Prompting: Be a Drama Queen

promptIf you’ve spoken to a behaviorist or Special Ed Teacher or even just a person who happens to love B.F. Skinner, you might hear them talk about prompting and redirection: a behavior strategy used to decrease unwanted behaviors or increase desired behaviors. This is used in ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis), specifically with children who are diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum. However, it works for other behavior patterns too, and there are many ways to teach it effectively.

What’s a Prompt?

A prompt: “Cue or hint meant to induce a person to perform a desired behavior. A fancy way of saying this is: An antecedent that induces a person to perform a behavior that otherwise does not occur.” Types of prompts include verbal, full physical (hand over hand), partial physical, modeled behavior by the person performing the prompting, gestured, or just visual (just pointing without any other guidance). I have a lot of prompt, fading, reinforcement and redirection skills from my ABA Training and I’m continuing with the trend by learning PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) for non-verbal children. Simply put, first, you prompt the desired behavior; then, if the child is unsuccessful, you redirect the undesired behavior. And then you do it all over again. This is a type of behavior modification.

Prompting at Its Best: Be a Drama Queen

I decided to apply all of my knowledge on this subject to one of my middle school students who struggles with staying on topic and focused during our tutoring time. I mean, he can talk about everything under the sun except homework!

So here’s The Plan: Whenever he gets off topic, I am to just lay my head on the table in exasperation – like a drama queen. This will prompt him to think about why I’ve suddenly stopped listening and “fallen asleep” on the table. If he gets it, I am to reinforce the desired behavior (his realization that he’s off topic and needs self-redirection back to his homework). If he doesn’t, I am to redirect the undesired behavior (off topic conversations), and then try my self-described drama queen technique again.

I tried this technique out tonight during our session, and you know what- he got it! Of course, he thought it was super, duper funny (and it was meant to be.) But after the giggles wore off and I did it again for reinforcement when he started talking about super heroes instead of science, he got it!

Tutoring Should Embrace Techniques from Education & Psychology

See I think Tutoring is really more than just homework help. It’s having someone teach a student about the nuances of social skills, turn-taking, perspective understanding, organization, planning ahead and focus. Homework can be used as the basis for teaching these necessary life skills. For kids who struggle with these executive functions and perspective issues, there are lessons within lessons.

It’s our application of various strategies, techniques, and principles from across the educational and psychological landscape that really do lend itself to a true co-existing of crossover services. School work should prepare a student for life skills too.

I love thinking outside the classroom box, and I’m not afraid to be a Drama Queen to get my point across. I urge you to go against the tradition of coloring within the lines and, instead, branch out to incorporate various ideas from all sorts of models. You might just find the right combination that does the trick for your student.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic, Behavior, Special Education Advocacy, and School Placement services.  Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com.

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I am Thankful for My Sister: The Amazing Speech Pathologist

Elisabeth Zambia

Elisabeth Miller, Extraordinary Speech Pathologist, in Zambia, Africa providing Speech Services with CLASP International

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’d like to give a well-deserved “Thanks!” to my talented and extraordinary little sister, Elisabeth Miller, M.S., CCC-SLP. She has many letters after her name but there’s not an ounce of pomp. Elisabeth works for RiverKids Pediatric Home Health, where she provides clinical Speech & Language Therapy services for Medicaid Patients ages Birth to 21.  Since she’s so kindly taken the Thanksgiving break to visit her L.A. based sister (myself), I thought I’d take this opportunity to interview her about her work in hopes that it will lend some clarity as to what exactly Speech & Language Pathologists (SLP) do.

In general, what does a Speech & Language Pathologist do?

We treat people with all types of communication disorders, which includes any disorder that affects a person’s ability to communicate and understand the world around them. We also work on feeding and swallowing for kids and adults who have food aversions/swallowing disorders, and babies weaning from G-Tubes.

Why did you choose to pursue a degree in Speech Pathology?

My mother (our mother) picked it for me. I wanted to work with children, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a teacher in a school because I didn’t know if I wanted to work with large groups of kids. My mother told me to be an SLP because I could work with kids or adults in a 1:1 setting in a hospital or school, and I would always have a job .

Have you found that to be true?

Yes, jobs are plentiful. Totally recession proof. It’s emotionally rewarding and challenging.

What types of kids do you work with?

I see children who have complex medical histories, like prematurity, long hospital stays, weaning from g-buttons or ventilators. I encounter parents who are overwhelmed with the diagnosis and I’m  able to provide family support, education, training, and help their child see improvements.

Tell us a story. A good one about your experience as an SLP.

My favorite kids are those who are labeled as Intellectually Disabled (ID) formerly known as Mentally Retarded. My one little boy, age 9, was labeled as ID and never really able to speak. He had lots of therapy but what I discovered during testing was that he actually had complex motor deficits, including dysarthria (muscle weakness), and Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS), which prevented him from acquiring spoken language. His family had wanted him to speak but had given up hope that it was possible because it had been so many years and he just wasn’t progressing. What I found is that when we took the focus away from forcing him to communicate and teaching him instead how to control the muscles in his mouth to formulate sounds, syllables, and words that he was quite capable of being a verbal communicator; he just never had the opportunity or appropriate treatment. I have learned never to give up on kids based on a diagnosis of ID or Autism. Currently, he’s 10 now and he’s playing with his siblings appropriately and calls for them by name using short phrases. He’s making great strides.

What’s one thing you think that the schools do well at in terms of providing SLP Services to students?

I think the schools are doing well at trying to identify children earlier and getting them into special programs at a younger age, which means that they will hopefully have better outcomes as they get older.

What’s one thing you think the schools could improve upon?

Not removing services for children who are in Middle and High School, as this is a critical period for them to learn skills they may not have acquired during their younger years, such as reading, social-communication skills, and functional communication. We have to better prepare them to leave high school.

Have you found your passion within your career?

Definitely! I love working with pediatrics. I work in a Home Health setting and I get the best of both worlds: access to the family, home environment, and able to work with the child 1:1 or incorporate siblings or peers within the community.

So proud of my little sis. For more on Elisabeth and her work, check out CLASP International and RiverKids Pediatric Home Health

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic, Behavior, Special Education Advocacy, and School Placement services.  Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com.

We Need a Learning Profile for Every Student

learning profile A recent Special Education Forum got me thinking: We need a Learning Profile for every student, not just those in special ed.

What’s a Learning Profile?

A learning profile is an overview of the recommended reasonable accommodations and modifications needed to set a student up for success. It’s traditionally used in Special Education but I believe we need one for every student, regardless of special or general education status.

Why Should a General Education Student Have a Learning Profile?

There is no one right way to learn, and therefore no one right way to teach. Just because a child doesn’t qualify or hasn’t been tested to receive services under the federally mandated Special Education programs doesn’t mean that child does not need some classroom accommodations or modifications. In fact, those are kids that may be slipping through the cracks. Those are the ones we need to pay extra close attention to because they may be struggling but no one can pinpoint why.

Learning Profile Considerations

I subscribe to Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences theory. Although learning styles and multiple intelligences are not the same,  a strength-based learning assessment will take into account the child’s multiple ways of learning and bring out those different styles of thinking by considering the following:

  • Student Classification
  • Supports Provided
  • Cognitive/Intellectual Style
  • Social/Emotional
  • Student Behaviors
  • Organization/Time Management
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Language
  • Math

We Think Differently, Therefore We Should Be Taught Differently

Lots of progressive and developmental based schools are on board with this idea: we all think differently, therefore we should all be taught differently. Traditional schools teach to the middle while progressive models teach to the individual. Yes, we all need to learn social tools to navigate societal conventions but should we all be learning just one way of doing something? Common Core is attempting to bring more project based learning into the classroom but the sheer numbers of students in a class (up to 40!) makes it a tall order for one teacher to implement. The ideal is not the same as the reality.

For my students struggling in traditional platforms, I recommend seeking out schools with a teach-to-the-individual-strength-based-learning model, like many of these I’ve visited. And if you need a little help finding the right school fit, search out a school placement service that incorporates a psychological component coupled with education advocacy, like mine here.

The way a student learns is hardwired long before they step foot into a classroom. As educators and parents, we must make sure to set them up for success by enhancing, not squashing, their natural abilities.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Comprehensive Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic, Behavior, Special Education Advocacy, and School Placement services.  Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com.

10 Tips on How to Navigate the Special Education System

FAPESpecial Education can present sticky situations when it comes to services, funding, and finding the right school fit. Anyone who works in the schools or has been a part of the IEP circle in some respect knows that it’s no secret getting services for your child can be an uphill battle. Don’t worry– we’re here to help you navigate the system in a collaborative and compassionate manner.

Here’s what you need to know: (Download our Special Education Advocacy PowerPoint)

1. Know Your Acronyms & Case Law So You Can Speak the Special Ed Lingo: FAPE, IDEA, IFSP, IEP, IEE, LRE, SELPA; Board of Ed. v Rowley, 458 US 176 (1982) aka The Cadillac v Chevrolet argument

2. Regional Center to Public School Transition: Birth to 36 months = ECI Services; 36 months to 21 Years: Services through the Public School

3. Understand the IEP Process:

  • Qualifying Disability as defined by 20 U.S.C. sec. 1401 (3)(A)
  • Request for Referral for an Evaluation
  • Public School Approves or Denies the Request: If Approved then there is Psycho-Educational Testing v. If Denied: Appeal and IEE Option
  • School is looking at where your child falls on the Standard Deviation Bell Curve
  • Annual IEP Meeting but you can ask for more
  • Tri-Annual (every 3 years) Evaluation of new Psycho-Educational Testing
  • Know Your PLOP Goals: Measurable & Realistic

4.  Is ADD/ADHD Part of Special Ed? No.: Not considered part of Special Ed but can get 504 Plan, which governs accommodations. So how do you get services for children diagnosed with ADHD? Must pair the diagnosis with a qualifying disability as defined under 20 U.S.C. section 1401 (3)(A).

5. New DSM Info About Autism: New DSM does away with Asperger’s and PDD-NOS. Instead there is one umbrella diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder with various severity levels.

6. What Services Are You Asking For? OT, PT, SLP, Resource; usually Pull-Out services in Group with 3-4 students for 30 minutes 1-2 times per week; Push In Classroom Services v Pull Out Group or Individual Services

7. What’s Inclusion & Mainstreaming: It began in the 80’s and is the public education’s choice form of classroom methodology– mixed learning abilities in a general education classroom with a general education teacher

8. Parent Rights:

  • You do not have to test your child.
  • You do not have to sign the IEP at the Meeting
  • You can ask for more than one IEP per year
  • You can ask to observe your child and the therapy
  • You can ask for a copy of the report and testing
  • You can ask for additional hours and services

9. Alternatives to Traditional Public Education: (1) Paid by the State: Homeschooling, Charters; (2) Paid by the District: Non-Public Schools; (3) Private Pay: Private School, possible tuition reimbursement under Burlington School Committee v. Dept. of Ed, 471 US 379 (1985)

10. To Sum it up:

  • If it’s not written down, it didn’t happen.
  • You don’t have to sign the IEP at the IEP Meeting.
  • You have more rights than you know.
  • Your job is to know the law and fight for your child’s rights in a collaborative manner.
  • You can be your child’s own advocate!

All in all, you must be your child’s own advocate but sometimes you need a little help along the way. That’s where we come in.

We focus on identifying your child’s areas of needed support, qualifying for assessments and evaluations through the school district or the state regional center, attending and reviewing Student Success Team (SST) & Individualized Education Program (IEP) Meetings at the school, Coordinating Care between all public and private service providers, teaching you how to navigate the education and state systems, and teaching your child self-advocacy.

Because when all is said and done, the end goal is for your child to be self-sufficient–they just need a little help along the way, and that’s okay.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Comprehensive Wraparound Support Service for The Struggling Student by combining Academic, Behavior, and Advocacy support. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com.

Standardized Testing Limits Potential

test The education world, like any other industry, goes through phases. The importance placed on standardized testing is just one of the phases but it’s been a tough one for educators, parents, and students alike. With the “No Child Left Behind Act” teaching to the test became the norm. “Common Core” is our public education’s response to too much testing and not enough learning.

We’ve Created a System that Requires Us to Measure a Person’s Potential In & Out of the Classroom

Common Core’s true underlying focus is a belief that we all learn differently and that we should promote those learning styles. In fact, the progressive and developmental education movements believe we should be teaching to a child’s strengths rather than their weaknesses. This makes sense because as adults we all learn to compensate for our weaknesses and choose careers that play to our strengths.

Standardized objective tests are not a true indicator of potential. They simply measure where a child stands in relation to his peers at that moment in time. However, the system we’ve created, both in and out of the classroom, requires us to measure a person’s abilities.

A Student’s Self-Worth Hinges on Where they Score on the Scale of Perceived Success

We use these tests to define if and where a student will go to college, what type of job they are most suited for, and how stnd deviationmany public services and how much funding a child will receive. By default, we are defining how much learning potential our students have by how well they take a test. When we continue to define a person by an objective standard we slowly chip away at their uniqueness, which leads to defining ourselves by how well we fit in with the crowd. Our self-worth now hinges on where we fall on that scale of perceived success.

The SCERTS Models Teaches the Foundational Skills to Get that Job & Keep that Job

The reality of life after school is that a person is not measured by how well they do on an exam but rather how well they (a) perform the task, and (b) connect with those around them. EQ is more important than IQ. Simply said, if people like you they want to work with you.

The SCERTS Model is based on the belief that Social Communication, Emotional Regulation, and putting in place a Support System to implement those tools maximizes a student’s learning potential. It’s not a test; it’s a way of life.

Traditionally designed for children on the Autism Spectrum, SCERTS can be used for any child because it teaches how to effectively communicate with one another, which should be the foundation of our learning model. Skills such as Functional Spontaneous Communication, Social Interaction in Various Settings, Teaching of Play Skills, Instruction Leading to Generalization and Maintenance of Cognitive Goals, Positive Approaches to Address Problem Behaviors, and Functional Academic Skills are important for every child at the crux of a developmental period.

Furthermore, these skills can be used in multidisciplinary, crossover home and school environments to provide our children with a foundational communication skill set that will not only allow them to get that job doing what they love but keep that job.

Less Emphasis on Testing = More Emphasis on Cultivating Great “Changers of the World”

I realize that our education system will probably never eliminate standardized testing, but my hope is that we place much less emphasis on its scores. Every child is different. Every child learns differently. We cannot expect to cultivate great thinkers, innovators and “Changers of the World” if we continue to define our children by a number. The more we come to accept this truism, the more chances we give each of our children to achieve real success.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Comprehensive Support Service for The Struggling Student by combining Academic, Behavior, and Advocacy support. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com.