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Does Sign Language Help or Hurt Children with Special Needs?

March 29, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Etel Leit, MS

Children with special needs are each very different and as such, respond to certain teaching methods better than others. Sign language, however, brings many benefits to families with children with special needs, regardless of whether they are hearing or deaf. Sign language brings advantages to all!

Autism, apraxia, or Down Syndrome—these, as well as speech and language delays can all be ameliorated by using sign language in your home or school.  Whether your child has difficulty with social situations, speech, or even tantrums, signing can be a great medium to encourage communication and more appropriate social behaviors.

Sign language does NOT hurt children with special needs. Instead, signing has been found to HELP children who have difficulty making requests, expressing themselves, or even verbally speaking. For children with limited motor skills, sign language is still an option! Children with disabilities like cerebral palsy can make approximations of the signs—which still allow both children and parents to communication and understand each other.

If you have a child with special needs, feel free to contact SignShine® for a list of available classes or programs in your area. It is time to introduce signing into your child and your family’s life. SignShine® can show you how to get started!

by etel leit

Etel Leit, MS is well known in the field of signing with hearing children and is considered an expert by many. Etel, the founder and owner of SignShine® , has extensive experience teaching signing to families, educators, therapists, and fellow signing instructors all over the world. She is also the publisher of BabySignShine.com, the largest international website for signing with children. Her articles have been published and her work has been recognized in a variety of relevant publications. Etel has made numerous TV appearances, both nationally and internationally and she has the invaluable experience of building her own business and brand.  On a more personal note, Etel has years of her own parenting experience; she is mom to two hearing children who sign.



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April is Autism Awareness Month

March 29, 2012 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Dennise Goldberg

Last year at this time I had written, “As many of you are aware, autism occurs in 1 in every 110 births in the United States, and for boys, the rate is closer to 1 in 70.” As of today March 30, 2012, almost one year later the CDC as updated their most recent numbers on Autism. According to the CDC:

CDC estimates 1 in 88 children (11.3 per 1,000) has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Read the rest of this entry →

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The Freedom Stick and “Massive Resistance”

March 28, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

In 1994 the United States government added the requirement to "Section 504" [1] that all schools (primary, secondary, post-secondary) which receive "any federal funds" ($1.00 or more per year, in any form, including student university loans), have accessible computers available, and a system of in place for information and communications technology which would offer students with "disabilities" real time access "equivalently." Read the rest of this entry →

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Transition to Middle School

March 28, 2012 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Dennise Goldberg

Earlier today I posted on our Special Education Advisor Facebook page that I had written a letter to my son’s School District regarding his upcoming transition meeting. The IEP Team doesn’t feel they have the Authority to consider alternative School sites other than his home school and that the only discussion can be about class type (i.e general education class, resource specialist program, special day class, etc.). My husband and I disagree and we just wanted to make sure the team is aware of our concerns prior to the upcoming meeting. Since posting on Facebook many of you have privately requested a copy of our letter. I have decided to post a sanitized version of the letter below but it is still very specific to my son and the State of California. If you decide to write a similar letter make sure you rework the components of the letter to be specific to your child and State.

March 28, 2012

Assistant Principal
__________ Elementary School


Re: ____________ Upcoming Transition IEP Meeting

Dear Ms. ______,

As you are aware our son is graduating from _________ Elementary School this year and transitioning into middle school in the fall of 2012. Based on prior conversations with the IEP Team it was brought to our attention that the School Staff only has the authority to offer our home school, ________ Middle School, as the site location for _________ to attend middle school. Please see the language below from the California Education Code 5 CCR 3042 regarding Placement:

3042. Placement.

(a) Specific educational placement means that unique combination of facilities, personnel, location or equipment necessary to provide instructional services to an individual with exceptional needs, as specified in the individualized education program, in any one or a combination of public, private, home and hospital, or residential settings.

(b) The individualized education program team shall document its rationale for placement in other than the pupil’s school and classroom in which the pupil would otherwise attend if the pupil were not handicapped. The documentation shall indicate why the pupil’s handicap prevents his or her needs from being met in a less restrictive environment even with the use of supplementary aids and services.

As you can see from above, specific educational placement includes the following language; “that unique combination of facilities, personnel, location or equipment necessary to provide instructional services to an individual with exceptional needs.” This definition should open the door to discuss not only the type of classroom that _______ should be placed into but which School site is most appropriate for his needs.

______’s eligibility for Special Education is a specific learning disability (SLD) but if the school district allowed for a secondary eligibility on their IEP forms he would also qualify for a Language Disorder. On the Social Language Development Test (SLDT-E) administered on ________ in November 2011 his standard score for the total test was <60. This places him in the 0.1% for children his age or another way to state this is 99.9% of children my son’s age scored higher than him on social language/pragmatics. This is a significant delay that impacts many areas of his education and his ability to receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). In the report provided by the District’s Speech Language Pathologist she noted:

As _______ transitions into middle school his inappropriate negotiation skills will be considered immature to his peers. _________’s ability to support his peers is vital to maintain healthy friendships.

With this in mind, we have grave concerns about placing _________ at _________ Middle School or any Middle School of that size. ____________ Middle School has over 2000 students and this is not an appropriate “Specific educational placement” for him to attend middle school in order to receive FAPE.

Even with multiple goals written for social language and the services of both the District’s Recreational Therapist and SLP he is struggling to make progress at the elementary school let alone a much larger middle school. During the months of January and February _________ spent almost every lunch and recess alone playing with a hula hoop and didn’t talk to anyone all day except for saying “hi” to a few children. He has since started playing with the kids again only because we have encouraged him to do so.

Goals drive services and placement in an IEP and ________ has two goals regarding social language and social functioning:

  1. ________ will express age appropriate social skills (conflict resolution and supporting peers) in structured language tasks with 80% accuracy;
  2. ________ will use presented visual strategies to be able to initiate engagement with a peer or initiate engagement in an activity at least once per day, 4/5 days per week for 6 consecutive weeks with one adult cue or prompt.

We do not feel that a large middle school such as _______ Middle School is conducive to accomplishing these goals and will thus deny my son FAPE. We have done some research and found that the School District will be opening a new K-8 school near us, ___________ Community School. While __________ Community School is not our home school, I would like to discuss this as an option at the upcoming transition IEP meeting. According to the __________ Community School website, “Our school will eventually serve 960 students kindergarten through 8 grade. In our first year, we are anticipating serving K-7th grade with approximately 550 students.”

If the IEP Team has other School Site suggestions, we are open to discussing these at the IEP meeting as well. Otherwise we look forward to discussing all of the viable School site options at the upcoming IEP and not just his home school of ___________.

Thank you for your cooperation in this matter. If you have any questions or comments feel free to call us at xxx-xxx-xxxx.




Cc: Student Support Services


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by Jess

The Book You Must Read if You Care About Restraint & Seclusion

March 27, 2012 in Book Review by Jess

A Book That Talks About Restraint & Seclusion Through the Eyes of  Children with Special Needs

Mommy, I Wish I Could Tell You What They Did To Me At School Today

Mommy I Wish I Could Tell You What They Did to me at School Today Book ReviewLast year, we found out that restraint &  seclusion can be a personal threat to our own kids; I knew I needed to take a  stand, and since then have worked hard locally and online in advocacy against  restraint and seclusion.

So when I saw the book by Richard S. Stripp, Sr. about Restraint and  Seclusion, I knew I needed to take the time to read it. Mommy, I Wish I  Could Tell You What They Did To Me At School Today is the true story of Mr.  Stripp’s work as an aide in the public school system and respite worker.

And he found a way to tell their story in a way that was both emotional and  heart-rending.

Restraint and Seclusion is the Story of Abuse

I found this book to be a hard read, but important for anyone who cares about  children with special needs. In it, Stripp gives voice to children with special  needs he encountered during his years as an aide in the public school system,  many of whom were nonverbal or mostly unable to give voice to what happened to  them.

Stripp used a literary technique I’ve rarely seen utilized when trying to  tell the story about nonverbal children with special needs – he got into their  heads and became their voice. While we will never know exactly  what these children really were thinking about during these horrific  experiences, Stripp gives us a rare glimpse into their possible reactions to  being mentally, physically, and emotionally abused, either through callous  neglect or outright abuse.

The danger of restraint and seclusion is best left to a post on the subject  itself, but consider for a minute that your child can’t tell you if someone hurt  them. That your child can’t tell you that someone keeps hurting them, in the  name of discipline, class control, and sometimes incompetence.

I firmly believe there are more teachers of children with special needs out  there who are passionate about helping the children in their care, but they are  only human. And humans make mistakes, act in anger, become overwhelmed, and  sometimes take the easy way out instead of doing what is right. Sometimes it  happens. We hear the stories all the time, and in this book, we hear about those  stories from someone who was in the classroom with these children, from someone  who knew and loved these children.

Stripp warned me I might need tissues for this reading adventure, and I’m  proud to say I didn’t. But I couldn’t let go of the images, of the children he  introduced to me as a reader, and the advocate in me roared at the injustice of  it. The thought of that happening to my own child … when I know in fact that  something similar did happen … makes me want to fight all the harder for all the  children out there.

Stripp shares with us stories that should shock and anger us, should  overwhelm us … and hopefully they will inspire us, also, to do what we can to  remember that these children can be difficult to understand, they might not be  able to talk with words … but they do have a voice, and if we look hard enough  we can see what they have to say.

From what could be their own words … the Children of Restraint and  Seclusion:

In brief, I want to share a few quotes from the book, and I hope they will  give you the same goosebumps they give me …

About a little boy named Adam, who hid his shoes because he didn’t want to go  to school. Emotionally and physically abused by those he trusts, his story ends  with this sad note:

“As I get put on the bus, the teacher tells me to do them all a favor and  stay home tomorrow.  Sounds like a great idea. I’ll try, but Mom always finds my  shoes.”

Or the little boy named Tommy, who reminded me of what my own Logan might be  thinking, and what he might have had to deal with strapped in his own rifton  chair at school last year. Tommy, who says …

“I used to love coming to school and running around. They don’t let me do  that too much anymore. Most of the day I’m strapped into this stupid chair. I  hate this chair. When I’m out of the chair, I like to run. I’ll run  anywhere…

When they strap me in the chair, I try to get out. Wouldn’t you? …”

Restraint and Seclusion is a Kind of Dirty Little Secret

But in Mommy, I Wish I Could Tell You What They Did to me at School  Today, Stripp pulls away the veil, and makes us see this as the  horrible injustice it is. I was moved, angered, and horrified at what I read … and that’s why this book MUST be read – because anyone who loves a child with  special needs SHOULD be moved to action against restraint and seclusion.

Do you have your own story of Restraint and Seclusion? Have you read this  book? Have questions about it? Tell us how restraint and seclusion has affected  your world, and join the Cafe in vowing to make a difference.

Learn more about Mommy, I Wish by visiting Stripp’s  site, http://www.mommyiwish.com,  and even tell your own story there, or by visiting the Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/MommyIWish

A Review of Mommy I Wish I Could Tell You What They Did to me at School Today, by Richard Stripps, Sr.

Originally posted at Kat's Cafe - http://katscafe.org/2012/03/24/the-book-you-must-read-if-you-care-about-restraint-seclusion/

Katrina "Kat" Moody is the primary author, editor and creator of Kat's Cafe.  When not playing at the Cafe, Katrina works as a freelance assistant,  copywriter, copyeditor, designer, and a whole lot more.  Kat is a wife and  mother of three pretty amazing guys who all share a myriad of diagnoses, from  Axenfeld Rieger Syndrome, to Epilepsy, Autism, and so much more. My little Moody  gang has inspired my passion to write at the Cafe, so that she can help further  connections in the special needs community.  Kat is more than a wife and mom,  though it tempers most of what she does, and the Cafe reflects this diversity of  interests, with a new Review and Giveaway section of the Cafe (Both for the  special needs community and for general family friendly products) and the  Awareness Gift Shop. Everything at the Cafe is meant to help make special needs  connections, real connections, and embrace/appreciate the life we have been  given. You can find out more about Kat and her Moody men by visiting the "About  Kat" page of the website. If you are looking for more specific information about  the Cafe, are interested in pursuing giveaways, reviews, or a partnership with  the Cafe, please see the "About Kat's Cafe" page of the website.

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If Schools Could Have IEP’s

March 27, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

It has come to be my belief that IEPs are used far too infrequently. We have limited ourselves by only applying IEP’s to children. There are so many other places in life where they might be appropriate. I would like to suggest that some schools might benefit from having an IEP that sets in place goals that assist them in helping special needs children. I’m not suggesting that all schools need such a document, solely the ones who present some significant disorder or impairment that inhibits their ability to correctly and adequately teach the special education children that are a part of their community.

While the more angry and embittered in advocacy circles might argue that such schools could be qualified under the emotional disturbance category; I believe the correct qualifying condition would be to place such schools under the visually impaired category. The federal definition of “Visual impairment including blindness means an impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a child’s educational performance. The term includes both partial sight and blindness.” 34 CFR 300.7 (c)(13). If a student is found to have an impairment, the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team must also determine whether the student has a need for special education.  Read the rest of this entry →

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Can I Stop the School Attorney from Attending My Child’s IEP Meeting

March 26, 2012 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Doug Goldberg

It’s IEP Season once again and many parents are starting to get their IEP meeting notices. While perusing this notice for the individuals that will be attending your child’s IEP you notice a name that scares you!! For some reason the School District’s attorney has been listed as an attendee for the meeting and you are not sure what to do. Your first reaction is to tell the District that their attorney isn’t allowed to attend an IEP but unfortunately this is not necessarily the case. The IEP Team members consist of: Read the rest of this entry →

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iTouchiLearn Life Skills: Morning Routines for Preschool Kids App Review

March 26, 2012 in App Review by Doug Goldberg

iTouchiLearn Life Skills: Morning Routines for Preschool Kids by Staytoooned is a cute app that teaches young children and children with special needs life skills by utilizing music. Utilizing music is a wonderful way to teach children how to perform each task required for their morning routine. According to the app page, “Kids interact with the catchy "Ready for School" song sung to the tune of "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush".” This makes a lot of sense since, singing and music involves both hemispheres of the brain and more parts of the brain are stimulated and light up when a direction or concept is sung rather than spoken. It makes teaching difficult concepts more interesting and less of a demand. The current price for Morning Routines in the iTunes app store is $1.99. This makes it a very affordable option for teaching your child how to get through their morning routines without a meltdown. Read the rest of this entry →

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Everyone’s Favorite Part of an IEP Meeting: Continuum of Placement Options

March 25, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

So, you made it halfway through the IEP. The IEP team discussed your child’s academic performance, goals and objectives were identified, and accommodations and/or modifications have been suggested. Now, IEP team moves on to the subject of placement and mentions that there are a continuum of placement options that must be discussed. This is where some parents get confused or feel that they are forced into a box on where and how the school will provide services for their child. Read the rest of this entry →

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A Matter of Trust

March 22, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

During my monthly neighborhood support & study group meeting this past week, our local KDDs group (Kids with Differences & Disabilities) focused on first steps toward becoming strong advocates for our children with differences & disabilities.

As a group, we are reading through the book From Emotions to Advocacy by Pete and Pam Wright, a terrific guide for parents who are just getting started down the road of advocating for their children with learning disabilities, autism, ADHD, speech language disorders, emotional health issues, developmental delays and other special needs.

As a starting point for learning about how to advocate for our kids, our parent group focused a lot during the discussion on two main advocacy goals that the Wrights suggest in the book. First, your role as your child’s advocate within the public school setting is to ensure that he/she receives a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). Read the rest of this entry →

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