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I was recently asked by Critical Thinking Company to review a couple of their products with my students. I didn’t hesitate because I have reviewed some of their products before and felt that they can be useful products. Worksheets and work booklets can often be used for nothing more than busy work and lead to a lack of progress, but if the sheets are well-produced to teach specific concepts and used appropriately by a teacher, benefits can be provided. Critical Thinking Company has a variety of work booklets that do present specific concepts well. I was sent two different topics for two different ability levels. I will begin here with the elementary level for grades 2-3 called “Editor In Chief: Beginning 1”.

This new booklet is the first in the Editor In Chief series, though the series has been in publication for many years. This is an addition as the publisher takes the series to earlier ages which had already been expanded to cover eight levels for grades 2-12+. There are sixteen lessons across sixty-seven pages of content including multiple review pages. Each lesson covers a specific concept from capitalization to verb tenses to subject/verb agreement to homophones and everything in between. Each lesson presents the rules for the concept and ample practice exercises. The publisher states the booklet can be used in individual and group activity for instruction, reinforcement, practice, and assessment of English grammar and mechanics. There are multiple selections to provide instructional examples and others for assessment of student understanding. There are mini reviews and reviews provided throughout the lessons to provide short-term and long-term assessment during the use of the material. Each lesson is also pre-perforated to allow easy removal for use. Answers are also provided in the back of the booklet. The writing samples are varied and interesting to most students to provide motivation to focus on the lesson. In each of the lessons, I, especially, like the list of rules stated clearly with a good example as the introduction to the concept. The rules are not buried in narrative making them easier to refer to as the student progresses through the exercises. Thus, the student frequently reads the rules while making decisions about its use case by case aiding retention and application. Another good feature for this level is the marking of the number and type of errors to the right of each selection. If there are two comma errors and four contraction errors, each are listed with the number of circles with the number inside the circle, so the student knows what to look for and can mark them off as they find them. This guides the student and helps to prevent frustration and possible loss of interest. Editing your writing is always the best way to reinforce your learning. These exercises teach these skills that are often only vaguely learned rules with no grasp of how they are used. Editor In Chief can go a long way helping to improve your student’s writing.

For regular and Special Needs students, the booklet uses a clear, crisp font and a large size for easy reading of the rules and the exercises. Spaces are placed between the lines of the paragraphs making them easier to read and mark to correct errors. The error-tallying feature is also great for some Special Needs students that need more structure and guidance along the way.This is especially helpful to some Special Needs students. The age and grade levels are marked, but I also found the Editor In Chief: Beginning 1 useful for high school students who had significant issues with certain concepts or had lower reading levels. The simplicity of the writing samples helped many of the older student’s practice the skills they had not mastered earlier without needing to focus heavily on content helping them to concentrate on rules and practice for retention. The short samples on various and more interesting topics also helped me with providing instruction to my blind and DeafBlind students. Being short, but interesting, I could quickly and easily braille them for use by my blind students to supplement their limited and expensive curriculums. I would like to suggest to educational providers to consider providing for a cost an additional .txt file with the purchase of their booklets for teachers such as I who need more materials that can be embossed in braille for our blind and DeafBlind students.

Critical Thinking Company’s Editor In Chief: Beginning 1 can be used in many ways to help a student. This booklet and many others on various topics in Language, Math/Science, and logical thinking can be found on their web site, http://www.criticalthinking.com. Editor In Chief: Beginning 1 is available for $14.99. This series is a fun way to improve your child’s writing by learning the skills and learning to apply them.

Look for my review here of Critical Thinking Company’s Mathematical Reasoning: Middle School Supplement in a few days. You won’t be disappointed.

Though I was provided a product to review for this blog, I have not been compensated in any other way, and the opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

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Touch Points

By Renée K. Walker

You may remember me describing here the troubles I have had getting doctors in my area to provide me interpreters. That fight continues, but I now have completed the first battle. Though I can’t speak of the specific circumstances or resolution, I can describe the process that I have been through now and that the process worked. At least for one incident, compliance to the ADA law and education to help those who come into this particular situation in the future has been met. That is what the advocacy process can do. We all need to learn the skills to advocate for ourselves, but at times, we need help to move the mountains before us.

The best way to begin is to call and ask for an appointment first. Once the organization has given you an appointment, tell them your specific communication needs that fall under ADA law for effective communication. This could be the CART system which is where you have a typist who has been trained in medical or legal interpreting depending on your setting or it could mean an ASL interpreter, or some other form of communication. If the office tells you that they don’t provide interpreters or your method of communication. Try to remain calm and use the moment to educate the personnel regarding the ADA law. Explain that it is required by law and offer to provide the personnel with a copy of the law section that pertains to the situation. You can also direct them to the National Association for the Deaf’s (NAD) website at www.nad.org or the ADA website at www.ada.gov. Document your call and its contents in some way. If you use relay services, save the transcript. If you have a hearing person call for you, see if they will write a summary of the transcripts. In my state, the laws allow me to record conversations without the permission of the other party. That could be a possibility, but you have to check the laws of your state first. You do not want to be in violation. A written record is usually quite sufficient. Even if the office personnel stated they weren’t interested in the ADA information. Mail them a copy anyway asking them to please look it over and seek legal advice if they wish. Respectfully ask them to consider your need. Call the office again after giving them a little time to do as you requested documenting the phone call. Many times this opportunity to educate politely is all that is needed to help people to understand your needs and their responsibilities. Often, the personnel didn’t mean any disrespect. They just were unfamiliar with the law and had not had any prior experience with disabled persons needing communication assistance.

In the event that your needs are still not met, please don’t get discouraged and give up or go to an appointment using just a friend or relative who can communicate with you. The ADA law has been written to help you. There are reasons the ADA law stipulates using a qualified interpreter. Family and friends may not be able to translate the complex medical or legal concepts to the patient in an effective manner. Often times, emotional situations may be difficult for them to handle, and the family member or friend may resort to hiding some information. The love and concern is understandable and commendable, but it is not appropriate when the patient’s ability to make decisions regarding their health or legal issue is hindered. It is the patient’s right to decide the form of effective communication they need and want, but understanding why the ADA law was written is also important in helping the patient function on his own behalf.

Your next step should be to contact your state’s local advocacy agency or ADA attorney. The attorney assigned to you will then work with you to get the information regarding your complaint. If non-compliance is determined, the advocate will contact the organization and inform them of your complaint against them providing the legal information that the organization needs to understand in order to best serve you. This may be enough to resolve your situation and help you get your communication needs met.

If not, you are not alone. Your advocate will help you with the next steps. If you wish to proceed, the advocate will file on your behalf a complaint to the Department of Justice (DOJ). You will provide input as to what you would like to receive from the organization that is in non-compliance such as an appointment where an interpreter is provided to allow effective communication. Once the complaint is written, you will receive a copy and give final approval to allow the advocate to file the complaint with the DOJ. DOJ prefers to start off with using a third-party mediating company. This company provides people who are trained to remain objective and help the parties in a dispute come to an agreement. In this situation, they help the organization understand the need for compliance to the ADA and the best procedure to do that. They also help educate both parties in how to best meet the needs of the complainant (person filing the complaint). The mediation meeting takes place at a neutral place or using telephone conference or whatever method works best for the parties involved. Your advocate is with you throughout the process. You can decide if you want the advocate to speak for you or if you want to speak for yourself asking help from your advocate as needed. The process of mediation is not a court trial. It is an informal meeting for discussion. The mediator helps to keep the discussion flowing and working toward resolution. Either party can end the mediation process at any time. All conversation during the mediation is completely confidential, so you and the other parties can be open. You are not forced into anything, but you do have lots of support from your advocate and the mediator to help things run smoothly and professionally.

Hopefully, the mediation meeting will lead to a resolution plan. The plan itself may take several months or more for the respondent (the person you are filing the complaint against) to fully complete all aspects of the plan depending on the situation and the complexities involved. When all is complete, you will be notified. If you are to be given an appointment using effective communication, that will be part of the plan. You will be given the opportunity to arrange that appointment. The mediation process and your case will not be closed until you and your advocate agree that the plan has been completed as prescribed.

Should the mediation process fail, the DOJ will then take the case back and a federal trial may then be held. I am not familiar with that process yet, and hope I will never have to go that far. I would prefer that education and/or the mediation process would be enough to secure my rights to effective communication in medical and legal settings. From my experiences with the mediation process so far, I can see that it is highly effective, and the results are probably very successful in many cases.

Remember as you request for your needs to be met that you are not only advocating for yourself, but you are also advocating for others who will follow you. If we all are more willing to use the resources available to us to enforce the ADA law, we can educate more organizations and make the lives of all disabled a little easier.

 

If you have comments about this topic, you may write a letter in braille or print to Renée Walker, 143 Williamson Drive, Macon, GA 31210; or you may email me at rkwalker@wynfieldca.org. You can also read and comment on my blog at http://www.deafblindhope.wordpress.com. You can also check me out at www.facebook.com/reneekwalker.

 

Touch Points

By Renée K. Walker

A Tribute

Summer has arrived and, along with it, my 25th wedding anniversary and my 50th birthday. I was married 25 years ago on June 22, 1986 just before my 25th birthday (which is on June 26). My husband and I have raised two wonderful boys who are now 30 and 23 years old. They are both out on their own fulfilling dreams and being responsible men of integrity. Each has a wonderful girlfriend who seems to enrich his life. I am very proud of them both. My husband and I have worked together to build a good home and lives that are used to serve our Lord Jesus. That is something I am proud of, too.

It hasn’t always been easy because life is never easy for anyone. Unexpected hurdles and just happenstance can unravel the best of plans made for a life. One must learn to flow with the changes. Among other of life’s normal struggles, we had a few unusual ones thrown in for me. Though profoundly deaf for most of my life, the process was still gradual, and I learned to do a lot with what sound I had. When it was gone, my lip reading skills still allowed me to go about my daily activities seemingly as if I could hear. I found it to be an annoyance at most, but I mostly just never thought about it. It just wasn’t a problem. I was also night blind from an early age, but I just kept bright lights on at night and drove carefully on familiar and short routes if I drove at all. I managed just fine doing what I have always done which is raising a family, teaching, and serving others.

A few years after our wedding, the vision issues decreased rapidly to the point that I could no longer ignore them. As I have said here before, the diagnosis was Retinitis Pigmentosa exhibited as Usher Syndrome Type III. When the vision dimmed, my life drastically changed. My articles here have depicted many of the struggles of being deaf and blind. We have coped as well as we could and, sometimes even risen above expectations. Learning braille, tactual ASL, and assistive technology use has made a chaotic life more ordered. Struggles still prevail, and the world is not always a bright, cheery, or safe place. With my husband by my side and a few very close friends, life is more than just bearable. It is wonderful, and I am living it to the fullest.

All people who are disabled, but especially people who are DeafBlind, need that one person -whether it is a spouse, family member, or good friend – who is there for them daily despite the struggles. Someone who can overlook your frequent moments of frustration over what you can’t do. Someone who can look deep within you, and see the truth. Someone who can dig deep within themselves and know that truth. Someone who will understand that the frustration, irritability, and sometimes even hostility, comes from knowing you can be a burden and you hate it. Someone who can show that it may be a burden at times, but it is always worth it. Someone who works tirelessly to help you access the world, but somehow makes it feel almost effortless. All people need that special someone. A person who is DeafBlind will only thrive if they find that person.

My husband, Scott, is my special someone. He does all of these things and more. I’m sure he often feels unappreciated as life becomes chaotic and stressful, but I do appreciate him. I also respect him because he has truly honored our wedding vows. It is one of the many reasons why I love him. Happy 25th Anniversary, Scott.

I pray that you, my readers, have found that special someone who supports you in your weaknesses and celebrates your strengths. I pray that my DeafBlind friends have, or will find, that special someone who helps them not only survive, but thrive. I also pray that those readers who may not be disabled (but know someone who is disabled) will consider what you may be for that person. Yes, it can be a burden, but the rewards of seeing that person thrive are worth it. God bless these special people.

If you have comments about this topic, you may write a letter in braille or print to Renée Walker, 143 Williamson Dr, Macon, GA 31210; or you may email me at rkwalker@wynfieldca.org. You can also read and comment on my blog at http://www.deafblindhope.wordpress.com. You can also check me out at www.facebook.com/reneekwalker.

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