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Communication doesn’t explain all challenging behavior in students with autism. What if behavior related to anxiety or sensory input gets reinforced inside the body? Those students who function in the average to above-average range still face hurdles, and one of them is an increased rate of anxiety and depression. In this episode, I discuss how you…
 
Instructing small kids to “use their words” to replace problematic behavior with communication skills might be enough. But for your students who’ve built up habits around their challenging behavior, it’s not so easy. It takes some thought and planning to make it work. In this episode, I talk about functional communication training and how this proc…
 
It always amazes me when I talk to people about positive behavioral support and find out what they think about it. I’ve been mystified by some of the definitions I’ve heard out there. Today, I really want to get into the nitty gritty of positive behavioral interventions and support (PBIS). So in this episode, I talk about what PBIS is, where it cam…
 
You’ve more than likely heard the old story about what it means when a boy pulls a girl’s pigtails, right? I bet many of you were skeptical when someone first told you that that behavior was a form of communication and made it sound like an okay thing. And while it isn’t okay, there is a very strong connection between communication and behavior. Si…
 
All month long I’ve been talking about the controversial topic of applied behavior analysis on this podcast. In today’s episode, I wrap up the series about ABA by discussing what teaching programs are and why they’re important. You’ll also learn how to really boost your instruction and your student’s learning across the classroom. 2:16​ - What teac…
 
Are you sabotaging instruction in your classroom without realizing it? Luckily, you can easily catch and fix it as long as you know there might be an issue. In this episode, I slightly shift gears away from talking about ABA to discuss ways you could be sabotaging your own instruction. You’ll hear about seven saboteurs and how to find out if you’re…
 
What is naturalistic instruction? In today’s episode, I talk about what it is and how implementing it in a classroom setting can be a little tricky. I also give you a few strategies, along with other tips, to help make it easier for you to use this type of instruction and still make an impact for your students. 2:06​ - Reiterating an important poin…
 
Applied behavior analysis has been a sticky issue in the autism community. A number of people advocate very strongly against it. Being a board-certified behavior analyst myself, I’m not against it. But I still recognize that it has its problems. In this episode, however, I want to focus on what applied behavior analysis really is and talk about som…
 
Today marks the completion of my podcast episode series on independent work systems! Over the last few weeks, I’ve talked about why we use these systems in the classroom as well as critical elements and frequently made mistakes in implementing them. In this episode, I wrap it up by discussing some of the most common questions I get about these inde…
 
When implemented correctly, independent work systems are amazing! It drives me crazy when people reduce them to busy work, because every single element within an independent work system exists for a reason. In this episode, I talk about the most common mistakes I see with these systems in classrooms and how you can avoid them so that your students …
 
Every special education classroom should have some kind of independent work system. Even students in general ed, with or without autism, need one too. Some people don’t believe that, but I’ve successfully used systems for students without autism (and there are research studies out there that back me up). In this episode, I talk about why independen…
 
If you follow me on social media, you can probably tell that I love independent work systems! Social media has made sharing tasks among each other much easier compared to the days before the arrival of Pinterest and Instagram. But it also means you have access to tons of misinformation, and there’s a lot of it out there when it comes to independent…
 
Do you remember when you asked a teacher at some point, “But when am I ever going to use this?” You understood that you had to learn things merely to get to the next stage of learning. But you probably had a teacher who made something like geometry finally make sense by showing how it could help you figure out the amount of paint you needed for a r…
 
I’ve mentioned my sister (who’s on the autism spectrum) in a previous episode. Looking back, she’s one of the reasons why I’ve been so focused on life skills instruction in my work. She moved through the general education system, and even got an accounting associate’s degree, without extra help. However, she struggled to generalize her knowledge to…
 
I want to see color when I walk into a room. I don’t want to live in a world that’s robbed of color. Yet, walking into a transition classroom devoid of it inspired an idea. So in today’s episode, I want to talk about life skills classroom materials and what to look for when you buy them, make them, or find them. 0:54 - The depressing classroom set-…
 
Today, I’m shifting from morning meeting to life skills in the special education classroom. Even if you think you know what the term “life skills” means, it doesn’t mean the same thing for everyone, including every parent and school system. Making that assumption can sometimes get you in trouble. But there are also some myths about life skills that…
 
Surprise! You thought I was done with the morning meeting series on the podcast. I thought I was done too and said so in the last episode. But I’d forgotten that I hadn’t covered how to get morning meeting right for older students yet. So today, I want to talk about age-respectful activities and walk you through what a morning meeting can look like…
 
For a lot of special educators, data is the giant elephant in the room. It gets treated like that kind of a four-letter word when it’s not. Now I’m a huge data geek, so much so that I wrote a book about it. But I know data only helps you if it’s real, reliable, and teachable. So in this episode, I talk about how you can use data in a real classroom…
 
In the last couple of episodes, I’ve talked about why morning meeting or circle time is important and the skills you can teach in whole group instruction. There are strategies you can really capitalize on during morning meeting/circle time while others might come as a surprise to you as a possibility in a group. So in this episode, I discuss those …
 
Circle time or morning meeting? While what we call it depends on the age of the students, the need to effectively teach skills during this time is still the same. So in this episode, I discuss the importance of targeting both curriculum skills and individual goals for various age groups, as well as the kind of skills to teach. 2:26 - Why circle tim…
 
Confession time. Early on in my career, I hated morning meeting. I thought it was a complete waste of time and dreaded when anybody asked me to run it because I didn’t feel confident in my ability to do it well or make it fun. Moving to South Florida changed that. I got to work with educators there who modeled circle and class meetings done right a…
 
Rolling staff shortages. Revolving substitute teachers. Understaffed classrooms. These are the problems I hear about from many of you on social media and through the academy. I recorded today’s episode last year in the midst of the pandemic. But as we’ve gone through 2021, the importance of special educators advocating for their needs has become ev…
 
Teachers often ask me about how to handle challenging behavior from their students. It’s one the biggest hurdles in their classroom and a main cause of burnout. I’ve spent a good chunk of my career assessing, addressing, and researching challenging behavior in students. So in this episode, I discuss the research and principles underlying my approac…
 
People on the outside may think our classrooms have gone back to pre-pandemic normal. But we know that’s not true. Last year may have presented different problems for teachers, but some of those problems still exist. I recorded today’s show last December, hoping that we wouldn’t have to face the same issues a year later. Yet, many of you are still …
 
The things I hear about visual schedules and autism always amaze me. I might hear some myths once or twice while others stick around for years. Some teachers don’t think they need to use them for their autistic students, but even some who do can have implicit biases that cause their visual schedules to not be as effective as they should. So in this…
 
Many times, a student’s reaction to not getting what they want is a temper tantrum or a meltdown. So you try to avoid that outcome by giving them what they want. But oftentimes, I’ll hear someone say that they can’t reinforce students by giving them what they ask for even if they’re asking nicely. So what if you’re in a situation where you can’t do…
 
With Thanksgiving fast approaching, so many teachers are still not settled into any type of normalcy. You’re teaching in what I like to call a triage classroom: a bare-bones or revolving door staff. In this episode, I want to discuss how to survive and thrive in the holiday season. I go over some basics that might have fallen by the wayside but nee…
 
What do you do when you can't honor a student’s attention-seeking replacement behavior? And how do you avoid a resurgence of the negative behaviors or the sabotaging of your behavior support plan in a new environment? In this episode, I talk about Stephan and reveal six techniques to think about when replacements for attention-seeking behaviors are…
 
What do you do when you can’t honor the function of the replacement behavior you’ve chosen? What if you run into a situation where it’s just impossible? In this episode, I focus on escape-related behavior with a quick story about a boy named Mica and reveal five things to try if trouble arises due to task demands you’ve given your student. Welcome …
 
You’ve seen some suggestions for addressing behavioral problems that don’t work when put in a real life context. I know I’ve been in a lot of situations where the theoretical, data-supported response just doesn’t have an effect in my classroom. The context of what inspires challenging behavior is just as important as the science behind the behavior…
 
It’s that time of year when challenging student behavior starts cropping up and behavior plans get put to the test. When coming up with replacement behaviors, you can’t just rush your way through it and hope for the best, though. You need to carefully consider certain characteristics in the ones you choose. These three traits will make the differen…
 
I’m guessing you don’t like to be hit or spit at by your students, right? Due to the time of year and the kind of year (or year and a half) we’ve had so far, we’re in the midst of some challenging classroom behavior. So today, I want to talk about ways we can actually help students avoid committing these problem behaviors in the first place. These …
 
Now that the new school year is underway, you’re probably dealing with some challenging behaviors. Students are readjusting to being back in the classroom. Some are even dealing with interruptions from quarantines which can increase challenging behaviors to a level you haven’t seen before. So in today’s episode, I want to focus on the three biggest…
 
Some problems can arise that indicate an issue with your zoning plan. Luckily, like classroom schedules, zoning plans are one of the easiest things to troubleshoot. In this episode, I won’t speak about obvious issues. Instead, I talk about three subtle problems you and your staff might face that you can address by simply fixing your zoning plan. 1:…
 
Are you running into problems with your students that a tweak or two of your classroom schedule can solve? While the schedule is the hardest thing to create in the classroom setup process, it’s also possibly the easiest to fix because it’s pretty clear what the issue is when it occurs. So listen in as I cover five specific problems you could run in…
 
Last week, I started talking about behaviors you can address in your classroom with visual support tweaks. I continue that this week with even more common behavioral issues that can be eliminated with visual cues. I know that at this point in the year, you really don’t have time at all. So I also provide a free download to help you implement some o…
 
You see visual cues everywhere you look--restroom signs with gender indications, traffic lights and stop signs at intersections and on corners, etc. They’re pretty easy to implement and even though they don’t automatically solve problems, they work more often than not. So they should work in the classroom too, right? In today’s episode, I discuss s…
 
Last week I discussed a couple of behavior problems you might face with your students in the classroom and how to solve them. Not a chance that those were the only ones, right? Ha! So I’m back this week to talk about even more behavioral issues that indicate a need to fix your classroom’s physical design. Once again, I quickly reveal the problem th…
 
We’re almost at the end of our journey on classroom setup! We’re in the troubleshooting phase right now, but starting today I’ll be delivering snack-sized episodes that discuss making decisions about what isn’t working and discovering how to know what to change. In this episode, I talk about a couple of warning signs that show a need to fix your ph…
 
For the last few episodes, I've discussed setting up all the elements of the basic CORE you need to run your classroom. Next comes the most critical piece as you start working with your students: troubleshooting. As the school year starts, all of your systems will need some tweaking. So I’m kicking off a series of episodes to walk you through the p…
 
You’ve collected some classroom data, so now what? Leaving it sitting in a binder doesn’t help anybody; therefore, it’s critical that you set up systems for regular analysis. We take this data for legal reasons, to show progress, but most importantly, to troubleshoot any learning issues confronting our students. So in this episode, I discuss how to…
 
When it comes to a data collection, there’s no one-size-fits-all, and it involves way more than just finding the right data sheet. You have to ensure you build a system with the right data, not more data. So today is all about focusing on data systems. In this episode, I walk you through how to get started and what you need to consider when creatin…
 
You know what gets a bad rap with special ed teachers? Lesson planning! Whenever I ask around, I always discover there’s a mixture of opinions, and some teachers incorporate lesson plans while others don’t. In the last episode, when I discussed some common routines for setting up classroom systems, I touched on lesson planning for a bit. You might …
 
Do you pressure yourself to do everything alone? Then listen up! Running a special education classroom isn’t something you can do by yourself, and having a system of routines just makes things easier. So in this episode, I want to talk about organizing strategies and routines to assist you in the daily running of your classroom. You’ll start the ne…
 
Graphics are good! Despite those who say otherwise, you can never have too many visuals. When you start putting a classroom together, it can feel a little overwhelming. How do you make decisions about where to start prepping without stressing yourself out? In this episode, I talk all about visuals and specifically focus on prioritizing the ones you…
 
We’re building the center of the classroom to support instruction so that the day-to-day running of the classroom works on its own. But in order to do that, we need systems. Systems get set up so that the people in the classroom know what needs to be done and can do it on their own without the teacher’s attention being pulled away to direct somethi…
 
Last week, I talked about creating a schedule for implementing the IEP in your classroom. With your schedule in hand, now you’re ready to start putting together the actual physical design of your classroom. In other words, it’s now time to move the furniture. So in this episode, I’m all about the goals of what we need to consider in moving that fur…
 
Today, I’m focusing on setting up the classroom schedule for the IEP. To me, the schedule is the most important and pivotal element of classroom design. It drives the other pieces of the classroom, tells me what the physical space will look like, and it’s based on the teaching implementation plan. Once the TIP is completed, it’s easier to see what …
 
So far, I’ve spent the last few episodes talking about creating a collaborative IEP. So now that that’s done, you have to then actually implement the IEP. Start thinking about how to organize your learning environment and incorporate the IEPs for all of your students to meet their individual needs. It takes a well-structured, well-organized classro…
 
I’m excited to share with you an episode from a Special Educator Academy podcast I’ve pulled specifically for this IEP series. One of the things I think is extremely important but sometimes difficult to do is advocating for your students as an educator. Many times we’re their voice and know them in the classroom environment at a level that neither …
 
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