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Specially Designed Education Services | Setting Intentions for the New Year: A Functional Academics Approach

Setting Intentions for the New Year: A Functional Academics Approach

Dear Inspirational Educators,

As we bask in the afterglow of the holiday season (Whew! We made it!) and shift focus to the rapidly approaching new year, I want to extend my heartfelt appreciation for the unwavering dedication and passion you bring to your classrooms each day. At SDES, we hope your holiday break is filled with solid rest, rejuvenation, and great expectations for continuing to invest in your classroom.  

Your commitment to fostering an inclusive and enriching learning environment is truly commendable. As we usher in this season of reflection and renewal, let’s explore how Functional Academics can be a guiding light in setting intentions for the upcoming year.

In the spirit of the New Year, I’d like to share a story that resonates with the challenges and triumphs many of you may face. We heard from Kate, a devoted teacher steering a class of 13 students with diverse needs through the Functional Academics curriculum. Her quest for meaningful lessons prompted an enriching exchange that led to strategies benefiting both her and her students.

Navigating Diverse Needs: Insights for the New Year

Kate reached out seeking guidance on running a classroom that has been quite difficult to manage because of the complex disabilities and varying skill sets. Through a great email exchange, we shared how the Functional Academics curriculum by SDES became our compass, guiding us through tailored strategies to create an environment where learning is not only meaningful but also fun when creativity and generalization is explored. I know that just by sorting through some of the challenges with others who know the landscape of all that Functional Academics has to offer, collaboration can make all the difference!

Let’s delve into some of these possible strategies, which may offer valuable insights for your own journey.

Organizing Your Classroom: Zones of Regulation

Consider creating distinct learning zones tailored to different needs, from physical support to visual schedules. The Zones of Regulation framework can be seamlessly integrated into your classroom culture. This tool aids in behavioral management, self-regulation, and effective communication of emotional needs.

Managing Your Schedule: Structure for Success

Implementing a structured daily schedule is foundational for a positive learning environment. Visual cues and auditory prompts, coupled with sensory-rich transitions like lighting changes or sound effects, can significantly reduce disruptive behaviors.

Lesson Planning for Diverse Needs: A Three-Step Approach

🔺Emerging Skills: Tactile Counting Activities

  • Goal: Develop foundational skills for students at the emerging stage.
  • Activity: Create hands-on counting activities with tactile materials like beads or blocks.
  • Modification: Adapt for students with limited mobility by using larger objects or introducing a counting song for vocalization.

🔹Developing Skills: Color Recognition Games

  • Goal: Build on emerging skills and introduce more complex concepts.
  • Activity: Explore color recognition through interactive games, such as scavenger hunts for specific colors.
  • Modification: Enhance color perception with high-contrast visuals and provide additional prompts.

🟩Practicing or Generalizing Skills: Real-World Integration

  • Goal: Encourage students to practice and generalize skills in real-world settings.
  • Activity: Establish a routine of counting or color identification during school-wide activities like morning announcements or lunchtime.
  • Modification: Collaborate with other teachers for a consistent approach and create visual schedules for transitions.

Recommended Lesson Plans for Individual Strengths

Counting with Colorful Creations: Leverage artistic talents by incorporating counting into drawings. For instance, have students draw a specific number of objects in different colors.

Memory Skills Challenge: Capitalize on memorization skills by creating memory games related to academic concepts.

Communication Through Art: Utilize communication devices and encourage expression through images and words, fostering individual progress.

Kate’s journey embodies the spirit of setting intentions for the new year. Small, consistent steps can lead to significant progress. Steady plodding leads to great successes! 

Remember, you are not alone on this path, and your commitment to your students is truly inspiring.

Feel free to reach out in the comment section for more specific resources or to discuss any challenges further. Let’s link arms and make 2024 a year of shared growth and achievement.

Warm regards,

Barb Beck 🌟
Creative Content Director and Fellow Teacher-Friend,  Specially Designed Education Services (SDES)
©2023 Specially Designed Education Services

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SDES has teamed up with Mundo Pato, Inc., our cloud publishing partner, to create a simple and affordable solution for special educators to use during this critical time.

The Virtual Teaching Materials are a separate supplemental purchase that will greatly enhance the Styer-Fitzgerald Program for Functional Academics ​or can be used on its own.

Virtual Teaching Materials Pricing 1st year: $1000 non-recurring configuration fee plus 12 x monthly charge.

Per Month
Per Year*


































Monthly subscription charge is based on a minimum of 100 students ​and increases by $125 per group of 25 additional students.

Scheduling Tip

Find a student in your classroom who can read and understand your master schedule. Assign them a job in the morning to help set up individual student schedules. See the video of Megan setting up the schedule.
Play Video
Suzanne’s student Megan was her Teacher’s Assistant first period during her junior and senior year. One of her jobs, among other clerical tasks, was to set up individual student schedules. It saved Suzanne prep time in the morning and was a great vocational experience for Megan.

SDES has teamed up with Mundo Pato, Inc., our cloud publishing partner, to create the full Styer-Fitzgerald Program for Functional Academics in the cloud. *The Styer-Fitzgerald Program in the Cloud Start-Up Fee: a $6000 non-recurring start-up fee will be added to the first year subscription only.

Cloud Pricing

Per Month
Per Year*
Monthly subscription charge is based on a minimum of 100 students ​and increases by $125 per group of 25 additional students.