Friday, August 8, 2014

National Autism Conference Recap

I had this amazing opportunity to attend the National Autism Conference at Penn State University this year and I wasn't about to pass it up even though it meant giving up a chunk of my summer.  I was expecting greatness and I got it. The speakers I saw were amazing, and so in love with working with students with autism like me that it was refreshing to hear. I don't know about you, but, I am all alone in my building when it comes to having colleagues that have students with similar needs. This can be so frustrating when all you need is to bounce an idea off of another teacher. No one else in the building (especially at middle school age) understand why your student in screaming in the classroom because that is a typical behavior of most typical middle school-aged students. Notice I said most. It was great to be surrounded by a bunch of ABA-loving, autism-devoted educators, SLP's, and other individuals that work with autism.

So, here is a little recap of what my sessions were like. I went to over 10 sessions but for the sake of keeping things short I am going to pick my favs.

 I went to a training that discussed how to take abstract ideas like math concepts and turn them into more concrete ideas that students with autism can understand. At first, I thought I signed myself up for the wrong session because I thought how is this going to be relevant to my classroom, well I was surprised big time and loved it.

The whole point of the session was that we know that students with autism learn through visuals. Well, why don't we always teach math with visuals?? This session focused on teaching place value using pattern blocks, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division using place value blocks and arrays. This is pretty high stuff for the most autism populations in a middle school classroom but using the visuals made it so much more accessible for students with autism. 

In another session I got to listen to teacher who has her own autistic support classroom and how she sets up her classroom so that every minute she has with her students is utilized for instruction. It was great learning new techniques that help you save time, ways to organize materials and how to utilize ABA best practices. 

Then, I got to listen to Mark Sundberg. For those of you that know ABA you'll know he created the VB-MAPP. This is an assessment used to determine students ability to use language and verbal behavior effectively. It was all about how to administer the assessment, and how to take that data and how to know what to so with that data to drive instruction. This got a little data heavy but, it was good stuff.

I also had the pleasure of hearing Vincent Carbone of the Carbone Clinic. He has all sorts of credibility in ABA and verbal behavior. I don't get to fancy with all the vocabulary but, he is someone that you should know about if you work with students with autism, ABA, and verbal behavior. 

I think one of my favorite parts about the entire conference was the stories. Seeing the students that were so similar to the ones in my classroom succeeding. It was so inspirational knowing that even on those tough days when you want to pull your hair out it is all worth it. The one day that it just clicks in the students head and they got the skill you have been trying to teach them all year. It was a great experience going to the National Autism Conference, and I can definitely see myself going in the future! 

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