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$1.5 Million Grant to Promote Bilingualism and Academic Achievement

If you’ve ever visited a country where you don’t speak the native tongue, you know the effort it takes to tackle a language barrier. Meanwhile, across our nation there are thousands of children starting school with minimal understanding of the language most teachers use. They come from an increasing number of monolingual Spanish-speaking families. By the time they enter kindergarten they may already be several years behind their English-speaking peers. Often they don’t catch up.  CLICK FOR FULL STORY
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IHD – ADE Loan Library Makes Assistive Technology Available To Schools

Gloria, a special education teacher, needed a little extra help with her six autistic students. She was passionate about teaching but struggled with her eagerness to effectively connect with them. They just couldn’t seem to focus. The school year was passing and she felt she was running out of time. She picked up the phone and called Northern Arizona University’s Institute of Human Development..  Maybe they could help with their Assistive Technology Loan Library.  
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IHD’s Disability Module:  ‘Removing Barriers to Living and Learning’

If you need a wheelchair because you can’t walk and you encounter a curb, you have met an obstacle. If you cannot see and you do not have a guide or mobility cane, getting around can be difficult. If you have a disability and you encounter a person with a lack of knowledge or worse, a hardened attitude, that attitude can impede your progress. The wall of ignorance can be the hardest barrier of all to scale when you have a disability.  CLICK FOR FULL STORY

$1.5 Million Grant to Promote Bilingualism and Academic Achievement


If you’ve ever visited a country where you don’t speak the native tongue, you know the effort it takes to tackle a language barrier. Meanwhile, across our nation there are thousands of children starting school with minimal understanding of the language most teachers use. They come from an increasing number of monolingual Spanish-speaking families. By the time they enter kindergarten they may already be several years behind their English-speaking peers. Often they don’t catch up.  They risk lagging behind for the remainder of their lives because of weaknesses in English reading and language comprehension.

Dr. Trina Spencer, Research Director at the Institute of Human Development (IHD) at Northern Arizona University, has enjoyed exceptional training, support from colleagues, and backing from the IHD, which were necessary to make this project possible. Her background in School Psychology, Language Development, Behavior Analysis, Instructional Design, and Disability Studies qualifies her to lead this effort to develop a program for preschool-age English Language Learners.
 
The need is clear and measureable. “In the U.S., only seven percent of fourth graders who are English Language Learners perform at grade level on reading comprehension tests,” says Spencer. In the state of Arizona the statistics are even worse.
 
Coming from the strong interdisciplinary perspective of IHD, Dr. Spencer reminds us that a great deal of partnering is required for the ultimate success of the program. She has worked diligently to build positive relationships with community partners, in this case twenty-four area Head Start preschool centers under the Northern Arizona Council of Governments. She worked long and hard with colleague Doug Petersen of The University of Wyoming to create a highly competitive grant proposal. Their efforts combined with fellow experts, Laida Restrepo and Marilyn Thompson, both of Arizona State University, reaped the nearly 1.5 million dollar grant from the Institute of Educational Sciences; the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education.
 
The grant gives Spencer and her team the chance to prove evidence of the success of the pilot program. Over a three-year period, a new Dual Language Curriculum will be developed and evaluated through direct interaction with students, parents and teachers. It will augment the effectiveness of Spanish-speaking staff already in place in the Head Start classrooms.
 
The collaboration doesn’t stop there. During the course of the project, NAU students will have opportunities to work directly with the preschoolers to gain hands-on experience. There will be other possibilities for both undergraduate and graduate students to participate, which will go towards building a strong foundation for future careers in human services and research.
 
The obvious goal is for the program to be implemented in Head Start programs across the country so that more Spanish-speaking English Language Learners can develop both Spanish and English languages in tandem. Strengthening children’s home language while preparing them for instruction in English is the best way to promote their overall academic achievement. More prepared to thrive in an English-speaking world, the student can achieve more as a bilingual than he or she could have achieved with the ability to speak only one language.

 

IHD – ADE Loan Library Makes Assistive Technology Available To Schools


Gloria, a special education teacher, needed a little extra help with her six autistic students. She was passionate about teaching but struggled with her eagerness to effectively connect with them. They just couldn’t seem to focus. The school year was passing and she felt she was running out of time. She picked up the phone and called Northern Arizona University’s Institute of Human Development.  Maybe they could help with their Assistive Technology Loan Library. 

Thanks to the vision of the Arizona Department of Education, Exceptional Student Services, The ADE Assistive Technology Loan Library was put into place in 2006.  Located on the Flagstaff campus of Northern Arizona University, the university’s Institute of Human Development (IHD) was chosen to administer the collaborative effort to address the needs of children with disabilities in public and charter schools across the state. Fortunately Gloria worked in a school district that had had the foresight to sign up for the unique Assistive Technology Loan Library program.
 
Janelle Bauerle answered Gloria’s call. Having managed the loan library since its inception, Janelle was very familiar with the more than 2000 assistive technology devices in stock. From wedge pen grips to IPAD software to advanced communication systems designed for those able to communicate only with the pupils of their eyes, there were certainly devices in the inventory that could help Gloria and her students.
 
Gloria ultimately requested to borrow a system of six high-end noise cancelling FM headsets.  The headsets would amplify what the teacher was saying to the students while tuning out the background noise that often interfered with their ability to focus.  Gloria hoped that the headsets would provide her with the clearest, most direct line possible to reach… and teach… each student. Gloria had 30 days to try out the system firsthand.
 
Janelle quickly shipped the headsets to Gloria at her school, complete with return postage. Janelle then returned to reviewing the loan library’s annual report:  300 requests had been made by 150 school districts that borrowed a total 1854 items. 
 
“We have the capacity to do even more loans than we do.” says Jill Pleasant, the Director of IHD’s Arizona Technology Access Program (AZTAP) located in Phoenix. Jill cites the need for increased awareness of the loan library. “The program has a lot to offer at no cost whatsoever to the borrowing school districts.”  Most loans are requested by teachers and therapists interested in exploring technology options for their students.  Sometimes devices are also loaned out specifically to cover the time it takes for a student’s primary device to be repaired or to accommodate a period of short-term disability.
 
By signing up with the loan library, each school district gains access to equipment that they would likely be able to obtain on their own.  The Department of Education offers support to those who utilize the loan library’s services.  Participating schools can also request teaching and training in the usage of the equipment and are encouraged to use the loan library as a resource whenever possible to benefit other exceptional students.
 
Timing is essential.  Jill stresses “Assistive technology needs to be considered early on so that kids with disabilities can effectively participate in and benefit from their education.”  Ideally the moment a teacher or school therapist identifies a struggling student, they would ask themselves: What technology is available to support this student?  Their second thought, ideally, would be to call the ADE-IHD Assistive Technology Loan Library to borrow supportive devices for that particular student.  Jill states wholeheartedly “We do everything we can so we don’t leave them in the dark.”
 
The FM Systems were effective.  Gloria was able to change her classroom for the better over the course of the 30-day trial.  She ultimately returned the items, completed a positive satisfaction survey and was able to provide the evidence to her school that the devices positively impacted her student’s ability to learn. The school could then make an evidence based decision to explore ways of funding the devices for their students. The trial was successful. 
 
The program loans devices only to public, charter or other state approved schools in Arizona. The IHD’s Arizona Technology Access Program (AZTAP) office located in Phoenix also has a large loan inventory and provides similar products to the general public at no cost.
 
Once again NAU and its IHD demonstrate how, through this partnership with the Arizona Department of Education, they provide a unique and much-needed service to the local community as well as meeting emerging needs for assistive technology. IHD continues to be on the cutting edge, improving the quality of life of those with disabilities across the state of Arizona. If you would like more information about the library, go to http://www.adeatloan.org/

 

IHD’s Disability Module:  ‘Removing Barriers to Living and Learning’


If you need a wheelchair because you can’t walk and you encounter a curb, you have met an obstacle. If you cannot see and you do not have a guide or mobility cane, getting around can be difficult. If you have a disability and you encounter a person with a lack of knowledge or worse, a hardened attitude, that attitude can impede your progress. The wall of ignorance can be the hardest barrier of all to scale when you have a disability.

People with disabilities are prevalent. Many of us know of someone, love someone, work with someone; we perhaps have a familiarity and comfort level that allows us to see the person and not the disability. However, if we don’t know any better, we might stare at them or turn our head; ignore them or feel pity. They are everywhere and the sooner we develop an understanding, acceptance and appreciation the better the world will be for all of us. 
 
Over the past 50 years, people with disabilities in the U.S. have been striving to attain an equal level of rights and respect. With advancements in technology, quality of life is becoming a reality for them. They now have tools to make things possible that they once could only dream of.
 
It is a goal of NAU’s Institute for Human Development (IHD) to promote disability awareness and appreciation on campus and throughout the community. Through the Disability Experience team at IHD, Kathy Mahosky and John McDermott are passionate about assuring equal access and inclusion for people with disabilities in all aspects of society. Their enthusiasm is infectious. Says Mahosky, Coordinator of the Disability Studies Program, “We not only teach students how to work with people with disabilities, we help to empower those with disabilities and help to shift the attitudes of those who are not.”
 
Technology is advancing, architectural and government planners are addressing issues, but negative attitudes, widespread discrimination and lack of awareness still exists. Aside from measuring impact and outcomes of attitudes, the IHD team strives to fracture the stereotypes and myths about disability.
 
One of the hardest things to change is an attitude.  How do they do it?
 
IHD with the help of NAU’s e-Learning Center has designed a web-based Disability Experience Module that can be easily fused into the Blackboard Learn online course management system for use by all university faculty. The DE Module integrates smoothly into any and all courses to influence, reshape and identify trends in student attitudes towards people with disabilities. 
 
What’s the first thought that comes to your mind when you hear the word “disability”?  “What is your definition of “normal”?  “How have your perceptions been shaped?”  These are some of the questions posed in the module to get students to begin to understand their own perspectives. The module probes the deeper issues, moving beyond first impressions and stigmas. The students are helped to surpass their unique personal discomforts and disband their prejudices.
 
 “On average, it takes 3-5 years to change an attitude.” McDermott says. “At best it takes the better part of five semesters to shape a student’s perception through Disability Studies coursework.” It usually doesn’t happen overnight. IHD should know.  They continually seek feedback and follow up on the success of the program. 
 
Once in a while, an attitude can change in a moment. Since 2007, Mahosky and McDermott, along with the Disability Experience team, have been giving presentations to interested community groups based on the Disability Module. These presentations are more like frank discussions centered on disability issues. Attendees are encouraged to be fully involved and engaged. If the dialogue is personal and meaningful enough, the participants can sometimes see in an instant how it applies to them. 
 
“Something shifts inside them and they say ‘I never thought about it that way before!’” McDermott says, in a way that makes me want to sign right up for a chance to download a bit of his passion and enthusiasm.
 
NAU strives to give students a comprehensive education. Is it any surprise that IHD’s module exists for them? Disability can happen or be encountered in a split second and with this successful module behind them they can be better prepared when it does. Informed and inclusive practices can come through many semesters of retraining or it can come in the flash of an insight at the right time in the right way. The Disability Experience Team plans to continue to position itself to be in the right place at the right time to keep making a difference.
 
IHD is part of a national network of federally funded University Centers on Disabilities (aucd.org). This funding, combined with a great deal of innovation and dedication on the part of the small IHD Disability Experience team, are what make the program possible.

 
Copyright © 2014 Institute for Human Development - Northern Arizona University, All rights reserved.


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