Tomorrow Is Too Long to Wait for Inclusion

Solutions To Help Educate Young People With EBD

In almost every classroom there are children with behavioral challenges. Here are some solutions to help educate young people with EBD.

Do you know that it is almost certain that in every classroom you enter in the school system there is a learner struggling with a condition called Emotional and Behavioral Disorders (EBD)? The unfortunate thing about this scenario is that in most cases, such students are never identified. They may be given other labels such as dull, lazy, on uncooperative. If not addressed, problems caused by such learners can make the work of the teacher challenging and disturb other learners. This is the reason why there is a need for smart solutions to help educate young people with EBD.

The aim of this article is to look at this problem in depth to try and solve the misunderstanding associated with it. The discussion will start by looking at what EBD is and then go on to discuss some ways by which learners with EBD can be educated in the modern classroom. Since the problem can affect kids, teenagers, and adults, it is important to look at solutions for all these groups. Educating such learners can present challenges which, when correctly identified, can be mitigated.

Defining EBD

Experts indicate that attempting a definition of EBD, which is sometimes known as Emotional Disturbance (ED), is quite difficult because it is a misunderstood phenomenon. For example, one question frequently asked is how emotional and behavioral disorders can be distinguished from a behavioral disorder. Even though it may be difficult to come up with a scientific definition, it is easier to pin down some of the physical behaviors that define this problem.

While all students in the classroom will exhibit typical daily behavioral problems, and sometimes even dangerous ones it is not all of them who suffer from EBD. A young person with EBD would usually exhibit what is known as antisocial, externalizing, or internalizing behaviors.

Externalizing Behaviors

When a learner constantly gets out of their seat for no apparent reason, curses, and yells at anybody who crosses their path without provocation and is disturbing to peers, that learner is showing externalizing behaviors. Other symptoms of this problem are exhibited in the student ignoring instructions from the teacher, constantly hitting and fighting with other students, complaining or excessively arguing and failing to comply with directions. The signs above do not represent all the behaviors that should be watched for. Others such as destruction of property, failing to complete assignments, stealing, lying and throwing temper tantrums should also be noted.

Internalizing Behaviors

While some young people suffering from EBD may show the signs described above, others will show the exact opposite while still suffering from the same problem. They exhibit a very limited need for social interaction with others. Such children’s behavior is defined as internalizing.

While it is easy to ignore such children because their behavior does not present a threat to others, doing so endangers their development. If a child is not interested in playing with other children their age, lacks the necessary social skills required to make productive friendships, and often finds refuge in outlandish fantasies and daydreams, they may be suffering from EBD. Other behaviors indicating the prevalence of this problem in a young person can include being afraid without due cause, always complaining that they are sick or have been injured, and sometimes just looking depressed.

Possible Problems Educating People With EBD

As can be seen from the definition above, there are serious problems associated with attempting to educate learners with EBD, the common model of learning and teaching is one that depends on classrooms, and lecture theaters having learners who follow certain regulations about behavior. This is exactly what people with EBD do not do very well, and this represents massive problems for the teacher, the learner themselves and the other students in the classroom. This is the reason why children with this disorder tend to have a high chance of leaving school prematurely, ending up in jail, going into both drug and alcohol abuse, living on the margins of society and eventually dying early.

The main problem when educating learners with EBD is that they tend to perform below their grade level at a particular time. They find it difficult to read and perform mathematical calculations. Learning depends on learners being willing to corporate with the teacher, the rules, and needs of other students. Experts also indicate that such learners’ behavior interferes with their ability to learn the skills needed for productive scholarship and therefore tend to score very low marks in intelligence tests.

Educating Kids With EBD

While Children may suffer from EBD, they still need to be educated. A few things can be done by the teacher to mitigate this challenge including ensuring that class rules and activities are maintained clear and straightforward. Learners, especially those suffering from EBD, struggle with rules that are too demanding and complicated. The teacher can attempt to keep standards in the classroom broad and minimal. For example, the teacher can train the learners to arrive on time, be polite and respect the needs of others. They can then emphasize these rules until every student internalizes them.

Teaching activities should also be simple and clear. When the teacher uses events that are clear and simple, learners with EBD are given a chance to be part of the learning. This allows the learners to participate and interact with the activities of the lesson. This makes them feel that they are a part of the class.

Teaching Teenagers With EBD

When it comes to teenagers, the strategy is the same as with kids but should be made suitable for their age. Since teenagers with EBD generally lack the emotional balance required to concentrate for long periods of time, teachers should ensure that lessons have some small breaks to help bring such learners into the lesson.

If the teacher starts to feel that some of the learners are starting to fall behind in the lesson, they should stop teaching and allow them to catch up. Sufficient time should also be allowed for such learners to finish their assignments. Allowing for physical activities will give learners a chance to use their energy for something productive and controlled.

Education For Adults With EBD

It is probable that people with EBD will need to be educated later on in life when they are adults as the chance that they would have left school earlier is quite high. The most important thing to remember when dealing with such adults in the classroom is to understand the need for motivational strategies. Success should be celebrated appropriately. Educators should allow such learners to make decisions about their learning and be part of setting the rules.

How The Education Approach Differs When Educating People With EBD

The discussion above shows that educating learners with EBD is something that should be approached in a different way from educating everyday learners who do not suffer from such disorders. Teachers of such learners should always understand that these learners are slow and therefore lessons should be planned with them in mind. The teaching should be slow, and when there is a need to stop and allow these learners to catch up, the teacher should allow for this time. Teachers also need to ensure that their instructions are clear and simple.

Programs For EBD Learners In Different Countries

Different countries have various programs aimed at helping learners with EBD to get alternate learning. Such services provide therapeutic services to such learners. In the United States, such learners can benefit from The Elementary Learning Program, the Secondary Alternative Learning Program, or the Secondary Transition Program.

In the United Kingdom, learners can attend one of the many special needs school specifically dealing with learners who face such problems. Parents can check with the education departments in their countries to identify special schools in their communities that offer services for learners with EBD.

Learners with EBD attending colleges of higher learning can find it difficult to cope with the workload required in higher institutions of learning. This is made worse by the fact that higher intuitions of learning are not designed to deal with students who face these challenges. This is when those essay writing services become useful. Students can order papers in subjects that they are struggling with. These papers are then written by professionals who will help the learner to understand what the requirements of the question are. Using the custom writing services could be the difference between learners suffering from EBD getting to complete their qualification and ending up in the streets with no education and work.

Having emotional and behavioral disorders should not mean that a learner should be condemned to a lack of education. There are some things that can be done by the learner themselves, the teachers, parents and government departments to ensure that such learners do get an education. If this is not handled with care, such learners end up living on the fringes of society, being involved in drugs and dying prematurely.

Photo Credit: Hans Splinter/Flickr

Tia Moreen is a writer and traveler, who is currently running a small business and works as a blog editor at EssayHub. Loves bookcrossing and cooking.

 

Source: Solutions To Help Educate Young People With EBD » Education Press

What Inclusion Means to Me

what inclusion means to me

By Sue Robins

Recently, I was asked to speak to all the teachers at my son’s high school about “What Inclusion Means to Me.”  There would be about one hundred educators in the audience for their professional development (PD) day.  I sweated out my approach, talking to the special education teacher who had kindly recommended me, the physics teacher who was the organizer, and many families who had kids with differences in schools across the country.  I was desperate to understand my audience, not to misstep, to represent other families well, for I had a lot of skin in the game.  The high school I was speaking at was where my son Aaron would be for the next six years.  I could not screw this up.

I had spoken once before to an audience of parents and teachers on this same subject, almost three years ago in Alberta, Canada.  My stumble then was not to include any research about the other kids in the school – the ‘typically developing’ kids, many of whom were traveling on a strong academic path.  One mom had angrily protested from the back of the room, “your kid is taking away from my kid’s teaching time!”  I have recognized over the years that it is crucial to address barriers and concerns that the audience is holding early on in the presentation, for if you don’t, they hang onto those concerns during the entire talk, and this is a barrier to the listening.

This time I was more grizzled and wiser (but alas, still not perfect – is there such a thing?).  I drew upon others for expertise in my talk.  I don’t know one thing about adapting or modifying curriculum, so I showed Shelley Moore’s excellent bowling video.  I leaned on Ian Brown’s wisdom about the value of people with disabilities.  The moms from my Family Inclusion Group Facebook page kindly offered up some beautiful quotes about our kids being brave and presuming competence. I was very aware of not being self-serving – not only concerning myself with my own son’s experience but with his colleagues’ experiences, too:  those who used wheelchairs, those who were non-verbal, those identified with ‘behavior’ challenges.   I had many people behind me in spirit for this extraordinary opportunity:  for a mom taking up a morning in a high school’s PD day is a rare sight indeed.

And what does inclusion mean to me?  In the end, I talked about our journey with Aaron. I spoke about when he was first diagnosed (the baby we expected was not the baby we got).  I addressed my struggles with my fears about people with disabilities when Aaron was born, embedded in my head from my junior high days in 1974. I acknowledged the good work teachers do – how busy and exhausted they are too and asked them to reflect on why they chose to teach.  I talked about how inclusion was so much more than academic inclusion inside a classroom, how it was about inclusion in the hallways, at lunchtime, at school events, in sports, in extra-curricular activities.  I invited the audience to think of one way educators and the other students could include the kids in special education in the school, no matter how simple:  learning the students’ names, giving high fives, starting up a Buddy program, picking one thing from their class lesson to teach them each day.

My intention was to touch hearts to change minds.  My key messages:

-the value of children with disabilities (the disabled do the work of love, says Ian Brown)

-expanding the definition of diversity to include different abilities

-to point out how we are not preparing the high-achieving students for the real world if they do not know people who are ‘the other.’

I had to pause a few times during the talk to catch myself from crying.  This topic is deeply personal to me, as Aaron’s school experience is everything to us.  We chose to live in our particular school district.  We bought a condo close to the school.  I resigned from my job to be more visible and available to support his school experience.

Scanning the audience, I knew others were crying too.  Maybe they had someone with a difference in their family.  Maybe they were remembering the feeling of being left out.  Maybe they were triggered to recall why they chose to teach.  In the end, the applause was more than polite, and I had a patient line of teachers waiting to chat with me.  It tears me up to think about how much these educators want to reach all children, but sometimes they just don’t know how.  This desire is everything.  Change happens with just one step at a time – the first step is the most important one. This is the beginning of belonging, one high five at a time.

Inclusion to me means finding love + belonging.  It means taking the time to understand another person’s perspective, to feel empathy, to demonstrate compassion.  These are the same messages I share with healthcare audiences, as I’ve realized that these concepts are profoundly universal.

In the end, for me, everything always circles back to Raymond Carver:

And did you get what

you wanted from this life, even so?

I did.

And what did you want?

To call myself beloved, to feel myself

beloved on the earth.”

― Raymond Carver, A New Path to the Waterfall

Photo Credit: Bradley Huchteman/Flickr

sue robinsSue Robins is a writer, speaker, and mom of three.  Her youngest son Aaron is 13 years old and has Down syndrome.  Her essays about motherhood have been published in the New York Times, Huffington Post and Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper.  Sue is passionate about families who have children with differences, coaching families to tell their own stories and nurturing gratitude and compassion in health care (and now education) settings.  She is also a partner in Bird Communications, a health communications company in Vancouver and Edmonton.  She can be found on Twitter and Facebook as @suerobinsyvr and her blog is suerobins.com.

Is 100 Percent Inclusion Right for All Students with Disabilities?

100 percent inclusion; green circles overlapping each other

100 Percent Inclusion

Is 100 percent inclusion for students with special needs always possible?

Scrolling through my Facebook feed recently, I came across a post by someone in a group I am in that advocates for the “100% Inclusion for individuals with special educational needs.” The post is as follows:

So I buy the 100% inclusion argument. I have seen the research. I’ve made the argument myself. But sometimes I get this pang, maybe it is from other parents who say that sometimes inclusion is overwhelming for our kiddos. Is there ever a time when 100% inclusion is not right? How would one know? I just want to be sure that I’m not forcing my values and not paying attention to my kiddo. y’know? Thanks for your thoughts!

What if full inclusion is not the right thing to do?

This is a legitimate question. For inclusion advocates, it may be a bitter pill to swallow, but the fact remains that there are many places in the world that authentic inclusive education is not available. For these students, is it worth pursuing something that may not be right for this particular student?

Let us examine what it means for 100 percent inclusion to be “not the right thing to do.” If a family wants to pursue full-time inclusion for their child and the school and staff are not on board and they do not have the resources to do so are we not setting them up for failure? Although inclusive education as a global concept is right, good and honorable, it may not be the right thing to do for that student at that specific time or place. I do not believe inclusive education advocates lose any credibility in conceding this idea.

What if full inclusion is not what the parents (or the student wants?)

When I have approached certain parents about including their child more in the general education environment, they have balked at the notion. As an advocate, I believe it is important to listen to the wishes of the family when making a placement determination. That is, after all, what the Individualized Education Program (IEP) is supposed to be about, making decisions as a team.

Also, if a student is showing that they are uncomfortable (or even terrified) in the general education setting, we must listen to what their behavior is telling us. The goal, of course, is that we include them as much as possible and that we are actively working toward inclusion.

We need a bigger tent.

I am grateful for the courage of parents who ask hard questions about what the implications are of 100 percent inclusion. We need safe spaces to talk about our concerns without being browbeaten for wanting to have real conversations. For inclusive education to move forward, we need to wrestle with these concerns. There are no easy answers but if we are not afraid to ask the questions we can work together to find answers for all students.

For the record, I still believe that inclusive education for everyone is the best course of action for all students (and the research back it up.)

What would you say to parents who are questioning if 100 percent inclusion is always the right thing to do? Tell us what you think in the comment section below!

Photo Credit: cactusbeetroot/Flickr

What Do Successful Teachers Do with the First Hour of Their Work Day?

teachers; a numberless clock mounted on a plain brick wall

By Megan Gross

Inspired by a recent Fast Company article on the habits of successful business folks during their first hour of work, we asked our colleagues about their morning routines. Although the colleagues we surveyed work in different schools and states, their morning activities reflect on the skills essential to the role of a successful teacher: communication, collaboration, and preparation.

What do successful teachers (inclusion, special/general education or other educators) do during their first hour of work?

1) Review calendar & schedule for the day

One of our colleagues starts the day by asking, “Is there anything special or potentially difficult happening today?” as she reviews her calendar. She looks for schedule changes, such as assemblies, fire drills, or special events on campus, and if there are any paraprofessionals who called in sick. With this information, a student’s visual schedule can be updated to reflect the day’s activities, adjustments to staffing can be made, or time can be allotted to orient a sub. Several of our colleagues also have staff communication binders and these are updated every morning to include class-specific or school-wide activities, changes in the schedule, absences, or other information to assist paraprofessionals and inclusion teachers in keeping everyone in the loop.

2) Check email

Unlike the technology and business gurus profiled in the Fast Company article, teachers make a point of checking emails before the school bell rings. Some teachers quickly scan their email looking for anything that might affect the daily schedule, information from parents, and flag emails to respond to later in the day. Others find this is the only quiet time in the day to thoughtfully respond to a parent, remind a teacher about accommodations, or send out invitations to IEP meetings. For many, the mind is the freshest in the morning, making email response one of the most logical places to start.

3) Check-in with teachers or paraprofessionals

Many of our inclusion teacher colleagues are running between classrooms for the majority of the school day, so they take advantage of the time before the bell rings to talk with colleagues. Some may meet with their paraprofessionals about the upcoming school day while other teachers discuss student needs or classroom supports with general education teachers. These morning check-ins may be the only time staff interact with each other, besides passing in the hallway, before the school day is done, so teachers make an effort to talk to staff and build community one “Good morning” at a time.

4) Finish prepping a modification or paperwork

Inclusion teachers often allow time in the morning, before students arrive, to finish up a small project from the night before. Accomplishing one small task before students arrive helps one of our colleagues “dive in” to the school day and also prevents her from staying at work all night. A small task might include completing IEP data sheets or paperwork, creating modified curriculum resource for a student, or the occasional mad dash to the copy machine.

5) Morning Joe

No. Not the MSNBC show. Overwhelmingly…Coffee was a huge part of an educators morning routine. Whether it was brewed at home, taken from the staff lounge or picked up at a drive-thru on the way to school, teachers love their “black gold.” We don’t know what your morning routine is for your first hour of the day, but it is of vital importance that you have some of that time carved out for yourself just to breathe, relax, and meditate on the day at hand. Sometimes, that is the difference between a productive day and a day where you feel like you are running behind.

Photo Credit: Lee Haywood/Flickr

Megan Gross is a special education teacher and inclusion specialist in California. She has facilitated inclusive education in K-12 classrooms. Megan is the co-author of The Inclusion Toolbox: Strategies and Techniques for All Teachers and ParaEducate, a resource book for paraprofessionals and special education teachers. She currently teaches high school and is the co-advisor of her campus’ Best Buddies club. Megan lives in San Diego with her husband and two children. Follow Megan on Twitter (@MegNGross).

ParaEducate: A Resource for Inclusive Educators

book review; four books stacked on top of each other with a pencil on the top of the stack

ParaEducate

In a time when resources for training are slim to nil, it is so important to have a resource for paraprofessionals like ParaEducate (Gross, Marquez, Kurth, & Yamasaki, 2012). Many times, paraprofessionals are on the “front-lines” of inclusion programming and depending on the prior knowledge of each staff, or how each district handles professional development, they can be ill-equipped to deal with the challenges of working one-on-one with students with disabilities.

ParaEducate takes the guess work out of many situations that arise when working with students with special needs in a general education classroom. From a brief history of special education to defining what an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is, ParaEducate serves as an essential reference for paraprofessionals who find themselves in a new position or simply need a refresher course in a job they have been doing for a while. Gross et al. (2012) provide concrete examples for paraprofessionals to deal with challenging behaviors, adapting materials, and providing opportunities to increase communication for the student with special needs.

Something that I appreciate about the book is that it starts with the assumption that special education students should be included, “regardless of disability, within the general education setting with appropriate supports” with their same age peers (p.16). Written in a readable format without watering down any content, ParaEducate is a valuable resource for classroom teachers to purchase for their staff as well as administrators looking for a comprehensive overview of the duties of paraprofessionals. This book belongs in every special education teacher’s library (especially if you work with paraprofessionals on a daily basis).

(affiliate link)

Megan Gross has also written a fantastic article on Positive Behavior Supports in the inclusive classroom for us. You can find it here. In addition, she is the co-author of The Inclusion Toolbox: Strategies and Techniques for All Teachers, another incredible resource for the inclusive classroom. 

Don’t forget to visit and “like” the ParaEducate Facebook page.

Photo Credit: Christopher/Flickr

The Pursuit of Inclusion: Blazing a Path for Our Son with Prader-Willi Syndrome

pursuit of inclusion; a dirt path running a lush forest

This past year, our son Dean, who has Prader-Willi syndrome, began his preschool career at the ripe old age of 3. Dean, like others his age, was in a “natural environment” program, which met at a daycare with typical and special needs peers. In this program, a parent or caregiver is required to attend with each student and is there primarily to observe. This experience and others involving mother’s groups, playgroups, and outside educational programs, has given us great insight into what is best for Dean.

I love the special needs environment because they really “get” some things, like how someone with muscle tone as low as Dean’s might need extra support to sit in a chair so they can concentrate more on work than on not falling over. They used a slant board for Dean to view his work at eye level so it would be easier from visual-spatial and fine motor standpoints. And having a PT, OT, and SLP at the ready – for a quick consult even if Dean doesn’t receive their services – is a dream. A relief. The smaller child-to-teacher ratio is necessary for the amount of help Dean needs to be most successful.

And yet, we find that typical environments tend to have more of a healthy fear of specific information we might have about Dean or PWS. They don’t assume they know how certain meltdowns or specific speech issues will play out. They’re not jaded by the usual categories of special needs and approach Dean more as an individual who is perhaps a bit more complex than is their average student. As with our doctors, babysitters, caregivers, or the average onlooker, we find so helpful those who seek to learn rather than those who ignore the pertinent first-hand information we have for them and assume that they know best.

For this coming year, our county does not offer what we are really looking for, which is an inclusive classroom. These scenarios exist in nearby counties, but not in ours. The recommendation of Dean’s IEP team (and something we wanted in part) was a “center-based” (special ed.) classroom. But I asked about opportunities for Dean to interact with typical peers, and I was told that this was only a possibility. For us, leaving this up in the air was surprising, not to mention… unacceptable.

I told his teacher that we were thinking about doing a few days in a typical preschool, and then the other days at center-based. She referred to Dean’s IEP and mentioned that if he wasn’t at center-based every day, he might not be able to meet all of his goals. She said, “You have to decide what’s a priority for you: academics or socializing.” My head spun as I thought about what she said, for it never occurred to me that this was an either/or issue. We want both for Dean, and we weren’t going to get it with what was being offered to us. So we decided to send Dean to a typical preschool two mornings a week, and to center-based three times a week. As we have done for him countless times in these past three years, we are blazing our own path. To do anything less would be a disservice to our sweet Dean, no matter what the learning environment.

Photo Credit: Nicholas A. Tonelli/Flickr

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2012 and has been updated with a new featured image, category, and tags.

Ali Foley Shenk lives in Richmond, VA with her husband Bob and their three boys: Cole, Dean, and Emmett. Ali writes, mostly on her blog at divingintothewaves.com, and is also a freelance copy editor. She also volunteers with the Foundation for Prader-Willi Research (www.fpwr.org).

Getting Over the Biggest Obstacle to Inclusion

obstacle to inclusion; lego figurine standing close to the edge at the top of the empire state building in NYC

How do you get over the biggest obstacle to inclusion? In November of 2011, I wrote a blog post for SpecialEducationAdvisor.com about educators getting over the fear of inclusive education. Here is an excerpt.

Even under the best of circumstances, there is always a bit of trepidation when starting something new. Think about the first time you rode a bike, drove a car, your first kiss, or really anytime you have ever taken a risk. The thrill and terror of it all can be overwhelming. I liken this feeling to the first time I took one of my students (a boy with severe autism and challenging behaviors) and put him in a 4th grade general education classroom. It was my first teaching job, in a self-contained classroom for students with autism in California and I was challenged by one of my professors at Cal State University Fullerton to begin the process of including my students in general education. At this time, there was little support for inclusion at my school (not even for Art, Music or PE – mainly because we did not have those programs due to budget constraints). Even so, I believed it was the right thing to do and began trying to change the hearts and minds of my colleagues. It was not easy at first, but after explaining that I was not simply going to “dump” my students off in their class, they were definitely more receptive.

This tends to be the biggest fear of people who are opposed to a “full inclusion” model. There are different definitions of “full inclusion” but one I prefer is apparent when we talk about the idea of Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). What is the environment that will least hinder the student from being educated with their typically-developing peers while still accessing the general curriculum (what everyone is being taught) in a meaningful way? There is no one-size-fits-all approach to inclusion just like there is no one-size-fits-all approach to general education (no matter how hard we want there to be). But…I am getting ahead of myself. In regards to my 4th grader who was now going to be included into a Math block in general education, I began to feel the anxiety creep up in me as the day approached. Would he keep his challenging behaviors in check? Would the class accept him when he started to script movie lines? Would the general education teacher think I was crazy for putting her up to this?

Diffusing and answering the inevitable questions was the big key into alleviating everyone’s fear. I spoke to the class before we started and explained my student, while having some differences in the way he experienced the world, was still a 4th grade boy who liked movies, music and playing on the computer. He liked Math, which is why we decided this was the best time for him to join his peers. It was also important to take the uncomfortable questions of “why does he do this,” or “why does he do that,” and answer them with the utmost respect and dignity to their new classmate. Perhaps honest communication is the best way to gain his peers’ trust…kids are too smart and usually know when you are trying to put one over on them. Once we got that out of the way, acceptance was the easy part.

Inclusion, at its very heart is a noble cause because it brings dignity to human beings when it otherwise would separate those who need love the most. Fear may be an obstacle but it certainly is not an excuse.

Source: Special Education Advisor: Fear Factor – Getting over the biggest obstacle to inclusion

Photo Credit: clement127/Flickr

Lesson Planning Tips from a Super Procrastinator

Lesson Planning Tips from a Super Procrastinator

Lesson planning has never been a strength of mine.

If you have ever worked with me, then you are aware that I struggle with lesson planning. Organization, time management, in fact, anything to do with paperwork I typically procrastinate because I dislike it so much. Being a special education teacher does not help due to the sheer amount of administrative tasks we have to complete (not including teaching the kids). So, to the chagrin of my administrators and co-workers, we slog along knowing that it won’t get much better than it is now (although I have come a long way).

But you have come to this post hoping for tips, so I shall deliver some in a few short lines. What I have learned over the last decade in education is to work smarter not harder. Here are some of the strategies I use to make my lesson planning less painful.

Pick and Time and Stick to It

My lesson planning time is Sunday night. Typically before watching the Walking Dead (one of my wife and I’s favorite shows). I tried to complete them during the school week, but I was usually too exhausted to make it meaningful. I also tried completing them during the weekend day, but between kids, pets, and the bustle of the house there are too many distractions to make the process efficient. Settling at a time when the kids were in bed was the best decision for me because I could devote my time and energy to the process.

In addition to picking a time and specific day, I also chose a length of time that I work on my plans. I typically will carve out two hours for lesson planning. If I give myself too much time, I tend to get lost in the details and over plan which brings me to my next point.

Don’t Over-plan

Maybe it is because I like the chaos, or maybe I like to live on the edge, I try to plan just enough to get by. I like to compare lesson planning with following a recipe for cooking. All the best cooks know that you add something a little extra in every meal you make. Improvisation is necessary for teaching (especially in special education). Adding that special ingredient into your lessons comes from practicing and knowing your craft and using plans that focus on the big picture will help you to do that.

In the inclusive classroom, as well as in the special education classroom, over-planning is a big mistake. You never know what is going to happen so it is best to keep things loose and your objectives broad. In my experience, there are things that I planned to take one writing segment that takes up the whole week. I love that my job is always a little different every day.

Create a Template

Don’t reinvent the wheel. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. These are familiar phrases that echo in the back of our minds. Using a template for your lesson planning will help you out tremendously. You can choose from hundreds of various examples just by using your search engine. It doesn’t matter which one you choose as long as it is something that you are going to use. Think of the template as the backbone of your teaching.

Something that I started to do recently is writing all of the standards that our class was working on for nine weeks at a time. That way I was not looking up each standard each time. If your administration wants you to single out each standard every week, you can either highlight the ones you are covering in class or change the typeface to bold for those weeks.

Use an Online Lesson Planning Application

Our school uses OnCourse for our lesson plans. Planning on a web application is extremely convenient and having my lessons available on my smartphone or tablet has been a game changer. There are plenty of other online lesson planners, but I would choose one that allows me to share my plans with other educators. With most everything trending toward paperless records and forms in education, it is only a matter of time before teachers will not be given the option to use an online planner. It is better to stay ahead of the curve

Put First Things First

It is likely that I will never like to lesson plan. But it is a mistake to think you can go on in your teaching career believing that you can just stumble through your day with no plans at all.  The professors in your teacher education preparation courses made you write comprehensive lesson plans until you were delirious to sear in your brain the essentials of a solid lesson.

Despite my lack of affection for lesson planning, I know that my day and my students would suffer without them. When you put first things first, you end up with more time for the activities that you want to do. Here is to all who toil and trudge every week just for the privilege of teaching kids.

Thanks for your time and attention.

Photo Credit: Thomas Levinson/Flickr

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!

Advantages of Online Tutoring Services For Young Students

Advantages of Online Tutoring Services For Young Students

We no longer live in the time and day when we would still need to pick up our phone to have a box of pizza delivered. We no longer need to bring extra thick textbooks to school. In this age of technological advancements—of ordering pizza using our smartphones and Kindles and iPads and cute kittens on YouTube—everything is made is possible in just a few taps and clicks away. And many, many more.

Online tutoring on LearnOK is aimed to help you with your assignments.

Online tutoring services have becoming popular. Parents whose time is spent mostly working have been seeking help for their children from online experts. This only means they can leave home without thinking if their kids are getting enough help in their homework and school projects. Online tutors are also flexible, they can adjust to your kids’ schedule. And you would no longer have to leave your kids unattended with a stranger at home since the communications are done via computer.

If you are still on the fence about online tutoring services, we have listed a number of advantages that you and your kids get from it. We hope by the end of this article, you can make up your mind if this is for you.

Convenience is the name of the game

Everything is done over the internet and it would prove to be very convenient for you and your child. The online expert will have a one-on-one meeting with your child whenever he or she feels like it or if his or her schedule permits. The sessions are online so all you need is a fast and reliable internet connection and a laptop and you are good to go. Skype is preferred method of communication, but some sites offer their own application.

Qualified and expert tutors

The experts you will hire from the internet have been through a thorough screening process to make sure they are fit for every child’s needs. If you are looking to get help for your kid’s mathematics project, you can be assured that the online tutor that you will get is someone who had taken math as a major in college (or even a Master’s in Math) and someone who has a teaching experience. To be sure, you can request for proof of credentials if you want to make sure you are getting your money’s worth.

Flexible hours

Did something come up the last minute and you can no longer make it to your online meeting with your tutor? Worry no more. These online experts are trained to adjust to your schedule and will find the time to squeeze you in. Since the meetings are online, you can always go to a place with good internet connection then you are good to you. If you are the type of student who studies best at a coffee shop, then pack up your laptop and some headphones. Your tutor does not mind. They are flexible and understanding.

Personalized approach, better understanding

Online tutors are also trained to detect your kid’s learning style and adapt to it. If online tutors think they need to slow down, they will slow down. Not only that, they will also go back to page 1 to review basics and make sure your kids comprehend what they have tackled so far. Your kids would not fear to ask any questions if they feel confused about something. Sometimes, online tutors would reference pop culture stuff, like your kid’s favorite artist or movie, to make sure he or she is paying attention. This way your kid learns more while having fun. That is why online tutoring is also good for kids with special needs.

Available for almost every subject you can think of

Your kids might need tutoring services in engineering, finance, accounting, reading comprehension, Italian art history, foreign languages, statistics, psychology, or Calculus—and they would still get them. Before, finding someone who knows about these things are quite impossible. But thanks to the unbelievable power of the internet, this problem is solved because in just a few taps, you can avail of the service of someone certified in Engineering. Who could have ever predicted this future of online tutoring? Imagine being tutored by an expert French mathematician or a Vietnamese linguist? Your child would not only learn about the subjects you paid for, but also about other cultures too!

Online tutors are great at what they do

There are many a time when you have a difficult time explaining something to your child because it is something you yourself did not understand in high school or a subject you did not take. Or sometimes, just simply we no longer remember. Who could remember Trigonometry or Theories of Economics? Online tutors understand that it could be a while since you took these subjects in college and they will make your life easier by explaining these to your kids so you do not have to. When tutors teach your kids, they will not only based from they know, but also from their experiences in the profession.

Tutoring services do not cost fortune

Despite what others think, people who have availed of the services of online tutors say that it is affordable. It could cost well the same as getting a personal tutor who could drop by your home, but what you are paying for in tutoring services is the expertise of the tutor. Like what was said before, the sessions are virtually online. You can dismiss the fear of leaving your child at home alone with someone you barely know. You can go to work feeling assured that your kid is home safe and learning a lot. By the time you go home, you can just focus on what is more important: focus on being a loving, caring mother or father.

There you have it. Those are just some of the advantages of getting online tutoring service compared to the more traditional method. The world as we know it is changing very fast and we need to adapt for fear we might get left behind. Embrace the good change brought about by modern technology.

Images by Jazmin Quaynor and Tran Mau Tri Tam under Public Domain CC0.

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