Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Great Idea!!


I saw this video today by Sarah Brown Wessling of Johnston High School in Iowa, and I just had to share!  What a fantastic way to critique students' writing! I taught developmental writing to college freshman for many years, and if I were still teaching, I would use this technique in a heartbeat!

If you watch the video, you will see Ms. Wessling reviewing comments regarding a student's essay.  Each comment is numbered, so when she records her comments on the iPod, the student knows exactly what sentence she is discussing and what point she is making.  This technique allows her to go into a deeper explanation of the problem without spending an excessive amount of time writing comments that students usually don't read!

For those of you working with students with disabilities, this would be a very effective way to teach editing skills.  I especially like the technique because it is adaptable to any level of work.  Students always respond best to a multi-modal approach, and this strategy combines a visual approach with a personal auditory explanation.  Her final comment "...and they listen" says it all!

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Wounded Veteran and College Accommodations

Many of our wounded military heroes are returning home and taking classes at college but may be reluctant to seek class accommodations for medical issues sustained during military service.  Toughing out the pain is a normal desire, and we all do it.  However, physical and emotional pain impacts the ability to perform in class or at the top of one's game on tests.

Colleges can accommodate all manner of disability issues, including Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Military personnel who are returning to college and using their GI benefits will begin the registration process with the VA representative on campus.  Some VA reps will refer the veteran to disability services when necessary, but some may not think of it.  Every college campus has a disability representative and asking the VA rep to refer you to the disability office will help.  You can also look up disability services on the website for contact information.

If you are concerned about revealing your health issues, be assured that the professionals in the disability services offices understand confidentiality and will do their best to protect your privacy.  If you have any concerns about privacy and confidentiality, ask your questions and find out the procedures.  Identifying your disability details to your professors is not required.  When the disability office professionals have your documentation, they will arrange accommodations for you to share with your professors, but the reasons for the accommodations should remain confidential.

Sometimes, military medical documentation for the disability services office can be tricky.  The best advice I can give is to speak to the disability services professional and discuss your options.  You may already have forms in your paperwork that you can use, or you may need  to get additional documentation.  Sometimes disability services offices will take forms on a temporary basis while you get more specific information for them.

Discuss your accommodation needs with the disability office.  If you need extended time for tests due to pain or challenges concentrating, that should be an easy fix.  Most professors have an attendance policy.  Additional absences or leaving class may impact your grade if you do not make arrangements through the disability office for disability-related absences or the ability to leave class if needed.  If you need disability-related absences for medical conditions or PTSD flair-ups, then you may also qualify for that accommodation as well, depending upon your diagnosis and documentation.

If your disability issues affect your ability to finish the classes for the semester, your disability office may also be able to help you with that accommodation.  Work with both the VA rep and disability rep though if you are having trouble completing the semester so that you understand your options and don't get surprised by the results.

Be assured, if you are a wounded veteran returning to college, professionals are in place to help you succeed, but policies and procedures can be complicated.  Always follow up with those who know the process well.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Modifications and Accommodations: Understanding the Difference

As your children with disabilities are graduating from high school and heading to college, the process for seeking accommodations in their college classes suddenly changes.  These kids are used to mom, dad, and teachers handling everything behind the scenes, and most of them just go with the flow.  College is a whole new game.  The first critical step is to self-identify.  The playing field has now shifted, and your child must initiate the process.  Because the students are now 18, they are the legal adults, and they are in the driver's seat!

Most students with disabilities understand the accommodations they need and should be capable of explaining their needs to others.  If you son or daughter is unable or uncomfortable speaking to others, you might want to consider some practice before going to the college.  Do a little role playing, but first you be the student; let your child be the interviewer.  Then reverse the process.  If you do go with your son or daughter for the first visit, try hard to stay in the background.  The professionals in the disability offices are used to speaking to students who are nervous or anxious, and they should be able to put your child as ease.  Your son or daughter will be in college classes without you.  You are not doing them any favors if you are still handling everything for them.

Your child will be seeking accommodations, not modifications.  A modification changes the basic structure and outcome of the course; an accommodation allows the students to share their knowledge without the impact the disability may cause.  Think about it this way:  If a student needs to learn how to do CPR, a modification would be only learning half the process...not a good idea!  When a student earns a college degree, the college is saying that the student has met all the requirements of the degree program.  By law, the college cannot make modifications to their courses.  If a student needs a course substitution because of a disability, then that matter would also be taken up with the professionals in the disability services office.

A calculator may be an accommodation, but it might be a modification.  If the purpose of the class is to teach basic math skills and processes, then a calculator could be a modification.  If the purpose of the class is to teach math concepts, then the calculator would likely be an accommodation.  Again, the professionals in the disability office can talk to you about the differences.

A typical accommodation is extended test time.  If instructors require their students to learn 50 vocabulary words and follow up with a test, then the student needs to discuss possible accommodations with the disability office.  An accommodation might be extra time when taking the test, or it might be splitting the test into two sessions.  It would NOT be only learning 25 words; learning only 25 words would be a modification.

The important point to remember is that any problem, large or small, must be handled by the student and brought to the attention of the disability services office as soon as possible.  Waiting until the end of the semester is usually too late to fix a problem. Students who come back at the end of the semester and announce they had problems with their accommodations may find themselves living with the consequences!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

More on the Speech Journal App by Kyle Tomson

On my last entry I spoke about Speech Journal.  For those of you who are interested, check out this link to Kyle Tomson's site! He has many other apps that you might find helpful! http://mobile-educationstore.com/

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Using Speech Journal iPad App with Your Students

Do you use iPads with your students?  Have you tried the app called Speech Journal? It is $1.99 and worth every penny!!  My current position includes working with young adults with intellectual disabilities who are part of college inclusion programs.  I stumbled upon Speech Journal, and it has made a huge difference in our students' abilities to communicate and share experiences.  The process is simple.  Take lots of pictures of something and then narrate the story with the pictures. Our students use Speech Journal at their internships, community lessons, and social activities, but the applications are endless!  One speech journal showed a trip to a cell phone store.  The student and mentor took pictures of our student entering the store, checking out the products, and looking at the cell phone plans.  They then came back to campus where they decided which pictures to use in the journal and how the student would narrate the event.  The mentor asked questions and the student shared her responses.  Some students prefer to write out and plan their script while others prefer to just express themselves as they see the pictures.  Some mentors are move involved in the process while others can step back and just be supportive.  We have used Speech Journal as a training task reminder.  The supervisor takes pictures of the steps and narrates the process.  The student then takes the iPad, watches the Speech Journal entry, and follows the directions. Students and staff can use this app at self-directed IEP meetings, mock interviews, and football games!  One mentor showed a student the steps to making spaghetti!  He was a residential mentor who struggled with teaching students how to cook simple foods, but now anyone can pick up the iPad and follow the steps!

I like this app in particular because it works with any age student.  The sample shows a young child making a bowl of cereal, but it works for any age, including adults who are demonstrating a complex lesson.   It can work at school, home, or at a job site.  There are a few drawbacks. The final journal entry cannot be emailed because the file is to large for email addresses, but the user should be able take the finished product, turn it into an iMovie, and share it via Dropbox.  I still need to try that process out.  Also, a student can rerecord their words as much as possible, but once they are happy with the frame and move on, the student cannot go back and change anything.

All in all, Speech Journal is a fantastic way to help any child or adult with a disability to express thoughts and share stories...and it's fun!!http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/speech-journal/id436945985?mt=8