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The Effects of Sunshine

May 31, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

I live in California, so, I admit, I’m spoiled. The sunshine becomes something we often take for granted. The natural warmth of the sun on our faces, the illumination of the colors blooming every season and the lush green grass that carpets the ground encircling the never-ending freeways. So it may be a little easier to feel a bit more optimistic as we walk through our daily lives, but… never forget, as I said in the first sentence, it’s easy to take this “happy” weather for granted and not even notice it after awhile. For me, being a born east-coaster, it can sometimes feel like I’m unknowingly participating in my own version of “Groundhog Day” – which for those who may not be Bill Murray fans, is when the same day keeps happening over. Due to mother-nature becoming either lazy or quite comfortable showering the west coast in sunshine, it becomes almost annoyingly predictable. Read the rest of this entry →

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Inclusion Isn’t Just for “High Functioning” Kids with ASD

May 30, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

It seems that there is a popular belief system that only “high functioning” kids with ASD can be served in inclusive classrooms. Many stakeholders including parents of kids with ASD, special education teachers, general education teachers, and administrators share this belief. I am going to go out on a limb here and challenge those of you who believe that inclusion is only for “high functioning” kids to read further and see if I can persuade you to think about it differently. Regardless of ability and functioning levels, all children should have opportunities to be included in general education classrooms to learn alongside their typically developing peers. The learning opportunities that take place in general education classrooms cannot be replicated in self-contained special education classrooms. The question that often comes up is this: “How do you know when you should place a student with autism (or any other disability for that matter) in an inclusive classroom?” While my first instinct is to say, “All kids should be included in general education classrooms,” I know that answer doesn’t cut it. Read the rest of this entry →

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Special Education Advisor is 2 Years Old!!

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

Special Education Advisor started out as a way to help parents educate themselves on the Special Education process in the United States. I wanted to create a non-threatening place for parents to come and learn to be their child’s best advocate in an IEP meeting. That was it that was my dream. What has occurred in the preceding 2 years has been nothing short of amazing. With no budget and 2 employees, my husband and I, we set out on this journey and many of you have come along for the ride. We now have a vibrant community which includes more than 40,000 visitors per month and growing.

Originally, my husband and I did all of the content on the website ourselves but then one day we got an email. A Special Education Professional introduced herself and asked if she could write a guest post for SEA. Wow, why didn’t I think of that? We added a page on the website where parents, educators and other professionals could submit guest articles and we never looked back. Today, we post a minimum of 5 new articles per week including 3 guest articles. The subject of these articles while still heavily IEP related, now cover a vast array of different special needs related content. We are constantly looking for new areas to cover and in the last 4 months added an app and product review section.

We wanted to take a moment and personally thank all of our visitors, members, twitter followers, facebook fans, pinteresters and google plusers for coming along for the ride. That was a mouth full, but you get the idea. We spend an abundant amount of our time, 7 days a week, on SEA and interacting with all of you makes it worthwhile. We hope you will continue with us on this journey and help us spread the word about SEA in the coming years.

In the meantime, below is a list of 25 of our most popular articles from the last two years:

Brief History of Special Education Court Cases 

Just as the 1970’s began the passing of legislation for children with disabilities it was also the start of some of its most important court cases.  Two cases in particular were the Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children (PARC) v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 343 Fed. Supp. 279, (1972) and Mills v. Board of Education of District of Columbia, 348 F. Supp. 866 (1972).  In both PARC and Mills the judges struck down local laws that excluded children with disabilities from schools.  They established that children with a disability have a right to a public education and access to an education.

What is an IEP?

An IEP is an Individualized Education Program for children who qualify for special education services by their local public school district.  It is not an Individual Education Plan.  Why isn’t it a Plan?  As the old saying goes, “plans are made to be broken!”  A program on the other hand must be followed!!  Congress in their infinite wisdom got this one right.  It is a legally binding document that must be followed to the letter of the law and tailored to meet your child’s unique needs.  An IEP must include:

How to Prepare for your Next IEP Meeting

Life is hectic when raising a child with special needs.  Parents are constantly dealing with therapies, medical appointments, administering medicine, and life in general.  To make matters worse parents are telling me they keep hearing in IEP meetings from School District personnel, “If you don’t like our offer take us to due process”.  This makes it even more important to be prepared for your next meeting.  This article will help you truly prepare for the next IEP meeting.

Proposed DSM 5 Changes and Autism: What Parents & Advocates Need to Know

In May of 2013 the new diagnostic criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder will be distributed to doctors via the fifth version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5). Think of the DSM 5 as the Bible of diagnostic criteria, developed and written by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

Least Restrictive Environment (Legal, Judicial and Practical meaning)

The term Least Restrictive Environment is thrown around a lot in special education but what does it really mean.  There is the legal definition which states:

Disability Categories under IDEA

The following list outlines the definitions of each of the disability categories established under the Individuals with Disabilities Education (Improvement) Act of 2004 (“IDEA”)

2012 Update: Essential Special Education Twitter Feeds to Follow

Below is a list of Special Education Twitter Feeds worth following.  The list includes Parents, Educators, Advocates, Attorneys, Therapists and National Organizations.  This list should keep you up to date on everything happening in and around the world of Special Education.

IEP Goals And Objectives: Are These Any Good?

To develop IEP goals (and, in some states and situations, objectives) that are meaningful, measurable, and manageable, requires a  preliminary step that too many IEP Teams rush though: Writing a quality Present Levels section (“present levels of academic achievement and functional performance”) of the IEP. This section forms the basis and justification for all goals and objectives. In turn, the goals and objectives form the basis for all services and placements.

Top Ten Questions to Ask at an IEP

If your child has an IEP, the following top ten list is comprised of generic questions that all parents should be asking.  This list is not specific to any disability or situation.

A Letter to the MOTHER Who Rolled Her Eyes at My Son

Dear Other Mother at Physical Therapy,

For the past three days I have watched you roll your eyes at my son. I can see your annoyance with him when he gets loud and interrupts your quiet making it hard for you to read your book. I saw your anger when he accidentally bumped into you and just kept going instead of stopping to say he was sorry. I hear the hostility in your voice as you yell for the technicians to pay attention to your daughter and stop giving my boy extra attention. And for three days I have said nothing.

Brief History Of Special Education Legislation

Prior to the 1970’s special education in the United States was in a dismal state.  Many children with a disability were denied access to a public education.  Most of these children were either home schooled, did not receive any education at all or worse yet were institutionalized.  The foundation of today’s special education law was passed in 1975 and enacted in 1977.  This was Public Law 94-142, The Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (EHA).  This law introduced the concepts of:

A Letter to Ron Clark: What Parents Really Want to Tell Teachers

Dear Ron,

I have recently read your article, “What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents” and found it to be ill-conceived, short sided and quite frankly wrong on many accounts. I am aware of your accolades and achievements as written in the editor’s note prior to the article but I will also point you to Rule #51 in your Essential 55 Rules, “Live so that you will never have regrets”. If you don’t already, I feel you will learn to regret writing this article. This article has the ability to create an even bigger chasm between Parents and Teachers. Parent Involvement in a Child’s Education, as proven by 20 years of research, is one of the most effective methods in a child’s academic success. Educating our children needs to be a partnership between Parents and Teachers. Especially, since school age children spend 70% of their time outside of school. Your article makes it painfully aware that your idea of a Parent – Teacher partnership is one where Parents do everything you ask without input or questions.

What Is The Orton-Gillingham Approach?

The Orton-Gillingham approach is a unique language training system that was designed by Dr. Samuel Orton and Anna Gillingham.  Dr. Orton, a neuropsychiatrist and pathologist, was a pioneer in focusing attention on reading failure and related language processing difficulties.  He revolutionized modern thought concerning learning disabilities, determining that language-based disorders were biological and not environmental in origin.  He brought together neuroscientific information and principles of remediation, having extensively studied children with the kind of language processing difficulties now commonly associated with dyslexia and formulating a set of teaching principles and practices for such children.  He strongly believed that such disorders would respond to specific training if properly diagnosed and if the proper training methods to meet the needs of each particular case were instituted.

Special Education Facebook Pages to Like

The following is a list of Facebook pages that do a wonderful job of tracking, educating and informing on all aspects of Special Education and advocacy.  Anyone that has a child with an individualized education program (IEP) or individual family service plan (IFSP) should like these pages.

Top Ten Parental Rights in Special Education

10.  Parents have the right to request that their child be assessed for Special Education without delay.

9.  Parents have the right to list all of their concerns in the IEP.

OSEP Provides Guidance on the Number of Transition Goals Required in an IEP

When the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was reauthorized in 2004 the U. S. Department of Education through the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) required states to develop State Performance Plans based on 20 indicators. The data would be submitted annually, by each State, in Annual Performance Reports. The 13th Indicator, or Indicator 13, relates to transition services for students.

Seven Things I Wish Someone had Told Me When My Daughter Was First Diagnosed with Autism

1. You’re not alone. No, really, really not alone. About one in 110 of us are on the autism spectrum. Throughout the world, autism affects all races, social classes, religions, and income levels. You are going to meet some amazing people who are walking this road right with you. You may even find that you or your spouse are on the spectrum, but that’s a whole ‘nother subject.

IEP Recreation: There is no Friendship Algorithm

Making friends isn’t easy for anyone but becomes even more difficult if you are a child with special needs who has an Individualized Education Program (IEP).  While most schools use an IEP to primarily focus on academics, one of the most overlooked uses is to help with socialization and recreation.  The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) allows for support services, known as “Related Services” that helps the child receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).  The definition of Related Services as defined by IDEA says:

Discipline for Children with IEPs

Disciplining a child with a disability is one of the most complicated issues surrounding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004.  Parents, a lot of times, feel helpless and don’t know who or where to turn when their child with a disability is constantly acting out at school and being suspended.  This article will help explain what rights your child with an IEP has when dealing with discipline issues.

Five Practical Sensory Strategies for the Classroom

Children with special needs very often present with sensory integration difficulties, where their neurological systems are not organizing and responding appropriately to the multitude of sensory information that is entering their system. Intact sensory integration is important for all activities a child does, especially participating and being available for learning in a classroom environment. When a child’s sensory system is dysregulated we may see behaviors such as hyperactivity, poor attention, low arousal/energy, emotional outbursts, or inappropriate social interactions. Many of these children are in classrooms of twenty-five students (or likely more ) with one teacher. How can we support these children in school to better ensure their sensory needs are met in order to be successful students? Working in collaboration with teachers I have found these strategies to be effective and practical in general education settings.

Please Step Away From the Child! The Misuse of Paraprofessionals in Inclusive Classrooms

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:

Ten Related Services for an IEP you may not know about

In General the term Related Service means services designed to enable a child with a disability to receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) as described in the Individualized Education Program (IEP) as may be required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education.  The Related Services most people are familiar with are Speech and Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Transportation.

FREE Common Core Standards App

Consider this your call to action! The Common Core Standards are coming to your State and every Teacher and Parent of a child with special needs MUST have this free app on their phone, tablet or iPad. As a parent of a child with special needs I don’t go to my son’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting without a copy of California’s State Standards for his grade level. I use these standards to write goals for my son’s IEP based on his individualized needs.

Change Your Ways!

For most of us, the drive to change our own behavior emerges on or around on January 1st with the dawn of a new year and new possibilities for self improvement. Loose a little weight, stop smoking, exercise more, and eat leafy greens seem to be among the favorites. Most of us are pretty conservative and only select 1 (maybe 2) goals to tackle each year. After all, we are only human and it takes a lot of thinking to change a pattern or ingrained routine. If you’re diligent and work hard, you might see a change but for most of us….it’s an exercise in futility somewhere around March 1st. Why does that happen? How do we lose our “oomph” and why do we slip back into our old, familiar ways. Why can’t we learn to change our ways? These are all questions that we ought to be asking, but rarely do. Instead, we wait until the following year and begin the process all over again. Why? Because changing a behavior is REALLY hard, even when highly motivated to do so.

Dear School Personnel, Community Members and Neighbors

To Whom it May Concern,

I am the parent of a special needs child.  I was overwhelmed, confused, heart broken and struggling to unravel the complexities before me.

Please do not pass judgement of me without knowing why I did not attend the school PTA breakfasts or community picnics.  Please take a few minutes to understand why I did not take you up on your offer to have lunch or grab a cup of coffee.  Although we see each other in the supermarket or at school functions, I don’t think you really ever knew me, actually, I can guarantee that you did not know me because just as my child was different, so was I.

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Hopes and Dreams

May 28, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

Hopes and Dreams,” it said on top of the page. Brooke’s first grade teacher had sent it home for us to fill it out before meeting with her.

What are your hopes and dreams for your child’s academic learning this year?

The question should have been innocent enough, but the blank page taunted me. Come on, Jess. What are your hopes for your daughter? Whatcha got, kid? What are your dreams? Write us a story. Make it good.

I chose my words with care. The dam was threatening to burst. I chose the following:

“To keep pace with her peers and to acquire all of the tools that she will need to succeed in second grade and beyond.”

Sounded reasonable, I thought. It wasn’t even half the story. Read the rest of this entry →

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Bully: A Movie Review

May 27, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

I was fortunate recently to have seen the movie “Bully”. My first reaction was to be excited at the opportunity but that sounds funny, doesn’t it? How do you get excited to see such a tough movie. But I am glad I did. The screening was set up especially for educators and psychologists and the discussion that followed was even better than the movie. I think this topic may finally get the attention it deserves.

The movie follows five families through their journey’s dealing with the bullying of their children. Two of the families lost their children to suicide. Tyler was only 11 years old when he took his life. One of the main children followed had clear cognitive impairments, one girl came out of the closet as a lesbian in a small Oklahoma town, and one was just a little small for his age. Each of the children were unique in a way, each the target of pervasive ignorance and cruelty.  Read the rest of this entry →

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The Inspirational Teacher Series – Michelle Tschannen

May 24, 2012 in Inspirational Teacher Series by Dennise Goldberg

Today in the Inspirational Teacher Series we profile Michelle Tschannen. While I do not know Michelle personally I was very impressed reading her responses below. Unlike many of our other profiles Michelle works in a Private School setting and her specific classroom focuses on children with mild to moderate learning disabilities.

1. What is your name?

Michelle Tschannen

2. What is your education level and credentials?

Masters of Teaching- K-12 Special Education License in VA, concentration in LD, E/BD, and ID

3. What would you like a one-sentence description of yourself to say?

Michelle is a dedicated, loving teacher who believes in the power of education to transform lives. Read the rest of this entry →

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Top 10 Considerations in Data Collection for Behavioral Issues

May 23, 2012 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Dennise Goldberg

Many schools use Data Collection when they are monitoring a child’s behavior. It helps them track the appropriate and inappropriate behavior of a student. The data will show patterns as to when and what triggers a specific type of behavior. In order to have a complete picture of a student with behavioral problems, data collection is essential during both structured and non-structured time. Therefore, when a behavioral goal is written, be as specific as possible when discussing how data will be collected. Read the rest of this entry →

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The Common Core Standards: How Will They Change Teaching and Assessment?

May 22, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

As of May 11, 2012, forty-eight states, the District of Columbia, and two American territories have adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  That means, whether your state is one of the adopters or not, CCSS are changing the face of education.

So what are the CCSS and what does this all mean for your child?  The Common Core State Standards are a set of expectations for what students should learn during the course of their educational careers.   CCSS create a measure of continuity across state lines in the content that will be taught and, more importantly, raises the bar for students and teachers alike.  States and territories using CCSS are charged with teaching standards that are often more complex than most states’ current academic content standards—demanding a change in how teachers present information to their students as well as demanding a deeper level of comprehension from the students themselves.  How is this achieved?  CCSS requires a focus on higher-order thinking questions and skills.  For instance, in math class, rather than asking which numbers are even, students will be asked which numbers are even and how do they know that (i.e., the numbers are divisible by two, they have a pair).   English Language Arts (ELA) is now explicitly tied to history/social studies, science and technical studies, meaning that all of these content areas will require complex thinking and analysis rather than rote memorization. Look at the difference between these two questions: Read the rest of this entry →

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Set your imagination free: Monster Physics Building App

May 21, 2012 in App Review by Doug Goldberg

Dan Russell-Pinson has done it again!!!  My Son’s Favorite App Developer has just released his fifth app, Monster Physics, and it’s another home run. Monster Physics by Dan Russell-Pinson is a fun, addicting and educational app that will help teach your child basic physics and problem solving concepts all for the low price of $1.99. According to the Monster Physics App page, “Think outside the box! Monster Physics comes with 50 missions for you to solve including simple tutorials as well as mind-bending challenges. Many of the missions are open-ended and can be solved with a wide variety of different solutions so you can play them over and over again. Players will learn problem-solving and creative-thinking skills while having tons of fun.”

 

The first screen you will interact with is the Main Menu. From the Main Menu you can enter four areas:

  1. Missions;
  2. Build;
  3. Learn; and
  4. Select Player

The first area to start is select player. Here you can build your monster to use during all of the game play. You can personalize your monster by changing the 1) mouth, 2) body, 3) eyes, 4) arms and, 5) legs.

The learn area of the app helps explain basic physic concepts using visuals to reinforce the concepts. There are 8 different concepts taught including gravity, friction, joint, speed & velocity, acceleration, mass, density and force.

 

In the build area of the app the player can build anything their minds can think of. Besides being able to change the scenery and feed your monster you can build with 68 different parts. These parts are broken up into four categories, shapes, shapes 2, connectors and special. Each part can be manipulated to change its size, rotate the position, flip it or change the color. Anything your mind can imagine is available to build using these parts. My favorite category is the special parts. This is where you can find rockets, propellers, cannons, hoverbots, magnets, bombs and more. I’m having fun just thinking about it.

My absolutely favorite area of this app is the missions. There are 50 missions to choose from with various degrees of difficulties. This is where those problem solving skills will be utilized. There are many ways to accomplish each mission and the solution really just depends on what your mind comes up with. My son and I have worked our way through the tutorial, training and most of the beginner missions and have found it to be extremely fun and challenging. Considering we have not gotten to the challenge or advanced stages I can’t wait to see what Dan has in store for us.

As you can see, Monster Physics packs a lot of learning and fun into a very affordable price of $1.99. I highly recommend this app for any child who enjoys building, creating and problem solving. You might be surprised by the creativity your child can display using this app.

 

 

 

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Auditory Processing Disorder and Learning

May 20, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

Almost every school activity, including listening to teachers, interacting with classmates, singing along in music class, following instructions in physical education, etc, depends on the ability for students to process sounds and have a strong auditory system in learning.  But what happens if this auditory system has deficits?  Can a child still learn? 

Does my child have Auditory Processing Disorder? 

Auditory Processing (APD) is a very common learning disability and affects about 5% of school-age children.  Auditory Processing can present itself with many different symptoms and behaviors.  Often these behaviors resemble those seen with other learning challenges, like language difficulties, attention problems and autism.  Most children with auditory processing difficulties show only a few of the following behaviors.  No child will show all of them.  However, any child who displays several of these symptoms should be carefully evaluated for auditory processing disorder.  Read the rest of this entry →

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