View Jon Izak’s complete seminar at Teachers College, Columbia University!

ONEder’s CODiE award nominated platform empowers educators with the tools they need to support students with Individualized Education Plans.  In the session, Jon focuses on the challenges faced by districts in supporting students with IEPs, and closing the opportunity gap. He then discusses how ONEder is helping districts meet those challenges. To view the complete seminar, click here.

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Year-Round Education

Andreas Demidont on Year-Round Education.

Why has Year-Round Education (YRE) expanded by 37% in public schools, and 149% in charter schools, with a 33% increase in students enrolled in YRE schools? Currently it exists in 46 states with over 2 million students. The answer lies in the many case studies which point to a reduction in the summer loss of learning by, at minimum, one whole month and the willingness of communities  to acknowledge the dire need for holistic reform. (more…)

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ONEder’s Jonathan Izak to Present at Teachers College, Columbia University

ONEder’s CODiE award nominated platform empowers educators with the tools they need to support students withIndividualized Education Plans.  In the session, Jon will focus on the challenges faced by districts in supporting students with IEPs, and closing the opportunity gap. He will then discuss how ONEder is helping districts meet those challenges.

Join Jon at Columbia’s EdLab seminar space on August 2, 2017.  RSVP Today:

https://edlab.tc.columbia.edu/events/EdLab-Seminar-ONEders-Platform-Approach-to-Special-Education–ryh@mO6B@

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Disabilities in Fashion

By Emma Eisenberg

“What you wear has a profound impact on your psyche,” Chaitenya Razdan, founder of clothing company Care and Wear told The New York Times. “It can make you feel like yourself again.”

But the power of clothes to give the wearer authenticity and confidence is a feeling often denied to the 53 million Americans living with disabilities. Mainstream clothes are designed for people who spend their days standing upright, have one specific kind of proportions, and whose hands can unfasten buttons as tiny as a quarter-inch, to name some of the ways the fashion industry dictates what kinds of clothes are widely available. The few clothing options out there for people who use wheelchairs or amputees are often designed for geriatrics, using dated designs and polyester fabrics. The perception is that physically disabled people don’t care about fashion or don’t need fashionable items that fit their bodies. (more…)

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A Teacher’s Perspective on Personalization

By Sarah Caroline Bell

When I accepted a part-time position teaching students English as a foreign language, I was thrust into the world of education, and all that comes with it. However, it wasn’t until relocating to Incheon, South Korea in 2011, that I encountered learners with disabilities.  Unlike my earlier teaching experiences, where learners were allocated to level-based classes after taking a standardized test, all learners were lumped into one class with a single, fixed curriculum based solely on their age.

I immediately noticed that children whose pace didn’t match the standard were, essentially, left to flounder. To counteract this trend, I dedicated countless hours and my own resources to planning additional learning opportunities for struggling students to complete alongside their peers (while they worked on a higher-level task); as 1:1 lessons in my own time, or as additional homework tasks set at the learners’ true level.

The problem is not just about learners with special needs “lagging behind their peers”. Oftentimes, these students possess abilities that exceed other children their own age, with some able to learn content years ahead. Their difficulties manifest themselves in the classroom as disruption. Every class has a few learners like this, requiring extra preparation at the learners’ advanced level, in order to prevent exceptionally fast students from finishing work early and disrupting other students.

Needless to say, teaching was exhausting. In 2015, I considered giving up teaching children and young adults, and instead focusing on adult education and professional coaching in a 1:1 environment. I considered this because it felt more effective to tailor plans for individuals, then juggle multiple needs in a group setting. The problem with teaching is the sheer amount of time educators spend planning lessons, when that time and energy could be better expended on meaningful educational engagement; this is an experience many current and former teachers identify with.

Upon discovering ONEder, I was filled with renewed positivity, even considering specializing as an educator to children with special learning needs. I am sure many passionate educators, exhausted from the struggle of managing learners, would indeed benefit from a learned-centered, monitorable, technology-based program. Providing an outstanding opportunity for all learners to reach their full potential, regardless of the “classification of their needs”, ONEder is paving the way in modern educational design, and I applaud it for taking the initiative.

Sarah Caroline Bell is a writer and teacher based in Seoul. Sarah is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post, amongst other publications.

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Important Contributions to Special Education: Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)

By Jason Gross

Even for the most supportive parents, a child with autism presents a distinct challenge.  Though various special education and training programs have been developed over the past several decades to aide children with autism, one of the most well-known programs remains the A.B.A (Applied Behavioral Analysis) method developed by O. Ivar Lovaas. One way to think of ABA is as an individualized behavioral modification program, guided by positive reinforcements.

Development of ABA

Lovaas was born in Norway in 1927 and moved to the States to earn his bachelor’s degree in psychology at Iowa’s Luther College (1951) and his doctorate in psychology at the University of Washington (1958). Lovaas began developing the ABA method through psychology studies in the late 1950’s which relied on behavioral modification and one-on-one treatment for patients.  Though this included controversial methods like shock treatment to discourage adverse behavior and starting and stopping the treatment at intervals, Lovaas also developed his method to include positive reinforcement for desired behavior, rewarding subjects with a snack, a toy or book and tasks were broken down into a series of steps so that the patient would learn a desired skill through a regimented process.  As part of the program, socialization with other autistic children and a generalized school population is also gradually integrated as part of the program to help the child progress and mature.

Impact on Special Education

Through decades of research and studies, the ABA method has become one of the premier methods used to work with autistic children, with the emphasis on beginning the program at an early (pre-school) age. While some studies have shown remarkable results with using the ABA method, there have been lingering questions about the conclusiveness of some of the studies that tout the method, insisting that a wider range of subjects is needed.

Personalization

One of the most important part of the ABA method is that it is personalized for each individual students based on their needs and abilities.  ABA is specifically tailored to each client, so it  can cover any activity, skill, or behavior that exists. The goals change and evolve as the skills are mastered.

ONEder advisory board member Melanie Johnston, M.A was a student of Dr. Lovaas in the 1980s, providing ABA Therapy.  In addition to being an IBCCES Certified Autism Specialist, she has spent the past three decades working as an Autism/Behavior Specialists in public and private school settings.  Currently, she serves as Executive Director of BRITE Success, which supplies specialized training services and programs for teachers and families to help children with disabilities.

Jason writes for the Village Voice and Time Out, among other publications.

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The Transition Process for Students with Autism in Career and Technical Education: Does It Happen?

By Penn State College of Education’s Jennifer Nicholas, Debra Herman,  and Marybeth Morrison.

Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can have significant difficulties transitioning from secondary education to postsecondary training or suitable employment. Figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that prevalence rates continue to rise. Currently, 1 in 50 children between the ages of 6 and 17 has an ASD (Blumberg et al., 2013).  The authors found limited literature on employment and postsecondary attainment for this population. They also surveyed career and technical directors in a 30-county area within their state concerning individuals they served with an ASD in the past five years. Addressing the issues related to transition to employment and postsecondary training for this population is crucial for students, families, educators, service providers, and policy makers.

(more…)

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Autism in Pop Culture

By Emma Eisenberg

When it comes to telling the stories of people on the autism spectrum, the portrayals in popular television shows and Hollywood films have long been downright bad. Often these characters show the most extreme symptoms or reinforce stereotypes of all neuro-atypical people as dysfunctional recluses or visionary savants, with rarely any possibilities in between. Or worse–characters on the spectrum are simply left out of mainstream media.

But these days, a sea change is underway. Three major television shows for children and teens–Sesame Street, the Power Rangers, and Thomas the Tank Engine–have all introduced characters with autism in 2017. And these characters are not your typical autism stereotype–the new characters are funny, interesting, and complex. In short, they show a broad range of realistic possibilities for people living with autism, and they do it with grace, humor, and powerful storytelling.

This past April, Julia, a four year-old girl with autism, joined Sesame Street as the newest muppet. She is shy and isn’t comfortable shaking hands, but instead of reacting to her as strange or defective, the show uses Julia’s behavior as a way to teach viewers about behavioral and neurological differences.

“Our goal was to try to help destigmatize autism and increase awareness, understanding and empathy,” Sherrie Westin, Sesame Workshop’s executive vice president of global social impact and philanthropy, told PBS.

Billy, the Blue Power Ranger, debuted in the newest Rangers movie this past April. Similar to Julia, he is a fully-realized character with his own story who also exhibits more moderate autism, by expressing anxiety and shouting instead of whispering.

Finally, this summer will bring us new blockbuster Thomas & Friends: Journey Beyond Sodor, which features a new engine named Theo. He has an “unusual experimental drive system that doesn’t always run very smoothly and he makes sudden jolts forward or back when his rods or cogs jam,” but he is also “genuinely kind and caring” as well as smart and a deep thinker.

These characters represent a real effort on the part of children’s media creators to offer fully-realized portrayals of what it’s like to live as a person on the autism spectrum. But a new movie for adults is taking this idea one step farther: instead of featuring a spectrum character as part of an ensemble cast, a new romantic comedy called “Keep the Change” is putting two neuro-atypical characters, both also played by actors who are also neuro-atypical, at the center. The film follows David and Sarah through the small moments of life–from online dating to shopping to making friends in a support group–and exposes the real challenges and joys of their experience. This is a marked difference from other films like “Rain Man” which tell the stories of autism-spectrum characters from the outside, by making a typically functioning character the hero, and the atypically functioning character an ancillary figure or plot device.

Taken together, this is in an exciting change to watch–and an important one to be a part of, as consumers and educators. Only when diverse stories are told with nuance and from the inside are we doing justice to this complex experience.

In addition to her work for ONEder, Emma writes essays for a variety of publications, including VICE, The New Republic, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Salon, and Slate.

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Student Homelessness and Special Education

How technology is closing the opportunity gap for homeless and high poverty special education students

Homelessness is a major problem, impacting the lives of children and young adults throughout the country. Some 1.4 million students – 2.7% of the nation’s total student population – are without stable homes. Of that population, many require special education support. A 2015 report prepared by the Child Trends Data Bank, found that “Children without homes are more than twice as likely… to repeat a school grade, be expelled… or drop out”.  According to the same report, 75% of homeless youths live with families other than their own; 6% percent are housed in temporary accommodation, and an astonishing 42,000 live on the streets, and other “Places not meant for human habitation”. These appalling figures can be attributed to a range of factors, including domestic violence, and a lack of affordable housing. For “unaccompanied” students living on the streets, mental illness, and substance abuse can also play significant roles.

Homelessness and Special Education

Homeless and high poverty youth experience a variety of behavioral, emotional and cognitive issues placing them in urgent need of special education services. In 2016, some 6250 homeless students were reported as receiving special education services in the state of Washington, alone. Homeless students have been found to require special education services at two to three times the rate of housed students, with many demonstrating behaviors associated with ADHD, and other disorders, caused (at least in part), by their living arrangements.

Reports released by the Better Homes Fund, and Institute of Children, Poverty & Homelessness highlighted a significant problem: even though homeless and high poverty youths are amongst those in greatest need of support, they are less likely to receive special education services than other students. In 2001, the McKinney-Vento Act was signed into law as part of No Child Left Behind, and was designed to ensure that homeless youth have access to a free and “appropriate” education. Despite the ideal, adequate special education support has proved elusive, due to the many difficulties associated with evaluating learners. These issues can include loss of school records, as well as the requirement that schools exclude “environmental” factors as a cause behind the struggles faced by special education students.

Technology as a Solution

Implementing the McKinney-Vento Act, and providing adequate support can be challenging for many school districts; particularly those with under-resourced, high poverty schools. Technology, however, can be an affordable, and effective solution. Jennings County Public Schools in Montgomery County, Virginia sought to close the achievement gap, and “bridge the digital divide”, by increasing the access of homeless and high poverty students to technology. In a recent article for Learning and the Brain, Jennings’ superintendent Tiffany Anderson stressed her belief that limited exposure to technology adversely impacts academic performance: “high poverty students … are asked to make a high jump without the same running start [as] students who are not in high poverty homes. In underperforming high poverty schools, the use of technology is limited and in some cases, non-existent. In a standards based setting, there are many [technology-based] resources that should be used to master standards”. While technology isn’t the only solution, it can transform the lives of homeless students, who are often in danger of “falling through the cracks”, allowing educators to create a customized learning experience; districts like Jennings County Public Schools point a way forward in addressing a pressing problem with long term consequences.

Photo credit: IACAC

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Impossible Means I’m Possible

By ONEder Intern, Nimisha Rana

At 19, I lost my eyesight. Before losing my sight, I would have found it impossible to imagine life with a disability. I had to adjust to countless, seemingly small things which had once been a routine part of day-to-day life: from dressing, to eating, to staying alert when surrounded by strangers. First and foremost, I needed to be conscious of safety, even at home. Avoiding bumping and dashing into both things and people required skill, proficiency, and patience.

Sensitivity on Both Sides

My blindness made me impatient. I also experienced feelings of anger and anxiety, due to a lack of control over my surroundings. Eventually, I came to accept that no magic wand existed that could change my circumstances. Family and friends wanted to help, but lacked the knowledge necessary for dealing with a blind person. When people at both ends are ignorant of each other’s needs and requirements, chaos ensues. I came to learn that disabilities of any kind require sensitivity on both sides.

Finding ways to adjust to my new life became a challenge, that I embraced. I felt like a baby eager to learn new things – I could learn some things on my own, but others needed to be taught. Once patience kicked in, acceptance of my situation was easier. When I say patience, I mean remaining calm, and understanding yourself from another’s perspective, as well as giving others a chance to understand you. I grew to a point where I no longer considered myself incapable.

Learning from Experience

Dedication, for me, is accepting yourself in every situation, and committing to whatever goal you set. When I accepted my blindness wholeheartedly, I started loving myself again. How many people get to live two different lives? I am glad that I have had the opportunity to experience both the sighted and non-sighted worlds, and can now see from both perspectives.

It took time for me to understand this new way of seeing life, but a commitment to jumping over a rock is necessary if you wish to reach the far side of the river. When it occurred to me that I needed to use a cane for the remainder of my life, I assumed my cane would become a barrier on the path to success. It is childish to try and anticipate the future before experiencing it. After my first year without sight, I re-evaluated my way of looking at life, and decided to take chances — chances that would push me towards independence. The biggest mistake made by people with disabilities is their choice to view themselves as a burden to others; they do not realize such thoughts only make them a burden to themselves.

Braille, and the Power of Education

When I learned Braille, I felt a door had opened, and the path forward had been cleared. The power of six dots was mind boggling. On my first day using Braille, I felt I would never be able to learn. However, my dedication to self-improvement would not let me quit. Amazingly, I found that I had learned Braille in as little as six weeks — contracted and uncontracted — which some can take a year to learn. This success inspired me to take on further challenges, like learning JAWS — Job Access With Speech — a computer screen reader program that enables blind and visually impaired individuals to operate computers. Once I had mastered JAWS, the sky was the limit!

The idea of admission into college was daunting, as the American system is so radically different from anything in my native India. I took a deep breath and took the plunge. Once in college, navigating campus was tough, but I preferred asking for help to getting lost, which some blind and visually impaired friends avoid doing. They feel asking signifies powerlessness. However, I believe that asking for help is a way to give others a chance to learn about my disability; a disability they may know nothing about.

Close your Eyes

As an experiment, close your eyes and walk through your house with a cane. Ah and … no bumping into barriers, or hitting yourself against the wall. While difficult, believe me, it is doable; it just takes patience and the will to succeed. The milestones I have attained are the result of strong resolution. However, my resolution isn’t unique; it is within everyone’s grasp! My journey also wouldn’t have been possible without the trust of others. I appreciate and thank all who played a major role in my achievements. Believe in your dreams!

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