SENIA 2016

[SENIA 2016] Bersatu, ‘United in Learning’ at SENIA 2016!

20160226_124732#1Transformational, inspirational, and motivational were a few of the words used on the feedback surveys to describe the Special Education Network in Asia (SENIA) conference held at The International School of Kuala Lumpur in February, 2016.  The conference, now in its 13th year, attracts classroom educators, related service providers, administrators and parents from schools and organizations in and around Asia. This year’s attendance of 450 delegates sends a clear message – SENIA has become the “go-to” conference to network and learn about best practices to support the learning differences of all students.

The SENIA pre conference started with the opportunity for educators to spend a full day immersed in learning around one of the conference strands – executive functioning, and social emotional well being. The ISKL planning team, under the direction of Rami Madani, Director of Teaching and Learning and Amy Diefendorf, elementary school counselor, recruited renowned and published speakers. Dr. Peg Dawson, author of Executive Skills in Children and Adolescents, and Smart but Scattered provided attendees with a clear definition of executive skills and valuable strategies to use in a variety of settings. Julia Cook, a highly entertaining speaker and author of over 50 picture books about social-emotional skills, helped attendees understand how to use books to address social skill deficits  Dr. Stephen Shore took attendees inside the life of a person with autism. Sharing his journey from a young boy, told he could not attend school, to a college professor at Adelphi University in New York, Dr.Shore stressed the importance of reaching all students.  

The SENIA conference kicked off with welcome messages from ISKL’s Head of School, Dr. Norma Hudson and long time SENIA supporter, EARCOS Director Dr. Dick Krajczer. Both encouraged the delegates to continue learning best practices that support all the children arriving at our schools doors. All weekend ISKL’s Melawati campus was abuzz with conversations, both professional and personal as educators reconnected or met for the first time and discussed their takeaways from the various dynamic and informative workshops. These conversations and the ability to network with like-minded professionals is one reason so many delegates look forward to SENIA each year!


SENIA Board Members (L) Karli Koning, Catherine Deen, Ericson Perez, Lori Boll, Kathryn Balsamo, Frederick Wagner, Tanya Farrol (Not in photo)

At the heart of SENIA’s mission is that of advocacy. The SENIA board was honored to award Tobin Zolkowski with the Student Award. As the only deaf student at Jakarta Intercultural School, Tobin’s perseverance and determination have allowed him to find avenues to make a difference. From  addressing the student body on ways to communicate with the deaf to volunteering as an interpreter in the local community, Tobin’s advocacy has had an impact. The SENIA Advocate award winner, Dato’ Dr. Amir Singh spoke of Malaysia’s journey towards inclusion. As many international schools are on similar journeys, his words of encouragement and wisdom resonated with the crowd.

SENIA 2016 gave back. Personal touches made SENIA a memorable event. This included allocating free tickets for local Malaysian school teachers, donating to specific charities in lieu of conference trinkets, supporting local organizations that employ young adults with disabilities, and providing opportunities for students with disabilities to showcase their talents.


The ISKL SENIA Planning Team

Bersatu! The participants at SENIA 2016 came together, showing their commitment to learning and engaged in rich conversations, both of which will have a direct impact on the children under their care.

This article was written by Kathryn Balsamo, SENIA Board Member in collaboration with Rami Madani, ISKL Director of Teaching and Learning. A printed version of this article was published in the EARCOS Journal.

[Inspire] A Brother’s Story

20160227_091336Andrew Chong was one of the Ignite speakers during SENIA 2016. Andrew touched the hearts of more than 300 conference delegates as he shared how his brother Zhi Yaow enriched his life.
Read Andrew’s story in his own words.
With a skip and a hop, he’s at the door, waiting to greet us with warm hugs and kisses. This was every weekday, when my sister and I would arrive home from school, just 2 minutes walk away. Once every while he would exclaim, “Wow, next time I want to go to that school too!”
“Sure!”, I would say to my younger brother, “When you’re older.”
Sometimes I would have my friends come over after class. Mashing buttons on the Play Station and computer, kicking each others butts. We had sleepovers, we had parties, we had fun! And when goodbyes were said as my friends went home, my brother would come up to me and say,”Hey, next time I want to have my friends stay over too!” or “The next party, I want to invite my friends as well!”
“Sure buddy, sure ..when you’re older”, I would say every time.
And every single time it hurts, because that was a lie.


[Conference] SENIA Post-Conference Resources

SENIA 2016 Post ConferenceThank you for attending the #SENIA2016 #BERSATU Conference at the International School of Kuala Lumpur. It was a fruitful time of learning, sharing and networking.

We invite our delegates to visit the SENIA Post Conference webpage for resources, photos, feedback form, SUNY credit details and contact details.

Again, thank you for joining us in Malaysia and see you in Japan next year.

[Conference] Keynote Speaker Advisory

SENIA2016 Social MediaPlease be informed that around midnight on Sunday, we were informed that Dr. Sam Ortiz can no longer come to SENIA due to sudden illness.

Our organizers from ISKL have contacted Dr. Stephen Shore to come to ISKL for the conference and he kindly agreed. Dr. Shore is a professor at Adelphi University in New York and is also an adult with Autism. Dr. Shore will cover the breakout sessions for Mr. Sam Ortiz as well. We know that Dr. Shore is a highly knowledgeable and experienced speaker.

We thank you for your understanding.


[Conference] Registration for SENIA 2016 Conference at ISKL closed


[News] Tobin Zolkowski wins SENIA Student Award 2016

1Tobin Zolkowski, a student of Jakarta International School (JIS), is the winner of the SENIA Student Award 2016. The SENIA Student Award honors a student with a disability who excels and advocates for the aspirations of children and youth with disabilities in Asia.

Tobin is a strong advocate for the Deaf community. As the only student in his school with a hearing disability, Tobin actively worked to break down barriers and raise awareness for the Deaf. He advocates for himself by standing in front of an assembly of 900 during his first day of 10th grade. He shared his story and encouraged students to interact with him and learn a few signs to communicate with him. He founded an American Sign Language club for students and teachers, which attracted more than 90 members in its first year. He has provided American Sign Language translation for two eBooks which are available commercially including Alistair the Armadillo and Aste the Slowest CheetahTobin is also creating an online course to teach Indonesian Sign Language. Further advancing his advocacy, Tobin serves as an ASL interpreter during workshops with the National Association of the Deaf.

Tobin’s strength of character and advocacy has inspired those around him. A classmate said: “I am so thankful I’ve known Tobin as a classmate and friend for the past 5 years. I’ve come to learn how natural it is to be around someone who speaks sign language and how much he can teach others. He has helped me understand that just because someone
is different, it doesn’t mean they don’t have something important to offer.” One of his teachers expressed that: “Tobin’s resilience, dedication and advocacy are second to none.”

Congratulations Tobin Zolkowski! We look forward to meeting you at SENIA 2016 at the International School Kuala Lumpur!

[Conference] SENIA 2016 features Julia Cook


We are excited to announce that Ms. Julia Cook, award-winning book author, will be one of the keynote speakers during the annual Special Education Network in Asia Conference.

Julia Cook will be speaking on “Unlearning Helplessness: Motivating the Underachiever”.

For more information about SENIA 2016, visit the official conference website. Registration is ongoing for interested participants.

[Conference] Call for SENIA 2016 Workshop Proposals Extended!


[Update] Call for Proposals is now Closed.

It is not too late to submit workshop proposals for SENIA 2016! Organizers from International School Kuala Lumpur has extended the deadline for submission to October 31, 2015.

SENIA 2016 Online Proposal Form

The thirteenth annual SENIA 2016 conference will be held at the International School Kuala Lumpur Melawati Campus. The pre-conference will take place on Thursday, 25 February, with the conference proper on Friday, 26 February and Saturday, 27 February.

The three strands of the SENIA 2016 Conference are:
  • Assessment with Diverse Populations
  • Social Emotional Well-Being of Students
  • Executive Functioning
These three strands will be presented by three keynotes who have been confirmed. Dr. Samuel Ortiz will be the keynote speaker for assessment with diverse populations. Julia Cook will be speaking about social emotional well-being of students and finally Dr. Peg Dawson is our keynote speaker for executive functioning strand.

[Conference] SENIA 2016 Now Open for Registration!

The 13th annual SENIA 2016 Conference will be held in the International School of Kuala Lumpur Melawati Campus. The pre-conference will take place on Thursday, 25 February, with the conference proper on Friday, 26 February and Saturday, 27 February.
For this year, there will be three strands:
  • Assessment with Diverse Populations
  • Social Emotional Well-Being of Students
  • Executive Functioning
Keynote speakers have been prepared for the three main strands. Dr. Samuel Ortiz will be the keynote speaker for assessment with diverse populations. Julia Cook will be speaking about social emotional well-being of students and  Dr. Peg Dawson is our keynote speaker for executive functioning strand.
Registration is now open. Please visit the official SENIA 2016 website.

[Conference] Call for Workshop Proposals

SENIA is seeking workshop proposals for the 13th SENIA 2016 conference to be held at the International School of Kuala Lumpur Melawati Campus Malaysia. The conference will be held on February 26 to 27, 2016.

The deadline for submission of workshop proposals is on September 30, 2015. For more information, please visit the official SENIA 2016 website.

Please be informed that continuing on with the SENIA spirit of sharing and networking, workshop presenters are not paid. We thank you for your generosity.

The deadline for submission of proposals is October 30, 2015. Here is the Online Proposal Form.