Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Accommodations, Modifications and Interventions: Words to Make You Wise

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What are accommodations, interventions, and modifications? What are the differences between these? These words get thrown around during Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings often. I know I have been confused about the differences at times. What about adaptations? What are those and how do they fit in?  Briefly stated, an intervention is defined by the Minnesota Department of Education as: " a proactive strategy for defining, teaching and supporting student behavior resulting in academic and social gains and a positive school environment."
Accommodations are defined as involving changes in instructional methods, including alterations in the format of assignments or tests, without changing content, that allows students with disabilities to do the same work as their typical peers in the classroom.
A modification is a change in the curriculum, for example assignments may be reduced in number. Accommodations and modifications are used in IEPs and 504 plans.
An adaptation is a change in the delivery of the lessons, the kind of accommodation or modification.  These terms are used interchangeably and sometimes incorrectly by both parents and educators.

 Accommodation                        Modification:                    
 No change to curriculum                        Change to curriculum                  
 Change in instructional methods           Alternative or reduced                        

   Intervention:                        Adaptation
    Addition to cirriculum                   Change to delivery of 
    Data collected                                    instruction

Here is a link to a comparison guide:

You want to be familiar with these terms so you can make sure you have them written in the documents that detail your child's education plan. Some things to include may be:

Schoolwork and homework broken down into small steps
Instructions for assignments presented orally and in writing
Written assignments read aloud to student
Graphic organizers used to present material visually
Small group or individual testing assignments
Use word processor for writing assignments
Additional breaks during class
Extended time for assignments

Homework assignments reduced
Focus on functional skills curriculum
Alternate math or reading curriculum at student’s level
Alternate tests will be used
Shortened writing assignments

Social skills group
Reward chart for assignment completion, behavior, etc.
Visual schedule
Access to a counselor, social worker or therapist
Tutoring for specific academic skills
Speech therapy, occupational therapy, or physical therapy

Either an accommodation – change in the delivery without changing content,
or a modification – change of content

You can see how the actual help provided may be simple things but they must be documented. If you don't have it written down in an IEP or 504 then the teachers don't have to follow through with the changes to the learning environment needed to help the student get an education.  They may not do this because they don't know how.  This can also be addressed at the IEP meetings and meetings with your child's educators. This is why it is important to know which kind of change is being made and how it effects both the teacher and the student.

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modification info:
accommodations, adaptations, modifications:
useful educational interventions:

Special Thanks to SensiGirl's teacher for checking that I got this right.

Wordless Wednesday - Noble Knob Paths

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The IEP files

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It is IEP (Individual Education Plan,) season in our house.  Random Guy is due for his 3 year evaluation and SensiGirl will have her annual IEP and 3 year evaluation in a month or so.
What is there to know about an IEP? Firstly it is a legal document, it is the school's obligation to follow what the IEP says and provide the resources to accomplish the goals contained in it.  It is an assessment of your child's progress, measurable goals and clear plans of how to achieve them. This is more than a report card, it is documentation of what goals were measured and progress of your child on those goals. Sometimes you IEP will include a behavior intervention plan. It is also a list of all the providers of services to your child: teachers, therapist, case worker, etc.

Make sure before going to an IEP meeting that you have the draft of the IEP being discussed at the meeting. Make sure you see all the changes in print before you sign it. This is for you and your child's benefit as well as the schools.  If it is not written as you agreed to then you can call another IEP meeting for changes and adjustments. They really don't want to have another meeting, so remind them of that if they put the pressure on you to sign at the meeting. Usually if there are changes the case worker will make the changes and give me a copy to read in the next day or so, then I will sign.

Watch out for unfamiliar jargon, if you don't understand an acronym or phrase, ask for clarification. I think that educators sometimes forget how many acronyms and buzz words they use.  Know what you want to ask for ahead of time. This is why it is important to get a copy of the document ahead of time. If you want some accommodations for testing, find a way for them to do that for your child.  If you think your child needs extended school year (ESY) address this subject before the meeting to lay the groundwork, and then bring it up at the meeting.

  An IEP is based on need, not availability of services. It is also an agreement for the use of resources to help educate your child. This will be expressed in frequency and amount of time for the support needed.
An IEP meeting doesn't have to be adversarial, but make sure that if your child has needs that the school should be providing support for, that it is written in the IEP document. If it isn't written in the IEP the school and staff don't have a directive as to what to do for that need. Everyone at the IEP meeting has a purpose for being there. They are there to give information, to monitor progress and to make sure protocol is being followed.  The whole point of an IEP is to find a way for your child to get an education and succeed at school.  Communicate your child's needs and expect the best from everyone on the team and more than likely you will get what you are striving for.

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resources :

t shirt available at :

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Transitions and Temperament

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I posted earlier about social stories and how they help with trying something new. They are also helpful with transitions. Almost everyone has some extra anxiety or energy about transitioning from one state to the next. Getting up in the morning and going from bed at home to the bus to school and learning how to brush your teeth can be seen as transitions, from place to place and dependence to independence.

The trick once you have prepared your child for a transition with a calendar or social story is to prepare the adults involved.  When transitioning SensiGirl from preschool to kindergarten, I helped arrange the appropriate placement for her and then it was time to prepare her new teacher for her. I wrote the Getting to Know letters to her new teacher, I also e-mailed and called ahead of time to talk with her.
When transitioning myself from home with the kids to an evening meeting, Grandma and Grandpa are prepared and are sure to know how to keep SensiGirl occupied or to distract her until I get home.

How well we adapt to transitions has to do with temperament. I am a slow to transition person. When someone suggests something new, I usually say no right away. I then think about it and if I like the idea after weighing it, I will agree to the plan.  I think that kids who have trouble with transitions are a bit like me, it is hard to say yes and be open to change right away without thinking on it and envisioning what will happen.
Random Guy is always asks me in the morning "What are we doing today?" He usually knows since week to week things are pretty similar, but he checks to see if there is a change in plans so he knows ahead of time.  He is a "no" person like me and he has found a way to be open to yes by checking to see if there is a change in plans.  "No" people also like routines, it makes things manageable. If you know what you are going to have for breakfast each day then it makes choosing clothes easier. If you wear a uniform, then maybe you want to have a little variety in your breakfast.  Less choice isn't always bad; lots of people like to have a routine or two to make sure things run smoothly.

If you can prepare for the change then your "No" child might just roll with things when you don't expect it.  Our trip to the library has several steps; we have refined the visit to limit unexpected upsets. We get our reserved library materials from the shelf, check out our things and exit through the coffee shop. There we can get a treat if all goes well. SensiGirl likes to see what is there before she chooses her treat; Random Guy always is hoping there will be a yogurt parfait waiting for him. One time a book wouldn't clear the self check out and we had to wait while the librarian put a new scan sticker in the book. Since we all knew that the coffee shop was next, the wait was manageable.

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Even though Random Guy seems to handle transitions better, he is less likely to be a happy camper when the unexpected happens. If you ask him to do something new and different he will say "No." He might say yes in an hour or maybe next week. I try to ask him way ahead of time if I want him to try something new. SensiGirl can sometimes roll with it when things change, as long as she has had things go smoothly up to that point.  If she is prepared  for the next step after the change, all the better.  Routines and the unexpected are part of life, recognize what kind of temperament you have, and your kids have and work with it. You may find that the transitions happen more easily as the routines are established in your calendar.When you are ready, throw a little surprise in from time to time. It helps make those no moments turn to yeses more easily.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Savvy Advocate Mom and More: Inclusion and Mainstreaming: The Basics

Savvy Advocate Mom and More: Inclusion and Mainstreaming: The Basics: image from: TI/AAAAAAAAAAM/lNeIG4w0NKE/S240/files.jpg We didn't think that Random Guy ...

Inclusion and Mainstreaming: The Basics

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We didn't think that Random Guy needed a special education  preschool classroom. He was participating in his preschool ECFE classes and the neighborhood community education preschool with few problems. They suggested an ECSE inclusion classroom for his preschool year to work on some of his social delays and attention issues he was having in a regular classroom.  We found inclusion was the right balance for him.  By the time kindergarten came around we put him in a regular education classroom with supports. I don't even know if they knew what they were doing for us was a type of inclusion;  we decided for Random Guy to go to the neighborhood school and they had the support he needed at the time.
SensiGirl had too many issues  to be successful in an inclusion classroom in preschool, but she is mainstreaming into a regular kindergarten class that includes another kid with ASD.  Here is a handy visual to demonstrate the differences between the two concepts:

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Inclusive classrooms do more that integrate the children with disabilities into the classroom.  It focuses on the children's abilities, learning is improved by both general education and special education students, meaningful friendships develop, as well as developing a sense of empathy for others. Those and more reasons can be found here:

Federal Laws don't require inclusion, but the IDEA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 say the a student must be placed in the least restrictive environment and the schools have to provide for the education of each student with a qualified disability.  What the laws don't say is how to provide this environment. Inclusion grew out of these and other laws and now we are finding ways for doing this effectively.
There are generally two methods of inclusion.  There is the Push In  method, where the special education teacher comes into the classroom bringing materials if needed and to provide instruction.
In the Full Inclusion method the regular education teacher and the special education teachers are partners in the classroom.  The special education student participates in the general education classroom with supports from the special education teacher.
Inclusion isn't for every student, or every school, but mainstreaming has its drawbacks too. One attitude that is prevalent in mainstreaming is the student has to earn their place in the general education classroom by being able to keep up with the pace of the other students.  To participate in inclusion, the student only has to show that they benefit from being in the general education classroom.
Inclusion is a teaching concept of growing importance and teachers need training to get it to work for them in their classrooms. Our  Family Friend Graduate Student  is a great advocate for inclusion classrooms and is getting training in both early childhood education and special education so she can put together an inclusion classroom of her own.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Pica: Eating Inedibles

I was reading this post by a fellow blogger site and it got me thinking about SensiGirl and pica.
 I hate to talk about it, but it is another one of those things you adapt to because you have a child that isn't typical.

As soon as SensiGirl was mobile she was putting things in her mouth. That is what you expect with a toddler, you figure they will grow out of it as a preschooler or kindergartner. SensiGirl didn't grow out of it, she became selective. SensiGirl used to go out in the yard in the spring and take great glumps of mud and lick them off her hands. Ugh!

She kept doing this kind of thing with dirt, snow, ice, erasers, chalk. I told her doctor and SensiGirl was tested for deficiencies. We found that she was low in iron, which is associated with the eating of dirt.  Once we got an iron supplement going in her, the incidents of pica was less. She still wants to eat things that are inedible, snow, dry rice and pasta and chalk.  I don't have to keep the cabinet under lock and key. I do have to watch her outside and we come inside every time she eats a nonfood item.

I started reading this book out of curiosity, but it was very helpful in reminding me what plants we have around that are bad to consume.  It has some humor but the information is solid. Since I like to garden, I keep in mind what plants are poisonous, and either get rid of them or take off any poisonous parts or berries. SensiGirl seems satisfied with green apples and sour grapes from the back yard for now. I make sure I pick all the berries off the yew bushes when they fruit.

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It is getting better. As SensiGirl grows, the desire to consume these things wanes.  Patience and consistency is the key in dealing with pica, as it can take some time for kids to stop wanting to eat nonfood items. Stop them from eating the yucky stuff and take them away from the activity, or take them to throw away the item. If you do this every time, eventually they will decide that not eating the unfood is better, since they get to stick with what they were doing. I do cheat in the winter, I give SensiGirl a substitute for the snow, sometimes it is a candy cane, sometimes a juice box, (I keep them in the car, so they get a little slushy sometimes.) Just remember to check with your doctor to see if there is a reason for eating the nonfood items and to use constant consequences and sometimes a little bit of a sweet or sour substitute can help.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Basics of Social Stories

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Social stories are a sequence of pictures and word that explain the order of events in an activity. At the most primary level they start with first/then stories. These are very helpful to kids who have autism. They can see what is going to happen next.

You can look on You Tube or check out Teacher Tube for video social stories to show your child when you are going to do something new or are teaching social expectations. We used Teacher Tube for the going to the movies social story.

Fire Drill
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You can also find social stories in book form like Fire Drill:

Of course there is an app or two for that:
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Purple/e1/03/2f/mzl.rizctbkc.320x480-75.jpg Model Me Kids has several useful scenarios, getting a haircut, shopping at the mall, going to the doctor and more.

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We have the old version of Social Stories from Look2Learn, so I am not sure about any updates. has several apps that are helpful with scheduling and social learning.

When it comes down to it, if all you have is a piece of paper and a pencil you can write a social story that will be helpful in letting your child know what is going to happen when you do something new. This helps prevent meltdowns since you are making the sequence of events known and you are setting the expectations for the behavior while doing the activity.  Most kids like to know what is going to happen.  Here is a great example; even if it is in French you get the idea:

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Here are a couple of great blog posts from the above social story writer about traveling with a kid who has autism:

Social stories have been very helpful for our family. We don't use them nearly enough, but when we do it reminds me how powerful they can be.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Lice and Your Sensikid's Head

If you have a child with sensory issues you have a world of trouble when the note comes home from school. In our case, it wasn't even a note. Random Guy went with Grandma to get his haircut while SensiGirl and I were at occupational therapy. The stylist found a few nits and stopped cutting his hair. I found a few more and treated Random Guy with the generic pack of lice treatment.  I knew to do this from a friend who has been having the lice plague go round her school for two years. She recommends the double pack.  My friend also reported that lice infestations are down now that the school sends a note home for the WHOLE grade when a child is found to have lice. Before they did it just for the individual classes.

The next treatment was for SensiGirl.  We didn't know if she had any nits or not.  SensiGirl has light brown hair, it was almost an impossible to see the nits and to get her to sit still and keep track of where was combed and checked and where wasn't. I did my best and then treated her as directed with the Ladybugs prevention kit, and combed again. She is not a cooperative subject to say the least. She is very defensive about her hair being combed.
Of course there is all the cleaning and vacuuming. I had to accomplish most of that while they were at school, but some had to be done before they went back, (their beds.) There was a lot of screaming about the vacuum. I was on a mission, I had to do it.

I asked Random Guy's teacher to move his coat hook to the end of the row. Since SensiGirl doesn't let me really, really nit pick, I have to work the prevention angle as best I can.  I explained how our family would be a weak link if we didn't get on top of prevention since SensiGirl doesn't let me keep the treatments on for as long as I am supposed to. When the note came home from SensiGirl's school, the teachers told me they had checked her head. I checked it again, and ran the Robicomb and then did the Ladybugs treatment.
Terri Mauro at has some extra tips:

Here are the items in my arsenal against lice:
Robicomb- This is good way to check if you can't see those tiny nits very well. Careful, it does have a little electric charge while it is running, so keep it angled as directed to avoid any twinges. If you zap your Sensikid, you won't get another chance to use it anytime soon. It's handy for checking yourself for nits too.
Cetaphil- This is the backup when you can't use the pesticide treatment within the recommended time frame. Here are the instructions for the treatment method.
Generic double pack lice treatment kit - It works just as well as the brand name stuff and you get two treatments, so you have one on hand for the next time it happens. (It will.)
Plastic hair clips - To keep the hair you have checked apart from the hair you haven't.
Plastic shower caps - To put on heads while the treatments are on, to keep chemicals from running into the kids eyes, and to keep down the smell.
Ladybugs prevention- This is what I do when the note comes home and I can't find any nits. I foam up the kids heads when it is bath time. (It is bath night whenever that note comes home.)  Then every morning before school I spray their hair before going to school. So far so good.  I suppose you could use some kind of peppermint essential oil or regular Listerine (as the nurse at our pediatrician says she did,) for prevention. Grandma was as freaked as I was, and bought the whole kit from the salon. So we have it on hand now. The kids don't mind being sprayed with the peppermint oil blend spray if they know it will keep me from nit picking them.

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If you seem like you are stuck in a cycle of infestation you can always call the professionals. In our area we have at least four service providers for lice removal. It is expensive, but you do what you have to do.
I hope what I wrote or links I gave can help you keep your Sensikid lice free, or help make the treatments easier.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Combat Stress

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This is what I feel like at the end of the day, and sometimes during the day when I am finally still and alone. If I am with my kids I have to be on alert,  apparently just like a combat soldier.  The times I have been off target didn't have the same dire results as someone in combat, but I did relearn why I can't relax unless I know the kids are off to school or asleep.  It doesn't feel like I am at war, and  I am not saying that I have to do anything close to what those in the military do in their daily lives.
 I do know I put myself last a lot of the time and it is hard to put yourself first when you have to stay a step ahead of what's going on.  It's not the same as post traumatic stress disorder, instead it is the daily running on alert over a long period of time that causes caretakers to have stress related health issues.
In a recent study they tested moms of adolescents and adult with autism.  They followed a group of moms who care for adolescents and adults with autism for eight days in a row. Moms were interviewed at the end of each day about their experiences and on four of the days researchers measured the moms' hormone levels to assess their stress.  They found that the hormone associated with stress was extremely low, consistent with people experiencing chronic stress such as soldiers in combat. These findings can be read here:

Just recently I let my guard down when I was sick, I nodded off on the sofa and awoke and realized what had happened; I found SensiGirl  upstairs using Random Guys scissors to cut off her hair.  There have been a few moments like that over the years.

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I think the common factor caregivers have with the combat soldiers is not being able to let your guard down, not to let your attention to get too divided,  nor forget about what you are doing or what is going on in your surroundings .  If I don't keep track of SensiGirl's movements I will pay with a mess to clean up at the least, or a trip to the doctor at the worst. We've gone to the doctor for peas up her nose a couple of times. She doesn't do that anymore, as she grows up her messes grow developmentally with her.  I clean up slimy hand lotion messes off SensiGirl and her bedroom floor at least monthly. (I have really dry skin and if I don't keep the hand lotion  handy, well it doesn't get used and I am back at the doctor's office with cracked hands.)
I try to give her more sensory things to do, like helping make the pizza dough, sensory toys,  or Sensory Science Friday, but every time I relax and forget about things, there it is, one of her messes. Painting the kitchen in ketchup was memorable.
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 The good that comes out of the the studies and the comparison it makes is caregivers and their doctors recognize the daily stress Moms' experience is real.It may make them take the effects of stress from care-giving a special needs kids seriously. The illnesses that come from constant daily stress are real. Take care of yourself. Now, I think I will go take a nap. (It's okay, they are at school.)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sensory Saturdays:Cinema and Theater

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Sensory friendly films at AMC!  SensiGirl saw her first movie there. It was a bit difficult for her, but once we got past the wait in the atrium and got her headphones on she was engrossed with the film! We haven't gone back since the summer. But there haven't been any titles that are up her alley lately. If you want to share the fun of the movies with your kids, (and not be stuck at home with DVDs or Netflix,) and be a part of the social experience of going to see a show together, these shows are the way to start. We showed SensiGirl a social story about going to the movies before we went:

 At a sensory friendly film it is lighter and quieter than how they regularly play the movies. The audience is all families who have experience with sensory issues, so they are as understanding of your child as you are of theirs. Know the audience will not be quiet. See if an upcoming movie is in your future.

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Here are some sensory tips we found helpful: bring ear protection, make sure you have told/shown a social story to your child a few days or weeks ahead of time. Bring extra adults if you can and if you are going as a family, take separate cars, so your other children won't miss out on the fun if your sensitive child can't handle it the first time. Go try it out, the thing about having a child with challenges is you have to push a bit all the time. Sometimes the push and the carrot are one in the same.

photo by: Dan Norman

Children's theaters around the country are also good for this kind of experience. We haven't gone with SensiGirl yet, but Random Guy has been with school for a field trip.  This article from the Seattle Repertory Theater about a child at the Children's Theater performance of Harold and the Purple Crayon made me so happy. I posted the note below but it may be easier to read if you follow the link.

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So try something new, if you take little steps, your child can experience some of the wonder of the theater and cinema. You just might have a good time too!

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Latest from the Bedside Book Stack

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Here are the latest from my book stack. My top recommendation of autism in fiction is With the Light. It is a Manga/Graphic novel type of  book and it takes a little bit to get used to reading a book from the back cover forward, but once you get hooked into the story you don't even notice. It does a good job of portraying the frustrations, fears and hopes in discovering your child is different. You may need to keep some tissues handy, not only because it is sad at times, but because it is hopeful too.

With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child (With the Light, #1)
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Another favorite is The Einstein Syndrome.

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This one is good if you have a kid who has language delays, and atypical development with splinter skills. The author is a little hard on some speech therapists, but a good speech  language pathologist (SLP) will tell you that some of what he says is true. It is important to get one who has a good reputation, (not just experience,) for working with kids with ASD or whatever deficit your child has specifically.

The Autism Mom's Survival Guide (for Dads, Too!)  leaves you feeling pretty good. The author encourages you to take care of the rest of your life: your marriage, your time for yourself, and your other kids. 

The Autism Mom's Survival Guide (for Dads, too!): Creating a Balanced and Happy Life while Raising a Child with Autism
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The geek scientist in me made me pick up this book:
 The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science and Fear.  It investigates the fear our culture has acquired towards vaccines. The author interviews the players in this drama, and investigates the mystery of how we came to question vaccines and their safety.  Who decides what is true? Is it science, the media, celebrities, or popular opinion?

Fire Drill
Fire Drill was a lifesaver for us. It is a basic social story in book form. I know SensiGirl has trouble with fire drills. During the first one at preschool, SensiGirl was so overwhelmed they had to put her in the wagon and roll her out.  I knew transitioning to Kindergarten was going to be tough and that a fire drill would be one more thing to put her off of school.  We read this book every night for three weeks before school started. She still had trouble, but she  walked out on her own rather than having to be carried or rolled out. Progress is progress, even if it isn't always pretty.

I like to garden, but SensiGirl still puts inedible things in her mouth. This is called pica. Last summer I discovered this gem: Wicked Plants. An interesting read from a gardening and historical point of view, and good stuff to know when you have kids that still don't know the poisonous plants from the good ones.

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I am always looking for good books to read, so if you have recommendations please share and we can get the word out to others about informative and helpful books.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Magic words

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 I have some magic words to share with you: Proven Framework for Mainstreaming.
That is the phrase I used in my emails and when talking with administrators while we were choosing a placement for SensiGirl's kindergarten.  I knew from her last IEP meeting that they only thought she could handle up to a maximum of 20% of her day in a regular education classroom, (if that.)  I knew it was important for her to go to a school that knew how to make the transition from a special education classroom to a regular education/inclusion classroom sometime in the future when she was ready.
The words came to me and I knew I had the concept I was trying to articulate when I was feeling dismayed at the other school choices I had.

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Sometimes you can research the words into concepts, sometimes you have to sit with them and put them together yourself. The important thing is you find a way to convey what you want for your child.  When talking about extended school year be sure to mention regression and recoupment in the Fall, as well as "window of of opportunity" for educating your special needs child.

When discussing behavior issues involving your child with sensory processing disorder make sure to mention that what looks like bad behavior could be due to involuntary reactions to sensory overload.

When talking about classrooms or school, use the word appropriate, as in free appropriate public education (FAPE,) and a certain class room setting that is appropriate for a child with your child's disabilities.

It is helpful to be familiar with the terms already in use to be able to use them for your child's benefit.  Here is a handy glossary of the terms used in discussing special education.

Here is a link to Pennsylvania's Department of Education's pamphlet for understanding the language of special education. It has helpful sections on disabilities and behaviors, and educational terms.
Understanding the Language of Special Education: A Glossary for Parents and Educators

It can be tricky when you see or know of something you don't want for your child. You must find a way to frame or express what you DO want for your child. Many schools have policies about not reqesting a specific teacher by name for your child. I always make sure I express in Random Guy's IEP what kind of classroom and teaching style is helpful for him to make progress.
Use the magic words and you may find you get exactly what you want.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sensory Strategies: Hidden Senses

We all recognize the five senses:  touch, smell, sight, hearing and taste (or tactile, olfactory, visual, auditory and gustatory.)  These are at the base of the developmental Pyramid of Learning.  Did you know there are two other senses?  They are vestibular and proprioception.  Those are the "hidden" senses.

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  The vestibular receptors are located in your inner ear. They give you your sense of movement, balance and gravity.  The proprioception receptors are located in your muscles, tendons and joints. They give you your sense of where your body is in space and what your body parts are doing. If you have a kid who is acting out physically, it may be to stimulate or calm these systems. Sometimes what looks like bad behavior is an involuntary reaction to what's going on with the sensory system.

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Some activities to try to instill a sense of calm to the vestibular system are linear, like driving in a car or riding a scooter.  Rhythmic movements can be calming too, such as rocking in rocking chair.  Some alerting activities for the vestibular system are ones that involve a change of direction or are rotational, like jumping on a trampoline, swinging or riding a merry-go-round. (Good luck finding one around here.)

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Some activities calming to the proprioception system are heavy work: activities that involve deep pressure to muscles, joint compression, slow stretch, heavy resistance, and slowly alternating push/pull.  Put those bodies to work: remember push, pull, carry, lift.
Alerting movements include jerking movements, activities that are fast paced, with quick or unexpected changes. Climbing is alerting to the proprioception receptors.
Good alerting activities are jumping games, sports, rocking or rolling on a chair or on a ball. Using an exercise bike or a trampoline is fun, ours get bounced on while playing Wii or watching TV.  You can have the kids crash into pillows, or sandwich them between pillows or bean bags. Carrying heavy things like a weighted ball or groceries are great! Animal walks and wheel barrow walks also wake up the proprioception system.
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You don't have to be flush with cash to do most of these activities.  We have only invested in a limited amount of equipment for our house. We have a play set with swings, a slide and a climbing ladder in the backyard, scooters for both kids and two mini jogging type trampolines in the house. We have rolling chairs in the office that we use for rolling and for spinning. We have lots of pillows in our house and we use them to squish and squeeze. Playgrounds are one of the best things to do, and they're free.  I also have been having the kids bring in a bag or two of the groceries when we go shopping together, carry the tote bag from the library, or their backpacks from school.
Great books about things you can do with your child to help integrate their systems doing regular things are the The Out of Sync Child and the The Out of Sync Child Has Fun: Activities for Kids with Sensory Processing Disorder.

If you have sensory questions or hints to share, I am going to start Sensory Saturdays soon.

                SPPS Occupational Therapists
                Children's Theraplay MN

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Extended School Year

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I swear SensiGirl always makes some big leap in skills or has a breakthrough right before the school year ends. Luckily she qualifies for Extended School Year here in Saint Paul. She attends 5 extra weeks of school during the summer to help her retain her skills and keep her from regressing.  That's the key. There are magic/legal words you need to use to get your child services. I will share with you all the magic words I know.  The ones for ESY are lack of progress and regression.  My son, Random Guy, doesn't qualify for ESY and hasn't since he was in Kindergarten. He does qualify for summer school with the school district and we have had success with having him attend regular education summer school. It only lasts 3 weeks, so I fill in with Community Education classes in things he likes, Legos, fencing, art, etc.  For Random Guy, he needs to maintain social skills over the summer, and our matrix fits the bill.
Different states have different standards legally that have been created in that locality. Do not take legal advice from school personnel is what the website is what advises.  As with most special educations issues we have entered the realm of legalese.  If it comes to a conflict with the school district about extended school year, get some more information from the Internet and then consult with a lawyer.  It can be hard to argue with all the legal terms used with this issue.  The disability services in your community usually have a list of lawyers who specialize in education and disability law.  

The basics of the law are as follows; regression is not the only factor in deciding if a child needs ESY services.  Several additional factors the IEP team should consider in making ESY decisions are:
Recoupment in the fall
Child's rate of progress
Child's behavioral or physical problems
Availability of alternative resources
Areas of the Child's curriculum that need continuous attention
Window of opportunity for educating a special needs child

What if your districts' summer school isn't appropriate for your child? Can you have services provided in your home?  Will the school district pay for a summer camp that has the services your child needs to maintain progress until school starts in the fall?  Is there a specific organization that they may have worked out a relationship to provide for special needs kids in the summer? If you want the school district to pay for services, make sure to broach the subject long before summer is upon you.  Explore and find out if they have paid for these things for other families. 

Sometimes you find you end up with more questions than answers.  Hopefully what I wrote today will get your wheels turning to find out what is available for your child this summer.

  Here are some links to check:

For ESY legal information see:

Monday, February 13, 2012

Saying Thank You

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I know it is the educators' and therapists jobs to help my child, but I still thank them every chance I get. I thank the teachers, the social workers, the principals. I make sure that SensiGirl and Random Guy say thank you too. I know that when you are trying to pull any sort of speech out of your child, thank you may not be the one you think to start to teach. It is important.
I really want SensiGirl to be polite, even if she may not say much.  So we started working on saying thank you. When I couldn't get her to just say thank you on cue as in "What do you say?" after someone gives you something, we started to work on other ways to get her to say it. Signing wasn't working; the ASL sign for thank you didn't register to her.
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Then I remembered that SensiGirl was all about the alphabet! She started reading when she was two and a half or so. I started finger spelling the things I wanted her to say. We made up our own sign for thank you combining the T and the H and holding it sideways. It was a subtle little sign that I could show her when the bakery ladies gave SensiGirl a cookie at Big Box store.  I could show it to her when she was opening her birthday and Christmas gifts. It worked, and still works. We have now moved on the the "What do you say?' cue, but I am glad we made the effort to have some of her first words be thank you.  From teaching her those words I was able to teach her a whole lot more words, and to get her attention when sometimes it was sensory overload time. The alphabet, the visuals of signing and written words had meaning for her. It was a way to connect to her even though the spoken words didn't register for her at the time.

Thank you are some of the most important words you can say and are the best ones to hear when you are trying your hardest. I will never forget the note SensiGirl's preschool teacher gave me at the end of the school year last spring and we were transitioning to kindergarten.  She thanked ME for the privilege and honor of being SensiGirl's teacher.  Thanking me for letting her teach my child, wow, it made me cry a little bit.  She also was one of the first people to call me an advocate for my child. It made me see a little bit of which way I was going to have to go. Thank you everyone who is on this journey with me, as I couldn't get there without all the love and support.

 Remember, the smallest thank you can have a huge effect.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Paper Monster Containment

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I have a paper problem. I am hesitant to throw away documents that at some point and time where important. My sister calls it my **it problem. It is one of the three or four things The Atomic Punk and I still have arguments about it.  I stack the papers in a pile on a shelf or a desk and keep adding to it until it becomes a problem and I have to find a place for it.

When you have a child in special ed. you get a lot of important papers. Your IEP is a legal document and you will probably have to refer to it a few times a year.  The problem becomes where to put all these papers.
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 When SensiGirl was first evaluated, her case worker gave me an expanding file folder to keep track of all the paperwork that was involved.  I went right out and got another one in a different color for Random Guy's stuff.  They have basic models for $6 at Walgreen's. It doesn't have to be fancy, but it is better if it is made of plastic to keep it sturdy. It helps if there is a slot for business cards too.
It is a place to put the copies of the evaluations, vaccination records, copies of birth certificates and the IEPs.  I take mine to every meeting I have with teachers or administrators at school.  I put all of the meeting paperwork in the folder as soon as I go to leave. This folder is also a place to keep examples of their work so that if anyone needs to see if they are capable of a certain skill, you could very well have an example of what they can do right there. Keep a notebook or paper tablet and some pens in there for good measure.
It is also a good place to keep copies of your Getting to Know letters, just in case your computer crashes, so you don't have to start from scratch. It can be a place for small keepsakes too, I keep the note I received from SensiGirl's preschool teacher after she completed preschool.  That thank you note helped me so much during her transition to Kindergarten.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Be a Sensory Detective

Do any of these quirks seem familiar? You too can be a Sensory Sleuth!  My SensiGirl has 9 or 10 out of 17. I personally have 4 of these as a grown-up; the Mall of America can make me break out in a cold sweat.   Sensory Processing disorder can get in the way of a lot of learning. It's hard to pay attention in school when your body is sending you a bunch of these signals.
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The above doesn't even take into account things that send normal kids into a funk. Cutting teeth, ear and sinus infections, getting a cold or the "flu" or a growth spurt can sap one's tolerance reserves. Sometimes it's even being overtired. SensiGirl was having the hardest time with our tutor on Tuesdays. Well, our tutor's schedule changed so she couldn't come Tuesdays anymore. SensiGirl isn't as cranky on Tuesdays and Wednesdays are a bit better too. It was just too much to go to school, occupational therapy and work with her tutor all in one day. She hit her limit.

Since I have sensory issues too, it has made it a bit easier for me to figure out what is bothering SensiGirl. I notice when things are loud and echo-y and it can bother me. Smells have been a problem since I was a kid and have gotten worse since I was pregnant for the first time.  Also, I swear, I was starting  to get all jumpy and was itching to take a crack  at the mom at speech therapy who was chomping her gum while we were in the waiting area.

It doesn't take much imagination, for me, when SensiGirl is having a meltdown to figure what the triggers might be. If you don't have sensory issues yourself it can be a bit harder to figure out what your kid's deal is. I make sure to warn both my kids when I turn on the blender or the vacuum.  My husband, the Atomic Punk forgets on a regular basis and much screaming ensues during the running of appliances. I will write more in depth about sensory strategies in another post.  It is a huge subject.

Since SensiGirl has been seeing Occupational Therapist now for a few years in school and additionally outside of school for a year, I am getting better at being a Sensory Detective.  I have professional resources to bounce the incidents around with, recommend remedies and to test out her progress in a safe way. We just started to explore the Veggie Tales mystery.
Look to the environment when you are getting an outrageous behavior, because sometimes it's not a behavior so much as an involuntary reaction to sensory overload. Also check and see if your child is physically okay, an undiagnosed illness can throw anyone for a loop.