Time to get your learn on!

Pep Talk for teachers and students from Kid President.

Continue to be more awesome! We are offering a Back to School Special for all of our districts and charter schools. Our September Special Education workshops will be offered for FREE when you register using discount code sept2014.

Check out all of the great workshops we are offering in September: Facilitating Early Social Communication Skills, Handwriting Without Tears, Power of Inclusion, Advanced and Basic Picture Exchange Communication System, Preparing for SUCCESS after STAAR-Modified, FIE to IEP, Links Curriculum, STAR, and many more.

Free Sept. SpEd Workshops

Register at Ecampus.

Motivating Students with Disabilities

As the school year starts, special education teachers are thinking about all kinds of things but student motivation is never far from their minds! Learn from educator, psychologist, and author Allen Mendler about ways to make progress with your hardest to reach students:

Five Key Ways to Awaken Motivation

  1. Show students how achievement benefits life. This is a conventional approach, but it works. Tell students that getting good grades, working well, and making an effort do lead to fulfillment in adult life, whether that means going to college, getting a decent job, or buying a house, and so on. Even if students don’t buy into it, the notion will be planted and they will think about it.
  2. Create challenges that students can master. Give students incremental challenges. For example, for the student who chronically doesn’t do homework, Mendler suggests you ask her to do one problem for the next day, saying that you’re going to call on her for the answer. Between 90 and 95 percent of typically unmotivated students, says Mendler, will at least prepare that one problem. Mendler reasons that students who lack motivation have been so accustomed to thinking that they can’t be successful, that they have to be given small opportunities so they “may be reawakened” to the fact that they can be successful.
  3. Focus on the teaching and learning process. Be aware of the characteristics of a task that can be motivational elements. For example, is there enough time for the task? Can the student be successful at it? Is there some novelty to it? Are students sure of the purpose of it? Should it be done by oneself or with a partner?
  4. Establish relationships. If you invest enough chips in your “goodwill account” with certain students, you can make a “withdrawal” for which you demand better behavior, more academic effort, and so on.
  5. Give rewards for an immediate gain. Use this strategy to obtain a quick change in behavior.

Read the rest of Mendler’s article here: http://www.ascd.org/ascd-express/vol1/101-mendler.aspx

On a personal note, this will be my final post on the What’s So Special… blog as I head off to Massachusetts for the next phase of my journey. It has been a pleasure getting to know many of you through email, phone calls, and workshop attendance. After two years of working with this group I have an answer to the question”What’s so special about special education?” The answer is: you and your students. Please stay tuned for more great posts from JC, Kim, Nichole, Elaine, and the rest of the team at Region 13. Thank you for all you’ve taught me and for all the great work that you continue to do with your students and their families!

Matt Holloway

Behavior Support Staff Network Meetings

Have you heard the Behavior Support Specialists here at ESC Region 13 offer a great network opportunity? This group meets four times a year with a focus on collaboration, training, and networking opportunities.  This year’s network meetings will focus on four primary topics. Books will be provided for each participant.  The topics for this year include: Leaders Eat Last, Social Emotional Learning, Conscious Discipline, and Severe Behavior as related to functional communication.

The best news yet is that these meetings will be free! Register at Ecampus using workshop number FA1429624.

Then use the discount code BSSN to receive free registration.

First meeting is September 9th and registration is filling fast, so jump on this opportunity while you can.

Closing the Gap with Specially Designed Instruction

Region 13 has partnered with San Marcos CISD to share their unique approach to instructional design for students with disabilities. By using multiple data sources and the TEKS vertical alignment documents, the district has defined what a modified curriculum means to them and implements it through the  “Gap Plans” described in the course. This course is free and available online through the E-Campus system. https://ecampus.esc13.net/catalog.html#url=/show_class_info.html%3Fclassid%3D30409

This E-Learning Course will help educators develop instructional plans that focus on closing the gap for students with special education eligibilities.

Class Notes:

This course is divided into three modules. After completing these modules, you will be able to create a Gap Plan to help address the gaps in your students’ curriculum knowledge. Each module has a learning objective:

1. Identify the appropriate data sources for placing students’ present levels of academic functioning within the TEKS.

2. Use the vertical alignment document to create an individualized gap plan to help address your student’s curriculum needs.

3. Access resources to enable you to deliver specially designed instruction to address those needs.

FREE Technology Tools that Align with STAAR A’s Computerized Supports

"FREE" in text hanging from clouds


Texas educators will be interested in TEA’s new assessment for some students with disabilities: STAAR A, which is a computer-based assessment that will have “embedded” accommodations. In the demonstration version, those included:


  • Simplified language of some test questions– See Rewordify  a free website  that simplifies English, teaches vocabulary + other features
  • Simplified versions of individual wordsSee Rewordify (nice video overview)
  • Picture support for some individual words- See Read & Write for Google is a free web app that has a toolbar full of learning tools such as a talking picture dictionary, text-to-speech, word prediction, highlighters, etc
  • Preview text  (OA allowed) for reading passagesSee WordTalk a free Windows text-to-speech plugin for MSWord
  • Math and Science formula support
  • Clarification of charts and graphs
  • Computer-based oral administrationSee WordTalk a free Windows text-to-speech plugin for MSWord
  • and a host of other tools like highlighters, rulers, graph paper, contrast options, colored backgrounds, and more.  See Read & Write for Google

Please have IT departments consider reimaging the network to include these plugins/extensions, and to bookmark them so that any and all students can easily find and use the tools that help them learn.  Feel free to contact me for any additional information or questions: Nichole.Kertis@esc13.txed.net or 512-919-5246.

For additional tools and ideas please click here:  Technology Tips for Struggling Readers and Writers


Computer Literacy and Kids with Disabilities

With the small amount of information currently available regarding the STAAR A assessment, teachers may be looking for resources around computer based learning and students with disabilities. A recent paper, from the National Center on Educational Outcomes, looks at some of the factors that affect students with disabilities on computer based assessments: Computer-based Testing: Practices and Considerations. Some of the key findings:

  • Classroom instruction time may be needed to train students how to navigate a computer-based test and how to use test tools.
  • Without prior training students often are unable to correctly use online rulers, protractors, and other online measurement tools.
  • States and test vendors sometimes fail to make practice tests and manuals available far enough ahead of test day to provide sufficient instructional time.
  • Students may also prefer CBT because it has the option of customizing the assessment based on personal preferences. For example, all students may be allowed to decide what background color they would like on the screen, or what font size they would prefer.
  • Interactions with computers may cause anxiety for some students.
  • Computer anxiety does not refer to negative attitudes towards computers, but rather to a student’s “emotional reaction to using computers” (Erdogan, 2008, p. 823).
  • Erdogan asserts that providing students with more opportunities to use computers during instruction has the potential to reduce computer anxiety.
  • In a small study focused on individuals with intellectual disabilities, Stock, Davies, and Wehmeyer (2004) found that many study participants preferred computer-based tests. The participants particularly liked being able to take the test with little assistance. Still, when students have the opportunity to self-select accommodations on a computer-based test, they sometimes make poor decisions.
  • Innovative formats may be especially challenging for students with visual impairments or poor fine motor skills. For example, it is difficult to braille innovative test items. It is also sometimes difficult to describe some online graphics without giving the answer away (Kamei-Hannan, 2008; Kettler et al., 2010; Russell et al., 2010; Thompson et al., 2002).

Educators may also be interested in the statewide results for the 8th grade Computer Literacy assessment from 2013-2014: Report Summary_13-14

It’s not too late to sign up for Inclusion Institute 2014: Great Expectations




Inclusion Institute 2014: Great Expectations starts tomorrow, August 5th.

We will be hosting the fun and enthusiastic national and global speaker on Co-teaching, Susan Hentz. Susan has planned a whole day packed full of practical strategies for you to take back to your classroom.

This year’s institute is two days. On the second day you can pick from these amazing sessions all designed to positively impact your services to students, your knowledge of specific disabilities, and your instructional practices.

Connecting the Dots of Collaboration: Making Inclusion Work

Small Group Instruction Made Easy

Supporting Students with Autism in the General Education Classroom

Disproportionality Through a Cultural Lens

Strategies to Use with Your WHOLE Class to Benefit Your Students with ADHD

Think College! Inclusive Opportunities in Higher Education

Perfect PLAAFP Statements Lead to Purposeful Plans

Scaffolding for STAAR A

I’ve Got 99 Problems. Communication Ain’t One.

The Hidden Impact of Second-Language Exposure

The Concrete Model of Good Math Instruction

Including Students with Sensory Impairments: It’s Just Best Practice

Progress Monitoring for Secondary Students: Making It Work

Writing: The Key to Academic Success

Interactive Accommodations For Literacy Challenges

Including Reading Instruction in the Secondary Inclusion Classroom

Struggling Students? “Tech”niques and Tools to the Rescue!

Register on Ecampus


Inclusion Institute 2014 (SU1427634) or Inclusion Institute 2014 – Virtual Conference (SU1428827)