- the environment is free of major and minor environmental hazards (electrical plugs are covered and scissors safely stored out of reach, play areas in the classroom and outside play equipment is arranged and maintained to avoid potential safety problems
- the classroom design and placement of team members allow all students to be monitored at all times
- team members teach and encourage student independence for personal hygiene tasks such as washing hands and using the toilet
- students are able to independently access materials such as books and schedules and have a personal space to work
- the classroom is divided into well-defined spaces for individual and group activities and quiet and leisure activities
- materials can be organized, used and stored safely
- physical structures and boundaries exist to ensure that students' understand the activities that take place in specific areas
- real items that would be used in natural environments are used whenever possible
- there are enough materials for all students to participate
The right classroom environment is important to all children. The right classroom environment makes all the difference in the world to children who have sensory, communication and socialization challenges. Research into creating a learning environment that supports children with autism has determined important points to consider. To make sure that my classroom meet evidence-based standards I used the APERS self-assessment tool when setting up my classroom. APERS stands for Autism Program Environment Rating Scale - Preschool and Elementary version. It was designed by the National Professional Development Center on ASD in 2011.
I can't believe that I have been given such a beautiful, clean light-filled space. The room faces south and west. It has its own attached bathroom, a kitchen unit, a separate SmartBoard room accessed from inside. It is right beside the outside doors where the bus will drop off the students. (I found out later that this was the original school office and staff room.) It has just had new flooring and bathroom fixtures installed. It has its own furnace and thermostat! Having just come from a cold, dark, north-facing classroom which faced a concrete wall, this is a little piece of paradise!
Everything in the classroom has a place and a purpose. It sometimes takes a lot of trial and error furniture moving (unless you have good spatial awareness or use furniture cutouts on grid paper!) I always come into school early to move things around and get the best pick of left-over shelving units and desks. Sometimes there is fierce competition. The custodians in this school are the best and helped me out a lot. Thank you Mark and Al!
Although it is tempting to stay in this lovely light-filled space, I intend to make good use of the entire school. All the spaces are spacious, clean, beautiful and functional.
I think I'm ready to meet the rest of the staff and most importantly, my students!
This is my first posting since the end of February. At that time I left my secure, fulfilling and established classroom in North Delta, BC to move to Calgary. I was full of optimism for my new role as head Behavior Analyst for the Calgary Board of Education. Calgary has a huge public school system with over 114,000 students. They provide a wide range of programs and services for children and recognized the growing need for behaviour supports in their schools. I was thrilled that CBE saw the value and specialized knowledge that behaviour analysts bring to support teams- along with psychologists, speech-language therapists and occupational therapists.
Teachers and support staff in Calgary seem to be especially welcoming to outside supports. They opened their classrooms for me to visit and stayed late after school for presentations on self-regulation and positive behaviour supports. They expressed their gratitude at having access to learn more about the students in their classroom and how to effectively teach them, especially the students with autism or behaviour challenges.
However, a new budget prevailed and the position was ended after just a few months. Which brought me to my new position - a primary CSSI classroom. CSSI officially stands for Communication, Socialization and Sensory Integration but as a behaviourist, I am renaming it to be a Communication, Socialization, Self-Regulation and Independence classroom.
I miss my students and colleagues from Jarvis Traditional and Vancouver. However, I am excited to have the chance to work with such young children. I know that with the right supports and using Applied Behaviour Analysis, these children have a chance to learn many new skills.
I plan to use this website to share our tools, stories and successes. Hopefully it will be helpful to other teachers, support staff and parents who work with similar children!
Let the adventure begin!