Tag: special education



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



Assistive technology

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

The Gifted Child

Most people think of special education as children who are performing well below their age and grade peers. However, it may come to surprise many that children with gifted talents can be complicated and in need of special services, as well. Children with giftedness and their parents are often considered low on the special education “food chain”. I have heard people say unkind things about parents of gifted children, questioning whether or not the child really has “issues”.

This is what I do know. Children with exceptional talents (we are talking clinically gifted and not just the really smart kid in the class), often are complex and have interpersonal issues. Why? Because when they are seven and their friends are playing simple board games or involved in basic sports they are calculating baseball averages or reading material well beyond their years. Thus, using concepts that the average second grader wouldn’t have a clue about!  Many times schools will decide that the best “course of action” is to skip them  in school, which presents challenges on so many levels.

Conflict can also arise because the child with “talent” can outplay, outsmart or outwit his age peers just based on his own “being”.  Often he or she isn’t trying to win at a board game – but just does because of the ability to process information or strategize at a level well beyond the opponent.

Long ago I worked in the back hills of western Pennsylvania.  I had a referral from a teacher who was concerned about the well being of a new kindergarten student. We will call her Julie.  The referral said she was “odd” and “very different” from her peers. In addition, she couldn’t relate, seemed bored and was a bit of a “snob”. Julie walked in to my office and presented herself as a petite and cute almost 5 year old (she started school early).  Over the course of time I gave her an IQ test.  She scored in vocabulary to the college level. She finished every question. She knew words that I didn’t know until I learned to give the test.  Her reasoning skills were exceptional and rivaled any teen.

I asked Julie to draw a picture and she opted to make a rainbow. She asked me to hand her crayons one at a time. First red, then orange, followed by yellow, green, and blue. After the blue crayon was handed she looked at me and said, “Next I would like INDIGO.”  I replied, “INDIGO?“.  Julie didn’t bat a lash as she explained that there was an acronym known as ROY-G-BIV, for all the colors in a spectrum and that I was for INDIGO.  Now imagine if she casually explained this to her classmate as calmly as she relayed the information to me?  Julie wasn’t showing off. She wasn’t bragging. She had learned this and much more during talks with her grandfather who was raising her in a small home that still had outdoor plumbing in 1985! She didn’t have television and read everyday since she was two.  She truly registered as gifted with an IQ score well above 150. (85-115 is average)  I have  kept the picture of the rainbow in a frame for more than twenty years as a reminder not to overlook the gifted child in the grand scheme of special education.

Believe me the Julie’s of the world may struggle with making friends and finding their way in life, too.  Fortunately, in the past years we have come to give resources, help and programming to assist the gifted child.  Some may need therapy to help with feelings for not being able to relate to peers or having conflict within the home. Others may need to find guidance for proper programs post high-school. Social skills may need to be taught and practiced much more than for the peers.

I stumbled upon a book by Free Spirit Publishing which was written for the gifted teen versus about the them. I believe it is a great guide to help kids who are book smart but street smart challenged. The GIFTED TEEN SURVIVAL GUIDE, by Galbraith and Delisle,  is a start for tweens and teens to understand what makes them special and how they can learn to feel more comfortable in their “skin”. You can read more about it on the publisher’s website.  FREE SPIRIT PUBLISHING


As a psychologist, special educator, and the mom of a working actor (Natasha Sattler), I am always interested in obtaining information to share with other families.  In this particular case, I want to ask these questions – Who exactly are the talent agents, managers and casting directors who work directly with children with disabilities? And, does the entertainment industry understand the intricacies of working with children with specific learning challenges, such as Autism, Deafness, Down Syndrome, or Learning Disabilities?  I want to explore these questions and many more this Fall on my radio program – ARTS, ENTERTAINMENT and the BUSINESS of it ALL- the PARENTING THE TALENT series.

Recently, there has been an upsurge of actors who are “nontraditional” on television.  Several wonderful deaf actors appear on the ABCFamily show,  SWITCHED AT BIRTH and PARENTHOOD has an actor portraying a child with Asperger’s syndrome. The Discovery Health Network dedicated a show about children with physical and learning challenges, including Jaylen Arnold from Jaylens Challenge. Bravo to the entertainment corporate executives who had the vision to show inclusion on television!

Keep in mind that although television is now more inclusive than ever, there exists no clear roadmap for any parent with a child who wishes to become a working actor, let alone a child with special considerations. For many families their child may have exceptional needs and extraordinary talent, yet the course to becoming a working actor often can be bumpy and without any guidance. Therefore, I wish to learn more from industry specialists.  I know how Natasha was able to overcome her learning disabilities, to be able to shine her way through auditions and secure work as an actor, however, what about others? What are their stories? Who can help them? Who are the talent agents, managers and casting directors that work with our friends in the special needs community?  I would love to hear from any or all who can help enlighten!  And if you wish to be a guest on the show – let me know!


 ARTS, ENTERTAINMENT and the BUSINESS OF IT ALL! (including the PARENTING THE TALENT series) is co-hosted by Dara Blaker and Louise Sattler  every Tuesday at 10 a.m. EST on BLOG TALK RADIO. This show is part of the 411 VOICES network.    Both Louise and Dara are available for guest speaking on topics educational and about “parenting the talent”.  Connect with us via PINE MEDIA. Thank you for reading!


I have written now a few blogs about women who I admire because of their fascinating, inspiring and amusing blogs. Today, I want to feature blogs that are dedicated to our friends within the special education community. As an educator, I admire the people who are in the trenches of special education beyond measure.  These are three of my favorite blogs….maybe they will become yours, too!

Tiffani Lawton is the mom, educator and drive behind one of the best websites for families living with a child with Autism (or on the spectrum).  Tiffani recently described OJTA as follows, “Where professionals and parents meet up…. We bring in the private practice community like OT, PT, ST, Sound Therapy, etc.  We bring in personal perspectives from individuals on the spectrum.  We have mama’s sharing their journey.  We have holistic moms sharing their resources.”

Tiffani is tireless.  She makes my ADHD self seem in slow motion.  Tiffani has added a short-radio program and  teleclasses to her platform.  This is a must visit site!

Bravo to this dynamo and please support her efforts by connecting the following way: http://www.ourjourneythruautism.com

The Spirit of Autism is another site generated by the love of a parent and dedicated to helping others.  What makes this site extraordinary is that the author is also a paramedic!  I have used the amazing materials for First Responders on this website to help others in the medical field understand how to approach a child with autism who during a critical incident or a disaster.  I adore this website and think that Debi’s spirit is contagious.  Although a niche, this site should be considered a “must bookmark”.  Educators take note- there is tons of info here for you , too!

Follow Debi on Twitter as @spiritofautism

The Coffee Klatch is what is RIGHT about social media.  Had it not been for TWITTER (@TheCoffeeKlatch or #TCK) I would never have discovered this amazing group.

This group is a wealth of information for so many!  A group of parents and experts joining together to be a support and resource for each other! Their social media presence is second to none. On Twitter they conduct frequent forums open to anyone with the hashtag #TCK.  Topics range from information about different disorders,  to educational assessment, to behavioral strategies recommended by parents and professionals-  and much more!  Also, they have a presence of FACEBOOK and BLOG TALK RADIO. Note- If you want to know the pulse of what parents are asking or need – look no further than this organization!

Please feel free to add your favorite special education blogs in the comment section!

ALSO… I am proud to announce the launch of  LouiseSattler.com.  See my video describing this site in voice and ASL here: http://louisesattler.com/about

ALSO…. read a ton of my favorite women bloggers on the *NEW* HerInsight website: http://www.herinsight-voices.com

If I Were to Write an Op-Ed about Education it Would Read Like This….

Many people have become fired up about our “educational crisis” this week due to the release of the new documentary, Waiting for Superman.  It has been at the center of two recent Oprah specials, MSNBC’s new and powerful debate- Education Nation, and many other news outlets. People are talking, tweeting and some are even being driven to action due to the catalyst that Waiting for Superman has provided.  Not me.  I didn’t just happen to wake up this week to the educational crisis in the United States.  Nope, I have been yelling from the sidelines for many years.  However, the one thing I learned this week during my own personal “Ah-Ha” moment was that the sidelines are for wimps.  It is time to get messy.

So, what am I going to do that is DIFFERENT than before?  First, I plan on helping others join the discussion through social media. I have available to me many ways to help stir the debate and help others to join in to find real and viable solutions.  One way is to generate interest via EDUCATION.com. This great educational site has over two million visitors per month. Surely, someone will want to join the debate and heed the call to action on here.

For me, this is a personal and complicated matter.  No easy answers.  For me, there has to be monumental changes of the bad, while preserving what is good with our educational system.  For me, there needs to be inclusion and recognition of children with special educational considerations during these debates.  For me, we need to address the cultural and linguistic differences within our schools among the various populations and act accordingly.  For me, I need to honor the millions of people who have called themselves “educators” before me.  For me, I need to honor  my role model, my Dad.

I want to know how others will “get messy”. Who will YOU honor?   Will senior citizens, who are an amazing resource, become more involved in schools?  Will businesses allow parents to go to schools and volunteer on a regular basis?  Will law enforcement help even more to make the neighborhoods to which our schools exist safer?

I am finished asking questions.  I am ready to get “messy”.  Are you?

For more information about Education Nation,  Waiting for Superman and what YOU can do.. go to these websites:

NBC NEWS Education Nation: http://www.educationnation.com/index.cfm?objectid=E689D721-B6C9-605B-DE1D813E4CDA3339

OPRAH- http://www.Oprah.com

Waiting for Superman: http://www.WaitingforSuperman.com

Thanks for reading.

Louise Sattler is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist, Owner of Signing Families and a national presence in the media.  She will be starting her new radio show- The Louise Sattler Show- Where Learning Meets Laughter this Fall 2010 on soon to be launched network-HerInsight!  Look for her getting “messy” at a school district or state meeting near you!

Video Blogs for Deaf/ ASL users

Hello and welcome to http://louisesattler.wordpress.com
I work within the deaf and special education community. I also (ironically) have a radio program. But, guess what- I believe in equal access so I transcribe and/or VLOG my radio shows. Catch them here on WORDPRESS starting this week and every week after. The show airs LIVE WEd. 9 a.m. EST show (to listen go to http://toginet.com/shows/learnngandlaughterwithlouise) and I will VLOG shortly after.

Feel free to get my weekly email reminders too.
If you sign a VLOG, let me know….. Family friendly only, please!
So- learm some sign language and have fun!

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