Visions and Voices Together

Apr 16th, 2014
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– Simple Secret to Increase Happiness and Decrease Depression –
March 2014
Had a challenging day recently? 

We’ve all heard that it’s important to take care of ourselves. Yeah, yeah, we know that, but it’s hard to do!  There is, however, a simple exercise that works for me, and I want to share it with you. Don't miss the BIGGEST Bonus near the end of the newsletter. Click to continue reading the article.

– How Do You Know What You Know –
January 2014
Learn a little know fact and a major (not minor) detail about IEP Progress Report.  Do you know how to make sure you receive meaningful Progress Reports? Click to continue reading the article .
– Connecting The IEP Dots –
November 2013

Have you ever been at an IEP meeting and heard professionals rattle off evaluation results by telling the IEP team the student’s Standard Scores, Percentiles, Grade Equivalents, sharing a list of student’s “deficits”, and using disability labels to describe a student?  Yet sadly, all too often there are few  given on how to tap into a student’s strengths to teach new skills, or help classroom teachers and parents understand the impact of the student’s learning styles and how differentiated instruction can be implemented in order to support the student, or how IEP goals can lead to the family’s vision of the future.  Sometimes the dots don’t get connected at IEP meetings.  Click to continue reading the article and the complete newsletter. 

– Let Dreams Guide You –
August 2013
Feeling apprehensive about the start of a new school year?  You are not alone!  Let’s take a step back, take a deep breath, and remember the big picture:

Your child deserves a full life.  Her voice matters.  Her dreams count.

– Celebrate INTERdependence –
July 2013

We pride ourselves on our independence.  But what do we lose when we dismiss our interconnectedness?  Learn how we must rely on each other to change where we are, to where we want to be.  Click to continue reading the article and the complete newsletter.

– Tale of Two Schools –
June 2013

Why is it that some schools are committed to serving all of their students in general education classrooms with supports and services brought to them and yet there are still so many schools that insist on maintaining separate classrooms for students with disability labels? Click to continue reading the article and the complete newsletter.

– Releasing The Fear –
December 2012 
What will it take for students not to fall through the cracks and become marginalized?  What will it take to ensure people with mental illnesses will have appropriate support?  Read this month's newsletter and guest commentary from Claudia Martin and learn how releasing our fear is a first step. Continue reading the article and the complete newsletter.

–Valuing Others–
November 2012
What is it about human nature that we can be quick to criticize and find fault with what others do? It seems to happen in a variety of situations. On the other hand, how often do we show appreciation for what others have done?  Continue reading the article and the complete newsletter.

– Beyond Helicopter Helpers –
October 2012

Para-educators are important members of the team, but what is their role and how do their efforts impact students? My guess is that many paras are told their job is to help a student.  What does this helping look like?  Continue reading the article and the complete newsletter.

– The IEP Wheel of Misfortune –
September 2012

How often are IEP meetings focused on what students can do well, areas where they shine, fascinations they have, favorite activities to do, friends they have, or what they’re interested in learning?  If you answer, “Not often,” you may be caught on the IEP Wheel of Misfortune. Continue reading the article and the complete newsletter.

- Possibility-Thinking -
August 2012
With a new school year here there are fabulous opportunities for not only incorporating what worked last year, but to also gather new insights and envision new possibilities!  Here are some ideas to get you started with possibility-thinking for the education world.  Continue reading the article and complete newsletter.

- Staycation -
June 2012

No need to travel this summer.  Summer is a great time for families to rediscover what their communities have to offer. Learn some down–home activities your family can do that combine fun and learning! Find ideas for Geocaching, using a pedometer with your kids and much more!  Continue reading the article and the complete newsletter.

- What's Working? -
May 2012

Making decisions takes energy.  The more time and energy spent reinventing the wheel can generate stress.  Stress can lead to exhaustion and an inability to make good choices.  The vicious cycle!  When making decisions about students' education, one way to simplify the process is to use what has already worked. Continue reading the article and the complete newsletter.

– Belonging and Becoming –
March 2012

Every day, teachers open their classroom doors to students with diverse strengths and needs. There is no prerequisite to belong; show up for school and you belong! Teachers provide engaging lessons with appropriate instruction so every student can actively participate and become valued and respected learners. Continue reading the article and the complete newsletter.

– Good, Better, Best –
February 2012

How many times have you heard, “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.”?  But that position can stifle progressive thinking and prevent positive change. In today's schools, it's not uncommon to hear, "We have a program that's been meeting children's needs for years, and we'll continue to use this program.  There's no need to change!  Continue reading the article and the complete newsletter.

– Lessons Learned –
January 2012

The best part of my job is being able to observe students in classrooms and then working with a team (educators, students and parents) on ways to increase a student’s meaningful participation in typical school routines and general education classrooms.  I continue to learn so much from other parents, students, and educators!

Continue reading the article and the complete newsletter.

– You Are Not Alone –
December 2011

You just received a notice for an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting.  You have been to IEP meetings for your child before.  When you think of going to another IEP meeting you feel: overwhelmed, excited, angry, hopeful, or anxious.  Do any of these feelings sound familiar?

Continue reading the article and complete newsletter.

 – The Gifts of Disabilities –

November 2011

I once met with a Vocational-Rehabilitation counselor and explained how my son’s lack of reading skills actually could be an advantage in a self-employment career. She looked at me in shock, perhaps questioning my sanity.  I went on to explain that he was considering starting a shredding business and his clients could be assured he wouldn’t read their sensitive documents. The VR counselor still didn’t “get it.”  Continue reading the article and complete newsletter.


– Caught in The Web? –

September 2011

As parents or teachers, let’s focus on meeting the needs of students while simultaneously providing encouragement for students to dream, wonder, explore, discover, think for themselves, and more. And let’s provide each student with whatever tools are needed to ensure successful learning.  Continue reading the article and complete newsletter.

– Better Together –

August 2011

The Jack Johnson song, Better Together is the ring tone on my cell phone for my husband’s calls.  And this sentiment can apply to all of us working together in the new school year!  What can you do—as a teacher, parent, student, administrator, or service provider—to be “better together”?  Continue reading the article and the complete newsletter.


- Summertime and the Living is...

July 2011

What word would you use to complete the sentence: easy, challenging, invigorating, tiring, or eye-opening?  The summer months do add another spin for parents and educators, don’t they? Ask yourself, what would this child be doing over the summer if he or she did not have a disability?  Going to soccer camp, doing satisfying volunteer work, participating in the library’s summer reading program, enjoying scout camp, creating memories on family outings, or having a paid job? Then that’s what the child should be doing!     Continue reading the article and the complete newsletter.

– Whose Behavior Has to Change? –

June 2011

What are the outcomes of labeling behaviors in negative, demeaning ways? Students learn that others will not listen and cannot be trusted; a student’s behavior may actually escalate because he/she is not being heard; adults see a child’s behavior as reinforcement of the original (and erroneous) belief; and classmates stay away—no one wants to be friends with a child who is always “in trouble.”

Continue reading the article and the complete newsletter.

One Liners

March 2011

Want to be more effective at work or home?  Effective one-liners can clarify, engage, and improve our conversations.  I have learned many of these one-liners from my mentors. Most of these examples can be appropriate in multiple situations, with a boss, partner, or child.  Some of the responses would be specific to a parent-teacher conference, or a special education meeting.

 Click here to continue reading the article 

Reinventing  Conversations

February 2011

Do you ever feel frustrated, confused, and/or at a loss for words during conversations? Or do you know what you want to say but are unsure how to phrase your request?  Join the crowd—we’ve all experienced these situations!

Click here to continue reading this article. 

Keep Focused on Your Vision

January 2011

At the beginning of the New Year, we spend time reflecting on our lives and setting new goals—what we hope to accomplish in the near future. However, the small positive steps we take today can help ensure our long-term dreams.

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Extraordinary Gifts 

December 2010

When my son, Dylan was about three years old I had the privilege of meeting Judith Snow, a self-advocate from Canada. Judith spoke about giftedness and described the ordinary gifts many people have, like walking, talking, doing math, etc. She noted that some people may not have those ordinary gifts, but they may have extraordinary gifts, like the ability to trust others or the gift of persistence. I began reflecting about the concept of giftedness and about Dylan’s extraordinary gifts.

Click here to continue reading the article.

Life is Richer With Gratitude

November 2010

Have you told a teacher, principal, paraprofessional, secretary, or other school staff member how much you appreciate them?  American Education Week is November 14–20, a perfect opportunity for parents to express our thanks for educators who make a difference in our children’s lives! School staff may frequently hear from   parents when they’re unhappy, but how often do we take the time to let them know when things are going well?

Click here to continue reading the article.

– Progress Monitoring: Helping Teachers Teach –

October 2010

It’s October, do you know if the instructional strategies used with your child/students are effective?  Parents and teachers need to be able to answer that question now, not when the school year is almost over.  We should expect that all students, whether they receive special education services or not, reach new academic goals each year.  If very little progress is being made, is it the child’s fault?  No!  As a teacher I need to change the ways I teach, including how I’m teaching the skill, how often, and more.

Click here to continue reading the article.

Making the IEP Process Easier and Better

September 2010

As a retired special educator, general educator, and parent of a son who received special education services, I have attended hundreds of IEP meetings and helped write more IEPs than I would like to remember! Like other educators, there were times I was so focused on writing measurable annual goals and dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s, that I forgot about the big picture. But there are ways to make the IEP process easier and better for all.

Click here to continue reading the article.

– To Test, Or Not To Test –

August 2010

A friend recently asked if she should request updated academic testing from the school district for her son who receives special education services. My response? Parents need to weigh the impact of testing on their child. Additional testing may give teachers and parents new information about how the child learns and the most effective instructional strategies to use.

Click here to continue reading the article.

– Who Decides What a Disability Means? –

July 2010

Throughout history, one large group of people has been stymied by physical barriers, discriminated against, segregated according to labels, and devalued by negative attitudes. These actions have been grounded in a variety of belief systems. Many doctors see any differences in the “norm” as problems that need to be fixed, and cured would be even better! Therapists may view a different way of communicating, writing, or moving as “deficits” that need to be rehabilitated.  A number of charities showcase individuals as being helpless, pitiful victims, requiring care by others.

 Click here to continue reading the article.

– Summer: Time for Fun and Learning

June 2010

Summer is here, but don’t fret over how to keep children entertained…and learning at the same time! This issue is devoted to websites to help keep learning fun and interactive. Families—try them out this summer. Teachers—bookmark them for the fall.  Additional websites for other subjects and ages are on my Facebook page: Visions and Voices Together Creating Educational Success For All 

Click here to continue reading the article.

– A Continuum of Services, Not Settings –

May 2010

Does anyone else cringe when they hear the “C” word?   How often have you heard that a school offers a “Continuum of services” and then it is explained they have self-contained classrooms, resource rooms, and if a student is “ready,” he/she can be in a general education class for part of the day?  Sounds like a continuum of settings, not services.  

Click here to continue reading the article.

– WANTED: Experienced Talent Scouts!

April 2010

Not recognizing and supporting the talents of our youth is a recipe for extinction.

Unfortunately, in many situations our culture is deficit-oriented; differences are often viewed as negative. Students who learn in different ways, express themselves using unique methods, and/or  have unusual behaviors are labeled and judged because of their differences.  Many teachers are trained to identify and remediate student learning and behavioral “deficits”. Little effort is given to identify and build upon student strengths, interests, and talents. 

Click here to continue reading the article.

Opportunities & Challenges of Parent-Teacher Conferences –

March 2010

How many opportunities do educators and families have for face-to-face discussions? Unfortunately, it usually only occurs a few times over nine months. Some school districts schedule spring parent-teacher conferences.  If your school district does not, ask to set one up. Then consider how both families and educators can make the most of these interactions. 

Click here to continue reading the article. 

– Thinking Outside the Special Education Box –

February 2010

In many general education classrooms, special educators and classroom teachers are planning together, co-teaching, and sharing the task of evaluating student progress. Is this happening with all the students in the class, or just students on Individual Education Plans (IEPs)? Often the focus of this collaboration is on students who have been identified with a disability.

Click here to continue reading the article.