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Face Upward - Widget

Lunch Room Supports

Sometimes I wonder if the idea of taking a group of students on the spectrum into a large sensory overloaded room also known as the cafeteria is some sort of joke being played on us. I don't think an autism friendly cafeteria exists out there. The closest you might find is a lunch room in a designated school for students with autism, but still, in my experience, these schools are located in older buildings/older schools and these lunch rooms were still never created for this intention.

I'm pretty sure we all cringe inside a little bit thinking about taking our classes to the cafeteria. Now don't get me wrong, we also WANT our students to be there. To be with their peers, to learn the routines, to gain independence navigating through the lunch line. BUT there are still MANY challenges we face on a daily basis entering the cafeteria.

Waiting, loud noises, crowded spaces, high ceilings, sounds of others eating, carrying a tray, making choices quickly and on demand. Understanding that we HAVE to take something that we know we don't like and won't eat. I mean the list goes on.

Last year my students ate both breakfast and their lunch in the classroom. When I started working at my new school in August and I realized this, I thought no way. That's not fair to them. Let's give them the opportunity to show us that they can learn the routines and handle 30 minutes in the cafeteria before we seclude them to the classroom. And even then, why make them all eat in the classroom if all but 1 or 2 can handle the cafeteria?

So I made sure we were prepared to tackle this adventure. Thankfully our cafeteria is smaller than most I have been in, but it still has the super high ceilings and any of the sensory concerns you could possibly think of. Our trips to the cafeteria involve 2 things.

1. Get there early
2. Bring the cafeteria bin!

We get to the cafeteria as soon as we can to be closest to the front of the line for breakfast, and at lunch we always walk down a couple minutes early. I'd rather stand for 2 minutes with my students waiting for them to start serving, versus waiting behind a line of 20+ kindergartners. And we're first lunch which is also another bonus.

My students have really caught the hang of going through the lunch line. 2 require the most support, but they are also the youngest. Some finger fidgets to hold while they wait and some assistance with their trays from an adult and they make it through. All of the students love scanning their lunch tags at the end! :) I also created this super helpful visual to use to get us through the line.

One student does great going through the line, but I feel like we're always giving him a million verbal prompts to get through. This visual is great for him. We show him each prompt card through the steps and he can make it through the line with a bit more focus.  I'm thinking about creating a visual that shows all the steps in one line. This would be small enough for him to hold with him as a cue and place on his tray after he's picked his drink. That's not currently something that's included in the pack, but you can buy editable prompt rings in my TpT store by clicking {here}.

Our last and final life saver for the cafeteria is this yellow bucket. I take it to the cafeteria every morning before the students come in and we take it with us every afternoon for lunch.

The best thing in this bucket are the small toys/fidgets we bring with us for when students are done eating. All of our kids eat at different rates and then some are stuck waiting for a loooong time until lunch is over so we make sure this bucket is stocked with highly preferred items to keep them occupied at their seats until it is time to leave. Playdoh and silly putty are super popular choices. Finger fidgets like tangle toys and squishy tentacle fingers are also interesting to a few. Then we might toss in a few matchbox cars, or a random Buzz Light Year if someone was interested in him prior to leaving for the cafeteria.

We also keep extra utensil packs from breakfast (they don't get straws at lunch, but these have straws!), germ-x, and baby wipes-- never know what you might need. I also keep copies of the lunch menu for students whose parents have circled their choices for us and any behavioral support visual we could need.

We also find this bucket helpful for sneaking back those snacks that go un-opened, but will come in handy when nothing preferred is served for lunch!

How do you survive the cafeteria? What does lunch look like for your students? I've included some links below for suggested items if you want to create your own cafeteria bin. **The amazon links are affiliate links**

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Magnet Round Up!

I use magnets a lot. I have a magnet center in my classroom and I'm using all different kinds with my cookie tray activities. I wanted to put together a post to show you what magnets I use for all of this and to showcase some different options to you.

For most activities this is what I'm using. It's strong enough to hold pieces in place while doing cookie trays, and sufficient enough for small-medium sized pieces in my magnet center. The tape is quick and easy to apply so it was a no brainer to start using.

On other occassions I use this. This magnet is a little bit stronger than the tape. It's actually what I used for everything before I learned about the tape. You can purchase this pack for only .97 cents at Walmart, which is an awesome deal. It's already in pre-cut strips with an adhesive back. I would cut the strips into smaller pieces. Now I use this mostly on magnet center stuff that might be a larger piece, or if I'm looking to match a magnetic piece on top of a piece of paper in my magnet center.

Then there are these magnets. These are the strongest of the 3 I use. I use these to attach to materials other than paper. For example, I attached them to shape pieces for puzzles. Or to the back of gems to create larger magnetic pieces for students with fine motor needs.

Then I have these. I use these as manipulatives for filling in circles on lower level activities or for completing an activity with two circle choices for the answer. I order them from Amazon. They are awesome, however, I find it only fair to share that over time the magnets will fall out of the plastic piece. A little hot glue and you're good to go, but still a little frustrating at the same time. Despite this, I still can't pass on using them.


What are your favorite magnets to use in the classroom? I use these all the time for prepping my cookie tray activities and my magnet centers. I don't know how I'd make it by without them! Click {here} to check out all the cookie tray activities in my TpT store.

Teaching Autism K/1

SO. I wrote a while back about how I had NO IDEA what I would be teaching in the fall. Well, thankfully an amazing position opened up and I am now teaching a K/1 Autism classroom! So far I am loving it. It has it's challenges, like all classrooms do, but we're slowing getting there.

I had applied for an Autism grades 2-4 classroom with this district and some time had passed and I hadn't heard anything, so I thought I'd give them a call. I am so glad  I did! Seriously, if you're looking for jobs, follow up!

The position for the 2-4 classroom had been filled internally. Now there was an opening for a K/1 room. I knew I had applied to the district so I wasn't re-checking their open positions frequently enough to have noticed this availability. Their HR person asked if I'd be interested in interviewing for that position and I said yes, even more so!

2 hours following my interview they called to offer me the job. I was pumped and of course said yes!

I have 7 students on my caseload, 6 in my classroom all day, and 1 who is majority inclusion. Of the 6 with me all day, 1 is a pre-k kiddo, 2 are kindergarten, and 3 are first grade. I was so ready to do something at a different pace from pre-school after 6 years, so I'm loving that part!

And as always, there's LOADS of differentiation happening. We've been focusing mostly on just classroom routine and expectations. Each day gets a little bit better though. We've only been in school 9 days and I don't think my usual wine consumption has increased--yet.

I just wanted to bring you up to speed on my new position! I'm hoping this is going to get the creative juices flowing for some new classroom products/ideas/resources since I have a different age group this year! :)

{Oriental Trading} Wishlist!

I don't know about you but I think Oriental Trading has become just as awesome for teachers as it is for planning the most thematic party ever. Over the years of teaching I would head to their website and type in whatever the theme was that I was planning around in my pre-school classroom. This would lead me to great ideas for dramatic play, cool manipulatives to use, and my favorite-- planning really cool sensory tables.

Now they have more and more teaching supplies with a section to browse on their website just for teachers. I've been looking around their website a lot over the summer as I've been preparing to enter a new district, new school, and new grade level. I knew there would be some materials I would need to add and sure enough, now that I've had the opportunity to see what's in my room I know exactly what I still need or what I would benefit from.

I created a wish list on Oriental Trading of what materials I think would be awesome to have in my classroom. I wanted to share my list with you so you could see what awesome teacher resources they have! Some of these items may seem questionable so I also want to explain to you how I'd use them in my classroom if I had them.

Here's my first screen shot of my wishlist. I LOVE mini erasers. I think we all do. They make awesome manipulatives to use for counting or even matching. And now that I'm teaching a K/1st classroom and planning literacy and math centers I can see myself using these even more. I added these two to my wish list for planning ahead. Light bulb erasers can be found here and tooth erasers here.

The shape matching cupcakes are awesome for work box/task box activities if you do those in your classroom. I also decided to put some work dividers on my wish list. It's easy for students on the spectrum to be distracted by other stimuli around them so I thought it would be great to have these handy if a student needs help to cut out distractions.

Pattern blocks are definitely on my wish list for this school year. The classroom I just moved into doesn't have any. There are so many awesome ways to use pattern blocks at all grade levels. I'm most looking forward to using them in a literacy center for students to make letters out of. I found some awesome letter mats on TpT. I also thought the puzzle piece manipulatives were great building/fine motor practice.

To go along with the pattern blocks, I also added these activity pages to my wish list. Oriental trading is also carries some awesome classroom specific supplies, like the number pocket chart I found. What an awesome visual to talk about numbers with. I think this will be great to add to our math board. AND I can't go without colored masking tape in my classroom. I use it on the tables to divide out work space and it's nice to have it in all the colors so I can keep up with our color coded work areas/tables. It helps make things more concrete for the students if the lines on the yellow table are actually in yellow! :)

And last but not least I couldn't help but add these colored ducks. They have the color words on them and will be great to add to a sensory table with colored pasta. I find so many supplies for my themed sensory tables from Oriental Trading and students love the ducks.

I didn't even touch on all the awesome bins/containers that they offer too! Great prices for bins for organizing materials in the room. I know I'll be making multiple purchases from them throughout the school year.

You can see my actual wish list {here} and also head there to start making your own!

*Disclaimer: I am being sent products to use in my classroom in exchange for this post.

The {Ultimate} ABC Cookie Tray Pack!

I am super excited to share this with you. Not only because I love it, but because I'm excited I finished it. I always struggle with alphabet sets. By the time I get to letter P I'm usually pretty burnt out and can't figure out how to keep going. The last three letters were painful actually, but I did it!


I've had this idea in the back of my head for a while now and I finally buckled down and got it out on the computer screen! This pack includes 4 different activities for each letter of the alphabet. The activities are meant to start easier and get more difficult, allowing you to differentiate for your students as needed. You could always print multiples of each activity page too if you needed. My storage suggestion for this pack (since it's larger than the others) should accommodate page multiples if you choose so.

The first activity is pretty simple. Using some type of magnetic dot/item, students place them inside each of the circles to create the capital letter. (Only capitals are included for this activity at this time)

The next activity is sorting capital and lowercase letters. There are cards with capital on them and cards with lowercase letters on them, all in different fonts--meant to make students think, not be tricky!

The third activity is finding the letters. Both capital and lowercase are included. Students look at all the letters in the circles on the picture and place a magnetic dot/item on top of the correct capital or lowercase for that activity page.

And the last activity for each letter is a beginning sound sort. There are 3 cards that start with that letter (except 'X' only has 2), and then there are 3 cards that do not start with that letter. The cards include both pictures and words.

Now here is how I'm storing this one. I purchased this accordion file from Walmart and it is perfect because it's already tabbed for each alphabet letter.

Behind each letter tab are the activity pages for that letter and the pieces for each activity page, placed in their own baggy.

The one thing I struggled with for this one was placing the cover page on the front. Usually I laminate it to the front of a large envelope for storing everything. With the size of this pack I knew that wasn't going to work. I laminated the cover page first then closed my accordion file to mark on the cover page where I needed to cut it. Then both sides were attached to the cover so that when the folder is closed they come together as a whole. I punched a hole in the middle to pull the rubber band through so that it would still be functional to close the folder.

You might have a different way of storing them but I wanted to at least share with you what I came up with. You could even do a binder and put the activities for each letter into page protectors. Whatever works for you!

If you'd like to purchase this pack you can click {here} or click the cover image above. If you'd like to give this one some practice before you purchase it, then click {here} or click the cover image below to download a freebie! This freebie includes all the activity pages for the letter 'Dd'.


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