Realistically, your child is going to grow older. Your child with autism, Down syndrome or any other genetic disorder or special need is growing each day and will become an adult. Are you thinking about this time?
Your child’s teachers should be.
As a K-3 special education teacher, I will be the first to relate to those forgetting about the distant future. I can get caught up in the cutesy lessons and the fiction texts and the craft projects. But, I am reminded regularly, and try to remind myself, that we are preparing our students for their adulthood. Sure, I need to focus on their academic skills along with content standards, but will it matter if your child knows his homonyms if he doesn’t communicate when he needs help?
So, what can your child’s teachers do? How can they pair academic skills with “functional skills” along with life skills?
How about pairing a lesson on police officers with language arts standards? There are many news stories on how safety personnel and adults (and children) with special needs do not often know how to effectively communicate with one another. How about finding books (fiction and nonfiction texts) and videos on police officers? How about inviting police officers into the classroom? Setting up some leisure activities where off-duty firefighters come in to play with students? Find decodable readers at the child’s level to tie in academics. Tie in technology skills with Wordle.com or Edu.glogster.com and make posters with students’ addresses and phone numbers. Teach them how to call 911 in an emergency. Teach them what the word “emergency” means. Check out our lesson plans on this topic at http://staff.bbhcsd.org/kolism/2011/03/15/resources-on-police-officers/.
What about learning computer, typing, and technology skills? Is the child familiar with a QWERTY keyboard? Does she know how to type her name? Can she navigate to favorite web sites or programs? Teach the computer and technology vocabulary (vocab. acquisition) that goes along with your school tools; the SMART board, a jump drive, headphones, keyboard, monitor, on/off buttons, touchscreen, mouse, mouse pad, printer, scanner, copy machine, fax machine, iPad or tablet computers, Apps, charger, CD, DVD, etc. Don’t you think anyone would use these skills in the “real world?” Find a book like Arthur’s Computer Disaster by Marc Brown or The Magic School Bus Gets Programmed by Joanna Cole to tie in language arts lessons.
How about teaching relaxation and anger management at school? There are books (literature) that tie in along with videos, web sites, songs, musical instruments, iPad Apps, and Kindle books! Guided imagery helps with sensory issues and relaxation. Music and movement never hurt anyone! Identifying feelings in self and others should likely come first as well as communicating those feelings through words, gestures, an AAC device, or any other means of total communication.
Social Skills? Endless lesson plans, games, songs, web sites, books, and Apps are available.
Holiday table manners? Setting the table? Coloring Easter Eggs? Painting or carving pumpkins? Paying for snacks? Participating in parties? Identifying the weather? Using a calendar?
Any of these topics can be tied into language arts, math, science, social studies, and health standards. And should be. Any lesson or topic can be modified to fit your child’s needs.
So, remind your child’s teacher, in the friendliest way possible, that your child needs real skills for his future.
Short Author Bio: Morgan Kolis has been a special education teacher for 8 years, working with students with mild/moderate and moderate/intensive special needs. Morgan currently teaches at Hilton Elementary School in the Brecksville-Broadview Heights Schools in North East Ohio. She has received numerous awards including the 2010-2011 Plain Dealer Crystal Apple and the 2005 Cleveland Cavaliers’ Head of the Class Teacher Award. She also has a Masters’ degree in Educational Technology.