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
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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Jessica Conrad
Great blog! I love all the resources, which made me thumb through the Expanded Core and I love how the expectations of self-advoca... Read More
Thursday, 11 April 2019 09:50
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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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Mar
29

Behind the Scenes of April Testing

Behind the Scenes of April Testing Chalkboard with math equations.
I’ve spent a lot of my time in the past month or so interacting with teachers for the blind and low vision who are preparing for the new ILEARN test that will be given starting in April. I love being called to drive to Valparaiso or Connersville for these visits. Connecting with these teachers is the musical equivalent to attending an amazing jazz performance with masterful improvisations.

Fingers on the keys of a saxophone
The new test is built to test students online so that we can level or adapt the test to the user, giving us a more accurate picture of proficiency. Leveling also lowers the stress on students as they are quickly sent to questions at their level or ones that are slightly harder or easier.


The state has provided an item repository for all subjects and grades to try out in advance, so that students and teachers can know how to tweak the many accommodations offered to match the features they use in their daily work. Accommodations include things like using a Braille display, enlarged display, different types of contrast, or text to speech for students with BLV. Many other accommodations are available to students with other disabilities, such as closed captions for students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Technology moves quickly and teachers for the blind have to keep up with both Braille and low vision devices while often working in multiple districts with multiple platforms for students of multiple ages. If this were the subject of an ILEARN test question, the answer would look like:

complex learner X many devices X all the subjects
= explosion of detail management!

chalkboard with math equations and symbols

The folks I’ve visited with are courageously forging ahead into new territory with technology, and working overtime (read on their spring break), to figure out what will be best for each of their students. They are choosing to engage with technology outside of their comfort zone, becoming vulnerable to ask for help from a team member or from PATINS. At each visit, they are teaching me new things and engaging me in new questions about giving students the right setting, environment, and device.

More than focusing on technology for the test, they want materials and devices that support real learning. They don’t need the fanciest tool, but the one that really works for their students. They want to set each student up to become the best versions of who they are and engage with the world independently. Most folks who interact with students with blindness first instinct is to assume dependence, so these BLV teachers are constantly whispering (or shouting), “let them do it!” They wear the “mean teacher for the blind” badge with pride.

They are learning subject content with their students like AP chemistry or braille music notation, even if they don’t read music in the first place, because some of their students dream of becoming scientists and Broadway stars.

These teachers wouldn’t ask for it, but I’m shining the spotlight on their hard, unglamorous, day to day work. I see you, and I’m grateful that you keep showing up for your students.



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Jessica Conrad
Love it, I see you too, Bev! And the “mean teacher for the blind” badge, is that available for purchase? ... Read More
Monday, 01 April 2019 16:10
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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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Sandi Smith
I love children's songs! The Unicorn Song goes back to my childhood. For an update on those unicorns, according to the Irish Rover... Read More
Monday, 25 March 2019 09:45
Jeff Bond
Thanks Sandi. I haven't heard that one, but I was aware of this version: The Continuing Story of The Unicorn, The Irish Rovers and... Read More
Monday, 25 March 2019 10:35
Sandy Stabenfeldt
Great post Jeff, I can imagine how much fun you were having singing and dancing!
Monday, 25 March 2019 12:21
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Mar
21

Socks

This may seem like an odd topic to come from a professional staff member of a Project that helps students and teachers learn and teach in a fun, accessible way, right!?… not really. Here’s what I have noticed.

Socks can be fun. I have always enjoyed expressing myself through my sock selection. I’ve even noticed our Director, Daniel, enjoys wearing creative, colorful socks. We’ve had a few enlightening conversations over socks. In fact, I decided pink flamingo socks would be the perfect birthday gift for him last year and he concurred with his reaction once received.

My Kindergarten grandson just experienced Silly Sock Day at school. Ok, I get it…people young and old(er) get a kick out of showing off their personalities through their chosen socks.

Socks can be accessible. What? 

Let me explain. This year, I came across John’s Crazy Socks. I read and felt inspired by John, a young man with Down Syndrome. I read his story and mission which screams accessibility. The key statement John makes regarding accessibility is: We want to show the world what is possible. We want to show the world what people with differing abilities can do when given a chance. We know that people with differing abilities are ready, willing and able to work. We make this happen in ways large and small.

My interest was piqued when I learned of the late President George H. W. Bush’ involvement with John’s Crazy Socks. President Bush has longed championed the rights of people with disabilities. John’s desire to connect with people through socks led John and President Bush to form a bond over their love of crazy socks and their commitment to the possibilities in all of us.

Come to the PATINS/IN*SOURCE Tech Expo on April 4th for a chance to win a pair of John’s Crazy Socks. It’s not too late to register. Four pairs of John’s Crazy Socks will be part of the lineup of many Door Prizes available to our attendees. 2 pairs of Autism Awareness Socks and 2 pairs of Down Syndrome Awareness Socks. 

We will also have Exhibitors available to you for those specific disabilities and many more. Please join us for a day of professional learning and fun.

Today is a meaningful day to post my blog…March 21, 3:21 World Down Syndrome Day. This is a day we celebrate all who have Down Syndrome. We celebrate their accomplishments and the joy they bring to the world. World Down Syndrome Day is celebrated on March 21st for 3 copies of the 21st chromosome (which is what causes Down Syndrome)

Happy 3:21!

   



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Sandy Stabenfeldt
Good job Glenda! Who doesn't love socks!
Monday, 25 March 2019 12:42
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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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Jessica Conrad
That's a great resource!
Thursday, 14 March 2019 21:46
Jessica Conrad
Ah, thanks for clarifying, I'll clarify in there too. Great ideas and so simple to implement in a busy classroom!
Thursday, 14 March 2019 21:47
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Feb
28

Where's A.T. "Waldo"?

We live in great times. The connection between general classroom technology and specialized technology has never been closer. We are increasingly talking about accommodations, assistive technology and Universal Design for Learning (UDL) as regular discourse as stakeholders make decisions for accessing curriculum for students. Technology directors look at means of providing technology for most students. UDL makes sure students in the margins are included and assistive technology takes technology beyond a general consideration and provision to addressing specific needs for students who require these solutions to access their education. It does take a village to accomplish all this.

Given all these considerations and efforts, what does technology look like in the classroom? PATINS supports teachers as they work with students to have access to the curriculum. So, let’s look at a classroom through the lens of "Where’s A.T."?

Classroom with students working at tables and desks and in a group on the floor.
Classroom supplies and equipment fill the room including specific assistive technology tools.

So, the items to look for include:
  • AAC Devices
  • Keyboards
  • Computer
  • Books
  • QR Code
  • Exercise ball/ alternative seating 
  • Visual icon-based schedule
  • Magnet letters
  • Glueing options
  • Keyboard
  • Wheelchair
  • Projector
  • Slant board
  • Trampoline
  • Switches
  • Pencil grip
This is certainly a busy classroom, and that is the good news. Students are engaged, and able to produce their work using a variety of means. This is a great example of a classroom environment where universal design is implemented. Not all students need all of the tools. The tools are available and ready for students who choose to use them and for students who require them. The tools are available everyday and used on a regular basis. Consistent use of the tools sets the stage for increased daily participation in the curriculum and activities. Once a student has appropriate access to the general curriculum, they have an increased likelihood of improved performance on local, district and state tests and assessments.


Now, we need to implement intentional steps toward tool determination and implementation of use. Throwing a bunch of technology into a classroom without considering the range of needs and abilities in students and staff is not helpful. Any implementation must also be supported through training and follow up to evaluate effectiveness. This data will help determine future technology requirements.

PATINS has a UDL Lesson Creator available that will expand the typical lesson plan to be more inclusive of students on the whole spectrum of abilities, including the specialized needs of students who are considered gifted and those who need various scaffolds for support in their learning. We have a Lending Library from which educators can borrow tools before purchasing them. Our specialists can also help educators work through the many options for Universal Design for Learning, Assistive Technology and classroom/student supports.

Given the tools and strategies that are available, this is a great time to be in education! How many Where's A.T. "Waldo's" did you find?


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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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Jan
23

What is Your Gift?

Last month, while visiting a school in Jennings County, I had an “Aha” moment that made me assess my own gifts.


As I entered Graham Creek Elementary, I could already hear the sound of excitement drifting out of each classroom. Enthusiastic student voices, shuffling papers and the distinct sound of backpacks zipping up indicated one thing....the students were getting ready to leave for the day.


The principal escorted me to the room where I would be speaking to the staff about the Mindful Management of students who are in crisis or have been suffering from trauma. He explained that many of the families who live in the rolling farmland surrounding the elementary schools have taken in children to foster and that they want to make sure staff members are paying attention how to best serve the new set of needs that they are starting to see.


As we continued to walk, a small boy approached us and his face fell as we drew near. The principal stopped him and indicated that he would be right back in his office to meet with the child and that he was looking forward to it. The child’s face immediately lightened and relief seemed to wash over him. I told the student that finding the room would not take long and that he would have his special time, as promised.


The principal turned his focus back to the student and said, “Tell Rachel what your gift is."


Hands holding a small red gift with white ribbon.



The young man smiled broadly at me and pointed to his Star Wars themed shirt. “I know a lot about Star Wars,” he replied. I told him I thought that was fantastic and that I loved Star Wars too. As he turned and headed to the office, his steps seemed to be lighter.


Seconds later another student approached. This time it was an older girl, possibly a 5th grader. She raised her hand to greet us as we passed, and once again, the principal introduced us and asked, “Tell Rachel what your gift is.”


Suddenly her expression changed from one of concentration to an ear to ear grin. “I am an artist,” she exclaimed. She was prompted then, to get some art from her classroom and to show me. It was good. REALLY good. She showed me that the anime character she had drawn actually had special details that only showed up when you moved the paper under the fluorescent lights shining from above.


Later upon reflection, I really began to consider the action of students identifying and naming individual gifts. Yes, it helped me understand the students better and gave them something to be proud of. It added to the overall climate of the school and showed a closeness and sense of community to a virtual stranger. However, it did something greater.


As an adult, I have a hard time sharing my true gifts with others. Not the gifts that others tell me I have, but what I truly value about myself. We have been conditioned in our lives to be modest and humble, which are thought to be great attributes, but upon second glance, are they?


When I was a kindergartener in Texas and was picked to be a Munchkin for Richardson High School’s production of The Wizard of Oz, I discovered that I loved to be on stage, to be in the spotlight, to sing at the top of my lungs and to perform. If you asked me in middle school, after years of being told by society not to “brag” about myself, I probably would not have told you that I was born to have an audience, that I liked my sense of humor and that I prided myself in being able to talk to people even if I was uncomfortable. The short years that fell between discovering a gift and a talent and being shaped by my surroundings certainly took a toll on who I was to the outside world.


I would like to collect some data about these children who are so encouraged to talk about what makes them special and the encouragement and excitement that adults in their lives have when sharing the experience. Does hiding your pride and strengths make you modest and humble, or does it hold you back?


In education we like to celebrate the joys of our students, but do we take the time to sit down and really talk about the incredible things THEY have identified about themselves? How would this empowerment shape the outcomes of kids across our country?


We are being faced with a wave of children who are living in crisis and facing tremendous trauma. However, one huge difference exists from other generations of children born into trauma. Teachers across our country are taking a stand, educating themselves about how to reach students and learning how to empower and connect with them. My challenge to you today is to start the process of discovering the gifts that every student you meet has. Just ask them! They will tell you!
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Sandy Stabenfeldt
Great post! Thank you for sharing!
Thursday, 24 January 2019 13:10
Sandy Stabenfeldt
My gift is being a terrific mom! There is nothing that brings me more joy than being a good mom and seeing my daughter grow into ... Read More
Thursday, 24 January 2019 13:42
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Jan
17

Solving the puzzle!

Some of my favorite things go together so nicely.  Playing tennis on a tennis court overlooking the ocean while a dolphin plays in the background would be my idea of a perfect afternoon!  Another perfect scenario would include me sitting by the ocean reading a mystery novel while a manatee splashed around. Another of my favorite activities is putting together a puzzle with my husband and daughter on our dining room table.  I call it “family puzzling time” and it always makes me so happy to have everyone together completing a puzzle.

As I was contemplating my next blog posting I was thinking about how things fit together. Many times we have pieces of our lives or daily routines that need to fit together to help complete our puzzles.  Thinking about how pieces go together relate to the students I serve as well. Teachers have the complex task of figuring out which pieces of the puzzle fit to best serve their students.  

Each student is unique and will require a different solution.  Some students will need AEM (Accessible Educational Materials) and a technology solution to access these materials. This is where the ICAM (Indiana Center for Accessible Materials) can help. We can provide answers and solutions for your students who struggle with print materials. We can help solve your puzzling student situations.

Do your students need digital text, do they need to access it on an iPad, do they need text to speech? Or do they need audio text on a Windows computer? The different scenarios are endless and the ICAM can help you put the puzzle together.   

If you find yourself with a puzzling case, please do not hesitate to contact the ICAM! Sandy Stabenfeldt (myself), Jeff Bond and Martha Hammond are here to help you every step of the way.


Sandy StabenfeldtJeff BondMartha Hammond


The ICAM webpage is full of great information and resources for you to check out as well.  We have also made some step by step videos to assist you!
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Jan
10

Teacher, Wash Your Face

Thanks for sharing the lies you used to believe and found a way to dismiss, Rach! Have you heard of Rachel Hollis? She published a book this year that has gone viral called, “Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be.” Have you read it? If you haven’t, I recommend the great and easy read!

Katie holding Girl, Wash Your Face book.

Now, it's our turn to share and help others dismiss the voice inside their head. One lie that I used to believe for a long time is the one regarding age. Growing up we all experienced those moments when our parents told us, "You can when you're older," or "You’ll understand when you're older". Leaving you to always long for just the right moment “when you're old enough” for whatever it is.

Now that I am older, it has morphed in my professional career that has left me longing until “I have enough experience to write that book, or present on that topic, or to do exactly what I think I have always been meant to do". Always being told that you need to “put in your dues” and then it will be your turn. Suddenly, I realized that I am longing to do the things of the “experienced” and waiting for “someone” to tell me “it's time”. Do you find yourself waiting for permission or asking for someone else’s approval for that gutsy move to get ahead in your career? One of Rachel Hollis’ quotes from the book is,


“No one can tell you how big your dreams can be.”

We all seem to care a little too much about what others are going to say. The truth is if we wait for these moments, we may be waiting our whole lives. Another favorite quote:

“Someone else’s opinion of you is none of your business.”

So, what have you been waiting to do?

Maybe you have been waiting to integrate Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and technology into your classroom or program? PATINS Specialists are standing by for your email or call for on-site consultation and our *no cost* PATINS Tech Expo is coming up on April 4th to help connect you with the right tools, know-how, and inspiration to make your ideas a reality! Your time is now! Don’t wait to contact us and let us know how we can support you today! {Free Registration for Tech Expo opens soon!}

Don’t forget to like, comment and share this blog and the Tech Expo with your fellow teachers!

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Jan
03

Happy New Year!

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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




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218 Hits
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Dec
26

A New Year, A New Classroom?

Traditional & UDL Classroom Comparison From a traditional classroom to one that is more universally designed.
For many people, the end of the year is laden with traditions. After all, traditions are inherently part of the many cultures that exist around the world, especially when it comes to holidays and celebrations. They are present in a variety of our routines, activities, and schedules at home, work, and school.

Some traditions evolve over the years, reflecting the change in the times, the environment, or the family, while others remain the same from one year to the next. I like to call the latter, anchor traditions. I believe that our desire to observe these traditions not only stems from the definition that they bring to us as a people, but is deeply rooted in the comfort and familiar expectations that accompany each one.

Furthermore, I believe that it’s within this comfort and familiarity that many traditions, good and bad, persist in our schools and classrooms. It’s natural to cling to what we know and what has always been done, but when does our personal comfort begin to impede the learning experience for our students?

I’d argue that more often than not holding onto what we know to be true in a zone of comfort, holds us back from doing the job we truly want to do as educators. That it keeps us in the mindset of teaching the way we were taught, of putting our academic to-do lists before our students more immediate needs, of being resistant to new ideas, of overlooking the value that each student brings to the classroom, of forgetting why we became teachers in the first place.

In fact, as I reflect upon my own teaching and experience, I can admit that I allowed myself to retreat to my personal comfort zone, teaching the way I was taught and projecting onto my students what I wanted for them without asking them what they wanted for themselves.

Had I known then what I know now, there are steps that I would have taken to shift the focus from my traditional, teacher-centered methods solely created to manage my classroom to a student-centered classroom driven by my students’ individual wants and needs.

But how?

I would have started with relationship building. Not the type of relationship building that happens those first few days of school (and includes the obligatory beginning of the year “get-to-know me” poster activity), but real relationship building. The type that takes time, energy, and sometimes a lot of effort and persistence. The type that begins with allowing every student to enter the classroom with a clean slate and without preconceived notions.

I would have asked my students to share how they prefer to learn, what they believed their strengths and weaknesses to be, what their fears were and always given them multiple ways to respond - verbally, in writing, with pictures, etc.

I would have asked my students to tell me what they wanted to learn that year and worked to incorporate their interests into the daily lessons and activities.

I would have asked my students how they were doing and truly listened without judgement.

I would have worked hard to make sure my students knew that I sincerely cared about them regardless of their behavior and even in the worst of times.

Relationship building can be a game changer and is key when it comes to creating a student-centered environment. And though it may be difficult to foster new relationships and leave behind those all too comfortable traditional methods, all it really takes to head in a new direction focused on students is to take the first step. The upcoming new year and semester offers the perfect opportunity to take this step, so will you?

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Dec
19

The Gift of Growth

We welcome a guest blogger this holiday week, Julie Bryant, who is a teacher for the blind and low vision serving in Dubois, Spencer, Perry and Pike Counties. I love Julie’s style: she’s direct, funny and a fierce advocate for her students. I turned her loose to choose a topic, and I’m not surprised that she’s chosen to share stories of her students and their achievements:

Julie Bryant and her husband Bill.
When Bev asked me to participate in the PATINS weekly blog I decided with Thanksgiving just behind us and Christmas quickly approaching I felt that it was important to talk about the blessings that being a BLV teacher has afforded me. I am blessed to meet my students when they first enter preschool and remain with them until they graduate high school and if I’m lucky, beyond. I have students that still call me when they have a question, concern, or just need some advice after moving on to college or the workforce. Watching these students grow and blossom is the greatest gift. 


As BLV teachers when our students succeed or fail we feel those joys and sorrows right along with our students and their parents. The technology that we now have for our students has come a long way over the last 10 years that I have been in this position. 

Technology has helped my blind and low vision students feel more like their peers and given them access to more information, books, and careers. My blind students have BrailleTouch devices, MacBooks, iPads, and iPhones that have allowed them to be more independent. 

One of my students in high school wants to be a lawyer and if his ability to argue his case with me daily about anything and everything is any indication of his abilities, I know he will be amazing. He gives Sunday sermons at a small country church once a month (I’ve said for years he should be a preacher!), as he seems to inspire others. He would eventually like to get into politics (ugh), but at least I know he will be an honest and upstanding politician! He is an inspiration not because he is blind, but because he doesn’t see himself as different and gets upset when people treat him with disrespect because he is blind. 

I have a student with low vision who is attending IU. She is part of the IU singing Hoosiers and has an amazing voice. She is also studying to be a psychologist. Being part of this exclusive group was a goal she worked hard to attain and she has a work ethic second to none.

I have tried to impress upon my students that they can do or be anything they want, but they have to put in the work to achieve those goals. Some think I am pretty tough, but if being tough helps my students succeed then I will continue to push my students.
 


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Sandy Stabenfeldt
Thank you Julie for sharing! We are very proud of the work you are doing!
Thursday, 20 December 2018 15:27
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Dec
13

Building Blocks: Virtual vs Real

My oldest grandson, Dean, has taken a real interest in blocks. It’s kind of funny, because as a toddler he really didn’t show that much interest in playing with them. However, at the age of 8 and in the third grade it finally captivated him.

Don’t get me wrong, he has played with a Lego here and there, but it really took off this past Autumn. I couldn’t help but wonder what prompted the interest.

Looking back, over the past year he has been very involved with the video software Minecraft. If you’re not familiar, it is a virtual world where a player or gamer (I’m not sure of the correct term) creates a virtual world out of blocks and a variety of objects and things one can collect.

For his birthday last April, he was all about Minecraft, including a desire to own a Minecraft chest. My wife, Rita (aka Mimi) had been checking Pinterest and YouTube and came up with the idea that I should make him one.

Being the procrastinator that I am, I started the project the week before his birthday. I took ownership of the process and completed the chest.   We filled it with Minecraft little figurines.  Dean was very surprised and grateful… not so much for what was in the chest, but that Pappy Pa and Mimi created it just for him.

Dean MC Box

Shortly after his birthday, I asked Dean for a little instruction on Minecraft.   He gave me a tutorial then showed me videos on YouTube where gamers show off their abilities.

This past summer I can’t tell you how many times I observed Dean and his brother Logan watching Minecraft YouTube videos…it seemed endless.

I had mentioned Legos earlier - here at the Bond house, we had a somewhat small collection. Just the right size however for Dean to start “creating” things that resembled Minecraft components.  With Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, Rita and I decided to bulk up our Lego collection for the holidays. You know just to give the kids something to do.

Thanksgiving Day we pulled out a box of Legos with over 1500 pieces! All the kid’s eyes lit up especially Dean’s. It was fun to watch all the grandkids AND my son-in-law build their individual creations.

After about an hour or so the interest level subsided, except for Dean’s. He continued to amass several replicas of what he had created in Minecraft. He was as consumed with building with Legos as he was building in the virtual game, and it lasted for hours.

I am not a gamer. I have a Wii but still can’t virtual bowl for squat, so I don’t go to a bowling alley for that reason. However, to watch Dean over the past months translate the virtual reality of his creation into the real world of constructing what he has imagined, has been fascinating and rewarding.

We put a lot of technology into the hands of children. I wonder how many can transfer their virtual experiences into real life experiences?
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Sandy Stabenfeldt
Jeff, What a great idea and what a great blog posting! Thank you for sharing!
Friday, 14 December 2018 12:22
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Dec
07

Never Give Up

This week I have invited a Guest Blogger to share with us. His name is Collin Clarke. Before I share his story in his own words, allow me to tell you how I came across Collin.

I was first introduced to Collin through an A&E TV Special entitled “Born This Way” earlier this year. 

The things I learned about Collin after watching that TV special are:
  • Collin is a fit young man
  • Collin is a bodybuilder. (Men’s Health Magazine sought him out to be featured on this Health and Fitness episode)
  • Collin is from Evansville, IN
  • Collin has Down Syndrome. In Collin’s words: “God made me like this for a reason”
  • Collin has a supportive family and set of friends. Father Carter Clarke said the family has always pushed Collin to succeed. Sometimes that has meant pushing those around him to accept his “no limits” attitude. “We are very blessed with Collin. He doesn’t see any barriers in life. We’ve always tried to avoid putting limits on him. If he wanted to do something, we were always all for it”.
  • Collin’s personality drew me in, kept me glued to the TV and inspired me to never give up on anything I want to do, want to be, want to accomplish.
Now, here’s Collin himself to tell you his story. Enjoy the read and remember to …

Never Give Up.

My name is Collin Clarke, I am 25 years old and I am a bodybuilder. I became a bodybuilder in 2015 after watching John Cena and other bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger. I was over 200 pounds. I competed at 137 pounds after 7 months of hard training and diet.

Collin Before and After Bodybuilding in 2015. Bodybuilding changed my life emotionally and physically. It feels so good to be healthy and to make good changes in my diet and be more active.


I try to inspire others to make changes to become healthier. I have many friends and family who support me and help me when the diet gets hard or I am tired or need a reminder that I am strong.
Collin's Family and Friend 2016. I believe in never giving up and listening to my heart and give it everything I got.


I am inspired by many people. People with disabilities, people in the military, family and friends who want me to be my best.

I love being a role model for young kids, to let them know they can do anything or be anything with heart and passion and believing in themselves. I love when parents come up to me and say because of you my child wants to be like you.

I want to keep bodybuilding and getting better. I look for positive in every day and want others to do the same - believe in their ability and to not get distracted by a disability (label).

I have an extra chromosome, a big heart and will keep dreaming and believing and I will never give up!


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Sandy Stabenfeldt
What a fantastic guest speaker and blog entry. We are very proud of Collin here in Evansville! Thank you so much for sharing wit... Read More
Friday, 07 December 2018 11:16
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