Burlington Autism Classroom Receives Support from GPAEA

Inside Sarah Maher’s 3rd, 4th, & 5th Grade Autism classroom at Corse Elementary in Burlington, students experience a colorful rich environment where they have the freedom to learn and experience success daily.

Great Prairie Area Education Agency’s Challenging Behavior & Autism Team have supported Ms. Maher and her students the past year in a variety of capacities. From professional development and training to observations and consultation on a case-by-case basis. “I guess the most important thing to me is that it’s a group effort,” Maher said. “It’s good staff, good leadership and a lot of other support staff outside of this room that has helped a lot.”

Learn more about supports and services from GPAEA at http://www.gpaea.org/en/services/autism/.

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Specially Designed Instruction in Action at North Mahaska

Inside Lindsay Miller’s North Mahaska classroom students receive small group specially designed instruction (SDI) tailored to the unique needs of each child. “We’ve noticed an increase in student achievement and also in student’s rate of progress since we started the SDI project,” Miller comments. “Its nice to see some of our students actually make that ambitious growth!”

Iowa’s SDI program works for learners of all kinds by focusing on literacy in five strands of work: Pre-K, K-6, Learners with Significant Disabilities, Assistive Technology, Family School Partnerships. The framework is the result of multiple years of work from the Area Education Agency Directors of Special Education, the Iowa Department of Education, and 150 other members of the Iowa educational system.

“We’ve had a lot of support from the AEA throughout the SDI project.” Great Prairie AEA staff provide large group professional development to teachers of students with IEPs in Grades 3-5, as well as on-site support which includes demonstration of lessons, observation of teachers, coaching, data collection and data analysis of Universal Screening, Progress Monitoring, and Iowa Assessments.

Special thanks and shoutout to the following GPAEA Staff who have helped North Mahaska find success with SDI:

  • Lynn Hodgeman, Special Education Consultant
  • Jaci Jarmes, Special Education Consultant
  • Jim Cope, Regional Director
  • Dr. Angelisa Fynaardt, Associate Administrator
  • Mike Stiemsma, School Improvement Consultant

Also, thank you to Lindsay Miller and North Mahaska for your leadership and all that you do to help students achieve.

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Davis County Student Finds Success with Assistive Technology

Ellie Hamilton, Assistive Technology Specialist

Stock Photo. No photo available of Wendy.

Stock Photo. No photo available of Wendy.

Wendy is a third grader at Davis County Elementary school in Bloomfield Iowa. Wendy is Amish. She has Cerebral Palsy (CP) and is in a wheelchair. Cerebral Palsy is a disorder of movement, muscle tone or posture that is caused by damage that occurs to the immature, developing brain, most often before birth (Mayo Clinic, 2016).

What AT Equipment is being used:

Wendy is using a clock communicator where words are attached and Wendy can choose a word using the Gooseneck wobble switch. The Davis County team completed the SETT (student, environment, tasks, & tools) form. Next, they did a trial with the the clock communicator and gooseneck wobble switch by borrowing the items from the AEA Media Center. The team took data and determined the items were a good fit for Wendy.

After documenting the assistive technology items for Wendy on the IEP (individualized education plan) on tab B and tab F (AT IEP Guidance from the procedures manual ), the Davis County School District purchased two clock communicators and one wobble switch for her. One clock communicator stays downstairs in the special education setting and the other stays upstairs in the general education setting. Wendy uses both her hand and her head to activate the wobble switch. She decides which works best for her when she is using the clock communicator and wobble switch.

Wendy is also using the Alternative pencil. Her special education teacher uses this resource to complete the requirements for ELI (Early Literacy Implementation). Wendy needed a tool with access to all twenty-six letters of the alphabet and for alternate assessment.  The Alternative pencil assists Wendy to have access to the letters to begin spelling and writing words. She can identify her written name and knows all of her letters and letter sounds.

What was she doing before?

Wendy was using an informal eye gaze with two choices before trying new assistive technology tools. Her paraeducator and teachers held up two cards and she would make a choice with her eyes. The team notes this method was faster than waiting for her to activate her switch.

When she uses the switch Wendy is more motivated, independent, and has more than two choices. Only having two choices limited Wendy academically and with her peers. 

Now Wendy can sequence, make more than one choice at a time, participate, and interact with her peers. Wendy has demonstrated her assistive technology tools for her classmates so they know how to communicate with her.

Thank you to Wendy’s dedicated team!

Teachers:

  • Mrs. Charlotte Followwill, Special Educator
  • Mrs. Taylor and Mrs. Thompson, Regular Education Teachers

Support Staff: Therese Sharp, para-educator

AEA Staff:

  • Joe Hudson, Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant
  • Marty Hudson, Occupational Therapist
  • Christine Reigel, Speech-Language Pathologist
    Tammy Greiner, Speech-Language Pathology Assistant
  • Amanda Steinbach, Physical Therapist
  • Melissa Grooms, Physical Therapy Assistant
  • Robin Larrington, Special Education Consultant
  • Kibben Rumohr, School Social Worker

 

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Helping Zeke shine


Meet Zeke, a seven-year-old student at Gilmore City-Bradgate who lives in Gilmore City with mom, dad, sister and brother. Zeke started receiving Early ACCESS services through Prairie Lakes AEA as an infant to treat him for a movement disorder. He received occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech-language and early childhood special education services at home, until age 3 when Zeke transitioned to the preschool at Gilmore City where he continues to receive AEA services.

Becoming more independent and being able to communicate his wants and needs are two goals that the district, his family and AEA staff are working toward. Adapted equipment, including a gait trainer and power chair helps Zeke with his mobility. He also spends time building up his strength by crawling and using special supported chairs to assist with his sitting skills. Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), both low-tech, with pictures, and high tech, with an iPad and a communication app help Zeke communicate his desires.

Zeke is a very happy child that is always on the move. He is a joy to work with  ~ his personality is so fun!

 

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AEAs play daily ‘behind-the-scenes’ role in a child’s education

Written by Beth Strike, APR, who is the director of creative services with Area Education Agency 267

Those of us who have been employed by Iowa’s Area Education Agency (AEAs) system are used to the puzzled looks we get from neighbors and friends when we say that we work for the Area Education Agency — or “AEA” — system. Despite our best efforts over the last 40 or so years, too few people still truly understand the vital role that we play in helping all of Iowa’s children achieve–mostly because the majority of the time, that role is “behind-the-scenes” in local school districts.

What is an AEA? Here are just a few of the ways that we are serving your community’s students.

• Frequently, our staff members are the ones leading the professional learning that your child’s teachers are receiving when there are “no school” or “early dismissal” days. Our staff members receive a great deal of training on best practices in teaching and learning and then work directly with local teachers to help those ideas get implemented into the classroom.

• Your local school district is involved in the Teacher Leadership and Compensation program which requires that lead teachers have access to high quality professional learning around improving classroom practices. This training likely comes from your local Area Education Agency whose professional learning consultants designed a specialized plan for the schools it serves.

• Has your school district launched a new reading initiative? Adopted a new assessment? It’s likely that an AEA staff member may have introduced the initiative and is working quietly in the background helping to support classroom teachers with putting new strategies into regular practice.

• How about the students with special needs in your school district? Those students are regularly seen by AEA professionals who have master’s degrees in key areas like psychology, occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, and more. These professionals work closely with the classroom teacher to identify student-specific targets for growth and help to ensure that progress is being made so that each child can reach his/her maximum potential. However, if you don’t have a child with special needs, you would probably never even know about this important service that impacts over 8,000 children in our area of the state.

• Step into many classrooms today and you will likely notice a number of students-used materials like play-away books, iPads, robots, and more. Most of these materials are items that school districts could not afford to purchase on their own so the AEA purchases them and loans them out to every school district so that no child goes without the opportunity to learn from them.

These are just a few of the many services provided by your local AEA. Services are funded through a combination of federal-aid and state-aid payments; legislatively controlled property tax; federal, state and private grants; and tuition for classes. Without ongoing support from these sources, the educational experience each child receives in Iowa would not be nearly the same.

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Meet Skyler

Jennifer Woodley, Public Relations Coordinator

“She’s walked herself right out of physical therapy!” exclaims Janet Hurt, Physical Therapist for Great Prairie AEA.

Now 18 months old, Skyler has received Physical Therapy Services from Great Prairie AEA since she was 7 months. Doctors feared the twin wouldn’t live past birth, but her spirit proved everyone wrong.

Skyler’s parents Lindsey and Charlie made numerous trips to the University of Iowa for consultation. “We went to the University at 18 weeks [of pregnancy] and the first thing they told us was that she probably had down syndrome and she was so small she probably wouldn’t live to birth,” Lindsey explained. “A month later we came back for a checkup ultrasound and they said well, we’re sorry to tell you but, we don’t think it is down syndrome, we think that most likely it is triploidy, which is not compatible with life.” Determined to carry to term, Lindsey said that at 34 weeks and 2 days after a checkup she was induced because Skyler’s umbilical cord was failing. “After delivery they said, oh, she looks just fine, we don’t need to do genetic testing.” The parents insisted and the results came back totally normal.

Skyler and her twin Madison are both doing well and Skyler has even advanced ahead of her sister in some areas. She has been doing so well that Great Prairie AEA Physical Therapist Janet Hurt will no longer schedule official sessions, but will instead check-in on an as needed basis, “[Skyler] has such a strong will… she’s just tough!”

Click here to learn more about Physical Therapy Services from Great Prairie AEA.

Thank you to Lindsey and Charlie for allowing us to share Skyler’s story and a very special thank you to Janet Hurt and the entire Physical Therapy team at Great Prairie AEA for all that you do for area children and families. 

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Northwest AEA/school success: Girl with impairments advocates for safety

Ana2_A9890FA3EEC9CBroadway Elementary student, Ana Pocasangre, is flagged by her para-professional on the right, Ann Katzer, and on the left is her general education teacher, Jackie Scheuring. 

Ana Pocasangre is a fifth-grade student at Broadway Elementary in Denison, Iowa, who has proven to be a skilled sales person despite her young age. Ana has a vision impairment that necessitates the assistance of a talented para-professional in the school, Ann Katzer, and services from Northwest Area Education Agency, in addition to her general education classroom setting. As part of her IEP, professionals from the AEA help Ana with her speech, vision and educational programming.

With guidance from her educators, she recently took the initiative to write to Mike Pardun, the superintendent of Denison CSD, to explain how a safety issue at the school was affecting her and how it might bring harm to others.

One day last December while Ana was in the auditorium with her teacher, Jackie Scheuring, she mentioned that the steps to the stage were dangerous because there were no handrails for support. It was especially tricky for Ana because of her vision problem.

Mrs. Scheuring agreed and encouraged Ana to choose that as her topic for her persuasive letter assignment in her class. With the help of her para-professional, Ana penned a letter to Mr. Pardun requesting that handrails be installed so that no one would fall walking up or down the steps.

Not only did the superintendent respond quickly to Ana’s letter, he worked with the custodial staff at the school to install a new handrail very soon after receiving the pitch from the fifth-grader.

“Ana has taught me that there is no limit when it comes to being able to learn,” said Mrs. Scheuring. “In the right settings and with the right support, you can accomplish any goal set in front of you. Through her actions, I have learned what it truly means to persevere. I am honored to have been able to teach her.”

Mary Bruck, special education strategist at Northwest AEA who works with Ana, has also been very impressed with what Ana has accomplished and said she is a “pretty outstanding” student.

“I think it is interesting how Ana’s request seems to fall outside the realm of what other students her age might ask for,” explained Mrs. Bruck. “And even though the handrail benefits her, I know her thinking was also in protecting other students. That is just Ana’s personality.”

Ana is a thoughtful young girl who is surrounded by compassionate people encouraging her to advocate for herself and others. By all standards, she is doing an excellent job!

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