Tag Archives: Assistive Technology

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein – SPC Episode 30

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein

We’ve decided to start off the new year by reposting what I think is one of the most inspiring interviews I’ve done. Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein.

Blind Justice

In November of 2014 Richard Bernstein became the first blind attorney to be elected as a Justice to the Michigan Supreme Court. Or as he likes to say, “Blind Justice is now on the Michigan Supreme Court”.

Justice Bernstein was born blind and has risen far beyond whatever boundaries or limitations anyone could have imagined. He successfully sued against the Law School Admissions Council for the right to be admitted to law school, arguing that the LSAC test was visually biased due to their use of charts and graphs in the test. As a practicing attorney, he was a strong advocate for the rights of disabled people and special education. He’s also a marathon runner and has completed an Ironman Triathlon.

Special Education Advocate

However, he holds no illusions over how he was able to achieve so much. In his own words: “85% of the blind community is unemployed… If I hadn’t been born into the family I was born to, where I was so blessed to have the resources and opportunities and I was given the absolute best of everything, If I hadn’t been born into an affluent family, what I would honestly tell you is, that there’s no question that I would be part of that eighty-five percent of the unemployment rate. Because there’s really no difference between myself, and any other person with a disability… So I think that when you ask the question, ‘what are the biggest challenges that are currently impacting people with disabilities’, I would really venture to say that it’s primarily socio-economic.”

Improving, Not Cutting, Special Education Support.

In this episode he shares his thoughts on special education, disability laws and rights, and his ideas on the progress we’ve made as a society in dealing with individuals with disabilities. Take a listen to more of the thinking of one of the most amazing and inspiring people we’ve ever had the honor to interview. Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein.

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Links To Follow:

Richard Bernstein Profile On Michigan Courts Page

Justice Richard Bernstein Profile In Wikipedia

Justice Richard Bernstein Facebook Page

Profile Article on Justice Richard Bernstein In The Detroit News

 

Deafness and Hearing Impairment – Revisiting SPC Episode 09

Deafness and Hearing Impairment.

Deafness and Hearing Impairment are now very well understood, and once diagnosed, can be successfully managed. Everyone at some point in their lives experiences some form of hearing loss, either from their environment or due to advanced age. However many children are born every year with deafness or hearing impairment.

Technology Improvements.

Although many therapies and technologies exist to help correct deafness and hearing impairment, the same questions and issues still come up for parents of deaf and hearing impaired children as for all parents of special needs children: communication, comprehension, help in school, social acceptance, and so on. And what organizations exist that can help parents get the information that’s best suited for their children and their particular needs?

A Parent Who’s Been There.

Our guest on this episode of Special Parents Confidential, Julie Wiseman, has been through a lot of these issues. Her daughter, Kendall, was diagnosed at birth with deafness. Juli shares Kendall’s story and her own struggles with finding help, getting the right information, and many other issues that she and Kendall have faced.

Links Mentioned In This Episode: 

New – Reviews.Com: The Best Hearing Aids of 2017 – a comprehensive review of the best over-the-counter hearing aids that are available right now.

Hearing Loss Association of America  – The Nation’s Voice For People With Hearing Loss.

Listen Up – Specializing in information for the deaf and hard of hearing, and especially geared to the needs of hearing impaired children and their families. Note: this website hasn’t been updated since 2010, but still has some valuable information.

Hands & Voices – Resource website for everyone.

Guide By Your Side – This is the link to the Hands & Voices national site for finding Guide By Your Side in every state.

Gallaudet University – The premier institution of learning, teaching and research for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

John Tracy Clinic Los Angeles – Free help for parents of deaf and hearing impaired children no matter where they live.

Alexander Graham Bell Association – Support and information for parents of children with deafness or hearing impairment.

Cochlear Implant Manufacturers (and their associations):

Advanced Bionics 

Cochlear America 

Med-El 

 

A Sibling’s Perspective – Revisiting SPC Episode 31

A Sibling’s Perspective.

The Holidays always mean family visits, and with that in mind, we thought our episode on a sibling’s perspective would be a good one to repost. This episode is from October of 2015, when we interviewed Aubrey Boerma, who grew up with an older brother who has Autism.

What’s it like growing up with a special needs sibling? Do you have feelings of being ignored by your parents? Do you worry about how your special needs sibling will be treated by society or your friends in particular? Are you frustrated over how often you have to explain why your special needs sibling “acts like that”? 

As hard as it is to be a parent of a special needs child, it can also be just as hard to be a sibling of one. From having to attend numerous medical or therapy appointments, to missing out on school events or social events, many siblings feel like their lives have to take second place to the lives of the special needs child. Even into adulthood, some people carry resentments and anger over their relationships with their special needs siblings. 

There Are Answers.

In this episode of Special Parents Confidential, we talk to Aubrey Boerma, who has a brother with special needs. She also works with sibling youth support groups, helping child siblings learn to cope with their special needs brothers or sisters. Aubrey talks about how not all sibling relationships have to be difficult. For many people, having a sibling with special needs can be an incredible experience. You learn to be a much more patient and tolerant person with great empathy for all kinds of situations. Many siblings of special needs children, including Aubrey, say that their brother or sister are the best thing that happened to them. She also has suggestions for parents on how to help siblings talk about their relationships and their feelings toward their special needs brother or sister.

Links To Websites Mentioned In This Podcast:

The Sibling Support Project  Founded in 1990, the Sibling Support Project is the first national program dedicated to the life-long and ever-changing concerns of millions of brothers and sisters of people with special health, developmental, and mental health concerns. 

Sibling Leadership Network – Providing siblings of individuals with disabilities the information, support, and tools to advocate with their brothers and sisters and to promote the issues important to them and their entire families.

The Sibling Survival Guide – A “How To” guide to being an adult sibling of a special needs person. 

Growing Up With Ben – The Blog Post that Aubrey wrote about her life and relationship with her special needs brother.

Special Parents Confidential 51 Michigan Alliance For Families

Michigan Alliance For Families.

Find out how the Michigan Alliance For Families, and other similar organizations around the United States can help you negotiate special education services for free.

What Is The Michigan Alliance For Families?

Trying to get help with the special education process can be very difficult, and potentially expensive. There are dozens of advocacy service businesses and legal firms that specialize in handling IEPS for families. There are hundreds of books you can buy. Seminars you can attend. Personal counseling services. The list goes on.

But did you know that some of the best help for negotiating special education services is available for free from your own State government? Every State in America has what’s known as Parent Information and Training Centers that offer help in everything from early intervention, to writing an IEP, to legal support, transitioning issues, and beyond.

Free Is A Nice Price.

Here in Michigan, the Parent Center is called the Michigan Alliance For Families. They offer parent-mentors… these are parents of special needs children… who have been trained to coach other parents to work with schools and get the help that their children need.

Our guest for this episode is Kelly Orginski, who is the executive director of the Michigan Alliance For Families. She explains how the Michigan Alliance came together, how the parent-mentors are trained and work with families, and how they can help. She also talks about what parents can do to help themselves with the negotiations, and where to find help from similar organizations in other States.

Links Mentioned In This Podcast

Michigan Alliance For Families 

Center For Parent Information and Resources – National parent information center site.

Find Your Parent Center – Directory from the Parent Information and Resources website that links to all State Parent Information Centers.

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Early Intervention – Revisiting Special Parents Confidential Episode 25

Early Intervention – Revisiting Special Parents Confidential Episode 25.

It’s IEP Season and we’re looking back on older episodes that deal with Individualized Education Plans. Early Intervention is one of the first terms that parents hear when they are trying to find help for their children. We talk to an early intervention coordinator to learn about the process.

Early Intervention.

There’s probably nothing more nerve-wracking and stressful for any parent than the realization that your new baby, your toddler, your child might have some problems. Whether it’s not speaking, not walking, or not engaging socially like other kids, the hardest question many parents face is, what do I do about this?

Of course friends and relatives will tell you, oh it’s alright, that’s just how some boys or some girls are… and they’ll grow out of it. But that’s not always the best advice, and if  your child does have a developmental delay or a learning disorder, they are simply not going to grow out of it. They need help. And then the question becomes, where do I get that help?

Our guest on this episode of Special Parents Confidential can answer a lot of those questions. Barbara Corbin is the Early On Coordinator with the Kent Intermediate School District in Kent County, Michigan.  She handles Early Intervention, and Early Childhood Special Education with school districts. She helps parents get their first diagnosis and coordinates getting help for children right at the very beginning. Thanks to advances in medical research and therapies, children can be diagnosed very early, and Early On programs can start at age two.

Links to websites mentioned in the podcast:

1800EarlyOn Early Intervention information for Michigan, with links to other States. The website name is also their toll free phone number: 1 800 Early On.

The Arc of Kent County Information resource for people with intellectual and developmental delays.

Center For Disease Control (CDC) Page for Parents and Infants This page has the Milestones and Schedules information to track expected progress for infants and toddlers.

Great Starts Collaborative Early Intervention Page Success Starts Early’s webpage on Early Interventions. The entire site is full of helpful information for all parents.

Pathways.org  Free online resource and tools for parents.

The Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center Online resource tools for families of children with special needs.

Michigan Alliance for Families.  Provides information, support, and education for families who have children (birth through 26 years of age) who receive (or may be eligible to receive) special education services.

Revisiting Special Parents Confidential Episode 06 Special Education Advocacy

Revisiting Special Parents Confidential Episode 06 Special Education Advocacy.

It’s IEP Season and we’re revisiting older episodes that offered information to help with the IEP process. Today we’re Revisiting Special Parents Confidential 06 Special Education Advocacy. Learn about the role of the Special Education Advocate and how they help parents negotiate the Individualized Education Plan, as well as the 504 Special Education Plan, and what the difference is between these two options.

Special Education Advocacy.

As parents of special needs children we hope that our kids will have every opportunity to get a good education, and get assistance when they need it in school. Special Education has changed over the past couple of decades. Special needs children are spending more time in mainstream classrooms and spending only limited time out of the class with their special education teachers for whatever assistance they need.

But what exactly is Special Education? We know that our kids are supposed to get help. Where can we get good advice or assistance when facing the task of getting the educational help for our special needs children? Do we have to see a lawyer? Can we just expect the school to handle it properly? What are the standards? What’s an “IEP” (Individual Education Program), what’s a “504”, and what kind of educational help can we even reasonably expect our children to have in the first place?

Our guest on this episode of Special Parents Confidential can answer a lot of those questions. Kathy Holkeboer is a Special Education Advocate in West Michigan. Advocates for Special Education work with families on understanding what kinds of educational assistance their special needs children are entitled to have, based on need.  They can even go with the parents to meet with school officials to put the special education plan in place for each school year.

Links To Websites Mentioned In This Podcast

Pacer Center The National Parent Training and Information Center for children with disabilities. They offer publications, workshops, and other resources to help parents make decisions about education, vocational training, employment, and other services for children with special needs.

Parent Technical Assistance Center Network Directory of regional (State by State) special education advocacy centers for parents of special needs children.

Michigan Alliance for Families Special Education Advocacy for families in Michigan. Note: for non- Michigan residents, you can search similar websites for your state in the PTAC directory.

Wright’s Law Special Education Law and Advocacy, created by two lawyers, Peter and Pam Wright (husband and wife), providing legal assistance and information for parents of special needs children.

Contact Information for Kathy Holkeboer – (note: Kathy is a special education advocate in the State of Michigan, and works primarily in the West Michigan region. Residents of other States or regions in Michigan should consult the PTAC directory for Special Ed Advocates in their area). Holkeboer Advocacy -Facebook page.

Revisiting Special Parents Confidential Episode 10 Special Education

Revisiting Special Parents Confidential Episode 10 Special Education.

It’s IEP Season, and we’re revisiting some of our older episodes that have information that will help you with the process. In this episode, we find out what Special Education is all about.

Special Education.

In this episode we take a look at the world of Special Education. What exactly is Special Education? How do teachers become Special Education teachers? How and why has the concept of Special Education changed over the years from isolation and institutionalization to mainstreaming and inclusion, and has it worked? How do researchers determine what works and what doesn’t work? And are the current budget problems that so many state governments face affecting Special Education in our schools?

Our guest for this episode has answers to all of those questions and many other questions. Paula Lancaster is a Professor of Special Education and the Chair of the Special Education, Foundations, and Technology Department at Grand Valley State University in West Michigan. We talked about a wide range of issues including the questions above, as well as discussing some of the major misconceptions about Special Education; the differences in how Special Education is handled by public schools, charter schools, and private schools; how Special Education changes from elementary school to middle school, to high school, and college; to the importance of special needs children learning to advocate for themselves; how to make sure that the information you’re finding is proven to work versus a marketing scam; and a lot more. This is one of the longest episodes of Special Parents Confidential that we’ve recorded, but Paula shares some very important information that you and everyone who is interested in Special Education need to know.

Links Mentioned In The Podcast: 

What Works Clearinghouse The Institute of Education Sciences. Providing educators (parents can use it too) with the information they need to make evidence based decisions.

LD Online  Learning Disabilities Online. The world’s leading website on learning disabilities and ADHD.

Council For Exceptional Children The Voice and Vision of Special Education. Excellent resource site.

National Dissemination Center For Children With Disabilities Another excellent resource website. Provides easy-to-read information on children with disabilities from infants to early 20s.

Note:  Paula’s advice on researching information: Whenever you encounter a site that you’re not certain whether the info is credible, scroll down to the bottom (or check ‘about us’ info), and find out who is responsible for the website content.

The Self-Advocacy Strategy Paula and Sean Lancaster’s software package that teaches children the strategies of negotiation and self-advocacy. Great for all kids, not just special needs children.