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Access to the Curriculum - Part 1

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Hello and thank you for joining us today.

My name is Shawna Benson and I am a Regional Coach for OCALI. Also presenting with me in today's session is Lisa Combs, who is also a Regional Coach with OCALI.

This webinar is the first in a four part series entitled Low Incidence Disabilities: Access to the Curriculum. Low Incidence disabilities are also known by several other names including multiple disabilities, intensive disabilities, severe/profound disabilities, etc. For the purposes here we will follow the state licensure categories that include mild, moderate and intensive disability types. We will be focusing on intensive disabilities.

Today's webinar will focus on Building Dispositions or understanding and beliefs about learners with Low Incidence Disabilities. Students with these disability types, although small in number, may have many in our education system feeling a bit out of their element when providing access to the curriculum. In today's webinar we will attempt to raise the level of general knowledge about Low Incidence Disabilities and help those who are unaware to become aware and accepting. If we can raise this general awareness we stand a better chance of improving overall perceptions of practitioners across the state and open up a world of possibilities for this little known population of students.

Our objectives for today's webinar are for each participant to begin seeing that, inside each student, there is a story to be written....a story of limitless potential and the possibility of greatness. For some of these students this may take the form of a college education, a ground breaking career, while for others it may mean having their own apartment, an active leisure schedule and a job they enjoy. Just as with all individuals, those with disabilities desire a happy, balanced and fulfilling life. To enable all learners to attain their personal goals, we will work toward developing the disposition or attitude in all educators that every student is a valuable, contributing member of the learning community. We hope participants will join us for the entire webinar series to gain a broad understanding of how to help students with disabilities access the general curriculum with age appropriate activities that stimulate and motivate active student learning. In the series, you will learn how to tier the curriculum to meet a variety of learner needs and plan for the use of modified materials, assistive technology and differentiated instructional planning. Today's webinar will focus on the attitudes and dispositions necessary to build an inclusive climate that supports individuals with low incidence disabilities.

In order to set the tone for today's work, we would like to introduce you to a remarkable young man with a low incidence disability who has overcome many barriers in his quest for a fulfilling a successful life as a COLLEGE STUDENT, with the help, support and encouragement of his family, friends and educators.

As you watched the video of Patrick Henry Hughes, you may have been focused on what a remarkable young man Patrick is. Oftentimes when we see stories of great success of an individual with disabilities, we are struck by the resilience and tenacity of the individual themselves. And, indeed, it takes a special type of person to have the tenacity and perseverance to overcome the challenges of being born with significant disabilities, and that is something that draws both inspiration and ADMIRATION. But in reality, most times the stories of these individuals are at least partially the result of the caring, concern, knowledge and commitment of many people surrounding the individual, in addition to the efforts and determination of the individual. Just for the moment, let's focus on who else in Patrick's life, besides Patrick himself, has contributed to his story of success. It is instantly obvious that Patrick's parents had a positive attitude from day one of their son's arrival in their life....a belief that focusing on, encouraging and supporting the development of his abilities was of at least equal and even greater importance than focusing on trying to remediate and accommodate his disabilities. Patrick's band director demonstrated that it is possible and beneficial for those outside the IMMEDIATE FAMILY to identify new challenges and opportunities to offer the individual that even those closest to them may not have imagined possible. Obviously the other band members supported and assisted the involvement and incorporation of Patrick into the marching formations. We saw that the COLLEGE allowed accommodations for Patrick to have the support to excel academically as well as musically. Today's work will focus on the development of the dispositions, or attitudes and awareness, necessary to support exceptional outcomes for exceptional learners. Our hope is that today's webinar will help you see yourself as a potential co-author of an inspirational story like Patrick's and begin imagining the possibilities for every learner.

This tiny group of students generally makes up approximately 1-2% of the school age population in local school districts.

Because of the rarity, many of these students and their families are educating teachers, other students and administrators in districts about these diagnoses and exceptionalities where a strong foundational knowledge and instructional practice may often be lacking. These students encompass a broad spectrum of diagnoses with a full continuum of cognitive functioning requiring a full continuum of educational placements.

There are 13 classifications for disability by Ohio standards. Several of these classifications are considered to be Low Incidence by category, including, Blindness/low vision, Hearing Impaired, Deaf-Blindness, Other Health Impaired, Orthopedic Impairment, Multiple Disabilities, etc. Often these Low Incidence disabilities come with high levels of complexity in regards to instruction and access.

As we know under IDEA students with all disability types have guaranteed rights.

During the decision making process for least restrictive environment, or LRE, many things need to be considered. What environmental supports are needed for the student? What does the student need to learn? How will they show others what they know? Is Assistive Technology needed to support their learning? If yes, what specifically? Will there be a need for special services, or example speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy? What does the student's transition plan suggest they need for future independence?

Each district should offer students a continuum of placement options and services. This placement range should include all day, every day inclusion with supports and services to separate facilities including hospital and home settings and everything in between.

The determination for each student's LRE should be based on individual learning needs and assessment data, rather than an identification or classification of disability. IEP and ETR/MFE teams should discuss all options for educational placements before decisions are made. Decisions for placement should never be made based on disability label or district identified "units", "classes", "openings" or teachers. Each student's placement should be unique and designed specifically to their unique educational needs. Placements should offer opportunities for age appropriate social interactions, academic benefit, special services, as needed, in line with future preparation for the student.

Let's take a look at some examples offered in this continuum of least restrictive environment.

First we'll take a look at this young man with Down Syndrome who is fully included in an elementary school classroom.

Next we'll take a look at this kindergartener with visual impairments as she instructs other non-disabled children in the use of Braille to access the general curriculum.

In this next video segment you'll see a college student who uses her Dynavox communication device to go beyond just basic communication to actually pursuing her own musical dreams.

At the other end of the age continuum, take a look at how an Early Childhood teacher incorporates a more basic communication device to assist a preschooler in fully participating the group circle time.

And lastly, take a look at this group of students with hearing impairments who are taking advantage of a specialized class in American Sign Language to help them improve their communication skills.

In the novel Stuck in Neutral, the main character's LRE has been determined to be a resource room in a public school building. He describes his placement from his very own perspective as "The Severely/Profoundly Handicapped Special Education program at Shoreline Elementary". He says it's an amazing piece of work. There are only seven of use kids in the room, along with our teacher Mrs. Hare, and two teacher's assistants Becky and William. " "I'm making all of this sound normal and sane. Mrs. Hare, William and Becky are fine but that's where normalcy and sanity end. The zoo is not like any other schoolroom you've ever seen. Although we're located at Shoreline High School, we're not really part of it." This is from a perspective of a young man who has high intelligence that is questioned by those around him who see him only based on his physical attributes due to the severe nature of his physical disability.

Petey is a novel that depicts the life of a young man who from a young age has been placed and educated in a segregated facility. In this quote Petey is desperately trying to avoid getting food particles on his clothing as he has overheard a conversation about the staff poisoning the mice that visit him in the evening. He has developed a fondness for watching them and knows that if they continue to visit they will be killed.

Now that we have looked at a continuum of placement examples, we are going to talk about the staff development that may be required to put some of these LRE placement opportunities into action in local districts.

All staff, including paraprofessionals and content specialists, need specific training and ongoing support when partnering to educate students with Low Incidence disabilities. This may include the need for training in: Co-Teaching; Team Planning Differentiating Instruction; Tiered Planning; Environmental Supports; Curriculum Access; Assistive Technology and Related Services necessary to facilitate the student's success.

In developing the foundation of support for learners with Low Incidence disabilities, it is helpful to have some core beliefs for all stakeholders. A key to successful inclusion of Low Incidence learners is developing an attitude of ownership. Ownership is the concept of shared responsibility for the success of every learner. In order to have shared ownership, it is essential that we recognize every learner's inherent value. No learner has to justify their presence in the school or classroom...every child belongs. In addition, it is critical for all stakeholders to have the genuine belief that all people have limitless potential and that our role as educators is to unlock that potential in each child. Extending that concept is the belief that inaction can be as detrimental as taking the wrong action. As educators, it is essential that we strive to take positive action daily to involve, support and encourage all learners to reach their greatest potential by providing them respectful work, sufficient support, high expectations and the opportunities to build meaningful relationships and pursue their dreams.

Many students with Low Incidence disabilities will need specialized therapy, medical support, specialized instruction and assessments that must all come together in daily education to prepare students for life long independence at varying levels.

For example: This is Kevin. He is 16 years old. Kevin's family and IEP team knew that he would need curriculum/academics that will lead him to independent living and work. He has been included in science, social studies and economics classes with individual and small group instruction in the areas of reading, writing and mathematics. While following the general curriculum Kevin's teachers made sure that while exploring content based topics Kevin was also learning applications related to functional, career, and life skills, and at the same time, practicing reading and writing skills using accommodations and Assistive Technology that are unique to him. If Kevin were one of your students his special services would include Speech Language Pathology, Occupational Therapy, Adapted Physical Education, and Transition to Work Supervision.

Resources and supports can come from many places. Some of our resources will come from within our own building and district. Other supports may come from state agencies and families. Collaboration and partnerships are essential to make this all come together.

Listen now as we review the success stories of several people you probably have heard of. As you listen, give some thought to what factors played into their phenomenal successes.

The story of Helen Keller is one of a highly intelligent child who contracted an illness at the age of 19 months causing her to lose both her hearing and vision. She overcame these overwhelming odds to become a sensitive and committed philanthropist who dedicated her life to the betterment of life for others.

The illness that took Helen Keller's hearing and vision is thought to have been scarlet fever. As Helen grew into childhood she was considered wild and unmanageable, with little comprehension, or interaction with the world around her. However, her life changed forever when she was seven years old and Anne Sullivan was hired to be her teacher. Later in life, Miss Keller always called the day her teacher arrived the most important day in her life.

Miss Sullivan brought with her a handmade doll for her new student. By spelling "d-o-l-l" into Helen's hand using sign language, she began to teach her to connect objects with letters. Although Helen quickly learned to form the letters as instructed for doll and many other words it took much longer for her to understand the meaning of the concepts she was spelling. Finally, one day she and her teacher were at the outdoor pump and Miss Sullivan put

Helen's hand under the spout and spelled the word water "w-a-t-e-r" into her other hand. Helen's mind finally understood that the symbols had meaning. Eager to learn more, she stooped to touch the ground and demanded its name and by evening she had learned 30 more concepts.

Helen soon became fluent in both sign language and Braille and became an avid reader and writer. When she was ten years old, she demanded a speech teacher after she learned of another deaf-blind child who had learned to speak. Even as a child, Helen was determined to go to college. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree Cum Laude from Radcliffe in 1904 with the assistance of her teacher laboriously spelling each book and each lecture into her hand. Using a Braille typewriter, Helen Keller began a 50 year writing career, authoring numerous books and contributing to dozens of magazines and newspapers, most frequently on the topics of blindness, deafness and social issues, including women's rights. During her lifetime, Helen Keller received awards of great distinction too numerous to fully recount, including the United State's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her humanitarian work, and above all, for her own example of what a severely disabled person can accomplish.
Stephen Hawking is a British Research Physicist. He is most well-known for his ground breaking research in the field of Cosmology and Quantum Gravity. Hawking also has a Neuro-Muscular disability called ALS, a condition that has progressed over the years leaving him completely paralyzed and unable to speak. Despite this condition that many people would perceive as debilitating, Hawking has become a world-renowned scientist whose 40-year career has included dozens of distinctions and awards including the highest civilian honor bestowed upon any American, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The child of a research biologist, Hawking had a healthy and typical childhood, and knew from an early age that he wanted a career in math or science. After high school, he enrolled at Oxford University and began his study of Theoretical Physics. However, soon after his 21st birthday, he was diagnosed with ALS, also known in the U.S. as Lou Gehrig's disease. Although survival of more than 10 years after diagnosis is uncommon for ALS, and is oftentimes only 3-4 years, despite the dire outlook, Hawking went on to marry, begin a family and obtain his Ph.D. While doctors predicted he would not survive more than one or two years, despite gradually losing the use of his arms, legs, and voice, he is still leading an active and productive personal and professional life over 30 years later.

When we look at these two examples, what do we see as the keys to their inspirational stories? Both individuals were given opportunities to develop their skills as well as the supports and services to overcome their challenges. Both individuals had the blessing and high expectations from those around them as well as access to the latest technology to facilitate their communication, and above all else, they had their own determination and the determination of those supporting them that they would be able to accomplish their dreams.

Our new to do list should include action for our students. When others think there is no way, make a path. When others doubt potential offer students a way to show what they know. When questions are raised about the validity in including students with Low Incidence disabilities in the general curriculum show them how their careers were all born from interests in the content standards. Without all of these actions on our part we are saying that we are alright with statistics that say that only small numbers of our students find careers, have friends who contact them regularly and live independently.

Become an advocate for your child, student or friend. Teach individuals with Low Incidence disabilities to advocate for themselves. People who gain independence in life are driven by their passions, enjoy hobbies, have friends and gain all of these things through exposure, experience and education. Let us all strive to make these opportunities possible, thusly leading every student to their dreams for an enviable life.

Often times teachers find themselves uncomfortable or unsure of how to communicate effectively and offer support in a respectful way with learners who have significant differences. Some considerations for interacting with individuals with disabilities are similar to guidelines to interacting in a respectful way with non-disabled individuals. The first consideration is to see the person's abilities first, and focus on those. Each of us want to be recognized and regarded for the things we can do well, rather than have people focus on our limitations. In addition, and for the same reasons, it is always good protocol to ask someone if they need assistance before automatically assuming they do. Most individuals with disabilities desire the same thing that non-disabled individuals desire....to be seen and regarded as independent, competent and self-reliant individuals. It is important to practice the habit of speaking to individuals in an age-appropriate manner. While this may seem intuitive, a frequent complaint of individuals who may be small in stature or those who do not communicate verbally that people often speak "down" to them or speak in simplified language or what might be regarded as "baby talk". It is safe to assume that all individuals desire to be spoken to in a manner consistent with their age and the culture of their environment. Along with this, it is always a considerate act to position yourself to speak to others on eye level when possible. If speaking to an individual in a wheelchair, have a seat yourself when possible, so as to enable that person to look directly in your eyes and not have to look up to the speaker all of the time. It is always good to remember that individuals with disabilities know you may have questions or concerns about them and their disability. When you do have a question, most individuals are not offended by direct, respectful, open and honest questions that are directed to them with positive intent. By the same token, it is also important to respect the privacy and confidentiality of others and NOT ask questions of an overly personal nature that any non-disabled person would find offensive or intrusive.

One of the biggest ways we can impact the underexposed view of individuals with disabilities is to use People First Language and interact with persons with exceptionalities as we would interact with others of the same age.
When we write, communicate and educate we must always monitor our speech. To make changes we must model by saying did you mean a student who uses a wheelchair for mobility rather than wheelchair bound, or did you mean students who have an IEP rather than IEP kids?

How can you make changes in the dispositions of those you encounter?
People first language also implies avoiding language that would imply limitations...
such as, "Suffering from a condition". We don't use the term "victim of Spina Bifida", for example. We no longer use "wheelchair bound" but might say instead that the student uses a wheelchair. And, we never refer to anyone's disability or condition as a "birth defect".

Our goal is for individuals with disabilities to have the same opportunities for academic, social and personal growth as their non-disabled peers. Let's take an example of your average teenaged boy and think about all of the things that make up his daily life. We can think of those factors as balloons that get filled up with energy, time and involvement. In this example, our teen is a good student who has to study hard to get good grades but is a hard worker. He spends a fair amount of time on homework to get the grades required to get into college in a few years. He has a part time job at a fast food restaurant, uses the money to buy gas for his car and pay for going to the movies with his friends or going out on dates with his girlfriend. As part of the requirement for graduation, he does a service project and volunteers at the local animal shelter. His family is involved in their church and so he goes to church related activities a couple of times a month in addition to regular church services and youth group. Because of his involvement in all those activities, he has been targeted by the minister in his church to become a youth pastor, which will not only be enjoyable for him but will also be an excellent activity to add to his applications for college. His family houses an exchange student from Brazil and he is looking forward to visiting that family in Brazil the summer after he graduates. He is involved in track, and he met his girlfriend from another nearby high school track team at an invitational last spring.
If you begin putting his activities and interests into balloons that represent his time, attention, interests and energy, you begin to see that he has a very full life. On a day- to-day basis, he may withdraw energy from one balloon and add it to another, to keep his life in balance for success. His homework balloon gets bigger when final exams are approaching, his girlfriend balloon gets bigger near Prom, his church balloon gets bigger when he has to plan and develop an activity for youth group, his volunteering balloon gets bigger when a storm goes through and he has to repair the fence around the dog run at the animal shelter. It is in this way that busy, healthy, well-balanced individuals manage happy, fulfilling lives. You can probably think in terms of your own life and how you manage the size and number of your own balloons in order to be successful and fulfilled.

Now let's look at another student. He is placed in a separate class for children with intensive disabilities. Because he has been in that same class with the same seven students throughout his entire schooling, he has a limited number of friendships at school. He is the only person his age with disabilities that attends his church He doesn't drive himself, none of his friends drive so if he is to go anywhere, his parents take him. He spends a great deal of time with his family, who does their best on a limited budget to expose him to as many experiences as possible. He participates in Special Olympics but in his area that involves only a few events each year. He does not have a volunteer or paid job. Most of his time is spent at home either watching T.V. or playing games with his younger brother and sister.

As you can see, this student doesn't have as many balloons to fill his life and he has limited opportunities to inflate those balloons that he does have. But that does not mean that this student CANNOT have a balanced and fulfilling life, if we put the supports in place necessary to give him additional balloons.

One of our goals in educating and supporting individuals with disabilities is to give them maximum opportunities and help them develop the skills needed to develop those opportunities into fulfilling experiences. Greater exposure to more students through inclusion could have afforded this student the opportunity to develop many diverse friendships. Exposure to more of the general curriculum and extra curricular activities would expand this student's experience with a broad range of activities to try so that he can find areas of interest and talent. Provision of a job coach and connection with support agencies such as Rehabilitation Services would allow him to volunteer and/or obtain paid work experiences that could help him explore career possibilities or enhance his ability to pursue higher education options.

All people long for happy, busy, fulfilling lives that give them opportunity for monetary, social and personal rewards...individuals want and deserve these same things in life and we can support their attainment through our attitudes, awareness and knowledge of best practices.

Without the help of professionals like you around our state who are modeling the best practices in educating students with Low Incidence disabilities we would not be able to inspire change that is needed for 21st century learners. Likewise without parents and other advocates who keep us thinking and moving forward with problem solving for our students, we would lack the focus toward independence and enviable lives for our children with Low Incidence disabilities. Let's shine with contagious energy as we model the love and passion for educating individuals with Low Incidence disabilities throughout our local communities, districts and state.

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Thank you for joining us today as we work together to better the education of students with Low Incidence exceptionalities across the state of Ohio.
Please join us for the next webinar in this four part series entitled Access to the Curriculum for students with Low Incidence disabilities, where we will look into Ohio's Academic Standard, functional/life skills and Assistive Technology tools for access.

Please visit the OCALI website for past and future webinars, additional resources for professional development and general information related to Autism, Low Incidence disabilities, Assistive Technology and Transition.

Students with intensive disabilities have limitless potential. To ensure that all learners attain their personal goals, we work toward developing the disposition or attitude in all educators that every student is a valuable, contributing member of the learning community. This first segment introduces individuals with intensive needs and shares their stories. It discusses the unlimited options for their future and promotes the messages of ownership, high expectations, advocacy, and the importance of providing appropriate opportunities to encourage success.

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