March 16-17, 2013, I attended the ASCD National Conference in Chicago, Illinois. On March 16, I did a book signing for my latest book with ASCD, Neurodiversity in the Classroom: Strength-Based Strategies to Help Students with Special Needs Succeed in School and Life (see photo of me and Lindsey Smith, the ASCD graphic artist who designed the cover). Then I was part of a panel on writing for Educational Leadership, the monthly magazine of ASCD. I encouraged the potential writers to ”embrace rejection” – and shared my own experiences from my writing career in being rejected and using those rejections as opportunities for growth rather than obstacles (e.g. my book 7 Kinds of Smart was originally rejected by the editor who eventually accepted it after I’d worked on making it better).
Then, I did a workshop called: First, Discover Their Strengths: Success Strategies for Students with Special Needs. This was video streamed in a Virtual Conference for the benefit of those who could not come to Chicago. In the workshop, I encouraged educators to focus on the strengths of students with special needs, and described the concept of neurodiversity as an important new way to think about students with autism, ADHD, learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and emotional and behavioral disorders. I shared several practical strategies that educators could use to help these students achieve success including: Universal Design for Learning tools, positive role models, strength-based learning strategies, affirmative career aspirations, enhanced social networks, and positive environmental modifications.
On March 17, ASCD filmed me for my Author’s Page on the ASCD website, and also for promoting next year’s conference in Los Angeles. Then, I attended a press conference luncheon for members of the media and some ASCD authors. I had a wonderful conversation about the social and ecological dimensions of learning with Danie Kizaire and Charles Sutton who direct the Bronzeville Urban Development Project in Chicago, and Jackie Gerstein, a veteran educator with a great website designed to help educators creatively move toward 21st century education goals. Also at the meeting, I had the pleasure of speaking with Liana Heitin, associate editor of Education Week Teacher, about the Common Core Standards, and other hot button issues in education. She has recently written an excellent article on tying the standards to interdisciplinary learning.
All in all, it was a wonderful opportunity to meet new friends, reconnect with old friends, and witness some of the changes that are taking place in education in America in this second decade of the 21st century.