Monday, November 29, 2010

Writing IEPs

In lab, we talked about writing IEPs. In terms of becoming a Special Education teacher, writing IEPs is what I'm most nervous about and what I have the most questions about. Each lab group was assigned a story and asked to convene as an "IEP team."

Our lab group chose a story called Out, written by our professor Ira. It is about a student named Pete, who is considered to be an emotionally impaired student. Here is the story:

by Ira Socol

It's 8:17. See, I can tell time. Nobody thinks I can do anything. But that's not true. It's 8:17 and I know school's only been in for seven minutes but I also know I need to be out of here in less than forty-five minutes. Yes, time and arithmetic. Because I need to be on my way by 9:00 so I can meet Derek by 9:30 so we can catch the bus to the subway and be on the way downtown by only a little after 10:00. That's the plan and I've got less than forty-five minutes.

Sam's coming past me and here's chance number one. I stick my foot between his and trip him, he falls in a wild, uncoordinated sprawl, knocking over Tina's desk, books flying. I'm not ready to be obvious yet, so I just smile.

The smile sets Mrs. Girardi off, not that this takes much. But the key here is I can't just get sent to the Resource Room. If I get sent there I'll need to start all over and besides, you know, the standards are different there. I'll need to work much harder. So when Mrs. Girardi says, "What is the matter with you? Are you so stupid you think that's funny?" I prove my growing vocabulary skills with the response, "I'm so stupid I think it's hilarious." Which of course gets this entire class of fifth graders, except Sam who's still on the floor, and Tina, who's glaring at me, into a fit of hysterical laughter.

This teacher is beyond predictable so I can stay ahead easily. She starts to scream. I start to scream back. She tells me to come up front. I tell her to come back to me. When she actually starts to come toward me (can you believe she'd fall for that), I get up and start running around the room. The fact that the class is still laughing is making her crazy. She sure doesn't like laughter. So she actually chases me for half a lap before figuring something out.

They all say I "make bad decisions." Everybody says that. But they're wrong about that too. I make decisions they don't like, but they're not bad. Sometimes they're really carefully made decisions designed to get me exactly what I need. Right now I need to get out of this school so I can run with Derek who got suspended yesterday for the rest of the week. He did it by punching out Kenny DeMuro. I'd rather not do that. Kenny looks like he's still hurting.

Now I need to make sure. I need to give the principal no choice once he gets the phone call. I need less lecture time from him and more of that "oh my God" look because that'll only take ten minutes. He'll call home. Nobody'll be there. He'll say "go straight home" in that very intense voice, as if he thinks I think he doesn't know. Really, he knows I know he knows, but he's got to sound like he's doing his job. And if he's going to do his job, I've got to do mine. I pick a book off Carrie's desk and toss it, not hard but accurately, at Mrs. Girardi, who immediately screams, in her best psycho mode, "You're out of here you little moron, you'll be gone for at least a week." And I take off right out the door, right under the clock: 8:23.

We then used a sample IEP from to create an IEP for Pete: Pete's IEP

Although we didn't know the student and had to make a few assumptions concerning what would be best for him and work best for him in his academic environment, using a story to practice writing IEPs was definitely beneficial and good practice for what we will be doing quite often as Special Education teachers.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Assistive Technology

On September 9, Next Montreal's Ben Yoskovitz released an interview with Andrea Prupas and writes an article titled Assistive Technology Helps Kids with Learning Disabilities. In it, he says that prior to meeting Prupas, he had no idea what assistive technology was. According to Prupas, "assistive technology is a broad term for any device that helps an individual bypass the challenges associated with their disability." He learned that popular devices such as iPads and similar touchscreen handheld devices could be used to help children with learning disabilities.

Prupas has her own site and company, inov8 Educational Consulting, with a mission statement that states, "We offer the most current and effective educational solutions in order to provide our clients with the tools that they need to be successful learners in school, and beyond." In other words, her company provides special needs students with assistive technology in order to help them succeed in school. According to her company, assistive technology can be divided into two categories: "learning and educational aids," which "are specifically designed to help an individual actively engage in the learning process and overcome academic difficulties," and "augmentative communication aids," which "are technologies that provide individuals with an alternative method of understanding or communicating language."

I found this interview incredibly interesting, especially because I've heard plenty of information about assistive technology, but have never heard it separated into separate categories. I always defined assistive technology as a combination of Prupas' "learning and educational aids" and "augmentative communication aids" categories, and never thought about dividing them to help those who don't know what it is further understand. Assistive technology is incredibly crucial to special needs students because of its ability to help further their education and provide additional learning with resources that wouldn't typically be readily available to them.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Google Docs

Google Docs is a free website by Google that allows users to create and edit presentations, spreadsheets, forms, and documents and share them and collaborate with other Google users. A Google user can create one of these and then opt to share them with other people. With the share option, the creator can attach email addresses to the document, and they can choose to edit or share the document with additional people.

We used Google Docs in class for a group project, and it was pretty easy to use. Two people in the group created documents--one created a presentation, while the other created a presentation. The rest of the group members told the two creators their email address, and the creators attached each of the group members to the presentation and document. When we all had access to the documents, we edited them and put our ideas into each. In this light, we all owned a piece of the document and all became "creators."

Google Docs is nice for group projects because it allows people to instantly collaborate and edit the documents created as opposed to emailing back and forth one documents each time edits are made.

If my description of Google Docs didn't make sense, try this video: Google Docs in Plain English