Things People Say

Note: October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.

Jessica Wilson and her son, Jasper

Jessica Wilson and her son, Jasper

A guest blog by Jessica Wilson. Jessica and her son, Jasper (aka Jaz, Jazzy, the JazMaster, or Dude!), live in a cozy house of fur with two crazy dogs and two lazy cats. Their favorite activities include singing movie hits, dancing in the kitchen, snuggling and traveling the world together. Jessica is Director of Communication and Dissemination for the Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR) and Resources for Access, Independence and Self-Employment (RAISE) projects with the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN) in New Jersey.

Number One. “Did you know?”

They never complete the thought, as if just looking at him implies what they’re really asking. I ache to play dumb: Know what? That he would almost never cry as a baby and be a champion sleeper? That he would love to swim but hate to play soccer? That I could love him ‘til it hurts and still get so annoyed by some of his antics? As obnoxious as my brain screams for me to be, I simply answer, “No. After losing the first one, I didn’t want to take any chances with this very wanted baby.”

The mention of my previous sorrow precludes them from saying anything directly about those tests, so I leave it at that. I resist ranting about warped concepts of perfection or the technologies the medical community pushes that are incapable of measuring the value of those born “dappled.” If I launch into my diatribe, their eyes glaze over as they nod in the faux agreement children give their parents when they just want the scolding to stop. I can always tell when they’re thinking, “I would have the test.” I couldn’t guess what they would do if it were positive.

Number Two. “My sister’s/cousin’s/brother-in-law’s/landlord’s daughter/nephew/classmate/neighbor is ‘like him’.”

What, rakishly handsome? Lucky them. A consummate flirt? Better watch out! The self-appointed town mayor, greeting every person or animal we see on the streets? Good luck getting anywhere quickly with such a gregarious kid.

I suppose it’s an attempt to connect, a way to say “he’s okay” because they know someone who knows someone who… But sharing an extra chromosome doesn’t make anyone like someone else any more than two people having green eyes does. Don’t tell me these six-degrees individuals are “like” each other. They aren’t.

Number Three. “He’s so high-functioning.”

Yeah, far more than I am at 3:00 a.m. “MOMMY!” “urgh…?” “WHY ARE YOUR EYES CLOSED?!” “I’m sleeping, baby.” “WHY?!” “unnnhhh…” “READ TO ME!!!!” (seriously?)

Number Four. “Funny, you can’t see it.”

What’s there to see? His almond shaped eyes that look through me as the spark of laughter flickering within them sears my soul? His cute little hands with that long crease across his palms holding mine, petting the cat, learning to write his name, wiping away tears when he’s mad? The orthotics helping reshape his desperately flat feet?

What exactly are you looking for that will legitimize him in your eyes? Maybe I should carry the envelope with the verdict handed down by some anonymous technician. Perhaps the letter from the state when the lab automatically reported his existence to the county health department “for statistical purposes.” What can’t you see? He’s a kid, growing up loved. What else are you looking for?

Number Five. “I’m sorry.”

You should be. You’ll never hear the thoughts he speaks to me with his smiling brown eyes as he tilts his forehead to rest against mine. You’ll never drink in the heat that radiates from his head or taste his soft hair on your lips. You’ll never be awakened (again) at 3:00 a.m. by the hot air from his mouth on your face as he whispers, “Mommy, I want snuggles.” You’ll never know how it feels to celebrate every jump forward in development that other parents take for granted, but when he finally does it, it’s a very, very large molehill.

You should be sorry that you can only see back in time. This is a new era with new opportunities and new ideas about potential and worthiness. I’m only sorry it’s taken this long and that we still have so far to go.

Number Six. “That’s awesome!”

Thanks, Brian—you are the right kind of friend. May everyone with a kid “like mine” know a man like you.

Number Seven. “I don’t know how you do it.”

I’m his mother. Still confused?

Things I Say.

“I’m so proud of you.” “Boy, you’re handsome!” “Why won’t you let me cut your nails?” “TURN THAT DOWN!” “Wanna go bowling?” “Sweetheart, don’t let the dog beg like that.” “Would you please put this stuff away?” “You’re just too good to be true/Can’t take my eyes off of you.” “No, I don’t want to smell your feet.” “I love you, my sweet angel. You’re my heart and soul, my love and my life.” “You know you drive me nuts, right?”

Number One.

“I’ve loved my son since before he was ever born. What else is there to say?”

Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

How Having ADHD Made Me a Better Advocate for My Daughters

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


Jessica Gordon

A guest blog by Jessica Gordon, a parent of children with learning and attention issues and Regional Manager for Understood at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

“She is smart, but she just needs to apply herself.”

If you looked back at my report cards in elementary school, every single one would say that. Even after recognizing that I struggled to pay attention, my family assured me that I didn’t have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) because I was able to watch television for long periods of time.

My experience isn’t as unique as I would hope. In fact, according to The State of Learning Disabilities report from the National Center for Learning Disabilities, 78% of parents believe that any child can do well in school if he or she just tries hard enough. And 33% of educators believe that sometimes what people call a learning or attention issue is really just laziness.

For me—and probably for many kids struggling in school—that wasn’t the case. I was applying myself and doing the best I could, but I wasn’t able to focus or pay attention. My teachers were frustrated that I would score in the 90th percentile on standardized tests but fail to turn in spelling tests and math worksheets. Through trial and error, I found strategies to keep myself organized in school. But by the time I went to college, I sought an evaluation and was told that I do, in fact, have ADHD.

Thanks to advances in research and more experts exploring these issues, our understanding of ADHD has grown tremendously over the past few decades. According to, girls are not identified with ADHD as often as boys, and they are often identified much later. The signs can look significantly different in girls and boys. For example, girls may not display the behavior challenges that boys do and might, instead, be chatty, disorganized, or emotional. And, much like me, because girls work hard to compensate for their challenges, it can often be overlooked.

Now, as a mother of three girls, nothing is more important to me than knowing my children’s strengths and challenges and advocating for what they need. When my oldest daughter was in second grade, she began to exhibit the same signs I did at that age. Recognizing those familiar signs, I knew I had to take action. I wanted her to have the same understanding of herself it took me decades to develop.

We went through with an evaluation, and my oldest daughter was diagnosed with ADHD—just like me, but much sooner. My middle daughter was also diagnosed when she reached second grade. And my youngest, who struggles with reading and writing as well as attention, is in the process of being evaluated right now.

When I was younger, I became an advocate for myself only after the system failed to recognize my struggles. But I don’t want that to happen to my children. Instead of making assumptions about what their future might look like with learning and attention issues, I make a point to consider their strengths, their interests, and their ideas about themselves. I want to ensure that my children—and all children—are on a path to understanding themselves and harnessing their strengths and talents.

Having ADHD myself and raising three children with ADHD is a unique challenge, and one I think many parents can relate to when learning and attention issues run in the family. But it is true that parents are their child’s best advocate. When your instincts tell you that something is going on under the surface, it’s important to trust that. It’s critical to seek out professionals who will listen and help you support your child in the way you know you need to.

I often wonder how different my life would have been if my parents and teachers had recognized my ADHD earlier and provided the accommodation and supports I needed all those years ago. Fortunately, my children won’t have to wonder about that. And I hope other parents trust their instincts, listen to their children, and follow a path that gets them and their child the supports they need.

Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

Jessica Gordon
Posted by
Regional Manager for Understood, National Center for Learning Disabilities

Share Your Comments on the Revamped IDEA Website

New IDEA Website Banner

We hope you’ve had an opportunity to visit our revamped IDEA website. We would like to get your feedback on the new IDEA website as we continue to develop and enhance the content and functionality.

Your feedback on the site is essential for helping us improve the Department’s online resources as part of our commitment to ensure that infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities and their families have the supports and services guaranteed under the IDEA.

Please submit your feedback on this OSERS Blog post announcing the new Website.

View the New IDEA Website

Supporting Youth with Disabilities in Juvenile Corrections

Sixteen-year-old Carlos has just been incarcerated in a juvenile corrections facility for the second time. He has many characteristics that are common among juvenile offenders: he was raised in a single-parent household; he grew up in a high-poverty, high-crime neighborhood with negative peer and family influences; and he has a learning disability.

In the United States, roughly 54,000 youth reside in juvenile corrections facilities on any given day. Though precise figures are difficult to come by, it is estimated that the percentage of incarcerated youth with disabilities typically range from 30 percent to 60 percent, with some estimates as high as 85 percent. This means that in a class of 15 students, anywhere from 5 to 13 of those students are likely to have a disability, most commonly specific learning disabilities (SLD), emotional or behavioral disorders (EBD), intellectual disability (ID), or attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD).

Whether or not they are incarcerated, students with disabilities are entitled to the free appropriate public education guaranteed to them under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). More than 16,000 incarcerated youth were served under IDEA from 2012 to 2013. However, less than half of all incarcerated youth during that time, who were identified as having a disability, reported receiving special education services. Furthermore, students who receive inadequate or no instructional services are more likely to be rearrested and reincarcerated within 12 months of their release. Unfortunately, educators face significant challenges in helping these students meet the rigorous expectations tied to college-and-career readiness standards.

IRIS Center’s Resources on Youth with Disabilities in Juvenile Corrections

IRIS Center Logo

The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) funds the IRIS Center, which has released a new module on youth with disabilities transitioning from juvenile corrections to school and community.

In response to these important issues, the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)-funded IRIS Center has developed an online learning module, Youth with Disabilities in Juvenile Corrections (Part 2): Transition and Reentry to School and Community.

This instructional module includes a detailed overview of transition planning processes and practices at system entry and incarceration, as well as system exit and aftercare. The module presents audio interviews with experts in the field. These include the following OSEP-funded model demonstration project leads:

  • Heather Griller Clark and Leslie LaCroix of Project RISE,
  • Jean K. Echternacht of the MAP Institute on Community Integration, and
  • Deanne Unruh of STAY OUT.

The module also highlights the work of these projects, which have been designed to:

  1. identify strategies for reducing recidivism and
  2. promote the successful reentry of students with disabilities from juvenile correctional facilities into education, employment, and community programs.

We encourage you to explore the Youth with Disabilities in Juvenile Corrections (Part 2): Transition and Reentry to School and Community module. Here you will learn more about Carlos (featured above), and his journey through the transition and reentry process. Please also check out part one of the juvenile correction series, Youth with Disabilities in Juvenile Corrections (Part 1): Improving Instruction.

Visit the IRIS Center website for a vast array of resources on important educational topics.

U.S. Department of Education Launches Revamped IDEA Website

New IDEA Website header graphic

June 5 Update:

Thank you for taking the time to provide feedback regarding the new IDEA website. Please note:

  • The new website can be found at:
  • The Building the Legacy: IDEA 2004 site can still be found at:
  • The Department of Education experienced latency issues across all sites June 1-3. These latency issues caused links to timeout and documents to freeze. If you experience site delays, please let us know below.

The new and improved Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) website has arrived! During the last two months, more than 130 of you have taken the time to offer thoughtful feedback as to what you would like to see in a revamped IDEA website. Thank you for your important and informative comments.

With your input driving the project, the new site has:

  • Improved Site Navigation and Design
    You asked for a visually-appealing, easier-to-use site that reduces the number of clicks it takes to get you where you need to be. We’ve updated the design and worked to simplify the site’s interface to make locating information more intuitive to the user.
  • Expanded Search Options
    You asked that we keep the statute and regulation search capabilities from the Building the Legacy: IDEA 2004 site but also include a policy document search. We kept the search capabilities, but we updated the search to reflect the most recent statute and regulations. As many of you requested, the search also includes policy documents, such as Dear Colleague letters, OSEP memos, FAQs and policy letters.
  • Resources for Specific Audiences
    You asked that we highlight resources specific to various IDEA stakeholder groups. We’ve created resource pages specific to parents/families, educators/service providers, and grantees. For non-English speakers, we created a Language Support page that links to one of our grantee’s resources in Spanish, and we’ve provided additional information about the Department’s language assistance, which is offered in more than 170 languages.
  • Expanded Content with Streamlined Resources
    You asked that we expand content and streamline the site’s resources covering IDEA and other federal agency-related initiatives. We expanded our Topic Areas page to include more topics with updated information and links to reflect Department and Federal resources as well as resources from the Office of Special Education Programs-funded grantees. We’ve provided links to existing IDEA-related data reports, State Performance Plans/Annual Performance Reports and grant award letters. We’ve highlighted laws and resources related to individuals with disabilities that are under the jurisdiction of other Departments and Federal agencies. We’ve pulled together a list of frequently-used acronyms and terms.

Relevant content from the Legacy site has transitioned to the new IDEA site and the Legacy site will remain online while we continue to refine the new IDEA site.

We would like to get your feedback on the new IDEA website as we continue to develop and enhance the content and functionality.

Your feedback on the site is essential for helping us improve the Department’s online resources as part of our commitment to ensure that infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities and their families have the supports and services guaranteed under the IDEA.

View new IDEA Website

Department of Education Seeks Comments on New IDEA Website

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has expressed her commitment to ensuring that infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities and their families receive support and services they are entitled to under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Recently, the Department of Education’s IDEA website,, which provides information and resources related to the IDEA 2004 reauthorization, was unavailable due to a technical malfunction from an external hosting service provider. Once the IDEA website became functional again, the Secretary directed the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) to create a new and improved IDEA site and include stakeholder input as part of the development process. The current site will remain available to users during and after the development of the new IDEA website.

OSERS is seeking input from users of the website as part of our effort to provide updated, easy-to-navigate IDEA resources to children with disabilities and their families, teachers, administrators, advocates, and other stakeholders.

To help us facilitate this effort, we ask that you address the following items in the comment section below:

  1. What are the resources you use most often at
  2. What additional information and/or functionality would you like to see included in the new IDEA site?
  3. Your title or role/designation (such as student, parent, educator, advocate, counselor, etc.), to help us gain a better understanding of who uses

OSERS appreciates your support and suggestions as we continue efforts to improve our online resources as part of our commitment to ensure that infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities and their families have the supports and services guaranteed under the IDEA.

To protect your privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as a name of a child or school personnel, a Social Security number, an address, a phone number or an email address in the body of your comment. Comments containing the aforementioned information will not be allowed to remain on this site.

If you have a child-specific complaint or issue, please contact our customer service line at 202-245-7459.

Voices from the Field: Brenda Van Gorder

Interview with Brenda Van Gorder, Director, Granite School District Preschool Services, Salt Lake City


“Preschoolers don’t just learn in inclusive settings, they thrive!”

Brenda Van Gorder photo

Brenda Van Gorder

Brenda Van Gorder has been the director of Granite School District Preschool Services in Salt Lake City, Utah for 14 years. Nationally recognized, high-quality practices have been implemented under her direction. Ms. Van Gorder regularly presents on topics related to early childhood, pay for success, and special education at the local, state, and national level. Ms. Van Gorder is involved in leadership capacities with numerous state level committees and workgroups including: Early Childhood Utah Advisory Board, Salt Lake County Mayor’s Office, Utah School Readiness Board, United Way of Salt Lake, Utah State Special Education Finance Committee, Early Learning Network in South Salt Lake, and Intergenerational Poverty. Ms. Van Gorder has authored and co-authored numerous articles on coaching, early childhood, and special education topics that have appeared in professional publications.

ED: How did you begin your career in Early Learning / Early Childhood Special Education?

Brenda: I knew I wanted to work with young children with disabilities, but in the early 1980s there were very few University programs geared toward young children with disabilities. As part of my Master’s program in special education, my advisor and I pieced together an emphasis in early childhood by being creative and connecting with other Departments in the University. When I went to look for my first job, there really weren’t any available specifically working with preschoolers with disabilities so I worked in an elementary school with children with autism. Then our state started pilot programs for preschoolers with disabilities, and I never looked back. Eventually I ended up working as Utah’s State Preschool Special Education Coordinator where one of my priorities was helping districts think through how they could implement preschool inclusion. There were many challenges, especially in a state that didn’t have a state-funded general preschool program.

ED: Why do you and your district believe that inclusion for young children with disabilities is so important?

Brenda: When I interviewed for my current position, which included visiting with school board members and interviews with administrative leadership, and shared my vision for creating more inclusive options for young children with disabilities, the vision wasn’t a hard sell. Leaders in the district understood the evidence about why it is so clear that children with disabilities thrive when they are educated with their typically developing, same-aged peers. The district had been doing this in K-12 classrooms. They understood the importance of children with disabilities having access to the same curriculum as their same-aged peers, and having opportunities to not just advance academically but to gain social skills with peers in meaningful ways. They understood it wasn’t just the legal thing to do; it was the right thing to do. So when I proposed that we needed to develop a full continuum of services and programs (including inclusive opportunities) for preschoolers with disabilities, they liked the vision but hadn’t wrapped their heads around how it was going to work.

ED: What are some of the challenges to preschool inclusion that your district has experienced and what strategies have you tried to overcome these?

Brenda: When I started, the district had three distinct preschool programs: one funded by Title I dollars, another that was tuition based (parents paid tuition), and the preschool special education program. The first challenge was how to bring these three programs together to create a cohesive preschool program with inclusive options for children with disabilities. Initially we conducted listening sessions so that all involved could be heard. There was a lot of fear and concern about inclusion on the part of staff and parents. General education teachers were fearful that they’d spend too much of their time adapting curriculum and activities for children with disabilities and wouldn’t know what to do with challenging behavior. Special education teachers were concerned they were going to be obsolete. Their role was changing—in switching to more of a co-teaching or consultant model—would they be effective? Would professional development be available to them in their new role? Parents of children without disabilities were fearful that the curriculum would be “watered-downed” and too much energy would go toward meeting the needs of children with disabilities. Eventually through the listening sessions we were able to approach fear, dispel rumors and myths, and develop solutions and supports for parents and teachers.

Next, we had to tackle the financial aspect of braiding funds across these three programs so we could strike a balance and ensure funds for each program were used appropriately. A successful strategy we used was to develop cross-program formal agreements, so we don’t have to negotiate the finances every year. We built internal agreements with the philosophy that preschool belongs in our district and ALL preschoolers will have the opportunity to be at their neighborhood preschool first, and if there wasn’t one, then the next closest school. For example, I’m not housed in special education or in the Title I office, but we developed a formula for the amount of federal IDEA funds that would go to preschoolers and determined upfront that eight and a half percent of our district Title I dollars would go toward our preschool program. I don’t have to make the case every year. When I started, we had 30 preschool classrooms and now we have 90. All of our Title I schools have at least one preschool; and we have the full continuum of placement options for our preschoolers with disabilities. Where we needed to have a special education preschool class, we ensured that there was a general preschool class in that building—so that children with disabilities in that setting maximize their time with same age peers.

Another challenge has been finding space for our preschool classrooms. Our district has 64 elementary schools and there are a lot of different groups elbowing for space. Early on, I started to attend district meetings about space and began to educate those who made space decision about an appropriate preschool space. For example, you can’t have a preschool class in a portable without running water. Now whenever the district is renovating or building a school, it is a given that there will be two preschool classrooms in each building!!

ED: What recommendations do you have for other communities interested in expanding inclusive opportunities for young children with disabilities?


  • Enlist families to tell the story of inclusion. Stories from families whose children with and without disabilities have experienced a high-quality inclusive preschool can be powerful.
  • Keep the end goal in mind. What would it look like to have accomplished the full range of services and continuum for preschoolers with disabilities? What pieces do we already have? What is missing? What are the barriers to getting these?
  • Take enough time to be thoughtful but get started. Some districts do pilots but we went full on. It is better to try to work out the bugs while implementing rather than waiting for it to be perfect. Improvement comes with time and you can’t wait for one more cohort of preschoolers with disabilities to not benefit from inclusion and be with their peers.
  • Be sure to hire staff that are committed to inclusion and the full continuum of services, and then support your staff. Listen to their needs and determine if they need additional professional development as their roles change overtime.

Blog articles provide insights on the activities of schools, programs, grantees, and other education stakeholders to promote continuing discussion of educational innovation and reform. Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy.

Brenda Van Gorder photo
Posted by
Director, Granite School District Preschool Services, Salt Lake City

New IRIS Modules: Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism Spectrum Disorder (Part 2): Evidence-Based Practices

This new IRIS Center Module, second in a two-part series, highlights strategies that have been shown to be effective in teaching appropriate behaviors and skills and decreasing inappropriate behaviors with children and youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It next explores several strategies that are particularly effective with young children, elementary and middle school students, and high school students (est. completion time: 3 hours).

Autism Spectrum Disorder (Part 1): An Overview for Educators

This Module provides information on the early signs of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as well as an overview of the difference between a medical diagnosis and an educational determination of ASD. Resources include notes on instructional considerations for teachers who have children and students with ASD in their classrooms, as well as things to keep in mind when working with the families of those children and students (est. completion time: 2 hours).

More information is available at:

About the IRIS Center

Funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), the IRIS Center is headquartered at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, California. Its primary objective is to create resources about evidence-based practices for use in preservice preparation and professional development programs. IRIS then disseminates and offers trainings on those resources.

In Recognition of Hill Walker’s Contributions to Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS)

Hill Walker

Hill Walker

There actually are moments when we benefit from the right people being in the right place at the right time. One of those moments was in 1995 when Dr. Hill Walker, a professor of special education at the University of Oregon, was invited by a local school district pupil services coordinator to assist him with achieving better allocation of district intervention resources to address the needs of students with challenging behavior. Hill Walker was already a well-respected scholar and program designer. His work on classroom management, and his emerging First Step to Success curriculum for students with significant problem behavior, were already appreciated as classic examples of extending solid instructional and behavioral theory to address pressing issues in schools. Our history has always been to be of assistance to those who host our research efforts. Hill agreed to do some thinking about this issue and wrote a detailed memo to the coordinator laying out a prevention agenda that would work district wide.

As a result of his on-going intervention research, Hill had become interested in prevention systems that could address problems early on in their trajectory. This shift in focus from “remediation” to “prevention” was not a strong theme in education at the time. In his memo to the school district, Hill described how an approach from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) emphasizing a 3-tiered prevention classification would be a functional fit for education. The focus was on health prevention, but the framework was enticing. Primary prevention (Tier I) involved strategies provided to all, and designed to limit the emergence of problems. Secondary prevention (Tier II) incorporated more intensive supports, but only for those who need a modest level of increased assistance to be successful. Tertiary prevention (Tier III) was more expensive, more intensive, and more individualized. Tertiary prevention practices received high visibility, but there was a recognition that no community could afford effective tertiary prevention practices without investment in the full multi-tiered structure. While the model was framed in a medical approach to community health, Hill recognized the value of the core ideas for education.

Hill contacted Mike Epstein, founder and editor of the Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders (JEBD), about this model and asked if the memo could be converted into a journal article for JEBD. Mike encouraged him to do so. The article was published in JEBD in 1996 and was well received by the field. This adaptation appeared to be the “right idea at the right time”.

To our collective benefit, Hill Walker was able to bridge the community health context, with the elegant concepts of multi-tiered prevention, and link these messages with the compatible notion of “response to intervention” being articulated by Lynn and Doug Fuchs. A major insight was his vision that the multi-tiered logic was a good fit with intervention practices he now saw as Tier I, Tier II and Tier III prevention activities for academic and behavioral outcomes. His 1996 paper offers a model with conceptual and practical messages that have been both highly cited and overtly followed. The importance of the multi-tiered approach (now cast as “multi-tiered systems of support:” MTSS) is evident in the evolving structure of response to intervention, the application of positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS), recent amendments to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESSA: 2015), and emerging elements of the reauthorization of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The multi-tiered triangle, first introduced to educators in the 1996 paper, is now highly recognized and is an ingrained part of our understanding of educational supports. The positive implications of this approach for education in general and special education in particular are still emerging.


The unequivocal emphasis on demonstrating a research to practice framework has always been a defining characteristic of Hill Walker’s work. With the many variations, adaptations and elaborations that now exist of multi-tiered educational systems it is worthwhile to reflect on the debt we owe to the field of community health, and to those scholars like Hill Walker who have interdisciplinary insights and who can define common problems, and have been willing and able to see beyond the present and guide the future.


Sue Swenson,  Deputy Assistant Secretary, delegated the authority to perform the functions and duties of the Assistant Secretary

Rob Horner, Faculty, Alumni-Knight Professor, Department of Special Education and Clinical Sciences, University of Oregon

Renee Bradley, Deputy Director, Research to Practice Division, Office of Special Education Programs,  Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services

Carl Calkins, Director, University of Missouri—Kansas City’s Institute for Human Development, and Professor of Psychology



Sue Swenson
Posted by
Deputy Assistant Secretary, delegated the authority to perform the functions and duties of the Assistant Secretary, OSERS
Rob Horner
Posted by
Alumni-Knight Professor, Department of Special Education and Clinical Sciences, U of Oregon
Renee Bradley
Posted by
Deputy Director, RTP, Office of Special Education Programs
Carl Calkins
Posted by
Director, Institute for Human Development, UMKC

Texas Listening Sessions

Representatives from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) will be conducting a series of Listening Sessions in Texas during the week of December 12. The schedule and location for the Listening Sessions are below.

For those unable to attend the listening sessions, the purpose of this blog is to provide members of the public an opportunity to provide comment regarding the timely identification, evaluation and the appropriate provision of special education and related services to all eligible children with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In an October 3, 2016 letter to Texas Commissioner Mike Morath, OSERS raised concerns regarding Texas’s compliance with a number of requirements of IDEA. The State responded to OSERS’ letter on November 2, 2016.

OSERS and the TEA are interested in hearing from the public, including parents, family members, students, advocates, school personnel and other stakeholders. OSERS has set up this blog for interested parties to submit written comments. This blog will be open for comments from December 5, 2016 through January 6, 2017.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as children or school personnel names, Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. Under no circumstances will comments be allowed to remain that contain Social Security numbers, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, or similar personally identifiable information, such as children or school personnel names.

Schedule and Locations for Texas Listening Sessions

Dallas, Monday, Dec. 12
6:00 pm–8:00 pm
Region 10—Richardson
400 E. Spring Valley Road
Richardson, TX 75081-5101

Houston, Monday, Dec. 12
6:00 pm–8:00 pm
McKinney Conference Center, Room 100 A-F
7200 Northwest 100 Drive
Houston, TX 77092

El Paso, Tuesday, Dec. 13
6:00 pm–8:00 pm
Region 19—El Paso
6611 Boeing Drive
El Paso, TX 79925

Edinburg, Tuesday, Dec. 13
6:00 pm–8:00 pm
Region 1—Edinburg
1900 West Schunior
Edinburg, TX 78541-2234

Austin, Thursday, Dec. 15
6:00 pm–8:00 pm
Region 13—Austin
5701 Springdale Road
Austin, TX 78723-3675

These meeting sites are accessible to individuals with disabilities, and sign language interpreters and Spanish language translation will be available. If anyone needs special accommodations, please contact the Education Service Center directly at the telephone number provided.