Why Volunteer? Benefits of Community Service for Families with Special Needs

strengths-based Jan 09, 2018

If I had a megaphone and 10 seconds to stand in front of every parent of a child with a disability to say one thing, it would be this:

Volunteer with your kids.

Huh? You may be thinking, "After years of experience, being a teacher/administrator/advocate, and getting your M.Ed you're going to use that time to talk about volunteering?"

And I'm here to say: YES.

In my opinion, there are few opportunities that are as beneficial for kids than volunteering (side note: this is true for kids with and without special needs, but we'll focus on those with disabilities for the purpose of this post).

Here's why:

  • Volunteering builds job skills: Have you ever tried to convince a company to let your child shadow, or even work for free, so that they can gain skills? It's like pulling teeth. Volunteering is the opposite-- it's a low-risk opportunity for your child to "try out" certain job skills in a safe environment where (most likely) everyone is learning. Some of my favorite...
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What is Neurodiversity?

strengths-based Oct 30, 2017

Something I struggle with in my daily language is how to describe a student's abilities in terms of where they "should" be. I HATE the word "normal"... and "typical" or "usual" are only slightly better. I wish we lived in a world where we didn't have to routinely measure children against "average" benchmarks.

While I generally don't like the words normal and typical, there is one iteration of it I don't mind, and that's the word "neurotypical." Why don't I mind it? Because it begets an even better word:


While most of the antonyms of those words above are awful (abnormal, atypical, unusual...nasty all around), "neurodiverse" encapsulates the idea that maybe we are better when we don't all fit into an average criterion.

According to Psychology Today, neurodiversity is the idea that differences in neurological functioning are the result of normal (and natural) variations in the human condition. Those who support the theory of neurodiversity also believe that the...

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My Top 5 Issues with IEP Meetings

Just five? Sometimes it feels like I could write a list a mile long about the ways that IEP meetings could be improved. While I typically write from a positive angle, I think it's worthwhile to step back occasionally and offer constructive criticism about the process before providing suggestions for improvement. If you've been in one or 100 IEP meetings, I'm sure these complaints will resonate with you!

1. Team members approach the meeting through a deficit-based lens. I know what you're thinking: "Well... the whole point of an IEP is to create goals that the student needs to meet. To set a good goal, you have to know and discuss the student's struggles." That's true, but the entire meeting does not need to overshadowed by only the student's needs. In nearly every meeting I attend, the team blows past the Present Levels to get to the goals. And you know what that means? There is no celebration for the skills the student has achieved since the last meeting. In addition, the student's...

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