Thursday, 30 May 2013

Visual Supports and Students with Autism

A month ago, I attended the Linda Hodgdon session titled, Discovering the Possibilities with Visual Strategies: Meeting the Communication, Behaviour, and Social Skill Challenges in Autism Spectrum Disorder and Related Learning Needs.  The Autism Society of Manitoba invited Ms. Hodgdon to speak about the supports that educators can put in place to meet the needs of both visual learners and students with Autism. Linda spoke about the communication needs of learners, honing in on the fact that a great deal of behaviour issues are related to communication.  Often, learners behave inappropriately or in a negative way because they are unable to comprehend the requests or instructions delivered by the instructor.  Hodgdon offered many different low-tech and high-tech possibilities for supporting visual learners and those students requiring visual supports, including picture cards that indicate the desired behaviour, apps, visual schedules, and videos.  These tools can be used to provide structure for students, model appropriate social skills, and assist with learner communication.  I found a great video on the Ohio Centre for Autism and Low Incidence (OCALI) YouTube channel, which I think provides a great rationale for building visual supports into the educational setting. You can view the video here.  If you are interested in learning more about Linda Hodgdon's work surrounding visual strategies, please check out her website.

Best Speech and Language Blogs

Through my Facebook account, I subscribe to a wonderful website called Technology in Education.  My news feed is constantly bombarded by posts about new apps that have come up at a reduced cost, very applicable to my daily work.  As this month was Speech and Hearing Awareness Month, Tech in Ed. recently created a webpage dedicated to the best speech and language blogs.  As one of my major focuses this year was AAC, I was immediately drawn to the write-up about PrAACtical AAC, a blog maintained by Robin Parker and Carole Zangari, professors teaching courses in Speech and Language Pathology.  Their blog is a great resource for practical and supportive language development strategies for individuals with alternative and augmentative communication needs.  You can view a video of the week, read a strategy of the month, and find great suggestions for setting up an AAC program for students needing to use alternative means of communication.  Check out this wonderful blog here or follow Robin Parker on Twitter @parkerrobin.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Community Connections

A year ago at the SAAM conference in May, I listened to Devon Caldwell speak about 21st century learners and the ways that she has infused technology into her junior and senior kindergarten classroom.  Having a child in kindergarten myself, I often wonder how I might be more informed and connected to my son's educational world.  I am fortunate enough to have a son that loves to talk and shares many aspects of his day with me when I pick him up after work.  For many parents, that may not be the case.
I recently read through Devon's blog and came across an interesting read in one of her posts.  Devon discusses the use of Facebook as a tool to connect parents to the world in which their children spend 5.5 hours a day.  When I was a classroom teacher in a multi-age setting, one of my own priorities was keeping parents involved and connected with what was going on in the classroom.  I sent out a monthly, full-page newsletter with descriptions of field-trips, special school activities and birthday announcements.  I hosted parent multi-age information evenings and volunteered at many school nights such as our Family Math Night, and Families and Schools Together Program. In this digital age, Devon offers an alternative to the old hard copy newsletter- connecting through Facebook. In her post, she details all the considerations she thought through before deciding to offer a digital connection to her kindergarten classroom.  With many educators using Edmodo to connect with students, this might be another way to open the lines of communication and strengthen community-to-classroom ties.  You can read Devon's post here.