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Articles: Special Ed

NAO robot has become a virtual classmate for students on the autism spectrum in New York City’s special education District 75.

Robots are opening new channels of communication for students on the autism spectrum or those with other disabilities. Educators at New York City’s special education District 75 say the NAO robot—a bright-eyed, two-foot-tall humanoid developed by Aldebaran Robotics—is now considered a virtual classmate by some students.

Philadelphia Public Schools special education teacher Michelle McKeone developed Autism Expressed in 2011, and now uses the platform to teach digital media skills to her high school students.

A first-of-its-kind online learning platform is bringing critical digital and life skills to Philadelphia students with autism and developmental disorders.

Students in the Centennial School in Bethlehem, Pa. are rewarded for good behavior rather than punished for misconduct.

Disabled students in wealthy, less-diverse districts are twice as likely as their low-income peers to be restrained or placed in isolation in school, according to new research by the University of New Hampshire.

Restraint and isolation have been used primarily on students who pose a threat to themselves or others. And few schools resort to these physical solutions: Some 95 percent of districts reported fewer than 10 instances of restraint or seclusion per 100 students with a disability in 2009-10.

Stephen Falcone resigned as superintendent of Darien Public Schools in Connecticut after the district was found to have violated special education laws. (Megan L. Spicer/Darien News)

Superintendent resigns

Stephen Falcone, superintendent of Darien Public Schools in Connecticut, resigned in October after a state Department of Education report found the district violated special education laws on multiple occasions during the 2012-2013 school year.

A Connecticut school district in the suburbs of New York City violated the IDEA by denying special education students the proper services for the past year, according to a recent Connecticut State Department of Education investigation. The case shows districts may run afoul of the law if special education services are reduced due to budget cuts.

About 1 in 6 students are now diagnosed with a developmental disability, according to a 2011 study in the journal Pediatrics.

Relationships between school districts and the parents of special needs students are notoriously adversarial, and lawyers sometimes get involved in the disputes that arise. Given the increase in students diagnosed with disabilities and the costs involved in serving them, district leaders who want to provide the proper instruction and care, and avoid costly litigation, must stay abreast of the law.

A human-like robot that can mimic emotions and play interactive games can help students with autism develop social skills.

Aldebaran Robotics’ “ASK NAO” robot, which is about two feet tall, mimics an emotion with gestures and sounds, and waits for children to recognize the emotion. It may then ask children the last time they experienced such an emotion. It also can teach autistic children time, taking turns, basic conversation, and other communication skills.

School administrators need to adapt to rising numbers of autism cases, despite reports from the U.S. Autism and Asperger Association that show educators have been overwhelmed and unable to provide for all the affected students for years.

Superintendent Gary P. Richards (center) meets with Jane Anderson, human resources director, and Andrew Colati, social studies instructor at Wilton High School, where the district’s administrative offices are located.

According to Wilton (Conn.) School District Superintendent Gary G. Richards, most people who move to Wilton do so for its high-quality schools, which has struck a successful balance between educating its most advanced learners and ones who need more help.

95% Group, www.95percentgroup.com

ACE (Autism Curriculum Encyclopedia),New England Center for Children, www.necc.org

Activity Trainer and DT Trainer, Accelerations Educational Software, www.dttrainer.com

Autism Apps, Touch Autism, itunes.apple.com/us/artist/touch-autism/id395610433

Autism Support Services: Education, Research and Training program,

The National Standards Project found 11 established treatments that have scientific evidence to support using them with children with autism:

• Antecedent Package: Implementing behavioral interventions to prevent a certain behavior. For example, moving a child who fidgets or cries in the back to the front of the class.

• Behavioral Package: Initiating actions to encourage a particular behavior. For example, giving children tokens for raising their hand before speaking.

Enter “teaching students with autism” in Google, and more than 8 million results pop up instantly. Is it any wonder public school administrators, not to mention parents, are overwhelmed with the task of educating children on the autism spectrum?

The accidental deaths of two special needs students from Hillsborough County Public Schools in Tampa, Fla. this year are shedding light on the need for comprehensive, mandatory emergency preparedness training for paraeducators.

For generations, teachers in the early elementary years have urged their young pupils to use their brains. They’re still offering the same encouragement, but nowadays they can know even more about what they’re talking about.

Recent advances in neuroscience—from detailed scans of the brain to ongoing research on teaching methods that increase cognitive development—have ushered in a new era of “brain-based” education.

Nathan Levenson, author of “Boosting the Quality and Efficiency of Special Education.”More special education funding in a district does not necessarily result in greater student achievement—in fact, it can lead to less, says a first-of-its-kind report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

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