Reflection of Cal-TASH 2016

This week we look at Cal-TASH 2016. Sacramento is in ParaEducate’s backyard. So there wasn’t any question of Renay skipping out on this year’s Cal-TASH. For those of you who don’t know: Sacramento is the state capital of California. This also gave Cal-TASH time to really talk about, and re-enforce the fact that part of Cal-TASH is dedicated to public policy involving people with disabilities and their lives and education. ParaEducate participated Friday and Saturday at Cal-TASH, though the event really started Thursday at the State Capital.

ParaEducate presented at 8:30 am Friday morning, returning to “Creating a Team of Paraprofessionals in Inclusive Schools”. In addition, this time, we shared the space with Angela Barber from the Folsom School District with her related presentation “Bridging the Gap-Strategies for General Education and Special Education Collaboration”. We loved the analogy of ‘the elephant in the room’ with regards to how general education and special education need to really learn to work together and how all the strategies are just there and to build our campuses for our students and make an inclusive environment.

After our session, we and everyone else who had registered gathered in the main room for a Town Hall Meeting. During this time we heard from three groups. Of the highlights mentioned and that made it down into our notes:

  • Person Centered Promotion/Planning is important
  • Services for the disabled are important and we need to make sure families have access to that information
  • Social skills include all social skills
    • Example given: learning to swear the how and why—while this is an extreme point, it is a little wake up call to remember to teach skills before someone else does and have to undo those skills.
  • Three main things to remember
    • Be adaptable: means to keep trying
    • Listen: but do so loudly
    • Build meaningful relationships: learn to raise expectations
  • Not to forget that Adulthood is for everyone those Adult Services aren’t just an “adult issue”
  • Talking to legislature has been very effective for the disabled community. Petitioning through email, phone calls, and letters has affected many politicians and gotten their attention when volume is high
  • Lanterman Act is 50 years old
    • Helps get services to families
    • We need to address aging care givers
    • Use #Keepthepromise to alert your legislature (in the state of California)

During this time, there was a lot of reminders of how far things have come, even in twenty years for families getting services and how they were being advised by their doctors about their children, the same children who have now grown to adults.

Lunch came and a wonderful keynote speaker and self-advocate, Steven Hinkle talked about his journey through education. A reminder to the barriers adults may give students and that sometimes, the growth students want will arrive when we [adults] least expect.

After lunch, we participated in the first ever Speakeasy. There were several groups; ParaEducate joined the Inclusive Education Speakeasy. The group included several teachers from WISH Charter (in Los Angeles), Elk Grove School District, and some parents. During the Speakeasy, questions were about SELPA’s role in education, quality of education, getting modifications and other resources from other parts of the state (and more importantly how to share them!), communication barriers (adult to adult, adult to student, student to student), and how do we get administrative to get teachers to buy in. To say we loved the Speakeasy was an understatement.

The next session, we joined “Misusing Special Education as a Tool for Segregation” presented by Barbara Ransom and Dr. Jackqueline Brooks. They are asking “How do we prevent students of color from being overly identified as ED, ID, or LD?” They discussed Peggy McIntosh work. Five discussion questions framed their workshop; questions 1, 2, 4, and 5 all used a five-point scale from strongly agree to strongly disagree. Question 3 was an open-ended question.

  1. Think about your work experiences and the co-workers who comprise your peer group. How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements: At work, the majority of my peers reflect my race group.
  2. Now think about your leisurely activities outside of work, and the people that you perform these activities with. How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement: When engaged in leisurely activities, I mostly associate with people that reflect my race group.
  3. Now think about the last time you moved, or if you are planning to move soon think about this decision. What concerns you the most about selecting a new neighborhood for yourself and/or your family?
  4. Now think about your shopping activities. Think about your activities while shopping in a department store or eating at a restaurant. How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement: When engaged in these activities, I do not feel singled-out or targeted.
  5. Now, think about the last time you challenged someone’s ideas, perspectives or views, or someone challenged your ideas, perspectives or views. How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement: I felt comfortable voicing my opinion.

The session reminded us that stereotypes become barriers to communication, stigmatization means we can confer non-human status to another person, paternalization and pity were a construct of socioeconomic development and that Institutional discrimination within social institutions (like school or church) were the focus of their work. There was a history moment courtesy of Barbara Ransom, a civil rights attorney: a reminder of the parts of the 14th Amendment, the Equal Protection Clause that helped decide cases like Brown vs. Board of Education and the language of “All means all”. Again, history came to play again, from Texas in 1980: “Teachers are required to provide [a] moral compass to students”, Pyler vs. Doe in 1982 “education is important to social order.” The interesting part the pair emphasized, that they were not implying racism by identifying teachers.

The next session, and the final for Friday that we attended: “Inclusive Access: Communication Core Curriculum and Meaningful Skills” by Dr. Kathy Gee. Some reminders from this session focused on that standards reference IEP goals and that many IEP goals currently still do not link directly to curriculum. The three main points to focus on were what the core curriculum was, what cognitive growth by the student, and the social and emotional growth of the student and where all of those three ideas meet. If you were unaware: IEP goals are over the year and must measure progress. But that does not mean that the work with the gen-ed teacher did not need to help develop scaffolds to support a student to reach a desired end in an activity, unit, or social skill. Thusly, yes, there are two sets of goals: an IEP goal, the whole year for the student and then the goal of how the student will find meaning in the day in and day out, around units, and around being a member of the community.

A brief discussion came forth in evaluating Expressive (How they say it) verses Receptive (what did they hear) through communication. There were some examples of AAC both high and low tech with considerations for the future, routines of the classroom or the school, ultimately looking at the idea of “what will be taken away [academically/socially/emotionally by the student]?”

Finally Dr. Gee shared some of her favorite resources, (and they are some of our favorites too!) Jefferson Parish Public Schools, Tar Heel Reader, Baltimore City Schools [focus on Elementary schools], Widgit Literacy Symbols.

Saturday was just as active as Friday. We started out in a repeat session from TASH 2013, visiting with Tara Uliasz with her discussion of Intersectionality and Racisim. Because it was round circle discussion, the talking points were direct and all participants shared as they were comfortable. Through the hour time, we looked at the role of Oppressions, expectations of society and culture, Barriers and perceptions, how to get students the correct resources, and that understanding builds up over time.

We then headed to join and see a double session Co-Teaching. The first part was presented by Wish Charter Schools that is supported by Loyola Marymount University. They discussed the five different models for co-teaching and strategies to start co-teaching in places that may not have co-teaching. The other half of the session was set up by representatives of Willard Middle School on Co-Planning [a necessary component for successful Co-teaching]. Both groups pointed out the importance of making an accessible space for the entire class and that when they shared spaces with their co-teachers (providing two teacher desks) for the classroom the co-teaching was more successful. The model set up by Willard Middle School helped demonstrate the adults were including as well as the students. They also had students contribute to positive behavior support discussions.

The lunch keynote speaker was Ann Halvorson. Ann talked about the process of Inclusive Schooling in California. And we followed her to her follow up discussion after lunch. She showed us the construction of a teacher and how in California a teacher is trained. The increase of choice needed more interventions but accountability with data needed to address continued barriers. She ended with the idea that once we address the fixes of general education then we could fix special education.

once we address the fixes of general education then we could fix special education.

The last session and the end of Cal-TASH 2016 found us in “Peer Supports & Networks to Facilitate Inclusion in Elementary School Settings” with Jean Gonsier-Gerdin. She was looking at the facilitation of social skills for students in many different settings in and out of the classroom and leading to extra curricular activities and hopefully leading to reciprocal relationships.

Big reminders to us included the following:

  • avoid interpreting social interactions [of a person with a disability for someone else]
  • avoid over doing activities or for the student with disabilities
  • do teach to maintain and extend conversations
  • and listen and responding [by person with a disability]
  • Avoid over reliance on adults

Cal-TASH 2017 will be in Southern California the dates and location will be announced soon. We walked away glad for the time to reconnect and want to encourage those who we met to keep connected with each other. Other notable thoughts also included the repeated mention of moments that self-advocates and presenters had heard being told to people with disabilities, “you can’t participate because of your disability.” Some of those times were recent and not just an instance of mention because it ‘used to happen’.

It was a packed two days. We love going to Cal-TASH, we met even some folks who we’ve only previously met through #BetterTogether or #iechat. We would like to point out for one of the first times ever: Renay was not the only pareducator at the event. Events like this remind ParaEducate that we have a place at the larger table and that joining and participating is for everyone.

Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to be a guest blogger? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online herehereherehere, and on our website. Paraeducate is a company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.

About paraeducate

ParaEducate is a company run to help reach out to paraeducators or paraprofessionals in public K-12 schools, giving advice, talking about publications that ParaEducate produces, and other useful information regarding working in public school settings.
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