While separated in our own bubbles of distance, Cal-TASH 2021, one of our favorite conferences, happened this past weekend.
The platform was new to most of us who were presenting, and offered some connections in similar ways to the complexities of real life by having one speaker or a panel.
Virtual presentations are going to take some different skills. Certainly using polls and having access to chat features are very important when one presents. The downside, missing applause, laughter, and presenting nuances. But nonetheless: CalTASH came back.
Many people who attended CalTASH were folks who were there last year, all too aware that COVID-19 was a growing concern. As we sat last year in the different presentations, we were getting news that familiar conferences we had attended were shutting down and refunding folks. What we did not know last year as we enjoyed exchanging business cards and information with each other that was going to literally be that last time for an entire year. And here we are a year later virtually together, but we were going to make the best of it.
We always talk about our sessions we attend, but the best thing we have with regards to virtual conferences: we know that our sessions are all recorded. The ability to come back and review the presentations that we were unable to attend or the presentations we attended to look back and connect with other folks, that’s a bonus we have for using virtual platforms.
Let’s take a moment to see what we walked away with.
Opening Key Note with Noor Pervez
Noor Pervez came to us via a prerecorded connection. As a person whose intersectionality crosses disability, Muslim, faithful, and a member of the LGBTQA+ community, Noor framed the opening with “valuing who I am” and walking away with “More identities means a pathway to identify barriers and change those barriers.”
More identities means a pathway to identify barriers and change those barriers.CalTASH opening Note Address, Noor Pervez
The world we have today is expressly dealing with those intersections and they are not always the same for everyone at any one time. But here at CalTASH, one of the goals is to look at those intersections and be ready to help folks beginning to solve the problems and the stop causing harm to others in those intersections.
Making Modifications in Minutes with Nicole Eredics
Okay, of course, we were going to support Nicole! Nicole spent her session in a familiar place for us all, modifications. But looking at the options is very important. There were also discussions using SnapType, an app we have spoken about previously.
One of the new things that Nicole introduced to us was Marzono’s Taxonomy, an updated version of Bloom’s Taxonomy—the process of thinking and questioning the things placed in front of us so that we all can start and process through higher levels.
And if you’re ever short of resources, reach out to Nicole. Like us, Nicole is always available to share resources.
Town Hall: Digital Divide of Technology with Adiba Nelson, Vinton Cerf, and Lori Shepard
We know 2020 taught us how big the gulf was of technology availability especially for people with disabilities. And then there are things that are just stunning when companies do not send all the parts needed to attach the device to a person’s wheelchair– more specifically the missing pieces to allow Nelson’s daughter to have her AAC on her chair.
Vinton Cerf was looking at the process of Accessible Websites and acknowledged that disabilities are nuanced and that not every interface adapts well.
Lori Shepard discussed the user experiences for adults with disabilities. Especially adults are challenged because their devices are training dependent—meaning that in order to keep the device charged and in appropriate working condition, someone, not the necessarily the main user, will be doing those tasks and making sure the device is available for the user. Of more concern is that assistive technology at the adult stage is not surveillance, though devices like say Ring can help the adult be more independent.
Also discussed: that all technology has a life span. Whether the device survives for three to eight, or more years, is important to the user and then adapts as the user ages.
Technology and Literacy with Caty Solone, Kim Boscio, and more.
There were a lot of discussions happening in this group. In the end, it was about connecting AAC and literacy and finding out what an AAC user knew and how best to support that. There was some discussion about phonics development with an AAC user to help support their early literacy.
One topic discussed was the importance of using the movie (of a book) to be the hook, and then connect to the reading and read more directly, than the traditional model of reading then movie.
Another moment highlight: literacy is background knowledge and exposure to text helps to build the shared experiences. For students who do not travel or may not know large city life or rural life, this one way for the students to have that information brought to them.
But ultimately, all educators should bring their joy of reading and help to elevate that experience to bringing reading to others.
Inclusive Spaces in Social skills Development with Aja McKee, Audri Gomez and Kevni Stockbridge
This was a focus on adults finding inclusive spaces, and especially adults who needed communication support. What this group found was that some adults with disabilities found acceptance with LGBTQA+ groups.
There were some great discussions here about why that might have been and how GSAs at high school and middle school are places where students might start to feel that they can connect to others.
The CalTASH Bash.
Always on point. We were thrilled to have dancing and the pets. The pets who came to dance! (or were bribed). But this was a gathering for all to enjoy.
Day 2 was a little bit about juggling. We had more speakeasies on Day 2 and we also presented our self-advocate and paraeducator training.
LeDerick Horne Keynote Day 2
LeDerick Horne introduced some wonderful poetry to us and discussed his journey as a person with a disability from early education through to adulthood.
One of the facts he shared with us all, 60% of students with an IEP magically do not have a disability after leaving high school. What this means is folks with hidden disabilities may opt to not disclose their disability and do not know the avenues to get support with things when they are facing challenges in college or in their work places when they do have a disability. LeDerick Horne really talked about framing the conversations we need to have with students with disabilities is that they need to connect to their disability and not have shame about their disability. And this also takes developing pride in one’s self about their disability and that students will connect at different times and in different ways to that pride but having that positive role and opportunity to be able to recognize the good and the challenges.
If you have a chance, look up LeDerick Horne and his poetry. You won’t regret the time spent watching him recite his poetry.
Parent Perspectives Distance Learning for Children with Extensive Support Needs and Distance Learning with Sami Toews, Amy Hanreddy, and Elia Mahoney
This was a study in progress of experiences for students with extensive support needs during distance Learning.
Some challenges with this study: getting ahold of families. And the methods for collecting were also challenging. Some bright news: they had both English and Spanish translations for folks to share.
But the big takeaway here was that the hopes for Distance Learning mirrored many of the Desired supports. Families were getting direct information about how their child was being supported.
After this point, Renay got very involved in two separate Speakeasies. And of course, Renay presented on our behalf. We did not cover the material in the Speakeasies because it is a very organic, moving situation and it is meant to be a place of conversation.
We love conferences. Though we missed the direct energy of conferences, this was a great time for everyone. We thank the folks at CalTASH for being here with us and continuing to connect self-advocates, educators, and folks supporting self-advocates
If you have a chance, take a look at TASH and you might find your state has their own chapter.
Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online here, here, here, here, and on our website. ParaEducate is a company providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published during the academic school year on Mondays, unless a holiday or announced day off. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.