• Adam Dayan, Esq.

Curious Incident Podcast Episode 6: Getting An Educator’s Perspective

Updated: Aug 7



You can listen to our discussion on your favorite podcast player. Below is a summary of the podcast along with the entire podcast transcript.


(LISTEN) The Curious Incident Podcast: Episode 6: Getting An Educator's Perspective



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About this episode:


NYC Special Education Attorney Adam Dayan sits down with Julia Paris for a wide-ranging conversation about educating children with ADHD and language-based learning disabilities. Julia has been an educator and administrator for roughly 40 years. She is currently Associate Principal at a private special education school in Brooklyn, New York that provides students who have learning differences with small academic classes and individualized therapeutic instruction to help them complete a Regents curriculum and prepare for college and/or careers.

If you have questions about special needs children and their education that were not covered in the podcast or need guidance about how you should move forward, please contact the Law Office of Adam Dayan, PLLC at 646-866-7157 to discuss your particular circumstances.


About the Law Offices of Adam Dayan, PLLC


Adam Dayan Esq. is a New York special needs attorney. Established in 2009, the Law Offices of Adam Dayan, PLLC has the primary purpose of making sure children with special needs receive a quality education and long-term financial security.

 

Transcript - Episode 6, Getting An Educator's Perspective


Speaker 1:

This is Curious Incident, a podcast for special needs families and your window into the world of special education. Parenting can be challenging and we want to make it easier by providing you with the resources you need to best help your child. Let's delve deep into the world of special education with your host, Adam Dayan.


Adam Dayan:

I am pleased to present my next guest on this podcast, Julia Paris. Julia is the associate principal at a private special education school in Brooklyn, New York that provides students who have learning differences, with small academic classes and individualized therapeutic instruction to help them complete a Regent's curriculum and prepare for college and or careers. Julia has been an educator and or administrator for roughly 40 years. She has bachelor's degrees in reading as well as education and special education, and a master's degree in school building leadership. Julia, it's great to have you on the show today.


Julia Paris:

Great to be here.


Adam Dayan:

Nice to see you in person.


Julia Paris:

You too.


Adam Dayan:

So, tell me a little bit more about you. What makes your approach or outlook unique, given your particular background skills and experiences?


Julia Paris:

I would have to say that after so many years starting out as a teacher, then a principal in general Ed, moving on to director of elementary school special Ed, and now in a high school, working in the classroom, behind the scenes with parents, with the board of education, I have an overall perspective that I've gained over the years of seeing things from so many different aspects and understanding issues that were so different to me when I first began. I've just recently gone back into the classroom for a few periods teaching a few classes, and I'm such a different teacher now just understanding students, understanding parents' perspective, understanding constraints of a school, understanding teacher struggles, that it's just a journey and a passion.


Adam Dayan:

That's wonderful. You've worn a lot of different hats. You've been in many different kinds of settings.


Julia Paris:

Yeah, I have and each one has been a stepping stone. I have a saying when you feel you have nothing left to learn, it's time to retire. So we're always learning.


Adam Dayan:

So, tell us a little bit more about the teaching experience that you have, and how would you compare your teaching experience to your experience as a school administrator?


Julia Paris:

My teaching experience now, knowing what I know, working one on one with students and in small groups gives me a perspective, understanding really the needs of the students, the different struggles they're working with, what their parents would like to see as outcomes. What I know they can accomplish. Understanding that the curriculum has to be changed up, has to move depending on how the students are feeling that day, their special needs. I usually have a really good rapport. It's pretty easy going in my class.


Julia Paris:

Yesterday for instance I saw I wasn't getting through to the students. It was the middle of the day. It was warmer than usual. They were tired and I actually shared with them. I said, "Okay, this isn't going anywhere. What should we do?" And we changed it up. It was one of the drier ideas of understanding what a sonnet is with Shakespeare. So we wrote a silly sonnet, it wasn't Shakespearean and they started giggling and laughing. And I know now that we're not teaching a curriculum, we're teaching kids. And we have to fit to their learning styles and modalities. It's not so much that we teach, it's that they learn. And that's a big perspective. About halfway through my career, that's shifted to really, really get that.


Adam Dayan:

I imagine that flexibility is something that you develop over time. The ability to tune into what's happening with your students, and adapt based on how they're presenting or doing on a particular school day.


Julia Paris:

It is and it's something that can be learned. I especially love working with young teachers who are in school and learning the latest methodologies, because they're very open to hearing and learning new ideas. The first thing I teach them is teaching by backward design.


Adam Dayan:

What do you mean by that?


Julia Paris:

You don't start out thinking about what do I want to teach? You have to start out thinking what do I want my students to be able to do when this lesson is over? When this unit is over, what can they produce? What can they visibly manage to convey that they have mastered the material, and doing that as a very different ... You take a very different approach to how you prepare your lessons to just washing your hands and say, I taught it. And you have to do assessments at the end of your teaching.


Julia Paris:

Not so much even to test the children, but to test yourself and to see did I get through to them? Is it one student struggling? Is everybody struggling? Did I just do a lousy job today and be open and willing to say it didn't go well. I have to regroup and start over. I also ask the kids. I tell them in advance, I'm accountable to you. By the end of the lesson, this is what I want you to be able to do. And at the end I ask them, did we do that? Do you have it and then I check it out.


Adam Dayan:

Great. Julia, what's unique about the population you serve? Can you talk about the kinds of diagnoses and issues that the students you work with typically present with?


Julia Paris:

Yes. So our students generally have sat in general Ed classes for the most part. They are intellectually intact students. They sometimes score nicely on several assessments that are given on standardized testing. However, when they come into class, they're not performing as well. And it turns out that some of it when we dig deeper into testing is due to ADHD. Some of it is due to speech and language impairments. Some of it is due to reading disabilities that these kids present as every other kid in a classroom.


Julia Paris:

It was really hard to detect and they were labeled as lazy. Or because their performance is variable, sometimes they can score well, peaks and valleys. Then they go down to low grades and then they'll pick it up again. And people have told them for years, if only you would try harder, you're capable, you can do it. And these poor kids are on a treadmill, running a marathon without people realizing. And at some point, some of them give up and teachers don't realize it. Parents don't realize it. Some of these kids wind up failing both academically. They feel like failures. When actually, if they had the right interventions, the right environment, they can succeed above and beyond their peers in many instances.


Adam Dayan:

What you mentioned before, if only you would try harder is such a common theme unfortunately. I mean, I've heard it so many times on this podcast. I've read it so many times in neuropsychological evaluations. I've heard it so many times in teacher's testimony or parents' feedback. I think it's really important to underscore that it's not always about trying harder. Sometimes there's a mix of issues at play. I want to ask you about the mix of issues you just discussed. You talked about ADHD, speech and language issues, reading difficulties, and you spoke earlier about the evolution of your thinking or perspective. So has your thinking or understanding of these issues or the way they interact with each other evolved over the course of your career?


Julia Paris:

So way back when I started out in a classroom and a child was having issues, we would refer them ... Then it was the board of education, today it's the department of education, but we would refer them for testing and they would come back with speech and language services. My administrator and I would look at each other, or even when I became an administrator in that school, would look at each other and say, "They're not lisping, they're not stuttering. Why are they getting speech and language delays?" And we throw our hands up in confusion, and then you learn and evolve. And I don't think we identified as much that there were these disabilities or nobody explained it in college or in your masters


Julia Paris:

And then when I started working with speech and language populations and speaking to speech and language therapists, I learned that it's the way you process information. And that means students, children, people, adults can have a receptive language disorder, which is how you take in information. Sometimes it's too many words, too much stimuli at a time. It's just an overload and the brain of someone with a receptive language delay can't grab it all in, in the usual methodology of chalk talk or lecture or copy notes.


Julia Paris:

Some people have expressive delays where they're able to take in the information, but it's almost like if you think of the brain as a file cabinet, they can't retrieve the correct file to bring the information out and express it. And what happens is either when they're not getting the information in and they come home and I as a parent sometimes would say, were you in class today? What did you learn? I don't know.


Adam Dayan:

To your own children, you mean?


Julia Paris:

To my own children. I speak today not only as an educator, but as a parent of children who did go through mainstream schools, but had these struggles and somewhere in the middle of my career, I was able to say, "Aha, that's what's going on." And have the knowledge of being able to take them for testing, which is prohibitive in price. It's expensive, but it is the best gift and money you can spend on your child, because it gives you a blueprint of exactly what your child is challenged with, what their strengths are, how to compensate, how to accommodate.


Julia Paris:

Sometimes schools don't even know how to use it. So as a parent, you have to be able to take ... There's usually a summary page, or really understand, or go to an expert and have them explain it to you. So when you go to parent teacher conferences and the teacher says, your daughter, isn't taking notes, you can look at them and say, "Well, look at this report. It says she can't pay attention and take notes at the same time, she needs a copy of notes."


Adam Dayan:

And the testing and report that you were just speaking about was a neuropsychological evaluation, correct?


Julia Paris:

Yes.


Speaker 1:

You're listening to Curious Incident, a podcast for special needs families with your host, Adam Dayan.


Adam Dayan:

I think it would be helpful for our listeners to understand a little bit more about what happens inside of your classrooms. Can you talk a little bit about that? What are you doing inside of your classrooms to help students who have language based learning disabilities, ADHD, reading challenges and speech and language issues?


Julia Paris:

We spoke about receptive and expressive language delays. Just to briefly give an overview, ADHD can run a gamut. We originally think of ADHD as a kid who's all over the place, running around the room. They can't sit in one place. So you do have the fidgety kid, and then you have the opposite. That's ADHD inattentive, where it's the day dreamy, hello are you there? Kind of thing. Ironically, we say that we run around over diagnosing people. So maybe many of us have little bits and pieces of it. But I actually remember sitting in class sometimes and all of a sudden waking up and saying, uhoh, I just missed a whole gamut of information.


Julia Paris:

I was able maybe to bring myself back, make up the notes, but it was a little bit of a lost feeling. Imagine that you can't bring yourself out of that. And then there are combined types. So you're sitting in fidgeting, your legs are going up and down. You're making noises on the desk, which is annoying people around you. On top of that, the teacher is talking on and on and on to the point where it sounds like blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.


Adam Dayan:

Like that Charlie Brown episode.


Julia Paris:

I didn't know how many people are old enough to remember that. So, yes kind of like that. And what we are able to do is we have related service providers that are employees of our program. They're not sent in isolation to give whatever services that they provide. They work in collaboration with our program, with our teachers and they're partners with our teachers, whether that's the school counselor, the speech and language therapist, the occupational therapist, we have an ABA professional who comes in once a week and helps us touch base with things.


Adam Dayan:

I'm just going to pick up on that. I think that's interesting because a lot of people think of ABA in the context of autism, but it's certainly not limited to that context, right? Because the ABA, Applied Behavior Analysis professional is like you said, someone who ... Why don't I just let you say it? Can you help clarify?


Julia Paris:

Sure.


Adam Dayan:

Outside of working with kids who have autism, which is not what your program is about, how does an ABA professional help kids who are dealing with the kinds of issues we've been talking about?


Julia Paris:

So very often it's many fold, not twofold. It's various reasons. Some students who have sat in classes for so long failing turn into clowns, or have learned how to get positive negative attention is what it's called that. You're getting that attention somehow. Or you're deflecting. I don't know how to do this, this is too hard. What if they call on me? What's going to happen? What am I going to do? And they start acting out or there are avoidance things. I can't do the homework. So I'm just not going to do it.


Julia Paris:

I can't sit in class this long. So I'm going to cause a disturbance and get kicked out. I need a break. When it gets to be an overwhelming problem, and the child also students with ADHD sometimes are dysregulated, and they don't know how to calm down in their mind. So students sometimes need someone to set parameters for them because it's almost like what we've learned with two year olds, the terrible twos that have temper tantrums and we have to put guidelines in.


Julia Paris:

Students and kids and people need structure. So the ABA therapist helps the teacher recognize what is triggering a student, helps the student understand A, what triggers them. What's expected of them, works together with a consult with the parent on how to follow through at home. And we work on one to three. There might be seven goals we need, but we'll work on one to three, and we try to help the person themselves regulate themselves. If that doesn't work, we have the teachers help them chart things, and it's a lot of hard work.


Adam Dayan:

Great. Thank you for clarifying that. I think it's an important piece. What else happens in your classrooms?


Julia Paris:

So our classes are smaller to begin with. The target number is 10. Sometimes we have nine. Sometimes we have 12, we'll put in another person once we go over 10 so that we do small whole group instruction, maybe 10 minutes. And then we can individualize based on needs into groups. A group can be two, it can be four. It can be someone who needs one on one for a little bit of time. We also use a multi modality approach, which basically means we try many different ways to get through the information that we want to convey. That can be through again, lecture. We try to use interactive pieces, whether it's technology, PowerPoints, videos, games, educational games that teachers can create called Cahoot or Ed puzzle, which kind of scrambles the information and the children get to compete against each other. And sometimes I'll go running down the hallway into a classroom, because they're screaming going on and it's a Cahoot game.


Julia Paris:

That kind of excitement we love where they're screaming. And I think something happened and they're playing Cahoot. Then sometimes I'll stay and play with them, but we really try to make it relevant. If we see it's not working, we really work on metacognition for our students. And that basically is we can give the kids a whole bunch of toolboxes of methodologies to use. Everybody needs a planner. Everybody has to look up, we have a homework spreadsheet. Everybody has to look up their work on the homework spreadsheet, and make sure that you have your work done prepared. It's a way to check on what you have to do. But then we noticed that some kids were doing their homework and really didn't want to use the homework spreadsheet, or a planner or as technology came more into play, they wanted to use something online.


Julia Paris:

And again, that was an evolution over the last I would say 10 years of realizing, rather than me telling you what you need. Here are a whole bunch of tools. You tell me what works for you and what you need and what doesn't work for you. Because ultimately, I'm working with a high school population now, we have four years and then we send them out into the world and they have to be independent learners. So we try to give them the tools in our classes to have all the pieces they'll need for whatever they choose to do after high school, whether it's academic advocacy, one big piece is executive function. How do you organize your day? How do you get out of the house on time, get to class on time? How do you organize your materials so that you can find it, study skills?


Julia Paris:

So all of these pieces together with the occupational therapist who will do executive function skills and the speech and language therapist who can not only pull students out, but push in so that they're working in the classroom with a group of students. So that they're saying to the teacher, I noticed. So and so really wasn't tuning in when you did this, try that. And it's such a partnership that the teachers seek out ... It's done in a non-threatening way, in a collaborative way so that our teachers kind of are glad to get the direction from them.


Adam Dayan:

That's wonderful, and these are such important skills, such important life skills that we're talking about. The ability to advocate for yourself, to identify what works for you. So important.


Julia Paris:

Yes it is. Sometimes the kids, we work on their writing skills and I'll push the point. When you go to college, you're going to have to write essays. So they get frustrated. I don't care if I pass the Regent, I don't want to take the Regent. And we'll say, whether you do or don't, I mean, we require them to, but they're expressing their frustration. You're going to need this for life. I'm not going to college, but you're going to be doing something and you're going to have to convey your ideas.


Julia Paris:

We also do vocational work with them. In their senior year, they go out two mornings a week to do an internship in some area that they're interested in. And hopefully they can use that in their future careers. We have some kids that just completed real estate course. So we really are cognizant of the fact that we have these students for four years now. When I worked in elementary school, it was how do I prepare them for high school. Now it's okay we have four years to prepare you for life. And we try to hit all the points that they'll need. We think about what skills will you need after life? How will you interview for a job? How will you present yourself knowing how to dress even on an interview or for this kind of a job, anything they might need.


Adam Dayan:

Julia, what advice would you give to parents?


Julia Paris:

There's so much.


Adam Dayan:

Let's do it.


Julia Paris:

The first thing to realize is that every child wants to do well in life. If you think back to a child learning how to walk, they don't get up and fall down and then give up and say, this is too hard I don't want to do it anymore. They keep going at it. Our desire as humans is to do well. The question is, I don't know if this is PC to say, when did we suck the joy of learning out of their lives? And for some kids, imagine you make a resolution, a New Year's resolutions, I'm going on a diet and you try it and you just don't succeed. Or I'm going to get up every morning and do a run, or go to the gym and you don't. And then your friends say to you but you were going to try that and you did so well and you can do it. Why don't you do it? Are you lazy?


Julia Paris:

So I think we need to realize that our kids want to please us. They want to please their teachers. They want to please their parents. Recognize that your child may have a struggle and go to the school and say are you seeing what I'm seeing? This is what I'm seeing at home. Be open, try to make a partnership. The school also has to be receptive to a partnership. When I call a parent, I very often say, especially if it's a repeat phone call. Listen, I'm not calling to complain about your child. I'm not blaming you. I'm trying to just partner with you. You're part of our team. Let's figure out what's going on together.


Julia Paris:

So parents need to sometimes hear things that are difficult and try not to be defensive about it, and try to be open to the fact of my child might have an issue. Ultimately, you know your a child. If the school is barking up the wrong tree, you have every right to say that. But if they suggest an evaluation, can't hurt, you can always go through it. Hear what an evaluation says and reject it, but be open to ideas.


Julia Paris:

Some parents, myself included have a vision of what kind of school, what kind of community, what kind of group I want my child to learn in. Not all schools provide everything for everyone. So you have to be willing to sometimes hear the hard things, even though it's hard to swallow, be open to listening, but realize I had to realize something. My daughter just seemed like she wasn't listening to me. I had asked her to get ready for bed. I'd come back. She was sitting in the same spot. Eventually I had her evaluated, an overall evaluation and they thought there might be some speech and language.


Julia Paris:

There was some ADHD inattentive. I had her evaluated with the speech and language clinician. She had one of the most unique diagnoses that the clinician had ever seen. So she scored in the 94th percentile in expressive language. Woo hoo, great, brilliant. That means that whatever was in her head, she could outperform 94% of the population in expressing it. She also scored in the ninth percentile in receptive language, meaning the way language came in.


Adam Dayan:

Big disparity.


Julia Paris:

Big disparity. And this has nothing to do with intelligence. People think that disabilities have to do with intelligence. Our brains when we were created, however that happened were not necessarily wired for reading. They were not necessarily wired for certain things. So there are many different brains that work differently. That doesn't mean it's inferior. And sometimes to get to the place you need to be, you're using a superior road in your brain.


Julia Paris:

The Shayowitses, they're a husband and wife team did some interesting research on that, where they were able to see what parts of the brain lit up in people with dyslexia. And they actually found that it was a very sophisticated path in order to get to the reading process. So people with disabilities very often are highly intelligent. Their brain just works differently. So getting back to parents, what I strolled with is I would say do this and it just wasn't done and I'd get annoyed. Why aren't you listening? Until I realized even after the testing, she's not able to focus. She's focused on what she's doing.


Julia Paris:

Maybe she just didn't hear me. I mean, she wasn't deaf so she heard something, but she didn't hear me. So we start, I explained to her, we're going to try something new. I am going to ask you what did I just ask you to do? Please don't get insulted. And we started doing that and it just worked better. She sometimes just hadn't heard me. And when she was able to repeat it back to me, it went a lot better.


Julia Paris:

Also realized that kids with ADHD, I know I'm going back and forth, but many of these are comorbid. They happen at the same time, have a very hard time transitioning from one thing to the next. So you may struggle with a child to get into the shower, go take a shower, go take a shower, go take a shower. Then they're in the shower and you have to say, get out of the shower, get out of the shower, get out of the shower. Because once they're in there, they're enjoying it. It's not that they don't want to. It's the transition. So you might want to give your child a warning before you transition where at this house, we're going to leave in five minutes, finish up what you're doing.


Julia Paris:

We're having dinner in 10 minutes so finish whatever you're working on. I'm going to ask you to start getting ready for bed in a few minutes. So we also don't like being ripped from what we're doing in the middle and having to do it immediately. We like a warning. So just to summarize, listen to experts, ask a lot of questions from experts. Be sure that the diagnosis, if there is one is a correct one. If you don't agree with it, keep asking, ask the school a lot of questions, ask your child a lot of questions. If your child can't answer the questions, you ask questions to a psychologist, to a speech and language therapist, to an occupational therapist and find out the advice they have.


Adam Dayan:

That's great. Thank you for taking the time to lay that out. A lot of great nuggets in there.


Speaker 1:

If you like what you are hearing, please let us know by subscribing to our podcast and letting others know about it too. If you have thoughts, questions, comments, or would like to suggest ideas for a future episode, we'd love to hear it. So email your feedback to podcast at dayanlawfirm.com


Adam Dayan:

In your experience, how do issues in school affect home life?


Julia Paris:

So that is probably one of the most difficult relationships of a parent expectation of a child. I'm sending you to school. I expect you to learn. I expect you to produce, come home, give me the production. And if you don't, why not? I think schools need to be very upfront with parents as soon as they see that there an issue, not only in behavior, but in a learning issue. The school needs to share it with a parent, but not just say there's an issue. Here's what we suggest you do about this issue. When we do report cards in January and June report cards, our teachers write up very, very extensive reports on this is what we're doing. This is how your child is performing. They can do this. They're struggling with that. And this is what we're doing to help them with that struggle.


Julia Paris:

Very often if you don't understand what school wants from you, go to them and say, my child is struggling. Help me, not in an accusatory way. We want to create a partnership, help me understand what my child's deficits are and how can I follow through at home? What are you doing in school and how can I help that? We have students sometimes who are so far behind in work that they're asked to do independently. We really welcome when parents help us with it. A parent can even help us with it by saying the home scene is just really difficult.


Julia Paris:

I can't enforce it on my own. I can't go through the struggle with my child. Then we know that we have to do more in school. We actually have a period after school, every day called learning lab, where students have an opportunity to come to learn or relearn or work on things that they were having a difficult time with. The teachers are there to work with them one on one, or even just do their homework, because it's not going well at home.


Adam Dayan:

I know you spoke a little bit already about your personal connection to special education through your children. How has that informed your work?


Julia Paris:

So I think it's made me very, very sensitive or more sensitive towards it. I don't lightly say this is an issue your child has. I am able also to really understand the struggle that a child is going through or a parent is going through. I spoke about one child who had these speech and language difficulty and ADHD. We chose to try through a neurologist using medication. She didn't feel well all the time, she had headaches, she did do a lot better in school, which raised her self-esteem because children who are struggling and can't feel like failures. I know I keep saying that, but they feel like they're failing and it does lower their self-esteem, and they feel stupid and they feel incapable.


Julia Paris:

So she was succeeding. At a certain point around eighth grade, she felt that she didn't want to do this anymore. The struggle through high school, was a struggle. I mean, she managed to get through it. Again she had the peaks and the valleys. She had a tutor for a month before a Regent and got an 89 after failing the course all year, it was a struggle. I just had to support her in the struggle. Try to help her navigate teachers who didn't quite get it. Now she's doing a master's and she herself, once she started college chose to medicate herself again, she went to the neurologist on her own and from a struggling high schooler, she graduated with an almost 4.0 for her BA.


Adam Dayan:

Wow.


Julia Paris:

Now she's at a 4.0 in her master's. My older daughter who we never really had diagnosed, but it seems like she had some inattentive issues, before she began her masters, she came to me and said, "I don't know what to do, how I'm going to sit through classes because I try a lecture and I just lose focus." And she was panicking. And I told her, "Well, you've worked with a neurologist for migraines. You know him, you can explore it. I'll go with you. You can go alone." She did the same thing and sat there through her whole masters and she got As in course after course saying, "I'm not stupid. I can do this. I know things."


Julia Paris:

And I had to tell her, I felt like a failure at that point that despite understanding all of this, my kids still felt like failures. So I think there's a certain pace that if it's not interfering with your life, and if there's something else, some kids do well with an exercise regiment that helps them. If ADHD is not interfering with your schoolwork, then medication's always a last resort. It's not for everyone. If a school can manage your child without medication, great. Once you yourself are hurting from it, or you can't stay in that school because it's preventing others from learning, it's something to consider. And it's also something to reject if it's not for you.


Adam Dayan:

Julia, I know you've talked about your experience with children who have speech and language delays. Can you talk a little bit about the strategies or techniques that you use with students who present with these issues?


Julia Paris:

Children with receptive, meaning delays where it's hard for them to take in information, we have to be very conscious. First of all, we dip in after a piece has been taught to make sure that they've gotten the information. That they've retained it, that they understand it. They can use it, they can manipulate the information, repeat it back to us. If they can't, then we have to rephrase it. Meaning not repeat it, but stated in a different way.


Julia Paris:

Very often on tests, students get an accommodation from the DOE the IEP where questions, directions can be rephrased. So when I look in a classroom and I saw in a particular case this year that a child was getting frustrated because they didn't understand something. And the teacher just kept explaining it. And then they finally said, "Okay, I got it." Because they were done and they were just hearing it the same way. We were able to work together with a very receptive teacher and understand that you try to bring in real life situations, even geometry, let's say.


Julia Paris:

If they're not getting a right angle and something an adjacent side, you can have them picture a tree and a path and a park with a gate, and then have them actually get up and move around and stand adjacent, stand next to, stand across, things like that. So we try to get them involved physically if we have to, we also have to chunk and break down information. And this works for parents at home also. Don't give five directions, give one at a time, work up to two, scaffolding is when you give a little piece of information and then next time you introduce a little more and review the old one until it builds on the information.


Julia Paris:

For students who you know have it in there somewhere and can't bring it out, sometimes you need to use things like graphic organizers, where you lay it out for them, where you give them sentence starters so that you're giving them a place to start and they have to finish. Start with simple sentences and then expand with adjectives and adverbs. And again, take any advice we get from our speech and language pathologists and go with it. Sometimes it's important to note that children or people with speech and language delays also have reading comprehension, delays, sometimes reading disabilities, otherwise labeled as dyslexia go hand in hand or can happen at the same time.


Julia Paris:

That all has to do with processing information. So sometimes we read together as a class, we'll do a body of work together as a class. Every child has a license to an audiobook library where they can listen to books if they can't process reading it on their own. When we do evaluations, we assess if a child's strength is oral reading, reading out loud and sometimes we'll let them sit in a room and read a test out loud to themselves, or whether reading to themselves is better than hearing it. We also test for listening comprehension, meaning we'll read something to them and see how they comprehend that. And that's the biggest indicator of how they'll do in a classroom when learning as a whole group.


Adam Dayan:

What's your experience been with regard to the public school system for students who are intellectually intact, but who have language or attention issues and need a more supportive classroom environment?


Julia Paris:

So we've had really great partners with the CSE, the Committee on Special Education teams who meet with the school, the parent and their team to create a plan, an IEP for the student. We give them information on how the student is performing academically, socially, emotionally. The related service providers give input and they help us craft goals based on our input. And then they provide the services that are accepted, whether it's speech and language, occupational therapy, counseling, they will provide testing accommodations. If a child gets extra time on a test, if they need to take the test in a separate location. As I had said before, questions read, directions read, they will also suggest a placement for the students. Sometimes we agree with the placement. Sometimes we don't feel that the child would be able to manage in a larger class, a recommendation of an ICT class, where there-


Adam Dayan:

Integrated co-teaching?


Julia Paris:

Yes, integrated co-teaching class, where there is a special Ed teacher, as well as a general Ed teacher sounds great. But then the number of students they inform us can go up to 30 students and a student who's having a hard time focusing in a class with 10 students, if you triple that number, it's even harder for them to focus. Or sometimes they'll give a general Ed class with a few periods of what they called sets, which is basically being called out by a special Ed teacher once a day. And a child who's like, what should they cover in that period for a child who's not processing in every subject? It's not subject based. So sometimes that's a challenge, but we really work well together. They do note our concerns and really try to work with us.


Adam Dayan:

Sometimes a 15 to 1 classroom, correct?


Julia Paris:

Generally in high school now, their recommendation is a 15 to 1. Whereas in elementary school, it would've been a 12 to 1. Once you go to high school, it moves up to a 15 to 1.


Adam Dayan:

Do you find that type of classroom setting is usually appropriate for your students or students who are presenting with the kinds of issues that you've spoken about?


Julia Paris:

Usually not. Just when you think of the intervention of being not only pulled out for related services, but the ability for our related services providers to collaborate with each other, with the teachers and be a team. Even in that small setting, pushing in sometimes we have two adults or three adults in a room working individually with students to move to a larger setting of three times that amount, even with two teachers would be confusing. Again, remember that receptive language where you hear blah, blah, blah or ADHD. If you think of that as trying to focus on something, when you have a radio, a TV and screaming outside the window, that's what it's like for an ADHD child, it's difficult.


Adam Dayan:

What makes a good special education teacher in your opinion?


Julia Paris:

A good special education teacher has to know that they are teaching a child. I said this, they're not teaching a subject. They're not teaching a curriculum, while that's very important and they have to keep their eye on the prize of what needs to be accomplished, very much like a parent when you're working day in and day out with students who can be challenging because they're frustrated. Not because they're trying to get to you, not taking things personally, keeping even keeled. When I say non-emotional, I don't mean to be a robot, but I mean, don't take it personally when a child is attacking you, very often they're attacking themselves. You just happen to be the person there at the moment where they're practicing their target practice.


Julia Paris:

You have to be able to go with the flow. You might have a plan. Kind of like I said earlier in my class, it just wasn't going. They weren't in the mood and I'm brutally honest sometimes I go, I feel like I'm in here alone and I'm bored. And it kind of makes them giggle. Just kind of like they're open with me also that way, because then they can say, "I'm just not getting it." You have to build that open rep rapport, where they're comfortable to take risks with you. They're comfortable that you're not going to judge them. They're comfortable that if they try something, it doesn't work. They're not going to be a failure again.


Julia Paris:

But you have to demand a certain set of rigor. These kids are not stupid. These kids can accomplish things. They are going to be viable members of a community, contributing members. They are going to be professionals. And you need to balance that compassion along with expectations and high expectations. But the difference is I have high expectations for you, but I'm going to help you get there. I'm going to hold your hand and help you get there. You're not there yet, but you're going to get there. If you can't get here, we'll figure out where you're going instead.


Speaker 1:

You're listening to Curious Incident, a podcast for special needs families with your host, Adam Dayan.


Adam Dayan:

What do you think is the proper way to educate a student who is strong in some areas, say English, but we in other areas, say math?


Julia Paris:

For many of us, it's a challenge because we're so used to for so many years accommodating down, meaning we take our curriculum and we break it down and we figure out how to reach the weaker student. But more and more we're seeing that a student might be weak in reading, but really strong in math, have an analytical mind where you don't have to ... You just see the math and you can do it. We do prepare material for students like that. We can be doing the same subject and one student is still getting step by step directions on how to process a multi-step equation.


Julia Paris:

The other student has the steps down and can do it. So we're giving them [inaudible 00:44:20]Regent level questions. Someone who's stronger in reading and can't do math, we provide more independent work than someone who maybe needs someone to walk them through the different steps. We can have them doing a response to literature while the other student is still working on details and answering detail questions. I teach English when I teach and I'm teaching essay writing. And in some classes we were bringing in hoards of help to individualize. And I was like, "No, we can teach students the overall idea and then individualize what you are up to." You know, your introductory paragraph. You can write a thesis statement.


Julia Paris:

Now take that thesis statement and develop your body. You're still working on a hook. You're not even up to your thesis statement. We're going to work with you on that. And each child learns the outline of what they have to do and how to fill the outline out. And then they're up to different pieces. So you can even in larger groups, smaller groups, individualize, and then students who really need that extra help can come to learning lab, do get the pullout. All of the ... We'll announce to the related service providers, we're doing a new writing piece. We're doing a new math piece, come into the class, see how the teacher is teaching it so you can pull them out and work with them individually.


Adam Dayan:

Great. Julia, from your perspective, what hope is there for students with these kinds of issues to transition back to a mainstream environment one day?


Julia Paris:

There are good hopes. We do work with a sister school, a mainstream school in our area and the children, the students integrate there for Phys Ed, for art, some elective subjects. They participate in their sports teams. They join their clubs. They go on trips together. Sometimes there are overnights they participate in, we join them for assemblies and for large pieces. So they do have opportunities to integrate with the mainstream population. In 11th and 12th grade they also do have opportunities to go in for electives, such as psychology or some students who've done nutrition or other types of studies.


Julia Paris:

Some of our students just completed a real estate course with their contemporaries in our mainstream school. So there are opportunities and we are seeing more and more results of our students going on to community colleges, or regular colleges, going abroad for a year of study after school. And they come back and they are fully integrated. Whether they've gone into business or have a career or done various other things. They really all are viable members of the mainstream society.


Adam Dayan:

What questions should parents ask of a school to determine if it's appropriate for their children?


Julia Paris:

I would say it should start with a statement rather than a question. I think it would be who've parents to be very aware of their child's needs. And very often we set our mind on where we wanted our child to go, and we'll do anything to get our child into that school. We'll get tutors, we'll go to summer school. Whatever it is, please just take my child into your school. And I often say to parents, why would you want your child to go to a school that you have to beg to take them?


Julia Paris:

I would take it from an approach of these are my child's strengths. These are my child's challenges. What can you do for me? What can you do for my child? How can you accommodate my child? I know when a parent comes to me, it doesn't happen often, but it kind of makes me sit up straighter and think, okay, now I'm on the defense. Now the good news is I have good answers of what I can do for that child. But if the school doesn't, then run. Go find another school. So I think a parent needs to say, these are my child's learning styles, and this is what they need. How can you provide that?


Julia Paris:

If it's an elementary school, where do your students go to high school? If it's a high school, what do they do after high school? What kinds of jobs have they had. Your alumni, what are they doing now? When this and this challenge comes up, my child gets frustrated. What do you do when a child is frustrated? I have a hard time. They won't do work at home and it's not worth the struggle in the relationship. I'm telling you that in advance, what can you do for me? And sometimes we'll have to say to the parent, we can do this and this, or we say, we're not so sure if this is the right fit, but we're not going to leave you hanging. We're going to help you look for the right fit.


Adam Dayan:

So important to be discriminating in that way. To have realistic expectations upfront. First of all, knowing who your child is, strengths and weaknesses, and then asking these important questions of the school to understand how they work and what they can provide. And then making a decision that matches the strengths and weaknesses of your child with the abilities of that school, correct?


Julia Paris:

100%, they are your most precious commodity. You want to put them in a place that's safe, where they're going to feel nurtured, where they're going to be able to grow, where they're going to feel successful. That doesn't mean easy because I don't think people feel successful when they're just given the easy way out. People feel successful when they're challenged and helped to reach their goal.


Adam Dayan:

I think that you're hitting on something here, because I know I've spoken with lots of parents who want a certain placement. They want to see their child succeed in a certain type of placement and it may not necessarily be the right type of placement for that child. If you shift the focus or frame it in the way you're suggesting, what does my child need to succeed? That's a great place to start from. It's kind of what you were saying earlier about reverse engineering or backward planning or whatever term you used.


Julia Paris:

Backward design.


Adam Dayan:

Backward design. Thank you. You want your child to end up in a successful place. And so figuring out what is it going to take to get my child to that place? Do you agree?

Julia Paris:

100%.


Adam Dayan:

Julia, how do you view the parent journey raising a child with special needs and navigating the special education process?


Julia Paris:

I'm going to repeat the theme. Remember people are born with an innate desire to do well. An innate curiosity, an innate ability to succeed at something. It might not be what we envision them succeeding at, but they have that ability. I think at a certain point, we really have to stop and listen to our kids who may not be able to verbalize. When I say not listen to their articulation, but listen through what is setting them off or, what they're struggling with. And being able to take your hopes and dreams for them and not give up. Just adjust and change it. How to find if a kid was sick, we would go to every doctor in the world and try to figure it out.


Julia Paris:

We have to change the paradigm, our mindset from thinking that a learning disability or ADHD is something someone can help. It's a physical function of the brain. And I repeat every time I say that, it doesn't mean it's a malfunction of a brain. It's a different function of a brain. We have to sometimes take what we believe is the right way and learn to adjust it. You have to understand that they're struggling. They're not fighting you, they need your help.


Adam Dayan:

And it means taking a step back to realize that we all have something.


Julia Paris:

Everybody.


Adam Dayan:

Everybody's got something. And it doesn't mean there's something wrong with you. It doesn't have to be a stigma. Doesn't mean because you struggled with it in the past that you have to struggle with it your whole life. Maybe you'll always struggle with it somewhat, but you can find the tools and techniques that can help you deal with whatever issues you're struggling with, and come out on the other side better, more capable of knowing yourself and what helps you learn and how you can succeed and manage whatever challenges you're struggling with. Am I right?


Julia Paris:

We can help our children be the best that they can be and where it might not be what we envisioned, but how many of us have seen those parents who get behind whatever thing, talent, hobby their child is doing and just be their cheerleader, champion them on.


Adam Dayan:

Are there any other anecdotes that you'd like to share to make this journey more concrete for our listeners?


Julia Paris:

I think what I shared with you again, I'm not just coming to you as an educator, but as a parent, as a person who maybe recognizes that maybe I had some of these difficulties. I mean, math for instance was something I couldn't comprehend. I love sitting on the math classes in high school now because I get it. Doesn't mean just because you didn't get it, you can't get it in the future. One interesting thing again is as parents, as teachers, as kids, we can always learn something new, just like in science or in medicine, we are constantly learning new things.


Julia Paris:

When I got my masters in reading, they never taught us how to teach reading. It was my dark little secret that I had a masters in reading. I could teach kids how to comprehend better who knew how to read. I could teach kids who couldn't write well how to write better. And then someone brought me to a woman who was talking about Orton Gillingham, and she was telling my story. It was almost like she was up there. She had gone back to school after raising a family.


Julia Paris:

I mean, I had done it before, but she was saying she took her master's in reading. And she would go from professor to professor and say, but why are we going to address the children who don't know how to read? And one by one, they would say, "Oh, we're not doing that in this class." And she graduated with masters in reading about, I would say, 15 to 20 years ago. And she didn't know how to teach kids how to read. And I was like, "Wow, I'm not alone." But what I did do is she was a fellow of Orton Gillingham, which means you are a master of a scientific method of teaching reading.


Julia Paris:

And I took her 60 hour course, and it was hard work. She was the nicest lady in the world. But message was when she came to observe us doing a practicum. If we weren't doing it right, she would step in and basically say these children have been messed up enough their whole life. I'm not going to let you continue it. I think I learned again in my continuation of education, that I've got to be up on things. If I don't know something, I've got to learn how to do it. I love working with new teachers and teaching them these things.


Julia Paris:

We all have our dark little secrets of things that we think we don't know how to do, but number one, we're not alone. And number two, just seek how to learn how to do it. And that's what we teach our kids. They have these dark little secrets. I'm acting out because I don't want you to know that I don't know, or I'm shutting down. I'm not doing my work, because I don't want you to figure out that I can't do the work, meet them there and help them figure out that it's okay to say I can't, but they have to also believe in us that we're going to be there to help them.


Adam Dayan:

That's a great message.


Speaker 1:

You're listening to Curious Incident, a podcast for special needs families with your host, Adam Dayan.


Adam Dayan:

If you had to sum up your mission and vision for individuals with special needs, how would you describe it?


Julia Paris:

I would describe it as I respect these children. I'm so honored that I have the opportunity to work with a population of kids who have been lost in many instances in the mainstream. Not for lack of good education, because some again, maybe their big dark secret is they don't recognize learning disabilities, or they hadn't been taught about learning disabilities or these kids present as "normal kids" who are just lazy. This is an untapped population. There are not many programs that I know of that deal specifically with speech and language delays of students and people who can have careers and can have anything anybody in a mainstream program can have, they just need a smaller, more specialized setting to get it.


Julia Paris:

I'm so lucky that I kind of found this path in my career to help these people develop and reach their potential. They have tremendous potential just like anyone else and kudos to parents who recognize it. And one more little message to parents is once you found the right place, make your kids feel good about it. Don't make them feel like they're settling because they couldn't make it into something better. Don't give them the hope or a false hope that if you do well here, you can move back into mainstream.


Julia Paris:

Some cases that's true, but for some, they just need the small setting. Don't make them feel like they're failing again because they're in this small setting. Celebrate you are so lucky to have found the right place for you to learn. The students who do come with that mindset do so much better and are so happy to be with us.


Adam Dayan:

Briefly Julia, how did the COVID 19 pandemic affect your school? What trends have you been seeing in your students since March 2020?


Julia Paris:

So there was a period of time in March of 2020. When the school closed down, we went on Zoom, remote learning, synchronous remote learning. At first it was amazing. We had a set up with breakout rooms so we could do our small group learning. The related service providers could provide services and breakout rooms. The administrators could jump from room to room really easily. So it worked really well for a lot of our students, the focus wasn't an issue. As time went on though, like everyone else, there were feelings of isolation, the socialization, especially for our freshmen.


Julia Paris:

We find the first semester with freshmen, they're kind of struggling and finding themselves. And the second semester is when they become a unit. It was a while when we realized when they came back the following year, they were individuals. They weren't a unit until we had that aha moment and it took them a little longer. Coming back and learning with masks on is kind of a disaster for children with speech and language deficits, because part of the queuing is facial expression and seeing someone speak and recognizing, interpreting words together with emotions. So that was difficult for those students. And thank God we're back to, we hope full in school for this year and most of last year. And we're seeing the benefits of not dealing with COVID in school.


Adam Dayan:

All right, before we conclude I have to ask, what fuels your passion? Why do you do what you do? What drives you to get out of bed and go into school every day?


Julia Paris:

I think it's multiple things. The first again is I just enjoy the kids. I enjoy the interaction. In this long career, it's only four years since I've been working with high school kids and they're adults in many ways. I enjoy the interaction, I enjoy hearing about their lives, their hopes, their dreams. What fuels me is the team I work with. Both those that I learn from, I often will go to a speech and language specialist and say, I want to convey this thought to a student or a colleague or an advisor or a supervisor, help me find the right words. And just having those sources.


Julia Paris:

I love mentoring and working with teachers and giving the experience I have in seeing ... I happen to work with an amazing group. There's some fine new young teachers who are thirsty and just absorb it all and seeing them blossom and grow. You have to be passionate about all of this in order to go at it for this long, and I never lose my enthusiasm for it.


Adam Dayan:

That's amazing. Julia, we're going to wrap it up. I want to tell you that I really admire your commitment to education over the last 40 years. 40 years is a long time to be doing anything and I respect the commitment that you've shown to helping children with special needs. I've learned a lot from you over the years, and I look forward to many more interesting conversations with you in the future. Thank you so much for being here with me.


Julia Paris:

I'm honored that you asked me. It was a real pleasure. I really enjoyed the conversation and I hope it's helpful to those listening.


Adam Dayan:

I'm sure it will be.


Speaker 1:

Thanks for listening to Curious Incident, a podcast for special needs families. Don't forget to subscribe for a new episode every month. For more resources and helpful information, check out our blog at dayanlawfirm.com. This podcast provides general information which is not intended to and does not constitute legal advice. You should not rely on this information for any purpose. For legal counsel, you should consult with an attorney to discuss your specific circumstances. Your listening to this podcast does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the law offices of Adam Dayan PLLC.


Speaker 1:

No attorney client relationship is established unless a retainer agreement has been executed between a client and the law offices of Adam Dayan. This podcast may constitute attorney advertising. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Any guests featured or resources mentioned on this podcast are for information purposes and are not endorsed by the law offices of Adam Dayan PLLC.




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