Resiliency, Creativity, and Knowledge

Resiliency, Creativity, and Knowledge  

These are extraordinary times for our society and our world. The COVID-19 pandemic impacts us all-physically, emotionally, economically, and educationally. As a special educator, inclusion coach, and a firm believer in resiliency, creativity, knowledge, and growth, I offer these insights, strategies and resources to move family providers/AKA-newly inducted teachers forward.The goal is to ultimately establish a “new now,” with routines, schedules, creativity, and positive thoughts to collaboratively navigate this new turf!


  1. All students are appropriately included.
  2. These are exceptional times, but optimism needs to prevail.
  3. Navigation requires different and resilient strategies and resources.
  4. Education is never denied, just redefined.
  5. Healthy practices include taking care of yourself and others.

It’ s important to understand the impact of remote learning. This includes understanding:

  1. how behavior affects performance; attention issues, sensory processing
  2. how to set goals
  3. how to recognize and handle anxiety
  4. how to emphasize self-advocacy

Some More Thoughts  & Resources

All emotions are okay-Check out Child Mind Institute for more insights.

Excellent resources at Understood on how to talk to kids and how to avoid “emotional sunburn.”

This animated Brain Pop video from Tim and Moby shares CO-VID 19 basics.

Scheduling ideas and  a ton of resources from Khan Academy

Connections &  Creativity

Don’t forget that learning occurs beyond books, websites, worksheets, and PDFs. Great time to explore your child’s strengths and interests through real life examples and projects in your home, whether that is creating a menu, cooking, setting up a pretend business, writing letters or emails to relatives, drawing, painting, learning sign language, singing a song, dancing, caring for and playing with a pet, cleaning a closet, organizing a messy room, AND most importantly- smiling together!

Wishing everyone the best!

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Rethinking Inclusion

Hi y’all!

Two weeks ago, I was at a Broadway show, presenting at an educational conference, offering on site inclusion coaching, getting a massage, and whispering “Namaste” in a yoga class. Today is different. Never has my refrigerator been so clean, nor has my dog received so much attention. The inclusion of Co-Vid 19 in our lives, precipitates this post.

As a staunch inclusion advocate, I facilitate the provision of appropriate supports and adaptations. However, the caveat is that scaffolding needs to help, never enable. This post offers resources on how to “appropriately” include Co-Vid-19 in our lives, minus the frustration, depression, and pessimism. Although people may prefer denial, dismissal, and deletion, Co-Vid 19 is a reality to be handled  calmly, swiftly, and wisely.



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Co-Teaching Do’s, Don’ts, & Do Betters

Together general and special educators, administrators, and related staff support each other and  their students to create shared learning environments.This includes setting up co-teaching norms and expectations for planning, instructing, observing, assessing, documenting, and reflecting. Learners then receive, not only access to the general education curriculum, but ongoing inclusive  achievements with the facilitation of two qualified professionals. These resources invite you to explore the co-teaching spokes that empower both educators and students!

Resources for Evidence-Based Practices to Support the Co-Teaching Spokes

* Accommodation Central:


*Building on the Strengths of Students with Special Needs: Move Beyond Disability Labels: Karten, ASCD


*Co-Teaching Do’s, Don’ts, & Do Betters: Karten & Murawski, ASCD

* Council for Exceptional Children:

* High-Leverage Practices in Special Education:

*Inclusion Do’s, Don’ts, & Do Betters: Karten, ASCD

*Inclusion Strategies & Interventions: Karten: Solution Tree

*Inclusion  Strategies That Work! Karten:Corwin Press

* Learning Designed:

* Learning Forward:

*Mindfulness for the Inclusive Classroom: National Professional Resources

* Multicultural Pavilion:

* National Council of Teachers of English:

* National Council of Teachers of Mathematics:

*Specially Designed Instruction

* Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports:

* The UDL Guidelines:

* Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching:

* What Works Clearinghouse:

Let’s continue the collaboration:  Email:


Be a Facebook friend: Inclusion Education Services

Follow Toby on Twitter: @TJK2INCLUDE























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“Starring” OUR Students with Differentiated Instruction

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“I’m Just a Teacher”

As an inclusion coach and consultant, upon a principal’s request, I arrived at a New Jersey school site last week to deliver a professional development session on the topic of co-teaching strategies. As a special educator, I arrived armed with my resources, AKA toys. You see a presenter who talks about using concrete materials has less effect than a person who allows others to see and hold the actual materials. In my rolled suitcase, topped with a another bag filled with fidget toys, I also brought books across the disciplines and grade levels to offer literacy, math, science, social studies, art, music, and social-emotional learning connections. Since I live in New Jersey, it is easier to throw one more of my favorite things into the car trunk, to invite the co-teachers to collaboratively divide and conquer. Like a girl scout, I was prepared with educational trinkets and of course the juxtaposition chocolates intended to make the activities more palatable, along with my laptop and dongle.

A kind woman held the door open and escorted me to the office to sign in. She pegged me as the presenter, and I introduced myself. She quietly mumbled her name and humbly added her title, “I’m just a teacher.” I immediately offered my take on this comment, by saying that is quite an understatement. “You are not just a teacher; you are a teacher!” My morning greeter, my new best friend, smiled as she juggled five bags filled with classroom supplies from home.

The audience of one hundred educators convened in a school cafeteria on this warm August day. The staff from three neighboring districts arrived at this central location. By the smiles on their faces, I never would have guessed that it was their first day back from summer vacation. The temperature in the room wasn’t the only warmth, but their reception and willingness to learn how to assist their learners with differences to succeed was the norm that was exuded by all this day.   During one of the activities, I met up again with the kind woman who escorted me into the school. I shared with her that for many years I had the privilege of being a teacher at a local school district. She smiled when I asked her to always remember  “You are not just a teacher, you are a teacher!”

Whether you are a general or special educator, nothing is better than meeting a new group of learners and leading them from shallow waters to increase their depth of knowledge. Together co-teachers are a powerful force for learners. I wish these co-teachers and all returning educators many successes as they forge ahead with their profession. I invite all of you to continue smiling and remember that you chose a profession that warrants pedestals and accolades as you support each other and your students. Kudos to all of you!

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Unable and Unwilling is Unacceptable!

Communications from parents of students with Down syndrome (DS) prompted this blog post.  Students with a label of DS possess different ages, genders, academic, social, and communicative levels, as well as varied likes and dislikes; hence each student is unique.  We cannot allow the common denominator of DS  to  reduce learners’ abilities to succeed in school and ultimately in life. It is okay to reduce fractions, but it is never okay to reduce,  limit, or cap an individual’s potential to learn with preconceived notions that ignore how evidence-based practices apply to learners with chromosomal differences.

A parent of an 11-yr old who has Down syndrome shared that his daughter has significant speech challenges – especially expressive; but has relatively strong cognitive skills and social awareness.  She is currently educated in a 4th grade inclusion class in a public school, but as communicated by her parent the teachers are unwilling and unable to fully include her appropriately. They recommend that she is educated in a class alongside students with autism. She is about three years behind the class in academics like reading and writing.  The parents of a kindergarten student were told by school personnel that their daughter cannot be included in the GE math class because she only received a 78% on a math assessment, which was 2 percentile levels below the 80% mastery required. Another family of an elementary level girl with Down syndrome requested that their daughter is included for more subjects than science and social studies.  Some of you reading this post have had experiences with districts across the country and world who view students with Down syndrome as challenging to teach in the gen. ed classroom, while others have been part of school districts who challenge learners and never cap their potential.

Each child is unique, whether or not he or she has a labeled difference. All learners have strengths, those with dyslexia, autism, Down syndrome, emotional, social,  behavioral, physical, or learning  difference. Neurodiversity values difference as a competitive advantage  with opportunities to challenge-not cure or pigeon-hole individuals. We need not sacrifice our curriculum goals and standards, nor redefine the definition of quality work, but we as a profession do need to rethink how learners with different starting levels can learn side-by-side with grade level peers who will one day be co-workers and neighbors who offer advice, smiles, and perhaps a cup of sugar. 

 Multi-tiered systems of support provide the responsive-never generic interventions that allow educators and students to navigate the core curriculum. How to increase inclusive experiences is never an exact formula, but  determining the general education classroom setting/placement as a student’s least restrictive environment (LRE), with the specially designed instruction need not be viewed as a challenging task. Inclusion principles are basically good teaching practices for learners of all levels.

Academic gaps exist, but so do the practices that figure out how to include learners beyond their labels.  A student who has an extra chromosome, different way of seeing, hearing, communicating, moving, or learning is able to achieve  excellent outcomes when the environment is structured to welcome, embrace, and appropriately include learners to honor their current levels, with an eye on how future advancements are accomplished. Grade level peers are never defined as competitors, but need to be viewed as collaborators and life long partners.  Here are a few thoughts about inclusion that highlight specifics that need to live and breathe in each environment. 

Bottom line-InclusionRules-Figure_15.1-now let’s collaboratively figure out how to make that happen in each and every school for each and EVERY child.

Posted in Collaboration, diversity, Down syndrome, Full inclusion, Inclusion Collaboration, Inclusion Ouches, inclusion rules, Inclusion Strategies, Inclusion: Families Partnering with Educators, multi-tiered systems of support, navigate the core curriculum, neurodiversity, positive disability attitudes, Special Education, Successes of Students with Disabilities | Comments Off on Unable and Unwilling is Unacceptable!

Heads or Tails & Coming Together!

When you flip a coin, there is a 50% chance of it landing on heads up and a 50% chance of it landing tails up. Life, a tossed coin with legs, is even less probable. Often, we do not toss the coin, but deal with situations tossed our way. This happened on September 11, 2001, when many people’s lives changed and the world became an even less predictable place to live. It also happens when a mom or dad embraces his or her child with autism, when that’s not the diagnosis they expected for a child.

Come From Away, a show on Broadway written by Rene Sankoff and David Hein, tells of the events that September day and how two countries supported each other’s citizens. A nightmare was flipped to highlight that the obverse side of an evil coin is kindness. What is even better is that the audience of people who I was lucky enough to join to watch this brilliant spin on a tragic day was people with autism and their families.   Theatre Development Fund (TDF) offers “autism friendly” performances.

Even though, one may inherit some “coins’ tosses,” one can still choose one’s attitude. Sometimes that is the only card you play. This performance of the show offered less sensory elements and accommodations, such as weighted blankets, fidget toys, and headphones. Come From Away was a brilliant selection that also highlighted how we make a difference in each other’s lives to come together. Heads or tails- sometimes doesn’t matter. The result that does matter is to expect the best in all of us. Being included means embracing everyone everywhere, no matter where a plane lands or what a diagnosis reveals. Life is more than small change. We are all valuable players.

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#Texas Strong

My heart and prayers are sent to our Texas colleagues as they begin their school year. As an inclusion consultant in Victoria, Bloomington, Edna, and Corpus Christi, I have personally witnessed the steadfastness, compassion, resourcefulness, and intelligence of my Texas friends. Harvey cannot deter education from moving forward. Regions like Victoria Independent School District (VISD) have a new motto-Every Child, Every Classroom, Every Day, #TexasStrong, #VictoriaStrong.

Strength includes more than physical power, but intellectual and moral fortitude as well. Mother Nature injured the Texas terrain, affected many people’s homes, and created both financial and emotional havoc. However, in the long haul, Harvey is no match for Texans. Administrators, educators, related school staff, and kind people in Texas and other states in our nation, and across the world, demonstrated that together we are stronger. The proverb-“One beam does not support a house,” rings loud and clearly. Collaboration will allow the 2017-18 school year to teach our students a lesson on how adversity, strengthens our resolve. The world applauds and supports you as you move forward to assist every child in every classroom. Bless you my Texas friends!

Toby J. Karten, Inclusion Consultant

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New Beginnings…

What I miss most about not being exclusively attached to one school building- is-yes you guessed it-the students.  New slates, like that fresh box of Crayolas with the sharpener of course(ok-I am dating myself), allow educators to engage with a rainbow of students.  Each learner has his or her  hue, pigment, and shade of strengths and interests.  We as educators have the ability and responsibility to help our learners to create a variety of portraits, landscapes, and infinite compositions in our school year and ultimately in life. There is no better feeling than the first day of school, when eyes meet eyes and then as the year continues-minds meet minds.  So, my colleagues across the country-enjoy the new beginnings!

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Developing Effective Learners

Developing Effective Learners: RTI Strategies for Student Success

Toby J. Karten

Designs, minds, muscles, flowers, ideas, strength, countries, strategies, and plans develop. An artist learns to rework a sketch, a mind is strengthened with engaging instruction, a weak muscle is exercised, a flower is watered, and a country follows rules. Strategies and plans change course over time and circumstances. The same holds true for our learners. Students do not enter kindergarten or graduate from high school with identical literacy, mathematics, and behavioral skills. These acumens vary and develop over time.

Vigilance, screening, multi-tiered instruction, and ongoing assessment determine the responsive intervention plans that develop learners’ proficiencies. Engaging lessons reach and teach students where they are and where they need to be. Humor, games, poetry, stories, multisensory instruction, modeling, and step-by-step collaborative approaches honor learner diversity.

Tiered instruction helps students develop their skills as readers, writers, and mathematicians. Sounds become letters, and words form sentences that compose paragraphs, essays, and novels. Before learners solve complex mathematical equations, they first count simple quantities. Cooperative play is preceded by parallel play.

As they saying goes, “good things come to those who wait,” but we can never have a “wait-and-see attitude” that passively watches students struggle. As educators, we share interventions and strategies that learners continually employ to achieve steady gains. The tortoise and hare are seated in the same classroom, but a lion of a teacher in a group or pride facilitates ongoing growth and develops each learner’s skills. Effective instructional approaches and the responsive interventions honor successful school and life outcomes.

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