Monday, September 24, 2012

Don Peek - Let's Teach These First

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.

Let’s Teach These First
Most classroom teachers have a curriculum that needs to be taught during the year.  I do think, however, that teachers need to focus on teaching three things first, especially if they are teaching children with disabilities.
Students at all age levels need to know how to stay out of danger.  This means fundamentally that they need to be able to read warning signs.  Of course, at first you think of the poison warning signs that appear on chemicals in the home, and those are certainly important.  But shouldn’t a student in a wheelchair also know the unwritten warning signs that could keep them safe.  If they are crossing a street in a wheelchair, they cannot be seen in the same way that a walking adult can.  They need to learn what extra precautions they need to take when crossing streets to be as safe as possible.
Be sure that the students with disabilities for whom you are responsible are aware of the normal danger signs, but also teach them the special dangers that are particularly related to their disabilities.  It may save their lives.
The second thing I believe we need to teach students with disabilities (as well as all other students) is how to get along well with other students and adults.  Most of these students don’t want sympathy.  They want to be treated like every other student.  What most do want from others is as much empathy as possible.  If they can get other non-disabled people to put themselves in their place, to recognize the disability but not to build the relationship based on it, they will go much further in social circles.
I do realize that socialization is a major problem for students with certain disabilities.  In fact, it can be one of the main issues with which some special education students have to deal.  Nevertheless, if these students can learn to carry on reasonable conversations and get the information from others that they need to be safe and function in mainstream ways, their lives will be much safer, fuller, and richer.  Can you imagine how lonely and frustrating it is for students who recognize they have problems socializing with others and have no idea how to remedy the situation.  Help them to learn these skill as well as you can.
The third major thing we need to teach all disabled students is how to read just as well as possible.  It doesn’t matter if you have a disability or not, reading still opens whole new worlds to us, and many times the worlds of the disabled are smaller than they are for the rest of us.  The more severely disabled the student, the more his or world revolves around that disability.  If those students know how to read as well as they can potentially read, at least it opens various topics up to them that they can enjoy.  It doesn’t matter in this case what they read.  Reading becomes an avenue for pleasure and for broadening their experiences.
Sure they can watch television and YouTube, but you have to read to some degree to even use them properly if you’re trying to find the topics you want.  Of course, as I’ve discussed in detail on this blog, reading is absolutely fundamental to any kind of success in other classes at school.  We may be a video nation, but there is still a ton of learning done and a lot of pleasure taken in being able to read well.
Teach your students, disabled and otherwise, to be safe in a dangerous world, to learn how to get along and converse with their peers and adults, and how to read just as well as possible.  If you do teach these 3 things, you are well on your way to shaping your students’ lives in a positive fashion.
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:  No Deadline
Average Amount:  No set amount.
Availability:  All States

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Don Peek - Getting Ready for School

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.
Getting Ready for School
As everyone knows, summer is fading fast.  Students have a full spectrum of feelings and attitudes about the beginning of school each year.  Both parents and teachers have to recognize that fact and prepare students for the very best start possible.  This is true for special needs children just as it is for other students.
For students who have felt bored during the summer, the start of school may be an exciting time.  Going to buy school supplies and getting to shop for new school clothes can be an adventure.  Typically students who do well in school look forward to school opening more than other students, but that is not always the case.  When students are very social and have been cut off from their peers during summer vacation, they will likely look forward to going back to school regardless of how well they actually do in their coursework.
Special needs children who do not do well in school and do not do well socially may dread the beginning of school.  Parents and teachers need to work and plan to make the transition from summer vacation to the beginning of classes as painless as possible.  That’s not always an easy task, but it is possible.  Buying clothes and school supplies may not be fun, but if you go to a game room and an ice cream parlor while you’re out shopping, it might at least make the trip tolerable.
I also want parents and teachers to know that just because a child hasn’t done well in school before and has never looked forward to starting school in the fall, it’s not out of the question for that pattern to change.  I’ve mentioned before that I have an autistic grandson.  He went to intermediate school and part of middle school in one state, then my son took another job and had to move him to another state.
The transition for my grandson was amazing.  When he went to the first school, he never had anything good to say about his teachers or his school.  Since he has attended his new school (now in his senior year), he has always looked forward to going to school and for the school year to begin.
He’s still autistic.  He still has the same problems at school and outside of school most associated with autism, but his attitude toward school and how well he does in school has changed dramatically.  I can’t help  but think that the attitude and actions of his teachers, the way the special education program is run, and the way other students are taught to respect special needs students all have had an impact on my grandson and his education in his new school.
Yes, his teachers have had to call home because of his behavior at times (especially when he changed his medication).  And, yes, some students have made fun of him at times (we are talking about a real middle school and high school here), but overall his experience with school has been dramatically different.
If you are a parent, regardless of the disability of your child, give some special thought about the problems your child might have returning to school this year.  If you are a teacher, think long and hard how you can make each special needs student feel welcome at school and as successful as possible.  Both the attitudes and actions of parents and teachers can have a dramatic impact on students as they return to school.  Never doubt that.  Be just as positive as you possible can with every special needs child.
Grant Name:  Tommy Wilson Memorial Grant
Funded By:  American Association for Physical Activity and Recreation
Description:  The Tommy Wilson Memorial Grant supports recreational programs for individuals with disabilities
Program Areas:  Disabilities, Special Education
Recipients:  Public School, Private school, High Ed, Other
Proposal Deadline:  December 1st each year
Average Amount:  $500.00 - $1,500.00
Availability:  All States

Friday, September 7, 2012

Activity guide - Cushy Bean Pad

The team at Achievement Products asked our consultant, Occupational Therapist Scott Russo, to provide some activity suggestions for incorporating some of our favorite items into daily classroom activities or curriculum.

Scott has provided some really great and creative ways to use items (that may have been originally designed for typically developing children), in special needs environments.

Today we will look at the Cushy Bean Pad - 4 Piece Set.



The Cushy Beans Sit Cushion provides a portable seating option for almost anyone. The cushion itself is made from a waterproof material with three different machine washable covers, all in different textures. Therefore, you can tailor make the cushion for the child’s particular tactile needs. The micro-bead stuffing provides children with the ability to have a stable surface on which they can also move. The white inner cushion is waterproof and surface washable.

Activity Ideas:

·       The cushion can be used for adaptive seating in almost any setting as it is portable and easy to carry. It can be used to sit on or as a lap buddy placed on top of the legs.

·       Use the cushion for tactile stimulation. Have the child rank the covers in order of preference. Start with the most preferred cover. Place the cushion on top of the child’s lap and set a timer for a maximum time limit of choice while performing other activities. After that time limit has been achieved, remove the cover and move to the next in line. See if the child can tolerate the cushion on his/her lap for the same time limit. Repeat with the third cover.

·       The cushion is ideal for fine motor strengthening. Have the child change the covers on the cushion.

How to Care for your Cushy Beans Sit Cushion and Covers:

·       Inner (white) cushion: Surface wash only

·       Covers: Machine wash cold, hang to dry

For more information about the Cushy Bean Pad - 4 Piece Set and other great items please visit