Category: Special Education

How a Mother of an Autistic Child Started My Entrepreneurial Journey – Signing Families

“Welcome to Signing Families”.  I first wrote those words “officially” in 2006, the year that Signing Families became an educational / instructional company focused on teaching novice learners how to communicate with sign language.

Since then, hundreds of classes and sign language trainings have been conducted and thousands of DVDs and sign language communication charts have been sold or donated to people across the globe.  My goal is simple – to build communication bridges one sign at a time.

How did it all begin?  Well… one day while I was a School Psychologist working at an elementary school I was asked to attend a  special education IEP meeting with a parent who had a child with moderate – severe Autism.  Our school based team had just recommended that to help try to facilitate spoken speech or any communication,  she may want to consider taking sign language classes.  With tears in her eyes she looked at us and asked one simple question, ” Who will watch the child you just told me needs 1 on 1 assistance in his special education self-contained classroom due to his severe needs while I leave for hours to learn sign language?”

My heart stopped.  As a mom of two children, I knew exactly what she meant.  I had a child who was born with conditions that meant he needed specialized babysitting when he was a baby.   I could relate to the  challenges that this parent was facing. There was no way she would be able to leave her child with a “regular” babysitter.  She was a single parent. She had limited financial resources. She was frustrated.  But, most of all – she was upset because she couldn’t provide the one thing she yearned most for her child – an ability to learn to communicate.

That night, I couldn’t sleep. I kept tossing and turning because I continued to hear her voice… “Who will watch the child you just told me needs 1 on 1 assistance..?”  The next day I decided I needed to help this mom.  It just wasn’t fair.  She was dealt a tough situation and we just made it worse.  That was unacceptable. So, after a while I created a temporary “fix”, I would make a sign language video with a few dozen basic words and put it on a basic DVD.

Word got out and before I knew I was in the DVD business – making dozens of copies for teachers, friends and even for relatives of people I didn’t know. The phone kept ringing. Email requests flooded my inbox.

That is when “Hubby” said… “I think you have something  here.”  So, we enlisted some talented people to help create the first DVD from Signing Families:  Baby, Toddler and Preschool Sign Language with Louise Masin Sattler and Friends.  The differentiator between my DVD and many others was that the audience was “language role models” and not kids. There were no dancing bears or signing birds.  Moreover,   I open captioned the DVD and added a Spanish – English – Sign Language component.  I did this because there was virtually very little sign language instruction available for parents of children with communication needs who were from Spanish speaking homes but living in the United States or Canada.

DVD sales started off slowly but then the momentum kicked in when Borders and Barnes and Noble started to order. Before long sales were in the hundreds, then thousands.  I then created ancillary components to the DVD.  A sign language chart to help with expressing  WANTS and FEELINGS.   This was followed by a website with  a plethora of free  learning opportunities.  And, a very full nationwide training schedule for special needs groups, schools, preschool programs, Head Start and much more.

In 2010 my second DVD series  and training program launched.  The Sign Language For Emergency Situations was born out of necessity.  Simply, we as a nation were not offering equal access communication opportunities  to those who were Deaf or had limitations with  functional needs. I have written about my journey in the field of emergency management on this blog before.  Please feel free to ask me about resources in the comment section below.

Related Reading: Why I Created Sign Language For Emergency Situations

Now it is 2019 and the world is a different place than 2006.  Instead of DVD sales we have ‘streaming”.  So, that means that I have to make a shift in the way I reach an audience.  I have uploaded many free YouTube videos  for people to either start learning sign language or continue honing their basic skills.

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I must confess, a year ago I nearly closed Signing Families.  I had lost my “WHY”.  I wasn’t selling huge lots of product or traveling as much for trainings. I was the “lost entrepreneur”.   But,  then I started to look over boxes of materials I saved.  Letters from families. Drawings from children.  Emails from teachers.  Commendations from First Responder groups.   I was humbled and knew that I couldn’t stop. I just needed to reinvent.  So, I started to teach ASL at a high school, I began to think of new ways to reach an audience yearning to learn to sign and clicked the keys of my laptop once more to inspire parents and teachers via media articles  not to give up.  At last, I remembered my WHY.

So… dear readers – thank You for allowing me to tell my story.  You are groovy, indeed!

xo,

Louise

Related reading: My interview with SLATE MAGAZINE and others

Aside

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Welcome to the 2015-16 academic school year!

The number of children and youth ages 3–21 receiving special education services was 6.4 million, or about 13 percent of all public school students, in 2012–13. Some 35 percent of students receiving special education services had specific learning disabilities. (nces.ed.gov)

What exactly is one to glean from these statistics?  For teachers in public school it means that at least 2-3 children in the typical classroom will have more than the ordinary challenges with completing work without assistance or special programing.  And, while the public schools may have experts to assist children with learning disabilities the true challenge comes when the child arrives home and is faced with a backpack full of homework. Where are the experts to help with the homework? What are parents or caregivers to do?

Related: What are the most common types of learning disabilities?

First, I want to go on record that as a parent and School Psychologist I am not a fan of homework.  Who wants to complete hours of work after just finishing hours of work? I have a few exceptions as I do believe in long term projects that integrate multiple skills or daily recreational reading for an hour each day.  But, I understand that I am in the minority and every day millions of children come home with tons of homework.  So, with that said what is the parent of child with learning disabilities to do to make this often overwhelming situation better and maybe even painless.  Here are some tips that hopefully be helpful and abate any “homework wars”.  And, feel free to share with all parents as they are not exclusive to those with special challenges.

Tip 1:  Feed your child a nutritious snack before you begin any structured homework time.  Don’t throw a lot of sugar in to them, but give them something with substance, such as a slice of pizza, peanut butter on crackers or apples. If they are in the mood for sweets be sure to make it a healthier option.  If it comes in a sealed bag it is doubtful that it is very healthy.  (See this link for ideas of healthy snacks from Pinterest.)

Tip 2: Allow your child at least 30 minutes of exercise before settling down for homework. Play with your child and use this time to ask about their day and share about yours!

Tip 3: Have a homework box ready. Include in the homework box the following items:

Highlight pens – use highlighters of different colors. Spotlight words that are unfamiliar and underline content that is confusing.  Use different colors to help with denoting math operations by highlighting the math symbol.

Sticky Notes for a student to write questions on or use as scratch paper.

Electronic reader – such as a Kindle, iPad or Nook.  The highlighting of words and sentences for grammar and vocabulary checks are very helpful for children who have reading challenges.  Reading can be made fun with the “zillion” of options for books and magazine that are available.

Folders that are different colors and/or designs. These can be purchased for cheap.  Each subject should be placed in different colored folders. Organization is key when a child has learning difficulties.  Or just about anyone!

Voice recorder – or phone with recording feature.  A child who reads a loud or explains why they are completing problem the way they are can help for instruction or correction.

Dark piece of poster board to cover material not being worked on and too distracting for some students.

Magnifying lens bar to amplify a section of print.Click here for a sample product

Organizers to help with task identification and completion.  There are many organizers available. Please see our Signing Families resource page for suggestions.

Tip 4: Switch roles – have your student teach you.

It often is helpful to learn a concept by switching your approach from learner to teacher.  Have your child make up lessons to teach you the concepts that they are learning. Complete the homework they developed and let them grade it. This will help them understand new concepts from a different perspective. Once they have more confidence with tasks they may be more willing to tackle homework assignments.

Tip 5- Use multimodal techniques to learn.

Spelling an issue? Use the sign language alphabet to remember how to spell words.

Sign language also can help with math fact learning, too!

Click here  to learn sign language easy and fun!

Create a song to remember information that is lengthy such as for social studies or science.

Draw pictures to remember tougher concepts. Silly drawings use kinesthetic and visual memory skills.

Suggested resources

PBS

LDonline

Assistive technology

Community question: What strategies would you recommend to help students with learning challenges with homework?

When the Earth Shakes and Spins! How to be prepared for Earthquakes and Tornadoes!

source: Wikipedia

source: Wikkipedia

If a hurricane hit your home today would have an evacuation plan? If you awoke in the middle of the night to the earth trembling and your home shaking violently- would you know what to do? Green skies are often the first warning of a tornado coming – where should you go?  Dangerous chemicals were let in to the air following a train derailment near your home – would you know what to do and where to get credible information for either evacuation or sheltering in place?

It has been my privilege to work with disaster specialists throughout the United States. They work tirelessly on all of our behalf.

Therefore, in the interest of public safety I will be posting as series of articles about how to PREPARE for potential disasters AND also offer resources for you to learn more.

To start I would like to discuss two very REAL threats to our personal and property safety-  earthquakes  and tornadoes.

EARTHQUAKE PREPARATION

 You may think that earthquakes are only on the west coast of the United States or in remote mountain regions of Asia.  But, that simply is false. Earthquakes happen in almost every state in the US and throughout the world, from the islands of Japan to the mountains of China.  In fact, earthquakes can occur anytime, anywhere. Just ask the people of Washington DC who experienced a good size earthquake of a magnitude of 5.8  in 2011 (The epicenter was in Virginia).

Click here to find your area and see if you are in a location of where more than one million registered earthquakes occurred this year. (Approximately 13,000 were a 4.0 magnitude or higher).  States with the most earthquakes? Alaska and California  have the most (no surprise) but you may not have thought of Utah as a top earthquake location?

So how can you prepare for an earthquake?

 What to do during an earthquake?  We use to think that standing in a doorway was the best idea. NOPE.  What about running outside? Not the “A” answer, either. According to the United States Geological Service (USGS) the best idea is to DROP, ROLL UNDER something STURDY and HOLD ON! (View demo video here)

This new safety information is so important that an effort known as the SHAKE OUT will be conducted this coming Fall.  What is SHAKE OUT? Simply it is a designated date and time where as many US and Canadian citizens participate in a  mock “earthquake drill”.  The SHAKE OUT drill will be on October 17th at 10:17 in the morning. (Interesting piece of trivia – October 17th is the anniversary date of the Oakland earthquake of 1989)  To register your family or business for the drill or learn more click here. 

Also relevant and related to earthquake safety is to learn about tsunamis. A tsunami is a wall of water that is created following an earthquake, meteor or other disruption to the ocean.  A devastating tsunami hit Japan in 2011 and resulted in mass casualty and loss of property.  (Read about recovery efforts here )

What to do if there is a tsunami?

 Many coastal areas in the United States now have tsunami warning systems.

However, the most important thing to know about a tsunami is to prepare in advance as where you can that is safe, elevated and within fifteen minutes of your home. This packet of information was very helpful to understand tsunamis and be prepared:  Tsunami Preparedness by NOAA

TORNADO PREPARATION

Tornadoes are a real and present threat to life and property.  Like an earthquake, tornadoes can strike anywhere at any time. We only need to read the headlines of recent events to see how a tornado touching down for a few minutes can cause profound heartbreak.  Moore, Oklahoma now joins the ranks of other towns, such as Joplin, Missouri, Granbury, Texas,  as a place where  giant tornadoes have  pummeled through communities, schools and farmland.

How to prepare for a tornado?

What are considered the “best practices” if you know that you are in an area experiencing a tornado watch or warning?  First, recognize the “signs” that a tornado is coming.

  • GREEN SKIES
  • DARKENING SKIES
  • HAIL
  • LOUD NOISE, described by some like a “freight train”
  • WARNING SIRENS or ALERTS RECEIVED

What should you do if you know a tornado is a true threat?

Take shelter immediately! Go to a basement, storm cellar, interior room or closet. Stay away from windows. Try to shield yourself from potential flying debris by having something over you. Be sure to have a cell phone (if possible), flashlight and battery operated radio with you.  Here is more information about planning and safety from the CDC

http://www.rvspca.org/health-behavior/disaster-preparedness

http://www.rvspca.org/health-behavior/disaster-preparedness

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS FOR FAMILY PETS

Again, let planning be your friend. The Humane Society published these guidelines for pet owners.

You also can read more from the SPCA by clicking on the photo above or this link.

What if your family member has special considerations, such as uses a wheelchair, has Autism or lives with Alzheimer’s? 

There are many websites and videos (open and/or closed captioned for those with hearing loss) that can be of great assistance and a wealth of information . There are many sites to review, but these are some of my favorites.

RED CROSS 

READY.GOV

EMSC NATIONAL RESOURCE CENTER

DEAFInc.com

SAVE THE CHILDREN

LASTLY… 

What information can I share with my family that is “child friendly”

I really liked this website (in addition to the child resources from the sites mentioned above)

USGS KID INFO (including science fair project ideas)

In the next post we will discuss safety and preparation for Hurricane Season.   Please feel free to share YOUR disaster preparation safety information below. Thank you

 Stay safe everyone!

~Louise

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Louise Satter is a Psychologist who  created the SIGN LANGUAGE FOR EMERGENCY SITUATIONS Series – ASL, ENGLISH and SPANISH.  Read more about how to connect with Louise for speaking engagements, including the DISASTER PREPAREDNESS FOR SPECIAL POPULATIONS PROGRAM (including sign language) and other programs related to safety and the well-being of children and adults with exceptional needs.

CLICK HERE for more information.

Thank you, Miss Huntley

                  

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 Me when I was little!

 

I loved the first day of school.  Especially when I was in elementary school as that meant a new outfit (Only dresses permitted in 1967) and Mary Jane shoes.  I would walk to the bus stop in my little suburban Long Island, New York neighborhood with all the other kids.  All of us  looking so polished and clean! We weren’t a rich area and many were first generation Americans from European countries, but on the first day of school – it simply didn’t matter.

Back then you didn’t know your teacher until literally you entered the classroom doors. So, imagine my surprise when I walked in to my suburban Long Island third grade classroom and found out that my teacher was a beautiful African American woman, Miss Huntley. She also was an amazing teacher despite being under scrutiny from people in our area who felt “uncomfortable” with a woman teacher of color in their midst.  Even then I felt deep empathy for Miss Huntley and admired how she seemed to be “observed” far more than any other teacher on staff!

What I loved the most about my favorite teacher was that she “got me” in ways that no other teacher could.  She understood my ADHD before anyone even knew what Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder meant! She knew that when I was “antsy” it was time to give me a task that required getting up and moving about.   She made me a better student that year and later helped transform me in to a what I am today – an educator in special education.

I have been privileged to use the lessons from Miss Huntley’s third grade class in my work with many students from middle school  through adult education.  However, Miss Huntley gave to me tools that I never learned in my formal training as an educator, specifically a School Psychologist and teacher.  She taught me that a child with learning differences is not bad or wrong … just different and challenging.  And, that the “job” of the teacher was to accept all the challenges that came through the classroom door.

Thus, when a student would enter my door with learning differences I knew that I had to figure out a way to reach him/her – it was my duty.

I have had many “Aha-Moments” during my career.  Yet, one that sticks most in my mind is a student who I will name “Sean”.  This young man was very gifted and an old soul. He came to me as a student in my American Sign Language 101 course at a local community college. I knew right away from roll call that “Sean” would be different than any other student I had ever taught. He had Asperger’s Syndrome.  No, I didn’t glean that from his records, but as a School Psychologist I knew it right away based on his stereotypical Autism – like behaviors, such as compulsively aligning the chairs in the classroom, being upset when lights flickered or someone laughed too loudly, and difficulty with social cues which made him stick out like the proverbial sore thumb. While other teachers may have been upset that Sean was now part of the fabric of their classroom, I embraced it! I loved teaching Sean as he challenged me to be a better teacher and offered me a continual flow of  “Aha-moments”.    I had to think of creative and “out of the box” strategies in order to reach him.

Sean went on to be very successful in my class. The other students also were educated in more than ASL, as many went on to pursue a career in special education, partly from their experience of working with Sean.  Miss Huntley had taught me that every person who wanted to learn deserved an education and every person who wanted to and was qualified to teach deserved a classroom!  I couldn’t agree more, especially after Sean entered my life.

Thank you, Miss Huntley for being an exceptional teacher in times when it couldn’t have been easy for you. I owe you my career.

 

2012 Holiday Newsletter from Signing Families

 Just in case you missed our annual holiday newsletter here it is.. 
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Happy 2013!

**Happy Holidays to ALL!

As we enter in to 2013 SIGNING FAMILIES will be offering ONLINE SIGN LANGUAGE interactive lessons via USTREAM

Watch for our special announcement early January and learn how you can participate- FREE!**


Happy Holidays from all of us here at Signing Families! May your year be full of the best of health, prosperity, love and joy!__

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Our heartfelt sympathies to all who lost a loved one or was impacted by the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School this month. Also, our deepest thank you to all who responded to assist those during this disaster and many more during 2012.

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Disaster Preparedness for Special Populations

Hurricane Sandy is about to make landfall in the eastern portion of the United States. That means that millions could be effected by flooding, lack of power and stoppage of services, such as public education. For some, this may be an inconvenience, yet for a parent with a child withe special needs, this could be a significant hardship.

Children with special needs often have extreme difficulties during unexpected events.  Being moved to a shelter could result in a serious set problems for some families as children with a disorder, such as Autism,  may not handle transitions, the overstimulating environmental noises of a shelter or new people. In fact, many parents of children with Autism may state that  a change in the home environment or need to relocate elsewhere could result in   a “worst case scenario”. The best way to help make this situation easier is through pre-planning, remaining calm (parents) and  using others to support, such as family members or friends.

To help with DISASTER PREPAREDNESS the CDC issued a new feature to help people prepare for a HURRICANE, such as the one expected this weekend.  Videos are available in American Sign Language (ASL)  Here is the link: http://www.cdc.gov/Features/HurricanePreparedness/

Maryland, a state expected to take the brunt of  Hurricane Sandy, has prepared a lengthy list of disaster preparedness information, including this guide to help those in their region and others who may live in another state: http://mema.maryland.gov/prepared/Pages/home.aspx

Preparedness information is available here from US GOVERNMENT PREPAREDNESS OFFICE in ENGLISH (  http://www.ready.gov/hurricanes  ) and in SPANISH:  (http://www.ready.gov/translations/spanish/ )

General disaster links for special populations can be found here: http://www.autism-society.org/living-with-autism/how-we-can-help/safe-and-sound/emergency-preparedness.html

and  for Autism Spectrum disorders specifically here>> http://www.autism-society.org/living-with-autism/how-we-can-help/safe-and-sound/preparedness-tips.html

 

FLORIDA DISASTER PREPAREDNESS FOR THE DEAF (based on Hurricane Issac)

The video below is provided by the READY HOUSTON in ASL for disaster preparedness

Back on the Air with 411 VOICES Radio Network

Tuesday, August 21st at 11a.m. EST I will be back on the air via BLOG TALK with 411 VOICES Radio.  Once again, sharing a time slot with Dara Blaker on the the program, ARTS, ENTERTAINMENT and the BUSINESS OF IT ALL!

I will be chatting about Back To School items for Special Needs Students.  Come join me and learn about GET EDUCATED,  LAKSMI VOELKER Chair Yoga and the newest tech tools from T-Moblile!

CLICK TO LISTEN LIVE or VIA DOWNLOAD

A Feel Good Story Meant to be Shared!

This video about Jason McElway, a young man with Autism,  has been around for a couple of years. Yet, I couldn’t help but post it as a reminder that amazing things happen in schools everywhere!  Bravo to the coach and all the students who rallied with support for Jason! Enjoy!

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