AMC Sensory Friendly Movies

Happy Winter Break!

Mrs. Evans & I wanted to let you know about some expanded offerings for sensory-friendly movies from AMC Barton Creek Theater. They have several upcoming showing of Star Wars The Force Awakens.

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If the sensory component of movies is difficult for your child, you might want to consider this alternative. More information can be found by clicking this link.

What a Busy Semester!

This semester has flown by! Our Baldwin SCORES Bobcats have been busy working on developing their “social smarts” both in their classrooms and in social thinking groups.  Check out just a few of the topics we’ve worked on this semester…

1st/2nd graders (including EA & BD) have worked hard at learning that what people are looking at is a good clue to what they are thinking about. This led into more work on Whole Body Listening (especially “listening with your eyes”). They continued to work on using their eyes to help them match the group. These super social thinkers also worked on improving their abilities to transition from preferred activities to less preferred activities. That can be a tough one for all of us! Finally, they have begun working on initiating social interactions with peers and inviting peers to play.

invite

1st/2nd graders (including LS, CM, BO, KL, JPJ): These amazing social detectives have been studying all about how to improve their social detective skills! Did you know you have to use lots of tools to be a great social detective? You have to use your eyes, ears, & brain to put lots of clues together to make good guesses about what other people are feeling and thinking and what will happen next!

Social_detective_image

They’ve continued to develop their Whole Body Listening skills and have been practicing identifying expected vs unexpected behavior. It’s important to understand that behavior is neither “good” nor “bad”, instead it’s expected or unexpected based on the social context. Even something like hitting can serve an important purpose and be expected in certain circumstances (like getting away from someone who is trying to hurt you!). In the SCORES program, we spend a lot of time examining behaviors and determining whether they are expected or unexpected based on the situation and help the kids practice reading the reactions of others to determine whether they are having calm thoughts about them or uncomfortable thoughts based on their behavior.

These amazing detectives have also been practicing social problem solving as well as building their reciprocal conversation skills.

3rd graders: What a great group of 3rd grade Superflex thinkers we have. They’ve spent time this semester working on identifying expected/unexpected and the associated social cost or benefit. We’ve been developing our Superflexible thinking skills and how to defeat those pesky Unthinkables like Rockbrain, Braineater, and Glassman. The kids have even created their own Unthinkables based on their personal challenges. They’ve taught us all how to defeat Angry Anchor (who causes you to say yucky words), First Frooke (who makes you want to be first all the time), Mean Meowing Mammot (who makes you hiss or yell or say mean words to friends), and Hurting Harry (who makes you hurt other people when the problem is small). These creative kids have made their own comic books about ways to defeat their original Unthinkables as well as making their own illustrated Social Town to practice their new skills. Finally, we’ve recently begun practicing our emotional regulation skills (5 deep balloon breaths, positive self-talk, and visualizing our “calm place”) using a really cool tool called MindFlex. Ask you 3rd grader about it and find out what place helps them feel focused and calm.

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5th graders: This group keeps Mrs. Hively on her toes! Our group has grown (we now have 8 boys in the group!) and they are doing an amazing job of applying nuanced social skills in a variety of learning challenges. We’ve worked on cooperative problem solving (ask your kiddo about traveling over the acid surface of Mars!) and flexing to negotiate and include a variety of opinions in the final solution. We’ve also spent a lot of time fine tuning those conversation skills. Often, when students are initially learning conversation skills we teach them to “wait for the pause” before jumping in to prevent those runaway train moments. But for our students who are ready to work on more subtle skills, it’s important to teach them that there really isn’t a “pause” in regular conversations. Notice your next conversation. How do you know when you can jump in?  It requires visual attention to the nonverbals of others as well as anticipating where they are going in the conversation in order to anticipate when their turn is about to end. This takes loads of perspective taking! It’s a complicated maneuver that we take for granted in our daily interactions and is a huge challenge for our kids with ASD. The visual (and verbal) cue we use is the image of two pieces of train track clicking together smoothly. smooth trainAs one communication partner’s turn is coming to a close, the next communication partner adds their comment or question. If they add it too slowly their is an awkward pause. If they add it too quickly, then they are interrupting (derailing the train) and that annoys their partner.broken train

This takes LOTS of practice. Help cue your child at home by talking about making “smooth connections”. Observe conversations between others and whether they are making those smooth connections.

Mrs. Evans and I are super proud of all our hard working Social Thinkers. We look forward to our spring semester and the adventures that await. We hope you all have a relaxing, joyous holiday break and enjoy your time with your sweet kiddos!

Holiday-fun

Drum roll, please….

The SCORES team is growing!

We are so fortunate to have two new members of the SCORES team for the ’15-’16 school year. Mrs. Beth Evans (formerly Miss Jackson) is joining Mrs. Hively as a second SCORES teacher. Mrs. Evans has taught as a 1st grade inclusion teacher for the past several years. She is an innovative and flexible teacher with a heart for students with social communication needs! We are so lucky to have her join the team.

team

Our teaching assistant team is changing as well. Mrs. Murphy McBride will continue to work with the team and will be joined by Mrs. Alyssa Barczyowski “Mrs. B”.

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Mrs. B is an experienced teaching assistant who has worked with the PPCD program for the past two years. We are fortunate to gain her knowledge, flexibility, creativity, and fantastic sense of humor! Mrs. B and Mrs. McBride will provide phenomenal support to all the students in the SCORES program.

What does this mean for your child? Mrs. Evans and Mrs. Hively will share case manager responsibilities. The case manager is your contact person regarding special education services, coordinates and trains all school staff how to implement the elements of the IEP for your child, monitors and manages the legal paperwork related to special education, and facilitates ARD meetings. Mrs. Hively & Mrs. Evans will work together to review data and progress monitoring, design academic & behavioral interventions, complete behavioral assessments, and problem solve. The entire team will work with your child to implement the IEP and meet the students’ individual needs.

Each family will receive an email with information about who your case manager will be for the ’15-’16 school year along with contact information. We all look forward to working with you as a TEAM!

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SCORES Program Wish List

There are a few items that would be helpful to have. If you have any of these laying around your house gathering dust, we’d be thrilled for the donation. Thank you for keeping us in mind!

  • mini-trampoline (our current one has been well loved and is more duct tape than trampoline at this point!)

trampoline

  • small items for the treasure box (Happy Meal toys, freebies like key chains, pens/pencils, etc)
  • we are always grateful for iTunes gift cards to help pay for iPad apps
  • “fancy” scissors (the kind that cut different edge styles) and decorative paper punches for fine motor work

Punches

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Easy Ways to Increase Your Child’s Executive Functioning This Summer!

Elizabeth Sautter, one of the co-authors of the Whole Body Listening Larry books, recently wrote a blog post about strategies she employs at home to increase her child’s executive functioning skills and decrease nagging. What are executive function skills? Executive function are the mental processes that enable us to plan, focus attention, remember instructions, and juggle multiple tasks successfully.

  • Working memory governs our ability to retain and manipulate distinct pieces of information over short periods of time.
  • Mental flexibility helps us to sustain or shift attention in response to different demands or to apply different rules in different settings.
  • Self-control enables us to set priorities and resist impulsive actions or responses.

(http://developingchild.harvard.edu/)

Read the blog post here, it is chock full of excellent ideas! http://makesociallearningstick.com/1/post/2015/05/i-resigned-from-my-job-as-the-household-nagger.html

I love strategies 1 & 2 and we regularly employ strategies #3-7 at school. See if you can carry some of these into your home and decrease the amount of reminders your child needs this summer.

If you discover other strategies that work well with you child, please share!

Social Thinking In Action!

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Wow! What a fantastic year of learning we’ve had. Not only have I seen each student make great gains academically, but their Social Smarts have grown by leaps and bounds! Check out the updates on your child’s group below. Because several groups span grade levels, I’ve included initials in parentheses so you can find the correct grouping for your child.

Our 4th grade Social Thinking Superstars put their learning into action yesterday. For many months we’ve been focused on learning to understand the perspective of others as well as developing our executive functioning skills to be able to think through a project from end to beginning to end (see below!) and generate a plan for completion.

When teaching students with executive functioning challenges, there are many aspects that have to be considered. Do they kids have a concept of time (how long is 5 minutes compared to 30 minutes)? Can they envision what the product should look like when it is finished? Can they identify the necessary materials needed and how to obtain them? Can they identify what steps will be involved and how long each step will take? Combining that with the need to take the perspectives of the other people in the group is a huge challenge!

In group we’ve learned to use the Get Ready, Do, Done chart to help us organize our thinking when planning for an activity or project.

  • In step one, the students are expected to first envision the “Done” box. What will your assignment/project/activity look like when it is finished? Draw or list that information first.
  • In step two, they jump to the “Get Ready” box to list their steps and/or materials necessary.
  • Step three is to actually follow the steps of the plan and then compare to their “Done” box to see how it worked out.

As many of you know, the early projects this year using their planning skills were fabulously unsuccessful and have become anchors in our conversations (I love it when things work out like that and provide meaningful learning moments!). As we neared the end of this school year we assessed the ability of each student to take the perspective of their fellow group members through a party planning project.

Two boys were assigned to the decorations committee, two boys to the activity committee, and three boys to the food committee. They were given instructions and a Get Ready/Do/Done chart to complete. Mrs. De Los Santos and I completely stepped back and they took control. Each committee member had to use their “friend files” to remember information about the preferences of their peers, use their conversation skills to ask peers’ opinions, and use their flexible thinking to alter the plan to meet the needs of everyone in the group.

It was a rousing success!! To watch these boys use all their skills to plan absolutely blew me away! They were incredibly proud of themselves for being flexible and planning an awesome party. Check out our photos below!

Our Activity Committee…

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4th gr

4th gr game

Our Food Committee…

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4th gr pizza

Our Decorations Committee…

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(And it’s a little tough to pick out in this picture, but check out the AMAZING origami pinwheels created by one member of our decorations committee below!)

4th pinwheel

Finally, their ticket to 5th grade Social Thinking Group was to share with the group one thing they either learned about their social smarts this year or one thing they think they can do better now than at the beginning of the year. Every boy had amazing answers. Here are a few of the highlights…

4th grade social lessons-page0001This group is a joy to work with and I can’t wait for next year to delve into all kinds of interesting topics that will prepare them for middle school!

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3rd Grade Lunch Bunch & 2nd Grade Social Thinkers (BM, NB, KS)

These smart cookies spent a lot of time recently putting the jigsaw pieces of their social learning together to make connections. These kiddos have done a beautiful job becoming masters of the 5 point scale! They can now identify situations that increase their stress and their own personal strategies for calming to get themselves back down to a lower level. Next year we will expand their knowledge to learn to attend to warning signs in their physical bodies that they need to use their calming skills.

They also reviewed the tools of a Social Detective (using your eyes, ears, & brain to make a smart guess about what is expected and what may happen next). They translated this knowledge into practicing taking the perspective of others using a 5 point behavior scale (1 = behaviors that make others have good thoughts, 2= behaviors that are fine or okay, 3 = behaviors that make others have weird thoughts, 4 = behaviors that make others feel annoyed, 5=behaviors that are against the rules). Using simple scenarios we identified the levels of the thoughts of others based on the behavior presented. This is a huge challenge for this group. They tend to only be able to determine thoughts at the extreme ends of the scale (1 or 5) and needed guidance to find the more nuanced levels. This summer please point out times that your thoughts or the thoughts of other family members or friends fall in those middle zones and why. We will continue to work on this next school year.

The group also learned about using their “remote control” to pause when a problem occurs to use coping skills to calm down, think about the size of the problem and then use their problem solving strategies to come up with an solution that uses expected behaviors. The use of the problem solving visual is incredibly helpful with this group and I encourage its use at home! You can download it by clicking the “problem solving” tab at the top of this page.

Finally, this morning the kids’ ticket to next year’s social thinking group was to share with the group one thing they learned about their Social Smarts or one thing they are better at doing now than they were at the beginning of 2nd or 3rd grade. I couldn’t be more thrilled with what they have learned! Check it out…

2nd grade social lessons

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1st/2nd grade Social Thinkers (AM, MB, EA)

We’ve spent a lot of time working on issues related to Theory of Mind. We’ve learned what a thought is. A thought is words or pictures in you mind that are invisible to everyone else and we can’t hear. We’ve practiced seeing a picture in our mind or reciting the ABCs or a sentence in our head without speaking it out loud. Wow. This was a revelation to this group! It is incredibly hard not to speak everything you think! We played games where the students had to hide an object while I hid my eyes. They then wrote where the object was in their “thought bubble” without showing me. They tried hard not to blurt it out. I demonstrated that my thought bubble stays empty as long as they keep it in theirs without speaking, but when they speak it it jumps from their thought bubble to their speech bubble and then into MY thought bubble. Then it is not a secret anymore! Over multiple sessions they got better and better at inhibiting the impulse to verbally relate all their thoughts. We also connected it to times in the classroom you have to keep your thought in your head (taking a test, doing your work, reading to self).

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1st/2nd Grade Social Thinkers (MO, CM, KL, JW)

We’ve spent most of the past few weeks exploring the tools a Social Detective uses. The Social Detective uses his eyes, ears, & brain to make a smart guess about what is expected and what may happen next.

Social_detective_imageWe’ve practiced observing other groups to determine what is expected at that time (are they talking with peers? working quietly? at the carpet? at their desks? listening to the teacher?) and then matching the group. We examined the feelings and thoughts created in others when people do what is expected vs unexpected. We also practiced using video clips and role plays identifying the expected and unexpected behaviors in situations and WHY they were expected or unexpected.

This summer please ask your child to help you be a social detective. When you go places pause first and look at the people and what they are doing (at a nice restaurant people are sitting, talking quietly, using good manners vs at Chik Fil A people wait in line, eat at tables, play on the playground. Loud voices are expected on the playground, but not at the tables, etc). Practice matching the group and reflect on the feelings and thoughts created in others when behaviors match what is expected.

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Thank you all once again for sharing your kids with me. Being their teacher is my great privilege! They are amazing, brilliant, creative little people!

And watch your email next week for a big announcement. Exciting news is coming in SCORES land!

Enjoy your summer!

Child drawing a smiling sun on a sandy beach, with beach towel, starfish and flip flops (studio shot - warm color and directional light are intentional).