Temple Grandin School http://templegrandinschool.org Thu, 11 Aug 2016 17:57:17 +0000 en hourly 1 Word of the Week: Awareness http://templegrandinschool.org/word-of-the-week-awareness/ http://templegrandinschool.org/word-of-the-week-awareness/#respond Sun, 03 Apr 2016 15:54:14 +0000 http://templegrandinschool.org/?p=1946 April is Autism Awareness month! As we prepare to celebrate the 5th anniversary of Temple Grandin School, I’ve been reflecting on how awareness of autism has shaped my life. Prior to receiving a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome for our son in 1998, the only exposure I’d had to autism was Dustin Hoffman’s Rainman. I remember vividly our early days of discovery, as our minds and hearts opened to a whole world of caring support I never knew existed. Fields like occupational therapy, special education, behavior analysis…filled with professionals who would walk alongside us and change our lives for the better.

Sometimes awareness is bittersweet – as in those moments when unusual behaviors reminded us that autism is indeed a pervasive developmental disorder, not something our son would “grow out of.” Lining up songbooks in a pew while preschool peers acted out the Christmas story. Being taken advantage of on the playground. Missing an entire concert tour when associated anxiety took over at the onset of adolescence. Oh yes, I was aware of autism in those moments, more aware than anyone would ever want to be.

In addition to my own moments of awareness, I’ve also experienced awareness through the eyes of over 40 students and families. I’ve learned that individuals with autism are as diverse as the rest of us, each with a unique set of strengths and challenges. Just like you or me, they are proud of their strengths and maybe a bit embarrassed to talk about what’s hard for them. But unlike many neurotypicals, they are rarely held back by what others think. They are secure in their ideas, and not afraid to speak their mind in any situation. We ALL need these perspectives!

Autism Awareness is empowering – to individuals with autism, but even more, to the families and communities they live in. Hearing my now-20-year-old son coach his neurotypical sister on anxiety management, I am empowered to confront my own anxieties. Witnessing our TGS students’ self-advocacy as they speak to pre-service teachers about their educational needs, our staff is empowered to persist in providing specialized programming for these very special adolescents. And as we continue together in community, day by day, we see students growing more confident in expressing who they are, knowing how autism affects but does not define them. That’s what Autism Awareness is really about.

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Word of the Week: Potential http://templegrandinschool.org/word-of-the-week-potential/ http://templegrandinschool.org/word-of-the-week-potential/#respond Sun, 13 Mar 2016 15:15:27 +0000 http://templegrandinschool.org/?p=1937 At TGS, we work to help students recognize and realize their potential. Recognize and realize – there are two parts (at least) to this task, which is more complicated than it sounds. Schools everywhere are full of classes and programs to help students realize their potential. Much of this is focused on academics, with AP and IB content in the traditional disciplines of science, social studies, language arts, math, and foreign language. With careful planning and focus, conscientious college-bound students can accelerate their learning, and advance more quickly to courses in their area of interest. Potential realized. Or is it?

Before students can truly realize their potential, they have to recognize who they are and how their brain works. This process of exploring identity includes understanding that potential has limits. It can be stretched with hard work and the support of teachers, family and friends. But different minds are best matched to different styles of learning and working, and part of recognizing potential includes knowing how your mind works and how that focuses your life choices.

As Temple Grandin frequently points out, the world needs all kinds of minds. Recently, there has been a lot of buzz around careers in technology for individuals with autism. Many on the spectrum, including some of our students, have minds that can focus on details (“bottom-up thinking,”), see patterns, and thrive on repetitive tasks. Students with these minds, at TGS and elsewhere, should be exposed to coding and other STEM-related courses to be well-prepared for skilled jobs in the tech industry.

But what about students with different kinds of minds, who aren’t visual thinkers? They too, need support to recognize their potential, which may be realized in other fields. And for all students, we must provide the time and space for them to discover the identity they want for themselves, and determine how they can build on their strengths to realize it.

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Word of the Week: Love http://templegrandinschool.org/word-of-the-week-love/ http://templegrandinschool.org/word-of-the-week-love/#respond Sun, 14 Feb 2016 21:07:05 +0000 http://templegrandinschool.org/?p=1927 65072_806234576122034_7817318883580231228_nValentine’s Day is here, and I have to confess I’m relieved it didn’t fall on a school day. At TGS, we let it slip quietly by as we busied ourselves with field trips, a parent education night, and the many small daily acts of caring that hold our school community together.

As a parent, I had mixed emotions as my 5th grade daughter prepared what will probably be our last class set of handmade valentines. Since 1999 I have been cutting and pasting sometimes clever, sometimes corny messages of friendship into animal, alien, ninja, and other packages – always accompanied by candy. (Because apparently, Valentine’s Day is now one of the high candy holidays.) Over the years, with my three children, I’ve probably crafted over 600 cards. If you throw in the countless heart-themed projects I supervised as a preschool teacher, my card quotient probably reaches into the thousands. That’s love, folks.

Parenting–and education–is all about small moments, hidden in the basement, creating works of art with scraps of whatever you have on hand. It’s about seeing the beauty in each child’s uniqueness, and cutting away the edges until you reach the heart of that child’s potential. So, this Valentine’s Day, here is a valentine for parents, in celebration of all the little things that go unnoticed. This is love…


Love is making a packing list…for your 20-year-old.

Love is asking for help.

Love is playing Magic. Or Pokemon. Or Minecraft.

Love is trying something new. This can be as small as a food, or as big as a school.

Love is listening to the questions even when you don’t have answers.

Love is stocking the pantry with Mac & Cheese.

Love is watching Star Wars.

Love is driving. And driving. And more driving.

Love is parenting the extra mile – as all of you do, every day.


Happy Valentine’s Day, Parents!

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Word of the Week – Unexpected http://templegrandinschool.org/word-of-the-week-unexpected/ Sun, 10 Jan 2016 15:26:01 +0000 http://templegrandinschool.org/?p=1868 Happy 2016, friends and family of TGS! Shortly after I last posted in December, we had an unexpected snow day at TGS. Immediately following, we held our first-ever TGS talent show – a delightful afternoon filled with surprising talent and warm accolades for all participants. Sometimes unexpected events bring us joy.

When we started this school year, no one expected we’d be taking a group of TGS students to Washington, DC. And yet, they gathered, they traveled, and they learned. This week, we’ll be greeted with tales of the unexpected as we hear how they adapted to airport security, a hotel fire drill, and getting around on DC public transit. Sometimes unexpected events bring adventure!

While the DC group was away, we had an unexpectedly busy week with the few who remained. I had the unexpected opportunity to take a larger than usual role in preparing end-of-semester grade reports. As I reviewed each student’s progress, I noticed some surprising evidence of growth, and some unexpected observations of continued challenge. The whole experience gave me new insights about the complexity of our work, and the progress our staff have made in really “owning” the program they’re delivering to students. Sometimes unexpected events lead us to deeper reflection.

So as we inch slowly further into 2016, and the second semester of our fifth year as a school, I am resolved not just to expect the unexpected – that’s a given – but to pause and examine each unexpected event. I’ll be looking for joy, adventure, reflection, and opportunity this year. I don’t know yet where or when I’ll find them, but I expect they’ll show up.

Happy New Year, TGS!

Word of the Week: Countdown http://templegrandinschool.org/word-of-the-week-countdown/ Mon, 07 Dec 2015 00:51:19 +0000 http://templegrandinschool.org/?p=1855 Countdown. This Tuesday, December 8, is Colorado Gives Day. Over the past week or so, I’ve been inundated with emails from nonprofits I’ve supported, reminding me how many days, or even hours remain between now and then. At TGS, we’ve chosen not to “blast” our supporters with multiple emails. We recognize that year-end giving is a phenomenon we want to be a part of. We are asking for your support. But instead of devoting massive amounts of time, energy, and expense to multiple appeals, we are focused on countdowns of a different kind.

270 hours until Winter Break. Holidays can be stressful. How can we best support our students and teachers between now and then?

29 days until our first out-of-state school trip departs. How will the sights and sounds of Washington, D.C., impact our students?

81,020 minutes until Common App college applications and recommendations are due, and one of our students is counting on us to help pave the way forward.

Personally, I am realizing that it’s only 78 weeks…545 days…13,085 hours until my son, a TGS alumnus, will graduate from college – and my work as a parent and advocate will begin again in earnest.

We have a limited amount of time to make a difference in the lives of these students. Your gift helps us create moments that matter for our students, families, and community. Thank you for supporting TGS!


Word of the Week: Time http://templegrandinschool.org/word-of-the-week-time/ Sun, 29 Nov 2015 15:52:23 +0000 http://templegrandinschool.org/?p=1844 School resumes tomorrow, after a snowy Thanksgiving break. As always, the day before school resumes, I find myself taking stock of my time. Have I accomplished everything I’d hoped to during this break? Whether just a weekend or longer, did I use my time wisely?

Although I often set aside time during breaks to catch up on work or household projects, I’ve recently become more mindful of the need to set aside time for other things, too. The activities we deliberately make time for are the ones that get done – whether they’re trivial or important in the grand scheme of things. So in this season of waiting, of counting the days – marking time – until the next break, here are a few thoughts on time.

T – Think. Think about how you use your time. Identify your “time robbers.” Facebook? YouTube? Netflix? These fun, entertaining internet activities can take minutes, hours, or even whole days. Although it may seem like it, these activities don’t control our time. We control our time. Are we making time for the things that matter most?

I – Identity. We talk a lot about this with our students. Identities and reputations don’t just happen. They’re the result of time spent cultivating positive habits and actions. Like it or not, the way we spend our time contributes to the people we become. One of the best time choices I made during this break was to say no to TV and read to my kids. It was a very small sacrifice, less than 15 minutes of my time, but it made a big difference to my daughter and reminded me that tending to my parental identity takes time.

M – Memories. As we move into the holiday season, many of us have cherished memories of past celebrations. Memories don’t just happen either, nor do celebrations. They require time. Holiday baking, decorating, shopping aren’t part of our regular daily schedules – yet most of us find ways to make time for these and other traditions. How many more joyful memories could we create year round if we were more mindful of our time?

E – Energy. Taking control of our time requires energy. Keeping track of time is harder than losing track of time. In the moment. But over the long haul, when we lose track of time, we lose touch with our priorities. Time marches on, and we eventually find ourselves overwhelmed and left behind as we struggle to catch up. Although we can’t actually “make time” (we all have 24-hour days), when we expend the energy to order our time, it can seem like we have more of it. We certainly have less stress, more energy, and feel better when we make time for the people and activities that feed us.

So this December, let’s don’t just mark time – let’s make time – for the people and things that matter most. We’ll be glad we did.

Word of the Week: Caring http://templegrandinschool.org/word-of-the-week-caring/ Sun, 08 Nov 2015 20:50:17 +0000 http://templegrandinschool.org/?p=1835 Caring is one of our core values at TGS. We speak often of kindness and politeness, and we see many acts of caring at all levels of our community. Here are just a few of the expressions of caring we see at TGS:

  • Sharing your passion for a special interest…or inhibiting to hear about someone else’s.
  • Sitting down next to someone at lunch and starting a friendly conversation.
  • Inviting someone to join your favorite game – or offering to play their favorite.
  • Staying after school until every last student is picked up.
  • Noticing when someone is missing – and sending an email to check up on him or her.
  • Bringing in special treats to share with the whole school community!
  • Spending hours planning transportation assignments so everyone can relax as we go out into the community.
  • Inviting guests to TGS who are truly interested in our students.
  • Taking the time to write narrative reports that capture students’ wholistic school experiences.
  • Driving to TGS every week from CU to engage with our students.
  • Thinking about new ways to approach to students’ challenges throughout the school day, and after dinner, and through the night…
  • Throwing out your agenda to focus on what someone else in our community needs – students, parents, teachers.
  • Going out of your way to make someone else feel comfortable in a situation.
  • Filling a giant bin from bottom to top with holiday treats and pantry staples for those in need, and making sure it’s delivered with smiles!

TGS Cares! Don’t forget to donate to our EFAA food drive!

Core Value: Community http://templegrandinschool.org/core-value-community/ Sat, 31 Oct 2015 18:16:16 +0000 http://templegrandinschool.org/?p=1830 As much as we love spending time with our students, we have always recognized that their desired post-high school outcomes are rightfully located outside our walls. We want our students to have rich lives that include physically and intellectually engaging leisure activities, meaningful work, and opportunities to develop fulfilling relationships. So we model and support our students’ social engagement inside TGS as we gradually guide them into increasingly more activities and engagements outside.

Sometimes we start by bringing the community in to interact with our students. This week, we had interactions with BitsboxTuliva and Robauto, all technology start-ups whose founders have taken an interest in our program and students. We try to have guest speakers, often entrepreneurs from the business community, at least weekly. Their businesses and interests are as varied as our students: jewelry making, t-shirt design, coding, creative media, financial planning, dog training and more.

Less frequently (we have to reserve time for daily school work, after all!), but as often as we can, we take students out to experience the stimulating mix of people, ideas, and activities to be encountered in our community. We visit universities and businesses to explore ideas and occupations; we observe and investigate nature and the outdoors. Through our interactions we educate others about acceptance, neurodiversity, and our students’ potential.

This week, our “inside-outside”community explorations came together with a visit to Pi Kappa Phi. Throughout the fall, college students from Pi Kappa Phi’s Ability Experience have visited TGS. Over lunch, they play board games, toss footballs, and engage in conversation with our students. And then, perhaps not surprisingly, they invited our students to a party. Pi Kappa Phi guys worked with student and staff representatives to plan a Halloween party for our students – on the CU campus, hosted by Pi Kappa Phi and their sister sorority.

What an unexpected pairing. But that’s what makes our community richer: Engaging with a variety of people, some who are like you, some who are not; some who are easy to connect with, some who require persistence to engage. From fraternity “bros,” to sometimes awkward teenagers with ASD, it takes all kinds of people to create a community. Longmont/Boulder/Denver communities, we can’t wait to meet more of you!

Core Value: Perseverance http://templegrandinschool.org/core-value-perseverance/ Sat, 24 Oct 2015 15:41:09 +0000 http://templegrandinschool.org/?p=1817 There has been a lot of talk in education circles recently about “grit.” Apparently, the education world has now identified grit is one of a number of “noncognitive factors” that students need to succeed in the classroom. They are catching on to what we at TGS have always known: education isn’t only about the transmittal of academic content. At TGS, we allocate time during the educational day to the specific teaching of social communication, perspective taking, executive function skills, and yes, “grit.” We call it perseverance, and it’s one of our core values.

This week our students took several field trips out in the community. As nature would have it, the gorgeous weather we’ve had all fall gave way to grey skies and rain. But our students persevered. One group had a science slant to their explorations, visiting NOAA and the local waste water treatment facility. The smells of the latter nearly overwhelmed our sensory-sensitive students, but they persisted. Another group headed into Denver to tour Metro State University. After traveling between Boulder and Denver via public transportation, and dashing between buildings on the campus, everyone was soggy and damp, from shirts to shoes. But they persevered with few complaints, and returned to school with excitement in their voices and smiles on their faces. College is on the horizon for these persistent students!

Perseverance is caught as much as it is taught, and our staff walk the walk of perseverance daily. Perseverance is what keeps us scratching our heads until we pinpoint what’s getting in the way. It’s what keeps us engaged when the progress comes slowly, over weeks, months, or even years. Perseverance enables us to view our students and program through our future glasses with the confidence that the end goal is reachable – and worth it!


Word of the Week: Accomplishment http://templegrandinschool.org/word-of-the-week-accomplishment/ Sun, 18 Oct 2015 17:01:21 +0000 http://templegrandinschool.org/?p=1812 Last week we finished the first quarter of the 2015-2016 school year.  Wrapping up Q1 always feels like an accomplishment, because it marks the end of the settling in period: students know the routines, coming to school is now the norm, learning is solidly underway. Academic conferences this week will provide an opportunity to share individual students’ accomplishments with families as we review the quarter’s work.

At the same time, I have been compiling TGS’ annual report, focusing on our accomplishments as a school this year. I wish I could share every accomplishment of every student, because they have all made significant progress toward their goals. As a school, we have created more opportunities for student engagement in goal setting and self-evaluation. Students are now connecting with their advisors more frequently, and touching base on Identity, Interaction, Intellect and Independence goals at scheduled times throughout the year. With everything we’re trying to accomplish in the course of each day, and through the school year, this small piece of scheduling feels like a big accomplishment – and something that will surely lead to a cascade of individual student accomplishments to come.

For this year’s report, we are focusing on accomplishments that document our growth as a community. Creating a community of belonging is one of our core values, and this year we invited many new partners to join our community. Jenny Anderson of Celebrate Autism and Terry Gold of Launch Longmont brought entrepreneurial thinking to TGS, and it’s here to stay. Bitsbox exposed our students to computer coding; iStar provided opportunities to develop visual thinking through the medium of SketchUp designs. Together, we are paving a path for our students to develop and share their gifts with our larger community. And that’s truly an accomplishment!




TGS hosts the iStar NeuroVersity program