[ABCs of SPED] X is for EXtra Considerations

abcs of sped Aug 20, 2018

Aha! I know y'all are reading this just to see what I could have possibly come up with for the "X" in our ABCs of SPED series. I did cheat a bit, as this topic doesn't start with X... but it includes an X and sounds like "X" so it's pretty darn close!

Today's topic is EXtra Considerations in the IEP process.

If you've been in the special education world long enough, you've likely realized that there is a page of the IEP dedicated to "special considerations," "special factors," or "consideration of special factors" in the development of the IEP. Here in TN, this is on page 2-3 (depending on how long you've made your parent concerns). 

I can't tell you how often I see IEP teams rush through this page. Typically as it approaches, someone on the team says "special factors, no no no, okay..." and they move on. THAT is why it's important that you know what these special considerations are and why they matter.

The special considerations page covers five criteria that may impact your...

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[ABCs of SPED] W is for Whole-Brain Teaching

abcs of sped Aug 16, 2018

When I started this ABCs of SPED series, I didn't want to solely focus on the IEP process. My goal was to shed light on common issues and misunderstandings, yes, but also to open your eyes to concepts that are general best-practice in the classroom.

This week's topic is one of those: Whole-Brain Teaching

Please resist the urge to move toward that "X" in the upper right-hand corner while thinking, "I'm not a teacher."

Are you a parent? You're a teacher.

Are you a caregiver? You're a teacher.

Are you a nagger? An introducer of new things? An activity-creator-to-get-this-child-out-of-my-hair-for-one-gosh-darn-minute? You're a teacher!

The concept of Whole-Brain Teaching, or WBT, is as beneficial at home as it is at school.

So what is WBT?

Whole-Brain Teaching is an instructional strategy to integrate and connect both right and left hemispheres of the brain which leads to more engaging and balanced learning. Research shows that using Whole-Brain Teaching can lead to better processing of...

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[ABCs of SPED] V is for Visual Supports

Confession: I'm a post-it note kind of person.

I LOVE to have reminders everywhere of the things I'm supposed to do.

I love having a to-do list where I can mark things off. Same goes for a paper planner.

I love setting the background of my phone with a reminder to breathe or to focus on what's in front of me (my kid, not my phone).

I have a spreadsheet on my fridge of all the different options I can send in my child's lunch box so I'm not spending brain power coming up with ideas every day.

These are examples of visual supports that I use every day to help support my success. 

And just like we (as adults) do better with visual reminders and supports, our kiddos do too. This is why the V in our ABCs of SPED series is dedicated to visual supports.

So what is it?

A visual support is a tangible item that helps a student with a disability communicate, stay on task, self-regulate, or process information. Anything a child can see!

Visual supports help students by providing...

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[ABCs of SPED] U is for Universal Design

abcs of sped Jul 25, 2018

Have you ever had a conversation (or been in a meeting) where someone laments that providing a certain accommodation is a waste of time/money/energy/personnel since it would only benefit one student?

I hope not. But my guess is that you have.

This default belief is common and it's dangerous. When we believe that providing access to people with disabilities is a favor to them, or an inconvenience to us, we hurt everyone.

Why? Because the research shows that when we make our classrooms, our companies, and our communities more accessible for people with disabilities, we all benefit.

This is Universal Design.

Confession time: I switched it up on you. The "U" in our ABCs of SPED series was supposed to be "understanding" but I've decided to focus on Universal Design instead as it's more concrete, and frankly, more interesting. You're welcome! :)

Universal Design is "the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible...

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[ABCs of SPED] T is for Technology

abcs of sped Jul 19, 2018

Can you believe we're already at T in our ABCs of SPED series? And today, T is for Technology! Specifically, assistive technology.

Assistive Technology, or AT, is any technology that provides a student with access to participate in school and that can be used to help support a student’s academic achievement.

If you've ever read through an IEP, you might have noticed a small question in the "other considerations" section that asks whether a student needs any "assistive technology." Perhaps you've seen it, but you didn't know what it meant, or what could be included. If that sounds like you, this post is here to help!

High Tech Assistive Technology

Much of what will be included in an IEP will represent "high tech" assistive technology. This is technology as we currently think of it-- things like computers, tablets, and software. 

Example include:

  • iPad or communication device for 
  • Speech-to-text or text-to-speech software
  • Any technology that increases the size of the...
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[ABCs of SPED] S is for Self-Advocacy

abcs of sped Jul 11, 2018

Today I'm throwing it back to some content I wrote a year ago--- because if we're talking about self-advocacy as the S in our ABCs of SPED series, the conversation necessarily turns to "When and how do I tell my child about their disability" and therefore, "When should I get my child involved in their own education?"

I get this question a lot because I tend to work with families that are beginning the transition planning process. I'll give you my answer up front: Do NOT wait until age 16 to invite your child to attend their own meetings!

Here's why:

We're not raising children-- we're raising future adults. We need to prepare students to advocate for themselves one day. Just like we can't suddenly expect a student to tie their shoes or use the bus without weeks, months, or sometimes years of training, we need to give our students as many opportunities as possible to see us (parents and teachers) model good advocacy and to teach them how to self-advocate.

By attending IEP...

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[ABCs of SPED] R is for Realistic, Relevant, and Research-Based

abcs of sped Jul 05, 2018

Something my mom said growing up was that the 4th of July was the midpoint of the summer. She wasn't incorrect, but I still hated hearing it! We just always seem to get here so fast! If you're nearing the new school year (we start back in one month!), today's post will be helpful for you.

Today we're taking about the 3 R's. Not the typical ones, but important nonetheless, especially for goal-setting:

Realistic, relevant and research-based

If you've been following along with IEP Guru for awhile, you may recognize these as the "R" in the SMART goals acronym. This post will break down what this looks like and why it's so important.

First, realistic:

We want to make sure that goals are written to be appropriately challenging yet attainable with high quality instruction and the correct supports. Goals that are too easy lead to boredom, while goals that are too difficult lead to frustration and shutting down! A realistic goal is just outside of reach based on the child's current...

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[ABCs of SPED] Q is for Qualitative & Quantitative Data

abcs of sped Jun 27, 2018

Every week I get on this blog and I scroll back ~15 posts to my list of the full ABCs of SPED. I've gotta see what concept is coming up next!

Each time I feel a sense of hopeful anticipation that the concept for the week is something really fun. Something that I think is super important and fun to write about. Something that will really benefit parents who are trying to improve their child's IEP.

Something like today's concept!

I looked for the Q on my master list (unable to remember what in the world I chose for a letter like Q!) and I had to smile-- you may not think data types are interesting, but this is one of the easiest concepts to understand and one of the easiest ways to fix up a lackluster IEP.

You've gotta know the difference between quantitative and qualitative data.

Let's start from scratch.

Quantitative Data is data based on hard evidence. It is information that is measurable and can be quantified using numbers. That my sister is 5'8" from head to toe is...

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[ABCs of SPED] P is for Prior Written Notice

abcs of sped Jun 21, 2018

Do you ever have those moments where you really want to focus but you just can't? Bear with me as today is that day. Earlier this week I became an aunt to a beautiful new baby girl! We've been busy hosting family, dropping off meals, and smelling that sweet baby's head for hours at a time. 

Even so, I don't want to leave you hanging for our P in the ABCs of SPED series. This P is one of the most important, and often unfamiliar, concepts for parents in the special education process.

P is for Prior Written Notice (also abbreviated as PWN).

What is this? 

I.D.E.A. legislation states that,

"The school district must give you a written notice whenever the school district: (1) Proposes to begin or change the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of your child or the provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to your child; or (2) Refuses to begin or change the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of your child or the provision of FAPE...

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[ABCs of SPED] O is for Objectives

abcs of sped Jun 13, 2018

An objective, in special education, is essentially a short-term goal. You know how we have those big (sometimes hairy, audacious) annual goals? A short-term objective exists to break down that annual goal into more digestible pieces. 

Short-term objectives are important for two reasons:

1. They provide stepping stones to move the student toward the big annual goal

2. They show us where the student may be falling through the cracks on the way to the big annual goal

Think about it this way. Let's say you have a goal to lose 10 lbs by the end of the summer. You start working at it, cutting back on your calories and adding in a bit more exercise...and you lose a pound or two. But then you go to a pool party and overindulge and gain it back. Then you lose, then you gain, then you lose, then you gain. Sound familiar?

A short-term objective outlines the small steps that must be met in order to achieve the larger goal. In our example of weight loss, a short-term objective may be "Eat...

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