Teaching kids with #Autism about science

Teaching kids with #Autism about science (via www.lostandtired.com)

Tonight was Mad Scientists Night at Summit Academy Schools. This is an event put on by the teachers and staff, with the sole purpose of making science fun for the kids and their families.  The boys have such a good time and they look forward to this…

Continue reading

I am you an awesome poem by the truly exceptional Mari Nosal(M.Ed., CECE)!!!

I am You

I am you and you are me
For God created us all
The grass is greener on your side, but I shall climb the wall
I have many talents as you’ll see
Even though you view me differently
You laugh and sneer when I join your game
You ignore me when I ask your name
You think emotions I do lack
You talk about me behind my back
I shed many tears because of vengeful peers
I painfully endure the constant leers
But I am smart, make no mistake
I am here to say, a great friend I would make
Take the time, just be my friend
And misunderstandings, with time we’ll mend
It may take me longer to climb the wall
And along the way I may fall
But I will climb again until I get it right
And when I do you will see my plight
For I am you and you are me
We can be friends as you will see
I hope, I dream, and want to grow
We are not so different you will know
Some call me learning disabled
But I am handicapable
With a zest for life, and humor to match
That if you spend enough time with me you will catch
Just be my friend, and help me grow
In return, my talents to you I’ll show
For I am you and you are me
God doesn’t make junk as you will see.

 

Curriculum ideas for the inclusive classroom and parents too by Mari Nosal!!!

I am a huge fan of Mari Nosal and her writing. Here stories are very informative and inspirational and I really enjoy them.

 

 

Have you ever wondered how to encourage empathy, increase fine and gross motor skills, social awareness, independent thinking, teamwork, independent play, or anything in-between within a classroom or at home? I have compiled quite an array of activities throughout my years. The majority of my activities were used and intended for a multi-age classroom. The children I’ve taught range in age between five and twelve years and include those with emotional, physical, behavioral, gifted, neurotypical, and learning disabled circumstances. The activities are therefore acceptable for a mixed range of abilities and ages. I have pondered what I have learned through many years of trial and error. My goal is to share these activities with parents and educators to enhance the lives of other children who could benefit from my ideas.

1) Musical Paper Plates: This game is an adaptation of musical chairs. Musical paper plates is especially suitable for children who present gross motor skill issues. The chance of injury is diminished as children cannot fall on a chair when children are vying for the last coveted spot. Plates are strategically spread out in a circle. When the music stops, a plate is removed. For children who present with socialization issues and struggle with the concept of being “out”, leave all paper plates in the game. Thus, no one wins or loses. An adaptation I made for letter and number recognition is to write numbers or letters on the plates and keep everyone in the game. i.e. If a child lands on the letter A etc., I differentiate my question according to each child’s ability and ask questions such as, What is the name of your letter? What sound does your letter make? Can you name a word that begins with your letter? Can you spell the word ? My goal is to provide a game here that includes all children, no matter what their ability is, at their level, and without singling children out. I make the same adaptations with numbers. If the child steps on number five, I may ask them to stomp their feet five times, give them a math problem to solve, ask what number they are standing on, and more. The options within this game are limitless. The game then continues with no one left out of the game. This game has proved to be extremely popular with the children.

2) Enhance Thinking Skills: One child sits in the middle of a circle and mimes emotions. The child who guesses the emotion goes in the middle and the game continues. This game is an awesome springboard for discussing feelings and reinforcing social awareness. An adaptation is to pick moral oriented situations out of a bowl, and having children act them out.

3) Share a Book: This is a voluntary activity that proved popular with the children. Rather than reading for the children, ask for volunteers who would like to read during circle time. This enhances reading skills, positive self efficacy, and teamwork. I adapt this activity so all children can participate no matter what their abilities or age. If a child volunteers to read to the class, but is an early or none reader, they are allowed to choose another child to assist them. I wish to emphasize that no child should ever be forced to read if they do not wish to. Forcing a child with a developmental challenge, reading issues, speech problems, etc. to participate can backfire. The child will lose self esteem, become embarrassed in front of peers, and withdraw. I still recall being an advanced reader in elementary school. I also suffered from “watery S’s.” My second grade teacher would force me to display my reading skills in-front of the class. It was humiliating and still resides in my memory today. After the fact, I recall pretending I struggled in reading so the teacher would stop choosing me.  Some children will participate in the future if they are not forced and are allowed time to feel safe within the group.

4) Don’t Squish the Bug: This game can be played in a group, modified for two individuals, played one on one, or done just plain solo according to the child’s skills and social development. This game is great for increasing hand-eye coordination. The children fill balloons with jello and enjoy a game of catch, or adapted catch as mentioned above. It is suggested that this game be played outdoors. It is fun. However, when the balloon inevitably breaks – jello, jello everywhere. :-0)

I hope you enjoy my ideas. I would love feedback. If there is enough interest I will continue with weekly or bi – weekly curriculum ideas. Happy teaching and parenting.

Mari Nosal M.Ed.

 

An Aha Moment In The Classroom While Recovering From Illness from our Favorite Guest Mari Nosal

Guest of our site Mari Nosal
Guest of our site Mari Nosal

Another fine article on Special Needs Education from Mari Nosal our favorite guest on the site!!

I have attempted to tell a story of my recovery from an ear infection. Every educator has most likely experienced the feeling of teaching when they wanted nothing more than to stay in bed. In this story I was reminded of how the children can teach me a thing or two:-0)

I am finally recovering from a terrible double ear infection that has left me temporarily hearing impaired. I must persevere. My classroom and personal issues must consciously be separated. I silently remind myself of this fact as I balance on one knee so I can hear the children’s requests. In reality, I would like nothing better than to be home in bed. Smiles must be placed upon my face and I feign interest in all the children’s requests. If I can’t do this the children will merely infer that I do not wish to be with them. Despite every day challenges they light up my day. I keep reminding my self that for some of these children, I am the only stability in their life.

I silently decided to remind myself of what my role in this class is. My eyes scanned the room and reminders of the positive influence I have on these children are every where. I eyed the cubbies. My coat had been silently moved to a five year olds coat hook. I had forgotten that she likes our jackets to be hung together on the coat hook so that they touch each other. On the table laid several notes written for me in childish scrawl from the children. One portrayed a brightly colored rendition of me wearing my children’s workshop shirt. Under the picture was a note that said “I like that Miss Mari Cares about us.”Another note said “I am glad Miss Mari is here”. These notes reminded me of how much my effort are noticed by the children. How could one not feel better after seeing these reminders?

The children would soon remind me of the difference betweens an adult’s perception of what is important versus a child’s. Saturday is the day we are celebrating Dr. Seuss birthday party. We are to have an open house at the school of which I am expected to attend. Mountains of Dr. Seuss pencils and erasers sat upon the table in my classroom. They awaited the active participation of my young charges to create 100 goody bags for the party. I gazed at those bags and thought about what an effort it would be to get these children to make goodie bags. The thought of that and doling out green eggs and ham the following morning was not my idea of a rousing experience.

The children surprised me. They reminded me of the dangers of assuming the future with my adult lenses. The children gazed at the goody bag articles and shouted with glee. They sat patiently as I explained how to assemble the bags. We than got down to work. The children ranged in age from five to eight years old. The younger ones were intent on tying the ribbons on the bags independently. My assumption of a job that would be incomplete at days end proved to be wrong. The bags were finished in one hour! The children had such a feeling of pride on their face.

I was reminded that not all learning experiences lie within my curriculum. There is more to learn than just reading and writing. I learned as much from the children as they learned from this experience. Children that began the project feeling incompetent and incapable of doing the project independently had learned new skills like how to tie ribbons on bags. They practiced sorting skills by placing two pencils, and eraser, and a pencil grip in each bag. What I initially perceived as a drudge project turned out to be an enjoyable experience that taught all involved lessons, including me.

I hope my experience reminds all educators of what an awesome job AND responsibility we have.

Mari N. M.Ed., CECE

http://marimouth.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/an-aha-moment-in-the-classroom-while-recovering-from-illness/

A Parent is Their Child’s First Teacher by Mari Nosal with permission of Enabled Kids Canada

Mari Nosal
Article from Enabled Kids by Mari Nosal

Here is another nice article with regards to special needs education by Mari Nosal, a fellow parent of Autistic kids and she is also an educator as well. I can relate in many respects, I am asperger’s and have 3 kids on the spectrum.

Parenting our children is a full time, and occasionally scary job. When our children are born, we are the first people that they interact with. We provide stimulating environments, experiences, and safe challenges that encourage a child’s continuous development. Parents are cheerleaders, coaches, academic tutors, and provide a safe and nonjudgmental haven where children can feel free to make mistakes. Children realize that, in the safety of a home with supportive parents, they will not be judged and can therefore take on safe challenges. This is most important for children with learning disabilities as their home front and loving parental support provide a haven away from school, where they may struggle to fit in with peers daily. Education is defined as any experience which provides learning and growth to be achieved. Parents can view themselves as important co-teachers. They can provide schools with the difficulties or learning growth that is taking place on the home front. Parents can provide complementary support to the child’s teacher as well by continuing what a child learns at home. The message I am attempting to convey is that teachers, parents, educators, and more are all instrumental educators within their child’s life. Remember parents, you are an important component in your child’s development, so never underestimate your effectiveness. Most of all, keep dreaming, hoping, smiling, and lastly never ever give up. Always believe in yourself and your children.

Mari

As I sit and ponder what it means to be an educator, a powerful vision comes to mind: A flock of geese following one another in a perfect V formation. There is a correlation between the perfect educational system, and the teamwork geese employ as they soar through the blue skies.
One bird flaps its wings and creates an updraft for the bird behind it. The geese place themselves strategically. The strongest bird is in front. The weakest bird is in the back. One can surmise the reasoning for this. The strongest bird can lift the weakest bird with an updraft. As the stronger bird tires, the formation changes, the weaker bird now has a reserve of energy. Thus, the energized bird takes the place of the exhausted bird.
Like geese, people cannot fly solo. Education encompasses a large network of people. In order to educate the whole child, one must think of the process as more than academics. Social, emotional, familial, and environmental issues are part of the education process. Expecting a teacher to perform these duties alone is sure to breed chaos. Teachers need support when teaching becomes difficult.
Like the geese, the tired teacher needs someone to support them. The teacher needs time to go to the back of the flock and re-energize. Upon re-energizing, the educator can than successfully lead the flock once more. They are not co-dependent, but inter-dependent with parents and their peers. It is a vital instrument that ensures a positive classroom climate.
As geese form a perfect V formation, educators, administrators, and the community must work cohesively as a unit. The mutual goal should be the successful assimilation of the children into a society. If the children are not empowered with the skills to be productive members of society, successful assimilation has not occurred. If a bird tires, and another geese does not support their weak moment in flight, the formation is disrupted.
The weaker bird will tire and plummet. When assisting a child in developing to their fullest capacity, one does not get a second chance to repair the mistakes made. The inevitable result of no cohesive unit is a teacher who will plummet like the geese. The child will be left with negative self efficacy. Lack of support for the teacher breeds feelings of futility. Futility soon breeds apathy. There is a domino effect. The child becomes the recipient of the teacher’s apathetic demeanor. If the teacher loses their zest for teaching, the child loses their zest for learning.
My personal goal is continuously equip myself with the knowledge and skills to help communities become socially and academically well rounded. My utopian world is one where all individuals gain self empowerment skills, positive self efficacy, and learn skills for success. These are the building blocks for success. May everyone fly in the V formation. May No Child Be Left Behind.

This is a poem I wrote a while back. I believe it displays my ideology on what a teacher’s and parent’s role is.

Here is a wonderful poem by Mari Nosal as well quite nice–>

My Guide

Oh teachers listen closely

For this you need to know

My future rests right in your palm

I need you as I grow

My destiny is yours to shape

By words you choose to use

Encourage me, tell me I’m great

Your power do not abuse

Believe in me and I will shine

I will not let you down

Give up on me and let me fail

My choice will be to drown

Please teach me all you know my friend

Do not give up and leave

And I will thrive because I knew

In me you did believe

I have the talent to succeed

But sometimes feel lost

Please help me so I find my way

No matter what the cost

Don’t leave me on the tough days

I need to know you’ll stay

For you help me to grow and learn

And assure me i’m o.k.

Support me, guide me, and teach me

My fate is up to you

For with your words I’ll fail or win

It is up to you you’ll see

Please don’t leave nor write me off

I am worthy of your time

I promise I’ll not fail you

To give up would be a crime

My future is up to you you’ll see

In you I do believe

I will succeed and fulfill my dreams

If you walk with me

In order for me to succeed

I can not walk alone

Don’t give up on me and walk away

My emotions will turn to stone

Teachers listen closely

I need your help today

Help now and I promise

I will make you proud one day

MARI NOSAL

Previously Published on Enabled Kids Canada, See link–>link

No Child Left Behind, Fact or Fallacy by Mari Nosal, with my opinions and commentary as well.

Left Behind?
Can education for the autistic be improved?

I am trying to spread autism awareness, lend a voice to topics that are interesting to people who are either autistic or have friends or family that are. I have 3 kids on the autism spectrum, I am asperger’s as well. My kids all struggle in school and I am concerned that they will graduate and if so what have they really learned. I was quite the opposite school academics came easy, it was the social and PE related things that were difficult. I was in a way left behind, might have skipped a few grades but due to my teachers and their concern or is it lack of concern or understanding I was never allowed to skip any grades, the elementary years were a joke for me, I could read as well as I do now at 43 at 8, and my math skills were about the same as well, but I was never asked to skip grades mostly due to my teachers not really understanding or “getting” me. In that vein of thought here is a fine article by Mari Nosal with regards to her thoughts on the so called “No child left behind idea”

No Child Left Behind, Fact or Fallacy by Mari Nosal

http://marimouth.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/no-child-left-behind-fact-or-fallacy-the-state-of-our-educational-system-in-america/

Hello – I have been observing opinions of the public at large regarding the state of our educational system. I have decided to express my opinions regarding this topic. Some may like my opinions some may not. That is the perogative of human individuality. One thing I believe we can all universally agree on is that we need to discard our THEM AND US IDEOLOGY AND CHANGE IT TO A WE. All societies are dependent on one another for successful existence. May we all become a united front and remember our ultimate goal – our childrens future! Merely a thought to Ponder.

Education reform has always been dictated by societal needs. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was born from a need for high tech, academically savvy Americans who can compete in our interglobal society. The next generation of capitalists must be trained. American corporations are interdependent on foreign trade to survive. Foreign countries experience financial growth through interactions with America. Land Rovers and Lexus have Toyota Engine parts. Chevrolet Geo has Suzuki engine parts. Gas hails from Arabian oil wells. Patients from other countries frequent our hospitals for high risk, state of the art surgery. American educators travel the world teaching English to foreigners. American icons such as McDonalds, Pepsi, and Spiked hair cuts are noted in foreign countries. These examples are a miniscule representation of the relations and dependency that countries have on each other. Prosperity is the ulterior motive of these relations.

The ideology of No Child Left Behind is not new. Expectations in education have been cyclical throughout history. The influx of immigrants in Horace Mann’s era necessitated a curriculum that focused on Americanization of immigrant children. The intent of Mann was not altruistic. It was the assimilation of immigrants into American society as positive contributors to our economy. During the cold war era, emphasis was based on academics. A similarity to modern day schools is noted. Gone was the emphasis on the whole child. Education was reformed to produce American engineers, scientists, and mathematicians that could compete with the Russians. We had to build a bigger, better, space craft than our Russian neighbor’s.

In modern day America, as with our predecessors, molding and training students guarantees the survival of our country. In the fifties the economy depended on competing with other countries for prosperity. In modern day America, the goal is to be sought out by other countries. What deleterious effects does America’s preoccupation with growth and prosperity inflict on our society? “It became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it.” This phrase speaks a thousand words. The American ideal of survival of the fittest warrants focusing on the strongest members. The weak and assumed useless people are weeded out. Rather than find compensatory strategies that give all kids the same chance to succeed, each child is left to sink or swim. The ones who succeed will be our future leaders. The students who flounder will be left to languish in a hand to mouth existence with no skills. Children have become statistical data on an achievement graph.

Intelligence can’t be measured merely in academic form. A child may be musically inclined, athletically inclined, or artistic. A child’s learning may be impeded by learning disabilities, emotional disabilities, or a dysfunctional household. If compensatory strategies are taught the child will succeed. The standards used to assess a gifted child should differ from those for a learning disabled child. High expectations are non negotiable. However, what those expectations are differ from child to child. Challenges should be safe and individualized for each student. A challenge should create social and academic growth. If the challenge is too high, the child will shirk their academic responsibilities, and suffer irreparable damage to their self esteem.

Accommodations for individual children need to be in place in order for the academically challenged child to score within the median range on assessments. Unfortunately, accommodations cost money. In terms of education the basic mindset is less is best. A society, who will spend $150.00 on a ticket to a Football Game, yet will wage war at the threat of having real estate taxes raised for education. It is much easier to play the blame game. Blame the parents, society, teachers, and administrators. Taking personal responsibility for America’s educational dilemma would mean admitting that we all have a stake in children’s education. Not a comfortable idea for the majority of the population to ponder.

Teachers carry a huge weight upon their shoulders. The goal of the No Child Left Behind Act is to achieve success. A teacher who has the threat of her job dangled in front of her like a carrot on a stick is not going to feel success. They will experience burn out and become less productive educators. A child who does not pass the M.C.A.S. repeatedly will experience a sense of failure that will haunt them through out life. Watching peers graduate will breed a sense of futility. In the scenarios above, the outcome is predictable. For educators and children alike, frustration leads to apathy, apathy leads to indifference. The end result is that everyone loses.

Intelligence is genetic. However, it is manipulated by the environment. A bright child who receives no stimulation will underachieve. A learning disabled child who is safely challenged will rise beyond expectations. The chance of success can be increased in the right educational setting. Introduce safe challenges that a child is sure to succeed at. A domino effect will occur. Once the taste of success is felt the child will not be adverse to more challenges. Experiencing failure can cause even the brightest child to recoil from academics. Nurture can beat nature. It merely takes the right environment, realistic expectations, and an appreciation of each child’s individuality and learning styles. We all have a function to fill in society as an adult. In our democratic society, the government and stake holders should not decide what that function will be. Accept each child for who they are, and they will be accepting of themselves. No child should be left behind!

This is merely my opinion.

Stay well

Mari Nosal M.Ed., CECE

Having lived in the system, and experiencing my own children’s lives in the system I definitely agree that things could be better. I am especially concerned for the more autistic of my twin sons who is in a self contained classroom. It is more of strategic organized teenage day care. He is sixteen nearly, and still can not tie his shoes.

David Berkowitz