Posts Tagged ‘ADD. Attention Deficit Disorder’

EdREV, 2012, Keynote at Giants Ball Park in San Francisco

Parents Education Network presented its 4th Annual EdRev (Education Revolution) Event on Saturday, April 21st, 2012 at the San Francisco Giants Ballpark. It is amazing to me that no matter how much rain or fog we get during April, in San Francisco, somehow the sun comes out on EdRev day. A huge crowd, around 1,500 hundred (we  await the final count) showed up to learn more about dyslexia and ADD.  This blog focuses on the Keynote activities.

Up first was Safe Voices, a student  community within PEN that strives to educate, mentor and support students,  parents and teachers about the challenges and strengths of Learning  Difficulties (LD) and Attention Deficit Disorder(ADHD) Through this program LD  students discover that what they perceive as their greatest weakness, in fact, can become their greatest strength.  A  first step is learning how to speak up for what one needs and who one is.

At the Keynote, Safe Voices students were dotted amongst the crowd in the ballpark adjacent to first base.  Each had a  soap box and a microphone.  Each spoke up for themselves sharing short phrases which have been instrumental in helping them change their attitudes about themselves.  Phrases like:

  • If you teach me 1,000 times and I  don’t get it, who is the slow learner?
  • Learning different students think outside the box.  If they didn’t, what would the world would be like?
  • We own our differences, we accept them.
  • I am much more than my learning difference.  The only thing that matters is: I am who I am.
  • I get up on a box and am heard and am sparking a revolution in education.
  • And, so it went.

Jonathan Mooney, a much respected dyslexic who has no trouble in speaking up for himself,  took over as moderator. He posed questions to guest speakers, all successful dyslexics,  who have found careers that take advantage of their ability to think outside the box.  Joining Jonathan were:

Eric McGehearty CEO of Globe Runner SEO, a top-performing, Dallas-based SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and digital marketing firm. In an addition he’s an award-winning artist.  Filmmaker Leah H. Bell, produced the documentary Access Denied about the intersection of Eric’s life, art and dyslexia. His told us:  Nothing in school worked for me.  In Grade One I had a teacher who didn’t get  me. She shook me very hard.  I was very shy, very scared to interact. In middle school I began being an advocate for myself and my life began to turn around. I had suicidal thoughts until being
connected to people who supported me.

Tracy Johnson, was not diagnosed with dyslexia until college age. Her story is notable a) for the many hurdles she had to overcome, b) for persevering and c) being willing to work harder than most college students do.  She was recently featured in the HBO documentary, Journey  into Dyslexia, Great Minds Think Differently. In grade school, Johnson was diagnosed as “learning disabled,” a label that stuck through high school and a failed try at community college. The education system broke down for her as the label didn’t identify her LD. Then, her self-esteem plummeted. Tracy realized she was dyslexic when she was cleaning classrooms for a living. Now, she is an enrollment advisor at Eastern University. 

Steve Walker is a self-taught dyslexic, engineer and entrepreneur who founded and is now President & CEO of New England Wood Pellet LLC. A true visionary, Steve has been a leader in promotion of renewable energy policy for biomass thermal technologies at the state, national and international level. He, too, is featured in Journey into Dyslexia. Steve told us that if an ally had been around to help him when he went to school he would have been a doctor.  Instead, he stared at the clock.  When he had to write the letters on the yellow paper with lines he was stumped. In high school he couldn’t read the math questions. Instead he developed low self-esteem.  To make matters worse his mother told him if he didn’t go to college he would work in the factory. Well, now, he owns factories and has ended up hiring people who gave him a rough time.  Yes, he said, I had a lot of anger.

Each of these speakers and moderator have different backgrounds, but there are common threads in themes and solutions they see and some are outlined below.

  • The education system needs to be re-engineered. The system is not serving more than 20% of its population. Dyslexics need to take  the lead. We have to look at where does the education system break down? Teachers don’t know how much these 20% really know because their processes can’t give their LD students away to explain. Vocational training and all activities involving creativity needs to re-instated. The Special Ed’s focus of fixing a  dyslexic’s shortcomings needs to flip to support what LD students can do best, refocusing on the positives. School must be the time to find out what you are good at.  Innovation and creativity go hand in hand.  LD students need to learn how to be a leader feeling capable of listening to different points of view.   Remember there is no normal.
  • Communication. Dyslexics have many different dimensions. Vision is how we see it, not what we see.  Learning how to communicate ideas is what a dyslexic’s life wants to be about: communicating the vision, getting my team to go with me. This means dyslexics need to understand concepts to be successful.  Communicating a vision is central to success.  Dyslexics always want to grow as a person,
  • Parents must assume an advocate role to support and care for their LD student.  Listen and explore what the child really needs. Go from strength of your LD child.  Don’t let the education process drive your decisions. Find a school where your child fits, where they can excel.  Leave your ego at the door , which means let go thinking your child has to go to a fancy school. Your concern ought to be: how do I make my kid’s lifetime experience a positive one.
  • Dyslexics are often artists, starters, builders, teachers. Finding a way to leverage these talents is the challenge not only for parents and teachers but also dyslexics. A successful artist who has dyslexia and who has a dream to help others may not always be successful as an administrator, which requires a lot of busy work.  Dyslexics need to sell their team on what he or she needs. One goal is to get to the point where you have no fear of shouting out from the door: How do I spell this word?  Dyslexics need to learn how to back off if someone is trying to make them be someone they aren’t.
  • Leveraging growth after school. Taking what seems to be a menial job can open doors.  a) Steve was working in a factory. The engineers were all struggling with how to solve a program. One night he had a  great idea and stayed up all night solving their problem.  That’s when he turned around. He started his own company at 18 – a lawn mower company.  Tracy was cleaning school rooms to make a living. She kept thinking, there is something wrong here.  I am as smart as some of these students. One night watching the Cosby Show, Tracy learned about dyslexia. The light went on, and she kept going. She re-iterates we need the right, light soil.

 

 

San Francisco Unified School District & Special Education

During EdRev sponsored by Parents Education Network (PEN) at the Giants Baseball Park one of the seminar discussions focused attention on The Future of the Special Education Services in the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) who are transitioning from Youth to Adulthood.

The two leaders were: 

 Cecilia Dodge:  Assistant Superintendent for Special Education, San Francisco Unified School District

Juno Duenas, Executive Director, Support for Families

At the outset the speakers provided a brief outline on the approach being taken at SFUSD.  Their Special Education Services are guided by a US federal law, IDEA  (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).  This legislation indicates how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services to children with disabilities. It addresses the educational needs of children with disabilities from birth to age 18 or 21 in cases that involve 13 specified categories of disability. All States have elected to accept federal funding under IDEA.

Six Principles on which IDEA was built are:

  • Free and appropriate public education
  • Assessment
  • Individualized Education Program (IEP)
  • Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)
  • Requirement of parent participation
  • Procedural safeguards to ensure rights of children with disabilities and their parents will be protected.

 With this background, the speakers focused their presentation on the needs of a child who will be transitioning out of high school into the work force. They recommended that parents look at this transition process utilizing the following five-step outline.

  • What are the child’s goals for the future? 
  • What skills does the child have?  What skills do they need to pursue his or her goals?
  • What support and services will they need to pursue these goals?
  • Where should your child receive these supports and services and who should provide them?
  • How can a parent ensure that the plan for the child is being implemented?

The speakers commented that if a youth has an IEP, then, by age 16 the IEP should include transition planning.  Juno Duenas, Executive Director, Support for Families, informed us that her organization provides training for parents in the process of transition which also includes strategies to include the youth in this transition planning, ensuring the youth is leading their transition plan by providing input.

At this point, the attendees formed two groups to outline their recommendations for SFUSD. A format was provided:   How do you feel about the topic of transition? 

Some of the comments were:

Relating to the heart: 

  • Kids need to be invested in the process of transition.
  • SFUSD needs to provide employment choices for those who don’t know what they want to do. 
  • Parents, themselves, need to do goal setting.  Be a role model.  Show your child what you see doing when you are older and outline the skills you need to acquire to make that happen.
  •    Provide an environment which sets the student up for success.
    • Let the student/son or daughter  know that if they need you, you are here for them.   Give them space to explore to be sure they have a place to be happy.
    •  Remember fear goes with the unknown.  As a parent, work with your kid to expand the potential of opportunities.  Be careful not to say “no” too often. 
    • One teacher commented that she has a fear for one of her students because her student’s goal is to be a stripper.

 Relating to the Head:   What does your youth need to know and/or what additional questions do you have that would helpful to us in our planning at SFUSD?

  • Make unknown known.
  • Provide the necessary skills for what their heart wants.
    • Recommend that parents let go so their kids can have their head to explore and go for it.
    • Concerns: 

                               How will a supervisor or boss relate to our child?   Perceptions are at issue.

                               Disclosure:  How much do students need to tell future employers? 

                               If students are given a right they have a responsibility.  How do we re-enforce this?

 Relating to Hands:      What ideas do you have for SFUSD to improve the transition to adulthood?   What ideas do you have about community partners?

  • Let the students run the IEP rather than the professionals. Currently students speak the least at the IEPs. 
  • Provide means to assist the student to determine their likes and dislikes.  Students need to learn hands-on skills:  eg vocational
  • Offer more vocational and workablility opportunities.
    • Providing the family with links to organizations and services that the child is interested in.  Parents don’t have the time so school needs to do it. 
    • More mentors and, of course, a common theme, more funding
    • Develop links for networks including social networks: eg  Twitter, Facebook.

I found this seminar very useful.  As I am not involved with the school education process my only connection is through the press.  The details provided by the leaders of this seminar and the feedback from those attending has given me a different frame of reference.    

Contact Info:

            Juno Duenas,  Support for Families of Children with Disabilities (SFCD): 

                        phone:  425 282 7494, e-mail info@supportforfamilies.org

                        www.supportforfamilies.org

            Cecilia Dodge:   San Francisco Unified School District SFUSD

                        Phone:  415-379-7697, e-mail:  dodgec@sfusd.edu

Note:  Juno Duenas reviewed this blog before posting and added information to make the description more complete and accurate.  Thanks, Juno.

Book Review: How to Detect Developmental Delay and What to Do Next

How to Detect Developmental Delay and What to Do Next  by Mary Mountstephen has been reviewed and highly recommended by Kathy Johnson: www.pyramidofpotential.com/blog     

Ms. Johnson comments:  I would suggest this book for anyone who is looking for answers as to why an individual struggles in school. Ms. Mountstephen uses her background as the leader of a large specialist support center at a major independent school and as an educational and neurodevelopmental delay specialist is private practice to put this book together. She also consults internationally to schools and organizations from her home in the UK, giving her the experience to understand all she writes in this book. 

The book has two parts: Child Development and Signs of Delay in Part 1 and Interventions for Home and School in Part 2. Part 1 includes factors affecting early development including pregnancy and child development, genetic and environmental factors, and the role of primitive and postural reflexes. The chapter on what to expect in the early years is helpful in determining if development was typical or delayed by reading through lists of milestones. Next Ms. Mounstephen writes about special education and specific diagnoses, including dyslexia, dyspraxia, and ADD/ADHD.  

Part 2 is all about the “What to do Next” in the title. She looks at movement, such as neurodevelopmental programs, balance, handwriting, and using a multi-sensory approach to classroom and home work. 

The chapter on Vision, Visual Processing and Learning includes information such as why vision issues are frequently not found, strategies for children with visual problems, vision therapy, a vision assessment checklist, and the link between primitive and postural reflexes and visual problems. Indeed this is a thorough and important chapter! 

Children receive informational input in school using two primary modes: vision and hearing. So another wonderful chapter is on Hearing, Auditory Processing and Learning. She discuses the importance of these skills, language development, causes and symptoms of auditory processing problems, dealing with these issues in the classroom, speech and language therapy, and finally listening therapy programs. 

The final chapter is on how a psychologist can help, written by Elvie Brown, and educational psychologist. In it she about her role, why see an educational psychologist, and information about a psychological assessment. Sample assessments help a parent know what to expect. 

Finally, the Appendices include forms to aid a parent as they help their child, a brochure about Central Auditory Processing Disorder, and many resources.

 I recommend this book highly for parents and professionals alike, as they seek to change children’s lives from struggling to learn to being successful in school. I was able to purchase it off Amazon.com.