Social Media and Our Exceptional Individuals

by Raymond T. Heipp. Ph.D.

The school year is in full swing. Over the last several weeks, I have had the opportunity to attend this year’s Closing the Gap Conference and meet with districts and universities throughout the eastern half of the United States. There were the standard topics upon which I was asked to speak like sensory spaces, adaptive seating, transitional curriculum, and questions about specific individuals. However, there was one topic which caught me off guard. That topic was social media and how it is used by our exceptional individuals.

The most significant issue which teachers, administrators, aides, and therapists described was the fear of cyber-bullying. That is definitely a significant problem in today’s society as a whole.  We see reports every day about how our neuro-typical students have to face cyber-bullying.  Our concern is magnified when we think of how some of our exceptional individuals might have a harder time understanding and dealing with this. What I heard from some groups is that they try to keep their individuals off social media altogether. I am not a fan of that approach and here is why.

Back in the late aughts, I conducted a number of administrator trainings with the focus on being able to guide and assess teachers using digital information through educational technology. The biggest issue in many of their minds was how their teachers were using interactive whiteboards – most were using them as a screen on which images were projected. When it came to interaction, many classrooms only saw the teachers using them as a substitute dry-erase board (chalkboards for those of us from a different era.) As I took the various administrators through these sessions, I always ended with social media. Twitter had just begun and the opportunity for designing and growing one’s Personal Learning Network (PLN) was so revolutionary. Facebook had already begun its descent upwards. MySpace was already on its downward trend. There was one training where I had a superintendent interrupt me and say that social media was something his district would “never adopt as long as I am alive.” I had never had that vocal a response before so I asked him why. “I don’t care about what somebody had to eat last night. I only care about my kids passing their tests.” As you can see, his words still echo in my mind a decade later.

I thanked him for his candor and asked him if he thought his students were still going to use social media. He answered affirmatively and went on to add that they were kids and would do what kids do outside of school. I then asked him if role models were important to kids. He said yes. I kept going and asked if he believed his teachers were role models, to which he again said yes. So I asked him why he would not want his teachers to be the models for how to use something like Twitter or Facebook. I added that if his teachers were not going to be the role models, the most influential people on those platforms would be people like Brittany Spears (who had one of the largest number of followers at that point). So I asked him who would be the better role model for his students. As you might imagine, that line of reasoning caused a shift in his thinking.

I compare his thinking to the reasoning we are using today with social media and our exceptional individuals. I too am concerned with cyber-bullying. However, we often fail to recognize that cyber-bullying is now something we discuss in the news every day. When it is done covertly, it is bullying. But when it is done overtly, some hide behind their “right to free speech.” So how do we address this balance?

First, I firmly believe that to restrict anyone, especially our exceptional individuals, creates more of a desire to use these platforms. It also creates a gap between those individuals and their peers. My son recently began his collegiate career. Even though I have been on Twitter for over a decade and stay in contact with family, friends, and former students on Facebook, he was never big on using social media. He recognized that some of his friends were putting things on Facebook that were “silly” as he put it. He only joined the Facebook realm because some of his activities began posting schedules and other information online and he appreciated (as did I as a parent) the ability to have this information readily available. Texting became blasé for his peers and they became the SnapChat generation. It is amazing how deep their conversations can be via this platform. I have seen my son support others and be supported in ways not possible before. These students are also big into Instagram and I have been told that Facebook is for us “old” people! But the reality is that they are creating relationships which can span greater distances than ever before.

I bring these points up because social media is the way our young folks connect today. This is their world and not ours. They live in a global community which is much smaller than ever. It is as though the world is shrinking for them. Boundaries can be less strict. We have to understand that the days of having “pen-pals” and using rotary phones to talk to each other have been replaced by live video chats and cell phones with unlimited minutes. So who will be the ones to guide them and be their role models? We must be willing to take that role (even when SnapChatting is completely confusing!)

I follow a number of exceptional individuals on Twitter and never cease to be amazed with how much I learn from them. I am not at liberty to share their information in this blog but if you follow me at @DrSmartEd, you have probably seen me retweet or comment on their posts.  They let themselves be connected to the world beyond their homes. They also have the proper support that lets them pick and choose who to allow to directly connect with and who to block when necessary.

I had one group ask me why I thought it was good for even those with severe conditions to be on a social media platform. I explained that all too often, individuals only receive compliments or have contact with a small number of people. By expanding that group size, we can actually generate more positivity for these individuals. If they are of age, have them take selfies or have someone snap a picture of them doing various activities and create the posts. Find good folks to connect with (I follow the Dalai Lama!) Let our exceptional individuals interact on a positive level globally. These individuals feel constrained enough without letting them engage in activities that their peers do.

Will this eliminate cyber-bullying? NO! But by giving proper guidance and support, they can begin to see this negativity for what it is. We also can be there to translate the “bullying” going on overtly into distinguishing between facts and opinions. For those with more severe issues, we can guide them to the positive side of this world! We want them to be proud of who they are and what they bring to this world. We also want them to begin to understand that there will be adversity in this world and sometimes it will be directed towards them. By modeling for them how to deal with this negative feedback and how to block while reporting bullies, we are able to be there for them, even when we might not be around.

Please feel comfortable in having our exceptional individuals on various social media platforms.  Be there for them and don’t fear being on these platforms yourself. Model for them how to use these platforms correctly and how to be strong in the face of adversity. We will not find an answer to or get rid of cyber-bullying. However, we can equip individuals to better handle it when it arises. We can also have them comfortable with connecting with the outside world and being happy with who they are.

And if you have insights as to how this SnapChatting can be easier for us “old” people, please let me know!

Track My Route: Providing Special Education Transportation with Safety at Every Stop

Guest Blog by TMR Technologies

Technology in schools has continued to evolve in the past decade to improve the student experience in the classroom. Tablets, laptops, and smart devices have been crowding classrooms across the country, but school transportation has largely remained the same. TMR Technology is trying to bring school transportation up to speed with the rapidly improving technology available today.

TMR Technology provides schools K-12 with innovative software solutions to improve efficiency, convenience, and safety. Founded by a group of Indiana University students in 2017, we set out to solve a problem that each of us faced growing up; the trials and tribulations of taking the school bus. Our first solution, Track My Route, is a mobile application that tracks school buses for parents and students grades K-12. It uses real-time GPS tracking and provides a user-friendly mobile interface. The solution was created to help reduce both the morning rush atmosphere and the time that students are stuck waiting outside at the bus stop. Parents with busy schedules that rush to meet their child at the bus stop don’t have to guess when the bus will arrive, and school administrators can spend less time responding to calls from parents asking where the bus is.

School transportation for parents of special needs students can be an immense challenge. We take pride in helping special education programs overcome this challenge because that is where we got our start. Our Track My Route solution was first piloted in a special education cooperative in the Chicagoland area, and they are now our longest tenured customers. While working with the cooperative we were able to determine what our users needed from our solution for it to effectively improve their transportation experience. Most special education buses pull up directly to the students house instead of a stop nearby. TMR was able to take this into account to ensure our Track My Route solution can provide special education riders safety at every stop.

Cindy Lambrakis is the operations manager of special needs transportation at American School bus, and believes Track My Route can alleviate pain points that come with student transportation. "From an administrative perspective, Track My Route will help to alleviate the volume of calls that our dispatchers are inundated with on a daily basis. The drivers will be able to concentrate on driving and not radio chatter." She went on to discuss special needs transportation. "Structure is very important to a special needs child. Once a parent has put on that child's coat or safety vest, that child knows he or she is ready for the bus. When the bus is late, their routine was just stopped. This can negatively affect their behavior both on the bus and in the classroom. Track My Route will accurately let the parents know where that bus is, allowing the parent control on the timing of the coat/vest, ensuring everyone is ready for a great day. Planning for medication, bathroom breaks, doctors appointments, etc., is important to our parents. Tracking the bus times would be very valuable for the parents' management of these issues."

The cooperative fully implemented our solution to make it available to all of their student riders for the 2018-2019 school year. We are looking forward to providing them with their second year of Track My Route starting this fall and releasing several new updates for their users here soon. We are continuing to expand the user base of TMR within the Chicagoland area by adding Libertyville District 70, who will also be using Track My Route starting this fall semester. If you are interested in learning more about TMR Technology you can visit or email

The Mindful Classroom

by Connie Morris

From my days as a student, to a long-time educator, I will never outgrow the first day of school excitement. Our back-to-school is a week out, and I have restless nights, to-do lists, shopping lists (which comes with a price tag) and felt the summer days slip away. I spend time setting up the class environment to be welcoming, warm and stress-free. I am not alone; I am surrounded by teachers doing the same thing. And even before one student walks through our doors, we need to remind ourselves of the words we hear prior to take-off when flying:

In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally. Although the bag does not inflate, oxygen is flowing to the mask. If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask first, and then assist the other person. Keep your mask on until a uniformed crew member advises you to remove it.”

Secure your mask first. We do travel with children every day. If you want to create a mindful classroom, encompassing social emotional learning, you need to take time for self-care. Studies have supported adult stress can affect children’s stress levels. It is important we model the behaviors we are hoping to develop. We are managing students, the learning process, health, behavior and emotions. That is stressful! Don’t forget to use these hints for school in your own life.

Take a few breaths. Deep breathing can quiet our minds. It will release stress, anger, and frustration. Neuroscience explains focusing on and changing your breath also changes the chemicals in your brain. It is an exciting lesson for older students teaching how we, as humans, have this ability. Deep breathing is a great tool when addressing the Social Emotional Learning component of managing emotions.Join your students in starting each day with mindful minutes. Start small and add time as you all grow in this skill. Take a slow breath in while counting to four, then slowly breath out to the count of four as you exhale. Give verbal reminders throughout the day to students when they can transfer this skill as they need it.

Take breaks. Stress happens! Teaching children to take a break, walk or go get a sip of water is a coping skill that can last a lifetime. Go on a mindful walk when the class seems to need a bit of quiet time. Look for season changes, four-leaf clovers or search for nature items. You and your students will return learning-ready!

Move! Mindful movement binds the body and mind. You can create space and time for this in your schedule or for individual needs. Yoga mats are helpful boundaries, but any space will do. Using visuals will help everyone stretch, twist and balance. Studies support mindful movement increases focus, academics, self-management and social skills.

Practice mindfulness. Allow the students to sit comfortably. Play quiet music and dim the lights. Take a thorough body scan, from head to toe, releasing any stress or tension they are aware of. This is a great time to offer lotion for their hands. Instruct them to rub their hands together quickly and then cup their hands on either side of their face and take a deep breath. Try this for three breaths, not only is it relaxing, but your room will smell great!

Be grateful. In even the most challenging situations, gratitude changes our outlook on things. By practicing gratitude, we rewire our brains to see the positive. What better skill could we hope for in our students. Our attitude is contagious! Help students recognize and verbalize each other’s strengths. Your room will become a warm and nurturing environment naturally.

At the end of your day, when your head hits the pillow, allow yourself to relax and reflect. Be thankful for your career, for your students and for the difference you make. Take a few breaths, scan your body and let go of any stress, and most of all, be positive. You are special!

Clarifying Color-Vision Deficiency Screening

by P. Kay Nottingham Chaplin, EdD

Good-Lite ColorCheck CompleteVision screeners frequently have questions regarding when to follow the recommended manufacturer instructions for color vision deficiency screening tools. This blog is designed to address that question, and also provides a solution for color vision deficiency screening in preschool- and school-aged children beginning at age 3 years.

Many state vision screening guidelines recommend that color vision deficiency screening follows manufacturer instructions when conducting the screening. Confusion may occur when the manufacturer instructions are written specifically for optometrists and ophthalmologists to use during eye examinations. Color vision deficiency testing in a doctor’s office differs from screening for color vision deficiencies in schools, Head Start programs, or similar settings.

Instructions for color vision deficiency testing may call for monocular testing - or testing one eye at a time with the other eye covered (occluded). When screening for color vision deficiencies in schools, Head Start, or similar programs, the screening should be conducted binocularly (both eyes open and uncovered).

This difference in monocular testing during an eye examination and binocular screening in school, Head Start, or similar settings is supported by James E. Bailey, OD, PhD, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, 2018, Southern California College of Optometry, Marshall B. Ketchum University, Fullerton, CA (personal communication, June 5, 2019).

If all vision screening for the child is successful except the color vision deficiency screening, the child should be referred to an eye doctor for an eye examination (Nottingham Chaplin, Baldonado, Cotter, Moore, & Bradford, 2018).

The eye care professional will confirm whether a color vision deficiency exists. If a child has a color vision deficiency, the eye care professional will also identify the type and severity (mild, moderate, or severe) … The eye care professional will also consult with the parents/caregivers regarding how the type and severity of the color vision deficit may affect the child’s learning, life, and career choices.

Ask the parents/caregivers to obtain a copy of the results from the eye care professional and to share those results with [school or Head Start staff, for example] because classroom and/or learning activities may require accommodations when color deficiencies are present.” (Nottingham Chaplin, et al., 2015, p. 211).

When state vision screening guidelines call for color vision deficiency screening for preschool- and/or school-aged screening, the Good-Lite ColorCheck Complete Vision Screener includes LEA SYMBOLS® for preschool-aged children and LEA NUMBERS® for school-aged children. The LEA SYMBOLS® section includes one demonstration plate and seven plates for red/green screening. The LEA NUMBERS® section includes one demonstration plate, 14 plates for red/green screening, and three plates for blue/yellow screening. Instructions are included in the Good-Lite ColorCheck Complete Vision Screener.

Screeners in a school, Head Start program, or similar setting using this book would conduct color vision deficiency screening binocularly (both eyes open and uncovered).



Nottingham Chaplin, P. K., Baldonado, K., Cotter, S., Moore, B., & Bradford, G. E. (2018). An eye on vision: Five questions about vision screening and eye health-Part 2. NASN School Nurse, 33 (4), 210-213.

How the Term 'Sensory Room' Became the Kleenex of This Generation

by Raymond T. Heipp. Ph.D.

“We are looking to put together a sensory room, what products do you suggest?” That is one of the most dangerous statements I hear these days from educators looking to better support their students. What so many educators do not understand is that the term “sensory room” means different things to different people. So much so, the “sensory room” today has taken on an all-encompassing meaning in much the same way as “Kleenex” did for facial tissues back in the 1920s when they were first introduced.

We have the research that demonstrates higher levels of anxiety within our students today. We have also seen evidence that sensory breaks, even as simple as chair push-ups or standing up, adds to a student’s ability to focus. Finally, we know that having a room where students can go when they are escalating can decrease the amount of time for the escalation and lessen the impact of that escalation on other students or adults. But how do we go about creating the right atmosphere at a reasonable cost?

When I work with groups, I begin by asking them what they hope to accomplish with this room or space. I get a lot of strange looks as these well-educated teachers just assume all sensory rooms are exactly the same. That is when we begin to speak about several purposes that these rooms or spaces may actually have. The first type of room we discuss is the actual sensory room where students have the opportunity to touch, walk on, see, hear, and smell different textures, colors and scents. These rooms or spaces are excellent for younger students. They begin to experience the world in a protected environment. These areas are good for all students too, not just those with differing abilities. What we tend to see is that the older the students get, the less they need of this type of space or room.

Which brings us to the second type of room we discuss, the movement room. The movement room is exactly as it sounds. It includes a multitude of ways for students move and experience the world in a different way. These rooms often have items on the floor for balance or movement. They usually have some type of swing for vestibular feedback. We also often see jump ropes, bungee jumpers, flags, bean bags for physical activity; although the kids look at it as play. These rooms tend to be good for all students at all ages. The difference lies within the ages of the students as to what items might be found in the setting.

A third type of room is actually a calming room. We see more of a need for this for students as they begin to get older, although individuals of any age are prone to escalation. This needs to be set up in a specific room with a focus on items that calm rather than stimulate. Bean bag chairs, fiber optic lighting, sands or putties are all items which work well in this type of a room.  Ironically, the more care put into this type of room the better for the staff too! Within any educational setting, the pressure of the day needs to be released and a room like this helps everyone.

The next question I ask focuses on the students or adults who will be using the room or space. Understanding who will be using the room will assist in deciding what items should go in the room. That is important as there is no “one-size-fits-all” in products that help everyone. You want to know if there are items which need to be avoided due to some individuals perseverating on them (usually ones that make noise or having some repetitive action) or items which are a must-have for certain groups. We must be cognizant of those using the room so that we do not bring in items which defeat the purpose of the room or cause anxiety.

Does this mean that ready made kits or packages are not good? No, not at all. Some of these packages have the large items that fit a purpose and a population. We can then contextualize smaller things for the specific population of that location. Some of these packages also make sense from a fiscal view as they cost less than the items sold separately. My caution to you is to be careful of the groups who simply ask you the size of the room or try to push a “deluxe package” on you. There are some excellent packages which cost $20,000 and more. Again, those might be the right choice, once we have decided on our purpose and have looked at who will be using the room.

Please be careful too of items from the local dollar store. There is a reason that these items are there. Their lack of durability might be a problem and you might end up spending more than you would have in replacements. Our students can break anything and will often find a way to break things that we thought were unbreakable. However, buying something because it is cheap is not a wise investment. The other caveat for some of these dollar store items is that they may contain latex or lead-based paints. We have to be cautious for the health of our students.

I do firmly believe in having these rooms or spaces in all of our schools. However, the proper preparation needs to occur before simply going out and getting things. Do your homework and don’t be afraid to call in the support of those you might trust. Every student and adult needs sensory feedback in some way throughout the day. Let’s provide that support for everyone!

I am there for your support too, so feel free to reach out to me at

Music Therapy: A Major Piece of Our Puzzle at Giant Steps

by Lindsey Nichols

[caption id="attachment_2828" align="alignright" width="168"]Lindsey Nichols Lindsey Nichols[/caption]

People often ask me to describe Giant Steps. I simply respond that Giant Steps is “one-of-a-kind.” Giant Steps is an innovative educational and therapeutic school for individuals living with autism. We take pride in offering specialized programming to enrich the daily lives of each student and each participant living with autism. We have different programs so that we are able to meet the needs of individuals of all ages. We are going to focus in this blog on what we are doing in our therapeutic day school, although the concepts are able to be used with any age. When I first introduced Dr. Heipp of School Health to our programs, he was impressed with everything. Yet, the one thing which stood out the most to him was what we were doing in Music Therapy. When he came to visit, I thought we were going to have to take him to a calming room, as he got so excited about our approach.

Ms. Meredith Powers, who is a Board Certified Music Therapist, leads our Music Therapy program here at Giant Steps. She has been a part of the Giant Steps’ team since 2003. Her experience and background knowledge has allowed this program to reach so many individuals and begin to assist them in self-regulation and approaches to daily activities. Ms. Meredith takes much of her approach from the research of Dr. Michael Thaut as it applies to Neurologic Music Therapy. Dr. Thaut’s research career has been focused on the neurological basis of music and rhythm perception and clinical application of music and rhythm to motor, speech/language, and cognitive training in neurologic disorders. To those of us on the outside, this sounds impressive. However, to our individuals who are using it as part of their daily routines, this information creates a way of approaching life that might not have been available using any other therapy.

We do not necessarily know or perhaps realize how slow or fast our bodies move in relation to sound or music. As Ms. Meredith explained to Dr. Heipp and me, a neurotypical individual physically moves to 100 beats of sound per minute. However, an individual on the autism spectrum responds to 140-180 beats per minute. So, we often make the mistake of assuming that if we slow things down when explaining, transitioning, or de-escalating, it will work with those individuals. Ironically, slowing down may not work because we are not aligning our expectations with their internal physical needs. By introducing music into various points of the day and doing it on a consistent basis at identifiable times, our individuals are able to approach their activities in a calm and directed fashion. One way of establishing this and being most effective is to use a metronome, thus, getting the body ready for anything.

So how is all of this used? As we start the day, we will have individuals skip the traditional idea of circle time and instead, sit on an exercise ball. While on the exercise ball, we will play music while activating the various muscle groups throughout the body, better preparing all of the individuals for the context of their day. We also use music and rhythms to introduce activities. Hence, when that music is played, the individuals become more physically and emotionally prepared for the specific activity. We have also seen how the introduction of music within the lives of these individuals does many things as Dr. Thaut’s research would suggest including language acquisition.

Dr. Heipp also loved the activity where we actually had Ms. Meredith leading individuals down the hallway to their next class. They were so used to the music that the transition was smooth and there were no instances of loss of focus on the walk. He commented that it was almost like watching a top-notch marching band performing a routine as everyone was in step with the beat and knew exactly what they needed to do, responding in a seemingly subconscious manner.

In March, Giant Steps had our very first Music Therapy Showcase that our individuals put on for their families. It was a wonderful program that was set up a little differently than the music programs at other schools. We alerted the parents and friends to the skill(s) each individual was working on instead of having the audience focus on the product of the music. So, the audience cheered for the skill(s) the individuals used, not the music. This was a great way to reinforce those skill(s) and help those on the outside understand the true accomplishments of the individuals. I have included a link to our page which will take you to the video of our Showcase.

As I mentioned at the beginning, Giant Steps is a “one-of-a-kind” place and I invite you all to stop by for a tour or request more information. I know that Dr. Heipp has already begun incorporating some of the ideas on Neurologic Music Therapy into his presentations based on his interactions with Ms. Meredith and his review of Dr. Thaut’s work. I have simply focused on the Music Therapy side of what we do here, but we have other programs and therapies, a major one being, Equine Therapy, which is beneficial for our individuals on the autism spectrum as well as anyone! I am happy to share information about what we do and encourage you to see that we should always assume competence for all of our individuals with “differing abilities” as Dr. Heipp would say.  I look forward to speaking with you and can be reached at

10 Common Mistakes Found in School AED Programs

SCH_sl.0529_LR1. Not having enough AEDs to cover the building properly.According to the American Heart Association, the goal of every AED program is to deliver defibrillation to a sudden cardiac arrest victim within 3 to 5 minutes of collapse. Perform response drills within your school building to make sure you can reach a victim within that timeframe. ¹

2. Placing AEDs where they are inaccessible after hours, such as behind locked doors.Schools often have events after-hours, such as night games in the gym, when sudden cardiac arrest can occur. Make sure AEDs are available wherever and whenever people congregate on the school grounds.

3. Not having enough signage indicating the placement of the AEDs throughout the school.Clearly designate where AEDs are located within the school so staff and school visitors can easily locate them during an emergency. Sudden cardiac arrest is a very stressful event, so make it as clear as possible for rescuers to locate the device.

4. Not checking the AED’s pads’ expiration dates.All AED pads have an expiration date stamped on the outside of the package. These pads need to be replaced by their expiration date to perform optimally in an emergency. Keep your AED rescue ready by having a procedure in place for checking and replacing your AED’s pads. School Health offers an AED Program Management Programto help you keep track of pad expiration dates.

5. Removing the batteries from the unit to save battery life.Your AED’s battery is what powers the AED to deliver life-saving shocks. In the event of an emergency, your AED should be ready to deploy. Every second counts, and if a rescuer must delay the life-saving shock in order to insert the battery, the results may not be optimal. The rescuer may not realize the battery is not in the unit until after the unit is already on the patient or may be unfamiliar with how to insert your device’s particular battery. Always keep your battery in the unit.

6. Not checking the unit’s battery life.Similar to replacing an AED’s pads, the other key replaceable component on an AED is its battery. As the power source for the AED, it is imperative that a school has a procedure in place that periodically checks on the AED’s battery life. Be sure to order a replacement battery well before your existing one needs replacing. You do not want your AED to be out-of-service because you’re waiting for a battery replacement to ship. School Health’ AED Program Management Program will keep track of your AED’s battery life.

7. Having too few people trained to respond to a sudden cardiac emergency within the district.According to the American Heart Association, an AED operator must know how to recognize the signs of a sudden cardiac arrest, when to activate the EMS system, and how to do CPR. It's also important for operators to receive formal training on the AED model they will use so that they become familiar with the device and are able to successfully operate it in an emergency. Training also teaches the operator how to avoid potentially hazardous situations. ² School Health’s AED Program Management Program will help you manage staff training.

8. Not having a Policy and Procedure in place.Schools should have a policy in place that clearly defines the responsibilities and protocols for use of the AED. The policy should document all aspects about your AED program, such as the medical director, the location of AEDs, responsibilities of rescuers, operational steps for use, post event procedures, and the maintenance of the AEDs. The procedure should include guidelines for determining when it should be used, and a protocol written by a medical doctor outlining the operation of the AED. Sample policy and procedures are readily available from School Health, EMS organizations, AED manufacturers, or other schools. Visit the School Health Safety Center for more information.

9. Misunderstanding the warranty and indemnification length of their unit and the impact these have on the district.Every AED differs in their lengths of warranty and the indemnification policy. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for normal use and service so units remain covered by the warranty. Remember that once your AED warranty expires, the school must pay for any service or technical support. The indemnification policy states that the manufacturer will defend and indemnify any person or entity who purchases or uses an AED against any claims, damages, liabilities, or actions asserted by a third party. The indemnification policy is often limited in years and places the financial burden upon the school after it expires.

10. Not having an AED program coordinator and/or a designated emergency response team.Identifying these people as part of an AED program is extremely important to the success of your program. An AED program coordinator will be responsible for communication with the medical director, emergency response team members, administration, the local EMS and the public about the AED program. The AED program coordinator will also perform quality assurance activities such as ensure first responders are CPR/AED trained and re-trained, that the AEDs are properly maintained, and participate in case reviews. The emergency response team will complete a CPR/AED training course, understand the policy and protocol for responding to medical emergencies, and follow the procedures outlined in the AED protocol when responding to SCA victims. When choosing how to manage your AED program — keeping your school compliant, your staff trained, your AEDs serviced, and your data tracked — trust School Health to be your one stop solution.

School Health AED Program Management

School Health Safety Center


References: ¹ American Heart Association. Working Against Time Brochure. 2003

²American Heart Association. Web. 19 Apr 2011. AEDs are so easy.

We Are a Crocus in this World

by Raymond T. Heipp. Ph.D.

CrocusWorking with individuals with differing abilities stands out as one of those occupations that is considered more of a vocation than a job. The role one plays does not matter in this consideration. There is no such thing as a hierarchy outside of any structures created so that “personnel evaluations” can be conducted and managed, along with rewarding those who have helped shape the lives of so many. Thus, the title one has; teacher, therapist, administrator, aide, nurse, parent, guardian, etc.; does not diminish the energy one puts into this role.

This role can be one of the most draining roles of any in the world. It is most draining on one’s emotions! Every day, we go out and work with individuals knowing that they bring a strong message to this world. Yet, to the rest of the world, these individuals are seen as either someone to simply be pitied or someone who is “a burden to society.” In both of those cases, the rest of the world has no clue about that individual. This external push back can also be a drain on those of us working with these individuals daily. We also become emotionally drained when our expectations for progress need to be tempered with the challenges that each individual faces.  We do see regression and struggle. We work extremely hard at finding solutions or techniques that might help only to sometimes find that the individual does not react well to them. We look at them almost like our own children (even if they are adults!) and seek to protect them and give them the greatest chance to succeed. Between the struggles, the outside perceptions, the stress and emotional duress, and the demands on our lives, the question must be asked; “Why do we do this?”

The answer is simple. We do this out of hope. Hope, that characteristic which remained in Pandora’s box, forms the reason we do what we do. Hope is that voice inside of us pushing us to go one step further with that individual. Hope is that feeling we get that says we will make a difference; and we do every day! Hope presents us with the ability to look in an individual’s eyes and see what they bring to this world. Hope is a life-giving force for us, even on those days where we feel spent.

We feel the true essence of hope. Many look at hope as something akin to wishes. “I hope I win the lottery” or "I hope to find true love” are statements that detract from the depth that hope should bring to any individual. “I hope spring arrives soon” is what I am hearing as I write this at the end of an 18 day trip working with individuals in multiple states. That is a concrete example of equating hope to a wish. We know that spring will arrive at some point and it is more of a wish that we stop having snow, colder temperatures, or inconsistent weather. That is not the real meaning of hope.

Hope is learning that the beautiful young lady with severe CP and verbal apraxia is able to complete a significant amount of high school classwork independently and carry a 3.0 average. Hope is seeing the smile come from a non-verbal child because you are talking to them and then having them guide your hand as they try to communicate to you. Hope is watching the young woman with Spina Bifida and other physical issues compete in the Para-Olympics. Hope is watching a young man who was non-verbal as a child and is on the autism spectrum be accepted into the honors program at a major university. In all these cases, hope is not some wish. Hope is the driving force that keeps us focused on why we do what we do. It is the belief that the outside world is incorrect in their suppositions about individuals with differing abilities and that we can assist those individuals in overcoming their obstacles and live a vibrant life. Hope places within us the understanding that our actions do make a difference and the faith to know that we might not be there to see what difference we made, but know that we made it.

In nature, hope exists in the essence of the crocus. The crocus is a beautiful little flower that blossoms each spring. It does not wish that spring will come soon. It knows what its role is and will push through to bloom no matter what the weather might be. Those of us in the Midwest have seen (too many times, unfortunately) snows in March and April. Yet, the crocus comes out knowing that spring is coming. It is filled with the hope that says “Take Action” and it has no doubt about what it is doing. Those of us who work with those with differing abilities have that same hope. It is a hope which says “Take Action” to us and pushes us to understand that the snows and bad weather of life cannot hold us back. The other neat thing about the crocus is that it has the ability to naturalize even in grass. That means it can grow and increase its numbers even in areas where growth might not be expected. We are that crocus; naturalizing by working with each other and recruiting others to understand that “Ableism” is another of the “isms” which must be removed from our existence. We all have something amazing and beautiful to bring to this world. Thank you for what you are doing and know that you are not alone in this venture!

CEC 2019 – Braving the Polar Vortex for Our Friends

CEC Recap ImageCEC 2019 saw some unusual weather in the Indianapolis area. The arrival of the polar vortex was not what most attendees were expecting when they were planning their trip this year! I happened to be speaking to a group recruiting teachers to Alaska and they were using the tagline “Alaska is the Hawaii of the North!” as on the first full day of CEC, Anchorage, Alaska was 25 degrees warmer than we were in Indianapolis and that doesn’t even count the wind chill!

Yet, inside the building, there were excellent ideas and presentations going on. As I prepared for the conference by reviewing the sessions, I was not surprised by the number of research-focused sessions. However, I was pleasantly surprised that the next three most prolific topics there were: Autism Spectrum Disorder/Intellectual Disability; Collaboration and Inclusive Practices; and Personnel Preparation. We are at a point in time where the ideas of inclusivity and awareness of how to support students with differing abilities are at the forefront of Special Education.

Within the context of inclusivity, there were a myriad of sessions describing how the simplest adjustments can bring about high levels of success for all students. The critical piece though in any movement toward true inclusivity is to ensure that the teachers and paraprofessionals are properly supported and trained in approaches which work for all students. Even when I was heading up a Special Needs Program in the 1990s, I remember the concern of teachers being “how can I help these students when I know nothing about their issues?” Back in the 1990s, we were mainly dealing with issues of ADD and physical issues like CP. Today, we see that there are more differing abilities which are not restricting our students from succeeding in classrooms. It is the lack of funding for holistic preparation for our teachers which is slowing us down. The irony is that the techniques which best support our students with differing abilities also are supportive of our neuro-typical students too.

How do we continue to move toward more inclusivity and a transparency in technology for students in the classroom. Teacher preparation is the first step. I am seeing many universities already moving toward courses which focus on inclusive pedagogies within their general education classes. This is not to say that there should not be Special Education classes. However, the awareness of how to work with a student on the autism spectrum is also good for working with the neuro-typical population. Simple things like pacing, verbiage, sensory awareness, and approaches to assignments are supportive of all students. We also need to recognize that there are students with differing abilities who may not be diagnosed. Understanding a variety of teaching techniques is important for those students too.

Another important take-away from the conference was the message that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach for working with students with differing abilities. The more we share approaches which work, the more we are able to adapt to the specific needs of our students. Using approaches which incorporate multi-modal learning along with including opportunities for sensory feedback better meet the needs of our students, but require proper training and support to be used effectively.

Due to the timing of this year’s conference, vendors found themselves with a decision as to whether to attend CEC or ATIA. Only about 5 vendors sent groups to both conferences. On account of that, I was not able to see the “Sidekick” from Ablenet in action. Thanks to my colleagues, Terri Griffin and Gabe Ryan, I was able to get some firsthand feedback. It seems like an amazing device which permits any user to use devices like a trackball or a standard mouse with an iPad. Thanks to the good folks at Ablenet, I will have one when it officially comes out later in the year and will be able to feature it in some of my AT Seminars. So look for a review of that in the coming months. While at CEC, I was impressed with the Talking Pen. I am doing a little more research with this device, but see many potential applications for our classrooms, including adding to making reading a more inclusive process.

If you were not able to attend either CEC or ATIA and would like to have me stop out and talk more to you and your staff, please let me know. I am back out on the road bringing AT Seminars and other sessions to districts throughout the country. By sharing what is working for us in the classroom, we are able to come closer to creating highly inclusive environments for our students.

Do Your Students Know What To Do?

PLUS_EV_sch_hall_3_HRYou work each day to keep students healthy as they receive an education and prepare for future life. But what about preparing them to save a life during a cardiac emergency?

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) in school affects 7,000 students annually.There is no warning before SCA strikes and is witnessed 50% of the time.High-quality CPR and an automated external defibrillator (AED) are a victims best chance of survival. When a victim collapses from SCA, you have three minutes to begin CPR and apply an AED. Every minute of delayed defibrillation leads to a 10% decrease in the survival of the victim.3  When time is of the essence, is your school prepared to respond?

Follow these steps to help a victim of SCA. And most importantly, don’t panic. 

1. Check the area for safety. Before beginning treatment to the victim assess the scene for safety. Make sure you put yourself in the best position to help the victim. You do not want to put yourself in danger and become a victim yourself.

2. Check for responsiveness and call for help.Once you’ve determined the scene is safe, check the victim for responsiveness by asking, “Are you okay?”. Scan the victim to see if they are breathing and if a pulse is present. If the victim is unresponsive, ask someone to call 911 and get an AED. Next begin CPR.

3. Apply proper chest compressions.Chest compressions at the proper rate of 100 to 120 beats per minute at a depth of 2 to 2.4 inches are critical to move blood out of the heart and to the vital organs. Try to avoid leaning on the chest and minimize any pause between compressions. High-quality CPR is critical to ensure the survival of the victim.

4. Follow the AED prompts. When the AED arrives, turn it on, attached the pads to the victims bare chest, and follow the prompts. Make sure not to touch the patient while the AED analyzes the victim’s heartrate. If the AED advises a shock, make sure to stand clear until the shock is delivered. If the victim remains unresponsive, resume CPR until emergency responders arrive.

Download this poster with step-by-step guidance on assisting SCA victims and help your school be prepared to respond to an SCA emergency.

To learn more about how the ZOLL® AED Plus® can protect your school, click here.



1Atkins DL, et al. Circulation. 2015;132(suppl 2): S519–S525.

2Mozaffarian D, et al. Circulation. 2015;131:e29–e322

3AHA guidelines for cardiopulmonary resuscitation and emergency cardiovascular care science 2010:122:S706