Saturday, March 15, 2014

Years 23 to 34: Education Specialist for Spokane Public Schools: Technology Fun and Books for Songs!

As I started working more and more with teachers and students, I embraced technology and what it could do for me in the way of making customized visual supports. Many teachers were working with children with little or no language. They relied on pictures for their students to use to communicate. Other teachers used pictures for schedules, stories, etc. I knew how important using visual supports were for our children with special needs, especially our children on the autism spectrum.

For a while I struggled with low tech paint programs like the free one that comes with Microsoft Office. These programs drove me crazy! Not very flexible, it took me hours to put pictures together or to change colors, etc. And then I discovered Paint.NET. Oh my! Did my world change! This is a free program that is like PhotoShop "light". It may not be quite as extensive, but the things I can do with that program! I can layer, rotate, change colors, sharpen, soften - you name it, I can do it! And thanks to my son Mark, I learned what "tolerance" means as related to a paint program!

This new ability allowed me to go crazy! Suddenly I was able to make books to go with favorite children's songs like I Am A Pizza, Slap Those Mosquitoes, and Five Little Ducks. Favorite poems or fingerplays also turned into books like Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear and Ten in the Bed. I shared these books with all of the teachers I worked with. Preschool teachers, kindergarten teachers, and primary special education classroom teachers loved these.

And it wasn't just fun songs with books that got made. I also started to make social stories and scripts with my new found technology. Social stories and scripts are social lessons that help children with autism navigate difficult social situations. Originally developed by Carol Gray, these stories and scripts can be written about anything a child is struggling to learn about or understand. These books also help children with other behavior issues, so soon I was getting requests from many teachers to write stories for them.

Then one day I was meeting with Cori Valley, and she told me about Cathy Bollinger. Cathy is a singer/songwriter who writes many kinds of educational songs, but has at least two excellent CDs of musical social stories. These are fantastic and fun! Wow! I got to work right away making books to go with eleven of the songs that seemed most appropriate for the students and teachers I was working with. Here are a few of them.

Today I have about 200 books, social stories, poems, fingerplays, and musical social stories illustrated and saved. These books are being used by Head Start and ECEAP programs as well as Montessori and special education preschools on both sides of the state. Indeed, some of the teachers I've worked with who have moved to other parts of the country are using them in those new places as well. I am proud to have helped produce some strong visual supports that are fun as well, and help so many children make sense of their world.

And I am now also having fun sharing these books with my own grandson Eddie! He thinks they're great!