Posts Tagged ‘ special education ’

Daycare For Kids With Special Needs: Yes, Please

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

Among the many things I wished for when Max was little: a daycare that specialized in kids with special needs. We had a regular sitter, but when she was on vacation or called in sick, leaving Max at a regular daycare was stressful. Sometimes, my husband and I ended up taking off days from work.

I was so thrilled to read about A Place For Grace in Saginaw, Michigan, a daycare center for kids with special needs that opens September 2. Its founder: a mother of a child with special needs. As Jenny Dumont recalls of her struggles finding daycare for her daughter Emma Grace, now 9, who has intellectual disability, “She was having meltdowns four times in one week and I got called in to pick her up and when I got in the caregiver was doing the best she knew how. I got really frustrated and thought, Why isn’t there a place for children like Emma?”

Jenny Dumont and daughter Emma Grace

A Place For Grace has teachers trained in special education, along with a sensory room and toys  for kids with special needs. It will ofter preschool for children ages 3, 4 and 5 (who missed the school cut-off) and aftercare for kids ages 5 to 16. The goal is to offer full-day childcare for school breaks and special days by Summer 2015, including therapies in accordance with children’s IEPs.

If you Google “special needs daycare center” in your area or state, some might crop up—key word being “might.”  This country is sadly lacking in daycare options for children with special needs. It’s astounding, though not surprising, that this one was started by a parent of a kid with special needs. Parents like us often have more than our hands full and yet, we best know just how needed services like this are.

Also see Parent.com’s Day Care and Babies With Special Needs

 

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

 

Image source: Screen grab of center, WNEM video; Emma Grace and Jenny via GoFundMe

 

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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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The Trade-offs You Make When Your Kid Has Special Needs

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

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

It was just a typical Friday at the office. I was emailing my co-worker making plans for lunch when my cell phone vibrated. It was my son’s school and I picked it up immediately.

The school nurse told me that Norrin had just thrown up and had a fever of 101. The nurse didn’t need to ask, I knew I had to pick up Norrin from school as soon as possible. I quickly hung up and my mind started to race. I dialed my husband’s cell phone – the call went to voice mail. I slammed the phone in frustration. I emailed my bosses to let them know that Norrin was sick and that I had to leave. Then I called my dad to tell him I didn’t need him to pick up Norrin from the bus.

As a working mom, a call from the school nurse stresses me out. It requires more juggling than usual. And my husband who is in law enforcement, isn’t always available to help. My job offers a little more flexibility. When Norrin was at preschool and kindergarten and he got sick, it wasn’t that big a deal. I left work, jumped on the train to his school and took him home.

But I pulled him out of the public school system and his current school is thirty miles away from my job in Manhattan. By public transportation – it’s more than a two hour ride and then I would have to take a cab from the station to the school. A cab is probably close to a $100 fare. And then I’d still have to get my sick kid back home. The best way to get to Norrin’s school is to drive. Except I don’t know how. And my husband – who does drive – could not be reached. Neither could my cousin who was on the authorized pick up list and closer to Norrin.

I remembered that my best friend’s husband, Frank, had the day off, so I called in a favor. If I could take the train a few stops to their apartment, he’d drive to Norrin’s school and then take us home. I shut down my computer, ignored the pile of work that needed to get done and ran out.

As we drove upstate, all Frank could talk about was the length of the drive. He inquired about the bus pick up and drop off times. I cursed myself for not knowing how to drive, for living so far from an appropriate school.

We were at Norrin’s school in less than an hour. I could tell Frank was impressed with the expansive grounds – the grass, the pool, the picnic tables and playground. I spotted Norrin on the swing set, surrounded by his teacher and two of his favorite assistants.

I walked with Norrin and his teacher to his class to retrieve his school bag. I met four of Norrin’s classmates – they greeted me hello and hugged me goodbye.

On the way home, I sat in the back seat with Norrin, a plastic bag in my hand just in case he got sick. I thanked Frank again.

“This looks like a really nice school,” he said. “Too bad it isn’t closer.”

It was more than a nice school. It was a great school. It was a school that was able to meet all of Norrin’s needs and more. It was a school that gave me peace of mind when I put Norrin on that bus every single day. It was a school that I knew truly cared about Norrin. I did wish his school were closer but it’s our only option. And it was well worth a few extra moments of scrambling on days when the school nurse calls because those days are few and far between.

“Yup…that’s the trade-off.” I pulled Norrin closer to me, brushing his hair with my hand.

What trade-offs do you make for your child?

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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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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.

Still.

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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