Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Taciturn Tuesday: Hiatus

image via: http://www.publiusnm.com/2012/11/publiusnm-on-hiatus/

Thank you to all who have visited and commented here. I have started home schooling my oldest with K-12.com, and have found I don't have the time to attend to a blog regularly. Sensi is doing well in her new school at a neighboring district. I will still keep my pages on Facebook and Pinterest, and will share any tidbits I find there. I expect to return to blogging when my son, Random goes back to a brick and mortar school. Again, thank you for your interest and support.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Tranquil Thursday: Autumn Woods

image via: http://www.stcroix360.com/2012/11/feasts-of-autumn/img_0374/#.UldUThJwe-M

by Greg Seitz

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Bullying in Schools: Elementary to Middle School, Our Experience

image via: http://www.startribune.com/local/stpaul/184573741.html

Bullying in middle school starts in the first week of classes, when students are establishing their status and friendships. They may try bullying a student to impress others or just to make themselves feel better.
The teachers and administration need to be proactive in this issue. To announce their expectations for the students' behavior as much as they emphasize the expectations for homework.
When bullying occurs, teach the whole class what the expectations are, again. Bullying is not acceptable, the parents of the bully should also be taught what the expectations of behavior are for their children.
Peer mediation fails at all grade levels as it gives the bully a platform to intimidate again.
The attitude we experienced of the middle school staff, specifically, the social worker, towards verbal bullying is weak and ineffective. It was stated to me that “well, at least he's not in danger of getting stabbed or shot, the kids are just using words...” Word will and can drive a student to suicide as discussed in several articles in Psychology Today :

and also here:

The school districts policy toward bullying is intentionally vague: 

The District cannot monitor the activities of students at all times or eliminate all bullying. However, to the extent such conduct affects the educational environment of the school district and the rights and welfare of its students and is within the control of the school district in its normal operations, it is the District’s intent to:
• Prevent bullying by teaching and modeling positive behavior, and
• Investigate, respond to, remediate, and discipline bullying behavior that has not been successfully prevented.

image via: http://threatormenace.com/2012/06/14/exclusion-the-ties-that-bind-us/
The social worker's solution was to observe the classes for the bullying behavior. What bully is going to engage in that behavior with an extra set of adult eyes watching? The result was she and other adults saw no peer interaction with my child. So basically, if they are not bullying him they will ignore him and exclude him.

image via: http://katyshamitz.blogspot.com/2011_07_01_archive.html

 I find the lack of a coherent bullying policy negligent on the part of the school district. I have been aware of the need of a policy for student behavior since my child was in the first grade. We moved schools in 3rd grade because of the ham-fisted way our neighborhood elementary school handled the situation. It was so bad that I began to feel bullied by the principle. I was called and yelled at by the principal. I was told not to talk to the other children without the consent of the parents when all I had done is model for my son (who was yelling at his bully,) to state calmly to the bully what behavior was bothering him. The end result was I was informed that bullying can go two ways and my child and I were part of the problem. 
image via: http://www.thehappymd.com/blog/bid/284600/Physician-Wellness-Why-It-s-Such-a-Struggle
This was not the case. My child was systematically bullied by the other child multiple times and the school had been made aware of the problem previously. This was the second year that my child had been bullied in their school. Rather than beat my head against a wall constructed by an insensitive, ignorant administration at the school, I moved my son to a different school within the district. We still had some trouble with bullies, but it was dealt with in a explicit and efficient manner and it was made clear to the student and parents what was acceptable behavior. I have had to use moving schools as a strategy twice now in his school career to deal with bullying, and he is only in 6th grade. 

image via: http://murray.spps.org/aboutus

I have instructed my child that for the remainder of the time he is in school, if he is bullied he is to walk away from the bully. He is to tell the teacher he is being bullied and wants to go to the office, once there he is to tell the staff that he is being bullied and he wants to go home, and I will come and pick him up. This not only makes the teachers aware of what is happening in their classrooms it makes the school administration aware of it too. A bonus is it tracks the class it occurred in and my child doesn't have to endure an entire day of being bullied. 

resources: Saint Paul Public Schools Policy 505.00
 Adopted: 8/21/2012, page 84/164

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Tranquil Thursday: Koi Pond

image via: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g43501-d267107-Reviews-Como_Park_Zoo_Conservatory-Saint_Paul_Minnesota.html

Koi in the Japanese Garden 
by JazzyKris, Sep 2013

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Friday, September 20, 2013

Transitioning into Middle School - Failure

image by MuffinPoodle via: http://muffinpoodle.deviantart.com/art/Mama-Bear-316649305
Transitioning your special needs kid to Middle School is a daunting task. Having no way to make it successful, I was left searching for a new plan. I had tried to get my son ready for the transition to Middle School far ahead of time. We worked on it with his therapist and his social worker at his elementary school. No amount of preparation could have saved us from the result of poor planning by the school district, lack of a coherent bullying policy and lack of professionalism. The following is from my on-going notes documenting his transition to Middle School.

image via: http://drdeborahserani.blogspot.com/2008/08/hope-therapy-and-resistance.html
I should have had an idea of what was to come when I tried and tried to get a representative from the middle school to attend  the IEP meeting in the Spring before the transition for planning purposes.
After my insistence, we finally got a middle school staffer to attend, but I was not able to get Random's schedule of classes before summer started. It is documented in his IEP that he needs to have a written schedule for him to refer to so he can feel secure in knowing what is going to happen and therefore reduce anxiety. We did take a preliminary tour and got a map of the school before summer break.
image via: http://theeducatorsroom.com/2012/10/when-teachers-leave-the-profession-is-it-time-to-make-a-change/
I called the school once teachers returned from summer vacation; we needed Random's schedule, to take the tours and get his locker as planned.  When I reached the school to complete these steps with my middle school contact, I was told she had left the school. In fact, the SERC,(Special Education Resource Coordinator,) social worker, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) case manager and principal were replaced and/or new to the school. I worked for two weeks before the start of school to get all transition pieces in place. I asked for tours to go over where he would be when, (hard to do without a schedule,) and a locker assignment with a lock to practice on so he would be comfortable going to his locker when all the other kids were swirling around him. I requested a five minute pass as many other special education parents suggested. I also tried to get Random his homework help as outlined in his IEP too.
image via: http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/p/keep-calm-and-choose-both-2/
I was asked by the new SERC what was more important to me, social or academic development? She told me I would have to choose. I was also told that there was a problem with the scheduling "algorithm" and that all the student schedules were having to be done by hand. (I didn't really believe that.) I was not able to get follow through on even one part of a transition plan until the last work day before school started when I was told Random could be in the Transitions class first hour of each day. So he knew he where he was supposed to go for the first hour of the first day. That was all I got from them for proactive planning and transitioning. I asked for 5 minute pass for Random as he was having anxiety about his lock on his locker. Our request was deferred, we were told he would have to show a need for it by being late.
image via: http://www.getholistichealth.com/10628/helping-your-children-overcome-relocation-related-stress/
As much as I tried to get Random's schedule, he did not get his class assignments until halfway through the school day on first day of school. Needless to say Random didn't attend school that day. Apparently they re-ran the scheduling program and were able to get the kids and teachers the necessary information they needed to go about their day, by the second day of school.
There is no homework help on his schedule, even though it is written in his IEP. He will have to show he needs more academic help by getting a D or worse in his classes. I was informed that it would be addressed by the time we would have parent/teacher conferences. Instead, he has what is called Transitions class, this is his only option for some extra help. Essentially it is a smaller first hour class to help get him organized for the school day. 
Random attended school Wednesday without any incident. Thursday he was bullied in science class. I reported it to school the next morning, when Random tells me what was said to him in class. Random attends school Friday, he's bullied again, this time by multiple kids in multiple classes. I get call back from science teacher apologizing for the bullying in her classroom. She says she will keep an eye out for Random from now on. Random has anxiety so severe he cannot attend school on Monday. That is when he reports to us the bullying that happened on Friday.

image via: http://www.noexcuseshr.com/2011_04_01_archive.html
I go to school with Random the following Tuesday to devise a plan to keep Random safe from bullying during the school day. I ask to meet with the Social worker, she cannot be found or contacted, I wait. The SERC is in a meeting and is not available. The speech/language specialist arrives to help me find the social worker. The speech teacher said the thinks the social worker has a walkie-talkie so they can contact her. (I find out later that the social worker does have a walkie-talkie, but she leaves it on her desk, because she doesn't want to carry it around with her.) 

Once we found the social worker we all sat down in her office and I explained we are moving Random to K-12 on-line school  and will need discuss transition and IEP hand over before the move. We then start to discuss the the bullying and I am questioned, "Which classes are the problem?" I reply that all classes are the problem except Transitions, due to it being a Special Education class. Also, his Transitions teacher is supposed to be his case manager as she is a designated ASD teacher. The social worker still doesn't know definitively by the second week of school who his assigned case manager is, and that it needs to be a designated ASD teacher.

image via: http://arthuride.wordpress.com/2011/11/23/psychology-of-suicide-and-bullying-and-how-religion-schoolclassmates-and-family-affect-both/
I convey that it is the utmost importance that my child is kept safe from bullies. I am told by the social worker, “He's not in any danger of being shot or stabbed, the kids might use words...” I pointed out that was not acceptable, as bullying can be bad enough for children to harm themselves.
We agreed there would be another staff member in each of the day's remaining classes to observe. Teachers would then be instructed as to how to reduce opportunities for bullying based on the day's observation.
Also I requested the 5 minute pass again, and was told that it shouldn't be a problem, although he still didn't received one. I requested the pass a third time the following week. Finally, teachers were notified by the social worker that Random gets to leave class 5 minutes early, and a permanent pass was put in his planner.

image via: http://www.examiner.com/article/federal-judge-holds-bullied-special-education-student-denied-education
I had a chance to talk with the principal when she called back my husband from his complaint call.  I reported the shot or stabbed comment. The principal told me the bully had been identified to staff by my son, and the student was talked to. She said there was "...resolution to the problem, now that the first layer of intervention was completed." I was told by the social worker that the principal had told her that there was no more action needed by her. I do not agree with that assessment.

I talked to the social worker on Wednesday and was told that there was little or no peer interaction seen during the observations. I was told that there is an education assistant in his 7th hour class for an extra set of eyes for social interactions. The solution suggested for now is to have the teachers write a comment each day as to how things went, essentially a parent/teacher communication book. The social worker then focused on homework workload, and told me that there would be no homework for reading and math classes, no homework from his first hour class either. I was to check the organizer/notebook for any other homework assignments. Teachers would be instructed in using the communication notebook. As of a week after this apparent instruction, I have seen one comment in his organizer/notebook: " Good Day!" followed by the teacher's name. This is the school's idea of homework help.

image via: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/gardening/9540859/Dahlias-How-the-once-naff-flower-has-made-a-dazzling-comeback.html
One bright spot in all of this was being contacted by the social worker from Random's elementary school to ask how Random was doing in his transition. I explained it was not going well. She offered to be a resource for middle school since she is familiar with Random and to help them get to know him better. I shared her contact information with the middle school social worker.  I will also use her as a resource for his transition to K-12, as the staff in the middle school have no clue as to how to help Random through a transition.
image via: http://www.homeschool.com/resources/K12/default.asp

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Tranquil Thursday: Como Walk

photo by Clara James via: http://minneapolis.about.com/od/healthsportsrecreation/ss/lakecomowalk_5.htm

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Taciturn Tuesday: Autcraft

image via: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNro-uzNTSY

  A Minecraft Gaming Community for Autistic Kids

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Friday, June 7, 2013

Backup Plans for When Advocacy Goes Awry

image via: http://www.onefootovertheline.com/pams-day-32-best-laid-plans/
 This past year has been a learning experience for me as far as advocacy goes. I am familiar and comfortable advocating for my kids with principals, in IEP meetings and with their teachers. Recently I went outside my comfort zone several times in hopes of saving Sensi's school from elimination. 
image via: http://www.greencastle.k12.pa.us/District/SchoolBoard.aspx

I talked with the Special Education Executive Director, the Superintendent and other administrative types to help establish that there was something worth keeping at Sensi's autism program.  The Autism Program parents presented our case to the school board. I personally talked with the administration staff twice after the school board meetings.

image via: http://www.cccoe.net/social/bodylang.htm
Unfortunately, something happened that I didn't see coming. The teachers knew that they would be moving to different rooms in the building, and since they lost 6th grade to middle school they also lost one room. So they will have one room for K-1, a room for 2-3, a room for 4-5 and a resource room for the kids who are not needing to be in a level three setting most of the time but are still needing support outside of the regular education classroom. With the loss of a grade there was also a loss of a teacher. The way the district handled that situation was unfortunate, since that set the stage for the Autism Program's teachers to start an exodus out of the school. 

image via: http://theeducatorsroom.com/2012/10/when-teachers-leave-the-profession-is-it-time-to-make-a-change/
 Up until now I was willing to fight for program and the teachers since essentially they ARE the program. Not to say that other teachers trained in autism education wouldn't be acceptable, but what made that program really special was how all the teachers and aides worked together to get some wonderful progress from our kids. 
image via: http://www.allposters.com.au/-sp/Compass-with-a-Sextant-and-a-Map-posters_i3688929_.htm

I thought we had successfully navigated the situation; we had reassurances from the district that the Autism Program would stay intact. What they couldn't assure me what how the teachers would take the news that one of their own was being eliminated from the roster. For the teachers it seems as if it was their last straw, for me I know it was. After all the meetings, stress, effort to convince the district to keep the program, the teachers essentially eliminated their autism program themselves by making it clear to the parents that they didn't intend to stay.
image via: http://www.advancedsignshop.co.uk/productDetail.asp?PID=32015&categoryID=10079

Luckily, when the whispers of eliminating the program where starting I looked into other schools and other districts. I toured a wonderful school in another district that had all that Sensi's current program offered, but not the special extras like Girls' Club. I thought we wouldn't need that placement after we advocated to save Sensi's school, and were assured that it would stay as it is. But I looked just in case our advocacy efforts were not enough. I had told them we didn't need to take the placement last month. I am relieved that she still can have her spot, they hadn't filled it with another student. We are starting her new school in the Fall.
image via: http://www.carparts.com/roadtests/chevroletsilverado/photos.php

The drive to the new school will be just 5 minutes longer than the current commute we make now. The new program doesn't have a girl's club or an annual play production, but it will have stability. They are set to grow; as more of our kids are coming into elementary school they are planning ahead for them. They have an established program that is responsive to our kids' educational needs. I am looking forward to working with them this summer to transition Sensi to her new school.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Taciturn Tuesday: Sensory Processing Continuum

image via: http://classes.kumc.edu/sah/resources/sensory_processing/learning_opportunities/concepts/sp_concepts_main.htm

Monday, May 20, 2013

Home School For Summer: Between Elementary and Middle School

My son, Random is going into middle school next year. We have several things planned for the transition, but more on that later. For the summer we had hoped summer school would be at the middle school he will be attending. Unfortunately, after our hopes were up, we were told that the location of summer school for the 5th going into 6th graders is not in his middle school. It is not even in our neighborhood. So rather that send him to summer school we will be attempting to home school again this summer. There is a lot less balking at the plan this year than there was last year. I have several books and programs we are going to work on during the summer months.

image via: http://www.staples.com/Typing-Instructor-for-Kids-Platinum-for-Windows-1-5-User-Download/product_954893
Firstly is a CD-ROM, Typing Island - Typing Instructor for Kids. It is also available as a download or as an app for the Mac. Random is going to have to boost his output for middle school and one way to do that is to use his computer to write up his papers. His handwriting is barely legible and he lost his OT handwriting help at his 9 year old reassessment.

image via: https://heartsathomestore.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=416_452
In order to address that lack of assistance at school I have also found the Getty Dubay Italic Handwriting series of books for teaching readable handwriting.
The school has done nothing to help him in this area since that reassessment and he still needs to work on letter formation, size and spacing.

image via: http://www.walmart.com/ip/1884933
The next item on our agenda is math review. He has really made improvements in math this year thanks to some adaptations and modifications to his math program. He is required to do only part of the problems on the homework worksheets and he gets homework help to review the day's lessons at the end of the school day. The combination of both has really made him more confident in his math skills. We have to keep the positive momentum going, so we are going to use Math Minutes.

image via: http://www.amazon.com/Comprehensive-Curriculum-Basic-Skills-Grade/dp/1609963350
Last year we used a comprehensive curriculum book. This year we will be doing the same with the Comprehensive Curriculum of Basic Skills for Sixth Grade. It has a nice overview of what to expect next year and some basic review pages too.

image via: http://www.dalebasler.com/2013/02/coding-to-learn-with-scratch/
The part I am most excited about is the Scratch programming book I found. Super Scratch Programming Adventure. The format of the book is comic book style but it has real programming instruction to make games in the Scratch programming environment.

image via: http://www.carsondellosa.com/cd2/Products/GuinnessWorldRecordsReading/ResourceBook/104422
Lastly, we have The Guinness World Records Reading Grade 5. I figure if we sail through this one we can get another of that type from Amazon or from the Lakeshore Learning store.

So, that is our plan. I am hoping that Sensi's Extended School Year goes well and I won't have to pull her again this year. If it goes well for her I can spend some quality time with Random reviewing and prepping him for his big transition.