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Education Strategies and Supports
by: Carol Jimenez
    Using visual supports to teach concepts and breaking everything down into manageable, understandable pieces.  That is the key. Not just for the student, but for school staff as well.  If you present the school with a plan to teach a concept, or support an activity, they are usually more than happy to accept the suggestion.  

    Public schools are always overburdened, and sometimes it seems like the education part is last on the list.  If your child has an IEP or 504 plan, you are in a particularly advantageous position to work closely with your child's team and influence your child's education.  For the things that are going well, and progress is satisfactory, great.  But for things that are not going so well, time to create a new plan.  Time to create a visual strategy.  Here are some examples:

Home/School Communication
    When your child starts preschool, it is hard to trust their emotional and physical well being to someone else.  You want to know what happens in their day.  Did they have a BM?  Was it in the morning or afternoon? What did they eat?  How was their mood? What is the school teaching this week? Dinosaurs, colors, alphabet, numbers, shapes?  Did they receive services today? OT, PE, PT, Speech? Was there a special activity?  Cooking, art, dress-up, music, puzzles? How did they get that scratch on their forehead? 

    There is a solution to this disconnect - a home/school communication form.  If your classroom doesn't have one, create one and ask them to use it.  It requires a very small amount of time by one of the staff members to complete each day.  This tool addresses a number of education areas simultaneously.

1.    Keeps you informed of your child's day.
2.    Allows you to discuss past events to begin the, "How was
       school today dialogue.  "Oh look, you painted a picture today at
       school, and talked about dinosaurs.  How fun!"
3.    Encourages cross-environmental understanding.
4.    Gives you a complete record of your child's school year for their        
       IEP.  Did they receive all the services they were entitled to?  What's 
       missing?  Why is it missing and what will be done in the future
       to ensure consistent adhesion to the IEP service requirements?
       Will the school provide make-up services? 

    As in the example here (a), there is a beginning, (usually introduced in preschool) home/school communication form - filled in by staff.  The next example is a similar, but more independent form completed by the student. Note that the student circles their activities for the day and their behavior.  You can continue this process for as long as you think it is beneficial.  Ultimately, the goal is that your child will have the communication skills necessary to tell you about his or her day verbally, or by whatever expressive communication device they use.

Staff and Student Support
​    When creating a visual support, many times, the user is not just the student.  The plan may include routine participation from others, such as parents and school staff.  Keeping this in mind, a visual support for routines ensures consistent adherence to the routine by all who are involved.  In this example (b), this visual was created because (b), the student's AR scores had fallen dramatically.  Upon investigation, it was discovered that the time allocated for repeated reading and word comprehension was not being consistently supported by school staff and not everyone working with the student had been properly trained on the agreed upon plan. Verbal information that is passed on from one staff member to another can evaporate into thin air, to the detriment of the child's instruction.  It is important to implement concrete supports to ensure adherence to the instruction plan. Notice the breakdown of each required step.  This is a two sided form that is folded in half and placed inside of the AR book, and carried back and forth between school and home.  In this way, both teacher, aide(s) and parent are all informed as to the progress of the plan. The front of the form supports a core curriculum goal as well - the ability of the student to identify the Title and Author of a book.

As the student continues and understands the use of this visual, related, or continuation visuals can be added, increasing the complexity of the visual support to keep up with the student's advancing curriculum requirements.  In example (b) a second two sided form (c) was added to address new requirements for the reader - chapter books and learning to summarize a story. This visual resulted in additional interaction from staff improving the student's understanding of word comprehension and the layout represents story organization for easy summarization.
Example (a)
Example (b)
Example (c)
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