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Bouncing Around Class- Nontraditional Settings for Students

At Adelaide Elementary School in Bountiful, Utah, classes can sometimes be out of the ordinary.

In Meredith Dyer’s classroom, about one-third of her fourth grade students sit on big bouncy balls instead of traditional desks and chairs. These large fitness balls allow the kids to rock and roll and bounce around while they are learning.

bouncy balls

For the three years that she has been using the balls in class, Dyer has noted that for some of her students that have trouble focusing in the classroom, the balls have actually helped them stay on task. Teachers around the country have also started using the bouncy balls instead of small, stiff chairs, noting it is also a way for students to shake off extra energy while also improving posture.

A study from the American Journal of Occupational Therapy found the balls have positive effects for children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). They help them stay seated and write more clearly. Other studies from autism researchers have found the balls may also help children with autism stay in their seats and be more engaged in their surroundings.

There are even companies, like WittFitt that sells these balls specifically for school use. Started by a former teacher, she originally used the balls about 10 years ago to help students become more physically active. She now sells them along with lesson plans and information for teachers on posture, health and other safety tips for students using them in the classroom.

Students will benefit in more than one way by using these balls in the classroom. Improving posture, focus and comfort are just a few of the reasons to try it out.

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Picture By: stevendepolo

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A Challenge to Look Forward To – Special Needs Event

For students with special needs, it is important that they get the same chance any other student would get. At James E. Duckworth School in Beltsville, Maryland, these students get that chance. This school serves students with moderate to severe disabilities from ages 5 through 21. There are 90 students at the school who all have some sort of disability, including anything from cerebral palsy to autism. Students participate in a mentoring program all year long, which offers regular visits from students in nearby schools and allows them to participate together in activities such as arts and crafts and games.

field day

Each year since 1994, the school hosts an annual Challenge Day, where students participate in a whole day dedicated to athletic events and activities. The main focus of this event is to give students who cannot compete in the Special Olympics a chance to shine. This day is made possible with funds from volunteers and many organizations.

Months of practicing motor skills, basketball, javelin, biking and many more went into preparing for this day. The theme of the day was “Dream it; believe it; achieve it”. By wanting to achieve success, the students demonstrate the importance of this theme.

By allowing them to showcase their skills and hard work, these students can show to the community, and the world, that they are capable of anything the any other student is. With community members and school alumni, the event had over 200 spectators this year. The more attention events like this gain, the more awareness we can raise on equality for all students.

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Picture By: szlea

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Listen to This – New Ways of Teaching Special Needs Students

Staying focused is often a challenging task for students with special needs. The Adams 12 Five Star School District decided to change the approach of teaching students with autism and other learning disabilities. At Rocky Mountain Elementary School in Westminster, Colorado, a change has been made. This started as an Integrated Listening System (ILS) pilot last year and is now being planned to expand.

They have been implementing these new teaching strategies with special needs students. By combining music and physical activities, the students work to help the brain process multi-sensory information. For example, a few times a week, some students puts on a headset and listen to music that was picked specifically for their brain functions. Exercises with a physical therapist also are done to stimulate different parts of the brain at the same time.

An example of this process could be balancing on one foot while reciting the alphabet. The music is played through headphones and also through another speaker that is placed at the top of the student’s head to send vibrations through the skull to the inner ear. With the changes in these frequencies, students with different types of learning disabilities are affected.

For many students, it helps them focus. Being able to hear noise and perform a task translates into better focus and attention in the classroom. The student featured in this video has made successful progress since starting the program. Other students have made progression both in and out of the classroom thanks to this program.

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Win $2000 in the Sketch-A-Space Competition for Students with Autism

 

www.easterseals.com

Easter Seals and Google SketchUp are teaming together to help make spaces more accessible to students with autism in the Easter Seals’ Sketch-A-Space Competition. $2000 to design your ideal, dream space is up for grabs for students with autism, students interested in learning more about autism, or students who have someone in their life that lives with autism (aged 13 and older). The Sketch-A-Space Competition aims to raise awareness about autism while helping students express their creativity. Google SketchUp has become very popular for students with autism since many autistic students are visually and spatially gifted and are well-crafted in creating 3-D models.

How to Win $2000 for Your Dream Space

To enter, students must use Google SketchUp’s free 3-D modeling software to design their dream space.

Step 1: Browse the competition rules. If the student is under the age of 18, parent or guardian approval must be granted. Note, there are four categories of competition.

  1. Youth with Autism: individuals with autism age 13-17.
  2. Adult with Autism: individuals with autism age 18 and over.
  3. Youth: individuals without autism age 13-17.
  4. Adult: individuals without autism age 18 and over.

Step 2: Create your dream space in the Google Site Template. Don’t forget to name and save the entry page. Be creative if you are in it to win it!

When designing your space, keep in mind the unique needs of students with autism. Here are some interior design resources for students with autism provided by Easter Seals.

  1. Advancing Full Spectrum Housing:  Designing for Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders (PDF).
  2. Opening Doors:  A Discussion of Residential Options for Adults Living with Autism and related Disorders (PDF) (Chapter Six specifically addresses design needs)
  3. Design + Autism.
  4. Classroom Design for Living and Learning with Autism.
  5. Individuals with autism may present with a variety of sensory needs.  The following site has information about how these needs may present in individuals with autism and how they might be addressed.

Step 3: Submit the Sketch-A-Space competition entry by July 16, 2010, at 8:00 p.m. EDT.

Step 4: Await the results. Winners will be notified no later than September 1, 2010. Entries will be judged on a variety of categories including how innovative the design, how the design addresses the unique needs of students with autism, thoughtful use of materials, and the quality of the SketchUp model.

Step 5: Accept your prize! 3 of the four finalists will receive $1000 to a home design/home improvement store. One grand prize winner will receive $2000 to a home design/home improvement store.

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Be a Real Whiz! – Special Needs Resources

Finding resources that are specifically aimed at special needs students can sometimes be difficult. What’s great about these resources, once you find them, is that they can be used and applied to all children. WhizKidGames is a useful site that features free online games and activities that are designed for children with autism. Researchers from the Swinburne Autism Bio-Research Initiative (SABRI) and many teachers from Bulleen Heights Autism School came together with 80 multimedia design students to research and create the site.

whizkidgames

The games and activities that are found on the site are aimed at helping autistic children develop their independent living skills. The games and activities focus on topics like coping with changes and recognizing emotions and non-verbal communication.

The site has a total of 16 games that have everyday themes and activities that kids experience and participate in everyday. From going to school to following a schedule, the activities are real world applicable. Themed activities like “Ted’s Ice Cream Adventure” and “Eric Goes to the Airport” will engage and motivate students.

Because children with autism sometimes face challenges when placed in the traditional classroom settings, working on a computer is often times easier and more preferred by them. The graphics on each activity are very clear and look almost like a cartoon television show or movie. The colorful games with engaging and cool characters will help students enjoy the site and build meanginful life skills.

By incorporating fun games and characters with independent living skills, Whiz Kid Games will help students build skills that will be useful later in life.

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Act Now! Autism Awareness Month!

There are so many causes and holidays that get recognition each month. Currently, April is dedicated to Autism Awareness Month. There are so many organizations which are working together to raise awareness of autism, as well as other disorders on that are directly related. There are both small communities and larger, national organizations that work year round to help do their part. People are even creating Ning Networks and using other social media platforms to offer support and information for parents, educators and those people who have autism themselves. Here are a few Ning networks that you can check out for more information.

Sensory World This network describes itself as a “soft social network,” that both promotes the Soft brand of clothing, like 100% cotton, and provides a safe online outlet for parents of children with sensory disorders to discuss issues and ideas with those in similar situations. Since children with autism, like other sensory disorders, sometimes get easily irritated with seams and tags on clothing, this network offers tips and ideas for dealing with such issues. You can read blog posts from members that range in their experiences and ideas.

Model Me Kids Learning and recognizing emotional cues is often another challenge for children with autism. This network has a series of short videos that demonstrate social skills by using peer behavior at school, on playdates and other social situations. The network provides parents and educators with a place to talk with others and help learn new ideas from each other.

Autism Speaks is a popular national non-profit organization “dedicated to increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders, to funding research into the causes, prevention and treatments for autism, and to advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.” Their Ning Network allows parents, caregivers and adults with autism to share and learn from fellow members.

Floortime Repository is a great, private network. For those people who do not feel comfortable sharing personal things in a semi-public settings, this network is perfect. Most of its members are parents of autistic children who are want to learn about the DIR/Floortime model of treatment.

Since this month is dedicated to Autism Awareness, join one of these networks and help spread awareness!

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Fun and Educational Games for Students with Autism

The video clip illustrates the Spongebob Squarepants Imitation Game from Autism Games, which could easily be modified for whatever television show or topic your students are interested in. Students say and imitate words and phrases using different emotions to practice and learn distinctions between emotions.

Autism Games is a large collection of fun and educational games and activities for parents and teachers of kids with Autism created by a Speech Language Pathologist. The website includes a large database of games you can play in school or at home, detailed instructions, a video index of real students participating in the activities, tips and strategies for making the games more educational, and much more.

The game collection is organized by theme, language learning objectives, and difficulty (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced). The activities are arranged so that you can easily scaffold the material for your student or child. Beginner games are for children not skilled in learning words. Intermediate games are for students putting words together. Advanced games are better for children who are able to put sentences together.

The video clips section provides a great tool for teaching parents, teachers, and even students how to play the games. You can easily find a video model of each activity to review the game demonstrated before you start to play and determine if it will work for your students.

Article By Amanda Kenuam

Free Reading and Math Games by Mangomon

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A Special Program for Special Education

Sometimes it is hard to find a specific program that is right for your child. The good news is that if children are diagnosed as being a special needs student at an early age, there are plenty of opportunities to help them.

At Mercy Children’s Hospital in Ohio, an early intervention program provides specialized learning specifically for autistic children. Their intensive preschool provides early intervention for children diagnosed with autism at such an early age.

The program serves a dozen autistic children for 24 hours a week. With 1,500 hours of total therapy, children are heavily prepared for school and other social situations they may come across at an early age. Because autistic children require individualized instruction and research shows the autistic children have better outcomes if they receive early intervention, the hospital program mainly focuses on individualized instruction.

Because each child has different needs and ways of learning, they all receive instruction in speech therapy, occupational therapy and behavioral consulting. Some students have proved so successful with this program that they quickly transferred to regular preschools.

ProMedica Health System is considering offering an early intervention program for autistic children. With the help of other local community groups, they hope to open an autism center at Toledo’s Children’s Hospital for families to utilize related services.

Parents have praised the program for how much it has helped their children not only communicate but be less frustrated and do more for themselves. With the program proving successful, hopefully others will follow in their footsteps and open more opportunities for our children.

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