Showing posts from June, 2013

Social Construct of Disability... Again!

I've written about this before but felt the need to come back to it after reading "Disability and Society's Role" on the blog Emma's Hope Book.

Just as the person who wrote this is trying to piece this concept together, I find myself constantly challenged by it.  This line in particular jumped out at me while reading...
“In contrast to impairment, Reindal writes about disability as the “barrier to being,” suggesting that the social constructs that view those with impairments as lesser beings, not worthy of inclusion or accommodation, creates an existential crisis that extends deeply into the disabled person’s core being.”Not worthy of inclusion or accommodations.  Powerful words. Words I think we need to factor in to the educational decisions that we make for students with disabilities. 

What happens when the accommodation needed involves being physically apart (excluded) from others?  As we continue to move awary from a fully self-contained way of serving the …

The Myth of the Average

"Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn. UDL provides a blueprint for creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that work for everyone - not a single, one-size-fits-all solution but rather flexible approaches that can be customized and adjusted for individual needs." (Source: Perhaps the most profound line in this video is that the average hurts everyone.  This video gets to the heart of what inclusive education is actually about... designing our curriculum, classrooms and schools to the edges rather then to the average.  Recreating what we do in classrooms so that students come to understand themselves as learners.  What are their stengths? What are their challenges? What tools in their personalized toobox will allow them to reach their maximum potential?  Knowing that their profiles are complex and supporting them to figur…

Defining Perfection

"Before you were born, I only worried about how your disability reflected on me and now there is no better mirror in the world. You're my light and dark and it's a privledge to be your dad."The Planned Lifetime Adavocacy Network (PLAN) of Canada believes that there are five key elements to a "good life".  One of these elements is "contribution".  They talk about the need for all people to work, volunteer, create, inspire and contribute.  They also speak of two key ways that people contribute: (1) the contribution of doing and (2) the contribution of being. 

The contribution of being can be powerful as it brings out the best in others... Again and again, we can find stories like the one in this video where the inspiration and heart to do something is grown out of relationship with other.  Dick and Rick Hoyt are just one of the many examples of this. Dick was once quote as saying that in the team Rick (son) is the motivator or the inspirer... the h…

Negative Need vs Positive Need

Source: Sometimes something you read just brings a certain clarity to a feeling you have had but have not been able to put in to words. 

The source of this graphic is related to adult relationships but I couldn't help but think of student "behaviour" as I looked at this.  It also reminded me of this post about a high school that is trying a new approach to managing behaviours in Walla Walla, WA.  By simply responding to student behaviour with the following statement, staff would be able to change the conversation from negative need to positive need....
“Wow. Are you OK? This doesn’t sound like you. What’s going on?” He gets even more specific: “You really looked stressed. On a scale of 1-10, where are you with your anger?” Bascially, ignore the inappropriate behaviour and get to the source of it.  Name the feeling and try to figure out what is going on.  Keep the focus on the root of it rather t…

Inclusion Flowchart

Sometimes I think we make "inclusion" far to complicated.  But the flip side of that is that other times I feel we oversimplify it.  Inclusion is about recognizing that all students need flexible structures so that each is able learn.  We can't make blanket statements about student ability and then just "put them" in a specific place.  We need to be continually evaluating and responding to both their learning and ours.  We need to recognize learning as a dynamic social process.  For those who do not fit in the box, we need to be researching and trying other possible ways to enhance their learning.  Concepts of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Response to Intervention and Instruction (RTII) need to be approriately and flexibly applied.  Sue Buckley does an excellent job of speaking to this in her post "Every School Should be Inclusive".

Literacy As More Than Language Arts Class

As we continue to move forward with re-defining programming for the students that I used to teach in a fully self-contained classroom, I continue to rethink literacy learning and instruction from something being done during Language Arts or English class to something a lot more wholistic that reaches across all aspects of a student's education.  A few days ago, I came across the LATCH ON: Literacy and Technology program for adults with intellectual disabilities while looking to find out what is "out there" by way of adult education for this population of young adults.  I was drawn to the diagram that I included above because it reflects the components that I believe are important to literacy programming for the population of students that i work.  For any population really but with this population I believe we need to more intentional about seeing the literacy potential throughout their day.  I have come to see literacy programming as focusing widely on comprehension …

It Hasn't Even Been 40 Years...

While I do not agree with every element tied to IDEA, I think this video does a great job of explaining the very short history of educating students with disabilities. It speaks to the beginning of our current duo-track system of education.  It also speaks to the initial need for that duo-track system as it became the catalyst to digging deeper in to different ways of teaching, learning and assessing progress/growth/learning.  It opens up doors and possibilities to become more aware of the very many variables that are in our control when it comes to setting up the optimum conditiosn for learning for each of our students.  In many situations it has resulted in educating students who were previously believed to be "uneducatable".  That speaks to our power as educators.  It's amazing to look at this very short history and see the momentum that has been created around it and think about the lives that have been changed as a result of it.  I won't pretend we have it al…

Are We Focusing on Learning or on Work?

"Being busy is a form of laziness -
lazy thinking and indiscriminate action."
(Tim Ferriss) When Mikey (my now 14 year old son) was almost a year old he did something amazing.  He was sitting on a little stool by a chair and he pulled himself up in to a stand position and then he stood there for several seconds before sitting back down on the stool.  I got excited and started celebrating and he looked at me like I had lost my mind.  I was so sure that walking could not be long in coming.
Months passed. He went from pulling himself up from a stood to pulling himself up against a chair or coffee table from the ground and then to pushing himself up midfloor in to a stand.  He would stand for increasing lengths of time in whatever position he was in - against the chair, against the couch, against the coffee table and even mid-floor.  I wanted so desparately for him to take his first step and I would try to hold his hands and encourage a step or entice him with a toy.  I bought …

A Very Important Call to Action: People Experience Disability in the Environments We Create

A message that every educator should hear. This is a call to action for us to create systems that do not disable students by our narrow definition of "intelligence".  It's a call to shift the disability paradigm to one that authentically embraces and celebrates diversity. 

In his book Neurodiversity in the Classroom: Strength-Based Strategies to Help Students with Special Needs Succeed in School and Life, Thomas Armstrong does a great job of outlining the strengths commonly associated with Learning Disabilities, ADHD, Autism, Intellectual Disabilities and those with Social/Emotional/Behavioural Disabilities and how we can create environments that capatlize on these strengths. 

As part of a group in a graduate class I just completed, we created the following wiki which also has a section that speaks to this concept and quotes a lot of Thomas Armstrong's work. Link: A Social Learning Approach to Regulation and Resilency for Students with Neurobiological Differences. …

Students with Disabilities Helping Around the School

It is a less common practice, but still not an uncommon practice, to set up "vocational skills programs" for students with disabilities that include some type of janitorial duty.  Students with disabilities are then seen in groups cleaning up after other students while those students go off to class and learn curriculum content.  Just a couple of examples of this: Special education students assigned trash duty Special Education Kids Doing Janitorial Work at School I work with teams to set up programs for students with significant disabilities.  We try to focus on creating programs that facilitate authentic inclusion, address quality of life indicators and are driven by priority learning outcomes that come from a team-based person centered planning approach.  One quality of life indicator is that of being able to authentically contribute to the world around you.  We try to focus on both the contribution of being and the contribution of doing.  There are many opportunities in…

An Entrepreneurial Spirit

Alberta Education's Framework for Student Learning consists of compentencies for engaged thinkers and ethical citizens with an entrepreneurial sprit.  I thought this was a great explanation of what it means to have an entrepreneurial spirit.

I am a member of the Alberta Enhancing Inclusive Environments Ning.  This is and online community of practice where we can share and celebrate innovative strategies that support inclusive practices across Alberta. When people join the ning, one of the questions that is asked for their profile is "What is your greatest hope for inclusive eduation?"  The other day someone joined and her answer was simply "that it will make us rethink what schools are for."

It seems to me that is a perfect hope and perhaps somewhere in this explanation below we can find the true purpose of schools.  We have classrooms sitting full of so much potential.

How Do I Teach This Kid to Read? Teaching Literacy Skills to Young Children with Autism from Phonics to Fluency

I just wanted to pass on a recommendation for the book How Do I Teach This Kid to Read? Teaching Literacy Skills to Young Children with Autism, from Phonics to Fluency by Kimberly A. Henry, M.S.  I just recently got it and I'm thrilled the ideas and the CD that has printables that can be adapted to meet specific needs of students.  Lots of visual ways to support literacy development for those who need visual supports.  The book has activities for Phonemic Awareness, Vocabulary, Comprehension and Fluency.  I found the section on comprehension particularly helpful for geneating ideas around how to work on comprehension with students who have limited verbal abilities.  I've been working this weekend on putting some of the activities together and I'm looking forward to embedding them in to the programs of the students I'm working with starting this week.  

Help Each Other


Diversity and Inclusion: Finding the Sweet Spot

We often think of inclusive education as being about the space that students with disabilities are educated in but inclusion is so much deeper than that.  It starts from the way we see the world and what we value in the world and springs out in to how we interact with everyone.

This video does a great job of explaining the root of inclusive communities...

Educating Mikey Part 2

~ Trying Out Band Class ~ Mikey, my son, is now 14.5 years old and we are fast approaching a time when we will be immersed in the world of adult planning and services.  In the middle of a changing job, taking my masters and shifting practice related to how our social systems serve students and adults with disabilities, I find myself stepping back often and thinking about what my priorities for Mikey should be at this point.  June is a time when these thoughts start to spin even more fully around in my head as it is a time when we need to start thinking about next school year and what it is going to look like.  The Junes when Mikey has had a good school year are particularly hard because you know as a parent of a child that doesn't quite fit into the educational world that things can go either way in any given year.  It's hard to see years like this year come to an end.  Mikey has been a part of the Fine Arts Academy class at St. Mary's this year and everyone who knows him…

Restraint and Seclusion: Hear Our Stories

Stop Hurting Kids is a campaign to end restraint and seclusion abuse in schools.  This past week, a new video called Restraint and Seclusion: Hear Our Stories (working title)and materials were added to the website.  Here is an explanation from the website.  (Source:
"Restraint and Seclusion: Hear Our Stories (working title)is a new film by Dan Habib, Filmmaker at the Institute on Disability at the University of New Hampshire. In the film, Jino Medina, Brianna Hammon and Peyton Goddard describe the restraint and seclusion they experienced while students in public schools, and the devastating physical and emotional injuries they suffered as a results. And Carolyn Medina and Wil Beaudoin describe how the restraint and seclusion their children endured had an impact on them as parents. The film (27 minutes) is available free to the public through for training, professional development and public awareness. Restraint and Seclusio…