Category Archives: first grade here I come

end of year report…



Filed under Accessing the Curriculum, first grade here I come, Inclusion... straight up!

Shumann the Shoeman

This year saw Shumann the Shoeman by John and Stella Danalis as our book in focus for Book Week 2010.

Today was a fun day with both the ‘live show’ of Shumann and celebrations in the form of “Crazy Shoe Day” (a kind of mufti for your feet day).  A ‘grand’ shoe parade started the day off and was lots of fun.

Mac and I were torn as to what he should do… crazy shoes potentially interfere with his communication (being a foot switcher) and short of buying something – he really didn’t own anything super ‘crazy’ that happened to be the right size.

So we decided to go with “Crazy Shoe Wheels”

Mac was happy, the kids were impressed.  His wheels were reminiscent of a caterpillar wearing shoes (with eight pairs on there he wasn’t too far off the mark).

I still haven’t managed to read Shumann the Shoeman so can’t offer you a review.

Who knows, Mac might decide to borrow it from the library one week so we can both share in the story.


Filed under Access all Areas, Accessing the Curriculum, first grade here I come, The 'mod' squad

mid-year school report


Needless to say we were pretty impressed with Mac’s 2010
mid-year report.
Great insight, very positive…
a great record of his hard work.


Filed under Accessing the Curriculum, first grade here I come, Inclusion... straight up!

learning support officer ‘mumma’

On Friday I spent the day in Mac’s classroom.

The teacher’s aide was away and the school was unable to find a replacement.

Mac could have gone to another class where there was a full time aide but the proposal was he go to the Kindergarten class.

To my mind this was the least desirable option for these reasons:

  • Kindergarten is a crappy place to be for a child who can’t physically do any of their tactile/hands on style work.
  • It is a boring place to be having to “watch or listen” to other kids doing their tactile/hands on style of work.
  • No consideration would have been given to how this “presents” Mac to the other children. Mac would not go into the class as a ‘helper’ as other older children would… he would have gone in as ‘helpless’. This is a very long way from our vision for Mac where he is presented in a positive manner and in a valued role.
  • Mac has told us he doesn’t particularly like younger children helping him – and honestly, who could blame him – I am sure he isn’t the first kid to find “younger kids” somewhat annoying.
  • Mac would have been extracted out of his own learning environment and likely not exposed to any real learning had he gone to the Kindergarten class that day. On Friday Mac’s class has sport in the morning so they already miss out on their optimal learning time – it would have meant Mac’s day was a total write-off.

So what could the alternative have been…

  • It would have made much more sense if Mac to move him to one of the senior classes. At least the senior students have competencies and abilities to assist Mac without him feeling patronised.
  • He could simply have been exposed to the same information as them and gleaned some learning from their lessons – even if he wasn’t actively doing any work.
  • It would have presented Mac in a positive role of “valued learner” not “child in need of baby-sitting”.
  • It would have sent a message to Mac that “you are bright, you’ll understand this”. After all ‘expectation is one of the greatest predictors of success’… (funny, our school told me that, what a shame they don’t listen to their own theories).

As it turned out I didn’t have the busiest Friday planned and decided to stay an assist in Mac’s class (I help with sport on Friday until 11 anyway) and his teacher was happy for me to stay.

It was worthwhile as it gave me some extra insight into the work they are doing in class, the language being used and what options Mac can use for taking a more active role in the class.

I still marvel at how much difficulty our school has at employing Learning Support Officers, providing continuity in the classroom and having back-up plans for when staff are away/unwell.

Term 1 worked really well for Mac with primarily one aide in the classroom who knew how to assist him, assist the teacher and assist the rest of the class.

Term 2 has seen a major shift in this approach with at least six aides having worked in the classroom at one stage or another (it is only WEEK FIVE).

While the concept of getting all the aides to understand how to communicate with, and assist, Mac might work well in theory – there is no overlap provided for training, so it is impossible to accept it is really a considered approach by the school. Basically I have to provide training every time someone new appears in the class.

Fortunately Mac’s teacher is fantastic and remains totally committed to him meeting his educational goals. Mac remains happy at school and is coping OK (just) with all the changes so for now we will just watch and see how things pan out.

It does highlight that you have to remain vigilant to what is going on at school. I will keep a close eye on Mac and keep our communication open so that he knows he can tell me when/if it all gets too hard or if I need to take action.

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Filed under Accessing the Curriculum, first grade here I come, Inclusion... straight up!


I happened to be in class during their journal writing/creative writing session the other day.

Most students were writing about their recent cross country carnival.

Mac had indicated ‘YES’ he did want to write about Cross Country.

He was asked to spell out the key word for his story as a starting point.

He used the Zygo Macaw with the full alphabet and started…   A – N – K  some frustrated kicking… U – Y  more frustrated kicks…

“Do you want to try again?” he was asked


“Are you happy with A – N?”


He continued choosing letters… G – R – Y

A – N – G – R – Y  was the end result.

We asked Mac if that was what he wanted to spell.  ‘YES’ was the response.

“Were you angry?” I asked  “NO”

“Was Mrs R angry?” I asked  “NO” (to which Mrs R joked it was probably a miracle)

And then it dawned on me… Some children had got into trouble at X-Country for throwing stones and breaking a light.

We knew this had happened because my Uncle owns the X-Country course and he and Mac’s Pa had been discussing the ‘issue’.  It turned out some of the younger students from some of  Mac’s classes were responsible for the damage.

And so we continued our discussion…

G: Were some of the kids angry?
M: Yes
G: Did they break something?
M: yes
G: Did they get into trouble?
M: yes
G: Do you know who it was?
M: yes
G: Are they naughty boys?
M: no
G: Were they being silly?
M: yes
G: Did they have a bit of a brain snap?
M: yes

The thing was this didn’t strike me as the type of story Mac would tell – I still wasn’t sure I was getting at the crux of what he wanted to talk about.

His aide ‘R’ cottoned on quicker than I did.

R: Are you worried about the boys?
M: yes

a-ha, now I have an inkling of what is going on.

G: Have you heard about them getting into trouble?
M: yes
G: And are you worried about what that means?
M: yes

And so the conversation continued.  Mac and I discussed what getting into trouble was all about and what kind of consequences these type of actions could incur.  I explained how there were no ‘beatings or batterings, no one would be locked in a room, a cupboard, a box or any other place.  They wouldn’t be sent away from the school, they might have to show (or at least act like they were feeling) remorse.  We discussed what this might look and feel like.

I actually went through it as in-depth as I could realising that Mac really had no understanding of what ‘getting into trouble’ truly looked like.  Mac is a child who at this stage of his life is unable to get himself into a position where he would need to be disciplined.  He doesn’t yet have independent communication and, while I don’t plan on limiting his vocabulary at all, it still will remain quite difficult for him to get into strife.

Sure, I can see a time in the future when he may use a switch adapted sling shot with butane gas & fireball attachment inappropriately, but for now, he is a pretty trouble free child.

It still fascinates me what Mac does and doesn’t understand and I love the interesting journey these conversations take us on.

Fear of the unknown, as with all of us, remains significant.

However, I am pleased to say that once we had our big discussion about all things “Cross Country and beyond” Mac decided he wasn’t worried about the boys anymore – he thought they would be ‘OK’.


Filed under first grade here I come

the refusal

Mac had a shocker on Friday.  The thing is, it was all his doing.

Mrs R was out of the classroom for the entire day and Mac’s response was to “NOT WORK”.

He wouldn’t spell ‘hat’, ‘at’, ‘go but was happy to spell ‘Easter’ and ‘supper’ (not his spelling words).  He refused to do any of the ‘add two to the total’ sums in Maths.

He was hopeless and, yes, a little bit naughty.

His Aide asked him whether he thought he should be doing good work for the substitute teacher Ms M…. “NO” was Mac’s reply.

“Do you think you should only have to work for Mrs R?” she queried further….. “YES” was Mac’s reply.

OK, I love that he loves Mrs R, but I have suggested to him he probably needs to ‘get over himself’ just a little bit.

I am not sure he is totally convinced.

He is impossible to manipulate – one of those traits you love and hate simultaneously.


Filed under Accessing the Curriculum, first grade here I come

joining words

Mac has been telling us things he wants over the last few days.

On Saturday I asked him if he had an idea for a design on his wheels.  He said YES.

I asked him to spell it for me on the Macaw.

A – B – E  – N – T – E – N

It took me a few seconds to work it out.  A Ben 10 design is what he is after.

Funnily enough – neither Mac or I have ever caught an episode of Ben 10 on TV.  He just knows Ben 10 is cool because that is what the kids talk about.

I checked whether he knows it is just “Ben 10″ not “A-Ben 10″ he said YES.  I asked was the ‘A’ just the first word of what he was wanting to tell me… YES.

I picked up some paraphernalia today so will try and sort something out tomorrow for him.

Today he brought home a note from school about bringing in some materials to make a container to carry an egg.  I asked him if he had any ideas what he wanted to take in… the answer (of course) YES.

A – B – I – T – O – F – C – A – D – B – O

I asked if I could try and guess the rest.  Mac does this using auditory scanning and the entire alphabet – it isn’t the fastest method, and quite tiring for him.

I gave it a stab…  “A bit of cardboard?”

YES … (phew)

I had to laugh – all that energy for the “A BIT OF” just to start the sentence.   I guess it gives me an indication he should be able to progress to sentence building with the right software options.

I explained how ‘cardboard’ was spelt – he thought that the ‘R’ in card was a bit sneaky.


Filed under Accessing the Curriculum, first grade here I come, things that make me go "glll"

foot painting

I have it on good authority from Mrs R that the quality of the artwork on Mac’s feet exceeds what he got down on the canvas.  He used is feet rather than the more conventional brush method.

Nevertheless he had fun – now all I have to do is make sure it comes off in the bath so it doesn’t look like he is too neglected.


Filed under Accessing the Curriculum, first grade here I come, Inclusion... straight up!

puzzling puzzles

Mac likes maths.  He really likes it when we give him ‘super duper hard maths’ questions (if we call them that they sound exciting) and so each afternoon for the trip home from school I give him a maths puzzle to ponder.

He answers it when we get home.

I am still trying to work out just what he does and doesn’t know in his maths concepts so we jump all over the place.  I also try to bombard him with lots of extra information to see if he is able to extract just what is important considering he needs to do all these in an auditory fashion.

Some of the recent puzzles have been.

  • When I was walking down the steps today there were three lizards.  A big one, a little one and a middle sized one.  Lizards have four legs, how many lizard legs did I see?

METHOD:  Yes/No switches with possible answers starting at zero and going up by one.

  • Today, when I was coming to collect you I saw four tractors.  A red one, a blue one, a green one and an orange one.  Tractors have four wheels each…  How many tractor wheels did I see?

METHOD:  Auditory Scanning on the Macaw numbers 0-14 then chose the “I need more numbers option” chose 16 from the Macaw numbers 15-30

  • When I went to the shop I saw Natalie, Gabby, Sally and Will.  Natalie, Gabby and Sally are girls and Will is a boy.
    What fraction of the group were boys?
    a) half
    b) one quarter
    c) three quarters

METHOD:  Yes/No multiple choice options

  • What fraction of the group are girls?
    a) half
    b) one quarter
    c) three quarters

METHOD:  Yes/No multiple choice options

  • On my way to school today I passed the bike shop.  There was a trike and two bikes out the front.  A trike has three wheels, and bikes have two wheels each.  How many wheels did I see all together.

METHOD:  Auditory Scanning on the Macaw numbers 0-14

  • If you were to add together the ages of your cousin Alex, your cousin Lucy and you what would the total be.  Alex is 13, Lucy is 10 and you are 6.
    We have just started getting Mac to tell us the digits to write the number ie “What is the ‘tens unit’ and what is the ‘ones unit’ ie positional notation for numbers to see if that is easier for him”.

tens unit = 2  ones unit = 9
METHOD:  Auditory Scanning on the Macaw numbers 0-9 using the positional notation of numbers

  • On my way to collect you I saw three people picking apples.  I asked them ‘how many apples have you picked?’  They said “15 and we are going to share them equally”.
    How many will they each get?

METHOD:  Auditory Scanning on the Macaw numbers 0-9

  • What if they picked 18 apples?

METHOD:  Auditory Scanning on the Macaw numbers 0-9

  • What if they picked 30 apples?

MAC’S ANSWER:  Is it greater than nine? YES
tens unit = 1, ones unit = 0
METHOD:  Auditory Scanning on the Macaw numbers 0-9 using the positional notation of numbers

Out of interest I then asked him what 3 x 6 = and he answered 19. 
Phew, finally he showed some fallibility with his maths

  • I was talking to a farmer today.  He had 56 sheep but sold six of them at the market.  Then he had 10 new baby lambs born.  So he had 56, sold six and ten more were born.  How many does he have all together.

This one took a while for Mac to decide to answer – when I suggested he didn’t know the answer which was OK, considering he is only in first class, he quickly told me what it was.

MAC’S ANSWER:  Is it greater than nine? YES
tens unit = 6, ones unit = 0   60
METHOD:  Auditory Scanning on the Macaw numbers 0-9 using the positional notation of numbers

  • Tonight we are having ‘chicken’ for dinner.  How many letters in the word chicken?

(although he went through his numbers twice hovering on 8 the first time)
METHOD:  Auditory Scanning on the Macaw numbers 0-9

The good thing is that we can relax a little knowing Mac is currently having a reasonably easy time of understanding basic maths concepts.  He is well and truly coping with the Year One concepts and having a wonderful time being challenged with ‘tricky maths’.  It is nice for him to ‘catch a break’ so he doesn’t have to work quite as hard in every aspect of school.

I have tried to find out how he knows all this stuff, he claims he ‘just knows it’.  I assume there is a strategy there somewhere, but hey, if it works for now, I won’t interfere.

I remember how much I loved doing maths in primary school so I can understand where he is coming from.


Filed under first grade here I come

not even a horse…

Wheelchair Attendant training started for 1-2R (Mac’s class) on Friday.

Before we started there was a couple of questions from the students.

“We’re not allowed to touch Mac’s head are we”, asked Max.

Not sure what motivated the question I replied “yes, you can touch his head”, but remained a little puzzled.

I have heard of people thinking ‘brain injuries are catching’ or being over cautious with seemingly fragile children with disabilities.  In response I tend to err on the side of “NO caution”.

Thankfully, Mrs R was able to clear up the true intent of the question.

Apparently Mrs R had told the children they weren’t to “pat” Mac on the head like a pet or baby.  So we discussed it a little further.  Mrs R asked them “do they ‘pat‘ their other friends on the head?”… “noooo” was the resounding response.

“So, if Mac is just a kid like you, why would you ‘pat’ him on the head?” she queried.

“Well, he’s not a baby”, Jack observed.

“And he’s not a puppy or kitten”, added Max.

He’s NOT EVEN A HORSE!” Maddy proclaimed.

Head Patting 101 has been passed ‘with Honours’ by 1-2R… way to go, kids.


Filed under first grade here I come, friends, Inclusion... straight up!

a good friend to me

As I collected Mac from school yesterday one of his classmates came up to me.

“You know, Mac is a VERY good friend to me”, he told me.

I smiled . “He tells me you are an AWESOME friend to him, you guys are lucky to be in the same class.”

What is most amazing is that this young boy is the same boy who, in week one of Kindergarten last year, proclaimed he “didn’t want to sit near the stinky baby!”

This boy had just repeated Kindy and I knew he was feeling a bit out of sorts, so I made sure I always put Mac (aka stinky baby) on the other side of the group to him.

Because the class was 50% of Mac’s peers from pre-school and daycare noone else would succumb to the ‘stinky baby’ line – Mac was their friend.  It only took a few weeks and he was interacting and enjoying Mac’s company – courtesy of some fine modeling by his classmates.

I never worried about it at the time – because someone told me a long time ago that…

“often your greatest protagonists become your greatest advocates… if you just give them time”.

How true that insight was.


Filed under first grade here I come, friends, Inclusion... straight up!

the fly swatter

School Assembly started, the ground was too wet from all the rain for the children to sit, so they remained standing.

Some were fidgeting, others wriggling, some almost at attention.

One young boy from Mac’s class, L, was wriggling and jiggling a little more than most.

His mother, standing along side me sighed, with a hint of despair. “He hasn’t been still once” she said shaking her head. “It’s not natural for children to be still” I tried to reassure her.   To be honest, I don’t think my approach worked.

fast forward six hours…

A similar group of parents were waiting for the bell to go to collect the same children who had started their day with a school Assembly.

The mum of the ‘wriggler’ came up to me, a twinkle in her eye. “You’ll never guess” she said laughing. “Mrs R overheard me scolding L, for not keeping still in assembly, as they were walking back to class”.  “She apologised for the confusion, and explained that she had asked L if he could shoo any flies out of Mac’s face during assembly”.

And so L did.  He was conscientious and committed to the task at hand.  He shooed and he flicked and he whooshed and he swiped.

It’s just really hard to be still when you are on fly swatting duty’.


Filed under first grade here I come, friends

temporary tattoos

Mac came home with some “temporary tattoos” today.  Apparently his teacher, Mrs R, has some difficulty with “left” and “right” under normal circumstances.

Spare a thought for her now having to manage it ‘in reverse’ as she sits facing Mac with his switches.  Not to mention the fact Mac has a tendency to scissor his legs so that his left ends up on the right side… which is her left, when it should be her right.  She’ll get there – in spite of Mac’s attempts to make her dizzy.

So, a couple of ‘marker pen letters’ assisted her (and the other kids).

I have some Temporary Tattoo paper around here somewhere – maybe I will make him some very cool ‘tats’ that will stay put a little longer.

Here’s a shot from Christmas Day where you can see just how tricky that leg crossing gets if you are holding switches under those feet.

By the way, that’s not a ‘real’ pet crocodile walking behind him in the background – we’re not all Croc Hunters ‘down under’.


Filed under first grade here I come, Inclusion... straight up!

binary boy

He is a ‘base 2’ boy.

He has a number of “viable two switch locations” ie two feet, two hands, two elbows, two cheeks.  So far, his feet are proving to be the most successful and also the most discreet.

It is official… Mac is a binary boy all the way.

We are currently using Mac’s feet to access choices and information.

So this year our focus will be on improving Mac’s ability with Auditory Scanning.

We are trialling his Macaw with two switches. One for step scanning through the choices (left foot) and then he has an option of either waiting for the time lag for the selection to be made or he can use his ‘yes’ foot to select that answer. We will see which one he prefers over the coming weeks.

Our second priority is to teach Mac his alphabet via Morse code using two switches. I have designed an Excel form to allow him to do this in the classroom with auditory feedback and training informtion. I will provide a copy in my next post.

Finally, our fall back will be to use the Yes/No switching option as a convenient, quick way to get answers.

These three options to my mind are complementary to one another and should provide him great opportunities to alongside the other students with congruency to what they are doing.

Numeracy is still my stumbling block.  I will see what ideas Vision Australia come back with when we see them next month.  I have been reading up on ‘finger binary‘ which allows you to count to 31 using the fingers on one hand.  This might be a concept we could explore using tactile feedback on fingertips perhaps, it is just a thought – I haven’t heard of anyone doing it so…  I will let you know.

I think this year should be an interesting and exciting year for Mac – his world opened up significantly since our visit to Rosie last year – this year is where we can start putting all these ideas into practice.


Filed under first grade here I come, Technology - things that help

new classes

Mac has finally been assigned his new class and teacher for this year.  He has moved into a composite 1-2 class with Mrs R as his teacher.  Only four other children from his Kindy class came with him so there will be lots of new children to meet and for them to get to know him.  I think there will be four VERY IMPORTANT individuals showing off just how much they know about Mac, wheelchairs, iPhones, remote control pencil holders,  switches and the like.

One of Mac’s very good friends (and strongest advocates), Grace, did not end up in the same class as Mac which I was initially a little disappointed about.  I saw Grace as I was collecting Mac and she told me she was in a different class – she wasn’t worried “I’m just next door – it’s only one wall”, so I guess I’m not worried either… after all, “it’s only one wall”.  I love the logic of six year olds.

In fact the nice thing is the couple of boys from his class are a really good combo for him.  One has the potential, at times, to get him into strife and the other errs on the side of caution – both are great kids who get on very well with Mac and with each other.

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Filed under first grade here I come