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Listen to This – New Ways of Teaching Special Needs Students

Staying focused is often a challenging task for students with special needs. The Adams 12 Five Star School District decided to change the approach of teaching students with autism and other learning disabilities. At Rocky Mountain Elementary School in Westminster, Colorado, a change has been made. This started as an Integrated Listening System (ILS) pilot last year and is now being planned to expand.

They have been implementing these new teaching strategies with special needs students. By combining music and physical activities, the students work to help the brain process multi-sensory information. For example, a few times a week, some students puts on a headset and listen to music that was picked specifically for their brain functions. Exercises with a physical therapist also are done to stimulate different parts of the brain at the same time.

An example of this process could be balancing on one foot while reciting the alphabet. The music is played through headphones and also through another speaker that is placed at the top of the student’s head to send vibrations through the skull to the inner ear. With the changes in these frequencies, students with different types of learning disabilities are affected.

For many students, it helps them focus. Being able to hear noise and perform a task translates into better focus and attention in the classroom. The student featured in this video has made successful progress since starting the program. Other students have made progression both in and out of the classroom thanks to this program.

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Future Ideas from Students for Assistive Technology

At the end of April I had a post about how my Computer Applications students were learning about disabilities and assistive technology.  The focus of their learning was on Stephen Hawking.  One of the assignments/challenges that I had them complete was to come up with creative ideas for assistive technology tools that could be used by special education students.  The goal was for them to come up with ideas that can make learning or life experiences easier for students.  Below are some of the outcomes from this project.

The Universal Universe Remote

Alissa T. designed a technology device she coined the “Universal Universe Remote.”  She ‘invented’ this device for individuals who have been paralyzed from the waist down.  These users would still need ability to use their arms and hands.  It would be shaped like a remote control and allow the user to control household items like a cell phone, home phone, lights, doors, and household appliances like the washer, shower, toilet, and sinks.  I would be able to turn appliances on and off (or flush), or assist in completing the task from a distance.  Her idea would also be great for any other users with mobility issues or accessibility issues for reaching household items.

The Sonar Detector Suit

Corrine S. invented the “Sonar Detector Suit.”  This suit was created for individuals who are blind.  It is a waterproof wet suit that has built in technology to detect the edges of a pool.  This would allow blind people to swim laps in a pool.  When the swimmer was close to the edge of the pool or near another object the suit would vibrate.  Depending on the item detected and distance, it would vary in vibration or in intensity.  This would allow blind people to swim more independently.

The Image Creator & The E-Talk

Dan S. developed a complex device to help individuals who are blind called the “Image Creator.”  This small device would be an implant that would be surgically inserted into the brain.  It would then be connected to a video camera device that would be implanted to the outside of the skull.  It would then transmit the images into their mind.  The users would then be able to have freedom of mobility be more secure.  This would help to increase their independence.  A similar device was created by Dominique S.  Her device implanted into the brain would allow individuals with the inability to speak to share their thoughts.  The device would read the mind and then it would be spoken out through a computer device.  There would be a feature to make sure that all of their thoughts wouldn’t be heard if they didn’t want them to be.

The Sign-Phone

Josefina B. created a device that has a lot of potential given today’s current developments of technology.  She designed a cell phone that has the ability to include a video phone/web cam style feature.  This would allow individuals with hearing impairments to ‘speak’ over the phone using sign language.

I hope you enjoyed these inventive ideas. Please feel free to pass along any of these great ideas to any inventors and entrepreneurs out there!  My students and I would love to see them help out individuals with disabilities all around the world in the future!

Article by Laura Ketcham

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Technology in the Classroom: Are We Moving Too Fast?

In order to be able to envision the future, we have to be willing to examine the present. Futurist Edward Cornish coined the term “super trends” to define observable patterns of changes which occur over time and serve as catalysts to progress or destruction within a society (Cornish 2004). Super trends have global importance, even though the effects of each trend presentation may vary in different locales due to their culture or stage of development. Cornish describes six super trends that are easily interconnected: technological progress, economic growth, improving health, increasing mobility, environmental decline, and increasing deculturation (Cornish, 2004).

The super trend of technological growth will have the greatest impact on our future because it incorporates every aspect of our lives and is quickly leading towards the essence of human life, biotechnology (Cornish, 2004). It is easy to observe the preponderance of technological growth in today’s society. Children have cellular telephones; we can simultaneously view and speak to relatives around the world on our home computers at minimal cost, and teachers can teach via the virtual classroom with all of its amenities.

Technological Progress and Educational Reform

As an educator, this super trend is paramount because the current mode of instruction in a public school system is devised for the students in an industrial revolution. There is increasing public outcry for educational reform (Thrasher et al, 2010) and requests for students to be academically prepared to compete on a global scale, yet international competence would entail technological literacy for students and teachers alike. On the contrary, when teachers request less outdated resources for instruction, they are told that effective teaching is dependent on good teachers and not the materials used in the classroom. Sentiments such as these have been touted by laymen and public figures alike, such as the Head of the National Department of Education Arne Duncan and President Barack Obama, via the current Race to the Top National Education Initiative (Duncan, 2009). In order to prepare students for the future, we have to be able to see what it will entail and embrace it.

The Cost of Technological Growth

On a personal level, this technological growth can be frightening. Perhaps the greatest cost to our society will be ones that are the least valued, our culture and our families. Technology provides convenience for many of life’s obligations, but it also affects our health and isolates us from one another. Obesity increases as we spend more time in our cars or on our computers as opposed to working outside and connecting with our environment. Relationships are strained due to increased productivity at work from technological advancements, leaving little room for a healthy work-life balance. It appears that we could be moving too fast, without enough time for the most valuable aspects of our humanity to be included. Unless we shape the future differently or a natural occurrence brings this growth to a halt, we just may be too late (Cornish 2004).

Article by Tai Collins

References

Cornish, Edward. (2004) Futuring: The Exploration of the future. Bethesda, Maryland: World Future Society (pp. 23-27, 19, 36).

Duncan, Arne. (2009-2010) Elevating the teaching profession. American Educator 33.4, 3-5.

Senators Thrasher, Gaetz, Detert, Wise, Constantine, Richter, Peaden, and Storms Florida Senate. (2010) Senate bill six (SB6), 1-61. Retrieved from

www.flsenate.gov/data/session/2010/Senate/bills/billtext/pdf/s0006.pdf

What do you think?

Are we moving too fast?

Is the prevalence of technology positive or negative for society, for humanity, for our students?

Does technology isolate us from others or connect us with others? strain or enhance relationships? motivate or hypnotize our students?

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A Lesson Worth Learning – Special Needs Education

You can learn something new from everyone in the world. Wilson Buswell, a man with cerebral palsy, who cannot speak and uses blinks and stares to answer yes-no questions, is just one example of someone to learn something from.

Wilson helps teach a course at the University of Colorado on how to teach students with special needs. The course is aimed at students who want to become special education teachers, specifically for those students with significant support needs.

Just by being present in the room, Wilson is real proof that everyone can and should be included in everyday learning situations. With so many students fighting for inclusion, this is a perfect way to see inclusion at its finest. His parents are also involved with disability-rights movements and helping families with dealing with children with disabilities.

A course that offers information on teaching special needs students and also offers first-hand advice from a special needs instructor provides practical information for its students. Wilson presents PowerPoint presentations to the students on his life experiences from a personal perspective. With the research and strategies presented from the other teacher, the class really gets a good look into the life of someone with a disability like cerebral palsy.

Many teachers and students have a fear of dealing with students with disabilities because they don’t know how to act around them. If we teach students to include all students in everyday learning situations, we are also teaching them that everyone is the same, even though we may act or speak differently. The lessons Wilson teaches to the students will only prepare them for their future careers in dealing with people who are just like him.

Picture By: torres21

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Growing Towards the Future – Special Education Experience

Sometimes it’s the little things in life that add up.

At South-Doyle Middle School in Knoxville, Tennessee, special education teacher, Brad Bowles got a group of his students together who weren’t afraid of a little dirt to help him build and grow a beautiful garden.

Brad wanted to create an outdoor learning environment for his students. By working together, they have created a garden full of various fruits and vegetables. Teamwork, according to Brad, is the secret to making your garden grow.

Despite the fact that the students have different disabilities and some use wheel chairs, they still work hard at helping the garden grow. The practice they get with the garden is giving them hands-on experience for real life job and life skills.

The students in the class had to apply for each job that they currently have. They dressed up and filled out applications. They then interviewed with their teacher and principal. Tears of joy when they got accepted for these positions proved to everyone how important this was for them. Little joys like these are great for learning important skills for the real world.

The class hopes to soon be able to add a picnic table and a shed to their gardening class. With academic skills, job skills and social interaction with the whole school, this is a great opportunity for students to learn and grow.

The students in the class take pride in their jobs. They each hold a different role and responsibility towards helping the garden grow. Working together, they can help each other work towards the future.

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All for One and One for All – Special Education Inclusion

Since special education students are often separated into their own classes and groups for specific instruction, oftentimes the rest of the school does not get the chance to interact with them.

At a high school in New Jersey, students are trying to change that. A group of general education students visit the special needs students on their lunch break and spend time talking and walking with them. They feel doing this brings special needs students more into the real world, instead of having them spend time only with other special education students.

By simply spending a little time with these students each day, they get to experience a social setting or interaction that they would not normally get in their classroom.

Two dozen students from nearby New Jersey high schools are planning a rally this spring to bring attention to how the schools can better integrate students with disabilities on a daily basis. They have already gained attention of officials in the state Education Department.

The students are selling yellow T-shirts that say “Include Me!” to help raise awareness in the school and the community. They also plan to participate in a walkathon to benefit Pathways for Exceptional Children, an advocacy group for children with disabilities.

Through this program, 8,000 nondisabled children in 40 communities have learned how to socialize and communicate with their disabled classmates. They’ve been trained by doing everyday activities together, from sports to making art and going to the movies.

The special needs students in the local high schools love the inclusion that they get from the general education students. It also goes to show how the general students can and should easily interact with the special needs students.

Students also learned how to approach classmates with disabilities that they may have been unsure about before. By integrating students in school they will be more prepared for the real world where they will encounter all different types of people.

Photo By: Zawezome

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A Special Program for Special Education

Sometimes it is hard to find a specific program that is right for your child. The good news is that if children are diagnosed as being a special needs student at an early age, there are plenty of opportunities to help them.

At Mercy Children’s Hospital in Ohio, an early intervention program provides specialized learning specifically for autistic children. Their intensive preschool provides early intervention for children diagnosed with autism at such an early age.

The program serves a dozen autistic children for 24 hours a week. With 1,500 hours of total therapy, children are heavily prepared for school and other social situations they may come across at an early age. Because autistic children require individualized instruction and research shows the autistic children have better outcomes if they receive early intervention, the hospital program mainly focuses on individualized instruction.

Because each child has different needs and ways of learning, they all receive instruction in speech therapy, occupational therapy and behavioral consulting. Some students have proved so successful with this program that they quickly transferred to regular preschools.

ProMedica Health System is considering offering an early intervention program for autistic children. With the help of other local community groups, they hope to open an autism center at Toledo’s Children’s Hospital for families to utilize related services.

Parents have praised the program for how much it has helped their children not only communicate but be less frustrated and do more for themselves. With the program proving successful, hopefully others will follow in their footsteps and open more opportunities for our children.

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You Are What You Eat – Food Education

If there is one thing that Americans do greatly, it is that they eat.

America is one of the unhealthiest countries in the world. Children in today’s society will live lives shorter than their own parents because of the food they are eating. Diet-related diseases are increasing and are currently the biggest cause of death in the United States today.

Famous chef and food advocate Jamie Oliver came to the United States to start a “food revolution”. He spends much of his time campaigning against the use of processed foods in national schools and poor cooking habits. Starting in West Virginia, the unhealthiest state, he talked to real people about their real habits. He shows a young girl who has only a few years to live because of the food choices she has made. He shows another woman and her children who just like other Americans, were never taught to cook at home and eat highly processed foods. He shows more young people that have experienced deaths of close family members all due to obesity. These deaths don’t just affect that person; it affects their children, friends, peers and everyone else around them.

Jamie sees the problem of obesity as a triangle between the home, school and the main street, or modern day life. The main street is where fast food has taken over the country. As the supermarkets and big companies take power, most foods that Americans eat are those that are largely processed and full of extra additives and ingredients. Portion size and labeling are also huge problems that we have in our country.

As life changes, we have to step back and readjust the balance. School food is something most children have twice a day and for that reason is very important and he stresses this through the video. School cafeterias are run by people who don’t have enough food knowledge. We are not teaching kids enough about the food. There is a clip where Jamie goes to an elementary school and asks the kids what certain vegetables are. They can’t seem to name any of the ones he shows them. If they do not know what they are, they either have not eaten them or will not eat them. It is this alarming fact that helps us realize that we have to start teaching our kids about food in school.

The good news about all of this bad news is that it is preventable. To make real change, big brands need to put food education at the heart of their business. Work places need to offer fresh food. Schools need to cook proper and fresh food for the children. Life skills like recipes that children can make, need to be learned.

If change can be made in this country, starting with properly educating our children about food, beautiful things will happen in this world.

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