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Summer Activities for Students with Learning Disabilities

As summer is fast approaching, many students are thinking about fun in the sun, family vacations, and summer camp.   Students may consider it a time to stop learning, but research has proven that if students do not spend any time in educational activities then their learning loss can retract by, at minimum, 2 months.  This means that a student leaving the 2nd grade and entering the 3rd grade will still be on a 2nd grade level.  This is especially important for students with learning disabilities.  This loss can put the student even further behind their classmates.

camp

There are many fun ways that fun time, family vacations, and summer camp can be intertwined with learning.

Learning at the Beach

A trip to the local beach can be filled with learning opportunities for a child.  Children love to play in the sand and romp through the waves of the ocean.  While playing with children at the beach, they can learn about what sand is made up of, the importance of the ocean to the environment, and the math behind building the perfect sand castle.

The summer is also peak turtle nesting season.  If you are fortunate to live in a sea turtle nesting area, you can go on a nest hunt.  The nests will be marked off in the sand with information to learn about protecting the nests.  Children can then learn about the different sea turtle species, their nesting habits, and hatchlings.

Websites for Learning at the Beach

  1. Enchanted Learning Beach Activities – great activities and crafts for younger children to do while at the beach or about the beach
  2. Frugal Activities at the Beach – list of great low-cost ideas for hands-on projects while at the beach
  3. EPA – great website for parents/teachers to learn about the beach to then teach their children/students

Historical Family Vacation

If you are going away this summer, it is easy to tie in history by visiting some of the famous landmarks around the United States.  I recently went on a school trip to Charleston and Savannah where students learned about American history by visiting various historical attractions.  The students enjoyed having their ‘history book come to life.’ Many cities around the country offer educational tours of the museums, landmarks, and attractions that include the historical importance.

Websites for Historical Family Vacations

  1. TripAdvisor History & Culture Trips in the United States – top vacation options including information on places to visit in the top 16 cities for history and culture
  2. Learning Vacations for Kids –  includes tips for parents traveling with kids to encourage learning while on vacation

Summer Camps

Many local summer camps offer fun hands-on learning and activities for the summer.   Many camps also make accommodations for students with special needs.  Traditional camps are typically provided through school districts, museums, and city recreation centers.  Also look for other options at local nature centers, parks, or research other options in the local newspaper or online.  Camps are a great way for students to learn, be active, and participate in activities with children their age away from the formal school setting.  While your children will be learning things that can tie into academic curriculum, they will also be learning social skills.

Websites for Finding the Perfect Summer Camp

  1. Choose a Camp – Choose and compare camps based on location, activity, or even special needs
  2. Computer Summer Camp – Use www.internaldrive.com for information on camps all around the U.S. geared toward technology and computing
  3. Choosing a Camp – great website that provides information about the different types of camps for kids and their strengths and weaknesses

Article by Laura Ketcham

Picture by Loimere

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Sources for Support in Teaching Students with Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy is disorder that can affect various systems in the body.   It may make it difficult for a student to move, hear, see, and think.  For the student, this condition makes it difficult to participate or directly affect the ability to learn.  Students may also frequently be out of class due to doctor’s appointments for treatments, speech therapists to assist in building communication skills, or even physical therapists to help the students to exercise, stretch, and strengthen and move muscles.  The teacher needs to have a basic understanding of cerebral palsy in order to best serve any students with this disorder.  It also important to work together along with the student, parents, doctors, therapists, and other special education professionals to help the student to achieve learning and social goals.

learning

Classroom Layout & Student Socialization

About.com has a great resource for teachers and parents to help prepare a student with cerebral palsy for school.  Most likely, the classroom layout may need to be changed in order to make it easily accessible for the student.  Aisles and desks may need to be separated further apart and computer center will need adaptations like having raised desks for a wheel chair to fit under, voice activated computer systems, or the use of switches.

Teachers should also prepare the other students to help them to understand the condition of the student with cerebral palsy.  This should be done with the approval or even assistance from the parents.  However, it should also be recognized that the student should be included and treated as a normal student – just with accommodations.

This site also has links to other sites to assist teachers in preparing or planning lessons for students with cerebral palsy.

Tech Tools for CP

eHow also has a great article about helping students with Cerebral Palsy.  They support the ideas that I have read in many articles on this subject. They all stress the use of assistive technology – laptops, switches, specialty keyboards, or even pencil grips.  They also stress the importance of working as a team with the other specialists, administration, parents, doctors, and teachers to help the student to work to achieve academic success in the least-restrictive environment.  Lastly, they also stress the importance that even though the student many look different or may have difficulty communicating, it doesn’t mean that the student is any less intelligent than other students.

Videos Incorporating Technology with Students with Cerebral Palsy

Article By Laura Ketcham

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Spelling Activities for Students with Dyslexia

Students with dyslexia have difficulty spelling words, decoding words and detecting meaning when they are reading.  There are many different ways that a teacher can present spelling words and vocabulary for students.   Utilizing online activities would be one way to help students and motivate them when learning new words.

alphabet

Spelling City

One site students can use is called Spelling City.  On Spelling City, students can type in their spelling words, and then be tested on them, have the computer help them learn the words, or turn the words into a learning game.

In testing mode, the student will spell the word.  When the student selects the word to type the answer, the word will be read aloud to the student.  Two buttons are also provided to the right of the screen where the student can write the word one to hear the word read aloud again and the second button is used to help the student by using the word in a sentence.  When the student is done with the spelling test, the answer can be checked after it is submitted.  The student will receive immediate feedback with corrections if needed.

For the most commonly used spelling words, enter learning mode and then the student will enter the words and then select Learn.  Once the learning activity is started, the program will say and spell the word, use the word in a sentence, spell the word again, and then say the word again.  This is a great way for students with dyslexia to learn to spell and remember the meaning of vocabulary.

There are also many different learning games that the students can play using the words including scramble games, find the missing letter, crossword and matching puzzles, hangman, and word searches.

Teachers can also use this program to setup their lists for students in advance.  Then students and parents can log in and access the pre-made lists.  There are also pre-made activities for students to work in pairs on vocabulary, along with activities for students to learn about the various states in conjunction with spelling.

Overall, this is a comprehensive website that can help students with dyslexia to improve their spelling and vocabulary.

Other Resources

A similar program to Spelling City is called Big IQ Kids.  Students enter their spelling words and there are test, learning, and game modes.  This site also has different pages where students can play learning games for other subject areas.

For older students, there are many online sites that offer free spell checkers.  A few of these sites are www.spellchecker.net and http://orangoo.com/Gamequarim, Fun Brain, and Kids Spell also have many different spelling games that would be great for students to play during a center activity.

Article By Laura Ketcham

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Wake Up and Sing! – Special Needs Program

Music can be something that links parents and children. Bonding over music and songs is a great way to connect. Wake Up and Sing is a weekly group in Atlanta from the Center for the Visually Impaired, that meets for two hours. The group is designed for babies and toddlers with visual impairments. With this program, musical therapy is used for both parents and children.

cvi

Children in this group all have some kind of disability but that does not stop them from enjoying new music and new friends. Parents of the participating children have noticed changes in their children. With the support of other children and parents, they have noticed more confidence and positive attitudes from their children.

The program is relatively new and combines both support group therapy and music programs to those participating. Parents also thrive from the support and help they receive, so it is important that whole families are involved with the group.

Students can build many skills through the program, like social skills, cognitive skills and motor skills. Because many students also suffer from learning disabilities, it is a good way to get some extra practice that they would get out of school. Pairing sounds with smells and other forms of sense give students a new way of learning and growing together with their families.

The Wake Up and Sing program is a great way for families to enjoy togetherness while helping their children thrive and grow. By providing a fun and positive atmosphere, students and parents are both able to learn not only about themselves, but about others who are just like them.

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Summer of Reading – Camp for Deaf Students

For students who cannot hear, sometimes learning to read can pose a challenge. Luckily, a Murray County summer camp is showing students that they don’t have to be sitting in a classroom to learn the skills necessary.

osd

In Sulphur, Oklahoma, campers who are deaf may have challenges for even some of the simplest tasks like painting or acting. Not being able to hear a sound is the most obvious reason for this. Even a task like reading, which can be hard enough for all students, can be ten times harder for students who are unable to hear the sounds or spoken words.

The Oklahoma School for the Deaf is holding its fifth year as the host of a summer reading camp. The goal of this summer camp is to help those students who may be deaf or hard of hearing improve their reading skills and learn new ones, all while having a fun and memorable summer.

In addition to practicing their reading and literacy skills, students who attend the camp also get the chance to socialize and interact with students who are just like them and have similar challenges or differences. It is a great way for students with these challenges to know that there are others who are just like them and that they are not alone in their differences.

In addition to their improved reading skills, the staff at the camp hopes that students leave with more confidence and self esteem. With a summer full of learning and new friends, there is no reason why they shouldn’t!

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Let the Games Begin – Special Needs Athletes

For any major sporting event, kids can sometimes get nervous. For the ones competing in The National Junior Disability Championships in Chicago, this is their time to shine.

Throughout this week, the top athletes with disabilities from all over the country will be competing in Olympic-style events like track and field, swimming, basketball and weightlifting, just to name a few.

NJDC

This is the 26th year that this competition will be held. This competition is considered one of the most prestigious national events for those with physical or visual disabilities. Once athletes earn a spot in the winning positions of these events, they are able to qualify for the U.S. Paralympic Team.

For students who work hard all year in and outside of the classroom, this is a competition to really show off what they have been doing. With over 300 athletes from around the country, this event is a big deal for those who are participating.

It is a great way for those who are disabled to come together and meet others who may be just like them. It is also a way for them to show to the world that they can do just about anything that another person without their disability could do.

Being able to compete in this competition gives many of the participants better self esteem and feelings about themselves. They serve as an inspiration to those around them. The National Junior Disability Championships gives these athletes a chance to show off their athletic skills while inspiring both disabled and nondisabled people at the same time.

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Links for Teachers on Teaching Children with Special Needs

www.teachervision.com

I had an enlightening discussion today with a colleague about special needs students, their accommodations in the classroom, and classroom strategies.  The teacher is a core-curriculum middle school teacher and has several inclusion ESE students in her daily classes.  Every teacher at our school is provided with the appropriate paperwork (called an Individual Education Plan, IEP or 504 Plan) and documentation about the students’ type of disability and accommodations.  The colleague I was talking with was curious to know more in depth about her students’ actual disabilities to have a better understanding of how to better serve the educational, developmental, and social aspects for the special needs students.

Below you will find a list of links that can assist teachers to learn about specific disabilities, development and academic abilities, classroom management techniques, appropriate ways to build social skills, and other facts to increase student learning outcomes and independence for special needs students.

Teacher Vision

Teacher Vision has a section of their website devoted to students with special needs.  They have tips and advice, modifications for reading, math, and ESOL students, curriculum suggestions, and IEP accommodation information, among many other resources.  The pages that had the best information to help my colleague were under the Tips & Advice section.

There is a link about Students with Exceptionalities.  This link provides teachers with terms and definitions that are associated with special needs education.  It also provides specific teaching strategies to increase learning outcomes for students with different disabilities and ability levels.

Another link in this section is called Teaching Students with Special Needs.  This link provides information for teachers on indicators for students with learning disabilities.  They provide and extensive list of behaviors and struggles that a students with learning disabilities may have and how to make learning more accessible for them.  They also cover the opposite end of the spectrum by discussing indicators of gifted students, their learning struggles (ie. not being challenged), and how to adapt your teaching and lessons to challenge gifted students.  Overall, this is a great site for teachers to learn more about better educating students with special needs.

New Horizons

The New Horizons website offers information for teachers and parents about inclusion, ADD/ADHD, Autism, Gifted Learners, and English Language Learners.  They provide definitions and examples for the disabilities and learners along with providing links for best practices and research-based strategies.  This is also a good resource for finding information about federal laws about the education of students with special needs like IDEA and 504 plans.

Children with Special Needs

The Children with Special Needs site has a section of information devoted to informing teachers and parents about special needs.  This site has a link list of 13 disabilities along with information on general disabilities.  It provides information about the disability and common symptoms or behaviors of the disability.  They then provide a great links section with more information on classroom strategies, laws, advocacy groups, or social skill strategies when teaching students with those specific disabilities.  This is a great starting point for learning more about special needs students.

Article by Laura Ketcham

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Students with Special Needs Get Real World Experience

The process of finding a job can be difficult if you don’t have any work experience. For students with special needs, it may be even harder.

We’ve all heard the saying “practice makes perfect,” and that is just what a new program is offering to students with special needs.

At St. Mary’s Warrick Hospital in Boonville, Indiana, the Gibson-Warrick-Pike Special Education Cooperative and Southern Indiana Resource Solutions have come together to offer students with disabilities a chance to get real world job experience.

The hospital’s program, SEARCH, is based on a nationally recognized program that was started at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

The program offers internship experience to adults ages 18-21. The goal of these internships is to prepare these students for a full-time, real world job in the future.

The program offers students the chance to work in various areas of the hospital, learning about each department and gaining skills they can use in future jobs. The program runs for thirty weeks and is broken into ten week rotations.

Students have a daily agenda. This includes an hour of classroom instruction on employment and independent living skills, two hours of job rotations, lunch, another two hours of job rotations and one hour of classroom instruction. Topics can cover anything from personal hygiene to current events. Job coaches are provided throughout the day to offer guidance and assistance to the students.

Students get to be involved in many areas. They spend time working with medical records, environmental and custodial services, food and nutrition services, health information management, mail room and delivery, data entry and much more.

If the students spend the entire academic year in Project SEARCH, they receive a portfolio of their work experiences including pictures, recognitions and letters of recommendation that would be very useful for future employment.

The main goal of this program is to have the students build independent living skills. Organizers want to be a part of a team that builds those skills that will land these students better jobs when they graduate. By learning these necessary skills, students can work towards future jobs and goals with confidence.

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