We as parents spend a lot of time advocating for our children when they are young. However, there comes a time when our children become older and they have to learn how to advocate for themselves; knowing when the time is right will depend on your child. If your child is still attending elementary school, they are most likely NOT mature enough to participate. For those of you who have children in middle school, now is the time to think about the prospect of someday having your child attend their own IEP meeting. Read the rest of this entry →
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When I was in Middle School it was the 70’s…typing classes were part of the curriculum. It was a useful skill to learn back then even though we were using electric typewriters. They were fun classes where you learned to type to music; occasionally we took tests to see how fast we could type. At the time, I took the class because I knew I could do well in it; not thinking about the fact that the class was preparing me for high school and college. As a matter of fact, I used an electric typewriter through college. Typing classes are no longer necessary because technology has come such a long way since I was in school. Gone are the days of struggling to edit your work on a typewriter; where you didn’t have spell check to watch your back! Read the rest of this entry →
During this time of year, high school juniors and seniors are hard at work preparing for college entrance exams, writing the perfect admissions essay, touring colleges, and eagerly awaiting decision letters from their institutions of choice. While this can be an exciting, yet stressful time for all students, students with learning differences have another level of factors that they need to take into consideration when choosing the right college. It is important for these students to not only consider the skills necessary to set themselves up for success, but to also be aware of the supports available to them at the colleges where they are considering attending. Read the rest of this entry →
When we talk about IEP’s, many times we focus on what services a school should be providing; however, the appropriate accommodations are just as important for children with disabilities. Many of them struggle with staying on task in school, completing homework assignments, remembering to turn in homework assignments, have difficulty understanding the material, etc…and the list goes on and on. A simple accommodation in an IEP could help a child become a successful student.
For example, let’s look at what happens when a child has difficulty staying on task; basically, a short attention span. I receive phone calls about this all the time from parents and the first question I ask is “where does your child sit in class?” Some parents do not know the answer; others might say the class is quite crowded and their child sits in the back or off to the side. I cannot stress how important it is for students who struggle with focus to sit at the front of the class or close proximity to the teacher. The further away from the teacher, the greater the chance the student will not be paying attention in class. This can prevent daydreaming, doodling or any other type of distraction. If this accommodation is not written in your child’s IEP, make sure you add it….if it’s there, make sure the teacher is following it! It will make a huge difference in their ability to pay attention in class. Read the rest of this entry →
We all know how important it is to have an IEP that addresses our child’s Academic, Developmental and Functional needs; to ensure they are appropriately prepared for an independent future. Therefore, as parents, we have to make sure our child’s IEP includes the necessary information to prepare them for life after high school. The results of your child’s most recent assessments, report cards, state tests, school personnel and parent input will assist the team in developing an appropriate IEP. Read the rest of this entry →
The other day I read a blog by Phillip Hain, the West Region Director of Autism Speaks, called Why Awareness Matters that deeply disturbed me. In this blog Phillip shared a letter so ignorant, so abhorrent it made my skin crawl. It also made me angry, not only with the people who wrote the letter, but with the School this child attends. As you are all aware I am a Special Education Advocate and I spend my days championing for every child’s needs and writing Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) to meet those needs. Before we get into exactly why I am angry with the school and what IEP’s have to do with my anger I think it’s important for you to read the letter: Read the rest of this entry →
The regulations that implement the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) are complex, detailed and broad. Therefore, it is not surprising that there is a great deal of misunderstanding about them, and it is not uncommon for school staff, who generally have good intentions, to misstate a regulation or to rely on an assumption about a particular regulation. When school staff rely on special education mythology, two things occur: the school risks being in noncompliance; and more importantly, the all-important relationship with parents is undermined, eroding the trust that is necessary to achieve genuine consensus. Read the rest of this entry →
Think you know all you need to know about your child’s IEP – or that her teacher does? Maybe not!
Too often we fall into the bad habit of “trusting the process” without making sure that we understand the process. School districts develop forms, checklists, and procedures and we don’t always feel comfortable asking why we’re doing what we’re doing.
Why does it matter? The IEP should identify your child’s strengths and needs so the IEP team can put together a group of supports to enable your child to be more successful in school. The wrong supports can result in a lack of progress, or unruly behavior due to frustration. Be prepared with information from The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY). Read the rest of this entry →
The new school year is in full swing which means that high school students will be preparing for various College Board tests. With regard to students with disabilities, it’s important for parents to be knowledgeable about the process in which your son or daughter must follow in order to apply for accommodations on the College Board Tests. According to www.collegeboard.com, in order for a student to receive accommodations on tests, they must be approved by the College Board Services for Students with Disabilities in advance. If accommodations are used without prior approval the tests scores will not be valid. Another important fact is that even if a student has been receiving accommodations through an IEP or 504 plan, they do not automatically qualify for assistance on their College Board Tests. The College Board has laid out specific instructions for students regarding eligibility, application and documentation requirements. Read the rest of this entry →
Now that the new school year has begun, it may be a good time for parents to schedule an observation of their child’s educational setting. In order to be proactive in your child’s educational progress, it’s important to know what’s occurring during the time they’re at school.
Here are some tips for conducting observations:
• Look at your child’s schedule and decide which time would be most productive. If your child does well during math, but struggles during reading or writing, you might want to schedule a time during the literacy block. This will give you an opportunity to offer input that may assist the teacher during potentially difficult times for your child.
• Be prepared to give your child’s teacher at least 48 hours notice as to when you’d like to visit the classroom.
• When you arrive, try to sit in a location that’s nonintrusive to the children. If the children are grouped at one side of the room, try to sit on the opposite side. Make every attempt to sit facing your child’s back. If your child sees you watching him/her, their behaviors may be altered.
• Be prepared to take notes. During the observation is not the time to point out concerns that may come up.
• Do not engage with the teacher unless she initiates the conversation. You are there to observe his/her interaction with the students and the instruction that your child is receiving.
• Some things to look for:
o Is your child seated in an appropriate location to benefit from instruction?
o Is your child receiving the necessary amount of adult support to be included within the setting and activity?
o Are all assistive devices being utilized (postural supports, graphic organizers, communication devices, pencil grips, technology, etc)?
o Is the room organized and can your child tell what the schedule and expectations are?
o Is your child given opportunities to engage in the lesson?
• Give yourself a few days to think about what you observed, then schedule a time to review your notes with the teacher.
• Thank the teacher for her time and being accommodating to your presence. When meeting with her, find at least two things that were positive about what you observed. You want to keep your relationship with the teacher as positive as possible, while still advocating effectively for your child.