Saturday, January 28, 2012

Graphic Organizers – Let's Make It Visual!

Graphic organizers are offered as one of the many accommodations on IEPs (Individual Education Plan) in the United States, but often parents are unsure of what they actually are and how they can help their student. Because of this lack of knowledge they may pass over this much needed accommodation or even fail to see the usefulness of such a tool in the home. Let me assure you that you want to make certain your child's teacher is utilizing these types of visual organizers with your child if he or she is a visual learner.

Graphic organizers are tools designed to break down and teach important information in a visual way. It also takes the abstract and allows for it to be taught in chunks or sections. By teaching difficult concepts in such a visual manner you are allowing the student to absorb each piece of information at their own pace and for the student to build on information that has been previously taught.

Do2Learn offers several different types of graphic organizers that were developed in conjunction with Spectrum Resources of North Carolina, Inc. Please click on the links to get more detailed explanations of each graphic organizer and the best way to use each one. We also have links there to free printable blank ones for your own use.

These organizers can be modified to suit your child's/students individual learning needs. Again, please be sure that if you have a child who is a visual learner, that graphic organizers are an accommodation that is checked on the IEP and used in the class and at home.  Good luck and have fun!

Monday, January 23, 2012

What's Your Scene? - JobTIPS

As parents, we have had as many scenes as our children have had developmental stages. The play date at the park scene, the trading off sitter scene, the IEP scene, the doctor's office scene, etc. I think you get the picture. So now we have arrived at our children beginning to look for employment themselves. WHAT? When did that happen? It was not magic and yes it did happen too fast. So now you are in that scene and so is your teen/adult and you need help. We published a great blog in May of 2011 highlighting our JobTips section and I would recommend going back and reviewing that blog.

In the meantime there are 3 scenes that teens/adults will typically find themselves most comfortable in when looking for employment situations.

  • “In the Scene” This is basically a customer service position. Some examples of jobs are teacher, waitress, bank teller and retail sales.

  • “Behind the Scene” In this type of position you would only occasionally work with customers or others. Some examples of jobs are grocery bagger, cook, auto mechanic, and mailman.

  • “Out of the Scene” In a position like this you would likely not work with customers and may work in a area by yourself. Some examples of jobs are office clerk, web developer, book/cartoon illustrator, and mail room worker.

Do2Learn's “What's Your Scene” section has a step-by-step process for teens/adults to go through with a parent, teacher, job coach, other professional, or even on their own to help them determine what employment “scene” is best for them. You will notice there are printables, videos and quizzes included in this section. These resources will help you and your teen/adult in determining where they would feel most comfortable and find the most success in employment.

So what's your scene these days? Share your scene with a teen/adult who is trying to figure out their own employment scene. It just may help them with discovering their own.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Labels – For Kids or Cans?

It's an ongoing debate, the one about labels and Autism. If you have a loved one who is on the Autism Spectrum you know exactly what I am talking about. Everyday there is something new written about it. Don't believe me? Go ahead and do a search each morning for the next week and check. You will be astounded at what you find and read. That's not what I am going to write about here today though. I want to share my experience with the Autism label.

Seventeen years ago when my daughter was diagnosed we were told she was “Autistic”. Not very person centered, but that was the times back then. Thank goodness the world has moved forward and now I would be told that she has “Autism”. What's the difference? Well, being told that she has Autism is telling me that she is still my dear, sweet, smart, beautiful, loving daughter who just so happens to have Autism. Being told that she is Autistic is telling me that my daughter is not at all who I thought she was and that she is now defined by this new label. My daughter happens to have Autism and she is fabulous.

Autism is a spectrum disorder and if you have seen one person with Autism you have seen just that! One person with Autism. Everyone is as different as the snowflakes that fall from a winter sky. No square pegs in rounds holes here, that is for certain. What does amaze me is the number of parents who like to add “very high functioning” to the explanation that their child has Autism. Oh you know them! They are the ones that stand up at conferences and introduce themselves by saying they have a child who has very, very, very, very, very, very, HIGH Functioning Autism (so HIGH you wonder why they even have to come to the conference to begin with) and then ask a question that leads you to think otherwise.

Well, I would like to leave off the “highs” and the “lows” when we get together to talk about advocating and supporting our loved ones with Autism. You may be asking yourself why, when they have such different needs. Not really! Our loved ones need the same type of services and supports. The level and delivery of those services and supports will be different depending on the individual of course. Autism is defined as a social and communication disorder. Those two difficulties are displayed in varying degrees throughout the Autism spectrum and therefore the support would be just as different, as would the delivery of services needed to offer support.

So keep it person centered when you are describing anyone who happens to have any type of special need. We need to stick together and leave those “sticky” labels for the cans!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Self-regulation and The Classroom

Self-regulation means to bring order to one's self or by one's self. Not an easy task for a child with special needs in a classroom of 8-28 other children. Not an easy task for that child in any situation due to the difficulties in communication, sensory problems, attention issues, etc. that accompany most developmental delays and special needs.  How do we know that a child with special needs is having an issue with self-regulation in a classroom? Typically we can see the above difficulties lead to behavior problems that disrupt the class.

Often these behaviors are misinterpreted as intentional. Let's take a look at some of the behaviors you might see from a child with special needs in the classroom and the possible strategies to try.  These strategies may be very helpful in ending/preventing behavior problems all together in some cases. 

Child can not sit still: self-regulation issue is the child is overstimulated and cannot calm themselves.
  • Provide frequent breaks
  • More ideas here.
  • Have student sit on a barrel seat so they can move with out disturbing others. See Example below.

Child shows aggressive behavior: self-regulation issue is the child may not be able to control actions and/or emotions.
  • Use social stories to help the child understand the cause and effect of their actions. See example below.

Child appears unmotivated: self-regulation issue is the child has problem sustaining consistent energy output.
  • Provide consistent feedback.
  • Use genuine praise.
  • More ideas here.

Child appears defiant: self-regulation issue is inefficient intake and sustaining attention causing poor understanding.
  • Maintain predictable work schedule. See example below.

Child is impulsive: self-regulation issue is the child can not inhibit responses and has in-the-moment thinking.
  • Teach student to count to 10 before making a response.
  • Use a schedule to maintain consistent daily routine to limit the impulsive actions. See example below.

Child appears uncaring: self-regulation issue is that the child lacks awareness of cause and effect reasoning.
  • Practice role playing games to teach appropriate social skills.
  • Try using the Feelings game to demonstrate facial expressions.
  • More ideas here.

Children with poor self-regulation can interrupt an entire classroom. They can be overly sensitive to change and transitions, inattentive or physically hyperactive. The good news is these children benefit from structure and predictability!  

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Schedule? She's Two?

That was my reaction when one of the many professionals we were seeing at the time told me my daughter needed a schedule. I was the one who needed the schedule! I was the one taking my non-verbal, two year old to this doctor visit, that therapy visit, and to see yada-yada professional each week. She needed a schedule? So I took a deep breath and went there. I asked exactly what kind of schedule my daughter needed at the age of two and exactly how was this going to work? WOW! Did I ever get an education that changed her life and ours.

Here is what that professional began to explain to me. The schedule would be a way for my daughter and I to communicate with one another. I was skeptical to say the least, but I knew I would give it a try. The more I listened, the more this schedule began to sound a little like my “to-do” list that got me through my days. Basically the schedule would outline for my daughter what activities were going to happen and in what order. Autism 101- our kids are visual learners and mine was certainly not verbal. So visual it was going to be.

BUT you have to learn to crawl before you can walk. So we started with an object schedule. This is a schedule using an object related to the activity that is about to happen. I would only show 2 or 3 objects at a time related to the activities we were doing and then I had a shoebox that had the word “finished” written on it, where she would place the object when we were done with the activity. This way she would know it was over.
  1. A bowl to indicate breakfast
  2. a toothbrush to indicate brushing teeth
  3. sock to indicate getting dressed
I would walk with her and the bowl to the kitchen to let her know that we were having breakfast. After breakfast the bowl would go into the “finished” box. Then we would go back to the schedule and get the toothbrush and head to the bathroom for brushing teeth with a different toothbrush and then walk the object toothbrush to the “finished” box and so on. We continued on with this schedule until I thought she was able to follow a picture schedule. The picture schedule would work the same way. We have since transitioned to an all word schedule. The picture below is a great example of how the transition takes place over time for someone who has Autism and is able to go to a complete word schedule. In fact, using a combination of pictures and words together during times of stress is a great way to relieve anxiety in a student learning a new skill or making a big transition.

Here is a sample of a morning picture schedule.

Here is a sample of breaking down a actual activity into individual parts.  Kind of like a schedule/work system.  It helps to serve as a reminder to complete each part of the activity.

Wait! That is too much for me as a parent and I can't see how our family can live with such a strict scheduled out day like that! Is that what you are thinking? I was right there with you. I quickly realized that once my daughter had learned the routine of a schedule and she really liked knowing what was next, that I had built in flexibility! All I had to do was to let her know in advance. I just did not fill in her schedule too far in advance. Choices and flexibility can be built into schedules. Schedules can relieve anxiety and is a vital step to independence beyond the classroom and the home. Let me ask you this, what if all the data from your calendar got deleted or you lost your day-timer? I would be stressed if that happened to me, so go ahead and take that leap. Try out schedules!

Schedules are for everyone! Make-A-Schedule is the perfect program for parents setting up picture schedules at home.  

How have schedules made a difference for you?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A History Lesson About Do2Learn

It dawned on me today that many of you who are new to the Do2Learn website might not know a lot about how we came to be and all that we offer. So I decided that I would give you brief overview here.

In 1996, Do2Learn began through a National Institutes of Health Small Business Innovative Research grant. Since it's very beginning Do2Learn has searched and secured some of the most talented artists, teachers, and professionals around the world. We are based in North Carolina, but half of our users are from outside of the United States. Our website is a world-wide resource with over 11 million hits a month!

Do2Learn offers thousands, yes thousands, of pages of activities, games, guidance, learning songs, picture cards, academic material, and transition guides for employment and life skills. Best part? NO ADS! Yep, none. This makes it a much better experience for you!

We know that just telling you what you should be doing as a teacher, parent, or professional is not enough. We want to make your life easier. You are busy! So, with each topic we provide the hands-on resources you need to implement our suggestions. For example: When we present the Teacher Toolbox on how to adapt a classroom for children with special needs, we provide resources for behavior management plans, literacy tools, and the materials to create everything in your classroom.

Here are links to some of Do2Learn's Research:

If you would like to know more about us please feel free to send us your questions at CONTACT US.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Attention Medical Professionals

My inspiration for blogging is everywhere and for that I am so grateful. Yesterday I was inspired for today's post while sitting in the doctor's office with my daughter. I had plenty of time to reflect on the many visits to many medical professionals we had had over the nearly two decades of her life. Those early visits were very hard. Hey, I had a young daughter who had just been diagnosed with Autism and guess what? She had Autism! Plus, back in the day a lot of the doctors, dentists, eye care professionals, front desk staff, etc. (you get the picture) did not know a lot about Autism. Those three paragraphs in Psych 101 really did not do Autism the justice it deserved. Then the lay folks just wanted to know if she could count toothpicks like Rainman (the answer is still no).

Here we are in 2012 and with it being estimated that 1 in 110 children being born today has some form of Autism Spectrum Disorder, Autism is not a word that needs an explanation to anyone. Medical professionals are learning so much more about Autism and other types of special needs and this makes the lives of the patients they see (and the parents/guardians) so much easier. We thank you for that and please know it is recognized and appreciated.

A lot of your patients may have communication difficulties (Autism is a communication disorder no matter where on the spectrum a person falls) and you can make those office visits easier for them by adding visuals to the visit. I am not suggesting you turn your office into specialized center for those with special needs at all. But why not utilize Do2Learn products to put together 1 or 2 binders to use with those special patients when they come in?

What should be in those binder you might be asking yourself?

  • Well, I recommend pictures of things that you would be using during the visits. Laminate these pictures. Three hole punch the pictures so they go into the binders easily and can be removed for each specific patient. Make-A-Schedule is a wonderful resource for these pictures and Do2Learn is adding more and more medically related pictures everyday to the program. Doctors, Dentists, Hospitals and other Medical related professionals are assisting us in what they are discovering they need. Please let us know what you might want too!

  • I would also add a few one-page social stories about any exams the patient might be going through. This can be for the parent to read over with patient while waiting. The story can include pictures ( Make-A-Schedule) or just words for someone who may be higher functioning and can read it themselves. This can alleviate a lot of anxiety before a blood draw or a dental exam/procedure to know exactly what to expect. Click here for Do2Learn's example of a picture social story.
  • Do2Learn has all of this packaged into one neat area for you on our website. Please click on the image below and get those binders made.

    Do2Learn for Doctors

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

TEACHERS-We want to hear from YOU!

Are you currently using our Make-A-Schedule tool in your classroom? If so, than you know it's an easy-to-use program that gives you access to thousands of picture cards. In minutes, you can create schedules, social stories, story strips, forms, and more.

What we really want to know is what other schedule/picture type programs or tools are you using in your classroom? What do those programs offer that Make-A-Schedule does not? Come on, be honest with us. We can take it. We need the truth and we need your suggestions. We want Do2Learn's MAS to be the main program that you use in the classroom. Feedback, feedback, feedback!  Lots of it!  That's what we want.

I am going to be expanding on this question in the upcoming weeks, but I want to get a dialog going with you, the teacher, the parents, the users of our products. You can leave your comments anonymously on the blog or with your information so we can contact you for more details. We love hearing from you. So let's start talking!