GUEST BLOG POST:
BY JENNIFER JOLLIFF AND SARA SMITH, PROGRAM COORDINATORS AT MISSION MIDDLE COLLEGE
Recently, we caught up with Jennifer Jolliff and Sara Smith, Program Coordinators at Mission Middle College, CA, to talk about their college bridge program in the Santa Clara School District. This collaboration gives high school seniors who are not performing well academically a second chance at making successful transitions to college.
In this blog, Jennifer and Sara describe how students with learning disabilities feel about attending college and their approach to provide a new learning environment. They also offer some great recommended reading resources.
Believing Students with LD Will Succeed
By 11th grade, Caleb was withdrawn and almost voiceless. His self-esteem had hit rock bottom. Due to his low reading ability, he felt ridiculed, ashamed, and beyond academic assistance. Caleb’s anxiety level was in overdrive as he talked with us about taking college courses. This young man was sensitive and smart, but lacked the transcripts and reading confidence to succeed. Sadly, many battle-scarred students, like Caleb, skip the quest to college for fear of failure.
Students with learning disabilities often lack the reading comprehension skills to handle college courses. They may be labeled as having an IEP (Individual Education Plan) or a 504. They may not have been formally diagnosed with a reading disability, such as dyslexia or dysgraphia, but are keenly aware that others have low expectations. They may believe that no one really believes they can succeed. Our task is to reverse this belief and provide a learning environment that wipes away this stigma.
About Mission Middle College Transition Program
Like many transition programs, our approach is to build a bridge to increase students’ confidence and give them alternative ways to learn. First, we equip them with technology. We encourage good study habits and teach them about emotional intelligence. These students want and deserve mutual respect.
To improve reading comprehension, we provide access to quality educational resources like Bookshare for students who qualify. Caleb liked reading accessible books with text-to-speech. This multisensory environment (seeing and hearing the content) reinforced reading comprehension.
Next, we connect students with peer mentors and provide resources for them to explore about learning disabilities. At the end of this article, we list reading recommendations to help parents.
Lastly, we set uniformly high expectations. Our learning environment at Mission Middle College applies cognitive-based theory with technology and instructional strategies that focus on reading comprehension. This combination helps the learner take ownership for their academic progress.
When we first met Caleb, he was fearful and unprepared. He responded favorably to using technology and accessible books. His reading comprehension improved. His barriers broke down and he believed he could succeed. His hard work paid off! Today, he attends East Texas Access University for religious studies. This is the type of success we want for all learners.
Recommended Reading Resources From Jennifer and Sara:
- 7 Steps to Success: High School to College Transition Strategies for Students with Disabilities by Elizabeth Hamblet
- Preparing Students with Disabilities for College Success: A Practical Guide to Transition Planning Paperback by Stan Shaw Ed.D. (Editor), Joseph Madaus Ph.D., Lyman Dukes Ph.D.
- Special Education Students with Learning Disabilities Transitioning from High School into Community Colleges by Ta-Tanisha A. Essex
- Transition Planning for Secondary Students with Disabilities, Edition 4, by Robert W. Flexer, Robert M. Baer, Pamela Luft, Thomas J. Simmons
- Mosaics of Thought: The Power of Comprehension Strategy Instruction by Ellin Oliver Steen and Susanne Zimmerman
- Building Transitional Programs for Students with Disabilities: How to Navigate the Course of Their Lives by Mahanay-Castro Christy Ph.D.
- Learning Outside the Lines: Two Ivy League Students with Learning Disabilities and ADHD Give You the Tools for Academic Success and Educational Revolution by Jonathan Mooney, David Cole, Edward M. Hallowell
- Bookshare Online Library Student Resources Special Collection
- The National Collaborative of Workforce and Disability Website for Youth
- The National Center of Learning Disabilities
- AHEAD (Association of Higher Education and Disabilities)
- National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center
P.S. Read this blog about Michael Yudin’s visit to Mission Middle College. Mr. Yudin is the Acting Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.
Many thanks to Jennifer Jolliff, Sara Smith and Caleb Richardson, for sharing this information and update.
Bookshare serves many members who have a severe reading disability, like dyslexia, that makes it difficult to comprehend what they read in standard print. Persons with dyslexia cannot easily recognize words and letter sounds. They may be slow readers and poor spellers because signals to their brain mix up the ability to accurately decode print.
The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) reports that 1 in 10 people have symptoms of dyslexia, and half of all students who qualify for special education in U.S. schools are classified with a learning disability. Thankfully, there are many people who have benefited from digital accessible books paired with assistive technology.
Did you know that Bookshare is the world’s largest online accessible library of copyrighted content for people with print disabilities? Yes, and it is offered at no cost to qualified U.S. students and schools. As a member of Bookshare, you can tap into a world of more than 300,000 titles for education and pleasure reading and hear the ebooks read aloud using text-to-speech (TTS) technology. October is National Dyslexia Awareness Month, and we want to share with you two short stories from Bookshare moms about their sons’ efforts to succeed academically.
Bookshare Moms Share Sons’ Reading Success
Michelle Reeves says, “My son, Reagan was 8 years old when he was diagnosed with dyslexia. He struggled in school and didn’t like to read. His eyes would tire while reading print, and he fell behind in his schoolwork. As a Texas teacher, I found out about Bookshare through our school. Today, my happy 8th grader listens to accessible ebooks read aloud on portable technology devices. He downloads ebooks on his iPhone by himself and uses an iPad Mini to read with an app called Read2Go. He even reads for pleasure! Last year, he downloaded and read over 200 digital books and received an award for having accumulated the most Accelerated Reader points in his class. Bravo!”
A California mom and school counselor also shared her pride with us when her seventh grader passed his Accelerated Reading tests with a 100% for comprehension. “He’s doing well reading with accessible books. Using reading technology, he can see highlighted words and hear text read aloud. He can choose font size, background colors, and rate of speed. He’s even given up video games and sets his alarm to wake up early to read before school. Amazing!”
A big thanks to these parents for their inspirational stories and to all parents who continue to share resources and information likes the ones we list below.
Parent technical and information centers, such as Parents Helping Parents in California and the Simon Technology Center in Minnesota, offer opportunities to try different types of accessible technology tools and work directly with schools to find the right support for students.
Additionally, check out these fine organizations for resources, strategies, and support and stay tuned for our blog about the launch of the new Understood website designed for parents of children with learning and attention issues.
- 2Dual Inc
- Decoding Dyslexia—Parent Network
- Dyslexia Training Institute
- International Dyslexia Association
- Learning Disabilities Association of America
- National Center on Learning Disabilities
- Parents Helping Parents
- Project Eye to Eye
- Susan Barton System
- The Assistive Technology International Association
- The Center of Applied Technology
- The Family Center on Technology and Disabilities
- Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity
Accessible Books for Texas Program Funded for Fifth Year and Offers Enhanced Spanish Language Support
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has just approved funding for Benetech’s Accessible Books for Texas (ABT) program for a fifth year, from September 2014 through August 2015. Benetech is the parent nonprofit of Bookshare. This funding supplements an existing award from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), U.S. Department of Education, and allows Benetech to do even more via a state-level partnership with Texas.
Through ABT, local outreach coordinators deliver customized, face-to-face AEM (accessible educational materials) and Bookshare training to Texas educators, parents, and students. Additionally, Bookshare applies dedicated resources to Texas membership and support questions and book requests. As a result, the number of Texas public K-12 schools using Bookshare, and the number of Texas students getting accessible ebooks through Bookshare, are growing at twice the pace of the national average.
¿Lea en Español?
Texas parents, students, and educators who prefer to read in Spanish can now learn all about ABT from a new Spanish version of the ABT website. In addition, Bookshare brochures are now available in Spanish on the ABT website.
Prospective members who prefer to read in Spanish can also benefit from an Individual Membership Sign-Up Form in Spanish. This form provides a Spanish translation of the online sign-up form and should be used for reference only. For faster processing, prospective Individual Members should still sign up online.
Did you know that Bookshare offers nearly 5,000 books in Spanish? These include Spanish translations of popular books by bestselling authors such as J. K. Rowling, Rick Riordan, Isabel Allende, Gary Soto, John C. Maxwell, Joel Osteen, and T. D. Jakes! More Spanish titles are added each month, and members are encouraged to request books that aren’t yet in the collection.
Bookshare members can also listen to Spanish books in a high-quality audio voice. When downloaded in audio format (either DAISY Audio or MP3), all Spanish Bookshare books are provided in a high-quality text-to-speech (TTS) voice. This helps ensure a pleasant listening experience. Spanish books downloaded in DAISY Audio can be read in Read2Go, the Bookshare app for the iPad, iPod Touch, and iPhone. Check out instructions here.
Bookshare members can also read Spanish books using other TTS reading software. The DAISY Consortium Reader and several commercially available reading software programs offer Spanish TTS voices.
Feel free to pass on this information to Texas parents, students, and educators who serve students with print disabilities! Thank you.
Earlier this year, we featured a blog and video by Bookshare Student Member, Carson Maxson. He and his English teacher, Sallie Spencer, from Olivet Middle School, Michigan, created the video “How Read2Go Moved My Life” for the first White House Student Film Festival. They wanted to demonstrate how Carson’s reading ability changed once he was introduced to portable technology and accessible ebooks to accommodate his learning disability.
Carson’s story is not so unusual for kids with learning disabilities. They fall behind at an early age and cannot keep pace with other students. By fourth grade, Carson read at a first-grade level. His self-esteem was low and he hated to read. With each new assignment, he felt anxiety and failure.
But in sixth grade, Carson’s learning journey changed. Mrs. Spencer encouraged Carson to sign up for a Bookshare Individual Membership and test drive an iPad. She taught him how to find and download books, organize reading lists, and read accessible ebooks from the Bookshare library. This helped Carson to be more independent, allowing him to get the books he liked and to read whenever he felt the urge, which became more often.
“When Carson reads books with Read2Go, the Bookshare app for Apple devices, something magical happens. He comprehends what he reads!” said Mrs. Spencer. “I knew then that we had hit the jackpot in making headway in Carson’s learning journey. When I hear Carson talk with friends about the books he’s read, his voice swells with pride and so does my heart. In 20 years of teaching, I’ve never found an educational resource that has made such a profound difference for students who attend special education classes. It’s difficult for teachers to observe their students feeling failure and to hear their families’ desperate requests for the right support solutions.”
“The combination of the iPad with accessible books and Read2Go has made a tremendous impact. Carson now answers comprehension questions with ease and with details, and he describes his reading experience in positive ways.”
This year, Carson has read a record number of chapter books that he’ll tell you about with a big smile in his video! Now in eighth grade, his grades and reading skills have improved in all curricular areas,” says Mrs. Spencer, “and so has his self-esteem! That’s why we felt it was important to tell his story to President Obama in the White House Student Film Festival. It’s undeniable to me that with the right educational resources and technologies, more students can become successful readers. Carson has flourished in school and is passing with flying colors. He still struggles but is more confident and believes in himself. Downloading just one ebook could make all the difference for students with learning disabilities and change the course of their lives forever.”
For more cool stories, videos, events, and popular book titles, stay connected to Bookshare on all the social media channels.