Teaching About Halloween in Special Ed

Do You Teach Halloween??

So for years I was in an elementary public school setting that seriously frowned upon teaching anything relating directly to Halloween.  Kids were not allowed to dress up, and we did not have the parades around the track or parking lot I remembered as a kid.  I always respected this policy, but it also bugged me.  Why? There are a couple of reasons I think we should be allowed to teach about Halloween in a public school setting.

At the end of this post is a link to a FREEBIE to inspire you to teach about this holiday!!

  1.  There is a lot of history tied to this holiday.  Customs and traditions began long ago as a way people believed they were protecting their crops and families. history of halloween1

By the 1950’s the tradition of going house to house asking for candy began.

history of halloween2

Today, this is still a very important economic holiday for the United States.

history of halloween3

2.  The other reason I feel it is important to be given the option to teach about this holiday is that if you have a special ed class, especially that contains students with autism, this time can be confusing and scary.  trick or treating1

Putting a costume comes with all kinds of sensory issues for these special kids, and interacting with strangers in order to get a bag full of candy can lead to frustration and anxiety.  trick or treating2

If we could talk about these traditions in a safe and structured way in the classroom, perhaps more of our students with special needs would be able to enjoy trick or treating or simply dressing up as their favorite super hero.trick or treating3

So, I know there a lot of people out there who do not celebrate or believe this is truly a holiday.  However, I think there is a respectful and appropriate way we can teach about Halloween.  So, if you are allowed, would you teach Halloween?

If you are interested in a unit on this holiday, designed specifically for students with special needs, especially autism, click on the image below.

Halloween Unit 2

And now for the FREEBIE!!  Click below to download my Halloween Spelling booklet for FREE.

Halloween FREEBIE

 

Learning a New Year

Even for most of us it is always a challenge to remember to write the correct year after January 1.  Our brain and finger muscles have had 365 days to practice writing 2017.  Now, all of a sudden, we need to remember to write 2018.  That may take us a while…

Now imagine if you have a significant learning disability.  It may have taken you 300 of those 365 days to finally be able to “write” or “say” 2017 on your own.  Now, for no reason you can comprehend, you must forget that, and learn a new number to designate the year.  Very frustrating.

Admittedly, for many of the students I taught, knowing what year it was currently, probably was not high on the list of important facts to learn or be able to recite.  After all, many of my kids did not write or even speak.  But, there were always 1 or 2 that were at the high end of that curve who would go out for some time in the regular education setting and would be expected to write the CORRECT date on their papers.  In addition, there was always that one parent who felt their child should be able to parrot back the year when asked, just like their current age.  (Full disclaimer, I was one of those parents eons ago.  I so wanted my son to appear “normal” and be able to know what other kids his age knew.  It took a long time for me to be okay with the fact that at almost 21 years old now, he still does not know the current year or even how old he is.  But who really cares anyway?  Not him that’s for sure.)

So, how to go about teaching our students with disabilities that 2017 is over and now it is 2018?  Here are (what I think) some important things to consider.

  1.  Use ERRORLESS teaching

If they already know what year it is, we KNOW they will answer “2017” when asked “What year is it?”  So, you need to provide full prompting right away.  Stop letting them practice saying or writing the wrong year.  If you are asking your student verbally, then immediately follow your question with the correct answer and then allow your student to repeat you.  For some students you may need to give the full verbal prompt several times before fading.  For example:

Step 1= Teacher:  “What year is it?”

Step 2= Teacher: “2018”

Step 3= Teacher: “What year is it?”

Step 4= Student: “2018”

If your student is still saying 2017 after step 3, then repeat steps 1-2 several times before fading the full verbal prompt.  **Remember, there is a lot of research that shows that fading to partial verbal prompt is  NOT effective.  Just go from full verbal prompt to no verbal prompt.  If this is still not working and your student can read numbers, try using a cue card with the year written on it.  Pair that card with your full verbal prompt at first, then as you fade the verbal prompt keep the card.  Eventually fade the card.

If your students are writing the year on their papers, have then trace the correct year on their work for a while.  This will take some extra prepping on your part.  Beforehand, write the correct date in pencil and have them trace it.  Also put the correct date on the board or on an index card on their desk.  That way, you can fade the tracing to a visual prompt.  The index card is nice because it can go with them to various classroom settings if needed.

2.  Practice, Practice Practice

Set up lots of time and ways to practice writing or saying the new year. The more frequently it is practiced the quicker the muscle memory will build for either saying or writing the correct year.  Take every authentic opportunity to have students tell you or write 2018.

3.  Vary the stimuli

Remember, students with disabilities, especially Autism, have difficulty generalizing what they learn.  So, they may be able to put the date on their paper in your classroom, but not in Ms. Smith’s inclusion setting.  Taking visual prompts to new locations will help, as will practicing the skill in different environments with different people.  One way to practice is to try a cut and paste activity which you can download for FREE by clicking on the pictures below.  This is a great way for students to visualize the new year and manipulate the numbers.  I would try printing it on different colored paper each day for a while (repetition with variation).  In addition, don’t forget you can add color coding for your students who need more visual structure.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD

So if you are teaching your students it is now 2018, I wish you the best of luck!!  I am hoping to simply remember that myself this year.

***If you are looking for a unit to go with this activity, grab this New Year Unit in my store, over 40 pages for only $3.00.  Includes a story, circle maps, and cut and paste activities all designed for students with special needs, especially autism.  

Slide1