Can Schools Prepare Students with Special Needs for College?

Does your child have severe cognitive disabilities?

Last month, an advocacy network called “The Collaboration to Promote Self-Determination” released a series of recommendations designed to help you and your child.

The basic issue – according to this advocacy group – is that schools need to do more to figure out where students have learning disabilities, pinpoint those problems, early and then intervene appropriately.

It’s all things we’ve heard before.  What’s interesting to us – at least – is that this particular group is linking its recommendation to special needs children and their post-graduation plans.

According to Madeleine Will, chairwoman of the Collaboration, “High quality assessments can drive high quality instruction.” At this point, The Collaboration, believe that tests aren’t rigorous enough and some students are not tested at a proper grade level. The end result is that students with disabilities are behind without any real shot at college or employment after high school.

The ultimate goal is to have members of Congress include these changes suggested by The Collaboration when the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is up for renewal.

The Collaboration recognizes that improving test standards isn’t the only factor deterring students with disabilities from post-high school opportunities. Schools should be held accountable for providing proper instruction, according to The Collaboration.

If you are a parent, it’s great to see a national organization thinking about the real purpose of school:  which is to prepare your special need child for what happens after they graduate, be that college or work.

But we have to ask – aren’t we already asking our schools to do a lot with very little funding?  What do you think?

Here at PresenceLearning we’re all about the kids.  We want to see every special need child thrive through K-12 and – most importantly beyond.  While we don’t yet have the data to back this up, our belief is that speech therapy is critically important to special needs children and their success either in college or in the workplace.

Source: EdWeek

Online Learning with a Human Touch

Daniel Willingham, author, professor and director of graduate studies in psychology at the University of Virginia, recently blogged about two experiments that tested the relationship between computer-based learning and human interaction.

The first experiment was with 88 college students and a PowerPoint presentation. They created three versions of the presentation – one with a human voiceover, one with an avatar that synchronized its lips to the voiceover, and one with a fully-animated avatar. Students who watched the presentation with the fully-animated avatar were better able to apply the content to new situations after the presentation. The second experiment was with the same group of students and involved two different presentations – one with a human voice and one with an avatar voice. Like the previous experiment, the more human-like presentation had a greater effect on students’ learning. These two experiments show that human interaction is important to the learning process.

PresenceLearning understands how important human interaction is to the speech and language therapy process. Using a live, interactive system, PresenceLearning speech and language pathologists (SLPs) use webcams to connect live with their students during sessions. Students can see the SLP’s facial expressions, gestures and mouth positions, thus ensuring that the students are getting the most from their therapy sessions.

PresenceLearning provides online speech therapy to help students achieve better, faster outcomes on a wide range of speech-language goals. Using PresenceLearning allows access to high-qualified SLPs, regardless of location. To find out more about high-quality speech therapy services delivered live via the web, visit: or call 415.512.9000.


Four Ways Parents Can Teach Through School Holidays

4 Ways Parents Can Teach Through School Holidays

It’s what every parent dreads. Furlough days. “Teacher In Service Days”. Regardless of what they are called, these are days where you are asked to keep your special needs child at home for most or all of the day.

Special needs children need a consistent schedule and explaining why your child cannot go to school on any given day during the week can be a challenge. Equally challenging: figuring out how to use the extra time you will spend together, so its time well spent.

Here are 4 ways parents can help their child learn at home:

Talk to Your Child
Most parents think they do this, but in most cases, conversations with child turn into mini-lectures that bore them. Start by asking simple questions about their lives to gauge their interests, dreams and passions. Be prepared at some point for your child to clam up. Clamming up is a signal that’s it’s time for you as a parent to shift gears to a new topic or activity for you two to engage in.

Practice “de-schooling”
Help your child free up large blocks of time. Depending on their age, aim for them each to have a full day and four full evenings each week with no commitments. This gives them to relax, explore and start discovering their deepest interests.

Use Material from Conversations for Bonding Activities
Brainstorm together about activities he or she might like that you will permit and support. Keep your offers realistic.

Support Emerging Interests and Watch for New Ones
As years go by, the self-discovery process helps your child know herself, explore the full breadth of her talents and blossom.

If you worry you’re not doing enough at home to keep your child on track with speech therapy, consider live online speech therapy where SLPs and professionals do not follow the academic calendar, but a schedule that fits your child’s needs.

Learn more about live online speech therapy services by visiting our “Success Stories” section.

Source: Bay Area Parent

Special Education Experts Discuss Use of Online Speech Therapy in Charter Schools during Free PresenceLearning Webinar

Charter schools offer diverse learning opportunities and instructional approaches, but, as in mainstream schools, all students must have access to special education services, including speech and language therapy. To help administrators and educators of charter schools learn more about the uses and benefits of online speech therapy in the charter school setting, PresenceLearning, the leading provider of live online speech therapy for schools, is hosting a free webinar titled “Online Speech-Language Therapy for Charter School Students: When, Where and How?” on Thursday, October 25th at 1:00 pm ET (10:00 am PT). To register for the webinar, visit

During the webinar, Joe Pacheco, Director of Student Services at Leadership Public Schools, and Shawn Whitney, the Director of Special Education at Edison Charter Academy, will discuss online speech therapy and how it can be used in the charter school setting. The panelists will share first-hand accounts on what they have learned about the “when, where and how” of online speech therapy in charter schools and answer questions from the webinar participants.

By attending the webinar, participants will learn:

  • The benefits and limitations of online speech therapy based on real-world examples with charter school students.
  • The roles and responsibilities of the special education administrator, the SLP, charter school teachers and staff in relation to online speech therapy.
  • The body of research related to the effectiveness of online speech therapy.

This webinar is the sixth in a series of free webinars sponsored by PresenceLearning. The webinar series, entitled “SPED Ahead: New Realities, New Choices – A Forum for School Leaders,” brings together thought leaders who are re-thinking the way special education services, especially speech-language pathology services, are delivered.

About Joe Pacheco

Joe Pacheco is the Director of Student Services at Leadership Public Schools. Prior to his role as Director of Student Services for California-based Leadership Public Schools, Pacheco was Principal of LPS Campbell High School. Among administrative positions he has held for public schools, Pacheco was the Program Specialist for Special Education for the Santa Clara County Office of Education. He also served in the Oak Grove School District for 12 years as a Speech and Language Pathologist. He received his undergraduate degree from San Jose State University and his Master’s in School Administration from the University of San Francisco.

About Shawn Whitney

Shawn Whitney is the Director of Special Education at Edison Charter Academy. Whitney joined Edison Charter Academy in 2010 after ten years of teaching, including five years teaching students with learning differences and emotional disturbances at an Arizona high school. She holds a Bachelor’s of Elementary and Special Education from Northern Arizona University and a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education from the University of Phoenix.

About PresenceLearning

PresenceLearning ( is the leading provider of live online speech therapy services for K-12 students. The company offers school districts web-based access to a growing, nationwide network of nearly 200 highly qualified speech language pathologists (SLPs) via live videoconferencing using the latest in evidence-based practice. PresenceLearning delivers large cost savings while improving student outcomes. PresenceLearning is an ASHA-approved continuing education provider for SLPs and a U.S. Department of Education grant-winner, dedicated to bringing the highest clinical standards to online speech therapy.

Adversity Leads to Innovation

Jack McDermott, a student at Tufts University, first had the idea for the Speech4Good app in 2008 when he was in speech therapy for stuttering. “I was spending a lot of money driving into Boston,” said McDermott. “I just realized I wanted speech therapy to be more accessible.”

McDermott wanted to create something that allowed him and other users to get the most out of their treatment. Steve Jobs’ announcement of the Apple App Store was the catalyst for his idea. “It really got me thinking as to how speech therapy and technology can really change the entire process,” said McDermott.

The Speech4Good smartphone app aims to make speech therapy more effective for its users. It takes proven processes of speech therapy, such as Delayed Auditory Feedback (DAF), and delivers that therapy via an iPhone or iPad. These apps allow students getting speech therapy to practice at home and share their practice sessions with their Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP).

Schools and individuals interested in live, web-based sessions can turn to PresenceLearning’s nationwide network of over 200 highly qualified SLPs, available via live videoconferencing using the latest in evidence-based practices. PresenceLearning delivers convenient, affordable speech-language therapy that improves outcomes. To find out more, visit: or call 415.512.9000.

Three Ways Students With Special Needs Can Be Protected From Bullying

Three Ways Students With Special Needs Can Be Protected From Bullying

  (Image via Instinct Magazine)

Bullying is an issue that has plagued schools for years. With recent movements to stop bullying receiving media attention in storyline son hit shows like “Glee” and viral videos featuring young Hollywood, it would be easy to conclude that the problem is being addressed. However, in a recent study by the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, findings show that this is not the case.

In the report released Monday, researchers found that roughly half of adolescents with autism, intellectual disability, speech impairments and learning disabilities have been subject to a bullying episode at school, a rate that is significantly higher than students not receiving special education services.

How do we make bullying go away? Researchers believe that it is up to schools to do more to “promote an accepting environment.” Schools have responded by implementing anti-bullying programs. We applaud this effort. But many school systems simply don’t have the funds to put in place a formal anti-bullying program.

What’s the alternative? We propose that schools and parents start reducing bullying with this three-part approach:

1. Start with the Students Who Are the Most Likely to Be Bullied
First, because the highest incidence of bullying is among special needs population, recognize that the battle will be won or lost within the confines of special education.

2. Walk Away from a Bully
Parents need help understanding how to talk to their children about bullying, how to modify behavior, and how to give their special needs children the skills they need to walk away from a bullying without scars be they physical or emotional in nature.

A good resource for parents on how to talk to your child about bullying is this: Bully Free World

3. Consider Technology-based Alternatives to Special Education.
For schools, applying technology the right way can allow children with special needs to spend more time in “regular” classrooms which ultimately reduces the stigma associated with special education.

One such option for schools is online speech therapy that provides is a safe and isolated environment to allow students to learn at their own pace by eliminating the social pressures that perpetuate bullying.

To learn more, please read about how schools that have adopted live online speech therapy services see their students thrive in our collection on our Scribd channel.

Source: Disability Scoop

What You Need to Know Before You Create Your Child’s IEP

What You Need to Know Before You Create Your Child’s IEPFor any parent, dealing with the IEP (Individual Education Plan) is a sensitive and intimidating task. The biggest challenge that parents face is making sure they are building an IEP that fits with their child – in terms of comfort level, abilities, and age.

To make sure you are well prepared, start asking yourself these questions:

What’s an IEP (Individual Education Plan)?
Though it may sound simple, understanding what an IEP is and why your child needs it is a vital first step. An IEP is a plan developed by parents, educators, and other team members (discussed later) that set outs educational goals set for a child with special needs during the school year, as well as any special support your child is expected to require to achieve them.

Has My Child Been Assessed?
After parents decide that their child may need special education, the next step is to get assessed by the school district to confirm the student is qualified and where they should be placed. Once the assessment is completed a parent can meet with the person who administered the assessment to provide a copy of the comprehensive evaluation report (CER) and discuss their child’s goals days before the actual IEP meeting. If a parent disagrees with the placement of their child, they can request Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) at the test center’s expense under 34 CFR 300.352.

Now it’s Time to Develop the IEP, What Should I Expect?
Once your child has been tested and the comprehensive evaluation report has been made available to your child’s evaluation team –  a team that can consist of psychologists, speech therapists, and/or special educators (can very depending on school district) – the first IEP meeting is now ready to take place. At the IEP meeting, parents should expect to collaborate with the evaluation team and regular teachers to come up with specific, measurable short-term and annual goals for each of the special needs identified. The cover page of the IEP outlines the support services your child will receive and how often they will be provided (for example, occupational therapy twice a week).

How Do I Schedule Future IEP Meetings?
The IEP should be reviewed annually to update the goals and make sure the levels of service meet your child’s needs. However, IEPs can be changed at any time on an as-needed basis. It’s important for you to know that if you want to meet with the school district or members of the assessment team, parents must make a written request.  Also a written request provides a valuable paper trail that details that your child’s needs have been clearly communicated to everyone involved in helping make the IEP a reality for your child.  The IEP team can deny your request to meet and discuss your child’s situation but must provide a reason why such a meeting is not warranted.

I Think My Child Needs an Additional Therapy Service – How Do I Take Action?
Often times when parents believe their child needs additional services such as physical therapy, they request it in the IEP meeting. However, the IEP team will just as often deny the request. It’s a good idea to follow up on your request in the meeting by submitting a written proposal with reasons that supports your case for the service for your child. Please know only a certified or licensed professional can determine if a child needs a service. Submit your written request to the IEP team, that way it will be become part of the official minutes.

Source: Kids Health

15 Tips to Help Your Child Transition from Middle School to High School

15 Ways to Help Your Child Transition from Middle School to High SchoolHigh school is a completely different ball game compared to elementary and middle school. At this point in their lives, children are becoming teenagers and want independence and control over their time, especially time spent outside of school. If your child has special needs, the challenges may be different.  Help your teenager focus on first making a good transition into high school and – with that as a basis – expect their focus to shift to time spent outside of school.

Here are 15 ways to make sure your child transitions with ease into high school:

  1. Plan a pre-transition meeting with your child’s middle school IEP team and high school special education to determine if the high school special education program will be able to provide your child with the learning environment that they need to be a successful student
  2. Attend planning meetings for choosing high school courses with your child.
  3. Ask your child about her goals for high school and after high school. Listen.
  4. Help your child set high and realistic goals.
  5. Tell your child about your hopes for his future.
  6. Ask the school for information and a school handbook prior to the beginning of the year. This should be provided in the language you and your child speak at home. Read this information and talk about it with your child.
  7. Check out the school web site.
  8. Ask about opportunities for students to shadow a high school student.
  9. Attend orientations and open house events.
  10. Visit the school building with your child before the school year begins to help her become familiar with the new building.
  11. Talk with your child about what clubs, teams or other activities he can join at school.
  12. Encourage your child to develop relationships with other students with similar interests.
  13. Talk with other parents and students about their experiences in this school.
  14. Ask open-ended questions like, “How’s it going?” or “What have you been learning?”
  15. Expect your child’s transition to be successful. Remember the adjustment will take time. Your positive outlook can help your child; let him know you are confident in his ability to do well.


Telemedicine and Telepractice Show Great Promise for Improved Services

A recent article on the HealthWorks Collective website recaps an article in The Hill titled “Why telemedicine must become a healthcare priority in America.” The article, written by U.S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Louisiana State Senator Sharon Weston-Broome (D), discusses the importance of telemedicine in the American healthcare system.

The benefits of telemedicine can greatly impact communities nationwide. Johnson and Weston-Broome stated that telemedicine practices can bring healthcare to all areas with broadband internet access, thus offering healthcare to those who may not have had it before. They also stated that telemedicine is already reducing healthcare costs where it is being implemented because doctors can monitor vital signs remotely and can consult with distant specialist.

Similar benefits apply to telepractice, or online speech therapy. Telepractice provides SLPs to schools that are experiencing shortages and may not have access to a face-to-face SLP. Like telemedicine, telepractice allows remote monitoring of student progress. Telepractice is also reducing therapy costs by decreasing travel times and making SLP services available where and when they are needed most..

PresenceLearning online speech therapy helps students achieve better, faster outcomes on a wide range of speech-language goals. PresenceLearning services can also augment on-site speech therapists to lower caseloads, balance workloads and improve student outcomes. To find out more about high-quality speech therapy services delivered live via the web, visit: or call 415.512.9000.


3 Reasons Why After School Activities Should Be Like The Olympics & Paralympics

3 Reasons Why After School Activities Should Be Like Olympics & ParalympicsDid your household follow the Olympics or Paralympics this summer?  At this year’s events — one got the sense that athletes with special needs had a choice.  They could train and compete in the regular Olympics like Oscar Pistorius or train and compete in the Paralympics like Tommy Des Brisay.  And London – this year’s host city – graciously gave athletes with special needs star billing regardless of which sport they chose.

For schools with students with special needs, to have these types of choices is empowering.  We wish all after school activities were set up similarly. The reality is that it many special needs children aren’t given the option to participate in mainstream sports programs for a variety of reasons.  Here’s three things we’d like to see coming out of this year’s Olympics and Paralympic Games.

  • More options for special needs students to participate in sports.  School administrators and parents know that some children with special needs are not ready to participate in mainstream after school sports as they need the extra attention.  Use the example of the Olympics and Paralympics positively and consider creating separate after school activities for students with special needs.  The important thing is that students engage in sports in a setting where they can develop and compete with others equal to their abilities.
  • It’s not about winning.  It’s about making progress. Athletes at the Olympics and at the Paralympics feel undeniable pressure to win.  After school sports for most children with special needs should be about celebrating your child’s progress to personal independence.  Don’t focus on winning but on meeting individual milestones.
  • Bring special needs sports back into the community.  Athletes like Oscar Pistorius at this year’s games had us riveted.  Likewise, the recent story in the New York Times about Jacob Rainey, a high school quarterback who is training to resume playing with his team after a below-the-knee amputation.  This kind of media attention is unprecedented and gives all of us who care about kids with special needs the opportunity to bring sports programs for our kids front and center in our communities.

Relevant Links:
NY Times

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