Spotlight Teacher: Amanda O’Dell

School DAmanda O'Dell 2istrict: Kansas City Public Schools, MO
Position:  Special Education Teacher

Since she began using Rethink 2 years ago, Amanda O’Dell has experienced its tangible benefits at work in her classroom, impacting everyone from paraprofessionals and parents to general education teachers. Most importantly, Amanda has seen her students grow.  Using Rethink, each classroom team member is able to implement student programs and run classroom systems at anytime, providing students with consistent and regular access to meaningful learning opportunities all throughout the day. Rethink has also lead to increased inclusion opportunities for her students.  Using the Rethink Activity Center, students are able to be fully included in lab time with their general education peers as they work on Rethink goals tied to their IEPs online.

One of the most valuable aspects of Rethink has been its ability to facilitate collaboration with parents and with general education teachers.  The parents of Amanda’s students are able to be more involved in their children’s education with access to Rethink’s printable materials, progress reports, lesson videos, and the Activity Center.  Likewise, general education teachers are able to better support students’ individual needs with access to lesson videos, data collection and the many other valuable resources Rethink provides.


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“Rethink provides me and my team with what I like to call the 5 Cs: consistency, confidence, collaboration, community and connections to real life application of best practices that benefit students, parents and educators.”

1041Amanda has witnessed remarkable success with one student in particular.  This student started the year struggling to read sight words, a goal he had been working toward the previous year. Amanda and her team used Rethink to create a more rigorous program that pushed him to read and communicate more about the world around him. Amanda found that using Rethink to help this student relate pictures to words, he was able to learn and acquire more words at a faster pace. He is now reading full sentences aloud and matching them to pictures with no assistance. Using Rethink’s data tracking and graphing tools in Rethink, his learning team was able to see what they needed to adjust in their teaching to ensure the student’s continued progress. They were also able to use this data to prove that while this student was making marked progress, he was having trouble maintaining academic skills during extended breaks from school, helping them make the important decision to support him with ESY programming over the summer.

 Keep up the amazing work, Amanda!

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3 Tips for Building Your Personal Learning Network Using Twitter

Becoming a more informed, more knowledgable, more connected educator.

It’s spring, which at Rethink can only mean one thing—it’s User Group Season! Throughout April and May Rethink has been visiting districts across the country that are utilizing Rethink in their special education programs and facilitating conversation and sharing around best practices.

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Educators share and connect at the San Francisco User Group

What becomes clear with every User Group is the incredible value for those involved, from administrators and coordinators to teachers and paraprofessionals.  It’s a wonderful time for sharing resources, and most importantly, best-practices with one another. With all the demands on educators’ time and resources these in-person opportunities for sharing can be few and far between, and many educators have increasingly turned toward building their own Personal Learning Networks online.  This month, as a follow-up to User Group Season, we are sharing some ideas for building your own Personal Learning Network using one of the most popular social media sites for educators, Twitter.

1.  Follow other educators and thought leaders

Twitter is full of educators. One of the most powerful things about the Internet, even since the early days of AOL chat rooms, is its ability to bring together likeminded people with similar interests who may never have the opportunity to connect.

To build your personal network on Twitter, start by following other educators and organizations germane to what you do in the classroom or the populations you teach. Here are a few great resources that point you to some awesome special education Twitter accounts.

Also follow Rethink and our team of clinicians and educators. They are a wonderful source of information, tips, and encouragement!

2.  Join weekly Twitter chats

Twitter chats provide an opportunity to follow topical conversations live on Twitter. With a shared time, hashtag, and topic to discuss, Twitter chats bring together all of the best aspects of Twitter into a structured forum. Participants can ask questions, share topical ideas, and stay up-to-date on latest trends in education. To participate in a Twitter chat, use a tool like Tweetchat to easily follow the conversation.

A few Twitter chats you might consider joining are:

  1. #Spedchat – Mondays from 9-10pm Eastern: A chat specifically for special educators to discuss issues in special education, share ideas and resources, and connect with others in the field.
  2. #Edtechchat – Mondays from 8-9pm Eastern: A chat for all educators to learn more about best-practices for using technology in the classroom.
  3. #Edchat – Tuesdays from 12-1pm and 7-8pm Eastern: Like #spedchat but for all educators, this is a place to talk about trends, share best-practices, and connect with other educators.
  4. #EWedchat – Wednesdays from 8-9pm Eastern: A chat hosted by Education Week that discusses a different topic every week germane to education.

For more information about joining a Twitter chat, check out this blog post.

3.  Live tweet events

Live tweeting events, trainings, webinars, conferences and other events is another way to build your network and keep you in the social loop. Many events (including all of Rethink’s public webinars) will share a hashtag with you for live tweeting. Using this hashtag to live tweet during the event helps you connect with others participating in the same event, gather succinct ideas from the event, and chat with others about a topic online, even after the event is over.

Some examples of the kinds of things you may consider tweeting during an event are:

  • quotes or interesting ideas mentioned by the presenter/s
  • questions you have about something mentioned by the presenter
  • questions you have for other event participants
  • ideas that occur to you during the event/presentation
  • resources pertinent to the topic being discussed

Twitter is just one of many social media tools you can use to navigate the landscape of digital learning. Best of luck finding new ways to build your Personal Learning Networks and connect with other special educators. See you in the Twittersphere!

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May the Workforce be with You!


Join us for a FREE webinar on preparing students with special needs for on-the-job success!

According to recent research, students with disabilities are significantly more likely to be unemployed or without educational plans in the first two years after high school than their general education peers. Transition planning, required by federal law to begin at the age of 14, is crucial for preparing students for life beyond school.  In this FREE webinar, Rethink’s Maria Wilcox will discuss techniques for preparing students for success once the school bus stops coming–whether it’s a summer job or post-secondary employment.

Participants in this webinar will leave with:

  • specific skills to teach students to help them prepare for employment
  • strategies for helping students generalize skills they learn at school for application in the workplace
  • ideas for how to make transition planning meaningful and effective

 Wednesday, May 20th at 12 and 6pm EDT

12pm Register

6pm Register


About Our Guest: Maria Wilcox

Maria Wilcox currently serves as the director of professional services for Rethink. She works with districts throughout the western part of the United States. Her classroom teaching experience covers a wide range of student abilities and has taken her to schools in small rural towns to large urban areas. Maria is passionate about transition-age planning and ensuring students are prepared for success in life beyond school. Maria holds a bachelor’s degree in special education from the University of Northern Colorado and is currently pursuing her graduate work. She lives in a little mountain town in Colorado and spends her free time exploring the woods, expanding her vinyl collection, and finding joy in small, everyday moments!

@MariaInColoradoTwitter-icon tweet about this webinar using the hashtag #maytheworkforcebewithyou 

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Spotlight Teacher: Jesse Rubio

Sbbcfe37b-37ed-4415-897b-08bc80ed1fe0chool District:Fresno Unified School District, CA
Position:  Paraprofessional and Rethink Trainer

Jesse Rubio began using Rethink in August of 2014. His role as a paraprofessional covers a broad area of responsibilities, but for him, the purpose of his job each day is to ensure every student at Fresno USD with learns and grows, and has the best educational experience possible. He and other members of the autism support team are certified as Rethink trainers and now use the program on a daily basis throughout their school district supporting a variety of students across all grade levels to ensure their vision becomes a reality.

For Jesse and his team, the steps to get there were clear; set a common goal and expectations, and use Rethink to collaborate across all channels. Jesse makes daily classroom visits, trains teachers to better use Rethink, supports teachers in data collection, and provides overall suggestions and ideas to everyone he works with; truly a jack of all trades!

“The quality of instruction for our students has risen and teachers are growing because of Rethink. We are stronger than ever!”

The results are clear. “I have seen the extremely positive results with what Rethink has done for the classroom. It has brought a focus to academics for our students and the flexibility to make quick adjustments,” said Jesse. Fresno uses Rethink’s developmentally sequenced lesson library to take the guesswork out of what may or may not work, which benefits both teachers and students. Jesse can not get enough data and feels it really gives teachers in Fresno the edge they need to help students succeed. It allows for more one-on-one time with students and ensures that data informs instruction. “The quality of instruction for our students has risen,our students and teachers are growing because of Rethink. We are stronger than ever,” he told us. Great job, Jesse!
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Early Intervention and Beyond: Top 5 Tips for Teaching a Child with Autism

iStock_000028867426_XXXLargeAbout this FREE Webinar

Early intervention can be crucial in helping children with autism be successful in school and in life, but effective intervention can begin at any age. Teaching a child with autism can be easier than you think and fun for you and your child or student!  Whether you’re an educator, parent, or caregiver, there are practical things you can easily do to integrate effective teaching into your everyday routine. In this free, 60-minute webinar, Rethink’s Angela Nelson, MS, BCBA will discuss practical tips for educators and parents who want to learn more about how to effectively teach a child with autism in a fun and natural way!

Attendees will:
  • Gain practical knowledge on effectively teaching children with autism
  • Learn how to make teaching effective AND fun
  •  Learn easy-to-implement strategies for successfully motivating a child with autism

Wednesday, March 22nd, 12pm EST  REGISTER

Wednesday, March 22nd, 6pm EST  REGISTER

About Our Guest

Angela Nelson currently serves as the Executive Director of Family and Clinical Services for Rethink, conducting trainings for educators, therapists, and administrators on how to utilize Rethink’s platform as well as consultation and support on how to implement a robust platform such as Rethink in both small and large school districts.  She also provides consultative services to families utilizing the program as part of Rethink’s Employee Benefits program.  She has devoted her career to supporting children and adults with a variety of disabilities in their classrooms, homes, and communities for many years. Angela holds a Master’s degree in Educational Psychology and Counseling from California State University, Northridge, a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from UCLA, and is a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst).  Aside from her interest in Applied Behavior Analysis, Angela enjoys spending time with her daughter and husband, going to the beach, and playing sports.


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If I Knew Then What I Know Now

Rural signboard - Forward - Backward

5 Educator Tips for Serving the Needs of Children with Autism

By Jamie Pagliaro
I got my first job working with a child on the autism spectrum back in 1995 when I was a sophomore in college (most people had not even heard of autism then). So according to my math, this marks my 20th year “in the field.”

Over the past two decades, I have been privileged to work as a home-based ABA therapist, paraprofessional in a public school, case manager in a behavior clinic, and program director at a residential school. I have also had opportunity to open the first public charter school for individuals with autism in New York City and co-found an educational technology company, which now impacts more than 10,000 individuals living with autism and related disabilities around the world.

Today in the United States, it is estimated that 1 in 68 kids has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder. In honor of Autism Awareness Month, I’ve put together a few simple pieces of advice that I would give to my “self” of 20 years ago. I hope that these tips might influence other special needs professionals – both veterans like myself as well as those just getting started.

1. Never assume you know what parents are going through.

I am now a parent of two typically developing children and can honestly say you just don’t “get it” unless you are one. When I think of how challenging and stressful parenting can sometimes be with typical kids, it gives me perspective to realize that I can never truly understand what it’s like to parent a child with autism or any other disability. As a professional, just remember: you always get to go home at the end of your workday… Parents do not have that luxury.

2. Keep it all in perspective and smile!

Being around kids with challenging behavior, parents who are dealing with a lot of stress, and co-workers who may be burned out can be overwhelming. Remember: you are a professional who chooses to be here. Your job is to empower those around you – the students you serve, their families, and your own colleagues. Your goal is to foster a positive environment for each of them. If you find you can no longer do this, it’s time to take a break, or possibly change jobs. Which leads to my next piece of advice…

3. Find your niche; there are many ways to have an impact.

Not everyone is meant to teach or work directly with kids all day long any more than they are meant to be an administrator, researcher, or policymaker. There are many different ways to impact the lives of individuals you care about at a micro and macro level. No single job is more important than another. Collectively we must keep teaching our kids, advocating for ways to fund services, pioneering new

research and innovative approaches, and leading schools and service organizations. When we all work together on these various needs, we succeed.

4. Never underestimate how challenging the future will be for the individuals you serve.

Life can be tough for all of us. Now imagine living it with a disability that may prevent you from communicating effectively, interacting with others, holding a job, living on your own, etc. Despite the incredible strides that have been made to raise awareness, our society still struggles to include individuals with disabilities in meaningful ways. Your empathy will go a long way toward helping them tackle these challenges.

5. Be an optimist, realist, and pessimist (when needed) all-in-one.

Sometimes you will be in a room with others who say “let’s be realistic,” “that’s not possible,” or even “he’s capable of more than we know.” These are all important perspectives to take when helping students with autism, their family members, and the professional teams who are making decisions that can have long-term implications on their lives. Don’t get caught always taking the same perspective, or forgetting to take on different perspectives when looking at the possibilities. Looking similar situations through different lenses will enable you to help your students in more meaningful ways.

In conclusion, take what you are doing seriously, because you are doing some of the most important work on earth. However, don’t take yourself too seriously! Make sure to keep having fun and be a source of humor and compassion for those around you.

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Spotlight Teacher of the Month: Kristy Byers

School District:  Volusia County Schools, Florida
Position:  Special Education Teacher

Kristy Byers began using Rethink at the beginning of the 2014/15 school year. What she has found most valuable about Rethink is its capacity to facilitate collaboration: “With Rethink, my whole team–paraprofessionals, speech therapists, etc.–can easily keep up with each child’s progress and work with them on appropriate skills,” Kristy explained.  She has also had success collaborating with parents.  By sharing Rethink’s graphs and reports, she has found it much easier to keep parents abreast on their child’s progress and encourage participation in their child’s growth.

1041“Rethink makes collaboration so much easier.” 

26412496-a514-42e4-bf8e-179b5d716fcbIn the relatively short time that Kristy has been using the Rethink program, she has seen significant progress in some of her students with the most intensive needs. For instance, at the beginning of the year one of her students came to her with severe echolalia–communicating only by echoing or repeating other people’s speech.  Using Rethink strategies and lessons, Kristy collaborated with the student’s learning team to set up a plan and began to work on teaching him appropriate greetings.  “One day, after we’d been working with the student for about 2 weeks,” Kristy explained, “he entered the classroom, and when I said ‘good morning’, he said ‘hi!’ It was so exciting!”  Now, 2 months later, he is communicating independently with very few (if any) echolalic phrases and his whole world of communication has opened up to him.  His parents are thrilled because his learning has carried over into the home environment as well!



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Inclusion: Making it Work

Story timeBy: Meredith Ouimette                                                           

What is inclusion?

According to the Council for Exceptional Children, “all children, youth, and young adults with disabilities are entitled to a free and appropriate education and/or services that lead to an adult life characterized by satisfying relations with others, independent living, productive engagement in the community, and participation in society at large. To achieve such outcomes, there must exist for all children, youth, and young adults a rich variety of early intervention, education, and vocational program options and experiences.”

What are some strategies that work with effective inclusion programming?

With many schools that have district wide inclusion programming, the following have been strategies that have helped them make inclusion work!

  1. Collaboration, team work, and co-teaching with special education and general education teachers
  2. Use of evidence-based practices with all students in inclusion settings
  3. Strong leadership and administrative support at the school and district level
  4. Differentiated instruction for all students in classrooms
  5. Additional and ongoing teacher and paraprofessional support and professional development

In a classroom setting, Rethink can help teachers COLLABORATE and make inclusion successful!

  1. Determine what skills a student needs to be successful through Rethink’s Inclusion Assessment
  2. Determine what level of support is needed for success
  3. Select inclusion plans and videos for teachers and paraprofessionals to use when teaching students
  4. Provide support through teachers, paraprofessionals, and peers

lesson lin




Explore Rethink’s Inclusion Curriculum today!  Have other questions about effective strategies with inclusion programming? Leave a comment below and get the conversation started!

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Mind Your Ps and Qs: Teaching Social Skills to Reduce Challenging Behavior

Group of happy elementary friends togetherAbout this FREE Webinar

Challenging behavior in the classroom is one of the most highly discussed topics in public education. Teachers frequently report that disruptive behavior is their greatest concern and has a significant impact on their job satisfaction. This session will focus on what teachers do best – facilitate student learning and teach students new skills.  Direct instruction in social skills promotes skill development in pro-social behaviors and reduces challenging behavior. When students have social skills in their repertoire they don’t have to rely on challenging behavior.

Participants will leave the webinar with:
  • A better understanding of how social skill development can impact behavior
  • Specific teaching strategies to promote social skill development in their classrooms
  • Ideas for teaching social skills 1:1 and in groups

Tuesday, March 17th, 12pm EST  REGISTER

Tuesday, March 17th, 6pm EST  REGISTER


About Our Guest

Dr. 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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Spotlight Teacher of the Month: Shawn Briggs

5c6c5ff1-1149-43fd-b147-83e5bf7ca0ceSchool District: Norfolk Public Schools, Norfolk, VA
Classroom: Maury High School, Autism Inclusion Program
Position: Special Education Teacher

When Shawn Briggs started using Rethink in her classroom 2 years ago, many of her students required individualized lessons in the areas of group participation, peer interactions, and communication skills. She has found Rethink to be a great resource in helping her students become more independent in the general education classroom. Not only has Rethink given Shawn tons of great resources, but it has also led to improved student outcomes.

Shawn has used Rethink to move her students into LRE. Rethink’s Inclusion Curriculum has helped many of her student’s transition from participating for small periods of time in regular education classrooms with significant amounts of support to independent participation for large portions of their days in regular education classrooms. In addition, the specific lessons in Rethink have helped her students become more independent, and taught them how to self-advocate, converse with peers and teachers without assistance, and participate more fully.


“From assessment of skills to creating customized goals and lessons that can be applied to high school students, Rethink has so many benefits!”

1041Shawn has witnessed Rethink’s benefit to students first-hand. One of her students last year had limited social-communication skills, was not able to approach other peers or adults with his conversation skills, and needed to increase his self-confidence in social situations.  Shawn used the Joining an Ongoing Conversation, Raising Hand to Answer Questions, and Having a Conversation lessons from Rethink’s Abilities and Inclusion Curriculum with this student.  With the use of the lessons and videos, repetition, and practice, he is now successful with joining an ongoing conversation and his communication skills have increased significantly.  Currently, this student is now pairing with other peers that need help with academics and social-communication skills, and modeling how to self-advocate.

Keep up the great work, Shawn!

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