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Thinking Past Tomorrow……

The old saying “Do what you can today and don’t worry about tomorrow” has been one that has bothered me for years.  Yes, it is important to do your best each and everyday in your work life and personal life but I have always felt we need to think about tomorrow and actually need to “think past tomorrow”.  That’s what transition planning is all about…..looking at where a student is today, working on what’s needed for tomorrow and thinking past tomorrow to the future.  Great transition planning keeps today, tomorrow, and the future in mind!  In order to help our students become the best that they can be we must think past tomorrow.  Sometimes that’s hard to do as a parent, teacher, or even as a student, but keeping future goals in mind helps build purpose.  Students who are aiming for positive results in their future generally do better in their day to day work.  So how are you helping your students “think past tomorrow” ?  Are you weaving information about careers and occupations into your daily work?  Do you emphasize soft skills that will help students land jobs and keep their jobs?  Do you have students practice introductions and greetings when they meet new people?  Do you talk about the skills students need to be successful in post secondary programs like community colleges, tech/trade schools, universities, etc.?  If you have been doing some innovative things with your students to help them “Think Past Tomorrow”….let’s us know.  Add a comment to this blog or talk to or email your ideas to your transition coordinator!  We would love to share ideas that work for teachers as they help students “Think Past Tomorrow”!


Free Assistive Technology Resources

Okay, if you are a teacher, you love to hear the word “FREE!”  NCLDLogo

The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) has compiled a list of 13 free assistive technology resources to help both teachers and students have a smoother transition to their new school year.

NCLD notes that a limited budget doesn’t have to stop you or your child from getting some of the best assistive technology available to help people with LD. These free resources will help you stretch your dollar while getting geared up for the new school year. Better yet, some of them may already be in your pocket—NCLD has included features built into common devices like the iPhone and iPad that can be helpful for people who struggle with reading, math, organization and more.  Check out the National Center for Learning Disabilities for more great resources.




An accessible online library for people with print-based disabilities. Bookshare offers over 204,000 digital books, all available free for K-12, college, and adult education students in the United States (must submit proof of disability to Bookshare).

Dictation for iOS

Got an iPhone 4S or 5 or an iPad 3 in your backpack? Dictation, a feature that allows you to speak instead of typing, is built right in.

Dragon Dictation

A speech-to-text app that allows you to speak and instantly see your email and text messages. Available for free download from the iTunes store for iPad and iPhone devices.

Firefox with Add-Ons

If you use the web browser Firefox (a free download) you’ll want to check out this set of add-ons that offer features like text-to-speech, dictionaries and more to make your internet browsing easier.


A free email account that comes with a text-to-speech reader, spell check, built-in organization systems and more. A Gmail account also comes with Google Calendar, which allows you to keep track of multiple responsibilities and plan a schedule.

Google Calendar Reminders App

If organization and scheduling is difficult for you, this is a must-have app. It syncs all of your day’s tasks and to-dos and can send reminders to your phone or tablet. It’s available free for iOS and Android devices.

Google Drive

Need to easily share and collaborate on documents with a teacher, tutor or classmate? Google Drive lets you create documents, spreadsheets and slideshows and share them with others…all for free.

Library of Congress

The Library of Congress provides a free library of audio materials for circulation to eligible borrowers with reading disabilities.


LibriVox is a volunteer-run organization that provides audiobooks of works in the public domain, including works like religious texts and classic literature.

Project Gutenberg

Got some Charles Dickens or Mark Twain on your reading list this year? Project Gutenberg provides free ebooks (in multiple formats) of non-copyrighted works, including many classic and historical texts.


If you have an iPhone 4S or above, you have one of today’s best AT tools right in your pocket. Siri is a “personal assistant” that is more than just dictation: It lets you use your voice to ask your phone questions or give commands. You can use it to make calls and set reminders.


Like the sound of Siri, but use an Android, BlackBerry, or Windows Mobile device? Vlingo is a virtual assistant that uses speech-to-text technology to help you send messages and find information, and is available free on all major smartphone and tablet platforms.


A free plugin for Microsoft Word (available only for Windows users) that will speak the text of any Word document and highlight as it goes.

Welcome Back!!

Are all the rest of you wondering where in the world summer went??? 

As we gear up for the rush of the new school year, please remember that YOU play a vital role in the lives of your students.  For some, you are their one and only cheerleader.  Remember to engage them, challenge them, and to help them reach their fullest potential.

Don’t get bogged down in all the changes we have to face in education.   Take them as new adventures, full of possibilities. .. (after all, it’s a great lesson on how we all have to continually transition in life, right?)  The following video reminds us why we all got into education in the first place.  Thanks for all you do, and make this school year the best one yet!  We look forward to teaming and transitioning with you!


Ft. Dodge High School Mini Grant

Ft. Dodge High School special education teachers Tamara EnTin & LuAnne Slayton took a group of students to tour Iowa Lakes Community College and the SAVE Program in Emmetsburg, Iowa.  The teachers shared it benefited them to see how the SAVE program is run, as well as, the different career paths that are offered for students.

The teachers also noted that it benefited their students on a number of levels:

  • Some of our students rarely get out of Fort Dodge;  experiencing another part of the state helped them see that there are places to live other than Fort Dodge.
  • Some of our students have no idea what they want to do beyond high school;  this trip gave them the opportunity to explore some of what is out there in the way of career pathways and the preparation necessary to pursue those careers.
  • Some of our students have a hard time imagining themselves at college;  this gave them an opportunity to see other students similar to themselves living and functioning in the college setting.

Both the teachers and the students enjoyed seeing additional programs that may be possible  postsecondary options.  The following clips are comments from two of the students who enjoyed the trip:


Full Steam Ahead!

The Prairie Lakes AEA 8 Transition Team is taking part in a wonderful educational retreat at Twin Lakes Conference Center with many of our AEA 8 colleagues.  It has given all of us involved a chance to connect, think about our year ahead, and most importantly think about the real reason we are here……our work with students.  Thank you Troyce Fisher for a wonderful opener yesterday that helped us focus on that very thought….our work with students!  Diane


Okoboji High School Mini Grant Experiences

Okoboji 2“Thanks again for these amazing and eye-opening opportunities!”  That’s the way Okoboji High School special education teacher Jennifer Prentice started out her evaluation and update about AEA 8’s Transition Mini Grants.  Mrs. Prentice with support from her high school administration and the funding provided by two Transition Mini Grants took full advantage of the opportunities that AEA 8’s Transition Mini Grants offered her classroom.  They used the mini grants to fund visits at  Village Northwest in Sheldon, Sunshine Inc. in Spencer,  Project Learning at Iowa Lakes Community College and Horizons Unlimited, Smith Wellness Center, and Wild Rose Casino’s kitchen and hotel in Emmetsburg Iowa, and Hope Haven in Rock Valley.

Here is some of the feedback Mrs. Prentice and her class would like to share about their first day’s adventure in transition learning.  They started  by visiting the ILCC campus and programs.  Mrs. Prentice noted: “This was an opportunity that was a first for all my students.  They loved the campus lay-out and communicating with fellow ILCC students. We toured Project Learning and saw adults in action working on functional life skills tasks in the kitchen and Day-Hab.  We also visited Horizons Unlimited in Emmetsburg and toured their facility and one of the group homes.  We had the opportunity to use the Smith Wellness Center through Horizons and the student’s took risks and had new experiences such as using locker rooms and the pool’s diving board! One student said it was his most favorite day of the school year!  Finally we, visited Wild Rose Casino and Resort where our students were able to view the kitchen and explore jobs that would be possible  for a student interested in food service careers.  Not only did we view all these programs but we also located important community areas of interest such as the post office, gas stations, restaurants, the lake and parks.”

The group also visited Village Northwest at Sheldon, Sunshine Inc. Programs in Spencer, and Hope Haven in Rock Valley.    Mrs. Prentice noted all the programs were great to visit -“The people, staff, and residents were all so welcoming.  As a teacher I enjoyed seeing all the residential services available.  The information I gained I will be able to share in many IEP’s in the future and will provide great sharing of knowledge as we set plans for my students beyond the walls here at Okoboji High School. ”  She continued, “These were real life experiences that I will continue to give each student and help educate them about opportunities that are out there.  This experience not only has provided great classroom conversations but also allows further meaningful conversations with parents in IEP conferences, parent-teacher conferences, and in daily communication!”  The students were amazed at the opportunities these programs offered also!

Last but not least students participating in these transition mini grant opportunities have down-loaded apps on their iPads to look into options after graduation…Mrs. Prentice noted that “my students are opening up and communicating about their desires and hopes in their futures!”    If you are interested in following up with Mrs. Prentice about the experiences that she and her students were involved in, please feel free to contact her at


Laurens-Marathon HS Transition Mini Grant Update

The Laurens-Marathon High School Resource Program used their transition mini grant to expand their knowledge of 4+ programs and the trucking industry.  The group, under the leadership of Laurens-Marathon High School Resource Teacher Brenda Gonzales, used their grant funding to motor to Fort Dodge Iowa where they were able to visit both the VESS Program at Iowa Central Community College and Decker Trucking.  Several students in Mrs. Gonzales class have an interest in continuing their education through a 4+ program or at a community college, so this visit was not only interesting to them but relevant to their transition planning in the future.  Decker Trucking was chosen as an industrial site to visit based on student interests also.  Again the students were impressed with what they found out about the trucking industry.  Multiple types of jobs from office work to dispatching, to mechanical work, and to semi truck driving were all observed.  The students also had the opportunity to observe the technology that Decker Trucking uses to keep track of where their trucks, drivers, and loads are.  Mrs. Gonzales noted “I was glad that the students had the chance to experience the VESS Program and the guys loved Decker Trucking.”  She also noted that the mini grant was a great incentive to expand both teacher and students knowledge base and it was well worth their effort.  Additionally, following the mini grant trip experience one student was motivated to go on a community college visit with  family  members and others used their high schools technology to  explore on-line college tours.  If you have any further questions about Laurens-Marathon’s experiences with their mini grant you may contact Mrs. Gonzales at the high school.