WESTFIELD, NJ -- The Westfield Parent-Teacher Council and the Special Education Committee presented the 20th Annual Awareness Expo at the Edison Intermediate School on March 20.
The expo started with the presentation of the 2013 Make a Difference Award to Special Education Supervisor Andrea Lo. Lo began as a special educaiton teacher and has worked in special education in Westfield schools for the past 25 years.
“It was amazing to me the depth that she understood and got the students’ needs,” said Dr. Michael Weissman.
Lo was presented the award by Helene Bergman, one of the co-chairs of the Special Education Committee.
“It’s really an honor to receive this,” said Lo. “I’m very fortunate to have a job I love coming to. I’m very proud of the work we do in the special services of Westfield and there is nowhere I’d rather work than Westfield.”
The Expo's nine speaker programs took place in specified classrooms. Educators who attended the programs in their entirely received professional development hours, as well as a certificate. All ofthe programs were repeated twice, except the Insider’s Guide to College for Students with Special Need, which ran two different programs--one on college Students with Learning Disabilities and another on College for Students with Mental Issues.
Jaime Lehrhoff, founder of the Livingston Educational Center, LLC, was the speaker for the program Dyslexia 101: Covering the Basics. Lehrhoff presented a power point presentation about dyslexia, a neurological disorder that causes brains to process and interpret information differently.
“It is hereditary, but that doesn’t mean if you have it your child has it,” said Lehrhoff. “Its 50/50.”
Another program that was We Have an App for That: The iPad/iPhone-Using Technology to Break Down Barriers by special education and computer specialist Randall Palmer.
“What makes those devices so special?,” said Palmer to the classroom. “What’s really hitting in the special education market is the simplicity.”
Palmer went on to discuss how easy it is for anybody to learn to use an iPad, especially for those with special learning needs such as autism and dyslexia. Palmer also discussed the iPad application Clickerdocs, an assistive word processor with word prediction and auditory feedback.
A program was given on diagnosing and Treating Developmental Problems by Dr. Andrea Richards, a Pediatric Neurologist at Children’s Specialized Hospital in Mountainside, NJ. Aside from ways to identify the student’s individual developmental problem, Richards also described when to seek help from a psychiatrist and when to seek help from a neurologist. She mentioned red flag signs such as severe worry, aggressiveness and responding to internal stimuli as a need to contact a psychiatrist.
“If there is any threat to harm themselves or others, a psychiatrist needs to be contacted,” said Richards, “the earlier you start intervening the better for the child.”
"The expo is a great opportunity for special needs parents, educators and practitioners to come together and learn from one another. As a special needs parent, I know how challenging it can to find the right resources, much less peers," said Julie Steinberg, co-chair of the Awareness Expo. "The Expo is a place for both."