About Angela Delvin-Brown, Ed.D.

Angie has 40 years of experience in the field of education working as a classroom teacher, college professor, state department of education consultant and private educational consultant. Advocating for and addressing the needs of individuals with disabilities and unique learning needs has been her focus for many years. Effectively supporting parents, teachers/schools and students has been and remains her professional goal.

More than the ‘Luck of the Irish’: Six Keys to More Effective Transition Planning

Transition from high school for students with disabilities to post secondary education, training and/or employment is a critically important process.  As schools, parents, and the students themselves continue to grapple with these important changes,  it is important to have a ‘plan for the plan’.  It is not luck when a student transitions effectively to the next stage after high school.  Students don’t just fall into the next stage of their lives when encountering and managing their continued learning needs. It takes careful planning to provide effective transitions for students with disabilities, especially students who have or should be aspiring to post secondary education.  All high school students with disabilities deserve improved outcomes in school that will provide smooth and successful next steps to college, technical schooling and/or a stable, enriching job.

Effective transition supports the student’s high school journey with multiple components that serve to help identify interests and needs, develop a planned course of study that involves outside agencies and the community, and provides the necessary skills for the next step into a successful post secondary and/or work experience. There are key components to effective transition of students with disabilities.  The  student’s perspective while in high school must be an integral part of the entire transition planning process. Assisting students with disabilities to be as prepared or perhaps even better informed participants in the IEP process than teachers and parents must become a priority.  To ensure effective transition planning for and with students who have disabilities, teams need to focus on six key components.

Element 1: Work with students to help them  understand the nature of their disability and the impact of the disability on their school and daily life. Understanding the disability is important for students and the cornerstone of the foundation of self advocacy and self determination.  Share the psychological report, the language evaluation, the occupational assessment, and other performance measures with all adult team members of the IEP team.  Ensure that parents are well informed participants as well.  Consider:

  • Where do we specifically include the student in a thorough and perhaps ongoing understanding of their unique strengths, weaknesses, and impact of the disability(ies) on learning, communication, social interaction, and more?  
  • When and how do we communicate regularly with the student that their abilities are strong but the manner in which they make sense of learning is different? 
  • When do we say that different is OK?  
  • Where and how do we regularly encourage the student to believe in themselves and that the “sky’s the limit”?     

Element 2 : Include students with disabilities more actively in their IEP meetings. Student participation in the IEP is essential for the student to allow for and practice their own self advocacy.  The self awareness that comes from the student’s understanding of their disability in clear terms with help from the school psychologist and perhaps teachers well versed in communicating this information can be empowering for the student.  This sharing and communication may take time to be sure, over even years perhaps, but can only grow the student’s understanding and hopefully ability to not only communicate their needs but help match needed supports and accommodations.

Element 3 : Conduct thorough and ongoing assessments for use in the transition planning process. Assessment beginning in 8th grade and continuing through high school in areas of interest, skills, academic performance, daily living skills, and more can be essential to identify and update the student’s areas of focus for transition planning.

Element 4 : Use backwards planning for the student’s 4-year high school plan. Backwards planning is crucial to making sure coursework is appropriate, well sequenced, and includes a career focus over the four-year (or more) span of high school. Use resources, such as the Transition Planning Worksheet by Responsive Instruction LLC, to ensure that all of the key transition components are addressed and distributed throughout  the student’s 4+ year high school experience providing positive high school to post secondary education transition outcomes.  

Element 5: Align and use resources outside of the school to assist in the transition experience. Outside agencies, community resources, local colleges, vocational rehabilitation, and more can provide both useful and practical  experiences like apprenticeships, work study, dual enrollment, on the job training, and other facilitated experiences for the student with disabilities.  Parents, teachers, college support staff, local businesses, and parents can all be vital participants in the student’s transition learning experiences.  Getting outside of the four walls of the school setting is essential to continue to build personalized and important experiences for students with disabilities.

Element 6 : Ensure that essential skills needed for the student to be successful both inside and out of the school building are a focus of instruction during the secondary school years. These skills include reading, math, and written expression but go beyond these foundational academic skills.  Weaknesses in areas of importance, such as self regulation, social interaction, social communication, and various executive functioning skills, are absolutely essential to student success inside and especially outside of the school setting.  Skills learned in isolation must be practiced in more real life settings in order to generalize critical ‘life skills’.  The self-awareness (Element 1) in understanding the nature of the disability, the impact of the disability on a student’s learning and life, and the student’s ability to effectively communicate and navigate life culminates with each of the key elements discussed here.

It’s more than the ‘luck of the Irish’ for teachers, parents and support staff to provide an appropriate education to students with disabilities. Without effective transition planning, our efforts may still fall short. Only when the student is well prepared to meet the demands of post high school life , with a special focus and laser attention to effective transition planning, can we be satisfied in our efforts.

By | February 10th, 2022|Transition|0 Comments

Important Transitions in the New School Year: Designing Transition Plans to Increase Postsecondary Success

This fall of 2021, many students and teachers across America will be heading back to brick and mortar classrooms, some for the first time in as many as 15 months due to the Covid health crisis. It will be a year of many TRANSITIONS. For students with disabilities entering high school and postsecondary education (college, technical school, structured employment, etc.), the transition will be as significant and as important as any educational undertaking to date. Therefore, it is vital that students have a quality Transition Plan.

Federal IDEIA legislation calls for Transition Plans to be developed for students with disabilities 16 years of age or older although some states require transition planning to begin before students are 16 years old. This Transition Plan should be an individualized, coordinated set of activities, evaluated and updated at least annually. It should provide for seamless movement from high school to postsecondary activities, including college or vocational education, integrated employment, adult services, independent living, and more. The high school Transition Plan portion of the IEP, according to Section 300.43 of IDEIA regulations, should be a coordinated and results oriented process. Specialized assessments to determine strengths, interests and preferences guide the plan development. Annual goals are included in the Transition Plan to direct activities and progress.

When we examine current data that compares students with disabilities’ high school graduation rates to that of nondisabled peers, we find significant gaps locally, statewide, and nationally. Too often, students with disabilities underperform in high school, including not completing high school, earning a high school degree with less rigor, obtaining poorer grades, and participating in reduced curricular and extra curricular activities compared to nondisabled peers. The gap for students with disabilities is made significantly worse when the Transition Plan for a student’s 4 (or more if needed) years of high school was minimally developed and executed. This lack of appropriate planning for high school transition, ultimately, may lead to reduced postsecondary education, employment, and potential long term lifetime income for a student with disabilities. The dismal outcomes for students with disabilities must be corrected. One key step in improving the futures of students with disabilities includes developing and implementing Transition Plans that lead to effective and appropriate postsecondary education and life skills.

If you are an entering freshman in a college or technical school this fall who received accommodations through an IEP or 504 during high school, you may be eligible for accommodations in your upcoming postsecondary education setting. Unfortunately, students with disabilities in postsecondary education are not provided accommodations at an alarming rate. If you qualify, you should receive a College Accommodation Plan that is well developed and implemented to assist you with a successful postsecondary educational experience leading to degree(s) completion and/ or vocational certification. Responsive Instruction’s goal is to see students not only reach graduation from high school and/or college/vocational training but to do so at a high level of success.

To obtain ultimate success, transition planning should start before students enter high school. Students often complete career interest surveys and research potential career options, but Transition Planning should include more meaningful and person centered activities to identify and appropriately support each individual student’s strengths, weaknesses, and needs. While there are numerous strategies and activities that can be individualized for each student, we provide a few tips below that educators, parents, and students with disabilities can use to help guide transition planning for students from 8th grade through their high school senior year.

During your 8th grade year:

  • Talk to at least 4 or 5 adult members of your family or adult friends and ask them what they did after high school and why? Start thinking if any of those options would be good for you and what it takes during high school to reach that same result. Explore the course options at your high school, including vocational classes, college prep classes, etc.
  • Start attending your IEP meetings every year and considering what your major goals are or could be after high school. You may not attend the entire meeting, but try to participate in the development of your transition plan and in the determination of helpful accommodations and supports documented in your IEP.

Freshman year:

  • Locate a copy of your current IEP. What are your current accommodations? Do you use all of the listed accommodations in your classes? Are the accommodations documented on your IEP helpful for you? Are there other accommodations that should be considered to increase your success in your class settings?

Sophomore Year:

  • Ask your parents if you can view a copy of your psychological report. This report provides detailed information from your psychological testing that describes your learning strengths and weaknesses. Schedule a time with a school psychologist to discuss the results of your evaluation and how your weakest areas impact your learning. Consider your performance in your classes. Are you able to make good grades (A’s and B’s) with the supports you have now? Is your school performance consistent with your identified potential?

Junior Year

  • Now is the time to narrow your choices to attend college or technical school or to decide to go straight into employment after graduation. Meet with your school counselor by the end of October of your junior year to ask about your educational and employment options after high school. 
  • Schedule and prepare to take SAT or ACT exams for college entrance, ASVAB for military interest, and/or your state’s vocational placement tests for technical school enrollment.

Senior Year

  • If you are choosing postsecondary education after high school, review your accommodations in your current IEP and make note of which ones you should request in college or technical school. All high school accommodations are not provided in college courses. Once accepted, contact the postsecondary school’s disability services office to find out how and what is needed to secure your accommodations. You will have to verify which accommodations are vital to your success in the college or other postsecondary education setting. 
  • When you leave high school, you will be expected to self-advocate for (i.e., identify and justify) your accommodations and needs. Practice self-advocating with your current teachers by labeling and describing what accommodations and supports related to your disability are essential for your success in your high school classes. 

While transition planning for students with disabilities does not ensure student success, targeted, person-centered Transition Plans can facilitate the effective transition between high school and postsecondary education and have long-term impact on your future career, income, and accomplishments. The seven tips listed above are only a start for delving deeper into determining the supports and services students with disabilities need in postsecondary settings to accomplish their goals and desired outcomes. A well-developed student-centered Transition Plan can assist students with disabilities in reaching their goals after high school graduation.

By | August 14th, 2021|Transition|0 Comments

Parents as Teachers: The New “Norm” in a Time of Crisis

We are all painfully aware of the health crisis currently facing our country and the world.  Many things we considered typical in the beginning of 2020 have undergone huge changes in response to fighting COVID-19.

One of the most drastic changes is how schools have responded by closing to stop the spread of the virus.  To safeguard the health of our children and school staff, online learning has become the new normal for the instruction of all learners.  The extensive closing of schools and universities has forced an online mandate for instructional delivery.  This  approach has not been utilized to such an extreme extent, until now.  At best, teachers, professors, related support providers and the like have developed scheduled direct instruction lessons with students through participation in online learning sessions between the teacher and student(s). At worst, schools are struggling and may have only provided passive learning activities for students that parents, older siblings, private tutors, etc. use to deliver instruction directly (face to face) to students.  Even in the best of circumstances, parents and others have had to assume instructional roles out of necessity.

For more typical learners, this new learning arrangement may be challenging.  For students with disabilities who have IEPs that require direct instructional strategies, specially trained teachers, related services support staff (speech therapists, occupational therapists, paraprofessionals, etc.), or individualized instruction, the change has been fraught with huge challenges.  HUGE.

While this arrangement would not be the choice for most (if not any) students with disabilities, it is in fact, today’s reality and likely to continue at least until the end of this current school year. 

Parents have become essential partners with schools in order to implement and reinforce online instructional approaches now used by school systems nationwide. Like many teachers, parents and others at home have been thrust into an unfamiliar role that requires a significant number of daily hours assisting children with online instruction. The key difference is that some teachers may have received training or guidance for this new instructional role, but parents have likely received little to none.

Understandably, the nature of online instruction varies greatly between systems and states. This great variability impacts the amount and type of support parents can or are expected to provide.

Parents can feel frustrated and concerned about their child’s online education, especially as it relates to  the child’s IEP. 

How are other students, parents and others at home coping with this new reality of modern schooling in the wake of the health crisis? How are students’ IEPs being delivered? How are special education teachers able to provide specially designed instruction? How are supports like speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy fitting into online learning? What happens to the paraprofessional who regularly supports a student in one or more classes? How is access to the general curriculum achieved? 

In an effort to assist parents, Responsive Instruction, LLC will provide several online communication and learning events designed specifically for parents of students with disabilities. Our goal is to support parents and others who are shouldering the responsibility of teaching, supporting, and/or reinforcing the educational learning of students with disabilities.  Our hope is to provide an avenue to share, ask questions and take away ideas and suggestions that, when followed, may be helpful to you and your child(ren).  Also included in the forums will be the Responsive Instruction’s Tracking Log for Online Instruction© that can be used during Covid-19. This log will be provided free of charge to all registered participants. The use and discussion of this log will be one focus of our outreach. It was designed specifically for parents to track services and supports and will hopefully assist in future planning for your child.

Join us each Tuesday, beginning on April 28, 2020, from 7:30 to 8:30 pm EST for Virtual Coffee and Collaboration with Sharon and Angie.  Simply register for this free Zoom series of informal “coffee” chats mixed with follow-up ideas from Sharon, Angie and possible guest hosts as well. We look forward to seeing you Tuesday night!

Registration link for Virtual Coffee and Collaboration with Sharon and Angie

By | April 22nd, 2020|COVID|0 Comments

Love Means ‘Never having to say you’re sorry’ For Standing Up For Your Child’s Special Learning Needs

Those of you old enough to remember (or young enough to know movie trivia lines) will recall the movie Love Story with Ryan O’Neal and Ali Mc Graw as two college students who fall in love and marry. Then Jenny (Ali McGraw) contracts a fatal disease and dies at age twenty-five.  In their last moments together, McGraw says that famous line to O’Neal: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry”.  Well, there are a lot of things and times I can think of when that line has not been quite true, but there is one case I can think of that always follows this rule.  Parents should never feel sorry about loving their child and standing up for their child’s special learning needs, even if they need help with their child’s behavior, IEP, special education supports, or educational challenges.

An event today beautifully illustrates this point. Earlier, I met with a lovely family of 4 children, mom and dad.  All four of the children had some kind of very special learning need(s) and educational challenges.  Mom was homeschooling two of the four children because of the schools’ failure to develop IEP’s to meet the children’s specific learning needs. Through behaviors, these two children had, at various points, begun communicating that school was a frustrating, anxiety producing place of academic failure.

Now, Mom felt she knew better. With the youngest child, she was more confident. When he began experiencing similar learning problems and exhibited some concerning behaviors, she met with the school, requested evaluations, and questioned all kinds of issues that did not appear to add up for her young son’s special education and general education learning needs.  Yet, the parents knew things were still not as they should be because their child’s progress continued to be minimal to non-existent. At home, the child was showing evidence of higher and higher levels of anxiety  and inappropriate behaviors related to school and homework.  The added school supports, such as educational evaluations and even a referral to special education, had to be spear headed by the parents.  The parents felt that they were experiencing déjà vu reliving the trials and tribulations that had previously occurred with their older two home schooled children.

Mom reached out to me, an educational consultant, for assistance.  I reviewed her child’s records, IEP’s and school history. Then, the parents and I met in person to fill in missing information and to clarify their goals for their child.  Before our first meeting, I could tell this mom was well informed.  She had communicated regularly with others about the needs of her children and kept a copy of all the documents. To address her children’s learning needs, she had sought private tutoring, private evaluations, behavior support and more.  I had expected that her need for my help would be minimal.  I was wrong.

While these parents were caring, involved, dedicated and informed parents, they were at their wits end.  After I reassured the parents about the wonderful job they had done initiating help for their child, reviewed the current records with them and provided suggestions for how they could move forward based on their identified goals, the parents began to apologize to me.  They said how sorry they were that they had to reach out to me because they felt overwhelmed and uncertain as to their next steps for their youngest child to support his educational challenges.  I could see the pain in their eyes as they shared briefly the heart shattering stories of their other children’s educational challenges, especially the two children mom was now doing her best to home school.

I have words of advice to these parents and to all parents out there struggling to make sense of the failure, frustration and anxiety your child faces regularly at school due to educational challenges.  Never say you are sorry, ever, for standing up for your child to find answers and appropriate help at school.  The school can help.  Navigating this support can be a challenging and confusing experience.  If you need it, reach out to others to assist you with your child’s behavior, IEP or special education supports.  But never, ever, be sorry for standing up for your child’s special learning needs.

By | February 12th, 2019|Behavior, Special Education|0 Comments

No More Suspensions!

It is the third week of school.  A child with autism is in a first grade class with a teacher, a paraprofessional and 8 other children with autism.  This young child has communication needs so severe that an augmentative alternative communication device is a part of the supports provided.   Frustration abounds in this child’s day.  Routines are not set. Expectations may not be clear and practiced. Transitions are not well defined.  Sensory overload has occurred.  The child was not ready to transition.  The child was not able to say, “Please wait. I want more time.”  Frustration overflowed in this precious child.  He shoved his classmate.  He pushed a chair into another student.  He was suspended.

What is to be learned from this scenario?  How does suspension relate to the behavior exhibited?

This question MUST be examined by every administrator in every school where students with disabilities attend.  In fact, it is a question to be examined by all administrators of all children.  We are learning to understand and implement Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) in some of our nation’s schools for some students.  What are the PBIS strategies to act proactively and the behavioral support  strategies for students like our child in first grade?  Explain how suspension helps?  What does it teach?  How does it help address and prevent the triggers that likely caused the unacceptable response by the child with autism?  How does it teach the child to better handle frustration and respond differently next time?

Yes, administrators have tough jobs.  Bless them.  No, hurting a classmate/teacher with such a response is not an action we ever want to see at school or anywhere.  But there are far better solutions to address the situation than suspending the child.  IEP teams need to be flexible enough to quickly address these kinds of situations.  Administrators need to reach out to those teams.  Teams need to reach out to administrators.  Let’s keep the child in a positive learning situation.  Let’s make sure more children are not hurt, or worse, by teaching the wrong lesson.  It’s the age old question: Does punishment work?  Not in this case or any other like it.

By | September 23rd, 2018|Behavior, Uncategorized|0 Comments

It’s Not Too Late! Seven Tips Special Education Teachers Can (Still) Do for a Great Start to the School Year

The start of a new school year always seems to bring the promise of a new beginning, a chance to have a clean slate, and a chance at not returning to old habits.  We all want success in school: teachers, students, parents, administrators.  We all also want a smooth beginning with no bumps in the road.  A key to a smooth start to the school year is advanced preparation.  But if you could not get to these things over the summer, START NOW or put these in your tickler file for next year. Begin thinking now about what needs to be done differently. Then make your plan and IMPLEMENT!

As a special education teacher who teaches in a pull-out resource model, a more self-contained model, a co-teaching model or some other combination, consider these seven tips to promote a positive and successful start to the new school year even if it’s a few weeks after school has begun.  It’s still early to get a great start and make it a GREAT YEAR!!

Seven Tips to Success

  1.  Know your core content!  Continually review the standards of Common Core or your standardized curriculum in each subject area that you will teach your students this year.  Be very familiar with the content to be taught and your understanding of it. This gives you deeper understanding of grade level expectations and additional credibility with general education teachers.
  2. It is certainly not too late to prepare a Student Profile Sheet © or similar document for each student with disabilities on your caseload.  You will find this to be a quick summary of the IEP and key psychological learning components.  This profile sheet can be used by any teacher who teaches the student with disabilities as a quick reference for instructional planning.  Keeping your copy nearby can also be your resource to underscore needed accommodations to others, reevaluation due dates, and more.  Use the summary as a key guide for paraeducators or paraprofessionals who support certain students.
  3. Refine your teaching focus.  The year has begun and you have an idea of co-teaching and/or general education pacing of content, areas of emphasis for assessment and learning, your strength in a core content area, accommodating for students’ strengths and weaknesses, learning strategies to teach, test taking strategies to encorporate, etc.  Few teachers are all things to all learners.  Be sure to give students the very best of your specialty focus area and know where that fits in the curriculum.
  4. Continue gathering possible materials for use during the year based on your knowledge of student needs, the core academic area(s), and your specialty focus area.  Make multiple copies of things regularly used and keep a file box ready to go. Your box may include frequently used reference materials, student data sheets or even extra office supplies that always seem to disappear.
  5. Whether you are co-teaching or in a classroom by yourself or with a paraprofessional, by now you may of experimented with several teaching arrangements that you are comfortable with, grouping arrangements in your classroom, and/or key classroom procedures you are confident encourage success. While more than two options should be used, get comfortable with a couple of arrangements, and then expand.
  6. Refine the methods of communication you devised the first week or two for communication with other teachers and the parents of your students.  Using regular and informative two way communication can avert problems, help with solving challenges, encourage partnerships and so much more.  Colleagues and parents who trust that you are willing to share information on a regular basis see your collaborative nature and, many times, are encouraged to follow suit.
  7. This last tip is a two parter. If you have not sent a “Welcome Letter” to your parents and students, consider sending a letter now. Reinforce your continued excitement and provide updates on changes, revised schedules, etc. Depending on their age and maturity levels, continue using language easy for your students to understand.  Reassure parents and students that you are their partner in learning and the journey this year will be yours together as a team.  Use words that reinforce your just right message.  You will be amazed how much this follow up will mean to your students and their parents, especially as a reinforcement of your original message if you sent one. Multiple messages help the disorganized student and the disorganized home.

Part 2 of this last tip involves taking a picture of your classroom, student schedule, some details of a typical day and sending this home to reinforce your routines and schedules.  For students who have a hard time learning new routines and transitions, these follow-up communications send the message that you are flexible.  For students and families, your letter, pictures of the classroom, routine reminders, etc. at home can do wonders to help your students get off to a great start, along with their soon to be favorite teacher: YOU!

More than A-B-C Data : Multifactored Functional Behavioral Assessment

As a teacher, are you responsible for conducting the FBA, Functional Behavioral Assessment, in your grade level or school? As a parent, have you been asked to provide your consent for an FBA? An FBA is required under IDEA federal law to help identify and support behavioral needs of students. And while there is a required manner in which to conduct an FBA, many schools use narrow versions of behavioral observation, looking at the specific behavior and what happened right before and immediately after the behavior occurred. This is certainly one important aspect of examining the target behavior. However, a more comprehensive assessment is essential to try and determine not only root causes of why students exhibit behavior but also how to provide supports and replacement responses. This approach encompasses looking closely at the learning environment, task demands, other classroom variables, as well as other needs of the student. Putting together this comprehensive picture helps provide the student, parent and teacher with various components to address the whole child. It also takes the stress from one main observer to gather information/assessment to provide to the team. Behavior is complex. The assessment for the FBA should be complex as well, examining all aspects related to the need.