Thursday, August 2, 2012

Transition Toolbox—Why You Need It

JobTips Transition Toolbox is soon to be released! We have spent months sharing insight into how Do2Learn and it's team of wonderful professionals have built this fantastic web-based curriculum. Now we are going to share some facts about how Transition Toolbox is needed in your school district, county, system, etc.

These are facts that can be used when you go to administration to let them know how EVERYONE in your school system (students, teachers, administration, etc.) will benefit from utilizing Transition Toolbox.
  • 1 in 88 individuals in the U.S. are now diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • As of Fall 2011, there were about 370,000 U.S. Special Education students ages 6-21 identified for Special Education in the Autism category
  • From 1997-2006 (this is the most recent federal data available), autism was one of only two disability areas (2 out of 14) where there was a significant increase in the number of students served under that disability category. U.S. Department of Education reports that Autism is the fastest-growing developmental disability category.
  • From 1997-2006, there has been a significant increase on the number of students identified as having Autism in the U.S. who graduated with a regular high school diploma (33.6% increased to 57.1%).
  • Approximately 50,000 adolescents with ASD will be turning 18 this year (2012).
  • The number of individuals with Autism who were served by Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) in the U.S. has increased substantially. For example, between 2002-2006, the number of consumers with Autism increased by 121%.
  • When individuals with Autism served by VR were compared to persons with other conditions, on a per capita basis, individuals with Autism are among the most costly to serve.
  • Up to 90% of job losses in individuals with disabilities are due to problems within occupational soft skills areas such as social communication and self-regulation.
  • Youth with an ASD seem to be uniquely at risk for negative post-school outcomes, as compared to those with other types of disabilities. While only 55% of those with an ASD are employed in the six years beyond high school, 86% of those with a speech or language impairment, 94% of those with a learning disability, and 69% of those with an intellectual disability have found employment.
  • There are interventions for those with ASD that have been identified as “best practice” and “evidence-based practices”. These have been identified by the National Autism Center and the National Research Council. Some of these practices are also identified as evidence-based interventions for individuals with other learning needs (e.g. intellectual disability, emotional disability).
  • Transition Planning, as mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), is designed to be within a results-oriented process, that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the individual with a disability to facilitate the individual's movement from school to post-school activities, including vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), etc.
  • Students who graduate with a regular high school diploma follow the Standard Course of Study/the Common Core State Standards. Within the curriculum, we have identified explicit links between the majority of our intervention topics and specific curriculum standards.
So take time to review our previous blogs look at how Transition Toolbox will assist you and your students with Autism in preparing for success after high school!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Back-to-School—Dealing with Unwanted Behaviors in the Classroom

There are a lot of external and internal influences that can influence a child's behavior in the classroom. Sometimes a student may require a more structured intervention plan to provide a unified approach to support them in the classroom setting. It may be necessary to call a meeting of the school/parent team to consider and devise an effective behavior management plan.
Help children communicate between school and home by circling the activities that they did during the day at school.

Please follow this link Behavior Management Plan and the links within the page to get more comprehensive information on how to begin to develop a successful and positive plan to improve unwanted behaviors in the classroom.

Many behaviors in the class can be handled with simple changes and accommodations and DO NOT require a behavior management or intervention plan.

  • Misunderstanding of verbal directions—try this *Slow your rate of speaking *Use simple statements *Check for student's understanding *Use visual cues such as the one below

  • Constant talking—try this *Seat student in a location with minimal distractions *Use a visual cue or “talking gauge” that can be moved to show when talking is too much with out adding to the noise, shown below

  • Problems waiting to be called on in class—try this *Be specific about when the student will be call on “after I call on Sam, I will call on you.” *Establish at the beginning of the school year the importance of raising the hand and waiting to be called on and use a visual reminder such as the one shown below.

Please visit this page for more Strategies to assist in handling classroom behaviors.

Let's also remember that children are learning about their place in the world. They need room to make mistakes and grow in a safe environment. So we all need to keep our sense of humor because it can make a big difference in establishing and maintaining an effective and successful learning environment.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Transition Toolbox—An Employment Preparation Curriculum

We have been talking about the JobTips Transition Toolbox for several weeks and the time is drawing near for it's release in the Fall of 2012. I want to take this time to give readers a good overview of what they can expect from TT.

This web-based curriculum is designed to support students with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other learning differences who are bound for post-secondary settings or competitive employment upon graduation from high school. It is also appropriate for use with adults with such differences who struggle to obtain fulfilling and lasting competitive employment. The curriculum targets 61 intervention topics and offers approximately 450 printable visual supports, along with 87 self-assessments and instructor assessments.

  • Unit 1 Assessment and Intervention: Our framework in teaching the intervention topics identified in the Career Planning, Job Seeking, and Job Keeping curriculum units that represents the integration of evidence-based behavioral strategies and visual supports. There are 18 sections that comprehensively address these instructional principles and strategies.

  • Unit 2 Career Planning: Contains 6 expansive intervention topics describing a range of specific work skills (“hard skills”) that the instructor might target in career development and emphasizes the importance of an experientially-based exploration of vocational interests as a means to support self-assessment. This unit offers over 50 printable visual supports and 35 printable self-assessments and instructor assessments.

  • Unit 3 Job Seeking: Contains 15 intervention topics targeting a range of skills and activities necessary to find and get a job. This unit includes over 100 printable visual supports, dozens of video scenarios and video modeling examples, and 20 printable self-assessments and instructor assessments.

  • Unit 4 Job Keeping: Contains 40 intervention topics. This unit addresses the principle challenges of Social Communication, Organization, and Self-Regulation (S.O.S.!) that often impact one’s ability to maintain employment. This unit provides over 300 printable visual supports, dozens of video scenarios and video modeling examples, and 32 printable self-assessments and instructor assessments.

  • Unit 5 Self-Assessment Library: Houses the 87 printable student self-assessments and instructor assessments that align with all topics within Career Planning, Job Seeking, and Job Keeping units.

Please look over our past Transition Toolbox blogs for more specific information about the “nuts and bolts” of the make up of the curriculum. We will be bringing you more information as we get closer to the release date, including a detailed sneak-peek for our blog readers!


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tips for Teachers—Back-to-School

Parents, you are not alone in prepping for back-to-school. Teachers are busy as bees preparing lessons, deciding how to set up their classrooms, and waiting for the day they can get into the school to get the class list and begin to know who they will be teaching this year. Teachers, we don't want to leave you out so, we have a few tips here to share with you. Some of these may be new and others not, but in either case please feel free to share with other educators in your life.

  • Read through your student files and IEPs. This will provide you with valuable information about any learning or behavior challenges that you will need to be prepared for on that first day of school.
  • After reading those IEPs call any student's parents you think will benefit from early visits to the school/class and arrange for those visits. These visits need to be structured and include a tour of the school, introduction of key administration and other teachers in the school that the student may be in contact with (if possible) and end on a very positive note.
  • Check for food allergies of all your students and make sure that if there are any that you have all the information on that allergy. This would be good information to include in your class newsletter to send home and also to keep posted on your class door, as well as your class web page. Peanut allergies are very common these days and it's not uncommon for classrooms to be a peanut free zone.
  • Put that class newsletter together or better yet, call on a parent to help you with this. Parents love to be included and doing the newsletter make them feel like they are “in the know”. Parent/teacher communication is vital and parents love to read about happenings in the classroom and are more likely to donate supplies and time when they are reminded of needs on a consistent basis.
  • Get your room all set up and all your visuals and structure in place.
  • Review our Graphic Organizer blog and print those you find most useful.

Do2Learn believes that simply telling busy teachers and parents what they should be doing is not enough. They provide hands-on resources and explanations needed to implement the suggestions as well. Please visit the website for more information and have a great start to the school year.
Click on picture to go directly to TEACHER TOOLBOX

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Homework Tips for Home Use

A few days ago we were talking about back-to-school in our blog. Today we are going to talk about homework. Yep, that dreaded time of day for all parents and students that can often lead to tears and stress for both. There is a better way though and Do2Learn has some tips to get you through it.

All students, special needs or not, are reluctant to do homework. For those students who do have special needs these issues can be magnified. These reasons include:

  • Fatigue at the end of a long school day
  • Frustration caused by not understanding the assignment
  • Forgetting the materials needed to complete the assignment
  • Assignments that are too difficult
  • Competing interests such as video games and computers
  • Over-schedule with after school activities
  • Emotional and behavioral issues

First and foremost, please parents and caregivers, communicate any homework difficulties that your child is having at home with the teacher! If homework is becoming a struggle that could be many issues that could be impacting the situation and together you and the teacher/s can work together to analyze and make suggestions accordingly.

Here is a list of other suggestions that can assist in helping make homework time go smoother.

  • Keep a class list that the student can call if they forget their homework. Have the student exchange contact information with a peer so they can call if they need help or information about homework assignments or classroom events. For those with social issues that would complicate this (autism) perhaps having it written into the IEP to have the teacher write the homework assignment for the student or check that the student wrote it correctly.
  • Keep materials such as paper, sharpened pencils, calculators, rulers, and other tools in an accessible location. This will help with organization. For students with an IEP, requesting an extra set of books for home will eliminate forgetting to bring books home or taking them back to school.
  • Establish a homework time to help the student develop efficient study habits.
  • Set boundaries with the child about the amount of help they receive. Sometimes children will rely on adult assistance to complete tasks that they can do independently. Allocate a certain number of problems that the child must do before checking in with an adult.
  • If the student needs breaks – use sand timers or analogue clocks to help monitor the work time. (click link for more info)
  • Have the student take a quick active break before starting again, such as 10 baskets or riding their bike around the block twice.
  • Before going to bed, have the student pack their book bag and set it in an obvious location so they will not forget it the next day.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Transition Toolbox—Self Determination by Beginning with the End in Mind

The JobTIPS Transition Toolbox provides a set of assessment instruments and intervention activities that support self-determination in career planning, job-seeking, and job-keeping skills for students who are either job bound or post-secondary education bound after high school. The focus of the Toolbox is independence in vocational and educational environments.

Given that there are often more priorities in preparing for adulthood than can reasonably be addressed by school staff alone, this task of prioritizing is a challenge for IEP teams that must address transition planning. When all members of the team come together to plan an IEP, one goal is to list the various needs. When prioritizing, it is worthwhile to consider that the school environment is only one environment for learning and applying vocational, residential, and community skills. In looking at the big picture in transition planning, there will be ‘instructional goals’ on which the teaching team will focus to support application of specific targeted skills. There should also be ‘linkage goals,’ targets that other members of the larger support team, including family, friends, volunteer supports and other community support personnel, would address in environments other than the school. The IEP team must determine which priorities should be addressed as instructional goals. The Transition Toolbox will help the instructor to determine those instructional goals, those prioritized skills on which the individual with ASD and his circle of support can build the broad range of skills to have a successful vocational career.

The user is encouraged to use Assessment & Intervention (A&I) as a framework in teaching the skills identified in the curriculum units. Each of the curriculum units provide both a detailed description of possible skills and goals for the student and an adjustable self-assessment instrument to support self-determination in skill development. The strategies (identified in Assessment and Intervention) necessary to build independent skills are multiple and often layered. No single strategy is often sufficiently strong to support independent performance. In addressing specific goals in each curriculum unit, a combination of environmental modification, priming, motivation, visual supports, modeling, prompting, shaping, reinforcement, and programming for generalization is required to build successful independence.

As an instructor working to cultivate the capacity for self-determination within your students as they approach the transition out of high school, where do you begin? You begin with the end in mind. These four units engage you in a systematic instructional process of targeting skills that are essential to your student’s current and future success:

  • Career Planning: This unit describes a range of specific work skills to consider in career development and emphasizes the importance of an experientially-based exploration of vocational interests as a means to support self-assessment.
  • Job-Seeking Skills: This unit describes the range of skills necessary to actually find and get a job.
  • Job-Keeping Skills: This unit addresses the principle challenges of Social Communication, Organization, and Self-Regulation (S.O.S.!) that often impact one’s ability to maintain employment. It describes the range of often challenging work behaviors that can and should be addressed in job exploration and training.
  • Self-Assessment: We strongly encourage you to begin with the Assessment & Intervention Unit (A&I) , as it is the framework in teaching the skills identified in the curriculum units.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Back To School Prep

It seems like Summer is barely halfway over for some, but others are already back in class. Now is the time to begin to prepare for sending your child back to school. That means more than just buying those all important school supplies that teachers are always so thankful for and need so much.

You may want to write a social story about what your child can expect in a school day. Read this story daily and make it exciting and fun! Be sure to include the following:
  • When bedtime will be on nights before going to school
  • What time they will have to get up on school mornings
  • How will they get to and from school
  • Will there be before or after school care
  • Any other details that you think may relieve anxiety
  • BUT be careful and don't add details that you are not sure of, because you know that your child will hold you to the story, so be sure to leave yourself some room for changes as they can happen.
Make some visits to the school and become familiar with the building and grounds if this is a new school. Even if it's not a new school, children are very reassured to know that this will be the same school that they went to last year and to be able to see it before there are lots of other people and noise can be very reassuring and lessen anxiety on those first few days.

Also, to assist in transitioning from home to school in the mornings, using a picture or written schedule can lessen anxiety for children and parents. Beginning the use of the schedule way before school will have both used to it and mornings will go smoothly.

With the picture schedule the activities are checked off as they are completed.

Written schedules can hold more complex information for more advanced readers.

For more detailed information on how to utilize these schedules and for blank forms and free printable picture cards please visit our site here.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Let's Organize a Pre-K Classroom

Organize, organize, organize! The key word in teaching all children, but particularly those with Autism and as we know early education is very important. So let's take a peek at a pre-k classroom set-up that is very successful. We know that teachers are not given a lot of space, so being organized is very important and visually organizing the space is even more important to giving the ASD student clues as to what is expected of them in that space. We will refer to this as Jane's classroom and there is a permanent link with more information for you.

There are lots of separate areas within Jane's classroom to allow for students to work on different goals at the same time and then come together for group activities too.

  • In the work center the tasks are color-coded and numbered for independent learning.

  • Large and small motor skills are used in the play center.

  • The reading center is a quiet spot with bookcases and a reading rack.

  • The computer area allows two students to work at the same time.

  • At the snack/lunch table each child's chair has their name on it and they have a footstool.

  • Each child has their own space for storage. Label with their name and photo and fave color.

  • In the bathroom label baskets to organize each child's extra clothes and use picture cards to show the toileting sequence.

  • The calendar center is the perfect gathering place for all group activities.

  • At the helper center each child has a name card that is placed beside a helping task.

For more detailed information check out Jane's classroom. We hope you get some great ideas for setting up your classroom!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Transition Toolbox—Theory of Mind and Perspective-Taking

As we discussed in our past two blogs regarding Transition Toolbox and Transition Planning (Transition Toolbox—How Does ASD Affect Transitions? and Transition Toolbox—Organization & Central Coherence) we are continuing to address core features that have a significant impact on individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and the transition process.

There are significant differences for individuals with ASD in understanding facial expressions, body language, actions, and words to determine another person’s thoughts or perspective. Our ‘social world’ values the skill of recognizing another person’s thoughts and actions and using that information in leisure and work activities. Acting considerately towards customers is but one example of how theory of mind and perspective taking is expected within work environments. An inability to recognize the behavior of co-workers and to adapt personal behavior often leads to misunderstanding and to the opinion that the individual with ASD is rude or hurtful. In our culture, getting along with co-workers and supervisors are required behaviors to be successful on the job.
Picking out the important social details in an interaction, and adjusting personal behavior as a result, are the skills of social problem-solving. Individuals with ASD may not see the importance of adjusting personal behavior, may not know what to do instead, or may not remember what to do when the social situation arises that requires the adjusted social behavior.
Individuals with ASD need systematic practice in applying specific social communication skills in multiple settings. The JobTIPS Transition Toolbox provides multiple tools to address these social issues as they impact one’s efforts to find and keep a job. Specific social communication goals are outlined in the Job-Seeking Unit and the Job-Keeping Unit. Specific instructional strategies and hands-on visual supports to assist practice of social communication skills are provided. Also, the tools within the Self-Assessment Unit may assist the individual in identifying areas of improvement and determining social aspects of work environments that may better fit the individual.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Autism and Trying New Things

Does the title of this blog send you running for the hills at the thought of introducing something new into your child or student's life. It could be as simple (to you) as switching from the blue crayon to a red one or as complex as going through the grocery store in a different pattern. You know that what can be a simple “trying of something” for some kids is simply not that easy when an individual has Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Structure and organization, patience and time! They are our best friends in easing the anxiety in individuals with ASD and trying new things. The anxiety these individuals feel can limit their knowledge about their world and opportunities to find things they enjoy. So if we structure these experiences through planning and preparation, we can help ease anxiety and set up the situation for success.
  • Trying New Things Story—Use this as you would a social story. Individualize it to the situation and the person, then review it often well in advance of the planned “new experience”.
  • Select the new thing to plan and prepare for.
  • Complete the Circle form graphic organizer to lay out the steps (see below)
  • Follow the plan in the Circle Form

Check here for more information on "Trying New Things".  Have fun trying new things and we wish you much success!