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I realize now that it is ok for your child to be bored.

Last week, on 4th of July, my husband and I decided to run in the local race in our community.  After the race we showered and flopped down on the bed.  We checked in on Nicolas, he was fine playing his Gameboy 3D, so we took a nap.  Before taking this nap we explained clearly several times that we were leaving at 5:30 to head down to the football stadium for the concert and firework show.  We even explained to him that the Gameboy was going to stay home.   He seemed to understand.  Seemed is the best word to describe it!

About 30 minutes before we needed to leave, we gave our warning and reminder to Nolan that it was time to go to the field.  We told him the time we needed to leave.  He said, “okay, got it!”  Upon leaving, Nolan becomes flustered.  He said, “you never said anything about leaving and going to fireworks!”  And the drama begins.

We reminded him that we did tell him however, he probably didn’t listen carefully. After several minutes of “you didn’t tell me!”  and our response of  “yes we did, you didn’t hear us”, we finally jumped in the car and headed down.  I noticed the Gameboy in the car.  I told Nicolas this was family time and the Gameboy needs to stay in the car.  He seemed okay with the idea of leaving the Gameboy in the car.

Once at the football field, we sat down on the 30 yard line.  We had a great view of the stage for the concert.  My husband and I were so excited.  The English Beat played.  It brought us back to our high school days of social awkwardness and ska music.  Anyway, the band wasn’t going to be on for another hour.  So we sat, relaxed and waited.  However, Nolan couldn’t get his mind off that G in the car.  The tantrum had started.

He began screaming, “you call this family time? we aren’t even talking. We are just sitting here. Why can’t I have my Gameboy?  There is nothing to do.”  Our response was simple “we are spending time together.  If you want to walk around and look for friends from school, go walk around. However, the Gameboy stays in the car.”  The evening escalated to the point where he was scratching at the Astroturf trying to dig a hole.  Good luck with that!

My husband and I decided that he really wanted negative attention.  We were not going to engage.  We made a decision and we were sticking to it.  Finally the band came on and David and I hit the dance floor like it was the 1980’s.  We were not going to let Nolan’s teenage tantrum ruin our night.

This entire scenario was really our fault.  We have indulged Nolan with this Gameboy 3D since he was younger.  We knew that anytime he was bored all we had to do is whip out this contraption and presto Nolan would no longer be bored.    Hind sight being 20/20, I realize this was not the best solution.  So, what are we doing about this situation now?  Well since the teenage tantrum, we have removed all computer appliances.  They are being kept in a secret location to protect the innocent.   When Nolan earns his game time, he only gets one hour per day during the summer. He can even earn bonus time of another 30 minutes if he visits with guests or is helpful around the house.

It really is perfectly fine for children to be bored.  This is when they must learn to converse, create, and learn patients.  If they aren’t bored from time to time, than children might grow up to be adults who think there is always instant gratification and he/she must be fully entertained at all times of the day.  This is not the reality.  For our house, we have put the brakes on these electronics.  We have begun using the public libraries and neighborhood pools and beaches more.  We have required Nicolas to pick camps for the summer so he isn’t sitting at home all day.

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

25 Ways to Improve Executive Functioning- Useful Tips for Parents and Teachers

According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, “Executive function is a set of mental processes that helps connect past experience with present action. People use it to perform activities such as planning, organizing, strategizing, paying attention to and remembering details, and managing time and space.” (National Center for Learning Disabilities, Dec 2010)

In a blog article written by Nicole Eredics from The Inclusive Class, there are 25 ways for parents and teachers to help improve students’ executive functioning. In italics,  I have written a response to each idea to describe what I do in the classroom. I hope it is helpful for people to see what could happen in a general education setting. Please keep in mind middle school and high school might be slightly different. I will comment on those settings at the end of the list.

The list is as follows:

1. Have students take homework and planners out of their backpack and place it ON their desks at the beginning of the day (homework should never see the inside of a desk!).
As a teacher, I agree with this. I have had more students shove homework in their desk and forget about it. Then when it comes time to dismiss it is not in their backpack. They can’t find it. They come the next day unprepared. I have a little saying in my class, “If you put it where it is supposed to be, it will always be there.” After once or twice, most of my students are able to organize themselves much better. When the homework is passed out, most of the students will place it in a folder in their backpacks.

2. Teacher makes time to check-in with each child to see if homework is completed and parent signs planner.
I have a daily note, I require parents to sign each day. This is something I need to reinforce. However, it is sticky because I ask the students but it is the parents that also must remember. It is late in the year this year but I will work on this for the 2012-2013 year.

3. All homework is put into a “Hand-In” bin.
I don’t’ have a hand in bin but I do call 5 children at a time to check their homework. The homework is very easy to spot check.

4. A Daily Schedule is posted in the class and the teacher reviews the plan for the day.
I need to make room for this on my whiteboard. I think this will help many of my students who have anxiety as to what comes next.

5. Older students keep materials such as pencils, erasers and markers in a pencil box inside their desk. In younger classrooms, pencils are kept in containers, which are passed around or kept at group tables.
I have a system in my class for pencils. Each child has a pencil box. Inside the pencil box, the student has a scissors, crayons, and a pencil. If the pencil breaks, I have a trade system. The student must put the dull pencil in the dull basket and take a sharp pencil. The rule is “you must give one to get one.”

6. The tops of desks should be kept clear. If it can’t fit into the desk, find a shelf in the classroom to house large items.
I agree that the tops of the desks should be free of clutter. I used to place the alphabet strips and name plates on the desk. This just seemed to distract the student. Now, I have nothing on their desks.

7. All work is kept in a color-coded folder according to subject. The folders are kept in separate bins on a shelf in the classroom. I.e. a blue folder is for Math
I don’t have this system. I like the idea. I have binders for Language Arts. The students must keep it organized. It contains a few sections that align with our Language Arts program. I don’t have a system for Math. I love the idea of the colored folders. I think I will implement this for next year.

8. Lessons are kept in age-appropriate chunks of time and students are cued when a transition is about to take place. I.e. “You have 10 more minutes until Math begins.”
I am constantly informing students  when the next transition will be happening. This is very important for all students. I also use a timer as well. This keeps me in check too.

9. Countdown students before instruction is about to begin. For example, “You have to the count of 5 to stop, look and listen.”
I like this. I don’t do this countdown to instruction. I will add this to my bag of tricks for next year.

10. Give instructions in short, simple steps.
Short and simple steps are crucial. I write the steps on the board too. This way if the student forgets the steps, the student is able to help him or herself in order to finish the activity.

11. At the end of each lesson, have student’s hand-in unfinished work, as well as finished work. Again, paper should not go into the desk!
In my class, the finished work is placed in my finished workbasket. However, there is paper in the desk because I can’t stand the up, down and walking around. It creates too much chaos. So, I have an “Unfinished work folder” They keep this in their desk. We clean it out every so often.

12. Create a checklist of daily activities for students to keep at their desk and check off when items are completed.
I like this idea. I have a checklist. I have to make it more visible. I should move it to the front of the room. This might help many of the students who wonder, “What should I do? Oh, I’ll just sit here and wait for my teacher to tell me.”
13. Organize class into groups. Give instruction regarding movement and change according to groups. For example, “Can the Blue Group please line-up at the door?”
I do use groupings. It eliminates the students running like a herd of buffalo toward the door, paper bin, etc.…it is for safety purposes.
14. Make a seating arrangement when students are sitting at the carpet. Learning takes place here as well as at desks, so give this area just as much thought.
We only sit at the carpet when we venture out to the library. I make the students sit in a colored box. Their body must stay inside the box, and sit “Criss-cross apple sauce”.
15. Consider having the students turn the desks around (so that the opening of the desk is facing the front of the classroom) to prevent loose papers from being placed inside.
I like this idea. However, it makes it hard when you have double desks. I think it is helpful for those students who fidget inside their desk and are focused on the items in the desk instead of listening to the instruction.

16. Model the activity or behavior you expect from children and then have them practice it. Repeat if necessary.
This is crucial. If you don’t model the activity, students have a difficult time visualizing what the final product will be. The student can read the directions but demonstrating really helps cement the process of the activity in the students’ brain.

17. Create a Homework Board. At the end of the day, set aside time to review the homework for the day. Then have all students copy homework into their planners. Accommodations can be made if the student has trouble writing from the board, (ie. the student can take photo of homework board with a digital camera, a buddy can write out homework etc.).
I review the homework on Mondays. I think I need to add this for next year. I will write the homework on the board and review it before dismissing students. Even though I have the homework sheet posted on my web page, this might be more helpful to students who are more forgetful.

18. Guide students as they gather their homework, planner and materials to take home.
I need to work on this too. At the end of the day, I am always running late. I need to take five minutes and make sure children have their reader, homework, and parent notes.

19. Have students place their homework and materials immediately into their backpacks.
Even though this year most I my students place their homework in the backpack, I will begin my class next year training the students how to be organized about placing the homework in the backpack.

20. Some students may benefit from having an extra copy of textbooks to keep home.
My students don’t need an extra copy of the textbook. The only time a student is able to have an extra copy of the text is if the parents of the student have this written into an IEP. The general education class has the students bring the textbooks to the home and back to school the following day.
As for my son, who is in middle school, we have this extra copy of textbook written into the IEP. The reason for this is the heaviness of the books, and the anxiety of remembering to bring them home each day and then return the book the following day is stressful for my son.

21. Use the school website to post assignments, announcements and communicate with parents, as well as paper documents.
I think this is crucial. I have my homework posted each week. It is easy to keep up. In addition, I have links to great websites that might help my students.

22. When the child arrives home, unpack the backpack right away!
Parents need to do this more often. They need to go through their child’s backpack. They need to look at their child’s work and look for any school information. More often than not, parents don’t take the time to unpack the backpack.
As for my son, even though he is in middle school, we still take the time to go through the backpack. I am able to see where he still needs help placing papers in a folder or binder. This allows my son and I to have a conversation about papers floating in the backpack.

23. Help the child lay out homework and materials in a quiet workspace, where an adult can check-in and oversee progress.
I think this is important for parents to remember. The television and radio must be off. If you really want to listen to music, have the music be classical and on a soft volume. Many times, I hear too many stories from my students about the television being too loud and the student had a difficult time focusing. Parents need to be mindful of this situation.

24. Check to see if all homework is completed and then sign the homework planner to indicate that the homework is done.
Most parents in Elementary check their child’s homework. However, I do have some parents who don’t check the homework and the homework comes back to class incorrect because the student needed some clarification of directions.
I did check my son’s homework in elementary school and for the first two years in middle school. Now, I don’t need to check as much. I spot check for neatness and grammar issues. In addition, he has a tutor due to the fact that he is in honors classes and most of the concepts he is learning is over my head.

25. Have child pack all homework and materials into his/her backpack as soon as everything has been completed and leave it by the door for the next day!
I think this is very important to teach organization skills. It is important because the child is able to fully rest knowing that in the morning everything is all ready to go. The student doesn’t need to run around looking for all their homework or books because they took care of everything the night before.
We do this with Nolan. He has improved tremendously in his organization because of having his backpack ready the night before. He wakes up rested and relaxed. He has breakfast, gets ready for school, and is out the door. He is not frantic or having a panic attack. Every now and then, he forgets something, but it is not such an ordeal anymore.

Here is the link to the full article.
http://www.theinclusiveclass.com/2012/05/25-easy-ways-to-improve-executive.html

So, How Does the 25 items play out in Middle and High School?

How should these 25 tips play out in Middle School and High School?

Some could work better than others. The most important ones are as follows:

1) Create a Homework Board

2) Use the school website to post assignments, announcements and communicate with parents, as well as paper documents.

I think not only should the teacher have a homework board, the teacher MUST post the homework on a webpage.

3) Give instructions in short, simple steps. –

More often than not, teachers assign projects with unclear instructions. The instructions should be clear. The teacher should provide a rubric or checklist for the requirements of the assignment. If possible scan and link an example of the assignment on the webpage.

4) Some students may benefit from having an extra copy of textbooks to keep home.

In middle school and high school the textbooks are heavy and thick. If the student is to carry all those textbooks each day in a backpack, it is too heavy. It may cause back injuries from being hunched over, as well. We have tried the rolling backpacks. Most seem to fall apart, just like the backpacks, from the heavy load. I know this year alone we purchased three backpacks.

5) Guide students as they gather their homework, planner and materials to take home.
Most of the time, the teacher is rushed at the end of the period. Their should be a warning bell before the dismissal bell, to help teachers stop and help guide students to gather homework planner and materials to take home.

6) This is not mentioned in the list.  The school needs to have each teacher post the assignment on an e-grade book system.

Many schools have this.  Unfortunately many do not.  This is useful for the parent and child to see what assignments the student is missing.

To Pick or Not To Pick- The Revamped Squeeze Ball

Today, I received another fun email from my son’s school.  The complaint is that he is picking his skin.  The teacher then follows up with “if he picks again tomorrow and it bleeds, we will have to remove him from class.”  Really, I wanted to reply, “DID YOU CALL THE OT (Occupational Therapist) and discuss another solution to picking?”  I didn’t  say these exact words because I am trying to pick my battles.
Instead,  I sat down with my husband and reviewed the email.  We discussed how we wanted to approach this with Nolan.  My husband had a great idea.  He suggested that we have Nolan come up with the solution.  So, we called Nolan into the office.  Nolan’s immediate response is, “Did I do something wrong?”  When Nolan says this it always makes me a little sad.  When he asked us if he was in trouble, we told him, “No, we need your help with something.”  We asked him where his squeeze ball was located.  We talked to him calmly about the many reasons why picking his skin is not healthy.  He said he needed to do something with his hands,  He said he stopped using the squeeze ball because he might start playing with it.  Then, we asked him how could we solve this situation.  Nolan came up with a brilliant solution.  He said he would use the squeeze ball if he could have a something attached to it so that it would not fall out of his hand when he squeezed it. Nolan thought of putting the ball into a mesh bag.  He could then slide his hand into the bag and squeeze the ball.  He said his biggest concern is that the squeeze ball will fly out of his hand and he will get in trouble. 

This gave my husband some ideas for revamping the squeeze ball. The first attempt was some string tied around the ball.  That didn’t work.  Every time he squeezed the ball, the string feel off.   So, we decided to put the project down and walk the dog. We needed to look at this differently.  We had an “AH HA!!!” moment.  We realized we could make a small hole at the top part of the nylon covering and insert and string.  The string looped into the top part which fits around the wrist.  The string is long enough to fit around Nolan’s hand. Now, Nolan can squeeze away. 

I have no idea if it will work. The most important piece is that Nico had a say in how to stop his picking.  In fact without his input the new and improved squeeze ball would not have seen the light of day. 

Executive Functioning is Crucial to Success

In a blog I read, written by Byron McClure, a Nationally Certified School Psychologist and author of the Blog Fligher Education, Understanding Executive Functioning, this blog cites information from a book Assessing Executive Functions: A Life-Span Perspective, by Cecil Reynolds.  In this book, Reynolds states Executive Function is  “associated with the frontal lobe of the brain.”  Reynolds states, the importance of the frontal lobe is that it “involves self-regulatory behavior, generative behavior, meta-cognition and working memory” (Reynolds, 2008) http://flighered.com/2012/05/13/understanding-executive-functioning/.
How does a school assess if a child has an Executive Function deficit?  One of the questionnaires that School Psychologists use is called Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Functioning (BRIEF). According to McClure, the “BRIEF consists of two rating forms, a parent questionnaire and a teacher questionnaire, which is designed to evaluate and measure executive functioning in the home and school settings. The BRIEF is useful in evaluating children with developmental and acquired neurological conditions.”  In addition, McClure discusses a second assessment.  It is called “Conner’s – Third Edition Behavior Rating Scale.  This assessment is used for students who may have ADHD.  The assessment has a subset that rates Executive Functioning.”

On the www.ncld.org website, Dr. Sheldon Horowitz, defines Executive Function as the student’s ability to complete the following:

  • Make plans
  • Keep track of time and finish work on time
  • Keep track of more than one thing at once
  • Meaningfully include past knowledge in discussions
  • Evaluate ideas and reflect on our work
  • Change our minds and make mid-course corrections while thinking, reading, and writing
  • Ask for help or seek more information when we need it
  • Engage in group dynamics
  • Wait to speak until we’re called on
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 Students with Learning Disabilities have difficulties organizing their time when working on a project.  More importantly, these students have difficulties asking for help.   Here is the link for further information.  http://www.ncld.org/ld-basics/ld-aamp-executive-functioning/basic-ef-facts/what-is-executive-function
Here are some strategies used to help students with Executive Function Deficit suggested on http://www.ncld.org/ld-basics/ld-aamp-executive-functioning/basic-ef-facts/what-is-executive-function
General Strategies
  • Take step-by-step approaches to work; rely on visual organizational aids.
  • Use tools like time organizers, computers or watches with alarms.
  • Prepare visual schedules and review them several times a day.
  • Ask for written directions with oral instructions whenever possible.
  • Plan and structure transition times and shifts in activities.
Managing Time
  • Create checklists and “to do” lists, estimating how long tasks will take.
  • Break long assignments into chunks and assign time frames for completing each chunk.
  • Use visual calendars at to keep track of long term assignments, due dates, chores, and activities.
  • Use management software such as the Franklin Day Planner, Palm Pilot, or Lotus Organizer.
  • Be sure to write the due date on top of each assignment.
Managing Space and Materials
  • Organize work space.
  • Minimize clutter.
  • Consider having separate work areas with complete sets of supplies for different activities.
  • Schedule a weekly time to clean and organize the work space.
 Managing Work
  • Make a checklist for getting through assignments. For example, a student’s checklist could include such items as: get out pencil and paper; put name on paper; put due date on paper; read directions; etc.
  • Meet with a teacher or supervisor on a regular basis to review work; troubleshoot problems.
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My husband and I use many of these strategies with our son.  It is very helpful.  We have our son create an assignment calendar using iCal. Nico’s calendar syncs with my husband’s and my calendar.  This way we can also keep an eye on his schedule.  In the calendar we have him schedule time for projects.  We have our son work a little bit each day.  This helps chuck the assignments in to small digestible bites.  We use the timer to help us transition from break time to the next activity.  We also allow Nico a choice as to what assignment he will do first.  On the weekends, we ask him what time he wants to start his homework, he tells us the time, and for the most part he sticks to his promise.  Was life always like this?  No, it sure wasn’t.  My husband and I realized we needed to help our son with executive functioning because the school wasn’t going to provide any assistance. Please trust me, for every two steps forward, sometimes we take one step back.
  In today’s school system, the students either sink or swim.  The school’s excuse is that their isn’t enough funding, or the teacher has too many students.  My question to the school is “How many of those student in the class have an IEP?”  This is a contract between the parent and the school to ensure your child swims and doesn’t sink.   In reality, it is up to the parents and the parents alone.  The notion of it takes a village to raise a child doesn’t hold true in most public schools today. 
Here is my advice, identify and understand whether your child has an executive functioning deficit is crucial to the success of his/her school and future life experience.