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Positive Vibes Winter 2018

Combat Clutterclassroom pic combat clutter5 ways to "Combat the Clutter" in 2018
Sarah Smith with Illinois Autism Partnership
As we enter the new year, it is the perfect time for a classroom clutter reminder! Illinois Autism Partnership provides coaching to Illinois public school districts and one of the areas that is often targeted is preparing and sustaining a physical environment that meets the needs of learners with autism. All too often, our classrooms are over stimulating and filled with unnecessary clutter! Research has shown that children in highly decorated classrooms were more distracted, spent more time off-task, and demonstrated smaller learning gains than when they were in less visually cluttered learning environments. For learners with autism, a cluttered classroom can be a deal-breaker!
1.  Find a “home” for all materials, toys, and other classroom items. Remove random items from the tops of shelves, desks, tables, and other surfaces. If it doesn’t directly affect student learning on a daily basis, put it away. Maximize the space in your cabinets and drawers. Find a crafty person to help you create curtains for your bookshelves, allowing you to cover these areas when not in use. Items that are “out” should have a purpose for not being “away.” Items that are out and have not been used or touched in the past week are items that should be put away. 

2. Label your classroom storage areas. Use clean, clear, visually supported (photographs, line drawings, or both) labels that are consistent throughout your classroom. This not only helps you and your classroom staff to store and retrieve necessary classroom materials, but it provides a language-rich environment for your students that promotes independence. 

3. Pay special attention to your walls and ceilings. Remove decorations that hang from the ceiling. Remove some or all of the decorations on your wall. Start fresh. Update your student work on the walls and when you do so, organize it in a visually pleasing fashion (tape rolls instead of tape on top, equal space between posts, etc.). White space is okay. Make sure your permanently posted student resources are tools that are actually used (e.g. are they looking at that comma poster?).

4. Pair up with a teacher in a low-income school who can benefit from your purge! As educators, we accumulate so many THINGS over the years. We can’t let them go. We might use it someday! We have curriculum, games, therapeutic supports, containers, and so much more! Determine what you can get rid of to help de-clutter your classroom. Sometimes, knowing that these “treasures” are going to have a new home allows us to just “let it go.” If items belong to your school or district, return them to their rightful owner(s) as part of your decluttering process.

5. Be intentional about keeping your classroom in a state that allows your students to be the best that they can be. Determine a frequency (Daily? Weekly? Monthly?) that allows you to consistently “refresh” your classroom and return it to the decluttered environment you know it can be. 
story 2 EZ Employment
E-Z Mix Employment Opportunities
It is with great excitement that we share a new employment opportunity for our students at Eastereals Academy.  Michael Richardson, a generous Easterseals board member, recommended Easterseals students for a job opportunity at E-Z Mix. 
E-Z Mix currently employs three students, all who love and take great pride in their new job!  Billy, an Easterseals student who works at E-Z Mix states, “It’s the best job I ever had!”   Easterseals students report to E-Z Mix warehouse twice a week, to work two hour shifts.  During their shift, students rotate between two stations.  At one station, they assemble paint touch-up bottles by placing paintbrush caps on bottles.  At the second station, students adhere stickers to boxes, which are sent to be filled with paint mixing cups. 
Tina Pembroke, Employment Specialist and Melinda Rooker, Post-Secondary Teacher at Easterseals, work together to teach the students how to complete their work tasks efficiently and with high quality. The results have been nothing less than a dream come true.
new girl 4 x 4symphony
watching buttonsLetter Written by one of our Academy Students, Kaitlyn

On Sunday, December 17, I went to a Christmas concert and sold buttons. It was the Rockford Wind Ensemble, and they played music at the Nordlof Center in Rockford, IL. I work for HarrysButtons and we made Christmas buttons. We had 36 different designs, and my favorite design was the green Christmas tree. I sold them for $1 a piece or twelve buttons for $10.

We sang along to Christmas music, and we heard music from “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” I helped with the slide show from the booth during the sing along. At intermission, there were a lot of people shopping for buttons. After the show, I talked to people about HarrysButtons. I had my picture taken with the band, and we had cookies. 

My favorite part of the day was listening to the music, but one bad part was that I lost my hat. I would like to say thank you to the band for letting me come and sell buttons, and I hope I can do it again! I sold buttons to my dad, and we made over $100 total. Overall, it was an awesome day, but I really wish I had my hat!

 art therapy fun

Art Therapy Fun at Easterseals Academy
The students and staff at Easterseals Academy have been working hard on the school-wide "Four Elements" mosaic. They have completed water and fire and are currently working on earth, to be followed by wind. Not only is the process cathartic for the students, but it is also a sensory experience for all when walking down the hall. We frequently see students and staff running their hands over the bumpy and smooth surfaces. Stay tuned for more progress!

4 boys

Social-Emotional Learning Group
Carrie Browne, Social Worker and Jamie Fagerburg, Occupational Therapist run a weekly 45-minute social-emotional learning group, affectionately-named “The Good Guys” by its intermediate-aged members. Over the past semester, the boys have been learning about a variety of SEL topics, including: emotional identification and the nuances of emotions, active listening, giving and receiving compliments, conflict resolution, and bullying. Most recently, the boys have focused on becoming anti-bullying ambassadors for their school, learning about the features of bullies, how to effectively combat bullying, and role-playing various bullying scenarios. In the upcoming weeks, the group is aiming to develop an anti-bullying video to premiere at Easterseals Academy for their staff and peers. The boys will co-write and direct this film as their culminating project of the bullying unit. Future service-learning projects and areas of focus will be student-directed centered around the mission to help make the school a better place and help each other foster confidence, self-esteem, and friendships. 

Read more top news from Easterseals by clicking previous editions below

Read the top news stories in Positive Vibes Fall 2017

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