Improving the educational experiences and outcomes of students on the autism spectrum in Montgomery County, MD

ALO Students at Home

While MCPS is closed, parents and caregivers of a student on the autism spectrum may need new ideas for how to spend time with their child -- both for fun and for learning.  The target audience for these ideas and resources is anyone supporting an autistic student on the MCPS Alternative Learning Outcomes (ALO) curriculum, but these ideas may be beneficial to other students as well.

We are continuing to curate and add new sites and descriptions every day, so check back again! 

Note:  xMinds has not verified each and every one of these sites and does not endorse any of the listed sites. 

Educational Therapist 

In addition to the websites below, educational therapist Jean Hickey, M.Ed, has generously offered to answer questions and suggest resources to ALO parents by email at no cost. Parents who need FaceTime consulting should contact her to learn more. Jean Hickey's email address:  jeh217@aol.com

Chromebook Extensions

Here’s a blog post that describes over 30 Chrome web extensions to help students in five categories: Text to Speech, Readability, Reading Comprehension, Focus, and Navigation.https://www.controlaltachieve.com/2016/10/special-needs-extensions.html?fbclid=IwAR16pYyXYS8-pGQGwvNOVBj2tSMO9AoepkRFB3cMkWp4tcHqlcEKSUk6F-Y&m=1

Resources for Basic Academics

  • Splashlearn  -- Subject: Math; Grades K-5. Parents can sign up for free. For each grade level, parents can pick a skill for their child to practice, and the skills are taught through videos, worksheets, and games. Each skill is noted where it aligns with the common core curriculum. https://www.splashlearn.com/
  • Starfall -- Subject: Reading and Math; Grades Pre-K through 3. Aligns with Individual and Common Core State standards. There is free content as well as a paid upgrade that includes animated songs, math, and reading activities. One-year home membership is $35. Learning is through interactive videos and games. Could be frustrating for kids using free content because the paid lessons are enticingly displayed on the screen (but grayed out). https://www.starfall.com/
  • Adapted Mind -- Subject: Math and reading skills; Grades K to 6th. The content is organized by grade levels and users can choose games that teach a skill (i.e. number sense). The material is subscription-based, but users can join free for one month. The curriculum is listed as being “research-based and Common Core-aligned.” The web site also has 15,000 explanation videos to explain math problems at any grade. https://www.adaptedmind.com/index.php
  • Outschool -- Subject: Various; Ages 3-18. These are live online classes from hundreds of independent teachers. The classes meet via group video chat at scheduled times (often once a week for several weeks) and do homework throughout the week. Choose classes based on subject, age range, and day/time offered. Classes are small and generally cost from $100-200 each. https://outschool.com/#abk7uyznmd
  • PBS Kids -- Subject: Various.  Ages 4 and up. Educational games, videos, and apps with downloadable programs and other activities that center around PBS live-action and animated characters. Parents can also sign up for a newsletter with activities and tips during school closures through the pbskids.org website https://pbskids.org/
  • ABC Mouse -- Subject: Reading, Math, Science, Arts & Colors. Ages 2-8. Full online curriculum containing 850 lessons and over 9,000 individual learning activities. Monthly subscription with first 30 days free. https://www.abcmouse.com/
  • Fun Brain -- Subject: Math, Grammar, Science, Spelling, History; Grades 1-8. Many educational games, books and videos categorized into grades and designed to build on skills learned at school. There is a section called "Playground" geared towards younger users. https://www.funbrain.com/
  • Prodigy Game -- Subject: Math games designed to follow the local school curriculum; Grades 1-8The games are tailored to each child; as the child plays, the game adapts to the child’s learning style and grade level. Parents can monitor their child’s progress through their own accounts. https://www.prodigygame.com/
  • Education.com -- Subject: Various subjects organized by grade level; Grades pre-K to 5. Includes a huge resource of educator-curated downloadable worksheets, lesson plans, games, interactive stories, and song videos. Want to learn to type?  There's a game for that. https://www.education.com/
  • Twinkle -- Subject: Various; Grades pre-K to 5th. Worksheets, games, activities, and projects across a huge range of topics. Additional sections on special education (including speech/language, cognition, emotional/social); Christian education; resources in 7 additional languages (including American sign language).https://www.twinkl.com/
  • Sightwords -- Subject: Reading; Age early childhood. Includes downloadable teaching activities and aids, techniques, games and other materials for early literacy. https://sightwords.com/
  • Loving2Read -- Subject: Reading; Grades pre-K to 3. A free library of children’s books, including books targeting specific reading. skills. https://loving2read.com/
  • WOWEnglish -- Subject: English for non-native English-speaking children.  Grades Pre-K to 5th.  Videos, workbooks (for sale) and other materials to help non-native English-speaking children learn English words and phrases through the WOWEnglish method. Steve, who appears in all the videos, uses high affect and non-verbal gestures to teach non-native English-speaking kids words and phrases in English. Would probably work well as light educational content.  A pop-up ad at sign-in indicates that parents who provide an e-mail address will have 30 days of free access to the WOWEnglish videos. https://www.wowenglish.com/en/
  • Dream English -- Subject: Various; Grades Preschool to 2nd.  Free songs, chants, flashcards, worksheets and games to download. The worksheets might be useful to introduce concepts of colors, shapes, etc. The web site also features some educational videos that explain single topics (i.e. “What does a lion do?” through song, singing puppets and colorful visuals. https://www.dreamenglish.com/
  • ABCya -- Subject:  Various; Grades Preschool to 6th. More than 400 educational games, testing skill, strategy, knowledge, etc. in a variety of subjects. All the games adhere to Common Core standards. Games available to be played for free on a desktop computer, but ads will pop up and precede most games. If you buy a premium subscription, you’ll get to play games ad-free. https://www.abcya.com/

Resources that Include Social Emotion Learning

  • Make Social Learning Stick – Three free videos about social learning, along with additional related free resources. In these three 9–13 minutes-long videos, an SLP and a school psychologist offer advice to parents who are supporting their kids (any age) while schools are closed. The videos are designed for parents to help them understand and support the social emotional needs of their kids at this time. The three topics are: “Keep Calm and Structure On,” “The Need for Daily Check-ins,” and “Emotional Regulation.”  This is recommended by the founder of Zones of Regulation and came to our attention from an xMinds member who is an excellent OT.  Scroll down the screen to find the videos here: https://makesociallearningstick.com/keep-calm-and-structure-on-how-to-manage-emotions-and-build-structure-at-home-during-covid-19/
  • Therapeutic Book for Young Children -- Play and Creative Arts Therapist, Naomi Moore, has shared a beautiful book she wrote called "Through My Window."  It's perfect to read with elementary age kids right now, and it includes lots of little activities. She is distributing it for free through various trauma therapist networks to share with any and all parents. You can link to the book here: Through my window.pdf   
  • GoNoodle-- Awesome website that combines academics, music, movement, calming skills and more.  It's used in the ALO classrooms all the time so kids will know it. https://family.gonoodle.com
  • TeachersPayTeachers -- Subject: Materials for teachers, including materials for special education and social emotional learning; Ages:  All ages. Original educational materials and resources by teachers for teachers. Most of the materials are at cost, but there are also free materials to be found. Vast breadth of materials that may seem overwhelming, but the products are well-organized and provide good descriptions and recommended grade levels for whom the resource is appropriate. There are a few materials specifically for special education and numerous resources on social emotional learning for students of all ages. https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/
  • Be Like Buddy -- Free social skills videos and sensory-friendly activities. The site features free social story videos and visual schedules. There are occasional updates that include crafts and cooking ideas.  https://www.belikebuddy.com/
  • Super Simple -- Subject: Various concepts from academics to life skills to social skills; For young children, but many of the activities could be adapted for older kids. This is used often in the ALO classrooms, so kids will be familiar with it. Collection of original kids’ songs and classic nursery rhymes shared via videos with puppets and animation. Features a large selection of printables. Download the content (rated by difficulty level) and find a linked related episode on the same page. Printables are crafts, games, flashcards, worksheets, and more. Teaching and parenting pages instruct on how to teach the content and offer ideas for activities to do with your children. Many crafts and activities lessons as well as simple cooking and no-bake recipes. Could keep you and your kids busy at home for a long time! https://supersimple.com/super-simple-songs/
  • Breezy Special Ed -- This is similar to TeachersPayTeachers above, but easier to navigate if you don't know exactly what you're looking for.  http://www.breezyspecialed.com
  • Model Me Kids -– Subject:  Social Skills; Ages 2 to 21.  These downloadable, evidence-based videos are created by xMinds Professional member Jamell White, PhD.  The videos use humans (not animation) to demonstrate social skills by modeling peer behavior at school, on a playdate, at a birthday party, on the playground, at a library, at the dentist, restaurant, and more. There is a cost, but many xMinds members say their kids LOVE them. https://www.modelmekids.com 
  • TEACCH Autism Program  -- TEACCH offers simple but helpful tips for parents who are educating an autistic child at home during these times of change. https://teacch.com/resources/teacch-tips/

Resources for Physical Activity

  • Spirit Club is a Maryland-based fitness company with a mission to offer a universal design for exercise so people of all abilities can successfully participate in exercise programs. They have moved all of their services online and are offering 9 live classes every week, and recordings are available if you miss the class. "Pay what you can" is the policy so no one should miss it because of the cost!  Get a preview here. 
  • Fitbound has launched an inclusive exercise platform for individuals with and without disabilities. Their platform allows individuals to access a variety of exercise videos which they can then stream to any device. They are providing free beta videos during the COVID-19 shut down.
  • xMinds Professional Member, MOCO Movement Center, will be offering live classes and activities (Move with MOCO) at noon each weekday. Visit their Facebook page to join the live watch party.
  • GoNoodle is a free online resource for hundreds of movement, yoga, and mindfulness videos.  They also offer related downloadable curricular activities and recommended off-screen home activities as well as games through a downloadable app. https://www.gonoodle.com/good-energy-at-home-kids-games-and-videos/

Resources for Science

  • National Geographic -- Games, videos, photos, and information in all forms about animals and the natural world. https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/
  • "OLogy" from the American Museum of Natural History- This resource has four components, games, stories, hands-on, and videos on topics ranging from anthropology to zoology and more. https://www.amnh.org/explore/ology

Resources for Nonspeaking Students

  • Book of Apps – Assistive Technology in Special Education, by Joan L. Green.  Families, teachers, and therapists who are looking for information on how to use the latest technologies to help students who struggle with communication, literacy, and learning will benefit from the wealth of practical, well-organized information. The book features new tools to improve and compensate for challenges relating to speaking, understanding, reading, writing, thinking and remembering, as well as strategies to help students become more organized and efficient. Online resources and social networking tools are presented to empower readers to learn about new products as they become available.  https://smile.amazon.com/Assistive-Technology-Special-Education-Rehabilitation/dp/161821084X/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=Joan+l+green+assistive+technology+in+special+education&qid=1585248839&sr=8-2
  • Reading and Spelling App—Bob Books Reading Magic #1 (for Beginning Readers). An engaging app for learning letters and reading, based on the best-selling Bob Books series. The app reads aloud, phonetically, the letters, each word, and then each sentence. The student works on scanning when required to scan the screen to find the right letters and motor issues when the app requires them to drag the letters into the right order.  This gets a strong recommendation from one xMInds parent who says her child enjoys it and has found it very helpful. This app is available in the App Store on the iPhone and iPad. https://apps.apple.com/us/app/bob-books-reading-magic-1/id405995002  Also on Google Play:  https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.learningtouch.bobbooksrm1&hl=en_US
  • Additional Resources -- To find more resources for non-speaking students, including resources using Rapid Prompt Method, Verbal Behavior, and Motor-based therapies, email xMinds Board member Maria Ott at mott@xminds.org. 

Resources for Arts and Theater

  • Olney Theater Company – For all ages. While the theater is shut, the actors and creators at Olney are offering free, virtual drop-in classes every weekday 9am to 5pm. Catch daily storytelling for the very young, or take a deep dive into a classic play, or your teen can work on a monologue. Visit the website to see the class schedule: https://www.olneytheatre.org/education/online-classes
  • Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems (Kennedy Center Education Artist in Residence at Home) – Video posted weekdays at 1pm, remain online to be streamed afterward [varied ages]  Lunch Doodle with Mo Willems.Mo Willems invites YOU into his studio every day for his LUNCH DOODLE. Learners worldwide can draw, doodle and explore new ways of writing by visiting Mo’s studio virtually once a day for the next few weeks. Grab some paper and pencils, pens, or crayons and join Mo to explore ways of writing and making together.  https://www.kennedy-center.org/education/mo-willems/
  • #WeWillDraw Challenge [varied ages] Spider-Man and Star Wars artist William Sliney has set up an art challenge to tackle boredom at home over the next few weeks. Each day, he will share a drawing and challenge children to draw that character. At the end of the day, he's going to share all of the drawings that have been submitted to him. https://www.instagram.com/will_sliney/?utm_source=ig_embed (shared by https://www.fm104.ie/news/buzz/list-of-free-resources-online-for-your-kids-to-use-during-covid-19-outbreak/)
  • "MetKids" from the Metropolitan Museum of Art- This resources has three components, "Explore the Map," in which they can click on areas of the museum and learn more about those areas, "Hop In The Time Machine," in which they can filter by time period, geography, and big idea, and "Watch Videos." https://www.metmuseum.org/art/online-features/metkids/
  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art-  These resources were designed for teachers, but could be adapted and used by caregivers and families. https://www.sfmoma.org/teacher-resources/
  • The Smithsonian Learning Lab-  This resource has four components, "Discover," in which they can browse collections by type (ex. audio, video) or topic (ex. language arts, science), "Create," in which they can create collections, "Share," and "Learn." https://learninglab.si.edu/ 
  • Best Ideas for Kids -- Subject: Arts and crafts.  All ages.  A community where mostly craft ideas are shared for kids of all ages! Also has many suggestions for activities, recipes and other ideas for kids. https://www.thebestideasforkids.com/
  • Metropolitan Opera -- Each day, a different encore presentation from the company's Live in HD series is being made available for free streaming on the Met website, with each performance available for a period of 23 hours, from 7:30p.m. EDT until 6:30 p.m. the following day. The schedule will include outstanding complete performances from the past 14 years of cinema transmissions, starring all of opera's greatest singers. https://www.metopera.org/

Resources for Music

 Resources for Museums and Zoo Lists (virtual)

Resources for Site Lists/Compilations


Resources for Story Time

  • While school is out of session, Councilmember At-Large Will Jawando will hold a virtual story time every day at 11:30am. Join him here on his Facebook page.
  • Storyline Online streams hundreds of videos featuring celebrated actors reading children’s books alongside creatively produced illustrations. Readers include Viola Davis, Chris Pine, Lily Tomlin, Kevin Costner, Annette Bening, James Earl Jones, Betty White and dozens more. Each book includes supplemental curriculum developed by a credentialed elementary educator, aiming to strengthen comprehension and verbal and written skills for English-language learners. https://www.storylineonline.net/library/
  • Audible -- For as long as schools are closed, Audible is offering their entire collection of stories for free streaming instantly on desktops, laptops, phone or tablet. The library includes titles across six different languages.  This is an incredible opportunity for kids who love to listen to stories. https://stories.audible.com/start-listen?mi_cmp=98ba55cbab885926&mi_ecmp=487351200&mi_sc=t&mi_u=amzn1.account.AGLYPQJ7THVIN2WKV4C4K6E5Z4EA


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