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The Ivymount School
Center for OutReach and Education (CORE)



Basically we go into the child's classroom and observe the child in his " natural setting" We observe how he plays, socializes, transitions, uses language, performs motor skills, and processes sensory information. We use this information to develop strategies to assist in creating classroom success. We observe how the classroom is set up, the teaching style, the child's learning style, structure of the program and how these impact the child's ability to be available for learning. These observations are used so that recommended strategies can be generalized into the day. Strategies are practical and functional in order to create a more productive learning environment for the child.


Parents call us when their child is having difficulty in his/her existing program. They may call CORE after repeated calls from classroom staff regarding problems: in play, listening, socializing, separation issues, inability to follow group directions, activity level, or possibly disruptive behavior. Parents are often confused about the child's behavior at school and are eager to find a direction.


Centers contact CORE after they are stymied over a child's challenging behavior. Often times they have tried a variety of techniques which have not been successful, and the staff is seeking guidance to individualize a child's program. Frequently a child has several areas of needs related to language, sensory, motor, and social functioning that require expertise in those particular areas to plan an appropriate program. CORE provides SUPPORT and TRAINING to staff in order for them to implement a successful program.


Let us take a look at Dan, a four year old in his second year of pre-school. The staff and parents contacted CORE because Dan was having great difficulty playing and socializing with the children in his classroom. The staff described Dan as a verbal youngster who interacted almost exclusively with the teachers. Prior to our visit Dan's parents and teachers provided detailed information about how he played both at home and school. He liked tabletop activities best and appeared overwhelmed in larger group activities. He watched his peers play in the creative play corner and on the playground. CORE observed a "typical morning" in Dan's preschool. He was observed at circle time, transitions, centers, snack, music and outdoor playground play. An Occupational Therapist and a Speech and Language Pathologist observed Dan jointly due to concerns regarding sensory issues and possible language processing. The CORE team spent two hours in Dan's classroom observing and interacting at strategic moments to test some strategies. Following the observation, CORE team members collaborated on a written report and strategies for the classroom and parents. Approximately a week later, CORE, the parents and staff met at Dan's pre-school to discuss the findings of the observation and the strategies. The following is a brief summary of a few of the suggestions:


  • The teachers and CORE consultants worked to incorporate smaller group times into the classroom day, since Dan was more likely to be involved with peers in a smaller group setting. This youngster appeared to be sensitive to loud noises. We worked on monitoring the noise level in the classroom. Teachers used techniques such as singing a quiet song, turning the lights off or even reading a book with the lights off or using a flashlight, whenever it was needed.

  • CORE suggested incorporating more activities where Dan could be paired with a peer. For example, two children painted together by putting balls, paint and paper in a box and moving the balls around in the box. We paired two children together for several classroom jobs such as lunch box set up. Reciprocal activities were added at snack time by having two children make a snack for each other.

  • CORE suggested that dramatic play be tied to other parts of the classroom. For example, a teacher read a book about going to the doctor and there were several play medical bags and bandages in the housekeeping corner that day. The teacher was there to gently guide and facilitate the play. She did this by initially participating in the play and taking a less active role as the children got more involved.

  • At home, CORE recommended that Dan's family work on turn-taking during play. For example, Dan selected a game that his family could play. Later, another family member picked an activity and Dan followed his lead. The ability to take turns during play is an essential skill for conversation and higher level play skills.

Another example of a CORE CONSULATATION:
Annie was an active three and half year old who enthusiastically raced into the room to greet teachers and classmates. She enjoyed play with peers at the water and sand tables. Her teachers were concerned because Annie had a short attention span and was not attentive to group activities. She was able to follow a variety of requests and answer age appropriate questions when they were asked to her individually. However, during circle time she appeared inattentive and fidgeted frequently. She often approached the various centers with interest. She would participate in a classroom activity for a short period of time and then move to the next one. Parents were observing this behavior at home and had asked the school in helping them with the problem. The school contacted CORE. CORE discussed home routines and concerns with parents prior to the visit to Annie's school. CORE observed Annie in her classroom from the time of drop off, though free activity choice, circle time, activity time, snack and large playroom play. A mutually agreeable time was set up prior to the consultation for parents, staff and CORE to meet and discuss the results of the consultation. The following are a few of the strategies.


  • Annie's teachers and CORE consultants suggested setting up chairs for circle time activities. Annie's chair was placed in close proximity to her teacher. This would help her attend and provide physical support to decrease fidgeting.

  • CORE increased the use of charts and pictures to help keep Annie attentive to circle time. As a "HELLO" song was song to each child, he/she placed his/her picture onto the board. The teacher then helped the children use the board to count the number of children at school and to determine who was absent.

  • A visual daily schedule was also added so that the teacher could discuss the day's events and help the children transition from one activity to another. Another visual support was introduced by providing realistic objects when appropriate. For example, when the children sang a song about farm animals, the teacher brought out a box of toy animals and the children picked out an animal to incorporate into the next verse. (These visual supports helped Annie attend for longer periods of time.)

  • CORE consultants and teachers worked together to add movement activities throughout the day. Movement songs were added to circle activities and incorporated into other areas of the curriculum. An obstacle course was set up, for example, for children to move through to get to the creative play corner. Movement activities were added to nursery rhymes and story times.

  • It was suggested that the adults should join in Annie's play and strategically provide novel items to keep her interest. At the water table, for example, Annie may play with washing dolls in the water. The adults then could provide a sponge to wash the doll and show how to rinse the doll's hair. At tabletop activities, it was suggested that Annie be gently encouraged to complete activities that had an obvious beginning and end (such as a puzzle or art project).


CORE provides monthly training workshops for childcare providers, teachers and parents on topics concerning general child development and specific areas of concern such as language processing, sensory integration, difficulties with play and social interaction, development of hand and visual fine motor skills, working with challenging behaviors and encouraging literacy and language. New training workshops are regularly being developed as a need in the community is identified. CORE utilizes the expertise of the Ivymount School's special education teachers and therapists to teach the training sessions. CORE publishes a monthly column in Washington Parent magazine. Contributing authors are the Ivymount School staff members.



Judith Greenberg, M.S., OTR
Coordinator of CORE
Center for Outreach in Education
The Ivymount School
11614 Seven Locks Road
Rockville, Maryland 20850
Phone: 301-469-0228
Fax: 301 469-0778

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