Continued from: IEP: Components to Consider When Seeking Accommodations
To give clarity about these posts, I am giving suggestions, insights, and trying to bring some awareness that the needs of our children and their goals should be based upon their specific strengths and challenges. This is supposed to be the purpose of the Individualized Education Plan (IEP), but I have observed from reading and interacting with parents that many times terms are blanketed into one thing such as working on motor skills, but no one has looked into dysgraphia, in some cases they have not even heard of it. If there are issues with following instructions, unable to follow instructions, disorganized, repeatedly looks as if they are listening, but do the opposite or their attempts are different from what you told them some claim these to be behavioral problems.
Or automatically ADHD, there could be other things to consider — dyslexia, executive functioning dysfunction, or even taking time to observe/ask about sensory sensitivities.
To take it one step further, ask or observe if there are any social issues that may be happening. From my personal experience, I have had moments when my mind gets so confused by a social interaction that I cannot focus or discern what I am being told or asked. This happened to me as a child and many times I was able to recover quickly when I was (am) able to understand the situation. Of course, this is not going to be all the time and every situation is different, but by adding accommodations/goals to an IEP for social circumstances could benefit a child and teachers greatly. If they struggle with math has dyscalula been considered? When they become overwhelmed with sensory issues have the specific ones been broken down and was accommodations/goals written for them. I go through those and several others in my next post.
This sounds like a lot and it is, but consider what the child/person is going through.
We have to navigate through a world that most people around us can filter through much easier and comprehend their surroundings much quicker. This is not quick and easy for anyone and I loved this comment that Shelien left on my last post.
When I first began teaching I found it very overwhelming when I’d read an IEP with 15+ adaptations. What helped me was to have the parent/child identify the most important 2-3 for me to start with. Then, once I’d incorporated those it got easier to add more. Testing accommodations were often a priority to start with, and then we could work “backwards” to ensure student got practice using the accommodations on a daily basis. And, once you’ve gotten familiar with each accommodation it becomes a lot easier the next time round!
It is a lot to consider for teachers as well, which is why the IEP should be a team effort with everyone’s input. For the teacher meeting your child for the first time or working with an IEP at first, maybe limiting the adaptations to focus on the most crucial that will make the most impact for the transition. When it comes to an IEP it can become systematic causing the identity of the child to be lost and wrapped up into goals, accommodations, frustrations, and yes, even intense emotions — if you have been doing them for a long time, or feel defeated in fighting for your child’s needs or even being a teacher feeling your own set of frustrations possibly this will give some reviving thoughts. I don’t know, I am just sharing my thoughts and hope that they are helpful in some way. Before I used virtual school, I home schooled on my own. I now use Connections Academy. I am not sure how they are for each state, but for us they have proven to be exceptional thus far. When I was homeschooling on my own, I knew at some point I may need to enroll Daniel into a charter school, public school, or some sort of alternative school.
In order to help me understand somewhat the process of an Individualized Education Plan I created my own using information that I found online that explained them.
I did find these for those who are homeschooling or considering it. HOW TO WRITE THE SEP
Step by Step, Homeschooling Your Struggling Learner, Questions and Answers for Parents of Special Needs Children I wanted to observe Daniel to learn his needs, ways to use his strengths, document his challenges, and create goals. Of course, I accommodated him, I do every day that is part of our daily lives as special needs parents, but doing this process surprisingly helped me. Not only with understanding myself much more and making sense of my school years, but it gave me more confidence to know Daniel’s and it helped equip me to know what to ask for when the time came to create an IEP through the virtual school.
Since I had never gone through the process with an actual school I was concerned whether or not I understood or had enough knowledge.
I always do that though, hence, why I research something until I feel that I have enough information – that can take hours, months, even years (decades!) depending on the topic. I was open to learning more from the process and wanted to learn as much as possible through it. I did learn a lot from it, from the teachers and the therapists too. I am still learning, love that! From the beginning with homeschooling Joshua through kindergarten I knew that he was struggling in his own ways. I made my concerns known with his first grade teacher after several weeks into it. I felt that my requests were unheard and my concerns were invalidated by his teacher. She assumed that by repetition and constant practice that he would improve. I tried those things and it turned into a nightmare for him and it was tough on the both of us.
I did my research and found ways to help him on my own.
I knew that he showed many signs of being dyslexic, as well as dysgraphia, and Aspergers. I also, I knew that he would need additional help. I told her my concerns and still my concerns went unheard and she seemed dismissive. I mentioned my concerns to Daniel’s special needs teacher and thankfully she listened. At the beginning of this year, we went through the process for Joshua obtaining an IEP that has helped him so much this year. Both boys have had an outstanding year. However, I was specific and detailed in my requests and in explaining what their challenges and strengths were. This has taken time, but well worth it. This brings me to my next point, you know your child(ren). You have the ability to share with their educators/therapists their needs, however, you may be in the same position that I was in for a while which is that I could explain responses, stims, behaviors, triggers, but I did not know why they were happening or what to call them.
Because of my limited knowledge, many of the things I observed I considered behavioral until I started to break down and journal my observations.
This does not have to be long and detailed. You can get a small calendar or a composition book and date the pages. Any time a specific response happens, when you get a moment after the fact, jot down a quick note. Anything you observed, remember it does not need to be exact details, but just those things that pop out to you. Food, smells, people, new situations, specific homework, the mention of homework, the act of writing, thinking about a question, sights, sounds, anything. You can even make it as simple as one word as long as it is something that can help you and possibly detect a pattern. This information can lead to deciphering what is happening and why it is happening. It can give the information you need to go into the IEP’s feeling that you are confident in what to ask for and working with the IEP team for your child.
For me, I was unsettled with generalized definitions.
There are many times with Daniel that there can be several challenges overlapping and triggering each other, it is difficult to distinguish between them. Sometimes the accommodations can parallel in helps so you are not exactly sure which one the accommodation is helping, this can also trigger hindrances when they work against each other. However, once I understood Daniel’s comorbid challenges and discovered his learning challenges I was able to find words, definitions, traits and symptoms to help me understand his responses and see how I was setting off his triggers at times. (It is not all Autism and behavioral problems.) It gave me more insight into his strengths as well and ideas on how to use them to help him. Gaining this information helped me to explain to his teachers and therapists how to work with him. It helped me gain knowledge in distinguishing when Daniel is having physical problems causing him to be upset or if it is the actual tasks, directions, situation.
Some days I still cannot tell, especially, when he is unable to communicate. BUT I do know that the majority of the time it is not behavioral.
It is challenging to distinguish each day; I am not going to say that it is not. We have some seriously challenging days. Daniel can have different challenges or strengths on any given day, but it has become a little easier to know when to try to motivate him to do more and when to let it go. His sensory struggles are not always consistent; the only one that is the same each day is sound. He is highly sensitive to sound and if one slight noise affects him the rest of his day is a whirlwind of triggers that set off different sensory, anxiety, specific need for routines that he has transitioned from, and/or elimination of certain foods, again. It can be a gamut of things that I try to help him with. I am not sure if this is common for other Autistic children, but there are probably a number of you who can relate in some way.
Joshua and Ariel are fairly consistent.
Anything that changes is usually triggered by some sort of social dynamic, but there are days when the boys trigger each other and it takes time to bring balance. These types of things, I can somewhat control in our learning environment. I can determine how much and what type of schoolwork they do. If you do not home school, how do you get that too for your child? With Daniel’s therapists and when he needs to speak with his teachers I email them ahead of time and tell them about his day if need be. If there is a thunderstorm I tell them because they make him in a frightened/anxious state. If he was frustrated about anything and could get easily upset I tell them. I do not expect them to stop what they are doing, but it gives them an idea of how he is feeling and lets them know not to push too hard or do things that require too much processing. I am not sure if schools do this or not, but if it were possible to make a quick reference of how the morning before school went, any heightened sensory issues from the morning, or giving a quick note if they did not sleep well the night before etc … could be helpful to both the teacher and the child.
Ask the child as much as possible; observe their progression and feelings about what they are doing.
For instance, when Daniel was nonverbal traditional PECS did not work for Daniel. He did not get it or like it, but when I changed the images to “real life” images and sang sentences, questions, and answers in tunes that he was familiar with like “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” Daniel was more responsive and interactive. His communication was not verbal, but it was musical. If you know these things about your child communicate it to the team and see what can be done. Come up with specific goals, if you were their teacher what would you want most for them? It is going to look different for each child and each age, developmental delay, language delays, and different forms of communication are to be considered there is no way for me to give exact goals or accommodations ideas. This is for the parents and the IEP team to decide. I would suggest implementing a plan on learning and seeking their way of communication along with teaching.
At home, I am to control the sensory environment and make it as accommodating as possible in many cases that cannot happen in a public school.
My kids walk around, take breaks, do school on the floor, sitting on exercise balls, holding hand weights, are aloud to talk, and engage in a lot of movement while doing school. This has proven to help them very much, but it is not realistic in a public school setting. So what can you do? My suggestion would be to think about when your child is most relaxed, at ease, and seems to feel happiest/safest, share that with the IEP team and see what can be done. Outside of the IEP, consider what you can do to make them more comfortable before going to school. On particularly, challenging mornings will comfortable clothes or their favorite clothes make a difference? I know it may sound silly, but when Daniel is hypersensitive and we need to go places or try new things I put him in green colored shirts or shorts. Green is his favorite color and automatically puts him at ease, he may still be hypersensitive and could very well have a meltdown, but he recovers sooner and feels safe. Are there any toys, items, some kind of object that will bring them peace throughout the day? Can that be allowed to stay with them?
This may sound a little off, but for me one of my stims that I had all through school and still have is chewing gum.
I had gum and do have gum in my mouth practically all the time. I used to sleep with it! Not suggested. I learned to hide my gum because my teachers would not allow it and when they made me throw it away I would spiral and become disruptive no matter how much effort I put in trying to not to. I know that you cannot get exactly everything, but if worded correctly and placed in the IEP there is the possibility of getting fairly close. I cringe at even suggesting that you write anymore things down, but we all have mounds upon mounds of paper work that we have filled out for our kids. Binders full. We have answered so many questions until we cannot think anymore. Many of us can write down virtually every single thing at this point blindfolded. (Some of you may be just starting out on this journey, try not to get overwhelmed. Take breaks and focus on what you can, reach out to trusted people or even to those like me who are blogging.)
Unfortunately, what can happen is that we can become disconnected from it.
It is like when we become overexposed to something we can no longer have a response or are able to have clear thinking about it. It is exhausting going through it and if you have been going through it year after year even if things have gone well it can become like a task to check off a list. If it is a negative it can be a source of great stress, anxiety, anger, and frustration. Maybe stepping away, or finding someone with a different perspective can help you see things that you can no longer see would be helpful. After that, maybe you can go back and consider things that suddenly pop into mind that could be a trait or symptom of something that you have not considered. This does not have to be taxing or stressful, go with what you intuitively know about your child and with what you have observed. You can do this and I am most certain that it will build your confidence in knowing that you do know your child.
With everything that you see as a challenge, next to it write out strength about them.
Remind yourself of the qualities that you love the most about your child(ren). Speaking from my experience, be ready and willing to accept that you may have misread, misunderstood, did the absolutely wrong thing at some point, and that you may need to change your perspective in what your child needs and how they need it. It’s ok, accept, change it, and move on. Empower yourself by wanting to learn new things and by looking at whatever the special need and/or learning challenge(s) there may be in a new way, step back, and try to think differently. Challenge yourself and your paradigms, think of any negative associations and try to work through them — face them. All of this is a journey that is not only about your child’s educational needs, but their emotional needs and your relationship. What they receive now and how they are treated by you, their teachers, and through the IEP process will impact how they feel about themselves and who they are for the rest of their life — yes, it is that important.
How they are perceived and treated by the adults in their life can set the tone for how they are treated by their peers.
Next post: IEP: Components to Consider When Seeking Accommodations III (Breakdown of sensory processing, learning challenges, behavioral considerations etc …)
1 person likes this post.