Monday, April 1, 2019

Knob Hill Teachers Apply Universal Design for Learning Principles to Create Access for All!

At Knob Hill Elementary in San Marcos, Christina Renolds (Education Specialist) and Kayla Richardson (General Education teacher) work together to help level the playing field for their students.  This co-teaching duo has done an amazing job to make sure all students in the classroom can learn without "barriers" getting in the way.  One example of this can be found during math instruction.  Kayla provides thoughtfully prepared scaffolds to help students (that need them) with note-taking.

Check out the video below to learn more

Ms. Renolds shared that math was never an area of comfort for her, but because of Ms. Richardson's organization and teaching style, it is now her favorite subject to teach.
Christina Renolds (left) and Kayla Richardson (right) strike a pose in the Learning Center.  Behind them are the same visual representations used in the general education classroom.  Consistency is key!

Thanks for all you do!

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Overcoming the Hurdle of Communication and Curriculum with Students with Complex Communication Needs

The Vista Adult Transition Center Team  has recently made a huge shift in perspective that is greatly impacting how they teach the Unique Learning Systems (ULS) curriculum and use communication with their non-verbal, medically fragile students:
  • Aided Language Stimulation
  • Core Vocabulary

After attending a few workshops on Unique for Level One Learners, Dylan Valenzuela- Medically Fragile Education Specialist for the VATC program, has worked with his team to shift the status quo methods of teaching ULS and implement the techniques of modeling communication targeting a set of core-based, highly frequently used words to increase exposure and comprehension for their students with complex communication needs.  Take a look at Dylan and the team in action:

Many of our teachers encounter this similar challenge of using ULS curriculum with students who are non-verbal, limited verbal, and/or use augmentative alternative communication (AAC). As Dylan explains so perfectly:

"I can say that working on the core vocabulary and Aided Language Stimulation has definitely been a game changer in the class. Not only are we working on the biggest hurdle in our class (communication) with the core vocabulary, but I have seen a huge jump in student and staff interactions. Now that my staff understands what ALS looks and sounds like, every moment they are around a student it becomes a learning opportunity by the demonstration of ALS. The best example I could give was how people interact with babies and how they explain every little thing that is going on when they interact with them- I think that was their "ah-ha" moment. I push on my staff that ALS should be done with or without an AAC device. I want the exposure of vocabulary towards the student increased significantly (and it has). I would say that the two mantras of our class are:

  1. "Exposure, not comprehension"- speaking about exposing our students to AGE appropriate material/curriculum with cognitively/physically appropriate activities. 
  2. "Talk the Talk"- Concentrating on the exposure of Core Vocab via ULS using ALS every interaction with the students."

This shift in perspective in teaching and communicating with students can be applied to any curriculum teachers might be using, as the focus is still on a core set of words with repeated exposure so that student's can be empowered to use language for a variety of communicative purposes. We ALL have more to say than "I want..."


Thursday, November 8, 2018

Ability Awareness Fair in CUSD and VUSD

Ability Awareness was in the air this October in Carlsbad Unified School District and Vista Unified. Classrooms came by grade to the multipurpose room for a presentation, and hands on experiences. Sara Christian and Principal Tubbs in Carlsbad, along with the CUSD team, did a wonderful job planning and organizing this event. Cassie Ratigan and team at Temple Heights, VUSD, dedicated a week to promoting the culture of acceptance for all students, with activities and experiences. Check out the video to see how they did it!
Thanks for inviting us along- NCCSE AT

Monday, September 17, 2018

Kicking Off the 2018/2019 School Year with Tech&Tools!

We hope you all had a wonderful start to the new school year!  

Our department kicked off the school year with our Tech&Tools summer conference.  A special thanks to Devin Vodicka, Eric Chagala, Kimberly Kriedman, Laurie Anastasio, Katie Larew, Hinda Nadif, and Jason Schmidt. They shared their time, energy and part of their summer to present for us.  We would also like to thank Maiko Yoshida with UCP San Diego and David McNutt with Smartphone Literacy for being a part of our Resource Fair.

We had tons of raffle prizes thanks to various businesses.  We received two $100 Nordstrom gift cards from Zūm and tote bags for everyone from DonJohnston!

Here are a few highlights from Tech&Tools!

We look forward to another year of showing off the amazing work being done in our SELPA to ensure access for ALL students!

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.