Friday, April 29, 2016

Terese Jurgensen - Director of Student Services

                Dr. Ross Greene - Shutting down the philosophy that "Kids do well 
if they wanna!" Dr. Greene will be one of the keynote speakers 
at the Global Social Thinking Conference.

Global Social Thinking Conference
Last summer, I attended the Global Social Thinking Conference in San Francisco, California. It was a life-changing experience for me as I had studied, read and utilized Social Thinking strategies for several years, but was struggling implementing the strategies here at Howard-Winneshiek. Fortunately, this fall we were able to send 6 staff members up to Minneapolis and it has changed how we work with all of our students PK-12. We are social people and created for relationships - yet for many reasons, as Dr. Ross Greene points out in his video that "several things can get in a person's way." In December, an opportunity arose to submit a proposal to present at this year's Global Social Thinking Conference, and I wrote a proposal. It was accepted and Alicia Martin and I will present on behalf of Howard-Winneshiek Community Schools, on treatment strategies and partnership with parents.  

Ms. Martin and I will present on the first day immediately after the keynote speaker, Eustacia Cutler, Temple Grandin's mother. To present on the first day, is an incredible honor and extremely humbling. 

Written Below is the Outline of our Presentation

Is it Skill or is it Will?

Utilizing the Social Thinking-­Social Communication Profile

to Create Parent Partnerships & Tiered Systems of Supports

for Home and School


I am a parent of a twice-exceptional child who was diagnosed with Asperger’s when he was 13 years old. We always knew he was different than other children. He was so smart! He taught himself to read by the age of 4, but when I went to pick him up from daycare, he was always in a corner alone totally engrossed with Legos or blocks. School was often a painful place for our son socially and when he was staffed in to special education, things went from bad to worse. We expected the school to teach him the social skills he so desperately needed, but instead they used him to help struggling readers in a pullout classroom. It wasn’t until I got my Masters in Administration/Special Education, that I learned of the work of Social Thinking and Michelle Garcia Winner. It was the Eureka moment of my life! Social Thinking has transformed not only my son’s life, but also countless lives of the teachers, students, parents and communities across the globe. 

The purpose of this presentation will be to outline the difference between Skill and Will. Utilizing the Social Thinking – Social Communication Profile as a means to partner with parents during Team Meetings, the areas of Skills to be taught will be outlined for both home and school through tiered intervention systems of support. Utilizing a tool I created, the areas of Will, or matters of the heart such as emotional supports, individual strengths, motivations, interests, and the child’s as well as the parent’s dreams will be outlined to create an effective Treatment Plan that partners home and school. I do believe that one of the most misunderstood, underserved group we serve are the parents of students of struggling social communicators and they long for schools, big or small to hear them, teach them and care for their children.

The Howard-Winneshiek Community School District has successfully integrated Social Thinking supports throughout the school system, including the community and most importantly the homes of many of our students who struggle with social communication challenges. I was hired as the Director of Special Education in the fall of 2014 and today, April 2016, our school is being transformed.

For the beginning of the presentation, we will outline in detail the data gathered from behavioral referrals, progress monitoring, Iowa Assessments, students successfully meeting their IEP goals as well as outline the Social Thinking supports and strategies we have put in place in just over a year. Some of these include, but are not limited to:  The Zones of Regulation, Super-Flex, Social Detective, Expected & Unexpected Behaviors coupled with our PBIS initiative, Social Thinking Groups teaching Perspective Taking, the ILAUGH model, executive functioning courses for secondary students, and social thinking IEP goals that are aligned to the core, parent support groups and the list goes on. I have held full days of professional development to our teachers grades PK-12 and after 6 staff members went to a Social Thinking Conference in Minneapolis this fall, additional professional development led to book studies on a variety of Social Thinking resources across multiple grade levels.  We are transforming not only our students’ lives, but also our school from the Inside Out.

As exciting as this is, I believe that sharing how we utilize the Social Thinking –Social Communication Profile to our global friends will be pertinent to their educational environment and the families they serve. There will be three learning objectives to the presentation:

 #1.) How to successfully utilize the Social Thinking-Social Communication Profile as a team approach. Who should be invited to these meetings? How to work with and approach parents who do not want their child labeled or who do not realize their child has social thinking, social communication challenges.

#2.) How to write a Treatment Plan addressing the SKILLS the child needs to learn such as executive functioning, communication, sharing space effectively, perspectives, social skills, problem solving and so on. Tools created for this purpose will be shared with the audience.

#3.) How to address the areas of the heart or what we call the WILL. Behavioral changes do not happen unless there is a strong emotional connection. Therefore, this area is key for effective change to occur. A tool will also be shared here that addresses this important area and the bond it will create between home and school.

As these learning areas are presented, Alicia Martin, special education teacher, will share the journey of a student and her family through video, learning strategies and unique experiences. A year ago, the family came to their daughter’s IEP with an attorney. Today, by utilizing the Social Thinking – Social Communication Profile and creating a Treatment Plan that partners home and school, this family is now one of the greatest advocates of our school district and for Social Thinking.

Schools are often afraid or shun parents who have children in special education or exhibit challenging behaviors. As a parent, I just wanted someone to help my son learn how to have quality, lasting relationships. Our presentation will teach how to create Treatment Plans, partnering with parents to close the gaps preventing students from realizing their true potential and most importantly the relationships they are created for.

We are created for relationships! Ms. Martin and I (she is pictured below with her friend, Justin Denner) are super excited about representing Howard-Winneshiek CSD at the Global Social Thinking Conference this summer. Last summer I met educators from across the United States as well as Ireland, China, New Zealand and parts of Africa. Social Thinking struggles are not unique to only students on the autism spectrum but students who struggle with Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) as well as those who have ADHD.  We are social beings and without the skills necessary to communicate affectively as well as the perspectives crucial to understanding the world around them, people struggle. We are looking forward to this global experience, but even more importantly bringing back further knowledge and experiences to share with our staff to make a significant impact on the students at Howard-Winneshiek CSD!
 We are created for relationships! 

Inspiring Speech ~ As Told in the Temple Grandin Movie

Have a great week! 
Looking Forward to Hearing from You

Please reach me at
(563) 929-6344

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