Utah disability history on display in education building

February 6, 2012 by JoLynne Lyon

An excerpt from the posters shows a protester in a wheelchair, in front of a bus

Catch the display in the Education Building Atrium through Friday, February 10.

It’s Education and Human Services Week. And while you’re enjoying the ice cream festivities over in the Education Building atrium, you can also learn more about disability history in Utah. (A complete schedule of events is listed on the college website.)

A series of posters on either end of the Atrium takes a Utah-specific view of significant events in disability history.

A look at Utah’s health history highlights includes pioneering female doctors and a Nobel prize laureate. Institutionalization of people with disabilities is examined. Parents reflect on their fight to have their children with disabilities attend public schools. One parent tells of her journey to participate in her son’s early education.  A veteran recalls a project to help the children of veterans exposed to Agent Orange. An advocate remembers the struggle for equal access to public transportation. People with disabilities reflect on the significance of being included in their communities.

So wander over between February 6 and February 10. It’s a great way to celebrate education, human services and making a difference.

Tags: , , , , , ,

CPD researchers visit Ecuador, work with its education ministry

January 4, 2012 by JoLynne Lyon

A girl smiles from her desk, surrounded by other students

View from a classroom in Ecuador

Researchers from the CPD went south last month, as part of a collaboration with Ecuador’s Ministry of Education to evaluate programs there.

They were there as part of a planning grant, investigating the possibility of working with the ministry to evaluate programs in Ecuador. The proposed projects would deal with preschools, inclusion of children with disabilities in the schools, newborn hearing screening, and infant programs for children ages 0 to 3.

“We got to see preschool programs throughout the entire country, from the jungles to the cities to the coasts to the highlands,” said Dr. Gina Cook, a collaborator on the planning grant.

“The recent visit to Ecuador was an important learning experience,” said Dr. Eduardo Ortiz, another collaborator on the grant. “It was powerful to see how comfortable and knowledgeable young children were talking about their surrounding plants, animals, and nature.”

The team saw some schools with lots of resources, and others with few. American educators often have similar challenges, adapting programs to make sure they work in schools no matter what materials are available to them.

The learning is definitely a two-way process, said DDE Center for Early Care and Education Director Lisa Boyce, a CPD faculty fellow who went with the researchers. She is another collaborator on the planning grant. “I have yet to see so many teachers being so responsive to children. I have found that I can teach educational strategies to teachers, but I struggle with being able to teach the level of connectedness that I observed in those schools.”

The group will return to Ecuador next month to train government officials on conducting evaluations and incorporating research into its programs.

In addition to her work with the CPD, Gina Cook is now an adjunct research assistant professor in the Family, Consumer and Human Development department at USU. She also provided the photos that accompany this blog post. For more images from schools in Ecuador, visit our Facebook page.

Children stand in a line in a classroom in Ecuador

Tags: , ,

Changing the stigma of special education

August 22, 2011 by cpehrson

Getting the help a child needs in the school system can become a double-edged sword once the label of “special education” is attached to him or her.

Parents have a hard time admitting that their child needs special education services. Other parents may refuse to put their child in special education, even when they know their child would benefit from the services. Many parents hide the fact that their child is in special education because they know that  once a child is labeled, that label will stay with them throughout their school years.

As a former special education teacher said, “There is still a stigma for our special education students…Sadly, when some students are labeled, they are ripped out of a general education classroom and put into a special education classroom that is sometimes segregated away from the rest of the school.”

Any student placed in a separate special education class may be at risk of being made fun of by their peers, because they are seen as “different.”

“The stigma is not just coming from other students,” one local special education resource teacher observed. Her greatest concern as she starts a new school year is getting the general education teachers to accept and welcome the students with special needs into their classrooms.

Teachers are working so hard to help their regular students meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind,  that sometimes making the necessary accommodations or adaptations for students in special education may become overwhelming.

But, it is the student with special needs who suffers the most.  Low self-esteem is the result of being seen as different or needing specialized help with school subjects. Low self-esteem hinders, if not stops altogether, the motivation needed to face and overcome the challenges of having a learning or developmental disability.

Changing the stigma attached to special education is the key to success for these students.  Once society accepts the importance of special education services and learns to value differences, not scorn them, these students will move forward at a quicker pace.

“The fact is that special education is a blessing for students who are struggling due to their need for a smaller classroom environment, more support from an additional teacher or paraprofessional, or help outside of the classroom in a specific area,” says Tiffany Rubin, a special education teacher in New York City.

Changing the stigma will require change from the top down.

Administrators must make sure that their schools have zero tolerance for teasing and discrimination based on ability and differences.

Teachers must have the skills to address the academic needs of students mainstreamed into their classes, and model treating all students with respect.

Student must understand that being different is okay, and that their peers are more like them than they are different from them.

Rubin summarizes her thoughts about special education: “Special education is a necessary part of the educational system. When it is done properly, with good educators, and active parents, it can have a positive effect on the families and students. It can serve as a life preserver in a sea of confusion, despair and the unknown.”

Changing the stigma can start today with each of us doing our part.

Tags: , , ,

Let’s Talk! about what’s best for students in Special Ed

June 20, 2011 by cpehrson

San Francisco is involved in a new battle that would mean transferring all of its 6,000 students in special education classrooms into mainstream programs in the public schools.

The Unified School District spends about $122 million a year on special education services.  It is facing a $25 million budget deficit this coming year.

School officials claim that integrating special-education students into mainstream classrooms would leave the students less isolated and would provide more support.

Parents argue that the decision is based on budget concerns, rather than on what is best for the students.

This month’s Let’s Talk topic asks parents and professionals…

What would you do if your child was being moved into a mainstream classroom situation from a more intense, specialized educational environment?

Do you think that teachers are prepared to receive children in special education into their already full classrooms and meet their educational needs?

Ready, set….Let’s Talk!


Let us know of other topics that you would like to talk about.

(Note:  All comments will be filtered to maintain confidentiality and appropriateness.)



Tags: , ,

Utah Conservation Corps receives inclusion award

March 31, 2011 by cpehrson

Congratulations to the Utah Conservation Corps on their recent Inclusion Champion Award presented by the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation!

The Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation announced the first recipients of the 2011 Inclusion Champion Award at their MEAF 20th Anniversary Luncheon in Washington, DC on March 11th.

This is the fourth year that MEAF has awarded their Inclusion Champion Award (ICA).  The award honors organizations and individuals who have made measurable and sustainable impact in promoting the inclusion of youth with disabilities.  The award includes a trophy and a $1,000 contribution to the recipient’s organization.

The Utah Conservation Corps, a part of the Conservation Corps Network, was honored for its “innovative work” that was designed so young people with disabilities could fully participate in national service programs, like Americorps. UCC established inclusive service crews to work in national forests, parks and urban settings gaining valuable career skills.

The Center for Persons with Disabilities at USU worked with the Utah Conservation Corps to help them include persons with disabilities more fully into their programs by developing the Disability Inclusion Toolkit that is available to help other Conservation Corps programs become more inclusive.

The UCC was one of eight inclusion awards presented during the MEAF  evening events.  The celebration ended with a viewing of the UCC’s video of their Cache Valley Accessible Community Garden project.

In total, 20 awards will presented throughout this 20th anniversary year to honor current and past grantees for their efforts to promote the full participation of young people with disabilities in society.

Tags: , ,