Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Peers and experts offer resources for working with students in special education

On Friday, June 18, the day after school ended, we offered sessions for teachers, administrators, principals and other PPS staffers interested in learning more about working with students in special education.  Driving the need for this half-day “Summer Institute” is the reorganization of our focus-continuum classrooms. (See for details.)

As a result of this reorganization, 17 K-8 schools will see increased enrollment of students receiving services through the Integrated Student Support department, which is an integration of the special education and student services departments of PPS.  Summer Institute is one of the ways in which ISS is providing added support so that educators can become better equipped.

I planned to attend this event, however, at the last minute I was called upon to participate in work related to budget-cutting.  I’ve received a lot of feedback from people who went. Virtually all of the feedback has been positive.  We’ve heard from a number of principals seeking to implement a method called collaborative problem-solving (CPS) that they learned about at the Summer Institute. CPS is a style of interpersonal communication that enables educators and students to achieve success. See below for details and stay tuned for an upcoming post that will go into more detail about how CPS is being used within PPS.
The event opened with a message from Steve Hanamura , a Portland-based consultant who helps people within organizations embrace diversity.  Steve tells stories about his life to convey his message. For example, when Steve was 4- and a-half-years-old, his parents sent him away from their home in L.A. to Berkley so he could attend a state school for the blind. He said when he became an adult and entered the work world, he was “tolerated.”

“People put up with me but they really wished I would go away. That’s what ‘tolerance’ is. Children know when they are being put up with,” Steve said in his keynote address.
Instead, diversity should be celebrated, Steve said. 

He offered educators advice on how to succeed when they return to school this fall and meet students in the focused continuum classrooms.  “There needs to be a dialogue with parents and students in the focused continuum and also with everybody in general education,” he said.

Starting that dialogue is as simple as asking a student what a person needs to know when they work with him or her.  “You could come up to me and say, ‘Steve, I’ve never worked with a blind person before, what should I know about working with you?’”

Steve told the audience that they have a responsibility to teach students without disabilities what it means to have disability and to show how to treat a student with disability.

Steve’s additional tips include:

  • Say “hello” to a disabled person. 
  • Confer with people who are experienced in working with students with disabilities
  • Embrace, also known as “admitting,” your own fears and concerns about working with this population.  It’s alright as long as you don’t put down or belittle anyone. 
  • Focus on what you have in common. 
Breakout sessions followed Steve’s talk.  Below is a list of the sessions.  In some instances, additional information is available and is included. 

Schools with Communication Behavior Classrooms
Tamra Haas and Brad Hendershott
Columbia Regional Program
Tamra’s and Brad’s presentation included videos on autism and explained what autism is. They said a cornerstone of autism is a social/communication deficit.  It is severe qualitative impairment in reciprocal interaction (i.e., someone diagnosed on the autism spectrum doesn’t have intuitive ability to socialize).
Click Here to see the presentation

Schools with Behavior Classrooms
By Laraine Adams, Program Administrator; Jeremy Geschwind, TOSA; Kali Wahl, QMHP; and Stephanie Delano, QMHP
Facilitators shared composite examples of students and the ways in which the as educators have learned to interact with students.
Click Here for presentation 

Collaborative Problem-Solving/Positive Behavior Supports (Also known as “Students Do Well If They Can”)
By Ed Keating, MSAW, LCSW and Erik Kola, RN
Ed and Erik gave a presentation on this interpersonal communication technique. They suggested a website called

Collaborative Problem-Solving is a method pioneered by Dr. Ross Greene and J. Stuart Ablon, Ph.D. CPS teaches that challenging children are not that way because they intend to be difficult or different.  Instead, CPS offers an approach for interpersonal communication that that allows success for interacting with children otherwise seen as “difficult.”

The State of Oregon is among pioneers who are implementing CPS. Portland Public Schools in recent years has started to employ CPS. Stay tuned for additional information on how that is happening within the ISS department.

Ed provided a reading list:
1.    Lost at School, by Ross Greene
2.    The Explosive Child, by Ross Greene
3.    Treating Explosive Kids, by Ross Green and J. Stuart Ablon
4.    Born for Love, by Bruce Perry

He suggested these websites:

Visual supports that can serve all students. This was available in printed form. Teresa Roberts, a Speech-Language Pathologist for PPS, presented it this spring.
Click here for "Picture Perfect"

Thank you to everyone who attended.  Please let your colleagues know about this blog and the resources available here.  The ISS department in coming months will do additional trainings like this one.  Feel free to ask questions or to leave a comment here.