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An alternative to punishment for misbehavior

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The 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 ...

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

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The 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 ...

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Remembering Ginny Steininger

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The Hanna Perkins family is mourning the loss of Virginia Steininger, who died in her home on Aug. 24. She was 89.

Steininger taught kindergarten, and was a teacher and director at Solon Cooperative Preschool before becoming the director of the child-care program at the Cuyahoga Valley Vocational School. There she taught courses in child development and helped establish the first public preschool in Ohio for children with difficulties. She then came to Hanna Perkins, where she served for 16 years ...

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A strategy for talking with children so they’ll listen

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The situation: Mrs. Parker called out to her preschool class, “It’s almost time to clean up and go outside to play.”

It was a cold snowy day and the children needed to put on warm clothes.

Laura looked up and said, “No, I’m not going.” Paul screamed, “I didn’t get my turn on the easel.” Rebecca ignored the direction, and two boys, Jason and Robbie, started running around the room chasing each other.

Mrs. P raised her voice. “It’s time to finish what ...

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Creating a treasure hunt to learn positional words

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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 ...

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Walking the 8

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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 ...

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Understanding students’ behavior as communication

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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 ...

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Collaborating with a student to change a behavior

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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 ...

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Understanding upsetting behavior as communication

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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 ...

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Taking time to learn from a student with autism

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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 ...

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