Learning for Tomorrow NJ

Why Start a Blog about Special Education?

As an employee in private and public schools, I have attended many child study team meets. Too many to count, actually. I always looked forward to walking through the door, taking a seat at the table, laying out my data, and planning supports that I feel would be beneficial for a student.

When I became an administrator, the tension grew. I was not only there to advocate for the student, but had to balance the district’s responsibilities, as well. It was equivalent to having to feed 5 children a well-balanced meal and only having $3 to do so. When I was able to pull off the miracle, I was on top of the world!

To be honest, I did not look forward to all meetings with the same vigor because I knew that I would have to make hard decisions that would impact the life of a child. I knew that the parents would be worried and scared, and I didn’t always have the perfect answer. In fact, nothing ever seemed to work perfectly. At best, I was able to walk away knowing that the child would benefit from the services we agreed upon and that they would be successful in life after leaving our district. I often left meetings with a heavy heart or pure exhaustion.

These experiences did not prepare me for the ball of nerves that would overcome me the minute my child started the special education process. I am lucky to live in a district that loves children and does their very best to ensure that every one of them feels loved and is growing academically. The case manager is a mother, herself and she deeply cares about her job and wants to do what is right for my daughter. For that, I will be eternally grateful. This knowledge, however, did not stop me from frantically reading and rereading every evaluation that I could get my hands on. It did not stop me from losing sleep the night before the meeting and the utter feeling of losing control. I was a mess. My first time on the opposite side of the table was a true learning experience that I will never forget.

The reality is that I was able to understand the reports that were presented. I had the education and experience to identify a variety of instructional resources and ask the right questions. My understanding of special education law helped me to request meaningful, research-driven interventions and accommodations.

I thought that once I left the meeting I would feel better. Everything that needed to be addressed was discussed and the child study team and I were on the same page. However, I still felt sick to my stomach. I wasn’t sleeping and was still worried about my child. I will always worry about my child’s education and future. That is a reality for all parents.

I did realize that I must share my knowledge of special education with more parents. I went into the meeting understanding what was going to happen. Many parents do not have that luxury. Many parents are confused, scared, and don’t know where to begin when asking for help. They attend the meetings asking little, if any, questions and feel as though they are not part of the team.

I also wanted to share the perspectives of the people on the child study team. Tension rises easily in meetings where people are planning the future of a child and do not stop to consider why emotions or statements are made. My hope is that through this blog, educators, administrators, parents, and specialist can build empathy and patience for one another. I was once told, “No one every wakes up with the intention of harming a child”. That simple statement is very important to remember. Everyone must work in collaboration to develop a plan that will meet the individual needs of every child. With more information and kindness, the process can be much easier.

Please feel free to share your experiences and questions at any time. Be respectful of each other and let’s create an environment of growth and compassion.

 

Assistive Technology 101

What is Assistive Technology?

Assistive technology (AT) services are any service that directly assists with the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device (Cook & Hussey, 2002). This law includes several specific examples including:

  • Evaluating needs and skills for AT
  • Acquiring AT
  • Selecting, designing, and repairing
  • Coordinating services with other therapies
  • Training for individual and support staff

Assistive Technology Practitioners

It is imperative to ensure that the assistive technology practitioner (ATP) has experience in the type of supports necessary. Assistive technology practitioners often have a professional background in one of several areas:

  • Engineering
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Physical Therapist
  • Special Education
  • Speech Pathology
  • Vocational Rehabilitation

Based on the needs of the patient, the chosen ATP may vary. It is important to remember that every ATP must be able and willing to work collaboratively. A transdisciplinary approach is best when implementing technology. The more information that can be shared among the team, the better supports the individual will receive. Thus, lower the likelihood of technology abandonment and increasing independence and success.

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Assistive Technology in Schools

The goals of assistive technology in many schools are often access to grade-level curriculum, communication, mobility, mental health, and more. Tools that are recommended may require individual and staff training, along with home support for maximum impact. Assistive technology practitioners that are willing to train the student and staff, rather than to only provide an evaluation, may be beneficial for a district with little technology experience or limited child study team staff. School districts may also discover that the technology recommended for one student can benefit others with minimal modifications.

Next Steps

Providing assistive technology for learners can be the tool that truly ensures a life of independence and success. Feel free to contact Learning for Tomorrow NJ for evaluation and training opportunities.
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Tech Doesn’t Replace Good Instruction

I often hear parents and educators exhibit concern over the role of assistive technology. Many fear that by providing a student an iPad they are sending the student and school district the message that reading instruction is no longer necessary. This thought could not be further from the truth.

Providing research-based instructional practices in reading, writing, math, and more is  the responsibility of a school district. The schools must provide an individualized education to each student with an IEP based on  data collection and valid research.

Technology does not replace the requirements, it is merely a complimentary tool. There are many ways that technology can be implemented. In many scenarios, students are receiving instruction in math and reading without significant technology support, while using an iPad to gain access to grade-level electives, history, and science. In other scenarios, technology helps students maintain access to grade level curriculum throughout the school day. These descisions are made by the IEP Team based on indivual student needs.

Technology is not a bandage, but rather a tool that supports learners with a variety of needs. Contact Learning for Tomorrow NJ for a free consultation today.

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IDEA and Assistive Technology

In 2004, federal law mandated the consideration of assistive technology for students “to maximize accessibility for children with disabilities.” (20 U.S.C. 1400(c)(5)(H)) IEP teams must determine if assistive technology will support the unique needs of the learner. Many students with disabilities struggle with reading, writing, mathematics, vision, hearing, listening, communication, organization, and more. Almost all students can benefit from a form of low or high technology supports. More and more schools are providing laptops or tablets to all students, but very few are providing the individualized software and hardware to help students overcome their disabilities. In addition, many schools do not provide the staff training to support a smooth implementation of recommended technology.  

IDEA defines an ‘assistive technology device’ as any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a child with a disability. (20 U.S.C. 1401(1))

IDEA defines an ‘assistive technology service’ as any service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device. Such term includes –

(A) the evaluation…

(B) purchasing, leasing, or otherwise providing for the acquisition of assistive technology devices…

(C) selecting, designing, fitting, customizing, adapting, applying, maintaining, repairing, or replacing…

(D) coordinating and using other therapies, interventions, or services with assistive technology devices…

(D) training or technical assistance for such child, or …the family of such child…

(F) training or technical assistance for professionals… (20 U.S.C. 1401(2))

Learning for Tomorrow NJ is working with individuals, schools, and workplaces nationally to ensure the learners have the technology that fits their individual needs and their environment is able to support the learner and their technology needs.

 

Featured App: Prizmo GO

 

 

The app that lets the reader click and go. With an assortment of options, once the picture is taken, Prizmo GO is one of the quickest and accurate OCR readers on the market. Selected text can then be read aloud, or you can tap to browse to any printed website address, call phone numbers, trigger Mail app from an email address, or even reveals physical address in Apple Maps and initiate navigation to that place.

Features:

  • Designed for iPhone and iPad
  •  Innovative image stabilization (sharpness tracking)
  • Works without internet connection
  • Multiple languages
  • Spoken guidance prior to actual shooting
  • Text-to-speech output & speaking rate control
  • Copy to the Mac with Universal Clipboard
  • Cost: FREE
  • Prozmo GO Video