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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Class Environment

A big consideration in prepping for the workshops is the class environment, or how things are arranged and set up in the room to best support student learning.

One important component of design for the sessions I run is a circular structure.

I do this because I want the poets to be able to reference one another. The social-emotional and self-expressive aspects of these workshops are just as important as the academic and in order to facilitate these empathic aspects I need to set up the room in a way that promotes communication between poets.

A circle of classrrom chairs, black and one blue, on a tiled floor. In the middle of the circle of chairs is a smaller circle of colored cards. In the foreground is a classroom dry-erase whiteboard.

A circle of classrrom chairs, black and one blue, on a tiled floor. In the middle of the circle of chairs is a smaller circle of colored cards. In the foreground is a classroom dry-erase whiteboard.

For example, in my younger workshops where I use the movement cards I put the circle of cards in the center of the larger seating circle. This gives each poet a kind of performance for their turn and then I still keep an open space for writing on the board, trying to keep it so that the poem is a kind of part of the circle.

I like to keep the room clear as well, nothing but the seating and activity.

It’s important to note as well, that teachers, therapists, and other facilitators are sitting (or standing in the case of other workshops) with the poets. This equanimity in seating is twofold in that it’s a visual representation of the fact that all voices are valued, student voice on the same tier as adult voice, and it allows for seamless 1:1 support. Whether that support is because a therapist is using this session as a group mandate and needs to work in close capacity to fulfill goals or because a poet needs sensory support in a moment of challenge, this set up makes it so that there are no dramatic/run across the room/jump in the middle of the activity/ stop everything situations that arise.

It’s pretty simple, but taking small considerations can make big improvements in peer learning.

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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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Sensory Supports

Working with a population of learners who have a wide array of sensory needs means adapting the classroom space to meet those individual needs. As I reflect on this past semester I wanted to create a little list of some easy sensory supports to include as part of a workshop, or classroom, environment.

 One easy thing is alternative seating like a yoga ball. The bouncing of the yoga ball can help offer input for students to be more attentive and engaged in the lesson. The one difficulty is sometimes everyone wants a turn to sit on the ball, whether it’s right for their sensory system or not, so establishing it as special seat for an individual student right from the get-go is important. 

Tiled classroom with a white board. Black chairs arranged in a half-circle around the white board. In the middle of the chairs is a teal yoga ball intended to be a seat. On the board can be seen some writing.

Tiled classroom with a white board. Black chairs arranged in a half-circle around the white board. In the middle of the chairs is a teal yoga ball intended to be a seat. On the board can be seen some writing.

Another easy tool is a weighted blanket, providing deep pressure to help students remain seated and regulated who might otherwise want to move around to seek sensory input. I’ve found there isn’t as much temptation from other students around these blankets, so it’s a nice, low impact addition to the classroom space.

The student it’s intended for can keep it on their body, take it off when it’s their turn to go to the board and then put it back over them or have a staff put it over them as the other poets take their turns.

 

Teal and dark blue weighted blanket sitting on top of a black chair in a tiled classroom.

Teal and dark blue weighted blanket sitting on top of a black chair in a tiled classroom.

Another, subtler and smaller form of deep pressure are hand squeezes to rhythm. A colleague of mine offers this to a poet in one of the rhythm and movement based workshops I run. It’s a simple tactile cue that helps the poet stay attuned to the group activity while also giving their body a bit of support.

For the workshops that are doing writing on paper rather than the white board I like to offer writing utensils that have different sizes and textures. This way every poet should be able to find a tool that fits comfortably in their hand.

Clear mason jar of writing utensils on a tiled classroom floor. The Jar has plastic ball point pens with both smooth and rough grips, pens with cardboard wrapping, regular sized pencils, and giant pencils.

Clear mason jar of writing utensils on a tiled classroom floor. The Jar has plastic ball point pens with both smooth and rough grips, pens with cardboard wrapping, regular sized pencils, and giant pencils.

These are a few ideas I have, but I’d love to hear what else is out there and what other artists and educators use in their spaces!

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Snowball Dialouge

New article over in Whale Road Literary Review on “Snowball Dialouge” a writing technique I’ve used with students in the Sensorimotor Poetry Workshops.

While this article talks specifically about moments of peer learning in the workshop space, I've also used this as a strategy to help communicate and co-regulate with students in the day-to-day as well.

It's a good back pocket tool for any educator!

Black text on a white background. The top has the masthead for  Whale Road Review  with four lines right aligned indicating an online drop down menu. Below that masthead is the start of the article with “Snowball Dialogue” in bold, black title lettering and the article lettering beginning in paragraph form below.

Black text on a white background. The top has the masthead for Whale Road Review with four lines right aligned indicating an online drop down menu. Below that masthead is the start of the article with “Snowball Dialogue” in bold, black title lettering and the article lettering beginning in paragraph form below.

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ICDL 2018

The 2018 International DIRFloortime Conference took place in Rockville,Maryland this year. It’s organized by the International Council on Development and Learning or ICDL. I went down with a contingent of Rebecca School therapists, teachers, and administrators to present with two colleagues of mine on a poetry workshop we facilitate. The conference was a two day event (with a third per-conference day for the ICDL training leaders) spanning Veteran’s Day weekend.

Jeff Guenzel a middle aged white male with professionally dressed addresses an audience from behind a podium. In the foreground is a table with a conference flyer and in the background, behind Guenzel, is the ICDL logo on a power point screen. Around Guenzel can be seen equipment such as projector, speakers, lights. The walls of the hotel lobby are yellow and the floor has a navy and yellow rug to match.

Jeff Guenzel a middle aged white male with professionally dressed addresses an audience from behind a podium. In the foreground is a table with a conference flyer and in the background, behind Guenzel, is the ICDL logo on a power point screen. Around Guenzel can be seen equipment such as projector, speakers, lights. The walls of the hotel lobby are yellow and the floor has a navy and yellow rug to match.

After the welcome, the first Keynote started up: Alicia F. Lieberman’s “Treating Trauma in Young Children: The Gifts and Challenges of Speaking the Unspeakable” While an admittedly heavy topic to start the day with, it was eye and mind opening, Lieberman was a true well of knowledge. From quoting academia to quoting graffiti, or an “anonymous philosopher” as she termed it, Lieberman took the overwhelming challenge of working with youth who have experienced trauma and gave the audience both inspiration and actionable advice to help their clients, students, and (in my case) poets.

Beyond the clinical applications of her work, I also noticed that she branded each of her slides with her contact info and institute name. I though this was an incredibly smooth move, making it harder for someone to republish without credit and also easier for her to be contacted, something I’ll be sure to do for future presentations of my own!

Black and white photo. Alicia F. Lieberman, a senior woman, addresses a large crowd of people from behind a podium. Behind and around Lieberman conference equipment can be seen including a large presentations screen, projector, speakers, and a banner with logo draped over the podium itself.

Black and white photo. Alicia F. Lieberman, a senior woman, addresses a large crowd of people from behind a podium. Behind and around Lieberman conference equipment can be seen including a large presentations screen, projector, speakers, and a banner with logo draped over the podium itself.

Lieberman’s talk on Trauma would mark the start of theme throughout the conference as many of the breakout sessions happening the next day would also showcase work and address strategies for working with youth who have experienced trauma.

The second keynote of the day was Dr. Stephen Shore. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Dr. Shore present at a couple different conferences, but every time I do I’m impressed by his passion, advocacy, and commitment. His 3 A’s (in the photo below) are important tenets to keep in mind as a professional in this field.

Large presentation screen with a black curtain skirt on the bottom. On the top in Green is “ The 3 A’s of Autism” below is a stack of three words showing each concept as a foundation for the other. From the bottom up in red “Awareness” in yellow “Acceptance” and in light blue “Appreciation”:

Large presentation screen with a black curtain skirt on the bottom. On the top in Green is “ The 3 A’s of Autism” below is a stack of three words showing each concept as a foundation for the other. From the bottom up in red “Awareness” in yellow “Acceptance” and in light blue “Appreciation”:

After the two keynotes, there was a break for lunch and then we went right into the plenary sessions. It felt a little intense to be in the same space hearing presentations back to back. I felt pretty antsy at moments and had to take standing and walking breaks. I wish that there was more to interact with on this day, like a small vendor area or designated networking space. Without that kind of diversity of programming the day not only felt long, but felt more like professional development than a conference.

That said, the plenary sessions were great! Zachary Kandler a Nordoff-Robbins trained music therapist brought the house down with “Finding Flow in Music: A Case Study of Developmental and Emotional Transformation” The session highlighted his work with one specific client from their first meeting to the present and it was a especially compelling watching the narrative of their sessions unfold. The case video of the two of them playing, writing, and performing together also brought a bunch of great energy into the space!

Zachary Kandler, a professionally dressed, young white man addresses a large audience from behind a podium. Behind and around Kandler there is presentation equipment such as speakers, projector, and large presentation screens. On the screen behind Kandler can be read “Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy” with black and white images of the two men (a bit difficult to distinguish from the photo). All of this is taking place in a hotel ballroom with navy and yellow rug and yellow wall.

Zachary Kandler, a professionally dressed, young white man addresses a large audience from behind a podium. Behind and around Kandler there is presentation equipment such as speakers, projector, and large presentation screens. On the screen behind Kandler can be read “Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy” with black and white images of the two men (a bit difficult to distinguish from the photo). All of this is taking place in a hotel ballroom with navy and yellow rug and yellow wall.

Following Kandler’s rousing presentation on Flow was “Critical Core: Role-Playing Games and the Future of Social-Skills Enrichment” presented by Virginia Spielmann, Adam Davis, and Adam Johns. This was a cool exploration of Critical Core, “a therapeutic tool for kids 9+ in the form of a fantasy role-playing game. Developed by parents, therapists, and educators, it's an amazing new skill building tool that can be used at home or in the clinic. “ [1]

 It’s tricky having the last session of the day, but I was impressed with the group, especially the simple movement activity they used to start! They had us imagine blowing up a balloon, holding the balloon, then letting out air in the balloon by making all the silly, squeaky, farty, sounds that involves. In doing so, Adam Davis, who led the activity, brought it back to his own feelings and anxieties presenting before an audience and how now that we had all made these fun noises together we were able to alleviate that. Pretty pro-move!

Gaming would prove another small theme throughout the conference with two Saturday breakout sessions dedicated to it as well.

Large presentation screen with black, curtain skirt. On top of the screen in large white lettering “Challenge the Status Quo” Under that is an image of a fantasy, warrior character facing a large dragon-like monster emerging from a body of water. In the bottom right is the C logo for Critical Core.

Large presentation screen with black, curtain skirt. On top of the screen in large white lettering “Challenge the Status Quo” Under that is an image of a fantasy, warrior character facing a large dragon-like monster emerging from a body of water. In the bottom right is the C logo for Critical Core.

My presentation was on the second day of the conference. I got to the hotel a little bit later, taking an easy morning out of the Air BnB I shared with colleauges from Rebecca School which was about 40 minutes away in DC.

I was glad I made it in time to see “DIRFloortime Case Studies: The Clinical Experience at Floortime Thailand” by Kingkaew Pajareya, MD or “Dr.K” as she referred to herself. It was fascinating seeing the way this work takes form on a global scale.  While Dr K.. was present to answer questions and guide the session, she also filmed herself presenting and had the video over dubbed by a colleague in English as a way to overcome the language barrier an hour long presentation in English presented. I thought was pretty unique approach!

After lunch I took the stage with Colleen Gabbert and Courtney Latter for “(Move)ment; The Poetics of Purposeful Action and Commnication” a presentation on the interdisciplinary approach the three of us bring to a poetry workshop at the Rebecca School. This was my second time presenting with Gabbert and Latter and it’s always such a treat to share the stage with these two brilliant clinicians!

From left to right: Colleen Gabbert, young white woman. Donnie Welch young white man. Courtney Latter young white woman. All dressed professionally. The three are posing in front of their title slide on a large presentation screen with a black, curtain skirt. Behind them can be seen a speaker and light as well as the navy-yellow rug and yellow wall of the hotel ballroom.

From left to right: Colleen Gabbert, young white woman. Donnie Welch young white man. Courtney Latter young white woman. All dressed professionally. The three are posing in front of their title slide on a large presentation screen with a black, curtain skirt. Behind them can be seen a speaker and light as well as the navy-yellow rug and yellow wall of the hotel ballroom.

The presentation went really well! And following it I took some time to network and follow up with attendees before popping into “Think Before you Speak: Supporting Pre-Linguistic Development in Individual with ASD” to support Latter and my other colleagues from the Rebecca School Speech Department.

The final session of the day led me to colleague Christopher Hernandez’s “LevelUpTime: An Interactive View of the future of Floortime through Videography, Coding, and Design” As Chris is also a close friend of mine, I know that this was his first presentation and despite his nerves he absolutely crushed it! The presentation showcases the first year and amazing growth of a game design program he developed and runs at the Rebecca School, “LevelUp Time™ EDU is a comprehensive science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics program designed for children with neurodevelopmental delays, including Autism, using the DIR Floortime teaching method. The purpose of the program is to teach children with Autism that technology can be used for so much more than "screen time" and to open up a new world of career possibilities in their future.” [2] To learn more about his model, head over to his site and Level Up!

Chris Hernandez a young Puerto-Rican man, presents from behind a table to a group of people sitting. His body language suggests he is engaged and mid-speech. Behind him is a large presentation screen with “So…What is a Video Game” written over the image of a console controller. Around Hernandez can be seen equipment such as a laptop, sound board, and projector. The presentation is taking place in the hotel ballroom and the navy and yellow rug and yellow wall of the room are seen in the photo.

Chris Hernandez a young Puerto-Rican man, presents from behind a table to a group of people sitting. His body language suggests he is engaged and mid-speech. Behind him is a large presentation screen with “So…What is a Video Game” written over the image of a console controller. Around Hernandez can be seen equipment such as a laptop, sound board, and projector. The presentation is taking place in the hotel ballroom and the navy and yellow rug and yellow wall of the room are seen in the photo.

This batch of breakout workshops ended the conference. It felt a little odd that there was no closing speech or event, but there were also a lot of attendees with busy travel plans so perhaps the conference committee wanted to keep the schedule flexible

All in all it was a great time. I had an opportunity to celebrate the work of close colleagues as well as pick up a few new tips and tricks from people who have been working with youth and presenting in the industry for quite awhile.

Oh, but there was some cool conference swag!

Black and white ceramic style coffee mug with “ICDL" and ICDL’s Logo in bold white lettering on the front. The coffee mug is sitting on a checkered wooden cutting board.

Black and white ceramic style coffee mug with “ICDL" and ICDL’s Logo in bold white lettering on the front. The coffee mug is sitting on a checkered wooden cutting board.

Sources:

[1] http://www.criticalcore.org/

[2] https://www.leveluptime.studio/levelup-time-studio-edu.html

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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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Autism Live Interview

Last week I had a blast skyping into Autism Live's talk show "Let's Talk Autism with Shannon & Nancy." I've shared a Youtube video of my interview segment below.

In this 10 minute clip I talk about the Sensorimotor Poetry Workshops, my self-published "Sensory Reading Starter Kit", and future plans for myself and the program.

Teacher/Poet Donnie Welch tells us all about his sensory poetry workshop and guidebook and how he helps children of all different abilities fall in love with language! Like Autism Live on Facebook at http://facebook.com/autismlive Sign up for Autism Live's free newsletter at: http://www.autism-live.com/join-our-email-list.aspx Autism Live is a production of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD), headquartered in Woodland Hills, California, and with offices throughout, the United States and around the globe.

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Workshopping the Workshop

Today marked the start of a new project with one of the workshops. Rather than building a collaborative poem off of a few lines from each poet, we're writing, revising, and (eventually) publishing full, individual poems.

Image of a poem written in black marker on a school white board. Photo editing has given everything a slight burnt tint. The poem’s title says “Tornado Brain” by Donnie. Parts of the poem are circled in orange, and brown other lines have writing around them in blue and purple ink.

Image of a poem written in black marker on a school white board. Photo editing has given everything a slight burnt tint. The poem’s title says “Tornado Brain” by Donnie. Parts of the poem are circled in orange, and brown other lines have writing around them in blue and purple ink.

Before summer break, every poet wrote a full piece on the prompt Tornado Brain, myself included. In introducing the idea of editing and revising I wanted to use my work rather than make any one post feel picked out. This not only takes away the anxiousness of having a poem critiqued, but it gives me the chance to model, as facilitator, the way to accept and process feedback. It also allows the poets to tackle this new subject as a group and use the collaborating, social skills they have in place from the group writing projects.

The idea of finding something to change was initially off putting to some of the poets and, admittedly, I don't know what I would have done in school if a teacher gave me a lesson saying, "okay, what would you change about this poem I wrote?" Two strategies I found that worked: asking the poets to identify what they like and have them circle it and asking them to make additions to the text.

Circling was a good entry way into the text because once they showed me what they liked they were more equipped to talk about what they didn't. Whether that's because it helped them identify their preferences or because it's socially easier to give someone a compliment sandwich, I'm not sure.  In either case, it helped lead to productive conversations and, as you can tell in the picture, even the circled favorite of one poet proved an area of critique for another.

In asking for additions instead of changes, a couple poets were able to interact with the text and give it a personal sense of completion.  Once the additions were made, it was easier to talk about the full text, including their suggested additions. The explanations for why their additions made sense often highlighted elements of the piece they did or didn't like and served as nice opportunities for myself, other facilitators, and peer poets in the room to interject or agree.

Another technique that seemed to work for this lesson was having  every student use their own color marker at the start. While some overlap eventually happened (best laid plans...) this was nice while it lasted! It not only let me see the work of each individual poet, but it made it easy for them to see what each other thought and, in turn, to respond to each other's comment. Next time I'll try and keep the colors a little more carefully coordinated!

After the success of this, I was hoping the poets would be ready to edit their own pieces, but that was definitely a rushed thought. The poets hesitated and rightfully so. Not only is this something new, but it's something a lot scarier than any reading and/or writing exercise we've done. I think workshops are scary! I just know that the end result is a much better, tighter draft and these poets need to see that pay off before they put themselves out there.

I was focused on having this be a summer project, ending with a summer school publication, but I need to step back and enjoy the process. Next session I'm planning to bring my revisions so that they can see how I've accepted their changes and maybe I'll have them go at it again to get some more practice in and, hopefully, see that it can be a good thing to have other poets read and interact with your work.

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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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PoEdtry Podcast

I'm starting up a podcast called poEDtry that focuses on arts education and special education.

For the inaugural episode of the poEDtry podcast I sat down with my good friend and colleague Melissa to talk about reading, mindfulness as classroom management, and self-care.

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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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