Blog for Early Childhood Professionals

  • Creating a treasure hunt to learn positional words

    One morning in the EPIC classroom, Richard, a child with autism, was working with pencil and paper at his desk.

    He began by drawing long, curvy lines, and then made an X in the corner of the paper. He asked “treasure?” before getting another piece of paper and repeating these actions.

    I realized Richard was asking for a treasure map, so I made him one. His job was to find the treasure chest and make a trail – using a corresponding color – to the ship. He enjoyed it for a short while, then he asked for more treasure.

    I thought we might play with the construction pennies set as treasure, but he didn’t ...

  • Walking the 8

    As is true with many children in kindergarten, Michael has difficulty controlling his impulses and urges. He is also very clear about what he likes and does not like.

    When presented with a preferred activity, such as Legos, letters or drawing, Michael is able to focus for 20 minutes or more at a time. However, when presented with a non-preferred activity, he will often communicate his refusal by screaming or knocking the activity off his work area. Since these behaviors are not socially acceptable, they are also not acceptable in our ASD classroom.

    At first, taking Michael to the hallway just outside of the classroom was effective in helping him manage the powerful feelings ...

  • Understanding students’ behavior as communication

    The Situation: While coloring, Sara turned to Elena and said, “I guess you don’t know what color dogs are, because you colored them purple.”

    Elena was crestfallen. “My mommy told me I can use any color I want,” said Elena.

    “Well, I guess its OK at your house, but we use dog colors at my house,” commented Sara.

    Miss Toth was standing nearby and heard the interchange. As she approached the girls, she noticed that Elena stopped coloring and was tearful. “Elena you look like you had your feelings hurt,” she said.

    “Sara hurt my feelings and said I was stupid!” whined Elena.

    “I did not!” argued Sara.

    Miss Toth spoke with Sara privately. She knew that admonishing Sara would ...

  • Collaborating with a student to change a behavior

    Michael (not his real name) is a 5-year old boy who has autism. He loves playing outside. During school recess each day he smiles as he digs for worms in the dirt, shovels and sifts in the sandbox, and gleefully rides on the swings. Our school playground has areas that are both open to the elements and covered by a roof, allowing outdoor play regardless of weather.

    As the temperatures began to get colder, Michael was quite willing to put on his coat, but he adamantly refused to keep his head covered with a hat or a hood. This was becoming a point of struggle at home, and his mother expressed concern about ...

  • Understanding upsetting behavior as communication

    I had just brought Sammy (not his real name) in from the playground at the end of our school day. His mother was usually in the hallway by this time to greet him and take him home. On this day, since she wasn’t there yet, I suggested to Sammy that we could get his backpack from the cubby and wait for her together, sitting on chairs in the hallway.

    The very moment we got his backpack, his mother arrived. They have a very loving relationship, so I was surprised when Sammy threw a fully physical and verbal tantrum.

    Since teachers at Hanna Perkins view behavior as communication, I considered what Sammy might be telling ...

  • Taking time to learn from a student with autism

    My student Sammy (not his real name) began looking up briefly from his desk in the classroom. At first these movements appeared to serve the purpose of relieving neck strain or perhaps eye strain from looking down at his table work. But I soon realized that he was catching quick looks at the clock on the wall.

    I pointed to the clock and asked him, “Clock?” which prompted a longer gaze at the classroom fixture. I asked again, “Do you see the clock?” He replied “Yes” and then went back to his work.

    While he worked, I fetched our teaching clock from the classroom cupboard and brought it to Sammy’s desk. It was a ...

  • The importance of talking with children about feelings

    The situation: Four-year-old Michael was misbehaving. The teacher, Mr. Carpenter, was speaking quietly to him, helping with feelings the young boy could not express verbally.

    caring-teacher-1622554-1280x960_freeimages_Heriberto Herrera“Michael, if you are missing mommy and feeling sad, we can talk about her, think about her and make her a picture,” Mr. C said. “You can miss mommy and still feel like a big schoolboy who can manage and be safe.”

    Nearby, Alex had been watching this interaction out of the corner of his eye while building with blocks. Unexpectedly he lashed out at Julia, who was working next to him, knocking over her building. Julia yelled,” Alex is mean and being bad!” Alex appeared unconcerned about what ...

  • Cross-cultural test of anti-bullying program

    trinidad-w-bell-0716While team members at The Hanna Perkins Center for Child Development were preparing this summer for the first broad-based rollout of “My Mad Feelings,” a bullying prevention curriculum for children as young as 4, Clinical Director Kimberly Bell was giving the program a cross-cultural test at a school in Trinidad and Tobago. While the test was informal, the results, she said, were strongly positive.

    While most anti-bullying programs focus on adolescent children, the origins of bullying can be recognized at a much younger age – when children first go to school or child care, and are learning to advocate for themselves in a social setting.

    When angry, scared or otherwise bothered, young children “share” the way they feel ...

  • An alternative to punishment for misbehavior

    boy closeup-conscience_ Serge Bertasius Photography_freedigitalphotosThe Situation

    Five-year-old Thomas sat in his chair at morning meeting. During the “Days of the Week” song, Thomas rocked in his chair to the music. He knew it was against the rules because it wasn’t safe; chairs tip over easily. But when no one seemed to notice or comment on it, he did it again. Still, nobody paid attention.

    When morning meeting ended, the children were free to choose an activity. Thomas chose puzzles, his favorite. But when he couldn’t get the pieces to go in correctly, he picked up a piece and threw it across the room.

    His teacher was surprised. “What’s wrong, Thomas? You seem angry. You usually love ...

  • The ‘inside helper’: Helping young children make good decisions and use their conscience

    training wheels_1431529-639x745_ned horton_freeimagesThe situation: Five-year-old Abby pushed her way into the preschool line. She had been waiting all day to show her teacher how well she could ride a bike with training wheels.

    “Hey, you’re pushing in front of me and that’s not fair,” cried Jack. “I want to get outside too!”

    Abby started to cry: “Now I’ll never be able to show Mr. Martin how I ride a bike, because they’ll all be taken!”

    Mr. Martin approached the children and asked what was going on.

    “Abby pushed me so she could get a bike, but I was here first,” Jack complained.

    “I just wanted to show you that yesterday I learned to ride a bike with ...