Author Archives: Jennifer Sommerness

About Jennifer Sommerness

Independent Educational Consultant

My Baby Soapbox

img_online-early-childhood-education-degrees[1]I am having a hard time putting words to the thoughts I am having today. There are so many parts of the story I am about to tell that need addressing, and so much at stake in the message.

I was on the phone the other day with a friend of mine I have had all of my life. He and his wife have a beautiful baby boy, let’s call him Brian. Brian was born with disabilities, specifically, he has WAGR syndrome. It is something that very few people ever need to find out more about, as so few people are born with the specific genetic traits. WAGR contributes such a small part to this story that I am not going to spend my time focusing on that aspect.

Brian is a happy, quickly developing little man, who is making progress every day. He is full of smiles, laughter, and love for those around him, and a true pleasure to be with. All of the things we look for in children of this age, he is doing well at. Eating on his own, learning to get more of his lunch in his mouth than on the walls or floor, getting around from place to place of his own free will, interacting with people, expressing himself, exploring and becoming more independent and just generally being a two year old kid.

There are a couple things that he has been working on developing, that with physical and occupational therapy as well as some support for his visual impairment, he is making great gains, and using his skills across his environments consistently well. He seems to like putting things in his mouth quite a bit, but at this age, everybody’s doing it!! My guess is that it is one more way for him to experience his world, with his vision limited a bit more than most his age.

He is a part of a beautiful family and is surrounded by uncles, aunts, grandmas, grandpas and family friends. He lives in a lovely neighborhood, where he has made friends with other little people his age, and spends his days as any two year old does, at school while mom and dad go to work, and busy at play dates and being a beautifully integral part of his family and community the rest of the time.

Sounds great, right? Well…that is where I need to get on my baby soapbox today. Continue reading

Stop Learning. Start Thinking. Start Creating. BE Your Field.

Those words are words that have been spoken by Jacob Barnett. Jacob is a young man who was labeled with Autism when he was two years old. He wasn’t supposed to talk, or even learn to tie his shoes. Now, he has been recognized world-wide for his work within the field of science, in particular within the field of astrophysics (and wears flip-flops). He is 14 now, teaching at a research university, working on his PhD, and in line to be rewarded a Nobel Prize someday. Watch this TedxTeen talk to get an idea of who this incredible young man is.

Jacob is also currently writing a book about how to make math more approachable for kids his age. Additionally he runs a non-profit that benefits kids who are on the autism spectrum by focusing on social skills and coaching them on thinking in their own unique ways. His mom has written a book titled The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius. And more than that, he loves basketball and root beer floats.

Continue reading

How I Spent Inclusive Schools Week!

Inclusive Schools Week 2012

Inclusive Schools Week 2012

This week was Inclusive Schools Week. It is an annual event sponsored by the Inclusive Schools Network (ISN) which is held each year during the first week in December. Since 2001, Inclusive Schools Week has celebrated how different districts and schools have made progress in

“providing a supportive and quality education to an increasingly diverse student population, including students who are marginalized due to disability, gender, socio-economic status, cultural heritage, language preference and other factors.”

It is also a time for educators, students and parents to plan next steps, to realize the work to be done, and ensure continuous improvement to successfully educate all children.

The national TASH conference also was held this past week, but unlike like many of my colleagues, I was unable to attend this year. I am putting it high on my “to-do” list of things to do in the upcoming year because that group, and in particular that conference, is one of the best places to be with advocates and professionals whom are doing this stuff well and making a difference in the lives of people with disabilities. It is always held the first week of December as well, and I highly recommend anyone attending the conference and getting involved with that organization. I have been a member of TASH for years, and have presented at as well as attended many of their national conferences. That group never ceases to inspire me.

Project from Terman Middle School, Palo Alto from Inclusive Schools week 2011

Project from Terman Middle School, Palo Alto, CA, from Inclusive Schools week 2011

What I did do this week is a presentation at Palo Alto’s Inclusive Schools Week kick-off event, a precursor for activities that followed every day this week within their schools. The ISN topic this year that they put forward was “Social Inclusion: Not Just a Seat in the Class”. Continue reading