7 Reading Readiness Apps for Special Needs Students | Edutopia

By Jayne Clare

What is reading readiness? The dictionary defines it as the point when a child transforms from being a non-reader to being a reader. But this definition leaves out the concept that reading readiness may actually begin in the womb. Watch Annie Murphy Paul’s TED Talk to learn more about what is called fetal origins.

In another vein, as Maryanne Wolf writes in Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, “We were never born to read.” Getting ready to read takes years of informal exposure to language and print in a myriad of ways. This stage is called early literacy. Talking and interacting with children about daily literacy-based activities that interest them in their everyday lives best accomplishes acquiring these skills. Storytelling, print and book awareness, and playing with words #rhyming, clapping, stomping out syllables, rolling and bouncing a ball# are all great ways to get started at an early age. But even when the stage has been set with all the right components, the special-education child usually grapples with reading and writing.

Source: 7 Reading Readiness Apps for Special Needs Students | Edutopia

Preschool Special Education Would Get Small Boost Under Federal Budget Plan – Education Week

By Christina Samuels

Special education spending for school aged-children would hold steady, but spending for infants and children under 5 would see a modest boost under the White Houses proposed budget for fiscal year 2017, released on Feb. 9.

Students ages 6-21 currently receive the bulk of federal special education dollars, and that wouldnt change under the proposed spending plan, which would hold overall special education spending steady at $11.9 billion, the same as the previous fiscal year.

An additional $35 million would be allocated to services for children ages 3 to 5, bringing the total proposal to about $403 million. Those children are served under Section 619 of the federal special education law.

via Preschool Special Education Would Get Small Boost Under Federal Budget Plan – On Special Education – Education Week.

Special Ed students, faculty present hand-made blankets to Vallejo Fire Dept. – Times Herald

By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen

Students and faculty members of Vallejo’s Everest Academy learned Wednesday that you don’t need to be wrapped in a blanket to feel warm and cozy — making and giving blankets away can do that for you, too.

The 5-year-old Everest Academy is a Vallejo City Unified School District special education program, whose school site on Corcoran Avenue, is walking distance to Vallejo Fire Department Station 25.

Three of the small class’ five students, along with the teacher, para-educator and principal, walked to the station on Wednesday morning, to present about a half-dozen fleece blankets the students made in their spare time over the last month or so, principal Eileen Abreu said.

via Special Ed students, faculty present hand-made blankets to Vallejo Fire Dept..

Solving The Special Ed Teacher Shortage: Quality, Not Quantity : NPR Ed

All over the United States, schools are scrambling to find qualified special education teachers. There just arent enough of them to fill every open position.

That means schools must often settle for people who are under-certified and inexperienced. Special ed is tough, and those who arent ready for the challenge may not make it past the first year or two.

Really good teacher preparation might be the difference. At least, thats what the Lee Pesky Learning Center believes.

In partnership with Boise State University, this nonprofit is working to overcome the shortage in Idaho, not just by filling vacancies, but by creating special education teachers fully prepared for the demands — and the rewards — of working with special-needs students.

via Solving The Special Ed Teacher Shortage: Quality, Not Quantity : NPR Ed : NPR.

Some districts exempt students in special ed from vaccination law | EdSource

By Jane Meredith Adams

California now has one of the strictest vaccination laws in the country, but ambiguity in its wording has left school districts deciding on their own whether to grant special education students a de facto exemption.

The California Department of Public Health and the California Department of Education have not yet issued guidance on how to apply the vaccination law to special education students. Under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, students who qualify for special education services, such as speech therapy or small group instruction, must receive those services. Failure to comply leaves districts vulnerable to lawsuits from parents.

At the same time, beginning July 1, the state law will require all kindergarten, transitional kindergarten and 7th-grade students to be vaccinated against 10 communicable diseases before they are allowed to attend school, unless they have a medical condition that makes them unable to do so. Under the new law, parents can no longer refuse to vaccinate their children in public or private schools and child care centers based on their personal beliefs.

via Some districts exempt students in special ed from vaccination law | EdSource.

Its Not Easy Teaching Special Ed : NPR Ed

By Lee Hale

Its getting harder and harder to find quality special education teachers, which is why 49 out of 50 states report shortages.

Why? Its a tough sell.

Even if youre up for the low pay and noisy classrooms, special education adds another challenge: crushing paperwork.

This is something I understand firsthand. You see, I was a special education teacher and I just couldnt hack it. Though Im somewhat ashamed to admit it, I lasted only a year in the classroom.

I chose special education for what felt like the right reason. I wanted to help the students who struggle to learn. But I soon realized that was only a part of the job.

via Its Not Easy Teaching Special Ed : NPR Ed : NPR.

Chieko Asakawa: How new technology helps blind people explore the world | TED Talk

How can technology help improve our quality of life? How can we navigate the world without using the sense of vision? Inventor and IBM Fellow Chieko Asakawa, whos been blind since the age of fourteen, is working on answering these questions. In a charming demo, she shows off some new technology thats helping blind people explore the world ever more independently … because, she suggests, when we design for greater accessibility, everyone benefits.

via Chieko Asakawa: How new technology helps blind people explore the world | TED Talk | TED.com.

The great equalizer: Sports program pairs special, general-ed children – Daily Republic

By Amy Maginnis-Honey

The smile on Dominic Miller’s face couldn’t have been any wider.

The 5-year-old who attends Dan O. Root Elementary School was one of about 560 children who participated in a special event Thursday at Fairfield High School’s Schaefer Stadium.

The gathering was the first since the Fairfield-Suisun School District partnered with Special Olympics Northern California to launch a unified sports program with eight elementary schools.

via The great equalizer: Sports program pairs special, general-ed children.

Benicia girl with a big heart raises money for special friends – Times Herald

By Irma Widjojo

A Benicia special education teacher had no idea that the friendships that began at the play ground during recess time would turn into something much bigger.

“I was flabbergasted,” said Tammy Harley, Mary Farmar Elementary School special education teacher.

Harley said it was the beginning of this school year when third grader KayLee Ingle came to her and told her that she has a surprise.

“She told me she’s been fundraising for my class during the summer,” she said.

via Benicia girl with a big heart raises money for special friends.

Special Education Spending Flexibility Focus of GAO Report – Education Week

By Christina Samuels

Loosening the reins on state and district special education spending could lead to more innovation without damaging student services, says a report released Monday from a congressional watchdog agency.

The Government Accountability Office was asked to look into special education spending—specifically the provisions around “maintenance of effort.”

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires, with few exceptions, that school districts and states spend the same amount or more on special education from year to year. That eliminates wild swings in funding, and insures that spending can only go up, not down.

via Special Education Spending Flexibility Focus of GAO Report – On Special Education – Education Week.

States Vary in Proportion of Students With Disability-Related 504 Plans – Education Week

By Christina Samuels

Almost 5 percent of students in New Hampshire have disabilities that are covered solely by “Section 504,” which offers protection to students who have a “physical or mental disability that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” These disabilities might include conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, diabetes, food allergies, depression, or mobility impairments.

In contrast, in New Mexico and Wisconsin, less than half a percent of students have such plans.

These findings come from a recent analysis of Section 504 enrollment conducted by the Advocacy Institute of data from the U.S. Department of Educations Civil Rights Data Collection. That data collection covers the 2011-12 school year, and about 16,500 school districts, 96,500 schools, and 49 million students were included.

via States Vary in Proportion of Students With Disability-Related 504 Plans – On Special Education – Education Week.

Vacaville native, music conservatory bring music therapy to children with disabilities – The Reporter

By Ryan Chalk

A Vacaville native has taken her lifelong passion for music to help children with developmental disabilities transform their lives, one song at a time.

It’s happening inside a Davis Street home that once housed a longtime Vacaville photography business, now home to a bustling music education and performance studio called the Young Artists Conservatory of Music. A hub of activity, in one room, you might hear a student attempting to master Beethoven on piano, a budding saxophonist running a jazz scale, and in another, Brianna McCulloch, a board certified music therapist, leading a child in song.

via Vacaville native, music conservatory bring music therapy to children with disabilities.

Special Education Bill Offers Flexibility on Maintenance of Effort – Education Week

By Christina Samuels

School districts would have more permission to reduce their special education spending under a bill introduced in Congress today by Michigan Rep. Tim Walberg, a Republican.

Currently, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act only allows district special education spending cuts in limited circumstances—for example, if a highly paid special educaton teacher retires and is replaced with someone who earns a lower salary. Other permitted reasons to reduce funding include a student who requires expensive services leaving the district, or an overall decline in special education enrollment. This so-called “maintenance of effort” provision is intended to keep funding, and thereby services to students, stable.

Walbergs bill would allow districts to cut back on special education spending if theyve found other ways to reduce costs while keeping services intact. If a district negotiates a contract with its teachers that reduces personnel costs, for example, the bill states that the district should be able to adjust special education spending to account for that.

via Special Education Bill Offers Flexibility on Maintenance of Effort – On Special Education – Education Week.

Postsecondary Transition for Students in Special Education: The Road Ahead – Education Week

By Christina Samuels

Each year, hundreds of thousands of students in special education graduate from their high schools.

And then what happens?

In the 10th annual edition of its Diplomas Count report, Education Week tries to answer that question. The report is a blend of journalism and reseach: the Education Week Research Center delved into federal data to offer an important snapshot of where students with disabilities end up after they leave high school. My journalist colleagues and I give life to those numbers by talking to students as they make important future decisions about college and about work.

For example: Do students with disabilities tell their colleges about their special needs, or do they try to go without any of the supports they may have used in high school? (The answer: most of them do not disclose.) For students who are headed directly to the workplace, have they been taught how to advocate for themselves? (The answer: its hit-or-miss.)

via Postsecondary Transition for Students in Special Education: The Road Ahead – On Special Education – Education Week.

Study Finds No Connection Between Eye Problems and Dyslexia – Education Week

By Christina Samuels

There appears to be no connection between vision or eye disorders and reading impairments, according to a study of about 5,800 children that will be published in the June issue of Pediatrics.

The sample of children was taken from a longitudinal study of families living in the Bristol, England area. The children were all 7 to 9 years old, and 3 percent tested as having severe reading impairments.

The researchers then tested the vision of those children. Four out of five had normal eyesight. A small minority of children displayed minor anomalies in depth perception and fusing abiilty, or the ability to use both eyes properly at the same time.

But theres no evidence from this study that therapies to improve eyesight will do anything to help with dyslexia, the researchers concluded. “The best evidence is for intensive interventions involving instruction on phonics, word anal

via Study Finds No Connection Between Eye Problems and Dyslexia – On Special Education – Education Week.

New Autism Research Outlines Gender Differences in Social Interactions – Education Week

By Christina Samuels

Boys and girls with autism spectrum disorder may share difficulties in communicating, but how those problems manifest themselves differs between the sexes—an important element for educators to remember, according to new research examining children with autism and their peer interactions.

For example, because boys tend to play more structured games, its easier to spot when a boy with autism is being excluded. Socialization among girls tends to be more fluid, so a girl with autism may appear to be fitting in with her peer group—but a closer look might reveal less-obvious rejection.

The research also shows that in general education classrooms, girls remain more connected to peers when they are in larger classrooms—21 students or more. Boys tended to have better social connections when they were in classrooms of 20 students or fewer. Researchers hypothesize that boys might do better with more individualized attention, while girls may thrive if they have more friendship options.

via New Autism Research Outlines Gender Differences in Social Interactions – On Special Education – Education Week.

Alternate assessments for special education students delayed | EdSource

By Laurie Udesky

Some California educators say the state’s students with the most severe cognitive disabilities will not have the same opportunity this spring to have their learning assessed as other students taking the Common Core-aligned assessments.

Approximately 39,000 of the state’s students with cognitive disabilities that are too severe for them to function or live safely on their own are eligible to take the new California Alternate Assessment this spring, according to the California Department of Education. However, some educators are uncertain how well the new assessment will work.

In particular, they say the assessment was developed hastily and distributed to teachers with no time to prepare themselves or their students for it. They also have no assurance that the test will measure what their students are learning in the classroom. They say that’s because the alternate assessment is based on simplified adaptations of the Common Core State Standards that have not been formally adopted by the state and disseminated in advance for teachers to plan their instruction.

via Alternate assessments for special education students delayed | EdSource#.VVI1iWctHGg#.VVI1iWctHGg.

Solano recognizes those who make special ed process easier – Daily Republic

By Bill Hicks

Education in general, and special education more specifically, is a difficult and often thankless task.

The Solano County Office of Education, the Solano County Office of Education Community Advisory Committee on Tuesday recognized educators, students and community members who are part of the lives of special education students to ensure it’s not always thankless.

Honorees came from all areas in Solano County. Some of those recognized had dedicated much of their lives to the service of special education students. Others, like bus driver Joe Mackenzie or student Damondre Pierre, for instant, made smaller but not less significant contributions to better the lives of the county’s special education students.

via Solano recognizes those who make special ed process easier Daily Republic.

Inconsistent training leaves special education staff struggling | EdSource

By Jane Meredith Adams

Every day in special education classrooms across the state, teachers and aides oversee students whose emotional and behavioral disabilities can trigger violent confrontations. In some cases, teachers and aides wrestle these students to the floor, pin them against classroom walls, and escort or drag them into seclusion rooms.

Operating outside the restrictions of general education, special education staff are authorized by the California Education Code to declare a “behavioral emergency.” That determination allows staff members to initiate emergency interventions that are defined only by what they may not be: electric shock, denying access to bathroom facilities, noxious sprays to the face, and interventions that can be expected to cause excessive emotional trauma.

via Inconsistent training leaves special education staff struggling | EdSource#.VTZ6dmctHGg#.VTZ6dmctHGg.

California Task Force Seeks Sweeping Changes to Special Education – Education Week

By Christina Samuels

Improving the academic outcomes for California students with disabilities will require an extensive revamp of the states education system, a task force said Wednesday. Among them: a revision of teacher preparation, support for early learning, and an overhaul of special education financing with an eye to more local control and accountability.

Those recommendations are part of a 100-page report drafted by Californias Statewide Task Force on Special Education and submitted to the state board of education. (The task force also released an executive summary of its findings, as well as four subcommittee reports.)

About 613,000 students ages 6 to 21 receive special education services in California, about 10 percent of the nations total special education population of 5.8 million in that age range. The graduation rate for California students with disabilities is about 60 percent, compared to 80 percent for the student population as a whole.

via California Task Force Seeks Sweeping Changes to Special Education – On Special Education – Education Week.