Attending your child’s IEP meeting can be a stressful and complex process. Whether you are new to the process or have previously attended IEP meetings, here are some helpful tips to make sure your child is getting appropriate services within the school setting:
Understand what your child’s educational disability is. There are 13 different disabilities with specific criteria that must be met. Ask your IEP team members to explain what criteria your child met in order to receive their educational disability.
Ask questions and state your feelings. It can be intimidating to sit around a table with educational professionals. Remember that school service providers have your child’s best interest in mind and want to ensure that you understand the paperwork involved in an IEP meeting. If you do not understand something — ask!
Make sure the school service provider explains the goals for the IEP. Goals should be written based on data, and should be measurable so that you can see whether your child is meeting expected growth targets.
Ask for (and understand) any accommodations listed on the IEP. There may be many accommodations provided to your child, but they should be applicable to what your child needs to succeed in the school setting.
Remember that an IEP is a fluid document. It can be changed and revised as your child develops and their needs change. You can request to have an IEP meeting at any time to address concerns.
Receiving the appropriate services and accommodations can increase your child’s opportunity for your child’s success at school. However, some children need additional support outside the school setting. Mental health professionals can provide services that help your child understand and develop skills to use in all areas of their life — at home, in school, and in the community.
If you have a preteen or teen child, you probably have heard of the hugely popular Netflix show 13 Reasons Why. The show, based on a best-selling novel, centers around Hannah, a teenage girl who dies by suicide and leaves behind tapes to the people she feels pushed her towards ending her life. This popular and controversial show has brought in discussions about mental health, bullying, sexual assault, substance use and suicide. As a counselor, I agree that raising awareness on these topics is crucial and necessary, especially considering the frightening increasing rates of these issues. However, I am concerned about the potential impact that this show might have on young teens.
Teenagers are very vulnerable to graphic content. The show can be hard to watch, and some scenes can be potentially very triggering. Many teens are binge-watching the show, which increases concern about the possible emotional distress that can be caused by doing so. I do not recommend that anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts watches the show as it might develop potential ideas or even romanticize the idea of suicide. The problem with the ultimate fantasy is that the character does not get to change her life with suicide nor does she get to find out what happens next. Suicide is final.
13 Reasons Why also misses the mark in its failure to address mental illness or depression ( the most common risk factor in completed suicides). Depression can look differently in teens than adults.
Some risk factors include:
Significant sense of sadness
Negative comments about life
Loss of interest in sports, hobbies, etc.
My recommendation is that if your child wants to watch the show, you watch with them.
Although it might be hard or uncomfortable, it might bring an opportunity to discuss important topics such as:
Talk to your children about bullying and what it might look like. Bullying can be physical or verbal abuse, excluding others, or using the internet/social media to attack and humiliate the victim. Teach your child to not be a bystander or support bullying.
Talk to your child about resilience and options on how to reach out for support if they are being bullied. If children develop resilience and strong self -advocacy, it can help them further develop their self- esteem and instill courage.
Talk to your child about symptoms of depression. 1 in 5 teens experience depression and suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15-24-year-olds according to the CDC. Discussing the issue of suicide does not plant the idea. It creates the opportunity to offer help. Have a conversation with your child about trusted adults in their life that they can reach out to if they need help.
Listen to your child’s comments without judgment. Do not minimize or trivialize what you see. If it appears insignificant to you as an adult, remember that this is a daily reality that teens are faced with each day. Allow your child to discuss any issues without judgment or punishment.
We need to use shows like 13 Reasons Why as a reminder. A reminder to be emotionally present and let children know that they are loved and supported. Children need you to be their secure base, to support their exploration, help them, enjoy with them and watch over them. Make sure to create a space for listening that is nonjudgmental and supportive.
If you need to talk, or if you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the Suicide Prevention Hotline 1800-273-8255 or 1800-SUICIDE (784-2433).
Does your child feel overworked in school? School-related stress is nothing new, but it is now happening to even younger students. With the increased importance of testing on students, teachers, and schools- children are facing more stress in school than parents may have experienced when they were younger.
Here are some helpful tips for how to help your child if they are overworked in school:
Don’t over-schedule kids
Although it is important to have children in activities outside of school like sports or clubs, don’t schedule so much that they are not able to do their homework. If you only have an hour scheduled for homework because they have to run to their art class, then swimming class and they only have time for a quick dinner and then bed, a child may feel rushed or pressured to get everything done. In addition, ask your child what works for them and let them have some control over their schedule. Some kids like to get to work as soon as they get home, while others need a break after school.
Praise effort, not grades
Everyone wants their child to succeed and most importantly everyone wants their child to feel successful and proud of themselves. In some children, that may mean that they bring home straight A’s every quarter or semester, but in some children that may look different. Emphasizing that a child needs a certain grade can lead to them feeling stressed and anxious. The truth is that some students may not be an A student. Praise effort and improvements, rather than A’s. Also, don’t ignore those classes like art or music.
If a child is really struggling in math, but excels in the fine arts, praise them for that specific talent rather than ignoring those “easy” classes. In addition to praising effort, it is important to try and limit consequences for lower grades. If a child studied and put forth effort, but came home with a lower grade than what was expected, don’t punish them- talk about it and how they could have studied or completed the work differently.
What not to say: “7th grade is the most important” “Junior year is the most important” “you need this grade in order to do this…”
When adults make these statements to children, they often hope it will motivate them to study longer or focus more, but it can often do the opposite. If a child hears these statements regularly, it can cause feelings of anxiety. If a child is anxious, they are less likely to be able to study and focus efficiently. It may be more helpful to show specific examples of how certain topics can be used in real life situations. This shows that the information they learn is important, but it alleviates the pressure that if they don’t master the topic, they won’t be successful.
Teach kids effective study habits, and how to balance it.
Sometimes it is not how much you study, but how you do it. Help kids learn good study habits like taking breaks, not cramming for tests, healthy sleep habits, and being organized. Ask your children what works for them. Some people need absolute silence, while some enjoy music in the background. Don’t force a habit on a child that may not work for them. Teaching children these skills will not only help them in school, but as a future employee as well.
Finding a work-life balance is something that a lot of parents and adults struggle with. It is important to model a healthy balance of work and fun to your children, so they can learn how to achieve that balance.
https://secureservercdn.net/188.8.131.52/fnf.6b5.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Blog-Overworked-in-School-FeaturedImage.png?time=1560914180186183Amy Fontanahttps://secureservercdn.net/184.108.40.206/fnf.6b5.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.pngAmy Fontana2017-02-08 05:30:002017-02-09 15:03:50How to Help Your Child Who Feels Overworked in School
As a new school year has begun, your child may be facing quite a few new changes in the classroom, whether that be a new school, new teachers and peers, or even new, and challenging coursework. These changes can generate some difficulties in your student in terms of following academic or social expectations. Maybe they begin getting notes sent home about their inappropriate behavior in class or you begin finding failing grades on recent assignments. Either way, these can be discouraging to parents and their student. As a parent, it is important to identify these challenges early on and follow through with keeping your child on track for their own success.
Here are a few tips on how to help your child through failing grades:
Be proactive. Parents should contact the teacher as soon as they notice their child having difficulty in a class. Follow up with any notes home or call a teacher to have a conference about the recent failing grade on an assignment. Ask the teacher for extra assignments or activities that can be done at home. It’s important to develop a plan with the teacher for collaboration purposes. The teacher may also have better insight into more specific skills that need to be acquired.
Create a routine. Creating an after school routine at home provides clear expectations and consistency. This routine can and should include homework completion, meal time with family, and a bedtime routine. Building a positive routine around homework completion and continued practice can not only provide a balance of work and play, but can also build strong sense of responsibility in your student. Try and remove or minimize other distractions during the homework routine and create more time dedicated to helping your child with homework.
Set expectations. As a parent, provide expectations and follow through. These expectations may begin with something small such as practicing number cards for 5 minutes before bed or making sure all books are brought home for the appropriate homework every night for a week. Whatever those expectations are in the initial stages, follow through and provide the appropriate praise and reinforcement contingent on the completion. It may be helpful to set up expectations with the teacher so you can map out short and long term goals.
Consistently provide encouragement and support. Failing grades may not only be disappointing to the parents, they may also be discouraging to the student. Provide praise and positive reinforcement for even the smallest of progress and the continuation of hard work in and outside of the classroom. Continue to be an advocate for support. Offer help when needed while still requiring the student to complete the work independently.
Look for underlying problems. While discussing specific difficulties with the teacher, look for potential underlying problems. Can there be difficulties with environmental variables such as, not being able to see or hear the teacher, forgetting to write down homework assignments, or being distracted by other classroom students or activities? Is there possibly an underlying learning disability? Is the child having difficulty attending to tasks? Whatever it may be, it is important to identify these things to make appropriate changes necessary for success.
https://secureservercdn.net/220.127.116.11/fnf.6b5.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Blog-Failing-Grades-FeaturedImage.png?time=1560914180186183Carolyn Houzehttps://secureservercdn.net/18.104.22.168/fnf.6b5.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.pngCarolyn Houze2016-11-10 05:30:252016-11-04 16:22:045 Tips to Help Your Child Through Failing Grades
Bullying is an ongoing concern for parents, care givers and teachers. How to tell if your child is being bullied can be difficult, as bullying can take on many forms. The act is a deliberate imbalance of power; and can be physical, emotional, sexual or verbal.
Having a working knowledge of warning signs is essential for supportive parenting. If your child has some of the warning signs below, it is not a guarantee that they are being bullied. Open and honest dialogue with your children will provide more insight into the potential causes of some warning signs.
Below are a variety of warning signs that could signify your child is the victim of bullying:
Noticing your child has damaged belongings; this can span from clothing, to book bags, to text books, etc.
Unexplained physical injuries like bruises or cuts
Tendency to isolate from friends and peers
An increase in anxiety or fear related to attending school and often will explore opportunities to miss school (i.e. Excuses, faking sick, etc.)
Changes in sleeping or eating patterns; suffers from frequent nightmares, poor appetite
Appears sad, upset or angry when returning from school
Decrease in academic achievement
Health concerns; most often frequent stomach aches, headaches, etc.
Beginning a discussion with our children about bullying can be challenging, as many kids tend to shy away from disclosing this information. The most essential component is that as a parent you remain calm and supportive, not reactive to what your child discloses.
There are several questions below to guide a conversation related to bullying:
There has been a lot of bullying in the news lately. How does your school handle bullying? Tell me about a time you saw someone being bullied, or experienced it yourself. How did you handle it?
I’m worried about [insert behavior/symptom/action]. I’m wondering if you could tell me more about what is going on?
Tell me about your friends this year. Who are you spending time with, and what do you like about them?
Who do you spend time with at lunch and recess? Tell me about your bus rides home. With whom do you sit?
Are there any kids at school who you really don’t like? Why don’t you like them? Do they ever pick on you or leave you out of things?
If your child discloses that they are being bullied, it is essential that you remain calm. Overreaction can result in regret of disclosure or a tendency to limit discussing such content in the future. As a parent, the strongest role you can take if your child is being bullied is to provide support and care, validate to your child that this is not their fault and that you are here to love and support them.
At times, children can be very hesitant about disclosing bullying due to fear of retaliation. If you notice concerning symptoms, but your child denies, it is appropriate to reach out to your student’s teacher and express concern.
The following questions may provide greater insight into your child’s experience during the school day:
With whom does my child interact on a daily basis?
Tell me about my child’s peer interactions. Which are going well? Are there any you find concerning?
Have you noticed any behavioral changes within my child over the past [days, weeks, months]?
What is one thing my child does very well in school, and what is one concern you have for my child.
If you suspect your child is being bullied, beginning dialogue and providing a safe non-judgmental space is the first step in supporting your child. If you have greater concerns, or have information that your child is being bullied, it is important that this be addressed as soon as possible. Reach out to your school, principals, teachers, and notify them of your concerns. Provide your child with support and listen when needed, and if appropriate, provide the access to a licensed mental health provider for additional care.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death for kids, ages 15-24, and continues to be a developing concern. With roughly 1,700 adolescents annually completing suicide attempts, there has been a significant push towards increasing awareness, prevention, and support resources for students, parents, teachers and care givers.
The following outlines some warning signs as well as steps that can be taken to prevent adolescent suicide. It needs to be said that not all children who present with some of the warning signs below are suicidal, it is important that you communicate with your children and assess their individual situations and needs.
Warning Signs of Suicide
Talking about death and dying – Discussing death can be a normative part of a child’s development, but a sudden increase or fixation of death and dying could be a warning factor
No future planning – As children, and adults, we plan for our futures and often discuss them with others. Individuals struggling with suicidal ideation often feel no hope for their future, and cannot express thoughts, hopes, or wishes that things could change or get better.
Recent loss – It is always important to support our children when they have experienced a recent loss; attuning to our child’s grieving process is an important component of supporting them.
Changes in sleep or eating habits – Any drastic or sudden changes to sleeping or eating habits that cannot be explained by another medical/social condition should be monitored.
Changes in behavior – Unexpected changes in performance at school, home, work, or with peers; often noted as “difficulty focusing.”
Changes in mood – Presenting as down, depressed, withdrawn, reclusive, angry or lonely can be warning signs. Some individuals also become elated or very happy prior to an attempt; emotional presentation that may be inappropriate given circumstances
Things You Can Do
Develop a positive relationship with your kids: Talk to your kids on a consistent basis about their day-to-day life; encourage appropriate expressions of emotions; provide a safe and stable home environment; spend quality time; listen without judgment.
Provide a Safe Environment: Do not keep firearms or other potentially lethal means in your home, or if necessary, keep them securely locked away without access.
Take threats seriously: Regardless if you believe this to be “real” or not, the youth is trying to express a need and reach out for support.
Provide resources and support: For kids struggling with mental health concerns, provide access to care and support. Have access within your home to crisis hotline numbers, or emergency contacts your kids can reach out to for support.
One of the most popular questions I get asked from parents of young children with autism is, “What is my child’s future going to look like?” While early intervention is a crucial part of the treatment of autism, thinking ahead to what puberty and the teenage years might look like is an important consideration, as well. Puberty and adolescence are difficult times for every pre-teen, and adding the challenges that come from having a diagnosis of autism can feel overwhelming to you, your child, and your family. It is important to go into this time with tools and strategies to help your child feel as comfortable and confident as possible, while also finding ways for your child to increase their independence in these areas.
Self-Care Skills for children with Autism
Self-care skills such as bathing, using deodorant, brushing teeth, and general cleanliness are topics that arise for every pre-teen. For children with autism, simply just stating about what needs to happen may not be enough. Saying, “You need to go take a shower,” may not have the same effect as, “It’s really important to take showers everyday so that our bodies are clean and smell fresh. This way we feel comfortable and healthy, and other people around us do too.”
Using specifics such as this may help children with autism clue in to the “whys” of cleanliness. Additionally, providing visual schedules on the steps of showering, hand-washing, teeth brushing, dressing, etc., can help your child ensure that they are completing each step of the process, while still practicing more independence than if they had a parent or caregiver walking them through the routine.
Fostering friendships and forming appropriate relationships with peers and adults at the time of adolescence can be extremely challenging. At this point in life, each child is starting to develop at different times, while interests and abilities are forming at different times and in unique ways. One highly effective strategy to help children with autism understand and participate in social situations are, the very aptly named, social stories.
Social stories can be custom tailored to each individual/situation, and break down any topic clearly using pictures and simple words. For example, a child who struggles with approaching peers in a group could benefit from a social story that focuses on what to say when approaching a group, what to do after saying, “Hi,” how to engage in a simple conversation, and how to say goodbye. These steps would be broken down using pictures (either real or found online), and simple sentences that match the child’s level of understanding. At the age of adolescence, it can be very powerful to have the child themselves be a part of creating the social story so they feel ownership and understand the content on a deeper level.
In addition to social stories, engaging in role-play with peers, adults, siblings, etc., can be very beneficial in helping a child with autism know what to expect in social situations. Practicing scenarios that are likely to happen in real life can help reduce or eliminate some of the anxiety and fear surrounding peers and socialization. For example, having a child practice what to do if someone says something unkind to them, or what to do when they are invited to a birthday party can set the child up for a successful interaction, rather than a situation where they might feel apprehensive or uncomfortable.
Functional Living Skills
By the time a child reaches the age of puberty, there are certain skills that we hope to see them engage in independently. This might be taking on simple chores around the house, making themselves a snack, or taking care of a pet. For all children, including those with autism, it is important that they have exposure to these types of functional living skills, as these will benefit them throughout their lives.
Using the aforementioned social stories, visual schedules, and explaining why we wipe the tables or feed the dog are all helpful strategies, but sometimes those are not enough. Using reinforcement strategies such as token charts/reinforcement systems can be a helpful tool to ensure that your child is participating in the functional activities of the home. For example, a child may be able to earn a star or token for each expected chore completed. Once all tokens have been earned, the child can have access to a highly preferred item such as a video game or special activity.
This token system should start with a few demands, which can be increased as the child shows success. This gives a tangible means of connecting the completion of functional/expected activities to earning a desired effect.
https://secureservercdn.net/22.214.171.124/fnf.6b5.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/BlogAutismPuberty-FeaturedImage.jpg?time=1560914180186183Rachel Gossanhttps://secureservercdn.net/126.96.36.199/fnf.6b5.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.pngRachel Gossan2016-03-16 05:30:292016-03-15 13:53:55Puberty for Children With Autism
Ready, set, school! Wondering what reading skills your child should have by the end of their respective grade? Refer to the grade-by-grade guide below, based on the Illinois’ common core standards.
By the end of 7th grade your child should be able to:
Analyze how elements of a story interact
Analyze the impact of rhymes and other repetitions of sounds on a verse or stanza
Analyze how a drama’s or poem’s form or structure contributes to its meaning
Compare and contrast a fictional portrayal with a historical portrayal of the same time period
Analyze the structure an author uses to organize a text
Analyze the interactions between individuals, events, and ideas in a text
Trace and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound
Analyze how two authors writing about the same topic shape their presentations of key information
By eighth grade your child should be able to:
Analyze the extent to which a filmed or live production of a story or drama stays faithful to or departs from the text or script
Analyze how a modern work of fiction draws on themes, patterns of events, or character types from myths, traditional stories, or religious works
Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development
Analyze how a text makes connections and distinctions among and between individuals, ideas, or events
Analyze in detail the structure of a specific paragraph in a text
Evaluate advantages and disadvantages of using different mediums to present a topic
Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound
Analyze two or more texts on the same topic that provide conflicting information
By ninth/tenth grade your child should be able to:
Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences from the text
Provide objective summaries of texts
Analyze how complex characters develop over the course of a text
Analyze how the structure of a text, order of events, and manipulation of time create mystery, tension, or surprise
Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the US
Analyze the representation of a subject or a key scene in two different artistic mediums
Analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific work
Analyze seminal US documents of historical and literary significance
All standards have been reported from the Illinois State Board of Education. Additional standards are expected that have not been stated above. If you are concerned with your child’s reading skills, seek the guidance of a neuropsychologist who can help refer you to the appropriate support system.
With all the various forms of social media and online communication that children have access to, how does a parent serve as a gatekeeper to keep them away from cyberbullying and ensure positive peer interactions? Just like the conversations that occur about pro-social, appropriate behaviors that occur in real-time, proactive boundaries about expected behaviors should set with the initiation of online privileges.
Tips on How to Handle Cyberbullying
Let your child know that periodic checks of their account will be monitored to ensure compliance. Outline for your child what can be viewed as expected behaviors (positive/supportive commentary, asking questions about homework, making plans, etc.). It is equally imperative that you also describe to your child the behaviors that are not tolerated as acceptable, such as bullying. Bullying online might look very different than bullying in real-life since there may not be any physical threat of harm. Therefore, re-define with your child what bullying means. Bullying can mean using verbal threats to compromise the harm and safety of others, using negative commentary to make fun of another, and any behaviors that can have a negative effect on a peer’s self-esteem or feelings.
Once you have set up the parameters for expected online communication, also provide your child with the potential consequences of non-compliance such as lose of online privileges, reduced interactions with other negative peers, apology procedures for engaging in bullying behaviors (call victim and/or victim’s parents to apologize), etc.
Set your child up for success by arming them with appropriate and inappropriate behaviors and what they can face if they don’t follow family-defined protocol.
https://secureservercdn.net/188.8.131.52/fnf.6b5.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/cyberbullying.jpg?time=1560914180338507Ali Swillingerhttps://secureservercdn.net/184.108.40.206/fnf.6b5.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.pngAli Swillinger2014-11-17 16:55:132014-11-17 20:43:39How to Handle Cyberbullying
If you have a teenager at home, then you know how exciting of a time adolescence can be. With the excitement, however, brings a variety of challenges. As boys and girls begin their journey of becoming young men and women, parents are faced with having to constantly respond to the changing needs of their sons and daughters. Parents of teenagers will often notice that their relationship seems to change with their child during these years. While young teenagers are eager to separate from their parents and make their own choices, parents feel the pull to ensure that their teens are making choices that will be beneficial for their future. How do you support your teen as he/she transitions to adulthood?
We know that adolescence is a time of change. Physical, psychological, and social changes can create some real discomfort for a young teenager. Although it is no simple task, parents can do a great deal to support their young ones through these changes. The following are some tips for parenting your adolescent child.
How to Support Your Teen as He/She Transitions to Adulthood:
Encourage your son or daughter to speak to you about the changes he/she notices including the desire to be more independent.
Allow your child to make mistakes so long as safety and long-term future are not at risk. Talk to your teenager about the consequences of his or her choices in an empathic and understanding way.
Set clear and firm limits but allow for your teenager to have choices when possible; children of all ages need to have some say. Parents should collaborate with their children to set parameters and still allow for some “supervised” autonomy.
Help your child develop routines and structure to stay organized, especially when it comes to school. Teenagers are continuing to develop executive functioning skills and need your support to create and maintain solid systems for balancing home, school, and social life.
Be comfortable asking for help. If your teenager’s transition into and through adolescence seems especially difficult, be assured there is help available. Working with a social worker or other mental health professionals can provide you with support that is specific to you and your child’s situation.
https://secureservercdn.net/220.127.116.11/fnf.6b5.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/dad-and-son-workingtogether.jpg?time=1560914180338507Mike Meltzerhttps://secureservercdn.net/18.104.22.168/fnf.6b5.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/nspt_2-color-logo_noclaims.pngMike Meltzer2014-10-14 17:28:302014-10-14 17:28:30Teens And The Transition To Adulthood: How To Support Your Child