Tuesday, February 26, 2008
All the Best to You!
Monday, February 25, 2008
My Reading Chair
I have been thinking about a way to utilize the odiogo text to speech tool for reading. Yesterday I thought, "Why not put public domain and personal writing for kids with illustrations on a blog and use odiogo to read the text?" So I built a new blog and put a nursery rhyme on it. I will set up categories for different reading levels here. I would like to build an archive so there will be lots of reading material for kids down the road.
How I would recommend using this blog:
- Pick a readability level for your child.
- Have the child work on sounding out words and trying the passage.
- Click on the Odiogo button to have it read to the child.
- Subscribe to the RSS feed at the bottom (the Atom link) and receive daily texts to read in your google webpage or Outlook feeds folder.
I hope this will be another resource to not only provide some reading support for kids with disabilities and remedial issues, but also fun for parents to use as a resource for safe content for kids.
All the Best to You!
Sunday, February 24, 2008
I have been promising a podcast on what teens say about disabilities and assistive technology. It is about 10 minutes long. I have an introduction for about a minute and a short close. Other than that, the entire thing is just sound bites from the day.
To listen, use the player in the sidebar. It plays the latest podcast automatically. If you are accessing this as a past archived post, click on the "posts" button and find this post in the playlist. I hope you enjoy listening!
Below are some pictures:
Above: Kathy Howard, from the OT/PT department, shares how to balance on a wobble board and pass a bounce ball from left to right. It's harder than it sounds!
Here, I am handing 2 students a ribbon switch to try. They are filling out their interview sheets.
All the best to You!
Friday, February 22, 2008
I see two issues here: The first is on the time factor in getting evaluations, recommendations and approvals for services and equipment for children in special education. The process of networking, collecting data and meeting with teams is huge. Sometimes it takes 3 - 6 months just to get through meetings, evaluations and team planning sessions. This can include trials of AT equpment to see what is working. If something doesn't work, it is back to the process of a new trial with a new device. Money is a huge factor, and even though federal law mandates it, federal law doesn't fund all of it. Finding money to do everything a school district needs to do is stretching.
I had a conversation with a school district special education director yesterday, and another one today where we are looking at AT equipment to support kids. Both administrators were very supportive of purchasing what was needed and they both are using local foundation and trust money to help in the purchase price for high price-tag items.
The second issue deals with providing spanish versions of IEP's and documents as well as providing a translator for meetings. We have a large Hispanic population in several of our districts. We strive to provide translators for meetings and our ESD has several on-staff translators who convert documents and reports into spanish.
I would encourage you to go read the article on the link above. Take some time to read the comments at the bottom. There is a mix of everything from racist pre-conceived notions of the Hispanic community, administrator perspectives, hispanic perspectives and special educator perspectives. It is pretty eye-opening.
I don't have the answers to these issues, but I believe that when parents are in situations where they see their child on a mat on the floor in class all day, it is time to get active in the area of advocacy. Use the principles we have been sharing in previous posts to find out what is happening, where things are in the process and be positive as a part of the solution - not adding to the problem.
I thought it was interesting that the mother had only good things to say about the staff and teachers who were with her daughter. She had a very positive attitude toward the school, it was the system that she was having issues with. The system is still made up of a lot of people who care about kids, and I am so blessed to be able to say that in my area of Oregon, we have people who think ourside the box to get what kids need. I hope you are somewhere where there is support like that for you too.
All the best to you!
If you know of someone who could benefit from this post or this blog in general please refer it on to them.
Image credit: http://www.wickedlocal.com/roslindale/news/education/x288018531
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
What it means to be a contributor:
A contributor is someone who adds to the efforts of others towards a common goal. I see parents more often than you might think, who expect all the effort to come from a school team to meet educational goals and criticize them if they are not met. If a parent is a contributor to the process, they are doing many things. Here are some examples I have seen through the actions of successful parent advocates:
- Volunteering to spend time in the classroom as a helper once a week.
- Attending team meetings and being available to be in the loop on decisions that happen at school.
- Looking for grant and foundation money to obtain equipment and software needed in the classroom that supports modifications of the curriculum for their child.
- Looking for ways to contribute in the exploration of answers for treatment and special needs issues rather than criticize decisions that have been made without their input.
- Demanding excellence but being willing to share ideas, time and some personal expense if possible to see it attained.
- A realization that they, as parents, are experts on their children's needs and behaviors at home, but also respecting the fact that needs and behaviors can be different at school and the staff and specialists may have conflicting reports that are still accurate.
The wonderful thing about these kind of advocates is that through their efforts, they have earned the right to share in the processes at their schools. They have the right to be in the process anyway, whether they know it or not, but might be permitted by the school begrudgingly because of poor interpersonal relationships. If done right, the relationships at school can blossom so that the parent is seen as a positive influence in the process and their opinions are respected.
How do you think you are perceived by the staff at your child's school? Are you an antagonist and an interrogator when it comes to what is happening at school for your child's services? What could you do to improve the situation? What areas above do you do well? What areas could you possibly improve in?
Now I know there are those of you out there that are saying, "Yes, this might be true, but you don't know what I go through. I have to deal with a principal that doesn't get it when it comes to IDEA and the rights of disabled and special needs children." You might say, "The staff at my child's school always get their defenses up when I come around and I can't get through to them." You could also be one saying, "I have been dealing with incompetency throughout the whole school career of my child's life. I have been patient but I am about to the point where all I know to do is use the "S" word...sue."I am not an attorney and I am not about to start giving legal advice. I realize there are situations where being nice isn't enough. Still...I would encourage you to take a deep breath and look at the principles above. Compare them to your realtionship with your school. Look at where you do well and where you could do better. Putting some effort into these principles can go a long way to bring positive results that will be a win/win situation for everyone.
I hope you are enjoying this series. If you know of anyone that might benefit from this post or my blog in general, please pass it on.
All the best to you!
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Star Trek is Here: Just When You Thought You Were Getting a Handle on Assistive Technology Something New Surprises You.
I have been working on a "No Limits to Learning" AT Resource Bundle. It will have a section on the key elements and basics of assistive technology in layman terms for parents. It will also have video tutorials to walk you through the steps to make 21 "do it yourself" projects you can create for free if you have a Windows computer and MS Office or Open Office (which is free). All the other software is free off the Internet too. I was working on the introduction and thought I had to share some of it today. I hope you enjoy this little preview:
"There is no way any one person can "know it all" about AT. The world is becoming more and more specialized. We have specialized services within specialized niches that are in specialized markets of specialized companies. It can get pretty crazy. I have heard predictions that there will come a time when a person cannot be an AT specialist anymore. They will have to be an AAC specialist or a curriculum support specialist - all within the parameters of AT.
I say this to let you know that if you are a parent, you should be comfortable in relaxing and just getting an overview of the services and equipment your child may need. Be prepared to say "I don't know but I can find out." That is my biggest phrase. I have learned how to find a needle in a haystack on the Internet when it comes to AT. I spend about 30% of my work time online researching equipment, treatment, therapy or definitions and descriptions of medical disorders. Be ready to see the Internet as your best friend. There is so much information out there it is staggering.
This whole project started when I began to hear AT specialists all over clamoring for a website that was a "one stop" place to find resources, vendors, experts, tutorials, federal information, forms, etc.
Most people hate to waste time searching for information. They want it done for them. Since I am on the computer a lot anyway, I thought, "Why not?" So this is my attempt at giving people the basics. I don't even pretend to think or bluff you into thinking this is all there is. It is far from it. If I were to get into occupational and physical therapy supports, new treatment for seizures and ADHD with neurofeedback for children using computer games and slot car race tracks, simulating virtual reality on the TV with a Wii, and so on, we would be here for the next 2 years - and by then 70% of what I shared would be obsolete and new technologies would take over.
Technology also has a way of skidding from science fiction's past into the present like Michael J Fox's Delorean in "Back to the Future". Remember those sliding doors on Star Trek on the U.S.S. Enterprise? Well we take them for granted now. And everytime I see someone flip open a cell phone and talk to someone, I expect to hear them say "Beam me up Scotty." I had a real wide-eyed moment today and I have to share it with you.
Today I watched a doctor wave a Dr. McCoy/Star Trek-type "tricorder" over my son's chest and re-align the electrical impulses that were out of sync so his respiratory infection could heal. Seriously - this is for real. He did the treatment until the levels on the front showed it had re-calibrated. "What is that?!" I asked. Just when you think you are getting a handle on things something new shoots up.
I imagine by the time this is out in circulation, I'll be writing a second edition. That's OK. As long as you don't expect to ever catch up, you can relax and find the things that work. That is what this whole thing is about anyway. Finding out what works to support kids."
So that is my two-cents worth tonight and it will probably find its way into some article I will be publishing here soon. Thanks for making me accountable to keep writing and sharing. It is more and more one of the things in my day I look forward to.
Just to let you know, I have another installment on my parent advocacy series coming and the podcast of teens sharing about disabilities coming along too. I hope you take care and keep checking back. Also, refer this on to others that might find it useful or entertaining.
All the best to you!
Image Credit: http://www.neweyestudio.com/stnr3.htm
Saturday, February 16, 2008
Fostering Positive Relationships
I have worked with a lot of parents and administrators. I see some interesting dynamics at times with the relationships between these two sets of people. Sometimes the two see each other as support - the parents looking for the principal to demonstrate the intensity of an advocate for their child in getting all the services needed, and the principal, looking at the parent as the key to support and reinforcement at home to implement the strategies that will help the student improve at school. Both sides can be self-serving, but at least both have a common concern at heart, and that is the child.
Then there is the adversarial relationship. I have heard stories from parents at conferences and group sessions, where the parents refer to the principal and therapists as cold hearted and threatened and unwilling to listen. I don't work with any principals or staff like that in my service area fortunately, but these stories do happen.
When I hear stories like that I think about what my reaction would be if I were a school administrator and I had a parent who was knowledgeable and in my face about what I was going to do about her son. I would say,"You are my new best friend! I need you to assist in the process of developing what is best for your son. You need to be an integral part of our team for your son." The point of view taken by the leaders in assistive technology about the team process is that parents need to participate and be a part. Their participation is essential.
Positive should ALWAYS be the first line of defense
When you are looking at going to school to advocate on an issue, look at how you can share your point, and in that point make sure there is an invitation for collaboration. That means that it is not "my way or the highway." I know that I am much more apt to collaborate and work with people who listen to my ideas, maintain a calm affect in conversation and are supportive and have good things to say. On the otherhand, I have a hard time listening and contributing to discussions with people who are always on the defensive and looking for a comment or decision that "confirms" their pre-determined belief that, "No one really wanted to listen to me or do what needs to be done anyway." When people enter into dialogue with a pre-determined notion that they are going to have to fight, it adds an energy to the conversation that has the potential to create exactly what you expect.
Take a minute and think about the nature of your conversations with teachers, staff and administrators around you. If you are a therapist or teacher, do the same thing but think of it in terms of your communication with parents. It can work both ways. Are your conversations collaborative? Do they allow room for others to share their input? Do you strive to build bridges to understand others and work on solutions without stress and negative energy?
One thing we as therapists and specialists have to remember is that even when we don't get along with someone, we still need to give them a level of respect. There is also a little thing called IDEA and a federal mandate! No matter what I think, I have to bite the bullet, smile and do what has to be done to be in compliance. I would hope to see the same amount of determination on the parents side to work together so we could both come up with a "win-win" situation. When we add the child into the picture it becomes a "win-win-win" situation!
Being positive and working on solutions together allows for much more success. Being able to think this way in your relationships, problem solving and conversations, is an aspect of what I call the "No Limits Lifestyle." I wish you the best as you strive for healthy collaborative relationships. When you take the time to create these positive relationships, you are making advocacy a much easier task.
I hope this gives you a little support as you work in potentially high-emotion dialogue. Keep checking in for more tips on the next blog post. Please refer this blog to friends that could use the information.
All the best to you!
Thursday, February 14, 2008
A Series on Being A Successful Parent Advocate:
I have had some interesting discussions lately with some "super parents". They are parents that don't take no for answer. Some do it in a peaceful way, some with a little more of a militant flavor and some exceeding the average by becoming medical research leaders in the area of their child's disorder.
Principle One: Knowledge and Research.
The way successful parents advocate is as different as their personalities, but what they do and how they do it is similar and worthy of some attention and documentation. When I hear parents begin to tell me of their battles to get what is best for their child, I am beginning to ask, "If you had to summarize what you have learned about being a parent advocate and had to boil it down to a few principles or points, what would they be?" I am getting some interesting comments and information.
One of the big ones is "study and read". Successful advocates scan the Internet for any new research on the illness or disability their child has. They get involved in groups and forums online. They also subscribe to journals and magazines if they are available.
One parent told me that she is fortunate that she can stay at home. Because of that, she has the time to read-up, research online, attend conferences and be knowledgeable. "A lot of parents don't have the time to invest in learning about this the way I can'" she said, "and so they don't know their rights or the laws that effect their children at school. They aren't knowledgeable about the new developments in support for their childs illness or disability. "
I was directed by a parent of a CP child to an amazing article written by Andrew Brereton who had a son with profound quadriplegic cerebral palsy. His son passed away 4 years ago from a series of brainstem strokes.
I think out of a sense of recovery from grief and a desire to help find treatment for children that have his son's disorder, Andrew began to go back to school and work on his degree in psychology. He went on to gain his Masters in cognitive neuropsychology. he has been involved in research projects that assist in understanding more of the inner workings of the neuro networks in the brain, and research in the development of communication skills.
There was a passage of his writing that I cannot summarize or put into my own words. You need to read them for yourself:
"Sadly, Daniel passed away four years ago last month. We miss him terribly and there will always be a massive hole in our lives. How do you get over the death of a child? However, the snowball of enthusiasm and interest, which he created in me, - interest in helping to solve the problems many children face, rolls on. Using all of the knowledge, which my son passed to me,(despite all my qualifications and research experience, he remains my most astute tutor), I am in the process of setting up a child development consultancy called 'Snowdrop.' It is in its infancy, but it aims to take all the knowledge and experience amassed over the years and to utilise it for the benefit of
children and families like ourselves."
I cannot relate to this level of grief myself and hope I never have to, but I have the desire to help parents see the best for their children. That is why I do what I do at my job everyday and why I write this blog. My area is education and asistive technology - not as much the therapy aspect of it, but I am so glad to find resources like the one above that I can pass one to you. I am asking some of the parents I am working with to share with me as I develop some of our own resources to give you assistance in parent advocacy. I will be sharing more advocacy principles in this series, that are common traits of a successful advocate. I hope you will check back to read as I continue, and refer parents that you know to this too.
I am working on a free access assistive technology group forum/wiki I hope to have up in the next month or so. My hope is to have a central place that can be a "consumer report for AT" forum where you can add a review of a piece of technology and be part of a collaborative effort to be a resource on equipment for parents that have no idea what's out there and what it is all about. It will be organized by areas/categories of assistive technology so people can find a vendor and a piece of equipment easily. It will be hyperlinked to the vendor site for research and indexed also.
I am excited about the things that are happening here and if you see value, please show your support by passing the word on to others.
If you have any input on what you feel is an important principle of advocacy, you can email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
All the best to you!
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
This first podcast is an introduction to the line up of guests I have coming in the next few months. I will record tomorrow (today by the time you read it) at the Career Showcase where I will be sharing AT. The topic will be "What Teens know about Assistive Technology". I will try to capture the "essence" of the day for you and get kids talking about disability. It should be interesting.
I also have several vendors of AT software and equipment slated to share - Intellitools Classroom Suite Version 4 and Blink Twice for the Tango - and augmentative communication device. I have several parents that I have invited because they have important things to share on parent advocacy.
You can use the player on the side bar to listen and you can click "subscribe free" at the bottom of the player to get future podcasts automatically. If you click on the podcasts button on the player it will give you a playlist to choose from. Select podcast #1 Introduction.
All the best to you!
Monday, February 11, 2008
Sunday, February 10, 2008
I will be posting some of the highlights as far as ideas and news from the meeting that I think might be helpful to you. I have a stock-pile of great other topics and information to post over the next couple of weeks that has been coming in and I will get to it all eventually. I am having to start keeping a log of notes and lists so I don't forget things!
On Wednesday I have a table at a career showcase for teens from schools to explore different career options. I am thinking that it might be a great place to do a podcast - interview some teens on what their definition of assistive technology is - what do you think? I have some fun things to set up and let them explore for that day. I will fill you in on that day the end of the week. I have to get the podcast thing going. I have a long list of podcast projects to get recorded and archive so I can start posting.
There are lots of great things happening behind the scenes right now that are going to be exciting to see take shape over the next few months so keep checking in!
All the best to you!
Saturday, February 9, 2008
Thursday, February 7, 2008
To top off my day, I went to my email to find notification from “Ezine Articles” (see the link in my sidebar). I had submitted my first article a couple of days ago and was hoping it was accepted. I would be on the beginner/basic level. The email said that I had been accepted into the expert category on my first submission and that it would be on the high traffic home page. It was also being syndicated out on their exclusive email to subscribers. I was given the icon on my sidebar to post advertising I was featured in Ezine Articles. So you can see my new “trophy” over there!
Life is good. I am tired from a busy and prosperous day. I wish the best for you and ask that you do yourself a favor - be generous and gentle with yourself. Give yourself some slack and find something great to celebrate in your day. Tap into that “No limits Lifestyle”.
All the best!
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
All the best!
Image from: http://www.imagequest3d.com/photos/plankton/untitled.htm
Monday, February 4, 2008
WATI is a great resource!