OSERS launched its IDEA website in June 2017 in order to provide updated department information regarding the IDEA to the public including students, parents/families, educators, service providers, grantees, researchers and advocates.
Prior to and after the launch of the site, OSERS gathered feedback from the public and has made updates to the site based on the feedback it received.
OSERS will continue to gather feedback about the website in order to enhance and add content to the IDEA website to ensure the site remains current.
Two video tutorials highlight features of the site:
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos believes high-quality data are an essential part of local, State, and Federal efforts to improve outcomes for infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities. The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) is seeking input from the public, particularly State educational agencies (SEAs) and State lead agencies (LAs), on how best to provide technical assistance (TA) to States on the collection and reporting of data required under Part B, Section 618 and Section 616, of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), including input on the most effective and efficient method of funding this TA. Currently, that TA on IDEA Part B and C data collection is provided to SEAs and LAs through funds reserved by OSERS under IDEA section 616(i) of Part B.
OSERS launched the new IDEA website in June 2017 in order to provide updated department information regarding the IDEA to the public including students, parents/families, educators, service providers, grantees, researchers and advocates.
As the month of October and Learning Disabilities / Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (LD / ADHD) Awareness Month draws to a close, I have been thinking a lot about how our teams here at OSERS are strengthened by people who have different skills, different knowledge, and different approaches to problems. We don’t all think alike which brings strength to our work. I’d like to introduce some amazing students with LD / ADHD who think differently and bring strength to our society.
Recently, David Flink, Founder and Chief Empowerment Officer of Eye to Eye, authored a guest blog on the OSERS blog spot. In his post, David emphasized the importance that awareness plays in breaking stigma and building understanding around diverse learning needs. David frames learning disabilities and LD / ADHD awareness in the following terms, “We like to think, ‘It’s not a learning disability, it’s this ability to think differently.’” In his post, David talked about his own 5th grade reading struggles. Over the years, stories from his teachers and others who had LD and ADHD helped him succeed. He knew youth with learning disabilities needed hope, and they needed strategies for success. They needed mentors.
David founded Eye to Eye as a national mentoring organization run by people with LD / ADHD for people with LD / ADHD. The organization recently launched a National Share-Ability Campaign, which highlights the authentic experiences of students with LD / ADHD. If you’ve been in Times Square lately, you might have seen a giant screen “spectacular” sharing a story. Or maybe you know a student who has had a quiet, personal, one-on-one conversation: many have happened in classrooms and homes across the country.
As part of their Share-Ability Campaign, Eye to Eye asked their college-aged mentors across the country, “What would you like to share about your abilities as a different thinker?” OSERS features those kids’ inspirational answers here—positive messages by self-advocates who wanted to help others by telling their own story.
We welcome you to read their experiences and invite you to share your own.
Chelsea Bennett, Knox College
As a different thinker, I have been able to learn more about myself. Not only have I learned how to navigate my ADHD and explore how I learn best, I have also been able to learn great things about myself. My ADHD may be a challenge, but it has also taught me to enjoy the quirky, hyper, fun-loving person that I am because that is what makes me unique!
Katy Demko, University of Pittsburgh
Some people think my ADHD should hold me back, but I think it pushes me even more! It took me a while to figure out how I learn and it was a lot of trial and error. But I have come to realize that it is not a learning disability—I just learn differently.
Josh Dishman, Radford University
My disabilities actually give me strength to work even harder towards a goal. Growing up, I was labeled as the wild, energetic kid who could never pay attention in class, which led many to believe that I was an idiot. As I grew up, I learned that having ADHD didn’t make me stupid, it just meant I had to work a little harder. I may have not been attentive enough to read a book, but if I listened to the book on audio, I was able to lead the class discussion on the novel.
Chris Gorman, Hobart and William Smith Colleges
I think that having ADHD allows me to approach problems differently. While most people would look to reach point D by going from A to B to C and then D, I always bounce around the problem. This lets me approach problems from a different angle and look at something in a totally different light than most people would.
Caroline Lee, Boston College
As a different thinker, I can get lost on the way to class, forget where I put my textbook, and mix up my 10 AM class with my 12 PM class. But I still know that I have a valuable mind that can learn and approach things in interesting and meaningful ways.
Luz Madrigal, UC Irvine
My ADHD brain is like a computer with a lot of different windows open all at once, and they are all functioning at the same time. I am a bit slow at learning new things just because I pay attention to too many details, but once I learn the task at hand, I tend to be above average in speed at that same job that took me longer to learn. I make sure I slowly learn everything, and once I do, WAM…I am extra efficient because I am a great multi-tasker! ADHD is pretty cool if you ask me.
Brianna Malin, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
I am a different thinker and I am very proud of it. Living with an LD and ADHD has helped me gain confidence and motivation to succeed in anything I do. I have determination, drive, and dedication to always do my best to reach my goals. This has also helped me to be resilient in the face of any obstacle. I am very grateful to be different and to think different because it makes me, me!
Georgia Mavrogeorgis, SUNY Buffalo
My learning disabilities provide me with the gift of being able to understand and see the world from a different perspective.
I’m more open-minded and accepting of individuals and their differences.
Becca O’Hea, East Carolina University
Having dyslexia has given me immense patience in having to spend extra hours completing reading assignments, and taught me to be a strong listener to compensate for being a slow reader and writer. I make it a point to tell others about my difference and how it has help me in furthering my career as a student and as a future school psychologist.
Brandon Odenheimer, University of Denver
I have been classified as LD and ADHD since 1st grade. Now I’m in my senior year of college, and I have been able to use my way of learning to succeed in my studies all the way. The ability to share my experiences with others is very rewarding.
Arthi Selvan, Temple University
I’ve struggled a lot with being a different thinker, especially as a science major. To me, being a STEM major means you must be the type A personality: organized, efficient, a linear thinker, competitive. However, my learning difference benefits me. I have the ability to see and approach problems differently than most STEM majors do. I sometimes feel like I have a secret super power because of my ability to think differently.
Sam Solomon, University of Wyoming
Nobody ever told me bluntly, that I was doing it “wrong.” But after a lifetime of little corrections and criticisms about how you think and live, you start to hear it. It takes a lot of courage, a lot of self-love to truthfully tell yourself that your habits and flaws and quirks are wonderful. It isn’t about fixing yourself. You have to form an alliance with your learning style.
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David Flink is founder and Chief Empowerment Officer of Eye to Eye and author of Thinking Differently: An Inspiring Guide for Parents of Children with Learning Disabilities
October is Learning Disabilities (LD) Awareness Month, a time when the nation turns its attention to the one in five students who learn differently because they have dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or other learning and/or attention issues. Eye to Eye honors the LD/ADHD community this month and throughout the year.
As Education Secretary Arne Duncan said recently, “This is a time to understand how these disabilities impact students and their families, to reflect on the significant achievements that these students have made, and to renew our commitment to creating a stronger future for them.”
What does awareness actually mean? What would real awareness look like in our schools, homes, and workplaces? How can we unlock the potential of different learners and create a world where all learners can thrive?
Eye to Eye is the only national mentoring movement that pairs kids who have learning disabilities and ADHD with college and high school mentors who have been similarly labeled. We are an organization for people with LD/ADHD by people with LD/ADHD. And we believe that one of the most powerful things you can do is share your own LD/ADHD story or the story of someone you love.
Owning your LD, then speaking it loud and proud, is the first step in breaking the stigma. When you share your truth, you help a kid feel seen. You tell them they’re not alone. They start to see their future and their potential in a whole new way.
That’s why Eye to Eye mentors work with kids in middle school, telling them, “I’ve been where you are. I made it, you will, too.” It’s why our Eye to Eye Diplomats, who range from successful students to established professionals, speak around the country, saying, “I am what LD/ADHD looks and sounds like and here is how I found success.
I started Eye to Eye in 1998 because that didn’t happen when I was kid. I was a 5th grader who couldn’t read. No matter how much my parents supported me, I had no role models with LD/ADHD. If national statistics hold true, one in five educators has a learning difference or a family member who does. But that would have never occurred to me, I thought I was alone.
It was only after I graduated from Brown University and finished my graduate work in Dis/Ability Studies at Columbia that one of my teachers called to say, “I am dyslexic.” That was revolutionary to me, that one act of sharing.
Imagine that happening in homes and classrooms across the country. What it would mean to kids to hear that the adults in their lives face the same challenges they do.
It would break the stigma. It would create a safe space where a kid can say, “I really think I could learn better if I just had this.” Allowing kids to listen instead of read, learning with their ears instead of their eyes. Or letting kids with attention issues have breaks. Kids can get these accommodations now, but often the stigma of having an LD/ADHD can prevent them from seeking help or access the accommodations that are their legal rights. We should make sure no kid feels ashamed to ask for what they need—and what better way to not feel ashamed than to know you’re talking to someone who really gets it?
When we don’t share, when we keep silent, we lose kids. Kids with dyslexia and other learning disabilities drop out of high school at more than double the rate of students in the general population. Individuals with learning disabilities appear in the U.S. prison population at four times the rate they are found in the general public.
It’s not a small number of kids. Learning disabilities affect as many as 20% of our students. According to the Department of Education, 2.5 million kids have been identified with specific learning disabilities; as many as 6 million with ADHD. Still more have not been identified—and so many don’t get the attention they need. Unless we help them, the national cost in human potential and hard dollars will be tremendous.
That’s one of the reasons I’m so passionate about the work we do at Eye to Eye. We encourage everyone to share his or her story. We know that in some environments, revealing takes real courage. But sharing creates a connection. Connection creates community. And a community sparks culture change and a movement.
So, this LD Awareness Month, share your story or the story of someone you love. I started by talking with Secretary Duncan. One month before he made his statement about learning disabilities, two Eye to Eye mentors from the University of Illinois, represented the LD/ADHD community met with Secretary Duncan on his Back-to-School Bus Tour. They told him about the challenges they and the LD/ADHD community faced and what they hoped to do in their lives. They shared. He listened—and committed to change.
Guest Author: Jim Stovall, Co-Founder and President, Narrative Television Network
As we celebrate and contemplate the impact of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) over the last 40 years, we must consider not only where we are but where we’ve been and, more importantly, where we’re going. The technological breakthroughs and marvels that we experience here in the 21st Century have changed our world and changed the way we all live. Among the innovations that would most shock and bewilder our ancestors would be the proliferation of visual images that we experience. A few generations ago, a black-and-white snapshot was a prized and treasured family possession. Today, we routinely carry with us smart phones and other devices that put digital photography and videos at our fingertips.
At its best, technology is the wondrous tide that lifts all boats, but at its worst, it can create an ever-widening gulf between the mainstream population and those individuals dealing with disabilities. If a picture is, indeed, worth a thousand words, a video is certainly worth a million words. The following brief example will allow you to experience the opening of a movie just as a blind person does, but it won’t leave you in the dark as then you will see a second sample video that will provide the solution that is being experienced by millions of people around the world.
Nowhere is the need for this life-changing accessibility greater than in the classroom. Description is simply the process of making the visual world verbal. When done well, it is the key to unlocking the door to educational opportunities for countless blind and visually-impaired students across the country.
The U.S. Department of Education, through description grant projects, has linked the creators of the best educational videos available anywhere with production organizations that create description and made it possible for this dynamic partnership to impact visually-impaired students.
As the founder and president of a company dedicated for over a quarter of a century to creating accessible educational programming, I am obviously committed to description, but my true dedication stems from the fact that I’m a blind person myself. I’ve experienced the educational process as a fully-sighted person through my elementary years, as a visually-impaired/partially-sighted person during my middle and high school years, and as a totally-blind person through much of my college experience. It remains almost impossible for me to fully describe to sighted people the impact of description.
In a survey conducted in conjunction with the American Council of the Blind, it was revealed that fully 99% of the blind and visually impaired individuals supported description and wanted more of it. I realize it’s almost impossible to imagine 99% of any group agreeing on anything, but if you will consider what the response might be to a survey of fully-sighted people if they were asked whether they were in favor of having the availability of television, movies, and streamed video programming, you can begin to understand what description means to the visually-impaired population in the educational process and in the world beyond.
In a study conducted in cooperation with National Geographic Television involving visually-impaired students, their parents, and teachers, it was revealed that the comprehension for blind and visually-impaired students approximately doubled when the educational programming had description. In an educational landscape where dedicated professionals struggle to get a one or two percent improvement, these results are overwhelming.
The impact of description extends beyond accessibility for visually-impaired students and includes students with learning disabilities, those learning English as a second language, and the general school population. An elementary teacher, Gail Patterson, whose class participated in the National Geographic study, may have put it best when she said, “The students and I were very excited about viewing the documentaries with description. Truthfully, I think added description would be helpful to not only visually impaired students but to other students as well.” But as is often the case, if you want to know what’s best for students or most compelling to them, you need to simply ask the kids. Brian, a visually-impaired middle school student, said, “I think described movies are a miracle for kids who can’t see the television screen!”
Hanna, a visually-impaired high school student, said, “I am blind, so it is a real benefit to have description. I wish that audio description was as popular as captioning.” P. Killius, an accessibility advocate in New York, said, “My friend is writing for me. I am blind. I am employed teaching self-advocacy to the physically challenged. Never in my career have I been so pleased about anything as I am about Narrative Television Network. Your dialogue allows the unsighted to really understand every little nuance that until now could only be enjoyed by those with sight. A whole new world has been opened to us.”
As an author myself, I have felt the satisfaction of having six of the novels I have dictated produced as major motion pictures and enjoyed by millions of people around the world. This feeling of satisfaction pales in comparison to the experience of turning existing movies, television shows, educational programming, and other visual media into accessible described programming in which the narrated words we insert come to life in the theatre of the mind within blind and visually-impaired people.
Through grant funding from the U.S. Department of Education, we are not only able to give blind and visually-impaired students access to visual material, but it gives them access to a real education and, therefore, the whole world.
In honor of the 40th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), I would like to share with you my story of how Early Intervention helped my family and me.
My name is Kelly and I am the proud mom of 9.5 year-old twin girls. They are happy, healthy and growing!
It wasn’t always this way. They were born premature. Their birth weights were 3.02 pounds and 3.15 pounds. Megan did a 3 week neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) stay and Mackenzie 2.5 months. Upon discharge the nurse said, “We called Early Intervention (EI) to come and work with you and the girls.” I was in such a haze; I said, “Ok, great.”
A week later, after our appointment had been confirmed, four people showed up at my house – an occupational therapist, physical therapist, Developmental Specialist, and Director of my local center. They explained the program to me and answered all my questions. We had a long road to get the girls to where they should be. Each week my team would come and work with me, the girls, and my husband. They helped us read cues, strategize sleep problems, and showed us exercises we needed to help the girls grow. We had many, many appointments with the doctors that EI helped me with. We were with the program for a full three years. As I got more comfortable and more involved with each session, I was asked to participate in a parent program for parents. I attended the seminar by way of the Parent Leadership Project (PLP) in conjunction with Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH). It was life changing for me.
I met amazing people, heard profound stories and felt like I wasn’t by myself in this. After attending I wondered if every family getting EI or not could have a feeling like I had at the seminar – to feel included, empowered, and ready to do what needed to be done. With help from the PLP, I started speaking at public hearings, EI staff meetings and trainings, and other venues. I shared my story with the people that needed to hear it most. As time progressed, I was appointed to the Massachusetts Interagency Coordinating Council (ICC) as a representative for Boston. This was so meaningful for me. I could connect with EI providers, doctors, DPH staff members, and other parents and help other families in my community. Soon my time was over as an ICC rep, and from there I have attended and helped many other families with Individualized Education Programs (IEP), special education laws, placements and other issues surrounding special needs and education. I have become a better mom, advocate and community member as a direct result of my involvement with Early Intervention, PLP and DPH. I use the skills I learned from PLP to advocate for my daughter, now in 3rd grade. I also use the skills Early Intervention taught me when I meet with doctors and in my personal life and business life. I am forever grateful to the EI staff who believed in my family and me.
Now, my children attend a charter school in the City of Boston. My daughter, who is in an inclusion classroom, is doing amazing! She can self advocate for her needs and loves school. The school works with me, her doctors, and psychologists so we can all agree on her needs for the classroom. Her twin sister also attends the same charter school. She is doing amazing as well! She sings in the choir, plays baseball and has a lot of friends. She is known as the social butterfly. Looking at her and back at her early days, I can’t help but be proud and grateful that this preemie girl is thriving! At one time everything was a struggle for her, and now it comes with such ease. This is all because of Early Intervention.
2015 marks the 40th anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In the same year, the first center to help parents understand IDEA and how to advocate for their children with disabilities was born.
The first center received funding after Harvey Liebergott, then director of the Recruitment and Information Program, Bureau of Education for the Handicapped of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, met Martha Ziegler, director of the newly formed Federation for Children with Special Needs in Boston, Mass. Martha was a key parent leader who worked to pass the Massachusetts’ special education law, which in turn influenced the federal law. Martha had an idea for a walk-in parent information center.
In an April 4, 1975 letter to Martha providing funds for a pilot center, Harvey wrote, “Although we are not yet ready to commit ourselves to the funding on a long term basis, we would like to find a way to fund your proposal for the short term as a pilot for a period of six months to begin to implement a systemic method to do information and referral with follow-up…And in thinking of the long term, we do not anticipate funding projects for more than three years, establishing some basis for the centers to survive once federal support has ended. We estimate it will cost about ten million dollars to maintain comprehensive information and referral centers nationwide.” In an April 10, 1975 letter, Martha accepted the challenge of creating the pilot center, saying, “We expect to make some false starts…the essential point is to develop a working model.”
Harvey spoke at Martha’s memorial service in October 2014, saying, “She prodded and assisted everyone who could help. Martha saw the other organizations as allies, not competition. And she had lists of every relevant advocate and every constituency, with their needs and goals. Martha’s pitch was simple: all of the other groups included disproportionate numbers of children with special needs. She intended to support them and hoped that they would support her. They did. In Washington, Martha worked both sides of the aisle, and became a driving force in writing and passing and implementing virtually all of the important disability legislation of our time.”
Each May, The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) highlights Better Hearing & Speech Month (BHSM) to raise awareness about communication disorders. The 2015 theme is “Early Intervention Counts.” The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) supports states in providing early intervention services for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families (Part C) and special education and related services for preschool children with disabilities (Part B, Section 619). Results of a recent survey of ASHA’s membership revealed that 45% of expert respondents reported a lack of awareness as the number one barrier to early detection of communication disorders. Research has shown that early detection is critical to addressing communication disorders. Delayed intervention can result in delayed development, as well as poor academic or career performance.
The importance of human communication—talking, reading, listening and interacting—is paramount to children’s overall development, including their academic and social success. The importance of human interaction is all the more true in this age of technology, in which “smart” devices occupy an ever-increasing amount of time, attention and prominence in the lives of infants to teens. For more information and resources about early detection of communication disorders, visit ASHA’s Web site (www.asha.org) and its Identify the Signs campaign (identifythesigns.org), which includes some interesting articles below:
Download the 2015 Better Hearing & Speech Month poster:
The ASHA materials contained herein are not an endorsement by the U.S. Department of Education and herein do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the United States Department of Education.
Students who receive special education services, including those with cognitive and intellectual disabilities, are attending college in record numbers, an achievement that few people would have thought possible before the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1975. As we approach the 40th anniversary of IDEA, we can reflect not only on the impact that it has had on individual lives but the benefits to society that come from having a workforce of students who are college and career ready. IDEA provides supports to students who now attend elementary through high school with their siblings and same age peers with the expectation that they will continue to do so in post-secondary settings. Four-year colleges, community colleges, and career and technical education centers have risen to the challenge by providing supports and accommodations so that students can not only attend, but thrive in post-secondary settings. Learn what attending college means to these students and watch the four minute trailer, below, for Think College’s full 27-minute movie, Rethinking College.