• Creative Ways to Enhance Pre-Reading at Home by Ivy Evers, Reading Specialist


    April 19, 2018

    Before a child begins to read, they’ll need to develop a set of pre-reading skills.  Those skills range in category from concept of print, letter knowledge, and phonemic awareness.  Although it may not look like they are “reading”, they are learning the skills necessary to do so.  So often parents ask how they can help support their child’s pre-reading skills at home, so here is a list of 5 activities for you to try.


    1. Read: One of the most important activities you can do to support your child’s pre-reading skills is to just read to them.  Letting them watch you turn the pages, read the words across the page, and hear the sounds coming out of your mouth helps them pick up a variety of those pre-reading skills!
    2. Play with Magnetic Letters: Have a set of magnetic letters on the refrigerator or a magnetic board and let your child explore.  Children can work on identifying the letter names, placing them in alphabetical order, or even beginning to form words.  In the beginning, make sure to model the letter name for them while they play!
    3. Songs and Videos: In the world that we live in now, technology is always at our finger tips. Use it to find songs that focus on phonemic awareness and alphabet knowledge.  Even try ones with motions to get your little one moving!
    4. Environmental Print: The signs and logos in your community, referred to as environmental print, are great precursors to reading. Go on an environmental print search through magazines, print out logos and have your child identify them, or drive around and ask your child to identify the signs they see.  Recognizing the logos and what they stand for will help your child begin to read!
    5. Alphabet Hunt: Go on an alphabet hunt around your house, through magazines or books, or walk around outside. Make it a fun game, by asking your child to find specific letters.  You can even pair the letters with words to take it a step further.


    There are so many activities you can do at home with your child to enhance their pre-reading skills.  These are just a few of the ones I have enjoyed doing with my students over the years!  Have fun and it won’t even feel like work!

  • The Next Step: Engagement

    By: Kari Becker, M.Ed.

    In my last post, I spoke about the importance of regulation.  Of making sure that your student’s body, feelings and mind were ready to learn.  The next layer for learning success is Engagement-the act of being engaged.  The act of truly being there, in the moment, connected to who you are working with and what you are doing.  It is not just the act of doing that is important.  As an educator, we feel the constant pressure to perform; to get as much done in the short time that we have.  It feels most important to teach skills that we are entrusted, and sometimes mandated, to teach.  There is often a focus on the product and not as much the process.  Yet, I have learned in over almost 20 years of teaching (yikes!), that the process is so much more important in ensuring that what you are trying to teach is robust enough to retain.

    The key to that successful process starts with the relationship you build with each student and each student is unique.  They each have a unique set of strengths, challenges, interests and BIG personalities.  Spending time at the very beginning of the process building that fragile relationship with a student is an often missed or rushed step.  Before expecting a student to be challenged, grow, take risks and perform, they must feel safe, nurtured, connected and motivated.  This will all stem from the relationship you create with that student.

    How is this done successfully?  Well, the answer is both easy and difficult.  You have to find what lights that student’s fire.  What makes them who they are and how can you share in that joy?  What creates that twinkle in their eye?  What makes them belly laugh?  What makes them feel that you “get” them?  You have to be silly, spontaneous, fun, and nurturing.  Listen, play, frolic, share, cry, laugh, and hug.  How much each student needs is different. It depends on who they are and what they respond to.  For some it takes very little time at all.  For many, it takes a good amount of time to build that relationship, to create your own jokes, secret handshakes and strong, lasting connection.  But once it is there, you will know.  There are many different terms for this process….relationship building, pairing, rapport building…..but you will know it when you did it!  Students will perform better, take more risks and be more comfortable being challenged for adults they feel connected to, are motivated by, and who they just like.

    Once you have that relationship established, it is important to also make the work fun, meaningful and interest driven whenever possible.  It won’t be always.  Work isn’t always fun and you can’t always make it about basketball or a favorite Disney character, but when those interests can be utilized….do it.  Make instruction as pertinent to their life as possible.  Make it meaningful, rich and contextual…and when you can’t…your relationship will carry you through.  You are reinforcing enough.

    In the end, it will be about who you are with, how great it feels to be there and how fun it is to learn something new with them.

  • Clinical Connections Education Model: Regulation

    by Kari Beth Becker

    When we first developed our clinic model over 17 years ago, we saw how effective it was in engaging students in learning activities.  We started with just speech and play sessions, but soon realized that our clients also needed support with academics.  Many of our families felt that their children could learn more.  They knew that their children had more potential but it was not being tapped.  Why?  Many of these students were being educated in great school districts by great teachers.  What was missing?  Based on what we have seen, the answer is easy, but often times difficult to implement.  It starts with regulation.

    What is regulation?  What does this mean when you are talking about teaching a student?  Learning requires the student to be ready to gather information.  There can be many obstacles to this, even for us as adults.  Hunger, pain, fatigue, anxiety…. These feelings all impact our readiness to listen, concentrate, process information and remember what we learned.  Regulation for learning means that our body and mind are in an optimal place to be available to gain new information.

    Many children with special needs struggle to process their environment effectively. Sensory input such as smell, light, touch, sound and movement are processed differently by their systems.  Many students struggle to filter or integrate all of these inputs that bombard us at any given moment.  Other students hyper-focus on particular details in their environment.  Some students are over-sensitive to certain types of inputs, as others may be under-reactive.  For many of these students, it takes immense effort just to “be”. Sometimes, they feel out of control of their bodies and emotions.

    So, what is our job?  You can image that it is very difficult to engage a student in a learning task when they are feeling so out of sync.  Our job is to get them back to a place of comfort, readiness, and stillness.  Our job is to do the work in the trenches to understand their amazing system.  What gets them going?  What calms them down?  What are the smallest signs they are struggling?  Collaborate with others who know the child.  Parents are the greatest resource for knowing the student. Make lists of activities that support the student to be ready to learn.  You need to read your student at each step of the way to ensure they are at a place of normalization before placing any expectation on them.  If we ignore these signs and don’t take the time to get them regulated, we fail them and their uniqueness.  Behavior incidents will increase, our frustration will increase and true learning cannot occur.

    How do I get a child regulated?

    Take an inventory of your own regulation. You own feelings, worries, and frustrations are felt by your student, no matter how much you try to mask them. Put aside those feelings in the moment and ride the wave of calm.  Note: Be sure to talk to someone about your feelings later.  If you are really struggling, take a break or ask a colleague for assistance.

    Take an inventory of the child.  What are their words, body and expressions telling you? Are they too sleepy and need to be alerted?  Are they upset, anxious, over-excited or silly and need to be calmed?  Are they seeking a certain kind of touch to feel grounded?  Do they need a couple minutes to just “be”.

    Check your environment.  The environment you work in is just as an important variable as you or the student.  Make your environment one with limited distractions.  Use your space to increase focus on the task at hand.  Make it inviting and fun, but calm and organized.  Small tweaks to how the environment is organized can make a significant difference in the way a child feels.

    Modify the environment if a student requires it.  Find a cozy spot to sit. Turn off the lights. Turn on the lights.  Light a candle.  Turn on soft music.

    Stop talking.   As humans, we often resort to talking through problems, yet for many of our children, increased language demands can be more dis-regulating.  Much can be said with few words.  Watch your tone of voice, speed and volume when you do talk.  Use your affect and your breathing to convey a mood.

    Read the child at every turn and use strategies you have acquired to support regulation.  This may be seeking out big movement or telling quiet stories about a favorite topic.

    Doing this work both proactively and reactively to keep a student feeling good and ready to learn is the first key step to successful education of students with special needs. Regulation cannot be achieved with 1-2 sensory breaks a day.  It is an ongoing, dynamic process that involves you, the teacher, the student and the environment.  It needs to be tweaked, massaged and re-evaluated at every turn.   Some days will be harder than others and your only job will be for the student to leave more regulated than when he arrived. Many days, when using these tools, you will see a student who is feeling great and ready to learn.

    Next time….the importance of building a relationship and the effect it has on engagement.

  • All About Apples

    All About Apples:

    At CCDS, this week we will be featuring activities based on Apples.  I hope everyone, especially the children, will love this new approach!

    Hundreds of approved corresponding activities can be found on my Pinterest site (Crisler Lovendahl), so visit often and follow along.  If you want to suggest activities to be added to the theme unit, just send them to me by Pin and I will post them when approved:

    Music:                    Way up High in the Apple Tree; Have you ever Seen an Apple?

    Art:                        Coffee Filter Apples; Cezanne Apples

    Sensory Table:      Oats, Cinnamon Sticks, and Apples

    Cooking:                Homemade Applesauce

    OT:                        Pom Pom Tree; Apple Bead Sort with Tongs; Light Table

    SME:                      Green Apple Scented Playdough

    Girls/Boys Groups:    Bobbing for Apples; TeamBuilding: Hand/Foot Apple Tree

    Morning Groups:    Chart; Video; What’s inside an Apple?

    Chalkboard Drawing:        3 Ways to Preserve Apples

    Science:                   Montessori Nomenclature; Life Cycle of an Apple Tree

    Check out the Apple Pinterest Board for more ideas:

    Sorting and Graphing Apples by Color; 1:1 Correspondence with Pinecones; Apple Cloud Dough; Reading under the Apple Tree (I would love to set up a nook above the stairs in the EC room); Read (or watch the video) of 10 Apples up on Top; Apple Science Activity (Acids and Bases); Peanut Butter Dip with Apple Tasting; Create an Apple invitation to Play; Johnny Appleseed; Apple Tree Seasons Craft; Apple Cinnamon Bread; Candy Apple Rice..and many more.

    And, here’s a preview of What’s Coming:

    Farm (Simple Machines)

    Leaves/Fall (Seasons)


    Welcome Back to School!


  • Jam into Fall!

    Welcome to Jam Orchard!

    Come and visit us at our Farm!

    We have “invitations to play” set up in the Orchard.  A puppet show is going on in our barn! Our cottage is all ready for you to prepare breakfast for a friend! And of course, we have Jam Stories, Jam Music, and Jam Crafts!

    If you have a little one, and want to host a birthday party at Jam Orchard, Ivy and Michelle would love to plan it for you!

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    See ya’ down on the Farm!

  • Engagement


    What is Engagement?

    Newborn infants are largely unaware of their surroundings, but a highlight in a parent’s life is the moment they realize their baby now recognizes and reacts to their parents’ actions. This process is titled “engagement” and is defined by the delight in interaction  (“Falling in Love”) stage of the DIR model.  In describing the early development of relationship engagement, Dr. Stanley Greenspan writes, “They learn that coos bring mom, and that cries can, too, but in different ways. They are beginning to experience different emotions and to distinguish between them.”

    Depictions of autism spectrum children and adults in media often focus on a deficit in engagement. From Dustin Hoffman in “Rain Man” to the titular character in “My Name Is Khan,” relationship engagement skills in the autistic are depicted as almost nonexistent. But Clinical Connections has proven the limits of this depiction by forging very friendly and joyful relationships between staff and children and continues to prioritize its development.

  • Regulation


    What is Regulation?

    You wake up and find yourself on an unfamiliar couch. What initially sounds like the static of a distant radio becomes the clear sound of an ocean beach, the only thing visible outside your sun-drenched hotel room. Blackened silhouettes pass the window, but the light is too bright to see anything but the sparkle of the tide.

    Over the next hour, you become attuned to the sounds of the beach and hotel machinery, and the dark shadows jogging past give way to parents and children in brightly-colored swimwear. To reduce the sound while sipping coffee, you turn off the air conditioner, and you find you can more easily relax. This process is known as sensory regulation. Regulation is a key part of the Clinical Connections model.

    In describing regulation, Dr. Stanley Greenspan writes:
    “[The child] must learn to distinguish different sounds, smells, and sights. And, they must learn how to organize themselves in the presence of a variety of stimuli. If those early sensory experiences are overwhelming, though, [the child] can tune out the world and lose their desire to interact. This stage focuses on staying calm and actively taking in information from the world, as well as sharing attention with others.”

    Regulation is essential for more than effective therapy. Training an independent sense of regulation will help children stay active while, for example, visiting parks, learning in school, or, eventually, entering the workforce. Regulation is a combination of identification of stimulus and its modulation; it’s not enough to realize the music you’re playing is the loud sound, but recognizing that your work focus will be better if you change its volume.

    If you find yourself on the beach with your child, try exploring the independent stimuli to them, or challenge your child to identify each. This exercise will challenge your child to utilize their senses and practice identification while also helping to provide a sense of comfort with their surroundings. Pay attention to your child’s regulation as you can and help them to recognize how to modify overwhelming or ineffective stimulus in their environment.