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.

 

 

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Coaching for College Prep – ACHIEVE COACH

On January 15, 2014, I will be starting ACHIEVE COACH, presenting online College Prep/College Readiness webinars for parents of  students with disabilities in grades 6-12. Currently 80% of these students are destined to start college but never get the degree no matter how high their grades or SAT/ACT scores.

I am a parent of 2 disabled children with a total of 11 different diagnoses. I have 25 years of education and disability consultation/advocacy experience. I KNOW children with disabilities can obtain college degrees from all kinds of schools. After working in the disability services center of Florida International University and finding out what made it possible for those students to succeed, I know it is far MORE THAN ACCOMMODATIONS or IEPs or 504 plans and it should begin in 6th grade.  Success for college students with disabilities began with informed and determined parents.

While writing a book on the subject, I found out why we parents have never had a place to go to learn what we need. We need to know 34 things other parents don’t and all that “stuff” comes out of 8 professional fields.

I will be coaching, offering professional speakers, resources, sample letters and advocacy skills and parent training. We will cover the rights and roles of parents in providing FAPE for a child.  I don’t care how many people are around a computer at school or at home while you do this. I will coach families and their professional support team (doctors, therapists, teachers, etc.) so children with the potential to become college students can also become college graduates.

If you want online coaching to help you become a stronger, positive and successful advocate and case manager for your child, if you want to know how to teach your child to be his own case manager — (successful, YES!),  leave your e-mail address in a comment for this post.  Your privacy will be respected.  No post with an e-mail address in it will be published unless the writer specifically requests it.  Space will be limited, so sign up now!

The Homework Organizer, a Very Good Friend

I do not normally endorse a product for which parents must pay. However, there is one planner which is so effective that people will even buy them used if they cannot afford them new. (There are some available through Amazon.com right now.)

Dr. Gail Mengel, Ph.D. is a public school psychologist who designed a planner called “The Homework Organizer” that addresses many of the issues I have brought to your attention. It contains a master copy page of a Grade Saver where students can record the grades for class assignments and tests to help them realize how their course of study is working for them (or not). I have examined and evaluated many organizers and this is my favorite.

You can examine it for yourself at http://www.homework-organizer.com to decide if it fits your student’s needs. While you’re there, read all of it for a good lesson in executive functioning and why we must address the development of this crucial skill set. Many disabilities that affect learning also impair a student’s ability to set priorities and achieve goals. Doing homework with the guidance of this tool helps reinforce organization, time management, and goal-setting with every small step that must be taken to arrive at academic success.

Here’s to our student with the most improvement!

Shutting Down a Nation – What Chance Does a Child Have?

Dear Everyone,

Today our elected Republicans played Dirty. They wanted to eliminate funding for our new “Obamacare” healthcare program, so they refused to authorize funding for essential governmental functions because the two authorizations are together. It is an awesome show of power, a grand display of how ignorance can be used to hurt an entire nation, how personal self-aggrandizement and ego and raise itself up above an entire nation to seek fulfillment. It makes me sick at my stomach.

Our children are the most dependent of all. Their education depends upon funds from various governmental levels to be sufficient to pay for meeting their needs. For years IDEA has been clarifying what must be done to provide FAPE for our children with disabilities, and for all those same years, legislators with more ego than brains have been cutting funding until some school districts can offer only 4 days of school per week, students must share books and therefore can do only half the learning and homework. Parents do NOT agree with this level of funding or kind of educational services, but our legislators’ children usually attend private schools and they don’t have a clue what goes on in public schools. When parents vote, it is their prayer for appropriate education, but it is getting harder and harder to achieve that.

Today we see that there are elected representatives who represent only themselves and not their constituency. The reality is that they want what they want so badly they are willing to shoot an entire nation of people down the toilet rather than compromise. There probably is a word for that kind of person in the English language, but I am a Christian and I’ve never heard it. At least I’ve never heard a word that describes my shock and horror that anyone – or any group of people – would care so little about their fellow humans that they would treat us this way. I don’t have words to describe the depth of loathing, the despair for our future, the futility of belief their actions make me feel. It just doesn’t seem human to behave in such a manner.

Seeing that there are legislators who think nothing of actively working against what the nation needs, how do our children with disabilities stand a chance? How does an individual child stand a chance?

Nobody stands a chance unless we all SPEAK UP. We can’t afford to roll over and let it happen around us. It will take us down with it. Now we have to GET OUT OF THE HOUSE AND SPEAK UP.

WRITE AND CALL your representatives and senators and let them know you support them if they fought this shutdown and let the others know they can’t be so smug about getting your vote in the next election. I’m going to ask my Republican naysayers to give me the procedures for their impeachment. (They have to do it–or they won’t get my vote.) What are you going to ask your elected representatives and senators?

Call. Write. Join the efforts of your local groups that are protesting. Make some noise. What would happen if we all drew a bullseye on our foreheads to represent how they’ve shot us all down? What if we wore that bullseye until that funding is given?

Our public officials have publicly shown us they don’t care much about their public supporters, and it’s time we publicly show them we don’t care much for their public failure to do the job. It wouldn’t hurt to say it once for yourself and repeat it in your child’s name.

New School Year and Still No Reading Success?

Many school districts open for classes in August, and by mid-September, many teachers have started the new year’s instruction. For students with good memory, times have been good because much of the day was spent in review with only a little new material added. By the end of September, all the material will be new. Is your child’s IEP ready? Today’s example deals with reading and phonological awareness.

If your child is not reading properly but is not reversing letters or words in a dyslexic way, you might have heard the phrase “phonological deficits” during an IEP meeting or evaluation discussion. This phrase means a child is struggling to understand the meanings and patterns of spoken words and may find it too difficult to link poorly- understood sound to written symbols.

Trying harder is 100% an ineffective disaster strategy for these children. They are trying their best every time they look at print. If trying were the key, they’d be reading encyclopedias. These children need a kind of language therapy that has been incorporated into the Lindamood-Bell program and Fast ForWord program. These programs present sound information in ways that allow these students to develop the neurological pathways for interpreting sounds and learning to read. Children can sometimes gain years’ worth of skills in a matter of months. Some are able to exit special education when finished if reading was their only learning disability.

Lindamood-Bell and Fast ForWord are both expensive and school districts don’t provide them easily or upon request. When my child needed such therapy, it took an entire semester of meetings, letters, and finally an offer to write to Office for Civil Rights to get their opinion on the matter before our school district consented to try just 12 weeks. In that time, he gained 2 years of skills; today my son’s favorite activity is reading law and case histories–for fun.

Today, 10 years later, I attended an IEP as advocate for a child whose psychological evaluation report contained recommendations for Lindamood-Bell or Fast ForWord. Neither is in the IEP. Why? The school offers neither, and while there are discussions and/or negotiations underway to buy/use a similar program, the issue is not settled yet. Instead of a fully appropriate IEP, there is a request for the parent to allow the school time to see if the student can make progress with only being identified and placed as an SLD student. Staff asked the parent to wait until January “to see if”. That is half the school year! Is this adequate? It is not FAPE, surely.

It is “enough” because the parent is willing to wait and see. But not half the year. One month. That is time enough to see if behaviors are beginning to improve, if academics are starting to advance. If not, what is the remedy?

In cases like this, the school district has no choice. Its own evaluation report recommends one of these two programs or one like them. All are costly. A school district will only buy one of these if it is determined that there are enough students to benefit from it AND justify the expense. If there are no parents insisting that their child’s education requires this, a district can put off buying a program every year for years. Here is another fact: If a student must have one of these programs in order to learn, one of them must be provided. If FAPE cannot be provided without using some program to develop phonological awareness and skills, then such a program must be provided. Period.  The expense is justified by the child’s need.

There are at least 4 ways to provide for this need:

1. School district must buy a an appropriate program that remedies phonological deficits and provide it to students who need it. This takes time, especially if school speech pathologists and/or other staff must then be trained to teach the program.**

2. Transfer the student to a public school that has the program.

3. Transfer the student to a private school that has the program (and at district expense).

4. District arranges and pays for after-school services. (And pays for or provides transportation to and from if parents can’t.)

There will be a trial period before seeking to enforce this for today’s case because we truly don’t know if the change to special education will be enough to provide sufficient advancement and progress. We don’t really think it will take half a school year to know if progress is being made, but close monitoring will tell us what we need to know.

Parents, if a school evaluation makes a recommendation and then the district does nothing to address it, you should insist the appropriate service be provided by whatever means the school district can arrange. Your child’s access to an appropriate education is at stake. Go for it!

** If a decision has NOT been made to purchase and the district is just “shopping”, do not accept a recommendation to wait until there is a purchase because it may never happen. Also, if you are told it will be a semester or more before your child’s services could begin, don’t agree to wait that long, especially if your child is in a year of school in which a standardized test will mandate retention if your child’s scores are too low. A lifetime of being behind is too high a price for your child to pay just because the district doesn’t want to pay for individual services.

Back in the Saddle

Hello again, Parents, Grandparents, Everyone!

I’ve been “gone” for a while. Broken shoulder, tried a couple of wasting-time jobs, and for a time, lost track of the info I needed to manage the account. But here I am again. And WHAT NEWS!

On January 15, 2014, I will be starting College Prep/College Readiness webinars for parents of disabled students in grades 6-12. Currently 80% of these students are destined to start college but never get the degree no matter how high their grade or SAT/ACT scores.

I am a parent of 2 disabled children with a total of 11different diagnoses. I have 25 years of education and disability consultation/advocacy experience. I KNOW children with disabilities can obtain college degrees from all kinds of schools. After working in the disability services center of Florida International University and finding out what made it possible for those students to succeed, I know it is far MORE THAN ACCOMMODATIONS or IEPs or 504 plans and it should begin in 6th grade.  Success for college students with disabilities began with informed and determined parents.

While writing a book on the subject, I found out why we parents have never had a place to go to learn what we need. We need to know 34 things other parents don’t and all that “stuff” comes out of 8 professional fields.

I will be coaching, offering professional speakers, resources, sample letters and advocacy skills and parent training. We will cover the rights and roles of parents in providing FAPE for a child.  I don’t care how many people are around a computer at school or at home while you do this. I will coach families and their professional support team (doctors, therapists, teachers, etc.) so children with the potential to become college students can also become college graduates.

If you want online coaching to help you become a stronger, positive and successful advocate and case manager for your child, if you want to know how to teach your child to be his own case manager — (successful, YES!) leave your e-mail address in a comment for this post.  Your privacy will be respected.  No post with an e-mail address in it will be published unless the writer specifically requests it.  Comments, anyone?

Freebie

i can cheerfully report that my broken shoulder has not prevented my computer use nor  my  blogging, though both are MUCH slower. Today
i want to direct parents of children with ADD/ADHD to Dr. Charles Parker’s website. He is giving away an article about how to get away from the inconsistent results of meds for ADD/ADHD. He’s a psychiatrist whose concerns extend from correct diagnosis to why we don’t give better evaluations of both patients and medications so the two can be more accurately matched and correct doses given on a correct schedule. Go to http://about.me/drcharlesparker and download Predictable Solutions For ADHD Meds. I hope it brings some good results to those of you who struggle with behavioral and attention issues.

(First posted in July, 2012; 6 typos edited & corrected on 9/20/2013)