In the next day of DO-IT interview, I was invited to a pizza networking gathering which is held 3 times a year to get all Scholars and parents together. The rooms for students and parents are separated. In that way, students can talk with students about their updates, and parents can exchange information.
It is very good idea to make an opportunity for parents to stay connected. Parents have so many worries because they don’t have enough information or experiences, and eventually they overprotect their kids. By providing a place where parents get together, they can share their worries and difficulties, and other parents can give advice and think ways to resolve the issues together. This is a huge power.
Though DO-IT hosts many programs, the most remarkable is the ”Scholars Program”. Once the selected, students can learn about college life throughout the school year and the upcoming summer. By experiencing real college life, students with disabilities notice things they need assistance with and think of what kind of support they need. They also practice how to communicate with faculty to ask for accommodations.
In English, “self-advocacy” means that people with disabilities speak up for themselves to ask for what they need to resolve issues around them. Kids learn that naturally through their daily life at home and school. However, for kids with disabilities, sometimes adults intervene too much at home and school. Then kids with disabilities miss opportunities to learn to self-advocate themselves.
In February, I visited DO-IT in University of Washington. Dr. Sheryl Burgstahler, a founder and director of DO-IT, got interested in “assistive technology” which supports people with disabilities throughout her first career as a junior high mathematics teacher. In 1984, when Macintosh came to the world, Sheryl felt that IT would change the society dramatically. Then she started thinking how to reduce the gap between people with and without disabilities by utilizing her knowledge, experience as a teacher, and IT.
To students with disabilities, there is a big difference in learning environment between college and high school which is mandatory education in the US. Sheryl had found this issue, and decided to start DO-IT which supports students with disabilities to transit smoothly from high school to post-secondary education.
In February, I have visited a non-profit private school, Academy for Precision Learning (APL) in Seattle. APL offers K12 (kindergarten to high school) education and has 109 students in total, including students with disabilities. The largest number of disability is autism spectrum disorder which accounts two thirds of the total students. Other diagnostic representations include intellectual disabilities, Learning Disabilities, ADD/ADHD, and Depression. The specialty of APL is fully inclusive education and individualized curriculum. From a general Japanese education perspective, people might feel “What is the meaning of putting students with with disabilities with students without disabilities in the same classroom although they cannot study the same subject at the same speed?” There are actually important values and benefits of including all students from various backgound to learn in the same environment.
The last part of the report of visiting Microsoft. I had a round table discussion with employees who are interested in disability related topics at the company. We exchanged our experiences and tips to overcome obstacles in education, workplace as well as daily life.
I visited Seattle for 2 weeks in February. Not only research interviews, but also I had opportunities to be interviewed by local media and to give talks for local organizations. This is a “trailer” of reports in Seattle!
I interviewed Mr. Sam Roux and Ms. Brianna M. Shults who support students with disabilities at Syracuse University, New York. Internship during college students is really meaningful to both students with disabilities and employers.
Kristen has been in special education field all through her undergraduate to graduate training at Vanderbilt University. After graduation, she taught students with a wide range of disabilities from mild to fairly severe and profound level in a high school. A couple years later, she went back to Vanderbilt University to get her Master’s degree in special education technology. During her research, she met Prof. Doug Fuchs and got involved with a lot of his research related to learning disabilities (LD) and academic related difficulties. In the doctoral program, she spent efforts on a program called Peer Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS), which is a peer tutoring program that is designed as an inclusive general education approach to accommodate a lot of kids with disabilities or academic difficulties.
I visited the National Center on Education Outcomes (NCEO) located at the University of Minnesota. NCEO was founded in 1990 with the purpose to identify important outcomes of education for students with disabilities.