A Flexible Brain

17 Apr

Today we continued to work with the social pragmatic group using the Superflex program.  The lesson of the day required the use of a flexible brain to illustrate how the brain needs to be flexible to grow and handle changes in its environment.  There is a comparison of a rigid brain with a flexible  brain. For those who do not know the program, Superflex conquers Rock Brain  who is not flexible and doesn’t adapt to change well.  He keeps getting stuck doing the same old thing.

The lesson manual suggested using a brain mold to make a jello brain.   I was in luck because I knew someone who I could get the mold from.  The manual   did not give actual directions or a recipe.   I  put this lesson off for as long as I could because  I do not have a good history with jello molds.  I have a history of  jello that sticks to the mold and never turns out looking right.  The thought of trying to work with one in the time line of classes had me worried.  I figured the jello would melt and be over the table before the session was up.

I researched jello  brain recipes on the internet.  It turns out that there are a lot of these.   Some of them are a bit on the gross side of things.  I decided to stay away from the worm and bug infested brains although I’m sure they would be attention grabbing.  I wanted something that would be close to flesh tone and stay fairly solid.  So  I  settled for the following recipe.

You need 3 boxes of jello with orange to pink colors (watermelon, peach), Evaporate milk (12 0z), green food coloring, and 2  1/2 cups  boiling water

Dissolve the gelatin in the boiling water, Spray the inside of the mold with vegetable o spray.  Add milk and cold water to the gelatin mixture and stir until smooth.  Add 2 drops green food coloring.  The mixture should look more flesh-colored.  Add a drop at a time until you get the right color.  Pour the mixture into the mold and put in the refrigerator.  This brain turned out to be quite solid and kept its form several hours.

For the lesson, slips of  paper with brain functions from the categories of  social awareness, motor,and factual/science  are inserted  into the jello brain.  The students take turns  pulling  these out and talking  about them.  I debated the best method of getting the papers in the jello.  I ended up laminating the papers and poking them in after the brain was taken out of the mold.  This way ends of the paper were left sticking out and easy to grab with tweezers.  Surprisingly, the brain is still in good shape after the papers are removed and I can use it again for another group. No one asked if they could eat it.  I took a picture of the brain so you could  have a visual.

Spring is Here

28 Mar

I hear Spring has come to some parts of the country.  We are not experiencing too much of it here. After waking up to three mornings of snow last week, I am happy to settle for rain this week. Occasionally the sun peeks out  and  I run out to catch a few rays.  I am looking forward to seeing more of that sun.

April is coming soon and I am using my Spring Break to make some plans.  This is the time of year I usually try to focus on non-literal language and metaphors.  I saw this pattern for a butterfly  here at

http://www.marinmommies.com/ and thought it would be an ideal project.  It meets  my criteria.  It uses a minimum of  steps, concept vocabulary  and  recycled materials I already have on hand.  The youngest to the oldest will find the end result enjoyable.  I will put them on a Spring Bulletin Board with the following title.

Butterflies are self propelled flowers.  R.H Heinlein.

It will lend itself to a discussion of what makes up  a metaphor and if they can find more to add to the board.

I am having so much fun using StoryKit to make sequenced directions I decided to use it once again.  StoryKit is a free apt that allows you to make an edit your own books.  On an Ipad it has actual pages rather than the story board format.

The link for the butterfly directions is here.

There is no audio at this point.  I will have some of my students add audio when I get back from Spring Break.

Here is a picture of the butterflies.  I will put a picture up of the bulletin board when that gets completed.

 

Working with/against the Unthinkables

18 Mar

Many of you may be familiar with the Unthinkables.  It is a name coined by Stephanie Madrigal and Michelle Garcia Winner.  They are part of the Superflex Curriculum that uses comic books and characters to teach strategies to conquer problem behaviors and gain thinking power over them.   I was able to purchase the program through the generosity of our school parent group.  This is the site for those who are interested. http://www.socialthinking.com/home

I have begun using the program with several of my students in small groups. So far I am impressed.  I have a few students who are on the higher end of the Autism Spectrum and have difficulty with social pragmatics.  They are often sensitive to anything that points out imperfections they may have.  In the past,  I’ve had difficulty getting them to participate in role playing.  Their initial reaction is to declare an activity as boring and then not participate.  Yep, my Destroyers of Fun.  On cue, that is how we started out.   The comic nature of the program roped them in and as soon as the props came out they included themselves.

The characters are a great feature of this program.  They let the students step back and talk about problem behaviors in an unthreatening way.  They actually start to recognize what they have in common with the characters. I was amazed how much information they had retained  after three sessions and sending the parent letter home.  They explained the characters and strategies to a guest therapist on the 3rd session.    It appeared they had actually talked about the characters with their parents.  I guess we all want to be super heroes deep down, and we all have those unthinkable moments we need to conquer.

I have been busy gathering materials to make the characters and props.  You don’t necessarily need a lot of props.  However they are useful in grab bags or quick role playing in limited space.  Many children respond better to manipulatives and props then paper and pencil activities.  A model of a brain is helpful to simulate the brain sensor.   I’ve found it helpful to visit craft stores and  thrift stores that have small toys,  fast food characters, and pieces  of toys.  I’ve learned that even if your children have grown you should never throw those things out.  Here is what I have gathered so far.   Can you guess the characters?

Image

     Here is a quick way to make super hero capes. I found a large men’s short sleeve sport jersey in royal blue at the thrift store for fifty cents.  I cut off the sleeves and came up to the neck and kept the neck band. The front and back gave me two capes.   I cut off the lower cuff area on the sleeves.  I then cut this circle and sewed each end to the neck band ends still attached to the cape.  It was stretchy enough it could fit over a child’s head and I didn’t need to put on fastners.  I did some hemming up the sides of the cape.  This may not be necessary since it might be material that doesn’t fray.

March Expressions Bulletin Board

27 Feb

It is time to change the bulletin board again.  The students really seem to enjoy these projects and ask each month what we are going to do next.  I like them because they can encompass so many objectives from speaking clearly with detail to following directions.  I think they like using the art supplies since there is not as much time to do art in the classrooms.  These same students often have difficulty following directions and get lost in a large group.   In a small group they can all be successful.

I obtained my materials from a lot of different sources.  I found a  hat on this web site and shrunk it down to a usable size.       Leprechaun_Hat.   This site taught how to draw facial expressions.

I used Story Kit to record the directions.  This time I had the students take pictures of the project and make the story themselves.  It taught them about sequencing and providing important detail.  You can access their directions here.  Leprechaun Directions.

It took two sessions to accomplish everything.  Not only did it make interesting therapy sessions, I have a new bulletin board for March.  Here is a picture of the bulletin board.

The Positive and the Negative

10 Feb

This week I have  been working with a  group of young boys that are working on pragmatic language skills.  They  are having  difficulty determining when a statement is positive or negative and  are equating statements with math concepts.  If it is true then  of course it is positive.  They are not comprehending that some true statements can actually be quite hurtful and not a  positive experience  for the person who hears them.  I’ve decided we really need to explore this much further.

I prepared a lesson and thought that maybe some of you would like to use  it as well.  I  prepared  a  list of statements that can be  differentiated as being positive or negative.   We will talk about how a negative statement can be turned around to be more positive.  I may use the glass is half empty or is it half full analogy. I also have my demonstration spatula I use as a prop to encourage flipping the pancake.  We will talk about times in which  a true statement should be left in the mind and  not verbalized.  We will also explore  what effect a different intonation pattern may make on a statement.  The statements are ready to be cut out and put into a grab bag.  You can find them in the social  language section and here.