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    Stephanie Lawless
    Assistant Director
    My past experience working in a large inner city district has taught me valuable lessons about life.  Regardless of how difficult a situation may seem it is always opportunity to grow and learn.  I encourage everyone to view challenges calmly and treat others with dignity and respect.  Together we can empower each other to create effective learning environments. 
    Administrative Services Credential (2011)
    National University, Fresno, California 
    Master of Arts in Special Education (2010)
    Fresno State University, Fresno, California 
    Multiple Subject & Special Education Credential Program (2006
    Fresno State University, Fresno, California 
    Bachelor of Arts (2005)
    Fresno State University, Fresno, California 


    2015 - Present Assistant Director, Earlywood Educational Services
    2013-2015   Program Manager II/Principal, Fresno Unified School District, CA
    2012-2013 Special Assignment-Administrative Support, Fresno Unified School District, CA

    Social Emotional Intervention Staff Developer, Fresno Unified School District, CA


    K-6 Diagnostic/Emotional Disorder Intervention, Fresno Unified School District, CA

    Life is fast and furious with two little boys at home.  Between cleaning up toys I enjoy cuddling with my babies, going to dirt track races, cooking, baking, and being outside.  We have lots of new things to explore and discover in Indiana and are loving every minute! 


  • Resiliency

    Posted by Stephanie Lawless on 8/25/2016 3:40:00 AM

    Throughout the community students are managing extreme levels of stress daily.  We hear about it from our students, parents, and sometimes even the nightly news.  Poor living conditions, inadequate adult supervision , peer pressure, abuse, neglect, divorce, chronic illness, and death are among a few of the issues our students deal with daily.  As professionals and compassionate individuals we try to support our students and teach them how to deal with these stressors.  We are often at a loss as to provide help when our limits and resources are tapped.  Although we would like to create a safe, sheltered environment for each of our students we often cannot.  One strategy we do have and can utilize is to help create resiliency in our students.  By doing this we can teach them how to rise above the issues they face and become stronger, healthier people in spite of the things we cannot change.

    The following article is a clip from: A Guide to Promoting Resilience in Children: Strengthening the Human Spirit. Edith H. Grotberg, Ph.D. (The International Resilience Project from the Early Childhood Development: Practice and Reflections series Bernard Van Leer Foundation.)  To view the entire article, including sample lesson plans and strategies to use at each age level go to: http://resilnet.uiuc.edu/library/grotb95b.html

    “Resilience is important because it is the human capacity to face, overcome and be strengthened by or even transformed by the adversities of life. Everyone faces adversities; no one is exempt.

    With resilience, children can triumph over trauma; without it, trauma (adversity) triumphs. The crises children face both within their families and in their communities can overwhelm them.

    While outside help is essential in times of trouble, it is insufficient. Along with food and shelter, children need love and trust, hope and autonomy. Along with safe havens, they need safe relationships that can foster friendships and commitment. They need the loving support and self-confidence, the faith in themselves and their world, all of which builds resilience.

    How parents and other caregivers respond to situations, and how they help a child to respond, separates those adults who promote resilience in their children from those who destroy resilience or send confusing messages that both promote and inhibit resilience.

    Three sources of resilience

    To overcome adversities, children draw from three sources of resilience features labeled: I HAVE, I AM, I CAN. What they draw from each of the three sources may be described as follows:

    I HAVE

    • People around me I trust and who love me, no matter what
    • People who set limits for me so I know when to stop before there is danger or trouble
    • People who show me how to do things right by the way they do things
    • People who want me to learn to do things on my own
    • People who help me when I am sick, in danger or need to learn

    I AM

    • A person people can like and love
    • Glad to do nice things for others and show my concern
    • Respectful of myself and others
    • Willing to be responsible for what I do
    • Sure things will be all right

    I CAN

    • Talk to others about things that frighten me or bother me
    • Find ways to solve problems that I face
    • Control myself when I feel like doing something not right or dangerous
    • Figure out when it is a good time to talk to someone or to take action
    • Find someone to help me when I need it

    A resilient child does not need all of these features to be resilient, but one is not enough. A child may be loved (I HAVE), but if he or she has no inner strength (I AM) or social, interpersonal skills (I CAN), there can be no resilience. A child may have a great deal of self-esteem (I AM), but if he or she does not know how to communicate with others or solve problems (I CAN), and has no one to help him or her (I HAVE), the child is not resilient. A child may be very verbal and speak well (I CAN), but if he or she has no empathy (I AM) or does not learn from role models (I HAVE), there is no resilience. Resilience results from a combination of these features.

    These features of resilience may seem obvious and easy to acquire; but they are not. In fact, many children are not resilient and many parents and other care givers do not help children become resilient. Only about 38 per cent of the thousands of responses in the International Resilience Project indicate that resilience is being promoted. That is a very small percentage for such a powerful contribution to the development of children. On the contrary, too many adults crush or impede resilience in children or give mixed messages, and too many children feel helpless, sad and not fully loved. This is not the situation necessarily out of intent; it is more the fact that people do not know about resilience or how to promote it in children. Children need to become resilient to overcome the many adversities they face and will face in life: they cannot do it alone. They need adults who know how to promote resilience and are, indeed, becoming more resilient themselves.”

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  • Myth of Manipulation

    Posted by Stephanie on 8/17/2016 2:50:00 PM


    As adults we have to acknowledge that our feelings impact the way we interact with students. It is as

    inevitable as the sun rising. Often we fall on the concept that a student is “manipulating us.” Challenging

    behaviors do not happen to us they happen with us. In moving toward this concept we need to really

    evaluate what it means to “manipulate” someone and what that description really does to help us in

    changing behavior.

    Dr. Phelan suggests in his 123 Magic books, (found here) that there are six types of testing and manipulation:

    badgering, intimidation, threats, martyrdom, buttering up, and physical tactics. One strategy we can use

    when talking to staff who states the student is “manipulating us” is to question which type of manipulation

    the student is engaging in. For example, my three year old son uses many of these strategies on us. He is

    very skilled at buttering up, “mommy I love you, you are so nice, I am so happy you are home… can I have a

    cookie?” He also pulls off martyrdom quite nicely when he is disciplined, he drops his head to his chest, puts

    out his bottom lip and says something to the effect of, “I can’t do this.” Sometimes crying is a form of

    martyrdom, like when he cries because we tell him “no” but turns it off immediately once he gets what he

    wants (my husband and I never do that, it is his grandmas…) He knows how to lay the guilt on thick and

    sometimes it works. You can see a sample of badgering as demonstrated by Stewie Griffen who really nails it.

    Whining is also an example of badgering and martyrdom combined to really hit home drive us crazy.

    Dr. Phelan’s program shows great strategies for dealing with and managing the behaviors associated with

    manipulation. By defining what behavior the child is demonstrating we can better address what we need to

    do about it because the student has learned strategies to modify our behavior in order to get the outcome

    they want. Something to note about this statement, “…the student has learned…” this implies they can

    relearn it and we can teach them the skills to get what they want in a way we feel is acceptable. This is

    where Dr. Greene steps in with his concept of lagging skills as outlined in his book Lost at School. Greene

    suggests that saying the student is “manipulating us” is popular and also flawed:

    This is a very popular, and misguided, characterization of students with behavior

    challenges. Competent manipulation requires various skills- forethought, planning,

    impulse control, and organization, among others- typically found lacking in challenging

    students. In other words, the kids who are most often described as being manipulative

    are those least capable of pull it off. (Lost at School, Ross Greene, page 12-13)

    He challenges us to look at the skills the student is lacking to communicate to us what he/she needs to be

    successful. This moves us from excuses to solutions.

    As for my son, I am so happy to see that he has the ability to “manipulate” us. He is questioning his

    environment. He is experimenting with variable to challenge norms. He is learning that he has impact over

    what happens to him and that his behaviors directly result in outcomes. There are times I do not like his

    behaviors but I am always aware of the fact that he is learning about his world. I want him to challenge and

    test because that is how he learns. I am sure that someday I will be sitting in a parent/teacher conference

    and the very well intentioned teacher will tell me, “He is manipulating us.” I will try to hold my smile and fight

    the urge to share my opinions on the subject.


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  • Fair isn’t everyone getting the same thing… Fair is everyone getting what they need to be sucessful.

    Posted by Stephanie Lawless on 8/17/2016 3:00:00 AM

    For years in education I have been fighting the concept that “fair mean everyone gets the same thing.” It

    would haunt me in my sleep and crush my behavior plans without mercy.  I would have people tell me

    things like, “I can’t use a sticker chart with her because than everyone would want a sticker chart” and

    we all know this would result in chaos…  It was a firmly established headache in my professional life.  So

    I was totally floored when it entered my personal life the other day when my three year old yelled,

    “MOM THAT’S NOT FAIR!”  In all honesty the situation was not fair from an equality standpoint.  We

    were in the dining room and my eight month old was screaming, not because he was mad but for the

    pure joy of screaming.  When my three year old responded by screaming I told him to use an inside

    voice.  In his little lawyer head the right to equality had been violated.  It was not fair that I asked him to

    stop screaming while the eight month old got away with it.  In my defense I expect different behavior

    from the two boys.  The younger is still learning the expectations of voice level in the house while the

    three year old has it well established and saw it as an opportunity to breach the expectation.   But that is

    a difficult concept to explain to a three year old so I just said what I had said to countless teachers

    before, “Fair does not mean equal, you know the rules, if you want to yell go in your room.” To which he

    responded very calmly, “freak out mommy.” (“Freak out” is his replacement word for the “F” word) Now

    to help with continuity my husband and I address them both.  They both continue to scream, often in

    response to each other like some bizarre communication system, and we continue to prompt them to

    stop. I have faith that it will stop eventually but realistically, I live in a house with three males, it may be

    years before it is quiet again.

    because it is so prevalent around the world. It is not a new discussion either, F.A.T. City workshop and

    training tackled the concept of fairness in education year ago. You can see the training here. If you

    watch it be prepared, it is from 1972 and some of the terms and ideas are a little dated… For the section

    specifically addressing fairness click here. I can still remember watching this in college and the part that

    struck me was when Richard Lavoie compared the concept of fairness to wearing glasses. The main idea

    was, I have to wear glasses to help me see, so I have equity in access to see the board in the classroom.

    It does not mean all students must wear glasses to be fair.

    I think in special education we will always have to fight for equity for students. As special educators we

    have to opportunity to teach others and share the research. I am hopeful that things will continue to

    get better. For now, I am going to invest in some noise canceling headphones to help me get past the

    screaming years in my home, and continue to try and raise my boys focusing on equity rather than


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