What matters most for our special education teachers?

We all know the problem. There is a frightening shortage of special education teachers and it’s getting worse. Even prior to the pandemic, 98 percent of school districts and 49 states reported that they had a shortage and a recent RAND report found that six months into the pandemic over one-third of school leaders were experiencing special education teacher vacancies.

Compounding the problem, the number of students receiving special education services is predicted to increase sharply as students who are overdue for evaluations seek help and others who have fallen behind during COVID will need additional assessments and revised services. Increases in diagnoses, particular in children diagnosed with autism, are also having an impact. Today 1 in every 44 children in the US have autism and students with autism now account for 11 percent of all students in special education, more than double the rate of a decade ago.

The Special Education Legislative Summit Council of Administrators of Special Education has called for “all hands on deck” in addressing the shortage. Speakers at the Summit highlighted three crucial areas that need to be addressed: competitive pay, stronger recruitment, and more effective professional development. But what does effective PD look like for special educators? Is it different from what other teachers need? What works? What kind? How much? And, most importantly, what types of PD will support these educators and keep them from leaving the profession?  …Read More

Children’s Hospital Colorado Expands Access to Free, Online Teacher Training to Help Students with ASD and ADHD Improve Executive Functioning Skills

Aurora, Colo. – Free, online teacher and parent training designed to improve the executive functioning of elementary school-aged children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), is now accessible across the nation. The availability of this training is possible due 

to a $2 million contract awarded to Children’s Hospital Colorado’s (Children’s Colorado) Pediatric Mental Health Institute by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute ( PCORI) in 2020. A team from Children’s Colorado, Children’s National Hospital and The Institute for Innovation and Implementation at the University of Maryland, Baltimore is working to implement a successful online training and tele-support system for the  Unstuck and On Target (UOT) program for any parent or educator who needs it. 

Since 2020, this team has piloted UOT video training with 293 school-based staff across 230 elementary schools in Colorado and Virginia. The work follows a related PCORI-funded research project,  Improving Classroom Behaviors Among Students with Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, led by Children’s Colorado researchers.That project demonstrated the effectiveness of UOT at improving the executive functioning – or frontal lobe skills, including flexible thinking, planning and self-control – of school-aged children in Title 1 schools. …Read More

A fresh perspective on VR in special education

In early 2021, Spaulding Academy & Family Services applied for and received a technology grant from the Flutie Foundation for the purchase of virtual reality (VR) headsets. 

We are a small, nonprofit special education school serving students with a wide range of abilities, including many who are on the Autism Spectrum and/or have limited mobility, and it was very important to us from the onset that we use this technology to meet the needs of all our students.

Selecting a VR solution…Read More

3 things parents of neurodiverse kids should know

As we wrap up April’s Autism Acceptance Month, it’s been so heartening this year to see businesses and our government show solidarity and launch numerous initiatives that support neurodiverse kids.

Movie theaters now have “sensory friendly showings.” The Utah Jazz took efforts to make their arena certified by KultureCity, making the stadium more accommodating for fans with sensory needs. President Biden signed a proclamation calling April 2, 2021 as World Autism Acceptance Day.

These are all worthy efforts and initiatives. But I’m also aware that for many parents, this April could be the first time they are recognizing Autism Acceptance Month, or the first time it’s been on their radar. Maybe they just received a diagnosis and are feeling overwhelmed. As great as these initiatives are, the parents of neurodiverse kids may need something simpler: connection, guidance, and empathy from other parents who know their situation.…Read More

Super Duper Publications Makes Finding Autism Resources Easy

According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately one out of every 54 children has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, making it one of the most common developmental disabilities in the USA. To help families, teachers, and providers quickly and easily find information and educational materials to support autistic children, Super Duper Publications has created a new Autism Resources section on its website.

The new section provides access to:

  • Super Duper’s Free Autism Handy Handouts. Informational handouts for parents and teachers address topics such as Autism – the Basics, and Autism – It May Not Be What You Think.
  • A Tests section with more than a dozen trusted autism assessments including the REEL-4 Receptive-Expressive Emergent Language Test and the TOPL-2 Test of Pragmatic Language.             
  • Super Duper’s autism-related games, cards, books, worksheets, programs and resources, reinforcers, and supplies to support skills in: Language & Pragmatics, Motor Skills, Emotions & Behavior, Sensory Activities, and Social Skills.

Games include the Webber Functional Communication Game, and Webber Story Time Communication Boards, which support communication skills for students with limited verbal skills.…Read More

Staying Connected During COVID-19 [Teacher Spotlight]: Karina Tran

In partnership with eSchool News, Illuminate Education is spotlighting teachers in a series recognizing educators, the way they have moved instruction online during COVID-19, and how they have prioritized the needs of their students.

Karina Tran
SDC K/1st-Moderate Severe Disabilities
Woodcrest Elementary School
Fullerton School District

“Don’t compare yourself to others, and just stay true to who you are as a teacher, and it will all fall into place.”…Read More

Online summit for all special education stakeholders

The 2020 Special Kids International Summit, presented by Kidskintha in partnership with UNESCO’s New Delhi Office and MindRocket Media Group, is a free online conference set to take place April 7-11. Session videos will also be archived for later viewing. The event is for all education stakeholders, including teachers, administrators, counselors, and special educators. Presenters include 30+ experts from the fields of neurology, psychology, teaching, entrepreneurship, and medicine, who will cover topics such as understanding ADHD and autism, supporting emotional regulation, advocating for the rights of your learners and much more. Register for free at https://www.kidskintha.com/kidskintha-spins-2020

 

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Strategies for changing challenging behaviors of students with autism

“Every individual should be able to access things that they like,” said Monica Fisher, M.Ed., BCBA/COBA, director of the behavior department at Monarch Center for Autism during an edWebinar. “It is our right to engage in preferred activities, spend time with family, and connect with the community. If there are behaviors that you are seeing in your students with disabilities and challenging behaviors that are limiting these rights, then it is something we need to fix as it can have a long-term impact on their quality of life.”

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), a technological and professional systematic approach, is designed to analyze and change behavior by identifying a behavioral problem, gathering relevant data, and formulating/testing a hypothesis. Fisher said that while ABA is a useful tool for looking at and changing the challenging behaviors of students with autism, it can apply to different parts of everyone’s lives.

Three-Term Contingency or ABC (Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence) goes hand in hand with ABA. ABC is an essential, evidence-based method of examining and changing what people say and do. Fisher explained, “If you want to change behavior, you have to look at the antecedent (action, event, or circumstance that occurs immediately before the behavior) and the consequences (action or response that immediately follows the behavior) applied.”…Read More

How individualized supports for students with autism promote success in the mainstream classroom

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is, at its heart, a processing disorder. And while the students with ASD face a variety of challenges depending on where they fall on the spectrum, even those considered high functioning have difficulties with pragmatic social language and understanding social interactions. So, when educators mainstream students with ASD and hope that they will learn how to interact in the classroom just by watching their peers, the educators are setting up the students for failure.

Nina Finkler, a learning consultant with years of experience working with students with ASD, says success comes when schools actually acknowledge the different needs of students with ASD and set up individualized supports throughout their learning career. In her edWebinar “Meeting the Needs of Students with ASD within the Mainstream Classroom,” Finkler outlined the biggest challenges with mainstreaming and key strategies for helping them thrive in their new environment.

First, before even considering placing a student with ASD in a mainstream classroom, Finkler advises asking why the student is being mainstreamed and what the goals are for the student. In other words, students shouldn’t be in a mainstream classroom because that’s all a school has or it’s an overall goal for the school. Students have IEPs for a reason, Finkler reminded the attendees. They need individual accommodations to reach their learning potential, and while mainstreaming may work for some, it is not the best educational environment for all.…Read More

Now is the time to transform how we teach students with autism

America, we may have a problem.

The CDC recently announced new prevalence rates for autism. The increase from 1 in 68 to 1 in 59 children identified as having autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is significant because we know that 95-97 percent of children with autism are being served in America’s public schools.

With lifetime costs for our current school-aged population of children on the spectrum estimated at between $1.4 and $2.4 million per student, the new numbers present continuing staffing, fiscal, and in some cases facility challenges. However, this does not have to be “doom and gloom” for an already stressed educational system. This is the time for school and school system leaders to shift what they think, how hey think, and ultimately what they do to build the requisite skills, knowledge, and experiences for our students with ASD.…Read More