Saturday’s Quote

“The most interesting people you’ll find are ones that don’t fit into your average cardboard box. They’ll make what they need, they’ll make their own boxes.”

~Dr. Temple Grandin


Sherr & Jon: Week 52

Jon hasn’t been following through on his assignments, so Sherr is rethinking her situation.

Her plan for this coming week is to teach him how to use an organizational method like the one described in How to Become A Straight-A Student. She is also planning to gather his uncompleted paperwork and keep it in a red folder. Each day she intends to spend a few minutes with him guiding him through the paperwork in the folder.

Jon is not interested in participating in Dr. Awesome’s PEERS group in January, so Sherr will be talking with Jon about other options. Come January, Sherr is planning to have Jon work with a therapist on a weekly basis.

Sherr hasn’t yet come up with a way to turn off internet to the devices in her home, but she intends to do so in the next few weeks!

YIKES!! Junior’s Graduation is Around the Corner!

Junior will be graduating from high school this June, which is cause for both celebration and trepidation. Great to finally be done with school, but what now?

Since there are only six months left until graduation, Professor Staci is working around the clock to obtain supports for Junior. I’ll be posting weekly about her progress as graduation day approaches. It’s been a while since I’ve posted about Staci and Junior, so if you’d like a refresher, you can find previous posts (including this one) here.

So, here’s the latest update! A few weeks ago, Staci began working with Dr. Awesome to prepare for Junior’s life post-graduation. Here are the key areas Staci will be addressing per Dr. Awesome’s suggestions:

  1. Interim Services: As most of you know, DDA services don’t kick in until age 21. Since Junior is only 18, there will be a three year gap in services. Dr. Awesome encouraged Staci to look into the possibility of interim services to fill the gap.  The Autism Waiver is currently funding a support person who works with Junior on social and general independence skills, but this will end in June.   Staci will schedule a meeting with the Autism Waiver Coordinator and the DDA Service Coordinator to discuss what can be done for Junior during this three year gap in services.
  2. DORS Services: Staci will contact DORS to discuss what employment services they might provide for Junior after graduation.
  3. Social Security Income (SSI): Junior is applying for SSI.  Since he is 18 and still in school, he is required to interview in-person. Staci has an appointment scheduled for December 21st. Part One of the application needs to be completed in advance, and Part Two is completed during the appointment. Staci will also be asking the  professionals who currently work with Junior to write letters to explain how his disability impacts his daily life and his ability to maintain employment. She will also be providing the Social Security Administration (SSA) with copies of all documentation related to his diagnosis. Staci is still unclear about some things, but as she goes through the application process, hopefully her questions will be answered.

Thank you to Professor Staci for sharing Junior’s transitioning journey with us!


Taking Smart Notes

More on How to Become a Straight-A Student. This section is about how to excel on quizzes and exams. The first step is taking smart notes. Here are some key highlights from the book about taking notes!

Always go to class! If you skip class, it will take twice as long studying to make up for what you missed. So, ultimately, it saves you time when you attend all classes.

Gather the right materials. Newport recommends using a laptop to take notes, especially for non-technical courses. I’m not 100% sold on that, but I’ll keep an open mind. The materials needed are a separate notebook for each class (unless you are using a laptop), a folder for each class, and a writing utensil. You don’t need a complicated system of colored pens, special notebooks and organized class binders. According to Anna, a straight-A student from Dartmouth, “A lot of students focus on making their notebooks look pretty and then forget about the content.” So, just have notes on a laptop (or spiral notebook – one for each class) and a folder (one for each class) to contain loose papers and you are in good shape.

Always date your notes and record the title of the lecture if it’s available. When taking notes, use any formatting method that works for you: bold, underline, all caps, asterisks, leaving large spaces between lines… Whatever makes it easiest for you to read.

For nontechnical courses, identify the big ideas.Exams in these courses focus on big ideas. You are required to explain them, contrast them and reevaluate them based on new evidence. It’s much easier to do this when you are aware of the big ideas.

Capture big ideas by using Question/Evidence/Conclusion structure. Nontechnical professors teach big ideas using this structure. They offer up questions and then walk you through various pieces of evidence toward a conclusion. So, write out these three headings: question, evidence, conclusion as you are taking notes. The question may not be articulated first, or perhaps not at all. The professor may start right into the evidence. But leave space at the top for the question, and later you can go back and fill it in. Even if the question and conclusion are not stated outright, come up with your best guess for both. Thinking of the lectures in this way will help you make more sense of the material and you will absorb it more easily. By simply attempting to associate all information with a question and conclusion, you are a big step ahead of your fellow classmates. It will take some practice, but you will get better at formulating questions and summarizing conclusions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions to help figure out if your conclusions are correct or not (either during class or later during office hours).

The number of questions presented can vary widely. The professor may spend an entire class discussing one big idea, or he/she may discuss several different ideas in one lecture. Either way, make sure to break each big idea into the question/evidence/conclusion format.

If you aren’t rushed after class, spend five minutes reviewing your notes before packing up. Doris from Harvard says, “It’s important to read over your notes right after class to absorb them and make corrections and additions; otherwise you’ll be susceptible to entirely forgetting what was covered that day.” This will save a great deal of time and effort when reviewing for the test.

Class discussions are an exception to this note-taking rule. In this case, clearly label the topic of discussion and then write down any insightful points made by fellow-students. And ALWAYS write down any points the professor makes.

That’s about it for now! Next topic will cover how to take smart notes in technical courses.



Studying: When, Where & How Long

Okay, back to the Straight-A Student book….

Here are some highlights from the chapter about studying. Even though this is for college students, I think it applies to everyone in one way or another!

When to study

Fit as much work as possible into the morning and afternoon, between classes and obligations. You’re most effective between when you wake up and when you eat dinner. Don’t save the work until late at night. By the time you finish dinner, gather materials and begin your work, you only have a few hours of focused time before you get sleepy. Besides, nighttime is when college students want to socialize and you don’t want to miss out! Be efficient with your time.  Avoid your dorm room or other public places during the day.  The author (Newport) describes it this way: “Become a ghost during the day. Like an academic ninja, slip from one hidden study spot to hidden study spot, leaving only an eerie trail of completed work behind you.”  

Where to study

Study in isolated areas. Always be on the lookout for quiet, isolated study spots.  A hidden carrell in the library is a great place to start. According to Newport, nearly every straight-A student interviewed for the book used some form of this isolation strategy.  Choosing your surroundings, free from distraction, gives you a “mental edge”.

How long to study

Take a 5-10 minute break every hour. Even if you’re on a roll, it’s best to take breaks every hour. Over the long run, this maximizes your energy level and your retention rate.

This ends the section on study basics! The next section of the book covers quizzes and exams.