Losing a Pet in an Autistic Household

Such an intimate post. Reflecting on how a child with autism understands the emotions involved in the loss of a beloved cat.

A Quiet Week In The House

When our beloved seventeen-year-old cat was dying, Tyoma, our autistic son, reacted thus:

“Oh. So, then we’ll get a new kitty.”

No emotional depth. No concern. No sadness.

This did not fool us.

Kitty Pearl filled our son’s daily imaginings. Wobbly scratching posts and sinister-looking grooming contraptions were built in her honor. He wrote her sentimental “I-love-you-kitty” letters and taped kitty-centric schedules near her water bowl. Homemade Kitty Forts stretched across rooms and cluttered staircases.

Kitty Portal

Then there were lists. Page after page of numbered instructions pertaining to the cat:

  1. Pet kitty gently.
  2. Add ice cubes to fresh water.
  3. Brush with the fur.
  4. No pestering.

Tyoma needed to organize his interactions with Pearl, not just to remind him of his duties but also to cope with the delicious and abhorrent impulse to pull her tail.

Pearl’s declining state preoccupied Tyoma later that evening. He spread inky equationed papers on the bed…

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The Problem Of Innovation

It all starts with WHY!


The thing about innovation, more often than not, it finds you…before you find it.

The best innovations are usually not something we go out of our way to search out and find.  Rather, most often, innovation finds and reveals itself to us.

Not because we are smart, not because we are clever, or imaginative, or creative, or interesting, or even knowledgable…but, because we are willing to ask the question.  Why?  We are willing to ask why something is the way it is.  And it is that question, that why, that we just can’t seem to get past.  It nags and pesters at us.  It clings to us and won’t seem to leave us or our consciousness alone.  Continuing to pull at us until we finally find ourselves willing to do something about it.

Innovation often begins its journey as a question…

Many people ask why everyday.  And it never leads…

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The Cure for Shenanigans

The only thing I dislike more than cats on the counter?  Barking dogs.  There is one cure and one tool.  First the tool:  




The cure?  Are you ready?  One word:  


You need to be BORINGLY predictable.  Have the bottle ready at every moment.  Use it.  Soon, you don’t have to use it.  You just have to show it.  Before you know it, the cat stays on the floor; the dog shows a little self control.  Simple.  


Ben barks because his "brother" barks.  Not anymore!

Ben barks because his “brother” barks.

If it doesn’t work, one mustn’t blame the bottle.  Clearly, the bottle works, even though it is just water.

It is like that with kids too.  All kids.  Even the “spirited” ones.  Especially the spirited ones.  You don’t need to come down more harshly.  Sending them to the administrator is also less than effective.   If you feel the need to reach for the hammer, consider

  1. your relationship with the child
  2. your culture of engagement
  3. your ability to consistently respond in gentle ways

It isn’t about WHAT we use as much as it is THAT WE RESPOND.  Every time.  Calmly,

quickly returning to building that culture of learning.  

A classroom engaged rarely has problems.  




UDL and The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture

User Generated Education

In response to all of the attention given to the flipped classroom, I proposed The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture and The Flipped Classroom: The Full Picture for Higher Education in which the viewing of videos (often discussed on the primary focus of the flipped classroom) becomes a part of a larger cycle of learning based on an experiential cycle of learning.

Universal Design for Learning has also been in the news lately as a new report Universal Design for Learning (UDL): Initiatives on the Move was released by the National Center on UDL, May, 2012. This post describes the principles of Universal Design for Learning and how they naturally occur when a full cycle of learning, including ideas related to the flipped classroom, are used within the instructional process.

Universal Design for Learning

The UDL framework:

  • includes three principles calling for educators to provide multiple means of engagement…

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Meta-cognition: What does it mean for teachers? – Education Research: What does it mean in the classroom?

Thinking about thinking…..

The Echo Chamber

Meta-cognition loosely means thinking about thinking. It is often a goal that teachers pursue. In order to become more independent, students should learn to monitor and reflect upon their own learning. 

In John Hattie’s 2009 book, “Visible Learning,” he indicates that meta-cognitive strategies can be quite effective. In the language of the book they have a ‘high effect size,’ meaning that Hattie would recommend such strategies as worthy of further investigation. To Hattie, meta-cognitive strategies include planning how to approach a given learning task, evaluating progress and monitoring comprehension, for instance, by self-questioning as you read a text. In fact, Hattie groups the notion of ‘study skills’ in the same category; an approach which also has a high effect size. This gives strength to the argument that we should pay attention to thinking about thinking, although Hattie’s examples are relatively prosaic compared to other conceptions that are available.

via Meta-cognition:…

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What is Collaboration (part 1)



As I wrote earlier , I had the very fortunate luck of attending  a mini-session at the Project Zero Summer Institute 2013:   “Effective Professional Learning Communities:  Supporting Learning in Staff Rooms and Classrooms” by Daniel Wilson.  The session aimed at identifying the key features of learning communities while discussing the common roadblocks that impede progress.

Group work and collaboration can be chaotic, frustrating and laborious.  Done well, it produces better products that are more responsive to group needs than those created by a lone cowboy.

True collaboration is not simply

  • communicating your plans without care for others
  • coordinating parts in an additive fashion that is not fluent
  • cooperating in a passive fashion without discussion and agreement on the big ideas
Daniel Wilson:    Effective Professional Learning Communities:  Supporting Learning in and Staff Rooms and Classrooms  Project Zero Summer Institute 2013,   Harvard Graduate School of Education

Daniel Wilson:
Effective Professional Learning Communities:
Supporting Learning in and Staff Rooms and Classrooms
Project Zero Summer Institute 2013, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Ideally, collaboration is the highly developed and dynamic process whereby more than one person comes together to create something truly unique and creative.  This process is democratic; with everyone’s voice heard.  The parts are reciprocally interdependent and the outcome a melodic blend that fits together well. Individuals design together, as equals, for the greater good.

This is true for all groups.