Posts tagged ‘Special needs’

Training the Brain: Why Online? (Part 1 in a series)

I see a lot of ads lately promoting various computer programs, claiming that they can cure learning disabilities, ADHD, or a number of  other maladies. Readers probably wonder what’s up with that – Do these programs really work? How do they work? Are they worth the cost? In addition to being a certified cognitive training clinician, I did some research into these programs to try to clear things up for you. There’s a lot to discuss, so please bear with me as I dish it out in small installments. After we get through the basics of what, why, and how, I’ll introduce you to a few specific programs and help you sort out which ones are worth a try for you.

First, why would you choose an online program at all? Here are a few advantages:

  1. Cost: Some computer therapies run hundreds to  thousands of dollars, giving parents extra cause to question their value. But compare it to having a professional administer the same treatment in person, at an hourly fee, and the computer wins hands-down. The only thing left to question is whether it can achieve the same results – and that is indeed a great question, which will be addressed in a future installment.
  2. Reliability: Any in-person treatment depends heavily on the individual provider. Of course, you do your best to choose the most competent person available to you, but true quality control is difficult. When you use a computer-based program, you know that the sounds, images, timing, and pacing are exactly the ones prescribed for you. You’re getting the same program as others who reported positive results.
  3. Convenience: A lot of things can interfere with the regular attendance that is necessary for good progress. All of the computer programs I’ve reviewed allow you to load your account from any computer, so you don’t need to miss sessions due to vacations, transportation glitches, or bad weather. You don’t even need to leave your house at all, or negotiate a schedule that works for your clinician as well as your entire family. You can set it up in your living room or office, and then go on with life.
  4. Engagement: Do I need to tell you that computer work holds more appeal for most? While the fun factor of computer-therapy programs varies and is usually not quite enough to keep kids motivated through a long training course, it still feels more interesting than “tutoring” or “therapy.”
  5. Discretion: As much as we try to applaud their strengths and de-stigmatize difficulties, many people are embarrassed about needing help. With interventions taking place on their home computer looking like a game, they can keep their difficulties hidden even from other family members. Instead of feeling dragged to therapy, they get to feel like the cool one for having a computer program special for them.

But is all this really enough to make up for personal therapeutic interaction? The answer, as usual, is “it depends.” Stay tuned for more discussion of what and who these programs are for, which ones are worth a look, and how to tell.



November 3, 2013 at 1:15 am 2 comments

Wednesday Whatsits: What’s SEIT?

It seems like we all know someone who is, does, has, gets, or wants SEIT (pronounced “see-it”). You may even know that stands for “Special Education Itinerant Teacher.” But what is that supposed to mean, anyway?

According to the dictionary, “itinerant” means “traveling.” A SEIT is a teacher who doesn’t have his or her own class, and probably even bounces around to different schools, homes, or other sites each day, working with students wherever they are for a period or two (occasionally more) at a time. The details below, as usual, pertain especially to NYC – other districts may differ in the particulars.

Who gets a SEIT?

Typically, a SEIT is recommended for students ages 3-5 who have special needs but are not placed in a full-time special education program with a full-time special ed teacher. The service would be listed on their IFSP or IEP (another Wednesday Whatsit, perhaps?)

Who can be a SEIT? How do I become one?

Pretty much any state-certified special education teacher can be a SEIT. If the student has an especially specialized need (such as ABA – coming soon to a Wednesday near you!), preference may (and should) be given to someone with training, expertise, and/or experience in that area. If you are a certified teacher interested in working as a SEIT, cases are usually managed by special education agencies that help coordinate service plans, providers, and schedules. Contact local child development centers, and scan the ads that target parents to see who’s helping them get services. Don’t put all your eggs in this basket, though, because supply exceeds demand for SEIT at this time.

What does a SEIT do?

The SEIT’s job is to address the student’s special needs, so the specific activities will vary accordingly. The ideal is to help the student integrate into the regular class, but sometimes the SEIT needs to take the student aside and work with him or her individually. The SEIT can also guide the lead classroom teacher and/or the child’s parent[s] by showing them how to help the child when the SEIT isn’t there, or by setting up plans and programs to be continued between SEIT sessions. SEIT goals are typically educational in nature, but the SEIT also supports the child’s social and behavioral development.

So is a SEIT like a shadow?

This question sounds random after the above explanation, but I hear it all the time, so I’ll answer it here: No. A shadow is not  a certified teacher and usually doesn’t have any special training relevant to students with special needs. Although they can sometimes be helpful in this regard, it is generally not the shadow’s job to take care of students’ educational needs. Though a SEIT may stay with a student in their regular class and encourage the student to engage in class activities independently, s/he is not just sitting there, though it might appear so to a casual observer. If s/he is, in fact, just sitting there, then something’s wrong – but I wouldn’t jump to that conclusion too hastily. Moving a child towards integration is a very delicate balance and there may be more going on that you don’t realize.

November 10, 2011 at 4:01 am Leave a comment


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