A+ For Parents



This week I would like to share three resources I recently discovered and I think are worth exploring.

#1: PBIS (positive behavior interventions and supports) World is an excellent, free and user-friendly resource for addressing behavior through research-based interventions. It contains links to hundreds of interventions, supports, resources, and data collection tools, all of which are organized into a tier 1 through 3 in a prevention-oriented framework. Designed by a social worker, the purpose is to help guide users through the PBIS implementation process, starting with behavior identification and offering suggestions for interventions. It is ideal for therapists, teachers, counselors and parents.

There are 36 behavior options to choose ranging from Bullying to Poor Peer Relationships. After choosing an area of concern, it takes you through a series of options based on the user’s response, ‘Does this describe the student’? If the user’s response is ‘yes’, it offers a track with related interventions, if the response is ‘no’ it offers a different track of options.

Suggestions are offered in tiers with many simple strategies for reducing the target behavior including worksheets, games and activities. It is suggested that Tier 1 interventions are implemented for at least 6 months before moving on to Tier 2. If interventions are not working at Tier 2, then there is a Tier 3 with more intense interventions. There are data tracking forms for teachers and therapists to document how each intervention is working.

For example, if I choose ‘Poor Peer Relationships’, the following appears;

The student may:

  • Frequent conflicts with peers
  • Frequent tattling on others
  • Have difficulty carrying on conversation or play
  • Exhibit immature or inappropriate play or interactions
  • Annoy and irritate others
  • Difficulty relating to others
  • Trouble sharing, taking turns, and compromising
  • Bother others and get their attention then run away or laugh
  • Eat lunch alone or play alone on playground
  • Antagonize others, instigate, pushy, etc.
  • Only want to play or do what they want to, unwilling to do what others want to do
  • Little to no interaction in classroom or during unstructured times
  • Trouble getting along in groups or pair work
  • Not interact with other children in age appropriate ways
  • Have difficulty making or maintaining friendships
  • Display inappropriate behavior or make inappropriate comments
  • Frequently argue or fight with others

If most of these, describe my student, I would choose ‘yes’ and move to the Tier 1 list of suggestions. The following becomes available:


Each intervention option has accompanying strategies and activities to address the area of concern. This is one of the most valuable resources I have found for working on social skills and addressing behavior.

If you like this site, refer it to a colleague or parent.

iPad + autism + communication =

Recent research suggests that children with autism have a very strong interest in the use of iPads. They work like a computer, which is predictable. Templin Grandin serves as one of the most accurate ‘windows’ into the world of autism. Identified with autism as a child, she has become a leading advocate for autistic communities and has been a symbol of hope for parents who have autistic children. Temple Grandin says, “Words are like a second language to me. I translate both spoken and written words into full-color movies, complete with sound, which run like a VCR tape in my head. When somebody speaks to me, his words are instantly translated into pictures” (1995). She shares how she processes more effectively in pictures and suggests that other children with autism likely do too. The iPad is a small computer with pictures and icons that moves with the touch of a finger.

Advantages and Disadvantages of the iPad for Children with Autism

ipad blog image

As Lesley Stahl reports, touch-screen app are giving autistic people new ways to express themselves, some for the first time (2014). She adds that parents are hailing the technology as a breakthrough (2014). The use of iPads in the community is also increasing communication skills. When ten students were placed in community employment settings, nine out of ten individuals reported being understood every time they attempted to communicate with their iPad (Price, 2014).

The iPad is a tool to support communication, however, it is not a cure for autism. The iPad cannot be the only source for learning and communicating. A structured school environment, collaborative therapists and a family that actively participates in the child’s learning are very important and play an equally significant role.  Providing the autistic child with opportunities to experience practical, meaningful learning should be provided with and without technology.

Temple Grandin says, “The most important thing people did for me was to expose me to new things” (1995).

For a child with autism, there must be a balance with all accessible tools and strategies in order to facilitate the most functional communication and most meaningful interaction possible.

For more information….

Grandin, T. (1995). Thinking in pictures: My life with autism (1st ed.). New York: Doubleday.

Kagohara, D. M., van der Meer, L., Ramdoss, S., O’Reilly, M. F., Lancioni, G. E., Davis, T. N., Sigafoos, J. (2013). Using iPods[R] and iPads[R] in Teaching Programs for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities: A Systematic Review. Research in Developmental Disabilities: A Multidisciplinary Journal34(1), 147–156.

Palmer, R. (2013). Accessibility: The Top 10 iPad Apps for Special Education. T.H.E. Journal,40(6), 10–13.

Price, A. (2014). Autism and iPads. Teacher Librarian41(3), 40–41.

Stahl, Lesley (Correspondent). (2012, May 30). [Apps for autism: communicating on the iPAd] CBS: 60 Minutes. Video retrieved fromhttp://www.cbsnews.com/news/apps-for-autism-communicating-on-the-ipad-30-05-2012/5/



There have been times in our lives when we wished we would have kept a thought in our head and not expressed it to others. It’s those times, we should have used our THOUGHT BUBBLE. We communicate our feelings, thoughts and ideas during conversation with others. However, not everything we think needs to be said. Sometimes expressing thoughts out loud can be inappropriate, annoying, uninteresting or rude.

Children that have difficulty with social skills are often challenged by conversation. They may make inappropriate or offensive comments (Williamson & Dorman, 2002). A variety of difficulties is associated with a tendency to inappropriately verbalize thoughts, including:

  • Perseveration on preferred topics or activities that cause children to ‘get stuck’ talking about things in detail, even though the listener or play partner is not interested
  • A tendency to think out loud or repeat things that have already been said
  • Impulsivity that leads to speaking without thinking first
  • Lack of ability to read cues that would help others know what is appropriate to say
  • A limited repertoire of ideas to share
  • Difficulty understanding that some thoughts may be hurtful or insulting

Children who are not careful about what they say to others are at risk for social difficulties. As they get older, inappropriate comments can lead to socially awkward, confusing and even dangerous situations.

 Start by helping the child learn the concept of a thought bubble:             thought bubble

  • A thought bubble is a place where ideas that are not shared by others are kept.
  • Words that are not appropriate for the conversation can stay in our heads, safely in the thought bubble.
  • We can use the ideas kept in our thought bubbles to practice what we want to say.

Once the child understands the concept, set up some rules about the thought bubble:

  • Think before you speak.
  • Not everything we think needs to be said.
  • If we think about something that is not related to the conversation (for example, thinking about dinosaurs when everyone else is talking about movies), we keep that in a thought bubble.

 quick tips use

Baltazar Mori, A. & Bonfield Piantanida, D. (2007). Every child wants to play. Torrance, CA. Pediatric Therapy Network.

Willey. L.H. (1999). Pretending to be normal: living with Asperger’s syndrome. London, England. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Williamson, G. & Dorman, W. (2002). Promoting social competence. San Antonio, TX. Therapy Skills Builders.


play quote

Pretend play is the child’s work. A child takes what they know and what they have seen and put it into practice. They pair movements and language to create scenarios that evolve and expand far beyond what they originally planned. There are direct correlations between play, the development of language, literacy and social skills.

Pretend play builds…


Pretend play give children opportunities to practice words they may not use very often. Their vocabulary words come from books, television shows, YouTube, what they have heard from their teachers, their peers and their parents (we should be careful of what we say!). Foster their vocabulary by having play activities around animals, occupations and places.


Studies have shown that children with a larger vocabulary are more successful in literacy learning. The foundational concept of literacy is symbolism; the idea that one object can stand for another. When our child uses a banana as a telephone or a bucket as a hat, they are building their understanding of symbolism. Symbolism comes before understanding the representation of letters or words. Play leads to reading.

Social Skills

During pretend play, a child takes on different roles, which not only gives them opportunities to practice vocabulary and symbolism, it also fosters emotions, turn talking, leadership and negotiation. Pretending to be a teacher, a firefighter, a pilot or a parent, all require adapting and using language to convey their feelings and actions. Many studies have shown that social skills and the understanding of emotions are critical in forming early friendships (Lillard, Learner, Hopkins, Dore, Smith, & Palmquist, 2013).

Make some time to pull a few household items together, plop on the floor and get silly. Let your child lead to you to their world of pretend play. For some great pretend play activities, explore these great resources…

Creative-DIY-Pretend-Play-CentersFantastic Fun & Learning

mrprintables-play-fruit-templatesMr. Printables

Playdough-and-LiteracyHome Literacy Blueprint

printablesMy Joy Filled Life

Lillard, A. S., Learner, M.D., Hopkins, E. J., Dore, R. A., Smith, E. D., & Palmquist, C. M. (2013). The Impact of Pretend Play of Children’s Development: A Review of the Evidence. Psychological Bulletin, 139(1), 1-34.


When asked that all too familiar question, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’,  13 year-old Logan LaPlante does not say an astronaut, a businessman or a fire fighter. He says he wants to be happy.  Logan suggests practicing eight lifestyle choices discussed by Dr. Roger Walsh.

  • Exercise
  • Diet and Nutrition
  • Time in Nature
  • Contribution and Service
  • Relationships
  • Recreation
  • Relaxation and Stress Management
  • Religion and Spiritual

Logan suggests that education is more about learning how to make a living rather than making a life. That schools don’t seem to prioritize how to be happy and healthy.

How do we embed happy and healthy into our schools?

Logan suggests hack-schooling. He describes hackers as innovators, suggesting that they naturally challenge and change things. He suggests that it is not just a way of thinking, but that hacking, is a mindset. Logan ‘hacks his education’ by taking advantage of opportunities to have creative, ‘out-of-the-box’ experiences.

As an educator, I believe that giving our children creative ways to learn and firing up their motivation to gain more knowledge, should be our mindset. Listening to our children, identifying how they learn and fostering that growth is our responsibility. Maybe we should consider the thoughts of this 13-year old boy, Logan LaPlante.

For more information on Dr. Roger Walsh’s 8 therapeutic lifestyle changes, please see his article titled Lifestyle and Mental Health

Development of Friendships

It is important to understand the development of relationships and social skills.

We can use developmental levels to identify what skills our child has, what they are challenged by and what is expected next.

Feel free to use this chart and share it with others. I appreciate you referencing Elin McCoy and please invite others to visit my website.

Friendships developmental levels

Our Special 21st Century Thinkers

The use of the iPad for children with special needs is being experienced around the world. The apps are endless and new apps are being developed at 20,000 per month. The student’s access for developing communication, social and academic skills are available in a new way with the use of the iPad. When we think of 21st century learners, it includes more than our general education students. It’s about all of our students learning with technology and contributing to society to the best of their ability. Our children with special needs are part of that dynamic contribution.

Who Needs Pictures In Kids’ Books Anyway?

Fantastic and fun….animated expressions and inflection are keys to keeping children engaged during story-telling!


101 Books

My 4 year old is going to love this book. In fact, I’m placing my order today.

What a great way to encourage kids to read. It’s goofy and immature, but these are kids! And they’re learning to read!

So what exactly is this book with no pictures? It’s a new kids’ book from BJ Novak, our favorite intern from The Office. 

It’s just freakin’ brilliant. But I’ve got to work on my voice inflection before I read it to my son.

Here’s a promotional video of Novak reading the kids book. Be warned: It’s pretty awesome!

You can order it on Amazon. 

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