Special Education with Care

Inspire Special Education Department Newsletter

Welcome to our May/June 2019 Newsletter!

Another successful school year is coming to an end! Reflecting on the past school year makes us realize how fortunate we are at Inspire Charter Schools. Our school has been successful due to the wonderful collaborative partnership between staff members, and families. We would like to thank all the parents for their involvement, dedication and continued support. Please be safe and well until we meet again in the fall. Have a wonderful summer!

In This Issue:

  • Hot off the Press: New InspireCares Website Resources; Professional Perspective;
  • Transition Services Corner: Graduation from High School with a Diploma and the IEP;
  • Did you know: Parents Helping Parents; Teaching Students with Visual Impairments: Tactile Graphic Instruction; Make Your Own Textured Puzzles;
  • Academic Support Resources: Strategies for Summer Reading for Children with Learning Needs; Tips for Math Retention on Summer Vacation;
  • Behavior Bits: Three Playful Ways to Work on Listening and Following Directions;
  • Sensory Corner: 5 Fun Ways To Teach Your Kids Mindfulness;
  • Caught on the Net: Free Academic Websites/Apps.


InspireCares Website Resources

We are continuously updating our InspireCares website's Resources section with new resources.

We have added a lot of new resources under all Resources categories on the website. Please visit our newly created training recording: Understanding the Special Education Process

Please explore and continue to provide your feedback via a feedback survey on the website!

Professional Perspective - A NEW SEGMENT!

Please meet Evamarie Celis, one of our Transition Special Education Teachers. We hope you enjoy her story and her professional perspective. Please tell us what you think!


Graduation from High School with a Diploma and the IEP

The end of the school year is quickly approaching. For parents of students with disabilities, the end of another school year often brings thoughts of the path to graduation. The question on many people's minds is ... what happens to special education services when the student graduates from high school with a diploma?

When a student with an IEP earns a high school diploma, he/she will be exited from special education services once he/she accepts the diploma.

Graduation is considered a change in placement under the law and the public school system is required to provide notice advising you of its intent to issue a diploma and exit your child from special education services.

The student's case manager will schedule an exit IEP meeting and update Present Levels of Performance and Complete a Summary of Performance. The Transition Teacher will work with the case manager to update the student's post-secondary career and college goals. The case manager will ensure the student’s “Age of Majority” information has been discussed with the student and documented on the student's Individual Transition Plan (page 2).

Age of Majority was presented in the April 2019 Transition Newsletter. Here is a refresher of the information:

At the age of majority, young adults are granted certain legal rights, such as the right to vote, marry, obtain a credit card, consent to medical treatments, make living arrangements,

and sign contracts. Each of the 50 states determines what rights transfer to individuals within that state. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) gives states the authority to transfer educational decision-making rights to students who receive special education services at the age of majority.

As a member of your child’s IEP team, you play an equally important role in the decision of whether or not your child is ready to graduate and should discuss your child’s readiness for graduation with the IEP team.


Parents Helping Parents

Parents Helping Parents organization supports, educates and inspires families and the community to build bright futures for youth and adults with special needs. Though the organization is based in San Jose, CA, they offer a wealth of resources on their website via their E-Learning Library. The PHP E-Learning Library includes videos, podcasts, and e-packets on a wide variety of topics to help families caring for a loved one with special needs. The Library covers topics like special education basics, IEP meeting preparation, behavior concerns, assistive technology, etc. The videos and podcasts are sorted into categories, to make it easier to find specific categories and topics.

Teaching Students with Visual Impairments: Tactile Graphic Instruction

The ability to read tactual graphics and charts is essential as part of a braille student’s literacy program.

For younger students and those with cognitive delays, it is essential to begin by providing concrete materials and opportunities for interaction with real materials in order to develop a conceptual understanding of their world. For future braille readers, it is important to provide early and frequent exposure to braille. Once the student has an understanding of the real material, it is important to then move toward models, 2D symbols and raised line drawings. These are referred to as tactual graphics.

It is important to understand that tactile presentations are not automatically meaningful to a student who is blind. The student will need to be taught how to read tactual graphics as the ability to read graphics, diagrams, graphs, and maps will be required for academic success. Understanding of basic concepts is critical to reading tactual graphics.

Activities to Develop Skills in Reading Tactual Graphics

​Encourage the student to recognize and interpret graphic information (2D object, solid embossed shapes, outlines of objects, raised lines, symbols/letters).

  • Name an Item. When presented with a tactile graphic of a unit related item, the student will name the item.
  • Match. Present the student with a group of tactile graphics to explore. Next, provide the student with a single tactile graphic and encourage them to scan the other graphics to locate a match.
  • Mazes. Create a tactile graphic maze. Prompt the student to start at the beginning and follow the paths to locate the end.
  • Sequence. Create rows of sequenced shapes in patterns. Encourage the student to identify what comes next in the sequence.
  • Tactile Coloring Page. Present the student with a tactile drawing and encourage the student to color within the tactile graphic.
  • Dot to Dot. Create a dot to dot activity with numbers or letters and encourage the student to connect the dots in order.
  • Follow the Path. Create a tactile follow the path activity. Challenge the student to follow each path and determine on which tactile graphic or word the student would arrive on. Have the student follow other paths to determine where they would arrive.
  • Spot the Difference. Present the student with two similar tactile graphics. Challenge the student to spot the differences between the two graphics.
  • Object Hunt. Create a tactual graphic that includes a variety of unit related objects throughout. Encourage the student to search to locate all the items.
  • ​Tactile Puzzles. Create a tactile picture of a theme related picture. Cut the picture into several pieces (vary the complexity to make it challenging yet allows for success). Encourage the student to assemble the puzzle.

Make Your Own Textured Puzzles!

Most wooden puzzles are not accessible to children who are blind or visually impaired. By adding some simple textures, you can make these puzzles a lot more fun and interesting.


Here are some examples of textures that can be used for textured puzzles:

  • small beads
  • 'puffy paint' designs
  • folded paper
  • tinfoil
  • string/yarn
  • fake fur
  • fabric
  • bubble wrap
  • plastic grocery bag
  • felt
  • buttons
  • pop tabs
  • foam stickers


  • Find a 'chunky' wooden puzzle;
  • Gather fun textures that aren't too 'thick' so that once glued onto the puzzle piece the puzzle will still lay flat.
  • Take two pieces of the same texture: hot glue one piece onto the bottom of one of the puzzle pieces. Then glue the matching piece of texture onto the board where the piece belongs. Choose a different texture for one of the other pieces and continue the same as before.


  • You could glue a texture on the top of the piece instead of the bottom or add texture to both the top and the bottom of the piece as well as the board.
  • Add braille labels to the puzzle piece and the empty space in the puzzle frame to work on matching words.


Strategies for Summer Reading for Children with Learning Needs

As a parent, you play a critical role in your child's education during the summer. Without your help, kids are more likely to forget what they learned last year.

Help them remember what they learned in school that way they can start next year caught up. Bring out their natural love of learning. And encourage them to read for pleasure without the pressure they experience during learning time.

Here are some summer strategies to help your child with learning needs to remember what they learned and see that reading can be useful and enjoyable:

  • Give them material that motivates them to read, even though they might find it hard to do. Try comic books, directions for interesting projects, and mystery stories. Have them read the information on possible activities as you plan your summer vacation. Let them decide what they want to read.
  • Give them easy reading. Summer is supposed to be relaxed. Let them succeed and get absorbed in the book.
  • Let younger children "pretend" to read. Read the story aloud together. Let them follow your voice. Have them look at the words as you point to them, even if they aren't actually reading. When they say the wrong word, say the word correctly and cheerfully while pointing to the word.
  • Read aloud to them as you do daily chores, sightsee, or sit on the beach. Read an instruction manual with them as you try to fix something. While visiting a museum, read the interpretive materials. If you see the slightest sign they want to read aloud to you, let them!
  • Have reading matter conveniently available. You might carry small children's books and magazines with you and have them ready when you must wait in line for those crowded amusement park rides and popular sightseeing destinations.
  • Read aloud together with your child every day!

Tips for Math Retention on Summer Vacation


Three Playful Ways to Work on Listening and Following Directions

Certain learning and attention issues can make it hard for kids to understand and follow directions. In those situations, kids aren’t really ignoring what they’re being told to do. Their challenges are keeping them from doing it. It can be challenging when your child isn’t following directions or paying attention. But sorting out the reasons behind your child’s behavior will help you understand more about how to help.

Besides picture schedules and other prompts, there are many FUN ways that you can work on your child’s listening skills. The following recommendations can be used with preschoolers through school age - just adjust the difficulty level to match your child’s ability level and then slowly increase the difficulty as they build their skills.

Simon Says

This game is all about having to listen and follow directions. Here are some recommendations on how to make this game fun and motivating for your child:

  • Rather than “Simon says” you could change the name to a more motivating character. Does your child love superheroes? Play “Spiderman Says!” Does your child love princesses? Play “Cinderella Says!” If it’s around the holidays, you can do “The Scarecrow Says,” “The Mummy Says,” “Turkey Says,” “The Snowman Says,” “Santa Says” etc. Be creative! You can even have the person who is “it” dress up as the character. This will not only give your child the opportunity to listen and follow directions but it will also give him the opportunity to give directions to others!
  • Only give directions your child can understand. Start simple. Jump. Turn around. Blink your eyes. Once he can follow simple one-step directives, start to make them a little harder with two items of information like jump two times or turn around three times. You can then add three-part directives like Jump three times then turn around. And so on. If your child is struggling, step back a bit.
  • When starting out you may want to give the directions and then show him what you want him to do. For example, tell him “Jump” and then physically jump. This will give him a visual. This is helpful as you start to increase the complexity of the directions.

Red Light, Green Light

Another classic childhood game. Here are some tips for using this game to work on your child’s listening skills:

  • Once your child gets the hang of the concepts of green-means-go and red-means-stop, add in another color “light” to the mix! For example, Purple Light means you jump like a bunny!
  • A tip to help him/her understand the directions at first: Make signs with the colors you will use in the game with pictures of the motor movements on them. So if you did purple-is-hop-like-a-bunny you can make a round purple “light” and put a picture of a bunny on it as a visual reminder. Then slowly take the signs away and have your child play JUST by listening.

Obstacle Courses

Children usually LOVE them and they combine gross motor learning with language learning (providing a multi-sensory learning experience). Here are a few recommendations on using them to target listening skills:

  • Again, start SIMPLE. Set up maybe only a 3-5 part course at first and then increase it as your child’s skills develop.
  • To target listening, you can two things. First, you can give him directions on exactly how to go through the obstacle course. This works best if at least a couple of different steps can be manipulated differently. For example, one step could be a small table. But does he go under, over, or around the table? He will have to listen to find out! You could set up a station with blocks and tell him he needs to build a 5 block tower. Maybe a step with a hula hoop that he could either jump in or actually try to hula.

Try these educational games with your students and let us know what you think!


5 Fun Ways To Teach Your Kids Mindfulness

Scientific studies have found that daily mindfulness practice turns off the stress response in the body, and structurally changes the brain to be more stress resilient. With daily practice, the body becomes conditioned to relax, so just engaging in mindfulness practice for a few minutes can be effective in the moments when it’s needed. The mindfulness practice of meditation is one in which you focus on breathing, sounds in the environment, or some other aspect of sensory experience and let go of the thoughts that come along.

What’s important is to find a form of mindfulness that works for your child. Research shows that any form of mindfulness meditation works equally well. This includes techniques such as repeating a mantra (word or phrase), muscle relaxation, yoga, visualizing something positive, and listening to music. It also includes activities such as running, swimming, knitting and walking.

Once you’ve found a form of meditation that works for your child, help her practice it regularly. Start out with a short amount of time and build up to about 10 minutes, if that’s possible. It is recommended to practice at a regular time of day (e.g., bedtime) so that it becomes routine. It’s OK to provide an incentive for practicing. It’s important to send the message that this is a life tool for everybody, and not just for children with special needs. What works for your child will actually work for you and your whole family, and will set an important example. And you get the added benefit of having a calmer family!

Children need to be self-aware at the first feelings of anxiety and know that’s a cue to practice a minute of their meditation technique to calm down. However, this is a pause, not a magic cure. Once calm, your child must have a productive path forward. It’s important that the strategy to use for handling the situation after calming down is something known, that works, and that your child can do independently. It may help to have it written down. It’s also important to understand that your child may not recognize that a strategy used in one situation can be used in another. Often that has to be explained.

Here are a few ideas to try with your children. Feel free to try the ones that speak to you!

The Bell Listening Exercise

Ring a bell and ask your child to listen closely to the vibration of the ringing sound. Tell him/her to remain silent and raise their hands when they no longer hear the sound of the bell. Then ask them to remain silent for one minute and pay close attention to the other sounds they hear once the ringing has stopped. After, ask your child to tell you every sound they noticed during that minute. This exercise is not only fun and gets the kids excited about sharing their experiences with others, but really helps them connect to the present moment and the sensitivity of their perceptions.

Breathing Buddies

Give a stuffed animal to your child (or another small object). Have your child lie down on the floor and place the stuffed animals on his/her belly. Tell them to breathe in silence for one minute and notice how their Breathing Buddy moves up and down, and any other sensations that they notice. Tell them to imagine that the thoughts that come into their minds turn into bubbles and float away. The presence of the Breathing Buddy makes the meditation a little friendlier and allows the kids to see how a playful activity doesn't necessarily have to be rowdy.

The Squish & Relax Meditation

While your child lying down with his/her eyes closed, have them squish and squeeze every muscle in their bodies as tightly as they can. Tell them to squish their toes and feet, tighten the muscles in their legs all the way up to their hips, suck in their bellies, squeeze their hands into fists and raise their shoulders up to their heads. Have them hold themselves in their squished up positions for a few seconds, and then fully release and relax. This is a great, fun activity for "loosening up" the body and mind, and is a totally accessible way to get the kids to understand the art of "being present."

Smell & Tell

Pass something fragrant to your child, such as a piece of fresh orange peel, a sprig of lavender or a jasmine flower. Ask him/her to close their eyes and breathe in the scent, focusing all of their attention only on the smell of that object. Ask them to describe the smell.

The Art Of Touch

Give your child an object to touch, such as a ball, a feather, a soft toy, a stone, etc. Ask them to close their eyes and describe what the object feels like to you or a partner. Then have the partners trade places. Both this exercise and the previous one are simple but compelling, ways to teach the kids the practice of isolating their senses from one another, and tuning into distinct experiences. Plus both are great for language development!

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Helpful Websites and APPs

With so many educational resources available online it is at times challenging to decide which ones to try. In each Newsletter issue, we will highlight several free educational websites or apps that support the core academic subjects as well as behavior and come from reputable organizations. We hope you will find them helpful!

Questions? Suggestions? Feedback?

If you have questions or feedback on how we can help to support you, please let us know!