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Musings from the Classroom

  • Opposite Ends of the Spectrum, Commonalities Regardless—Tied Together by Transition

    Posted by VFES Communications at 9/8/2015 7:55:00 AM

    It’s compelling to consider the beginning of the school year and the end of the school year. On one hand, they truly are undeniably different in a number of regards.

    The beginning of the school year holds a wealth of possibilities.

    How can we grow? What can we learn? Where is our path going to lead us? How many hiccups will we navigate along the way?

    Are my teachers going to be nice?

    Am I going to make any new friends?

    On the other side, the end of the year is filled with reflection—opportunities to consider one’s successes and accomplishments as well as the curve balls thrown along the way.

    And in all the ways they are different, they are also the same in a number of respects.
    For in both, there is a eagerness, an energy that cannot be matched. One that makes your body tingle and keeps you alert to take it all in. Smiles undeniably abound just as much on the first day as the last day. And every day in the books is a win in and of itself; for there cannot possibly be a day that goes by where one learns nothing. On the cusp of starting something new, a requisite transition period is full of a lot of gains—no matter how bumpy it is along the way.

    Perhaps the greatest struggles lie in the fear of the unknown and discomfort in trying something new. How can we ease transition and use it to our advantage?

    • Practice a day with school or a day without school. Use a visual schedule to help your son or daughter know what to expect and at what time. Go through the motions of getting ready or filling a lot of perceived down time.
    • Break the transition down into smaller steps. Offer incentives for accomplishing each; e.g., tokens which can add up and be cashed in for a larger payoff, from a toy to an outing to the movies.
    • As difficult as it may be, stay as positive as possible and avoid saying no. Sometimes being negative feeds into an aggravated cycle. Praise your son or daughter for what he or she is doing/has done nicely.
    • Employ a favorite toy or electronic device. Keep it on hand and use it as an impetus for completing a difficult next step in the day.
    • Make time seem more tangible. If your son or daughter knows how long five minutes will be by experiencing it and tracking it on a clock, time-driven blocks of time become more relatable. “You know how quickly that clip from Frozen went? That’s just five minutes. You can do it.”
    • Create a Social Story to help your son or daughter make better use of his or her communication skills when moving from something comfortable to something unfamiliar. Here are some resources: http://www.autism.org.uk/living-with-autism/strategies-and-approaches/social-stories-and-comic-strips/how-to-write.aspx and http://www.friendshipcircle.org/blog/2013/02/11/12-computer-programs-websites-and-apps-for-making-social-stories/.

    Exploring all the ways in which something novel can be fun and how to harness the energy solicited by the first day of school or the last day of school can be an excellent way to assuage concerns of the unknown and appreciate the day for what it is: the beginning of opportunities versus the ending of something new and unique.

    First Day and Last Day Blog full of Transition  

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  • Because I’m Happy at the Lower School Gym Show

    Posted by communications@vfes.net at 4/10/2014
    Finally.
     
    A day that was a mere dream has arrived. After a grueling winter replete with polar vortexes and nor’easters, I had but the slightest, smallest glimmer of hope that spring would actually rear its head this year. For I felt it would be “2014: The Year Without Spring.” Especially after having snow in the early days of March.
     
    So, after experiencing such intense weather for several months and hibernating indoors for so long, cabin fever indubitably peaked. It’s time to put away the sweaters and boots and get moving to squeeze into the long-forgotten and far-less-bulky spring-apparel collection.
     
    Since the spring of 1986, Vanguard’s Lower School has been piggy backing on this active, stir-crazy mindset, producing an Annual Gym Show for the students to have an opportunity to exhibit the physical skill sets they’ve honed over the course of the academic year. What began as a small display in one of the tiny annexes on campus has blossomed into a wondrous production and opportunity for parents to come in and see what their children have learned.
     
    This year’s Lower School Gym Show was held on Friday, March 28th. After the hubbub from Vanguard’s first-ever musical production, Aladdin Jr., had dissipated a bit, it was a unique chance for parents to witness something distinct from traditional theatrical productions and concerts. While there is cross-curricular collaboration employed in the Lower School Gym Show—e.g., the students made happy faces to use in their “Happy” dance a la Pharell’s song by the same moniker—the emphasis is on having a physical event that highlights the well-rounded education each child receives at The Vanguard School. For as is the case with students of all abilities, maintaining an active lifestyle is essential to sustaining a healthy lifestyle.
     
    Lower School Gym Show
    Lower School Gym Show 2014 
     
    For some of our students, it may be harder than others. For instance, intramurals are often not an ideal fit for children with autism, as we recently learned during a presentation about the link between autism and weight-related issues. From being teased for the use of coping mechanisms or persistent topics of conversation to motor-skills limitations and behavior issues, many aspects of team sports impede the full participation and enjoyment of children with autism.
     
    How nice it was for the students to have an opportunity to do everything from cooperative fitness challenges to group juggling in a warm, familiar setting. And to display their team-oriented skills and enjoyment engaging in them for their parents.
     
    The students were able to showcase a wide range of activities that day:
    • Maneuvering a tricky obstacle course
    • Skipping, leaping, hopping and sliding in sequence, exhibiting sound locomotor movement skills
    • Participating in cooperative fitness challenges including partner sit-up throw and catch and group jumping jacks
    • Displaying skills acquired in gymnastics club such as walking on the balance beam and performing partner forward rolls
    • Competing in Olympic-style bobsled races
     
    In the end, it seemed parents, staff and students on the side lines were Happiest to see the students exhibiting their skills Happily.
     
    A very extra special thank you to Mrs. Cary Hunter for organizing such an amazing presentation, and to all the staff whose work facilitated a superb experience for everyone involved.
     
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  • Flashback Friday: The Beginning of Our Post-Graduate Program

    Posted by communications@vfes.net at 3/26/2014

    Blast from the past 28 years ago, Jacque Murray, now Program Supervisor in the Vanguard Transition Center, remarked that the program received support “beyond our wildest dreams.” Certainly, that statement still applies to the program in its current form. What started as a small, post-graduate program with 13 students  enrolled in the pilot year, 1986, has blossomed into The Vanguard Transition Center: a program for young adults, ages 18-21, that serves 55 students and affords myriad work-study and other learning opportunities. Classes in current events, healthy lifestyles and human social development are offered to all students, along with community-based activities and recreational opportunities.

    And Mrs. Murray is still at the helm of The VTC nearly three decades later, acting as its Program Supervisor. She is committed to ensuring young adults in need of additional education and critical life and job skills development receive the best services and opportunities possible.

    Also pictured below is Jim Kane, who acted as the Adjustment Counselor in the beginning stages of the post-graduate program, and Ty Morgan, a beloved, long-time teacher at The Vanguard School consistently lauded for his contributions to the academic community and commitment to upholding ethical standards. Plaques commemorating Mr. Morgan’s efforts continue to hang in the Jarmon and Activities Centers here on campus.

    Read on for a trip down memory lane.

     
    Vanguard Inaugurates Post Graduate Program  
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