PSU project in the Republic of Georgia aids persons with disabilities

Hollie Hix-Small (left) with employees of the Free-Space Café—a social enterprise designed to raise awareness and support the needs of persons with disabilities in the Republic of Georgia.

Hollie Hix-Small (left) with employees of the Free-Space Café—a social enterprise designed to raise awareness and support the needs of persons with disabilities in the Republic of Georgia.

Hollie Hix-Small, an early intervention specialist in the Special Education Department, is partnering with several organizations in the Republic of Georgia. Since 2011, she has worked with Open Society Foundations to build early intervention (EI) services for children with developmental delays and disabilities. Hix-Small has hosted Georgian EI specialists interested in learning about EI practices in the United States. Together with local service district partners, Hix-Small introduced them to services in Portland. They are part of an emerging effort in Georgia to transform the lives of individuals with disabilities.

“Eastern Europe and Central Asia have the highest rates of institutionalized children in the world,” said Hix-Small in a recent article she authored in the Open Society Foundations newsletter. “For many, placement in an institution begins at birth.” Continue reading

GSE students find help for children disabled by Zika virus

Go Baby Go toddler Students in Professor Sam Sennott’s Introduction to Special Education class at PSU have found a way to help children in Brazil who have birth defects caused by the Zika virus. The students have set up a fundraiser called Go Baby Go Brazil that will provide specially modified toy cars to very young children who have mobility issues. In Sennott’s class, students study about microcephaly and other conditions, like spina bifida, cerebral palsy, and Down syndrome that delay development and prevent mobility. The students volunteered to build Go Baby Go cars and focused on raising money to provide cars for Brazil as a class project.

Go Baby Go build June 2016Go Baby Go is an emerging movement that began at the University of Delaware and is spreading across the country. The students participated in a local Go Baby Go build event in June. Volunteers at the event are trained to modify the toy cars that are individually customized to fit children as young as six months old. The June build event was directed by Portland physical therapist Bethany Sloane, along with the coordinator of Go Baby Go Oregon, Sam Logan. Eight cars were assembled at that event, and Sloane hopes to have a build event each month as money becomes available. Continue reading

PSU nets $1.2 million grant for orientation and mobility training

COMETThe US Department of Education awarded the PSU Graduate School of Education a $1,247,470 grant to develop a new certificate program to train orientation and mobility (O&M) specialists. This program will be linked to the existing PSU Visually Impaired Learner (VIL) program.

Over the next five years, Project COMET, Certified Orientation and Mobility Educators in Training, will prepare 38 fully trained and highly qualified O&M specialists to help individuals who are blind or visually impaired to develop the skills necessary for independent and safe travel within their homes, workplaces, and communities. Continue reading

Julie Esparza Brown named Distinguished Latino Educator

Julie Brown Graduate School Education Associate Professor Julie Esparza Brown has earned the Oregon Association of Latino Administrators (OALA) 2016 Distinguished Latino Educator award. The award is given to a Latino educator who has “exhibited leadership in educational administration and has implemented strategies or activities aligned with OALA’s mission, purpose and goals in their district or institution.”

Brown, an associate professor in Special Education, is a tireless educator and advocate for second-language learners. She is the originator of the award-winning Bilingual Special Education (BiSPED) Program, a five-year grant-funded program that prepares bilingual/bicultural special education teachers who are uniquely skilled to differentiate English learners who may be struggling due to language differences rather than disabilities.

In 2001, she was named the director of the Bilingual Teacher Pathway program, an award-winning program that identifies bilingual classroom assistants and supports their entry and completion of teacher licensure. Through this program, more than 300 PSU bilingual teacher alumni are now working in schools throughout the region.

“It is difficult to measure the impact of her work, but her legacy in Oregon education is one of an educator who will stand by us and help us through our moments of uncertainty,” said Marisol Jimenez, ELL, Migrant Education and Equity coordinator at Northwest Regional Education Service District. “We are honored to have Dr. Brown as a colleague and friend and she is well deserving of recognition for changing the color of teachers in Oregon.”

In June 2015, Brown was elected to the Portland Public Schools (PPS) board. PPS is one of the largest school districts in the Pacific Northwest, with 49,000 students, 44.1 percent nonwhite.

GSE alumna Marilyn DeVault donates winnings to GSE scholarship

Marilyn DeVault displays one of her cakes, with professor emeritus Steve Brannan

Marilyn DeVault displays one of her cakes, with professor emeritus Steve Brannan

Alumna Marilyn DeVault, MS ’71, has parlayed what she learned in the Graduate School of Education (GSE) Special Education program at PSU into a career, “creating desserts that are amazing and that all can enjoy.” This includes her patrons with special dietary needs. And, thanks to her skills and talent, she is able to donate $10,000 toward a scholarship to support students in the Special Education program.

DeVault studied special education under Professor Steve Brannan, one of the founders of the Special Education Department, and received her master’s in 1971. After graduating, she taught students with disabilities for several years. In 1978, she made a career change, opening the Piece of Cake Bakery in Sellwood. Here, she combined her love of baking with her interest in supporting people with special needs. Abundant research exists on the impact of nutrition and learning. Devault’s teaching experience inspired her to address dietary issues, developing formulas that are gluten-free, organic, and vegan. Her bakery offers a wide variety of items that meet the needs of people who are pursuing gluten-free or other food sensitivity–related diets. Continue reading

New grant provides college access to individuals with intellectual disabilities

Ann Fullerton and Susan Bert

Ann Fullerton and Susan Bert

For the first time in Oregon, individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID) will have access to an inclusive university experience. A $2.5 million, five-year grant from the US Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education will create a college program that enrolls students with ID in regular PSU classes and culminates in the certification of skills for eventual employability and adult life. Ann Fullerton and Susan Bert, faculty in the Graduate School of Education, are co-directors of the project. Ruth Falco, Director, Research Center on Inclusive and Effective Educational Practices, was instrumental in bringing partners together for the project and in writing the grant proposal, and will serve as the project evaluator. The Think College Inclusion Oregon (TCIO) project is the first of its kind at a four-year university in Oregon.

“For many young adults, college is a path to independent living and preparation for employment in a chosen career area. Traditionally, individuals with intellectual disabilities have been excluded from the college experience, when college can be a critical step toward their success as adults,” said Fullerton.

PSU faculty and staff will design a program that provides inclusive college coursework, the option to live on campus, and preparation for future employment. The grant also provides academic advising and other academic support to help ensure students with ID are successful in their individualized college experiences. The plan is for 35 TCIO students to participate. The project will start small and focus on building capacity over five years. Continue reading