The ABC’s of Special Education

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 Anatomy of a Special Needs Child

18.5% of American Children under 18 are special needs students.That doesn’t mean they aren’t smart, talented, or capable. Just that they have specific challenges that a “normal” student wouldn’t face.

There are four major types of special needs children.

1.)Physical– Muscular Dystrophy, Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Asthma, Epilepsy, etc.
2.) Developmental–Down syndrome, autism, dyslexia, processing disorders.
3.)Behavioral/Emotional–ADD, Bipolarism, Oppositional Defiance Disorder
4.)sensory impaired–Blind, visually impaired, deaf, limited hearing.

Here’s our guide on how to identify and care for special needs children.

The basics

Is your child being treated humanely?               Know your rights:
The IDEA Act (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act):
–Students with disabilities must be prepared for further education, employment, and independent living.
–If a child’s strength, endurance, or stamina cannot keep up with school activities, they can qualify for “other health impaired” special education status.
Section 504 of the rehabilitation Act:
–Prohibits schools from discriminating against children with disabilities.
–Requires schools to provide accommodations for disabled students.
–Students with impairments that substantially limit a major life activity can qualify as disabled (learning and social development deficits too).
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA):
–Schools must meet the needs of children with psychiatric problems.
No Child Left Behind
–Schools must uphold achievement standards for children with disabilities.

Core Concepts

IEP, (or Individualized Education Program) is a legally binding document spelling out what special education services your child will receive and why. Includes classification and accommodations.
Classification: One of 13 different disability classes that qualify for special education services. Including: visual impairment, speech and language impairment, auditory impairment. deaf/blind, Autism, developmental disabilities, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, Specific learning disabilities, emotional/behavioral disorder, traumatic brain injury, multi-sensory impairment, and serious health impairment.
Accommodations: a change in timing, presentation, formatting, setting, etc… that will allow the student to complete normal classwork.
Modification: an adjustment to an assignment that a special needs child is not expected to complete at a normal level.

Types of Special Needs

Special Physical Needs

Whether you already know, or just believe your child may have special medical needs, finding the proper medical professionals greatly enhances your ability to take care of your children.

Choosing a doctor:
Location: if your child requires regular visits, you won’t want to drive for hours to specialist.
Demeanor: you want someone non-threatening (particularly to younger children) who is understanding towards special needs accommodations.
Insurance Help: Larger practices generally have more experience with expediting insurance procedures and being your advocate.
Availability: Something to balance with quality of service. You will probably need notes for teachers, school administrators, and others, and want to have an easily accessible doctor.
Quality of service: Perhaps the most important criterion. Set up a 10-15 minute “meeting” so you can gauge the Doctor’s knowledge about your child’s conditions.

Types of Special Physical Needs

Allergies and Asthma: 1/5
Juvenile Arthritis:1/1000
Leukemia: Very rare
Muscular Dystrophy: 1/35,000
Sight Impaired:
Multiple Sclerosis: 1/750
Hearing Impaired:

Tips for dealing with medical needs

1.) See if your child qualifies for “other health impaired” placement in special ed.
a.) Other health impaired (according to Federal Regulation) includes children who have “limited strength, vitality, or alertness, including to environmental stimuli.”

Allergies and Asthma– Are the same in children as in adults, only children have less maturity and emotional resources than adults to deal with them.

Tips:
1.) Explain to children what they are allergic to.
2.) Alert school personnel as to the conditions and provide medicines.
3.) Work with school personnel to make accommodations.
a.) Substitute another activity for recess on high pollen count days.
b.) Make sure that caretakers schedule symptom inducing activities around when a child will be in the area.
c.) Tailor coursework to provide emotional and explanatory support for the child’s condition.

Juvenile Arthritis

–Education is often interrupted during long “flare-ups” of juvenile arthritis. Here’s what you can do to promote healthy development.
1.) Establish an IEP or 504 plan with educators to ensure that your child’s rights are protected.
a.) The IDEA act (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) outlines a special needs child’s rights in education.
2.) If the students strength, endurance, or stamina is affected obtain a note from a physician to see if your child qualifies for special education under “other health impaired.”
3.) Contact the hospital or homebound coordinator for your district if your child is frequently missing large periods of school.
4.) Frequent communication between parents and teacher ensures the teacher knows the student’s current medical status and can adapt lessons accordingly.
5.) Proper ergonomics in the classroom are particularly important for children with juvenile diabetes

Leukemia–The five-year survival rate for Leukemia is 60%-80%.

Over such a prolonged period key emotional and cognitive developmental stages may be reached.
Key factors:
1.) Limit pain
2.) Emotional support helps with development
3.) Mental engagement is important so that recovering children don’t fall massively behind.

Muscular Dystrophy

1.) Ensure your child is being worked with by an Assistive Technologist, Occupational Therapist, and school Psychologist.
2.) Make sure that teachers understand that fatigue, clumsy or slow movement, or slurred words are health issues, not behavioral issues.
3.) Remember your child is still a child with normal interests and dreams.

Sight impaired

1.) Seek out an assistive technologist if impairment persists after help from an eye doctor. It’s hard to learn if you can’t see!

Hearing impaired

1.) Seek out ENT’s and assistive technologists to help your child. It’s hard to learn if you can’t hear!

Special developmental needs

Many developmental delays can be spotted in a child’s first year of life. Children develop at different rates, but these are the rough ages a child should reach certain milestones.

Motor skills

3 months:
1.) Lift head and chest when on stomach
2.) Follow people and moving objects with eyes
3.) Grasp rattle when given to her.

6 months:
1.) Reach for and grasp for objects
2.) Roll over
3.) Sit with little support
12 months:
1.) Drink from cup with help
2.) Crawl
3.) Walk with help

Sensory and thinking skills

3 months:
1.) Recognize bottle or breast
2.) Turn head to bright colors or sound of human voice

6 months:
1.) Imitate familiar actions.
2.) Open mouth for spoon.

12 months:
1.) Try to accomplish simple goals.
2.) Copy sounds and actions you make.

Language and social skills

3 months:
1.) Communicate fear, hunger, or discomfort.
2.) Smile when smiled at.

6 months:
1.) Smile at self in mirror.
2.) Know familiar faces.
3.) Babble. Sing-song noises.

12 months:
1.) Try to “talk” with you.
2.) Understand simple commands.
3.) Show apprehension at strangers, affection to familiar adults.

Tips for dealing with Special Developmental Needs:

Autism: 1/110
Autism spectrum disorder ranges from mild lack of social understanding, to non-verbal

Early signs:
1.) Not responding to name by 12 months.
2.) Delayed speech and language skills.
3.) Avoiding eye contact.
4.) upset with small changes in routine.

Tips:
1.) Get an evaluation as early as possible.
2.) Utilize school psychologist, and occupational therapist.
3.) Create a “safe” zone where the child can be alone and relax at home.
4.) Pay attention to child’s hypersensitivity.

Dyslexia: 1/5
Dyslexia is very taxing, taking at least 5% more energy to process basic tasks. Those with dyslexia have much to offer, however, with dyslexia sufferers often being above average IQ and highly creative.

Early Signs:
1.) Appears bright, but unable to read at grade level.
2.) Tests well orally, but not on written tests.
3.) Seems to “daydream” a lot.

Tips:
1.) Read advanced material. This engages both sides of the brain.
2.) Don’t stress the misreading of “little” words (in, i’m, none, he). They will outgrow such mistakes.
3.) Discussion, discussion, discussion.

Many students with developmental delays are actually very gifted. Don’t stress the little mistakes, let them show you what they can do.

Special Behavioral/Emotional Needs

Students with behavioral/emotional needs are more than capable of learning, but their disabilities need management so they don’t distract themselves or the entire class.
–Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD): 1/200
–Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD): 1/20
–Anxiety Disorders:

Overall tips:
1.) Learn more about your students specific illness, what caused it, what type of therapy they’re attending, and so on.
2.) Learn about the student’s strengths. Pull these out. Positive reinforcement works.
3.) Set very clear behavioral rules on the entire class or family.

Support the inclusion of all types of children and celebrate their talents. Most of all, don’t forget they’re just kids.

Thank you to Masters in Special Education for this information:

Link to Masters in Education.com

Citations

– http://www.healthfinder.gov/HealthAtoZ/Letter/e

– http://specialchildren.about.com/od/medicalissues/tp/Medical-Diagnosis-Index-A-B.htm

– http://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/patients/child/special-needs/medical/disabilities/default/

– http://www.cancer.org/cancer/leukemiainchildren/detailedguide/childhood-leukemia-survival-rates

– http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/fcs/pdfs/NC08.pdf

– http://www.aafa.org/display.cfm?id=9&sub=30

– http://www.kidsgetarthritistoo.org/about-ja/the-basics/genetic-arthritis.php

– http://www.shs.d211.org/science/faculty/bms/findocbio.pdf

– http://www.shs.d211.org/science/faculty/bms/findocbio.pdf

– http://www.disabilitysa.org/content-files/USAA%20Foundation%20-%20Children%20with%20Special%20Needs.pdf

– http://specialed.about.com/cs/idea/a/faq1.htm

– http://ms.about.com/od/multiplesclerosis101/p/ms_risk_factors.htm

– http://nichcy.org/disability/milestones

– http://www.p12.nysed.gov/specialed/autism/ASDbrochure.htm

– http://www.dosomething.org/tipsandtools/11-facts-about-dyslexia

– http://www.dyslexia.com/library/symptoms.htm

– http://www.ocfoundation.org/prevalence.aspx

– http://www.ptsd.va.gov/professional/pages/ptsd_in_children_and_adolescents_overview_for_professionals.asp

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Advocating for the Special Needs Child

Advocating For The Autistic Child
By Carly Fierro on November 27, 2012

Parents of autistic children must become advocates to ensure their children receive appropriate education and special needs services. A successful advocate researches her child’s legal rights, meets regularly with school staff, and documents all events related to her child’s education.

There is a fine line, however, between standing up for your child and his or her rights, and coming across rude and vicious. Unfortunately there will be times throughout your child’s life where he or she will be discriminated against. It’s not fair, but it happens and the best thing that you can do as a parent is represent your child in the best manner possible.

Know the Law

The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) makes sure all kids with disabilities have access to the right public education — for free — that can meet their unique needs by emphasizing special education.

IDEA is important for two reasons. First, your child has a legal right to “free appropriate public education.” Second, IDEA requires schools and Departments of Education to treat every special needs child as an individual and unique case, so services offered to one child may not be available to another.

Take the time to read IDEA, or at least a well-written summary, so you know what rights and services you can expect for your child. Check local and state laws governing special needs children as well. Some states offer services over and above those required by IDEA, while others provide the bare minimum.

The Importance of the IEP

Once a year, expect to meet with your child’s teachers, special needs providers, and school administration to review and modify your child’s Individual Education Plan (IEP), which covers all services and accommodations the child receives for that school year. Services not included in the IEP won’t necessarily be available.

Think of the IEP as a preemptive mosquito trap, where you catch problems before they occur. Listen carefully during the meeting, ask questions and make suggestions. Only remove services from the IEP if you’re certain your child no longer needs them.

Be proactive during IEP meetings. The school may not volunteer services unless you ask for them. Ask about issues such as classroom aides, summer sessions, speech therapy, and similar services.

Forge Alliances with Teachers

The IEP is an excellent time to meet and develop working relationships with your child’s teachers. Let them know that, as a parent of an autistic child, you understand the challenges that arise when teaching a special needs kid, and you appreciate their efforts. A little praise often goes a long way.

Offer to communicate regularly with teachers about classroom issues, either by phone or through email. Teachers usually appreciate parent involvement.

Get Everything in Writing

Follow an old lawyer’s creed: if it isn’t in writing, it never happened. Keep documentation of everything involving your child’s education, including copies of her IEP, specialist visits and education assessments.

Send a written request for any meetings or changes to services, and follow up all meetings with a polite letter. Your goal is to have a clear paper trail in case you need to prove or dispute issues.

Solutions Trump Blame

It’s all too easy to have an antagonistic attitude towards school officials if they seem unwilling to help your child. Accusations and heated words, while tempting, do nothing to help your child. Seek equitable solutions for both yourself and school staff whenever possible, and remain polite no matter what.

Occasionally you will run into a few adults who are not willing to help you or your child. Instead of getting angry, remember to keep your composure and hold your head up high. The last thing you want to do is set a bad example for your child. Take the high road and your child will learn to do the same.

 

 

CONTACT Special Needs NJ, LLP today for professional help in interpreting, planning, and advocating for your child’s IEP

 

 

Special Education Advocacy

 

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