OCALI NOW | Issue 25 • February 2021

Baked Into the Process: Advancing Equitable Outcomes Through the Lens of Social Justice

What is social justice? What does it mean for education and for educators? Why is it important to promote equitable outcomes for students? And how do we infuse socially-just practices into school-based services that promote equitable and positive outcomes for young people?

These are some of the questions that Dr. Charles Barrett explores in the first episode of Rewind, a new Inspiring Change podcast series that features conversations and connections from OCALICON—OCALI’s premier autism and disabilities conference. Rewind is the audio showcase of some of OCALICON’s best moments – starting with Dr. Barrett’s 2020 presentation.

Dr. Barrett is a nationally-certified school psychologist, as well as a writer, musician and teacher from Northern Virginia. He’s a passionate educator, committed to meeting people where they are, and understanding, serving, and supporting the individual needs of children and families.

His work is anchored by a focus on justice and equity, which represents his unwavering commitment to advocating for populations that have been marginalized by systemic oppression. In this episode, Dr. Barrett helps define and describe the framework of social justice, including why it’s important and how we do it.

“Social justice is a lens that really informs how we think about students in many ways,” shares Barrett. “It’s a systemic framing. Social justice is not a condiment. It’s not ketchup or mayonnaise or pepper or salt that we sprinkle onto something after it’s already made or after it’s been prepared. Social justice is really a central ingredient that’s baked into the process. It’s our thinking that informs what we do and how we do it.

Follow Dr. Barrett | Twitter: @_charlesbarrett | Instagram: @charlesabarrett

InspirED Video Gallery

Text of Blog Post is the Full Video Transcript
CC Version: https://youtu.be/ij8aVKzKgI0
Video with Audio Description Coming Soon!

Each week, the InspirED Virtual Learning Series Zoomcast brings you strategies, resources, and practical advice to help navigate this unique time in learning.

But…maybe 4 p.m. on Thursday, doesn’t always exactly work for you.

Take a breath! Don’t worry…We’ve got you covered!

The InspirEd Video Gallery features all of the previous sessions on-demand, and it’s updated weekly so you can access the series when it’s convenient for you!

Catch up on sessions you may have missed. Share in the learning by rewatching sessions with co-workers or family. Access resources specific to each topic. And earn professional development credit.

It’s all in the InspirED video gallery at ocali.org. And the best part is…you’re in control!

Now, doesn’t that feel good?

Be informed. Be empowered. Be InspirED!

Assistive Technology: Matching a Person’s Needs with AT Features

logo for Assistive Technology and Accessible Educational Materials Center at OCALI

According to the World Health Organization, assistive technology (AT) is defined as products whose “primary purpose is to maintain or improve an individual’s functioning and independence to facilitate participation and to enhance overall well-being. They can also help prevent impairments and secondary health conditions.”

The Assistive Technology Act of 2004 describes an AT device as “any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.” The Tech Act also describes an AT service as “any service that directly assists an individual with a disability in selection, acquisition or use of an assistive technology device.”

Given the goal of increased independence for people with developmental disabilities and the demonstrated impact that assistive technology solutions can have on facilitating that independence, it is important for persons with disabilities, families, service coordinators, and others to have a basic understanding of and an appreciation for the use of AT and other accommodation solutions. 

The AT Continuum
It is important to keep in mind that AT is not concerned with the remediation of a disability, but with overcoming access and performance barriers in ways that help people with disabilities complete desired tasks. Self-help, employment, socialization, inclusion, and community living can be made more accessible using AT.

Without technology that promotes access, connectivity, and community participation, people with developmental disabilities may not be able to receive services in the same way as people without disabilities. Because AT is used to overcome barriers to participation, AT devices are not categorized by disability type, but by the task and functional capabilities that are supported. It should be noted that some AT devices are simple and readily available in the marketplace. Others are more complicated and require electricity, electronics, and other technology supports.

Person-centered Planning
When person-centered planning is used to develop an individual’s adult’s Individual Service Plan (ISP), the information collected can be directly applied to AT assessments. ISPs identify an person’s adult’s goals and next-steps, and these can be applied to finding AT to help the individual accomplish them. Any AT assessment consists of four basic steps: 

  1. Frame the question to ask, “What, specifically, does the person want to do?”
  2. Clarify strengths and obstacles to accomplishing this goal or activity.
  3. Generate solutions and try AT tools and strategies. 
  4. Select and document the AT tool/system in an ISP.

Person-centered planning can guide a team as they begin to explore ways that AT can help an individual accomplish ISP goals.

A Framework to Guide the AT Assessment Process
Once an individual and their support team have set goals for increased independence and/or reduced support in a specific area, they will also begin to look more deeply into the person’s strengths and barriers related to this area. One commonly used strategy for guiding a team’s AT discussions related to a person’s use of AT, is the use of the SETT Framework.

The SETT Framework is based on the idea that, in order to identify an appropriate system of AT devices and strategies needed for a person to make progress toward goals, collaborative teams that include the person, family or caregivers, and selected professionals must first develop a shared understanding of the individual’s strengths and barriers. This understanding includes the customary environments in which the person will participate and the tasks that the person needs to be able to do, or learn to do, more independently and with less support. 

SETT was originally developed for AT processes in schools and it is an acronym for Student, Environments, Tasks, and Tools. Since it was developed, the ideas and principles of the SETT Framework have been used in a wide variety of other settings. SETT can easily be used during AT discussions by ISP teams for adults. When SETT is used in this way, the S represents Self instead of Student. The questioning approach inherent in using the SETT Framework provides a starting point for helpful conversations about AT devices and services.

Importance of a Clearly Defined Process
Using SETT (or a similar framework) as a guide for discussions about AT can be important for the eventual integration of AT into a person’s life. A clearly defined process can keep the team from going off on tangents exploring possible AT solutions that do not fit the reality of the person’s needs, abilities, or environment. It can counteract the tendency to start working on misidentified problems based on unconfirmed assumptions about the person’s skills or abilities. It can help the team remain focused and stay on track. Using a systematic approach based on effective communication strategies can be reassuring to the person, the support team, and advocates. 

Although everyone who participates on an ISP/support team is an advocate for the person’s progress, there are often varied opinions on how to support that progress. Multiple perspectives are vital, but the use of a structure or framework to help guide discussions and develop consensus can be valuable during an AT assessment.

New Modules to Support the Assessment Process and Independent Living
The Assistive Technology & Accessible Educational Materials (AT&AEM) Center at OCALI recently launched a series of Assistive Technology Internet Modules (ATIM) to support the assessment process and independent living for adults. These free modules, along with many others, guide users through case studies, instructional videos, pre- and post-assessments, and more. Fee-based professional development certificates and graduate credit hours are available. Check out these new modules designed for adults, along with the complete module list:

  • AT Assessment Strategies for Adults: Part I
  • AT Assessment Strategies for Adults: Part II
  • AC Assessment: Adults with DD
  • Assistive and Smart Home Technology for Independent Living

Matching a Person’s Needs with AT Features
An important part of the AT assessment process is matching a person’s needs with AT features. SIFTS is a quick and easy web-based survey tool developed to support decision-making teams who need assistance in matching a person’s needs and strengths to AT features. Questions about a person’s needs and abilities are presented and the answers provided lead to suggestions of specific AT features for the identified domain. The list of AT features has embedded text, picture, and video supports to assist teams in building their knowledge of AT, as well as their capacity to implement AT assessments.

To learn more about assistive technology and supporting resources, visit https://ataem.org/.

What’s New at OCALI

The Journey Webinar Series: 2021 Dates
To support County Boards of Developmental Disabilities in helping youth with complex needs and their families navigate the journey to from school to adult life, the Lifespan Transitions Center at OCALI has created a free webinar series, called The Journey, designed to support topics, such as:

  • Creating structure,
  • Improving self-determination,
  • Planning for transition, and
  • Supporting literacy. 

Visit the archive of previously aired webinars and register for upcoming sessions.

New Adult Domains Added to SIFTS
The AT&AEM Center at OCALI recently launched a series of SIFTS specifically for adults in need of assistive technology (AT). SIFTS is a web-based tool designed to guide AT decision-making teams in matching a person’s needs with AT features. From children to adults, SIFTS can be used by parents, students, consumers, and professionals serving people with disabilities. Explore SIFTS and check out our first adult domains around Communication and Physical Access surveys at https://sifts.ocali.org/. Watch for more adults SIFTS to come.

Updates from the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities

OCALI NOW | Issue 24 • January 2021

Be InspirED in the New Year:
Free Professional Learning Opportunities to Support Successful Engagement of Diverse Learnings in Remote Learning Environments

The second half of the 2020-2021 school year is officially underway and many Ohio school districts continue to remain in remote learning environments. While remote learning isn’t new for most, there are still things to learn about how to improve access for all learners, strengthen student engagement, and more.

In September 2020, OCALI, in partnership with the Ohio Department of Education, launched the InspirED Virtual Learning Series. The vision for this virtual learning series has been to fill a need and help educators, administrators, and families find the information and resources they need to support learning and successful outcomes for their students or children during a very unique time of learning.

The learning series consists of Zoomcast sessions or recorded, facilitated conversations that are approximately 30 minutes each. All content is focused on increasing successful engagement of diverse learners in a remote/virtual instructional environment, linking the users with appropriate resources and tools. Topics range from using accessible educational materials (AEM) to developing a growth mindset to planning for learners who are deaf or hard of hearing, supporting multicultural families of children with disabilities, supporting PBIS in virtual environments, and more. What participants have had to say:

“I enjoyed these short, focused presentations and can easily share them with staff.”

“I thought this was nicely organized. I enjoyed receiving information from various professionals, rather than just hearing one opinion.”

“This was very informational, even as an instructional assistant. I can have a better outlook now on how to help the children in the areas they need help in.”

“Great video series. Looking forward to seeing more.”

Did you miss a session or want to go back re-watch or check out other sessions?
Check out the InspirED Video Gallery. Here, learners can access all previously aired sessions, which include interactive transcripts, audio description, and session materials. This gallery is also a great resource to share with colleagues and others who may benefit from the information.

Need professional development hours?
Learners have the opportunity to earn a professional development certificate by completing a survey at the end of each session. Did we mention that this is a FREE way to get professional development hours?

What’s coming up?

Check out these upcoming sessions for January and February:

  • January 21: Online Instruction Based on Communication Mode
  • January 28: Why Checklists, Especially Now When the World is Up-Side Down
  • February 4: Maximizing Accessibility and Learning with Slide Presentations
  • February 11: Ready, Set, Action! Simple Strategies to Support Learning, Build Connections, and Offer Balance in an Ever-Changing World
  • February 18: Surviving the Pandemic with PBIS
  • February 25: Coming soon

The BEST Version of YOU in the New Year: Everyday Tips to Promote Self-Care

Unpredictability, flexibility, and uncertainty have all been part of our personal and professional lives since the pandemic hit last spring. With all of these changes to our daily lives, routines, and activities, maintaining a balanced life and taking care of yourself, while taking care of others in your care, might continue to seem out-of-reach. And trust us, you’re certainly not alone. However, being at YOUR best is important for you and those in your care. This means giving attention to your mental, emotional, and physical well-being. As we head into the New Year, let’s look at four simple tips that anyone can use and do every day to promote better self-care.

1. Hydrate

This may sound easy and familiar, but it still might be a challenge to do daily. Drinking plenty of water regulates the body, prevents fatigue, and promotes clear thinking. And, with all that many of us are juggling right now, having better concentration and focus are definitely needed. The common belief is that you should drink 8 to 10 glasses of water daily. Easier said than done, right? If you struggle with drinking water during your day, here are a few things to consider. Find a fun, reusable water bottle. Add natural flavor, such as sliced lemons, oranges or cucumbers. Use a tracking app or create your own tracking sheet. No matter what approach you try, adequate water intake is essential to your well-being.

2. Music Matters

For those days when you are feeling exhausted, anxious or overwhelmed, consider tuning out the world and turning up some music. Research confirms that music can be effective for relaxation and stress management. Listening to upbeat music can make you feel more positive about life, while a slower tempo can offer a more soothing, relaxing option to release daily stress. Consider creating a self-care playlist with a variety of songs – a few upbeat, a couple slower-paced, and, of course, don’t forget a few of your favorites, especially those you love to sing-along with!

3. Breathe

When moments of stress and anxiety start to build, introducing breathing techniques can help balance your energy, refocus your thoughts, and provide relaxation. There are a few different breathing practices to explore. Here one simple one that uses a shape to guide you. Start by imagining a square. Each step in this breathing practice is a corner of the square. As you count to four with each step, move from one corner to the next. Start at the top left corner and inhale for the count of four, then hold for the count of four, and exhale for the count of four and hold for the count of four. Repeat these steps a few times to calm your mind and body. Want to try a few other breathing techniques, check out the breathing cards in the Autism Center’s Resource Gallery.

4. Recognize Your Feelings

It’s important to recognize your feelings and to know that those feelings are ok. Go easy on yourself. When you hear that discouraging voice in your head or things just break down – send positive vibes to yourself – I believe in you! You got this! You are beautiful! Also, take a moment to focus on the positives – the little things that brought a smile to your face each day – maybe it was making your child laugh, capturing the attention of a student who has been struggling with remote learning, or successfully launching your first Zoom meeting. Create a weekly positive vibes journal, jot down one thing each day. At the end of the week take a minute to reflect and celebrate these moments!

This content is also available in video format in a previously aired episode of #HereToHelp.

What’s New at OCALI

The Journey Webinar Series: 2021 Dates
To support County Boards of Developmental Disabilities in helping youth with complex needs and their families navigate the journey to from school to adult life, the Lifespan Transitions Center at OCALI has created a free webinar series, called The Journey, designed to support topics, such as:

  • Creating structure,
  • Improving self-determination,
  • Planning for transition, and
  • Supporting literacy. 

Visit the archive of previously aired webinars and register for upcoming sessions.

Learning Media Assessment (LMA): An Introduction
A Free Webinar: January 27, 1-2 p.m.
As educators continue to navigate this pandemic, particularly in remote learning environments, understanding students’ individualized needs is an important component of the learning process. For students who are blind or visually impaired, it is even more important to understand how they receive information for learning. This introductory, one-hour webinar is designed to teach the basics of a learning media assessment, why it matters, the process, and resources to support teachers of students with visual impairments (TVIs), families, administrators, related service providers, and general educators. Learn more and register: https://deafandblindoutreach.org/meetings-events.

Ask Abbey: Developing Literacy Skills for Learners Who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing
A Free, Interactive Learning Series: February 3, 10, & 17, 4 p.m.
This interactive, three-part learning series is designed to provide practical, easy-to-use strategies to increase auditory skills, visual language skills, and reading and writing print for learners who are deaf or hard of hearing. Each 30-minute session will include a 10-minute webinar with simple tips and strategies, followed by 20 minutes of live Q&A with Abbey Weaver, an itinerant teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing in Ohio. The sessions are free, but registration is required. A certificate of completion is available after completing the series. Join us for one or all three. Learn more at https://deafandblindoutreach.org/meetings-events.

New Adult Domains Added to SIFTS
The AT&AEM Center at OCALI recently launched a series of SIFTS specifically for adults in need of assistive technology (AT). SIFTS is a web-based tool designed to guide AT decision-making teams in matching a person’s needs with AT features. From children to adults, SIFTS can be used by parents, students, consumers, and professionals serving people with disabilities. Explore SIFTS and check out our first adult domains around Communication and Physical Access surveys at https://sifts.ocali.org/. Watch for more adults SIFTS to come.

Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council Seeks Public Comment on 2022-2026 Five Year State Plan
The Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council (Ohio DD Council) is seeking public comment on its Five-Year State Plan that will take effect from 2022-2026. Review and provide your feedback on the Five Year Plan here: https://ddc.ohio.gov/state-plan-comments.

Resources from Our Partner, Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD)

OCALI NOW | Issue 23 • November + December 2020

Photo of Shawn Henry, A message from our executive director (animated text)

2020: A Year of Gratitude, Grit, and Greatness
(Including Some Grief and Groaning Along the Way)

By: Shawn Henry, Executive Director, OCALI

I don’t think I would be alone in saying that most of us are ready to tie a bow on 2020. From experiencing a global pandemic to political and social justice unrest, and learning how to “Zoom,” social distance, and work and learn from home, this year was a year of unprecedented change and uncertainty. What everyone quickly learned was that life became different because our world became different—personally and professionally.

As I reflect back on the year, there are three words that come to mind—gratitude, grit, and greatness.


In the face of so much uncertainty, I believe the antidote is gratitude. But, expressing gratitude is something we have to continuously practice to perfect. Our thoughts can very easily turn to all of the challenges we’ve faced, particularly in a year like this. It seems everywhere we turn, there is another negative news story, another barrier to success, another roadblock in our way. So, at a time when it is so easy to have an attitude of, “Are you kidding me? Not another problem!,” we must choose to have an attitude of gratitude.

I am grateful to work with a team of professionals who are committed to a mission. I am grateful for our many partners in education, technology, healthcare, business and community, policy, and government. I am grateful that we are living through a time in history that we will someday tell stories about, that our grandchildren or great nieces and nephews or other children in our lives will ask us about. It’s not an easy time by any means, but it is definitely a historical time—and we need to appreciate that.

We must choose to find the things to be thankful for. And we must choose to express that gratitude to those who have supported us along the way.


While many things were constantly changing around us, one thing remained constant for our team—and that was OCALI’s unwavering commitment to inspire change and promote access for people with disabilities. Supporting our community and bringing hope and inspiration to the people we serve, became more important than ever. We just had to rethink how to deliver on that mission.

I have never been more proud to serve our staff and to witness their hard work, dedication, innovation, and passion for serving people with disabilities and our collective community. Despite being physically separated and challenged to think big and outside of the box, our team found new ways to keep our important work moving forward—always laser focused on ensuring educators, professional, and families had access to accessible materials, online learning, and other resources during the pandemic. I can honestly say that some of our best and most creative and impactful work happened this year.

I recently came across this quote from former NFL player, Jerry Rice, and I think it summarizes how grit and perseverance contribute to moving forward—particularly when faced with adversity: “Today I will do what others won’t so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t.”


Greatness is defined as the quality of being great, distinguished, or eminent. Greatness is also about making an impact and serving others with our passion, talents, and skills. When I think about each member of our team at OCALI, I see greatness all around me. I see people working and serving beyond themselves. I see countless hours and enormous amounts of energy spent ensuring that people with disabilities and those who live with, love, and care for them have what they need, particularly during this unique time. I see barriers and adversity being turned into advantages and opportunities.

Throughout the year, it would have been easy to fall victim to our circumstances. And if I’m being honest, it’s not always easy to choose the right mindset. But, once we realize that we have a choice when faced with adversity, we quickly learn that we are in control. Achieving greatness is not limited to who you are, what you do, where you live, or how you grew up. Anyone can do great things.

Grief and Groaning

While I try to remain hopeful and optimistic, I would be remiss to think that we haven’t experienced some grief and groaning along the way this year—myself included. Whether that be from home schooling our children or not being able to play sports or participate in extra-curricular activities, or being quarantined because of the virus, our lives have been inconvenienced in many ways. But these inconveniences pale in comparison to the grief that many of us have felt—grieving the loss of family members or friends who have succumbed to this dreadful virus. Our hearts ache for those who have lost loved ones and we want you to know that we are here for you. THIS COMMUNITY is here for you.

Looking Ahead

The roller coaster ride of 2020 has certainly had its ups and downs and twists and turns. And while I am so proud of our staff and partners and everything we have accomplished this year, we are far from where we want to be, which means there’s more work to be done. That’s why we will continue to explore and learn new ways of listening, understanding, and modeling. We will continue to work together with our partners because we know that we cannot do it alone. When we collaborate, we bring new ideas and diverse perspectives that expand our thinking, practices, and work. And, ultimately, our impact.

As we prepare to tie a bow on this year and this unique time in history, remember: Be grateful and grind like no one else. Take time to grieve and groan as you need to—we’re all human.

So long 2020. Great things await!

OCALICON 2020 featuring the Inclusive Leadership Institute (Inclusive replaces "Special" which has been crossed out by a red line)

Making the Switch:
How OCALICON Transitioned from an In-Person to a Virtual Event

Like most events in 2020, OCALI made the decision to transition OCALICON from a face-to-face event to a completely virtual event.

While the format would be different, the conference planning team was committed to designing the same high-quality, best-in-class professional learning event that included the fun, creative, and collaborative energy that people had come to expect.

The team knew things would be different because our world is different. But “different” opened the door for new ideas and new ways of doing things. “Different” presented the team with “opportunities”—opportunities to think big and outside of the box.

Hear from the OCALICONLINE planning team and feedback from attendees, as they share about this year’s conference experience, including some funny stories, touching moments, lessons learned, and tips for others planning virtual events.

What were you most nervous about in making the transition from an in-person event to a virtual event?

Are we allowed to say ‘everything’? There was so much we were nervous about because there were so many unknowns. Initially, there were nerves about whether we were even making the right call to transition to online-only. We made a decision in May about an event in November, and some wondered if that was premature. Fortunately, time proved that right because the highest number of COVID cases in Ohio to that point hit the very week of the conference. But after the decision was made, implementation questions took center stage. Things like: How do we project attendance? How do our expenses change? How do we continue to create connections? What about exhibitors? Like the rest of the world, we were flying by the seat of our pants, making rapid-fire decisions and compressing our entire implementation process down to several months. But, we knew no matter how many questions and uncertainties we were being faced with, we had to figure out how to give this event our very best because educators, service providers, parents, and policy makers needed the content and expertise our staff, speakers and presenters provide.

As an organization committed to promoting access and inspiring change for people with disabilities, how did you ensure accessibility needs were met in an online environment?

Accessibility is our top priority, not only as an organization but also within the context of OCALICON—it’s at the forefront of all that we do. There were several areas where accessibility played a significant role:

1)    Preparing presenters. In some ways, our presenters are an extension of our reputation as an event, which means if we expect everything we create as an organization to be accessible, then we should expect the same of our presenters. To prepare them, we coached them on making accessible presentations and handouts, explained the importance of describing what’s on their slides as a way to provide audio description for those who are blind or visually impaired, and instructed them on how to use Zoom chat in a way that was most helpful for those who are simultaneously using screen readers or watching a sign language interpreter.

2)    Partnering with our event production company. We teamed up with Markey’s Rental and Staging, an event production company that we historically used for our in-person event to help us bring OCALICONLINE to life. We worked closely with them to make sure that every single session was captioned and that they were able to place interpreters within the necessary sessions, using picture-in-picture functionality. We spend a lot of time educating our contractors and partners on our needs and what it actually means to make something accessible. If they can develop a deeper sense of what we are actually trying to accomplish and really understand why it matters so much, then we find that they also get on board with our mission and commitment to meeting the needs and expectations of everyone involved. 

3)    Developing the online platform. We have an in-house team of all-star web developers, and OCALICONLINE would have been non-existent without them. They are well-versed in creating and designing accessible websites, evaluating everything from color contrast to alt text in images to font sizes to running tests with screen readers to make sure everything is being tagged and coded properly. When you have an event that is 100% online and your website is your primary means of access, if you have people who can’t navigate it or it’s not user-friendly, you’ve lost them. The people we serve are too important to us for us to let that happen.  

Your conference tagline is, “Welcome to the community. There’s a place for you here.” How did you maintain that sense of hospitality and community in a virtual setting?

One of the questions we began asking ourselves almost immediately after making the decision to flip the format was, “How can we still create a tangible experience in a completely virtual environment?” That’s where the idea of creating a hospitality kit sprang forth. We decided we would create a custom-curated, locally-sourced thank-you box for all of our presenters, and an abbreviated version of that for all of our general attendees. We knew we were asking A LOT from our presenters this year, and we wanted to make sure they knew how grateful we were and that we cared about them. We also wanted our attendees to feel valued, so we created a fun little surprise that we sent to them through the mail – which also helped create buzz leading up to the event. We sincerely care about every attendee that participates in OCALICON, and we wanted people to know that and be able to hold something in their hands that was a tangible expression of our sincere gratitude and appreciation. Especially in 2020.

Once we had put something tangible in their hands, during the live event, we wanted to provide them with direct connections to our staff. We hosted OCALI Central, which was an all-day Zoom meeting managed by our staff. Staff members floated in and out all day, facilitating conversations and connecting with attendees around any questions they might have. People want to know there is a real person on the other end of the computer or the phone, so we place a high value on putting our attendees in direct contact with our staff and experts. As an organization, we want to be in the trenches as much as possible with the people we serve. So any opportunity where we can connect and chat with the community, we’re going to do it. We crave the networking and interaction just as much as our attendees!

Give us some ‘behind the scenes’ scoop. What is something unexpected that happened during the event that caught you by surprise?

From an event production standpoint, there was one moment when Markey’s lost power and internet connection, which caused most of our sessions to stall out for a bit and our own hearts to skip a beat. Markey’s had teams in Louisville, Indianapolis, and Columbus, but the main hub was in Indy. Their building lost power, and since they were the source for streaming all of our sessions, if they went down, it was going to cause some major ripples. Thankfully, the outage was short-lived and most attendees likely weren’t even aware. We worked through what seemed like a hundred-and-one contingencies for scenarios like that, but it just goes to show that you can’t predict them all!

From an event design standpoint, we were all a bit surprised at how well the networking sessions went. We knew networking was one of the hallmarks of the in-person event, but how well was that going to translate to the online version? Would people even participate or say anything? We ended up hosting 111 separate networking sessions over the course of 2.5 days, and we as the conference planning team were floored by the level of interaction and engagement in those sessions.

Last, but certainly not least, was seeing Temple Grandin present from what appeared to be her kitchen table. Besides a wonderfully engaging, enlightening, and humorous keynote session, you also got a little peek into Dr. Grandin’s personal life. She has a poster of the Hubble Telescope and a cow on her refrigerator! That was a special treat that you wouldn’t get in the in-person event. I think everyone who attended will remember that forever because you can’t necessarily duplicate candid and intimate moments like that in-person.

What advice or tips do you have for others who are considering planning a virtual event in 2021?

A primary piece of advice would be that you’ll need to build in a lot of preparation and rehearsal time. In many ways, the virtual event is more like broadcasting, so it’s important to think and prepare like a broadcaster. You need to be sure to stay on script and on schedule. Testing is also important – you don’t want to wait to go live the day of the event and just hope it all works out. Can your system or platform handle hundreds, if not thousands, of simultaneous users? What’s your backup plan if something goes down? We worked closely with our web development team to discuss, test, and run simulations as part of our event preparations.

Beyond that, the list of tips and advice could be endless, but maybe the best advice is actually to ignore everyone else’s tips and advice. If you know your attendees and you know your event, then you’re the only one who is going to know best how to provide what they need in the format they need. The people you serve are the people you need to listen to the most, even more so than any sort of industry expert.  There was a heightened sense of information overload right from the onset of the pandemic, with industry experts specifically within the event and hospitality industries doling out all their predictions, advice and “10 Steps to a Better Virtual Event,” which, in some ways, aren’t all that helpful, and sometimes just got flat out overwhelming. The bottom line is that we marshaled the skills and assets we knew we had, acquired the ones we didn’t, and dove into the deep end of the pool, hoping that someday we’d be able to fill our lungs with air again. 

What Attendees Had to Say

“I thought the planning committee did an excellent job!  I’ve participated in quite a few conferences since all the virtual stuff has been happening and OCALICONLINE has been the absolute best one so far. I am so impressed by the quality of the setup, ease of access, and variety of sessions.”

 “The online option was great for me. I am visually impaired so it created a great option for someone with anxiety related to transportation and navigating sessions.”

 “Despite the online nature of this year’s event, I really felt like a community was created and fostered. Thank you to all of the OCALI team for all of their hard work and dedication to pull this off!” 

 “This conference was extremely well run and exceeded my expectations for an online event. Having the networking sessions kept the personal and interactive touch in an online format. I also loved the variety in sessions and having the opportunity to catch missing sessions on demand is a definite perk!”

 “I absolutely loved attending OCALICONLINE 2020! Thank you, everyone, for your hard work in organizing this iconic conference. To make this happen in the middle of a pandemic was a fantastic feat. I have nothing but compliments for the presenters, and loved the meet and greets I attended. Very well done.” 

To check out the program from this year’s event and to watch for details on OCALICON 2021, visit https://ocalicon.org.

What’s New at OCALI

InspirED Virtual Learning Series from OCALI

InspirED Virtual Learning Series: January Sessions
As we continue to watch the COVID-19 pandemic evolve in Ohio, one thing we know for sure—the 2020-2021 school year looks different—for students, families, teachers, and administrators. With a shared vision for promoting access and inspiring change for people with disabilities, OCALI and the Ohio Department of Education’s Office for Exceptional Children are partnering together to launch InspirED. This free virtual learning series is designed to help educators, administrators, and families find the information and resources they need to support learning and successful outcomes for their students or children during a very unique time of learning. Check out our upcoming sessions, which air on Thursdays at 4:00 p.m. You can also catch previously aired sessions in our video archive. Learners have the opportunity to earn a professional development certificate by completing a survey at the end of each session. 

Mark your calendar for these upcoming sessions:

  • January 7: Transition Planning
  • January 14: Strategies to Support Early Learning and Well-being in Changing Times
  • January 21: Online Instruction Based on Communication Mode
  • January 28: Why Checklists: Especially Now When the World is Upside Down

Learn more and register.

The Journey A Free Webinar Series from the Lifespan Transition Center at OCALI

The Journey: A Free Webinar Series, 2021 Dates
To support County Boards of Developmental Disabilities in helping youth with complex needs and their families navigate the journey to from school to adult life, the Lifespan Transitions Center at OCALI has created a free, four-part webinar series, called The Journey, designed to support topics, such as:

  • Creating structure,
  • Improving self-determination,
  • Planning for transition, and
  • Supporting literacy.

Visit the archive of previously aired webinars, save the dates for new 2021 sessions.

New AIM and ATIM Courses

Check out these new Autism Internet Modules and Assistive Technology Internet Modules and earn grad credit. Certifications of completion also available.

AIM: Motor Differences: Learn about the three main body systems that impact motor control, identify aspects of typical development, and understand motor differences that can impact people with autism throughout the lifespan.

AIM: Girls on the Spectrum: Learn strategies to support girls on the spectrum during their school years, risks of incorrect or missed diagnoses, the benefits and challenges of ‘camouflaging,’ and strategies to improve outcomes.

ATIM: ATIM is designed to provide high-quality information and professional development on assistive technology (AT) for educators, professionals, families, persons with disabilities, and others. Explore modules covering a variety of topics.

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OCALI NOW | Issue 22 | October 2020

OCALICONLINE 2020: We’re Saving You a Front Row Seat

By now, we’re sure you know that OCALICON, the nation’s premier autism and disabilities conference, is transitioning to a completely virtual experience this year.

OCALICONLINE 2020 will be the same great event you know and love, simply in an online format. This transition has created a number of changes—for our planning team, and our participants, attendees, exhibitors, volunteers, and presenters. 

For those already registered or those thinking about registering soon (hint, hint: our early bird rate ends Friday, October 16), we thought you might have some questions about what to expect this year.

  1. Are you offering on-demand sessions?
    Yes! Most breakout sessions will be recorded and available following the conference. Attendees must register by November 9 in order to gain access to the live event and/or the on-demand content. Access to the live event on November 11-13 and on-demand content will not be available for purchase after November 9. Please refer to the Schedule-at-a-Glance to view which sessions will be available on-demand. On-demand content will be available through the first week of January 2021.
  2. Will there be opportunities to connect with people in real time?
    Yes! We know how much OCALICON participants look forward to meeting each other every year, and recognize the power of connecting and engaging with presenters, other attendees, OCALI staff, and others while at the conference. That’s why we also have a number of opportunities to connect with people in real time. From dedicated times for networking sessions, presenter meet-n-greets, and connecting with OCALI staff in our virtual “OCALI Central” hub, there will be lots of opportunities for real time, real person engagement. Most breakout sessions will also include a live chat option, which gives you the opportunity to interface directly with presenters, ask your questions, and share your own thoughts and experiences.
  3. With content being offered online, how will you ensure that it’s accessible?
    As an organization committed to promoting access and inspiring change for people with disabilities, accessibility is at the very top of our priority list. We want to make sure that everyone has the ability to fully attend and participate in OCALICONLINE! For starters, all registrants can request specific accommodations and/or supports through the designated field on the registration form – such as an ASL interpreter. Our conference planning team and OCALI staff have been working hard behind the scenes to ensure our content and technology platforms, as well as the entire design of the event are accessible. We’re also collaborating with presenters to ensure their presentations are both engaging and accessible. For example, we work with presenters to help them understand the importance of audio description to help attendees who are blind or visually impaired understand any presented visual content – like a slide or infographic. This could include reading the words on a slide or describing the details or information shown in an infographic. Captions will also be provided for all breakout sessions, which can help support attendees who are deaf/hard of hearing, as well as those who may not be a native English language speaker or who might be watching in a sound-sensitive environment. Designing with inclusion in mind benefits everyone!  
  4. Will I be able to earn credit/CEUs?
    Yes! We are pleased to be able to offer an opportunity for earning continuing education credits and/or graduate credit through a variety of professional organizations and licensing boards. Graduate credit is available through Ashland University and Kent State University for an additional fee. CEU applications are currently being submitted for OCALICONLINE. Approved agencies and hours will be posted as they are approved.
  5. Once I register, how do I access the live event?
    You will login to your OCALI Pass account in order to access the conference. Please log in to your account in advance of the conference to ensure you know your password and are ready to go first thing on November 11! Sessions will be provided through the Zoom platform, however, you do not need a Zoom account or app to access OCALICONLINE sessions.

For additional questions, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.

Our team views these changes as opportunities to think outside of the box, and we’ve had a lot of fun thinking about new ways to make OCALICONLINE engaging, relevant, and meaningful. While many things have changed (and continue to change), our commitment to deliver a world-class learning experience that inspires change and promotes access to opportunities for people with disabilities remains the same.

We hope you’ll join us this year on November 11-13, 2020.

Welcome to the community. There’s a place for you here.

Learn more and register now! Hurry! Early Bird Registration closes Friday, October 16!

Join Us for a Free Webinar With Ohio’s Interagency Work Group on Autism and Employment First Task Force

Friday, October 23 from 11 a.m. -12 p.m.

This month marks the 75th anniversary of National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Over half of young adults with autism are unemployed and unrolled in higher education in the two years after high school—this is lower than any other disability group. And, by the age of 25, more than 50 percent of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have never obtained paid employment.

Join Ohio’s Interagency Work Group on Autism and Employment First Task Force to discuss this important topic. Hear from Chloe Rothschild, autism advocate, writer, and presenter about her own transition and employment experiences, as well as members of the DeWine administration on the ways they are partnering to improve employment outcomes for Ohioans with autism.

Panelists include:

  • Chloe Rothschild, advocate, writer, presenter
  • Kevin Miller, Director, Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities
  • Kim Hauck, Deputy Director, Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities
  • Paolo DeMaria, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Ohio Department of Education
  • Stephanie Siddens, Senior Executive Director, Ohio Department of Education

The webinar takes place Friday, October 23 from 11 a.m. -12 p.m. and is facilitated by OCALI’s Office of Policy. Register now.

For additional resources on transition planning and provider training, visit Ohio’s Employment First website

What’s New at OCALI

InspirED Virtual Learning Series: October Sessions
In mid-September, OCALI, in partnership with the Ohio Department of Education’s Office for Exceptional Children launched the InspirED Virtual Learning Series. This free professional learning series is designed to fill a need and help educators, administrators, and families find the information and resources they need to support learning and successful outcomes for their students or children during a very unique time of learning.

The learning series features Zoomcast sessions or recorded, facilitated conversations that are approximately 30 minutes each. All content is focused on increasing the successful engagement of diverse learners in a remote/virtual instructional environment, linking users with appropriate resources and tools. Learners have the opportunity to earn a professional development certificate by completing a survey at the end of each learning session.

Mark your calendar for these upcoming sessions:

  • October 15: Myth Busting Transition Assessment
  • October 22: Top 10 Tips to Develop a Growth Mindset in a Virtual World
  • October 29: Access in a Virtual Environment: Proactive Planning to Support Effective Communication for Learners Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Learn more and register.

We’re Open: OCALI’s Lending Library
OCALI’s Lending Library is available for online browsing and order requests with no-contact delivery. The OCALI Lending Library is available to any person over the age of 18 residing or working in the state of Ohio. To create a Lending Library account, please submit your information using the registration form. Once your application has been processed and your account has been established, we will notify you via email. Browse our resources.

Educational Identification of Students with ASD Virtual Training Series
The process to identify and serve students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) requires a well-trained and experienced evaluation team. From creating your team to administering quality assessments to accurately interpreting findings and communicating with parents and families, it is critical to have the knowledge and skills to best support students with ASD.

OCALI is pleased to host the Educational Identification of Students with ASD Training Series virtually for the 2020–2021 school year. This introductory training series, with 10 two-hour sessions (November 2020–March 2021) is designed for school-based evaluation teams that want to learn about the process for educational identification of students with ASD. Learn more and register.

The Journey: A Free Webinar Series
To support County Boards of Developmental Disabilities in helping youth with complex needs and their families navigate the journey to from school to adult life, the Lifespan Transitions Center at OCALI has created a free, four-part webinar series, called The Journey, designed to support topics, such as:

  • Creating structure,
  • Improving self-determination,
  • Planning for transition, and
  • Supporting literacy.

 The webinars highlight different websites, videos, printable documents, and other resources. Additional webinars are being planned, so save the dates for the following:

  • October 26, 2:30-3 p.m.: Transition Assessment and Transition Planning for Youth with Lifelong Needs
  • November 30, 2:30-3 p.m.: Self-Determination and Youth with Complex Support Needs

OCALI Now | Issue 21 | September 2020

September is National Deaf Awareness Month

Banner image that reads September is National Deaf Awareness Month
September is National Deaf Awareness Month

At OCALI, we are grateful to be part of a community of people who are just as committed to inspiring change and promoting access for people with disabilities as we are. It’s what fuels our team and the work that we do every day.

As we celebrate Deaf Awareness Month in September, the Outreach Center for Deafness and Blindness at OCALI is proud to share several free resources, including:

Throughout September, we encourage you to explore these free resources. By sharing them, you may help others understand how they can better promote access in their schools, workplaces, and communities.

To learn more about the Outreach Center, visit https://deafandblindoutreach.org or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Banner image that reads Did You Know...
Did you know…
  • There are over 300 signed languages? September 23 is International Day of Sign Languages. Celebrate by learning to sign your name in American Sign Language.
  • High-quality captioning provides access and information to over 30 million people who are deaf or hard of hearing, including young readers and individuals who are learning English as a second language? Be sure to use captions, and make sure they’re accurate.
  • Something as simple as taking turns can improve access? Whether you are working face-to-face or virtually, setting up rules for how and when people communicate makes things easier for everyone.

New: InspirED Virtual Learning Series

InspirED logo

As we continue to watch the COVID-19 pandemic evolve across the world, one thing we know for sure—the 2020-2021 school year will look different—for students, families, teachers, and administrators. Depending on the district, some, most, or even all instruction will be delivered online.

As an organization committed to promoting access and inspiring change for people with disabilities, OCALI and the Ohio Department of Education’s Office for Exceptional Children are partnering to support educators, education professionals, families, and others during this pandemic and in a new, remote learning environment with the creation of—InspirED Virtual Learning Series.

Our vision for this virtual learning series is to fill a need and help educators, administrators, and families find the information and resources they need to support learning and successful outcomes for their students or children during a very unique time of learning.

Initially, the learning series will consist of 15 Zoomcast sessions or recorded, facilitated conversations that are approximately 30 minutes each. Over time, additional sessions will be added to the library. All content will focus on increasing successful engagement of diverse learners in a remote/virtual instructional environment, linking users with appropriate resources and tools. Learners will have the ability to earn a professional development certificate by completing a survey at the end of each learning session.

The series will kick off with three Zoomcast sessions hosted by OCALI and Ohio Department of Education staff:

  • September 24: Accessible Educational Materials (AEM): An All-Access Pass to Success
  • September 29: Welcome to Homeroom! Tips for Creating a Learning Environment at Home
  • October 1: Supporting Positive Behavior at School and at Home: Strategies to Reduce Interfering Behaviors, Part I

What’s New at OCALI

AT Conference and Vendor Fair logo

Virtual Assistive Technology (AT) Vendor Fair: September 29

Assistive technology (AT) are tools and supports that provide access to the curriculum and aspects of everyday life for individuals with disabilities. The AT Conference and Vendor Fair’s mission is to build capacity in the regions by providing learning opportunities about the latest assistive technology to provide access to the curriculum for individuals with disabilities. Join us for a one-day virtual event where 20+ vendors will share a variety of virtual sessions showcasing state-of-the-art assistive technology and remote learning options. Experience 1:1 vendor consultations and explore from the comfort of home. Learn more and register.

OCALI and Autism Internet Modules logos
OCALI AIM Autism Internet Modules logo

New & Updated AIM Modules

New: Motor Differences in Autism Spectrum Disorder

Learn about the body systems which work together to give us motor contact and about typical motor development. This module also highlights some of the most common motor differences we see in individuals with autism.

Updated: Assessment for Identification

Quality assessment is the key to accurate diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders. Assessment is also a foundation of a strong intervention plan. This is no quality evaluation without trained and experienced team members. Learn more in this newly updated module.

The Journey: A Free Webinar Series banner

The Journey: A Free Webinar Series

To support County Boards of Developmental Disabilities in helping youth with complex needs and their families navigate the journey to and from school to adult life, the Lifespan Transitions Center at OCALI has created a free webinar series, called The Journey, designed to support topics, such as:

  • Creating structure,
  • Improving self-determination,
  • Planning for transition, and
  • Supporting literacy.

The webinars highlight different websites, videos, printable documents, and other resources. Additional webinars are planned for the following:


OCALICON Award Nominations Due September 30

There’s still time to submit your nominations for the Margaret Burley Family Impact and Kathe Shelby Leadership Awards! Do you know someone who has done extraordinary work to support and improve outcomes for people with autism, sensory disabilities, and/or low-incidence disabilities? Don’t let them go unnoticed! Nominations are due by September 30, and can be completed online. Learn more.

Ohio Interagency Work Group on Autism logo
Ohio Interagency Work Group on Autism logo

Webinar: Multi-system Youth with Autism — Ohio’s System Change Efforts

Friday, September 25, 2020, 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM EDT

Youth and young adults with autism frequently experience co-occurring mental and behavioral health conditions, and are increasingly served by multiple systems in Ohio. These youth are more likely to visit an emergency department for psychiatric reasons, have more outpatient and inpatient hospital visits, primary care and psychiatric visits, health care claims, and higher health care costs than youth with other disabilities, and are at greater risk of suicide.

In this month’s webinar, the Interagency Work Group on Autism (IWGA) is joined by parent, Mark Butler, and members of the DeWine administration. Panelists include:

  • LeeAnne Cornyn, Director of Children’s Initiatives, Office of the Governor
  • Sarah LaTourette, Executive Director, Ohio Family and Children First 
  • Maureen Corcoran, Director, Ohio Department of Medicaid

Join us Friday, September 25 from 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM to hear about the challenges faced by Ohio’s families and efforts to make change. Register now.

Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities Logo
Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities logo

Resources & Reminders from the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD)

DSP Recognition Week is September 13-19. We are encouraging families to share short videos showing their appreciation for their DSPs. They can tag DODD on social media or send an email to: communications.team@dodd.ohio.gov.

Virtual Transformation Summit Day 2 is September 22. Learn more and register.

Trusting the Team Process: Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, people with developmental disabilities and their teams have been challenged to make adjustments to the routines, services, and supports that help people live and thrive in their homes and communities. In recent weeks, those discussions have become more complex as people balance the increasing opportunities as Ohio reopens with ongoing risks of COVID-19. DODD has guidance for Trusting the Team Process in making these decisions.

OCALI Now | Issue 20 | August 2020

Improving Accessibility for Remote Learning Environments

Mom assists daughter with work on laptop computer
Photo by August de Richelieu on Pexels.com

Accessibility of remote learning—it’s not something the average person thinks about. But, for Ohio’s students with disabilities, particularly for those starting the school year in hybrid or completely remote learning environments, access is front and center in everyone’s daily lives. Many educators are now tasked with providing access to educational content online through video or digital documents.

The Assistive Technology & Accessible Educational Materials (AT&AEM) Center at OCALI is committed to ensuring access for all people with disabilities. As educators, students, and families prepare to head back to school, we wanted to share a few easy tips and reminders to improve accessibility for all students—whether that be in the classroom or remotely.

Colored letters spell the word "sparkle"
Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

Using Descriptive Language
Instruction-based videos and documents tend to have visuals that support learning. Using descriptive language in videos and providing text descriptions of images in documents is incredibly important for many students. Doing so not only increases access, but follows many best practices, such as those in Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Descriptive language and text descriptions support one of the core principles of UDL, by providing multiple means of representation. When you are able to describe information, students are able to get a stronger visual picture of what they are learning and how it is connected to the content.  Providing descriptive language, or audio description, increases access for students with blindness or visual impairments, but also supports students using text-based transcript of a video, students with poor or unstable internet that may not have high quality video or images, and students of all learning styles. To learn more about how to use descriptive language, watch OCALI’s short video.

Closed Caption label

Using Captions
Whereas audio description describes visual information, closed captions provide text of the audio or narration. Research has shown that tools, such as captions and audio description, not only increase access for students with sensory impairments, such as deafness or blindness, but also support many students, such as auditory learners, or students learning a language. Text , or captions, of the audio or narration helps reiterate the content and makes it accessible to students who are Deaf or hard of hearing, with auditory processing disorders, learning a language, or are learning in noisy environments with many environmental distractions. In order to provide captions for your students, there are many built-in captioning tools in common instructional tools, such as Microsoft PowerPoint and Google Slides. To learn about using these tools for both in person and virtual teaching, you can also check out OCALI’s short video on creating captions for online learning.

In addition to considering descriptive language and captions for teacher developed resources, it is important to use external or curricular resources that have also been made accessible. The Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP), provides free access to thousands of accessible videos for any family or educator who has a student with a disability. Teachers can create class and student accounts, assigning videos to be watched. Videos within the DCMP library offer captions, audio descriptions, and most recently, readings of children’s books using American Sign Language. 

To get started, visit DCMP and register for an account. Through email verification, you will have access to educational videos that have closed captions and many that have audio descriptions.

Assistive Technology Internet Modules (ATIM)

Providing Accessible Digital Materials
In addition to adding accessibility to online learning, such as videos and virtual classes, consider providing documents and slide presentations in an accessible format to students. Educators may be interested in learning about accessible educational materials through our Assistive Technology Internet Modules: Reading WATI Part I and Part II. Learn more about upcoming professional development through our BEST Grant, which focuses on students with visual impairments, with one session focusing specifically on Creating Accessible Word Documents in September 2020.

#HereToHelp OCALI Presents 4 minutes at 4:00 p.m.

Using Accessibility Features in Virtual Conferencing Platforms
Many of you are familiar with Zoom, a popular video conferencing platform. In our new distance learning environment, Zoom’s use and popularity with teachers and students have skyrocketed.  Take time to discover accessibility features within the virtual meeting platform that your district has chosen and inform your students of the options available. 

To learn more about specific features in Zoom and how to use them, check out this short video.

Tips on Making the Transition from School to Remote, Home-based Learning for Learners with Complex Needs

Person works at a desk, taking notes while watching a presentation on a large computer monitor
Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.com

School year 2020-2021—it’s unlike anything educators, students, and families have ever experienced. While teachers are typically setting up their classrooms, many families are wondering how to make the transition from school to home-based learning this year. There’s no question that learning will look different this year. Whether your school district is going back traditionally with new social distancing and sanitation requirements, or whether it’s a hybrid model of in-person and remote learning, or a completely remote model, educators, students, and families will experience many new ways of learning, connecting, and providing support.

Throughout the spring and summer, the Teaching Diverse Learners Center at OCALI has compiled a list of questions and answers from educators and practitioners across Ohio to address important topics for educators and families who support students with complex needs. Following are some key questions to consider for back-to-school.

How can we help a student understand that home is a place where school-like activities/learning can take place? 

Replicating a school-like environment and structure are important to helping students connect their typical perception of school and learning to now being at home for learning. Ideas on ways that families can recreate a school-like environment include:

For Educators

  • Send families photos or descriptions of each learning space in your classroom or school building where specific learning tasks take place. Offer ideas on how to recreate similar spaces within the home or yard. Label selected spaces to be matched with transition cues (pictures, objects, etc.).
  • Send home familiar tools and materials used in school.
  • Remember that some students will need sensory regulation materials. Sensory regulation is not something that only happens in a specific space or room. Some tools can act as a stimulant and others as a means of calming or focus. Be sure to pair the right sensory tools with the appropriate activities.

For Families

  • Use different rooms or areas in the home and yard for different activities. Create and use photos/symbols of each space to model transitions in time and activities throughout the day. For example, in the morning, the day begins in the bedroom, (with specific picture schedule/task analysis) then to the bathroom (with specific picture schedule/task analysis) then transition to the kitchen (with specific picture schedule/task analysis/choice board), next show and carry the picture of the desk area (with specific picture schedule/task analysis/choice board), followed by a picture of the yard/sidewalk/open space in the home to indicate recess, movement or play (with specific picture schedule/choice board), and so on.
  • Post pictures of school environments in locations within the home to indicate activities or learning that will take place in each specific location.
  • Set out tools and materials (in tubs/containers) that go with activities in designated spaces (math manipulatives at a table, art supplies at the counter, games on the coffee table, swing, balls and mini trampoline in the basement, etc.).

What types of learning can families leverage as they work and learn in the home? 

Now is the perfect time to think about teaching and learning about daily living and life skills. Identify chores or tasks that are required in the home—Are there any that the child could help with (helping with pets, preparing a meal or snack, cleaning items, picking up items, washing items, loading/putting away dishes, etc.)? Think about taking advantage of the warm weather to make the outdoors a learning lab—listening to the birds and insects, enjoying the sunshine, feeling the grass, finding natural objects, digging in the dirt, etc. Following are additional resources for educators and parents to consider:

For Educators

Resources can offer ideas for academic connections (language arts, math, social sciences and social skills) to life skills per grade-level, like life skills curriculum resources, which includes skill development in communication, consumer sciences, safety, recreation and leisure and more. Other resources to check out, include: Project WET, Discover Water, Project WILD (book and activity list, books about animals, and ideas at home for parents), Project Learning Tree, and Camp Nuhop’s online at home outdoor education modules.

For Families

Look at lists of life skills by subject area and grade-level for more ideas on how learners can assist with tasks at home.

How can families communicate new routines and changing timelines with their children, especially those who don’t understand why these changes keep happening?

  • Use or create a home calendar to communicate daily routines or schedules. Include words or symbols that indicate where learning will take place that day.
  • Schedule time on the calendar to listen to the news.
  • Schedule a morning video/phone call with the principal, bus driver, or teacher to hear from them. These can be video recorded and played back each day, if needed. 
  • Use objects, symbols, signs, and/or words to communicate with your child and to label the calendar.
  • Play a morning or wake-up song that indicates learning at home.

What digital resources can educators suggest/provide to families to replace traditional classroom materials?

Tips for teachers:

  • Morning meetings/circle time: Teachers can record morning meeting routines within PowerPoint or Google slides, and students can drag and drop symbols or words into each slide to complete the day’s schedule, weather, or date or can use paper materials to do the same.
  • Teacher read alouds: Use online videos or livestream of storytellers, have teacher audio, or video record stories and mail on flash drive or disc.
  • Manipulatives: Virtual manipulatives, using common household alternatives to count, sort, etc.
  • Field trips: Explore virtual tours, experiences, and outdoor activities around the home/community.
  • Hands-on science: Explore science videos, science TV programs, outdoor exploration, etc.
  • Interventions and therapies: Offer 1:1 conference times, teletherapy, schedule a time watch week, email an outline of task and materials needed for each week, or offer to create and send materials, as needed. 
  • Assistive technology (AT): Exchange the use of high-tech tools for low-tech access. Contact libraries or companies for loaner equipment, mail student-specific AT tools home for use. There are many types of AT that may be used by students on a daily basis.

How can we help families and students maintain emotional and physical health at home?

For Educators

  • Try to connect students with other students, if possible. 
  • Try to connect students with other staff members, if possible.
  • Check in and maintain as much or as few communications as requested by the family.
  • Offer families access to contact information that they can use in their time of need.

For Families

  • Loosen the reins on expectations. Be kind to yourself and your child by not being so rigid or strict with activities, schedules, etc. Flexibility is key.
  • Movement during daily activities are important, and scheduling twice as many breaks/recesses as usual is a good idea. Movement can be everyday tasks around the home, which also support functional skill development, such as: sweeping, dusting, yard work, laundry, dishes, cooking, taking a shower/bath, walking the dog, cleaning out animal stall or pet cage/tank, etc.
  • Don’t forget the arts. Music, dancing, singing, playing games, puppet shows, mini-plays, arts and craft, making sensory materials like playdough or glitter jars, coloring pages, movement activities, stretching, play homemade or real instruments, play piano, make mud pies, go on a nature walk and make art, baggie books or wind chimes with found objects, etc.

Increasing Financial Security and Independence through STABLE Accounts

Ohio State Treasurer - Robert Sprague
Guest Article By: Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague

Last month, we celebrated the 30th anniversary of President George H.W. Bush’s signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The bill’s enactment was a defining moment for our country, and the ADA has drastically improved equality of opportunity for people with disabilities. July also marked the fifth anniversary of Ohio House Bill 155, which authorized the creation of the STABLE Account program.

Now is the time to build on the legacy of those important pieces of legislation. August is #ABLEtoSave Month, which is dedicated to increasing the awareness and usage of ABLE accounts nationwide.

Following passage of the federal Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act, Ohio’s STABLE Account program became the nation’s first ABLE program. During this month of advocacy and outreach, I want to reiterate our commitment to growing the STABLE program and working to further establish specialized investment accounts as a mainstream financial tool.

STABLE accounts are an incredibly powerful tool for increasing financial security and greater independence for people with disabilities. Before, people living with disabilities could only save a total of $2,000 before losing their benefits. However, that’s no longer the case. Earnings on a STABLE account grow tax-free and are not subject to federal income tax, so long as they are spent on Qualified Disability Expenses. Qualified Disability Expenses include education, housing, transportation, healthcare, assistive technology, basic living expenses, and many other items.

Our team started off 2020 by venturing to every corner of the state to share the benefits of STABLE accounts. While COVID-19 required a quick pivot to virtual outreach, it didn’t slow down our efforts. Since May, we have seen a record-breaking day, a record-breaking week, and two consecutive record-breaking months, adding 839 new accounts in June alone.

We are proud to now serve nearly 18,000 STABLE account-holders who have made over $150 million in total contributions. Today, our program accounts for 25 percent of account-holders nationally – proving that Ohio leads the way in creating opportunities for people with disabilities.

Opening a STABLE account is easy – it only takes about 20 minutes and can be done from the safety and comfort of home. For more information, or to sign-up, please visit the STABLE Account website at https://www.stableaccount.com, or call our team directly at 1-800-439-1653.

The Buckeye State is fortunate to have an ever-growing advocacy network that does a tremendous job of ensuring people with disabilities have every opportunity to thrive, and I’m proud of the work our STABLE team does every day to support that goal. Together, we’re breaking down barriers to build a more inclusive state that benefits from the talents of all Ohioans.

What’s New at OCALI


Introducing … OCALICONLINE 2020!
The nation’s premier autism and disabilities conference is back! OCALICONLINE is November 11-13 – available through a laptop, tablet or smartphone near you. 

It’s everything you know and love about OCALICON, now in an online format.

Featuring over 100 world-class sessions on important topics and issues across the lifespan – plus inspiring keynotes each day. Numerous networking opportunities will be offered throughout the conference – and a chance to connect with exhibitors, too. More details and information will be announced in the coming weeks.

Welcome to the community. There’s a place for you here. Registration is now OPEN!

FREE Training: Assistive Technology Academy: Starts September 10

This multi-session, interactive and technology-based training program is designed to build foundational competencies in order to deliver Assistive Technology (AT) services to individuals with an array of disabilities and age groups. Learn more about this free training for county boards of developmental disabilities at https://ataem.org/at-special-projects-and-grants/AT

New Module: Responding to Trauma and Supporting Resilience

This module focuses on understanding trauma and how it impacts and influences children. Professionals will learn to recognize possible signs of trauma and identify practical strategies to build resilience along with connecting and engaging families with resources and supports. Explore now. https://cycsuite.org/m/210

New Podcast Episode!

Reflections on the 30th Anniversary of the ADA

July 2020 marks the 30-year anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, signed into law by the first President Bush in 1990. We talk to D’Arcee Neal, Diana Mairose, and Mark Seifarth – three people from three different generations – about what the ADA means to them, what it does for them, where it misses the mark, and their recommendations going forward as the journey continues. Listen now.

Happy 30th Anniversary, ADA!

OCALI Now – July 2020

ADA 30  - Celebrate the ADA July 26, 2020

On July 26, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will celebrate its 30th anniversary. Signed into law by President George H.W. Bush, the ADA is a landmark piece of civil rights legislation that works to increase the inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of community life, including employment.

Over time, the Americans with Disabilities Act has worked to break down barriers to opportunities for millions of American workers. Increasing access has been an important component of ensuring American workers have the opportunity to contribute their talents, skills, and services.

Access is probably not something the average person thinks about. But, for the more than 42 million Americans with disabilities (more than 10% of Ohioans), access is front and center in their daily lives. Unfortunately, access is often silent and unintentional discrimination.

At OCALI, our mission is to inspire change and promote access to opportunities for people with disabilities. Over the years, we have been committed to working hard to promote access—among our staff and with those we serve around Ohio. While we have made significant progress, we have more work to do and we continue to explore and learn new ways of listening, understanding, and modeling.

Centered around the theme, Increasing Access and Opportunity, commemoration activities around the country will include events, speeches, and new compliance assistance resources. The ADA’s anniversary will serve as a key component of the National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) observance in October.

The ADA Network has put together various resources to help celebrate, learn, and share information about the anniversary. To learn more, visit https://www.adaanniversary.org/. Consider using the following hashtags in your social media posts: #ThanksToTheADA and #ADA30.

Inspiring Change Pod Celebrates ADA 30

OCALI Now – July 2020

Inspiring Change  vodcast - webinar screenshot featuring four people talking

Coming later in July! Don’t miss a special podcast episode of Inspiring Change focused on the 30-year anniversary of the ADA! We’ll talk to 3 people from 3 different generations about their thoughts and personal experiences with the ADA. Mark Seifarth from Columbus has worked on public policy issues at the local, state, and federal level for over 40 years. Diana Mairose is an advocate, artist, and aunt from Cincinnati. D’Arcee Neal is a recent transplant to Columbus (welcome!) via Washington DC, and is an activist and academic who does a lot of work in the intersection of race theory and disability through the lens of popular culture.

Rev Up the Vote

OCALI Now – July 2020

AAPD RevUp the Vote - Make the Disability Vote Count

July 13-17, 2020 is National Disability Voter Registration Week

Coordinated by the REV UP Campaign, National Disability Voter Registration Week (NDVRW) is a concerted effort to get people with disabilities registered to vote, educated about this year’s election, and prepared to cast a ballot in November. NDVRW is held annually the third week of July, just before the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The REV UP Campaign, launched by the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) in 2016, is a nonpartisan initiative that coordinates with national, state, and local disability organizations to increase the political power of the disability community while also engaging candidates and the media on disability issues. The Campaign focuses on voter registration, education, access, and engagement.

OCALI has created a one-page overview that includes facts and other resources that you can use to help spread the word.

What’s New at OCALI?

OCALI Now – July 2020

Earn graduate credit with these great courses via Ashland University

ATIM - Assistive Technology Internet Modules

AT for Life Skills
Learn information about assistive technology (AT) assessment and implementation to support students’ access to employment, independent living, and post-secondary education. Understand how to use AT to support personal organization, daily living skills, environmental access, recreation and leisure, and more!

AT for Academics
Learn how to use assistive technology to support access to math, reading, and writing accessible educational materials (AEM).

Learn how to use assistive technology to support access to math, reading, and writing accessible educational materials (AEM).

ASD Strategies in Action - Autism Certification Center

Behavior Assessment and Planning with Evidence-Based Interventions (BAP)
Learn how to use functional behavior assessment and positive behavioral intervention planning to decrease interfering behaviors and teach new skills. These courses are designed to meet the 40-hour training requirement for the RBT credential from the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB).

Choose the age range that best fits your needs:
Toddler and Preschool Age, School Age, or Transition Age

OCALI Autism Center

Social Narratives: Now Available in Spanish!
To help people with disabilities and those that support them, the OCALI Autism Center has created examples of social narratives to use at home during the COVID-19 crisis. Social narratives teach the individual appropriate social practices that can also help regulate behavior. The Autism Center’s social narratives — now available in Spanish — can help teach safe practices and socially appropriate behavior during the COVID-19 crisis.

Med-Ed Connections Resource Guides
These free resource guides are designed to support families as they manage, access, and share medical and educational information concerning their children—at all ages—who are blind, visually impaired, deaf, or hard of hearing. The guides build understanding and connect important medical and educational information to make more informed decisions, so that their children can grow and live their best lives.