MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIR:
Dear Parents and Educators,
As we head into the month of May, the CAC would like to share with you activities our community participated in during the month of April for Autism Awareness/Acceptance Month and Earth Day. Also, included in the newsletter are resources for Child Abuse Prevention Month. For the month of May the ESGV SELPA CAC will provide a virtual Parent In-Service, about Strategies to Support New Learning Routines & Positive Behaviors in the Home on Wednesday, May 13th 2020 from 6-7:30 pm. Our original Parent In-Service regarding Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) services has been postponed for the 2020-2021 school year. If you are interested in registering for the virtual in-service or getting information about DOR services contact us at email@example.com
This month I would like to introduce you to our Glendora USD CAC Parent Representative; Rebecca Gonazlez, Mrs. Setter; a Pre-School Education Specialist; at Cedargrove Elementary School for Charter Oak Unified School District, and Ms. Alicia Hernandez; a 3rd Grade Teacher at Ellington K-8 in Azusa Unified School District.
Rebecca Gonzalez, CAC Parent Representative
Rebecca, What does Autism Awareness Acceptance month mean to you and your family?
Autism acceptance is a huge part of my family’s lifestyle because both my son and daughter are on the autism spectrum. We are always striving to educate others on autism and the importance of inclusion, understanding and acceptance.
In what ways do you and your family help to share about Autism?
Kacie is also part of a special needs softball team through the Glendora Lassie League, called Victory, which provides girls with disabilities the opportunity to be part of a team and play softball! Being a part of the Victory Team has really helped spread awareness and acceptance throughout our community and with neurotypical girls her age.
Do you do anything special for Autism Awareness month?
During the month of April, I am usually more active on social media. I like to change my profile pictures to include pictures that focus on my kids and of course we wear a lot of blue!
While being on lockdown due to COVID-19, what has been some of the activities your family has done to cope?
During quarantine, my family has been keeping busy with homeschooling, remote programming and therapies, and afternoon walks. We have also had some fun with “quarantine campouts” in our backyard! Of course, roasting marshmallows is a must!
What has been some of the challenges, and how have you overcome them?
The change in our daily routine has definitely been one of the biggest challenges we have faced during this pandemic. Individuals with autism generally have a hard time when routines are changed, and my daughter is no exception that rule!
Is there anything that your son or daughter would like to share with parents who will read this newsletter?
My daughter is non-verbal but if she could talk I know she would tell others that she loves to be included in social activities and treated like everyone else. Although she may act differently than others she is still like any other 8 year old little girl and wants to be loved and accepted!
Mrs. Setter, Pre-School Education Specialist
Cedargrove Elementary, Charter Oak USD
Mrs. Setter, how has the stay at home order been since teaching remotely?
I made it through the first week, although tired, I feel it was successful!
What does distance learning look like for you?
My distance learning includes weekly thematic planning that has activities related to specific picture books, providing parents with weekly lesson plans, and including extended activities to do at home with worksheets. We have 3 daily activities on Seesaw, additional fro specific students per parent requests, we provide activities to target specific IEP social skill goals and have individualized comments on completed Seesaw assignments.
How do you communicate with your students? I meet with students on Zoom 4x a week. Our sessions are 30 minutes with all students. These classes are combined with teachers, aides, and specialists as available. Since our preschool is an inclusion setting, we have included all students (those with IEPs and general ed) to be a part of the activities. I have several general education kiddos joining us every day with Zoom and Seesaw. I also check in with these parents too.
Monday, we review our theme and art projects. On Tuesdays and Thursdays students participate in snacktime and science experiments. Friday it’s a show and tell with a sensory/OT Activity included. On Zoom we work on social skills-waiting, turn-taking, and greeting others.
What does the communication look like for parents? Some of the ways we communicate with parents are by email or Seesaw. Weekly check’in are done on Fridays. We answer questions, provide accommodations, help with technology; and encourage participation. Worksheets are provided upon request.
What is Seesaw? Seesaw is a great platform and seems to be working for those who have gotten involved. Some parents are struggling to get their child to attend but I'm providing simple strategies they can try to encourage participation. Activities can be modified to meet individual needs. It is also a great tool for our speech pathologist and OT to provide activities to families so they don't have to go to another platform. The voice recording option we use with all activities is a favorite for the students and gives us a chance to hear the students talking and communicating with their parents.
What do the families and students seem to enjoy? Zoom meetings seem to be a desired activity for students. Parents have commented that their child asks about doing them every day and get excited to see their friends and teachers. Despite a bit of chaos with kiddos talking over each other (to be expected with 3-5-year-olds), parents are liking the opportunity. Thursday I had 17 preschoolers and 3 teachers! The science experiments have been a hit!
Ms.Hernandez, 3rd Grade Teacher
Ellington K-8 School, Azusa USD
Ms. Hernandez, what have been the biggest challenges (in regards to teaching) since the Covid situation, and how have you overcome these challenges?
-The initial challenge was overcoming the shock of having to leave our traditional classroom setting so abruptly. We had to adjust to not being in our comfortable, organized educational settings where for the most part, we knew what to expect; which routines to proceed with. Secondly, it was a challenge to ensure EVERY student and their respective family had access and was literate in this technology-based version of learning. Addressing the technology gap has required flexibility and support at the district level. Finally, the biggest challenge has been embracing the new “distance learning” model. There has definitely been a learning curve for teachers, parents and students alike.
What types of activities have you done to engage your students?
-Our online sessions have required a new level of creativity to help support students working on various academic skills. That shared screen time is valuable! So, I’ve tried to include a mixture of videos, slideshows, the much-loved read aloud and class discussions. It has also been an adjustment to help ensure students have access to “manipulatives” and tools at home. For example, when working with three-dimensional figures, students were encouraged to go on “scavenger hunts” at home to locate real life examples of these geometric solids. When creating arrays, students were instructed to utilize every day items such as beans, pennies or buttons.
How do you maintain an inclusive environment online amongst your general education students and your students with special needs during this time?
-Honestly, the most important aspect of our shift to distance learning has been the ability for our students to once again see their teachers’ and peers’ faces as they share a little about their lives at home. They get to engage with their friends once again. None of the academic components we include will matter if our kids’ social-emotional needs aren’t being met. We begin each online session with the opportunity to check in and share about their feelings or an event they would like to tell the class about. Everyone is an important member of our learning community. Additionally, I try to ensure we have a clear procedure for sharing responses during our sessions so that everyone has the chance to participate. Student “participation” looks and sounds differently from student to student, but is respected amongst them. This sense of empathy and support was established in our classroom; and has transferred over to our online setting. Supporting my students with special needs and those in need of extra support in general has required a heightened level of communication with parents. I’ve invested additional time brainstorming extra forms of support at home and possible accommodations.
What creative tools or resources have you used or look forward to using with your general ed students? Students with special needs?
-Every day has been a new opportunity to explore technology-based programs and resources at a deeper level. I am not the same teacher I was when this quarantine began. This experience has led to an ongoing process of growth and skill refinement I wouldn’t have anticipated at the beginning of the school year. Google Classroom, PowerPoint and Google Hangout have played a vital role thus far. I have been trying to take my own advice and pace myself. On multiple occasions, I have reminded parents over the phone or video conference to take a deep breath and focus on one step at a time. This distance learning journey can be overwhelming; particularly if technology is not your comfort zone and you are already stressed about job security, health, limited contact with fellow loved ones, etc. So, with these realities in mind, I’d like to continue expanding my own knowledge and look forward to further utilizing tools like Google Slides, Learnzillion, Google Docs. My students love getepic.com and are enjoying exploring the resources Wonders and Everyday Mathematics provide. I appreciate that many of these tools provide opportunities for differentiation so students can work at their respective academic and cognitive levels.
What do you plan to do on national teachers day (May 5th)?
-I have been so busy with lesson planning and preparation that I hadn’t even thought about this topic.
What would you like to share with teachers during this time to encourage them?
-I’d simply share what I have to tell myself constantly: “Take deep breaths. Be patient with yourself and others. Do your best. Focus on what you can control.” Essentially, it’s solid advice for parents and students as well.
What would you like to share with parents during this time to encourage them/?
-Besides the advice from the previous response, I’d remind parents that although academic success is important; the physical, social and emotional health of their families is the top priority. We are living in challenging times, but we will get through this experience together.
We look forward to continue to serve you during these trying times. Stay safe & healthy.
Tavia L. Lawson
Chair, ESGV SELPA CAC