Thursday, May 27, 2021

Autism in Context: Optimizing Equity for Students on the Spectrum

Autism in Context: 
Optimizing Equity for Students on the Spectrum
webinar put on by the 
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development

Date:  Tuesday, June 8, 2021
Time:  11 a.m. SLT
Duration:  1 hour

Educators and parents or guardians of students on the autism spectrum are often at odds, bringing to the table vastly different perceptions and expectations. And yet, because these students depend heavily on consistency and continuity across contexts, effective collaboration with parents and guardians is a crucial component of their education. How do educators bridge this gap?

Barbara Boroson has sat on both sides of the table for these challenging conversations — as both an autism educator and a parent of a child on the spectrum — and brings a multifaceted perspective to this touchy topic. In this webinar, teachers and education leaders will collect practical information and strategies for maintaining an equitable learning environment that embraces these quirky learners — and their parents and guardians, too.

Speaker Barbara Boroson
Barbara Boroson is the author of the new ASCD publication "Decoding Autism and Leading the Way to Successful Inclusion" and "Autism Spectrum Disorder in the Inclusive Classroom: How to Reach and Teach Students with ASD" (Scholastic, 2016) and has worked in the field of autism education for more than 25 years in clinical, administrative, and advisory capacities.

She provides professional development and consultative services nationwide to school districts and parents facilitating successful inclusion, and speaks frequently at conferences, colleges and graduate schools.

Monday, May 3, 2021

May is Mental Health Awareness Month!

May is Mental Health Awareness Month:  How to Get Mental Health Help
May is Mental Health Awareness Month:  How to Get Mental Health Help

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Everyone has mental health! This designation for May was begun in 1949 by Mental Health America. Their theme this year is “Tools 2 Thrive.” Mental Health America provides resources to improve personal mental health and increase resiliency.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) promotes the theme “You Are Not Alone.” NAMI states that the purpose of this theme is to “focus on the healing value of connecting in safe ways, prioritizing mental health and acknowledging that it’s okay to not be okay.”

In Canada, Mental Health Week 2021 Is May 3-9. This year’s theme is “Name it, don’t numb it.”

In the UK, Mental Health Awareness Week is designated May 10-16 in 2021. The 2021 theme is “Nature.” A strong connection to the natural world is good for anyone’s psychological and emotional health.

Did you know that one in five US adults and one in six US youth and teens will experience a mental illness in any given year? It is a sad statistic that less than half of them will receive any treatment. One in five homeless people in the US have a serious mental health condition. Over a third of incarcerated adults and nearly three-quarters of youth in the juvenile justice system have been diagnosed with a mental illness.

Anyone who is affected by mental illness, including family members, coworkers and friends of those directly affected, should receive appropriate support without stigma. With proper care, those struggling with mental illness can achieve a high quality of life and be happy and fulfilled. Nobody needs to feel alone.

Please check out the informative poster sets on Virtual Ability’s Healthinfo Island during May to learn more about mental illness and the resources available. You can teleport to any of the eight displays and exhibits using the SLURLs below. Click on the poster with the same name as the title of the poster set to receive a notecard of all the text of the posters plus descriptions of the images. If you click each poster, you will get a message with additional information and live links.

Mental Health Awareness Month: How to Get Mental Health Help

Minority Mental Health Equity

Borderline Personality Disorder


Bipolar Disorder

Basic Facts About Depression

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Music and Mental Health


Sunday, May 2, 2021

Cookies Eat Dinosaur

The Caramel That Tried To Escape
The Caramel That Tried To Escape

By Orange Planer, Virtual Ability member

It was a quiet Sunday afternoon when my wife said, “I need chocolate!”  I like to think I’m a good husband, so I raise my bulk off the couch to make my top-secret chocolate cookies.  Re-reading the recipe is always a good thing, so after doing that I promptly forget everything, mix all the dry ingredients, crack the two eggs into a bowl, and wait for the butter to soften.

After an hour or so the butter is softened.  The recipe doesn’t make a lot of cookies, so out comes the smaller bowl and the beater with the rubber scrapers on the edge.  Time to cream the butter (beat a lot of air into it).  The butter goes into the bowl, I start the mixer on low and slowly speed it up.  Great, the butter has gone from soft yellow to white with the additional air.  The recipe says to add two cups of sugar (to beat a lot more air into it).

We have trouble:  the sugar was combined with all the other dry ingredients.  Now what?  Well, there's sugar in there SOMEwhere, hopefully it will help cream the butter…  I add the first of two cups of dry ingredients and put the mixer on low.  Uh oh.  I forgot cocoa powder is light and prone to fly all over the place.  Result:  happy, graceful cocoa powder clouds rise into the air.

In for a dime, in for a dollar.  I continue adding dry ingredients with the mixer on low.  So far, so good, the cocoa powder clouds are subsiding, but the butter is sticking to the beater shaft.  Increasing the mixer speed from 2 to 4 should take care of that.

We have more trouble:  I did not wait until the dry ingredients were incorporated.  Now unhappy, not-so-graceful, cocoa powder clouds color the air around me.  It’s in my mouth, it's coating the mixer, the rest of the kitchen, and it's all over me.

Well, that did not work, so after turning off the mixer and scraping the butter off the beater shaft, the dry ingredients get incorporated.  Now it is time to finish creaming the butter with the mixer at high speed.  That is also when I realize the bowl is not big enough. Dough is starting to spew all over me and the kitchen.

I turn off the mixer, clean up the mess, and get out the BIG bowl, 5.5 quarts.

And, on a hunch to keep the clouds under control, I change from the beater with the scrapers to the one without scrapers.  I also bring out the two-piece bowl cover that has a ramp where I can slide in dry ingredients.  Of course, the way this day is going, it does not fit.  It was made for a smaller bowl.

All right, I remove the half of the bowl cover without the ramp, hold the part with the ramp in place using one hand, and turn the mixer on low.  With my free hand I try to put the cap on the vanilla extract.  I knock the bottle over, spilling a teaspoon or so on the counter and all over the instructions.  After picking up the bottle with my free hand, I’m starting wonder whether I should just go to the store, but my pride is at stake.  These cookies won’t defeat me!

I am still holding the half bowl cover with one hand, so I grab a cloth and wipe up the vanilla with the other hand.  I think about putting the cloth in the sink, say “heck with it,” and throw the cloth onto the instructions, 'cause.

Time to start adding the eggs.  This is a little tricky because the recipe says to add one egg at a time.  The first egg goes in just fine, along with about half the egg white using the ramp on the cover.  I wait for the egg to mix in, pour the other egg down the ramp and into the bowl… and somehow the egg yolk misses the ramp, breaking on the counter.  I sigh in frustration.  Well, there's nothing on the counter but cocoa powder, so I scrape it up and put it in the bowl and let it finish mixing.  Now it's time to put in the dry ingredients.

Well, the rest of the dry ingredients.

Trying to keep the unhappy clouds from happening again, I leave the mixer on low and pour a cup of the mixture down the ramp.  Had I forgotten that there was egg white on that ramp?  Yes.  A whole bunch of the dry ingredients sticks on the ramp, but most of it gets in the bowl.  But because the mixer is moving, unfortunately, my attempt at reducing the unhappy clouds is an abject failure.

Now there are angry cocoa powder clouds that make me think of Mt. Kilauea and I can barely see anything.  No wonder they evacuate people from around active volcanoes.

Picture of an erupting volcano with clouds of brown gas

Finally, the remaining cocoa powder and the rest of the dry ingredients get incorporated, but as before it is sticking to the shaft of the beater.  I speed up the mixer to 8 to spin it off with no luck.

Time to bring out the muscle.  Out comes the silicone spatula.  I am partway through mixing the dough when I realize that (a) my trigger finger is bad – the right ring finger is locked on the spatula – I cannot change grip; and (b) remember when I said I stopped using the beater with the scrapers?  Yeah, that would have been useful right now.  About a half cup of the dry mixture is at the bottom of the bowl, unmixed.

I pull the spatula from my hand and unwind my finger with the other hand.  Now I can change grip from “fist” style to how I hold a pen.  I slowly (because I forgot silicone spatulas are freakishly soft!) mix the rest of the dry ingredients in.  I ask my wife if she wants to taste the batter.  After observing the kitchen, the bowl, the implements of destruction, and me she just licks my arm.

"Tastes good!" she says, and heads back to the living room.

I sigh.

The dough is now cooling in the fridge.  Everything's been wiped down, washed, put in the dishwasher, or otherwise sanitized.

But it will not surprise me if my coffee tomorrow turns out to be mocha.

Top Secret Chocolate Cookies

Yield: 2 1/2 dozen cookies
Level: Easy
  • 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs, unbeaten
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • White Sanding sugar, for garnish (optional)

  1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with a hand mixer.

  2. Add the eggs and vanilla extract to the creamed mixture and mix until combined.

  3. In a medium bowl, mix the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, and salt.

  4. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and continue mixing until incorporated.

  5. Roll the dough into TWO logs that are about 2-inches high and 1-foot long. Wrap the dough logs in waxed paper and place in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

  6. Preheat oven to 350°F.

  7. Once the dough is thoroughly chilled, slice the logs into 1/2-inch thick rounds and dip all sides in sanding sugar. Place dough rounds on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes.

  8. Cool cookies on a wire rack.