Wednesday, May 30, 2012

It's the Law: IEPs, IDEA, Section 504 and Interventions

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What are the difference between and IEP and a 504? Do general education interventions include modifications? How does this all include FAPE and IDEA? What does FAPE and IDEA mean for my child? There are lots of questions when you start discussing interventions for you child in school. Here are some of the answers.
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We should cover some definitions to understand the differences between plans so you can get the best education for your child.
IEP: Individual Education Plan; it outlines special education goals and services for your child as well as providers for those services.
Section 504 - This a section of a civil rights law, The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that insures equal access to education, the disabilities can include physical and neurological disabilities. For examples of what kinds of disabilities are covered by IDEA and Section 504 refer to this link:
This is not the same as an IEP and the school doesn't get reimbursed for any measures outlined in the 504 plan.
IDEA is Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. It includes what must be in a child's IEP.
FAPE is Free Appropriate Public Education, and again is a part of  IDEA's disability law.

The simplest explanation I have found defining the differences between an IEP and a 504 plan is the following from the University of Kansas Medical Center website:
"A 504 plan is a legal document that outlines the accommodations needed by a student with a disability in order to have equal access to education. An IEP is an individualized, legal document that describes necessary accommodations, modifications and services for students with disabilities. IEPs provide the most intense and comprehensive support because schools receive additional funding to implement them. No funding is provided for general education interventions and 504 plans." - from:

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The above handy flow chart is to help guide you through the process of getting your child's needs met in school. If given the option between your child having an IEP and a 504 plan, choose an IEP. A child with an IEP is covered by section 504 of the disability law. Know that your child has the right to a free and appropriate education under the law no matter what kind of accommodation or modification is needed.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Co-teaching and Inclusion

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This last week at the Special Education Advisory Committee we talked about the new plan to have more special education resources in our neighborhoods. This means they may want to move SensiGirl from the school she is successful in to one that isn't equipped to deal with her needs.
The plan is to expand services in each busing zone so they don't have to bus children across town to school. This makes sense when it is a language immersion school or an arts school, not when it is a special needs program. Their solution to the lack of appropriate placements in each busing zone is to expand the special education programs in each zone. This is a commendable goal, as most parents don't want to put their child on a bus for 45 minutes or more, or drive them every day to get to a school across town. I know that busing is a large expense for the school district and they need to cut costs.
I would encourage them to slow down a bit.  The teachers who are going to be providing the services in each zone need special training. It has to be more than adding additional teachers and putting a new label on a program and saying it is appropriate for all special education students in that area. If done right, it could attract more kids into the district, as there would be more classrooms available to special education students.
I asked some questions as to how they propose to provide the kind of education and services that I found in SensiGirl's school in the neighborhood zone special education school. The answer was to expand services to include co-teaching and inclusion.
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Co-teaching is when a special education teacher and a general education teacher team up to teach a class together. They share responsibility of running the classroom. They put the lesson plans together as a team, with the needs of the special education kids in mind. This is the preferred method of inclusion being practiced right now. Inclusion is thought to be the replacement for mainstreaming. The problem is what about he kids who can't handle being in a room with 20 other kids? That needs to be addressed before immersing a student into a general education classroom for the whole day. Mainstreaming has its place, we should think of classrooms meeting the needs of special ed. students like the spectrum we think of for autism. The reality is that there isn't a one size fits all solution to the need for expanded services.
There is more to co-teaching than just additional teachers in the room to get a successful program like SensiGirl's into the neighborhood school. They need to take the time to pair up and train the teachers to get good co-teaching relationships.
The problem is that inclusion with co-teaching is the ideal. The real world application is most likely co-instructing or co-working, with the worst outcome being co-existing. The benefit of co-teaching would be to expose children with special needs and children in the general education classroom to each other.  The cost might be to the expense of the special needs child's education. I hope they make the effort to get it right. It would be a great boon to our school district if they can make it work well.
This is an expansive topic, I am sure there will be more to share about inclusion and co-teaching. Let me know if you have had any experiences with this in your school and how it worked. What are the pitfalls? Let's talk about them, so we can reduce the learning curve for all of us.  Let's make sure we advocate to make it right for our kids.

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The ideal classroom

Monday, May 21, 2012

iPad Apps for Preteens and Young Teens

Here are several apps for older kids and young teens.

Apps for media savvy and bullying:
There are quite a few Professor Garfield apps on topics such as online safety, cyberbullying, fact analysis and forms of media.  If your kid likes comic strips it is a good way to present the information. Here are two of them

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Professor Garfield, Fact or Opinion, for older kids to get the concept of opinion presented as fact
Professor Garfield, Cyberbullying

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Bully Shield, provides research based solutions and concrete steps for the child being bullied.

Apps for making math fun:
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Algebra Explained, several apps, there is a lite version available for free

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Symmetry Shuffle,  game for the detail oriented mind, encourages higher order thinking.

An App for proper use of English phrases
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Phrase Wit, helps with tricky turns of phrase.

History apps:
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American Presidents for iPad, makes history visual for those visual learners.

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Video Time Machine, use your iPad to time travel to video clips, for older teens as there is some graphic content, such as found on YouTube or broadcast TV.

And here are a couple that are just for fun:
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Vidrhythm, make your own video music

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Style Studio Fashion Designer,  make your own fashions. Check your restrictions so it doesn't connect to YouTube or email if that is your preference.

Common Sense Media
Smart Apps for Kids

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


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I've been thinking of taking down the printed up email from our potty training guru this last month. It's posted in the bathroom above the toilet to remind me of what to say and do for SensiGirl while we were potty training. SensiGirl has been successful in toileting for the last month. I mean really no accidents at all. I thought I was going to have to buy a pack of underwear for her every week for the rest of our lives there for a while.
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 We started potty training in earnest right before she turned 5. We had tried the methods we used for Random Guy for almost a year before that and were having no luck with her. It was a half-hearted attempt I admit it, but really, if SensiGirl couldn't tell me she had to go, how was I going to help her get there in time?
The potty sticker chart meant nothing to her. She didn't care. Sticking to a routine didn't work either. I tried rewards: candy, stickers, toys, etc. No luck, she just didn't seem to care if she pooped her pants. The potty videos from the library were a huge step back. Terrifying Potty Power jesters were not the path to toileting success.
Add in that SensiGirl has been constipated for years, and there is a recipe for frustration. I would give her something because she wouldn't go for days, (since she didn't recognize the need) then she would have to go too much because of the Miralax or apricot juice I gave her. We went round and round with that for quite a few months. I got it to where we were only using the Miralax every other day and the apricot juice on the off days and that was working well. Since she is always growing, the amounts she needs to help her go are a moving target. We are now using a different brand of apricot juice, and also pear juice (in the baby aisle.)
I was loaned the book below from SensiGirl's preschool teacher and it was very helpful. Another bit of knowledge to use in our process.
This book was helpful too:
I tried Oh Crap! Potty Training , it is an e-book, blog and forum, and I got email access to the trainer. The ability to personally discuss our process and progress with an expert was a great help in getting away from no pull ups during the day. It helped me be really committed to getting through the process and not back tracking as we had done before.
We also started occupational therapy when SensiGirl was almost five and a half. We started listening therapy and listening to Mozart for Modulation helped some, but just as we would get into the groove, the disc rental would be over and we would move on to another disk to follow her listening therapy guidelines.  I discussed this with her therapist and we decided she should listen to that disc for a month. I purchased that disc for our own home use too and tried it again for a whole month to establish the habit before we ended our listening therapy at the occupational therapists' for now.
What has been the final step in it all is recognizing that SensiGirl has trouble with interoception. This is known as the awareness of liquids, solids and gases moving through the internal organs.  I then noticed the accidents she was having were while she was deeply involved in things like watching TV or playing with her iPad. So I made a rule that SensiGirl had to poop before she could do those activities. Luckily these activities are highly motivating and usually are requested after a meal, so much the better for getting her to go. She still chooses a pull up at night about 60% of the time but waking up dry about 90% of the time.
There is no magic thing to accomplish potty training with your SensiKid, but a combination of support and information for you and understanding for your child makes it happen eventually.

Jamie Glowacki @

Monday, May 14, 2012

What's in the App Basket?

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Here are some of the latest apps I discovered for speech and cognitive development. I also included one for fine motor development. I found most of them in my quest for the perfect sequencing/storytelling app and looking for following directions apps. As usual all apps are within the general app price of .99 to 3.99 unless otherwise noted.  *Plus* how to Update your iPad,

i See-quence sequencing apps to tell about your day, or to relate social stories,  requires an  iOS 4.3 or later

Chalk Walk- helps develop pincer grasp,  requires an  iOS 5

Comic strip app for creating your own social stories

Easy Concepts, helps develop skills in following verbal two and three step directions and knowledge of basic concepts. This one is priced at $4.99,  requires an  iOS 4.3

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My latest find on our storytelling and direction following quest is Hamaguchi  apps for Speech Language and Auditory Development  all cost .99 for the lite version and $9.99 for the full version
Fun with Directions, this one caused some upset at our house since it was too much like school.
First Phrases,  requires an  iOS 4.3
Picture the Sentence, requires an  iOS 4.3

If you are like me the process of updating software is about as desirable as bamboo under your fingernails. I figured the latest iOS update release was before Thanksgiving, it was safe to do by now.  I am  tired of the damn thing telling me an app requires an  iOS 4.3.  If I want to get SensiGirl some of the sentence and sequencing apps, I have to have a current version of the iPad iOS.  As I am only mildly tech adept, I don't do this often enough. Here are links explaining how to deal with errors I had updating my iPad device. Make sure you disable your anti-spyware/anti-virus ware before you try to update. Hint,  before upgrading your iOS, sync your device yourself. Once synced, then you can download your update. I had some trouble with errors and restores and such, but as you can see most apps are written for the second most or most current version of the iPad Operating System, so an upgrade is a must.
Read the links to the end of discussion to make sure you have the right answer. Sometimes the "best answer" isn't really the solution.

Gary James at Apps for Children with Special Needs on Pinterest

Friday, May 11, 2012

A Visit from the Grandparents

My dad and his wife came to visit this last weekend. They have been trying to learn more about autism since SensiGirl was identified as having autism.  Dad has attended an autism seminar and plans to attend more as well as reading several books on the subject.  My step mom has been helpful and finding resources for them to educate themselves about autism. Dad is getting a different understanding of SensiGirl as well as me.
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I am adopted, so as I was growing up, my family put most of my differences down to me just being me. My mom took me to the doctor for my rocking, and were asked if I spoke. I did, so they were told not to worry about me, I would grow out of it. There was only a glimmer of understanding in the 1970's of sensory processing disorder or even autism as applied to a child who can speak. In some ways the doctor was right and I did grow out of most of it.
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 There was no understanding of my experience like I have for my children. My parents didn't know how to be sensory detectives since they had no reference for understanding it. They just thought I was misbehaving, being picky or whiny and that was the end of it. Now that I am a parent and have children of my own I am able to articulate what it is like for my children to move through the world, as well as how it was for myself all those years ago.
What was nice about their visit, besides having a chance to catch up is that since my dad and his wife are infrequent visitors they can see changes more readily.  They can hear how Random Guy has clear speech and there is no need for a speech specialist in school. They also are aware of how Random Guy has been bullied and they try to look out for him in their own way.
It was so nice to hear that they saw marked progress in SensiGirl's abilities to visit with them, pay attention to the conversations we where having, make eye contact and to regulate herself in a new environment. They know that some of this progress is due to the extra therapies and special education placement that SensiGirl has. This all is hard work, and they help me when I ask or however they know how. Thanks Mr. Grandpa Poppop and Grandma B.
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resources: bibliography of Dr. A Jean Ayers

Monday, May 7, 2012

Explaining Autism: Neighborhood Kid Version

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The other day, Random Guy's neighborhood pal was over to play. Pixie wondered why there were carabiners on the gates to the back yard. Random Guy explained it is to keep his sister from running out into the street. He explained she doesn't pay attention to the cars going by in the street and will just run out without looking.
Pixie then asked if SensiGirl has a disease that caused her to be like she is. I heard no answer coming from Random Guy, just uncomfortable silence. In fact Pixie asked the question of him twice. He declined to answer. I had to get on with what I was doing, but it made me think.
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How do I help Random Guy explain his sister to his friends? His regular play date buddy has autism, so there is no explaining there. He met another one of his friends while we were at Theraplay for SenisGirl. Random Guy is on the spectrum, but we have explained his differences to him as having a brain that works differently than most others do. I have explained his sister to him that way too, and to a lesser extent his Mom and Dad.  I also explained sometimes his difference is why he has trouble with bullies. When he has asked directly if he has autism, I explained he doesn't have a speech delay, so it is called Asperger's, but really it's more of a visual way of thinking. I joke with him about how his attention to detail is a super power.
When he has asked about his sister, I told him she has autism, and it means she is having some difficulty with acquiring speech. I also explained how autism is what makes her so good at music and drawing and helped her learn how to read earlier than most others. I also explained how her autism makes her very sensitive to her environment and so we do things differently sometimes to make things easier for her.  I told him we do things like take her to speech and occupational therapy to help her adjust to the world around us.
We have never as a family been asked such a bald-faced question as, "Does she have a disease that makes her like that?"  How do you explain to a 9 year old what a neurological difference is when they don't have the difference themselves? It was easy to explain to Random Guy because I pointed out examples of the way he was and how that is different than most. I also explained that difference makes him special. His visual memory is like a super power or a gift he has to use at his will.
Explaining this to other children directly wasn't something I have had to do. Usually I am better acquainted with my Random Guy's playmates' parents. I have only had to explain to them and they all were very understanding and seemed to get it. In fact Pixie's mom and I had several discussions about diagnoses and the schools we chose for Random Guy and SensiGirl. She told me she thought  Pixie's sister may have some of the hallmarks of Asperger's too.
 I am contemplating calling her mother to enlist some help in explaining.  Perhaps that is why Random Guy's friend, Pixie is so willing to play with Random Guy. He is familiar to her as her sister.
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special thanks to:

Friday, May 4, 2012

Social Skills and Storytelling Apps

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SensiGirl needs help with her story telling and cognition at school. I was reading Thinking In Pictures and came across a passage I thought was telling. " In a study at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where parents (of autistic children) were asked to make up a story, 34 % made up a rambling, plotless story without a clear beginning, middle and end. This is the nature of associational visual thinking.  It is like putting a jigsaw puzzle together. It is not done in any particular order." This is just studying the parents;  imagine if we were able to find a way to get a story out of some of our kids. Would they be rambling and plotless? Teaching how to tell a story is important in our society, whether it is relating what happened at school or explaining a chemical reaction in a scientific paper.
Cognition testing at school, social interactions, learning new skills they all relate to ordered storytelling. So I have enlisted SensiGirl's speech therapist and her teacher at school to help her with her storytelling.  Her are some apps that we are trying to help with her story telling skills.
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i Create Social Skills Stories

Comic Strip CS, for social stories

SpeakApp 1,2,3

Cognition for iPad;  requires  iOS 4.3

iModeling - for video modeling of social and other skills

Tell a Story: Consequences

Leo's Mayan Quest - interactive storytelling

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Solodialogue: for Leo's Mayan Quest tweet
Thinking in Pictures, My Life with Autism by Temple Grandin
Gary James apps for Children with Special Needs, 32 boards of apps for our kids