16th and final session of “Circle”

4 Jun

The school year is coming to a close and we had our final session of “Circle of Friends”.   The group came together for a final shaved ice party.  “D” was excited to have a party and asked about members that hadn’t arrived yet.  He wanted to make sure everyone was there.  He seemed really comfortable with the group and they were comfortable with him.  To see them interacting with each other made this venture all worthwhile for me.  There has been a lot of growth for everyone involved.  Its amazing to me what can be accomplished in 16 sessions.  “D” has really benefited from their caring and accepting attitude.  They have benefited from knowing they can make a difference in another individuals life and not to be afraid of other people who may seem quite different from themselves.

This group is going to middle school so there is a lot of reflecting and reviewing as we remembering their elementary years.  The students want to know if the group will continue in our building next year and in middle school as well.    We’ve let the staff at the next building know it was a worthwhile group and  worth continuing.  Hopefully some of the group will still have interaction with “D” in middle school.  We took a picture of the group that we will hand out to them later.

The speech pathologist in this district, and a lot of places,  have been hit hard with budget cuts for next year.  In the giant scheme of things, administrators and school boards  are not always aware of what role speech pathologist play in a school building or how our jobs are managed.  Many people still have the idea we take children into small little rooms and drill for articulation. Over the years, this has expanded greatly into classroom supports, consultation for the teachers, and working with increased numbers of children with autism. We often see these students when they need help and a place to go  when the classroom is too overwhelming.    The fact of the matter  is, it is  hard to continue programs like this when the speech pathologist is scheduling therapy for  children in multiple buildings and programs.   Also, it often means giving up a lunch break for the adults involved.  Although I feel it is a worthwhile program it may not be possible to continue it next year.  However, I hope people have enjoyed reading about the possibilities and if you are not an SLP have had a glimpse of what we do in an elementary building.

15th Circle of Friends

20 May

This is a crazy time of year filled with extra meetings for children moving on to middle school and incoming early childhood children for the next  kindergarten class.  It doesn’t allow for  as  much preparation time.  So this session is a good contrast of what can go wrong when there isn’t time to think the details through.

The Circle Friends came together as usual for lunch.  You may remember that originally we allowed the circle friends to have an early lunch time so they could have more time to meet after eating their lunch.  Their classmates actually had recess first and then came in for lunch.  This had worked well up until this point.    This becomes an important detail the adults forgot.

The friends asked “Dee” if he would like to play jump rope or 4 square.  He chose jump rope.  Today we had a sunny day, which we hadn’t seen for a while.
The friends decided it would be great to go outside.  “D” didn’t like this idea.  He told them that you jump rope in the gym.  Apparently this was something new and we hadn’t prepared him for.   He was uneasy about going outside to jump rope.  He played outside regularly on non circle days so you wouldn’t have thought this would be a problem.  This is a persuasive group, and they got him to say he would go outside.  Leaving the room, he decided to head for  the gym doors.  However the group managed to go out the side doors on the way and just sorta carried him along with them.   He was still reluctant telling us we needed to use the gym, but he went with the group to the playground.   He made it to the playground and the group got the jump rope going.  He decided he would twirl.  It looked like he would settle in and everything would be all right.  Then within 10 minutes of being there  it happened.  The whistle blew for his classmates to come in for lunch.  Well routine took over reason and “D” decided he needed to line up too.  He didn’t buy into the idea  he already ate  his lunch and could stay outside.    I did get a bit of a video tape showing him twirling outside.  Maybe the tape will make him see he is able to jump rope outside as well.  I think this session is a reminder not to lose sight of the details and details matter to a child with autism.  Prior preparation can make a big difference.

14th Circle of Friends

7 May

This is our 14th Friday of Circle of Friends.  The weather isn’t cooperating.  It turned out to be a day of drizzle so I managed to tape off a 4 square in the gym and grab a rubber ball before it was taken.  On wet days the students all try to fit under a covered area outdoors and about the only thing they can do is play wall ball.  It becomes a bit chaotic.  The gym is a better controlled area.

I met with “D” earlier in the morning for his speech class  and asked if he wanted to come to meet with his friends at lunch and then play 4 square..   He said “sure” without hesitation.   Then when leaving he told me he would see me for lunch in my room, so I knew I was on his schedule. His educational assistant told me later that he also informed her he was eating with his friends.  She had forgotten to write it on his schedule, so it was good he had taken the initiative.

As the year is progressing, the group of friends is becoming a lot less formal.  It’s becoming a natural gathering with everyone chattering as 10 yr. old students do.  “D” has become the roll call taker and asks about anyone who is missing.  After that, he becomes very absorbed with eating  so  does not make much comment unless asked direct questions.  He did appear to be listening and answered questions, so I do believe he is benefiting by watching.  The topic was sports and what they like to play.  They talked about playing basketball and the rules for the game of “HORSE”.  They decided that “D” could play that because he does make baskets.

We have some fast eaters in this group.  “D” is one of the slower eaters so he struggles to keep up.  He also has a plan to take a bite of everything.   The poor apple only gets about 3 bites.  He does manage to get the burger down.

The taped 4 square worked out fine.  The students needed reminding to break the task down when giving directions and relate it back to what we had taught “D” last time.  He caught on and before you know it they were playing  4 square.  They needed to alert him when the ball was being bounced his way, but he was able to return it without problem.  They were kind in not making him go out, but toward the end I suggested this might be a good thing, because it is part of the game.  He took it in stride and decided he would take a break.  This meant he went spinning down the middle of the gym.  Everyone was impressed and thought he should try out for gymnastics.

Just a note to let you know I added  antonym sentence  cards in the listening comprehension section.

12th and 13th Circles

30 Apr

I didn’t get a chance to post last week although we did meet.  We have approximately a chance for 5 more meetings before the end of the year.  Adult meeting schedules are starting to interfere at this time of year.  Thankfully things are going so well that less planning and structure is needed.

At the last meeting the students decided to attempt to teach 4 square.  We really didn’t know how well  “D” bounced a ball.  On the playground,  he was prone to throwing it at head level.    We decide that we would start by seeing how well he could bounce a ball between students.  He was now familiar with the group and the gym so we didn’t make a preview  video tape.

The adults of course have a plan beyond the  student wishes.   We want to be able to step back with less adult prompting.  One of the main goals was to get ‘D” interacting with peers without adult directions.   Hopefully, he will become comfortable interacting with this group as he moves up to middle school next school year.

For the 13 circle, everyone was present , including “D”.   He listened to the discussion at the lunch table but didn’t join in.  He knew we had a plan to go to the gym, so was busy eating.  Unfortunately he is a slow eater compared to the other students so we didn’t push conversation.  He also gets concerned if he hasn’t finished his lunch.

Amazingly we were able to round up a rubber ball and make it to the gym. We formed a circle and practiced passing the ball with a bounce through the middle of the circle.  “D” started out with head shots, but soon realized everyone was bouncing the ball first.   Soon he was into the activity like everyone else.  We then went to fast passing which meant you really had to keep your attention or get hit with the ball.   This led to some natural silliness as they tried to get the ball passed to an  unsuspecting student.  “D” stayed with the group through it all.  It was good to see he was flexible even if the rules changed a bit.  He added his own exclamations to the group and was  interactive.  We decided the ball passing was a success and we could move on to using the actual 4 square next time.   We had a few minutes left s ended the group by bringing out the jump ropes.

11th Circle of Friends

15 Apr

Today was the eleventh meeting for the “Circle of Friends”.  “D” participated  in the session.  It was two weeks since the last session because of teacher grading day last Friday.  You may remember, the group  made a  video at the last meeting demonstrating how to jump rope.  “D” watched the video and decided he would be willing to try it.

It’s remarkable how much his interaction with the group has changed.   He now seems to look forward to meeting with them and doesn’t hesitate about saying “Lets try it”.

The adult vision for an event does not  always correspond to  what actually happens.  As it turned out, “D” was not that interested in the jumping part of jump rope.  We convinced him to give it a try once and that lasted for only one jump.  He was more  interested in being a twirler and took up one end of the rope.  In his self-appointed position, he directed changes of the other end so everyone got a turn.  He also took responsibility for counting the number of jumps completed.

I realized, this position was actually a good place for him to be.    He  had to be aware of his position to the jumper and other twirlers so the rope didn’t go slack .  He had to know when to stop.  He had to correspond his arm movement to the other twirler.  This forced him to remain engaged with the other students.   I have never seen him so animated with an infectious laugh.  He really seemed to enjoy  himself.

The game continued to evolve, with  increasing the number of jumpers who tried to jump at once. It didn’t bother “D” and he continued to twirl.  The group  enjoyed  his enthusiasm and appeared more comfortable knowing his reactions weren’t unpredictable.   I could see where this activity may carry over to the playground.  There is always a need for a good twirler and now they know his capability.

10th Circle of Friends

3 Apr

We met this time to video tape the directions on how to jump rope.  At the last meeting we had decided to teach “D” some playground activities so he would be comfortable joining classmates in games at recess.  At this time he played mainly alone on the swings and had shown some interest in Wall Ball.  However he didn’t know the rules so wasn’t having much success. We decided to start  with the simplest which was jump rope. That would give me, the camera person,  experience t using the  flip camera in a larger environment.  Also the weather wasn’t cooperating and we could do jump roping in the gym.

The  students were thrilled at the prospect of making a movie.  They  had mapped out the directions for playing 4 square, wall ball, and jump rope at the previous session.   In preparation for this session, we made index cue cards of the steps and important rules.   The students read the cue cards to provide a narrative.   We used a flip camera to video tape the  directions in segments.  I learned last time that it was easier to deal with the segments  for editing.   The voices were sometimes harder to hear in this environment, so I added captions to go with the narrative.  The best segments were edited and placed together.   thankfully I was able to edit my saying go, a finger in the lens, and headless children with out losing the narrative.   The flip camera was a little more difficult to use because of the focusing on too many children and activities at once.  Overall I think we turned out with a pretty good product .   We ended up with a 2 minute video tape from a 20 minute session.  The plan is to show  “D” the video tape and encourage him to do the activity with his friends at the next session.  Maybe we will convince him to be video-taped also.  I’m sorry I am unable to show the finished product because of student privacy.

9th Circle of Friends

12 Mar

We had to have a quick change of plans.  We originally planned to have another session of UNO with “D” included.  Unfortunately he wasn’t  feeling well this week and didn’t make it to school on Friday.  We still had the group of 6 students, and used it as a planning session.

They said they enjoyed the last session and would like to continue to play games.  They  also liked making the videos.  Apparently you can do almost anything if a video camera is involved.

The counselor suggested we prepare  activities for outside since the weather should be improving.  There was a suggestion of planting  flowers in peat pots that could be transferred later after they grew.   Then the discussion switched to recess games. They liked the idea of video taping games so that “D” would understand how to play.

The counselor asked the kids what “D” liked to do on the playground.   The students said, if he gets a swing he likes to spin.  Otherwise he spends his time wandering.  One of the students had tried to play Wall Ball with “D”  and he didn’t appear to know the rules.  He threw the ball directly at the wall rather than letting it bounce first and hitting it with his hand. He didn’t jump rope because the people who swung the jump rope did it too fast.  Recently, a new rule was established  that the jumper could request a speed before they started.  It was pointed out that they could help by advocating for him.  Four square was another activity on the playground, that “D” didn’t understand the rules, so didn’t play,

The group were excited at the prospect of another video taping session so divided up and started to write what rules and directions  would be important for, 4 Square, jump roping, and wall ball. That ended our session.

How to Play Wall Ball

8th Circle of Friends

5 Mar

Friday was our 8th gathering.  The students are all comfortable with the routine.  The passes were all handed out in the morning, including “D”s.  I saw “D” earlier in the morning and he told me he would be coming for lunch in my room and he was excited to play “Uno”.  It sounded a little rehearsed, but he didn’t appear to be apprehensive at all.  He actually appeared a bit eager.  He doesn’t typically show a lot of emotion unless he is having an anxiety attack and then you know for sure.

The adults were scrambling a bit.  It turned out this day was a  particularly over scheduled day  between the counselor , autism specialist, and speech pathologist.  We decided we would be able to cover it with at least one adult present and try to overlap for the game.  This is one reason why circle needs to have 3 adults involved.  Anyone who works in the schools knows one day is never like another and you need back up plans.  We wouldn’t be doing any video taping which would make it easier.

“D” made it off the playground and into the building with out a problem, but then  a glitch started to happen.  Of all the students, “D” was the only one who had brought a cold lunch.  Because the “Circle” students start their lunch early the cold lunch basket hadn’t been brought to the cafeteria yet.  This left “D” trying to figure out where his lunch was. He became separated from the friends going through the lunch line.  To top it off, a well-meaning lunch assistant didn’t understand why he was in early and was trying to direct him back out to the playground.   Thankfully I could see something was  happening when I poked my head out the door and was able to intervene with the assistant.  The counselor was passing through and was able to escort “D” back to get his lunch while I remained behind for the other students who were now entering my room.  Thankfully, “D” is fairly easy-going and was able to handle the confusion, once he knew his lunch was back in the classroom.  In the end all seven students were present.

A fruit fly had managed to follow the students into my room and was buzzing around.  Hey, what’s lunch with out a token fly in a school building.  It did provide for a conversation starter.   The lunch topic evolved from the fruit fly, to being stung by bees, and then injuries.  I think this is a favorite topic that hasn’t changed much for each generation of kids.  I felt there was  good conversation modeling on a conversation that was likely to happen again.  “D” ate his lunch and listened.  He answered direct questions with yes and no answers, but didn’t volunteer.  He seemed to  feel included and was busy eating.  At one point his lunch bag that was sitting on the table fell over and he set it back up.  A student thought he would help by sitting it on a side table that was off to “D”s right.  “D” discreetly returned it back to it’s place in front of him.  I’m sure that was it’s usual lined up position for him.  There it remained.  Eventually the lunches were eaten and “D” volunteered he was very excited to play “Uno”.  This reminded everyone that we still had a game to play, so the table was cleared of trays and the cards were dealt out.  The counselor was able to back up “D” and the game commenced.  We couldn’t have planned the game better.  “D”  grasped the color and number matches early on.  He needed a little help calling the color for a wild card.  He was so engaged he didn’t notice the volume had gone up in the room.   He stayed for the whole session and didn’t talk about leaving even once.  Amazingly the game ended just when the time was up.  And even more amazingly “D” turned out to be the winner.

7th Circle of Friends

26 Feb

We met for our 7th Circle of Friends.  The plan was to make a video clip demonstrating how to play the card game “Uno”.   Although the adults knew what they wanted to accomplish, we had difficulties with the execution.  Earlier in the week our autism specialist warned us she wouldn’t be able to come because of another training obligation.  We knew from the beginning she would  help get our group started, but would then fade out because she does cover more than one site.  This caused the first difficulty because she was the person with the flip video camera.   Her camera  easily made video clips that could be manipulated on the computer to a 3 minute segment.  No worries, we signed out the library video camera.  Well the library video camera was the old cassette version.  My how technology changes in times  of  limited funding.   The video clips would be harder to manipulate off this camera but we figured we would deal with that later.  We plugged it in because of course the battery was dead.

We had a snow day on Thursday.  I found a video flip camera at home that my husband had purchased last month on a whim.  Aren’t husbands nice?  At the time I wondered what I would be using this for.  I guess he anticipated my need better than I did.   It’s a very basic camera that doesn’t have lighting or zoom  ability.  The only person who had it figured  out was the teenager at home.  I put  it in my pack just in case.  I wasn’t sure it would operate on my computer at work.  Our  district is very strict about software from outside sources.

Friday school resumed.  We just couldn’t stretch that snow into one more day.  As many of you know, a day off in the middle of the week throws the students off so that my speech therapy schedule was not working quite as well.  A lot of my students didn’t know what day it was and I had to keep getting them for their speech times.  A “Circle” student captured me in the hall and asked if we would have circle.  No one had received a pass yet.  Ah, another glitch.  I track down the person with the passes, who has forgotten to pass them out.  A good thing the students are keeping us in line.

Lunch time arrives.  I managed to find a few minutes to plug my flip camera into my work computer and erase all the practice clips from home off it.  My daughter had filmed my husband cooking.  In hindsight, I should really have kept that one. Anyway, it looked like it would work.  The “Circle” students arrived.  The counselor arrived with the library camera. It turned out the battery had not charged properly, so not much could be done with it. Thankfully we had the flip camera after all.

I grabbed the flip camera and the students did an initial greeting while they started their lunches.  I’m thinking that this may actually work.  Then the dreaded low battery light came on.  This meant a quick trip to the office to be saved by the secretary.  It’s true.  Schools would not function without a  great school secretary.    Amazingly she pulled out 3 triple A batteries from her desk. We were back in operation again.

Meanwhile the students  had  finished their lunches so we  had time for some serious filming.  At first I thought I would just film them playing and insert some dialogue.  This actually didn’t work very well.  The play was too fast to follow the directions.  I also found I couldn’t jump from the student’s faces to the cards being played on the table.   It was enough to make you seasick.  We settled for stacking the deck and demonstrating a few plays using wild, reverse and skip cards.  I switched to filming their hands and the cards.  The student’s explained why they were placing a card.  The flip camera enabled  on the spot viewing which helped considerably.  Now  I think we have 5 minutes worth of usable video.  We will let  “D” see  the video this week in preparation for the big game this coming Friday.

For those people who actually made it to the end of this post, I have a reward.  I posted a new therapy activity  in  the expressive language section.  It’s called “Sentence Flip Book” .  I made a book similar to this , when I first started out.  Some of my students wanted to know if they could make one.    The original one was made  before clip art and required the cutting  and pasting of  pictures.   I thought it would be great to have one I could print out and make available for  a student project.

Circle of Friends, 6th session

11 Feb

This was a debriefing session from last week when “D” joined the group for the first time.  “D'” was not present. The group talked about what went well and what could be changed for the next time.  The friends were very positive about the experience.  They thought it went well and were happy he had stayed for the whole time.  We decided the video really helped in making him comfortable with coming.   The friends really liked making it.  We decided we would do that again. They thought they did a good job of including him.   The adults did too.  We talked about different kinds of questions and which ones were easier for him to to answer than others.  He had difficulty answering why and how questions.  We talked about how all the questions didn’t have to be directed mainly at him.  That the modeling that  they did with each other was also important.  We talked about what the next activity should be.  The group decided the game of “Uno” would be a good game to play with him.   The next session will be spent video taping the rules  and showing him how to play it.  They finished off the session by playing a short game of “Uno”.