What’s Good about Good Friday?

“Good Friday confuses me!” my ESL student confessed.  “If we remember the day Jesus died, why do we call it good?”  3 Crosses

It’s unclear what is the exact origin of the term “Good Friday”  Some say that it’s an old English synonym for “Holy”.  Others say it’s a corruption of the word “God” like how the term “God be with you”  turned into “Goodbye!”   Whatever the origin of Good Friday it is a day of sorrow that has a good ending.

Christians believe Jesus died on the cross (on Good Friday) in order to pay for our sins.  No matter how good we are, no matter how loving, or how much care for others and do good things, we all have sin, and we can never be good enough to pay for our own sins.  And our sin separates us from God. When Jesus paid the price of our sin, he provided a way for us to be re-united with God.  The Bible story says that after Jesus was crucified he arose from the dead three days later, on the day we celebrate as Easter. empty tomb So there is Good in Good Friday!

Blessings to you this weekend, and Happy Easter!




The UH in Mother

motherMy ESL students say “Mother”  needs to be spelled “muh ther”!

When you see an O in English, you need to be careful.  There are times it will not be pronounced “o”.  We have many words that have an “uh” sound, called the schwa sound, when spelled with an O.   These words come up again and again, so I’ll review them here.  Memorize these words and you’ll be doing better in your learning English.

  • mother – muh ther
  • brother – bruh ther
  • other – uh ther
  • love – luhv
  • above – uh buhv
  • come – kuhm
  • won, one – wuhn
  • money – muhn ee

Listen to the list of words with the schwa sound.

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Things I Can Do to Calm Down

screaming-kidThe “Incredible Hulk” boy had a meltdown today (read my earlier post about him here). He had several meltdowns actually. His meltdowns sparked another student (I affectionately call him the “Screamer” because when he has a meltdown he gets loud!) and then we had 2 kids out of control in the elementary classroom.

I needed to help him get under control. At a moment of quiet, I took one and we headed outside the classroom, and sat down to review our strategies to calm down (see link for worksheet. It’s not mine. Sorry I can’t give credit, I don’t know the author. If you know the author, please let me know so i can give credit.)

  • Take 3 deep breaths
  • Count from 1 to 10 (and if you’re still angry, count from 10 – 1)
  • Find a trusted person to talk to about what is bothering you
  • Get a hug or give a hug
  • Draw a picture of why you’re angry
  • Jump up and down for a minute
  • Think of a peaceful place or look at a picture of your peaceful place
  • Listen to music or play music on a instrument
  • Hit a pillow
  • Sing a song
  • Talk yourself into being calm: say, “Be calm, be calm” or “I can handle this”
  • Tense and relax your muscles
  • Feel your pulse
  • Visualize yourself calming down.

calm down strategies printable worksheet

We’ve done this lesson before, and I was hoping he would remember them and start using one or two to calm down. He eagerly read them, and before I even cued him he was practicing his deep breathing, and his counting to 10! He really seemed glad that someone was supporting him with this skill. My impression is he would like to do a better job at controlling himself, and the little bit of help I gave him made a difference.

Unfortunately the “Incredible Hulk” boy did not do so well today. After all sorts of issues that upset him at school today, he climbed on the bus yelling and swinging out at anyone near him. I can hope that the ride home calmed him down.

When Special Interests Get Too Big

We have students with autism at our school who have special interests. You might even call them obsessions. Julian, a boy in our younger classroom, is obsessed with the Incredible Hulk. The fist time you meet Julian, it’s kind of charming that he knows so much about the Incredible Hulk, and the Hulk’s adventures, characteristics and mannerisms! He talks frequently about the Hulk, letting those around him know that the Hulk is big and green and does incredible feats of strength. Julian makes the Hulk poses and growling sounds. Julian tells you more than you ever knew about the Hulk.

Incredible HulkHe has to have his Hulk action figure with him in class. He carries it on the playground. He seems to eat, drink, live and breathe the Incredible Hulk!

But when a “special interest” of an autistic student becomes an obsession, there are rough times ahead. How can a teacher help a student with an obsession?  We try to help put limits on the obsession. For Julian the Incredible Hulk needs to be put on a schedule. Julian will benefit from the structure of a schedule. There should be specific rules about when and where the Hulk will be available for play during school. Also Julian needs to learn the language associated with appropriate social behavior:

“This is not the time to play with Hulk. The time to play with Hulk is after lunch.”

“No Hulk talk now (while you do your work).”

“I see you’re stuck on Hulk again. You need to put your mind on ______ (whatever is a good alternative at that time.)”

Obsessive behavior can also be shaped (gently changed to be more socially appropriate.) Julian loves one superhero character. Can he get excited about other ones? What if we were to add Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and Black Widow to his collection? Can we help Julian to be flexible by adding variety to his obsession? Maybe he will become one of those adults whose special interest is the superhero universe. Adults who are interested in superhero books, movies, and conventions are not that unusual.

And finally, Julian needs to learn some social thinking vocabulary (you can read more about Michelle Garcia Winner’s social thinking tools at this website). Julian probably has not yet figured out that others are simply not as interested as he is in the Incredible Hulk! But many students with autism don’t know that others are not thinking about the things they are thinking about. Julian needs to learn others have thoughts different from his. And when his Hulk special interest gets too big, other’s thoughts about him are not positive!

Time Passages in Autism

time passages and autismDoes your student with autism have an unusual sense of  time passing?  Ours does. Our son never seems to be very accurate in how he judges the passage of time.   He may look at a challenging homework problem and think it will take 30 minutes, or an hour (or God forbid, forever) to solve it.  But then if he can concentrate on it and get it done, we find that it took only 2 – 3 minutes!   The other side of the coin is our son’s ability to focus for long periods of time on things that interest him (like building with Legos or playing video games.  nintendo_boyHe’ll think that only a short amount of time has passed when doing something he loves (and we’d like him to stop it, and come to the table for dinner).

Why is that?  It’s because many students with autism do not have an accurate perception of time passing. Their brains interpret the passage of time differently from typical students.  This can cause problems, as well as prove to be an advantage.  Hyperfocus (being able to concentrate on a single thing for a long time) can be an advantage when innovating, or developing new ideas.  Typical students might tire of a project, when autistic students might make new breakthroughs, because they can focus for long periods of time.

One of the tools we use to help our son is a visual timer called Time Timer.  It’s like a countdown clock.  It’s got a visual display of a bright red section of the circle.  You can show as much as an hour of time, or just a few minutes, by twisting the dial. Then the dial moves to show elapsed time. When the red is no longer visible, time’s up!  I like it because it’s visual and it’s quiet.

See the link below for more information on time perception and autism.

article on Time Perception in Autism



Caring for the Caregiver

This week our family had an emergency.  My parents were visiting our home, and my mother became ill and was hospitalized.  My dad and I made some decisions to get help, namely we called for an ambulance and had my mother go to the hospital.  There she got the help she needed.  In the middle of this emergency, my temper was pretty short.  I felt frustrated by all the things that were out of my control.  I was trying to care for my dad, participating in caring for my mom in the hospital, and after she came home.  I was also trying to care for my husband and son doing all the things wives/mothers usually do – grocery shopping, running errands, cooking, cleaning and helping with homework.  Add to this a part-time job, and I was stressed to the max this week.

It reminded me of another time that I felt overwhelmed with my care-giving responsibilities.  Early on, when my children were little and my son was first diagnosed on the autism spectrum, we were going to doctors and therapy a lot, and I was very involved in school, volunteering in my kids’s classrooms.  I was under a lot of stress then, too, and it lasted for a long time.  I got to a breaking point when I could not deal with the stress any longer.  I had made the mistake of not taking care of myself.  I was responsible for these other people in my life and I was not getting what I needed to be a good caregiver for them.

caring for the caregiverThat made me think of an idea I learned in Bible study years ago.   If you have a full cup, you can pour into the lives of others.  If your cup is empty, you have nothing to give others.  How can you make sure you are taking care of the caregiver?  How can you “fill up your cup”?

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Eat healthy
  • Exercise
  • Take time to sit quietly, meditate, pray or read your Bible every day
  • Practice stress reduction (I play piano. You might bird-watch or do Zumba classes!)
  • Concentrate on what is going well and celebrate accomplishments
  • Be social and spend time with friends
  • Pace yourself (if your problem is not going away, learn to accept it and plan for next week, next month, next year, etc.)

Caring for the caregiver is important.  Don’t think of it as selfish.  If you are not in good shape yourself, it will be very hard for you to care for others. Make yourself a priority.  Get your cup filled up!  Then you can pour into the lives of your children, husband, and family.



Learning Advanced Emotions

Happy, Sad, Mad. These are 3 common emotions. But what do you do with a student who never learned more than these 3?  I am working with a 10-year-old who uses only these 3 emotions when describing his feelings. But there are many more words we use when describing how we feel. My emotions word bank is something I’m using to help my student learn new vocabulary words.

Also pictures of faces. Pictures of faces are everywhere and we used some faces we saw on the web to talk about new emotions vocabulary words. Then we used the words in sentences “I feel ____ when _____”.

I feel excited when my cousin comes to visit!

I feel depressed when I can’t get my homework done!

I feel nervous when I meet a new person!

It’s exciting to see his understanding grow and see him use new emotions words at school!