A Teacher Week Fiesta!

Our school and voc north teams were treated to a FIESTA today, courtesy of our wonderful parents! Thank you to everyone who was a part of putting this feast together - we are feeling quite spoiled! 

Milkshakes!

Some of our HS students brought their Life Skills learning to LIFE today, as they got to follow a recipe, portion ingredients, and make chocolate chip cookie milkshakes. The best part? Getting to drink the shakes when they were finished!

PE in action!

Thanks to a generous grant, which included training from Exercise Connection, we've slowly been expanding our physical fitness equipment, activities, and options for our students. We're integrating stretches and games, basic yoga and dynamic activities with peers. Here's a peek at some of our first classes in action, and our newly re-purposed gross motor space.

Spring is here!

This month, the school building has been filled with springtime crafts, colored eggs, and more!

Visiting our Francis Parker friends

This week, some PACTT students had the chance to visit our Francis Parker High School buddies at *their* school. We played in the gym, hung out, shared a snack, and had a ton of fun!

We've got spirit, yes we do!

From our favorite sports teams and classroom colors to our craziest hats (and hair!), Spirit Week always brings smiles to our building in the middle of the gray days of March.

Focus on Professional Development: Video Modeling

Thanks to a generous grant from the Special Kids Foundation, our school team was able to participate in a fully-funded video modeling training this month. The training was led by Alissa York, educational consultant, who recently retired from the Naperville-area school districts, where she trained teachers and worked closely with students, to implement video modeling within their classrooms.

Why Video Modeling?

What is video modeling?

  • With a video model, students follow a video prompt to complete a task. Have you ever searched YouTube for a video on how to do something, because it's easier to do if you see someone else do it? Well, it's that same idea. The video can be of the student doing the task, of someone else doing the task, or completion of the task from a first-person perspective.

Why is this important?

  • With a video model, students will rely less on staff support for completion of tasks - especially activities of daily living and vocational tasks. The videos can be loaded onto their personal devices, for watching at job and volunteer sites - and at home!

But wait! PACTT classrooms don't have the technology to implement this kind of thing!

  • Ah, there's the bonus of the grant funding! Each of our classrooms will receive at least two (possibly more) brand new iPads, to support the initiative ... and to use for additional educational supports throughout the students' day.

Sensory Adventure

This semester, we worked with a design class from DePaul University's Theatre School, as they designed and built a sensory exploration experience. The best part? Once the experience was complete, several PACTT school students and staff had the opportunity to explore the space. Doesn't this look like fun????  

Focus on PD: Physical Fitness

Thanks to a generous grant, we were able to invite David Geslak from Exercise Connection to work with our team on strategies to incorporate Physical Fitness more deliberately into our programming. The grant covered the cost of the two-session training, curriculum and fitness equipment including medicine balls, foam rollers and more. Soon, Nora our awesome Occupational Therapist will be coordinating weekly fitness sessions with each classroom to help get things rolling.

For more information on Exercise as an evidence-based practice for individuals with autism, visit the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Holiday fun!

Our teachers and students have enjoyed a flurry of holiday fun these last few weeks - from a door decorating bonanza to today's cookie-frosting, cocoa-making, sensory-snow-playing and movie-watching fun. 

 Our door decorating contest took to Facebook to help us decide. The winners? High School South (the fireplace) by a nose ... followed by our Buddy the Elf door on High School North.

Our door decorating contest took to Facebook to help us decide. The winners? High School South (the fireplace) by a nose ... followed by our Buddy the Elf door on High School North.

Holiday fun with our Francis Parker friends

We had a special visit today from our friends at Francis Parker High School! They joined us for fun holiday crafts, and helped us make our wish lists.

We're always learning

Ever wonder what we're doing when we have those early dismissal days each month? Well, our knowledge-hungry team is learning how we can be even better! Each year, we set a program goal related to a research-based or promising practice in the autism field. Last year, we spent a good chunk of the year learning about elements of Structured Teaching (from TEACCH - see www.teacch.com for more info). This year, one of our program goals this year is for our team to learn more about ways to incorporate fundamentals of ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) in the classroom. This semester, we've focused on Task Analysis and Discrete Trial Training.

Discrete Trial Training is a way of presenting short, quick tasks, within a clear (1) direction - (2) response - (3) correction / praise framework. It is most commonly used to teach basic rote skills like matching, or identification of fundamentals like colors, shapes, numbers, letters, sight words, etc. Often, this is what is most associated with ABA - but it's not ALL of ABA.

Task Analysis is a way to break down a complex task into smaller, more manageable pieces. We practiced and laughed (a lot), as we taught each other to put on makeup, build ice cream sundaes, and draw pirates (the pics above show some of the fun!). One of the things we reiterated was the importance of being specific when writing the TA, and consistent when using it - that way, everyone is teaching the student to do the task the same way ... which increases the likelihood of learning! We use these for more complex task sequences - like brushing teeth, washing hands, tying shoes, making a purchase, taking out the trash, etc.

For more information on Task Analysis and Discrete Trial, check out these info sheets from the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders (NPDC):

Task Analysis

Discrete Trial Training