Aug
13

Change is Good!

A caterpillar is talking with a butterfly. They are sitting at an outdoor table sipping drinks. One says to the other

When the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS) Regulations were added to the IDEA in 2004, three categories of print disabilities were indicated, which deemed a student qualified to receive accessible formats: Visual Impairment, Physical Disability, and the poorly understood Reading Disability resulting from organic dysfunction. 

Say goodbye to all that. Or at least say goodbye to some very archaic-sounding language and its pairing with perplexing policy.

Finally, after seventeen years this language has been rescinded by the Library of Congress, in keeping with new amendments in the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act (MTIA). The changes in this policy are something to celebrate. One of the main tenets of PATINS/ICAM/IERC is the removal of barriers to learning. Now we can demonstrate that without concession. The MTIA has updated terms of who may benefit from section 121; instead of "blind or other persons with disabilities, the term is "eligible person." Then, "eligible person" is defined:

"as someone who is either blind, has a “visual impairment or perceptual or reading disability” rendering them unable to read printed works “to substantially the same degree as a person without an impairment or disability,” or has a physical disability making them unable to hold or manipulate a book or focus or move their eyes to read.   

So, as you can see, the term "organic dysfunction" has been removed from the language.

Furthermore, the requirement for a medical doctor to be the only recognized competent authority for confirming a reading disability has also been changed, or you might say, expanded.

"Eligibility must be certified by one of the following: doctor of medicine, doctor of osteopathy, ophthalmologist, optometrist, psychologist, registered nurse, therapist, and professional staff of hospitals, institutions, and public or welfare agencies (such as an educator, a social worker, caseworker, counselor, rehabilitation teacher, certified reading specialist, school psychologist, superintendent, or librarian)."

Let me repeat: now, the competent authority for print disabilities is the same for all, including the addition of educators, school psychologists, certified reading specialists, and certified psychologists. So, a teacher or other named school personnel, in conjunction with the case conference, is able to confirm that a student presents any type of print disability. 

Write this in big letters and post it somewhere prominent: 

IF THEY HAVE (1) AN IEP, (2) A DETERMINATION OF A PRINT DISABILITY, AND (3) CONFIRMATION BY A TEACHER AS THE RECOGNIZED COMPETENT AUTHORITY, A STUDENT IS ELIGIBLE FOR AEM FROM THE ICAM.

Please don't be wary of this gift from the powers that be. When you see that a student is struggling to read, pay attention. Perform informal and research-based assessments. Screen for dyslexia. Confer with all classroom teachers who are with the student daily, and the special services providers who work with them. Document every assessment, every intervention, and every result. As stated in the IDOE 2021-22 Accessibility and Accommodations Information for Statewide Assessments (p.51), "Determining the nature of the student’s reading challenges can help determine the appropriate intervention approaches, as well as needed accommodations during classroom instruction and during assessments."

The ICAM team has created the AEM Instructional Guide and ICAM/IERC NIMAS Forms Guide for the Case Conference; see p. 6 for instructions on how to include related information in the IEP, and p.9 for AEM and AT Considerations. For another resource, consult Accessible Educational Materials in the IEP, from the Center for Applied Special Technologies (CAST).

Based on scientific, replicated research, it is widely reported that at least twenty percent of the population presents some degree or level of dyslexia. However, only about four percent of school-age students receive special education services for reading disabilities. Some students will respond to Response to Intervention (RTI) that is required by Indiana's SB 217, the state's dyslexia law, without the need for special education services. Some will not. Now we can close this gap, and open the door to literacy.

"By not recognizing shades of gray represented by struggling children who haven't yet failed enough to meet a particular criterion, schools may be under-identifying many children who will go on to experience significant reading problems." This is from Overcoming Dyslexia by Dr. Sally Shaywitz, a book all teachers should have in their toolkit. Also, it is available from the PATINS Lending Library.

If you would like to discuss these significant changes and how they may impact students, and the AEM decision-making process, or information on a tool found in one of these resources,  please feel free to contact me or one of the PATINS/ICAM specialists.

Thanks so much!

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Guest — Glenda Thompson
Change IS good. The approach print disability has been recognized and addressed over the years has certainly come a long way. Th... Read More
Sunday, 15 August 2021 09:29
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May
13

"...regardless of the content we teach, we are all reading instructors."*

Indiana Senate Enrolled Act 217, a.k.a. Indiana's Dyslexia Law provides a strong backbone to reading instruction for Indiana schools. For instance, this bill provides that:

  • screening for dyslexia is to occur at grades K, 1, 2, 3 and after that as necessary, as instructed in the bill 
  • Schools are to use the Response to Intervention (RTI) tiers before identifying the reading deficit as dyslexia
  • Educators are to use an instructional approach that is explicit, direct, systematic, multisensory and phonetic
  • Every Indiana school corporation is to employ at least one (1) Reading Specialist trained for teaching students with dyslexia
Since we know from 100 years of research that 1 in 5 students have dyslexia, the one lone Reading Specialist is going to be very, very busy, particularly in very large districts. How can this be expected? What is the solution to this very tall, broad, and heavy order?

Teachers in all content areas must help fill gaps by embedding literacy in their instruction. Our students are not just learning to read, but learning to learn. All subject content areas require and will naturally accommodate literacy. Following are some thoughts on weaving intentional literacy into your content classes.

Since a textbook is not the only tool, a classroom library built around your content area can be a wonderful addition to learning. Think puzzles, games, models, art supplies, as well as books and worksheets. Math was always my worst subject. Every year I disliked the drab-looking textbook, the formidable-sounding units of study: Fractions. Multiplication. Division. I know I would have benefitted from The Grapes of Math by Greg Tang. Math strategies presented in rhyme? Yes, Please. 

But reading is not just about paper books. Plan to use as much technology as is appropriate and possible. PATINS Specialists can suggest, explain and demonstrate if you need help.

  • Ear-reading is an authentic reading experience. So is using closed captions while watching tv and online programs. Encourage every interaction with print to be what it is: time spent reading.
  • Provide extra everything: Space, time, patience.
  • Provide information verbally and visually, find multisensory methods for learning.
  • Grade on content, not on spelling or neatness. Don't use a red pen to grade papers, don't have students trade papers to grade in class.
  • Instead of returning assignments during class; use homework folders or another more discreet method.
  • Provide class notes, and/or announce that you are about to tell or show something important.
  • Allow keyboarding as well as handwritten assignments, not one or the other.
  • Ask for help to decipher written work, privately.
  • Identify strengths and call attention to those, not to deficits.
  • Some students will not require a structured, systematic approach to reading, or to learning algebra. It certainly will not be harmful and may enhance learning for them as well. If they don't need extra supports, they'll move on.
  • If a student shows 3 or more of these warning signs in your class, talk to the reading specialist, other teachers, principal, related service providers, parents and the student.
  • Relationships are the glue of instruction. Model and require acceptance, helpfulness, kindness, respect. This last point will make anyone's journey more rewarding and much easier.
Learn about helping students with dyslexia: 

Yale Center   International Dyslexia Association

Thanks so much!



* title quote: Rebecca Alber

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Guest — Glenda Thompson
Ms. Martha...your last line is YOUR very model in life... acceptance, helpfulness, kindness, respect. Your writing is easy reading... Read More
Monday, 17 May 2021 13:49
Guest — Martha
Thank you Glenda, for your kind words and great examples of multisensory teaching strategies. Your examples are lined up with the ... Read More
Monday, 17 May 2021 14:09
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Feb
12

Everything You Know


When I was in college there was a tagline my friends and I would use when appropriate and necessary: "Everything you know is wrong." Had memes been invented back then, this would have been a good one. It's a sweeping statement to be used in very specific situations: you know and understand the subjunctive tense, until the test. You know you have enough gas to get to work until you have to call a friend to pick you up. You know that 3 days will be plenty to write a comparison of Beowulf and Jesus. Nope. Everything you know is wrong.

You know by now, as an educator, that you have experienced enough odd surprises that you are prepared to handle anything. Unexpected new student? Welcome. Fire drill in the bleak mid-winter? Okay. Nosebleed in the cafeteria? No problem. 

Then comes a global pandemic. Schools are closed. Teachers are asked to provide remote instruction to not just the 1 student who is home with mono, but to everyone in all your classes. You have to make learning packets because some students don't have internet service at home. Others can get service but have no device. You are familiar with online platforms such as Zoom, but not like this, not the hours of integration and navigation required by day after day of presenting lessons written in the wee hours. You had become quite adept at monitoring IEP goals during classes, you could write social stories on the fly and provide unplanned task assessments just because the student seemed well-rested. Now they are so out of reach. Are they sleeping? Eating? Reading? So much instruction time is lost for all students, how will you and they ever catch up? 

Catching up lost instruction time will not be an equitable process, as described by a recent study released by McKinsey & Company, reported in Time magazine. "While all students are suffering, those who came into the pandemic with the fewest academic opportunities are on track to exit with the greatest learning loss." Preaching to the choir, right?

Education theorists are coming up with creative solutions for this loss of instruction, including a strategy being incorporated in several Massachusetts school districts called "acceleration academy" which focuses on Literacy, Math, and ELL--the content areas where the loss of instruction time is most evident--and provides in-person and remote instruction outside the typical school day, such as during fall and spring breaks, and for several hours on Saturdays. This strategy is having positive results. How We Go Back To School is an informative and helpful eight-part series by Education Week (must be a subscriber) that provides clear, illustrated descriptions of timely issues that educators now must consider: social distancing at school, rearranging schedules that adhere to safety measures, and instructional needs, student transportation, making remote learning work for students, teachers, parents.

The most profound losses may not necessarily be academic and will likely be the most challenging for everyone. Many students have lost family members and friends during the pandemic. Many parents became unemployed, which has led to food insecurity for more families, loss of health insurance, loss of home. Many families who already experienced these particular hardships are now "competing" with many more others for limited community resources. 

A marked rise in domestic violence is a dark response to these losses. Teachers as mandated reporters are often the first to identify possible/probable child abuse, but now, children may have been confined at home with despondent, depressed, and yes, violent adults. Teachers can't report what they do not see. 

And then there's just plain loneliness. Your students are not seeing their friends, not giggling together between classes, or sitting together for lunch. They are not whispering behind shelves in the library or sending silly messages in the computer lab, all the social acts that make school a fun place to be. And they miss you. Their teachers. You are their parents for seven or more hours a day, teaching them subject content and modeling for them how to adult. Then, COVID changed all that.

Those who know me well know that I believe in journaling to help us through difficult situations. I know it works. One doesn't have to be a good writer to keep a journal, and keeping a journal can certainly help someone become a better writer. While I was teaching 7th grade Language Arts, one of their assignments was to write in a journal. They could choose how often, but at least once a week. It was for their eyes only, if they chose. They would just come up and show me the new entry, and they would get a point. Often they asked me to read their thoughts, which was quite helpful in understanding their moods, propensities, and even their appearance. One boy only drew illustrations, which told his stories perfectly. And now, of course, there is digital journaling with a smartphone or iPad. Some of these have a free app, with more features available for a monthly fee.

Our students are living through a historic time. There have been several pandemics and epidemics that have profoundly affected the United States in the last several generations; COVID-19 is the worst because it's here. Now. And it's everywhere. As in-class instruction picks up, no one expects that to be "normal". So we must forgive students if they struggle to pay attention to what we are trying to teach. Support them if they seem distracted and sad. Encourage them to express their fear, anger, frustration, whatever it is, in productive, creative ways. Every day. At the beginning of every class. Whatever it takes. 

Not a bad practice for the adults in the room, either. Because suddenly you may feel that everything you know is wrong. And it is not. You will have to add to what you know, so lean into the PATINS Project--check the PATINS Training Calendar--for tools and ideas you can use immediately. Like adding captions to everything you do. Like overlapping strategies for ELLs and students with SLD. Like creating accessible materials for distance learning, using APPs for sensory and self-regulation, or learning new ways to help the littles participate in virtual preschool instruction. Whatever you need, just ask. PATINS Specialists are magic that way. They will do the research, design the training to fit your needs, then present it all to you so you can increase everything you know.

 

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Nov
13

MackinVia*: Another Path to Literacy

Mackin Logo

*Via: by way of (Merriam Webster Dictionary)

After the long ICAM/Learning Ally partnership was dissolved, many DRMs and educators expressed the same disappointment that PATINS/ICAM felt, and we began the quest for a new solution. By now many Indiana educators know that the ICAM has chosen Mackin, as a source of audiobooks and eBooks for students with documented print disabilities.

Patrons will place a Special Order through the ICAM Web Ordering System for fiction and non-fiction titles, textbooks are not available through Mackin. While Mackin does not provide actual textbooks, it does feature a broad range of content-related titles. The ICAM team has created a training video, Getting Started with Mackin that describes the ICAM ordering process for Mackin titles. Patrons will place a Special Order and the ICAM staff will search for the title.  Patrons can create a free Mackin account so they can log in and search for titles that are available in these formats before they place an order. You can browse by different categories including grade level, interest level, and subject. 

Related content titles can notably enhance a struggling reader’s learning experience. For example, say you are starting a 4th grade Science Unit on our solar system, and you are working from the class textbook. You have a student who is Chafee-qualified to use audiobooks and text to speech. From his IEP we know that this student has an SLD in the area of reading, and as his teacher, you know that he struggles to decode from print. However, this book is not available from the ICAM. If only you could get an accessible textbook! Yesterday! He needs a solution, fast.

You can choose a Mackin title on the Solar System, in an eBook or audiobook platform, at the 4th-grade level, to supplement the textbook. You search available selections and find SOLAR SYSTEM: BY THE NUMBERS by Steve Jenkins. By reading the summary and reviews you determine this to be a near-perfect match for the textbook’s approach. And, it is available as a MackinVIA eBook. Your student can have access for a checkout period or throughout the school year, depending on publisher permissions.

This will help the student in several crucial ways. By 4th grade, sentences are longer and more complex, and multi-syllable words are frequent. Often, students who struggle to decode also experience a working memory deficit; by the time this student has worked through the sound and symbol of each word, recalling the content seems hopeless.

With this Mackin eBook, he will learn the same important vocabulary as his classmates. When he returns to the textbook in class and encounters words like “meteorite” and “asteroid” he will have seen and heard the words before. This will help alleviate his anxiety associated with printed words: They are just words, and he knows them! With the Mackin audio support, highlighting, and note-taking features he will begin to build background knowledge. Then, with teacher support such as guided context cues, repeated reading, and class discussion, his fluency and comprehension will show improvement. Imagine how he will feel, keeping up with the class. This is a powerful confidence builder! 

Next week, November 18-19, is the PATINS/ICAM Access to Education 2020, our annual fall conference. If you are registered, Great! Please stop by the ICAM/IERC Room to learn more about Mackin, and register for an Echo Dot! Registration has formally ended, but if you are just now deciding to attend, please contact Jen Conti at jconti@patinsproject.org. She will set you up, and we hope to “see” you there!

Thanks so much!

 

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Guest — Rita
Thanks for sharing this valuable information!
Thursday, 19 November 2020 20:48
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Aug
14

Whatever Happened to Civics?

My sister Linda is fourteen years older than me. So the year I was born, she began high school. She taught me how to count and sing and write my name and read and spell. There were three more children between us who may have encouraged these tasks, as did our parents, but she took seriously her role as the “older sister”, which was of great benefit to me in many ways, over many many years. And counting.

I loved looking at Sister’s textbooks; they fascinated me. I had only children’s storybooks, with gold painted on their little spines. I loved my books, but her books were great objects of mystery. One of her favorite classes was called Civics*. The cover of the book was dark blue and plain, but inside were amazing, unsettling photographs--a building burning, men arguing in a courtroom, people carrying picket signs in front of a school, soldiers standing at salute, a hand on a Bible, a circle of women raising their fists. I didn’t know what Civics was, but I loved the pictures.

When I began 1st grade, Linda was off to college.
By the time I got to high school, there no longer was a class called Civics. Now we had Social Studies. That class had a nice textbook, with color photographs of people in daily life in cultures far away. Dark-skinned men trudging through jungles wearing loincloths made from animal hides, bare-breasted women in bright woven skirts, carrying babies and baskets of grain. I wasn’t nearly as serious and percipient about that as I’d like to remember. So much giggling. 

We also had U.S. History*. That was largely about our presidents and their backstories, American inventors, the Industrial Revolution. Important to know, very interesting, but I do not recall discussions about why laws were written and passed, or which laws were left up to the states. We didn’t discuss the appropriate actions to take if we saw a Policeman act in a way we felt was wrong. Or the results on future employment and other endeavors after one has been incarcerated.

Linda and I recently spoke of our different school memories, and she said something stunning:

“By the time your generation needed Civics class, they had quit teaching it. Schools stopped teaching teenagers how to be good citizens; how to thrive in and support their communities, their state, our country. The United States was at several crucial crossroads, and while there were strong voices shouting their views and there were few good maps.” *

Hmmm. Perhaps that depended on where one lived? Or if one grew up in a family that discussed current events from an historical perspective

We talked about the political/social icons of my generation, as she was raising young children: the Ban the Bomb emblem (aka ‘Peace Sign’). The red, white and blue VOTE patches we sewed on our bell-bottoms. The Uncle Sam Wants You! posters. The POW bracelets we wore to honor soldiers in Viet Nam who went missing in action. We participated with enthusiasm even though we didn’t fully understand. 

Many of us were not natural-born activists, and our interests ran to football games and dances more than Poli/Sci. Civics class would surely have helped mold our thinking and would have better prepared us for the world. 

The real puzzle is, why was it decided that Civics would no longer be taught in American public schools? Did a committee decide that instruction in our duties as citizens would somehow impede our process of becoming free thinkers?

Five decades later and still America is muddling through the same entangling and destructive social ills as it always has: racism, sexism, classism. Problems that result from illegal immigration, like detainment, family separation, and disease spread due to overcrowded conditions. Climate change, unemployment, income inequality. Disability law, freedom of speech, international travel laws.

These are important issues that depend upon our democracy. We should be teaching students to be informed about the civil rights of themselves and others. Kids should leave high school with a base understanding of how our federal government works, and how their local government works within it. I’m probably not the only adult in the room who has a rudimentary understanding of many such topics. Of course, we tend to become more informed when an issue touches us specifically in some profound way.

So maybe teachers and parents just start talking about it. This is a win-win, as we’ve seen the best way to learn something is to teach it. Discuss scenarios between someone who comes from a place of privilege and an obvious underdog. What unites and divides such individuals? Can this be fixed? Open conversations about racial tension kids may experience or see on the news and discuss ways we can become a solution, not another problem. What values are we purporting, in the ways we interact with certain students, or teachers or parents? We all know we lead by example, so are we setting good ones?

Sister is right. Kids need a map. We can help our kids learn how to help others. How to ponder and talk about hard subjects, and how to navigate the maze of social turmoil by thinking and engaging their friends, schools and society at large. The pandemic is forcing students and teachers to find new approaches to teaching and learning. So maybe this is the perfect time to work a renewed Civic awareness into our lessons, no matter what subject we teach.

Check here for suggestions on engaging children in civic matters, and learn how each of the United States is working toward greater Civic understanding. There is much work to be done.

Thanks so much!

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May
14

Self-Discovery in a Reading Journal

I was talking with my friend Susan last weekend, concerning the coronavirus, social distancing, isolation. It was a fairly somber catch-up between friends whose history began when we were in 1st grade. She and I wondered what we would have done, as children, had we been ordered to socially distance? What if I had been forced by a global pandemic to stay home daily with my parents and 4 older siblings? Or Susan, with her parents and “irritating” younger brother? How would we have survived a prolonged period of not going to school, back to back with an approaching summer without our friends?

A Little Backstory:

Several of my best friends, including Susan, lived in town, a very small town where there was an all-boys military school and a soda shop. I grew up on a farm, where we had horses to ride. On many a Saturday, 2 or 3 or 4 of us would head out on horseback, with our school lunch boxes stuffed with snacks. We would ride the hillsides well into the afternoon, crossing creeks and other farms. Our only responsibility: close any gates we opened.

So no matter who went to whose house, there was fun. Adventure. Freedom. From the watchful eyes of parents, from random shootings, freedom from cyber-bullying, and human trafficking. There are so many social ills that children learn to accept and navigate now, that we never knew. The world was not perfect, but we were fairly removed from social traumas, on the streets of our little town, or riding horses over the rolling hills of Bourbon County, Kentucky. 

As we grew into our early teens, Susan and I liked to go off by ourselves and read books, often poetry, then talk about how what we read fit our lives. We couldn’t tell other friends about this, because it seemed a little weird. Our favorite poet was Rod McKuen-our balm for so much adolescent angst. We listened to the Beatles and read Rod McKuen. Children of the ’60s. 

I wish that we would have had the forethought to write down all the books we read, from childhood ‘til now. I hadn’t thought about Rod McKuen for years; I googled some poems and was taken back to those melancholy years, long conversations with my friend, savoring how we turned to poetry and music during times of trouble. It wasn’t a bad coping method. I am not wrong. Let it be.

So here is a challenge (I know, you need another one, right?) for teachers and/or parents and/or anyone who would like to promote literacy, and to help students see the value in reading, and thinking about reading: encourage your students to keep a Reading Journal.

Framework for a simple Reading Journal

1. Help the student make a list of books they would like to read. Go on Amazon and search books by reading level and write down titles and authors of interest. Or go to the public library if it’s open, and browse. Many libraries now use a service such as Overdrive, if he or she prefers accessible formats.


2. Ask the student to write down their reading goals. For instance, maybe she would like to learn all she can about NASA and the history of the civilian space program. Or he’d like to read books written by Louis Sachar because he loved the Wayside School stories. Perhaps the goal is competitive: to read more books than brother or sister. They could note the begin and end dates, to add to their sense of accomplishment. There is no wrong or right here. They could even skip the goals and just keep a reading log Someone might need to help the little ones do the actual reading and writing, but what a great habit to start! 

3. After each book is completed, have the student write their impressions. This might be a paragraph or a page or several. If a little one tells you about a book that you’ve read to or with them, be sure to record it in their journal, verbatim. Did they like the book?  Why or why not? Which character was their favorite? Some might rather just rate the books with 1 to 5 stars. Then, try to help them articulate their reasoning for the number of stars.

4. The Reading journal belongs to the one reading the books, and they might personalize it with drawings or pictures or collages. I looked at some journals that had been indexed, and many are quite artistic and elaborate. Start simply and the creativity will make its way, the journal will evolve. One who struggles with reading and writing might flourish with audiobooks or text-to-speech, and a nice set of colored pencils.

Keeping a Reading Journal would provide a natural path to the practice of writing and reflecting, and building retention of what is read. It would be a wonderful personal history, a tremendous treasure. A perfect method for Continued Learning.

And now, a few words by a poet from my past to sum up the present:

“You have to make the good times yourself
take the little times and make them into big times

and save the times that are all right
for the ones that aren’t so good.”

-Rod McKuen, Listen to the Warm

Thanks so much!

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Guest — Bev Sharritt
What lovely memories, and a delightful window into your past! Any kind of journaling right now, seems like a great prescription fo... Read More
Thursday, 14 May 2020 16:14
Martha Hammond
Thank you Bev. I agree, journaling is always good and especially now.... Read More
Friday, 15 May 2020 13:57
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Feb
07

Print Disabilities 101: Q & A

We’ve had several questions recently concerning print disabilities and how to identify students who may have them so that we can appropriately intervene. Keep those coming. Repetition can be quite clarifying, particularly when the language is so tangled and acronym-laden. 

Can a student qualify for specialized formats through the ICAM if they are a “struggling reader?”

We would like to say yes, but it’s not so simple.

The ICAM was created to assist Indiana public schools in meeting the NIMAS regulations. To qualify for ICAM services, 2 items are required, with embedded functions.
  1. The student must have a current IEP.
  2. The Case Conference must indicate in the IEP the presence of a print disability, which must be confirmed by a certified competent authority. In addition, the IEP must indicate that the student has at least 1 of the 13 disabilities recognized by the IDEA that impedes his or her learning. This will be the disability for which the student is receiving special education services.
Can a student receive special education services with a documented print disability?

Print Disability is not one of the 13 Disability Categories under IDEA. The term “print disability” refers to the functional ability of a student who qualifies for special education services due to 1.) low vision/blindness, 2.) physical disability or 3.) specific learning disability and for whom print is a barrier to learning. 

The print disabilities are:

a) low vision/blindness, b) physical disability, and c) reading disability resulting from organic dysfunction. 

Word for word, a and b are in the IDEA list. “Reading disability” is alluded to in the list, as 
Specific Learning Disability, and is indicated in the IEP with a qualifier: "Specific Learning Disability in the area of reading".


What is meant by “organic dysfunction”?

The print disability that seems to cause the most confusion is c) reading disability resulting from organic dysfunction. Organic dysfunction refers to structural differences that lie in the neural pathways of the brain. 

Why is a doctor’s signature required for this print disability and not the others?

The IDEA established that doctors are the ones who can best determine the presence of organic dysfunction. We do not necessarily agree with this; it seems those who witness the student in a reading situation, such as an educator, would be the better authority here. Our hope is that this part of the law will be amended. 

Dyslexia is the most frequently identified reading disability resulting from organic dysfunction.

What is NIMAS and what does it have to do with print disabilities?

The IDEA 2004 added provisions for students with print disabilities; these are the NIMAS Regulations. The National Instructional Material Accessibility Standard is a file standard that is used to create braille, large print, audio and digital formats, the specialized formats for students with print disabilities.

If the student has a print disability, an IEP that documents this, and confirmation by the competent authority, then we say they are Chafee qualified to use previously published work without seeking copyright protection. The Chafee Law has its roots in the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled Library of Congress.

May my student with other types of disabilities receive AEM through the ICAM?

Students with any of the disabilities on the IDEA list may qualify for AEM through the ICAM. For example, first on the list is Autism. A student with Autism is not automatically Chafee qualified or disqualified. However, if the Case Conference Committee (CCC) determines that the student also presents a Specific Learning Disability in Reading then they may be Chafee qualified. This goes for the other disabilities in the list as well. 

So, a student is qualified for special education services by a disability recognized by the IDEA. Then, the CCC determines that print is a barrier to learning for the student and that by using the appropriate specialized format, the student can learn from the general curriculum.

Once a student has been identified with a print disability, then on the IEP, how should I answer the question, “Does this student require AEM?”

The answer to this question will always be “Yes.” A print disability and AEM will always work together. The CCC has tools to help determine which AEM may best benefit a student. To learn more about these tools, contact a PATINS Specialist

The IEP says that my student has a print disability and will benefit from audiobooks. Isn't this giving them an unfair advantage over the other students?

The answer to this question will always be "No." Print is a barrier to their learning, hence the term “print disability.” Audiobooks remove the barrier and bring their reading up to grade level and beyond. Then, they can truly benefit from their education. This is called “Ear Reading.” You would no more take this away from a student than you would their prescription eyeglasses.

While reading this you may have formulated more questions, so just ask! We love to help teachers unravel issues that help students.

Thanks so much!
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Guest — Glenda Thompson
So many valuable resources you have provided us readers all in one post for quick reference. TYMM (Thank you Miss Martha) ... Read More
Tuesday, 11 February 2020 12:44
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Nov
01

Just Before A2E: Farewell to Glenda

Later this month the PATINS Project will host the A2E Conference at the Crowne Plaza in downtown Indianapolis. This will be the 9th State Conference, as we used to call them, in which I’ve participated. All PATINS/ICAM is looking forward to this, and the excitement is building.

No one is ever sorry that they’ve attended one of our conferences. Again, this year’s event is packed with relevant, enlightening breakout sessions that feature national and local speakers who are considered experts in their fields. Continental breakfast and lunch are provided on-site, which of course means the networking need not stop!  There will be 4 Keynote Speakers this year—please view the keynote addresses topics and conference schedule here.

This will be my 1st conference that has not been prepared, organized and executed mainly by Glenda Thompson. I remember my first conference; all day long people were asking “Where’s Glenda?” “Have you seen Glenda?” “Did you ask Glenda?” And throughout the days I would see her blonde hair and friendly face making the rounds, taking care of things effortlessly, efficiently. I’ve seen this at every state conference, Tech Expo, staff meeting, or any other occasion we are together, that requires materials, food, planning and oversight. This organizing and implementing is her element, ONE of them, and when she is in ONE, she is a force. A presence. A capable, strong and comforting support who knows how to keep things evened out and moving forward.

I know everyone at PATINS/ICAM would agree that Glenda kept day to day operations of the Project running, with a good heart and a generous spirit. Oh, the times she has let me in after the deadline passed! The times she said sweetly, “No worries. I’ll fix it” after I’d submitted a form incorrectly…Again. Her text messages asking if I’d gotten home alright after an event; Glenda knows I have a long drive home and a poor sense of direction. We are all so blessed to have had Glenda show us by example how to be professional and personal, busy and calm, efficient and tolerant, even welcoming of interruption.

I’ll bet she will be thinking of us for those 2 days in November. Is all the technology set up and working correctly? Is the signage in place? Name tags ready, breakfast set up? Do our speakers need assistance with any little or big thing? For lunch, does the kitchen have special meals prepared and labelled? Are over-flow chairs needed in any of the rooms? When Glenda awakens on November 20, I’ll bet she gets a familiar flutter of nervous energy before she remembers.

And Glenda, we will be thinking of you too. Don’t worry. A2E may experience some glitches without your skilled hands in charge. Still, it will come to pass positively and many people will go back to their schools armed with new strategies, techniques and technology for their classrooms.  You left us with a model of how these days should go and in this way, you will be our guide and help. Thank you for that, and years of unsurpassed commitment and service to this project.

I miss you, my friend. Talk soon!
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Guest — Vicki Hershman
Very nice written tribute to Glenda. Wishing the very best for her and the project as both move forward!
Saturday, 02 November 2019 10:17
Guest — Glenda Thompson
Just before A2E..indeed. The excitement builds for presenters, attendees and PATINS staff. Even the Crowne Plaza is abuzz with a... Read More
Saturday, 02 November 2019 11:22
Guest — Rachel Herron
Glenda was the glue and I am so glad you took a moment to honor her! Beautifully said, Martha!!
Saturday, 02 November 2019 12:58
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Jul
25

No Shelf Life On Learning

On the first day of school, thousands of students will arrive at schools, carrying their newly stocked backpacks, some may be wearing new clothes, and all of them will be hearing an internal dialogue that will be positive or negative, depending. Depending on many things. We all know how that works.

Of these students, approximately 1 in 5 will also show up with  a reading disability that requires expedient and effective interventions. At risk of sounding like a 1-string banjo, my reference is to dyslexia. Indiana Senate Law 217, a.k.a. “the new dyslexia law” is now officially implemented. In case you did not spend part of your summer reading Overcoming Dyslexia (Dr. Sally Shaywitz) or becoming an Orton-Gillingham-based scholar by other methods, do not feel discouraged. There is no shelf life to learning. And if you did spend time preparing for the requirements of this bill, kudos to you. As you know, there is an endless supply of knowledge on dyslexia to be gained.

Take every possible opportunity to learn something about dyslexia. Open the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, leave the website open and during the day whenever you have a moment of peace, read something. Share what you learn with your colleagues, ask questions, trade tricks and tips. As your understanding of dyslexia builds, so will your confidence and competence for guiding students’ paths to meaningful learning. 

Become familiar with the information and resources that are posted on the IDOE: Dyslexia web page. Joseph Risch is the Reading Specialist trained in Dyslexia for the state and will make sure that guidance posted there is relevant and current.

Dyslexia is a reading disability from organic dysfunction but not all students in this category will qualify for ICAM services, which requires an IEP.

If a student has already been identified to receive special education services and has a current IEP, or if this identification is made in the future, then that student may receive specialized formats of learning materials through the ICAM. Please contact the ICAM team for details and support.


This will include a free subscription to Learning Ally audiobooks. Digital formats, particularly audio formats prove over and again to be a leveling tool for struggling readers. Before changing the company name to Learning Ally, it was known by RFB&D, Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic. Learning Ally by any name has always understood it's target, and the staff works to develop pertinent products that help students experience success. 

Create more than one way to teach what you teach. Design lessons that work through multiple pathways to the brain. Teaching students with dyslexia fits perfectly in the UDL-Universal Design for Learning-- framework. Contact a PATINS Specialist for help in presenting your content through the lens of UDL.

Plan to use as much technology as is appropriate and possible—iPads, audiobooks, spell-check, text-leveling, text-to-speech, speech-to-text. Let AT and AEM help you help your students. Again, the PATINS team can offer suggestions and answer questions. All PATINS Specialist love technology and love talking about it-Just ask! Invite them to your school! 

Know that if an approach or strategy is good for teaching students with dyslexia, it is useful and appropriate for all students. They may not need that extra support but it will not impede their own learning process in any way. For them it will be another layer to learning. 

Know that there will be class periods or even days that you feel overwhelmed and impatient. Step back, take a break, use self-calming techniques. Look at the big picture, then move forward. The steps to implementation and understanding the nuances to IN SB 217 will not be easy. However this process will be rewarding to you, and life-changing for your students.

In your classroom, model acceptance, kindness and respect; require the same of everyone who enters. When students feel safe and know their input is valued, essential learning will happen. 

Thanks so much!


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Apr
18

Accessible Media Producers and Specialized Formats: A Primer

This information is available online and the ICAM staff talks about these issues often. There is always confusion, understandably, so let’s give it another run through.
  1. NIMAC - National Instructional Materials Accessibility Center:
  • Created by IDEA 2004, NIMAC is a federally funded, online file repository of source files in the NIMAS (National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard) format. Here, authorized users (the ICAM is an authorized user) can access more than 52,000 K-12 NIMAS files for use in the production of accessible formats for students with disabilities. Digital Rights Managers are trained on the process of ordering materials, many of which we obtain from the NIMAC. A digital file received from a publisher does not automatically mean that the file is accessible. All files that are sent by the ICAM to the end user are accessible. The NIMAC tweaks the digital file to create an accessible NIMAS file and they are used to make the specialized formats such as braille, large print, ePubs, accessible PDFs, etc. When searching for an ISBN title, choose Search ICAM/IERC.
  1.  APH - American Printing House for the Blind:
  • Dispenses materials and products designed primarily for people who are blind or visually impaired, including accessible aids and equipment for age 3 through grade 12. Individuals must be approved and registered through the Federal Quota Program. You will hear us refer to that as the APH Census. Aids and equipment refer to items ranging from low-tech to higher-tech items such as raised line writing paper, talking calculators, video magnifiers, math manipulatives.
  • The Louis Database is the APH File Repository. They use NIMAS source files to produce learning materials in digital and hard-copy braille and large print and digital text files for e-readers. Materials are ordered through the IERC (Indiana Education Resource Center) via the ICAM online ordering interface. Search ICAM/IERC.
  1.  MAMP - Miami Accessible Media Project:
  • MAMP was established in May of 2008 through the collaborative efforts of the Indiana Department of Corrections, the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired/IERC and the IDOE (Indiana Department of Education). They provide quality braille, large print and other accessible educational materials transcribed from NIMAS files, whenever possible, for qualified students in Indiana’s local schools, in a timely and efficient manner, while providing a skill to the offenders that will increase employment opportunities thus reducing recidivism. Materials from the APH and MAMP are ordered through the IERC via the ICAM ordering interface: Search ICAM/IERC.
  1. Learning Ally:
  • Provides the largest available library of human-read textbooks, popular fiction, and literary classics. These are human-voice recordings and, therefore, are not available upon demand. Volunteer readers must audition and be trained. For textbooks, readers are matched with the subject content, for a more relatable, natural listening experience.
  • Learning Ally audiobooks are not made from NIMAS files. However, since the ICAM was created to help Indiana LEAs (Local Educational Agencies) adhere to the federal mandate of the NIMAS regulations, and because of a long-standing partnership between the ICAM and Learning Ally, we include these audio files in our on-line integrated ordering interface.
  • Learning Ally, as its own entity, can provide audiobooks to students who have a 504 plan; the ICAM cannot, because of our inherent link to the IDEA.
  • Individual memberships currently cost $135 per year, per student. If you become a member of Learning Ally by private purchase, you still must provide evidence of the print disability, documented by a Competent Authority. In this case of a reading disability such as dyslexia, this may be specific school personnel.
  • Due to the Learning Ally/ ICAM partnership, we provide this membership for free for students who have an IEP and documentation of a print disability. For a student presenting a reading disability such as dyslexia, this documentation must be provided by a medical doctor or doctor of osteopathy, as per the NIMAS regulations of the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) 2004. Materials are ordered through the ICAM interface using the eBook search.
  1.  Bookshare:
  • Has over 700,000 titles of textbooks, popular fiction, children’s books, vocational resources, as audio files, audio with highlighted text, digital braille and large font. Free for students with qualifying print disabilities including dyslexia; requires confirmation by a Competent Authority which may be school personnel-special education teacher, school psychologist, and others.
  • When the ICAM cannot find a book for a student from the NIMAC or Learning Ally, we search the Bookshare library and let you know if your book is available there. It is important to consider that Bookshare files only come in a digital voice and many students might benefit from a human voice option, particularly in the lower grades.
Further considerations:
  • PATINS/ICAM is a grant-funded service designed specifically for the state of Indiana public schools. Our grant is made available to us largely because of data we provide, the statistics of how many students and schools we serve, how we serve them, then the results of that service. Our trainings: Free. The use of the lending library: Free. Learning materials obtained through the ICAM: Free. Hardware obtained from our Refurbished Technology Program: Free. The advantage of the areas of expertise by staff Specialists: Free.
  • When materials are ordered through the ICAM, we provide ongoing support that is personalized to your needs. If the individual you contact feels someone else can better assist, we connect you. We work closely with the MAMP and the IERC staff in this way as well, to be sure that concerns for students with print disabilities of any nature are not overlooked. This type of attention is largely missing in an organization that is the size of Bookshare, and even Learning Ally, except because of our partnership with the latter, ICAM Specialists can fill in service gaps there as well.
  • When determining the best-specialized format for a student, the consideration should never be based on what is most expedient for the adults in the room. The goal of the Case Conference should always be to provide the best possible learning solutions for our students.
Thanks so much!


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Guest — David Jackson
Martha - Thanks for the refresher!!!
Monday, 22 April 2019 09:15
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Jan
03

Happy New Year!

You maybe haven’t thought about it but we are 8 months away from the implementation of IN SB 217, the dyslexia law. I think of it often. I have this fear that the 2019-2020 school year will arrive and there will be those who have not prepared and are not sure where to begin. Don’t let that happen to your school. If you haven’t already, begin working toward success now as we inch towards implementation. It is not too soon, even if students with dyslexia have not been screened yet, to consider accommodations. I know, all students are different, yet there will be certain strategies you will go back to again and again.

During the PATINS Access to Education Conference 2018 in November, I entered a session where the topic of accommodations was being discussed for students with learning differences such as dyslexia. The presenters were speaking on the importance of providing text to speech software, audiobooks, and other tools that “level the playing field” for certain students.  

Someone commented that in her classroom, she was reluctant to allow the use of tools that others do not have, because “it’s not fair.” The presenter quickly pointed out that what is unfair is to deny accommodations for a student who needs them, because they are not available to the whole class. Rick Lavoie has said, fairness means that everyone gets what they need, not that everyone gets the same thing. Or, as the presenter said, “Would you take away a student’s eyeglasses because others have perfect vision?”

Making accommodations so that all students have access to content and opportunities for growth is, in effect, changing individual learning environments. So, if you create each student’s work environment according to how each student learns, you are providing appropriate accommodations. Also, you are building universally designed instruction. This is a natural flow. To keep yourself from getting swamped, think of some accommodations you can beneficially provide to everyone.


For example, when you give an assignment, make it very explicit. Tell how many pages are required. Demonstrate how to extract the pros and cons of a viewpoint. If using specific vocabulary words is required, hand out a separate list of the words to everyone, so all students can check them off as they go. Show examples and visual aids of what you expect. Allow students to ask questions and clarify until everyone understands gets it. If a student returns to you to revisit the instructions, this is no time to say “I told you once.” Everyone should understand the assignment before they begin and as they move forward.

Which leads to the matter of drafts, or revisions of writing assignments. Thinking back to my school days, turning in a couple of drafts for teacher suggestions and re-writes was offered for “term papers” in high school. This would also be helpful on everyday assignments because it will help improve grades for strugglers, and it will help students get in a habit of checking over their own work. This is a learned skill, best taught early.

Allow extra time for in-class assignments. For everyone. Once you know your students, and know which ones do not need extra time, it might be appropriate to pair that student with one who needs more support. Even if your school does not implement a Peer-Buddy System, teachers can improvise one informally during specific classes. Until the teacher and students get the hang of this, the teacher will need to closely monitor the process. Expect such pairings to be advantageous for both students, for it can increase awareness of difference and sameness, tolerance and helpfulness, confidence and trust. Win/Win!

Everything suggested here will take time. Sometimes, if a task is not a standard, or not required, the time factor may seem unjustifiable. However, we are changing learning environments to accommodate students with dyslexia and we are long overdue.

Any of the PATINS Specialists can help you build a learning environment using Universal Design. Also, we post relevant information on the PATINS/ICAM Dyslexia Resources Page, and the IDOE continues to share guidance on their own Dyslexia Resources Page. Joe Risch, who is the new Reading Specialist with Training in Dyslexia for the state, gives some great answers to need-to-know questions. You are covered in a blanket of support. Happy New Year!




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Guest — Katie
Thanks for continueing this important discussion, Martha!
Thursday, 03 January 2019 20:15
Guest — Glenda Thompson
Great post, Martha. I'm grateful you are keeping this in the forefront of our minds.
Friday, 01 February 2019 15:23
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Oct
04

Knowledge is Power

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month. October 15 is World Dyslexia Day. People all over the world will be wearing red to celebrate awareness. This may be a terrific way to introduce our state’s new dyslexia bill to your classroom, or even the whole school: encourage everyone to wear red. Maybe ask everyone to learn and share one fact about dyslexia.

A frequent grievance from students who have dyslexia is that other students tease, berate and bully them. Those bullies are acting out of unfamiliarity of reading disabilities, and there is only one way to fix that; educate them. Ask them for support. Point out the obvious: some of us are good at golf, some of us are good at baseball, some of us enjoy working with technology, some of us are artists or dancers or mechanically inclined. That does not make one better than the other, just different. Perhaps, this is the first thing to talk about with your students when you begin the dyslexia conversation.

A common objection from teachers is that very soon (July 2019) they will have to be skillful in early identification of dyslexia, and then able to provide effective, science-based instruction, when they themselves have not been trained in these areas. It’s true. I’m certain that “dyslexia” was never mentioned in my own education. As more states, 39 so far, pass laws for teaching learners who have dyslexia, such as our Indiana SB 217, colleges will have to better prepare pre-service teachers with reading instruction that is explicit, systematic, sequential, and cumulative.

The more parents know about dyslexia, the more they will understand how to advocate for their child.

The more teachers understand about dyslexia, the better they can justify their needs for professional development to help them improve instruction.

When students with dyslexia receive the instruction and support they need, the more success they will experience.

“A teacher educated about dyslexia can be the one person who saves a child and his/her family from years of frustration and anxiety. That teacher can play a pivotal role in changing the whole culture of a school. Remember, it takes a village to raise a child and a village of advocates to raise a child who struggles.” - Dr. Kelli Sandman-Hurley

Other Helpful Resources:

Reading Horizons Overcoming the Dyslexia Paradox

International Dyslexia Association-Perspectives on Language and Literacy

IDA Dyslexia Handbook: What Every Family Should Know-Free Download

Solution Saturday-October 6 2018
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Jun
27

While U Wait : You've Got This

Indiana’s new dyslexia bill will be implemented by the 2019-2020 school year. That will be here soon, you know how time flies. The IDOE is responsible in the bill for an Indiana Dyslexia Resource Guide, that will explain which trainings, screenings, and personnel requirements are approved for Indiana school corporations and charters. This will not be immediate due to personnel changes at the IDOE, and everyone there will be working in overdrive to meet time-sensitive challenges ahead.

While we patiently wait for directives on matters related to IN SB 217, a good plan would be for all educators to use the 2018-19 school year designing best practices for a dyslexia-friendly classroom. Which after all, is simply a student-friendly classroom.

Following are a few ideas to get your wheels turning. These suggestions are based on what we know after more than 100 years of research.
  • Addressing the learning needs of students with dyslexia is the responsibility of all teachers, not just those who teach reading. Communicate with other teachers to be sure you are reinforcing effective classroom strategies.
  • Teaching strategies used with students who have dyslexia will benefit all students.
  • Get in the habit of keeping classroom notes on students. If a child makes errors on the same tasks time after time, write it down. Whenever you notice areas of academic and/or behavioral struggle, make a note of it: who, what, when, why? This will help you determine how to help students. Expect some trial and error.
  • Allow the use of assistive technology for reading, writing and math.
  • Allow extra time. Students with dyslexia use 5 times the effort to decode words than typical readers, and often re-reading is necessary. They may also experience delayed word retrieval. Make time allowances during in-class assignments.
  • Do not over-correct written work. For instance, if there are multiple misspellings, mark only the most important to learn, such as high-frequency words. Too many x’s and circled words feel like so much ridicule to an overwhelmed student.
  • When you want students to read aloud, ask for volunteers. Please do not force anyone to read, or recite facts, or write on the board in front of the class.
  • Do not have students trade papers for grading.
  • In early grades, have a number and alphabet strip taped on each desk. This will cut down on memory work for those who need it, and the ones who do not need it will ignore.
  • Have a digital and analogue clock in your classroom, set together. Whenever you need to point out the time, use both clocks. Students with dyslexia will be able to tell  time with the digital; they will need the analogue to understand.
  • To accommodate differences in language processing speeds, slow down your speech, use basic sentence structures, and pause to allow students time to think. There is a difference between lecturing and providing plenty of opportunities for students to practice listening.
  • When you notice learning differences, look for the gifts. What tasks are he or she especially good at? Be sure they have opportunities to show what they know. Are they artistically or musically or physically talented? Nourish that. Students with dyslexia are fully aware of their reading deficits, you won’t need to point out those.
  • Encourage them to demonstrate their knowledge in ways other than as you typically require. Universal Design for Learning is something worth striving for. So is a student-friendly classroom. 
This intensified awareness of students and enhanced instruction may seem burdensome, redundant and may feel like an added drain on your time, energy, and resources. Which it may be, in the beginning. Perhaps you can also see it as the exciting challenge that it is, and take it on with confidence and enthusiasm. You’ve got this. 

Please contact PATINS/ICAM for further assistance with classroom strategies, creating universally designed lesson plans, using digital and audio formats of textbooks and popular fiction, and information about dyslexia resources. Thanks so much!
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Guest — Glenda Thompson
Great insight shared ...I especially liked the note about the two clocks side by side and why. Thank you Martha.
Wednesday, 27 June 2018 18:54
Guest — David Jackson
Thanks for sharing! These are great points. I plan to share with teachers!
Thursday, 28 June 2018 07:41
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Mar
15

Life all comes down to a few moments. This is one of them. *Pivotal Legislative Changes for Dyslexia

Recently, IN SB 217, which concerns schools’ response to dyslexia, passed through the Indiana Senate and House. This bill takes a huge step forward in addressing a problem that has the potential of negatively impacting lives of our students throughout their school years and beyond.

The good news for Indiana school corporations and charters is that the tenets of the bill are to be met no later than the 2019-2020 school year; scarcely more than a year from now. Of course, this time will not be spent idly, but rather in preparation for the ensuing changes in instruction, school personnel, and attitudes. Following is a skeletal outline of what will be required of schools in IN SB 217.  
  • At CCC meetings, on IEPs, and on your school’s website, start talking about dyslexia. Everyone should know by now that “if we just ignore it, it will go away” is a negligent fallacy. Talk to other teachers about what they are seeing in the classroom. Get familiar with dyslexia, get comfortable talking about it.
  • Use the IDOE-approved system of supports to address the reading needs of students that present characteristics of dyslexia. Be careful not to spend too long in a tier if it’s not working for the student. Time spent ineffectively addressing dyslexia is time wasted, and studies have shown that a poor reader in 1st grade has a 90% chance of always being a poor reader. Interventions that are timely and effective increase opportunities for academic and life-long success.
  • Obtain parental consent before screening. This should be no problem. When I speak with parents about this, they are hungry for solutions; they want honest discussion between teachers and their families, they want their child screened, they want outcome driven interventions, yesterday. Last year. Two grades ago.
  • Dyslexia interventions may include certain types of instruction. So vague, but so easy. The research is in and we know what works here: instruction that is Explicit, Systematic, Multisensory and Phonetic. If your instruction curriculum does not include these, let us help you find one that does.
  • By July 1, 2019, each school corporation and charter must employ at least one authorized reading specialist trained in dyslexia. Depending on school population more than one may be necessary. Begin making the decision on who will be designated as soon as possible, and find a certification program.
  • IDOE will provide professional awareness information on dyslexia to each teacher in each school corporation and will develop and update an Indiana dyslexia resource guide. Lean into the support they will provide.
So, there it is. If you regard IN SB 217 as an overwhelming addition of copious amounts of work, that is completely understandable. But allow this outlook to exist only for a couple of days. We all know how fast a year passes. This is so much to pull together, but you can do it! Your students need you to be successful, so they can be successful.

The ICAM will support schools as they serve students who have a current IEP in several ways. We will provide a membership for them to receive human voice recorded audio books, some that are accompanied by text: textbooks, children’s books, literature and novels. Also, we will provide NIMAS files, the digital format of their textbooks to use with text-to-speech software, and ePubs. These specialized formats are pathways to adding a multisensory element to your instruction. It’s not the whole multisensory component, which uses all learning pathways at once—visual, auditory, kinesthetic, tactile-- but should be regarded as a substantial piece.

Also, we have a growing collection of dyslexia-related books and other resources in the PATINS Lending Library; you may review titles in ICAM Dyslexia Book Resources. There are a few articles in Document Resources you may find helpful, and on the Dyslexia Resources page there are webinars, websites, a dyslexia screener. We will be adding to and updating these pages as we continue our research.

PATINS/ICAM Specialists are happy to come to your school to present real classroom solutions that can be immediately implemented, even customize a presentation to address specific needs of your school or corporation as you adapt to the changes IN SB 217 requires.

We are here for you. And for the starfish.

Thanks so much!

* "Wall Street"
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Dec
18

Unexpected Gifts

Last weekend while out shopping for a perfect treasure to give my husband for Christmas, I wandered into a thrift store and began perusing the book collection. We need another book in our house as much as we need another seashell. Which is to say, not at all. We have a rule now, “bring in 1 book, get rid of 1 book.” No problem. For the book I purchased, I will gladly bring to the thrift store a whole box of books!

The book is The Technique of Teaching, by Sheldon Emmor Davis, Ph.D. (I googled him, he was quite a prolific author in the field of education.) The copyright date is 1922. It’s a small book — 4.5 X 7.5, with a dark blue hardcover. The gold lettering on the spine is no longer readable, except for the word Teaching. I took the book from the shelf and opened it, and I have learned.

The book has seven chapters. Chapter One echoes the title: “The Technique of Teaching”, and is, of course, an overview. The next 6 chapters explain how to teach Spelling, Reading and Literature, Composition and Grammar, Arithmetic, History and Geography. All that in 336 pages!

Because of my interest in supporting students with dyslexia, I wanted to go straightaway to the chapters on spelling and reading. On the way there I came across several important gems: “We are teaching pupils, not subjects.” True. “Learning is attention.” Check. “Emotional response (is) important.” Yes. “Belief in pupils (is) essential.” Wow. I don’t remember discussing teaching in such direct terms when studying for my teaching certification. Are these ideas too obvious to mention?

The Teaching of Spelling chapter still is pertinent to the methods of instruction prescribed for dyslexic learners: systematic, explicit, phonetic, multisensory.

For instance, Dr. Davis wrote, “For clear impression the assignment may require writing words plainly, syllabication, copying in the air and upon paper, pronouncing aloud individually and in concert.” The language is dusty, but concise. He wrote, “The degree to which a given child or class may be visual, auditory, or motor minded we may not know, but the teacher who makes the multiple sense appeal is on safe ground.” Which is an accurate plan for using a multi-sensory approach in teaching spelling.

Under a heading called Repetition with attention, Dr. Davis wrote that since spelling can be monotonous, keep study times short and focused, and use different types of drills to keep it interesting. He spoke of using reasoning to help teach spelling, such as the rules for vowels depending on their positions in words. “One who is led to discover the reason for persisting e in singeing, tingeing, or hingeing is far more likely to be using economy that the child who mechanically masters each word. For he has a key to the situation even when he encounters a word he has never studied.” The spelling of hinging has been changed (Dr. Davis also discusses spelling changes through history), but his method of teaching spelling involves using a tactic that is systematic, examples provided.

In Chapter 3, “The Teaching of Reading and Literature”, Dr. Davis begins to discuss phonetics in a substantial way, with examples of learning activities that at first sound archaic, until I began to understand their brilliance. For example, the teacher or students might create a tool called “winding the clock.” A phonogram (ick, ock, ore) is placed in the center, think of the point where the clock hands connect, then 12 consonants or consonant blends are placed instead of numbers, for students to make real or nonsense words. As Dr. Davis points out, the student should meet the sight words first: “After the pupil know at sight can, man, hand, and others of the same family, it is not difficult to focalize his attention upon the phonogram, an.”

Does this book utilize explicit instruction? Absolutely. The author describes how to make different types of card decks, and how to use them. His methods and activities, or “devices” are easy to understand, often with practical advice: Use of Objects and pictures. “Use of objects is one of the surest ways of introducing the ideas for which words stand. This is experience gaining rather than reading, but necessary nevertheless.”

This is not a handbook for teaching dyslexic readers, and not once is the word used. If you are an educator you should by now have your own copy of Overcoming Dyslexia by Dr. Sally Shaywitz, even if you teach content other than reading and spelling. Because as Dr. Davis wrote, “Every group doing written work is a spelling class.” As teachers, reinforce one another, every chance you get.

Indiana now has IN HB 1108, the Dyslexia law, and educators are being called to address the 1 in 5 in meaningful ways. Which means you may be required to attend trainings to help you teach. Hopefully, that will be the case. I have heard the big sigh, and have been told by a few individuals that “This is just too much, with all else I have to do. “I get that.

But help is all around you. There are resources in the PATINS Lending Library: books, software, hardware. The ICAM provides free memberships for your students to receive Learning Ally audiobooks-all they need is an IEP and documentation of a reading disability. There are trainings to attend here in Indiana. You probably have some very good resources in your possession now. Don’t wait to be trained to begin helping struggling readers. Use what you have until you get what you need. Let us help!

Happy Christmas, Everyone!



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Aug
24

The Vision of the Project

Recently I helped my husband work a concrete pour. This wasn’t our first pour together, and like all the times before, we were nervous. He had already prepared the environment: cleared the building site, built the forms, bent and placed the rebar and supported the forms with clamps and stakes. We were pouring a 4-foot wall, about 100 feet long, to support the hillside and allow Tom to begin his newest building venture.

Pouring concrete is very hard physical and mental work, fast-paced, even frantic, especially if there are not enough people. One of the workers we had hired cancelled at 11:30 p.m. on the Friday night before; no time to find a replacement. So, there was the man who drove and operated the concrete truck, my husband Tom, our friend Ed, and me. This could put us in the category of “not enough people.” We talked about the stress this would put on all of us, and decided to go ahead.

For a job such as this, everyone works together as a team, yet someone has to be in charge: that person assigns the specific jobs, provides the tools needed for each job, and goes over the instructions, answers questions and invites input, then goes over the details one more time. The mental challenge is to manage what is happening in real time, to anticipate what is about to happen, and to know when to step in and help your co-workers without neglecting your own tasks.

My job was to guide the “elephant trunk”, the canvas sleeve attached to the chute which puts the concrete where it needs to go, to re-direct any spillage, and to communicate to the driver: “Hold up” or “Bring it on.”  Ed stood above the forms with a long pole which he used to tamp and shake and settle the cement as it filled the forms, and he shoveled overfill to underfilled areas. Tom followed up with the “finish work”: the screeding and floating, which levels and smooths the surface, and helped Ed and I as needed. This was roughly a 2-hour job, it seemed like 30 minutes, and we never stopped moving, from start to finish.

As it is with working concrete, so it is with the SETT Framework. Developed by Joy Zabala, the Director of Technical Assistance at the Center for Applied Special Technology, this is a valuable tool that collaborative teams may use to create the best learning environment for each student. SETT is an acronym for Student, Environment, Task and Tools, and provides an outline for the gathering of student information. This is a great starting point for designing instruction for each of your students. A friend and previous co-teacher of mine uses the SETT outline this way:  She fills in the info for each student during the first couple of weeks of school, as she is getting to know and understand each child. Then she sorts the outlines by their similarities, and this helps her determine who goes where for small group instruction. Brilliant!

The PATINS Specialists can help you determine the best tool-a.k.a. assistive technology- which will effectually fit the needs of a particular student. They can suggest software, show you hardware, and demonstrate how it is used. Maybe there is an item in the Lending Library that you would like for a student to try. And of course, the ICAM should be your first stop for specialized formats when you see a student struggling to access the curriculum. We can explain the federal mandate to provide specialized formats, describe each of those, and advise you on the requirements for obtaining specialized formats of print instructional materials and related content.

Last Saturday, Tom referred several times to the “vision of the project.” It was not just about this 4-foot wall we were pouring, it was about the tiny home that will eventually be, which will provide needed shelter for someone in a peaceful setting.

Remember the vision of your project will be realized when your students move forward on productive paths because you have created the best learning environment, have given them meaningful tasks and the tools to complete the job. This is our vision too. We are here to assist you every step of the way.

Thanks so much!
 
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May
22

She’s Always Been a Procrastinator; Didn’t Get Her Birthmark Until She Was Six


For many of us, procrastination comes naturally. Eventually, if one is a good procrastinator, one will learn to determine safe times to practice our postponing ways. For me, that means when no one else will be affected or offended. For instance, if I can just spot in the deferred task/phone call/research/hand-washing in the sink at the last minute, and I am sure the outcome will not be negatively altered, I will put it off. Many of us can work well and accomplish much when there is not much time left. It’s a gift. And a curse. There is anxiety. Self-reproach. Embarrassment when we are observed.


Here’s an example. Last weekend my husband was irritated because I have not yet renewed my passport, which, he insisted, had to be completed in the 10th year, by my birthday. So, Saturday I needed to get to the post office before it closed to have a photo taken and file the renewal paperwork. I called the P.O. to confirm closing time and learned that my birthdate was not the expiration date, necessarily. Voila—my passport is valid until August. I was so happy. I stacked up my renewal documents and put them back on the shelf. Tom: “Well, you should go ahead and do this, while you are thinking of it. Since you are ready to go.” Me: “No, I’ll do it later. There are a hundred other things I need to do right now. I really wanted to weed my flower beds this morning, and now I can.” His look showed his dismay. 

If you are a good procrastinator, you know that you can bake the complicated cake the night before the party, and if doesn’t come out, you can run to the bakery and buy one. If you put off hemming the pants and the date to wear them arrives, there’s always tape. If you do not go shopping for the wedding gift, you can pick up a gift card on the way to the shower.

The discriminating procrastinator knows the other thing too. Some things demand and deserve our immediate attention, because otherwise there may be a financial penalty. Because we have signed an agreement. Because someone depends on us to take care of things.

If your child, or one you teach, shows symptoms of an illness, you get help, you let someone know. If that child exhibits developmental delays, you initiate due process and take other steps to accommodate their learning needs.

If your child or one you teach is obviously bright and inquisitive, yet he or she struggles to decode spelling words, misspells wildly, puzzles at age-appropriate multi-step directions, you know there is a problem. If you notice a student has an odd way of counting time on an analog clock, holding a pencil, or remembering something you are sure they had learned, think of Dyslexia. First. Please do not put this off. Children do not grow out of reading disabilities, and timely, effective intervention is the key to their catching up.

Talk to the parent. Did the child struggle to learn to tie her shoes?  Did he or she talk/crawl/walk late? Do they seem extremely stressed when the room is too warm, when they are ill or when they are tired?

These seeming dissimilar traits could be connected to the brain differences apparent in individuals with Dyslexia. If what you are seeing really is dyslexia, the worst thing you can do is to wait. If you begin interventions, and it becomes obvious that what this child is experiencing is not dyslexia, then, no harm has been done. All students will benefit from explicit instruction, audio books and other multisensory supports. They may not need those reinforcements to read well, but if a student needs those and they are not provided, they then are set up for present and future failure.

A general overview of issues surrounding dyslexia will help you help your students. Knowing what to look for at each age/grade level is a very good start, and this website, Understood is a great resource to help you decide next steps.

Please do not put this off. There are tiny little faces depending on you to get it done.

Thanks so much!



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Feb
02

Social Stories in the Classroom

Recently a friend, an educator, asked me for advice on a student with autism who was sweet natured, but lacked friends because he was a grabber: of food, milk, books, toys, whatever he wanted, he grabbed, and his classmates disliked him. I suggested using a social story. She was unfamiliar.

When I first learned about Social Stories, it was as though I had discovered pencils; here was a simple tool that could have profound effects in my classroom that included 4 students identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).Carol Gray developed Social Stories in 1990 as a tool to help individuals with ASDs respond to others and to situations more appropriately. More complex stories may be used with higher functioning students, however my students were younger and still learning basic skills, in many cases, with limited support from home. I had participated in a full-day workshop of strategies for reaching students with ASDs, and social stories were my light-bulb take-away. Implementation was immediate.

One afternoon I met with my classroom assistants for several hours of brainstorming. We discussed frequent stressful situations and wrote social stories for those. High stress times were: upon arrival at school, before lunch, before bus-boarding, intercom announcements, and any occurrence that was out of the ordinary, such as a whole-school assembly, or a fire or tornado drill. Other situations included another student having a meltdown, being asked to end a preferred activity, or being presented with food that was not a favorite, at breakfast or lunch.

We used positive words to guide the students to appropriate behavior; for instance, instead of saying “When the bell rings I will not throw a fit” say “When the bell rings, it is time to go home.” Writing the stories for the students was fun, and we shared a few good belly-laughs as we
wrote stories for each other! Following is a story for a 4th grader.


When the Bell Rings

When the bell rings, it is time to go home.

I will keep calm and quiet.

When I go home, I can play with my dog.

First I will put my books in my cubby.

Miss Patty will help me pack my backpack.

I will get my coat.

I will get in line behind Teacher. I will walk to the bus.

I will keep calm and quiet.

When I go home I will see Mama and play with my dog.

Stories can of course be personalized: My name is Charlie. When I go home I can play with (my dog) Hank. More generic ones may be used with several students, for our class we decided that was best in many cases. We typed, printed, and laminated the stories we created, and filed them in a basket on my desk. Once we began using them, we’d find them everywhere at the end of a day. A story would be grabbed in a hurry, read with a student, and left behind. I found them with the corners chewed, damp, sometimes stuffed in a desk. It did not matter—the stories worked, by preparing students for changes ahead, limiting outbursts, and giving them some power over their behavior. We were fairly consistent in recording behaviors, which should be done to measure progress. In addition to the stories for recurrent issues, my assistants and I became quite proficient at writing stories off-the-cuff, as needed. If you have card-stock paper and a Sharpie pen, you can write a story in a minute. Later you can add pictures and make it look nice.

I talked to the General Education teachers about the stories, and we designed stories for behaviors they saw when my students were with them. One of the teachers had a cd and license for Boardmaker, this was another life-changer, since my students preferred stories with pictures. I had also used free resources from Do2Learn and am happy to see they’ve expanded services and added color to their web site. When you click a heading, look for the green tabs: Free Area. There are printable symbol cards, teaching resources and more.

Of course this sounds like old-school. Now there are on-line resources, and many of you may be using these. And some of you may be like me, and will have a head smacking moment.

There are myriad social stories on YouTube --just search on the social or academic skill you need to address. You will want to preview the stories before presenting to your students; some are just too long; some characters may have an annoying voice for a particular student. Social stories are great for teaching skills such as sharing and taking turns, as well as more complex issues such as expecting a new baby in the home. Check out One Place for Special Needs and Small Steps, Big Skills from Sandbox Learning; the latter provides options for designing individualized stories by creating student profiles so the child in the story physically resembles the student.  

The use of digital social stories requires planning, preparation and time. For example, after you preview and choose an appropriate story, you will need to upload it to the student’s device. If you personalize it, there is another step. Some may find it is effective to use a combination of digital and hand-designed social stories. You may want to review a few guidelines before you begin, and soon you will be able to execute a story quickly for nearly any situation. Parents will also find social stories helpful for home-life skills, so please share your resources.  

On a lighter note, once I began writing social stories for my students, I would sometimes find myself in circumstances where I felt that adults could use a social story: Can you imagine when you encounter a grouchy or inattentive server while eating out?

When I Have a Customer

My name is ______.

I work at Nikko’s Cafe.

When I have a customer, I will be helpful, patient, and kind.

This is my job.

When I do my job nicely, we all feel better.

Social Stories could lead to a kinder, gentler world. Which could start in your classroom!

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Nov
11

Improving Outcomes

The students ranged in ages from 6 to 10. I looked at the IEP for each student, it was fairly bewildering. Four still wore diapers. Four had no spoken language. Four had Autism. Four had to eat a soft-food diet. Four used a wheelchair as their primary mobility. One boy had a warning written in a black sharpie pen:  Paralyzed! Blind! Deaf! Developmentally delayed!

There were eight students. Seven boys, 1 girl.

As you can see, there was much layering of disabilities.

During our interview, the Principal told me I was the 5th teacher he had interviewed for this position. The other 4 had said “No thank you.” They walked out. School would be starting the following week. He was nervous.

I said yes.

This would be my first year teaching, after graduation. I had completed a one-year assignment as a substitute for a class of 10 boys, EBD and LD. That too was a not very ordinary situation, but this made that look fairly benign.

I received an emergency certification to teach students with Multiple Severe Disabilities, and off we went.

By Christmas I was exhausted. The commute was 105 minutes one way. That was my sitting time because once I arrived, I never sat down again until I got in my truck to go home. Sometimes I was surprised to turn in my driveway because I didn’t remember driving. Every morning I arrived early, got their breakfast from the cafeteria, and ground it up in little food processors. Those boys arrived at school hungry!

Only one of “my” boys was on a Graduation Track. He was very bright, and had severe Autism. The rest would, each year, receive a social promotion, and were expected to attend school until age 21. As I got to know the children, as we worked together and I began to see their hidden potential to learn, by the end of the year I felt like the "social promotion track" was appropriate for only 3 of the students. Now, with improved outcomes for students due to increased emphasis on best practices including UDL, effective modifications, research-based interventions and nationally recognized allowances, I might feel differently about even the most disabled student in that class. The one who came with a warning.

According to an article in disabilityscoop, the national graduation rate of students with disabilities rose to almost 65% during the 2014-2015 school year, which was the fourth year of consecutive growth. In 2005, approximately 35-40% students with disabilities graduated high school. I remember discussing this in a class. It was quite bleak. A 25% increase is something all educators should be proud of, but it’s not time to put our feet up.

In Indiana, in 2013, 87% of the Senior class received a diploma, 69% of Seniors in Special Education did, according to Education Week. For a good breakdown of special education outcomes in Indiana, including statistics on post-high school engagement in college and job-related activity, please see this supplement: Indiana State Highlights 2015 Special Education Landscape. If you love statistics and comparing numbers, you will find this fascinating.

Indiana is fortunate to have a unique system of supports to help you serve your students with disabilities: the PATINS Project, the ICAM, and the IERC.

Together we make educating fun, real, and effective. Our team of Specialists are always available to assist you with services and tools and methods designed to improve outcomes for students, and to point you in another direction if needed. We are, however, only part of the equation.

Last week at the PATINS State Conference, I had the opportunity of meeting many educators who were overflowing with enthusiasm and hope, a genuine love for teaching, and a deep desire to do that well. You are the reasons our students continue to enjoy improved graduation numbers, which leads to improved lives.

We cannot thank you enough.
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Jul
13

The Value of Human Connection

Years ago while I was finishing up my master’s degree, I was also substitute teaching. Which may put me in the category of Wimp-I know many of you continue your education while teaching full-time. I salute you for that.

I had a 6 week assignment to teach a 2nd grade class during the teacher’s maternity leave. It was a dream. Teacher had left concise lesson plans and extra activities to be used as needed, for every day. So once I learned the children’s names, we sailed. We were able to follow her plans exactly, the children kept up their hard work, it was clear they missed their teacher, and wanted to make her proud of them. They were used to that.

There were several students with an IEP, 5, maybe 7. The classroom accommodations were well chosen and easy to follow, and Teacher had left me personal notes about the children’s preferences and quirks. When one was pulled out for the resource room or a related service, they knew exactly what to take with them, they were cheerful to go, and to return. They were very nice, very well-prepared children.

Of course if your absence is sudden, this kind of preparation is likely impossible. When I complimented Teacher on making this experience seamless, she said, modestly, “Well, I did have several months to get this ready for you.” I would come to learn though, that her preparation went way beyond concise instructions and great lesson plans for the sub.

Every morning I would greet the students at the door. I remember those sweet little faces, and it’s one of the things I miss the most about not being in the classroom: those shiny happy little faces in the morning, usually with a story they wanted to tell.

The children would hang up jackets and backpacks and put away personal belonging, sort their homework papers in specific boxes, and then they could go to centers while they waited for the bell. I loved to quietly hang out around the classroom and listen to the conversations during this morning transition.

One tiny little girl wanted to take care of everyone: if someone sneezed, she got them a tissue. If someone coughed, she patted their back, if someone was sad or disappointed, she supported them: “It will be all right. Today at lunch, you can sit with me.” Both her parents were nurses, Teacher had written, “she will remove her shoes and give them away if someone asks for them.” She told me to “intervene as needed.” This one had vision in only one eye, and wore very thick glasses. She was a heart-stealer.

One little boy was noticeably sullen and gruff, but soon I saw that he was very sensitive and often had his feelings hurt by the more outgoing children. Eventually, I won him over with smiles and attention, and learned that his parents were separated. He was with this mom during the weeks, and with his dad on weekends. His sister, who was in middle school, did the opposite: she stayed at their dad’s apartment during the week, because it was closer to her school, where she was involved in cheerleading and clubs. Then she came to their mother’s home on weekends. They saw each other for just a little while during this child-swap, and sometimes a parent would take them both for ice-cream or go shopping. But, he really missed his sister. I emailed teacher, she knew of the separation but did not know his sister had moved. She would communicate with mom.

Even while caring for her new baby, Teacher wanted daily updates on her kids, wanted them to know she was thinking of them. Her love for these children was a major support in their lives. She sent me emails of encouragement to share, and pictures of her baby sleeping.

It was clear that these young students had been infused with certain competencies that would, I hoped, stay with them throughout school, college, life: The children possessed a level of self-control that was obvious when they waited their turn, raised their hands to speak, and did not constantly nag me, “just a sub” to get a hall pass for the restroom, go to the nurse, or call their mother. Their class had a schedule for certain activities, and usually no one made requests to vary from that. I had subbed for older students who were way less mature!

They were decision makers. For instance, to choose a center, they had to remove a tag from the wall, for the center they wanted to play in at a given time. There were 5 centers, and no more than 5 students could be in a center at the same time. Also, they could not just move from center to center. This was understood, and although sometimes someone might show brief disappointment when a friend could not choose the same center they were in, every child would interact with anyone else in the center. They had to choose, they knew to follow the rules.

Most of the students presented a sense of autonomy. Now and then someone would have a “moment” or a little “meltdown” but largely these students knew who they were and why they were at school: to learn. There was a little girl with mild CP, who obviously moved and walked differently from the others. She wore it well, so her physical differences were accepted by the others. For instance on Fridays after lunch, I would write sentences with errors for them to correct. She would come on up in her jerking little gait, and do her work like everyone else, unembarrassed. If she dropped her dry erase pen, she would awkwardly pick it up and move on. She got applause, like everyone else, and she expected it.

This classroom experience was wonderful for me as a beginning teacher. Teacher insisted she had great kids from great families, but I learned from conversations with others, the PT, SLT, and the teachers on my hall, not all of the kids came from stable families. There were divorces, a jailed father, couple of addictions, some domestic abuse. What I’ve come to regard as “normal traumas.” Teacher saw what was lacking and endeavored daily to fill in the gaps. She developed relationships with the parents where she could, and especially with her students. They trusted her, she valued their trust, and they learned from her that even if things at home were imperfect, there are codes to living in the world away from home that will allow us to experience success.

These were 23 small people learning to navigate a big world, and it was fascinating to be a part of that from a different perspective: not as a parent, and not as a constant figure in their lives. In fact it made me sad to know I might never see them again. But for thirty days I developed relationships with nearly 2 dozen little people, who knew how to do that because of an exceptional teacher who understood the value of human connection.

Rita Pearson:  Every kid needs a champion
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