IEP review time!!

This is such a crucial time of year for all of us “Special Needs” families.

It’s time for the dreaded annual IEP (Independent Educational Plan) review.

Please, Please, Please remember the following very IMPORTANT actions you need to take as you prepare.

  • The IEP and CST (Child Study Team) meeting is yours, NOT theirs!                                              This meeting is taking place because of you, your child, and your family
  • Come prepared                                                                                                                                                Make sure you prepare an agenda of what you want to discuss, see happen, plans and interventions “needed,” etc…                                                                                                            Don’t let them dictate the meetings time frame and events. Yes, you may want to discuss those evaluations and test scores, but it is NOT the only reason you are there. Make sure you have ALL re-eval documents a minimum of 10 days prior to the meeting. Understand what they mean and what are your child’s strength and weakness areas yes, but unless you need clarification…going over stats and percentages should not monopolize the time you have to meet.                                                      If your child is already classified and has been, chances are you are aware and agree that he/she has a disability and is entitled to services. So, get down to business after a short (15 minute) review of the evals.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            NEVER, deny or refuse triennial re-evaluations!
  • Parental Concerns is IMPERATIVE!!                                                                                                            Every IEP has a “Parental Concerns” section, it’s usually a tiny box only about 1/4″ wide….. This does NOT mean you have to fit all of your concerns here!                              Come with an already prepared, typed statement of your parental concerns (probably what you intend to discuss anyway) and formally REQUEST it be included in the official (LEGAL) document of your child’s IEP. This way it becomes a full part of that IEP and everyone your child works with will have access to your input.
  • Record, Report, Re-state                                                                                                                                 Most schools will send you a confirmation letter stating the time, place, and whom will attend the IEP meeting. It may ask if you intend to bring someone? If you request any other professionals and staff? and whether or not you plan to record the meeting?                                                                                                                                                        YES! You want to record the meeting!                                                                                              No, not to antagonize or catch them….. but to have a record for your own to review or for the review of others that may have been unable to attend (That parent out there earning the paycheck who can’t afford another day off the job).                                    You are emotionally involved. Therefore you may not remember or even understand what is being stated/proposed and you need to review the meeting later when you are in a calmer state.                                                                                                                                 The recording will also serve as a resource you can refer to in order to clarify the items discussed for your follow up summary.
  • Follow up summary                                                                                                                                           YES! ALWAYS follow up EVERY meeting, phone call, discussion, teacher email, notes and ANY contact you have with the professionals that service your child with a follow up summary….   “My understanding of what was discussed, proposed, implemented etc….”
  • Finally, and probably MOST IMPORTANT!!!                                                                                              Send ALL correspondence to no less than 3 people in your district ie. the case manager, head of special services, and the building principal. This will ensure you are heard! As well as provide a time stamped/documented record (always send via email) of your insights and perceptions. It also helps that others on your child’s case are aware that they are accountable to replying and taking actions by others within the system.                                                                                                                                                     A recent statement from a client…..”thank you- I did the “copy 3 people on email thing” the last 2 times- whew boy does that work! THANK YOU! “
  • Get support!                                                                                                                                                         If you feel you need some support or expert advice, contact us here at Special Needs NJ  (973-534-3402) to talk to an Advocate/Special Education Consultant

IEP Tips: How to prepare for the IEP meeting

The following are IEP tips and strategies designed to help you prepare for the meeting while developing a collaborative relationship  with your school  district. As a parent, hearing the words “IEP Meeting” might cause you feel nervous, overwhelmed or even experience a feeling of dread. We know from life, that if we are prepared, our anxiety levels go down.

IEP TIPS for a SUCCESSFUL MEETING:

1. Respond to the meeting notification and let them know you will be attending.   If you plan on bringing an outside friend, specialist or advocate, let the district know ahead of time. If you cannot attend, ask to reschedule.  Let the school know the meeting is important to you.

2. Bring all important documents to the meeting.  If you received a negative report card, progress report or if your child is having behavioral problems, bring these documents.   If you’ve recently seen a medical doctor or psychologist, you might ask the doctor to write some type of summary report that can be shared at the meeting.

3. You have a right to receive a copy of the assessment results ahead of time so you can preview them before the meeting.   You may also request a copy of the proposed IEP and the actual goals in advance so you can preview them and jot down questions you have.

 

4. Write down your questions, concerns and suggestions.  IEP meetings tend to be slightly rushed so the more prepared and organized you are the better chance that all your concerns and questions will be addressed.

5. You may visit possible program options prior to the meeting.  Ask for a visit to be arranged before the IEP meeting takes place.

6. You may tape record the meeting. Notify the case manager or special education teacher at least 24 hours in advance if you plan on doing this.

7. Be an equal partner in the IEP process:  Don’t silently sit there.   Ask questions, offer suggestions and bring ideas to the table. Remember, you are the voice of your child.

8. Ask for a copy of your rights n advance so you feel comfortable signing them when asked.

9.  If you are uncomfortable with the IEP plan or do not feel you’ve had enough time, don’t be afraid to ask for a continuation meeting. You do not have to sign the IEP!

You can say something like, “I really like many of the things we discussed today. I don’t feel ready to sign this yet, but I’m sure if we can continue this meeting we will be able to work through the remaining issues.”

10. Remember, you can agree to parts of the plan without agreeing to the entire IEP. The parts you’ve agreed on will be implemented while you continue to work on the remaining issues.

11.  IDEA states that you can ask to take the IEP home for further review before you sign it. Some parents find it overwhelming or feel too rushed during the actual meeting to make a final decision.

FREE Parents Seminar

SPECIAL NEEDS NJ, LLP

      Services for families with “Special” needs

          Presents their inaugural Seminar for parents:

                 

 The “ABC’s” of Special Education

 

About:  This seminar is an overview for parents that have a child struggling in school that may need services and those parents that already have a classified student. Learn how to advocate for your child,  what you need to know to get the best IEP, Individual Education Plan, for your child, and “What do all these letter’s mean?” Learn the definitions/descriptions of NJ’s classifications for Special Education students. Hear from a neuropsychologist, Special Educator, Advocate, and parents that have been through the process.

When:    Friday November 1, 2013      7:00-9:00 p.m.

Where: 93A Spring St. Newton NJ, 0786 (next to the Red Cross, under the clock) additional parking in back lot off of Trinity St.

Registration required: FREE        Call:  (973)534-3402 to register

Email: specialneedsnj@hotmail.com

Please register by Oct. 30, 2013

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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

 

 

Encourage Positive Behavior

Encourage Positive Behavior
Children crave attention, positive or negative. Sometimes a child may be misbehaving just to get
attention. Here are some ways to encourage positive behavior:

  • Give more attention for positive behaviors than for negative behaviors (at home & at school)
  • Provide choices between two acceptable options
  • Provide reassuring routines and tell the child in advance if the routine will change
  • Involve the child in setting limits
  • Model the desired behavior

Listen and Give Your Child Your Full Attention

Help your child to identify her feelings
Keep it simple

Praise
Children will respond better to praise than to criticism. Praise teaches children to seek positive attention.
Praise the positive behavior
Use specific praise for genuine accomplishments
Praise small steps towards the desired behavior
Give praise immediately and frequently
Mix praise with unconditional love
Teachers can send a note home to tell parents about positive behaviors

For Professional Help contact Specialneedsnj@hotmail.com or call (973)534-3402

Bullying and the Special Needs Child

Bullying and the Special Needs Child

Recent research indicates that a child with a disability is more likely to be physically or verbally bullied than typically developing peers. As a special needs teacher/care provider, and therapist with over twenty years experience, I can attest to this data. However, by teaching children to understand that not everyone sees the world the same way, parents can facilitate understanding and healthy interaction between all kinds of children. Developing  social skills and an action plan to prevent bullying can decrease the odds that kids will be bullied, or that they themselves will become bullies when faced with situations that produce social anxiety.

Although children with disabilities are more likely to be the object of bullying, sometimes they are tagged as the bully, often as a result of low self-esteem or being bullied by others. No matter how your child is affected by bullying, these steps can go a long way in preventing this hurtful practice:

When a Special Needs Child is Bullied:

  • Talk to the child about situations that invite bullying.      A child with developmental delays such as Down Syndrome or Asberger’s syndrome is many times to trusting and friendly. Because he does not understand the concept of others playing tricks, he becomes an easy target. You as a parent can help with some simple advice. For example, you can talk to your child about where to sit on the bus for example; when possible sit near the driver or a friend. Sometimes knowing where to be and where not to be can stave off confrontation with bullies.
  • Teach your child about body language. This is very hard for children who are autistic or with learning disabilities,  because they often don’t pick up on social cues such like facial expression, stance, and body language. Help them to understand that a bully will most likely demonstrate quick or jerky movements,      use a loud voice, and distorted facial expressions. Teach your child to assess… “Is this person too close to me?” “Is he speaking very loud?” If so, your child needs tools to use confident body language of his own.
  • Using appropriate social language is a skill many Special Needs children almost never learn. Children with     language delays and processing difficulties cannot come up with a quick response to verbal bullying on their own. Practice confident positive social language (not threats). Try role play practicing scenarios with your child at home, so that he is prepared for a bully if  it comes his way.
  • Children need be ready to take safe action like  leaving the situation or going an adult. A child with a disability which causes her to think very concretely could be reluctant to approach an adult because she thinks she may be creating a problem.  We need to teach them to overcome these feelings, using hypothetical examples, and emphasizing that it is responsible to report unsafe bullying situations.

When the Bully Has Special Needs:

Often the child with a speech difficulty or the child who leaves the “regular” classroom for special instruction is teased and ridiculed by his peers. This child may have been teased for poor academic or social skills, and may look for someone who is weaker in those areas. Bullying in this case may also be the result of misreading social cues or lacking the communication skills to ask for something appropriately. Developing skills in social confidence can reduce the tendency to bully. Here are some examples:

  • Explain the rules. Talk about when something is his and when it is not. Sally’s turn on the swings is just that – Sally’s turn! Whether or not another child wants to swing at that moment it is not an option because someone else is taking a turn. Fair play is an incredibly difficult concept for Autistic and Asperger’s children so extensive practice and role play are important.
  • Teach them body language. Make sure your child knows that a head shake, turning away, or standing up to someone (as well as the verbal “No”) means no. This body language should tell the child to stop. If your child is struggling to pick up on social cues, practice different scenarios at home, role play and discuss what  happened afterward. Reading or telling some of these scenarios at bed time may help to solidify the concepts.
  • You also must use appropriate social language! Help your child practice using her words, not actions, to get what she wants. If she wants to play with a ball or borrow a pencil, remind her to wait for a positive response before just taking the item she wants.

Parents of typically developing children should explain that children with special needs may be struggling with the aforementioned social skills. This is an opportunity for them to take a leadership role and show respect to their classmates. They can help stop the cycle of bullying by supporting their special needs peers.