Voices from the Field: Interview with Ann Sam

Ann Sam

 

ED: How did you begin your career in early childhood?

During my undergraduate work, I completed an internship at the University of North Carolina’s TEACCH Autism Program. From this experience, I knew I wanted to work with individuals with autism. I began my career as an inclusive preschool and kindergarten public school teacher. As a teacher, I was unaware of many specific interventions or resources used to support the social, language, and behavioral skills of students with autism. Fueled by my desire to support students with autism in classrooms, as well as the teachers serving those students, I began my doctoral program in 2008 at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. I was fortunate to be funded through an Office of Special Education Program leadership grant: Interdisciplinary Preparation in Teaching, Research, and Service focused on Young Children with Autism and Their Families. When I graduated, I accepted a postdoctoral research position at 3C Institute, a small business that focuses on research and development. After completing my postdoctoral work, I returned to the University of North Carolina as a Research Scientist at Frank Porter Graham (FPG) Child Development Institute. At FPG, my work focuses on supporting the use of evidence-based practices for children with autism using a variety of professional development approaches including coaching and interactive, online modules.

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IDEA45: Happy Birthday IDEA!

George Sugai
IDEA-45 logo. IDEA 45. #IDEA45 Years. 1975-2020. Individuals With Disabilities Education Act.

Happy Birthday, IDEA!

By George Sugai
Professor Emeritus, Neag School of Education, University of Connecticut


The 45th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is particularly meaningful to me and to students with disabilities for four main reasons.

First, my career as a special educator began in Aurora, Colorado in the Fall of 1974. Although we were definitely “attempting to figure things out,” we developed the district’s first IDEA-shaped resource rooms for elementary, middle, and high school students with emotional and behavioral disorders; we wrote many of the first IEPs; and we created and implemented some of the first behavior intervention plans. IDEA gave us the vision, expectation, accountability, and responsibility to greatly enhance our special education efforts. For the first time, the education of students with disabilities and their families became a protected right and a reality rather than an informal afterthought. In addition, special education became an integral component and priority in general education.

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IDEA45: The Personnel Who Deliver the Promise

Jane West
IDEA 45th Anniversary logo

The Personnel Who Deliver the Promise of IDEA into the Lives of Children and Families: A Reflection on the 45th Anniversary of IDEA

By Jane E. West, Ph.D.


I began my journey as a special educator in 1973. My first job was as a paraprofessional for students with emotional disturbance. The program was intended to transition students who had been in psychiatric hospitals back into public school. Our classroom was housed in a trailer on the playground of an elementary school in the Bronx.

Fresh out of college with a degree in literature, I was very keen on poetry. With the support of the teacher in charge of my class, I developed a curriculum on poetry. Much to my delight, the students were all in. They wrote some magnificent poems. Shortly after we finished the unit, the principal announced a school wide poetry contest. Elated, I met with him and provided the students’ work for submission to the contest. After looking at the poems briefly, he returned them to me saying, “There is no way those students could have written those poems.” I was devastated. 

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IDEA45: A Milestone for Civil Rights

Kanika Littleton
IDEA 45th Anniversary logo

A Milestone for Civil Rights: Celebrating 45 Years of IDEA

By Kanika Littleton


In the United States, over 7 million children and young adults receive special education programs and services through the Individualized Education Program (IEP). These students are entitled to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) as outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA encompasses the rights of students with disabilities to have access to the general education curriculum and to the greatest extent possible, be educated with their typically developing peers.

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IDEA45: Supporting a Free Appropriate Public Education

Doug and Lynn Fuchs
IDEA 45th Anniversary logo

Forty-Five Years of IDEA-Funded Research Supporting a
“Free Appropriate Public Education”

By Douglas Fuchs and Lynn Fuchs, Vanderbilt University


On this 45th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), we reflect on the research that IDEA legislation (and its successive reauthorizations) has facilitated. More specifically, we discuss its focus, quality, and meaningfulness for children and youth with and without disabilities.

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IDEA45: Our Continued Passion

Michael Norman
IDEA 45th Anniversary logo

IDEA Deserves our Continued Passion, Advocacy, and Support

By Michael Norman


When I began an internship at the National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE) in 1976, I knew little about special education and even less about state educational agencies (SEAs). I was a thirty-year-old doctoral student and former middle school principal. I had no idea that internship would change the entire trajectory of my professional life.

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Oregon Commission for the Blind Client Retires After 43-Year Career

NOTE: October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Oregon Commission for the Blind

After 43 years, Carl Belnap retired in August 2020, from his position at A-dec (Austin Dental Equipment Company), a Newberg, Oregon, manufacturer of dental office equipment.

Carl began his job at A-dec in May 1977. Blind since birth, Carl began as a client of Oregon Commission for the Blind (OCB) in 1973. As a high school Junior, Carl attended OCB’s Portland Training Center for the Blind, a summer job training program. After high school, he attended the Oregon Rehabilitation Center for Development at the Oregon School for the Blind for several months, receiving vocational counseling and training. Carl also attended Clackamas Community College for additional training in the machine shop.

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Teamwork to Make the Dream Work

NOTE: October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Michelle Novak

By Michelle Novak, Community Liaison for Tradewinds


The relationship between the vocational rehabilitation counselor, employment specialist and the job seeker are important when it comes to finding successful employment. The support and encouragement on the road to a successful employment placement can make a positive impact for everyone involved. In this case, an Employment Specialist shares her perspective on the VR client and her determination to succeed after five years on the employment search.

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Sharing My Story to Inspire Advocacy in Others

NOTE: October is Learning Disabilities (LD)/Dyslexia/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Awareness (ADHD) Month.

Michaela Hearst

By Michaela Hearst, an advocate, writer, and a social worker.

I was diagnosed with nonverbal learning disorder (NVLD) and learning disability not otherwise specified (LD-NOS) when I was 14 years old. I share my personal story with the hope it will inspire or help others.

Every experience I’ve undergone in the past has led me to where I am now.

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Ability for Hire in South Dakota

NOTE: October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Caitlin

Originally posted by the South Dakota Department of Human Services Rehabilitation Services

To shed a little more light on the real people impacted by businesses championing everyone’s right to be employed regardless of their disability status, Ability for Hire is highlighting stories from South Dakotans who have benefited from the vocational rehabilitation (VR) program and who are experiencing the many benefits — both emotional and financial — of being employed.

Meet Caitlin, a Vermillion resident who is currently employed by Aramark out of University of South Dakota (USD).

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