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Strollin’ with Nolan

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Editors

Sorcha Hyland
Lara Mann
Deb Griswold
Elizabeth Kozleski

By Sean Joseph Smith

Nolan and I were asked to write this blog to share a little about Nolan and a local social media hit, Strollin’ with Nolan. Strollin’ with Nolan began as a series of short videos that Nolan and Brad Stoll–Lawrence High School Baseball Coach and Adaptive Physical Education (APE) teacher– took at various locations around the school. Brad posted each video on the Chesty Lions Twitter Feed.

 

It took only a couple of Strollin’ Tweets and the series began to receive tremendous feedback with followers wanting more. Brad started to receive text messages if he happened to skip a regular stream of installments!

nolan and brad

Nolan and his APE and Baseball Coach, Brad Stoll at Lawrence High School, Lawrence, KS.

Before long, the posts grew with a regular following. Brad’s posts garnered likes from all over with the LHS Baseball twitter feed receiving more attention than the average tweet. Overall, the videos were a hit, Brad and Nolan have shared a number of stories over the years, and with him being part of the baseball team (Baseball Manager), the videos have fostered a more supportive environment as a member of the team.

Nolan bringing the HEAT!

As I reflected on this blog though and the story to share about Strollin’ with Nolan, I kept coming back to the fact that the videos go beyond a simple social media post. You see, video has played an important part in Nolan’s life and it represents so much in Nolan’s educational experience. Now, I am not talking so much about the technology tool that video can and often represents. Yes, video is cool and video modeling and similar interventions are effective. But for Nolan, video has offered meaningful entry into the general education classroom, the curriculum, and the overall expectations. Let me explain.

sean and nolan

“Nolan and I”

When Nolan transitioned from 3-5 services to the early primary grades, inclusion wasn’t a slam dunk. Instead, extensive time in a resource room or para led instruction was recommended if not required. Through a number of discussions, pre-planning, and working with some excellent educators, Nolan received the supports needed to make general education inclusion for grades K-2 work. This involved regular meetings with his general and special education teachers. My wife and I also spent a fair amount of time in the general education classroom volunteering. Being there provided a chance to see Nolan in action, understand the class expectations, assist the teachers (thereby developing a relationship with him/her), and get to know his peers. During evenings and weekends, we pre-taught some of the major concepts and worked to prepare Nolan for the next day or week. Yes, a team approach during a time when schools are often open to including students with an intellectual disability in the general education classroom, is needed.

With the elementary grades upon us, the team approach continued to be critical. Yet, expectations grew. For a limited reader who had difficulty in writing, school was problematic for Nolan. The pressure to spend more time in the resources room and less time with typically developing peers mounted. We were being reminded that Nolan was an outlier and the services we were advocating for, the decisions for placement, and the supports that were needed went beyond typical services. Yet, everything we sought aligned with the provisions to the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) and so we continued to advocate.

By 3rd grade, our advocacy centered around technology. Technology to provide access to content, tools to demonstrate what he knew, and technology to make the learning experience more effective as well as efficient, particularly when you considered the brief school day and the increasingly shorter school year. In the end, applications like word prediction, graphic organizers, digital books (with text-to-speech support), and of course, video made a HUGE difference in Nolan’s educational experience. For example, word prediction allowed him to type in a letter and receive a list of words, he could then listen to the words and determine which would be best for a sentence. The other technologies were helpful but video was the equalizer. Video was used to create social stories, starring Nolan and his classmates, where he would illustrate the appropriate behavioral and social interactions expected in the classroom, hallway, cafeteria, and playgrounds. In place of a class presentation, Nolan created videos where additional time, practice, and editing allowed him to convey what he wanted to share. By the time he transitioned to middle school, videos were part of most every school day.

nolan and ricki

Nolan connecting with a true celebrity at the National Down syndrome Congress Annual Convention, Ricki Sabai.

Like any transition, moving to Middle School proved to be a challenge. Though we planned ahead, a number of the teachers weren’t sure what to make of Nolan. Again, there was a special room for the Nolans of the world. Inclusion meant gym, a few electives, and lunch. It certainly didn’t include all academic subjects, band, theater, and other electives. Fortunately, we had an accomplished videographer. With no time for oral reports or class presentations, Nolan was expected to complete the worksheet or related written assignment. Within three weeks, teachers questioned his placement and ability. Realizing failure meant segregation, Nolan put together a brief video presentation on the early American explorers. He sent the video via email on a Friday and by Tuesday his social studies teacher was singing his praises. She went from a primary skeptic to his number one advocate. For the remainder of his middle school years, the separate room was not mentioned again.

nolan and kate

Nolan as keynote speaker at Rhinestones & Rodeo Art Auction and Dance with Kate Dougherty.  This event hosted by Down Country, its biggest fundraiser of the year.Down Country helps raise awareness and help individuals with disabilities.

By High School, Lawrence Public Schools had adopted a blended learning instructional model. Video was commonplace as a means to represent ideas and support the student in demonstrating what they knew.  In other words, Nolan and his video projects were cool! They had also come full circle. While Brad Stoll was adding more and more Strollin’ with Nolan videos, Nolan was beginning to create his own. As a journalism student, he pitched the idea of creating a series of Strollin’ with Nolan interviews for the Yearbook/Journalism website. He would invite staff or students to be interviewed, develop the questions, storyboard the interview, conduct the interview, and the edit the production in order to share with others. His first featured a para he liked to see:

Strollin with Nolan Episode 1

Soon, he was developing audio and video episodes where he continued to interview members of the Lawrence High School community which would be featured on the LHS Budget Online,

nolan and lhs kids

Nolan and his fellow classmates Emceeing Pack the House (for Winter Sports) at Lawrence High School. Inclusion at work with thanks to the STUCO Advisor (Mrs. Lauxman) and his peers who are accepting, welcoming, and empowering. We are blessed and Thankful!

Today, Strollin’ with Nolan continues! Strollin’ with Nolan Interview.

Brad and Nolan post periodic updates on the LHS Baseball Twitter feed and Nolan develops material for the LHS Budget Online. But it extends beyond the social media. Nolan’s videos require a level of organization, idea generation, scripting, and overall storyboarding – a process he leads. The video requires speech fluency and effective articulation. Where else then to receive speech and language support from his Speech and Language Pathologist? She is with him twice a week working with the script and practicing to ensure competency and independence.

smith familiy

A labor of love for Nolan that serves as a tool for meaningful access to the general education classroom, social inclusion, and school notoriety where Coach Stoll often refers to Nolan as the Mayor of Lawrence.  Why?  Everyone seems to know Nolan.

 

 


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