Special Education: The No Limits Method

Cheyne Joslin
Cheyne Joslin
News on August 24 2021

If you’ve clicked on this post, it’s likely that you care deeply about the success of students with disabilities, and are seeking new ideas to help foster their success. You might be a teacher, administrator, or a parent who is homeschooling a student with disabilities. If any of these descriptions apply to you, I’m here to tell you about a new avenue to success for these students: the “No Limits Method!”

The no limits method

The Method seamlessly integrates therapeutic techniques and instructional strategies to promote the cognitive development of students with disabilities based on their individual needs.

Developed from a direct collaboration between a team of professionals, including instructors at a specialized school for students with disabilities and a team of physical, occupational, and speech therapists working at a pediatric neuro-habilitation center, the Method meets the therapeutic needs of each student by starting from a framework for understanding how they learn. This framework draws upon research in the field of cognitive science.

Specifically, the Method is based on embodied cognition: the view that cognition (or thinking) happens as a result of interactions between our brain, body, and environment. In short, embodied cognitive science tells us that thinking isn’t all “in the head;” instead, movement and interaction with the world contributes to cognitive development.

This won’t be surprising to some, since we know that infants first learn about the world through exploration. The mistake is in thinking that cognitive development through movement and environmental interaction stops after infancy: it doesn’t.

In fact, research has shown a correlation between quicker language-processing speeds and the use of gestures when we speak, and between the use of gesture and effective mathematical reasoning. The body’s role in cognitive processing has even been theorized to positively affect reading comprehension.

Adapting Instruction

You might ask: if this is the case, how are we to adapt our instruction to the needs of students with disabilities? If cognitive development occurs as a result of movement and interactions in the world, and many students with disabilities are limited in their capacity to freely interact in this way, how can they learn? First, we should question the assumption that students with disabilities are “limited” in their capacity for environmental interaction. Instead, we can simply say that they interact with the world in unique ways, due to the ways in which their bodies work. The Method operates based on five Core Values. Understanding these values helps us to easily understand, advocate for, and instruct each student in a customized way to meet their needs.

The 5 Core Values

So, what are the Core Values, and how do they help you achieve these goals? The first two are Communication and Choice. The ability to freely communicate our own desires and needs is taken for granted by most of us, but many people with complex disabilities, especially children, don’t have that luxury. Children who are non-verbal often have choices made for them. Through the use of assistive technologies and the support of speech therapists, instructors are equipped with ways to help their students communicate. These Core Values allow us to acknowledge that these children already have a voice, and that we simply help them to use it.

The Method’s third Core Value states that we ought to meet all the needs of each student: their physical, cognitive, emotional, and spiritual needs. Meeting their physical and cognitive needs can be accomplished by implementing No Limits Method instructional techniques and working with a physical or occupational therapist who understands the student’s diagnoses, and how they interact with the world. Since we know that physical and cognitive activity are connected, instructors can utilize the interventions through the Method to promote the student’s acquisition of new cognitive skills. We address a student’s emotional and spiritual needs through further facilitating their involvement in their surrounding communities: whether in public schools, among their families at home, and everywhere in between.

Finally, we have the Core Values of Neural and Social Development. Social development is fostered through the student’s increased emotional and spiritual growth through involvement in the community, enacted through new opportunities for communication and free choice. Neural development is simply the brain’s ability to change and grow over time: this change and growth happens as a result of interactions with the world and others!

Notice that these Core Values all relate directly to one another. No single Core Value is of greater importance than the others, just as no single member of a student’s team enacting the No Limits Method can do it alone. These teams are comprised of instructors and therapists working towards a shared goal of unlocking the full potential of each student. The core of the Method, therefore, is a dynamic collaborative effort between instructors and therapists to fit the instructional techniques and educational environment to each student’s needs, enriching their lives and helping them grow. In this way, the Core Values encompass and move beyond the framework of Social-emotional learning.

Putting the No Limits Method into practice

How do you know this will work for your students? In the coming months, OTIS for educators will host a series of Digital Lessons and Certification Tracks created by the founding No Limits Method Team, so that you can see how the Method works in practice. The material in this series will help guide you in applying the Method to your school program.  Some results from implementing the Method will be mentioned in those videos as well!

You’ll also see more blog posts about the Method from me: Cheyne Joslin, the Director of Efficacy and Research for the No Limits Method. You may even see some guest posts from other members of the Team as well! We are so excited to expand the reach of the Method through our partnership with OTIS for educators, so that more students with disabilities can show the world that they have No Limits!


For more tips, tricks, and tools for teaching in and out of the classroom, check out more articles on the Teq Talk blog.

We also offer virtual professional development, training, and remote learning support for educators with OTIS for educators. Explore the technology, tools, and strategies that can spark student success — no matter where teaching or learning are happening.


References
  • Holler, Judith, Kobin H. Kendrick, and Stephen C. Levinson. 2018. “Processing Language in Face-to-Face Conversation: Questions with Gestures Get Faster Responses.” Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 25 (5): 1900–1908. doi:10.3758/s13423-017-1363-z. Link: https://link.springer.com/article/10.3758/s13423-017-1363-z
  • Nathan, Mitchell J, Kelsey E Schenck, Rebecca Vinsonhaler, Joseph E Michaelis, Michael I Swart, and Candace Walkington. 2020. “Embodied Geometric Reasoning: Dynamic Gestures during Intuition, Insight, and Proof.” Journal of Educational Psychology. doi:10.1037/edu0000638. Link: https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2020-79443-001
  • Sadoski, Mark. 2018. “Reading Comprehension Is Embodied: Theoretical and Practical Considerations.” Educational Psychology Review 30 (2): 331–49. doi:10.1007/s10648-017-9412-8. Link: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10648-017-9412-8

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