Dennise Goldberg is the owner of Special Education Advisor, a community of parents, educators, and special education service providers dedicated to helping families with children who have special needs understand their special education rights and receive appropriate special education services. Dennise works with children with all forms of disabilities including autism, cerebral palsy, Asperger’s, and Down syndrome, to name a few. She is also the mother of a beautiful 10-year old boy who has dealt with developmental delays, apraxia of speech, fine motor delays, sensory issues, gross motor delays, and now has a learning disability (auditory processing disorder).
When I joined Twitter in July of 2010 and started searching for people to follow, the first group of people I found were special educators. I quickly learned that they were part of a weekly tweet chat called #SpEdchat. For those of you unfamiliar with Twitter and Tweet Chats, About.com defines it as:
A Twitter tweet chat is a pre-arranged chat that happens on Twitter through the use of Twitter updates (called tweets) that include a predefined hashtag to link those tweets together in a virtual conversation.
Formal Twitter tweet chats are arranged in advance and occur at a specific time. They may include a formal agenda with a specific leader or “speaker,” or they might involve a free-flowing discussion between all participants.
As you might have figured, the predetermined hashtag for this chat is #SpEdchat. #SpEdchat takes place every Tuesday night at 8:30 pm EST (5:30 pm Pacific). There are many other tweet chats regarding special education and special needs on Twitter. I am lucky enough to be associated with one of the largest and finest hosted by the Coffee Klatch. What Marianne Russo has accomplished with the Coffee Klatch is an amazing force to be reckoned with. #SpEdchat, on the other hand, is the little engine that could. It is in my opinion the most overlooked tweet chat on Twitter. No other source has helped me bridge the gap between special educators and parents more than #SpEdchat. Unfortunately, there are very few parents contributing to this chat.
The contributors to #SpEdchat are the most passionate group of educators I have ever had the pleasure to be associated with. Most special educators have three full-time jobs: 1) teaching kids with special needs, 2) attending, assessing and preparing IEP’s, and 3) data collection for IEP goals. I’m not sure how they find the hours in the day to accomplish this but with the help of #SpEdchat they have formed an impressive Personal Learning Network (PLN) to make their job easier. They have welcomed me and any other parents into their chat with open arms. They have also pushed and questioned me when my job as a special education advocate has started to jade my opinions. Generalization about educators or parents is just harmful. That doesn’t mean I will stop writing about specific misdeeds of individuals that I come across every day but it does mean that I have learned many of the tricks of the trade great special educators use. I can now incorporate many of them into the IEP’s I help write, thus making me better at my job as an advocate.
Very often my husband and I will sit down and follow the #SpEdchat together. Yesterday, while conducting a workshop for parents on special education and IEP’s, the topic of measurable goals came up. During this discussion my husband found himself repeating what he had learned about data collection a few weeks earlier in a #SpEdChat. The moderators of #SpEdchat also chronicle all of the links and resources collected during a specific chat. The page for the data collection discussion from a few weeks ago can be found here. What an amazing resource for parents and educators.
Over the past year #SpEdchat has overcome quite a few moderator changes due to retirement, career changes, employment issues, or life in general but it continues to carry on. The current moderator Jeremy Brown (@techieteacher) is very passionate and works very hard to make every chat as informative as possible.
I highly recommend that all parents start joining into the discussion on Tuesday night at 8:30 pm EST and also visit https://spedchat.wikispaces.com/ to familiarize yourself with past chats and review some of the wonderful shared resources.