Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Special Education and Student Services Newsletter for April: Puzzle Pieces and Fireworks

Special Education and Student Services Newsletter for April: Puzzle Pieces and Fireworks 

April is Autism Awareness Month.  You will often see a Puzzle Piece representing Autism.  On a nationwide level, the Puzzle Piece symbol reflects the mystery and complexity of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  Also, since every puzzle piece is different in some way, a puzzle piece accurately represents the diversity of the individuals affected. 

It seems like special education is often like puzzle pieces:  
  • In our programs our students are each unique little pieces of a puzzle - everyone with different personalities and disabilities, but all fitting together in a classroom puzzle thanks to efforts of staff.
  • In a recent IEP meeting a parent talked about how her child didn't really fit perfectly into a specific category of special education, but seemed to have parts of different categories making him his own unique special person.  This is similar to a board puzzle with pieces coming in different colors and shapes, but ultimately all fitting together.  
  • Building special education staff each have different pieces of experiences, philosophies, skills, interests, personalities, and ideas. It doesn't make one way right or wrong - they are just each different.  Like a puzzle though, we must all fit together to make a beautiful picture of student success
  • EBD students are a picture that have many puzzle pieces including parents, teachers, social workers, school based mental health counselors, psychiatrists, guidance counselors, and school psychologists
  • This school year we have had four adults complete the requirements for a high school diploma through our Medford Adult Diploma Academy.  They spent years without a diploma not being able to apply for a job and feeling bad about themselves.  Now, MADA gave them the final piece to build their life back up. It is a glorious picture to them and their families. 
  • Our students with disabilities are very challenging puzzles.  We spend countless hours and energy trying to find answers or looking for the right puzzle pieces to put together.  Why is he acting like that - is it his cognitive ability or is it his emotional disabilities? Why doesn't he come to school - what can we try to get him here? He screams at the end of each day - how can we get him on the bus? She hasn't been to school since the birth of her baby - what can we do to get her back to school to finish her diploma? What should we do with students when they are 18-21 year olds? Should she be in Adaptive PE due to her diabetes or no?  How do we help our Down Syndrome student and explain to him that his mom is having heart surgery?  Should we recommend MIgisi or Mikan for that student? Each and all of our students have their perplexities and challenges as we spend not days or months, but sometimes years finding the right piece or pieces to make that difference.  
  • Life is a puzzle that doesn't always make sense.  My step-sister Judy has lost her mom and three aunts to cancer, grandma and grandpas have passed away, her brother Dale died in a snowmobile accident, and she is now raising her first child Collin with Leukodystrophy which is a life threatening genetic disorder.  Why does this have to happen to her is asked by many people? Collin though has become a huge puzzle piece to his family, friends of his family, and his local community.  He has brought them together to make some joy even in these circumstances.  
  • Also puzzling are those unexpected things that happen out of nowhere - "My student thanked me today for helping him understand his math. I felt like crying."  Or when I ask a parent in the hallway how things are going for her son and she tells me "I am so grateful that my son has (her) as my special education teacher.  She has made such a difference in my son's life.  I only wish I put him in special education last year so she could have taught him." "How did we get such a great student council that wants to plan autism awareness activities?"  Becoming best friends with your co-workers.  Finding a curriculum like Wilson Reading to use with our most dyslexic students.  Hiring a paraprofessional that was an immediate puzzle match as she brings a smile to the face of our most wonderful angels.  Receiving stimulus funds from President Obama so pieces like Wilson Reading, Reading Assistant, Read 180, iPads, Student Computers, Earobics, Vmath, and Vmath Live can all be put together to help our puzzle of special education student achievement. 
In April - as we near the end of the school year and seem extra frustrated, stressed, or challenged - think of yourself as a special puzzle piece. I wish you much peace and happiness in April and the remainder of the school year.  Thank you so much for working so hard and being one of our pieces to the puzzle of special education here in the Medford Area Public School District. 

We do a great job in Medford Schools focusing on the abilities of a students and not always their disabilities.  Here is a video that deserves watching and almost a year later still makes me emotional every time I watch it.  Reminds me of our students on the autism spectrum who: perform on stage in front of their peers, make amazing mazes, swimming that were once afraid of water, kindergarten age reading at a third grade level, making beautiful artwork, and seeing students earn ribbons at Special Olympics.  Take a few minutes sometime in April to watch this video for the first time or again:

News and Notes for April: 

Medford Adult Diploma Academy Graduates
We have had 3 more adults complete their Adult High School Diplomas in the past several weeks.  Congratulations to each of them on coming back to school to obtain a high school diploma. We have now had 9 graduates since starting the program. One of these current MADA graduates will be our first person to walk in the MASH Graduation Ceremony in May.

Medford Adult Diploma Academy continues to be a life changing event for these adults, their families, and our community.  MADA is sponsored by Northcentral Technical College, CLC Adult Education, Medford Area Public School District, and the Taylor County Education Committee.  Please contact 715-748-1520 if you know of any adults who need a high school diploma. 

SLD Rule for Rural Virtual Academy
From Scott Brown DPI SLD Consultant: The SLD Rule applies to all public schools.  As such, any virtual school that is considered to be a public school as defined legally would be required to adhere to the new SLD requirements. 

Summer Trainings
Please register with me if you plan on attending.
  • Just Words will be on August 19 and 20 at the D.O. 
  • Read 180 NXT Generation will be on August 5 in the Read 180 room at MASH
  • Hidden Curriculum will be on August 6 at the D.O.
  • Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards and the Common Core will be on August 7 and 8 at the D.O. 
Project Search on April 11 and April 26
Project Search is a transition to work program for young people with disabilities.  Most of the programs are for students in their last year of high school eligibility.  Some of the programs are designed for young adults who have finished their education. It is a collaborative program among business organizations, education institutions, vocational rehabilitation and supported employment agencies.  The basic concept is that young people with disabilities receive classroom instruction within a host business, complete a variety of internships in that business and obtain competitive employment in the community.  The model began at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and has been replicated throughout the U.S. and U.K. The programs have a high rate of employment success.  In 2010-2011, approximately 65% of the young people obtained community employment. 

Nicole Gripentrog, Cathy Venzke, and myself will be visiting a Project Search site in Marshfield on April 11.  There is a Project Search training on April 26 in Stevens Point which will also be attended.  We are looking at this type of program for our 18-21 year old students with disabilities.  I will also be inviting members of our Taylor County Transition Advisory Council. If you are interested in attending, then please let me know. 

If you know of any business representative that would like to partner with us, please let me know. 

For more information on Project Search go to:

Spring Fling Dance
Spring Fling Dance for Grade 7-12 students in special education and invited guests will be held on Friday April 5 from 12:30 to 2:30.  Spring Fling is sponsored by the Medford Morning Rotary Club and DART Club at MASH.  

Reading Recovery
We held a Reading Recovery informational session on March 13.  There will be a follow-up session Monday April 8 from 3:30 to 4:30.  We will be watching a video a Reading Recovery lesson being taught by a certified teacher.  There is a one year grant to train teachers and implement the program which can be done in 13-14.  The grant would cover up to 75% of the initial costs.  Reading Recovery has a great success rate and is designed to be working with at-risk or special education students in Grade 1.  Here is a website link to more information: Mrs Lybert had Reading Recovery in her previous elementary school.  

If certified or support special education staff are interested in transferring to a different position or building in 13-14, then please let me know.  

Visual Schedules Presentation
The Autism Resource Team will be watching the DPI webinar presentation on Visual Schedules on Tuesday April 16 from 3:30 to 5:00 pm in the MAES computer lab.   Any other staff, parents, or community who is interested are welcome to attend.  

Week of the Young Child
We coordinated the Week of the Young Child in Taylor County April 14-20.  Events during the week include: 
  • Hairy and Company ( will be at MAES on Wednesday April 17 and Thursday April 19 from 9:30 to 10:15 for our pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students.  Community providers are also invited.  If you have special needs students who would also benefit, please contact me.
  • Pre-Kindergarten Registration and Open House on April 18 from 4:00 to 6:00 pm and April 19 from 8:00 am to 10:00 am
  • Beach Party Potluck Dinner and Dance from 5:00 to 6:00 pm at MAES
  • Movie Day at Broadway Theatre (The Croods) on Saturday April 20 at 11:00 am.  $5.00 for each person and 50% off soda/popcorn. All are invited. 
  • Tombstone Pizza donated to Pre-Kindergarten classes on Monday and Tuesday
  • Sandbox Day Care Artwork in Downtown business
  • Dress Up Days
Taylor County Transition Advisory Council
Thursday April 18 from 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm at the D.O. 

Read 180 NXT Generation
Read 180 NXT Generation will be purchased for MAMS and MASH at-risk and special education students in the 13-14 school year.  This will be an upgrade from the current model.  For more information go to:

Occupational Therapy Services
Congratulations to our Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant Lorie Schmitz on her position outside of the school district.  Best wishes to her and her family.  Her last day is Friday April 12. 

Memorial Health Center has been contacted and they are looking into contracting with us for COTA services for remainder of the school year. These services would need to be paid for out of our Flow Through Special Education Budget.  

Special Education Budgets
Special Education Budgets are due to me no later than Friday March 28. 

Channel 12 - Autism Awareness
Channel 12 is looking at doing a news piece here in Medford on a student on the Autism Spectrum during the month of April. 

2013 WTCS Accommodation Guide for Students with Disabilities
I have attached the 2013 Wisconsin Technical College System Accommodation Guide for Students with Disabilities. 

Describing Special Education, Related Services, Supplementary Aids and Services, and Program Modifications and Supports
Here is the DPI Information Bulletin Link: