Frequently, our students respond so differently when they're in inclusive settings or in meaningful contexts, that the assumption is that well, this kid isn't anything like the students that I'm talking about. Because this is how why students have? Well, it's like, yes, but if you check, and so did these students, and and we change their contacts and instruction and look at them now, but it's hard to, to realize that or to get people to believe that until, unless they really see it.
Welcome to inclusive occupations, sharing stories of not just being invited to the party, but dancing. I'm your host Savitha Sundar, I'm a school-based occupational therapist. This podcast is a space for OTs and others who work with children and youth in education to be informed, inspired, and empowered to create an inclusive community for the students they serve.
I was at an inclusion conference earlier this year, and I was so excited to see two people whose work I have frequently cited in my research on inclusion of students with extensive support needs. These two scholars are Dr. Diane Ryndak, and Dr. Deborah taobh. Their life's work has been on enabling inclusive education for those with the most significant and complex support needs. Dr. Rundak and Dr. Taub together work at the TIES center on a project called the Inclusive Education roadmap. Now TIES center is the National Technical Assistance Center on inclusive practices and policies. Today I have Dr. Diane Ryndak. In part one of this two-part series, she is a highly accomplished person, a world-renowned scholar, author of numerous articles, books, book chapters, editor and reviewer of several journal journals. And best of all, truly, truly driven to make this world a better place for those with the most significant cognitive disabilities. I had such an interesting conversation listening to her journey as an inclusion activist, and her many inspiring stories along the way. She will introduce us to the Inclusive Education roadmap. Let's welcome Dr. Diane Ryndak to our inclusive occupations podcast.
It is such an honor to have you on inclusive occupations podcast. Thank you so much for giving us this time,
It's my honor to be on it. Thank you so much for the invitation.
I want to start this interview learning about what is the why behind what you do you have immensely contributed to enabling inclusivity in schools, through your extensive research work with school districts and training teachers and doctoral level students in the space. What made you what what is your driving force behind it?
It's a really interesting question. For me, because I always I think about this frequently as I think about what what we have accomplished and what we haven't accomplished. So it actually goes back to my early childhood childhood things. I have a family member who, having come back from one of the wars, was had some mental health issues, and was placed actually in an institution. So I can remember as a young child, probably preschool because it would been during the school day going with my mother to go visit her brother in an institution. So I have very vague memory of I shouldn't say vague, clear memories, but but a few of walking into an institution and the smell and the you know, what I saw the people I saw and so forth. And as over the years, my uncle was moved to a halfway house and some other types of facilities. So I was able to see some differences. As I got older and and as services progressed, that that had a really strong impact on me in terms of why we have people placed in certain situations and other people aren't in those situations and the inequity of it. Even as a young child who it just didn't sit right. But I also grew up during the women's movement. You know, I saw my mother During my hands and even some of my my older sisters, and so my older female cousins, and could watch the interactions between aunts and uncles, and it was just, it was an interesting time. And the women's movement kind of happened as I was actually in high school. And it really had an impact on me in terms of the rights of women. And, and what I did not see happening in society. So that came in, again, with equity questions, and so forth. And while I was in high school, this is kind of like three things that really got me into the field. While I was in high school, I volunteered in a physical education class. And that class happened to be with fellow students who I didn't even know were in our high school. And they were young women who had what I would consider to be more mild, high incidence disabilities. But they were definitely separate from the rest of the school population. We never, I didn't even know they were there. And I was active in high school. So I volunteered in this in this physical education class, and one of the, I was doing something with with one young woman and, you know, helping her you're kind of doing some accommodations about accommodations, I would say, to help her be successful. And I turned my back one time, and she did the activity without me, and was successful. And I never forget, she started to jump up and down and said, I did it myself. I did it myself, which really came back to me from the point of view of once, she was aware that I was helping her which I hadn't intended her to know. But how important it was for her to have the opportunity to do things and to learn how to do things, if you wanted them wanted to do so. So it became this combination for me of every person, but especially every woman, every female, needing to have the opportunity to do whatever they wanted to, and to have the supports to be successful in real life. So it's kind of this combination of, you know, institutional stuff and setting issues, women's movement, and then this, this young woman that just kind of made me feel like, you know, I've got to do what I can to support every person. And I that led me into special ed. And then the more that I'm not involved, obviously, it's just, it kept expanding. But it really brought me especially to educational services for students with more significant disabilities, who I saw as having the rights not be upheld, that that drives me, that's always the why. And I think for me, doing teacher preparation, and I'm working with schools, that why is critical? Because while I Yes, I believe in evidence based practices, I believe in research, and we have all those, but they're not sufficient, because we can implement evidence, best bet evidence based practices, without really focusing on why are we even bothering to teach this or to assist this person that? So that's always the why for me, does that make sense?
I can totally resonate with what you just said. Especially when you started off talking about, you know, people who are very different that you saw in your school. When I was in, in I was in Girl Scouts as a kid, I think I was in seventh grade or eighth grade, and we would do these community outreach events. And we went to this institution or the mentally challenged children. And the place was more for the low income families, I think, but really not because they just didn't have a place for anybody with a disability, low income or high income. So children were this is in my time in India. So I'm thinking about the early 90s or mid 90s, early 90s. And the kids were all seated together, wearing the same green colored outfit. Many of them their heads were shaved, and we were going there and dancing doing some performances for them and and I remember just that was the first time I really saw people with disabilities children with disability these all together in one place, and they seem very happy to have us be with them. And I just felt like, I want to take somebody home with me. You know what, I'd take them to school with me, you know, like, I just I had that urge at that point. And I have, you know, never forgotten that day, the first time I went there. And I think that that image kind of stayed with me, and probably that determine my future choices in life, career choices in life, for sure.
It's interesting how experiences really impact us, because you might see my uncle in the one situation, and not that we were there a lot, but I did see that. And then the next time I think I saw an individual with a disability was when I was in high school. And this one person just had such an impact on me. But then, as I was going through through college, the law hadn't been passed yet. So when I got out of school, the law had just gotten passed. And unfortunately, the kids weren't in schools yet. So I literally worked in three different institutions, and over time, and worked with students in public schools, but they weren't the students that I focus on now, because they weren't there yet. So I realized I had to go back to institutions in order to work with the kids I wanted to work with, because they weren't there. And then it became question of was, why are we doing this? This is the wrong context. This doesn't make any sense at all. And I felt like what we were doing was spending time, but it wasn't education, it wasn't really changing the life for any of these individuals that we were working with. So I think that's also how context became so important to me. Because once we started to change contexts, could see a difference in a student's engagement or our students attention, even just to what's going on around them. And their engagement with with kids. Of course, they want to interact with kids that not me, I'm an adult, they why would they care what I have to say, you know, so trying to figure out how how to embed instruction in contexts that were most important or meaningful to each student, or each adult just became something that I could not get away from, even when I tried. It's like, okay, yeah, that's really important. But let's, let's look at this as a component of services and stuff that's really important. Well, it is. But it's more important to get it in the context that makes sense to the, to the individual.
So I believe that every teacher out there, every educator out there wants their student with disabilities, both mild disabilities, significant disabilities, they want them to feel that they belong in a in a setting, any setting or group of people have friendships have access to general education. However, some educators just cannot fathom how this even possible for many of their students with significant support needs and self-regulation challenges. They cannot see how their students can be meaningfully educated in the same classroom as their non disabled peers, other than maybe, say non academic subjects. As someone who knows that all students in self contained classrooms can thrive in a general education classroom, where would you begin to help with the mind shift?
For me, personally, I think the most effective way that I have found is to figure out how to make it personable personal, or an individual. And that's either by showing enough examples, but they have to be examples that really speak to a person or doing some type of visitation observations and looking at how does this work? The one of the problems that I find with that approach, though, is that frequently our students respond so differently when they're in inclusive settings, or in meaningful contexts, that the assumption is that well, this kid isn't anything like the students that I'm talking about, because this is how my students act was like, yes, but if you checked and assaulted these students, and we change their context and instruction and look at them now, but it's hard to to realize that or to get people to believe that until unless they really see it. I had a One of the school districts I worked with, back in the 90s 80s, I'm sorry, even 80s, late 80s and 90s. You know, we we brought in a parent and, and her daughter, older daughter, to talk to principals about this and your principals who were, you know, you're talking with a law, we're talking about what needs to be done. We're talking about policies and procedures, and how do you work with your teachers. But then we had them present on their story about before and after this young woman being being included in educational contexts. And listening to them, I had principals come up afterwards and say, I got it, let's do this, let's do this now. Because they, they responded to the personal story, and the emotions that were very clear from both the mother and and the woman. And also the the, the ability to discuss both what they were seeing in segregated settings, and how this young woman was feeling, and responding to all those best practices that were being done with her with her to her versus their reaction and what they saw what they experienced when this young woman was included. And a lot of it, you didn't have to change a lot of practice, you just had to change the context and the practice that land because of the context of the people who are in that context. So finding a way to, to link what we're talking about for people so that they have almost an emotional response here. Here's another quick story on this one. I was in a school with a principal who really wanted to be working with us. And he wasn't in one of the chosen schools yet. So he really wanted to convince us that he should be that one of the principals. And he was so proud. And we walk through his school and he had, you know, two or three classes of kids with significant disabilities. And we're walking through and he's talking to every student, you know, as we're going through and seeing all the services and we walked into the class, wonderful classes, with students with with the most significant disabilities, multiple disabilities. And this cute, adorable little girl wheeled her pink wheelchair up to him. And she's got, you know, pigtails and she's had pink ribbons that match her wheelchair. I mean, it was just was, so it was adorable. And the adults in the classroom were doing assistant eating with students, because it was lunchtime. And then there were some other students who were on the floor with some things around them. And this little girl wheeled up to the principal and started to talk to him, called him by name. And, and had this conversation and he was so proud because he knew her name and, and he could respond and was like, it was great. He was really, really happy. And then we walked out. And he was like, really wanted me to reinforce them. And I thought, yeah, this is great. I'm so glad you can do this. But I just have one question. And he's like, what's, what is it? Am I I can answer this. And he said, but nice, Ed, why does she have to wait for you to walk into the classroom, to have somebody to talk to? And he, he just stops like he turned white? And, you know, his eyes opened and he kind of like stammered a little, like, you know, stop recording was just it's just a question I've got now and then we kind of went on and I reinforced him for some other things. And the next time I was in that district, like no more than three weeks later, he invited me back to the school. And he had just he had moved all of those kids into gen ed classes. Oh, my God, they all had somebody to talk with, you know, into into experience things with. And I mean, that was his aha moment. It was like, of course, you why aren't we doing this? And that teacher became the star of inclusive education in that district, because she got it right away, because she saw the differences in kids behaviors, communication, interaction, attention, be I mean, just across the board, so soon as they when people see it, that changes their mindset, whether they're a principal of special ed teacher, a gen ed teacher, I mean, just like when they see it and can really see the before and after. That's the mind shift change. So however, we can get that information to people or that experience that I think is one of the most important things we can do. Because once they do Leave, they want whatever information you can give them. Because I think you're right. Every educator wants to do the best they can for every student.
Yeah, I think you're you're absolutely right, I think they need to see it, they need to see the difference. They believe that. Definitely admin has a big role to play in putting those visions in front of them.
I have to tell you one more story, just because .....this isn't an OT story. But it's an SLP story, a speech language pathologist story, one of the first kids we were getting included, parents had gone through due process two years in a row to get their child from pre K to K. in an inclusive kindergarten, they finally won. And the student was in this impressive inclusive preschool, kindergarten rather. And the next year he progressed into and that was rough because of all the due process. Next year, he got into first grade and this, this gen ed teacher was terrified, had had a one on one aid in the classroom, even though we kept pulling her away from from this kid, and a speech therapist who had just gotten out of speech therapy program. So brand new, and she had her speech, speech language closet and bringing kids in. And with this particular student, one of his goals was to speak in two to three word sentences. And what in the in the first grade classroom he never spoke, never, never, never spoke. And she took them in for speech. And one of the times I was there, she said, you know, we really need to change his goals, because he's he's methods, we need to, you know, increase the goals. And I'm like, What are you talking about? Because while he's here, we're having conversations that were he's responding to us like, we're not seeing that. Because what do you mean that seen it, come into the first grade classroom, see what's going on. And she came in, didn't talk to the paraprofessional, didn't talk to the kids didn't talk to the teacher didn't even seem to talk to the speech language pathologist. And she's like, why isn't he talking? And we're like, you tell us, what do you think
He was speaking fine with the speech therapist in her room,
in the in the closet, the closet? They're in this in this little closet, you know, therapy room. And it's like, oh, my gosh, he is talking into him. He is answering every question. They're having a conversation.
Just like, so got her in there. She saw it. It's like, you need to help him generalize. It's okay for him to talk here. To you fine. And then it's like, Now talk to this person. Now talk to your peers now talk to but it was her need to see that it's the context that the impact of the context has on on his learning and his use of skills. And from Iran. She's like, I can't I can't do anything in this class in this little speech closet. Because it doesn't make sense for these kids. And it was like, it was like, Yes, you got it. But that personal experience. I've seen it. That I think again, matters. Sorry, I got off the track again, sorry.
This is such helpful anecdotes that you're sharing. So it's I'm sure people will value listening to this. Tell us tell us about the Inclusive Education roadmap. So anyway, I want to do before I go to this question, I just want to hear a little bit about your journey from like, where you started in special ed, and how you are who you are today with all your amazing accomplishments, the tremendous contribution that you've made to the field.
Oh, okay. So you know a little bit about how I started. And before I before I actually got into my summer between my graduation when I started teaching kids with high incidence disabilities, because that's all that was out there. I worked at my first institution. And just for the summer, I worked with older women and there was a woman there who had been there like 50 years or something. Cognitive cognitively had no issues at all. But as a child, she had had a clubfoot. And the family put her in an institution because of her clubfoot. So it again got me to thinking about the systems and what happened to her hopefully wouldn't happen at that point, but potentially could. So so that impacted me, you know, again, And then I told you about starting to teach, but they were kids with high incidence disabilities. And it just wasn't really what I wanted to do. So I went back to institutions, and found kids starting to do more work. And then decided that I really needed to learn more. And I wanted to go for my master's. So I went to the school I went to as an undergrad, and this very wise professor, who I had respected, said to me, don't come here, you already know what we know. Either go to Madison, Wisconsin, and work with Lou Brown, or Elizabeth Vincent, or go to Vermont, and work with the Center on Developmental Disabilities, which was, so they were like the two top programs to go to at that point for masters. And I decided to move and go to Vermont. And because I lived in Illinois, and actually worked, worked first in a group home, in an adult Adult Services Program. And then, finally, in the institution in Vermont, that is now closed. And in all of those, I just felt like, we were spinning our wheels, I learned a lot, I learned a lot about individuals with disabilities. I once saw one of the girls, one of the younger girls who had come from the institution, I was moving into a group home that I was working in, and she was moving her stuff in, and I'm sorry, people won't be able to see this. I'm gonna have to describe it. She was unpacking her clothes and putting them into a drawer and a dresser. And she put them down, pulled her hands out, used one hand to slap the other hand, shake her finger at her hand, and kinda like yell at it. Like, you didn't do that, right? And then went back in, got her clothes and put them where she thought they should, should have been. And I thought, wow, what what did she learn who who did that? Why did they do that and look at what she walked away with. And it's not something I would want to be remembered for. But it really made me stop and think about okay, even if we're teaching students things, the way we teach, speaks volumes for who we are and what we think about human dignity and human value and empathy and
what they think about themselves and what the students think about themselves.
Yes, and what they think about themselves. Great point. So So through that I finally got got into the master's program there and did the master's program, which was a phenomenal, phenomenal program. And well, it was, I can't tell you how impressed I was with that program. And then I realized that about halfway through, I realized that all this was going to do was let me go back and do what I was doing before. I had already been an administrator in programs and it just, it wasn't sufficient. So I decided I really wanted to do to have a larger impact and decided the best way to do that was to help teachers learn more. So I decided to do a doctorate in teacher preparation, severe disabilities, and went to University of Illinois. Great folks again, didn't Did my did that program and really focused on the teacher preparation component, because that's where I thought I really need needed to be. So I did that. Did that for a number of years, worked on on grants for the TASH deafblind grant, the original grant worked in teacher prep in Texas and Buffalo, New York. And started then to think about teacher prep not being sufficient in meaning to look at systems and started to work with a few districts who were open to questions about what they were doing and, and quality mind shifting. And that started to teach me a lot and took me down a road that led more to systemic change, and thinking about sustainable change. Because we all know, I mean, you do stuff with a school list with the school and things were great and the principles right there you have a champion who's there supporting it, but as soon as that person goes, it frequently goes back to what was being done before. So I I realized that for me, that was not sufficient again. So I started to do more systems work. And then I decided I really wanted to also work with doctoral students. And, and where I was teaching in Buffalo didn't have that. So, and my husband finished his doctorate. So, again, we decided to move someplace where neither one of us knew anyone. And I could work with doctoral students. And that was the University of Florida. So we both moved Florida, you know, when he was in Tucson, I was in Buffalo, or we met in Florida. So and I was there for 19 years, working that first with with masters students, getting personal programs, working with masters students, working on getting grants for doctoral leadership, grants for tufan doctoral students who could work with me with that master's program. And then we also got, I also got grants to work with school districts. So I had my doctoral students then couldn't work with me with a doctoral with the school districts. And the personal preference, we ended up linking five universities, because none of us could sustain a program on our own. And we all had different expertise. So we linked them, and we linked our students. And we ended up doing a pretty early distance based master's program,
when you say we are talking about your colleagues who were doing
it, so I had colleagues at other universities in Florida. So we got together talked about it, and I wrote a grant that supported students, so many students in each of the programs. And then we could, for instance, of course, on transition, that's not my area, secondary education transition. So but Bruce McHattie, was at Florida State University at the time, and that's his area, like throws, my students need you. So how do we have them join your class, but still keep giving, they're still here, but they're joining your class across the state. And then we ended up linking students and faculty across five universities to make that happen.
Its such a wonderful thing. I wish more universities would do that for students,
it's not easy. It's not easy, because of, you know, student credit hours and faculty sell. I mean, it's just there's a lot there. So trying to make that work, I think is the way to go. I, we've got somehow we have to get through more university policies and procedures, because it's like they're in competition rather than being collaborative. So but that helped, that led me to, you know, working with a lot of doctoral students and seeing where they were going, which I'm thrilled with. And then it got time to start to slow down. So my husband got offered a position that he really liked. And up here in Raleigh, and we, I decided to leave and come up to Raleigh, and start doing consulting work. And somehow I got recruited into the chairs position, department chairs position at UNC Greensboro. So that led me back into administration, and some and teaching obviously, in working with duck students again. And then after, after doing that for a while, I became, I wrote one grant, and I was part of two other grants that national colleagues had submitted. And they all got funded at the same time. So it was like, there's so much to do here. So stopped being chair started to do these things. And, and that and one of those grants was the TIES National Technical Assistance Project Center, rather for inclusive education practices and policies. And that was a phenomenal grant to work on. So that led me to working with some state department's of education, some other great colleagues nationally and led us to the Inclusive Education roadmap that you referred to.
That is my next question.....So tell us about the Inclusive educaiton road map offered by the TIES center and its use.....It segues so nicely into it... What a rich journey you've had, my goodness, so many amazing things. And I think you have made change happen in the grassroots level, I would say every level in fact, and now you're moving on to, you know, systemic changes.
So before I before I answer the question about the roadmap. I do I do want to say that because not everybody's journey is like mine. Mine was pretty... I'm pretty driven and, if I don't see the change that I think I should be changing, I want to figure out why. So do we teach your prep was great, I loved it working with the initial deaf-blind grant was wonderful. I learned a lot about state departments and systems, but, and then doing teacher practice, I could, you know, the teachers were doing things. But it's it, it wasn't sufficient to see what I wanted to see for individuals with significant disabilities. So, um, but I will say that when I left Buffalo, a mother, great colleague, great friend, actually taught the classes that I taught after I left. And what is really interesting is over the decades, both myself and this person, have seen students who we had years ago, who are now either parents, in some cases, grandparents, or have sisters or neighbors who have kids with more significant disabilities. And we will hear back from them where they're saying, I can't believe I'm still I am using this information that I got in your class, to think about content and context and instruction. It's like, it is so helpful. So and we keep hearing from them and talking with them. Because I think that that's important to keep that network going. And realize that it's not even if you don't get into systems change work. I hope everybody does, because I think it's critical. But even if people don't, the ripples that we have, you know, it's like you, you know, you teach somebody something, and they then teach other people and, or they remember it when they need it, and the context calls for it. And so it's like, all the ripples make me more confident about the future, then I can just see just where I am, you know, because you only you only know what you know, and and the situations that that you're in, so and it's like I keep going into them. So it's good to hear other people who are also doing those things. I just needed to share that. Sorry. Thank you. Thank you. Yes, ripples. So
the ripple effect, and yeah, definitely every little seed that we plant will grow and make more seeds.
So that so the TIES center, one of the charges was to work with state department's of education school districts in those states and schools, to to look for sustainable systemic change across all levels of the system, which was very exciting to do. And then to figure out how to put that into a process that can be shared with districts and state departments so that they could go ahead and do that. So during the five years, I mean, we we worked with all those levels of systems. And and we we worked with the people at the Implementation Science Center in at Chapel Hill, who are for now again, phenomenal people to work with. So and trying to think about it, it's not sufficient to teach people how to do this, what do we need to do for the system so that it sustains it when we're gone? And that developed into what is called the Inclusive Education roadmap. It's kind of like how do you work with a system and start from the beginning, and think about mindset, but think about skills and thinking about policies. And I mean, all those pieces, and slowly work through develop action plans, and so forth. So that's the roadmap, and that you can find on the Thai center.org website, within that step two of that roadmap process is the use of the Rise Rise is ri s. E stands for reflecting on inclusive systems of education. And that it took us about two and a half years to do a solid lit review, to look at evidence based practices, promising practices, all related to inclusive education for students with extensive support needs. We looked at all those that we collected at all we tried to figure out how to organize it and how to help systems look at them. So the rise, we ended up with a right a set of rise tools for State Department for school districts and for schools. So if you're working at any of those levels, you can pull it or if you're working across the state system, you can use it at the different levels and it for each of those sets of rise tools there, we organize all of those indicators around four areas. Those four areas include first one is settings and contexts. So that it's everything from home school and Gen Ed settings. And what's happening in the context membership belongingness. so forth. Second one is the general education, curriculum and access. So it's not just saying, yeah, the kid needs, you know, to have access to the Gen Ed curriculum, what does that mean? And really focusing on the Gen Ed curriculum as the set of standards that all students should have access to, and progress on? And how do we use that? How do we start there and provide access. The third area is instructional practices. So that's Gen Ed's special ed, looking at how do you actually do good effect effective instruction on that content within the settings that you want. And then the fourth area is both student and system outcomes. So that is not just looking at accountability for for student growth. But we're also looking at how is the system changed, and how you measure that change? What the rise does, there's two, two steps to it. So if we're doing this, say, at the district level, we will do a part one. And Part One looks at all four of those areas. Very broadly. It takes like a half a day to do that. Because it's it, there's a lot of meat there. And then use that information to select one of the four areas to go into in more depth. So then, one of the districts we're working with now just to this, and they selected context and settings, the first area, because they're very aware that there's their students are not where they should be. So then, again, another half day, just to go through that, in detail, looking at all of these indicators of best practice, what you should be seeing in classrooms, and in schools and in systems. And then use the information from that, to develop objectives and an action plan. What what do you want to change? What do you want to see be different? And how are we going to go about doing that? So you're looking at like a day and a half of major commitment of key people at the level, we had the superintendent, we had the deputy superintendent, the chief academic officer, all of their special education folks, we had principals, we have parents. So mean, you're looking at probably about 15. Getting above 15 People starts to get a little more difficult, but 15 to 20 people who committed the time to do this. And we do the same type of thing at the school level. And you can do the same type of thing at a state level. So and then using that as the action plan to move forward to change the system. So the district we're working with now that we we've met the first few months, monthly just to keep get it going. And now we're meeting quarterly with the district team to keep track of where we are, where they are on their action plan, and making the changes that they want to see across the system. So the rise is step two of this inclusive education roadmap that pulls in other things, you know, besides just those those practices, so that's inclusive education, roadmap and the rise, you can get all people can get all that information right from the Tice center.or website. And if they have questions, happy to answer the questions if they want to contact me.
This is so interesting, and I can just imagine how many suitable brains must have gone into thinking through all these different steps, you know, addressing the setting, addressing the context, addressing you know, the instructional practices, and then the student outcomes. So you have resources under all of these that students at schools can actually use to make that change in their
right so there are there are tools that they can use to be reflective about where they are in their own evolution towards inclusive instruction practices. Also on the website, there are a lot of tools, a lot of resources for teachers and administrators, leadership tools, tools for sharing instructional strategies. There are a lot of resources on that website that I would encourage people.
I love that website. I've learned, I've gone through so many amazing resources from there. When Dr. Carter was here on our podcast a few months ago, his pure media chin section is so rich and helpful.
Well, he was he Dr. Carter was one of the experts that we brought in to help us look at we got all this stuff, what do we do with it? How do we how do we structure this to make it meaningful? I do have to say it is time consuming. I mean, the rise the US using the rise is time consuming. We we were told that we really needed to focus on sustainable systemic change. So one of the things we did, we looked at all the tools that were already out there, I think we found like 23 of them, either from other projects or from state departments, tools about inclusive practices. And you're like one shot deals, they're one page things or three page things, but they're short, they're concise, they're quick, and they're useful. We just know know that we realize and looking at implementation science information, that in my experience and our experiences, the use of those was not resulting in sustainable systemic change. It resulted in change in classes and change in school. But it wasn't getting to the issue of acknowledging that our systems have not changed. We're doing the same thing that we were doing decades ago. So we specifically said, we're going for the gold standard, where it's got to have everything in there, it's not going to be quick and easy. But systems change is not quick and easy. You're looking at a five to seven year process, from saying, Okay, we think we want to do something here, let's figure out where we are, where we want to be, and how we want to get there. So it's, we acknowledge that I want to put that out front. It's not something to pick up quickly and ease and use very easily with a school or a district. So
yeah, I think that investment early on is probably key to long term. viability for sure. Yeah. So do you have any success stories of the schools transition to inclusion using the ties model, maybe I think of your classroom that moved from being completely segregated to all students a full inclusion school,
I'm going to actually say that, I'm going to name the county because they're, they're very good. Carroll County Public Schools up in Maryland, was one of the districts that my team got to work with. And I cannot believe that the change the systemic changes that they were able to make within three years, and they're still working on it, they're still they're still going. It's still a process, even though your ties isn't funded. But they're going, but it's looking at what they believe they wanted to do. And having a systematic way to think about that. And to get it embedded across their system is this is not a special education initiative. This is education for all kids, inclusive ed for all kids, and how do we make that happen, and embed that include the students with more significant disabilities. So it's, I'm very, very proud of them. And again, if people want to be in touch with folks up there, happy to make a connection for them. I don't want to do it just just willy nilly because the I don't want I don't want the district to come back and say why did you tell all these people that follow us?
But I'm gonna put your contact in the show notes and we will have people reaching out to you.
That's okay, at least I can learn a little more and which person should they should I connect them with a teacher or a coach or principal, a director? You know, it's like a superintendent. So
it's wonderful. So, as you know, I'm an OT, and this podcast has a special focus on school based ot practitioners. How do you think school systems are utilizing the expertise of related service providers, especially occupational therapists to support the needs of students with extensive support needs? What is your opinion, can they do better? And if so how?
Yes. A quick answer. I think various districts and various schools are, are, are doing services are providing services with varying levels of success and understanding. It's, it's been wonderful to see whether it's an OT PT, or speech language pathologist kind of come into the process and go, Oh, my gosh, and then they become one of the catalysts for the other related services providers to understand because for some reason, I think related service providers seem to talk to each other, sometimes more than they do educators. And I get it, I get it. But, but for them to hear it from another therapist seems to be really effective, more effective. So just like principals, talking to principals, and so forth is more effective. So do I think they could be doing a better job? Overall? Yes, I do. I really do. And I've seen the difference again, in the kids, and their performance. When the context and the approach to using the strategies that you guys know, so well, but using those within a context that makes sense for for the student, or is is motivating for that student, is it's priceless. And the more that we can get that to happen, the better. I think our I know, that our students will be, but I also think the more more fulfilled, we all feel when we see the kids succeed. It's like, oh, my gosh, I made high made a difference in this kid's life. And that's something we all want to do.
So yeah, I mean, the core of our education, almost all the models of practice that we have, in OT, have this person context and activity component to it. So drilled into our brains about addressing the context for successful participation, for occupational engagement. And that's just like so cold to us. But then when it comes to practice, somehow, we just are not able to implement our learning of the systemic challenges. So I just wish, if the administrators knew what OTS learn in school, I'm sure they would completely do it differently. And I think OTS also must understand what education system teaches and what the teachers are focused on. Because we have our education has started off in a medical model. And we tend to associate ourselves can keep ourselves more exclusive to we know something different from what you do, we will come and support you. No, that's not the case, we need to understand what is happening in the education system. So for us meaningfully bringing the changes and impact our students so yeah, for sure. So how do you keep it all together?
I think I'm one of those people that would go crazy. If I had the same job from eight to five, and everyday look the same, it would drive me nuts. So I know sometimes I overcome it. And I you know, get myself in some some stressful situations just to get everything done. But how do I keep it all together with help with help? And and I surround myself with people who are brighter than me. I surrounded myself with doctoral students and colleagues nationally, who have the same work ethic and the same values. And we support each other. So it isn't me keeping it together. It really is a team of people who are just as committed as I am, who put it all together and I've worked with some phenomenal people. just phenomenal.
That's so true voice takes a village What is your final takeaway for our listeners?
First and foremost, find somebody else that shares your values, shares your work ethic, and and can support you or with whom you can collaborate, to do what do the work you want to do. That's number one. Once you found that person, systematically work on building a network that the two of you can just keep adding on to because this is work that can easily isolate us. And it's very difficult to do this and sustain it if you're alone. And, and when I say this work, I mean, providing effective services for for the individuals with the most significant cognitive disabilities in contexts that truly make a difference in their quality of life, both short term and long term.
Thank you so much. This was helpful.
Thank you, Dr.Ryndak.
Thank you. This was a lot of fun. Oh, I hope it makes sense to folks and let me know if there's anything else I can do. So thank you.