Posts Tagged ‘ education ’

10 Things You Want Your Kid’s Special Education Teacher To Know

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

This is a post in the weekly Autism Hopes series by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, a mom who blogs over at AutismWonderland.

In less than four weeks, on September 9th, New York City kids will return to school. My son Norrin will be one of them. Which seems unreal because since his school has an extended school year, his summer vacation just started. (This week is actually his first week off from school.) Norrin’s school is also ungraded. But if it weren’t, he’d be starting the 2nd grade. This also seems unreal…

I feel lucky that he’ll have the same teacher as last year. But in previous years, whenever Norrin started a new school year, I would send in a note with key information about him. In my experience teachers appreciated the gesture. (There was only one that didn’t. And man, oh man, was that a sign of how our school year would play out!)

On the first day of school, these are 10 things your kid’s teacher should know:

Backstory. Doesn’t need to be extensive. Just a few lines on when they were diagnosed and a list of past services or therapies.

Progress made over the last year. Has your child made great strides over the last year? What improvement have you seen? Let the teacher know what your kid is capable of and that they have significant potential.

Strengths. Brag a little. Is your kid a whiz at the iPad or a super speller? Your child’s teacher will want to focus on their strengths right away.

Weaknesses. Maybe your kid is a great speller but has difficulty with hand writing. You want balance in your letter. And honesty is important.

Enjoyed Activities. What does your child like to do in his/her spare time? Will they pick up a book or go for building blocks?

Activities that are frustrating. What is particularly difficult for your child? What will cause your child to have a complete melt down or shut down? If your child is non-verbal – what will child do when frustrated?

Motivators. In order to work through a frustrating activity, your kid will need some motivation. And your kid’s teacher will want to know what motivates them as soon as possible.

Self-stimulating behaviors. Norrin has quite a few self-stimulating behaviors. One of them is pressing a hand (either his or someone else’s) against his cheek while his mouth his open. When Norrin started kindergarten, I wanted his teacher to know about this behavior right away since some people think he’s going to bite. Norrin isn’t a biter, he just does this for the sensory input. Educating a new teacher about your child’s self-stimulating behaviors is something they absolutely need to know on the first day. They will want to know what triggers it and how they can best redirect your child.

Goals. Aside from the IEP goals, what goals would you like to see your child achieve. Be open and realistic about your expectations.

Contact Information. Provide all of your information – include all phone numbers and emails. Also note the times when you can be reached at each number.

The first few weeks of school are always challenging for our kids, you want them to be successful. Never forget that you are a critical member of the IEP team. And you are the expert when it comes to your kid. So don’t be shy about sharing your knowledge with a new teacher.

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How Video Games Have Helped My Son With Autism

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

This is a post in the weekly Autism Hopes series by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, a mom who blogs over at AutismWonderland.

My husband, Joseph, is a big time video game player. Like up all night playing Madden during Football season gamer. Joseph’s like a big kid when it comes to playing video games. He will not eat sleep or think of anything else until he has conquered it. And his love of video games was something Joseph wanted to enjoy with our son, Norrin.

We have an Xbox (and the Kinect) a Play Station and a Wii. And we have gadgets and games galore. We’ve been trying to get Norrin to play video games for years especially after he was diagnosed with autism. It was the reason why we bought the Wii – because Joseph read an article about how they helped kids with autism. (Come to think of it, that’s how we came to purchase our first iPad.)

But the love of gaming hasn’t come easily for Norrin. Initially, he didn’t have the coordination or the attention skills to play. It’s only in the last year that he’s starting to get into it. It began with the iPad and Angry Birds. Eventually he moved on to other games like Temple Run. And lately he’s taken an interest in playing the Wii and Xbox Kinect. (Joseph is beyond thrilled!)

Earlier this week I read an article about video games being problematic for boys with autism. Micah Mazurek and Christopher Engelhardt (of the University of Missouri) conducted a study regarding boys with autism and video game playing, and the “results suggest that children with ASD and those with ADHD may be at particularly high risk for significant problems related to video game play.”

But ever since my son has started to take an interest in video games, I have seen nothing but improvement and I want him to keep playing. Here are 6 ways that video games have helped my 7 year old son Norrin:

Concentration. Playing video games requires not only skill but concentration. You need to anticipate what’s coming next and plan your moves accordingly. Watching Norrin play a game like Temple Run is impressive. He really focuses on what he’s doing.

Hand/Eye Coordination. The first game Norrin learned to play was Angry Birds. When Norrin was first diagnosed with autism five years ago, he couldn’t even point his finger – it was something that needed to be taught. Years later, we had to show Norrin how to use his index finger in order to play a game like Angry Birds. He was clumsy at first, not knowing how to aim but now he plays really well (better than me)!

Age-Appropriate Activity. Norrin is 7 years old and still watches Sesame Street, Super Why and Blues Clues. He also plays with toys that aren’t always age-appropriate. Video games allow him to be just like any other boy his own age. As he gets older, video games will help Norrin socialize appropriately with peers.

Confidence. Norrin likes winning and he likes when we make a big deal about him winning. When he wins at a video game, he looks to us for approval and praise. With each win, he gets a boost in confidence.

Communication. Norrin is quite verbal and able to express his needs and wants. However, much of his speech is still scripted language. When we play video games together, it gives us a chance to have a back and forth conversation. And Norrin uses spontaneous language to express his enjoyment while playing.

Imagination. When Norrin was first diagnosed, he had no imaginative play skills. We had to teach Norrin how to imagine, how to pretend play. The other day while playing Mario Kart, Norrin said, “I want to be Yoshi Dad!”

Video games have opened up a whole new world for Norrin. They have given him life skills that could have never been taught in a classroom or at a table. They motivate him and inspire him to do better. So as long as Norrin keeps learning, he can continue playing.

Do you let your kids play video games? If so, what improvement have you seen?

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Let’s Chat About Autism

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

This is a post in the weekly Autism Hopes series by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, a mom who blogs over at AutismWonderland.

When this photo was posted on Parents Magazine’s Facebook Page, some wondered why I would even mention that my son has autism.

From the moment my son Norrin was diagnosed, I’ve been very open. I remember my mom first telling me that I didn’t need to tell everyone about Norrin. And when he was younger, it probably wasn’t necessary. But the older he gets, the more obvious it becomes. Rather than have people wonder, I’d rather educate.

There are so many misconceptions about autism. So many things that other parents and kids don’t know. And autism is unique to every individual.

There have been times when I’ve told people Norrin has autism and they’ll say something like, “Oh, I never would have guessed. I know someone with autism and they’re like ______.

I talk about Norrin’s autism because I want people to know what our autism looks like.

I never fault anyone for not knowing about autism. But autism seems to become more prevalent, and the more I talk about autism the more I hear, I know someone with autism. I think autism is something everyone should know about – whether they have a personal connection or not.

Next Wednesday, April 3, Parents and Easter Seals will host an autism-themed chat on the Parents Facebook page from 1 to 2 p.m ET.

And I’m excited to be one of the hosts along with developmental-behavioral pediatrician Georgina Peacock, M.D., MPH, and board certified behavior analyst Patricia Wright, Ph.D., MPH.
We’ll talk about the early signs of autism, treatment options and services, and I’ll share my own personal experiences parenting an autistic child. Readers can participate in the chat by asking questions.

Join the Facebook event for the chat and remember to visit the Parents Facebook page on Wednesday, April 3 at 1 p.m. ET. We look forward to hearing your questions!

For more information please click HERE.

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Including Kids With Special Needs In Classrooms: There Are No Easy Answers

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Max is in a school for kids with special needs, and always has been, but I often wonder about whether we should consider inclusion for him.

It’s a toughie: We think he’s getting a great education, and the teachers and therapists are outstanding. If he were in a so-called typical class, he’d get pulled out a lot for therapies. I’ve heard, straight from a school source, that the quality of aides in our district’s public schools isn’t up there.


I long for him to be around so-called typical kids, both because I think they could have a positive impact on learning and for social reasons, too. And then, there’s this truth: Growing up in a special needs hothouse, as wonderful as it is, isn’t preparing him for the real world.

Last night, I watched the documentary Certain Proof: A Question of Worth; it’s about the challenges children with severe cerebral palsy face in the public education system. It really got me thinking about inclusion, as did this infographic on the topic.

Ah, special needs parenting decisions, decisions….

Photo of child writing on blackboard via Shutterstock

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AutisMate: A New App for Individuals with Autism

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

This is a post in the weekly Autism Hopes series by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, a mom who blogs over at AutismWonderland.

A few weeks ago in an effort to get my seven-year-old son, Norrin, settled into a routine, we (our amazing therapist) created a visual schedule. It’s been so helpful for  us that I was thinking of creating schedules for other parts of our day – after school, bedtime, weekends. But I’m as crafty as Norrin’s therapist and it’s just one more thing on my never ending to do list. So when I was asked to review AutisMate, a new app for the iPad, I immediately said yes!

AutisMate is an iPad app that is designed to overcome the developmental challenges associated with autism by utilizing a more comprehensive, holistic approach that emphasizes the interconnected issues of communication and behavioral skills together.

Jonathan Izak, founder of AutisMate, collaborated with over 300 special educators, tech experts, clinicians and parents to create the app.  However, Izak, was inspired by his younger brother Oriel who is autistic and nonverbal. Empathetic to the frustrations individuals with autism may have, Izak describes his brother as “someone yearning to communicate with the outside world.” The AutisMate is designed to help alleviate those frustrations. More importantly, AutisMate can be personalized to suit individual needs and to grow with the user.

Within minutes of downloading AutisMate, I was immediately impressed. It is so user friendly and offers plenty of help along the way. The “My House” menu features several rooms in a house. One of the many cool things about this app, is that you can upload pictures of rooms in your own home to replace the default photos. You can also download additional scenes like “My Pets,” “Dining Room” or “The Park.” And since the AutisMate is GPS enabled – you can create your own scenes.

The Kitchen is one of my favorite rooms. Norrin likes to click on the hands by the sink – a video of someone washing their hands pops up.

We are really working on toothbrushing – this scene will be helpful for us. By clicking on the toothbrush a video pops up of a little boy brushing his teeth.

On the bottom right corner of each scene there is a  ”1 2 3 star” – by clicking on that, the visual scheduler appears – another of my favorite features! The “Brushing teeth” visual schedule even has a timer to show kids how long they should be brushing. After checking off each step, they work until they reach their reward (goal). Again, you are able to create your own visual schedules and customize it with your own photos.

The sentence builder will be especially useful for individuals who are not only non-verbal but for those who want to expand their vocabulary. By clicking on each picture, you can create a sentence and have the sentence repeated to you.

I’m not tech savvy at all, but this was easy enough for me to navigate and figure out. And I’m excited to create new schedules for Norrin and incorporate this into his daily routine. Norrin has been having fun with it too and the toothbrushing schedule and video is really helping us. This is something I could see us using for years.

The app is available via iTunes App Store for $149.99 and while it is on the more expensive side – it’s truly an investment and one that will grow as your child grows.


Disclaimer: I was provided with a complimentary app for review, all opinions are my own

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