Archive for the ‘ school ’ Category

4 Ways to Start Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for Kids With Learning Disabilities

Monday, April 1st, 2013

Two girls learning in a classroomEditor’s Note: This post is courtesy of National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring success for all individuals with learning disabilities.

Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) are intended to help children with learning disabilities and special education needs reach educational goals more easily, but they’re often a mystery to parents. A recent study found that schools nationwide could do more to explain the IEP process, which are a federal right of every student. Below are 4 pointers on how to start the IEP process:

Make a Request In Writing: A comment or request made verbally in passing to a teacher or school administrator technically didn’t happen. Remember always to place requests for an IEP evaluation or changes to your child’s current IEP in writing, whether by email or letter.  Notify the school administrator in charge of the Committee on Special Education (CSE) in your school district.

Know Your Rights: After you’ve submitted an IEP evaluation letter of request, every school district nationwide is required by law, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), to respond within 10 business (or school) days. The school must provide you with written documentation explaining (1) the parents’ need for consent to conduct an educational evaluation’ (2) how the a determination of eligibility will be made; (3) the documentation needed to identify the existence of a Specific Learning Disability (SLD); and (4) confirmation that parents are invited to participate in the IEP process.

Be Patient: Your child’s school has 60 business days to complete the evaluation, which includes an interview with parents, a conference with the student, observations of the student, and analysis of the student’s performance (attention, behavior, work completion, tests, class work, homework, etc.). Legally the CSE (or IEP team) must include “you” the parent, plus at least one general educator teacher (even if your child is in one general education class) and one special education teacher in the meeting.

Speak Up: The IEP team is charged with developing, reviewing, and revising your child’s IEP at least once a year by law and more often if you are dissatisfied with your child’s lack of progress. If you’re not satisfied, speak up (and write emails or letters) as often as you need in order to get results! Remember that you are an equal partner with the school in the IEP process, and the IEP document is intended as a flexible, but binding, agreement that guides everyone involved to ensure the highest quality instruction and free ,educational services in the least restrictive environment.

For more resources on IEPs from NCLD.org, check out Tips For A Successful IEP Meeting, Why And How To Read Your Child’s IEP, and IEP Meeting Conversation Stoppers.

 

Image: Concentrated school children being occupied with a task via Shutterstock.

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Okay, This is Why Pediatricians Should Ask Parents About Guns

Friday, January 18th, 2013

As we explain in this story, there’s debate among certain groups over whether pediatricians should be allowed to discuss gun safety with parents. The quick version: Pediatricians want to determine how safe a child’s home is, and asking whether there’s a gun–and whether it’s stored unloaded, and in a locked cabinet, and in a place separate from ammunition–is a logical part of that conversation. Gun advocates say it’s an invasion of privacy and a threat to the Second Amendment, and in many states there are efforts to punish doctors who initiate this discussion with large fines or jail time or both.

You may have heard that yesterday, a 7-year-old boy brought a semiautomatic pistol to his prep school in Queens, New York. (That is not him in the photo.) It hasn’t been revealed yet whether the gun was loaded, but the boy did bring the gun’s magazine, filled with bullets, as well as a plastic bag with at least another seven rounds of ammunition. According to the story I read in the New York Times, the police believe that the boy’s mom somehow found out about the gun, and arrived at the school around 9:30 a.m. under the pretense of taking her son to a dentist’s appointment. “It would appear that the intention was just to get the gun back and get it out of the school,” said one officer. But when her son told her he put it in a classmate’s backpack, she alerted the principal. The gun and ammo were found right away (they were in her son’s bag after all), but the school was put on lockdown for several hours. An 8-year-old was quoted as saying, “They made us turn off the lights and hide behind the teacher’s desk. I almost cried. I was afraid I was going to get shot.”

There are lots of unanswered questions at this point, but it seems likely that the mother–who was arrested this morning and charged with criminal possession of a weapon and endangering the welfare of a child, among other things–had no idea that her son was carrying a gun and bullets in his backpack when he went to school. I can’t help but wonder: If we were more open to the idea of having pediatricians talk about gun safety, maybe those conversations would be more commonplace… and parents would have their eyes opened to the precautions they must take if they have a gun in their home.

 

Photo: Serious little boy with the big black pistol via Shutterstock.

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What to Say About the Sandy Hook Tragedy Before School Tomorrow

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

I tried hard to shield my children, ages 4 and 7, from what happened in Connecticut, taking the advice of so many mental health professionals who advise telling young kids as little as possible about the events. But as I’m sure lots of you experienced yourselves, it’s nearly impossible, even if you kept the TV off all weekend, as we have. For our family, the radio interrupted 24/7 holiday music with condolences to the families of Newtown; going online offered a glimpse of CNN’s home page; and even a trip to the bagel store, where three piles of newspapers sat by the door, revealed too much. So like many parents, we’re having some tough conversations and doing the best we can.

What I’m concerned about now is what may come up at school tomorrow. My 2nd-grader’s teacher has notified us that she’ll say nothing of the events, though if it comes up she’ll discuss it as briefly and simply as possible, which I appreciate. I feel like I need to say a little more to my daughter before she returns to school, though, and I was glad when I got an email from a friend who works with the New Jersey nonprofit Good Grief, which helps children and teens cope with loss. She forwarded these words of guidance from Good Grief’s associate executive director, Joe Primo; perhaps you’ll find them useful, too.

Having a conversation about the shooting this weekend is probably a smart and important thing to do before school on Monday.  Classmates will have their own interpretation of the events; many of those narratives will have been learned this weekend from the media and the adults in their lives. There is not a lot we control about these events, but we can play a big role in how our children hear and come to understand the events. We can best support our children by having an honest dialogue that helps build coping skills and taps into their inherent resiliency. Below is a script you might try.

Adult: So, Alex, have you heard about the sad thing that happened to a school in Connecticut?
Don’t assume Alex doesn’t already know. She may have picked it up already.
Adult: Somebody hurt a lot of children with a gun. It’s very sad. Children died.
WAIT to see how the child responds.
Adult: I think a lot of your friends and teachers will be talking about it on Monday. I would like us to talk about it too.
Allow the conversation to happen and be spontaneous. Here are some things you should know about reactions:
  • No child ever responds the same
  • Children may have an increased sense of fear for their safety
  • Children may be afraid to return to school or name “scary kids” in their school
  • Child process information in fragments. They may take it in and then quickly move onto something else.
Adult: I wonder how these things happen.
Wait to see if the child has ideas of her own.
Adult: Assure the child that their school (name administrators and teachers) works hard to keep them safe. You can encourage them to listen to their teachers about safety protocol. Assure them of your love and allow them to explore their reactions.
Often times, being together and offering each other love are the most meaningful things we can tell our children.
For more on the Sandy Hook tragedy, visit the following on Parents.com:
Image via Good Grief.
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The Tragedy in Sandy Hook

Friday, December 14th, 2012

It’s hard to find the right words—or really any words—to describe what happened today. For what happened today at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut, was every parent’s worst nightmare, made real and flashed on the TV news. What I see is a school that’s virtually identical to my daughters’ idyllic little elementary school, and parents and kids who look like our friends. And words fail me as I think of my friends rushing toward the school, and a scenario where some walk out, teary-eyed and clutching their children close—and some don’t. What are the right words for that?

There will be much to talk about in the days and weeks to follow, as more information comes out about what occurred, and who was lost, and why this happened. As we begin to dissect our country’s deep failings: Our inability to pass gun laws that keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them; our lack of care for the mentally ill (for surely, a person who would plot and plan to attack children with an arsenal of assault weapons must be mentally ill); and our inability to keep even our youngest children safe from harm. And as we, hopefully, push for the changes we need to make to prevent another Columbine, another Virginia Tech, and now, another Sandy Hook.

Right now, these are the only words I can find: Our kids deserve a better world than this. And we need to work together to make it happen.

For information and resources on dealing with the tragedy, visit the following on Parents.com:

Image: fasphotographic /Shutterstock.com

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School Lunches That Make the Grade

Friday, October 26th, 2012

My elementary school didn’t have a cafeteria, but every Tuesday was pizza day. Drooling students lined up in the hallway clutching dollar bills to pay for a piping-hot pepperoni slice and a little carton of milk. I looked forward to it all week.

Luckily, pizza day was only once per week, and my other four lunches were comprised of healthy sliced fruits, veggies, and sandwiches on whole-grain bread (thanks, Mom). But these days, kids are eating in school more often—and that may mean that they’re gorging on fat-packed foods daily. We discussed the problem of unhealthy school lunches in this article from our September 2010 issue. These unhealthy meals have serious long-term effects—check out our recent story on the childhood obesity crisis. The National School Lunch Program dishes out 31 million lunches per day. This school year, the NSLP’s nutrition standards were updated in accordance with the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Lunches have an age-based calorie cap, and schools are required to limit sodium and saturated fat and serve more fruits, veggies, and whole-grain items. But are they measuring up?

Last week, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine released its eighth School Lunch Report Card evaluating meals served by the National School Lunch Program. Standout schools received high grades for offering veggie-packed side dishes, vegetarian and dairy/egg-free entrée options, and nondairy beverages. (The valedictorian: Pinellas County Schools in Florida, which earned a perfect score.) Schools also garnered points for implementing nutrition education in the cafeteria. Failing grades were assigned to schools that dole out cholesterol-heavy dairy products and processed meats such as hotdogs and pepperoni. Low-scoring districts in Houston and Milwaukee were criticized for serving meals such as chicken-fried steak fingers and breaded catfish.

The good news: healthy lunch options are on the rise. The average grade is a B (84%), up 5% from 2008. Healthier lunch options can help decrease students’ lifetime risk of developing obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and colorectal cancers.

Looking for healthy meals you can stash in your kid’s lunchbox? We’ve got tons of creative ideas to please even the pickiest eaters.

Read the full report here, and tell us how your kid’s school compares.

Image: School lunch via Shutterstock.

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5 Steps to Finding the Perfect Tutor

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

child with tutorEditor’s Note: This piece was written by Andrew Geant, co-founder and CEO of WyzAnt.com, a site which helps parents find tutors for their children quickly and easily. WyzAnt.com currently has 60,000 tutors covering all 50 states.

Your kids may be back in school, but  class size or struggles with basic concepts may mean they need extra one-on-one help. Finding the right tutor, one who you can trust and who your child can connect with, can be a time-consuming and expensive  process.  How then do you find the right tutors?  Here are the five things to consider when looking for a tutor.

1. Find a tutor that caters to your child’s specific learning style.

Each student has unique needs when it comes to their learning process, and tutors who are successful with one student may not be as successful with another. First, ask the school counselor to help determine whether your child is an auditory, kinesthetic, or visual learner.  Share this information with the tutor and discuss whether or not their teaching style and approach to lessons will be a good fit.

2. Request tutor credentials and client references.

Depending on the topic, it is important to understand your tutor’s mastery of the subject. Obtained degrees and studied coursework can help you understand the tutor’s capability, but objective anecdotes and recommendations from past clients can be even more valuable.

3. Think safety.

When working with a private tutor it is important to establish a safe, comfortable environment that promotes learning. Do not hesitate to perform a basic background check on a tutor you are considering. Some  parents also choose to meet candidates in a neutral location such as a public library or coffee shop before inviting them to the home.

4. Require feedback and open communication.

Establishing a productive relationship between a tutor and student is an important process that may take time. Consistent communication among the parents, student, and tutor will facilitate this process and benefit the student. By providing feedback after each lesson, parents and students will have a documented history of the topics covered during the course of tutoring sessions. Consistent communication is also important to avoid misunderstandings that can damage the relationship, such as questions about billing or policies related to canceled lessons.

5. Set goals to gauge the impact of tutoring.

No two students are alike.  A student’s initial understanding of a subject before lessons, in addition to her motivation to work hard and learn the subject, will impact the success of the tutoring relationship. Establishing healthy, realistic goals (classroom performance or general understanding and comprehension) before beginning lessons can generate motivation and help all parties appreciate the impact and value of the tutoring lessons.

 

Image: Cute schoolgirl writing a while via Shutterstock

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How “Walk To School Day” Turned Out

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

As I posted the other day, I was worried that the bad forecast would literally rain on my parade as I walked my children to school in honor of Walk To School Day. This was a big deal for me–my work schedule prohibits me from driving the girls to school, much less walking them, but I was able to work at home yesterday. Happily, the weather was fine, and not only did I walk with the girls, we even picked up two of their friends along the way. It took less time than I expected, there was no complaining, and all four kids seemed very proud of themselves when we arrived at school. More than 3,700 communities across the U.S. held events to boost participation, and next year I’m definitely going to lead one in our town.

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Will You Walk Your Child To School Tomorrow?

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

October is International Walk to School Month, and tomorrow, October 3, is Walk to School Day. The aim is to build awareness for the need for walkable neighborhoods and to promote all of the benefits of walking to school. I’m sure you can guess what they are: Walking helps kids (and their parents) be more active, it fosters a sense of community, it’s better for the environment and your gasoline budget, and it cuts down on traffic.

A great site created by the National Center for Safe Routes to School (yep, there is such a thing) gives all kinds of fantastic information, including a directory of all of the Walk to School Day events taking place around the country. As of this writing, there are 3,794 events happening all over the U.S. You’ll also find safe-walking tips and ways to map your route to school.

Tomorrow’s forecast in my town isn’t looking promising, but I have every intention of walking my girls, ages 4 and 7, the 9/10 of a mile to their school in the morning. I’m so curious to see how they do–I can’t remember the last time either of them walked that far. Fingers crossed the rain holds off…

If you walk your child to school tomorrow, please let us know how it went!

 

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