Nolan’s First Three weeks of High School

Starting high school can be terrifying for anyone. Now add an Aspergers teen with anxiety to the mix and terrified doesn’t begin to address the fears.

Nolan just finished his third week at his new high school. He is really enjoying it. The RSP teacher provides Nolan with support and sets his expectations high. Nolan has risen to the challenge. Nolan is remembering to fill in the agenda book and remembering to get it signed by his teachers each period. In addition, Nolan is learning to communicate directly with his teachers via email and in person. He really doesn’t want us, his parents, to interfere. So, the deal was if Nolan took care of all his issues himself, then we wouldn’t interfere.

Even though we have had a great three weeks, we had 2 hiccups. The first issue was that Nolan made a joke in class. The student told the teacher. The teacher emailed me and the RSP teacher. I spoke with Nolan about it. I replied to all parties and told them Nolan will explain that what he said wash joke. The RSP teacher replied,”Nolan is a great kid. It is had in a new school environment. He is doing very well with everything.”. My jaw dropped. I realized at that moment, I had been holding my breath. Why? Usually I get the email, Nolan isn’t allowed to joke like that. Next time he will be suspended or in detention.
The other issue was the lunch line. I had placed money in Nolan’s menu pay plus account. It was the end of the week, I went on line to add more money when I realized the account still had all the money I deposited on the first day. I thought that was strange!!!!! Everyday, I would ask Nolan to tell three good things about his day. One of the things he would tell me was about lunch. He described this yummy roasted chicken he had one day. I thought it was bizarre!!!! So, I emailed the cafeteria worker at the school. She said the pin number was never used but I did have the correct information for Nolan. At the end of the day, I picked up Nolan. I asked him about his day. I asked him about lunch. I told him about the pin number not being used. He finally came clean. He wasn’t eating lunch because the line was too long. He didn’t want to wait in line and he didn’t want to tell me because I would worry. I explained the importance of the body needing to refuel during the day so he would be ready for the rest of his classes.
So, for all the people who don’t understand why we parents need to put our spectrum kids to the front of the line, this is an excellent example.
Well, I am back to packing lunches now in order to ensure that he will eat something.

Nolan loves his high school. He started choir on Thursday, went to his first football game and is learning to make friends. So far he is very happy!!!!

Do’s and Don’ts for Back to School

Today I read an article on the Back to School Do’s and Don’ts written by By Jerry Bubrick,PhD. He is the Senior Director, Anxiety and Mood Disorders Center; Director, Intensive Pediatric Obsessive-Compulsive Spectrum Disorders Program.

Here are some of his suggestions from the article.

Get back into a routine. Change your child’s bedtime from 11 pm to 9 pm. Start waking up your child at school hours. Once they are awake, have your child complete the normal school routine: shower, dress, and eat breakfast. At night, the author suggests limit screen time.  All screens should be off one hour before bed time. In addition, Dr. Bubrick states parents should Shop for school supplies earlier rather than later.

The most important part of the day is to make sure your child fuels their body. Dr. Bubrick says we should be more aware of meals. Why is this important? Dr. Bubrick gave an excellent example. If your child ate at 1pm and doesn’t get home until 5pm, then he/she maybe ravenous and unable to focus on homework. In order to focus, your child will need a healthy snack and then after about an hour your child will be better able to focus on homework.

When asking about your child’s day, Instead of asking “Did you make any friends?” (this may cause embarrassment to your child), Ask “How was your day?” Or

“Tell me three things you liked about today”- I like this last comment. it allows for more conversation to happen. In the question, “How was your day?”, if your child is like mine, you will get the answer, “Fine” then the child will walk away. When you ask for three good things, there are always leading comments to make after you listen first to what your child has to say. You could follow with, “What made this good for you?”

Dr. Jerry Bubrick suggests doing a trial run in order to get off to the right start.

He feels, especially for the child who is very anxious, take a drive by the school, walk into the building and allow the child to become acquainted with the smells and sounds. In addition, map out the classes and know where the locker is located.

As a parent, he suggests not to be afraid of set backs.

He feels parents and the child need to “Temper your expectations.” The expectation of the first days being stellar is not realistic. It is important to let kids ease into it and have ups and downs.Remember as a parent, every two steps forward there is one step back.

As parents, it is important to help kids manage their commitments.

Usually the first week of work is slow. So it is easy to take on new commitments.However, Dr. Bubrick suggests to wait until mid October before signing up for new activities. This way you have enough time for adjusting the schedules

Furthermore, it is important for the kids to balance their lives so that they are not coming home at 9pm and then starting homework and then off to bed at 11pm.

Dr. Bubrick believes this leads to depression. He feels children over commit themselves with activities. It is our job as their parents to show them how to balance.

One of the most important things to remember is that you are your child’s best advocate. If you see a problem but the school hasn’t contacted you, you contact them.

I tried to properly  link the article.  I had a difficult  time.  If you copy and paste this link, it should take you to the original article.  http://www.childmind.org/en/posts/articles/2011-8-24-back-school-best-results

High School Orientation Day

Well Nolan had his first day as a high school student. Now, I understand that it is just orientation but I was excited for him.  He found a familiar face and off he went with a smile on his face.  I was less excited realizing that I am the mother of a high school student.

Stay tuned for new posts during the year. I also have a new book I am reading too. The book is called Look Me in The Eye  by John Elder Robison.    It might take me a while to finish but I will share some interesting tidbits as I read.

What Does Least Restrictive Environment Really Mean?

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/specialneedstalkradio/2011/10/27/your-special-education-rights-with-jenn-and-julie#.T7XRC7QAndY.blogger

Hello everyone!  I took some much needed “Me time.”  However, I am off work for the summer.  I am finally able to finish my article on Least Restrictive Environment.  I learned a lot by listening to these two amazing women: Jennifer Laviano, an Attorney and Julie Swanson a Special Ed Advocate.

Here is a summary of their discussion on Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).

The history of these Special Education laws was to ensure these children have access to public schools and become part of the “fabric of the community” and not in a separate room or school. What LRE has become is a sword for school districts who don’t want to spend money on more restrictive placements provide the appropriate education for a child

The LRE definition is greatly misunderstood by parents and school districts.  There is both Statutory Language and Regulatory Language.  The Statutory Language and Regulatory language have similarities.  You are able to research the laws under IDEA 20 US code 1400@ sec.  The Least Restrictive Environment language is listed 1412.

The Statutory Language states that students with a disability are educated with students who are not disabled. The Regulatory Language states that each public agency must ensure, to maximum extent appropriate, students with disabilities are educated with students who are not disabled, unless the disability is very severe.

Basically, students should not be removed from the mainstream environment “to the maximum extent appropriate” unless the nature of the disability is so severe that education is not able to occur in mainstream.   The intent is to allow the student to be apart of the learning community and not being separated out due to the disability.  This is for public as well as private institutions.

Students with disabilities are entitled to a “Free and Appropriate Education” or FAPE.   If the student is successful with the accommodations, then this is the right environment for that child.  When the child is not successful, then the IEP team needs to discuss other options.   The LRE analysis should happen last after the discussion of what the appropriate program is for that child should be.   Then the team needs to make sure the program is appropriate program.  If the student can be kept in public school regular education class with supplemental aides and services with support and it is working, then that is the least restrictive environment.  When this is not working, then it is important for the team to go down the LRE appropriate environment.

However, most district are skipping the part where the district needs to add support in the form of a shadow, testing accommodations, etc.…and the school district feels due to monetary reasons it is easier to place the child in a special education, self-contained classroom.  The schools stop looking at what the child needs.  The school districts need to think out side the box and become more creative when looking at the best least restrictive environment.  So, the schools basically wants to place children in a self-contained classroom without looking at the supplemental support that could be provided for that student in order for him/her to stay in the mainstream environment.

According to Jenn and Julie, the State and Local agencies are required by IDEA to maintain a continuum of appropriate alternative placements.

Parents need to remember schools districts must provide FAPE under the (Individual with Disabilities Education Act) IDEA are required to provide an appropriate education.

Here are the ranges of the continuum. Think of it like a gas tank from Empty to Full.

1) The student is in a full inclusion, which is the regular education.  This is at the top of the continuum

2) The student receives Special Ed service as push-in as a service.  This means that an aide or teacher comes into class to provide services to the student.

3) The student must leave the class and be pulled out in order to provide instruction in another room.

4) The student spends more of his/her time in a different classroom than a regular education setting.

5) The student is being pulled out of regular education classroom and placed in room with students with disabilities.

6) The child is placed in an “out of district program.” This is a day program, private education school that is approved by the state.

7) At the opposite end of this continuum is either a residential or hospital setting.  The student is there for 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Think of Least Restrictive to more restrictive like a gas tank.  Least being Empty, Most being full.  It is a “continuum” the analysis must be placed on the individual needs of the child.  Special education teacher can be push-in to provide related services or the students can be pulled out to provide services more restrictive.  It should be based on what the student needs not what the local district is able to provide.

It is important to remember that more restrictive doesn’t mean more restrictive for your child, it might be the correct placement.   The obligation of LRE should always be based on the child’s needs.

Do you ever feel bullied by the school system? I do.

Well, the IEP came and went.  We just received a copy this week.  Wouldn’t know it, the Special Ed. Dept didn’t put in what they said they would.  They were going to write in specific instructions about how the shadow would interact with Nolan in the classroom setting.  In addition, they were going to write in a fade out plan.   So, when I read the IEP and said that I wasn’t going to sign the IEP until the team made the changes that we discussed.  The Special Ed. Dept. replied, “The IEP is closed, so we can’t make any changes.”  What????  So, I sent a follow-up email that said, “What does closed mean?  and can’t we do an addendum ?”  Their response was, “No, we can’t do an addendum and you will just have to sign that you disagree and go to due process.”

The school is just ramming this choice down our throats.  We have had no say what so ever.  What is really disheartening is that the schools don’t care.  They need to churn out these IEP’s and get them done as fast as they can.  In fact they are moving so fast that my son’s school site forgets to proof read these IEP’s because they are full of misspelled words.   When I mentioned that this needed to be edited and I needed a clean copy they denied that request as well.

You should always be given a clean copy (error free) of your IEP.  However, it would be too professional for public schools to abide by this standard.  Far be it from any of the staff members to proof read their work.

Let’s just say I am happy to be done with this school.  I hope the high school will be much more positive.

So Are You All Wondering How The IEP Meeting Went?

Let’s just say some people need people skills. Here is a little bit of what happened.

First off, they start the meeting with “We are in a time crunch and have to finish in less than an hour due to the fact she has to teach a class.”  Boy we feel so warm and welcomed.  Let me just say, the school psych is fabulous.  She really took time to get to know Nolan.  The connection the two made is genuine.  She had really wonderful things to say about Nolan.  She shared about a recent time when he showed empathy,  as well as situations when a young man keeps pushing Nico’s buttons in group and Nolan is very calm and doesn’t explode.  However the teacher of record is a sweet lady that feels challenged when we, the parents, don’t agree with her choice.  She states that she doesn’t feel appreciated.  My response to that is “I appreciate everything you do for my child.  I may not agree with it.  These two are separate issues and one has nothing to do with the other.”

During the meeting, we came up on the part of the push-in support of the shadow.  This is where my husband and I mentioned our concerns of the current shadow who is becoming overbearing and embarrassing Nolan.  She became enraged and said, “I am not discussing that right now.”  WHAT????  I said, “Why not this is the IEP meeting, we are on the topic of the shadow.”  She just become unglued and yelled at my husband and I.  Her behavior was atrocious.

Her suggestion for high school is for my son to have a shadow “for his safety as well as the safety of others.”  Are you kidding me?  My husband and I vocalized our feelings about this situation and demonstrated how the current situation is not working.  My husband explained to the teacher of record, “We will think about your recommendation and weigh the pros and cons.  This is a delicate situation where we don’t want to stigmatize him as a trouble maker. In addition, Nolan is on his way to becoming a man.  This is a sensitive issue and not one we take lightly.  Furthermore, Nolan is who he is and he has this disability and it isn’t going to go away.  The teachers need to be more understanding when talking to Nolan.”   Right on Mr. D!!!!

It was 2:05 pm and the teacher of record closed her file and left the room.  At that point I told the Special Ed Coordinator that her behavior was extremely unprofessional.  The counselor for the AB3632 even chimed in stating that Ms. Booth needed to communicate to us, the parents, the remedies of the situation between the shadow and Nolan instead of her response of “I took care of it and I am not going to discuss this.”

The positive is that the Special Ed Coordinator is going to change the language of the IEP in the section of the IEP where it describes the duties and interaction of the shadow.  The way a shadow should work is as follows:  A shadow should work with a group of students. With in that group of students is the special ed student the shadow keeps an eye on.  This way none of the non-special ed students know who the shadow is for.  We are having that descriptive language written into the IEP.  In addition, we are asking them to have incentives if Nolan is responsible and takes care of his business, then the shadow will give him more space.

All I have to say, in my school district at my site, we would never yell at a parent during an IEP.  We would listen respectively.   Parents of children with special needs have the right and need to be heard.  The IEP is meant to be a team meeting not a dictatorship.

 

Sample IEP Accommodations From WorryWise.org

Well we are gearing up for our IEP on Monday. I have been researching different concerns that the school constantly mentions in their daily emails to me. My biggest concern for Nico is to ensure he has appropriate accommodations in his IEP. I stumbled across the website with some sample IEP accommodations for students like Nico, who have a high anxiety level.

Here are some suggestions from this website. There are a few more than I have listed. I have copied the link below for everyone.

Classroom environment

The students must be placed with a teacher that is organized. A structured classroom will reduce anxiety. In addition, the teacher must redirect negative behaviors in a way that is respectful and not punitive.

Seating within classroom

The student should be seated away from more “rambunctious” students. This way the student will be able to focus on the instructor and will be less distracted.

Following directions

Concerns about getting the directions wrong either because of distraction or misunderstanding are common. Signaling the class first when giving directions (flashing lights, clapping hands) and when possible having directions written on the board or elsewhere may assure anxious children that they have understood the directions.

Class participation

Responding to questions in class is stressful for students with anxiety issues. It is important to provide opportunities for these students to respond to questions. One thought is to use a signal letting that student know when his/her turn to answer the next question. Furthermore, asking the student yes or know questions also helps the student participate in a manner they are comfortable. I am not sure if I agree with the yes or no questions. I do agree with letting students know when it’s their turn.

Class presentations

Children with extreme social anxiety may have difficulty with oral reports. Consider having the child present to the teacher alone, or have the child audiotape or videotape the presentation at home.
Answering questions at the board
For children with social anxiety, the combination of getting the answer wrong, and being visible to the whole class may be so overwhelming that they may opt to avoid school altogether. Consider having the child exempt from going up to the board until they are ready to handle that challenge, or, begin to approach that situation by eliminating the risk of being wrong, by simply asking the child to write the date on the board.

Testing conditions

Allowing students extended time on tests will elevate the pressure of test taking.

Sometimes anxious children become distracted when they see other children working on their tests or turning them in, they may inaccurately assume that they don’t know the material as well. In addition, it is important tomhave students test in an alternative Testing environment, In addition, students with anxiety should be allowed to use of word banks, equation sheets, to cue children in order for them not to “blank out” on rote material.

Safe person
These exceptional learners need a “go to person” “a safe haven” when the are feeling so anxious they can’t function. Most times it is the teacher of record or the school psychologist. This person is also the “Cool Down” person when other students are bullying the student.
More over, the student should be allowed to leave class and go to this person at anytime. The should have a pass they wave so the teacher knows the student is leaving and where the student is going.

Assemblies/large group activities
Students who have anxiety about getting from one class to another and dislike crowds should be allowed to leave class a few minutes early to avoid a rush of passing students.

Extra time for work

Ever responsible, anxious kids may be very distressed about work they have missed while they were out. Assign a responsible buddy to copy notes and share handouts. If tests are given the day of the child’s return, give them the option to take the test at another time and use the test-time to make up any other missing work.

Homework expectations

If children are spending inordinate amounts of time on homework because of OCD redoing, rechecking, rereading, or simply worrying that the assignment wasn’t done thoroughly enough, the teacher can set a reasonable amount of time for homework and then reduce the homework load to fit into that time frame. Teachers can also provide time estimates for each assignment (this could be helpful to the entire class), so that the anxious child can attempt to stay within 10% of the estimated time. Eliminate repetition by having the child do every other math question, reduce reading and writing assignments, consider books on tape if a child is unable to read without repetition, for a child with writing difficulties, consider having a parent, teacher, or another student “scribe” for the child while he or she dictates the answers.

Here is the link

WorryWise