Posts Tagged ‘ education ’

7 Back-To-School Tips For Kids With Special Needs

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

Back to school is always a hectic time of year (understatement alert). But when you have a kid with special needs it can be even more of a challenge, especially if you have a child who doesn’t like changes in routine. I’ve found that getting Max a new backpack or some other new school item early in August helps; it gets him psyched, and it comforts him to know he’s prepared. I asked Facebook parents of kids with special needs what makes the return to school go more smoothly for their kids and them. Their strategies:

Get back into a routine. ”I start the routine two weeks prior, bedtime and morning wake-up. I let him pick out his new lunch box and pack up his school supplies and pick his first day of school outfit. I drive him to school to re-introduce it for familiarity.”—Amy S.

• Keep it visual. ”We do a monthly schedule color-coordinated for each of the four kids, and now a color for the dog! Kids and I like to see what’s ahead and what we get to look forward to.”—Nancy B.

Two words: “Online shopping!”—Maria K.

Build excitement. “A giant wall calendar shouts the term ‘starting day’ and conversation touches on the new teachers and responsibilities.”—Dave W.

Get some teacher scoop. “It helps to have a hint of what the coming year will bring. Some inkling of who this teacher is, into whose hands I’m about to place my child’s well-being and education…. I’m in a state of horror as I know none of that yet!”—Barbara H.

Practice homework to build confidence. “We do some ‘school’ work from workbooks every day to reinforce what he already knows!”—Amy S.

• Know that it will get better. ”My son actually does a lot better during the school year. He gets bored at home, and begins cycling through his preferred activities at a much faster rate. But adjusting to change is never easy for him. I expect to see increased frustration and aggression during the first few weeks of school. Knowing that situation will improve as he becomes more comfortable in school makes it easier to deal with a change in behavior.”–Regan B.

From my other blog:

On letting your child with special needs do things for himself 

My kid with special needs understands you so don’t ask me, ask him

That sad you feel when you think about your pregnancy

Preparing for the First Day of School
Preparing for the First Day of School
Preparing for the First Day of School

Image of child getting on school bus via Shutterstock

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The Bill That Could Better Our Children’s Lives

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

If you are an adult with disabilities, you are not allowed to have more than $2000 or you surrender your government benefits. I’ve known this fact for years, after I went to a rather depressing seminar about the future of benefits in our state. But there’s legislation in the works that would allow people with disabilities (and their families) to save up to $100,000 to pay for health care, education, transportation and other expenses, without losing Medicaid coverage. The act is called Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE), and a U.S. Senate hearing last week kicked off the bill’s progression through Congress.

Reports say that the bill is likely to pass in September, with hundreds of sponsors from both houses of Congress. Sara Wolff, 31, who has Down syndrome, testified before the Senate panel, noting how the ABLE Act could improve her life; per current laws, she is only allowed to earn up to $700 a month.

As she’s said, “Just because I have Down syndrome, that shouldn’t hold me back from achieving my full potential in life. I can work a full-time job, be a productive member of society, and pay taxes—but because of these outdated laws placed on individuals with disabilities, we hold people like me back in life.”

You can add your signature to the online petition to pass the ABLE Act.

Life With Down Syndrome
Life With Down Syndrome
Life With Down Syndrome

From my other blog:

The shocking realities of raising children with disabilities, and why society needs to know

What I think when I watch my child with special needs sleep

Let It Go, like you’ve never heard it sung

Image of piggybank via Shutterstock

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Confessions Of A Special Needs Helicopter Parent

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

The following essay is by Gary Dietz, dad to Alex, 14, who has multiple disabilities. It’s from a wonderful new book of essays and poems Gary edited, Dads of Disability: Stores for, by, and about fathers of children who experience disability (and the women who love them). Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there with helicopter parent urges!

In the third grade, Alexander had an assignment to dress up as a famous inventor and give a presentation to his class. At that time, one of his favorite things was helicopters. So he chose Igor Sikorsky, father of the modern helicopter, as the inventor to dress up as for his report. Because his reading and writing skills were not up to level, I wanted to help him show his classmates and his teachers that he was indeed capable.

I made a phone call to the press relations contact at the Sikorsky company and asked if there was someone who could help me get some special materials for my son’s project. I told the press person about Alexander, his love of helicopters, a bit about his challenges, and what we were trying to do.

Less than a day later, I received an e-mail from Elena Sikorsky, wife of Sergei Sikorsky, Igor’s son (Igor died in 1972). She let me know that Sergei would send Alexander a package with helicopter-related stuff. Soon, we received a package with a selection of trinkets and keepsakes from Sergei’s attendance at an airshow in Europe as well as a copy of Sergei’s biography about his father. The book was autographed for Alexander and had a hand drawing of a helicopter in the inscription.

Alexander and his mother and I worked with him using large letters and pictures in a three-ring binder to remember some sentences for his presentation. We practiced getting dressed in the Igor Sikorsky suit and hat. And drawing on a mustache. All very challenging things due to sensory issues. But we practiced and had a lot of fun and he really liked it.

The day of the presentation was a very busy one in Alexander’s classroom. Lots of kids dressed up as Ben Franklin, Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, and other famous inventors. It was a very busy room, and Alexander and I left because of the commotion. I helped him prep in another room. Alexander was fairly anxiety filled. At home, he could do his presentation well. But it didn’t seem like it would go as well in the classroom with all of his classmates and a lot of parents watching.

I was able to convince him to leave the room, and together, we walked back into the classroom. His mom started to videotape us. And the teacher walked us up and introduced Alexander as “Igor Sikorsky.” I stood behind him to coach him on his lines, and, just before he was to start, he shrieked and then butted his head backward abruptly. Right into my nose. Crack!

In front of 25 kids, all the teachers, and a bunch of parents. On videotape. You could hear a pin drop. And Alexander saying quite emphatically “All Done!” I believe if you listened closely enough you may have heard me whimper in pain. I think my nose was fractured. It didn’t bleed, but it was pretty clear that I was hurt and it was definitely sore for a few days.

This was one of my earlier lessons in meeting a child where he needs to be met. He really didn’t want to do his project in front of the class. I usually pushed him maybe 10 percent past where he thought he could be. That is what a good dad does, right? A slight, but not obnoxious, nudge to help a child learn and move forward? Push him a little outside his zone in order to learn. It usually worked. Except in this case, I guess I read him wrong and apparently pushed him a bit beyond his usual comfort zone.

So, after proving to half of the third grade parents in our small town that I could take a hard head butt to the nose and gracefully exiting the room with Alexander, we decided to adapt Alexander’s project in an edited video. We taped it at home, I edited it, and he showed it to his class. We enjoyed dressing up again, making the video, and he enjoyed watching his classmates watch his video. We also sent the video to Sergei and Elena Sikorsky.

My son, within one degree of separation from the inventor of the modern helicopter. And me, with a sore nose and an evolving perspective on parenting.

©2014 Gary M. Dietz, reprinted with permission. You can download free samples of Gary’s book and learn more about it at Dads of Disability; follow the project on Facebook here.

Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting

Image of father and son sitting on wharf by sea via Shutterstock

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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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