Kids that Fidget

It can be hard for any child to sit still in classes all day long.  Let’s face it – it would be hard for most grown-ups to sit still that long.  Even with breaks, lunch, and recesses, kids are still expected to be still and quiet for long periods of time.  This becomes even more of a struggle for kids with special needs like ADHD or autism.  There are some resources that will give your children an outlet for them to fidget in a calmer manner.

Pencil Fidgets

Kids that have to be doing something with their hands with appreciate these pencil toppers.  Each of the four kinds has a long piece that fits on the pencil.  The long piece holds a shorter piece that can move up and down.  A child can sit in class with their pencil and still be able to move their hands without distracting other students or the teacher.

Stress Balls

Another help for kids that fidget is the common stress ball.  In this case, the stress ball is not just to relieve stress.  The purpose instead is simply for the child to have something to do with their hands.  Squeezing the stress ball allows children to release energy in a less active way.

Chew Objects

While some children need to move or fidget with their hands, other children need to chew on things.  If not given something specific, these students tend to bite their fingernails, chew on their pencils, or even suck on their hands.  If you child is a student like this, it may help to give them something that is specifically for them to chew on.  Companies are making chewing objects for kids that are fun and cute accessories.  Boys will like the dog tags while girls with feel pretty in a beaded necklace.

So if your child needs to fidget in class, try out one of these toys.  Maybe they need to hand movement or feeling in their mouth to help them concentrate.  Maybe the need to move or chew is completely out of their control.  Either way, these toys are resources that can help.  What other sensory toys does your child like to use?

Photo by: Kids that Fidget

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Helping Children Deal With Anger

Anger can be a real issue for children with special needs.  Whether your child is on the autism spectrum, has a reading disability, or struggles to pay attention because of ADD, frustration and anger can cause them to want to quit on their schoolwork.  It is important to teach your child to deal with their anger in healthy ways.  They may always feel angry about circumstances and events in their life, but they can learn to manage the anger instead of acting on it.

Take a Break

One of the best ways to keep anger under control is to take a break from what is causing the anger.  You could teach your child to walk away from a situation and go to a quiet place (their room, the kitchen table, or a certain spot in their classroom).  Teach them to stay in this spot until they feel calmer.  Remember though that this is something you want them to learn to do on their own.  It is not a punishment.  You can encourage your child to walk away, but don’t try to force them to stay in the chosen spot.  If a special needs child feels like he is being punished, the anger will probably get worse, not better.  You can also ask your child’s teacher if your child can take a break from a subject that is frustrating them and go back to it later in the day.

Use Their Words

One problem that can cause anger is the inability for some children to put their thoughts and feelings into words.  Imagine how frustrated you would be if you were trying to talk, but no one could understand you or you didn’t know how to tell someone what you were thinking or feeling.  During times when your child is not angry, have them practice using their words to talk about their feelings.  Role play possible situations that would upset them and have them tell you in words how they would feel or what they would tell their teacher about the situation.  It could also help to give them a special feelings journal.  Tell them that they can write in the journal anytime they want or about anything they want.  Encourage them to write down things that bother them throughout the day.  In addition to just writing in the journal, you could look at the journal with your child every night and talk with him about what bothered him during the day.

Think From the Perspective of Others

Many special needs students have a hard time putting themselves in the place of others.  Because they tend to focus only on themselves, it can be difficult for them to understand things like why a child refused to give up a favorite toy or why they didn’t get to use the blue marker first.  When you talk with your child about things that have made them angry, try to get them to see what made the other child act the way they did.  (You may not be able to do this until your child has calmed down quite a bit.)  Ask your child what he would have done if he was the other child.

Anger is a real problem for some children, but with your help your child can learn to control his anger.  What other strategies do you use when teaching your children to manage their anger?

Photo by: greg westfall

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Sometimes, it’s good to be a little different.

Sometimes, it’s good to be a little different. We know that you, as a parent of an exceptional child, have your hands full.  We know how special your child is and also how special you are as a parent. You have been given a unique gift, one that causes a lot of work, a lot of focus, but mostly a lot of love.

We wanted to share this free poster with you so you can remind yourselves how fortunate you are to be living the life you have been given.  No-one can do what you do for your child.  No-one knows the real effort it takes for you to mentally, physically, and emotionally support your child, the rest of your family, and yourself.   Take a break for just a few minutes to download this free poster, print it out (or send it out to be printed) and put it where you can see it everyday.   Or… use it as a screen saver on your computer or smart phone.

Enjoy the free poster with much love from MangoMon.com.

*Click on the photo below to download the full size poster!*

Be Different

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Summer Activities for Students with Learning Disabilities

As summer is fast approaching, many students are thinking about fun in the sun, family vacations, and summer camp.   Students may consider it a time to stop learning, but research has proven that if students do not spend any time in educational activities then their learning loss can retract by, at minimum, 2 months.  This means that a student leaving the 2nd grade and entering the 3rd grade will still be on a 2nd grade level.  This is especially important for students with learning disabilities.  This loss can put the student even further behind their classmates.

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There are many fun ways that fun time, family vacations, and summer camp can be intertwined with learning.

Learning at the Beach

A trip to the local beach can be filled with learning opportunities for a child.  Children love to play in the sand and romp through the waves of the ocean.  While playing with children at the beach, they can learn about what sand is made up of, the importance of the ocean to the environment, and the math behind building the perfect sand castle.

The summer is also peak turtle nesting season.  If you are fortunate to live in a sea turtle nesting area, you can go on a nest hunt.  The nests will be marked off in the sand with information to learn about protecting the nests.  Children can then learn about the different sea turtle species, their nesting habits, and hatchlings.

Websites for Learning at the Beach

  1. Enchanted Learning Beach Activities – great activities and crafts for younger children to do while at the beach or about the beach
  2. Frugal Activities at the Beach – list of great low-cost ideas for hands-on projects while at the beach
  3. EPA – great website for parents/teachers to learn about the beach to then teach their children/students

Historical Family Vacation

If you are going away this summer, it is easy to tie in history by visiting some of the famous landmarks around the United States.  I recently went on a school trip to Charleston and Savannah where students learned about American history by visiting various historical attractions.  The students enjoyed having their ‘history book come to life.’ Many cities around the country offer educational tours of the museums, landmarks, and attractions that include the historical importance.

Websites for Historical Family Vacations

  1. TripAdvisor History & Culture Trips in the United States – top vacation options including information on places to visit in the top 16 cities for history and culture
  2. Learning Vacations for Kids –  includes tips for parents traveling with kids to encourage learning while on vacation

Summer Camps

Many local summer camps offer fun hands-on learning and activities for the summer.   Many camps also make accommodations for students with special needs.  Traditional camps are typically provided through school districts, museums, and city recreation centers.  Also look for other options at local nature centers, parks, or research other options in the local newspaper or online.  Camps are a great way for students to learn, be active, and participate in activities with children their age away from the formal school setting.  While your children will be learning things that can tie into academic curriculum, they will also be learning social skills.

Websites for Finding the Perfect Summer Camp

  1. Choose a Camp – Choose and compare camps based on location, activity, or even special needs
  2. Computer Summer Camp – Use www.internaldrive.com for information on camps all around the U.S. geared toward technology and computing
  3. Choosing a Camp – great website that provides information about the different types of camps for kids and their strengths and weaknesses

Article by Laura Ketcham

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The Impact of Common Core Standards on Special Education

Last summer the federal government moved away from the educational standards provided in No Child Left Behind into a new set of standards called Common Core Standards.  Common Core Standards, commonly referred to as CCS, provide a basis for standards at each grade level for reading, language arts, and math that are to be followed by all states.  Previously, each state was able to determine the standards, how they would be implemented in the classroom, and how they would be assessed at the end of the year to provide the data to the state and federal government to show academic progress.  The rigor and standards for each grade level were not consistent across the states.  No Child Left Behind left room for much interpretation including as to how special needs students fit into the academic puzzle.  An additional document released with the standards addresses the needs for special education students and adaptations.

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CCS’s Impact on Special Education

The Council for Exceptional Children has an informative article about how the change to CCS will impact the special education classroom.   The CCS will be the same across the grade levels for special needs students as it is for the general education classrooms.  The goal is to hold all students to high expectations of learning gains based on college and career readiness.  However, for special needs students there are specific adaptations, accommodations, and assistive technology provided for students to be able to attain those high standards.  The documentation provides information that struggling students should be provided with interventions and that the standards should be read in a broad manner that allows for adaptations to help students with special needs to achieve mastery of the standards at the highest level possible.  The broad interpretation opens the way for changes that can be determined at the state and local level.

This change in standards with increased levels of mastery for special needs students will come with some growing pains.  Special education teachers, along with general education teachers who teach special needs students in the general education setting, will need to be provided professional development opportunities to learn about scaffolding ideas, helping struggling students meet high standards, and how to meet the needs of special education students in the general education classroom.   The states, districts, schools, and teachers are challenged to find the means that works best in their environment to teach the students to gain mastery in those standards that are outlined.

Reading & Language Arts Standards

The Reading and Language Arts Standards provided in the CCS are not solely for the language arts and reading teachers.  The standards promote literacy across all classes.  There are specific standards for reading in history, science, technology, health, and mathematics.  Each grade level is broken down into various higher level categories like reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language standards.  Then, it is broken down into grade-specific standards that help to achieve the goal of college and career readiness.

Math Standards

The CCS Math Standards focus on the students being able to understand math rather than just solve equations.  Ideas like understanding the problem, reasoning, and modeling are integrated into the standards.  The math standards do not directly address the accommodations for students who are struggling or special needs students except for the fact that they should be provided access to the high-level of standards with accommodations or assistive technology as needed.  The standards are broken down into clusters and domains to outline the various mathematical concepts that the students should learn at each grade level.

Article By Laura Ketcham

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The 2011 Basketball Draft Lottery & Neurofibromatosis

Living in South Florida, basketball has been a hot topic this year.  The formation of the ‘dream team’ including Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh has definitely created a stir.  While many eyes are still on the finals and who will win the championship, this week the basketball Draft Lottery was conducted.   The Cleveland Cavaliers, who lost Lebron James as their star player this year, definitely came out on top in the draft.  They now have the first and fourth selections in the 2011 draft this summer that can allow them to pick 2 top players to help rebuild their team.

basketball

The interesting point, which connects this post to education and special needs students  is that the individual who made the pick which allows the team to select the first player in the draft was the Cleveland Cavaliers  owner’s son , and good luck charm, Nick Gilbert.  Nick is 14 years old and became a celebrity overnight.  He was dressed to impress and has had many complements on his throw-back glasses and bow tie.  The unique thing about Nick is that he has a genetic disorder called Neurofibromatosis.  His popularity from this event will hopefully raise awareness about the disorder in hopes for a possible cure.

Neurofibromatosis

Neurofibromatosis, or NF, is a genetic disorder that caused the growth of tumors on nerve tissue.    The tumors can cause various problems with the skin, skeletal system, and other neurological problems.  The severity of the disorder can vary.  NF is also commonly linked with other learning disabilities, epilepsy and leukemia.  There is no cure for NF.  Therapy is done to reduce the number of tumors and surgery can remove the tumors, however more tumors will grow back.  If the tumors are cancerous, then chemotherapy is administered.  The Neurofibromatosis Association is hopeful that there will be a cure within the next 5-10 years.

Nick has had brain surgery and chemotherapy to help him to manage with the tumors and secondary complications related to NF.  Nick has also lost vision in one of his eyes.  Despite his health issues, he is a very optimistic and energetic boy.

Nick is also the ambassador for the Children’s Tumor Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports research and awareness of NF.  With his exposure on the Draft Lottery, I hope that Nick will be a great ambassador to encourage others to support the research of NF through various fundraising activities.  May is NF Awareness Month and May 17th is also World NF Awareness Day.  In conjunction with these events, during the Draft Lottery, Nick tweeted, offered special prizes, and encouraged participates to text in a donation to help support the Children’s Tumor Foundation matching all of the funds raised.

NF & School

NF can be very difficult for children in the classroom, especially if the tumors are large and in places that other students can notice like the face, neck, and arms.  Some of the most well-known cases of NF are stories that have been aired on television involving teenagers who have tumors on their faces and then undergo surgery to remove the tumor.

Students with NF can struggle mastering material, have difficulty with penmanship, and language delays among social concerns and issues.  Like with most disabilities, early intervention, building a good relationship between the teacher and the child and family, and understanding how the disorder will affect the child’s education are very important.

Links for Learning about & Teaching Students with NF

  1. Children’s Tumor Foundation
  2. Preparing Teachers to teach a student with NF
  3. Brochure including helpful facts and figures about NF

Article By Laura Ketcham

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Space Exploration Lesson Ideas

There are many different space-based teachable moments that will happen in 2011.  Space events for this year so far include a solar eclipse, meteor shower, the super moon, and four planets can be seen with the naked eye.  Still to come this year are a lunar eclipse, meteor showers, and  the last shuttle launch in the United State by Endeavor.  These teachable moments can capture students’ attention to learn about science topics based on real life.  Teachers can find the dates and time period for these events in a Space.com’s article about the space watching season.

space

There are some great online resources to learn about space, the moon, the sun, the planets, and the United States involvement in the space program.

Space.com

Space.com is an article and video based website that covers and reports on the top space, space travel, and sky watching happenings.  This is a great website for middle and high school students to use for research projects based on space.  Topics range from how to clean up space junk, the shuttle launch rescheduled for May 16th, photos of space, photos of earth from space to videos about various space science events.

I found the article about the launch on May 16th to be informative and interesting.  I can see middle school students reading and responding to this article in a journal entry, which would combine science and writing.  I loved that  the article touched on why the shuttle did not launch on the 29th, the experiments that will be happening on this last trip, the importance of the crew, and what will happen to the shuttle after it returns.

NASA

NASA has a very extensive website about space exploration with videos, articles, and mission information.  There is a specific section for teachers and another section for students.

The teacher section provides resources for teachers to use to create lessons, units, and projects for students to learn about space exploration in conjunction with the NASA website.   There are resources to learn about the different events that will happen this year in space like the super moon, the solar eclipse, and the planets aligning in the sky this month.

The student section includes videos, pictures, articles, games, and experiments based on grade level.  I especially enjoyed the interactive story about the shuttle.  This online interactive book includes historical facts about the shuttle, the missions, how it works, how it launches, bios on astronauts, and a comments section for students to read and post comments about the activity.  This is a great resource to explore further to incorporate in your classroom lessons on space.

Other Great Websites about Space:

  1. National Geographic  – Space
  2. Hubble – Pictures of Space
  3. Kids Astronomy
  4. About.com Space Tour

Article By Laura Ketcham

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Online Learning Games for Review

With the end of the school year coming closer to an end, required content curriculum for classes is winding down.  Online learning games can be used to make connections with previously taught curriculum as a recap for the school year.  Here are a few websites that students can access to play online learning games.

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Sheppard Software

Sheppard Software has many free and fun web-based learning games.  Most of the games are aimed at pre-K and elementary students, but there are also learning games for middle and high school students.  They cover all of the major subject areas including math, reading, language arts, science, and social studies.  The games have great animation that will be highly engaging for students.  The directions are very explicit and the students should not need much direction in completing the activities.  Providing your students a list of the games that they should play during this activity will help students to review material that was learned throughout the year while building stronger skills in those areas.

Play Kids Games

Play Kids Games also has a variety of interactive online learning games.  One advantage to this website is that teachers can create their own classroom pages from this site for free.  Teachers can take their own content, like vocabulary words, and add them into the games.  The page is then setup with the fun and interactive games based on the content the students are learning in their classroom.  So far, only the online vocabulary-based games can be modified.

Do 2 Learn

Do 2 Learn is an online learning game website designed specifically for special needs kids.  The free games include learning colors, numbers, emotions, sequencing, and vocabulary.  There are also two sing-a-long animation sections to teach students about important concepts related to safety and speech sounds.  In addition to games, there are programs and activities available for a fee that are very useful resources in the special needs classroom.  These activities can be used throughout the year and then can be used at the end of the year to repeat very important concepts.

Teaching Learners with Multiple Needs

The blog, Teacher Learners with Multiple Needs, has a great post about learning games that students with special needs can play using switches.  Games range from learning letters and vocabulary to matching, math, and money skills.  All of the games use fairly simplistic motions, which make them great for use with switches.  Some are just for fun and getting the students to use the computers and get use to using a switch, whereas other are more curriculum based.

There are many online websites that are offering free learning activities for students.  Always make sure t o play the games fully before asking your students to play to ensure that they will be able to play. You need to let them know i not to select advertisements and be sure that it covers the content that you want them to be reviewing.

Article By Laura Ketcham

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Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month

May is Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month.  Many activities and events will be held to raise money for research to find a cure for cystic fibrosis.  Cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder that causes the lungs to fail, which typically leads to an early death.  Research, early diagnosis, and medications have greatly increased the life span of individuals with cystic fibrosis to the average age of 35.   Children with cystic fibrosis may have difficulty gaining weight, will eat a specialized diet to lessen digestive complications, and may be taking medicines to keep mucus build up in the lungs down.  Children with cystic fibrosis can attend school, play sports, and do the typical things that any child would do.

walking

Living with Cystic Fibrosis at School

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation provides a great resource for teachers to learn how the disease will affect a child’s education at school.  The handbook provides a brief introduction to what cystic fibrosis is and then covers how it may affect the student and how this will impact their education.  Keeping your classroom clean, providing hand sanitizer, and allowing the student to use the restroom or leave the class if coughing, or to get a drink of water are common classroom adjustments.  Encouraging the student to be active at recess, PE, or school organized sports is also encouraged to help keep their body strong.  The child also needs to eat a higher calorie diet in order to continue growing, so allowing a snack time during class could also be an accommodation.

Based on my experience, the only adaptations that had to be made to the classroom environment were that the student could go to the bathroom when she needed or to get a drink of water, instead of having a limited number of bathroom passes per week. If she was out for extended periods of times due to complications from the disease  I needed to keep in email contact with the classwork and assignments so that she could attempt to keep up when she was feeling okay to work at home.  I also made myself available in the morning times when she would return to school to help her get caught up on assignments and missed activities.

Great Strides

Great Strides, the largest cystic fibrosis fundraiser of the year, will be held in many cities between April and May with individuals walking and being sponsored to raise awareness about this life threatening disease.  The website link provides information about the walk, finding a walk in your area, and a place for sponsors to make donations toward your walk.  There is also information about the foundation and cystic fibrosis to pass along to supporters.

School Fundraisers

Schools could also hold their own fundraisers to support the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.  My school holds an annual week of fundraising and awareness for CF.  This includes a “change for change” program where students bring in change to donate to the foundation, a bake sale, and a “jeans for genes” program where students make a donation to wear jeans to school for a day.  Students in the art classes also create roses for the 65 Roses Project.  Over the past several years the school has raised a significant amount of money to donate to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Other school fundraising ideas include holding a benefit concert with student performers with proceeds going to the foundation, having students create rose crafts to sell at a craft sale, or holding a carwash to raise funds.  Does your school participate in charity fund raising events?  If so, please share your unique ideas !

Article By Laura Ketcham

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Lesson Ideas for Cinco de Mayo & Mother’s Day

This week we are celebrating Cinco de Mayo and Mother’s Day.   These two special occasions provide great hands- on-learning connections in the classroom with crafts and culture.

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Cinco de Mayo Lesson Ideas

Cinco de Mayo is a celebration held in Mexico honoring their victory over the French army in 1862.  In Mexico, this is a relatively small holiday that is only celebrated in Pueblo.  In the United States however, this special occasion has grown to celebrate Mexican heritage, food, and customs.  Here are some lesson ideas to celebrate Cino de Mayo in your classroom.

  1. Mr. Donn’s website provides not just lessons about Cinco de Mayo, but full units of lessons, activities, and resources on the topic of Mexico.   This site also has a presentation to share with students, a reader’s theater lesson, and a link to games that you can play in your classroom for Cinco de Mayo.
  2. The Teacher’s Corner has lesson plans including holding a classroom fiesta, learning Cinco de Mayo vocabulary and history, and making arts and crafts related to the holiday including paper flowers and piñatas.
  3. Scholastic has resources on their website to teach students the history and cultural significance of the holiday.  These activities are great because they are already standards based and provide great classroom instruction for an introduction on the topic.  The activities are very visually oriented and would be great to complete as a class using an Interactive board.

Mother’s Day Lesson Ideas

Mother’s Day, which is always celebrated on the second Sunday in May in the United States, is a day to honor motherhood and ones’ mother.  In the United States, it is typical to celebrate by having a special day for your mother.  Making breakfast, buying flowers, or making a card are traditional ways to honor mothers.

Mother’s Day is actually celebrated all around the world during different times of the year.  Each country has their own customs of the significance and customs of Mother’s Day.  This would make a great lesson that combines the occasion, geography, and culture connection.  Wikipedia has a list of the countries who celebrate Mother’s Day including the date they celebrate and their customs.  Students could be paired off to learn about one of the countries and how they celebrate and then present to the class.

For younger students, crafting and Mother’s Day go hand in hand.  There are many different crafting ideas for young students on Mother’s Day.

  1. Mother’s Day Central provides 151 Craft Project Ideas for Mother’s Day.  Some of the crafts are more complicated  and intended for older children and require more material, while other craft ideas are perfect for young students like creating a frame to put a picture of themselves in, making paper flowers, or designing and decorating a greeting card
  2. Danielle’s Place has very cute craft ideas for mother’s day that aren’t as typical.  This includes creating a bookmark, puzzle cards, window clings, and jewelry made out of paper.  The great thing about all of the ideas on this page is that it provides you a list of materials needed for the project, a picture of the completed project, and the steps of how to complete the project.
  3. Enchanted Learning has projects for younger students.  They include printables with starter projects ideas.  They also have classroom connection worksheets with vocabulary words related to Mother’s Day.

Have fun celebrating this week!  Feel free to share your crafty lesson ideas for these holidays by commenting below!

Article By Laura Ketcham

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