Friday, March 2, 2018

Ability Awareness Teaches the First Step in the Design Process: Empathy

Meet Mr. Aaron Sottile

Students in the Calavera Hills Middle School Design and Modeling class began the creative design process through the lens of empathy using hands-on exploration of assistive technology devices and tools currently used in the field of AT. 

As Mr. Sottile explains, "Students are working in this unit to develop a therapeutic toy to be used in physical therapy sessions for patients with cerebral palsy.  After learning about the physiology of the condition, students work in teams to design a therapeutic toy to help develop the gross and/or fine motor skills of a preschool aged or early school aged child with cerebral palsy.  Student solutions are developed using the knowledge developed throughout the course, including engineering, biomedical and computer aided drafting skills.   Our design and modeling students engage in the design process to develop a prototype therapeutic device.  The team at the North County Special Education Consortium helps students develop an awareness for, and understanding of the patients for whom the design and modeling students are developing solutions for.  The design process starts with empathy, and the visit from NCCSE helps develop that empathy in our students, helping them better understand the needs of their patients and the types of design solutions that exist to help increase access for all." 

Check out the students in action here:

Monday, February 5, 2018

Students Supporting Students at Double Peak K8 School in San Marcos

Janine Gale, School Counselor (left) and Rikki Kukendall, Ed-Specialist (right)
Rikki Kuykendall is the 6-8th grade Educational Specialist at Double Peak School (DPS). She currently co-teaches in 6th and 7th grade English Language Arts and Math classes. This is her 13th year servicing students in the San Marcos Unified School District.   Part of of Rikki's role on campus is to support Janine Gale, the School Counselor, with a year long elective called Students Supporting Students. In this program, peer mentors/tutors focus on aiding younger students in conflict management as well as making academic gains.   Janine, who has worked with the K-8 population for over 14 years, implemented this program at her former school and then brought it to DPS with the help of Rikki.

When Rikki heard about this program, she immediately asked if she could support Janine in making this class come to fruition.  As they were planning, a student named Emily happened to come into the room.  Emily  shared that her passion project was to help students at DPS and after listening to her vision, a team was born.
Emily's  recruiting video

S³ or Students Supporting Students is a program where middle school students apply (7th and 8th graders), interview, and undergo a 4 day training to become mentors and tutors for younger students.
They were trained how to empathize and develop rapport with students with various needs.  Since technology is used daily at DPS,  students were also trained as to how to use the Google Read and Write accessibility toolbar by the NCCSE AT team. Even though the peer mentors don't use it themselves, they are familiar with it so that they can support those that do.  Often times they refer back to their manuals in order to help the students.

The Students Supporting Students Team
Janine finds that the program really helps to build community and cohesion amongst the different grade levels. At her previous school, she saw how it allowed students to learn the language necessary to manage their own conflicts and really take the time to look at different perspectives. It has reduced the number of referrals to the office for behavior and also helped with academic concerns. It truly is a win-win for schools.

Keep up the awesome work DPS team!

Monday, November 13, 2017

A Twist on Ability Awareness at Calavera Hills Middle School

Calavera Hills Middle School (Carlsbad) has a Design and Modeling class, lead by Mr. Aaron Sottile.  The class emphasizes the design process using principles of project-based learning. They recently completed their  first project. They had to design an Ankle Foot Orthotic (AFO) brace for a child with cerebral palsy.  They were not allowed to see what a real AFO brace looked like.  The students stepped up to the challenge and they got creative.  They made one out of pool noodles, popsicle sticks, rubber bands, elastic bands,  glue guns Etc. 

Melissa Haider, MPT with Haider Pediatric Physical Therapy, spoke to the class about what Cerebral Palsy is and  why people with it may need a brace. Part of the emphasis of this class is to design and create with empathy in mind.  To help students with this, Melissa Haider collaborated with their teacher Mr. Sottile and held an Ability Awareness which included participation from OT, PT, AT, and APE. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

The School Year is Off to a Great Start!

There have been several updates in the world of accessibility since the beginning of the 2017/2018 school year!  Below is a summary of a few of them.  For more information in these areas, check out the respective pages by clicking on the tabs above.


The Read&Write for Google toolbar looks a little different...
You may have noticed that there is a new icon at the end of the toolbar now instead of the "settings" gear.  Don't worry, it does the same thing and so much more!  Now there are options to change preferences for the word prediction tool.  Also, don't forget you can turn features the toolbar on and off too. This is a great one to keep in mind for those students who are easily distracted.

Bookshare works with iBooks on iOS devices...
Now that Bookshare offers books in EPUB format, Apple users can read EPUB books on their computers and mobile devices using iBooks.  It has a few accessibility options for readability (including the ones built into your device under settings) and it's free to use!.  Click here for more info.


Many of the AAC apps were recently updated
Check the AAC  tips tab for more details

Monday, May 15, 2017

Check out how Cardiff School District held a successful Ability Awareness Fair!

Cardiff School District held an Ability Awareness Fair on March, 24 2017. The fair was held simultaneously on both campuses. Classrooms came in at designated times, but students were allowed to come back a second time during their recess and lunch if they didn't get to see everything. Ashley Smithey, Director of Special Education in Cardiff, along with the Cardiff team, did a wonderful job planning and organizing this event. Check out the video below to see how they did it!

Friday, April 21, 2017


The ultimate goal of the 2016/2017 Classroom Collaboration project was to help create model classrooms, utilizing a UDL model for academic and language enriched classroom environments, that could potentially be replicated in the local district and/or SELPA wide. This year we were able to work with 3 phenomenal teachers, related service providers and paraeducators. We learned a great deal from them!

JoAnna Rodriguez, San Elijo Elementary School, SMUSD

Nicole Aschenbrenner, Rancho Santa Fe Elementary

Ann Lulay, Maie Ellis Elementary School, FUESD

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Using technology, creativity, and passion to construct Universal Design for Learning for moderate-severe students

The amazing crew of Robin Hooper's Mod-Severe 3rd-5th grade class at Hannalei Elementary really know how to use technology and Tier 1 tools to increase accessibility for academic instruction and provide a truly language enriched environment to their students with various disabilities and complex communication needs. 

Welcome Mrs. Hooper's class!
(from left photo to right) Robert Campbell, Lindsay Raasch, Robin Hooper (Education Specialist/Teacher), Annalee Gil, Donald Carl, Maria Aguilar, Stacie Kass (SLP).

See the video below to understand what makes this classroom staff a model example of how to truly integrate technology and tools for teaching to achieve success for their students:

Robin's class utilizes a mobile video HDtv with Elmo projector, video, and DVD player to interactively conduct whole class lessons to increase student engagement and understanding. Her classroom word walls use core vocabulary words from the current month's Unique Learning System's themes. The school SLP, Stacie, has even provided the staff visual supports for prompting reminders! On a non-tech note, Robin ensures that at the end of each day, all her students and staff provide at least one compliment to a peer or colleague before they head out the door. ICING ON THE CAKE!  This positive spirit is evident upon walking through the door, as all staff collaborate and are constantly supporting each other to be the very best they can be for their students. 

Click the slides below for more great ideas from Robin's classroom to support students within a mod-severe classroom: