A Free Gratitude Challenge

If you are a special education teacher or parent, and you are looking for ways to deepen your kids’ understanding of gratitude, then join my 10 day Gratitude Challenge.

I have 24 different activities you can do with your kids that were developed specifically for students with autism and special learning needs. Sign up by clicking HERE.

Sign up HERE

After you sign up, you will get the Bingo board and the directions for each activity. Then, over the course of the next 10 days, you will get some emails with downloads, links, and book suggestions to keep you motivated to finish the challenge.

In addition, if you sign up BEFORE November 24, you will be entered into a raffle to win some awesome prizes that will be perfect for December. So, sign up now by clicking HERE. (If you are finding this post after November 24, 2019 you can still sign up and you will get the board and all the rest of the materials you will need to complete the entire gratitude challenge.)

Watch this short video to learn even more about this exciting and free opportunity to make a difference in the lives of your kids or students.

Join now. Sign up HERE.

Free Worksheet Wednesday

I’ve been creating resources for special education teachers for a long time. I started on teacherspayteachers back in August 2012. At first, it was just a hobby and a way to share some of the things I had created and were working so effectively in my own classroom. It was fun, but certainly not my primary focus.

Then in 2014, my family made a big move from NC to PA. At first, I had planned to continue teaching and transfer my license once we were settled. But, my son who was 18 at the time, had a more difficult time with the transition than we were prepared for. I soon realized that I was going to need to be home to help him more. But, I missed the classroom and working with other students. I needed a way to feel connected and still important in the world of special education. So, I re-focused my efforts on my TPT store, Special Needs for Special Kids.

I spent the next 5 years fully immersed in creating resources that would engage and support students like my son, intellectually and behaviorally challenged. Jimmy was my tester of all things. I would have him try to complete the activities, watch for difficulties or lack of interest, and make some tweaks. I watched my store grow from 75 resources to now almost 450.

Over the years, I have interacted with hundreds of teachers through email and text. I have watched their excitement grow as they realize how having the right tools can make your job not only easier but so much more exciting and rewarding. I am so thankful to all of these teachers who have reached out to share their experiences with me. It kept me connected and feeling like I still had something of value to add.

I am always looking for ways to do more, give more, offer more in the way of free resources. I try to offer something of value here on my blog every Monday, and I know that has impacted many of you in a big way. But, sometimes teachers need something QUICK and EASY. Sometimes you just need a worksheet. And, how much better if it is a FREE one????

So, every Wednesday, I will be sending out a free worksheet to all of my email subscribers at 6:00 am EST. Hopefully, it is something you can download before school, print off, and have ready to go that day. So far, I have been overwhelmed with simple thank you’s and emails with a smile emoji.

I don’t want anyone to miss out!! So, if you want to get on the list and get a free worksheet every Wednesday morning that you can pull out and use that day, then sign up HERE.

If you missed out, here is the one I gave away last week. Click HERE.

Get this free circle map HERE.

What’s coming this week? Here is a hint… September 21 is International Peace Day. Something I think we could all take a minute to think about…

I don’t want anyone to miss out!! So, if you want to get on the list and get a free worksheet every Wednesday morning that you can pull out and use that day, then sign up HERE.

Thank you for all your support over the years. I feel like I have a network of teachers that literally stretches around the world.

A new look at a back to school favorite: The Kissing Hand

The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn, has been a long time favorite story to use for back to school. Especially for our younger students who deal with separation anxiety, often for the first time, this story helps teachers talk with students about their feelings. I loved using this story. But, in a special education classroom, we often have students who are with us for many years and were not as excited to hear this story by year 3. Sometimes, even the best stories can get stale. So, I wanted to share with you a new approach to this favorite story.

At the end of this post, be sure to download the free sorting activity add a new twist to this back to school story.

As our students come back to school, they are faced with many changes. Our students with social and emotional challenges can often find these changes more challenging than other students do. That brings me to the first new way to look at this story:

Dealing with Change

Photo of change ahead

The bravery of this little raccoon is the perfect way to address constructive ways students can deal with change and the emotions that come with it. Of course social stories are a natural fit, but also adding related activities to explore further ways students can deal with the stress are also important.

Pull out the resources you may already have on dealing with change, and work them into your literacy lessons focused on The Kissing Hand. Social stories, circle maps, sorting appropriate and less appropriate ways to deal with your emotions, and power cards are all great ways to teach students on how to deal with change. (To read more about using power cards, visit my blog post on how to use them HERE.)

A Nonfiction Study

photo of raccoon

I know it is the doctor (veterinarian) in me, but I love exposing students to nonfiction studies on different animals. That is why I chose to put together a short unit on raccoons to use with this story. Often, our students have an easier time comprehending nonfiction content.

Raccoons actually play an important role in our ecosystem. They are masters at adapting to the extreme changes humans make to the environment. Due to the fear of rabies, raccoons have earned a reputation of a potential hazard. Although they certainly can carry this disease, it is not nearly as common as people fear. More often than not when a raccoon gets too close to a home or populated area (like a campground,) they are simply foraging for food.

If you do not want to take the time to put together an entire unit on raccoons, look for some National Geographic or other wildlife magazines that feature raccoons. In the past, I have even just quickly printed out some google images to pass around and share with the students.

If you would like to grab this sorting activity I created to go with my Kissing Hand unit, click the button below. It contains photos of real animals, some of which are raccoons and some that are not. There are also some great suggestions for differentiating this activity even more if needed.

Free raccoon/no raccoon sorting activity
Click the button below

I hope this has inspired you to breathe new life into an old favorite. Yes, I still made the heart in the hand craft every year. But, these additions made the story seem new and fresh to my students who had been with my for a few years.

If you would like to check out my entire unit on the Kissing Hand. CLICK HERE

Kissing Hand Literacy Unit

Community Trips & Challenging Behaviors Part 2

This is part 2 of a 4 part series during which I share some tips and suggestions for successful community outings in the face of challenging behaviors.  At the end of each post, there will be a FREE download to help you take this information and put it into action.

So, this post is all about the BEHAVIOR.  I know it can be an uncomfortable topic to focus on.  No one likes to talk about the times we, or our loved ones, are at their worst.  But, if we ask the right questions, it can truly help to diminish the likelihood we will have to deal with this potentially scary and dangerous situation in a crowded aisle in the middle of Wal-Mart.

I cover lots of questions in the handout, but in summary, we need to consider:

  1. Are there any triggers?
    • Crowds
    • Sounds
    • Smells
    • Temperature changes
    • Lighting
    • Key words or phrases
  2. What does the behavior look like?
    • Signs an annoying behavior may be escalating
    • Self injurious
    • Targeting others (staff or strangers)
    • Destruction of property
    • Targeting animals
  3. How long does it last?
    • From start to end
    • Follow-up outbursts
    • Recovery period

This video clip is about 10 minutes and addresses these issues in more detail and I share some personal experiences I have had with my own son, Jimmy, and some of my students.

I hope you now see the value in asking these often difficult and emotional questions.  Click on the button below to download the free list of questions to consider.

behavior download


Halloween Roundup

It is a holiday many of us fear as teachers.  There are so many differing opinions on this holiday.  What is and is not appropriate to teach?  And then there is all that candy!!  I’ve put together this group of resources, tips, blog posts and more to help you get through this spooky day.  So grab your pillowcase and Wonder Woman mask, and come along with me!  Just click on the pictures to go to that activity.

Math Resources

From Susan Jones Teaching, I found this group of 3 math counting games ready to download and print for free.  You will need to pick up a few things from the dollar store to make the most of these games, but would be totally worth it for something you could use year after year.

Who doesn’t love free printables. This pumpkin seed math activity is perfect for practicing counting with your kids. I love the idea of using real pumpkin seeds with it too!

From Grade School Giggles, here is a free pumpkin seed counting activity.  You will likely want to do some laminating to make these more durable, but then you will have them year after year.  Great activity for Thanksgiving as well!

FREE Boo Bump Halloween Math Game (Addition)

From SunnyDays, there is this super cute bump Bingo game.  Basically, the kids roll three dice, add the sum and cover the answer with their marker.  Just print and go!

ELA Resources

Pumpkin Book Report Ideas - Adorable pumpkin book report ideas for teachers, students, and parents.

From Keeping Up with Mrs. Harris, comes some great ideas for decorating your little pumpkins to look like your favorite story character.  Some really clever ideas here!

From Special Needs for Special Kids (me ;)), I have a free cut and paste or tracing spelling free download to snag.  There are 2 differentiated versions.

Free Halloween Wordsearch Activity & Writing Prompts

For your older students, grab these awesome word searches from Tracee Orman.

Science Resources


From Literacy Lattes,  is a super fun and easy experiment you can do with all that left over candy corn.  The directions are well explained and there is a free lab guide to download.

Free Spider Activities

A Classroom for All Seasons, has this amazing free download that has some great spider activities!!  A nice resource for Halloween without actually teaching about the holiday.

Haunted Hallowe'en Hand Melt - happy hooligans

From Happy Hooligans, come this super cool (pun intended) experiment that combines fine motor and sensory experiences all in one activity.  There is a lot to learn with this seemingly simple set up.  Perfect for the upcoming spooky day!!

Art, Fine Motor, & Sensory

Easy No-Mess Pumpkin Art

From Teaching 2 and 3 year olds, I included this activity to address that sensory component so many of our special kiddos have.  I also like that is is fairly  mess free and allows for a lot of independence.  Finally, it in not dependent on strong motor skills.  Accessible for every ability level.

Slime, goo, GAK, silly-putty….Whatever you call it, goo is fun! These “Franken-Slime” cups are a great project to do with the kids. There’s a writing freebie and ideas for cross-curricular integration too!

From Grade School Giggles, comes this easy recipe for that all-favorite slime.  Again, the directions give great tips to make this mess-free and really plays into those sensory needs.  In addition, there are some free downloads to make the most of this activity by pulling in science, writing and more.

Here are 7 fun and exciting fine motor activities for fall. Perfect Halloween, pumpkin, and Autumn fine motor activities for kids in preschool, pre-k, tot school and kindergarten.

From Early Learning Ideas comes 7 fine motor bins you can easily set up for your classroom this month.  There are also 2 tracing templates to download for free at the end of the post.

Not Your Average Novel Unit

Do you do read-alouds in your classroom?  I taught in a class for students with autism for 10 years.  I had students in grades kindergarten through 5th grade.  Some students were early readers, some students could not even identify their name.  Some of my students could hold an hour long conversation with me on the fine features of Thomas the Tank Engine and some students were unable to utter a single word.  I was tasked with helping every single student grow and thrive while learning what their typical peers were learning a few classrooms away.  One of the ways I did this was by reading novels to the class as a whole group activity.  Sounds a little crazy, but it was great.

My “not your average novel units” were born from this amazing experience.  I was not reading these novels to my students for a comprehension purpose.  I was reading to them in hopes of connecting on a personal level.  I was reading to them in hopes of teaching them to sit and listen (or at least be quiet) while an adult was speaking.  I was reading to them in hopes of sharing my love of books and stories.  So, with each chapter, I found myself trying to come up with an activity that would help them make a deeper connection to the content without relying on their ability to decipher and comprehend what I was actually reading.

These novel units do just that.  With each chapter, I develop one or two activities that tie to a concept introduced on those pages.  This isn’t as easy for me as it seems.  With each novel unit I start, I worry, “Will I be able to think of what to do with the next chapter?”  Sometimes the idea comes right away as I am reading.  It is easy to see a thread to pull on and use to build a great activity.  Sometimes, it is not so easy.  Sometimes it is REALLY difficult.  Some chapters, I just want to skip.

When I was doing the novel unit for Where the Red Fern Grows (a favorite story of mine from childhood), I totally forgot that one of the characters in the story falls on an ax and dies.  It took me 3 days and LOTS of conversations with my daughter (who was home from college) before I could come up with an acceptable activity.  I really just wanted to skip that chapter, but in the end, I decided it related to when you really need to call 911 and when it is not really necessary.

I currently have competed over 20 novel units.  They take me a long time, usually about a month.  There is a lot of love, time, and thought that goes into creating these.  If you are looking for a different approach to teaching your novel units, check these out.  I hope you love them as much as I have loved creating them.  Click on the image below, to download some free activities to go with the novel, Matilda by Roald Dahl.


Here are the other novel units I have in my store:  Special Needs for Special Kids.

Be sure to sign up for my FREE Resource Library.  You might even find one of these novel units there completely FREE!!

Go to the top of this post to subscribe.

Being a Good Sport

cam newton

As I watched the Superbowl on Sunday, I couldn’t help but notice the behavior of these “idols” to many and hoping they would live up to their image.  For the most part, it was a great game filled with excitement and some disappointment.  But, there were some times that emotions ran high and our idols were less than idealistic.

Monday morning found me struggling with this idea of being a good sport, and how important it is to teach our students this quality in a structured, focused and purposeful way.  Many typical kids learn these skills from coaches and other adults who influence them while honing their athletic skills on the court, field or pool.  However, what about those students who simply do not have the skill or desire to play a competitive sport?  These skills are equally important, and we need to teach them at an early age.

Of course it takes LOTS of practice but we need a place to start.  A social story is the perfect way to introduce this topic and start some good conversations.  You can download this FREE copy of my social story : Being a Good Sport by clicking HERE or on the picture below.

Being a Good Sport Social Story

I have created some activities that go along with this story and you can grab the entire unit in my store on TPT.  There are sorting activities for several different learning levels as well as a booklet for students to make.  Grab all 30+ pages by clicking on the image below.


Being a good sport is not always easy, but it is very important.  Learning how to win and how to lose graciously is something every student deserves to be taught as well as witness from their heroes.