Special Education

Special Education Blog

Opportunity to learn more about Tourette Syndrome

Please see the flyer regarding a great opportunity coming up! This free Tourette education day is designed for educators, community members, and caregivers who are interested in learning more about Tourette Syndrome, educational strategies, and community resources!

Lincoln Public Schools flyer1

Special Olympic Night at the Lincoln Stars

Please see the attached flyer and read below

STARS FLYER

Special Olympics (east Central Region)Night with the Lincoln Stars

January 28th at 7:05 pm

Special ticket price of $17 with proceeds going back to the East Central Region! – Each ticket comes with a Hot Dog & Soda! – Post Game Autograph session with select Stars players on the North Stage! for tickets Contact John at 402.474.7827 ext. 15 or jnotter@lincolnstars.com or go to goo.gl/AZl0TW

A Message from the Autism Family Network

Please pass on to parents that the Autism Family Network is having a private sensory-friendly holiday party this Saturday from 5:30pm – 7:30pm for all special needs children.  Families will be able to enjoy the museum for free and even meet Santa & Mrs. Claus in a private area in the lower level.

Happy Holidays!
The Autism Family Network

Unified Bowling

Please watch the following video as we are nearing the conclusion of the fantastic first season of Unified Bowling!
https://videocenter.lps.org/videos/video/2634/?access_token=shr00000026343841558789957819758590018430791

Nuernberger Dedication Ceremony

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Students and staff celebrated the dedication of the Nuernberger Education Center with his family and the community on Sunday, October 9.

The 2016-2017 school year is the inaugural year for the Nuernberger Education Center which houses two programs – a student support program and a program that serves students sixth through eighth grades who have been referred from other middle schools within LPS.

Speakers at the event included Superintendent of Lincoln Public Schools Dr. Steve Joel, Principal Jamie Bodeker, Special Education Director Dr. Jenny Fundus, as well as Judge Nuernberger’s wife Marian, and daughter DeAnn Currin (current principal at Sheridan elementary school).

At the event, students from the sixth grade choir sang the “Star-Spangled Banner”, “Don’t Worry Be Happy”, and “Knowledge is Power.”

Resource Fair

Please see this great opportunity for families, click below:

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TOT Resource Fair

Jamie Mapp Named School Psychologist of the Year

Each year the NSPA awards one member School Psychologist of the Year.  This person demonstrates or has demonstrated contributions to the profession that are of exemplary status.

For more information, see the article here: http://lps.org/post/detail.cfm?id=11223

FACTS ABOUT ABLE

In December 2014, the federal Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act was signed into law authorizing state-sponsored tax-exempt savings programs for disability-related expenses. The law, which is modeled after Section 529 college savings programs, allows states to establish ABLE programs for individuals to save, on a tax-free basis for qualified expenses of an individual with disabilities without losing eligibility under Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid and other public benefits. On May 28, 2015, the state of Nebraska passed the Nebraska ABLE enabling act. The Nebraska act established the Nebraska ABLE program for residents of Nebraska who meet the eligibility requirements. It also allows Nebraska to contract with another state that does not have its own ABLE program. On November 16, 2015, the state of Nebraska signed a contract with First National Bank to be the Program Manager for the state’s ABLE program, called the Enable Savings Plan. On December 18, 2015, as part of the PATH Act of 2015, the requirement that individuals with disabilities could only open up an ABLE account in their home state was eliminated. As a result, individuals with disabilities living in any state will be eligible to open an Enable Savings Plan account.

Eligibility

An individual is eligible to participate in an ABLE program if he/she

  • Is entitled to Social Security Act benefits based on blindness or disability that occurred prior to age 26, or
  • Has received a certification by a qualified physician indicating that he/she is blind or has a physical or mental impairment which results in severe functional limitations. That impairment must have lasted or is expected to last for at least 12 months or can be expected to result in death. The blindness or disability must have occurred prior to age 26.

Benefits

  • The earnings on the savings in an ABLE account are tax-deferred and tax-free if used for a qualified disability expense.
  • ABLE account balances and distributions are not counted when considering needs-based financial aid.   If assets are held in an account other than an ABLE account, there is a limit of $2,000 before they are counted against SSI and/or Medicaid eligibility.

Qualified disability expense

Any expenses related to the blindness or disability of the individual with a disability including:

Education, housing, transportation, employment training and support, assistive technology and personal support services, health, prevention and wellness, financial management and administrative services, legal fees, expenses for oversight and monitoring, funeral and burial expenses; and other expenses identified in the final federal rules (federal rules have not yet been adopted).

Account ownership

  • Only one account can be opened for the individual with a disability.
  • The account must be owned by the eligible individual. The account owner is also the beneficiary.
  • The account owner can be changed to another account owner who is disabled but must be a member of the family of the former account owner.

Contributing to an ABLE account

  • Anyone can contribute to the ABLE account owned by the individual with a disability.
  • No matter the source of contributions, the account owner retains control over the account.
  • Contributions cannot be accepted when the maximum contribution limit is met. For the Enable Savings Plan, the maximum is when the account balance exceeds $360,000.
  • There is an annual per account contribution limit (from all sources) tied to the annual federal gift tax exclusion limit (currently $14,000). There is no opportunity for five year forwarding for gift tax purposes.
  • To continue to receive SSI benefits, an account owner’s ABLE assets can’t exceed $100,000 before the benefit is suspended.

Tax treatment

  • Qualified withdrawals are tax free if they do not exceed the account owner’s qualified disability expenses.
  • The earnings portion of withdrawals not used for qualified disability expenses are subject to federal income tax and, unless due to the account owner’s death, a 10% additional penalty tax.
  • The account owner may be eligible for state tax benefits. Account owners in Nebraska are eligible to receive an income tax deduction for their own contributions of up to $10,000 ($5,000 married filing separately)1. Check with a tax advisor.

Investment direction

  • The account owner may redirect the assets in the ABLE account to another investment in an ABLE program twice per calendar year, or when there is a change of account owner (only to another family member who is disabled).
  • New contributions can be directed to be invested in a new investment any time a contribution is made.

Impact on means-tested programs

  • Balances in and distributions from an ABLE account are not counted for purposes of means-tested federal programs – Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), SSI, and Medicaid. However:
    • Distributions for housing expenses are not excluded; however, the excess of an ABLE account balance over $100,000 is counted and may result in the suspension (not termination) of SSI benefits during any period in which the excess remains in the ABLE account.
    • Even if SSI benefits are suspended due to an excess account balance, the account owner’s Medicaid eligibility is not suspended.

Death of account owner

  • The state of an account owner’s residence receives reimbursement of the balance of an account upon the account owner’s death if the state paid for the account owner’s medical costs incurred after the account was opened.
  • The state of an account owner’s residence receives the balance net of any premiums paid on the account owner’s behalf to the Medicaid Buy-In program.
  • The 10% tax penalty does not apply if there is a distribution because of the death of the account owner.

Matt Talbot’s Donation

Matt Talbot

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Pictured left to right: Brian Foley, Jill Timmons, Mary Ells, Doug Schindler, Shannon Hall-Schmeckpeper)

Lincoln Public Schools Special Education staff donated toiletries for Matt Talbot’s Kitchen.

It’s great to support our community.

April 15, 2016 is Paraeducator’s Recognition Day

Changing lives through innovation…

For over 20 years, these four paraeducators have been serving students at Lincoln Public Schools, but in very unique ways. After reading the recognition submissions from special education supervisor Mary Phillips and all of the occupational and physical therapists, it’s clear that these women have touched so many students’ lives – a ripple that can be felt for generations.

Pam Thorfinnson, Christine Bernt, Angie Smith, and Grayson Spomer are all district motor activity paras (MAPs). Most times they are out in various buildings working with students under the direction of occupational and physical therapists to assist students in learning skills they need to succeed – not only in school, but in life. These skills can include tying shoes, penmanship, walking, moving around, motor skills, and even zipping jackets.

The therapy team writes in their nominations, “Christine takes the time to understand student’s potential needs throughout the school day, and not just during the time she sees them.  As a result, she frequently has ideas and suggestions to try to help the student be successful beyond just the program she follows for the student.  She collaborates with supervising staff to share these ideas and suggestions for increased student success.”

It’s hard to believe that work doesn’t keep them busy enough, but these paras do so much more. Inventors, engineers, or even “tinkers” might be the best way to describe these paras as they are tasked with crude drawings and rough ideas to modify existing equipment and furniture and adapting them to meet special education students’ needs, or creating something new to aid the students.

“Angie is able to look at things that seem impossible and find solutions for our students to be successful,” writes Molly Kouba. “Most recently, Angie fabricated a rolling cart that allowed a student at a VOICE site to be more independent in her work. The cart attaches to the student’s wheelchair or walker.  The student is now able to move boxes from one place to another safely and efficiently.”

As Smith and Bernt use various tools and lots of cardboard, wood and styrofoam to craft devices to help students, Spomer puts her sewing skills to work to make harnesses and other items to help students.

Jodi Rust writes, “Grayson also completes many sewing projects for students ranging from making weighted blankets, adapted shirts, bibs, dressing boards and personal bags for the students to put items in on their walkers and wheelchairs.”

Thorfinnson keeps it all organized and is an invaluable member to the therapy team. No easy task with their workshop being moved twice in a school year due to construction projects.

“Not only has Pam assisted with moving the department twice within this school year (a monumental task), but she has saved countless hours for staff by maintaining and transporting equipment and supplies to various sites throughout the school year.  She has even gone to student’s homes to bring large pieces of equipment to schools when families have not been able to transport the equipment themselves,” writes Lisa Wieman-Schulz.

When asked about what moment in their career was most memorable in their lives, they shared these stories:

  • Smith said: “I had a little girl years ago that had only use of one hand, and when she tied her shoes for the first time she cried. I had another little girl that had two prosthetic legs, and when she stood up and had tights on she said, ‘I look like the other girls.’ Teaching her to walk and helping her to walk with those was my most memorable moment. Because she so many things against her, but she didn’t let it get her down she didn’t let it get in her way and she is in college now. Just her determination, that’s the way she was.”
  • Bernt said: “I had a student and her joints were fused, so she couldn’t move like we do. I had to teach her how to go up the steps. She’d ride her bike, nothing stopped her. She was just an inspiration to me.”
  • Spomer said: “So many of the kids, Angie would have them in preschool, and maybe Christine would have them in elementary, and maybe I would get them in high school, so we would be able to say, ‘remember when you were doing this with so-in-so, they can do that now!’ It’s like ‘YES!’ It’s the things we’ve worked on for so long.”
  • Thorfinnson said: “I worked with a little guy in preschool that came from a family where there was some neglect. By the time he came to us, he had been adopted by a new family. I worked with him in preschool, and then I saw him again in high school. He had grown so much intellectually, and it just made my heart feel good that he was impacted so much by people in school. He made it. That always stands out for me.”

The full recognition submissions for all four of these paras:

Angie Smith

District Motor Activity Para

Angie makes a difference in the lives of many students in our LPS community.  She is able to adapt or make anything we need for student with special needs.  With Angie’s handy work, children have been able to do simple things like get up to the faucet to wash their hands to more complex things such as to being able to be in their wheelchair but still be able to move a stack of boxes at a work site.

Most recently, Angie fabricated a rolling cart that allowed a student at a VOICE site to be more independent in her work. The cart attaches to the student’s wheelchair or walker.  The student is now able to move boxes from one place to another safely and efficiently.

Angie is able to look at things that seem impossible and find solutions for our students to be successful.

Submitted by: Molly Kouba

Christine Bernt

District Motor Activity Para

Our MAPs have to travel to several different buildings, which requires them to be very organized and build relationships with a variety of students and staff.  Christine has been seeing a student for half of this year and has done a great job of building a relationship with a student that has trouble in this area and often has a difficult time working for new adults.

Christine works with a variety of students that struggle with focus and academics.  She knows how to bring each and every student out of their shell and to get the best work possible out of them.  She helps one student in particular by doing a fun activity at the beginning of the session to put him in a positive mood.  This helps him to put forth his best effort on the classroom work he works on with her.  His spelling grades are going up because of the work they are doing together.  She takes the time to understand student’s potential needs throughout the school day, and not just during the time she sees them.  As a result, she frequently has ideas and suggestions to try to help the student be successful beyond just the program she follows for the student.  She collaborates with supervising staff to share these ideas and suggestions for increased student success.

It is apparent that Christine loves working with all students.  She often states, “Give me another student.  I could squeeze in another one for 15 minutes.”  The occupational therapists appreciate this because we always manage to find more students to keep her schedule extremely full.

Christine also spends her own resources on motivators for students.  The students look forward to her special trinkets or stickers after working with her.  Students frequently tell me that I forgot to give them their sticker.  I have to remind them that those special items come from Ms. Christine.

Christine also helps with equipment needs in the schools.  One student had an adapted chair that was used daily, and a screw came out, so the student could not use it.  Christine was able to take the chair to the workshop, repair it, and bring it back out to the school the same day, so that the student would be without it as short a time as possible.

Submitted by: Holli Longe, Jill Lavene, Carla Crist, Laurie Miller, Chris Neuman, Missy Sears

Pam Thorfinnson

District Motor Activity Para

Pam Thorfinnson goes above and beyond her job duties.  To help enable students to go on field trips,  she has gone out to the student’s school, picked up the equipment necessary for bathrooming, taken the piece of equipment to the field trip site, stayed and helped staff members use the equipment for transfers, and then brought the equipment back to the assigned school.  Pam also donates her own personal items for students to use.  She brought in her own dust mop to have it adapted for a student so that the student could help sweep at school.  I don’t know what OT/PT staff would do without Pam Thorfinnson!

Submitted by: Jennifer Goddard, PT

Motor activity paraeducator Pam Thorfinson is invaluable to the Occupational and Physical therapy staff and our students!  Not only has Pam assisted with moving the department twice within this school year (a monumental task), but she has saved countless hours for staff by maintaining and transporting equipment and supplies to various sites throughout the school year.  She has even gone to student’s homes to bring large pieces of equipment to schools when families have not been able to transport the equipment themselves.  Our students benefit daily from her hard work and dedication.  Thank you Pam!!!

Submitted by: Lisa Wieman-Schulz

Grayson Spomer

District Motor Activity Para

The Occupational and Physical Therapy Staff would like to recognize and thank Grayson Spomer for her work and dedication to the students at Lincoln Public Schools. Grayson is currently a Motor Activity Para that works directly with students; meeting their individual needs in a variety of ways. Grayson also completes many sewing projects for students ranging from making weighted blankets, adapted shirts, bibs, dressing boards and personal bags for the students to put items in on their walkers and wheelchairs. Anyone that knows Grayson knows that she sincerely cares about the students that she works with and is always able to make a connection with them; ranging from talking about Comic Books, Star Wars, dinosaurs or bugs. Thank you for your service to the students at Lincoln Public Schools!

Submitted by: Jodi Rust


Contact

Dr. Jenny Fundus
Director of Special Education
jfundus@lps.org | 402-436-1919

Special Education Leadership

Cindy Brunken
Supervisor
cbrunk@lps.org | 402-436-1902

Scott Eckman
Supervisor
seckman1@lps.org | 402-436-1918

Mary Ells
Assistant Director of Special Education
mells@lps.org | 402-436-1806

Mindy Roberts
Supervisor
mroberts@lps.org | 402-436-1907

Doug Schindler
Budget Coordinator
dschind@lps.org | 402-436-1913

Jill Timmons
Supervisor
jtimmon@lps.org | 402-436-1915

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