school advocate

How to Choose the Right School Advocate for Your Child

Have you heard the phrase “Free Appropriate Public Education?” If you have a school-aged child with special needs, most likely you have.  This is because a FREE and APPROPRIATE education is guaranteed by law.  Sometimes, however, this is easier said than done.  Although it’s relatively simple to learn the laws and understand your rights, obtaining appropriate services, goals, accommodations, modifications, placement, and an adequate ongoing education is often much more difficult.  The process can be frustrating, overwhelming, confusing, and time-consuming.

That is why many parents choose to work with a School Advocate.  They feel that it “levels the playing field” and that they have a much better chance ensuring that their children’s needs will be met.   How, though, does one go about choosing an effective School Advocate?  There are several important items to consider when choosing an Advocate that will be most effective for your child and your situation.  The first is that ANYONE can call themselves an “Advocate”. There is no certification or licensure or specialized education needed to be a special education advocate. This is why it is extremely important to ensure that your Advocate is knowledgeable and experienced.

Following are some key questions and thoughts to consider when choosing your School Advocate:

  1. In order to effectively advocate for your child, the Advocate needs a solidschool advocate understanding of the law. School teams often use terms you might not be familiar with and reference “law” that may or may not be accurate.  An experienced Advocate can provide you with explanations, accurate information and be able to counter the school’s arguments when they are telling you things that might not be true, might not be the whole truth, or when they fail to tell you all of the options.
  2. An effective Advocate understands school systems, teaching methods, curriculum, and interventions. She knows how to measure your child’s progress in school and how to use this information when developing the IEP.
  3. An effective Advocate understands and can interpret evaluation scores. Although school staff will tell you their interpretation, it is always wise to have an expert independently review the results.  A qualified Advocate can review all the data and explain to you what they mean, how they apply to your child, and for which services your child may or may not be entitled based on those results.  An effective Advocate is the link between the evaluation and your IEP team.
  4. The IEP is the hallmark feature of your child’s programming and should to be written by someone who thoroughly understands each aspect of this document. A qualified special education Advocate will be able to review the IEP, section-by-section, and provide you with a detailed list of suggestions to improve the IEP in order to meet your child’s needs.  Are the baseline data adequate to write the goals?  Are the goals meaningful and supported by the data?  Are there sufficient goals to ensure progress? Are your parent concerns written in a manner that truly reflect what you stated?  Are your child’s needs properly identified?  Is your child being provided ample services to address the goals?  Are the specialists providing enough “minutes” to meet your child’s needs?  Are the accommodations and modifications appropriate?  An experienced Advocate can also analyze the IEP in relation to past IEPs and evaluation data and provide you with an informative summary that will help you know if your child’s services are progressing in a manner this is truly adequate and supportive.
  5. An effective Advocate will educate and empower you to become a better advocate for your child. She will teach you how to plan and prepare for meetings, how to ask questions to get the information you need, how to write effective emails and letters, and how to navigate the process.  A well-trained Advocate will also help you know when you need advice from an Attorney.
  6. An effective Advocate can take the emotion out of the process.  She should be able to remain calm…and not be too aggressive or too timid.  An Advocate should be able to diplomatically handle conflict in a way that helps you feel comfortable throughout the process while ensuring that your child has everything necessary to receive a Free Appropriate Public Education.

Click here to learn more about School Advocacy at North Shore Pediatric Therapy.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

The Importance of Person First Language

The language we use and the labels that we place on individuals are powerful. In today’s society we rely heavily on medical diagnoses to define a person’s values, their strengths and weakness, their education, the services that people are eligible to receive and ultimately their future. Too often an individual’s diagnosis is used to define them as an individual – the retard, the autistic boy, the stutterer. Person First Language is a way to put the person before the disability, “describing what a person has, not who a person is (Snow, 2009).

The Importance of Person First Language:

In reflecting on the importance of person-first language, think for a minute how you would feel to be defined by yourPerson First Language perceived “negative” characteristics. For instance, being referred to as the heavy boy, the acne student, or the bald lady. To be known only by what society perceives as negative characteristics or “problems” would completely disregard all of the positive characteristics that make you as an individual who you are (Snow, 2009). Individuals with disabilities are more than their diagnosis. They are people first. The boy next door who has autism is more than an autistic boy, he is a brother, a son and a friend who happens to have autism. The girl who stutters in class is more than a stutterer – she is a daughter, a sister, and a best friend who has a fluency disorder.

Contrary to society’s definition, having a disability is not a problem. When defining a person by their disability, there is a negative implication that that person is broken. Especially within the health care field, it is imperative that we as professionals, co-workers and human beings begin to focus on other’s strengths. By focusing on the strengths of individuals who have disabilities, we are setting up our clients and friends for success. Using person-first language is a great first step to this change of thinking.

Use the table below to help guide your language in following person-first language recommendations:

Rather than… Please Say…
Autistic Child who has autism spectrum disorder
Stutterer Boy/Girl who has a fluency disorder
Retard A child with a cognitive defect
Slow child A child who has a learning disability
Non-verbal child She communicates with her device
Down’s kid Child who has Down’s Syndrome

This table is by no means a definite list. However, it can help build a framework for the importance of person-first language and how to implement it into your own language. When you are unsure of how person-first language applies to a situation, remember the emphasis is on the person as a whole – putting the person before his or her disability.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Snow, Kathie (2009). People First Language. Disability is Natural. Retrieved from www.disabilityisnatural.com

 

6 Classic Books to Read This Christmas Eve

6 Classic Christmas Books to Read this Christmas Eve

Christmas is almost here! Get in the spirit and promote language and literacy skills at the same time by reading some of these Classic Christmas books with your family!

6 Classic Christmas Books:6 Classic Christmas Books to Read This Christmas Eve

  1. The Night Before Christmas by Charles Santore
  2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess
  3. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer by Thea Feldman (Illustrated by Erwin Madrid)
  4. The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
  5. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Chuck Fischer
  6. The Nut Cracker by E. t. a. Hoffman, Geraldine McCaughrean (Illustrated by Kristina Swarner)

Want more holiday fun? Try these 13 crafts to promote fine motor development!

Step-by-Step: Potty Training a Child with Autism

Potty training can be an overwhelming process for parents of young children. Potty training a child with autism can make the process seem even more daunting. But not to worry, with consistency and patience, children with autism can be successfully potty trained.

When to begin potty training – There is no magic age to start potty training, as it varies from child to child. Children with autism are not always developing at the same pace as their same-aged peers. However, no matter what your child’s current functioning level is, you should be able to start the potty training process around age 3.

Step-by-Step: Potty Training a Child with AutismPottyTraining

  • It is best to begin during a time when you have at least 3-4 days in a row to devote to potty training (i.e., a holiday break or a long weekend).
  • Divide potty training into two phases:
    • Phase 1 – Urination
    • Phase 2 – Bowel movements
  • Start by working on phase 1, and once your child is consistently urinating on the toilet, you can then begin working on phase 2.
    • When potty training boys, have them sit instead of stand. This will make it easier when you introduce phase 2.
  • When begin the toilet training process, begin to slowly fade out the use of diapers or Pull-Ups. If your child learns that they will go back to wearing a diaper every time they don’t go in the toilet, they will most likely wait until the diaper is on to urinate.
  • Make highly desired items (i.e., IPad, computer games, favorite treat, etc.) contingent on urinating in the toilet. Do not give your child access to these items at any other time. Restricting these items will increase their reinforcing value, making urinating in the toilet more motivating.
  • Provide natural consequences for accidents. Never yell or scream when accidents occur. Instead, have your child help with the clean-up, change themselves (to the best of their ability), and put their dirty clothes in the laundry.
  • Expect some resistance from your child when you begin toilet training. Children with autism love routines, and you are going to disrupt their normal routine as soon as you start potty training. Negative behaviors like crying and screaming are very likely in the beginning. It is important to ignore these behaviors and continue with the process. Once they learn the new potty routine, the behaviors will decrease.
  • Be consistent. Once you start potty training, stick with it! Requiring your child to use the potty one day, and then putting them back in a diaper the next can be confusing and will most likely extend the potty training process.
  • Once your child is consistently urinating in the toilet, you can move onto phase 2 and follow the same steps. It is common for phase 2 to take longer, so do not get discouraged if your child is more resistant at first.

Following these general guidelines can help with the potty training process. It is important to remember that every child is different, and what works for one child may not work for another. If you have been trying to potty train your child without any success, it is recommended that you contact a professional to assist you. Someone with knowledge and experience with potty training can write an individualized plan tailored specifically for your child.

Click here to download a printable potty chart.






Crossing the Midline: Activities to Promote

Crossing the midline is a fundamental skill that begins to emerge in infancy and continues to develop into early childhood. It is necessary for important developmental milestones such as crawling, walking, using a spoon to eat, writing, and reading.

Simply put, crossing the midline refers to the ability to meaningfully use a hand, foot, or eye on the opposite side of the body. In order for this to happen, the two hemispheres of the brain must be able to communicate with one another. If a child has difficulty crossing his midline, it can be a greater challenge for him to engage in everyday tasks from dressing to school work to sports. If you notice your child is having difficulty developing hand dominance, gets lost or frustrated when visually tracking words or objects, or seems generally less coordinated than other children his age, his ability to cross midline may be underdeveloped.

7 Activities to Promote Crossing the Midline:CrossingtheMidline

  1. Have the child straddle a low bench or other object that keeps his feet planted on either side. Use two different bracelets, stickers, etc. to differentiate the right and left hand while you have him pick up objects near his feet from the opposite side. This could be bean bags to throw, puzzle pieces to place, or beads to string onto a craft necklace. This activity can also be done in a “criss cross” seated position on the floor but be sure the child is not turning his entire trunk to pick up items.
  2. Having the child sit or stand in one place, throw, bounce, or roll a ball off-center of their body. He will need to use two hands to catch the ball and toss it back to you.
  3. With one hand placed flat on the surface in front of the child, have him use the other hand to trace over a large infinity sign. Switch hands after 10 cycles. Ideally this should be done on a vertical surface with the feet kept in one place.
  4. Trace big shapes, letters, and numbers in the air using index fingers and big toes.
  5. March to music and try to touch hands or elbows to the opposite knee.
  6. Trace horizontal lines across a long piece of paper. Make sure the paper is placed directly in front of his body and one hand is stabilizing the paper while the other traces across.
  7. Sit back to back and practice passing a ball to each other on each side. If you have more than two people, you can sit in a circle and play hot potato!

For additional suggestions and general recommendations to promote this skill, stay tuned for next week’s blog with even MORE great activities to try!

 

Click here for more information in helping your child cross the midline.

Early Autism Intervention

With each passing year, children are getting diagnosed with autism earlier and earlier. Currently children are getting diagnosed as young as 2, which provides these children with an excellent opportunity to participate in early autism intervention services.

 What is Early Autism Intervention?

  • Programs for young children, ages 0-5 that have some type of delay in their development. These delays can include speech, physical, social and/or emotional, and cognitive.
  • Early intervention services can be done in the home, school, clinic, or a combination of all 3 settings.
  • Each state is federally mandated to provide early intervention services to all children ages 0-3 who qualify. Children 3 and older have other options to receive services that would be covered through insurance.
  • Early intervention providers can include, Speech Language Pathologists (SLP), Occupational Therapists (OT), Physical Therapists (PT), Developmental Therapists (DV), Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA), and Behavior Therapists (BT).

 Why is Early Autism Intervention so Important?

  • The first 5 years of child’s life are very important years for developmental growth.
  • The earlier therapy begins, the better the long-term outcome will be. This is especially true for children with autism, as learning functional skill early will help them make greater gains throughout their lifetime.
  • There are years of research showing the effectiveness of early intervention with children with autism and other developmental disabilities.

Benefits of Early Autism InterventionEarlyAutismIntervention

  • Early intervention focuses on your child’s strengths and builds on these strengths to teach new skill sets.
  • Early intervention uses a team-based, multidisciplinary approach which will allows your child to get individualized therapy across all developmental domains.
  • When negative behaviors are addressed early, they are easier to decrease due to the lack of a long learning history. Also, many negative behaviors occur because children with autism lack functional communication skills. Once a child is able to effectively request their wants and needs, many behaviors will start to decrease.
  • Early intervention will address several different important skills during therapy including:
    • Functional communication
    • Social skills
    • Expressive and receptive identification
    • Imitation skills
    • Visual perceptual skills
    • Play skills
    • Parent training
    • Daily living skills such as eating, toileting, and dressing independently
    • Sensory needs
  • Parents will learn the necessary strategies to use with their child early on, so they can carry over interventions when therapy is not taking place. This will further promote skill development and overall independence.

How to Begin Early Autism Intervention Services

  • The first step is to have your child evaluated. If your child is ages 0-3 you can contact a local early intervention provider to begin the evaluation process. Once the evaluation is complete, they will determine which therapies your child qualifies for, and services can begin.
  • Even if your child qualifies for early intervention services through the state, it is recommended for your child to also begin Applied Behavior Analysis services (ABA). ABA is an evidence-based treatment approach that is considered the most effective approach for individuals with autism. Once you contact a local ABA agency a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) will evaluate your child and then create an individualized treatment plan for your child. It is also best if your ABA provider and Early Intervention providers are in frequent contact to ensure all therapists are working toward the same goals.
  • Even if you are even slightly concerned your child may have autism or any other type of developmental delay, it is better to be safe and get an evaluation rather than wait and see if the symptoms improve. Waiting can take away valuable therapy time from your child.







Cyber Bully

Teenage Sexting: How does a parent handle?

How does a parent handle teenage sexting and appropriate content online? It is clear when your child doesn’t clean his room or complete homework on a nightly basis and therefore, the communication and discipline that ensues is obvious and direct. How does a parent know what their child’s behavior looks like on the internet when there is no way to observe or screen the content that transpires? Of course there are technologically savvy ways to block certain websites and scroll through previous online history, but how do you prevent him from engaging in damaging activity?

It may be awkward to have open and candid conversations with your child about their online affairs, but it is necessary to teach effective boundaries regarding what is and is not appropriate. You may assume that your child could never be capable of sexting or disseminating graphic information, but calling attention to these issues is paramount for prevention.

3 tips on how to approach your child on teenage
sexting and appropriate content online:Cyber Bully

  1. If he has a social media account, be his “friend.” This way, you can keep tabs on any online activity that gets posted and he might think twice about posting incriminating dialogue or images. If he does not accept your “friendship” request the login information to their account to casually peruse the content of their online engagements. This privilege should not be abused but rather as a tool to get a feel for what goes on behind the scenes. If he refuses, explain to him the value of this function and that this does not compromise trust but is an opportunity to maintain consistency with parental expectations and child actions. To have online accounts is a privilege and if open communication and awareness cannot be agreed upon, deactivating these accounts can be an option to ensure adequate guidelines are followed.
  2. Communicate the do’s and don’ts of online media engagement including what is allowed to be posted, what is not allowed, and why. Let him know the boundaries up front so that he has a clear idea of what will be tolerated behavior. Convey to him that he can reach out to you if he ever feels uncomfortable by kids sharing graphic content and that this sharing of information is not punishable but rather is effective in problem-solving real life scenarios as they arise.
  3. To prevent, handle, and manage “sexting,” a calm, inviting atmosphere needs to exist. You can set this boundary upon your child first getting a phone or instant messenger that there needs to be a level of open communication for children to share situations of peer pressure and demonstrate responsibility. Having a phone or internet privileges, like any other skill, requires education and practical experiences. Without the opportunity to dialogue about what is going well and not so well, the child cannot cultivate the independent skills to navigate challenging situations effectively.

 

Click here to learn more about cyber bullying and how to make sure it doesn’t happen to your child.








5 Reasons Free-Time is a Good Thing

Free-time is a good thing. Parents spend a lot of time encouraging their children to participate in recreational activities during the school year. There is nothing wrong with having your child participate in different activities and helping them to figure out what they are passionate about; however, over-scheduling your child with too many activities can often lead to increased stress in children and their parents. It is important for parents to be cautious about how much they are scheduling their children and to encourage more free time.

Here are 5 reasons why it is important not to over-schedule your child:KidsFreeTimeFall

  1. Over-scheduling can create increased stress and anxiety for both parents and children. Over the last several years there has been an increase in anxiety related disorders due to the stressors involved with over-scheduling.
  2. It creates less time for children to complete their homework and can cause them to have less sleep at night due to staying up later to complete their homework.
  3. It decreases the amount of quality time a children can spend with their family.
  4. Over-scheduling can cause a child to have less time for free-time and with you. Quality time doing imaginative play with your child is important in order to encourage creativity and to help develop independence in children.
  5. It can also cause children to have difficulty maintaining with peers due to not having enough free time to spend with them and to build their relationships.


 Is over-scheduling or homework creating stress? Read here for 8 Tips to Ease Homework Time Stress.




the benefits of a visual schedule

The Benefits of a Visual Schedule for Home and School Success

Do you feel like a broken record when you ask your child to complete a simple task or standard routine? Whether you’re asking your child to fulfill her typical morning routine or planning ahead for the upcoming weekend, try using a visual schedule to outline your expectations.

The benefits of a visual schedule include the following:

Visual schedules make chores or tasks objective instead of subjective. When there is a neutral source promoting expectations for the child, it fosters enhanced independence in the child as well as takes the emotionality out of having to remind, repeat, and get frustrated with the child’s progress. Even though it would seem like second nature to complete standard morning time practices, the visual schedule outlines for the child what comes first, second, last, etc. and provides a checklist to move through. Some parents take pictures of their child completing these tasks (i.e. making their bed, brushing their teeth, packing their bag, eating breakfast) to make this a visually pleasing tool and increase child investment in the process.

Visual schedules make transitions easier. For younger children who thrive with structure and benefit from knowing what is on the agenda for the day, a simple visual schedule can aid in transitions and reduce anxiety about upcoming events. These schedules can be less formal and just require a simple sketch of what is to come. During lazy days or even days with little going on, visual schedules can help to structure unstructured time and provide a variety of outlets in a time-sensitive fashion. For example, on a relaxing Saturday create a schedule with your child that incorporates meal times and provides options for morning “art time” and afternoon “outdoors time”. These schedules create structure with pictures. Instead of writing out art time, draw with crayons, paints, or chalk. Meal time would be indicated with a picture of a sandwich and plate. Drawing these expectations out can facilitate independence for even young kids to stick to the routine and understand the structure through the use of symbols.

These visual schedule help bring structure and independence to all home and school routines.

For more help this school year, watch this Pediatric TV Episode on how to set up a homework station at home.







prepping your child for kindegarten

On the Way…Prepping Your Child for Kindergarten

 

 

 

School is just around the corner, and some kiddos will be starting their journey into formal education as they head off to Kindergarten. Here are some tips to prepare your child…and yourself for this important milestone.

Why is it important to prepare your child for Kindergarten?

It is important that your child is prepared for this transition so they can have positive interactions when learning and participating in the classroom as well as to build their self-esteem and motivation.

What are common “readiness” skills?

While every school may have their own checklist or assessments, there are some basics skills that most Kindergarten teachers will look for including the following:

Self Help Skills

  • Child is able to be independent (eating, using restroom, clean up)
  • Able to ask for help, when appropriate
  • Can follow one-step and two-step directions

Social/Emotional Skills

  • Shares with others
  • Takes turns
  • Good listener
  • Able to work independently or in small groups
  • Plays/cooperates with others
  • Able to separate from Caregiver

Gross (large) Motor Skills

  • Runs, jumps
  • Able to bounce, kick, and throw a ball
  • Able to participate in small games
  • Can stand on one foot

Fine (small) Motor Skills

Math, Language, and Literacy Skills

  • Able to count to 10
  • Recognizes 10 or more letters, especially those in own name
  • Speaks in sentences of 5+ words
  • Speech is understandable to adults
  • Identifies and names basic shapes
  • Listens attentively and can respond to stories/books
  • Recognizes rhyming words and can put words together that rhyme

How can you help your child be ready for Kindergarten?

Here are some tips to help your child be the best they can be when heading off to Kindergarten:

  • Talk about what will happen in school—what will be the new routine?
  • Arrange a visit to the school and travel the route from home to school (especially if they will be on a bus).
  • Encourage play—independently and with other children.
  • Read, Read, Read—ask questions about the book (what may happen, what they learned), and have them identify colors, shapes, letters
  • Have child practice coloring, writing, and using scissors—“practice makes perfect!”
  • Talk with your child—ask them open-ended questions and have them reciprocate.
  • Use daily activities to point out words, numbers and help child formulate sentences of 5+ words.
  • Encourage independence in your child by having them do simple chores (ex: make bed, help set table/clean up at mealtimes, help with pets in household).

***Most importantly caregivers…be careful not to transmit any anxieties or sadness you may have when your “baby” goes off to school. Children can easily pick up on the emotions of adults, so wait until the bus is out of sight, or the car door closes and THEN pull out the tissues!!