Featured Sessions

Program Chair Featured Sessions

Doug Cheney and Laura Receveur, CEC 2016 Convention Program Chairs, have planned a rich and substative invited program. Join experts in the field of special education and related disciplines and participate in the dialogues on current and relevant topics.

Jump to Town Halls/Forums.


Making Connections and Emerging Frontiers in the Digital and Blended Environment

Leaders: Bill East, Jr., National Association of State Directors of Special Education, Inc., Alexandria, Va. & Sean J. Smith, University of Kansas, Lawrence
Presenters: Tracey E. Hall, CAST, Wakefield, Mass. & Skip Stahl, CAST, Wakefield, Mass.

New technologies, policies, and practices are changing the familiar educational experience. The Center on Online Learning and Students with Disabilities (COLSD) has been working to understand the challenges and opportunities of online learning environments, especially as they lead to promising practices associated with K-12 online learning. In this panel session, presenters will discuss emerging topics impacting the field of special education within digital and blended learning. Districts embracing supplemental, blended, or full-time virtual opportunities need to be knowledgeable about the systems and environments they intend to integrate prior to investing large resources in the process. All stakeholders in the educational process including students, teachers, administrators, vendors, policy makers, and parents are faced with unprecedented challenges, as well as opportunities. Topics will be framed in relation to practice, research, and policy. Participants will have access to the publication Equity Matters: Digital & Online Learning for Students with Disabilities (October, 2015).

After attending this session, you will be able to:

  • Understand the data capabilities in the online environment to support distinct, teacher and student learning needs.
  • Understand the potential of K-12 online learning environments to support students with disabilities based on the findings from the work of the Center.
  • Develop a better understanding of the critical distinctions between traditional brick and mortar classrooms and blended learning environments with respect to students with disabilities.

CEC’s Educators With Disabilities Policy: A Roundtable Discussion of Dissemination and Implications

Leader: Susan Osborne, North Carolina State University, Raleigh
Presenters: Mary Ruth Coleman, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Kathryn Haselden, Francis Marion University, Florence, S.C. ; Lynne Brock, North Carolina State University, Raleigh

This session will focus on CEC’s Educators With Disabilities Policy Statement regarding the development and adoption, as well as the process the Educator’s With Disabilities Workgroup conducted to complete the policy statement. Survey data from the Educators With Disabilities Workgroup Membership Survey will be shared and discussed.  In a roundtable format, the adopted policy statement will be discussed to focus on benefits, challenges, and advice regarding the implications of the new statement. Additionally, the presenters will facilitate a discussion regarding ways to help disseminate the policy.

After attending this session, you will be able to:

  • Understand ways a disability affects an individual’s daily life.
  • Identify strategies for working with parents of individuals with disabilities.

Exceptional Lives, Exceptional Stories

Leader: Mary Ruth Coleman, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Presenter: Kathryn Haselden, Francis Marion University, Florence, S.C.

Join us to hear individuals with disabilities and their families share their insights regarding life with a disability. This session includes individuals with various disabilities and their families, recruited from Missouri and Yes I Can recipients. Session leaders will facilitate a discussion in question-and-answer format and will ask structured questions, allowing  time for questions from the audience. We will summarize insights gained from panel discussions and conclude with time for informal conversations with families.

After attending this session, you will be able to:

  • Understand ways a disability affects an individual’s daily life.
  • Identify strategies for working with parents of individuals with disabilities.


Supporting Success for Students Who Are Twice Exceptional (2e)

Leaders: Daphne Pereles, Austin, Texas; Lois Baldwin, Tarrytown, N.Y.

Students who are 2e are those who have gifts and talents in combination with areas of disabilities.  Often the educational focus is on the areas of disabilities and their abilities are neglected.  A recent consensus definition has been developed through a Community of Practice (CoB).  In collaboration with IDEA Partnership, the 2e CoP includes members from 26 national, state, and local organizations.

Working with students who are 2e can be challenging…we often think of challenging as meaning difficult…but synonyms for challenging include: stimulating, thought-provoking, puzzling, and inspiring!   All of these capture the multi-dimensionality of “twice exceptionality!” Our session will focus on the ways that we can provide opportunities for our 2e students to meet with success.  We will share the new National CoP definition of “2e” and then explore programming options and strategies to support learning.  We will look at collaborative approaches to building supportive networks and will reflect on what we can learn from our 2e students and how, in meeting their needs, we might better serve all our students!

After attending this session, you will be able to:

  • Use the National CoP definition, for students who are 2e, to support advocacy and programming.
  • Recognize shared and unique characteristics of student who are 2e across areas of disability.
  • Identify programming and UDL instructional strategies to support the success of students who are 2e.
  • Describe collaborative approaches, among professionals and families, to meet the needs of students who are 2e.

iBESTT: An Online Model for Building Tertiary Supports in the Classroom

Leaders: Carol Ann Davis and Scott Spaulding, University of Washington, Seattle
Presenters: Annie McLaughlin and Doug Judge, University of Washington, Seattle

Providing individual student behavior support in the classroom can be intensive and complex, requiring a high level of expertise. These supports are often delivered in the classroom with the assistance from a team of school staff adding to the complexity of the implementation of tertiary supports in the classroom. To address issues of implementation, we designed a web-based application to assist teachers and behavior support teams/personnel in delivering, monitoring, and making data-based decisions, and to increase communication, collaboration and responsiveness of the team in the implementation of supports with the classroom teacher. The application consists of 5 primary steps that were developed to increase the fidelity of implementation of the individualized behavior planning process. Join us as we demonstrate the application and describe the underlying issues of implementation and their relation to the “app.” In addition, we will describe the evaluation of the tool and team and student outcomes.

After attending this session, you will be able to:

  • Describe issues with the implementation of tertiary supports in the classroom.
  • Describe characteristics of an effective teaming process to increase fidelity and support for individual behavior plans in the classroom.

Current and Future Technology Innovations in Teaching and Teacher Education to Ensure the Success of Students With Disabilities

Leader: Lisa Dieker, University of Central Florida, Orlando

Since the passage of IDEA 50 years ago, much has changed in our field including technology. How do we prepare ourselves and our students for the future technologies that students will be accessing in the next 50?  We will provide teachers and teacher educators with essential technological tools for today’s classroom, describe future technology, and discuss the skills students with disabilities and the teachers that serve them must embrace for our field to continue to be successful.  You will leave with tools that are free or low cost to use immediately!

After attending this session, you will be able to:

  • Describe how a range of technological tools could be used to support students as self-advocates and to ensure higher level access and success across the content areas.
  • Understand how to access tools and will consider futuristic needs of students with disabilities so they can access and have opportunities to work in higher level careers in technological related fields.
  • Demonstrate basic knowledge of futuristic technologies that they need to consider for the students they are and will serve, including simulated virtual environments.

The IRIS Center: Your Source for Free Online Resources about Evidence-Based Practices

Leader: Naomi Tyler, The IRIS Center, Peabody College, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn.
Presenter: Kim Skow, The IRIS Center, Peabody College, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn.

IRIS is an OSEP-funded center that creates free, online, resources on a wide variety of evidence-based instructional and behavioral topics important to educators today.  Join us for a guided tour of our accessible Website and resources! Highlighted in this session will be our newest Modules on autism spectrum disorders, data-based individualization (DBI)—one on intensifying intervention and one on collecting data to make decisions—and other engaging and interactive materials. You will be able to search for resources that are directly applicable to your personal knowledge and professional development needs. Come to our session on Thursday to find strategies and interventions that you can use in class on Monday! Participants are strongly encouraged to bring their laptops or other online-ready devices.

After attending this session, you will be able to:

  • Understand the types of free, accessible resources available on the IRIS Website for personal and professional development.
  • Understand how to navigate the IRIS site to find resources on relevant topics to their own classroom instructional and behavioral needs.

Creating Positive Art Education Opportunities for At-Risk  Adolescents With Multi-Age Community Organizations

Leader: Beverly Levett Gerber, Milford, Conn.
Presenter: Adrienne D. Hunter, Pittsburgh, Penn.

Adrienne Hunter, an art teacher with over 35 years of experience teaching at-risk, in-crisis and/or incarcerated adolescents, shares her techniques for offering troubled, disruptive students an alternative in life through the creativity of art. Hunter describes how to create opportunities for her students to positively interact with multi-age community organizations. Slides of the students’ artwork are an integral part of this presentation and they demonstrate both the students’ success and community members’ enjoyment of their special collaborations.

The artwork shown and described includes schoolwide interdisciplinary projects and multi-organizational community and university projects. For example, a lesson about tessellation combined art education and mathematics and was taught by both teachers. A depression-era WPA project that incorporates history and local landmarks brought in nearby college students. An adaptation of a museum art show about shoes involved a local shoe store, community shoppers, and local newspapers. Hunter’s at-risk, in-crisis and/or incarcerated students designed and sewed quilts, and later decided who would receive them as gifts. The art education classroom became a safe haven where students learned to work together and collaborate with others in the community.

After attending this session, you will be able to:

  • Describe instructional strategies for choosing and building interactive community art programs for and with at-risk students.
  • Describe several community arts programs.
  • Identify the positive outcomes for both students and community groups from their collaboration.

Developing Educationally Meaningful and Legally Sound IEPs: Avoiding Procedural and Substantive Errors in IEP Development

Leader: Mitchell L. Yell, University of South Carolina, Columbia
Presenter: Michael Rozalski, Binghamton University, N.Y.

The individualized education program (IEP) is the cornerstone of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. Its purpose is to provide a student with a free appropriate public education. The IEP is so important that it is at the center of most special education disputes in hearings or courts.  We will describe the major procedural and substantive errors that school personnel make in IEP development and how these errors can be avoided.  You will learn how these serious procedural and substantive errors made in the IEP process can be avoided when team members understand the importance of the IEP, are familiar with the essence of these serious errors, and follow best practices.

After attending this session, you will be able to

  • Describe the distinction between procedural and substantive errors in IEP development.
  • Understand the major procedural and substantive errors made in the IEP process.
  • Identify the characteristics of educationally meaningful & legally correct IEPs.

Personalization, Big Data, and the Changing World of Special Education

Leaders: Andrew Krumm, SRI International, Menlo Park, Calif.; Dave Edyburn, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
Presenters: James Basham, University of Kansas, Lawrence; Jason Carroll, Texthelp Systems Inc., Woburn, Mass.; Jose Blackorby, SRI International, Menlo Park, Calif.

Data of all kind and ways of presenting and displaying them constitute an increasing part of life for educators and administrators.  The data is intended to help make better, more timely, and more precise instructional decisions.  With the promise of all the new data also comes increasing demands to digest, make sense of,  and act based on different types of data. We will describe the movement of personalization and the range of sources of new data that are available to educators, new approaches for analyzing and presenting data, as well as the challenges in making sense and use of the data.  Implications for practice, research, and policy are discussed.

After attending this session, you will be able to:

  • Understand current trends in personalization and big data.
  • Understand the promise and challenges of new data trends for students with disabilities.

Assessment Today: How We Got Here and Where We Are Going

Leader: Martha L. Thurlow, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

Students with disabilities are embroiled in the controversies that surround assessment today. We will address how the current assessment context relates to past events and the documented benefits of large-scale assessments for students with disabilities. We will trace the history of assessment for students with disabilities and projects into the future, based on evidence gathered by the National Center on Educational Outcomes. Issues of diversity are intertwined throughout this session as performance gaps and instructional challenges are highlighted for students with disabilities and groups within this population.

After attending this session, you will be able to:

  • Identify the benefits of the past inclusion of students with disabilities in state and national assessment systems.
  • Understand how the field ended up in the current assessment situation and the concerns that it might bode for the future.
  • Describe their perspectives on the future of assessment participation for students with disabilities, including ELLs with disabilities.

Adapting Behavioral Interventions for Nonresponsive Students

Leader: Joseph H. Wehby, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn.

The needs of nonresponders to Tier 1 or Tier 2 behavior programs are not met by the ideal implementation protocol. An adaptive intervention framework (AIF) varies different aspects of the standard based on the needs of the individual. These modifications include the traditional intensification of dosage, but may also include structural and content changes as well. We will present a framework for adapting existing Tier 2 behavioral interventions that incorporates the diverse needs and circumstances of students affected by or at risk for nonresponsiveness to standard Tier 2 protocols. The steps for adaption and a case study demonstrating application of the framework will be described.

After attending this session, you will be able to:

  • Understand the basic tenets of an adaptive intervention framework.
  • Understand the experimental research supporting the use of an adaptive intervention framework.
  • Apply the adaptive intervention framework to Tier 2 behavioral interventions.

What Can We Conclude From the Recent National Evaluation of RTI?

Leader: Douglas Fuchs, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN
Presenters: Lynn Fuchs, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN; Rekha Balu, K-12 Education, MDRC, New York, NY; Martin Ikeda, Heartland AEA 11, Johnston, IA

For nearly 2 decades, many teachers, administrators, researchers, and advocates have viewed RTI as a more valid method of disability identification, a better system of service delivery, or both. In a recent U.S. Department of Education funded national evaluation of RTI implementation, the largest of its kind ever conducted in the United States, it was reported that students in Grades 1 to 3 designated for RTI intervention performed no better, or did worse, than students who were not designated for intervention. Four panel members, including an author of the RTI evaluation, two  RTI researchers not connected to the evaluation, and a district administrator, will explain the evaluation’s methods and results and discuss its implications for policy and practice.

After attending this session, you will be able to:

  • Understand the national RTI evaluation’s methods and findings.
  • Draw implications from the evaluation’s findings for their own RTI efforts.

Multi-Tiered Systems of Support for Immigrant Students in General and Special Education

Leader: Alba Ortiz, University of Texas, Austin
Presenter: Linda O. Cavazos, AIR Regional Educational Lab Southwest, Austin, Texas

The growing population of immigrant students in U.S. schools presents multiple and complex challenges associated with limited English proficiency, poverty, and emotional overlays resulting from their experiences in war-torn countries, family separation, culture shock, and immigrant status. They are often academically underprepared because of limited educational opportunities, interrupted education, or poor quality schooling in their home country. These issues put them at high risk of referral to, and inappropriate placement in, special education programs. Addressing the needs of immigrant students requires close collaboration between general education and special language programs (i.e., bilingual education and English as a second language), and with special education programs when students are at risk of, or have been identified as having, disabilities.  Close linkages with families and with social service agencies are also required. This session presents an overview of a culturally and linguistically responsive framework for meeting the needs of immigrant students in the context of MTSS, criteria for identifying students who would benefit from special education referral, and guidelines for determining special education eligibility. Research-based service delivery models and instructional practices for meeting the social and academic needs of these students in general and special education are discussed, along with implications for personnel preparation and research specific to this population.

Participant Outcomes:

  • Describe a research-based MTSS framework for immigrant students.
  • Delineate criteria for special education referral and special education eligibility for immigrant students.
  • Be familiar with research-based practices in program development, assessment, and instruction to meet the needs of immigrant students in general and special education and concomitant personnel preparation and research needs.


Educating More Children More Effectively Through Culturally Responsive Methods

Leader: Geneva Gay, University of Washington, Seattle

Examining Culturally Responsive Teaching is especially relevant to special education professionals because of the disproportionate representation of certain students of color in certain categories of disability or exceptionality, their low academic achievement, and their higher disciplinary punishments. This session argues how culturally responsive teaching can reverse these trends, and provides information to substantiate this claim.  Research is cited that have produced positive achievement results for different ethnic groups including higher academic performance in math, science, reading, writing, and critical thinking; higher scores on standardized state and national tests; fewer disciplinary referrals; and higher school attendance rates. These results are evident for African, Asian, Native, Latino, and European Americans. The session also includes salient features of culturally responsive teaching and suggestions on how to implement them within the context of special education. In this interactive session, participants are encouraged to ask questions for clarification and elaboration, and provide examples from their own experiences that exemplify different aspects or components of culturally responsive teaching, and to assess their appropriateness for inclusion in special education.

After attending this session, you will be able to:

  1. Understand what culturally responsive teaching is, both  conceptually and pragmatically.
  2. Name at least two scholars’ writing about relationships between multicultural education or culturally responsive teaching and special education, and describe at least one practice strategy offered by each one.
  3. Critically assess the quality of a claimed culturally responsive  strategy in special education and its goodness of fit with conceptual criteria.

Practical (and Vexing) Co-Teaching Issues: Scheduling, Planning Time, Teacher Evaluation, and More!

Leader: Susan Feeney, Community School District #218, Oak Lawn, Ill.
Presenters: Kerri Piscitelli, Community School District #218, Oak Lawn, Ill.; Marilyn Friend, University of North Carolina, Greensboro

Although an appealing option for educating students with disabilities, co-teaching comes with an entire set of practical issues.  In this session, we will address the most common of these including scheduling, planning time, and teacher evaluation, among others.  Come to learn and share realistic solutions to common co-teaching barriers.

After attending this session, you will be able to:

  • Articulate at least three critical principles for effectively scheduling co-teaching.
  • Apply to your school/district context at least one electronic strategy for addressing planning time issues.
  • Analyze your current teacher performance evaluation system in terms of appropriate roles and responsibilities for special educators in co-teaching arrangements.

Overcoming Asperger’s: Sahil’s True Story

Leader: Sahil Piyarali, Washington University, St. Louis, MO

Sahil Piyarali will share his experiences growing up with Asperger’s syndrome and how special education played a very integral role in helping him overcome it. He has also been a speaker in CEC Co-Chair Professor Douglas Cheney’s course at the University of Washington. He will discuss his early development in the EEU Preschool at UW, his years in special education during elementary/middle school, and high school at University Prep in Seattle. He is currently a freshman at Washington University, and will discuss his transition to college life here in St. Louis. After his talk, there will be a Q & A session with the audience. These discussions will give the audience an even better window into his perspective on special education–from both the neurotypical side, as well as from the “unique” side of personal development. This topic and presentation are relevant to teachers, administrators, students, and parents who strive to understand the felt meaning of lives, such as his, and how he learned through experiences of special and general education to prepare for independence, postsecondary education, and success in life!

After attending this session, you will be able to:

  1. Understand how special education can have a very positive effect on a child and his/her family.
  2. Identify/understand that special educators have one of the most important jobs in the world.

Town Halls/Forums

Forum: Meeting the Needs of Diverse Learners: Heterogeneity in Today’s and Tomorrow’s Classrooms

Leaders: Brett Miller, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Health and Human Development, Rockville, Md.Joan McLaughlinInstitute of Education Sciences, National Center for Special Education Research, Washington, D.C.
Presenters: Jack Fletcher, University of Houston, Texas; Erik Willcutt, University of Colorado, Boulder; Julie Washington, Georgia State University, Atlanta; Diana M. BrowderUniversity of North Carolina, Charlotte

Children and youth with disabilities do not present a single, homogenous group; rather the impact of disability can vary between and within a particular disability. We will engage the research and practice communities to better understand and discuss the nature and implications of heterogeneity within the disability community and its implications for service delivery.

Variability is reflected in numerous ways. In this session presenters address the related themes with a discussion to follow:  (1)  Viewing disabilities through the lens of a continuum of performance and discussing its implications for identification and intervention service delivery; (2) highlighting the presence of comorbid or co-occurring conditions which complicates the intervention service needs and poses challenges to improving education and health outcomes; (3) recognizing ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity and discussing implications for identifying individuals at risk, classification of disabilities, engagement with families and communities, and intervention delivery; and (4) discussing the implications of providing intervention services for individuals with low- and high-incidence disabilities in a classroom and school context.

After attending this forum, you will be able to:

  • Understand implications of conceptualizing learning disabilities as dimensional from the perspective of identification and instructional delivery perspectives and the implications of servicing the needs of children with co-occurring or comorbid conditions.
  • Recognize and understand the implications of heterogeneity to classification and identification and service delivery for children with disabilities.

Town Hall: Who Is Included?  Whom Do We Serve?

Leader: Eileen Raymond, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
Presenters: Iva Boneva, University of Center for Inclusive Education, Sofia, Bulgaria; Mary Lynn BoscardinUniversity of Massachusetts, Amherst; Sigamoney Naicker, Western Cape Education Department, Cape Town, South AfricaPatricia PowellTrinity Christian College, Palos Heights, IL

As special educators and others interested in service delivery for children and youth confronting learning challenges, we use a number of such terms when discussing the populations we seek to serve. However, our discussions become unclear and less productive because of the multiple meanings of multiple terms. In this interactive session, attendees explore their shared and discordant meanings of words commonly used to refer to learners with a variety of special needs, as well as the meanings attached to “inclusive education” within this language context. This Town Hall format will provide significant interaction opportunities as we unpack the many meanings in the language we use.

After attending this town hall, you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an awareness of the multiple terms used globally when discussing the special learning needs of children and youth.
  • Use these multiple terms more accurately when communicating with others concerning inclusion of children and youth with special learning needs.
  • Effectively engage in discourses across different meanings of the variety of words applied to the special needs of learners.

Town Hall: Linking Racial Inequities in Special Education Inside and Outside Schools

Leaders: Federico R. Waitoller, University of Illinois, Chicago; Elizabeth B. Kozleski, University of Kansas, Lawrence
Presenters: Nirmala Erevelles, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa; Edward Fergus, New York University; Subini Annamma, University of Kansas, Lawrence

This Town Hall will draw from the interdisciplinary literature to examine how racial inequities in special education are linked to broader unjust geographies and spaces where communities of color live, learn, and resist. This interactive session will be a series of presentations and Q&A from participants using Poll Everywhere Technology. After the final summary, there will be another time for panelists to address comments and questions posted in the response wall.

After attending this town hall, you will be able to:

  • Understand the links between racial inequities in special education inside and outside schools.

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