Learned Helplessness in Students With Disabilities

I will never, never forget a community trip with students to Taco Bell back in the day. My two paraeducators and I took about 10 severely disabled students out to eat. It took some time to get everyone through the line and I will never forget helping my favorite student, Cameron. I helped him get his food and walked him to a table. There were two more students I had to get through the line, so I left him to wait until I could come back and help him open his packages, cut up his food, and help feed him (because of limited mobility due to his severe Cerebral Palsy). I went back to the line and returned to him about 4 minutes later… and he was eating.

Learned Helplessness in Students with Disabilities

I asked my para team if they had helped him. Both said no. I looked at Cameron.
“Who opened that for you?” He looked at me and laughed.
“I did,” he said.

 

My mouth dropped open. He has opened his taco and was eating- he had even opened up a packet of hot sauce and poured it on… and here we were opening everything and even feeding him!

 

Students LEARN to sit back and wait for someone else to do it for them. Read how to break learned helplessness in students with disabilities.

You Might Also Like

Details
Don’t know where to start with core vocabulary? This will give you a FREE starter board, tips and tricks to teach with, and even the first 5 words to start with!

Where to Start With Core Vocabulary

You may have read a previous post all about where to start with core vocabulary and communication boards for students who are nonverbal or minimally verbal. I have gotten a some great messages about AAC and core vocabulary success, but also questions on what to do next. Well, I’ve got a great roadmap for you!

Where to Start with Core Vocabulary

If you have not read the post on AAC and Abuse in kids who are nonverbal or minimally verbal, please pop over and do so. There you will find a FREE communication board you can place near the door in your classroom to teach the word “GO”. Recently I was talking to a teacher who had great success using that FREEBIE board. He found his student was able to learn the word and effectively use the board to communicate places to go within one school week.

That’s amazing!

More importantly it shows that with consistent use, communication boards can be successful for students. His question, of course, was what to do next?

To answer that question and give everyone some guidance, below you will find a road map to introducing core vocabulary.

You Might Also Like

Details
Do you have a student tearing up your stuff, roaming the classroom, or picking their own scabs? Have you ever considered FIDGET TOYS? Read why it helps and some to try.

Fidget Toys for Autism

I was in a classroom a few years ago and the student was like the ball in a pinball machine! He was up and moving during my entire observation. There were moments where he could be cajoled into sitting and attending to a task, but they were few (very few), far between, and super short. The teacher looked at me needing help. Her job had become an exhausting workout.

I left and came back the next day with a few ideas and some fidget toys. Guess what… it helped.

You Might Also Like

Details

Head Banging in Autism

“I have a student in my class with pretty severe behaviors- he hits his head a lot. Like all the time. I feel bad when he goes home some days with huge red marks on his face, but I’m not sure what to do to get him to stop. What can I do?”
– Kenneth J.

Head Banging in Autism

Kenneth, I feel you. It is pretty hard as a teacher to sit back and watch a kid seriously hurt themselves. Head banging in Autism is actually very common. There are a handful of tricks you can try to lessen the rate and severity of head-hitting, but first you want to try to figure out the reason behind the hitting.

You Might Also Like

Details
Ever wonder about instructional text versus grade level text when teaching literacy to students with Autism and significant disabilities? We have some answers!

Teaching Literacy to Students with Autism

Teaching Literacy to Students with Autism

I read a lot… I wish I had time to read more! I recently read an article about instructional level text as a tool to improve reading. This has always been something that has bothered me. Teachers have long believed that the only text appropriate for older students who happened to be low readers is instructional level text. In other words, text that corresponds with their assessed reading level. I have always thought otherwise. When you get to students in middle and high school, presenting only instructional level text limits a student’s exposure to challenging materials and also throttles their learning. So what does that mean when you’re teaching literacy to students with Autism and significant disabilities?

Ever wonder about instructional text versus grade level text when teaching literacy to students with Autism and significant disabilities? We have some answers!

Dora in High School

It never fails, at least once a school year I walk into a high school classroom and see an almost adult reading a Dora or Barney book.

 

It literally makes me groan.

 

What would make anyone think a 17-year-old would want to read a Dora book? Whenever I talk about it with the teacher, the reaction is always the same. The student is reading a book that is appropriate for their “instructional reading level”.

It sounds very formal, and almost convincing… But truth be told, teachers have been holding on to the idea of instructional level text for so long- does it really apply when you’re teaching literacy to students with Autism or other significant disabilities?

 

Personally, I don’t think so.

Ever wonder about instructional text versus grade level text when teaching literacy to students with Autism and significant disabilities? We have some answers!

You Might Also Like

Details
With the rates of abuse growing higher year after year, what can you do to protect your students? One word: AAC!

AAC and Abuse

AAC and Abuse

It seems like such a long time between a student entering pre-kindergarten and aging out of high school… but the truth is it’s just a fraction of their lifetimes. In the little time we have, our most important responsibility is to equip our students with an effective way to communicate with others… it is a must to lower the rate of abuse for nonverbal students.

With the rates of abuse growing higher year after year, what can you do to protect your students? One word: AAC! 5 Must Dos to get more AAC use in your classroom and reduce future abuse.

Meet Tricia…

I was in a classroom just last week and a 20 year old young woman was exhibiting some severe behaviors. She, let’s call her Tricia, was a student with Down Syndrome and a severe Speech Impairment. Most of what Tricia said came out as grunts and points. That day Tricia went through an entire 30 seconds of emphatically grunting and pointing and making facial expressions to the para-educator in the classroom. The teacher was standing next to me and I asked him what Tricia had said. He replied “Damned if I know.”
Clearly the aide didn’t know either. She looked confused at Tricia and asked her “What do you want?” That was the straw… Tricia punched her arm, pushed her and moved to a nearby table where she proceeded to throw all the papers and materials onto the floor. The behavior escalated from there.

 

Later, when calm had returned, I asked the teacher how Tricia expressed her wants and needs. He looked at me and replied, “I guess she doesn’t.”

 

*Sigh*

You Might Also Like

Details
Looking for some easy ways to use BIGMacks in your classroom? Here are 5 quick and easy ideas that will help!

Meaningful Ways to BIGMack

They’re in your classroom… and they’re pretty easy to use.

But they’re not.

They sit without batteries collecting dust.

They are programmed to do nothing.

But Why?

Meaningful Ways to BIGMack

When I first encountered a BIGMack in the classroom I thought it was a nice little gadget that I would learn to use someday. Well, someday took a long time to come.

It wasn’t that it was complicated to use, but since I had never used one before it might as well have been quantum physics. It also wasn’t that it was useless, but since I had never used it before I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

To save you from the long learning curve involved in “I’ll eventually get to it”, let’s just cut to the chase. Here are 5 quick and easy things you can do with the stock of BIGMacks you have in your room.

You Might Also Like

Details