Monday, April 30, 2012

Basic Training

There’s really nothing “basic” about special education.  And it’s just as tough to use the words “typical” or  “usually.”  Every kid is different.  Each student, whether or not he has an identified disability, comes to us with different “inputs:” home environment, background experiences, cultural considerations, personal value and belief systems.  Things we can do nothing about.  So, we change and implement what we can to support each student’s unique needs.  And that’s really what’s “basic” about Special Education. 
Within the labyrinth that is Special Education, IDEA recognizes thirteen disability categories.  Some of those categories are subdivided into more specific diagnoses.  Take the category of Specific Learning Disability, for example.  A “learning disability” can fall into 8 subcategories, such as Reading Comprehension or Listening Skills or Math Calculation.  Confused yet?  Just wait! 
Besides the variety of possible labels, we are required to provide a “continuum” of educational service delivery models.  Some kids with severe disabilities rarely have the opportunity to be with “normal” kids their age at school.  There are other kids who require minimal supports and spend their entire school day in their regular classroom with their friends.  A lot of kids have their educational needs met somewhere in the middle. 
On top of all of these variables, we have the educational team, which looks different for every kid in Special Education.  It’s hard to always know where we as educators are supposed to fit in the team scheme.  If all of this Special Ed stuff is a struggle that you or your colleagues face, Module 2: “Special Education Basics,” can provide clarification and support through online learning and collaboration.  Take a look.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Big Boat

Inclusion isn’t easy.  And it isn’t new.  And it isn’t going away.  IDEA makes clear that the default placement for all children is the general education classroom and there’d better be solid, documented reasons for doing anything different.  Schools and teachers have been trying to make inclusion work for decades.   But high caseloads, scheduling nightmares, and lack of confidence in general educators’ abilities in working with kids with special needs present barriers to success.
Study after study shows that when teachers are armed with knowledge about Special Education, they demonstrate greater confidence, competence, and comfort in teaching students with disabilities.  But what kind of information do they need?  Well, for starters, there’s Special Ed Alphabet Soup.  All teachers need to have a working knowledge about ETRs, IEPs, RtI, UDL, OTs, PTs, SLPs, AT, ASD, LD, OHI, AD/HD, OCD, SED…you get the idea.

Secondly, we need to know our role in developing and implementing educational plans for students with disabilities.  The classroom teacher isn’t off the hook because a student has an IEP.  As a matter of fact, general educators have a legal obligation to understand and implement the supports that are written in this legally binding document.  So if Steven needs large print in order to access the curriculum or a way to demonstrate his learning other than a written test, these needs must be supported throughout this school day in every area, not just when he’s with the resource teacher.
We need each other to accomplish everything the IEP proscribes. We need the expertise of our special education teachers who understand how to individualize instruction; we need our general educators’ knowledge of curricular demands; we need paraprofessionals who have a clearly defined support role; we need support at the administrative level that encourages and facilitates collaboration.
Inclusion says: “We’re all in this together.”  Take a look at how PLC Consultants helps educators across the curricular spectrum make sense of inclusion.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Watch this Space

Those of us in education, and in Special Education specifically, are faced with several realities:
·        Schools are under intense pressure and scrutiny to provide appropriate services to students with disabilities.
·        Parents of children with disabilities are taking a more active and vocal role in their children’s education than ever before.
·        Technology has changed, and will continue to evolve, in the ways we educate students with disabilities.
·        In political, educational, and policy-making circles, inclusion is desired and expected, regardless of the cost, challenges, or resistance by others.
Over the next several weeks, we’ll introduce how creating an online learning community within a building, district, or across districts can address some of these realities.  We already know that online learning is often the preferred format for adult learners who want more control of their "leisure" time.  And the interpersonal, collaborative relationships forged through an online community can facilitate real, incremental change that positively supports all learners, regardless of ability of disability.

So join me in the next few weeks as we highlight what PLC Consultants does best: support educators in their desire to improve learner outcomes for all.