jamberry Autism Awareness nail wraps to raise money for our local chapter of Autism Ontario.  Show your support by wearing these Jamberry nail wraps! They come in adult and kid sizes! Contact me to order yours! I will be submitting an order on Wednesday to make sure they arrive in time!   And will submit another is there is enough interest, so you still have them in time for the month of April.  They are $20 per sheet. Each sheet provides two manicures and two pedicures for adults and 5-6 applications for kids. For every sheet sold, Jamberry donates $2 to the Autism Society and I will donate $2 per sheet to the Chatham-Kent chapter of Autism Ontario.

4)  To raise money towards the purchase of educational learning materials for students in my classroom and to celebrate Autism Awareness Month, we are having a Quarter Auction and raffle Fundraiser!  Tickets can be purchased through me, any of our vendors or at CKCS.  If you are interested in volunteering at this event or donating a raffle prize, please comment on this post or email me.  Thanks for your support!

How will you be celebrating Autism Awareness Month?  I'd love to hear from you!  Comment below or email me!

Until next time,

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Structured Learning Part 3 - Independent Work Systems

What is an Independent  Work System?

An independent  work system is an organizational system that gives a student with ASD information about what is expected when he/she arrives at a specified classroom location. An independent work system is a systematic and organized presentation of tasks and materials that visually communicates at least four pieces of information to the student: 
  1. The tasks/steps the student is supposed to do.
  2. How many tasks/steps there are to be completed.
  3. How the student knows he/she is finished.
  4. What to do when he/she is finished.
While a picture schedule directs a student WHERE to go, a work system instructs a student on WHAT TO DO once they arrive in the scheduled area. Work systems are also often referred to as mini-schedules, a schedule within a schedule, to-do-lists, or activity schedules.

Why do I use Independent Work Systems with Students with ASD?

The goal of independence is a priority for all children, yet when working with children with ASD, independence is the key to successful community inclusion and future employment. Establishing independence as a curricular goal is vital, as is gaining an understanding of the possible barriers to independence that students with ASD face. Students with autism may face several unique challenges when learning that may be an obstacle to the development of independent skills, including a lack of organizational skills, distractibility, difficulty with sequencing, generalization and independent initiation of activities.page3image17240

How do I Implement an Independent Work System?

An independent work system provides all of the required information without adult prompting and teaches the student to attend to visual cues (rather than verbal directives) when completing a task. An independent work system assists in organizing a student with ASD by providing a systematic work routine— working from left-to-right or top-to-bottom. Students do not have to plan where to begin or how to proceed. Work systems can be used with any type of task or activity (e.g., academic, self- help, leisure), across settings (e.g., independent work area, cafeteria, place of employment), and for individuals at all functioning levels (e.g., systems can range from concrete to abstract).

How I Implement Work Systems in My Classroom

I start my students on independent work systems almost immediately.  It's never too soon to start building independence!  Over the years, I have implemented independent work systems in a variety of ways based on students' needs.  For my very early learners, I use bins that are set out on the table and the students completes the activity in each bin moving from left to right.  With this method, we start with just one task, and add more as the student learns the system.  The student uses a mini-schedule with colour symbols to understand the sequence of activities.  This is an example of what it would look like.  The last symbol on the schedule is a picture of a preferred activity that the students gets to go to next as their reinforcement for completing the tasks.

Photo Credit:  Christine Reeve, www.autismclassroomnews.com
Once the student has mastered this system, I move them onto a slightly more difficult system.  This system, still uses a schedule, but the tasks are kept in a rolling bin beside the student's work table and presented in a top down manner.

The schedule is on the student's table and s/he simply removes the symbol and matches to the correct symbol on the drawer.  They then, open the drawer, take out the task and complete it.  Once they are done the task, they put it back in the drawer and complete the next task.

Once the student learns the concept of independent work and demonstrates proficiency with the system described above, I move them onto a different system.  Due to the varied abilities of the students in room at any given time, I have moved to using this one system for the majority of my students.  Moving to this system has saved us space, reduced the amount of prep time required to set up and clean up the work tasks and helps to keep things organized.  Prior to this system, each student had their own set of activities that were matched to their abilities.  Since the materials weren't labelled, the tasks were often put away in the incorrect place and a result, students were given work that was either too hard or too easy for them.  We needed to change how we organized our independent work tasks.

Our main independent work area is a small space.  It is defined by tall cabinets and has one large table, which allows two students to work at a time.  All of the work tasks are kept in this area, so it is easy to set up and clean up the tasks throughout the day.

The table is divided in half by some painter's tape and each student has an independent work sign, where they match their schedule symbols to, a help hand and "all done" baskets.

All of the work tasks in our independent work are are organized by colour.  We have four levels of activities, with green being the easiest and red being the hardest.  

All of the tasks are labelled with dot stickers to indicate in which bin they belong. This is an example of a put on activity that is in the green level.  For this task, the student put bingo chips on the circles.

Each student is assigned a colour based on their level of ability.  This chart is posted so that staff know which tasks each student should complete.  As students acquire more skills, they move up to the next level of tasks.

When students come the independent work area, they either find the name independently on the chart or are given the card with their name on it.  They then match their name to the one on their bin, take their bin our and complete the tasks inside.  When they are finished a task, they put it in the "all done" basket.

Students complete their independent work between 2 and 3 times a day.  Their bins are set up each morning before they arrive, and cleaned up throughout the day.  A nice feature with this system is that it's fairly portable.  So if a student needs to complete their work in a different area for some reason, we simply grab the bins and move them to another area in the classroom.  We use a variety of tasks for our independent work, including file folder games, lotto matching games, puzzles, counting task cards, spelling tasks cards, fine motor activities, etc.  The activities are in the students' bins are different every day and each time they complete their independent work throughout the day.  This is an example of what would be in a student's independent work bin.

Because the students aren't following a mini-schedule with this system, we keep choice boards, and first/then boards in the area, so that students can choose their reinforcer before they start the work and have the visual reminder of what they get upon completion of the work.

As organized as our independent work area is, I felt that my EAs still needed some reminders.  Especially since we have new students who have limited skills and need to be taught how to use these system.  So I made a poster to remind them how to run this station.  The poster and other visuals needed to create your own independent work system for your students are available in this kit at our classroom TPT store.  Click on the photo to purchase this kit.

Tips for Implementing Work Systems:

  1. Provide only the materials the student will need for the specific task/activity to decrease confusion. 
  2. Use work systems in a variety of settings (e.g., circle time, social groups, playground, home, doctor visits) to increase generalization across locations and adults. 
  3. Teach the work system with minimally invasive prompts so the adult/prompts do not become part of the work routine (e.g., prompt nonverbally, direct students to visual cues, prompt from behind so adult is not part of the student’s visual field, fade prompts as quickly as possible to maximize independence). 
  4. Create smaller, more portable work systems (e.g. in a notebook, file box) for students who travel to different settings throughout the school day. 
  5. Incorporate student’s interests in the visual cues used in the works system (e.g. students can match pictures of SpongeBob on their work system). 
How do you implement independent work systems in your classrooms?  I'd love to hear from you!

Until next time,

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