Monday, 3 November 2014

The Joy of Motherhood...

Oh well, my absence from this blog in the last couple of weeks was not without a reason. And it’s my pleasure to announce to you (my dear blog readers) that I took time off to have a baby! Actually, my first child, and it happened in the 10th year of my marriage!  How awesome!

I am so so thankful to God for the whole experience of being a mom. I agree that there is the lack of sleep, official sick days and other inconveniences that come with pregnancy and childbirth. But I also agree that this added "job role" comes with exceeding joy and fulfillment.

I have always being a passionate lover of children, and for years I have voluntarily cared for other people’s children, including the ones with special needs.  And when mine did not appear to be forthcoming many years after being married to a most wonderful man, I chose to place my absolute trust in the knowledge that God will eventually make it happen for me someday…

And on the 5th of October 2014, I was delivered of a precious and adorable baby girl! We’ve named her “Tehilla,” a Hebrew word which means praise, in honour of the Almighty God who made it possible for me to experience the joy of motherhood after many years of hope and expectation.

Here are some photos with Tehilla…

Here's a word of encouragement to anyone who may be in that position of waiting for a baby: NEVER EVER GIVE UP YOUR HOPE AND TRUST IN GOD...Be blessed!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

The Power of ART in Child Development

In recent years, school curricula in the United States has shifted towards Common Core  subjects of reading and math.  An essential component of this change in pedagogy  are the 21st century skills. Skills needed to support critical thoughts, group discussion, problem solving, decision making, team work and creativity.  Creativity is one of the skills that needs to be fostered during early years and appreciated through life. It is often neglected by the  imperativeness of a  “perfect” product to prove the mastery of a skill. Early years are crucial in the development of creativity, and the ideal arena in the preschool classroom is the art area.

The importance of art in Child Development is undeniable. Art is important because it encompasses all of the developmental and learning domains in children’s maturation. Art lends itself to physical development and the enhancement of fine and gross motor skills, cognitive development including math and analytical thinking, and of course, language and social emotional development. As an educator, foster creativity in your classroom by providing a variety of utensils, tools and modalities to produce creations that reflect the individuality of each child. During the process, ask open ended questions and stimulate critical thinking skills.
Observational Drawings
Observational drawings are  opportunities for children to develop their  attention to details, comparisons skills, focus, small muscle development, and creativity. If you need more information visit this website:

Art is a process, not a product
Participating in art activities has been proven time and time again to help children develop cognitive, social and emotional skills they will need throughout their lifetime. Art helps children develop creative problem solving skills and learn to communicate thoughts, feelings and ideas in a variety of ways. Artistic endeavors also help children learn to adapt to and respect others' ways of working and thinking, as well as gain the tools necessary to develop empathy. When exposed to art in an effective way, children can learn that like most things in life, art is a process that is to be explored. Art is not something that should be "done" for the purpose of producing an end result that should be measured or compared.

In the classroom, art education is a crucial component for a child's personal development. Several studies have concluded that art education is important at a young age because children are still developing their critical thinking and problem solving skills >>> (

Studies have also shown that there is a direct correlation between arts education at a young age and academic achievement later in life >>> (

This article was contributed by: MARIA TERESA RUIZ, a Child Development Consultant, and Vice President & Co-founder of Purpleiam (

Friday, 12 September 2014

Help Make Special Education Accessible to the Lowest Income Families in Nigeria!

Dear Friends,

With your help we can make this dream come true...The DREAM of providing full tuition scholarship to a total of 10 selected special needs students from households that earn less than $1 per day, cutting across the entire Federal Capital Territory, Abuja in Nigeria...Click here to read the details and also to contribute whatever you can; no amount is too little. Thank you for your kind support!

Social Emotional Development in Children

All children are born eager to explore their world and master their development.
From conception to a child’s first day of kindergarten, development proceeds at a pace exceeding any stage of life. Infants, toddlers and preschoolers rapidly develop capabilities in emotional regulation, relationships, cognition, motor development and language. These abilities form the foundation from which all future development builds.

Our job as educators it to help them build that foundation by providing a high quality environment that supports their needs. However, intentional activities that provide children with an ability to acquire and master their school readiness skills are crucial in a preschool setting. Some of these abilities include children’s social competence to succeed in a social situation.

Relationships enable young children to care about people by establishing the human connection between self and others. As a consequence of early relationships, young children seek to understand the feelings, thoughts and expectations of others, as well as the importance of cooperation and sharing. The young child’s identity is shaped by the interactions that they have with others who are significant in their lives – parents, educators, peers and other family members.

The beginning of a new school year provides you with the opportunity to shape social relationships in your classroom setting.  Environment is a crucial element in this process. Make sure that your classroom environment reflects your philosophy as an educator, but most importantly that it fits your children and families’ needs and cultural background.

Educational Links
Take advantage of research based activities, strategies and ideas.

Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning, offers you a variety of resources to support children’s social emotional development including training modules, kits and videos on the following topics: transitions, managing behaviors, peer social interactions, etc.

Technical Assistance Center on Social Emotional Intervention for young children is a great resource for educators. You can download a variety of newsletters to keep you parent-teacher communication open. They address topics such as: ”How to help your child understand and recognize anger,” “transitions between places and activities” etc. 

This article was contributed by: MARIA TERESA RUIZ, a Child Development Consultant, and Vice President & Co-founder of Purpleiam (

Monday, 8 September 2014

The Abuja - Special Education Empowerment for Development (SPEED) Project

Dear Readers,

I'd like to appreciate the readership and support which my Blog as well as my organization, the Comprehensive Autism and related Disabilities Education and Training (C.A.D.E.T.) Academy® has enjoyed from you since our inception. I am pleased to inform you that the C.A.D.E.T. Academy® is currently expanding its scope of services by embarking on a project which we have tagged The Abuja - Special Education Empowerment for Development (SPEED) Project. The Abuja SPEED project is planned to provide full tuition scholarship to a total of 10 selected special needs students from households that earn less than $1 per day , cutting across the entire Federal capital Territory, Abuja.

The main focus is to kick-start a special education intervention process that will be affordable to any family regardless of their income status. The Abuja - SPEED Project will cater for the peculiar needs of these 10 selected students living with Autism and related learning/intellectual disabilities in addition to our existing special needs students. The Project will be manned by our current special educators at the C.A.D.E.T. Academy® and other specialists and volunteers who we will employ and train as the need arises.
Please visit the link below for information on how you can possibly contribute to this vision...

Thank you for supporting the vision of the C.A.D.E.T. Academy®. Please accept our best regards. 

Sunday, 31 August 2014

How much do you know about Students with Intellectual Disabilities?

I find it quite interesting that in many societies, specifically in Nigeria where I live, there exists a significant number of individuals living with intellectual disabilities, yet very little is understood about them. Oftentimes, they have erroneously been tagged as "imbecile," or "mentally retarded."


The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD) defines intellectual disability as, 

"a disability characterized by significant limitations both in intellectual functioning and in adaptive behaviour as expressed in conceptual, social, and practical adaptive skills. This disability originates before age 18."

From the definition, 2 deductions can be made as follows:

a.      Intellectual disability involves problems in adaptive behaviour, not just intellectual functioning.

b.     Persons with intellectual disability can improve (particularly,  those with mild intellectual disability).

Persons with intellectual disabilities are professionally classified as follows:
        a.      Mild (IQ of about 50 to 70)
        b.     Moderate (IQ of about 35 to 50)
        c.      Severe (IQ of about 20 to 35)
        d.     Profound (IQ below 20)

Causes and Identification

Some of the causes of intellectual disabilities are as follows:
a.      Chromosomal disorders such as in Down Syndrome.
b.     Disorders of brain formation.
c.      Maternal malnutrition during gestation.
d.     Fetal alcohol syndrome.
e.      Traumatic brain injury.
f.      Possible hereditary causes.
g.     Unstimulating adult-child interactions can also lead to mild intellectual disabilities.

Individuals with intellectual disabilities can be identified by assessments which combine individual IQ tests and adaptive behaviour measures. The IQ tests are used to assess intelligence while the adaptive behaviour usually involve the parents, teacher or other professional answering questions related to the individuals independence and daily living skills and maladaptive behaviour. (Hallahan, Kauffman, & Pullen, 2012).

Special Education for Learners with Intellectual Disabilities

Special education considerations for these individuals will be such that if the learner has a lower degree of intellectual disability, the teacher should emphasize academic skills. However, if the individual displays a higher degree of intellectual disability, emphasis should be on self-help, community living and vocational skills development.

When the intellectually disabled student is included in a regular classroom, teachers should plan creative ways to prevent the student from feeling socially isolated and becoming inattentive. Peer assisted learning (PAL) is a great way to achieve this goal.

As in most cases of developmental disabilities, early intervention programs can successfully improve the development of children with intellectual disabilities.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Tips for Dealing with Exceptional Learners...

Students with special educational needs have a unique knowledge of their own needs and circumstances.  They will have their own views about what sort of help they would like to assist them with their education.  Students should where possible have an input into the decision making process.  The students help with the setting of goals and learning targets could be a motivational factor in their education.

As students get older or develop more skills then they should be involved in the IEP process in some meaningful way.  They could provide input into the meeting.  They could be involved in the final part of the meeting.  Learning to advocate for your self is a useful skill for students to develop.  Students can be involved in the assessment process.  This will help them understand the process and may reduce anxiety.

Teachers’ codes of practice are suggesting there is a need to involve students in the development of services to assist those who need help (Scottish Executive, 2005).

Here is a suggested list of strategies:

  • Students should be fully informed about and be prepared for meetings.
  • Meetings should be held with familiar adults.
  • Students should be asked about their preference for who attends the meeting.
  • Students should have a choice in the way they get their views across in the meetings.
  • Students should be given evidence that they have been listened to during a meeting.
  • The language used in the meetings should be accessible to students.
  • Written feedback should be shared with the students.

The challenge is to be able to provide an accessible meeting for a range of students. 

This article was contributed by: Bob Leeming, a Registered Psychologist with the Ministry of Education, New Zealand. (

Monday, 4 August 2014

My Interview on ThisDay Newspaper...

Recently I was interviewed by ThisDay Newspaper and featured on the publication for Sunday, 3 August 2014, on pages 72 and 73. The interview was focused on Why Parents Are in Denial of Autism. Actually the details of the interview cover more than just that topic. For those of you who may not have read the newspaper, here's a link to read it online, HERE >>> 

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Managing Learners with Learning Disabilities

Have you ever wanted to understand more fully how special education teachers handle learners with Learning Disabilities? Educators have struggled over the years to formulate a clearer and comprehensive definition of the term learning disability, which generally describes children of seemingly normal intelligence who, nevertheless, have learning problems.

It's interesting to note that learning disabilities are so real even though they have not been clearly understood and well defined by scholars. I am reminded of the numerous children I have come across here in Nigeria who displayed behaviours that could be attributed to learning disabilities, but were clearly misunderstood. Of course, many learners with learning disabilities may have apparently normal intelligence but still experience learning problems and this can be frustrating for them, as well as their teachers and parents. For this reason, some of these students have been even tagged as ‘block heads’ or ‘dull students,’ and taken through horrifying experiences. Now it keeps becoming clearer to me, that special educators have a huge responsibility in seeking out the best ways to identify and educate students with learning disabilities.   

Over time, I have also realised that, first, teachers would have to come to terms with the definition of, and how to identify learning disabilities in order to find the best educational approaches/interventions.

Out of the many acceptable definitions of learning disabilities, the most influential definition so far is the definition by the U.S. National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities (NJCLD).

"Learning disabilities is a general term that refers to a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities. These disorders intrinsic to the individual, presumed to be due to central nervous system dysfunction, and may occur across the lifespan. Problems in self-regulatory behaviours, social perception and social interaction may exist with learning disabilities but do not by themselves constitute a learning disability.
Although learning disability may occur concomitantly with other handicapping conditions (e.g., sensory impairment, mental retardation, serious emotional disturbance) or with extrinsic influences (e.g., cultural differences, insufficient or inappropriate instruction), they are not the result of those conditions or influence."

Although the definition sheds more light on the issue, it's still not very clear to many folks, how an individual having apparently normal intelligence could cope with learning disabilities. It's however, encouraging that “identification procedures for learning disabilities are currently in a state of transition” (Hallahan, 2012), in my opinion this gives room for further research into the subject.

Currently, Response to Intervention (RTI), a multi-tiered approach practised in the U.S. is favored as the more acceptable way of identifying students with learning disabilities. Statistics indicate that just under 5% of children between the ages of 6 and 7 years in the U.S. have been identified as learning disabled by the U.S. public schools. This highlights the fact that learning disability is by far the largest category of special education in the U.S. An important question one could ask, is, does this statistic include learners with exceptionalities as well? What about those who physical challenges have caused to become learners with disabilities, such as those who are blind or deaf, are they also a part of this category?

In any case, the exact causes of learning disability have not yet been fully discovered, however results from various studies have shown that “Central Nervous System (CNS) dysfunction could be the cause of many, if not most cases of learning disabilities.”  Some sources of problems for learners with learning disabilities include:

          a.       Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
          b.       Memory and metacognitive problems
          c.       Social – emotional problems
          d.       Motivational problems
          e.       Inactive learner with strategy deficits

In addition, the following are some of the psychological and behavioural characteristics of learners with learning disabilities:

a.    Persons with learning disability exhibit interindividual and intraindividual variability.
b.  Reading disabilities in the form of decoding, fluency, and comprehension problems.
c.   Phonological and phonemic awareness.
d.   Writing disabilities in form of handwriting, spelling and composition.
e.  Spoken language disabilities in form of syntax, semantics, phonology and pragmatics.
f.     Math disabilities including computation and word problems.

You may not be aware that even though students with learning disabilities struggle in one area of learning, they may also excel in another. Thus, paying attention to the student’s interests and passions would help them develop their passions and strengths, and probably help them with their areas of difficulty as well.

Some important considerations with respect to early intervention for learners with learning disabilities are as follows:

a.       Little preschool programming exists for children with learning disabilities because it's so hard to predict at that age which children will later develop academic problems.

b.      Even though prediction is not perfect, several developmental milestones are related to comprehension or expression of spoken language, emergent literacy skills, and perceptual skills that indicate the possibility of having learning disabilities.

As a special educator, one of the most important lessons I have learned is that every individual, (learning disability or not) has their own unique learning style. Some students learn best by seeing or reading, others by listening, and still others by doing. Parents can help their learning disabled child by identifying his or her primary learning style. For example, is the child a visual learner, an auditory learner, or a kinesthetic learner? Once the child’s best learning style is known, steps may easily be taken to make sure that type of learning is reinforced in the classroom and during home study.   

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Is There a Child with Special Needs in the Classroom?

This post was written as a contribution to the Living Life Special Blog Carnival. It was culled from

One year, I had a boy with autism in a wheelchair in my Kindergaten classroom. He had an aide. As nervous parents and children entered the classroom for the first day of school, Mason screamed and used repetitive language to let us know he was not comfortable in his new setting. 

Photo by Tiaras and Bowties

Some parents complained to the principal and wondered how I could teach with a disruptive child in my classroom. The parents were escorted out of the room and led to a Boo Hoo Breakfast where they were assured that everything would be fine and learning would happen. Eventually, we all adjusted and were blessed to have this child with special needs teach us some things – especially about ourselves. Children helped push Mason’s wheelchair, parents were genuinely concerned about his well-being, and learning occurred for all of us on many levels.

I learned that children are much more accepting of other children regardless of any differences. In fact, they don't notice, or care about, many of the differences that adults notice. It is always interesting to me to see which children will help children with special needs. These will be the future doctors, nurses, social workers, teachers and volunteers.

How Can You Help?
  • Talk with children about Special Needs when the child is out of the classroom for therapy or when you are alone with your own child. What do we mean when we say "kids with special needs?" This means any child who might need extra help because of a medical, emotional, or learning problem. These children have special needs because they might need medicine, therapy, or extra help in school.
  • It is important to not be overly helpful when no help is needed. Children with special needs like to be as independent as they can be.
  • Some children might think it is not fair that a particular child gets to go with another teacher for play therapy, speech, occupational or physical therapies. Explain that they need extra help in some area. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses and we all need help with something and we all need friends.
  • Tell the children that if a special needs person is being teased or bullied, to make sure an adult knows.

    How Can Children Help?
    • A blind child may need help carrying books.
    • A child in a wheelchair may need someone to push the chair.
    • A child with Down Syndrome might need a friend to play with at recess or sit with at lunch.
    • A child with autism might need a good listener.
    • An emotionally disturbed child might need a good role model.
    • A depressed child might need a hand to hold.

    We all need friends who are understanding, patient, forgiving, offer encouragement and are good listeners. Remember, it is important to listen and be supportive in return.


    Monday, 12 May 2014


    Response to intervention (RTI) is an approach to teaching and learning that provides students that are struggling with an immediate plan of action to succeed. RTI focuses on early intervention, frequent progress monitoring, and continuously evaluated research based methods of instruction. The process combines best practice instruction with a tiered system of remedial intervention for children who need additional help in learning. Successful teaching depends on close observation of the students’ response to the tiered interventions integral to RTI and the subsequent development of similar additional interventions as needed. 

    RTI involves the practice of providing high-quality core instruction based on students’ needs, using data and progress monitoring to provide increasingly intensive educational interventions in a timely manner for students who struggle in core instruction. In other words, RTI is a process designed for early identification of “at risk” learners, to identify children with learning disabilities and also to provide needed intervention.

    RTI is defined as a multi-component system that requires general education and special education teachers to work together to collect and analyze student data, make data-based decisions, and apply appropriate instructional interventions based on individual student needs.

    RTI is a multi-tiered system of support for all students which involve the use of problem solving model i.e. problem definition, problem analysis, deciding what action to take, intervening, student’s progress monitoring, and problem evaluation.

    Source: St. Croix Central Schools

    In Tier 1, all students are given scientifically based teaching, customized to meet their needs, and their progress is monitored on a regular basis to identify struggling learners who need extra support.

    In Tier 2, students not making satisfactory progress in the core curriculum are given increasingly targeted instruction corresponding to their needs and based on how well they perform and their rate of progress.

    In Tier 3, students are given individualized, intensive interventions that aim at the students' skill deficits for the remediation of existing challenges and the prevention of more significant problems.

    The progress monitoring data gathered from tier 1 to 3 is then used as information for evaluation in the eligibility process for special education services.

    Are you familiar with the RTI process? Share your thoughts with us...