As the children come into the classroom they are expected to put away their belongings independently. Once their things are organized in their cubbies, they may go to the toy corner/play area.
Staff note: It is important to facilitate appropriate play skills and interactions between the children. If data is being collected, please let the children interact naturally. Your involvement may invalidate the data.
Many of the children we work with have difficulty with regulation and the ability to maintain rhythmic interactions with others. This is often the result of a sensory processing difficulty that makes organizing incoming information difficult, hence, challenges in rhythm and timing. Celebrate the Children considers work in this area critical to a child's overall development, specifically in the area of socialization, emotional regulation and behaviour. Throughout the day staff encourages well regulated back and forth interactions. Additionally, specific activities are designed to intensively target rhythm and timing and these activities are called 'Shared Timing' Activities. Shared timing activities require the child to engage in a turn-taking activity with another person. This can be play on a drum, yelling into a bowl(for sound feedback), jumping on a trampoline, etc. The idea is to get a steady back and forth rhythm with the other person. In the beginning, no language is required. However, as the child moves through the program, specific language and conversation skills are targeted as appropriate for each individual. Staff also encourages the generalization of shared timing to play(e.g., a game of chase or tag that is sustained in a back and forth manner without fragmenting).
The overall goal of each step in the Shared Timing program is to facilitate a sustained rhythmic back and forth interaction for as long as possible.
Hierarchy of Interactions on a Musical Instrument
For non-verbal children the following activities can be modified using PECS, gestures, affect, etc.. However, these children should be required to move as far through the program as possible as they are often very good at using affect in place of language.
At the beginning of each step the child may need gentle prompting to stay with the activity and to sustain a rhythmic back and forth. An adult sitting behind the child to facilitate this is recommended only when necessary. Please be careful to fade this prompt as soon as possible. Do not move to the next step until the child can consistently do the present step without support.
This hierarchy can be applied to any activity: Musical, Physical, Verbal, Play, etc.
Morning Circle(music, academic skill, theme based activity, general
knowledge, book, nursery rhyme, poem, visualize and verbalize)
These groups target general knowledge(e.g., personal information, gender identification, etc.) and academic skills through experience-based instruction. Visuals and manipulatives are used to introduce and/or reinforce concepts. During this circle children also enjoy monthly theme activities, music, books, nursery rhymes and poems. The principles of DIR(described below) are incorporated into every aspect of circle. For example, children are encouraged to engage in extended circles of interaction, abstract thinking, problem solving, etc.. Self esteem and sense of self are supported as the students are active participants in the group.
Attention and independence are key goals during circle. A priority in circle is having the students attend to one circle leader. The circle leader reinforces student participation naturally through high affect responses. Prompting by other staff from behind is implemented only as a last resort. Group direction following is another skill reinforced during these activities. Although, the children are required to attend to one teacher, at times the children run activities themselves, taking turns at playing teacher. Additionally, all initiations made by the students during circle are treated as purposeful and intentional. This is a time for open discussions and sharing. Therefore, a strict schedule is not always followed. On Fridays the children have the opportunity to play teacher and take turns leading the circle in their favorite activity.
Visualize and Verbalize
This technique was created by Nanci Bell. She identified "visualization as a primary factor basic to language comprehension and critical thinking." Activities requiring the verbalization of visuals in the mind are used to target this skill. Students are required to describe something from memory including visual descriptions, smells, touch, sounds, tastes, and emotions related to the topic. The activities are based on each child's individual abilities and become progressively more challenging as they improve.
The art activities during this group focus on the child's ability to think abstractly and express themselves from their own imagination. Different sensory modalities are incorporated into every activity. In conjunction with this program, children learn to copy simple shapes from a model, trace shapes and simple pictures independently, fill in the missing details of a picture, develop an understanding of prepositions, and learn to follow oral directions. The older children are encouraged to expand on detail and perspective in their pictures. As they become better artists, models and prompts are taken away and their imaginations take over.
Self expression is encouraged during this time. The children are encouraged to share their work with others. When they explain what they have done, the children are challenged to give purpose behind the choices they have made. Once again, cheering for students fully expressing their individuality is a regular occurrence. Cooperative art projects are done by the children who are ready to participate in these activities.
Snack time is the perfect opportunity to build circles of interaction between staff and peers. Language and socialization are both targeted during this highly motivating time. Students are encouraged to ask their friends to share or trade snacks. Commenting and joking are facilitated during this time.
Floor Time: Play Skills/Peer
Developmental Individual Relationship-based Intervention(DIR):
Floor Time (Greenspan/Wieder)
This is the time for individual "Floor Time" sessions. "Floor Time" is a philosophy developed by Dr. Greenspan and Dr. Wieder. This approach allows staff to interact with the child at her level, while teaching through meaningful interactions. The basis of DIR is to help children achieve regulation through relationships while providing them with the foundations needed for all learning. These foundations include the ability to sustain attention to activities and interactions, engage in interactions through a range of emotions, develop adaptive and coping strategies, be initiators of independent ideas and have the ability to sequence these ideas in meaningful ways, develop a good sense of self and the ability to string together ideas and social interactions to problem solve, to think and play symbolically and understand emotions, to use creativity and imagination, to think abstractly, reason and problem solve. Individual, specific language, social, behavioral and academic goals are layered upon these foundations. All goals are targeted through motivating, experience-based interactions with staff and peers.
Every child has a program book based on their IEP, classroom assessments, and staff observation. This book contains specific goals for each area of development. Data is taken on all skills and monitored closely by classroom staff. Students are moved through the steps of each program based on data and their ability to generalize skills to all environments.
Additionally, transition skills are worked on to support students transitioning to less restrictive environments. For example, if a child is having trouble raising their hand in circle time in their mainstream classroom, that skill will be taught and reinforced on an individual basis to make the mainstream experience more successful.
Semi Structured Play/Peer Play/Play Skills
Specific play and social skills are taught using a hierarchy based on our curriculum. Introductory skills include finding hidden objects, peek-a-boo games, physical games such as chase, symbolic play and turn-taking. More advanced skills include imaginary play, sustained interactions and group games.
Skills are taught in the same areas the students use them. Staff take on the role of the students and play at their developmental level modelling specific skills. Activities are based on the students' natural motivations and incorporate familiar themes. For example, students use dolls to act out riding home on the bus and familiar afternoon and evening activities.
Once children become more independent in their play, staff facilitates sustained peer play and are eventually faded out completely.
Children should be warned of the activity five minutes prior to cleaning up and getting together. The goal of this activity is to get the blood flowing and bring body and mind together. As staff, we could use this ourselves. However, most of the children we work with have particular difficulty coordinating their minds and bodies. Exercise, stretching, yoga, rhythm and timing activities, Brain Gym, Thinking Goes to School or Star Power activities may be used during this time. No matter what the activity is, music as part of the activity is recommended. Different types of music can encourage different types of regulation. Staff note: Use the music that works best with your class to achieve the type of regulation you are looking for. For very young children it is important to keep the exercises very short and keep the momentum going. Finally, when possible, make exercises cooperative, requiring the children to interact in a rhythmic way with staff or peers.
More on Motor Planning and Exercise
Obstacle courses are set up to target regulation, motor planning and sequencing. Another goal of this activity is to enhance self expression/esteem by encouraging pride in independence and showing off. Cheering for students fully expressing their individuality is a regular occurrence. We provide games that challenge students to self regulate in a fun and playful manner. For instance, we will play an adapted "Follow the Leader," where students will do what the leader is doing(jump, run, skip) but be able to stop/start, go fast/slow, etc., according to the leader's command. Star Power for Preschoolers by Andrew Oser is a program that we incorporate into this time(adapted for older children). "Star Power" teaches children five life success skills(concentration, self esteem, relation, imagination) through physical play.
Independent seat work
The only goal of this activity is independence, pride and developing a sense of self. This is not a time to teach new skills or to insist on perfection. Independent task completion, self regulation, listening skills and following group instructions are skills targeted to prepare students for less restrictive environments. Students are expected to independently listen to directions, retrieve work materials, bring them to their desks, complete their work and return them when done. Recognizing their accomplishments and sharing them with others when finished is encouraged.
Lunch/Recess: facilitated peer
Lunch time is the perfect opportunity to build circles of interaction between staff and peers. Language and socialization are both targeted during this highly motivating time. Students are encouraged to ask their friends to share or trade food(staff is made aware of children with any food allergies). Commenting and joking are facilitated during this time.
During this time, mats are laid out for the students to lie down as relaxing music is played in the background. Students are encouraged to focus on breathing and participate in using visual imagery(closing eyes and picturing a scenario the teacher describes in a calm, soothing voice). A child's form of yoga often follows to help students release built up tension or anxiety, which allows everyone to start the day fresh and renewed.
Thinking Goes to School/Motor Planning
Activities are done daily based on the book Thinking Goes to School by Hans G. Furth and Harry Wachs. This book is Piaget's theory in practice and teaches thinking through experience. The activities target improving general movement thinking, discriminative movement thinking, visual thinking, auditory thinking, hand thinking, graphic thinking, social thinking, and problem solving.
Group Floor time/ Social skills group: (social theme, peer
turn-taking, shared timing, emotions, Theory of Mind, abstract
thinking, problem solving)
This group involves all of the children for sensory-based activities at the beginning. About half way through, some children go to individual Floor Time as the other children who are ready participate in abstract thinking activities.
Peer awareness and interaction, abstract thinking (building bridges-sequencing-predicting), problem solving, emotions, theory-of-mind, specific social and language skills, attention and independence are all targeted during this circle time.
Specific social and language skills are systematically targeted throughout the year. These skills follow a hierarchy based on our curriculum and the individual needs of the children. Each skill is extensively covered using books, videos, role play, puppet and doll shows and experience-based activities. After being targeted through a structured lesson, children are encouraged to generalize the skills outside of circle. Facilitation of these skills followed by verbal reinforcement assist this process.
Emotions are targeted throughout the year. Because we believe all learning is emotionally based, this area of instruction is priority. Instruction includes extensive instruction on specific emotions. Teaching the students to recognize and respond to emotions in self and others though experience-based learning promotes independent generalization of skills. Enabling the students to acquire a good understanding of their own emotions, and encouraging awareness of peer's emotions, leads to recognizing the motivation behind others' actions(theory-of-mind). The concepts of cause and effect and problem solving are targeted emphasizing their relationship to emotions. Emotion lessons include discussion, books, videos, puppet shows, experience-based activities built off natural or semi-structures events, role play and games. The emotion lesson is always a favorite of the children.
Theory of Mind
"Theory of mind" is the ability to understand another person's point of view. The understanding of what someone else might be thinking is an ability that typically develops around the age of five. However, some children do not develop this on their own and must be taught. Our program targets these skills through role play, puppet shows, worksheets, videos and books. It has been our experience that with practice, most children make significant progress. Acquiring this ability results in better overall socialization, behavior and language. "Theory of mind" is an essential component to obtaining a better understanding of the world around us. The levels taught are based on Teaching Children with Autism to Mind Read-Howil, Baron-Cohen & Hadwin. John Wiley & Sons and are as follows:
1. situation-based emotions (e.g., the girl is scared because she thinks the dog is going to bite her)
2. desire-based emotions (e.g., the girl will be happy when her mom gives her a present)
3. belief-based emotions (e.g., the girl is sad because he thought it was her turn)
4. simple visual perspective taking (i.e., identifies what another person can or cannot see)
5. complex visual perspective taking (i.e., identifies what another person sees and how they see it)
6. understanding that "seeing leads to knowing" (i.e., people only know things they have experienced
[directly or indirectly])
7. predict actions based on another person's knowledge (i.e., making action predictions on the basis of where another person believes an object to be)
8. recognize false beliefs
Abstract thinking/Sequencing/Problem solving
This section is a large focus of our entire program and also reflects the Greenspan/Wieder philosophy. Our main goal is to help the students become independent thinkers. If they are able to think on their feet, they can do anything. Often children engage in inappropriate behaviors, lack social and language skills, or may seem self absorbed due to a poor understanding of the world around them. These deficits are targeted through critical thinking activities.
The ability to think abstractly, sequence and problem solve are crucial to being an independent thinker and understanding the world. Activities used to target these skills include sequencing events using visuals and toys, understanding cause and effect through thought provoking activities, problem solving and story analysis through role play, social stories and games. All activities reflect themes familiar to the students.
Abstract thinking, sequencing and problem solving are targeted throughout the day incidentally. Recognition of these skills and skill specific reinforcement is given regularly.