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Tools for Teaching a Sensitive Subject – Health and Grooming

eaching 7thgrade is definitely one of the most difficult grades to teach.  This is typically the time when students are going through many changes in their lives.  These students aren’t the babies in the middle school anymore, but they aren’t getting ready to head off to high school either.  They are ‘stuck’ in the middle and they are going through many changes; hormonal changes, body changes, emotional changes, and behavioral changes.  One day they love their friends, the next day they hate their friends.  One day the girls love boys, the next day boys have cooties again.  One day they want to be the class clown, the next day they want to be the teachers’ pet.  Through all of these changes, there is one major necessary and sensitive subject to talk to students about – hygiene habits.

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Health Class Essentials

Typically the 7th grade science teacher at my school holds a week long lesson around this time of year discussing these exact changes.  This is centered around a unit on Health and Nutrition.  She discusses not only the changes that take place during puberty, nutrition, and exercise, but also the sensitive subject of items as brushing teeth twice a day, brushing hair, taking showers every day, washing hands, and most importantly, the use of deodorant.  Most typically, the students then go home and continue the discussion with the parents to make any needed changes and updates to their morning health and beauty routines.

These subjects that not only need to be covered with tweens, but it is also an important subject to cover with special needs students of all ages.  If kids learn the habits when they are younger, and learn the different changes and necessities as they age, it will make socialization and ‘growing up’ a little bit easier.  Students who do not learn these skills typically get picked on with hurtful comments and during the day at school teachers and other students hear those famous phrases “I don’t want to sit next to him, he smells” or “her breath stinks, I don’t want to work on the project with her.”

Life Skills Lessons & Activities

For special education students, this topic is usually covered in a unit or lesson on life skills.  A great way to start off the discussion for students to learn these health and grooming skills is through the use of communication cards.  Students who are non-verbal will have these cards (either physical cards or digital) to help them communicate.  You can pull out the specific skills you want to cover to spring board the conversation.  Another way to approach this subject is by having guest speakers like doctors and dentists to come in and show them various products to use, or when possible, to model how to do some of the various grooming skills.  They may even be able to provide samples of items like toothpaste or deodorant.  A good guide that I read on how to teach life skills to special needs students on a site called How To Do Things.

Another great resource for kids to learn about this topic is through the Teens Health Site.  This site is written specifically for teens and tells them what they want to know, in their ‘lingo’, about the changes they go through from being kids to teenagers.  Two adaptations on this page that were really great for special needs and ESOL students is that the page has links so that all of the pages on the site can be read aloud to the student and they also have Spanish translations!  One idea to incorporate using this site in the classroom is to have the students work in small groups to research one main concept and then create a presentation on the topic to share with the other students.  They could make something like a PowerPoint or a video to cover the topic.  They projects could even have a ‘fun’ twist by having them make infomercial-style presentations where they first cover the topic and then they can ‘sell’ a product that can help solve the problem.  For example, if one group is covering the topic of why we sweat, they could discuss the topic in science terms, and then ‘sell’ the solution, which would be deodorant or perfume sprays.

There are many different ways to teach about health and hygiene topics.   It is a sensitive, but important topic to cover for all ages of students.

Other Online Resources to Teach about Health & Hygiene

Article By Laura Ketcham

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Working Together for Autism – The Groden Network

For many people with special needs, learning more than just academics can be a vital and important aspect of their education.

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The Groden Center, a Rhode Island school and residential treatment facility for youths with autism and other developmental disabilities, was fortunate enough to receive a $333,000 federal grant.

This school has been both treating and educating students and their families for over 30 years. The majority of this grant money will go towards developing the program they have for vocational training and employment for those people with Asperger’s syndrome. This disorder, which is on the high end of the autism spectrum, often makes social interaction and communication more difficult.

Although they may be slower to develop social relationships, people with Asperger’s syndrome are willing to work hard and are usually reliable and loyal, great characteristics for employees. The vocational program is the perfect opportunity for these students to further enhance the skills necessary to finding and maintaining jobs in the future.

In addition to giving the people skills and information needed for future jobs, it is also useful to provide all other members of society with the information they may need to know when dealing with these members of society, making everyone more aware of people with differences.

Within the first year of the program, participants landed successful jobs or internships including positions in banks, school cafeterias, auto shops and other local businesses. The Groden Center also has future plans to add an academic component to the program, helping participants of the program to continue to further their education while working on the social challenges they come across.

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Classroom Lessons that Make Cents – Life and Money Management Skills

Money Management Life Skills

One of the goals of special education is to make sure that students leave the classroom with the skills to lead an independent life upon graduation.  One way that special education teachers teach this is by incorporating life skills lessons into the curriculum.  One of the important skills that I have written about in previous blog post includes learning about online banking and money management.  These skills can be taught at a young age and encourage through having students have responsibilities and rewards.

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Responsibilities & Rewards

With today’s tech-savvy times, there are online programs where teachers or parents can help their students and children track their responsibilities and rewards online.  One site that I found that is very kid friendly (easy to use, well designed, and colorful) was Kidspoint.  Kidspoint is a free resource where you set up an account, add the rewards, and track the additions and subtractions of points.  When the child reaches 100, then the child earns the reward.   This site also works via text message so that points can be added and subtracted on the fly.

Allowance Tracking

The skills of tracking the responsibilities and the rewards can then be transferred to teaching about money management.  One way that this can be taught is by establishing responsibilities both at home and school.  At home,the students would earn an allowance.  At school, the students could earn fake money that could be applied to various rewards.  One good resource that informs parents about how to start teaching about money is an article on the Six Wise website. The article encourages teaching money management early in a child’s life.  Children should be taught the different aspects of money – spending, saving, donating, and investing along with making choices.

Just like there are sites for tracking responsibilities and rewards there are sites that help kids and parents to track allowances.  One site that I found is Zefty.  Zefty is a free online site for tracking allowances.  On Zefty, both the parent and child have a login account.  Allowances are then ‘deposited’ and ‘deducted’ from the account.  Basically the parents act as the bank – however there is no actual money in the online system.  Kids are able to track their allowance, print out checks to redeem with their parents, and calculate how long they will have to save to earn for something they would like to buy.

Another similar site is Active Allowance.  Active Allowance has both a free version and a paid version of the program.  The paid version has addition features like budgeting, creating multiple accounts for a child, and child log on accounts.  This site is Similar to Zefty, both the child and the parents have an account.  Parents can setup weekly checklists of items to be completed to earn the allowance.  The children can then track their progress, calculate savings, and print out allowance checks to redeem with their parents.

Both of these sites can be incorporated into the classroom environment.  One way to do this would be to connect with the parents to setup school responsibilities that can be added to the list like completing classwork, home working, participating in class, or even displaying appropriate socialization skills.  Another way to use these sites in the classroom is to use fake money (or even introducing credit and debit cards) and have preset rewards like a homework pass, 5 more minutes of free reading, or other classroom appropriate rewards.  This would still encourage the students to learn the skills of money management along with incorporating the technology to help in tracking and motivation.

Incorporating money management with technology is a realistic approach to how adults in today’s society budget, save, and invest money.  These skills are important for all students to learn, especially students with special needs.

-Article by Laura Ketcham

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