New Spec Ed AQ- Teaching Students with Intellectual Needs (DD)

I just signed up for a brand new AQ that ETFO AQ is offering this spring. It is called Teaching Students with Intellectual Needs (Developmental Disabilities). This AQ was created to support teacher’s professional growth in meeting the needs of their students with Developmental Disabilities.

As a teacher of students with Developmental Disabilities (DD), I have often been approached by colleagues throughout the province asking for help and suggestions on how to meet the needs of their students in inclusive settings. The questions have been plentiful and frequent which tells me that there is a great need for an AQ like this one. Students with DDs are amazing, vibrant, and fantastic members of our classrooms. They bring a unique perspective on the world. They also need a very specialized and individualized program in order to be successful at school. This AQ will give teachers some foundational information to begin to understand the unique needs of students with these exceptionalities.

In preparing for this blog, I was fortunate enough to speak with one of the writers of this new ETFO AQ, Lindsay Freedman. She has been a teacher of students with Special Needs in a variety of settings for many years in the Peel District School Board and is currently a Lead Instructor for ETFO AQ.

Lindsay shared with me that it is important for teachers to take a course that focuses on students with Intellectual Needs for a couple of reasons:
a) Throughout your career, you are going to have a student in your class with an Intellectual Disability. It is not a matter of if; it is a matter of when. This AQ will allow you to be proactive, prepare to meet the needs of these students and learn about the policies and history that will impact your programming decisions.
b) This AQ is important as it will help teachers with inclusion practices. Most school boards in Ontario have a full inclusion policy for students with special needs. This AQ will begin to give teachers the tools to be able to effectively support these students in the classroom and provide an environment that will benefit all learners.
c) If you are an educator that holds Special Education qualifications, this AQ will further expand your knowledge specifically with the many exceptionalities that fall under the Developmental Disability classification. As Lindsay shared, many educators are choosing to specialize more deeply in a specific area such as Behavioural Needs or Communication Needs (LD or ASD). By offering this course, ETFO AQ has really answered educators’ need to go beyond general Special Education courses by continuing to expand the choices available.
d) This course will support you in writing IEPs and transition plans and many of the other mandatory requirements for educators in Ontario. If you have never written either of these documents before, this course will go through step by step how to effectively prepare documentation with a focus on equity and well-being. Personally, I have written IEPs for years and I am really looking forward to seeing if there are any parts that I can refine and improve on.

Knowing that a part of the course focuses on history, I also asked Lindsay, why it is important for teachers to know the history of people with Intellectual Disabilities in Canada?
Lindsay shared with me that to really understand where we are in education, teachers need to realize that there was a shift from institutionalization to inclusion that happened with Bill 82 in 1980. Knowing how people were treated, the absence of services and lack of choice that parents had before this change, provides clarity and empathy. Understanding the history really brings focus to why we have inclusion in Ontario schools. It also highlights how important program and placement choice are for families. During this AQ educators will learn about some of the challenges, awful names and horrible conditions that people with Intellectual Disabilities had to endure and why it’s important for parents to have the right to make choices about their child’s education.

The history of people with Developmental Disabilities is closely connected to many of the policies that were implemented throughout the last 40 years. Educators must understand many of these policies so that they are able to support students correctly. The policies impacting students with Developmental Disabilities will be studied in this new AQ.

Finally, I asked Lindsay, should a new teacher take this course?
She stated that the course will benefit all educators, regardless of teaching experience. It is presented in a very sequenced and practical format so that you are continuously building your skills. For example, when writing an IEP, educators will have access to examples and will be supported to write each section until they have completed an IEP. By the end of the course, teachers should feel confident in the skills they have developed. Lindsay shared that all ETFO AQs are written by teachers for teachers and are easily accessible for teachers at any of their stage of their career.

ETFO AQ is one of the two course providers for this AQ. This AQ is being offered during ETFO AQ’s spring sessions. Registration for the Spring session closes March 30th at 5pm and the course will run from April 6th to June 18th.
You can register here:

Transition Planning

After three years together, many of my fantastic students are transitioning to high school this year. When I think about them moving on, I am incredibly emotional as they have grown so much over the past three years and I am really going to miss them! But before I can sit down and have a good cry about their departure, I must complete something called a transition plan for all my students.

With the introduction of PPM 156 in 2014, a transition plan is now required for all students who have an IEP, whether or not they have been identified. Transition plans are often embedded within the IEP and are reviewed as part of the IEP review process. Transition plans can be made for in class, grade to grade or school to school transitions. In some circumstances, the board may decide to create a transition plan for a student without an IEP but who is receiving Special Education supports. In addition, PPM 140 outlines the mandatory use of ABA methods to support students with Autism Spectrum Disorder in all aspects of school including transitions.

PPM 156 outlines what must be included in Transition Plans. They must include: goals, support needs, the actions required to achieve the goals, roles and responsibilities, and timelines. The aim is to have students develop independence skills so that they can be successful in moving through their school career in Ontario. Below are some examples of transition goals I have used for students in the past.


Goal: Student will independently transition between activities within the school day.

The actions required to achieve the goals: Student will use anxiety reducing choice board when feeling overwhelmed during transitions.

Roles and Responsibilities: Teacher and Educational Assistants will develop choice board in consultation with the student. Teacher and Educational Assistants will support student in identifying times in the day when the choice board will be beneficial.

Timelines: Choice board created in September. Used as needed throughout the school year.

Goal: Student will transition to a new school

The action required to achieve the goal: Student will receive a social story about their new school.

Roles and Responsibilities: Teacher and Educational Assistants will review the social story in class with the student. Parents will review the social story over the summer prior to the transition to a new school.

Timelines: Prior to the transition.

According to PPM 156, transition meetings are not a mandatory part of the process of transitioning between schools. However, if you are able to arrange to meet with teachers who have taught your students at another school or who will be teaching them in the future, it is very beneficial. In the past two years, I have presented my students to high schools and I have attended many presentations for my incoming students. These presentations are very beneficial because they allow time for questions and discussion about how to best support the student’s needs.  If you have never presented a student at a transition meeting before, here is some information that I highlight:

  • Background information: name, date of birth, IPRC identification, language(s) spoken at home
  • Supports: Information about any support being provided in or out of school such as Speech and Language Support, Occupational Therapy, Behaviour Therapy etc..
  • Student’s Strengths and Needs
  • Medical Information: medication that the student takes, allergies, special equipment that they use.
  • Communication: verbal, assistive device, augmentative communication etc.. Also, what kind of supports they have to support their understanding in the classroom such as visual schedules, social stories, choice boards, independent work system bins.
  • Interests, Motivators, Reinforcements, Dislikes
  • Literacy and Numeracy Skills: letter, word and number recognition, ability to write and recognize personal information such as phone number and address.
  • Assistive Technology: Boardmaker, Clicker 5 or 6, iPad, touch screen, wireless mouse, SMARTBoard.
  • Mobility: outline support needed for student to move around the classroom and school such as adult assistance or a walker.
  • Behaviour: Outline any physical aggression or challenges with self-regulation.
  • Personal Care: level of independence with eating, dressing and toileting.
  • Transportation: requirement of a travel assistant or harness to successfully ride a bus to school.

Additional Resources:

Niagara Catholic District School Board created a great resource to support with transition planning. There are many great examples of transition plans in this resource and is a great tool to use if you have never written a transition plan before.

A group of school boards collaborated on a one page support guide for educators about writing transition plans.

The Ministry of Education has created a resource that is an overview of Special Education in Ontario.

My students are tired!

My students who are engaged in online learning are tired. This past week has been the most difficult for them since the pandemic began. They had difficulty focusing, answering questions, and staying positive. It has been a lot for them. All my students have an Intellectual Disability and communication takes a lot of effort for them. They have difficulty understanding me with my mask on and have a hard time understanding each other. Up until this week, they have done a great job of meeting every day with a positive smile and enthusiasm for learning but they are running out of steam.

To be honest, I am running out of steam too. It is difficult to teach in a hybrid model where you are constantly going back and forth between being online and in person through out the day.

With the announcement of the delay in March break and the realization that we have 6 weeks together before a break, I decided to try and add some excitement to our online sessions together. I asked my students on Friday to choose the themes for our morning sessions for the next six weeks. They had some great ideas and I hope that this will help us stay engaged through these very challenging times. Below is an example of one of the upcoming morning meeting presentations and how it supports my student’s IEP goals.

The theme for next week:

We start off every meeting with a welcome song.

Many of my student’s have communication goals that connect to speaking to others. The next part of our gathering everyone will be picking someone to say good morning to and sending them a shooting star with their hands.

Many of my students continue to work on developing their literacy skills. Each day throughout the week, we will listen to a different story and have a discussion about it. The first story is really exciting as it is told by an astronaut from the International Space Station.

The IEP goals of many of my students are connected to building skills counting and recognizing numbers. The planet choice board has links to Boom cards that practice those skills. Students will take turns deciding what planet we will be going to visit for our math each day!

Next in our online learning session we focus on movement.

Finally, we practice our reading skills.

Then we end just like we began, with a song.


What are you doing to keep your students motivated through these next six weeks?

Physical Health in students with Developmental Disabilities

If you have a student in your class this year with a Developmental Disability, I’d like to share some statistics today to help you make some decisions about their programming. Students with a DD have a different set of needs than the rest of the students that goes beyond academic programming.

Here are a few statistics taken from the Journal of Intellectual Disability Research:

Adolescents with autism and Down syndrome are two to three times more likely to be obese than adolescents in the general population.

Secondary health condition are higher in obese adolescents with IDD including high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, depression, fatigue and low self esteem.

Obesity presents a higher incidence of health problems including decreased social and physical functioning, reduced quality of life, difficulty forming peer relationships and increased likelihood of depression.

Clearly some of our students with Developmental Disabilities are more vulnerable to becoming overweight or obese. Much of the time they have so many things working against them like a disability that has obesity as a symptom, greater medication uses or altered eating habits related to their disability. However, that does not mean that as educators we cannot support students and families to manage their fitness levels.

As educators, we can:

  • Have an excellent relationship with the family of the student. You will NEED their help to ensure the wellness of their child.
  • Ensure that parents know how to access community programs that offer activities that include physical fitness. In addition, help connect parents with community supports that offer funding for these programs. (During Covid, many of these programs are not running as the requirements for physical distancing can’t be maintained with makes the next two points really important)
  • Talk about and model physical activity often. When we meet online, we speak almost every day about activities that we are doing at home.
  • Most importantly, include physical activity into the daily routine of your class. The government of Canada recommends 60 minutes of physical activity every day. During a pandemic, that is tough but encourage your student(s) with a Developmental Disability to move during class. You need to get their heartrate up and a good sweat going on!
  • When you go back to school, prioritize physical fitness for these students. Walking, running, biking, stairs, games, dancing. Put it ahead of many other programming goals to help get these students get back to daily activity.

Anecdotally, when some of my students returned to school in September their physical fitness had dropped significantly. As mentioned above, organized sports for these students did NOT open back up during the summer and my athletic group of students who used to run circles around me struggled to move for 5 minutes at a time. From September to December, I added a segmet of the daily routine that focused only on physical fitness and by December they were back to being very active for an hour at a time.

For many of us beginning any kind of physical program can be tough and motivation can be VERY low. Make sure you have a solid reward program based on anything the student likes (that hopefully is not food). For some of my students it was stickers, for others it was hot wheel cars and my other student was obsessed with Baby Shark colouring pages. Find whatever works and reward them for movement. Start with a couple of minutes at a time and keep increasing from there.  As our students begin to return to learning at school, this is going to need to be a priority for these students to protect their long-term physical health as well as their mental health.

As Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod used to say “KEEP FIT AND HAVE FUN!”

Weekly Plan for Online Learning: Special Education Classroom

Here is the plan for our first week of online instruction in January.

Have a wonderful first week back everyone!!

9:30-10:00 Small group instruction using a combination of Google Jamboards and Boom cards. Below are some pictures of the activities that we will be using.

10:00-10:30 Exercise Time!! All students will join in and do an exercise program to get moving and get our heart rates up!!

Here is my New Year’s Playlist for our excercise time this week:


Warm up/Stretches

  1. 20 seconds Running on the spot
  2. 20 Jumping Jacks
  3. 20 Leg lifts
  4. 20 Body Twists
  5. 20 push ups on the table or wall

Dance Break

Do at least 1 more set of movement exercises. 2 if time permits

Cool down/Stretches

Remind parents that their child needs a place to move, some running shoes and comfortable clothes. It is going to be a 2021 party!!

10:30-11:00 Morning Meeting- All students gather. We practice communication, math, reading and life skills through a series of slides and songs.

11:00-11:30 Small group instruction: focus on communication, functional mathematics and functional language.

Similar to the first period in the morning we will be using a combination of Boom cards and Google Jamboards. Jamboards are ideal if your students are able to click on a link in the chat box and move to a new page. If your students are unable to do that, Boom cards are a much better option.

11:30-12:30 Lunch

12:30-1:00 Small group instruction:focus on communication, functional mathematics and functional language.

1:00-1:30 Afternoon Meeting- All students gather. We practice communication, math, reading and life skills.

1:30– Art/Creation/Friday Favourites-

Art: We do a simple drawing that works on student’s listening skills and fine motor skills. I have found that having the students use either markers, pencil crayons or crayons works best as everyone has different materials in their home. I use pastels when showing the students as it shows up better on camera.

Creation: With everyone at home, it is time to get out the lego and other materials that work on fine motor skills.

Friday Favourties: What is your favourite sport?- Every Friday we take a poll about some of our favourite things. We graph the results and work on our communication and numeracy skills. Here are a few pictures of previous Friday Favourites.



Fun times in a Special Education classroom

I currently work in a class for Developmentally Delayed students in a hybrid model. This means that I am teaching both students online and at home at the same time. Last week, my one student had a very difficult day. She cried for much of the morning and just generally was in a bit of a funk. After a very tough morning, I asked her to come outside with me to chat. After a few minutes, she turned and told me what was going on.

She said, “I hate home right now. I am not allowed to have any friends over. I am not allowed to see Kelly or Puneet. I am not allowed to see our family. I want to see Greg and Nancy. I can not see them right now. I am bored at home. I want to see my friends.”

This student captured how most of us are feeling right now.  I wish that I could have all her friends in our class come back to hang out but since that is not an option, making school fun is the best I can do.

Here is how we are beating the blues by making school fun right now!

Drawing pictures and writing letters for our friends that are learning at home. For one week, all the staff and students wrote letters and coloured pictures to send to our friends so that they know we are thinking of them. It was an exciting activity and we can’t wait to hear back from everyone.


We have hyped up our daily TV show at my school. We watch our school TV show every morning and enjoy the teacher who is the anchor of the show. He does an amazing job interviewing students and staff and it is just what we need during these difficult times. My students love him! We use his catch phrases often in our class. We asked for an autographed picture of him to hang in our class and we are interviewing him next week online. We are so pumped.

We decorated the classroom A LOT. This year we are not having a gathering at my home for the holidays so we took all of my home decorations and put them everywhere in the room. On the decoration day, I did have to laugh that my student who is obsessed with Halloween showed up in her pumpkin shirt to decorate for Christmas.

We are taking any chance to celebrate. Lucky for us, we have a few birthdays in our class at this time of year. We went big with the birthdays this year with lots of decorating and a big covid friendly celebration.

We have been reading some epic books and I have been taking book requests. My one student has read a lot of the Little Golden books. She is quite the expert on Lightning McQueen and Mater.

We have also started “Favourite Fridays” for both our online and in school students together. Every Friday we become Siskel and Ebert or Rolling Stone Magazine and give thumbs up or thumbs down to things that we like or don’t like. Last week was all about our holiday songs.

We also have added some exciting lights to our relaxation time!

In these times, keeping the excitement and energy is tough but as teachers that is about all we can do to ease our students woes.

Teaching Students with Down Syndrome to Read

I have tried to teach my one student with Down Syndrome to read words for the past two years with some success. However, it wasn’t until this year when I read about a different approach that things really started to click. Since we introduced this method into our instruction, she has been able to read a group of words consistently, comfortably and with confidence. It is the first time that she really gets excited about reading words.

In a quest to try something new with this student in October, I picked up a book I had bought a couple of years ago called “Teaching Reading to Children with Down Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Teachers” by Patricia Logan Oelwein. The book was written in 1995, which seems quite a long time ago, however from our experience this fall, it was the one methodology that really worked for my student. Also, the general thesis of the book that any child with Down Syndrome can read if the programming is appropriate is a principle that I also strongly believe.

The book is divided into 3 sections. The three sections are: background information about the learner with Down Syndrome, the How-To section and reading units to use with your students.

Background Information

This section is highly important to read before you begin instructing your student. Even though the book was written quite a while ago much of the information remains accurate and up to date. I cross referenced much of the information in this section with the educator guide posted on the Canadian Down Syndrome Website and find the information to be consistent.

As mentioned above, the primary thesis for this book is that all children with Down Syndrome can be taught to read if programming is done correctly. Ms. Oelwein also does a very effective job of describing hurdles that you may face and things to watch out for if your student is not being successful with the methodology described in this book.

Some of the areas that she highlights are:

  1. Medical concerns: People with Down Syndrome have a higher rate of vision problems, hearing problems and chronic illnesses. Ensure that you read your student’s OSR and speak with parents about any concerns in this area. Any unaddressed medical concerns will greatly impact the ability of the student to be successful in learning to read. (Interestingly, according to the Canadian Down Syndrome Society, people with Down Syndrome are less likely to get asthma, many types of cancer and dental cavities.)
  2. Continuous Intervention: Many times, in special education we hear about early intervention and the importance of it. Ms. Oelwein takes it one step further. She speaks about the importance of early intervention and continuous intervention. She stresses the importance of maintaining high expectations for the students and providing them with high quality education throughout their academic career. I feel this is especially important as the student enters grade 6, 7 and 8 in Ontario in an inclusive setting. It is important that the student has modified tasks that are both aware of the social dynamic of this age as well as tasks that are academically appropriately for the child. Ongoing intervention is paramount to the student’s success in reading.
  3. Avoidance Behaviours: My students are very smart. Just like many students, they know how to avoid certain tasks if I have given them things that are too easy, too hard, or not interesting to them. Effective programming is the key to success and using consistent best practices in assessment will help you to develop tasks that support student’s language acquisition.

The How-Tos

The next section of the book explains how to introduce sight words, the alphabet, beginning phonics and writing and spelling.

The instructions are very clear and can be followed by you, your education assistant, your special education team or a parent at home. This can provide ample opportunity for the student to practice the skills. Ms. Oelwein has also provided many, many ideas for activities and ways to keep learning fun and engaging. Below are some pictures of my student following the steps outlined by the author.

  1. We began by selecting a few personally relevant words for the student and followed a number of steps to introduce the words to the student. She surprised us at how quickly she learned them.

2. Next, we spent some time focusing on the beginning letter of the words we introduced.

3. Finally, we created some fun activities to reinforce the words.

Reading Units

The final chapters of the book use the same steps to continue to introduce additional words and many activities to help solidify understanding. All the materials to play games and create activities to build  understanding are provided in appendices at the end of the book. There are units on foods, action words, household words etc.

If your students with Down Syndrome are struggling, this might be one book to try to get you started. The steps worked for my student and it might just work for your student as well.


Down’s, Downs, DS?

I know I am bias, but I truly believe that I have one of the best jobs in education.

I am the proud teacher of the most amazing group of students, many of whom have Down Syndrome.  The school and the community that we visit often (under normal cirucumstances) have been so kind and welcoming to us over the past three years. However, what I have seen over the past three years is that there are a lot of errors that people make when referring or speaking about people with Down Syndrome.

Student with Down’s / Down’s Kid / Down’s Person

This is the most common error that I hear people make. They often refer to Down Syndrome as Down’s and until I took this job, I made this error as well.  To clarify, Down Syndrome was name named after John Langdon Down  because he was the doctor that first described the genetic condition not because he had Down Syndrome himself. Therefore, the possessive apostrophe s is incorrect.

Down Syndrome Kid / Down Syndrome Students / Down Syndrome child

Another common error is to speak about student’s with Down Syndrome by using their disability first.  This really diminishes who my students are and focuses only on one part of what makes them amazing. The goal should always be to use person first language.

They are so great / They are amazing / Wow, they are fantastic

This happens in my school and community often when we are out and about. Many people speak about my students to me when my students are standing right there. My advice is instead of speaking to the teacher, speak directly to the child. Instead of “they are so great”, use the phrase, “you are so great” and look directly at the child. Imagine how you would feel if everyone spoke about you when you were standing right there.

Suffering From Down Syndrome 

This is another common thing that I hear. I can assure you, my students are not suffering. They are vibrant, energetic, creative and brilliant members of our class. They teach me many things every day. They contribute a lot to our class, school and community. They do not suffer from Down Syndrome.

Downs / Child with Downs

Another common mistake when abbreviated Down Syndrome is to add the S onto the word Down. The correct way to abbreviate Down Syndrome is by using the term DS not Downs.

Your students are so happy / People with Down Syndrome are so happy

This is something that I often hear about my class. The reality is that all of my students have been upset or angry and they don’t spend every day, all day as happy people. I have some students who are incredibly shy and some who are incredibly outgoing. Every child in my class is unique and each have the same emotions as the rest of society.

If you are teaching a student with Down Syndrome, The Canadian Down Syndrome society has created a fantastic Educator Package for you to use in helping to support your student in class.

Writing IEPs with Alternative Goals for Online Students

Is there anyone else out there who feels like they have stepped into some dystopian novel that we all will be waking from sometime soon? 2020 has become such a bizarre year, and education has taken some seriously unusual turns over the past 6 months, that my topic for this month is writing IEPs with alternative goals for online students. Alternative goals at home? Wow. That is sure a tall order.

In the spring, I read many examples of possible alternative IEP goals for students to work on at home. They were incredibly complex and required parents to follow 5, 000 steps or take on the role of the teacher full-time. I feel there needs to be a balance between our students continuing their learning, and the realities of what families are facing in the context of a global pandemic. I understand that the goal is that we work towards 225 minutes of synchronous learning a day, but the reality is, 225 minutes is hard to achieve when I have a class in-person as well and the parents are working from home. I feel the better option is to work closely with parents to prioritize their child’s learning needs and support them through this process. Therefore, in preparing this year’s IEPs and online learning program, I have asked for a lot of parent input. I have asked for even more than usual to get an idea of what is even manageable in their home. This year more than ever, we are partners in their child’s learning. I have asked questions like:

  1. How much time are you available to support your child both online and offline?
  2. What is the most important thing that you would like to have your child learn in term 1?
  3. Which one of the following works best for you: worksheets, apps, websites, YouTube videos or manipulatives?

My goal is to have my students learning in a way that is manageable for parents as the reality is, all of my students will need family support for them to continue their learning. None of my students can turn on the computer, find activities for themselves or navigate websites. Therefore, I have focused their IEP for term 1 on goals that are manageable and beneficial.

Some example of alternatives goals that I will be using are:

Life Skills:

__________ can follow visual steps to remove sheets from their bed and place them in the laundry basket.

__________ can follow visual steps to prepare a sandwich for lunch.

__________ can follow visual steps to independently change pads during menstruation.

__________ can brush teeth after meals.

__________ can select and put on clothes in the morning.


__________ can count items up to 10.

__________ can identify amounts that are more or less than 5.

__________ can count out the correct number of plates to set the table for dinner.


__________ can read short passages on the computer.

__________ can write a list of their favourite things.

__________ can read their name in a variety of contexts.


__________ can respond to questions about their interests using one word answers.

__________ can listen and respond to questions that begin with “who”, using two to three words.

__________ can identify their favourite items in their home using one word.

All of the above goals will be assessed and evaluated though a combination of observations during online meetings, websites that record student progress ( e.g., and conversations with parents. To all of those first year teachers doing online learning for students on alternative IEPs, my advice is to keep it simple!

Hopefully, 2021 will start to see a return of students coming back to school where we can support them all day long. I can’t wait!!!!


My students with Developmental Disabilities have taught me so many things in the past year and a half. They are absolutely an incredible group of kids that are some of the most resilient, funny and committed students I have ever had the pleasure of teaching. They come to school every day pumped up for school and even in the midst of deep, and I mean deep, puberty they manage to hold their hormones in check in order for us to accomplish our goals for the day.

One of the best things my students have taught me is to listen more than speak. As teachers we give instructions all day long. We give instructions on where to line up, which book to read, when to take out instruments and if you are a kindergarten teacher you have probably reminded a student to take their hand out of their pants or nose at least once this week. Most of my students understand the same instructions that many other students understand. I can tell them to line up, get their lunch and many, many other typical school instructions. The difference is that many of the students in my class have some difficulty communicating. Some have stutters, others have mouths that are formed in a way that it is difficult for them to form words and others can’t handle multiple instructions in rapid succession. I realized that in order to hear what they are trying to communicate with me I would have to be quiet a lot of the time and really listen.

My students use a multitude of communication strategies throughout the day to communicate their ideas, thoughts and feelings.

They use:

Visuals- Wow, what would we do without pictures in the classroom? I have understood preferred choices and questions about assigned tasks from the visuals that the students present to me. My newest student quietly reminds me that her time on her bike is coming up next by making sure I notice the picture on her schedule.

Technology- It is a really great time to be a teacher in many ways. There are so many amazing aps and devices that can support student’s learning. My students have told me all about their weekend, favourite items and requests for upcoming events in the classroom using technology.

Gestures/Facial Expressions- My students use a lot of pointing and gestures to communicate in my class. For me as the teacher, the most important time that I use gestures or facial expression is when my students are in distress and escalated. A neutral face and body accompanied by simple one- or two-word instructions are the most important tools in deescalated the stress of my students. When my student’s emotions are heightened, it is very important that I don’t stress them further by asking them to take in a lot of spoken language.

I am so thankful for my students and all that they have taught me.


Listening is an art that requires attention over talents, spirit over ego, others over self” -Dean Jackson