Full Discussion: The Washington State Learning Disabilities Project April 24 - 26, 2007

4/24/07

Hello to all our subscribers,

I welcome each of you to the beginning of our 3 days discussion on "The Washington State Learning Disabilities Project." I thank the panelists - Judy Campbell, Jimmie Lou Smith, Candyce Rennegarbe, and Michael Tate. Judy Campbell (LD Specialist, IEL Center Spokane, WA) will begin first. A tentative outline for her portion follows:

  • LD Specialist work with Adult Basic Education programs
  • Interviewing, Screening, Referral Process
  • Training Teachers
  • Referrals to Community Agencies
  • Requesting GED accommodations
  • Working with Disabled Student Services Partners
  • Outcomes

Please join in on this discussion by posting your comments and questions. The panelists will address/answer them as appropriate. Your participation will be much appreciated.

Thanks,

Rochelle Kenyon, Moderator

NIFL/LINCS Learning Disabilities Discussion List

Center for Literacy Studies at the University of Tennessee

 

4/24/07

Hello to all of you on the List. Candyce, Jimmie and I are honored to be guest speakers on the topic of our Washington State LD Project which began in 1999. We are all passionate about the change it has made in the lives of our students. What made this project so special is that it came from the grassroots up rather than from the top down. The folks in the trenches who worked with students in the classrooms everyday were the ones who kept pushing to make it happen. Of course, we had the wonderful support of Michael Tate and Debbie Reck, who rolled up their sleeves and worked side by side with us to make it happen. Michael shared his wealth of knowledge on learning disabilities and Debbie kept us organized and on track (no small feat!). Without them, the project would not have happened.

One of the big lessons that we came away with on this project is that creating system change takes time. It does not happen overnight, and one has to be patient and keep focused on the goal. (Remember the movie What About Bob? It takes baby steps, Bob, baby steps!)

The end goal for our systematic process for serving students with learning challenges (LDQI) was that no student who would benefit from our services would slip through the cracks and go unserved. We created the Intake, Screening, and Referral Model which is a simple five step process. (Flagging, Screening, Interventions, Learning Disabilities Assessment, and Follow-up) The process can be initiated anywhere along the Adult Basic Education continuum - at intake, orientation, or after a student has participated in instruction. We have a comprehensive guidebook that provides many pages of useful information about the process that can help programs implement this process.

One of the basic tenets of the model is that educators and students work together as equal partners and co-investigators (thank you, Neil and Nancie!) to find out what will work for each individual student. There is no single recipe or magic bullet. It is one student at a time, and it has proven to change lives. One ABE instructor in the project stated, "People are starting to see what we're doing with students and that we can benefit everyone on campus." A counselor found value in the interview process, "A student is referred to me through a basic studies instructor and the first thing I do is sit and talk. I learn so much by just listening." Another ABE instructor had this to say, "We don't know if a strategy is going to work. They've made a world of difference with a lot of students. I knew that with an accommodation he could do it - he just needed more time. We got the accommodation and it changed his entire life. He was processing slowly - and now he has a full time job. He got to tell his family all about passing his GED because they didn't think he could do it."

The second prong in our service model for students in Washington State is Universal Design for Learning (UDL). The concept of Universal Design (UD) is that what works for students with learning challenges could benefit all students. (Think curb cuts originally designed for folks in wheelchairs...anyone who has ever pulled a loaded suitcase or book bag appreciates what UD does for all of us.) . So now our model features using universally designed instruction designed to reach all students up front, then screens, intervenes, and refers those students who need more assistance, and finally provides formal assessment for those needing documentation of learning disabilities.

We are excited to share our journey with you that took us to where we are now. We look forward to your questions.

Judy A. Campbell, Learning Disabilities Specialist

IEL/ABE/CCS

 

4/24/07

Question: We have identified specific phonological processing problems and visual difficulties that underlie LD in language. What do we know about underlying causes of dyscalculia, or about math difficulties in general, and what are some of the interventions that work with specific difficulties? I often hear that difficulties with word problems must be due to reading deficits, but as an ABE instructor, I have encountered many excellent readers who struggle terribly with math concepts, with or without basic computation skills. It's NOT just a matter of reading. What is it?

 

Christy,

I am certainly not an expert on math difficulties. However, I have witnessed the huge number of students who struggle with math...and I am one of them! (In fact, I could be the poster child for the description
of a strong reader who struggles with math.)

There are so many places that math could "break down" for a student. That is why our system works well. We approach each student individually and investigate their areas of strength and areas of challenge. I think with math the key is to ASSUME NOTHING. We look at their quantitative skills, problem solving skills, reading level, and ability to persevere. A really important piece is how they feel about math. Many of our students have had really bad experiences connected with math and have high anxiety around the subject which creates a huge barrier for them. In fact, we have just created a new class called "Managing Math Anxiety" for our struggling math students. (I co-teach it with a really amazing math teacher.) Only students who have math issues can attend. The students report that one of the most valuable features of the class is telling their "math story." They respond to the prompt: "Describe the circumstances in your life you first realized that you did not feel capable doing math." Their responses were very revealing. What is amazing about our class is that the students are flocking to it. They actually come just for math class and then leave again...that is a first!

Math difficulties can have so many underlying causes. The key is to tease out their source for the individual student. Of course there is math anxiety, usually related to lack of success. If they are anxious about math they avoid it. There can be "educational disabilities or information gaps" where the students simply did not get math instruction for some reason (illness, frequent moves, lack of attendance, etc.).

There can be reading problems. There can be memory problems; there can be sequencing problems and visual-spatial problems. There can problems doing the numbers or lack of ability to grasp of the concepts. And of course, there can be all the other complicating factors of adult basic education students with mental health playing a huge role these days.

For students who struggle with math, it is important for them to experience success right away. That means starting with what they CAN do and building on that. A concrete hands-on approach is really important for some students. Learning the language of math helps other students with story problems. We specifically teach the key words. A great way to teach critical thinking skills is to take the numbers (which can be frightening beasts) out of the problems and ask the students how they would solve them without the numbers. Many of our students are very social and are auditory learners as well, so working with peers in small groups or pairs help them relax and enjoy math. They love the interaction and the lack of pressure to come up with solutions all on their own. Creating their own story problems from their life experiences helps them understand how story problems work and help them to understand how math is used in their daily lives. Teaching organizational skills is also a piece of teaching math. Of course, a simple solution if the student's problem is with the numbers themselves is allowing the student to use a calculator.

A wonderful resource for teaching math to struggling students is Dr. Richard Cooper. He authored Teaching Math to Students Who Learn Differently. His website is www.learningdifferences.com

Judy A. Campbell, Learning Disabilities Specialist

IEL/ABE/CCS

 

4/24/07

Question: Has text-to-speech assistive technology been used effectively with adults in various programs?

Bonnie Hill, Southeast Regional Manager - Freedom Scientific/LSG

 

Bonnie,

I can speak to how we have used text-to-speech in our Adult Basic Education program. I hope Jimmie will share with you how they have used it at Renton Technical College.

We have used the Kurzweil successfully with individual students who are capable of passing the GED but are struggling readers (reading disability, visual impairment, etc.) The students are going to take their GED tests with the accommodation of audio tapes and need to prepare for the reading, social studies, and science tests. We have found that it is really important to have an instructional tech available to help them use the Kurzweil successfully.

In the spirit of Universal Design for Learning our program has the Premier Assistive Technology Suite downloaded on all our lab computers. The suite includes text to speech programs. We have not had many
students use the technology so far. However, our DSS person loves to read his scientific magazines using Premier because it helps him read and comprehend it so much faster!

Our lower level readers have really enjoyed using the Franklin Speaking Language Master. It helps them read words at a level higher than they can read themselves. What is great about the Franklin is that it is affordable and transportable, so students often buy their own so they have it for work, further education, or simply to help them in their daily lives. Our DSS counselor has ordered some Quicktionary Pens for students to try next year.

Judy A. Campbell, Learning Disabilities Specialist
IEL/ABE/CCS

 

April 24, 2007

I consulted with Cathy Jenner, UDL Project Manager and here is our answer to the text to speech assistive technology question:

Instructors in the UDL Pilot have various text to speech tools in their classrooms. We also have it in the Library, Open Lab, and Success Center. Students who have been identified as auditory learners are encouraged to use it to augment learning. Research shows that the more modalities involved, the better the learning. The nice thing about the UDL approach with assistive technology is that it "normalizes" the use of it. It's like using spell check or any other technology. The student with a disability or the ESL student doesn't feel as singled out if the entire class is encouraged to use it.

Some of our Basic Studies instructors use Wynn Reader because of its ability to change the look of the page as well as read to the students, it's intuitive and user friendly, plus it has a speaking dictionary and word prediction. It is especially helpful in a lab setting. They also are using Talking Typing Teacher which says the words for you to type aloud. Although this is available to all students (UDL fashion) it is most helpful with ESL students or students with dyslexia or auditory learners. It is not used in a diagnostic way.

Jimmie Smith, M.Ed., Counselor/LD Specialist

Student Success Center, Renton Technical College

 

April 24, 2007

Judy ... thanks for the overall outline .... As I said many times when I'm out there and in making presentations, your efforts are among the best models in the country .... However, for the purpose if this session ... (And don't forget to thanks Israel Mendoza, the state director of adult Ed, for the support to make it happen)

I am interested in how you all link to the "other world" out side of adult Ed ... and how you screen for the "need for contact" for your customers (who may not be aware of other services etc) ...and how you take that information into account in the individualized efforts? So I have four kinds of questions in this general area ...
For example, If a person states they are trying to get a GED, do you determine if it for general purposes, or if the customer needs the GED for a certain program requirement and there are timeframes involved? (If there are time frames do you adjust the approach?)

Do you also determine if they will need accommodations in taking the GED, and if so if they have the documentation needed? If they have it do you help them apply to the GED for the accommodations and if they don't do you help them get the testing needed?

Also since people coming in may qualify for programs not offered by adult ed.... do you have direct links between you and say ... disabled student services at the local CC or the VR office, or other programs (such as SSI)? And with these direct links can you help the customer ... not get lost in the system? (Do you also have confidentiality statements that allow you to share information with other programs?)

And lastly, (at least for now) In your intake process ... do you determine if the person is (for example) on TANF (or some other program with a time frame for achievement), and if they are do you make the adjustments to the service models (more focus on AT rather than literacy etc) based on the timeframe of those other programs? Lot of questions ... but important areas I think ...

Thanks,

Glenn Young
Buffalo, New York

 

April 24, 2007

Glenn~

Absolutely, yes! Many, many thanks go to Israel Mendoza for all the years of support he has given to us. We would not be where we are without him!! Thank you for your questions...they are important ones.

If a person states they are trying to get a GED, do you determine if it for general purposes, or if the customer needs the GED for a certain program requirement and there are timeframes involved? (If there are time frames do you adjust the approach?)

We definitely look at the student's educational and work goals as well as timeframe and then adjust our approach if needed and if at all possible.

Do you also determine if they will need accommodations in taking the GED, and if so if they have the documentation needed? If they have it do you help them apply to the GED for the accommodations and if they don't do you help them get the testing needed?

Yes, we determine if they will need accommodations and if so, we check to see if they have the necessary documentation. We usually act as their advocate and pull the documentation together and submit it to the state. If they don't have documentation we help them get it.

Also since people coming in may qualify for programs not offered by adult ED ... do you have direct links between you and say ... disabled student services at the local CC or the VR office, or other programs (such as SSI)? And with these direct links can you help the customer ... not get lost in the system? (Do you also have confidentiality statements that allow you to share information with other programs?)

We do help the student connect to other programs if appropriate. (Yes, we have confidentially releases for the purpose of sharing information with other programs.) We are really fortunate to have a program right here in our building that supports students with barriers to employment or further education. Quite often we are able to introduce the students and help them make their appointment on the spot. We also have another program in the building that serves TANF clients and use that program as a wonderful resource as well. (For example, if the student does not have documentation, we present its value in terms of the student's future education and work potential to the case manager or social worker who then frequently orders the assessment and pays for it.)

And lastly, (at least for now) In your intake process ... do you determine if the person is (for example) on TANF (or some other program with a time frame for achievement), and if they are do you make the adjustments to the service models (more focus on AT rather than literacy etc) based on the timeframe of those other programs?

Exactly...the students may really need to improve their basic skills, but if they are limited time wise (or age wise!), we just do the best we can to have them complete in a timely manner.

Judy A. Campbell, Learning Disabilities Specialist

IEL/ABE/CCS

 

4/24/07

Hi Glenn! Let me add on to Judy's answer. While the Washington Model is set up on a UDL/Try Something New model, we recognize a lot of the world is still using the discrepancy model.

The Washington Model prioritizes students who may have an LD (as indicated on the 13-? Screener) AND who will be taking the GED tests within the next year AND who are low-income to receive no-cost/low-cost diagnostic assessments. Debbie Reck, the Education Director at the Tacoma Community House, who was instrumental in this project in so many ways, also organized the LD Specialist diagnostic assessment trainings. LD Specialists may choose to attend a series of three multi-day diagnostic assessment trainings: one on Woodcock Johnson III test administration and scoring, one on the WAIS III test administration and scoring and a final one on the Washington State LD Diagnostic Assessment Model which provides in-depth practice at writing the diagnostic assessment report, understanding how the LD Specialist fits in the Washington Model, and similar topics. This series of three trainings enables the LD Specialists to provide the no-cost/low-cost diagnostic assessments for students who appear to be LD, who are planning to take
the GED test within the next year, and who meet the income guidelines.

The last time I checked we had 15 LD Specialists who were certified to provide discrepancy model testing. Having the ability to provide no-cost/low-cost assessments has meant that the number of students applying for GED Test accommodation has increased each year by nearly 7% per year. Over the last 3 years, we have de-emphasized diagnostic assessment in favor of strategy instruction development, UDL approaches and systems building which has reduced the amount of time LD Specialists have for testing.

For any student who is a "positive" on the 13-Question LD screener and who reported any involvement with special education and who signs a release, Washington Model staff will contact the last public school of record to see if any special education records exist. Since this project began in the late 1990s, TWICE as many students became eligible to receive GED test accommodations because staff was able to find special education records than through our project's diagnostic assessments.

One of my fears is that this resource will disappear as RTI replaces the discrepancy model in public schools. A number of high schools in Washington State and Oregon have started destroying special education records three years after the student's graduation date, and one is destroying them at graduation.

All the Washington Model programs have close interaction between the disability services offices and the LD Specialist. Whenever possible, the LD Specialist works with students who appear to have an undocumented LD. Disability Services staff appreciate having another ally on campus, and someone who can help interface with teachers and students. We started this for adult education students, but it has been so successful that Renton Technical College is extending it to all the students at that college.

Michael Tate , State Program Administrator

Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges

Olympia WA

 

4/24/07

Thank you for your questions on Day 1. Tomorrow the guest speaker will be Candyce Engquist Rennegarbe, M.A. Candyce is a Learning Disability Specialist and instructor in the Adult Basic Education Department at Tacoma Community College where she has worked for the past ten years. Candyce was instrumental in the
development of the Washington State Learning Disability Project creating a system to offer students screening, strategies, and testing, as well as offering trainings for teachers and LD Specialists.

Judy A. Campbell, Learning Disabilities Specialist

IEL/ABE/CCS

 

4/25/07

My program has been using text-to-speech technology with low literacy learning disabled adults for a number of years. We developed a manual about our experiences. It is available via these two links: www.aecom.yu.edu/cerc/pdf/LD_ACCESS.pdf and www.ldaccess.org (click on literacy manual)

Mary S. Kelly, PhD

Director, Fisher Landau Center for the Treatment of LD

Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Bronx, NY

 

4/25/07

Thank you again, Rochelle, for inviting us to spend these 3 days talking about our LD Project. Here is a response to a question that came in on Monday.

Question #1 Does Washington State have an approved state policy on serving adults with LD? If so, is that available online to review? Can you tell us more how your policy was developed and who was involved?

No, Washington State does not have an approved state policy on serving adults with LD. Wish we did. Coming up with policies in Washington State about learning disabilities has been slow and difficult. Our LD Project with its beginning in the Learning Disabilities Quality Initiative (LDQI) started with ABE practitioners and administrators from the bottom up instead of policies from the top down. We developed a flagging, screening, interventions, and ld testing process. We developed training for teachers that is rooted in universal design. Our efforts were initially directed towards adult basic education programs. Currently we have 15 community colleges and 1 community-based literacy program that have been trained in this model. We also have trained 11 LD Specialists with 3 more in process. The more we have worked in this area over the past 6 years, we realize it is not just about adults in ABE programs but all adults with learning disabilities who are not getting the help they need while struggling in any community college classes. Yet the only funding which has been available has been through our Adult Basic Education Programs and Israel Mendoza.

Another factor that has slowed our policy development effort is that unlike many states, our state is very decentralized in terms of decision-making. Our State Board rarely makes a decision independently of local college staff. Policy development involves the input and feedback of staff at every level.

We try to work together as collaborative systems to develop resources but there is no policy mandate from the state to provide these services. We need to create an environment for political advocacy in our state that supports public funding for these services and are working towards this.

Question #2 What funding is used to pay the LD Specialists and what are their job qualifications?

In order to begin training as a learning disability specialist, the following qualifications are required:

  • Master's degree in learning disabilities, special education, education, psychology, educational psychology , or rehabilitation counseling; AND 4 or more units of upper division or graduate study in assessment. Training/classes in learning disabilities preferred.
  • Two years experience teaching adults or high school students
  • Completion of Washington State LD Project Training - Intake, Screening, and Referral Model
  • Completion of training in WAIS III and/or Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Cognitive Ability
  • Completion of Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement

Once these qualifications are met, a 3-day training is required to learn our assessment model. A certificate is issued upon completion of 2 complete written evaluations. Our model includes a sign off by a licensed psychologist.

The funding issue! These positions are basically funded on a school by school basis where there are administrators who can round up necessary resources in a limited funding environment to support this cause! There is no secure source of funding and many folks are performing this job with a stipend on top of their regular positions as faculty or counselors.

We are moving towards identifying this position as "learning specialist" instead of "ld specialist" as this job description better describes all aspects of what we do and is not solely focused on working with students with learning disabilities. We are a resource to both students and teachers who would like to be more successful in their learning and teaching.

Candyce Rennegarbe

 

April 25, 2007

I really like the part about changing from LD Specialist to Learning Specialist! I wonder if that will get a reaction from the folks out there.

Judy A. Campbell, Learning Disabilities Specialist

IEL/ABE/CCS

 

April 25, 2007

Good Morning Listers: I have read with interest the discussion of LD services and realized this morning that most of the information is centering on the availability of services to LD students in the community college systems. I would pose the same questions for Adult Ed programs in the K12 school districts. In Oakland, we have one counselor in the HS subjects program and one reading specialist. HS subjects, ASE and GED lumped together are a small program in comparison to ESL. We fund the counselor position out of a budget in competition for other services. We have no special services available for ESL students at this time. There is nothing at the state level in place that funds LD services in AE programs that are part of K12 districts, as far as I know. What is the experience of other AE programs in the K12 districts?

Bonnita Solberg , Teacher on Special Assignment

Oakland Adult and Career Education, Oakland Unified School District

 

April 25, 2007

That is true as far as the lack of information or knowledge does not diagnose a learning disability. My point is just that. We use the WAIS III which is a cognitive test and the Woodcock Johnson for the achievement test. A learning disability is determined based on a significant discrepancy between the cognitive and achievement of an individual. Not understanding some of our systems can make a difference in scores including math and comprehension. It's just that when this is a concern, the scores may not accurately represent the
ability or the achievement.

Jimmie Smith, M.Ed., Counselor/LD Specialist

Student Success Center, Renton Technical College

 

April 25, 2007

In my opinion, one of the most powerful pieces of our system for serving students with learning challenges is the individual interview. We learned this concept when we took Nancie Payne and Neil Sturomski's learning disabilities training. There are no prescribed questions. Any program can create their own interview based on the information that would be most helpful for the student, teacher, and program. (We have changed our questions many times.)

In the process, before we conduct the interview, we always have the student sign a release of information form. We tell the student the purpose of the interview is to get to know them as a learner, so if we ask them a question that they don't want to answer, they have a right to pass. (In my own personal experience I have never had a student pass on a question.)

What gives the interview its power is not the questions that we ask. It is that the student gets to sit down with someone who cares about their learning and who listens to their story. Many of them have never had a positive experience like that before. They love that someone cares and is going to help them. They have one more person in their corner, one more connection to education, one more resource to help them be successful. After the interview, we make an appointment to meet again after we have typed up a summary of the interview including recommendations for strategies and/or referrals. The individualized strategies and/or referrals are based on the information from the interview. The student leaves our second meeting with a copy of the recommendations and a copy is also given to the student's teacher so we are all on the same page. The summary itself is confidential information and is kept in a locked file cabinet.

The interview takes on an average of 30 minutes to conduct. Attachment--IIfinal.doc

Judy A. Campbell, Learning Disabilities Specialist

IEL/ABE/CCS

 

April 25, 2007

We began our project asking the question "What is a learning disability?" This changed to "How do we help Adult Basic Education students with learning disabilities - particularly those students who need documentation to get GED accommodations?" By year three it was, "What are good screening tools, strategies and interventions to use with at-risk students?" And most recently, "How do we help teachers provide instruction in ways that benefit all students - particularly those at risk?"

We use the model of an upside down triangle which was developed by our partners at Renton Technical Community College - the ones who have the Dept. of Ed. UDL grant.

UNIVERSAL DESIGN INSTRUCTION

At Risk Students Screening And Interventions LD Assessment

We think this model reaches the most students and has sound educational philosophy. We have learned that training administrators of the programs is the first critical step. This is where we need the buy in. We train teachers and administrators simultaneously. Teachers who have been involved in our trainings across the state remark that these trainings have been the best professional development opportunities available. With the support of administrators, teachers are able to move forward in working with students. As Judy mentioned in the prior e-mail, the heart of this effort has been the Individual Interview as this is where a student feels listened to and has a chance to talk about what they know about and need in their learning. We have a Guidebook available of our process for anyone who would like to request it electronically.

The LD Specialist or Learning Specialist role has also been evolving. Most programs were so sure that what they needed was someone to test all their students and document the disability. This testing and documentation role seems to be needed even more at the community college/credit end. With our adult basic education students, if GED Accommodations are needed, we can usually get extra time or the use of a calculator through other medical, co-morbid conditions. This allows the time of a learning specialist to be spent in meeting with more students to discuss strategies and referrals as well as providing more training to teachers. LD Specialists in California Community Colleges have developed this position so well and have been quite supportive of our efforts in Washington State.

The Renton UDL Project has been a powerful presence in our state in teaching us all about universal design for learning and technology. Tomorrow, Jimmie Smith, LD Specialist, will be available for further questions on this subject. She brings together counseling skills, testing skills, and a working knowledge of both the LD Project and the UDL Grant.

Candyce Engquist Rennegarbe, Learning Specialist

Tacoma Community College http://www.tacomacc.edu
Tacoma, WA

 

April 25, 2007

Michael and Judy ... here's what I hope is some what of a softball question. Can you give "numbers" ... like

  • How many are now getting accommodations as compared to prior?
  • How many persons were tested and found to be LD when not diagnosed before?
  • How many persons have achieved what new status since the interventions?

Or any other numbers you want to give ... Great hearing from you all ...

Glenn Young
Buffalo, New York

 

April 25, 2007

I am not a numbers person...I bet Michael can give many of the numbers you are asking for ...especially at the state level. I can only speak to my experience in our Adult Basic Education program at CCS.

Can you give "numbers" ... like how many are now getting accommodations as compared to prior?

Prior to our participation in the LDQI very few LD people in our program were getting accommodations. Those were mostly given to people with obvious physical disabilities. Most of the students, even though they had spent their years of public school in special education, were unaware that they had learning disabilities. They just thought of themselves as "stupid."

The first year in the LDQI our goal was to serve 12 students. So far this year, Jean and I have served over 250 students. If students need accommodations, we get them for them. I would estimate that is about
30-40 students a year throughout our program.

How many persons were tested and found to be LD when not diagnosed before?

I don't know the exact answer to that question...except to say "some" definitely. A majority of the students who come to us from special education have already been tested by school psychologists. Others who are on TANF have been assessed by private psychologists funded by their grant, and a small number have come through DVR.

How many persons have achieved what new status since the interventions?

Again numbers....ARGH! (I think I got interested in this learning disability area because of my math disability!) However, I can say that many students have completed their GED with accommodations who never would have been successful without them. For example, we had two wonderful students return to us who years ago had tried and failed to get their GED without accommodations. Both of them were very bright but had significant reading disabilities. The man was diagnosed through DVR and the girl had a high school IEP. Both of them sailed through their GED using audio tapes and a scribe for the essay. They had to brush up on their math and writing, but their overall their scores were high. The man just completed a short term certificate course at the college, was the speaker for the program's graduation, and has a job.

Judy A. Campbell, Learning Disabilities Specialist

IEL/ABE/CCS

 

April 25, 2007

In the Polk County School District (Florida), there are no LD Services, or any other ESE services, for adult education students. We do have a full-time guidance counselor at each of our two adult centers, but they are not qualified to do any type of psychological testing. Unlike the K-12 schools, we have no reading coaches. Our full-time teachers have attended a day-long seminar designed to help them recognize LD characteristics and utilize appropriate strategies, but there is no district support for adult education students.

Loretta Cameron, Administrator

West Area Adult School, Polk County Public Schools

 

April 26, 2007

Loretta Cameron,

I am presenting at the Florida Literacy Coalition Conference (May2-4th), perhaps we can meet up there ... to talk about some options. Also --- Gerald Frisby is Chairperson of the Florida Practitioners' Task Force on Adults with Learning Disabilities will be at the conference too ... so perhaps you'll want to make contact with him about helping develop some more programs for Florida ...

By the way ... many states have not gone as far as Florida in developing this type of Task Force and it gives you some good options to work towards developing better services in Florida

Glenn Young
Buffalo, New York

 

April 26, 2007

Discussion starter for Thursday:

Hi, I am Jimmie Smith, LD Specialist and Counselor at Renton Technical College. I love what I do! I am very fortunate to be working at an institution that fully supports the need for a Learning Disabilities Specialist. At my college, we have a team approach to meeting the needs of our students. I work very closely with the Disabilities Student Services Counselor, the Director of the Student Success Center, the UDL Project Manager, and the instructors. We have discovered that the more supportive individuals in a student's life, the more likely the student is to reach his/her goals.

Through the Student Success Center, we offer tutoring services; strategies for concerns, such as, stress management, anxiety, organizational skills, and more; a note taking program, sign language interpreter services, and access to assistive technology. We also have a job placement coordinator on staff in the center, as well as, the DSS counselor and myself.

The Universal Design for Learning grant has opened many doors for all of our students. As we have already mentioned, UDL allows us to make strategies available to all students. Here's some quick information about our school and the UDL grant:

  1. 40 of Renton's full time faculty are using UDL in their classrooms
  2. Over 700 students at Renton have taken the online web tool, LAS, to determine their learning strengths, barriers, and to get strategies (including referrals to the LD Specialist, DSS Counselor or Success Center). Some instructors still prefer to do the paper and pencil version and we don't keep track of the number of those.
  3. In our recent analysis by Applied Inference, we found, at Renton, since starting the grant, the completion rates for all students have increased. Students with disabilities in the UDL pilot classrooms made the biggest gains in completion and also in GPAs.
  4. At Renton, the number of students disclosing disabilities has gone from less than 1% when we started the project to 5% of the student body. Again, we think this is due to a more welcoming environment where instructors are more comfortable talking with students about learning concerns, as well as our increased tracking of information and referrals from the web tool.

I will be glad to address specific questions about my role, we well as other questions you may have about the Washington Model or UDL.

Thanks!

Jimmie Smith, M.Ed., Counselor/LD Specialist

Student Success Center, Renton Technical College

 

April 26, 2007

On the third and last day as speakers on this List, I wanted to share with you one of the things that Jean and I, as Learning Disabilities Specialists, offer to students and teachers. We have developed "50 Minute Workshops" on various topics, and we love to present them in classrooms at teachers' request. I am attaching a list of the workshops we currently offer...we are always adding more.

The most frequently requested topics are Test Anxiety, Stress Management, Memory Strategies, How the Brain Works, and Study Skills. We get a positive response from both the students and their teachers. It is fun and rewarding to hear students walking down the hall or sitting in their classrooms discussing how they are growing their dendrites! I think that teaching students about their learning is one of the most powerful aspects of the LD Specialist job. In the spirit of UDL the workshops are presented to all students, not just the ones who have learning disabilities.

Attachment -- UDL-50-MINUTE-WORKSHOPS.doc

Judy A. Campbell, Learning Disabilities Specialist

IEL/ABE/CCS

 

April 26, 2007

You also said you had a manual on intake ... can you share that as well? Thanks,

Glenn Young

 

April 26, 2007

I believe that Judy has "hit the nail on the head" with her comments about the importance of an effective interview by a perceptive interviewer. Tests are just tools. It is the sensitivity and insights of the observer that are the key to meaningful intervention. Conducting an effective interview requires some structure, so that "all the bases are covered," but flexibility to "bob and weave" as the conversation leads in different directions. An effective interview requires a trained observer that has a conceptual framework upon which to hang the bits and pieces of information that come out in an interview. That conceptual framework allows the interviewer to "connect the dots" and that leads to viable diagnostic hypotheses to be presented to the student and tested through trial interventions. It sounds like they have all the key pieces in place.

Richard Gacka

Director, PA ABLE LD Project

 

April 26, 2007

Richard,

I agree with you. In my opinion, really listening is the most important part of the whole process. And you are right, being able to "bob and weave" is essential to covering all the bases. Also, we must listen for what is not said, and find a way to get that information as well.

Jimmie Smith, M.Ed., Counselor/LD Specialist

Student Success Center, Renton Technical College

 

April 26, 2007

Jimmie:

Please describe in more detail the LD Specialist's role as advocate for those students requesting GED accommodations. Which assessments do you administer? Are you involved with other "players" in the accommodations request process, such as diagnosticians and GED chief examiners?

Jan Wessell, GED Administrator

Bureau of ABLE - PA Department of Education

Harrisburg, PA

 

April 26, 2007

Jan,

Thank you for your question. I have years of experience as a GED Chief Examiner and am currently an approved examiner in the state of Washington. So, I know the requirements for receiving accommodations and I do all the requests, not just for LD, but for all areas. The required documentation varies depending on the situation. For a learning disability accommodation, cognitive and achievement tests scores are required. If the student was receiving accommodations in school for a learning disability, then this documentation is likely available from the school district. However, just because a student has an Individual Educational Plan or was in Special Education, does not mean there is documentation for a cognitive concern. Placement could be based on other concerning, such as, ADHD, Emotional/Mental Health, or Physical Disabilities. For accommo-dations based on these needs, documentation from a medical doctor or psychologist/psychiatrist is needed.

Back to the documentation for LD accommodations, the achievement testing instruments most accepted by GEDTS include the Woodcock Johnson - revised, Woodcock Johnson III Achievement, WIAT-I and the WIAT II. There are a couple of others that they will accept only if these are not available. GEDTS accepts the following cognitive instruments: WISC III, WAIS III, Stanford Binet IV and Stanford Binet V, and Woodcock Johnson III, Cognitive. If a student is referred to me and has no documentation, but after doing the screening and the initial interview, appears to have some cognitive concerns, I administer the Woodcock Johnson III Achievement and the WAIS III. I write up a full evaluation based on the results and then I send that evaluation to the psychologist that we work with and he reviews it, we talk about it, and he signs it. I am then able to use this report as documentation for GED accommodations. If, however, the evaluation does not indicate a cognitive disability, then I can not use that report to request accommodations and other suggestions or strategies are suggested to the student. Another part of my job is the counselor for the Basic Studies department, which includes GED classes. I work very closely with the GED instructors and if after trying strategies (through the UDL approach), the student is still struggling they refer the student to me for counseling and possible testing. This system works great.

If the need for accommodations is based on our concerns such as physical heath or ADHD, I refer the student to the appropriate source to get documentation then, I feel out the request for accommodations and send it in.

Once I receive accommodations approval for a student, I notify the student of the approved accommodations and I notify the GED examiners so they can be prepared to provide the accommodations.

Jimmie Smith, M.Ed., Counselor/LD Specialist

Student Success Center, Renton Technical College

 

April 26, 2007

Hi Glenn! I'm away from my desk at a meeting in Eastern WA, but here is data I have memorized for talks about LD IN Washington State. In 1996, only 79 people applied for GED test accommodations. By the second year of the LD Quality Initiative, 356 people requested GED Test accommodations. Because we decided that the future of LD was in Universal Design for Learning, we de-emphasized having the LD Specialists get the training on diagnostic assessments. Our GED test accommodations have stayed about the same because of this prioritization. We have focused on building a UDL system in these intervening years. I have noticed that many of the LD Specialists are now beginning to take the diagnostic assessment trainings again, so I expect GED test requests will go up again. It's a time issue for the LD Specialists: do they test one student which can take several hours, or do they work with many students to make sure they make progress in their classes? I wish and they wish both could happen.

What I would like to see is the GED Testing Service, and other standardized test companies, pilot test a request and approval process for test accommodations based on information and data that adult education programs can reasonably collect. When I get so frustrated that all I can do is kid around I wonder that with the high suspected incidence of LD in adult education if it might not be better to put the burden of proof on those who do not have LD, but then I get over my frustration and starting thinking there has to be a better way than the discrepancy model. I hope this helps!

Michael Tate, State Program Administrator

Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges

1300 Quince Street SE

Olympia WA

 

April 27, 2007
OK ... thanks very much. Do you have numbers on "educational gain" ...

Thanks,

Glenn Young
Buffalo, New York

 

April 27, 2007

Hello all,

I am so appreciative of the time and effort that the panelists contributed during the last three days towards the enlightening discussion on their Washington State LD Project. Thank you to Judy Campbell, Jimmie Lou Smith, Candyce Rennegarbe and Michael Tate. Their discussion brings up so many issues of importance to those of us that provide services to adults with LD.

Also, a discussion has to be 2-sided for it to be effective, so I want to thank those subscribers that had comments and questions that propelled and furthered the conversation. Thanks to Glenn Young, Mary Kelly, Bonnita Solberg, Loretta Cameron, Janice Wessell, Richard Gacka, and others that sent questions that were signed.

Thank you all~

Rochelle Kenyon, Moderator

NIFL/LINCS Learning Disabilities Discussion List

Center for Literacy Studies at the University of Tennessee

 

April 30, 2007

Thank you, Rochelle for extending the invitation. We've learned a lot as well from the listserv's reactions. Richard Gacka's comments about "the importance of an effective interview by a perceptive interviewer" who uses a "conceptual framework," but can "bob and weave" to follow a different line of questions depending on what was revealed was a re-affirmation for me. I think interviews do provide a place to start with interventions. And, with purposeful, dynamic feedback, changes can be made that will lead to an effective strategy.

Really, every strategy and intervention needs to be personalized if its value is going to be maximized. This is the area where I wish we were devoting our energies: how can we re-design our instructional and interventional work structures to allow for staff time to do high quality observations and follow-up that would lead to more personalized strategies and interventions.

Thanks for an exciting three days!!

Michael Tate, State Program Administrator

Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges

Olympia WA