Thursday, March 22, 2012

Don Peek - Is Your Tool Belt Missing a Few Items?

This post is authored by Don Peek, a former educator and past president of the training division of Renaissance Learning. He now runs The School Funding Center, a company that provides grant information and grant-writing services to schools. To learn more, or to subscribe to the School Funding Center Grant Database, go to schoolfundingcenter.

Is Your Tool Belt Missing a Few Items?

I don’t know how handy you happen to be around the house.  I’m not exactly a master carpenter myself.  I do like to fix things when I can.  One lesson that I’ve learned repeatedly over the years is this:  You have to have the right tools to do a job properly.

And it’s not that you just need a screwdriver.   You need the right size and type of screwdriver for the particular screw you’re using.  You can use a manual screwdriver, but sometimes it takes as much as 10 times as long as it would with an electric one.  Putting up curtains can be a real chore.  If you have the right tools, the job is so much easier.

I’m not a professional carpenter.  Can you imagine the number of specialized tools real carpenters need to do their best work?

Now, let’s go to the classroom.  You’re not working in wood.  You’re working with the hearts, minds, and hands of students with learning disabilities and physical disabilities.  Having the right tools is absolutely essential.  A concept that might take days to grasp can sometimes be grasped in minutes if you’re using the right materials.

Let’s take reading.  You’re teaching an LD reading class with 12 students.  Only 5 of those students are on the same level.  You may need books on 7 different levels.  Some students may require large-print books.  One needs an audio book.

 You may be teaching one 4th grade LD reading class, but essentially you need the right tools for 7 different jobs.  Do you have the tools you need to teach your students the skills they need?

Since I’ve started writing this blog, I’ve spent some time studying the various types of materials and tools available to special education teachers.  I’d have to say, I’m amazed.  Proper tools are available to teach almost any skill at any level these days.

I’m very pleased to have the opportunity to write this blog for  I’m even more pleased when I look through their offerings and see essentially every tool, every type of material, every piece of equipment you might need in your special education classroom.

Does your budget allow you to purchase all the tools you need for your classroom?

I know budgets are getting cut right and left.  It may even get worse before it gets better.  That’s why I am also pleased to include a grant opportunity each time I write this blog.  Some will apply to your school and your situation.  Others won’t.  You should always take a look at the grant, however, to see if your situation is a fit.

Getting the exact tools you need to do your best job with every student is essential.  I hope you let this blog, the grant postings, and help you to get those necessary tools.  They won’t make you a better teacher, but they will certainly make you a more efficient one.

Grant Info:

Grant Name:  Let’s ALL Play

Funded By:  National Inclusion Project

Description:  Let’s ALL Play brings an inclusive recreational experience to children with disabilities. Through training, staffing, and scholarships, Let’s ALL Play gives children with disabilities the same experience as those without. Children with disabilities and their peers who are typically developing come together to participate in recreational activities such as swimming, arts and crafts, community service, physical fitness and more.   

Program Areas:  Disabilities, Special Education

Recipients:  Public School, Private School, Higher Education, Other

Proposal Deadline:  9/15/12


Availability:  All States

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Don Peek - I Don't Vent Often, But...

Special Needs Topics with Don Peek

This post is authored by Don Peek, a former educator and past president of the training division of Renaissance Learning. He now runs The School Funding Center, a company that provides grant information and grant-writing services to schools. To learn more, or to subscribe to the School Funding Center Grant Database, go to schoolfundingcenter.

I Don’t Vent Often, But…..

A blog is a great thing.  It gives a really even-tempered, laid-back guy like I am a chance to vent his frustrations to the public.  At least my venting will be on topic.  You see, I have a big gripe.  Ever since disabled people got some rights, I believe that creators of parking lots have gone way overboard.  There are so many handicapped spots at some Wal-Mart and Target stores, I believe they could handle small handicapped conventions.

But, you know what?  That’s not why I’m using this blog to vent.  I’m venting because people who are not handicapped in any way whatsoever park in those spaces depriving real handicapped people from using them.  It makes me crazy, and it should you, too.

Handicapped people have two perks that most of us non-handicapped people don’t have.  Depending on their age and circumstances, they may receive a regular check from the government.  The second is that they get to park close to stores and activities in special handicapped parking spaces.  I think stealing a parking space is almost on the same level as stealing one of those checks.

My mother-in-law had a heart attack and a stroke about 15 years before she died.  She had little or no feeling in one hand and one leg.  She still drove her own car sometimes, but my wife and I drove her to the store fairly often.  All too often, we found that the places closest to the stores were already taken.  No handicapped tag on the car.  No special license plates.  No little sign hanging from the rearview mirror.

That’s not all.  Sometimes the cars had the little hanging signs, but the people using them were very obviously not handicapped.  That would have been easy enough for my wife and me to do.  We could have hung the little sign up and been right at the Wal-Mart door.  We often had one in our glove compartment even when my handicapped mother-in-law was not with us.  I don’t remember ever considering it.

For many, many years handicapped people got very little consideration from most of us.  Narrow doorways, no elevators, no special restrooms, no special curricula, no close parking spaces.  It just really irritates me when people with no physical problems go out of their way to steal the few rights to which handicapped people are entitled.

If you are legitimately handicapped, go to the doctor and get a sign.  If you have someone with you who has a back problem, is extremely overweight, has weak knees, or some other problem, drive them to the entrance and let them out while you park in a proper space.  If you see people parking in handicapped spaces and their vehicles have no handicapped sticker or sign, turn them in.  If you absolutely believe they are not handicapped and their car does have a sticker or sign, turn them in.

All too few fines are paid for this offense.  I don’t see the police patrolling too often to make sure the law is followed properly.  I truly believe that if most offenders had to pay just one fine, they would not consider using a handicapped parking space again unless they truly qualified to do so.

Let’s get angry people.  Let’s make sure handicapped spaces are open for use by handicapped people.

Grant Info:
Grant Name:  Finish Line Youth Foundation Grants
Funded By:  Finish Line Youth Foundation
Description:  Giving on a national basis in areas of company operations, supporting organizations involved with athletics and youth development. Special emphasis is directed toward programs designed to promote active lifestyles and team building skills; and camps designed to promote sports and active lifestyles, and serve disadvantaged and special needs kids.
Program Areas:  After-School, Disabilities, Health/PE, Special Education
Recipients:  Public School, Other 501(c)(3)

Proposal Deadline:  3/31/12

Average Amount:  $1,000.00 - $75,000.00

Contact Person:  Micca Stewart, Program Director


Availability:  All States

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Don Peek - Learning Disabilities

Special Needs Topics with Don Peek

This post is authored by Don Peek, a former educator and past president of the training division of Renaissance Learning. He now runs The School Funding Center, a company that provides grant information and grant-writing services to schools. To learn more, or to subscribe to the School Funding Center Grant Database, go to schoolfundingcenter.

Learning Disabilities

The term learning disability is a classification used to describe students who have difficulty learning in the usual ways.  This type of disability is caused by unknown factors which affect the ability of the brain to receive and process information.  Almost 13% or about 6.5 million students are enrolled in special education classes.  Of those students, approximately 2.5 million are identified as learning disabled. 

However, it is not enough just to know that a student is learning disabled.  You need to know the type of disability. There are four different types:  

1)      Reading disorder – difficulty with accurate and fluent word recognition, word decoding, reading rate, oral reading, and/or reading comprehension.  Many students who have a reading disability are dyslexic.

2)      Writing disorder – difficulty with handwriting, spelling, organization, and/or composition.  Writing disorders are also referred to as dysgraphia.

3)      Math disability – difficulty with concepts, memorizing facts, organizing numbers, and/or understanding how to organize problems.  A math disability is termed dyscalculia.

4)      Nonverbal learning disability – shows up as clumsy motor skills, poor visual-spatial skills, poor social relationship skills, problems with math, and poor organizational skills.

While these learning disabilities cannot be cured, skills can be learned that help some students cope with or overcome their disabilities almost entirely.  Like many others disabilities, being learning disabled is not a black or white situation.  Some students have a severe learning disability.  Others have a mild disability.  That makes it more difficult for teachers to find the type of activities and skills that best fit each student’s disability level.

When LD teachers step into their classrooms, they might be facing students with up to four types of learning disabilities, and those disabilities could range from very mild to very severe.  Obviously, it is helpful to have a small number of students in each class and also the help of an aide whenever possible.

I believe two major problems exist when we try to teach learning disable students.  First, some special education and many regular education teachers have low expectations for some students identified as learning disabled.  If they do not fully understand the nature of the learning disabilities of their students, they might make the mistake of feeling that their students are learning disabled in areas where they have no disability at all.  All teachers who teach learning disabled students need to be aware of the exact nature of each student’s disability. 

The other problem is the exact opposite of the first.  Teachers have expectations that are too high for the learning disabled student.  Material is not presented in a manner or at a rate that is manageable for the student.  When the student fails, the teacher often sees that student as lazy or uncooperative.  In reality, the student simply needed the material presented in a different way, at a slower pace, or both.

These two problems should not occur if thorough assessments are done on learning disabled students, and both weaknesses and proper teaching strategies are listed in each student’s individualized education program.  These IEP’s should, of course, be shared with the student’s special and regular education teachers. 

Grant Info:
Grant Name: Grants

Funded By:

Description: is a simple way to provide students in need with resources that our public schools often lack. At this not-for-profit web site, teachers register, and then submit project proposals for materials or experiences their students need to learn. These ideas become classroom reality when concerned individuals choose projects to fund.

Program Areas:  Disabilities, Special Education, All Other

Recipients:  Public School

Proposal Deadline:  None

Register:  Teachers must register and create an account on the website below

Availability:  All States