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:

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

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.

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.

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

High Quality PD…in your pajamas?

You’ve heard a lot from us about the Inclusion Institute for this year — that Susan Hentz is the keynote speaker, that we are going to explore classroom management and routines, special education eligibilities and services, changes to accommodations and assessments, and delivering high quality instruction to students with disabilities. But have you considered attending the conference virtually? Last year we had a teacher participating live from Maui, several campuses participating as groups, and more than one teacher attending (we suspect) from their living rooms in Texas…in their pajamas!

There is still time to register for this summer’s conference. The first 100 paid registrations (in-person OR virtual) will receive a FREE copy of keynote presenter Susan Hentz’s book “Collaborate Smart”. If you attend in-person you can pick up your copy of the book at the conference. If you attend virtually, we will mail you a copy of the book. Not to worry, though, all of the handouts that you will need are available on the virtual conference site for downloading.

Register for the Virtual Conference here:
Register for the In-Person Conference here:
…and check out the conferences page to get a feel for how it all works here:

Power of Inclusion: Administrative Overview SU1428384

Principals and campus administrators play a vital role in the process of creating inclusive campuses and ensuring that all  students have access to the general curriculum in the least restrictive environment. Region 13 is hosting a 3-hour workshop focusing issues of importance to campus leaders, including:

  • Special ed teacher appraisal (guest speaker Chris O’Reilly, Program Manager for Teacher Appraisal)
  • Master Scheduling for Inclusion
  • ARD committee participation
  • LRE data
  • …and more.

There are still spots available for this workshop on Monday, July 21 from 9-12! Register here: or search E-Campus for SU1428384


For more information, contact
Matt Holloway
(512) 919-5396

Inclusion Institute Info: Sessions and Virtual Options

Here is a sneak preview of the breakout sessions for day two of this summer’s Inclusion Institute (Aug. 5 and 6):

  • Progress Monitoring for Secondary Students: Making It Work
  • The Concrete Model of Good Math Instruction
  • Small Group Instruction Made Easy
  • Scaffolding Instruction for STAAR A
  • Perfect PLAAFP Statements Lead to Purposeful Plans
  • I’ve Got 99 Problems. Communication Ain’t One.
  • The Steps to Writing Great Sentences
  • Disproportionality Through a Cultural Lens
  • Connecting the Dots of Collaboration: Making Inclusion Work
  • Including Students With Sensory Impairments: It’s Just Best Practice
  • Struggling Students? “Techniques and Tools to the Rescue!
  • Think College! Inclusive Opportunities in Higher Education
  • Brain-Based Strategies for Social Studies and Science

Register for the face-to-face conference here: If you are interested in staying together as a team and getting some time to talk about the sessions that you see, consider hosting a watch party on your campus. In the video below, Alejandro Gongora, of Manor ISD, describes the Virtual Conference that he hosted last year.

Register for the Inclusion Institute on E-Campus:
Face-to-Face: SU1427634
Virtual: SU1428827

New STAAR A Assessment

Texas educators will be interested in TEA’s new assessment for some students with disabilities: STAAR A. There are a number of important details yet to be determined, including eligibility criteria, access features for students with sensory and motor impairments, and time limits. It is a computer-based assessment that will have “embedded” accommodations. In the demonstration version, those included:

  • Simplified language of some test questions
  • Simplified versions of individual words
  • Picture support for some individual words
  • Preview text  (OA allowed) for reading passages
  • Math and Science formula support
  • Clarification of charts and graphs
  • Computer-based oral administration
  • and a host of other tools like highlighters, rulers, graph paper, contrast options, colored backgrounds, and more.

The TETN PowerPoint is below; be aware that the demonstration version of the test is not in the PowerPoint. However, the basic technology of the STAAR A accommodations is similar to that found in the STAAR L online accommodation, of which you can see the student tutorials here:

PowerPoint: June 2015 SpEd Assessment Updates

Technology Tips for Oral Administration

Special Education teachers spend a lot of their time reading tests and quizzes out loud to students, not to mention regular classroom lessons and assignments. For some students, this is an unavoidable part of their instructional plan. But we think that, for many students, technology tools can provide an equally good, if not better, approach to this accommodation. And the less time teachers spend in the “reader-role”, the more time they can spend doing what they do best — teaching students.

In the video below, Kim and Nichole explore two approaches to using technology for Oral Administration: using text-to-speech tools and letting teachers record themselves. Beneath the video you will find an array of resources for planning the implementation of this approach. These tools might be more than enough to set you on your way, but if you have questions or would like to talk through your campus’s unique needs, please don’t hesitate to contact: Region 13 Assistive Technology Specialist Region 13 Access to the General Curriculum Specialist


Tech Tips for OA (Quick Reference)
Accurate Accommodations
Accommodation Effectiveness Form

Basic Computer Skills Assessment

Accelerating Instruction

Accelerating Instruction

through “Data-Based Individualization”

Region 13’s Access to the General Curriculum team will review slides from the National Center on Intensive Intervention’s webinar “Introduction to Data-Based Individualization”. The webinar will last 60 minutes: 45 minutes with the slides and 15 minutes for questions and comments. The webinar will be recorded and archived for future use.

Intensive Interventions
Wednesday, May 21, 2014

11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. CDT


A Message from our Keynote!

Region 13 is excited to announce the keynote speaker for our fourth annual Inclusion Institute, Susan Hentz. Susan focuses on classroom-proven researched based strategies and resources to ignite student enthusiasm for learning while maximizing the potential of every student. Susan’s seminars are well known for being high-energy, humorous, interactive, and packed with practical ideas that support effective teaching and engaged learning. You will leave her seminar with a wealth of strategies you can use immediately to ensure that every student in your classroom has access to the curriculum.

Meet Susan:

And register for the Inclusion Institute below:

Inclusion Institute 2014 (SU1427634)

Inclusion Institute 2014 – Virtual Conference (SU1428827)