Friday, September 22, 2017

Upcoming Professional Development Opportunity-- Twice Exceptional

Twice Exceptional: Serving Gifted Students with High Functioning Autism and Social Deficits

When is it?
  • Monday, October 23rd from 9:00am-3:00pm

Who should attend?
  • Intervention Specialists and General Education Teachers working with students with High Functioning Autism and/or Gifted Students and Special Education Directors

What should participants expect?
  • In this session, Lisa Combs will  review the unique characteristics and needs of the "twice exceptional" learner, who is both gifted *and* identified as being on the autism spectrum. The session will also provide guidance and a strength-based planning template to support the unique academic, social and behavioral needs of this challenging subgroup of students. 

How much does it cost to attend?
  • The cost is FREE to all districts who have already signed up for Miami Valley Autism Coaching Team services for the 2017-2018 school year. 

How do I sign up?
  • Contact our secretary Mary Fryman at or (937) 236-9965 to register

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Around Town Round Up-- Visual Floor Cues

Visual supports do wonders for our students with autism and other disabilities! In fact, visual supports is an evidence-based practice for students with autism. This week our Around Town Round Up will focus on visual supports that can be placed on the floor to help students better understand where to stand or sit in the classroom. These cues can be a great way to communicate expectations to the student.

Some students respond great to a simple boundary created with colored floor tape.
block off the teacher's area so students do not enter

create a line for students to line up on

designate a student's boundary at the table

Other students need a larger cue to know where to stand in line.
Emily Ottmar
Stevenson Elementary, Mad River Local Schools
Jessica Burns
Demmitt Elementary, Vandalia

Or where to sit on the carpet.

 These placemats are cheap, portable, and can be color coded for each student. 
Emily Ottmar
Stevenson Elementary, Mad River

These portable carpet squares from IKEA are another cost-effective way to incorporate visual cues that can easily be moved or put away when not in use.

Kate Pennington
Kettering ECEC, Kettering
Jessica Burns
Demmitt Elementary, Vandalia

One of our favorite visual supports for the carpet are Sit Spots. Sit Spots are completely backed in scratchy velcro so they are perfect for sticking to carpet but won't leave any sticky residue and can easily be moved. They can be purchased in a variety of colors and shapes.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Regulation Rendezvous-- Increasing Student Focus

Many of the teams we coach are concerned with their students' ability to remain focused and engaged in their learning. This week's Regulation Rendezvous will highlight strategies we have seen throughout the Miami Valley to increase student focus.

Sometimes desk reminders can be a way to nonverbally redirect student attention without disrupting the learning of other students.
Taylor Ruef
Stevenson Elementary, Mad River

Fidgets or other sensory equipment such as weighted shoulder or lap pads, vests, or wiggle seats can be helpful for students. At Stevenson Elementary, the teachers are able to check out various sensory items to trial with students.

Emily Ottmar
Stevenson Elementary, Mad River

Jennifer McGowan
Smith Middle School, Vandalia
This flexible ruler is a great tactile fidget which offers students some input but minimal distractions.

Other students may need a foot fidget while they are working. Many classrooms use a Theraband or Bouncy Band on a student's chair. We have also seen desk pedals and a great PVC pipe foot swing for a high school student.
Sandy Beck
Broadway Elementary, Tipp City

Joel Derge
Tipp City High School, Tipp City

All students have different needs when it comes to how often they need to move or wiggle or if they do better sitting or standing. Flexible seating is becoming increasingly popular in a variety of classrooms. When established in a purposeful, structured way this support can have a huge impact! We loved the flexible seating options in Courtney Young's Kindergarten class in Beavercreek. Courtney's seating options included stools, therapy balls, chairs, wiggle seats, bean bag chairs, floor cushions, Hokki stools, and a standing table.

Courtney Youngs
Fairbrook Elementary, Beavercreek

Other examples of flexible seating we have seen include a great rocking chair that looks very similar to typical chairs and a podium used as a standing desk in a 2nd grade classroom.

Sarah Brown
Edison Elementary, Dayton Public Schools
Kim Hampton
Broadway Elementary, Tipp City
Many students benefit from an office space or "homebase" where they can complete assignments especially when feeling overwhelmed. Several of the teachers that we have seen effectively use this approach limit sensory overload through use of dim lighting, and through reducing visual clutter in the work space.
Sandy Beck
Broadway Elementary, Tipp City
Jennifer Jette
Vandalia-Butler High School, Vandalia

Laura Brown
Perrin Woods Elementary, Springfield

Rachel Hatton
Normandy Elementary, Centerville

Tabitha Eaton
Main Elementary, Beavercreek

Visual distractions can also be limited through the use of portable dividers.
Marissa Calhoun
Fairbrook Elementary, Beavercreek

Brittany Bush
Spinning Hills Middle School, Mad River

Kendall Koehler
Normandy Elementary, Centerville
Another way to increase student engagement and focus is by incorporating multi-sensory movement activities before starting their work. 
Sandy Beck
Broadway Elementary, Tipp City

Tina Snyder
Miami Valley ESC

Friday, September 15, 2017

Organization Station-- Paraprofessionals

Recently we shared a great post on our Facebook Page from Bree at Breezy Special Ed which shared ideas for How to Work Successfully with Paraprofessionals.

Today, we would like to continue focusing on paraprofessionals with some ideas for organization which will help those helping you know what is needed each day.

First, it is important to set the stage for success through communicating the general classroom expectations ahead of time. A list of roles and responsibilities and/or a Paraprofessional Handbook can be a great start. Allison created this handbook with her teaching team which can be found for free by clicking on the image below:

Sometimes, paraprofessionals are expected to start working with students with little to no training on their disabilities. This is such a disservice to these professionals who set out to do their best but are not given the tools to do so. Another resource Allison created can help paras learn more about working with students with disabilities. Click on the image below:

Once school has started, the best way to communicate expectations to paraprofessionals is through organized, detailed plans. We love the Zoning Plan method by Christine Reeve at Autism Classroom News.

Elementary special education zoning plan managing special education staff

This is the method Allison recommends in her SpEd Hacks workshop and when coaching teams because it accounts for the essential questions of which staff member (teacher or para) is doing what activity (lesson) with who (student) where (location) and how (instructional methods). It is a very detailed approach which ensures that every student is tended to and that every job gets done.

Amy Beanblossom
Arcanum Elementary, Arcanum
Make sure to give each paraprofessional a copy of their plan and post an extra in a central location that can be accessed if needed. This will cut down on class being interrupted to direct people to various locations. Also, when implementing a new plan, it is helpful to designate a location of the classroom where staff can write any discrepancies in the schedule that may arise (because it is bound to happen!) and this will also cut down on any interruptions because you can address it at a later time instead of during a lesson. Consider developing a Team Communication corner of the classroom where schedules, a calendar with important dates and requested staff leave days, an a place to write any questions, comments, or concerns throughout the day is a great support for classrooms with multiple staff members.

Labeling everything is also an EXTREMELY helpful way to help paraprofessionals know where materials are located. This makes gathering materials more efficient and can cut down on additional interruptions.

These drawers are labeled using adhesive backed business card holders that can be switched out when materials in the drawers change.

Lesson materials can be kept in tubs like the ones in these IKEA Trofast shelves. Each staff member can have a bin of needed materials that can be taken to their designated location during lessons. 

Carrie Prickett
Jane Chance Elementary, Miamisburg

Within each bin, specific lesson materials can be organized using folders and gallon-sized baggies to hold all of the manipulatives. Large labels detailing which staff member, days, times, students, and subject are helpful for efficiently finding materials and for replacing materials that may get lost.

In the high-stress environment of the classroom, it can be difficult for everyone to remember certain expectations. Often we have visuals to help the students remember but forget visuals for the adults too!

Tabitha Eaton
Main Elementary, Beavercreek

Sometimes, paraprofessionals may have extra time allotted for material prep. This could happen before or after school or during times when their assigned students are absent. Create a system for material prep that can be readily accessed at any time so they have what they need. Separate bins or folders for items that need copied, assembled, laminated, cut out, or passed back can be helpful.

Jamie Zimmer
Kettering Middle School, Kettering
Every special education teacher knows that it would be impossible to meet the needs of our students without our paraprofessionals so it is important that we show them the love!
Tabitha Eaton
Main Elementary, Beavercreek

Get the tags for the Paraprofessional Survival Kits Allison created by clicking on the image below: