#DontLimitMe- Amazing Message by a Student with Down Syndrome

By Lindsey Lipsky, MEd

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I am a huge fan of Twitter for the personal and professional growth it provides educators and communities across the globe (as outlined in my previous posts here and here), so it’s no wonder that this blog post is inspired by a Twitter conversation.

Recently the amazing Beth Foraker @InclusionChick, posted a hand-written note by Emily, a 15 year old student with Down Syndrome. Emily wrote this note in response to a question about her hopes and dreams for life after high school.  Here is the first tweet below:

In case you can’t read the picture, let me transcribe Emily’s letter below. She starts with a list of amazing goals for her future:

1. Go to college

2. Keep learning

3. Graduate like normal kids

(Yes, #3 on that list really touched me.)

Further down on the page Emily says something else that, as a teacher, really struck me:

“I want the teachers to treat me kind. Don’t act like you are frustrated with me. I have Down Syndrome and need help. I want the teachers to see how smart I am.”

Amazing.

Just like everyone else, Emily is asking us, begging us, to not get frustrated with her. To be kind. To help her. To see how smart she is. To never give up. A message that all teachers; former, current and future need to hear. #DontLimitMe

Just when I thought the message couldn’t get anymore inspiring, @InclusionChick posted something else: a message Emily had written on the very back of her note. (See tweet below.)

In case you can’t read it.  Here is what Emily wrote below:

“Time to see what I can do to test the limits and break through. Don’t limit me.”

Excuse me while I go wipe the tears off my face…

This letter is an amazing example of why we, as teachers, parents and community members, do what we do each day. Why we work so tirelessly to ensure our students with special needs get what they need and deserve. After all, isn’t it really all about how we can help our students become successful citizens and human beings, no matter the ability or circumstance?

Please join us in sharing this message on Twitter by using the hashtag #DontLimitMe – our new battle cry thanks to @InclusionChick.  Here is the tweet that inspired it all:

I hope this letter and subsequent messages on Twitter will help ignite a revolution, a revolution to help change how we treat and work with our students who have learning differences. Remember: When we change the way we think about learning for our students with special needs, we help change learning for ALL. #DontLimitMe

UPDATE: Please also check out this amazing post by Beth Foraker, @InclusionChick here on the power of Emily’s letter. 


Want more on the powerful message of #DontLimitMe?

Be sure to check out this amazing video by Megan Bomgaars, an inspirational young woman with Down Syndrome. It’s an inspiring four minute watch that you won’t be sorry you missed!

Big thanks to Beth Foraker, @InclusionChick for this amazing share; you are an inspiration to all of us!  #DontLimitMe

The T in Twitter Stands for Teacher: Tips for Us!

 You may or may not know it, but Twitter is an educator’s paradise; filled to the gills with educational dialogue, resources, ideas, tips, and best practices. No longer just a tween Bieber playground (Sorry Justin!), Twitter has become sooo much more.

To help you ease into this new (and perhaps scary) world of virtual collaboration,  Let’s discuss why the T in Twitter Stands for Teacher.  Soon you’ll be an #EduTweeter Rockstar in no time!

1. Professional Learning Networks (PLN)
Twitter is, without a doubt, an amazing social tool for connecting people.  Unlike Facebook, Twitter is a universe that allows for open communication across multiple platforms (and even continents). As Mrs. Kathleen Morris states in her great post about Twitter on Edublogs“I find Twitter to be like a virtual staffroom…where I can find advice, give advice, find great links, share my work and engage in general musings about education.”

To begin building your PLN, start following educators and members that appeal to you and align with your ideals/goals as an educator. Some of my current, favorite EduTweeters  (in random order) are:

@ShiftParadigm@justintarte@singoffpitch,@JewishSpecialEd, @LisaBerghoff@TheWeirdTeacher@gcouros@ShellTerrell,   @INISchoolsSpEd@BethHouf@JayBilly2,  @tritonkory@TyrnaD@davidtedu, @RusulAlrubail  @VeganMathBeagle, @FarleyJeffrey @JessLifTeach

(and so many others!)

Be sure to also check out this Google doc of top Educator Twitter Handles by Subject and follow some of the educators who work in your areas of interest for inspiration, connection, and more!

2. Educational Chats
Sue Waters, Working With Web 2.0 Tools EduBlogger writes, “Twitter chats are one of the best ways for educators to connect with other educators, exchange and debate ideas, ask for help and provide assistance, find new resources and take action.” 

Indeed, educational chats are a wonderful way to get involved with a sub-group of teachers and stakeholders who share similar interests as you.  Need help finding the best Ed Twitter Chat for you? Check out this fantastic schedule of Global List of all Educational Chats by @cybraryman1 and an ever-evolving google doc with chat times here: Edu Top Twitter chats.

Some of my favorite chats that I’ve been involved in so far include: #BFC530 (5:30am Breakfast Club), #SlowChatEd #spedchat, #LDchat, #edchat, #tlap (Teach like a Pirate), #satchat, and #sunchat.

Be sure to also check out the Twitter Teacher Book Club, or #TBookC led by myself and the amazing @LisaBerghoff and @JewishSpecialEd on Thursday nights at 8pmCST.

3. Gathering Insights and Inspiration in a Tweet-minute!
Got five minutes to spare in between your lunch and prep period? Hop on to Twitter to find some messages of inspiration, passion, joy, resources, and teaching tips.  Being able to learn and collaborate with your Twitter educators is like a high-tech, low-cost Professional Development session available at your fingertips.

If you’ve chosen the correct people to follow for your PLN, you’ll have a wide variety of amazing content and insight coming straight through on your Twitter feed.  Get ready to be AMAZED!

So, TEACHERS, what are you waiting for? Are YOU on Twitter yet?

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For some great help getting started with Twitter, read The Teachers Guide to Twitter (Edudemic) and Getting Started with Twitter in the Classroom by Carrie Kam and the Teaching Channel.

The Three Types of Reading

By Lindsey Lipsky, M.Ed.

“To read is to fly: it is to soar to a point of vantage which gives a view over wide terrains of history, human variety, ideas, shared experience and the fruits of many inquiries.”  – A C Grayling, Financial Times (in a review of A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel)

As educators, one of our biggest jobs is to help our students develop a love of reading. After all, without reading, as A.C. Grayling describes above, one cannot engage fully in the world.  But what if our learners have trouble accessing or reading print in the normal way?

You see, 1 in 5 students in America has Dyslexia, a Learning Disability which is largely characterized by deficits in language and phonological processing that hinders a person’s ability to decode, process and read fluently on level despite normal IQ.  What can we do for them?

Over ninety percent of what we teach as educators is through traditional “eye” reading; decoding and analyzing text and word patterns on a page with your eyes, which are then interpreted back into comprehension. However, there are two other types of reading that we, as educators, need to be aware of for incorporation into best teaching practices for all.

Three Types of Reading: Because there is more than just reading with your “eyes!”

1. Eye Reading
This is what 90% of us think of as true “reading.”  It is what we are most tested on, trained for, and taught in schools.  Eye reading includes taking in words, sentences, and phrases through our eyes to develop meaning, which is the basis for almost all reading and ultimately comprehension for a majority of people.  Without a doubt, eye reading must be taught and focused on throughout school, especially in terms of developing phonemic awareness, fluency, and decoding skills at the elementary level.  But what happens when a child still cannot “break the code” well beyond the elementary years and hasn’t gotten proper interventions yet?

2. Ear Reading
This is where ear reading can come into play.  When you have a student who can’t “decode” the text but is reading/comprehending on or above grade level, they can still “read” with their ears. Although sometimes stigmatized as “not true reading,”  for some of our students who are lacking decoding and phonological skills to interpret grade level text fluently, “ear reading” is an extremely necessary accommodation to help foster continuous growth.

As Jennifer A., a Reading Specialist outside of Chicago, states to students, “You might learn better through your ears than you do taking in information through your eyes, and that’s totally fine because your brain is still doing the work with it.”

Watch this video by Dr. Sally Shaywitz at the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity here on the power of audiobooks and ear reading.

3. Finger Reading
Finger reading, better known as“Braille Reading,” is how students with blindness and visual impairments engage with the written word.  We would never say to a student with blindness or vision impairment that, when reading braille, they are not actually reading, would we?  Then why do we say to students with Dyslexia and/or Learning Disability that “ear reading” is not really reading? Just like ear and eye reading, finger reading helps unlock doors for students, adults and learners who cannot access print in the normal way.

For students with a learning disability like Dyslexia, research has shown us that allowing students to “ear read” may make the difference between helping advance a student’s comprehension growth or hinder it.  For support, check out some of the resources from accessible instructional material providers like Learning Ally (human-voice) and Book Share (digitized voice) which have hundreds of thousands of PK-12 and college accessible textbooks, popular fiction, and more for students with a qualifying print-disability.


Download this poster for your classroom by Learning Ally on the Three Types of Reading.
types of reading poster

We all read differently…and that’s OK!


 To Fully Support All Learners:

Remember, to fully support all students with reading disabilities and challenges like Dyslexia, along with acknowledging the different types of reading, you must also incorporate an evidence-based Multi-Sensory Structured Language (MSL) Program into your classroom. For more information on these programs, read a list of some recommended MSL programs from the International Dyslexia Association, as well as information about the Orton-Gillingham Multisensory Method (article by the Schenck School); an extensive approach to language, reading, spelling, and writing instruction incorporated by most reading and language specialists.

The combination of MSL program instruction and audiobooks are a powerful combination for all learners to keep up with their same age peers.

What do you think about this list? Do you incorporate the three types of reading and MSL instruction in your classroom? Let’s discuss on twitter @LindseyLipsky or leave a comment below.

5 Reasons We Should Call it Dyslexia

By Lindsey Lipsky, M.Ed.

Teachers: Have you ever heard these statements at your school?

  • Dyslexia is just another name for Learning Disability or LD.
  • Dyslexia is a name used by the private sector, we do not use that here.
  • We’ve never called it Dyslexia, so we’re not going to start now.

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As a Special Education Teacher for over five years, I often experienced reluctance by my school to use the term “Dyslexia.” The dreaded “D” word (as we teachers would lovingly call it), was for all intents and purposes, taboo.  After talking to countless teachers around the country, I’ve found that my experience is, sadly, less than rare. But why?

Research shows us that nearly 1 in 5 students in America have Dyslexia. It is one of the most studied and examined disabilities in the nation, yet the most under-diagnosed in schools. If nearly 20 percent of America’s youth have some form of Dyslexia, isn’t it time we start calling Dyslexia by its name?

Let’s take a look at the 5 top reasons why we should call it Dyslexia:

  1. Using the term “Dyslexia” is more specific: 

When we say that a child has a Learning Disability, LD, or Specific Learning Disorder, this may mean several things and can signify a multitude of different learning challenges. A Specific Learning Disorder can be in reading, writing, or math. Within a Specific LD in Reading, the diagnosis can further be varied into a disability of reading decoding, fluency, or comprehension.  In a nutshell, saying “Learning Disability” or “Specific Learning Disorder” is just not specific enough! When we use the term Dyslexia it makes it easier for teachers, parents, and even students themselves, to learn about, identify, and accommodate their needs in the classroom.

  1. The word Dyslexia has been around for a long time:

The term “Dyslexia” was first coined in 1887, by a German opthalmologist, Rudolf Berlin.  He used it to replace the commonly used term of the day, “Word-Blindness.” However, the term Dyslexia did not come into full use until the 1900s.  Today, it has become much less popular to say Dyslexia in public education, despite a large field of research to support its existence, and a plethora of evidence-based studies that identify successful interventions.  The multitude of studies and research over the last century will mean nothing if we do not begin calling Dyslexia by its proper name.

  1. Students often feel empowered when told they have Dyslexia:

Dyslexia can be a challenge for the 20 percent of school-aged children who suffer in silence.  However, time and time again, I’ve found that when a child is finally diagnosedwith Dyslexia they feel a sudden sense of relief, and sometimes even pride. “I’m not slow, or impaired, or lazy; I’m Dyslexic!” is a comment oft heard from students first diagnosed. Using the term “Dyslexia” allows a student not only to learn more about how his or her brain works best and how to self-advocate, but also provides entrance into a huge community of learners with Dyslexia; something extremely powerful for boosting self- confidence and development.

  1. Many, many famous people have Dyslexia:

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability or disorder that includes poor word reading, word decoding, oral reading fluency and spelling.  However, along with these impediments comes amazing gifts!  Many Dyslexics excel in areas of spatial recognition, creativity, athleticism, entrepreneurialism, and much more.  It is no surprise then that so many famous and successful people have Dyslexia.  Don’t believe me? Check out this list of some famous people with Dyslexia: http://www.dyslexia.com/famous.htm

  1. In some states, Dyslexia is the law:

While not the case everywhere, many states have new or ongoing legislation about Dyslexia. Some states like Texas, Illinois, Ohio, and New Jersey, have enacted various laws supporting, assessing, identifying and naming Dyslexia in the classroom. To see where your state stands, contact your local Decoding Dyslexia state group.

There are several identified, targeted interventions, accommodations, and supports for students with Dyslexia. However, the biggest and most successful intervention for learners with Dyslexia includes adaptation of multi-sensory structured language programs into the classroom, which, when implemented with fidelity, can significantly reduce reading problems and help bring children up to grade-level reading. Questions on that? Visit the International Dyslexia Association or the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity to learn more.

What do you think about this list?  Do you agree that we need to start calling Dyslexia by its name?

Let’s talk on twitter via @LindseyLipsky or leave a comment below. To help support awareness and the need to use the term “Dyslexia” in schools, please share this post and use the hashtag #CallitDyslexia.

Original post on Weebly: http://lindseylipsky.weebly.com/blog/november-09th-2014