A Day in the Life of an Intervention Specialist

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Summary Notes


In this episode of the Autism Dad podcast, host Rob Gorsky and guest Stacey Brookover, an intervention specialist from Ohio, delve into the crucial role intervention specialists play in supporting students with diverse needs in educational settings. Brookover emphasizes the importance of true inclusion, where students receive individualized support to access the general curriculum alongside their peers. She advocates for visual schedules and proactive communication to manage routine changes and stresses that sending children home after meltdowns should be a last resort. The conversation highlights the need for strong parent-teacher collaboration and understanding the complexity of each student to provide tailored strategies that replace negative behaviors with positive outcomes. Brookover's personal connection as an autism mom enriches the discussion, underscoring the impact of special educators in fostering inclusive environments that benefit all students.

Summary Notes

Introduction to the Autism Dad Podcast and Able Now Accounts

  • The Autism Dad podcast is sponsored by Able Now, which offers tax-advantaged savings accounts for eligible individuals with disabilities.
  • Able Now accounts are designed to help individuals save for the future without risking their disability benefits such as Medicaid.
  • The accounts are available in all 50 states, with no enrollment fee or minimum amount required to start saving, and anyone can contribute.
  • Funds in Able Now accounts can be used for various qualified disability expenses related to health, independence, and quality of life.
  • Eligible individuals over 18 can independently manage their accounts, while those under 18 or needing assistance can have an authorized representative manage it.

"Able Now accounts help eligible individuals save for the future without endangering certain disability benefits like Medicaid, that are critical for health and independence."

  • This quote explains that Able Now accounts are designed to help people with disabilities save money without losing important health and independence benefits.

Role of an Intervention Specialist

  • Stacey Brookover is an intervention specialist and an autism mom, which gives her a personal connection to special education.
  • Intervention specialists, also known as special educators in some states, support students with various needs to meet curriculum standards.
  • They assist students with social, emotional, behavioral, or academic needs and ensure they receive the necessary support.
  • The process of identifying a student's needs involves parental consent, evaluations by a school psychologist, and comparisons with same-age peers.
  • An Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is developed if the student qualifies, which requires agreement from a team of professionals and the parent.

"I help kids who have some needs, whether it's social emotional needs or behavioral needs or academic needs, kind of support them to make sure that they get what they need in order to meet the curriculum and the standards for whatever grade they're in."

  • Stacey Brookover describes her role as providing support to students with various needs to help them meet educational standards.

Differentiating IEPs and 504 Plans

  • Intervention specialists work with students who have IEPs, while 504 plans are usually managed by school psychologists and general education teachers.
  • A 504 plan provides accommodations without the need for specialized services, whereas an IEP involves more significant support.

"There are other intervention specialists, I'm not sure, in the state of Ohio that work with kiddos on 500 fours. There is a bit of a difference. A 504 is just support."

  • The quote clarifies the distinction between IEPs and 504 plans, with the latter offering support without specialized services.

Day-to-Day Activities of an Intervention Specialist

  • Stacey Brookover runs a program addressing specific needs of students, believing in true inclusion where students with IEPs are integrated into general education classrooms.
  • She co-teaches and works on IEP direct goals and objectives, spending time in various classrooms and providing pull-out services as needed.
  • The program aims for students to generalize skills learned in a truly inclusive environment.

"So every day I'm in six different classrooms, co-teaching with the teacher, and then also working on IEP direct goals and objectives."

  • This quote describes the daily involvement of an intervention specialist in multiple classrooms, emphasizing hands-on support and goal achievement.

Importance of True Inclusion

  • The host, Rob Gorsky, reflects on his experience with his autistic children in specialized schools and wishes for a more inclusive environment.
  • He acknowledges the potential benefits of true inclusion for neurodivergent children, which Stacey Brookover advocates for.
  • True inclusion allows students to be part of a diverse school population, providing a broader societal experience.

"I don't think that we have to always remove kids from a classroom environment in order to meet their needs, and it doesn't apply to everybody."

  • Rob Gorsky expresses his belief that not all children need to be removed from mainstream classrooms to have their needs met, highlighting the value of inclusion.

Theme: Understanding Equality, Equity, and Inclusion in Education

  • Equality in education means providing every student with the same resources or opportunities.
  • Equity involves giving students the support and resources they need to access the same opportunities as others.
  • True inclusion is about providing all students with what they need, but offering additional support to those who require it.
  • The goal is not merely to place students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) in general education classrooms but to ensure they have the necessary resources to engage with the material.

"So everybody gets something, and that's our equality, right. It's equal. The equity part is making sure that the kids get the support and the things that they need to access what everybody else has."

  • This quote highlights the distinction between equality and equity in the context of educational resources and support.

Theme: The Fence Analogy for Equality and Equity

  • The fence analogy illustrates the difference between equality and equity in a visual manner.
  • Equality is depicted as giving every child one stair to step up and see over a fence, but not all children can see over it because of their height.
  • Equity is represented by giving children the number of stairs they need to be able to see over the fence and reach their potential.

"Equal gives everybody, like, one stair to step up to see over the fence. But some kids are too small. They can't see it, so they need more steps, and that's equity. That's everybody getting what they need in order to reach their potential or achieve whatever it is they're trying to do."

  • This quote explains the fence analogy, contrasting the concepts of equality and equity, emphasizing that equity is about providing the necessary support to achieve potential.

Theme: Challenges and Misconceptions in Implementing Inclusive Education

  • There is an uphill battle in achieving true inclusion in education, partly due to a lack of understanding among general education teachers.
  • Special education training is specialized and not all general education teachers receive training on differentiating instruction for diverse learners.
  • True inclusion is evident when every student participates with the supports they need, regardless of their abilities.
  • Inclusion benefits all students, not just those with IEPs, by promoting differentiated instruction and empathy among peers.

"And I think when you go into a classroom that is providing a true inclusion, you're seeing every kid participate, no matter ability. They're all doing exactly what they need to be doing with the supports they need."

  • This quote describes what true inclusion looks like in practice, with every student actively participating and receiving the necessary support.

Theme: Mutual Learning and Empathy in Inclusive Settings

  • Inclusive education is not a one-sided process; students with and without special needs can learn from each other.
  • Empowering all students improves their knowledge and cognitive development.
  • Exposure to diverse peers from a young age normalizes different abilities and communication methods, fostering empathy and understanding.

"The kiddo who has a need can also teach your typical peers something, and that gives them power."

  • This quote emphasizes that students with special needs also have valuable lessons to teach their peers, which empowers them and enhances the learning environment for everyone.

Theme: Addressing Disruptive Behavior in Inclusive Classrooms

  • It is important to manage disruptive behaviors in a way that does not punish the student causing the disruption.
  • Strategies such as taking breaks and using zones of regulation can help manage classroom dynamics without singling out students.
  • All students, not just those with special needs, benefit from learning how to cope with distractions and differences in others.

"I think what's very important is that we're never making it a punishment, you know, for a student having a moment or a student who's stimming."

  • This quote stresses the importance of addressing disruptive behaviors in a constructive manner that avoids punishing students for behaviors related to their needs.

Theme: Practicality and Effectiveness of Inclusive Strategies

  • Zones of regulation and other strategies can be effective in helping students manage their emotions and behaviors.
  • Teachers have witnessed the success of these strategies in reducing disruptive behaviors and helping students self-regulate.
  • Learning to cope with distractions and differences is a life skill that extends beyond the classroom into real-world situations.

"I've seen it work to where students who may be loud essentially calm themselves and they no longer feel the need to do the loud frustration or the loud noises and even the stimming, if it's just a stimming thing, that has also calmed a little bit, too."

  • This quote provides evidence from a teacher's experience that implementing strategies to help students self-regulate can be successful in reducing disruptive behaviors in the classroom.

Handling Disruptive Students

  • The importance of not hastily removing students from the classroom is emphasized.
  • The speaker suggests that students might still be learning even if they appear disruptive.
  • The philosophy of using removal as a last resort is advocated by the speaker.

"So I don't know. I think it's important that we just don't yank kids out of classroom because we feel like they're a disruptor."

  • This quote highlights the speaker's belief that removing a student from the classroom should not be a reflexive response to perceived disruption.

"Yeah, last resort, absolutely."

  • The speaker confirms that student removal should only be considered after all other options have been exhausted.

Role of Intervention Specialists

  • Intervention specialists do more than manage meltdowns; they aim to provide replacement behaviors for non-preferred behaviors.
  • The goal is to teach students strategies to handle difficult situations rather than punishing them.
  • Intervention specialists work with a wide range of students, including those with low cognitive abilities and gifted students.

"The goal is for those sort of things is to provide a replacement behavior."

  • The speaker explains that the objective is to replace negative behaviors with positive strategies.

"Kiddos learn. So no matter what, a repetitive behavior can be learned."

  • This quote underscores the idea that all students, regardless of their challenges, can learn new, positive behaviors through repetition.

Importance of Parent-Teacher Communication

  • Effective communication between parents and intervention specialists is crucial.
  • The speaker encourages parents to be involved and understand the Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Evaluation Team Report (ETR).
  • Communication methods vary by age group, with younger students often having daily updates, while older students' parents may initiate contact when needed.

"One of my parent takeaways is like, be involved with everything."

  • The speaker advises parents to be actively involved in their child's education and to seek clarity on IEPs or ETRs.

"Every day my younger kids, because a lot of them don't have a lot of good communication skills, I. Every day I make sure there is like, here's what one fun thing they did in their day."

  • The speaker describes a daily communication practice for younger students to keep parents informed about their child's day and progress.

Parental Involvement in Schools

  • Regular parental involvement in schools is beneficial and can lead to better communication and understanding between parents and educators.
  • Being present in the school environment can help prevent negative perceptions when parents visit.
  • The speaker agrees with the research supporting the positive impact of parental involvement in schools.

"Parents being involved in the schools, you know, outside of just showing up for, like, conferences or whatever, parents being in schools, then it doesn't seem as off the wall when a parent shows up at the school."

  • The quote suggests that regular parental presence in schools normalizes their involvement and can be positive.

Addressing Student Masking and 504 Plans

  • A concern is raised about students who are adept at masking their issues, leading to challenges in the classroom.
  • The speaker recommends exploring a 504 Plan if a student does not qualify for an IEP but still requires support.

"So I would say maybe ask and see if that would be more appropriate versus an IEP."

  • The speaker suggests that a 504 Plan might be a suitable alternative for providing support to a student who does not meet the criteria for an IEP.

Managing Routine Changes

  • The importance of visual schedules and preparation for changes in routine is emphasized.
  • Preparing students for changes, like assemblies or fire drills, is crucial, especially for those on the autism spectrum who rely on predictable routines.

"I think one of the biggest things that I make sure all of my general education teachers have are visual schedules."

  • The speaker promotes the use of visual schedules as a tool to help students understand and prepare for changes in their routine.

"Prep, prep, prep."

  • This quote reinforces the importance of preparing students in advance for any changes to their expected daily schedule to minimize disruption and anxiety.

Preparing Children for Changes in Routine

  • Discusses the importance of preparing children, especially those with autism, for changes in their daily routine.
  • Emphasizes the use of visuals and positive reinforcement to help children understand and cope with upcoming changes.
  • Suggests using a sequence of images to illustrate the order of activities, such as visiting the doctor and then going to the ice cream shop.
  • Highlights the need for parents to model positivity when discussing changes to prevent transferring negative connotations to the children.

"We do a lot of prepping and a lot of visuals. So, you know, you as a parent might need to do the same thing, do a lot of prepping."

  • This quote emphasizes the speaker's personal approach to handling changes in routine within their household and suggests that other parents might benefit from similar strategies.

"First the doctor, then ice cream, you know, so, so just making sure there's a lot of prepping, a lot of positive things around the change."

  • The speaker is providing an example of how to use a visual sequence to prepare a child for the day's activities, highlighting the importance of positivity.

The Impact of Routine Disruptions on Children

  • Discusses the challenges faced by children, including those with autism, when their regular routines are disrupted, such as during school breaks.
  • Notes that the transition from school routine to home routine and back can be difficult for all children, not just those with special needs.
  • Compares the reliance of adults on tools like Google Calendar to the need for children to have their routines prepped and communicated to them.

"It's a nightmare for parents because that routine is disrupted. And by the time you get them switched over to the at home routine, they have to switch back."

  • This quote highlights the difficulty of transitioning between different routines for children and the stress it can cause for both the children and their parents.

"All kids have a really hard time going out of a routine and into a new routine and then back."

  • The speaker acknowledges that the challenge of adjusting to routine changes is universal among children, not just those with additional needs.

Sending Autistic Children Home After Meltdowns

  • Addresses the question of whether it is appropriate to send autistic children home from school after a meltdown.
  • Suggests that the duration and intensity of the meltdown should be considered before deciding to send a child home.
  • Advocates for keeping the child at school to teach coping strategies and replacement behaviors rather than sending them home, which might reinforce negative behaviors.
  • Stresses the importance of intervention specialists and special educators being equipped to handle such situations at school.

"I find it very hard to send kids home because we're not teaching them anything when they're at home. We're not helping."

  • The speaker argues against sending children home after meltdowns because it misses the opportunity to teach them how to cope with their emotions and situations.

"We now established a new behavior pattern because we encouraged the non preferred behavior that we didn't want to happen in the first place."

  • This quote points out the potential for creating a negative reinforcement cycle if children are sent home after meltdowns, as they might learn to use meltdowns as a way to leave an undesirable situation.

The Complexities of Educating Children with Special Needs

  • Discusses the role of special educators in understanding and addressing the complexities of students with disabilities.
  • Emphasizes that special education is demanding work that requires flexibility and adaptation, as strategies that work one day may not work the next.
  • Highlights the importance of special educators in the lives of their students and the significance of their work.

"You are working to try to find what fits each and every student. And sometimes you go to work and you're like, oh, that worked yesterday and it's not working today."

  • The speaker describes the dynamic nature of special education, where educators must continually adapt their approaches to meet the needs of each student.

"Our job is to help that and to understand the complexity of a student who is not your typical student."

  • This quote emphasizes the special educator's responsibility to comprehend and support the unique challenges faced by students with disabilities.

Appreciation for Special Educators and Closing Remarks

  • The host expresses gratitude for the work of special educators and acknowledges the positive impact they have on their students.
  • The speaker B thanks the host for the opportunity to share insights on the podcast.
  • The host concludes by thanking the audience for their support over the seasons and encourages them to leave reviews and share the podcast.

"Your kids love you and you matter, and our work matters."

  • The speaker B offers words of encouragement to fellow special educators, affirming the value and impact of their work on their students.

"Thank you for having me."

  • Speaker B expresses gratitude for being invited to share their expertise on the podcast.

"If you have found this useful or you just enjoyed listening, if you wouldn't mind taking a moment to leave a review on Apple Podcast or Spotify or whatever app you're listening to this on, or share it with your friends or whatever, it's a great way to support the show."

  • The host requests listeners to support the podcast by leaving reviews and sharing it with others, expressing appreciation for the audience's support.

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