Kids Learning Printables Linky Party

Welcome to the Kids Learning Printables Linky Party!

co-host Montessori Nature

I had every intention of sharing a new tot post along with features this week.  However, life happens, and I'm unable to do so.  My apologies.  I will be visiting all the posts that did link up and sharing my favorites on Pinterest and Facebook.  Next week life will be a bit more organized and I can finish things on time.  I hope to see even more fabulous link ups this week!


Here's how this works!

You:
1.  Link up to 3 educational printables for kiddos.  Free, paid, and giveaway printables are welcome.
2.  Add our Kids Learning Printables Linky Party Button to your post or blog.
3.  Support your fellow educators by commenting, pinning, and/or sharing the post published before yours.
4.  If you're not already doing so, follow me on FacebookPinterest, Twitter, and/or through my blog.
5.  You give me permission to use and repost images from your blog.

Me:
1.  Visit all posts.
2.  Share and pin as many links as possible throughout the week.
2.  Feature my favorite posts in next week's link up.
3.  Get to know you, your blog, and your printables for future use.

Let's get this party started!
Every Star Is Different

Special Dietary Needs: A Beginner's Guide for Parents

It's no secret that all of my kiddos have special dietary needs.  Sunshine and Bulldozer have food allergies.  Dinomite and Princess also have feeding issues.  Dinomite's are related to his autism.  Princess' issues are caused by food related trauma and neglect she endured before coming to our home.

No matter what the special dietary need is or where it came from, the initial process of dealing with them, in many ways, remains the same.  It is my hope that this beginner's guide for parents will help others who have children with special dietary needs that have just been diagnosed.

Special Dietary Needs: A Beginner's Guide for Parents
This post contains affiliate links.

A Beginner's Guide for Parents of Children with Special Dietary Needs


1.  Research

It would be so nice if there was only one word to define 'egg' or 'dairy' on an ingredients list, but that's not the case.  When it comes to foods your child can't have, take the time to research those specific foods for other names they may go by and/or places you may not expect them.  Remember not to leave out herbs and spices.

2.  Make a Date with the Grocery Store

With the list of foods that are no longer allowed in your child's diet, and your second list of other names those foods go by, arrange for a lengthy and solo trip to the grocery store.  Start by going around the outer edges of the store and slowly work your way to the center, reading the ingredients lists of as many items as you can tolerate at one time.

This process may take more than one trip.  Read ingredients lists on ALL items, including baking items.  You'd be surprised what's in them.  When you find an item your child can have throw it in your cart (if you have money on hand to purchase items), or start making a list in a notebook of everything you find.

Write down the aisle or place in the store you found it.  It would not be a bad idea to take a picture of the item, if you're only writing a list as well. You'll learn to love the fresh produce, meat, and dairy isles for their simplicity.  Warning: Your grocery bill may double, triple, or quadruple due to special dietary needs.

Plan accordingly for this in your budget.  Do not forget to read ingredients for cleaning supplies, laundry detergents and fabric softeners, make up, soaps, hair products, lotions, toothpastes, vitamins, medicines, pet foods, and/or anything else your child may come in contact with.

3.  Out with the Old and In with the New

Once you've purchased new "safe" items from the grocery store, remove any old items that are no longer "safe" from your cupboards, shelves, freezer, and refrigerator as you are putting away your items.  This process is much more tolerable, when you're replacing foods at the same time.  Otherwise, you may end up on your kitchen floor, an emotional basket case.  (Believe me. I know.)

If it is safe to keep foods that are not allowed in your child's diet, take this time to reorganize cupboards, so that you have one specifically for your child's special dietary needs, that includes any special snack items etc. Make sure any unsafe foods will be out of their reach.

Any unopened food items you must disregard, consider donating to a food pantry or a family in need.  Delivering items to one of these places, will help you with your grieving process during this difficult task.


4.  Make a Menu

You've gone to the store.  You've purchased basic items/ingredients.  You may also have a list of other items you haven't purchased.  Now it's time to try to put a menu together for your child with special dietary needs.  Your first goal is to create a menu for 1 week, that includes three meals and 2 snacks a day.  You should be able to do this even without recipes.

Consider meals such as grilled chicken, baked potatoes, and a simple vegetable, or rice and beans with a fruit.  If bread isn't a possibility, use crackers as a replacement and make little sandwiches.  There are a variety of alternatives to dairy, when it comes to milk.  The cereal and fresh produce isles in the grocery store are fabulous when it comes to snack replacements.

Try out your menu with your child for the week.  There is a definite difference between foods that your child can eat and foods that they will eat.  Your ultimate goal is to create a menu for your child that they will like.  Special dietary needs are already take the fun out of eating.  You want to make meal time and snack time as enjoyable as possible.

Some kiddos prefer to eat the same foods day in and day out.  Be okay with this for now.  After all, for once, it makes your life easier. Once you've created a menu full of safe foods that your child enjoys, you should be feeling a little bit better about your own capabilities in dealing with your child's needs.

5.  Find Recipes

Unless you and/or your child prefer to eat the same things every week, you're going to want to expand your meal options.  Do NOT go out and spend money on special dietary needs cook books unless you have previewed and sampled more than half of the recipes in the book, and enjoy them.

There are so many alternative ways to finding recipes that are free.  You've already just spent enough money on groceries after all.

Consider reaching out to friends and extended family.  Give them a list of your child's dietary needs and ask if they have any recipes that fit the bill.  Note:  It may be easier to give them a list of what your child can eat vs. what they can't.  Add some extra incentive by giving a prize to the person who has the most recipes that will work.

Do you know someone who has subscriptions to magazines that include recipes? Ask if they can save the magazines for you, after they're finished reading them.  Go through them and see if any of the recipes will work.  (This was one of my favorite methods.)

Search the internet.  There are so many sites out there with fabulous recipes. Pinterest is overflowing with recipes.  My biggest issue with internet and Pinterest searches is that unless you know exactly what you're searching for, the process can be extremely overwhelming, and can only remind you of what you're missing, not what you can have.


6.  Plan for Time to Cook and Bake

Unless you can afford a personal cook or have unlimited monetary resources, you will need to spend time in your kitchen cooking and baking for your special dietary needs child.  Whether you take one day and prepare 20 freezer meals, or cook individual meals each day, the time commitment will be the same.

7.  Have a Back Up Plan

There will be days when you don't feel like cooking or baking, or when you just won't have time.  Find at least two easy to prepare meals to have on hand as back up.  If your child is in school, you will need to have back up treats ready for parties, holiday, and birthday celebrations at school.


8.  Ensure Safety at Meal Time for Your Child

I was raised in a home where all of the prepared dishes were placed on the table as we sat down at meal time. They were passed around or dished out by my mother.  Everyone used the same serving spoons and knives.  In our home this is not possible.  The food either remains on the stove or set up on our kitchen island, away from the table.

Each dish or component of the meal has it's own spoon, fork or knife, to ensure no cross contamination.  In some cases, dishes are prepared on separate counters to ensure safety.  We have four children in our family, all with different special dietary needs.

In order to ensure each kiddo is receiving the proper food and remains safe at meal time, I color code everything.  Dinomite's plate, bowl, cup, and silverware are blue.  Bulldozer's are green.  Princess' are pink.  Sunshine's are purple.  One could even go as far as color coding fabric napkins and serving spoons if needed.  (I'm almost to the point that I need to do that.)

Other ways to do this would be to code things by character or pattern design.  When putting away left overs, you can do the same thing using color coded container lids etc.  In our home, everyone has only one set of dishware and silverware that is cleaned by them individually after every meal.  This helps cut down on cross contamination as well.

When it comes to sitting together at the table for dinner, be sure to place your child with special dietary needs in a seat that will be safe for them.  The best place would be between two responsible adults or between two empty seats.

As they get older and are more aware of their own special dietary needs, you may be able to place them next to understanding and supportive siblings.  If it's possible for everyone to eat the same thing as your child with special dietary needs, this task may be a little easier.

9.  Find a Cake Recipe and Alternatives to Baking Ingredients

I have a notebook of my most used and needed recipes.  At the top of this list is a safe cake/cupcake recipe for my kiddos with special dietary needs.  Whether it be for alternative cupcakes I need to bring to a birthday party they've been invited to, for their own birthday celebration, or other special occasion, you will need a recipe.

We've been baking from scratch for a while now and had to come up with alternatives to a lot of ingredients.  You may find others that work for you, but I wanted to share what we've learned.

  • In most baking recipes you can use water in place of milk.  
  • Oil can be used as an alternative to butter, margarine, and/shortening almost always.  
  • If oil can't be used, Fleishmann's Unsalted Margarine has no dairy.   
  • Olivio Coconut Spread has no dairy or soy.
  • When baking recipes call for eggs, you can use pumpkin, banana and/or Ener-G Egg Replacer.
  • When not using eggs you will want to stick to cupcakes, small bread loaves, cookies, and cakes cooked in pans 9x9 inches or smaller. If you don't, the middle of your cake or treat will not cook through.
  • An alternative to baking powder (for those who can't have corn) is a combination of baking soda and cream of tarter.  (One teaspoon of baking powder is equal to 1/2 teaspoon baking soda plus 1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter.)

10.  Find 1 to 2 restaurants that have safe menu items for your family

Set aside a few hours to read the menus and allergy information for restaurants located in your area.  Some may not have menus and information online.  In those cases, make a few phone calls, or go visit the restaurants with questions prepared.  Do not forget to ask about cross contamination issues and packaging processes.

Once you find a couple that may work, test them out.  Call ahead of time.  Let them know you're coming.  Give clear an precise instructions about what your family will need, in order to ensure the safety of your child with special dietary needs while there.

You may run into individuals who do not understand special dietary needs.  Try not to take it personally.  When concerned about this, always request to speak with the manager or owner.  If this approach doesn't work, then you know, this restaurant will not be a safe place for your child.  It may take time to find a place your entire family can enjoy, but it will be worth it.

Adjusting to life with a child who has special dietary needs takes time.  I've explained the most basic steps when first starting out, but it's still hard.  There is a grieving process to it.  If your child is an infant, starting out is much easier.  If your child is older, not only will you be dealing with your own grieving process, but their's too.  Be patient with yourself and with your child.  You can do this!

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the ones below.
Special Dietary Needs Support and Resources

Its' Personal: I Cried

It's Personal:  Food Allergies

When Food Is Your Child's Enemy

Special Dietary Needs: A Beginner's Guide for Parents

Mermaid Unit w/ Free Printables

This post contains affiliate links.

This unit has been designed for use with the book:  The Tail of Emily Windsnap, by Liz Kessler.  Each day, while the kiddos eat their lunch, I read aloud to them.  It has been a fabulous experience for everyone.  Today we finished our latest novel (the one mentioned above).  All of us enjoyed the action packed adventure.  Even though it was about mermaids, it definitely kept the boys engaged.  The book is recommended for older kiddos, but mine had no problems following along with it.  Here's what's on our shelves this week:

Language:
Ending Consonant Sounds
 The kiddos will use the glass beads as markers when selecting the missing ending consonant.

Source:  I created this printable as part of the Mermaid Unit Language Printable Pack 1. For your free copy, click on the link at the end of the post.

Phonograms
 After reviewing the phonograms used in this activity, the kiddos will place the picture cards over the matching phonogram square.  Words are printed on each of the picture cards as a control.

Source:  I created this printable as part of the Mermaid Unit Language Printable Pack 1. For your free copy, click on the link at the end of the post.

Making Bracelets with Spelling Words
Last week I was thrilled to find letter beads at our local dollar store.  I couldn't resist using them as part of this unit.  The kiddos will spell words with the beads provided, stringing them as they spell.

Source:  I created this printable as part of the Mermaid Unit Language Printable Pack 1. For your free copy, click on the link at the end of the post.

We also continue to work on cursive letters using our sand tray.

Math:
Odd & Even Shell Counting
 After playing with the shells for a bit (because they always do), the kiddos will use the shells as counters to determine which numbers are odd and even, placing under the correct label.  The kiddos do fabulous with this!

Source:  I created this printable as part of the Mermaid Unit Math Printable Pack 1. For your free copy, click on the link at the end of the post.

Patterns
When I asked Dinomite what type of activities he wanted on the shelves this week, he mentioned how much he liked patterns and that we hadn't practiced them in a while.  I made this just for him.  The kiddos will use the pictures to complete the patterns.

Source:  I created this printable as part of the Mermaid Unit Math Printable Pack 1. For your free copy, click on the link at the end of the post.

Coral Reef Addition
 The kiddos will use the Safari Ltd. Coral Reef figures as counters and purple glass beads as markers when answering the questions on each card.

Source:  I created this printable as part of the Mermaid Unit Math Printable Pack 1. For your free copy, click on the link at the end of the post.

Subtracting Treasure
The kiddos will use coins as counters and "diamonds" as markers when answering the questions on each card.

Source:  I created this printable as part of the Mermaid Unit Math Printable Pack 1. For your free copy, click on the link at the end of the post.

Science & Culture:
Possible Reasons for Shipwrecks
 Anything weather related is sure to be a big hit with Bulldozer.  The kiddos can simply match up the cards or play a memory game with them.  These cards were a big hit!

Source:  I created this printable as part of the Mermaid Unit Science & Culture Printable Pack 1. For your free copy, click on the link at the end of the post.

Shipwrecks Around the World
 This is by far my favorite activity on the shelves this week.  Jason and I researched a few (10) shipwrecks in history.  Each shipwreck has a picture card and a fact card.  The kiddos match the cards and then find the body of water where the wreck occurred, using the map provided. This activity has been a great way to review our five oceans!

Source:  I created this printable as part of the Mermaid Unit Science & Culture Printable Pack 1. For your free copy, click on the link at the end of the post.

Painting Cloud Formations
The kiddos will choose a cloud formation of their choice and paint it using the blue paper and white paint provided.

Source: I created the Cloud Formation Cards. For your free copy, click HERE.

Visual Arts:
Curved & Straight Lines
 The kiddos will create the lines on the cards using the string provided and then sort them properly.

Source:  The free printable for this activity can be found at Montessori for Everyone.

Mermaid Art
I was unsure of how this activity would go, but to my surprise it's VERY popular and all of the kiddos have been very successful.  Bulldozer blew me away with his new cutting abilities.  The kiddos cut out a merman or mermaid (cut off hair to create merman) and glue it on to the blue paper.  Then they decorate the merman or mermaid using the crayons, glue, glitter, and sequins provided.

Source: The printable for this activity can be found at Cute Baby Crafty Mom.

Check out the kiddos' work.
Dinomite's work.
Bulldozer's work.  Check out his newly found counting skills!
Princess' work.
Music:
The kiddos continue to practice playing the piano and singing.

Physical Education:

Practical Life/Sensorial:
Putting on a Life Jacket
 The kiddos will practice putting on their life jacket and buckling it.

Mermaid Puzzle
 The kiddos will practice putting together this mermaid puzzle.

Ocean Lacing Cards
 The kiddos will lace one of the cards provided.

Mermaid Sensory Bin
 The kiddos are thoroughly enjoying our new sensory bin.  Dinomite requested one this week.

Rainbow Sand Art
The kiddos will practice their pouring skills while creating rainbow sand art.
Here are the kiddos' first sand art creations from today!  They had a lot of fun making them.

For those interested in the free printables, click on the links provided.




Next week we'll be studying South America.  We are a week behind due to the kiddos being sick this past week, but hopefully we'll catch up sooner than later!

Sea Turtle Activities for Tots w/ Free Printables (KLP Linky Party)

This post contains affiliate links.

My original plans for this week's tot activities included mermaids, the ocean, and the beach.  However all four kiddos have been sick, and we haven't done much of anything.  As I pulled out all of my ocean and beached themed materials, the many sea turtles we have acquired over the years stuck out at me.  What a wonderful way to talk about the ocean and the beach all in one unit!  I'm very pleased with how it turned out. Sunshine LOVES animals and enjoys learning about them.  Choosing an animal a week has a been a great way to work on colors one at a time, in hopes that they may eventually sink in.  This won't be the case every week, but for this month it's worked out great!

T is for TURTLE
In this activity, Sunshine will glue the green squares on to the "T" for turtle.  She's not a fan of gluing, but I'm hoping with practice she'll enjoy it more.  If she refuses to use the glue stick, I plan to introduce a liquid glue with a paint brush, as I know she loves to paint.  Once she "paints" she can press the green squares on top of it.

Source: I created the printable for this activity as part of my Sea Turtle Activities for Tots Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

Counting with Turtles
Sunshine did such a fabulous job counting her sharks last week.  I think I finally found a way that works with her after several failed attempts.  In this activity she will count out sea turtles to match the amount on each card.  If you don't have sea turtle figures, the printable provides paper copies for you to use, or the option to match the number of turtles with the written number, by separating the cards.

Source: I created the printable for this activity as part of my Sea Turtle Activities for Tots Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

The Life Cycle of a Sea Turtle
I'm leaving this activity very open ended for Sunshine, as I'm unsure how much she'll understand.  First, I'll present the life cycle of a sea turtle using the cards, and showing her the actions of the sea turtle with the manipulatives in the sensory bin provided.  After, I'll show her one card in the life cycle and see if she can show me the same action using manipulatives in her sensory bin.  If she appears to understand more, we'll work on sequencing the cards.  If she doesn't seem to understand much at all, the sensory bin will provide loads of fun.  In the printable there are two sets of cards provided, one with numbers and words, the other without to be used for a variety of activities.

The sensory bin was made using blue glass beads (be sure to supervise 100% of the time) and homemade sand play dough.  For turtle eggs I've used dried white beans.  Turtle figures came from Safari Ltd. sets we have at home.

Source: I created the printable for this activity as part of my Sea Turtle Activities for Tots Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

Tweezing Sea Turtles
Sunshine will use the tweezers to transfer the foam sea turtles from one bowl to the other.

Squeezing Out the Water
Sunshine has very weak muscles in her fingers and hands. In this activity she'll work on strengthening muscles as she practices squeezing the water out of the sea turtle sponge provided.

Sea Turtle Lacing Activity
I've never tried lacing cards with Sunshine before.  She loves fine motor tasks, especially ones that require her to take things in and out of small spaces.  I'm hoping she'll enjoy it. If it's too hard, we'll move it aside and work on something else.

Source: I created the printable for this activity as part of my Sea Turtle Activities for Tots Printable Pack 1.  For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

For those interested in the free printable pack, click on the link below:



If you're looking for other fabulous ideas when studying the ocean, Anastasia from Montessori Nature has a fabulous free printable pack with an adorable ocean activity included!  Click HERE to check it out!

Welcome to the Kids Learning Printables Linky Party!

co-host Montessori Nature

There were so many great printables linked up over the last two weeks. It was so hard to choose only three features.  I don't know how I managed to do it.  Check out these fabulous ideas!

Here's how this works!

You:
1.  Link up to 3 educational printables for kiddos.  Free, paid, and giveaway printables are welcome.
2.  Add our Kids Learning Printables Linky Party Button to your post or blog.
3.  Support your fellow educators by commenting, pinning, and/or sharing the post published before yours.
4.  If you're not already doing so, follow me on FacebookPinterest, Twitter, and/or through my blog.
5.  You give me permission to use and repost images from your blog.

Me:
1.  Visit all posts.
2.  Share and pin as many links as possible throughout the week.
2.  Feature my favorite posts in next week's link up.
3.  Get to know you, your blog, and your printables for future use.

Let's get this party started!
Every Star Is Different

Unit Themes for the 2014-1015 School Year

This post may contain affiliate links.

Three out of four kiddos have been sick this week.  I am welcoming the chance to catch up on some unfinished work.  Each year I keep a binder for each kiddo, with their monthly syllabuses, Individualized Home Instruction Plan (goals for the year or IHIP), and other important papers required by the school district. All of these forms were handed in on May 1.  However, due to our busy lives, I'm just putting the binders together today.  I go through the binders week after week, making sure I'm covering the correct material and checking off each thing we accomplish.  Though I create the syllabuses myself, I'm still bound to them when I hand them into our district, so it's important I look at them weekly.  Every school district, state and country are different with what they require, but for us, this is it.

I checked back through the blog to see if I had shared our plans for the year yet, and was surprised that I hadn't.  I've added our weekly tot activity themes as well.  You will notice that over the course of the 12 months the older kiddos will also cover a study of every continent.

July
Unit Theme:  All American Summer
Week 1:  4th of July/ United States of America
Week 2:  Baseball (The kiddos did this outside of the classroom, which is why there was no unit study shared.)
Week 3:  Carnival/Fair (The Kiddos did this outside of the classroom, which is why there was no unit study shared.)
Week 4:  Pioneer Day

Read Aloud Books:
1. Becoming Babe Ruth, by Matt Tavares
2.  Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Weekly Tot Activity Themes:
We just started this venture.
1.  Dogs

August
Unit Theme:  Life At Sea Part 2
Week 1:  Shark Week
Week 2:  Beach Fun (This unit is being combined with our Mermaid Unit.)
Week 3:  Mermaids
Week 4:  South America

Read Aloud Books:
1.  Red Sails to Capri, by Ann Well and C. B. Falls
2.  The Tail of Emily Windshap, by Liz Kessler

Weekly Tot Activity Themes:
1.  Sharks
2.  Beach Fun (This unit is being combined with our Mermaid Unit.)
3.  Sea Turtles
4.  Boats

September
Unit Theme:  The Doctor's Office-We had a LOT of sickness in September.  This unit will be made up later in the year.
Week 1:  Pediatrician/Pharmacist
Week 2:  Dentist/Orthodontist
Week 3:  Optometrist
Week 4:  General Conference Unit

Read Aloud Books:
1.  Matilda by Roald Dahl
2.  Stuart Little by E. B. White

Weekly Tot Activity Themes:
1.  My Body
2.  The Doctor's Office
3.  The 5 Senses
4.  General Conference

Due to September being a big birthday celebration week, (click HERE for party details) we added a fun fall unit for the kiddos.
1.  American Football Unit

I also added a new fall themed tot unit.
1.  Squirrels

Since we were unable to cover material planned for this month, due to sickness etc., this unit will be made up in June.

October
Unit Theme:  Witches & Wizards
Week 1:  North America
Week 2:  The Wizard of Oz
Week 3:  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Week 4:  Halloween-Check out our tot unit activities that were available for everyone to enjoy.

Read Aloud Books:
1.  The Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
2.  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, by J. K. Rowling

Weekly Tot Activity Themes:
1.  Apples-This unit was part of our Fall Kick Off Birthday Celebration.
2.  Leaves-(Activities for this unit took place outside of the classroom.)
3.  Pumpkins-This unit was part of our Fall Kick Off Birthday Celebration.
4.  Halloween

November
Unit Theme:  I'm Thankful for My Family-Weeks 1-3 were combined in one unit.  We spent a lot of time doing activities outside of the classroom as well.
Week 1:  My Family
Week 2:  My Family Heritage
Week 3:  Thanksgiving
Week 4:  Europe Part I

To continue our November theme, our Random Acts of Christmas Kindness for December are focused on our immediate and extended family.  If you'd like to see what we're doing, click HERE.

Read Aloud Books:
1.  Beezus & Ramona, by Beverly Cleary
2.  Little Britches Father & Were Ranchers, by Ralph Moody

Weekly Tot Activity Themes:
1.  My Family-(Activities for this unit took place outside of the classsroom.)
2.  My Extended Family-(Activities for this unit took place outside of the classroom.)
3.  Thanksgiving-(Activities for this unit took place outside of the classroom.)
4.  Taking Care of Babies-(Activities for this unit took place outside of the classroom.)

December
Unit Theme:  Christmas
Week 1:  Carol of the Bells
Week 2:  Operation Christmas Cookies
Week 3:  Grandparent Christmas Party 2014
Week 4:  The Nutcracker (Activities for this unit took place outside of the classroom.)
Week 5:  Happy New Year (The kiddos were sick for New Year's Eve & Day. :(

Read Aloud Books:
1.  The Nutcracker, by E. T. A. Hoffman
2.  A Christmas Carol (A Young Reader's Edition), by Charles Dickens

Weekly Tot Activity Themes:
1.  The Nativity (Activities for this unit took place outside of the classroom.)
2.  Christmas Bells
3.  The Gingerbread Man (Activities for this unit took place outside of the classroom.)
4.  Christmas Tree  (Activities for this unit took place outside of the classroom.)
5.  Happy New Year  (The kiddos were sick for New Year's Eve & Day.  :(

January
Unit Theme: Winter
Week 1:  The Arctic
Week 2:  Hockey
Week 3:  Figure Skating
Week 4:  Antarctica

Read Aloud Books:
1.  The First Dog, by Jan Brett
2.  You Wouldn't Want to Be a Mammoth Hunter, by John Malam

Weekly Tot Activity Themes:
1.  Polar Bears
2.  Hockey
3.  Figure Skating
4.  Penguins (Activities for this unit took place outside of the classroom.)

February
Unit Theme:  The Body
Week 1:  Respiratory System
Week 2:  Valentine's Day Mini Unit (This unit took place outside of the classroom.)
Week 3:  Digestive System
Week 4:  Australia

Read Aloud Books:
1.  Robin Hood, by Paul Creswick
2.  The Secret Garden, by France Hogdson Burnett

Weekly Tot Activity Themes:
1.  My Body Can Move
2.  Valentine's Day
3.  My Body Needs Healthy Food
4.  I Love Cats

March
Unit Theme:  Civilizations in History
Week 1:  Ancient Egypt
Week 2:  Ancient China
Week 3:  Imperial Russia
Week 4:  Asia
Week 5: General Conference

Read Aloud Books:
1.  The Egypt Game, by Zilpha Keatley
2.  A Medieval Feast, by Aliki

Weekly Tot Activity Themes:
1.  Cars
2.  Construction Vehicles
3.  Emergency Vehicles
4.  Trains
5.  General Conference

April
Unit Theme:  Spring
Week 1:   Africa
Week 2:  Vegetable Garden Unit
Week 3:  Flower Unit
Week 4:  Fruit Unit

Read Aloud Books:
1.  James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl
2.  The Cricket in Time Square, by George Selden

Weekly Tot Activity Themes:
1.  Easter
2.  The Tale of Peter Rabbit
3.  The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck
4.  The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher

May
Unit Theme:  Zoology
Week 1:  Paleozoic Era
Week 2:  Mesozoic Era
Week 3:  Cenozoic Era
Week 4:  Make Up Week

Read Aloud Books:
1.  Tales from the Odyssey, Part I by Mary Pope Osborne
2.  Tales from the Odyssey, Part II, by Mary Pope Osborne

Weekly Tot Activity Themes:
1.  Mammals
2.  Birds
3.  Fish
4.  Reptiles & Amphibians

June
Unit Theme:  Kid's Choice
Week 1:  Dinomite's Choice
Week 2:  Bulldozer's Choice
Week 3:  Princess' Choice
Week 4:  Sunshine's Choice

Read Aloud Books:
This will be used as a make up week, if we haven't finished all books mentioned.

Weekly Tot Activity Themes:
These will be coordinated with each child's choice of theme for unit studies.

Weekly unit studies may be combined or eliminated in cases of illness, unexpected vacations and/or events.

How Can I Help My Autistic Child Prepare for a Career?

This is part 2 of a series of posts about what you can do as a parent to prepare your autistic child for life as an adult. The first post discussed ways to prepare your child for higher education. This post will address a similar topic but one that seems even more challenging and unreachable than school: employment and career.  Your role as a parent might be even more important to the success of your ASD child in the working world than in school. Whether it's a part-time paper route or professional career in nuclear engineering, there is a world of opportunity out there for your ASD child, especially if that child has your guidance and support from the beginning. There are four main ways that you can help your ASD child prepare for employment.

Disclaimer:  Any advice or suggestions that I write here CANNOT be considered therapy or professional consultation, due to counseling ethics standards. It is not really practical or possible to do counseling with someone I have never met. What I hope to offer IS my personal experience as a person with ASD, ADHD, and Anxiety Disorder NOS, combined with experience as a parent of special needs children, plus the things I have learned as a professional counselor.  Take any advice that fits, leave aside what doesn't fits.
This post may contain affiliate links.

1.  Match up natural strengths and skills with the corresponding job descriptions.  There are many examples of ASD folks who are quite successful in their professions, including many musicians, artists, writers and, of course, computer scientists.  As a parent, though it may be hard, allow your child to explore the subject areas that naturally fascinate them.  (Let them enjoy their obsessions.)  Everyone wants to feel successful, so pursuing jobs that correspond with those interests/obsessions is a good place to start in the career search process.

Besides seeking out careers that match up well with your child's interests, it is also important to identify job-related skills that your child does easily or naturally.  Note that interests and skills are not necessarily the same things.  At times natural skills may be helpful in some work settings but counterproductive in others. Some ASD children have ADHD-like symptoms (or have co-occurring ASD and ADHD), including impulsivity, hyperactivity and inattentiveness. Jobs which require a great deal of attention to safety, details, or multiple steps to accomplish a task may not be good fits for these ADHD-like traits. However, that same child can thrive in a work setting that involves attention to visual stimuli, predictable, simple tasks which can be completed with an ability to stay present focused.  An ASD child with anxiety symptoms may be great at proceeding cautiously with complex tasks, planning ahead, organizing and rechecking things to ensure accurate results.  Just don't put that child in a chaotic or loud setting with lots of last minute decision making and the need for flexibility when plans change.

Other skills which many ASD children have that could be useful in the working world include:
  • Memorization Skills-Many ASD folks have almost instant recall when it comes to numbers, facts, names or any other type of information that they either hear or read. 
  • Comfort with Monotonous or Repetitive Actions and/or Movements-Someone with ASD can perform as well as, or better than their normal peers, even in highly technical fields, such as cardiology or computer science, because they can repeat their actions precisely and accurately every time.  This also lends itself to warehouse jobs, assembly line jobs, or other jobs involving repetition and routine. 
  • Tendency to Prefer Activities with Physical Component-In general, ASD folks would benefit from job fields that involve physical activity, since it incorporates sensory input that is non-verbal and non-social.  If it helps in the classroom, it will help in the working world. 
2.  Teach your child life skills needed in the world of work.
As a parent, your goal is to teach your child organizing and time management skills, as well as essential social skills, such as asking for help and accepting criticism in socially-appropriate ways.  This is just as essential at work as it is in school and home.  Remember that the significant deficits in organizational skills, working memory, communication and social skills may make professional training and career paths in some fields impossible.  A 5-year old who can build a scale model of the Eiffel Tower with Lego bricks has the essential skill (as well as passion for the subject matter) to be an engineer.  However, social communication, emotional regulation, the need for specific rituals and routines (at home or at work), as well as sensory issues, all may be too powerful  for your little builder to overcome in order to accomplish the other requirements of the job.

One author with ASD explained his ability to succeed at work by describing his behavior and mindset at work as a "role" that he plays ("work guy.")  Remember that when your child is trying to juggle multiple "roles" they may not be able to apply these skills on their own.  The lack of generalizing skills is a subtle but very significant problem.  Compartmentalizing is a coping strategy that simplifies things for ASD folks.  The danger is that it lends itself to major consequences in their work, social life and home life.  What happens when "work guy" is ready to clock out for the day and is informed suddenly that everyone will have to stay late to complete an important project?  Excuses about family emergencies and sudden illnesses will only last so long.  Your child's inability to ask for help and support could result in major consequences at work.  Teaching your child life skills while he is young will help him advocate for himself with employers about his needs and can make or break his or her success in the work world.

3. Plan ahead and put supports in place.  
Once you have completed the first two steps above, identifying a career field or two that might be good fits for your ASD child entering the work force, fill in the gaps. Small gaps, such as difficulty managing time well, can be addressed through a simple alarm on a phone or watch as a reminder to not miss a required lunch break or team meeting.  The larger issues (social, new, or changing job duties, new supervisor, etc.) can be addressed through a job coach.  An individual with a valid ASD diagnosis may qualify for Vocational Rehabilitation Services, including job coaching and similar supports. The bottom line is that the coach can't do the job for the employee.  The ASD person needs to meet 90-95% or the job's basic requirements without help in order for these kinds of supports to be effective. On the flip side, if the difference between keeping a position or not is just a question of clocking out too late for lunch, the key is to find a way to meet that need and allow the ASD person to focus on the parts of the job that are not a struggle.

4.  Set realistic and attainable career goals.
The reason for employment is to be able to provide for one's self and/or one's family.  One thing that ASD folks struggle with is work/life balance.  While it is fun to imagine your 6-year old Star Wars fan as a movie producer when he grows up, it is important to aim for something more realistic.  On the other hand, your ASD child who brings home "C" or "D" grades in math may not be doomed to live the rest of his life in a converted apartment in your attic.  If you can teach your ASD child the role and purpose of employment in society, then it will be easier for the two of you to set a course towards the working world that is more attainable, more likely to be successful, and enables a work/life balance that is more well rounded.  Let me illustrate with an example from my life.

When I was 18 years old, I would have told you that I wanted to work for Nike designing shoes and apparel, and/or writing for the Simpsons and/or Saturday Night Live.  This was not realistic or in line with my actual abilities, despite my enthusiasm for TV comedy and athletic shoes.  As you might already know, I ended up pursuing psychology, then school psychology, and finally mental health counseling in college and then graduate school.  This progression happened as I developed an understanding of my strengths and weaknesses in the mental health/psychology world, sometimes after finding out the weaknesses the hard way.  However, despite learning the technical and professional skills of my chosen profession, I learned that I was still lacking in terms of life skills-time management, organizing my schedule and prioritizing correctly.  I didn't know how to ask for help and I would have been too embarrassed to ask for it. I developed bad habits, and eventually, agreed to corrective action plans and involuntary resignation at several jobs.  This happened because I did not acknowledge my weaknesses and I was struggling to find balance in my work/personal life.   No supports were in place.  As things became more complicated and complex in my personal life, stresses at work, which were almost bearable when I was single and had fewer responsibilities, became completely overwhelming, and the stress carried over into other aspects of my life.

Then two important things happened.  I was diagnosed with ASD, ADHD and an Anxiety Disorder, after discovering that both of our biological children had autism, one with ADHD and the other with anxieties. Then I lost another job, and applied to a job at Walmart for which I had no real experience or any sense of confidence about.  While it's something of a cruel joke that I graduated with a Master's degree, and a professional counseling license, just so I could end up working in the backroom at Walmart, I can safely say that it is the most satisfying job I have had with the least amount of job-related stress to bring home. More importantly, it satisfies the requirement of providing income for my family, while also allowing enough flexibility to spend time doing things that are far more rewarding to me like writing on this blog, helping with learning time materials, and spending quality time with my wife and kids.  If what we want most for our children with autism is for them to function in the world adequately while living the life they want to live, on their terms, then I think the backroom at Walmart might be the best-case scenario for me at this stage of life.  As in everything else, balance is the key.

My story is not meant to be the best model for everyone, it might not even work for anyone else.  It is not meant to suggest that an autistic person can't aspire to anything higher than a Walmart job.  I am suggesting that your ASD child has the greatest chance of starting and maintaining a career if the four steps I outlined above are considered, from the grade school years right up through adulthood.  Employment outside the home isn't for everyone, but for some, it can add a rich layer of experience and opportunity to the life and an individual with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  A person with ASD has the right and privilege of pursuing happiness the same way everyone else does, and a fulfilling career can be an important part of that journey.

About the Author
  Jason has a master's degree in Marriage and Family Counseling.  He has spent the last eight years working as a therapist to adults and children, in a private and group counseling sessions, and in residential facilities.  At home, Jason has four plus years experience as a foster parent with his wife, caring for children ages newborn to eighteen years of age with multiple special needs.   He is also a parent to four special needs children, two biological, and two adopted, with diagnoses of autism, ADHD, RAD, PTSD, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome of Effect, anxieties, and sleep disorders.  Within the last year, Jason was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD and Anxiety Disorder NOS.

Shark Unit w/ Free Printables


This post contains affiliate links.

Shark Week on Discovery Channel is a BIG deal in this house, even though we don't have cable.  Dinomite loves watching all of the shark videos made available online.  He also enjoys watching ones we have at home.  This year Bulldozer has joined in the fun.  In celebration of the big event, we're learning all about sharks during learning time this week.

Language:
Cursive Letter Sand Tray
 The kiddos continue to learn their cursive letters. This is our second set of four.  I'm so pleased with how quickly Dinomite and Princess are picking it up.  Bulldozer prefers print at this point, which is okay.  He just barely learned how to write all of his letters.

Source.  The free printable cards for this activity can be found at 3 Dinosaurs.

Painting Spelling Words
 The kiddos will write their spelling words using the paint and paintbrush provided.

Source:  I created the printable for this activity as part of my Shark Unit Language Printable Pack 1. For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

Noun & Verb Sorting
 The kiddos will sort shark themed nouns and verbs using the Montesori Grammar Symbols.  As a control, I have added the word "to" before every verb.  This seems to help the kiddos understand that the word is an action.

Source:  I created the printable for this activity as part of my Shark Unit Language Printable Pack 1. For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

Math:
Shark Food Addition
 How many different types of animals do sharks eat?  How many animals has this shark eaten today?  The kiddos will add up the appetizing animals to find the answer to the addition problems. They will use blue glass beads as markers for their answers.   The animals shown are those that many different types of sharks eat.

Source:  I created the printable for this activity as part of my Shark Unit Math Printable Pack 1. For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

Skip Counting by 5, 7 & 9
 I am so excited to use my Montessori Beads for this activity.  Mind you, they're homemade.  The kiddos will skip count using the beads as a control, as they put the numbers in order.  They can choose to count by 5s, 7s, and/or 9s.

Source:  I created the printable for this activity as part of my Shark Unit Math Printable Pack 1. For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

Culture & Science:
Water Forms
 Just where do sharks swim? Which sharks prefer which types of water?  Do they stay close to land? Do they prefer to be in deep waters? Fresh water? Salt Water? There are so many questions to answer this week as we read, watch, and study sharks!

We have used the water form cards and felt designs before, but this week I made cards with pictures of real life water forms, so the kiddos could see what they look like.
 Source:  I created the photo printable for this activity as part of my Shark Unit Culture & Science Printable Pack 1. For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.  The water form diagram printable is from Montessori Mom.

36 Shark Cards
I was aiming for our usual 50 card pack, however finding clear pictures of so many different sharks underwater proved more difficult than I thought.  Then there was the fact that so many sharks look almost identical to each other.

 Source:  I created the photo printable for this activity as part of my Shark Unit Culture & Science Printable Pack 1. For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

3 Ocean Food Chains
As always, when we cover an animal unit, especially one dealing with a deadly predator, it's a challenge to teach Dinomite something he doesn't already know.  I must give Jason full credit for this one. It was his idea.  He did all of the research AND made the cards.  All of the kiddos have enjoyed learning about food chains, especially when they learn about sharks eating sharks.  I like the activity because it focuses on sharks in their world, not the world of attacking people that is portrayed so much.

Source:  Jason created the printable for this activity as part of the Shark Unit Culture & Science Printable Pack 1. For your free copy, click on the link located at the bottom of this post.

Shark Anatomy
The kiddos have moved beyond the basic shark anatomy of head, trunk, tail, fin, etc.  When I found this diagram, I loved the extra detail.  However, placing all the tiny labels seemed a little daunting.  Instead the kiddos will put the diagram together like a puzzle, which will require them to look at the body part labels at the same time.

Source:  I created the printable for this activity as part of my Shark Unit Culture & Science Printable Pack 1. For your free copy, click on the link at the bottom of this post.

Visual Arts:
How to Draw a Hammerhead Shark
The kiddos will practice drawing a hammerhead shark using the white board, erasable crayons, and step by step cards provided.  Dinomite and Princess did an amazing job with this today!
Dinomite's drawing.
Princess' drawing.
 Source: The drawing cards for this activity came from How to Draw Animals.

Music:
The kiddos continue with their piano lessons and love to learn new songs each week.

Physical Education:
We continue exercising as a family.

Practical Life/Sensorial:
Cutting Activity
The kiddos are moving up in the world of cutting.  They can test out their skills using any one of these designs.

Source:  The free printables for this activity came from Montessori Nature and Ang at Home.

Pouring Water
The kiddos will practice pouring water into four glasses.  A funnel is provided if needed.

Transferring Water Beads
The kiddos will use the spoon to transfer water beads from one bowl to the other.

Shark Invitation to Play
The kiddos will enjoy a hands on experience that includes sharks, their prey, and so much more.

For those interested in the free printables, click on the links below:




For those interested in more shark activities and resources, visit the posts below.




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