Top 10 Oscar Moments 2016


Happy Oscars! Whether you watched last night or you went to bed early, everyone is buzzing about the Academy Awards today. Our students shouldn’t be left out of the fun! Be aware that this activity is most appropriate for high school-aged students and older. There are some sensitive topics, like racism and sexual assault.

Use the embedded Playlist to follow along with some of the top moments of this year’s show and record answers on the downloadable worksheets (click below). One weird thing… The movie ‘Spotlight’ is listed as a ‘Who.’ Just don’t tell your SLP and we will be fine.

Download the worksheet here: Oscars 2016

And enjoy the corresponding videos below:



Finding the intersection between interest, ability, and autism!


I have been repeating the ‘presume competence’ mantra all year and, as a result, I have been working to create lessons that are:

  1. high interest
  2. relevant to the student
  3. accessible to the student
  4. age-appropriate
  5. related to the general education curriculum (adapted from books/materials/topic that the general education classes use or addresses an essential element of the standards)

This is not easy. It takes a lot of creativity, time and effort to develop meaningful lessons that meet the criteria. Sometimes I can’t meet all of the criteria, but I think students benefit from the attempt even if I fall a bit short.

One of my students this year is both very smart and very autistic. He doesn’t perform well with academic or communication tasks unless he is motivated and interested in the material. I allowed him to choose a book to study out of a field of 5-6 high interest teen novels. He chose J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

I have been working to develop visuals/summaries for the student to use alongside the book, along with worksheets that target the student’s IEP goals. I will include examples of both to download below. The student listens to the book using Learning Ally while following along with the text. Occasionally, I will read a chapter to him. I also supplement the chapters with clips from the movie.

hp ch 2

Sample summary, including spelling/AAC words and visuals of the characters.

I have been pleased with the student’s reactions to the novel study so far. He continues to show interest in the book–if he sees me working on the summaries or worksheets, he will often pace behind me to monitor what I am doing!

If you would like to include adapted books in your curriculum for students with disabilities, you don’t have to recreate the wheel like I am doing. There are websites available that offer adapted books in a variety of formats. One such website is through the Paul V. Sherlock Center on Disabilities and can be found here: . Make sure you preview the books before you assign them, since some are better than others.

Enjoy, and happy reading!

HP worksheets

HP summary

Thanksgiving Wh- Sort


Gobble Gobble!

It has been a while, so I thought I’d post a quick activity that I created for Thanksgiving. Many students cover the Thanksgiving story annually since early childhood. I didn’t want them to do a Thanksgiving craft since a) I’m not very crafty and b) turkeys made from high schoolers’ handprints aren’t as charming as tiny ones. Instead, I used Boardmaker to create a simple sort of Thanksgiving words.

I recommend reading a book about Thanksgiving before you have students work on the sort. We read Thanksgiving, by Lynn Peppas using the Epic app on Google Chrome.

Feel free to laminate and create a file folder activity you can use for years to come, or have students cut & glue so they have something to take home!

Download the PDF here: Thanksgiving Wh sort

Familiarizing Students (and Staff! And Parents!) With a Core Vocabulary


I wanted to share some simple worksheets I created for students, staff, and parents to familiarize themselves a bit more with the core vocabulary on the students’ AAC devices. I recently had parent-teacher conferences and, with most of my students using AAC, I stressed that the student needs to use the device at home as well as at school.

After the parents protested by explaining that they didn’t need to use it at home because they can understand the student without it, I emphasized the importance of preparing them for the adult service world and that the student had the right to be understood by more people! I also appealed to the parents’ hearts, explaining that I knew without a doubt that all of the students had more to say than they were currently able to with their vocalizations and/or devices. We can all improve!

After hearing that, all parents agreed that they need to incorporate the AAC device more at home. The biggest concern, however, was that the parent had no idea how to use the device or where anything was. I had one parent explain that when he is trying to show his son where an item is, he always just opened the keyboard and typed the word out. This was frustrating to the student, who had poor spelling ability, and prevented the parent from learning to navigate the vocabulary.

I showed the parents the ‘Find Word’ feature that is available in many of the WordPower vocabularies and also assured the parents that you need to learn how the vocabularies are set up and, when you get the gist of the organization method, it will get a lot easier!

I do a lot of activities in the classroom to help students and staff better know their way around their core vocabularies. These activities cannot stand in isolation—students will also need to be explicitly taught through modeling and other structured activities what the words mean and how to use them functionally. However, they do meet the goal of helping people learn where to find words quickly and how the system is organized. Whenever I complete activities like these in the classroom, I send them home as “homework” for parents to complete as well!

AAC grammar hunt 1 AAC scavenger hunt 1

These worksheets are organized as scavenger hunts. The first scavenger hunt is focused on categories and the second is focused more on simple grammar. You can download the worksheets in PDF format here: AAC scavenger hunts

Happy hunting!

My Favorite Free Chromebook Apps and Extensions for the Special Education Classroom


Because my self-contained special education classroom is located within one of the highest-performing high schools in the state, I am sometimes afforded unique opportunities. This year, my school is participating in a Digital Learning Initiative and, as a result, each of my student has been issued a Chromebook.

At first, there was some discussion about whether  students with the most significant disabilities would be included in the initiative. Actually, discussion isn’t the best descriptor…the truth is, no one seemed to know what was supposed to happen with those students. Obviously, our students with disabilities might not be able to take full advantage of the benefits of the Chromebook. Some commented that they wouldn’t be able to use them independently and another device, such as an iPad, might be more appropriate.

In the end, the decision was made through inaction. All students were to receive a device at registration and so each of my students has a Chromebook for this year.

We have been in session for less than a month, but here are some of my favorite (free!) apps/extensions for the Chrome browser so far.



YouTweak– YouTweak lets you personalize YouTube  to some extent. I use YouTweak to hide suggestions from the subscriptions page and redirect to the subscriptions page. Doing this allows me some limited control over what master-clickers have access to. This will NOT prevent typists from searching for their favorite videos, but it is great for trying to rein in those high school students who, on their own, would pass their time watching Teletubbies or Sesame Street. Instead, you can help them subscribe to some age-appropriate channels that they are also interested in. Some of our favorite subscriptions so far are The Slow-Mo Guys, Devin SuperTramp, and the oddly hypnotic drawings of Heather Rooney.


AdBlock (or AdBlock Plus)– AdBlock does exactly what it sounds like. It blocks some advertisements from loading on different websites. This allows websites to load more quickly and also limits distractions.It also reduces those problem areas on websites that, if you accidentally click on them, takes you to the advertisers’ site to make a purchase. This great for everyone (except the advertisers)!

play timer for kids

Playtimer for Kids – I. Love. This. Extension.! The Play-Timer for Kids is designed for parents to limit their kids’ screentime. I love it because I can assign a certain number of minutes on an educational website. For example, my students have Chromebook time each day during Homeroom. I can set the Play timer for ten minutes and it will play a relaxing chime sound and display a ‘Time’s Up!’ banner when the timer goes off. Easy to set and use!

read and write

Read & Write for Google – Teachers get a free premium subscription to Read & Write for Google, but students can also access some of the great features of this extension. After their free 30-day trial of Read & Write, students can continue to have most websites read aloud to them. Although some sites can be kind of glitchy, it should work wherever you see the purple puzzle piece.


budget happy

Budget Happy– Budget Happy is a website that students can use to track how much money they have. My students often have goals to manage a small personal budget and this allows students with cognitive disabilities to do so fairly easily. You can make this as complex or as simple as you would like by adding envelopes with different amounts of money.

Budget Happy screen shot

I typically have students use two envelopes–one practice and one for their community money–and then they can use their receipts when we return from community trips to enter in the amount spent.


Wunderlist- Wunderlist is an amazingly easy app that readers can use to manage a daily schedule. I have ‘master schedules’ laminated for each day of the week, and each morning students can type in each item on their to-do list. Make sure you change the settings so each item gets added to the bottom of the list rather than the top as you type it in. As students finish each item on their list, they click the checkbox and get rewarded with a satisfying ding! I have yet to find a scheduler for non-readers that I like as well.

That’s all for now! I’m sure I will discover more and more useful apps/extensions as the year goes on.Remember, you can still take advantage of these apps and extensions even if you do not have Chromebooks. They should all work within the Chrome browser on any computer.

Video Music Awards 2015


MTV’s Video Music Awards were last night and typical students (and staff!) are abuzz with talking about them. People are talking about what everyone was wearing, who was feuding, and which were the best performances!

I made an activity using BoardMaker Studio to allow students with disabilities participate in the fun while working on wh-questions. The worksheet goes along with the first ten videos on this webpage.

vmas 1 VMAs 2

You may want to skip the first few seconds of the Nicki Minaj vs. Miley Cyrus video since Nicki Minaj uses some profanity, but everything that was bleeped out on MTV’s production is bleeped out on these as well.

Some of the outfits and performances are rather…ahem…mature….as well, so I recommend checking them out before you decide to show them to your students.

On another note, I think I am getting too old for the VMAs!

Download the activity here: VMAs 2015



Students with significant needs require that the teacher focus on functional life skills, communication, and self-advocacy. In order to practice these skills as authentically as possible, the teacher will occasionally have to create stressful situations that require student action to correct.

Listen all of y’all it’s a SABOTAGE!!!

-Beastie Boys (duh.)

Today’s sabotage is brought to you by those people who insist that sitting at work will kill you.

While students were out sensory-breaking, bathroom-ing, and otherwise occupied, I collected the classroom chairs and put them in a storage closet. When students returned, there were mixed reactions. Some seemed not to notice any difference. Others seemed amused. Still others started looking around the room as if they were searching for the missing furniture.

Not one student commented that the chairs were gone.

Not one student asked for a chair.

The rest of the day was simultaneously hilarious and sad. It was funny to watch the students try their best to follow their schedules without chairs to sit in.

photo 5

It was sad that the students were not able to find the words to ask for the object when it was out of sight.

photo 3photo 4

The students were without their chairs for five hours of the school day yesterday.

photo 1

This morning, the chairs were still gone but I primed the language by projecting several pictures (including chair) with labels on the SmartBoard. With varying amounts of prompting, all students finally asked for their chairs within the first three hours of school.

This was eye-opening for me. All students had the capacity to ask for their chair. The vocabulary was in their devices if they used one and all students had demonstrated the knowledge of the vocabulary. All students had even asked for their chairs if someone else was using it. As soon as the chairs were out of sight, however, it was a different ball game.

These two days have reminded me that I need to be sabotaging more often in order to stimulate functional communication and provide students an opportunity to advocate for what they need. Typical adults and caregivers throughout their lives should not have to be in the business of mind-reading!