Archive for May, 2009

Hello? Is This Thing On?

I’m not normally in the habit of recycling previous posts (especially those barely a month old), but I really need some feedback on this from teachers, CST specialists, parents, administrators, students, consultants – really, any stakeholder in the world of special education.  Here’s what I wrote last month:

So every member of my new Child Study Team has some ‘pet project’ that they contribute to the department, and along those lines, I’ve been approached to put together a website for the department (not sure if it’s just for CST or Special Services in general; will get more details in the summer).


Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments here – parents, what info can we make readily available to you?  Special ed teachers/service providers, what “frequently asked questions” or topics would you put on a site for the community?

Although this project is still in the very early stages, I have some thoughts as to what I think needs to go on this site at minimum:

  • “plain English” description of the NJ special ed determination process
  • downloadable PDFs of NJAC 6:14 (special education code), PRISE (Parental Rights in Special Education), and similar documents
  • little blurbs about each of the CST members (4 psychologists, 2 LDTCs, 1 social worker) and our supervisor, along with contact information (phone, email, fax)
  • information on transition services and options
  • links to useful external sources

I’m not quite at the point of creating a Twitter account for our Child Study Team, but I would like to do something a little more personalized than a static website, like maybe have a monthly blog post from a different CST member (a la a newsletter).  I did create a wiki for the Special Services dept. at my last school as part of my grad school internship project, so I do have a basic blueprint, but given the additional year and a half or so of technical experience I’ve gained since putting that up (plus the fact that I’ll be using locally hosted WordPress as my canvas), I think I can kick this site up a notch.

So what do YOU think needs to feature on this website?  Sky’s the limit, at least as we kick ideas around in this space.

Social Story: Fire Alarms In School

One of the students on my caseload is autistic, and his teacher tells me he has recently developed a fascination with the fire alarms in our school, particularly with the idea of pulling them.  A fellow psychologist suggested I develop a social story for this young man that explains appropriate fire alarm protocol (for lack of a better description).

Social stories (for those of us too lazy to click a link!) are short illustrated stories designed to teach social skills to students with autism (and similar developmental disabilities).  In a social story, the student will see specific behaviors depicted in concrete terms and learn why they are or are not appropriate (e.g., “hitting other people can hurt them”; “we raise our hand when we need to ask a question”).  I was generally familiar with the concept of social stories, but creating my own gave me a new appreciation for the tool, as well as raised more questions than I was able to answer.

At the suggestion of our CST secretary, I decided to illustrate this social story with pictures taken on our campus.  I don’t know if this holds any water, but I’m hopeful that seeing familiar, local images in the social story will make the message a little more tangible to this young man than clip art or random pictures off the Internet.  The story itself is 8 pages long (including cover) and contains 9 images, of which 3 were obtained from the Internet (1 public domain, 2 licensed under Creative Commons).  The remaining 6 I snapped myself over the course of yesterday and today.

In the spirit of Dan’s repeated calls for critique amongst bloggers, I submit to you my first attempt at a social story.  Because I’m a big sensitive crybaby interested in sharing my thought process with you, here are some issues that are yet unresolved in my mind:

  • I had a hard time nailing the language.  Some pages I think are too easy; others, too complex.  I guess appropriateness varies by student, but what little text you see is the result of a number of re-writes, and I’m still not sure I’m entirely happy with the final version.
  • Don’t know if the pictures are concrete enough.  Are they too symbolic, especially the last one?
  • I wanted to keep the tone positive, but also make sure the student understood the consequences of pulling false alarms.  Like the point above, it’s a fine line to walk between not sugarcoating the issue and not making it too scary.
  • The administrative offices picture.  I don’t want the student to think that principal = trouble, but…
  • I don’t know if the last page is so contradictory as to be confusing to the target audience.
  • I didn’t feel the need to include a page of photo credits in the version I’m giving to the student, nor did I black out the face of the administrator who graciously agreed to pose for me.  This is the “public” version of the document, so I can attribute my photos properly and not put someone’s face on the Internet who never agreed to it.

OK, without further avoidance ado, I present:

Fire Alarms in School – Apace of Change