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Aug
08

Stop Teaching "Low Functioning" Students

Stop teaching the low students Magic Ball indicating High. A witch's hat with speech bubble reading,
I half-joke that I’m working my way out of education purgatory, trying to make up for my sins in years past. One particular mistake I made: I let myself believe I could help “low functioning students.” The year I refused to teach “low” kids (and “high functioning” students too!) I started to realize what my purpose was.

I worked in a school that had two self-contained special education classrooms. On paper, it was just Ms. A’s class and Ms. Z’s class, but everyone referred to it as the “high functioning room” and the “low functioning room.” Sometimes the students had instruction together or joined their peers in general education but, in general, the students of the low functioning group stayed in their room and the high functioning students had more chances to be included. The high functioning students sat with assistants and learned letters and numbers and the low functioning students watched the other students work. Maybe we’d stick a switch toy on their wheelchair tray. Yipee.

Why? Because it was The Way We Had Always Done It. You’ll be happy to hear it’s changed.

On the flip side, I had students who were “high functioning.” Teachers were very pleased to have high functioning students except when they didn’t do what the other kids were able to do, or in the same way. Every year, like an unspoken agreement, accommodations were slowly chipped away. “He’s high functioning,” we’d all say. “He doesn’t need a sensory break, or note taking support, or Augmentative Communication. He should be able to do that on his own by now, or else he’d be low functioning.”

“The difference between high-functioning autism and low-functioning is that high-functioning means your deficits are ignored, and low-functioning means your assets are ignored.” - Laura Tisoncik

Once I was asked to observe “Cory.” Cory was a youngster who enjoyed trampolines, letters, and car commercials. He needed constant supervision, plenty of breaks, and explicit directions and support for academics, leisure, and daily living skills. He frequently hit the person nearest him, although staff could not pinpoint as to why (no FBA completed). He had no way to independently communicate. It wasn’t that they hadn’t tried but what they had tried wasn’t working, so they stopped. He did have two little symbols taped to his workstation: “more” and “stop” that were used to direct his behavior.

His teacher met me at the door and gestured to where he was “working” (10+ minutes of redirection to sit in a chair with some math problems attempted in between). I asked what would be helpful to her as a result of our consultation.

“As you can see, we’ve tried everything,” she exclaimed, gesturing to her lone visual taped to the desk. “He’s just too low.”

It took me a while to pick apart why this particular visit weighed on my soul. I had been that person and I knew the ugly truth: as soon as we start saying students are “low” we’ve haven’t described the child, we’ve described our own limitations in believing in kids.

The terms “low functioning” and “high functioning” are not professional terms. They have no place in an educational report, school policy, or conversation. They are born from poor understanding, frustration, and/or a misplaced desire to categorize students by how high our expectations should be. Who gets to be high functioning? Who gets to be low? Did you mistakenly think (as I did) that researchers set an agreed-upon standard or that there was a test or some type of metric to determine what bin of functioning we all belong in? Perhaps there was a Harry Potter-esque Sorting Hat of Functioning?

"...‘high functioning autism’ is an inaccurate clinical descriptor when based solely on intelligence quotient demarcations and this term should be abandoned in research and clinical practice." (Alvares et al, 2019)

In absence of a Magic 8 Ball of Functioning, I challenge you to stop teaching “low functioning students,” erase the phrase from your vocabulary, and start wondering “what do we need to be successful?” Describe the supports your student needs, the skills they are working on, the behaviors and interests you’ve observed. What do you need to do differently? Tell me about your student, not the expectations people have formed. At PATINS we have not met, in our entire combined careers, students who were too anything to learn. There is always a way, and we can help.

What ever happened to Cory? I haven’t heard back from his team since then. It still makes me sad, because I know that as long as one of the most meaningful adults in his life thinks of him as “too low,” not much will change.

You will not regret ditching those words. Your students will remember you for it. You have nothing to lose but functioning labels.

They weren’t helping anyone, anyway.
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Jul
30

First day of school….wait a new job?

It is unbelievable to think that my daughter will be waking up and going to her new job on Monday. Didn’t I just send her off to Kindergarten a minute ago? It seems like it, but she has finished her Masters in Communication Disorders at Murray State University and is heading off to her new job as a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) on Monday.
Courtney Graduation Picture

In talking to her over the last couple of days I can tell she is both excited and filled with a little anxiety. “Mom, they are going to send ME real kids!” she says to me recently. Don’t you worry Courtney, you have all the skills you need, you just may not know it yet.  

Courtney has so many resources to help her along the way and she has and will utilize them. She follows specialists in her field on social media and has already used many of their ideas and suggestions. She has met and worked with many great SLP’s during her college experience and they have also been great mentors giving her resources and support. She will be surrounded by other SLP’s at her new job and I do not doubt that they will help guide her when needed.

Courtney has been preparing for her new job along the way. My mom and I have had fun scanning yard sales and the thrift stores for items she will need. We have found many toys, puzzles, and games that she will use with her clients! After attending the PATINS Tech Expo in 2019 she decided she needed a Blubee Pal and a Time Timer. Her wishlist for graduation presents included the Bluebee, the Time Timer, a baby doll, and a race car set. My family found her list to be quite interesting! Come join us in 2020 to see what exciting items you can find for your classroom.

Being around the PATINS Project for almost 20 years has given her an insight into Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) and AAC devices, switch use, basic and complex Assistive Technology (AT), iPad use and Apps and many other concepts that many of her colleagues have not been exposed to. She was helping me do presentations in high school so I know that she is prepared!

Sandy, Courtney and her grandpa


She is also very lucky to have the support of the whole PATINS team behind her!  We have a fantastic staff that is ready to help not only Courtney but all Indiana Public School personnel. How can we help you?
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Jul
11

Connect. Elevate. Celebrate.

PATINS-Project--ECET2DeafEd-Presents_ PATINS Project & ECET2DeafEd Presents: Summer Book Club Indiana Teachers of students who are deaf/hard of hearing

Connect. Elevate. Celebrate. 

That is exactly what happened this summer when 23 Teachers of students who are deaf/hard of hearing gathered online for this summer’s book club exclusively for Indiana educators for students who are deaf/hard of hearing. They got the chance to connect, elevate each other, and celebrate their talents and passions as educators through summer book club possible via a mini-grant awarded to PATINS Specialist, Katie Taylor (psst, that's me) with PATINS Project in Indiana from Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers (ECET2) Deaf Education Central. ECET2 Deaf Education Central is a 4 state-wide group working hard to elevate and celebrate educators in the deaf education field.  

PATINS Project & ECET2DeafEd Presents: Summer Book Club Indiana Teachers for students who are deaf/hard of hearing


ECET2 stands for Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers. It was born out of a desire to provide a forum for exceptional teachers to learn from one another and to celebrate the teaching profession. ECET2 is designed, led and facilitated by teachers, to inspire each other to become effective leaders inside and outside their classrooms. ECET2 seeks to realize a teacher’s potential by ensuring each convening aligns with its six key beliefs:
  •     Nurturing trust among teachers
  •     Focusing on each teacher’s potential for growth
  •     Inspiring both the intellect and the passion that drives teachers in their work
  •     Providing time for collaboration and learning
  •     Putting teachers in the lead
  •     Recognizing teachers as talented professionals
I wanted to be a part of this on-going effort because I have been a deaf educator for the past 9 years in Indiana. Working with 100s of students, school districts and those with the endorsement across the state it is apparent that those working in deaf education are worth the celebration. In a recent address by Dr. Nancy Holsapple, Indiana’s Director of Special Education, at the Indiana Deaf Educators and Educational Interpreter’s conference at the end of June 2019 she mentioned that Indiana currently has 53 active Teachers with the deaf/hard of hearing endorsement. It is a HUGE deal to connect these educators with one another and celebrate their effort and dedication to the field and the students of Indiana. Everyone has their "why" for teaching, but how often do you remember and reflect on it? These inspiring educators have dedicated their lives to bettering the lives of students who are deaf/hard of hearing. This book club was designed to remind the educators of their "why" and inspire them to make bring it back to their teaching this upcoming school year. ​​

As part of this book club, these teachers shared their "why" through the hashtag #whyIteachDeafEd




So, 23 of the 53 currently active Teachers of students who are deaf/hard of hearing from all over the state of Indiana participated in the summer book club. Take a look at this google map image of how far the book club reached this summer! 

google map image of where teachers are in the state of Indiana from the book club



They got to choose which book fits their interest.  6 were recommended: 
  • Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
  • Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis
  • Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis
  • Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
  • Start With Why by Simon Sinek
  • The End of Average by Todd Rose
They connected virtually via a padlet wall each week of June 2019. Weekly discussion questions for each book were posted using a padlet wall and email notifications. It was a great use of this platform that allows you to post comments, pictures, and videos as well as like posts. The posts were well received and many comments back and forth and appreciated the insight into the books that were being read. It was clear that the books chosen were valued and that a lot of thought went into what they were reading and how it connected to their personal and professional lives, more so their students that they serve. 

At the end of the month of June, the book club educators got the chance to meet online via zoom meeting room. This was a great way to end the book up and introduce themselves in a more personal, interactive way. One of the best parts was making plans for potential future meetups and then that next week to meet up at the Indiana Deaf Educator and Educational Interpreters Conference as well as potential ideas to continue this collaborative nature of the book club.  

Because of the book club, many got to meet up, informally, in person with their newly found connected educators at the Indiana Deaf Educator’s and Educational Interpreter’s Conference at the end of June 2019. It was so fun to meet the participants in person and hear how their book was helping them think of innovative ideas for their students for this upcoming school year. They were meeting other teachers that they had not met before growing their personal learning network. 

Lastly, each participant received mail with a certificate for their dedication to serving Indiana’s students who are deaf/hard of hearing and recognizing their years of service.  As well as a computer decal with the wording, “deaf educator”. Participants also received professional growth points for their participation in the book club through the PATINS Project. 

I am so excited to have gotten the chance to help connect, elevate, and celebrate our precious Indiana Teachers of students who are deaf and hard of hearing. Keep doing the amazing work in supporting the best possible outcomes for our students in Indiana! 

Please comment on your summer book selections and what you will take away from your reading to inspire your next school year with our amazing students. Don’t forget to take some time to remember your “why” as you refresh and look onto the new school year. 

Make sure to like and share the PATINS blog with your colleagues. Subscribe to this blog to receive notifications each time a PATINS/ICAM specialists posts a new blog.


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Jul
04

Getting to the Root

Bev holding the Uprooter and a tree removed with the tool
Growing up on a farm, and working part time for over a decade as a flower farmer, I thought I had seen most garden tools available to be grasped by green thumbs of the world: every kind of spade and hoe with unique blade shapes, specialized plates for zinnia planting, and cool Japanese beetle traps that may or may not bring every beetle in a mile radius to the bullseye center of our field. 


My horticultural paradigm was knocked off center, though, when I spent a couple of afternoons working with the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired horticulture program removing invasive species from their campus. I was assigned to the group removing small trees and introduced to the UPROOTER, a.k.a. tool of my dreams. 

As shown in this video, the Uprooter grasps small trees at their base, and provides a long bar/lever to wrench the tree out, providing the most gratifying sensation of feeling the many-fingered roots pull up easily from their depths. If you’ve ever tried to pull even a half inch tree out of your landscaping by hand, maybe you, like me, have resorted to just cutting it off at the ground only to have the tree grow back in a month or so. It’s either that or back surgery. With my very own Uprooter, though, I have removed even the gnarly hackberry tree that I had just been cutting to the ground for the past ten years. 

My most successful consultations through PATINS generate a similar satisfying vibe. A Teacher for the Blind is preparing for a new educational need, or transition to middle school for a student and wants to explore technology options. They have a toolbox full of great devices, strategies and ideas, but want more training or to make sure they have the most up-to-date device. We spend most of our time talking about the student, and their unique needs, and then process our conversation using a great leveraging tool like Joy Zabala’s SETT framework. When a teacher knows their students well, and I am able to connect them with a new accessibility technique or gadget, we reach a moment when the barriers seem to loosen and slide out of the substratum of complexity.

Pinkish red zinnia
What are some barriers you’re facing this school year? Do you need to weed out any old practices that you’ve hoped would just disappear without addressing the root? We’d love to hear from you! Let a PATINS specialist be your Uprooter! 

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Apr
10

The Ugly Cry Is Beautiful

You know you are a special education teacher if “it takes years for your student to reach a goal and when they do...you just want to cry.”

Oh yes...celebrations of students’ success…big or small. Those are moments when you feel the rush from the pit of your stomach and then it slowly starts flowing through your veins….then explodes like a can of pop that was shook and quickly opened...which leaves your eyes dripping with salty excitement...and the next thing you know...you are doing your interpretation of the happy dance. If you are a teacher or anyone who has celebrated a child, you know exactly what I am describing. No, it’s not always pretty...but I can guarantee that it is always beautiful to the student to which brought about this emotion.

Happy Dance

I will never forget the first time I experienced this organic feeling. I was sitting on the floor in the hallway with a 5th grade student who independently decoded an entire paragraph for the very first time of a book we were reading together. He paused at the end of the paragraph and was nearly shocked by his own reading. The moment he turned his head, smiled and looked at me...the unexpected floodgate began. It was lovely chaos...I was celebrating him and he was consoling me! Ha ha It’s like sitting in a baseball stadium and your team hits a home run...the next thing you know...you are on your feet cheering and clapping! It’s uncontrollable excitement.

I have to admit, celebrating myself is a personal struggle. However, doing whatever it takes to facilitate a student in success of emotional, social, behavioral and/or academic skills...I am all in. While I am not in the classroom any longer...I get the privilege to have shared classrooms and students across the state. With that said, I am still “all in” for you as educators and your students. In fact, my whole team is all in for you.

The year is coming to an end. Find time for pause and instead of just looking directly at a student’s struggles as we support them, also look around them...see and feel the moments to celebrate.  I have great adoration for this quote from the book Wonder, “Everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their life.” Go ahead, it’s ok to get ugly; because it’s beautiful.
Woman crying holding tissue to face.
Fun ways to celebrate your students while also motivating them:
  • Send an email or note to parent/ guardian or school administrator
  • Praise verbally
  • Throw graffiti parties
  • Ring a bell
  • Expression by using GIFs
  • Allow students to write down what THEY feel they did best, crumble paper and have them shoot into a “shining moments” basket at the end of the day.  
Wonder Book
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Jun
26

“Mimi, can I read this book to you?”

It has been more than 3 years that I blogged, “Mimi, would you read me this book?” It was about my wife Rita and our 5 grandchildren.

Here is an excerpt:

“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 on in hand. She has never been turned down.  ore 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.”

Jump ahead 3 years and the age range is now 9 to 3 and a half. It has been an amazing look back and where the 3 oldest are now after attending school.

Dean just finished third grade, Logan just finished first grade and Kenzie just finished kindergarten. What is noteworthy is that all 3 read at or beyond grade level and they love to read.

What I wrote about 3 years ago has come full circle. Their enthusiasm for reading has been expressed in a reciprocal way to Mimi. What once was “Mimi, would you read me this book?” is now “Mimi, can I read this book to you?”

She never turns them down.

Kenzi reading to Mimi on the glider outdoors.

We take great pride in listening to them read. It goes without saying that what my wife sowed for our grandchildren 3 years ago has reaped tenfold.


Mimi has not given up reading to our grandchildren. We still have Hazel and Ethan that like to be read to, and it is still enjoyable for Mimi and me when we hear, “Mimi, would you read me this book?”



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Jun
12

I "Sparked Joy" In My Office and It Worked

I "Sparked Joy" In My Office and It Worked I
I don’t pretend to be any better than the kids who love to watch hours of people unboxing toys they’ll never play with: I love watching people buy homes I’ll never live in, make food I’ll never eat, or declutter spaces I’ll never visit.

To that end, I really adore Marie Kondo, the enthusiastic and sensitive soul who encourages you to either “spark joy” with items or don’t keep them, among other steps in her decluttering process. My husband is terrified when I turn on one of the episodes on Netflix, because he knows I'll be inspired to tackle another room. ?

I admit to being a packrat and wishful crafter, especially in my job. When I see corrugated plastic yard signs or empty takeout I bring up the “Pinterest of my mind” and imagine what I could turn it into. Having a shoestring budget to cover 3-7 different rooms every year meant I had to be creative and I thought if I could just find more there would be… more! What if I needed it later?

A few years ago, unaware of Ms. Kondo’s methods, I inherited a workspace that resembled what an avalanche in a tiny library might look like. Materials were slowly suffocating me, and I realized The Purge must happen. I created a little test in my head: was this going to positively impact a student this month? Yes, keep and organize, if not, pitch. That's it, the only rule!

What was donated?
  • 60% of the games and books
  • Outdated testing materials
  • Old triplicate IEP forms from 1997
  • 99% of my college books and projects
  • 90% of the worksheets
  • Treasure box toys (and any references to treasure box/incentives)Neatly organized office supplies and a cup of coffee
  • Assistive Technology that has really truly bit the dust or past its useful life (check with your schools on how to dispose of it properly)
What stayed?
  • Solidly constructed organization tools like shelves and file drawers
  • Perennial office supplies, although not so many
  • A set of what I still consider my “speech therapy on a deserted island” emergency kit: mirror, dry erase board, post its, pens, crayons, tongue depressors
I can report I’ve never missed anything that was donated, not once.

It was better than a facelift: I felt like I had energy! The room wasn’t so busy, I could put things away quickly and my students could get things out. We were moving and grooving to a new rhythm.

At this stage in my career, the 5-7 speech rooms have condensed into the trunk of my car. It’s still a battle of making sure what’s in there really sparks joy and moves the needle. I’m moving offices again, wish me luck in making sure what stays in my new workspace provides me purpose and energy for another year!



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May
29

Gas Up the RV. It's Time for Speech Therapy!

RV Aerial view of RV driving on highway through a forest of green and yellow trees.
My classmate burst through the teal trimmed door smiling from ear to ear. All of us were instantly distracted from our silent reading to a simple object in his hand. A blob of bright red, sticky slime. Another classmate whispered to him “Where did you get it?” To which the beaming student replied, “I got it at the band!”

“What?!” I thought. “ Why didn’t I know about this band? And they give prizes?! Sign me up!”

I stomped all the way home fuming that my mom didn’t tell me about the school band. My mom, genuinely confused, said she hadn’t heard about it either. A few days went by and my mom mentioned it to my teacher who laughed and said there was, in fact, no band. However, the student was most likely referring to “the van”, which was actually a gigantic RV stationed in our school parking lot where the speech-language pathologist had an office. One master’s degree later, I can confidently say the band/van mystery is solved and that student was appropriately identified for services.

To close out Better Speech and Hearing month this May, let's give a shout out to all those SLPs who’ve had offices in janitors closets and mobile homes, shared offices, moved offices (with or without notice), or had no office. You know it’s not the space that’s important, it’s the quality of the therapy provided. You can serve students anywhere because communication is everywhere!

What’s unique about PATINS specialists is that they also work in all types of "offices" as they train in classrooms, schools, and districts. They’ve seen it all and have helped you UDL-ify your space. In the next couple of days, our specialists will be traveling to Summer of eLearning conferences near you, Indiana educators. If you can’t make it to any of those, check out our new Professional Development Guide to request a no-cost training or have us design one for you. PATINS will provide virtual or in-person training no matter the size of your space.

Where’s the most unusual place you’ve taught students?  


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May
16

Helping Students Move Forward

Grieving from the loss of someone or even a big change or transitions in your life is probably one of the hardest emotions to tackle. In grieving, so many other emotions are entwined with sorrow, pain, sadness and often misery. It’s like a tornado of memories that keep us attached to our loss or change that is constantly spinning out of control. How do we find control?

Everyone handles grieving in different ways. Some of us just shut down or we get angry. Some of us throw blame or stay so busy that we can almost pretend it didn’t happen or will not happen. Some seek supports and surround themselves with friends and family.

When we know that someone is grieving, we seem to be more lenient and understanding in how they respond to grieving and try to figure out how we can play a helpful role.

This leads me to the end of the school year approaching and how we can play that helpful role. As a teacher, besides holiday breaks, we often see many behaviors on the rise during this time. Often times, these behaviors are associated with the overwhelming joy that summer is coming and students can’t wait! While I have no doubt in most circumstances that is true; let’s not overlook those students who may be in grieving within the anticipation of no longer being at school because they may have food insecurities, violence, zero social interactions, deplorable living conditions or even perhaps no longer access to reading material.

Some students count down days to loneliness, violence and hunger.

We can predict this pattern of behavior toward the end of the school year; which means that we can also do our part in prevention. How can we help?

First, let’s not assume all students are excited about summer break and then make all of our writing and conversations about that excitement. I challenge you to ask your students what they will miss about not being in school, if they have fears, what they wish you knew about them and what they wish they had over summer break. Then, talk with your students and create solutions and goals.

Create summer calendars for your students to support the visual of each day to countdown summer days.

Share resources for local libraries, online access to reading materials, audiobooks or create a YouTube playlist of individuals reading books aloud for children. I love this story of how a principal is using Facebook to make sure her students get bedtime stories.

Make sure all of your students know how to call 911 and also have resources for local helpline numbers. This should also include information about local summer kitchens that provide meals for students at no cost.

Create a summer group backchannel to help prevent isolation and loneliness. This would be a place that students do not have to have “friend requests” but are already a part of the group. This could be a FlipGrid, Padlet, private Twitter feed with GroupTweet or even create summer pen pal kits, AKA: snail mail. (Yes, with stamps, envelopes, paper...shocking, right?)

mailboxes

I do believe some students begin to grieve the upcoming summer break. I recently watched a Ted Talk on grieving. The speaker mentions how we don’t “...move on from grief. We move forward with it.” Moving on being leaving what you know and moving forward being taking all of the skills and memories alongside you and growing with them. Also, knowing how and having supports. I found that extremely resonating and applicable for so many things on many levels. It is definitely worth the watch.

While our students head out for summer break, let’s not focus on them moving on toward the next transition...let’s help them move forward with supports, skills and tools they can use to continue to grow and self advocate for their well being.

We can make a difference. Believe in it.


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May
07

Construct Hope, Rise Above Fear, and Insist On Possibility.


There’s an amazing man by the name of 
Nicola Dutto. Nicola is an off-road motorcycle racer, and a very good one! In 2008 and 2009, he was a European Baja champion. Then in the 2010 Italy Baja race, he experienced a disastrous high-speed crash, leaving him paralyzed. 

Anyone who knows a racer, knows that racing is a powerful thing running through his or her veins…a drive and passion that cannot easily be dropped. Nicola was no different and set his sights on racing again. After 9 months of intensive therapy, he entered the 2011 Baja 1000 in a 4-wheeled vehicle. Mechanical failure kept him from completing this race, but he also learned that 4 wheels just didn’t do it for him. He greatly missed having the command of a 2-wheeled machine. The subsequent steps of this story are the pieces that really grabbed my attention.

Daniel McNulty racing a dirtbike, standing on the foot pegs.

Noteworthy, is the fact that Nicola admits to being terrified to ride again! He knew that his soul needed to ride again. Nevertheless, he wasn’t shy about the fact that it seriously frightened him! As an off-road rider myself, I know that I’m slightly terrified every time I grab the throttle. I also know that the majority of the time I'm riding off-road, I’m actually standing up on the foot pegs, not seated! A lot of steering, control, and weight distribution happens with your legs. They also act as additional shock absorbers and, of course, rear brake control and shifting all happens with the feet! To even begin to comprehend racing at the level of Nicola Dutto while remaining seated the entire time, with no use of my legs, is beyond intimidating!

Nonetheless, Nicola did it. He placed 24th in Spain’s Baja Aragon race to become the world’s first paraplegic pro racer just 4 months later and then…he set his sights on becoming the first paraplegic to race the world-legendary, white knuckling, and grueling Dakar race! While I love riding and racing, what truly excites me about this is the passion, determination, skill, creativity, and support of Nicola and his team tackling this together! He needed all handlebar mounted controls, a special seat from a wheelchair cushion specialist, a roll-cage for his lower extremities, and a 3-point harness to hold his legs within the cage, and this was just the necessary hardware ingenuity!

Nicola Dutto and his team after a race, with him sitting on his motorcycle accommodated to allow him to race as a paraplegic.

Nicola also needed “ghost riders.” People to ride ahead and scan the terrain, helping him choose racing lines, since he would be unable to stop his motorcycle. He also needed two riders behind him to right his bike in case of a fall (which happens a lot to me). In short, Nicola truly relied on his team in many ways. The Dakar race would simply not be possible without his team’s collective brain power, physical dedication, and willpower. He needed them and they quickly rallied around his determination to make his dream a reality. Nicola states that it's difficult to even describe how he now has to ride and that it required a lot of practice for him to become proficient with the changes. 

While I could read and write about motorcycling for days, what I love even more about this story is the camaraderie, the support, the teamwork, the passion, and the determination of the team! The PATINS Team embodies all of this in my eyes! This PATINS team of incredible people bring their respective expertise together to accomplish seemingly impossible feats for so many Indiana students every week! This team pulls together to get students physical and cognitive access to their curriculum, to put communication systems in place for students who are non-verbal, to create emotionally secure learning environments, to support teachers who feel like they have a "Dakar" race to complete without the use of their legs, to convey information to students who cannot hear it, see it, or organize it. …and this inspiring teamwork happens every single week, all year long! 

Many of you are also likely part of a team who rallies around student’s strengths, desires, and goals. Frequently, you invite the PATINS staff into your team for further support and we are so grateful for those opportunities to help assist your kids! When we consider all of these things that our teams work to accomplish, one word presents itself prominently; accommodations!

Nicola didn’t want to compete in a different race, he wanted to face the same demanding Dakar experience as other racers who were not paraplegic and he needed some creative accommodations and hard-core resolve to make it happen! We have so many students in Indiana who are fully capable of and desiring to take part in the “Dakar” of their educational experience…to meaningfully participate in the general curriculum and obtain a high school diploma, with appropriate accommodations both in the daily classroom and on assessment! The race is the same race, the content is the same content, the diploma is the same diploma, but the ways in which it is approached, interacted with, and responded to could vary! Taking away any one of Nicola’s accommodations would almost certainly guarantee his non-participation. Similarly, taking away any one appropriate student accommodation will almost certainly exclude them from the most meaningful participation in the general curriculum, and effectively, from a diploma.

As Case Conference Committees (CCC) come together to build effective Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for students, they must rally together as a focused, insistent, creative, and purposeful team! Each student’s strengths and barriers must be analyzed. Potential software, hardware, and strategy-based solutions must be trialed! Remember you can always borrow from the PATINS Lending Library and seek support, training, and development from the PATINS Team! Data from these trials must be used to determine appropriate and effective accommodations in each and every IEP! These accommodations must then be implemented with fidelity on a daily basis (the extensive practice necessary to become proficient), and on assessment (the Dakar)!

I don’t anticipate losing the use of my legs, or my arms, but if I ever do, I’d certainly be grateful for and reliant upon a team of passionate, hopeful, creative people around me, figuring out how to get me back on a motorcycle as quickly as possible! Figuratively speaking, unfortunate things happen all the time which, on the surface, appear insurmountable, and take our "legs" out from under us. The riding of the “motorcycle” seems like a lost cause many times. These are the times when we need our teams, and students need their teams, to match our/their determination, to be the most creative, and to be brave enough to believe with all their heart that the impossible only seems as such because no one else has done it yet. It’s hope that these dream teams construct! Before Nicola Dutto and his team made racing in the Dakar as a paraplegic a reality, many thousands of people likely didn’t even possess a construct for hope in this regard. 

Be a constructor of hope in your team! Be the determination who thinks and tries things for 10 minutes longer! Be the creativity that encourages possibility. Be the strength that “picks the bike up” for a teammate every time it falls!
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Apr
26

Traditions

Sandy and her husband.
Easter is one of my favorite holidays. We have a tradition in my family on Easter; the family gathers together at a local park for a day of food and fun. To the best of my knowledge, this tradition was started when I was around 2 or 3, so it has been about 50 years or most of my life. There have been many changes in our family dynamics over the years, but this tradition has survived and for that, I am very grateful.
 
Sandy and her daughter and parents.

We have been very lucky over the years and the weather this year did not disappoint, it was so beautiful. This wonderful weather has been great for the many sports and activities we have participated in over the years. I can remember many years ago when they had a roller skating rink and us kids would go skating. We have played softball, tennis, horseshoes, ladder ball, washers, frisbee, hopscotch, and we added pickleball this year. We jumped rope one year and everyone was so sore the next day!

We have an Easter egg hunt every year, and the kids always enjoy hunting eggs. We have had years where we only had one or two kids and we have had years where there were many! This year we had 15!

Group of kids at Easter.

Traditions are important to me and I do my best to make sure our family traditions continue for our future generations! What traditions are important to you? Do you have traditions that you use in the classroom?

Here are some classroom traditions that I found through a Google Search:
  • Making hot chocolate after lunch on the first really cold day
  • Decorating sugar cookies and watching "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (the original) the last day before Christmas break
  • Doing an "awards" presentation for all of my grade 8 students on the last day of school
  • Birthday snacks
  • Flipping on the monkey bars at the end of each day of state testing
  • Making time capsules on the first day of school and opening them on the last day
  • Any students that have not had a discipline referral all year get to bust a piñata on the second to last day of school
  • Pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving
There are many other great ideas available through a search on the Internet!


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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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Apr
04

Finding Your Flock

Finding Your Flock with birds on power lines. Finding your flock with birds on power lines.

A few weeks ago, my colleague, Jessica Conrad, authored a 
blog focused on the burnout that we, too often, feel as educators. So much of what she said rang true for me personally, and it really got me thinking about the reasons behind the burnout I felt at different stages in my teaching career. 


Out of college, I hit the ground running looking for my first teaching job. Mailing or handing out resume after resume, filling out online application after online application was quite a time-consuming and daunting task, but I held onto my optimism. Trying to land my first job in a college town during a time in which the teacher market was saturated equaled taking a job as a Title I aide in an elementary school. 

After the fall semester as an aide, I got my chance to teach my first class as a long-term substitute in a Kindergarten classroom. Yet, as the spring semester concluded so did my first job; there was no going back to my aide position because it had been filled. 

Spring forward a handful of years, through new positions and new schools almost every year, to my first full-time classroom teaching position in third grade. Four school years post-graduation, I had finally achieved my goal. With a variety of teaching experiences under my belt, I was ready to teach my students all they needed to know as third graders. 

It didn’t take long for the honeymoon phase to end and reality to set in. Teaching is hard. I knew it wasn’t easy, but I didn’t truly know how much it would take out of me physically, emotionally, and mentally from year to year. Neither did I understand how disconnected I could feel in a building full of other passionate educators and energetic students. 

Looking back, I can now see that what I needed to avoid the burnout and the tunnel vision was a flock. Sure I had friends in my building and colleagues that cared, but we all had our own set of responsibilities, goals, and classroom and personal challenges. It really didn’t dawn upon me until leaving the classroom that not only could my students and I have immensely benefited from intentional collaboration with the speech and language pathologist, special educators, occupational therapist, etc in my building, but that there are ways to connect with educators just like me or to those who support educators just like me beyond the walls of the school.

Did you know that there are over 15 projects supporting educators, schools, and parents that are part of the Indiana Resource Network? I didn’t until I left the classroom. Many of them provide their services at no cost to you.

Did you know that you can connect with all of us at PATINS in a variety of ways without much more than signing into your computer? I didn’t even know what a PATINS was, let alone that our mission is to support all educators, including those in general education, when it comes to making sure that every student has access to your curriculum. So, please spread the word and let us be part of your flock. No one; I repeat no one should go it alone. Plus, we can come to you in more ways than you may be imagining!
  • Join our crew of 3,975 PATINS Pages eNewsletter subscribers to hear real-life stories from the classroom, learn about the newest assistive tech in our Assistive Technology Lending Library (it's open to all public educators), find the latest in education news, sign up or request training, and so much more.
  • Subscribe to our weekly blog, PATINS Ponders, which has a total: 5,900+ total views to get PATINS/ICAM reflections and info on current education topics sent right to your inbox. You never know when the right blog will show up on the day you need it the most.
  • Like us on Facebook and join a flock of 1200+ followers! We love supporting our followers by highlighting innovative educators and sharing relevant news and information.
  • Grab a snack & your computer to hang out with us on Twitter on Tuesdays at 8:30pm EST. You’ll find us chatting about all kinds of topics at #PatinsIcam. This year alone you could have picked up 26 hours of professional growth points (PGPs) for participating or even lurking in a chat!
  • Check out PATINS on YouTubeA total of 17 new videos have been released so far this school year! The quick clips on tech, tools, & resources from vendors and PATINS Specialists, student success stories, & starfish award winners will leave you excited to try something new with your students.
  • Register and attend one of our no-cost webinars or request a repeat of a webinar you missed! A fellow PATINS flock member, Drew Slentz, commented that a great benefit to attending is the ability to download and explore apps that are shared during the presentation. We’ve hosted 77 webinars on ways to increase access to the curriculum since August with more to come. PGPs are available to all attendees.
  • Come interact with us virtually in Second Life during our office hours. We are there monthly and have hosted 54 meetings in the last eight months. Plus, our first ever PATINS Project Second Life Conference on accessibility is slated for May 14! Be on the lookout for more info coming soon!
It’s weird how lonely it can get in a classroom of 20 or 30+ students, so find your flock in your building, district, or beyond. And don’t be afraid to add PATINS or any other resource networks to your flock, knowing that it is no one’s job to judge you or the work you do with your students. We’re here to offer you a fresh set of eyes and perspectives while wrapping you in support as you chart the path to equitable access for each and every one of your students. Please remember, we’re truly just a phone call or email away

PATINS Project.org logo Virtual Educator Support July 2018 to February 2019

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Apr
11

ISO: Someone Like Me

We all want a sense of belonging to a community, a family, a social group that we can feel a sense of identity. These social groups are where we base our identity. 

One aspect that educational practices may be overlooking is our students who may identify with being Deaf/deaf/hard of hearing/deafblind/hearing impaired. As a Teacher of students who are deaf/hard of hearing, it is part of our Expanded Core Curriculum to ensure our students meet and socialize with other students who are Deaf/deaf/hard of hearing/deafblind/hearing impaired. 


Students who are deaf and hard of hearing need to be around peers with hearing loss. They need to have positive deaf/hard of hearing role models who share the same and different modes of communication than themselves. If they do not have these positive experiences while growing up it may be hard of them to not have a sense of where they belong in the world, which social group they identify with and/or perhaps have a sense of social isolation at some point in their educational career.

In fact, did you know that some students growing up with hearing loss that has never met an adult with hearing loss think there is no future for them? How will they know that they can achieve anything that their minds allow them to dream up if we don’t show them how great others are. We have to provide an “end result” picture so they know they are fully capable to do the same or better.


My mother, Beth Fritter, grew up experiencing hearing loss as a hard of hearing student in the 1960s. She attended a private Catholic school in northern Indiana until 6th grade and then attended the public school 6th grade through 12th grade. I was fortunate enough to visit with her for a few days in her northern Indiana home during this year’s spring break. As I was asking her what it was like to grow up in the 60s in the private and public schools with hearing loss, she described what the learning environment was like for her. She talked about large class sizes of about 50 students in one room per grade, desks in rows, and strict rules regarding no speaking, eyes forward, and material will be taught one time with little to no interventions to help students keep up or catch up. She also never received services for specialized instruction or technology for her hearing loss. She recalled having a few good friends that would repeat conversations for her or try to include her. She still hasn’t met anyone else that grew up like her with hearing loss and she just turned 60 this year.


Katie and her mother, Beth Fritter


Have you ever heard the saying, “You don’t know what you’re missing?" My mom just recently received her first set of hearing aids a few years ago. She recalled after getting her hearing aids fitted and taking them home that one morning she woke up and looked out the window she said she SAW that it was raining outside. She then put her hearing aids in and she could HEAR that it was raining. Without her hearing aids, she would have missed that everyone else could hear that was raining without looking out the window. Can you imagine what else she could be missing out on just simply because she wasn’t aware without her hearing aids? Think about our students in the classroom. When we simply ask if they heard us and they say, “yes.” They may not know that they, in fact, did miss something because we really “don’t know what we are missing.” It is best to instead ask, “What did you hear?” or “What will you do next?” to see if our students missed something and need something restated or clarified.


Can you imagine the impact on my mother’s life if she would have gone to a program with other students experiencing the same thing as her or even just got to meet one other student like her? The picture below is from a new popular book, El Deafo by CeCe Bell. The book is a personal account of what her childhood was like with her hearing loss. The picture below is a representation of what a class looked like for the author, CeCe. You may also notice what the hearing devices looked like back in the day! What a difference compared to today, huh? 


picture of six classmates with hearing aids sitting in a circle on the floor. text on picture:                                                                                                     
It should also be noted that it is best practice to be around typically developing peers in a language-rich environment for the best possible outcomes in language development regardless of the mode of communication.

pictures of classmates taped to the wall with names written by them. text on picture,                                                                                               

Give our students who are deaf/hard of hearing/deafblind/hearing impaired a sense of belonging with providing times to interact and engage with peers just like them.

What can we do as parents and educators if our student is the only student with hearing loss in the area?  

Here are a few ideas:
Camps in Indiana for students who are deaf/hard of hearing:
Other ways to connect:
  • Zoom DHH Buddies program connecting students with hearing loss across the state through technology
  • Indiana Hands & Voices Parent Guides Events around the state
  • DHH Students Facebook group
  • Introduce books with Characters/Authors who are D/deaf/hard of hearing/deafblind/hearing impaired - Check out my list and add your favorites!
Please comment below if you have more resources and/or suggestions to connect our students who are deaf/hard of hearing in Indiana. We would love to hear from you! Make sure to “like” and share this blog with your educational teams!
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Mar
25

Now and Then

If you have read any of my previous blogs, I lean toward bringing in a personal touch to my writing through the eyes of my family. I often look for and find something that relates, however vague, to education.

This past St. Patrick’s Day our family decided to have an all-out Paddy Day. There was the wearing of the green, shamrock tattoos, green sodas, St. Patrick’s Day decorations, and of course, Irish food.

What would a St. Patrick’s Day party be without Irish music? My wife called on Alexa to play some Irish tunes to set the party mood. Song after song had that Irish sound but one popped out for the kids. It was called The Unicorn Song by the Irish Rovers.

If you haven’t heard of The Unicorn Song, it is worth a listen. Primarily it’s about the unicorn missing Noah’s ark. The kids found it to be a whimsical song of silliness which led to what happened next.

I have been out of mainstream children’s music for a while but I was about to be brought up to speed. The music turned from the Irish folklore and ballads to nonsensical melodies.

The fact that my grandkids are preschoolers through 3rd grade and Mimi works with kindergarteners only added to the selections.

Here are just a sample:

It’s Raining Tacos

Baby Shark

The Hampsterdance Song

Pop See Ko

The Dinosaur Stomp

All I Eat Is Pizza

Some of these are not just songs by themselves but dance tunes as well. Five grandkids gyrating around the kitchen, not playing each song once, but a constant medley and throwing the Irish Rovers under the proverbial bus.

I thought back to when my girls were young and they sang and danced to Raffi’s Baby Beluga and Down by the Bay or Sharon, Lois and Bram’s Skinnamarink.

I started to think about my exposure to rhymes in my childhood. As I recall, there were many nursery rhymes that involved hand gestures and movement. Their lyrics were simple and rhyming but had an odd theme. However, at that time is wasn’t about the theme but to just memorize and perform the activity.

Many of the rhymes may have had political meaning or flavors of satire. I am certainly not a scholar of nursery rhymes, but a little search into some of the potential underlying messages can be disturbing. I’ll leave that for you to explore. For me, I am not any worse off by not questioning the message. It was what is was.

It seems that what my girls, and now my grandchildren, listen to have a place in what motivates them to participate with one another or peers at school. Today’s songs don’t carry an underlying meaning per se, unless you like tacos, pizza, and movements to Baby Shark and Pop See Ko. So much for the unicorn.

 


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Feb
28

Feeling the Burnout

Feeling the Burnout Burnt toast with the words
How is it that Fall Semester has 90 school days but Spring Semester has somewhere around 1,200? It feels like it doesn't it? While some of us are anticipating a much-deserved break, you or your colleagues might be struggling with that-which-we-do-not-really-talk-about: burnout.

I cried every day of the first two weeks in my first post-graduation job. No hyperbole: I went through my entire tissue box in my car and I knew exactly what spot to park in so the cafeteria staff couldn’t see my tears. I'm grateful to report that it got better. My first experience with burnout wasn't my last, but each time has taught me to be more patient and gentle with myself and others.


Still, it sucked.

My first job out of graduate school, I was excited but pragmatic. I wasn’t planning on changing the world, I just wanted to be a good speech-language pathologist. I wanted to help my students meet their goals, I wanted to turn in all my paperwork on time, to feel good about the work I did with kids, and have a real life outside of work.

When I woke up I felt I had enough energy and resources to pick two of those things and let the other two slide. I was miserable. I privately wondered if I was burnt out already, only a few months in.

I wasn’t burnt all the way, but the edges were pretty rough, a little toasty if you will, and it was obvious in the day-to-day. I was physically sick more than I’d ever been. I was short with people that didn’t deserve it. Every little ask or additional work felt like I was being personally singled out. Didn’t anyone care?!

The truth is, in education, we care and we are surrounded by people who care. We care so much, all day long, without ceasing, and the unpaid emotional work comes at a cost. In many cases, especially for those of us who work with students who have experienced trauma, it can come on acutely with compassion fatigue or slowly with burnout.

The Life Stress Test is one tool to help gauge how susceptible you are to stress-related illness. Notice that happy things, like marriages and vacations, contribute to stress just like deaths and job changes. Just before I started my (tear soaked) first two weeks:

Got married (50 points)
Had a change in financial status (38 points)
A student loan over $30,000 (31 points)
Change to a different line of work (36 points)
Finished School (26 points)

The month before I started school racked up enough "stress points" to put me firmly into a category of moderate concern, let alone everything else weighing on me up to that point. With all the “happiest time of your life” cards I’d gotten, it seemed wrong to be feeling stressed and upset. Looking back, I wish someone had said that I could be really happy to be married and employed and really unhealthily stressed at the same time, just to relieve some of the guilt.

It's interesting to note that most of these "stress tests" are very adult-oriented. What would it look like for many of our students? I imagine:

Walked into school late (15 points)
Unexpected substitute teacher (22 points)
High-stakes test (40 points)
Surprise convocation (13 points)
Something bad happened at home but the adults won't explain it to me (20-60 points)

Life has since changed for the better because I made changes. I surrounded myself with wonderful, positive people who listened and taught me how to manage my work. I said “no” to some things so I can say “yes” to self-care. I created new schedules. I learned new paperwork management techniques. I applied UDL principles in my work for my students and for myself. I had fun! PATINS had a wonderful twitter chat about mindfulness on Tuesday, many shared tools and ideas I want to try. Take a look at this calendar from Montgomery Co Public Schools around self-care (thanks for sharing @PossBeth). Try a few in the upcoming week, see how you feel!

While most of the things on this list helped me overcome my temporary bout with high-stress and burnout, sometimes we need more assistance and help to find that help. The correlation between burnout and depression is strong and, for many, these techniques aren't enough. Before I stepped foot in a classroom I was given training on the ways my students could access more mental health services and support but it took years before I learned about help for me and my fellow educators, such as:

Seek a professional. Many employers offer Employee Assistance Programs or other opportunities to take advantage of free or nearly free counseling services.

Suicide prevention hotline, 1-800-273-8255, with accessible services for people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing and in Spanish.

Consider getting trained in responding to someone who is in crisis. Many districts offer training in Question, Persuade, Respond program or other crisis response techniques to empower all people to intervene and prevent suicide.

My hope is that you know you're not alone. My deepest wish is that when you reach out for help PATINS can help you feel less "toasty-to-burned out" as you manage new expectations and challenges, you'll find an enthusiastic colleague and listening ear.

We're rooting for you!
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Feb
21

#ThrowbackThursday - Look at the Past & Future

#WayBackWednesday, #ThrowbackThursday, and the #10YearChallenge are opportunities for us to peek back into history. I love seeing these types of posts because it reminds me how small changes in the past lead to impressive results in the future.

Collage of PATINS/ICAM staff members from the past (2008).

2008 photo collage of PATINS/ICAM staff members. Left to right. (Top Row) Glenda Thompson, Lori Kane, Walt Daigle, (Middle Row) Daniel McNulty, Vicki Hershman (Bottom Row) Jeff Bond, Tina Jones, Jim Lambert, Sandy Stabenfeldt. Not pictured: Sheri Schoenbeck, Carrie Owens, Alice Buchanan

Have you read the PATINS Project’s fascinating origin story yet? I recently did. It's amazing that as I was learning my ABCs & 123s in a small, Cincinnati school, many dedicated educators were setting the foundation for the PATINS Project to bring access to all students one state away. Have a #ThrowbackThursday party of your own and take a look at Glenda’s 2016 post about the history of the PATINS Project.

After reading it, I realized that PATINS/Staff as a whole, both past & present, are forward thinkers. No idea is too simple or too outlandish. Never have I heard, “We do it that way because that’s how it’s always been done.” New ideas are met with “Tell me more!” This is a rare quality to find organization-wide and it has led to successful initiatives like the AEMing for Achievement grant.

Forward thinkers don’t rest on their laurels, so what does PATINS have in store for you in the future?

In early April, we’ll be hosting the PATINS Tech Expo 2019 in partnership with IN*SOURCE with vendors and non-profits from around the nation sharing the latest educational tools and support services. Before you talk yourself out of it due to cost or time commitment, there is no cost... and it is only one day off your calendar. Trust me, the resources you gain will help your students ten-fold.

Furthermore, we’ll be releasing videos like Success Stories featuring students and surprising dedicated educators with Starfish Awards. Maybe you’ll recognize some of these fellow Hoosiers!

Did you see we added a new Extended Chat option for #PatinsIcam Twitter Chat? If you can’t meet us at 8:30 PM EST on Tuesdays, now you have the rest of the week to join the conversation.

As always our Specialists & ICAM staff members are updating their trainings to include topics important to stakeholders and our Lending Library is consistently updated with the latest and greatest tools for you to borrow.

Signing up for our monthly eNewsletter is the easiest way to stay up to date with everything new at PATINS.

Now, I ask you to reflect. How have our services shaped your district, school, students, or even you over the years? What do you hope to see from PATINS in the future? Comment to let us know. :)

PATINS/ICAM staff picture 2018.

2018 Photo of PATINS/ICAM staff members. Left to right. (Back Row) Julie Kuhn, Kelli Suding, Rachel Herron, Jeff Bond, Sandy Stabenfeldt, Jessica Conrad, Carrie Owens, Martha Hammond, and Jena Fahlbush. (Front Row) Jen Conti, Glenda Thompson, Bev Sharritt, Daniel McNulty, Sheri Schoenbeck, Andria Mahl, Sandi Smith, and Katie Taylor


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Feb
14

A Reading & Writing App from me to you!

Pink & read M&M candies in heart shape.This Valentine is better than candy!

I learn so many great things every year. I want to pass one of them on to you this time in my blog. Being the Secondary Age Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD) specialist for PATINS allows me to introduce auditory reading/text to speech technology and writing supports like voice to text and word prediction to so many Indiana educators and their students. This powerful combination can be the difference between a graduation certificate and a diploma for students with learning or cognitive disabilities. They are capable of so much when they are properly supported. There are many great solutions out there. The correct one for each student depends on their environment and task

Claro SoftwareHere is a new option, ClaroSoftware. ClaroSoftware includes the following apps: ClaroRead for PC, ClaroRead for Mac, ClaroRead for Chromebook, as well as iPad, iPhone, and Android Apps. ClaroRead for Chromebook comes free with both ClaroRead for PC or Mac. This is great if a student uses different devices in different settings. ClaroRead for Chromebook can also be purchased on its own, however, it is not as powerful as ClaroRead for PC or Mac.  Here is a quick comparison of the PC and Mac versions. 

ClaroSoftware is different in another way. I know that it is all about the student and the tools, but sometimes it comes down to....Hand writing COST in blue marker across the screen.
The pricing structure includes a version where the app can be purchased for a one time cost. No subscription, just like when we downloaded software to specific computers for specific students. Now don't go thinking I've changed! I still think it should be on every computer for every student. That's best practice and also increases the likelihood of the students that have to use it, doing so. Now that I have said that, the pricing options across the board are pretty great too! 

More great reading & writing solutions:
TextHelp - Read&Write, Snapverter, Equatio, Fluency Tutor, WriQ, Browsealoud 
DonJohnston - Snap&Read, Co:Writer, and First Author

If this wasn't the valentine you wanted from me, here's another! Baby Shark Valentine
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Feb
07

Playing beneath the clovers...

“It was late in the night when she heard her mother screaming from her bedroom. Even through the headphones she wore each night to block out those sounds, she could hear.  She ran to the door and threw it open to find her mother being held beneath scalding water in the shower fully clothed. She already had bruises but immediately stopped crying and said to her daughter, “I’m fine. I am sorry, go back to bed...I am OK.”

She left like she always did, not hearing her mother make another sound. She lay on the floor beside her sister’s bed in the corner as she always did when her mother and stepfather came home late at night. She put her headphones back on and dreamt of wishing she could shrink small enough to play beneath the 4 leaf clovers in the grass where no one could see her or ask any questions about her or her family.

She woke up hungry, put on clothes that had not been washed and walked to the bus stop away from the large, beautiful home with the facade of a happy, safe place...her siblings not even waving as they drove past her to school.

The bus door opened, the driver offering her a large smile and she offered one back making a joke that she woke up late, barely caught the bus and that’s why her shirt was so wrinkled. She found her friends on the bus and headed to school.

Field of clovers with heart shaped open patch.
Her teachers adored her and appreciated that she always asked about their day. She loved to laugh, even though insecure about her own smile...laughter was the medicine that kept her afloat. Her friends commented on how well she listened and that she should think about being a psychologist one day. She did think about that; for it would keep her in a place to continue to listen but not have to share. She developed and honed in on that skill of listening...truly listening, hearing, caring and helping all those around her. 

One day while at school, she found herself in a daze in class and a tear must have escaped her eye. Her teacher approached her and asked if she was ok. She responded, “I’m fine. I’m sorry...I’ll get back to work. I’m OK.” Words she heard so often from her mother...nearly every night. Once again, she succeeded…she was able to continue to play “beneath the clovers,” then get back on the bus and start it all over again.”

This is just one story of a student. There are many left untold, unfixed, unnurtured. I once read an article about “ghosts” in the classroom. These are the untold, unseen stories of our students who come to our class each day. These are stories that get suppressed, buried deep inside because they feel like they have no outlet or a safe place to share.

There is so much trauma that comes to our classroom each day. Give students multiple outlets to share, share your own struggles, offer understanding and make it known that we all have stories. These stories need to be shared, nurtured and cared. Do not let these stories define our students; that leads to feelings of shame. Everyone has a story...make sure you are listening with ALL of your senses. Be a Ghostbuster. Ghostbuster logo.

If you do not have this commercial in your life yet...take the 3 minutes to make that happen now






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Feb
04

What We May Not Always Perceive First…Always Matters.


sketch drawing of a child facing away with a large backpack covering his/her back.
Recently, while traveling, I found myself engaged in conversation with another traveling educator about the stresses of air travel. The recount of the travel experience that this other traveler shared, made all of mine call back to memory as if they were lazy Sunday morning cups of black coffee and required me to hold back tears for her. I listened. I confirmed, beyond doubt, that her experience was terribly frustrating, sad, hurtful and that it was exceedingly important to share it with as many people as possible. I told her I knew of a great forum for doing just this. A place where I knew that some of the most passionate educators and warriors against injustice frequented with hungry eyes and ears. After a short and gentle persuasion, this fellow traveling educator graciously agreed to contribute her painful story as my guest-blogger this week.  


I had just finished speaking to others about the importance of inclusionary practices and had even shared stories of several students I personally know, who struggle daily with being treated unfairly for a variety of reasons. I was traveling from one national educational conference to another with a colleague of mine and needed to board an airplane to my next destination. I speak to others often, about disabilities and about including all kids in all aspects of the educational experience. What I don’t always tell people, is that I have a disability myself. One cannot really see my disability by looking at me and sometimes I choose to not share. However, I sometimes struggle with numbers, letters, direction, verbal instructions, and word recall. My colleague helps out with this stuff, but this time was unfortunately, a little different. As a frequent traveler, I have documentation that allows me to skip the security lines at airports…not only a nice convenience, but truly an accommodation for me. My colleague does not have this documentation and proceeded through the typical security cattle chute, as I smiled my way toward TSA Pre-Check.

I immediately noticed two other people also preparing for Pre-Check. These travelers also had a disability; ones that were visible. I was asked by TSA workers to allow these travelers in front of me.  Of course, I immediately complied with a smile and offered well-wishes to them on their travels. A few moments after stepping aside, I apparently had ended up standing in a restricted area and was hastily noticed by TSA, who advanced toward me with great urgency! Yes, these were the same TSA staff who had just asked me to step aside. They questioned why I was there, what I was doing, who I was, if I had Pre-Check credentials, where my identification was, where was my bag, if I knew that I was standing in a restricted space, why I was still standing there, what was in my purse.

Like lightning had struck, I instantly found myself shocked and without my own speech. This frequently happens to me when I feel like things are falling apart around me. My words all fall into a downward spiraling drain like a toilet flushing and I cannot retrieve them! To the TSA agent in my face, my silence was perceived as non-compliance. I was physically pulled to the side, my purse taken from me and searched as demanding words continued to flood my brain. As I was trying to decide if I’d done something wrong or if this was the result of my different brain, my boarding pass was being commanded. It was on my phone, of course, and I couldn’t recall the numbers of my passcode in the correct order. My hands were sweating by this time, so my thumb also wouldn’t open my phone. My identification and Pre-Check documentation was in my purse, which was not in my possession. I couldn’t speak, even to get my name out and certainly not to state why I was standing where I was. There was no way I could even say, “I have a disability, I’m not being contentious.” My colleague was already through regular security and unable to help me. I was on my own, with people who didn’t know I had a disability, thought I was being oppositional, and I’d actually done nothing wrong. I was crying by this point and was actually asked by the TSA staff, “what’s your problem, lady?”

The reason I was standing in the restricted area was because the TSA agents took special care to accommodate the other travelers who had a visible disability, which I was more than agreeable to me! However, to then be treated as a potential threat when my own disability was not outwardly visible, was devastating.  


Most of us have probably heard the old adage, “never judge a book by it’s cover.” Upon hearing this story, and holding back most of my own liquid emotion, I reminded myself that many people probably carry more in the bag within the bag, than the bag we actually see. A lot of people are quite good at putting the old tattered bag inside the shiny new bag and it’s easy to see that shiny bag without another thought about what might actually be inside of it. Your students, your colleagues, your students’ families, all have two or three other bags. It may not always be easier, but it’s always worth it, kinder, more productive, more efficient long-term, and more effective to presume that there’s another bag.  “What’s your problem, lady,” “what’s your problem kid,” is rarely productive and not the question that will get to the answers we actually seek. It is of utmost importance, that we seek to accommodate both the things we can see, hear, touch AND those we might not perceive immediately.  

What We May Not Always Perceive First…Always Matters.
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