Spotlight Teacher of the Month: Melissa Farrell

Melissa Farrell Stamford Public SchoolsMelissa Farrell, a Special Education Teacher from Stamford, Connecticut, has been using Rethink for the past 3 years.  At the time, Melissa’s class was the first classroom within Stamford Public Schools to pilot the implementation of Rethink.

Since the Rethink implementation Mellissa has had all of the paraprofessionals within her classroom successfully complete the training center modules.  Currently, Melissa has program binders for each of her students.  Within each binder are the printed out lesson plans and data sheets.  One area of Rethink that has helped Melissa the most is the progress reporting section.  This has been the most useful during report card and IEP time as she is able to run reports to print out or show in a PowerPoint.

Rethink has really helped Melissa to better organize, monitor and track all of her students’ data. Melissa acknowledges that the assessments and lesson libraries have further supported her with ability to develop appropriate IEP goals for her students.

“In the beginning it may seem like it will take a lot of time to use, but as you become more familiar you save a lot of time and makes you much more organized in the long run!”

Rethink has helped develop IEP goals for Stamford Public School studentsPrior to using Rethink, Melissa found it challenging to keep track of all the paperwork and data for each student. Rethink has decreased the amount of paperwork she accumulates and has made it easier for her to track her student’s progress more efficiently.  Melissa feels as though Rethink has helped her to be a more effective teacher.

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Spotlight Teacher of the Month: Kawana McCloud

Rethink teacher spotlight: Kawana McCloud, Behavior Specialist from Arkansas River Co-OPPosition: Behavior Specialist
Co-OP: Arkansas River Co-OP, Arkansas

Kawana McCloud, a Behavior Specialist from Arkansas, has been a passionate Rethink advocate since it was implemented across her district last year. At the time, Kawana was tasked with developing a systematic behavioral program, a common but challenging goal that many districts and CO-Ops face.

When Kawana is in the classroom she lives by the saying, “each moment in education is valuable, especially special education.” As the only Early Childhood Behavior Specialist in her program, Kawawa was looking for resources that would allow her to leverage her time and efforts most effectively, while providing the flexibility to manage her program from any location.

The systematic behavior program that Kawana created was enriched when Rethink was used to help:

  • Create behavior plans
  • Track and measure progress
  • Develop goals and objectives
  • Collect data
  • Develop student profiles
  • Assess students progress
  • Monitor teacher and student progress
  • Analyze effectiveness of program implementation and interventions

“Rethink has provided flexibility and allows me to manage my program from any location. The ease of use allows for better use of my time and aids in the productivity.”

ARESC’s Early Childhood division is now in the process of having Itinerant teachers incorporate Rethink into their Individualized Education Program (IEP) process and paraprofessionals are in training, so goals can be personalized based on student data. Beyond the day-to-day collection of data and use of curriculum resources, Rethink’s one-on-one training, online webinars and ongoing support have helped show the teachers and parents that Kawana is tracking and measuring the student’s progress towards their goals.

“Rethink is no longer a resource to my behavior program; it is an essential element that contributes to its productivity. Whether you work in general education or special education, Rethink is a program that will maximize the success of any educational organization/establishment.”

Rethink teacher spotlight: Arkansas River Co-OPKawana experienced many of the same challenges and opportunities that other educators face daily. “Educators and change agents are constantly seeking ways to spend less time with paperwork and tracking devices… and more time actually working with students. Rethink is a well-organized solution that aides in addressing challenges associated with the process of providing quality service to ALL children.”

Keep up the great work, Kawana! Congratulations on being this month’s Spotlight Teacher!

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Spotlight Teacher of the Month: Tracy Shellooe

Rethink teacher spotlight: Denver Public Schools

Rethink teacher spotlight: Denver Public SchoolsPosition: Special Education Teacher
District: Denver Public Schools, Colorado

Walking into Tracy Shellooe’s classroom, one thing is clear, this is a space that values students, above all. A veteran Rethink user, Tracy and her team of paraprofessionals have integrated Rethink into almost every facet of their daily activities to support students. During the 2015-2016 school year, the team has seen academic growth in their students that Tracy attributes to her team better addressing behavior and supporting student needs based on frequent progress monitoring and the use of individualized reinforcement strategies.

In Denver Public Schools, one of the core values, district-wide, is students first. To find the above mentioned successes, Tracy started with training herself and staff using the Rethink Training Center modules. This laid the groundwork for fostering responsibility and accountability toward the daily work they do with students.

Paraprofessionals own data collection procedures and have collaborated extensively with Tracy to ensure quality data is collected not only within the classroom but in inclusive settings. There are even weekly data meetings that allow the team to discuss student progress and make instructional shifts to best address current student needs.

Rethink curriculum in classrooms

Tracey’s token board has helped encourage students to make independent decisions.

Tracy also uses Rethink’s printable resources to allow students to pick their own token board. They have a community space that shows what each student is working for during instructional time and have fostered independent decision making by allowing students to choose what they are working for. This visual space has proved very reinforcing and fosters learning not only on the individual level but also for the class, as a whole. Tracy’s students have improved time on task, are excited to learn and participate because of the reinforcement they’ve individually chosen.

icon-teacherspotlightFinally, as a veteran Rethink user, Tracy shares advice with anyone using Rethink in their classroom. “Take it one step at a time and allow yourself to make mistakes, you will find new ways to incorporate Rethink into your classroom every day. This is an invaluable asset in our classroom.” Tracy and her team’s belief that students feel safe in their learning environment has truly proven itself through the amazing work they have done with students and the progress they have made! Great job team!

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Top 5 Questions to Ask For Data-Based Decision Making in the Classroom

Learn teaching decisions for SPED data collection to determine student progressStudents served by special education have many different types of learning differences that one must take into account to determine the best teaching strategy.  Part of a teacher’s job is to determine the right teaching strategy to ensure that the student makes progress towards their educational goals.  It is the responsibility of the teacher team to also make quick decision when it comes to changing ineffective strategies. This is where data-based decision making comes into play.

A teacher has the responsibility both to the student and the student’s family to assist each and every student to reach their full potential and be a contributing member of their community.  Time is of the essence!  If the data does not show that the student is progressing in the desired manner, the teaching team must ask several different questions:

1.) Was the data sensitive enough to measure change?

One thing to consider is if the data that was used is accurate in measuring what you want it to measure.  Part of that accuracy is making sure that it is sensitive to the change that you were hoping to see with a student’s progress.

2.) Were the teaching strategies employed correctly?

This is a time to look back on the teaching trials and to determine if the strategies were followed based on the evidenced-based strategy that you have chosen to use.  It might be time to look into these strategies and take a closer look at how they were written into the lesson plan.

3.) Is everyone on the teaching team employing the same teaching strategies?

Not only does a teacher need to look at the teaching strategy used, but if all the team members teaching the student adhered to the lesson plan.  A teacher can use exploratory questioning and spend some time observing all the staff teach the specific skill before answering this question.

4.) Is the student motivated to learn? What other motivators can be used to motivate the student?

A large component of any student learning a new skill is to look at the motivating operations for the student.  Is the student motivated by the reinforcers used by the staff or the naturally occurring reinforcers in the environment potent enough for the student to be motivated by them.  Teachers may need to take some time to complete experiments around the reinforcers to find the reinforcer that will motivate the student to learn.

5.) Is there a prerequisite skill(s) that need to be taught prior to this skill?

Often times there are prerequisite skills that a teacher might need to target prior to working on the current skill.  A teacher may put the current skill on hold and work on building these prerequisite skill before they go back to targeting the skill.  This might also include breaking the skill down into smaller components or steps to target the skill more systematically.

These are just a couple of the questions a teacher might ask in looking at their data to determine if the current teaching strategies are effective in making change.

Summer School Decision Making

As the school year is winding to a close, teaching teams are often asking if the student needs to attend summer school to retain the skills that they previously gained in the school year.   Data is necessary to measure a student’s ability to retain skills over school breaks.  Previous data over other schools breaks provides the information to help determine if a student should attend summer school to retain previously retained skills.  Phase change lines are used in the following graphs to mark this change in the student’s programming and to assist the educational team to determine the need for extended school year services.
Rethink data collection graph

Data is the powerful tool that allows educators to make the decisions needed to inform the teaching process. It is time to dive into the data and see what it is telling us.

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Spotlight Teacher of the Month: Kevin Jackson

Spotlight Teacher Kevin JacksonPosition: Special Education Teacher
District: Beaumont ISD, Texas

Kevin Jackson is brand new to Rethink, but already, after only a semester of use, he has seen first hand the tremendous impact using Rethink can have on students as well as the impact it has had on his own teaching practice. Kevin works as a special education teacher in a classroom designed to support students with behavioral challenges. Since he began using Rethink to target specific behaviors for his students, he has seen students take more accountability for their actions, engage in more positive behaviors, and seen an overall reduction in problem behavior.

Kevin regularly utilizes two aspects of Rethink: Behavior Support and the Student Activity Center. Kevin will identify specific challenging behaviors that he wants to target for each student, and use Rethink to set up the behavior, develop an intervention plan, and track the behavior. Additionally, Kevin will identify each students’ skill deficits, and use the Rethink Activity Center to teach students the skills they need to acquire, giving them 20 minutes of online time a day to complete activities and practice skills.

One of Kevin Jackson’s students completes an activity on Rethink’s Student Activity Center

 “A lot of times seeing is believing. If they see their behavior data and they know their parents are going to see it, they are more motivated and take more responsibility. And when they see that they are doing well, they brag on themselves.”



By using these two features side by side, Kevin is able to reduce challenging behaviors and support students in building the skills they need for success. Using Rethink in this way has helped Kevin establish clear routines and practices in the classroom, making everything run more smoothly. As they have gotten into the groove of using Rethink every day, Kevin says his students have begun feeling excited about the 20 minutes they get to spend on Rethink every day.

In addition to supporting his students in reducing challenging behavior, Kevin has found that Rethink has shaped his own teaching practice. He particularly likes how Rethink’s Behavior support has encouraged him to isolate one behavior at a time rather than tackle everything at once. “Before I started using Rethink, I was trying to track everything at once and it was overwhelming,” explained Kevin, “Rethink encourages me to target specific behaviors and figure out what really works for that behavior, and then move onto the next.”

1041Rethink has also helped Kevin run more consistent data, which he says has lead to more accountability amongst his students. Not only do students feel more accountable when Kevin can go in and see whether they were actually working, but regularly showing students their own behavior data has helped them take more responsibility for their actions. “They feel more responsible for their own behavior,” said Kevin. “A lot of times seeing is believing. If they see their behavior data and they know their parents are going to see it, they are more motivated and take more responsibility. And when they see that they are doing well, they brag on themselves.”

Keep up the incredible work, Kevin! Congratulation on being this month’s Spotlight Teacher!

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Webinar Recap: Promoting Social Emotional Wellness Among Transition Age Youth with ASD


Addressing the Challenges Facing Transition Age Youth with ASD

Rethink recently had the amazing opportunity to host a webinar on the topic of social emotional wellness for transition age youth with ASD.  We were privileged to be joined by three talented professionals, each with their own unique perspectives to share on the topic.  Anne Roux is a researcher at the Drexel Institute and has published extensively on the topic.  Kimberly Smalley is an autism clinical specialist and behavior analyst with many years of experience providing behavioral services to individuals with autism of all ages.  Finally, we were lucky to be joined by Maurice Snell, a development coordinator at Easter Seals, and an adult with ASD who was able to share with us his own experience of growing up and transitioning to adulthood with autism.

What is the Services Cliff?

Over the last year the phrase “services cliff” has become a staple of the standard lexicon used in autism circles.  The term refers to the drop off of services that occurs for young adults with autism as they transition out of high school and into adulthood, often a time when, as new research suggests, services might be most valuable. Because there is no federal mandate to provide supportive services in adulthood, families are often left struggling to find adequate support for their children on their own, with seventy percent reporting that “some” or “great” effort was needed to access services after high school.

How Does Social Emotional Wellness Fit In?

Further compounding the problem is that 60-70% of these young adults with ASD also have a co-occurring health or mental health condition, with 3/4 of youth taking at least 1 medication on a regular basis for a co-occurring condition.  We also know that young adults with ASD are significantly more likely to suffer from depression than their peers. What we do not yet know is exactly how mental health conditions impact individuals with autism.  

Whether or not a young adult suffers from a mental health condition, one of the key features of an autism diagnosis is difficulty relating to other people, and without the community school provides, this can then tend to leave young adults with autism feeling isolated and alone upon graduating. A Drexel Institute study found that 1 in 4 young adults with autism had not seen or spoken with friends in the past year.

The goal of the webinar was to better understand the research, what some of the systemic problems are, and to discover different ways that they can be addressed.

Challenges and Solutions

During the webinar Roux reviewed the current research she has done with the Drexel Institute, laying out some of the issues, including the lack of coordinate services, lack of planning and preparation when students are still in school, and a knowledge gap in the research on the relationship between autism and mental health conditions.   

Kimberly Smalley who works in California discussed some of the things she has seen be successful in her own practice.  For instance, California operates a regional system, which in some cases pulls together multidisciplinary teams through telehealth, allowing disability and health service providers to talk to one another and to parents.

Smalley also emphasized the importance of teaching students the social skills they will need to build relationships and live meaningful adult lives. For instance, she worked with a group of boys to specifically teach them self-advocacy and self-determination.  She would break the components of self-determination into small task analyses in the same way she would any other skill, and then use rapid fluency to help them learn things like things you can say on a date or in a job interview.  For Smalley, it is always important to keep the long view in mind.  “We continue to fight the myth that autism goes away in adulthood,” she explained, “we need to empower youth with ASD to be responsible for what they can do to make themselves comfortable in the world.”

Both Roux and Smalley agreed that better supports can be put in place before young adults transition that set them up for success.  Leaving school with a job or community is still the best predictor of success in life beyond school.  Schools, parents, and communities can all help by ensuring that young adults with autism have employment opportunities while still in school and communities can make a point to have places students can transition to after school through jobs programs and volunteer programs.

Snell agreed, sharing his own personal account of how important his church community was in making him feel like he had a social community while in school that extended into adulthood.  He also commended his supportive family that went to great lengths to ensure he was in a supportive school community where he was encouraged to get involved in extracurricular activities, like marching band and ROTC, and always provided him with a social life outside of school. His sister is one of his best friends.

View The Webinar On Demand!

Watch the webinar on demand to learn more from our guests about the current research, practical strategies for teaching social emotional wellness, and real life accounts of what works and what does not, we encourage you to check out the slides and watch the entire webinar!

View Webinar

Transition Success Story

Check out how Yonkers Public Schools began using Rethink’s Transition Curriculum to teach the students Transition skills and used Rethink’s task analysis sheets to collect data on the tasks the students perform.

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Special Education and Its Discontents

special education discontents

Better training, support, and resources are key to retaining special education staff in 2016

In the world of special education, now, it seems, is the winter of our discontent. With 49 out of 50 states reporting special education teacher shortages and story after story in the media highlighting the problems plaguing special education, it’s frightening to think about the impact teachers leaving the profession may have on the quality of special education services for students with disabilities. Now more than ever it is crucial that policy makers and school district leaders develop creative ways to retain and recruit quality special educators.

In a recent NPR article, David Pennington, superintendent of Ponca City public schools in Oklahoma, called the situation a crisis, expressing deep concern over his ability to replace special education teachers leaving the profession: “Forget about replacing them with someone of the same quality,” he told NPR. “I’m just worried about replacing them. Period.”

More Paperwork Means Less Time for Teaching

Some of the issues special educators report facing include feeling overwhelmed by paperwork and documentation, fear of lawsuits, feeling isolated from colleagues, and struggling to meet the demands of students with the most intensive needs due to lack of training, time and support.

With all the paperwork and other demands of being a special educator, teachers complain of having little time left for actually teaching students. A 2011 study conducted by Donald Deshler at the University of Kansas, found that special ed teachers spend just 27 percent of their day engaged in classroom instruction, and only 21 percent engaged in specialized instruction in which they are using evidence-based teaching methods focused on individual students’ needs.

As Pennington told NPR, “It is not uncommon for a special ed teacher to tell me, ‘I did not get a degree in special ed to do paperwork. I got a degree to help kids.’ ” In most cases, it is not that teachers don’t want to spend more time teaching, it is that they simply do not have the time.  

Lack of Training Amongst Support Staff

Another problem facing special educators is a lack of training. A lack of training can make teachers feel inadequate and less effective in the classroom, and can also lead to inefficiencies, which make their already difficult jobs seem impossible.

Lack of training is of particular concern when it comes to one-to-one paraprofessionals, and is an issue that has only recently gained visibility thanks to media coverage over the last few months. As the fastest growing group of special education staffers, one-to-one paraprofessionals are also the most inefficient, says recent research. Without all the other pressures facing teachers, research found that the one-to-one paraprofessionals observed spent only 57 percent of their time in the classroom engaged in instruction, and when not engaged, about a third “spent their time sitting without students or material involvement.”  

Researchers suggested that one of the key issues at play was a lack of training. Paraprofessionals lack training in evidence-based practices for working effectively with students with disabilities and supervisory staff lack training in how to engage and train their paraprofessionals. In both cases, the burden falls on the teacher.  If paraprofessionals are not adequately trained and engaged in instruction and other activities, teachers are often left compensating.

So What Now?

In Politico’s education predictions for 2016, Brian Sharp, Rethink’s executive vice president for education, emphasized the importance of quality training and support for special educators in 2016: “We’ve known for some time that teachers and paraprofessionals don’t feel they are getting the training they need, but there have been a flurry of news stories in recent months on the challenges these educators face and if schools don’t do something, they may see a sizable exodus in 2016.”

Providing teachers and paraprofessional staff more training in effective evidence-based practices for working with children with disabilities will help alleviate some of the pressure on teachers by empowering paraprofessionals to be more effective in the classroom and share some of the workload. Additionally, providing teachers with more just-in-time training and professional development can help free up time for instruction and support teachers in staying engaged in evidence-based instruction 100% of the time.

The good news is, progress is being made. A recent Education Week story highlighted some of the work non-profits and technology companies like Rethink are doing to provide better training to paraprofessional staff and more on-demand special education resources, while an AP story published in October revealed how New York City Public Schools, the largest school district in the country, is partnering with Rethink to provide paraprofessionals access to evidence-based training and support for effectively working with students with special needs.

Ensuring that teachers have access to better resources and supports that save them time and support them in being effective with students, and that all staffers working with students with disabilities have access to high-quality training in evidence-based practices is the first step in retaining and recruiting the top-notch professionals we need to provide students with disabilities the education they deserve.


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Spotlight Teacher of the Month: Robyn Merkel-Walsh, MA, CCC-SLP

mybioPosition: Speech and Language Specialist
District: Ridgefield, New Jersey

One of the key things that Rethink prides itself in is its flexibility and value across the special education profession. While we primarily think of Rethink as a resource for teachers, its value to paraprofessionals as a training and professional development resource but also to special service providers, like speech and language pathologists, cannot be understated.

That is why this month we chose to spotlight a speech and language specialist working in New Jersey who views Rethink as an invaluable tool for teaching and data collection, but also for collaboration with her students’ classroom teachers.  We wanted to get Robyn Walsh’s unique perspective on the value of Rethink in speech therapy.

Q&A with Spotlight Teacher Robyn Walsh, Speech and Language Specialist

Rethink: Can you describe how you have incorporated Rethink into your therapy routines and teaching practice?

Robyn Walsh (RW): As an oral-motor, Oral Placement Therapy (OPT), and feeding specialist, Rethink has helped me track data on pre-feeding, feeding, OPT and speech clarity programs. I customized all my goals and objectives into Rethink, with coordinating lesson plans. Now when students transfer to our upper extension program, the therapists know exactly what the student is working on. The Rethink program has also helped collect data for case study research, as well as authoring articles on OPT and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Data was used for presentations at this year’s American Speech and Hearing Association annual convention in Denver Colorado. One poster was presented on the comparison of NSOME and OPT, and the other was a verbal lecture on the correlation between jaw movements and speech.

Secondly, the Rethink program was utilized to create a district wide screening tool for all students receiving speech and language as a related service. This screening tool included: receptive and expressive actions, curriculum based vocabulary, object ID, labeling common objects, categories, oral motor imitation, articulation, object functions, same and different and object associations. This screening measure established a baseline tool to create not only speech and language programs, but assisted the classroom teachers on creating objectives, selecting programs and vocabulary targets. Based on the success of my Primary Screening, the speech team created a Secondary Screening for those students who have mastered programs at the primary level.

Rethink: What have been the most valuable aspects of Rethink to your instruction and/or students?

RW: Intricate oral-motor, feeding and OPT programs are sometimes challenging to explain to parents and other staff members. Rethink has helped break down these programs into small steps that make these programs easier to understand and helps to provide trackable data. It has also helped determine if a pre-feeding program is helping feeding skills, and if an OPT program is helping speech clarity. If the data is not positive, a student program can be changed, and if a program is helping a child the parent is able to see clear progress. Rethink has also made data collection and artifact logs easier for teacher effectiveness. The language based screening tools have helped establish a target curriculum for our speech department. It helped us share ideas and come together as a team.

“When the staff communicates, the children have maximum potential for success. Rethink allows the therapists to view teacher data and the teacher to view therapy data. We can share goals or we can choose to coordinate similar goals in different contexts. This is a key for generalization of skills. Rethink bridges the gap.”

Rethink: What is one problem or issue you have had in your practice that Rethink helped solve?

RW: In the field of Speech Pathology, Oral Placement Therapy is often confused with “non speech oral motor exercises” which are tasks that are unrelated to speech. Rethink helps ease this confusion by providing evidence-based clinical tracking of programs in relation to speech articulation and language output. The professional graphs created by Rethink are very helpful in analyzing student progress or lack thereof, and helps us track what may be enhancing or hampering student growth.

As the Board Chair of the Oral Motor Institute, and as an instructor Evidenced Based Practice is very important to me. This is why I write, teach and collect clinical data. Many parents seek information on how specific methods of therapy help their children. Rethink has helped ease the minds of many parents and therapists alike, because it shows clear correlation between therapy tasks and speech and language progress. jawgradinggraph

Rethink:  What advice would you give to a teacher or therapist new to Rethink?

RW: At first, it may appear that Rethink is only applicable to discrete trial teaching, because historically graphing student growth via graphs is an ABA method. Rethink is unique because it can be customized to suit both discrete trial teaching and therapeutic interventions. I encourage therapists to give the program time, and to learn how to add your own programs into the software.

Rethink: What is the greatest student success you have seen through utilizing Rethink?

RW: One of my students was really was not progressing in speech and language using traditional methods, so his mother requests a detailed Oral Placement Therapy evaluation. Based on the evaluation, programs were created and tracked. More specifically, lingual range of motion was a huge problem due to a tongue tie. Post surgically, Rethink helped me track lingual range of motion and the relation to tongue tip sounds. This showed a correlation of how practicing tongue tip lateralization with Zvibes , and tongue retraction with horns, bubbles and straws impacted the sounds /t/, /d/, /n/,/l/, /k/, and /g/. The parent was very pleased with the progress and expressive skills data has also increased since the child has an improved phonemic inventory.


Rethink:  Why do you believe Rethink is valuable to special educators?

RW: Rethink helps with lesson planning, activities and tracking outcomes of lessons and therapy sessions. Its possibilities are endless. Each educator can customize the program to their own needs, yet it has many established programs and activities at the touch of the tool bar. It takes away the need for manual graphing and makes data tracking much easier. Most importantly, everyone on the child’s team can see the overall program, rather than isolated programs in different settings.

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A Special Holiday Thank You to Rethink Educators

iStock_000021711645_DoubleWe are thankful for teachers everywhere, especially Rethink educators, whose work makes our jobs worthwhile.

By Dr. Patricia Wright

As the calendar year winds to a close, many of us are reflecting on what we are personally thankful for celebrating the many privileges our lives afford. As work is an important aspect of my life, I am sincerely thankful for my Rethink colleagues, our Rethink customers and our shared work in improving the lives of those living with disabilities. There is much to be thankful for at Rethink.

One of the greatest gifts educator’s experience is participating in student learning. I am thankful for the educators that spend every day with students ensuring that they achieve their optimal life outcomes. Teachers like Jennifer Harris who supported a student with effective teaching that was truly life changing for him and his family. Her student may have the opportunity to return home from a residential placement. Teachers like Dmitry Libman and Kara O’Donnell, who believe it is their job to ensure students leave school and enter adulthood with meaningful skills that promote employment possibilities and result in positive social relationships.

Rethink wants to thank all of the teachers who have dedicated their careers to educating children. Our Thank a Teacher campaign affords you an opportunity to thank a teacher who had made an impact on you. one of your students or one or your children or family members. Teachers are influential in all of our lives, they deserve our thanks for their dedicated service.


To all of our Rethink educators – we are grateful for your service. We thank you for supporting children to lead meaningful lives and we look forward to our continued shared work in 2016.


150x150_patriciaDr. Patricia Wright is Rethink’s VP of Professional Services and a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Prior to joining Rethink, she was the National Director for Autism Services at Easter Seals, one of the largest social service providers for individuals with autism. Dr. Wright has a passion for education and has dedicated her career to ensuring that individuals with disabilities are fully included in society.





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4 Tips for Setting Students Up for Success in Inclusion

Tips for Setting Students Up for Success in Inclusion

Making specific decisions about the goals you write and the kinds of data you collect is crucial to student success in inclusion

As special education teachers, it is our job to ensure that all students are presented with meaningful inclusion opportunities. LRE, after all, is the law. But it is also important that students are included when they are ready to be included and that they receive the supports and accommodations they need to be successful when in inclusive settings.

It is imperative that all students receive setting-appropriate instruction, supports, and accommodations.  Setting appropriate goals and collecting setting-specific data is the first step in ensuring that students are successful in inclusion.  Below are a few tips for how we can best support students in inclusive settings, with specific ideas for the kinds of data we can collect in specific settings.

  1. Assess students for readiness
  2. Before moving students into inclusion settings we must first determine that they are ready for inclusion. Assessing readiness will help us ensure that students are learning in settings where they are most likely to be successful.  There are several ways you can assess for readiness. If you are a Rethink user, you can conduct Rethink’s inclusion assessment which will help you determine which skills students need to work on to be ready for inclusion. The VBMAPP Transition Assessment and Assessment of Functional Living Skills (AFLS) can both be useful in determining a student’s readiness for inclusion settings.

  3. Identify Goals Based Upon Assessment Results
  4. Once you have assessed the student, take a look at the student’s strengths and areas of improvement and set goals accordingly that will allow them to grow and thrive in inclusion settings.  One way to support this kind of goal writing is to collect normative data, or data from age-matched peers in the inclusion setting identified for your student.  This kind of data will help you identify what kinds of goals your student should be working toward.  You may also want to work on teaching students some pre-requisite skills to ensure their success in the inclusive setting.

  5. Identify Appropriate Inclusion Setting and Prepare Staff
  6. Educating inclusion staff and/or employees if the student will be working in a vocational setting can be key to a student’s success.  Ensuring that everyone is on the same page about how to interact with the student, provide feedback, and support the student will make the transition smoother for everyone.  Additionally, it may also be important to establish what everyone’s role is in educating the student.  If your student is moving into a general education classroom, having a conversation about your student’s needs with the classroom teacher is an important step in making this transition successful.

  7. Determine Who is Responsible for Collecting Data
  8. Data tell us that whether what we are doing with a student is successful, and can help us gage the student’s success within the inclusive setting. That being said, collecting data in inclusive settings can be challenging, especially if a student is not accompanied by an instructional aide or paraprofessional.  It is important to determine ways before the student moves into the inclusive setting that make it easy for general education teachers to supply you with data that you need to monitor the student’s progress. It is also important to be clear about roles and responsibilities before a student transitions.

Normative Data, Goals, and Kinds of Data to Collect

The kind of data you collect and the types of goals you write for your students for inclusion are very important to a student’s success in inclusion and will vary based upon the setting that they are in. In the slides below you will find setting-specific examples of normative data, inclusion goals, and types of data collection that might work in general education settings in middle and high school as well as vocational settings. You can also check out an entire webinar on this topic here.

View Our On-Demand Webinar and Learn Best-Practice Tips for Collecting Data in Inclusive Settings

View Rethink Webinar

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