New Year, New Semester, Same Old Inappropriate IEP?

This is the post that wraps up 2013 and takes a look at 2014.  With children who have disabilities, we have to think about the future as something that MUST, I mean absolutely MUST bring progress toward future independence.  Here are a few questions to consider in the academic realm that require a community effort to solve.

1.  If your child was not invited to holiday parties by the neighbor children or classmates, why not?  Are her social skills so far behind those of her peers that they choose not to be around her?

Help:  Some children must be taught to interpret social cues coming from tones of speech, facial expressions, and body language.  If your child is actively being excluded from participation with peers, ask teachers to tell you what they think causes this to happen at school.  If you attend religious services and your child is in a classroom, ask what those teachers see.  Ask a school counselor to help you design ways to help your child become more socially “fluent” at school and if necessary, call for an IEP meeting to make it formal and mandatory.  Good students are usually socially adept and work well in teams.   This is not “learning to party.”  This is to learn how to function in the total academic setting–where being accepted as part of a group leads to the shared learning and study groups experience that is vital to academic success.

2.  If your child has not made progress in reading, reverses letters, and had difficulty with directions and sequencing, Try Harder is not the program for success.  Many children with dyslexia and various reading problems need therapy with speech pathologists and programs such as Lindamood-Bell, Fast ForWord, and other help to develop phonic awareness and sequencing ability.  These are expensive programs that many school districts have refused to purchase because they believe they can’t justify the expense to serve one child.  There probably are less than a dozen school districts in the nation that have only one child in need of one of these programs.
Help:
Step A:  Make your request for immediate evaluation for what your child needs for learning to read.
Step B: If the evalution recommendations include therapy, insist that therapy be provided.  The excuse that ‘This district doesn’t do that,” is a denial of FAPE.  If such denials occur, notify your state Department of Education’s department of Special Education and they should help you enforce your child’s right to FAPE.
3.  If your child is in special education classes but the class is still too large for your child to be successful, you may request and get smaller settings for him.
Help:  The school staff will protest that this “isolates your child,” or “makes him stand out as different”.  Don’t listen to that.  For certain things, we have to remember that this “isolation” is what he needs now and may not always be needed.  It may only be required for one or two subject areas.  Whatever his needs are, he is entitled to an education that includes successful learning in ALL subjects.  Write to the school principal to request an IEP or 504 Plan meeting to add the appropriate placement details to the plan.
Whatever your child requires to learn and access his education appropriately is the MAIN IDEA here.  What does he require?  Is he getting it?  A new year is beginning.  It’s a great time to start a new line of requests for your child’s FAPE.

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Holiday Joy, Goodbye, Holiday Stress

Happy Holidays!  Sounds nice, but for those of us who have children who need routine and don’t handle change well, it’s a sentence to Whimper & Whine Purgatory.  STRESS!

When we think that our holidays will be like everyone else’s, we are inviting stress.  When we break a rigid child’s routine, we can’t expect joy–we can expect resistance and stress.  Parties are major non-routine items and if your family is a partying one, expect stress.  But don’t just cave in to expecting misery with stress.  Do something about it — get proactive for yourself and your family to predict where the problems will arise.  Prepare preventive measures or figure out a way to reduce the impact.  If stress is in the flow, you don’t have to go with it.

We are the families that live with different expectations.  We don’t expect great behavior from children unable to produce it spontaneously.  We still have to coach and remind and (sigh) timeout.  But we can’t overwhelm them with demands to be perfect when visitors are around and our visitors should have some coaching to know what to expect and what they could do to help things go smoothly.

Noise affects many neurologically-different children during these days of festivity.  So avoid the noise–stop briefly at a party, leave a gift, goodbye, and everyone is still in good humor.  I always knew the daily schedule of subjects at school, and we took time during our day to bring some “study” and reading from school into play.  We didn’t suffer as much in lost skills and we still had some of the school routine to balance the unease of several days of unscheduled time.  When a child is not yet overwhelmed but you’re seeing the signs, offer a choice of two ways to avoid becoming overwhelmed.  “It’s getting noisy in here.  Shall we go out in the yard for a while or shall we go for a little walk?”

The riotous moments of breaking a pinata can send the hyperactive child straight into “We can’t stop being excited.”  You know it’s going to happen, so don’t plan the punishment. Instead, let your child take a few swings at the beginning and then take him out of the room until the pinata has broken.  He will get excited again, but he won’t be skyrocketed out of control.

We know not to expect an autistic child to give instant hugs and kisses for grandparents who haven’t been here since last year.  We know the child in the wheelchair is used to the dimensions of the house, but it’s harder to navigate with several people around who don’t know how much space to give a turning wheelchair.  (Sorry Aunt Peggy’s shin, Sorry Uncle Frank’s toes…)  We know what the impulsive child who just learned about spitballs is going to do, and while we warn him, we also warn guests.

And we do NOT back down on consequences even if guests plead,”But it’s a holiday, Mom.”  We remind the guests, “With this child, consistency is critical.  No consequences today because of a Holiday will mean several days of Helliday afterward.  Impulsivity will demand he repeat the undesired behavior as many times as it takes to get us to give in–after all, we already gave in, so why shouldn’t he think it’s going to work out that way again?”  If there is further pleading for mercy for your child, you can mischievously ask, “If you want to support him, how about sharing in his consequences?”  Then deal with your child on the spot–no waiting for later.

Your children are special, more unique because of their disabilities.  There will be bright moments, happy times during holidays.  We just love our children as they are and try to smooth the way for them.  In defense of our parenting skills, if anyone disparages our child, just invite them to walk in your shoes or the child’s shoes for a while and then smile smugly.  “I will forgive that comment if you’ll forgive my child for not being what you think of as normal.  He didn’t choose it, you know.”

Now, what do you foresee as rough patches in the next few days?  How about sitting down with a couple of cookies and egg nog while you plan your potential escapes from stress?

By the way, cookies eaten while planning to avoid stress have NO CALORIES.