By now you should be familiar with your students’ IEPs and the essence statements that will be assessed. You have established schedules for staff and students and you are developing lessons to target skills.
In Applied Behavior Analysis terms, this is known as positive pairing. Make yourself a valuable resource for your students, so that when you are around, they feel safe and supported and know that reinforcement is coming. You want to be the “giver” and not the “taker.” In other words, you are supplying an abundance of positive attention and tangibles and you are not just associated with high demands and difficult transitions. You want to create a situation where your students enjoy you and are motivated to work for you!
Learn to involve your student and partner with them in the learning. Take the time to explain tasks to students – “we are working on identifying coins so that you can use the school vending machines.” Many times teachers just expect students to comply with mundane tasks without explaining why the task is important. Research has shown that students with significant cognitive delays understand much more than they can express, so err on the side of competence when trying to evaluate their understanding.
And by all means, make learning fun!
Teach the Schedule and Classroom Rules
You have probably already begun this work. It is critical to remember that building a schedule is only part of the job. You must teach the student how to follow their schedule and work towards independence. You will also need to schedule time with classroom staff (maybe just five minutes at the end of the day) to review and see how the schedule and student is doing. You may have to tweak the schedule and routine.
Establish a Communication Method with Parents and Decide on a Frequency
A team approach is the best approach! Often a communication folder that goes back and forth from school to home is helpful. Encourage open lines of communication. If parents know what is happening at school, they can extend upon it at home. If you know what is happening at home, (for example, the student didn’t sleep, is constipated, etc.) you can better anticipate how to plan your day. Remember, when you are communicating with parents – keep it positive. This is a tool to share success and build relationship. If you have something of concern to report, end with a positive statement. Also, remember to just state facts and leave judgment or feeling words out of it.
You wouldn’t say “Bert was being stubborn and would not get off the computer when it was time. I asked him repeatedly and then he threw a fit.” You might instead say, “Bert had difficulty transitioning from the computer today, but he was able to turn it around in 5 minutes. This is an improvement of 10 minutes from yesterday.”
Provide Student Support
If you welcomed new students this year, you’re probably beginning to get to know their personality and needs this month. One of the most important parts of adapting instruction in a special needs classroom is learning how to scaffold your level of support. Take some time to review cueing and prompting.
Data and Progress Monitoring
Establish a method for taking data
You will need to begin to take data. Develop a way to take data on both IEP goals and other activities that may not be written in the IEP but which are a part of instruction in your classroom. Whenever possible, you will incorporate IEP goals in the lessons. To summarize, best practice dictates that you issue IEP progress reports and report card grades for classroom work on a regular basis.
- Establish a schedule and a method for taking data and train your paraprofessionals on how to take data.
- As various situations arise, you might also need to take data on behavior. This data helps determine what interventions you might choose and how successful those interventions are at changing the behavior. If strategies are ineffective, you may have to adjust or change interventions.
- There are many ways to assign grades for classroom work. Remember that the purpose of grades is to demonstrate progress, so make grades meaningful and objective. You may create a rubric and assign point for the number of steps and the level of prompting.
The student below is working on the functional skill of hand washing. The task has been task analyzed and a data sheet has been developed. Please note that task analysis can be performed on functional, as well as academic skills.
Using a rubric:
The rubric was created for grading purposes, based on the number of steps and level of independence.
Another way to grade a task analyzed skill with 10 steps:
You may be grading a skill based on the level of prompting or some other set scale.
This website provides resources for ideas on taking data.View Resource - Autism Circuit
Grading and Progress Monitoring Guidance
This article provides assistance for grading and progress monitoring.View Resource - Grading and Progress Monitoring Guidance
7 Scale Form
This data tool provides graphed visual of progress.Download Resource - 7 Scale Form
Sample Grading Rubric
This rubric can be used to obtain a more specific and objective activity grade.Download Resource - Sample Grading Rubric
Create a Student Portfolio
Now is the time to create a student portfolio to begin filing away work samples. You will thank yourself at the end of the year if you kept samples from the beginning of the year and you can see clear evidence of progress.
Writing a Good PLAAFP
Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance (PLAAFP)
When you inevitably go to an Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARD or IEP) meeting, you will be much more prepared if you’ve been thinking about a student’s PLAAFP the entire year. So now’s the time to begin. Use the Resources below to get started.
A Step Toward IEP Quality and Rigor
This online course covers the development process of the PLAAFP, goals/objectives, and progress monitoring methods of the IEP for students with significant cognitive disabilities.View Resource - A Step Toward IEP Quality and Rigor
Sample PLAAFP for a student with complex access needsDownload Resource - Jeff's PLAAFP
Quality and Rigor Rubric
This rubric guides development of PLAAFP, goals/objectives, and progress monitoring methods of the individualized education program for students with significant cognitive disabilities.View Resource - Quality and Rigor Rubric
Preparing for STAAR Alternate 2
Start Preparing Early
Even though it seems like a long time before the assessment is due, do not procrastinate. Seek training or answers to any questions that you may have. You may ask your mentor, district testing coordinator or regional Education Service Center Complex Access Network specialist.
Review the STAAR Alternate 2 Documents from TEA
Review the STAAR Alternate 2 documents from TEA. Check the site frequently to make sure you are working from the most current information and guidance.
Review the Essence Statements from TEA
Review the Essence Statements that will be assessed in STAAR Alternate 2 for this school year.
Check Your Regional ESC for Upcoming Professional Development Opportunities
Service Center Contacts
Find your statewide support person and contact information.View Resource - Service Center Contacts
TX CAN Online Courses
Online courses designed for educators working with students with significant cognitive disabilities and complex access needs.View Resource - TX CAN Online Courses
TSLAT Online Courses
Online courses designed for educators working with students with autism.View Resource - TSLAT Online Courses
Take Time to Build Relationships With Your Students
It’s only September, and you may be feeling like it is a lot, but if you don’t get ahead of yourself and remember to prioritize tasks each month, the year will begin to find its rhythm. September has been about teaching expectations, procedures and schedules. You’re creating activities and collecting data, and you are gathering information for upcoming ARD meetings. Remember to take time to build relationships with your students.
In an article by Evantheia Schibsted titled, How to Develop Positive Classroom Management, (May 13, 2009), the author discusses the importance of “positive approaches that emphasize social and emotional learning over punitive discipline”. The article lists several strategies you can use to support a peaceful classroom. Although the strategies may need to be accommodated for special needs students, the need for a peaceful learning environment is universal, and you may find the strategies listed to create this environment helpful.
Keep up the good work and let your regional ESC specialist know if you have any questions.