Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Terrific Week in Hamilton, NY

I spent the last week in June, together with one of our Learning Specialists, in beautiful Hamilton, NY, where we met with a team from the Hamilton Central School District – Principals, Learning Specialists, Reading Specialists, Classroom Teachers, and the District Psychologist, Occupational Therapist, and Superintendent of Schools. Joining us was a representative from the Madison-Oneida BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services).

Over the course of the first day, I gave a series of presentations that included an overview of the emerging neuroscience about learning and its implications for classroom practice and assessment. I spoke about the basis of our clinical framework and how it is compatible with Response to Intervention (RTI) and consistent with emerging scientific knowledge. Particular attention was paid to looking at what the District was already doing for struggling students and bringing to these steps the notion of applying the concepts of differential diagnosis and neurodevelopmental profiles to an analysis of learning differences – with a particular focus on Tier 3 of RTI.

The lecture portion of our training visit looked in depth at the eight neurodevelopmental constructs at the core of our clinical model, and their linkages to the educational process and academic difficulties. We described how to apply this model to elucidate the specific breakdowns underlying each student’s academic difficulties. We also demonstrated how to develop individual plans based on a deep understanding of each student’s unique profile of strength and weaknesses. We ended our first day by discussing the issues faced by a specific student with long-standing difficulties, whom we would be assessing the next day. Together, we planned the assessment.

Our second day was spent assessing this student, who had been selected by the District, with the consent of his parents. We assessed two more students on the remaining days of our five day visit, (ultimately including both elementary and secondary students). For each assessment, the student’s parent(s) observed from one room and the Hamilton team from another location. For the remaining assessments, members of the Hamilton clinical team (the District Psychologist and Learning Specialists) participated in various parts of the assessment under the supervision of Yellin Center clinicians.

It was a gratifying experience and one that everyone agreed worked well for the Hamilton team. It would not have been possible without the terrific administrative support and troubleshooting from the District staff that made it possible for the parents and educators to observe the assessment process via remote technology, without intruding on the students’ experiences. The Hamilton Central School District is also the beneficiary of extensive professional development support from Colgate University, located in Hamilton. As both a visiting clinician and a proud parent of a Colgate graduate, I can appreciate the incredible community of support they provide to their local District. We also can’t thank our hosts enough for their hospitality and wonderful company.
Our next step will be a presentation, together with the Hamilton Central School District, at the New York State School Boards meeting in October in New York City, as an example of “best practices” in intervention and implementation of RTI. Our Yellin Center team is looking forward to continuing our work with these dedicated educators and to defining the next steps in our collaboration.

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