What's the Weather

What’s the Weather?

What’s the Weather?

What’s the weather like today?

Is it sunny? Is it cloudy?

What’s the Weather like today?

Is a pretty standard song classrooms use for morning meetings . And, as it turns out, weather is something a lot of kids like to talk about!

I think it’s because it effects them immediately. Weather is easy to recognize and it’s impact is easy to quantify. For example, if it’s a rainy day the park trip will probably be canceled. So the connection between weather and expectations or emotions is pretty direct.

For that reason i really love to use weather and seasonal imagery (Halloween, the winter Holidays) as prompts in my workshops where poets either have difficulty ideating, or on the cusp of being able to abstract and come up with their own prompts.

I’ll oftentimes reference whatever the weather currently is, talking about summer heat and thunderstorms or how could New York winters can get! This gives the prompt a bit more immediacy as the poets can rely on their senses and short-term memory to support their abstraction.

Words on a white board in black expo marker read “Brrr! It’s cold outside / so I” with a long line after “I” for student response.

Words on a white board in black expo marker read “Brrr! It’s cold outside / so I” with a long line after “I” for student response.

I remember very vividly sitting in my second grade class when a thunderstorm opened up torrential rain. None of us could pay attention to what was happening, we were transfixed on the storm outside. The teacher said, “Haven’t you ever seen rain before?” Which, besides being rude, missed the point entirely. Of course we’d seen rain before, but every time it’s a little different and a exciting. There’s a natural curiosity to weather, in part because its something so out of human control, that has made the the subject of paintings, poems, stories, and songs throughout human history. I want to take this same curiosity in the poets I work with and hone it.

Words on a white board in blue expo marker read “It’s raining it’s pouring the” This line is repeated again and again.

Words on a white board in blue expo marker read “It’s raining it’s pouring the” This line is repeated again and again.

Weather can be a great entryway into other topics, especially with a newer group. I might not know the poets well enough to know all their interests and passions yet, but I can find a common ground and common curiosity through what’s happening outside.

Words on a white board in black expo marker read “Brrrr! It’s cold outside so I…” with various student answers written. The answers are hard to completely discern at the distance of the photo.

Words on a white board in black expo marker read “Brrrr! It’s cold outside so I…” with various student answers written. The answers are hard to completely discern at the distance of the photo.

Affect Autism Interview

Affect Autism is a fantastic blog, podcast, and one stop shop for all things DIR/Floortime. I had a chance to go on the podcast and talk about the poetry workshops! You can read the full blog summary here, find the episode “Sensory and Developmental Poetry Workshops" on your favorite podcasting app or service, and watch the video of the interview below!

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Wall Writing

As I’ve mentioned in other posts I keep the workshop spaces completely clear except for the essentials. For some groups that’s chairs, for others it’s movement ques, and for still others it’s nothing at all!

As one of my workshops is focuses on writing longer and longer texts like sonnets, there wasn’t a great space for the poets to write.

Bringing in a table with chairs or some desks was a possibility, but that always felt like a big transition to have in the middle of a session. The alternative, having the poets lie down or hunch over while writing, is poor form both in terms of posture and mechanics.

Colleen Gabbert, my OT colleague who facilitates this session with me, recommended taping paper to the wall and having the poets stand and write. This little change has made a huge difference!

Not only are their body posture and fine motor work better, but the poets who might otherwise need sensory breaks from sitting are able to engage in the writing activity for longer durations. I imagine because they’re not getting as tired from using only their core to support them or (when they can no longer support themselves) hunching over and losing focus on the group activity.

I’ve noticed that standing also allows a more seamless sensory release. For example, poets can rock or pace if needed while thinking of the next line while. When sitting, the poets had a tendency to stay seated or if they stood up it would be to move quickly around the room or leave altogether for a quick break or support in the hallway.

Some of the poets prefer staying seated and when they do I try to encourage that they use a binder or book to hold the text so that they sit up right. It certainly isn’t perfect (old habits die hard), but for the poets who accept the tool of wall writing it’s helped immensely!

Just a reminder that if things are feeling a bit stilted or stale in your class or sessions, the answer isn’t always a big change. Sometimes all you need is a different perspective (make friends outside your department!) and a couple pieces of tape!

A hand holds a pen to a piece of lined paper taped to a white school wall.

A hand holds a pen to a piece of lined paper taped to a white school wall.

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Rebecca Listener Interview

I was recently interviewed on The Rebecca Listener a new podcast from The Rebecca School produced by Chris Hernandez, the school’s media director, to offer parents, providers, and anyone interested with insight into the work happening at the school.

The podcast is available on all of your favorite platforms and currently has three episodes, with new ones coming out every week (I think!)

Check out myself and my colleague Courtney Latter discussing the range of workshops at the Rebecca School and how we navigate all the different developmental levels and ages while keeping the poets in engaged in learning on episode three “Poetry Groups”

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SXSWedu Panel Picker 2019

Panel Picker is part of the conference selection process for SXSW and SXSWedu.

It's a  voting platform wherein, "Community voting comprises 30% of the selection decision, plus input of the SXSW Staff (30%) and Advisory Board (40%) helps ensure that less well-known voices have as much of a chance of being selected to speak at SXSW EDU as individuals with large online followings. Together these percentages help determine the final content lineup." [https://www.sxswedu.com/news/2018/panelpicker-community-voting-is-open/]

To vote, visit panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote  and make a free account by providing an email and creating a password.

I've submitted Rhythm & Learning with two close colleagues of mine. This workshop will go into greater depth about the poetry workshops than my previous half hour sessions at the conference. This will include on overview of the DIR/Floortime model (the theoretical framework for the sessions) an overview of the workshop structure and process, and end with a model workshop.

Check out our proposal, leave a comment, and an upvote if you like what you see. Also, if you're going to the conference and/or have a proposal feel free to reach out. Hope to see you in Austin!

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Supports for Nonverbal Poets

When I present about the workshops, people often ask how I support students with limited verbal skills. Here are three examples of tools I've used or am using.

White board with black expo marker writing. The writing is broken up into three columns. From left to right: Setting, Plot, Character. There’s handwriting under each column. Setting clearly reads “Sleepy Hollow.” The writing under Plot is more difficult to read. And Character has “Ichabod, Katrina, Brom, Headless Horseman”

White board with black expo marker writing. The writing is broken up into three columns. From left to right: Setting, Plot, Character. There’s handwriting under each column. Setting clearly reads “Sleepy Hollow.” The writing under Plot is more difficult to read. And Character has “Ichabod, Katrina, Brom, Headless Horseman”


"Setting / Character / Plot" is a chart for one of my reading groups. In the session, a student with developmental and emotional needs feels more comfortable writing out ideas than sharing aloud (often asking that no one watches while they write). I created this chart for the group to fill out together at the start of every session, giving all the readers in the group an opportunity to share their knowledge of the story and review it as a whole rather than putting any one of them on the spot.

Brown Butcher paper with writing and drawing in black, green, purple, and blue expo marker. The first part of the title is censored in black but the next two words read “Idea Board” the handwriting is difficult to read as are a lot of the drawings, though some are clearly of animals like a Guinea Pig and Turtle.

Brown Butcher paper with writing and drawing in black, green, purple, and blue expo marker. The first part of the title is censored in black but the next two words read “Idea Board” the handwriting is difficult to read as are a lot of the drawings, though some are clearly of animals like a Guinea Pig and Turtle.


"Idea Board" is a space for a poet with limited verbal skills, but who is often more regulated while drawing and writing. The poster paper's size gives them the opportunity to share their thoughts and contributions with the whole workshop while remaining more grounded and engaged.

On a school white board a chart is written in black expo marker. The chart has two rows and four columns. The title of the chart is “Movement Word Wall” The top row reads from left to right: “Fast Skip Run Left” with each of those words in their own column. The bottom row reads from left to right: “Slow Walk March Right” with each of those words in their own column.

On a school white board a chart is written in black expo marker. The chart has two rows and four columns. The title of the chart is “Movement Word Wall” The top row reads from left to right: “Fast Skip Run Left” with each of those words in their own column. The bottom row reads from left to right: “Slow Walk March Right” with each of those words in their own column.


"Movement Wall" is for a poet who uses a device to communicate. During a specific  movement activity I set up this world wall for them to go and tap (currently working to get the words programmed in) like they would their device to make their choice. This is also a nice visual cue for poets in the group who, while able to verbally communicate, might have difficulties coming up with movement ideas.

These are just a start and have had various successes and failures, if you test these out I'd love to hear how they work in your groups and how you've tweaked them to meet the needs of your students!

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Activities for Daily Living

I penned "Activities for Daily Living" shortly after returning from a conference where I was disappointed with the direction leaders in special education and autism education in particular were taking the field. It's a short piece advocating for more arts education for neurodiverse learners.

Give it a read up on the Solstice Literary Magazine blog!

https://solsticelitmag.org/blog/neurodiverse-students-need-creative-arts/

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19th International CEC-DADD Conference on Autism, Intellectual Disability, and Developmental Disabilities

 

I was accepted to give a poster presentation entitled “No Gravity in My Poetry: Poetry Workshops as Social Emotional Literacy Learning” at 19th International CEC-DADD Conference on Autism, Intellectual Disability, and Developmental Disabilities.

Donnie Welch, young caucasian male, stands in front of an academic poster title “No Gravity in My Poetry: Social Emotional Literacy Learning” He smiling and in a green turtle neck. Red conference lanyard around his neck. Images of students have been censored out using “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” monkey emojis.

Donnie Welch, young caucasian male, stands in front of an academic poster title “No Gravity in My Poetry: Social Emotional Literacy Learning” He smiling and in a green turtle neck. Red conference lanyard around his neck. Images of students have been censored out using “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” monkey emojis.

 It was a fascinating four days! Below are some brief, journal reflections from my time!

Tuesday

Flew away from the snow in NYC to a 72 degree Tampa day.

It felt nice to relax and settle in so that I didn’t have to balance my travel with the first day activities.

I unpacked, went up to the fitness center (which was on the top floor with a gorgeous view of the coast) then explored around for dinner.

Every restaurant around had a wait time! I ended up back at the Sheraton’s Mainstay Tavern which surprised me with its craft beer selection and really delicious food. I had a Grouper sandwich, apparently a must have dish in this part of the state according to my kindly lyft driver, and a salad with a house made raspberry vinaigrette. Not a bad start!

 

Wednesday

Registered nice and early!

Conference Materials for the CEC-DADD 2018 conference. At top is a red lanyard with a sponsors name on it, the name is blurred by a twist in the lanyard. Below the red lanyard is the program written in blue and pink text on a white, laminated booklet. At the bottom of the booklet is a picture of an island/beach sunset. To the right of this picture is a badge with “Donald Welch” on it and rainbow “presenter” ribbon attached.

Conference Materials for the CEC-DADD 2018 conference. At top is a red lanyard with a sponsors name on it, the name is blurred by a twist in the lanyard. Below the red lanyard is the program written in blue and pink text on a white, laminated booklet. At the bottom of the booklet is a picture of an island/beach sunset. To the right of this picture is a badge with “Donald Welch” on it and rainbow “presenter” ribbon attached.

 

There was a sponsored luncheon between the pre-conference training sessions. Since those cost extra and were on topics I wasn’t too interested in I skipped those, giving me the morning to myself. I spent it preparing for my poster, figuring out what sessions I wanted to attend for the conference, and exploring Sand Key Park next door to the resort.

Got my poster safe and sound with the help of a young concierge named Brent. A big relief to have it in my room and know it arrived!

The Opening session was a nice reflection of education legislation and changes in Florida. While it was a little state specific, it was still cool to hear about the progress places are making around the country. It was also interesting to learn about some of the innovative post-secondary institutions that are popping like the Florida Center for Students with Unique Abilities. In fact, post secondary and transitions would prove to be a pretty large theme of the conference with quite a few posters and spoken presentations geared around that piece of education.

After the opening came the first round of posters. I was glad to have the opportunity to be a spectator before I put mine up the next morning. It gave me a chance to listen to conversations and see the way people with more experience handled themselves and talked people through their presentations in a timely manner.

In this session I met Dr. Christopher Denning from Umass Boston who was presenting “Piloting a Physical Activity Program for Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.” He was really kind, listening to my rookie concerns about my presentation the next morning and then pointing me in the direction of some movement research that might be helpful for my workshops!

Academic poster form Umass Boston. The title and subtitle blocked out by a light glare. The Umass Boston logo and color scheme, blue and white, are employed throughout. The lettering and charts are black on a white background.

Academic poster form Umass Boston. The title and subtitle blocked out by a light glare. The Umass Boston logo and color scheme, blue and white, are employed throughout. The lettering and charts are black on a white background.

 

Thursday

Big Day!

I had my poster up in the morning sessions and it was a fun, new experience. I really enjoyed the conversational tone of the presentation format and found that the hour and half block went by fast. I had a steady flow of people popping in and out to chat and listen.

There was also a camaraderie with the other poster presenters that I didn’t necessarily expect. I had my neighbor presenters stopping in to chat and hear about my work and I did the same for them. Even though our work and perspectives were different, the whole vibe was a cordial, supportive, and helped take the edge off any nerves I had.

After my session I stopped into the DADD Online Journal publication session where editor Dr. Stanley Zucker went over publishing in the DADD's online journal. As one of the people in the session who had no previous experience with academic publication, Dr. Zucker used my work as a walk-through example for turning a poster into a paper. While the process itself was for the benefit of the group, I found it personally, really beneficial as a I continue to draft my submission together.

I then attended an amazing session facilitated by Dr. Elizabeth Harkins with Christine Scholma and Rebecca Kammes there in person and Dr. Gloria Nules and Dr. Rhonda Black video chatting in from Hawaii. Their presentation, “How to Navigate the Sexuality Dance: Inclusive Sexuality in the Current Political Landscape,” was an informative presentation complete with actionable ideas for teachers, professors, family therapists, and really anyone working with students. “I say all the scary words first,” was my favorite piece of plain-spoken advice from Christine Scholma.

Worksheet typed up in black ink on a white paper. Around the given, typed, information are handwritten notes in blue ink. Some of theses handwritten notes are circled or have arrows to help relate back to specific points in the typed information on the worksheet.

Worksheet typed up in black ink on a white paper. Around the given, typed, information are handwritten notes in blue ink. Some of theses handwritten notes are circled or have arrows to help relate back to specific points in the typed information on the worksheet.

 Before lunch, I stopped in on a session led by Dianne Zager of the new Shrub Oak International School. The presentation “A Model for Transition Programming for High School Students with Autism” gave a rundown of various transitions models, offered ways they can be used together for greater success, and included a pretty robust discussion period with the attendees.

The last sessions of the day ended at 4:30 leaving a lot of downtime to get dinner, relax, and explore around the resort. I wish there was more late night programming, but as someone much younger than the average attendee, perhaps I’m in the minority on that opinion. I know many attendees brought families along and probably appreciated the time to have a vacation with them.

 

Friday

There’s this great scene in the documentary Woodstock where a person who attended the festival recalls Jimi Hendrix’s performance on the last day and says something to the effect of, “I was so tired I remember just wondering when he would stop.” This always stays with me. It could be the most ground breaking performance (like a re-imagining of the Star Spangled Banner) but at a certain point the energy just fades.

I often feel this way at big conferences, to no fault of the organizers or presenters!

I spent most of the morning poster session enjoying the continental breakfast, checking in for my flight, downloading my boarding pass, then taking care of odds and ends for my travel home.

I attended a panel “Perspectives on Publishing Pre-Tenure: Advice from Experts in the Field,” that was (quite clearly) more for early career academics, but I still gleaned some good writing tips and listening to a group of people discuss their craft and writing habits was a nice, non-intensive activity on the last day.

Dr. Elizabeth Harkins was leading another session with Dr. Gloria Niles video chatting in again, this one entitled, “Challenging Heteronormativity: Intersectionality of Gender, Sexuality, and Disability.” I enjoyed the first so much I decided to stop in and wasn’t disappointed!

After another catered lunch (tacos!) I sat in on “The Science of Mindful Breathing” presented by Dr Amrita Chaturvedi, Dr. Nikki Murdick and Dr. Kristine Larson and learned some new breathing techniques, namely alternate nostril breathing, which, while easy enough to perform, but can be quite the head rush!

The closing keynote was delivered by Robert Pio Hajjar, a self-advocate and author who offered his, “ I can, YOU can,” motivational speech as final call to action for the event.

Black and white photo of a large, hotel, ballroom. In the foreground, a table with a pen and conference booklet, you can’t quite make out what it says. Beyond that are people sitting in chairs at round tables and listening to a closing keynote given by an older , male caucasian speaker at a podium.

Black and white photo of a large, hotel, ballroom. In the foreground, a table with a pen and conference booklet, you can’t quite make out what it says. Beyond that are people sitting in chairs at round tables and listening to a closing keynote given by an older , male caucasian speaker at a podium.

 All in all it was a great time! More academic and research geared than I’m used to, but it was interesting to be among that section of the industry for a while and see the work people are doing in the field.

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