Common Core and IEP Accomodations!

Shovel the rampCommon core has spawn conversations regarding IEP goals and alignment. Now that most states have adopted common core, it is time to have the conversation about how IEP teams will move students academically.  The answer lies in accommodations!  The IEP team’s first step is to understand the student’s disability and its impact on learning academics. Once the team has a clear understanding, then accommodations will only be limited by the team’s creativity.

The best place to start is by looking closely at the student’s disability and utilizing the evidence found with the psychological testing report, academic testing report, work samples, teacher interviews, and student interview. These five components will paint the picture needed to understand the student’s disability with academics. If the IEP team doesn’t start with data, then they are apt to miss opportunities that will be needed for thinking about and writing accommodations. Continue reading

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Healthy Relationships Workbook

HR book coverI am so happy with the amount of attention our multimedia workbook called Healthy Relationships is receiving. This workbook was designed for special needs adults. The lessons that are taught in our workbook have to do with developing friendships and relationship while maintaining safety at all times. What is great about the workbook is it comes with a CD ROM that allows the reader to complete the lessons over and over again. With the CD ROM the reader can decide if they would like the text read out loud.  This option allows the reader to use the workbook independently.  The workbook also has interactive drop down menus as well as text boxes.

Michelle Garcia Winner, Social Thinking, is highlighting information from our workbook during her up and coming conference tour 2014-2015 and our workbook will also be for sale on her book table.

In addition, this month our workbook was reviewed at www.  check it out!

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Special Educators Have More than the Typical Teacher Responsibilities!

diana 1Every new school year is stressful; despite the fact that I love and look forward to new beginnings. Stress, if not properly managed, easily causes me to feel incompetent and overwhelmed. There are just so many variables to consider at the start of the school year, and juggling is not always my forte.  Managing new students (and parents) that are added to the existing caseload, new teaching responsibilities, scheduling meeting, learning new forms along with other IEP responsibilities, is daunting. I am out of breath and haven’t yet mentioned teaching and classroom management.

Over my thirty-years of teaching, I have discovered some strategies for managing the start-up craze. First of all, make contact with all the new parents on your caseload and share with them how to best get in touch with you.  Ask parents how they are best reached and what form of communication they’d prefer.  Always remember that parents aren’t your enemy, they are your partner.  Next, begin to set a calendar of all meetings for the year. Confirm dates selected with providers and begin to provide parents with meeting dates and times.  The goal should be that by the end of September, all of the annuals and triennials meetings should be calendared for the year.  Committing to scheduling meetings will ensure a smooth school year and alleviate anxiety. I promise that less than one percent of your meetings will change if you provide parents with advance notice. Continue reading

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Carol Burris: Poor Teacher Evaluation Systems Will Not Improve Education

It is so difficult to base teacher performance on test scores that teachers don’t even have access to until after the student has been promoted to the next grade. Typically, we get state results long after the student has left our classroom. It is also unfortunate that as a society we feel that it is necessary to form some sort of measurement that results in punishment/failure instead of inquiry and change. In my District, there is some forward movement for sharing weekly test/quiz scores among teachers with “timely” data and improving delivery processes based on data. I believe that this system of accountability will ultimately be more effective.

Diane Ravitch's blog

Carol Burris, principal of south side High School in Rockville Center, New York, writes here about the multiple flaws of test-based teacher evaluations.

At an Ed Trust celebration, Duncan told the crowd, “But we can’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good. We can’t let the utopian become the enemy of the excellent. And we can’t let rhetorical purity become the enemy of rigorous practice.” I do not have any idea what the third admonishment means, but I doubt Arne needs to fear that his rhetoric is pure.

So it came as no surprise that when he spoke of Tennessee’s teacher evaluation plan, Mr. Duncan praised the state for “not letting the perfect become the enemy of the good”. The teachers of Tennessee, however, are not seeing the new system as “the good”—they are, for the second time, suing the state because the system is, in their eyes…

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The Plight of an Instructional Aide

Instructional-AssistantI love working with special needs students.  In fact, I love it so much that I often recognize when a little more work might be needed on a topic/lesson and so I take it upon myself to go that extra mile. The consequence is that during the school year, I might just work an additional hour or two at night on my own time.  Many teachers ask me for my opinion, and I am grateful. I feel appreciated and a part of the process. It is always nice to be included and be valued for my opinions.

I believe that instructional assistants should have a voice. After all, we are part of the team carrying out the IEP goals and consequently, have insight on student achievement and motivation. After eight years of being an aide, I finally learned that the most powerful gift that I can give my students is faith, words to express their feelings, and the opportunity to respect who they are even when they are at their worst. I believe what I am doing is empowering students with a sense of belonging and significance.

Please consider the instructional assistant an asset to the classroom and realize that we are just as invested in the student as the other members of the staff that touch their lives. I am in it for the kids!


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Fun Apps for Your Special Needs Child!

Comic LifeAre you looking to maintain social communication skills this summer? Social communication skills include interpreting how others are thinking in addition to what they are saying.  Children need to be encouraged to look at facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice in order to read how a person is feeling and thinking. This skill can be practiced using common apps. Creating projects with visual scenes can be both fun and easy.  There are many apps on the market that are user friendly that your child can use while letting his/her imagination go wild. At the same time he/she will be practicing social language skills.

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 Let Summer Begin!


images (2)How many times have you heard yourself or another person say, “I’m ready for summer?” Let the truth be told, my students are ready! Many students have shared their family plans for vacation and they are extremely excited.  Whatever your plans are for the summer sometime should be spent on reading, writing and math. In order to prepare for summer, now is a good time to think about a routine that will allow you to incorporate academics in a positive way.

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There is an I in TEAM!

womanI was the I. When my son turned three he was entered into the area school district with the diagnosis of Autistic or on the Autism spectrum. Whatever they want to call it, it has changed a few times since: Autistic, Asperger’s high functioning, on the spectrum and now we have processing disorder.

Nevertheless, I attended my first IEP meeting to hear what the team determined was the best route for my son’s educational placement. To my surprise, I felt like a complete moron!  I am a college graduate, at the time I worked at UCSD hospital and I did my job well. Hey, on many occasions during the night shift, I could be found in emergency surgery cases. I am well educated and extremely competent.

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April is a Wake-up Call!

2 28 IEP Cover (2)How is your student performing in school?  Did your student have a good year both academically and socially?  If not, request in writing an IEP meeting to address your concerns.  So often many parents wait for the fall and prefer to just ride the end of the year out.  Instead, request a meeting now and make adjustments to the IEP, so that the year ends on a positive note.

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Five Ways to Make IEP meetings Seamless!

  1.  Build effective communication: Most recently I was assigned testing a student 2 28 IEP Cover (2)for special education services. Prior to the formal meeting to discuss findings, I invited parents to a pre-meeting to educate parents on specific vocabulary that they would be hearing in the meeting, ways to interpret scores from tests both standardized  and scaled scores as well as what they would experience with behavior scales.

I began the pre-meeting with some history of who I was both professionally and personally. Parents shared the history of their child’s education and their academic concerns.  They also shared their hopes and personal interests. We discussed and agreed on the best ways to communicate effectively and respectfully.

I reviewed my academic assessment as well as the psychologists report. We discussed         qualification for special education services being a team decision.  Parents left the  meeting informed and had an opportunity to do their own research prior to the initial formal meeting.

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