Spring 2014 (Vol. 19, No. 1)
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What Does "Follow the Child " M ean?
by David Brown
CDBS Educational Specialist
Why is it so difficult to assess children with deaf-blindness successfully? Many different people in the education/psychology field assess these children for many different reasons in many different ways, but very often the children end up being (usually) wildly under-estimated or (sometimes) just as wildly over-estimated. Clinical assessment approaches, medical, psychological, and educational have a part to play but may yield a very misleading view of the child’s current abilities and developmental potential. Many people are familiar with the declaration that a child is untestable, or is too disabled or too non-compliant for any useful assessment data to be obtained, but this is the fault of the assessment approach being used rather than any failing on the child’s part of course. Why is it thought preferable to make a child fit an assessment procedure rather than make the assessment procedure fit the child? Jan van Dijk has always made it very clear that we must alter our attitudes and approaches on every level when working with this population:
“The multi-sensory impaired person is a unique human being with a unique line of development, who is more dependent on the professional’s willingness to accept this and act accordingly than any other group of disabled persons,” (van Dijk, 2001).
What goes wrong?
The problems encountered by children and families in their dealings with assessors are legion, and it is not hard to identify the mistakes that are commonly made by people who are supposed to and assumed to be trained and skilled in conducting an assessment:
Tablet Computers and Apps as Inf ormal Assessment Tools
by Gloria Rodriguez-Gil
CDBS Educational Specialist
*The contents herein are mostly based upon a previous article and conference presentations developed with Cristi M. Saylor, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Teacher with the San Diego County Office of Education.
Tablet computers such as the iPad can be used as an informal assessment tool for children, including those with health issues and multiple disabilities. This can be accomplished by taking advantage of features unique to these devices, as they provide a flexible and easy access medium to a wide range of possibilities for the child to demonstrate their skills, concept development, and interests. In my work as a technical assistance provider I observe a child in his/her natural routine at home or at school in order to provide the educational team with recommendations to enhance the child’s educational program. With some students, the use of the iPad has allowed me to supplement other ways to gather information about the child like direct observation, interview of caregivers and service providers, and reading of reports. By using the tablet I may: 1) confirm some of the child’s skills observed during the routine, 2) gather new insight about the child’s abilities and knowledge, 3) learn about sensory and physical accommodations the child needs for accessibility, 4) have a deeper understanding of what is motivating for the child so it can applied to this technology and to other learning experiences, and 5) be able to engage a child who might otherwise be difficult to assess due to lack of interest and/or no previous experience interacting with me.
Capacity or Deficit? The Lens We Use to View Students Does Make a Difference
By Julie Maier
CDBS Educational Specialist
* This article was adapted in part from a previously published article co-authored by Dr. Emily Nusbaum, Julie Maier, and Jeanne Rodriguez entitled ”Capacity or deficit? An examination of the lens that educators use to view student disability” (2013) and published in PEAK Parent Center’s SPEAKout Newsletter (Back to School Special, 2013).
“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”
When I participate in team meetings or have discussions with teachers and other service providers about the students they teach and serve, I am often struck by how many of the stories and comments I hear focus on what the student cannot do, or the skills and concepts the student cannot learn, or deficits and absent skills. The conversations highlight limitations, skill discrepancies, and what needs to be learned, changed, or “fixed.” The curious thing is that many of these teachers and educators also share how much they care about this student and want to ensure the best outcomes for this student and have the best interest of this student in mind. I do not doubt those claims. It is just that this concern and best interest when juxtaposed with a focus on deficits and limitations is puzzling to me. I am certain that many of these professionals came into the field with an altruistic interest in and desire to teach, support, and help students with different and specialized instructional needs. However, it seems to me that some of these educators still view many students with disabilities through a lens that illuminates difference, abnormalities, and deficits rather than capacity, abilities, and unique skills. I would like to take a closer look at the lens educational professionals use when viewing students with disabilities, especially those with intellectual or multiple disabilities and sensory losses.