Tag Archives: special education

what to communicate with your child’s teacher: Autism in the classroom

I thought the recap below would be beneficial, and for many this is new. I hope you find this helpful. You can also check out Rainbow Kids for my article on Transitioning the Special Needs Student to Another Class or School. Even if you’ve already begun a new school year, there’s some information within the article which will still be advantageous. Have a GREAT school year!

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communicate with your childs teacher
School is starting soon. I think I just heard YIPEEES!!! from several of you. 🙂 Autism parents might be a tad more excited than the average parent for their child to go back to school after summer break, as that routine and consistency can make a night and day difference for our children.

I don’t know about your child, but most children with Autism are constantly changing. Our son, Jeremiah, gains skills, loses skills, says a word and then we’ll never hear it again, he’s regularly in flux. It’s hard enough to keep up with him at home, but then add school, progress, and regressions and

it can resemble one big spider web.

There’s a solution that greatly helps us traverse that spider web with agility, and helps everyone dive into a new school year with an exceptional start. What can you do to keep positive momentum going at school?

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what to communicate with your child’s teacher: Autism in the classroom

communicate with your childs teacher
School is starting soon. I think I just heard YIPEEES!!! from several of you. 🙂 Autism parents might be a tad more excited than the average parent for their child to go back to school after summer break, as that routine and consistency can make a night and day difference for our children.

I don’t know about your child, but most children with Autism are constantly changing. Our son, Jeremiah, gains skills, loses skills, says a word and then we’ll never hear it again, he’s regularly in flux. It’s hard enough to keep up with him at home, but then add school, progress, and regressions and

it can resemble one big spider web.

There’s a solution that greatly helps us traverse that spider web with agility, and helps everyone dive into a new school year with an exceptional start. What can you do to keep positive momentum going at school?

COMMUNICATE 

You don’t have to share the nitty-gritty of your every day life, like the stories that make your friends cringe (well, then again your friends probably cringe at many of your stories because life with an autistic kid is, well, different)…so I take that back, just don’t share about your relationship with your in-laws. 😉

Most of you have an IEP for your child, but this gets into the every day, moment by moment life of your child. Many times the IEPs don’t get to that, they don’t deal with the day to day changes and individuality of our children.

Here are some ideas of what to mention to your Autistic child’s teacher, aides, paraprofessionals, and therapists before school starts and throughout the year:

  • Communicate what your child is doing at home. The good and not so good. Are they experimenting with new toys? Do they have new sensory needs? What have you noticed that’s different? Are there situations at home that are troublesome, maybe some issues you need help working through?

 

  • Communicate what’s working. Swimming? Trampoline? Rolling in blankets? Is there a special corner your child loves to be in? Could the school recreate this setting in the classroom to help your child calm? Are you using phrases at home that seem to help your child transition (e.g. “FIRST we’ll go to the bathroom, THEN we can color some more.”)?

 

  • Communicate how your child is interacting with others. Are they using new words, signs, or gestures? Are there new sounds or phrases that someone else might not understand? What is your child understanding? As our children develop they understand more of their world, but at the same time other concepts become more misconstrued, so explain what’s going on with your child in this area.

benefits of communicating with teachers

Sharing with the staff about your Autistic child will help in many areas. You will be able to get on the same page, working in the same way both at home and at school. The staff will know what you’re doing at home and be able to incorporate your ideas at school and vise versa, this will bring a cohesiveness to your child’s life, making it more predictable. The teachers can give you ideas on what to do with your child at home to help make life calmer and to help your child develop.

When I say, “teacher,” I’m referring to their teacher, aide, paraprofessional, and therapists. You can talk to each one individually, but that takes up an incredible amount of time, so choose the one who works with and understands your child the most. If you’re able to talk in person with a paraprofessional, you can email the rest of the team regarding what you spoke about.

Be sure to keep everyone in the loop.

You don’t have to monopolize the teacher’s time, this can happen so easily, it especially does for me because our son’s teacher has a teenager with Autism. We could talk for hours. Try to choose a time when the teacher is available and doesn’t seem rushed, and if it’s a pressing matter, she/he will probably have a few moments. If it’s not pressing, you can email or chat on the phone when it’s convenient for them.

Our family has really benefited from conversing with everyone who works with Jeremiah.

We’ve all been able to work together to problem solve and most of the team is willing to take ideas from the other and incorporate what works and what’s best for Jeremiah.

Have you been able to talk with your child’s teaching team? Did it make a difference? If you haven’t been in communication with the teachers before, do you think it would make a difference?

You can receive every post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, you can do this on the web version. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more information and links. Happy school year!

great special ed teachers = priceless

great special ed teachers = priceless
There aren’t many things greater in life than knowing your child is in capable, caring, and safe hands when you drop them off at school. That feeling is multiplied exponentially when your child has special needs.

I know how wonderful Jeremiah’s preschool teacher (his aides are truly amazing also) is because I know what it takes to understand, help, befriend, and teach my son. I know how it can be daunting for others to simply watch Jeremiah and feed him snack. I know Ms. Gina goes far above what’s expected of her.

As school ended this past year, we met with Gina for a parent/teacher conference. During the conference, she said, “Since this will be Jeremiah’s third year in my class, I’m going to change my room around. It’ll be a challenge for me, but I’m going to do it.”

She knows Jeremiah is used to the room after being in her class for two years, but every year after the one coming up, he’ll be in a new environment. New teachers, new classrooms, and possibly new paraprofessinals*.

Even though it’s going to stretch Gina, because she likes the way her room is set up and never alters it’s basic layout, she’s doing this for Jeremiah. One child who’s in her class for three years. She cares that much about him, his development, and preparing him for his future.

I’m extremely grateful for our kids school,

for the principle who hires quality staff and promotes inclusion for special needs students, and for that staff who puts students needs first. The peace I feel when my child goes to school is unparalleled. Although he has special needs and is nonverbal, I’m confident he isn’t being abused, talked down to, thought less of, belittled, or placed in a corner. Having a a great special ed teacher is priceless.

*Jeremiah’s preschool is on an elementary school campus. His preschool is specifically for children with special needs and kids who are high risk. The elementary is a public school, which includes special needs children in the regular classrooms.

You can find out more about Jeremiah’s school in these posts:
Out of My Mind (I highly recommend everyone read this book)
What is Inclusion?

*Paraprofessionals, as defined by specialchildren.about.com: “A paraprofessional — often referred to as an aide — is a special-education worker who is not licensed to teach, but performs many duties both individually with students and organizationally in the classroom. Your child may be assigned a one-on-one paraprofessional as part of his or her IEP, or interact with a paraprofessional assigned to the classroom.”

Does your child have an awesome special ed teacher you’d love to brag about? What about their school? Does it make you feel at ease when you leave your child in capable hands?

You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, you can do this on the web version. You  can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

6+ ways to help your child when they can’t communicate (Autism/special needs)

6 ways to help your child when they can't communicateHow do people; therapists, family, teachers, and friends view our child who is nonverbal? Do they truly understand our child? How does our child feel when they can’t communicate what they desire or need? Can you imagine the frustration of not being able to tell someone you’re hot, hungry, want to go to a certain restaurant, play with a certain toy, that you can’t find your favorite blanket? Can you imagine?

What is it like to parent a child who is constantly misunderstood and underestimated?

Over at Emma’s Hope Book, Ariane wrote an important piece about one of her daughter’s experiences when Emma couldn’t communicate. Problem was, the teacher should have known what Emma desired. You can read about the situation in the post, Picture Day Moments. It’s a great read and you can share it with others to help them understand Autism.

In that post Ariane writes, “Teachers are trained in a definition of autism that is incorrect.  A definition that assumes intellectual disability which is connected to an inability to make oneself understood, low IQ, problematic behaviors, unable to read aloud and therefore cannot read, a whole series of assumptions are being made daily about Emma and kids just like Emma, but

those assumptions are based on a false premise.”

When we attended our last Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting, I asked the school therapists and teacher if they could imagine NOT being able to communicate. I shared how frustrating it would be to not be able to tell anyone what you wanted or needed. They didn’t have much to say, either because they’ve never had parents ask them such obnoxious questions (I am the Queen of questions), or because they didn’t understand what I was saying. Most therapists and the teacher in the room are fantastic with Jeremiah, but I wanted EVERYONE in the room to understand why Autistic kids demonstrate “behaviors” (I strongly believe many “behaviors” are linked to the inability to communicate).

There was a specific person in that meeting I was trying to reach. Because of the “therapy” she did with my son, he stopped signing one of the only words he’s ever signed, and did so consistently before she “therapied” it out of him. He also stopped using a word (one of the very few words he’s ever used) we’d been working on, well, for years. You can read more about that experience here.

Kindly educating others helps them see the beauty in Autism
In that IEP meeting, I was making an effort to educate the educators on Autism and my son. We need to share what we learn and what we know about our child with everyone in our child’s life. We don’t have to be the know-it-alls, but we are the ones living it and researching it (share articles and pages from books you read), we didn’t sit in a room and learn from a speaker or text-book, and others can gain insight from what us parents have experienced.

Share everything you can about your child:

  • Stories about what they’re doing and interested in at home.
  • What your child is playing with.
  • How their play/behavior is changing.
  • What behaviors they’re displaying (discuss what you think is causing the good and the negative behaviors).
  • What your child likes.
  • How your child is communicating and changes taking place. I mention the word “changes” a lot because our children are constantly in transition, what was true yesterday or last week may not be true today, so it’s essential that we have constant open communication with everyone in our child’s life.

In the end maybe we can avoid those Picture Day Moments Ariane wrote about.

My hope is people would learn more about Autism, understand more about Autism, and accept Autism. My hope is that strangers, acquaintances, friends, therapists, family, and teachers would understand our children and people who are nonverbal. Sharon Draper wrote an awesome book, Out of My Mind LINK, that I think everyone should read, it was an eye-opener for me and showed me so much about individuals who are nonverbal.

Emma’s Hope Book is a great resource for parents of Autistic children, and a great website to share with others who are involved with anyone who has Autism.

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the board’s decision overrides (Autism/special needs)

boardsdecision

In January we were notified that Jeremiah would be moving up to Kindergarten in the next school year. We’ve been so happy with his progress in his current preschool (he’s now on his second year), that we were in trepidation of him moving forward. His birthday fell twelve days short of the cutoff for entrance to Kindergarten (meaning he would be one of the youngest kids in his class), AND he has Autism, which means he’s developmentally delayed. His teacher, who we greatly respect, had the same fears we did, in fact she said those fears kept her up at night. (Jeremiah has a way of pulling at people’s heartstrings.)

We are all for inlcusion, but Jeremiah isn’t ready for Kindergarten, and we know if he had another year in his preschool class, his success would be much better.

Reasons why Jeremiah isn’t ready for Kindergarten:

  • He doesn’t interact or play with his peers. He’s come a long way this year and is noticing his friends, which is awesome, but play/social interaction is a foundation piece for his future that he hasn’t developed yet.
  • He’s not able to sit still. I’ve been in the classroom he’ll be moving into and the teacher expects a lot, which is great for kids who are neurotypical, but difficult for children like Jeremiah. I’ve volunteered in my daughter’s Kindergarten class, they read quietly for twenty minutes, then they move to circle time where the teacher reads to them, then comes quiet writing workshop. Yikes! That’s at least an hour that I’m not sure what Jeremiah will do, and the class is only three hours long.
  • He’s learning more of what a two-year-old might be, versus a Kindergartener.

So, we had some concerns, plus he’d be one of the youngest kids in his class. We asked the preschool director, Karla*, to keep him in preschool another year. When Justin first spoke with her to discuss the situation, Karla said in a very motherly tone, “Many parents are concerned when their children go into Kindergarten.” Justin assured her this isn’t about our “baby” moving into Kindergarten, it is expressly the concerns I listed above, PLUS the worries we have for the teacher.

Karla said that ultimately the decision would be made by the team who works with Jeremiah – the teacher and three therapists.

We had also met with the school principal, Ellen*, and the psychologist, Jackie* (both have observed Jeremiah in his classroom) and we thought they were in agreement with us. But when Karla called Justin earlier this month, she said the final decision was up to her and the principal, she was very abrasive and said the decision was…

NO.

What? Karla’s never observed Jeremiah, yet she was making this decision which would affect the rest of his life. We also thought it odd that the principal had sided with her, because we weren’t getting that vibe.

“Don’t allow educators who’ve never observed your child make monumental decisions for them.”

Karla said there were three criteria that determine retention, and Jeremiah has to meet two of the three. They are: 1) The child’s birthday falls within ten days of the cutoff. 2) The child is ONLY socially or emotionally delayed. 3) The child has only attended one year of preschool.

Jeremiah’s birthday falls so close to #1 that Karla was willing to let that one slide (all sarcasm included in that statement). He didn’t meet #3 because this is his second year of preschool.

And about #2. Jeremiah didn’t meet that one because he’s more than socially or emotionally delayed. Basically it was explained to us, in Karla’s opinion (yes, the woman who has NEVER met my son), if Jeremiah were to attend preschool one more year he wouldn’t be socially and emotionally caught up. This criteria is set up for those who they have the “hope” of developing in those areas.

Not cool.

So, in the mind of the preschool director, the decision was final. However, she didn’t know that in our minds it wasn’t. I began talking with therapists, and trying to get ahold of his doctor and the psychologist who diagnosed him. I was gathering letters and information on the importance of him repeating preschool one more year, to set him up for success in the future. My gathering wasn’t going well, because I couldn’t get a phone consult with his doctor, and the psychologist is unreachable in the time I have to make phone calls (without a little guy jumping through the house screaming).

jerlove

But I had a big surprise (such wonderful news that I bawled when I read it) last Wednesday when I opened my emails. There was an email from Jeremiah’s case manager (yes, there are several people involved). She said the school board had changed the entrance birthday/age for Kindergarten enrollment. They moved it back two months, so this means Jeremiah won’t be five by the selected date,

so he can’t move on to Kindergarten!

In the end, the school board made the decision for us. Jeremiah will attend preschool another year. Wooohooo! Everyone who was in support of him staying in preschool, which is everyone minus two, is laughing at the situation. It’s funny how some were sticking their heels in, staunchly against Jeremiah staying another year, and behold the decision was made FOR them, and they were taken out of the equation. As one person involved said, “I call this sweet justice.”

We spoke with the principal, and she said she had no part in the decision to move Jeremiah into Kindergarten. I don’t know what Karla’s problem is, but it seems she can’t get her facts straight.

God is watching over these kids, He shows His protection over them continually; new programs popping up, and our kids are the first to go through, new services becoming available, beginning with these two, and BIG decisions made by school boards that affect Jeremiah. It’s been amazing to watch.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

Some other posts that may be of interest:
Out of My Mind – including special needs
what is inclusion?

Out of My Mind – including special needs

Last week I wrote about inclusion. Why do I care about inclusion? Because of how much it’s helped my son, Jeremiah, who has nonverbal Autism. Another thing I love is the school he’s attending (which happens to be the only inclusive elementary school in our district, and is so close, I can SEE it from my house)!

Because MV* is an inclusive school, they make exceptional efforts to educate children in the realm of special needs. On the hallway walls hang words such as Autism and Dyslexia, with explanations and photos of famous people who live with those disABILITIES. Staff and students have the option of purchasing shirts that promote acceptance of disABILITIES, they have sayings like, “At MV, we see your disABILITY.”

out-of-my-mindLast week was the kickoff for their One Book, One School. The book they chose: Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper. The Denver Post says of Out of My Mind: “If there is one book teens and parents (and everyone else) should read this year, Out of My Mind should be it.”  At present, the book has been rated by 1,094 readers on Amazon and has a five-star rating! I’ve read some phenomenal books, and none of them have a five-star rating. And although our elementary school is promoting the book, it was written for young adults.

Here is a synopsis of the book: “Eleven-year-old Melody has a photographic memory. Her head is like a video camera that is always recording. Always. And there’s no delete button.

She’s the smartest kid in her whole school –

but NO ONE knows it. Most people – her teacher and doctors included – don’t think she’s capable of learning, and up until recently her school days consisted of listening to the same preschool-level alphabet lessons again and again and again. If only she could speak up, if only she could tell people what she thinks and knows…but she can’t, because Melody can’t talk. She can’t walk. She can’t write. Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind – that is, until she discovers something that will allow her to speak for the first time ever. At last Melody has a voice…but not everyone around her is ready to hear it.”

At the school’s kickoff, there were various activities throughout the school which taught kids about what it’s like to live with special needs. At one station they needed to move a wheelchair from one point to another, at another they fed someone while blindfolded, they dressed someone whose arms and legs were straight out and completely stiff, they had to communicate their desires with a PECS board, and they learned about therapy dogs. We are so fortunate to be part of a school that’s focused on helping the students and staff learn about special needs.

Educating children about special needs will only make a better society.

inclusivesocietyI leave you with this quote from the author Sharon Draper, “I was fiercely adamant that nobody feel sorry for Melody. I wanted her to be accepted as a character and as a person, not as a representative for people with disabilities. Melody is a tribute to all the parents of disabled kids who struggle, to all those children who are misunderstood, to all those caregivers who help every step of the way. It’s also written for people who look away, who pretend they don’t see, or who don’t know what to say when they encounter someone who faces life with obvious differences.

Just smile and say hello!”

Does your school include special needs? What efforts do they make to teach children in the school about special needs?

*initials are used for school name to protect privacy.

Some other posts that may be of interest:
what is inclusion?
great special ed teachers = priceless
the board’s decision overrides

You can receive every post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more helpful information and links. Please feel free to share this with other educators and anyone you feel would benefit.

what is inclusion? (special needs)

inclusion

I wish more people knew what inclusion is and the benefits of integrating special needs children in the mainstream classroom. When I share with others that our son attends the ONLY inclusive school in our district, they stare at me, having no idea what I mean. Information exists elsewhere on this topic, so I will share my opinion and experience, as well as share information from other resources.

So what is inclusion?

Inclusion is when children with special needs join mainstream classrooms for the majority of their day. This means children with mild to significant needs are in the same classroom with their peers. Each individuals assignments may look different when incorporating inclusion, as a child with moderate needs may not be able to complete the same task as a neurotypical child (one without a disorder, disABILITY, or developmental delay).

What does this look like for children with more significant needs?

This dynamic functions best when kids with more significant needs have a full time aid. Because of stress levels, social struggles, sensory needs, etc., the child may need to take occasional breaks from the classroom setting, which would be guided by the aid or Special Needs facilitator in the school.

More information on what inclusion is can be found at Kids Together.

Kids Together defines inclusion differently in some aspects. It really depends on where each school is in their readiness for inclusion. Our school does well with inclusion, but is not able to support a child’s every need within the classroom. When there is a child who needs intense sensory input, they’re not able to meet that need within the general classroom. Whereas, in the definition given by Kids Together, it says, “Supports follow the students, the students don’t go somewhere to get them.”

Tim Villegas of www.friendshipcircle.org says, “Inclusion is going to look different depending on each school and student. That is why I think it is helpful to see it as a framework as opposed to a one-size-fits all system.” Progress is progress, and we must work with what we have and move forward.

For a child who thrives on routine and lack of it can create turmoil within them, I believe the model of inclusion must be amended. For example, for holiday parties, assemblies, and times when the teacher is absent, one might consider creating an alternative for the child.

I agree with inclusion, but there needs to be leeway when the classroom dynamics are altered.

“Inclusion is part of a much larger picture than just placement in the regular class inclusion2within school. It is being included in life and participating using one’s abilities in day to day activities as a member of the community. Inclusion is being a part of what everyone else is, being welcomed and embraced as a member who belongs. Inclusion can occur in schools, churches, playgrounds, work and in recreation.” ~ Kids Together, Inc.

At this time in my journey with Autism, I’m in support of inclusion. I have two experiences with my son and inclusive classrooms. Jeremiah attended a mainstream classroom for two years, the teacher and aides did not have the training necessary to help Jeremiah appropriately. Because of their lack of knowledge and their unwillingness to learn about Autism, he was stuck in front of a television most of the morning.

In August 2012 he began attending an inclusive classroom that is part of our school district, and is connected to a primary school that’s inclusive. He thrived immediately. The difference? Teachers and aides who were well-informed about Autism, who were able to read his cues, and were willing to work with him where he was. He’s made great progress in his preschool (now in his second year – and we are VERY sad to see it going by so quickly). We also work with the teachers consistently, sharing his progress or regression at home, what he is saying (only a word or two), playing with, or how he’s communicating.

This helps us all meet Jeremiah where he’s at and encourage him to do more. 

Here’s a post from Special Needs Resource, which lists 10 Examples of Inclusion: For Those Who Need to See It to Believe It

Senminefield holds another opinion, he feels that inclusion doesn’t work for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Here’s what he has to say in Special School Vs. Mainstream: Pros & Cons. 

In Senminefield’s post, he discusses the teachers lack of knowledge pertaining to Autism. He does say that it’s not their fault; however, it’s my opinion that  parents should help educate teachers and staff on how to help our Autistic children. If we want inclusion, we can’t complain about every instance that goes awry, we need to work through them with educators to provide them with knowledge of our children they may not have.

Some other great resources for learning about and implementing inclusion are Think Inclusive and The Inclusive Church (for those who are interested in having inclusion work for church and Sunday School classrooms).

What are your experiences with inclusion? Do you think it would work for your child?

Some other posts that may be of interest:
Out of My Mind – including special needs
Great Special Ed Teachers = Priceless
the board’s decision overrides 

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You can receive every post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner, you can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more helpful information and links. Please feel free to share this with anyone, including educators.