Jun
17

How Do I Get “Buy In”?

How Do I Get "Buy-In"? How Do I Get "Buy-in"? written on chalkboard with pencil, ruler, and chalk nearby.

“How do I get “buy in”?” It's a perennial question many educators ask throughout their careers. How do I get my student to try new assistive technology? How do I change mindsets to create universally designed lessons/environments? How do I encourage caregivers to model and provide a student’s communication device wherever they go?

Much of it boils down to creative marketing, or messaging from multiple sources/formats, and persistence. Here are a few ideas you can seamlessly incorporate into your day to day:

  1. Get your students on board. This has been a time tested proven strategy for me. When I introduced the Expanding Expression Tool (EET) to a class of middle schoolers, teachers were hesitant to adopt another tool. It was viewed as too much of a time commitment for something that may not work. What quickly convinced the teachers to “buy-in” was seeing how their students looked forward to our weekly EET writing sessions and when they independently requested an EET visual support for other writing assignments. The students enjoyed selecting their subject for writing and sharing their interests with the class. Ultimately, their teachers were convinced with impressive writing quality and quantity!
  2. Tie in real-life success stories. Sharing student success stories with your colleagues can help spark “a-ha” moments. If you need a bank of these to draw from PATINS has a playlist of success story videos showing students gaining tools to communicate, improving their literacy skills, and independently reaching higher academic success.
  3. Keep it top of mind. When introducing new tools or ideas, bring it up anytime there is an opening in the conversation. Staff meetings are a great time to connect your ideas to what teachers are already doing. Also, there are many creative ways to share the information such as hanging posters or filling bulletin boards in hallways or common areas for all to see research based strategies. You might even schedule a PATINS no-cost professional development session to help you demonstrate the importance of Accessible Educational Materials, Assistive Technology, and Universal Design for Learning.

While you may feel like a broken record for a little while, with creative marketing and persistence; eventually your efforts will pay off as colleagues and families “buy-in” after seeing the benefits for their students!

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Jun
10

Predictably Successful Outcomes from Purposeful Design

six motorcyclists practicing a cone weaver exercise on a closed range
Near the end of this past March, I set a goal for myself to expand my teaching and I began a new adventure. March 27th was the start of 10 days and well over 100 hours of preparing and learning to become an instructor/coach of beginner motorcyclists. 

Combining two of my greatest passions, education & motorcycling, just seemed like a most logical (and fun) next step in my life! I'll admit that I went into this new endeavor thinking that I'd bring an abundance of knowledge, skill, strategy, and perspective about education to these "bikers," and I'd be revered as a Super RiderCoach, responsible for bringing inclusivity and equity to the teaching & learning of safe motorcycle riding.  Well, the reality of what I walked into quickly made me realize several eye-opening things that I'd like to share. 

Before any activities, exercises, or other interactions at all, the first thing that quickly began to put me in my place was a statement at the very front of our RiderCoach Handbook about the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and our trainers drawing attention to it. This was, indeed, a strong confirmation that all possible accommodations being made would be the expectation from that point forward for anyone and everyone. I first thought to myself, "how incredibly cool and refreshing is that!" Then, I wondered why that felt refreshing to me. After all, I was coming from the world of education, special education, in fact! I then tried to think of even a single classroom or school I'd been involved with that started interactions with students & parents with a statement of accessibility, accommodations and the ADA, and the only ones I could even start to compare were the AEMing for Achievement Teams that PATINS had worked intensively with to get an Accessibility Statement and Policy in place. Yet, here I was with a bunch of "bikers" who prefaced all learning to come with not only a public proclamation of the value they placed on inclusivity and accommodations, but they also had actual guidelines for accommodating students with disabilities that was available! 

How could this be? How could it be that the very same concepts of inclusivity I thought I'd be proudly bringing into this group of motorcyclists, was actually the first thing they told me? Then, I thought to myself, "well, a statement is just words if there are no meaningful actions behind them." ...and once again, I was put in my place by the very next statement in the handbook! 

"The curriculum is modularized for flexibility and customization in order to meet the varying needs and interests of program administration interested in maximizing student outcomes."

"Whoa..." I thought to myself... "I think I just read that this curriculum is based in Universal Design for Learning!

Now, I was deeply intrigued and also feeling a bit like the world of K-12 education from which I came, might just be significantly behind and less comprehensive/effective when it comes to inclusivity than this bunch of "bikers" are! 

Further reinforcing this realization I was coming to, were the next few general instructions I was given: 
  1. Utilize gender-neutral statements when addressing students
  2. Never call out any people to read aloud in class (this isn't a reading class and we aren't testing reading) 
  3. Never ask people to check both eyes with the chart when demonstrating the importance of vision checks at a doctor. 
  4. Work in collaborative groups and allow the members to utilize one another's strengths
...and this was all before we'd even gotten to any parts of the actual curriculum or content! These were simply the expectations for any and all students that might come through the door! Once we go to the content, the topic of Engagement was the first thing to be discussed! That, I'm sure, sounds familiar to many of the readers of the PATINS Ponders Blog as it's the very first of the three summarizing bullet points of Universal Design for Learning!

Multiple and Flexible means of: 
  1. Engagement
  2. Presentation of materials
  3. Interaction and response
We discussed utilizing background knowledge, experiences, hobbies, preferences, etc., as ways to approach making sure all students were engaged, before presenting content, which we were asked to do in multiple ways including visually and auditorily! 

Eventually, we got the range and had students on motorcycles, which furthered this notion of high quality, purposefully designed education that I'd been noticing. Also, most of which I'd love to see in all classrooms! 
  1. Limit talking. Pick one thing at a time (the most important thing) to work on and limit coaching to 7-8 words or less at a time. "...longer-than-needed explanations of how to use the front brake lever can overload the brain and result in key information becoming confusing or forgotten, and could even reduce the amount of practice time."

  2. Remain fully cognizant of what it is you're really wanting to assess, in any given moment. For example, if the thing I'm really working on is getting a student to keep their eyes up in a U-turn, I'm not going to draw attention to dabbing a foot down at first. Furthering this, if I'm assessing a student's ability to stop precisely inside a box, I'm not going to drawn attention to them missing a downshift before that stop.

  3. Empathize with all students. Many may already be close to cognitive load capacity when they get to class. 

  4. Try to induce good & positive stress through having high expectations for all students regardless of any prior motorcycle riding ability! 
...and this was truly just the beginning. Many statements followed, including ones like, "Motor skills are best learned if they are acquired naturally instead of being forced, and it helps if basic development is provided in a somewhat random and varied manner. For example, the skill associated with making a U-turn is introduced in perimeter turns, and riders often repeat actions in different contexts (like varying weave dimensions, reversing direction in an exercise, or practicing the same path of travel later on in the program with increased skill)." This probably sounds a lot like explicitly teaching the generalization of skills to many of my SpEd Teacher friends! 

In summary, it quickly and repeatedly became apparent to me that this course was very purposefully designed to be inclusive, promote an equitable learning environment, to be empathetic and accommodating of differing learning needs, and was truly based in the science of learning.

All of this combined with a curriculum full of very demanding skills and tasks and tons of information... in other words, "high expectations!" I began to wonder about the success of this. ...did the data actually support all the work, the intentionality of the design, etc. I asked a lot of questions and sought out the data. I was told things like, "the purpose of this course is to create more independent and safe motorcyclists on the street," and "failing riders does not serve that purpose." Then, in looking at the actual state data on crashes and particularly crashes with fatalities, the percentages of both are very significantly lower for students who've gone through course! In other words, it works! 

Since then, I've coached six classes of riders as a certified RiderCoach and every time I think about all of the things in K-12 education that I wish were a little (or a lot) more like the way "bikers" teach one another. Our purpose in K-12 education is not to fail students. It's not to preserve the bell curve, weed students out, or separate students into ability levels. It is to create independence and success. By purposefully designing instruction and curriculum and learning spaces, (both physical and virtual) that are inclusive of all students, empathetic to their prior knowledge and current situations, universally designed with flexibility, choice, and engagement, we absolutely can experience greater success rates! By remembering things like, "spelling doesn't necessarily need to be a prerequisite to creative writing," and "phonetic decoding doesn't necessarily need to be a prerequisite to comprehending written text through auditory reading." 

Utilize No-Cost resources, like the PATINS UDL Lesson Creator! Consider applying for the PATINS AEMing for Achievement Grant, which is open for new apps until the end of June! Reach out to PATINS Specialists and request No-Cost training on making your learning spaces more inclusive and accessible to ALL of your students! We're here to help and eager to do so!
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Jun
03

Learning Through Reflection

I am so thrilled to share Leslie DiChiara's words of reflection of this past year with you as our guest blogger this month. Leslie was a classroom elementary teacher for 15 years. Her background is special education and literacy. She is currently the Assistive Technology Specialist in her school district in New York. I met Leslie a few years back at a national conference and we became instant friends and a colleague in our field. Her passion for access for ALL students mirrors that of our PATINS team. #BetterTogether

Portrait of Leslie DiChiara

As John Dewey once said, “We do not learn from experience….we learn from reflecting on experience.” If you have spent any time over the past 15 months working in the educational system, you can unquestionably agree that the pandemic certainly provided its share of opportunities for reflection. What we once knew about education was swiftly flipped. The equivalent of literally having the rug pulled out from underneath your feet. Yet, with no notice teachers across the nation rose to the occasion to revamp every aspect of how they provided instruction to their students. Even if this looked different based on where you work or the student population you work with, the one thing educators had in common was that we were navigating uncharted territories together.  

As a mother to two school-aged children and an educator for the past 20 years, I was able to view the educational impact of the pandemic from multiple lenses. Questions swirling about how our children would make up for lost months, closing educational gaps, meeting their social and emotional needs, ways to creatively provide accessible instruction with various constraints. So many unknowns.  

Looking back a year later, virtual students are returning to in-person learning, desk shields are being removed from classrooms, masks requirements are lifted in some establishments for those who are vaccinated, schools are beginning to reopen, and a small sense of normalcy seems to finally be on the horizon.  But it’s safe to say that COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on education, casting a critical light on everything from ed tech to student equity to accessibility to school financing.  

Many aspects of education were directly impacted by the pandemic leaving years for schools to successfully get students back-on-track, not only academically but also socially and emotionally.  Teachers, parents and students spent the better part of the year being pushed outside of their comfort zones and likely will seek a return to the educational world they once knew. However, we can argue that some changes resulting from COVID-19 were for the better and efforts will be placed by educational leaders to maintain those changes.  

With the end of the school year here or on the near horizon make time for reflection. The act of reflection provides an opportunity to pause amidst the chaos while sorting through and creating meaning from your experiences. The questions below are adapted from article Reflection Questions for Teachers and Students: Looking Back at Our Year created by Lydia Breiseth and Elena Aguilar’s Questions for Reflecting on a Year of Learning. The hope is for you to pause and think back on the challenges, the successes, the impact they had on and how it shaped yourselves, your students and families.

  • What was the most difficult challenge (or series of challenges) I faced this year? my students and their families faced this year?
  • What strengths did I show in addressing those challenges?
  • Who or what helped me address those challenges? What helped my students and their families begin to address those challenges?
  • What opportunities did those challenges create?
  • What did I learn about my students’ lives, families, and past experiences? my colleagues? my school community? my local community? myself?
  • What impact did I have on my students and their families?
  • What impact did I have on the systems in my classroom, building, or district?
  • How did I grow as an educator this year? 
  • How can I harness what I learned and continue to move forward with it? 
  • What do I anticipate facing next year? What is my plan of action?
  • What has given me hope?
  • Who or what was particularly helpful in a moment when I needed it?
  • How did I take care of and nurture myself this past year?

If the past year has allowed us to reflect on anything, it’s that our teachers, students and their families are not only resilient but adaptable. It has taught us that our educators should not be taken for granted. It has taught us that not all COVID-19 changes were necessarily obstructive. It has taught us the powerful impact technology has had on how instruction is delivered. It has taught us a valuable reminder of the importance of in-person interactions and engagement both in and out of school settings. It has taught us there is more work to be done to change the challenges of our educational system and the inequities many students face. It has taught us to place priority on the things and people who matter most to us. It has taught us to celebrate small victories. It has taught us to be flexible and to step outside of our comfort zones.  And most importantly it has taught us to be forgiving and patient with ourselves as we continue to navigate these unchartered waters.

As we near the close to another unprecedented school year I can say with certainty that although the path we journeyed may have been divergent, with hills and valleys along the way, we emerged changed but maybe in some ways for the better. 

_______________
If you would like to hear more from Lesie, you can follow her on Twitter @lrdichiara and her blog Where It's AT.

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May
27

The Learning Continues During a Sense-sational Summer

Smiling son on round web swing being pushed by his mother

Last year at this time, we had just wrapped up an unprecedented school year. What a difference a year has made! As the 2020-2021 school year is soon wrapping up, or maybe just has finished for students across Indiana, I want to encourage parents, teachers, and students to have a “Sense-sational” summer! We have gone through a lot the last year and a half. It’s time for some fun! Engaging in activities that entice multiple sensory experiences and both incorporating a schedule and keeping kiddos on a schedule, can set a family’s summer up for success!

Is the first thing you think of when you think of Summer Break: Intentionally planning activities that will help students grow and thrive in literacy, math, writing, communication, sensory, and behavior? Well, probably not. However, we can plan a fun summer with lots of intentional, educational experiences. Why not make the most of the outdoors and engage the senses while you’re at it? I have created a list of activities/strategies that parents can use to make learning fun this summer and to avoid hearing the dreaded words, “I’m bored. There is nothing to do."

First thing first! Have a plan, maybe even a plan that can vary and be added to on the go, but a schedule nonetheless! Research has proven that children thrive in the safety and predictability of a schedule or routine. They are used to it from being in school everyday. One can plan a day, week or month at a time. The children will benefit from a schedule, no matter how simple or complex you make it. You can write a schedule on a white board, draw on paper, create one on an app, use pictures or create one on a program like Lesson Pix. I have included a version daily visual schedule checklist as an example. No matter what, letting the kids know the expectations of the day will help everyone in the household.



Develop a schedule that includes movement, play, and leisure. Plan for all the senses and incorporate lots of movement. Modeling play activities for your children can be super beneficial. Allowing your children to make choices in some parts of the day will increase their independence and control of their environment. Ask you children for their input and specifically ask what activities they want to do with you this summer. You may be surprised by their answers! 

Another consideration while setting up a schdule that will encourage showing positive behavior, following directions, following the schedule, and keeping up with expectations is adding a reward. A reward can be a praise, a fun activity, or something out of the ordinary. A reward such as a walk to the park for a picnic, could encourage your child to follow the schedule for that meaningful reward. Adults and children alike enjoy something to look forward to on the calendar. Make the reward achievable and fun for the whole family!

Finally, be sure to include all the senses when planning your summer activities! Given that all of our sensory systems are unique and may not function similarly, you can modify this list to individual or family needs.

  1. Touch (Tactile) - Play in different media - paint, pudding, water table, water beads, or sand, introduce different textures and warm/cold temperatures to touch, or walk or put barefeet in the grass.
  2. Sight (Vision) - Seek out bright colors, high contrast, and play games like I spy (i.e. "I spy something blue." or "I spy something that is a rectangle." Be sure to add more descriptions for children with low vision such as "I spy something at the sink that is blue and has one rough side and one side that is bumpy with holes in it."). Notice the colors that catch your eye and point them out to your children.
  3. Taste (Gustatory) - Grow or buy some new veggies or fruits to try. Describe them, their taste, texture, temperature, spiciness, etc. Make your own popsicles or pudding. Try new foods and have fun trying to describe them.
  4. Smell (Olfactory) - Seek out the scents of the season: flowers, fresh cut grass, the scent of ozone after rain, and notice the scent of the pool. Make your own play dough and add scents or spices to make the activity more “scent-sationally” fun!
  5. Hearing (Auditory) - Listen to and identify sounds in the environment. Create conversations around sounds and music. Ask questions like: Do you hear a bird? Do you hear the sound of the cicadas? I hear fireworks in the distance, do you? Read with your ears. Make music. Feel the vibration of music in a speaker or on the piano as it is played. 

As an occupational therapist (OT), I am quick to add the two additional senses beyond the five senses I learned in grade school. There are actually seven senses to consider! In my work as an OT, taking the last two senses in consideration and planning for them was a large part of my role in the school system. Let’s cover some activities to engage them too!

  1. Proprioception (Body Position in Space) - Think of heavy work activities such as pushing a wheelbarrow, jumping on a trampoline, having bear crawl races, doing wall push ups, carrying “heavy” objects from one place to another, and doing activities that put a good amount of weight through your joints.
  2. Vestibular (Movement) - Swing on a swing, take a spin on the merry go round, slide on slides, rock in a rocking chair, spin in circles, ride a scooter board on your stomach, or do somersaults.

Make this a great summer of connection and lasting memories through activities. Create a notebook and keep track of the experiences of the summer. Use pictures, words, symbols, drawings, and reflect on all experiences that were intentionally planned -the new and the old. I would love to hear your favorite sensory rich summer activities too! Please share in the comments or reach out to me!

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May
20

Summer Activities!

Summer is almost here, and I’m excited to share some outdoor time with my cousin who will be in 9th grade in the Fall. I work with him during the school year, helping out with his homework and studying for quizzes and tests. We work especially hard on Math, and he has shown tremendous growth and I want to keep it going. So I have been looking for ways to incorporate Math into the activities he enjoys. Here are a few ideas I have come up with so far:

  1. Having him pay with cash when we go somewhere, and then checking to see if he receives the correct change.
  2. Letting him help with navigation to the places we go. Which direction are we going? How many gallons of gas do we need?
  3. He enjoys baseball, and there are many statistics that we can talk about and how they are figured.
  4. Cooking may not be his favorite activity, but occasionally I can get him to help out. We talk about measurements and conversions. When we have cookouts, he gets to figure out how many hotdogs, hamburgers, etc. we need for everyone.
  5. When we go shopping for shoes or something he truly wants, we get the opportunity to compare prices and to figure out how much 20% off saves us.
  6. I am hoping to build a project with him, and we can use the tape measure and figure out the amount of materials we will need.
  7. I take him out to eat, and I have him look at the calories we will consume. He can also help me figure out the tip.
  8. We play board games like Monopoly, and this includes money skills and budgeting. Battleship helps with graphing and logical reasoning. Connect 4, Clue, Chess, and Checkers help with planning strategy. Yahtzee and Rummikub are fun ways to work on math skills as well.
  9. He spends much of his time playing video games, so I encourage him to play games that involve strategy and planning.

I also encourage him to read all year long, but especially in the summer. I must admit, this has undoubtedly been a challenge! These are some ideas that I have used, or that I am planning to use over the summer.

  1. I take him to the library. I can’t always get him to read while we are there, but they always have a puzzle out so we work on it, and I encourage him to find something to check out.
  2. I am also going to encourage him to listen to audiobooks over the summer to see if he would enjoy them.
  3. I buy him used comic books which he seems to genuinely enjoy. They are inexpensive, and he will usually read them. I try to ask lots of questions about them when he has finished, so we can work on comprehension.
  4. When we build our project, I will have him read any written directions that we come across. 
  5. I will also take any chance I get to have him read in any activity that we do. He can read directions when we are playing games, and he can read recipes or the grocery list when we go to the store.

These are just a few ideas that I have come up with. There are many other ideas, activities, and a wealth of information available with a search on the Internet. What ideas do you use with your students or children that you have found to be successful? Please share with me via the comments section.

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Guest — Glenda Thompson
I want to spend the Summer with you Sandy! Another good Math game is...RACKO. Enjoy the time with your cousin.
Friday, 21 May 2021 10:47
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May
13

"...regardless of the content we teach, we are all reading instructors."*

Indiana Senate Enrolled Act 217, a.k.a. Indiana's Dyslexia Law provides a strong backbone to reading instruction for Indiana schools. For instance, this bill provides that:

  • screening for dyslexia is to occur at grades K, 1, 2, 3 and after that as necessary, as instructed in the bill 
  • Schools are to use the Response to Intervention (RTI) tiers before identifying the reading deficit as dyslexia
  • Educators are to use an instructional approach that is explicit, direct, systematic, multisensory and phonetic
  • Every Indiana school corporation is to employ at least one (1) Reading Specialist trained for teaching students with dyslexia
Since we know from 100 years of research that 1 in 5 students have dyslexia, the one lone Reading Specialist is going to be very, very busy, particularly in very large districts. How can this be expected? What is the solution to this very tall, broad, and heavy order?

Teachers in all content areas must help fill gaps by embedding literacy in their instruction. Our students are not just learning to read, but learning to learn. All subject content areas require and will naturally accommodate literacy. Following are some thoughts on weaving intentional literacy into your content classes.

Since a textbook is not the only tool, a classroom library built around your content area can be a wonderful addition to learning. Think puzzles, games, models, art supplies, as well as books and worksheets. Math was always my worst subject. Every year I disliked the drab-looking textbook, the formidable-sounding units of study: Fractions. Multiplication. Division. I know I would have benefitted from The Grapes of Math by Greg Tang. Math strategies presented in rhyme? Yes, Please. 

But reading is not just about paper books. Plan to use as much technology as is appropriate and possible. PATINS Specialists can suggest, explain and demonstrate if you need help.

  • Ear-reading is an authentic reading experience. So is using closed captions while watching tv and online programs. Encourage every interaction with print to be what it is: time spent reading.
  • Provide extra everything: Space, time, patience.
  • Provide information verbally and visually, find multisensory methods for learning.
  • Grade on content, not on spelling or neatness. Don't use a red pen to grade papers, don't have students trade papers to grade in class.
  • Instead of returning assignments during class; use homework folders or another more discreet method.
  • Provide class notes, and/or announce that you are about to tell or show something important.
  • Allow keyboarding as well as handwritten assignments, not one or the other.
  • Ask for help to decipher written work, privately.
  • Identify strengths and call attention to those, not to deficits.
  • Some students will not require a structured, systematic approach to reading, or to learning algebra. It certainly will not be harmful and may enhance learning for them as well. If they don't need extra supports, they'll move on.
  • If a student shows 3 or more of these warning signs in your class, talk to the reading specialist, other teachers, principal, related service providers, parents and the student.
  • Relationships are the glue of instruction. Model and require acceptance, helpfulness, kindness, respect. This last point will make anyone's journey more rewarding and much easier.
Learn about helping students with dyslexia: 

Yale Center   International Dyslexia Association

Thanks so much!



* title quote: Rebecca Alber

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Guest — Glenda Thompson
Ms. Martha...your last line is YOUR very model in life... acceptance, helpfulness, kindness, respect. Your writing is easy reading... Read More
Monday, 17 May 2021 13:49
Guest — Martha
Thank you Glenda, for your kind words and great examples of multisensory teaching strategies. Your examples are lined up with the ... Read More
Monday, 17 May 2021 14:09
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May
05

P2: Power of Peers

P2: Power of Peers P2: Power of Peers

Oregon Trail taught me how fun and frustrating it would be to travel in the 1800s, Floppy Disks taught me how to transfer data from computer to computer, Moon Shoes were so neat, Gak Splat was a great game that I played with my brother, Trolls were one of my favorite toys, Nintendo 64 was ultimately better than PlayStation but made our thumbs sore, I learned that Carmen Sandigo was possible to catch, Mavis Beacon taught me how to type, but my peers taught me American Sign Language. 

My peers taught me another language, although they never were in my classroom. Instead, I was a peer that had the opportunity to visit the "hearing impaired classroom" now referred to as “deaf/hard of hearing or DHH classroom”. I would spend the morning with about five other students that used ASL and/or Spoken English to communicate. They had a dedicated teacher of the deaf with a dual license in speech-language pathology and instructional assistants in the room. I was a peer model in their classroom. I would participate in their morning meeting time, practice vocabulary, etc. 

One morning I was with a peer in the class play grocery store learning about shopping and grocery item vocabulary and money. The student I was with was upset due to communication barriers, he used ASL and wore hearing aids. I remember signing with him and all of a sudden it seemed that he started yelling and running around the room. I remember thinking “oh no! I upset him today!” I jumped up to let the teacher know what was occurring and he started to tell the teacher that he was so happy and excited. I remember thinking “what? What is he saying?”  

He was shouting that I was signing to him fully in ASL. He was excited that one of his peers was signing full sentences to him. I was communicating with him in a peer setting like kids typically do. However, he hadn’t experienced that until fifth grade. 

I am not sure where he is today. But that memory is something I think of often when I talk to school districts, educators, families about universal design and the power of peers being with their peers.  My peers changed and shaped my life and my career choice. My peers belonged in my fifth-grade classroom so they could change and shape every peer's life, not just the one peer model in their room. 

What types of programs are you seeing in your school district to ensure all students are with their peers?  If you have a program, research or tools to share consider putting in a proposal for the Access to Education State Conference! We would love to hear your story! Submit your proposal by May 14th

PATINS can help your staff and school teams with professional development in UDL and AEM. Join over 14 school districts next year with The AEMing for Achievement Grant in building your district’s UDL and AEM policy and procedures to ensure all students have access to grade-level curriculum and their peers! The grant application is open to apply now! 

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Apr
30

What You See May Not Be What You Get

For this week's blog, I'm beyond delighted to share an incredible story of a student's communication journey to success experienced by my AEMing for Achievement grant team in Perry Township. I'd like to thank two members of the grant team, Callie Herrenbruck and Kelsey Norris, for their collaboration in sharing this story. Please enjoy!

I have this student. You most likely have one, too. This student is what I would call a communication conundrum. It’s not that this student doesn’t communicate, because he most certainly does, but when asked if unfamiliar individuals understand what he is attempting to communicate? Probably not.

Student from blog seated and smiling
This student most often communicates to express enjoyment, request preferred objects and actions, and refuse non-preferred activities and objects. He does not (YET) verbalize but will vocalize using a variety of pitches depending upon the context. He moves his body to convey his refusals and moves others to make his requests. This student’s laugh is one of the most infectious ones I’ve ever heard, but when he is upset he has significant self-injurious behaviors.

I, along with this student’s teachers, other therapists, and paraprofessionals were constantly attempting to find the “magic tool” for communication. This is where we have all thanked our lucky stars that our school district was one of the AEMing for Achievement Grant recipients, as being a part of the grant includes a communication package!

Members of our grant team and the teacher of record (TOR) met with Jessica Conrad for an in-depth problem-solving session. Several topics were discussed during the session including behavior(s), motivators, previous trials, and goals. The best part of the session was having someone from PATINS who is extremely knowledgeable about communication and communication tools, along with having access to a variety of resources, share their knowledge with the team.

Following the problem-solving session with Jessica and members of the grant team, this student’s TOR, and the rest of his team, put the suggestions to work. One of the suggestions was to use a mid-tech device (Logan ProxTalker). The device was borrowed from the PATINS Lending Library. Almost immediately, this student “picked up” use of the device to request desired objects and actions. He had NEVER done this with any other communication tool! Absolutely amazing! This student’s family then met with the team to learn more about the Logan ProxTalker-- how the student uses it at school, and what the next steps would be in obtaining his own device. Upon seeing this student use the device, they were blown away, to say the least! Watching their reaction to him using the device was one of the best moments in my career.

This student continues to appear to prefer using the Logan ProxTalker, as opposed to other communication tools to make requests. I will be honest and say that he does not love communicating with the device every day. He may even meander away when prompted to use it, but don’t we all have our days?

Student from blog seated in classroom pursing lips in disapproval
So, is what you see really what you get? ...not necessarily. If you didn’t know this student, you might see him putting cards on a machine and the machine talking. What you don’t see is the progress he’s made in being able to effectively communicate his wants and his likes/dislikes. You might not see him participating in joint attention with an adult regarding his interests, and you might not see the relief his parents show when this student demonstrates growth in his communication! Thanks again to PATINS for helping our team and this student to grow in his communication capacity. As the Starfish Story says, “It made a difference to this one!”

Written By: Kelsey Norris and Callie Herrenbruck, Perry Township Schools | Pictures used with parent permission
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Apr
21

From Ireland to Arizona


From Ireland to Arizona

three young women hiking the Grand Canyon in shorts, tank tops, and hats. The sky is blue with a few white clouds.

If you are reading this from Indiana, you may, like me, be looking out at tulips in the snow. It will be gone by this evening, but not soon forgotten in this year of adapting because you really have few choices over your circumstances. 

I had the pleasure of meeting our PATINS guest bloggers for this week at our Mid-Winter Online EdCamp. Ellie Sear and Nina Koeppen are juniors at Butler University studying elementary education. They participated in our sessions about assistive technology to learn about resources and shared their own pandemic story of needing to adapt when they found out that their year of studying abroad had been cancelled. Ellie and Nina met as freshman roommates and here is their pandemic adventure story: 

Ellie and Nina smiling from a beach with some street food

Late at night in our freshman year dorm, we would lay in bed dreaming about studying abroad our junior year. By sophomore year we had put together a plan to leave Butler in the fall of 2020 to continue our studies of education in Northern Ireland. We researched about what type of clothes we would need to pack, what classes we could enroll in, and even watched videos about the accents people in Northern Ireland may have. Our dream was becoming a reality. Then, COVID-19 took the world by storm. We received the heartbreaking email that our study abroad dream was no longer a reality. It was devastating. 

Rather than adventuring to Northern Ireland in the fall of 2020, we moved back onto Butler’s campus. While we were disappointed by the effects of the pandemic, we were determined to make the best of the situation. So, we started brainstorming ways we could travel and experience new things safely and responsibly. 

We reimagined what studying abroad meant and created our own experience. During this semester, Spring 2021, we have traveled across the United States. We enrolled in online classes and planned to live in Florida, Arizona, and Colorado. Since January, we have lived on the beach, in the desert, and the mountains. Along the way, we have stopped at National Parks and breathtaking cities and monuments. We have learned how to broaden our horizons despite the unforeseen circumstances 2020 would throw at us. While it is not Europe, we have come to love exploring the United States.

Unlike study abroad, where you would still have a college campus to call home, our semester-long trip has been completely remote with no “home base”. Our connection to school has been solely Zoom meetings, Canvas assignments, and our lifeline of Google Drive. 

We were somewhat used to remote learning from the unforeseen circumstances of March 2020, but fortunately, all of our classes were in person during our Fall 2020 semester so going back to remote was an adjustment. This journey has taught us a lot regarding how much technology means in the world of education and how it can be a powerful tool in building connections. 

Luckily, we have been able to keep in contact with professors to work on projects remotely, maintain relationships with classmates over Zoom and FaceTime, and still feel a part of the Butler family we have back in Indiana. We would have never been able to have these social, historical, and cultural learning experiences if we did not have this technology to connect us. 

We both are planners. We have both had a four-year plan since the first day of freshman year, with most of our classes being taken together. This trip seemed like the perfect way for us to step outside of our comfort zones with someone we felt safe with. Both of us can agree that we would not have seen this much of our own country had it not been for taking this chance. Being from Illinois, the prairie land, we have pushed ourselves to hike the Grand Canyon and Ski in Colorado. It was easy for us to accept the fate that seemed to be in front of us, no longer being able to study abroad, but we wanted to take advantage of any opportunity to grow our independence and awareness of the world.

A far off silhouette of Ellie or Nina on top of a sand dune at sunset

I (Bev) hope these ladies land a teaching position in Indiana. We need great planners like them who are also willing to release the plan, face a hardship, and embrace adaptability. Ellie and Nina have become participants at our Tuesday night Twitter Chat. We hope you’ll join us too to hear more about their teaching journey.

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Apr
16

Caution, but with Purpose


To say this has been “an incredible year” would be an understatement. Just 13 months ago the country was put on lockdown due to the Coronavirus. Life, as we all knew it would change in ways that we didn't think, would happen.

During this time, our face-to-face interactions were drastically curtailed. My wife and I hunkered down not knowing how long it would be with minimal interactions with family and friends. It really hit home for us when my brother was diagnosed with COVID. Although it was a mild case, it was a wake-up call for the severity of what would later become a pandemic.

People retreated to working from home, all face-to-face interactions were halted and PATINS as we know it was changed. We changed our routines to accommodate the rules set out by the CDC and as a result we worked together from home.

Zoom meetings replaced our staff interactions for meetings and working directly in person with those that we serve and support. We had previously moved to virtual staff meetings so this was not a real replacement for those in person.

Our first real test of the new norm was the rescheduling or our annual Tech Expo. The Tech Expo was a day-long event that allowed vendors from around the country to demonstrate technology and software to educational and support staff, parents, and students to get a hands on experience in a conference booth setting.

The Tech Expo was one of the biggest draws for PATINS to offer to anyone that registered at no cost and then came COVID.

PATINS had a decision to make, and it had to be a quick one. It was acknowledged that we could not have it in person, but would it be possible to have one virtually. That meant however no interaction with vendors, staff, parents, or students.

We had the tools, we had the staff, and Daniel McNulty and Jen Conti’s guidance formed the foundation. I would like to note here that the PATINS staff is a unique group that works like a well-oiled machine (had to add it) that pulled off several State and Tech Expo conferences in the past so the framework was there but the delivery would be much different.

On April 9th, 2020, the PATINS Project had its virtual Tech Expo with over 500 virtual attendees and more than 40 vendors. In the middle of a pandemic, the PATINS Project continued its support to stakeholders with creativity and adjustments to the challenge which is marked in the PATINS Project mission.

As the year progressed, so did the virtual meetings and in November we held our 2-day Access to Education Conference virtually as well taking from the success and what we had learned from the previous Tech Expo.

We are now more than a year into our virtual environments and as there seems to be a positive transition into normalcy with the delivery of vaccines and continued recommendations from the CDC PATINS had decided some time ago to hold our Tech Expo virtually again this year.

Our expectations are still lofty, but our commitment to bring support and assistance to our stakeholders remains forefront.

It has been a tough year for everyone. We have all missed those personal interactions with family and friends. I have also missed the interaction with people at our Tech Expo and Access to Education conferences. It is the personal “touch” and spontaneity of the interactions that cannot be achieved virtually.

As we move forward cautiously but with purpose, we may move closer to an ease in virtual visiting and more face-to-face interactions that we all so desperately need.

Postscript:

As I submit this blog, we have just held our 2021 Tech Expo! It was all I described above and more. We had 600 participants with 50 vendors either presenting or manning the virtual exhibition hall.

However, with all its success, it still had a somewhat sterile feel unlike our many in-person events.

The PATINS Project will continue to strive to meet and exceed the needs of the students of Indiana be it in-person or virtual. Hopefully, we can Zoom to in-person.

Thoughts, prayers, and sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of the Indianapolis FedEx workers killed this day April 16, 2021. May they rest in peace.

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Apr
08

Employee of the Year

Employee of the Year Cheesy 1990s school photo featuring a cream colored chihuahua looking off in the distance as the misty backdrop set against a neon laser background, with another picture of the same chihuahua in the foreground looking at the camera with

I had a student we’ll call Todd. Todd’s favorite things were the zoo, reading animal books, and quizzing people on their animal knowledge. One of my favorite days working with him started with a very rough morning with a writing assignment.

“It’s a letter to anyone,” his teacher explained. “We’ve been at this all morning and he only has one word written.”

Todd looked crestfallen. After animals, pleasing adults was one of his favorite things. His teacher knew that if Todd hadn’t started something, it wasn’t because he was “stubborn” but he struggled to get started with new tasks and needed another way to approach it.

We went back to my "speech room" and looked at the blank paper. I had lots of tools at my disposal: adapted pencils, keyboards, voice dictation software, wiggle seats, kits and binders of visual supports for writing, and of course I had free access as an Indiana public school employee to the PATINS Lending Library to borrow whatever I thought might help Todd. I thought of my tools, I thought of Todd and what he needed and remembered his special nerd power.

“Do you want to write a letter to a dog?”

Todd nodded, still a little hesitant after an hour of trying to write and nothing coming out.

“You could write to my dog, if you wanted. She would write you back.”

“You have a dog?!”

So I told him about my chihuahua, Winnipeg. Winnie was abandoned on the street in Indianapolis and we adopted her. She loves blankets, snuggles, and sandwiches. I had a hunch she loved reading and writing letters.

Todd immediately scribed five sentences (one of his accommodations, since tools like speech-to-text software were not accessible for him), and put the periods and capitalization in himself:

Dear Winnie,

Don’t eat all the treats. Why are you a little dog? You are a good loving dog. Play tug of war with Mrs. Conrad. Don’t wake your dad Winnie.

Love,

Todd

It may never make it into a library or be critically acclaimed, but it is one of my favorite written works a student has ever produced. I felt like Winnie earned Employee of the Year that day. Relationships paired with the best ways for access wins every time.

Some of our pets have put in more hours and done more service to humanity in general and Indiana students specifically than they’ll ever understand. They’ve been especially treasured and faithful companions this past year, while we spent way more time on “their” home. They are therapeutic little creatures who remind us to enjoy simple pleasures, take care of ourselves, maybe take a nap in the sun sometimes.

If you’d like to see some of our PATINS pets, I created a short quiz. See if you can guess what pet belongs to which staff member!

Todd got his letter from Winnie the next week, and he was rightly suspicious:

“Did she write this by herself?”

“Good question, what do you think?”

“She can’t use a pencil.”

“No, she can’t.”

“But maybe you can scribe, like how you do with me.”

“I think that’s a great idea.”

I'd love to hear about your pet and the little acts of service they do for you, your family, or students!

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Apr
01

SETTing Students up for Success and Counting Every Move for Communication


5 min read

Artist Name - SETT-Blog-Audio.m4a


Boardmaker symbol of frustrated young man with the printed word frustrated

I've been working with a student and his team. They have moved successfully albeit slowly through using the tools below. At some point a few years ago, this student was evaluated and deemed to be a candidate for a dedicated speech generating device (SGD) with eye gaze (very expensive but a key part of a communication system for the right person). His team (student, parents, teachers, SLP, OT, PT and support staff) was keen to make his SGD work for him. The student has cerebral palsy that reduced his limb movement/accuracy, so much time had already been invested AND after all, this solution was expensive.

Why change? This can be awkward. How do you bring up the topic of a significant change to access and trajectory of the student's goal/language programming? Two things; the eye gaze never really worked as well as expected AND the student became increasingly frustrated often abandoning the device. Eye gaze could be revisited but it was important to recognize that it was not working. Time to think about the S - Student, his M - Moves, his C - Clicks and his C - Chats. More about that later.

Head control/calibration were hurdles interfering with access. Using the tools mentioned below, this student demonstrated enough consistent and accurate improvement to control switches with his head and hand for scanning. His language setup was changed (Core Scanner on an Accent 1400) to work more efficiently with two switch scanning (i.e., he presses one switch to move through icons and the other switch to select his word).

He is reportedly thrilled with his new access method. He smiles more and enjoys communicating often producing spontaneous sentences.

excited preschool girl with open hands raised near her face looking at device screen

First of all, you must gather data. If you don't have data, it's just your opinion.  

I sometimes hear that students "inconsistently respond" to stimuli or questions, it "depends on how they are feeling", "if they're in the right mood", "they are being stubborn", etc. Maybe. Perhaps we have not presented motivating stimuli, observed the tiniest of responses,  offered the most appropriate access method, or given the student adequate wait time.

SETT is an acronym for Student, Environments, Tasks, and Tools created by Joy Zabala. It is a FREE resource. "Although the letters form a memorable word, they are not intended to imply an order, other than that the student, environments, and tasks should be fully explored before tools are considered or selected. Some people have tried to explore the first three separately and in order, however, that is nearly impossible because the first three are closely linked." The SETT Framework is so important, it's at heart of our process for the PATINS AAC Consultation Request form.

Another important tool to set the groundwork is the Every Move Counts, Clicks and Chats sensory based approach (EMC3). It is available to borrow from the PATINS Project Lending Library. EMC3 is a sensory-based communication program. It is based on the idea that everyone communicates in some way. The COUNTS Assessment explores sensory, communication, and symbols. The are seven sensory areas: vestibular, proprioceptive, tactile, visual, auditory, olfactory, and gustatory. The CLICKS Assessment looks for purposeful switch use. The CHATS Assessment is used to collect communication skills. It states that "Assessment results are seldom 'final'. Needs, abilities, and environmental demands change over time."

A third tool useful for SETTing students up for success is to establish a baseline for communication skills and determine goals. The Communication Matrix is an online/questionnaire tool for anyone in the early stages of communication. The first 5 assessments are FREE. Communication is more than just receptive and expressive, students also need methods to refuse, obtain items, socialize, and gather/share information. These functions of communication can be measure/quantified by using the Communication Matrix.

Hand in hand with these pieces is understanding the absolute need for flexibility, continuous learning, and ongoing assessment with students. It is a fluid process that can and should be revisited periodically as the student changes, technology changes or when things stop working as well as they had in the past.

SETT your students up for success. Use the SETT, EMC and Communication Matrix to better understand the student, environment, tasks/needs, sensory responses, access abilities AND communication skills. THEN consider the T - Tools to empower your students and goals for success. If the tools don't seem to be working, collect data and try something else!

If you would like to learn more, check the PATINS Project training calendar or reach out to a PATINS Project Specialist for more information.

The PATINS Project Tech Expo is fast approaching - Thursday, April 15, 2021. It's FREE. Get registered!

Additional resources:

SETTing Up Successful AAC Use - Lauren Kravetz Bonnet, PhD, CCC-SLP

The Dynamic AAC Goals Grid DAGG-2

Symbol Assessment

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Mar
25

PATINS Tech Expo 2021 with IN*SOURCE - Exciting Updates!

PATINS Tech Expo 2021 with IN*SOURCE - Exciting Updates! Tech Expo PATINS Project with IN*SOURCE. Virtual 2021. Students and teacher using assistive technology.

Around this time last year, you pivoted with us to the first ever virtual PATINS Tech Expo with IN*SOURCE allowing us to ensure the health and safety of everyone, while also bringing you high quality presentations, resources, and time for connection. It still amazes me how quickly everyone -- attendees, presenters, PATINS/ICAM staff -- adapted for a successful event!

As I am currently writing this, a small part of me is waiting for the frantic rush to get everything into place for the second virtual PATINS Tech Expo 2021 with IN*SOURCE like last year. I have checked my to-do lists many times, communicated with presenters/exhibitors, and assigned duties to our top-notch PATINS/ICAM and IN*SOURCE staff. Everything is running on schedule and humming along nicely for April 15, 2021. (Knock on wood!) What’s left to do? Get excited!

PATINS Tech Expo 2021 with IN*SOURCE has new and improved features and extra perks for the virtual event! With a record number of presentation submissions, we have added 4 additional sessions from amazing organizations dedicated to support students. That’s 24 presentations to choose from to earn up to four Professional Growth Points (PGPs)! Due to popular demand, we have divided the sessions into strands to help you determine the best presentation agenda for you. The strands are:

  • Access
  • Advocacy and Social/Emotional Services
  • Communication
  • Deaf/Hard of Hearing and Blind/Low Vision
  • Literacy
  • Tech Tools 

Your time is limited and valuable, which may make it tricky to choose only 4 sessions. Even if you are not sure if you can fully commit to attending live, we encourage you to register for no-cost to receive access to presentation/exhibitor information as well as presentation session summary videos for the opportunity to earn up to two more PGPs!

A major upgrade for the 2021 event is the opportunity for attendees to speak with exhibitors live! There are currently close to 50 organizations eager to share their transformational products and services with Indiana administrators, educators, pre-service teachers, families, and advocates. So even if you only have 10-15 minutes to drop in, visit the Exhibitors to learn about products and services which can support your students’ academic, communication, and social/emotional skills.

I hope to see your name come through on our registration list before April 12, 2021 when the form closes.

If you would like to start the Tech Expo 2021 celebrations early with us, download and use one of these free themed virtual backgrounds on your upcoming video conferencing meetings!


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Mar
17

For the Love of Reading

For-The-love-of-Reading
QR Code to audio For the Love of Reading Read by Author
Artist Name - For-the-Love-of-Reading-Audio.mp3


For the love of reading 
By Amanda Crecelius

I love reading. I love reading for pleasure, for current news updates, for educational purposes, for self-improvement, and tips and tricks. I love reading with my eyes and with my ears. I L-O-V-E reading. I often have a stack of books by my bedside that I have started to read, some in the living room, and at least one in my daughter’s swim class backpack. My Audible account has around 30 books on my wishlist waiting, not so patiently, for my next credit. My top two genres are Historical Fiction and Psychology. Sometimes, I read both at the same time. As my eyes move over the letters on the page or my ears tune into the tone of the reader, my mind chain links the information to various parts in my memory, my knowledge, and my experiences and it is close to euphoric. There is nothing equally as satisfying yet saddening than finishing a good book. As I look around my world, I see fellow lovers of reading and others who have little or no interest in reading at all and this baffles me. This mystery has been slowly deciphered as PATINS’ staff work our way through the LETRS curriculum, along with several social media groups and podcasts dedicated to the science of reading. Through each I am reminded that our brains have not evolved to naturally develop reading like our brains pick up the spoken language. According to the US Department of Education, most children aren’t reading until the age of seven. While speech development can be heard in the babbles of babies shortly after birth according to The Journal of Child Language

I have blocked out my own reading preparation and the challenges that I faced in a curriculum of guessing and memorization. I forget that I myself struggled with reading early on and that I still have a mini panic attack when I need to read out loud (also when I read aloud for blog recordings). Those panicked moments bring flashbacks to sentence counting, so that I could practice the words that I would be called upon to stumble over in front of a class full of excellent readers. Every now and then I come across a word that I do not recognize and I stop, pronounce each letter, and my usual response is “huh, so that’s how you spell that.” Since working at PATINS these personal experiences and the knowledge that I have gained through professional development, including the LETRS training, have enriched consultations and webinars. One of those sessions is coming up on March 30th as we discuss the overlapping literacy strategies used for English Language Learners and students with Specific Learning Disabilities. Register here.
 
Over the past few months my daughter, who is nearing the end of kindergarten, has been going through this learning process. And although she is learning through methods fueled by the science of reading, she still has to force her mind to practice and focus on rewiring itself for comprehension of the letters on the page. Frustrations can result in books flying through the air or a stalemate when it is time for bedtime reading or doing homework. 

So how did I develop the love of reading that I have now? I remember my mother sitting with a book in her hand at the kitchen table, on the sofa, in the car, at my volleyball practice, and basically any free second in her day. She read book after book, sometimes not able to put them down until she was finished. I was drawn into her passion for reading. And she filled our lives with exposure to books. She took my siblings and I to our small local library to listen to storytime and let us pick out books to take home for her to read to us. As she read the books she replicated an imagined voice of the characters, showing excited energy for each word on the page. She took us to “The Big Library” which was a two story building in New Albany, IN. For a small town girl, this library was gigantic. She let us wander around freely choosing books and playing throughout the stacks and shelves, as she worked on research. I remember checking out materials that sparked my interest from “The Babysitters Club” to the latest issue of “Seventeen” magazine, even learning Spanish via cassette tapes. Being able to obtain information in a variety of different formats opened the door to the travels, tales, and tips that made me keep coming back.  

Valuable strategies to help students with developing reading skills, include phonemic My daughter sitting on a bench with legs crossed, holding a book in front of a wooden wall that looks like a bookshelf with books on it.awareness, vocabulary building, and comprehension. These strategies build the ability to read but do not necessarily create a love of reading. A love of reading is held in examples of others reading with their eyes and ears, of others sharing their reading experiences, of connecting stories and information to student’s interests, and allowing them to choose from and float around in the sea of reading options in the different formats including read-to-me, audio, parent/teacher/peer read alouds, ebooks, captions on videos, and physical books in large, small, and braille print.

Although I value my daughter’s development of reading skills, I also want her to love to read. So tonight as the stack of Bob books (a series of simple phonetic stories that we use for practicing reading)  sit at my daughter’s bedside, I ignore them and the urge for me to rush her brain to learn all the strategies of reading. Instead, I let her dash excitedly to her bookshelf to find her favorite adventure for the evening. As I prep my character voices, we cuddle up and turn the pages to take us away to a castle or a pirate ship and I watch my daughter’s eyes light up with love.

Sources:

Oller, D. K., Wieman, L. A., Doyle, W. J., & Ross, C. (2008, September 26). Infant babbling and speech*: Journal of Child Language. Cambridge Core. 

Typical language accomplishments for children, birth to age 6 -- helping your child become a reader. (2005, December 15).


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Mar
11

Accessible Materials & Competent Authority: A Step Closer to Equity & Access in 2021

In October of 2006, I was an assistive technology (AT) coordinator with PATINS and just four months into the job! As if the world of AT and Universal Design for Learning wasn't overwhelming enough to a new PATINS Coordinator, fresh out of the Intense Interventions classroom, I was about to be tossed head-first into the world of Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) as well! With help from Jeff Bond, I started the NIMAS and Digital Rights Managers (DRM) Podcast on October 6, 2006, when the Indiana Center for Accessible Materials (ICAM) was officially opened to the state of Indiana.

The ICAM was created that October of 2006, to support Indiana Local Education Agencies (LEAs) in meeting the
National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standards (NIMAS) Regulations of the IDEA 2004. Provisions in this federal mandate require state and local education agencies to ensure that printed textbooks and related core instructional materials are provided to students with documented print disabilities in accessible formats in a timely manner. This was a huge step forward for access in that it was, essentially, the federal and state governments acknowledging that specialized formats of the same content was a necessary accommodation and that denying access to information because of a disability was a civil rights issue! While we were all beyond excited for this, we also saw the "fine print" that limited who could serve as a competent authority to qualify students with print disabilities, in order to receive these specialized formats. It was right then, that many of us committed to doing whatever it took to expand this! The first thing that the ICAM did was to develop our old Form 4, which helped, but most certainly did not alleviate the barrier.

During the 15 years since October of 2006, through thousands of conversations, demonstrations, and pleading, we've arrived at another milestone in accessible materials! Given the timing of my turn to blog again combined with the deeply important and impactful changes to who can certify students as qualified to receive Accessible Educational Materials derived from NIMAS files, I'm confident there is no better guest blogger for me this week, than our very own ICAM team of Jeff Bond, Sandy Stabenfeldt, and Martha Hammond!

"The ICAM under the guidance of the Chafee Amendment identifies the print disabilities as: Blind/Low Vision; Orthopedic Disabilities and Reading Disability resulting from Organic dysfunction.

In the cases of Blind/Low vision and Orthopedic disabilities, the qualifications have always been straightforward. In order to qualify to receive K-12 textbooks and core instructional materials in accessible formats rendered from NIMAS files, the student must have: (1) an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP); and (2) a certification of a print disability, by a certified Competent Authority (CA), on file with the school district. A CA is defined to include doctors of medicine, doctors of osteopathy, ophthalmologists, optometrists, registered nurses, therapists, professional staff of hospitals, institutions, and public or welfare agencies (e.g. social workers, counselors, rehabilitation teachers, and superintendents).

However, it was determined by the National Library Service (NLS) of the Library of Congress that Reading Disabilities from Organic dysfunction, dyslexia being the most frequently identified of this group, could best be confirmed by a doctor of medicine or a doctor of osteopathy. When the ICAM was created it was decided it would follow the NIMAS law as written. Still, the requirement for a doctor’s signature has historically been a barrier to receiving Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) for many students. This has also been an obstacle for the ICAM, because our goal from the beginning has been to provide AEM to any student who needs it. 

The ICAM is ecstatic to announce that a change has been made. On February 12, 2021, the National Library Service (NLS) published the regulations that go along with the Library of Congress Technical Corrections Act of 2019. In addition to expanding the list of persons who may certify a student’s eligibility for accessible formats, the Library of Congress removed the requirement for certification by a medical doctor for those with reading disabilities. Educators, school psychologists, and certified reading specialists are now among the professionals authorized to certify students with reading disabilities. These guidelines have been revised to align with changes to copyright made by the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act (MTIA).

This is a profound procedural change, so it is not surprising that there has already been some confusion on how to interpret the law. So allow us to emphasize:

There is no change to the eligibility requirements. The student must have an IEP.  The presence of a print disability is still a Case Conference determination. The change is who may certify reading disabilities resulting from organic dysfunction. 

ICAM/IERC NIMAS Form 4 may now be signed by TOR, school psychologist or reading specialist. The ICAM has created a guide to provide clarification of the AEM process for the Case Conference Committee and is intended for use during the IEP meeting, please refer to this guide for additional support.

The last year has been a difficult one for students and for educators. Let’s celebrate this move forward together by providing paths to literacy for more students! Please contact the ICAM staff with any questions concerning this important policy change, or any AEM-related queries you may have, moving forward.

Learning is like rowing upstream: not to advance is to drop back. – Chinese proverb"

Big Thanks to our own ICAM team and the work that's gone into this already and all of the work that will continue as we strive to get accessible materials to ALL of the students who need them!
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Mar
04

Laverne & "Surely"

Screen-Shot-2021-03-03-at-2.25.34-PM Laverne & Shirley
Laverne & ShirleyQR Code to audio version
Artist Name - blogLS.m4a

Have you ever seen the old sitcom, Laverne & Shirley? It was one of my favorite funny things to watch when I was very young. I loved everything about it, from the physical humor, how the characters engaged with one another, their accents; but more importantly, how Laverne wore the letter L on all of her clothes. I wanted to do that and I wished my name started with an L!

When I was in 2nd grade, I remember walking into the classroom for the very first time and seeing a row of the most beautiful letters I had ever seen hung on the wall. It was the cursive alphabet. This may seem strange to some but I have always been engaged in visuals and textures. Never passing a roadside sign without admiring how the letters would not only share a message but to me, was a creation of art. Even today, my camera roll is filled with photos of random signs, textures and quirky roadside attractions. 

While gazing at the cursive writings, the one letter that caught my eye was the letter “L.” The letter “L.” Laverne’s marking on her shirt. I felt that it looked magnificent. My teacher explained that we would be learning how to write those letters. Each day, we would learn how to write a new letter, and I could not have been more excited. Especially knowing that in 12 days, I would know how to create my L on paper. 

So, each day we would practice a new letter...A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K. It was finally the eve of getting to that L and I went to bed early just so I could wake up! The morning came and I woke up alright with a fever of 101 degrees. As you can imagine, I was devastated. 

The following day, my teacher didn’t skip a beat and we are onto the letter M. I still write the letter M disgruntled a bit. 🤪 All I could say to myself was, “Surely, I can figure out that letter L on my own.” 

You may be thinking, what in the world does this have to do with anything? Well, let me ask you this before I move on: 

  • Do you know what motivates your students? 
  • Do you know their passions? 
  • Do you know how they feel most comfortable in a school setting? 
  • Do you know how they would prefer feedback? 
  • Have you ever asked your students, “What do you hope this school year will look like for you?” 
  • Have you asked your students how they feel about online learning? 
  • Have you ever asked your students to share when they feel engaged in school and even when they do not? 
  • Have you ever asked your students what they wish they could be better at achieving?
  • Have you asked your students what they feel they are good at doing?

At recess, I would air draw the letter L to practice. My teacher had recess duty and asked me what I was doing with my arms. When I told her about the day I missed and how sad I was, she listened. “Surely, we can find ways for you to learn the letter L,” she said. She gave me chalk to practice on the pavement. She let me write the letter L on all of my papers that I would turn in. She would let me write the L on the chalkboard and she would let me help others practice the letter L

You know what else she did that impacted me as an educator today? She never let another student miss a letter if they were absent. She heard me and made that change. It mattered to me and she made it matter to her.

What matters to your students? Do you know? If not, surely there is still time. 

  [drawing cursive L]

On a side note: If I am ever participating in an online activity like Kahoot, etc with you, know that I am always the Laverne in the room.
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Guest — Laura Knoke
I totally remember that show! My name does start with "L"! Thank you for the inspiring story and your timing at this point in the ... Read More
Thursday, 04 March 2021 17:01
Guest — Paige West
Wow what a beautiful story of how your teacher really knew what mattered to you and applied to other students. Thank you so much f... Read More
Thursday, 04 March 2021 19:40
Guest — Glenda Thompson
Way to remind us to open our eyes ears and hearts to those around us, Kelli. One never knows what can make a small or big differe... Read More
Sunday, 07 March 2021 08:01
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Feb
18

Helping Others

The pandemic has changed so many things in my life, but some things have remained the same. I have always enjoyed helping others and this current environment that we live in makes this even more important than ever. Many of my relatives including my parents are in Florida and they were finding it nearly impossible to get a COVID-19 vaccine even though they were qualified to get one. 

The process in Florida is very confusing, especially for seniors to figure out. First, they must use a computer or cell phone to register. Then, after registering they have to find out when shots are being released via a website or Twitter. Many can figure out email and use technology, but Twitter is an unknown world to them. Next, they log in to their already made account at the exact time that the shots are released and then they can possibly get an appointment if the stars align.

There was no conceivable way my parents and many like them in Florida could have ever figured out this maze of craziness without my help. I was able to use my technology skills and get the process completed for them. I am happy to say they have had their first vaccine shot and their second vaccine shot is scheduled. I felt like I had hit the lottery the day I was finally able to get their appointments made after several weeks of trying and coming up empty. Even when you do all the steps correctly and login at the proper time, there is still a chance that you will not get an appointment.

Once I figured all this out, I wanted to help as many people as I could. I want to help them get their shots as well. So far, I have been able to help 8 people get through the process and they have all received their first vaccine shot. I will keep offering my help and I hope I can help others. I encourage everyone who can help to reach out to anyone who needs a helping hand. We all have skills that can benefit others and right now I am grateful for my computer skills. Hopefully, soon we will be able to get the vaccine easily like our flu shots but in the meantime, let’s find ways we can help those that need it.

Helping others is also important to me in my professional life and is a big part of what I do. PATINS/ICAM is here to help you with many issues we face due to remote learning made necessary by COVID-19 as well as in-person learning. We are available via email, Facebook, Twitter, or just an old-fashioned phone call! We have many training opportunities available on our Training Calendar. Let us know how we can help you!


 
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Guest — Glenda Thompson
Where there's a will there's a way...and that "way" could be Sandy! I've used that "way" many a time over the years for my techno... Read More
Thursday, 18 February 2021 13:55
Guest — Martha
Sandy, so happy you use your skills to help so many. For sure, your tech skills have helped me many times over! Thanks so much!... Read More
Thursday, 18 February 2021 14:17
Guest — Bev Sharritt
If we all helped 8 folks that would be alot! Thanks Sandy.
Thursday, 18 February 2021 14:21
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Feb
12

Everything You Know


When I was in college there was a tagline my friends and I would use when appropriate and necessary: "Everything you know is wrong." Had memes been invented back then, this would have been a good one. It's a sweeping statement to be used in very specific situations: you know and understand the subjunctive tense, until the test. You know you have enough gas to get to work until you have to call a friend to pick you up. You know that 3 days will be plenty to write a comparison of Beowulf and Jesus. Nope. Everything you know is wrong.

You know by now, as an educator, that you have experienced enough odd surprises that you are prepared to handle anything. Unexpected new student? Welcome. Fire drill in the bleak mid-winter? Okay. Nosebleed in the cafeteria? No problem. 

Then comes a global pandemic. Schools are closed. Teachers are asked to provide remote instruction to not just the 1 student who is home with mono, but to everyone in all your classes. You have to make learning packets because some students don't have internet service at home. Others can get service but have no device. You are familiar with online platforms such as Zoom, but not like this, not the hours of integration and navigation required by day after day of presenting lessons written in the wee hours. You had become quite adept at monitoring IEP goals during classes, you could write social stories on the fly and provide unplanned task assessments just because the student seemed well-rested. Now they are so out of reach. Are they sleeping? Eating? Reading? So much instruction time is lost for all students, how will you and they ever catch up? 

Catching up lost instruction time will not be an equitable process, as described by a recent study released by McKinsey & Company, reported in Time magazine. "While all students are suffering, those who came into the pandemic with the fewest academic opportunities are on track to exit with the greatest learning loss." Preaching to the choir, right?

Education theorists are coming up with creative solutions for this loss of instruction, including a strategy being incorporated in several Massachusetts school districts called "acceleration academy" which focuses on Literacy, Math, and ELL--the content areas where the loss of instruction time is most evident--and provides in-person and remote instruction outside the typical school day, such as during fall and spring breaks, and for several hours on Saturdays. This strategy is having positive results. How We Go Back To School is an informative and helpful eight-part series by Education Week (must be a subscriber) that provides clear, illustrated descriptions of timely issues that educators now must consider: social distancing at school, rearranging schedules that adhere to safety measures, and instructional needs, student transportation, making remote learning work for students, teachers, parents.

The most profound losses may not necessarily be academic and will likely be the most challenging for everyone. Many students have lost family members and friends during the pandemic. Many parents became unemployed, which has led to food insecurity for more families, loss of health insurance, loss of home. Many families who already experienced these particular hardships are now "competing" with many more others for limited community resources. 

A marked rise in domestic violence is a dark response to these losses. Teachers as mandated reporters are often the first to identify possible/probable child abuse, but now, children may have been confined at home with despondent, depressed, and yes, violent adults. Teachers can't report what they do not see. 

And then there's just plain loneliness. Your students are not seeing their friends, not giggling together between classes, or sitting together for lunch. They are not whispering behind shelves in the library or sending silly messages in the computer lab, all the social acts that make school a fun place to be. And they miss you. Their teachers. You are their parents for seven or more hours a day, teaching them subject content and modeling for them how to adult. Then, COVID changed all that.

Those who know me well know that I believe in journaling to help us through difficult situations. I know it works. One doesn't have to be a good writer to keep a journal, and keeping a journal can certainly help someone become a better writer. While I was teaching 7th grade Language Arts, one of their assignments was to write in a journal. They could choose how often, but at least once a week. It was for their eyes only, if they chose. They would just come up and show me the new entry, and they would get a point. Often they asked me to read their thoughts, which was quite helpful in understanding their moods, propensities, and even their appearance. One boy only drew illustrations, which told his stories perfectly. And now, of course, there is digital journaling with a smartphone or iPad. Some of these have a free app, with more features available for a monthly fee.

Our students are living through a historic time. There have been several pandemics and epidemics that have profoundly affected the United States in the last several generations; COVID-19 is the worst because it's here. Now. And it's everywhere. As in-class instruction picks up, no one expects that to be "normal". So we must forgive students if they struggle to pay attention to what we are trying to teach. Support them if they seem distracted and sad. Encourage them to express their fear, anger, frustration, whatever it is, in productive, creative ways. Every day. At the beginning of every class. Whatever it takes. 

Not a bad practice for the adults in the room, either. Because suddenly you may feel that everything you know is wrong. And it is not. You will have to add to what you know, so lean into the PATINS Project--check the PATINS Training Calendar--for tools and ideas you can use immediately. Like adding captions to everything you do. Like overlapping strategies for ELLs and students with SLD. Like creating accessible materials for distance learning, using APPs for sensory and self-regulation, or learning new ways to help the littles participate in virtual preschool instruction. Whatever you need, just ask. PATINS Specialists are magic that way. They will do the research, design the training to fit your needs, then present it all to you so you can increase everything you know.

 

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Feb
04

Level Up!

Level Up Your Virtual Platform Level Up Your Virtual Platform

Last year I brought you the most popular blog post of last year: Top 5 Reasons for Captions in Schools. Did you see that the post was viewed and shared over four thousand times? Soon after that blog was published we all know what happened that dreaded month (I am not going to say it, you already know)... which led to a mass influx of virtual learning. This increased the number of teacher and school staff videos to an all-time high. The PATINS Project provided training and individual staff consultations with school districts on ways to make their educational materials accessible through their various learning platforms. It was a learning curve that benefited the masses. 

So, the great news is that the information that captions are a must reached schools and teachers and applications are now integrating the software into the products for us. 


But wait, there is more!  What if I told you there is a way to put the captions into your virtual learning platforms camera? Also, this application works across virtual platforms such as Webex, Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams! 



You can create different scenes that fit your needs for your virtual classroom. I have included the PATINS logo in mine. You could include your virtual classroom link or school mascot. You can even make a scene that includes your slide presentation. 

With your creativity, the possibilities are endless! Please share what you come up with and how you are using this application for your classroom! 

Check out this month’s PATINS TV Episode where I show you how cool, creative, and accessible this application is! 

Don’t forget there are written instructions for you to take and share with your colleagues when you are leveling up your skills for your virtual classroom! 

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Jan
28

Communication is Key

Key and keyhole with the text communication is key


This Jamie Witheringtonmonth I'm thrilled to present a guest blogger, Jamie Witherington. She has been a teacher for students with intense needs for 19 years. Her career began with Indianapolis Public Schools before moving to Greenwood Community Schools, where she has taught for the past 14 years. She presented at the PATINS Access to Education (A2E) Conference in 2019 and was also a Project Success Model Site Teacher during the 2019-20 school year. When she's not passionately supporting her students' communication in the classroom, she is a mom to 3 amazing kids, coach, friend, and lover of all things gnomes.



Have you ever had a day where you couldn’t get your thoughts and feelings into the words you needed? Have you ever been so frustrated or overwhelmed you couldn’t articulate those feelings and just felt like screaming or crying? I know I have had days like this. So many of us take for granted that we can have a verbal conversation with someone and share those thoughts, feelings, and frustrations. But what if you couldn’t… what would you do? 

I often think of these things as I work with my students with complex communication needs. Many of my students use an alternate method of communication or numerous means of alternate communication. I work with students who use modified sign language, Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) devices, picture boards, and verbalizations. I have worked really hard to try and make sure every student I teach has a mode of communication… it may not be a standard mode to some… but it’s a mode that works for that student. I have had students who used eye gaze, facial expression changes to indicate a response, picture cards, pointing, etc. The main thing it comes down to is building a relationship with each student and figuring out what works for them to “show/tell” what they know. 

I currently have a student that when he moved into our district had some basic sign language, but did a lot of screaming and vocalizing his displeasure. We started with choosing pictures to communicate his wants and needs. We continued to work on growing his base of understandable sign language signs, using American Sign Language (ASL) as the goal, but knowing his physical needs, we knew some signs would not be perfect! Today, he uses a communication device and has learned to scroll down to what he wants. It wasn’t easy; it was days of a lot of headaches, but the smile on his face now when he uses his device to communicate what he wants to us, that’s why I do what I do. 

This has become my passion, my purpose, my “why” if you will. Communication is key to every area of our lives. How do we function without it? We can’t. We have to communicate-- behavior is communication, body language is communication, facial expressions are communication. There are so many ways to communicate if we just take the time to learn what works with and for our students. 

If you follow me on Twitter (@JamieWithering2) you have seen me tweet about the importance of visuals. I love visuals! I need them to function in my daily life. I need them to communicate to me what is happening around me and what I need to do. The red octagon telling me to STOP, the green light telling me to go, the yellow telling me to be cautious, my color coded lesson plans and calendar telling me who I am supposed to be working with and when. If our daily lives need these types of visuals to keep functioning, think how much more important it is for students with complex communication needs to have access to visuals. 

Side by side photos of visuals. The left pictures a check in visual that allows students to indicate how they feel about the lesson and whether the understood it using different emoji faces. On the right is an I Can statement. I can create a 3 or more word sentence using the Core Word of the week.
My students have a visual daily schedule that tells them what is happening and what time it is happening. I have classroom rules and expectations visuals, “I can” statement visuals, and even more importantly, core word and communication visuals all around my room. Students need access to ways to communicate. Students need teachers and speech therapists willing to stand on their heads if need be to give them that access. I have learned that the more I am willing to go that extra mile to find the communication tools, visuals, access points, etc, the more I am able to connect with my students and the more they connect with being able to communicate. 

Side by side photos. On the left is a photo of a large augmentative and alternative communication board posted on a whiteboard. On the right a photo of a folder visual with the top showing to do items and the bottom is open for moving these items to the done side using Velcro

I have also learned that Teamwork Makes the Dream Work. I have partnered closely with my Speech Therapist, PATINS Project, and other passionate educators in my district to create an Accessible Educational Materials (AEM) team. By sharing my passion for communication and visuals, my team was able to create two Playground Communication Boards. They are pictured below with students using them. These boards were a dream for my Speech Therapist and myself, but they became a reality thanks to the buy in from teachers across my amazing district. They were constructed by the high school Industrial Technology teacher and his students. I truly believe it takes a village to make great things happen for students. 

Side by side photos of a two different young male students pointing to words on a large outdoor augmentative and alternative (AAC) board

All this to say Communication is Key! Don’t give up on students, have high expectations and presume competence. In the end, it’s all for students, and don’t they deserve to have a voice no matter what that looks like?!


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Guest — Rachel L Herron
Fantastic Blog Jamie! Your students are so lucky!!
Friday, 29 January 2021 12:37
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