Learn Your Special Education Laws, Special Education Rights, and Share IEP Goal Ideas

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In order to be fair we have got to treat them different

December 19, 2013 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Doug Goldberg

A couple of months ago I was touring an inclusive charter school that my wife and I want my son to attend for middle school. As we toured the different classrooms I noticed a sign hanging over the blackboard in every class. The sign read, “Fairness is not getting the same thing as everyone else, but getting what you need.” This motto seemed appropriate since the charter’s school inclusion “model allows for the individual needs of each child to be addressed in a manner that enhances each child’s strengths while also addressing learning needs” all within the general education setting.

Being the curious type I snapped a picture of one of the signs and went home to research the individual who came up with this philosophy. After doing some Google searches I found the following YouTube video from Rick Lavoie. Read the rest of this entry →

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Dyslexia: ‘I’ve never taught a student with dyslexia.’

July 15, 2013 in Special Education Articles by Jess

Have you ever asked yourself what your local school teachers know about dyslexia? What have they learned on their own? What professional development have they been exposed to since they finished their teacher training programs? Have you ever wondered what they know to be an intervention for dyslexia? I recently read a thread on a Facebook page dedicated to teachers when the topic of dyslexia was posed to 75,000+ teachers. How they responded was not completely unexpected, but it was unnerving.

Before I go on, let me assure you that I love teachers. There are many, many teachers in my life. We have five teachers who work for us as reading therapists and I think they are all intelligent, empathetic, creative and passionate people. So, this article is not a bashing of teachers, instead the purpose is to shed light on what they have been taught, or not taught, to do for children with dyslexia. Read the rest of this entry →

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Philosophy of Education

February 25, 2013 in Special Education Articles by Jess

The success of school aged children within their home, school, community and academic lives is a function of their education. My goal is to create a safe, appropriate learning environment for the students I teach. Facilitation of learning pre-language, language, pre-academic, academic, and life or adaptive living skills is essential to their achievement. It is my belief that all children should and are capable of maintaining and progressing in academic and functional life skills at home, school and in their community.

When school encompasses children’s lives for almost as much time as an adult’s employment, one could surmise that school is their equivalent of work. Therefore, those experiences are a large portion of how children learn to “live and cope in society”, just as work experiences affect adults’ lives.

Per progressivism, learned behavior comes from observing and having experiences that have meaning. Encouraging learning theory while incorporating a hands on approach increases the amount of meaning and applicability to students’ lives. Read the rest of this entry →

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Top Ten Things the Classroom Teacher Needs to Know About Your Child with Special Needs

February 11, 2013 in Special Education Articles by Jess

If your child with special needs has been mainstreamed or fully included in a general education classroom, it is important that you communicate openly and honestly with the teacher about your child’s needs.

While special education teachers and outside agencies will meet with your child’s classroom teacher to share information, these meetings can often be brief, delayed, or worse yet, cancelled until further notice.

Therefore, It is necessary for you to monitor the information that is shared between your child’s teacher(s) and the support personnel, and then fill in any gaps. Between you and your child’s school, here are the top ten things that the classroom teacher needs to know about your child’s special needs: Read the rest of this entry →

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What Do You Teach?

February 5, 2013 in Special Education Articles by Jess

I’ve been reading Jan Valle and David Conner’s Rethinking disability, a disability studies approach to inclusive practices.  Thus far, I’ve found it to be a really concise, entertaining and easy to maneuver text about inclusive educational practices.  It’s a nice departure from the repetitious/outdated/seemingly inapplicable tomes I’ve encountered in grad. school.  I definitely recommend picking it up.

Valle & Conner (2010), open chapter three with a description of how special education teachers are perceived by the general public: Read the rest of this entry →

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I Have a Dream for Special Education

January 17, 2013 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Doug Goldberg

Special Education in America has come very far in the 30 plus years since the Education for All Handicapped Children Act was passed.  The problem is somewhere along the way the spirit of the law and the practice of the law started to breakdown.  The cornerstone of the special education law is the Individualized Education Program (IEP) and decisions about the IEP are decided at an IEP team meeting.  The IEP becomes useless if the IEP team meeting goes off task.  Unfortunately, instead of a team, often it becomes parents against the school and a massive communication breakdown occurs.  There can be a significant lack of trust on both sides.  Many times I hear from School personnel, “Why don’t parents think we are capable of assessing their children properly?”  While on the other side parents think schools are turning them down for eligibility and services due to lack of funds when their children really need help. Read the rest of this entry →

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Parenting Styles and Why They Matter

November 7, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

With the publication of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua, the topic of parenting styles has become very popular. Ms. Chua believes that the “Chinese” way in which she raised her two daughters produced excellent outcomes. Although not allowed to have sleepovers, play dates, or even earn less than an A in school, she claims they turned out to be productive, happy members of society.

Is this the best parenting style, or should parents adopt a less strict, more loving approach? According to researchers in the field of child development, there are generally four ways to parent: authoritarian (the Tiger Mom way), authoritative (a balanced approach), permissive (anything goes), and uninvolved (emotionally detached). Read the rest of this entry →

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Strength Based IEPs

October 7, 2012 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Doug Goldberg

When most people hear about a child that has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) the first thing that crosses their mind is, “I wonder what their deficits or needs are.”  This is because too many IEPs are being written using the deficit model.  The deficit model focuses on the student as the major problem, neither looking within the environment nor the instructional practices in the classroom.  As Kral stated way back in 1992, “if we ask people to look for deficits, they will usually find them, and their view of the situation will be colored by this. If we ask people to look for successes, they will usually find it, and their view of the situation will be colored by this”.  Only focusing on the child’s deficits could have the following effects, 1) the IEP will not work very well, and 2) it will cause self-esteem issues and behavior problems with the child. Read the rest of this entry →

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How to Succeed at Essay Writing

October 4, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

It’s the moment every parent dreads: when your child sits there, glum-faced, looking at a blank piece of paper in front of them.  They have a rapidly-approaching deadline for their essay, and nothing, but nothing you do as a parent seems to help them get any closer to completion.  What can you do to help?  The answer is: quite a lot.

Producing a successful essay can be one of the most arduous parts of the schooling process, and yet, the need to write an essay is everywhere: from English literature, to economics, to physics, geography, classical studies, music, and history.  To succeed, at high school and in tertiary study you must master essay writing.

Getting students over this barrier was one of the reasons I put pen to paper four years ago and produced a book called Write That Essay!  At that stage, I was a senior academic at Auckland University and a university examiner.  For nearly 20 years, in both course work and examinations, I had counselled everyone from 17-year-old ‘newbies’ to 40-year-old career changers with their essay writing.  Often, the difference between a student who might achieve a B-Grade and the A-Grade student was just some well-placed advice and direction.

I then visited over 50 New Zealand High Schools and spoke with over 8000 kiwi kids about essay writing.  These students reported exactly the same challenges as I had previously encountered, and more.  The result has been two books and a DVD that have helped kids achieve some of the potential that sits inside all of us.

In this article I am going to deal with some things you can do as a parent to help your child succeed at essay writing.  If you’d like more detailed advice, drop in on my website www.writethatessay.org or grab a copy of the books.  Because writing great essays is well within every child’s grasp.

Tips for essay writing success:

1.  It’s an argument

Remember that an essay is an argument: the task in an essay is not to write a story or to recount a plot.  The teacher knows all of this information.  In an essay your child’s job is to present a compelling argument—using specific evidence—for the point they are trying to make.

2.  Write a plan: you’ll be pleased that you did

Get your child to write a brief list-plan of the topics that their essay needs to cover.  Even a short plan is better than no plan at all, and will start to give the writer a feeling that completing an essay on that topic is well within their grasp.

If your child is a visual learner, move away from the desk and go to a neutral space.  Grab a large sheet of blank A3 paper and some coloured pens, and brainstorm a mind map or sketch plan of what the essay should contain.  Using pictures, lines, circles, and arrows will all help the visual learner grasp the task at hand and help them see what they have to do.

3.  Getting Started

A challenge many kids (and adults) face writing essays is getting started.  The person sits there waiting for inspiration to hit them like a lightening bolt and it never happens.  What can you as a parent do to help?

Encourage them with the thought that great essays are never written the first time over.  Get them to view essay writing as a three-part process.  The first draft is only to get out the ideas and words in rough form.  In the second and third effort, they will add to their essay where there are blanks, clarify ideas, and give it a final polish.  Realising that an essay isn’t supposed to be perfect the first time you write it, really helps some people.

4.  Having enough to say

If your child is still stuck, find out if they have read up enough on the topic.  Some inertia with writing can be due to lack of knowledge.  They will find writing so much easier if they spend another day or two reading more on the topic and gleaning some additional ideas.

5.  Try using a neutral sentence

Suggest starting the essay with a neutral sentence: a sentence that merely states an interesting fact on the topic being written about.  Here’s one: ‘Mozart was one of the most important Austrian composers of the eighteenth century.’  First sentences in essays don’t need to be stellar – you just need to start!

Now, go write that essay!

About the Author: Ian Hunter is a former Associate Professor at Auckland University and has been a leading New Zealand academic for 20 years.  He is the author of over 50 publications, including a dozen books, and his work on education, innovation, business history, and entrepreneurship has been published internationally.  He is a regular conference speaker and media commentator and lives in Auckland with his wife Debra and their five children.  In 2010 he stepped aside from university life to concentrate full-time on writing and publishing. Visit www.writethatessay.org for more essay writing material.

Titles available in this series:

Write That Essay! (for tertiary students)
Write That Essay! High School Edition
Write That Essay! High School Edition Box Set (includes book, DVD and worksheets)
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Your Child Doesn’t Belong in My Classroom

September 30, 2012 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Doug Goldberg

To belong, to fit in, to be suitable, to be appropriate or to be a member of a club, organization, or set; this is what we all want for our children.  So nothing hurts worse than when your child’s Teacher tells you, “Your child doesn’t belong in my classroom.”  What you hear as a parent is a statement of your child’s failings.  What I hear is an admission of a denial of a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for your child.  Let me give you a few examples of what you are not hearing but is implied in this statement:

  1. Your child doesn’t belong in my classroom because the school will not provide the appropriate aides and supports necessary to educate your child;
  2. Your child doesn’t belong in my classroom because I am not capable of educating your child;
  3. Your child doesn’t belong in my classroom because I don’t want to take the time to differentiate my instruction and find the method that your child learns;
  4. Your child doesn’t belong in my classroom because the District has increased my class size to 45 students and has not provided me with a paraprofessional to help lessen my load;
  5. Your child doesn’t belong in my classroom because I don’t want to follow his IEP because it takes too much time and energy;
  6. Your child doesn’t belong in my classroom because the School District refuses to spend money on children with special needs; and
  7. Your child doesn’t belong in my classroom because I am a bad teacher.

The last example I want to explain, because I realize that I may have angered many educators.  Just like every profession there are a few who are great at what they do, a few that are awful at what they do and many that are somewhere in between.  Teaching is no exception and if you have uttered the phrase, “Your child doesn’t belong in my class,” you land solidly on the far left of the bell curve in the well below average category of Teaching.  Even if you made this statement due to constraints caused by the School District, this statement is not acceptable.  We all have the right to belong, and we also all have the right to be educated.  This doesn’t mean I believe every child should be educated in a mainstream class; inevitably, many school districts will not provide the necessary supports needed for inclusion to be successful.  I do however feel that every child deserves to be respected and to tell them or their parents they “don’t belong” is not appropriate.

About a month ago I went to my son’s back to school night.  This is his first year in Middle School so we spent about 5 to 10 minutes in each class.  The second class I went into was his social studies room and the Teacher started her discussion by stating, “I am going to set the bar really high this year for every student.  I don’t care that this isn’t my honors class I am going to set the bar high and every single student WILL move higher than they thought they could.  They might not all make it to the top but I will take them ALL as high as they can go.”  She then read this poem:

She then walked us through the various methods she uses to teach including visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic.  To determine how each of her students learn she conducted a learning style assessment on the first day of school and used those results to modify her teaching style.  If you haven’t realized it yet this Teacher lands on the far right of the bell curve in the well above average category for Teaching.

The morale of this little exercise is that there are good teachers and bad teachers, good school districts and bad school districts.  So, if your child’s Teacher tells you, “Your child doesn’t belong in my class,” it’s time to find a new placement.  It’s time to find a new placement not because your child doesn’t belong but because your child deserves better.  Your child deserves a Teacher like my son’s social studies Teacher who is going to push them and help them fly.

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