ICDL 2018

The 2018 International DIRFloortime Conference took place in Rockville,Maryland this year. It’s organized by the International Council on Development and Learning or ICDL. I went down with a contingent of Rebecca School therapists, teachers, and administrators to present with two colleagues of mine on a poetry workshop we facilitate. The conference was a two day event (with a third per-conference day for the ICDL training leaders) spanning Veteran’s Day weekend.

 Jeff Guenzel a middle aged white male with professionally dressed addresses an audience from behind a podium. In the foreground is a table with a conference flyer and in the background, behind Guenzel, is the ICDL logo on a power point screen. Around Guenzel can be seen equipment such as projector, speakers, lights. The walls of the hotel lobby are yellow and the floor has a navy and yellow rug to match.

Jeff Guenzel a middle aged white male with professionally dressed addresses an audience from behind a podium. In the foreground is a table with a conference flyer and in the background, behind Guenzel, is the ICDL logo on a power point screen. Around Guenzel can be seen equipment such as projector, speakers, lights. The walls of the hotel lobby are yellow and the floor has a navy and yellow rug to match.

After the welcome, the first Keynote started up: Alicia F. Lieberman’s “Treating Trauma in Young Children: The Gifts and Challenges of Speaking the Unspeakable” While an admittedly heavy topic to start the day with, it was eye and mind opening, Lieberman was a true well of knowledge. From quoting academia to quoting graffiti, or an “anonymous philosopher” as she termed it, Lieberman took the overwhelming challenge of working with youth who have experienced trauma and gave the audience both inspiration and actionable advice to help their clients, students, and (in my case) poets.

Beyond the clinical applications of her work, I also noticed that she branded each of her slides with her contact info and institute name. I though this was an incredibly smooth move, making it harder for someone to republish without credit and also easier for her to be contacted, something I’ll be sure to do for future presentations of my own!

 Black and white photo. Alicia F. Lieberman, a senior woman, addresses a large crowd of people from behind a podium. Behind and around Lieberman conference equipment can be seen including a large presentations screen, projector, speakers, and a banner with logo draped over the podium itself.

Black and white photo. Alicia F. Lieberman, a senior woman, addresses a large crowd of people from behind a podium. Behind and around Lieberman conference equipment can be seen including a large presentations screen, projector, speakers, and a banner with logo draped over the podium itself.

Lieberman’s talk on Trauma would mark the start of theme throughout the conference as many of the breakout sessions happening the next day would also showcase work and address strategies for working with youth who have experienced trauma.

The second keynote of the day was Dr. Stephen Shore. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Dr. Shore present at a couple different conferences, but every time I do I’m impressed by his passion, advocacy, and commitment. His 3 A’s (in the photo below) are important tenets to keep in mind as a professional in this field.

 Large presentation screen with a black curtain skirt on the bottom. On the top in Green is “ The 3 A’s of Autism” below is a stack of three words showing each concept as a foundation for the other. From the bottom up in red “Awareness” in yellow “Acceptance” and in light blue “Appreciation”:

Large presentation screen with a black curtain skirt on the bottom. On the top in Green is “ The 3 A’s of Autism” below is a stack of three words showing each concept as a foundation for the other. From the bottom up in red “Awareness” in yellow “Acceptance” and in light blue “Appreciation”:

After the two keynotes, there was a break for lunch and then we went right into the plenary sessions. It felt a little intense to be in the same space hearing presentations back to back. I felt pretty antsy at moments and had to take standing and walking breaks. I wish that there was more to interact with on this day, like a small vendor area or designated networking space. Without that kind of diversity of programming the day not only felt long, but felt more like professional development than a conference.

That said, the plenary sessions were great! Zachary Kandler a Nordoff-Robbins trained music therapist brought the house down with “Finding Flow in Music: A Case Study of Developmental and Emotional Transformation” The session highlighted his work with one specific client from their first meeting to the present and it was a especially compelling watching the narrative of their sessions unfold. The case video of the two of them playing, writing, and performing together also brought a bunch of great energy into the space!

 Zachary Kandler, a professionally dressed, young white man addresses a large audience from behind a podium. Behind and around Kandler there is presentation equipment such as speakers, projector, and large presentation screens. On the screen behind Kandler can be read “Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy” with black and white images of the two men (a bit difficult to distinguish from the photo). All of this is taking place in a hotel ballroom with navy and yellow rug and yellow wall.

Zachary Kandler, a professionally dressed, young white man addresses a large audience from behind a podium. Behind and around Kandler there is presentation equipment such as speakers, projector, and large presentation screens. On the screen behind Kandler can be read “Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy” with black and white images of the two men (a bit difficult to distinguish from the photo). All of this is taking place in a hotel ballroom with navy and yellow rug and yellow wall.

Following Kandler’s rousing presentation on Flow was “Critical Core: Role-Playing Games and the Future of Social-Skills Enrichment” presented by Virginia Spielmann, Adam Davis, and Adam Johns. This was a cool exploration of Critical Core, “a therapeutic tool for kids 9+ in the form of a fantasy role-playing game. Developed by parents, therapists, and educators, it's an amazing new skill building tool that can be used at home or in the clinic. “ [1]

 It’s tricky having the last session of the day, but I was impressed with the group, especially the simple movement activity they used to start! They had us imagine blowing up a balloon, holding the balloon, then letting out air in the balloon by making all the silly, squeaky, farty, sounds that involves. In doing so, Adam Davis, who led the activity, brought it back to his own feelings and anxieties presenting before an audience and how now that we had all made these fun noises together we were able to alleviate that. Pretty pro-move!

Gaming would prove another small theme throughout the conference with two Saturday breakout sessions dedicated to it as well.

 Large presentation screen with black, curtain skirt. On top of the screen in large white lettering “Challenge the Status Quo” Under that is an image of a fantasy, warrior character facing a large dragon-like monster emerging from a body of water. In the bottom right is the C logo for Critical Core.

Large presentation screen with black, curtain skirt. On top of the screen in large white lettering “Challenge the Status Quo” Under that is an image of a fantasy, warrior character facing a large dragon-like monster emerging from a body of water. In the bottom right is the C logo for Critical Core.

My presentation was on the second day of the conference. I got to the hotel a little bit later, taking an easy morning out of the Air BnB I shared with colleauges from Rebecca School which was about 40 minutes away in DC.

I was glad I made it in time to see “DIRFloortime Case Studies: The Clinical Experience at Floortime Thailand” by Kingkaew Pajareya, MD or “Dr.K” as she referred to herself. It was fascinating seeing the way this work takes form on a global scale.  While Dr K.. was present to answer questions and guide the session, she also filmed herself presenting and had the video over dubbed by a colleague in English as a way to overcome the language barrier an hour long presentation in English presented. I thought was pretty unique approach!

After lunch I took the stage with Colleen Gabbert and Courtney Latter for “(Move)ment; The Poetics of Purposeful Action and Commnication” a presentation on the interdisciplinary approach the three of us bring to a poetry workshop at the Rebecca School. This was my second time presenting with Gabbert and Latter and it’s always such a treat to share the stage with these two brilliant clinicians!

 From left to right: Colleen Gabbert, young white woman. Donnie Welch young white man. Courtney Latter young white woman. All dressed professionally. The three are posing in front of their title slide on a large presentation screen with a black, curtain skirt. Behind them can be seen a speaker and light as well as the navy-yellow rug and yellow wall of the hotel ballroom.

From left to right: Colleen Gabbert, young white woman. Donnie Welch young white man. Courtney Latter young white woman. All dressed professionally. The three are posing in front of their title slide on a large presentation screen with a black, curtain skirt. Behind them can be seen a speaker and light as well as the navy-yellow rug and yellow wall of the hotel ballroom.

The presentation went really well! And following it I took some time to network and follow up with attendees before popping into “Think Before you Speak: Supporting Pre-Linguistic Development in Individual with ASD” to support Latter and my other colleagues from the Rebecca School Speech Department.

The final session of the day led me to colleague Christopher Hernandez’s “LevelUpTime: An Interactive View of the future of Floortime through Videography, Coding, and Design” As Chris is also a close friend of mine, I know that this was his first presentation and despite his nerves he absolutely crushed it! The presentation showcases the first year and amazing growth of a game design program he developed and runs at the Rebecca School, “LevelUp Time™ EDU is a comprehensive science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics program designed for children with neurodevelopmental delays, including Autism, using the DIR Floortime teaching method. The purpose of the program is to teach children with Autism that technology can be used for so much more than "screen time" and to open up a new world of career possibilities in their future.” [2] To learn more about his model, head over to his site and Level Up!

 Chris Hernandez a young Puerto-Rican man, presents from behind a table to a group of people sitting. His body language suggests he is engaged and mid-speech. Behind him is a large presentation screen with “So…What is a Video Game” written over the image of a console controller. Around Hernandez can be seen equipment such as a laptop, sound board, and projector. The presentation is taking place in the hotel ballroom and the navy and yellow rug and yellow wall of the room are seen in the photo.

Chris Hernandez a young Puerto-Rican man, presents from behind a table to a group of people sitting. His body language suggests he is engaged and mid-speech. Behind him is a large presentation screen with “So…What is a Video Game” written over the image of a console controller. Around Hernandez can be seen equipment such as a laptop, sound board, and projector. The presentation is taking place in the hotel ballroom and the navy and yellow rug and yellow wall of the room are seen in the photo.

This batch of breakout workshops ended the conference. It felt a little odd that there was no closing speech or event, but there were also a lot of attendees with busy travel plans so perhaps the conference committee wanted to keep the schedule flexible

All in all it was a great time. I had an opportunity to celebrate the work of close colleagues as well as pick up a few new tips and tricks from people who have been working with youth and presenting in the industry for quite awhile.

Oh, but there was some cool conference swag!

 Black and white ceramic style coffee mug with “ICDL" and ICDL’s Logo in bold white lettering on the front. The coffee mug is sitting on a checkered wooden cutting board.

Black and white ceramic style coffee mug with “ICDL" and ICDL’s Logo in bold white lettering on the front. The coffee mug is sitting on a checkered wooden cutting board.

SXSWedu Panel Picker 2019

Panel Picker is part of the conference selection process for SXSW and SXSWedu.

It's a  voting platform wherein, "Community voting comprises 30% of the selection decision, plus input of the SXSW Staff (30%) and Advisory Board (40%) helps ensure that less well-known voices have as much of a chance of being selected to speak at SXSW EDU as individuals with large online followings. Together these percentages help determine the final content lineup." [https://www.sxswedu.com/news/2018/panelpicker-community-voting-is-open/]

To vote, visit panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote  and make a free account by providing an email and creating a password.

I've submitted Rhythm & Learning with two close colleagues of mine. This workshop will go into greater depth about the poetry workshops than my previous half hour sessions at the conference. This will include on overview of the DIR/Floortime model (the theoretical framework for the sessions) an overview of the workshop structure and process, and end with a model workshop.

Check out our proposal, leave a comment, and an upvote if you like what you see. Also, if you're going to the conference and/or have a proposal feel free to reach out. Hope to see you in Austin!

Split This Rock Poetry Festival

Split this Rock Poetry Festival

Split This Rock poetry festival is the biennial festival of the Split This Rock organization where, “[e]very two years poets, activists, and dreamers gather in our nation’s capital for four days of readings, workshops, discussions, youth voices & activism.” [1] I applied to their open call for workshops and was pleasantly surprised to be accepted. I had a blast presenting, volunteering, and exploring DC!

 excerpt of Langston Hughes poem “Big Buddy” title, author, and poem excerpt in bold white letters on a black background. Square, Split This Rock Poetry Festival name tag in square plastic case. “Donnie Welch” written in black lettering. A cartoon dalamation sticker is in the bottom right corner of the badge.

excerpt of Langston Hughes poem “Big Buddy” title, author, and poem excerpt in bold white letters on a black background. Square, Split This Rock Poetry Festival name tag in square plastic case. “Donnie Welch” written in black lettering. A cartoon dalamation sticker is in the bottom right corner of the badge.

 

April 19th

My day started bright and early with a volunteer orientation. I had taken a late night flight into DC after teaching a full day and probably would have been pretty grumpy were it not for some delicious cookies baked by volunteer coordinator Tyler French. The orientation itself proved pleasant, informative, and engaging. I was impressed by the attention the festival paid to accessibility. In the lead up to the festival, I saw all the email reminders about the scent-free environment, shuttles, and requests for adapted materials, but it’s one thing to talk the talk and another to have these details emphasized throughout the festival.

 "People First Language" guidelines included in the Volunteer information packet. Brief introduction followed by two columns “Say This” “Not This” in black lettering on a white background.

"People First Language" guidelines included in the Volunteer information packet. Brief introduction followed by two columns “Say This” “Not This” in black lettering on a white background.

 

After the orientation I got ready for my session which was from  1:30pm-3pm in the Charles Sumner School Museum. An hour and half is the longest I've ever presented and I was pretty nervous leading up to the event. I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to fill the time or hold people's interest for that whole slot!

I had nothing to worry about though, because my session was full of an amazing group of people. They were really game for the collaborative activity and curious to learn about my work! After being around so many educators and academics at my other presentations (no offense) it was refreshing to be around poets. There was a general sense of optimism or, perhaps more accurately stated, a “can-do” mentality. People weren’t asking me about budget concerns, common core alignment, class management strategies, and other ( admittedly valid) concerns, instead they wanted to know the poem titles poets came up, what the writing looks like, have any of my students published? It was an exciting atmosphere to be running a workshop in!

 Collaborative poem made by the poets in the "Let the Words Sing" workshop at Split This Rock. At the top of a dark wooden table there’s “Don’t Talk the Talk / Come Split this Rock” written in black marker on a manila folder. Stacked vertically underneath are note cards, each with two lines of writing in pen, making up the poem.

Collaborative poem made by the poets in the "Let the Words Sing" workshop at Split This Rock. At the top of a dark wooden table there’s “Don’t Talk the Talk / Come Split this Rock” written in black marker on a manila folder. Stacked vertically underneath are note cards, each with two lines of writing in pen, making up the poem.

After my presentation I went over to the Deaf Poets Society reading where I heard from a line-up of incredible poets. I was especially found of piece from Jay Besemer which used some probiotic imagery ( as I've been working on a kefir poem myself) and the erasure work of Jill Khoury.

The night’s feature was also incredible. Every poet who was reading was someone on my wish list of poets to hear and the Jonathan Mendoza, who opened with his Sonia Sanchez-Langston Hughes Award winning poem "Osmosis", is a familiar face from my Emerson College CUPSI days, so it was cool to see his growth and success!

 Festival flyer for Split this Rock. The top title is in white with black and red lettering stating the festival name. The middle of the flyer is black with white and yellow lettering to introduced the featured poets. The bottom of the flyer has a banner of red with white lettering giving the details of the featured reading. The very bottom of the flyer is white with the festival tag line in black lettering.

Festival flyer for Split this Rock. The top title is in white with black and red lettering stating the festival name. The middle of the flyer is black with white and yellow lettering to introduced the featured poets. The bottom of the flyer has a banner of red with white lettering giving the details of the featured reading. The very bottom of the flyer is white with the festival tag line in black lettering.

 

April 20th

I decided to volunteer for Split This Rock in exchange for a free festival pass. While there were presenter rates and I thought it would be fun to involve myself with the organization.

I had a 11am-1pm shift at the merch table  which was really quite pleasant. I’ve sold merch before for friends in bands and the experience, while a little more serious at this level of event planning, was similarly pleasant. The people coming to buy merch were in good spirits, spending vacation money (which isn’t real money) and wanting something to bring home and remember the festival by.

 View of the National Housing Center atrium from the merch table. In the foreground, on a table, are rolled up black t-shirts with red stripes bearing black lettering. Beyond that is an atrium with tiled floors and a tall window-like structure jutting out into the atrium space.

View of the National Housing Center atrium from the merch table. In the foreground, on a table, are rolled up black t-shirts with red stripes bearing black lettering. Beyond that is an atrium with tiled floors and a tall window-like structure jutting out into the atrium space.

My next shift started at 3pm, so I popped over to the Wilderness Society and saw their Ansel Adams prints. This (like so many other amazing museums in DC) was absolutely free! I definitely recommend stopping into the gallery if you have chance, it's a truly epic reflection on the American landscape.

My 3pm-5:30pm shift was as a greeter outside of a venue. At this point in the festival most of the attendees had gotten a grasp of the layout, so it was pretty slow going.

I went back after this shift with the intention of taking a power nap, but that turned into a bit more of an endeavor and I accidentally napped through the feature! Gathering myself up, I headed over to the open mic at Busboys & Poets.

When I was younger and more involved in the Slam Poetry scene Busboys & Poets was always talked about by touring poets and older figures in the scene, so it felt fulfilling, in a manner of speaking, to attend an open mic there. I didn’t read, instead I just took in the space and listened to some of the people I had met at festival and in my workshop share their writing.

April 21st

The Social Change Book Fair was amazing! I spent the morning and early afternoon going from booth to booth, talking about my workshops and speaking with editors, journals, and presses both new and familiar.

 An open room with large windows full of tables, some covered in cloths, other bare, all with materials (books, computers, magazines) on them and with people behind them sitting in chairs or standing up. On the other side, people are walking around and talking to those behind the tables. It’s clear that its sunny outside as light is coming through the large windows of the space and brightening up the book fair scene.

An open room with large windows full of tables, some covered in cloths, other bare, all with materials (books, computers, magazines) on them and with people behind them sitting in chairs or standing up. On the other side, people are walking around and talking to those behind the tables. It’s clear that its sunny outside as light is coming through the large windows of the space and brightening up the book fair scene.

 

After the book fair, I decided to take the day to explore DC. I went to the National Portrait Gallery and saw the Obama portraits along with a number of other paintings that I recognized, but hadn’t realize were housed there.

I also stumbled upon a painting I’ve been using in a reading group I run on the Sleepy Hollow legend, which was a fun discovery.

 Donnie Welch, a young, white male bearded, with glasses and in a black long sleeve shirt stands in front of "The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane" (1858 oil on canvas) by John Quidor pointing at the art. The painting is a water color showing two horsemen, one the black, spectral, headless horseman on a black horse, reared up, the other a regular man on a white horse trying to ride away. The painting fairly small and in an ornate gold colored frame.

Donnie Welch, a young, white male bearded, with glasses and in a black long sleeve shirt stands in front of "The Headless Horseman Pursuing Ichabod Crane" (1858 oil on canvas) by John Quidor pointing at the art. The painting is a water color showing two horsemen, one the black, spectral, headless horseman on a black horse, reared up, the other a regular man on a white horse trying to ride away. The painting fairly small and in an ornate gold colored frame.

 

After that I walked around the city some more and finally circled back to my hotel to freshen up before the closing festivities for Split this Rock.

All in all it was a great adventure. The festival was incredible and highly reccomend it to any poets out there who are interested and DC turned out to be a pleasant surprise. I was expecting a lot of tourists and powersuits, but I found myself quite charmed by the capital and excited for a return visit sometime.

 

Sources

[1] http://www.splitthisrock.org/programs

Berklee ABLE Assembly

This April I went back to my old college stomping grounds, Boston, MA, to attend Berklee College's Arts Better the Lives of Everyone (ABLE) Assembly. It was a wonderful three day event hosted by the college's Institute for Arts Education and Special Needs.

April 6th

Really cool opening reception, which I suppose should be expected from Berklee. The band during the reception was a jazz trio composed of students from the school. The welcomes all talked a lot about the recent merge between Berklee College of Music and the Boston Conservatory, in part because the merger is what made this program possible.

After the welcomes and introductions, the Merry Rockers took the stage. The Merry Rockers are a reggae band and led by Marissa "Mar" Lelogeais  a Berklee Alumni and self-advocate with cerebral palsy and a visual impairment. Mar took some time on the mic to talk about what drew her to the reggae scene. She said, in particular, that it’s focus on positivity and the lyrics that uplift whether than dwell on difficulties or  belittle or demean others drew her into the genre.

The reception ended with the trio taking the stage and the Merry Rockers dispersing into the crowd. It was a cool way to set the tone for a conference dedicated to “Arts Education and Special Needs”

 In purple-hued stage lights two musicians play. A younger black male in a short sleeve gray shirt and jeans plays trumpet with a younger white male with long hairs in a black cardigan and dark jeans plays stand-up bass. They’re both on stage with large monitors, a drum set, and key board around them a and screen bearing the conference title behind them

In purple-hued stage lights two musicians play. A younger black male in a short sleeve gray shirt and jeans plays trumpet with a younger white male with long hairs in a black cardigan and dark jeans plays stand-up bass. They’re both on stage with large monitors, a drum set, and key board around them a and screen bearing the conference title behind them

 

April 7th

I got a bit of a late start to the conference. I stayed out in Watertown with an old friend of mine, rather than spend the money on a hotel closer. While it was really cool to catch up with him and have a more familiar environment than a hotel to return to, I learned that proximity is really important in conference-ing. These events can be exhausting, especially as someone who has to make a conscious effort to network. They start early and tend (officially or unofficially) run late, so being able to wake up and walk right over to the venue makes a big difference.

I started this day off with a session on movement entitled “Meaningful Movement in the Classroom: Techniques and Activities to Deepen Learning and Increase Engagement” led by Portia Abernathy the Director of Programs at VSA Massachusetts. The workshop was really well done and offered a lot of actionable ideas for classrooms big and small.

One of my favorites was the “Flock” activity: the group, probably around 40 people, was broken into smaller groups of 4-6 each with their own set of movement guidelines. The person at the point of the small group was the leader and the others had to follow their movement until it was passed onto the next member. This process continuing all the way around the group.

 Over the course of the activity, these small groups joined one another until all of the attendees were moving together. It was a fascinating activity that really required concentration and attention to one another, something Abernathy pointed out at the start, as we had to be aware of the shifts and follow whoever becomes the new leader. Also, the feeling of that leader position shifting to me was intense! There was something very moving (no pun intended) about knowing that 40 other people, in this instance complete strangers, were following my lead. I can see how students could really bloom after having that kind of an experience.

Lunch was free, but hosted at the Berklee College dining hall. While I’m certainly never one to complain about free food, and especially fresh, good, free food, it felt a little off putting and to be thrust into that setting. Maybe that’s due in part to my own experience as an undergraduate in Boston rolling out of bed to meet up with friends and eat away all those late  nights studying.

After lunch I had my workshop. Working on the audio and visual stuff with Berklee sound folks was pretty awesome! Tom (the guy in charge of my stage) was really kind and accommodating and I’m grateful for his patience during my set up!

Having a session slot right after lunch is always a little tricky. People are usually a bit late, and a bit sleepy, but the group I had was amazing. I had a small, but devoted crew! I had about 10 people, which really was the perfect size for the activity I had in mind, and all of them seemed really interested in and committed to learning about my work.

During the model workshop/ collaborative writing portion they were really together and we made a lovely little poem based on my wishful Spring prompt.

 “April Showers / bring Mayflowers” is written in black lettering on a white board. Below that in a vertical column are note cards. It’s clear that there’s writing on the cards, but the writing itself is illegible in the photo.

“April Showers / bring Mayflowers” is written in black lettering on a white board. Below that in a vertical column are note cards. It’s clear that there’s writing on the cards, but the writing itself is illegible in the photo.

 

After my workshop I attended two back to back sessions “Music Learning and the Brain” by Erica Knowles and “The Effects of Rhythm on Social-Emotional Learning Skills Development” by Jonathan Mende. These two were standard 20 minute sessions with a set 10 minutes for Q&A after. The ABLE Assembly had a lot of interesting formats and groupings for presentations which broke up the event nicely, including the ABLE 15, “lightning rounds of 15-minute presentations, grouped into 45–minute sessions.”[1]

I was especially interested in hearing Mende talk about his work. The presentation was on his organization Drums & Wellness, “a drum-based educational program for community and personal development.”

 In a classroom with a brown rug, desks, and tiled, white ceiling Jonathan Mende, a younger black male in a black suit, red tie, and glasses, presents to an audience, his hands out stretched emphatically. Behind him is a colorful slide and around him is a table with computer. Below this table is an amplifier, plugged in, with a white mesh front.

In a classroom with a brown rug, desks, and tiled, white ceiling Jonathan Mende, a younger black male in a black suit, red tie, and glasses, presents to an audience, his hands out stretched emphatically. Behind him is a colorful slide and around him is a table with computer. Below this table is an amplifier, plugged in, with a white mesh front.

 

After these sessions, I caught the tail end of Sheila Scott’s “Vocal Activities for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.” When I walked in she was playing a kazoo which, while not my cup of tea, I can certainly see younger children really responding to and finding some enjoyment in.

April 8th

I’ve been making a conscious effort to take time and enjoy the cities I travel to, for example in Austin I took time to hike the Greenbelt, so I decided to hang out with my friend and visit Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. The Boston MFA is one of all-time favorite museums. As a college student I was able to get in for free, so I ended up spending a lot of afternoons and evenings wandering around and taking in the artwork.

The Takashi Murakami exhibit had just closed on April 1st which I was really bummed about! I’m hoping that it makes it’s way to NYC soon, but I was able to catch a little sneak peak of it as the museum was still in the process of taking it down. I was excited to see their other special exhibit though: the sketches of Klimt and Schiele: Drawn which was a cool look at the early work of Klimt and introduced me to Schiele’s work which I had never seen before.

I also paid a visit to the reconstructed Buddhist temple the museum hosts and, along the way, was really taken by another rotating display they had of Japanese psychedelic art from the 1970s. The illustrations of Takeda Hideo held my attention in particular and it was fascinating seeing the ways in which Japanese artist responded to the Zeitgiest of that era because the American imagery is so recognizable.

After that, a trip to a favorite coffee shop in Brighton and a quiet dinner with some friends closed out my trip. I’m always charmed anew by the city of Boston. While I’m not sure I'd want to live there again, I can say for certain I’m excited for a return visit.  

Sources:

[1] https://www.berklee.edu/able/call-proposals-able-assembly-arts-better-lives-everyone

SXSWedu 2018

March 4th

My trip to Austin started with a delay at JFK. However, it wasn’t all bad. The passengers were mainly people traveling to the conference so I was able to meet teachers and administrators from NYC schools, an education activist, and the Founding Executive Director and Dream Director of a company from Connecticut called Workspace Education who I actually sat next to on the flight down.

Once I finally landed, I checked out The Lion & The Pirate open mic at Malvern Books. This is an inclusive open mic organized by Pen 2 Paper an arts branch of the advocacy group Coalition of Texans with Disabilities.

 

I was only able to catch the tail end of the event because of my flight delay, but what I saw was a really powerful community of writers and musicians sharing some funny, touching, and moving work.

I ended the night with SXSWedu’s early bird social. This is a pretty low key event for attendees who are in time to get their badges on Sunday night. As someone who is more introverted by nature, I find this event a nice time to warm up my networking skills before the conference really kicks off.

March 5th

I started at the keynote “Stories of Schooling & Getting Schooled” hosted by the Moth’s Micaela Blei and featuring stories from three teachers: Chris De La Cruz, Crystal Duckert, and Tim Manley. The session brought a nice energy to kick off the conference and as Micaela Blei said, “we want to open the conference with teacher voices.”

 

After the keynote I spent time exploring the PBS Teacher’s lounge. This was one of the sponsored hang out spots throughout the conference offering coffee, snacks, refreshment, and more colloquial programming. For example, on my first visit to the lounge it was a conversation on media literacy led by a member of the PBS media team. PBS was also giving out T-shirts with their retro logo and I definitely waited in line for one.

My first breakout session of the day was, “Create a Generation of Super-Students with Fitness” led by Dr. Elsie Traveras from Massachusetts General Hospital and Kathleen Tullie, the founder of the BOKS program. It was an interesting run down of how practice can couple with research. BOKS is a before school movement program that offers a, “free physical activity program that improves our children physically, mentally and socially by strengthening their minds and bodies through movement.”[1] After the success of the program in area schools, Dr. Traveras became intrigued and conducted a three year study to prove that, “before-school exercise has a direct effect not only on a student’s academic performance, but on their mental and physical well-being.”[2]

I floated around the expo hall, where all the vendors are located, and was pleasantly surprised to see 826 National represented. 826 is a non-profit providing youth with creative writing opportunities. They have seven chapters throughout the country that, “[offer] five core programs: after-school tutoring, field trips, workshops, Young Authors’ Book Project, and in-school programs — all free of charge — for students, classes, and schools.”[3] At the national level, the organization has now complied the resources of their seven chapters into one online location that’s free for teachers to access! If you want to sign up yourself then go to www.826Digital.com 

One of the best sessions I went to all conference happened this afternoon. I attended a panel entitled “Art as a Pathway to Health & Wellness.” The session was hosted by Head Starter Network and consisted of Jeanette Betancourt of the Sesame Workshop (aka Sesame Street), Lee Francis of Native Realities a publisher who, “strive[s] to give you the most original and authentic representations of Native and Indigenous peoples through stories and texts that educate and entertain children, youth and adults,” [4]Melissa Menzer from the National Endowment for the Arts, and Jane Park Woo from the Clinton Foundation.

It was a fascinating discussion on the role art can play in human development and how it scientifically impacts our emotional and physical health. I learned the term “neuroasthetics” which is, “a new field of research emerging at the intersection of psychological aesthetics, neuroscience and human evolution. The main objective of neuroaesthetics is to characterize the neurobiological foundations and evolutionary history of the cognitive and affective processes involved in aesthetic experiences and artistic and other creative activities.” [5] I had never heard of the term before and now I keep digging into it as it seems so central to the work I’m doing in the poetry workshops.

 

March 6th

Spent the morning prepping and getting ready for my presentation “I’ve Got Rhythm: Poetry in Autism Education.”

 Donnie Welch a young white male with brown hair, a beard, and glasses stands on a red carpet with a blue banner for SXSWedu 2018 behind him. The blue banner his SXSWedu 2018 and the event details in white-yellow hued text. Welch is wearing tan dress shoes, blue pants and a paisley shirt.

Donnie Welch a young white male with brown hair, a beard, and glasses stands on a red carpet with a blue banner for SXSWedu 2018 behind him. The blue banner his SXSWedu 2018 and the event details in white-yellow hued text. Welch is wearing tan dress shoes, blue pants and a paisley shirt.

 

The session went really well and was definitely a step up from anything I had previously done as a speaker or presenter; as evidenced by my being given a clicker for slide changes!

For real though, people in the audience were receptive and interested. I had educators, parents, and administrators coming up to pick my brain later, and after the conference received a tweet from a librarian who made use of the information I shared as soon as she got back to work.

After my session and a lunch break, I checked out the talk, “Fellowships Are the Next Big Youth Extracurricular” led by Yerba Buena Center for the Art’s Jonathan Moscone. He shared stories from the Youth Fellows program YBCA runs, “a yearlong paid fellowship for high schoolers that places them at the intersection of art and activism.” [6] It’s a fascinating initiative that places youth in the driving seat of art and change in their own neighborhoods.

One of the highlighted projects paired young artists and designers with a neon glass company so that they could create new lights for their local bodegas. The lights would depict fruits, vegetables, and other healthy food rather than the alcohol neons that storefronts are given promotionally. The Youth Fellows were responsible for budgeting this project, forging connections with the stores in their community, and completing the creative piece as well. Really cool stuff!

I ended the day in the Startup Spotlight, a space that is mainly for edtech startups hoping to find funders and/or new users. I usually don’t spend too much time in these spaces, but my friends from Workspace, who I met back on the plane in JFK, were there to talk about their organization and I wanted to give them some support. You can find out about the cool work their doing with community driven, alternative education by visiting http://workspaceeducation.org/

March 7th

I gave myself the morning to explore Lady Bird Lake and the Barton Springs Greenbelt. These are part of a really gorgeous urban park network that offers amazing natural scenery and views of the Austin skyline. The Barton Springs Greenbelt alone has over twelve miles of hiking trails![7]

 In the foreground is a fairly wide dirt path with a metal bench, one person running, and two people walking together. Beside the path is a river. The path is covered in trees, some green with leaves others with small purple/pink buds. In the background is a bridge and beyond that are skyscrapers in the Austin, TX skyline.

In the foreground is a fairly wide dirt path with a metal bench, one person running, and two people walking together. Beside the path is a river. The path is covered in trees, some green with leaves others with small purple/pink buds. In the background is a bridge and beyond that are skyscrapers in the Austin, TX skyline.

After a couple hours hiking and enjoying the warm weather I returned to the conference to hear a featured conversation: “National Arts Networks & Stories of Impact.” This was a conversation between the Kennedy Center’s Mario Rossero and Hakim Bellamy a Citizen Artist Fellow with the Kennedy Center and the inaugural Poet Laureate of Albuquerque, NM. While much of the session involved stories directly related to the Kennedy Center’s work,  Rossero and Bellamy both brought a wealth of experience, albeit slightly different perspectives, so their conversation had real wisdom about building community through arts programming in schools.

I spent the rest of the day popping in and out of some of the more informal, quirky, and hands-on sessions like “Make a Food Computer” and “Virtual Voyaging Through California State Parks” which offered ways to blend ecology, technology, and outdoor education.

March 8th

The last day is always fascinating because downtown Austin transforms itself in preparation for the main SXSW music and film festival which begins the following week.

Much like the city, I decided to prepare for the future, and attended a Panel Picker 2019 meetup to receive some insight into what the programming committee is looking for in next year’s conference.

Then, before my afternoon flight home, I caught the first of the three closing keynotes: “Who Has the Right to Education” by Dr. Alaa Murabit. This was an amazing investigation into the root causes of inequality in education, especially in relation to women’s education, and suggested points of entry for teachers to start instilling change in their own classrooms and schools.

 

I left Austin (my flight delayed again, but only a half-hour this time!) ready to push myself as an educator and help my students achieve more and dream bigger.  This conference is always a blast. I find it especially inspiring because of its bend toward innovation. SXSWedu is a space that accepts, welcomes, and showcases new ideas in the field rather than rehashing the same researched notions. It draws a crowd of practitioners who are willing to experiment in order to improve their efficacy as teachers and classroom leaders. This cohort is the community I always seek out when attending other conferences, so it’s a motivating feeling to be with spend a week, learning and discovering, alongside forward moving, forward thinking teachers and educators..

 

Sources

[1] https://www.bokskids.org/

[2] SXSWedu 2018 Program guide

[3] https://826national.org/about/

[4] https://www.nativerealities.com/pages/about-us

[5] https://neuroaesthetics.net/neuroaesthetics/

[6] SXSWedu 2018 Program Guide

[7] https://austinot.com/austin-greenbelt-guide

Justice Leauge Teachers

 I've been included in the Justice League Teachers, a "guide to sessions led by working preK-12 classroom teachers whose not-so-secret identities put them on the front lines of conversations about social change at SXSW EDU 2018." It's a really humbling list to be associated with as these educators are doing truly inspiring work.

Thanks to guest blogger Mike Kleba for the write up! Read the blog by clicking here

 

 

19th International CEC-DADD Conference on Autism, Intellectual Disability, and Developmental Disabilities

 

I was accepted to give a poster presentation entitled “No Gravity in My Poetry: Poetry Workshops as Social Emotional Literacy Learning” at 19th International CEC-DADD Conference on Autism, Intellectual Disability, and Developmental Disabilities.

 Donnie Welch, young caucasian male, stands in front of an academic poster title “No Gravity in My Poetry: Social Emotional Literacy Learning” He smiling and in a green turtle neck. Red conference lanyard around his neck. Images of students have been censored out using “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” monkey emojis.

Donnie Welch, young caucasian male, stands in front of an academic poster title “No Gravity in My Poetry: Social Emotional Literacy Learning” He smiling and in a green turtle neck. Red conference lanyard around his neck. Images of students have been censored out using “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” monkey emojis.

 It was a fascinating four days! Below are some brief, journal reflections from my time!

Tuesday

Flew away from the snow in NYC to a 72 degree Tampa day.

It felt nice to relax and settle in so that I didn’t have to balance my travel with the first day activities.

I unpacked, went up to the fitness center (which was on the top floor with a gorgeous view of the coast) then explored around for dinner.

Every restaurant around had a wait time! I ended up back at the Sheraton’s Mainstay Tavern which surprised me with its craft beer selection and really delicious food. I had a Grouper sandwich, apparently a must have dish in this part of the state according to my kindly lyft driver, and a salad with a house made raspberry vinaigrette. Not a bad start!

 

Wednesday

Registered nice and early!

 Conference Materials for the CEC-DADD 2018 conference. At top is a red lanyard with a sponsors name on it, the name is blurred by a twist in the lanyard. Below the red lanyard is the program written in blue and pink text on a white, laminated booklet. At the bottom of the booklet is a picture of an island/beach sunset. To the right of this picture is a badge with “Donald Welch” on it and rainbow “presenter” ribbon attached.

Conference Materials for the CEC-DADD 2018 conference. At top is a red lanyard with a sponsors name on it, the name is blurred by a twist in the lanyard. Below the red lanyard is the program written in blue and pink text on a white, laminated booklet. At the bottom of the booklet is a picture of an island/beach sunset. To the right of this picture is a badge with “Donald Welch” on it and rainbow “presenter” ribbon attached.

 

There was a sponsored luncheon between the pre-conference training sessions. Since those cost extra and were on topics I wasn’t too interested in I skipped those, giving me the morning to myself. I spent it preparing for my poster, figuring out what sessions I wanted to attend for the conference, and exploring Sand Key Park next door to the resort.

Got my poster safe and sound with the help of a young concierge named Brent. A big relief to have it in my room and know it arrived!

The Opening session was a nice reflection of education legislation and changes in Florida. While it was a little state specific, it was still cool to hear about the progress places are making around the country. It was also interesting to learn about some of the innovative post-secondary institutions that are popping like the Florida Center for Students with Unique Abilities. In fact, post secondary and transitions would prove to be a pretty large theme of the conference with quite a few posters and spoken presentations geared around that piece of education.

After the opening came the first round of posters. I was glad to have the opportunity to be a spectator before I put mine up the next morning. It gave me a chance to listen to conversations and see the way people with more experience handled themselves and talked people through their presentations in a timely manner.

In this session I met Dr. Christopher Denning from Umass Boston who was presenting “Piloting a Physical Activity Program for Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.” He was really kind, listening to my rookie concerns about my presentation the next morning and then pointing me in the direction of some movement research that might be helpful for my workshops!

 Academic poster form Umass Boston. The title and subtitle blocked out by a light glare. The Umass Boston logo and color scheme, blue and white, are employed throughout. The lettering and charts are black on a white background.

Academic poster form Umass Boston. The title and subtitle blocked out by a light glare. The Umass Boston logo and color scheme, blue and white, are employed throughout. The lettering and charts are black on a white background.

 

Thursday

Big Day!

I had my poster up in the morning sessions and it was a fun, new experience. I really enjoyed the conversational tone of the presentation format and found that the hour and half block went by fast. I had a steady flow of people popping in and out to chat and listen.

There was also a camaraderie with the other poster presenters that I didn’t necessarily expect. I had my neighbor presenters stopping in to chat and hear about my work and I did the same for them. Even though our work and perspectives were different, the whole vibe was a cordial, supportive, and helped take the edge off any nerves I had.

After my session I stopped into the DADD Online Journal publication session where editor Dr. Stanley Zucker went over publishing in the DADD's online journal. As one of the people in the session who had no previous experience with academic publication, Dr. Zucker used my work as a walk-through example for turning a poster into a paper. While the process itself was for the benefit of the group, I found it personally, really beneficial as a I continue to draft my submission together.

I then attended an amazing session facilitated by Dr. Elizabeth Harkins with Christine Scholma and Rebecca Kammes there in person and Dr. Gloria Nules and Dr. Rhonda Black video chatting in from Hawaii. Their presentation, “How to Navigate the Sexuality Dance: Inclusive Sexuality in the Current Political Landscape,” was an informative presentation complete with actionable ideas for teachers, professors, family therapists, and really anyone working with students. “I say all the scary words first,” was my favorite piece of plain-spoken advice from Christine Scholma.

 Worksheet typed up in black ink on a white paper. Around the given, typed, information are handwritten notes in blue ink. Some of theses handwritten notes are circled or have arrows to help relate back to specific points in the typed information on the worksheet.

Worksheet typed up in black ink on a white paper. Around the given, typed, information are handwritten notes in blue ink. Some of theses handwritten notes are circled or have arrows to help relate back to specific points in the typed information on the worksheet.

 Before lunch, I stopped in on a session led by Dianne Zager of the new Shrub Oak International School. The presentation “A Model for Transition Programming for High School Students with Autism” gave a rundown of various transitions models, offered ways they can be used together for greater success, and included a pretty robust discussion period with the attendees.

The last sessions of the day ended at 4:30 leaving a lot of downtime to get dinner, relax, and explore around the resort. I wish there was more late night programming, but as someone much younger than the average attendee, perhaps I’m in the minority on that opinion. I know many attendees brought families along and probably appreciated the time to have a vacation with them.

 

Friday

There’s this great scene in the documentary Woodstock where a person who attended the festival recalls Jimi Hendrix’s performance on the last day and says something to the effect of, “I was so tired I remember just wondering when he would stop.” This always stays with me. It could be the most ground breaking performance (like a re-imagining of the Star Spangled Banner) but at a certain point the energy just fades.

I often feel this way at big conferences, to no fault of the organizers or presenters!

I spent most of the morning poster session enjoying the continental breakfast, checking in for my flight, downloading my boarding pass, then taking care of odds and ends for my travel home.

I attended a panel “Perspectives on Publishing Pre-Tenure: Advice from Experts in the Field,” that was (quite clearly) more for early career academics, but I still gleaned some good writing tips and listening to a group of people discuss their craft and writing habits was a nice, non-intensive activity on the last day.

Dr. Elizabeth Harkins was leading another session with Dr. Gloria Niles video chatting in again, this one entitled, “Challenging Heteronormativity: Intersectionality of Gender, Sexuality, and Disability.” I enjoyed the first so much I decided to stop in and wasn’t disappointed!

After another catered lunch (tacos!) I sat in on “The Science of Mindful Breathing” presented by Dr Amrita Chaturvedi, Dr. Nikki Murdick and Dr. Kristine Larson and learned some new breathing techniques, namely alternate nostril breathing, which, while easy enough to perform, but can be quite the head rush!

The closing keynote was delivered by Robert Pio Hajjar, a self-advocate and author who offered his, “ I can, YOU can,” motivational speech as final call to action for the event.

 Black and white photo of a large, hotel, ballroom. In the foreground, a table with a pen and conference booklet, you can’t quite make out what it says. Beyond that are people sitting in chairs at round tables and listening to a closing keynote given by an older , male caucasian speaker at a podium.

Black and white photo of a large, hotel, ballroom. In the foreground, a table with a pen and conference booklet, you can’t quite make out what it says. Beyond that are people sitting in chairs at round tables and listening to a closing keynote given by an older , male caucasian speaker at a podium.

 All in all it was a great time! More academic and research geared than I’m used to, but it was interesting to be among that section of the industry for a while and see the work people are doing in the field.