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Jul
09

Is Your Assistive Tech Biased?

Is my assistive technology biased? screenshot of text from phone, sender to PATINS:

Five years ago I was excited to sit at a table with a young Black student and her mother to show her all the things her child using a new robust augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device could do.

She could tell us what she wanted to play with.

She could tell us her favorite color.

When one of her classmates was bothering her, she could tell them “stop.”

She loved it. The school loved it. Mom wasn’t sold.

“It doesn’t sound like her,” she objected.

Both of us knew this student’s mouth sounds were mostly squeals and cries. I opened the settings and showed her the choices: “Ella,” “Heather,” and “Tracy.” We listened to little clips of the computerized voices.

“They don’t sound like her.”

And she was right. There wasn’t a voice that sounded like someone that came from her family or community. Not a single voice that sounded like a young Black person, not on any system I could find. I could program a voice for her talker that sounded just like Yoda from Star Wars right then and there, but a Black American was too far fetched for assistive technology.

Because technology is programmed by people, who all have biases, our assistive technology has biases. And those biases are a danger to the UDL framework we use and in some cases, life threatening.

The speech-to-text software doesn’t work equally across all voices and varieties of English, especially Black voices.

The grammar checker flags non-white varieties of English.

The AAC lacks language from other dialects, cultures, and communities, and if it is there it is labeled as fringe. You want another language? It's available, but no one downloaded the file or attempted a translation.

The visual support makers are absent of vocabulary that is developmentally appropriate for all school aged children, such as words for sexual health, identity, and justice or they are locked behind a wall of “adult only.”

Indiana’s Article 7 Special Education law is explicit on how to figure out if a student can take home their AT:  “On a case-by-case basis, the use of school-purchased assistive technology devices in a student's home or in other settings is required if the student's CCC determines that the student needs access to those devices in order to receive a free appropriate public education” (my emphasis added). 

If your staff refer to a “school policy” or a hoop for families to jump through, such as an after-school training, you’re inviting bias into determining which kids get to talk, read and learn when the school bell rings at the end of the day.

Your word prediction program guesses the words that could follow “He is ___” are: good, smart, and mean, but “She is ___”: crazy, married, and pretty.

As we scrutinize our own biases, inherent tools and instruction we are welcoming into our classrooms and families:

  1. Listen to the people using the technology.
  2. Question your own biases.
  3. Take action. Engage your colleagues in what you’ve learned. Dialogue with the people creating the technology. Good developers are open to constructive criticism from consumers. My word prediction example was immediately discussed and corrected by the company. If they aren’t responsive to your concern about bias within their product, why would you want that in your room?

Our assistive technology has some problems created by humans. Humans can fix it.

Resources and Further Reading

PATINS Lending Library and no-cost training for supporting all students

Critical Practices for Anti-bias Education for K-12 Educators, Teaching Tolerance

Vocabulary for Socially Valued Adult Roles, Institute on Disabilities at Temple University

Ableism, National Conference for Community and Justice

AI is coming to schools, and if we’re not careful, so will its biases, Brookings

Don’t Get It Twisted- Hear My Voice, ASHA Leader

8 Influential Black Women with Disabilities To Follow, Disability Horizons


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Guest — Armen Gulian
Can't wait for culturally sensitive and appropriate voice options for my students of color. Not to mention having skintone choice... Read More
Thursday, 09 July 2020 20:07
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Jul
02

If it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you.

Hi! In my first blog, I suggested that you commit to taking care of you. Staying healthy mentally, physically and emotionally are all important. Today’s message relates to a quote I saw in the background of silly video. “If it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you.” In the video, the man experiments and has several attempts. It seems like he finds his FLOW at 17 seconds in. How many times have your tried until you “got it?”

Of course, we need to improve in our professional areas, but we also need to challenge ourselves mentally, physically, emotionally, AND we need to challenge ourselves to improve and CHANGE how we help/support our students (Ss). It can be easy to get swallowed up in the day to day needs and distractions from home and feel overwhelmed, but we have to work through it as best we can.

We need to challenge ourselves in most areas of our lives if we want to grow, learn, and remain effective. We need to challenge ourselves to do as much as we can to support Ss and families. As the chart below shows, we can fall into neutral (Apathy and Boredom) if we aren’t challenged or don’t work to improve our skills.

Graphic with 8 descriptive words in pie slices. The x-axis is labeled Challenge Level. The range is from Low to High. The y-axis is labeled Skill Level.  The range is from Low to High. Starting from the bottom left corner and following the graphic clockwise Apathy, Worry, Anxiety, Arousal, FLOW, Control, Relaxation, Boredom

I have challenged myself to keep reading (Since November, I’ve completed 44 books): professional books/journals (the Four Disciplines of Execution), informative books (Being Heumman), listen to podcasts (Talking with Tech AAC Podcast, Invisibilia, Radiolab), attend webinars (AAC in the Cloud), and catch a few documentaries (Crip Camp) on Netflix (okay…mostly binge watch lots of Sci-Fi shows). I have watched and attend SO MANY webinars and trainings in the last few months, my brain is overflowing with new and exciting ideas that I have acted on, shared and explored in more detail. The internet can be a deep rabbit hole when clicking on link after link but there is SO MUCH GREAT INFORMATION out there!

I continue to challenge myself physically through running. Running makes me a happier and healthier person. Long runs, hill work, track work…sometimes I push (challenge myself) to an anerobic threshold (e.g., nearly all out effort for 3 ½ minutes), then it’s over. Rest and repeat. Half a mile up a big hill definitely hurts but only for about 4 minutes…this makes me stronger. I am completing most of these workouts safely distanced with my running buddies. Together we get through it. I complete all runs, one step at a time. What’s your challenge that makes you stronger?  Remember, small steps (struggles) will get you through…a distance, a new skill, getting that dang technology to work…

iPhone Screenshot from Garmin.  Elevation chart on top shows 5 hill climbs of approximately 100' gain over 1/2 mile and Time in Heart Rate Zones.  Zone 5  for 8 mins 12 seconds, Zone 4 fir 8 minutes 48 seconds, Zone 3 for 15 minutes 2 seconds, Zone 2 for 14 minutes 57 seconds and Zone 1 for 7 minutes 55 seconds
Change in itself can be stressful. The entire world has been challenged with the changes caused but COVID-19. Students and Teachers went on spring break and then poof! 

Shelter in place

Work from home

Distance learning

Continuous learning 

No-one was truly prepared for this challenge and the change was HUGE. It has been tough for most of us. I am a people person. I like to talk rather than text. I prefer to meet face to face over video. While working from home has definitely reduced my windshield time (commuting), it has caused me to actually spend more time seated at my home workstation. I miss seeing students, teachers and my co-workers! I can only imagine the struggles for students of any age. The challenge for me has been to find the work/home balance AND to connect with people. Support you and keep healthy work boundaries, so you can support your students.

Students across the United States most likely identify all over the various descriptors shown in the graph. This has been a challenging 3+ months for them and according to most data and news accounts, students have not been engaged anywhere near what was expected. They have missed out educationally, socially, and emotionally. Educators and leaders must work together to support Ss. We have to challenge not only ourselves, but our leaders to plan for and support ALL learners but especially Ss in special education and Ss with high needs (medical, behavioral, complex communicators, etc.).

As Educators, we need to get in the FLOW so that we can use our highly developed skills in this highly challenging time. The PATINS Project is here to help you. Here are some things we can do:

  1. Be flexible and willing to try. A lot these changes are challenges for ALL of us!
  2. Continue to improve your video presentation/telepresence. The PATINS project offers trainings and support for Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams. Check our calendar for offerings or contact a PATINS Specialist.
  3. Check out materials (e.g., equipment, iPads, Apps, books, etc.) from the PATINS Project Lending Library.
  4. Check out GCF Global Learning (It’s FREE)
  5. Literacy ideas – Book Creator, TarHeel Reader, Unite for Literacy, there are MANY more!
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Jun
25

Indiana Educators Focused on Accessibility in 2019-2020

Indiana Educators Focused on Accessibility in 2019-2020. Blog title above a group of people waving.

We often tell our students “you're more than a number”, meaning they have incredible qualities that are difficult to measure in a standardized manner. Creativity and grit are a few of these tricky to quantify metrics. Now, it’s not only Indiana students who have amazing, unmeasurable talents, our educators do too. And one there is one that was particularly evident during the 2019-2020 school year - determination. Specifically, a determination to educate their students whether the learning environment was the classroom or home.

Check out the graphic below showing the support PATINS/ICAM staff have provided this school year. While you’re looking at it, please remember, behind each number is a determined Indiana educator:

A general educator from College Park Elementary in MSD of Pike Township who attended the “Accessibility in Canvas and Beyond” webinar by Jena Fahlbush benefited from having another perspective - “Seeing examples of a screen reader helped me so much. I realized I was unknowingly doing so many things that would make learning more difficult for a student with low vision. After the session, I was able to make fast, easy fixes that will make learning more accessible. I also learned many tips and tricks to help students with hearing impairments or language needs as well.”

A special educator from Binford Elementary School in Monroe County Community School Corporation who can spend her time more efficiently after learning about new, free tools at Jessica Conrad’s “I Love Data 2” training - “I am so excited about Google Data Studio!! I cannot tell you how many hours I have spent trying to pull multiple pieces together into easy-to-read graphs/charts. Game changer!”

A cost-conscious instructional coach at an elementary in Elwood Community School Corporation who attended “DIY Fidgets & Sensory Tools to Enhance Continuous Learning” with Bev Sharritt, Jena Fahlbush, Katie Taylor, Kelli Suding, and Lisa Benfield - “I love these easy, affordable ideas that teachers can easily create at home for student use.”

Note: Indiana public/charter school employees can request any of the above trainings at no-cost.

Graphic showing 2019-2020 PATINS Project services in Indiana. Specifics in text below image.
Graphic: Indiana Educator Reach by the PATINS Project 2019-2020

  • 1,000+ Tech Expo registrants: PATINS/ICAM staff, with the assistance of IN*SOURCE, swiftly pivoted to a new platform due to COVID-19 and successfully held the first ever, virtual Tech Expo 2020! Also, in November we hosted over 400 attendees at our 2-day Access to Education 2019 conference.
  • 6,044 Training participants: The passion Indiana educators have for providing all students access to the curriculum is unmatched as evidenced by the outstanding turnout at our no-cost trainings this school year.
  • 73% Indiana public and charter schools reached: The PATINS Project has served seventy-three percent of Indiana school corporations and forty-two percent of Indiana preschool through grade 12 schools this year. Our small, dedicated staff goes to great lengths to deliver high-quality technical assistance to meet the access needs of all students through Assistive Technology, Accessible Educational Materials, and Universal Design for Learning.
  • 10,600+ Material and assistance requests fulfilled: Need to trial an assistive technology device? Have a question about Accessible Educational Materials (AEM)? Looking for information on the Universal Design for Learning framework? PATINS/ICAM staff are Indiana educators' go-to resource for improving access to the curriculum which leads to increased literacy skills.

Are you an educator behind one of these numbers? Tell us about your experience in the comment section below.

Want to be a part of the Indiana educators making education accessible in 2020-2021? Here are a few ways to get started:

  • Apply by July 31, 2020 to be one of the Indiana school corporations in our next AEMing for Achievement grant cohort.
  • Register for the first ever virtual Access to Education 2020! ($100 for 2 days, $50 for a single day)
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Jun
18

Temporarily Abled

Pause your day for a moment and deliberately gather a handful of some things you regularly do every day. Think of some things you do without thinking too much or without putting much effort forth. Making coffee, emptying the mailbox, carrying my own towel to the shower, walking through the front door of the grocery store or doctor's office, carrying an onion from the refrigerator to the cutting board with a knife, are a few such activities that come to my mind. I want you to keep the activities you thought of readily accessible, perhaps, even write, type, or dictate them into a quick note. I'm actually going to ask you to make two lists, so here's a template for you to use, with two columns and some ideas to get started, if helpful.  

visit link for access to 2 column chart for use with this blog
Now, I'm going to make an assumption that many of the readers of this PATINS Ponders blog are educators or other professionals working with learners who struggle with one or more aspects of their daily world. ...some of my most favorite people in the whole world, by the way. I'd like you to now think of why you do this work. Write, type, or dictate the top three reasons you do this work. You've probably stated this many times when people tell you, "I could never do what you do," or "You're a very special kind of person," and then ask you, "What makes you want to do this work?"

Place your second note next to your first note now. Compare them. Do any of the items (activities) from your first list appear, in any way, on your second list (why you do this work)? If they do, you probably already know what I'm going to tell you next! If they do not, stick with me here and let's think about why they should. 

Several years ago, a colleague for whom I have a lot of respect, whispered something to me. She looked around first to make sure no one else was within earshot and still whispered the term to me, "Temporarily Abled." It took me a moment to process her term and while I was processing, she indicated that she was whispering it as to not be offensive to anyone around. At the time I nodded my head as she explained that we're all "Temporarily Abled" in one or more ways, inevitably due to either an accident/injury, disease, or simply due to aging. I've spent significant time thinking about her words since that time and more importantly, why she felt it could be offensive to hear. I do want to say that I understand that disability, for people who have a disability now, is much deeper than using this term or this concept to promote understanding. However, the conclusion I've come to is that there is so much work still to be done for our world to truly be inclusive and there are so many people in our communities who have no idea what that even really means, largely in my opinion, because it hasn't had a personal effect on their life... yet. I do think this matters and I think it has potential for making a difference more quickly, fully and meaningfully including all people in all of our communities, all of the time. 

Moving Image of Daniel riding a dirtbike up steep hill and flipping it over at the top
Seven weeks ago, doing what I love on a steep hill in the woods on my old dirtbike, I completey dislocated my right knee, severing all four ligaments and causing cartilage and meniscus damage. Yes, that's right, the MCL, LCL, PCL, and ACL are all torn! I didn't even know there were so many CL's in my knee! Two required surgeries six weeks apart and 9-12 months of physical therapy certainly have put some things into perspective and strongly reinforced many things I already knew. Several of the people in my personal life whom I consider the smartest, strongest, kindest, and most creative I've ever known, have a disability. From this angle, accessibility and inclusion have been important to me since I was a young boy. However, the inability to walk, carry anything, perform manual labor, sleep normally, etc., these last 7 weeks have reinforced another dimension of my understanding of access and inclusion as well. These personal experiences, while never as meaningful to someone else, are still so important to share. While it may not be your experience (yet), my experiences just might add something to your second list that wasn't there before. 

collage of three images showing three sides of Daniels knee with large surgical incisions and stitches.

Some things I've learned recently and will never forget: 
  1. Automatic or button-operated doors that work are very important. Being non-weight-bearing and havinig to fully utilize crutches, I simply cannot open some doors by myself. While most people are very quick to help, if they are around, I just want to be able to open the door myself! Many places have not had working automatic doors, including the hospital where my surgeon works AND the building my physical therapy is in! 
  2. Knowing where my assistive technology is at all times, that it's close to me, and trusting that other people aren't going to move it, is essential and causes a good bit of anxiety. For me, it's mostly my crutches. I simply cannot move from one place to another without my crutches unless I sit down and scoot. For someone to see my crutches as a tripping hazzard, for example, and move them, is a lot like taking my legs away from me. I compare this to taking away a learners communication device or system for any reason... behavior, battery dead, damaged, etc.  My crutches have become a part of my identity and nearly a part of my body. Moving them or playing with them without talking to me first feels violating. I'm not sure we always keep this in mind when we work with students using assistive technologies. I think that sometimes we feel we're helping by making adjustments or moving things and it might NOT really be a help at all! It might actually change the task entirely. 
  3. High Expectations are essential! Be very critical about ever telling someone that they "can't" or "shouldn't" do something that they want to do! Further, expect that they will do things that they think they cannot! In my case, while I may not be able to carry the onion and knife to the cutting board, I can sure as heck prop myself up and chop it like a pro! ...right along with the peppers, carrots, tofu, and zuchini! I actually love when I'm asked to do things instead of asked what someone can do for me! "Can you come chop this onion." "Can you refill that soap dispenser in the kitchen." I already know that I need many things done for me, but I can totally still do other things and I need to feel needed as well. Let's try to remember this with ALL of our students! 
  4. My "mule pack" is essential to my level of independence. This is a simple and low-tech assistive technology that I greatly rely on. It's a small backpack that I can carry without my hands, that I cram full of as many things as possible allowing me to not have to ask someone else to get them for me. All the things I need daily or that are high on the list of importance, such as my wallet, tools, medical items, snacks, personal care, etc. This allows me to have many of the things I regularly need with me, minimizes repeat trips, and minimizes my reliance on others. 
  5. Steps! There are just some steps that are too high, too steep, or too slippery for me to even consider using.  This means that I have the choice of not accessing that place or sitting down and scooting up or down the stairs...neither allow me to feel dignified or included in that place.
  6. Trust! Whether I like it or not, I simply need help with some things. Our students do too. Having someone you trust immensely is very helpful. Someone you trust to encourage and push you to grow, to assist you minimally enough to preserve your independence and dignity, and to still expect great things from you. This is also exactly what our students need! Thinking about this from the perspective of what I need from my trusted help right now, most certainly provides some guiding mental framework for when I'm the one helping students in the future.  
These are just a small handful of some things that I've realized and/or had solidified for me recently. I'm sure I'll have many more to share. This has truly reinforced the fact that accessibility is so important for everyone, all the time, even if you aren’t one who needs it right NOW. Chances are definitely that you will need something different, something specialized, or just something more accessible at some point in your life, either due to an accident, an injury, a disease, or through aging. The notion that accessibility only matters for a small percentage of “the disabled” is so completely short-sighted and irresponsible to your future self! If, for no other selfless reason, try to keep in mind that the fight for inclusion of all people, high expectations of all people, accessibility to all places for all people is a critical one for more reasons than you might know right now. The loss of or lessing of inclusionary concepts in any amount is a very slippery slope. Work hard, daily, to build a culture of increased expectations and inclusion of all people, never letting that lever tip in the opposite direction. Imagine all the things that are simple for you now that could very quickly and easily be otherwise...what sorts of actions on your part TODAY might better prepare your world for that scenario...what sorts of people would you want surrounding you in that sort of scenario? Speak up when you notice inaccessible entries, public televisions without captions, etc. Learn and become better equipped through the many diverse PATINS Trainings on our Professional Development Guide and our Training Calendar. Trial the many assistive devices available to you, through the PATINS Lending Library!...all at no cost to you, of course! Consider networking and furthing your knowledge-base by attending the FIRST-EVER PATINS Access to Education VIRTUAL Conference this coming November!  



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Guest — Emilee
Thank you for sharing. Being "temporarily abled" is something I have taken for granted all my life. Understanding that I, too, mig... Read More
Sunday, 28 June 2020 21:28
  1 Comment
Jun
12

Don’t Quit: Commit (to taking care of YOU)

Scrabble letter tiles in spell the word commit


It can be difficult to commit to something knowing the hurdles, distractions, and disappointments to others that you may face. It can be especially difficult to choose to take care of yourself. If you are reading this, you are most likely a giver, not a taker and consistently put others’ needs ahead of yours. You are important too and need to nurture your physical, emotional, and mental health.

During a middle school field trip to Purdue University, I decided that I wanted to attend. I didn’t know what field. I was accepted into Freshman engineering. However, no-one in my family had gone to college; I didn’t know how to navigate the path. I had no mentor. I joined the Marine Corps to earn tuition money. I was determined to be a Boilermaker.

While stationed in California, I volunteered at a relay service center for people with hearing impairment. I connected the hearing impaired with the hearing. I answered the TTY and voice called to check on people’s photo orders, prescriptions, and to connect family and friends. I knew what I could do now! I reapplied to Purdue, was accepted into Speech and Hearing. I began in August of 1986.

Starting college at age 22, I was motivated to complete my studies and get on earning a living as quickly as I could. I took a full load most semesters, worked 20-30 hours weekly, and took summer classes. I finished my Bachelors in 3½ years. My M.S. followed 18 months later. Riley Children’s Hospital was in my sights for my Clinical Fellowship Year (CFY). I wanted to learn from a team of professionals. I completed my CFY in 1992 at Riley. I spent the majority of my career (21 years) at a special education cooperative that served three school districts.

From 1995 to 1996, I met daily with a friend for weightlifting, M-F at 5:30 am for a 2-hour workout. I used a simple spiral bound notebook to track every repetition, set and food intake (over 5000 calories daily). Having an accountability partner AND tracking my data kept me on course.

In 1996, I switched my focus to triathlons and running. These communities have been some of the most supportive groups I have been with. They nurtured my physical and mental health. The running club’s icing on the cake (at least for me) was the Sunday morning long run. Back then, it was 5:10am start year round regardless of the weather. I am still a member, 24 years and counting, still do speedwork on Tuesdays, tempo on Thursdays and long runs on Sundays (current Sunday streak is 27 weeks in a row.). We have chosen a more civil start time of 7:00 am. This commitment has kept me motivated during even some of the most difficult times. The Sunday long runs have been my physical and emotional support. You can talk and listen to a lot during 2 hours!

It hasn’t been easy. I’ve experienced numerous setbacks; plantar fasciitis (several times - kept me from marathoning for several years), torn meniscus – 3x in my knees (usually a month of no running after the surgery), a compressed nerve behind my knee that caused foot drop (had to cancel a 50 mile race), back strains, shoulder surgery. Each time, I was determined to come back and usually did AND ran faster. Commit to taking time to rest. We need to rest too.

The running club family helped many of us reach our goal of qualifying to run in the Boston Marathon. I tried for 3+ years to get qualified. I completed Boston in 2004. My biggest running goal was to complete a marathon (yes - 26.2 miles) in all 50 states by my 50th birthday.  Didn't happen...yet.  See above. I have completed 42 with the help and support of many friends. My most recent was the Mardi Gras Marathon in Februrary 2020 (As far as I know, I didn't catch COVID-19).  I'll get there. Preparing for a marathon takes several months to properly prepare for the physical and mental feat. I was supposed to run 3 marathons last weekend. Travel restrictions hit the brakes on that. I'll finish those 8 states and save Hawaii for my final marathon. What big goal do you have to keep you going?

I dropped out of a race ONCE… the dreaded “DNF” DID NOT FINISH in a 100 mile race at mile 95. Yeah, I know, “only” 5 more miles. I had been running in the Virginia mountains for 34 hours with 16,000 feet of elevation change; hallucinations, exhaustion, and a golf ball size knot in my quadriceps muscle all together screamed at me saying “that was enough.” Honestly, I had not prepared properly. I was determined to complete the distance; it took me 25 hours at the Kettle Moraine 100 miler in 2005. I committed right then to NEVER do that to my body again!

During this difficult and stressful time due to COVID-19 and Continuous Learning (Indiana’s name for “Virtual/Distance/e-Learning) it’s critical to commit to taking care of yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally. You have to find your “club” or support.

Working from home makes it all too easy to work from sunup to sundown, to neglect your physical health, and become disconnected from others because of social distancing. I miss being around my co-workers, students, stakeholders, family and friends. I have committed to taking care of myself so that I can be a better husband, father, grandfather, and member of the PATINS team.

I work too much (ask my wife). I exercise and usually eat pretty well (I do have a sweet tooth). Since joining PATINS in November of 2019, I have worked on my leadership, mental, and emotional well-being by reading a wide range of books (40 books in addition to numerous professional journal articles), meditating off and on (mostly off though!), and talk to friends on the phone and FaceTime.

Stay healthy and commit to doing something every day to take care of YOU:
  1. Mental health - read (checkout library books for FREE using the app called Libby), meditate, do yoga, call a friend, write a letter, etc.
  2. Physical health on your own or with a partner - walk, ride a bike, run, lift weights, stretch, do yoga, etc.)
  3. Emotional health – talk to a friend or other supportive person, take breaks during the work day, dress for work, limit your hours and stick to it, work will always be there, do something with your partner, kid(s), family or friend(s).
  4. Check out the PATINS Training Calendar for opportunities to grow
  5. Look through the PATINS Lending Library to borrow something new to you (shipping is FREE both ways)
  6. Attend the Fall Access to Education Conference

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Jun
04

Road Trips & Fitted Sheets

Do you remember the days of paper road maps? We would drive with one hand on the steering wheel and hold our maps with the other. Sounds safe, right? I have no clue how I even got around in this world due to my lack of proficiency of map reading and directional self guidance. However, I always ended up exactly where I was supposed to be or at a place I didn’t realize I was supposed to be at the time. It was always an adventure to say the least and moments unveiled that mattered.

Lake with rock formationsI recently went on an epic road trip. One with no agenda but 7 days to spare and a direction chosen...
west! Eight states later and over 3800 miles traveled, my words to describe the moments, views, wildlife, adventures, laughs and fun would never give this road trip the justice it deserves. Now, knowing that my navigation skills could use some serious work, I heavily relied on my Google map for I had no idea where I was really going but prepared for the journey. Open road. Open mind.

This was all new and unfamiliar territory but I have a passion for adventure and traveling and was confident that I would figure it out...and I did. During my miles on the road, I realized that I cannot solely rely on technology for navigation and must have a basic understanding of direction. I discovered that challenging myself led me to spectacular views and experiences. And, it was an opportunity to strengthen my weaknesses where I struggled. I am a better traveler now and left a smile with all of those whom I met. I feel pretty darn good about it. 

When I returned home, I was unpacking and settling back in. I removed my bedsheets from the dryer and thinking about my unforgettable trip. I folded the top bed sheet and then out came that dreaded fitted sheet. Does anyone really know how to fold a fitted sheet?? WNYC Studios frustration adulting michelle buteau adulting podcast GIF

I have 2 ways: 1. The rapid roll up with both hands and smashing it down to make it as flat as possible. 2. Making it into the best square shape I can and again, smashing it down as flat as I can. After getting back from such a laid back trip, I laughed at myself and thought, “Does it really matter that I fold this sheet perfectly? I mean, afterall, the goal is to make the bed or make it fit in a drawer...and I can do that everytime!” I had developed a refocus.

In the new way of virtual education that we are now experiencing, there have been so many unknowns, fears and “I have no idea how to’s”...including what the upcoming school year will look like and how we prepare. Some of you have probably even second guessed your career. 

Let’s face it, it has been new and unfamiliar territory. Look at you now! You are doing it and still figuring it out as you go! You have most likely found the most professional development that you have been able to in a very long time…recognizing weaknesses and turning them into new strengths! 

New discoverings have been made and new skills that make us better educators due to the unexpected transition from brick and mortar to virtual classrooms. The strengthening and use for accessibility has been in the forefront for students which may have not been valued for student independence and access in the past. A refocus has been developed.

You have had to refocus from the idea of the perfect classroom set up to just “folding it” the best you can because the goal is educating...and you can do that everytime. I celebrate you! 🎉

From paper maps to Google maps...from fitted sheets to making a bed...from four walls of a classroom to virtual learning...we figure it out. You are an educator. You are here because you have a passion for teaching. The goal is to educate...and again, you can do that everytime. Be confident in your abilities, resilience and open your mind to current challenges and those that may lie ahead. You won’t know until you get there, but you can figure it out and the PATINS staff are on your team to help with the navigation. Open up to the journey. Breathe.

Pink lotus flower in water

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May
31

Take a Deep Breath and Start to Reflect

Female student participating in continuous learning from home at at desk. The computer monitor shows class material, teacher and classmates on virtual learning platform.

This school year has been different for so many reasons. The way it ended (or is about to end) is not how anyone expected.

It has been an unprecedented season for educators across the nation and world. I encourage you to take a moment now to take a deep breath, and start to reflect on the 2019-2020 school year.


How will you wrap up this year? What have you learned while serving students this year? What goals will you have for next school year? I have some thoughts to share and encourage you as you close this chapter and look forward to the 2020-2021 school year.


1. Reflect - List your successes this school year, both professionally and personally. Make a list of things you learned, connections you made with students and parents, and areas of growth. Next consider and list your challenges, but also how you overcame them. You have done a great job and made a difference in your students' education. Celebrate the successes! 


2. Rejuvenate & Relax - With summer arriving, make a list of ways you plan to rejuvenate yourself to prepare for a new school year. Make a list and start checking your list off. Even though many of us work through the summer to prepare for the following school year, intentionally take time for yourself. You cannot pour into the lives of students if your cup is not running over.


3. Reset - Once you have reflected and taken time for yourself, you may be ready to set goals for the next school year. How will your goals look different for next year? Will you have a component of social and emotional learning from day one? Will you try to connect with each student right away? How so? I would encourage you to set both personal and professional goals for growth over the school year. As educators, we set them for our students frequently. We are a work in progress too. As professionals, we will keep moving forward, growing along the way.

4. Access Resources - As you prepare for next year, use your available resources, one of which is the PATINS Project. We are here for you. I am beyond thankful for the thousands of educators, administrators and parents have taken advantage of our virtual office hours, technical support, COVID-19 resources, ICAM, webinars, and all of the many resources PATINS offers. I have never been so proud of Indiana educators as I have been the last two months. I have seen your efforts first hand (both as a public school employee and mother of 5 children) and I am proud of you. Take some time to Reflect, Rejuvenate & Relax, and Reset as you have done great things and have many more great things to do!

Please feel free to share your some of your successes in the comments below. Let us celebrate with you!!

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May
22

Be a sunshine

I was happy to pass on my blogging assignment to my beautiful daughter, Courtney Cantrell. Courtney is an SLP and works for Easter Seals. She knew I was struggling with a topic and offered this wonderful idea for a blog, I thought it was great so I asked her to go ahead and write it! I'm so glad she did, I think it is wonderful!

“We’re all in this together.”

This is a phrase I bet you have probably heard a thousand or more times over the last couple of months. As I was talking with clients and checking in with families this week, I was reminded that life is still going on beyond the crazy epidemic happening. Family members and loved ones are in the hospital or passing away unrelated to COVID-19 and family's problems are still occurring every day. So as I sat worried about providing the best possible teletherapy and phone consults and even safe in-person therapy as I can, I began to shift my focus from the little details surrounded by the way our lives and therapy has changed from the virus and shifted it to a simple question from one of my favorite tv show doctors,  “How can I help?” Not just with speech therapy and the issues surrounding the virus, but the simple things our complex communicators and clients cannot understand or express.

How can I help my clients understand why they are attending their grandpa's funeral virtually or eating pizza for the 100th time because their parents are going through so much they can’t find time to cook? I will bet that in the last 48 hours you have talked to a friend, colleague, or family member about all the changes happening daily around us or a simple thing that occurred in your life that you just needed to vent about. For our clients, this simple stress relief we take for granted is often one of their greatest challenges. Simply expressing their wants, needs, and feelings. So back to the question: “How can I help?”

For me, when I’m stressed I go to my mom for not only simple venting but to talk through how I can help my clients express themself and understand everything happening. I call her mom, but most of you know her as Sandy Stabenfeldt (ICAM Digital Specialist).

Let PATINS and ICAM help you help your students in the ways that are often overlooked. If you have a client and you are running out of ideas to help, talk it out with an ICAM or PATINS staff member.

Or:

Let my amazing momma, Sandy Stabenfeldt, or a member of the ICAM staff help make that pizza menu into accessible digital text that all of our students can access.

Or:

Borrow an app from the lending library that allows them to express their emotions or a silly app that allows them to forget their stresses for even just a moment.

I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes: “You are the one who can fill the world with sunshine.” -Snow White. Find a way today to be a little sunshine for your clients who are struggling to understand or express themselves during their life that is moving on with or without COVID-19 and maybe ask your families “How can I help?”

Courtney Cantrell, M.S. CCC-SLP
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May
14

Self-Discovery in a Reading Journal

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

A Little Backstory:

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

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

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

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

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

Framework for a simple Reading Journal

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Rod McKuen, Listen to the Warm

Thanks so much!

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

SODA or CODA?

CODA-or-SODA_-1 SODA or CODA?

I have heard, informally, from a few teachers that there is anywhere from 40% to 100% student participation in classrooms in this time of continuous learning. There are so many variables that could play into whether or not your students are logging in or connecting with you or finishing their work accurately. When I hear these numbers I can’t help to think that some of the variables may be due to a language barrier. 

Indiana Department of Education, IDOE, reports that, “Indiana has a diverse student population with over 270 languages spoken in the homes of Indiana public school students and a growing number English Learners.” 

Your student(s) may not be identified as needing specific accommodations with their school work but their parent or caregiver that is helping with their continuous (distance/e-learning) work might need accommodations due to a disability or a language barrier.

So, what does this have to do with the title of this blog, SODA or CODA? 

Did you know you might have them in your class this year? OR you might have them in your class next year. 

Yes, I am throwing more acronyms your way. Have you heard of CODA or SODA? 

CODA stands for Child(ren) of Deaf Adult(s) and SODA stands for Sibling (or Spouse) of Deaf Adult(s). Your students may not require accommodations such as closed captioning or spoken English translated into another language but their parents do.

Depending on the delivery style of your continuous learning material there could be unintentional language barriers for our parents and caregivers that are helping our students navigate and complete their required work.

I have two suggestions that you can implement into your instruction to remove the language barrier for our parents and caregivers, who may be deaf/hard of hearing or native language is something other than English, helping with continuous learning. 

setting box on a youtube video to select closed captions or subtitles and different language
1. All Videos should have Closed Captioning enabled for subtitles in the parent’s native language and for those that are deaf/hard of hearing. You can easily upload any video that you make into Youtube and follow the steps on this document or video to turn on automatic captions/subtitles then go in and edit them to ensure accuracy. 

We can integrate captions/subtitles universally into our video content for the use of all students for whatever reason they may need to help eliminate the language barrier. 

Microsoft Translator app image
2. Apps like Microsoft Translator, no-cost application, can be used to translate to different languages, even words on pictures can be translated. This app is available on Windows, Apple, Google & Amazon devices.

My favorite part of the Microsoft Translator app is that someone can interact with someone else by using text and then another person can use speech-to-text within the app. This can allow those who are deaf/hard of hearing to use written English to converse with others who are using spoken English or another language. 

So, do you have a SODA or CODA in your class? Perhaps parents or caregivers that speak another language other than English? Let us know how you are helping bridge the language gap for your continuous learning.  

PS: I am a version of CODA, one might say a COHHA, Child of a Hard of Hearing Adult. 

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