Indiana: New Bill Set To Give Special Diplomas For State’s SPED Students

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Indiana’s special education students could receive their diplomas for the first time under the state’s House Bill 1426.

Indiana state officials and lawmakers untiringly worked on new House Bill 1426 in their bid to contain all four of the state’s current diploma offerings into two while still meeting the needed new federal requirements on reporting.

These two diplomas that are set to replace the old four ones are the new Indiana Diploma which is principally “new” in name only as it still encompasses the designations in the state diplomas it’s about to replace.

House Bill 1426 does have something novel under its hood – an alternative diploma that special education students of the state, who are not capable of earning the regular Indiana Diploma, can get.

Alternative Diploma For The Differently-Abled         

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“This is a monumental leap,” said Kim Dodson, The Arc of Indiana’s executive director, a nonprofit organization for people with mental and developmental disabilities.

“Receiving a diploma means, they’re not just going to get a pat on the back and be on the receiving end of gratefulness for coming to school every day,” the director added.

Dodson stated that the movie just shows how these (differently-abled) kids are competent enough to earn diplomas of their own, learn the various skills needed to obtain this vital piece of paper and open doors of opportunities for them after high school.

What The New Diploma Offers

Yes, many special education students go to earn one of the state’s four diplomas currently offered to this date. However, there are a lot of kids with intellectual and developmental difficulties who couldn’t complete the set of requirements needed for these diplomas. And only certifications were afforded them as it was the only option.

These certificates are not alternatives to and not as-good-as high school diplomas. Therefore, students who are given them aren’t counted as high school graduates. As an effect, they couldn’t pursue opportunities open for those who got to graduate from high school. Additionally, being without a high school diploma is one massive hurdle for finding work.

The new alternative diploma could be a game-changer.

“For those who are of the high school diploma track, expectations are set at a low level,” Dodson voiced out. “We are sincerely hoping that the following endorsement and implementation of the alternative diploma would also significantly change the teaching these kids are getting.

The new federal education law ESSA or Every Student Succeeds Act brought about the state’s diploma changes.

ESSA: An Overview

Signed in December 2015, ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) replaced the No Child Left Behind policy as the primary legislation for the country’s K-12 public education system. While it was signed years earlier, its impact is set to affect schools in America just this school year – 2017 to 2018.

ESSA is one broad law that covers various education-related areas including kids with mental or developmental difficulties (which stats number as 1 in every five children).

The purpose of the new education law is to ensure that all public schools give quality education to their students including those who belong to these four main disadvantaged groups namely:

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  • Students in the special education curriculum
  • Students within the poverty bracket
  • Minorities
  • Those whose English language skills are limited

One of its most vital factors is ESSA gives the parents of special education students the opportunity to determine if their children are getting the education that they need.

Most of all, the law offers grants and other literacy programs aimed at getting students to succeed in their lives.

Ways To Help Slow Learners Cope With The Lessons

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Being an educator, regardless of the length of experience in the service, entails that you’ll most likely come across students of different behaviors.

While there may be kids who are so shy to participate in group discussions, others can’t sit still. The latter is because they want to either answer your questions or run around the classroom. Such types of children remain within the norm and are not too difficult to supervise as they can pick up whatever you teach. The ones that require your attention more, on the contrary, are the slow learners.

Their inability to cope with the lessons immediately isn’t due to their lack of willingness to learn. If anything, these students are your avid listeners during classes. It’s only unfortunate that they probably have a lower IQ than the rest of the group, which is not their fault at all.

As the teacher, you should help slow learners in your class to keep up with everyone. Here are the ways to achieve that:

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  1. Identify Who They Are

The first step is to gain a full insight about which students under your guidance have troubles coping with their subjects. Spend a week or so just assessing who can’t understand a lesson in an instant because it’s mentally impossible, not because they feel distracted or lazy. That will let you realize who needs academic assistance the most.

  1. Try A Different Teaching Method

It should go without saying that the techniques that work for other students may never work for slow learners. They can be very complicated, which will increase the latter’s struggles.

What you can do instead is simplify the principles as much as possible. Going step by step is OK too since it’ll be like walking the schoolchildren slowly through the lessons. Your final option is the “direct instruction” method, wherein you’ll teach topics straightforwardly.

  1. Work With Their Parents

The students’ moms and dads should also be a part of the plan. Various parents, especially the ones who may be too busy to look at their kids’ report cards, aren’t always aware of their learning issues. Nevertheless, you need to tell them in person or via call of what you notice when the child’s in your classroom. This information will ideally encourage the parents to strategize with you on how to help their offspring best and continue improving their learning skills even at home.

  1. Inspire The Children To Do Better
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Children who have a hard time keeping pace with their classmates tend to feel discouraged. If their problem becomes the center of bullying at school, the experience can be a massive obstruction to their progress. It will be great, therefore, to go out of your way to motivate the kid to do better.

Giving praises whenever they answer your questions correctly will make a lot of difference to your students’ disposition. You may also persuade everybody else to treat the slow learner well and assist him or her if they can.

  1. Allot Extra Hours To Help Them

In case you have a vacant period in between classes, encourage the kids too to come and ask for clarifications regarding the topics they didn’t understand. Your duty to these children does not end when the bell rings, mind you. Besides, to a devoted teacher, there is nothing more fulfilling than seeing all of the students under your wing make significant improvements.

 

Take the initiative to help slow learners cope with the lessons and everything else that goes into a classroom today. Good luck!

Top Extracurricular Activities For Children With Special Needs

Top Extracurricular Activities For Children With Special Needs

As a parent, it might be difficult for you to imagine your child with special needs take part in extracurricular activities in school. However, these after-school programs are excellent opportunities for kids to discover their interests, make new friends, and build their confidence. Read on to learn about the top extracurricular activities for students with special needs.

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Theater

Acting has many social-emotional and academic benefits for kids. For one, multiple script readings improve their reading fluency, accuracy, intonation, and vocabulary. At the same time, the sessions where they analyze the story and character development help practice their critical analysis and broaden their perspective in life.

Acting also provides a safe space for kids to pour their artistic expression. Knowing that they can stand up on stage in front of a broad audience is a powerful confidence booster, which then improves their self-esteem.

Adaptive Dance

More and more businesses are now offering classes for adaptive dance. There are even sessions tailored to kids with disabilities. A studio in Los Angeles and New York City called Ballet for All Kids have special lessons on classical ballet directed toward those with mobility challenges, deafness, autism spectrum disorder, and blindness. This initiative is called the Schlachte Method, a program developed by Bonnie Schlachte.

Also, the Music in Motion of the Maryland Youth Ballet extends two classes for kids with disabilities. One program focuses on children who can walk but still have special needs and another for kids who use walkers or wheelchairs.

These organizations make sure that every child in the world experiences the same opportunities for adapted dance.

Visual Arts

Visual arts is a type of therapeutic activity for students who are not capable of expressing their thoughts and feelings through words. These art projects also enhance the self-esteem of these kids upon seeing their excellent output.

ArtAble, an art studio in Minnesota, offers drop-in painting classes for children with all kinds of needs. Their audience easily accesses it because of their automatic doors, adjustable tables, ramps, and big walkways for wheelchairs.

Music

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Researchers observed that children who play music improve their executive function skills and build organizational structures in their lives. It also becomes an avenue for them to exhibit spontaneous and creative thinking while performing. To further enhance these skills, freestyle rap and improvisational jazz are the perfect go-to music genres.

Hippotherapy

Hippotherapy or horseback riding is an extracurricular activity that is both fun and therapeutic. The American Hippotherapy Association revealed that hippotherapy improves the child’s balance, muscle tone, and posture. The movement of the horse also contributes to the betterment of their trunk control, motor planning, core strength, sensory processing, and respiratory function for speech production.

As a parent, guiding your child into choosing the best extracurricular activities that will fit their particular needs is your responsibility. Here are some tips you can follow:

  • Keep in mind the sensory concerns of your child.
  • Be realistic.
  • Consider their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Enroll them in an activity that they are interested in.
  • Choose structured programs over open-ended programs.
  • Include your child in the decision-making.

If your child is engaging in an extracurricular activity that is not on the list, it doesn’t mean that he or she is not benefiting from it. Just make sure to follow the tips above so that you can find the best after-school program for him or her.

 

How To Support Students With Bipolar Disorder

Teachers need to be aware of their students’ unique needs, especially if they engage with students who experience mental health problems. Bipolar disorder is one kind of mental health illness wherein teachers need to make necessary adjustments with their teaching methods.

Bipolar disorder is a mental condition which is characterized by recurring episodes of mania and depression. Thus, there is a need for teachers and parents to provide the necessary support to students who have bipolar disorder. “Bipolar disorder is probably the main psychiatric disorder where medication is absolutely essential.” John Preston, PsyD said.

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Intense feelings of sadness and worthlessness characterize the depressive episode. Those who experience depressive episodes may also entertain suicidal thoughts. On the other hand, an extreme sense of elevated mood characterizes manic episodes. People who experience manic episodes engage in rash decisions which are often unhealthy for a person.

So, how can teachers support students with bipolar disorder?

Encouragement

Teachers need to encourage students with bipolar disorder to engage in school activities. However, they must not be too controlling. Students with bipolar disorder need understanding from other people since there will be instances wherein they cannot fully engage with other people.

“Bipolar Disorder is a mental health issue where neurological differences can be observed between those who have and do not have this diagnosis.” Catherine “Katie” Ness, MA, LCPC explains. So to develop these students’ engagement with other people, teachers may suggest alternative teaching methods for social skills. These methods may include journals, how-to’s, and role-playing. Moreover, positive reinforcement from teachers must always be present.

Buddy System

Teachers must make sure that these students will have someone to talk to in case they are having manic or depressive episodes. More importantly, when students experience episodes in class, and they need to speak to someone, little to no invasive attention must be given to these students. Thus, there should be designated places for students who experience manic and depressive episodes to calm their senses.

Engagement With Guardians

The support system of someone who has bipolar disorder comes first from the family. Thus, teachers, as a secondary guardian of the students, need to engage with the students’ immediate family to be more aware of their concerns. This way, teachers will be mindful of the students’ preferred coping mechanisms in times when they experience manic and depressive episodes.

Individualized Educational Programs

Students with bipolar disorder may or may not need to have individualized educational programs or IEP. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act states that students with disabilities that negatively affect their studies can benefit from IEP.

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There is a need to have separate conferences with the guardians and the student to have a successful IEP. Educational experts will conduct an assessment of the student’s performance in terms of academic and behavioral aspects. “We know many of the risk factors from poverty, trauma, maltreatment and social isolation through to bullying and the impact of excessive testing and unrealistic academic pressures,” says Katie Hunt, Clinical Psychologist

The team is composed of several medical professionals who will evaluate the student’s IEP. These professionals include teachers, psychologists, therapists, special educators, and other experts needed for the student’s IEP. These experts will assist in the creation of a conducive learning method and environment for the student with bipolar disorder.

Teachers need not separate students with bipolar disorder from the rest of the class. What these students need is understanding from parents, teachers, and peers without special treatment. Through encouragement, buddy system, and professional help such as IEP, these students will have the external support they need in school and life.

Tips On Teaching Students With ADHD

Students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are a bit challenging to handle than other students. The reason for this is that hyperactivity, attention problems, and impulse control characterize their condition. If you are a teacher of children with this disorder, these tips can help you establish a structured classroom learning dedicated to instilling discipline and self-esteem in them.

Have The Proper Seating Arrangement

“Children who have been diagnosed with ADHD are at a much higher risk of developing noncompliant or negative behaviors than a child who does not have ADHD.”  Kara Tamanini, M.S., LMHC explains. The classroom seating arrangement can make or break the attitude of your student with ADHD. Here are some guidelines to follow with regards to the positioning:

  • Seat the student with ADHD near your desk or away from the doors and windows to avoid any distraction.
  • Arranging chairs in rows is better than having them seated in roundtables, facing one another.
  • Do not put students with ADHD beside each other to avoid any commotion.
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Establish Classroom Routines

One of the best ways to accommodate someone with ADHD is to promote routine tasks. This way, they will feel more in control and disciplined with what they are doing. Some of these regular activities may include clearing the blackboard after class, submitting their homework every morning, and making them go to the bathroom every hour.

Help Them Organize School Works

Organization is essential for those who have ADHD. Since they have a low attention span, it might be difficult for them to keep things in order. Helping them be orderly is your job as their teacher. Here are some initiatives that you can do:

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  • Ask the student to purchase a master binder with a separate section per subject and make sure that every lesson or reminder goes into the right part of the notebook. You can also help them color-code each section tab.
  • Teach the student a system for writing down important dates and assignments. Make sure to keep it simple.
  • Have a readied envelope where he or she can insert parent notices such as PTA flyers and permission slips.
  • Provide a checklist where they can note their everyday tasks.

Prepare Them For Transitions

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One of the things that make them rattled is a transition. The best way to address this is to remind the student of what is going to happen next (recess, next subject, time for a different book, etc.). You may also help them prepare with starting and ending the day to assist them in the house-to-school transition. You can talk about things that went on in their homes and connect these scenarios to whatever is happening in the school. Because as Ben Martin, Psy.D elaborates, “When people think about attention deficit disorder (ADHD), they usually consider it a childhood problem. However, a large proportion — between 30 and 70 percent — of children with the condition remain affected throughout adulthood.”

Establish Rules In The Classroom

It is vital to establish several rules in the classroom to help them have a sense of responsibility. However, you need to give incentives and rewards first before punishing them to motivate them to do well. Make sure to change the awards frequently to prevent the student with ADHD from getting bored.

Finding the perfect combination of these strategies in handling children with ADHD is your responsibility as a teacher. If you apply these teaching techniques regularly in the classroom, rest assured that it will benefit not only those with the disorder but also the other students in the learning environment.

“People with ASD are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).” –Eva A. Mendes LMHC

Understanding Kids At School

Being a pre-school teacher is a challenging profession, especially if you are still new to it. No matter how great you are when it comes to the academe, you will always find it hard to deal with the different behaviors of your students. There are days when you wish you were a therapist so that you know what to do or say in certain situations. Unfortunately, this is not the case, which is why you need to exert more efforts in becoming a great teacher in your school.

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Before anything else, you have to completely understand that your profession is noble. You are fantastic at choosing to become a teacher. With your work, you do not only teach children how to be educated. At the same time, you are also transforming their lives every opportunity that you get. It is one of the reasons why teachers hold a special place in the hearts of students that they can reach out. We are saying this fact to you so that you will become more inspired to come to school each day. We want to remind you that everyone recognizes the efforts that teachers put in what they do.

If you want to become the best in your profession, the first step that you must master is to be excellent in understanding kids. Here are some of the things that you need to know:

Kids Have Peculiarities

As early as now, you have to condition your mind to improve the levels of your patience when it comes to handling or dealing with kids. Take note that each of them has different peculiarities that can drive you crazy if you do not know how to handle it well. Make sure that you understand the differences in their qualities so that you will not have a hard time connecting with them. Sometimes, you may need to look at the family background of each student to know the reasons why he is acting peculiarly.

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You Are A Second Parent

As a teacher, your duty is not only to impart knowledge to the students under your class. At the same time, people expect you to act as the second parent to the kids whenever they are inside the school campus. As such, you are liable to care and look after them during your class. Make it a top priority to care for their well-being because the parents expect you to treat them well at all times. Under the law of the state, you can be liable in case something happens to one of your students, and it has been proven that you are negligent. Because of this, you must see to it that all the activities you provide to your students are safe and that they are not exposed to any form of peril while they are under your custody. Be responsible in becoming a good teacher that everyone can be proud of.

Children Need To Feel Acceptance

Another thing that you must never dare to forget is the significance of responding to the needs of your students, one of which is feeling accepted by everyone. The truth is that kids can be vulnerable and can be exposed to different insecurities, especially if they are having problems at home. As such, it is your role to make your students feel that you accept everything about them. Be sure to let inform or let them know that they matter in your life. Let them think that you take them for who they are. Never make the mistake of trying to change them as it can only make the situation worse.

Reaching Out Is A Must

One of the challenges in becoming a teacher is that people also expect you to understand what is going on in the personal lives of the children that you teach. For this reason, you must make an effort to reach out to your students. Find a way to be aware of how they feel every single day. It is an excellent way of making sure that they are happy. At the same time, you must use it as a chance to determine if something is bothering them. Whether you like it or not, you are one of the persons that these children can depend on. Therefore, you have to see to it that you will always reach out and communicate with them.

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Being a teacher may be challenging or difficult. Nonetheless, it can also be rewarding especially when others begin to appreciate what you do. Keep going, and you will experience success! 

The Disadvantages Of Homeschooling Children With Special Needs

Homeschooling is a progressive movement in which the parents choose to educate their children at home instead of sending them to a traditional classroom. It is another type of education that is available for children who wish to learn without the need to go away from their family.

Most of the time, children with special needs undergo homeschooling because they learn differently from their peers, and homeschooling offers special accommodation that traditional schools cannot give. Despite the benefits that come with this form of education, others have always had reservations towards the idea due to a variety of reasons.

Financial Limitations

Homeschooling can be expensive to some, especially when one of the parents need to stay at home and thus resulting in a limited income of the family. To be able to provide high-quality education, buying learning materials is an essential cost. School supplies and textbooks following the latest curriculum are just some of them.

As the child grows, these expenses also increase since taking advanced lessons becomes necessary for the child. Examples include the use of physical education equipment and computers with up-to-date hardware and software.

Another added expense comes from extracurricular experiences. Examples of these include sports training, music instrument instruction, and art classes.

The typical range of costs is as follows:

  • Curriculum: $600–$900
  • Extracurricular activities: $400–$600
  • School supplies or equipment: around $150
  • Miscellaneous expenses (field trips, annual tests, and memberships): about $800

Time Constraint

Homeschooling is a tedious task especially for children with special needs. The average time that families devote for personally teaching their child ranges from four to six hours, excluding the time for the construction of a tailor-fitted lesson plan. Moreover, parents need to be hands-on when teaching, which makes it harder every time the child misbehaves or learns slowly.


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Qualification of Parents

In a traditional school, some teachers handle a specific area. Teachers undergo training in different ways to transfer their knowledge to others. This difference in experience makes the parents not as qualified as teachers since parents will often become limited to the resources available to them while trained teachers tend to go beyond.

On the other hand, it is a different case with special education children. They require field-specific instructions by specially trained professionals. Without the right communication skills, they might not achieve their highest potential. Hence, this becomes an obstacle in the further development of the child’s knowledge.

Lack Of College Preparation

First, independence is one of the skills that homeschooling cannot hone. Most children who have never set foot on a campus with other students tend to be culture-shocked once their parents send them in a college dormitory. It might give a home-schooled child a hard time adjusting, which further leads to lower grades.

Aside from independence, some students also lose their note-taking skills. Without taking down notes, the students may quickly forget the lessons that are being taught by the professor. Failure to develop this skill at an early age may prove difficult for the student.

Finally, experiencing group work is one skill they would not learn. It is a must to learn how to interact with different kinds of people. They need to become open-minded to accept different views and opinions.

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A Controlled Environment

Homeschooling constricts students in a very controlled environment. It detaches them from the realities of life, but exposure to these realities is helpful in the future. Some of these are competition, failure, or the perspectives of other people in which they do not believe. Exposing them to the truths of life trains them to cope with possible difficulties at an early age and learn from them. Meanwhile, others say that these controlled environments are safe because they shelter them from peer pressure, bullying, and bad company. However, exposure to these at an early age will help them learn how to deal with those concerns in the future.

Prone To Criticism

Some people often look down on homeschooling usually due to the lack of accreditation and qualifications earned from it. Some people judge those in such positions. They believe that they are incompetent or underqualified. Should this be a sticking concern for you and your child, there are several memberships in which you can apply. Your child can also take annual tests to verify their progress.

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Homeschooling has its disadvantages, but it does not mean that it is no longer useful and conducive to education. Learning these disadvantages can help some parents in deciding whether it is the best option or not, primarily for those children with special needs. Knowing the obstacles also affords time for the family to think of possible solutions to it beforehand, such as the several ways to manage expenses or proper time management. Homeschooling can be hard, but the impact that it can give is worth all the time and effort.

How To Support A Student In Grief

Being a school teacher is a considerably selfless job. You prepare lessons almost every night; when you present it to the class, you can never be sure whether the students will listen to you or not. Although you don’t feel well, you force yourself to teach so that the latter won’t have to stop learning for a day. At times, you may even prioritize your profession over your personal life for the sake of your beloved students.

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The thing is, problems don’t only affect grownups like you. Some of the learners might be living in a complex where flooding or massive fire can wipe all their family’s possessions away. Others experience losing a parent, a grandparent, or another close relative to a disease or an accident. Due to that, these kids’ minds may always be flying elsewhere, and they cannot perform well at school.

As their teacher, therefore, you should know how to support your students in grief.

Encourage Self-Expression

What makes it harder for some kids to move on is their lack of knowledge when it comes to expressing their emotions and thoughts. They have never gone through a significant loss until now. If the relatives are busy dealing with their grief too, the children who are assumed not to be aware of their surroundings are left to handle the emotions on their own. Hence, once they are in your class, you may introduce activities that will allow the grieving child to express how he or she feels.

Talk To Your Student Directly

“Everyone reacts differently to grief, and how one reacts has a great deal to do with what happened and whether they’ve dealt with it appropriately,” says Janeen Herskovitz, MA, LMHC. As mentioned also in Mom365.com, considering self-expression doesn’t seem to be working much, you are welcome to make the kid stay behind the class for a few minutes and speak about what happened to them. Mention what you know about losing someone or something dear, but try not to share many stories about your experiences. Instead, ensure that the student understands what death means and that its occurrence is not his or her fault.

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Address Behavioral Changes

Since kids are usually at school, it is the teacher who sees any change in a student’s behavior, not the guardians. Grieving children use different mechanisms to cope with their feelings, after all. Some grow quieter than ever; others who used to be meek transform into troublemakers. “For grieving people, practicing self-compassion and self-care is often very difficult. All humans share the inclination to want to relieve discomfort when we find ourselves in it.” says Karla Helbert, LPC, E-RYT, C-IAYT.

When you notice the behavioral difference, you ought to address it immediately. You are like a second parent to your students; you, of all the other adults in school, should know when something’s wrong with them. Then, you may either coax the child to talk about their issues or refer him or her to a counselor.

Offer Additional Assistance

In case the child has trouble catching up with the class, you can offer to tutor him or her after school hours. You can do it at school, or go to the student’s house if he or she does not want the classmates to know about it. This extra step is easy to coordinate with their guardian and the school administrators, primarily when it will help the grieving kid a great lot.

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Grief is not easy to deal with for anyone. It has a lasting effect on the people who experienced loss.  “No one is born knowing how to cope with the wave of grief that follows the death of someone we love. As a psychotherapist who’s worked with many grievers, I know when faced with overwhelming grief, many people feel like they are alone in what they’re experiencing and can feel like they’re going crazy.” That is according to Debbie Augenthaler, LMHC, NCC. For the children who don’t know much about life still, it may be more difficult to overcome. Thus, teachers and parents should join forces to support them in these dire situations.

I Am A Special Education Teacher

Just like any regular educator aspiring for certification after a rigid education and training process, special education teachers will work with children and youth that possess disabilities. These teachers will assist students of various grade levels in varying ages, sex, and capabilities. There are special education programs in place for these kids to meet their needs and improve their learning.

Continue reading “I Am A Special Education Teacher”