Program Chair Invited Sessions

CEC 2013 Convention Program Chair Douglas Cheney has planned a rich and substantive invited program with a range of session formats.

Program Chair Invited Sessions include Town Hall Meetings, Roundtable Discussion Sessions, as well as Featured Multicultural Sessions. Join experts in the field of special education and related disciplines and participate in the dialogue on current and relevant topics.

Bridging Cognitive Neuroscience and Special Education: Developing Leaders to Transform Teaching and Learning

Thursday, April 4, 2013 -- 8:00-10:00 a.m.

Leaders: Carol A. Kochhar-Bryant and Maxine Freund, George Washington University, Washington, DC; and James Hale, University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Many important advances are occurring in the cognitive sciences that are transforming our understanding of how children grow, acquire knowledge, language, and skills; and conceptualize their social, emotional, and moral worlds.  In spite of the long-standing recognition that brain processes and learning are inextricably linked, relatively little is known about the relationships among neurological, cognitive, or emotional development and its impact on learning. New understanding about brain development challenges leaders in matters of educational practice and policy to rethink their conventional wisdom and long-standing practices, which has implications for every aspect of teaching and learning within special and general education environments.

This session will (1) present the theory, principles, and a compelling rationale for bridging cognitive neuroscience and special education and for the translation of research for practice and policy; (2) discuss lessons learned, as well as outcome data, from our journey through a multi-year transformation of our traditional special education program; and (3) introduce strategies for incorporating emerging brain research into special education leadership curriculum.

At the end of this session, participants will:

  1. Explain the importance of bridging cognitive neuroscience and special education, and be able to interpret the translation of cognitive neuroscience research for advancing special education policy and for promoting innovation in the design of learning environments and supports.
  2. Define the dimensions of ‘neuroeducation' and be able to identify the competencies required to create 'neuroeducation' leaders, in the areas of content, clinical experiences, and translational research skills.
  3. Understand how a foundation in neuroscience constructs will provide both a new basis for understanding and exploring persistent developmental challenges and for promoting innovation in the design of learning environments and supports.
  4. Reflect on the perspectives of faculty who experienced a multi-year transformation of our traditional special education program, and be able to identify strategies for incorporating emerging brain research into leadership curriculum.
  5. Explain and interpret why education leaders need to understand (a) the neuroscience of reading, math, writing, and oral language; (b) how brain-based individual differences require instructional modifications and accommodations; how brain-based individual differences lead to disability; and (c)how different disabilities have different patterns of academic and behavioral functioning on cognitive and academic measures; and (d) how the brain changes in response to instructional practices that meet individual needs.

Research Directions: A Report on and Discussion of the 2012 IRA/NICHD Expert Panel on Research on the Reading-Writing Connection

Thursday, April 4, 2013 -- 8:00-10:00 a.m.

Leaders: Karen R. Harris, Arizona State University, Scottsdale and Carol McDonald Connor, Arizona State University, Tempe
Presenter: Steve Graham, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN

The International Reading Association (IRA) and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) convened a panel to consider research on the relationships between reading and writing. Panel members had expertise in literacy processes, literacy instruction, assessment, learners with special needs, and early childhood education. The panel was given two charges: (1) to create a document that summarizes the current state of understanding about the reading-writing connection, and (2) to describe a set of priorities for future research on the connection. This session will share the findings which focus on reading and writing processes and development; instructional issues; technology; measurement, tests, and assessment; research needs, and sharing the current knowledge base. These findings have important implications for special education research and practice and will inform policy makers and funding agencies, including the U.S. Department of Education, in setting priorities for research in the next 3 to 5 years. Time will be allowed for audience interaction with the panel.

At the end of this session, participants will:

  1. Have detailed knowledge of the IRA/NICHD report on research focused on reading-writing connections and the implications of this report for special education research and practice.
  2. Have the opportunity to ask questions of the presenters and be part of discussion with the audience.

The Intersection of the Arts and Special Education: A Kennedy Center Forum

Thursday, April 4, 2013 -- 8:00-10:00 a.m.

Leader: Beverly Levett Gerber, Southern Connecticut State University, New Haven
Presenters: Sharon Malley, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, DC

Arts educators, special educators, administrators, researchers, practitioners, parents, and students with disabilities were invited by The Kennedy Center/VSA to a groundbreaking forum that explored where and how the arts and special education intersect. That intersection and future goals and directions will be shared. Audience participation is encouraged.

At the end of this session, participants will:

  1. Learn about the topic areas discussed at the forum.
  2. Learn about recommendations to bring arts and special education closer together.
  3. Offer their own insights and recommendations for the arts and special education.

What to Do With a PhD: Understanding Career Options and Preparing for the Right Job After Graduation

Thursday, April 4, 2013 -- 10:30-11:30 a.m.

Leaders: Chriss Walther-Thomas, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond and Cynthia C. Griffin, University of Florida, Gainesville

Findings from the recent ED Special Education Faculty Needs Assessment indicate that the demand for special education PhDs will continue to outstrip the pool of qualified candidates. Although more than 1,500 U.S. universities and colleges train special education teachers, fewer than 100 institutions provide doctoral-level preparation. This ratio presents interesting challenges for the field.

During this 2-hour session, designed specifically for current doctoral students and doctoral advisors, traditional higher education careers and other viable PhD options will be explored. During the first hour, five early-career panelists will discuss their work and share strategies for effective alignment of professional and personal goals. During the second hour, presenters will discuss formal and informal doctoral-program learning experiences that help prepare students for career success after graduation.

At the end of this session, participants will:

  1. Identify at least five postgraduation careers for special education PhDs
  2. Teacher educator
  3. Project-funded researcher
  4. Program coordinator or administrator (LEA or SEA)
  5. OSEP project officer
  6. Educational consultant
  7. Generate a list of potential advantages and disadvantages associated with various career choices discussed during this session.
  8. Identify informal and formal doctoral student learning experiences that facilitate effective preparation for various PhD-level careers.

Implementing Effective Program Evaluation to Improve Systems and Supports for Students With Challenging Behaviors

Thursday, April 4, 2013 -- 3:45-4:45 p.m.

Leader: Bridget Walker, Seattle University, WA

When developing and implementing systems to support students with challenging behaviors, schools on their own often do not have the capacity or organizational structures to sustain or measure systemic improvements. Additionally, bridging the ongoing research-to-practice divide in this area remains a challenge. This session will focus on ways schools can use the participatory program evaluation process to implement meaningful and sustainable improvements in their schoolwide PBIS systems, as well as in specialized programs for students with disabilities.Involving stakeholders effectively in a program evaluation process can produce major improvements in systems and supports, and lead to wider adoption of recommended practices. It also has the potential to improve staff communication and team.

This session will describe the key components of this powerful program improvement process as well as provide an overview of tools schools can use to implement it effectively in both schoolwide PBIS systems and specialized programs for students with disabilities. Participants will learn strategies to plan, measure, and implement more effective and efficient systems and programs in their own schools. Examples of districts and alternative programs using this process will be shared as well.

At the end of this session, participants will:

  1. Become familiar with the key components of effective participatory program evaluation and ways it can strengthen school leadership teams and contribute to program development and improvement.
  2. Understand critical issues related to effective improvement for systems and programs that support students with challenging behaviors.
  3. Identify ways this process could be used to improve systems and supports in their schools.

Improving Student Behavior in Secondary Schools: Recommendations and Research Evidence

Thursday, April 4, 2013 -- 3:45-5:45 p.m.

Leader: Mary Wagner, SRI International, Menlo Park, CA
Presenters: W. Carl Sumi and Jennifer Yu, SRI International, Menlo Park, CA; and Steven Evans, Ohio University, Athens

This session will present and discuss results from a review of research evidence on interventions and strategies to improve student behavior and identify evidence-based strategies that can be applied in secondary schools. Five specific recommendations, generated by an expert panel whose members came together to consider the evidence, will be presented, along with examples of how they can be implemented in secondary schools with a wide range of student populations and school characteristics. Specific examples of evidence-based approaches along with common obstacles and strategies to overcome them will be described. Recommendations include strategies involving administrators, educators, and school mental health professionals and pertain to classrooms as well as other common areas in secondary schools. Areas of practice that need additional research and development work will be identified along with possible strategies for pursuing this line of study. The panel will encourage audience discussion of the applicability of the recommendations to their own school contexts and of possible extensions, revisions, or modifications to the recommendations.

At the end of this session, participants will:

  1. Have a broad understanding of the level of research evidence available regarding interventions and strategies to improve student behavior in secondary schools.
  2. Learn five specific expert-panel recommendations for improving student behavior in secondary schools.
  3. Have strategies, tools, and expert panel suggestions for how the recommendations can be implemented in secondary schools with a wide range of student populations and school characteristics.

Keeping It Cool:  Using Yoga and Relaxation Strategies With Exceptional Children to Help Students Cool Down, Focus, and Learn!

Thursday, April 4, 2013 -- 3:45-5:45 p.m.

Leader: Carla Tantillo, Mindful Practices, Oak Park, IL

In this session, innovative relaxation, breathing, and yoga tools will be modeled for participants.  This session is highly interactive and engages conference attendees through experiential learning, reflection, and collaboration.  By first analyzing what structural pieces, rules, and expectations are consistent in their classrooms daily, participants will find space to effectively implement relaxation, breathing, and yoga tools to positively impact student behavior and academic achievement.

At the end of this session, participants will:

  1. Have innovative tools to empower exceptional children to use relaxation and yoga strategies to cool down, make more positive behavioral choices, and focus on learning.
  2. Collaborate to create a sustainable, authentic and proactive implementation plan based upon the session’s activities.

Voices From Both Sides of the Table: Special Educators With Disabilities Teaching Individuals With Disabilities

Friday, April 5, 2013 -- 8:00-9:00 a.m.

Leaders: Jennifer A. Diliberto, Greensboro College, NC; Mary Ruth Coleman, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; and Marge Terhaar-Yonkers, Meredith College, Raleigh, NC

This session will provide an opportunity for educators with disabilities to share their unique perspective of working with individuals with disabilities while managing their own challenges related to their disability. The 2-hour session will include an overview of research surrounding educators with disabilities, a Q&A session with the facilitators, and an open Q&A session at the end for questions from the audience. The panel will share strategies that make them a successful educator and will discuss how their disability supports their working with individuals with disabilities. Session leaders will facilitate with an overview of research conducted on educators with disabilities following the Q&A sessions.

The structured questions for educators with disabilities include:

  1. Describe your specific disability. (What are your strengths and what kinds of challenges do you face?)
  2. How does your disability affect your day-to-day living?
  3. How do you accommodate for your disability in the classroom?
  4. What do you consider your most successful strategies for managing your disability?
  5. How does your disability benefit you when working with individuals with disabilities?
  6. What advice would you give to other educators with disabilities?
  7. What kind of support do you need to be a successful educator?
  8. What is your biggest struggle in the classroom in relation to your disability? How do you deal with that struggle?
  9. How do you handle disclosure of your disability?

At the end of this session, participants will:

  1. Be aware of the current research surrounding educators with disabilities.
  2. Identify successful strategies used by educators with disabilities for working with individuals with disabilities.
  3. Hear from successful educators with disabilities about their disability characteristics, strengths, and challenges in the classroom.

Online Alternate Assessment: What Are We Learning? – PART 1

Friday, April 5, 2013 -- 8:00-9:00 a.m.

Leaders: Alan Sheinker and Patti J. Whetstone, University of Kansas, Lawrence

The Dynamic Learning Maps Alternate Assessment (DLM) is a General Supervision Enhancement Grant funded to build the next generation Alternate Assessments based on Alternate Achievement Standards linked to Common Core Standards. The DLM Consortium represents 13 states from coast to coast. Discussion topics include (1) the Cognitive Lab process used to gather information on how students with significant cognitive disabilities interact with technology and test items that were assessed in an online environment; (2)  the results of an assessment usability study conducted to determine how well students with significant cognitive disabilities interact with technology; (3) the findings on how students with significant cognitive disabilities interact with different item types; and (4) the lessons learned from the Cognitive Lab process as well as the next steps in the assessment of students with significant cognitive disabilities. The session will conclude with a question and answer period about the online assessment.

At the end of this session, participants will:

  1. Know how students with significant cognitive disabilities interact with technology.
  2. Understand the different item types that students with significant cognitive disabilities were able to interact with in online assessment.
  3. Have a clear understanding of lessons learned and next steps that will inform online assessment for students with significant cognitive disabilities.

The Alternate Assessment Consortia for Students With Significant Cognitive Disabilities: Progress to Date – PART 2

Friday, April 5, 2013 -- 9:15-10:15 a.m.

Leaders: Neal Kingston, Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation, University of Kansas, and Martha Thurlow, National Center on Educational Outcomes, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

Two General Supervision Enhancement Grant consortia were funded in 2010 to build Alternate Assessments based on Alternate Achievement Standards linked to the Common Core State Standards. These consortia represent more than 32 states and territories and are the largest grants ever awarded for such work. Discussion topics include (1) the collaboration to create common participation guidelines and its importance and the progress so far; (2) the assessment experience that students will have when being assessed; and (3) professional development that is being implemented to support teachers in both consortia. These projects are complex and will require that teachers and administrators have the tools necessary to support teaching and learning. The session will conclude with a question and answer period about each of the projects.

At the end of this session, participants will:

  1. Know what progress has been made by the two alternate assessment consortia.
  2. Have a clear understanding of the tools and supports that will be available for teachers and administrators through professional development.
  3. Have a clear understanding of how and why the two consortia are working together to develop common participation guidelines for students with significant cognitive disabilities.

Disrupting Research Atavisms: Re-Framing the Intersections of Language, Culture, and Disability Through Interdisciplinary Lenses

Friday, April 5, 2013 -- 9:15-11:15 a.m.

Leaders: Alfredo J. Artiles, Arizona State University, Tempe and Philip M. Ferguson, Chapman University, Orange, CA
Presenters: Nirmala Erevelles, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa; Elizabeth B. Kozleski, University of Kansas Lawrence; Taucia Gonzalez, Arizona State University, Tempe; and Thomas Skrtic, University of Kansas, Lawrence

Our nation's classrooms are one of the primary social locations where the meanings and implications of diversity come into play on a daily basis. Increasingly, the longstanding assumptions and practices of researchers as well as educators and policy makers are being challenged by an ever more complicated mixture of cultural and linguistic differences, multiple policies targeting equity concerns, and professional practices representing distinct disciplinary standpoints. Special education, in particular, is grappling with issues related to identification, instruction, personnel preparation, and the influence of social capital on how we intervene in the lives of children and their families. This session will identify and critique the ways in which current tensions and dilemmas about cultural and linguistic differences and disability are conceptualized and studied so as to better address these complex intersections.  Further, attendees will learn about alternative framings and research approaches to inform future scholarship and policy analysis.

At the end of this session, participants will:

  1. Have a more complex understanding of the intersections of language differences with disability.
  2. Identify the limits of traditional research approaches to study the intersections of language differences with disability and have general guidelines for improving future research.

Culturally Responsive Social Skill Interventions for Racially and Ethnically Diverse Students

Friday, April 5, 2013 -- 2:15-3:15 p.m.

Leaders: Gwendolyn Cartledge, Ohio State University, Columbus; Ya-yu Lo, University of North Carolina, Charlotte; Porsha Robinson-Ervin, Columbus Public Schools, OH; and Claudia Vincent, University of Oregon, Eugene

Student discipline continues to be one of the most salient and intractable problems in our schools, contributing greatly to negative school climates, pupil underachievement, and poor school outcomes. The zero tolerance policies of recent years have dramatically increased suspensions and expulsions, disproportionately affecting minorities and suggesting greater, not less, inequality. The panel will profile the behavioral issues and needs of racially/ethnically diverse students and present research-based culturally responsive interventions for more adaptive social skills. In addition, disciplinary data according to race, ethnicity, and disability for schools with and without positive behavior supports will be shared and presenters will offer practical strategies to promote the social success of racially minority students.

Measurable Participant Outcomes:

  • Identify steps for selecting key social skills to teach culturally diverse youth with high disciplinary referrals.
  • Acquire a model for developing culturally responsive social skill instruction.
  • To identify beneficial effects of culturally responsive social skill instruction on pupil discipline

At the end of this session, participants will:

  1. Identify key features of social skill strategies that are responsive to the needs of culturally diverse learners
  2. Identify components of evidence-based interventions for effective social skill development.

Twenty-Five Years Later: How Is Assistive Technology Used in Education?

Friday, April 5, 2013 -- 3:45-5:45 p.m.

Leader: Cindy Okolo, Michigan State University, East Lansing
Presenters: Margaret Bausch, Melinda Ault, and Sara Flanagan, University of Kentucky, Lexington; Emily Bouck, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN; and Jeff Diedrich, Michigan Integrated Technology Supports, Lansing

Assistive technology (AT) is widely viewed as an important component of services to students with disabilities, as witnessed by its incorporation into IDEA. During the process of developing an IEP for a student with a disability, the multidisciplinary team must consider whether the child needs assistive technology devices and services. This panel presents the results of three large-scale studies of AT implementation and use; analyzes the results across studies; and shares conclusions for practice, policy, and further research.

At the end of this session, participants will:

  1. Describe factors that are reported to facilitate the implementation of AT and thus be able to use these ideas to improve AT practices in their own schools.
  2. Describe barriers to AT use and implementation and be able to examine their own school settings in an attempt to address some of these barriers.
  3. Explain relationships between AT use in schools and postsecondary use and outcomes for students with disabilities.

FORUM -- Autism: Medical and Educational Management of Challenging Behavior

Saturday, April 6, 2013 -- 8:00-9:00 a.m.

Moderator: Brenda Scheuermann, Texas State University, San Marcos
Leaders:  James Coplan, Neurodevelopmental Pediatrics of the Main Line, Rosemont, PA and Jo Webber, Texas State University, Austin

Teaching students with autism is difficult, particularly if they present with externalizing behaviors such as tantrums and aggression, or internalizing issues such as anxiety, perfectionism, and cognitive rigidity. Such maladaptive behavior can impede learning and limit access to integrated settings. This session will focus on recommended intervention approaches including strategies based in applied behavior analysis, and sometimes, psychotropic medication. It is important for school personnel to understand the rationale and complementary relationship between these intervention models, and to respond in ways that assure positive students outcomes. This first presenter will delineate underlying neuropsychological deficits present in autism, give examples of resultant behavioral issues, recommend practical responses by educators, and provide an overview of the role of medication in ameliorating these deficits. The second presenter will review the role of environmental variables on challenging behavior, discuss assessment strategies (functional behavioral assessment and analysis) for determining specific contributors, and suggest related behavior reduction strategies (functional behavioral planning). The ability to conceptualize the relationship among underlying neuropsychological deficits, external environmental contributors, and outward maladaptive behaviors will enhance the educator’s ability to respond effectively, and to reduce the likelihood of future recurrence of challenging behavior.

At the end of this session, participants will:

  1. Be able to describe four neuropsychological deficits commonly seen in children with autism.
  2. Be able to give specific examples of how underlying neuropsychological deficits in autism can lead to disruptive behavior, and give examples of response strategies keyed to each area of neuropsychological impairment.
  3. Be able to describe the rationale for medication, and understand the primary drug classes, their benefits, and common side effects.
  4. Be able to recognize the relation of environmental variables to challenging behavior (behavioral function).
  5. Be able to delineate methods for assessing behavior to determine function and antecedent contributors.
  6. Be able to match behavioral strategies to common functions and antecedent contributors, and identify critical elements of positive, skill-building, and function-referenced behavior intervention plans.
  7. Be able to understand and appreciate the relationship of neuropsychological and environmental contributors to challenging behavior.

Exceptional Lives Exceptional Stories

Saturday, April 6, 2013 -- 9:15-10:15 a.m.

Leaders: Jennifer A. Diliberto, Greensboro College, NC; Marge Terhaar-Yonkers, Meredith College, Raleigh, NC; and Kathryn Haselden, Francis Marion University, Florence, SC

This session provides an opportunity for individuals with disabilities and their parents to share inside knowledge of life with a disability. The panel includes individuals with various disabilities and their parents who will answer structured questions from the facilitator as well as questions from the audience. The structured questions for both students and parents include:


  1. Describe your specific disability. (What are your strengths and what kinds of challenges do you face?)
  2. What teaching techniques work best for you (How would you like teachers to teach? Can you describe the best learning situation?)
  3. How does your disability affect your day-to-day living, both in and out of school?
  4. What do you wish teachers knew about individuals with a disability (What do you wish your teachers knew about helping you learn? What advice would you give to teachers who want to help students with disabilities be successful?


  1. Describe a typical day.
  2. How does your child's disability affect the family? In what ways are you involved with the school to help your child meet with success?
  3. Describe techniques teachers could implement to help assist your child in being successful. Can you share some of the ways that teachers have helped your child be successful? How do you wish teachers would work with your child to help him/her be successful?
  4. What would be helpful for teachers to know about the home life of a child with a disability?

At the end of this session, participants will:

  1. Be aware of ways a disability affects an individual’s daily life.
  2. Identify strategies for working with parents of individuals with disabilities.

Special Education in China

Saturday, April 6, 2013 -- 9:15-11:15 a.m.

Moderator: Mian Wang, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA
Presenters: Craig Barringer, University of Vermont, Burlington, USA;  Xiaguang Peng and Xijie Yang, National Institute of Education Sciences, China; Yan Wang and Xiaoyi Hu, Beijing Normal University, China; Jiacheng Xu, Beijing Union University, China

As a national policy to promote inclusive education in China, the “Learning in Regular Classroom” model was developed about 2 decades ago and has been very slowly growing in practice since. This session will address various current policies in China’s new 10-year plan for education. The four presenters will each discuss the key issues regarding changes of policy as well as the many barriers encountered. Topics addressed include China’s national policy to promote inclusive education, the lack of resources and shortage of qualified teachers, and key curricular issues in a two-track special education system.

Presentation 1:  Issues of "Learning in Regular Classroom" (Chinese version of Inclusion) in China: Policy and Practices (Peng & Yang)
Presentation 2:  Chinese Teachers’ Attitude toward Inclusive Education (Yan Wang)
Presentation 3:  Curricular Issues of Special Education in China’s Two-track System (Jiacheng Xu)
Presentation 4:  Underachieving Minority Students in Rural Chinese Schools and China’s New Educational Reforms (Craig Barringer)

At the end of this session, participants will:

  1. Increased understanding of Chinese educational policy.
  2. Chinese practices for supporting struggling learners.
  3. The impact of cultural differences on teachers’ conceptualization both of the causes of student underachievement and classroom supports.