BCSD Special Education Update

Collaborate, Communicate and Connect

November 2019

From Deborah Dormady, Director of Special Education

Dear Parents and Guardians,

As the Thanksgiving holiday quickly approaches, I want to give thanks to each of you for your continued collaboration and partnership. Each day, we work to promote an inclusive learning environment that inspires and challenges all of our students. Our work to support and ensure your child’s continued growth and success greatly benefits and thrives from your partnership.

This year we will be conducting a review of the K-12 Co-Teach continuum and our philosophy and approach to Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). In addition, we continue to provide on-going professional development in the area of Assistive Technology and Universal Design for Learning (UDL); as well as on Wilson Reading, which supports our continued work around Dyslexia.

Throughout the year, we are hosting parent coffees for you to come and talk with our administrative team in an informal environment. Please note the dates listed below and watch your email for reminders. We believe open communication and strong trusting relationships foster our continued partnership.

Below you will find highlights about our ongoing work for this year.

Best Wishes and Happy Thanksgiving.


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Please save the date for three upcoming parent evenings. The goal of these informational nights is to connect with parents, as well as to provide information relevant to your child's education. We look forward to connecting!

Transitions Throughout K-12 and Beyond - February 5, 2020

Come learn about transitions throughout your child's school life and beyond. More details to follow as date nears.

Social-Emotional Learning and Wellness - March 25, 2020

Find out what social-emotional learning and wellness is all about, and how it affects your child. More details to follow as date nears.

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AT & UDL in the BCSD Curriculum Cycle

Accessible Educational Materials (AEM)

  • Defined under IDEA, AEM are materials and technologies that are usable for learning across the widest range of individual variability, regardless of format or features

  • AEM includes purchased materials that include accessibility options, or materials that are made accessible after purchase

  • Through AT accommodations, UDL planning, and keeping accessibility in mind when obtaining a new curriculum, AEM is in reach.

Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM)

  • Defined under IDEA, and includes print sourced textbooks, core related instructional materials and accessible materials that are produced from those sources.

What do AT and UDL look like in the BCSD Curriculum Cycle?

  • Ensuring that BCSD has high-quality accessible curriculum materials and technologies begins with the system in which we procure these items.

  • The AEM Center’s Quality Indicators describe the essential elements of such a system, including compliance, guidelines, professional development, data procedures, and resources.

  • Short term goal: This system will be used to review current buying practices, as well as current curriculum and educational technologies.
  • Long term goal: Incorporate this evaluation system into all potential curriculum and educational technology purchases, as well as user-created accessible materials
  • Rather than a separate and apart category, using the Quality Indicators to review our practices allows AT and UDL to be embedded in every area of the curriculum cycle

  • This work will lay the foundation for accessible materials and technologies at BCSD, and allow for a standard to be set to increase access to ALL of our learners.

AAC Staff Training

At the start of the year, Jamie Marro, Speech and Language at Bedford Village Elementary school facilitated two training sessions for the students accessing the SAIL 1 & 2 classrooms with Claire McDonell and Donna Grella-Smith. The training included teachers, support staff and related service providers. The training provided each team with the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of Assistive Technology, specifically Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC) with a particular focus on understanding the essential components of AAC, how students access learning as well as examining best practices around implementation for individual students.
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Transition Update

Our new Transition Specialist, Carin Horowitz, is now settled in at BCSD and is working to develop Transition services for students throughout the District. She has begun to offer workshops including an introduction to transition and post-secondary pathways. She is also now meeting with families and students individually to begin to plan for their post-secondary experiences, whether that includes college, employment, vocational training or more supportive adult services.

Additionally, Carin is working to link students to services they can access now through agencies such as ACCES-VR, which provides work readiness and employment-related services and OPWDD (Office for People with Developmental Disabilities) which provides a full range of supports and services. Connecting to these agencies early will ease the transition when it comes time to leave BCSD.

A dedicated Transition page is also being developed on the Special Education page of our BCSD website that will offer a variety of resources to families and students as they think about what supports they may want to access now and as they transition out of our schools.

Graduation Options

An important part of preparing for the transition to life after high school is understanding the pathways to graduation for students. Each Pathway requires successful completion of appropriate coursework and NYS assessments. Students can also participate in work-based learning experiences to develop the skills needed for future job opportunities. Please see the information below to understand all the requirements and multiple pathways to graduation.
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Summer Wilson

This August, the Curriculum and Instruction office and Special Education department collaborated to fund a valuable onsite professional development opportunity. Wilson Reading System trainer Larry Hoffman joined BCSD teachers for a three day Wilson Reading System Introductory Course. Wilson Reading System is a structured literacy program based on phonological-coding research and Orton-Gillingham principles. Teachers from varying backgrounds and levels; elementary, secondary, general education, tiered support, and special education, attended this training. This professional development opportunity was a refresher for trained staff and new learning for others.

Assistive Technology Summit

Members of the BCSD Special Education team took the opportunity to enhance their knowledge of assistive technology at the ‘AT Summit’ given at Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES. The group learned about a wide range of technology options that help individuals increase, improve, and maintain learning and functional capabilities. One of the breakout sessions was taught by our very own Magdalini Villani, Speech & Language at FLHS. Workshops focused on the following areas:

  • Access Abilities: Designing for All Learners with Apple

  • Beyond ADL: Enrichment and Creativity Through Tech

  • Helping High School Students Who Have Learning Disabilities with their Transition into College

  • Facilitating Use of AAC: Where to Begin?

  • Be Empowered by Technology with Microsoft Accessibility Tools

  • Jamboxx: The Adaptive, Breath-powered Instrument for Everyone

  • Apps, Extensions, and Accessibility for Middle and High School Students

  • Assessing, Accommodating, and Supporting Struggling Readers

  • Inclusion with Kurzweil; Using Your SMART Panel/Notebook Software to Support Learning for All

  • Finding the Right Reading & Writing.

The day provided the opportunity for faculty to engage in deeper learning around technology-based tools that support students’ functional and literacy-based skills transitioning to work-based educational settings, and adult based settings. The Jamboxx presentation highlighted opportunities to learn about an instrument that can be used by any of our students, including our students who do not have use of their upper bodies for holding an instrument.

Our Collective Work: Fostering a Collaborative Approach

ESOL/Bilingual, Tiered Support, and Learning Specialist Department Meeting

On October 28th, Toni Ann Carey, Danielle Levin, Adrienne Viscardi, and Amy Unger co-facilitated an important first-time PD meeting for all elementary Learning Specialists, ESOL, Bilingual and Tiered Support teachers. This was a significant coming together of departments, for shared visioning and learning. The focus was on explicit instruction and strategic intervention for all of our students, bringing together the expertise of the specific training each has received in his/her current role. Bringing faculty together from all of these departments to develop a shared commitment to meeting the needs of all of our students is finally addressing an area for which we have long struggled. We have strong programs, but still, often find ourselves working in silos. Providing a session that was co-facilitated by leaders of each of the departments has the potential to be a true game-changer.

AAC in Early Childhood Classrooms

In early November, other staff members attended the ‘AAC in Early Childhood Classrooms’ course at WIHD. Participants learned to define AAC and all aspects as it applies to a child’s IEP. They learned different types of AAC, including no tech, low tech, and high-tech communication systems, and practical implementation ideas for the classroom.

One staff member indicated that this was a validating workshop - we are incorporating AAC to help support our students communicate throughout the school environment and access curriculum within the classroom.

Takeaway: Collaboration with students' families, classroom teachers, support staff, and related service providers is vital to students' AAC success!