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Ask A Parent Advisor: Lessons Learned at PEAK's 2015 Conference

Ask A Parent Advisor: Lessons Learned at PEAK's 2015 Conference

PEAK's 2015 Conference on Inclusive Education was a huge success, and two of PEAK's Parent Advisors, Shirley Swope and Missy Sieders, had the following lessons and reflections to share with you!

Lessons and reflections from Missy Sieders

There are so many things I love about working as a Parent Advisor at PEAK. Talking with parents and helping families advocate for their children so they can realize their dreams despite the challenges they face is very rewarding. Seeing the "A-ha’s," on educator's faces when they learn new ideas to better include students with disabilities in all aspects of school makes me so happy.

Then, there is a bonus because each year I get to work at, and attend, PEAK's annual Conference on Inclusive Education! This past February was my third conference and each time I come away full of ideas to help my daughter, Chrissa, and all of the families and educators I work with! I know that not all of you were able to make it this year so I thought I would share a few nuggets and resources that I came away with this year.

Families and educators are amazingly resourceful, and there are many incredible assistive technology tools that can be made with common, inexpensive hardware store materials that often result in better and more tailored devices for a person’s unique needs than expensive, purchased items. From footrests to eating utensils to adjustable iPad stands - the options are nearly endless when creativity is applied to the need. Check out some of the things created by Therese Willkomm (PHD, ATP) and see what you are inspired to build.

Rich Villa reminded me that no matter how long you have been working in education, there are meaningful ways you can co-teach with your general or special education colleagues in ways that will benefit you both and help ALL children experience more success in your classrooms. Learn more about the range of co-teaching options and their advantages and cautions at Rich Villa’s website. He has many free resources to help you co-teach successfully no matter what point you are starting from!

If you are a parent or an educator who has child needing some differentiated instruction ideas for a particular classroom or subject matter, you need to look at the planning and brainstorming table created by Rich Villa. Partner up with your colleagues or the IEP team and make a plan!

Finally, I really enjoyed attorney John Tweedy's approach to "collaborative advocacy" which is the art of quiet victory. It preserves the relationships necessary for real education to occur (both for the student AND for all IEP team members) and it based on three critical least dangerous assumptions:

  • Kids are capable of learning in inclusive environments.
  • IEP team members are genuinely motivated to do the right thing for students and for families.
  • You (whether a parent or an educator) can be an effective advocate and still be yourself.

I hope some of this is helpful and if you find yourself and your IEP team at an impasse, try using one final piece of John Tweedy wisdom, ask the team "Have we really looked at EVERY possibility here? Because that is what this student deserves under the law."

Lessons and reflections from Shirley Swope

This year's inclusion conference was GREAT! I attended a session related to behavior strategies, presented by John Maag, one on dispute resolution presented by Candice Hawkins and Tracy Mueller, and another one on differentiating instruction with Richard Villa.

John Maag is a very energetic speaker whose true passion is working with students and teachers to help them be more connected, and to help teachers figure out how to get students to "comply." His session was entitled "You Can't Make Me!" and as he explained, noncompliance is not a bad thing. John said that we need children who will say "you can't make me...take drugs" or "you can't make me...smoke." Schools and teachers need children to comply in order to LEARN, to CONNECT, and to GROW. And, the way that we, as adults, connect with students is a vital component. He states in his book, Peculiar Tracks for Derailing Resistance, "'s this relationship that allows you to connect with students when they are being resistant and helps them become compliant. Here are a few suggestions on how to build rapport with your students:

  • Greet students everyday.
  • Attune to student's needs and interest.
  • Give students responsibility.
  • Call students by name.
  • Spend uninterrupted time with each student.
  • Treat students respectfully.
  • Defer to students' opinions sometimes."

I encourage you to check out this great article, written by John Maag, Strategies for Managing Your Child's Resistant Behavior! It outlines some of the strategies he shared with us during his session! Enjoy, and good luck in your own efforts to manage resistance with your own children and students!

Copyright 2015 © by PEAK Parent Center, Inc. All rights reserved. Permission to reproduce may be obtained from PEAK Parent Center.