Category Archives: Parents/Families

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.

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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

Conferences…and an Outstanding Teacher!

It is not my policy to write about the teachers that my sons have from year to year, at least not specifically. There are times, however, when my thoughts are, of course, informed by what my sons and their classmates are experiencing throughout the year, and I write about them in a collective way, with generalities and take away thinking that comes from the conversations and contexts. There is too much at stake when it is your own child, and, try as I may to be as even handed in my praise or my critique of teachers, when it comes to my own children…well, they are my children and I am only human. So, typically, I avoid writing about people that are in charge of a large chunk of their day.

Today, I need to step away from that practice, and highlight one of my son’s teachers, as I think she deserves to be honored for who she is and what she does so naturally. Additionally, I believe she embodies what I try to describe many times throughout my posts as what I would hope teachers would strive for daily in their work with kids. It is because of this, I want to write about her today, and share her example with you.

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Winner of the Paraprofessional Curriculum Giveaway!

At LONG last (I realize that I have been away for a while…), I have randomly chosen a winner of my job-embedded paraprofessional curriculum. I placed the names of the commenters in a hat, and had my nine-year old draw one lucky winner (he loves to get into the action!).

The winner is Megan Gross! Megan is an instructional support teacher at an elementary school in Northern California. She currently supports students with mild to moderate disabilities in their general education classes, grades K-2, and has previously worked as an inclusion specialist for students with mild to severe disabilities at an inclusive junior high. She has been asked to support her campus in providing paraprofessional training.

Additionally, Megan is the co-author of ParaEducate, a wonderful book written for paraeducators, by paraeducators. It is a highly valuable resource that I have used to inform my practice, and I think you should check it out to further your understanding of how to support paraprofessionals in the work they do everyday. Megan and her co-author, Renay Marquez, also have a blog dedicated to their ongoing work for ParaEducate. I highly recommend you add it to your reading list!

I am THRILLED that Megan is the winner, as I am anxious for a person that is immersed and knowledgeable in the training and support of paraeducators, as well as the inclusion of students with disabilities, to take a closer look and potentially use my work paired with hers.

Congratulations, Megan! I look forward to our future conversations together!

PART THREE: A Detailed look at the Paraprofessional Job-Embedded Curriculum…the last, but NOT least!! AND, don’t forget….the GIVEAWAY!

Do yourself a favor and check out my previous posts that gave an overview and further details about this fabulous curriculum that you must have!! I have spent a lot of my blog time focused on this curriculum for a reason. It is the perfect time of the year to be thinking about paraprofessional training, and even more appropriate to think about how to do it in your own schools, with your own teams, engaging in conversation about your own students in a staff development format that is grounded in research and what we know about adult and student learning!

In this final post about the curriculum, I will describe the remaining two instructional parts and the units that comprise them. Please don’t forget to comment or ask questions, as you will be entered into the drawing to receive a free copy of the curriculum! All comments and questions from this post, as well as any from the first two posts will be entered for the drawing, and will be awarded next week!

The curriculum is divided into the following four instructional parts, with a total of seven instructional units:

Overview of the four instructional parts of the curriculum and the seven individual units

Overview of the four instructional parts of the curriculum and the seven individual units

The first two parts were described here. The parts that I would like to describe today are units three through seven. These five units are especially useful in schools for paraprofessional training. They comprise the instructional and academic areas, as well as promote understanding of behavior and relationships of the students they support. While the first two units concentrate on laying groundwork for paraprofessionals to understand their roles in inclusive settings, the five units I will describe today offer skill development and tools for paraprofessionals to use every day in their work with students. Continue reading

Blogging Against Disabilism Day!! (BADD)

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2012

Today is the seventh annual Blogging Against Disablism Day (BADD). It is a day where people around the world write about what they feel and think about people with disabilities and how to change the culture of disablism that exists in the lives of people everywhere that are impacted by mental and physical disabilities.

It is a day where the “gloves can come off”, people can say things they have on their minds, or in their hearts, hopefully with more attention drawn to the subject than there exists on any other day.

For me, it is an important day for many reasons. I haven’t been blogging long, and last year, I didn’t discover this day and its purpose until after the fact. So for me, this is my first BADD blog post. The first of many to come, I hope. The importance of increased awareness to the issues around disabilities and how they impact lives of people every day cannot be minimized, and I hope through this post, that importance is expressed in a way that makes a difference. Continue reading