- Category: Blog
Students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) usually have more difficulty learning the traditional way because they may be wired to process information differently. That’s why teaching an autistic child to read can be a more challenging experience to guide them through. On one hand, you may have a child who teaches themselves to read, on the other hand you may have a student who needs extra guidance in this area. However, no matter where your child is located on the spectrum, there are plenty of strategies out there to help customize a perfect learning plan. Let’s explore some strategies to teach a child with autism to read and shape them into the best learners they can be.
Directly Teach the Skills You Want the Student to Learn
Many students with autism benefit from direct, systematic instruction to learn new skills. Reading is no different. It might be overwhelming at first to jump right away into reading comprehension. That’s why you may want to start by directly teaching the consonant and vowel sounds to build up important alphabet knowledge and letter recognition. These may need to be focused on one at a time or a few at a time until each is mastered. Try breaking up your learning sessions into short and effective chunks, so your student can get the information without being overwhelmed by too many letters. Some people choose to start with the letters in the student’s name as the first letters to target.
Don’t Be Afraid to Teach Phonics
Especially when it comes to autism and reading, it’s key to incorporate learning phonics as part of the instructional process. Sometimes people may be tempted to skip this part and go directly to teaching sight words. However, if students are younger and have limited verbal skills, you really don’t know what they are picking up. They could be talking in all of the information that you have, but just not showing you that they know it. It is important to provide the opportunity for them to learn the letter sounds and phonetic spelling of words. When you teach this, give instructions with as much clarity as you can. Autism Classroom has set of phonics worksheets to support instruction in that area.
Make it Visual
Reading itself, is a visual strategy, of course. But for student with autism, we need to up the visual ante. We can do this by using drawings, pictures, and photos to accompany the reading. Having flashcards with word and picture can help some students to understand the association. Just be sure to use various photos to represent a topic or word so that the student understands that this word has several ways it can be represented. For example, if teaching the word pen, be sure to have pictures of several different pens so that the student does not think that only a blue ink writing utensil is a pen. Another option if your student is a visual learner, try to get creative and use objects like rice, little candies, or chips to shape out some letters. If your student loves to use their hands the most, be sure to take advantage of magnetic whiteboards that have moveable letters or stick labels onto their favorite toys and gadgets. No matter what technique you use, it’s important that you help your child discover the method they learn the best with.
While kids with autism are fantastic at interpreting everything quite literally, reading comprehension involves a little more work. During your learning sessions, make sure you help your student stay motivated by providing some type of reinforcement during or after the lesson. To provide motivation during the learning session, use characters and topics they enjoy hearing about and seeing to help teach them to read. Incorporate their favorite character to give them the directions for the lesson by having the picture or sticker of the character on the page. Or, show them an image or reminder of what they will be working towards or what they will get, once the activity is complete. An example of this would be our reinforcement pages worksheets where you can put a small picture reminder right on the worksheet.
As with many lessons for students with autism, try to break up a learning sessions into specific steps or into smaller work sessions as you teach. By making it more manageable by using short work sessions, they may be able to focus more of their energy on skill-building and word retention.
Be Concrete with Examples
Your student with autism may have a tough time trying to understand abstract or verbal examples. They’ll get so much more out of their lessons if you provide concrete examples when teaching spelling and reading concepts. A great way to be more hands-on and concrete is if you take advantage of letter tiles and flashcards. By guiding your student with direct instruction, they’ll be able to experience the titles and cards in a more bite-sized and retainable manner. To get a jump start on this, check out our free Emotions Flash Cards. Another way is to bring in real objects to highlight the words you are trying to focus on. For example, it will be easier for a student to understand what a mitten is if they see the word and see and touch the real object.
Reward the Growth
There’s no doubt about it that learning to read is a big challenge for kids. That’s why you should highlight your student and yourself for the progress that is made. Positive support plays a big role in reading development. Reward effort, keep motivating with favorite items or characters, use visual supports and build your student’s reading confidence.
- Category: Blog
Inside: Casual teacher outfits, ideas for clothing, hair, footwear and accessories.
Teaching children with autism and supporting students with special needs brings its own unique set of rewards and challenges. Of the many things that we need to do a little differently, finding our teacher style means striking the right balance of fashion and functionality. That’s because each day is unpredictable and dynamic. Comfort is really the key while still looking put-together and professional and adding our own touch to our everyday look.
Layering & Extra Clothing
Wearing layers is a great way to stay both comfortable and clean. So many outfits can be changed up with something as simple as a cardigan. With a cardigan sweater, you can layer it over short or long sleeved tops, stay warm if it gets chilly, and take it off if it warms up. It’s one of the most versatile pieces to have in your wardrobe. You can find lightweight cardigans for the warmer months and thicker options for colder temperatures. Solid, neutral colors balance out brighter tops, while colorful cardigans can give your outfit a little extra pop. Extra pop is something that Elease from SylviasClosetShop.com knows a lot about. “I birthed my business with the concept of offering affordable clothes at a fraction of the cost. I decided to open an online business that enables my clients to build on their wardrobe without spending a lot of money,” says Elease. “I opened my unique online business and named it after my mother Sylvia. She always inspired me to be the best version of myself. Had she been alive today, she would be proud of way my dreams have come to fruition.” Elease says that having an extra set of clothing is a pro tip.
With that in mind, it’s a good idea to always have an extra cardigan with you in the classroom in case of spills or accidents, too. Keeping an extra pair of pants or even shoes with you can come in really handy on those challenging days. It might seem silly to pop an extra top into your tote, but you’ll be glad you did if you end up getting spilled on. Think ahead when planning your outfit and packing your bag for the classroom so that you’re prepared for whatever the day may bring.
Many special needs teachers like to keep their hair tied up so that it’s out of the way, and with less chance of being tugged or tangled. However, if you like wearing your hair down, you don’t have to sacrifice your style. Ponytails stand a decent chance of being yanghjkl;'wertyuiked on, too. Keep a few hair ties with you just in case. A clip or barrette can also be a good way to get your hair out of your face in a hurry. Bottom line; don’t spend too much time worrying about your hairstyle each morning. Keep your hair simple, neat, and tidy.
As special needs teachers, we spend much of our day on our feet, moving around the classroom. That makes comfortable footwear essential, but we still need to look professional, rather than casual. The key is finding footwear to go with our teacher outfit that is both versatile and provides support. Many shoe brands today are aiming to strike that perfect balance of comfort and functionality without looking frumpy, so you have more options than ever. Stick to flats instead of heels or pumps, or your feet will surely pay the price after a long day. Once you find a pair of shoes that you like, pick up a few other pairs in different colors, if possible.
Accessories, especially jewelry, can be a great way to dress up any outfit. However, jewelry can quickly become an issue in the special needs classroom. That’s because necklaces, bracelets, and dangly or large earrings can be tugged, pulled on, or catch on something and break. Consider how dynamic your day is in the classroom and keep your costume and sentimental jewelry pieces at home. Stick to studs for earrings and simple necklaces that let you add that little touch of style without becoming a hazard or running the risk of being lost or broken during a hectic moment.
Dressing for the classroom doesn’t have to mean being only practical all of the time. Remember, there are meeting days and professional development days!!! Have fun with your personal style, whether it is plus size teacher outfits, petite outfits, art teacher clothes, student teacher outfits and anything in between, by choosing comfortable pieces in a variety of colors and patterns. Opt for comfort and consider how much of your day you’ll be moving around and working hands-on with your students. By focusing on functionality over fashion, you’ll find what works best for you.
- Category: Blog
Inside: Strategies for Special Education Teachers, working with paraprofessionals and reducing clutter.
This page includes affiliate links.
Self-contained classrooms are in place for a number of special needs students who need a highly individualized education. They allow the teacher and paraprofessionals to tailor the lesson content and utilize various teaching methods to best suit each student. If you have been wondering how to maximize your school with special education instruction and support that is above the norm, here are four creative strategies and tips to help you start!
One of the most important things a student with multiple disabilities needs is consistency. A routine helps students reduce anxiety and increase independence because there are few surprises. Students know what is happening and what they should be doing. A consistent structure eases their stress and gives them more of an opportunity to focus on learning the content. Of course, not every student is the same, so it's vital to develop programming based on each individual. However, having straightforward, classroom procedures is essential for every self-contained special education classroom. For example, having morning meetings or personal care activities that are the same each day, creates a structure that your students will follow and eventually learn to become more independent at doing. This may ultimately allow you greater flexibility in other teaching areas once other things become routine.
Paraprofessional support is the glue that helps to keep the classroom together. In some cases, especially if a teacher is new, the paraprofessionals know the students and the school better than the teacher. They are a wealth of knowledge about school related issues. They also might have established rapport with students if they have taught the student before or if they have communicated with them around the school in the past. Acknowledge and build on these strengths. Additionally, good teachers know to find out the hobbies and talents of the paraprofessionals in their classroom and allow them to let those talents shine. For some people this may look like running art class. For others, it may mean singing in morning meeting or collecting data. Whatever the strength, empowering your team members to use it will create a classroom environment based on mutual respect.
Overcrowded spaces cause visual chaos and can leave some people feeling slightly claustrophobic. Everything should have a place in your classroom. Reduce any clutter or stimuli so your students can focus on learning the content instead of possibly feeling a sensory overload. When you utilize binders and cubbies to stay organized, your students will also learn where everything goes and this can increase their independence as well. They won't have to guess where things are or ask a teacher of paraprofessional for help finding something. And, it just feels good to show up to an organized space.
It would help if you split your self-contained classroom into various sections, each with its designated activity and expectations. Use shelves and bookcases to divide the room up and create various zones. Teach your students to understand each area's requirements. They should know what behaviors and actions are expected of them when sitting in a specific area. This not only helps instill a routine and organization, but also helps redirect behavior. For example, most students know that their behavior on the playground is different than their behavior in an assembly. Using sections of the room is incredibly beneficial to learning. This is because you can place instructional materials and visual supports that are specific to that lesson in that area. The students may become more independent since they know exactly where to go and what they should be doing in that area.
Consistency, non-crowded spaces, and sectioning out the room are essential for any classroom but are especially critical for teachers looking to leverage their instruction in self-contained classes. Students with multiple disabilities, cognitive disabilities, emotional disabilities and behavioral needs thrive best in environments that reduce clutter, impose structure, and create opportunities for independence. Keep these tips in mind when you are setting up your own special education classroom!
Working with Consistency
Links to Tips on Building Routine
Making a routine for students is a key factor in leveraging your teaching.
Information on teaching routines can be found here.
Books for Paraprofessionals
Books and Workbooks Resources from Autism Classroom
Freebie: Coming Soon
- Category: Blog
Inside: Autism Classroom's guest blog series, showcasing with articles/blogs, supports and resources from various educators.
Hello, and Happy Teacher-ing, from Newfound Ideas!
I’m not new to teaching but I’m new to blogging, so let me introduce myself. I’ve been in the education field for almost 20 years, in various capacities. I hold an Arts degree in English, an Elementary Education degree, as well as a Masters in Instructional Technology. I have also taught in four different countries, in private and public schools, and at almost every grade level from Kindergarten to high school, with adult education thrown in for good measure!
After all my travels and various teaching positions, I came to realize that teachers need each other all the time, more than we care to admit sometimes. This led me to join the sharing resources craze and start an store with teacher resoruces.
Thus Newfound Ideas came to be and is a play on the name of my home province in Canada. It consists of, among other things:
- ESL products for all ages including vocabulary activities for common everyday items; speaking, listening, and writing activities; and
- alphabet/colors/numbers worksheets, aimed at Kindergarten students in particular; and
- research templates for Social Studies topics as well as for specific holidays and events.
The resources that I have in my Newfound Ideas store are beneficial to students of all ages, in various ways, but many of the resources are especially beneficial to autistic students. Activities that encourage students to practice their oral communication, as well as reading social cues and describing what is happening in a picture, can all be found there. They will be encouraged to practice these skills with a partner and learn to hold simple conversations. Creating and maintaining social relationships will be endorsed, as well as learning which conversational topics are appropriate for certain situations.
So go ahead and look around my site – I’m sure you’ll find something that will interest you!
- Category: Blog
How to Prepare for a Virtual Interview
Inside: Video conferencing interview preparation and tips for special educators navigating the virtual hiring process.
This page includes affiliate links. Learn more here.
Hiring for a job looks a little different these days since most interviews have gone virtual. While video interviewing is a bit unfamiliar to many of us, there are a few tricks that make the experience less stressful and more successful. As a starting point, consider treating your video interview as you would a real interview. By grounding the video interview in something more familiar, the entire experience will seem more approachable, allowing you to feel confident in your ability to virtually interview. Read on to learn how to prepare for your interview and what to do during and after your interview to try to gain that special education teaching position. There are plenty of things you can do before your virtual interview starts to set yourself up for success.
Before the Interview Checklist:
● Charge your computer or phone fully and plan to keep a charger nearby
● Find a quiet, clean space to sit while interviewing
● Test your webcam, speakers, headphones, etc.
● Pick out a professional outfit
● Make sure your resume is available
First, have your electronics fully charged so that a declining battery sign does not distract you. Next, during your interview, you will want peace and quiet so that you can remain focused and avoid distractions while showing yourself in the best possible light. Before interviewing, find a place in your home where you can interview without being interrupted. Better yet, let your family or roommates know that you will be interviewing so that they know not to interrupt you and can help limit other distractions like pets or rogue people walking through your background. Or, if you live in a place with a busy background, set up a space where the camera is facing a blank wall so that the wall is behind you.
Test Your Equipment
Be sure to download the app or software needed to join the virtual call. Find out a few days before if they are using Zoom, Webex, Google Meets or some other platform. Make sure that your equipment is up and running so that the first time you are testing your webcam and speakers is not when you are logging on for your interview. Locate the link to log in 30 minute before the interview and copy the link somewhere on your desktop, laptop, tablet or phone so that you can find it quickly if something goes wrong with the connection. Also, sometimes the camera may not be situated in the place you want it, so you may need to place a box or book under the computer or tablet to have it exactly where you want it. These tips will make the start of your interview much more seamless, which will help you avoid the stress of being late due to equipment problems.
Dress Well to Interview Well and Get Some Rest
Remember, even though your interviewer will only be able to see you from the waist up, it is still important to look your best and show that you have put effort into dressing professionally. Doing so will signal to your interview that you revere the interview process and can be professional in both a virtual and in-person setting. Get a good night’s sleep and eat a good meal before your interview. Going into your interview feeling well-fed and well-rested goes a long way and will help you feel focused and comfortable throughout even longer interviews.
Remember, it is ok if your resume does not have direct experience in a self-contained classroom. You can tell the person interviewing you about the experiences you had that can translate into a self-contained special education classroom. You can also tell them any background you have working with individuals with special needs. Additionally. make sure your resume has been sent to the appropriate people.Have a printed copy for you to reference. Also, be ready to screen share a copy if needed, or email a copy to anyone conducting the interview, who may not have a copy. Having it already saved in a Google Doc or PDF with the date of the interview will make this easier.
During the Interview Checklist
● Be sure your name is spelled correctly
● Show your portfolio
● Have a notepad
● Practice answering interview questions
● Do your best
Make Sure Your Identifying Details Are Correct
When you are interviewed by a video conferencing platform like Zoom for instance, the platform will show your video feed and name. You can help yourself make a great impression by making sure that your video feed shows you clearly and that your name and any other identifying information are accurate and spelled correctly. You may have to practice with a friend or family member first and ask them what name shows up when you log on. Check on this a day before the interview.
Screen Share Your Portfolio
As a prospective special educator, your portfolio will be a large part of your application and a likely discussion of your interview. In some platforms, you will be able to show a digital portfolio. You can utilize Zoom conferencing features like screenshare to highlight your portfolio and share it directly with your interviewers, allowing them to see just how great of an applicant you are. Make sure the digital portfolio is not excessively long, but does highlight your best work. If you are presenting it, be sure to have a list of the key points you want to talk about somewhere near to reference (but don’t read off of the list). On some platforms you can still be seen even when you are screen-sharing.
Practice Answering Difficult Questions
Have a notepad or paper nearby to jot down any questions that you have for the school team or use it to write down any answers they give you related to the questions that you ask. (ex. Do you recommend any areas to look for housing? What are the hours for the school? What type of professional development do you provide for teachers?) It is ok to say to them “excuse me while I write that down so that I get it right.” They will know you are serious about getting things correct. Additionally, if you go into the interview ready to answer a few important online teacher interview questions, you can help make it easier if you prepare in advance.
Here is a list of special education teacher interview questions if you are looking for sample questions.
Do Your Best and Get Ready to Shine
Do your best! Have fun with it if you can! Remember that an interview is simply an opportunity for an employer to understand what makes you so special, so it is perfectly fine to love yourself extra hard and celebrate your victories while interviewing. This is not the time to withhold accomplishments. Each accomplishment or service act gives them a glimpse of what you could do for their school community. So let it shine.
After the Interview Checklist
● Send a thank you email
● Clarify next steps
Congratulations! You made it to the end of your interview! The hard part is over, and now all you have left to do is wait and thank your interviewer or interviewers. Within 24 hours of the digital interview, be sure to send a thank you email to your interviewer, the person who helped facilitate the interview, your mentor, and anyone else who helped you. Let them know that you appreciate their time and guidance. When writing to a prospective employer, consider including a few specific details from your interview in the email (ex. “It was great to hear that your school will be starting a community garden. That is a project that is near and dear to my heart. I would be excited to take part in something like that.”) to make it more personal and to show that you did listen to them in the interview.
Stay Calm and Be Reflective
While waiting to hear if you were hired, try your best to stay calm. Remember that you have done everything you were supposed to do and that no matter what happens, you will be alright. Finally, after your interview, take some time to reflect. Create a list of what you did well and what you could improve on the next time. If your interviewer asked any questions that stuck out to you, take note of that as well.
Clarify What You Need to Do Next
If you are offered the teaching position be sure to thank them for the opportunity and write down the name, email address and office phone number of a contact person that you can ask questions to throughout the on-boarding process. With that information, then ask the question, “Is there anything that I need to do on my end?” or “What is the next step for me?” This way you keep the process moving forward and you will be on your way to teaching students in no time.
Books with Information on Virtual Job Interview Tips:
Links to Webpages About How to Prepare For a Virtual Interview:
Looking for success with your interview may be just a click away as this site offers ways to show up for the call.
Sometimes teachers need a hand from the corporate world. Here is an example of how special education teacher candidates can do that. Check this out for corporate tips.
This page offers the 5 Best Practices for Virtual Interviews.
Tips for Virtual Interviews are here.
Autism Classroom Pages for Special Education Teachers: