Educator Conference

2014 Educator Conference

November 12th, 2014
8:00 am – 3:30 pm

Marriott West
9960 Wayzata Blvd
Minneapolis, MN 55426

Registration fee $50 per person
Registration includes workshop fee, handouts. continental breakfast, lunch and afternoon snack.
Certificate of attendance provided

Register online by visiting


Registration will be accepted online, by mail as well as over the phone. Register online by visiting

2014 Educator Conference brochure (.pdf)

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About our speaker

We welcome Jennifer Sommerness, EdS. an Independent Educational Consultant at Welcome Spoken Here to our 2014 Educator Conference. Jennifer is an educational consultant, author, teacher and advocate with a background in inclusive education, educational administration, teacher leadership and staff development. She works with teachers, administrators and families to create collaborative school cultures and engaging school experiences for all learners. Through her work she has co-authored several peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, curricula, and online class materials on collaboration, co-teaching, teacher leadership, inclusive education, staff development and reflective practices that improve schools. Her work involves creating working teams of parents and educators. Through meaningful professional development and purposeful attention to instructional leadership, she works on creating schools that have the capacity to support the diverse students that attend them, regardless of their disability, using innovative learning strategies for teachers as well as students.

She and her family recently moved to back to Minnesota from the Bay Area of California, where she continues to consult with many local school districts and families. She also maintains a working relationship with many school districts and families in Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, New Mexico and New York.

Her professional mission is to promote inclusive education of people of all ages with diverse learning needs through development of supportive instructional design, and effective team collaboration.  This promotes individuals to be successfully engaged, challenged and respected throughout their various learning and community settings and schools, increasing positive outcomes and independence throughout their lives.

Learn more about Jennifer on her website:

Workshop description

Student Centered Planning and Learning

Presented by Jennifer Sommerness

In this workshop, the science and art of including students with disabilities will be examined through the lens of student centered planning and learning. Accessing academics to the fullest extent requires intentional collaborative teaming between educators and families; innovative curricular design and support; and specific instructional strategies, tools and curricular adaptations. Special attention and hands on examples will be given to learn about writing what Jennifer calls a “working IEP”, which are strengths-based and designed specifically for successful use in general education classrooms and environments. In this immediately usable session all of these areas will be outlined and applied, as well as time for learning about fostering natural peer supports and friendships; the effective use of paraprofessionals; and integrating assistive technology through use of an iPad to ignite student participation and provide an outlet for independence. This session will give you hope, direction and inspiration for educational success!

Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota Literacy Initiative

Far too often we are hearing from teachers who are looking for specific, research based programs to teach reading to their students with Down syndrome. Earlier this year, we notified all of you that we were hoping to have Dr. Sue Buckley, an acclaimed international expert in teaching reading to students with Down syndrome, conduct a training session on her program. Dr. Buckley completed a pilot program in a school in Central Texas this past year with very impressive results. Due to a short turn around time, we were not able to work this into Dr. Buckley’s schedule this past summer.

We at the Association continue to pursue this initiative.

Down Syndrome Education’s Reading and Language Intervention for Children with Down Syndrome has been shown, in multiple trials to significantly enhance the reading and language abilities of students with Down syndrome. Importantly, it also provides equal or better results with virtually all students, regardless of ability or developmental delay.

Please take a moment to take a look at the website to learn more about the program.

We will be providing updates on this initiative first thing in the morning.

Improving educational outcomes for children with Down syndrome

We invite you to consider implementing a new approach to teaching reading and language. Down Syndrome Education International, based in the UK, developed and evaluated RLI – a Reading and Language Intervention for children with Down syndrome with experts in literacy and language at the University of York, UK.

RLI is an evidence-based program designed to teach reading and language skills to children with Down syndrome. RLI incorporates best practice in structured activities delivered in fast-paced daily teaching sessions. It was evaluated in a randomized controlled trial and found to improve rates of progress compared to ordinary teaching. The primary findings of the trial were reported in a paper published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. A Handbook and DVD resources were published in 2012 to allow schools to take up the program and some 1400 Handbooks have been sold worldwide. The team have developed training and a team of accredited RLI trainers is growing in the UK and USA to support schools in their locations.

RLI provides individualized reading and language instruction designed to meet the particular learning needs of students with Down syndrome. It is based on interventions that have been shown to be beneficial for other children experiencing language and reading difficulties, and incorporates the principles of best practice for all children.

It consists of a Reading Strand and a Language Strand which can be delivered at the same time or separate times in the school day. Both strands can be linked with curriculum topics and IEP targets. Content is individualized for each student. RLI was shown to be effective in the UK when delivered by teaching assistants with RLI training and ongoing support.

A small pilot study in San Antonio Texas has shown that RLI can be implemented just as effectively in the public school system in the USA as in the UK and improve children’s reading and language progress. A number of school districts across Texas and elsewhere in the US are implementing the program. More than 450 Handbooks have been purchased in the US.

The program is designed for 5-10 year olds and you can read more information at Younger children, 5 and 6 year olds at the start of the intervention made the fastest reading progress in the UK trial highlighting the need for quality literacy teaching for student with Down syndrome from Kindergarten and Grade 1.

In the UK trial and the Texas trial, 20% of the children were reading at their age level at the end despite their language and cognitive delays. In addition to age, rates of progress were influenced by language comprehension at the start and by the intensity of the intervention i.e. the number of teaching sessions received.

We are offering a 2 day training for educators delivered by Professor Sue Buckley, the grant holder and one of the lead researchers on this project. She is a world renowned expert in the development and education of children with Down syndrome. While here, she will also train RLI trainers so that we have a local source of expertise to support schools to implement RLI. It is being used effectively with other children with intellectual disabilities in the US and UK.

The 2 day training covers the RLI program in detail, taking educators through all the components and activities for both the Reading and Language Strands, how to assess starting points and to record progress. It also identifies the planning and support that needs to be in place at school and class level to deliver RLI effectively. Attendance certificates will be given to delegates who can do some extra work to demonstrate learning and competence in delivering RLI to gain an accreditation as an RLI educator.

Professor Sue Buckley OBE, CPsychol, CSci, AFBPsS is a chartered psychologist with over 40 years experience of working with children with Down syndrome in early intervention and education services. She has conducted research into the reasons for their learning difficulties in order to develop more effective teaching approaches since 1980.

She has published widely for teachers, parents and researchers. She was the Founder of Down Syndrome Education International and you can learn more about the work of DSEI and DSEUSA at  Sue is recognized as an excellent speaker and trainer and is in constant demand worldwide. One of her 3 adult children is an adopted daughter with Down syndrome who lives in the community with a partner with Down syndrome.