March 2018

Consider This…

News and information about education, research, and support for SESPs; adoptive, foster, and kinship caregivers; and child welfare and education professionals helping children with trauma and other special needs get the most from their education.

Feature Article

Transition and what everyone should know
By Mary-Beth Landy
Part 1: The Transition Planning Process

So you have or are working with a teenager.  I often get the question, when is too early to begin the transition process? I believe that it is never too early to think about the student’s future success. If you have any “dream” or vision of what you would like to see for the student’s future, you are already working on their transition process.  Simply put, it is looking at where you and the student envision themselves when they get older. That is basically what the vision statement becomes as the student ages.   Read Full Article

Things to Consider…

upporting the Emotional Needs of Kids with Learning Disabilities
So your student has a learning disability.  You are ready to get them all of the academic supports that they need, but do they meet all of the needs of the student? Being a student with a learning disability can be a challenge emotionally as well.  Often these students have feelings of isolation, being “bad”, or being “dumb.” Many times these low self-esteem feeling manifest in what appears to be lack of motivation, laziness, or acting out. As Dr. Laura Phillips, of the Child Mind Institute points out, “many times it’s easier being the “bad kid” than being the “dumb kid.”  Dr. Phillips looks at the emotions of students with learning disabilities, and suggests some ways to help your student see their disability in a new light.

Why We Shouldn’t Always Expel Kids Like Nikolas Cruz
Dr. Ross Greene, the author of the now famous “The Explosive Child”, speaks to the failure of the punitive methods of discipline in schools today. In this article for Time Magazine, he looks at the problem of how schools address behavioral issues, such as those manifested in Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland, Florida school shooter. As Dr. Greene points out, behaviors are signals! “If we only focus on the behavior – we overlook the problems that are causing those behaviors.” Punitive reactions won’t solve those problems! The article looks at appropriate social and emotional learning as being a requirement to preventing a student from desiring to purchase a rifle, let alone want to hurt others.  

Trauma and the role of the school-based occupational therapist
Recent research has shown that experiencing trauma in childhood may have a significant effect on school performance, particularly in the occupational performance areas of education, social participation, and play. This article highlights how occupational therapists working in the public schools can play a unique supportive role for these children through individualized programming that includes: consulting and collaborating with a multidisciplinary school team; analyzing environments, tasks, and routines with a trauma-informed sensory-based approach; and providing direct occupational therapy. Designed with the input of the student, this multifaceted plan helps facilitate regulation and participation in school for the child who has experienced trauma.

Preparing Transition-Age Youth with Disabilities for Work: What School Leaders Need to Know About the New Legal Landscape
Many students with disabilities leave secondary school each year having secured neither employment nor placement in postsecondary education. In fact, despite significant advancements in the civil rights of students with disabilities over the past three decades, there remains a startling disparity between the postsecondary outcomes of students with and without disabilities. This is especially true for students in the Foster Care System with Special Education needs. The brief will look at recent legal developments that have clarified that state and local governments, including their education agencies, may be liable under the ADA and Olmstead if they place students with disabilities at serious risk of unnecessary segregation in postsecondary settings.

Educator Self Care is Social Emotional Learning
“Vicarious or secondary trauma invades our classrooms and leaks into the hearts of educators who carry the emotional burdens of their students”, says Christy Lynn Anana, M.Ed., NBCT, RYT, a school counselor.  It seems that in order to retain great teachers who are empathic and committed to the Social Emotional Learning of students with trauma, we need to address the teachers emotional and self-care needs as well. Through a variety of self-care methods and ways of compassionate emotion regulation, teachers can serve as role models and navigators to help children build resiliency. Read more about methods to combat vicarious trauma to be available to the students that we serve.

New Study Finds Friends Have Similar Neural Responses
Ever wonder why students with certain characteristics “flock” together, especially kids with trauma?  A new study findings revealed that neural response similarity was strongest among friends, and this pattern appeared to manifest across brain regions involved in emotional responding, directing one’s attention and high-level reasoning. “We are a social species and live our lives connected to everybody else. If we want to understand how the human brain works, then we need to understand how brains work in combination — how minds shape each other,” said senior author Dr. Thalia Wheatley.

Video – Morning Meetings: Building Community in the Classroom
More and more schools are learning that by building community in the classroom, they can move them along the pathways of low incidences of behavioral issues, through better understanding of the students and their lives outside of the classroom. Morning Meetings for students, even as young as Pre-K, allows the teacher to build a culture of respect and understanding that the average school day doesn’t afford. “So, I know fifteen minutes can sometimes be a hard thing to try to put in your schedule, but students in each classroom know that they’re coming into safe places.” Dan Baldassi, 3rd Grade Teacher. This five minute video shows this idea into actual practice.

Useful Tools and Resources

Responding to Disruptive Students
Generally, guidance about challenging behaviors at school targets the challenging students. This article looks at breaking this unidirectional point of view and approaches the topic by looking at the educator. Educators also need to feel physically and emotionally safe in class always. An empathic educator who is confident and prepared for their response toward challenging behavior—their own included, will respond to the behavior in a much more effective way. The same can be said of negative behaviors. “The only behavior teachers can control is their own,” Nancy Rappaport and Jessica Minahan, co-authors of “The Behavior Code” advise. What follows is an idea that can help teachers change their responses to challenging, disruptive behavior.

3 things teachers should know about their students with reactive attachment disorder
Our society has a long way to go to understand the effects of trauma, and our education system is no exception.  They have even further to go in understanding Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) – the disorder that can develop due to very early trauma (mostly neglect).  Trauma effects, as well as RAD, fall on a spectrum – with those on the moderate to severe end being the most misunderstood.  Here are some critical things that teachers, and those working with RAD kids, need to know and what they can do to serve them.

Complex Trauma: Facts For Educators
Teachers often deal with a wide range of student abilities and behaviors in their classrooms and often are already employing positive strategies with those students. However, students with complex trauma may feel especially threatened, vulnerable or rejected. They can benefit greatly from relationships with supportive adults at school, including teachers, support staff, and administrative staff, and it is crucial that all students have at least one “go-to person” at school. The following observations can be helpful as you consider ways to engage these children. What can you do to support a student with complex trauma?

Featured Article Continued… 

Part 1: The Transition Planning Process
So you have or are working with a teenager.  I often get the question, when is too early to begin the transition process? I believe that it is never too early to think about the student’s future success. If you have any “dream” or vision of what you would like to see for the student’s future, you are already working on their transition process.  Simply put, it is looking at where you and the student envision themselves when they get older. That is basically what the vision statement becomes as the student ages.
So how do we progress to a solid transition plan for your student? Start with a solid vision statement.  The Vision Statement should be based on what they would like to strive for. Then use the Vision Statement to develop the Postsecondary Goals. They should describe what the student’s future activities might be after high school, such as if they want to explore additional education, what type of job they are interested in, and what they hope that their life looks like.
But what if the student doesn’t have a clear vision of what they are good at, or where they’d want to be after high school? This is often the case with students who have been in the system, as they struggle with a solid sense of the future.  A Transition Assessment can be a good place to start.  These assessments can answer questions about who the student is, where they want to go, and what support they need to get there.  Speak to your team about having an assessment conducted.  But remember that both formal and informal assessments can help the IEP Team know what transition services should be provided.
Transition planning is a process that begins at 14 years of age in Massachusetts.  The meeting should begin with the Transition Planning Form (TPF) and talk about the Postsecondary Goals. This is because one needs to look at where the student wishes to go, and what services do they need to reach those goals.  These transition goals become IEP goals for the coming year. It is should not be done after the IEP, as an afterthought.  It can become too easy for these goals to be missed on the IEP. Some examples of Postsecondary Goals are; developing self-advocating skills, travel training for transportation, social skills to ensure positive interactions in the community, just to name a few.

Looking for more information and guidance? Check out these resources:
MA ESE Special Education Secondary Transition:
Technical Assistance Advisory:

RTSC’s March Transition webinar: 

 *Disclaimer: While every effort is made to ensure that the contents of Consider This… is accurate, the Federation for Children with Special Needs makes no representations or warranties in relation to the accuracy or completeness of the information found within the enclosed articles.  The contents within this transmission are provided in good faith, and nothing included in it should be taken to constitute or imply professional advice, an endorsement or a formal recommendation.