Sunday, July 30, 2006

I am selfish...I'll admit

I'll admit it...I am putting links to really important material on my blog. I have memorized, but I think this link is important,too. I don't want to lose access to it when my 20 day history runs out.

Thanks to "consumer" Rich Hohn, who gives a great description of what it is like to be unchallenged.

It's like my teacher's planner, this blog is...If I lose it, I'll lose my mind, in a way. I have a lawyers mind: get everything in writing!! If it has an existence outside this great, confusing conflux of a brain there is a chance I will look at it again and be reminded where I am going.

Ben is doing great, and FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER, looking forward to school. I must have bored the hell out of him this was like "Why don't you watch tv babe?" which he used to want to do constantly. He finally BURNED OUT ON TV, a thing I thought would never happen.

No mother of the year awards this year, I guess. Kinda like this poor guy!

Parents of the year return honor after crimes revealed
The (Myrtle Beach) Sun News

Three days after winning parents of the year honors in South Carolina, a Myrtle Beach couple returned the award amid revelations he is on probation for arson and recently pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor.

A father of three adult children, Nabil Khalil and his wife Nargues, who have been married for 25 years, were recognized as part of the Parent's Day Council as outstanding parents and members of the community. Similar events meant to "uplift parenthood" are held across the country, according to web site for the Parent's Day Council, which is affiliated with the Washington D.C.-based American Family Coalition...

Tim Murphy, state director in South Carolina, was stunned Tuesday night to learn of the charges. By Wednesday afternoon, he said, Nabil Khalil had given back the award. The group was looking into Khalil's background, something they failed to do at the outset, said Murphy....

During the ceremony Sunday, the winning couple received a plaque and letters from politicians, including a commendation from President Bush, were read to the small gathering.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Combating Autism Act of 2005

I'm not sure what to think of the following which I received from a local parents support group. They will probably never send me another one after reading this, if anyone does, because I am fraternizing with the to speak, although our only weapon is acceptance. I am sorry if someone else has blogged on this before, for stepping on your toes!

Who will receive the most benefit from the Combating Autism Act of 2005?
God forgive me, but my cynical nature wonders if after spending a billion dollars, if ONE child will be "cured" of autism. It is good that money will be spent on helping kids with autism, and possibly they will be given the tools to have successful lives. But then again, one wonders: will this money be spent to fill the pockets of researchers, doctors, therapists--will one grown child with autism be helped? This is brought to you courtesy of the website.

Go here and search S.843 to see the wording of the bill, if you are interested. I may get to it later, but am in a frothing planning stage.

I urge you to support S. 843, the Combating Autism Act of 2005, when it comes before the U.S. Senate in the coming weeks. This important legislation would dramatically improve our federal investment in autism research, early detection, and intervention.

Autism is a complex developmental disability that affects an individual in the areas of social interaction and communication. Children and adults with autism are often unable to communicate, have difficulty with social interaction, and, in some cases, may be aggressive or self-injurious.

This serious condition affects more than 1.5 million Americans, and autism is growing at a startling rate of 10-17 percent per year. At this rate, the Autism Society of America (ASA) estimates that the prevalence of autism could reach 4 million Americans in the next decade. Furthermore, recent estimates have put the economic burden of this disability on the American economy at as much as $90 billion per year.

Despite the serious physical, emotional, and economic impact of autism, there is still much we don't know about this serious condition. Autism is often undiagnosed, leading to significant delay in treatment and intervention. Furthermore, there is a great need for additional research into treatments, diagnostics, and causes of autism.

The Combating Autism Act is a critical piece of legislation that addresses this problem by authorizing more than $1 billion in federal funding for autism related research, early detection, and intervention. This legislation was passed by Unanimous Consent by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee on June 19th, and will likely come to the Senate floor prior to the August recess.

We urge you to cosponsor this legislation, and work with the Senate Leadership to ensure that it is passed by Unanimous Consent before the August break.

Thank you for your consideration of this request

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Math Tools from the National Science Foundation

My current obsession continues...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A free, interesting concept for teaching reading

Get there fast, and copy off these books if your children are age 3 to 9 or if they need practice in reading and phonics. The link is in the title of this entry. These will be downloadable for a certain time only, then they will use the input to gather info for the books that will be for sale.

It's an interesting concept, teaching the Dolch word list in context. The parent/teacher reads to the child, and the child reads the letters in red. Prerequisites might be that the child knows the consonant sounds...but, primarily, it teaches the vowel sounds and then some of the harder long vowel and consonant sounds. Kind of a phonics/sight word approach. (The only thing missing is whole language.) Also teaches left/right reading style, as ideally I think the parent would place their own fingers on the words until they hit the red letters, and then have their child place their fingers on the page...placing their fingers gives them a power of a sort.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Two weeks to the classroom/Discrete Trial Trainer

The creator of the discrete trial trainer is a father of an autistic child. I thought, initially it was a form of behaviorism when I saw the booth at a Family Connections (for parents of children with various disabilities)Seminar. I scurried past the table, hoping to avoid any eye contact that might drag me in.

Later, out of curiousity, I sent for the 30 day trial version, which I opened up today.
To my surprise, the DTT comes from Columbia, South Carolina...'jes like the worst welfare disaster in history!

For $10 for a home copy, or free to can try it out. It is for children who are developmentally 2 to 9 years old. It teaches a variety of content, and I tested it with Ben who still has trouble with multiplication/division, which I chose to cover with patterns, ie, the 2 family is 2,4,6,8,10...and the 7 is 7,14,21,28...etc. His "reward" which was age related, was a picture of a jet plane taking off...although a Harley would have meant more to him!

The child interacts only with the computer, which calls him by name and asks questions which he answers. The answers given can then be broken down into the time it took to answer, which ones were correct, etc., etc., in the assessment aspect of the DTT which is relatively new.

I KNOW I can use it in my classroom. Some kids do better on computers, as they are fair and don't belittle, if it is a learning process they have had a lot of trouble with. It is for kids with LD, Autism, MD, even the severely disabled can adapt their switches to answer independently.

I've cut and pasted a page that goes into a little detail:

About Us

Accelerations Educational Software (AES) was founded to create effective & affordable software especially for children with autism and other learning disabilities. In particular our software is designed for individuals that need virtual one-on-one instruction. We incorporate methods from behavioral psychology so that these individuals can usually learn to use the product independently. We also use universal design principles to allow a wide range of students to benefit from our products thereby increasing the value to customers. Wide use of the software allows us to lower the cost to users.

Our target students need a lot of help so we work to create lots of content in our program and yet sell this to customers for an affordable price. Our software is truly worth much more than we charge but we do not want price to be an obstacle in helping especially those individuals with autism and other learning disabilities.

We incorporate feedback from behavioral psychologists, autism & ABA professionals, academics, teachers, speech & language pathologists, researchers, other professionals, and parents to create effective software for even very low functioning individuals.

The founder, Karl Smith, is a father of a child with autism, an engineer, and a software developer. He formed AES to focus on creating needed software and help make a difference for his son and others with learning disabilities.

Sorry, but my current obsession is teaching.

Friday, July 21, 2006

"Criminetly!!! my mother used to say...

I am so sorry, but I have come 'cross a good page, and should anyone ever need it, including myself...

Well, ya know, when yer surfin da net, sometimes ya see things ya know 'r good, eh?

Oh, gosh, 16 more days, and I haven't even got the first day's schedule yet...

Gol dang it!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

PBS-positive behavioral support

Conney Dahn is a Special Educator in Florida who received the teacher of the year in Florida for 2007. I read just a tiny blurb where she mentioned she expected good behavior of all her students. She said they were responsible to themselves, ideally, or something like that.

I thought "What the heck is she talking about?" I looked for her email to ask, and then to her school. In tripping around the link, I saw where her school uses PBS. This link will give more info about it, at a teacher's level. What it amounts to is an online class.

It's one of those things that I think you have to take what you need and leave the rest. I like that it looks for patterns of misbehavior, and reasons for it. It asks teachers to accommodate student needs. It helps the students to learn self management skills , and it rewards positive (I did not say "good") behavior!

Learning "a bit at a time"...

"If a child can't learn the way he is taught, we must teach him the way he can learn." Dr. Glenda Sternberg, founder of Glenforest School, for children who didn't learn typically in the public schools. She was a special educator in the public schools, and began Glenforest with 12 students in the 1980's. She now has over 150 students at Glenforest, although she has retired as head.

So many people hope to make a living by finding a "cure" for Autism. Carl H. Delacato used "patterning exercises" in which the child went back to supposed missed developmental milestones that were missed, and his therapy was considered paramount when I was in college. Stanley Greenspan feels it is a defective parental relationship that causes autism, and parents learn how go back to enter into their child's world. What these both have in common is "fixing" the child. When the child undergoes appropriate therapy, he is "fixed". Even Lovaas "fixes" the child. The end goal is to be "indistinguishable from his peers". What is missing is instilling a desire to learn.

What appealed to me about Dr. Sternberg was her way of seeing the child, first, as whole. Her goal seems to be to teach the child in spite of the difference. She didn't try to change them, she tried to teach them.

I am going to be working in a classroom of multiply handicapped kids. My goal is not to teach some how to impossibility because of lack of muscular control, but to teach them how to see as an artist sees. My goal is not to teach some how to talk, because they may never have language, but how to communicate in ways they can be understood in their world. Most will never walk, so I will bring them to the world they will want to explore.

When we try to "fix" autism, are we missing the broader goal of teaching our children how to live?

The goal of education, in an ideal world, is to inspire children to want to learn. It should be a broadening, not a narrowing. Instead of looking back, why not look to the future?

I can't help but think of Helen Keller these amount of going back could have helped her. It was only when the future was opened up to her that she began to learn. Annie Sullivan could have spent the rest of her life trying to extinguish Helen's "negative behaviors", and we would have never known what a wonderful mind she had. It was only when she broadened her future, showing her how to learn, how to communicate with others, that Helen developed a desire to do so.

When we teach a child to read, we enter their world. We get down to their level and see it with their eyes. A mass of confusing symbols has no meaning to them. We break it down to a level they can understand, and then we build on that. We immerse them in a world of chaos and then take incremental steps to give that chaos meaning. We must look to the future, but only a bit at a time, so as not to overwhelm them.

I have one child whose teacher had an "aha!" moment when I explained how I taught my son non-visual language. "That sounds just like "M"!" We will break down language, and teach him through immersion...a bit at a time.

I've no doubt the kids will teach me how to learn to teach...a bit at a time, so I don't get overwhelmed. Just like Ben taught me how to be a mother...

Friday, July 14, 2006

Working with Children with Orthopedic Disabilities

I'm thinking it was Kristina, possibly at Autism Vox who gave me the above line to I can't seem to find the blog entry, though, to reference. I AM the queen of space-cadets. Whoever it was, you are a godsend!

It turns out I am going to be working with kids with both severe Orthopedic Disabilities/Disorders (OD), with a secondary diagnosis of Communication Disorders. I've looked at their IEP's, and met with my "aides" (a VAST understatement, they are brilliant), seen pictures of the kids (all bright eyed and bushy-tailed)and scoped out the classroom. I can't wait to get started!

My gosh, people...when you see what these kids deal with every day, it makes our kids look very lucky indeed! Many of the parents deal with issues that we will never have to, like gastric tubes for feeding, bedsores, choking, severe health issues (early deaths)---I can't imagine the strength it takes! Some parents are in the acceptance stage, some have a long way to go.

Back to the title and link...because of the link, my planning for this year has a focus. The link above won't concern most of us, but it will be invaluable to me. It led me to the latest research in teaching kids with severe communication disorders. It starts from the ground up. Most of the kids have identification of objects as Iep goals, but the initial step of communication is to signal discomfort (NO!) and comfort (YES!). One of my children has to simply smile at a familiar voice. What has always been done "wrong" is communication must be taught in concrete form (symbolically, as in actual objects) after yes/no, then by symbolic (pictures), then by abstract (language). ALL of most of the childrens IEP goals are presently using pictures, skipping the second step. Awfully big stuff.

I have 2 weeks to get ready. I may not be around for a while, but I will read posts.
God bless y'all!!


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Is it Venting or Hate Speech?

Read the link above by Joel Smith which came to my knowledge via neurodiversity .com. In it, he talks about whether it is venting, or hate speech that fills some parent forums/blogs about their autistic children. He gives a good argument that it wouldn't be acceptable in any other context. Joel's great article and another one I read this week seemed to go together like a hand in a glove.

Now, although I haven't thumped my bible in a few years, nor even attended Mass, I am a dyed-in-the-wool catholic, the cradle to the grave kind. We still get "The Catholic Miscellany" of Charleston, SC. In the commentary articles. Dennis Heaney, the old curmudgeon (term of respect) mentions graduation speeches and how they are long and winded and kinda flaky. He thinks we ought to smack the kids with the truth in brief, memorable stories, and quotes a graduation address given by Rabbi Marc Gellman, given at Marymount College in Manhattan...

Was there a point here? Oh, yeah...

The good Rabbi tells a story that even he is not sure who to attribute to, so I quote it here in full...

An elder Cherokee chief took his grandchildren into the forest and sat them down and said to them, “A fight is going on inside me. This is a terrible fight and it is a fight between two wolves. One wolf is the wolf of fear, anger, arrogance and greed. The other wolf is the wolf of courage, kindness, humility and love.” The children were very quiet and listening to their grandfather with both their ears. He then said to them, “This same fight between the two wolves that is going on inside of me is going on inside of you, and inside every person.” They thought about it for a minute and then one child asked the chief, “Grandfather, which wolf will win the fight?” He said quietly, “The one you feed.”

Which wolf will you feed?

Saturday, July 08, 2006

To Be, Or Not To BE

I know of no arrogance greater than to believe oneself capable of deciding who is worthy of life.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Communication Matrix

An interesting, FREE, easy to use communication matrix that can be used online to see where your child stands and what goals could be developed to further them down the line. It begins with pre-interventional behavior: expressing comfort and discomfort, (precursers to refusing and obtaining), and the social goal of expressing interest in people. The last 3 symbols deal with symbolic communication, such as concrete and abstract symbols, and ends with language (combination of symbols, according to grammatical rules..."me want juice")

It was designed for people with severe communication disorders. I realize most of our kids are past that. Ben learned language via visual symbols (level 5, concrete symbols) when he was 4 years old, but didn't really used yes and no with meaning until he was 4.5.

My primary job, from what I have surmised, will be to teach communication to severely communication disordered kids. Thus, my emphasis will not necessarily be on autism, and I apologize.

The teacher's consistent, consistent, consistent response leads to learning. The simplest changes in presentation can lead to lack of communication and frustration.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Beyond Imagining

I have an interesting reference to Special Education. My degree is nearly 25 years old, and so are my ideas regarding SpEd. When I did teach, it was under a regular educator who knew nothing of learning styles. Many things she did were good, but when it came to the kids who were LD, I was given a lot of latitude.

A few years after leaving the education circuit, Ben gave me a whole new look at SpEd from the other side of the IEP table. It's NOT the same.

So now I have about a month to catch up on the legal/educational/therapuetic aspects of teaching a class of four kids with Orthopedic Disabilities. I don't know anything else about them, yet.

I look back on my life, where I worked at the CDC (Child Development Center) with Eric and that beautiful curly haired kid whose name I can't recall...I can see their faces and their smiles.

And Brynn, who "suffered" from a rare chromosomal disorder known as Trisomy 13 which left her with no language or body control...but whose spirit was that of a wise-cracking cheerleader! Lots of positive energy there.

And the Artist, Maria?, who lived in a state institution. I was told she liked to paint. The nurses would look at me nervously as I arrived each week right before her bedtime, thinking, how long is she going to keep her up this time? She moved so slowly, but with such purpose as she made circle after circle on the ragpaper, carefully picking up the color from the pallette. Georgia O'Keefe would have been impressed. I almost talked the local art club into selling her paintings.

Okay, so I have known 4 OD (Orthopedicaly disabled) kids/people in my life. Now I am blessed enough that 4 more will join the lot.

Back to the title.

What is beyond imagining is how far we have come. Maybe I'm just lucky to be in such progressive circumstances,and the examples I've seen are more the exception than the rule, but schools seem to be attempting inclusion. And REAL MONEY is being spent on the most handicapped kids among us. Not money "taken away" from regular classes, as evil administrators would have you think, but money in addition -- specifically mandated for special needs kids. In fact, many schools are so clueless, they end up not spending that money given to them for special ed. Hmmm....

Even Peter Wright, infamous for "Wright's Law" and encouraging parents to litigate in order for their children to recieve a "free and appropriate education" is excited about the possibilities of IDEA 2004. It used to be kids had to fail before individualized education was with RTI, or "Response to Intervention", kids who may be falling behind are singled out each year and given intervention proven by research to be effective!

I don't think Ben would have slipped through the cracks with his poor math skills if true RTI had been in place. And teachers are going to have to be more creative than giving worksheet after worksheet to try and help kids. The onus is one the teachers to find appropriate intervention rather than on the kids (and parents, by default) to "catch up". These are things that good, effective teachers have always done. It is encouraged these things be done in the regular classroom, where the most learning can take place.

What makes Peter Wright's blessing so meaningful is he was one of those kids who fell through the cracks, the learning disabled kid. He went on to be a lawyer whose voice strikes fear in the heart of every public school administrator.

Instead of the institutions of the past, at the high school here, profoundly Mentally Disabled kids are placed in the Fine Arts Hall where they interact with their peers to an extent, and are recognised at graduation. I'm not sure who this is better for...the PMD kids or the "normal kids". It's hard to have "eugenic" thoughts about someone you've known your whole life, unless you've got a heart of stone.

As monolithic an entity as public education is...I may being idealistic may be the best place to encourage equality, to discourage ablism, to save us from our own greed that lives in a land of "not enough" except for the "worthy" (eugenics).

I have so much work to do, so many ideas to be digested, in so little time. Thanks, Kristina, for the links that got me started.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Fun little tool. A blessing for dylexics, I'd imagine. It's free, too. We've got the technology, one day we'll allow kids to use it. Just click on the title to download it.

Why couldn't a person scan their homework reading, convert it to PDF document, use a PDF to text converter, and then plug it in to Readplease to listen to it? I'm not sure about the PDF to text converter, but PDF creator and Readplease are free.

I remember a kid in college who Joel and I befriended for a bit. He used to wear a suit to classes because he didn't take his chance for granted. He was looking to get his degree in art. He talked about the painful, laborious process reading was, but how he did it anyhow to get his degree. I so looked up to him...a degree in ART! But I think he felt "less than" because he couldn't do what everyone else did so easily.

The advances made to help people get around their "handicaps" are a saving grace.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Thanks to Autism-hub

This "change of heart" I've undergone since joining the hub is singularly responsible for me obtaining my first real full-time job in my life at age 50. The Principal was impressed with my "heart" for the kids.

I think Autism-hub plants seeds of acceptance unlike any other place I have come to cross.

I "heart" Autism-hub. Would make a good bumper-sticker, don't ya think?

UPDATE:As per Camille's idea:

Listen: I know I am squirrel bait and an iffy artist at that. It's the idea that counts! Heck, I was just thinking I could make a bumper sticker for Granny's B-day!
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