Academic Skills



Powered by Blogger.

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 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. 


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!

Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills- ABLLS for students with intensive needs

Assessments are such an important part of the IEP process. Assessments help us see the roadmap to where we want our kids to go based on where they are RIGHT NOW! 

In my classroom I use the Assessment of Basic Learning and Language Skills, or ABLLS. ABLLS is a tool used by teachers and therapists for students with developmental delays or disabilities. This assessment is used best with an ABA approach and will measure basic language and functional skills. Thats is a mouthful so I am going to break it down and tell you some easy tips and tricks to help get started with this assessment.

You should decide when you want to give this assessment. I like to give it at the beginning of the year (but wait a week or two if the student is completely new to you) and at their IEP time. If I am feeling like an overachiever I will also do it at the end of the year so the receiving teacher has up to date information. 

You need the get your hands on the manual. You can order off amazon Here It is a pricey investment, but talk to your Special Ed Director and ask if they are willing to add this to your bag of tricks. More than likely they will agree because of the research that backs this assessment up! There are two books in that you will lget. One is the Scoring Instructions and the other is the Protocol. 

Start with the instructions and familiarize yourself with how to give the assessment and what each protocol contains. The MOST important section in the scoring guide is the very last page there is the score sheet. You can copy this and write right on it....or be a crazy person like me and recreate it in EXCEL so you can have a  pretty digital copy to show the parents.

Two Manuals:

Score Sheet (This is a completed filled in score sheet! Isn't it pretty!) 
Talk to the therapist. The protocols are pretty obvious who should take the data on each one. Such as fine motor, the Occupational Therapist, Gross Motor: Physical Therapist. My students have many language delays so I work very closely with the speech pathologist and we divide up which protocols work best for each of us. I take most of the academic and daily living and she takes many of the language skills. There is no right or wrong, you can do it all on your own....its just easier with friends! 

Gather your materials. Now the two books do not come with materials and more than likely you have assessment in your classroom to help accomplish these tasks.....BUT if you want to spend the money The Autism Helper has a great binder system (it is a ton of prep!) that is really wonderful and I use in my classroom to complete some tasks, not all, but some. You can find that product Here

Here are my binders...they are a little tore up but that is only because I use them ALL THE TIME! 

You can also purchase a very pricey kit with all the materials labeled all nice and pretty. it is VERY expensive, my district just decided to purchase one kit for all the intensive needs teachers to share. I haven't gotten my hands on it yet but it looks pretty awesome!  

 Lastly, You can search ABLLS into the TPT search bar and you will find other resources as well! 
Don't stress about taking all the assessment formally. This is a very informal assessment. I Often have it on an accessible clip board and when situations happen in the classroom I jot down their score. Often times, I know my students well enough to know where they score based on their social interactions and their IEP goals. I use to stress myself out over this assessment, but really it is mean to be taken all the time in natural situations! 

When you are done make sure you add a narrative about the students strengths and weaknesses in their IEP. I like to print off a color copy of the score sheet and attach it to the IEP. I also put a paragraph in the Profile section and the Present levels section of each IEP goal that the data pertains to. The ONLY thing I don't like about this assessment is you do not get a number score. I am a very black and white person so I do wish I could put a numeral on their baseline and progress, but the assessment is meant to be written in a narrative summary to share with the parents and help drive your IEP goals. 

BONUS TIP: The Scoring Instructions books also gives some IEP goals that would work in a child struggles in different protocol. Use that guide, it is super helpful! 

All in all ABLLS is a great assessment to help me figure out what my students can and can not do when they are new to me and  it is an AMAZING running record of their growth if each teacher continues to use it through their educational career. 

Please e-mail me if you have any other questions!