Saturday, April 19, 2014

What They Have Taught Me

I was asked my to share about how I got my start in special education and how I decided that I wanted to teach students with special needs, specifically those with autism.

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I did not come from a line of teachers (I’m the only teacher in my immediate family), I did not have any family members with disabilities when I was deciding what I wanted to be, but I did have a group of kids that changed my image of students with special needs.   When I was a senior in high school, my mom took a job as paraprofessional in the self-contained special education classroom at my high school.  During that time, I rode with my mom to school every day.  Some mornings I would stay in the classroom as the students came in or I would go in at the end of school.  The kids in that class made an impact on my heart.  They were so loving and loved having me around to help them.  Their teacher was always more than willing to show me strategies that worked with kids and would let me play educational games with some of them, to cook with them, and to just have a conversation. It was then I knew that there had been a special calling put on my life to help students with disabilities.  I wanted badly for those students to learn and love.  I wanted to advocate for them and teach them everything from academics to social skills.  I knew when I chose my major the next year in college that special education was what I was meant to do. 
Over the years, students with special needs have taught me so much! Here are the 3 things that I learned that cannot be learned in a college classroom.
1.  Each student has a unique story.  I have never met two students that are alike, even if they are diagnosed with the same disabilities.  There are so many factors that make each child special. 

2.  Kids just want to be heard.  I’ve heard over and over that behavior is communication.  I’ve learned through trials and celebrations that each child has a different way to communicate.  Some kids can use their words, others signs and gestures, and still others behavior (sometimes undesirable behaviors).  This is why a relationship with my kiddos has been so important to me over the years.  If I want a student to communicate in whatever way works for them, then I need to build the relationship of trust first so that they will communicate wants and needs in a way that is effective and appropriate.

3.  All emotions with a special needs student are strong, but especially love.  I love my kids…that is why I do my job.  When I get bogged down in meetings, paperwork, behavior plans, IEPS, I have to regroup and remember the love.  I think it is incredibly important to show each student love.  I make it a point to get to know each student as an individual.  I want to know their strengths, their weaknesses, what their hobbies are, about their families, what makes them tick, what makes them cry, and what makes them smile.  At the end of a school year, what I what to do the most is that I have touched  a kid’s heart, even more so than reading, math and writing scores!

I’m still learning everyday and appreciating each child that I have the privilege to teach and hopefully leave a lasting and positive impression on their life.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Tech on Tuesday: Autism Apps

In honor of Autism Awareness Month I want to share with you some of my favorite apps that I use for kids with autism.  This is a list of some of my favorites :)  

Graphics by 3AM Teacher

Social Skills:
iModeling App-a favorite to use for video modeling!

Too Noisy-This app tracks noise and gives visual cues showing when it is too noisy in the room.  Sensitivity can be set depending on the student.
Brain Works App-Great for sensory breaks!

AAC & Communication


Touch Autism has great apps that include social narratives, timers, and assessments.

And for fun :)  These are a couple of my favorite special education/autism TPT stores that I've purchased so many great resources from!

Do you have favorite apps that you use with students with special needs and autism?  I would love to hear about your favorites!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Currently

So I lied yesterday!  I feel compelled to blog April's Currently before I leave for the mountains with the family.  Everyone here is still asleep, so I was just having a little quiet time when I saw the new Currently by Farley being posted on some of my favorite blogs! A girl can't miss this! :)

Listening:  I love days when I get to watch the Today Show.  During the school year, I rarely get to see the Today Show unless it is a snow day.  Well, thankfully there is no snow on the ground anymore and it is Spring Break!  This has been a long awaited spring here in the Bluegrass!  

Loving:  Two words:  Spring Break!  No explanation needed here!

Thinking:  Sticking with the Spring Break theme...we are headed to the Smokies!  I can't wait to spend time with the husband, kids, and no agenda!

Wanting:  I am craving some Starbucks this morning!!

Needing:  I need to pack :)  Nothing like waiting until the day of, right?

Hours and Days:  Our school day is from 7:40-2:55.  It usually is only until 2:35, but starting on March 24 we have added 20 minutes to the day to help make up the 19 snow days we missed this year!!  We will get out of school on June 6!  

Have a happy April!!! :)