Through the use of technology we can give children voices and autonomy in the classroom, also allow them to develop confidence, access the curriculum and be seen in a new light by their peers.

August 16, 2015 § Leave a comment

As a special education teacher and soon to be technology specialist I like to look at what having high tech solutions look and feel like to all team members involved.

Technology when used correctly with all parties, well trained and on board can create a way for students to cross bridges that allow them to access curriculum and participte in ways that were inaccessible before.

Watching children who can not use their voice to speak  instead use an augmentitive communication device to participate in class is a game changer for that child. It puts them on an even playing field as their classmates.

But it’s not that simple you see, so much goes into making sure that moment is successful.

1.  Both the teacher, specialist and child must be fluid with using the device.

2. The child should practice using the device with the specialist and teacher in the same fashion and with the same types of questions used into the classroom. Practice leads to success.

3.  The first few instances of practicing in the classroom should be coordinated between the teacher specialist and child.  A simple wink from the specialist so the teacher calls next in that student to answer a practiced question is discrete and helps the child build autonomy.  It also begins to show classroom peers that the nonverbal child does truly have a voice all their own.

4. Practices like these above become built on during the introductory stages but as all team members become experts more organic and spontaneous interactions begin to happen. That’s when things become breathtakingly cool!

But what about the teacher who doesn’t have time to “deal” or who sees it as the specialist job?   Hey, it’s true that teacher is busy and learning how to do this probably was not part of the deal that they had in mind. It becomes one more thing on their plate that is super difficult to get to.  

How does it feel for the child to be using the one with the device?  I am unsure.   I imagine their feelings change with age.   It’s cool at first when they are little, but iver time the novelty wears off.  I bet when a button gets stuck and they say the word over and over its really embarrassing.  I bet when they have something to say and that language hasn’t been properly programmed in its super frustrating!

So as you see this effort for everyone to feel successful must be collaborative. It must involve extra planning time, communication in advance about upcoming curriculum and what is salient to learn for that child.  It can be done – I’ve done it! It can work!

What about the student who used technology for organization, writing, research and to foster executive function skills?  At this level kids are usually a bit older – sometimes resistent because they want to be the same as everyone else. This is a problem in which the teacher can be a huge help.  Teaching the child to feel proud to be using the correct tools opens up another avenue for universal design and self-discovery in the class room where every child learns about which particular tools they need to be successful.  It’s a great opportunity for discussion that everyone uses/gets what they need to learn.

This type of technology in the older set requires more than just encouragement and support – it requires direct instruction for the student using the device .  It requires that the child’s team is all trained and fluid with using the same programs the child is using.  

On several occasions I’ve seen a scribe used for my daughter instead of her typing her own work simply because the paraprofessional  couldn’t be bothered with helping her access the program correctly or didn’t know how.  In that one moment when a decision like that is made you take away a child’s autonomy. You damage their confidence and you send a message that it’s just too much work to do it that way. It sends a message that the technology is a bother and I’m pretty sure that would make any child feel bad.

As educators we MUST be dedicated to the use of technology for our students who need it to access all parts of their school day. Yes, it’s an extra responsibility that you didn’t plan for but the reward from the successes are grand and fulfilling!!

Giving children voices and autonomy in the classroom, allows them to develop confidence, access the curriculum and be seen as equals by their peers.

Technology is the great equalizer when used properly!

She didn’t even know how powerful the words were…

August 6, 2015 § Leave a comment

The past couple of weeks I have been joining my very good friend to go see a personal trainer.

There is a whole back story about how I knew this trainer years ago.  She is the reason I started my love affair with yoga and eventually started teaching.

10 years ago after Arianna was diagnosed I struggled emotionally in ways that I choose to try to forget.  The impact of learning that your child is “different”, will struggle and that there’s not much you can do about it is devastating.  (Although 10 years later I feel completely different and believe her diagnosis/disability has been a gift for us all to learn many things and mostly she brings conatant joy!)   In the “dark days” I couldn’t relax.  I had so many emotions, fear, anger, anxiety – the list goes on.  I kept seeking relief through exercise – I ran – I ran like I was being chased by a tiger! And while I was running if no one was around I would scream – primal screams!  It felt good but winter came quickly and I had to find a new outlet.  I was tired and thought I would try yoga because “it would be easy, right?”  HA!! Enter the amazing trainer – who is also an amazing yoga teacher.  I had entered power yoga. We must have done 100 Sun Salutations that first day.  I had to pay attention to keep the flow, I had to abandon my thoughts to stay on pace with the class and listen – “inhale, exhale…” Oh yeah and it made me breathe – I think I had been holding my breath for months!  At the end of the first class we of course ended with shirvasana and for the first time ever since “D day” I relaxed. The minute I did, lying there in a pile of sweat on a borrowed mat, I began to cry!  In front of everyone the tears just kept rolling down my face – I had found my release.

It wasn’t long before I practiced yoga all the time and pursued my certification.  I had left teaching at the school and found a way  to combine my two passions – special education and yoga. I created a business called yoga adaptations and taught yoga to people with a multitude of disabilities.  It was an amazing experience.

Three years later, I got a call from my current job. They were looking for a Special Edication Teacher.  With the stress of the new job my yoga business and practice quickly became a thing of the past.

Fast forward to three weeks ago.  At the personal trainers home and it is the same teacher that ignited my passion 10 years earlier.  We work out, she kicks our butts, “lift, push, slow down, hold!” And then she ends our session finally with shirvasana.  Well don’t ya know …. Total PTSD moment! All of those emotions I had felt that first day came rushing back. Her voice, my breathing, … the release.  Again, flood gates opened.  I shared my story with her.

I was there again last night – I was extremely silly.  I just was giggling about everything, especially my lack of coordination! But I tried to focus, I listened and even in my silliest moment I heard her words.  They resonated in a way she didn’t even intend.  They had become the lessons I have learned over the years – the lessons taught to me from our journey as a family.

“When you get to the top, pause”

Isn’t that powerful? Really we need to stop and pause and realize the beauty of our kids successes no matter how big or small. We need to bask in it, take it in because if we don’t we are onto the next struggle in a blink!

“Exhale, release

Enough said really!

Inhale and open up through your heart.”

Oh I just love that one.  It just makes me think of opening my heart to the wonderful people in my life and breathing in all the beauty of the blessings around me.

To this very special woman – thank you!

You give your heart and soul to us each week.  You make me laugh, cry, and heal. And, you speak powerful words without realizing!  I am blessed to know you again. Thank you for helping me reconnect with my yoga and with myself!

Overcoming!

August 3, 2015 § 2 Comments

Tonight was an amazing night for our family.  The theme I would say would be “overcoming”.

Tonight my daughter took the stage for her first real drumming performance of her life.  It was in no way a typical “first concert”.  Her drum teacher, who rocks, (pun intended) invited Ari to play with his band during an Italian feast in Boston’s North End. 

She practiced for months.  She was excited and nervous and so were we. This was a huge undertaking given Arianna’s, anxiety, sound sensitivities, distraction and having never met or heard the band play before.  Also just the thought that sixth short months ago she had undergone one of the largest surgeries a person can go through having her entire thoracic spine fused with rods and screws.

But she overcame it all!

I can’t say it was the best I have ever heard her play but that’s not what mattered it was everything else that mattered.

Having my parents with us celebrating their 49 wedding anniversary – that mattered!  A whole different form of “overcoming” in its own way!

My mom, who is living with further metastasis of kidney cancer and deals with so much spinal pain from it made the journey into the city to be part of all of it! Talk about “overcoming”!

But most of all seeing my little girl up on that stage, overcoming every single obstacle she had to deal with in that moment made me the happiest person on Earth! She put her anxiety aside, she didn’t let the noise get to her and even when the band members started doing a crazy dance right next to her she drummed right through it – not letting the distraction of them or the ever growing crowd get the best of her! 

Maybe people watched her, not seeing all these hidden obstacles or even the less hidden giant noise canceling headphone  or the top of her spinal scar showing and thought that she was not anything special. But, had they seen it from my eyes, dealt with the hours of therapies, naysayers, medications, and doctor appointments – then they would have seen just how amazing tonight truly was for our family and for my daughter.

I owe all of my love and gratitude to her drum teacher, who has never doubted her, not even for a second! He has challenged her while knowing her limits at the same time!  He is truly an angel on Earth for us! Thank you for loving our girl the way you do and giving her the opportunity you did tonight!  You have helped her overcome so much and believe in herself! We love you❤️
  
 

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