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Best Books to Teach Students About Autism




I don't know about you but I am constantly asked by other teachers how they can teach their students in the general education about differences and special needs. It is such an important topic so it makes me super happy to share some resources I have collected over the years. I actually love to go into the general education classroom with my students from my self contained class so read some special stories and have an important discussion about different disabilities. I teach 3-4 grade so it is a perfect opportunity to break out some picture books (I mean come on they may not be babies anymore BUT I know they LOVE a good picture book). Here are my favorites


My Brother Charlie 
Written by Holly Robinson Peete Illustrated by: Shane W. Evans  
This book is told from the point of view of a little girl who has a brother, Charlie, with autism. The little girl paints a beautiful picture of the similarities and differences she and her brother share. She explains how Charlie can get very quiet and sometimes doesn't talk. She then goes on to explain how he has Autism and that does not make him much different than everyone else. This book overall is a wonderful view into the life of a child who interacts with autism on a daily basis. I highly recommend this book to help teach your students or the students in your school about empathy and kindness when interacting with special needs students. This would also be a great book for a student who may be struggling with their home and living with a sibling with multiple needs.   



All About My Brother
Written and Illustrated by: Sarah Peralta 
This is a truly special book. It gives me all the feels. It is an eight-year-old sister's introduction to her brother who has autism. The book begins with a forward written by Brenda Smith Myles, Ph. D. and a beautiful picture of the author and her brother, Evan. It also includes a Preface with information on the parent perspective written by Sarah and Evan's mother, Dorothea. Dorothea also wrote an introduction giving some background on her two children and how she handled answering Sarah;s questions about her brother's diagnosis. Then, here comes the GOLD of this book, a whole page of tips and tricks on how to use the books. It includes a 10 step guide to help children understand how Autism works and how to facilitate a discussion with the children in your classroom. 

The book then begins with Sarah's words. She drew (the most amazing) hand drawn pictures to go with her inspiring words. She describes her family and how they are all unique (from her, to her parent's, to her brother, to the family pup). While she describes her family she also explains how they are similar. For example: Dad loves computers as much as Evan loves sticks as well as how Dad and Evan love to play on the swing set. This book is such a beautiful way to facilitate a discussion on how everyone is different, but in those differences we can find ways that we all connect. 

At the end of the book Sarah provides her e-mail address and a letter asking siblings of those with autism to e-mail her so they can share ideas on how to help them. I mean COME ON! Is that not the most amazing thing you have ever hear?!?! For real. ALL.THE.TEARS!


The Girl Who Thought In Pictures: The story of Dr. Temple Grandin 
Written by: Julia Finley Mosca Illustrated by: Daniel Rieley 


The last book I want to share/review with you lovely followers of my blog is this amazing story about Dr. Temple Grandin published by Innovation Press. Innovation Press was kind enough to send me a copy of this book to review and create a book companion for you all! This book is one that made me shed tears the first time I read it. It gives a lovely description of Dr. Grandin's life beginning from birth. The story explains how no one believed in her (besides her mom of course) and they found the right school and teachers to help Temple reach her potential! It is just amazing. 

I personally used this book while working in the general education with my students. Myself, along with the general education teacher read the book to the class and had an amazing discussion about Temple, if they ever felt different or an outsider, how to be kind to others, and it led into a great discussion about the students in my class that would be joining them in many different activities though out the year. Students with AAC devices were able to show off their AAC skills and answer questions from their peers. The kids were honest and candid and they loved hearing about all the cool things my student's learn about in my classroom! It was an amazing way to begin the school year! 

I created a FREEBIE which is in my TPT store to complete with students after they read the book. There are two fun activities 


You can grab this freebie here

If you want to buy any of these books you can get them by clicking the links below 
(These are amazon affiliate link. This means I get a small kickback that will go back into the blog and Superheroes in SPED--Thank you in advance if you choose to purchase) 
                                                                      

Please send me an e-mail if you have any other questions! 
Superheroesinsped@gmail.com 



Dream Sensory Room Reveal


Hi Friends! I am SO excited to share a project that I have been working on for over two years, MY DREAM SENSORY ROOM! I have mentioned in other blog post how lucky I am to work in a supportive district, but they really went above and beyond when I came to them with a problem and possible solution. 

Last year, I had a classroom of new students in an intensive needs settings. These students had some very specific needs that I felt would be helped if they had a sensory space outside our classroom. This would be used to help prevent a negative behavior by providing the students with a sensory diet as a component to their behavior plans. Directly outside my classroom was a resource room that was not used on a regular basis. So in came my bright idea. I begged, pleaded, and presented the idea of making that space a sensory space for all students in the school who have sensory needs. 

My school district realized the important of sensory input and was willing to make the room possible. We were also super lucky to get some wonderful donations from members of our amazing community. 

Ok so now myself, other sped staff, and the occupational therapists went to the drawing board of everything that would make a sensory room down right amazing. We all agreed that we needed to make sure we have visual stimuli, sensory input, and sensory output. Basically we needed a calming space that was visually pleasing and provided tactile sensory items to help calm the students down and prepare them to work hard in the classroom with limited behaviors. 
Before I reveal I want to go over the benefits of a sensory room! Sensory rooms are put in place in environments such as a school by those who have learning difficulties, developmental disabilities, or sensory impairments. The use of a sensory room will help the children interact with the world around then in a safe environment. They are able to explore lights, sounds, and different textures. This freedom will allow you as the teacher to see what calms them down, hypes them up, or their personal preferences. No two sensory rooms should be the same. Each one should be unique to fit the needs of the students utilizing it! Students will benefit by an increase in sensory stimulation, enhancing learning and play, improve balance, movement, and spatial orientation, tackle problems with behavior, and lastly improve focus and attention in the classroom. 

I started with an empty room that was white and had a mixture of dry wall and cylinder walls. The cylinder walls were an issue because students were using them to harm themselves when they were escalated in a behavior. I went in on a Saturday afternoon and painted all the walls a calming blue color. Once that was complete We had soft padded walls installed over the cylinders so help eliminate an injury. This also helps keep the room quiet! The next HUGE choice we made was to put a soft floor in. We used a snap in floor so it easy to change out if it were to be punctured or damaged. We avoid this by having all students take their shoes off while in the sensory room! 
This is a picture of the room as a whole (understand the lighting is not great for pictures :) ) 

Once the floor and walls were installed we were able to buy different sensory objects to help with input and output sensory needs! 
As you can see above we have a platform swing that hangs from the ceiling (We can also change that out for a hammock swing), A large bubble tube that changes colors with a remote control (great for cause and effect), a hide-a-way-house, squeeze machine (steam roller), smart board, and bean bags. We also provide the students with exercise balls, body socks, and soft objects like pillows. 





I know how crazy lucky I am to have access to this amazing space, but I also realize it is not possible for all classrooms to spend this much money. So how can you get a sensory room in your classroom? Well first off start by presenting your "dream" to your special ed director or admin team. You might be surprised that they can donate some funds to this idea if they see you put thought and researched prices. Next, look into different grants. I am a HUGE fan of Donors Choose You can start a campaign! Many people love to donate to help special needs students succeed. You can also reach out to members of your community. They often allocate funds to donations for tax purposes each year. The organization that donated to our room was SO sweet. They even came in and spent time in the room with the students once it was completed! It was a great experience for everyone! 

Here are some of my favorite sensory items you can use in your classroom! (These are amazon affiliate links. I get a small commission if you purchase thru this link that will help support my blog) I linked up a bean bag, body sock, exercise ball with pump, small bubble tube, sensory body roller, and a fabric tunnel! I use all of these in my classroom and can help you get the sensory room of your dreams at a reasonable price! Just click on the pictures below! 



If you have any questions about setting up a sensory room please leave a comment below or shoot me an e-mail! 


Curriculum For A Self Contained Special Education Classroom




Summer is a such a great time for teachers to recharge their batteries and turn their school brain off. Right?!? Well we always go into June believing that but let's get real. It is SO hard to turn our teacher brain off. The main goal I try to accomplish every summer is how I can prepare for the next year without having to take up so much of my nights and weekends. 

I teacher in a self contained special ed classroom. My students are with me more than 60% of the day. We go into the general education for social opportunities like recess, lunch, specials, and fun events, but their core academics take place in my small group classroom. I will be going into my 8th year (YIKES 8 years!) this fall and one thing that has been a struggle since year 1 is the lack of curriculum. I have ALWAYS been told the curriculum should be drive by the IEP goals and I 100% agree with that! BUT I need something to keep myself organized so I make sure I teach them new material and prepare them for their alternative assessments in the spring. 

So what standards should we follow? Common core is often too difficult for students. I am lucky to live in a state, Ohio, that provides extended standards. If you want to look at them they are available online Here this was my main point of reference when I made my curriculum map. 

Here is my K-2 Curriculum Map 







Here is my 3-5 curriculum Map 




Programming is the post important step in planning your curriculum. You can make a beautiful grid like I did but if you do not have materials to back it up then you will not get very far. 

This is why I love Teachers Pay Teachers for Special Education. There is very little Curriculum out there for us, mainly because there is no one size fits all for our kids, but we need something. 

Here is some programming I use in my classroom that aligns to my curriculum map 

Math: I have been creating a math curriculum to meet my students needs. It is currently in Presale in my tpt shop. You can get it here for a crazy low price! K-2 is available here stay tuned for 3-5 it will be available soon! 

Reading: I use PCI reading in my classroom for sight words and reading fluency, but what about reading concepts. I created a reading curriculum that helps measure my students ability to learn reading skill such as main idea, fantasy vs reality, fact and opinion, and much more! Check it out here

Science and Social Studies: My district has purchased UNIQUE Learning. It is great for incorporating the science and social studies standards with differentiation! You can check out more 
this great blog post by my friend Kayla at My Special Learners and how she uses it in her classroom 

Social Skills: I love love love Autism Adventures Social Skills Curriculum. It is a great structured way to work thru many social skills that our students need to learn and/or need to review! Check it out here

Let me know in the comments how you plan out the curriculum for your classroom! 


Communication Devices




As a teacher of students with special needs I am often given the task of helping children to communicate. This can get challenging because often times the parents provide their own communication device for a child and they can vary from student to student. It is my responsibility as the teacher to become well versed in these devices...hence the challenge!

I have personally used two types of devices in my classroom for students with communication needs, LAMP and Proloque. 


Sooooo let's break these down! 

LAMP



Lamp stands for Language Acquisition thru Motor Planning. This basically means the kids will motor memorize where each button and meaning is in each folder. This is a very high level thinking and shouldn't be given to students who do not have a large vocabulary. We use it in my classroom for one particular student and he has many known vocabulary words, he simply can not express them using verbal language. When working with LAMP I personally experienced initial student distress. It is complicated and can take a long time for the student to learn the motor memory...BUT once they do--my LORD it is a beautiful sight! I got so much more academically from my student. 

Now, if you are planning on using LAMP in your classroom I HIGHLY recommend your go to a training to learn the metholodgy and get familiar with it. 

The second thing I recommend is to make sure you have patience and teach your student that same patience. In my case, the student is very intelligent so I told him I was learning it too and if he couldn't find a word when trying to talk I would help him. There is a word search option and we will type in the desired word together and learn the path. It made the whole process much less stressful for all. 

PROLOQUO2GO



Proloquo is a great communication device to help students who may not have a large known vocabulary. My favorite part of this aac device is that you are program phrases into one button. This helps students who have a communication break down get all their words in one quick motion. I also love that you can program the grid any way you want. You are able to pick 2X2 or 20X20 depending on your students levels and abilities. 

I love to add vocabulary words into this device to help facilitate lessons and allow the students to be able to participate in group lessons beyond pointing and yes/no questions. 



My personal opinion on which is better is..........neither. HA I am sorry I do not have some profound opinion on which one you should recommend, but the device is meant to fit the student and just like their IEP's should be INDIVIDUALIZED. I love LAMP for the student in my classroom that fits it the best AND I love Proloquo for the child in my classroom that fits it best. The only down fall to that is I had to become fluent in each software which took me a long time, but I was diligent...went to training...and trial and used my amazing SLP when I was completed stuck....YOU are a SPED teacher and if anyone can learn them...its you!

Shoot me an e-mail if you need more direction with either device!