Oct
21

A Letter from 2020


Dear PATINS stakeholders,

I hope this letter finds you well. I want to tell you how much I miss you, and a letter seemed appropriate. There are many reasons for angst at this particular point in time, and honestly, most days in the past 7 months I haven’t been able to pinpoint a specific reason for why I’m feeling sad or anxious. I just remind myself that this is normal in a pandemic, and keep putting one foot in front of the other from my home office to the kitchen and back. Today, though, I am missing driving down a scenic Indiana State Highway, enjoying the fall splendor, and ending up in a school parking lot.

I miss walking in and being greeted by the friendly office staff, and then meeting you in a class or conference room to train you in person on a Braille display, or magnification solution. I miss meeting your delightful, thoughtful, eager students who often take off with an AT solution before I’ve left the building. I miss the banter and the physical connection of hand under hand instruction. Also, I even miss the occasional unfriendly office staff.

I miss your faces, looking up from tables in the library, some smiling and attentive, some bored, some zoned out after a full day of teaching, as I tell you about Universal Design for Learning or electronic media. I’ve seen your faces on Zoom, but in the library--in person--I feel a stronger sense of you as a person. I miss driving down the street in your small town and trying the pie at your local diner. 

I’m grateful for Zoom. I can’t comprehend the isolation during a Pandemic before the luxury of the internet and the corresponding agony of doom scrolling... I suppose folks wrote more letters. 

sepia tone photo of two women sitting on a bench wearing cloth masks circa 1918

I searched for “letters from quarantine” and found that folks going through the Spanish Flu in 1918 were just as bored, frustrated, fearful, and sometimes desperately funny as they are on Twitter today. It is a small comfort to read their similar thoughts, complaints and hopes. Here is an excerpt from a letter written by Annie Clifton to her brother at war in Europe:

“Brother, Norfolk is some dull now,” wrote 16-year-old Annie Clifton on Oct. 21, 1918. “All of the moving pictures and theatres are closed on account of the Spanish flu. … I’m not working now [and] school … had to close, too.”

Here’s where I suppose I should add some optimistic thoughts and feelings about the positive things that are happening because of, and in spite of Covid 19. If you contact me or any other of our PATINS staff with your needs, we’ll find some creative way to work with you from a distance.  

On this painfully beautiful October day, though,  I’m going to stick with what I’m genuinely experiencing, and say again how much I miss you and the motion of my car speeding down the road to be with you. If you are feeling depressed or exhausted, that is o.k., and if you are feeling vibrantly hopeful, that is also o.k. Writing about any of it from any century is a good way to cope.

Pull out that journal. Better yet, write me a letter. 

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Guest — Amanda
I love the true feelings all over this. You really captured my internal aches and wrote them as your own and that is what now co... Read More
Thursday, 22 October 2020 08:36
Guest — Bev Sharritt
Thank you Amanda. Looking forward to the end of the ache, and when I will meet your compassionate self in person.
Thursday, 22 October 2020 10:36
Guest — Rachel Herron
I love this Bev...and I agree with the sentiment so much! Looking forward to better days ... Read More
Thursday, 22 October 2020 11:01
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Oct
15

Reading Full Circle

Reading Full Circle

My first PATINS blog was in April of 2016. The title was “Mimi, would you read me a book?” It was about my grandchildren and them asking Mimi every time they visited us to read to them. Mimi took great pride in them not just asking but sitting close to her as she read.

Mimi reading


Fast forward to this week. I received a message from my daughter that contained a video of my granddaughter Kenzie reading. She is eight and in the second grade.


Kenzie’s teacher over the past week or so has been sharing with the class stories written by James Whitcomb Riley. It has fascinated Kenzie as he lived so close to her. More intriguing was her interest in his writing. She would come home and share stories she learned with her family. 


Kenzie’s school happened to be on Fall Break this week so my daughter thought it would be interesting to go to the James Whitcomb Riley home in Greenfield, Indiana. 


They took a tour and collected some memorabilia and on the way home Kenzie recalled all that she had seen. This is how I put into perspective what she had learned in school.


Kenzie and her family came for a visit and she shared as much as she could about James Whitcomb Riley. I could not pass up the opportunity to share my connection with James Whitcomb Riley with Kenzie.


The elementary school I went to in Hammond, Indiana was James Whitcomb Riley Elementary School. I also worked for eleven years at Riley Hospital for Children named after, of course, James Whitcomb Riley.


Kenzie could hardly believe the connections after just visiting his home. Another tidbit, on James Whitcomb Riley’s birthday the Riley Cheer Guild would give out Raggedy Ann dolls to patients. I’ll let you make the connection.


I wrote about Mimi reading to the grandkids in my first blog and it has come full circle over the past four years. The love of being read to has sparked a desire in Kenzie to read and her interest in James Whitcomb Riley has provided a timely story for the season.



It has come full circle and Mimi and I could not be any prouder. Not only for Kenzie, but for all of our grandchildren who have shared in the gift of reading.

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Guest — Martha
This is one of my favorite poems from childhood. Thanks for sharing Kenzie reading! You and Mimi have blessed your grands with thi... Read More
Thursday, 15 October 2020 13:36
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Oct
08

Throw Out Your "Low Tech" Stuff

graph of a positive correlation between AA batteries and potatoes with the title What do we do instead of relying on the imaginary technology spectrum?

My husband and I have an inside joke for measuring things that can’t quite be measured: the potato.

How much do I love you? 12 potato.

How cute is our dog? 9.5 potato.

How much do we hate fireworks after midnight? 14,000 potato.

It’s silly nonsense but easy to use.

A couple of years ago I was talking to a team about a young student who had complex communication needs. They had tried the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) but the student wasn’t making much progress. I asked why they had started with PECS.

“We use best practice. First, we start with low tech.”

Exactly zero potato of that is best practice.

How does one progress on this imaginary spectrum of technology? Is it when you perform really well or really badly? Did the number of batteries used in the tool correlate with her skills or her needs?

No one could say, but there was an unwritten rule: something had to be proven before you got something “fancy.”

a graph showing a strong positive correlation between

It’s a hard paradigm to change for all us folks born in the late 1900s (ouch): it’s 2020, there is no such thing as a low-high assistive technology spectrum.

Consider this model I adapted from my old notes on aided AAC and other AT:

Low tech:
Cheap, easy to learn, no batteries, minimal vocabulary

Mid tech:
Moderately expensive, needs some training, more vocabulary

High tech:
Expensive, extensive training needed, relies on touch screens technology or other newer technology, lots of vocabulary

The more you learn, the more the above is proven wrong. A PODD book comes in paper with tons of vocabulary and in my experience requires lots of training, a minimum investment of several hundred dollars. We have a library of very limited and inexpensive communication apps we could teach you to use in 10 minutes or less.

We have apps and extensions that are free or built into any cheap smartphone that can read text aloud, is this “high tech” AT better or worse than the "mid-tech" text scanning pen or the "low tech" sheet overlay? The number of batteries it has will inform you about as well as my potatoes.

What do we do instead of relying on the imaginary technology spectrum?

PATINS Specialists can help you discover several frameworks and assessment tools that help teams keep the focus on what is important: your student receiving an equitable and accessible education. Our no-cost consultation services are always available for our Indiana public PreK-12 schools with a focus on best practice, sound evidence base, and effective ideas. We'll even loan you tools to try from our no-cost Lending Library and be available every step of your student's trial.

When we focus on our student’s needs and the features of the tools, our IEPs and supports become better. We are able to figure out which things our students have outgrown, we are quicker to identify what isn’t working and why. When we use a common language of tool features, our students learn to advocate for themselves more effectively and our conversations with other team members become more productive.

Do not throw out your "low tech" stuff. Throw out the low/high technology spectrum labels and embrace tool features so your students can address the barriers in their world. You’ll be a better professional for it.

I’m 400 potato certain.

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Sep
22

Boost your Creativity with the PATINS Lending Library Catalog

Types of Assistive Technology Lending Library Items Requested 2019-2020 School Year Portion of Infographic
Before I was a PATINS Staff member, I was a middle school Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) and introduced to the Assistive Technology Lending Library by a colleague. I knew exactly what I wanted to borrow first. An iPad loaded with LAMP Words for Life for a student with a lot to say and in need of a better tool to tell us about all the amazing ideas he had to share with the world.

I started using the loaned device with the student and saw his language and his personality blossom. Once I had a good amount of data to share with his family and school team, I packed up the iPad, completed the loan request evaluation, and it was on its way for another Indiana student to use.

The last time I borrowed from the Lending Library as a SLP with my own caseload was in 2018. To create the infographic below, I spent some one on one time with the AT Lending Library catalog. I discovered ingenious tools that could have been *life changers for many of my former students, like bone conduction headphones, reader pens, and Cling! ARM.

But why hadn't I seen these items before or thought about different ways to use them? I did some research and it turns out there are two reasons, *time and stress. (Learn more in the article "The Science of Creativity"). Being a new SLP, I was low on time, placed plenty of stress on myself, and therefore did not allow much room for creativity.

*I wish I had set aside a little time to search through the catalog to boost my creativity, stretch my professional skills, and be an even better educator. I would follow only two criteria:
  • Learn more about any item which piqued my interest.
  • Brainstorm how I could use the item to benefit the skill development of students at my school.
*Finding creative solutions is one of the most enjoyable parts of being an educator (and in life). Think of the last time you discovered a new tool that made a big impact. How did you feel? Hopeful? Proud? A little relieved?

Right now, uninterrupted time is a luxury, so tuck this idea away for when you need a burst of inspiration. This would be an engaging activity to begin a staff meeting or even for your students to partake in. Who better to know what we need to succeed in school than ourselves right?

The Assistive Technology Lending Library loans out a variety of educational items, even when we’re facing a pandemic. One of the best parts is that the AT Lending Library is a no-cost service. (The PATINS Lending Library is following the strictest protocol for cleaning and disinfecting all loan requests before shipping to Indiana schools.) Here’s a breakdown from the previous school year:

Types of Assistive Technology Lending Library Items Requested 2019-2020 School Year Infographic.

Types of Assistive Technology Lending Library Items Requested 2019-2020 School Year.

Toys - 23%

AAC - 15%

AT Hardware - 15%

Hearing/Vision - 14%

iPads - 12%

Switches - 10%

Print/Software - 6%

Mounting - 5%



Toys - Educational toys to support academic skills.

AAC - Augmentative and Alternative Communication devices.

AT Hardware - Hardware to facilitate access to Assistive Technology tools.

Hearing/Vision - Devices to support hearing and vision needs.

iPads - iPads for academic and communication apps.

Switches - For environmental and communication control.

Print/Software - Reference guides for theoretical methods, assessment/intervention techniques, and practical tips.

Mounting - Adjustable arms and connectors for improved access to devices.

Peruse the Assistive Technology Lending Library when you have a chance. To view the most results, use a *simple keyword and *always capitalize the first letter. This will return all the items with that word present in the title or description.

Lending Library catalog with

Another way to learn more about the AT Lending Library is to join us at the virtual Access to Education conference in November 2020. You have the opportunity to view new and popular AT Lending Library items paired with practical ideas for your students at the *AT Exploratorium and the UDL Classroom Experience.

How has the Lending Library helped your students recently? Let us know in the comments below.
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Sep
17

Silenced Voices, Let Them Be Heard

Amanda Crecelius with husband and daughter.  Amanda and husband are wearing Mexico soccer jersey and daughter is wearing a shirt with Mexican dolls.

Celebrating Mexican Independence Day.  September 16, 2020
Photo Credits:  Hugo Salmeron

As a new addition to the PATINS team, let me introduce myself. My name is Amanda Crecelius (Cri-sil-yus). I grew up in a small town in Crawford County in Southern Indiana. My mother was an elementary school teacher in one of only 5 schools in the county. My father owned his own mechanic shop which based on the number of men hovering over my dad as he worked, was what I considered one of the hubs of the community. My mother instilled in me a love for reading, learning, and teaching. My father taught me to work hard and that my dreams and my voice were valuable. They both taught me the merits of being independent and caring deeply about others.

Those principles led me to leave home and live abroad in both Madrid, Spain and Mexico City, Mexico for over 13 years of my adult life. From living abroad, I gained a language, a family, and an infused culture. I gleaned empathy for the struggle of a newcomer and an understanding of cultural clashes, racial tensions, and the unfairness of discrimination. Privilege and value were given to me through circumstances that I did not earn and taken away from others for no reason other than their place of birth and/or color of skin. I wrestled with the predetermined value of my voice against the unheard voices of those deemed unimportant, those who showed generosity with empty pockets, who showed love despite abuse, who when I looked in the mirror of their hearts, I saw my own reflection.

When I returned to my home state of Indiana after living abroad, I wanted to find some way to use my voice for the voices that do not have the words to speak for themselves. Many times when I was on the streets in cities abroad, I was not able to communicate my thoughts, my beliefs, my objections, my concerns, my rights, or my dreams. As I state this, I acknowledge that many others have language barriers amplified by poverty, discrimination, and racism.

The first step for my voice to be used was to become aware of the current situation in my area. According to the 2018 Census, approximately 63 different languages (identified on the census) are spoken in the state of Indiana. Of the 559,000 who speak another language and that completed the census (and remember that some did not), 195,000 approximately identified that they did not speak English well. Meaning that 195,000 voices are not being heard. They are not invited to participate in the conversation, in the community, and sometimes in the lives of their children and grandchildren. It's not only language that is unshared but also culture, traditions, and community connections.

When we moved back to Indiana, my daughter at age 3 spoke only Spanish. My husband and I spoke Spanish to each other, while a mix of Spanish and English to her. She went to daycare and soon learned that not everyone understood two languages. Within three short months, she stopped speaking Spanish completely. We were shocked at how quickly she rejected her first language for another. The thing that I have observed over the past 2 years is that she has slowly and unintentionally moved away from her father’s language, culture, and traditions, a heartbreak that I can only imagine for any parent. I know that many parents are experiencing this and want to find ways to connect and participate. If my child and I do not share a language, how can we share the joy of our traditions? How can we build and curate our shared culture?

Over the past 10 years, I have witnessed a growth of the Latinx population in Indiana. This has led to an increase of written material provided for Spanish speakers. I am thrilled to see this incorporated into many aspects of our daily lives but what about those that speak Spanish but do not read it? Apart from providing written translations, how are those who do not speak English invited to participate in our community conversations? In classroom conversations? What about those that speak another language that is not English or Spanish? What do they do? How is their voice heard?

As someone born and raised in a small town, I know the love that a community has and how that love is shown and used to surround each of its members. What are the first steps for us to extend to those that are in our community? I am still in the process of learning how to be a voice. I invite each of you to brainstorm with me about how to use tools, technologies, compassion, and love to build our community to be inclusive and to recognize the value of inviting those that do not share our language and culture to the decision-making table.

Now that we are aware, how can we show that we care? As this is deeply personal, I am hoping that we can each look for ways to create and project the silenced voices around us. Here are some of my resources to help aid in your next steps. If you are a teacher, I am currently offering a Power Series to help ELL parents. In addition, I am happy to set up a time to discuss the needs of the students and the parents in your community and how we can help to get them involved. Also we have many organizations who need volunteers for connecting foreigners to the community, such as, Exodus Refugee and Immigrant Welcome Center to name a few. Also if you have a neighbor, a friend of a friend, or even a stranger on the street, acknowledge them, be patient with them, and listen to them. There is value in their voice. Let it be heard!

Sources:

U.S. Census Bureau 2018. Language Spoken at Home. Retrieved from https://data.census.gov/cedsci/table?q=languages%20spoken%20in%20Indiana&tid=ACSST1Y2018.S1601&hidePreview=false.

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Guest — Rachel
Fantastic and timely blog! Thank you Amanda!
Thursday, 17 September 2020 14:59
Guest — Kelly
This is a testimony to how many families feel, loss of culture and family connection is a real issue when language is compromised ... Read More
Thursday, 17 September 2020 21:37
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Sep
11

Time Management, Focus, and Small Successes


a nail that is bent in two different places so that the point and nail head are still going in the same direction
Have you ever gotten to the end of a work day and realized that you're completely exhausted, did 1000 things, but accomplished nothing that was on your agenda for the day?  

We've heard and read quite a bit lately about finding balance in your life, taking care of yourself in order to help take care of others, putting your own oxygen mask on first, etc. The world of education is tough and always has been! Current times, with face masks, virtual and in-person hybrid models, teaching and learning in completely new ways for many, 100's of online meetings, etc., contribute to an even more trying educational world! While I certainly believe strongly in self-care, I also value the opportunity in struggle and imbalance. This feeling isn't new for me, but it's worth revisiting in our current educational situation. Embracing the struggle as an opportunity involves determining focus and staying focused! 

A couple of years ago, in April of 2018, I blogged about how my philosphy on balance had changed in a post about "...Perspective and Levers." A quote from that blog; *"When balanced, you are essentially standing at the fulcrum and moving nothing, changing nothing! I much prefer the ideology of continual movement back and forth on the levers in one's world, creating movement, as opposed to finding balance at the fulcrum and sitting there dormant."  There is great opportunity within the struggles of *Continuous Learning and COVID19! Amongst many others, for example, our situation has brought to the front burner: 

  1. The absolute need for 1:1 devices and all assistive technology to be sent home with all students, all of the time! Special thank you to the *Indiana Dept. of Education for recognizing and supporting this as well!
  2. Having a *Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework in place, provides for increased flexibility and applicability to a greater variety of situations! 
  3. *Educational materials in place that are already accessible permits teaching and learning to continue more seamlessly!
  4. Having students involved more directly in more of their own IEP meetings that have had to occur at home has lead to wonderfully beneficial insights to individual students' learning! 
Standing at the fulcrum, where we might have felt more balanced and comfortable wasn't changing many of these things, or at least not as quickly as they should have been changing. While we absolutely have to care for ourselves, it's also important to embrace imbalance as opportunites for growth! To embrace this, however, we truly need to analyze our way of work, our scheduling, our focus, and also the direction in which we guide our teams and objectives.  

Most of us have probably hammered in a nail or watched someone else hammer a nail into something at one point or another. Even if you haven't, there are a few things that we can probably easily agree on, when it comes to sucessfully hammering nails. 
  1. *The nail must be stronger or more unyielding than the material you're attempting to drive it through (Think of this as your knowledge, skills, resilience, passion, and determination).
  2. *You must have a hammer or automatic nailer, which must be in good functioning order (Think of this as the tools we use approach the objective). 
  3. *We can likley only accurately hammer a nail in one location at a time (Think of this as trying to multitask several objectives at once). 
  4. *The nail must be straight. (Think of this as the direction we chooose and/or the strategies we implement to complete the objective).
The photograph of a nail above is from a recent construction project of mine, that stopped me in my tracks and forced me to think about some things. First, if I were only looking at the point of this nail and the head of it, I might determine that they are both going in the right direction! I might place the point precisely where I want it and I might also hammer the head correctly in the same direction as the point! However, this nail, having two 45 degree bends in it, is assuredly not going to drive through the wood as I intend. This got me thinking about my goals and objectives. I might have my sights set perfectly on the right target, with the right tools and determination fully in place. I might even know exactly where I want to direct my attention first (the nail head, which looks right), but if I don't also stay fully focused on the one task at hand, I realize very quickly that no matter how hard or accurately I hammer/work, that nail even with all of my skills and passion, isn't going to complete the objective. If I'm not looking *through the implementation process (the bent part of the nail) and only seeing the target and the immediate work in front of me, I'm going to quickly fold that nail in half!

As educators, especially right now, most of us probably feel like we have 1000 tasks all begging for our attention at the same time. Many of us probably also feel like we're good at multitasking. I've realized a few things. First, we're really not good at multitasking, unless one of the tasks is non-cognitive and repetitive motion, for example. The other thing I've realized is that the distraction-tasks (those not on our objective list for the day) are often just as important as our agenda. We can't usually ignore them and we don't usually change our behaviors overnight, but we can work toward changing a few things that could empower us to stop trying to pound in "nails" that aren't straight! Here's a few strategies I've taken, both personally and with the PATINS team as a whole: 
  1. Aim to nail small success and celebrate them! Although our big goal or task might not be able to be accomplished in one day, there are definitely things we can do every day that either move us toward that bigger goal or they simply do not. These may be very small things, relative to the big picture, and that's OK! Each member of the PATINS team maintains a wildly important goal for themselves, which supports the overal PATINS wildly important goal. We each, also identify spefific things that we could be doing either daily or weekly that lead up to the overall criteria that determines success of that goal. In the midst of daily distractions, this wildy important goal and more importantly, the daily steps to get there are essentially giving ourselves permission to spend dedicated time and effort on the item we've determined to be wildly important!  ...and that, is important!  We meet every single week to state what we each did during the previous week and whether we accomplished those things which we acknowledged were wildly important for ourselves. This accountability is important and the celebration of these small steps are also important! This is something you can do, easily, by yourself, but even more effectively as part of a team! 
  2. Be confident in creating a little bit of pressure for yourself on occassion, when the opportunities arrise. For example, this week I had several tasks I wanted to accomplish in the morning. Unplanned, I was asked if I could meet at 11:30 online with a colleague or if not,  3pm. I was given the opportunity to choose 3pm, but instead saw that as an opportunity to put a little healthy pressure on myself to get my tasks done by 11:30 and I committed to that meeting time.  
  3. Given the above situation, I also implemented a simple 4X4 strategy to make sure I stayed focused on my tasks at hand during that time. To do this, I broke my task up into four roughly equaly chunks or components, which is pretty easy to do with just about any task. I committed to spending 30 minutes on each chunk or component. I set a timer on my phone and made sure it was visible. After that chunk of 30 minutes I dedicated 10 minutes to "distractions" and then went to chunk number two for 30 minutes and so on with chunks three and four.  
  4. In a classroom situation or even with meetings (online or face to face), it's important to set a schedule that includes small and very predictable breaks, not only for yourself, but for everyone involved! ...and it's important to stick to it! Knowing there's a break coming up and knowing when it'll be and for how long can have a dramatic effect on productivity between those breaks. Adults can typically go a bit longer than younger students, but the concept is relevant regardless of age! 
  5. Try to not multitask! Research indicates that a "bottleneck occurs when the brain is forced to respond to several stimuli at once," and "as a result, task switching leads to time lost as the brain determines which task to perform." This is based on fMRI studies of the brain.1 
  6. Think critically about your environment and your task list. Is the current or upcoming enviroment conducive to accomplishing that particular task and will you have the right tools with you to accomplish it. Being in a webinar training or meeting and telliing yourself, "I'll use that time to also create this other document," is usually an example of not critically thinking through this.  
  7. Decide which of your tasks are critical and which are optional and give yourself permission to occassionally ditch or postpone the optional! 
  8. Keep in mind that, "there is a striking contradiction between time as one of the most fundamental constituents of human existence, and as one of our most abstract concepts ever!"2  While you can't ignore time and dismiss it as too abstract, you can try to find ways to make the abstract concept of time more concrete and visual, both for yourself and your students. Most educators simply cannot add any more time to their days or days to their weeks! The only other option is to use the limited time you do have differently, effectively adding value to it. For most of us, time is often our most valuable resource. Treat time as your most precious asset and spend it in ways that you are cognizant of and are deliberately choosing anytime you can. Set timers, have schedules...visual and auditory timers and schedules! Keep a log of how you spend your time. We do this frequently with our monetary budgets and we can also pretty easily do it with our time budgets. Both are limited, trackable, and important! 
A nail or set of strategies that we choose with two 45 degree bends in it appears to have the point right on target! Hammering away at that, however, will only lead to unwanted outcomes, not accomplishing the objective we set for ourselves. While staying fresh and maintaining some amount of balance in our lives is so important, but don't let that dissuade you from tipping the level, walking out on the fulcrum and embracing some imbalance now and then, in the interest of growing through controlled struggle! Tip that level and walk on it, every now and then! 

a praying mantis crawling up onto a construction level that is sideways.

Rosen, Christine. “The Myth of Multitasking.” The New Atlantis, no. 20, 2008, pp. 105–110., www.jstor.org/stable/43152412. Accessed 11 Sept. 2020.

Golden, Daniel L. “Visual Management of Time.” In the Beginning Was the Image: The Omnipresence of Pictures: Time, Truth, Tradition, edited by András Benedek and Ágnes Veszelszki, Peter Lang AG, Frankfurt Am Main, 2016, pp. 51–58. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctv2t4cns.7. Accessed 11 Sept. 2020.
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Sep
03

Assistive Tech Supports for Anxiety

anxiety Image of face profile with words questioing themself.

It is with great honor that I get to share my blog post week for my guest and dear friend, Hillary Goldthwait-Fowles, Ph.D. Hillary is a certified Special Education Consultant in the State of Maine who specializes in breaking barriers to learning through the use of Assistive Technology and Universal Design for Learning. She is an educator with over 20 years of experience as a teacher of children with Autism and other disabilities including Developmental Disabilities, ADHD, and Dyslexia; as well as a published author of  “One Size Does Not Fit All: Equity, Access, PD, and UDL.” 

Portrait of Hillary Goldthwait-Fowles


Hello there. My name is Hillary. I have Anxiety. I’ve had Anxiety my whole life. I’ve always worried about something. I never really had a name for it, nor did I really understand it’s impact until I decided to acknowledge it and work with it. It’s a life-long, ongoing process, but it’s one that is not to be ashamed of, nor to hide from,

My Anxiety tends to play out like the image below, which a friend from my Ph.D. days shared on social media. We are not alone in this. While one may see “high performing” or “busy”, or “having it all together”, it’s really a mask. It’s a feeble attempt to obtain worth and value through work (at least in my case). It’s an inability to say no for fear of hurting someone’s feelings. It subscribes to the construct that in order to be of value in our society, that we need to “hustle”, “grind” and work ourselves to death. It’s also a fear of really being seen for the variable, beautiful, complex, soul that lies in all of us.
Graphic- High Functioning Anxiety. Two columns what you see versus what is really happening. There have been times in my life that Anxiety rears it’s darker side. During those times, I have sought out therapy and have used medication- both of which I’m not ashamed to admit. If I had cancer- I’d treat it. the same is true of Anxiety. Flares happen during times of excessive stress, overwork, or because things are good- so there needs to be SOMETHING to worry about, right? Anxiety tells you that you are not worthy if you are not busy, hardworking, giving, loyal, and of service to others. Anxiety will have you comparing yourself to others journeys and successes. Anxiety will have you believing horrible, ugly lies about yourself. Yet, everyone’s experience with anxiety is as unique as our fingerprints.

Anxiety is also playing out in schools. I see learners who are taking multiple AP classes, putting relentless pressure on themselves, and participating in multiple activities. While none of this is a problem on the surface, what is happening is that our learners in this high-performing dynamic are now identified as an “at risk group. This doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of the mental health concerns of those who are further disenfranchised, including race, gender, socioeconomic, and disability. Where access to mental health services is grossly inadequate and inequitable. Chronic stress affects one’s health and well being-period. Simply “sucking it up” doesn’t work and only exacerbates the issue.

Of course, being an Assistive Tech Specialist, I am always on the hunt for tools that will help others. In that quest, I have found some tools that have helped me to manage my Anxiety in the way that makes sense for me. Perhaps one of these tools will make sense for you. When I am using the tools and taking care of myself consistently, my Anxiety floats on a little puffy cloud as opposed to it rearing its ugly head.

Meditation/Mindfulness

Probably the best tool that has helped me to better manage my anxiety has been daily meditation/mindfulness practices. I talk about how mindfulness has helped save my life in other blog posts for Everyday Mindfulness. Mindfulness practice has to resonate with you. There are apps that can help you to start your own mindfulness practice.

Calm is an app and site that is chock full of evidence based mindfulness and sleep resources. The app is free and contains a ton of great meditations. I use this breathing exercise in workshops and classes to set the tone for everyone as well as when I need to step back and take a minute.



Sound Therapy

The use of sound has been around since ancient times. Research has shown that using sound is useful in helping to relieve emotional , mental, and physical suffering. Fauble (2016) demonstrated in his research that “music and sound healing can help us release emotional traumas and end the downward spiral of PTSD.” Furthermore, Akimoto et.al, (2018) determined that the use of 528hz solfeggio frequency in their study resulted in lower levels of cortisol, tension, and Anxiety- even with exposures as low as 5 minutes.

Personally, I have used sound therapy for years. I play frequencies at various points depending on how I’m feeling, and use solfeggio tones in daily meditations. Here is a great one:



Movement

Exercise is a great way to keep one healthy, but it’s also a great tool to keep one’s Anxiety manageable. Workouts do not have to be complex. They can be a walk on the beach, yoga, lifting weights, riding a bike. The key is to do an activity that makes you sweat a little, brings you joy, and connects with nature. The AT comes into play with my fitness monitor. You can use a wearable such as the Apple Watch, a Fitbit, or MyZone. Find the features that work best for you and use it to track your heart rate and emotions during and after exercise.

Gratitude

Practicing gratitude daily helps to manage stress and increase happiness (Wong, et. al. 2017). Having a daily gratitude practice is as simple as a pen and paper. You can keep a gratitude journal to write what you’re grateful for (I kept a gratitude journal where I listed 5 things that I was grateful when my uncle and grandmother were dying in 2016. It helped tremendously). There are also apps that you can use to journal for gratitude, including Apple Notes. Practicing an “attitude of gratitude” helps keep things in perspective when times are challenging. It can be as simple as that your favorite show was on, or the sunset, or a laugh with a dear friend.

Like a famous psychiatrist says “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge”. There are options and ways to manage Anxiety that include taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. First and foremost, please seek medical attention. Talk to your health care provider. Find a good therapist. Support yourself and know that you are okay just as you are. Approach anxiety with a curious heart, and learn the ways it shows up in your life. Use tools such as mindfulness, exercise, sound therapy, and gratitude to help manage your anxiety.

*Disclaimer: The statements made in this post about Anxiety are based on the author’s experiences with Anxiety. This post is not intended to diagnose or treat Anxiety, but to share supports that have helped the author manage their Anxiety. Please seek medical attention for the diagnosis and treatment of Anxiety.


References:

Akimoto, Kaho & Hu, Ailing & Yamaguchi, Takuji & Kobayashi, Hiroyuki. (2018). Effect of 528 Hz Music on the Endocrine System and Autonomic Nervous System. Health. 10. 1159-1170. 10.4236/health.2018.109088.

Fauble, Lisabeth. (2016). Medicinal Music: An Anatomy of Music in the Healing Arts.

Wong, J., & Brown, J. (2017, June 6). How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain. Retrieved February 21, 2020

 


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Guest — Rachel aherron
Wow! Thank you for sharing this! Loved your tips and your willingness to expose the parts of you that some people hide! Beautiful!... Read More
Thursday, 03 September 2020 15:49
Guest — Glenda thompson
How appropriate the first comment to this post was from Rachel...the very one that introduced me to attention to mindfulness. Kel... Read More
Thursday, 03 September 2020 23:02
Guest — Cara Hunt
Great article, I love Calm! I try to use it every couple of days just to help me get back to where I need to be mentally and resto... Read More
Monday, 07 September 2020 09:00
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Aug
28

Starting Each Day… Thinking about the End of the Day

Starting Each Day… Thinking about the End of the Day Journal open to "Everyday is a Fresh Start."

My family is 4 weeks into the school year and mid-term grades are being posted this week. I don’t know what your situation is, but our school day schedule can be chaotic. I have five children. Three of them attend school 5 days a week all day (2 different schools), 2 children attend a hybrid program that is in person 2 days a week with online instruction 3 days, and the last child attends classes 5 mornings a week at a technical school. Did you follow all of that??? I would be lying if I told you we are always organized, on time, and knowing whether we were coming or going!

I am so grateful for grace and compassion in this season of continual change! Seems like every day, I try to give both of those freely! I may fail some days, but I sure try. One thing that helps my family is having a predictable schedule or daily agenda. As a parent and OT, I encourage you to model this one important life skill: 

Managing Schedules

I will be the first to admit this hasn’t always been my strong suit. It’s something I have had to work on and model with my children. Following a schedule is so important for all of us especially now. We take comfort and feel safe in knowing what comes next!

What works best for my crew is to let them know what to expect all day. We wake up and start thinking about what’s next…and actually what we will do after school too. This structure is helpful for ALL of us.  All of my children have a printed schedule of their school day in a folder, with various layers of strategies to support them (e.g., some with times for class periods, some have icons to remind them which class/folder is which period, and some are color coded with subjects written out). One of my children has visual schedules for smaller chunks of her day as well (morning and evening routines, chores, after school schedule, bus or car rider, etc.). For my 2 with hybrid schedules, they stay on the school period schedule even though they are home to ensure they get their work done. Schedules are a tool that helps them to be independent with many school and home activities.

When the schools transitioned to virtual in the spring due to COVID-19, the one thing that held our family together was our schedule. With the therapists, counselors, special education teachers, and classroom teachers meeting virtually with my children, they needed the daily schedule as much as I did to keep all the appointments all straight. Following a schedule is a skill that we now rely on daily. The daily schedules are especially helpful for transitions from play to work activities and providing built in breaks. This week, a dear friend of mine from the United Kingdom sent a message mentioning she shared a recent PATINS TV feature on Visual Schedules with the family of one of her students, which inspired me to share this resource again and the success of using schedules in our family. 

Check out the PATINS YouTube channel for more ideas and resources. The PATINS Project Staff supports all Indiana public and charter schools and can help you create the high tech, low tech or no tech solutions to help your students access their education, including creating visual schedules.


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Jennifer Conti
It's so helpful to share what is working for your family this school year and I have no doubt it will be beneficial to others as w... Read More
Monday, 31 August 2020 09:31
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Aug
21

Grateful!

Grateful! Sandy smiling with her family.

With all the craziness going on in the world today, I wanted to take a moment to pause and to be Grateful! I consider myself to be very lucky and I am going to take this opportunity to express my gratitude. I have so many people in my life that make my life better in so many ways.

My family is a big part of my life and through this pandemic, I have been able to spend time with my parents, my daughter, her wonderful boyfriend, and my husband. We have shared so many wonderful meals, played cards and games, and worked on countless puzzles.

My daughter has also chosen this crazy period in time to join a school corporation as a Speech-Language Pathologist. I am grateful that she has a job and is able to meet the needs of her students who need her so much. I am also so grateful that PATINS and ICAM have another great advocate out in the schools and she is already raising awareness in her school. 

I also have a fantastic extended family and we have been able to play tennis and to get out and take walks. I am also so grateful that while one member of my family has contracted COVID-19 that they had very minimal symptoms and they have recovered. We also survived a COVID-19 scare with my daughter, she had Bronchitis and we were grateful for that!

I am blessed to have a magnificent group of friends that I am very grateful for. I have so many women in my life that I can reach out to. I have my tennis friends who are always there to not only hit a ball around but to listen to me and take my mind off the world for a while. I also meet every Thursday for dinner with three friends. I look forward to our night out every week. I am grateful that I can call any of these women and know that they are there for me. 

Finally, I am so grateful for my current position as the ICAM Digital Services Specialist. I have been employed by the PATINS Project since 2001, so this will be my 19th year. I have the privilege of being able to work from home for an organization that I believe has made an enormous difference in the lives of so many students, teachers, and other school personnel. Just last year, the ICAM served staff and students in over 180 school corporations! I am grateful that the work that I do is so rewarding! I hope that you will take a pause and think about everything you are grateful for, I know it made me feel better.

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Guest — Martha H.
Thanks for this, Sandy. Everything is crazy and being grateful is a good way back to Zen.
Friday, 21 August 2020 13:59
Guest — Glenda Thompson
The very definition of grateful according to Webster is “thankful for benefits received” ...how appropriate for the grass roots of... Read More
Friday, 21 August 2020 19:37
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Aug
14

Whatever Happened to Civics?

My sister Linda is fourteen years older than me. So the year I was born, she began high school. She taught me how to count and sing and write my name and read and spell. There were three more children between us who may have encouraged these tasks, as did our parents, but she took seriously her role as the “older sister”, which was of great benefit to me in many ways, over many many years. And counting.

I loved looking at Sister’s textbooks; they fascinated me. I had only children’s storybooks, with gold painted on their little spines. I loved my books, but her books were great objects of mystery. One of her favorite classes was called Civics*. The cover of the book was dark blue and plain, but inside were amazing, unsettling photographs--a building burning, men arguing in a courtroom, people carrying picket signs in front of a school, soldiers standing at salute, a hand on a Bible, a circle of women raising their fists. I didn’t know what Civics was, but I loved the pictures.

When I began 1st grade, Linda was off to college.
By the time I got to high school, there no longer was a class called Civics. Now we had Social Studies. That class had a nice textbook, with color photographs of people in daily life in cultures far away. Dark-skinned men trudging through jungles wearing loincloths made from animal hides, bare-breasted women in bright woven skirts, carrying babies and baskets of grain. I wasn’t nearly as serious and percipient about that as I’d like to remember. So much giggling. 

We also had U.S. History*. That was largely about our presidents and their backstories, American inventors, the Industrial Revolution. Important to know, very interesting, but I do not recall discussions about why laws were written and passed, or which laws were left up to the states. We didn’t discuss the appropriate actions to take if we saw a Policeman act in a way we felt was wrong. Or the results on future employment and other endeavors after one has been incarcerated.

Linda and I recently spoke of our different school memories, and she said something stunning:

“By the time your generation needed Civics class, they had quit teaching it. Schools stopped teaching teenagers how to be good citizens; how to thrive in and support their communities, their state, our country. The United States was at several crucial crossroads, and while there were strong voices shouting their views and there were few good maps.” *

Hmmm. Perhaps that depended on where one lived? Or if one grew up in a family that discussed current events from an historical perspective

We talked about the political/social icons of my generation, as she was raising young children: the Ban the Bomb emblem (aka ‘Peace Sign’). The red, white and blue VOTE patches we sewed on our bell-bottoms. The Uncle Sam Wants You! posters. The POW bracelets we wore to honor soldiers in Viet Nam who went missing in action. We participated with enthusiasm even though we didn’t fully understand. 

Many of us were not natural-born activists, and our interests ran to football games and dances more than Poli/Sci. Civics class would surely have helped mold our thinking and would have better prepared us for the world. 

The real puzzle is, why was it decided that Civics would no longer be taught in American public schools? Did a committee decide that instruction in our duties as citizens would somehow impede our process of becoming free thinkers?

Five decades later and still America is muddling through the same entangling and destructive social ills as it always has: racism, sexism, classism. Problems that result from illegal immigration, like detainment, family separation, and disease spread due to overcrowded conditions. Climate change, unemployment, income inequality. Disability law, freedom of speech, international travel laws.

These are important issues that depend upon our democracy. We should be teaching students to be informed about the civil rights of themselves and others. Kids should leave high school with a base understanding of how our federal government works, and how their local government works within it. I’m probably not the only adult in the room who has a rudimentary understanding of many such topics. Of course, we tend to become more informed when an issue touches us specifically in some profound way.

So maybe teachers and parents just start talking about it. This is a win-win, as we’ve seen the best way to learn something is to teach it. Discuss scenarios between someone who comes from a place of privilege and an obvious underdog. What unites and divides such individuals? Can this be fixed? Open conversations about racial tension kids may experience or see on the news and discuss ways we can become a solution, not another problem. What values are we purporting, in the ways we interact with certain students, or teachers or parents? We all know we lead by example, so are we setting good ones?

Sister is right. Kids need a map. We can help our kids learn how to help others. How to ponder and talk about hard subjects, and how to navigate the maze of social turmoil by thinking and engaging their friends, schools and society at large. The pandemic is forcing students and teachers to find new approaches to teaching and learning. So maybe this is the perfect time to work a renewed Civic awareness into our lessons, no matter what subject we teach.

Check here for suggestions on engaging children in civic matters, and learn how each of the United States is working toward greater Civic understanding. There is much work to be done.

Thanks so much!

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Aug
07

The Greatest Show

The Greatest Show The Greatest Show

Nothing quite gets me hyped up like a good theme song. The one that I started listening to this morning to start off my live webinar was, “This Is Me” from the movie The Greatest Showman. I was looking for American Sign Language (ASL) songs on YouTube to start off my webinar on a great note. When I stumbled upon this one: "This Is Me" The Greatest Showman - ASL by Sarah Tubert, I knew I had hit paydirt. 

After watching this video, I realized the connection to this song for our students and educators. Educators are equipping students for their greatest show, that is, their adult life. In many ways, this school year (2020-2021) will be most educators’ greatest show yet. This will be the year for educators to really show what they’re made of. I already know - they’re made out of a great deal of awesomeness. This year, countless districts are stepping up to support students and families in order to improve their delivery of distance and in-person learning. Students and families are also demonstrating great compassion through understanding and giving it their all to help make this year a great year.

We have heard many times that we need to take care of ourselves (e.g., eat better, get more sleep, exercise, read, connect with nature, etc.). We do need to be healthy before we can help others, and we need to nurture our own mental health. Similar to the flight attendant’s instruction “to put on your oxygen mask first” so that you can help others. If we aren’t prepared, we won’t be able to help others. We must take care of ourselves. I hear this so often yet I’m not quite sure what it means for me. Much like student rewards/motivational charts/options change over time, our own self-care choices may need to change to meet our current needs. What worked before the pandemic doesn’t seem to be working for my own self-care. I’m trying though. I am always looking and willing to try something interesting and different to try to keep things novel and fun. However, lately, I’m hanging out more and more in bed when I’m not at work watching Netflix and the series, Good Bones on Hulu. If I wasn’t careful, this social isolation could easily sabotage my mental health. So, I made a change. I’m on to seeking new things that spark joy in this new time in our lives. I found sunflowers bigger than my head at the local farmer’s market and I’ve been getting back into a safe routine at my gym.

image of a gym with pull up racks and black mat floor

G
ym time has been a refreshing self-care choice and is something that I am clinging to lately. Oddly, that had never really been the case for me. I realized why I love this gym so much, it demonstrates universal design like the
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) we advocate for in our classrooms. I’ll give you a little rundown of the similarities (Engagement, Representation, Action & Expression); 
  • one main coach, 
  • objectives and activities are written on the board, 
  • sometimes we work with partners but we all need to do our own work, 
  • we can learn from my peers by watching how they do different lifting exercises, 
  • everyone is at a different place in their fitness journey, 
  • no one is compared to each other, 
  • each activity can be scaffold to meet each person where they are, 
  • all the tools and activity access options in the gym are available to everyone at all times,
  • those who are ready to be above the prescribed work out can do that and it’s not displayed in a way that everyone else can’t achieve that as well, and 
  • there is a timer for the workout but you can take longer if you need extra time. 

My favorite part is that we use a smartphone app to track our individual progress, but each week we celebrate our growth together! Although we all work separately, we root for each other together.  Each visit improves my mental and physical well being, I am excited too by seeing my progress from my last session. 

Katie and her husband, Cam, after working out at the gym.

Everyone’s self-care will be different and can change with the seasons of life. Make time and do something for yourself even if it’s a small change. Let’s all put on our oxygen masks first and ready ourselves to support our students, families and fellow educators. If we are healthy and ready, we can help change the lives of our students in an even bigger way than we have ever thought possible.  This is the year that we show everyone that each educator is The Greatest Showman/Showwoman and the amazing impact we have in every student’s lives that walks in the doors or logs into their device. Let’s give them the greatest show!

                                                                            image from the movie The Greatest Showman, the main character with his arms open wide at the end of the show with characters around him.













If you are feeling even a little overwhelmed by all the cute Bitmoji classrooms, digital files, or unique access materials questions, please come visit with a PATINS staff member during our new Monday - Wednesday - Friday open office hours. These are drop-in, no appointment needed support for any educator, we are available to brainstorm ideas and offer technical support at no-cost by a PATINS Specialist. Links for the office hours can be found on the
PATINS training calendar.

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Jul
30

Have I Been Doing It Wrong?

Have I Been Doing It Wrong? Clipart of racially diverse students

Recently, a colleague shared an article with me that threw me for a loop and spurred my thinking. Could what I’ve been so passionately sharing with educators all along be wrong? Yikes! 

Well, of course it could be. Because if what we love about teaching most is learning (and I do), then we always seek to expand our knowledge. We also keep open minds and regularly reflect on our practice and understanding. And when we know better, we have the opportunity to do better!

So, here’s what I’m wondering and questioning… “Have I as a white, middle-class American citizen been touting Universal Design for Learning (UDL) as a solution that may only be designed in ways to support other white individuals?” Unfortunately, I think the answer is yes. That now put in writing, let me reflect upon why I feel this way. 

Simply based upon my race, gender, and lack of diagnosed disability, I have experienced privilege in ways that I both understand and still have yet to comprehend. Take, for example, my gender and personal experience, as an educator I have always worked with far more educators who identify as she/her than those that may identify as he/his, or they/their. Since I also consider myself to be neurotypical and able-bodied, I find myself pondering what proactive steps I must take in order to appropriately advocate for UDL when my experiences and thus my true empathy are first and foremost limited by traits I did not choose.

My new knowledge on intersectionality from Ijeoma Oluo’s book, So You Want to Talk about Race is also making me question the ways in which I’ve been promoting UDL. For example, I know that I’ve shared how implementing the UDL framework can change the game for a student with an intellectual and/or physical disability, but I have neglected to challenge myself and others to think about more than one demographic of students at a time as the philosophy and culture of UDL represents. 

This neglect has me now reflecting upon how a person of color with a disability may be experiencing their education; or, how a person who is transgender, Black, and has a physical disability may be experiencing their education. Have I been promoting UDL to specifically level the playing field for these individuals? The answer is again sadly no, which tells me that I haven’t been serving all students and that I’ve missed the mark on explicitly sharing the true definition of UDL, which does include a framework for all demographics and their intersections, with educators.  

With equitable access to education for every single student and the gaps in opportunities that have been created through well-intentioned educators like myself, I’ve begun to explore new (to me) research and changes I can make to best serve each and every student. One element I have found and believe is worth sharing is that while there is much research in support of UDL for a variety of students, it is worth noting that Indar (2018) and Azawei, Serenelli & Lundqvist (2016) point out that many studies conducted on UDL leave out specific student demographic information. 

These studies leave me questioning the general population’s comprehension of or attention to who is actually a part of our student body. Thus, I believe the time has come to put our UDL practices under a microscope in search of their demographic weaknesses and to boost true equity in our classrooms both in-person and virtually. 

Some ways we can get started are to:

  1. Find and explore research studies with a critical eye for participant demographics and the potential for researcher bias - are a variety of student populations being studied or is it unknown?
  2. Don’t be afraid to admit that some changes may need to be made in your classroom.
  3. Like my colleagues, Jessica Conrad and Bev Sharritt, have mentioned over the past few weeks, explore your own implicit bias using these tests and this study on implicit bias in the early childhood setting. Finding yourself feeling uncomfortable is normal, or at least I hope so, because I certainly had my eyes opened to some of my biases and subsequent actions in and out of the classroom.
  4. **Don’t forget that bias isn’t always assigned by a different demographic onto another. Many, if not all, of our students have been socialized to hold both positive and negative beliefs about themselves based upon their cultures, race, gender, etc. Check out the Doll Test to gain more perspective on this idea.
  5. Promote more racially diverse workplaces or push yourself to find more diverse educators and professionals to converse with (as a white person, I consider these tips in more difficult conversations about racism). Social media can be a great place to connect with others from more diverse backgrounds on student, classroom, and school issues.
  6. Ask your students and their families for feedback. How can you make them feel more included? 
  7. Consider your shared resources and teaching:
    1. Are you including diversity in your shared images and graphics?
    2. Are you including diverse titles for reading and research?
    3. Are you using inclusive language?
    4. Are you open to constructive criticism when it comes to diversity and genuine inclusion of everyone; not just those students that look and sound like you. 
  8. Consider crafting a statement on diversity and/or anti-racism for yourself as an educator or as a school/district to follow. We have dedicated ourselves at PATINS to our statement on anti-racism.
  9. Reach out for support. We are here to explore these issues together!


References:

Al-Azawei, A., Serenelli, F. & Lundqvist, K. (2016). Universal design for learning (UDL): A content analysis of peer-reviewed journal papers from 2012 to 2015. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 16(3), p. 39-56. doi: 10.14434/josotl.v16i3.19295


CAST. (2020). About universal design for learning. Retrieved July 29, 2020 from http://www.cast.org/our-work/about-udl.html#.XyLDBfhKjMJ


Indar, G.K. (2018). An equity-based evolution of universal design for learning: Participatory design for intentional inclusivity. Retrieved June 25, 2020 from https://udl-irn.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Done_INDAR.EDIT_.DH_.JEG-copy.pdf

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Jul
22

All the Colors are Welcome


In addition to serving as PATINS specialist for blindness and low vision, I am a part time flower farmer. My husband has a full time job off the farm as well, but between the two of us, our daughter Grace, and another part time employee, we grow, cut and assemble 70 - 100 bouquets/week to sell at an Indianapolis farmer’s market. Roger makes the dirt fly, and I cut and assemble bouquets. Every week I get to design with a new palette of colors and textures as different varieties come in and out of bloom. 

Right now, in the technicolor heart of July, we have the most variety, from the cool blues of forget-me-nots and cornflower to brilliant coral zinnias. We have found that certain combinations sell every week, so we assemble what we call “The Rainbow” and “The Rhoda” (named for a former employee) every Friday evening. They sell, but they’ve become boring to make after many years.

The Rainbow and The Rhoda:

bucket of bouquets with rainbow colors featuring sunflowers, cynoglossum and zinnias

bucket with 6 bouquets featuring red, purple and yellow flowers including sunflowers, hydrangea and zinnias

We make these standard sets, then we turn our creativity loose and play with the colors. After many years, I’m realizing I have certain biases in what I will and won’t use together in a bouquet. I’ve never been a fan of putting a lemon sunflower together with a gold one--although others in the crew do this, and the flowers sell. Same with coral and burgundy. Just writing this down makes it seem pretty ridiculous, unless you consider the science of color and perception.

I’ve been trying to push past my color biases this season by intentionally putting together things that don’t appeal to me. Here is a set I did last week: I like orange and blue together, but adding the dark red/brown foliage was difficult. I desired to add a sunflower, but I’m working on moving away from that requirement. I wanted those delphiniums to get noticed! bucket of 6 bouquets with purple, blue and orange flowers featuring delphinium, marigold and celosia

As I disengage my color autopilot, I hope I’m uncovering all of the crazy rules that I’ve accumulated for shades and combinations. I don't want to miss any possibility of beauty because of my bias.

Have you been examining your biases lately? It’s hard to accept that we have any kind of unfairness expressed in our brains subconsciously, but we all do--a part of being human and big-brained. If you want a glimpse of what yours might be, you can take a series of online tests. Knowing what your subconscious is doing humbles you, but might also transform you. 

When my colleague Jessica posted this blog about bias built into assistive technology I had a scales-falling-from-my-eyes moment that made me want to just lay down and cry. I had a similar sensation when I listened to this podcast about the watershed legal case Brown vs. Board of Education, and the shameful racist history I had never learned about my profession, and its impact today on the field.  

When my daughter Grace got married we, of course, did all of the flowers. I kept trying to pin her down on a color scheme. She had just come home from a year of study in Ghana, and from that influence told me in her best Ghanain accent, “All of the colors are welcome.” She’s human and also has biases, but her bouquet creations are varied, bold and spectacular. 

At PATINS we welcome all, and want to break free from any racist biases we may have and serve all. Here is our recent statement to that effect. We hope that you will join us in this work, and hold us accountable to these words. 

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Jul
16

“I just don’t like this isolation stuff”

Back in April, I wrote a blog titled, “What it means to them.” I asked my grandchildren what Continuous Learning meant to them. For the three in elementary school, I received a pretty mixed bag of responses.

Since then, summer has been upon them and school, well what it might be like, is soon to resume. I heard my three oldest grandchildren tell me last spring that the best part of the Continuous Learning was getting to meet with their classmates via Zoom.

For them, it was a sense of connection, which became even more important as the summer progressed. My oldest grandson, Dean, who is ten felt the pain of not seeing his friends because of Covid-19. As everyone was told to stay in place, Dean knew why, but that didn’t make it easier to accept saying, “I just don’t like this isolation stuff.”

Dean turned ten in April, and for his birthday he got a new bike. He and his siblings could ride them in the street in front of their house, but it wasn’t the same as riding with friends.

It was a couple of weeks ago when some of the restrictions were eased, my daughter contacted one of Dean’s friend’s mom to see if they could get the boys together for a bike ride. Both parents agreed that social distancing would be part of the deal if the boys agreed. Dean was ecstatic at the opportunity.

The boys spent most of the afternoon riding up and down the streets in the neighborhood and just catching up on all they had missed.

Logan, my eight-year-old grandson, was more comfortable spending time with Dean and Hazel and his parents who are both in education. As the restrictions eased Logan has been enjoying the small family gathering that include his cousins again. Logan has also collected a number of four-leaf clovers that he has found scouring the backyard.

Since then, the football season is about to begin, and my two oldest grandsons are itching to get started. It will be bringing some normalcy to their lives again and an opportunity to catch up with teammates.

My other daughter’s oldest child, Kenzie, dealt with her isolation a little differently. The family had an old iPhone that still worked, and her dad connected it to the home WIFI. When you give a seven-year-old a working iPhone that has FaceTime you might imagine what’s next.

I can’t tell you how many times Mimi got a FaceTime call from Kenzie as well as her Aunt Sarah, Aunt Bernie, friends… you get the picture. You noticed I was not included. Fortunately, I have an Android, but that didn’t deter her from wanting to talk to Pappy Pa if I was around Mimi at the time.

Being home for this extended amount of time seems to have been easiest for my two youngest grandchildren, who are both now four. 

A joyful learning experience they both shared was their families both planting their first vegetable garden. This seems to have been very popular with many families in the Midwest this year, myself and my wife included.  

All the tomatoes, squash, green beans, watermelons, carrots, cucumbers, and MORE are growing well. Ethan eats the pickling cucumbers right off the vine with a grin on his face, while Hazel jumps for joy showing off her zucchini that is SO BIG! Both of the little ones can’t wait to go back to pre-school to see their teachers and make new friends.

This year has been trying for all, and we are still dealing with what’s next. School for my grandchildren begins at the end of July. All the precautions are being put into place. They are fully aware of what to do with wearing a mask, washing their hands frequently, and social distancing as they have been practicing for months.

That said, the isolation will no longer be the issue. The challenge will be the major changes in the school and classroom routines, but that will be another blog.

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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
Guest — Karen Janowski
Excellent post. So glad this was shared during the AT Town Hall on Race and Equity yesterday.
Tuesday, 21 July 2020 13:52
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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
Guest — Daniel McNulty
Thanks for reading AND for responding, Emilee! You and your work in your studies and eventual career will be so impactful to many ... Read More
Friday, 11 September 2020 10:22
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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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