Show cover of Special Ed on Special Ed

Special Ed on Special Ed

This fun and engaging podcast hosts special education experts to discuss special education topics for special education parents. If I could ensure every parent has all the information they need before stepping into their child's IEP meeting, I would. While that may be a lofty goal, I hope this podcast helps you prepare to advocate for your child. If you have a child with disabilities and special education needs, congratulations! You have just become the CEO of your child's education! There are acronyms galore, terms of art that are counter-intuitive, and completely new rules for school. This podcast will provide straightforward information about your rights, information from other professionals, and tips and tricks for working with your school. I'm a special education attorney, parent of 5 children with disabilities, and former special education teacher/administrator. I have seen special education from many angles. In fact, I have ADHD and Dyslexia myself, and grew up in school systems that didn’t yet know how to identify or remediate these challenges.


IEE = Independent Educational Evaluations
Today Diane Wilcutts, a special education advocate from Connecticut, joins me to talk about Independent Educational Evaluations or IEEs. Evaluations are a critical piece of the special education process, as the evaluation is where it all begins. But what if you don't agree with your school evaluation? That is where IEEs come in. You can find Diane's website here: Diane's email address: You can always find me here: FLASHBACK: Did you know Diane has joined us before? Yup! To discuss extended school year, or ESY. You can find that episode here Transcript for this episode will be posted shortly after publishing. You can find them at  
48:52 09/28/2022
State Complaints, and a little on IEEs too
State Complaints are just one dispute resolution options available to Parents of children with special education needs. Our favorite advocate, Stacey Tié, joins me to break down the State Complaint process, why we use them, and how they can help. A little on Stacey: What Stacey loves most about advocacy work is giving parents the opportunity to breathe. Often parents know something’s not right but don’t know how to advocate for what their child needs. She listens, helps them organize their thoughts, documents their needs, and makes a plan. Stacey ensures that parents are viewed by all parties as valued members of their child’s special education team. And, during the key meetings, Stacey’s clients don’t have to worry about the process, preserving the record, or reading the room. She’s got that covered. You can find Stacey at Stacey@SpecialEd.Law You can find me at FLASHBACK: In the episode "How independent are you?" I speak with Dr. Erik Mayville, clinical psychologist and Board Certified Behavior Analyst, to discuss the components of psycho-educational evaluation and what role independent evaluators play in the special education realm. You can find that episode here TRANSCRIPTS for this episode can be found at shortly after publication.
34:30 09/14/2022
Who's on your BOE?
Knowing your child’s IEP team isn’t enough.  To be the best advocate for your child, you need to know who makes the decisions, how, and when.   Your local Board of Education (BOE) consists of lay representatives who live in your community and are selected by you (in some areas there are appointed school boards, which are selected by either the mayor or county freeholders, who are selected by you). Your BOE members are your neighbors, parents & grandparents of local children, local business owners, and other ordinary citizens. Your BOE members are non-partisan and receive no pay or benefits for their public service.  They work for you, so you should know who they are and what they do. Stacey Tié and Julie Best are two parents running for their local BOE in Darien, CT.  Today they join me to discuss the role of BOEs, how they and their children have benefitted from their involvement, and why they have decided to actually run for seats on their BOE.  Tune in to hear how you can use your BOE to your advantage.   You can find Stacey & Julie at You can find me at FLASHBACK: We touch on the important issue of students who still require remote learning for the 2021-2022 school year and you can hear last week’s episode on this issue here TRANSCRIPTS for this episode can be found at shortly after publication.
48:13 08/18/2021
Why we need learning options
Going back to school in person shouldn’t be a choice between a family member and an education.  But for some families, it is just that.  For children living with immunocompromised family members, going back in person really isn’t a choice at all.  It’s not even one of the options. This episode isn’t about special ed, it’s about education and why we need learning options for children who can’t attend school in person, disability or not.   Today I talk with Dr. Marney White, both a professor at Yale School of Public Health and parent to an elementary school child who can’t go back in person.  While her district provided an outstanding remote program during the COVID pandemic (yes, there are a few schools out there who rocked it), they are refusing any kind of instruction for her child next year even though his in-person attendance could kill his mother. Not a fair burden to put on a 5th grader.  Because the State won’t mandate a remote option, schools are refusing to offer it.   Special education attorney Andy Feinstein also joins us to discuss the legal components of this discrimination issue and how he is helping Dr. White get her child the free public education to which he is entitled.   We discuss why it is NOT a choice to go back, why schools are refusing to help, and what other families in this situation should do. You can find Dr. Marney White in the Facebook group CT Families in Need of Remote Learning: You can find Attorney Andy Feinstein at The Feinstein Education Law Group: You can find me at Thanks for tuning in! Transcripts for this episode will be available on shortly after publication.  
42:45 08/12/2021
Hanging Out and Going Back
Justyna & Meghan from The Hangout Spot join me today to discuss how kids are adjusting to “back to normal” back to school! While I wouldn’t necessarily call it “normal” we are going back and most kids haven’t had an opportunity to flex their social muscles in a while.  They will need time and patience while they acclimate. Justyna & Meghan talk about skills students will need and what you you and your kids can starts working on now.   Justyna & Meghan were on a year ago, right after they opened The Hangout Spot to talk about how they are using ABA methods to help kids learn how to "hangout": In 2020 Justyna & Meghan opened The Hangout Spot, a behavior analytic social skills development center where all children have a right to meaningful relationships with others. They strive to eliminate barriers to friendship and empower children to be socially successful across the lifespan using the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis. Everything they do is rooted in research, empirically validated, and proven to work. They conceptualize critical, previously considered “tricky to teach” skills through a scientific framework. In doing so, they achieve socially-significant change for kids by providing the support they need to develop real connections with other people beyond the walls of The Hangout Spot.   You can find Justyna & Meghan and learn more about The Hangout Spot here: TRANSCRIPT for this episode can be found at shortly after the episode publishes.
42:11 08/04/2021
End of year wrap up
My office mates join me to sum up IEP season, discuss the trends we saw, and postulate on what we should expect for '21-22.  You can reach us all at SpecialEd.Law A transcript of this episode can be found here shortly after the episode is published:
41:32 07/01/2021
Summer isn't just a courtESY
Summer's coming!  So today, special education parent and advocate, Lisa Lightner, founder of A Day in Our Shoes, joins me to discuss Extended School Year services.  What are they?  Who gets them? And do you need them?   Check out A transcript of this episode can be found here shortly after the episode is published: TRANSCRIPT (not proofread) SUMMARY KEYWORDS parents, child, ies, extended school year, iep, school, school district, hear, social skills, students, program, summer, services, lisa, special ed, offering, camp, regression, week, disabilities SPEAKERS Dana Jonson Dana Jonson  00:02 Hello, and welcome to need to know with Dana Jonson. I'm your host, Dana Jonson. And I'm here to give you the information you need to know to best advocate for your child. I'm a special education attorney in private practice, a former special education teacher and administrator, a current mom to four children with IPS and I myself have ADHD and dyslexia. So I've approached the world of disability and special education from many angles. And I'll provide straightforward information about your rights and your schools obligations, information from other professionals on many topics, as well as tips and tricks for working with your school district. My goal is to empower you through your journey. So please subscribe to this podcast so you don't miss any new episodes. And I want to know what you want to know. So like, follow and drop me a note on my need to know with Dana Jonson Facebook page. Okay, let's get started. Hello, and thank you for joining me today. I'm very excited to talk about the extended school year today. We are in mid June, which is the end of the school year. And so hopefully if your child requires Yes, why you've already established that in your IEP. But what we're going to talk about more is why do we have it? What is this? Why? Why do we have it? Why do we want it? And do we really want to use it. And I have with me Lisa lightner, who is a parent, and advocate and the founder of a day in our shoes, which is an amazing resource for parents a website with an amazing resource. And we'll get into all of that in a minute. But I wanted to first touch on the fact that if you have not heard yet, I will repeat myself I am going through a transition or not I am not my podcast is need to know with Dana Jonson is going through a transition. And next week will be the final episode as need to know with Dana Jonson. And then I will relaunch again in August as special ed on special ed, it will be special ed experts talking about special ed topics. So basically the exact same content. I'm just changing the name and the logo, because what I learned is that when you search for a special education podcast, need to know doesn't necessarily pop up on your screen. So I have a wonderful and solid loyal audience. And I love you all. And I want to reach more people. So we're just going to change do some cosmetic changes. But I'll be back in August with all the same great content. So I do hope to see you there. Now back to Yes, why? Hello, Lisa, thank you so much for joining me today. Yay. I want to talk to you because you have a lot of experience with special ed and also with helping parents and with going through the process yourself. So I was hoping you could give me a little background and maybe introduce yourself and how you and a day in our shoes came to be because that website is so amazingly full of information for parents, and probably teachers and administrators as well. I'm going to guess a few of those peruse your site. 03:03 Yes, I know that I do get a lot of school staff traffic, especially for my lists of IEP goals and the various disciplines or areas of need. So yeah, so it's good for both parents and school staff. Although my main goal from the get go and you know, as it continues to be today, as always been to help parents understand the IEP process. Actually, in March, the site just turned 10 years old, which is a little crazy. I know, I can't believe it. Prior to that I actually did have a different I had a separate site and I was working as a teacher, I used to teach a vocational program. And I had a sight completely unrelated to anything disabilities. But I did have a baby with disabilities, his preschool sent home a flyer to take training to become a special ed advocate. His school did. Yeah, he went to an arc preschool. Dana Jonson  03:55 Okay, that makes more sense. I'm envisioning the public school sending you out a flyer. I 04:02 know you went to an ark preschool. So they sent home a flyer to do this special ed advocacy training. And I did it merely because he was a toddler. And I said, you know, this seems like a lot. And I already understood that like, Whoa, this is pretty overwhelming because people were always coming to my house and explaining things to me and paperwork was just, you know, phenomenal. Dana Jonson  04:25 It Anyway, during the lab work and special ed. 04:28 But during the last recession, I lost my job during the 2008 recession. I lost my job, I was already in the training. So suddenly, I had a lot more time on my hands and became you know, was still going through the training, started volunteering, merge that into working part time for the arc as an advocate and then went on, you know, went off on my own started the website. And it's funny because I started the website actually with another friend who is also an advocate and we were like, oh, we're gonna like this website's gonna be about everything special. needs and like we live near where we live in Philadelphia. And we're like, we're going to list camps. And we're going to list programs and support meetings. And I mean, for Philadelphia alone, that amount of information is completely overwhelming. And what I, what I had learned early on is that parents really weren't just coming to the site for the IEP information. And, you know, some of my earliest posts are on things like what to do when your child's suspended manifestation hearings, and just because no one explains that to them and in language that they can understand and kind of walks you through the process. So you know, really, it was the parents who told me, this is what we need to hear, this is what we want to hear. So it's just grown since there. Dana Jonson  05:44 I love it. Because I feel like as you said, it breaks things down in a way that is consumable. You know, that makes sense. And I even find, for me, when I go to look something up, if I go to another attorneys page, sometimes about something in the law, and even I get bored, you know, like, this is so dry. So it's great to have that translation, you know, in what I call real, you know, I 06:07 do read Ida off and in the procedural safeguards, and the Federal Register that goes with it. And you know, it's those paragraphs, you have to go through them three and four times and the sentence at a time and well, then there's case law that defines it afterwards. And it's not really clear cut or black and white as we'd like it to be Dana Jonson  06:25 let's talk about is why does your child heaviest? Why did you have to have this battle at some point? 06:29 Well, first of all, let's let's just clarify, because I do this to ies y means extended school year. Dana Jonson  06:35 Yes. Thank you for slowing me down. I talked so fast. And sometimes I completely forget that. I'm just talking in my own language. But you're right, we're talking about extended school year services, not summer school, not camp, it's very specific service, that children who qualify are entitled to from their school district. And it's an extended school year. That's exactly what it sounds like. It means that your school year will continue beyond when the typical school year ends. So how do we get there? Lisa, why do we want it? What is it? 07:08 Right? Well, so first of all, you said, Did you ever do that battle? And I'd have to say No, I've never had to fight that battle with my child. That's great. Pennsylvania actually does have one case, he's in what is known as the Armstrong group. And it was based on a case you know, Armstrong versus someone I don't remember who it was. But the Armstrong group is kids whose needs are, you know, they're pretty high needs pretty severe autism, intellectual disability, situations like that. So it's kind of like says kids in the Armstrong group are always going to qualify for Yes. Why they're always going to need it. So he's in he's in that group. So it's not thankfully, that's one battle, I don't have to fight every year. Dana Jonson  07:54 Well, that is a good point. And and to start right off the bat, let's talk about why a student might need Yes, why. And I think that there is a misconception, there are several misconceptions about it. One is that it is only for regression. So right, only if you're going to regress, now, all students regress, right? So let, let's just start there, all of them regress over the summer, it's called the summer slide. That's why we have those silly packets, we have to force them to fill out and do over the summer. And you know, in the first month of school is really teachers trying to get kids back into the swing of things and caught back up and figuring out where their slides were. And for children with disabilities, if they are going to regress even more than that typical amount, then that's when we're looking at extended school year services. But what you're saying about this arm strong group in Pennsylvania, which is specific to your state, but we also argue here in Connecticut, which is and everywhere else is that if the nature of the disability is so severe, that the student requires those additional weeks or months to meet their goals and objectives, because that's what they require. They're continuing to work on those pieces, then they might also qualify for extended school year. 09:09 Yeah. And they're actually you know, as you know, there are other criteria, as far as is the child on the verge of an emerging skill, how long it takes them to recoup lost skills, and things like that. So I think that that is probably the biggest myth out there that, you know, he he doesn't regret he's not at fear, or he's not at one of the standard line that I hear from parents is that he's not at risk for regressing, so he doesn't qualify. Dana Jonson  09:34 Well, I think that's how do you define regression? Because as you said, if you're on the verge of an emerging skill, and if you wait till September to continue it, and you will lose that ground, that's called regression. I mean, I think that's how I look at it anyway, you know, so I think we have to look at it from a lot of different places, and sometimes I hear well, they're fine on Christmas break. So we don't have regression, 09:57 right? And that's where I tell parents that you know, It's you have to stay engaged in the process, you know, year round. And because a lot of kids, I mean, a lot of kids do regress, even over Christmas break, but the parent doesn't necessarily document that or it's not the things aren't as visible. And I have to remind parents all the time that, you know, teachers in schools only see what happens at school. So if you're seeing additional things at home, you need to start documenting that. Right. Dana Jonson  10:24 And that's been a neat change over COVID. Right, is that I think parents voices are getting a little louder. Yeah, because they're actually seeing this progression or understanding what regression is. And, and I think that's a good point, because maybe, as you said, an emerging skill. And I'm saying, I see that as regression. But if the parent doesn't know that emerging skill is happening in school, then the parent isn't going to know to document the regression either. Right? So a lot of that comes back to communication and understanding what's in the IEP and what your child is working on. 10:54 Yes. And I believe, and I, sometimes I get confused in my head, I'm like, is this Pennsylvania specific? Or is this Ida, but I believe it's in Ida that no single factors should decide whether or not the child gets Yes, why. So even if that alone, if you're saying, well, the child doesn't regress enough to get Yes. Why? Well, Ida says, it shouldn't be any one single factor, Dana Jonson  11:16 right? There should take in a whole bunch of components. And as we know, every child is different. And we individualize. So how do you find ies wise typically provided when you're advocating for students? And you're looking for extended school year programs? How do you find that that is typically provided to families? 11:35 Yeah, so one of the other tenets of ies why is that it's supposed to be individualized? No. Dana Jonson  11:45 I heard a rumor. 11:48 But that is honestly I would say, and I get it, I get that only certain teachers agree with their contract to work over the summer, certain therapists, things like that, and busing and, you know, bus, what's the word? I'm looking for contracts and therapist contracts, you know, because a lot of these things, therapies and you know, like bcbas, and transportation, mostly, you know, a lot of schools don't have their own they contract out. So I get that, from an administrative standpoint, it makes a lot of sense to just say, Hey, we're doing four weeks in July, Monday through Thursday, nine to one See you there. But around here anyway, that's getting to be just the norm. You know, hey, we'll see in July, Monday through Thursday, nine to one, Dana Jonson  12:32 right and less if it depending on when the Fourth of July falls? Yes. Right. Because that could add or eliminate a whole week, 12:39 right? And then we have a whole other situation where in the city, if the buildings aren't air conditioned schools get canceled. And a lot of you know, because I live in an old area. I live near Philadelphia, and a lot of these buildings aren't air conditioned. So then that throws in a whole other. Dana Jonson  12:55 No, yeah. And Connecticut schools can't go past the end of June because no schools are mandated to be air conditioned. And it's hot here. You know, we had a heatwave the other week, I was surprised, no schools closed. Because you need air conditioning in Connecticut in the summer. 13:10 Right. And they did actually, that was just You're right. That was just like last week, and Philadelphia schools did dismiss early they dismissed at lunchtime each day, because it just got too hot. So yes, I would say the biggest trend and but it's also the biggest concern is just that that whole individuality piece, as far as eBay just gets tossed out the window. And I think parents need to engage more and investigate. Like, I think they spend so much time focusing on whether or not their child qualifies. And oh, I just want them to get as why that they're not digging deep and saying, Okay, I gotta Yes, why now what's going to happen? Because it's to be based on your child's IEP. And if they're going to do you know, two hours of La each day and two hours of math and then send your kid home, and your child doesn't necessarily have needs in those areas, then you know why, you know, nobody wants to go to school in the summer, right? As Americans, we're just we're programmed to not think about school to not go to school in the summer, and nobody wants to do it. So if you're going to get your child in ies why let's make it meaningful, right? Let's, you know, if they're going to go and you're going to do that, let's make it meaningful. Dana Jonson  14:15 I hear that as well, that, you know, we want as why we want as why, and then, you know, maybe I get EMI for my client. And later they say, Well, that wasn't really what they needed. I have to remind clients that that you are the parent, and they're all these experts around you. And you know, I'm using air quotes for experts that you can't see. But there are all these experts around you telling you what it should be. And at the end of the day, as you said, if if it's focused on math and reading and your child's issues, their social skills, and schools can't mandate typical students to attend summer programs or ies. Why then is that program really benefiting your child? You have to figure that out. There's no one else around is going to do it for you. 14:55 The flip side of that is that parents who are fairly certain that their child is going to get the Guess why they some of them jump right to the so I found the summer camp. mean, I found the social skills summer camp, and I'm going to make the school pay for it. Meanwhile, social skills isn't even an identified area of need in the IEP. So right, you know, again, it has to be individualized. But it also has to be defined as an area of need in the IEP. And as you said, they cannot force non IEP students to attend Yes, why to enable that LRE. Dana Jonson  15:26 That's a very good point, because I have had parents call me and say, You know, I think my child really needs the social skills piece. But there is no social skills, as you said, in the IEP, that's a red flag, right? If, if you're looking for a service that is not in your child's IEP, it should be, then we need to revisit that whole component. Because, you know, some children, if they go the whole summer, and they don't have friends, their parents can do their level best to get those interactions, but they're not getting that peer interaction, like they get at school. And that's a really long time to go without that. 16:02 Right. It is, and especially this year, you know, because many had at least a year gap, if not more, you know, some stayed home through May or June and are not going back until the fall. So they haven't been there since last March. You know, and I know a lot of schools have been in the fall and it gradually more and more throughout the school year. But yeah, I mean, it's that is a long time. Dana Jonson  16:22 Did you find where you are or where you are now? Do you find that schools are opening up ies wise and or summer school and or recruitment programs? Not recruitment Brit re yeah recoup recoup not recruit programs to help students who had that that huge gap because I find there are some some schools around where I am that are doing that that are being more proactive and saying like last year, they said anyone who wanted to go to ESRI could 16:51 Yeah. So Laura. And I actually know Laura, who works for those of you missed it on Laura did was gracious enough to do a facebook live with me. And we talked about comp services due to COVID and getting the services. Because what another issue you know, of course, keep in mind, nobody ever comes to me when things are going well, they only come to me, right? things aren't going well, right? I have to constantly remind myself of that. But a lot of parents are inquiring about comp services like hey, my child missed a year of this and you know, you're have that. And then it's Oh, well, he can go to ies Why then he can go to ies Why? And again, it's about that digging deeper and saying well, but this is what he missed. So what is ies? Why, and and what's going to happen there? And is that sufficient? Because yes, I do see a lot of schools being more generous with offering EFI to students. But again, just bring them in for a couple of hours to do some reading and some math. Dana Jonson  17:47 Kids don't progress through osmosis. Right? Right, just appearing in the school, 17:53 they're not getting that pull out, or they're not getting their therapy, or whatever it is, because I hear all kinds of crazy stuff like, well, we don't do OT and E s y. And like, I don't you know, Dana Jonson  18:02 any any statement that starts with we don't, is usually incorrect. 18:08 The only thing the only one that I will say applies this time is that for as why the school cannot guarantee LRE. But other than that everything apply. Dana Jonson  18:18 And that's fair, because you can't compel typically developing students to go to a summer program. Right? I do hear that argument, though, for students who really require interaction with typically developing students that truly is what helps their progress and their success in the classroom or the environment that they're in whatever that may be. And so, you know, I often have situations where parents say, Well, why can't they do their ies? Why at a camp? Why can't they do that? And my responses they can, we can absolutely do that, if that's what's necessary. And how do we set that up to make that that argument that that is what your child requires. But that goes back to what you're saying about the individualization. And I think a lot of parents are trained to understand that are taught that this nine to one July program is actually what he is why it is, right. Yeah, you know, that they actually believe that's what it is. So because that's what it's called. And so, you know, when we're looking at extended school year, you know, programs and I hear schools say, well, it's really just about regressions, so we don't have to add anything new. So we're okay here. How do you go about working with parents to come up with creative ways to identify and and obtain those different kinds of extended school years? 19:43 Okay, so first of all, it depends. I have to tell you, it honestly depends on what time of year they come to me because the parents who are coming to me now and it is happening now, sometimes time is just not on your side, right? It just isn't, and so to Come to me, you know, Memorial Day or June 15, and say, Oh, well, I'm not happy with this ESP program from a time factor, there's usually not a lot I can do, because what I have always always preached is, you know, look at the present levels, present levels is what drives the IEP. And if this need is not in present levels, it's, then there's not going to be a goal for it. And if there's no goal for it, there's not going to be any supports and services for it. Right. And so that's, that's usually at the core of the issue is that there's an identified need. So then, okay, well, let's get it identified. Well, that takes time. And that's the kind of thing you know, like, he's, like you said, going back to their social skills example, if mom and dad are seeing that the child's struggles with social skills, but he's able to get through school day, and it's not an identified need on an IEP, you know, again, you can't go to the school and say, Well, this is the social skills camp is what he needs for EAS, why? What his child needs is some evaluations to show that he lacks social skills. And that's going to take time, and on June 15, you know, I can't necessarily help you there. So from the school's point of view, what I do always do say to parents, as you know, like, look at these camps, most of them are nonprofits, look for scholarships, look for, you know, go to your Lions Club, though, to your co Ana's club, your rotary and see if they do sponsorships for, you know, children in the community with disabilities. And if they would sponsor this camp for you, if you cannot afford it. And also, you know, if you, I get it, we're guaranteed faith, and that first word is free. But just because our kids are guaranteed fate doesn't mean that if you have a disabled child that you're never ever going to have to pay for anything for them ever again. So you know, some good point, yeah, and some parents are in a position to pay for these things. And that is, you know, what I call the path of least resistance. If I can't help you demonstrate this week, you know, that your child needs social skills, then I just don't really think that's going to be an option for you. Like, we can go through the motions and we can get things started. But the school is under no obligation in most cases to evaluate for this camp starts and things like that. Dana Jonson  22:09 I've seen that there was like a, as a plan on school districts part is that they make it a little difficult. So for parents who can pay for ies why they just do they just find something and pay for it. And again, the path of least resistance. And I do get that as well. But then I also find that what ends up happening is the people who can't afford to place are stuck and fighting their district. And the district is playing the same game with them. So they're having to push back and they can't afford to push back or to unilaterally place. And that's where we run into trouble. A lot of times, too, when I get that call, I also have to remind parents that hiring me to get the school district to say yes to Yes. Why may cost you more than the EMI program. 22:55 Right. A great example is several years ago, I had a family and they wanted this 15 $100 s y program, and we ended up going to mediation. And yes, the girl got it, the female student got the program in mediation that that we wanted. But I mean, I'm sitting there in mediation, looking at this table of like, seven or eight school staff. And it was this time of year. I mean, it was summer had already started school is out. And I thought you know, here, we have a superintendent and me, you know, they're paying me and all these people and to challenge us on a 15 $100 program. So and yes, I certainly acknowledge that, you know, of course, I go off on tangents and talk about this stuff all day. There certainly is a gap in a you know, in public education, certainly between the haves and the have nots. And having a parent pay for a program that they can afford, can exacerbate that gap. And I'm not I don't want to come across as that I'm comfortable with that, like, Oh, well, too bad for you. If you can't afford it, you know, again, that's how I understand Yeah, you can look into, you know, you can try to look into scholarships and things like that. But for the parent who can afford it, like I said, you know, you and I will probably still get one or two more calls this week, from parents. Yeah, from parents who are looking for EMI. And you know, in some cases, when you come to us at this time of year that if you want that program, they're like, well, it starts June 21. Like I These are your options, you sign up and pay for yourself or you know, Dana Jonson  24:22 well until that point, and I want to be really clear that neither Lisa nor I are giving any legal advice here. Lisa is not an attorney, but I am and I'm not giving legal advice and I don't know your your students situation. But to that point, if a parent were to do that, and go pay for their program themselves, and I always want to make this clear to any parent anytime. If you expect any money back from a district that you spend, you have to go through a very important legal process and document and note it properly. And the most, the most important part is you have to give 10 days notice so Before your child leaves the public school, not before they start the new program, before they leave the public school 10 days beforehand, at least, you must have given notice in writing that the school district did not offer an appropriate program, that you're in disagreement with their program, that you believe this is an appropriate program. And that you will be placing your child there, and that you expect to get reimbursement later that you're preserving your rights to reimbursement. That's very important. I also usually mentioned to parents, if you're spending money, you want to get back, talk to a lawyer, it's that simple. talk to a lawyer is the best way to make sure you've covered your ground. But so for those of you who are listening to us right now and thinking, Oh, I didn't get ies why yet I got to figure that out. Make sure that you talk to somebody, so you're doing it the right way. But for people who already have it in their IEP, and the issue is a dispute of where it is, you know, yes, there are a lot of options. So that kind of brings me to another question that Lisa, which is through your child does qualify and you do get it? Do you have to go? And I get that a lot from parents too, who say I don't want to say no to anything. I don't I don't want to say no, because you don't you don't want the IP to be weakened because you're going to visit grandma for the week. You don't want to not have it in there. So how do you advise parents who asked that question? Do I have to go to ies wire does my child have to 26:21 go? I know it's parents spend so much time and it is such a fight some time to get services that they're so they just don't want to decline? Anything that's offered to them. And I get it. I Dana Jonson  26:31 never did either. I mean, I bore kids with IPS. So I totally understand. 26:37 I mean, first of course, ask the special ed director or ask whoever's running the EFI program, you want to know what's going to happen there. Because as I said earlier, you want to make it meaningful, right? If you are going to send your child to school during the summer, which is going to affect you know, the entire household, right? You want to see what's going on? And is it appropriate for your child? Is it going to be meaningful? It's not talked about a lot, but school districts are not actually permitted. And it's not legal advice. But school districts are not permitted to retaliate against parents for refusing services. So in a perfect world, no, that shouldn't be held against you, as we all know what what the statute says and what happens every day is not necessarily the same thing. But no, they're not supposed to retaliate against you are not permitted to retaliate against you for refusing a service. That being said, I haven't This isn't an area where I would necessarily expect to see a lot of retaliation because they the school district has planned their ESP program. They've hired X number of teachers and X number of Paras and they do kind of have a cap on, you know, yep, this is how many kids we're going to offer. Yes. Why to? So being able to cut those numbers back, I wouldn't necessarily expect retaliation in this area, because it is going to save the district money, right? If five parents say no, that might be another pair that they don't have to hire for ESXi. So I wouldn't necessarily be afraid of that. I would you know, Dana Jonson  28:04 I also find that as wide disputes, and as soon as I say this, it's going to change. I'm going to jinx myself. But I tend to find that because yes, why programs, as you said you're fighting over a 15 $100 program, oftentimes as Why is not as cost prohibitive as a program during the school year. So I find that those disputes are often easier to resolve, because they're short term, they're short lived, and they're not tremendously expensive. So I see the bigger fights for ies wise, when you have a child who really requires a 12 month program, that's usually where we have like the more major disputes, and we don't have that in place. Or for students who require two months of extended school year, not just one, 28:47 right, that I that you're right, and that, you know, if they're offering where I see the disputes is the parents who are trying to buck the school with the you know, this, this nine to one monday through thursday camp program isn't appropriate for what my child needs. So and in fact, that 15 $100 program was just that we wanted something at the local university, which was completely appropriate for what this girl needed. And the camp program that the school was offering was not appropriate. So like he said, that's where I see the issues is when parents don't want to do the camp program, and they do want the summer camp or the something else, which in many cases may be really appropriate. You know, if social skills is your biggest is your child's biggest need, you know, but again, it's going back to getting that documented, and is that a you know documented area of need and all that Dana Jonson  29:34 I often recommend the parents if they are sending their child somewhere else that they explained to the school district how that will address some of the issues for us Why? Because a lot of times going to that summer camp. It's not a special ed camp. It's not providing those educational components, but it will address the special education needs of the child and that's what we're looking for. right we're looking for to address the special education needs of the child. And I think that oftentimes that puts the district at rest to Okay, well, you're doing your thing, but we know that at least that they're getting some services. So when we come back to the table in September, we're still on the same page. You know, school isn't going to say, I can't teach your kid because you didn't send them to us why, right? That's not gonna happen, right? Yeah, I 30:21 was for EFI, or for any really, you know, I guess, an alternative si program is really an out of District placement, right? Because you're not doing with the district, in district for any out of District placement, I say, go there, ask them or talk to them read the website, what are they doing at that placement that your child needs, that they are possibly, they're just never going to get that in what the district is offering, right. Dana Jonson  30:47 And a lot of times, it's the typically developing peers, the role models, the social skills, and I've had school districts send a para to the local camp, if a student was maybe going to the local camp, and the parent was paying for the camp, but maybe the school sent the para, that's not typical. So don't get excited about that. But I have seen it happen that way. I've also seen ies y in the form of like some one on one tutoring. 31:12 Yep. Oh, yeah, I've seen a lot of you know, some kids don't need nine to one every day. But they do need to keep up on some things. So once or twice a week might be you know, and now every school district in the country just about is set up to do things virtually. So if your child's needs are strictly academic, you know, maybe they don't need to leave the house, maybe they do only need an hour, a day or an hour a week of some online tutoring, or some you know, instruction or something like that, working with his teacher. Yeah, I mean, just, you know, like you're talking about an out of District, but they sent the para, you know, be creative and think about everything, you know, think about what you can offer them and because it is you know about being collaborative, Dana Jonson  31:51 and I find that the more options a parent comes to the table with and also though, to your point, understand what your school is offering going in and saying I know you're Yes. Why is canned? And doesn't do anything isn't an argument. Right? It's definitely not a legal argument. But it's also not an argument and you don't have a really good ground to stand on. You know, if you're and I think other parents are great resource, and we need them, and they help you. But you have to get the information yourself. 32:21 Yeah, I would ask to see like curriculum or lesson plans or something, because what I've found is a lot of parents will call an IEP meeting to talk about this. And then they say, Well, my child needs this and they go, okay, we do that. And they go, Well, my child needs this. Oh, yeah, we do that they do everything. Right. They do everything in these four hours, right. So it's, it's getting some not just verbal reassurance, but something else that like, you want to know what they're doing each day, I've found that a lot of them are just a lot of fun time to you know, a lot of outdoor games and, and I get it, it's summer, you want to keep things light, but you know, I'm not going to send my kids every day to go play in the playground for four hours, either, you know, because that's not helping him or anyone else. So Dana Jonson  33:05 right. So yeah, so I think, you know, understanding very thoroughly what the school district is actually offering and what that looks like, it's hard because parents can't observe the ESA, during the school year, because it's not there. So that's a bit challenging. So you do have to rely on other parents and their experiences. But yeah, going to your team and asking them to pull out specifically, what are we working on, I hear a lot of well, it's only to prevent regressions. So it's going to be a lot less, it's going to be minimal. It's going to be all these things. I actually this year had a an PPT or in Connecticut, we call them ppts. But an IEP meeting, where they said the formula we use is and I thought, okay, thank you for sharing, we're going to revisit that. You know, there's no one formula for ESP for every child on the planet. And that is really the key part. And I do believe that a lot of the ESP programs that schools have can address a lot of students needs, but not all of them, right? Not every child and not every need. So we do really need to take those those ideas and those thoughts and think outside the box. I also caution parents that a lot of times I find schools, at least I have found and again, I don't come in unless there's a problem. And there's another attorney at the table. So usually we're there to try and fix the problem. That's the goal. But I find that we can be very creative, and in a way that school districts can't always be at the IP table. So to also be a little flexible with the IEP team. Yeah. Could we could we maybe come to a better agreement outside of this meeting? Because I think we can resolve the issues. You know, if there's an issue and an easy way to resolve it, why wouldn't the school want to 34:51 Right, right. I think also, you know, obviously the internet and social media has been a complete game changer for IEP parents, right like One of my mentors has a disabled son who's my age. And so she tells me about in the 70s standing by her mailbox, like literally waiting for this newsletter to get to her home, you know, because that's was the 70s. Right? So it's been a complete game changer, the Dana Jonson  35:13 fact that she could find a newsletter in the 70s and 80s. I'm really impressed with. 35:19 But I think that it's it's been a mixed blessing because I think parents see other parents getting things doing things, and then they think, Oh, my gosh, I have to be doing that. And not every child with an IEP gets ies Why? And not every child with an IEP needs is why and you kind of have to go with your gut, I, you know, go with your gut instinct, and then work on defining that gut instinct, you know, with your IEP team, but it's okay, if your child doesn't need ies Why? Just because you see all these other parents doing it. And I feel like it has become kind of like the latest, like buzz word are out there like, Yeah, do you have Yes. Why do you have vs? Why? What do you know? And it's okay to not go to ies why it's okay. You know, again, it's okay to tell the school No, but it's also okay, if Dana Jonson  36:04 you can also get your accommodations for your summer packet, you know, so, so your child might not need Yes, why, but if they had that summer packet that everybody else has, you can be requesting things through their, their IP that they may need to assist them through that packet. And that may even include touching in with a teacher, or, or something like that, without necessarily being an extended school year. 36:29 And I but I see a lot of I think parents, IEP parents, we are so fists up ready for battle all the time, that as soon as we hear no, we're prepared to fight for it, you know, and so you're in your IEP meeting in January, February? And they say, okay, yes. Why we don't think your child qualifies. And just because they were told no, like, the parent automatically thinks, well, they told me no, so I better fight for this. And again, not every child needs it. And that's okay. Dana Jonson  36:57 You know, and I also like, when they say that in October, I usually say can we reconvene, and let's just reconvene and like may and talk about it again, we get a little closer. But I agree with you, just because it exists doesn't mean you have to have it or that your child can get it, you know, your child truly may not qualify. Right, right. And then you're fighting a losing battle. And I do see that because I think that if you feel like you're not getting everything that you need, or your child is not getting everything that they are entitled to over here. And then you see this other thing over there. And like, why can't we get that? And I try to remind parents to keep the focus, what is it that you want, just because you're not getting this thing over here doesn't mean we want to distract our efforts to fight for all this other stuff over there that maybe we don't really need. Let's stay here and get this piece here that we want. And I think that's a good point. You know, not everybody qualifies for it. And it's it's not the end of the world, 37:53 right. And also that I see a lot of parents put their hopes into, they think that in the summer program that their child is going to catch up, well, that's great, I'm going to send him to ies wine, he's going to catch up to his peers, I have never seen that happen. I mean, never Dana Jonson  38:07 well. And I like to say if your child didn't catch up with their peers over the school year, there's a good chance, they won't catch up in four weeks from nine to one, you know, so it's and it's not meant for that it's not summer school, it's not you fail the class. And so now you're taking it again, or you're improving your grade. it's specific to the IEP, and it's specific to the child's needs, and to ensure ongoing progress and a lack of regression. So you know, as we said, I do hope that everybody out there who wants to swipe either has it or has it lined up. But keep in mind that you don't necessarily require EMI. And if you don't require it, or if you don't like it, you don't necessarily have to go to it. The other piece I like to tell parents is you can disagree with it and send your child that's another one you have to remember, if you disagree with it, but you don't have an option. You can tell them you disagree with it to preserve your rights for later on down the road. If something else comes up, you can say I disagree with it. I don't think this is appropriate, but I am going to send them. So that's sort of a another piece to consider. Because I also know sometimes parents don't speak up because they're afraid if they say they don't that it's not appropriate. There won't be any other options. 39:17 Yeah. And it always goes back to what I've preached for 12 years is that all parents need to stay engaged in, you know, an IEP is not just an annual meeting, you have to stay engaged all the time. And yes, in Ida it says that you're supposed to be notified of the school's ies why decision with enough time to exercise their procedural safeguards. So, you know, again, I tell parents, if you're if you haven't heard anything by March or April, you know, it's okay to send an email, you know, look at your IP, see what it says and send an email and ask, you know, because you do need time to exercise your procedural safeguards, Dana Jonson  39:53 but don't wait for the school to come to you. Right, right. Exactly. It's sort of like if your point of my teenage I have three teenagers driving right now. And I told one of them, I was like, oh, look out for that. And they're like, oh, if they hit me, it would be their fault. And I thought, Well, yeah, it would be their fault. But you wouldn't have a car, or you might have broken bones. So a little bit of an extreme example, but you know, if you want, yes, why, and you're waiting, and you know, the school district hasn't done it, and you're waiting, then, you know, you're you're hurting yourself. It might be their fault. And they might be wrong, but your child won't have this. Why? 40:30 Right. And it's June 15. So it's June 15. You hire me or or Dana, you know, it's gonna take us weeks to you know, even get going on that. Dana Jonson  40:41 I mean, it would take me two weeks to even establish probably a first call with an attorney. Yeah, you know, cuz no one has time to breathe right now. So now, that's a good point. Thank you, Lisa. Is there any last points on eBay? I feel like we kind of covered it all. You 40:55 know what, I just want to ask you one question, because it's your house. I've only had one family in 12 years. Have you ever successfully, you know, with or without your services? Maybe they maybe they resolve it on their own? Or you heard it from another attorney colleague, you know, forever? I've been told that he is why is not just for summer. It's anything that goes above and beyond the school year. Have you ever been successful with like weekend or holiday Christmas holiday? Yes. Why? Things like that? I've only ever had one? Dana Jonson  41:24 a great question. I have not actually argued that. That is not in 15 years, I've been practicing as an attorney for 15 years in special ed. And I have not argued that. But that is a great question. Because you're right. Yes, extended school year is extended school year, we're trained to believe that extended school year is nine to one in July. Right. Right. That's how we've been conditioned. But it's not. It's an anything above and beyond that same as extended day. 41:55 There are advocates around here who preach that and they say, well, you can ask for stuff on Saturdays. And you can ask for stuff on Christmas break and things like that. I've never, like I said I've had one. But we have a we have a weird thing in pa where most kids with disabilities can get wraparound behavioral health. So we can get home services. And those folks are permitted to do community based instruction and go out in the community with your child. So we can go about it the Medicaid route and get that. Now mind you, that's nothing academic, it's only behavioral. Dana Jonson  42:27 But if it's impacting their education, it's educational right here, it's 42:30 not really even an issue because like, well, this is my wraparound services Dana Jonson  42:34 students I've had who require that level of intensity are usually in our placements. When I'm involved. That's usually my experience. So I haven't argued for that or really seen that as a problem. But it is a really good point. And I think the good piece about the vagueness of VSI is what if you want a service that you can only get on a Saturday, you know what, if there's something out there, then it really shouldn't matter when it's offered? Does that make sense? 43:02 Yeah, no, because we do have a university around here that does a lot of behavioral stuff, and a lot of social skills and executive functioning clinics and camps and sessions and, and they're all on Saturdays. Dana Jonson  43:14 So it shouldn't matter that it's on a Saturday, it should be you know, and if it's during the school year, you could argue it's extended school year, because it's additional school days, or extended school day. You know, I've had students where they say, Oh, well, if the student you know, they have to attend the homework Hall, if they have to attend it, that sounds like an extended school day to me, you know. So I think there there are definitely ways to argue that I just I have found typically when I have had students in cases where they required that level of intensity, they're already in a program that probably provides it and, and in Connecticut, we also have other agencies that provide Home Services, depending on your situation, depending on your disability, depending on your insurance, depending depending depending so many things. So but again, that goes back to individuality of the child. 44:03 And I was just curious, because I've just heard it exists, but it's like a unicorn. I've Dana Jonson  44:06 never really seen it in action. But if if anyone out there has seen this, please reach out to me. I would love to hear about it. If you have obtained extended school year services and in a unique manner. I would love to hear about it. Lisa, thank you so much for joining me today. This was really wonderful. I thoroughly enjoy all of your resources and your website and your video casts and your live streams. So I strongly recommend you check out a day in our shoes. And if you're listening to this, you can go back to the show notes. I will have all of Lisa's information on her website in there. If you feel like Lisa speaking my truth. She's the only person I can talk to. I'll ever contact information. And you know, hopefully everybody is set up and ready to go into summer God willing. Thank you so much for joining me today. Please don't forget to subscribe to this podcast so you don't miss any new episodes. And if there Anything you want to hear a comment on, go to our Facebook page and drop me a note there. I'll see you next time here on need to know with Dana Jonson have a fabulous day
45:13 06/23/2021
What's the deal with mediation?
What's the deal with Mediation?  Mediation is a wonderful tool for resolving disputes with your school district.  It is voluntary, free, and offered by your State, so today we are going to check it out.  We will discuss the entire process, all the players, and how you can prepare.   NEWS: I also have exciting news about the re-brand of Need to Know with Dana Jonson.  Listen to the episode to hear the details, but, in a nutshell, I will publish 3 episodes in the month of June, then I will take July off, and will return in August with a new, improved, and re-branded podcast!  The new name will be Special Ed on Special Ed; Enlightenment from special ed experts on special ed topics.  It will be the same RSS feed, so you don’t have to do a thing.  Just be patient, and in August, Special Ed on Special Ed will pop into your cue.   In this episode, I also mention Christine Blackburn and her podcast Story Worthy, which I highly recommend you check out! A TRANSCRIPT of this episode can be found here:
37:23 06/03/2021
We're going to SuperD!ville
Today we head to SuperD!Ville where children who learn differently (and their peers) find out about how their brains work and social emotional learning.  We talk with Peggy Stern, Founder and CEO, and Diana Correa-Cintron, COO, about how SuperD!Ville came to be and how it is helping children everywhere! SuperD!Ville is a forward thinking and unique multimedia resource that combines videos with real kids and lessons plans for a broad range of social and emotional issues.   Created by Academy Award winner Peggy Stern, SuperD!Ville empowers the 1 in 5 children who learn differently.   Research shows that it helps all students: Develop SEL skills (self-esteem, resilience, empathy, etc.) Identify their strengths and challenges as learners Acquire useful self-advocacy tools for school and beyond In addition, all of the kids who act in the videos have learning differences like dyslexia and ADHD! Peggy Stern, Founder and CEO Peggy Stern is an Academy Award-winning film Producer/Director with more than 30 years experience. Her dyslexia led her to filmmaking and animation at a young age, and in March 2006 Stern won the Oscar for Best Animated Short. Stern has produced for PBS, HBO, Teachers College at Columbia University, The National PTA, and National YWCA among others. She received her BA from Harvard University and her senior thesis film STEPHANIE, was turned into a PBS documentary special and broadcasted nationally. SuperDville is a family affair, as her dyslexic daughter Emma has been a key advisor! Diana Correa-Cintron, Chief Operating Officer Diana is an attorney by training, educator and Latino rights activist. She has worked as a public interest lawyer, policy analyst, development officer and consultant for a range of non-profit and educational institutions such as FIU, Columbia University School of Law, Hispanics in Philanthropy, the Bronx Children’s Museum and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and was also awarded a Fulbright Fellowship. As the COO for SuperDville, Diana works in partnership with Peggy Stern on strategic planning, outreach and cultural competency. She is the proud mother of two sons with dyslexia. You can reach both Peggy and Diana through the SuperD!ville website: Peggy and Diana also discussed SuperD!friends in this episode, which can be found here: Full TRANSCRIPT of this episode can be found at
50:11 04/28/2021
A Day in Our Shoes on COVID and Comp Ed
Happy IEP season!  Today, special education attorney Laura Henneghan joins Lisa Lightner and A Day in Our Shoes to discuss Compensetory Education for services missed due to the global pandemic.  She covers what comp ed is, who qualifies, and how to ask for it.  You'll gain tools with which to advocate for your child in your spring IEP meetings. Check out You can reach Laura at Laura@SpecialEd.Law A transcript of this episode can be found here shortly after the episode is published:
72:10 04/17/2021
We're college bound!
Is your child with special education needs college bound?  What do they need to get there? And where is there?   Today, Special Education Attorney Laura Heneghan shares her journey helping her children navigate transition skills for college and what questions to ask.     You can find both Laura and me at   https://SpecialEd.Law   and you can reach Laura directly at Laura @SpecialEd.Law   The TRANSCRIPT for this episode can be found in the show notes at https://SpecialEd.Law/were-college-bound   TRANSCRIPTS (not proofread)   SUMMARY KEYWORDS college, child, brogan, student, learning, school, high school, kids, accommodations, disabilities, people, classes, absolutely, professors, parents, skills, learning disabilities, capable, dyslexia, campus SPEAKERS Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney, Dana Jonson   Dana Jonson  00:02 Hello, and welcome to need to know with Dana Jonson. I'm your host, Dana Jonson. And I'm here to give you the information you need to know to best advocate for your child. And a special education attorney in private practice. A former special education teacher and administrator, a current mom to four children with IPS and I myself have ADHD and dyslexia. So I've approached the world of disability and special education from many angles. And I'll provide straightforward information about your rights and your schools obligations, information from other professionals on many topics, as well as tips and tricks for working with your school district. My goal is to empower you through your journey. So please subscribe to this podcast so you don't miss any new episodes. And I want to know what you want to know. So like, follow and drop me a note on my need to know with Dana Jonson Facebook page. Okay, let's get started. Hello, today I am speaking with Laura Hannigan. Hello, Laura. Thank you for joining me. Thank you. Laura has been with us before she works with me in my office. And the reason Laura that I wanted to have you on again, is to talk about taking her children from learning disabilities and other disabilities in school to college, because that is a step that I find very difficult for typically developing students forget disabilities. And it's it's complicated enough as it is, but I know you have some in depth experience with it. So why am I asking you? Why are you the person I'm coming to to talk to me about getting kids with disabilities into college? Let's start there.   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  01:37 Okay, well, aside from professional experience I've personally experienced in this area, I have three children, and the oldest, my son Brogan has dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia. And he is currently in his last semester of college. So I feel like I'm here. So I can talk a bit about the journey and some of the things I've learned and would be happy to share with your listeners.   Dana Jonson  02:01 That is awesome. So when can we start worrying about college, I have one student, I have one child, I shouldn't say student, one child of mine, who was adopted an older age, so I didn't get to know her until she was 13. But at 13, I was told she would not go to college that was not her trajectory, and that we should be looking at something else. And then I have my own biological children who from the very beginning, I presumed that college would be the end goal no matter what. And you know, I've had to adjust that perspective from time to time. And now I'm back on College Track for some of them. But when we make that decision,   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  02:38 as I said, Bergen is my oldest three children, two of them are in college, and one is currently a junior in high school. So I always did look at freshmen and sophomore years, kind of the free years where they could just enjoy school, I could have them enjoy school, and not worry about things until that, you know, critical junior year. But I found one Brogan was in 10th grade was when I really started thinking about it because like you I wasn't sure if he would be capable of handling college going away to school what our options were. In addition to his learning disabilities, he had a lot of social anxiety. So we didn't know what he was capable of. And as we all know, kids continue to mature well into their 20s. So looking at somebody at 10th grade is a totally different thing than what they're going to eventually end up to be so   Dana Jonson  03:28 but I think and I just want to jump in because what you said is really great is you're not just talking about academics, right? Oh, yeah. I they're talking about learning to live by college. And and that experience in and of itself is something it's monumental. I mean, it's really big.   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  03:45 Absolutely. So, you know, in the way that I work is usually I like to research things. So if you're old enough, you probably recall the back of the big Barron's book of colleges. And I love flipping through that and they actually have an addition that's for programs with colleges and universities with programs for kids with learning disabilities.   Dana Jonson  04:05 And they just updated it, they just updated it, it came out in February, I know cuz I've ordered it.   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  04:10 So really not involving him yet, because of the anxiety issue. I got that and kind of flipped through to get an idea of what the options would be. And one thing I was glad I noticed at that early stage was that many more schools became even a possibility if you have two years of a foreign language, so for them to even to consider admission, they want those two years almost despite how your child does in the class. Like many kids with dyslexia, Brogan had a foreign language language waiver. So he had not taken Spanish or French or whatever they were offering and as freshmen and sophomore year so we did end up enrolling him in his junior and senior year solely for the ability to open up that kind of extra level of colleges based on the requirements   Dana Jonson  04:58 and I found that in our in our high school. Anyway, they don't require it. So I struggled with that, because I was saying My child is going to need two years of language. And they were saying, nope, No, they don't. And then I was like, well, I need a language waiver, because I have one child with nonverbal learning disability and learning a foreign language is next to impossible. So, and they wouldn't give it to me because if not required to graduate from high school. So right parent, yeah, so I want to talk about that, at some point, how we address those barriers to?   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  05:29 Well, it's funny, I think colleges are becoming more aware of the two because more are offering things like ASL. Because if you American Sign Language, if you have a kid who struggles with reading and writing in English, and you're requiring them that they take a foreign language, you're just asking for failure for them, which is, it's just not really, you know, fair to the kid. And I know, when Brogan started taking Spanish in his high school, he was running into a lot of issues. And we kind of, you know, step back and look and and it turned out he wasn't getting the same accommodations in Spanish, like a word bank. He was not he was being penalized for spelling and things that in English, he was not being penalized for. But he wasn't Spanish. So we kind of had to get, you know, the whole team on board that the combinations carry across. Yeah, I wouldn't have even thought of that. Do that. And everyone, it was kind of a lightbulb moment for everybody. It was like, Oh, yeah, that that totally makes sense. We had just never thought of that. Yeah. So we were fortunate that his high school took a bunch of students on a college tour in the summer between sophomore and junior year. So he was able to be exposed to different campuses, different cultures on campus size locations, kind of without the parental lens being on it, which I thought was great. And it was a really good opportunity. I grew up in New York State and basically had the choice of any new york state school, I could get into sight unseen. So I wasn't really a true believer in needing to visit colleges, it was like apply to them get into the best one, you can and go there. Because Brogan has seen schools, we were able to kind of limit it to he didn't want to be urban, he didn't want to be an engineering, he didn't want to be that far away from home. So then we kind of drew a, you know, three hour radius around where we were, and figured we'd start looking at programs that had learning disability programs, kind of an official program. And just as an aside, there's kind of three main levels. So there are, every college has to have a disabilities office to address any accommodations for any students disabilities. And with that, they can sometimes offer some tutoring services or some accommodations that like extra time, then you've got kind of a middle level tier where you could maybe pay for some tutoring, or the school has like a peer tutoring section or something that the kids can go to for a little extra help. And then you've got kind of the full blown, usually additional tuition learning program that's a little more structured, we started visiting those high level, you know, learning structured ones. And it was really interesting to me, because I wouldn't have believed the benefit in the visit. Until one day, we were on a campus that on paper was a perfect fit for him. And we took our tour and the program was great. The people were great. But he and I walking around the campus, he said, I don't see any other Bourbons here. And that was a really high impact moment for me both his awareness of that and that he needed to feel like he fit wherever he was going. So that really changed my perception of what it was to visit a college. And honestly, there were some that we pulled up to and he was like, nope. And we just kept driving. And I found the exact same experience with my daughter, Kylie, there were places that we'd pull up to and it didn't feel right. Or there was something that just didn't feel like it was a place that she wanted to be. And I realized kind of how important at least in our situation with my kids that it was a really important piece.   Dana Jonson  09:08 Yeah, yeah, definitely that fit and, and getting a vibe for it too, because I was presumed not unlike high schools and other schools, just because they have a program on paper that appears perfect for you. Doesn't mean it it. Absolutely. We run into that all the time with students in elementary or middle or high school. Like Yes, well, this program may be great for a lot of kids with disability or with dyslexia, but it's not working for this kid with dyslexia. So we have to look at something different. So I think that's a great point that that individualizing doesn't change just because they're going to college. It still needs to be an individual is because if the child doesn't buy in or doesn't feel comfortable, you're not going to get out of them their best.   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  09:54 Exactly. And I think for different kids, the level of that might be different, but for him it Was it was really important. And we came across his current university where they don't have a specific program. But we went in, and we talked to his the Learning Support Group. And we presented his current testing and his IPS. And they really felt that they could support him. And it was a, it was a campus that felt good to all of us. So we identified another campus that was a good fit that had an additional PE program. And we decided he would apply to both of those early but non binding so that if we needed to continue the application process, we could, but for him applying to too many schools would have been overwhelming. So we kind of picked his top two choices, and did the early application for those. And he ended up getting into both Yeah, he broken. He actually liked the one with the less formal program. And that worried us a little bit. So his high school support teachers actually got on the phone with the university and talked about the services that they could offer to him and got us all comfortable that it was a really good fit. Most importantly, was he felt like that university wanted him. And in the end, the decision was his Yeah, it was he really felt like they wanted him to be there. I think in in going through the process, there are a couple things that were really helpful, you know, we went and visited and we spoke to the people that run the disability offices and, you know, going with a list of prepared questions to ask and write down the answers. Because once you visit more than two colleges, you forget what somebody else said, you know, and bring the list of accommodations your kid is currently getting so that you know what works and what doesn't work. And you need to go in making sure that your your child knows what their strengths and their vulnerabilities are. And if they're not sure help them to kind of figure it out because it at the college level, whether they're 18 or not, when they go to college college is going to treat them like an adult. And they're going to have to advocate a bit more for themselves and know their profile as a learner. So that they can ask for help during the process. And they need to really notify their professors, each professor of the accommodations they need. Now, if they want to struggle with that, there's people that can facilitate it and support them. But it's kind of good to know going in that they've got to be a little more responsible for that kind of stuff.   Dana Jonson  12:22 When I think that's an important skill that we say all the time. Kids need to learn how to self advocate and we talked about it, we talked about it. But what does that look like? And what does that look like in real life. And what that looks like is being able to find that learning center, if that's the school that you're going to one where you have to seek it out yourself. Because as you're talking about these three tiers, what I'm understanding is there some that just offer whatever the federal law makes them offer, right, you have to offer certain level of accommodation reasonable accommodations under the ADA, then you get to the next step where they found the services, but you have to seek them out and get them yourself. And then the third level would be an integrated program.   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  13:03 Correct. And one of the things we found really helpful was he set up weekly appointments, because left to make the decision in the moment about Should I go get help or not was something that was difficult for him. But when he had an appointment on his schedule, he would go every single time. So that was really, really helpful. The other thing I found really helpful, which my kids absolutely hated, is when you're on the campus, stop other students and ask them what they think about the school, and about the food and about the professors and about the dorms. And all of those parts that we you know, refer to earlier all part of the experience. And who better to tell you but somebody who's currently there, because it's really not all about the academics. It's a change in where you live, what you eat your friends, how you maintain your hygiene, it's, you know, you've probably never shared a bathroom with 20 other people before. So it's really different. And Brogan joined the ultimate frisbee team as a freshman. And that was a great choice for him. Because it kept him busy. It gave him exercise, and it kind of gave him a built in social group. And that was one of the things that I contribute to his success at school. And personally, I made the decision to not obsess about grades. And to this day, I actually don't know what any of his college grades are. I know he attends class. And we'll get to how I know that. And I know he's not failed any classes. And he's graduating in four years. So grades. You know, when I talked to him, I asked, Are you happy? Are you working hard? Are you doing well? And those are the things that I chose to focus on. Because for him the accomplishments in all of those areas were so huge.   Dana Jonson  14:40 Yeah. And I think when you're going to college, either you're in or you're out, right. So when when you're when you're looking at high school grades, you're worried about those grades because of what they bring you to NES and in college, at least my personal philosophy is you made it right you're there now. Can you stay there and make it through, because unless you are planning to do something very specific, many times your class rank doesn't actually matter. your GPA doesn't actually matter. Obviously, if you're failing or an academic probation, those are different stories. But as a rule, you know, you're not looking for that next competitive school. I mean, if you are going to graduate school, sure, but there are also other paths to graduate school. So it's a little I find it takes the pressure off a little Did you find that through your experience, or Absolutely,   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  15:32 and I think that's why it enabled me who I'm a pretty detail oriented person, to just not focus on it at all, like, as long as he receives his diploma, he's good. And it doesn't really matter how he got there. Like you said, he's passed all his classes, and he hasn't been on probation. And I think you don't know how your kid's gonna respond. When they get there, I was really worried about him and the friends and the dorm situation, because the high school that he went to was a really small High School, and he was absolutely fine. Now, my next one, my daughter, she went to college, and she had some anxiety and the dorm was really a tough thing for her, she got put in triple and that was not working.   Dana Jonson  16:15 They should never group girls in threes. I really, like we all learn that early, let's just not do it.   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  16:23 You know, as an accommodation, we got her move to a single room. And that was helpful, but then she wasn't socializing really at all. So eventually, we got an emotional support dog for her that lived with her in the dorm in her single, and that provided kind of the comfort to her. And also a talking point for people like who doesn't want to go up to a dog and you know, talk to the person that's, that owns the dog. So it helps her socially to, but it wouldn't have anticipated that when she was going. But I really want to I want to circle back to the How did I know he was attending classes? Yeah, most, one of the most important things I think, as a parent you can do. As I said earlier, your kid is an adult, they make the decisions at college, you can't find out about if they went to the infirmary, how you know what happened or anything like that, unless your child tells you or they give you specific permission. So FERPA is the law that covers you know, student information. And it's true in the elementary and secondary schools. And it's true in college. So you can have your child sign a waiver that gives you access to their academic information. And I found that really helpful because I didn't have to get on the phone with or FaceTime or whatever it was with Brogan and asked him about, are you going to class? Are you going to tutoring? I could contact this other person and say, I just want to ensure he's doing what he's supposed to be doing. And as long as that answer was, yes, I could focus on all the positive things that he was experiencing at school. So I really did find that that to be helpful. And I fully recommend and your child has to agree. So that's a conversation you want to have, before you get there. And you ask them to sign something, you know, they I think depending on how much support you give your kid throughout the years, they may or may not agree to that. So it's a conversation well worth having before you get into the situation.   Dana Jonson  18:20 But I think to that point, it's also it's an age where they are supposed to be growing away from us, right? They're supposed to be developing themselves. And we as parents have been so involved in everything, particularly if their disabilities, I know when my eldest went to a transition program, which is to transition to a college is for children who are college capable, but not ready. It was actually a huge relief. It was absolutely nerve wracking until she got there. And then I was like, oh, here's someone else.   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  18:54 What do you think I want him to stay there for grad school.   Dana Jonson  18:57 Right, but keep going. But it is, I think, hard to imagine, as a parent of a child who's heading towards college, that you might be okay with not having full access to everything that that that might be an okay thing. But you're right, you have to get the consent. And I think that there's a way to do that without your children feeling like you're still on top of them, because they don't want that feeling either. And I think just like you said, you know, this will prevent that, you know, I have somebody else I can call and say, you know, did this happen, or did that happen that I'm not bugging you,   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  19:33 right? And I have to say I saw tremendous growth, I'd say between junior and senior year in high school, where even going into junior year, I was uncertain whether he would go away whether he you know, wanted to be in college, whether he was capable of the workload. And there was this really, you know, maturation that happened in those years and then continued in college. Which I think we all kind of know now that your brain continues to develop till you're, you know, 25 or so. And I really saw a lot of evidence of that just in his even with the tutoring, he did have set appointments every week, he would go for help. And by the time he hit his senior year, he actually had the woman call me and say, he really doesn't need to come anymore if he doesn't want to, because he's, he's good. He's doing fine. And I thought that was great that he was able to know he had access to it at that point, there's no way he would have done that as a freshman. And that's why we set up the you know, the weekly appointments. But for her to get to the point where she could say, he knows I'm here, he knows how to access me. He doesn't need this regularly. I really was just tremendously proud of them.   Dana Jonson  20:47 What do you say to I hear this all the time with parents, I don't want the stigma of special ed or I don't want the stigma of that diagnosis. I don't want it to follow them to college. And my response is usually what do you want assistance? Do you want them to have the support they need? Because it's To me, it's not a stigma, I get where that comes from, I get that position. And I know that there are people out there who still feel that way. But in general, I see all of these schools opening these tutoring centers or additional programs within their college program. And I don't see the stigma, do you see that at now that you have children in college going through the process? Do they feel stigmatized,   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  21:32 they don't. And I have to say I have always looked at things like anxiety or learning disabilities, or those things like I have high blood pressure, I take medication for high blood pressure and I ever everyone listening now knows that I have high blood pressure. So Brogan has dyslexia, he knows he has dyslexia, he, for whatever reason is confident enough that he will say, How do you spell this and he'll ask anybody in a room, he he acknowledges he doesn't spell Well, he uses the tools available to him. And I think the fact that he is open to the fact that he has his disability makes it not a stigma for him, you do have to let your professors know that you have it. And I think that there are students that are hesitant to do that. But it doesn't go any further than that. It's it's not even like public high school where everybody in the office might know like, you really need to tell each individual professor, the combinations that you want. So if you're a strong math student, and you're taking a calculus course, and you don't feel like you need any accommodations, you don't have to go there. You can kind of, you know, tailor it to where your needs are. But I think two people needs to realize that, you know, autism, learning disabilities, all these things, there's so much more information about them. Now, colleges are seeking out kids with these things, because they recognize that there's so much more to them, and that they're absolutely cognitively capable. And in some ways, their brains work a little differently in a really good way that make them more creative or more responsive to different things, that there are more and more programs tailored to some of these students. So it's never been my position to want to hide it. I understand it's still out there. And I would just say there's so much more awareness now that it's not something that needs to be hidden.   Dana Jonson  23:23 And I feel that if the school is going to think differently of your child because of this, should your child go there? Do you want to send your child somewhere where they don't think they're capable? Because they have dyslexia? For me? The answer's no. Because to me, that's, that's just a that's an institution that's ignorant to what's transpiring in the world, and the fact that my child is intelligent and capable of the work. I also hear that argument of, well, if you can't read, then, you know, how are you going to survive in the real world and tell me if I'm wrong, I said, Well, this is school. This is how they learn to be in the real world. So we don't need to blindside them here and make it more difficult. But I think one of the things that students are learning is that self advocacy piece is learning what they're good or bad at, you know, I mean, my mother never was good at math. At no point has she done anything when she owned her own business, she had a bookkeeper, she does not do math, never done that she's not diagnosed with any disabilities. She's not, you know, none of that she just never going to do a career in math. So if reading is a real challenge to you, then perhaps once you've learned everything you need to learn in education, you may not choose a career where you have to read or if you're, you know, crazy like I am, you might decide to go into a field where you do but then you know how you have to do it.   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  24:44 Right? Well, and especially this generation is so technologically driven, that I have to say I think it was when Brogan was probably 17 or 18. He had a sign something and he looked at me like what do you mean? I said, Well, you put your signature down. It's like I I don't have a signature, what had he possibly signed before? You know, you don't people don't use checks anymore, you don't really sign you can digitally DocuSign things. And I was like, make one up right now. And there's so many, you know, ways to get around so many challenges with disabilities now. And I handwriting is a big one, because I'm sure you remember we hand wrote papers and things in high school and college and potentially law school. And if that happened now, there's no way you could read a lot of these kids handwriting because they grew up typing or text, you know, voice to text or whatever it is. So   Dana Jonson  25:41 look at it the other way, when we were growing up, the kids who couldn't write did have an alternative didn't go to college. Yeah, they just didn't go to college, because there was no alternative. So they couldn't get their thoughts across, you know, because of that handwriting components, or if it was a processing speed issues, so that they, you know, the thoughts were in their head, but they couldn't get them out, those kids just didn't go to college. Absolutely. And so we were just eliminating a whole population of students who were completely cognitively capable. Absolutely.   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  26:11 And, you know, I think to the, the fear that we didn't have was, this isn't going to work. The the attitude that we took was, well, if this doesn't work, there's other options. And I think you it's not a pass or fail, college worked or didn't work, you know, there's a lot of options, even going in community colleges, for to start are a great idea. If your kids not independent enough to live far away, or we had a backup plan, if if he went and he was not happy, he could transfer and that was, you know, that was a free pass, we weren't going to judge or have an issue. It's pretty common. And it's pretty easy to transfer between colleges at this point. So the fit, luckily, was a really good fit. And he's been happy there for four years. And as I said, I hope he stays there for graduate school. And just to be clear, the same type of accommodations would go into graduate school as the same process, he would have to notify professors, but he would have access to, I just want to talk for a minute about the type of accommodations that you can get, because some of them are a little different than than high school. Yeah, one of the nice things in college, you can generally get a note taker, which is an anonymous student in the class who volunteers to take notes and share them with another student, they don't know who the student is, and the student doesn't know who they are. But you get kind of a clean copy of fully taken notes, because a lot of kids can't take notes and concentrate on what's being heard at the same time. So those are things they don't really like recording classes. So that's kind of a way around it. But you still have things like extra time, you can potentially have a different environment.   Dana Jonson  27:51 Well, and also, I just want to set a put a plug out there for how that works in the real world. I was on the board of an organization, I was the secretary and I'm one of those people, I can't listen and write at the same time. And I shouldn't say I can't do that. Obviously, you do that a lot in meetings. But it as a rule that really keeping those detailed notes is always a challenge for me. And they very happily did the same place like it was, you know, somebody else who always took notes would just I'd get an email, and then I would take that combined with mine for what I had just to make sure and to make sure that I covered it. So if that was a real life, easy, easy thing, and no one had a problem with it at all, I was still able to carry out my duties as a secretary, I had this accommodation. It didn't, you know, it was very reasonable. It was not unreasonable things. So I also think that we sometimes say, Well, how is this gonna play out in real life? exactly the way it does in school sometimes?   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  28:44 Absolutely.   Dana Jonson  28:44 Absolutely. You know, so what are some of the other accommodations? I liked the notetaking? One, I've heard that one before. And I have heard that works? Well. What about Do any of your students have extra time for you count AMS?   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  28:59 Yeah, you can potentially get extra time. Sometimes you can take it in the Learning Center, an exam, the professors will work with the Learning Center and get the tests to the Learning Center. So the student is taking it their professors are people. So I am a proponent of really having an open conversation with a professor. And sometimes you might need the Learning Center to coordinate that or to facilitate that, because you might be a little intimidated. This is your professor but I have found both of my college kids have really been able to approach their professor or email a professor and have a conversation about things that would help them and the professors in all the cases have been more than willing. They recognize you're not cheating if you're, you know, taking something in a different environment that it's required for you to do your best. So, you know, I really encourage you to have those conversations. Yeah,   Dana Jonson  29:51 I think that's a good point here is the stigma that we talked about often is a stigma for the parents. It's not for the world. That's going on. Now, I mean, that was the case when I was growing up, right? There were things that were going on for me that my parents thought were like, Ooh, that's, that's taboo that really, you know, they weren't by the time my generation came around. So, you know, it's the same thing. Now we talk about that. But I find that at least with my children, the more we've talked about it, the more open we are about it, the less they see it as a stigma or as a concern or as a barrier. And I think that's really important. And it goes back to knowing yourself as a learner, and where your strengths and weaknesses lie. And the first time you're having that conversation shouldn't be when you're applying to college, you should be having that conversation all along with your child about where they may struggle, and then it doesn't make them weak, that it just makes them vulnerable to learning differently. But they're perfectly capable of learning if they're taught in the right way. But they're not going to be taught in the right way if they don't know how they need to learn. Exactly. So because at that point, let's go back to high school where and when do we start thinking about that? And, and I know, there are different philosophies. As an attorney, I don't always recommend that parents bring their children to the IEP meetings that I attend, because they're usually contentious. And we're focusing on what a child can't do. And I don't want the child there for that, because I'm the attorney. So we're obviously in a fight. But if I'm not there, or we're at a place where the adults are getting along, then I do support very strongly a child going to their IEP meetings and discussing their disabilities and understanding where they are. And in fact, when they finished high school, if they're going to college, they should have a summary, they should have a tangible piece of paper that says, These are my strengths and my weaknesses, this is what I need and what I don't need. And this is what I need to be successful in my next location, wherever that is. So what stage do parents ask schools to start considering transition? Because I know that depending on the state, you're in, somewhere between 14 and 16, is when your school's obligated to discuss transition, right? I think a lot of transition skills are focused on vocational components. And and it's much more we do focus more on college now than we did before. But I think for a long time, there was this misconception that transition services meant vocational pieces, but it's actually meant to for whatever you're doing next. And I think that for children who are going to college, there was a misconception that maybe they didn't need transition skills, but they do and for some kids that needs to start sooner than 16. So when and how can parents figure out when to do that? Or how to approach that topic?   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  32:46 Well, I think it's becoming more clear in schools that the responsibility lies in seeking opportunities for both post secondary learning and vocational skills, depending on the student and exploring both of those. And if your child is, you know, 1415, whatever the ages in your state, you should be seeing those goals and objectives in your IEP on how they're going to start looking for colleges, how are they going to start determining what their where their interests lie, there are a couple other, you know, kind of solid rules, like generally colleges want testing, that's within three years. So you're generally getting tested every three years if you're on an IEP, but that three years may not coincide with the college three years, and that in fact, that's what happened with us. Brogan had his testing and his freshman year of high school. So then when we were going to college, his testing was more than when we were applying to college, his testing was three years old. But when he would be accepted, it was more than that. And that just took a conversation with the college to say, do we really need to put him through all of this testing again? Or is this sufficient information and they said, it's sufficient. So even when you see a rule, like question it, or see if there's, you know, any flexibility in that kind of thing. But your your high school team should be driving the conversation at the PPT meetings when your child is of that age. But as a student and a parent, you want to have a lot of ownership of that. And, you know, start thinking about where your child's strengths and vulnerabilities are and what what they're interested in what they potentially could do with what their skill set is.   Dana Jonson  34:30 I think what's also important to note is that some states require that you have both vocational and post secondary education goals and objectives. So you also want to make sure that if you have one objective, or one goal in your child's IEP for transition and one is will seek interests in careers in the future, and the other is we'll look into colleges. Those aren't objective. That's not that's not okay. If you're questioning goals and dreams As you can go back to last week's episode where you know, Stacy and I pulled apart some transition goals and objectives and, and I see that a lot, the student will meet with their counselor three times and identify five schools in their range and what classes they need to take. Now that sounds to me like something that every high schooler does, at some point, they meet with their guidance counselor, they determine what if any, post secondary education would be appropriate for them, and then they start taking classes towards that goal. So putting that in a child's IEP junior year sounds a little late and not enough?   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  35:40 Absolutely.   Dana Jonson  35:41 Where should we start? What what kind of skills are we looking for? If a student is going to college? What kind of transition skills do we want to work on?   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  35:49 I think that's it's a really good question. And I don't have a definitive answer. But it to me, it comes. We're going through this right now with my youngest two, as I mentioned, as a junior, and trying to figure out she does want to go to college, she has no idea where or for what she kind of knows, she doesn't want to go too far. And the rest of it is, you know, talking through there's, there's so much on the internet now about how to how to choose a college, how to pick a college, what questions you should ask yourself. And I would encourage people to look at those and do some self reflection on what you need. Because it's a balance to me, because as I said earlier, my son was not ready to go to college when he was a freshman or sophomore, but we had to start thinking about it. And part of the thought was, he's not going to be ready. So how do we get him there? And part of him was some more independence, some social anxiety, and how do we address that, because again, you're you're putting a kid where every aspect of their life is different, not just the way that they're about to learn, they are going to have vast amounts of free time that they need to allocate toward the different things they need to get done. And they've never really had to do that before. So these are skills that I think every kid needs, in being able to develop those skills of time management and the kind of self motivation, if they're not motivated to do the work, the work is not going to get done, and they're not going to be successful.   Dana Jonson  37:19 Yeah, I ran into that with my oldest where, as I said, when I met her at 13, I was told she was going to be vocational. And that's just the way that we are planning things. So I just asked her and she said she wanted to go to college, and I really didn't know what whether she'd be capable or not. But I did know that if she wanted to go to college, we couldn't decide junior senior year that we had to start her on top of college geared classes, right? I mean, now there's facts when I was in high school, everyone, if you want to go to college, you went to college, or you didn't, but there weren't, at least I don't remember there being two distinctly different tracks of classes. Right. So, you know, there are pieces like that. I also I just spoke with a family not that long ago, where they felt that their child got into middle school, and the goals and objectives suddenly got functional, and not like academic. And I suggested in that situation that we do get a transition evaluation that early. And I think it's important for parents to know that you can assess transition skills at any age. Yes, and there are some skills that need to be addressed at a very young age. And my favorite example is a child learning to use a public restroom if they're a very impaired child, and most of the staff are women, right? The environment and a female bathroom is vastly different than that in a male bathroom. So these boys are being taught how to use a public restroom, five women, and you have, you have to think about how that impacts them and how it will down the road. And that's just a small example of how, you know everything ties into everything down the road. But it's never too young to assess those transitions skills. So even if you think your child is college bound, if you're unsure of what they need to know or learn, then that needs to be addressed. And as you said, maybe it's leisure skills. There's some kids who don't have hobbies who do not know what to do with themselves when given six blank hours. And that can be really stressful and it can create really bad ideas. Write them into trouble.   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  39:26 Absolutely. If you're if your child doesn't know how to be social and make friends and now they're in a room by themselves. And the only way they're going to go out and make friends is to put themselves out there. Those are hard skills as an adult to to use if you have any kind of social hesitation or anxiety for those situations, you know, talking through those things with your child and the school team and how to address them. It's really important.   Dana Jonson  39:53 And I think that's a key piece as well. Having that group of people you can find how do you find your people   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  40:00 Hmm, absolutely, yeah. And there's so many options, clubs and sports and, you know, academics, any area of interest is generally, there's something available for somebody,   Dana Jonson  40:11 students have to understand that it isn't interest, right. And that that's okay. Because I also find that sometimes kids in high school who have very past schedules, because they have a lot of learning disabilities, or what have you, I have one child who doesn't have a lot of free time in the evening, because it takes her longer to do her work, that she doesn't have the same level of time to be social. So she may not develop the same level of the hobbies or interests and get to college and not be accustomed to joining groups. And because we've removed those in order to get the surfaces that she needs. So we haven't, you know, it's like, No, you won't do that after school thing, because, you know, she wants to focus on a class, it's really difficult. But she's not learning that skill. She's not learning the skill of seeking out a group of like minded people, and then inserting yourself into that group. And I think we need to address that as well. And I go back to when I worked with a nonverbal population and teaching them leisure skills, you know, teaching the child, you know, do you enjoy doing the puzzle, then let's teach you how to sit here on task and do the puzzle for a period of time, so that you have that time to you know, that downtime, and that leisure skill that I think we take so for granted, and we're always still pushing our children to do better and better, sometimes we forget that they need to be good at that, too. They do. And it's funny, you say that, at the same time.   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  41:31 I mean, I think every podcast, you say this, or I say this, and you know your child better than anybody. And obviously, your child knows themselves better than anybody. And my middle child who was at college was very much into theatre. So we encouraged her and she loves to write. So it was like, during the journalism during the school paper, get involved with the musical. And she finally had to say, it's enough of an adjustment to be here. I can't put that additional pressure on myself right now. And it was a really good moment for her to advocate to us for herself and kind of showed us that we needed to back off and pushing her there, that she was happy. She was comfortable. She was successful in school. And she was doing that at her own pace, which was great for her.   Dana Jonson  42:19 Right. And I think that is the hardest piece. We are so used to micromanaging our children and their education. Because we had to write there wasn't there was nobody else doing it. And and it is, you know, they talked about that college cliff. I think parents hit it too. I know we, we fall right out like Wait, what am I going to do now? What am I going to do with all my free time? I don't have anyone to micromanage. Unless you live in my house. There's always somebody else. There's, there's no problem there.   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  42:46 Well, I also found that with each child that left for college, I got a new dog. Not that they're a one to one replacement. But I think emotionally I needed to replace that. You know that somebody needs me.   Dana Jonson  43:00 I just have What do I do now? I love it. I can do dogs. So what I'm hearing I'm hearing a lot of things I'm hearing that preparation and looking into the types of programs that schools have is really key. I think we need to get out of our mind that here's the list of schools that are good. And the rest are not right. College doesn't have to be done in four years. It doesn't have to be done. The second you finish from high school. It doesn't have to be done at the school, you were told you had to go to college. It's just there's so much availability now. And for better or worse. Now with COVID there's even more opportunity. Absolutely. Because for students who don't necessarily want to be in that environment, or can be in that environment, that social environment for a variety of reasons, are able now to fully access a college education. Yes. And I think that is that's a huge piece that has come to the forefront during COVID, which I think is a good thing. But we want to be careful to not fully isolate ourselves either. You know, I have a child who who loved it COVID hit and she was like I'm in I don't have to leave the house. I don't have to talk to people. My schedule is on the computer. This is brilliant, but she craves social interaction and she doesn't know how to do it, which is why that was so good for her. So we have to remember that just because we found one outlet for her that's really good doesn't mean we let everything else go. Absolutely.   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  44:22 I mean, I had one kid who my daughter was fairly happy with the remote learning she was home for a while. They did go back in person but she had the option to learn remotely and she does well with that mode. My son missed his ultimate frisbee team he missed the exercise he you know he was craving being on campus with his friends and his classmates and he also knows as a learner he needs that in person connection and experience. So luckily he would did go back mostly in person and they were they the colleges have done I think a really good job of controlling COVID and kind of locking down campus and running testing and from the beginning, a lot of them have. So they were both able to be successful, despite the circumstances.   Dana Jonson  45:11 You know, I think that there are a lot of components to this. But what I'm hearing is that colleges really do have a lot of what kids need, and we shouldn't be afraid to look for it. It's really about preparation, as with anything else, understanding what your child requires, and understanding what the school has to offer. Because if the school doesn't have to offer what your child needs, then it's not the right school. Absolutely. And I thought, even if they can get in,   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  45:40 I would not have thought that we would end up with him at a school that does not have an official pay to learn additional Learning Support Program, I've been very happy with the program that they've put together for him. And it was not something that I would have expected until we got in there and started talking to them about how they could support him.   Dana Jonson  46:01 Yeah, yeah. So I mean, that level of investigation and looking into it. And I also think, looking at a young age, you know, starting Middle School, that's what I say, you know, in middle school, you're not going to know what your children are going to do, or what they're going to be capable of. But it is when everybody else starts preparing, even if they don't realize that's when they're preparing it is when they are preparing, that's when they are starting to think about what classes their kids will take, that's when they start signing them up for sa t classes, that's when they start, you know, all of those pieces, a lot of kids are starting around Middle School. So you know, if you have a child who's going to be overwhelmed by taking the SH T's, then maybe they don't, there are so many schools now that they don't send them in, right, we're not, we're not even going to look at them. So don't bother, because they they don't measure your child's abilities. That way, if the school is going to measure your child's ability based primarily or solely on sh T's, and your child's can't do that, or won't, won't be able to show their full potential that way, then that's not the school for you. That's, that's the hardest piece to get through is which one is right for you.   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  47:11 And in both my college students went to test optional colleges, and did not submit any a CT or a CT scores, because they did not feel they were an accurate reflection of their abilities. And they're both highly successful colleges.   Dana Jonson  47:27 So and that's funny because I have one in an alternative school that doesn't, you know, require any of that, and she wants to take it, because she wants to show that she's doing the same stuff other people are doing, but I don't think she's gonna look at colleges that will take it. So I'm wondering like, what are we doing with these sh t? shirts? Were they gonna go? But you know, if she wants it for her own self assessment, then we'll do it.   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  47:51 Exactly my youngest just took them and who knows when it's necessary or not. But she wanted part of the experience. So she had the experience.   Dana Jonson  47:59 Yeah. So there you go. Take the shgs It's always a good time. Well, thank you, I really can't thank you enough. I think this is a lot of really good information. For other parents, I want people to hear this and realize that, you know, it's easy for us to focus on the barriers that our children have, and how challenging education is for them. And it is challenging for them. But they got through high school, they will get through the next level, if that's what they want. And if we can find the right fit. If it's like work sometimes, how many people have had a job that hated and quit?   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  48:30 Yes. And the reality is, if it takes you more than four years to get through college, in the end, it's not that big a deal. It's the gala, it's really not, it's more important that you're able to complete it, then you do it in. I know my son felt pressure to complete college in four years. And I don't know where it came from, because   Dana Jonson  48:51 he wanted to write no rush for him to get out. He wanted to right, that was his goal. That was his goal.   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  49:00 It related to his disability, and that he wanted to prove to himself that he could do it.   Dana Jonson  49:05 Yeah. Meanwhile, my daughter could care less. She could be there for like the next seven years, and she'll be fine. She's living her best life. And that's all good. We'll just stay here and this will be my life for now. But three years ago, would never have thought she'd be on a college campus. So to your point of maturing. And I think you know, that's actually a really good point, because I think we see many children developing a little later than we realize that children with a lot of learning disabilities, often they mature even later. So it's not unusual for us to have that concern earlier on or that you know, it's easy to say my kid does not seem mature enough to be doing what these other juniors are doing yet. That's okay. That doesn't mean they won't be junior year is not the end of developmental process.   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  49:51 Right. Right.   Dana Jonson  49:53 We keep selling. Wonderful. Well, thank you any parting tips any questions parents should keep in their mind To while they're going through high school with their kids that you can think of,   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  50:04 I think I realized that it's such an individualized process that even having my older two were back to back years. And it was a completely different process, because they're completely different kids. And what we were looking for and what they were looking for was unique to them. And that was a really important lesson that I learned, and is what's driving. Now my third look at college is what, what's important to you? Where do you feel like you'll fit and will be successful? And that, again, may change over the course of time? And that's okay.   Dana Jonson  50:38 Yeah, I feel like by the time I get this right, I'm going to be out of kids. That Well, thank you so much for I really appreciate you sharing your experience and all of this knowledge with us, because I think the more parents hear how typical This is, yes, it's a typical experience in many, many ways. Your experience is not different. You said do a little more detailed investigation. But I think, you know, this is this is doable. It's not as scary as it sounds. And I think our kids are way more capable. And schools are way more accepting than I think we recognize and and they understand the the importance of focusing on strengths at the same time as mitigating those deficits. Absolutely. If you need to find Laura, you can find her in my office on our websites, special ed dot law. And thank you for joining me I will have you back again. Thank you for not thank you so much for joining me today. Please don't forget to subscribe to this podcast so you don't miss any new episodes. And if there's anything you want to hear a comment on, go to our Facebook page and drop me a note there. I'll see you next time here on need to know with Dana Jonson have a fabulous day.
51:57 03/24/2021
How SMART are your goals?
With IEP season comes IEPs and with IEPs comes Goals and Objectives, the heart and soul of your child's IEP. So it is critical that your child's goals and objectives are Smart, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Today, Special Education Advocate Stacey Tié and I talk about what you need to know to make sure your child has SMART goals and objectives! We discuss what SMART means, pull apart examples from actual IEPs, and offer questions for parents to ask in their IEP meetings to help drive those SMART Goals and Objectives. Join us! You can find both Stacey and me at https://SpecialEd.Law and you can reach Stacey directly at Stacey@SpecialEd.Law The TRANSCRIPT for this episode can be found in the show notes at https://SpecialEd.Law/how-smart-are-your-goals  
46:47 03/17/2021
Beware the Ides...
With March comes IEP season and it's time to prep! Around the middle of March, schools start holding IEP meetings to plan for the following school year. School districts are slammed trying to schedule all the meetings, students are at the beginning of the end of their school year, and parents need to prepare to advocate on behalf of their child. So how can you be best prepared? Today I speak with special education Attorney Laura Heneghan and non-lawyer special education Advocate Stacey Tié about what parents can do to put themselves in the best position possible to be an equal member of the IEP process. Join us! You can find both Laura and Stacey at: https://SpecialEd.Law Laura@SpecialEd.Law Stacey@SpecialEd.Law
61:54 03/10/2021
Now You're the Advocate
Today I'm speaking with John Flanders, a special education attorney and former Executive Director of Connecticut Parent Advocacy Center (CPAC), about why learning how to properly advocate for your child is so important. We talk about the importance of understanding not just your child's disability but the special education process and law! John tells us where parents often get confused, take missteps, &/or go down the wrong path when advocating for their child. We also talk about how parents can educate themselves, get the best results, and know when to reach out for help. Join us! How you can reach John: 860.559.4706
39:53 03/03/2021
Cna yuo read tihs too?
Today I'm speaking with Kate Pearce, of Kate Pearce Educational Services, about reading deficits, assessments, and the importance of proper reading instruction. Kate is a reading specialist, educator, advocate, mom, and, yes... proud dyslexic! She provides reading assessments, instruction, and consultative services to parents and schools. Join us while we discuss what you need to know about reading issues! You can find Kate here: And you can find me here: TRANSCRIPT (not proofread) SUMMARY KEYWORDS reading, child, teachers, dyslexia, students, parents, read, writing, teaching, kids, hear, orton gillingham, language, talking, learn, dyslexic, test, kate, knew, trained SPEAKERS Kate Pearce, Dana Jonson Dana Jonson 00:00 Today I am speaking to Kate Pierce from Kate Pierce educational services. Hi, Kate, thank you for joining me. Hi, I Kate is a reading and language specialist or what I would call a reading and language specialist. I don't know if there's an actual list of criteria for that. But you are one of the go twos here in Connecticut. So I wanted to talk to you today because what I'm seeing, at least in my office, the vast majority of cases we've been getting over the last year, which would, by the way, coincide with the global pandemic, I've been mental health and reading. And not necessarily they go hand in hand, I don't want to freak anybody out. But I have noticed that those are the two primary that are coming to my office. And so we here in Connecticut are searching for people to assess and make recommendations for children with reading and language issues. And so that's why I wanted to have you on here because I want to talk to you about some of these critical pieces for teaching children with reading or language deficits that we may not fully understand. So for example, I'm sure many people have heard the term. If you're familiar with reading programs, you've heard the term Wilson reading or Orton Gillingham, or maybe even Linda mood Bell, or something along those lines. And these are different strategies. So Kate, I wanted to bring you in to talk about what are the issues that we're seeing pop up now? And and how do we address them? How do we assess them? And what what is the right way to find the proper services moving forward? So first, I'm going to ask you, why am I asking you? Why are you the person I meet is going to tell me what I need to know about reading and language. How'd you get here? Well, it's been a very long journey. Kate Pearce 01:51 It's not something you just fall upon. For me, I think everything in life kind of happens for a reason. And as a proud dyslexic, and the youngest of three with dyslexia, it's been long, but each phase of my career and life has brought me to this phase. So I was a special ed teacher in New York, and a general teacher and I have a master's in literacy. And no one ever taught me how to teach your child to read. And that's pretty scary when you have a master's in literacy. And I was gonna say and undergrad in special education. But I knew that I could help children in special ed in a special ed round because I too struggled. And here I was smart. College graduate from Fordham honor roll student in college, not so much my younger years or high school. School Board me in high school, I just was like, it's I went, I want to go to college because I wanted a party to be honest. And I want that social interaction and experience. But the thought of adulting was just a lot for me. Because I knew I was meant to do great things. But I just never thought I was smart enough. But I knew kids and I know people really, really well. So and I knew I couldn't be a psychologist or psychiatrist because that is just way too enjoyable for me. So long story short, I went to education became a special education teacher. And I was I realized I wasn't prepared to be it. You know, I have these students that couldn't read, but no one, I would give them more guided reading. And I have them in small groups, and I'd be looking at pictures with them. And they would make progress, but not the progress that they should have. I had a parent It was kind of like, you know, several years in and I had a parent say to me that she thought her child was dyslexic, and I 100% agreed with her. I just didn't know how to prove it. And it was the first time that a parent said that to me. And I went to the school psychologist and said, I have a student mom thinks the child's dyslexic. He said there's no test for dyslexia. And then I thought, That's odd. How is there no test for dyslexia? I know. You know, my brothers and I lived in the neighboring town and we have classifications is that how is there no real task, there has to be something. And I as a dyslexic, you do become insecure. You start to doubt your own knowledge and your own like I'm like, Oh, I guess he's right. There is no real test, although I knew I was right. But I just didn't know how to prove it. And Google wasn't really a big thing then. So I just kind of kept doing what was not really working. And at the time, I had a stepsister who was started. She was recently classified or got started privately working with an Orton Gillingham teacher. She was like in fifth grade or so. And she was making all this progress. And I heard her talking about her tutor and how and I'm like, wow, that's what my students need this explicit instruction that like So I brought it up. I said, I want to be trained in this thing called Orton Gillingham. Or maybe Wilson. And I was poopoo. They're like, no, you're in there, the literacy specialist came back up to my classroom showband do more guided reading. And I'm like, I just don't I don't get it. I don't get how these kids are going to learn how to read. And then I'm thinking, How the heck did I learned how to read. And really, I learned how to read because I did get some phonics instruction. And so they kept saying that the more you immerse, then these parents are not reading to their children. I'm like, No, these parents, they want to help them too, because they're struggling, but and they just don't know how to help these kids. They want to help. Dana Jonson 05:39 I remember that, too. I remember when I was teaching, there was a big, and to some degree, it was true, which was some of our students really didn't have anyone reading for them at home. And I, you know, in the population I was teaching, but at the same hand, I thought, I can't imagine that every kid here hasn't been read to do you know what I mean? It was a little hard to imagine that that was the number one reason for everyone's failure in the reading program. Yeah. Kate Pearce 06:08 Yes. And it's so I'm like, these parents are willing to their grandparents are willing to giving them sending them home more books, they can't like, and then I start to doubt yourself. And I don't know, like as a dyslexic, I just think I think you doubt yourself more, even though. And I do feel like coming back to that, you know, you're at the beginning of this like pandemic and depression. It's true, like, you do start to doubt yourself. And, you know, it's a terrible feeling. And it was, Dana Jonson 06:40 I think one of our coping mechanisms for dyslexia, at least for me is guessing. Right. So I'm guessing and when you get used to guessing it's a crapshoot. You're not always right. So I think maybe we condition ourselves to know that, you know, I might not be right. I might be guessing. I'm just used to doing that most of the time. And so I think you're right, that self doubt comes into play. When that's how you learned you learn by guessing all the time. Kate Pearce 07:13 It shouldn't, you shouldn't really have to learn to guess. And, like, yeah, it's an efficient way. And it definitely takes you longer to get there. But anyway, I was pregnant with my oldest. And it was I was a leave replacement. And it was just like, you know what, I can't do this anymore. And I decided to leave teaching. And I was like, I'm done. I'm saying goodbye to the teaching world. And I was going to be a stay at home for a little bit. But I knew financially we couldn't really do it. But I also knew that there was something else greater than me, although it was a very dark time and thinking I just have this new baby, I have a house have a mortgage, I have a family, and how am I going to support them? Because what else am I good at besides people and knowing them? And it's like the stars all aligned, and I was looking for jobs on Craigslist before it was creepy. And I saw an advertisement for this woman from the academy board Gillingham, which I had no idea what it really was opening a practice in that in Chappaqua, New York. And she was hiring people. So I went and sent her my resume. And I sat and talked further and I just fell in love from the first conversation and she just got me and it was amazing. And as we were talking, I asked her Wait a second is your daughter Katie, and she's like, yes. Turned out her daughter was the one who taught my stepsister how to read. And so it was kind of like, wow, this is ours aligning, stars aligning, and she was like, I'm a fellow from the Academy of Orton Gillingham. And I smiled not because I had no idea what the hell that was. And she's like, I'm going to teach you this program. And the first five minutes of her Orton Gillingham course, I was hooked. I couldn't eisert became a The good thing about being dyslexic and ADHD become obsessive over things. And I think I became obsessive like I it was my brain she was talking about it was how you learn how we're totally brilliant. It's not an intellectual disability, but a literally different wiring in our brain and how we process information and just getting the information to the right spot. And for the next decade, I was able to learn under her and learn the Orton Gillingham approach one student at a time with not having judgment or the pressure of a school district or I could do what's right and I could ask questions and Learn it. And it's taken me over a decade to really learn it well. And I think that's what teachers need to realize that it's okay. You might not know all the answers right away, because it is a process. It does take a long time to learn. But it's fascinating. And then long, long, long story short, after our business started growing so big in Connecticut that three years ago, almost she said, you know, Kate, time you take the reins, would you like to take over my business? And I did, I took over that portion of Connecticut, and we just have kept getting bigger and bigger. And so here we are today trying to educate parents. And yeah. Dana Jonson 10:42 And I think it's really critical, because, you know, dyslexia has become more known and understood, I think, over the years, but I also find in the last year, as I said, the uptake has really been in reading and mental health. And I think we can all assume we know what the mental health issues are, we're all stuck at home, there's a global pandemic. You know, I'd be shocked if we didn't have mental health issues going on with our students and our parents and our teachers and everybody else. But this reading component that has popped up, is it. Are you feeling that this is because I mean, are parents noticing more? Is it because we're relying more on reading? What is happening, that we're seeing this uptick in reading? deficits that we're finding during this pandemic time? Do Kate Pearce 11:38 you see I don't think there's an uptick of seeing, I think it's always been there, one in five children are dyslexic, one in five. But I think it's becoming we're shining a bigger light on it now. And there's a few reasons for that one, social media and decoding dyslexia groups like that. Parents are becoming more educated on what is happening in reading, they're starting to realize that their child is not reading. But what's happened is them the student being home, and the parents that the parents might be working right next to them. And they can't help them because they're working themselves. And the child is sitting there because they really aren't independent, like they, the parents thought they were. And it's the parents anxieties are going up, like why is like someone help my child, they're drowning, I'm trying to work. It's all and the kids being kind of left to their own devices. And then the kids feeling their own anxiety, because there's really no one there to help them unless they're in a breakout room. And they and they're being asked to be independent. And they're not independent. Dana Jonson 12:50 And if you find their kids, you can, sorry, do you find that kids can mass that more when they're in the classroom, because that's what I think is happening, I feel that it's not suddenly more kids have dyslexia or reading and language issues, it's that they're not able to pick up on all the cues that they were able to enlist before, that they had strategies, maybe that were helping them get through the classroom or through the day, and now all of that is removed? Kate Pearce 13:21 Is that part of it? I think that's part of it. Like, you know, I remember like, copying off the kid next to me in second grade. 13:28 Yeah, Kate Pearce 13:29 like, oh, okay, it looks and making it look like I knew what I, you know, I was doing kids are really good at faking what looks appropriate, because they want to be that. Right? So I do think that like, that's part of it, I think teachers could move around a little bit, obviously easier in a classroom or be like, sit over here, let me show you this, while they do three other, you know, work with three other students at the same time. So I do think that's part of it. I think that for the most part, kids that are just just struggling because there's no one there really to help them. And the parents are getting really frustrated because they're starting to see it too. And there's only one modality that they're being taught through the computer, and there's not teachers are not doing reading kind of the way it should be done. Dana Jonson 14:20 So when we're talking about deficit, such as dyslexia, and and I do think there's a good point that you brought up before we started recording, which was, I'd mentioned that you were a reading specialist, and you said, well, it's reading in language, which I think is a really important point. Because I think sometimes we think of reading as sort of off on an island there and either you can do it or you can't. But it's it's a much bigger component than that. Excuse me. So, when you talk about reading and language, how do those tie in together as, as a whole component that we're working on with children? Kate Pearce 14:57 Well, because reading is The goal of learning of reading is for comprehension, right, that's our end goal is to obtain more knowledge, but also part of reading. And language together is writing, writing is the highest order of language, and so be able to output their thoughts. So first comes reading, lots of first come speaking and listening. And then the next comes reading. So then writing. So if as soon as starting with a leaky bottom with like speaking and listening, if you have a child that's, you know, our late talker, or would get speech and language services for articulation, they might be starting with a leaky bottom. And so we got to make sure that we're addressing those students at the bottom. And then we go, you know, into that learning how to read properly. And then the writing, you know, writing is the highest order of language, it's the hardest thing. I'm a very good writer now, but it's also probably takes me twice as long to write more than other people. Dana Jonson 16:03 Yeah, I find it's really hard for I have all the ideas in my head, it's focusing them, to get them out is usually the challenging, narrowing them down when you talk about, you know, researching things incessantly, I call them my rabbit holes, you know, as I jumped down my rabbit holes, which has been helpful for me, and once I was finally diagnosed with ADHD, and dyslexia at 19, I had I knew which rabbit hole to go down, you know, and, and instead of studying everything a little bit, I could figure out what it was, and dive into that entirely. So, you know, as you said, you had a diagnosis of dyslexia, there had to be some kind of test for it. I am still hearing that I'm still having parents come to me and say, I know they have dyslexia, but I can't get a diagnosis. I can't get the school to a grade. Where does a parent start? When when you feel that their language and or reading issues for your child? And? And I do you think it's important to identify that those are the same and different? Because language is much bigger? Right? Reading just falls under one component of language? Yes. And so when you have any language deficit, it's going to impact you in any of those areas. Correct. It's not just like, Oh, I just suddenly don't have an issue here. But over here, I'm just fine. Right? It's it's across the board. So how do we as parents go about figuring out exactly what those deficits are? And how to address them? If we're not, if you know, if there's no test for dyslexia, but I'm pretty sure there is now Kate Pearce 17:42 Yes, I mean, for Yes, that is a lie. And if any district tells you that, or they can't identify dyslexia as a school team. Now, a guidance came out in 2016, saying that school teams are allowed to identify students with dyslexia and say dyslexia, it's not like there's a whole movement called the SE dyslexia movement, like, say it like it's a dirty, bad word. And some teachers are holding on to these old administrator tales that have been passed down to them. That saying that you can't say that, that it's not true. You can and the way we tell is, by not just there's not one test for dyslexia, there's many, and you look at, you just have to have a deficit in, you know, fluency, comprehension, decoding spelling, one of those will give you a, that is dyslexia, you don't have to have all of them. Usually you do, but you don't. But I always ask parents, when they come to me, I say, Well, where do you What were you like as a reader? And usually, that's the biggest indication. And for me with I have two boys that I started from the beginning. Like, I am going to teach them how to read properly from the beginning. And my oldest actually did a really good job. My youngest, of course, we were talking about four, our youngest kind of slipped through the cracks sometimes. Yeah, he is probably one of those kids out, although I was very with phonological awareness with him. I was crazy. He knew all his rhymes, and like he was ready to return to kindergarten. And so he did struggle though, because I kind of let him go off to dinner thinking that everyone knows who I am. And the fact that they know that this is how I want him to be taught. And he kind of got caught up in the whole language component of reading and by January, the kid who wouldn't go to school, and it was heartbreaking as a parent, but it was also Oh my God, I see. This is how all these kids that and I was able to catch it, but I had to prove that his stupid tra he couldn't read even though it was putting on kindergarten level. But one thing I do and parents, I think I suggest that if you really are concerned that your child's not reading, type up the book that the school says their reading and what level they are, put it on a piece of paper and type it and then have your child read it, and then record them reading and bring it to me. This is sound like a reader, you told me my child read that. And that's kind of what I did. Like you're saying, My child's a reader, but he's not. Dana Jonson 20:27 So what's the difference? When you say type up the book that they're reading? What is the difference between handing them that piece of paper versus the book that they're used to reading? Kate Pearce 20:34 So by doing that I'm taking I'm only making my child focus on the words and be seen not pictures, or the story or telling him background information like this little this book is about Bobby and Bobby is going to a circus today. And can you help him look for? And so I'm not giving him any other clues, just the words. And that's what we want. We want to I want to know if he could read the words. And it's really evident early on that. They're not readers based on, you know, your assessments, but Connecticut is getting better, although it is. They're doing universal screeners now. And so all kids from kindergarten through third grade have to take a universal screener, and it tests for red flags of dyslexia, or like any reading reaction, not just Oh, Alexia Butlin, Dana Jonson 21:33 so when you say universal screener, that means, like some kind of assessment that they give all students, Kate Pearce 21:39 all students so, and our My goal is to start it with pediatricians started at four, three and ask, you know, we asked, we're so we asked parents, like, pediatricians will say to me, I remember with my son's a little can, it doesn't make eye contact doesn't, you know, trust himself, can you do this, but they're not asking Kenny Ryan? And he, you know, what else can he do? Can he if I say cup, can he say, Towson that rides with a cup or a cup without the cup? Can he hear we're not asking those questions early on, which we should be because for having a phonological awareness is what we know. Now children need to learn to read Dana Jonson 22:22 how to children develop that phonological awareness. And, you know, I guess, you know, without getting into the argument over who should be raising our children, you know, whether it's a stay at home mom who happens to be a reading specialist, or, you know, or, or a child in daycare, or a child, wherever they are, what should we be doing to, you know, support the phonological awareness, because I think that we all think we are, I mean, I know I did, I knew I had dyslexia, I knew there's a good chance my kids might have it. I surrounded them with, you know, books and stuff like that, but even just listening to you. And as somebody who taught Wilson for five minutes in my life, at some point, as a special ed teacher, I still wasn't 100% sure what I was doing was right. So How can parents be more secure and sure about what they should be supporting, and then that's looking for in their child. Kate Pearce 23:22 So I would, I think the way I handled it with my second, I did a pretty good job, with the fact with rhyming, nursery rhymes, music, all of that will benefit your child before they start with kindergarten, we do not want to be showing kids, you know, letters, we're so obsessed with letters, and showing them letters and the sounds that they make. And we our brains were never designed to learn to read, our brains were designed to see objects. And the objects we see are in 3d. So when we give a child, a three year old, four year old, and we're showing them all these letters and sight words to memorize, that is not helping them learn to read, that's actually just doing the opposite. What they're doing is clogging their brains to memorize more things, and they're not going to have enough data in their brains to hold on to what they need to hold on to when they get there. So if I was, as a parent, what I tell all my clients that come through our door is start with phonological awareness, making sure they hear sounds, manipulating sounds, take little pom poms, different colors, and say, okay, up with different colors for each sound before without letters attached. You don't want the letters attached. And when they're so young, you just want them to be able to hear and manipulate the sounds. And then when they get to first grade or kindergarten, I mean, they will learn the letters, and then they'll be able to correlate the sounds with them and be able to manipulate them because they're starting to have a phonological awareness. A third of kids pick that up automatic They just have to be exposed to it, they hear it, they put it into their graphic memory. And they're, they're good to go. Those are natural readers. Dana Jonson 25:10 But I think I heard that because again, like I have one foot in the homeschooling world, and I hear people say, Oh, well, I never taught my kids to read ever, and they just sort of learned. And I think, well, there is a third of children who will write if they're just, if they're given material, and it's around them, they will develop that skill of reading. But that's only one third of children. Kate Pearce 25:36 Exactly. And what we do know is another third children need that explicit, or they get need to be exposed to phonics, and phonological awareness and the phonemic awareness and hearing the different sounds, but they'll get it sprinkled here and there and a teacher will point something out, and they'll be okay. Yeah, then we know another third children, the one and five are dyslexic, that need that explicit, multi sensory structured, sequential approach to learning to read. So they don't have to, you know, guess later on, Dana Jonson 26:15 get used to guessing. So, how do we, if we've assessed it, we, you know, when a parent comes to school and says, I have a concern, is it a regular psycho educational? That is the standard evaluation that all school districts do when we're talking about special education? Is that type of assessment going to identify dyslexia or rate reading and language deficits to the extent that we need them to? Kate Pearce 26:44 I will tell parents this, if you have concerns early on, like kindergarten, first grade, look at those assessments, ask them what screeners they're using, that are based on science, not observation, not like a D RA, or an F NP, they're called, those are all based on observations. We don't want that we what are we want evidence based screener and I'd look at those screeners because some kids do pass them, you then if you really do still have concerns, I would go to your school first ask for the testing, then when the testing comes back, they should be showing every substance core in there, because Dyslexics hide in the sub tests. And it's not just one sub test. It's not and it's not just one test. They shouldn't be doing, you know, just a regular cognitive. But they should be doing a gamut, like I'd want like it's called the sea top like that's a test of phonological processing. I want a real more in depth writing as if they're like, in fourth grade or actual third grade and above, you know, what schools will do it they'll say, Oh, well, we did the you know, cognitive Woodcock Johnson and in that their writing is average. Well, their writing is average, because all they have to do is put words in order, just like a spark. It's not intellect. This is not an intellectual disability. Dana Jonson 28:10 I think that's where we get confused. Because typically, children with dyslexia, again, their coping mechanism is to figure it out. And the coping mechanism is to present like you understand, not to actually understand. So the fact that a child with those deficits could present as fully understanding is what we should expect 28:36 your act. Dana Jonson 28:38 Yeah. Right. So I mean, that's that's the whole thing. That's I mean, when we talk about the insecurities and all those pieces that come from the entire coping mechanism is to guess what they're doing and and figure out how to get really good at that. So then I agree with you i that's why I was asking about the the psycho educational because a lot of times, I'll have a student come back and it says, well, the overall is well within the average range, but we have to look at Yeah, but within those smaller sub tests within it, do we see a lot of scatter? Are their skill sets all over the place? Or if the test comes back, that they're average, and they're still struggling? I would argue we need more assessments. And I feel like sometimes the the response that parents get are no, your child tested in the average range, so they're fine. This is not our problem. So what can parents say or do to dig a little deeper? I always say, you know, the more information the better. But would you recommend like a specific is there specific language that you think triggers that evaluation? Like what is it the parents are looking for? like yeah, I know this test says average but I'm still really concerned. Kate Pearce 29:54 This is I also this is my hurdle lately, what I've noticed now students grades are totally inflated, especially because of the pandemic. Yeah, it's really cannot. And so you have kids that are getting A's and are on honor roll, but they don't even deserve those A's. But the teachers feel like they're one they can't really assess because of the way they everything is. And they, they, meanwhile, teachers, they, they want, you know, all there for them, that is really, you know, they earned it because they are working really hard. So it's a false sense of security that parents are seeing, because teachers are giving these kids grades that are not really where they are. And we and the assessments that they're giving in the classroom are just complete garbage, and are not Yeah, like, accurate of who they are. And we're also not assessing writing, I give the child a writing sample, I can tell you so much about how that child can read their spelling, and what is going on just by looking at their writing sample. So as a parent, a give your child a piece of paper and say, write a story about a friend. Is there Can they write more than two sentences? Like Where are they? They should be able to write multi paragraphs by fourth grade. Dana Jonson 31:15 Yeah, I have. Well, so we had a foster some foster children living with us and over the holidays. And I asked the 10 year old, you know, I asked all of them, give me your Christmas list, right? So I get this list from a 10 year old and I was appalled. It was just it was there was no, it was not a child who knew how to write period yet. And he's doing great in school. Right? So I reached out to his teacher directly. And, of course, she's his new teacher this year, she's never seen a piece of his writing, because they've been distanced the whole time. So there's no writing sample. I don't I don't blame her. She had no clue. You know, when I when I showed her the Christmas list, she said her response was Yes, that's probably, you know, but we're in this crazy time right now, where it's, I don't know, if it's harder to identify or easier to ignore. Kate Pearce 32:14 It's easier to ignore. I think teachers are just so overwhelmed with putting everything on line and trying to figure it all out that and parents, some parents just don't want to know right now. They're just treading water themselves. And they're trying to manage working from home and making sure their kids are online, and they're trying to feed their families. So right now, parents are just in survival mode. But if this is our new reality, and who knows what the fall will bring, as schools and teachers, we have to get better at identifying them. So if that means having a parent, take a picture of your child's writing, and email it over to you, that's what we got to do. And let me just these kids are so computer savvy, they could figure out how to take a picture and send it to you, there's going to be very few children that you're not going to be able to get that from if you ask. Dana Jonson 33:14 Now when I was growing up and and to date myself, the world of computers was up and coming. And everything well, you don't have to learn how to write because you're going to type, that's what you're going to do. So you no longer need to learn how to write no one, you just need a signature. That's it, you don't really need to and I have heard the suggestion a few times that children get text to read software, which is a little different than just audiobooks. Text to read has a different sound. It's not somebody reading the material attempting to be just, you know, computer, generating the words, I have found, at least with my daughter that books on tape significantly helped her reading she actually reads while listening to them. And that was huge for her with fluency because she gets stuck when she doesn't understand something. So with the tape to push her forward, but what are your thoughts on on text to speak because I don't envision a world where we still don't need our reading and language skills. And I worry that we're looking towards sort of putting a bandaid on some of the issues and saying, Well, you know, maybe we could just get someone to read them the questions or we can get a reader. You know, what, what is your take on those kinds of accommodations that maybe aren't actually teaching the student but maybe just helping them get through. Kate Pearce 34:41 So as far as audiobooks and books on tape, I'm all for it, especially in the older grades because reading is made up of a formula. It's decoding plus vocabulary equals comprehension. So you want that vocabulary and the only and they're not reading grade level. material, that the only reason the way they're going to get vocabulary is by reading. So we Sorry, my son is half naked in front of me and happens. So you want that vocabulary. So if they're in seventh grade, fifth grade, and they're really at a first grade level, they have to have access to the same grade level materials, and they're not going to be able to read them. So right, what you want them to do is find a way to build that vocabulary and access to the same curriculum. Again, I cannot stress this enough, they are had the same if not higher, IQs as their peers, they just don't process language the same, but they can listen to it and be have access to the same vocabulary and the higher level conversations and thinking, I recently and this infuriates me, and I'm telling because I'm angry, I won't call out the district, but it's very hard for me not to, but I had a fifth grader barely read a second grade level. And I want them a part of this history and science cannot read the material. So instead of giving them audiobooks, or different little readers to help accommodate that, they put them in a second grade history curriculum, oh my gosh, is learning about communities don't even get me like I don't know why we're learning about communities. in second grade, we should be learning that preschool like every kid knows, the fireman is in the United States. So it's just, it was so one How humiliating for this child, who can't imagine to be part of the conversation and has great thoughts and ideas. There's learning about community workers. And that was their solution. Because he's reading at a second grade level, we'll put them in a second grade. And I'm like, absolutely not. The only way to build that reading is also to give them access to the curriculum and the vocabulary. So that's why with the writing, we have so far to go. In this country with how we teach writing we've gotten, we know what science tells us about reading, we know that they need a direct explicit structure, multi sensory approach to reading, writing, they need the same thing. So just letting a child dictate into a computer. First of all, it's going to be all off anyway, because they don't know they have a hard time with grammar. And it's not directly taught. Now, again, I never was told how to teach someone how to write I was, I would read books, and I knew I was a big into Teacher's College. And I think what I liked about teachers college was that it gave me something coming out of school, it gave me every lesson. Now knowing it wasn't backed by science or anything. But at least it gave me something, I had nothing. I had no idea what I was doing. So giving now looking back, like I'm like, Oh my god, all these kids need a direct writing program. And so that's what I've really been fighting for just as much in schools is to get these kids at direct writing program, like writing revolution, by Judith Hoffman, who taught at windward, it's a direct, multi sensory structured program that teaches kids from basic sentence levels and fragments to multi paragraph and how to come up with those ideas. Kids with dyslexia have a hard time with language in general, it's hard for them. So they're not going to have all the words to help them. But by just having them talk it. You don't talk the way you write. And it's unrealistic to think that if you could just do text to speech, all of a sudden there, it's going to solve their problems. Because what happens a teacher comes in and edits it makes it sound right. And then lo and behold, you have an A student that goes to college and Dana Jonson 39:04 doesn't know how to write that doesn't matter. Right? No, it's Kate Pearce 39:06 it's, it's Dana Jonson 39:08 interesting that you say that, because that is so true. And I think about even in my own office, when, you know, pre COVID, I spent a lot of time on the road. And so I do a lot of dictating, and it is not easy. It's really not it's not easy to dictate the way I want something written when I'm speaking. So I would imagine the reverse is just as difficult. And I think it comes down to that piece where we're not just talking about reading, we're not just talking about writing, we're talking about language, and the writing and the reading are the byproducts of understanding language. And I think we get that confused with as you said, cognitive ability. You know, if it's easy for us to read, somehow we must be smarter, which is just not the case at all. 40:01 But you also Dana Jonson 40:01 talked about very specific instruction for reading and writing. And that, you know, brings me to this other piece, which is once we've identified children with dyslexia or a writing issue, and they need that support, how are we providing it, and I feel like the reluctance to identify a child with dyslexia was really a reluctance to acknowledge they needed a specific kind of instruction that the school doesn't have. And that was the case versus the child doesn't have dyslexia. But now, we're allowed to say dyslexia, we're allowed to diagnose with dyslexia, we're allowed to say the child has dyslexia. So once we've established that, just saying a multi sensory approach is not the way to do it. And I know that because that's what we did when I was teaching way back when which was it's multi sensory, which means it's a little bit of everything and a lot of nothing. So what are we looking for with that instruction, once we identify that there's a deficit, whether we're calling it dyslexia or not, and it is impacting writing, and it's impacting everything else about this child's ability to communicate and learn what what type of instruction are we looking for, for the student who needs this? Kate Pearce 41:21 We do need a derived has to be it. This is a rabbit hole in itself. But it definitely has to be the teacher, the level of training has to be the highest level of training, at least, you have to have two teachers in a building that have or that are highly trained in a direct, explicit multi sensory, structured approach to reading. Now, every program, Orton Gillingham is an approach. And there's many different types of Orton Gillingham programs out there. But they all should follow a clear scope and sequence. And they all should have. And when I say multi sensory, I don't just mean i think that means something different to everybody. I don't know, like I was in a meeting last week. And I asked the teacher Well, what does that mean, multi sensory, and she was like, well, they have, you know, a pen, and they're writing. And I'm like, no, it multi sensory includes all senses, your reading and writing and seeing and speaking all at the same time. And you're using manipulatives. And you are addressing that phonological awareness component and phonemic awareness component. So many programs are not addressing that kids get into like a small group. And the teacher just starts, you know, talking and lecturing more than the kids are actually writing, hearing it, seeing their mouth feeling it. That's what we want our students to do that we want them to hear, see, feel, use all their senses at the same time to really get it in their brains, because especially Dyslexics, they don't see. They see pictures, they need that other sense to understand and really make it concrete. And I think that's where teachers get a little confused. Dana Jonson 43:23 And I think there's a lot you know, when you talk about something like Orton Gillingham, there is a specific training, right? So yeah, a lot of these programs, have specific trainings have specific hierarchies of who's trained and who they should be following under. So my frustration is, in hearing teachers or staff say, Oh, well, they're trained, and then find out they went to a weekend workshop. So, I mean, it's better than nothing. But are you finding that schools are getting to a place where they're willing to invest in the proper training for their staff? Or are we still, you know, under the, the pandemic, I think what we've really discovered in many ways is what schools can and can't do. And I find that we are seeking outside reading evaluators, much more than we were before, which I think is good, because I think school districts are starting to recognize that their own staff is not able to identify these issues at this point. And I feel like if you can identify them, how on earth are you going to address them? Kate Pearce 44:31 Well, this is the problem. They think they can identify them. But they're not. And that is a major problem. When they think they're a they think they're doing the right thing. They had a workshop, they had a training, oh, I'm trained now. But when you the way I could tell I could tell everything by a program by the IEP goals. Okay, I read an IEP goal, and it's says, You know, I just won recently and was like, will read more fluently I'm like, fluidly? What does the hell does that mean? At what level you have a third grader? Like? Are they reading at a first grade level more fluently? And how many words correct are they reading? Like, we're in knowing that knowledge and then at digging a little deeper, like, well, what were you using to it was all based on observation. And I'm like, Oh, no, but what we know with kids that struggle, and most kids need an a plan, an explicit plan to learn how to read, and they're doing a hodgepodge program. So these teachers get some training, and they come back to the classroom, and they don't implement it correctly, because they're still using their toolbox. Or they'll say Orin Gillingham is just a tool in my toolbox. 45:51 That's what I hear a lot. Kate Pearce 45:52 I do not want to hear that is a tool in your toolbox for my dyslexic child's? Because they don't need any other tool except knowing Is it a sound outward? Or is it a sight word, those are the only two tools they need, and that toolbox in the beginning. And then as a real strong Orton Gillingham tutor or teacher will know that, of course, our end goal is comprehension. And our our end goal is to teach them how to read and we're going to teach them comprehension and fluency. A good teacher incorporates all of the components of reading into their instruction. What we don't do is give them strategies. A little bit of this strategy and a little bit of that I do not want to see a child looking at the picture, and the first letter of a word to figure it out. Because what do they do when there's no pictures? If we're not teaching? And how do we know this is another big hot button issue got me all fired up now is that we're doing these, they'll say, I'm going where the child is. So I noticed today that they didn't know AI. So tomorrow's lesson is gonna have a lot of words with AI. And then I might notice that they have Oh, art tomorrow, but then it's not building on it. And so when that foundation, 47:13 yeah, and that's when I get Dana Jonson 47:14 frustrated, because the science shows that doesn't work. So why are we still doing it? And I have had to find a nice way to say that no, Kate Pearce 47:26 no, I don't I I will, I will tell you this. I recently was in a district, same actually same district that was using the second grade curriculum. And I said, the same thing. I said, Why are we using other strategies? like looking at the picture? And they were like, that director of Special Ed said, we're not a one trick pony. I said, Oh, no, no, no, yes, you are a one trick pony. When it comes to the science of reading, that we know what the neuroscience says how kids learn to read. And pictures is not beneficial to them as a reader. And her argument was at that level at a second grade, first grade reading level pictures is absolutely appropriate. You could sit there and argue to you're blue in your face, the face, I just send them the data and science after the meeting and just have them document that we don't want them using that strategy. It's not beneficial to them as a reader, because I'm also seeing kids whose parents think they have tracking issues. And I'm like, why I'm getting all these kids with tracking issues. So of course, my obsessive compulsive, nerdy side of me needed to dig deeper into why am I getting all these tracking issue kids? And because I and then I doctors are not really seeing it as well. It's because we're teaching kids to look everywhere. But the words, they're looking up at the pictures, they're looking, they're skipping, they're looking for clues. They're looking for clues, and they're not focusing on the actual word. And so like, Well, that makes sense. And so we have a bunch of kids that have look like they're having tracking issues, but it's not really tracking. It's just they're looking for other clues. And yes, we have to get, and I also had a superintendent of school I was pretty close with. And we were talking and she was telling me like, honestly, it's so expensive to get these two teachers trained, like, but what happens, you get them trained, and she found a workshop for them, which was great, like a 30 hour one and he listened. 30 hours is better than no hours. Yeah, but the poor teachers come back. And they don't know how to implement it. They have no one to supervise them. They have no one to supervise them or give them actual tools and like ideas on how to implement it. And here's a really great lesson in how we do it. And a plan, like your plan should follow this scope and sequence every time you Your your students should know where you're going to start every single time they should be able to tell you what's going to come next. And what that and it's reciprocal keeps going around like you every single time and it's just part of it. It's time teachers just don't have the time. Yeah. Dana Jonson 50:19 Well, and I think that's why we're looking so strongly to outside sources now, because we don't and training is harder to do in a pandemic. So we're looking to people who are already trained, who know what they're doing. So what is it that you bring to the table? Okay, so you do assessments, do you? You know, I'm just curious, like your cape Pierce educational services, do you consult? Do you help set up programs? Do you just do assessments? What do you bring to the table in this process, Kate Pearce 50:54 I bring it all to the table, I bring my everything I bring my knowledge of you. I have over 15 to 16 tutors that are all trained in Orton Gillingham at a minimum of a 16 hour course by a fellow Dr. Brown, who trained me. And then they get to learn just like I did one student at a time they get, you know, we bounce ideas off each other, I get to mentor them, and they become experts, if not better than I am now at it, because they get to have that luxury as well. So when this child comes into my practice, I do an assessment, usually informal assessments to kind of see where I would start and where the holes are. Sometimes I'd say listen, they need more speech and language testing, or they need a full neuro psych. There's more going on globally than right now then I could test for if you come to me with a lot of testing from the school or what have you, I will take it and I will come up with a treatment plan. I tell kids, I'm like a detective. I take clues. I will take clues from your parents, I take clues from the student, I asked them a ton of questions like how do you feel about reading? What do you struggle with it? Don't tell me what your parents you've heard your parents say? Or you've heard teachers say what are you feel like it's happening, kids are really a really good indication of where they struggle, what they need help with. And then I put it all together in a treatment plan of what skills we're going to work on right away. This is where we're going to start in the word Gillingham program. And this is how we're going to remediate it. And this is I'm going to put this child with this tutor because they're a great match. Now sometimes we get calls a lot of times now from schools and they'll call me and say, Kate, we have a student for you that really needs a more intense, you know, remediation, and one of my tutors will go into this, we'll do the same process, I'll look through their IEP, we'll come up with a plan, we'll meet with the schools. And that's actually becoming one of the more favorite parts of my job. Because I do get to for so long, I felt a little lonely. I just saw these students and then I leave and then I had no other adults around. Right? You know, but so it's great to collaborate with these teachers and be like, Okay, what is happening? Why are you able to, you know, we're going to do the decoding part you work, you could work on fluency. And the way you're going to work on fluency is we're going to give you what to work on. So you're not kind of overstepping or we're going to help you understand that you're missing you're doing Wilson but your child's not making progress, why well look at their phonological awareness. Again, that's where we learn start to learn how to read they don't hear sounds, listened doesn't incorporate that how could so I'll help teachers and give them actual lessons and do it with them and show him how to do it instead of just giving them a bunch of theory about how it should I will show them how to do it. Dana Jonson 53:49 And I think an important piece that I've heard you haven't said it directly but what I've heard from you is that just because you are following a very prescriptive program does not mean there's no individuality individuality sorry you know you're still individualizing for the student. Kate Pearce 54:05 I think we get confused with that sometimes Dana Jonson 54:07 I hear teachers say no I individualized so I just use what I need. No is a complete comprehensive program whichever one you choose, and or that the child requires. And following that program within it there is individuality 54:23 Yes. Kate Pearce 54:25 Individually says but this pick your own adventure. Yeah to read is not beneficial to any student at all. And we've gotten so far out into that's how that you know, it's reading is boring. We need to give them a they love. No, it's not. You are the teacher, you need to direct the ship and that is how they're going to learn. They will love to learn how to read when they learn to read. 54:52 Yeah, Kate Pearce 54:53 but we can't do this pick your own adventure. If you're into butterflies, you're gonna learn about butterflies and if you're into space, you're going to learn how to space And then we're going to go from that note we were on. And that's how I was trained, I was trained, and we have to make reading fun and engaging. But it'll be fun into gauging when they actually learn how to do it individually. So it's a science, if you go to the doctor, they're going to give you a formula to follow. It's not, it might be a little different than the next person that comes in, but they're probably going to give you you have to follow it to the tee. And that's, you know, what we do. And there are times where I'm like, this tutorial model one on one is not helping, they need more than what we can give them. And sometimes students need to be in a program at like a school, where they're immersed in it all day long. Yeah, and they are getting it from every angle in writing, reading, you know, science, math. And that's okay, that's my job to be like, it's time to wave that white flag and say, we surrender, because, as teachers, we want to say we can do it all. But there are students that just need more than what we can give them. And a good educator will be the one to say they need more. Dana Jonson 56:07 And I think it's fair to say that we can't all be good at everything. So that includes teaching. And I think a good teacher understands when they don't understand something. And yes, you know, most I find most teachers are in it, because they like to learn and they want to keep learning and your class is never the same. And it's always different. And a lot of that is exciting. But there's no shame and I can't do this. And and I think we rely too much. And we expect teachers sometimes to be miracle workers and and they're not, you can't be providing a one on one instruction for a student, when you've got 25 kids in the class. That's just a reality. But that's why parents have to become their number one advocates for their students. And so for parents who are listening to this, who are saying the only person I can talk to is Kate Pierce, she's the only person who knows what's going on. That's a smart Kate Pearce 56:58 person, Dana Jonson 56:59 that's a smart person, right? How are they going to find you? Where am I going to so Kate Pearce 57:04 you could go to the empowered And you can find me there. I'm also on Facebook under Keith Pierce educational services, but probably through my website, and you could just send me an email. Dana Jonson 57:18 groovy. And I'm gonna have all that information in the show notes. So if you're listening to this, and you can't remember it, it's non-problem, go back to the show notes and all of Kate's contact information will be there, as well as other information we discussed. And I really do hope that you'll come back and and do more podcasts with me because I feel it is even scratched the tip of the iceberg of reading and language. But I am really glad that we got this sort of overall 57:50 picture of Dana Jonson 57:53 what we need to be doing, because I think it's really helpful to hear the bigger process and say, you know, this is, we are individualizing, even though it's within specific programs, and that the hodgepodge take a little bit of everything really isn't the way to teach this skill. So I'm hopeful that people will take that away from this and call you or call me and make sure they get the right services they need for their child. Kate Pearce 58:19 And what just one thing I want to add is we need to get teachers to be on the same side as the parents. So often we're on the opposite side, and it kind of puts the teachers back up against the wall. If we were able to empower the teachers, by getting them the right instruction that they need will only help not only our children, but other students as well. So as frustrated as we might be, we have to be advocating to get the teachers the right support. Dana Jonson 58:49 Agreed. And I I do say that, you know, parents have to become the number one champion for their child's education. And if that means a staff working with your child needs additional training, then that's part of it. Yep. And we should not be afraid to ask for it. So thank you, Kate. I really do appreciate all of this insight. Thanks.  
56:37 02/24/2021
Where I Lay My Head
Today I speak with Marc Bonaguide about residential placements. Marc is the Clinical Supervisor at The Glenholme School based in Washington, Connecticut. The Glenholme School, also known as Devereux Glenholme School, is an independent coeducational therapeutic boarding school situated on over 110 acres in Washington, Connecticut. The program there has successfully serviced students with disabilities in need of residential support. We discuss why residential programs are necessary for some students and when parents might want to consider them. Join us! You can reach Marc here: You can find The Glenholme School here:     Vurbl
37:09 02/17/2021
Language is the Doorway to Wisdom
In this episode, I speak with Jeff Bravin, Executive Director of the American School for the Deaf (ASD) in Hartford, CT to discuss the importance of a literacy and language rich environment (their version of LRE). Not only does ASD serve deaf and hard of hearing students, they also have a successful program for hearing and non-verbal students with Autism. Jeff's Bio: Jeffrey S. Bravin has been employed at the American School for the Deaf in West Hartford, CT since 2002. He is currently the Executive Director responsible for oversight of the school. He reports directly to the Board of Directors with responsibility for carrying out the vision, mission and goals of ASD. Prior to assuming this role, Jeff served as the Assistant Executive Director/Chief Operating Officer of the school. Prior to that he was the Director of Special Projects which focused on logistics related to the building of ASD’s new State-of-the-Art Educational Facility, the Gallaudet-Clerc Education Center--as well as ASD’s PrintWorks as part of ASD’s Technology Center. This role also included supervising Information Technology Services, Security, Sign Language and Interpreting Services, as well as the Isola Bella Summer Camp. Jeff also assisted in fund development, special events and public relations strategies, including managing alumni relations. He earned his B.A. Degree in Government from Gallaudet University, M.S. Degree in Deaf Education from McDaniel College (formerly known as Western Maryland College), and M.S. Degree in School Administration and Supervision from Queens College. You can find Jeff through the American School for the Deaf's website:   TRANSCRIPT (not proofread)DRAFT01_NTK_EPS27_Language Is The Doorway To Wisdom SUMMARY KEYWORDSdeaf, child, students, language, parents, people, hearing, asd, public school, education, least restrictive environment, educator, captions, school, special education, program, interpreter, absolutely, environment, teacher SPEAKERS: Jeff Bravin, Dana Jonson Dana Jonson  00:02 Hello, and welcome to need to know with Dana Jonson. I'm your host, Dana Jonson and I'm here to give you the information you need to know to best advocate for your child. I'm a special education attorney in private practice, a former special education teacher and administrator, a current mom to four children with IPS and I myself have ADHD and dyslexia. So I've approached the world of disability and special education from many angles. And I'll provide straightforward information about your rights and your schools obligations, information from other professionals on many topics, as well as tips and tricks for working with your school district. My goal is to empower you through your journey. So please subscribe to this podcast so you don't miss any new episodes. And I want to know what you want to know. So like, follow and drop me a note. Um, I need to know with Dana Jonson Facebook page. Okay, let's get started. Today I'm speaking with Jeff braven, who is the executive director of the American School for the Deaf. Hi, Jeff, thank you for joining me.   Jeff Bravin  01:06 Hi, Dana. Thank you for having me today. I really appreciate this opportunity. Wonderful. And I should mention to my listeners, if you notice that there's a little gap between my speaking and Jeff, and you might have been a little surprised to hear a female voice. Jeff is in fact deaf and we are communicating through his interpreter right now.   Dana Jonson  01:25 So, Jeff, I would love it. If you would give me a background. I would love everyone to hear about what your background is and how you ended up at the American School for the Deaf and why I am looking to you to tell me what I need to know about students who are deaf and hard of hearing.   Jeff Bravin  01:45 Sure, thank you, Dana. Just a brief background about myself. I was born in upstate New York, Kingston, New York. I was born to a deaf family. Both my parents are deaf. And I have to say my circumstances were a bit unusual. I am a fourth generation deaf in my family, my parents, my grandparents and great grandparents are all deaf. And that's very unusual in our community. About 95% of deaf children are born to hearing parents so we were not the norm. The advantage of my family is that I had full access to communication from birth on. But my parents realized that there were no deaf schools in the Kingston area where I was born. So my parents searched, and they found a deaf school Lexington School for the Deaf in Jackson Heights, which is in Queens. And that was a two and a half hour drive from our home. So my mom would drive me with the infant program and bring you there three times a week. And I have to give my parents full credit for taking that time to drive me to the program to make sure I had the appropriate education access language communication access. And after several months of driving, my parents realized they had to make the move, so they decided to move closer to the school. I grew up going to Lexington and I had Deaf peers. It was a fully accessible environment for me as a deaf individual. By ninth grade, I realized I was doing really well academically and I was curious about public schools and what they were like so we started looking and we found a public school in Rhinebeck, New York called blind burn High School. And really, I was living in Pelham, New York, but Pelham school district did not have the full accessibility in terms of services that I needed. So going to ride Brook I was able to have full access to all services. I had a professional interpreter and professional notetaker for myself, so I was able to have full access to all of the classes. So I ended up graduating from that high school and some have asked me what the differences were between a public school and a deaf school. And I have to say the education was really very similar. But I have to say what I lost was my social peers growing up at a deaf school and being around so many deaf people, everything was very social and interactive for me. When I went to the public school, I only had four or five Deaf peers that I interacted with, but there were also hearing peers that I was around as well. After high school and graduating I decided to go back to the deaf community and I went to Gallaudet University in Washington DC. I got my bachelor's and government studies and started working actually at the IRS. I found that that was absolutely not my cup of tea. So I went back to see my teacher at Galena I said, you know, the IRS is really not for me. And my teacher said, You know, I think you would be really well off as an educator, I think you would really enjoy that. So I headed off to Western Maryland College, now known as McDaniel University and got my master's and Deaf Education decided to head back to my alma mater at Lexington School for the Deaf in New York and got started as a high school teacher. Now while I was there, I also started taking some education administrative courses at St. John's universe. In Queens College, took those courses and graduated at Lexington, I moved up to the Director of Development. And then I did really well there. I worked with fundraising and the American School for the Deaf at that time, the superintendent was Dr. Harvey corson. He happened to hear about me. And he reached out to me and said, Hey, why don't you come on over to Connecticut? And I said, Connecticut. Now listen, I had grown up in New York, it would be hard for me to leave New York and he said, You know what, give it a year. I said, Well, alright, at least it's still New England. And I thought, let me try it for a year. Well, I've been here 19 years now. So I moved up the ranks here at the American School for the Deaf, I started in a position with the development department, then I worked my way up to assistant executive director and now I'm executive director. And I've been in this role for seven years. It's a wonderful place. It's an amazing environment, our staff are just incredible. And our mission, always is helping every individual child grow and thrive here at ASD.   Dana Jonson  06:05 And what you say is really interesting, because being fourth generation deaf, I presume your parents had a sense of how to speak to you and how to communicate with you because they themselves were deaf. I think when you have children who are born to hearing parents, it might be different, because it might take longer for them to realize that they need to sign I remember my son was a year when they said they thought he might be deaf. He's not he ended up not being deaf, but it was he was about a year. So when they told me that they thought he might be and so that's a long, long time. What kind of language milestones are we missing for children who are deaf or hard of hearing when we're not addressing it during those first couple of years?   Jeff Bravin  06:52 Great question. So I think in terms of hearing parents who find that their child is deaf, I think there are various stages they go through, perhaps initially, there's some shock. And now more so than there ever was, there's so much information out there, which is good, but it also can cause a lot of confusion for parents. So we work very closely with Birth to Three group. We also have Early Hearing intervention and detection group, we all work together to talk about how we can better educate families that do have deaf children, so they can have that early identification of that hearing loss. Once we have that clear identification, we can help guide them to access the right kind of birth to three programs so that we can work with the families and help provide them with a full awareness of all the different options that parents have, the earlier that we can introduce language to their children, the better off they will be. Now I have to say this has been quite a challenge over the years, not just here in Connecticut, but nationally, where people really are trying to figure out or sometimes people think I know what I'm doing, even sometimes the school districts who may say, Oh, absolutely, we can educate this child and they start working. And by the time the child reaches 11 1213 years old, they realize they're not able to educate the child properly. And they try to find another school for that child. And I feel it should be the other way around, bring the child to a deaf school where we can provide full language access and communication so that that child can have a strong language foundation before they go on to other programs.   Dana Jonson  08:31 So what I'm hearing is that you prefer a proactive approach rather than a reactive approach, which I could not agree with you more on. And I feel that we have that issue with many disabilities in the public school, which is we wait for the child to fail before we bring them to the services that they need. And as you are probably aware, in the IDA, the term Least Restrictive Environment gets thrown around a lot. And I always tell people, it's the least restrictive environment that is appropriate. We have to maintain that. And for a lot of students, I think they need that more restrictive environment in order to prepare to go into the least restrictive environment as as you were just saying, what are some signs? So I'm just curious for really young children because as I said, it took a long time before I was told that it was a possibility. What are some signs that parents can look for that you might see in Deaf children because I presume that they can also see and identify their environment and pick up on cues that way?   Jeff Bravin  09:38 That's another good question. But I do want to go back a little bit as you mentioned, Least Restrictive Environment oftentimes at ASD, we actually changed that acronym LR II to mean a literacy and language rich environment. The idea is that we want to promote strong communication access and language access here at our school but anyway, in turn of identification for children and what parents might notice. Even today, it's so much better than it was 15 or 20 years ago, I want to say 99 to 90% of children are identified with a hearing loss at birth with the testing and the screening procedures that we have. Now, however, that being said, there are some children that will pass that test and later on mom and dad might notice something's a little different. So for example, if a parent was to call out their child's name, and the child does not turn their head in response to that, or if the child does not start to speak until much later, or has, no speaking at all, parents might start to wonder or if a child reacts to a lot of visual cues, that might be another indicator if the child is very visual, and relies on that more so than their hearing. So those are a few signs where parents may wonder that their child has a potential hearing loss. And perhaps the parents should bring their child to an audiologist, for follow up evaluations to be able to determine whether or not there's a hearing loss or another issue at hand that the child may have.   Dana Jonson  11:06 Wonderful. So when you talk about your LRE, the literacy rich environment that the students need, what does that look like for a student who's deaf or hard of hearing? What do they need in that classroom to provide them the understanding? Again, going from what you said, being proactive, not reactive. I suspected I'm all over the place, sorry. But when we are reactive, we are addressing one particular thing. And we're saying, okay, that didn't work. So let's go put a bandaid on that. But when you're talking about language and communication, you know, putting that bandaid on is not helping the bigger picture of communication. So what is it that those students require? Who need that language build environment.   Jeff Bravin  11:59 So I can give an easy example. So if you have a hearing child born to a hearing family, they will have constant exposure to sound and communication from birth. And just that incidental learning that comes from being in an environment where they're able to hear pick up on sounds and communication. a deaf child does not have that. So if you don't provide that deaf child with appropriate interventions, which either could be sign language, or as a way of picking up communication, or speech and language therapy, as long as the parents are paying attention to those kinds of interventions and processes, oftentimes, parents are surprised and not sure what they should be doing. And that causes a delay. And the longer that delay goes, the more that that child misses out on that language acquisition. And I always say that a child's brain is so much like a sponge. And that critical language acquisition period is from birth to eight years old. And that is where children are really able to absorb and take in all of that language and learning which is so critical for their development. Here at the American School for the Deaf, we have the right kinds of professionals who know about language access, who know about education and how to acquire language. And so we're able to provide children with all of those necessary true tools to succeed and thrive. A lot of times people also asked about our school and why we call ourselves a bilingual environment. So here we have two languages, we have English and we have American Sign Language. So American Sign Language is a visual language. Now if we look at English, you could look at it as reading, writing. There's also the listening and the spoken English approach. We offer all of those options at our school, depending upon the child, some children will thrive and grow quickly with American Sign Language. And we will absolutely reinforce that and help them grow. If the child decides that they eventually want to move on to public school, because they have done so well, that's great, or if they stay with us, that's great too. Some children do not benefit from that some benefit more from the listening and spoken language environment. The point is, is that we want to be able to provide children with full access to almost a communication until it's determined what is going to work best for them. Also, another important fact to consider is that peer to peer learning, which is something that we have here the American School for the Deaf, there are peers where children are able to learn from each other and grow with each other. In other environments, there may not be any other peers that are like them. And so sometimes children feel lost. And I can use myself as an example. When I went into public school even though I already had the very strong language foundation. I didn't have any kind of benefit from sound or spoken language because that was not something that worked for me. However, I still struggled even with a strong language Foundation, I struggled to interact with peers, there was absolutely a group of peers that were eager to learn sign language or write back and forth with me. And I was able to interact with them too. And then there were other people Here's at the public school who just didn't want to deal with any of that. So it was an interesting mix. But I have to say today, with all of the changing technology, accessibility is so much greater than it used to be.   Dana Jonson  15:12 And that's definitely something I was going to ask you and I, but back to the, between birth and eight years old is really the best time if we can get the intervention intervention to a student. You know, in public school, we're restricted with the resources that we have sometimes. And so whether it's Signed English, or ASL, which I think it's important to note that American Sign Language is a language. It's not just about signing the words that we say. And it was created by Gallaudet, who was French, which is one of the reasons I always love it, because I grew up in France. And so the structure of the sentences reflect more French than it does English, or maybe you know, American English. So I like that. But when we're talking about giving students the tools that they need, do you teach them how to survive in a hearing world, where they may encounter people who don't know how to communicate the way that they do? Or who aren't interested in it? Is their life 101 a baby for the death?   Jeff Bravin  16:23 That's a great question. So now I have to say let me back up a little bit. I am an educator. And so I will always provide clarifications when I see things so galley that actually was not French. He was born here in America and Thomas Gallaudet went to France and found a deaf educator lo and Claire, who came back to America with him. And that was actually how our school was founded. But you are correct. Thomas Gallaudet learned quite a bit from France and Laura and Claire also learned quite a bit about America and English from Thomas Galya debt. And that actually was how American Sign Language was developed. We started with French sign language. And we also had brought in some members of a very famous Deaf community, which was from Martha's Vineyard. We also had students at the beginning of our school who had their own home signs and all of that blended to become American Sign Language as we know it today. But going back to early interventions, absolutely, yes, it is critical that children ages birth to aid have the appropriate support in place. And people that understand that oftentimes, if a deaf or hard of hearing child goes to a public school, they have an educator, that's true and a teacher in the classroom. But is that educator Do they have the background and the knowledge of deaf and hard of hearing individuals here in ASD, we do have all of the educators with that specialized kind of training. And that's really the benefit of having the children come to our school because we are able to help those children grow and thrive. And we have some students that go on to go through college and come back to the field of Deaf Education much like I did, even though I could absolutely go work in the hearing corporate world, I wanted to come back to education. And so we do have a lot of deaf individuals that have gone on to work in different capacities, not just deaf education. But I have one example back in the 1980s, we had maybe just three or four Deaf attorneys in our entire country, after the Deaf President Now movement at Gallaudet University. And after ADA was passed, we now have over 400 Deaf attorneys in our country alone, and they work fully with hearing people side by side. They may have some deaf clients, but I really don't think that there are that many deaf people who get into that kind of trouble. No, I'm just kidding. But just overall, we have deaf people that go on to find professions, for Apple for Google for all kinds of corporations, construction companies. And oftentimes year after year, we host something called a career fair day at our school, where we invite these Deaf professionals that work in a variety of fields to come to our school so that our students can see, oh, I can be this or I can be that or if I want to go on to be like this individual. That's something that I can do. So we offer those opportunities to our students.   Dana Jonson  19:12 That's wonderful. And I love that you now have people who can be the example I think, in our world right now we're for the first time starting to really acknowledge how important that is for students to not only have peers that are similar, but also mentors and teachers. And I know that in our country right now we're addressing or we're talking a lot about that as it pertains to race. And it also pertains to disability in any way. So how do students who have been identified from birth had all that language provided to them, and then they go to school that is meant for them? How did they then also learn how to handle themselves in a world that doesn't understand them? Is there like a separate component For that, if that makes sense.   Jeff Bravin  20:05 So I think it's important for the students to have role models to see how they are able to function in the hearing world. Now, as I mentioned earlier, technology really has been a game changer, I could email you, and you would never know that I was a deaf individual, you would assume that I was a hearing person until we met in person and you would say, oh, or if you received a phone call, you would say, why is this guy's name Jeff, but he's got a female voice. I've been called Jane, I've been called so many different names. But you know, that's how you I would identify me as a deaf person later on. But I absolutely can do that. Only if I have that strong language Foundation, I'm able to do this. But without the language, it really is a tremendous struggle and challenge. So that is why I always come back to the importance of language. And once you have that, then you can be whoever you want to be. And you can absolutely grow and thrive, you can have those social experiences, you can go on to different professions. Here at ASD, we have some students that may make the decision that college is not their forte. So we have something called a transition program, where children ages 18 to 21, can either stay here or come here and learn about different career fields, and get experiences as interns not on campus, but out in the real world out in the community, so that they can have those experiences with supports in place to learn how to work with hearing people. And then after they leave that program, they're able to go on and be very successful. And oftentimes our students that start work as interns, a different job sites actually go on to be hired. So that's really how we help our students get prepared for different careers.   Dana Jonson  21:52 Well, and I think that would be the number one barrier, correct? Is that in for an employer? Can I hire them? Because how am I going to understand them? or How are my clients going to understand them? So, as you said, allowing that employer to see how that works, and understand that it can work and that it is beneficial to them? It has to be its own program. Right.   Jeff Bravin  22:19 Right, exactly. And oftentimes, initially, the employer may have a lot of questions and be very hesitant, but really, it's only a matter of days, or even a few weeks, where the bonds are formed. And it absolutely is amazing. People always find a way. And I'm not talking about just deaf individuals, but any disability community, you know, people with autism, you just find their area of expertise, their skills, their talents, and put that to great use. And really, it's so wonderful that we can all work together and we can all help each other and thrive in the world we have today with all of the issues around racism. Yes, that's absolutely out there and happening. But I think that's all because we haven't had the right kind of environment exposure and education for everybody. Once we have that in place, a lot of those issues will go away. So we really have to focus on the root of everything. I think that's so critical.   Dana Jonson  23:14 Yeah, it stands out of fear, and fear of the unknown. So technology is was my next question, which is, I mean, it has to have changed so drastically, I had in my master's program, there was a student who was deaf, so his, his interpreter would come to all of our classes. And so I got to see that next to the teacher, which I personally loved. But then recently, I was at a conference pre COVID, where I saw some people with their laptops open, and they were reading and I was a little disappointed that we weren't going to have any we're not going to have any sign language interpreters for me to watch. So   23:57 how has   Dana Jonson  23:58 How has that really, I presume it has helped, but how has technology changed? how deaf people can and people who are hard of hearing engage in this world.   Jeff Bravin  24:14 It has changed our lives, really is the bottom line. So with captioning, we have artificial intelligence, captions, and they are amazing. I have to say I've been in conferences where I've seen that work wonderfully. But I want to say that works wonderfully. Only if a person has language. If an individual doesn't have that language, then the captions are pointless. And that would be true with other foreign languages. So if you've got that captioning, that's great. But if somebody from another country comes and they don't have a clear understanding of the language, they're going to struggle to understand just like somebody that's Deaf that doesn't have strong language, would struggle to understand captions. So we do have some people in our community who would follow cats. Just fine. We have another group of individuals in our community who would not benefit from the captions, they would benefit more from having an ASL interpreter because that is their true language. That is the language they've grown up with. It really depends on every, every individual that everybody's a little different. But with technology today, it is really astounding. All the videos are captioned. There's some videos that even have interpreters. Other people will develop interpretive videos, all of that kind of exposure for our students, is just life changing. And right now we have the smartboard technology. There are virtual interpreters, it doesn't even have to be a live interpreter anymore. We have something called source interpreting here on our campus that the American School for the Deaf, after the state of Connecticut, close their interpreting services, we opened an interpreting agency and we provide interpreters not just for our school, but statewide also. And so our interpreters have been working virtually, especially since the onset of this pandemic. So what that means is for students in public schools, if they need access, they can have interpreting services provided virtually and I have to say, it is not the same as having a person live with you. But at least they have that access. And the child will succeed once again, they'll only if they have full language access. So that's really critical here.   Dana Jonson  26:20 And that's part of the point I wanted to get at, which is that language skills is different than just being able to read the words. Correct. So when we're teaching a student how to read or, you know, we're saying that, Oh, well, if the words pop up that will work, there's a deeper understanding that's necessary for language. Can you speak to that a   26:41 little bit?   26:45 Sure.   Jeff Bravin  26:49 So some of the students we have prefer the listening and spoken English approach. And we've noticed that for that particular group of students, they are able to grow and thrive only if they have language, if they have no language, how are they going to be able to hear and understand a word? How are they going to be able to read or write if they don't have that structure, and instruction in language Foundation, they really, really absolutely need that. And the same is true for deaf and hard of hearing students that we teach here. We teach them American Sign Language, but we don't just teach them American Sign Language and say this is it, we teach them American Sign Language, and then we apply those skills to reading to writing to help them so that it applies in everything they do for the rest of their lives. And that really helps them to bridge that language. You'll see so many bilingual programs are so successful, because they're able how to apply their language with English. And that's exactly what we do here as well. And it really depends, again, upon the student's preferred communication mode, what their parents would like. But we're able to offer a breadth of opportunities and different options so that they are able to meet language milestones and grow. And we can track which language works best for their child based on their family's preference and to work with them on that.   Dana Jonson  28:10 And that level of communication and understanding is not just for the deaf and hard of hearing. You have also a program for children with autism and other developmental delays who have language issues. Can you explain that a little bit?   Jeff Bravin  28:27 Sure, absolutely. So here are the American School for the Deaf, we have two programs, we have our core academic program, and that is for any student, just a regular kind of K through 1212 program, but we also have students with other disabilities. So we have students that have hearing loss and may have dyslexia or have cognitive delays or intellectual disabilities. And so with those kinds of students, we have the right kinds of educators who are certified in both special education and deaf education, and so they're able to help that group grow and thrive. We also have something called our PCs program. And that's the acronym for positive attitudes concerning education and socialization, pe C's program, that program started 40 years ago, and that is for students who have hearing loss and emotional or behavioral issues as well. So we have that program. It is licensed by the Department of Children and Families. It's also an accredited program as well. And they focused on any of those students who have intense behavior issues and needs, but we try to work with them so that they're able to make that transition that to a core program, our academic program. We also want to make sure that they'll be successful after they move on from American School for the Deaf, some of them go on to group homes, all different kinds of after high school pursuits, and we help them with all of that. In recent years, we've noticed that There are some students who are autistic who are also non verbal, meaning that they can take the language in, but they really struggle to express themselves. And what we found was that a lot of these students were really able to express themselves through sign. And so we made the decision to open our non verbal autism program, and that is for hearing students who are non verbal. And we've had several students go through the program, and I have to say, it is astounding to see them come and start with no language and not able to express themselves. And then within a matter of time, they're able to express themselves 2550 words, they're communicating with their parents with other staff. And really, they're going to go through the rest of their lives going to be able to communicate. And I think that is so nice to see that happen. And I do think that program will continue to grow.   Dana Jonson  30:53 Absolutely. And that is such a main issue for children with developmental delays. I used to work with that population, and they aren't learning language because they can't talk. And so there's, you know, at least back in the day, I'm talking many, many years ago, when I was doing this, you know, we were at that time, teaching kids signs, specific signs to say one or two things. But part of the issue is not just them not knowing how to tell us but not knowing when to tell us not knowing when is appropriate for that and and that's part of the social component of language. So there's so many areas and I love that you are doing that, because one of the things that we saw was as students became able to communicate their wants and needs, the behaviors tend to reduce, and that it's that lack of language that's creating that level of frustration. So for parents whose students are in public school or other programs other than the American School for the Deaf, you mentioned the proper qualifications. What are the proper qualifications for a teacher working with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing?   Jeff Bravin  32:08 Great questions. So there are so many education programs across our country that focused on special education, that focused on deaf education. And really, that is what we are looking for all the time. So Deaf educators are those who have gone through teacher preparation programs, they know how to help deaf and hard of hearing children thrive and grow, whether it be through American Sign Language, or through the listening and spoken English approach. So they are able to work with children in a bilingual environment to help them develop a strong language, foundation and grow. Now in terms of special education. We have teachers that are really very familiar with different disabilities and able to work with those children. But what we noticed is that special education teachers tend to have specialties in autism or intellectual disabilities. And we are looking for those kinds of teachers. If you can find a teacher, though that is qualified in both special education and education. Those are just absolute stars, and we had our unicorn. Absolutely, yes, they, they are two stars. And so the other option is if we find a teacher, who we feel like has a lot of potential, we do send them on for more courses so they can receive further training. Another way for teachers to really help develop their skills is that peer to peer interaction and really, for our school that makes us so unique, because we have teachers with so many different specialties all in one school, which is so nice to have.   Dana Jonson  33:48 That is great. You know, my next question is, how do we teach the rest of the world now, right, because I'm asking you how we teach children who are deaf, but I think that one of the reasons that children who are deaf need to learn how to function in our world is because our world is not very friendly to them. So what is it if you could provide training for the rest of us out here so that we would know how to provide a more inclusive environment for students? What kind of training would you recommend?   Jeff Bravin  34:25 Well, that is a tough question. Exactly. What I tell people is to embrace others, don't view them as anyone different view them as abled. We use the phrase here at our school all ways able. And so we view each individual child, as always able and what that means to us is that every child that comes through our door has the potential to grow and thrive and be whatever they want to be. I think the issue in our world is when people see somebody that looks different or is different, somehow they want to turn around and walk away. What I want to say is embrace them, meet them, take the time to learn about them. And I think you'll be so surprised at how fruitful that interaction will be. And that we all can ultimately learn to love each other. I think that's so important. And really, what we have to understand is, we need to teach people about differences, all different kinds of people that we have. And I think, you know, encouraging them to interact and not be afraid to approach them. Sometimes hearing people will say, you know, if I need a deaf person, I'm going to assume they can lip read and understand everything I'm saying, on my mouth. And that's not true. I would say deaf people generally can understand maybe about 70% of what is spoken through lip reading. But if that deaf individual has language, it's going to be a little bit more than that. But if there's no language, how are they going to understand what's being said, other people will understand more, because they have an ability to hear just a little bit, they may have some residual hearing, others may have no hearing at all, it really does vary. And sometimes people that are hearing will say, oh, I'll just write back and forth. And sometimes that works. But again, only if the deaf individual has that strong language Foundation, and they want to keep driving the point home that that language foundation is key to surviving the world. And it doesn't matter if you're deaf or hearing. It's true for all of us. Once you have language, you have an ability to thrive and succeed in the world.   Dana Jonson  36:32 I completely agree. And in fact, you know, when my son was being evaluated, once we determined that he was able to learn language, I stopped worrying. I was just like, okay, I don't care if he says ours ever or not, you know, whatever he can understand language, we can figure out how to get there. You know. So the American School for the Deaf sounds like an amazing program for children who fall into all of these categories. How big are you because you've got your you're taking care of everyone.   Jeff Bravin  37:05 So we have about 300 staff here, we have about 150 students between our core and our Casey's program. And we have about 100 students that stay in our dorms, we have an amazing dorm program here on campus where students that live far from our school are able to stay on campus. And they have a full complement of all kinds of different activities. After school sports, we have all kinds of events and opportunities for peer interaction, every kind of club, you can imagine we offer all of that. We also do serve students in the public schools where there's about 200 students, and that is through our audiology program. And our outreach program where we have different deaf and hard of hearing students that might be in the public schools. And if they need more supports, or some kind of consultation, then they can, those schools can feel free to reach out to ASD and we're happy to provide that kind of consultation and support. But I bring it back to the point that parents really need to make sure that their children's IPS are written correctly. The IPS are how we measure student growth. And that is key. If the student is not meeting milestones, and is on par with what is expected that parents need to start looking for other options. Now, I'm not saying that American School for the Deaf is the only option for parents, but it is one of many options that parents should consider for their children. So really, it's important for the parents to focus on their children's growth. And if they're not growing, think about what to do to intervene and not wait, don't delay that because the more you wait, the more delays will happen.   Dana Jonson  38:43 Yes. And again with the language it is so critical. So for people who are listening who are saying, okay, Jeff is the only person I can talk to and the American School for the Deaf is the only place my child can go. How do they find you?   Jeff Bravin  39:02 Just go to our website is www dot ASD that hyphen 18 Some people ask why we have the 1817 and that is because we were founded in 1817 more than 200 years ago. So we have significant history here. But really, they can feel free to reach out to us by contacting us. It doesn't necessarily mean that their child is committed to coming to ASD, it just means maybe they're looking for support or for guidance or possibly an independent education, evaluation of their child or communication evaluation for their child. We have so many different things that we are able to offer children. We can also help parents connect with advocates, with special education attorneys that really can help parents find out what is best for their child so they can receive the education they so deserve. So please feel free to reach out to me to call me or email me directly or any of our staff here. We have wonderful folks here who are happy to help guide you through that process.   Dana Jonson  40:04 Wonderful. And I will have all of that contact information in my show notes. So if you're listening to this and he what you can't remember, then please go back to the show notes and you'll find their website and all of Jeff's information. Jeff, I can't tell you how helpful this has been and how informative it has been. I think it's critical information for parents and schools to hear and understand for any and all students with, as you said, not just death, but also with hearing impairments. So thank you so much for joining me today.   Jeff Bravin  40:38 Thank you so much for having me. And if down the road, you need anything, consultation or guidance, or you feel like you've got some random question, please don't hesitate to call or reach out to me through email. I'm so happy to support any child. Thank you.   Dana Jonson  40:55 Absolutely. Thank you. Thank you so much for joining me today. Please don't forget to subscribe to this podcast so you don't miss any new episodes. And if there's anything you want to hear comment on, go to our Facebook page and drop me a note there. I'll see you next time here on need to know with Dana Jonson have a fabulous day
41:18 02/10/2021
An Unconventional Librarian
Pam Margolis is An Unconventional Librarian! She loves book and she loves inspiring students to explore new literature to expand their world. She reviews both popular books and those emerging in their genre. During this episode, Pam talks about Flamingo Rampant books. They are an inclusive publisher that she recommends: Here’s where you can find Pam at her website: TRANSCRIPT (not proofread) SUMMARY KEYWORDS book, kid, people, children, diversity, wheelchair, literature, read, write, issues, person, find, talking, friend, pam, important, black, thinking, special needs, great SPEAKERS Pam Margolis, Dana Jonson Dana Jonson 00:00 Thank you for joining me today. Today I'm very excited, we're talking with Pam Margolis, who is a champion of the underdog, and an unconventional librarian. Hello, Pam, thank you for joining me. Pam Margolis 00:12 Hi, I'm glad to be here. Thank you, Dana Jonson 00:15 I would love it if you would tell us how you got to be the unconventional or an unconventional library. 00:22 I Dana Jonson 00:24 hope that if it's not obvious, what I really want to talk to you about today is diversity in literature. And I know that that is something that you champion and educate other people on and encourage other people to engage in different forms of literature by different authors and different themes and different topics so that we can better educate ourselves and employ some empathy to people who are different than we are, which is something I think we all think we want to do, but I don't think is well reflected in our schools and our libraries. So could you give me a little bit of your background and explain why you're the person I'm coming to to give me the information I need on diversity and literature? Sure, certainly. Pam Margolis 01:06 So if it's not obvious, if you see a picture of me, I am a person of color. And I'm a very light skinned black person, which is a whole other conversation that we can have at another time. So growing up as a black child, there weren't a lot of books with people that look like me. And then I had children. And while things were slightly better, they could have been more better. So I got a master's in library and information science from Drexel. And I decided to focus on children's literature. And I started my blog to highlight diversity in books. And I call myself unconventional because I like to work the era, I like to wear too, too, I like that. If you name it, you name it, whatever it is, I'll do it. If I think I can get a kid interested in a book. So I started bringing to the fore books for children of color, specifically, I was just really kind of thinking about books that my own children would appreciate. And then I discovered that it wasn't too much of a reach to talk about books that featured, maybe second language, children. I lived in Texas for a long time. So it's a special place in my heart for the Latin x community. And then it was next thing you know, I'm talking about oh, well, you know, we can include people with special needs, because their their needs are kind of similar. And then I was really becoming the champion of the underdog. My son came out several years ago. Okay, well, I'm going to include the LGBTQ community, as well, because I want every child to find themselves in a book. And, and so that's how it started. And then from there, I started talking to people about books, and what are you reading? Oh, have you read this? Have you read this in the meanwhile, I'm reading all the diverse books that there are. And I kind of got known for being able to recommend books, really good at connecting with kids, and I'm good at finding a book that works for them. And then the next thing now I'm speaking to people and I'm curating lists, and I'm recommending books, and I have therapists that contact me, oh, I have children, you know, who are suffering from, you know, mental health issues? Do you have any books that oh, I sure do that mixing. I'm giving them a list of six books. And it kind of grew out of like, a need that I didn't realize that people had they, they needed books, not just for people of color, but everybody that's marginalized. So it became much bigger than what I initially started with just looking for books for black kids, like mine. Dana Jonson 04:19 It's funny you say it because my son, my son came out when he was seven. And so trying to find the right literature for him trying to find something that was age appropriate for seven that might be appropriate for his path was challenging. And at one point, he thought he might be trans and I saw a book on Late Night talking about someone who is trans and he saw the clip with me. I was like, Oh, I have to read that. So my great book I got him was tranny. And I don't know if you've ever heard of it. It's a fabulous book. It is not for a 10 year old. So I you know, I found the right time. topic, maybe not the right books. So it's it's not as easy as one might think, like, go just go look up a book, right? Go Pam Margolis 05:08 find a book, right? Dana Jonson 05:09 People say that all the time go read a book. Well, which book? Which one do we get? How do we do that? And so in your journey, you're where you are now is, you're an unconventional librarian. So can you tell me a little bit about your unconventional library and site and what you try to do there? Pam Margolis 05:29 Okay, sure. So on my website, I review books. And I only review books with diverse characters. So I like or I prefer books with people of color in it, but I will review books, you know about the LGBTQ community, and a few special needs some special needs. That's the least thing I know about, I try to be real sensitive to that. But generally, if you go to my website and unconventional librarian, calm, I may be having some blog issues. So bear with me on that. If you're looking for you have a 12 year old who, struggling with depression, I have probably reviewed a book. And it'll be on there. I have. I have been told by people that I meet at conferences. This woman teaches, like first year pre service teachers, she uses my blog as a reference. I love it. And I and I didn't even know that we met each other. It's just like, I use it. No kidding. So I would say you could use my blog as a resource. Like repository. That's where I, and I think my, my reviews are especially good, because I'm really honest. And like, I keep them short, too, because I have such a shorter attention span, okay, this is really great book, this is what's in it. You know, if you have a kid this age, they should like it. I also try to be very clear about if there are questionable things in it, because as a librarian information wants to be free. So I'm not going to try and repress it, but I'm going to let you know, look, this, you know, there's a like a blowjob scene in this thing. If you don't think you want your child to see that know this. Right. And that's, you're Dana Jonson 07:34 gonna use that for my trainee. Pam Margolis 07:38 Right. So speaking of transgender, there's a really great site I want to give you now, okay, it's called Flamingo, rampant Dana Jonson 07:49 Flamingo ramp, and Pam Margolis 07:52 they do a lot of books that feature every kind of LGBTQ persona that there is. They're beautiful. They're for young children. Especially and I absolutely love that there's one book, I wish I'd had it here. It's called like, M is for mustache. And it's an ABC pride book. Oh, I love that. Dana Jonson 08:20 I love that. Well, yeah. And that's, you know, I think that's an interesting point. It's not that these books don't exist, it's just that for some people, they're not easy to find. And I also feel that we're at a place, especially with the quarantine and COVID. And people being home a lot where pretty much anyone can write a book. I know three people who put up put out children's books, and I'm using my notes that no one can see on my podcast, 08:49 books Dana Jonson 08:50 over the quarantine that you can buy on Amazon. 08:53 But Dana Jonson 08:54 that doesn't tell me anything about their background or their right they don't. They don't, they might have a child with special needs. But that doesn't mean that that's the book my child needs. And I have no idea if you're writing books in your basement versus There used to be a time when if somebody put out a book, it was because they'd been vetted. And they'd been forwarded, and they there is background to it. And that was a limited number of people. I appreciate that almost anyone can write a book now. Because now you can get your voice out there, right, whether it's someone cares to support you or not. And I think that's a really important function. What it eliminates, however, is for the reader to have a full understanding of what that person's credentials or background right. purpose is. And I'm not saying that formal credentials are the only thing that you know, would make me read your book because it's not at all, but I do think it's important to have an understanding of what's being put out there much the way. You know, there's a difference between propaganda and a documentary and interchanged those words all the time as if they are the same, they are not. So, you know, how do you feel? We can, as the consumer, make more educated choices on the books that we choose for Do you find that just reading through them and determining whether you agree with them or not, is the right way to go is asking that as we are right in the midst of a lot of, I think, political upheaval in our country, and figuring out how to share ideas without violence, essentially. Right. So it's kind of a loaded question. Pam Margolis 10:35 No. So here I go. Okay. There is a hashtag on Twitter called Own Voices, oh, w n voices. And what that means is, if you are have that issue, then you write about that you write what you know. So if I'm an African American woman, I can write a book about African American people. Right. And the reason I preface me, because I'm so light skinned, I often get mistaken for makes or Puerto Rican or white or whatever. But But Own Voices is for people say, if I were, you know, Puerto Rican, and I was writing a book about Puerto Rico, okay, oh, she's Puerto Rican, her name is Puerto Rican signing, I can trust her. The issue becomes, when people who aren't of that own voice writing about something that they don't know anything about, no matter how well meaning. And you will find arguments on both sides to please understand that this is my viewpoint. I often struggle and I have told many male authors that I don't want you writing a book from a girl's perspective. You are not a girl. No matter how much research you do, you cannot understand what it is like to menstruate. Right, well, meaning, but no, there are a lot of white authors a lot of very well meaning white authors who do due diligence, do lots of research may have sensitivity readers, and will write a book with an African American character or, you know, some other race, or even ethnic group, I struggle with that. I feel that is not your place, you need to stay in your lane, there are other people who feel differently. So as a consumer, what I think you should do is do your research. So for example, if you have a child with special needs, and you're looking for a book, that's why sometimes self published books are great, because if I have a child with a number of issues, and I can't find the book, I'm going to write it I think Maya Angelou said that, like, if you can't find the book that you need write it. So sometimes self published books are written for that parents child. So then they usually tell you in the bio, I have a child with, you know, this, this, this and this, and this, and you go, Okay, I am similar. Okay, yeah, this is a book for me, versus just some random person don't want to write this book, I did some research. Maybe well, meaning, but as you know, intent is not the same as the result. Right. And Dana Jonson 13:53 that's an interesting point, because I completely agree with you. And I cannot imagine not a writer to start with. But I really can't imagine trying to write anything from somebody else's perspective than mine. I just Pam Margolis 14:05 write, I can't. Dana Jonson 14:06 But I have two children who want to be writers and who are great at it. And who both want to write about things that are outside of their world, which I love. I think that's great that they want to do that. But they need that experience. So what about writers who, as you said, there's some well established writers, they may have those diverse characters in their book, or they may want to have those diverse characters in their book? How do we go about incorporating all those voices into one book because we don't all live in our own bubbles, right? We, you know, we do live in other environments. I have diversity in my friend group. That doesn't mean I could write a book about one of them, but I might feel I could see how an author might feel that they have sufficient information to include that or might be motivated to include somebody of diversity in their book. help promote that message, what is the responsible way to go about doing it? Pam Margolis 15:04 Right, your perspective. So I do some trainings and cultural competency training about this issue, you have to make sure that you don't engage in stereotypes and tropes, you know, Asian community, they're not all the model minority, African American, you know, we're not all loud and sassy, or Sug, the Latin x community, not all the Latin x girls want to be in the kitchen making tamales, with their abuelita those kind of things, you really have to make sure that they are not perpetuating stereotypes. There's the stereotypes of special needs people that they don't need love. They don't need affection, that they caused their own problems. One day they miraculously walked out of their wheelchair, all of that. 16:11 Right? Like, that's the goal, right? Pam Margolis 16:14 That's right. No, that's not the goal. The goal is for them to be self actualized human beings to be treated with dignity and respect, right. So you have to make sure that the writer number one does not engage in tropes. And a lot of that takes time because you have these implicit biases that you've grown up with, right. And as a consumer, you should be looking to make sure that these read right, if you, you should have a little kind of a grumbling in your gut. And if you don't, then you might need to check your own implicit biases, you might need to do some research to see what the chatter says about the book, there's chatter about just about everything on Twitter. And if the book seems fine to you, that doesn't mean it's great. For example, I will ride hard for to fight anyone who publishes a book for kids with monkeys. Monkeys are very problematic, right? Other people got other monkeys. Yes, that's cute. But there's a long history of associating monkeys with African American community. So you have to be careful when it comes to that, because children pick up on that, you know, they're anthropomorphize, and it looks good. And you think, oh, kids not gonna notice it? No, those three year olds, they're noticing it, they're gonna go, oh, that kid is the same shade as a kid right over there. And then boom, they've made that connection. And you didn't even realize it. So there's a lot out there that you really have to be a smart consumer about, and it goes for just about anything, just like you would do for when you're finding books for your special needs kids, you would do and you're looking for books for other children. So I would say first of all, see who the author is, see where they come from? See what they're about, do a little bit of research. And then choose for yourself. Dana Jonson 18:35 And I think what you said it's very important about intent. The intent does not matter. And we hear that a lot. Well, I didn't mean it that way. You know, in, in special education, it would be the R word. Right? You don't you don't call kids. You don't say that word. You don't ever say that word, right? And people say, well, that's not how I meant it, or I'm using it by the actual definition in the dictionary. I don't care. The issue is that that connection has been made, Pam Margolis 19:03 right? It is Dana Jonson 19:04 there, whether you intend to use it or not. those around you are going to hear you using it in that vein. And that's going to be a signal to them that it's okay to use it. Period. No one has no one standing around thinking. Offensively, so when I repeated I'm not going to be offensive. It's not how that works. It's expensive. And Pam Margolis 19:28 not only that, there's a little person somewhere watching you. And that person is going to go she's not a safe person for me. I thought she was what I see she's promoting this. Now I don't have a safe person anymore. So kids are watching and you know, you know they see everything and they internal Eyes, all of that. So now you don't know who's watching you. And that kid may not understand that Oh, I didn't mean it. Haha. Right. That's why that's extra important. So Dana Jonson 20:14 let's talk a little bit about why this diversity is so important. And I think we kind of just covered most of that. But, you know, some people say, Well, why does it matter? You know, why? Why can't I just take a children's book and change the color of some of the kids in in the book? You know, it's it's a universal message about love or friendship or sharing? You know, why can't we just put in a few black and brown kids in there and switch up some colors? And then it'll be a diversity book? Why is it not a situation? Pam Margolis 20:48 Right, there are nuances to different ethnicities and different races. And back when I was a kid, yeah, they just painted a kid Brown, they just took the white kid painted and brandboom as a black kid, right? It doesn't work. That way, you could look at seven different black people, we all look differently. You know, when a child is reading a book, they looking to identify with someone in that book. And if they all have the same knows, that kid's gonna go look at my family has a nose like that my nose is different, or how come her hair is like that? What? Why can't I get my hair, and then we're going to spend the next 15 years trying to get our hair to behave in a way that it's not going to behave in. And so if you're going to promote information to children, make it the truth, kids no BS when they see it. Dana Jonson 21:45 Yes, it would be the beauty of children. Pam Margolis 21:49 And then, and they're either going to call it out, or they're going to internalize it. And do you really want that? Do you really want kids thinking, Oh, I don't walk the same way. This blonde kid does or, you know, I'm, I'm not enough. I'm inefficient, I'm whatever. And you don't want that you want to be as honest, and as truthful as possible, especially children, because they're taking all this in. And they're going to carry that with them while mixing, you know, you've got an 11 year old jerk. Because all he seen all his life is that, you know, the Asian kid is just yellow. They're not yellow. Right? Right, you start there. Exactly. Why do you think though, you know, Dana Jonson 22:46 without that representation of not just themselves, but other children is, is, you know, you're not, as you said, You're not getting that accurate representation. So what that child is experiencing, if they don't have that diversity in their daily life, then what they're learning about it is wrong. Right. So when you finally do interact with somebody who is different from them in any other in any way at all, they're not going to know how to behave or react, or they're going to be surprised at how that person behaves or reacts, you know, well, I saw that if, you know, I offered to do this for someone in a wheelchair, they're going to be so happy. And then you do that, and they're not. Right, that's confusing. And you're gonna say, well, this person is a jerk, because I tried to help them. They're in a wheelchair, and I did what I learned in my little books is helping them and they were mean to me, so I'm not going to be nice to people in wheelchairs anymore. And Pam Margolis 23:46 yes, you know, that Dana Jonson 23:47 does happen for children. So what, what is a way to ensure that you're getting that level of diversity? I mean, do you see this in bookstores? is it available in schools? How do parents go about ensuring that not just their personal library at home reflects diversity, but also in the environment, they go to whether it's school at the local library, or whatever organizations are a part of. Pam Margolis 24:19 So there are several ways you can approach this a lot of the time, go to Google or Instagram like Google, or Twitter or Instagram, and you can you can type in the hashtag decolonize the classroom or decolonize, the bookshelf, right? Or you can even just type in diverse reads, right. Go to diverse books. I think it's Diverse Books And there's lots of books there. But just like you want to give your children accurate information about the web, There. Now you teach them that rain is different from Snow differ from sunshine. Right? You give them books about clouds. This is a cloud, this is what it does. Right? It's the same with everything else. Kids love spiders, right? Then you give them every single book about spiders, you fill your bookshelves with spiders, because that's what kids like. Right? They know every single spider, every single name for every dinosaur, ever. Right? You do the same with your bookshelf? So there's the saying about windows and doors with the book, right? So you bring enough of the books in so that kids see, like we talked about first? How we're the same, versus how we're different. Right? So there's books, you have books with kids who speak Spanish, who speak Korean, who are Filipino, who practice different religions who are in a wheelchair, who have autism, whatever it whatever it is, so that they can look through the window. Right? But then it's also a mirror, because it's reflecting back on them. Right? how there are the same. And then you can read it and go Look, look at this book. This is you know, you can he has an umbrella. What's an umbrella? happens to be a grandmother? Grandma? Yes. And you'd love your grandma very much, don't you? I sure do. And look at this. This kid loves his grandma's very much to her. Why do you think about that? Oh, we're the same as we are. Right? So Dana Jonson 26:43 I love that the mirror or the window? And like it's for you yourself? How do you feel that you read more books that are mirrors or windows? Pam Margolis 26:56 That's a good question. Probably windows because I want to be an ally. So I'm constantly learning as much as I can, because I want everyone to see me especially kids go, she's a friend. I know that when it comes to you know busting up windows. Pam's gonna be there to help me. Right. So I'm constantly learning. What am I? What am I missing? What don't I know? So I'm, like, I need this book. I need this book I need to read. So that when it's when I'm confronted with a situation that could no pain is safe. Because I've done all of the the work. As an aside, when I was a kid, I was always friends with what they called back then the foreign kids, right? If anybody was different, because you know why? When you're friends with somebody, they offer you to share their lunch with you. And when you tell him doesn't want food, I'm so motivated, just like my dog. Right? mixing, you know, eating all this good stuff. You know, everybody else is eating your stupid bologna sandwich. Oh, eat goat meat? Because I want to share it with me. I learned how to use chopsticks. Right? And doesn't that enhance your life as well as theirs? Because now you have a friend who shared your lunch. You don't have to eat your stupid bologna sandwich in some of them. And then you find out? Well, you know, we have something in common. We both have baby brothers who are annoying. Dana Jonson 28:32 Right? That's interesting. And I went to school in Europe for a while. And it was a very diverse environment in that everyone's from different countries. We weren't all from the country we were living in. And we weren't all from the United States. So it was it was very diverse in that regard when you talk about food, and differences. And interestingly, when I moved back to the United States, I had a lot of trouble with that. Because I found that when I was talking about experiences I had that other people had not had. They weren't sure it was right. They were sort of like, I don't know about that. That's over the top. That sounds not right. That sounds not that sounds made up. You know, that that kind of thing. So it was interviews A long time ago, I think it was about 35 years ago. So it was we're in a different world. But, you know, that was a very interesting component for me is that it wasn't, you know, it was a lack of understanding and therefore it wasn't true. And that, to me was a weird realization that because the people around me hadn't experienced what I experienced. They thought maybe it wasn't true. And I knew that I think we're seeing that a lot right now in society in general, which is if it hasn't impacted me personally in my little bubble, then it must not be Pam Margolis 29:52 true. Right? Dana Jonson 29:55 How do we get through that? Pam Margolis 30:00 You know, I think Dana Jonson 30:02 for children, they believe what we tell them. And so if we are not providing them with this experience, and now we have the opportunity when I was 16, we didn't necessarily have the opportunity. I was very glad that someone my age and from where I was, would have spent this much time in Europe, in a vastly different environment. That was unusual. Pam Margolis 30:21 Right? Dana Jonson 30:22 Right. I don't think it's as unusual now that that's a possibility. Pam Margolis 30:26 I know. Dana Jonson 30:27 But at the same time, we, we still, sometimes live in our bubbles. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. I think. And I'm learning as a white person, very much how important that actually is. For many groups, I think I was raised thinking that minorities wanted to and should assimilate to be like me and my, and that's just simply not true. Pam Margolis 30:51 Right. You know, Dana Jonson 30:52 and that's something a lot of people my age are learning right now. I want to believe that I've always known that, but, you know, not gonna leave that because I think hindsight is 2020. But I do think it's vital that we find a way to incorporate the diversity and allow for I don't know what the right word is, but but allow for people to to understand their own worlds as well. It's not about and I can't think of a better word than assimilation. So I'm sorry, if I'm just rambling. 31:27 But, Dana Jonson 31:28 you know, trying to make sure that we're getting that message of diversity across without anybody feeling like they're losing themselves in it. Pam Margolis 31:36 So I often get into arguments on Facebook with white men. Because white men are the knowers of everything. Right? Yes, 31:47 yes. Pam Margolis 31:48 So, oh, well, I never experienced it, or I never heard of it. So it must not be true. Yeah. And I say, You know what? I never had a gallbladder attack. But I understand it's true. Right? My health has never been on fire. But I can watch the news and see that fire does exist. Right? So just because you haven't experienced it personally, doesn't negate that it exists. And it's true. Dana Jonson 32:23 And you just raise a really good point. Because if your child's friend's house burns down, what's the first thing you do? You go buy a book on house burning down so that your child can understand their friend's situation? Pam Margolis 32:35 Right? Right. Because thing you do first thing, because then your kid's gonna be like, Oh, that's so awful. I feel so bad. What can I do for my friend? Boom, right? And then you go tell them, Look, you're telling me I really love you. Here's my favorite stuffed animal? Would you like to hold on to it until you feel better, or until you get one of your own? Dana Jonson 32:59 Right, because you've now purchased a book to help your child be more empathetic and understanding. So which book do we buy? When our neighbor's house? Has the Black Lives Matter sign torn down on a daily basis? Or vandalized? Right did do we run out and buy a book on that? And what's the book that we've I think that's, you know, I think that's an interesting point. Because there are certain things in which we're willing to go say, Okay, this is a traumatic event, we have to go buy a book to teach our children so that they can best empathize and support their friends. And then there are topics that we say, ooh, this looks really serious. We'd better not tell our kids. Pam Margolis 33:39 There's a book by Jacqueline Woodson, if I have it here, Dana Jonson 33:45 and just so people who are listening know all of these references that we're making and talking about, I will put in the show notes. So later on, you can go back to the show notes in find all the resources that we are chatting about. Pam Margolis 33:58 So I'm holding up a book by Jacqueline Woodson. It's called Harbor, Maine. And it's for middle grade. And it's about a handful of children. Some of this obviously, is fiction, because their special needs, I'm putting an air quotes and they're put in a room by themselves by the teacher, and she leaves them alone, which we know is garbage, right? But anyway, these kids are labeled special needs. A couple of them are second second language learners, there's a black kid, one kid might be autistic, or I'm not sure I can't remember Anyway, there are different ways of learning and being one could get deported. There's a white kid in there, he kind of gets into an argument with a black kid, the mental friends. But the one kid is hearing some stuff at home. He doesn't know what to believe. So he brings it to this group. And then the other kid is like, no, that's garbage. That's right. And so then They stopped being friends over it. But what this book shows is that kids understand, you know, there are subtleties to what kids can pick up. And so if there isn't a book that says, Oh, your neighbors next door to Johnson's there, you know, houses burned down because of Black Lives Matter, there might not be a book about that, right? However, a book like this, that helps kids relate to people with other situations might work. And then you can segue that to that conversation. Or you could just, you know, sometimes you just have to break it down to the cellular level and say, you know, there are people who don't believe XYZ matters. We know, in this house, that it does. This is your friend, or these people have been nice to us, they wave every time we walk our dog, what can we do to be nice to them? Or how do you think they feel because this happened to them, right, and then you find whatever it is that that kid is feeling when you go find a book about it. And when you talk about it, so there are ways to connect, if there isn't an exact book about that. But books about social justice, are getting younger and younger and younger. So eventually, there's going to be a book just about just about every issue. But they're there. If you just look, you may have to ask around, Dana Jonson 36:44 made the season great now that you can go to Amazon or whatever massive book company you want to go to, and, and they have now diversity sections and areas. And, you know, I do find that it is a little bit more accessible. Now. I think that you have to the fact that you still have to look for it, though, is a little sad. And I do like it though. I like that there are people like you out there who have their websites and say, Okay, this is no, you, you focus on all kinds of diversity. I know there are some people out there who say this is specifically for this one topic. And, and I think that's important, because children also need to see themselves in books. And I think that is probably the most important thing in my book to see yourself as the star, again, my air quotes, whatever that means. And so we need to start there. And if you're just starting there by saying, I just want to find books just about someone like me, then that's for some groups, that's really hard. It's definitely, it's a special needs. It's definitely hard for groups of minorities, and, you know, to see books that aren't all encompassing, and just the disability, right. So if you're talking about a child, if you see a child with a disability in a book, it's usually because the child has a disability, right? It's not just a character in the book. It's not just somebody who happens to be in a wheelchair, who we happen to have to represent properly. But it's usually about the wheelchair. So also trying to find, excuse me, also trying to find books and storylines and content that are real life and not just about that thing that's different. Do you find that you're seeing more of that develop in literature now as well? Pam Margolis 38:37 Yeah. The first thing I would like to do, if I may, is to ask you to use a word other than minorities. Please do? Dana Jonson 38:47 Absolutely correct me. Pam Margolis 38:48 Yeah. There are different schools of thought on this, but a lot of us don't like the word minority, because it makes us sound a third, you could say those in the marginalized communities, or a lot of people like for you to use the correct ethnic terms of African Americans, or blacks, or Latin x or Latin American or Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders. Like that. Dana Jonson 39:16 What about bipoc? I'm asking you to answer for everybody. Yes, because I've heard that term a lot. And I've been using it but I want to make sure Pam Margolis 39:25 that Yeah, when I'm writing, I use bipoc and marginalized communities interchangeably. But again, don't just take my word for it, be an active consumer and find out what what works. Generally, other people may feel differently, but just like we know, some special needs kids like to be identified by their actual you know, and some don't. Right? So it's the same there. So now circling back To answer the question, and I forgot what it was. 40:04 And that'll give me a second. We're talking about I said, Hold on, give me I'll come to me. Pam Margolis 40:17 Now. A good question, too. It was a good question. Dana Jonson 40:23 I was asking about the buyout. I'll edit this part out where Pam Margolis 40:25 we're thinking, Okay. Is minority because I had a good answer for him. I said, Why? What? By asking. Dana Jonson 40:43 We're talking about, I believe, the focus being on the detriment. It was at what I was talking about when we're talking about like, children with disabilities, it the stories about the wheelchair, or Yes, Pam Margolis 40:57 okay, right. Okay, got it. Right. Okay. So to answer your question, I do a session at an involved in an organization called kidlit. Con, and we travel across the country, and we have conferences for bloggers, librarians, teachers, readers, etc. And I do this session called big issues and why a where we identify issues that you're right now it's mostly things that teens are interested in. So the first thing we did was to make a long list. What what issues affect teens today, sexuality, mental health, depression? Yeah. sexuality, mental health, depression, homelessness, poverty, incarceration, things like that. And then I take each one of those issues, and I put it on a giant, sticky note. And then I have the audience get involved. And we write down books that fit under each category. So at the end of the session, I will publish to anybody who went and I can make this available too, which is something I had wanted to do all along their issues, right. So say you have teams who are interested in reading about mental health, and a lot of time we break mental health down into depression and suicide and, and bipolar, whatever, right, or poverty. And here are all the books that address those issues. Right. We also do them for LGBTQ, but the thing about is that book, say the book on suicide, the book might not be about suicide, per se. The book might just be about teens with mental health, or teens in high school, but there is a student in there who's struggling with that issue. So maybe the Suicide is incidental. But it's built into the crux of the story, so that you can look at it two ways you can say, Okay, here's a story about teams. Teams are struggling with mental health. Or you can say, look, if you have teams who have issues with suicide, or have suicide ideation, this is a book for them, because they can see themselves in that book. So if you have kids who are interested in reading about social justice, I can't give you a list of 400 books. And you'll go on about social justice. Maybe it is, because maybe, like harbor me, there's compensations in there or situations in there. That address that, like the book by an Martin rain rain. I think the girl is, I think she's autistic. Right? It's about bad parenting. It's also about how resilient she is, and how she can cope. She just happens to be artistic. Right? And she's loved by her uncle. And it's a really great story. So depending on what your needs are, there's an end for that book. Does that answer your question? It does. And Dana Jonson 44:15 I think that also goes back to what we were talking about before, which is having an authentic representation of those people as well. Because if you have that, that person or that character is an ancillary character, then that information like you're saying the fact that they happen to be going through these pieces could be so critical. But if they're written wrong, or they're written by the wrong person, I know someone who was explaining the other day to me, she's in a wheelchair, looking at a handicapped bathroom, and explaining to me all the ways in which that did not help her in any way, shape, or form use the bathroom, right, even though lately souped up, right. So if somebody was writing the book and their ancillary character who is in a wheelchair is going into this bathroom that actually doesn't 45:03 help them at all. Dana Jonson 45:04 And brightening. It does. It's sending that message to the person reading. And I think that's another piece. It's just as important that that ancillary character is accurate. Because like, you're saying that that storyline is just as important because whether it's the primary storyline or not, it is educating the reader Pam Margolis 45:26 about that person, Dana Jonson 45:27 is what I'm hearing. Yeah. So absolutely, yeah. And find that. So interesting. So we're trying to make this movement, and I find it interesting that we are as parents, I think you do hear a lot about wanting diversity in children's literature, do you find that it ends there? Because I don't know that we are seeing that level of diversity or that push for that level of diversity at older ages, I see that there's a push for it. when they're younger, it's almost like we acknowledge and by we, I mean, you know, those of us trying to provide the diversity, whether it's trying to introduce special invitation, or economic level, or race, or religion, or whatever those pieces are, I feel like there's always this push to get it into children when they're younger. But it's just as important at all ages, Pam Margolis 46:24 don't you think? Oh, absolutely. That's funny that you say that because I think more younger books need to be written. I think there are a plethora of books for No, Dana Jonson 46:35 I think more written, I just mean, I think that we are, that's where our focus always is where I don't hear a lot of talk about, let's make sure that the older kids are reading these books, they may exist, but we're not making a push to make sure they're reading them as it always seems to me, and maybe I'm completely wrong. This is just my bubble world is out what can we give to younger kids? What can we give to younger readers to start them out? versus Okay, now that they're older, they can choose to pick those diversity books, we don't need to make a push for it. Does that make sense? what I'm saying? Pam Margolis 47:06 Right? Well, one of the things I do is I associate with teachers, I go to a lot of teacher conferences. And this is where the decolonize your bookshelf, or your classroom or your library comes in. Because I have a very unpopular opinion that books like To Kill a Mockingbird need to go from the curriculum. Right? So teachers teach these books, and they are predominantly white, Eurocentric, you know, ideals. And the teens who are in the majority, and this is their story, they're gonna like yeah, okay, fine, read it. But the other kids are gonna be like, this, this book is so irrelevant to me, in my experiences. So if teachers could choose, or if the curriculum was built to include diverse books, then say, for example, like the hate you give, a lot of schools have banned that book. But that book teaches social justice, morality, and all kinds of issues, race relations, much better than To Kill a Mockingbird, because To Kill a Mockingbird highlights the white man. Right? But in the hate you give, it's the teens who stand up and say, Enough is enough. This is what we're going to do. And it shows other readers, how you can make a stance, right and what's right and what's wrong. Because these kids are living these lives, they're going to parties, they're seeing all this stuff that's going on, they're watching the news, they're seeing people getting shot, it's much more relevant to them. What if the classroom doesn't include that book, they might not know, to seek it out. So then if they're presented with that book, you can still, you can still talk about rhetoric, and you can still talk about theme and all that other stuff. But then you can also build a system, a social justice platform into it, and then all of the kids can be like, you know, I like that book. I might want to read something else. Yeah, right. And so maybe there's the one kid who would never in a million years, pick up a book by a black author. It might open his mind. Because you know what his best friend on a basketball team might be black and he never really made the connection. Dana Jonson 49:43 Right? And that idea that everyone, excuse me, that idea that everyone goes home to the same going home that you go home to and you might be the same on a port but you don't really understand your friend, if you don't understand and the other part about it. Pam Margolis 49:59 Absolutely. When, sorry, there's a book called all American boys, by Jason Reynolds, and I forget the other guy's name. So I'll get you the author. And it's exactly that. Some boys get into some trouble with the law. Some are black and white, and they're dealt with differently. But in the end, the kid realizes he knows the black kid who got dealt a much harsher punishment, right, than he did. And he had to go through all of these issues, right? To get to the point where he's like, wait, that's just wrong. Yeah. And it speaks exactly to what you said about the going home is different. Because they're saying that this other boy, the black kid was a thug, and all this other stuff. No, that's a good kid. He got the ROTC This is that, you know, he's no different than I am. In fact, when it was the white kid who was actually doing drugs, right, but because he had that image. Dana Jonson 51:04 Yep. Yes, absolutely. Well, the thing I find the most shocking about the classics is my, my daughter when she was put into, you know, whatever it is, I don't, I guess it was freshman English or something. The two books she had to read by herself. The summer before school started, were To Kill a Mockingbird, and of mice. Pam Margolis 51:27 Mm hmm. Dana Jonson 51:28 No instruction, no explanation, no nothing. Those two books just to read by herself and show up on the first day of class and have written a paper about them. And that to me was, so that was more astounding than the content itself. We had this group of children, we're supposed to read them and have any understanding of them completely out of context. Pam Margolis 51:54 Right. And To Kill a Mockingbird, it may be well written. But our parents read that book. Dana Jonson 52:04 There are other well written books, right? Pam Margolis 52:07 It's two generations removed from any 17 year old today. Right? They know nothing about segregation about any of that, Mississippi, they know nothing about any of that. All they know is what they see on TV. And a lot of people don't like a lot of purists don't like books like Dr. Martin, or the hate you give because they claim they're not written as well. Right? Because there's this Eurocentric standard, that this is what's exceptional, and everything else is just pop literature. Number one we know that's BS. Yes, right. But, but number two, who defines what's written? Well, if the story comes across, right, the child internalizes, it gets the message. Isn't that a well written book? If you're moved to tears, to anger in that book? Sounds like a good book to me. Right? That's a very good point. Dana Jonson 53:15 That's a very good point. And I agree with you, I was teaching a class and I thought, I made a comment about a group of teens, it being Lord of the Flies, and they had no idea what I was talking about. Right, read the book. So I didn't get the the reference. I was thinking, Well, you know, why don't children understand these references. And maybe it's important for us to teach the classics so that they get these societal references that we make. And I ran with that argument for a little while. And I realized that, 53:45 well, it's Dana Jonson 53:46 not about understanding the book or having read the book. It's about understanding the concept. And there are other ways to learn the same concepts. And I'm not saying anything for against Lord of the Flies. That was just my example. But, you know, as you said, with what were we trying to learn from, To Kill a Mockingbird when I was growing up when I read it in high school, when my mother read it in high school, when my children read, what was the goal? What are we trying to accomplish there? And if it's just good literature, well, we've got a lot of that we can find good literature, do we want it to be relevant? Or are we teaching about why that was written the way it was? Because that would be something interesting. Why was that written the way it was, at that time so Eurocentric and all of those pieces that might be a good angle, but it's not giving us the reality? Pam Margolis 54:37 There's a book. There's a book that I think would be better to read instead of Lord of the Flies. Lord of the Flies was interesting, right? But there's a book called I'm not dying with you tonight. And these two people from completely different worlds one white girl, one black girl, They're thrown together in a situation of a football game gets out of hand. And there's violence. And these two have to escape the school and get someplace safe. And they come from completely different mindsets, but they're thrown in together. Right, they have to rely on each other. And it's tough. And they each have their prejudices, and their biases. And there are times when they're totally unified, and then there's times when they're at each other's throats. And that is so much more helpful than Lord of the Flies. Because I also heard that Lord of the Flies, now, it was false. Like that didn't really happen. Right. So if you want to talk about gang mentality in group mentality, like that, I'm not dying with you tonight is a better use of that. It's quick, it's easy to read. The kids get it, each kid is going to, you know, identify with the light kid or the black kid and all the stuff that happens in it. It's a fast read. And a lot of books that are fast reads, and some kids, especially kids who might be reluctant readers might be into that you're not going to be into Lord of the Flies, but a bunch of British kids, now you're parked on an island. Dana Jonson 56:19 It doesn't make any sense to them. It's you're not teaching the same thing. And I think that goes back to you know, we could we could talk here for hours about what's messed up with literature or our education system, and how we choose to teach. But I do think that bringing a different perspective to our literature is important when we're not just teaching children about literature and perspectives. But we need to get stuck on that work 200 years ago, and so it must work now. And you can't tell me that we don't have newer literature that better addresses or better represents different populations, marginalized 57:07 communities. Dana Jonson 57:10 All of those different components. They think that we have a lot of literature, I do think it's important for people to do their homework. So you are someone who can help people do their homework. Know, for people listening to us today and saying, well, Pam gets it. She's the person I need to listen to, I only want to read books that she recommends. How would they find you? Pam Margolis 57:34 Sure. Well, I chat a lot on Twitter, and Instagram. I'm at Pam loves books. You can also you can also email me. I'm very, very eager and interested to talk books I will at the doctor's office. So you can read it. What are you reading? It's a great book, right? So please feel free to ask me. If you have a question about books, I have a list that I can send to you the big issues and why? It's a very comprehensive, it's several years old. But the books are still relevant that if families are looking for books to address a certain issue, that might be a good starting point. Dana Jonson 58:25 Wonderful. Well, I can't thank you enough for having this conversation with me. And I do hope that I will have you back at another point. I think there's lots of topics in literature and diversity that we could probably cover. Pam Margolis 58:37 Oh, sure, absolutely. one episode. Dana Jonson 58:39 But I really, really appreciate you giving us this very in depth introduction to what we need to be thinking about when we're thinking about literature for all of our students. So thank you so much, Pam, I can't thank you enough. Pam Margolis 58:56 It's been a pleasure. Excellent. Dana Jonson 59:01 That was great. Thank you. Did I miss anything? Is there anything you feel like you wanted to get in that I that we didn't cover? Pam Margolis 59:06 Yeah, there was. Let me see if I could. Yeah. There is one more thing that I wanted to talk about. So a lot of, okay, a lot of times people will say, Oh, well, that's just her. She's old. My grandmother, she, you know, she doesn't mean anything by and I always say look, I grew up in southwestern Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, where it was very appropriate to make Polish jokes. Okay. I don't do that anymore. I don't laugh at those jokes, because I realized now that that's highly inappropriate. I also didn't know how to ride a bike. And I also didn't know how to tie my shoes but I learned So someone can learn. They just have to either be forced to, because a lot of times, grandparents and parents are confronted with, oh, now my child is gay, or you know, somebody brings home a person of a different race. And they don't know what to think. Here's what to think. Turn your thinking around. Right? You can do it. I don't care how old you are, or how rich or how poor or whatever, you can do it. Yes. Dana Jonson 1:00:33 There's no point in throwing your hands in the air and saying it can't happen. Pam Margolis 1:00:37 That's just so I wanted to add that point before. And I'll put Dana Jonson 1:00:46 that back in. Because I think you're absolutely right. I think that it's easy for us to just say, Well, you know, that's just them, and they're harmless, and what have you. But I think you're absolutely right, there is a way to bring that back into the conversation. literature is certainly one of those ways. But I also find that the more you know, the more you can speak to it. Pam Margolis 1:01:05 Absolutely. And like you had said, when you first started, you're gonna make mistakes. Just know that. make mistakes, and Dana Jonson 1:01:12 it's okay to make mistakes, because that's how we learn. Pam Margolis 1:01:15 make mistakes and apologize. Offer sincere apology when you're corrected. Don't center yourself when the apology but apologize, apologize. Me, tech, I make mistakes all the time. But I say thank you for correcting me, thank you so that I can be a better friend. A better be a better friend, be a better one, right? Kids just want to be friends and they want maybe they wouldn't intentionally hurt a friend. Dana Jonson 1:01:41 And if they know that when someone speaks up, the adult says, I'm sorry, I was wrong. Let me learn from that. And they're gonna learn that that's what they should do. Pam Margolis 1:01:51 Absolutely, because they're watching you. Dana Jonson 1:01:54 Hopefully, that's what they're doing. Pam Margolis 1:01:56 No, they are because they're watching everything that they can pick up a curse word, they can pick up how to apologize. Absolutely. Oh, Pam, thank Dana Jonson 1:02:07 you so much. This is really great. Um, I don't think I'm going to publish until February but I'm going to let I will let you know if you could send me if you have a headshot that you like, if not something on the internet. But if you have all that, okay, great. send that to me any links or lists that you thought of? So I can put together the show notes? And I will Pam Margolis 1:02:26 go from them. Okay, but you're not publishing until February. So I have a couple days. Yeah. Oh, yeah. Dana Jonson 1:02:32 You've got a couple days, no rush. Don't stress. I'm gonna try and get it done. We're gonna try and start back up this month, but things have just been exploded in my office, as I'm sure you can imagine, as they do in special education, when the shit hits the fan. Pam Margolis 1:02:51 I understand. Okay, so yeah, so you're you're, you're building up a bank of episodes to the public. Okay. So Dana Jonson 1:02:58 I was gonna do it. I'm starting this month that I 1:03:01 just decided it's better to have a great Dana Jonson 1:03:04 end in February. It'll be one year. So I'll start off Pam Margolis 1:03:07 with my congratulations. Okay. Yeah. Dana Jonson 1:03:10 I'm enjoying it. It's a fun activity. Pam Margolis 1:03:13 Yeah, I used to have a podcast, but it was a lot of work. So I don't know how you do it. Dana Jonson 1:03:17 It is a lot of work. But I found that, you know, people are listening. And my goal, my goal is to get information to parents that they need. And as long as that is successful, I will continue trying to do that. And if at some point, they find they want a different venue, then I'll figure out what that is. Pam Margolis 1:03:33 Right? And I sincerely mean, if you have parents who need books, send them to me, I am more than willing to chat with them or to zoom in with them. I often offer zoom in sessions for my friends who are teachers that can come in and do a storytime with you with you or whatever. Because sometimes, they just need the example. And then once they see how easy it is, they're like, Oh, I could do that. Dana Jonson 1:04:01 Yeah, yes, exactly. It needs. You're right. Once people see that it's happening and Pam Margolis 1:04:07 it's Dana Jonson 1:04:08 difficult or it's easy. You know, the world doesn't catch on fire worlds 1:04:13 don't collide. Right. Okay, excellent. Dana Jonson 1:04:20 Thank you so much. I will be in touch very soon. Pam Margolis 1:04:24 Okay, great. Bye.
52:41 02/03/2021
Now you're speakin' my language!
Today I speak with Joulé Bazemore and Barb Coleman, Co-Coordinators of The Bridge Program at Wooster School, a program designed to address the needs of students with Language Based Learning Disabilities.  We discuss what these are, how they impact students, and how the Bridge Program has found a successful way to remediate these challenges for students within their typical classroom.  You can learn more about Wooster School and The Bridge Program here: TRANSCRIPT (not proofread) SUMMARY KEYWORDS students, learning, program, teachers, language, bridge, talking, worcester, work, disabilities, reading, parents, classroom, special education, area, dyslexia, meeting, wooster, adhd, educators SPEAKERS Joulé Bazeman, Barb Coleman, Dana Jonson   Dana Jonson  00:02 Hello, and welcome to need to know with Dana Jonson. I'm your host, Dana Jonson and I'm here to give you the information you need to know to best advocate for your child. I'm a special education attorney in private practice, a former special education teacher and administrator, a current mom to four children with IPS and I myself have ADHD and dyslexia. So I have approached the world of disability and special education from many angles. And I'll provide straightforward information about your rights and your schools obligations, information from other professionals on many topics, as well as tips and tricks for working with your school district. My goal is to empower you through your journey. So if there's anything you want to hear, comment on, join our Facebook group, it's aptly named need to know with Dana Jonson, or you can email me at Dana at special ed dot life. Okay, let's get started. Today we're going to talk with Julie bass Moore and Barb Coleman, who are the coordinators of the bridge program at Worcester Academy in Danbury, Connecticut, that is a private school. It's not a public school. And it's not a Special Education School. It's your typical college prep private school. But why I wanted to have you guys on Julie and Barb is because you have an interesting program, which addresses language based learning disabilities through the bridge program at Worcester. So the reason I have the two of you on was to discuss language based learning disabilities, because the program that you coordinate at Worcester is directed specifically for students with language based learning disabilities. So before we get into what those are and how we address them in the classroom, could you guys just do a brief introduction of yourselves and how you got here and why you are the people that I need to talk to about language based learning disabilities,   Joulé Bazeman  02:00 zillo speaking, what landed me here was, sir, I for the last, I want to say 1514 years, I'm having working with students with learning disabilities across the spectrum. So formerly, I was a learning specialist as a private school in Connecticut, for students on the spectrum. But my work has always been with students who learn differently. So I came to Worcester headed to Ohio to start a program there, by love was there so much that I decided that definitely I want to stay in Connecticut and in redesign, so the bridge program that it had already existed for a year before I before Barb and I came on board, but it looked very differently than what it looks like now, I really want the opportunity to redesign that program to make it more inclusive for our students so that they can participate across every area of the of the Wooster program. And Barb, how did you get here, my journey was a little bit, I would say, more convoluted. I taught for many, many years in public school in Westchester County. And during that time, I always had a co teacher in my classroom. And I always really was so amazed by the relationship and the possibilities that could you know, happen for students who learn differently. I did become from there, a staff developer and the head of gifted and talented program, which is kind of the other end of the spectrum of students who learn differently as well. And all along, my interest just grew about like neuro diversity and neurology and learning. So I started just taking course after course, I amassed almost 60 credits in in Science and Learning and the brain and I and then I had children.   Barb Coleman  03:44 A little detour planted up at Worcester, as the beginning of what is now their tutoring program, where I was working with students who just needed something a little bit different during their school day, mostly in the STEM areas. And we were just looking at how we could accommodate learners in that way. And then when the bridge program opportunity presented itself, and delay was on board for the literacy and they asked me if I be interested in the stem end, and really kind of refurbishing and making this program is something that we thought it could be that we always hoped we could be involved in something like this. We just jumped at it. And we've just been working at it consistently ever since together. That's great. And that's a wonderful segue into what are these language face learning disabilities that we're talking about? Because I think when people hear language based learning disabilities, the first thought is language, can they not understand me? Is that an English issue an English language learner issue, which it is not at all. But can you guys talk a little bit about what language based learning disabilities are? I know, they encompass reading disabilities and writing and they touch on math. There's so many areas that we address through language based components. So what do you guys see as the primary issues or or disabilities that come through that impact that language based component.   Joulé Bazeman  05:04 By the time the students come to us, many of our students have already been in an intensive program to address their language learning challenges. So we're like to transition to that piece, they're not fully ready to jump right into a particular program. So we're like right in the middle for them to take that next step. But what we see with our students, students, who we primarily work with are students who have been diagnosed with dyslexia, seeing a lot more students with a diagnosis of auditory auditory processing issues, we have students who have graffia, as well as one of their main diagnosis. Many of our students come with code morbidity. So we're looking at executive functioning, we also have students who may have some level of anxiety, given their experiences with their language learning challenges,   Barb Coleman  05:54 I think it's important to explain what pole morbidity is, and many of these disabilities that we're talking about have other disabilities that come along with them, though, for example, ADHD, and anxiety go hand in hand, it's almost, it's one of the most difficult things to tease out whether that anxiety is from the ADHD or standalone. And when you're talking about reading disorders, and other forms of learning disabilities. In my experience, if they are not properly addressed, they do turn into emotional components. Yeah, often, by the time you get to middle school, high school, particularly with girls, you end up with a lot of emotional components. And, and those other pieces that, again, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, all of those components that can go along with not being properly programmed for us, I find that when we have children, particularly who are very bright and are able to sort of mask a lot of the learning component, but the emotional piece builds up such that we get to middle school, high school, and we think we have an emotional disorder. And what we're realizing is we had one of the language faith issues going on address.   Joulé Bazeman  07:03 Exactly.   Barb Coleman  07:04 And we do see that and, you know, as much emphasis as we do want to put on, you know, identification of the deficit, or the disability and, and proper accommodation, we spend a tremendous amount of time on the whole student. So we're really thinking about this social being this emotional creature, this student in our environment, knowing that if they feel understood, if they feel safe, if they feel strength based, if they feel supported and partnered with, then many of those things that we're really kind of shutting down opportunities for them are going to be alleviated, or at least not going to be the beacon that was taking most of the light of the room for them. So we really do emphasize relationships. And we do emphasize this partnership, as we are working through the lblv with these kids.   Joulé Bazeman  07:54 Yeah, and I want to add, I just had a not too long the conversation with the student, we were talking about LD SD, the invisible disability, because our students, they're going to walk you just don't walk in a row, say, hey, there's a dyslexic over there, right. And our students have been masters of coping, they have learned to find ways to not showcase their challenge. So that's where you get a lot of the anxiety and a frustration on their part because they there is something that they're struggling with. But they've coped in a way that it's challenging for the teacher or someone who's working with them to pick up on it. And so the teacher or the the instructor, whoever's working with them, may see their challenges being there. They're just lazy, you just need to try harder, or you're just not paying attention. If you put more effort into this work, you'll you'll be good and students are already working at their level best there are students who tell me before they've worked with us, Miss Bay's more Miss Coleman, before I would get a reading assignment, it would take me two and a half hours to get through that reading. Now, I've learned some other ways to address that. But that's a lot of work on their end. So we want to be mindful that these challenges are not so very evident within a student and it is going to take a few teachers to really push me on labeling behaviors as other being lazy, or I want to say avoidance, and really asking this question. So what could be a play here with these students?   Barb Coleman  09:23 as a as a student who I grew up with undiagnosed dyslexia and ADHD, so I was a master at compensating for myself and not realizing that that wasn't something you were supposed to do. I just thought that's how it was for me. And I didn't understand why the other kids didn't have to work as hard as I did. Or even when I worked really, really hard and I didn't get something. I didn't get it. So I got a lot of that you're lazy, you are not putting in the effort. And for me, one of the things I tried to do was I was working but I was trying to make it look like I wasn't working because if I was gonna fail, I didn't want people to think I put the energy in. So it takes a lot of energy to be studying and pretending you're not studying. And then. And then when you don't do well trying to explain that you actually did study it. It's a very, it's a lot going on for a teenage kid. And so I totally see it. And it's my seat with my daughter who has dyslexia, ADHD, but she has supports and she was identified early on. And sometimes I get irritated. I'm like, ah, she just needs to toughen up. We're on how to accommodate her. So now, it's a completely different skill sets. But as you said, the level of stress. And for me anyway, there was fear, constant fear that someone would figure it out, you know, somebody would figure out that I was just a complete fraud. You know, and I think one of the things that was interesting was once it was determined that you know, and I was 19, I was in college when I when I was diagnosed, so her actually no longer in college. It took a quick detour. But one of the things that I found interesting was, then there was this concept of, well, that's dyslexia that shouldn't impact your memory. Or, you know, what does that have to do with history? Well, in order for me to learn the history, I got to do a lot of reading. So talk a little bit about how things like language based disabilities do impact, as you said, the whole child through the whole curriculum, everywhere that they are, I know, for my daughter, one of the issues she had was an inability to navigate the playground. So when kids were running around shouting rules to games, they were making up as they were playing, which is very typical, and very chaotic, she could not follow. And that was her brain not being able to to navigate around an unexpected situation, and then the ADHD and the attention. So how do these language based disabilities play on other areas outside of sages reading? Well, I think I can speak to that firsthand as the part of the partnership here that works with students in the math and science areas, in particular, besides academics, and there's also others, I think, one of the first things we see with all students is that teenagers already feel like everyone's looking at them. And then to have to actually take that risk, and ask for something maybe different a different pathway, maybe to ask for an accommodation that's been identified, or maybe that hasn't been in a need. So that already is a challenge. And that impacts students across every, whether it's sports, whether it's academics, whether it's anything that's going to impact them. So there's there's the competence tied to that in their math and science classes, there are so many steps that are a part of a process, think of like a typical chemistry class. And if you have a student who might struggle with language, or has a deficit in that area, to sequential ordering of things, especially if it's only given verbally, going to be really, really challenging, and then to have to stop and, and maybe be the only one who asked to have the directions repeated or maybe to not be able to do anything and just stay and wait and maybe pick up on a visual cue from a teammate or appear. That can be really challenging problem solving and math because a lot of language that can be almost foreign to students who if they can't verbalize and visualize, it won't even know what a reasonable answer might be. So we're constantly looking and trying to predict and preview what might come up for you in these occurrences, where might language actually be a barrier or an obstacle for you to be able to do something that we know that you're going to be able to do, we just might need to get you there in a different path.   Joulé Bazeman  13:39 Because there's such a move for students to show their thinking. So one of the things I was surprised that we are big in in having students share out we do thinking visible type of routines. And so even in the math and science, we're asking students to, to write down to even talk about their processes. So our students, many of our students get stuck with that because they're like, okay, so where do I start? And how do I start to explain to someone the steps I took for, let's say, this math problem. So strategies, we've had one senior, we were just talking to him the other day, and he brought up a memory that he would come in our office and lie down on the ground on the floor, and just talk out as we scribe for him that helped to relax him. He didn't feel the pressure of having to put word to page because once he stares at a page, then he loses the thinking. And so that that was one of the out of box strategies we did for the students, you know, giving you more specifics in terms of how this plays out, particularly in language, the expression of language, knowing when to start knowing how to, you know, go deeper. So what is the next step? What is was the next thing that I need to say here? So we teach them a lot about questioning, using questioning techniques so that they can have a scaffold that when they're working on their own, they have something that they can fill in as they go along.   Barb Coleman  14:57 Yeah, and I see that with my own Daughter in that, that inability to organize those thoughts. And so when you have so many thoughts, and you have to pick one to start with, but they all seem equally important, exactly, you can't narrow them down and get them out. And it's really hard to explain how that that process works. And what I've heard people say is, but that's not the real world, he's not going to get to sit down on the floor, someone's office at work and dictate his report. And my answer to that is, that's true. But this isn't the real world. This is this is what we are learning how to manage the real world. So when you implement strategies like that, what is the ultimate goal is your ultimate goal that this is the only way the student can present his work? Or what are you doing by allowing that student to relay the information in the best way they can, I think it's important to go back to the examples your les was just mentioning about the student who was fine on our office floor. Now, even within his own time, it was Sir, he wasn't lying on the floor and other classrooms to do his work. So he was meeting, you know, the expectation of the quote unquote, real world in terms of that space, it just happened to work where we were because of the, you know, the intimacy of our group. But I think the idea is that, you know, find strategies that work, and then find ways to apply them in the broader scope of things. And then as you kind of grow in your skill set and develop more confidence, and also advocacy, because this particular student is at a university in Connecticut, and he is accessing support at that level and doing very, very well, you just continue to kind of evolve and grow with whatever is working for you use strengths that you have used your relationship skills, use the tools that you've put in your tool belt from a program that's designed to work with you as an individual, and then see how you know, you can kind of manifest that in the larger area. I know that's very broad, but there's not a one size fits all for Ldlt. So it's going to look different for everybody   Joulé Bazeman  17:07 want to add to because the student going back to the example, he was able to say, and this is how I can do the same thing that lied on the floor somewhere. But he knows that being able to talk out his thinking works best for him. So what he's done, even at college, is to record himself, that's something that he's done. And he also has a person that he can go to, and they could talk out and do some back and forth. So our main goal in our program is one is to let students know that they do have choice, I think that that's the very first thing that we teach them other than this is what all this means this is what LD means. And then this is how it manifests for you. But you also have choice. And these students are very creative, and they're going to choose to be environments in their adult life, that's going to work best for them, they're not going to be the ones that go into a situation and say, Okay, now I have to redesign this to fit me, they're going to be thinking about what is going to make them happy, what is going to be in their best interest to get their smarts out no matter where they are. And I think that that's the beauty of the of the program.   Barb Coleman  18:16 An interesting point about the self advocacy piece, I was recently speaking with a man who is legally blind, and he was from a very young age, but he could still see. So he didn't realize he was legally blind. He assumed that how everyone else was seeing as well, and wasn't clear on why he was having a harder time than other people. And I want to say he was like nine or 10. Before this was recognized. And and so I think it's important for people to recognize that you can go and he was legally blind, and nobody knew it until he was about 10. So it really is possible for students and children to naturally accommodate their deficit, and not recognize that they have the deficit. So then you get to a place where How do you self advocate, if you don't know what your deficit is? And even if you figure out your deficit, if you don't know what it is you need? How are you going to self advocate? And what I love about the students, you're talking about who's lying on the floor talking out loud? Who's to say that that isn't how he could do his own work? As you said it with technology today to for him what works is to lie down and relax and dictate. I know for me when I'm driving, if I have a long drive, you know before COVID we I drive all over the state. I turn on my dictation software and I talk and I just get out all the words and a lot of them don't make sense. But I get them out and then I can go back and refine it. And I think it's a matter of figuring out as you said, What work and you have to start somewhere and sometimes that's laying on the floor in your teacher's office.   Joulé Bazeman  19:53 And one of the things that we we do in our program is that many of our students, they have our They already come with tools that work for them. And we give them an opportunity to share with their peers, because we feel that they are the best teachers like that. The kids listen to us, because we're adults, and we hold the title, but they really listen to each other. And so we've had students share assistive technology, how to use Google more effectively, or the Google suite more effectively, to address a need. We had students bring in smart pens and show that to other students and how to annotate using other software's these are the kids teaching each other think that we do we do a good job, pat ourselves on the back, provide that and provide a environment where these kids can do that they become a teachers and they actually share with kids who are not in our program. That's another great thing, though, with what's going on in the in a bridge program is that they take like, our expectation is that what you learn here, you have a social responsibility. And so what what you learn here will work for you, it may be beneficial for other students, and so they're able to take that back into their classrooms and say, Hey, I know we're working on like a lit circle here, this is what I've learned, I think it works best for me, I think will be beneficial for the whole group. And that to get feedback from your peers is amazing.   Dana Jonson  21:17 And that goes back to the choice, right? Because if there's only one way to do things, and there is no choice in how you do them, then there's nothing to teach, right? There's nothing to share. Yeah, right. And you're saying, Oh, you have to do it that way. Because you're different, you're different. And, you know, I would say that with students with disabilities, that there are things we can do, that the entire class would benefit from. And there are, I had a student who took a medication that made them thirsty, so they needed water, but the classroom rule was no water bottles, and only students who had this is not the public school. So I should clarify that it was not a public school. It was a parochial school. But the concept was, if you have a medical note, you can have a water bottle on your desk. Well, what third grader wants to do that? Right, what fourth grader wants to be the only kid who has a water bottle and every other kid knows, it's just because there's a medical note, why can't we have a water rule that accommodates that child that is manageable within the classroom, that doesn't mean every kid can jump up and run and get water whenever they want. But as you said, being creative, coming up with choices and looking at what might work for the entire room, instead of saying, I know that this works, so I'm sticking with it just like that.   Barb Coleman  22:33 But I think that it becomes additionally powerful in our relationships with our neurotypical teachers. So our students in our program, our Western students, first they participate in everything across the board. And then they have bridge as an added part to their schedule. So we work really closely with the teachers. But one of the things that we have found has been really successful for us as a community is how open and willing everybody on our campus has been to utilizing strategies and just having an understanding that people learn differently. And whether it's an lb LD, or whether it's just somebody without an lb LD that has a pacing issue, or whatever it is, these best practices, these strategies are good for all learners. So by by our students coming in and informing us what really good pedagogy could look like, we can then help inform others and it just becomes inclusive and accessible to all the learners in the space.   Joulé Bazeman  23:29 Yeah, and it's interesting little stigma tied to that, like we and that's the systemic,   Dana Jonson  23:33 what's the right word, it's a, it's a social issue. That's the environment. That's everyone around them saying, and that comes in many ways from the top down. So if you're saying, the students who don't learn this way, they have to go over there, that sending the message. And that's where I think we get those comments like, but you can't do that in the real world. No, you can't. But you probably also don't have a restriction around your water bottle in the real world. You know, there are a lot of things going on in school that have nothing to do with the real world. The goal is to teach students and I think it's important to recognize that for some students, just because they can't naturally obtain the skill doesn't mean they can't attain the skill. You know, My son was a was a premium. He had some issues. So he had to have PT for his first two years of life so that he could learn to crawl and walk. And now he walks just fine by himself, and he got all that but he needed that additional teaching Pacific to him so that he could get to that place where everybody else was. I think we forget about that, too. When we're so busy thing What about the real world, which I really want to know what this real world is we're all preparing Yeah, cuz   Joulé Bazeman  24:49 I don't. I don't get that because I know that. I mean, my experience with the world real world, particularly as accounts to the students that we're working With like the fear of shaking things up, right, they're out there. They're saying, you know, because because many students were LBL de Vere, like your next entrepreneurs, right, and they're designing spaces where there's that those barriers don't exist. problem solvers, they're problem solvers, they want to shake things up, they're going to be very thoughtful about including other voices, because they, they have that like, really deep sense of empathy all of our students do. And I feel that maybe when people were talking about the the real world, they're stuck in, like, the 70s, or 80s, or whatever that looks like. But going forward, we're seeing a lot of changes. Where are you seeing colleges that are saying that you know what, we have to do something differently. Because it's not only in the best interest of the student that's coming to their campus, it's in the best interest of the whole community. Right, yeah. To be for thinking to think outside the box to reimagine what a learning experience can be. And so we are excited to see, when we hear our students who have graduated, come back to us and tell us what they have been up to like, we have one student who is on the board of trustees at his college. And he's asking these questions. So how can we be more forward thinking in terms of how we address the needs of students who learn differently? So that's very powerful to hear,   Barb Coleman  26:19 taking those lessons learned to the real world, to be able to add someone in the real world and say, It's okay, if this isn't your process for presenting or learning, like, yes, the end product needs to be a certain thing. But how you get there, it's only if you get there your own way. Even the idea that it's the you know, we're using the term disability to talk about a difference. So you know, it's scientific, it's clinical, however, you know, so But, but when we're talking with our students, we're not really talking about disabilities, we're talking about what strengths are they bringing? And what differences do they have in terms of how they're going to access opportunities, or information or skills or concepts? And how can we creatively, maybe find a pathway that's not the same as everyone else? Because we know that average is really just a social construct. It doesn't exist, what is average? So wait, we're looking at people's individuals, and we're looking at people as as different and unique than then let's honor that jaggedness and meet them where they are, and help them go where they want to go. Right. And I love that. Yeah, the jagged profile when you talk about, and I love the visual that comes with it, it for anyone listening, who I've mentioned this many times. So if you're not familiar with that, the jagged, the jagged profiles, something that came out of the end of average, from Todd roses work, but I think it's a lot of people's work. The idea that you may have two students with the exact same IQ, but they may not have a single strength or weakness in common. And so that being the idea that we have these Jagat profiles, but we're treating our children as if they are all we're basing them against this one average student, and I don't know who they are. And I don't know where they are. But that's the norm against which we are measuring everyone, if not a fair or accurate representation of students, I look at myself, I have myself evaluated again, before I went to law school, I went when I was in my 30s. And, you know, I have dyslexia and ADHD. And I do have a master's in special education. So I'm familiar with a lot of my strengths and weaknesses. And I had a reading rate of 8% when I entered law school, and I still finished, and I'm still a lawyer. And that was because I spent a lot of time working on strategies that work for me, and figuring out what I needed. And the law school didn't have to change, but I had to be aware of what I needed. And I went to a school where that was feasible. And I think, first teacher when I was in college, who I went to and said I have these issues. And their response was that's your problem, not mine. That was in 1990. So a long time ago. But it's different now. And one of the things that I always say is, the only place that special education exists is in the public school. Because the public school in order to educate on mass, they have to educate in one way. And that one way has gotten wider. Since when I was little that one way now encompasses many more students. But if you're not in those in that lane, then you're over here and you need something special, and it has to be done differently. Whereas when you remove yourself from the public school world, yes, we have schools specified for disability, but in other programs, like say yours, it's just education. You're just learning it in a different way. And you've signed up for this bridge program because while you are a typical student at Worcester, you require these additional support. Is that an accurate way to say it, do   Dana Jonson  29:49 you think?   Joulé Bazeman  29:50 I think at some level, I was thinking about, you know, we try we really focus on on students is that you're beyond your label. You are, we always say person first. And the label itself helps to identify practices that can be used in your in your setting. But you're beyond that. So when we talk about s practice, we're working with dyslexia, like there's research methodology, it's out there, like we know, by doing x, we're going to, we're going to guarantee y, based on that research that's out there. Now, and the student layer to that is that each student is going to have their own type of expression. So we have to figure out, okay, from this list of things, we know work for this particular diagnosis, what's going to be in the best interest of this particular child, so we have to individualize, we have to personalize, we get the students evolve, they give us feedback, they reflect, they'll, they're very honest with us, like, that didn't work for me, let's try something else. So we really try to move them beyond the label and think about again, like what Barb said, What are their strengths? And how can we leverage their strengths, to address the other things that may be going on? Oh,   Barb Coleman  31:01 you're gonna add to that, even when we think we have a plan, they'll change it because, you know, we, you know, we're, we're knowingly, we are small, which is a gift to be able to do what we do, because you did mention, you know, public schools, and they do have huge medical students to handle and, and to personalize an individualized at the level that we do, I'm not sure how that would would work from what they are, their constraints are right. So we do have a very ideal situation, in that there's a very low pupil to teacher ratio. And we also have people who are really committed and dedicated to this particular understanding for these cohorts. But even once we have a plan in place, a lot of times the students will advocate for what they think needs to happen. So we're in a constant feedback loop. We're very, very flexible, we leave our egos at the door, because what we think we might know, might not be what they need at the moment. So we really have to constantly just rely on the the trust and the relationships that we're building with the students and the cohorts, to know when to say yes, we're gonna push through this because we know kind of like a mom or a dad, this is what you need. And this is going to be good for you. Or are we more of a peer and a partner that day, and we're going to take your feedback, and maybe acquiesce or maybe shift or change yours, because you might know a little bit more about what you need that at that day. So it's just constantly evolving. And I think the key word there is trust. I have a meeting with my daughter, where she actually said when they were talking about her extra time, she raised her hand, seventh grade, I was really impressed. And she said, Can I get some of that extra time in advance? And we all stopped and looked at her and said, What? And she's like, well, if I have to take English, is there any reason I can't read the books first over the summer, so it's not the first time I'm reading them. And I mean, I, as a parent, and a former educator was so embarrassed, it never occurred to me. Everyone at the table, we're all sort of like, Yeah, that makes sense. None of us could come up with a reason why not. But I think we were all surprised to have the seventh grader turn around and be like, Hey, guys, I have a thought. And what I've learned as a parent, is that my kids have a lot of really valuable input. And I think that for some reason, and then maybe it's the way we were raised, but I don't think we naturally go to the students for their input, we say we do we want to I never met an educator who didn't think that was important. But I'm not sure we do. And whether that's just not. There's no availability, maybe it's not feasible, depending on your program. But I found that I always assumed that given given a choice children would not go to school and not want to be there. That that's just what I assume. Probably because my education growing up was so challenging. For me. That was just my assumption. But I'm learning that's not true. Yeah, exactly.   Joulé Bazeman  33:57 I mean, I want to go back what you said earlier, is that I think most of the challenge for adults asking students is that the system was are already telling us that the students broken, right? As an adult, you feel like you take that on and feel that you have to fix something and you're the only one it becomes that like that savior complex. Yeah. And, and I think that I know for both Barb and I, we've talked about this, too, is that that's not where we're coming from. We always tell the kids, you're not broken. There is nothing broken about you. What we're going to work on is for you to really understand how best you learn and implement those things. But there's nothing broken about you. We're not saviors. We're very deliberate in terms of the link the language that we use with our students, we say we are partners in learning with you. Because as you learn, we also learn, right? Every student that we work with, we take something away and we're like, yes, that that was a great one. lesson for me as an educator, definitely great lesson for the student. And then how can we pay that forward to another experience that we'll have. But we don't use things even we don't even use the language support. Right? We don't tell the student we're supporting them. Because some students they've had experiences with support, then has not been supportive. But you'll never hear say that we we've already spoken to our faculty about not using the language mainstreaming the language. Again, as partnership, we ask questions, we're always question we always deliver with a question like, how's this working for you now? What else do you need? What can you do when you don't know what to do? Like that? That's one of our costs and questions for our students. And that helps us to have that deeper dialogue. And I think that as educators, if educators can get at the mindset that we have to fix these students, and that they're broken, you can make some better choices as an educator.   Barb Coleman  35:57 And I like that point about, you know, mainstreaming, because because mainstreaming, indicates that you were segregating them in the first level, right? So if you have to take a step to include them, then that means that they're separate in the first place, versus some students might go to this classroom to do one thing in this classroom to do something else. And these students are simply going here to do what they need to do. And it's not a separation, it's, it's part of the whole educational environment, it's part of learning. And think that when we have classrooms that are so huge, and it is so difficult, and it is such a shame, that in order to be able to go to those places, whether it's support, or whatever it's called, a lot of times students are missing out on other aspects of education, they're missing out on social opportunities, whether it's lunch, and you know, yeah, well, you have lunch, lunch, during lunchtime, sure. But that is eliminating another area of social interaction, or art, or a foreign language, or all of these things that are so important, and all pieces that children with language, face disabilities are often good at, you know, and we're eliminating the components that they're good at, so that we can help them with the parts they're not good at. So now they're just spending all day only doing stuff that's difficult for them that they can't do that fun, when not fun and told that that's what they have to do, they're being punished for while everybody else goes to art, you're going to go work on this thing that you don't like and isn't easy, and might not be with somebody who you work well with exactly. We do. Part of part of, I think another part of bridge that works well is our ability to work within the higher campus classes and different events. And like we're, we're always present as the the staff, the bridge staff, and also our students, of course, our fully Western students first, but we also make an appearance in classrooms, all throughout the week, every level of class, every type of class. And when we are in there, students have equal access to any person in that room as a partner in their learning. So sometimes somebody from bridge might be leading the entire class instruction, sometimes they might be splitting a class and taking a group breakout group for smaller skill sets. Sometimes they're just teaming up with that particular lead teacher that day to, you know, kind of help with an assessment, whether that's authentic, or you know, whether it's a summative, or formative, but we are so fluid that I have students, and so does July all the time, who are not part of our bridge program, who are sending us papers to ask for feedback, who are asking if they can meet with us during office hours. But so we are truly community oriented. And that comes with that idea that we don't pull out and separate students in bridge in unless it's because we have a specific skills area that we're working on with them in a bridge specific class, but it doesn't come at the expense of art or music or participation in sports or lunch, or the culture. It's part of the culture, I guess. I mean, I hear what you're saying. And it's very difficult to do in a large building with a large body of students. And, you know, we could talk all day about how we should revamp the entire public schools. We have enough time for that today.   Dana Jonson  39:18 Though, I really appreciate you guys breaking this down. Because I think it's so critical to understand that these language based learning disabilities that so many students have that are just specific learning disability is the largest used   Joulé Bazeman  39:33 xactly   Dana Jonson  39:34 disability category for any child with IEPs. Right That's, that's the the largest category use. So the vast majority of our children in special education have language based or some form of specific learning disability and language based learning disabilities. And so to evolve the culture of our schools would simply make sense. So hopefully, hopefully we'll get on that soon. But in the meantime, for anybody listening to us, who says, Well, clearly, I only need to talk to Barbara Julia because they know exactly what I'm talking about. They know exactly what about my students. And I need to look into the Wister program. How would they find you guys? Where do they go?   Joulé Bazeman  40:18 Well, you can, we do have on our Wooster website, a section just for bridge. And I'll give some more information about the program our philosophy, remembering that we are in align with the Wooster whole philosophy as community first. So you'll find information there. And there's also information in terms of what type of documentation will need if you want to start the process for application. So everything's there on their website.   Barb Coleman  40:41 Yeah. And that's something I wanted to ask to for parents who are saying, you know, this sounds like my kid, what kind of things do you do tell parents to look out for? Like, I think my kid might have a language based learning disability, where the types of things that you would listen for today? Yeah, that might be you might want to look into the bridge program. You mean, if they haven't been documented, right? If they haven't been documented, like the parents, or you're talking to someone, and the parent says, You know what this sounds like a program my child would benefit from, like, What are the signs that parents can look for that maybe it is a language based learning disability that they're dealing with? Are there any specific red flags that you see? Yeah, I mean, it depends also on the age level, but around the time when we're looking at students who might be interested at the middle to upper school level, you know, anytime students are really struggling with reading fluency, if they have difficulty with comprehension, or popularity, you like, Can you think of   Joulé Bazeman  41:35 Yes, so, like word retrieval, like what we're doing, that can be a challenge. My students have word retrieval, we have students another red flag would be if they're really struggling with comprehension. So if they read something, and then you ask them questions, and they can't sequence that information, or figure out like, what actually did I read? That could be a huge flag. Some people think that if kids just start writing their alphabet and reversals, that's, that's a sign that there's a misconception around that it may be a sign, but not all students do that sometimes. There could be some other things at play.   Barb Coleman  42:13 But I'm asking because I hear sometimes, you know, when parents say, well, they don't write their letters backwards, or that wasn't an issue, or they can remember numbers. Well, those aren't the only signs. Yeah, no, no, they could also just be simply, you know, verbally being able to follow a set of directions that are maybe greater in length than two or three, like just stranding things. So there's a lot of different things to look for, if you go super far back to when they're even toddlers, it could be as much as, you know, milestones that they may or may not be meeting and you've excluded possibilities for like hearing or vision issues. So I would say definitely, for parents, you know, keep up on those milestones, they're, they're there as a reference point, they're not a hard stop, but they're definitely there as a reference point. Always consider your genetics because, you know, there tends to be a link Yeah. No, actually, no, keep close relationships with teachers and and with your own children. If you have other kids in your family, and you can kind of do a little comparison without letting them know and just kind of be like, Oh, well, you know, this seemed to be okay. And third grade, but I'm not seeing the same thing happening for, you know, this particular Yes. Daughter, you know, so there's lots of reference points up until that point. And then when they get a little bit older, we've had students who weren't diagnosed until they were 14 1516, because they had such great coping skills. So think about how much time are they spending on task? Is it successful time? Or is it frustrating? Or is it just meeting basic bar levels in terms of expectations, so there's lots of different things, but I think a lot of it is communication, and observation. And then when you're ready, if you have, you know, a concern, then testing will really help you to kind of understand what's happening between cognitive and academics.   Joulé Bazeman  43:57 Yeah, and I remember what my my youngest daughter, when we realized something was going on with her, she sat down with me and she just came out and said, Mom, something's happening in my head. I said, Well, what do you mean? And she said, is, when I read I get this. She described it as like a crunchy sound. Like a crunchy so I said well, with your teachers, but the younger kids will give some clues, right? They'll tell you like, this is what what I'm what I'm struggling with, they may not have the language, but it's definitely something you want to follow up with a teacher and say, okay, so can you what teachers can do is to create an observational record and know the number of teachers in their in early age, they'll do like the Dr. A's and running record reading records. That's something that you can look at, as well as a parent, you know, keep in contact with the teachers, definitely. And then you can make some recommendations, whether that's gone to, you know, speech and language pathologists, maybe there may be an OT who may get involved if it's just you know, discraft tea or something like that, but definitely keep those lines communication open with the persons that are working directly with the studio. Yeah.   Barb Coleman  45:05 The last thing I just want to ask is what sparked Worcester to do this? What what made them think, you know, we need this component in our program, were you part of the inception of that, I know you're a part of the revamping of it so   Joulé Bazeman  45:20 I don't work there were a couple of things going on. So we'll start head started a program called prospect which was for our younger friends. And that that was actually like a school within a school. And so students were coming to Worcester with with a an educational plan, often those students who are dyslexic, but there were others who fell under the LD LD realm. And they worked with the specialist and and her team in in that program. Like I said, it was a school within a school because it was you know, they very rarely participated with the with the non prospect students, but that school in design was meant to be as intensive as like a school like, like self for Eagle Hill, it was like blisters version of, of Eagle Hill. Now in terms of bridge, now how bridge came apart, there was this lovely woman, I don't know, their name on, on a podcast, this lovely woman, one of her children from had been diagnosed with dyslexia, and he was transitioning to the high school and there wasn't a prospect at the high school level. And so she worked with with a team of teachers who designed bridge and bridge, much like prospect was a school within a school. So two students, they had two teachers, and they're only two students at that time. But they spent their whole day with these two teachers, they did participate in sports, but their whole academic day was with only these two teachers. So when we came on board, our main thing was like, we're gonna we're gonna have to change that we want the students to be fully integrated into the program. And we also want to be fully integrated in the program, we want students, we don't want that stigma on a student and also the educators. And so while the students were integrating, going to all the courses and Opera school, we were also pushing those boundaries, and we were interjecting ourselves in the classroom. And that would really caught on for our program. Because now, you know, in that regard, the program, we're not a school within the school, but we are a part of school in every aspect. We just have these other classes that we, you know, work with our students. And so it's been a huge transition.   Barb Coleman  47:35 And it's a huge transition. Did you find that the community came on board fairly quickly, once you really pushed into everything and and made it the norm? Yeah, I think that that's one of the strengths for why the program has done as well as it has. And and just to add to the the origins, we were only a nine and 10. program at first. And then these same fantastic parents and families who said how can we adjust this to meet you know, the the needs of students as they're evolving and growing? So we we developed in 11th grade model, and then after 11th grade, they said, How can we keep this going from 12th grade so that we are really working toward it more autonomy and independence and agency. So we developed a transitional college model for 12th grade. And then we had parents who were like, how can we start sooner, so we planned and started the middle school program. So we really have been a response to our community and what they're telling us that the the needs are for these cohorts. And we are really just taking a lot of what we think and know would be really important to have in place, and then taking feedback from what families are telling us they can't find and they really would like to see. And we're just you know, making this recipe together all the time. And it shifts and changes according to you know, who we have in our cohort, but but our basic philosophy and our practices are solid within that.   Dana Jonson  49:05 And one of my favorite things is that what the bridge program shows is that it can be done, okay, that that this can be done as a full cultural systemic solution from which all students benefit. And I think that really is the most important message as we've touched on it. It's difficult to do in larger buildings and larger programs, particularly the public school, but you got to start somewhere. And I think being able to look at the bridge program and understanding that it is fully integrated, that this does apply to everyone everyone is having their needs met and no one is losing because if you have these students I hear that a lot. Well these students get so much more attention. What about the other kids you know, my kid would benefit from extra time well, then maybe your kid has a learning disability. But that but it really is a demonstration of what can be done and and how we really can be All Inclusive,   Joulé Bazeman  50:01 it has to start at the top to like we came on, we made sure that we clearly understood the vision of Western, because we wanted to make sure that what we did with the bridge program align with that mission. And I feel that this program truly shows that we are inclusive, we talked about breaking down systematic barriers, and there was a systematic barrier before we got on board. And we've broken that barrier, right. And the beauty we always come back to this point that Wooster has done for us as educators is that they have given us the space and they have trusted us to make the decisions that we have made. And we have partnered again with barsa, with the parents and the student, and like this is the students program. And along the way we've adjusted, we made some decisions. But each decision was based on what the student needs at that time, the core things are always there. We want students to feel valued. Again, they're not broken, they are celebrated. They have the tools, we're just providing them the environment to do the things that it's necessary for them to do. Like it's a part of their, their, their soul. So we're over the hills thankful and grateful for everything that we have at Wooster, and the students. I mean, every time that we get to see them, we're just like beanie. It's not it's not I don't want to make it seem like all rodeo is in a lot of hard work. It is it's exhausting. It's hard work. But we're partnering with some really great people. And we're excited every day to come do the work that we do.   Barb Coleman  51:37 And I think just to add one last note to that, you know, yes, there are bumps in the road. And it's not perfect. And of course, we're focusing on everything that works well. And, and when we fall down, we have to get back up. But I think delay mentioned Worcester has been incredible in providing us the opportunity to do that, and and the belief in us and the willingness to partner with us, and also the parents, parents have put huge amounts of trust and effort into working with us to all do what's best for these learners. The proof is in the pudding. The proof is in the students that you are putting out who are meeting their goals and their dreams and pursuing their education or whatever it is they want to pursue next. And taking these skills and actually making them work in the real world.   Joulé Bazeman  52:24 zactly we have our this year, this school year is pretty significant to us. Because the two students we started with in 10th grade. They're graduating from college this year. Here, yeah. So it's pretty exciting for us to see where they where they go. That's sort of full circle. Yeah, exactly. Well, maybe   Dana Jonson  52:45 not yet. They might not be finished.   Joulé Bazeman  52:49 They might be gone. You know, going back to school.   Barb Coleman  52:52 That is a great. That is a great measure, though to be that must be exciting to see the first two students and say, Yep, it's working. Yeah. Yeah, it absolutely worked. Well, thank you both so much for joining me and explaining these pieces. And talking about the bridge program. I don't think it's as well known as it needs to be. And I think it's a wonderful model for any other schools that that want to try and incorporate language based learning strategies that benefit all students. So I appreciate it. All of your contact information. And the Wister website that we discussed will be in my show notes. So anyone listening to this, who wants to go back and find Julie and Barb or Worcester the bridge program, go back and read the show notes. They will all be there. And thank you both so much for joining me today. Thank   Joulé Bazeman  53:36 you so much. Thank you. Thank you. I   Dana Jonson  53:38 really really enjoyed our time talking with you. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for joining me today. Please don't forget to subscribe to this podcast so that you get notifications when new episodes come out. And I want to know what you want to know. So join our Facebook group also named need to know with Dana Jonson or you can email me at Dana at special ed dot life. But definitely reach out with your comments and questions and I'll see you next time here on me to know with Dana Jonson have a fabulous day
54:25 12/09/2020
Droppin' Knowledge!
Today we talk to Mandy Favolaro & Missy Alexander about the Annual COPAA Conference. COPAA stands for Council of Parents Attorneys and Advocates, an organization dedicated to protecting and enforcing the legal and civil rights of students with disabilities and their families. Their primary goal is to secure high quality educational services and to promote excellence in advocacy and their Annual Conference is one of the ways in which they do it! If you aren't familiar with COPAA, join us to learn about one of the best conferences out there for parents of students with disabilities (and attorneys and advocates). And if you are familiar with this inspiring conference, then listen in to hear about all the cool ways they plan to host the conference virtually this year! You can check COPAA out at and register for the conference here: You can learn more about Mandy Favaloro here: You can learn more about Missy Alexander here: TRANSCRIPT SUMMARY KEYWORDS conference, people, advocate, coppa, parents, attorneys, year, training, topics, sessions, missy, students, mandy, hear, learn, presentation, special education, government relations committee, specific, special ed SPEAKERS Missy Alexander, Mandy Favaloro, Dana Jonson Dana Jonson 00:02 Hello, and welcome to need to know with Dana Jonson. I'm your host, Dana Jonson and I'm here to give you the information you need to know to best advocate for your child. I'm a special education attorney in private practice, a former special education teacher and administrator, a current mom to four children with IPS and I myself have ADHD and dyslexia. So I have approached the world of disability and special education from many angles. And I'll provide straightforward information about your rights and your schools obligations, information from other professionals on many topics, as well as tips and tricks for working with your school district. My goal is to empower you through your journey. So if there's anything you want to hear, comment on, join our Facebook group, it's aptly named need to know with Dana Jonson, or you can email me at Dana at special ed dot life. Okay, let's get started. Damn speaking with Mandy favaloro and Missy Alexander, who are co chairs of the conference committee for the Council, a parent attorneys and advocates otherwise known as COPPA, co If you're interested, I talk about them all the time. So I'm sure you've heard of them on my podcast. And Mandy is an attorney from California and Missy is an advocate from Maryland. Can't believe I almost got that wrong. Mandy Favaloro 01:28 He's an advocate from Maryland. And so first, why don't you guys introduce yourselves a little bit. I'd like to hear what you guys do and how you came to here and what you're doing on COPPA? Mandy? Sure, I'll go first. My name is Mandy favaloro. And I'm an attorney that I just represent students with disabilities in the special education system. I've been doing it for 15 years. And the first COPPA conference I went to was in 2005. So almost as soon as I was sworn in, I went to a conference. And I've been going ever since. And I think I've been involved COPPA, with the training Committee, which does our webinars, which have been in place for a number of years, I taught feet for about six years, which is a special education advocacy training program. And that's all done online. And I have been doing I've been on the conference committee for maybe four or five years now, maybe six years. And they all the years are kind of melding together on this. And Missy, who has been doing that for a very long time has sort of been my mentor and all things conference committee, and I've been presenting at the conference for a long time. Even before that, I have an interest in sort of sharing my knowledge and letting people know what we do and how to advocate for their own students and advocate for other students. And I'm currently the vice chair of the Coppa board of directors. Very nice. And Missy, also a board member, I believe, yes, I am a board member. I've been in the world of specialized advocacy. For a long time. My eldest, my youngest daughter is 28. And she has an autism spectrum disorder. And she was educated in our public school system, her entire educational career until she was 21 years old. So I've seen the bowels of special ed. And it's not pretty, but we live to tell about it. Missy Alexander 03:19 I work for Maryland's Parent Training and Information Center, every state has at least one as required by idea part day. And I've been with parents place for 18 years. So I've been doing this professionally for with other families for a little over 18 years now. And it's here in Maryland, and my work includes working with families directly, they also do some training. I also am involved in some local and statewide systemic work just depends on who's talking to what what committee I get invited to and, and if I feel it's, you know, worthwhile cause and I've been a member of COPPA for a long time. And I don't know how long I should have looked it up that I'm sorry, I didn't, but I don't know. And I've been going to the Coppa conference since second or third conference. I don't remember when that was I should have looked it up. And I didn't know sorry. list for me one year, so I could refer to it. Just so you've really been I've been going for so long. I've been here co chair of the advocate. They was co chair the advocate committee for a while. And then I became co chair of the conference committee, and I really enjoy doing that. And I'm like, Mandy, I want to share what I know with others. I don't want to hold on to it. If I knew it, I want everybody to know it. I think that's really, really important. And for COPPA, I'm also on the board and I was the first advocate chair of the board. Remember that? And I live to tell about it. So I think that was really, really great. Dana Jonson 04:47 Yes, that is wonderful. And I do think it's important to say for those who don't know, COPPA, and I just think it's so critical that I always assume everyone knows what it is and that everyone's a member, but it's a wonderful organization and they work on not only legislatively to try and get things passed on behalf of children with disabilities, but they also do a tremendous amount of training and support for people who do advocate for children with disabilities, as well as parents. And I also have been going to Copa for a very long time, I believe. And the conference is possibly my favorite part of the year. And I've been going to the cup of conference for at least 12 years, I think, at least. But it's wonderful, because not only are you surrounded by like minded people, but it's such a wonderful wealth of information for parents and attorneys and advocates. So could you guys talk a little bit about what the goal is of the conference, how you guys develop it and make those determinations as to what you're going to put out there. And and what it does for people, for parents and attorneys and advocates? Sure, I Mandy Favaloro 05:56 think the the part that we plan is really the the teaching and the breakouts and the keynote speaker. So all of that is planned ahead of time, we have a process where we get proposals from members and from people kind of outside the organization who give us their proposals about what they want to teach what they want to pass along their knowledge. And we have a committee that really goes through that process, and picks out the ones that we think are the best, which is very difficult. Some years, we get hundreds of applications, and there's about maybe around 40 spots on a typical year. So that is a laborious process. I think the part of the conference that brings people back every year is really the networking and getting to know people, meaning people from your area meeting parents that are going through the same thing that other parents are going through finding people that they really like to learn from I know Missy has her favorite instructors that she will go to whatever they teach about whatever topic. So you really make connections with people. And I think that that is what keeps people coming back. And they'll learning is sort of an add on bonus to that. But we're really proud of it. I think we you know, we put in a lot of work, the staff puts in a huge amount of work. As copas grown, we've got a lot more staff that's dedicated to the conference than ever before, even in the five years that I've been doing this, and I'm sure even more as long as he's been doing it. And they do a lot of the day to day work of answering everyone's questions and registration just open for this here. And there's a lot of very specific questions. And all of those are being answered by you know, Marcy, and Denise who is our executive director or CEO, and Marcy who's really kind of in charge in the heart of the company. Missy Alexander 07:40 MRC is like the glue, she did the keeps it all together. And sort of a little bit of a historical perspective of COPPA and the conference. While it's the Council of parent attorneys and advocates, it was really attorneys taking the lead. And we have really morphed advocates have really pushed their way into things so that we're now pretty much 5050 on the board and advocates and attorneys Wow, this year, I believe we have more advocate members than attorney members. And we wanted to reflect that in the conference. So as each year has gone on, we've included more and more in different categories to meet the needs of our various learners. And we've done a really, from my perspective, a really good job with making sure we have good quality content for advocates. And now we're saying hey, we also have parent members, too. So for the last couple of years, we've been working on being very intentional, that we have offerings for family for parents, who aren't quite ready to sit and listen to a two hour dissertation about the Andrew f case like I would be but yeah, so I think that we have a lot of really great subjects for a lot of people. And I think that's a great point. I Dana Jonson 09:01 mean, the counselor, parent attorneys and advocates started as more of a professional organization, I believe, and and as advocates sort of became just, you know, evolved out of parents who had been through this process, and could help other parents who maybe didn't need an attorney to come in and litigate a case, but they needed support this growing body of parents who started to do it, not just for fun or to help their friends but they started to do it professionally. And I got to watch that my time attending COPPA is to see that change how how it used to be parents and advocates are kind of lumped together. And then now I know that advocates, it's an actual profession that we now treat as such. And I love the conferences reflecting that I think there's also been a growth in options for parents to write up. Absolutely I know, I know that there's a pre conference that And then the main conference. So can you talk a little bit about the difference between those two components? Sure. So Mandy Favaloro 10:06 in a typical year, we have the pre conference and main conference are kind of together, they're back to back. It runs from Thursday to Sunday. And we'll talk a little bit about how that can be different this year. But yeah, basically, the conference runs from Thursday through Sunday, and Thursday and Friday, we have our pre conference training, which had includes skill based training, those go on for about two days, summer one day, but our big ones are really two day trainings. They focus on new attorneys. There's advocates specific training for brand new advocates all the way to advocates who are maybe ready to conduct a due process hearing if that's allowed in their state. We also have four new attorneys, we do due process training, those are ones that have been around for a long time, and are very successful, and people love. And those run Thursday and Friday, Friday night, we sort of have like an opening reception and a keynote speaker and then the main conference where we have breakout sessions starts Saturday. And so on Saturday and Sunday, there's breakfast, there's lunch provided with speakers and an award ceremony. The breakout sessions are about six runs simultaneously. So there's probably three typically on a Saturday and two or three on the Sunday. And those are very specific to topics so people can choose what they want to go watch and interact with the presenters who are talking for about 90 minutes, typically in person. And then there's usually Question and Answer periods, those are all recorded. And then you can kind of buy a recording later if there's a topic that you didn't get to go to or a session that you really want to hear over and over again. And that has been a really successful format. I think that's worked for, you know, it was last year, our 20th conference, I believe was the 20 right around 20. We may be past 20. But you know, it's worked for a really long time. And it's fun, it's grown. Dana Jonson 11:57 Yeah. Every first went it was just a Friday, Saturday, it was just Saturday, Sunday, I think so Mandy Favaloro 12:02 I grown every year the number of people that are there, I think the pre conference, Ystad, you know, be smaller, we keep adding sessions on to that, as we, you know, grow and are taking over spaces and larger hotels and conference space that we can get, we kind of offer as many sessions as possible. And there's ones that people will take twice, because they learned so much the first time that they're, you know, we're going to take it again, so we can get something else out of it the second time. And I really think that, you know, even someone who's been doing this a long time, or someone who's brand new, you get something different out of it. I know that you know, I've been doing this for a while. But if I get one thing out of every conference, I consider that successful. And it might be from someone that I'm teaching who has a tip that I haven't thought of who has a situation that I have not come across. And it really changes the way you think about your clients when you go back home. And you're in your practice, or you're advocating for your own child or for other students. And you're really, you can put that into what you're doing on a day to day basis. And I find that every year there's something new that I learned like a nugget that I can take away from a presentation that really changes the way I think and that I can kind of move forward with Missy Alexander 13:15 students I used to alternate when COPPA first started. One year I go to the Coppa conference and other year I'd go to the conference of another national organization that was more disability specific. And then after I had done that, I went to COPPA, what's the other one and then I went to COPPA. And then I went to the other one. And that was the last time I did that, because the quality of the materials themselves are worth attending the Copa conference, you get a compendium of everybody's presentations. The other one of the speakers brought copies of their PowerPoints on when they ran out. Oh, well, I mean, just the quality was just not there. That's one thing that I liked. And like Mandy said, you can get recordings of sessions, so you can listen to them, you know, throughout the year, as well as your you are hearing from people who argue and when before the Supreme Court on special ed issues, who better to learn from, that's the lewdly. Dana Jonson 14:14 Absolutely. And the Compendium, you're right, the materials are amazing. And that volume of information. I always take those companions and I have them in my office, I was really excited when you guys started doing it digitally. made me really happy in my office. Let's also talk a little bit about parents because with COPPA, and I want to focus on the conference. But I also want to mention that there's a lot of other supports that COPPA offers. So you know, the list serves for one. And missy. I don't know if he's still moderate. I know you did for a while, moderate some of them. So maybe you could talk a little bit to the listeners. And then I want to get back conference. Missy Alexander 14:49 We have shifted from a traditional listserv to a community platform, but it's virtually the same thing. You're getting email lesson. Yeah, I'm on moderated the long list, so I had to tell the attorneys, you need to turn your pose. And then I'd see him at the conference. I'd be like, Hi, I'm so glad to meet you. I miss you, Alexandra, you're the one that tells me to turn my post all the time. Sorry, sorry, not sorry. But it's, it's really great. We have a general list. And for families, you know, I was able years ago when my daughter was little to get 90 hours of combat service based on training i'd received as a parent. Now granted, I had a paralegal background. But I was able to get that for her based on what I had learned. So if parents if they feel like it's too overwhelming to learn, it's not just take what you need to get from that and more fit into moving forward into what you want to know. Dana Jonson 15:45 Yeah. And I do, I think that it's also there's the listserv for attorneys, where it's wonderful to be able to communicate with with just people who are doing what you do, and looking at it from just that legal perspective, and the same from the parent perspective to be able to reach out and have an attorney respond and say, that doesn't sound right now, and we can't always we can't give specific legal advice on the listserv, but certainly to say, you know what, maybe you should look in this direction. And to get that information, as you said, you know, these are people who are arguing before the Supreme Court who better to learn from Missy Alexander 16:21 exactly, you know, and the list, the general list, we have lists for different memberships, there's a parent list, there's the advocate list, there's, I think it's advocate related professionals. And I'm all in the parent list and the advocate list. And every now and again, I'll say, please put this on the general list. Because I know there are attorneys on there, and they will give you answers. And it's exactly what you said, Dan, they're not offering legal advice at all. But they're giving you a different framework to think about, or, you know, a different way to approach it, or what to research or guidance, don't go down that rabbit hole, it's not worth it. You know, it really sound advice that you're getting for the price of a membership. Dana Jonson 17:03 Yeah. And then and that level of information, I'm sure is what brought rise to the conference. So now, last year, I went to the conference. And while we were at the conference, I believe COVID was exploding. Mandy Favaloro 17:16 We got in under the wire, we were one re last conference in that hotel, everyone was canceling after us. So we, I think I flew home, like on the 11th or something of March, and I had this awful flight where I had to, like go through Seattle before I came back down to California. And you know, everyone was panicking. And if you coughed in the airport, you know, Death Stare. So it was certainly we were right at the beginning of this, and we were lucky enough to get in and not have anyone gets sick as from getting into the conference. We definitely had a few people who had to cancel because they were worried about their own health had, you know, weaker immune systems. And that was, you know, obviously understandable. So but we It was a successful conference nonetheless. And I think as soon as we came back, we started thinking, what are we going to do next year? And how are we going to address this? You know, should this continue? Right? And Dana Jonson 18:07 it it was and it was it was that awkward? Sort of no one knew whether we should be panicked or not like we heard it was bad, but we didn't really know yet. And there's hand sanitizer everywhere. And that anybody but no mask yet? That's right. We weren't into masks yet. No, we did not know about those yet. So yeah, we had no idea what we had in store for us. So as with many conferences that have been going on since March, they've been virtual, and that you guys are taking this virtual. So tell us what that's gonna look like? Sure. So Mandy Favaloro 18:39 I think that, you know, there were some challenges kind of going into that the decision about when we were going to actually make that decision. And if we wanted to wait until the last minute, I think we decided to do it early. And certainly there were people that had concerns about making the I think we decided what like an April or May that we were really going to go forward virtually just to be safe and not have to basically be planning to kind of simultaneous conferences in the event that we weren't going to be able to show up the conference was supposed to be in Irvine in March of 2021. In the hood, I know it's not I'm still sad, I'm sad to I was gonna have to drive down the road. So we made the decision pretty early to go virtual so that we can let our presenters know, we wanted to make sure that people were comfortable presenting virtually some people are not technologically savvy and you know, have said to us, they they don't want to do webinars. So if they didn't want to do a webinar, we were concerned about switching at the last minute and saying we're gonna go in person, oh, wait, now you have to do it virtually and making sure that everyone knew upfront what to expect and what was happening. So that's, that's why the decision was made so early. We, you know, something like timing. The regular conference runs from about, you know, eight in the morning until six at night, but we had to adjust our schedule so that, you know, people on the West Coast weren't expected to sign on at 5am You know, we had to make sure that we adjusted that some of our regular lunch is now a breakfast slash lunch so that, you know, everybody is at the same time eating and we're having extended breaks for people. You know, we did think a lot about typically, our breakouts are a little bit longer. But there was a concern about people being able to engage in online learning for 90 minutes without any breaks. And you know, Dana Jonson 20:24 a typical day we're learning from the student. Yeah, Mandy Favaloro 20:27 I think that a typical conference, you know, is, it's a lot, I think, even in person, it's a long day, and people get tired. And so we wanted to make sure that people weren't getting fatigued. So we've we've adjusted the schedule to really take that into consideration. Yeah, Dana Jonson 20:41 I know that that at the end of the Cobra conference, I always say like, it's the best time, but I'm exhausted, my brain is exhausted, because I've taken in so much information. But so what kind of topics are you covering this year? Has that changed at all? How when you change your format, did that impact at all how you decided to solicit topics? Because I know that often, you put out a list and say you're you're welcome to or you you're open to any proposals, but you usually put out a list of here's some topics that we're seeing that are pretty hot that we think need to be addressed. Mandy Favaloro 21:18 Yeah, I think so I think we got a lot of presentations surrounding that surrounding, you know, accommodations to address during this time period, distance learning. So we've tried to bring some of those topics and as well as just traditional topics that we focus on a lot from year to year, because that's what people need to know that they're going to need to know after this is all over and everybody's back in school. So I think we were able to get a mix so that we're able to address really what's currently happening for people and some of the unique situations that need to be addressed right now. As well as the kind of ongoing learning that you're going to need to know after hopefully everybody's allowed back in school full time. Dana Jonson 21:55 And what are some of the ongoing learning ones? I know you have some some programs that repeat every year that are very popular. So what are some of those? Mandy Favaloro 22:03 Yeah, so the format this year is it's a little bit different than kind of just a Thursday to Sunday, because we didn't want to burn people out. So we are doing our two days skills based training, sort of a week before the end of February. And those are really our most popular topics that we've done from year to year, the new attorneys, the due process, training, advocacy, one on one, which is one that Mitzi has been teaching for a number of years with a co presenter, as well as the advanced advocate training for due process. So those are standard, they've been on our agenda for years they are being adjusted to, I think that we've kind of trimmed the day a little bit. So they are being adjusted to run a little bit quicker in the format so that we don't burn people out online. We've now have also come up with these sort of on demand special topics that include I think you're doing one on podcasting for special we're doing there's a school refusal twice exceptional students technology, that's a big one right now, because so many people are using technology in a way that they haven't before, it was sort of like an option. And it was something you know, that certain kids were using that had assistive technology. But right now everyone is having to use technology to learn. So we have a lot of presentations on that we have our traditional kind of case law review that everyone enjoys, we have sort of two different formats that we do that and and then when we move into the virtual summit, that's going to be a week later, that is going to have those 3636 breakout sessions. And those are going to be on some new topics that are going to be very specific to this as well, as you know, topics that we talked about a lot. We also were looking into, you know, we talk a lot about diversity and equity and education. So there's topics that are going to address that as well. Dana Jonson 23:53 Those are pretty big issues right now. Definitely. How do you choose the topics that you pick? Like, how do you decide this is something we need more of, or this is something that has to be addressed? Now, like COVID is obvious, right? Like, yes, no one's gonna give a talk and not mention COVID. That's not getting nothing. That doesn't mean it has to be COVID specific. But how do you decide this? Missy Alexander 24:17 Well, one of the things that we look at our evaluations from the previous year's conference, what do people want to know, we ask for input? We kind of keep an eye on the listservs to see are there hot topics? You know, is there any case law or any litigation that people would want to know more about, I don't want to say as worthy because that that passes judgment, but what people want to know more about that. So those are things that would be sort of what I would refer to as like a fresh topic, something different, but there are standard topics that every year people want to hear about. And sometimes it's People like Randy said, it'll might be the second or third time they've heard it. Some people might have heard about it previously, and now want to listen, we really try, we really put forth a lot of intentional effort to meet the needs of our audience, you know, we we feel an obligation to them, to provide them with what they want, and what maybe what they need. And sometimes we'll choose things that hopefully will garner their interest, maybe they don't realize they need it, but if they receive training on it, so those are things that that we try to kind of put them all together. And then we say, how many spaces do we have? How many sessions can we have? And then we have to play Solomon and decide who you know, what are we to recut? What do we have to cut. And that's why I really like that we're having those on demand sessions this year. Because they're really a lot of those speakers are high quality that I know, I would want to hear. And we're offering them to everyone, so they weren't carved out. And I think, oh, sorry, who's to say so that on demand piece. So that's going to be the list that they can watch it anytime, Dana Jonson 26:06 yes, the others will be scheduled, and you'll be watching them live, Mandy Favaloro 26:10 right. So they will be pre recorded. So the presentation will be pre recorded. But the presenter so for example, I'm doing a breakout session, I will be pre recording my presentation, but then I'm available live to ask questions after the session. And something that's really unique this year is typically, if you're attending the conference, and you don't get to go to a section, there's we talked about the tape recordings, those are sold, that's a separate cost to someone attending the conference. But this year, because everything's pre recorded the presentation, you as someone who are choosing to go to one presentation live will have the opportunity later to view the pre recorded session that occurred at the same time. So you really will you can access all 36 of those sessions if you choose to do so. So that's a really unique situation that we're able to kind of offer people this year because of the fact that we're virtual, Dana Jonson 27:01 Oh, that's wonderful. And that has been a benefit, I think for some other conferences I've attended, because you know, you always have that one session where the three top things you want to see are all playing at the exact same time. And as you said, Miss, you can't get to everyone to get all the handouts. And so that's, that's wonderful. And I've also found that, at least for me, as a COPPA member, if somebody calls me and says, I got your name from COPPA, and I have these questions, or I need to talk to you, it's almost like there's some connection there. Because we've all been to COPPA, you know. And when we go to COPPA, and we're talking about the different levels for attorneys, and parents and advocates, but it's not separated like that, when you're there. It's not, you might have different interests and different sessions, but the whole conference is for everybody. And that's what I think is so great is to be able to see and hear from different people's perspectives, what's going on. And you know, I'm a parent, and I'm an attorney. And it's, it's helpful for me, too, I've had I've had to hire an advocate for my own child. So it was helpful for me to know, what I was looking for. And what I needed in that even though I'm an attorney, and for me to as a professional, understand what advocates do and what their role is, and that that was something that I was able to learn and understand through COPPA. And I think, you know, we could talk about advocates forever, because there's only you know, that that, but one of the things that I love about COPPA and what I always refer people to, which is not part of the conference, but it is part of your training is the special education, advocacy, training for advocates. And when I, when I tell parents, anyone, or I speak to parents, and I say, if you're looking for an advocate, I strongly recommend you look into your trainings. And by the way, here's the training that really does give a very well rounded background to an advocate. Can you guys talk a little bit about seat? Mandy Favaloro 28:53 Yeah, so Missy, your are you teaching feet kind of the 1.0 version? Yeah, Missy Alexander 28:58 I'm the training team for 1.0. We divided it up. 1.0 is sort of like a pre seed. And then there's the standard seat that Mandy, led for many years. And then we created a seat 3.0 and that's for advocates that really want to hang a shingle. Mm hmm. And the nuances behind that, and the considerations and that kind of thing. But see 1.0 You know, it was interesting, when we were having conversations, and preparing for the conference, you know, gee, how long is too long, what people go, how long can we hold people's interest, blah, blah, blah. And I finally had to say, listen, when I teach seat 1.0, it's two hours and those people would stay on another hour if we let them. So if you are giving somebody information that they want, they lose track of time, they're not going to be watching the clock necessarily, Dana Jonson 29:50 right well into your point. That's another reason why you want to make sure people are comfortable presenting that array. Mandy Favaloro 29:57 They think it's a it's a different you know, Beast, you don't I taught feet what is now see 2.0 for about five years, and every year, I kind of come in and do one class every year on section 504. And you don't necessarily see the students kind of everybody's you can go into the video. But while you're teaching, you don't have like a classroom in front of you can't see everyone and people are raising their hands virtually, you have to answer questions. And it certainly takes some time, I think to get used to that format. And teaching in that format, we wanted to make sure everyone was comfortable the going back to seat that's it's a year long course. So there's a lot of information that people who take that year long c point C 2.0 are getting out of it. They're learning, you know about state procedures, federal procedures, how to advocate at IEP meetings, how to deal with section 504, there's just it's, it's very intensive, and they're putting in a lot of work. It's, you know, every week to ours. And as Missy said, you know, we you could talk for three hours just presenting and answering questions, and people get very invested in that, because they've, you know, they've obviously paid for that. And even the presenters who are addressing the topics are passionate about what they're talking about. So, you know, I presented last Friday for two hours, we could have probably presented for four hours with all the questions that we were getting, and scenarios that people have that are that everyone can learn from, you know, if you have a situation that I've not addressed, but I might have some tips for that it can, you know, everyone's learning from each other. It's a really unique program. Dana Jonson 31:33 No, it's wonderful. And it's, it's, I think it's the best training, I really think that if someone's going to do it professionally, they really need to invest in that component, because you get that well rounded training. And it's easy to go through the process as a parent, and only really deal with the pieces that relate to your own case. And you have to learn a lot more than what your child needs in order to be able to advocate for them. So you do learn all this stuff that that you have to share. But I think he gives a great well rounded so that you get to see all aspects of it. And and you know, it's it's a testament to the training that COPPA does. And just as the conference, you know, comes across this training, and I think even with the seat program, you still have tons of advocates at the conference every year, because there's even more available there. And as you were saying, Misty, that you go back to the same people, I do that too. And I find that it depends on what cases I have that year, one year, I happen to have a lot of reading cases, and that might be the piece I pull out of somebody's presentation. And the next year, I happen to be in the middle of an autism case, and I go to the same presentation, I might pull something completely different out of it. So it really it's it's an amazing wealth of information for everyone in the Special Ed, parent side special ed world. 32:51 Which Dana Jonson 32:52 then brings me to what about teachers who are parents, and they come to your conference, Missy Alexander 32:58 they can, as a parent, there is an exception process, we had one situation, it's an exception process. And we mean it, it's a process, do it ahead of time, I remember when we were in Baltimore one year, and a teacher just kind of slid in under the radar, and was sharing, you know, wanting to everybody to know what the teacher side of it was, hadn't gone through the exception process. And we had to say you can't continue to attend the conference. You know, we mean it, we have a responsibility to our members, they trust us as a board and as leaders to ensure that we uphold what we say we're going to uphold. And part of that is we are for the children and the families. Not necessarily for the school folks, the school folks have their own organizations that they go to. So you know, we have exception processes for membership, we have exception processes for the conference, and people rely on us and expect us to follow those processes. And we really do our due diligence on them. Mandy Favaloro 34:05 And I think that the reason for that is to really create a safe space for parents and advocates and attorneys who are doing this, you know, if you are a parent, and you have a concern about your specific school district, you want to be able to share that concern without getting backlash from somebody from that school district who may be part of the conversation as well. And that's, I think that's kind of the global reason behind it is to really encourage an open dialogue and have people feel that they're in a safe space online when they're sharing when they're at the conference. And they're sharing. So that's why it seems sometimes I think, a little strict to some people. But the idea is really just to protect our members and allow them to have that open communication and dialogue. They don't feel like they can't ask a specific question that it's going to kind of come back and haunt them at some later point. Dana Jonson 34:50 And I think that was also a good point, which is that school districts do have their own organizations and they have a lot more organization many more organization. With with a lot more money than what parents have access to. So I think that's a really important point too. It's not a matter of excluding people, we want teachers and administrators and everybody else to learn what we're learning, we just know that they have other options. And, and parents didn't for a really, really long time only. Absolutely. Oh, and briefly and that I don't know if either of you are involved in this, but but can either of you talk just very briefly about some of the legislative stuff that COPPA does? Maybe not specifically, but I know that they Denise does a lot of work particularly Mandy Favaloro 35:32 sure COPPA is involved in, in lobbying and working with legislators at the federal level, and really educating them about the needs of our constituents about parents, and the students and what they're looking for in, you know, what our needs are and what our interests are. So that's sort of where we are, I am not involved in that part of COPPA, I find it very interesting. But we do have a committee of people who are very well versed in that who do a lot of work, who, when we were in DC, and I think maybe in Baltimore as well, this last year, there was kind of a pre pre conference where the day before the pre conference, people went and spoke with their representatives on Capitol Hill to really advocate for students and, you know, let everyone know what the needs are and what we're looking for. And I think that, you know, Denise, and that committee, what, what's the name of the committee 36:29 was government Missy Alexander 36:30 relations, government relations, Mandy Favaloro 36:32 thank you, the Government Relations Committee, they are on top of it, and they know what's coming down and what we need to do. And I think, you know, when everything kind of went on lockdown, we also had a, like a campaign to like a letter writing campaign for some specific topic that I can't remember. But they, we, you know, sent out a blast to our membership and said, Here's a sample letter, call your representative, write an email, we've done that a few times. And I think it's been really successful for different areas that affect our students to say, look, here's a sample, here's your, here's how you find your representative, you can email them, you can leave them a message, and people respond to that very well. And I think we're seeing that more and more in the last few months, I think. So it's really kind of grassroots organizing to get people Missy Alexander 37:18 involved. And I think our our members expect that of us to be knowledgeable about what's happening, I have seen just recently, the various listservs, bringing up a area of concern what is COPPA doing about this, what is COPPA know about this, there's COPPA involved in this. So people are realizing that we, as an organization, and Denise Marshall has really spearheaded this are invited to the table to talk about things as they're planned, which is a huge, huge thing to happen and to be heard and understood. Dana Jonson 37:52 Yeah. And I do like that, I love that, you know, it takes the thinking out of it. For a lot of people, if I know, I'm gonna get that action alert from COPPA, that's gonna tell me when I have to do something that I don't have to have all of my radar out there. And because the board meets in person at the conference, usually, although this year will be different, typically, you know, everyone from the Government Relations Committee is there and they're accessible. And so for anyone, whether it's a parent, Attorney, advocate, provider, who are interested in those areas, and how to be active in their areas, they have access to this government relations committee that can help them and direct them in the right direction. So it really is, I can't say enough about all of the resources that that Kobe has. But I really appreciate you guys talking about the conference with me today, because I really am hoping that a lot of parents who are listening to this have either already heard of it and have already signed up and registered and are ready to go and will of course all be in my podcasting class, or that they are hearing us right now. And they're saying, Oh my god, I can't believe I didn't know what COPPA was or how great it was. And now I have to go sign up and I have to join. And when they think that, where do they go? Mandy Favaloro 39:08 Sure. So you go to So it's co p And there will be a link for the conference. And I think registration actually opened yesterday. So it's live, it's up this week, you can register, I think, because it's virtual this year, that hopefully opens it up to more people because you don't have the typical cost of travel in a hotel and meals out of the home. So we're hoping that that really is going to make it accessible to more people this year as an introduction. So it's kind of less of an investment on your part. In terms of at least money. It's it's more time because you can go to so many more events and see so many more presentations and really get a taste for the conference this year. And hopefully, when we are Fingers crossed back in person in Boston in 2022 That we will see more people who have joined us virtually, who will now be making the you know the trip to join us in person. And with any with any conference of any kind, I am sure that this is going to be very high quality material, but I will miss the camaraderie and all of that that we get. And, and I do highly recommend that anybody listening to this who wasn't planning on it definitely attend because there's a ton of information. But even more importantly, I would recommend going when it's in person as well. Because just being able to be around people who are doing what you do or suffering through what you're suffering through, and who want to learn the same things you Dana Jonson 40:40 want to learn are all there. And I know at least in my daily life, that isn't always the case. Thank you guys so much for joining me. I really appreciate it. Is there anything else that I missed that people Missy Alexander 40:53 need to know about COPPA before we sign off? I don't think so. I think so either. Mandy Favaloro 40:57 I think we we covered a lot. Missy Alexander 40:59 Join us. Join us at just give us a year join us and we will definitely increase your knowledge and it for parents, it'll benefit your child. Yes, I Dana Jonson 41:10 think empowering parents is a huge part of what happens at COPPA. So thank you. And thank you both for all of the time that you donate to make sure that this conference comes off. I think it's really important to mention that it is a voluntary board. You do this all for free because you believe in the cause. Yes, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much for joining me today. Please don't forget to subscribe to this podcast so that you get notifications when new episodes come out. And I want to know what you want to know. So join our Facebook group also named need to know with Dana Jonson, or you can email me, Dana at special ed dot life. But definitely reach out with your comments and questions and I'll see you next time here on me to know with Dana Jonson have a fabulous day
42:07 11/25/2020
How exceptional are you?
Twice-exceptional (2e) children struggle because their gifts mask their challenges and their challenges mask their gifts. So, how do we educate 2e children? Today we are talking with super-mom and co-founder of Cajal Academy (, a private special education school in CT designed for 2e children. Cajal integrates intellectually-stimulating academics and expert therapies through highly-individualized but socially-engaged programs for children with verbal reasoning skills in the “above average” to “superior” range, with integrated support for learning, executive function, sensory processing, social, emotional and medical differences. We are going to discuss 2e children and the role neuroplasticity plays in programming for them. SUMMARY KEYWORDS child, skills, kids, learning, brain, challenges, task, develop, growth mindset, world, special education, disability, area, based, teach, school, neuroplasticity, question, people, fact SPEAKERS Cheryl Viirand, Dana Jonson Dana Jonson  00:03 Hello, and welcome to need to know Dana Jonson. I'm your host, Dana Jonson. And I'm here to give you the information you need to know, to best advocate for your child. I'm a special education attorney in private practice, a former special education teacher and administrator, a current mom to four children with IPS. And I myself have ADHD and dyslexia. So I have approached the world of disability and special education from many angles. And I'll provide straightforward information about your rights and your school's obligations, as well as tips and tricks for working with your school district. My goal is to empower you through your journey. So there's anything you want to hear or comment on YouTube by me and this podcast at special ed dot life. You can also find me on Instagram at special ed dot life. Or you can email me, Dana at special ed dot life. Now the first thing you need to know is that sometimes I have a bit of a potty mouth. So if your environment isn't ready for that, feel free to pop in your earbuds. Okay, let's get started. Okay, so today we are here with Cheryl Viren, who is the co founder and Head of School for Kahala Academy in Fairfield, Connecticut, which is a special education school. And I always say and I say it a lot in my episodes that special education only happens in the public school. But you are a special education school for children for whom the public school doesn't have a program.   Cheryl Viirand  01:34 Right? So it is in fact a Special Education School.   Dana Jonson  01:37 It's fair to say special education even though you're not in the public school. And your focus in your school is to eat and for people who don't know what that is, it is twice exceptional. People say to E I have one question, is it a lowercase e or an uppercase e?   Cheryl Viirand  01:52 It's typically a lowercase. Okay,   Dana Jonson  01:54 because I see them both sometimes. And I wasn't sure which one's good. It could be either one. Okay, so what does that mean? What is twice exceptional.   Cheryl Viirand  02:01 So twice exceptional kids are actually some of the least well served by the current traditional educational systems as we're seeing to E kids are kids who have an area of outline high intellectual and or artistic gifts that's paired with an area of learning social, emotional, or physiological differences. So these are kids who many people define them based on how they being quote, unquote, gifted. That's a very loaded term.   Dana Jonson  02:32 Yeah, another very common conference. I know. It's very controversial.   Cheryl Viirand  02:37 Yeah. So there's a lot of socio economic bias that goes into those determinations. I know, you'll call me back, if I get a call at any point. I'll try. There's also as we can talk about later, there's a lot of ways that two kids are being desperately under identified for special education services. These are kids whose programming needs to both give them the level of intellectual challenge and rigor, it was really hard for them to develop their areas of strength, just like any child is raised to develop, while also needing to support their areas of difference. And typically speaking, what happens is that they get interpreted as one or the other. And so you have children who end up in a what starts to feel to them like a gotcha that, okay, they're either being the standard has been brought too low, and they feel like this is boring, and why should I bother more? alternatively, they're confronted with a teacher that says, well, gee, you're so bright, I'm sure if you only wanted to read you'd be able to   Dana Jonson  03:42 write well, and that's what I get when I when I go into schools with with students who are to a part of the problem is we may have figured out how to address their disability say, but no one's able to give them the curriculum, they need to keep them on track and focused and challenged, examined, or the other side of that is, well, they're so smart. And it's very,   Cheryl Viirand  04:05 very common, the   Dana Jonson  04:07 latter can mask the disability sometimes incorrectly. So it's sort of it's classically said   Cheryl Viirand  04:11 that the guests have the challenges and the challenges have good gifts. Yes. And so what ends up happening for a lot of these kids is that when they are struggling, a well meaning teacher who has not been trained in the intricacies of their disabilities, or how those might manifest, particularly in a very bright child is more often, or more likely to turn around and say that he just has a bad attitude. He just refuses. And children are very quick to figure out that they don't want to look like they don't know how to do something in front of their peers. And it might be easier to look like you're a quote unquote bad kid who does his own thing, and it's a tough kid than it is to look like a kid who in their eyes, what they feel like is that they're not as bright Okay, so what we're seeing is that there's these challenges for two kids actually started quite a bit earlier as well, we're seeing. So since we opened up the hall, we've heard from maybe 60 different families and 90% of them are describing that their children have experienced some level of school based phobia, school based anxiety. By the time they hit about second grade, we are hearing about school refusal as early as first grade. And   Dana Jonson  05:27 I see that a lot in elementary, it's mostly Elementary,   Cheryl Viirand  05:30 but I see it. Yeah. And when you consider that you're talking about kids who might be ninth percentile reasoning scores, school, for them should be a playground, it's a set a kid in a candy store to get them learn all these cool things and work their brains. And instead, they're shutting down. And they're leaving the elementary school with one of three storylines, or all three, I don't fit, I'm bad, or I'm stupid. And then what ends up happening is by the time you get to middle school in high school, the school districts really don't know what to do with this kid. And disproportionately this children are being pushed into one to one programs and   Dana Jonson  06:06 or at the high school level dropping out   Cheryl Viirand  06:09 or dropping out exam.   Dana Jonson  06:10 They I think this is a correct statistic. It's like 2% of high school dropouts are actually gifted. Yeah. And it's because for quote, unquote, whatever reason, you can't see my air quotes. For whatever reason, the public school didn't fit, right now, they couldn't grow the standard route. Well, that's because they were so smart, that they masked the challenges to some degree, and they couldn't function until they dropped out.   Cheryl Viirand  06:36 Right. It's learned helplessness, right? It learned helplessness. And there's also another thing that we're seeing we're very, very fortunate alcohol to have on our team and internationally recognized neuropsychologist. Yeah, who has been working with children for decades, and in fact, has been recognized as one of the founding fathers of modern psychology in the US.   Dana Jonson  06:55 Well, let's talk about them. Let's talk about so I want to I want to cover all that I want to talk about how kahal came to be what it has turned into and and who is part of this team that you have, because it really is your approach towards the to E students that stands you apart from pretty much any other programming. I know, at least here in Connecticut, we don't have anything for two weekends, we just dumped No. And so I know there's   Cheryl Viirand  07:23 a gap   Dana Jonson  07:24 there. But I also know that your approach to students and your team and how you work together and decide how to individualize is what's right. We're different. new, innovative, innovative, right? Yeah. Okay,   Cheryl Viirand  07:39 well, so Ben, there's science behind it. There's a lot of time. Yeah. So basically, what we realized I got into this myself, because I was one of those moms who drew the lucky card of chewy calves. And there really isn't you won a lottery program. And what I found ugly for my younger one, yeah, he was that kid who had gotten really badly hurt by people just having no idea how to help him find his gifts, through a spice drawer of complications. And so we became very clear as we pulled them out and tried to figure out so where do we go from here? So we were that statistic that ended up in the one to one programming, you know, homebound instruction turned into homeschooling? Where do we go from here, right. But I had the advantage that over the prior, what, three to five years, I had been handpicking, a team of experts. My kids are complicated enough that I needed to find the practitioners in the community who had the real scientific knowledge and understanding, because my kids have a complex medical profile. So to be able to criss cross in a multidisciplinary way across the different areas where they might run into a difference requires that I find people who understood neurology, who understood immunology, and how various different components of the body interact. Then I found myself in this odd position, then I was exposed to all of this science. And whenever I was having a conversation with the existing educational settings, it was like we didn't even have a shared vocabulary. Because there's so much   Dana Jonson  09:13 vocabulary. Bring in a completely new set of words, that must have been great.   Cheryl Viirand  09:22 So what happened was that our team said, Listen, I'm not abandoning you, and I'm certainly not abandoning your kids. And so we started getting to work where there was no middleman anymore. And we said, okay, what happens if we take down all of the walls between all the different silos of specialty between psychology and neuro psychology and occupational therapy and physical therapy and speech and language therapy? What if, instead of sorting all of those people around the outside as quote unquote, related services, what if instead of those silos, we put those people at the center of the room and we say, Okay, what should education Look like, based on what we know today about how human child sized brains are developing, how they learn how they socialize, and the interactions between the body and the brain. And that is where we started to step into really what has become our mission, which is to empower kids to optimize their learning social and emotional outcomes by leveraging modern era scientific advances. So prior to about 10 years ago, it was believed that children or people had a stagnant ability in one area or another fixed mindset fixed by the time you got to the end of early childhood. And so if by the end of early childhood, you had a poor memory, sorry, you're stuck with a poor memory for life. If by the end of early childhood, you were a slow reader, you're always going to be a slow reader. And what happened about 10 years ago, when we got the development of the functional MRI and other technological advances, is that neuroscientists were able to see that, in fact, the human brain is constantly rewiring itself all the way to the end of life. So tasks that you do more often are going to get a greater proportion of neural networks and neural networks that you need to do a given task, crisscross your brain. And you're going to be building more of those networks out as you do new tasks, and old networks that you're not using as much will die off. So when you're trying to change a bad habit, for instance, okay, what you need to do is you're establishing a new neural pathway through your brain, when I see this stimulus, I'm going to do this new thing. And as long as I can hold off and not do that old thing, then that other network is going to start to atrophy. So this is called neuroplasticity. And we know about neuroplasticity yet for over 10 years. And yet, if you think about special education, especially education programs around the country, afraid to say even within outplacement settings, many if not most of them continue to focus on accommodating children's areas of difference. Okay, but now that neuroscientists know that we can meaningfully address not all right, but many, many, many areas of what we're formerly called disabilities, how can we leave it on the table, my conclusion as mom was that we have a moral imperative to take all of the science that's available, and Corolla to help kids. So coming again, back to me as Mom, I'm looking at kids who are held back by what by what I know, understand to be addressable problems, what could any mom want more than to take issues off the table that stand in the way of their children having a fulfilling life lived experience? So I'm not saying that I'm trying to hyper engineer, the super child, so he'll get the straight A's and get into? I'm not even asking those questions. I'm saying, How can I improve your life lived experience as meaningfully as possible as quickly as possible? So what we realized as a team was that we have the science that tells us that you can rewire the brain, the field of neuro psychology that Dr. Steven Magnus, who's a member of our team, has been involved in for decades, has now got very well, normed tests that allow us to understand what specific cognitive social emotional skills go into a given task. And so we're now we know, are you breaking it down? So   Dana Jonson  13:30 you're, you're taking what they need to do, and you're breaking it down into all those individual tiny, exactly. And then addressing each piece individually? Yes,   Cheryl Viirand  13:40 or no? So, yes, or Yes,   Dana Jonson  13:44 yes. Yes, yes, I   Cheryl Viirand  13:45 know, if you're talking when you're looking at a child. So there's neuropsychological analyses that we can go and get neuropsychological evaluations, they have a lot of individual tests within them that allow them with a skilled practitioner to get a sense of what your relative strengths or weaknesses are with it with respect to a given task. And by the way, you can also go down the hall to the auditory processing evaluator, who will give you an edge word processing evaluation, that's norm tasks, and it gets at how will you process sound. And then you can go down the hall to the reading specialist, and then you go down this other hall to the occupational therapist, and you're left what ends up happening is these kids have all of these evaluations. So mom is getting bounced about from practitioner to practitioner and is hearing Oh, he's got ADHD, no, he's got output organization deficit within auditory processing. No, he's got and mom is left with, oh my goodness, this is whack a mole. And he says, okay, so   Dana Jonson  14:46 you're the second person to refer to me as   Cheryl Viirand  14:51 hilarious. So then you end up with this program that says what we'll do 30 minutes working on auditory processing, and we'll do 30 minutes working on executive function and we'll do 30 minutes working on So, well, guess what? So the child doesn't have a sensory processing challenge at 2pm on Tuesday, because that's when the oh geez available. This   Dana Jonson  15:10 goes, you know, you can't like the deer crossing sign, like is that that's only pulled   Cheryl Viirand  15:16 out? Yeah. Yeah. So what we, what we realized is if you take all those evaluations, and you rip them apart, break them down into about 150 individual data points, and then you reassemble those data points based on specific functional tasks that we asked the child to do as they travel through the world. So learning tasks, yeah, so give me an example. So social task, like so an example of a task would be, let's say, structuring an essay, which is like incredibly complicated, complex task. Yes, you can even go I mean, we could even just start with memory. So just look at the question of memory. Now, obviously, you're called on to remember things all the time, right? So if you break that down, and you look at all of those different ways of looking at memory that come out, so an auditory processing, you're looking at, how will you remember the sequence of sounds, and visual processing, you're looking at how well do you pick up symbols and remember symbols when you're looking for them. But these are all these different ways to access memory, and some are verbal and some are nonverbal. And you can quickly see where we, once we create these snapshots, we literally draw a green box around everything that's 86th percentile and above, and a red box on everything, the 16th percentile on below. So everything that's in that green box, this is outline strengths, and everything that's in that red box that's in quarantine, because that is an area that for this child, our goal. I mean, remember what I was saying before about these kids, starting from the earliest experience, are having these experiences of disconnect with the world around them, which add up to an experience of Trump. Mm hmm. If I'm going to when you are in trauma in a trauma state, you're thrown into this freeze flat fight flight reaction state, where you are now in the part of your brain that we share with lizards. Now, let me ask you, have you ever taught calculus to a lizard? Does that strike you as a good idea?   Dana Jonson  17:15 I wouldn't even let them in   Cheryl Viirand  17:18 a good policy. So when you are in the or the lizard part of your brain, you are not capable of learning, right? You are also not a very good friend, you are also not feeling calm and safe. So until we get out of the lizard brain, we are not learning. So what we're seeing is with these two e kids who are coming in, in a state of fear simply at doing academics, you have to start by reducing down from the trauma. Right, and part of that is you have to stop re entrenching the view that they can't, you have to stop they want. Exactly they need wins. So the way we look at it is you have to start running them through their areas of disability to get to their strengths and their gifts. So teach to the way you learn. That is something you'll hear and see and most special education outplacement scrubbers, right. But we take it a step further, because again, there's this hell bent mom behind this program that was unwilling to accept for her children challenges that could be addressed. And so what we realized is that with the data analysis tools that are out there, we can identify the specific skill that is holding somebody back, which may be manifesting in a variety of different areas. So a challenge with structuring information to encode it can come across as being low math facts, low sight words, core social cognition, lots of social conflict, because you don't know how to predict what the outcomes are going to be. All of this can come from having a challenge with structuring information so that you can encode it. Well, that makes sense.   Dana Jonson  19:00 Many of you think even for children have learning disabilities, if they're not addressed at the elementary stage, by the time you get to high school, particularly with girls, you've gotten emotional disturbance,   Cheryl Viirand  19:12 right? So as you don't know where to go, right, to anticipate what is going to access what's going to be at fail,   Dana Jonson  19:18 and it's that gaslighting or learned helplessness I called gaslighting learned helplessness of I did all this and it didn't wasn't successful. So why should I earth would I do it again? Exactly. Right. So the population is not any different and how they do that is I would I'm hearing that Yeah. But I think that   Cheryl Viirand  19:38 the of the challenges for two kids I think, in part, one of the things that we're looking at is, you know, these kids starting right from early childhood, even just as their language is developing, they don't yet developmentally no child at that age is developmentally able to understand the difference between their internal And the external experience. So they don't know that they need to communicate that they're thinking about things differently. they presume that everybody sees things the way they do. So if you are meaningfully differently wired, both in terms of your strengths, and in terms of your weaknesses, it is more likely that you're going to be having interpreting directions differently, or having a different habit making different connections in your brain and the people around you. So the example I like to use is little Johnny is sitting in preschool, and he's told to color the whole class is told to color trees on pictures of trees with realistic colors, and he colors his pink, and then it gets in trouble for not following directions. But Johnny was thinking about his favorite cherry tree in bloom, you Hmm, okay, so he was following directions. But now he's just had the experience of being shamed for being an aberrant, quote, unquote, bad child, when there was a difference here, where his credit he did it, see   Dana Jonson  20:58 what else he did wrong? Exactly. And it's not being explained to him they had in his mind,   Cheryl Viirand  21:02 that's correct. So now teachers do not feel safe. And now sharing your ideas does not feel safe. And now rather than jumping into color with vim and vigor, he might check the papers around him and say, Oh, wait, green. Ah, she means treason summer. Okay, I can color trees in summer. So then you start to have self doubt. So that's all setting the stage at a very early and of course, that will be the experience for every weekend. But we're seeing these trends,   Dana Jonson  21:34 but it is a trend, I think it's fair to say as a trend.   Cheryl Viirand  21:37 Yes. And so now. So for us, the question is, how do you create the ideal program for kids who have this as a known part of their, of the cohort? So part as I was saying, we identify what are those low lying skills, so we put them in quarantine, in that we want to help the children find ways to access their gifts. by us doing the heavy lift of understanding, as you were saying, before, we take the tasks, we have to understand them just as granularly as we understand the child's strengths and weaknesses. So if we see that we have in front of us, a child who has extremely low free recall, but very high story recall, now we're going to present things through stories, because that's going to allow them to pop into their high skill set, discover their strengths, discover their gifts, discover that it's safe to try and start to let go of some of the fear, which is keeping them held in this trauma state, which impedes all learning. So getting those wins, getting those wins, exactly. But we don't stop there. Because what we do is we take those low lying skills that we've identified, and we say, Okay, what are what I call the domino once. Okay, so if you have a whole string of dominoes, all standing up in a row, what is the first one that when you push that down, it's going to make the all the rest of them topple and maybe toppling out? branch line going out all these different directions? That is our dominant one. So we look for what is the low life skill that is causing the most secondary and tertiary effects? That's the loin skill we want to go after first is the dominant one, because that's we're gonna have the biggest flow through throughout the child's life. So what do with that information once you know what skill you want to go after? That's where we go back to all of that science that neuroplasticity. So my co founder is Heather Iverson was an occupational therapist, who has decades of experience working with an incredibly wide variety of kids in a wide variety of settings, including public school settings. And what she realized is that the occupational therapists toolbox, it isn't just about discrete protocols for handwriting training, and motor function. Rather, it is a flexible toolbox, and philosophy of using movement and games to rewire a child's brain. So what we're doing is we're taking those skills, we're taking that toolbox, and we're saying, okay, so if the skill that we want to grow, build up, went back to my earlier example, if the skill is how to structure information to encoded, well, you can start with simply having a whole bunch of objects in the floor and put them in categories, right? I'm not testing math facts. I'm not testing sight words. I'm saying I am building up the skill set, would you need to learn math facts and to learn sight words, but that skill set, we do it in a very granular and scaffolded way? So you just add one additional cognitive skill to it at a time so that you're building up those neural networks across different parts of the brain and building up the capacity to   Dana Jonson  24:46 perform when I was one of your open houses? And I don't know I don't remember if it was I actually observed it or if it was in the slide   Cheryl Viirand  24:52 the video, but can you remember? Yeah, exactly. I   Dana Jonson  24:57 have it next It was I believe it was tracking that one of the students was doing exam and it was really neat. It was I would never have thought of that as a try. So can you talk a little bit about an exam like a concrete example? Absolutely. So,   Cheryl Viirand  25:15 visual tracking is a perfect one, because it's kind of a very discrete skill set and doesn't have a lot of other component composite skills within it. So if you are reading a book, you are constantly going from left to right, and then you go down a line you go left to right. And that's great until it is working. And saving, that's when you use the bookmark, right? in school and public schools, or in traditional school settings, you're told to just put a bookmark there to follow. Well, that is worked out for my son, he hated the bookmark. I think part of it was the texture part of it was the sensory, but he just, it was just a visual overload to have this piece of paper going down the page, we tried different colors, we tried bright versus don't we, it didn't matter what we did it, he found it very, very frustrating. So my co founder said, Well, I guess we're just gonna have to teach his brain to visually track. So what she did was she did piece of paper, and she bought a bunch of colored dots up in rows. And it was four different colors. And then she put little round mats on the floor with these four same colors. And she told him, this, I should mention, he's an athlete, he's a self taught drummer. He's a very, very physical, very physical job. So she told him to jump from circle the circle, calling out the colors as he went across the line, she simply tried to teach his brain how to go left to right in a horizontal line, and then go back to the beginning of the next row and go left to right again. Now this lat this piece of paper is taped to the wall, four feet away from him. So he has to, you know, track you can't use this finger to go across. And he really struggled a little bit all over the place. And so she realized, ah, what that is, if you think about each skill as being a ladder, I just started him on rung to, for him, he needs wrong one, he's not ready for round two, which was a surprise because he's such an athlete. And he knows his colors. So she took out the verbal part. And she took out the balance part as well. So she had him sit on the floor with the same math. And she gave him something somewhat similar to drumsticks, and she told him to drum it, he didn't have to do the word recall to find the words he didn't have balance where to hold his body up. He just had to sit and drum, which is right in his wheelhouse. Suddenly, he's bopping along, he's adding in all these riffs. He's having a grand old time, and you can see complete fluency and no errors as he goes across the lines. So then she had him stand up again, and put the word or no, she has still well drummy put the word recall in. Okay, still drumming, but now he has to call up the words. And again, you see him halting, you see the challenge. And so for him, if you look at his profile, he has visual processing challenges that she has brought up from third to 16th percentile to being an area of real strength. And he has word recall challenges. And so the reason that she is pairing these tasks together is because if he can visual track while doing his Achilles heel of word recall, that means that the brain has had to allocate so much resources to visual tracking, that when you take the word recall back out again, he can read a book. And sure enough, we did this as our area of focus for two weeks, every day has integrated into what we call brain broers. So Rainbow is our activities were for the kids, they think they're playing. It's games, he's drumming on little surveys, he's happy as a plan. But what we know is that it is scaffolding up these skills. And we can put two kids together who have totally different profiles Mm hmm. Through a game or activity that calls on multiple skills, where for one child skill A is the one is the weakness that they need to be building up. And the other one skill is the strength that scaffolding skill B, which is that we Yes. And I was able to observe that   Dana Jonson  29:18 that I knew I saw in person, not that not an idea. But that was really neat to watch to students who were working on two completely different skills, doing the exact same activity and being able to help each other when appropriate. And there was no what's the right word there is no Oh, you can do that. I can't or I can't do it because he can do it. It was sort of like no, now it's your turn. Let's see what you can do like this hard. It's hard for you.   Cheryl Viirand  29:47 It's really so that's another really important thing to watch is that we guess pretty cool to see. Another really important part of our program and really foundational to it is that we teach the kids The science behind all of it.   Dana Jonson  30:02 So in our admission, so they're on you're explaining to them what their disabilities are basically like, what exactly what a concept. When   Cheryl Viirand  30:11 a child walks in the door, we start by teaching them neuroplasticity. Uh huh. We start by teaching them how their brain actually learns. So if I'm looking at a child who has learned through life experience, that taking risks is unsafe, that putting your own creative ideas out there is unsafe, that being in school is probably unsafe, and being with peers is going to lead to somebody laughing at you, at some point, if that is their life lived experience. I've got a lot to break down there. But the first step is I have to teach them that it is rational to believe that growth is possible. So in the admissions process, we are looking for kids who are super high, bright kids, we're looking for kids specifically for our program, who have high verbal reasoning skills. So we are going to use those high verbal reasoning skills that is their superpower. So we're going to access all of this growth and facilitate all this growth through their superpower.   Dana Jonson  31:07 Well, and all the science behind the growth mindset is that understanding the growth mindset is,   Cheryl Viirand  31:15 what is what leads to the growth.   Dana Jonson  31:17 Yeah, exactly. For me when I was I was I have dyslexia and ADHD, and I was diagnosed as 19. And that was like a game changer, because I was like, Oh, now I know. Right? So just having that understanding was like, Oh, it's like, try hard. If it doesn't work, try try again, then try something different. Right, then try what you're doing isn't working, doing it more harder? isn't gonna get better?   Cheryl Viirand  31:43 Exactly.   Dana Jonson  31:43 And the other thing you said that I find fascinating is that breaking down of all the pieces, you know, breaking it down, because when you think you've broken down a skill, to what like to a really small component of it, and then to realize that you could actually break that out more exactly is it is the fascinating thing to be able to have,   Cheryl Viirand  32:04 you know, the luxury of being able to do that. And that. It is actually Absolutely. And that's where as a team? Well, I mean, I pinch myself every day, we feel so extraordinarily privileged to have the team that we do. And that team has been drawn to this tiny little school wasn't for, you know, but a startup, a nonprofit, if that's if you think that's a heavy lift to bring in really expert scientists, but for all of us, it's a completely mission based team. Our feeling is that not just for the two week community, not just for this little school, there is a desperate need to innovate education to align it with neuroscientific research. Yeah. So now that we know that you can do now that we know that you can systematically that we have the tools to understand what problem Am I trying to solve. And we have a toolbox developed in therapeutic settings, which includes ot PT CBT, what we realized is we have these tests and tools that we can use to identify what problem are we trying to solve, which is always the step one for us, what problem are we trying to solve? First, you figure out what you're trying to solve, then we realize that we have this toolbox out there that have all of these tools and strategies that have been developed in therapeutic settings within the OT, PT, psychotherapy, settings, etc, which can be used to drive neuroplasticity so we can identify the specific problem we need to solve. And then we can get to work on actually increasing the capacity to do that little line task. So then the question becomes how do we get the child agency over that process? And that's where developing the growth mindset for the child is huge. Creating that sense that it is rational to believe that you can   Dana Jonson  33:56 be huge for any child, right? Human or? Good point? Yes. Yeah.   Cheryl Viirand  34:03 Absolutely. So we pair that with personalized strategies that we develop to we go back to all those skills that are in quarantine. Right? So are sometimes I'll get a phone call from a parent will say, you know, I think the program looks amazing, but I just am really torn between putting my child in a bubble, so that they can really feel successful now and then how are they going to get through college versus keeping them in sort of a sink or swim environment? And so that they kind of find a way to get along in the real world?   Dana Jonson  34:35 Yeah, and my one, I get that a lot. That's not the real world. And what I usually say to that is no, it's not we're in school, we're trying to learn so well get to the real world.   Cheryl Viirand  34:45 Well, and my response is, I don't I think that's a false dichotomy. I don't know why we're looking at is either we're going to put them in a bubble, or we're going to have them preparing to be in the real world. Our approach is, we're going to put them in a bundle while we address the challenges that require the bundle. Yeah, but we are steadfastly going after not only developing those skills, but giving this whole separate set of skills to the child and how to self monitor, self manage and self regulate. So to do that, going back to, you know, that list, which sometimes is a laundry, yeah, skills that are in quarantine, well, for this child to happily go out in the world, whether they're just going to soccer practice on Thursday night, or they're hanging out of the play date, we have to give them an understanding of what those are, what are those things that suddenly become hard for you? Because otherwise, they're just smacking the kid in the face? So he's trucking along, he's trucking along is going great. This is even sleazy, whoa, how can I have no module for that, right? They don't need to go through the world, we can tell them in advance, here are the things which are, which are harder for you than others. And if we do that, in the context of science, in the context, explaining to them, your body is a combination of an electrical set, and a chemistry set. And we're going to teach you how to understand how those two are interfacing. And we're going to teach you that being human means that you're not on a spectrum. There's like a myriad spectrum of how well do you process visual information? How well do you process social information? How well do you maintain emotional regulation? How well does your body maintain temperature regulation? So all of these different spectrum now we can understand that my collection of strengths and weaknesses is no, there's no value judgment on that anymore. It's no longer that I'm inferior, or that I'm lesser or that I'm bad. It's just that this is where I sit on that huge diversity of being here. And I love that's   Dana Jonson  36:47 one of my favorite things. There's the board.   Cheryl Viirand  36:50 Exactly. So yeah. So what we do is we come to these strategies for how the child can manage each of those different things. Well, now you have to make that you have to make that concrete so the child can own it didn't have her child was a really complex profile. That's frankly, mine does, where you have some physiological components and medical components, some social components and emotional components about prior experiences, etc. And every child needs to be taught, the growth mindset needs to be taught, what is it that we don't get rewarded for getting an A, we get rewarded for trying something we think will be hard, they get rewarded for showing grit and perseverance and for showing kindness towards others, and empathy towards ourselves. So what we determined was that it all started one day when we gave my son a typing test. And he talked along and he got a 92. And he was like, Oh, my gosh, I got a 92. He said, That's fabulous. He said, I'm going to do better. So then he tried again, but this time, instead of having his fingers in the right position, he was using his first fingers, because he could go faster that way. So we try some things. And we said, Oh, what do you mean? Oh, yeah, why did you get a better score? We said, Yeah, but the first time you did something you thought would be hard. And the second time, you knew how to make it easy. So this school is a place where we don't reward you for getting a great score using the skills that are already your strengths. This is a school where we're going to reward you for working through the stuff that's hard. So we realized that this constant growth mindset is one of the zillion big grown up ideas that we throw out, as if it makes sense to a child. But he doesn't those words have no meaning to children. So what we did was we took sticky notes, and we stuck them up on a whiteboard. And on each sticky note, we wrote out one very granular level skill. And that skill is either related to growth mindset, or it's related to one of his personal strategies for managing his own set of quarantined issues. And those sticky notes, we know that it's time to put up a new sticky note. In fact, we make a big celebration out of it. When we see somebody reveal an emergent skill. So if you think if I go back against the idea that every skill is a ladder, and I want to start you where you are on that ladder, so I'm not going to evaluate you based on whether or not you're able to perform at rung five, because other kids are ready to write Ron five. If you're on rung one. And suddenly you start showing me run to well, by golly, I'm going to celebrate rum two, because that means   Dana Jonson  39:28 that I love that. It's also part of when you say the growth mindset, it's what we say to ourselves, right? When we say I can't do it exactly told our brain to stop working exact said I can't do it. When you say I can't do it yet. It opens up yourself. Like you're it's like you're tricking your brain and feeling like you can   Cheryl Viirand  39:48 do exactly and this all comes from research by Carol Dweck. Yes, a terrific TED talk on this but I really recommend showing the power of simply telling a classroom of children the concept of yet So on our whiteboard, we have in three foot high letters yet. And after every single task that we do every activity, the kids go back to the whiteboard, and each child has their own city. Yes. And some of the gets overlap. Sometimes they're sharing. And sometimes they're totally different. So after each, each activity, the child does a self assessment of whether or not the giving yet came up. If it didn't come up, we put a knot symbol, if it came up, and you didn't nail it, they put an X, if it came out, and they didn't know they put a checkmark. And what we see is because we arrange these sticky notes in that scaffolded way, what we see is that having the honesty of putting the axe when they didn't nail it ends up for them being empowering. Because what happens is, we've seen moments where one of the kids feels like they've had a colossal fail. And if there has been an outcome they did not like, and we've gotten them to the airport, sometimes with some challenge, we send them to the airport, and we haven't checking up and you're starting with these lower rungs on the ladder, if you will, that were impossible when that sticking the first one up. But today, it's second nature. So we don't ever take those Yes, down. So they're checking off and they realizing   Dana Jonson  41:18 Oh, and then they get to see visually exactly how much they've checked off. And exactly. And that's part of Carol duacs research, which is the I just totally lost my train of thought, oh, in part of Carol Dweck research, which is that the growth mindset is embracing the challenges, right, and embracing the modaks, evaluating the mistakes and saying it's okay that I'm maxing this off right now, because I'm not there yet. Right? I'm just not there yet. It's just me, I'll get there, but not today.   Cheryl Viirand  41:51 Exactly. And what we've seen is these moments where they come in so distraught to the expert, and by the time we go through, and we show look, you nailed this one, you nailed this one, you now this one, you know this one, these kids who many of them are perfectionists, they're very, very hard on themselves. When they see us excited about all of these granular level skills that they nailed, they're able to come back to perspective about the fact that they aren't there yet. So that's been the most powerful part of it. And it's been very interesting to see how difficult it can be for a child to wrap their brains around this whole system and approach when coming out of traditional school environment. So they are so accustomed to systems of reward and punishment, that far, looking at it are really outcome based, as opposed to effort based, and that it's a really, it can be a really big transition, to wrap your mind around this other approach. But the value of doing that, is that, first of all, we're getting to the truly valuable life skills, of being able to maintain your own sense of mission and your own sense that the sense that you are on a developmental path, which is positive. And, and, and also the courage to let go of preconceptions about your limitations. And actually, for, for me, probably one of the most exciting days for me in this entire process has been when our second child had been on a program for 16 days on day 16. He said to me, I used to think that it was well he walked in the door with an understanding that his, his area of difference was something immutable. But there was no way you could ever change it. And you could have filled in the blank, it could have been dyslexia, it could have been discovery, it could have been dyspraxia could be any specific learning disability. And he believed that it was gonna you don't really have to try once you've decided that it's immutable, there's no way you're going to overcome it. Right on day 16. Semi. I used to think it was impossible to overcome this. But now I see that perhaps I was wrong. It must be possible, because I'm already beginning to feel that I'm getting better.   Dana Jonson  44:19 That's amazing   Cheryl Viirand  44:20 that I mean, guess at all way in two weeks? Yes, really. That's exactly what we're in this for. And that's where the power is. Getting granular getting scientific. So our hope as a team is that we can develop these innovations to be a toolbox that we can eventually be packaging this curriculum and teacher trainings and certification programs and disseminating so that we can help to make neuroscience accessible in all classrooms for all educators and for all students. And that's something we need and that's when we can get to you know, the ideal. Yeah, to me, kids. Along with all other kids really can be in an inclusive environment all together. In order to do that we have to have environments that have the framework, the science and the tools that they need to be able to meet everybody's needs. Otherwise, we're just pushing onto the kids that have you left of adapting themselves to an environment that isn't made for them. And as you prepare, well, you, you and kahal are definitely   Dana Jonson  45:21 filling a need that we have not only in Connecticut, but I think everywhere because there really there isn't a lot for two, eight around the country is there's less than 20 schools across the whole country for two is amazing. It is unbelievable and incredibly underserved. Yeah, yeah. And I mean, like I said, I have that a lot where I have to tell parents, you know, well, you get to choose, do you want to address these issues? Or do you want to address the academics because I can't find a school that does both. So you are filling a very important need. And thank you very much for all your very hard work, not just for your own children, but all the other children that you are   Cheryl Viirand  45:57 more positively in social problems.   Dana Jonson  46:03 So this has been really awesome. And I have one last thing that I'd like to ask you or wrap up on this. Where did the academics come in? Because we've talked about how we're addressing all of the the challenges those corny teen yells. So where do we get to the academics, which is absolutely   Cheryl Viirand  46:25 essential. So one of the things I believe very firmly for all kids, but especially for two weekends, is you are not going to bring up that confidence and help them have that feeling of success until you address the academic needs as well. So what we do is we use project based learning as our curricular framework. So project based learning is been developed by the buck Institute for Education over the last 30 years as a very powerful framework, where you are integrating curricular skills, not as individual siloed academic areas, but rather through you give the children a driving question. And the in order to answer that driving question, they're going to end up needing to access and learn all these different areas of curricular content.   Dana Jonson  47:06 So and I think I think there's a misnomer with project based learning. I think there's this concept that like, we're in the middle of the crafts from putting things together like that's, that's, that's project based learning. So I want you to be clear that that is no, that's not where we're here. Yeah.   Cheryl Viirand  47:21 So what we're talking about is we start by taking all of the curriculum standards that need to happen for a given grade level. But bearing in mind, as we said, we're looking at the scaffolding here. So right, it's really not what is the next skill for this grade, it's what's the next skill for this child, which may or may not be in a linear progression. But we take those skills, and we combine them in projects that might last a couple of months even, but are going to integrate a number of different content areas, because that's really better matched to the real world. So in the post Google world, we don't need to memorize facts and figures, because what do we adults do? Right? You go to Google, and we look. So what we need to learn how to do to be successful, a 21st century world, and in particular, again, thinking about the to the population, these are outlining thinkers, if you look back in time, to be thinkers, Albert Einstein, Agatha Christie, Steven Spielberg, they they have been some of our greatest mathematics, scientific and cultural leaders. So if you think differently, and you want to be able to make a difference in this world with those different ways of different perspectives that you can bring to the picture, then you need to have certain skills, you need to know how to solve problems, you need to know how to break big exciting problems down into composite steps that you can then start to execute on   Dana Jonson  48:45 solving   Cheryl Viirand  48:46 critical thinking, absolutely. And you need a lot social collaboration skills, you need to know how to listen to appear, including one whose ideas may be far less interesting than your own. And to figure out how are you going to convey your own ideas in a way that is not dictatorial, but rather, is about a shared a truly shared collaboration with a wide range of people. It's so important right now, there's also a lot of executive function skills that you need to develop along the way. Yeah. So if you think about, you know, the kid who is maybe going to go on to MIT and make some huge scientific discovery, how are they going to be able to organize that work, communicate that work, be a thought leader, together with peers who might be all over the world, and truly be collaborative. So that's what the project based learning framework allows us to do. So to give you an example, our current project, the big driving question we posed to our kids, is, does the brain rule the body or does the body rule the brain? Now, this is if you think about there's a lot of traditional health science curriculum that would be presented in any elementary school or frankly, high school. And there's also there's lots of opportunity for teaching about electricity. To appreciate how the nervous system works, chemistry to appreciate how neural chemical releases work and why they alter your mood experiences. It is intentionally a question two is there is no one answer, you cannot get a satisfactory answer to that question on Google. At the end of the project, the kids are going to be creating an information booth at a public library where they are going to be presenting their findings and their views on that question. And they might choose to do that through a skit, they might choose to do that through a movie or a PowerPoint, or they might choose to do it through some sort of electrical model, that choice of how to manifest their winnings up to them. This is totally different from tests and quizzes. This is totally different from worksheets. And it requires we put front and center the skills that for many to the kids and the ones that lag the furthest behind social skills, executive function skills, and friendly, you know, the ability to regulate your own mood and your own thoughts as you're in what can be very frustrating situations.   Dana Jonson  51:01 I think the example you gave to me earlier, which I think outlines is really well is the typing example.   Cheryl Viirand  51:07 Yes. So don't tell that and, and Siri, in terms of the way that we go about looking at making our progress and development for the kids, right?   Dana Jonson  51:19 Well, so Well, you're tying to the student, you broke it down to the smaller pieces without ever touching, typing.   Cheryl Viirand  51:25 Exactly. So I had a student come in who has a challenge with motor coordination. And we did a typing task, maybe the second week, and we got six words per minute. And we focused on that motor cohesion, coordination, challenge, doggedly everything that we do. So as we're presenting this project based curriculum, that's where the content comes from the modality that we use to present it is all of that science stuff we talked about earlier. So if I need to be creating new neural connections across the brain, I'm going to be using the content out of my project based learning curriculum in order to provide that content. So we every day, we're going to do some motor activities, we're using the the body is an incredibly powerful learning modality even if you don't have a gross motor coordination. So we always integrate movement into it. So we're here we are focusing on improving those gross motor coordination skills, paying attention to typing. We're about a month later, we do the second typing test. And this time, that is six words per minute, there were 13. And it's just it's exactly that example, or the perfect demonstration of how we focus on what problem we're trying to solve. The problem was not typing, right, the problem was motor coordination. So we focus on improving motor coordination, the lo and behold, look what happened to typing. And at the same time that that happened to typing, we started to catch a ball. And at the same time that we started to catch a ball, it's just it starts to float in all these different areas, right. So that's what it's bringing it all together through the project based learning curriculum, and deeply integrating all these pieces together, which gives us the opportunity and the potential here to really what we find is, the more we dig into this model, of identifying what problem we're trying to solve, looking for, what are all available lovers how to solve it, and then giving agencies to the children through teaching them the science behind it, doing all that flowing it through the carpet, though project based learning curriculum framework, what we're finding is that we're really turning on its head expectations about what kind of changes you can make and how quickly you can we've had to turn ourselves on our head to be quite honest, do we think about priorities totally differently? We aren't thinking about when we're doing our lesson planning, we aren't thinking about what's the next chapter in the textbook, we're thinking about, okay, what's the next rung on the ladder? And each of the relevant scaffolds for each of these children? Now, how am I going to do that, while I teach other human body works, okay.   Dana Jonson  53:59 As more object based, you're able to when you have different levels of skill,   Cheryl Viirand  54:05 or before   Dana Jonson  54:06 or different ages, you can all be working on the same project at but at your own level. Exactly. So for those who need more enrichment, you can   Cheryl Viirand  54:16 ratchet it on or sagging it down or and one of the things that's exactly another reason we chose this framework is that I mean, I think for for high analytical reasoning, kids, it's, it's really, I think, hands down the best framework for them to use because it's the one that gives you a playground to develop those analytical skills. Remember, we said about neuroplasticity, if you aren't using it, you're going to lose it right? So we got to be developing those skills. But additionally, if you're talking about a cohort of kids, where you might be one child could be two years ahead in math and two years behind in English. So if what you have is kids were grouped by the same age, and you only have high school kids, or you only have elementary kids, well, what's going to happen For the child who's five grade levels ahead and reading, he's got nobody to read with and discuss a book. And what's going to happen for the kid who has four levels behind in math, they're just going to feel alone, isolated and behind. Whereas when we bring together the mixed age cohort, the mixed group cohort, there's always a natural peer, for every aspect of every project, or pretty close as we grow out our cohort. So that's the reason that we are at K through 12. School, rather than just being a smaller subset. So it's just everything about this model, at least a little bit different than what we seen elsewhere. But that's excited about doing and it's   Dana Jonson  55:37 what we need. We are now across the board, we're talking about and we're seeing this is a problem or, you know, the critical thinking and the problem solving skills are what are missing primarily. So I love seeing this, I love seeing this model. And I love that you're here in Connecticut, where you need it so badly. It'll take transplants. Okay, all right. Yes, you can come to Connecticut and go there too. So for people who want to find kahal How do we find kaha?   Cheryl Viirand  56:06 we better start by spelling it. Yeah, it is c a JAL And you'll find lots more information there about to the kids and what we're finding and talking to families   Dana Jonson  56:18 and more information, contact information if you want to reach Cherrill   Cheryl Viirand  56:21 your house salutely. Absolutely, please do reach out. And we are excited to be here with you. Thank you so much for having us.   Dana Jonson  56:29 Thank you. You'll probably be back I'm sure. Thank you so much for joining me today. Please don't forget to subscribe to this podcast so that you get notifications whenever new episodes are available. You can also find this podcast on his website at special ed dot life. You can follow me on Instagram at special ed dot life or you can email me at Dana at special ed dot life. I want to know what you want to know. So please reach out with your comments and questions. And I'll see you next time here on need to know with Dana Jonson Have a great day.
57:12 11/24/2020
Special Ed 101
Special Ed 101 mp3 Thu, 11/19 9:46PM • 40:50 SUMMARY KEYWORDS child, special education, student, school district, parents, evaluations, education, iep, disability, attorney, iep meeting, mediation, state, due process hearing, least restrictive environment, timelines, hearing, school, procedural safeguards, decision Transcript:Today, I want to talk to you a little bit about special education, I realized that I haven't done a brief overview of special education, I did start off my podcast by going over the differences between special education and section 504, which are very important distinctions for parents to understand. But I thought at this point, especially with the current state of semi-virtual, something education, a lot of parents are identifying different struggles that their students are having, because of the programs that are being offered right now. And so children who got used to attending to school in person coming home and being virtual, or having their schedules disrupted or not receiving their services, or classes in a regular scheduled manner, the way that they had been before with that level of consistency, parents are starting to see a lot of struggles come up with students who maybe didn't struggle with certain aspects of school before. So I think it's really important for everyone to understand what special education is. Now, if you're one of my regular listeners, you are going to notice that the date on this is a Thursday, not a Wednesday. And that would be because in my very human life, I somehow managed to delete this entire podcast when I was publishing it yesterday. So today, I'm going to redo it and hope that it comes across smoothly and good for you guys. And hopefully, I will learn from my mistakes. And this won't happen again. But I think we can all agree it probably will. Anyhow, let's jump into what special education is. So let's start with what special education is not if you grew up when I did, which was quite some time ago, special education had very negative connotations attached to it, it was often very impaired students who were kept substantially separate from everybody else. Oftentimes they might be not only in a different classroom, but possibly in a different building, or, in our case, a trailer or temporary structure outback. So it certainly physically was not given any level of priority. And then there of course, all the jokes about the short bus kids and special education right on this short bus. And so that can be a very hard stereotype to get over in your head as a parent. And I know for me, my children have disabilities, and I advocate for children all of the time. Sometimes those thoughts creep back into my head, so I get it. And so I think it's important to clarify that that is not what special education is. Our school system is designed to provide education on mass. So we provide education to a large group of students and expect them all to learn at the same time. And on the exact same track years ago, that education was provided in a very limited manner. There was no differentiated instruction, there was no understanding of kinetic learners versus auditory learners versus visual learners, there really wasn't that discussion going on yet. So now we know better. So we do better as the saying goes, but we still don't necessarily address every child. So if you have one of those students who does not learn the way the vast majority of other students do, then you need something different and you need something special. And that is called special education. So for students who cannot access the education, which is not just academics, by the way, it includes social emotional issues. It includes daily living skills, if it's something that your student needs to be successful and independent in life, then it is something that they need to learn. And that falls under the category of education and for students who have a disability and for whom that disability impacts their   05:00 Education. And for those students who also require specialized instruction, they may qualify for special education. The first thing as a parent that you need to learn is that it is up to you to know your child, you now have to become the expert, you will have to be the expert on their disability, you will have to be the expert on the strategies to work with children with those disabilities. And you're going to have to become an expert in special education because you are the best advocate for your child. And that does not mean that your school district does not have your child's best interest in hand. But every professional that works with your child, whether it's their teacher, a service provider, a T ball coach, whoever it is, their interaction and their responsibility with your child is very limited in scope. And so it is up to you to make those connections. And this is not an easy job. So you're going to have to work at it. And you're going to have to learn and I have complete faith that you will, because for one, you're listening to this, which tells me that you are already down the path of educating yourself. I always like to talk about the history of special education. And I'll point out right now that this is not intended to be legal advice for anybody and certainly not specific to your child. If you have specific questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. Or if you go to Corp, you will find a directory of attorneys advocates and providers in your area. But this I'm really just giving to you so you understand where we came from and where we're going. So the brief brief history a special education that I would like to give you a special education laws is in 1975. And for some of you might you might think that's a long time ago, but it's really not. It's less than 50 years ago, education of All Handicapped Children Act was enacted that provided students with disabilities with a free appropriate public education if you are in the ages between three and 21. It also provided for due process rights for parents for when they disagree with their school district. It provided for an IEP the individualized education program, it provided for LRE the least restrictive environment, and it agreed to assist states and localities financially through federal funding, which just for the record has never been fully funded. In 1986. The amendments to the education of All Handicapped Children Act came around and those amendments saw the need for an early intervention and mandated the development of a comprehensive system for early intervention for infants. And many of you know that as Birth to Three and that is a different section of the IDA than special education in 1990. The eha was renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act the IDA that's when eligibility categories were expanded to include autism and traumatic brain injuries. And we are now to date up to 13 primary disability categories which we'll discuss in a minute and also defined assistive technology devices and services which had not previously been in the act. In 1997. The ID EA was reauthorized and then again, it was reauthorized in 2004. But it was supposed to be reauthorized in 2010. It's not necessary to reauthorize it. There are definitely more protections that parents need at this point as our world changes. And as our education changes, so does the way in which we provide special education services and the rights the parents may need in order to advocate for their child. The parent side advocacy world is not itching to get that reauthorized right now, again, as I said, it doesn't need to be. And we need to be very strategic and cautious on how we move forward with that. So that is your little legislative lesson. So when is a student eligible for special education? There's a great question. And I hear this all the time. My child has ADHD and they will not give them an IEP I brought them a doctor's note. He's all over the place, and they will not give him an IEP. Well, having disability is not the only thing that you require. In order to obtain special education services, there actually have to be three things at play at the exact same time. Your student does have to have one or more disabilities that are covered under the IDA and as I said, we have 13 the student is not making effective progress in school because of the disability. So due to their disability, they are not making effective progress, what is effective progress, and that has been played out a lot in the courts. And that is usually the argument that we have is that parents and school districts disagree on the level of progress a student is making and whether it is or is not appropriate. And then finally, they have to look at whether the student requires special education in order to make effective progress.   10:00 So will specialized instruction help this student work through their disability, remediate the disability and help them make effective progress in school. That is another area in which we often disagree. If you want to go back to my podcast on section 504 versus the IEP, you can get a whole episode on why that is. So let's say your student does have a disability, and they are not making effective progress. And they do require specialized instruction, what is the process? And how quickly can you get services for your child? Well, you can't just walk into the building and ask for an IEP meeting and say, my child has a disability, they're not successful in school, and they required specialized instruction and boom, it happens. First, you have to discuss the referral to special education, there needs to be a referral. And there's an IEP meeting to discuss that referral and whether evaluations will take place, assuming evaluations are agreed to and the parent signed consent for them. The school has 30 working days to evaluate the student and then 15 working days to hold the IEP meeting to discuss eligibility. So generally, we talk about that as 45 working school days timelines are a very hot topic right now. Because as I am recording this, we are on the brink of closing down gear in Connecticut for our second wave of school closures due to the COVID virus. And there have been a lot of questions about what the timelines mean under COVID closures. So when the government closes down all schools, we do have a few questions about timelines, it's a little hard to hold schools accountable for conducting in person evaluations when the state has shut down all schools. So there are a lot of questions around that and around what transpired last spring when schools closed unexpectedly and without proper planning. Now, however, they're going to close again, and it is certainly our hope that they learned quite a bit from the last closures. Although from what I have observed, it appears that schools spent their resources in trying to stay open as late as they could, rather than investing in good training and tech to provide good virtual instruction. That's just my little piddly opinion over here is I don't have high expectations. But one thing about timelines is that if the schools are open, the timelines are running. And that is whether they are in hybrid or distance or not. Further, I believe there's a very strong argument that if the school chooses to close, but it is not mandated by the state or the government, then those timelines should continue. And your school district should still be held accountable to those timelines. There is a different situation when the Gov shuts everything down, and it's out of everyone's control. But if your school district has made the individual decision to shut down, then your timelines still remain. Now if your child is then at the end of that 45 days, you have your IEP meeting and you determine that your child is eligible for special education, then you're going to have to develop an IEP an individual education program. And what that IP will consist of is your child's strengths and weaknesses. The parents concerns long term goals for the entire year. And that's a 12 month year, not just the school year, as well as short term objectives to meet within that year, your IP will outline any accommodations or modifications that your child requires in the regular education classroom all the way through standardized state testing. So in any location where they require that that should be identified in their IEP what related services they may be getting. So if your child qualifies for Occupational Therapy, or speech and language therapy or counseling, those items will be in the IEP as well as how often your child receives them and where your child receives them. Is your child receiving those services in the regular education classroom? Are they receiving it in a substantially separate classroom, all of those pieces need to be outlined. And then the parents signed consent to implement special education for your child that starts the timeline for when they can begin special education services. And typically, that is around five days, but you can agree with your team to implement it sooner if everyone is in agreement, and the team is prepared to implement sooner. So I mentioned the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, otherwise known as the ID, EA. And there are six main principles of the ID EA. I'm going to list them here and then go into them in a little more detail. So first, we have the free appropriate public education or what you may know as fate. There's also an appropriate evaluation, the Individualized Education Program or the IEP, a least restrictive environment, or LRE, parent involvement and procedural safeguards. These are all principles of the IDA that have been outlined to protect parents and students with disabilities. So let's talk about parent and student participation. What does that look like? Well, parents have the right to participate   15:00 In all special education, planning and decision making activities that have to do with their student, they must be included in IEP meetings. And any other meeting that makes decisions around your student. Students are always the focus of the special education program. And as they grow older, we expect them to be a part of their planning. At a certain point, schools are obligated to start inviting students to their IEP meetings, and in some states, it's 14 in some states at 16. Definitely look up your state regs and determine that However, you can decide that your students should come to the IEP meeting at any age. So if you would like your child to start attending at an early age to understand the process, and you believe that something that they are capable of, and that they would benefit from, then you may absolutely invite them. But that is your choice. So if you do not believe that it would be appropriate for your child to attend a meeting, say you know that there's going to be an argument, you just don't think your child should observe it, it is up to you whether they are invited or not, though, do not let a school district tell you that they have to have them there, you are still holding the rights for your child until they turn 18. So you get to make that decision. It's also really important for school districts to make sure that they have made every effort to get parents to the meeting. I've heard parents say, Well, I work until five. And it's absolutely unrealistic and unreasonable that they want me to attend a meeting during the day, I understand that I'm also a working parent, and I have four children with IPS and I do get it. But schools are open generally, from about seven to four, we don't really have a right to ask them to hold all of their IP meetings at 7pm, at night or on weekends. And in general, given that most students have one IP meeting a year, sometimes two, but generally most have one when there's no dispute, it's not an unreasonable request for parents to carve that time out to attend the meeting during the school day. That being said, many times parents get a notice a letter in the mail that says this is the date and time of your IP meeting. And if you missed that piece of mail, or if it's not on a date that works for you, and you only got five days in advance, which is acceptable, because they do have to get it to five days in advance. But that's it. And you might not be able to clear your schedule that quickly, then you need to reach out to your school district to reschedule and they need to make every effort to make sure that happens. I've had school districts say well, we only hold IEP meetings on a Wednesday and that's it that is too restrictive, expecting them to hold their IEP meetings on the weekend is also not reasonable. So there definitely needs to be a meeting in the middle. In addition, once your child turns 18, the rights that you held for them now pass on to them. So they now hold all of the participation and decision making rights and authorities under the IDI many students at the age of 18. Whether they have been involved in their IEP meetings or not are not interested in taking on that responsibility. And in my practice, what I have found works is very often if the student writes a letter stating that they would like their parents to remain the decision makers for the purpose of the IDA and their special education needs. school districts will honor that that is at least here in Connecticut with districts that I have worked with. If that is not acceptable to your district, then again, I would call an attorney or advocate in your area and find out what parents do in your area. I'm not going to talk about conservatorship at all here. But I would like to say that it is a lot more complicated than most people know. And so while it may seem like a very easy fix, if you are the parent who wants to be able to continue to make these decisions for your child until they are 21, or 22, but they're not going to need your conservatorship. After that, then please do really seriously look into it, because there are some pitfalls to conservatorship that could seriously impact you and your rights with your child. So make sure if you choose to do that you are going through the proper process and that you know all of the pros and cons of what you are doing. So that is parent participation. Next we'll move on to the free appropriate public education free I'd like to think is a little obvious. It means that no cost to the parent that means that you should not be paying for it. That means that if your child requires per their IP, say an iPad in the classroom, then the school district needs to be providing that iPad in the classroom. Whether the school needs to provide that iPad to go home with your student to work at home will depend very much on your child's disability and on their IEP. But if they do require it in school, the school district must provide it the services must be appropriate. So what is appropriate appropriate services Our services are sufficient to enable the student to progress in education and work towards meeting their IEP goals and objectives. This has been litigated many, many times and will continue to be and the definition of appropriate will continue to grow. But right now what it means is that your child needs to be made   20:00 Making progress and that their IEP is appropriately challenging for them. So not just making progress. But if you have a child who's making progress on goals and objectives that are way below their skill level, that is not sufficient, your child needs to also be challenged. school needs to be public, which means it needs to be provided by the public school district or under the direction of your public school district. And definitely, as I said earlier, paid for by your public school district, and education under the ID EA is preschool, elementary and secondary school, including extracurriculars, and non academic school activities. It also includes social emotional concerns, as well as activities of daily living, any areas in which your child needs to learn in order to be an independent contributing member of society needs to be in their IEP. So how do we get to all of these pieces? Well, we start with the evaluation, and the evaluation and appropriate evaluation is one of the principles of the ID EA. And what that allows you is an initial evaluation. So when your child is referred to special education, and we're making that determination, is this child eligible? Do they have a disability do they require a specialized instruction, you are entitled to that initial evaluation, and then that evaluation has to be redone every three years, and that is called the triennial evaluation where you reassess the child see what progress they have made and make a determination as to whether they are still eligible for special education. Because if your child has made significant progress on all of their goals and objectives, they may no longer qualify for special education. So special education is not something that you automatically have for your entire educational career. It is what you have for the time that you are eligible for these evaluations have to be individualized assessments, they have to be non discriminatory assessments, they have to include a variety of tools and strategies, including information provided by the parent, any other providers who work with a student who might have insight into the student's needs as it pertains to education and any staff in the school. So for example, if your child spends an inordinate amount of time with the school nurse, you're going to want to make sure that the school nurse is in that discussion over what evaluations need to be provided, because every area of suspected disability needs to be investigated. And when I say every area of disability, I mean every area of disability as they are defined under the idea we need to assess a school has the right to conduct those evaluations themselves, first with their staff. And that also has been well litigated I have parents call me all the time with wonderful reasons as to why the school staff should not be evaluating their child first, and many of those reasons are completely valid, but the law is very clear school districts get to do their evaluations first. Now, this does not mean you have to if you feel that this would be detrimental to your child. Of course, you can refuse the evaluation however, and please don't stop listening right there. If you say no to evaluations, you are impacting your rights, and you may be impacting what you're entitled to later down the road. So before you say no to any evaluation of any kind, no matter how ridiculous that sounds, please, please please consult with an attorney or advocate and find out whether it makes sense to refuse that evaluation or not. So after we get the evaluation, and we determined that the child is eligible, another principle of the ID EA is the IEP, the individualized education program. The IEP is basically a roadmap for your child's education, it's going to encompass your child's strengths and weaknesses, parents concerns an explanation of how the disability impacts your student and their ability to learn. It's going to identify long term goals, which are measurable, as well as short term objectives that are also measurable under those goals to be worked on across the year. Again, that's a 12 month year, not just the nine months of school, that doesn't mean your child automatically gets 12 months of services, but that is the how long the IEP runs. So if you have a student who also requires 12 months of services, that is a different conversation that you would have in your IEP meeting. And that would be called an extended school year, which I'm not going to get into right now. But I want you to understand that the dates of the IEP is for 12 months, but that does not necessarily mean you are getting services for those full 12 months. And your IEP is also going to list all of the accommodations and modifications that your child requires, as well as any of the related services your child receives and where they receive them. So speaking of where they receive them, that brings me to the next principle of the I DEA, which is the least restrictive environment or LRE. What LRE means is that your child should be in the least restrictive environment that is appropriate to them. So not every child is going to benefit through us Moses by being in close proximity to non disabled peers. That's just not how   25:00 Works period. So for some students, in order to get to that least restrictive environment, they do need a very restrictive environment to start. Because remember, the ultimate goal of your child's IEP is to teach them how to be as independent as possible not to keep them in the least restrictive environment period. It's just not, it says appropriate and they mean appropriate. So if your child regular education classroom is the least restrictive environment, but there are not sufficient supports and services in that classroom for your child to make meaningful progress, then they need to be pulled from that until they can. On the other hand, just because it is easier to educate your child in a more restrictive environment does not mean that the school district gets to do that children should be provided the supports and services they need in the classroom. And there are a number of things that can be done in the classroom to help support a child everything from priority seating to having another adult individual in that classroom helping your child. So there are a lot of possibilities for how your child can be serviced in the classroom without being removed. Again, this piece comes down to every individual child and what those evaluations say your child requires in order to make effective progress. So this brings me to the final principle, the ID EA, and that is procedural safeguards. procedural safeguards include the right to written notice the right for parents to consent or refuse services, evaluations, etc. The right to stay put, which I will address in a minute, the right to a resolution system, or what they now have is the resolution sessions, mediation and due process hearings. There are also timelines that the school district needs to stay within and those are considered part of your procedural safeguards. The fact that your child's records must be kept confidential is also a procedural safeguard and the right to receive the evaluations in advance of the IEP meetings if requested. So please, please, please, whenever you have an IEP meeting, if you're going to be discussing reports, evaluations, assessments updates, please ask your team in advance to provide that documentation to you that you are not sitting in the meeting blindsided by all this information that you now have to process at the same time you're listening to people discuss it. So I want to talk a little bit about some of the individual procedural safeguards to which you are entitled, and I'm going to start with mediation. Mediation is a voluntary process that you can enter into with the school district, I always recommend that parents confer with an attorney before attending a mediation. If the school district is attending a mediation, you can be certain that their attorney is involved in some way, shape or form. So for you to show up without an attorney will put you at a disadvantage. So please consult with someone before deciding to attend a mediation without counsel. That being said, it is a voluntary process. And it's available not only when a due process hearing has been requested, but it is available even if you have not filed for due process. So if you leave your IEP meeting, and you have a dispute with your school district, you can file for mediation and see if they will go now you can file and wait and see what their responses. But better practice would be requesting at that IEP meeting, how do I file for a mediation? Or would the school district be willing to go to mediation, mediation has a mediator assigned by the state and the state trains and appoints the mediator they are trained in the area of special education as well as mediation, or at least hopefully they are some are more versed than others. So be prepared to have to explain your situation as well as your disabilities and possibly the law behind it to your mediator. It depends on your state and how they were trained, and whether you have good ones or not. So you have to look into that yourself. mediations are also confidential. And that is critical to remember, if a school district tells you something in the mediation, you may not use that later. You may not sit in an IEP meeting and say, well, you said in mediation that and you may not sit in a due process hearing and testify to what the school district said in mediation. Mediation is confidential, there's a good reason for it. Your information is confidential as well. And without that confidentiality, it would not be possible to come to the number of agreements that we are able to come to to help families, please take that confidentiality component seriously. And if you come to an agreement in a mediation, you will get a written mediation agreement and that agreement is enforceable in a court of law. So if your school district does not follow the mediation agreement, it is a legally binding agreement and you can enforce it in state or federal court. It will be signed by you and the district and it will have that covered   30:00 Confidentiality clauses we discussed. Now if mediation is not successful, the next step would be due process. And in due process hearings, we address issues of valuation identification, educational placement and faith, there is a 45 day time frame for due process hearing. Again, in COVID times these timeframes can be a little bit off. But generally, the timeframe from filing to a decision should be 45 days, do not expect a decision in 45 days, I've never heard of a due process hearing that did not have multiple, multiple extensions. It depends on your state and how they do them. But in our state, hearing dates are not sequential. So we could have four hearing dates over four months. if everyone's schedules don't allow for a sooner gathering. It's very important to keep track of that it's important because the statute does not want students lingering in programs that they are not benefiting from while the adults are fighting out the issues. So these timelines are there for a reason. And they are important, you are assigned an impartial hearing officer also provided by the state and trained by the state, again, depends on your state and how they're trained and who they are. But if you were in a due process hearing, first of all, I hope you have an attorney. I know some states allow advocates to do it. And in any state parents are allowed to do it themselves. But parents do not prevail the majority of the time. In fact, the school district prevails nationally significantly more often than parents. And so if you look at just that statistic, it is critical that you have an attorney who understands the process and what needs to get done. No school district goes to due process hearing without an attorney, or at least I'm not familiar with them. So again, you would be putting yourself at a huge disadvantage. If you attend a due process hearing without an attorney. Now how your due process system works and whether and how you appeal. It depends on whether your state has a one or two tiered system. I am in Connecticut, where we have a one tier system but in the state next to us New York, they have a two tier system. And that means that there is a way to appeal it within the state before going to federal or state court. So how you appeal it within your department of education. in general. In hearings, you have the right to be represented by an attorney or in some states assisted by a lay advocate, you'll present evidence to the hearing officer and you'll put on witnesses and you'll direct question them and cross examine the board's witnesses at the end of that you then write a significant brief that goes to the hearing officer, and then they after reviewing all of the evidence and all of the testimony and both sides briefs will issue a decision, parents can choose whether they want their hearings to be open or closed. And what that means is that the hearing if it's open, that means anyone from the public can come. Some parents like that idea. And some attorneys like that idea because it makes or it can make a matter more high profile if need be. So if making the situation known to the community will be helpful in some way, whether to the matter itself or to address systemic issues that may be going on within the school system, that might be a good way to go. But when you have an open hearing, you are losing a significant amount of confidentiality for your child, and all of that information, anyone can show up and listen to the testimony. So you have to really weigh that against whatever benefits you believe there would be for having an open hearing. Personally, I love it when people have open hearings because I love to go and watch and see how different attorneys do it how different hearing officers respond. It's just I'm kind of a dork. So I like to do that. But it may not be the right thing for you. You also have the right to have your student present at the hearing. I am not familiar with many hearings, where a student is present, it is often not appropriate for variety of reasons to have the student at the hearing. And then you are entitled to a written decision. I'm going a little out of order, but I'm going to talk about resolution sessions. After you file for a due process hearing the school district is obligated to hold a resolution session and that resolution session occurs unless both parties have waived the right to the resolution session and requested mediation. For us here in Connecticut. We always do that we waive the resolution session and we go to mediation. I have spoken with attorneys and other states who say that resolution sessions are highly successful in their state. So again, it depends on where you are and your district. So do your research and find out where you are and how your district handles resolution sessions and whether that is a productive means of resolution for you. Now resolution sessions. Resolution sessions do not necessarily have attorneys at them. If the parent chooses to attend a   35:00 resolution session without an attorney, even if due process is pending, the school district may not bring their attorney under no circumstances may they attend. If, however, you do bring an attorney with you to the resolution session, then the school district may bring their own attorney, if you come to an agreement in your resolution session, then that agreement is going to be in writing and it's going to be legally binding. Which means that if the school district does not hold up their end of the agreement, you can go straight to court and enforce the agreement. If you're unable to resolve the issues and you end up going to a hearing, then that decision is also going to be written and it is going to be in forcible in a state or federal court It is also appealable. So if you do not agree with the decision, or the school district does not agree with the decision, either side can appeal the decision within 90 days, winning at the hearing level is not necessarily the end of the journey. I know some attorneys who don't even expect to win at the hearing level, they their entire strategy is to go for an appeal. And then there are other people who don't ever need to get into a hearing. Because the matters resolved. Not every hearing decision is appealed because both sides have to give some serious thought as to whether they want to go into the time and money it will cost to appeal the decision and what ramifications there might be if they lose, because if you lose on an issue, then you've just created law on that issue that other people have to abide by. So it's not an automatic decision to appeal. Now, where is your child during all of this, you have a dispute with your school district and you are going to resolution sessions and mediations and maybe a hearing and maybe it takes six months. So where's your student during all of this? Well, that is what we refer to as stay put in some states they call it pendency. Basically, unless otherwise agreed to the student will remain in the last agreed upon placement. The last agreed upon placement is the last IP that both parties agreed to or a hearing officer decision. So if your student was placed in a private, Special Education School by your school district, they were placed there they were transported, it was paid for by your school district. And you end up in a due process hearing your child can remain in that program until they're finished. Similarly, if your student was in the public school, then they will remain in that program until the end of the hearing. Obviously, as a parent, you have choices, you can always choose to provide a private education to your child while you are going through this process. And there are a lot of legalities around that. So please do not do that without talking to an attorney. But the stay put rule is that whatever the school district was paying for before the hearing, they will pay for during the hearing so that your child's education does not have to get disrupted during that time. The exceptions for that are dangerousness if there is a serious danger issue for the child, then, under certain circumstances, the school district may be able to change their placement and if there's a final decision by a hearing officer. So when you get that final hearing officer decision that becomes the state placement. The last thing I want to talk about is attorneys fees. Long story short, the court can award attorneys fees and costs to the parent who prevailed. So if you won in a hearing, you can file in federal court to get your attorneys fees reimbursed.   38:31 Now, if the school district prevails, they do not have that same right unless they can demonstrate that the parent filed a complaint that is frivolous, unreasonable without foundation or simply to prolong litigation, then they may seek attorneys fees from the parent, but it is not easy to do. There was one matter, I believe in Connecticut actually, where the attorney had filed for due process to hold up an expulsion so that the student could graduate from high school without the expulsion on their record. And in doing so they were they were successful. But the school district attorneys then prevailed and sought the attorneys fees from the attorney and the parents because both can be found liable for those because the purpose of it was completely frivolous and solely to prolong litigation to delay an expulsion so the child could graduate so that was clearly done as a strategic tactic and not because the child had any special education issues at all. So that is my very general overview of special education from beginning to end. I hope that you found it helpful. And I look forward to talking to you next week when I'm actually going to have on the two co-chairs of the conference committee for the council parent attorneys and advocates and we are going to talk about their conference and how that can also   40:00 also help educate you as a parent of a child with disabilities so that you can best advocate for your child.
40:50 11/20/2020
Wonder twin powers ACTIVATE!
Today we talk with Aubrey Schmalle, a registered occupational therapist, about Body Activated Learning to support attention and engagement.  This is an innovative, sensory-based program to support attention and engagement in children that can be embedded into the existing curriculum of any school environment. Schools and parents can implement this program as a universal design support for all classrooms to enhance every students’ ability to be more active learners. The outcomes include improved active listening, visual attention, and direction-following as well as greater independent learning skills and enhanced task completion. A little bit about Aubrey....  After graduating with a bachelor's degree from Boston University in 2002, she completed a specialty fieldwork at a clinic that is a leader in the field of sensory integration research. She continued her studies to obtain advanced certification in sensory integration theory and practice.  Her areas of expertise include functional visual skill development, visual-vestibular integration, praxis, and executive function, and using sound-based therapies to enhance treatment outcomes. Since 2005, she has developed four in-clinic fieldwork programs and supervised several masters-level occupational therapy students. She also educates parents, teachers, and other professionals on the value of using sensory-based treatment techniques to facilitate learning and speech development. She has worked with children with a variety of diagnoses including autism spectrum and sensory processing disorders, as well as neuromotor impairments, genetic disabilities, and vision impairments.  Aubrey believes that the most effective treatment is one that is dynamic and specific to the child.  As an educator, evaluator, and treating clinician, she strives to provide high quality, individualized treatment interventions. These interventions are designed to help children develop confidence and a desire to explore and engage in the world around them as they continue to learn and grow.   How to contact Aubrey:  Sensational Achievements is a pediatric occupational therapy clinic specializing in the evaluation and treatment of children, adolescents, and adults with sensory processing, autism spectrum, and learning disabilities. Set up an initial 15 minute phone consult with Aubrey   Visit the Sensational Achievements Youtube Channel for more videos about Body Activated Learning and Distance Learning. FREE Resources:  Optimizing your Sensory Diet Digital Download  Masterclass to implement a sensory diet using Body Activated Learning   Resources for Purchase: Meltdowns to Motivated Parent Coaching Program Hardcopy or Ebook version of the Body Activated Learning Handbook and activity expansion packs Coming Mid-November:  Level 1 Body Activated Learning Certification for parents, paraprofessionals, camp counselors, leaders of distance learning pods, volunteers, and teachers.  
49:22 11/11/2020
Back to School 2020 - What's New?
"Back to school" elicits images in my head of long lines in stationery stores, exorbitant shipping fees for backpacks I forgot to order, and the promise of a great new school year.  None of that, however, was part of back to school 2020, at least not for us. As we have learned, nothing is written in stone with COVID-19. Here in CT, we heard schools had to open at full capacity. Then they were allowed to consider a hybrid plan.  Now some are only offering virtual options and some withholding services from those taking the digital offerings. Special education is changing rapidly and we are adapting accordingly.    Today I am going to talk to you about important information you need to help you preserve your child’s rights and hold your school accountable during these unusual times.  The one thing that has not changed is the IDEA and your school district’s requirement to provide your child with a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Despite changing information and ambiguous guidance, the IDEA and all its protections for students with disabilities remains intact. This, however, does not mean your child will receive the exact same services in the exact same way as pre-COVID.  Everything has changed and so should your child’s IEP   This episode is not meant as legal advice specific to your child but rather general information that can help you in your journey.  Some of the links I discuss: Need to Know Episode Can You Comp My Ed? Need to Know Episode LRE: What Now? Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates
35:23 09/16/2020
What's for dinner?
Being a mom is hard on a good day but just because something is hard doesn't mean it can't bring you joy! Today I talk with Meredith Masony, a work-from-home mom of 3, helping other woman through one of the most isolating jobs they have: motherhood. We talk about her new book, her quest for self-discovery, & the fun that disabilities adds to the joy of parenting! Maredith is a wife, mother to three children, dog mom of two, and founder of That’s Inappropriate and That’s Inappropriate Parents. She started this community in October of 2014 because she felt alone and thought she was the only Mom who was losing her mind on a daily basis. Here is her story: I had been sick for months, always turned away as the picture of health. When I finally demanded an endoscopy and what they found turned my world upside down. At 34 years old with three children under the age of 8, I encountered my own mortality. While sitting in bed crying a week before the surgery I took inventory of my life. I married my soulmate and blessed with three children, but I had not left my mark on this world. Becoming a mother left me with no idea who I was. After my surgery I awoke to three amazing words. My husband leaned over and said, “It’s not cancer.” At that moment I vowed to find myself and make my mark. My blogging adventure began in October of 2014 when I created That’s Inappropriate, for parents just like me. In three years the That’s Inappropriate Community has grown to just shy of 1 million followers across all channels. I strive to help parents thrive instead of survive. I think that most women tend to lose themselves after having kids. They either didn’t know who they were before they had them, or they got lost in the trenches of parenting. It’s important all women know that they are Moms not Martyrs. You need to know who you are in order to be the best Wife, Mom, Sister, Friend you can be. Putting yourself first at times does not make you selfish. My mission is to educate parents about choosing their battles in life and helping women find themselves. As a parenting and women’s empowerment expert I strive to help every parent I can. My journey through illness and self-discovery has given me the insight necessary be able to help others. My book Scoop The Poop released in Nov. 2016 and it was a #1 new release in Parenting and Humor. I have traveled to conferences to speak on parenting, women’s empowerment, and how I created a business while juggling marriage and raising three kids. Join me in the Hot Mess Express Community for Perfectly Imperfect Parents. You can learn more about Meredith and That’s Inappropriate Community Here: That's Inappropriate Website Meredith also references Dena Blizzard, One Funny Mother, and she can be found here: One Funny Mother, Facebook Page
40:29 09/01/2020
LRE: Now what?
What is the least restrictive environment? The one that is appropriate! And which one is that in the world of hybrid models where no one even knows what regular education looks like? Great questions. Join Stacey Tié and me as we discuss LRE, what that might look like now, and how to advocate for your child. More information about Stacey can be found on her website:
33:25 08/19/2020
Are we talking about the same thing?
As parents contemplate their options for Fall 2020, the terms "online learning" and "virtual instruction" have become more commonplace than "unprecedented." Many students struggled to access their education in Spring of 2020, which made parents wary of the new digital components for Fall 2020. But what is that digital component and how can you advocate for the teaching modality your child needs? Lucky for us, Dr. Jennifer Walsh Rurak, Ed.D, is with us today and she talks to us about what successful instruction over the internet can look like. What is the difference between online learning and virtual instructional? Which is best for your child? They aren't mutually exclusive and they aren't the same. So join us to learn about what the differences are and how you can advocate for your child. Jennifer is the District Vice President for Fusion's Northeast area. She earned her Doctor of Education degree with a concentration in Educational and Instructional Leadership from Northeastern University. Additionally, she has a Master of Science degree in Educational Leadership/Administration and a Master of Science degree in Special Education both from Canisius College, as well as a Bachelor of Science degree in Education and Exceptionalities from SUNY Cortland. Prior to joining Fusion Academy, Jennifer spent nine years as a school principal working in public school settings in New York State and taught at the middle school level prior to becoming an administrator. In addition, she has worked as an adjunct graduate professor in the Educational Leadership department at St. Lawrence University. When Jennifer is not working, she enjoys running, Pilates, and boating. Jennifer is excited to be a part of the Fusion team and believes deeply in the power of one-to-one education. You can find Jennifer on the Fusion Academy website: A Tale of Two Approaches: Online Learning and Virtual instruction:  
44:23 07/29/2020
What is Autism in Black?
Raising a child with Autism can be difficult for anyone, however, in the Black community there are additional challenges that may affect you. Although early intervention is key, African American children with autism are one to two years older than white children before they're even diagnosed! Maria Davis-Pierre is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor with extensive experience working with children on the spectrum and their families. In addition, Maria is the parent of a child with Autism. Maria’s passion is being an autism advocate with her mission being to bring awareness to the impact culture can have regarding an ASD diagnosis. Maria tells us what we need to know about why Autism is different when it's in Black. Join us to listen and learn! More about Maria can be found on her website:
53:17 07/15/2020
Wanna HANGOUT? I know just the SPOT!
Where are your kids hanging out these days? Are they learning the social skills they need to navigate the world in-person AND online? To be a friend? To get a friend? To maintain a friend? And, what do Applied Behavior Analysis, Precision Teaching, Natural Environment Teaching (NET) have to do with any of this? This episode is what you need! Today I speak with Meghan Cave, M.Ed. BCBA LBA (CT) and Justyna Balzar, M.Ed. BCBA LBA (CT), co-founders of The Hangout Spot (, a behavior analytic social skills development center for children of all ages and abilities. All programs at The Hangout Spot are evidence-based and rooted in the FUNdamentals of science. Join us and learn what you need to know about social skills, how to teach them, and how they generalize - both in person and in our new digital world!
52:40 07/08/2020
Diversity, INCLUSION, belonging... oh my?
Amy Pleet-Odle is an inclusion coach and founder of Inclusion Focused Coaching. She brings nearly 50 years of experience in education to her coaching work. She's been an English teacher, special educator, department chair, secondary transition coordinator, state department specialist, college professor, and parent. And in this episode she talks to me about what inclusion really is, what it should look like, and how we get there! In other words, what you need to know about inclusion! Amy Pleet-Odle can be found at:
53:01 06/24/2020