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Reality and misconceptions about helping kids improve their social skills

May 24, 2014 in Special Education Articles by Jess

Whenever I have the opportunity to speak with fellow Camp Directors who run camps designed for neurotypical children the topic often leads to discussing their campers who present with social-cognitive challenges. In other words, their campers who struggle socially in the camp setting.

Through my discussions with camp colleagues as well as professionals who work with children who present with social skill challenges I often hear that many parents are not interested in sending their child to a summer camp that is designed to meet their child's needs. In some cases the child may not want to go to a camp designed to meet their needs as they understandably want to see themselves as no different than their neurotypical peers despite the fact that they are frequently met with rejection from the same peers who's acceptance they crave. While these parents know there is a risk their child may be unsuccessful in the camp setting they believe that the best way for their child to improve their social skills and provide their child with a feeling of normalcy is through having their child participate in recreational settings (like summer camp) with their neurotypical peers. Often this well intended approach backfires for the child, particularly as they get older and social expectations increase. This led me to question as to where this widely held misconception comes from that children who present with social skill challenges can improve their social skills by simply being around neurotypical peers. Read the rest of this entry →

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What is Nonverbal Learning Disability (Disorder)

January 24, 2014 in Special Education Articles by Jess

I was in a Team meeting once and the team chair said "I was surprised that the student with diagnosed with nonverbal learning disability because they talk all the time."

The term Nonverbal Learning Disorders (or NLD) refers to a neurological syndrome believed to result from damage to the white matter connections in the right-hemisphere of the brain, which are important for intermodal integration. Three major categories of dysfunction present themselves: (1) motoric (lack of coordination, severe balance problems, and difficulties with fine graphomotor skills); (2) visual-spatial-organizational (lack of image, poor visual recall, faulty spatial perceptions, and difficulties with spatial relations); and (3) social (lack of ability to comprehend nonverbal communications, difficulties adjusting to transitions and novel situations, and deficits in social judgment and social interaction). Individuals with NLD generally have exceptional verbal skills, do well in school subjects requiring decoding (the word recognition aspect of reading) and encoding (spelling) written language, have excellent auditory attention and memory, and learn primarily through verbal mediation. This syndrome appears to be the exact opposite of dyslexia. This is taken from Nonverbal Learning Disorders Revisited in 1997 by Sue Thompson, Read the rest of this entry →

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Ten Steps to Writing Effective IEP Goals

January 23, 2014 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Dennise Goldberg

The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) requires that all Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) include:

A statement of measurable annual goals, including academic and functional goals, designed to (a) meet the child’s needs that result from the child’s disability to enable the child to be involved in and make progress in the general education curriculum; and (b) meet each of the child’s other educational needs that result from the child’s disability. Read the rest of this entry →

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Happiness ~ What Every Parent Wants: Mission OT

October 6, 2013 in Special Education Articles by Doug Goldberg

Every parent just wants his or her child to be “happy”.  That is their bottom line.  Therapy, academics, home life, whatever, “just makes my child happy”.  Anyone who has worked with children for any length of time has had this said to them repeatedly over and over again.

It is really not their fault.  Ingrained in the American psyche and in our Declaration of Independence is the “right to pursue happiness”. But their definition was not about stars, stickers, yellow smiley faces and such.  Jeffersonian interpretation of “happiness” had more to do with virtue, doing well within your community, good conduct and good citizenship. (Jon Meacham, Jefferson: Profile in Power)

Aristotle had it even more precise, and perhaps he might be called (stretching it a bit) the author of the foundations for the rationale of occupational therapy.  Aristotle wrote, “happiness…is at the end of action”.  Read the rest of this entry →

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Father’s Day: What Makes My Son Special

June 15, 2013 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Doug Goldberg

Over the years, there have been many famous quotes about the responsibilities of a father.  As Father’s Day approaches this Sunday, the three that speak to me the most are:

“Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a Dad." (Anne Geddes);

"I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father's protection." (Sigmund Freud); and

"It is a wise father that knows his own child." (William Shakespeare) Read the rest of this entry →

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Just Appreciate Me

November 15, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

They've been standing on the brink of divorce. For seven years, they had devoted themselves tirelessly to their son with autism. They were worn out; all the joy had left their lives despite their son having made dramatic progress. Their boy was included in a regular class with supports; something they never dreamed of.

Their marriage was another story. He thought she no longer cared about their marriage. She thought he never noticed and appreciated what she was doing for their children. They both agreed that their only interaction was about their disagreements. They decided to take a step back from ending their marriage and came back to my office where four years ago they had recovered from their initial devastated response to their son's diagnosis on the autism spectrum. Read the rest of this entry →

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When ABC doesn’t work

October 15, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

There is a very popular ABC (Antecedent – Behavior – Consequence) approach when the carer is supposed to find the trigger (Antecedent), define the Behavior and provide the Consequence for this (often called inappropriate) behaviour – ignore/ time out/ etc. In autism this approach does not always work. Sometimes the antecedent cannot be easily identified, because it can be either ‘present but invisible’, or ‘possible future’, or ‘past’ antecedent. Let me explain.

Present but invisible antecedent

Sometimes we cannot see/ hear/ feel certain stimuli as our senses are too ‘normal’. For example, the child may be disturbed by the sound of the microwave oven two rooms away. As the carer cannot hear it, any ‘challenging behavior’ displayed by the child would be interpreted as ‘out of the blue’. Read the rest of this entry →

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Top 10 Reasons Why Parents Should NOT WAIT for the Next Annual before Calling an IEP

September 26, 2012 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Dennise Goldberg

1.  If your child is exhibiting new behavioral problems that are interfering with their ability to access the curriculum; your school may need to implement a Behavior Support Plan to extinguish the negative or off task behavior.

2.  If your child is struggling academically in the first semester, don’t wait until second semester to address the problem.  If you have to request new assessments; keep in mind the timeline from the day you authorized the assessments.  The school has 60 days* in which to conduct the assessments and hold an IEP, so if you wait until second semester, the school year might be coming to an end; basically, your child has lost the entire year.  * Some States have different timelines so please check the timelines in your State. Read the rest of this entry →

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The Overwhelming Choices of a Parent

July 17, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

Making decisions for others is never easy. In fact, it’s probably one of the hardest things one can do for someone, especially if that person is their child. When a family is coping with mental illness and intense special needs and a parent is charged with not only choosing interventions to support what a child’s life will look like as they grow but also what their adulthood will look like long after they themselves are deceased, the challenge becomes overwhelming. The alternative to not making the decision to support the child and instead controlling them dis-empowers the child who might then lash out and become more oppositional and self destructive the more a parent insists on them conforming.

The emotional weight of making choices for someone else can cause a tremendous amount of anxiety and stress not to mention an underlying feeling of dread.

Perhaps the hardest part about making the decision about what your child’s future will look like is accepting that it isn’t going to even slightly resemble what you dreamed of when you fantasized about their life. If you are like me, that included typical milestones like dance recitals, graduation ceremonies, walking the wedding aisle and holding grandbabies. Often when our children are struggling to keep their heads above water, maintain appropriate behaviors and perform in socially acceptable ways, there are rarely those extraordinary ordinary moments like congratulating them on their first job or the joys of helping them to decorate their first apartment. A large percentage of the time, they will never live independently or be able to keep a job. Sometimes they will continue to self destruct into their adulthood needing even more intervention for their addictions and behavioral disregulation.

  • ”What would my daughter want her home to look like?”
  • “What kind of services must be there?”
  • ”What level of confinement or independence will be afforded to my child?”
  • “What if my child becomes oppositional? What is the discipline policy?”
  • “Will my son be safer in a single sex environment?”
  • ”Will there be enough security to keep my child safe from eloping or from other potential self destructive tendencies?”
  • “What if my child hurts someone else? Will she be kicked out of the program? ”
  • ”What if I make a choice that my child won’t be happy with?”
  • “What if the program loses its funding?”
  • “What if my child turns a corner on their illness and finds a balance of wellness? Can he unravel my decisions? ”
  • “What if I choose a location or a home for my child that is compromised by someone else long after my child is there?”
  • “What if…what if…what if…”

As anyone would fantasize about what their future might look like, trying it on for size in one’s imagination is the first step. Again, trying a situation out in ones head is quite a bit different than realizing it in the flesh. Like fantasizing about getting the perfect pet, a first home, and having a perfect relationship, we often find that the journey from A to B can also include a dog that chews everything in sight, a home next to a nasty neighbor, and a mate who would rather watch football than spend time together on a Sunday afternoon.

How does a parent plan for this? What kind of setting can one imagine that can address all of the probables no less the possibles in the future life of a child they love so deeply?

The first and most important factor is that, as parents, we make decisions only with our child’s best interests at heart. Trusting that the universe will help when there are bumps in the road and planning for all of the potential hairpin turns of their yet-to-be-realized adulthood is nothing short of the most loving and selfless decision a parent will face.

Sometimes decisions made in a vacuum work to relieve the underlying discomfort, but often it only serves to support the regret a parent will no doubt feel if they turn out to be the wrong ones.

Choosing to design a life for a child rather than empowering them to choose their own seems antithetical to the whole purpose of parenting. We spend our adult lives loving them, keeping them safe and raising them into character-filled individuals who will stand up for what they believe in and then leave our homes with full intention to change the world they live in. Planning for anything less than our children having more fulfillment and success and life and love in their lives than we had in ours might feel like a disappointment. Perhaps you have wondered how this could be anything but the case, but with time and much heartfelt soul seeking, I have realized that as much as all of our lives are different, so are all of our expectations and even though I’m creating a blueprint for my daughter’s life, it’s no less a disappointment to her than it would be if she had the capacity to create it for herself.

Finding a home and choosing a foundation to support our children when we can no longer serve them doesn’t have to feel like a disappointment to them. In fact, while our children were swimming upstream in their lives, in the homes we can create for their future, they will not be against the current. There will be flow. And in that flow, will be the success that they will come to know in their contented adult lives.

Author Bio: Lori Gertz makes her living as a strategic marketing consultant, writer, and Reiki Master and is currently studying to be a Homeopath. She faced the ultimate Sophie’s choice—to give up the daughter she had adopted as a newborn or to keep her, even though she and her husband Craig could not ensure that their other children would be emotionally and physically safe if their troubled sister remained in the family home. Her book, “Mama Can’t Kiss It Better: An Idealized Motherhood Lost” is in the final editing stage.

She has created a resource for parents struggling with many of the same issues on www.Facebook.com/lorigertzauthor

Twitter @lorigertzauthor




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Teenage Mutant Bipolar Heroes

June 19, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

If it wasn’t bad enough being a teenager, it’s a real bummer if you are developing symptoms of Bipolar. As parents, if we’re honest, we want a bit of rebellion in our children. It’s healthy for them to be reprobates – within reason of course – and getting their elbows out, and testing the life’s realities before they are set loose.

As a male, I went through the normal pattern of trying for the world’ bashing the bishop’ record, but whilst most boys work through the irrational feelings of guilt, the one with Bipolar suffers in ways his parents’ cannot begin to understand. If it’s the Dysthymic phase, the characteristics will be lack of self esteem, poor concentration, a degree of self loathing and depression and a general overwhelming lethargy. Sounds familiar doesn’t it! Read the rest of this entry →

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