Posts Tagged ‘ Leaning disabilities ’

8 Back To School Tips That Will Help Your Special Needs Child

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

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

Four years ago I put Norrin on the school bus for the first time. He was still in diapers and he had no language. The autism diagnosis was still so new. I had no idea what to do or what to expect. I was scared but had no choice but to send him to school and put him on the bus.

Next Wednesday he’ll be back on the school bus, off to still a fairly new school. And just because I’ve been putting him on a bus and sending him to school since he was a practically a baby, it doesn’t get any easier. But I’ve learned some things since that first September. Things that have made a difference to make Norrin’s transition easier, to help his teacher understand him better and to put my mind at ease.

Here are a few tips that make the back to school transition a whole lot smoother. And I got some blog pals to share what they’ve learned too.

  • The Introduction Letter. I’ve been doing this for the last few years. I write an introduction letter to the main teacher and one for each therapist. My letter includes: diagnosisprogress made over the last yearusual dispositionstrengthsweaknessesactivities he enjoysactivities that are frustratingitems he’ll work forour concernsany self stimulating behaviors (what he does/when he does it/how we redirect him), goals that mean the most to us and contact information. But there’s no one set laundry list of what to include in your letter. (One year, I listed all the words Norrin knew how to say.) Tweak your letter and add information that is critical for your child.
  • Get contact information for bus driver and matron. Your relationship with the bus driver and matron is just as important as your relationship with your child’s teacher. Be sure to exchange contact information immediately. Ask for their names and remember them. Let them know if your child likes to sit by the window or gets car sick – anything that will make the ride to school easier for everyone. This year I plan on trying something new. I’m going to greet the bus driver and matron with gift card for a local coffee shop. It doesn’t need to be much, just enough for a coffee and sweet treat. I want them to know how much I appreciate them.
  • Know who is in your child’s class. On the second or third day of school, I ask the teacher for the names of the other students. It’s rare that Norrin tells me who he’s played with or sat next to and most times he just blurts out random names. When I know the names of his classmates, I use that in our conversation to try and figure out Norrin’s day.
  • Provide book suggestions. If you have a young child in a “typical” public school or in an inclusion class, provide some material to educate the other students. Two books I really like are This is Gabriel Making Sense of School and My Friend with Autism. Both books are written in a clear and simple language for children to understand the diagnosis and let them know what to expect from your child.

More tips from a few blog pals:

  • Jean Stimey Winegardner of Stimeyland: Make sure your child’s IEP is being followed. Your child’s IEP is a legal document and his school has to follow it. At your first meeting with your child’s teacher, tell her that you will stop by or email at the end of the week to see if she has any questions specific to the IEP after she has read it. Being clear about your expectations from the beginning makes any relationship easier. For more of Jean’s tips click HERE.
  • Flannery Sullivan of The Connor Chronicles uses the reward system and keeps weekly track of good behavior with this really cool chart.
  • Hartley Steiner of Hartley’s Life with Three Boys put together this amazing Sensory Accommodations Checklist for teachers. Download a PDF copy of Hartley’s Sensory Accommodations Checklist.
  • Tim Tucker of Both Hands and a FlashlightDon’t push your child toward new skills or goals until they get settled into school. For example, if you’re working on getting your child to look people in the eyes more, don’t push that when school starts. Your goal the first week of school is just to get back into the routine and see where things are. For more Tim’s strategies click HERE.


Every year is different and I still start every school year not knowing what to expect. But I take comfort in knowing what to do to set my child up for a successful school year.


Care to share your back to school tips?

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Can The Word Retard Kill? This Murder Might Convince You

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

193894136_84e7f3b245In August of 2010, a 27-year-old British woman with learning disabilities, Gemma Hayter, was severely beaten and left naked at a railway embankment. A jogger found her body. It was later discovered that her killers had locked her in a bathroom, forced her to drink urine, shoved a plastic bag over her head and committed other unthinkable acts.

This week, two men 18 and 20 years old and a woman who’s 22 were convicted of her murder and given life sentences. Two other men got 13 to 15 years for manslaughter. They were all from Hayter’s town, and had been tormenting her while claiming to be her friends; the beating started in an apartment after a disagreement following a night out. The judge presiding over the trial described the torture and murder as “a chronicle of heartlessness” and said, during sentencing, “It is difficult to find the words to express how vile your behavior was.

A blogger for the British newspaper The Guardian, Nicky Clark, a mom to two children with disabilities, wrote a powerful post about how disability hate crimes like this begin with verbal abuse. Words such as “retard” that demean people with mental disabilities only fuel people’s loathing. As Clark wrote, “Hate speech isn’t free speech when it locks others into a prison of stereotyping and perpetrates abuse.” And if you think this sort of atrocity doesn’t happen in our country, well, Google the words “mentally disabled woman murdered” and see the horror that crops up.

Like Clark, I have spoken out about the use of the words “retard” and “retarded” and advocated for the Spread The Word To End The Word campaign, started by The Special Olympics. As the mom of a child with special needs, it’s painful to hear the words carelessly tossed around; they demean people with disabilities even when not spoken directly to them, and perpetuate the idea of them as stupid. What’s especially pained me are the defensive, rude and downright belligerent responses I’ve gotten to my requests for people to find others words to use, particularly during one campaign I did on Twitter in which I asked people tweeting the word “retard” not to.

It’s deeply troubling to think  that language like this could spark hatred that kills. Obviously, Gemma Hayter’s killers had other issues, as does anyone who would torture a person with disabilities. And yet, language like this spreads the idea that people with disabilities are lesser human beings—and makes the idea of doing them harm that much easier to consider.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words may never harm you,” is a phrase my mother used to recite to me as a child, whenever this one bully bothered me. Sadly, that cannot be said for the word “retard.”

Rest in peace, Gemma Hayter.

I am curious to hear about your experiences: Do you hear people using the words “retard” and “retarded”? Have you stopped using them yourself?

From my other blog:

If You Ask People Not To Use The Word “Retard”

If You Tick Off A Lot of People By Asking Them Not To Use The Word “Retard”

A Shocking Video To Get People To Quit Saying “Retard”


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