The Mayo Clinic recently reported that researchers have found that children exposed to anesthesia multiple times before the age of 3 have double the incidence of ADHD than those with no exposure to anesthesia. You can read the report here. In a 2009 report Mayo linked multiple anesthesia exposures before age 4 to learning disabilities.
Great. My son, has arthrogryposis and had three major surgeries and at least four smaller surgeries before age 3. Nothing we can do about that now. He has had many more surgeries since then. We have long noticed that he is inattentive. We also see that his memory suffers after surgeries. Nevertheless, without those surgeries his ability to walk, run, write, and feed himself would all be more severely impacted.For my child, and many like him, surgery is a necessity. Read the rest of this entry →
In Los Angeles, we’ve been rocked by the news stories of disgusting sex abuse at Miramonte elementary school with local prosecutors charging a longtime teacher with 23 counts of lewd acts with a child. Mark Berndt, 61, allegedly spoon-fed his semen to blindfolded students and also took pictures of the acts. He has resigned from the district.
Later last week, sheriff's deputies arrested his colleague, Martin Bernard Springer, 49, on suspicion of fondling two 7-year-olds in his class within the last three years. Worse of all, Berndt was first was under suspicion in 1994. The incident involved a 9-year-old girl at Miramonte Elementary School, who told investigators that Berndt tried to fondle her inside a classroom in September 1993. Read the rest of this entry →
The Social Express by The Language Express, Inc. is impeccably produced from top to bottom. The graphics, animation and sound are all top notch. The content is wonderful and very helpful for children with a social communication disorder, autism or other forms of developmental delays. According to the CEO and Founder of The Language Express, Marc Zimmerman, “The Social Express teaches children how to think about and manage social situations through video modeling. The Social Express targets core deficit areas that stand in the way of school, social, and life success for children and young adults with social learning challenges.”
Now for my one caveat, with top notch production and content comes a high price. The Social Express costs $90, which is very expensive and will price many families out of the market. Now for the good news, I have learned that until the end of March 2012 you can purchase The Social Express for 50% off. Even better news, for those of you that don’t own an iPad the Social Express is available for your PC and Mac.
According to the website, “The Social Express comes with 16 interactive lessons featuring 30 scenes that are divided into two skill levels. Skill Level 1 targets younger users and/or those who have more difficulty understanding social situations. Skill Level 2 targets users who are aware of social rules but have difficulty using them in real-world settings. Each skill level ends with an interactive review of the Hidden Social Keys that have been learned during the preceding lessons, followed by a congratulatory presentation of a key that unlocks the Clubhouse.”
I took the Social Express out for a test drive with my 11 year old son who receives recreation therapy and speech therapy in school specifically to work on social language goals outlined in his Individualized Education Program (IEP). In his latest standardized Social Language Development test he scored in the 1% for children his age. To say he is delayed in social language is an understatement! We have been incorporating Social Thinking philosophies from Michelle Garcia Winner at home and in school so I was very curious how it would relate to what the Social Express was trying to accomplish. As it turns out the philosophies are very similar.
My son and I had a terrific time playing the Social Express. Each video modeling sequence put you in a different social situation and let the user choose how to react. No matter what your choice it showed the user the ramifications of their actions both good and bad. A few times my son would choose the incorrect answer on purpose just to see what would happen.
During the interaction on the screen the program provided teaching tips for the user to guide them to the correct answer. You can shut these tips off in the set-up screen if you don’t want to see them. After the first few lessons we shut off the teaching tips. If my son didn’t know the answer we would stop and discuss it prior to his selection.
The Social Express also incorporates the concept of a handheld digital problem solver (DPS) to help the user come up with various coping strategies when they are angry or sad.
As the Social Express progressed the concepts being taught went from very basic to much more complicated. Some of the concepts being taught included using your eyes and brain to figure things out and talking about things others like to talk about. This is very similar to the Social Thinking Philosophies of expected & unexpected behaviors and people files. It also had a lesson on idioms, you know those difficult sayings we use in everyday life that have a different meaning then their literal meanings such as, “I’m on top of the world.”
The Social Express also comes with a printable section that allows the user to build on what they learn in the program in everyday life.
As I mentioned earlier the Social Express is a wonderful app that is one of the best produced products on the market. If you are interested in this app make sure you purchase it this month so that you can take advantage of the 50% off pricing at $44.99. There is also a lite version of the Social Express that you can download for free from itunes. I highly recommend downloading the lite version first and testing the app yourself before purchasing the full product. The lite product comes with 2 lessons and is a wonderful way to determine if the full app is worth the purchase.
Today’s blog post is meant to be cathartic for me personally. Since I spend my days entrenched in Special Education, I have become particularly sensitive to the following pet peeves. Wikipedia defines a pet peeve as, “a minor annoyance that an individual identifies as particularly annoying to him or her, to a greater degree than others may find it.” While some of the list below consists of minor annoyances, others make me down right angry.
1. Schools don’t diagnose they determine eligibility;
A day doesn’t go by without a phone call from a parent who tells me their child was diagnosed with Autism by the School District. School District’s DO NOT diagnose rather they have determined your child is eligible for an Individualized Education Program (IEP) under the eligibility category of Autism. The only person that can diagnose your child with Autism is a medical specialist. If you have been told by the School District that your child is eligible for an IEP under the category of Autism, I highly recommend you get an assessment performed by a trained medical professional. Read the rest of this entry →
If you're reading this blog, you've probably heard of the ADA - Americans with Disabilities Act – that’s the landmark piece of civil rights 1990 legislation which requires wheelchair accessible bathrooms, for instance. But what you may not know is whether the ADA applies to your disabled child in school. You'd think it would, right? But then, why does everyone talk about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) all the time? Well, Title II of the ADA does apply to your disabled child in school. Not just with respect to students with physical disabilities in wheelchairs, but also to any student with a disability who needs "accommodations." You may be more familiar with the term "504 Plan" which comes from Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 - a precursor to the ADA. The 504 law is very similar conceptually to the ADA - if you understand Section 504, you'll understand the ADA. The good news is that there's new guidance from the federal government which clarifies (and even extends) how the ADA can help your child in school. Read the rest of this entry →
Yesterday was my son’s eleventh birthday. He asked me what I was going to do today and I responded, “I’m going to write a blog about you and how far you’ve come since you were born.” He smiled at me and said “that’s good; I know I’m a special person”…..that he is!! With all of his struggles and therapies since birth, he’s managed to maintain a warm and loving personality that everyone who meets him falls in love with him. I know this because every teacher or therapist he’s ever had tells me what a pleasure it is to work with him. For the purposes of this blog, I must begin at the beginning. Read the rest of this entry →
In honor of the upcoming Dr. Seuss week I have updated my son’s favorite book written by Dr. Seuss’s protégé, P.D. Eastman. “Are You My Mother.”
A mother dropped her child off at a new school. She told the Principal, “My child has an IEP but he wants to learn.” So the mother left her child with the school and away she went. The child was told to walk over to his new class but to pick up his IEP on the way out. So the child began to look for his IEP. He looked up and did not see his IEP. He looked down and did not see his IEP. “I will go and look for my IEP,” he said. So away he went. Read the rest of this entry →
I may upset a few parents with this post, but just know that I what I am about to say is in the best interest of your children. Many, many, many (did I say many?) parents insist that their children with autism have "shadows" when they are included in general education classrooms. Parents tell one another things like, "Whatever you do, make sure the shadow is assigned to your child, not the classroom." In my opinion, the worst thing you can do is to assign a non-certified staff person to a child. In fact, it is not just my opinion. Research has shown that having a shadow assigned to a student can have detrimental effects (Downing, Ryndak, & Clark, 2000); Giangreco & Broer, 2005). Some of the documented negative effects of having shadows assigned to students include: Read the rest of this entry →
Probably the most frustrating part of being the parent of a child with a different ability  is the response from the very organization you hoped you could trust the most to do right by your child – your school district. After all, teachers and administrators are trained to adapt the teaching environment to help my child, right? (No.) I pay my property taxes, so I should be able to control how the schools work, right? (You should, yes, but in reality you don’t.)
Characteristics in successful learning environment:
- Positive Classroom climate.
- Peers should acknowledge each other as all having special talents that contribute to activities within the classroom.
- If peers learn to acknowledge each other’s deficits and strengths positive self-efficacy is built in and students learn to accept peers with varying abilities in a positive view. Read the rest of this entry →