Spring / Summer 2007

Duval County on the Move!

Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) is moving toward a more inclusive approach to providing services for students with disabilities. Many students with disabilities will be leaving self contained settings and returning to their neighborhood schools. The schools will be providing specialized services such as consultation, in-class, and other supports to meet the needs of students with disabilities.

In a collaborative effort between the Florida Inclusion Network/Duval (FIN/Duval), Florida Diagnostic Learning Resource Systems (FDLRS), and Intervention Services and Assistive Technology, the Professional Learning Communities Center created Summer Academies to provide training for school staff. Designed to provide educators with the skills necessary to meet the needs of all students in inclusive classrooms, workshop topics included Differentiated Instruction, Accommodations and Modifications, Behavior Management, and Inclusion 101/Flexible Scheduling. Nearly 600 educators representing administrators, guidance counselors, general education, and ESE teachers, attended the Summer Academies and responded positively to the training.

Submitted by: Beth Scanlan, FIN Facilitator, Duval County Public Schools

Scheduling Makes a Difference!

One of the opportunities we have as FIN facilitators is to provide support to schools in the area of scheduling. FIN-UNF often assists schools in developing master schedules that align teachers and other staff with the supports needed by a diverse student population. Yulee Primary in Nassau County is an example of a school that has planned well and taken advantage of FIN services to develop their schedules for the 2007-2008 school year.

Each teacher previously attended the Collaborative Planning and Teaching (CPT) professional development with their principal, Scott Hodges. The CPT training offered Yulee teams the opportunity to learn the “basics” of inclusive education, including the importance of scheduling to meet individual student needs. With the critical support of their administrator, we watched as the wonderful teachers at Yulee Primary made their schedule “come together” in record time!

By planning ahead and having teacher input during the scheduling process, Yulee Primary is well on their way to a very successful and inclusive school year! We wish them continued success and look forward to working with all of their awesome staff!

Teachers Discuss!

Ah ha!

Love it when a plan comes together!

Submitted by: Libby Willis & Kimberlee Oakes, FIN Facilitators, UNF

Collaborative Teaching: From the Eyes of a Child

In recognition of National Inclusive Schools Week, Roy Allen Elementary school, in Brevard County, implemented a school-wide writing project. Each grade level was given an age appropriate writing prompt relative to inclusion, collaborative teaching, and the celebration of diversity. Prompts for grades 4-6 were related to the issue of collaborative teaching (having a General Education teacher and an Exceptional Education teacher in the same classroom for a period of time to support students). Here is what some of the students had to say:

“Not all kids are lucky enough to have two teachers.”

“When one teacher is busy you can always ask the other one for help”

“One teacher can write things down while the other can tell you about what you are going to do”

“Having two teachers benefits me because if I miss what the teacher said I can ask
the other one.

“Having two teachers in the classroom benefits me because there are pretty much
two teachers teaching you at once”

“It helps me because you get to learn two different ways of learning”

“Having two teachers in the classroom helps me because you don’t have to wait as long for one teacher to see you.”

“When one teacher talks the other teacher writes.”

“We can do more things at a time with two teachers.”

“They teach you step by step. If you don’t get it, the second teacher will explain it to you.”

“There are more eyes to see what in the world is going on.”

“Having two teachers benefits you in a lot of ways, that’s something I am grateful for.”

Roy Allen’s Inclusion Team

One of Roy Allen’s Bulletin Boards to Celebrate National Inclusive Schools Week

Submitted by: Dr. Laura Verry-Sidoran, FIN Facilitator, UCF Brevard

Sensitivity Awareness in Southwest Florida

Never underestimate the power of a mother’s love. The poignant story of Rachal Miller’s life and her family’s struggle for others to accept and appreciate the gifts she brings to our world touch your soul. Lisa Miller (Rachal’s mom) delivers a direct, yet gentle, presentation that comes from someone who has “walked the walk” and faced the challenges of having a chld with a disability. The hands-on stations offered during her presentation allow participants to experience the frustrations and enjoy the gifts of a disability for a brief period. Those participating in the Sensitivity Awareness Workshop, Inc. come away with a level of awareness and compassion commensurate with their ability to open their minds and hearts.

Rachal Mirriam Miller was born on April 9, 1992. The first three years of her life were filled with countless seizures, operations, lengthy hospital visits, and hours of challenging occupational, speech and physical therapies. Rachal has been diagnosed with Global Development Delays, Seizure Disorder, Epilepsy and Mental Retardation.

The purpose of the Sensitivity Awareness Workshop of Southwest Florida, Inc. is to educate individuals about people who have physical, mental or learning disabilities through an interactive approach. This workshop offers a comprehensive program that fosters understanding and a sincere sense of compassion and empathy toward people with disabilities.

Our goals are to change one heart at a time, to open others’ eyes to the unique people with whom they share their schools, communities and world, and to convey the concept that any of us could be dealing with special needs or a learning disability. Hopefully participants also learn that understanding disability can breech the barrier of negative labeling, and that compassion and empathy, not ignorance, pity or sorrow, are acceptable responses toward others who are different from them.

Following are some insights from those who attended the workshop:

“I will never forget to be empathetic, sensitive and compassionate to all people. We have no idea the difficulties others have in their lives!” Beth, teacher, Skyline Elementary

“As a teacher of students with mental challenges I witnessed the immediate change in attitude of regular education students after they had completed the workshop. It was as if a light was turned on for them. I heard statements such as, ‘Is this really what it is like for those students everyday?’ and ‘I never knew it was like this for them.’ They had a whole new perspective for students with disabilities. This experience was truly positive and powerful for all students involved.” Jill Bonnell, ESE teacher, Bonita Springs Middle School

“One thing I learned today that I never want to forget: How to have more compassion and less frustration with the children I teach!” Mrs. Giles, ESE teacher, Michigan Montessori Academy

“Thank you so much for coming in and showing us what it’s like to be your daughter for a day. The impact of that was incredible. Now I know exactly how it feels. She has the same heartbeat and the same touch as everybody . What Rachal does may be different or what she is labeled may be different, but to me she is a regular person. She’s just unique in her own way.” Brittney, 8th grade student, Bonita Springs Middle School.

Barb Southwick, parent with Lisa
Cronin-Miller, Founder of Sensitivity
Awareness Workshop at recent
workshop at Corkscrew Elementary
in Collier County.

Submitted by: Stan Weser, FIN Facilitator, FGCU

Broward County Celebrates National Inclusive Schools Week
December 4-8, 2006

In celebration of National Inclusive Schools Week, Broward County praised the efforts of local inclusive schools by displaying pictures and highlights of successfully included students, their parents, and teachers in the District’s Fort Lauderdale office lobby. Following are a just few of the successes educators are experiencing in Broward County schools:

Pembroke Lakes Elementary
This ‘A’ school boasts of successful inclusive practices through the efforts of all stakeholders. Under the leadership of principal, Rosemary Lester, there is at least one dually certified (elementary and ESE) teacher at each grade level. In total, the school has 15 dually certified teachers representing 37.5 % of the teaching staff, providing instruction to students in an inclusive model in the general education environment. Pembroke Lakes is seeing the results of inclusive education as measured by FCAT data. ESE Students at a Level 3 and above rose from 47% in the 04/05 school year to 58% in the 05/06 school year in Reading and from 54% in 04/05 to 63% in 05/06 in Math. As they say at Pembroke Lakes, “Inclusion means more than specials and lunch!”

Coral Springs Elementary
Coral Springs Elementary has been implementing inclusive practices for a decade through a continuum of services such as daily co-teaching and support facilitation. Principal Renee Shaw contributes the schools success to the effective collaboration between ESE and general education teachers. These efforts result in benefits for all students at Coral Springs Elementary. Dr. Ellen Ahiyon, ESE Specialist, believes that “the strong foundation built during inclusive elementary education results in students achieving to their highest level in high school.” CSE teachers note that inclusion fosters awareness and inspires cooperation. They say that, “the reading strategies and accommodations implemented provide support to all diverse learners.”

Eagle Ridge Elementary
Under the direction of Principal Marina Rashid, Eagle Ridge Elementary is successfully including students with disabilities to meet academic benchmarks by making continuous learning gains. The teaching staff view inclusion as creating a collaborative atmosphere that is very helpful for all children. Parents are pleased to see children included in all
aspects of the school day. And students are enjoying learning through their teachers’ increased use of hands-on manipulatives and making learning fun! Students with disabilities love being FULL members of Eagle Ridge’s classrooms and community!

Pembroke Lakes Elementary

Coral Spring Elementary

Submitted by: Barbara Krakower, FIN Facilitator, Broward County Public Schools

Broward County Support Facilitators Networking for Excellence

United We Stand could be the slogan for Broward County’s Support Facilitators who assembled on December 13th for the second after-school networking session this school year. The focus included: sharing best practices for effective communication with general education partners, as well as successful math and language arts strategies to assist included students in their core classes. For Secondary Support Facilitators – the PASS series – Parallel Alternative Strategies for Students, was provided. During our meeting Support Facilitators were given a first look at the Diagnostic Assessments of Reading – Trial Teaching Strategies. They will spearhead the use of this web-based resource to test out research-based strategies with their students. This will confirm and clarify reading data from the DAR and assist in linking to effective differentiated instruction. Support Facilitators were enthusiastic about the opportunity to expand their skills in identifying strategies for instructing struggling readers at our upcoming sessions.

Submitted by: Barbara Krakower, FIN Facilitator, Broward County Public Schools


You Make A Difference

Congratulations to Carol Simrell, from Pinellas County Schools Seminole Elementary . Carol is one of this year’s winners of the 2006 Florida Developmental Disabilities Council “You Make A Difference!” award.

This award honors educators and teams of educators throughout Florida for their exemplary practices of including students with developmental disabilities in every aspect of the educational system.

Carol is an amazing teacher with an amazing class. All her students actively participate and learn together. Because of Carols inclusive methods, even the most experienced would have a difficulty distinguishing students with disabilities from those without!

Submitted by: Cathy Heverly, FIN Facilitator, Pinellas County Public Schools

Thoughts on Inclusion

I have been a teacher since 1978 and I have taught all exceptionalities and seen many trends in service delivery models during that time. These range from institutional settings, self contained class rooms, mainstreaming, resource settings, and finally inclusion. Initially I did inclusion in Lamar County, MS where we found it difficult to help our students with their math courses since we did not have any exposure to the general education curriculum ourselves. We found it beneficial to go into the general education classrooms and do some co-teaching in certain math courses in order to better help our students with coursework. This service delivery model was successful.

Then in Franklin, TN I did inclusion for five years at the high school level. Initially I taught a special education class in reading for students who had not passed their competency exams in addition to teaching inclusion courses. The students in the reading class were so embarrassed to come into the room that they wanted me to put a cover over the door so no one else would see them in the classroom. Once they passed their competency exam they were then allowed to attend a general education English class which I also taught. The changes I saw in motivation and behavior were incredible. One of my students was elected the Senior Class President!

When moving to Florida I was determined to continue teaching in an inclusive setting so I actively sought out schools that were practicing inclusion and luckily ended up at Lime Street Elementary in Polk County where the administration was very much in favor of implementing inclusion.
I have seen remarkable things happening here. Students who had once been in self-contained special education classrooms are now able to make progress in regular classes. Students who once felt different or were made fun of because they were pulled out are now not being stigmatized by the other students. Self esteem is soaring. Discipline problems have been reduced. Parents are very supportive and amazed at the progress their children are making.

I want inclusive practices to continue and to become even more prevalent in Florida. I hope by working to increase inclusion at elementary schools, parents and administrators will push for inclusion to continue into middle schools and high schools. I think that once parents see how successful their children can be, they will demand that they not be isolated or restricted from being a part of the whole school environment.
by Connie M. Dillard

Submitted by: Bonnie L. Dupuis, FIN Facilitator, Polk County Public Schools

Life Changes Forever for Kyle

In August of 2004, Kyle started the 6th grade at West Hernando Middle School in Brooksville, Florida. Attending middle school for the first time is an exciting time for students! Along with the anticipation of being a middle school student, there are many big changes–a different teacher for each subject, changing classrooms seven periods a day, and homework! But for Kyle, another big change was happening–it was the first time in his thirteen years that he would be included in classes with typical peers.

Since he was labeled SPMH with cerebral palsy as a very young child, Kyle had been educated in self contained classrooms. His teachers noticed that Kyle had little or no eye contact, a lack of facial expression, no social interactions with his classmates, and no opportunities to socialize with typical peers. Indeed, for most of the day, Kyle sat still and spiritless in his wheelchair. Although he was included in lots of fun activities with his family at home and in the community, school continued to be a place where Kyle was excluded.

Because of the vision and efforts of the principal, Mr. Clifford, and a dynamite education team, the 2004-05 school year started differently for Kyle. He got support from ESE and general education teachers, paraprofessionals, and peers from the DREAM Team in each of his seven general education classes. With these supports, Kyle was able to meet his IEP goals in all of his classes. He also participated in the Social Inclusion Project (SIP), which allowed him to join social activities with typical peers outside of the school. Kyle’s parents were pleased that, for the first time in his life, Kyle had typical friends from school and said, “When we are around town, students know Kyle, say ‘Hi’, and ask him how he is doing!” When the 2004-05 school year ended, Kyle’s teachers and family noted a significant increase in Kyle’s communication skills as well as improved facial expressions. Kyle’s quality of life in school and in his community was definitely improving!

Kyle could not wait to come back to school to begin the 7th grade. As in the 6th grade, he was fully included in all general education and elective classes with the support of peers, paraprofessionals, and teachers. It was another successful year for Kyle! His teachers and family saw an increase in Kyle’s ability to show emotion when communicating to peers and adults and it was evident that Kyle was gaining more control over his environment. He was becoming more independent each day and participating more fully in activities in and out of school!

Although many of Kyle’s peers have moved on to high school, their friendships continue to be strong and active. Kyle enjoys phone conversations with friends and he keeps in contact with his peers via his own web page on MySpace.com. According to his parents, social activities with peers continue to increase for Kyle. They commented that “Kyle has a more active social life than we do!”

The 2006-2007 school year is well under way and Kyle is now in the 8th grade. West Hernando Middle School provides a positive learning environment where “Every Student is a Success”. The 8th grade is providing many opportunities for Kyle to be included in general education classes and activities with the right amount of support. It is no doubt that Kyle will continue to be a success at West Hernando Middle School!

First trip to the movies without Mom and Dad!!! Woooohooo!

Kyle gets his groove on at a Halloween party!

Kyle improves his computer skills with the help of his peers.

Submitted by: Eloise Hayes, FIN Facilitator, USF Tampa and Vicki Barnitt, FIN Administration
and Phyllis DeSesso, West Hernando Middle School, Mike Pilla, West Hernando Middle School

Planning the Future on Today’s Dreams

In 531 B.C., Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu wrote: “The journey of thousand miles, begins with a single step”. In October, 2006, the National Council for Exceptional Children’s Division of Career Development and Tranisition (DCDT) took their first steps in developing a three-year plan to improve outcomes for students with disabilities, their families, and the educators who serve them. FIN staff Cheryl Liles and Vicki Barnitt used the PATH (Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope) process to lead DCDT board members from across the U.S. through a structured series of steps that began with imagining the organization’s dream for the future.

Guided by their dreams, the group set out to develop positive and possible goals that they could work toward for the coming three years. Goals included such organizational endeavors as developing research-based, user-friendly training and technical assistance, “growing” DCDT’s membership and affiliations, and putting transition for students with disabilities back on the national agenda!

Board members then worked tirelessly to create an action plan for achieving all of their goals by October of 2009. They identified steps they would need to take over the next three years, resources (people and organizations) they would need, and their many and varied strengths as an organization. The board’s efforts resulted in a comprehensive plan to provide support and guidance for their members and set the national direction for transition with a focus on giving every student and their family the life they want.

Using the PATH process helped DCDT board members establish a common direction for the future with a focus on positive outcomes for all their constituents. Indeed, they have taken many steps toward their thousand mile journey. We wish them a successful trip!

National CEC-DCDT board members are proud of their efforts to improve outcomes for youth with disabilites across the nation!

DCDT board members sign their name to the PATH to indicate their commitment to the organization’s goals.

Nelson Elementary School Uses BPIE to Set New Inclusion Goals!

Nelson Elementary School in Hillsborough County utilized the school level BPIE (Best Practices in Inclusive Education) to analyze current inclusive educational practices and prioritize areas of need for the upcoming 2006-2007 school year. Nelson’s devoted team considers this internal asssessment tool, as well as its process and outcomes as an important step to refining inclusive practices on their campus. Guided by their principal, Judy Bowen, and assistant principal, Cindy Guy, the Nelson Elementary team was able to identify four goals to develop their BPIE Action Plan and establish specific activities and timelines aligned with their School Improvement Plan.

As a Demonstration School for Inclusive Practices in Hillsborough County, the Florida Inclusion Network is extremely proud of Nelson Elementary School. In addition to recognizing their many successes, they are also making efforts to improve inclusive practices for students with disabilities.

The team at Nelson Elementary is developing their group norms for the BPIE assessment process.

Team members are scoring and discussing BPIE indicators.

The Nelson team has a lot to be proud of!

Submitted by: Rose Calco, FIN Facilitator, Hillsborough County Public Schools

Northwest Florida Leads the Way

Have you ever had the chance to be on the cutting edge of scientific innovation in technology? Well, we have. Students in the panhandle of Florida who are legally blind or have visual impairements are the FIRST in the state to untilize the Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader (K-NFB). This is the 1st handheld device that scans and reads back printed material using a digital camera with recognition software and text-to-speech conversion…all in the palm of your hand.

On December 8, 2006, Freeport Middle School was presented the first K-NFB Reader by
TYBRIN Corp, a high-tech business in Okaloosa County that offers worldwide governmental support. This corporation is committed to supporting education for students with disabilities, and over the last 15 years they have sponsored college scholorships for these students and supported schools with computers. When the CEO, Bill Pennington and Senior VP, Ty Pennington were approached to collaborate on purchasing six K-NFB Readers for the counties supported by FIN/UWF, they were sold on the idea of meeting the needs of 90 VI students. TYBRIN’s donation of more than $20,000.00 made this dream become a reality.

Cassie Avery an 8th grader at Freeport Middle School and her Vision Teacher, Henry Sconiers explore the K-NFB Reader.

Freeport Middle School Principal, Beth Tucker congratulates Cassie with a big hug on being the 1st student in Florida to use the Reader!

Ty Pennington, Senior Vice President of TYBRIN Corp and Karen D’Avignon, FIN/UWF enjoy Cassie demonstrating the Reader.

Submitted by: Karen D’Avignon, FIN Facilitator, UWF

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