Back-to-School Guide: Resources to Support Those Caring For and Serving People with Disabilities

School supplies

Summer is winding down and schools across Ohio are settling in to a new school year. The team at OCALI welcomes you back and has compiled a list of professional learning and family resources and tips to get your school year started off right.

For more than 13 years, OCALI has been a trusted source for providing high quality research, resources, and training designed to inspire change and promote access for people with disabilities. As you start this new school year, check out these resources, many of which are free!

ASD Strategies in Action
ASD Strategies in Action gives families and service providers tools to ensure they are equipped to effectively care for, support, educate, employ, or work with individuals on the autism spectrum from early childhood to young adulthood. This program offers real-life, comprehensive, evidence-based strategies. All courses provide online, easy-to-use, video-based instruction filmed in natural settings and feature perspectives of people on the autism spectrum.

Assistive Technology Internet Modules
The Assistive Technology Internet Modules (ATIM) are designed to provide high quality information and professional development on assistive technology (AT) for educators, professionals, families, persons with disabilities, and others. Each module guides users through case studies, instructional videos, pre- and post-assessments, a glossary, and much more. ATIM modules are available at no cost and fee-based professional development certificates and graduate credit hours are available.

Autism Internet Modules
The Autism Internet Modules (AIM) provide high quality information and professional development to those who support, instruct, work with, or live with someone with autism. Each module guides users through case studies, instructional videos, pre- and post-assessments, glossaries, and more. These modules are available at no cost and fee-based professional development certificates and graduate credit hours are available. Three new modules have recently been added to the collection of 45 existing modules, including:

  • Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP)
  • Using Special Interests in the Classroom
  • Emotional Vulnerability 

Communications Planning Guide for Students Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
Communication and language are the foundations of learning. Students in an educational setting who are deaf/hard of hearing access communication in a variety of ways. It is important for teams, including students and families, to gather and share information about a student’s language, communication, and access. This Communication Planning Guide is a tool that can help facilitate meaningful discussions as team members engage in the decision-making process.

Executive Function Webcast Series
Developed by OCALI’s Autism Center and State Support Team 8, this online resource is designed to support educators with understanding and assessing executive functioning, including the challenges student face.This must-watch webcast series introduces users to executive function and how it can impact students of all ages and a variety of learners. 

Extended Standards with Learning Progressions
Standards provide learning targets for units of study, lessons, and daily plans that drive instruction and assessment. This resource provides direct access to the 2018 Ohio’s Learning Standards – Extended (OLS-E) that also contain Learning Progressions (LP’s). The LP’s are a companion to Ohio’s New Learning Standards and OLS-E and help develop teacher and learner clarity about embedded skills within each standard. 

OCALI Lending Library
Like a traditional library, the OCALI Lending Library offers thousands of free materials, resources, and technology on a range of topics. Among the Library’s newest resources are instructional material kits in various subjects, including geometry, science, social studies, etc. These kits were specially designed to supplement the curriculum standards and are great for educators who need supplemental, interactive tasks to go with their lesson plans. All materials are shipped directly at no charge. Explore the Lending Library.

Path from School to Employment Resources
This folder of resources is designed to start conversations for families and youth. The resources include a broad overview of the possible steps, questions, services, and decisions that need to be considered during the years of transition planning.

Planning Templates
Providing daily standards-based instruction for learners with complex and multiple disabilities, such as autism and deaf-blindness, requires a variety of materials, strategies, and differentiation. Quality instruction cannot be provided without detailed, collaborative pre-planning. These templates are designed to help users plan to meet the needs of diverse learners across all learning environments (LRE’s). Topics included in these templates include unit planning, collaborative tiered planning (MTSS tiers of support), and daily planning. Co-planning is also addressed as it aligns with the Ohio Improvement Process (OIP) and State Professional Development Grant (SPDG) work around equity and inclusivity.

Promoting Access for People Who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Blind, or Visually Impaired
Information is everywhere you look and everywhere you listen. When vision or hearing is affected, part of that information is missing, and this can create hurdles. This makes getting strategies in place important so that you can support access to information and open up opportunities for meaningful participation for everyone. This free video training module will get you started with basic strategies to begin building relationships and engaging in basic supports.

Tidbits for Toddlers
Created by OCALI’s Center for the Young Child, Tidbits for Toddlers are short, on-the-go videos designed for people working with young children. Each video provides a basic overview and information about what autism spectrum disorder is, along with basic tips to help you with a toddler in your life.

Transition to Adulthood Guidelines, Second Edition
The Transition to Adulthood Guidelines are designed to help users understand the continuous shifts in life paths, provide unique tips and strategies around implications, and raise awareness for schooling and employment considerations for individuals with autism spectrum disorder. Use these resources as a reference to help frame the planning for adulthood. 

Universal Design for Learning Resources
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an approach to designing educational environments and products so they can be used by the widest range of students without adaptation. Check out the extensive collection of UDL webinars and books from the OCALI Lending Library on a variety of topics, including: growth mindset, co-teaching or planning, Specially Designed Instruction (SDI), implementation science, family engagement, and more. Another great resource for parents, educators, administrators, and educational teams is UDL NOW by Katie Novak.

Back-to-School Tips from OCALI Staff
“Start the year with positive communication between you and your child’s early care and education professionals.”
– Laura Maddox, Center for the Young Child

“Be flexible and give options to your students. Relationship building is essential for students and families.”
– Ron Rogers, Universal Design for Learning Center 

“Get to know your students. Establishing a positive relationship and rapport with them is crucial to their learning. Also be open to thinking outside of the box and remember that fair does not mean equal. Some students will need different support to be able to access various school environments and activities.”
– Amy Bixler Coffin, Autism Center

“For each student, consider if technology may help the student to participate or access a larger range of tasks and activities. If the answer is yes, reach out to the resources available on the AT&AEM Center website and OCALI’s Lending Library to help in the assistive technology decision making process.”
– Jan Rogers, Assistive Technology & Accessible Educational Materials Center

“Prepare everyone in the school for each learner so they can be included and can participate naturally in every aspect of the day. Planning for communication access up front saves time for the entire rest of the year and helps to avoid potential misunderstandings.”
– Christine Croyle, Outreach Center for Deafness and Blindness

“Read with children. Engage them in conversations about what they learn. When children see your excitement, it builds their own excitement for learning.”
– Samantha Brown, OCALI Lending Library

“Know your learners and what they know and what they need. It’s also important to know the content being taught—every detail in the progression of learning is important. For parents and families, it’s important to ask questions about learning—What does my child know now about this topic? What goal are they trying to reach? What are the steps in knowledge and skill development to get there? What supports will they receive to meet the goal?”
– Shawna Benson, Teaching Diverse Learners Center