Showing posts from 2014

One Word 2015 - Present

I've found it a bit more of a challenge to sit down and write lately. It is not that I do not have anything to say but more that I feel that there is so much to do that the time to sit and write is no longer there. I click almost daily on my blog and mean to write but then get sidetracked by something else. 
It is taking some time to find a new balance to my life since finishing my masters in April. I didn't realize until it wasn't there anymore how all-consuming it became in the course of the three years. I needed time to recharge but I also needed time to process so much of what we had learned in that time.

Life is beginning to settle in to a new way of being both personally and professionally. I am becoming more comfortable with what my job has evolved in to. I am finding time again to be the parent that I want to be to Mikey. And I am also finding time for me. 
I have, for some time, been clear in what I believe in and what I want to stand for but only in the past mon…

Redefining Bullying

"This is a different kind of strategy. It means changing an understanding of a fundamental concept in the classroom and school. The way bullying is typically conceptualized, there is a bully and a victim, and sometimes a bystander. This implies that there are "good guys" and "bad guys" which erodes the community that is essential for creating an inclusive environment in which everyone belongs and everyone is valued. Schools and classrooms that have zero-tolerance and no-questions-asked policies toward bullying and standardized punishments for bullies are failing to support the needs of all students. There is nothing cut or dry or easily defined about bullying. When one students is aggressive in some way toward another, all of the students have needs that should be met and skills to be learned. Bullying should be redefined as conflicts that need to be collaboratively solved. The focus on the classroom should be redefined toward recognizing everyone's streng…

Ten Years of Blogging!

Ten years ago today I started a personal blog with the plan to record my journey parenting Mikey. There came a point in that journey where I made a career change as a result of the first steps in that journey and as time went on I switched from a blogging about parenting to blogging about the cross-over between my personal passion, parenting and my job. 

Link to my first blog Red Lights:

Supporting Students with Print Based Disabilities

"There is a place in UDL for remediation. However, we must first determine the nature of our beliefs about students and their disabilities. When I ask an English language arts teacher whether a student with a visual impairment can receive an A in their course - even if the novel or play they are studying is not available in Braille, the answer is always yes. When I ask them how they would assess this student, they quickly respond that they would read the text aloud or use an audiobook, and then assess the student's understanding of the book. For the sake of argument then, we are saying a student who cannot read the text can still receive an A in English. Yet when I ask teachers weather a grade 9 student reading at grade 3 level can receive an A in their course, the answer is almost unanimously no. When asked why, they respond that he student cannot read the texts required in the course, and is not meeting expectations for reading. In other words, a student with a visible disa…

Together We Are Stronger

"The 'allegory of the long spoons' teaches us that when we struggle to feed only ourselves, everyone goes hungry. But when we focus on our neighbour’s hunger, we discover there are ways to feed everyone."

Weaknesses (spoons that are too long to reach our mouths) can inhibit our daily functioning if we think only in terms of trying to feed ourselves with what we currently individually have in our hands.  If we step outside the box though and consider other strategies and other ways to use the resources that we collectively have, we can find ways that we can all be fed. When we remove students whose spoons are too long for them to feed themselves from their natural communities, we also remove all the solutions and stabilizing factors that exist within that collective community... which affects all members of the community.

"There was nothing that set him off. It just came out of nowhere!"


The Mystery at Camp ALEC - Students and Teachers Seeing Themselves as Thinkers - Part 2

Note that this post is a further expansion on my earlier post outlining the Mystery at Camp ALEC.  The experience that we had at Camp ALEC has gotten me thinking a lot about inference and how language and communication development impact the ability to gain skills in inference. 

"Inference is the mental process by which we reach a conclusion based on a specific evidence. Inferences are the stock and trade of detectives examining clues, of doctors diagnosing diseases, and of car mechanics repairing engine problems. We infer motives, purpose, and intentions."(

Inference requires reading the ideas that are behind words. Both listening and reading should be active, reflective, problem solving processes. Listening and reading require simultaneously taking in language (words) and constructing meaning about what those words mean in a given context.

Why was it that these campers, who were all proficient communicators and who a…

More Thoughts from Camp ALEC - Language Based Literacy Skills

I was introduced to the "Whole to Part" literacy framework during the first course that I took from Karen Erickson and David Koppenhaver a couple of years ago. When things have time to stew and you have a variety of experiences with what yo have learned, a different level of understanding starts to emerge. I think that part of this is because some of this process involves unlearning some of the things you already "know". 

We have traditionally associated early literacy success with alphabetic and sight word knowledge and as children enter school we look to support their reading development through phonics, spelling and decoding instruction. Many of us remember doing endless workbook pages that reflect this. 

The role that oral language plays in literacy development is often given less explicit focus in early literacy learning. We expect children to master "the basics" before we tackle oral language, vocabulary, sentence structure or comprehension. 

We …

Coming Full Circle: Reflecting on Camp ALEC

It has been a week now since I have been home from a ten-day trip to Philadelphia to be a part of Camp ALEC. I am still challenged to put in to words a reflection of the camp. I'm sure it is going to take more than one post when all is said and done.

Just to give a big of background... Tina Moreno, one of the two ladies that made this camp happen, explained the camp perfectly in her blog post yesterday:
This was the first Camp ALEC and the first camp of its kind offered in the United States. Together, we gathered 15 campers and 14 educators, speech-language pathologists and school administrators from the U.S. and Canada at Variety Club Camp and Developmental Center in Norristown, PA for a week of reading and writing assessment and interventions–plus a typical summer camp experience.  Each camper received a total of 17.5 hours of individual and small group assessment and instruction throughout the week.  The goals of Camp ALEC included building the skills of the adults who…

The Mystery at Camp ALEC - Students and Teachers Seeing Themselves as Thinkers - Part 1

I will start by just telling the story of what unfolded with the group of students that we were working with at Camp ALEC. Over the next couple of days I will share some thoughts related to the story...

On Tuesday (Day 2) of Camp ALEC the group we were working with began working on a writing project that began by examining Shel Silverstein's If You Want to Marry Me.  Before reading the poem, we generate a list titled If you want to be my boyfriend... Our plan for that day was to make a comparison between our list and the list included in the poem.  We were thinking that we would revisit the same text the next day and use it a model for writing (a mentor text). We were going to have students define what they felt various people in their life should do in their lives.

It seemed an innocent enough learning activity... but the next morning we came in to the room that we were doing our literacy sessions in and found a new poster on the wall...

When the campers arrived and saw the pos…

Supporting Students with Significant Communication and Literacy Needs Learning Series

During the 2014-15 school year I will be co-presenting a case-study learning series on supporting students with significant communication and literacy need. This will be a new experience for me and I'm looking forward to working with other educators who are looking to tweak and share their student's literacy and communication programs. It will be a unique learning experience as I will be presenting at the same time as I'm doing case studies with several of the students that I work with. 

The focus of the learning series is designing learning opportunities to ensure that every student has opportunities to speak, listen, read, write, view and represent in their academic and social lives. The emphasis will be on comprehensive instruction that aligns with the general education English Language Arts Program of Studies.

A "case study" approach will be used, with each participant considering one student with whom enhanced literacy instruction and supports will be addre…

Attainment's Early Numeracy Program

The first two thing that jumped out at me as I read through the Implementation Guide are these quotes:
This curriculum is intended to help students become fluent in early numeracy skills to better prepare students to participate in the general education curriculum. The Early Numeracy curriculum is not a precursor to teaching grade-aligned academics in mathematics, but should be used concurrently in order to strengthen students' numeracy skills while also providing opportunities to practice the skills in different contexts, environments , with different material, and possible with different instructors. The curriculum focuses on counting with one-to-one correspondence, number identification, naming numbers, rote counting, creating sets, beginning addition with sets, identification and understanding of numeracy symbols, identification, extension and creation of ABAB patterns, using and understanding calendars and measuring with nonstandard and standard units.  These skills are the …

A Mommy Walk Down Memory Lane

Nine years ago today, a couple of weeks after my son Mikey had finished Kindergarten, I sat down and wrote a document titled "My Vision for Mikey".  I wanted to have some record of the dreams that I had for him as he ended in to the world of graded education. 

I went back to look at it last night and I can't say that my dreams for him have changed all that much.  I still very much want him to have a life that is his own.  The steps that we need to continue to keep trying to take to achieve that can be both frustrating and wonderful.  In the nine years since I've written this, I've come to realize that the road is not always easy but it is meaningful and worth it. 

Here is the statement I wrote back then. Original post can be found on my personal blog which I no longer write on. Link:

I believe that each person on this earth has their own special gifts and talents and when these gifts are disco…

Great Video on How to Model AAC for Communication Partners

ISACC (International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication) defines communication as "the essence of human interaction and learning"... The nature of communication is dependent on interaction between two or more individuals and understanding is constructed through that interaction.Communication is a basic human right and essential to our quality of life as a social species.  As human beings, we use communication to: relate to others, socially connect, greet, call attention, share feelings, express an opinion, agree, disagree, explain, share information, question, answer, tease, bargain, negotiate, argue, manipulate, compliment, comment, protest, complain, describe, encourage, instruct, provide feedback, show humor, discuss interest, be polite, make friends, express interest or disinterest...etc. Source: As both a parent and a teacher I feel a level of urgent anxiety around figuring out …

Advocate for Inclusion

Believe in Good - Celebrate Interdependence

"Our deepest calling is to grow in to our own authenticself-hood, whether or not it conforms to some image ofwho we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only findthe joy that every human being seeks -- we will alsofind our path to authentic service to the world." ~ Parker J. Palmer ~

Speak Your Truth


SIVA (Supporting Individuals Through Valued Relationships)

This past week, I attended both a SIVA (Supporting Individuals through Valued Attachments) Training and a Train the Trainer session.  I'm pretty excited about the framework and the possibilities in using it to help facilitate increased intrinsically motivated self-management skills in students.

SIVA is a safety management framework with the focus of working with people to pro-actively identify and maintain safe behaviour and situations. Foundational to the SIVA philosophy is the belief that true safety is built on communication and the establishment of trusted relationships. An understanding that an intervention can never be of greater importance than a trusted relationship is the key to building the relationships that assist with avoiding crisis situations and ensuring that students are available for learning.

Some key take-aways related to SIVA from this past week for me include:
SIVA is specifically designed for supporting people with complex needs (disability and mental healt…

Worth Thinking About: Charity or Solidarity

Reminded me of Emma Van der Klift & Norman Kunc's "Hell Bent on Helping: Benevolence, Friendship, and the Politics of Help"

I post new "Worth Thinking About" questions on Sundays. 
In reality, some might be more "and" statements rather than "or" statements. It is about finding the right balance so that we are aware enough to be effective in supporting student learning.

Click here to check out more "Worth Thinking About" posts.

New Year's Resolutions, IEPs, Learning Portfolios and Supporting Self-Determination

Spending the day making New Year's resolutions for other people, because I know what they need to work on.
— Just Bill (@WilliamAder) December 27, 2013 I came across the above Tweet the other day and at first I thought it was really funny.  I even responded with the same humor as the original Tweet... @WilliamAder@TechmoRachel LOL. All these years I have been doing it wrong ;)
— Monica Braat (@mom2mikey) December 29, 2013 But then I started thinking about IEPs and suddenly the concept wasn't quite so funny. I admit that in writing IPPs (what we call IEPs in Alberta), I have taken on the task of making plans for what others need to work on with little more to go on then a two-page blanket form filled out by parents if they so chose to fill it out (and many of them chose not to).

The changes we began making a few years back in how we serve and program for students with complex needs in our division is about so much more than just their physical placement in general education cl…