Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Individualized Family Service Plan - Help for Families of Young Children With Developmental Delays

Individualized family service plans (IFSPs) are a tool to assist parents of children with disabilities from birth through the age of two. They are created collaboratively by multi-agency teams of professionals and the family of the child with a suspected developmental delay. IFSPs revolve around helping the family to facilitate the child's development. The guidelines for IFSPs are spelled out in Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and all states in the United States have laws and processes for providing early intervention services.
Children are usually referred to early intervention services through their doctor or through child find services available from your local school district. In some states, IFSPs are coordinated through the Department of Education and in other states, IFSPs are coordinated through the Department of Human Services. If you Google your state's name and IFSP you should be able to find the resources you need. If you have a child who exhibits developmental delays in their physical, cognitive, communicative, social and emotional and/or adaptive skills areas they may qualify for an IFSP.
IFSPs may include screenings, providing a range of therapies to the child, providing family training, providing financial assistance, providing important medical and educational information and providing emotional support to the families of children with developmental delays in one or more areas. Services are not based on financial need and service fees are usually based on a sliding fee scale and vary from state-to-state. There is a strong emphasis on providing support to families of underserved populations, which include; children of color, children living in poverty, homeless children, children living in rural communities and children who are wards of the state
IFSPs are generally revised annually and reviewed every six months or sooner if the parents put in a request for an earlier review. IFSPs are focused on the family as a whole rather than just the individual child because the environment that the child is developing in strongly correlates with their development. Services from agencies are not forced upon parents but are offered to assist the parents in helping their child to reach developmental milestones. The child find team usually includes professionals from the field of education, the medical field, the social services field, the pediatric therapy field and the counseling field.
This diverse team usually screens and assesses the child and then works with the family based on their level of need in different areas to access services their child may need. Whenever possible, therapies are provided in the natural environment of the home or community to enhance the families ability to help their child develop the skills they need and to foster independence. If the team determines that services and support are no longer needed the IFSP may be closed. Usually a few months prior to a child's 3rd birthday, children with developmental delays will be reassessed to determine their eligibility for special education services, which may begin on a child's 3rd birthday if he or she is deemed to be a child with a disability as defined in Part B of IDEA.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How To Go About Educating Your Special Needs Child In A Mainstream School

In this article I am going to tell you how to go about educating your special needs child in a mainstream school. The reason I am going to tell you this is because it is important to make an informed decision about what will work best for your child when it comes to meeting their education needs.
In this article I am going to teach you 
  • How schools and local authorities address educating special needs children
  • How to determine whether your child is ready for integration into mainstream school
  • Whether any additional assessments are needed prior to educating your special needs child in mainstream education
  • What additional resources may be required for your special needs child
  • What you can do to help your child integrate into the mainstream educational system.
When it comes to educating special needs children in mainstream schools; the local authority and school under consideration must first determine whether having your child at the school will cause a disruption to the teaching carried out at the school.
Some children may have emotional problems and can disrupt the teaching time and impact on fellow class mates also.
They will also need to determine whether it is cost effective for your child to attend and this mainly depends on the level of special needs of your child (mild, moderate, severe or profound).
If it would cost too much money to put systems in place specifically for your child, then a more specialised school may be required.
You may want to educate your special needs child in the mainstream school but you need to consider will your child's needs be met which is the most important consideration.
To integrate into the mainstream system, you need to be confident that your child will fit in. How well can they and do they communicate with others? Do they form relationships with their peers?
The last thing you want for your child is to put them into a situation that they will find uncomfortable, intimidating and overwhelming.
When it comes to educating special needs children you need to give the school any reports you have on your child and they will then determine if more specialised assessments are needs prior to them making a decision. They will then be in a position to assess and advise whether they have sufficient special needs resources in place or can access them in time for your child to start school.
If accepted to mainstream school, you can help your special needs child by making them familiar with the school and its layout, ask for a tour from someone working in the special needs section of the school and meet the teacher in advance if possible.
Discuss with your child what a typical day will be like at mainstream school for them. Be open to their questions and if unsure about anything, put these questions to the school.
There will of course be a period of adjustment for your child, but with your help the transition can run smoothly and your precious child can integrate into mainstream school.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

How Does a Parent Make a Special Education Referral for Their Child?

As a parent, you may make a special education referral for your child at any age up to sixteen. Many parents believe that only school personnel are allowed to do this and that is incorrect. According to Section 300.300 of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), "either a parent of a child or a public agency may initiate a request for an initial evaluation to determine if the child is a child with a disability." There are different regulations and procedures according to the age of your child that I will outline here.
If your infant, toddler or child is not in school and you suspect that he/she is not developing appropriately and that your child may have a disability it is a good idea to discuss this with your child's pediatrician. They have specialized training in detecting disabilities and will make a referral to early intervention services for you if they concur with your suspicions. It the pediatrician does not concur they will usually provide you with some education and suggestions regarding your concerns. Many parents are unaware that children with disabilities are entitled to certain services from birth. Early intervention is often referred to as the Child Find Process.
If your child is in school and you suspect that he/she may have a disability that impedes his/her learning it is best practice to discuss your concerns with your child's primary teacher. School personnel should be trained to look for clues that a child may be in need of special education services. In fact, the teacher may have already requested support and pre-referral interventions from the school's support team due to their concerns. School personnel are obligated to attempt to remediate the child's academic and/or behavioral concerns with research-based interventions for a time period prior to them being able to make an official referral. Pre-referral interventions are not considered part of the evaluation process for special education services.
The law in Part C of IDEA (for children birth-age 2) indicates that children who are referred to early intervention services requires that a screening, an assessment and the initial meeting need be completed within 45 days of the referral. The law in Part B of IDEA (for children age 3-21) states that the initial referral must be conducted within 60 days of receiving the parental consent to evaluate the child. There are exceptions to these timelines if the parent or child are not available for evaluation, or of the child is moved to another public school district and sufficient progress has not yet been made on the evaluation.
If you do not feel like you are getting the results you want with your child's teacher or pediatrician and you have significant concerns for your child, you may write a letter to your local school district indicating that you would like your child to be evaluated for special education. Early intervention is crucial for children with disabilities, which is why there are federal and state laws mandating evaluation and services from birth through the age of 21 of children with disabilities, when appropriate.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Top Three Nonfiction Reading Comprehension Strategies

Nonfiction reading comprehension strategies vary substantially from the strategies used with fictional books. Children with special needs usually need explicit instruction in how to understand the material presented in nonfiction books. Children need to be taught about the structure of nonfiction text and how items such as bolded print and graphs can help them better understand the text. They also need to learn to check for a vocabulary list while they are skimming, prior to actually reading the text. Finally, they need to learn the importance of having a way to record questions, connections and/or comments. Once I have taught my students the procedures they tend to have significantly higher comprehension of nonfiction text.
The function of nonfiction text is usually to teach something or explain something to the reader. Children need to be taught to look for special structural items often found in nonfiction text. These items are bold text, titles or headlines, pictures with captions, maps, graphs and questions at the end of the chapter. Before a child starts reading, they should look through the text to see how the text is structured and take note of these items within the text. They should also be taught not to skip over looking at them and referring to them while reading, as they tend to be very helpful in gaining a better understanding of the concepts being presented.
The next strategy goes hand-in-hand with previewing the structure of the text. Before reading the text, the child should skim over the text and look for a vocabulary list. Many times important vocabulary words are in bold text. If there are words that the child does not know the child should take the time, before reading, to look them up in the index, online or in a dictionary. Understanding the key concepts that will be discussed is critical to better comprehension.
The final strategy is utilized during the actual reading of the text. The child should have a way to write down questions, connections, confusing information and interesting information as he/she reads. I have found the best way for kids to do this that does not ruin the text by marking it up with highlighting, is by using small sticky notes. Also, most kids and teens like to use sticky notes. I teach the children to use the following four codes. When a child has a question about a particular item, they should put the question word and the topic, such as "what bass", "who Columbus" or "where Japan" on a sticky note and place in directly on the associated text. When a child has a connection to something, they should put a plus mark on the sticky note. When a child is confused about something they should put a question mark on the sticky note. When they find something interesting, they should put a check mark on the sticky note. When they have finished reading a chapter or a section, they can then ask the teacher or a parent about the items they put on their sticky notes.
Many children do not want to take the time to do the first two steps prior to reading and if you can get your child to do this regularly, they will experience a much higher level of success. Creating a format with a code for discussing the text can be fun and can engage the child more, especially when you allow them to choose the code. Nonfiction is best comprehended in chunks so this also helps the child take a break to process all of the new information.

Friday, February 3, 2012

My Adventure With Mark, An Asperger's Tale

When I first met Mark he seemed like a normal child with an intellectual disability. He was playing video games in the living room. His Mother had just got done telling me their story. She had expressed how they were basically held hostage by their son. Every day was a constant battle. They had to fight with him to take a bath, to go to sleep, to get up in the morning, to go out to eat. She stated they had not been able to go on a family vacation in years. She appeared to be, simply exhausted. I was working for an agency that was there to help with just such situations. So I went into the living room and sat down with Mark while he played. He was playing Predator vs. Alien. I knew the basic concept so I engaged in conversation. We talked about the game for the entire first session. I thought I was in the clear, great rapport built, we would be off and running with no problems. Boy was I wrong.
The next visit we came back with the standard charts and picture schedules to help Mom out. She said she would try them, but she didn't think they would work. She stated that Mark usually just got violent when demands were placed upon him that he did not like. Mark was very into video games so we tried to use that as a reward. If he didn't get them he would just go ballistic, until he got what he wanted. I could now see the hell the family had been going through. The typical charts and pictures did nothing for Mark. He simply manipulated his way around the system put in place. He found every loophole. Typical Asperger's.
We decided a more advanced strategy was needed. We began a week long intensive intervention. I was there when Mark woke up and when he went to sleep. We would sit by his bed in the morning making sure he woke up on time. This required taking his pillow away after two warnings, then his blanket. We then went to the task of getting him to brush his teeth. I think I stood in the bathroom with him for an hour the first two days just verbally and nonverbally redirecting him to brush his teeth. All the while he screamed and yelled. We had removed every distraction from the bathroom, but his tooth brush. When he would protest I would simply point to the tooth brush or simply say "the next thing you are going to do is brush your teeth". We used this strategy for every step of the getting ready process. Then we repeated this with the nightly routine. After about three day the time for him to complete the tasks began to shrink,and the violent outbursts were less and less.
By the end of the week I was the one who was exhausted. I could not imagine how the family had done this for so long with no training. They were finally free though. Mark was now listening, showering, and following his schedule. They even went on a family vacation shortly there after. Due to our efforts my team and I won team of the year from the Autism Society of Cincinnati. I learned a lot from Mark and carry a lot of that knowledge with me today. From what I hear he is still doing well today.