Tomorrow Is Too Long to Wait for Inclusion

Tech Tools to Boost Writing Skills of Students with Learning Disabilities

stack of lined paper with some drawing and sloppy writing

By Michael Yarbrough

In practice, teachers quickly learn how often students with learning difficulties (LDs) face problems related to writing skills. One of the most frequent issues is Dysgraphia, which appears when your student has difficulty with correct spelling or handwriting. Specifically, your student may spell words on paper incorrectly and mix cursive with print or uppercase with lowercase letters. Another trouble is Dyspraxia, which may cause some difficulties with movement, including the physical process of writing and printing. Another common issue is Dyslexia. This is a learning disability that leads to reading problems that can also influence writing. If your students cannot make sense of written words or recognize them, they may have Dyslexia. Fortunately, today’s schools provide special programs for students with LDs so they can develop the skill sets they need to use their strengths and overcome their challenges. Furthermore, there are special technical tools your students can freely use for boosting their writing abilities:

  1. Speech-to-Text Synthesizers. This kind of software is created for children whose oral abilities are better than handwriting. They can dictate into a microphone and see their spoken words appear as text on the computer screen. Suggest using either Dragon Speech Recognition or Dictation software to create more complicated and longer essays free of spelling mistakes. Research has shown that essays created with the help of voice recognition software are better than those written in the more traditional way. Other benefits of using the above tools include enhancing core reading abilities, better navigating skills on the computer, and increasing a sense of independence while lessening anxiety.
  2. Word Prediction Software. This type of software is especially valuable for students with Dyslexia, as this technology predicts the words students want to write after just a few characters have been typed. As a rule, there is a box with several suggestions, and the user can choose the appropriate word to be inserted into the text. Try to test word prediction software using either WordQ or Co:Writer. These tools can also be used when sitting in a classroom and taking notes during lectures, as dictating aloud would probably disturb other classmates. Statistics show that word prediction is actually able to help students improve their spelling and transcription accuracy, increasing both word fluency and the academic quality of work completed. Furthermore, students enjoy how the program suggests a wide range of options so they can select the most appropriate ones without constantly worrying about spelling mistakes. Still, the process of choosing requires careful attention as there are many confusing words and word forms, so using this software isn’t as easy as it seems to be at first. Nevertheless, this tool is really effective because in many cases it shows more significant results than voice recognition software, as it not only helps deal with problems but actually does its best to solve them!
  3. Tools for Students With Rare Disorders. In addition to the common problems of Dysgraphia, Dyspraxia, and Dyslexia, there also are some other issues that, although they occur rarely, are important to know about. Cryptomnesia is when something that was forgotten returns suddenly but is thought to be new. In other words, memory resources become a new knowledge for writers without their realizing it. In this way, writers auto-plagiarize everything they remember, whether it’s a song or a literary composition. What is most surprising is how they do it unintentionally. To prevent these situations, students with Cryptomnesia can use Unplag to check their papers for plagiarism to be sure they use their own original thoughts and unique ideas. Dysantigraphia is when students cannot copy any printed or written material. Instead, students can write this material down if it is being spoken aloud by the teacher, but as soon as they take a look at a printed version of what they’ve heard, they become incapable of copying it. Scholars presume this disorder may be related to a stroke or other brain trauma. Screencast-O-Matic is a tool that will help students conquer Dysantigraphia by turning printed material into listenable sound files.

What You Can Do Besides Using Tools

Fortunately, there is a lot of information out there from reliable sources about difficulties with writing. Lots of research by psychologists, neurophysiologists, behaviorists and other specialists has taken place, which means there are many ways to improve written expression even without leaving home. Below are some ideas that are the easiest to follow. You just have to inspire your students to use them effectively!

  • Never stop encouraging students to learn;
  • Prove that reading is FUNdamental;
  • Concentrate on effort, not result;
  • Make them focus on their studying process;
  • Inspire students to stay hungry for new knowledge;
  • Advise them to take notes on everything;
  • Have the highest regard for their writing;
  • Allow them to use keyboarding when they’re tired;
  • Evaluate their achievements according to your expectations;
  • Pride yourself on constant teaching and improving together with your students.

With tools and strategies like these, you can help put your special needs students on the pathway to academic success!

Photo Credit: Yasmeen/Flickr

About the Author:

Before he became a private teacher, Michael spent five years in the school classroom. He always was an inclusive education advocate, and still, believes that everyone should have access to good education.  Michael shares his thoughts on education, pedagogy and digital learning on his Twitter and his personal education blog Cultivating Education. Follow him, and you will not miss his new posts!

A Credo for Support: Don’t See My Disability as the Problem

Throughout history, people with physical and mental disabilities have been abandoned at birth, banished from society, used as court jesters, drowned and burned during The Inquisition, gassed in Nazi Germany, and still continue to be segregated, institutionalized, tortured in the name of  behaviour management, abused, raped,  euthanized, and murdered.
Now, for the first time, people with disabilities are taking their rightful place as fully contributing citizens.
The danger is that we will respond with remediation and benevolence rather than equity and respect. And so, we offer you “A Credo for Support”.

Do Not see my disability as the problem.

Recognize that my disability is an attribute.

Do Not see my disability as a deficit.

It is you who see me as deviant and helpless.

Do Not try to fix me because I am not broken.

Support me. I can make my contribution to the community in my own way.

Do Not see me as your client. I am your fellow citizen.

See me as your neighbour. Remember, none of us can be self-sufficient.

Do Not try to modify my behaviour.

Be still & listen. What you define as inappropriate may be my attempt to communicate with you in the only way I can.

Do Not try to change me, you have no right.

Help me learn what I want to know.

Do Not hide your uncertainty behind “professional” distance.

Be a person who listens, and does not take my struggle away from me by trying to make it all better.

Do Not use theories and strategies on me.

Be with me. And when we struggle with each other, let that give rise to self-reflection.

Do Not try to control me. I have a right to my power as a person.

What you call non-compliance or manipulation may actually be the only way I can exert some control over my life.

Do Not teach me to be obedient, submissive, and polite.

I need to feel entitled to say No if I am to protect myself.

Do Not be charitable towards me. The last thing the world needs is another Jerry Lewis.

Be my ally against those who exploit me for their own gratification.

Do Not try to be my friend. I deserve more than that.

Get to know me. We may become friends.

Do Not help me, even if it does make you feel good.

Ask me if I need your help. Let me show you how you can best assist me.

Do Not admire me. A desire to live a full life does not warrant adoration.

Respect me, for respect presumes equity.

Do Not tell, correct, and lead. Listen, Support, and Follow.

Do Not work on me. Work with me.

Dedicated to the memory of Tracy Latimer

(c)1996 Norman Kunc and Emma Van der Klift

Thanks to Norman and Emma from The Broadreach Centre for giving their permission to republish this Credo for Support.

Inclusion Spotlight #006- Dylan Rafaty/DylanListed

Over the past couple of years at Think Inclusive, we have used our “Inclusion Spotlight” segment to highlight individuals who take extraordinary efforts to make inclusion thrive. For the most part, that spotlight focused on inclusion inside classrooms and schools. Eventually, though, students graduate and seek a spot within the workforce. Today, we shine the “Inclusion Spotlight” on DylanListed, where founder, president, and CEO Dylan Rafaty strives to make the workforce a more inclusive place.

DylanListed is a job-finding website that addresses disability employment from multiple perspectives, including current special education (SpEd) students, job candidates, service providers, and employers. This comprehensive approach helps individuals with disabilities become job candidates, which is one crucial step to a more inclusive workforce, and it helps employers to find qualified job candidates in the cross-disability community.

DylanListed founder, president, and CEO Dylan Rafaty

DylanListed founder, president, and CEO Dylan Rafaty

Rafaty’s personal experience as a hearing-impaired student in a special education setting motivated him to start DylanListed. Just how his own experiences put him on this path is among the highlights of our conversation. Read on to enjoy that story and more…

Rafaty’s definition of the “special education community” (which he references in the interview): “When I say special education community, I refer to students in special needs classes in public high schools, parents of SpEd students in public high schools, teachers, administrators and transition specialists of special education departments in public school districts.”

Background on Rafaty’s education: “I am a graduate of special education (class of 2009) from Plano ISD (Independent School District) in Plano, Texas. I have close ties with special education students, as I was one of them. I published a book about my personal special education experience. Writing that book has helped me become more aware of myself, and the book empowers other SpEd students. The title of the book speaks volumes: Occupy Special Education. Children Should Be Seen and Heard.”

How DylanListed works: “It is a job site where we have four different user types: SpEd students, candidates, employers, and service providers. Each user develops a personal virtual resume or virtual profile that can be made available to the public to see. It’s like an ordinary self-service, (apply within) job site that allows users to either apply for jobs or post jobs (depending on the user type).”

Developing DylanListed’s comprehensive approach to disability employment: “My idea was to empower all job seekers with disabilities. I had a struggle finding my first job. In truth, I was unprepared. I did not anticipate the interview questions. I did not know yet what I could do, what are my functional skills. As a result of my experience, I felt empathy for other job seekers with all types of disabilities. I saw the cross-disability community as one community. I still do.”

“The DylanListed community comprises SpEd students in high school, candidates (all other job seekers with disabilities), employers, and service providers. I believe that job seekers with disabilities, properly trained and empowered, should be able to connect directly and more easily with employers and service providers and employers should be able to more efficiently recruit this talent. That is the DylanListed vision.”

“Our application makes this type of connection possible. With the entire cross-disability community on DylanListed, and with good quality data about functional skills and other qualifications of job seekers, there is earlier transparency into this talent pool. The talent pool will become competitive. We publish training opportunities, too, on our calendar. And service providers can build a more inclusive client base.”

The need for DylanListed: “One of the greatest challenges that the SpEd Community faces today is the ability to successfully transition from school to employment. I hear this from school districts and I hear it from caregivers and parents who are concerned about their students’ futures. The DylanListed application is a tool that every SpEd student in high school can use to begin a journey of self-awareness and employment-focus. And it’s always free to SpEd students in high school while they are SpEd students.”

What inclusion means to Rafaty: “The definition of the word inclusion (as defined by Google) is ’an action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure.’ Inclusion, our goal, means eliminating barriers to the Google definition of inclusion.”

Why employers hesitant to hiring people with disabilities should reconsider: “To the employers that are hesitant, I say simply this: Subscribe to DylanListed and start posting your jobs here and publish your events open to the disability community. Your employment brand will grow just by doing that. Your subscription is free during this year and will be available for a nominal fee beginning in 2016.”

For DylanListed’s full subscription price lists for job seekers, employers, and service providers, plus details on what that fee includes, visit DylanListed.com.

To hear Dylan Rafaty discuss DylanListed in more depth, check out his recent radio appearance with Ellen Hedger on Fish Bowl Radio Network.

To purchase Rafaty’s book, Occupy Special Education. Children Should Be Seen and Heard, contact him directly by sending an email to Dylan@dylanlisted.com.

Book Review: LOVE & JUSTICE by Diana Morgan-Hill

Open Book

In her memoir Love & Justice, Diana Morgan-Hill tells her incredible tragedy-to-triumph story around those two universal themes. As a young woman, the author’s hunt for love was complicated by an accident that caused her to have both legs amputated. Hill takes her readers inside Britain’s courtrooms on another, simultaneous hunt for justice.

LOVE & JUSTICE by Diana Morgan-HillLove & Justice naturally begins with the catalyst for everything—the accident. Upon entering the train station on her way to a business meeting, Hill noticed her train had already pulled in.  She hurried on her way over to the platform and boarded the train, and throughout her account, she insists it remained stationary—a crucial insistence, since the company, British Rails, claimed that Hill attempted to board a moving train.

While each party contested the other’s version of the events leading up to the accident, what happened next is clearly recalled by all and wholly undisputed: The train started to depart while Hill was caught between the rail and the train. Her life changed forever.

Attempting to Empathize

As Hill described the immediate aftermath of her life-changing accident, I found myself attempting to empathize by recalling a shocking, painful moment from my own experience. Apparently, my reaction is a common one, as Hill wrote about it in the next paragraph: “Some people, desperately trying to understand how I felt, would come and talk of some injury or pain they’d endured in their life to try and put it on scale to my agony. They wanted and needed to empathise on a very deep level.”

What well-placed words! They made me aware of an internal voice that was shouting, “Shut up!” Rather than trying to relate to Hill’s experiences, which was placing the focus on me instead of the true victim, I cleared my mind and really listened to her. Doing so prepared me and allowed me to learn.

An Educational Read

It strikes me as funny that I am a writer who covers a disability beat, but I quickly forget the vastness of experience surrounding disability. Reflecting on Love & Justice , I thought of remarks from my “Inclusion Spotlight” interview with Will Halby, co-founder of Zeno Mountain Farm, a non-profit organization that cultivates lifelong friendships Halby said “We categorize people as having Down syndrome or autism or spinal cord injury or whatever. Then the biggest crime is we put them all, all in one huge category for our own convenience. I don’t even know how to describe how detrimental that is to people.” (Read the complete interview).

To place amputees in the same category as autism or cerebral palsy and call it all “disability” overlooks the issues unique to amputees.  Hill taught me about these specific issues. For instance in chapter 12 “Hello and Goodbye”, she wrote about losing her connection to the earth:

I also felt an intense mourning of loss for my connection with the earth. This came as a shock. Something that’s taken wholly for granted is the job of connecting to the ground that feet carry out. I’d lost it and felt, still feel, a literal sense of being adrift, of airborne loss.

Still… There are Similarities

Love & Justice goes beyond the issues unique to amputees as it showcases the similarities between their challenges and those common to people with other disabilities. Hill’s stories about dating with a disability enable the similarities to emerge. This encounter from Chapter 27 is one example:

“There was one horribly awkward moment when an attractive man came to sit opposite me as I waited for Sarah in the Majestic bar. By the eye contact he was clearly interested in the way I looked. And then I got up to welcome Sarah and his face dropped to the floor as he saw me pick up the two walking sticks. I was deeply hurt and have never forgotten that sudden change in facial expression.”

Now, I’m certain that will be a universal point of connection for the disability community! Perhaps Hill’s take on the word “disabled” shared in the memoir can explain away the apparent paradox. “I couldn’t relate to the word at all. I always felt that one disabled a computer, you can’t disable a person, there is still something of them there, a spirit, a movement of sorts, a life that, in most cases, should be lived.”

Final Verdict

Love & Justice by Diana Morgan-Hill is well-written and interesting, and it is a book that will find success in many target audiences. Anyone who wants to learn more about adjusting to life after amputation gets an inside view from the author’s experience.  Demystifying disability also makes this book a good choice for anyone looking for material about dating someone with a disability. Most importantly, though, new amputees and their loved ones should read Love & Justice… because reading about Hill’s experiences will comfort you by letting you know you are not alone, thus also empowering you to keep going during a very difficult period in your life.

Find Diana Morgan-Hill’s Love & Justice at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

*Disclaimer- Think Inclusive received Love & Justice from the author at no cost from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Disabled and Loved by God in an Ableist World

A version of this article was originally published at Jenn & Greg’s Quaking Life.

I grew up with a lot of confusion surrounding my sexuality and my disability.  Now, I can see how my perspective on sexuality was influenced by an ableist world, and where that confusion intertwined with my spiritual journey. As a campus minister, I find that I cannot talk about one journey without the other.

I can remember crying at night when I was probably eight or nine. I asked my mother, why me? What did I do wrong? Why did God do this to me?  I wanted to know what I did to deserve a speech impediment.  I didn’t feel whole.

I have always had a difficult relationship with God. For a long time, I tried to disassociate myself from Christianity. Growing up on the northern edge of the Bible Belt, I heard a lot of talk about God, Christ, and perfection, as if perfection were the third part of the Trinity instead of the Holy Spirit. I often wondered why I should follow a God who cursed me with a disability.

As a kid, I treated my speech impediment as something other than a part of my whole self. I saw it as a detriment that would keep me from succeeding. This thinking was partially due to a misdiagnosis early in life. Throughout elementary school, doctors predicted that I would grow out of my speech impediment by high school.

I could not wait until high school.

Around the same time, I saw a Full House episode where two teenage girls, DJ and Kimmy, were talking about one of Kimmy’s cousins, Steve, coming back to visit.  Steve was supposed to be nerdy-looking, or as Kimmy called him, a “geek-burger with cheese,” with glasses, braces, and acne.

kirk-cameron

Isn’t he a hottie?

Yet, when they opened the door, he had no glasses, nice teeth, and clear skin. The two girls were shocked that he was hot. (The actor playing the cousin was Kirk Cameron, who was considered to be one of the more attractive young male actors in the late 1980s.)

The girls asked what happened to him. He explained that he now had contacts, the braces came off, and the acne cleared up.

For years afterward, when I thought of the scene, I remembered it incorrectly. In my mind, Steve said, “One morning I woke up, and… bam!  The acne was gone.”

It stuck in my mind that way, so I used to dream that one day I would awake and find that my speech impediment was totally gone, like Kirk Cameron’s acne.

I wished and wished for that day to come!  Then, I would be more accepted and girls would finally find me attractive.

But that day never came. I felt disappointed as high school went by and my speech impediment hung around, like unwanted acne.

I spent a lot of my teenage years and my twenties feeling alone and just wanting to be loved. Even though I had a loving family and a huge network of friends, I thought I needed romantic love to feel complete. But for the most part, I didn’t have great luck with dating in college or the few years after I graduated.

It was four years ago when I met my now-wife, Jenn.  But even though I found the romance I’d been seeking all that time, I quickly realized that, nope, romantic relationships were not the magical cure to my deep self-hatred. I still didn’t feel whole.

Though I had always resisted, I felt God calling me to ministry in different ways throughout my life.  After college, I felt a more specific call to go to seminary, and though I avoided it for some years, I finally caved in and applied.  Just after I started dating Jenn, I enrolled at Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey.

Throughout my time in seminary, I wrestled with my anger toward God.  I wanted to know why God chose to give me a disability, or at least why He did not prevent it.  At one point, I started to view my disability as a gift—it was an attempt to quickly reconcile my anger with God with my calling to ministry in his name. But one of my field education supervisors called me out on that kind of messed-up theology.

That left me, once again, at a loss for how to reconcile my anger with God, and I realized it would be a difficult path to make sense of it.

In my last semester of seminary, I took a course called Sexuality and the Christian Body.  Finally, I came to understand that my disability was not a gift… it felt more like a burden.  But I also learned that I wasn’t as alone as I once thought. Through the class, I dealt with my anger toward God about my disability, and I actually confronted my feelings of loneliness and abandonment by God.

I read Disabled God by Nancy Eisland for my final class paper, and I realized that the Savior I worship was differently-abled, too.  Eisland writes, “The disabled God repudiates the conception of disability as a consequence of individual sin… Our bodies… are not artifacts of sin, original or otherwise. Our bodies participate in the imago Dei, not in spite of our impairments and contingencies, but through them.”

In the Gospel of John, there is a scene after the Crucifixion and Resurrection. Except for Thomas, all of the apostles had already encountered Him. But Thomas didn’t believe the others—he said that he would only believe once he saw Jesus with his own eyes and touched the wounds Jesus had sustained on the cross.

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas (Caravaggio)

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas (Caravaggio)

Jesus appeared to Thomas and allowed him to touch His wounds. This scene is known as Doubting Thomas, and this story is most often used to preach about the virtues of believing without seeing.

Yet, rereading this story through the lens of Eisland’s book, I see the scene in a completely different way. I realized my conception of a perfect God, a perfect Jesus, was false. Christ could have come back perfect—but He didn’t. Instead, He bore the wounds He had suffered up on the Cross. He came back differently-abled.

My disability is not a hindrance to the Kingdom of God but a part of my whole being, created by God. I am indeed made in the image of God, as it is written in Genesis 1.

For years, I let an ableist world and its standard of perfection define my sexuality and my spirituality… but not anymore. My disability is not like Kirk Cameron’s acne. My speech impediment is part of me, not an unwanted inconvenience that will clear up one day.

I am disabled, and both God and Jenn love me, just as I am!

Photo Credit: By Dante Alighieri at en.wikipedia [Public domain or Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

greg-woodsGreg Woods works in campus ministry and lives in Greensboro, NC with his wife Jenn and cat Tuesday. Greg and Jenn blog at gregnjenn.wordpress.com. You can follow Greg on Twitter @diygreg.

One Brilliant Way to Keep Medication Management Simple

PillPack Keeps Medication Mangement Simple

When it comes to educating, caring for, and parenting students with cognitive and/or physical disabilities, the list of things to manage can feel overwhelming. Treatment plans and strategies vary widely — from individual coping tools, special teaching techniques, classroom modifications, and various therapies, there is plenty to keep track of — including other educators or caregivers involved in the student’s life.

For some, prescription pharmaceutical medications continue to play an important role in this equation, whether for the treatment of additional medical conditions at play, symptom management, or other reasons. Forgetting to take, taking the wrong dose of, or mismanaging these medications can lead to unnecessary setbacks and other hard-to-handle situations. Simplifying the medication management process is a small but impactful step you can take towards making your and your student’s journey that much easier and more effective.

One company doing just that is PillPack, an online pharmacy aiming to uncomplicate the entire process of getting, keeping track of, and taking prescription medications. Most everyone is well aware of systems like drive-thru pharmacies and pill boxes, all designed to make acquiring and taking medications more convenient. PillPack, on the other hand, is more of a full-service solution thanks to their multi-faceted approach, which includes individual packs organized by date and time, free doctor-to-door delivery every two weeks, automatic refills, and round-the-clock customer support from their pharmacists.

Financially, it’s nothing but advantageous because all of this is done at no extra cost, meaning users pay no more than the copays they are used to. But I have to say — after some digging, it’s the community of satisfied customers that really stood out to me. For example, one mother commented on PillPack’s Facebook about how relieved she was to not have to worry about her daughter forgetting to take her medications when she went off to college. This really drove home the fact that this service is making a difference for students (and their caregivers) who rely on prescription medications.

In addition to checking out PillPack (which may or may not be right for you), here are a couple additional tips to help you or your loved one stay on top of a medication schedule:

• The FDA recommends making a master list of all medications and supplements (including when they need to be taken) along with copies for all educators and caregivers.
• Set a reminder alarm with your watch or phone. I believe PillPack is actually working on an app for this as well.

For educators, parents, caregivers and the students themselves, any and all forms of support, right down to the medication management details, will go a long way. One less part of the whole equation to worry about.

Photo Credit: PillPack

An Overlooked Resource – People with Disabilities

An abstract close-up photograph of a brightly coloured fabric with swirls.

Sometimes in the search for resources to help best educate students with disabilities one resource goes overlooked, other people with disabilities! Doctors give their opinions. Therapists whether physical, occupational, speech, or another kind recommend resources. Parents un-doubly perform their own research and bring up their results with the aforementioned professionals.

All that proves great but I feel to exert an even more comprehensive effort try reaching out to other people with disabilities. Living with a disability inherently gives a perspective no degree or training program can teach. A perspective rooted in real life experiences, valuable experiences to learn from. What worked in the person’s educational career? What didn’t and how do we learn from those mistakes to avoid making them again with the current generation?

When I started writing my memoir Off Balanced I aimed to empower current students with cerebral palsy (CP). Growing up I saw my cerebral palsy negatively, feeling embarrassed about standing out and frustrated by my inability to blend in. During my college years my viewpoint rotated 180 degrees. I came to embrace my disability and see the positives. Off Balanced hoped to let current teenagers quicken their journey to embrace their disabilities.

Now during the writing process feedback on my manuscript led me to realize anyone in the current teen’s life albeit a teacher, parent, or peer could also find the read useful. In fact I recently enjoyed an engaging email conversation with a father of a 14-year old with cerebral palsy. Off Balanced left the father shedding tears because he saw many similarities between my story and his son’s.

Throughout our email conversation I offered my best advice. Unfortunately, logic only extends so far. As I stated in one email message, “That’s part of the problem with teenagers. You can have the best advice but sometimes they only accept it once they learn by experience.”

This provides an example demonstrating the limits one person’s story’s resourcefulness provides. Thankfully though, I am armed with a varied network. I encouraged the father to join the weekly cerebral palsy Twitter chat #CPChatNow I co-host every Wednesday at 8pm ET with Reaching for the Stars Foundation’s Student Ambassador Blake Henry.

Our #CPChatNow community contains a diverse group including current high school students with cerebral palsy, current college students with CP, and young professionals with cerebral palsy. With Wednesday, March 25th National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Day we decided we wanted to do something special for the chat that day. We want you the educator, special needs parent, or caregiver to join us and ask us any questions. Allow us to become your resource.

While our collective expertise lay with cerebral palsy, we will do our best to answer all questions. To join in follow these steps:

1. Sign into Twitter a few minutes before 8pm ET on Wednesday, March 25th.

2. Search Twitter for “#CPChatNow.” Make sure you switch the search results from “Top” to “All.”

3. Ask away! Make sure to include “#CPChatNow” in your tweet too.

For anyone without Twitter interested in participating, leave your questions on the CPChatNow Facebook Fan Page. I do a weekly recap for each chat on my own blog and will include all answers to Facebook questions in the recap so you can read the answers. I look forward to your questions!

Photo Credit: Philippa Willitts/Flickr

Cerebral Palsy Day Twitter Chat

Allow us to become your resource.

13 Disability Resources on the Web You May Not Know About

13 Disability Resources You May Not Know About

A few months ago we were contacted by a volunteer researcher with EducatorLabs. They said that they read our post on Literacy for All Learners and were interested in sharing some resources. They gave us an amazing list of links and we did not want to be stingy…so we are sharing  them with you. Here are 13 links to disability resources on the web that you may not know about. Below is the email we received by Educator Labs. They gave us permission to reprint the links.  

Hi there,

I’m a volunteer researcher with EducatorLabs. We recently began gathering resources for K-12 diverse abilities curriculum. The goal of the curriculum is to promote respect and appreciation among all classmates.

Our research work has turned up a large number of fantastic resources (like the ones listed here on your site: http://www.thinkinclusive.us/literacy-for-all-learners-links-to-adapted-book-resources/ — thank you!).

I’m honored to be able to share some of the resources we’ve uncovered so far. I would love to be able to tell the team that you added some (or all!) of these to your site – please let me know if you do so I can show them how their efforts have benefited the internet at large.

Learning Disabilities Checklists and Worksheets
http://www.ncld.org/learning-disabilities-resources/checklists-worksheets

Family Health Guide to Learning Disabilities
https://www.kanetix.ca/family-health-guide-to-learning-disabilities

Coping with Disabilities – National Caregivers Library
http://www.caregiverslibrary.org/caregivers-resources/grp-disabilities/coping-with-disabilities-article.aspx

Benefits for People with Disabilities
http://www.ssa.gov/disability/

Medicare and Social Security Disability: Benefits for Disabled Individuals
http://www.planprescriber.com/medicare-insurance-news/social-security-disability/

American Association on Health and Disability
http://www.aahd.us/

Local Doctor Finder: Search by Disability
http://www.zocdoc.com/procedures

I Can Do It, You Can Do It!: President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition
http://www.fitness.gov/participate-in-programs/i-can-do-it-you-can-do-it/

ADA Accommodation for Swimming Pools
http://blog.intheswim.com/swimming-pool-lifts-and-the-ada-pool-lift-law/

Siblings with Disabilities
http://www.parentcenterhub.org/repository/siblings/

Disability Home Accommodation Cost Guide
http://www.homeadvisor.com/cost/disability-accommodation/

Disability and Health
http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandhealth/people.html

Fire Safety & Disabilities Guide
http://www.improvenet.com/a/fire-safety-and-disabilities-guide

Thank you for the gift of your time!

Educator Labs is an organization dedicated in providing a resource bank to educators and students worldwide. It is our mission to assist teachers in finding valuable resources for classroom use. To find out more visit EducatorLabs.org.

Photo Credit: Penn State University Libraries Architecture and Landscape Architecture Library/Flickr

Strategies For Writing A Thesis For Students With Dyslexia

Millions of people have dyslexia. Dr. Sally Shaywitz of Yale University even claims that one in five individuals have dyslexia. Although numerous studies already show that dyslexia is not an indicator of intelligence, many people still think the opposite. The school system also still struggles to cope with students that have dyslexia, because even though you have dyslexia, you still need to write those big essays. The good news is that there are a lot of nice tools to enhance your writing capabilities.

Dyslexia and the school system

Fortunately more and more schools have special programs and test requirements for students who have dyslexia. But still, most of the time, whether you have dyslexia or not, you have to write the same number of essays and take the same tests as students without dyslexia.

Use your creativity

If you have dyslexia and you study at a university, you have to use your creativity to “survive”. Often, people with dyslexia are creative and innovative thinkers. So, most dyslectic students come up with fascinating ways to cope with dyslexia.

Here are some useful tips:

  • Write notes on your computer instead of in your notebook. It is known that dyslectic students find it easier to write on a keyboard than to write notes by hand.
  • Use Text to Speech software (TTS). More and more books are available as eBooks. With this useful software you can listen to the books you need to study instead of read them.
  • Make PowerPoint presentations of the content that you need to study in order to learn quicker and more efficiently.

Writing your thesis is the biggest challenge

It is hard to write your bachelor’s or master’s thesis, let alone to start the actual writing process. That is why it is good to first draw a mind map.

Step 1: Mind map

You begin with a piece of paper. In the middle you draw a circle, and in this circle you write the topic of your thesis. Around the main circle, you draw other circles and write the main topics you want to discuss in your thesis. Connect these circles with the main circle with lines. If you think that you can go more in depth you can add more lines and circles.

Step 2: Make lists

When you finished your mind map you make bulleted lists. Use short sentences to write down your arguments, one after another.

Step 3: Write your thesis

Now you can start writing your thesis. Try to convert the list items of the bulleted lists into separate paragraphs. These paragraphs will become the main part of your thesis. When you have completed this task, you start writing a brief introduction. Finally, you finish your thesis writing your conclusion.

Step 4: Get someone to proofread your thesis

Don’t forget to ask someone to proofread your thesis once you are finished. You can ask your parents or a classmate for help. If you are not able to ask someone you know, you can also ask a professional company like SCRiBBR to help you. SCRiBBR is specialized in editing and proofreading essays and theses.

Do not give up hope

Did you know that Leonardo da Vinci had dyslexia? Every time you are struggling and want to throw your PC out of the window, think about all those great artists, scientists and actors who also have dyslexia. If they can be successful, you can too!

No Excuses for Lack of Reasonable Accommodations in Mainstream Schools

No Excuses for Lack of Reasonable Accommodations in Mainstream Schools

By Emily Ladau

Sending me to mainstream public school was never a question in my parents’ mind, even though I was born with a physical disability. I’m grateful to have grown up receiving a good education along with my non-disabled peers. But while my experiences were generally positive, there were times when my parents and I were made to feel that my disability was a burden to my school district, because my needs for reasonable accommodations were either avoided or outright rejected.

Unfortunately, I’m hardly alone in this. Mainstream schools can all too often be quick to supply a stream of excuses when met with requests for reasonable accommodations by students who have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or Section 504 Plan in place. Not only is this unacceptable, but also in some cases, it can be illegal. So long as an accommodation does not pose a safety threat, unreasonably alter a curriculum or existing program methodology, or cause undue financial or administrative hardship – it is considered reasonable and thereby must be met.1,2 Yet, even if a request aligns with these stipulations, many educational institutions try to skirt the law to do what is in their best interest, rather than what is in the best interest of the disabled student.

This is something I’ve faced since, quite literally, my first day of kindergarten. The elementary school I was meant to attend had two floors and no elevator. Instead of adapting the environment, my district made the executive decision that I would have to go to one of the only two elementary schools in my town with one floor, despite the fact that it wasn’t the closest school to my home. I suppose the logic behind this was: why comply with the environmental and educational requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act when there’s a cheaper way out, even though it’s unfair to the student and her family?

Structural inaccessibility such as this is just one of myriad problems that many educational institutions try to evade, usually by citing financial difficulties. While it’s true that elevator installation can cost tens of thousands of dollars, it’s an investment that will ensure a school is adhering to the law, making the building accessible for years to come. Moreover, though attending a different school in the same district may seem trivial, it was only the beginning of my district’s accessibility missteps.

From my first day of 6th grade until the day I graduated high school, elevators became the bane of my existence. Granted, both my middle school and high school had an elevator, which is certainly better than not having one at all, but the multilevel buildings proved problematic. For instance, the contingency plan in case a fire occurred while I was upstairs was for me to wait by the window to be rescued. “Don’t worry,” one of my teachers told me, “the classroom doors supposedly have a three-hour burn time.”

Worse, when I started high school, the only elevator in the building was the first elevator ever installed there, and it definitely qualified as an antique. Using it was so treacherous that my principal, whose mission in life was to get students off their cell phones, actually told my parents it would be a good idea to buy me one so I could call for help in case I got trapped. While I know it was suggested out of concern, this is perhaps one of the biggest problems encountered within public school systems by students with disabilities and their families: the onus is put on us to find ways to rectify or work around the issues. It becomes our burden, while the school comes up with excuses and attempts to wash their hands of any responsibility.

Of course, my parents and I were having none of that, and even though they bought me a cell phone (much to my delight), we suggested that the school accommodate me by scheduling all my classes on the main level. I’d call safety and the ability to access my classrooms reasonable accommodations – wouldn’t you? The administrators denied this request, and I never could figure out why. With the exception of science classrooms on the third floor that had special equipment, there’s really no reason my classes couldn’t have been moved. Thankfully, after quite a bit of persistence and advocacy from me and my family, a modern (albeit still faulty) elevator was finally installed about halfway through my sophomore year in high school.

Difficulty with the elevator was only one of the issues I faced. In addition to environmental access problems, my district seemed befuddled by how to ensure that I completed my physical education requirements so I could graduate. Some of my gym teachers tried rather unsuccessfully to be inclusive, but when this proved to be both futile and unsafe for me, the school had no clue how to institute an adaptive program, even though doing so was the requisite reasonable alternative. Again, this meant I was made to feel like an inconvenience, when in fact the school was really inconveniencing me.

At first, I was forced to come into school earlier than all my peers multiple times per week to meet one-on-one with a gym teacher. When he realized he didn’t have many activities to do with me, my parents took it upon themselves to attempt to solve the problem, purchasing a ping pong table from my synagogue’s thrift shop and donating it to my middle school. By high school, I no longer wanted to wake up early for a rousing round of ping pong, and so my gym teacher told me that instead of participating with the rest of my class, I could write research papers to get credit. Imposing extra homework on me in lieu of physical education because the school could not figure out how to adapt things for me was incredibly unfair. When I explained this, I was given the excuse that it was my only option because there was a lack of specially trained teachers to adapt gym classes for me. By this point, I had grown weary of excuses, of being made to feel like my disability was my fault. And so I worked with the physical education department to institute some semblance of an adapted gym program – one I hope they have continued and improved.

Elevator problems, gym class exclusion, and the countless other challenges I faced throughout my educational experience are indicative of issues that exist in public school systems throughout the United States. These are the kinds of issues that can and should be easily avoided. Schools must step up, maintaining an open, honest dialogue between administrators, teachers, parents, and most importantly, the students. Schools must follow through with their responsibilities as set forth by the law, because students with properly documented disabilities of any kind in mainstream educational environments are legally entitled to an educational experience just the same as their non-disabled peers. When it comes to following the law and providing reasonable accommodations to ensure access and inclusion, there are simply no excuses for making excuses.

Photo Credit: Alex/Flickr

Sources:

1) http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/pubs/530901.pdf

2) http://www.pepperdine.edu/disabilityservices/students/articles/whatisreason.htm

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