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by Jess

Dyslexia: The Art of the Observation

January 13, 2013 in Special Education Articles by Jess

In the world of advocacy and dyslexia, the observation seems to be a forgotten and seriously under-utilized tool. In fact, the observation can be the one thing that can turn a case around and create some change, but it has to be done correctly. The observer needs to know what to look for and what to report. It may also come as a surprise, but one of the most heart-wrenching things I do as an advocate and dyslexia expert is the classroom observation. There have been observations where I actually felt nauseous the longer I sat and watched the instruction. The reason for my visceral response is usually caused by the ‘instruction’ the student I am advocating for is receiving; but it is also caused by the students in the class for whom I am not an advocate – who is watching out for them? I take solace in the thought that advocating for one student will have a ripple effect for others. So, what could provoke such a response to what should be an innocuous experience? Below I have described why an observation should take place and what the observer should be evaluating. I have also shared some very common experiences that occur in classrooms with students with dyslexia. Read the rest of this entry →

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Profile photo of Jess

by Jess

Monitoring your child’s education through observation

September 12, 2011 in Special Education Articles by Jess

Now that the new school year has begun, it may be a good time for parents to schedule an observation of their child’s educational setting. In order to be proactive in your child’s educational progress, it’s important to know what’s occurring during the time they’re at school.

Here are some tips for conducting observations:

• Look at your child’s schedule and decide which time would be most productive. If your child does well during math, but struggles during reading or writing, you might want to schedule a time during the literacy block. This will give you an opportunity to offer input that may assist the teacher during potentially difficult times for your child.

• Be prepared to give your child’s teacher at least 48 hours notice as to when you’d like to visit the classroom.

• When you arrive, try to sit in a location that’s nonintrusive to the children. If the children are grouped at one side of the room, try to sit on the opposite side. Make every attempt to sit facing your child’s back. If your child sees you watching him/her, their behaviors may be altered.

• Be prepared to take notes. During the observation is not the time to point out concerns that may come up.

• Do not engage with the teacher unless she initiates the conversation. You are there to observe his/her interaction with the students and the instruction that your child is receiving.

• Some things to look for:

o Is your child seated in an appropriate location to benefit from instruction?

o Is your child receiving the necessary amount of adult support to be included within the setting and activity?

o Are all assistive devices being utilized (postural supports, graphic organizers, communication devices, pencil grips, technology, etc)?

o Is the room organized and can your child tell what the schedule and expectations are?

o Is your child given opportunities to engage in the lesson?

• Give yourself a few days to think about what you observed, then schedule a time to review your notes with the teacher.

• Thank the teacher for her time and being accommodating to your presence. When meeting with her, find at least two things that were positive about what you observed. You want to keep your relationship with the teacher as positive as possible, while still advocating effectively for your child.

Stacey Hoaglund is a parent of a 16 year old son with autism.  In addition to her position as a Family Support Specialist with Family Network on Disabilities, Stacey is the founder and CEO of Disability Training and Support Specialists, which is an agency providing education and advocacy for professionals and families of special needs




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