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Christina and Wendy
I recently read a parenting article talking about how, as a mom, I should stop doing certain things for my kids. I liked the article and may have even shared it. As I thought of two of my children while reading it, I said, “Yes! Of course that makes so much sense”. But as I thought of my third child I felt my hesitation about the advice I received. Most of that advice would NEVER work for him because he needs to be taught in a systematic and cognitive way specific skills that other kids learn intuitively. For example, although many middle schoolers are messy, my middle schooler is messy and unorganized. However, he has a desire to be tidy and organized. The more I allow him to learn from his mistakes of unorganization, the more frustrated he gets which results in the more unorganized he gets. Eventually, he gives up all hope of ever being organized and this unorganization carries over from his binder, to his room, then his brain, and finally his emotions. It will affect him in every way. But if I (or another adult) offer an organizational method in a slow and systematic way, he learns it. Once he learns it without prompting or cues, he uses it. And while it may not be the way I envisioned it in my head, he uses it in a way that makes sense to him. Now he is ready to learn from the mistake of not using it. This process can take a week, a month, a quarter, or even a full year. No matter how long it takes, it’s important to realize what skills we can step away from and which ones need to be taught slowly and systematically which will give our children chances for more success.
We are deciding which post to write next and we would love to hear your opinion! Which one would you like to read next?
Please write your choice either in the comment section below, the comment section on Facebook, or send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll see which one gets the most responses and will write that blog next.
Christina and Wendy
Homework, extra curricular activities, dinner, family time, baths, stories, bedtime. Once your child gets home from school it is a whirlwind. How is it possible for it all to be done? Especially if you have more than one child? We don’t have a magic solution. Some days, at our houses, our children eat less than healthy dinners and skip bath times. Sometimes we send an email to the teacher and let them know why homework didn’t get done. Other days, we are having a glass of wine while we read Goodnight Moon for the 100th time.
However, I have found a solution that I like. I have created a schedule for my children which has helped them when they get home from school. I write it on a white board which makes it easy to add or take away things as I need to. I start with putting my children’s initials at the top of the white board and the rest looks something like this:
H M D
Each child places a check next to the sentence under their initial after they finish . They have tried to say they’ve completed something when they didn’t, so I always make sure to go back through and check behind them. 🙂
When my children know what to expect, they are happier. They don’t have to guess what my expectations are and I’m consistent on what needs to happen. This structure is also teaching independence in my children which makes them feel good. Some days, I am able to allow my children to choose the order they complete their chores. This enables them to have some control over their schedule which helps them gain ownership. Other days, it may be important to do them in a certain order (mainly because of an extra curricular activity) so I add a note at the top that says, “please do them in this order”. I also make sure I add the activities each kid has that evening. This has helped my kids know how much time they can take on each task which is teaching time management. Here is a sample sheet that you can download and tweak for your family:
Good luck with your after school routine! We would love to hear what works for you too! Please drop us a note at confidentsolutions7@gmailcom.
We feel that, as educators, once you take the time to make those honest connections with your students (whether they have exceptional needs or not), your classroom will run smoother. Teaching from your heart, truly seeing the kids individually–what are their worries, fears, wishes, dreams, struggles–is a bridge that connects the desire for students to learn. When your students know that you care for them and love them, we have seen children blossom, difficult behaviors grow soft (and even disappear), and classroom communities become more supportive and accepting of each other.
Christina and Wendy
We’re both special educators. We’ve both worked in a variety of environments and in different roles with children with various disabilities. We have collaborated and continue to collaborate with other professionals. We get it. We understand the paperwork, the state requirements, the long days. However, we also are both moms to children with disabilities. We continuously sit on both sides of the table. We have sat and heard information about our children that hurts our heart. We see where they’ve been excluded in a game or a social activity at school because of their differences. To their teachers, we promise to try to support you. As moms with a background of knowledge, we do have times where we feel frustration with the system, frustration of missed deadlines or IEPs not completely being followed.
With all of this being said, we would like to go back to one point in particular. As a teacher, please don’t say “it will be okay.” Those words stir up my insides. When I come to you to tell you about my child with a disability, please don’t tell me you’ve worked with “kids like him before”. You may have worked with a child with ADHD, Asperger Syndrome, or another disability like my child’s, but you have not yet worked with MY child. He is unique and his triggers are different from the last child with whom you worked. As parents, we often collaborate with other professionals to help our family and our children. When we offer to share that information with you, it’s inviting you into our inner circle. Please take our extended hand instead of saying you already know about this diagnosis and “it will be okay.” We are asking for you to join us in collaborating for the highest benefit of our child. As parents, we will do our best to speak respectfully to you and help understand your views and perspective. We ask for the same courtesy back. Parents know their children best. We can share what our child’s fears are, what his/her dreams are, and what makes him/her happy and sad. Those things are unique to each child and go beyond a diagnosis.
We agree there are some generalizations we can make based on a specific diagnosis. Our children, however, are still unique. It is so important in our children’s lives that the adults get to know them, just like you do with other children. Taking the time to make those individual connections with our children will help with understanding what they need to be taught. Often times, our children need to be taught skills that other children pick up naturally in their development. Getting to know them personally and collaborating with parents and other professionals helps you stretch and grow as an educator and in return will help our children do the same.
Yes, we too believe that it can “be okay”. We also recognize that for this to even be a possibility, we ALL need to work together and do our best to hear the words that each of us has to offer. This is the reason why we created this company. Let us help by being the bridge that spans the gap. The only way that it can actually “be okay” is if we all learn how to work together for a common interest: the success of our children.
Christina and Wendy
We have created an IEP Snapshot for you to download and share with general education teachers. Please click on the blue link just above this paragraph. Whether you’re a special educator or a parent, it’s an easy tool that allows you to write the quick IEP essentials for the general education teacher. Typically, we liked to fill in the details, slide them in a page protector, and give them to the general education teachers (including the specials or connect teachers). This way, they have a quick reference to remember those accommodations, modification, and goals that your team decided upon. We hope you find it useful!
We would like to thank Maria Hartemann for the use of her beautiful hummingbird zentangle for the IEP Snapshot. If you would like to see more of her work, check out her Etsy shop at https://www.etsy.com/shop/joyfulmamadesigns
Christina and Wendy
This is the last post in the “Know Your Forms” series. It is a lengthy one, however, we feel it is important to understand all pieces of your child’s IEP (whether it’s your child’s first one or the annual review). Your team should discuss each piece of the IEP during your meeting.
You’ve been through the process and you are FINALLY at the point where your child is eligible for an IEP. IEP stands for Individualized Education Plan. The IEP meeting can be held at the same time as the eligibility meeting or it can be held up to 10 days after the eligibility meeting, but still within the 90 day deadline (Know Your Forms-Eligibility and Know Your Forms-Referral For Help). After your initial IEP meeting, you will have this meeting annually to review your child’s progress and update his/her goals.
You should receive an invitation to the IEP meeting. You always have the right to ask for a different day or time. Your child’s team should be present for all special education meetings. (Who Is On Your Child’s Team?).
The first section of the IEP reviews your child’s strengths, any progress he/she has made, and how your child performed on any assessments. This will be a summary of all the data that you have already discussed at the initial referral and eligibility meetings. If it’s the annual review of your child’s IEP, it will be a summary of data on his/her goals, testing data, and progress from the year.
After this, you will be asked for any concerns you have for enhancing your child’s education and what your vision is for your child’s future. Take your time here! Really think about your concerns regarding your child’s education. When considering your vision for your child’s future, you can consider the future to be tomorrow, the end of the school year, or even after your child has finished school. This is something that you can prepare ahead of time and bring with you to your child’s IEP meeting.
Next, the special education teacher will ask if there are any upcoming transitions for your child as well as document any special factors ( such as deaf, blind, special communication needs, specially designed physical education, or limited English proficiency).
The next area is known as “PLOP”–Present Level of performance and written goals. You will have a separate page for each area of your child’s needs. For example, you could have a present level summary and goals for math and another one for reading. Measurable annual goals will be written to match your child’s present level of performance summary. You may also have short term objectives or benchmarks written. This is required if your child is on extended standards. Some districts do not require objectives or benchmarks for annual goals if your child is following the standard course of study. Each annual goal will align to the common core/ NC standard course of study for your child’s current grade level. At the bottom of each present level and goals page, your special education teacher will document how he or she will gather data to track your child’s goals. For example, it could be through anecdotal notes and student work samples. It is ok to speak up here too. Make recommendations or express concerns. Don’t worry if you don’t know the verbage or how to fully express what you want. The team should help with this. During this time, the team will also decide if any related service your child qualified for should be integrated into this goal or if any assistive technology is needed. What that means is, if your child is also going to receive speech language services or occupational therapy services, will those therapists also work on the same goal as the special education teacher? Typically, you will receive a progress report on your child’s IEP goals with each report card.
Accommodations and modifications, North Carolina testing, and least restrictive environment will be discussed next. Accommodations are a way the general education teacher (i.e.. classroom teacher) can help your child be more successful in his/her school day. For example, an accommodation may be that your child uses a slant board and a modified pencil during writing assignments. A modification is typically done by a special education teacher and related service providers but can be used in the regular education classroom. Modifications are specific strategies and tools that will help your child achieve their IEP goals. For the North Carolina testing program, your team will decide what accommodations or modifications are necessary for your child. For example, your team may decide that your child needs extended time on tests or needs to be tested in a smaller group in a separate room. Any accommodations for any state test must be implemented throughout the year for classroom tests. Please remember that you can always make suggestions for accommodations that you have seen your child use successfully. You are a part of your child’s team. Least restrictive environment (LRE) will be discussed and decided upon next. This will determine where your child will receive their special support within the general education classroom or the resource classroom. If the team decides that your child will be more successful within the resource classroom, a statement will be written justifying why the decision was made to pull them from the general education classroom.
Please note that this section of your child’s IEP could be “visually overwhelming”. It breaks down your child’s school day (including lunch, core academic subjects, and specials/connect classes) into sections where each accommodation is listed in detail.
The team will then consider how much time is needed for specially designed instruction. Services will be broken down into how many times per week, month, or reporting period and for how many minutes per session. This includes times spent with the special education teacher as well as times with any related service providers.
Continuum of Placement should be considered next. This is the percentage of minutes your child spends away from their general education classroom. If your child attends a special education preschool or is served in a different setting (home, separate school, etc.) there is a box to be checked.
The last few boxes let you know how you will receive progress reports (typically sent with report cards). Extended School Year can be considered during this meeting, but typically is a separate meeting if your child is a candidate. Finally, everyone will sign the IEP. If this is your child’s first IEP, you will also sign a form called a DEC6. This simply is a form granting the school permission to serve your child in special education. As always, you will also sign and receive the DEC 5 The Importance of a DEC5
A note for High School students: once your child is 14 years of age, he/she will be invited to attend the IEP meeting.
This meeting can be LONG. If you need a break, don’t hesitate to ask for one. This document is very important, but it’s also fluid. You or any other team member can call a meeting to reconsider any part of the IEP at any time.
Our intent with this post was to give you a general idea of what to expect during your child’s IEP meeting, understanding the IEP (which is also called a DEC 4), and how to be prepared. This document is very detailed and lengthy. As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us via email .
Wendy and Christina