n2y Blog

What Does Bullying Mean to You?

By Anne Johnson-Oliss, n2y

When you hear the word bullying, what picture does the word conjure in your head? Do you see a playground with two children of disparate heights, one towering over the other making demands of some kind? Certainly this outdated image is one type of bullying, but abusive behavior takes many forms.

Even as researchers and legislators cannot yet agree on a definition of bullying, these behaviors must be addressed, (Blad, 2014). The situation becomes more complex when a potential victim has an intellectual or another impairment that creates a communication barrier.

So how do we help individuals with disabilities identify, stop, and communicate about bullying behavior?

Here are some supports that could help.

1)    Identify bullying behavior.

Bullying can include repeated overt physical aggression such as physical intimidation, pushing, kicking, or tripping. Helping children with impairments understand the vocabulary of bullying can help them identify it later. Using SymbolStix, photos, or videos, assist students in understanding the words paired with the images or actions.


In addition to physical intimidation, bullying can include verbal abuse such as insults, cruel directives, commands, criticisms, or lies. These can be very difficult concepts for children with intellectual or speech impairments. Pairing SymbolStix with audio or video examples from YouTube could aid understanding with more subtle forms of abuse.


Even more subtle than verbal bullying is bullying by isolation or encouraging isolation. Exclusion of the victim from conversations, activities, or projects creates a harsh environment for the victim who suffers both identifiable and invisible signs of emotional abuse. Helping children understand how friends behave through social stories could help them identify exclusion when it starts.


2)    Prevent bullying whenever possible.

Explaining the vocabulary of behavior and relationships including the positive and the negative will help with prevention. Incorporate the vocabulary into social skills stories, photographs, and activities. Use specific positive praise in all situations to identify examples of positive interpersonal behavior so that students understand what appropriate actions and words look like and feel like. If a story about bullying is required, n2y’s, I’m Being Bullied in the n2y Library contains several examples of inappropriate behavior for discussion, (Knople, 2011).


When more directness is required, consider using okay/not okay language and visuals to represent the two categories of behavior. A t-chart poster activity could be a great small group activity that involves the children listing okay behaviors and the not okay behaviors. Discussion can ensue about what those look like and why they are inappropriate.


You have educated the group about what bullying looks like. You have incorporated positive social behaviors and rewards into the discussion. You have shared examples of bullying to help prevent it from happening, but bullying episodes can still take place. What can you do?

3)    Facilitate reporting.

Teach students what to do if they identify bullying behavior. Reporting and getting help are two of the main ways to fight back against bullying. Help children understand and access symbols for talking to an adult or bullying before the need arises. Make those symbolic representations available to children on their communication devices across environments. Programming self-advocacy communication is as important as teaching other self-care skills.


4)    Stop it as soon as it starts.

On first sighting, report, or intimation of a bullying episode, take action to care for the victim, the bully, and the group as a whole.



Assuming the victim does not have any immediate medical needs, he or she needs to hear and understand that:

-what took place is not his or her fault                    

-it is not okay behavior

-the situation will be different


Assuming the bully is not in custody of law enforcement, he or she needs to hear and understand that:

-what took place will not happen again

-it is not okay behavior

-consequences are in place


If there is a group of people affected by the bullying incident, the individuals need to hear (and see) consistent messages that positive, pro-social behaviors are rewarded and bullying or abusive behaviors will not be tolerated.


Attached are files to help discuss bullying with your class.


 Blad, E. (2014) Researchers and Schools Diverge in Definitions of Bullying - Education Week. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/10/08/07bullying.h34.html?cmp=ENL-EU-NEWS1

CPI. (2014). Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI Training) | CPI. Retrieved from http://www.crisisprevention.com/

Harris, E. (2014, October 13). Cruel's Not Cool | CPI. Retrieved from http://www.crisisprevention.com/Blogs-CPI/Blog/October-2014/Annie-Fox-Cruels-Not-Cool

Knople, N. (2011). I'm Being Bullied. Huron, OH: Unique Learning System.

Petro, L. (n.d.). Emotional Abuse Signs. Retrieved from http://www.teach-through-love.com/emotional-abuse-signs.html



Find n2y and SymbolStix on Facebook! @n2yinc on Twitter  and @n2yinc on Instagram. To chat with us by phone about Unique Learning System, News-2-You, SymbolStix or Training, 800.697.6575 or n2y.com


13 Awesome Classroom Habits

By Anne Johnson-Oliss, n2y

Before instruction!

1.    Plans. Even though, the best-laid plans may be disrupted or interrupted, having a plan charts a course for the hours, days, weeks, months, and in fact, the entire year. Daily schedules, plans, and routines help goal-driven people and classrooms stay on course.


2.    Materials. Acquire materials and supplies for lessons before the day of the activity. Although daily life is busy and resources are tight, make it a priority to collect supplies so that lessons are delivered in the way you originally conceived them. Educators and parents are typically eager to share and trade resources including different sizes of paper, craft items, and household goods. Planning ahead allows you to ask for donations you need via newsletter or email.

3.    Tools. Of course, we have to keep our tools of our profession ready for classes! Keep the crayon box fresh, pencils sharp, and the highlighters nearby. If possible, keep a collection of scissors all in one place for ease of use during fine motor activities. There’s no harm in having several boxes or baskets of glue options around if you are able. Having these items together and within reach puts the focus on using the materials instead of locating them.

4.    Technology. With more types of technology at our disposal, setting aside a few minutes to maintain these tech-tools becomes more important. Consider putting a 15 minute technology check on your calendar each month to do the following (if you have IT permissions): update your browsers, clear your computer’s cache and history, delete unnecessary files, and clear the desktop. Charge the devices assigned to your students or classroom so they are ready when needed. Use care when inserting the chargers to avoid stretching the port. A stretched port causes the charger to be loose and intermittently fail to give devices their juice!

5.    Team. Design a quick and easy way to communicate with all of the team members who come in and out of your classroom each day. Is that email? Maybe. Could it be a hanging shoe bag? A folder system on a bulletin board? A cubby system? Whatever you devise, encourage all of the staff and parents to check and use the system so that two-way communications are deeper, richer, and more meaningful with team members. 

6.    Visualize. Take two minutes in the quiet of the morning to visualize how you want the day to unfold. Think about the main goals and objectives for each child and how they fit into the daily schedule. You will be amazed at how this simple visualization helps you focus for the whole day.

During the school day!

7.    Praise. Take the time to praise students with specific language about what they are doing well. Too many times, our behavior is shaped by negative consequences when positive reinforcements and strategies should be our first tools! 

8.    Listen. Model good listening behavior by truly listening to what is said and what is not said throughout the day. Use wait time to really listen for students’ responses as you try to elicit more participation, more thorough responses, or higher level thinking from students. Inculcate attitudes of respect by listening, waiting, watching and learning.

9.   Captivate. Use multi-modal instruction and learning strategies to capture students’ attention. Learning is an active process involving all of the senses. Incorporate any pieces of technology and all resources in order to plant the seeds of learning with all students. Can you include physical movement? Could you incorporate video or music? Are you able to use text-to-speech, white boards, or tablets?

After instruction!

10.  Tidy. After the buses leave for the day, spend a few minutes tidying up the space. Set a timer if need be and spend time readying the learning space for the next day.

11.  Wipe. Leaving nothing to chance when it comes to health and safety, wiping and disinfecting surfaces at the end of the day provides one more safeguard. Your building or district may have guidelines for cleaners and methods. With electronics, be sure to use only cleaners approved for those sensitive tools, but do think about cleaning the white board, the stylus, tablet computers and keyboards.


12.  Reflect. Recall the successes and opportunities of the day while tidying and disinfecting the space. Are there open items for documentation? Is there anything left on the task list for tomorrow?


13. Student. Be a student of your profession. View live or recorded webinars for training on methods or tools that you use daily. Subscribe to blogs that deliver quality, relevant content to you. Scheduling professional development weekly or monthly puts learning on your list! Make it a priority to enhance your knowledge and skills.



Find n2y and SymbolStix on Facebook! @n2yinc on Twitter  and @n2yinc on Instagram. To chat with us by phone about Unique Learning System, News-2-You, SymbolStix or Training, 800.697.6575 or n2y.com



skill tracking tip 


Skill Tracking Tip #4
Add Goals to Skill Areas

Current and specific information on student performance as well as suggested strategies for the targeted skill are provided, as indicated by the Profile. Use the Skill Goal area to write the goal for the student as it relates to the selected skill area. This is a great place to write the student’s IEP goal.

Click HERE to Get All 10 Skill Tracking Tips



uls spotlight


Download All Lesson Plans & Activities
Click Monthly Lessons in the Left Menu

Did you know that Unique provides the monthly unit materials in multiple formats?

To download a PDF document of all the lessons plans and materials for Unique, click Monthly Lessons in the left menu.  Select your correct grade band and the current month, then scroll down to the very bottom of the web page. The bulk download is available under Lesson Plans: All Lesson Plans and Activities.

Additionally, each individual lesson has an option to be downloaded as a PDF version or to be opened in an online format with interactivity and text-to-speech. To access these options, click on the lesson number from the center column of Monthly Lessons.




news-2-you spotlight


Are you our friend on Facebook?

Keep up with In the News articles that are placed online by following us on Facebook. In the News articles cover World, Sports and Entertainment news stories 3-5 times per week! The articles are provided in two levels of difficulty and often contain extra video and web resources to support the news topic. You won't want to miss out on these current events opportunities for your classroom!






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the latest from symbolstix


Search. Find. Use. SymbolStix.
New searches in SymbolStix support professionals as they support students!

You know SymbolStix. They are the symbols used in Unique Learning System curriculum and in the 
News-2-You newspaper and materials. Access to thousands of symbols and SymbolStix ONLINE is free with these subscriptions!

Did you know that searching SymbolStix is as easy as typing in the search box? Let’s type: oral motor. Here is an ever-growing collection of oral motor exercises and tools. 

Let’s search for: heavy work. Here are a few examples of what you will find!

Hmmm.many students require symbols of sensory items and activities. Can I search for the word sensory? Yes!




check out this cool idea


One of n2y’s new features is Skill Tracking. 

Skill Tracking allows for the tracking of specific targeted skills.  This new feature can be particularly helpful to Speech Therapists.  Skills such as communication for self-advocacy and conversation, phoneme segmentation, various language skills, and more, can be tracked for a student using the Individual Tracked Skills feature. The Tracked Skills feature allows you to track targeted skills and graph student's performance using Benchmark Assessments.  These assessments are associated with specific skills and any related Monthly Checkpoint test data. 

Not sure which test will measure a targeted skill?
The Tracked Skills feature will provide a list of Benchmark and Monthly Checkpoint Assessments that are associated with that skill.  

Need to know what educational standards are associated with your target goals or objectives? 
The Tracked Skills area will auto populate all standards associated with a specific targeted goal. 

Unsure how to integrate therapy targets with the students using the Unique Learning System curriculum? 
Tracked Skills will inform you of specific lessons that contain the skills you are targeting. 

Have News-2-You?
If the student also uses the Unique curriculum, the Tracked Skills area will guide you to specific sections of the paper, supporting activities and worksheets that will address specific targeted skills.  The Tracked Skills area will also recommend templates that can be used in SymbolStix ONLINE to create activities in order to practice the targeted skills.  The new Tracked Skills area puts everything together and helps integrate the therapy goal with academic content! 

To learn more about Tracked Skills, watch this quick tutorial:




n2y Webinars & How-To Videos


Are you looking for some online help?

n2y has you covered with dozens of how-to videos and pre-recorded webinars to get your started with your subscription.

Click here to access these videos on our training site.



upcoming events...


Stop By and Visit Us

Closing the Gap  -  October 15-17  - Minneapolis, MN
Click here for more information

Ohio Special Ed Leadership Conference  -  October 14-16  - Columbus, OH
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OCALICON 2014  -  November 19-21  - Columbus, OH
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n2y Connects It All

Description: We made all of the connections! Explore our standards-based curriculum with differentiated interactive lessons written specifically for students with significant disabilities across six grade bands. Access our collection of summative and formative assessments. Discover the newest features, including the ability to track individual or group skills with comprehensive reports and graphs. Investigate the accessibility options in our interactive iDocs. View the administrative features, including ability to run reports to ensure implementation with fidelity and monitor progress. Lastly, check out our extensive graphic library and search our large collection of resources, including our weekly newspapers with additional interactive activities. Come learn how we made all of the connections for you while providing the perfect solution for educators who work with students with significant disabilities.

Presenter: Darlene Brodbeck



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Book Review: Carly’s Voice

By Anne Johnson-Oliss, n2y

Arthur Fleischmann and his daughter, Carly Fleischmann, provide insightful and rich details about their individual and connected journeys in their book, Carly's Voice: Breaking Through Autism. Both authors, Carly and her father, share intensely personal experiences with autism and its effect on their daily lives. The book details Carly's life with autism both from her perspective and her father's perspective. Carly shares her internal challenges with the effects of autism, emotional struggles, communication challenges, and more. She discusses her awareness of both disability and ability. Topic threads in the book include: the challenges of family life, healthcare, medication, sibling dynamics, financial considerations, respite care, and more.

To her enormous credit, Carly shares her perspective as a young woman who sees the world differently and interacts with her surroundings in ways that are simply less understood. Carly adds crucial first-person perspective about autism. Her anecdotes and experiences are throughout the book, but the chapter Carly wrote at the end of the book is a real treat.  Her detailed accounts of personal experiences in education, medicine, and respite care inform readers but also raise questions about what systems and people can do better. 

Arthur Fleischmann, Carly's father, articulates his feelings of uncomfortable tension when decisions are not clear, resources are not unlimited, and the best option may be an undesirable one. Carly's father chronicles his internal dialogue(s) about throughout the book. He talks about sheer mental and physical exhaustion as a parent trying to manage daily life and meet the needs of each of his family members.  One can only assume that readers whose lives are affected by autism read thoughts that mirror their own on the pages of the book.

Opinions and experiences about education are topics in the book as well. Carly shares her beliefs that ABA was effective for her, that symbols combined with text helped her learn to read and spell and that technology facilitated her access to the world. Carly cited her use of Proloquo2Go as well as other assistive technology tools in her journey. In the book, Carly analyzes, evaluates and talks about aspects of technology that were helpful to her learning, functioning and communicating. These are rare and precious glimpses from the end-user perspective.

Carly's eventual revelation that she has learned to read and communicate after years of tireless effort by Carly, her family and her dedicated care providers proves that silence does not equal resignation. Silence does not signify a lack of interest or ability.

Until there is a sequel to the 2012 book, Carly’s Voice, readers will have to be satisfied to connect with Carly via Twitter and Facebook where she is active and vocal! Still, sequel please? 

Find n2y and SymbolStix on Facebook! @n2yinc on Twitter  and @n2yinc on Instagram. To chat with us by phone about Unique Learning System, News-2-You, SymbolStix or Training, 800.697.6575 or n2y.com



Had a Bad Day?

We’ve all been there!

By Anne Johnson-Oliss, n2y

Yes, we have all been there. The last bell has rung. The buses have pulled away from the curb. You have wandered back to your classroom weighing which of your personal needs to fulfill first: bathroom or drink? Maybe you slump in your chair taking a few quiet breaths in your nine free minutes before the staff meeting starts.

You survey the classroom space and reflect on the day's teaching and learning. In a flood of tiny memories during the busy day, you unconsciously evaluate your performance. As a professional educator,  reflection fuels your desire to do better each day with wait time, higher level thought questions, reciprocal communication opportunities and a thousand other written or unwritten goals. You mindlessly pick at a mark on your pants. Could that be from snack time? You tick through the day's activities in your mind searching for a substance that matches the stain.

You wish that the day had run more smoothly for the students. Several students seemed to be out of sorts today, but because they have significant communication barriers, the source of angst is elusive. You tried to keep a schedule, continue with instruction, and offer individualized assistance. The mandatory monthly fire drill at noon reversed any calm from the morning. 

Only 8 minutes until the staff meeting! Time to tidy up the space, gather your materials, and head out to meet with colleagues. The phone rings. It is a breathless parent of one of your students. The excited mom relays to you that her son pointed to a symbol of train. It seemed to be a spontaneous first for him after many weeks of practice. She tells you that he has been asking for foods and drinks using his communication device for about a week. You site teamwork. You excitedly talk about next steps, reinforcing vocabulary, language-rich environment, and more opportunities for self-expression.  You realize you are late for the staff meeting and promise to connect with her later. You thank her for calling, grab your bags, and dash off to find an open seat next to your colleagues. You think to yourself, "What a great day! I wish more days were like this!"

Your mind drifts during the staff meeting, reminding yourself there is significant good in every day! Goal-oriented thinking, relentless pursuit of answers, structured schedule, team communication and careful listening are all inherently good even if the results are mixed some days. You re-focus. You listen. You plan for tomorrow.

You are a professional educator who had a very good day. 



Find n2y and SymbolStix on Facebook! @n2yinc on Twitter  and @n2yinc on Instagram. To chat with us by phone about Unique Learning System, News-2-You, SymbolStix or Training, 800.697.6575 or n2y.com