What Do April Fools’ Day and Autism Awareness Month Have in Common?

What Do April Fools' Day and Autism Awareness Month Have in Common?

What do April Fools’ Day and Autism Awareness Month have in common?

If you guessed they are both in March you would be right.

April Fool!

Was that lame?

I don’t like April Fools’ Day!

On April 1, when I was in fourth grade, Mr. Martin asked my class “who knows what spontaneous combustion is?” 30 clueless ten year olds turned towards the projector hoping for a movie.

I’m pretty sure Mary Ellen McNutly knew the answer, but for once she was silent. Glancing in her direction I saw she had the newest Nancy Drew mystery in her lap.  Mr. Martin pulled out a pack of matches, carefully extracted one match and fell to the floor.

That got our attention and we burst into laughter. As Mr. Martin writhed on the floor we laughed and hooted, waiting for him to sit up and shout “THAT students, is spontaneous combustion!”

But he didn’t.

As the laughter subsided we realized something was wrong.  Mary Ellen ran to get the nurse.  Poor Mr. Martin had a seizure while trying to teach his fourth grade class about spontaneous combustion – on April Fool’s Day.

Mr. Martin was okay and returned to school the next week and we finally learned what spontaneous combustion was, but I have often wondered if Mr. Martin’s collapse predisposed me to not like April Fools’ Day.

April FoolI usually have a good sense of humor, but I don’t understand what is funny about toast in the shower or fake pregnancy announcements on Facebook.

I don’t Laugh Out Loud when my Oreos are filled with toothpaste and exploding   anything is not amusing.

Years after Mr. Martin’s collapse, I discovered many of my students with autism didn’t like April Fools’ Day either.  Kids with autism tend to be very literal and jokes and pranks require a level of language sophistication that is not natural for them.

AutismSo, it boggles my mind why Autism Awareness Month is in April. The origin of April Fools’ Day is unclear. We do know it has been around for centuries and is observed in many countries.

Autism Awareness Month on the other hand, was established in 1984. It would seem with 11 other months to choose from the founders might have chosen a month that didn’t begin with April Fools’ Day.

April Fool and AutismRegardless of in which month Autism Awareness is observed, April Fools’ Day can be confusing and upsetting to many children on the spectrum.

Here are some easy to implement tips and ideas to make April Fools’ Day more fun and                                                      less stressful for our autism students.


First and foremost is physical and emotional safety. Be sure all students, not just those with autism, understand if it hurts someone, it is not funny or a joke. Even if it is followed by “April Fool” it is not okay to be mean. “Your dog is dead – April Fool” is not humorous”.


The more kids with autism know about what is going to occur, the more they can cope and react appropriately.

  • Place a visual reminder a few days before on your calendar. During Circle Time or Morning Meeting refer to it with excitement and practice a joke or two.
  • Read an April Fools’ Day story. April Foolishness by Teresa Bateman is a cute story about two children trying to play an April Fool trick on grandpa. Grandpa isn’t falling for it, but Grandma has the last laugh when she tricks grandpa.
  • If you are planning a party, be very careful with “joke food” such as pound cake fries (I have seen some very realistic looking ones) or carrots wrapped in Toostie Roll paper. Many children with Autism have food issues and can be confused and upset by these.

Kids with autism tend to be rule followers. Once they learn a rule they expect everyone to follow it, all the time. Things are black and white, with no room for exception. When something will be different, it is important for us to prepare them as much as possible. I had a “Something is Different” sign I used in my classroom and on daily visual schedules.

  • Play “I Know or April Fool”. Make a statement to the students and have them respond with either “I Know!” or “April Fool!”

You: There is snow on the carpet.
Student: April Fool!
You: My shirt is blue
Student: I know!

  • If you are looking for a social skills resource that focuses on vocabulary and concept development resource, you can find “What is April Fools’ Day?” in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

You can use “What Is April Fools’ Day” one-on-one or in small groups for multiple practice sessions.


These are sample pages. Click on each one to see larger images.

Your students might also enjoy this project pack to celebrate
April Fools Day!

Click on the picture above to see it in my TPT Store!
Click the pictures below to see what’s included!

34 Prompts for Reluctant Writers

34 Awesome, Splendid, Marvelous, Imaginative, Structured Writing Prompts For Your Reluctant Writers

He slowly slid his paper across the table to me, attempting to hide the little rip from erasing too hard.

Do you know why I like dolphins? I like them cause they are fun.
They are fun to watch. They do good tricks.
They have good herring (hearing) and they can see good.
Some books have good pictures of dolphins. They are fun to look at.
They live in water but are not fish but mamals.
Someday maybe I would get to swim with dolphins and would be good.


                                                                                        Jon Grade 3

I was horrified and tried to hide it by concentrating on the fact that he at least spelled dolphin correctly.

“Well” I said a little too loudly. I tried again. “Well, you certainly made the point that you like dolphins”. He just stood there. I took a deep breath. “Maybe we can think of some other words besides “good” I asked. Again, he just stood there. After the longest time he finally said in all sincerity “very good”?

The prompt – Write about your favorite animal and why
The writer – My son
A teacher’s child
A child who attended the same school where his mom taught
The teacher – A well-respected colleague and good friend of mine

Three years later, my daughter would blossom as a writer with this same teacher and to this day, as an adult she still loves to write.

My son was what we call a reluctant writer. As teachers and parents, we have all had them. Some years it seems as if the whole class are reluctant writers. Writing is painful for them and painful for the reader.

Luckily for Jon his teacher figured out he needed prompts with more structure, not less. His writing improved slowly and he learned to use some adjectives.

Fun Fact – He graduated college and now does technical writing for a living.

While changing the type of writing prompts won’t necessarily be enough to make competent writers out of your reluctant writers, it is a step in the right direction.

Below you will find a list of 34 good awesome, splendid, marvelous, imaginative, structured writing prompts for your reluctant writers.

March 1 – National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day
Crunchy or Creamy? Which is your favorite and why? What do you like to eat it on, or with?

March 2 – Read Across America
Design a bookmark highlighting your favorite Dr. Seuss book.

March 3 – National I Want You to be Happy Day
Pick someone you think needs cheering up and make a list of things you could do to make them happy.

March 4 – International Scrapbooking Day
Years ago, before everyone had cameras people kept scrapbooks filled with memorabilia like ticket stubs, recipes and letters. They also drew pictures and wrote notes about places they went and everyday events. Pick a historical figure and make a scrapbook with drawings and words to tell their story.

March 5 – Clean Up Australia Day
Every year groups of Australians go out and clean up parks, beaches and streets. Think of a place in your community you would like to clean up. Write about why and how you would convince friends and family to help you.

March 6 – Oreo Cookie’s Birthday
Did you know there are more than 25 flavors of Oreo cookies. Write about how you like to eat Oreos. What do you like to drink with them? What would be a good flavor for a new filling?

March 7 – National Cereal Day
Invent your own cereal. Will it be hot or cold? What ingredients will you put in it? Write a recipe and share it with your friends or make a class book.

March 8 – International Women’s Day
This year the theme is Be Bold for Change. Design a poster to celebrate women’s achievements using this theme and a woman from history or your life.

March 9 – Barbie’s Birthday
Make a birthday card for Barbie. Barbie is actually 58 years old, but you can pretend she is any age when you make her card.

March 10 – Middle Name Pride Day
Do you have a middle name? If you don’t have one chose your own for the day. Find out why your parents gave you that name or why they didn’t give you one. Make a badge with your middle name and wear it proudly.

March 11 – International Fannie Pack Day
Chose a T.V. or movie character and write about what they might keep in their fanny pack.

March 12 – Girl Scout Day
Think of something you would like to teach to a friend and design a merit badge for it. Write  directions for how someone could earn the badge.

March 13 – Good Samaritan Day
Write about a time you were a good Samaritan.

March 14 – Pi Day
Write about something you would like to go on and on and on forever.

March 15 – Incredible Kid Day
Write a story about an Incredible Kid Contest and why you should be the winner.

March 16 – Panda Day
Make a zoo brochure about the panda exhibit.

March 17 – St. Patrick’s Day
Many Irish families like to eat corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day. Have you ever tasted it? Do you think it is made with corn? Write a recipe for how you think this traditional meal is cooked.

March 18 – Quilting Day
Many years ago, women made quilts to tell a story about their family. Design a quilt to tell the story of your family.

March 19 – International Read to Me Day
Pick a real or fictional character and write about why you would like that character to read to you. What story would you ask them to read and why?

March 20 – International Day of Happiness
Make a coupon book for someone you care about. Give them coupons for things that will make them happy.

March 21 – Children’s Poetry Day
Write a poem about one of your favorite things i.e. favorite animal, favorite food, favorite sport etc.

March 22 – International Day of the Seal

March 23 – Puppy Day
Write about what it would be like to adopt a new puppy. What would it look like? What would you name it? What things would you need to get before bringing it home.

March 24 – Harry Houdini’s Birthday
Pretend you are a famous magician with a magical wand. Write about what magic you would perform with this amazing wand.

March 25 – Waffle Day
Do you like waffles? Make a list of things you would like as toppings on your waffle.

March 26 – Make Up Your Own Holiday Day
Create your own holiday. Write about when it would be and how you would celebrate.

March 27 – National Joe Day
Make a list of all the Joes you know. They can be friends and relatives as well as famous people. Then choose one and write an acrostic poem.

March 28 – Something on a Stick Day
There is a restaurant in Amsterdam and everything is served on a stick. What would it be like to eat or work there? What if you could eat all your meals today on a stick? What would be on your stick for breakfast, lunch, dinner?

March 29 – Coca Cola’s Birthday
Design a new look for a coke bottle or customize a can, then write an advertisement for it.

March 30 – Mom and Pop Business Owners Day
Imagine your mom and dad want to open a store. What kind of store would it be? What things would you sell? Where would it be located?

March 31 – Crayon Day
If you were a crayon what color would you be? How do you like living in a box with other crayons?      Write a conversation between two different colored crayons in a messy desk.

Bonus Prompts

American Chocolate Week (March 19-25)

Write a letter to Mr. Wonka and convince him he should give you a ticket to his chocolate factory.

Design a candy bar and special ticket for a contest. Make a list of the contest rules. Describe the kind of candy inside the wrapper and the prize the winner of the ticket will receive.

What if you could have your own chocolate room in your house? What would it look like? Would you tell people about it? Why or why not? Who would you invite in?

Unofficial Guide to Ugly Christmas Sweaters

Unofficial Guide to Ugly Christmas Sweaters

What Is The Ugly Christmas Sweater Craze?


The Ugly Christmas Sweater, has in recent years amassed so much attention, it has become a “thing”.

In the unlikely event that you haven’t heard of it, the concept requires participants to compete by wearing the gaudiest, most atrocious Christmas sweater they can find.

This new twist on an old tradition has inspired ugly Christmas Sweater parties, contests, and prizes, and led to Facebook pages, websites and hashtags.

Amazon has dozens of coloring and how-to Ugly Christmas Sweater books and there is even an official count down to Ugly Sweater Day, which has been declared a National Holiday (Third Friday in December).

How Did The Ugly Christmas Sweater Craze Start?

When I was growing up, the ugly Christmas sweater was a very different “thing”. Each year great Aunt Ruth would lovingly hand craft her custom interpretation of snazzy Christmas apparel.


Presumably Aunt Ruth’s masterpiece was intended to be admired. The word ugly was never, ever spoken aloud.

A few days after Thanksgiving a box would arrive smelling strongly of moth balls and slightly like cats.

Inside the box was a monstrosity of epic proportion. Your mom would make you wear it and you would “JUST DIE!

I mean honestly, there was a crooked snowman crocheted on itchy thick wool, sequins sewn on randomly and one sleeve was considerably longer than the other.

The only consolation was on any given day in the weeks before Christmas, several other kids would be wearing equally ugly sweaters. Luckily this punishing tradition faded away.

Come-Back of The Ugly Christmas Sweater

Ugly Christmas sweaters had a brief come-back (complete with shoulder pads) in the 90’s, thanks in part to their prominent place on the popular Bill Cosby Show TV show and Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation Movie.

The current craze points back to two Canadian students having the first ever Ugly Christmas Sweater party.

The Unofficial Guide to Ugly Christmas Sweaters

Speaking as an Ugly Christmas Sweater pioneer, (albeit a reluctant one) I am here to present you with the The Unofficial Ugly Christmas Sweater Guide.

An Ugly Christmas Sweater is any garment such as a vest, sweatshirt, or sweater that is covered with a combination of felt figures and symbols, glitter, gemstones, sparkles, tinsel and fake snow. Bonus points are given working lights and talking characters.

DIY People

If you are the DIY type you are now ready to uglify your own Christmas sweater. This can be done in three easy steps.

For added inspiration watch the video below!

For Non-DIY People

Perhaps you prefer to purchase your Ugly Christmas Sweater there are lots of options available.

Tipsy Elves has a huge variety for men women and children

Kohls and Target also have reasonably priced options. And if you are working with something other than a teacher’s budget you might be interested in Nordstrom.com’s $600 version.

In Betweeners

Those of you that fall somewhere in between complete DIY and off the rack, may like this kit you can purchase for just $7.97 at Collection Set!

And don’t bypass the bonus points Light-Up LED Ugly Christmas Sweater Ornaments from Amazon.com

Time to Party!

Now that you have your Ugly Christmas Sweater, you are ready to rock it at a party or event. What? You haven’t been invited to one yet? Well, plan your own with these easy printables.  You can have a class party with your students or a fund raiser with your school staff.

Where to Find Some Stuff

Free Invitations, banners, awards and more from Catch My Party

More invitations and party printables from The Country Chic Cottage

Need a cake?

Easy cupcake ugly sweater cake from Purple Chocolat Home

Ugly Sweater Decorating is a fun activity for young and old. You can get your Ugly Sweater Cookie Cutter at Amazon.com. They even have a Hanukkah edition for those that want an Ugly Hanukkah Cookie Sweater!

Feel free to share your Ugly Christmas Sweater finds or your thoughts on Ugly Christmas Sweaters below.

Cookie Cutter Hacks for Christmas and Beyond

Cookie Cutter Hacks for Christmas and Beyond

National Cookie Cutter Week December 1-7

Christmas cookie thoughts enter my mind almost as soon as I take my last bite of Thanksgiving pie! Don’t judge me, I like to bake (and eat dessert)! I know I am not alone on this. It is no surprise then that December 1-7 is Cookie Cutter Week and December 4th is National Cookie Day.

I have a huge collection of cookie cutters both plastic and metal, collected over the years and varying with my kid’s latest obsessions. Ninja Turtle, Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, Cabbage Patch Kids to name a few. And of course, the Christmas and Chanukah Collection has a place of its own.

cookie cutter

Now, I am by no means a pastry chef, but I am a fairly decent baker. Bread, brownies, cakes, you name it…I can whip it together with the right recipe and time. Somehow, using sugar cookie dough for actually cutting shapes has eluded me. Every year we would add a few new cookie cutter shapes to our massive collections and try a new “rolled sugar cookie dough” recipe. While visions of perfect edges and beautifully decorated treats danced in my head, I was the epitome of a #PinterestFail. Cookies that held together, tasted like cardboard…Cookies that tasted great would crumble or grow three sizes too big! Eventually, I tossed kid favorites in the playdough box and stashed the rest.

If this has been your experience keep reading!


If you have totally given up on rolled sugar cookies, try some of these crafts instead.

Press into Bread
With my granddaughter, she can be a finicky eater at times. If Minnie Mouse is on something though, she’ll eat it right up! I’ll take a Minnie Mouse cookie cutter (from Amazon) and press it lightly into bread before making a sandwich or toast. Try it with any cookie cutter! It is a simple as that! But if you really want to feel inadequate, check out how this blogging mom took this concept to the next level.
Next Level Lunches
(BONUS HACK) Ask grandma to make them! When I was a working mom I would NEVER had made these, but now as a retired grannie, I might!

Make Outdoor Bird Feeders
This project is really cool! It might not be best for tiny hands, as this is a messy project using small seeds but they will love watching the birds feed, through the window!
Cookie Cutter Bird Feeder

Make Crayons
What to do with the million broken crayons you have? I know we all have creative tricks and tips of ways to melt them down, but here’s one more! Make your own favorite shapes super easily.
Cookie Cutter Crayons

Make Gingerbread Cookies
One of the most classic uses for cookie cutters and the age old goodie, fun to make and fun to eat! They hold their shape so much better than rolled sugar cookies.
Gingerbread Cut Out Recipe

Brownie Roll Outs
This one is a little more unique but extremely yummy! Much like a sugar cookie dough, but tastes like brownies and holds its shape. Try to keep your hands off these this year!
Brownie Roll Ups

One Last Sugar Cookie Cutter Try
We have a new little one in my family now. She won’t care how they taste or look, so I am going to try one more rolled sugar cookie recipe. The best part about these is that you can “paint” on them with frosting!This recipe has tons of 5 star reviews on Allrecpes.com proclaiming “This recipe is wonderful” Disclaimer: I haven’t actually tried this recipe yet, and one reviewer did say it was “Terrible”.
Best Rolled Sugar Cookie Recipe

Santa won’t care how they look or taste either.  He will leave my granddaughter a delightful thank you note that she will treasure.   If you would like a free copy for yourself plus signs and tags for Santa’s cookies, just fill out the form below for instant access.

If you don’t immediately see the link, scroll back up until you find the santa-letter link. Click on that for your downloadable PDF.

Stay in touch! Let me know in the comments below, if you try any of the activities or have a no-fail sugar cookie recipe, Oh, and does anyone know where to find a Peppa Pig cookie cutter for my granddaughter?

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