Thank our teachers

Hello, Parents!

I’m going to get all rose-colored-glasses now and ask you to thank your children’s teachers every chance you get.  There are thousands of teachers who got into the profession because they truly love children.  They didn’t know they would not be adequately trained to teach all their students.  They didn’t know the rules and procedures might prevent them from doing what sometimes needs to be done to help children with disabilities.  Nor did they know they might be “sentenced” to work under administrative staff who don’t understand disabilities and don’t care or might even feel they would rather not have these students in “their” schools at all.  These teachers work on an uphill road, doing whatever they can under whatever circumstances their job brings them.  If they are able to help our children, sometimes they have literally worked a miracle and they should hear our appreciation for it.  Often.  Regularly.

I’m not just saying you should thank just the good teachers.  I’m saying sometimes you should thank the not-so-good ones, too–as often as they have done something our children benefit from, these teachers should hear our thanks.  Especially these not-so-good teachers should be thanked, because we should reward every step in the right direction to help ensure the next step is also in the right direction!  We parents have the power to make a teacher feel that there is benefit to the teacher for doing the right things for our children.  The more often you catch a teacher being good and reward him or her with your thanks, the sooner your child will have a better opportunity for learning.

For good teachers, we say, “Thank you for recognizing Johnny’s efforts yesterday.  It meant a lot to him and to me.”

For that not-so-good teacher, we say, “I know you don’t always realize how hard Johnny works to learn, so when you recognized his efforts yesterday, it really made his day.  It made me happy, too.  Thank you!”

Here are some samples for you to try:

“Mrs. Teacher, I know Sally is slower than some of the other students and it’s hard for you to give her the time she needs.  Yesterday you gave her that time, and she was happy all day long that she was able to finish her work.  Thank you!”

“Mrs. Teacher, thank you for choosing Amy to lead the class to the Music Room yesterday.  I know you don’t understand her disability well and you must have felt you were taking a chance.  It was worth it.  She did it well and she loved the feeling that she had your trust.  Thank you!”

“Mr. Teacher, I know Jeremy can be a double handful sometimes, so I want to thank you for not sending him to the principal’s office yesterday when he mouthed off.  It was during the rebound period for the medication he takes for his ADHD, and he couldn’t help it.  He and I appreciate that you’ve begun to understand that and we want to continue working with you to help him learn to manage his behavior during that time of day.  Thank you so much!”

You get the idea.  Anything a teacher does that supports our children’s efforts to learn and make the needed changes, learn better social skills, etc. should be appreciated in a way that is obvious to the teacher if you want that teacher to continue to take risks, make difficult personal changes, etc. to benefit your child.  So go ahead.  Turn on the lights around your personal marquee and put your thanks out there where a teacher can see it.  It will make the day for both of you!

And THANK YOU!

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Free Prescription Program

Hello, everyone!  Today I want to bring you a resource that is for anyone who can’t afford the medications they or their children need.  Go to http://freemedicineprogram.org/. This program helps provide medications at no cost to those who can’t afford medications.  If you need help to pay for medications, go there and see if it helps you.

People on fixed incomes, low incomes, no incomes, disability, etc. are hard-pressed to make a nickel do a dime’s job.  So please don’t be the last stop on the road–pass that information on so someone else who needs it can have it too!

Ten Signs of Inappropriate Placement

Hello, Parents!  Today I’m writing about appropriate/inappropriate placement.  Students with disabilities are entitled to a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) according to Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  From its beginning, this has been a fundamental right that has not changed with amendments or the passage of time, school reform, or bad economy.  For FAPE to occur, a student must be in an appropriate placement.  We parents are not in the classroom every day or even every month, so how can we know if our child’s education is occurring in an appropriate placement?  There are many signs of an inappropriate placement, and here are 10 of them.

1.  Content is presented too fast for your child to learn.  There is never enough time for the drill your child needs to get the content into long term memory as necessary to pass tests.  School staff tell you they can’t slow it down for just one student.

2.  The class is so large that your child can’t keep focus and concentration on learning.  Too much material and/or instructions escape your child’s attention and progress isn’t what your child is capable of.

3.  Your child is being made sick or uncomfortable by the environment of her class.  An old building with a moldy history makes your child’s asthma worse and seems to compromise her entire immune system.  She is too sick or too uncomfortable to learn so much that her education is suffering.

4.  The content of the class is below his abilities and he isn’t being challenged.

5.  The content of the class is beyond his abilities and he can’t keep up.

6. A gifted child with disabilities is placed in regular education because school staff think gifted classes will be too stressful for her.

7.  Your child is in a class with multiple disabilities represented.  The teacher’s training does not include anything to give competency in teaching for your child’s disability.  And it shows.

8.  Your child has behavioral problems that disrupt classes.  The friction with continued inappropriate behaviors without needed behavioral interventions is disastrous.  Your child needs therapeutic help this class or school can’t deliver.

9.  Your child repeatedly cries “sick” to avoid going to school.  Or if she’s old enough, she’s cutting classes.  There are always strong reasons why a child tries to avoid settings where his friends and/or siblings are.  Are there bullies?  A tyrannical teacher who terrorizes her students?  Situations that are overwhelming to your child?

10.  One definition of “inclusion” does NOT require your child be educated to his potential–only that he benefit from placement in the class.  Benefits might be social more than academic.  This might not be appropriate for a child who is bright enough to be college-bound some day.

Parents need to be vigilant concerning a child’s placement in special education classrooms.  If you see these signs in your child, start keeping a daily journal of what signs you see and what your child says is going on.    You should consider your whole child, not just the academics, when thinking of where your child’s education should take place.  Always visit before placing your child anywhere; if the placement has already occurred and needs to be changed, write the school principal and request an IEP meeting to make that change.

When the time for that meeting arrives, take your journal and read a few selections from it that illustrate the problem.  If it’s environmental, as in #3, get a letter from your doctor stating that fact and take it to the IEP meeting along with bills for meds and hospital and doctors  if it comes to that.

Be firm.  There can be no FAPE if there is not first appropriate placement.

Hello, Parents! Hello, Grandparents! Hello, Everyone!

Hello, Parents!  Hello, Grandparents!  Hello to anyone who’s trying to help children with disabilities grow and learn to become independent adults someday.

As a parent of two adults with disabilities, I know this is not an easy job.  It’s not a job one person can do alone and it’s a job a couple can’t do together-alone without help and resources beyond themselves.  When living and dealing with disability, we who are doing so know just one thing more than we know anything else:

Often the resources we need just aren’t there.

Period.

That is what this blog is about–living and dealing with disability and the resources to do so.

I got my education degree at the University of Kansas in 1971, four years before the first special education laws came out.  In 2008, I earned my Master’s degree in higher education administration at Florida International University (FIU).

Here are my real credentials for this blog.  When my oldest son needed special education due to his ADHD in 1988, I found our school district and the State of Florida had allowed 14 years to pass by without addressing the needs of children with many invisible disabilities.  Worse, when presented with the need for accommodations and services for a child with ADHD, our school district flatly refused to serve!  A friend told me about Florida’s course to teach parents advocacy skills for IDEA, and an advocate was born.  I now have 2 adult children with disabilities and 25 years of experience in advocacy and consulting for education and disability.

I helped create parent-co-operative preschools and a program to link the services of FIU’s Disability Resource Center and Career Services Departments for students with disability.  I co-founded a not-for-profit organization that would now be a functioning nonprofit advocacy organization if my children’s needs had not taken precedence at a critical time in its growth.  I spent 12 years at the head of the South Dade Chapter of Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorders (CH.A.D.D.). I’ve learned how to do fundraising and grant writing.   I have developed as 45-hour course for parents on education rights/advocacy and homework help.  I developed a 48 hours course for regular education teachers about serving students with ADD/ADHD. I was instrumental in getting our school district to finally serve students with ADD and ADHD and things are better now.  I do education consultation and case management and go with parents to IEP meetings.  I am online in several disability-related groups.  Nothing gratifies me more than to see people’s lives improving as we make the changes that requires.

And I’ve “written the book.”

My work at Florida International University in the Disability Resource Center gave me insight into the outcomes for the children with disabilities who are capable of getting admission to a college or university.  It’s not so pretty.  What I saw was truly disheartening.  80% of these students can’t make it successfully through the first year, despite good grades in high school and great college entry exam scores!

That insight spurred me to write a book, COLLEGE READINESS AND DISABILITY: Parent Guide to Creating College Success For
Students With Disabilities.  In this book, I might have written a line about taking the challenging classes and those that lay the foundation for college entry.  Maybe.  I felt it is more important to give parents and anyone who works with students with disabilities an understanding of how to give these students the five things nobody teaches us:

    1. Understand the disability and how it affects the student’s learning
    2. Understand how the student learns (learning style + disability + personality+ resources)
    3. Know how to self-advocate and be willing to ask for help when needed
    4. Understand and be able to meet the demands of college
    5. Recognize limits and start small to assure success

Successful strategies by successful students are in College Readiness, so you can have them to teach your child for his own success.  Thorough explanations of how certain aspects of disability may affect a child’s learning and social skills will help you understand your child better and choose appropriate ways to teach him when he’s not in school.  Everything in this book is designed to empower parents and strengthen parenting skills and knowledge base so that when you are grooming your child for college, you are working from a position of strength and accurate knowledge.

College Readiness will be published in e-book format and will be printed on demand as well.  It is scheduled to publish this spring.  Watch for it!  If your child is potentially college material, or if you know someone who is, this is one book you won’t want to miss!