Navigate Special Ed

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Navigating Special Education

So frustrating… your child enters the world and you are not aware of the hand that you will be dealt with.  You have a child – a wonderful child whom you love so much – but they have a different style of functioning. They may respond to the world differently. They may need accommodations in school so that they have an untimed exam. They may need related services such as Speech Therapy and/or a paraprofessional to provide support in the “least restrictive environment least restrictive environment

LRE continuum pyramid levels

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Your child is evaluated to determine what needs they may or may not have.  You go to your local school district office to discuss the plan based on these reports and an Individual Education Plan is developed.  The law states that you have rights as a parent to both participate and agree or disagree to an outlined plan for your child.  I am not a special education advocate, but I work with children of different ages. Part of my work involves assisting parents with written reports to present at IEP meetings/CPSE meetings and speaking with professionals in terms of suggesting supports from which those whose skills I have evaluated may benefit.

You may be scheduling a meeting with educational attornies and trying to answer the question of “what’s next?” An attorney may advise you that your child is entitled to free appropriate education.  What is that? http://www.nyedlaw.com/blog/2018/02/what-constitutes-free-appropriate-public-education.html

Over the years, I have seen children fall through the cracks and not get the services that they need.  It’s in the best interests of your child to advocate on behalf of your own.

In the NYC area there are organizations such as

The Parents League   

IncludeNYC

available to help guide you as well.  Similar programs are offered in other areas so check with parents organizations supporting the needs of children such as your own.

Additional Resource https://magazine.parentingspecialneeds.org/publication/?i=646946&ver=html5&p=24

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How Does Assistive Technology Assist People With Communication Need? — Autism Connect

The frustration of not able to communicate or express their wants can have a negative effect on individuals with autism. They may tend to stay aloof, throw tantrum and indulge in negative behavior For autism, assistive technology can benefit individuals (of all age groups) in promoting communication and social interactions. Assistive technology refers to hand-held gadgets such […]

via How Does Assistive Technology Assist People With Communication Need? — Autism Connect

For school aged children, a caregiver can request the school district for an AAC assessment through the IEP process. Here is an example of how to request through DREF.org
https://dredf.org/…/uploads/2016/02/AT-AAC-Assessment.doc

 

Understand Typical Developmental Milestones and Tips for Keeping Your Child Safe

We all hope for happy and healthy children. When there is a glitch…when a parent has the unfortunate situation of being told that their child will need help in the very early years, when neuroplasticity is at a peak, emotions may rage.  Cuts to the early intervention program, in many areas of the country have heightened anxiety about the future for disabled children, those receiving services through the early intervention program or those receiving services elsewhere.  Some parents have expressed reticence about enrolling their child in a specialized education program, or having professionals in their home to offer services to their child.   That feeling is respected.  Acceptance of a developmental delay or other type of handicapping condition may take a while to set in.  That said – I have a few suggestions.

I have realized that parents whose children receive early intervention services or those who would like their children considered for program participation are genuinely unsure of the process or they are not educated about what might qualify their child for services in a particular area.  Others are unaware of what they would expect to see in terms of skill development in a variety of areas.  That is unfortunate.  Parents need guidance and there are resources available for you.  Especially of concern is that you learn about when typically developing children acquire specific milestones like crawling, sitting, standing, speaking, eating solid food, drinking from a cup, assisting with dressing.  There are many more that could be mentioned.  Below is information that may be helpful: 

DVD:  A Life to Love: Preventing Accidental Injury to Our Most Precious Resource-available in English, Spanish, Chinese Creole, Arabic and Russian  (produced by the NYC Administration for Children’s Services @ 150 William Street New York, NY 10038.  NYC residents can call 311).

Clinical Practice Guidelines Quick Reference Guidelines for Parents and Professionals are available through the NY State Department of Health, Early Intervention Program, Corning Tower Building, Room 208, Albany, NY 12237-0618  These are available free of charge at http://www.health.state.ny.us/nysdoh/eipindex.htmeip@health.state.ny.us  and relate to a variety of developmental areas such as vision, communication, hearing, motor function. 

Zero to Three www.zerotothree.org

Communicating About Disabilities With Your Child

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So – your child has received an IFSP (individualized family service plan) or the IEP (individualized education plan).  They are now going to start receiving services.  You receive copies of reports and now have to absorb in black and white what your child’s difficulties entail.  These are very hard for a parent to read.  Maybe you need some support in understanding the disability, learning how to help your child.  Does this sound familiar?  This is now your life and your child’s life. You have to look the problem right in the face, just as the people in the picture above are doing to something that is unknown to us, but in the distance. You are not sure really what it is but as the figure moves closer,  a new reality takes place for you and your child. 

Good news is that those who work with infants, toddlers, older children and adults with disabilities or learning differences can act as invaluable supports.  They can help advocate for your child and aid you as a parent in understanding the nature of the problems with which he or she lives.  Professionals can help you learn how to teach your child about compensating for the difficulty that they have so that they develop into functional and safe adults. 

There  is an important key here – we are talking about your CHILD.  Parents do a disservice to your child if this is not something that is not openly discuss at home,  from the time that your child is young.  You may readthis and wonder how in the world do you talk to a child about the problem that they have and at what age?. 

Preschool aged children with disabilities are in classrooms with typically developing classmates, depending on the severity of the problem.  At younger and younger ages children are consequently becoming aware of differences in others.  This concept mayy already be discussed at school before you have gotten around to it.  Your child deserves to hear about their personal situation from their parent or other primary caregiver first.  So – here are a few jumping off  points for you.

With a child as young as preschool age, you might start very simply at pointing out things that a child may see around him or her.  Perhaps you pass by a person who is blind and walks with a seeing eye dog.  Talk about what the dog does.  A family member wears glasses, a person is in a wheelchair, the universal symbol for handicap accessibility.  Discuss theese situations.  

Your child’s teacher, school director, religious leader and/or the pediatrician might able to guide you in recommending books that describe the disability specific to your child.  They may also know about books that describe children in general, who may have disabilities or difficulties in learning.

Television shows such as “Dora the Explorer“, “SpongeBob Square Pants“, “Little Bear” and “Sesame Street” have episodes  in which the children have disabilities.  You may choose to watch these shows with your child and discuss this if the situation presents itself. 

Talking to your child, especially as they are young adults of what they have to do to keep themselves safe. For example, if they take medication then perhaps they should not be drinking alcohol. If they have a physical disability and want to drive a car, they may need to be guided in terms of adapting the vehicle.  Again – be guided by professionals treating your child for especial significant points to discuss with them. 

 Part of maturing as a person is understanding who we are.   If we do not truly do so, then how can we take care of ourselves as we grow.  Consider this true story.  A young man who lives with ADHD at his Bar Mitzvah (a right  of passage into adulthood; typically at the age of thirteen, within the Jewish religion) prepared a discussion about the Torah portion for that week.  He presented it to his family and friends.  The discussion was striking.  The young man said that he thought that the Biblical character, Moses, had difficulty controlling his anger and had an impulsive side to him.   He illustrated that within the Torah reading for that week.  Further, he related this to himself.  He was able to openly discuss his own disability, having recognized it in someone else. 

The next day, the same teen-ager left for school and by the end of a year demonstrated some ability to calm himself down in moments of anger more efficiently so that he was not physically hurting  other people. In this particular case, it is an ongoing process – but his awareness of the problem is ultimately what is enabling him to compensate for it.  He has taken ownership for this particular aspect  of his personality. 

Resources  are out there to help parents as well as adults.   Here is a sample of a few that might be meaningful for others reading this post but you can generally find this information by just typing into a search bar the name of the disability, illness, problem and information for parents, children and adults generally are found. 

CHADD (children and adults with ADHD) www.chadd.org has a link that is designed to give parents information

Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation www.sinetwork.org

Autism Society of America www.autim-society.org

Stuttering Foundation: tips for parents www.stutteringhelp.org

American Speech-Language Hearing Association: www.asha.org has a link for “self-help groups for speech-language and swallowing disorders” and “resources” which links you to ways to help a child  or adult understand a hearing disorder

American Psychiatric Association www.ParentsMed.Org provides resources about medication for children as well as adults

Epilepsy Foundation www.epilepsyfoundation.org

If you go into either www.pbsparents.org or www.nick.com and type in a search for information, programming related to children with disabilities a number of resources are loaded and provide assistance for both parents and caregivers.

If anyone reading this has more information that they think would be useful for others, please comment so that others can benefit.  Thanks.

My child just got an IEP (individualized education plan) and is in a new school this year. What do i do???

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Is your child starting a new school?  If so, you most likely are feeling a certain amount of anxiety, as is your child if he or she is old enough to understand what this means for them.

BE AN ADVOCATE

Ensure that your child does not fall through the cracks….

You might think something like …what are the teachers going to be like?  will my child like his or her teacher and will they make friends at the school?  You are probably wondering when the services that are authorized will start.  Well – here is news for you they may not start on time unless you stay involved.  This is not to put down anyone who might an administrator or teacher in any one school – but things sometimes happen, especially in a large educational system – like the public school system.  You  a tremendous help and partner in making sure that your child gets help.  Here are some quick suggestions for you to keep in mind.

Having worked in schools; with the professional hat on (so to speak), i can give you some advice. Some schools do not see the paperwork for students who have an IEP (if it is a public school program, especially) until the school district sends them over.

It will be helpful if when you go to school – during the first week, stop by the main office and give the principal a copy personally.

Get the name of the director of special education services at the school. If that is not the exact title – just explain to the staff that your child receives services – he is mandated for — therapy (fill in the blank) and you would like to introduce yourself.  I believe that they will really appreciate this initiative on your part.  It also sends a very positive message to the school about YOU as a parent. 

Now that the school is aware of the fact that your child is to be receiving services….Make sure that your child is on the list of students who should be receiving services in the school. This is extremely important because sometimes not all the names have been sent over from the district office.

Inform your child’s classroom teacher and ask for the name of the person who will be providing services.  Get a phone number/extension for that person and an idea of when they will be in school. Be aware that sometimes related service providers/therapists might travel between different schools during any particular work week.

Ask the school in a few weeks to tell you of the schedule for therapy for your child.

Ask the therapist for a weekly report – bring in a composition book…put in your name and phone number and ask for theirs. 

Double check the number of sessions that your child can receive during the year.  With budget cuts impacting on services across the country and possibly, a limit on this should not be overlooked!

In October – we will revisit this topic for next steps.  Schedules may not necessarily be finalized until the first few weeks  into that month – but make a start to get involved in the process.  It will be appreciated and most important – will benefit both you and your child.

Part One: How Do We Get Back to School?…. Get started with some of the general nuts and bolts

This can be challenging, especially for the life of a special needs parent. Transitions can be hard so in this post I am going to focus on setting up an outline which may not be all inclusive but potentially helpful and include some links that may assist.  I’ll then focus more specifically on what paperwork may be helpful to pull together for that first day with your child who may have an IEP at school in Part Two.
 

Heading Back to School..A Change of Seasons and a Need to Re-Organize

School sales started even before August 1st. I had trouble with that and still do because it feels like the summer is being perpetually being increasingly rushed such that even if you are away on vacation, there is that reminder abundantly present around you that the season and level of responsibility for your family (if with young children) will be changing sooner than you think.  Even if you are an empty-nester ity is a reminder of the change of seasons and that the cooler weather season should be drawing soon upon the doorstep.  Yes – the reality is that this time of year is fast approaching in the Mid-Atlantic part of the United States.

Preparation

School Supplies: an annual rite of passage    

As a child, I remembered that it starts again and is exciting because you hunt for that clean and crisp new notebook, new pens filled with ink, unsharpened pencils, crisp notebook paper etc. I must be dating myself – but one ritual I remember was making book covers from the nice shiney ones that they sold in the stores.  They were paper with pretty designs such as this one from https://shiny-happy-art.myshopify.com/collections/stationery/products/shiny-happy-owls-book-cover?variant=18248709668961   or the ones that I made out of paper bags. Here is a link so you can see how to do this from scratch https://youtu.be/5fpaUSjqXro I also remember metal lunch boxes, insulated bags, ice packs and thermos bottles for lunch box preparation. It was always nice to have a matching box and thermos at school. Everything had to be properly labelled.  Look at the lunch boxes above..in the picture…It was so much fun to pick out a new one.

Not all of these materials are relevant today; but: for now, we need to consider tablets or laptops.  The very basic supplies of compatible pens headsets or bluetooth devices, phones and the accessories that go along with these may be necessary as well. My inbox had information about deals and here is a list for you https://www.google.com/search?q=back+to+school+sales+on+tablets+and+laptops&rlz=1C1CHBF_enUS816US816&oq=back+to+school+sales+on+tablets+and+laptops&aqs=chrome..69i57.9653j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8   

Clothes

Make sure that you have the proper uniforns, shoes/socks, a sweater and a bookbag. Labelling every item will ensure everything comes home and here is a link for an example about which i am speaking https://www.leeleelabels.com/clothing-labels/

On hold, but on the list for later:  wintercoat and boots, gloves, scarf and hat-depending on where you live.  Some stores are selling these now so watch online.

Schedules and Routines:  Manage These With Ease:

Here are links to those alarm clocks that older kids may enoy

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home-products/g27326259/kids-alarm-clocks/

https://www.gearhungry.com/best-kids-alarm-clock/

  • Wipe-off boards  with markers will be great for the whole household to keep track of schedules and as well a bulletin boards to hang up all of those important announcements that come home.  First thing that you may want to put up is that emergency contact list if you have a nanny or family member taking care of your child after school.  Practice Will Help Everyone 

An extra idea:  Can your child help with chores at home i.e. setting the table for dinner, preparing one item, making lunch, laying out clothes for the morning and packing a book-bag the night before so you are set to go in the morning..  Think of the self-esteem that that may build!  Whatever routines you have organized for your individual family….try and  use them over the next few weeks.  

Related articles:  Sugar Shout Out: Lunch Box Surprises For the First Day of School (popsugar.com)