Back to School Bingo

Hello, Everyone!

Three weeks until the 2017-2018 school year begins!  I’m currently planning as much as I can before September is upon us!  I’m always looking for interesting and fun ideas to start off the school year.  I usually begin the first day by allowing my new students to become familiar with the classroom, school building, and general routines.  We have a social skills group at the conclusion of the day and my students LOVE to play bingo during this time.  They love the magnetic chip set that we use as well as winning their favorite candy as a prize.  I’m always looking far and wide for bingo games that build in language for my students.  Many of my students work on several language programs that address filling in the function of items. (e.g. “What do you do with a scissors?” (cut paper))  I find that my students show the most success with these programs when we work on them incidentally instead of during direct instruction.  I decided to create a school supply bingo game with function call out prompts to make this program more meaningful and interesting.  This game can be used throughout the school year to work on labeling the function programs.  Click the link below to try this product out in your classroom or home!

School Supply Bingo

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I hope that you’re enjoying these last weeks of summer!  Thanks for joining me!!




Dana Grasso

Are my letters straight?

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I began to set up my classroom this week for the 2017-2018 school year.  I always have amazing visions for my bulletin boards, but as you can see I struggle with keeping my letters straight.  I even have a border to follow and they’re still uneven! This picture was taken after several attempts of stapling, pulling off, and stapling yet again.  I guess I looked silly during this process and my little guy, Benjamin pulled up a chair and sat directly in front of the bulletin board with a huge smile on his face. I decided that his actions meant that the letters were good enough! 🙂  IMG_3842

Travis thoroughly enjoyed his time in my room and was cutting and gluing everything that his little hands could grab.  He told me that I’m very lucky that I get to play with all of these toys each day with my friends.  I thought that was an interesting perspective and I agreed.

I’ve been very busy over the last couple of weeks planning our community outings and creating data sheets and lesson plans to accompany each outing.  I created the bulletin board above with a vision for my students to track their progress towards their individual goals after each outing.  I’m not exactly sure how I want it to look?   Please share any ideas/thoughts that you have.

Ice Cream Shop – A Visual Menu & Verbal Prompt Card

Hello, Everyone!

Today was the last day of our extended school year program.  I can’t believe how fast our program went this year! We went on a community outing to get ice cream so that we could celebrate all of the hard work that our students put in this summer!  We prepared for our community outing by reading stories about ice cream shops and explored various ice cream menus.  We also completed a survey and each of our students stated which flavor/toppings that they liked the best.  Then, I created an ice cream menu with pictures of the flavors and toppings to help promote independence.  I also added a verbal prompt card with blanks so that the students could role play ordering their preferred treat of choice.  This card can be taken to the ice cream shop to help increase independence with communication skills.  If you would like to use this *FREEBIE* with your students and/or children click on the link below.

Ice Cream Shop – A Visual Menu and Verbal Prompt Task Card

My students did a tremendous job generalizing these communication skills into the community.   Who doesn’t love ice cream on a hot summer day?

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Banana Boat S’mores – A Visual Recipe

Hello, Everyone!

I hope that everyone is enjoying these last few weeks of sweet summer!   My extended school year program ends next week!  I’m looking forward to some family time before gearing up for the new school year!

We’ve been focusing on various summer activities in my classroom during our summer program and have recently been learning about camping.  We read the social story that I created about camping along with various other “camp” related stories.  We wrapped up our camping theme with making Banana Boat S’mores.  This recipe was really exciting for our group and delicious too!IMG_3642I created a visual recipe with pictures embedded for Banana Boat S’mores!  This recipe also comes with a recipe review page.   If you’d like to try this visual recipe with your students/children, click the link below.


Banana Boat S’mores – A Visual Recipe


Once again,  Thank you for joining me on my journey as an educator!




Dana Grasso

You’re Going Camping – A Social Story


You’re Going Camping – A Social Story

Camping Social Story & Activities

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Hello, Everyone!

I LOVE social stories and I use them frequently in my special education classroom.  All children can benefit from the use of social stories to help make new experiences/places less scary and events more meaningful.  I use social stories before each of our community outings to help increase independence with the specific goals that my students are working on.  We’ve used social stories before going to restaurants to practice appropriate table manners before generalizing them into the community.  We’ve also used social stories to promote street and parking lot safety.   I’ve used dentist social stories that I found on YouTube before taking my son on his first dentist trip so that he knew what to expect.  Social stories are an extremely powerful tool, but they can be very challenging to find for specific situations.  My family and I recently went on a camping trip and had a wonderful time.   When we came home I thought about how students on the autism spectrum could benefit from a camping social story.  I looked for a camping social story on Pinterest, but I was unable to locate one. I decided to create a camping social story with actual pictures from our camping trip.  I like to use real pictures so that children can visualize what the experience will look like before it occurs.    I really enjoyed creating this social story because I was able to include my family in the pictures!  if you’re interested in using this social story in your home or classroom click the link below.  The social story also comes with a vocabulary page with pictures, a word to picture match activity, a 1:1 correspondence activity and a writing prompt to help promote generalization.  I hope to create additional social stories in the near future.  At the conclusion of our extended school year program my class is going to the local ice cream shop!  I’ll share a social story and corresponding activities from that experience soon!  Once again, thank you for joining me on my journey!


Dana Grasso

Camping Social Story & Activities

Preview Page from Camping Social Story:

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The Power of Choice!

Hello Everyone,

The extended school year program at my school is in full swing and I have three new students in my multiply-disabled classroom.  When I receive new students I need to gather baseline behavior and academic data to make sure that I’m providing the appropriate supports and behavioral systems to increase growth.  I have younger learners this year (grades K-2nd) and we’re working on reinforcing appropriate behaviors and pairing our classroom and staff with reinforcing items to increase motivation.

What do you work for?  Many times, parents or staff members will ask me WHY my students work for preferred items and/or edibles.  I answer them with “Why do you work here?”  I’m sure it’s because you love education and you want to inspire learners, but when it comes down to it you need a paycheck to support your family and pay the bills.  If the school failed to pay you chances are you’d have to quit and find another job.  Our students are working towards developing the intrinsic motivation that learning new skills provides but until we get to that point we want to provide immediate reinforcement to increase their academic, social and behavioral skill levels.    We want them to feel motivated to learn otherwise we’re going to see an increase in maladaptive behaviors and a decrease in academic and social skills.

How do we know what our students want to work for?   I always create a take home survey for my parents to fill out so that I can better get to know their son/daughter.  I also allow my students to explore the classroom when they first enter and write notes about the different items that interest them.  Once the students feel comfortable in the classroom and being around the new staff members I perform a preference assessment.  This assessment tool provides data about the most reinforcing items for my learners.  When I first started in the field of ABA this was a tedious pen and paper and Excel graphing process.  Thanks to the world of technology you can now use an application right on your SMARTphone or tablet to perform the assessment.  I use the application “Preference and Reinforcer Assessment.”  A link for the application as well as a sample of the preference assessment post-data graph are shown below.


   Preference & Reinforcer Assessment

     Finally,  once I’ve gathered this information and completed the preference assessment I create Choice Boards for my students.  These boards are laminated and Velcroed and taken everywhere with my students.  Please see the example below.



Choice boards are a simple and extremely powerful tool that can help our students to stay motivated and on task.  They are really simple to create and I’ve created a *FREEBIE* Choice Board product for you to use in your classroom or with you son/daughter.  The product comes with a description of how to create the choice boards as well as three templates to choose from.  The students in my classroom are presented with their choice boards and select a picture of the item that they would like to work for.  The picture that they select is then placed on their token board and once they earn all of their tokens they earn a break with that desired item.    Click the link below and be sure to check out the additional products that I’ve created.

Choice Board Product *FREEBIE*

     Once again,  thank you for joining me on my journey and please check back for updates.  I appreciate any feedback and/or questions!



Dana Grasso

(Author of Autism Zen)

Let’s Make a Sandwich!

Hello Everyone,

I hope that everyone is enjoying their summer break!  The extended school year program started at my school this week and I truly enjoyed the two week break that I had with my boys (Travis & Ben) before it started!  I wanted to create a blog post about my life skills “Let’s make a Sandwich” program and explain how beneficial it has been for my group of special needs students.  Each day, when my students work on their activity schedules they each make a sandwich to promote life skills, social skills, math skills, language skills and prevocational skills.  When they see the “Let’s make a sandwich” page in their activity schedule they know to grab the labeled bin (Shown below: middle row on right) IMG_3155

and listen to the staff member working with him or her about the sandwich that they would like to order.  The various sandwich options are shown on a ring (shown below) and can be faded once the student has mastered the various sandwiches and their contents.

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The student then states the name of the sandwich that they made and depending on their skill level, works on having the staff member “pay” for the sandwich.  This program is a favorite in our classroom and has promoted independence in several areas for our students.  We have also generalized this skill to our Friday cooking groups.  The students have practiced making sandwiches with real food to increase generalization skills and independence with mealtime routines.  I purchased this sandwich kit from Amazon (Melissa & Doug).  Sandwich Making Kit

If you’re interested in replicating this program in your special needs program, please click the link below!


Let’s Make a Sandwich Program

Thank you so much for joining me on my journey in creating lifelong learners!




Dana Grasso

(Autism Zen)