As a parent of an average kid, there were often times that I would have loved to be a fly on the wall in his classes. I can imagine that it is very similar, or an even stronger urge, for parents of kids with special needs!
I am very fortunate to work in a classroom that is on the cutting edge for kids with Autism.
Our classroom is equipped with the following:
- SmartBoard – An interactive whiteboard – WONDERFUL invention. This allows to project websites and it uses touch technology to allow our kids to use it like an iPad.
- SmartTable – A tool we use to work with the kids on different concepts using a variety of options.
- iPads – Each kid gets their own iPad to use throughout the day for many activities.
- Full kitchen – this helps us teach them to assist themselves in the kitchen. We cook with them, clean with them, and teach them daily kitchen type activities!
- Washer/Dryer – We can assist them and teach them how to wash and dry their clothes when needed.
- Indoor Swing – This is wonderful for breaks, timeouts, and for them to just chill during downtime!
I would like to share what it is like for us on a day to day basis. I do understand that not all classrooms are the same and that a typical day is anything but typical. However, routine is a staple for our kids and we do what we can to keep a pretty tight schedule (interlaced with change to ensure the kids get some variety).
Once the kids arrive at school, they immediately go to the classroom where, if necessary, jackets are removed and put away, and then daily notebooks (will explain later) are removed from their backpacks. We are fortunate to be able to still have the Pledge being said over the loudspeaker every day and the kids are learning to stand, with hand over heart, and face the flag… the words will come with time.
Now it is time for lockers. We wait for the halls to be free of he hustle and bustle of the average kids so that the noise level will be lower before we head to their lockers. Each kid has their own locker, can unlock it, and safely store their backpacks until the end of the day.
Next is breakfast. Some of the kids want breakfast in the morning, so of course we want to feed them so that they are ready for a fun filled day! We begin each day with The Days of the Week. Everyday, the kids are to identify what the day of the week is, and what the date is. We have them write it down, say it, and we do the Calendar activity on starfall.com (This is a free website for all kinds of fun activities for kids with or without Autism).
Now the academics begin.
- Reading – We have several activities that we do for reading. Individual read, Curriculum Reading, and a wonderful program designed specifically for kids with Autism called Vizzle. Not all of the kids can read, so we assist them by reading to them and teaching them to identify words on their iPads. We utilize those iPads regularly so that they can still participate in activities that they normally would get as much out of.
- Math – Once again, there are a ton of tools, either on the internet, on the iPad, or curriculum based that we utilize to ensure that these kids are getting the level of attention that they need for each subject.
- Writing – I think this is my favorite subject (duh!). We have workbooks that we have the kids, based on their skill level, write in. Not all of the kids can spell, so we work on relating their writing to their reading curriculum. I love the way we intertwine the subjects so that we are continually in a learning mode. It is amazing what you can teach a child.
Interspersed throughout the day of academics are quite a few breaks. Lord knows we all need breaks to get ourselves back on track, and these kids are no different. Since each kid is different and they may finish their work faster, or tire more easily, breaks are always an option. They can take a swing break, play an iPad game, chill somewhere quiet in the room, or grab an Aide (like me) and go for a quick walk.
We also do activities outside of the classroom. One student goes to art class with the mainstream kids (with an Aide). Another goes to gym. We want these kids to be able to be outside the structure of our classroom so that they can lead as normal a life as possible.
Arts and crafts are also a big part of our day. We try and get them to color, cut, paste, create, craft, and design! They seem to enjoy the downtime and not having the pressure of having to think too much!
Our classroom (at this moment) has a one to one ratio. We have a certified teacher and 3 aides. Currently we have 4 students. This works perfectly and allows these kids to get full attention when working on a task. We are like a well oiled machine and dance around each other in the classroom like we have worked together for years. In reality.. we have only been working together a few months. It is incredible and I am so fortunate to be able to experience this world.
Each afternoon, before the kids leave for the day, we write in a notebook to send home to the parents. This notebook is a communication tool to allow the parents to see how the day was for their child, to express the good and not so good points of the day, and to allow the parents to write to us with concerns, questions, or ideas.
Sounds smooth as butter? Well it isn’t. Every day can present both the faculty and the students with challenges. If you work with the Autistic or are the parent of a child with Autism, then you know this to be true. However, each challenge can be overcome. Each day can be a good day. We work together to create and implement new ways of helping these kids.
I hope this has provided some insight. Please feel free to ask questions. I can expand on things if you need.