Tag Archives | students

Learning Expression & Socialization Skills through Art

For special education students, learning how to appropriately socialize and show emotions may be incorporated into everyday classroom activities.  These skills help students to assimilate into society, jobs, and build relationships with their peers.  One creative way to teach these skills is through artistic activities.  Many FREE websites are available for teachers to create open-ended online art projects that foster socialization and promote emotional development.


ArtPad is an online site where students can digitally paint online.  Students use the different digital tools to change the colors, pen shape, text, paint bucket, size, and opacity to create their art.  There is also an undo feature available, just in case.  Each time they create a digital stroke, that information is recorded on the site.  When the students finish, they can select the replay button to see the steps they took to complete their masterpiece.  Their art can then be hung in the digital gallery or emailed to teachers, peers, or family members.  Different lessons could include painting about how they feel, or painting appropriate emotions for different circumstances as determined by the teacher.  Students could also work together alternating back and forth to build their painting.  This would encourage sharing, cooperation, and group work.  Many academic lessons could also be taught using this program like drawing and labeling the parts of a wave, drawing the phases of a butterfly, or illustrating a scene from a novel they are reading.

Doodle is Art

Doodle is Art is a website where young students (with adult supervision) can upload their drawings.  Drawings are uploaded from all around the world.  Students can create digital art or scan photographs of traditional artwork, upload it to the website, and then share their artwork with the world.  This creates an authentic environment for students to share their artistic work.  In my experiences when work is to be displayed for more than just the teacher and the student, the students tend to take more care and pride in their work, and in turn it makes learning more meaningful for the students.

Mr. PicassoHead

Mr. PicassoHead is an online site where students create their own Picasso drawing by selecting the different facial elements “Mr. Potato Head style.”  They first choose their face shape, then eyes, nose, lips, ears, eyebrows, hair, abstracts, and then they add their signature.  As they add the different elements, the students are able to change the color, scale, order, and direction to create their own artistic view of Mr. PicassoHead.  This would be a great activity for students to work together.  They can learn sharing and compromising skills to create a work that they will both be proud of.  Teachers could also use this site to teach students about emotions.  They can direct the student to an emotion that they should artistically create with their Mr. PicassoHead.  They can also learn about how colors relate to emotion.

Other Great Art Sites

The Art Zone



Article by Laura Ketcham

Photo by Dylanroscover

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Shoot for the Stars – Special Needs Sports

Being a part of a team is something most children look forward to during their childhood years. Disabilities should not limit the chances a child has to participate on a team. Gerry Herman and his wife, Gwena, have been working as co-directors for the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Physically Challenged Sports and Recreation Program. They have helped build some great athletes, including a wheelchair basketball team.

Gerry and Gwena started with just four children and have now built a program with about 100 participants that include sports like wheelchair basketball, football, sitting volleyball and a recreational ice skating program with Olympic champion Dorothy Hamill.

The participants have become national champions at the National Junior Disability Championships for the past 10 years. By teaching with the idea that kids can do anything, the Hermans may be helping eliminate an uncertainty in the minds of students about what they can and cannot do.

The program uses sports to challenge the students to be active, independent and goal-oriented. With special chairs and wheels, handicapped children can easily move about to perform the drills that simulate real moves from a game of basketball.

The program has attracted students from all over the country. There are even popular alumni like Tatyana McFadden, who is a Paralympian. She went on to become a world-class athlete who won silver and bronze medals in the Paralympic Games in Athens in 2004.

Programs like this are great because it shows such a range in the possibilities that students can achieve. They also allow the students to do more things for themselves and grow just like any other child does.

Photo By WhyOhGee

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Learning Functional Skills Through the Use of Technology

For high school students that are beginning the transition into adulthood, learning functional skills to encourage independent living is very important.  In a life skills unit topics can range from money management, hygiene, shopping for groceries, cooking, doing laundry, and skills or a vocation needed to maintain a job.  It is beneficial for these students to actually have experiences doing these different tasks in real-life scenarios.

One disadvantage to teaching these skills is that the students typically need to leave campus to experience these different daily activities.  Depending on funding or other school district constraints, this can be a difficult to arrange.  Luckily, there are technology programs that can teach these skills virtually using a variety of educational (and fun) software programs that are available.

PCI Education

PCI Education has many different programs for students to learn a variety of skills.  They have an entire section of their website devoted to different special education books, games, activities, and software for all of the academic subject areas, as well as study, life, communication, behavioral, community, and critical thinking skills.  Within the life skills section of the website, they offer over 80 different software-based learning programs.

A few of the programs I found interesting were the Banking Math, Where Does My Money Go, Survival Signs, and the Job Survival Software SeriesBanking Math is a program for middle and high school students to learn everyday math and banking skills.  Through role-playing, the students will conduct bank transactions, record transactions in a bank register, and perform everyday math problems like collecting a paycheck and paying to go to see a movie.

Where Does My Money Go is an interactive software program that teaches students about money handling, shopping skills, paying bills, and planning for unforeseen events (both good and bad).

Survival Signs is an intuitive program that teaches students about important signs in their communities and school.  For example, stop signs, bus stops, and bathrooms.

The Job Survival Software Series is a package of programs that guides students through lessons on skills needed for the workplace, including appearance, attitude, following directions, attendance, literacy, and expectations. After the lessons, the students are required to answer questions based on the lessons.

PCI Education offers many different tools for teaching and learning with special education students.  I would definitely suggest checking out their site!

Other Special Education Functional Skills Software Choices

Ed By Design is an Australian-based company that created functional skills software for special education.  They offer software programs where students can learn about people, places, and activities through flashcards, sentence completion activities, and selecting symbols.

Cactus Kids is a company that offers computer learning and arcade-style games for students with physical disabilities.  All of their activities use a system of switches, inputs similar to a mouse, but larger and with one function per switch, to make for easier input for students with physical disabilities.  One of the programs, In Sequence – Daily Living Skills, teaches students about activities and their order of completion.  Students have to select the images that break down the steps of completing everyday tasks like eating, brushing teeth, and locking a door, and then put the photos into the order in which the tasks should be completed.

Article by Laura Ketcham

Phot by Môsieur J. [version 3.0b]

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Growing Towards the Future – Special Education Experience

Sometimes it’s the little things in life that add up.

At South-Doyle Middle School in Knoxville, Tennessee, special education teacher, Brad Bowles got a group of his students together who weren’t afraid of a little dirt to help him build and grow a beautiful garden.

Brad wanted to create an outdoor learning environment for his students. By working together, they have created a garden full of various fruits and vegetables. Teamwork, according to Brad, is the secret to making your garden grow.

Despite the fact that the students have different disabilities and some use wheel chairs, they still work hard at helping the garden grow. The practice they get with the garden is giving them hands-on experience for real life job and life skills.

The students in the class had to apply for each job that they currently have. They dressed up and filled out applications. They then interviewed with their teacher and principal. Tears of joy when they got accepted for these positions proved to everyone how important this was for them. Little joys like these are great for learning important skills for the real world.

The class hopes to soon be able to add a picnic table and a shed to their gardening class. With academic skills, job skills and social interaction with the whole school, this is a great opportunity for students to learn and grow.

The students in the class take pride in their jobs. They each hold a different role and responsibility towards helping the garden grow. Working together, they can help each other work towards the future.

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All for One and One for All – Special Education Inclusion

Since special education students are often separated into their own classes and groups for specific instruction, oftentimes the rest of the school does not get the chance to interact with them.

At a high school in New Jersey, students are trying to change that. A group of general education students visit the special needs students on their lunch break and spend time talking and walking with them. They feel doing this brings special needs students more into the real world, instead of having them spend time only with other special education students.

By simply spending a little time with these students each day, they get to experience a social setting or interaction that they would not normally get in their classroom.

Two dozen students from nearby New Jersey high schools are planning a rally this spring to bring attention to how the schools can better integrate students with disabilities on a daily basis. They have already gained attention of officials in the state Education Department.

The students are selling yellow T-shirts that say “Include Me!” to help raise awareness in the school and the community. They also plan to participate in a walkathon to benefit Pathways for Exceptional Children, an advocacy group for children with disabilities.

Through this program, 8,000 nondisabled children in 40 communities have learned how to socialize and communicate with their disabled classmates. They’ve been trained by doing everyday activities together, from sports to making art and going to the movies.

The special needs students in the local high schools love the inclusion that they get from the general education students. It also goes to show how the general students can and should easily interact with the special needs students.

Students also learned how to approach classmates with disabilities that they may have been unsure about before. By integrating students in school they will be more prepared for the real world where they will encounter all different types of people.

Photo By: Zawezome

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All Together Now – Special Education Classrooms

Kyrene de las Manitas Elementary School’s preschool class gives a new meaning to the phrase working together.

Just like in any other preschool classroom, children are taught color and shape identification, math skills, how to hold a pencil and use scissors and basic reasoning skills. What makes this class different than most is that the preschool program includes both typically-developing and special needs students playing and working together. The typical children, who are screened to evaluate their language and social skills, serve as role models for their special-needs peers.

The district is already screening for next year’s students and has the program set up in many elementary schools around the area. This early interaction and exposure to curriculum only benefits the special needs children. There have even been reports of some former students being no longer diagnosed as special needs after graduating from the preschool.

The typical students also benefit from the program as they become more aware and accepting of diversity. They can also give students peer positive reinforcement as they make achievements. Parents have noted positive changes in their special needs children after only a few weeks in the program. Special needs students started to gain communication skills they were lacking before. Typical students developed confidence and social skills that help them in group situations, like speaking in front of a group or talking to new students.

With the fun presentation of educational material and individualized attention that the students get, parents also noted how their children have developed a love for going to school. It is also great for the typical children to interact with the special needs children so they can share adult experiences and learn from them.

By working together with students of all abilities, children can see the various types of people in the world and learn and grow from their experiences.

Photo by: WellspringC

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You Are What You Eat – Food Education

If there is one thing that Americans do greatly, it is that they eat.

America is one of the unhealthiest countries in the world. Children in today’s society will live lives shorter than their own parents because of the food they are eating. Diet-related diseases are increasing and are currently the biggest cause of death in the United States today.

Famous chef and food advocate Jamie Oliver came to the United States to start a “food revolution”. He spends much of his time campaigning against the use of processed foods in national schools and poor cooking habits. Starting in West Virginia, the unhealthiest state, he talked to real people about their real habits. He shows a young girl who has only a few years to live because of the food choices she has made. He shows another woman and her children who just like other Americans, were never taught to cook at home and eat highly processed foods. He shows more young people that have experienced deaths of close family members all due to obesity. These deaths don’t just affect that person; it affects their children, friends, peers and everyone else around them.

Jamie sees the problem of obesity as a triangle between the home, school and the main street, or modern day life. The main street is where fast food has taken over the country. As the supermarkets and big companies take power, most foods that Americans eat are those that are largely processed and full of extra additives and ingredients. Portion size and labeling are also huge problems that we have in our country.

As life changes, we have to step back and readjust the balance. School food is something most children have twice a day and for that reason is very important and he stresses this through the video. School cafeterias are run by people who don’t have enough food knowledge. We are not teaching kids enough about the food. There is a clip where Jamie goes to an elementary school and asks the kids what certain vegetables are. They can’t seem to name any of the ones he shows them. If they do not know what they are, they either have not eaten them or will not eat them. It is this alarming fact that helps us realize that we have to start teaching our kids about food in school.

The good news about all of this bad news is that it is preventable. To make real change, big brands need to put food education at the heart of their business. Work places need to offer fresh food. Schools need to cook proper and fresh food for the children. Life skills like recipes that children can make, need to be learned.

If change can be made in this country, starting with properly educating our children about food, beautiful things will happen in this world.

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The Best Things in Life Have No Fee

The other day I inexplicably found myself in a workshop that espoused the rejuvenating effects of a life giving source found abundantly in nature, drum roll please, the product is: water. Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, you too can begin to reap the awe inducing benefits of water for a low, low fee. Although I deeply wish I were being facetious, I am using this example to illustrate that like the water salesperson, I will attempt to bring to your attention a myriad of educational resources that can most often be found right at your very own fingertips.

I am a strong proponent of you get what you pay for, but I also graduated from the school of “when there is a will there is a way”. Armed with a bit of techno-wanderlust and a commitment to high quality, together we will explore a plethora of tools to provide academic support for your student or child. In order to give knowledge to others one must, in my opinion, continually enhance their own knowledge. Even if you are completely at home in the world of technology, optimizing the use of technological tools at your disposal will allow you streamline your instruction to provide what our children so desperately need today, an innovative education geared towards a new generation .

starfallThere are many web-based tools that are highly effective and at little to no cost to use. If you have difficulty accessing the Internet, I would suggest joining your local library or explore the media center at your child’s school. The first introductory tools I would suggest for your perusal are StarFall,; and SmartTutor,

StarFall is a free, web-based tutorial that exposes beginning and emerging readers to basic skills in Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, and Emerging Fluency.

SmartTutor is a great low-cost Reading and Math Program that can be used in your classroom or home with the added benefit of individualized assessment and tracking of each learner’s progress.

These websites are colorful and interactive, but most importantly they promote the learner’s independence. When working with students with special needs, you may need to provide minimal assistance with computer mouse manipulation, but once your child has mastered this skill, off they go!

So on this President’s Day, I would like to empower you, citizen trembling behind your mouse or computer aficionado reading this amongst multiple applications running simultaneously. Si Se Puede! Yes, you too can further incorporate technology into your classroom, your home, your life even, and you don’t have to be a techie to do it. Oh, and don’t worry, the fee for reading the article this time is on me.

Article by Tai C. Hinkins

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IEP iPhone App…another item off your list – Special Needs Tool

Sometimes parents and educators working with special needs students find that there is a lack of resources. The Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center has recently launched a free application for the iPhone, the IEP Checklist, which is the first special education related application.

The IEP checklist gives users basic IEP laws with the ability to create individual profiles for students. The Individualized Education Program, known as an IEP, is mandated by The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which ensures services to children with disabilities. In the United States, an IEP is required by public schools for each student with a disability.

Each IEP is designed to meet the individualized needs of one child. It should describe how the student learns and what teachers and educators can do to help them learn more efficiently.

The iPhone application allows you to create a list in either English or Spanish. It then shows 13 main categories directly related to the IEP, including IEP members, student placement transition plan and more. There are also sub categories. For example, under current performance, you see options like recent evaluations and strengths/needs, which provide you with more information to review.

A details button provides additional information on federal regulations as well as a brief description. You can even add notes about particular students under each category. Once noted, categories are highlighted for easy markings during IEP meetings.

The IEP Checklist application is a tool aimed at helping parents and teachers as they are developing an IEP. The checklist provided gives them items to consider, many which are required by most special education regulations. It also helps parents of students with special needs be more informed about IEP information.

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Students with Special Needs Get Real World Experience

The process of finding a job can be difficult if you don’t have any work experience. For students with special needs, it may be even harder.

We’ve all heard the saying “practice makes perfect,” and that is just what a new program is offering to students with special needs.

At St. Mary’s Warrick Hospital in Boonville, Indiana, the Gibson-Warrick-Pike Special Education Cooperative and Southern Indiana Resource Solutions have come together to offer students with disabilities a chance to get real world job experience.

The hospital’s program, SEARCH, is based on a nationally recognized program that was started at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

The program offers internship experience to adults ages 18-21. The goal of these internships is to prepare these students for a full-time, real world job in the future.

The program offers students the chance to work in various areas of the hospital, learning about each department and gaining skills they can use in future jobs. The program runs for thirty weeks and is broken into ten week rotations.

Students have a daily agenda. This includes an hour of classroom instruction on employment and independent living skills, two hours of job rotations, lunch, another two hours of job rotations and one hour of classroom instruction. Topics can cover anything from personal hygiene to current events. Job coaches are provided throughout the day to offer guidance and assistance to the students.

Students get to be involved in many areas. They spend time working with medical records, environmental and custodial services, food and nutrition services, health information management, mail room and delivery, data entry and much more.

If the students spend the entire academic year in Project SEARCH, they receive a portfolio of their work experiences including pictures, recognitions and letters of recommendation that would be very useful for future employment.

The main goal of this program is to have the students build independent living skills. Organizers want to be a part of a team that builds those skills that will land these students better jobs when they graduate. By learning these necessary skills, students can work towards future jobs and goals with confidence.

Photo by tahitianlime

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