Monday, December 19, 2016


I returned to work from maternity leave this week. As many of you know....this can be challenging. Although I love my job and my students.... it is so difficult to leave my babies at home.

One of the scariest things about returning mid year to my classroom is the unknown. Half of my class is new to me this I really don't know them yet. My students have been going about their days and working hard in my absence. I don't know what skills they have learned, if there are any new challenging behaviors, or what else may have impacted them in this time.

This is where my instructional staff come in. THEY ARE AMAZING and derserve so much credit. One of the instructional staff in my room (also a certified teacher) replaced me during my leave. She did an incredible job keeping things running and certainly helped with the transition on both ends.

The instructional staff in my room also are great. They are dedicated, hard working, and skillful.

My students are making progress and WORKING INDEPENDENTLY. Independence is one of the essential skills I am always working towards. I have previously spent a great deal of time training instructional staff in my room on the importance of independence and how to foster independence. I think these trainings have paid off...because I observed all of my students working on independent schedules within the first minutes of returning to work!

I am SO LUCKY...and I can't imagine coming back from a leave to a different situation.


1. Preparation Assistance
There is a lot to prep for in special education. My students all have individualized curriculum and materials...which can take quite a bit of time to gather and prepare. The instructional staff in my room help locate, print, prepare, and organize materials everyday. This ensures we have the right things available when it is time to work with students. Proper organization helps eliminate unnecessary downtime....which is no ones friend.

2. They can keep things running smoothly in our absence.
This one was huge while I was on leave. There are times when we are sick, have a meeting, or otherwise need to step out of the classroom. It is so important that this time is not lost for our students. The instructional staff in my room know the routines, understand what is expected of them and the students, and can pick up where they need to in order to continue teaching our students.

3. Skillful, hard-working, caring instructional staff make OUR (sped teacher's) jobs possible.
The staff in my classroom make my life a million times easier. They make it possible for me to teach...and their role in our classroom is irreplaceable. Without effective instructional staff my students may not have the same opportunities to learn as they do now. I am thankful for my are my students and their families.

Have I said enough? Our instructional staff are an integral part of our classrooms...and can't be overlooked!

Why are you instructional staff amazing?
How do you use the staff in your class to best support your students!?


Tuesday, November 29, 2016


I am excited to share some information I have learned about creating resource for re-sale on Teachers Pay Teachers. Many teachers are now creating our own resource. Not only can we create amazing resources that work best for our individual students.... but it is a huge bonus to make a little extra money to supplement our teaching salary.

I joined TPT a couple years ago but am fairly new to actually selling products. I found some time while I was on maternity leave to really put effort into selling...and now I am hooked. The desire to provide more for my family is very motivating! I am just starting to understand some key things I can do to help drive sales.

FIRST THING IS FIRST... Do you belong to Teachers Pay Teachers? If not, join HERE. It is completely free to join and get started. 


-  It is hard when you see others doing so well and you are just beginning... be patient! Don't copy what others are saying or doing---- be true to yourself and stick to what you know best!
- Trust yourself and your products.... you have a lot to offer!

- Make products that your will actually use
- Actually prepare your products
- Take photos of your completed products in use in your classroom

- Join Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest
- Create a blog
- Create (usually free) accounts for everything using your TPT business name
- Start posting quotes, pictures, FREEBIES, unique ideas, and of course... information on your products!

- Join groups on facebook and pinterest (ask questions, comment, and be involved)
- Follow blogs of other SPED sellers (there are so many amazing ones... you can learn ideas for your own resources and find great products others have created WIN-WIN)
- Join in on $ Deals, giveaways, and TPT sales when you can --> this is a GREAT way to gain to followers (its okay to start will pick up!)

- Create a button
- Make your page look professional --> Add unique banners, quotes, and links to your other social media sites

I found an amazing blog post from TEACHER BLOGGING BASICS that provides step by step instructions are customizing these things. Seriously...check this post out!

- Create resources you believe in
- Capture attention of potential buyers -->  Don't underestimate that benefit of a catchy cover page and engaging thumbnails


I quickly realized how important it is to make ENGAGING resources. I had many things I have created over the years for my own classroom.... but they needed a bit of touching up before posting on TPT.

Enter CLIPART... my new love.

A few important things to consider when choosing clipart:

1. Copyright --> TPT can help you with this and has some great answers to common Copyright questions. You CANNOT just search on google and insert images into your resources.
Most clipart sellers on TPT allow for commercial use of their images...with credt. Read their individual Terms of Use before purchasing products.

2. Age Appropriate Images
- I teacher adolescents with Autism... so I want to avoid "cutesy" images that depict young children. It's hard because they are SO adorable. Choose images that are appropriate for your learners or the learners you intend to use your product(s).

3. Cartoon Clipart or Photos
- Students with Autism often have trouble with discrimination. Many benefit greatly from the use of actual photographs as opposed to cartoon clipart images.
- One of my favorites....partially due to affordable subscription
GRAPHIC STOCK. You can join by clicking this link.
          -- It has a one time affordable annual fee
          -- UNLIMITED downloads
          -- you can keep your downloads forever

I would love to hear your feedback on things you have learned as you begin selling products on TPT. What has worked/hasn't worked for you?

Good Luck creating! :)

*** AUsome Adolescents ***

Sunday, November 27, 2016


It is that time of year again.... Holiday Shopping time!

I have 2 little ones (18 months and 4 months) this year I was very excited to buy all of the fun toys I see everywhere.  I MAY have gone overboard and currently have an entire room or toys. I buy, return, buy, get the idea. To be clear -- they need NOTHING. They have grandparents, Uncles, and Aunts who can't control themselves either.... they are two very fortunate little boys. Besides my toddler still finds our Tupperware, pots and pans, and "anything he is not allowed to have" most exciting.

On that note --- many of you are probably like me and have been developing a large wish list on TPT

It's time to make some of those purchases!

Teachers Pay Teachers is hosting a CYBER SALE 
11/28 & 11/29
Code: CYBER2016

All of my resources will be up to 28% off, so head over to MY TPT SITE and snatch up the great deals!


Monday, October 17, 2016

Interactive Books

I think by now most people have heard of interactive books (sometimes called adapted books, or other names). I have fallen in love...and some might same have become obsessed with creating, buying, and making these fun books for my classroom. 

There are 2 great ways I use interactive books:

1. Independent Reading --> within independent schedules and work bins

2. Target or reinforce individuals skills and themes

Independent Reading
I love including reading as an independent task for my students....but there is typically no way to know if they are actually reading, understanding, etc. 

I don't know about you.... but my students are pretty smart...and they know how to quickly skip pages when I am not looking. 

Interactive hooks have helped take care of this problem while simultaneously making the books much more reinforcing for my kiddos. 

Individual Skills

My FAVORITE interactive books are ones about essential skills I already need/want to work on --- ADL skills, community skills, safety skills, etc. Now I can DOUBLE DIP--- I introduce or reinforce a skill such as "brushing teeth" while also working on independent reading, matching, and attending skills. This is a major WIN in my book!


I use interactive books across many subjects -- Math, Life Skills, and of course.... Language Arts. 

I also have books for the same skills across multiple different themes
- back to school
- seasons
- holidays

Here are a couple of my own interactive books you can purchase from MY TPT STORE. I love their simplicity and reinforcement of basic skills my students need lots of practice with all year long. 

CVC Flipbooks

CATEGORY Flipbooks


Math Skills- SHAPES

"I see" what color/how many? (BACK TO SCHOOL THEME)

There are TONS of amazing interactive books on TPT from so many creative special educators (I have MANY in my classroom library). Check them out and get busy making books -- trust me you won't regret it!!

* AUsome Adolescents *

Sunday, October 9, 2016

High Tech Schedules

"High Tech" Schedules

I am very fortunate to work in a school district where most of my students have unlimited access to high tech electronic devices. At the middle school and high school level almost every student has either a personal iPod, iPad, or iPhone purchased by their family....or a district provided device. 

These devices allow my students to develop a variety of new skills that will likely prove essential to their future. 

Enter INDIVIDUALIZED SCHEDULES ON iDevices. This is one of my favorite skills to teach my students. 

The use of devices for individual schedules is amazing for a few reasons: 

1. They are super portable. 
 We know many of our kiddos thrive from the structure that schedules provide. Furthermore, schedules can help introduce changes ahead of time...which is a huge antecedent behavior strategy that works for many.  
Smaller electronic devices fit in our pocket and can go everywhere with the student. This helps ensure they are with the learner when they need to be. Amazing!

2. They are discreet. 
I cannot tell you how many times I am observing my students in community settings and realize they look completely TYPICAL looking at their schedules compared to others around them also on their phones. I know my students are running their individual motivational system or using their device to access a prompt they need..... but everyone else just sees another teenager checking their text messages or email. Devices help our students stay achieve independence completing various life skills AND they help them blend with others in their environment..... WIN-WIN!

3. They are age appropriate!
This is one of my favorite reasons. It is so important to help our older students with age appropriateness....not always easy when you have students who exclusively wear Blues Clues backpacks and quote Sesame Street. There may be a place for allowing access to baby TV shows as reinforcement....however, the place for these things is not in the middle school classroom. 
Many adolescents have personal phones, tablets, or iPods. The devices keep them connected to their friends, family, and the world.....and this can also be true for our students. 

4. They are motivating. 
This likely does not come as a suprise to many of you that tablets and iDevices are super motivating to our learners....just as they are to typical kids. Besides schedules...students can access reinforcement on their devices. There are so many options!

My FAVORITE schedule apps:
Re-Do (Repeatable To-Do) --> Great age appropriate schedules for older learners who know how to read and do not need visual supports. 

Pros: Allows for creation of multiple schedules. Schedules are easy to follow/view multiple steps at once. Allows you to put extra information in "notes" sections. I use this for shopping lists and embedded prompts. Excellent low price. 
Cons: Does not have ability to embed pictures or videos

FTVS HD- First Then Visual Schedule --> Great schedule for non-readers or those who need extra visual/behavioral supports. 

Pros: Allows you to embed pictures, videos, and token economies to support students. 
Cons: More expensive than Re-Do. 

I know it may not be possible for everyone to have a personal device, but if it is an option.....start teaching your students as soon as you can--- these skills are irreplaceable. 

Ideas if your students do not have access ?:
- bring your own device from home to use in the classroom
- ask for donations of outdated/unused phones from other can still charge and use an old phone for apps without their being a data plan. You just need WIFI
- ask your PTO, principal, etc. You may be surprised what you can get for your students once you ask. 

Good Luck! :)

-- AU-some Adolescents

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

October Resources

It is officially FALL and almost October. I love this time of year.....the changing leaves, pumpkins, and slightly cooler weather that doesn't quite require those winter jackets just yet.

September can be a bit of a blur with school just beginning. I always feel like I am hitting my stride once October roles around. Even though I am on maternity leave this October...I am still excited looking through all of the new fall themed resources online.

I especially love using my own October Independent Practice and Fall Themed No Prep Worksheets

Both packets offer a TON of colorful, fun, themed worksheets that can be used for independent binders or homework. I also love laminating the puzzles and clip cards for frequent use during independent stations or schedules.... a huge bonus in my class! 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

INDEPENDENCE is the number one most important thing our students can learn.

When I am discussing independence with others I like to clarify by saying...

What I mean is... 

Can my students exhibit the skill without anyone else present?
across all environments? (school, home, relevant community settings)
without reinforcement provided by others?

Do my students maintain the skill over time?

All of these questions are important and need to be considered. If I can't answer 'yes' for each one... then we need to do more work.

All too often I hear others say a skill is mastered. When in reality- the student can't do the skill unless they are in their familiar classroom, with a known teacher, and a token economy is running. Does this sound familiar?

True independence takes TIME, it's hard, but it's worth it. I am never more proud than when I see one of my previous students doing something I know I taught them years before. They are amazing!

There are so many important skills to work on before my students age out of the school system at 21 I want to make sure I am choosing the RIGHT skills. My students work HARD and I want to use their time wisely.

One way I build independence in my classroom is through SCHEDULES.

Who doesn't love a good schedule? I can't imagine how I would remember where to be all day without them!

Our students often need this structure, so my students have schedules for just about everything. They have full day schedules, vocational schedules, leisure schedules, peer interaction schedules, and mini schedules within schedules. My students thrive off this structure and I LOVE the progress they make!

Not only do schedules help minimize problem behavior, maintain mastered skills, and generalize skills to new environments....but you guessed it- they help students do things INDEPENDENTLY. After all...this is the ultimate goal.

One of my favorite independent schedules for adolescents is a "work schedule"----more specifically an AGE APPROPRIATE work schedule. This is where my students practice mastered pre-vocational or vocational skills. I want to help my students acquire a variety of vocational skills so they can one day have a meaningful job.

1. Only include MASTERED tasks want students to follow the schedule without help.

2. Choose AGE APPROPRIATE tasks...ideally ones that target IEP goals
DO use coins when sorting
DON'T use Sesame Street figurines when sorting

3. Vary the tasks frequently to prevent boredom or memorization
Everyone has their own method.... but make sure it works for your class and students. Our students are smarty pants and they often memorize the order of the schedule and individual tasks. Memorization, in this case is not our friend. I want my students to use the schedule to determine what they need to do.... not memorize it once and never look back. Real life schedules can be unpredictable....and so should our schedules in class.

4. Make sure all tasks are prepared and clear
Nothing is worse than our students getting a bin, only to find half of the materials missing and no directions. Of course you could do this purposefully in order to teach "asking for assistance"---- but that's a topic for another day.

5. Do NOT have students undo tasks wouldn't undo your own work would you?
We want our students to see the value of completing their work.

6. Teach students to access reinforcement
....I know I usually work for $, what about you?
reinforcement doesn't have to inhibit independence....just help students access their own reinforcement instead of relying on others to track and provide it fore them.

I have become a bit of a hoarder when it comes to independent work tasks. They fill my classroom bookshelves, closet, and sometimes my car. I know I am not the only one in this boat. You all know who you are... :)

My favorite places to find things to include in new bins are The Dollar Tree and Target Dollar Spot. I can always count on both places to have something I NEED. 

I plan to participate in WORKBASKET WEDNESDAY and write many more posts on this stay tuned!


I am so excited to be starting my own blog. I have grown to love reading MANY blogs by other amazing Special Education Teachers. 

I have found so many useful resources and learned many new ideas from others. My hope is that my blog helps other teachers, parents, and caregivers working with special learners. 

You may have gathered from my blog's title that my main passion is working with adolescents with Autism. I truly believe that a focus on INDEPENDENCE from an early age is essential....and even more important as students hit adolescence. I always keep this important theme in mind when planning for my students. 

That being said.... see my first real post on this important topic.