Improving Literacy Skills to Achieve Academic Independence
Every special education department is unique and faces its own set of challenges. The Special School District of St. Louis County provides special education services countywide to more than 23,000 students with disabilities in 22 school districts. The district’s teacher-level staff educate students in mainstream classrooms, in five special education schools, and in two technical education high schools. In simpler terms, it’s a sprawling district.
The special education team includes eight assistive technology specialists and six augmentative communication specialists. The large size of the team allows for staff to specialize in certain areas. For Julie Osherow, this means she can hone in on aiding over 250 students’ literacy development in her role as an assistive technology specialist. By further developing these skills, students can become more academically independent.
“Clicker is a comprehensive tool for literacy, with features and customizations to suit all students, regardless of cognitive level or physical ability.”
In her current role and in her past role as a special education teacher, Osherow knows that there is a wide range of assistive technology software and application solutions to choose from. Osherow started using an older version of Clicker during her time as a special education teacher and has stayed with it through its evolution.
Developing Core Skills
At the Special School District of St. Louis County, teachers focus on developing skills that empower students to become more independent. Through the use of Clicker, Osherow’s students develop reading and writing skills, achieving new levels of independence along the way.
“Clicker is a comprehensive tool for literacy, with features and customizations to suit all students, regardless of cognitive level or physical ability,” Osherow says. “As well as making the curriculum accessible for students, it helps them to actively participate in class and demonstrate their knowledge. Ultimately, it gives increased independence, which is always our end goal.”
For one student, that independence has helped create her favorite part of her day.
“I work with one student who has a complex body – she is able to move her head and one of her hands, which takes huge effort, and nowadays with pretty good control. She uses a two-switch setup to access Clicker,” Osherow shares. “Through Clicker’s customizations, she’s been able to read books on her own and write daily notes home to her parents about her school activities. It’s her favorite thing to do every day!”
Even with the district’s size, some special education classrooms foster 1:1 learning environments. In one classroom of seven students that range from sixth to eighth grade, the teacher uses Clicker 7 to easily create activities for the entire class. Students access it together on the interactive whiteboard. These activities help the teacher work with students on translating their new learnings into writing.
From there, the teacher can create custom activities and adapt old activities for each student to address their individual literacy challenges. Then, the custom activities can be shared with the general education teachers so the staff can collaborate on content for their classes.
It’s important for teachers at large school districts, such as the Special School District of St. Louis County, to share resources amongst the staff. The school district utilizes Clicker’s ability to create everything from graphic organizers to visual schedules with Clicker Board. Teachers can then instantly share content and resources cross-platform so students have immediate access to the materials.
The challenges that districts face may vary, but in the end, they all have the same goal. They want their students to grow as learners and become more academically independent. At the Special School District of St. Louis County, Julie Osherow and the rest of the special education staff are doing just that, one click at a time.
Julie Osherow has no financial relationship with Crick Software.