We use the power of play to support emotional and social development. Play integrated into lessons provides children a fun and engaging way for a meaningful understanding of concepts. Play is an extremely powerful vehicle to help students navigate emotional themes and challenges. For example, our students became superheroes tackling being scared with the motto, “even superheroes get scared”. We face our fears by teaching our “superpowers” of problem solving! For each fear, we practiced how to work through the problem and how to cope with the feeling by using a superpower of coping skills like breathing, counting, etc. Next, we introduced our superpowers of “please and thank you” as we introduced the feeling of thankfulness. Our superheroes created thank you cards for our community helpers and for community based instruction, went to the police station to deliver their cards. Tapping into their Superhero Senses, mindfulness was also introduced on how to be present in the here and now using our senses. The children incorporated mindfulness by engaging in a mindful scavenger walk. Our CTC superheroes are just one example of how play engages our children and helps each student to integrate the social and emotional lessons into their repertoire.
-Celebrate the Children
At this time of year when teaching life science, it is fun to see the interest our students have in the workings of the human body. We study each system of the body and observe how all systems are integrated with one another. Our students enjoy learning about the body's processes and relating those processes to their own strengths and challenges. When a student can relate our lessons to their own experiences, it makes the knowledge that they take from the lesson so much more meaningful.
-Kelly Reilly, Teacher, Celebrate the Children
Now that the weather is getting nice, students are more able to take advantage of playing outdoors! The benefits of outdoor play reach far beyond just enjoying the nice weather. Students can benefit physically, mentally and socially from spending time outdoors. Physically students can increase their muscle strength, coordination and flexibility. It will also help to improve body awareness, motor planning, endurance and motor skills. There are also many social benefits to outdoor play. Students can engage in symbolic play which in turn helps strengthen their social skills. It also helps them learn conflict resolution and collaborative play with peers, while greatly increasing their self-esteem. Students also benefit mentally. As they work out their "problems" in a fun, relaxed, play time situation, they are better able to handle them as they come up in other areas of their life. This leads to an increase in self-confidence and self-esteem. Outdoor play is good for everyone, not just students!! Spending time together outdoors as a family will have all of the above mentioned benefits, plus the added bonus of family time!!
-Amy Keveanos, Teacher, Celebrate the Children
Ever find yourself in a power struggle with your child or one of your students? You’re not alone!
All human beings crave control, and kids (especially those with special needs) often don’t have a whole lot of control in their lives. They’re processing their worlds differently, in ways that can be overwhelming and scary at times. Their bodies may not allow them to motor plan the way they’d like. They may have challenges communicating and advocating for themselves. Not to mention, between school work and all their extra therapies, they spend a lot of time following directions and being told what to do.
This is one of the reasons we may see our kids refuse to do what we want at times, or even do the exact opposite! They are taking a stand and seeking a sense of CONTROL-- which after all is an important and basic human need. So how can we compromise and painlessly reach a common goal?
One easy trick that I’ve found to be super effective in my classroom is providing CHOICES! I find myself in way less power struggles when I hand over some of the control within my control.
For example, instead of saying “Write your name on your paper”, try asking “What color marker do you want to write with?”. Or when you’re at the park and it’s almost time to leave (and you know your child probably isn’t going to be happy), you could put the ball in their court by asking “How many more pushes do you want on the swing before we leave? 10 or 20?”
I’ve really seen it make all the difference with many of my students. It helps develop respect and trust between you and the child, while giving them a sense of control. It helps strengthen their sense of self and allows them to feel like an important and equal participant in their interactions.
I really urge you to try it (if you aren’t already). As with any change, it might be an adjustment at first, rethinking the way you talk to your child or student, but after a while it becomes second nature and you’ll realize you can rephrase almost anything in a way that provides the child with a CHOICE and sense of CONTROL.
-Nikki Squillante, Teacher, Celebrate the Children
Keri Sharpe and Mary MacDonald, speech-language pathologists at Celebrate the Children, had the opportunity to participate in a PROMPT (Prompts for Restructuring Oral Muscular Phonetic Targets) therapy training at the beginning of April. PROMPT therapy is a tactile-kinesthetic technique that assists individuals who have motor speech production issues. Each speech-language pathologist at Celebrate the Children is trained in this technique and utilizes it throughout treatment sessions with their students. This technique involves the speech-language pathologist manually guiding individuals through the production of different sounds, words and phrases via touch pressure cues on clients' facial musculature. There are different levels of support that can be used to facilitate different speech sounds, which is appropriate for the population at Celebrate the Children. There are over 100 different muscles involved in speech production, and PROMPT training teaches therapists specific tactile cues that allow clients to develop proper oral musculature movements. Essentially, the goal of PROMPT therapy is to 'teach' the speech musculature to perform sounds appropriately. Throughout the training, Keri and Mary had the students on their caseloads that they thought would benefit from PROMPT in mind. The training challenged Keri and Mary to think about lesson plans to try with their students using practical games and/or books in their therapy toolbox. This new skill will enrich not only Keri and Mary's practice, but will benefit all of the children with speech sound challenges as PROMPT therapy is appropriate for a wide range of clients, including individuals with autism who may have difficulties with motor speech production.
-Mary MacDonald, MS CCC-SLP & Keri Sharpe, MS CCC-SLP
Why should I incorporate novels in my class?
This is my third year teaching Language Arts in the middle school and I can honestly say I LOVE IT! Over the years I have watched students grow in so many ways and I think it is because of the novels that we read. Students who typically have a difficult time engaging in class are sitting for extended periods of time and following along with the novel. So the big question is, what about these novels is engaging students and opening their minds to learning.
Where to Start
The first thing that I do in the beginning of the year is get to know my students reading levels and interests. I try to find a novel that is of interest to the students so that it is something they will enjoy. Next I choose 4-5 novels and have the students take a vote on which book they would like to read. After choosing the book we do a little prereading and get to know the author. I ask students to make predictions of what they think the book may be about. When we begin reading we go over character traits, plot, setting, vocabulary, descriptive words, etc. You can pretty much use any goals and incorporate them to the book!
The book is over now what do I do ?
Now the fun begins!! When you are finished reading the book have the students choose characters that they are drawn to. After voting assign students roles and begin acting out scenes. The past two years we have created our very own movie version of the book. This has given students the opportunities to write lines, create scenery, practice speaking and communication, etc. Not only are students using all of these skills but they are building relationships with the other students who they are acting with as well as learning how to put themselves in someone else's shoes. For example, the student that is acting like the cowardly lion from The Wizard of Oz needs to express the emotions that the lion portrays and practice being that character.
Reading novels is such a great way to engage students and teach them any language arts goals in a fun and motivating way. According to one of my past students “It is fun. Acting out the books and making a movie is spectacular.” What a great vocabulary word he used in that statement!!! - Samantha Losurdo, Teacher, Celebrate the Children
Sensory play is any activity that stimulates the senses, which include the five senses: touch, smell, sight, taste, and sound.
Sensory play is an important part of a child's development; all five senses must work together in order to experience the world around us. Children learn through their senses, the touch of sandpaper, the smell of a flower, the sight of a blue bird, the taste of a lemon, and the sounds of music. It’s making sense and organizing all that stimuli that comes through senses, that a child begins to learn how their bodies function. So how does sensory play involve all of the five senses? It uses the five senses, and strengthens our experiences and understanding in the world we live in.
When you think of sensory most of us think tactile, but in sensory play it's more than touch, it involves using all of our senses in play. Sensory play reinforces language, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, problem solving, motor planning, thinking, creative play and it can also be used as a calming tool.
How do you get your child involved in sensory play? This type of play enhances learning through hands on activities that stimulates a child's senses. There are many things you can make with ingredients from home that are great sensory play ideas. To name a few: play doh, slime, sensory rice bags, homemade pizza and calming bottles. Many of the recipes can be found online, make a list of some of the things you can do with your child and pick one to do each day.
When making, for example, slime:
1) Write down the ingredients, “let’s write down what we need to make the goo.”
2) Work together to gather the ingredients, “can you get the flour for me?”
3) Build anticipation “this slime is going to be so gooey.”
4) Don’t do for your child what they are capable of doing for themselves. If your child has weak gross and fine motor skills, work hand over hand, if needed.
5) Once all your ingredients are in a bowl, have your child put his hands in and mix it together. “ wow that must feel so gooey!” “you’re doing a great job mixing!”
By taking things that you already have in the house you can create many fun experiences for you and your child. These activities will allow a child to explore, create, and communicate. When a child is allowed to use his senses, they will learn from the experience and retain more information.
The senses shape our experiences and when we draw attention to our senses and discuss them, children begin to get a better understanding of and communicate about the world we live in.
Sensory play is calming for children, not only does it help a child regulate, it also helps your child in finding a source to regulate his/her internal discomfort. The slime you made with your child may be the tool he/she needs to support their sensory system and your child just learned what he/she needs in order to find comfort.
-Lissette Gray, L3 Paraprofessional, Celebrate the Children
"Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" is the theme in my "All Girl" class every day! I went to an "All Girl" high school and what I thought was going to be horrible at first, became something I am truly grateful for. Girls being silly, letting loose, and openly sharing girl issues make for some really close friendships that last a lifetime. I have made many friends I consider sisters to this day.
I feel the same way about teaching in an "All Girl" class. There is something about girls having time to socialize without boys around. We all talk about girl issues and feel the power of sisterhood around us. Girls dancing, singing, painting, playing ball, scrapbooking, brushing hair, doing nails, and putting on makeup together really builds self-esteem in a very fun-loving environment. There is always a "You Go Girl" vibe in the class and a camaraderie that continues to build every day. The girls really get to know each other. They are in-tune to the feeling of each other and often show signs of caring for one another. Many students will make a bracelet or craft and want to give it to a friend. The classroom is decorated to fully embrace our "Girl Power" attitude and we all benefit from it!
Though I know the girls love seeing the boys in other classes, it is apparent that we all enjoy our "Girl Time" together!
Lisa Silva, Teacher, Celebrate the Children
How long do you pause, on average, after asking a student a question? Do you attempt to answer the question for them or call on another student to fill the empty void?
Researchers have studied the amount of time teachers paused after asking a question and the effect it had on its learners. The average length of time that the teachers typically paused was found to be 0.9 seconds. Recent studies have shown that pausing for at least 5 to 15 seconds has a much more positive impact on a student's ability to express themselves effectively.
As a Special Education teacher of students with processing and motor skill challenges, I can attest to the importance of providing sufficient pause (processing) time. Additional wait time enables my students the time they need to process information, organize their thoughts and prepare a verbal, written or typed response. Since every student processes information at their own individual pace, I encourage all teachers to grant them additional pause time and marvel at their amazing responses!
-Debbie Castelluccio, Teacher, Celebrate the Children
Several months ago, a student, who types to communicate, shared his interest in “superheroes”. After expressing this interest, he was interested to hear that there are other students and staff members who have a passion for superheroes as well.
This communication has turned into the development of a weekly “SUPERHEROES GROUP” spearheaded by Karen Campbell.
Every Thursday morning, in a high school classroom friends come together for this group. Students with varying communication abilities join together with self-proclaimed “superhero nerds”, Jon and Jordan. The group has discussed recent movie releases, favorite characters, comic books and have even engaged in an awesome conversation on how autism is portrayed in this genre. Everyone participates and are happy to share their thoughts and opinions with the group and even, on occasion, debate when their views are different.
This group started out with a couple participants and as time has gone on, more students have opted to stay and participate. This is a wonderful way for our kids to connect, relate, and engage with each other over a shared passion for something where everyone feels respected, included, and proud. This has become an hour both students and staff look forward to every week and shows how much our students are able to participate when they are given a chance to engage in something they are passionate about. Friendship, conversation and most of all SUPERHEROES!!
- Lisa Romaine, Supported Communication Teacher, Celebrate the Children
Contributions to this blog are made by Celebrate the Children's highly talented, interdisciplinary team and wonderful families.