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OCALI NOW | Issue 39 • June 2022

Living Your Moments Well with Other People
Living Your Moments Well with Other People

Living Your Moments Well With Other People  

When we talk about building and enriching stronger, more inclusive communities, there are many different ideas, theories, and formulas for how to cultivate, nurture, and sustain them effectively. These efforts can certainly be challenging, complicated—even difficult.

But what if they weren’t? What if our collective efforts as professionals, parents, self-advocates, supporters, and allies, could be strengthened and improved simply by being more familiar with each other? What if we could build better connections, networks, and relationships simply by being more involved and participating in more activities together?  

Could it really be that simple?  

Well, that’s exactly the framework that Tim Vogt, Danyetta Najoli, and Jill Mays set out to discuss and explore in a recent conversation highlighted in the latest episode of OCALI’s Inspiring Change podcast. 

Tim and Danyetta both work for Starfire, a Cincinnati-based organization that has been building better lives for people with disabilities since 1993. Jill Mays is a development and community relations coordinator for PSU in Lebanon, Ohio.  

“If you’re in the space of being interested in building a more inclusive world, either through your work or through your family or through your community or for yourself, remember that strategically, it’s not all going to happen at once,” shares Vogt. “It’s going to take small steps.” 

Tim, Danyetta, and Jill have been studying the building blocks of psychology and research around inclusion, including principles related to familiarity, quality connections, and shared activities. These principles don’t apply only to people with disabilities, but really to everyone. 

The Familiarity Principle 

The familiarity principle states that, as human beings, we prefer people and things that we see or experience frequently. It could be someone you see every day on your way to work, for example. 

“Basically, when you break this principle down, we’re talking about our comfort zones,” says Mays. “Whether it’s people with disabilities or people of different ethnicity, representation really does matter—in the media or just in our lives. It makes a difference if we see people and things around us, because it makes us more comfortable and more familiar.”  

Quality Connections Principle 

Simply put, this principle explores the characteristics of high-quality connections, including a person feeling respected, helped, and engaging in ways that are creative or playful. 

Najoli emphasizes the importance of quality connections and inclusion by believing that a person’s quality of life is almost in direct correlation to the person supporting them. 

“I would love for people to be trained and to learn continually and know that it’s not just a static way to be, but you have to continue to learn and grow,” shares Najoli. “And whatever it is for you that gets you into a space of continually learning. It can be personal coaching, life coaching, or growth and development work—anything to keep a person stretching and growing.” 

Shared Activities Principle 

This principle is designed to build trust and connections through shared interests and activities. 

“For me, I’ve seen when shared interests help level the playing field and people just take off their titles and labels,” explains Najoli. “During the pandemic, I saw this in my neighborhood where we put together a street concert. I thought that was a great way to endorse what I love doing because I was willing to spend time to organize it and gather the artists, and it was great seeing people just play together and enjoy music.” 

Connecting the Principles 

“What if the way to build a connected life was through these small, high-quality experiences that people got to see each other over and over, and they were respecting each other, helping each other, and playing around to invent really cool experiences,” says Vogt. “It just feels like we’ve got a huge opportunity in front of us.” 


Creating an Accessible Community at The Ohio State Fair
Creating an Accessible Community at the Ohio State Fair

Sensory-Friendly Morning Offered
August 3, 10am-1pm 

The Ohio State Fair—from the rides and attractions to the concerts, shows, and the ever-famous food, the Fair is an annual event and tradition for thousands of Ohioans. At this mecca of endless fun and entertainment, fairgoers experience the bright lights, loud sounds, and distinguishable smells—you know the ones, the mouth-watering smells of funnel cakes and french fries to the unique scents coming from the animal barns. While these sensory-stimulating features may not interfere with most fairgoers’ experience, others’ senses may be heightened by these things, impacting their overall Fair experience.  

To ensure all Ohioans can positively experience the Fair, OCALI has partnered with the Ohio Expo Commission to host the Fair’s Sensory-Friendly Morning on Wednesday, August 3 from 10am– 1pm. During these designated hours, fairgoers can experience a sensory-friendly morning where the lights will be lowered and the sounds turned down. For those looking to take a break, they can relax in the OCALI Quiet Room. Located in the Ohio Building, this quiet, air-conditioned space will offer a variety of low-tech and mid-tech solutions to support a variety of sensory needs, including fidgets, weighted lap pads, sensory processing toys, and more. The Quiet Room will be operational every day of the Fair, with additional enhancements provided by OCALI on Sensory-Friendly Morning.  

“By turning down the lights and sounds for just a few hours on a weekday morning, we hope to make the Fair a more pleasurable experience for those who need a break from exploring the many activities of the Fair,” shares Alicia Shoults, Assistant General Manager, Ohio Expo Center & State Fair.   

In addition to the Sensory-Friendly Morning, the Fair will build upon its existing accessibility efforts and feature additional wheelchair/mobility charging stations and technology to connect people who are blind or have low vision to an agent who can help with navigation. These efforts are all designed to expand access and ensure inclusivity.  

“At OCALI, we believe in a world where everyone deserves access to their community,” explains Shawn Henry, Executive Director at OCALI. “These features at the Fair help to create a common experience with unique considerations that allow greater access for all.” 

OCALI and other organizations, including Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, have partnered closely with the Ohio Expo Commission this year to carefully plan these features to improve accessibility. 

“When our mission and vision of inspiring change and promoting access aligns with our partner’s mission of community engagement, we allow everyone the opportunity to live their best lives,” shares Henry. “To make change happen, we need to continue to engage in partnerships where people are willing change the status quo, and that’s what this partnership with the Ohio Expo Commission has been about.” 

Shoults agrees. “We’re thrilled to have such a strong partnership with the experts at OCALI. They have been instrumental in providing guidance that will help us to ensure that the Fair can be enjoyable for as many Ohioans as possible.” 


We Love What We We Do - OCALI Is Hiring
OCALI is Hiring!

OCALI is Hiring! 

We are a mission-driven team committed to promoting access and inspiring change for people with disabilities and those who live with, love, and support them. Learn more about our open positions for: Multi-System Youth and Family Regional Coach, Instructional Design Specialist, Accessibility Support Specialist, and Clearinghouse Librarian.

Find out why we love what we do.


What’s New at OCALI

Blue Post it notes with words: Accept, Love, Empower, Advocate
IWGA Registration

IWGA Registration: July 22

Join Ohio’s Interagency Work Group on Autism (IWGA) as they share the latest updates to Pursuing Quality Lives (PQL). These updates were based on input from autistic Ohioans, their family members, and stakeholders. The webinar will feature people that participated in the development of PQL as well as a panel of State leaders sharing how agency efforts will support the priorities of people with autism and their families. 

The Ohio State Fair entry gate
Sensory Friendly Day at The Ohio State Fair

Sensory-Friendly Day at The Ohio State Fair: August 3 

OCALI is proud to partner with the Ohio Expo Commission to host a sensory-friendly morning on August 3 from 10am-1pm. Explore the midway with lights and volume turned down, ride the rides without flashing lights and music, and take a break in a soothing quiet room. 

Band Together Central Ohio
Band Together Central Ohio

Band Together Central Ohio: August 14 

Join us for an Autism Open Mic to celebrate the talents of our Central Ohio Autism community. Individuals with autism are invited to participate at The Gahanna Sanctuary on the second Sunday of every month from 2-5pm. Registration is recommended. 

Virtual Educational Identification of Students with ASD
Virtual Educational Identification of Students with ASD

November 2022-March 2023: Educational Identification of Students with ASD Virtual Training Series 

This introductory training series with 10 two-hour sessions is designed for school-based evaluation teams that want to learn more about the process for educational identification of students with ASD. Registration for next year’s series is now open. Space is limited.

OCALICONLINE 2022 - November 15-18 logo with silhouettes of various people
OCALICONLINE Nov. 15-18, 2022

OCALICONLINE 2022

Don’t miss your chance to join over 15,000 of your peers and colleagues from all 50 states + 50 countries! Register now for OCACLICONLINE 2022 – coming November 15-18 to a laptop, tablet, or smartphone near you! Closing out the 2022 fiscal year? There’s no better time to register! Send your whole team and amplify the impact across your organization or school

Innovation Spotlight - Relationships Matter logo
Innovation Spotlight Series – Relationships Matter

2022 Innovation Spotlight Series – Recordings Available

This spring, OCALI partnered with the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities to produce a series of on-demand videos that showcase innovation around the state in person-centered planning, community membership, and employment opportunities for people with disabilities across Ohio.

OCALI NOW | Issue 38 • May 2022

Teacher and student holding blocks with data graphic of bar charts - headline is Special Education Profile Data
Special Education Profile Data: Solving Problems of Practice through Data Analysis

Special Education Profile Data: Solving Problems of Practice Through Data Analysis 

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA) established a series of special education “indicators” to measure each school district’s services and results for students with disabilities. The Ohio Department of Education works with stakeholders to set annual targets – or goals – for how districts should perform on these indicators.  

Every year, districts receive a Special Education Profile that shows whether they are meeting their goals, over time, for students with disabilities. The design of the Special Education Profile helps districts use data about services and outcomes for students with disabilities to keep improving their special education programs. These data give schools answers about kindergarten readiness, achievement levels, access to general education environments, preparedness for life beyond high school, services for children with disabilities, and equitable outcomes. 

The primary basis of each district’s 2021-2022 Special Education Profile is the final special education program data that districts submitted through the state’s Education Management Information System (EMIS) for the 2020-2021 school years. The Special Education Profile also reflects a district’s performance on each indicator for up to four previous years. (Source: Ohio Department of Education) 

  

Results for Students with Disabilities 

The Special Education Profiles notify districts of their performance on the key indicators set forth by IDEA. Profiles also inform districts of any activities they must complete based on these indicators. The report includes data only about students with disabilities, unless otherwise shown. 

  

Solving Problems of Practice Through Data Analysis  

In the May 19, 2022 InspirED episode, Shawna Benson from the Teaching Diverse Learners Center at OCALI and Andrea DiFrancesco, Education Program Specialist – Urban Support from the Ohio Department of Education model the use of a data collection template that can be populated with Special Education Profile and other data sets as a tool for problem solving. They explore a sample problem of practice that challenges the service provision for learners with disabilities. Other relevant examples could include topics such as disproportionality, LRE across subgroups, access to Tier 1 instruction across subgroups, graduation outcomes across subgroups, language and literacy outcomes across subgroups, etc.  

Get the Details  

These are just a few of the topics explored in the recent InspirED Virtual Learning Series episode, Revisiting Special Education Profile Data: Solving Problems of Practice Through Data Analysis.


BEST Braille Excellence for Students and Teachers logo
BEST – Braille Excellence for Students and Teachers

Free Summer Braille Series & Other Online Resources   

For 17 years, Ohio has been the recipient of a braille training grant from the Federal Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, known as the Braille Excellence for Students and Teachers (BEST).  

The BEST project is a statewide program of professional development and technical assistance dedicated to braille literacy, braille instruction, braille materials, and braille technology in Ohio schools. The goals of the BEST project include: 

  • Enhancing the competency of preservice and in-service educators, paraprofessionals, and others to provide braille literacy instruction and support across all academic areas including Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM); 
  • Enhancing the competency of pre-service and in-service educators, paraprofessionals, and others to efficiently and effectively acquire and create braille materials; and 
  • Increasing educators’ and others’ ability to apply strategies learned in the BEST project trainings and other activities to more effectively manage the braille needs of their students through the support of follow-up technical assistance or resources. 

As part of the BEST Grant’s goals to support the implementation of braille instruction and braille technology, the BEST Grant is providing professional development trainings and webinars in the following areas: 

STEM: These online training sessions will help you to learn how to teach and provide access to STEM subjects for students who use braille. 

Reading/Writing: Learn braille and how to effectively teach braille to students to access reading and writing activities with these online training opportunities. 

Accessible Documents & The Production Of AEM: These online training sessions offered within this category will focus on the creation and development of accessible documents along with utilizing tools and features within applications to support the production of accessible educational materials. 

Register Now 

Registration is free, but attendees must register in advance. The events have a limited number of participants. Registration is on a first-come, first-serve basis.


What’s New at OCALI

OCALI Multi-System Navigation Center; We are Hiring!
OCALI is Hiring! Multi-System Youth and Family Regional Coaches

OCALI is Hiring! Multi-System Youth and Family Regional Coaches 

Looking for a way to make an impact in the lives of young people, while growing a rewarding career with a fun, fast-paced organization? OCALI is hiring professionals with a passion for making a difference for unique positions as Multi-System Youth and Family Regional Coaches. These Regional Coaches work with youth with complex needs (MI/IDD) and their families in their homes.

Computer screen with We Are Hiring text and OCALI Logo
We are Hiring!

Transition to Adulthood Consultant

OCALI is seeking a full-time, experienced Transition to Adulthood Consultant. Essential to this position is the belief that all people can contribute, that youth with disabilities belong in the community and workforce and have the right to engage in opportunities to create a meaningful life.

Unlocking the English Code Free Webinar
Unlocking the English Code

June 2, 9am-12pm: Unlocking the English Code: Assessments for Learners Who Are Deaf/Hard of Hearing and Blind/Visually Impaired   

Identify layers of assessment and how data from each layer can be used for learners who are deaf/hard of hearing or blind/visually impaired. 

STABLE Accounts Parent & Family Virtual Workshop - Happy family of four with young girl in wheelchair
STABLE Accounts Workshop – Learn the Basics & How to Get Started

June 14, 7 pm: STABLE Accounts Workshop   

June 14: Register and learn how STABLE accounts help individuals with disabilities save for eligible expenses, invest for future needs, and keep their benefits. 

InspirED Virtual Learning Series logo
New InspirED Episode

June 16, 4-4:30 pm.: New InspirED Session 

Be At Your BEST – The Ohio Braille Training Grant Program 

For 17 years, Ohio has been the recipient of a braille training grant from the Federal Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, known as the Braille Excellence for Students and Teachers (BEST). The BEST project is a statewide program of professional development and technical assistance dedicated to braille literacy, braille instruction, braille materials, and braille technology in Ohio schools. Learn more about upcoming trainings and resources available.

Virtual Educational Identification of Students with ASD
Educational Identification of Students with ASD Virtual Training Series

November 2022-March 2023: Educational Identification of Students with ASD Virtual Training Series 

This introductory training series with 10 two-hour sessions is designed for school-based evaluation teams that want to learn more about the process for educational identification of students with ASD. Registration for next year’s series is now open. Space is limited.

OCALICONLINE 2022 - November 15-18 logo with silhouettes of various people
OCALICONLINE Nov. 15-18, 2022

OCALICONLINE 2022

Don’t miss your chance to join over 15,000 of your peers and colleagues from all 50 states + 50 countries! Register now for OCACLICONLINE 2022 – coming November 15-18 to a laptop, tablet, or smartphone near you! Closing out the 2022 fiscal year? There’s no better time to register! Send your whole team and amplify the impact across your organization or school.

Innovation Spotlight - Relationships Matter logo
Innovation Spotlight Series – Relationships Matter

2022 Innovation Spotlight Series – Recordings Available

This spring, OCALI partnered with the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities to produce a series of on-demand videos that showcase innovation around the state in person-centered planning, community membership, and employment opportunities for people with disabilities across Ohio.

OCALI NOW | Issue 37 • April 2022

Autism Acceptance Month Stamp Logo - What is Your Tried & True
Autism Acceptance Month – What is Your Tried & True?

Celebrating Autism Acceptance Month

Since 2008, April has been recognized as Autism Awareness Month in Ohio. The intent was designed to bring awareness to autism and to encourage and empower individuals with autism in Ohio and their families.  

Last year, Governor DeWine signed a proclamation to recognize April as Autism Acceptance Month, which states, “the purpose of Autism Acceptance Month in Ohio is to spread awareness, foster acceptance, and identify the public policy improvements needed for people with autism to live fully across all areas of life.” 

The transition from the word awareness to acceptance may not seem like a big deal. But, words matter and the shift to acceptance accounts for accommodating the feelings of others and accepting and celebrating our differences. Acceptance requires taking conscious action and shifting from not only seeing and recognizing that autism exists, but seeking to listen and learn, and then adapting our perspectives and behaviors. Just being aware of autism facts and information will not necessarily lead to acceptance or create inclusive and supportive environments in our schools, communities, and relationships. However, by intentionally moving toward acceptance, we can inspire confidence and a vision for possibilities that motivate us to continue to ensure that people with disabilities can live their best lives for their whole lives. 

Acceptance is also the first step toward inclusion. Inclusion then leads to belonging, which is essential to truly connecting and relating to others. Unfortunately, acceptance and belonging are often the biggest barriers to inclusion that people with autism and their families encounter. At OCALI, our mission is to inspire change and promote access to opportunities for people with disabilities. Over the years, we have been working hard to break down traditional barriers for people with autism and other disabilities and explore things that others may not have yet seen as possible. 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. Our words and work must then translate into action. 

The good news is that we don’t have to do this alone. As leaders and practitioners, autistic and disabled people, parents, family members, neighbors, and community members, we ALL play a role in inspiring the change we wish to see.  

Throughout the month of April, we encourage you to seek out opportunities that promote acceptance—for yourself and within your own communities. Following are a few simple ideas to get started: 

Learn more. Explore information and resources about autism. A few websites to check out: 

The Autism Center at OCALI 
The Autism Society of Ohio 
Interagency Work Group on Autism 

Show support. Many organizations are hosting Autism Acceptance Month social media campaigns. You can easily show your support by reviewing and sharing the information and using designated social media tags. This month, OCALI is using the hashtags #TriedAndTrue and #AutismAcceptance as part of a month-long email and social media campaign. Each week, we are featuring tips and strategies that families, educators, professionals, and people with autism have found to be TRIED & TRUE in their lives.  
 
Tried & True means: Something that has proven in the past to be effective or reliable. If you have a Tried and True that you would like to share, please send it to us so we can share it through our social media channels, website, newsletters, etc. 

Connect with others. Acceptance is an ‘everyone’ conversation and we all have the power and ability to support acceptance. Simply showing that you’re genuinely open and interested in learning more about autism, particularly from autistic people or their family members goes a long way. 

Now, more than ever, it is important to recognize the unique strengths, challenges, and experiences of each person with autism and their families. Rather than attempting to paint with a broad brush based on a shared label or diagnosis, instead we encourage everyone to thoughtfully engage and inspire. Have meaningful conversations about what is most supportive for each person, in each setting in that moment, and then do those things! By working together to ensure that everyone is supported, accepted, and included, that’s what inspiring change is about.  


Attend OCALICONLINE for Free - Register between April 18-30
Attend for FREE! Register between April 18-30 to attend OCALICONLINE 2022

This Fall, Attend OCALICONLINE—For Free!  

OCALICONLINE returns for a Sweet 16th year, November 15-18, 2022. The premier autism and disabilities conference will once again convene thousands of professionals and parents for four days of learning, discovery, and idea and practice exchange. For the first time ever – and for a limited time – OCALICONLINE registration is free.   

“We want everyone to experience the tangible and transformative effects of inspiration into action,” said Shawn Henry, OCALI’s executive director. “And so everyone is invited to register for free April 18-30. Whether you’re a parent, professional, self-advocate, or family member, don’t miss your chance to learn from national and international experts and network with your peers and colleagues from across the nation and around the world.”  

OCALICONLINE is held entirely online, which means attendees can join from anywhere in the world – the living room, the backyard, the classroom, the airport, the coffee shop, the carpool lane, or wherever. Last year, participants from 43 states and 8 countries participated, highlighting the fact that OCALICON truly does span across Ohio, the nation, and the world.    

With 300+ presenters and partners from around the world, learning sessions highlight content for every age and every milestone across the lifespan. From early childhood to school-age to adulthood, sessions feature the best-of-the-best in their areas of expertise to share research, best practices, and resources that support the lifelong needs of individuals with disabilities and those who live with, love, and support them.  

Another OCALICONLINE benefit is the on-demand feature which allows attendees to watch or re-watch content at their own pace and at their own convenience. This option helps support flexible discovery, learning, and development by allowing attendees a chance to experience sessions they might otherwise miss during the live event. The session schedule and information will be posted later this summer. Additional conference details – including CEU and graduate credit information – is available at www.ocalicon.org.  

“Free registration to OCALICON is a golden, no-risk opportunity,” said Henry. “We want as many people as possible to attend. But you gotta hurry! The free registration window closes April 30!”  

Important Details:  

  • Free registration is available for a limited time only and is available only until April 30. Standard rates apply beginning May 1.  
  • Registration includes access to the live event and on-demand recordings.  
  • Continuing Education Units (CEUs) and graduate credit will be available.  
  • You will know you have properly completed the registration process when you receive a confirmation email. If you do not receive a confirmation email, this should be a signal that you have missed a step. If you have any trouble with the process, reach out to the conference team at events@ocali.org.   
  • Help us spread the news! A promotional toolkit is available for you to use – just simply copy, paste, and post!  

Questions?  

Visit our FAQ page or contact the conference team at events@ocali.org.  


What’s New at OCALI

ID Early for Autism Spectrum Disorder Virtual Training Series - child with beaded toy in background
ID Early for Autism Spectrum Disorder – Virtual Training Series – Tuesdays in April at 3pm

Tuesdays, 3-4 p.m. in April: ID Early for Autism Spectrum Disorder 

Make plans to join the Center for the Young Child at OCALI every Tuesday in April from 3-4 p.m. for a new series, ID Early for Autism Spectrum Disorder. If you’re a professional working with families and young children at risk and/or suspected of ASD, this series is for you. Hosted in partnership with the Center for the Young Child at OCALI and Ohio Early Intervention, this series provides information, resources, and tools professionals can use to help identify autism earlier.

Compilation of four pictures of young children playing and smiling - Free Webinar for InspirED: The Earlier the Better! Recognizing Autism in Young Children
InspirED Free Webinar: The Earlier the Better! Recognizing Autism in Young Children

April 21, 4-4:30 p.m.: New InspirED Session 

The Earlier the Better: Recognizing Autism in Young Children  

The earlier young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are identified, the more opportunity early childhood professionals have to provide services and supports that will benefit children for a lifetime. Gain a deeper understanding of ASD diagnosis and educational eligibility determination, insight into differences in presentation of ASD in boys and girls, and considerations for making decisions about services and supports

Four young people looking at city skyline with text: The Journey: A free webinar series
The Journey: Free Webinar Series

April 25: The Journey Webinar Series  

Family engagement must be intentional and inclusive. Learn about myths of hard-to-reach families and communication tools to organize and improve your school-home communications in this new webinar. 

Summer Braille Courses – Graduate Level Credit Available

Summer Braille Courses 

Receive FREE graduate credit this summer through Ashland University and the BEST Grant with these summer braille courses

Lending Library Logo of rainbow colored book pages opening
OCALI’s Lending Library

OCALI’s Lending Library Maintenance

Starting April 14, OCALI’s Lending Library system will be updated. During this time, you can continue to browse the library catalog, but items will not be available for checkout until April 28.  

10 Minutes with Barb and Ron 50th Episode design with apples in background
10 Minutes with Barb and Ron celebrates their 50th Episode

50th Episode of 10 Minutes with Barb and Ron 

Celebrate the 50th episode of Barb and Ron with us! Congratulations to this fantastic team. Watch now online or check it on our OCALI YouTube channel.  

OCALI NOW | Issue 36 • March 2022

Girl using sign language next to an outline of the state of Ohio with text: Recognizing and Celebrating Deaf Education in Ohio
Girl using sign language

Recognizing and Celebrating Deaf Education in Ohio

Opportunities to build our understanding of equity and access, and what that looks like for each person, includes reflecting on our history. Having the chance to participate in activities that acknowledge and celebrate various groups through awareness months provides a space for students, families, educators, and community members to explore the contributions made by many represented and underrepresented groups. Building more inclusive environments means that we are intentional about offering a wide range of representation as we work to understand the experiences of one another. Honoring the diverse backgrounds, the unique identities, and the lived experiences that make up who we are as a society.  

Each year, Ohio Deaf History Month is celebrated from March 13–April 15, and allows us to look back at our past and reflect on how history has shaped our education in Ohio. This month came to be through the collaborative work of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and the American Library Association (ALA), and was signed into Ohio law in 2017.  The conversation started in an effort to make libraries more accessible for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing within communities by providing resources to learn about Deaf culture, American Sign Language, and the Deaf community. In early March 2022, NAD announced a shift in dates for National Deaf History Month, which will now be observed from April 1-April 30, effective this year.   

What We’ve Learned About Language Development  

When exploring language development, it’s important to identify what languages are being used and that there are many different modalities to express and receive language—speaking, signing, reading, writing, or drawing. Early communication skills and language development are strongly correlated.   

“When a child is born, there is a window of time up to age five or six, where children will be able to pick up language, so having the opportunity to pick up that language and have language acquisition at that time is really valuable,” shares Julie Stewart, ASL Specialist, Ohio School for the Deaf. “When we don’t do that, we would consider that language deprivation.”  

When students are able to focus on language, it creates a valuable connection, and it helps them with their expressive functional skills. It’s also important to understand that learning to read and decoding English and hearing spoken language are all different functions. For example, if a student speaks English, it does not necessarily mean that they can read English. That’s why it is necessary to have explicit instruction for all learners, and to understand that all of these skills are independent of each other. Simply put, access for every learner, in whatever format that takes, is essential.  

Not All Students Are the Same  

All Deaf and hard of hearing students are not the same. Sometimes, there are students who prefer to only communicate using a signed language, some who use a spoken language, and some who prefer a mix of both. Sometimes a student’s preference is determined by their environment.   

“I prefer to use American Sign Language, I can see the entire scenario of what’s happening around me and not be distracted by the noise that is in the background,” explains Stewart. “It’s often a very individualized preference.”  

Resources and Support Available in Ohio  

The need for mental health services for Ohio’s students has been on the rise, particularly since the pandemic, including Deaf and hard of hearing students.  

“Trained mental health services for Deaf learners are in high demand right now, and Ohio is building capacity for that need,” shares Jason Franklin, Director of Social Emotional Learning and Child Nutrition, Ohio School for the Deaf. “What we’re seeing is that what worked before is not the same. We need to be flexible and recognize that each child is an individual and may need different supports.”  

Parent mentorship has also been instrumental at the Ohio School for the Deaf and the Ohio State School for the Blind. Both schools coordinate with statewide parent mentors for training, which is designed to empower parents to feel confident and safe to ask any questions.   

If you are looking to be connected to resources in any area of your student’s development, learn more at Outreach Center for Deafness and Blindness.  

Get the Details  

These are just a few of the topics explored in the recent InspirED Virtual Learning Series episode, Ohio Deaf History Month: Recognizing and Celebrating Deaf Education in Ohio. Explore Deaf culture by honoring Ohio’s contributions as we celebrate Ohio Deaf History Month.


Employment First 10 years Logo with fireworks graphics
Employment First 10 Year Anniversary

Happy 10th Anniversary, Employment First: Celebrating Every Person. Every Talent. Every Opportunity.

On March 19, 2012, Governor John Kasich officially launched Ohio’s Employment First Initiative to establish statewide collaboration and coordination for community employment to become the preferred outcome for individuals with developmental disabilities. The Employment First Taskforce is charged with expanding community employment opportunities by reducing barriers and aligning state policy. 

Community employment brings so many benefits—from greater independence and wealth building potential to improved self-esteem and personal satisfaction. And that’s just the beginning: Employers and co-workers benefit through more diversity and a broader range of capable employees available; while society at large benefits when all citizens are able to participate in and contribute to their communities in all the ways they can. 

“Over the years, through the work of Employment First and its partners, we have seen an intentional increase in raising expectations for community employment and more and more employers engaging, which has been wonderful,” shares Alex Corwin, program director for the Lifespan Transition Center at OCALI. “There are so many success stories of people with disabilities positively contributing to the community and the workforce, and we want nothing more but for that to continue to grow.” 

Shifting Expectations to Cultural Transformation 

Every person has abilities, skills, and talents to enrich the community and people around us. The Employment First Taskforce envisions a time when every working-age adult with developmental disabilities has opportunity to explore their career options and seek jobs that fit their skills and interests. 

This starts by shifting expectations. Young people with developmental disabilities learn about employment options and planning during their school years. Adults with developmental disabilities should have support teams that assist in learning more about how abilities and interests can match opportunities in with workplace. Every person should expect that community employment is the preferred outcome for working-age adults with developmental disabilities. 

Every agency, school, organization, and individual within Ohio’s developmental disabilities system plays a role by focusing on what everyone can do and providing the best supports and services to enable people to choose and succeed in community employment. We’re transforming to a system culture that creates opportunities and pathways for integration, independence, and full community participation. 

Supporting Successful Transition Planning 

The Lifespan Transitions Center at OCALI works to equip communities to support the successful and unique transition of individuals with disabilities to ensure they can live their best lives for their whole lives. The Center does this by being agency-neutral, outcome-focused, and person-centered in offering resources, training, and technical assistance to create successful support systems that incorporate community living and employment. 

“We have partnered with the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities and the Employment First Taskforce over the years to create resources that support the transition process,” says Corwin. “By partnering together, along with other agencies, to discuss how to sequence services and supports or talk about best practices in a productive way, we are better able to support youth and adults with developmental disabilities, along with their families, service providers, and employers.” 

Since partnering with the Employment First initiative, the Lifespan Transitions Center has worked with local county boards of developmental disabilities, school districts, youth with disabilities, families, and other agency partners on various projects to promote best practices for transition from school to adulthood. These projects have led to the development of various resources and tools, which can be found on the Employment First website. Resources like the Vocabulary Crosswalk and Agency Navigation Tool, help families understand the language and vocabulary associated with transition, along with the services those partner agencies offer youth with disabilities. The Multi-Agency Planning Tools help agency partners like schools, county boards of developmental disabilities, Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, and more plan together in a way that is efficient and seamless for the youth and family to plan and build toward their employment goals.  

“By helping transition-age youth and families explore careers and employment before school, we exponentially increase their chances to obtain community employment as adults and fully realize the Employment First vision,” shares Corwin.   

To learn more about resources you can use to celebrate Employment First’s anniversary, explore this kit with helpful resources: https://dodd.ohio.gov/about-us/communication/DODD-Kits/employment-first-kit

Source: Portions of this article were used from www.OhioEmploymentFirst.org    


What’s New at OCALI

The Journey logo and background features four young people looking at a city skyline
The Journey: A Free Webinar Series

March 28, 2:30 p.m.: Journey Webinar Series: Functional Behavior Assessment for Youth with Complex Needs – Beyond A-B-C

Youth with complex and intensive needs often present with distressed behaviors that are difficult to understand. A Functional Behavior Assessment or FBA is helpful to determine the root cause of these distressed behaviors, however, the assessment must take into multiple factors. Join us for a discussion of the type of FBA that goes below the surface and beyond the typical Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence model.   Resources to assist in this process will be introduced.

Introduction to Functional Listening & Vision Assessments webinar series April 6, 2022 10-11am and 12:30-1:30pm
Introduction to Functional Listening & Vision Assessments

NEW: April 6, 10-11 a.m. & 12:30-1:30 p.m. 
Introduction to Functional Listening and Vision Assessments 

When hearing or vision loss has been identified for a learner, the next important step is to look at how each learner uses their hearing and/or vision in the environments where they live, learn, and play. Join the Outreach Center for Deafness and Blindness at OCALI on April 6 for a new webinar series, Introduction to Functional Listening & Vision Assessments.

ID Early for Autism Spectrum Disorder, Virtual Training Series April 5, 12, 19 and 26 at 3pm
ID Early for ASD Virtual Training Series

NEW: Tuesdays in April, 3-4 p.m.: ID Early for Autism Spectrum Disorder  

Make plans to join the Center for the Young Child at OCALI every Tuesday in April from 3-4pm for a new series, ID Early for Autism Spectrum Disorder. If you’re a professional working with families and young children at risk and/or suspected of ASD, this series is for you. Hosted in partnership with the Center for the Young Child at OCALI and Ohio Early Intervention, this series will provide information, resources, and tools professionals can use to help identify autism earlier.

InspirED Virtual Learning Series logo of computer with sun
InspirED Virtual Learning Series

NEW: April 21, 4-4:30 p.m.: New InspirED Session 
The Earlier the Better: Recognizing Autism in Young Children

The earlier young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are identified, the more opportunity early childhood professionals have to provide services and supports that will benefit children for a lifetime. Gain a deeper understanding of ASD diagnosis and educational eligibility determination, insight into differences in presentation of ASD in boys and girls, and considerations for making decisions about services and supports.

Myths & Misconceptions in the Educational Identification of Autism; young children lying on floor looking up a camera
Myths & Misconceptions in the Educational Identification of Autism

New: Myths and Misconceptions in the Educational Identification of Autism 

Intended for district evaluation teams, but also helpful to families, community clinicians, and other partners, this document was created to address the common myths and misconceptions surrounding the educational identification of autism.

Ensuring Access to the General Curriculum for ALL Learners
Ensuring Access to the General Curriculum for ALL Learners

Ensuring Access to the General Curriculum for ALL Learners 

Check out this video-based learning series that explore practical, easy-to-use resources designed to ensure ALL learners have access to the general curriculum.

OCALI NOW | Issue 35 • February 2022

Surrogate Parent for a Child with a Disability

Surrogate Parent for a Child with a Disability

Each student with a disability is granted the right to be represented by a parent regarding special education matters by federal and state special education laws. Some students do not have a “parent” to represent them in matters relating to identification, evaluation, and educational placement. Therefore, these students need a surrogate parent—someone acting as the parent on their behalf. A surrogate parent steps in and becomes a part of a team of educators and other professionals to ensure the student’s voice is heard, educational needs are met, and to support their success. The surrogate parent ensures the student has the same protections as all students eligible for special education services.  

The Role of a Surrogate Parent 

Jenny Keesee shares her experience about how she became a surrogate parent.  

“I have a friend who’s been a foster parent for over 30 years, and she asked me to attend an IEP meeting for a child who was in her temporary custody,” shares Keesee. “After I left that meeting, I really felt a desire to help, and I recognized this was a very vulnerable population. Although I couldn’t take a child into my home, being a surrogate parent seemed like a way I could help make an impact on a child’s life in such an important way.” 

Keesee has served as a surrogate parent for children ages 3 to 17, students in preschool, kindergarten through 12th grade, in public schools and in residential treatment facilities, and has represented children who have been moved hours away from their home, and those who continue to go to schools that they’ve always attended. 

“I hope that when I attend these meetings I treat every child with the same thoughtfulness, thoroughness, and concern as I would my own child,” shares Keesee. “I review educational evaluation reports and IEPs, and when I attend these meetings, I’m an active participant. I ask questions, I get clarification, and I hope that I’ve done my best with the information I have to ensure the child has opportunities for success in their education.” 

In many regions of Ohio, there’s a shortage of surrogate parents. Many children who are in need of surrogate parents are in foster care or are homeless youth and have experienced trauma related to being separated from their families or other adverse circumstances. It’s extremely important that these vulnerable children have a caring, concerned person to represent their interests throughout the evaluation and special education process. 

Is Serving as a Surrogate Parent Right For You?  
If becoming a surrogate parent sounds right for you, it is important to consider the following questions:  

  • Are you sincerely interested in children with disabilities?  
  • Are you willing to work with others for the benefit of the child? Having good communication skills and a collaborative spirit will make working with others easier. 
  • Do you have time to devote to getting to know the child and to attend multiple meetings? It can be very time consuming to be a surrogate parent. You will need time in your schedule to review education records and attend meetings. These meetings will typically be scheduled during the school day, so it’s important for you to have access during that time frame. 

New Training Available 
The online training, As a Surrogate Parent For a Child With a Disability, has recently been updated. The training includes 10.5 hours of self-paced content. Each module begins with a video presentation explaining key concepts and resources. That’s followed by activities to extend your learning. Then there are reflection questions for you to think about on your own and quizzes. Each module must be completed in order, but you can pause in your completion of those modules. After completing a module and passing the quiz at the end, the next module will be unlocked for you to access. Learn more at www.OhioSurrogateParent.org.  

“Please don’t rule out becoming a surrogate because you don’t have teaching experience or you don’t have experiences of being a parent of a child with a disability,” shares Keesee. “You don’t need special skills or experience. All you need is the desire in your heart to help a child.” 

Get the Details 

These are just a few of the topics explored in the recent InspirED Virtual Learning Series episode, Surrogate Parent for a Child With a Disability. Explore best practices, key concepts, and resources to increase knowledge, understanding, and skills to serve as or support a surrogate parent in Ohio, as well as learn how the Ohio Operating Standards for the Education of Children with Disabilities and federal regulations apply to the rule. 


Ask Abbey & Friends: Word Recognition Toolkit for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Learners
A free Interactive, three-part learning experience!
Ask Abbey & Friends: Word Recognition Toolkit for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Learners

New Series Launching This Week

Ask Abbey & Friends: Word Recognition Toolkit for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Learners

Expanding off of the original Ask Abbey series, this new interactive, three-part learning series is designed to provide practical, easy-to-use strategies on how to increase word recognition skills for learners who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. Reading research highlights the importance of phonological awareness, and more specifically phonemic awareness, as an integral component of successful literacy instruction. Students whose primary language is visual still need access to this set of skills to fully unlock the English code and become proficient readers. 

Each 30-minute session will include simple tip and strategies, followed by live Q&A with Abbey Weaver, an itinerant teacher for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Ohio and other ‘friends’ who are expert practitioners. The sessions are free, but registration is required. Certificates of completion are available for the series. Join us for one or all three. 

We recently connected with Angelica Gagliardi, Outreach Specialist for the Outreach Center for Deafness and Blindness at OCALI and project lead, to find out more about this new series. 

Why was this series created? 
“The series was created as a way to share practical strategies and information with educators in a format that was quick and accessible to them.  We also wanted to introduce educators to the variety of strategies that can be used to help Deaf and Hard of Hearing learners access word recognition skills. Additionally, while the series was designed with Ohio educators in mind, people from all over the country will find useful strategies to incorporate and use right away.” 

Why should someone attend? 
“This series was tailored to the specific needs we were hearing from educators around reading instruction for Ohio’s DHH learners. We found experts in each topic to introduce the system and strategies to attendees and leave them with ways to learn more and grow their toolbox of supports for learners. The presenters are so knowledgeable and passionate and will leave those who attend feeling inspired to try something new.”  

What’s something that people may not know before attending, but will learn after? 
“Every learner that educators serve needs the right recipe of tools and points of access to support their success. I think those who attend will see how the systems and strategies in each session can be used in conjunction with one another to create a set of tools students can pull from as they read challenging text. Many times we feel we need to find ‘the key’ that will unlock the code for readers. This series may shed light on the need to find ‘the keys.’”  


What’s New at OCALI

Computer with screen that says We Are Hiring with OCALI logo on bottom
We are Hiring! Apply to become a Multi-System Youth and Family Regional Coach

We’re Hiring!

Looking for a way to make an impact in the lives of young people, while growing a rewarding career? OCALI is hiring professionals with a passion for making a difference as Multi-System Youth and Family Regional Coaches in NE Ohio.

wheelchair in office hallway
Healthcare Professionals Virtual Roundtable

March 8, 12 pm
Healthcare Professionals Virtual Roundtable: Improving Outcomes for People with Disabilities

People with disabilities experience consistent barriers to clinical care, preventative services, and good health. Join the Ohio Association of Health Plans, OCALI and an amazing lineup of speakers to build your confidence, skill and ability to improve access and outcomes for people with disabilities.

InspirED Virtual Learning Series computer and sun logo
InspirED Virtual Learning Series

March 17, 4 pm
Ohio Deaf History Month: Recognizing and Celebrating Deaf Education in Ohio 

Culture is defined as “customs, languages, arts, and social achievements of a nation, people, or other social group.” Explore Deaf culture by honoring Ohio’s contributions as we celebrate Deaf History Month. 

The Journey: A free Webinar Series with photo of four teens looking at city skyline
The Journey: Free Webinar Series

March 28, 2:30 pm
Journey Webinar Series: Functional Behavior Assessment for Youth with Complex Needs – Beyond A-B-C

Youth with complex and intensive needs often present with distressed behaviors that are difficult to understand. A Functional Behavior Assessment or FBA is helpful to determine the root cause of these distressed behaviors, however, the assessment must take into multiple factors. Join us for a discussion of the type of FBA that goes below the surface and beyond the typical Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence model.   Resources to assist in this process will be introduced.

InspirED Virtual Learning Series logo of computer and sun
InspirED Virtual Learning Series

April 21, 4 pm
The Earlier the Better: Recognizing Autism in Young Children  

The earlier young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are identified, the more opportunity early childhood professionals have to provide services and supports that will benefit children for a lifetime. Gain a deeper understanding of ASD diagnosis and educational eligibility determination, insight into differences in presentation of ASD in boys and girls, and considerations for making decisions about services and supports. 

Various young children lying on carpet with title: Myths & Misconceptions in the Educational Identification of Autism
Myths and Misconceptions in the Educational Identification of Autism

New: Myths and Misconceptions in the Educational Identification of Autism

Intended for district evaluation teams, but also helpful to families, community clinicians, and other partners, this document was created to address the common myths and misconceptions surrounding the educational identification of autism

Ensuring Access to the General Curriculum for ALL Learners
Ensuring Access to the General Curriculum for ALL Learners

Check out this video-based learning series that explore practical, easy-to-use resources designed to ensure ALL learners have access to the general curriculum.

Innovation Series: Relationships Matter

2022 Innovation Tuesdays 
Honor our relationships and learn how to improve person-centered planning, community membership, and employment opportunities across Ohio. Learn more and register.

Recite Me logo
Recite Me web accessibility tool

Website visitors can use this innovative cloud-based software to increase accessibility options. Have the text on our website read aloud (including PDFs); change font sizes and colors; access a fully integrated dictionary and thesaurus; and much more.

OCALI NOW | Issue 34 • January 2022

In Focus: Post-secondary Transition in Ohio; four people sitting
Amy Szymanski, JoHannah Ward, Joe Petrarca, and Alex Corwin recording their InspirED episode

In Focus: Post-secondary Transition in Ohio

Research shows that comprehensive and thorough transition planning for students with disabilities leads to better post-school employment, education, and independent living outcomes. Transition planning requires input, not only from families, but also relationships with agency partners, schools, and teams.

“It’s important that professionals are part of the team as the student transitions into adulthood so they can best understand their adult life goals, where they’re currently at in their skill development, and how to best support them as they enter adulthood,” explains Alex Corwin, Program Director, Lifespan Transitions Center at OCALI.

Each year, states are required to report on the progress towards indicators to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Special Ed Programs. For the past two years, Ohio has scored in the needs assistance range—not exactly where we want to be compared to all the other states. To improve this outcome, there is an intentional focus on post-secondary transition in Ohio.

“We have an opportunity to assist our students through our State Systemic Improvement Plan which we’re in the process of writing,” shares Joseph Petrarca, Associate Director, Office for Exceptional Children, Ohio Department of Education. “We are going to align our partnerships with our state systems of support, and we are developing an early warning system that uses data that will assist districts and IEP teams for students at risk of not graduating.”

Impact of the Pandemic & Relationships

Like other services and supports, the pandemic has impacted the way many Ohio school districts provide post-secondary transition services. The variation in mask and quarantine protocols have changed the way districts have been able to engage and develop relationships with students, businesses, and community organizations.

“A lot of agencies still aren’t doing anything face-to-face, which is totally fine and their decision,” explains Ryan Murphy, Special Education Director, Fairless Local Schools. “But, I think it has hurt us in the relationship side of things. When you’re having conversations with families, you have to have that relationship built with them to be able to engage in the services.”

Maurice Taylor, Student Services Director, Mahoning County Career & Technical Center agrees, saying, “It’s that human connection, and our families and students need that and they need to build those relationships in order to set students up to be successful. It’s also important for our students to actually see and touch things and be around something that they’re interested in, and in some cases it’s been hard to do that.”

Innovative Thinking

During the pandemic and into this school year, Ohio school districts are getting creative on how to bridge gaps in building relationships and opportunities to engage, as well as address rising costs.

“Our outside agency partners have been creative, and they have been able to get kids placed in jobs, they were able to work through transportation issues, and that has caused us to become more innovative and creative,” says Murphy. “We have had to be creative to continue to give kids experiences despite having limitations. Additionally, as costs have risen from the pandemic, we have had to explore various grants, which have helped to fund some projects.”

Get the Details

These are just a few of the topics explored in the recent InspirED Virtual Learning Series episode, In Focus: Secondary Transition in Ohio. Watch the full recording to hear more from representatives from the Ohio Department of Education, OCALI’s Lifespan Transitions Center, and two Ohio schools share details about Ohio’s plan to improve secondary transition planning for Ohio students, along with secondary transition planning practices, insights, and resources.


ATIM Assistive Technology Internet Modules - Take New Courses chalkboard sign
ATIM offers new courses

Assistive Technology for Adult Life

Accessibility is often the key to independence. Because each person’s needs are different, it is important to carefully assess what assistive technologies (AT) are necessary and how to effectively use them.

Designed for educators, professionals, families, persons with disabilities, and others of all ages, Assistive Technology Internet Modules (ATIM) guide users through case studies, instructional videos, pre- and post-assessments, glossaries, discussion questions, and more.

The AT&AEM Center at OCALI is excited to share four new Assistive Technology Internet Modules (ATIM) that guide users through case studies, instructional videos, pre- and post-assessments, glossaries, discussion questions, and more.

AT Assessment Strategies for Adults: Part I

This module describes the role AT can play in the lives of adults with developmental disabilities and begins the discussion of assessment strategies that may be used to determine AT needs. Part I of this two-part module focuses on how AT can help people become more independent, more active participants in their own lives, and reduce the amount of support they need. Specific topics in Part I include an overview of AT devices and services, identification of the need for AT, and clarifying the individual’s strengths and obstacles to independence.

AT Assessment Strategies for Adults: Part II

Part II of the module describes the actions that Individual Service Plan (ISP) teams can take to evaluate the value of specific assistive AT devices and services a person may need. It also addresses ways to include AT in an ISP, and provides a brief overview of possible sources of AT funding. The final section of the module addresses ways a team might begin to develop a plan for a person’s AT use in everyday routines and activities.

Assistive and Smart Home Technology for Independent Living

AAC Assessment: Adults with DD

A team-based assessment process is required to determine the appropriate tools which best match the needs of individuals with communication challenges. This module provides users with information about the augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) assessment process for adults with developmental disabilities (DD), the variety of communication supports, and the selection criteria for communication devices and apps.

Looking for a Graduate Course?
The new modules have been bundled with existing ATIM to create a new graduate course, Adults with Developmental Disabilities, offered through Ashland University. This new online course provides participants with an overview of assistive technology assessment, implementation, and intervention strategies for adults with developmental disabilities. Participants in will learn about the AT assessment and implementation processes for all areas of AT, as well as special considerations for AAC users. Additionally, participants will learn about AT for independent living, workplace accommodations, driving and transportation, and gain an understanding of transitions from school-age to adult services. Course registration is open December 13, 2021–March 28, 2022.

What’s New at OCALI

InspirED Virtual Learning Series logo
InspirED Virtual Learning Series

Join Us February 17, 4pm
New InspirED Session: Surrogate Parent for a Child with a Disability

Some students do not have a parent to represent them in special education matters and need someone acting on their behalf. In this session, explore best practices, key concepts, and resources to increase knowledge, understanding, and skills to serve as or support a surrogate parent in Ohio.

Yes We Can!Journey Towards Independence - New Interactive Video Series
Yes We Can! Journey Towards Independence Interactive Video Series

February 23, 4 pm
Yes We Can: Journey Towards Independence: Work Hard, Play Hard

Join Michelle and her guide dog, Tonne, for a new, interactive video series designed to share how she lives an independent, quality life as a person who is DeafBlind. Each 30-minute episode will include pre-recorded segments, followed by a live dialogue with Michelle. The next episode explores how technology can provide access and engagement for people with disabilities at home, in schools, and in the community. Learn about what assistive technology (AT) Michelle uses, and how it has been helpful to support her access, participation, and independence.

The Journey: A Free Webinar Series
The Journey: Free Webinar Series

February 28, 2:30 pm
New Journey Webinar: Charting the LifeCourse

Charting the LifeCourse is a simple and effective framework to help individuals and families of all abilities and all ages develop a vision for a good life, think about what they need to know and do, identify how to find or develop supports, and discover what it takes to live the lives they want to live. In this session, you will learn how to use Charting the LifeCourse tools to: Engage students and their families in transition assessment and planning, Acquire data to assist in completing the IEP, ISP and IPE, and Ensure that education and service planning aligns with each youth’s desired outcomes for adult life.

Ask Abbey & Friends: Word Recognition Toolkit for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Learners - A Free Interactive three-part learning experience
Ask Abbey & Friends Word Recognition Toolkit for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Learners: Free interactive learning experience

March 2, 9, & 16, 4 pm
Ask Abbey & Friends

Expanding off of our original Ask Abbey series, this new interactive, three-part learning series is designed to provide practical, easy-to-use strategies on how to increase word recognition skills for learners who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. Reading research highlights the importance of phonological awareness, and more specifically phonemic awareness, as an integral component of successful literacy instruction. Students whose primary language is visual still need access to this set of skills to fully unlock the English code and become proficient readers.

10 minutes with Barb and Ron
10 Minutes with Barb and Ron

10 Minutes with Barb and Ron and #UDLChat

Join Barb and Ron for 10 minutes of light and fun chats infused with a perspective on Universal Design for Learning (UDL). These videos are geared toward parents, educators, college students, and administrators. Also check out the #UDLchat, which occurs every 1st and 3rd Wednesday at 9 p.m. Eastern on Twitter.

Virtual Assistive Technology Vendor Fair
Virtual Assistive Technology Vendor Fair

Virtual Technology Vendor Fair

Need professional development seat time? 24 different sessions are available from the AT Conference & Vendor Fair. A ½ hour of seat time is available for each session.

Ensuring Access to the General Curriculum for ALL Learners
Ensuring Access to the General Curriculum for ALL Learners

Check out this video-based learning series that explore practical, easy-to-use resources designed to ensure ALL learners have access to the general curriculum.

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:

OCALICONLINE 2020 logo
OCALICONLINE 2020 logo

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

OCALICONLINE 2020

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.