A remarkable young woman passed away yesterday. I never actually met her, but I have followed her story for several years. Alice created a bucket list of things she wanted to do before she died from terminal cancer. Thanks to social media, her list went viral and people helped Alice cross quite a few items off that bucket list.

This alone makes for a nice story, but is not why I think Alice was an incredible kid. Alice lived approximately two years beyond doctors’ expectations. During this time she worked to raise awareness of the importance of the bone marrow registry and started a charity so that other terminally ill children and their families could go on vacation.

Her blog has been visited over 4 million times. Bone marrow registries in the UK, US, Canada, and several other countries report that tens of thousands of people have registered due to Alice’s work. At a time when many of us would have been only concerned about ourselves, Alice focused on making life better for others.

Rest In Peace, Alice Pyne.


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Transition to College for Students with ASD

Rebecca Hansen, from the WV Autism Training Center, has posted some very useful tips for persons with ASD who are going to college. Although these tips are written for students, they would also be useful for parents and teachers.

Check out this blog and more at the ASD Resource Tree.

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Working with (Difficult) Parents

This semester I’m teaching a graduate seminar course. When I asked the group to suggest some topics they wanted to discuss, one student said “how to work with difficult parents.” I invited several people to come to class for a panel discussion — they’ve been in the field, worked with parents, and several are also parents of children with special needs themselves. I’m not going to repeat the discussion from class last night, but it did really make me think about something that I want to talk to my students about next week; when you have a parent you perceive as being difficult, think about why they are difficult.

  1. Maybe they are just a difficult person. Call them a difficult person not a difficult parent. Keep in mind, that there aren’t as many difficult people out there as you might think.
  2. Maybe you are a difficult person. That’s right, maybe you are the problem. Not expecting this? This is just a likely as the parent being a difficult person. You have to be willing to assess your own interactions before you start blaming others.
  3. Their past history with service providers/school personnel has shaped this behavior. Yes, I know that there are laws and kids are supposed to get an appropriate education without a battle. But I also know from experience that some parents have fought tooth and nail to get even the bare necessaries for their children. Thanks to these experiences they are primed and ready for a fight. Continue reading
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If children grew up according to early indications, we should have nothing but geniuses. ~Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Upon watching Caine’s Arcade, a short documentary on a child’s vision, ingenuity, and love of the arcade, I was reminded of this quote.

Often times, as educators, we forget that the children we work with(irrespective of ability levels, diagnoses, test results, cultural influences, parental influences, etc.) all possess something that too many adults lacks: curiosity and an unwavering desire to interact with life.

Do your kids a favor. Watch the documentary. Then go find some empty boxes.

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It’s The Little Things

“We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”
~Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Today somebody sent me this quotation during an email exchange and it reminded me of something I used to say to my students when they were frustrated. “You can’t save the world but if you try, you’ll end up saving some kids.”

This was usually said in reference to a student telling me about some education professional who advised them to quit spending so much time with kids who are “lost causes” or “just like their parents”. The one that would really get me was “you’ll learn not to be so idealistic.”

I love it when a teacher is idealistic! It means they are going to keep trying. And while they won’t save every child they will help many that others have written off. So keep doing those small things for the kids and think of Mother Teresa’s words when the bastards get you down.

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That Time Of The Year

Starting tomorrow, I’ll be neck-deep in my student’s final manuscripts. I’ll spend the week reading the five chapters of their research competencies and I’ll be meeting with those same students to review their work with them. I’m trying my best to have these suckers read before I meet with the authors so by Monday evening I’ll be ready to pull my hair out, by Tuesday I’ll be a bit grumpy (apologies in advance), and by Wednesday I’ll be downright delirious (again, apologies).

Despite this grind, I secretly love this time of the year. Everything will be worth it when I see them Friday at the graduate hooding ceremony. Some kick-ass special educators are going to be crossing that stage. They’re going to be teaching kids that a lot of people think are unteachable, getting to know kids thought to be unreachable and advocating for kids that have nobody else to care about them.

I love working with my students and will miss them, but on the other hand I can’t wait for them get out of here so they can be more focused on fighting the good fight.

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To Laugh, Or Not To Laugh

A colleague and I watched the video below from The Onion and thought it was hilarious. It features a reporter with autism reporting from the site of a train crash in which one person was killed. The reporter is completely focused on information about the train and is oblivious to the fact that his interview comes across as rude since he ignores the human drama of the situation. 
We think this is funny because we know people with autism who might see something like this and have the same reaction, not recognizing that this is a story about people not a train. It’s not that they would be behaving rudely on purpose; it’s just that some people with autism have trouble recognizing emotion and responding in a manner that society deems as appropriate.
We didn’t just blindly forward the video to other friends in the field. We actually took a minute to discuss who we could send this to and who might be insulted, which led me to thinking — when is something about special education just funny and when does it cross the line to insulting?

Watch the video and let us know what you think.

Autistic Reporter: Train Thankfully Unharmed In Crash That Killed One Man

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Guest Speaker at WV ATC

Dr. Valerie Paradiz will be guest speaking at the WV Autism Training Center’s College Support Program for  Students with Asperger Syndrome. For more information visit their blog: MU College Support

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Will This Increase Those Served with Special Education Services

The first thing taught to students enrolled in special education teacher education programs is that special education across the nation is misrepresented by the inflated numbers of minorities and males. According to the information contained in the following article, the trend is continuing. According to the article things are being done to increase the achievement gaps and drop out rates.


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Nice Local Story

Josh is a middle-schooler who cannot use his hands or feet. When it was time for students to learn to play the recorder his teachers did not use his disability to come up with a way to get Josh out of the requirement. Instead they figured out a way for Josh to play the recorder. Click on the video to get the best part of this story.


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