Parenting Roundabout Podcast: Kids, Computers, and Unacceptable Age-Appropriateness

On the one hand, as parents of kids with special needs, we’re desperate for them to do the things their age peers are doing. We want them to be adept at the tools of the world today and fluent in the language of our times. On the other hand, don’t lie and stop cursing and don’t make secret social media accounts, and get away from that computer and stop playing video games and put down that phone. Amanda chats with Charlie Zegers, who writes about sports and also about parenting kids on the autism spectrum, about how you tease out what’s the condition and what’s the age, and how to discipline without stamping out important developmental progress. Are we expecting more from kids on the autism spectrum than we’d expect from typical kids, as About.com’s autism expert Lisa Jo Rudy asked in an article on her site? Or should we be expecting more from typical kids? Listen in for some good food for thought on parenting on and off the spectrum (and if you’re interested in getting your kids coding, the sites referred to are Scratch and Game Salad). If you’re reading this somewhere without hyperlinks, come to http://parentingroundabout.com for the full recap experience.

via Parenting Roundabout: Round 4: Kids, Computers, and Unacceptable Age-Appropriateness.

Forms and Personalized Stories from Microsoft Office

Autism Speaks has partnered with Microsoft Office and the University of Washington Autism Center to provide a series of personalized story PowerPoint templates that parents and therapists can customize to explain social situations to children with autism. Customize these personalized story templates with your own pictures to help your child know what to expect in various situations!

via Forms and Personalized Stories from Microsoft Office | Family Services | Autism Speaks.

Special Education Miranda Warning

© Helene Souza

© Helene Souza

Parents! You have rights!

I know that parents receive a copy of their Parental Rights and Safeguards at every IEP meeting, but I don’t know how many of them actually read it. Perhaps what we need instead is a sort of special education parental rights Miranda warning, beginning with “You have the right to refuse changes” and encompassing “No special education administrator shall amend an IEP without the agreement of the entire IEP team.”

Today, we got a phone call from our son’s school, which ended for the summer yesterday. Our son has high-functioning autism and a fairly detailed IEP. Next year he will be making the transition to middle school, of which there are two in our city. Neither has a program for children with autism.

I’ve been expecting some difficulty in transitioning and translating his IEP services to a new school, but I didn’t expect it to come so soon. The special education teacher on the other end of the phone wanted to change 120 minutes of 1:1 instructional support on my son’s IEP to “guidance services.”  My husband’s response was exactly right:

Absolutely not. Not only aren’t those comparable services, but changes in the IEP need to be a team decision. We would like to request an IEP meeting before school begins to discuss how to implement his current IEP. If there’s no program in place, then you’ll have to create one to meet his IEP.

When I called back to confirm that I wouldn’t approve any changes, I was told that the initial request to change the plan came from the IEP coordinator at the incoming school, a teacher who has never met my son and, until we have a transition meeting, is not a part of the current team.

What worries me is the thought of all the parents who fielded a similar phone call and didn’t know they could say “No.”

For those parents, I offer up the following Special Education Miranda:

  • You have the right to refuse any changes to your child’s IEP.

  • Any changes that are being proposed need to be approved by the entire IEP team.

  • You have the right to an IEP team that consists of decision-makers who have met, worked with, evaluated or been transitioned in as case manager for your child.

  • All services will be need-driven, based on the reasonable proven supports and instruction your child needs to access a Free Appropriate Public Education.

  • No services that have been deemed necessary shall be denied on the basis of school district staffing concerns or budgetary issues.

  • You are encouraged to take notes of any non-documented communication between you and the school.

  • If you do not understand these rights or feel they are being violated, you should ask questions until you do understand or contact a disability rights advocate.

In our case, we will wait and see what comes of our request for an IEP meeting and hope for the best. But in the meantime, I’m preparing to fight for my son’s right to learn.

An Early Intervention Services Primer

Even with a background in Early Intervention EI, I wonder and worry about my toddler’s skills. He talks a lot, but is he understandable? He’s fearful of other children, but does that mean he’s going to need extra support with social skills? Are his gross motor skills up to par?While deep down I know my son doesn’t need EI services, if I didn’t know what they were for, I would be among the many parents who wonder whether EI services are right for their child. To help answer that and other common questions about Early Intervention that pop up on Circle of Moms, here’s a primer on what they’re for, who’s eligible, how they’re structured, and why they’re so important.

via An Early Intervention Services Primer – Circle of Moms.

7 Great Ideas for Sensory-Friendly Play

Came across this list on Facebook… some pretty good suggestions…

Kids who are “sensory seekers,” like Kim H.’s son, sometimes wind up “really banging or crashing into you or things” to get the stimulation their bodies crave. Circle of Moms member Ashley K. suggests the “kid sandwich” as a fun, safe, and amusing way to meet that need for more sensory input to calm their bodies. She says to use two couch cushions to sandwich your child, then “gently push on the top cushion [to] give that weighted feeling” your child needs. Other moms recommend weighted blankets, but point out that they are expensive.

via 7 Great Ideas for Sensory-Friendly Play – Circle of Moms.

We have a (admittedly overpriced – it was a gift) beanbag chair from the SUMO Lounge line that serves very well for making child tacos and hot dogs. And we love our mini-trampoline to death.

Actually, the mini-trampoline and oversized beanbag are an outstanding combination. I trust you can imagine why.

Summer Survival Tips for Parents of Children With ADHD

My About.com colleague Keath Low posted these tips for helping kids with ADD and ADHD get through the summer… lots of these suggestions apply equally well to kids on the spectrum.

Sometimes, people think about ADHD as only affecting school and academics. For some kids with ADHD this may be the predominate area in which they experience challenges, but it is much more common that ADHD affects all aspects of life, including home life and family interactions. If you are a parent of a child with ADHD, here are some ideas for making the summer months less stressful, more productive and fun for you, your child and the whole family!

via Summer Survival Tips for Parents of Children With ADHD.

New Diagnostic Tool for Parents of Toddlers

Hopefully, most new parents know to watch for the signs of autism and related disorders. On the other hand, looking at lists of symptoms on the Internet is the surest way to drive oneself stark, raving mad.

The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers is a tool that cuts through the “terrifying list of symptoms” problem.

The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers M-CHAT™ is a scientifically validated tool for screening children between 16 and 30 months of age to assess their risk for autism spectrum disorder ASD. It was developed by neuropsychologists Diana Robins and Deborah Fein and clinical psychologist Marianne Barton.

Marianne Barton was a guest for Part II of GCTV’s Autism Awareness series.

via Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers M-CHAT™ | What is Autism?/Diagnosis | Autism Speaks.

Autism and Related Disorders – Free Seminar from Yale University on iTunes

The Yale Seminar on Autism and Related Disorders is the United States’ first undergraduate course of its kind. The class consists of a weekly seminar on diagnosis and assessment, etiology and treatment of children, adolescents and adults with autism and related disorders of socialization.

via Autism and Related Disorders – Download Free Content from Yale University on iTunes.

10 Things to Know About the IEP Process to be a Successful Advocate for Your Child with Autism

1.  A parent can make a referral for special education evaluation at any time. If the school isn’t acting, you can. Ask your school administrator for a referral form and outline your reasons for concern. A meeting will have to be called to look at the referral and discuss what types of educational testing would be most appropriate to evaluate your concerns about your child’s educational performance.

2.  A school must provide you with Prior Written Notice at least 10 days before proposing or refusing to make changes in identification, placement or evaluation for special education services.  In accordance with 14 DE Admin Code § 926.3.2; 14 Del. C. § 3134; 34 C.F.R. § 503(a), the written notice must:

  • Described the proposed action (or refusal)
  • Provide an explanation of why the district is proposing or refusing this action
  • Describe every and each evaluation procedure, assessment, record, or report used to make the decision
  • Describe  anything else that the Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team considered and why those considerations were rejected
  • Describe any other reasons for the proposed action or refusal
  • State that parents of a child with a disability are protected under certain procedural safeguards under the IDEA and DOE and, if not provided, information about how to get a copy of the Notice of Procedural Safeguards
  • Provide a list of resources parents can  contact for help in understanding the regulations

3. Writing an IEP is a team process and you are part of that team. The school district can’t just tell you what’s going to happen to your child. You have a say.

The team consists, at the least, of: an administrator, regular education teacher, special education teacher, parents, evaluators and other service providers.  While an evaluation report and/or a person can make recommendations for services, everyone has to agree on services, goals, accommodations, placement, etc.  If you are not comfortable with what has been decided, you do not have to sign the IEP.

3.  You may be asked to sign a Waiver of Notice Form. If a meeting is scheduled without 10 days prior notice, you may be asked to waive your right to notice. If it’s beneficial to meet as soon as possible, there’s nothing wrong with signing it. There are Waiver of Notice Forms in regard to changes of program, too.

Typically, a school district has seven days to institute a change of placement or a new program. If you wish to waive the right and begin immediately, you can sign a waiver. However, if you’re uncertain about the new changes or the school needs time to hire and train personnel, it’s to your child’s benefit for you not to sign the waiver.

4. You have the right to request an outside evaluation. If you are not in agreement with what the school district’s evaluator had to say in regard to your child, you have the right to request an outside evaluation. Also known as an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE), parents are typically responsible for the cost of such an evaluation. The benefit, however, is that the IEP team is required to consider the information and findings of the IEE, just as they would consider an inside evaluation.

5.  Every new evaluation or formal observation needs to be reviewed at a team meeting if it is going to be used to qualify or disqualify your child for services. The school district cannot make changes without everyone sitting down at the table again to consider new information.

6. Even the smallest accommodation should be written into the plan.  Anything that is different than the way a “typical” child would be educated should be documented in the IEP. Many parents make the mistake of agreeing to informal or general accommodations or behavior plans.  Formalize it!  You have no recourse if it is not documented.

7. If it’s in the IEP, it needs to get done. An IEP is a legal document. The school district is responsible for making sure the accommodations, services and aids listed occur. If they do not, the school department is then responsible to provide compensatory services to your child. That means they need to make arrangements to make up the amount of time that was lost for any given service.

8. You can call a meeting at any time, for any reason. Even if your child’s plan is not up for review and there’s no new data to consider, you can call a meeting to discuss concerns. This includes asking for revisions of goals that you think are not going to be met or are unreachable.

9. Don’t be afraid to exercise your right to Due Process. If you feel as though your child’s rights have been violated, you don’t agree with the IEP or that a placement or service has been changed without your consent, you have the right to file for a Due Process Hearing.  Once you file a formal request for hearing, nothing can move forward or be implemented until the complaint is resolved. That means your child’s program will stay as it was with the last IEP until you’ve come to an agreement with the school district.

10.  Know what Manifestation Determination is. Hopefully, you’ll never come across this process. It’s used to determine whether a child’s behavior–one that causes multiple suspensions or expulsion–is or is not related to his  disability.  The team reviews all evidence, files, evaluations and documents to decide this.To determine if it’s related to his disability, the IEP team then has to answer these questions:

  1. Were the services, goals, accommodations and placement in the IEP appropriate?
  2. If yes, were they provided and implemented as written?
  3. Did the child’s disability impair his ability to understand the impact/consequences of his behavior or did it impair his ability to control his behavior in the circumstances being looked at?

If questions 1 and/or 2 can be answered “no,” then the school is at fault and may have to review placement and/or services to make it more appropriate.  If 1 and 2 can be answered “yes” and the other questions answered “no,” then the behavior is not a manifestation of the child’s disability and he will be punished in the same manner as a child without a disability.

Amanda Morin is a parenting and education writer who draws on her 10 years of experience as a kindergarten teacher and early intervention specialist. She worked with and evaluated children with special-needs, taught parenting classes and was a service coordinator for children in therapeutic foster care. Amanda is also mother to three children, ages toddler to teen, one of whom has Asperger Syndrome.