The Anatomy of a Special Needs Child

This infographic was supplied by Wendy Turner, a Clonlara School guest blogger (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***).

When you hear about a child with special needs, you might not really understand what that means. However, for parents who face this challenge in their lives, members of the medical community, and educators, it’s important to have a firm grasp of the issues many children face on a daily basis. Special needs refers to a gamut of issues that include physical, developmental, behavioral/emotional, and sensory impaired problems. Children may deal with major health issues such as severe allergies, diabetes, heart defects, or juvenile diabetes. Hyperactivity, autism, and dyslexia can create many obstacles in a young person’s life. Blindness and deafness pose challenges of their own. A child may be dealing with one area of need or a combination. No matter what type of special needs a child endures, it is important to recognize the problem and get help.

Parents Need to Begin with Answers Many parents may see that there is a problem, that something isn’t happening as planned for their child, such as developmental milestones or behaviors that are exhibited at home. They not even be aware of any issues until children go to school and problems arise due to learning disabilities or difficulties in a group setting. A proper diagnosis is key in assisting children with special needs. Whether the family physician begins the chain of action or it begins with the Committee for Special Education at the public school, parents need to get to the bottom of any special needs for their child. From that point, schools must make accommodations and modifications for a classified child.

Understanding the Rights of a Child with Special Needs Federal legislation is in place to protect the rights of any children that have been classified with special needs. The Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act all entitle children with special needs to an educational plan that will suit their situation. Parents can request that their child be placed in a classroom that is designed for children with similar needs or ask that their child be in the regular classroom to promote their child’s well-being.

Source: Masters in Special Education

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Forget Marble Notebooks: High Tech Is Coming To A K-12 Classroom Near You

Written by Dawn Papandrea , a Clonlara School guest blogger  (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***).

All across the country, K-12 students are settling into the school year, which more than ever probably includes the sort of technology you’d expect to see in a corporate office or college classroom. From video and web conferencing to handheld devices for all students to online testing, the days of number two pencils and teachers writing notes on the blackboard could soon be a thing of the past.

Take a look at some technologies coming to (or already at!) a K-12 classroom near you…

Incorporating Technology Into Every Lesson

Remember when the big excitement at school was getting to watch a video, or if you’re really old, those slideshows that had accompanying records that beeped to prompt you to the next slide? We’ve come a long way when one considers that 52 percent of teachers say they use interactive whiteboards in their classes, and 40 percent have a class wiki or website, according to the Pew Report “The Impact of Digital Tools on Student Writing and How Writing is Taught in Schools.”

Even when it comes to test preparation for the SAT, the days of flipping flashcards are over. One company, Benchprep, for example, uses an interactive gaming approach to appeal to high schoolers who are prepping for the college admissions exam.

Testing Online

Unless you’re living under a rock or in one of only 5 states that hasn’t adopted the Commor Core, you’re probably aware that by spring 2015, states must administer a mandatory online assessment to test student proficiency in math and English. Online testing means more students sitting at computers during the school day. As such, public schools are beefing up their IT offerings. In fact, says a CDW-G survey, 83 percent of public school district IT professionals surveyed cited Common Core as one of their top three IT priorities.

Paper and Pencil Is So Retro

Just as many have gotten used to using e-readers instead of hard copy books, the same may happen with school textbooks. In fact, 37 percent of teachers in a “Styles of Learning” survey by Enterasys Secure Networks said they planned to transition to digital textbooks within the next one to five years. At home, students are already getting used to making the switch to digital, as 31% of middle school students say they use tablets to complete homework assignments, according to a Verizon Foundation study.

The World Is Their Classroom

Thanks to video and web conferencing, some lucky students are able to watch presentations, experiments, and other learning events in real time from anywhere in the world. Think of it as the modern day field trip. For instance, some zoos, museums, ­libraries and other organizations have distance learning ­programs specifically designed for schools.

This technology is especially helpful for rural areas that are too far from cultural centers for students to frequent. One such school district in Oklahoma has been using mobile video conferencing with great success, according to an article in EdTech Magazine.

It’s just a matter of bringing video conferencing equipment into schools as companies like InterCall do to facilitate educator’s needs.

Online Courses

Beyond technology in the classroom, many K-12 students are taking courses right from their own homes via online learning. For example, Iowa Learning Online is currently serving 800 students, and has plans to expand and grow the program. Teachers broadcast to students via webcams or use technologies like Skype or Adobe Connect.

Technology in learning has come a long way in a short time, and will likely continue improving as it becomes more accessible and user friendly. Just imagine what the classroom will look like five years from now!

About the author: Dawn Papandrea is a Staten Island, NY-based writer specializing in education, careers, parenting, and personal finance. Her work has appeared in publications including Family Circle, Parents, WomansDay.com, CreditCards.com, and more. She has a master’s degree in journalism and mass communications from New York University. Connect with her on Twitter and Google+.

Collaborative Learning in the Classroom

Written by Gael Luzet, a Clonlara School guest blogger and author of the Collaborative Learning Pocketbook (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***).

Much has been said recently about the power of learning with others, but how can collaborative learning make a significant difference in the classroom?

Collaborative learning is a planned opportunity for two or more people to work together in an educational context. It is not just about putting pupils in groups, it is about facilitating their team work and providing great outcomes. Historically, collaborative learning has always been at the forefront of effective teaching and learning. Plato in Ancient Greece used to give his students philosophical dilemmas to solve through a dialogical process. Students who collaborate effectively have developed important lifelong learning skills such as:

•    The ability to express their thoughts with clarity
•    The ability to listen to and understand others
•    Awareness  and management of their own emotions and feelings

Collaborative learning tasks tend to be open-ended and require high levels of thinking. They demand a wide range of skills that younger learners may not have acquired yet. It is important to assist them in improving their cooperative skillset. Students learn that the answer does not always have to come from the teacher. In fact, the teacher becomes more of a facilitator, a guide on the side who paves the way for learners to acquire knowledge.

Thorough planning is crucial for the teacher-facilitator who ventures into the collaborative learning world. Set the ground rules for group work, which can be discussed with your class in advance (pupils should take it in turn to speak, make eye contact and encourage everyone to participate, be silent during instructions, etc…). It is useful for the teacher to have a zero noise signal. A whistle, a bell or a hand clap could do the trick. Consider the composition of your groups: should pupils sit in friendship, mixed gender or mixed ability groups? How many pupils should there be per group? How about the roles within each team (a leader, a scribe, a researcher, etc…)?

And last but not least, give careful consideration to unwilling learners, the ones who sit with their arms crossed or a giant bubble gum in their mouth when you speak to the class. Regardless of their reluctance to participate, they have to be included in the task. They need to be placed with the right peers and the teacher has to boost their motivation before group work starts. By and large, children crave acceptance from their peers. Reluctance generally comes from a lack of confidence buried behind a confrontational or indifferent front. When handled properly, collaborative learning helps the unwilling learner to become a more active (and happier) classroom participant.

Strategies for collaborative learning range from the simplest technique to the more complex one; from the small scale paired activity to the full blown group project which stretches over several lessons. Here are four simple strategies to facilitate group learning:

1.    To create mixed groups of pupils, give each member in the class a number from one to four. Ask all the ones, the twos, the threes and the fours to sit together. You now have four heterogeneous groups of learners ready to tackle the collaborative task ahead.
2.    To encourage students to talk to each other, sit them opposite each other in a long line and ask the students on one side to move down a seat every 3 to 5 minutes. This speed dating-style activity works well when the task involves peer questioning or data gathering.
3.    Mind maps and graphic organizers are the perfect partners to classroom collaboration. Enthusiastic pupils sitting together around a large mind map are more likely to discuss, negotiate, evaluate and compromise.
4.    Group activities such as the card game ‘Higher or Lower?’ provide a great opportunity to develop ordering and sequencing skills. Create a set of cards with ideas to rank in order of importance, value, chronology, etc… Ask pupils in pairs (or threes) to reveal each card in turn, and place it higher or lower than the other visible cards on the table.

It is generally accepted that once children understand the value of working together in unity, performance, motivation and outcomes improve.  Of course, children should also be given time to think for themselves and work on their own, but collaborative learning adds another string to their skills bow. A string which is invaluable as it gives them the confidence to interact effectively with the world around them.

Author Bio:  Gael Luzet, Advanced Skills Teacher, teacher trainer and author of the Collaborative Learning Pocketbook

Top Ten Tips for Going Back to School

Written by a representative from Tutor House, a Clonlara School guest blogger (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***).

The end of the summer holidays and the beginning of a new school year is an equally stressful and exciting time for many parents and students alike.

London-based private tutoring agency Tutor House has come up with its top ten tips for going back to school, aimed to help students and parents prepare for the new school term.

1.    Morning Organization – Get Back into the Routine

Create a routine for the mornings to ensure that everyone is out of the house at the right time.

Ensure that everything needed for school is prepared the night before the first day back to avoid the unwanted stressful manic rush in the morning.

2.    Prepare the Calendar – Highlight Key Dates

Having a family calendar is a great idea and solution for effectively preparing for key term dates, as the whole house can always be kept up to date with what everyone has planned.

Mark key term dates and the days kids are doing after school activities.

3.    Lunch and Breakfast Supplies

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so it’s worth having the fridge and cupboards filled up with a range of healthy breakfast items.

If lunch boxes are required then ensure that you have plenty of lunch box fillers available so in the morning it is quick and easy to rustle something up.

4.    Reading List – Get Ahead of the Class

If the school has issued a reading list for a particular subject before the term starts, get these books as soon as possible.

Summer holiday reading or a 20-minute session before bed is the ideal solution to avoid last minute cramming as students will learn more effectively.

5.    Holiday Work – Slow and Steady

A continuing theme here is to ensure that nothing is left to the last minute. Holiday work is often left to the eleventh hour, causing stress and ineffective learning.

By steadily completing holiday work earlier on in the holidays ensures that students will keep their minds energised, avoiding that horrendous last minute dash to finish off 10 pieces of homework the night before the first day of school.

6.    Labelling – Get the Sewing Kit out, Mum!

Labelling all the uniform and sports kit is a sensible idea as it helps avoid having to keep buying new uniform to replace potential items of lost property throughout the school year.

An arduous task for many, but dedicate an evening or two to spend with the sewing kit – it’ll be worth evading the potentially expensive mid-term uniform replacements!

7.    Regulate Sleeping Habits – No More Late Nights

Traditionally the summer holidays can bring change to a child’s sleeping habits, especially teenagers.

Try to regulate sleeping patterns a week or so before term starts to avoid a shock to the system on the first day back at school.

8.    Brush up in Key Areas – Private Tuition?

Make a flying start to the new term by brushing up in a few key areas. Whether it’s an important exam year or a new start, hiring a private tutor for a few hours before term starts can really make a difference.

9.    RELAX!

Putting all the excitement and stress of starting a new term aside for a second, it’s actually correspondingly important to keep calm and have a positive attitude.

These schooling years are so precious, and won’t last forever so enjoy them as much as benefitting from them.

10. Avoid the Uniform Rush – don’t leave it all last minute

By shopping for school uniform well before the end of summer rush parents can benefit from avoiding manic shopping trips and can often pick up very good deals.

Currently Debenhams are offering 70% off Kids school uniform and other retailers are offering deals such as; 2 for 1 and 3 for 3 on school uniforms.

Author Bio – Tutor House is a private tutoring agency based in Fulham, London and offers private tuition for children aged 11 – 18 years old in Common Entrance, GCSEs and A-Levels. Tutor House also offers special education support, careers advice, gap year advice and University guidance.

For more information on private tutors in London and Fulham contact Tutor House on 020 7381 6253 or visit http://www.tutorhouse.co.uk

Advanced Techniques for Teaching Gifted Children

Written by Tony Buchanan, a Clonlara School guest blogger (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***).

Teaching gifted children could be the most challenging aspect of anyone’s teaching career. Unlike regular classroom-based teaching methodologies that have general theories and practices, having gifted children in class go beyond age and lesson criteria. Many families who have gifted children opt to have them go through private tutoring instead of regular schooling.

Young Einstein.

Because of this, many private tutors also have adapted their own teaching practices and lesson plans to adjust to teaching gifted children in a one-on-one environment. With this, here are a few teaching techniques that could help tutors utilize the learning capabilities of their gifted children.

Familiarize differences among gifted children

Applying knowledge and practices in multiple intelligence learning is a great start to tutoring gifted children. Much like other students, not all gifted children have the same learning curves and absorption to different subjects. This is more apparent in almost savant level children who are inclined to excel in one or two aspects and seem to fail in the others. It is best to have an assessment test done with your student to see where they could perform best. This will help you assist your student further with his strengths while adjusting to his weaknesses.

Hardest to easiest questions

Probably the most anti-norm of regular teaching methods, allow your student to work on the most difficult questions in your homework and have him be challenged by answering them. A majority of gifted children tend to get bored with random type questionnaire for quizzes, homework and projects because they are generally more advanced than their peers. Let them enjoy what they do best through challenging questions and tasks that would not normally be done in a regular classroom.

Give them choices

Gifted children will always have an “expertise”. If you let them identify their interests, you will also find a better way on how to teach them. The best part about private tutoring is that you are not restricted by schedules or set of classes. Let your student make choices on what to do from beginning to end and you will see a difference in their eagerness to learn even on things that they are least interested in. Do not be afraid to also offer higher levels of thinking and allow him to see other options outside of his age and grade group.

Instil some humor

A lot of gifted students have experienced some ridicule or misunderstanding about their level of intelligence especially if they started in a regular classroom setup. This results in a low self-esteem and a sense of banishment from his peers. Change his emotional outlook by encouraging that learning can still have a sense of humor. Do not let make them take lessons too seriously and let them explore creative and fun ways to deliver outputs. Let them take a breather now and then. Ask them what they find fun and amusing or what makes them happy. Let them find out how they can be themselves with you and ultimately around other people so that his mind and talent will not be a burden to himself but a gift for others to enjoy.

About the Author:  Tony Buchanan is a passionate blogger, freelance writer and a regular contributor to several blogs.
He loves reading news and sharing unique articles through his contents.  When Tony is not working, he enjoys music, camping and spending time with his family.

How Project-Based Learning Will Make Your Kids Successful

Written by Pengfei, a Clonlara School guest blogger (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***) and has been reposted with the permission of Launch Education Group.

Alex Banayan, 20 years old and the youngest venture capitalist in the world. Still a college student at USC, Alex spends his days flying to various cities, hanging out with people like Zappos founder Tony Hsieh, networking with young entrepreneurs, and writing his own book. He has turned down an offer from MTV (for his own reality TV show) and another from Interscope Records. Alex is at the pinnacle of success at his age. Yet, an interview with his boss, Stewart Alsop, will make you realize that the Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm did not hire him for his grades. They hired him for his creativity, entrepreneurial spirit and social saavy. Above all, they hired him for his confidence.

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Most parents believe that academic achievement is the key to a lucrative future. However, we also know that success means so much more than being calculus geek or being able to write a great paper on James Joyce. After all some of our society’s most beloved visionaries are college dropouts.

Because skills like leadership, confidence, communication skills, and curiosity take a lifetime to develop, it is imperative for children to start at an early age. For example, parents should implement a routine activity that stimulates a child’s creativity and develops their confidence. A great way to do this is a project-based learning model described in Lori Pickert’s book Project-Based Homeschooling.

“The first step toward success is taken when you refuse to be a captive of the environment in which you first find yourself.”  -Mark Caine

Although primarily designed for homeschooling parents, the program can be adopted by all families and academic institutions. Project-based learning is a way for kids to choose their own subjects and work on projects that interests them. A time of the day/week is allocated for kids to routinely work on various projects individually or with others. Parents and teachers, for the most part, offer minimal guidance and are only there to encourage and observe. The benefits of this approach are immeasurable.

Take this scenario in the book for example:
“A group of children age three to five are working together to build a large, three-dimensional cardboard whale. Two are crouched on the floor looking at a book, shouting out information and ideas to others, Two are arguing about fin design-they decide they will each make one fin the way they prefer and they’ll use both. Another decides to make krill for the whale to eat, so he sits down and begins cutting paper into tiny pieces… Later she [parent] can use her notes to help the children remember all of their plans. One of the children walks up to her and asks her to write down the colors of paint they will need: he lists them. Another says he wants to measure how big the whale is – he would like it to be life-size. They begin to discuss the best way to measure, and one of the children runs to get a book from the bookshelf-he remembers which book mentioned the exact length of their whale, even though he can’t read yet.”

The activities and learning in this scenario are representatives of the skills the children will develop as they get older. For example, learning how to freely to express their creativity and create a whale according to their own imagination is essential for developing innovative thinking and self-confidence. Learning how to settle arguments (i.e. the aforementioned “fin” example) and working as a group help mold them into team players. Lastly, by starting the project over to build the whale with the correct dimensions, students learn to cope with failure and persevere.

Project-based learning is a workspace that allows children to explore their own talents and ways of thinking. By helping your children develop them at a young age, you are placing them a step ahead of the likes of Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Alex Banayan. Who knows, maybe your child will be on the cover of Forbes as the world’s youngest millionaire a decade from now.

About the author:   Pengfei is a student at Cornell University. As one of the Launch interns, he assists the director, Matt Steiner, with online marketing and business development. During his high school and college years, he has held a couple of tutoring jobs, helping elementary to high school students in math. Pengfei also has strong backgrounds in technological design, social media, and information policy.

ADD/ADHD Parenting Tips

Written by Mary Stedman a Clonlara School guest blogger  (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***).

ADD/ADHD Parenting Tips

There is nothing more natural for a child than to be restless, absentminded, to forget things, to show inability to focus or sit still in some situations or in certain places, usually where it is required to be calm, quiet and concentrated. However, all of the above are also symptoms of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), one of the most controversial disorders of our time, and, ironically, the most common psychiatric disorder in children and adolescents.

Following are some less known facts and tips for parents whose children suffer from this very common problem.

What is ADHD, and what is ADD?

“Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a psychiatric or neurobehavioral disorder characterized by significant difficulties either of inattention or hyperactivity and impulsiveness, or a combination of the two.” (Source: Wikipedia)

ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) is a former name of one of the types of ADHD, labeled as “predominantly inattentive” (full name ADHD-PI), the other two being predominantly hyperactive-impulsive (ADHD-HI) and previous two combined (ADHD-C). ADD is today sometimes used as a synonym for ADHD, which is incorrect, and the name itself has officially been changed in 1994.

Why is it controversial?

Diagnosis and treatment of ADHD have been considered controversial since the seventies, with differing opinions of teachers, the media, clinicians, parents and policymakers. There are still scientists who don’t believe that ADHD exists as a medical problem.

Though very few health care providers today deny the existence of the disorder, the debate in the scientific circles regarding the methods of diagnosing and treatment, as well as the causes of ADHD still rages on. Those methods wildly vary from one country to another, which is the reason for large differences in the number of diagnosed cases. For example, only one percent of children and adolescents are diagnosed with ADHD, compared to more that 10 percent in the US, depending on the sources. Australian Child and Adolescent Component of the National Survey of Mental Health and Well-being reported ADHD being present in 11 percent of children and adolescents.

Similar differences exist in guidelines regarding the use of medication in the treatment. For example, UK’s National Institute of Clinical Excellence recommends their use only in severe cases, with most US guidelines recommend it in almost all cases.

How to spot it

As said before, the nature of ADHD makes it very hard to spot, since the symptoms (identified as lack off focus, impulsivity, hyperactivity and disruptive behavior) can easily be misinterpreted as normal phases in growing up. Generally, the rule is that the symptoms must be observed in at least two settings for a minimum of six months, and they must be more noticeable than in other children of the same age. Seventh year of life is excepted as the boundary for the appearance of symptoms.

It is considered that, by the age of five, most children should learn to pay attention when expected, not to talk out of order frequently and not to say everything that pops to their mind. Most parents will draw the obvious conclusion themselves – if you notice any of the symptoms reoccurring, don’t hesitate to have your child examined. In order for the treatment to be successful, it is crucial to diagnose ADHD as soon as possible.

Keep in mind that, as said before, there are two distinct types of ADHD – inattentive and hyperactive-impulsive, and the third, with the combination of the two. Inform in detail exactly what symptoms to look for, in order to be able to spot them on time and help your child in the best possible way. Also, know that difficulties in learning don’t always constitute ADHD, as there are various learning disorders that can be, and are relatively often, mistaken for ADHD.

Helping a child with ADHD

If you spot some (or all of) the symptoms of ADHD, don’t wait. Go to the doctor as soon as possible. Also, there is no need to wait for a diagnosis. As said, it can take some time. Inattention and/or hyperactivity can cause a person big problems in all areas of life later on if left untreated, whether they are a part of ADHD or not. There are numerous ways you can help your child yourself. These include changing the diet, organizing your home environment to minimize distractions, encouraging the child to exercise and getting him or her into therapy.

Excluding medication, these are generally accepted strategies in helping kids with ADHD and similar problems in coping with them. If your kid is diagnosed with ADHD, the treatment will probably essentially be the same, but you will develop a plan in accordance with the doctor’s recommendations. In addition, treatment for childhood ADHD usually consists of parent education and training, social support, behavioral therapy, and assistance at school.

About the Author: This article was written by Mary Stedman, inspired by Shine Education, tutoring agency from Sydney.