Best Practices Archive
Did you recently read about a “Best Practice” that struck you? There are lots to choose from! Here is an example of past best practices. For more, check out our YouTube channel.
Michelle Gubler, Teacher – Nebo School District
Jody Tobler, Teacher – Nebo School District
Peer Tutors: Boulton Elementary School
Boulton Elementary School
Mary Cheney, Functional Skills Classroom Teacher
Julie Larsen, Principal
Boulton Elementary has embraced the students of their functional skills classroom with open arms and open hearts – especially the students with autism. This amazing school has fostered a culture of caring and acceptance that will have an impact on all the students, teachers, and staff, for years to come.
While the functional skills classroom is not identified as an autism unit, the majority of the students have been diagnosed with autism. The functional skills classroom uses many of the teaching methods that have been developed specifically for children with autism. Training has been provided in the use of PECS, TEEACH, RDI, Floor Time, SCERTS, STAR, and behavioral interventions. The classroom teachers and para professionals receive ongoing training through a grant provided by the Davis School District. All the students in the functional skills classroom, regardless of their diagnosis, benefit from the specialized training that has been offered.
Our transition to the functional skills classroom began 7 months before the first day of school. Ty had been attending the Carmen B. Pingree School for Children with Autism for 5 years and the idea of transitioning to a public schools was terrifying. In early March, Patti Haney, district transition coordinator, arranged for me to observe the functional skills classroom at Boulton Elementary. Patti and Mary Cheney spent an hour answering my questions and reviewing the services and programs that would be available to my son. Mary and her team went to the Pingree School on several occasions to observe Ty, meet with his teachers, and review his programs and schedules.
I began taking Ty to Boulton Elementary for short visits, one day a week. Ty was able to become familiar with the entrance to the school, the hallways and the classroom. Mary always took the time welcome us, and made the effort to become better acquainted with Ty. During the summer I was able to take Ty to the school, free from the distraction of other students, to play on the playground equipment, use the bathroom, see the gym, and become more familiar with the classroom. Ty’s teachers at Pingree helped in the transition by sending us home with his reinforcer box, programs and materials, PECS book, and data collection book – all items that Ty was familiar with.
I had Ty carry his Pingree box into Mary’s classroom several days before school started. This transition seemed very upsetting to him. Mary helped Ty set up his box and books and gave him a social story about his first day of school, complete with pictures of herself and the classroom aides.
The first day of school went better than anyone expected. Ty was familiar with his environment, and his first several days of school were designed to duplicate his classroom routine at Pingree.
In a school assembly at the first of the year, the students in the
functional skills classroom were introduced to the student body. This was a time for “Miss Mary” to explain the uniqueness, and special needs of her students. She took the time to explain to the student body how they could each help her students feel welcome. This open introduction to the student body took the ‘mystery’ out of the functional skills classroom.
Each student in the functional skills classroom is assigned a home room class. We had an opportunity to go into Ty’s home room class and talk with the students and home room teacher about Ty, and about autism. Mary also took the time to orient the students to the buddy program. The class then watched a video on Autism that was produced by the schools journalism club the previous year.
Students from the home rooms take turns being ‘buddies’ with the students in the functional skills class. Depending on the students needs and abilities, buddies take them to recess, to lunch, and to appropriate classroom activities. The buddies interact with the students, model appropriate behaviors, and offer friendship. The buddies also join the functional skills classroom at the Friday Afternoon Popcorn and a Movie activity.
The functional skills classroom is set up with a large sensory area. Bean bags, blankets, yoga balls, sensory toys, and a TV are available for the students to use as reinforcers and down time. A large schedule board is updated daily to track the various comings and goings of each student, as well as outlining the classroom schedule for the day. During circle time the day of the week is identified, the weather is discussed, pictures are posted to show the lunch choices, and the pledge of allegiance is practiced.
Circle time also provides an opportunity for music, dance and turn taking. Pictures of the children are used to track attendance and PECS pictures dot the cupboards, computers, and door frames. Throughout the day the staff use sign language as they talk to the students.
A summary note, individualized with the students IEP goals, is sent home daily to keep parents informed of the events of the day.
Bouton Elementary is fortunate to have a principal, Julie Larsen, who has embraced the functional skills classroom and recognizes the opportunities that it provides to all the students and staff at her school. Her support and encouragement set the tone for the success of this program.
My Miracle Moment
A few months into the school year I watched as 4 boys were walking down the hall toward me. They were laughing and tossing a ball back and forth. It took a moment for me to realized that one of that group of 5th grader boys was my son, Ty. Ty is autistic, non verbal, and lacking in social skills, but he was one of the boys that day – and I consider that a miracle moment.