Back to School Night!

back-to-school

Don’t forget Back to School Night on Thursday, September 15 at 6 pm. If you’re not able to make it, we will post all the important updates on the website. Looking forward to seeing you!

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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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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).

* * * * *

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.

* * * * *

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).

SCORES Program Social Thinking Group Updates

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We’ve had a super busy semester and are hard at work building our Social Thinking smarts. Here’s a quick update on what  your child has been working on in his or her Social Thinking group. If you’re not sure which group your child is participating in, email me and I’ll let you know.

1st/2nd grade combo group

  • We’ve explored at a basic level how our body feels when we experience various emotions. We’ve practiced what other people’s non-verbals look like when they are experiencing those same basic emotions.
  • We’ve used play-based activities to practice following multi-step auditory instructions (since that is the most common type of instruction given in a classroom setting)  and worked to connect the positive thoughts and feelings of adults and peers when the student pays attention to the instruction and tries to follow it.
  • We’ve spent a considerable amount of time learning to use visual cues to guide comprehension of text, problems in a static form (e.g. picture form or “frozen” video form). We’ve expanded the use of visual cues to help us learn to answer who, what, where, when questions with more appropriate syntax and pragmatic language. We’ve begun to explore how to use our visuals + other clues we gather to begin to answer basic why/how questions.
  • We’ve delved into using inferential clues in play-based activities to learn to think “top down” (thinking from large category to sub category to detail). This practice aids the development of central coherence which assists our students in all academic areas (central coherence refers to the ability to see the “big picture” vs only attending to irrelevant detail). We’ve worked on adding relevant detail to our stated sentences and comments to aid the listening partner in understanding what we want to communicate.
  • Recently, we’ve begun working on how to initiate play, how to keep our bodies “in the group” with our play partner, and how to take turns deciding what to play first (it’s not always “me first!”).
  • Finally, the kids are working hard at learning what it means to “think with your eyes”. We gather valuable information by using our own eye gaze to determine what our partner is looking at and then using that info to make a good guess about what they are thinking about.

Why is this so important??? The development and use of eye gaze is essential to the development of joint attention. Further, it is essential that individuals integrate both the verbal message and the message gleaned from body language (plus the context of the situation) to fully understand the message. This allows the individual to make a good guess about the thoughts/feelings/perspective/desires of their communication partner. Without the use of eye gaze, our children miss an enormous amount of information and can’t truly develop their ability to think socially. From an academic perspective, students are constantly expected to track the teacher with their eyes, refer to information on the board or anchor charts when the teacher indicates with a non-verbal cue (like pointing), and must be able to begin to read the body language of peers as they work in cooperative groups.

So, how do we teach this skill? At the basic level, we model using concrete objects.

  • Step 1 is to teach the kids “what you look at is what you are thinking about”. We practice using arrow glasses and teach them to “follow the arrows” to the object their partner is focused on to make a good guess what they are thinking about.

    photo 2 (1)
    Thanks to Orlanda for being my Vanna White!

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  • Step 2 is to remove the arrow glasses and teach/practice that the “colored part” of our eyes are the arrows. The kids practice looking at the iris of their partner and try to determine what they are looking at. This is INCREDIBLY difficult for many of our students with ASD. They tend to look around the eye instead of at the eye. Please play this game at home with your child often and teach them to look at the iris of your eye to track eye gaze. Ask them to figure out what you are looking at and what that means you are thinking about.
  • The follow-up to step 2 is to make sure your child is alerting to the position of your head. Most of the kiddos in this group focus only on what is in a direct line in front of them (or you). They still need cueing to note if your gaze is pointed up, down, or to the side.
  • Step 3 is to then begin to connect the thought to a more natural form. For example, if I draw their attention to my eye gaze while I’m looking at the clock, I would then model with a thought bubble visual that I’m thinking about what time it is. Or what time is lunch? Or is it almost time to go home? There are a variety of logical thoughts that someone could draw from my eye gaze by combining my physical cue of looking at the clock with the context. This is a more advanced skill and we will be working on it for quite a long time. For children who are at this concrete stage of learning (which all members of this group are!) they benefit from the use of an actual thought bubble visual. Feel free to print this for home use. Also, often Teacher Heaven sells packages of heavy-duty laminated, magnetic thought/speech bubbles that are super helpful to use at home. Click the image to download.thought bubble visual-page0001
  • Home Connections: If your child tends to wander away when others are talking (or they are space invaders and get too close!), prompt them to use “just right space” to keep their body “in the group”. Then immediately connect your thought and feeling when they are using just right space. “Wow, when you use just right space and keep your body in the group with me and your brother, I feel calm and know that you are thinking about where we’re going for dinner.” Also, start modeling using your own “arrow eyes” to note what your child is looking at and ask if that is what they are thinking about. You can then step up the activity by modeling a more complex thought. “I see you’re looking at the apples. Are you thinking about being hungry and wanting a snack?”

1st grade group

  • We explored the way our sensory system works and different activities that help us focus. We’ve spent a good chunk of time on the concept of personal space and how people have different sized personal space bubbles. We’ve learned about the words and nonverbal signals people use to let us know we are too close.
  • We’ve explored basic problem solving skills using the red/green visual (see below in the 2nd grade description). Feel free to download to use at home.
  • We’ve begun learning about the Social Detective. Social_detective_image
    The Social Detective teaches us about expected and unexpected behaviors and how they affect the thoughts and feelings of others. Expected and unexpected behaviors are neither good nor bad. It depends on context. For example, it is expected to shout at recess, but unexpected to shout in the classroom. Shouting is not a “bad” behavior. We are learning about the tools (eyes + ears + brain) the Social Detective uses to help him make good guesses about what is expected.

2nd grade

  • We have worked on identifying how our sensory system works. We’ve worked to identify specifically how our body feels when we are stressed.

Meet Stress Guy…photo (4)

  • We’ve worked on identifying social problems, the feelings they create in our own bodies, and doing basic problem solving using the red/green problem solving visual. This is an especially useful tool for quick problem solving in a visual format. Feel free to download it by clicking the picture and printing for your use at home.

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Here’s an example of a completed map:

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  • As we explored the problem solving process, we began to focus on the costs vs benefits of various solutions (the things we want vs the things we don’t). Here’s a tip for home use: if your child’s thinking is becoming rigid and he or she is having difficulty moving past the problem or the choice boxes, complete the “then” box for them and cover up the rest. Then have them identify which end result they want. They’ll invariably choose the positive option. Then uncover just the path to that result and read the map.

For example:problemmap cover-page0001

  • We’ve delved into the world of Superflex. Superflex is a superhero who uses super flexible thinking to solve problems and uses behavior that keep the group feeling comfortable. Superflex uses strategies to defeat the Unthinkables. Unthinkables are characters who cause us to become stuck by using behaviors and strategies that don’t help us think flexibly. Unthinkables are not bad guys. They are troublemakers that affect all of us. We’ve studied Rockbrain, Unwonderer, and One-Sided Sid.

rockbrain

Rockbrain gets us stuck on our own ideas. He’s the boss of the Unthinkables and likes to work in teams with other Unthinkables to cause difficulty.

unwonderUn-wonderer keeps us from thinking or wondering about others.

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One-sided Sid gets people to only think (and talk) about themselves.

We’ve learned strategies that help defeat Un-wonderer and One-sided Sid are watching for body language that we’re sending our conversation partner to Boredom City! We model talking about a variety of topics (even topics that aren’t our favorite!) by color coding a pie chart to indicate the different topics. If our pie chart is becoming all one color, then we’ve got a Boredom Alert! We’ve practiced using the add-a-question and add-a-comment strategies. We’ve learned that by using these strategies we are showing people we are interested in being their friend and that by letting Un-wonderer and One-sided Sid control our brains we are showing people that we are not interested in being friends. It’s all about becoming a “thinking of others” kid instead of an “all about me” kid!

  • We’ve recently begun using 5-point scales to measure our stress. If you’d like a copy for home, click the image and you can download to print. 5 point stress scale_lg-page0001 (2) (1)

Over the rest of this semester we will concentrate on learning to identify what our body feels like at various levels, situations that trigger our stress levels, and begin to identify strategies we can use to lower our levels. As we identify our own personal strategies, we will write them in the third column.

3rd grade lunch bunch: Lots of conversation practice focusing on attending to the interests of others and using the add-a-question and add-a-comment strategies.

4th grade: We’ve had two new group members join us this semester. It has been fantastic to see our more experienced social thinkers begin to teach skills to the new guys!

  • We’ve continued to work on developing more complex conversation skills including the difference between joining conversations between 1-2  people and larger groups. We’re currently discussing the difference in conversations between people on different levels of the relationship targetrelationship layers.
  • We’ve practiced the add-a-comment and add-a-question strategies to keep that conversation ball in the air and our biggest focus during conversation is about tossing the ball to each other, using our eyes to determine whether the ball is being tossed to us, and resisting the urge to “grab” the ball (interrupting).
  • We’ve also continued to expand our understanding of effective planning. We’ve begun using the Get Ready – Do – Done strategy to help us “see” what the end result should be, then use that vision to guide our planning (materials/steps needed), then execute, and finally to compare the finished result with the original vision. Getready_do_done visual_example-page0001The boys had a great hands-on experience that illustrated the need to work through all steps of the process. They were challenged to make cookies as a group. I provided all the ingredients (bag of flour, bag of sugar, bowls, measuring spoons, etc), but did not lay out the recipe with the ingredients. The boys were instructed to use their Get Ready – Do – Done strategy to discuss what the end result should look like, then discuss as a group the ingredients and tools available and determine if they were missing anything needed to complete the task. They dove right in without noticing the lack of a recipe. The flour was flying! Eggs were cracking all over the table! About a cup of baking soda was poured into the mix! The boys created an icky blob. When we discussed whether the end result was met and what might have prevented it, they finally identified that they hadn’t thought about the need to follow directions. The next week we tried again and they were able to apply the planning skills to bake some delicious cookies!
  • We’ve also spent time using our conversation skills, planning skills, and incorporating the skill of negotiation and compromise to do team projects (building a bridge that could hold blocks, creating a survival plan on a snowy mountainside, creating a survival plan for a shipwreck scenario). The boys LOVE these hands-on activities and it really challenges their ability to consider the perspectives of other members of the group.

I look forward to finishing out these last 28 days of school with each of the kids and applying these newly learned skills in fun ways. It’s great to be a Social Thinker!

Middle School Transition Information

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Hello soon-to-be parents of 5th graders! For reference, here are several useful handouts as you begin to generate questions about the transition to middle school.

Please know that we will plan for your child individually and that not every “tip” will apply to your child’s specific middle school routine depending on whether they will attend Gorzycki or Small.

You should be able to download and save to your computer for future reference.

Best practices (parent & school)
Best practices powerpoint
Tips from special education parents
Living with Autism – Going to middle school