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PTO NEWSLETTER Vol.7 Jan. 2012

Happy New Year



PTO MEETING Jan. 17 ‫ ٭‬8:45 AM In the parent training room Pinnacle Academy

Parent Training Jan. 26 ‫ ٭‬9:00 AM - 10:00 AM “Sibling Support” In the parent training room, Pinnacle Academy

No School Jan, 16 ‫ ٭‬MLK Day

No School Jan. 20 ‫ ٭‬Teacher In-service

Dear Pinnacle Families,

In speaking with several families who have expressed “Thank goodness for the iPad!” during the winter school break, it also suggests that the New Year is a fine time to rediscover “family time” and place some much-needed restrictions on the free-use of technology during the week.

I truly hope that all of you enjoyed some quality time together over the winter break. I want to thank you for your thoughtful holiday cards and treats. We now turn a corner into the second semester of school. Each New Year highlights an opportunity for all of us as parents to reSo what will it be for your child this evaluate our expectations for our children. month? Join a club? Learn how to ride that bike? Read a new book? Wash the Here, at Pinnacle, our faculty encourages cars as a chore? Try some new foods? If parents to set goals for their children out- you need ideas, just ask your child’s teachside of school. This process is similar to ers. Here’s to making the most of a New an IEP in the school, but on a less formal Year….Cheers! and stringent scale. Setting goals for your child at home and in the community allows you to continue to challenge and Dr. Kirstina Ordetx monitor your child’s progress, while challenging your child and yourself to strive for more. It is also a good time to analyze what your child CAN and SHOULD be doing (i.e. chores, self care skills, extracurricular activities, diet, homework, etc). Setting goals is a great idea for all of your children, regardless of age, gender, or exceptionality. Never underestimate your child’s abilities. Never get stuck and settle for what is now. Every child can do more. Some children need an extra push.

Rhonda has been teaching at the Pinnacle Academy for over years. She has led the Transitional Kindergarten (TK) program each year and helped dozens of children to transition successfully into kindergarten and first grade. Rhonda holds a Master’s degree in Special Education (K-6) and is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.

Rhonda Pafford-Thacker

Rhonda enjoys developing new curriculum and administering assessments to measure student outcomes. She has two boys, Brahm and Cannon. In her family time, Rhonda enjoys traveling, UF football, and outdoor activities. Ms. Rhonda





Vol.7 Jan. 2012

Technology and the Child on the Spectrum: It’s All About Balance

People diagnosed with autism have a range strengths and weaknesses as well as intelliOur Faculty Thanks You! gence levels. “Enter the computer. For The Faculty Appreciation Lunches have many on the autism spectrum, computers been such a fantastic treat each week! A have been a game changer, capitalizing on big thank you from all of us teachers to all strengths and compensating for weakof you parents for making Fridays extra nesses”. Some communicate very well in special! Yum! writing even if their speech is delayed or absent. Many children are visual thinkers, Speech Boxes are Ready for Pre-K Instruc- have strong technological skills and learn tion to interact with the computer before other Our pre-k and kindergarten classes will developmental skills are accomplished. For children who are pre-verbal or nonbenefit from the addition of new teaching materials to enhance speech and language verbal, the computer can be an outlet for communication. Some of the new portable in our themed “Speech Boxes”. Materials devices available today offer a tremendous were specifically identified to target our savings in comparison to the augmentative lower school’s target skills as outlined in communication devices of yesterday. their learning objectives. Fun, interactive There are many applications available to resources have now been added to address facilitate and enhance learning, communiskills such as question-asking, phonological cation, and memory skills. To encourage awareness, pronouns, verb tense, sentence and increase communication skills, the iPad, iPod and iPhone have several great structure, syntax, vocabulary, and much, applications, including Scene Speak, Vermuch more. The teachers are excited to bally, Proloquo2Go, My Choice Board, put the Speech Boxes to use this semester. iCommunicate and Locabulary. Social This is great example of how our Pinnacle skills apps reviewed include Stories to Learn, Sōsh and Conversation Builder. The PTO makes a difference! activity scheduling software packages include Chore Pad and First Then Visual Updated Parent Handbook At the end of this month, each parent will receive a copy of the new, updated parent handbook. You will be required to read all sections of the handbook and turn in a signature page to your child’s teacher. The handbook will be made available on the new Pinnacle website in the near future.

Schedule. There are other apps to encourage home learning, such as a functional skills system by The Conover Company and self-regulation tools such as Time Timer, and iReward, and Read to Go. Parents are encouraged to look into the world of technology for each and every child. However, here are two thoughts of caution…First, parents who wish for their child to use a technology device for communication purposes should take care to send the right message to the child. Even though these devices may be less expensive than other communication devices, they are still costly. A child should be properly taught to take good care of the device and to recognize it as a communication device first and foremost. Allowing the child to use the device for game playing only will confound its purpose. Secondly, too much of a good thing can go bad. According to a 2010 New York Times article, the average child, ages 8-18, spends over 7 ½ hours a day using technology gadgets

 Drop Off and Pick Up Times We are starting to see some very late student drop offs on the campus. Please remember that your child is to be in class at 8:30 a.m. Students who arrive later than 8:40 a.m. will be asked to wait outside of the classroom until the first learning zone has ended (unless a special circumstance has been arranged with the teacher or administration). We must adhere to this time for several reasons: 1) to avoid disruption to student learning, 2) to enable all students to benefit from instruction related to their IEP objectives, and 3) to set the structure of the day. If you see a notice on the classroom door that reads “Please do not disturb until ________, class is in session”, you will be required to wait until that time to enter class. This policy will be strictly enforced across the campus. Thank you for your support!







Vol.7 Jan. 2012 *



Ed Gorgas

Marlaina Ianotti

Constructing Pre-K library shelves

Creating Interactive books

Tracy Bryant, Lisa Sessa, and Debbie Nowak

Nikki LaBelle, Anjel Jackson, and Cristie Kruger Book Sorting Day

Paul Wojcik Landscape maintenance

Cataloging the Pre-K library

Wishes Granted at Pinnacle! Thanks to two amazing donations, our technology program will be greatly enhanced. Terry and Cookie Wilkison are grandparents to year old Brian Nieto, who has attended Pinnacle for years. The Wilkisons always extend their appreciation to the Pinnacle staff via emails and letters and in December, they made a donation of $ to pay for new iPads for the classrooms. Their donation will supply iPad technology to 9 of our classes

Check Out These Upcoming Volunteer and Donation Opportunities


on campus. The iPads will be utilized for communication, education, and therapeutic purposes. Holland expressed her desire to help her grandson, Caleb’s school. The donation of $ will provide new computers for our computer lab and laptop computers for some of the classes. This will also allow for the entire campus to benefit from new and updated computers.





Vol.7 Jan. 2012

Upcoming Accreditation tem (DOCS) DOCS is a three-part inventory/checklist system for the assessment of very young children with respect to general development (DC), adjustment behavior (ABC), and parent stress and support (PSSC). The DC component measures the areas of language, motor, social, and cognitive development. Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement Psycho-Educational Profile (3rd Edition) (KTEA II) (PEP-3R) The PEP–3 has been used for more than 20 The KTEA II covers all achievement areas years to assess the skills and behaviors of mandated by the IDEA for students ages children with pervasive developmental dis- 4.6-20. The results offer in-depth informaStudent Achievement Testing Our faculty will be enhancing our own sig- orders and communicative delays who tion about the student’s performance in function between the ages of 6 months to 7 nature data collection program with a few years. The profile graphically charts uneven reading composite, six reading subtests, new achievement tools to provide addiwritten expression, oral expression, and and idiosyncratic development, emerging tional insight to the education team regard- skills, and atypical behavioral characterismath. ing each child’s learning needs and facilitics. tate the development of individualized eduKindergarten Readication planning for various grade levels. ness Test (KRT) Over the next month, your child’s performThe KRT offers six subance will be assessed using one of the foltests including: vocabulowing: lary, phonemic awareness, comprehension and gious Preschool Language Scales 5th Edition a prodi e v a interpretation, matheh e (PLS-5) akes m “I must matical knowledge, and visual discriminand; it t i m f o es The PLS-5 offers a comprehensive develop- tion. The purpose of the KRT is to deterty ometim quanti s k e e w mental language assessment, with items mine the child’s readiness across domains h as a as muc that range from pre-verbal, interactionso that instruction may be modified to meet ." e it u p based skills to emerging language to early to mak individual needs where necessary. literacy. This standardized tool allows for Twain - Mark the educational team to assess our preschoolers in early speech and language de- Developmental Observation Checklist SysThe FCIS Accreditation process is in full swing and many additions are being added to our campus. Some changes you will notice and others will be more related to internal structure and procedures. Here are two upcoming items, which will interest you:

velopment and school readiness skills, target language skills that tap Theory of Mind and emergent literacy skills for 6- and 7year-olds, and assess children at age 7 with new language tasks such as assessing use of irregular plurals and synonyms, constructing sentences using target words, and answering questions about a story.

Student Intern Spotlight: Seth McGarry Seth has been assisting Coach Dani in our physical education program since school began in August. He is a senior at Lakewood Ranch High School and holds a 4.4 GPA. Besides working at Pinnacle, he also is a volunteer umpire for Braden River Little League, and works part time at the Strike Zone. He has been featured for the past 2 years as one of the All County/Area baseball players, and is receiving a scholarship to play division 1 baseball for Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

His dream is to be drafted to the MLB. In college he wants to study sports medicine and become a physical therapist in sports medicine. He’s been playing baseball since he was 4. He’s also won awards 3 years in a row for Scholarly Athlete, is a member of the National Honor Society, and has gone to the state competition for his history fair projects. Seth assists P.E. four days per week at Pinnacle and has been a great asset to our program this year!

CONTACT US: The Pinnacle Academy Newsletter is a fun and informative publication (published by the PTO) intended to update and notify families and friends of The Pinnacle Academy of upcoming campus events, recognize achievements and celebrate our school and the families that make it such a wonderful place. If you would like to submit information or an event for consideration please email:

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