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Nov
16

To app or not to app!

Many of you who know me or have heard me present know that I am a very proud mother. I have been trying out Assistive Technology (AT) tools and devices on my daughter since she was in Kindergarten when I first started working for PATINS in 2001. I used her as a test student for Co:Writer, IntelliTools, and many others. After she was old enough to join me for trainings after school she would tag along. It wasn’t too long before she was assisting the participants. Soon after she was up in front and presenting. So, it is not hard to believe that she is now a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) for our local school corporation. She recently attended the Access to Education (A2E) 2022 Conference. Afterwards on the ride home she was telling me about her favorite parts of the conference and was throwing out suggestions for my blog. So I suggested why don’t you do it and she did. Enjoy!

Staff

Hello, my name is Courtney LeBarron and I am Sandy Stabenfeldt’s daughter. She is the Indiana Center for Accessible Materials (ICAM) Digital Services Specialist. Recently, I attended the Access to Education (A2E) 2022 Conference hosted by the PATINS Project. Although there were MANY great sessions over the course of the two days, my mind kept going back to one particular session:  “Teaching the Swipe Generation: Carefully Curating Apps for Young Children with Disabilities” presented by Beth Poss. Many, many times throughout my short career, I have been asked, “What is the best app? What app can I use?” Well, that question is way more complicated than it may seem. How old is the student? What are their fine motor skills like? What are your goals for them?

During her session, Beth Poss broke it down in a clear and simple way. She listed the 7 steps of what makes an effective learning app. There were two that really stood out to me. The first one was “Does it meet a developmental need?” and the second was “Does it enhance and encourage interactions with adults or peers?” As a SLP these are the two questions I most frequently ask myself: Can it promote literacy or vocabulary development? And will interacting with this app promote interactions between the communication partner and my student? 

Courtney, Chris Bugaj, and Rachel Maddel

So, the next time you find yourself thinking,"Is this app really effective?" Or you are asked, "What is the best app?", think about these criteria. If you find one that meets the criteria of an effective learning app you can borrow it to try with your student. PATINS lends iPads with apps or they can send apps to iPads that are not managed by the school corporation. If you need help in determining an app to try, please talk to a PATINS specialist. Information about the PATINS lending library is available on their website. Not all technology is bad, and not all is good. It is our job, as educators, to help our students figure it out. 

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Nov
10

A Guide to the Guide

Let's pretend Parents have already been notified that you are preparing to screen your 2nd-grade classroom with a universal dyslexia screener approved and provided by the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE), see Appendix C, pp. 11-13. You know to do this because you have consulted the 2022-2023 IDOE Dyslexia Programming Guidance for Schools. You know that Indiana schools are required to screen for characteristics of dyslexia in grades K, 1 & 2 because you've had meetings with your corporation's reading specialist, who has been trained in dyslexia, see Appendix A, pp. 8-9. Not only are you required to screen your students, but you are also looking forward to the process because you understand that the results of the screening will yield important information about each of your students.

Perhaps you have noticed one student who mispronounces multisyllabic words, and you know which student struggles to identify words that rhyme. And because you are very attentive you have seen the student who asks a friend to tie their shoes a couple of times every day and you've observed the one who bumps clumsily into desks as he approaches his seat. You've also seen that he still, at age 8 cannot remember if he goes left or right down the hall to get to the cafeteria. So before you administer the universal screening, you know which of your students have traits and classroom performance that already have alerted you and others who work with them. There is data from previously administered universal screenings. You have written, kept and filed anecdotal notes. You discuss concerns with other educators and special services providers, and the reading specialist. All data is part of each child's story. You are ready to screen.

Post-screening, the parents of the students who were not flagged by the screener will be notified, and regular educational programming will resume for them*. The screener flagged six students in 2nd grade as "at risk" or "at some risk" for characteristics of dyslexia. One of the flags surprises you, the others, you expected. Immediately you notify the parents of the six who were flagged on the screening results, with information on your school's plan for Response to Instruction with a program of Multi-Tiered System of Support (RTI/MTSS) and again, a request for permission. You are prepared to begin the interventions as soon as you have the parent's signature. (So today, as you read this, check to be sure of your school's plan for RTI/MTSS. If you are unsure of who to speak with and what questions to ask, prepare yourself with some talking points. Included with parent notification is a consent request form for a Level 1 diagnostic assessment to test for characteristics of dyslexia. As soon as you receive consent, you will administer the Level 1 diagnostic assessment for characteristics of dyslexia. 

As per the requirement in the IDOE Dyslexia Guidance, the school is approaching the 90th day of instruction this year, so you are right on schedule. Buy yourself some flowers, and keep going. You should be regularly collaborating on behalf of your students with the reading specialist for your school corporation. The data you are collecting, as part of the state's Reading Plan, must be reported to the IDOE every year, and the guide tells you exactly which data to include in your report to the reading specialist, who will compile and submit data for your school corporation to the state.

If any of these 6 flagged students, or any others in your class has a current IEP for a specific learning disability (SLD), there are systems in place to help them. Work through the ICAM/IERC NIMAS CCC Forms to evidence a print disability, in this case, a reading disability. The Case Conference may need to reconvene to fill in forms 1, 2, 3a. Form 4 must be signed by the teacher, reading specialist, school psychologist or any one of the professionals named in this list. Then, determine which books the student needs in an accessible format, fill in form 3b, give the forms to the digital rights manager (DRM) and the student can begin using accessible materials from the ICAM. Very soon. 

If a student currently has an IEP indicating the presence of SLDs, they may not be required to participate in the universal screenings, although it would be helpful to create a full snapshot of the child with their strengths and weaknesses. Hopefully, you have attended some of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) trainings presented by PATINS staff, and have explored the Virtual UDL Classroom--this will help you plan whole-group instruction as you meet the learning goals of your students with specific needs related to dyslexia, as well as those of your students who were not flagged, the ones who have resumed regular educational programming. Typical students do not require extra support but it may enhance and reinforce their learning.*

It is SO important that we support our dyslexic learners in every way we can. If you are not yet familiar with the IDOE's Guide get in there. SB 217 is a state law now, and lost time never comes back. We just have to keep moving forward. Contact PATINS/ICAM staff on how to get started, or how to keep going. If we cannot answer a question, we will find out who can. Any of the PATINS Specialists can help you with technology, devices and software. Borrow from the PATINS Lending Library. You entered teaching for specific reasons and then realized that teaching is not a destination, it's a journey. Let us support you as you travel. 

My high school English teacher would scold me for using that cliché. Please forgive me.

Thanks so much!

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Nov
03

"A Volcano of Human Potential"

Dormant volcano with the words "A Volcano of Human Emotion"

Early in September, I listened to an episode of the podcast, Hidden Brain, titled, “Why You’re Smarter Than You Think,” and it really stuck with me. In this episode, a man named Scott Barey Kaufman, tells the story of his classroom experience from his youth. As a young student, he felt that he had so much more to offer in class but was being shut out by his teachers who overlooked and dismissed him as a student with a learning disability. In third grade he was made fun of by his peers for being held back. This led Scott to feeling like an outsider or a “freak” as he called himself in the interview.

As an 11-year-old, he was given an IQ test and put into a school for students with special needs. He later returned to public school in 6th grade as a student with an IEP who attended both general and special education classes. At twelve, he learned of the gifted and talented program. Feeling like this could actually be a place for him, he finally inquired into the program in high school. As a 17-year-old, he was told that his IQ (results from a former test as a 8-year-old) was below average, which did not make him eligible for any gifted and talented classes.

Feeling invisible though he knew he had potential, he continued to sit in his special education resource room as he neared the end of high school until one teacher changed the game. This teacher noticed that Kaufman was sitting in this room looking bored, and she decided to directly question him as to why he was there. 

It was at this moment that Kaufman felt seen and validated for the first time. He finally found someone that saw in him what he saw in himself all these years, and this is my reason for writing this blog. 

All it took in his case was for one teacher to see Kaufman for more than the student sitting in front of her; someone to question the norm. The result? A student that moved into more general ed classes, raised his grades from C’s and D’s to all A’s seemingly overnight, joined clubs and groups, and blossomed as a student who loved learning.

I got chills during this section of the podcast when the host, Shankar Vedantam, noted, “And it's almost like this one teacher, in this one moment, it was almost like a light bulb going off in your head, it sounds like.” 

Volcano erupting.

To which Kaufman replied, “It wasn't like a light bulb, it was like a volcano erupting, a volcano of human potential that had been dormant.”

This is a reminder that you can be the force that helps ignite human potential. By presuming competence and believing in a student’s ability to reach and/or exceed your expectations. By looking at students as more than their test scores. By getting to know your students, their interests, and passions. You may not get the acknowledgement for changing the game for a student in the moment, but how great would it feel to learn in five, ten, or fifteen years that you were the person that changed someone’s trajectory for the better; that it was you that made the difference.

If you know someone that has made a significant impact in the life of a student, nominate them for a PATINS Starfish Award

Reference:

Vedantam, S. (Host). (2022, June 13). Why You’re Smarter Than You Think [Audio podcast episode]. In Hidden Brain. Hidden Brain Media. https://hiddenbrain.org/podcast/why-youre-smarter-than-you-think/ 

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