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Learning Outside the Box

July 11, 2014 in Special Education Articles by Jess

As children and parents negotiate their way through the final weeks of summer and approach the beginning of a new school year, they experienced the inevitable and vast array of thoughts and feelings about the upcoming challenges they will face.  Many students feel a predominance of excitement as they anticipate who their new teachers will be, look forward to seeing old friends, making new ones, and sharing the experiences they have had since June.  As a person, I hope that all children feel, on balance, more excitement than concern at the prospect of a fresh opportunity; however, as a Special Educator with thirteen years of school based experience, I know that many – if not most – children with special needs face every school year with worry and trepidation. Read the rest of this entry →

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Sorting Through Online Educational Training Systems

June 3, 2013 in Special Education Articles by Jess

Finding Virtual Learning Technology Answers. Parents and teachers are finding a proliferation of virtual remediation to acceleration brain training programs promising fast and optimum gains in learning reading, math, and science that are research based. It is difficult to believe these promises, as most often the program designers do not have a background in classroom implementation let alone e-Learning implementation, which is totally different form pure classroom teaching.

Many virtual learning entrepreneurs come from backgrounds of scientists and somewhat related fields to education like optometry (testing vision), psychiatry, psychology, and medicine pediatrics (medically treating the whole child, and prescribing stimulant medications). Others are business and technology product development entrepreneurs who have never worked in a classroom, and understand technology delivery parameters, but not how children/adults actually learn and retain information so that it will transfer into real life productivity. Read the rest of this entry →

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What is a Learning Disability, Really?

July 1, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

When a parent attends an IEP meeting and the educational experts tell them their child has a learning disability, most times there is confusion.  The reason is because the term can seem so broad that it can render itself almost meaningless.  Several years ago a study was undertaken with professionals, teachers and parents asked to define the term “learning disabilities”.  The results listed nearly 100 different definitions, almost as varied as the people who tried to define the term.  Although some parents feel comfortable with finally having a name for their child’s problem, or a teacher might find a diagnosis helpful to at last getting a student help,  it might be more useful to fully describe the issues and development, or lack thereof, that most students experience before finally being labeled learning disabled.  Read the rest of this entry →

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The Importance of Remediating Dyslexia

June 27, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

Approximately 1 in 5 children are dyslexic. Due to a lack of resources in schools to diagnose kids early, and to provide them with adequate help once diagnosed, struggling readers fall behind their peers.  The school-to-prison pipeline refers to the number of kids with reading and behavior problems who end up in juvenile detention centers, and later in prison.  According to the US Department of Education, “60 percent of America’s prison inmates are illiterate and 85 percent of all juvenile offenders have reading problems.”  There is a direct relationship between reading struggles and behavioral issues.  A main reason is because not understanding how to read, while the rest of your peers take off on a path towards success, drastically affects a child’s self esteem.  Not understanding the information being taught in school contributes to a child feeling helpless and alone, which can lead to behavioral outbursts.  Since many learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, present themselves in children as early as Kindergarten, early prevention is an important step to getting kids the help they need to grow as readers. Read the rest of this entry →

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Auditory Processing Disorder and Learning

May 20, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

Almost every school activity, including listening to teachers, interacting with classmates, singing along in music class, following instructions in physical education, etc, depends on the ability for students to process sounds and have a strong auditory system in learning.  But what happens if this auditory system has deficits?  Can a child still learn? 

Does my child have Auditory Processing Disorder? 

Auditory Processing (APD) is a very common learning disability and affects about 5% of school-age children.  Auditory Processing can present itself with many different symptoms and behaviors.  Often these behaviors resemble those seen with other learning challenges, like language difficulties, attention problems and autism.  Most children with auditory processing difficulties show only a few of the following behaviors.  No child will show all of them.  However, any child who displays several of these symptoms should be carefully evaluated for auditory processing disorder.  Read the rest of this entry →

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Khan Academy Launches FREE iPad App

March 12, 2012 in App Review, Special Education Advisor Blog by Doug Goldberg

Khan Academy the widely popular online learning source has finally released an iPad App. If you don’t know much about the Khan Academy their website describes them as:

…an organization on a mission. We’re a not-for-profit with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education to anyone anywhere.

All of the site’s resources are available to anyone. It doesn’t matter if you are a student, teacher, home-schooler, principal, adult returning to the classroom after 20 years, or a friendly alien just trying to get a leg up in earthly biology. The Khan Academy’s materials and resources are available to you completely free of charge.

And now they are all available on your iPad as well!!! Still want to learn more about the Khan Academy watch the video below from last night’s 60 Minutes.

 

The Khan Academy app gives you access to all 2700+ videos in its educational library all for free. The videos are broken up by categories and sub-categories. Categories include, Math, Science, Humanities, Test Prep and Interviews. Each video provides an outline that can be used to jump to specific sections in each video. Since many of the videos are very long this is a good way to pinpoint exactly the part of the video you want to see and move to it quickly.

You can watch the videos over your internet connection but you can also download any of the videos directly to you iPad. This gives you the ability to take the videos along on trips or places without internet connections.

Since my son is in the 5th grade I tested the app on him. He is currently learning integers and how to add and subtract negative numbers. I easily navigated through the Math category to the sub-category of arithmetic and pre-algebra where I found negative numbers. I found 6 videos on negative numbers and played the first one entitled, “Negative Numbers Introduction.” This 9 minute video did a wonderful job of auditorily and visually presenting the information. My son is a visual learner and the video helped him see how to use a number line to determine negative numbers. This was just 1 of the 2700+ videos on the app. As you can see, Khan Academy is not joking when they claim, “Khan Academy allows you to learn almost anything for free.”

The Khan Academy app and the corresponding videos are amazing. Future versions of this app are scheduled to include the Khan Academy exercises that are currently available on the website. I can’t think of any downside to adding this free app to your iPad today!!!!!

 

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How to write a song for Kids

March 5, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

Actually, I’m going to talk about reworking an existing song for kids to help get done whatever it is that needs doing/learning/teaching.

Why is this so natural and why does it work to well? A partial answer is that singing phrases involves both hemispheres of the brain. Music is whole brain- more parts of the brain are stimulated and light up when a direction or concept is sung rather than spoken. It makes the job more interesting and less of a put-upon demand. You can watch music, hear it and feel it

My first premise is that anyone can do this. People can get nervous about doing this. You don’t need to get nervous. You CAN do this. Also, I must say that there are very few people who really “can’t” sing or who are really “tone-deaf.”And then there are the kids who even as toddlers tell their parents “NO SING.!!!” Ok, I’ve known two ex-voice majors whose babies said “Don’t SING.” Sing anyway. If you’re still resistant, then I bet you had a bad chorus teacher or choir director who told you to just whisper the words…. They should have just helped you learn to focus your ears rather than turn you off to the joy of singing. Naughty teachers.

This is what you do: You take an easy, familiar, traditional little kid song and you stick words into it. That’s it.

You do not need to be clever. You do not need to rhyme. Just stick in the words. Take the song “Wheels on the bus” for example. To help kids clean up, you can sing “Play time is over and it’s time to clean, time to clean, time to clean. Play time is over it’s time to clean. Clean up the toys.” If you’re teaching body parts to toddlers, sing “Put the beanbag on your head, on your head, on your head. Put the bean bag on your head. Put it on your head.” It really is that simple and mundane. As Nike says, “Just do it.” To help peers learn names and to help foster awareness of syllables sing “Let’s sing hi to Monica (while clapping the syllables Mo-ni-ca) Monica, Monica. Let’s sing hi to Monica. Hmmm who’s next?” You can use this for social skills, daily routines, new experiences, pre-academics /academics, language concepts, math, pre-reading, colors, vocabulary and more.

All of this grabs our attention and makes us want to listen. This opens us up to foster new understandings of the world around us, of concepts, of ourselves, and of other people.

Here’s a bit more about writing or adapting songs to help teach kids what they need to know. This can include transitions, sound articulation, motor skills, body parts, eye contact…..

Most of the songs on the radio have a formula. Many songs are comprised of alternating verses and choruses. All the verses of a song are quite similar to each other but are different from the chorus. The chorus is usually the same each time it is heard. The bridge section usually comes near the end of the songs and is a notably different but returns to the chorus and everybody says “ahhhh, back to our familiar reference section.” A song on the radio often follows a pattern similar to verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus.

Back to kids songs. There are two main types: one has three repetitious lines (either lyrically and/or melodically) and a final contrasting phrase that is the same from verse to verse. The other has two repetitious lines, a consistent third phrase and a return to the first or repetitious line. The contrasting line in both these cases can consist of a general phrase that describes the purpose of the song, or a commonality within all the verses.

Examples of a same -same -same -different song include: Mary had a little lamb, This little light of mine, Kumbaya, the Wheels on the Bus and London Bridges.

Examples of a same -same -different -same song include: The farmer in the dell, Old Mac Donald, Oh my darling Clemontine and Oh Susanna.

How does this matter to you? It’s simply a frame work in which to insert your lesson material/objectives. You may never have contemplated the musical structure of Kumbaya, but that melody can help your kids do anything from wash behind their ears to learn math. There is a reason that song has lasted the test of time. I suspect these song formulas sit well with the human psyche with our need to push into what is new, but come home to what’s familiar. (The different phrases and new, contrasting bridges as well as the consistent, familiar choruses that we all are happy to return to join in on…..) If you are feeling confident in this, I want to point out that you want to be aware of the syllabic inflection of what you are singing and make sure your syllables have correct emphasis.

For older kids who learn through song, you can use melodies from verses and choruses of more current songs. Try to notice which tunes have you tapping your foot and have a repetitious quality to them either through the words (“She loves you yeah yeah yeah. She loves you yeah yeah yeah. She loves you yeah yeah yeah. She loves you) and/or the melody. Try to notice the patterns of repetition and newness. By the way, “I’m Yours,” by Jason Mraz is a great song to insert new lyrics. Now go sing!

Margie La Bella has worked as a music therapist serving young children with special needs for more than 25 years. Her website, http://www.MusicTherapyTunes.com is full of useful information (music, videos, blogs, lessons plans…) for parents, therapists, and teachers and just about everyone else.

 

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Construct Grammatically Correct Sentences: Rainbow Sentences

February 15, 2012 in App Review by Doug Goldberg

Rainbow Sentences by Mobile Education Tools is a fun app that teaches children how to form sentences using color. Currently at $7.99 this App is priced just right for the hours of educationally content presented in a fun format. Rainbow Sentences would work well for young children just learning how to create proper sentences as well as older children struggling with the concept. According to the Rainbow Sentences App page, “Rainbow Sentences is designed to help students improve their ability to construct grammatically correct sentences by using color coded visual cues. The who, what, where, and why parts of sentences are color coded to help students recognize and understand how combinations of these parts create basic sentence structure.” Read the rest of this entry →

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Teaching Tips and Techniques for Special Needs Educators: Make a Difference by Thinking Differently

February 8, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

When it comes to education, it’s impossible to take a “one size fits all” approach. Not only is every student different, each student learns differently, too – and this can be especially true of children with special needs. Because teachers are not provided specific textbooks for these students but are still held accountable for imparting state standards, developing lesson plans or modifying the current ones can be quite challenging. However, by educating oneself about the various types of learning disabilities, and by collaborating with other educators, the experience can also be extremely rewarding. Read the rest of this entry →

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My Son’s Favorite App Developer

January 25, 2012 in App Review by Doug Goldberg

A couple of months ago I gave a presentation on Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for my local Parent Training Center. All of the Staff for this organization are parents of children with special needs. When I arrived early to set up I was met by a staff member and her son who has autism. As I was setting up I couldn’t help noticing the staff member’s son writing on the blackboard. In about ten minutes he had written down the names of all of the United States Presidents in order. I stopped what I was doing and walked over to his Mom and asked if he was learning about the Presidents in School. I don’t know about you but I can’t remember most of the Presidents names let alone their order. I know all of the early Presidents, the ones that led during specific events in U.S. History and all of the Presidents during my lifetime but the rest I have forgotten. To my amazement she said her son had learned all of the U.S. Presidents from an iPad app. She went on to explain that this was the third app her son had played from this particular developer. The first app had taught him all about the States in America, the second had taught him about all of the Countries in each Continent and this latest app the Presidents. I was hooked, who is this developer and what are the names of the apps. Read the rest of this entry →

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