Cool Tools: “Pickture That” Bracelets

photo from

photo from

I love to learn about new products and services, and share them with you. Today, I want to tell you about a really great bracelet that can be adapted for use in school or in church for kids with disabilities.

A company called Pickture That sells personalized photo bracelets.  Buyers upload three to four photos, crop them and choose between three color styles…and voila! A lovely, one-of-a-kind bracelet is created!


While these are great for new moms or

Photo from

Photo from

sorority pledges, they can also be wonderful transitional objects for students with disabilities. Many children with special needs struggle with separation anxiety. Sometimes, a special object from home can help to soothe this worry by allowing children to have a tangible reminder of their parent or caregiver. These bracelets could work very well for this purpose.

These bracelets could also be used as a visual schedule or a reminder of expectations. For example, the bracelet might show three or four pictures of the child working on various activities and showing appropriate behavior. Teachers and parents can review the expectations by showing the child each of the pictures, and they can redirect a child’s off-task behavior unobtrusively by simply tapping or pointing to the bracelet. Any image can be uploaded to create these bracelets; if a child responds better to words or icons, those can be uploaded as well, as long as they are in a jpeg, png or gif format.

Some things to consider…
These bracelets currently come in only one size, so they may be large for younger children. As a result, they may need to be worn higher on the arm or over a sleeve. Obviously, students with sensory sensitivities may not like the feeling of the bracelet on their skin, and, for some children, the bracelet might become more of a distraction than a comfort. As with any tool, it will be important to explicitly teach children how to use the bracelet appropriately.

Finally, any tool, including these bracelets, can be stigmatizing. To avoid this, teachers and volunteers…and students themselves…should be ready for questions from typically developing peers. When a child asks, “How come Jacob wears that bracelet?” a teacher can respond, “That helps him remember what we do in our class. We all have our own ways to remember the rules. What helps you remember?” Remaining neutral and matter-of-fact helps students recognize that they have more in common than they might realize!

For more information on creating and ordering bracelets, please visit the Pickture That website.

Please note: this is not a paid endorsement…just a “hey look at that!” from me to you. 🙂


What’s in a Name? {Why greeting students matters in a BIG way}

This summer, I’ve been working with a church staff on their inclusion efforts. It has been a joy to watch the staff and volunteers in action. They plan carefully, arrange the classrooms effectively, and redirect the students in positive ways. As their programs grow, I know they will be ready to include learners with diverse strengths and needs.

As I observed on my first Sunday there, I enjoyed watching the kids bound into their rooms enthusiastically. The hallways were full, and, as is often the case with Sunday mornings, the pace was quick between services. Nevertheless, the Director of Children’s Ministry remained placid. She checked in with each volunteer, helped with administrative tasks, prepared for her large group lesson, and communicated with other staff. However, none of this interfered with what was obviously the most important: Greeting the children.

I watched in amazement as she greeted every single child by name. “Good morning, Michael! It’s great to see you today, Tiara! I’m so glad you’re here, Kieran!” Every greeting–just like every child–was unique. As the students passed, she was able to tell me a bit about them. She knew their likes and dislikes, strengths and needs. She shared information about their families, her fondness for all of them evident in her warm smile. She spoke about their faith development and their progress.

This reminded me of Responsive Classroom’s Morning Meeting. One of the basic components is a greeting. Several schools in which I work use this program, which is designed to create a strong classroom culture. One colleague reflected, “By the end of morning meeting, every single child has heard his or her name spoken aloud. That sends a powerful message that each individual matters to the group.” Clearly, this Children’s Ministry Director understands the importance of this.

In addition, she is modeling something even greater for the students in her program. In Isaiah 43, we hear the Lord say,

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are mine…
you are precious and honored in my sight…because I love you…

By calling her students by name, she models for them the Father’s love.

As I got ready to leave, one of the students with multiple special needs smiled at me, and said, “Goodbye, Katie!”

The Children’s Ministry Director looked surprised. As we walked away, she said, “I can’t believe she remembered  your name! That is really hard for her!”

I wasn’t all that surprised, though. I smiled at the Director, thinking,
This child learned it from her…
who learned it from Him.

He knows our names!

Pick a Partner: What are the rules?

Last week, we talked about what teachers can do–before the students even set foot in classroom–to make group work manageable for all students. Today, we’ll talk about the importance of including students in the planning as well, and why this should be part of the “big picture.”

Have you ever watched the reality show  “The Apprentice?” On this program, groups of entrepreneurs or celebrities work together on tasks in the hopes of eventually being named Donald Trump’s “apprentice.” As with most reality shows, it’s chock-full of drama, stemming mainly from the friction between team members…the group dynamics frequently ignite a firestorm of arguments.

The problem, it seems, is that the groups have very little time to talk about how they are going to work together. They’re immediately thrust into managing tasks; getting to know one another and establishing “norms” for the group are considered irrelevant. The result? Misunderstandings, hurt feelings, errors, and incomplete work.

My advice, then, to teachers who are planning group activities: “Be ye not so rushed.” The time you invest in helping ALL kids learn how to work together will pay huge dividends, not only in students academic achievement, but in their social-emotional development as well. And, if you’re teaching in the church setting, you’re helping kids to understand more fully how to be the Body of Christ.

Here are some steps for helping students work together…

Create rules Before we allow children in the cafeteria or on the playground, we give them a set of expectations  to keep them safe and to help them manage their interactions. The same logic applies to group work. I’ve quoted my colleague, Sheri Halagan many times on this blog, but her words are worth repeating: “Kids don’t know as much as we THINK they know about how to behave.” We need to remember, too, that some students with hidden disabilities struggle with social skills…and thrive on structure and rules. Before starting group work, gather the class together and facilitate a discussion about rules that should govern the tasks and interactions.

Make “Sense” of the Rules Many times, students can create appropriate rules, like “Be kind” and “Do your best job,” because they have heard the phrases before. However, we need to be certain they truly understand what the rules mean and why they are important. Jolene Philo, an author and veteran teacher, developed a method of helping students understand rules in a multi-sensory way. Instead of stopping at “Be Kind,” Jolene would ask her students, “What does being kind LOOK like? What does it SOUND like? What does it FEEL like.” She then recorded their responses in a chart to visually reinforce their discussion. This allowed for a deeper reflection about the need for these boundaries. (Download a copy of Jolene’s chart here: Look/Sound/Feel Chart)

Reinforce the Rules As teachers and volunteers who work with children and teens, we’re constantly reviewing and re-teaching. Anything we teach…from subtraction to science to Scripture must be reinforced so that it can be remembered. That’s just how students learn. In the same way, we need to review the social curriculum for students so they can internalize how to interact with each other in a positive and productive way. Responsive Classroom Consultant Margaret Berry Wilson writes,

It is important to keep discussing and practicing the rules all year long. Students cannot possibly learn all they need to about how to live and behave as a community during the first weeks of school. Time spent together deepens their understanding of how to truly care for each other. Also, keeping the rules alive and ever-present in children’s minds gives you the ability to ask “What do our rules say about . . . ?” when challenging situations arise. (full article here)

These comments readily apply not only to the classroom in school, but to church as well. In both settings, students need consistent, kind reminders about the rules that govern positive teamwork.

Your rule-based friend…


Next: Assigning roles that make groups positive and productive.