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Undivided Learning with Dr. Caitlin Solone: Strength-Based IEPs - Full Video

Undivided Learning with Dr. Caitlin Solone: Strength-Based IEPs - Full Video

Published: Feb. 1, 2024Updated: Feb. 14, 2024

Our kids deserve IEPs in school that don't just address their limitations but also honor their strengths. We sat down with Dr. Caitlin Solone, education advocate, teacher educator, and faculty at UCLA, to learn more about specific resources that can help us develop strength-based IEPs with our teams.

Watch the full event replay below, or check out the recap with highlights here.

Event video transcript

Jason Lehmbeck 00:06 Welcome to our second session of Undivided Learning live. Today's conversation is going to be all about strength based IEPs focused on the whole child. I think everybody can get get on board with that. But we're going to talk about how to actually make that happen in the real world. I'm Jason Lehmbeck, CEO of Undivided, and dad to three boys. My oldest son, Noah has had a wonderful experience with a lot of tips and tricks supplied by Dr. Caty Solone. We had a wonderful IEP last spring that I told Caty about, we'll share more about here in today's live chat. But yeah, we went from kind of the incremental mundane IEP session to a whole different conversation. So excited to share that and more. I'm here today with Lindsay Crain who heads up our content and community teams at Undivided.

Lindsay Crain 01:00 Hi everybody.

Jason Lehmbeck 01:03 And as I mentioned, we have Dr. Caty Solone, teacher, educator, inclusion consultant and faculty at UCLA Disability Studies department. What else do you do? That seems like a lot.

Caty Solone 01:17 Yeah, um, thank you for that introduction. And thanks for welcoming here, welcoming me here today. Um, you pretty, you almost covered the bases. I'm also a member of the CalTASH board. So for those who don't know, who don't know about Cal TASH, it's an organization that promotes opportunity, equity and inclusion for folks with disabilities. And yeah, so that pretty much pretty much covers it.

Jason Lehmbeck 01:41 You got you got a full full schedule.

Lindsay Crain 01:43 I remembered, wait, I remembered something that we didn't cover yet. For you, Dr. Solone, you are also the sister of someone with a disability. So you are very much a part of our community and more.

Caty Solone 01:54 Yes, and that's what kind of brought me into the field in the first place. I have a sister with cerebral palsy and an intellectual disability, she's much younger than I am. And she is just my everything. And I, myself also have a disability, I have ADHD. So coming from several different lenses here.

Lindsay Crain 02:14 Dr. Solone, we want to get right into it. We've talked to you many times about strengths based IEPs. And when things are so difficult as they have been, it's easy to be stuck in a deficit mindset. So if you could let us know why are strength based IEPs more important than ever right now?

Caty Solone 02:31 Yeah, I think you nailed it, Lindsay. During, we're still in the midst of the pandemic, we're emerging out of, you know, remote learning. Being back on campus, it's so I think it's very easy to really default to what isn't working, what hasn't worked, what went wrong, what services I didn't get, what type of aggression my child experienced, and all of that, right, it's so easy to just get wrapped up in that vortex and, and that can be a slippery, slippery slope, not just for families, not just for students, but also for teachers when the mindset is really just deficit focused. And so strength based IEPs are crucial at reminding everyone to ground into what each child's strengths are and build off that. And through the pandemic, many families spent a lot more time with their children during academic times, right? In the past, students went to school, they did their academics at school, they came home and you know, maybe we helped with homework and things like that. But through this time, we've been able to get such a deeper perspective and picture about what goes on at school, what are the types of challenges that are presented, but what are my child's strengths around these things? And what can I do? And now of course, we don't have all the answers either. But when we can really tailor the IEP to be strength based, we can remind teachers, IEP teams and ourselves of what our child can do, and what they need to succeed. Rather than falling down this path of negativity, and they can't do this, they can't do that. Which then is just a slippery slope from there. So strength based IEP is right now are crucial, for sure.

Caty Solone 02:43 So we did hear from a couple families, they're like, I love this concept. But how, how can we the question it was how can we really advocate for what our kids need if we're only talking about their strengths? How can we also so I don't think you know, some people might not understand what it means we're not just trying to paint a really rosy picture of like, here's yes, here's all these fabulous things about my child, but we're not leaving out the rest of what they need. So can you can you give us an example of something or way that a parent might come into an IEP talking about their children's strengths while still expressing what their child needs as well.

Caty Solone 05:02 Absolutely. And I think that's, that can be the misconception with a strengths based IEP, where it's like, oh, we're just, you know, talking about all the things my child can do, and avoiding the things that they're still working on. But actually a strength based IEP is really just framing the IEP in a way that recognizes your child's strengths, and utilizes the strengths to then make progress with the areas that each child is working on. So for example, if a child responds really well when you are giving them two choices, for example, and when you give them two choices, then then they make one and they follow through with that, as opposed to giving them one directive, then that is a strength that the child has they, they are very successful when given two options of things to do, rather than a directive. That's using a child's strengths to meet their needs, right? If a child is can memorize facts really well, and, and it has great auditory comprehension skills, right, we can utilize those things to then work on math and think about using songs to teach math facts, for example, right. So that's how we can then use those strengths to meet the child's needs. So we're not mitigating the fact that children have things that they need to work on, we all do, right? And we're not avoiding those things. We're just changing the way we're framing it. So rather than saying, this child doesn't comply when asked to follow directions, it's like, no, this child is really successful and can can follow directions when given two choices, and how to how to proceed. Things like that.

05:08 I love that. I think that this that idea of, you know, through the lens of strength, engaging with the IEP team on the goals, and where we're trying how we're trying to move forward together. I think that's a great way to make that connection, because you you're not just coming in and saying, oh, you know, my son Noah is perfect in every way. And how could you how could you ever not see that? It's exactly what you described. Like, how do we, how do we take in his case, we're trying to work on leveraging eye gaze device, how do we take a strength into that conversation and bring a goal to life that is leveraging his strengths, but also aware of where we're at, and where we want to go on that particular goal, it makes a ton of sense.

Caty Solone 07:44 Right. Like, if I am trying to exercise more, and I know that I'm not a morning person, then I'm not going to say like, I need to exercise every day, in the morning, and I'm going to wake up an hour earlier to do it. Because that's gonna set me up for failure. Like, she doesn't exercise. So she needs to exercise more and to do it in the mornings. If I play off my strengths, I'm more motivated in the afternoon. I'm more successful in the afternoon. And I will be more likely to engage in exercise at a different time of day. It's just one simple example. But if we apply it to ourselves, you know, we don't for ourselves, set goals that focus on our negative, the negative things about us, at least not to be successful. We focus on our own strengths to set ourselves up for success, or at least, hopefully we're learning to.

Jason Lehmbeck 08:40 Yeah.

Lindsay Crain 08:41 I just say I'm a data nerd. So exactly what you said, Jason, and everything you're saying, Dr. Solone, is like, here's the baseline, you take your data, here's the baseline, here's where we want to go. Here's, you know, our Common Core State Standard or Connector goal. And then and then and then what is, you know, what is Noah great at? So how, you know, and then so how do we use the things that work for Noah to get from here to here, whatever that goal is.

Caty Solone 09:06 I can't tell you how many times I've seen, you know, IEP goals that are related to an you know, word problems in math, and child needs to read the word problem and solve it and, you know, figure out the operation. And if a child's reading skills are not super strong, and that's the goal, then that's going to set them up, not going to set them up for success. But if we think about rewriting the goal in a way that's going to play off their strengths and their good auditory listener, then maybe they're hearing the word problem, read aloud or hearing a device read aloud to them, and then they can then, you know, achieve or meet that goal, because we're playing off their strengths.

Caty Solone 09:08 That's a perfect way to put it.

09:15 That's great. Yeah, I think another another tool that you've shared with us and helped us develop for for our families is the idea of vision statement and more holistically, how do we bring a strengths based approach to the IEP? How do we always center it on the child? And Donna is going to share a template that Dr. Solone helped us develop in the chat window. And in a minute, I'm going to share what I did based on your guidance and that template for my son Noah, just to kind of bring it to life. But some people when they think about vision statement, they might think of, you know, insert your California hippie. It's a nice touch, it might be a good touchy feely thing, but how do we anchor, how do we use it to anchor every single conversation or request in an IEP, back to this idea of strengths and focusing on the whole child?

Caty Solone 10:49 Like, if we were going to go on a road trip, right, and we didn't have a destination, it might be really fun and exciting. But we didn't know where to go in order to get to that destination, we'd be kind of meandering, and you may get lost. And there may be points where you're like, I don't even know why I'm here, where I'm going or, you know, what's the point of all of this is? And so a vision statement is like that destination. Like what is the big picture? What are the most important things that we want for our child, and later on, once the child is old enough, they'll have a huge part in creating that vision statement about what they want for their life. It may not be the nitty gritty, like, I want to get straight A's or I want to go to college, I want to buy a house. No, we're thinking about what's the big idea? We want to be maybe part of a community, have a handful of close friends, have a strong support system, be able to communicate and express oneself, right? What are the big picture things that matter for your child. And when we can give that to our IEP team, when we can help our IEP team to step back, take a step back, see their students in a whole new way, it can then help them shape IEP goals, the way they support them, they'll then have a better understanding of, you know, what you as parents what the goals are, right? What are the most important things to you? And that really helps ground in the humanity of the process. And the big picture about, you know, why IEPs exist in the first place. And you know why we're doing all of this, in general. And without that, I can tell you from experience as a teacher, without that it's so easy to just get into the day in day out, like IEP goal, this that, like standards. And it's so easy to get lost in those really small details and lose sight of the big picture, which is really what matters, right?

13:06 I think we've all been there. I mean, we can all like probably, this is a different kind of visualization than we want. But you could visualize that typical IEP meeting where everybody just settles into the role of let's read out, let's read my section, let's read my section, and, and the really shift everybody out of that, that in and of itself can change the entire conversation. And so you've seen these, these vision statements in and out in the wild, like conversation and having an impact.

Caty Solone 13:41 Oh, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And these aren't common practice. And it's interesting. It's exciting in California. I know, it's, we're, there's a group working on a new revised IEP template. And one thing that we're trying to work into that is a place for a vision statement. But I've seen it be so beneficial, because, again, it grounds the whole IEP team in what matters, you know, when when a teacher can say, Wow, this student has come so far in this IEP goal or met this IEP goal, which is going to help them then achieve this big picture item, that also feels so affirming as a teacher too, and when a teacher has a clear vision of where you want to go, then teachers can do a better job at support providers, service providers can can feel the success and the progress, and that breeds more success and progress, right? No one wants to feel like they're not doing a good job. No one wants to feel like, you know, it's it's, you know, you know, no one wants to feel like what they're doing in the efforts they're putting in don't matter and that like they're not supporting a child in a way that's going to be meaningful. So a vision statement, it's just kind of beautiful to see how teams come together when they use it for the bigger picture and how that changes the tone and the conversation, and it changes the way that people see their this student.

15:16 Yeah, I can attest to it. i We, in our IEP last spring, we put this and I'm sharing it for those, just so they could see what it looks like also to brag on my big man with his walker there, which is cool. But I was shocked at how much of a difference it made in the IEP meeting. We have a collaborative team, a team that cares a lot about Noah. But we would, we would typically just settle into this is how it goes, okay, let's go through the process. But we put this on the table, and it was exactly exactly as described. On every goal, each team member was kind of jumping on top of each other to add to say, Okay, here's how we can bring in that he loves Billy Eilish, or here's how we can bring in the idea of hiking in his walker. And it was such a, like, powerful shift that not only made that conversation more uplifting, I think, for everybody on the team, but we've seen subsequently and we can come back and connect to exactly like you said, these, these ideas of okay, he's making progress here, with his walker and on uneven surfaces. And we remember that, that so he can go for a hike with his brothers and his walker. That level of kind of connection. And I don't know, just like bringing the person to the table, right and bringing Noah to the table. It's just been game changing for us.

Caty Solone 16:47 Yeah, well, everybody knows what the point is behind the different goals. It just changes everything. And I will have to say, you know, when I was teaching, I didn't use vision statements. And I wish that I would have been familiar with a vision statement, I wish I would have known about using a vision statement. And I didn't know at the time, and I just keep thinking about how much that would have changed the team dynamic, and just that so much of the process.

Lindsay Crain 17:16 Well, I also think I mean, we don't, no one else gets to write the future of our child. I mean, you know, I didn't use vision statements early on in my daughter's IEP s either. And everyone is talking about a future that we certainly didn't agree with, and that we had no buy in and that my daughter had no say and most importantly. And so the vision statement is a way, and it might evolve, right, as your children get older, and they're telling you what they want. But in these, you know, it's a way for the family to really bring their perspective and no one's no one's going to write the future for our child except our child. And this is the vision right now. And this is what we're working towards, like you said, Dr. Solone, it's that's the point of the IEP, right? Just getting back to you know, why we're all there. Or we're supposed to be there, instead of blaming, not that this always happens, but instead of sitting in a room and having your child's disability be blamed. And yeah, this is this is where we are, this is this is why we're here. And this is where we're going. So now let's figure out the steps to start getting there. Right. And I heard from one of our community members, and before I say this, I just wanted to say to Pam and Ariana, we had turned on captions, and they have disappeared. We're having some technical difficulties before this. So we really apologize, we'll, if we can figure it out, during the course of this Facebook Live, we will and if not, we'll be on it for for tomorrow, and the next one. So our apologies for that. And one of our community members, Christine had shared a story I think it was in our group where she said this was the first year where they sat down and really focused on her child's strengths. And she said it really completely transformed the IEP. It was a much it put her at ease and made her feel more comfortable. She felt like people were really there talking about her child. And it made a big difference. And that's the point. For, you know, really representing our child.

17:27 I want to pick a question or a point that I think Pam brings up that brings up it's it's a good question to ask is, why doesn't every team think about it this way and organized? And you kind of touched on this Caty, a little bit of you wish she had done it when you were thinking about like some some parents may struggle with this right? Or they may, they may not have the kind of the capacity or the skills to articulate the whole vision but like the idea of a collaboration, people are seeing Noah or Lena or your child in this, you know, in this setting. So you mentioned that there's this movement to do it, to have it as part of the IEP for California for students. Is there you know, there's anything about like teaching the process of how to develop that with a family?

Caty Solone 20:07 I don't know anything about that, that's going to look very, the thing is, though credentialing programs have the same type of curriculum that they have to standards that they have to meet. And they can teach different things within those and vision statements are not yet a part of that, to my knowledge. And so I think it's going to evolve as the documents evolve as the practices evolve. And to the point about, you know, why isn't this happening everywhere? Why don't teachers or teams think about it in this way? Well, so much, you know, comes from the way you were trained, if many people were trained way back when, then they're utilizing, you know, the training that they received, and then also the kind of institutional practices that are taking place at their school site. And so you know, when you come in to start teaching, and say you're a new teacher, you come in and you are receiving kind of on the spot, you're learning as you go, right. And so if things aren't done in a certain way, or if there's a culture of trying to speed through an IEP and not talk about more than needs to get covered, because you have a timeline, right? There are a lot of little things in place that prevent people from using a vision statement. But the big thing, I think, is that most people don't know about a vision statement and have never heard of it and haven't been taught how to use it and haven't seen it modeled for them. And so I think as parents as we start to bring in our own vision statement for the team that can start to transform school sites slowly, but surely, as team members start to see how powerful it is.

Lindsay Crain 21:44 We just got a question from Karen, Caty, that said, What's the best way to present the vision in the IEP?

Caty Solone 21:52 For me, if you know, I would just recommend for parents, parents, you are a huge member of the team. Right, if not the most important member of the IEP team, a second to your child, of course. And so I would, you have the autonomy to request things within that meeting, request how things go, request for things to slow down, request to get more explanation, you also have the autonomy to request that you share that vision statement at the start of the meeting. And, and that's really what I would recommend is saying, you know, we have this brief vision statement that we have created for our child. And I would love to start off with it. And can we add it to the IEP notes? And there are some states that have a vision statements slot already some places that have that already have it. But if that doesn't exist in the IEP format that your child's school utilizes, then I would just recommend doing that right off the bat and requesting it and don't feel bad about it either. Don't feel bad about it, and don't let people make you feel bad about it. It is your right to be able to do that. And it will, they'll see once, once they go through it, I feel like people will start to see how crucial it is.

23:05 Well, one, one idea, just playing off of some of the questions or comments is you don't it's not like you have to have the perfect vision statement. You it can be a collaborative thing, right, you could come in, and maybe just highlight a couple of the strengths, some of the things that work for your child, and and leave it blank from there to say, let's talk together. Let's let's let's, What are you seeing? What do you think? I think it can really open up that IEP conversation in a way that it just as we've said, shift shift everybody's perspective to the right place. Right. One tactical question is can we email the vision statement to the team? And they can they can add it or do we have to wait to the next meeting?

Caty Solone 23:49 Oh, yeah, I mean, you can always ask for an amendment to the IEP, if that's something you want included. From, in truth, truthfully, from the perspective of a teacher, former teacher self. If it were me, I would love for the parent to email me the vision statement, email the whole team, the vision statement, and ask for the team to read it, share it with the paraeducators or whoever supporting the child if you don't have their emails, and then in the next IEP, I would start with that, because it doesn't necessarily have to be in the IEP, if it's not already. But moving forward, that would be great, right? Because it's not going to change currently the goals and things like that. But if you want to change the goals, if you've created your vision statement and you've looked at your IEP, and you really feel like there's some really important reasons as to why you might need to amend some of the support services and goals in the IEP. Then then absolutely, that is your right and by all means do it.

Lindsay Crain 24:47 Another, you know, vision statement. Also another big topic that we're hearing about is least restrictive environment. And we had a question that was given to us beforehand, and especially after the last year and a half, a lot of parents don't feel like their kids can really handle an inclusive environment. So the question that we received beforehand is one of the most common about inclusion in general. She said, My child is way behind her grade level, even more so now. What's the point of her being in Gen Ed? Won't she learn more in a special class? So what would you like to say to her?

Caty Solone 25:23 A really good question. And the environment that's best suited for a child is, you know, it varies, right? But I seen it so much, too. And there's a huge misconception that in order to thrive in general education settings, in the general classroom, that a child has to be able to keep up with the Gen Ed curriculum. That is completely false. And in fact, you might be getting that messaging from your school sites, your teams, because they don't know how to include students with more significant support needs in the classroom. But I would say, you know, the data doesn't show that kids, you know, when we're comparing kids in the special day classroom with the general education classroom, no matter how far behind grade level they are, kids who are in general education classrooms with the supports and services, with curriculum that's adapted to meet their needs, thrive and do a lot better and make significantly better progress than in a special day classroom. I would say, you know, there are many phenomenal special day classrooms. Definitely. However, the argument that just being behind grade level, and so what's the point of being in Gen Ed, is, is just just a huge common misconception. So kids can thrive no matter how far behind they are, even if they're, you know, kindergarten grade level for reading, they can still thrive in fifth grade. And so if the school doesn't have the support set up, and if then they're, you know, there are a lot of factors that plays into that, too. So if the supports aren't set up, if nobody is supporting with the curriculum development or adaptations to the curriculum, then that presents a very real challenge. And so it might feel like a special day class is better because their needs can be met. And in some cases, that may be true. But it is really important to consider all those factors. And just know that if your child's not keeping up, that doesn't mean they should be pulled from Gen Ed. And in fact, once they do go to a change of placement and go to a more restrictive environment, like a special day classroom, it depending on your IEP team, your district or school, it may be more challenging to then get them back in agenda setting, unfortunately, and hopefully not, and hopefully you have a collaborative team that talks about placement every single IEP and really values parent input. But if that isn't the case, then then that is a consideration to me.

28:00 One of the underlying issues, I think, whether it's, you know, more strengths based IEP, or figuring out figuring out the right placement for your child, is that underlying that right now, is this big issue of staff shortages, particularly the lack of aides. Last week, we started to talk to Dr. Pelangka. And she talked to us about how we can advocate via the IEP process to address this, but you do a lot of work at the district level. Any thoughts on creative ideas or effective ways you've seen work to like deal with the challenge we're facing which is the shortage of staff?

Caty Solone 28:47 The shortage is very real. And it, you know, even districts that contract out to agencies that provide paraeducators to school sites, they're having a huge challenge. Getting people though, they'll get people that are sent that don't show up that show up one day, then leave. So it is a very real problem. So even if you have an aide in the IEP and advocated for it that way, it's not going to address the root of the problem, which is just human human bodies, right. But so in working with one district in particular, they were presented with this this challenge, of course, and we're working towards more inclusive practices, so needing aides in certain classrooms at certain times. They felt like they were grossly understaffed with their paraeducators. But when looking from a broader perspective, and looking at how many aides they had, where students were when they needed support, and when they didn't, they were able to plug in the aide so they they decided to have a two staff members create the master schedule for the aides and then they very strategic usually placed aides in different classrooms at different times, times when like, for example, if a student didn't didn't need support in art, then the aid would go to a different classroom, support a different student during that time. So that's one creative way to do it is to not just assign one aide to one student and call it a day. Because at the end of the day, what, what I always used to tell my aides is, if you're working yourself out of a job, you're doing a good job, right? We want our students to be as independent as possible. So if there are times that students can be independent, and this isn't always going to be the case, then that is ideal. And so perhaps this can create more structures of fading back support, too. But yeah, so that's one one way I've seen a mitigate that aide shortage is just, you know, looking holistically at your staffing, and then strategizing. If that still doesn't meet the need, then one recommendation that you could provide to the district or the school site is putting out a call for on-call aides or part-time aides. I work with tons of college age students who would love to work in schools. But when jobs are, you know, Monday through Friday, during school hours, that really limits their ability to do that, because they don't have that kind of availability. But if we can post positions that are like a Monday, Wednesday, Friday, or Tuesday, Thursday, or a morning schedule, or an afternoon schedule, then I think and then publicize to our community colleges and universities and just publicize widely, I think we're going to get a lot more folks interested in taking on those roles. And then another example is using peer supports, peer buddy systems, different things like that, to really pair up students with their peers to get support in that way. And research really strongly supports these peer supports in classrooms. And this can be done in elementary school can definitely be done in middle school and high school, you know, I don't know about you, but I used to be a TA in high school grade papers for the history teacher, and it was the most laid back job. But if we could have TA roles that are supporting a friend in class, or, you know, doing something like that, that's another way to, to be strategic, and also support students, you know, in talking to adults who've gone through school and had an aide, many of them say, you know, that aide, once I got older was very stigmatizing. And I would have much rather worked with a friend or a peer, and it wouldn't have made me stand out so much. And it would have just been more beneficial to me. So it's kind of a dual benefit in that regard.

Lindsay Crain 32:52 I love that idea. I mean, think it's it's brilliant. Like how do we you know, and every parent here that hears these ideas, it just brings that collaboration back in, take that to your teams. And even though they might think like, you just you keep asking, and you keep asking different people. And I love that idea. And it also builds in socialization, which is another, you know, huge challenge, obviously, especially after the pandemic. I did want to ask there's, we had another question in the chat. How can parents encourage teachers to weave strengths and interests and their prior knowledge experiences and their positive effects into pre existing curriculum like benchmark advance?

Caty Solone 33:31 Benchmark? What is benchmark advance?

Lindsay Crain 33:36 I don't know, a pre existing curriculum?

33:40 Yeah. You know, the gist of it is, you know, there may be a heavy focus on the curriculum side and, like, not accepting the strengths. And she had mentioned in her note that he or she has, the child has particular interests, and they're not engaging are bringing those interests into, into the goals.

Caty Solone 34:01 Yeah, and I think sometimes, it's, I mean, it's always really helpful when parents provide suggestions, that are very tangible, and very comprehensible. So giving very specific examples of how you how that teacher might embed those strengths can be really supportive to a teacher, who might be, you know, just in over their heads working really hard, trying to just make ends meet as it is given everything going on. And so giving those really easy, doable solutions can be really supportive, because then it just gives the teacher an idea and once they see that, that idea works, then we can go from there.

Lindsay Crain 34:46 And really what motivates your child. To share with them the things, doesn't matter what the curriculum is like, what motivates them, you know, if things are difficult, you know, or you know that can get them through anything, just again about team collaboration and sharing.

35:03 Yeah, it is an interesting like, yeah, what is it going to take the break through? Because, you know, I think in this particular case, and you can imagine, many cases, because people are kind of heads down in from their training or what they're reading and seeing out of the IEP and like, how do you break through in a way that really resonates and connects for the teacher to say, okay, you know, they're interested in x. And we're trying to make progress on this math goal. How do we how do we really try that out? So it gets its people into this shifted mindset that we've been talking about.

Caty Solone 35:42 Yeah. One thought that came up to as you were talking was one of the reasons why many teachers are resistant to perhaps thinking differently about the curriculum is this long history of teachers being heavily evaluated on test performance. And we have this culture of test performance. And there used to be that teachers only got a raise or only were, you know, retained if they had a certain level of test scores in their classroom. And so in talking to teachers who are shifting towards inclusion and having more kids with diverse needs in their classrooms, one of the biggest things that comes up is just how ingrained this idea that every child needs to be making grade level standards. And every child in this classroom needs to end up doing well on the state tests. And there's like this fear in them about it because of how brutal it was for so long for teachers in making sure that kids were able to meet those standards. And so what I've found to be really helpful is giving teachers, and not that you don't want teachers to prioritize progress and working towards grade level standards. If you have a child that's working far below grade level standards, and they're in a gen ed classroom, for example, simply giving the teacher the permission that that I don't expect my child to meet grade level standards in your class. And I know that they're on alternate curriculum or having modified curriculum. And to me, that means that they're working alongside like with the standards, but making progress at their own rate. So I won't think that you're a bad teacher, if you're not able to get them to a third grade reading level by the end of third grade. And simply that permission, the weight that lifts off teachers shoulders, is really visible when those conversations are had.

Lindsay Crain 37:45 So it's such a hard, I just have to say such a hard focus on on grades and having that be the only metric of school is not only difficult and could even say sometimes damaging to kids, but also the teachers. That's interesting.

Caty Solone 38:01 Yeah, very much so, very much so. And so, you know, if you're, we're suggesting playing off strengths and altering the curriculum, or, you know, these are going to, perhaps be anxiety provoking, especially if teacher doesn't know how to or doesn't think that then will be at the right pace. Or, you know, yeah.

38:25 Well, that's wonderful. I unfortunately, I know, we could talk for hours with you, as always, so, so illuminating, and helpful. But we do have to wrap up here, just want to thank you, Dr. Solone, for your continued guidance. And, you know, you gave us some workout routine advice earlier on, but also really thoughtful and insightful ways to bring you know the whole child into the IEP and leverage their strengths to do what we all want. Everybody on the team wants, right? We want this child to thrive and to and to make progress but being able to kind of break through the kind of standard constraints and some of the basic frameworks that that prevent us from doing that. It's, it's always helpful to hear you give us give us tips and tricks and even just overall the big picture to reconnect to so. Thank you. Thank you for all that you do. And thank you for helping us and our families.

Caty Solone 39:29 Happy to be here and I hope everybody has a wonderful rest of the day.



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