Family Friendly Tech and Advocacy: Tech Psychologist's Guide by Dr. Jeanne Beckman

Family Friendly Tech and Advocacy: Tech Psychologist's Guide   by Dr. Jeanne Beckman
Finally, a book to help families find the right technology to accommodate reading disorders (dyslexia) and other disabilties! ISBN 978-1-60264-089-4

How to purchase my book

To purchase through Virtual Bookworm (my publisher) you can click Virtual Bookworm Publisher: Tech Psychologist's Guide or
Amazon no longer allows Illinois professionals to get credit for referrals to Amazon due to a sales tax dispute. I will be referring to Powell's in the near future.

What is that TinyURL notation that you see in my blog? For those who use a screen reader, the link that is hidden behind words like Tech Psychologist Guide remains hidden. However, screen readers can read aloud the website address, or URL, if it was produced by Also, sometimes these addresses are so long that they wrap around several lines or overlap into colored areas of a website that obscure the actual address. Intrigued? You can create your own tinyurl's at

Monday, December 31, 2007

Students cannot be denied participating in accellerated classes or denied accommodations in those classes

Students and their families have reported that they are not allowed to be in accelerated and/or AP classes in school if they have disabilities. Some also report that they must forgo their accommodations if they wish to be in such classes. The federal government has written a letter indicating that the school must provide accommodations in the advanced classes if a student's section 504 plan or IDEA IEP indicates such accommodations are necessary in order for a student to benefit from school curriculula.

If you are having difficulty obtaining appropriate accommodations or you suspect that you may have a disability, please contact me via my website at or email me at

Here is the text of the letter:

OCR: Office for Civil Rights

Dear Colleague Letter: Access by Students with Disabilities to Accelerated Programs


DEC 26, 2007

Dear Colleague:

I am writing to advise you of an issue involving students with disabilities seeking enrollment in challenging academic programs, such as Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes or programs (accelerated programs). Specifically, it has been reported that some schools and school districts have refused to allow qualified students with disabilities to participate in such programs. Similarly, we are informed of schools and school districts that, as a condition of participation in such programs, have required qualified students with disabilities to give up the services that have been designed to meet their individual needs. These practices are inconsistent with Federal law, and the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education will continue to act promptly to remedy such violations where they occur.

As you know, OCR is responsible for enforcing two Federal laws that protect qualified individuals with disabilities from discrimination. OCR enforces Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and its implementing regulations at 34 CFR Part 104, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in programs or activities receiving Federal financial assistance. OCR is also responsible, in the education context, for enforcing Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Title II) and its implementing regulations at 28 CFR Part 35, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability by entities of State and local government. Although this letter discusses aspects of the Section 504 regulation, Title II provides no lesser protections than does Section 504. Also relevant are the requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which is administered by the Department's Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). The IDEA provides funds to States and school districts in order to assist them in providing special education and related services to eligible children with disabilities. The IDEA's implementing regulations are located at 34 CFR Part 300. OCR consulted with OSEP in drafting this letter.1

As an initial matter, I want to commend the efforts so many of you have made to ensure that placement decisions for all students are based on each student's individual academic abilities regardless of the presence, nature, or severity of a disability. I want to ensure that all of you are aware of the Federal civil rights requirements discussed below.
Prohibition Against Disability-Based Discrimination in Accelerated Programs

The practice of denying, on the basis of disability, a qualified student with a disability the opportunity to participate in an accelerated program violates both Section 504 and Title II. Discrimination prohibited by these laws includes, on the basis of disability, denying a qualified individual with a disability the opportunity to participate in or benefit from the recipient's aids, benefits, or services, and affording a qualified individual with a disability with an opportunity to participate in or benefit from the aid, benefit or service in a manner that is not equal to that offered to individuals without disabilities. 34 CFR 104.4(a), (b)(1)(i), (b)(1)(ii); 28 CFR 35.130(a), (b)(1)(i), (b)(1)(ii).

Under Section 504 and Title II, a recipient may not utilize criteria or methods of administration that have the effect of subjecting qualified individuals with disabilities to discrimination on the basis of disability. 34 CFR 104.4(b)(4) and 28 CFR 35.130(b)(3). A public entity also may not impose or apply eligibility criteria that screen out or tend to screen out an individual with a disability or any class of individuals with disabilities from fully and equally enjoying any service, program, or activity, unless such criteria can be shown to be necessary for the provision of the service, program, or activity being offered. 28 CFR 35.130(b)(8). Public school students with disabilities who require special education and/or related services receive them either through implementation of an individualized education program (IEP) developed in accordance with Part B of the IDEA or a plan developed under Section 504. 34 CFR 104.33. It is unlawful to deny a student with a disability admission to an accelerated class or program solely because of that student's need for special education or related aids and services2, or because that student has an IEP or a plan under Section 504. The practice of conditioning participation in an accelerated class or program by a qualified student with a disability on the forfeiture of special education or of related aids and services to which the student is legally entitled also violates the Section 504 and Title II requirements stated above.

Please note that nothing in Section 504 or Title II requires schools to admit into accelerated classes or programs students with disabilities who would not otherwise be qualified for these classes or programs. Generally, under Section 504, an elementary or secondary school student with a disability is a qualified individual with a disability if the student is of compulsory school age. However, schools may employ appropriate eligibility requirements or criteria in determining whether to admit students, including students with disabilities, into accelerated programs or classes. Section 504 and Title II require that qualified students with disabilities be given the same opportunities to compete for and benefit from accelerated programs and classes as are given to students without disabilities. 34 CFR 104.4(b)(1)(ii) and 28 CFR 35.130(b)(1)(ii).

Furthermore, a recipient's provision of necessary special education and related aids and services to qualified students with disabilities in accelerated classes or programs must be consistent with the Section 504 and Title II requirements regarding free appropriate public education (FAPE).
Free Appropriate Public Education

In general, conditioning participation in accelerated classes or programs by qualified students with disabilities on the forfeiture of necessary special education or related aids and services amounts to a denial of FAPE under both Part B of the IDEA and Section 504.

Section 504 requires a recipient that operates a public elementary or secondary education program or activity to provide FAPE to each qualified person with a disability who is in the recipient's jurisdiction, regardless of the nature or severity of the person's disability. 34 CFR 104.33(a). Under Section 504, the provision of an appropriate education is the provision of regular or special education and related aids and services that satisfy certain procedural requirements and that are designed to meet the individual education needs of persons with disabilities as adequately as the needs of persons without disabilities are met. 34 CFR 104.33(b)(1)(i). School districts may create a plan or other document to provide students with disabilities with FAPE pursuant to Section 504. The Section 504 FAPE requirement may also be met through the implementation of an IEP developed in accordance with Part B of the IDEA. 34 CFR 104.33(b)(2).
Part B of the IDEA requires that FAPE be made available to eligible students with disabilities in certain age ranges. The IDEA defines FAPE as special education and related services that: are provided free of charge; meet State standards; include an appropriate preschool, elementary school, or secondary school education; and are provided in conformity with a properly developed IEP. 20 USC § 1401(a)(9); 34 CFR 300.17.3

Participation by a student with a disability in an accelerated class or program generally would be considered part of the regular education or the regular classes referenced in the Section 504 and the IDEA regulations. Thus, if a qualified student with a disability requires related aids and services to participate in a regular education class or program, then a school cannot deny that student the needed related aids and services in an accelerated class or program. For example, if a student's IEP or plan under Section 504 provides for Braille materials in order to participate in the regular education program and she enrolls in an accelerated or advanced history class, then she also must receive Braille materials for that class. The same would be true for other needed related aids and services such as extended time on tests or the use of a computer to take notes.

Conditioning enrollment in an advanced class or program on the forfeiture of needed special education or related aids and services is also inconsistent with the principle of individualized determinations, which is a key procedural aspect of the IDEA, Section 504 and Title II. As noted above, under Section 504, the provision of FAPE is based on the student's individual education needs as determined through specific procedures--generally, an evaluation in accordance with Section 504 requirements. 34 CFR 104.35. An individualized determination may result in a decision that a qualified student with a disability requires related aids and services for some or all of his regular education classes or his program. Likewise, the IDEA contains specific procedures for evaluations and for the development of IEPs that require individualized determinations. See 34 CFR 300.301 through 300.328. The requirement for individualized determinations is violated when schools ignore the student's individual needs and automatically deny a qualified student with a disability needed related aids and services in an accelerated class or program.

I urge you to use the information provided in this letter to continue to evaluate whether your school district is in compliance with these anti-discrimination requirements. OCR remains willing to continue supporting you in these efforts. We provide technical assistance to entities that request assistance in voluntarily complying with the civil rights laws that OCR enforces. If you need additional information or assistance on these or other matters, please do not hesitate to contact the OCR enforcement office that serves your state or territory. The contact information for each office is available online at: I thank you in advance for your cooperation and assistance in this important matter.
Sincerely yours,

Stephanie Monroe
Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights

copied from

If you are having difficulty obtaining appropriate accommodations or you suspect that you may have a disability, please contact me via my website at or email me at

Friday, December 28, 2007

Okay football fans: Check out this coach!

While we have politicians, school officials, and others telling our students what they cannot possibly do, here's one coach who shatters these myths of diminished expectations:

International Herald Tribune
Disabled Hawaii graduate assistant Brian Kajiyama to travel with team for the first time

The Associated Press
Monday, December 24, 2007

HONOLULU: He spends hours on the football field, but his feet never touch the turf. His specialty is dissecting offenses, but he's never played a down.

Meet Brian Kajiyama, a first-year graduate assistant for Hawaii who was born with cerebral palsy, scoots around in a motorized wheelchair and communicates by typing into a small computer that speaks in a robotic voice.

As a member of the coach June Jones' staff, Kajiyama is responsible for breaking down game film and preparing scouting reports for the defense.

Ask Hawaii's players and coaches and they'll tell you Kajiyama has contributed greatly to the best football season the school has ever had. The Warriors are Western Athletic Conference champions, the only unbeaten team in major college football and on their way to their first Bowl Championship Series appearance and a matchup against No. 4 Georgia in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1.

"Everybody talks about the greatness of this 12-0 team and how we have a tremendous quarterback. That is so true," said Jeff Reinebold, Hawaii's defensive line coach. "(But) is there anybody who has made the impact that guy in the chair is making in terms of changing lives? I don't know."

Reinebold called Kajiyama's role at Hawaii "groundbreaking."

"Brian, to my knowledge, is the first wheelchair-bound, non-speaking coach in college football," Reinebold said.

Kajiyama attends every practice. He zips around the field and is generous with his high-fives and smiles. A Warriors logo is proudly displayed on the back of his wheelchair. Above that, there's a sticker that reads, "No Fear."

As long as he can remember, he always wanted to be part of a team, in the action, on the field.

"It's been a great ride that I never, ever dreamed of, even in my wildest dreams," Kajiyama said.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Why Dyslexics Make Great Entrepreneurs

In the past few weeks, there has been tremendous buzz about research that found that more than one third of all U.S. entrepreneurs have dyslexia (difficulties with reading). In an article from Business Week, Gabrielle Coppola tells why these individuals are so successful.

Why Dyslexics Make Great Entrepreneurs

The ability to grasp the big picture, persistence, and creativity are a few of the entrepreneurial traits of many dyslexics. Just ask Charles Schwab

When Alan Meckler, the CEO of IT and online imagery hub Jupitermedia (JUPM), was accepted to Columbia University in 1965, the dean's office told him he had some of the lowest college boards of any student ever admitted. "I got a 405 or 410 in English," he recalls. "In those days you got a 400 just for putting your name down! Yet I was on the dean's list every year I was there, and I won a prize for having the best essay in American history my senior year."

It wasn't until years later, at age 58, that Meckler learned he was dyslexic. He struggles with walking and driving directions, and interpreting charts and graphs. He prefers to listen to someone explain a problem to him, rather than sit down and read 20 pages describing it. As a youth, Meckler discovered a unique strength—baseball—and cultivated it religiously to compensate for weakness in other areas.

Asset or Handicap?

All of these things, according to Dr. Sally Shaywitz, a professor of learning development at Yale University, are classic signs of dyslexia. Shaywitz has long argued that dyslexia should be evaluated as an asset, not just a handicap. She recently co-founded the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity, dedicated to studying the link between the two. "I want people to wish they were dyslexic," she says. "There are many positive attributes that can't be taught that people are generally not aware of. We always write about how we're losing human capital—dyslexics are not able to achieve their potential because they've had to go around the system."

It's not clear whether dyslexics develop their special talents by learning to negotiate their disability or whether such skills are the genetic inheritance of being dyslexic. It's a question Shaywitz plans to explore, along with trying to change the way dyslexia is viewed in the educational system and the business world. One project at the center will be an education series to train executives to recognize outside-the-box thinkers who don't perform well on standardized tests.



Makes you wonder what we are doing to our dyslexic students when schools relegate them to segregated classrooms and force them to use watered-down literature, science, math, and other general education curricula that are "geared to their independent reading level" instead of to their ability level. Does It Make Sense?

I invite readers to tell me their stories, either here or email me at

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Do I have to have a diagnosed learning disability to benefit from text-to-speech?

Many adults and children have asked whether someone could benefit from text-to-speech, such as" Kurzweil," if they've never been diagnosed as having a learning disability such as dyslexia. The answer is a resounding "YES!" Slow readers, delayed learners, those who do not speak, those with autism, those who have difficulty remembering what they read, those who have trouble paying attention to what they read, those who tire easily as they read, those who have difficulty holding a book or turning pages,... the list goes on and on. There are many ways to personalize the software to meet your particular needs.

Personally, I use Kurzweil 3000 to read while I'm on my treadmill so that I don't have to hold a book (no bouncing pages) and can see the words while I hear them. How do you like to read?

Here's a YouTube video of a demonstration of Kurzweil 3000:

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

There are many ways to express your art

Here's a young woman, born with cerebral palsy, who draws holding a pen between her toes, and does web design with a foot controlled mouse and a head stylus to type on the keyboard. Here computer speaks for her in a natural sounding voice. Think of the possibilities if we could bring out the artist in all people. How do you express your creative side?