Thanks for the Memories!

As you have probably heard, I will be retiring soon.

I want each one of you to know that it has been a privilege and a pleasure to work with you. I have admired your expertise, appreciated your generous assistance, been inspired by your dedication, and enjoyed the camaraderie of our Team.

People - including my husband and children - have often asked me why I am still working late into my retirement years, and I want to share a little story with you which might explain that.

I was born in 1946, when wounded, weary nations were still marching up to tables to sign the Peace Treaties of WWII. The women who had built airplanes and tanks, produced top secret maps for our war rooms, and helped to crack enemy codes were going back home to their children. And the military men who had survived were returning to the workforce to take their jobs back - including my father, who had spent 18 months in a NAZI camp after his plane was shot down over Germany. Women had been a necessary, but temporary, war-time filler in the workplace. Only one woman in my family continued to work; most of the women in my community never pursued a higher education, and many never even drove a car.

By the time I was in high school, the idyllic post-war years had erupted into chaos. Kennedy and Khrushchev were squaring off like nuclear gun slingers while grim citizens built bomb shelters in their basements and back yards. Civil Rights activists were marching. Vietnam War protesters were burning flags. Hippies were embracing free love and LSD. Women were burning bras. Girls were suddenly attending college in droves - and not to major in Home Ec. Even so, it was understood that a young, educated woman would stop working as soon as her first child was born, and would only work again if her husband died. And the trio of jobs considered acceptable for nice Catholic girls were nursing, teaching and becoming a nun.

When Spalding University's Psychology department offered me my first paying job, working with disadvantaged children in a Neighborhood House on Market Street (Louisville's notorious red-light district), my horrified parents threatened to wait outside the school building and drag me into their car to prevent me from holding that job. My long, difficult campaign to maintain the right to work in the fields of my choice continued for years, and created rifts in my family that never healed. I have always considered it a right worth fighting for to be able to earn my living, and a gift to be able to earn it doing the things I loved.

Discomfort with women in the workplace was still widespread. At one job interview, in a LAW OFFICE, after answering the usual questions about my marital status (single) and my faith (Catholic), I was refused the job with the explanation that I would just be spending the rest of my life having babies and they had no interest in paying me for that. A friend of mine, who was pleasantly plump, hid her pregnancy from our employer until the baby was born, because they would have dismissed her immediately if they had known, and she needed the job.

Each time we transferred to follow my husband's career, I started over - working as a display designer, a newspaper reporter, a retail manager and interior designer, an employment counselor, a computer operator, a system owner and corporate trainer, a computer programmer, a graphic designer, a secretary for the Methodist Church, a member of a day treatment team in a mental health facility, and in between, I helped install quarry tile in a Chrysler plant. Once, to pay a medical bill, I temporarily added a second shift - tossing the pepperoni onto the pizza in a pizza plant.

Juggling marriage, children and work has often been challenging for me, as I am sure it has been for all of you, both men and women. But the struggle to be a part of the workforce has always paled beside the excitement of being able to participate in the fascinating, powerful changes which that workforce has created and ushered into our world.

Now, I pass the banner on to you. I hope your chance to be a part of it all will bring you as much joy as it has brought me.
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The Dog Days of Summer

June, July and August! Three reasons why many individuals became teachers in my generation (or else as a means to avoid the draft). Three months of R&R!! No worries about lesson plans, IEP’s or behavior problems. The alarm clock was turned off! Days were spent outside enjoying summer! Projects long neglected during the school year were able to get some attention. The deck could finally get stained! Landscaping projects were completed! But all good things had to come to an end. Soon days were added to the school year, summer professionalsun wearing sunglasses development activities were added and the carefree three months of R&R were history! Then balanced calendars were introduced and school began in July. Summer soon became abbreviated.

And lets face it summer in Indiana is very unpredictable. Hot and humid one day and grabbing a jacket the next. Certainly not the picture perfect summer, but much better than snow! While you are enjoying the days out of the classroom think of some ways that you can bring some R & R into your classroom for the fall. Rejuvenate and Reenergize! There are a few simple things that can be done to prepare for next school year. (I would personally suggest doing these things on those rainy summer days.) Blow the dust off the powerpoint presentations that you used last year. Run the accessibility checker on those presentations. Tag the clipart and graphics. Make your presentations truly accessible! Become adventurous and create some You Tube videos to help reinforce key concepts that you teach. Just remember to caption those videos to give access to everyone! (It is a simple process.) Get a little adventurous and check out some new websites, apps, or extensions that can assist your students in becoming successful learners. You will be amazed how quick any of the above activities can be to accomplish.

The rewards for your efforts? Teacher materials that are truly accessible! Students who will become engaged in learning! Students who will be exposed to multiple means of representation! Students who will become active learners!

Just like you I am hoping for warm, sunny days and some R & R! I do know that professional development activities will be sprinkled in among neglected home projects in order to be rejuvenated and reenergized for the fall. And, like you, I will find time to enjoy the alarm turned off and all that summer has in store for me! Enjoy the warmth! Read (or finish) that book! Enjoy time with family and friends! HAVE A GREAT SUMMER!!!!!!

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It's a crutch!

Admiral Ackbar Meme It's a Crutch!“It’s a crutch!  If we let students get by with listening instead of reading, how will they ever learn to read?”  This or some similar phrase has been heard or said by many of us.  One word in that quote jumped out at me.  Crutch.  When did that become a negative word?  It’s a noun, not an expletive! What is so bad about a crutch?  Crutches allow people to walk unaided who would otherwise need assistance.  If a student has a broken leg do we want them sitting around doing nothing until it heals?  What if it doesn’t heal?  Is that it?  Are we going to tell them to sit there while we place things across the room for them that they need and then fail them for not getting up to get them?  The organization
Crutches 4 Kids describes the reason for their work, Crutches help children access school giving them the opportunity to learn and become productive members of their communities..  Their slogan, “A Pair of Crutches Changes Everything” is just as applicable to us as educators.  

Using assistive technology to read digital material to a student has many titles.  Among a few are: Audio Supported Reading, Auditory Learning, Text to Speech and Reading by Ear.  What this refers to is having the words read out loud with the support of highlighted text.  crutch2.0

There is a history of Audio Supported Reading use in conjunction with braille to increase the speed and accuracy of reading in students who are blind or have low vision.  New research is beginning to show similar results for students who are struggling readers.  By scaffolding a student’s ability to decode difficult words they become capable of decoding the meaning behind the text faster.  This leads not only to greater comprehension but increased concentration and motivation.  Through the use of
Don Johnston’s uPAR testing software some of the PATINS AEM Grant Teams were also able to see a change in the comprehension level of their students over time who had access to Audio Supported Reading as a part of their reading support.  This is so exciting!  

Let’s talk UDL!  What was once a negative is now a positive.   In the past it has been hard on teachers and students when assistance has been given to one student but not all others.  Who hasn’t heard, “Why does he get that and I don’t?  I want that too!” and “I don’t want to look different.”  Audio Assisted Reading has many plusses for all!  For instance:  You want to assign your students research on the process of presidential elections.  The articles on the internet will contain words that not all good readers will understand.  This is the point of learning.  It is supposed to contain some things that are new to you!  By using a text reader for some of the more difficult words, a student can avoid skimming over them and missing the deeper understanding of the topic.  I used it to read the CAST article cited below.  It helps me concentrate and read slower so that I can focus on the content and meaning instead of just finishing the article.  I also used it to read this blog post out loud to me to help proofread.

Research:
The following article is a good beginning for understanding the basis in research and Education Law for the use of Audio Supported Reading:

Another good read on this subject can be found in this 4-part article. http://www.readspeaker.com/does-text-to-speech-technology-help-students-learn/


Some of my favorite crutches are:  

There are many more, including some that come standard as a part of the computer or tablet!  

Some internet sites have it built in.  Look for symbols like these:
button for text to speech button for text to speech button for text to speech


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Curly Locks & The 2 Dimples

Curly Locks & The 2 Dimples
As a young girl, “Oh my goodness, look at those curls; and those dimples nearly swallow your cheeks!” were words that she would hear often from strangers.  One day, she even slipped and fell face flat into a mud puddle at a public park.  Clearly, the mud was what swallowed her face AND her embarrassed tears; but what she heard was, “Not even a speck of mud in those dimples,” from the lady who came to help her.  All she really wanted to hear was, “Are you ok?”...because she wasn’t.

Growing up, she quickly realized the smile that would create those dimples, was like a magic cape that would make her invisible...even when she wanted to be seen. Many acquaintances, friends and even teachers knew that behind the facade of a beautiful home, lived the girl who could not possibly be “ok”...but no one ever asked.

When she entered her high school years, a teacher realized a pattern in missing days at school...and the teacher asked, “Are you ok?”  The young girl froze in surprise of the question, looked at the teacher and smiled…”Yes, of course I’m ok.”  Her “magic cape” allowed her to vanish in plain sight once again with her grades slowly faltering.  Her barrier was the inability of verbal expression under intense stress, fear and/or anxiety.

While she was a typical student in the mainstream classroom who could speak and read and write text, this story makes me think of all of the students that come to classrooms daily from diverse backgrounds and needs...each one with their own form of a “magic cape.” With that in mind, working to create a universally designed environment (UDL) may seem like a daunting task when working with students with disabilities and/or emotional & behavior disorders. How are those students able to access what they know or how they feel if they are unable to access that communication in the way that they need? I would like to focus on one of the UDL principles- “multiple means of expression.”  


Behaviors happen for a reason and they can adversely affect a student’s educational performance.  Some students would rather have a physical or emotional outburst or shut down completely when asked to do a task in front of the classroom- before they will EVER let their peers know that they struggle with reading or completing what seems to be a simple math problem to most.  Some students may be repeatedly told in various ways that they are not smart; which in turn causes them to disengage academically and socially.  Not all students can express what they know or how they feel verbally.  What about our students who are nonverbal?  Not all students can express what they know or how they feel in written text.  What about our students with physical disabilities?  

At times, we get so caught up in what is in front of us, whether it is the disability, the behavior or even the dimples- that we avoid or forget to simply ask, “Are you ok?” A simple gesture that when asked, we must provide various ways for our students to respond in a way that best fits them.  A few examples are verbally, written, text-to-speech, drawing, recorded response, AAC, pictures, etc.  

Getting to the core of what is creating the behavior and addressing that with your student, can certainly assist in avoiding what I like to refer to as the behavioral domino effect.  Dominoes in lineMeaning, when one falls without being caught, it lands on another that falls, which lands on another, etc.  Before you know it, you have a whole line of new behaviors.  If you have ever lined up dominoes to create the chain reaction of falling in a pattern, then you know that if you want to set them back up...you have to set the very FIRST one back up that fell.

Let’s help our struggling students KNOW and FEEL that we care and that they CAN achieve great things.  Sometimes that IS the most important thing they need to know and understand.

For those of you who may want to know what happened to “Curly Locks & The 2 Dimples,” I do not want to close this blog with a story half written.  A teacher did ask her AND her entire class one day a simple question in the form of a writing prompt:  “Tell me something that you think I would never guess about you.”  The young lady wrote and she wrote and she kept writing...  

If you were to ask her if she is “ok” today...she will offer you a real smile, with no magic cape and now verbally respond,  “Absolutely.”  I can answer for her with complete confidence...

...because she, is me.
Drawing of girl in grass

 
 
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The Timely Manner

drawing of an antique looking stop watch
"TIME"  ...the indefinite continued process of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole.   

Yes, I looked up the definition.  I had a couple of reasons and you're right again, the first was in desperate attempt to understand how in the world it was possible that NINE other PATINS bloggers had beautifully taken their rotation already and the arrow points directly at me again!  If you haven't already read the previous 9 wonderfully written blogs by the PATINS Coordinators, you're missing out on a wisdom that I'm confident you won't find elsewhere.  I started this blog process in hopes that you might gain some insight into the brilliant minds of the PATINS Coordinators. However, I admit that I was promptly put in my place, week after week, as every single one of them have posted nothing less than magic in the form of words.  I've personally been inspired by each of them.  

Second: my limited and rapidly transfiguring attention was recently drawn, by a colleague, toward a conversation that was happening online.  A question was posed online to the world of "us" regarding "Timely Manner."  My colleague and I experienced very different INITIAL reactions to this question posed online and I want to talk about that a bit, because I think the same sort of variety in reactions likely exist in the field.  

From my professional perspective, the majority of the time, "timely manner" typically refers to Accessible Educational Materials and more specifically WHEN those materials arrive to the end user (the student).  Of course, Timely Manner also applies to other services and assistive technology.  The IDEA mentions "timely manner" several times, and gets as specific as stating, "...accessible formats are provided those materials in a timely manner, the SEA must ensure that all public agencies take all reasonable steps to provide instructional materials in accessible formats to children with disabilities who need those instructional materials at the same time as other children receive instructional materials."  In Indiana, our Article 7 makes some similarly nondescript statements about "Timely Manner," which do provide some level of guidance, but lack a certain desired specificity.  Allow me to explain.  

There can frequently be many steps and people involved in getting services, materials, supplies, or assistive technologies to a student, once the need has been determined.  Many potential roadblocks exist, which can cause the "Timely Delivery" of said services or items to possibly be delayed.  This brings up the question, "how much delay is too much and how much is acceptable/unavoidable?"  

Again, only dealing with the Accessible Materials subsection of "Timely Manner," our Indiana Article 7 refers to "Reasonable Steps."  511 IAC 7-36-7...

(h) For purposes of this section, "timely manner" means that a public agency will take all reasonable steps to ensure that students who need print instructional materials in accessible formats are provided those materials at the same time as other students receive instructional materials. Reasonable steps include, but are not limited to, the following: 
(1) Requiring publishers or other contractors to, at a minimum, provide the National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC) with electronic files containing the content of the print instructional materials using the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS). Such files must be provided to the NIMAC with sufficient time, according to policies and procedures established by the department of education, to ensure that students requiring accessible formats receive the instructional materials at the same time as other students receive the instructional materials. 
(2) Having a means of acquiring print instructional materials in accessible formats according to policies and procedures established by the department of education, including for students who transfer into the public agency after the start of the school year. 
Reasonable steps would not include withholding print instructional materials from other students until print instructional materials in accessible formats are available. 

The very next portion of our Article 7 states something of DEEP importance

(i) Nothing in this section relieves a public agency of its responsibility to ensure that the following students, who need print instructional materials in accessible formats, receive those materials in a timely manner: 
(1) A student who is not a student with a print disability as defined in 511 IAC 7-32-93. 
(2) A student who needs print instructional materials that cannot be produced from NIMAS files. 

THAT... my friends, essentially means that ANY student, regardless of a "Print Disability" presence, has a right to receive materials that are accessible to them in a "Timely Manner!"  Yes, you read that correctly, I'm no lawyer, but that reads pretty clearly to me, that even students who do not have a print disability MAY need Accessible Materials, they MAY not qualify for materials derived from NIMAS files, and they have a right to them in a "Timely Manner!"  

While that certainly can be as tall of an order as it sounds like, it is actually very doable with the right processes, policies, procedures, workflow, and training.  It DOES NOT, however, just happen on it's own.  At this point, I'd like to mention two things: 

AEM Collaboration Day 2017 Participants1. The PATINS AEMing for Achievement Grant.  This is a year-long collaboration between your entire district (represented by a small team) and PATINS-ICAM staff.  This 15-16 school year had 8 teams and we JUST finished up on Friday with a day of collaboration and sharing successes and struggles of the year and I honestly tell you that it's the most inspirational day of my whole year!  Incredible!  Success stories of student's lives literally changing for the better evidenced in video and data.  ANYWAY... I will be posting the application for NEXT YEAR's district teams THIS WEEK!  The purpose of this grant is EXACTLY what I stated above; to assist your district with the the right processes, policies, procedures, workflow, and training to ensure that ALL STUDENTS have the materials they need in a "Timely Manner."  Regardless of where you feel your district is now, we can help you to get this tall order accomplished over the next school year.  We've done it. 

2.  I've been upfront up to this point that I'm really only talking about "Timely Manner" as it refers to AEM, both in IDEA and Article 7.  However, I want to deviate just a bit here and I'll be blunt and direct.  One COULD deliver Accessible Materials in a "Timely Manner," (at the same time as peers receive their materials) BUT, there may still be a mountainous problem!  MANY times, those materials in specialized formats REQUIRE some technology or Assistive Technology before they can be used at all!  So, they MAY be "Accessible," but at that point, they are NOT USABLE!  This brings up a whole new level of policies, procedures and workflow around the coincidental delivery of tech or assistive tech, also in a "Timely Manner!"  

While the concept of time is both abstract and relative, it is of great importance to students waiting for the materials and/or technology they need to level the playing field, to close the achievement gap!  The unit of measure we must use for this is that of the same time when other students receive their materials and/or technologies.  However, we KNOW that there can often be a greater number of obstacles in the way when we're talking about specialized materials, services, and technologies.  This means that there must be a systematic process in place, which means that policies, procedures, and workflow, must be established and adhered to.  Long story short... it doesn't just happen on it's own or by chance.  

...and, YES, for those keeping track of such things, this posting IS 4 days LATE and YES it is a posting about "TIMELY MANNER."  ... oh, the irony.  My apologies.
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Senior.....What?

Courtney and her Best BuddyAs I was chatting with my daughter the other day she mentioned that she was registering for her senior classes at Murray State University. What? How had the last 16 years passed by so quickly? Courtney was in Kindergarten when I took the assistive technology job with PATINS as a Coordinator. I was new to the field and Courtney became my test subject.  I was convinced that this Kindergarten student who told me endless stories non-stop could become a great writer with a little help from Co:Writer. I did not realize that although word prediction was a powerful tool, the student had to have enough tools to guide the story rather than letting the word prediction change the focus of the story. She would begin in writing about a bat, but when she typed ba and it predicted ball her story would take a new direction. It was a great lesson that I needed to learn and she would help me learn many more lessons over the years. I am happy to report that she is a great writer and although she never used word prediction, she was cognizant of this tool as well as many others. She now uses both low-tech (a wonderful proof-reader and my best friend, Donna) and high-tech (Grammarly).

Spelling words became a real challenge for Courtney in 2nd grade. Fortunately for her, I had just attended Universal Design for Learning(UDL) training at the Center for Applied Special Technology(CAST) in Boston, MA. UDL taught me that students need multiple means of representation, meaning that teachers should present information and content in different ways. Teachers should also provide multiple means of action and expression which means differentiating the ways students can express what they know. Lastly, teachers should provide multiple means of engagement meaning teachers should stimulate interest and motivation for learning. I could only address the first concept, and address it we did!

Courtney would write the words the required amount of times as the teacher required, but that was never enough for her to learn the words. We would write them out with magnets on the refrigerator, we would write them out with markers and tape them all over the house. We would make flashcards and quiz on them, we would sing and dance them out, and she would give me the words and make me spell them so she could hear them. I cannot tell you the number of hours that were spent in learning to spell those words. When she had her last spelling test, I can't remember what grade it was, but it was many years later, I wanted to celebrate. I'm sure her teachers never had any idea how many hours we spent and unfortunately none of her teachers ever applied any of the UDL principles I had learned. I'm not sure all those hours were productive, Courtney is still not a good speller but with spell-check and speech to text, she doesn't have to be.

I also learned to be very proficient with Quizlet and Flashcards apps as well as paper flashcards as Courtney entered Jr. High School. She would enter her terms in Quizlet and it would create instant flashcards for her to study on her new iPod Touch! Back then you had to use Flashcard apps that synced with Quizlet since Quizlet did not have their own app at the time. Quizlet was also great because you could use the website and it would create various games in which the terms would be used. You could also search and find flashcards that others had already made so you didn't have to enter them; you could just download their flashcards and tweak them to meet your needs. It was also great because you could create a practice test in any format you would like, multiple choice, true/false, or fill in the blank.

She also used paper flashcards quite a bit. Back then she began using the paper flashcards for the times when she could not use her iPod. Now she is in college and I would have thought she would have used all electronic flashcards, but she doesn't. It seems she is still teaching me lessons. She says it helps her to write the terms out. It also forces her to really think about the term and the answer, she says it is too easy on the iPad or iPhone to just sort of flip through the cards without really thinking about the terms and the definition.

In high school Courtney's school did not allow any mobile devices of any kind, no phones, no tablets, and no netbooks! This was hard for a child of a technology parent who had every device possible at her fingertips. In a casual conversation with a teacher at her high school, Courtney mentioned using electronic flashcards on her iPhone. The unnamed teacher actually allowed her and anyone else in the class to use their phones to study in her classroom. As far as I remember she never got into any trouble for this action, but I remember being flabbergasted that such an allowance might cause trouble for this teacher.

Courtney signed up for the peer tutoring class in the severe/moderate classroom in high school to no one's surprise after being immersed in the special education/assistive technology world for so many years. She was outstanding as a peer tutor and cared very deeply for her fellow students. She won a college scholarship after being nominated by the staff for her fantastic work in their classroom.

Courtney taught me many lessons and became a great teacher and it is no wonder that as I write this today she is at Murray State University studying to become a Speech-Language Pathologist. I am so proud of her and I can't wait for the many lessons that she will teach me in the years to come. Thank you Courtney for all the lessons, students from all over Indiana have benefited because of you!

If you have students who are struggling, please don't hesitate to contact me, I am always excited to learn new lessons!
Courtney and her Best Buddy

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Making Sense of the New Dyslexia Bill

Last summer, Indiana House Bill 1108 also known as the “Dyslexia Bill”, moved through the House and the Senate then was passed into law by a simple majority. As it was introduced, the bill was worded with directives that were specific and strong. Then amendments were filed and it seemed to me that the explicit language had been removed, so by final passage the bill sounded vague and watered down. I have had conversations with some of you, in this vein, and now I would like to modify that view and explain how my position has evolved.

In Section I, dyslexia is generally defined. The definition is not all-inclusive, but it is solid.

Then, Section 2:

If an education service center offers in-service training or other teacher training programs, the education service center may offer courses for teachers on dyslexia screening and appropriate interventions, including courses relating to a structured literacy approach that is systematic, explicit, multisensory, and phonetic.

I found it curious that the authors of the bill addressed service centers first. Why not go directly to the classroom? Well, the service centers are a very good path into the classroom. It states that the education service center may offer courses, so ask for them. Member schools administrators should contact your service centers and request trainings, on screening, classroom accommodations, and specialized instruction, for dyslexia.

Be sure to request courses that provide instruction that is systematic, explicit, multisensory, and phonetic. Because after over 40 years of documented, replicated, published research by the NIH, we know these elements are the backbone of effective reading instruction for those who struggle with learning to read by traditional methods.

Next, Section 3 provides:

A teacher preparation program shall include content within the curriculum that prepares teacher candidates to recognize that a student who is not progressing at a normal rate related to reading may need to be referred to the school's multidisciplinary team to determine the student's special learning needs, including learning needs related to dyslexia

This is a fundamental change. Looking back on the coursework for my teaching certification, the lack of attention given to dyslexia was striking. Now, new teachers will come in much better equipped to identify and serve students with dyslexia, as current service teachers will be leaning into their service centers for support, all to benefit the 1 in 5.

I didn’t like those phrases: “may need to be referred….” and “…related to dyslexia.” But there are other reasons for a student to fall behind in reading, like students who are English Language Learners. Or students who are experiencing family problems such as homelessness, or abuse. All need not be assigned a multidisciplinary team. Other supports may be more appropriate. Perhaps a student cannot decode words because she or he has an undetected vision impairment that could be corrected with glasses. Special education is not the solution to every problem and dyslexia is not every problem with reading. I knew that. Now I get it.

And now I see that my views were the limiting factors here. Indiana HB 1108 actually gives us much space wherein we can follow best practices for our students. 

For instance, the law does not stipulate that in order to provide interventions for dyslexia, that there must be a formal diagnosis of dyslexia. Evaluations can be quite expensive, and schools are not required at this time to pay for dyslexia screenings and diagnosis.

Let's back up a bit to review: a student with a disability is one who has been evaluated in accordance with 511 IAC Article 7, and has been determined eligible for special education and related services, by the Case Conference Committee (CCC). If the student is identified as such, this same CCC will determine which school-provided services will best meet the student’s educational needs. If the CCC agrees that the student presents a print disability, this must be indicated on the IEP. The NIMAS Regulations were added to the IDEA in 2004 for these students, specifically.

The NIMAS Regulations mandate that State and Local Education Agencies ensure that textbooks and related core instructional materials are provided to students with print disabilities in specialized formats in a timely manner. Also remember that a student with a print disability is defined as one who cannot access print in the normal manner (I don’t like that term “normal” but it is used in the NIMAS Regulations, so we reluctantly use it).

If a student has been determined to have a print disability, and is presenting 3 or more of the classic signs of dyslexia, that student is not accessing print in the normal manner, and
 the CCC may indicate the presence of a reading disability resulting from organic dysfunction on ICAM/NIMAS Form 4, and on the student’s IEP. In this category of print disability, dyslexia is the most frequently identified, and always has been. Once this determination is made and included in the IEP, the ICAM can begin to provide immediate assistance.

Typically, students with dyslexia prefer digital and audio formats, to print instructional materials. The ICAM is happy to offer two very special partnerships which we are able to share with Indiana schools.  

Learning Ally audio books are human voice recordings of more than 80,000 textbooks, popular fiction titles and classic literature. Previously known as Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, Learning Ally produces high quality audio books that help students increase word recognition, reading comprehension, fluency, and confidence. Important features include text highlighting, audio and speed adjustments, and most recently, a growing library of titles in a combination format, called Voicetext.

Read: OutLoud by Don Johnston, Inc.is a text-to-speech screen reader that provides elements essential for struggling readers: text highlighting, options in font and background color, reading speed adjustments, and a selection of digital reading voices. Don Johnston knows firsthand how frustrating school can be for students with dyslexia, so he and his team continue to design a range of tools to level the playing field for a range of abilities. The ICAM provides the basic software.

We now know that dyslexia presents in levels, or degrees: mild, moderate, severe, profound. Students with dyslexia in the mild to moderate range may find adequate support through one or both of these tools. A student who falls in the severe-profound ranges may need more specialized instruction to go with these tools, and there may come a time when one will need a formal evaluation/diagnosis of dyslexia. However Indiana HB 1108, the NIMAS Regulations of IDEA 2004, and the ICAM can help schools help students, now.

Let’s get started!
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If I knew then what I know now.

Jena and her grandmaFuture teacher, Jena, and one of the
best teachers in her life, Grandma.


We can all likely agree that teaching is not what it used to be. In fact, the profession I found myself in as an elementary school teacher was worlds away from what I envisioned.

I believe that one reason for this disconnect is that I expected to teach the way that I was taught- following along with my teacher’s lesson and directions quietly from my desk; then completing my assignment and checking it twice before handing it in. I hope that some of you can relate; however, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that my preferred method of learning couldn’t sound more like beating your head against a brick wall… Yet to me there’s almost nothing better than being given information, asked to complete a task, completing it to the best of my ability, and receiving praise for my work. Needless to say, I’m a people-pleaser.

Not only did I love being a student, I revered my teachers- such poise, such excitement, and so much love for and genuine interest in their students. They were the bee’s knees to me, and I can proudly name every one of my elementary school teachers. Of course teaching was in my future! Bee clipart

Nowadays, the education pendulum has shifted. For better or for worse, teachers face more state testing, rigid evaluations, changes in general attitudes towards the profession, and increasing daily demands. This includes planning for and meeting the needs of all students.

It is the last of the changes — meeting the needs of all learners — that inspires this blog post. There were many days in the classroom that I viewed this expectation as a mountain I could never climb, especially alone. With so many students, each one with a unique set of needs, how could I ever meet each student on his or her level?? 

If only I could have know then what I know now. You see, as a third grade teacher, I wasn't aware of the wonderfully valuable resources that PATINS has to offer until I left the classroom and found a job posting online for the PATINS Data & Outreach Coordinator. Lucky for me, the position was something I was very interested in; I landed an interview and was offered the job. Now I am able to reach out to educators, who were just like me, in order to offer them invaluable resources that would have been an immense help to me while in the classroom.


For instance, I would bet it's safe to say that every teacher has experience with a student that has autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The U.S. Centers for Disease and Prevention identify 1 in 68 American children as having ASD. As educators, we know that these students bring a different set of talents and challenges to our classrooms.

One of the most common struggles for these students is social interaction and communication, which can lead to heightened frustration among the student, classmates, and teacher. Check out this video of Dillan, a student who describes himself as “autistic,” as he describes his experience with ASD.



This is an incredible example of the way that we can help you meet the needs of your students. We lend iPads and other devices with text to speech software, so that you can give a voice to a student who may so desperately want one. Not sure how to implement them or use the software? We’ll come to your classroom and educate you, so that you get what you want out of the technology!

If you’re reading this, then you are probably already aware of our lending library and services; yet so many educators across the state have never heard of us, and this is my cause. I am passionate about the services we provide to the students across the entire state of Indiana. I want every educator to understand what we offer and to feel comfortable reaching out when they are in need of some guidance.

Not sure what to do to help a student who struggles with focusing on tasks? Give us a call. Need recommendations when searching for the right assistive technology? Let us know. Have you borrowed an item that you are excited about, but aren’t quite sure where to start? Reach out. The list goes on and on.

We are here for, and because of you! So please help spread the word about PATINS to as many friends, family members, and fellow educators as you can. The more educators we can support, the more student lives we can positively affect. We are here to help teachers climb the mountains that can stand in the way.

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Recent Comments
Glenda Thompson
Ahh, Dillan's video brought tears of joy! Thanks for the beautiful post, Jena. We all need to take more time to "open our minds"... Read More
Thursday, 28 April 2016 12:07
Daniel G. McNulty
Jena... YOU are the bees knees to PATINS Data & Outreach, which means that you're also the bees knees to the teachers out there st... Read More
Friday, 29 April 2016 10:56
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“Mimi, would you read me this book?”

Reading…not one of my favorite pastimes.  A difficult confession and one I am embarrassed to admit.  It is something I have struggled with all through school and beyond.  Call it a lack of interest, being uncomfortably forced to read out loud, a missed diagnosis, etc. I don’t know for sure.  Don’t get me wrong I can read, but more out of necessity than pleasure.
I know the importance of reading for a variety of reasons and in my current role it is even more imperative that gaining access to materials in a variety of formats is important.  With all of its importance that’s what led me to do this blog about Mimi.  Mimi is the name my grandchildren call my wife.  I know her as Rita, but not when the grandkids are around.  Being a teacher for more than 30+ years (sorry Mimi) she has always taken great pleasure each semester to take the time to read a story out loud to her class.  Sometime funny and sometime serious topics, but stories that held the class riveted to her every word.  It’s one of the things that alumni students remember vividly about her class.  I can’t say that happened when I was in school, besides that was too long age. Mimi reading to three of her Grandkids.Which brings me to Mimi and my grandkids. We have 5 ranging from 6 years of age down to 6 months.  From a very early age, Mimi would “read” picture books to each one.  It only has a picture and is wordless, but she would describe the picture in a way that would tell a very short story.  As each one has grown older, she would ask if they would like for her to read to them.  “Bring me a book”, she will say if they don’t already have one in hand.  She has never been turned down.  More often than not I hear “Mimi, would you read me this book?”  You should know by now that the answer is an overwhelming “YES”.  It is a blessing to watch how she draws our grandchildren into her world, no their world.  So as I watch this miracle happen, I take pleasure in fact that undoubtedly my grandchildren have found the importance of reading and I have as well.  What a precious gift to pass on.
 
In the big picture, the interest and encouragement we offer to students can go a long way.  It may be a hardback book, digital file, braille, audio format, or just plain reading to them and conveying enthusiasm is key to inspiration.  Just like Mimi.
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Recent Comments
Daniel G. McNulty
Most important and excellent observations, Jeff! Thanks for writing this up for the inspiration of others. Of course, we know th... Read More
Tuesday, 19 April 2016 11:21
Kelli Suding
Well said, Jeff. Thanks for sharing. Admitting that you aren’t the biggest fan of reading isn’t the easiest statement to make; b... Read More
Tuesday, 19 April 2016 12:36
Julie Kuhn
Touching. Nicely done, Jeff.
Tuesday, 19 April 2016 13:10
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I love games!

I love games!

  Board games, card games, puzzles, word search, playground games, game shows, pinball, and sporting events.  I enjoy being a participant OR a spectator.

I was a high school cheerleader (not gymnastic at all, just an encourager at heart) and I’m that family member that always suggests, “Let’s play a game!  Corn hole, Euchre, Trivial Pursuit anyone? “

I thrive on the comradery of teamwork or the self-satisfaction of a solo attempt.  Games keep my brain sharp, my self-confidence up and my humility in check.   They are a fun way to engage, learn, be active and/or socialize.   Whether there is a prize at the end of the game or not, I want for that THRILL of the victory…or accept that AGONY of the defeat.  After all, good sportsmanship is a valued lesson in life.

This year at PATINS Tech Expo we are providing a game for our attendees.  It is a QR Code Scavenger Hunt!  Quick Response (QR) Codes can be read with a QR reader.  There are many free readers out there to download to your device. e.g. Bakodo, SCAN, I-Nigma, Kaywa.
QR Blog Code  We are giving this a try at Tech Expo with the hope of engaging fun and providing attendees a chance to win an iPad Pro/Keyboard/Pencil from our Treasure Chest at the end of the day.  Here’s how it will work - There will be 14 QR codes displayed at various Exhibitor Booths with questions about the PATINS staff to answer.  Each will be a fun fact about a particular staff member and the Exhibitor will have the answer, so all it takes is a conversation to ask ‘em!   Write the answer on the back of the Expo name badge, drop in the Treasure Chest at the Door Prize Booth when complete and VOILA…one has met the challenge and has discovered some tidbits about each of us that might not have been known.  We are using http://www.classtools.net/ to generate our QR codes like this one  It’s free, easy to use and would be a great resource to try out with your students for a creative learning activity. 

If you are attending Tech Expo this year and participate in the QR Scavenger Hunt, I invite you to comment thru this blog on your experience.  I look forward to reading your thoughts. 

Game On!!  Boardgame
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