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Sunday, August 30, 2015

What Happens When the School Terminates My Child’s Special Education Services?

From The Friendship Circle Blog

By Michael Dorfman, Esq.
May 12, 2015

Being told that your child no longer qualifies for some or all the current special education services that they are receiving elicits mixed emotions from parents. Sometimes the news from the school is greeted with excitement that your child has reached a level of achievement and independence that no longer necessitates the need for these services.

The other reaction when delivered the news of termination of some or all services is fear, mortification and the belief that the decision by the school was subjective, and not based on a comprehensive evaluation process.

This article will focus on the protections built into the law and the steps parents need to follow when they believe special education services should not have been limited or terminated.


A school district shall ensure that a re-evaluation of each “child with a disability” (This phrase is how IDEA defines who is entitled to special education and related services) is conducted if the school district determines that the educational or related services needs of the child, including improved academic achievement and functional performance, warrant a re-evaluation.
20 U.S.C. § 1414 (a)(2)(A)(i) 

A child’s parent may also request a reevaluation. 20 U.S.C. § 1414 (a)(2)(A)(ii) A re-evaluation shall not occur more frequently than once a year, unless both the parent and the school district agree otherwise, and at least every 3 years, unless the parent and school district agree that a reevaluation is necessary.
20 U.S.C. § 1414 (a)(2)(B)(i)&(ii)

It is at the re-evaluation meeting where you as the parent would be informed that your child no longer qualifies for special education or certain or all related services.


The school district will provide notice to the parent that describes any evaluation procedures the school district proposes to conduct. 20 U.S.C. § 1414 (b)(1)

In conducting the evaluation the school district shall:
  • Use a variety of assessment tools and strategies to gather relevant functional, developmental, and academic information, including information provided by the parent that may assist in determining whether the child is a child with a disability; and determining the content of the child’s IEP, included information related to enabling the child to be involved in and progress in the general education curriculum. 20 U.S.C. 1414 (b)(2)(A)(i)&(ii)
  • Not use any single measure or assessment as the sole criterion for determining whether a child is a child with a disability or determining an appropriate educational program for the child 20 U.S.C. 1414 (b)(2)(B); and,
  • Use technically sound instruments that may assess the relative contribution of cognitive and behavioral factors, in addition to physical or developmental factors. 20 U.S.C. 1414 (b)(2)(C)

The school district must also ensure that the assessments and other evaluation materials used to assess the child were:
  • Selected and administered so as not to be discriminatory on a racial or cultural basis;
  • Provided and administered in the form and language most likely to yield accurate information on what the child knows and can do academically, developmentally, and functionally;
  • Used for the purposes for which the assessments are valid and reliable;
  • Administered by trained and knowledgeable personnel; and
  • Administered in accordance with any instructions provided by the producer of such assessments

The child must be assessed in all areas of suspected disability.

Upon completion of the administration of the assessments and other evaluation measures, the determination of whether the child still qualifies as a child with a disability, and what educational needs the child has, shall be made by a team of qualified professionals and the parent of the child.

In making a determination as to whether the child with a disability is still eligible, a child shall not be determined to be a child with a disability if the determinant factor for such determination is: lack of appropriate instruction in reading; lack of instruction in math; or limited English proficiency.

The school district shall also not be required to take into consideration whether a child has a severe discrepancy between achievement and intellectual ability in oral expression, listening comprehension, written expression, basic reading skill, reading comprehension, mathematical calculation or mathematical reasoning. 20 U.S.C. § 1414 (b)(5)&(6)

Reviewing Existing Evaluation Data

As part of any reevaluation, the IEP Team and other qualified professionals, as appropriate, shall review existing evaluation data on the child, including:
  • Evaluations and information provided by the parents of the child.
  • Current classroom-based, local, or State assessments, and classroom-based observations.
  • Observations by teachers and related services providers.

In addition to reviews and input from the child’s parents, (the Team must) identify what additional data, if any, are needed to determine whether whether the child needs special education and related services, or in the case of a re-evaluation of a child, whether the child continues to need special education and related services; and whether any additions or modifications to the special education and related services are needed to enable the child to meet the measurable annual goals set out in the individualized education program of the child and to participate, as appropriate, in the general education curriculum. 20 U.S.C. § 1414 (b)(6)(c)

Requesting An IEE

If you are in disagreement with the school district’s evaluation, you can request an Independent Educational Evaluation (“IEE”) at the school district’s expense. This is a right of the parent under IDEA. You may also find an evaluator at your own expense, because there is a lot riding on the denial of services to your child.

You are also entitled to all of your child’s test results and a complete copy of the educational records and evaluations.

Due Process

If you disagree with the reevaluation decision, due process is the last resort. There are articles on the due process procedures on the blog site that explain the process in more depth.


Request to review all of the assessments performed and all the evaluations procedures utilized by the school district in terminating or cutting back special education and/or related services. Make sure the law was followed, and that the changes were for educational purposes and not economically based.

Consult an attorney or an advocate who specializes in this area to help you review the findings to determine if they are on the level, and the process was undertaken fairly and legally.


Michael R. Dorfman is an attorney and partner at Nykanen Dorfman, PLLC in Farmington Hills, Michigan. In his special education law practice, Michael represents students and their families when there is a conflict with the school district or when an appropriate education is not being provided. View all 14 of Michael Dorfman's posts.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Individualized Education Program (IEP) Guide and Other Resources

From Autism Speaks Family Services

August 9, 2015 

After months of research, a team of lawyers at Goodwin Procter, LLP has generously put together a helpful guide to help families understand the IEP process as their loved ones head back to school: Individualized Education Program (IEP): Summary, Process and Practical Tips.

This 26-page guide contains an IEP timeline and clearly lays out the steps to take throughout the IEP process. The guide also includes lots of tips, resources, and answers to FAQs.

Click HERE to see the Goodwin Procter IEP Guide!

*A special thank you to Autism Speaks Board Member Gary Mayerson for his valuable feedback and assistance. Click HERE to read the transcript of Gary's live Q & A, "How To Compromise With Your School District Without Compromising Your Child"

Note: If you have trouble downloading the Guide, click HERE to download the new version of Adobe Reader free of charge.

New! How do you develop realistic and measurable IEP goals that can really make a difference in a child's life? The Missouri Autism Guidelines Initiative has created a video that outlines simple steps for building an effective IEP team and writing goals!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Kids Have Three Times Too Much Homework, Study Finds. What's the Cost?

From CNN

By Kelly Wallace
August 12, 2015

Story highlights: First-graders get nearly three times the homework education leaders recommend, a study concludes. The cost of excessive homework is "enormous," the study's contributing editor says.

Nothing quite stresses out students and parents about the beginning of the school year as the return to homework, which for many households means nightly battles centered around completing after-school assignments.

Now a new study may help explain some of that stress.

The study, published Wednesday in The American Journal of Family Therapy, found students in the early elementary school years are getting significantly more homework than is recommended by education leaders, in some cases nearly three times as much homework as is recommended.

The standard, endorsed by the National Education Association and the National Parent-Teacher Association, is the so-called "10-minute rule" -- 10 minutes per grade level per night. That translates into 10 minutes of homework in the first grade, 20 minutes in the second grade, all the way up to 120 minutes for senior year of high school. The NEA and the National PTA do not endorse homework for kindergarten.


In the study involving questionnaires filled out by more than 1,100 English and Spanish speaking parents of children in kindergarten through grade 12, researchers found children in the first grade had up to three times the homework load recommended by the NEA and the National PTA.

Parents reported first-graders were spending 28 minutes on homework each night versus the recommended 10 minutes. For second-graders, the homework time was nearly 29 minutes, as opposed to the 20 minutes recommended.

And kindergartners, their parents said, spent 25 minutes a night on after-school assignments, according to the study carried out by researchers from Brown University, Brandeis University, Rhode Island College, Dean College, the Children's National Medial Center and the New England Center for Pediatric Psychology.

"It is absolutely shocking to me to find out that particularly kindergarten students (who) are not supposed to have any homework at all ... are getting as much homework as a third-grader is supposed to get," said Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman, the contributing editor of the study and clinical director of the New England Center for Pediatric Psychology.

"Anybody who's tried to keep a 5-year-old at a table doing homework for 25 minutes after school knows what that's like. I mean children don't want to be doing, they want to be out playing, they want to be interacting and that's what they should be doing. That's what's really important."


Donaldson-Pressman, co-author of "The Learning Habit: A Groundbreaking Approach to Homework and Parenting that Helps Our Children Succeed in School and Life," says the National Education Association (and the National PTA) made their recommendations after a number of studies were done on the effects of homework and the effects on families of having too much homework.

"The cost is enormous," she said. "The data shows that homework over this level is not only NOT beneficial to children's grades or GPA, but there's really a plethora of evidence that it's detrimental to their attitude about school, their grades, self-confidence, social skills and their quality of life."

In fact, a study last year showed that the impact of excessive homework on high schoolers included high stress levels, a lack of balance in children's lives and physical health problems such as ulcers, migraines, sleep deprivation and weight loss.

The correlation between homework and student performance is less clear cut.

Previous research, including a 2006 analysis of homework studies, found a link between time spent on homework and achievement but also found it was much stronger in secondary school versus elementary school. Another study, this one in 2012, found no relationship between time spent on homework and grades but did find a positive link between homework and performance on standardized tests.

The Stress on Families

The current study also examined the stress homework places on families and found that as the parent's confidence in their ability to help their child with homework went down, the stress in the household went up.

Fights and conflicts over homework were 200% more likely in families where parents did not have at least a college degree, according to the study.

Parents who have a college degree felt more confident, not necessarily in helping their child with their homework, but in communicating with the school to make sure the level is appropriate, said Donaldson-Pressman.

"Undereducated parents really believe that their children are supposed to be able to do (the homework), therefore, their children must be doing something else during school" instead of focusing on their studies, she said. "So the parents argue with the kids, the kids feel defeated and dumb and angry, very angry, and the parents are fighting with each other. It's absolutely a recipe for disaster."

She added, "All of our results indicate that homework as it is now being assigned discriminates against children whose parents don't have a college degree, against parents who have English as a second language, against, essentially, parents who are poor."

What Can Parents Do?

Many parents might feel stressed just reading about homework, but there are specific things they can do to make the entire homework experience less anxiety-producing for everyone in the household, parenting experts say.

Jessica Lahey is author of the just-released book "The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed."

Lahey recommends that if parents are concerned about how much time their children are spending on homework, they first look at how and where their child is doing their homework to see whether that's a contribution to how long it takes.

For instance, are the children being distracted by smartphones, music or other household activities?

If a parent has done that and determined the child is still spending too much time on homework, contact with the teacher makes sense, said Lahey, who is also a columnist for The N.Y. Times and a contributor to The Atlantic and Vermont Public Radio.

"It is absolutely appropriate for you early on when the kid's little and later on when the kid gets older for the kid to talk to the teacher ... Rather than being defensive about it, what you can do is say, 'Look this is supposed to take 30 minutes, but it's taking me an hour. Can you help me figure out why?' " she said.

"If you come at it from a 'Can you help me solve this problem, can we partner together to talk about why this might be so?' that's going to do much better for you and for your kid in the long run..

Biggest Mistakes Parents Make?

One of the biggest mistakes parents make when it comes to homework, said Lahey, is dictating the terms of homework. Instead, parents should hand the details over to the children concerning how, when and where the homework gets done.

"Some kids like to do their work immediately when they get home from school. Some don't. Some kids crazily enough like to do it really, really early in the morning," she said. "But it never really occurs to us to ask, 'What would your perfect homework day look like?' and at the very least that will make your child feel heard and then give them some control back over the order in which they do things, over where they do it, over how they do it."


Finally, Lahey recommends parents set really clear expectations at the beginning of the school year about the homework getting done and ending up in the teacher's hands. But that's really as far as parents should go, she says. She highly discourages parents from correcting their kids' homework -- and even doing it themselves.

Homework is meant to help children and the teacher know which skills are missing and what needs improvement. Secondly, and something that is crucial to the success of our children later in life, is the importance of letting our kids learn how to make mistakes, letting them fail and find the motivation for their own success.

"In order to be invested in our own learning or anything we're doing, we need to feel like we have some control over the details of it. We need to have some autonomy and control over the details of it. We need to feel competent," said Lahey. "And if parents are fixing homework for us, the kid never really gets to feel competent because the parent's the one fixing it and they really need to feel invested and connected to the material."

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

ADHD and College: Advice for Parents

From the Child Mind Institute

By Mary Rooney, Ph.D.
August 11, 2015

As a parent you have undoubtedly done a great deal to help your child with ADHD stay organized, stay on time, and stay on task. You've also been an advocate for your child and made sure he had access to academic services, classroom accommodations, and psychological treatment. So, when it's time to send your child off to college, it shouldn't surprise you that your job isn't over yet.

While college students are primarily responsible for managing their own ADHD, parents remain important members of their support team.

Here are some tips to keep you and your child on track:

1.) Plan to be involved. As your child becomes increasingly responsible for managing her own ADHD, it will be important for you to have a plan for the ways in which you will continue to provide support. This plan should be developed collaboratively, with your child. Ask how involved she would like you to be. How does she think you can be most helpful?

Respect her opinions, consider her point of view, and adjust your expectations accordingly. Your plan should also outline how she is going to keep you in the loop about her academic progress and mental health.

2.) Have access to academic records. Some students with ADHD don't recognize that their grades are slipping before it's too late. Others realize they are struggling, but feel as though they can't do anything about it. As a parent you can help by monitoring your child's grades throughout the semester, and by talking to him as soon as you notice signs of trouble.

Colleges typically post grades online shortly after exams or assignments are completed. Students automatically have access to this information, but parents do not. Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), academic records are only available to parents if the student provides written consent for disclosure, or parents provide evidence that the student is a dependent on their most recent tax return.

To learn about college-specific procedures for gaining access to student records, search for "FERPA" on the college's website, or call the college registrar's office.

3.) Help your child get support services. Helping your child identify and access academic support services on campus is one of the most helpful things you can do as a parent. College students with ADHD qualify for academic accommodations under federal law, but they don't get them automatically. It is the student's responsibility to inform the college of her ADHD diagnosis and submit documentation (requirements vary by school).

Together with your child, contact the campus disability support services office. Have your child make a list of available services and determine which services or accommodations she would benefit from. Make sure she also gathers the necessary documentation. A step-by-step guide to obtaining college accommodations is available on NAMI's website.

4.) Talk about alcohol. Underage drinking is common on the majority of college campuses. Unfortunately, alcohol use appears to lead to more negative consequences for students with ADHD than for students without the disorder. Consequences can range from relationship problems and academic difficulties to risky sexual behavior and physical injury.

Talk to your child about the risks of alcohol use and encourage him not to drink. This is a serious topic that warrants a serious conversation. Refrain from sharing alcohol-related stories about your own college days unless they convey a clear message about a lesson that was learned the hard way.

5.) Talk about money. The inattention and impulsivity that are part of ADHD can interfere with money management. Make sure you and your child have a clear plan in place for how money will be handled. If impulsive spending is a concern, help your child by keeping the bulk of her spending money in a savings account. On a monthly basis, transfer a predetermined amount into her personal checking account.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Love and Merit

From The New York Times

By David Brooks
April 24, 2015 

David Brooks
There are two great defining features of child-rearing today. First, children are now praised to an unprecedented degree. As Dorothy Parker once joked, American children aren’t raised; they are incited. They are given food, shelter and applause. That’s a thousand times more true today. Children are incessantly told how special they are.

The second defining feature is that children are honed to an unprecedented degree. The meritocracy is more competitive than ever before. Parents are more anxious about their kids getting into good colleges and onto good career paths. Parents spend much more time than in past generations investing in their children’s skills and résumés and driving them to practices and rehearsals.

These two great trends — greater praise and greater honing — combine in intense ways. Children are bathed in love, but it is often directional love. Parents shower their kids with affection, but it is meritocratic affection. It is intermingled with the desire to help their children achieve worldly success.

Very frequently it is manipulative. Parents unconsciously shape their smiles and frowns to steer their children toward behavior they think will lead to achievement. Parents glow with extra fervor when their child studies hard, practices hard, wins first place, gets into a prestigious college.

This sort of love is merit based. It is not simply: I love you. It is, I love you when you stay on my balance beam. I shower you with praise and care when you’re on my beam.

The wolf of conditional love is lurking in these homes. The parents don’t perceive this; they feel they love their children in all circumstances. But the children often perceive things differently.

Children in such families come to feel that childhood is a performance — on the athletic field, in school and beyond. They come to feel that love is not something that they deserve because of who they intrinsically are but is something they have to earn.

These children begin to assume that this merit-tangled love is the natural order of the universe. The tiny glances of approval and disapproval are built into the fabric of communication so deep that they flow under the level of awareness. But they generate enormous internal pressure, the assumption that it is necessary to behave in a certain way to be worthy of love — to be self-worthy.

The shadowy presence of conditional love produces a fear, the fear that there is no utterly safe love; there is no completely secure place where young people can be utterly honest and themselves.

On the one hand, many of the parents in these families are extremely close to their children. They communicate constantly. But the whole situation is fraught. These parents unconsciously regard their children as an arts project and insist their children go to colleges and have jobs that will give the parents status and pleasure — that will validate their effectiveness as dads and moms.

Meanwhile, children who are uncertain of their parents’ love develop a voracious hunger for it. This conditional love is like an acid that dissolves children’s internal criteria to make their own decisions about their own colleges, majors and careers.

At key decision-points, they unconsciously imagine how their parents will react. They guide their lives by these imagined reactions and respond with hair-trigger sensitivity to any possibility of coldness or distancing.

These children tell their parents those things that will elicit praise and hide the parts of their lives that won’t. Studies by Avi Assor, Guy Roth and Edward L. Deci suggest that children who receive conditional love often do better in the short run. They can be model students. But they suffer in the long run.

They come to resent their parents. They are so influenced by fear that they become risk averse. They lose a sense of agency. They feel driven by internalized pressures more than by real freedom of choice. They feel less worthy as adults.

Parents two generations ago were much more likely to say that they expected their children to be more obedient than parents today. But this desire for obedience hasn’t gone away; it’s just gone underground. Parents are less likely to demand obedience with explicit rules and lectures. But they are more likely to use love as a tool to exercise control.

The culture of the meritocracy is incredibly powerful. Parents desperately want happiness for their children and naturally want to steer them toward success in every way they can. But the pressures of the meritocracy can sometimes put this love on a false basis. The meritocracy is based on earned success. It is based on talent and achievement.

But parental love is supposed to be oblivious to achievement. It’s meant to be an unconditional support — a gift that cannot be bought and cannot be earned. It sits outside the logic of the meritocracy, the closest humans come to grace.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Major Statewide Transition Conference for Parents - Saturday, October 3rd

From The ARC of Massachusetts

August 17, 2015

NOTE: Transition Specialists Kelley Challen and Marilyn Weber of NESCA will be among the speakers.

This full-day statewide transition conference has been specifically planned for families of children with disabilities between the ages of 14 and 22 transitioning from school into the adult world.

The conference program will include:
  • An opportunity to learn about state-of-the-art best practices around transition, covering topics focused upon creating seamless, successful transitions into the adult world.
  • Keynote presentation by Beth Mount on Person-Centered Planning and Transition. Her groundbreaking work related to Personal Futures Planning promotes the positive futures and images of people with disabilities throughout the globe, and demonstrates that all of us count and all of us fit somewhere
  • Lunchtime video presentation of successful transitions
  • 24 workshops, offering 8 in each session. It is important to select your workshop preference for each session when you register. See the workshop descriptions below.
  • A “Technology Playground” which will be available all day, staffed by experts who will share their knowledge about IPAD’s, IPOD’s, tablets and appropriate APPs for preparation for adult life and independence
  • Over 50 exhibitors offering information on programs and services
For registration inquiries, scholarships or other questions about this event, email Kerry Mahoney or Pat Pakos by September 1st at Mahoney@arcmass.org or pakos@arcmass.org, or call 781-891-6270 x 109. The registration deadline is September 22nd.

When:    8:00am - 4:00pm Saturday, October 3, 2015
                   181 Boston Post Road West
                   Marlborough, MA 01752

Cost:    $75.00 per person in advance (includes continental
                  breakfast and lunch)


The morning’s keynote will feature Beth Mount, who will speak on Person Centered-Planning and Transition. Beth has worked for four decades toward the ideal that every person with a disability can be a valued member of community life. She has practiced the art of person-centered planning with thousands of people with disabilities and their families from every walk of life and from every corner of the World.

Her groundbreaking work related to Personal Futures Planning promotes the positive futures and images of people with disabilities throughout the globe, and demonstrates that all of us count and all of us fit somewhere. She has received excellence and service awards from virtually every prominent national and New York State disability organization.


8:00 – 9:00am: Registration and Exhibit Tables

9:00 – 9:20am: Welcome from The Arc of Massachusetts in Ballroom

9:20 – 10:15am: Keynote - Beth Mount

10:15 – 10:30am: Break

10: 30 – 11:45am: Workshop Session 1

11:45am – 1:00pm: Lunch in Ballroom. Successful Transitions Video, Raffle, Exhibit Tables

1:15 – 2:30pm: Workshop Session 2

2:30 – 2:45pm: Break

2:45 – 4:00pm: Workshop session 3

Workshop Descriptions

SESSION I – (10: 30 – 11:45am)

A-1. Helping Your Child to Lead: Student-Driven Secondary Transition
Presented by: Amanda Green, Educational Specialist, and Martha Daigle, Education Specialist, Dept. of Early and Secondary Education

Research has shown that adults with disabilities are more likely to be successful if they have learned to have a voice in their own future planning. Between ages 14 and 22, students with IEPs can play a key role in their own secondary transition planning.

This presentation will offer an overview of the secondary transition process, including the importance of student vision and student self-determination, laws and regulations, the use of the Transition Planning Form (TPF) and IEP, and whole school/community approaches.

Special emphasis will be placed on the essential role of families in assisting young people to take a leadership role in transition planning.

A-2. Students with ID/DD and Mental Health Concerns
Presented by: Dr. Fay Reich, PsyD

Life transitions are challenging for individuals at any stage of life. This workshop will address mental health issues such as depression and anxiety which may arise for ID/DD students and their families as the students transition to adult services/supports and the next stage of their life.

The workshop will also address how to assist students with pre-existing mental health issues to meet the challenges of this major life transition. We will discuss how families can prepare/advocate for the needs of their children during transition.

A-3. Getting To Know You: Transition Assessment as the Key to Planning a Future
Presented by: Jill Curry, Ed.D., CRC, Newton School System, and Lisa Fournier, M.Ed., South Coast Educational Collaborative

Transition Assessment is an ongoing process of determining a student’s needs, preferences, and interests as they relate to the demands of current and future settings, such as work, home, school, and social environments. This presentation will provide an overview of the transition assessment process and the laws that shape it. Examples of assessment tools will be shared. Strategies will be provided to empower families to work collaboratively with their child’s team throughout the assessment process.

A-4. Vocational Rehabilitation Services for Transition-Aged Youth Looking at Employment
Presented by a team of Mass. Rehabilitation Commission Counselors

The panel discussion will focus on best practices for vocational rehabilitation services for students preparing for the transition from high school to adulthood. VR counselors at MRC assist with all aspects of Transition planning and the presentation will highlight some of the most common services available to students, the process of referring students, and examine some of the nuances of working with this population.

A-5. Let’s Talk About Transition
Presented by: Kathy Kelly, Northeast Arc

Join us in this interactive workshop and learn how to develop the transition planning form using a student-driven, person-centered process. We will discuss how to connect the Transition Planning Form to the IEP and how to write smart goals that are related to the students post-secondary vision and goals. Participants will learn how to develop the transition plan using a student-driven, person-centered process.

A-6. Community Supports for Effective Transition Planning: Venturing Outside of the Classroom
Presented by: Kelley Challen, Ed.M., CAS and Marilyn Weber, NESCA

Learning to navigate one’s own community is essential to independent adult life. Workshop participants will learn how special education law and guidelines support community experiences as part of the special education process, how to effectively transition from classroom-based education to community experiences, and what community-based opportunities are supportive for students transitioning to independent living, recreation, leisure, employment and postsecondary learning environments.

Most importantly, participants will learn how to implement this in an individualized educational program in community environments based on a person-centered transition planning process.

A-7. Transition: Planning a Life & Setting the Stage – Future Growth for Your Adult on the Spectrum
Presented by: Sue Loring, Director of The Autism Support Center of Central Massachusetts, HMEA

The transition to adulthood can be quite a challenge for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders and their families. Come hear some tips that will make that transition a little bit easier and give your child a safety net for the future.

A-8. A Road Map to Middle School Transition
Presented by: Rachel Bird, Sonya Austin and Jillian Clark, Lexington School System

The middle school years are an anxious time for parents and students. This session will provide a road map to the middle school transition process to help parents circumvent the roadblocks, detours, and pot-holes encountered on Massachusetts Highway 285 (Chapter 285 of Massachusetts Codes defines 14 as the minimum age for transition services).

Discussion will include the four areas necessary throughout the transition process, Education, Community Experience, Employment and Daily Living Skills (as needed),which will lead to reaching one’s destination despite the road that is taken.

A-9. The IPAD and Technology Playground
Presented by: TechACCESS of Rhode Island

The Playground is a hands-on environment where you can explore tons of exciting opportunities for learning, working, living, and just plain enjoying. IPADS will be available with applications on daily living supports, augmentative communication, reading, writing, blind/low vision access, therapy supports, and much more!

AT specialists from TechACCESS of RI will be on hand in the Playground throughout the day as a exhibitor to answer your questions. The Playground will also have a variety of other assistive technologies (from low tech to high tech) for you to explore

SESSION II – (1:15 – 2:30pm)

B-1. Person-Centered Planning and Transition
Presented by Beth Mount, Ph.D.

Person-Centered Planning is a process that assists people with disabilities and their families to plan for their future. Through structured sessions focusing on the person’s strengths and preferences, possibilities for the future are created. A Person-Centered Plan is an excellent tool to use when students are in the transition process. It can complement and enhance the Transition Planning Form and the IEP.

B-2. The Role of the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) Transition Coordinators in Implementing a Smooth Transition into the Adult World
Presented by a Team of DDS Transition Coordinators: Dorrie Freedman, Metro North; Maureen Cavicchio, Plymouth; Judith Fountain, North Central

This team of DDS Transition Coordinators will discuss their role in assisting students and their families through the process of Transition. They will explain the process used to determine adult eligibility for supports and services and give a brief overview of options available either through traditional programs to participant-directed supports.

B-3. Let’s Talk about the $$$! What Can I Do Today to Plan for My Future and My Child’s Future?
Presented by: Cynthia R. Haddad, CFP and Alexandria M. Nadworny, CFP, Shepherd Financial Partners

As the number of individuals Turning 22 increases each year, it is becoming more and more difficult to secure the government funding needed to pay for the supports your child will need for his or her lifetime. Planning for both your own personal needs and your child’s lifetime needs can be overwhelming. Where will the money come from? Presenters will explore various planning considerations and strategies available to creatively finance your child’s future, your own, and your other children.

This workshop is based on personal and professional expertise shared from the author of The Special Needs Planning Guide: How to Prepare for Every Stage of Your Child’s Life.

B-4. Student Involvement in their IEP’s and using Multi-Media to Enhance the Process
Presented by: Ilene Asarch, Needham School System

Traditionally, students have not played a leadership role in the transition planning process despite the fact that the process is supposed to be student-centered. Being involved helps students learn to make their own decisions, speak up for themselves and take ownership of their own plans and outcomes. Students at all levels can actively participate in their IEP meetings. Come hear how multi-media can enhance results with the use of power point presentations and videos.

B-5. Is Guardianship the Only Option? A Discussion about Guardianship and the Many Alternatives
Presented by: Hillary J. Dunn, Esq., Disability Law Center

When an individual turns 18 years old, he or she is presumed to have the capacity to make informed decisions, including legal, educational, financial and health care decisions. In some situations, an individual with a disability may need assistance with making informed decisions. It is important to understand the array of available options to assist with decision-making.

This session will discuss the legal implications of turning 18, the guardianship standard, the impact of guardianship on self-determination, and several alternatives to guardianship.

B-6. Middle School – Transparency in Transition and Beyond: A Multi-Year, Tiered Curriculum Designed to Foster Healthy Self-Awareness and Self-Advocacy (in Students with Autism)
Presented by: Elise Wulff, Inclusion Facilitator, Newton School System

Students in this program participate in a 3-year, tiered curriculum within our home- base classroom. The entire curriculum results in a comprehensive portfolio of what the student has learned both in general and about him/herself individually that serves as the foundation of their transition binder.

In addition, the course culminates in students attending, and even presenting, at their IEP meetings as a member of the team. Parents and home support networks are included throughout the process and supported with regular contact offering resources, outside education opportunities, home strategies, etc.

B-7. Exploring the World of Work
Presented by Jill Curry, Ed.D., Newton Public Schools

Employment is an important part of life for most people. This session will highlight the importance of helping students identify career goals, the range of experiences that may lead to meaningful employment, and how to work collaboratively on the road to employment. Best practices in employment will be provided as well as strategies families can use to support the career development process.

B-8. Friendships through the Transition Years and Beyond
Presented by: Jim Ross and Mary Ann Brennan (from Widening the Circle, a partnership between the MA Dept. of Developmental Services and The Arc of Massachusetts)

Friendships between kids with and without disabilities are increasingly common at younger ages. But often during the transition years (a time when friends may be of utmost importance) those friendships begin to evaporate. Presenters will explore why and how individuals with disabilities, their families and other allies should consider relationships in every aspect of the planning process, wherever people live, learn, work and play.

B-9. The IPAD and Technology Playground
Presented by: TechACCESS of Rhode Island

The Playground is a hands-on environment where you can explore tons of exciting opportunities for learning, working, living, and just plain enjoying. IPADS will be available with applications on daily living supports, augmentative communication, reading, writing, blind/low vision access, therapy supports, and much more! AT specialists from TechACCESS of RI will be on hand in the Playground throughout the day as an exhibitor to answer your questions. The Playground will also have a variety of other assistive technologies (from low tech to high tech) for you to explore

SESSION III – (2:45 – 4:00pm)

C-1. S*X & S*XUALITY! Got Questions? Let’s Find Answers.
Presented by: Ruth Price, MPH, M.Ed., CHES

Struggling to talk about sexuality with your sons and daughters? This engaging workshop will provide parents and guardians with information, strategies, and tips on sexuality, social skills, and behavior to meet the unique needs of youth with disabilities. This workshop will increase comfort, offer useful direction, and practical suggestions that highlights the fact that healthy sexuality is more than just “sex”. The discussion will address important topics of public/private, bodies and emotions, social-boundaries, personal space, intimacy, safety, relationships, and self-advocacy.

C-2. So We Have the Law: Now What Do We Do? An 18-22 Year Program
Presented by: Sherry Elander, M.Ed, Westfield Public School, and Jerri Roach, Worcester Public Schools

Transition planning strategies, tips, and ideas will be shared that districts can implement to move 18-22 year olds beyond the traditional school setting. This will be an interactive session that should be of interest to parents, students, school staff and community members alike.

Please join Jerri and Sherry, as they take you on a fun-filled adventure through the land of transition. They will provide examples of how transition planning has been implemented within the community and school for a varied student population using person-centered planning. These ladies share 54+ years of combined experience in the education and rehabilitation sector and believe that when a group comes together for a shared vision, the sky is the limit!

C-3. Understanding the New ABLE Act and Federal and State Government Benefits
Presented by: Frederick M. Misilo, Jr., Esq., FletcherTilton

The ABLE Act (Achieving a Better Life Experience) was signed on Dec. 19, 2014. This qualifies an individual with special needs to have assets over $2,000 in an account and not disqualify him/her for Medicaid Based benefits and SSI. Learn the specifics of this legislation at this workshop. In addition, information regarding federal and state benefits will be shared.

C-4. Managing Stress throughout the Transition Process
Presented by: Robin Foley, BA, Seven Hills Foundation

Daily tasks, demands and challenges continually test a parent’s patience, problem-solving skills, and flexibility. Time to recharge and relax is often in short supply as the responsibilities of the transition process consume more of our energy. Come hear words of wisdom from a mom who has been through the process and has guided many other families.

C-5. Supporting Families and Students with Multiple Disabilities through the Transition Process
Presented by: Lisa Fournier, M.Ed., South Coast Educational Collaborative

Lisa has guided families of students with multiple disabilities through the transition process for a number of years at the South Coast Educational Collaborative. Lisa is a skilled educator who is knowledgeable of best practices in helping students transition smoothly to the adult world.

C-6. The Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative: Post-Secondary College Options
Presented by: Glenn Gabbard, Ed.D., Executive Office of Education, Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities to attend college are increasing nationwide. Massachusetts’ Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment (ICEI) program has served over 700 students with intellectual disabilities, ages 18-22, since 2007. This state-funded initiative offers academic, career development and social learning opportunities in 14 public two- and four-year colleges across the Commonwealth.

The session will provide an overview of the statewide initiative as well an opportunity to explore the Transition Scholars program at Roxbury Community College, offering perspectives from a student; a parent; the college coordinator; and a school district-sponsored educational coach.

C-7. Is It Time To Think about Housing?
Presented by: Barbara Jackins, Esq and Evelyn Hausslein, M.Ed

Where will your son or daughter be living when their education ends at age 22? What about age 25 or 30? Now, while they are still in school, is the time to lay the groundwork for them to move out of your home. We will offer tips, strategies, and practical information to get you and your child ready. What programs and services exist? What do they cost? Who pays for them? We will cover residential assessments, DDS-funded services, prioritization within DDS, and residential options outside the DDS system.

C-8. Transition from School to Adult Life: Using the IEP to Create Success.
Presented: Johanne Pino, Mass. Advocates for Children

This workshop will address the transition planning and services required for youth with disabilities ages 14-22. The training will focus on the transition special education services which prepare youth for employment, independent living and further education and will discuss mechanisms to plan for services students may require when they exit special education as well as transition to the adult human service system.

Through the use of case examples, parents and professionals will learn strategies that may help students receive important transition services mandated by special education laws. Parents and professionals will also gain an understanding on Chapter 688, the federal law that helps plan for youth with disabilities after they leave school.

C-9. The IPAD and Technology Playground
Presented by TechACCESS of Rhode Island

The Playground is a hands-on environment where you can explore tons of exciting opportunities for learning, working, living, and just plain enjoying. IPADS will be available with applications on daily living supports, augmentative communication, reading, writing, blind/low vision access, therapy supports, and much more! AT specialists from TechACCESS of RI will be on hand in the Playground throughout the day to answer your questions. We will also have a variety of other assistive technologies (from low tech to high tech) for you to explore.

Conference Supporters and Sponsors
  • The Arc of Massachusetts
  • SUPPORTbrokers
  • Advocates for Autism in Massachusetts (AFAM)
  • Federation for Children with Special Needs (FCSN)
  • Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council (MDDC)
  • Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress (MDSC)
  • Mass Rehabilitation Commission (MRC)
  • Massachusetts Advocates for Children (MAC)
  • Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education (DESE)
  • Massachusetts Families Organizing for Change (MFOFC)
  • Northeast Arc
  • Brockton Area Arc
  • Horace Mann Educational Associates (HMEA)
  • Department of Developmental Services (DDS)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Head Injury Tied to Long-Term Attention Issues in Kids

From HealthDay News

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

August 3, 2015

Children who suffer even mild brain injuries may experience momentary lapses in attention long after their accident, new research finds.

The study of 6- to 13-year-olds found these attention lapses led to lower behavior and intelligence ratings by their parents and teachers.

“Parents, teachers and doctors should be aware that attention impairment after traumatic brain injury can manifest as very short lapses in focus, causing children to be slower,” said study researcher Marsh Konigs, a doctoral candidate at VU University Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

This loss of focus was apparent even when scans showed no obvious brain damage, the researchers said.

Traumatic brain injury can occur from a blow to the head caused by a fall, traffic accident, assault or sports injury. Concussion is one type of traumatic brain injury. In 2009, more than 248,000 teens and children were treated in U.S. emergency rooms for sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries or concussions, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For the study, published online August 3 in the journal Pediatrics, researchers compared 113 children who had been hospitalized with a traumatic brain injury with 53 children who had a trauma injury not involving the head. The injuries, which ranged from mild to severe, occurred more than 18 months earlier on average.

The researchers tested mental functioning and evaluated questionnaires completed by parents and teachers at least two months after the injuries.

The head-injured group had slower processing speed, the researchers found. And their attention lapses were longer than those noted in the other children. But unlike other research, no differences were reported in other types of attention, such as executive attention — the ability to resolve conflict between competing responses.

The authors note, however, that although the findings suggest an association between head injury and lapses in attention, they do not prove a direct cause-and-effect relationship.

The study did not look at remedies, but Konigs said stimulant medications prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may also benefit kids with head injuries who have these attention deficiencies.

The take-home message from this study is that even mild head injury can lead to problems, said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York in New Hyde Park, N.Y. He was not involved with the research.

“This study provides further evidence of the importance of trying to minimize brain trauma, since even when there is no visible damage on CAT scans or MRIs, there can still be a significant adverse effect on attention span and behavior,” Adesman said.

This research underscores the need to protect children from head injuries through proper supervision, consistent use of child car seats and seat belts, as well as headgear when bike riding and playing contact sports, he added.

A notable finding is that these effects on attention can be prolonged, said Dr. John Kuluz, a pediatric brain injury specialist at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, who was not involved in the study. While some kids recover sufficiently after head trauma, he said, others have attention lapses that can interfere with school work.

Parents and teachers can help by restricting “sensory overload,” Kuluz said. “They can be overloaded with sensory input from video games, texting and other sources.”

If you are limited in your ability to pay attention, he said, “use brain energy for the important things, such as your school work. Don’t spend hours and hours on video games and texting.”

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Is Picky Eating a "Red Flag" for Depression?

From Duke University
via Futurity

By Samiha Khanna
August 6, 2015

Picky eating among children is a common but burdensome problem that can result in poor nutrition for kids, as well as family conflict and frustrated parents.

"The question for many parents and physicians is: when is picky
eating truly a problem?" says Nancy Zucker. "The children we're
talking about are not just misbehaving kids who refuse to eat
their broccoli." (Credit: Clay Bitner/Flickr)

Although families see picky eating as a phase, a new study suggests moderate and severe picky eating often coincides with serious childhood issues such as depression and anxiety that may need intervention.

More than 20 percent of children ages 2 to 6 are selective eaters. Of them, nearly 18 percent were classified as moderately picky. The remaining children, about 3 percent, were classified as severely selective—so restrictive in their food intake that it limited their ability to eat with others.

“The question for many parents and physicians is: when is picky eating truly a problem?” says Nancy Zucker, director of the Duke Center for Eating Disorders. “The children we’re talking about are not just misbehaving kids who refuse to eat their broccoli.”

Selective Eating

Children with both moderate and severe selective eating habits showed symptoms of anxiety and other mental conditions. The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, also shows that children with selective eating behaviors were nearly twice as likely to have increased symptoms of generalized anxiety at follow-up intervals during the study, which screened an initial 3,433 children.

“These are children whose eating has become so limited or selective that it’s starting to cause problems,” Zucker says. “Impairment can take many different forms. It can affect the child’s health, growth, social functioning, and the parent-child relationship. The child can feel like no one believes them, and parents can feel blamed for the problem.”

Both moderate and severe selective eating are associated with significantly elevated symptoms of depression, social anxiety, and generalized anxiety, researchers say.

Although children with moderate picky eating did not show an increased likelihood of formal psychiatric diagnoses, children with severe selective eating were more than twice as likely to also have a diagnosis of depression.

Heightened Senses

Children with moderate and severe patterns of selective eating would meet the criteria for an eating disorder called Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), a new diagnosis included in the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

The findings also suggest that parents are in conflict with their children regularly over food—which does not necessarily result in the child eating—and families and their doctors need new tools to address the problem, Zucker says.

“There’s no question that not all children go on to have chronic selective eating in adulthood,” Zucker says. “But because these children are seeing impairment in their health and well-being now, we need to start developing ways to help these parents and doctors know when and how to intervene.”

Some children who refuse to eat might have heightened senses, which can make the smell, texture, and tastes of certain foods overwhelming, causing aversion and disgust. Some children may have had a bad experience with a certain food, and develop anxiety when trying another new food or being forced to try the offensive food again, she says.

Demystifying Foods

“What’s hard for physicians is that they don’t really have data to help predict which children will age out of the problem and which children won’t, and so they’re trying to do the best they can with limited information and interventions.”

Some children may benefit from therapy, which may include demystifying foods that cause anxiety through exposure. But traditional methods may not address children with sensory sensitivities, for whom some smells and flavors are too intense and may never be palatable.

New interventions are needed to deal with children who have sensory sensitivity and frequent experiences of palpable disgust, Zucker says. Treatments also need to be better tailored to a patient’s age range.

One benefit to spotting picky eating in young children is that it’s a condition parents can easily recognize, and it could be a good tool for identifying who may be at risk for anxiety and depression. “It’s a good way to get high-risk children into interventions, especially if the parents are asking for help,” Zucker says.


The National Institute of Mental Health supported the research.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

When a Teacher Told Me ‘So Many’ Kids Shouldn’t Have Special Education Services

From The Mighty

By Kerri Goff
August 6, 2015

"... I believe it’s our responsibility as adults, as parents, as teachers to work together to make sure every child has the resources and accommodations they need to reach their fullest potential."

Recently I was at a social event making polite conversation with a high school teacher whom I’d just met. As it usually does, the topic of my children and their special education needs came up, and I explained what accommodations they have in place and also about how difficult it was to finally get them into the right educational setting.

We really hit it off, and I felt I had a comrade in arms. After all, teachers are so often stifled when it comes to speaking out on what’s in the best interest of their students — especially here in the state of Michigan where about four years ago, tenure reform occurred.

I can’t often speak so freely to someone who “gets it” — someone who really understands what parents like me fight for when we attend Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings and spend countless dollars on additional therapy and neuropsychology testing. Yes, we were on the same page in our fight for the educational rights of our most vulnerable students. Yes, we had a lot in common — that is until she said the following:

“It’s great that your kids got the help that they need, but I have to say, there are so many kids out there who should not have a special education certification.”

What? Did she just say what I think she said?

I took a deep breath, put on my best poker face and replied, “I think it’s important not to disregard the input from parents, as they know their children more than anyone else does.”

We were quiet for a moment and then someone changed the topic and I just let it go. But what I wanted to do was ask her this:

Really? In addition to being a teacher, are you also a psychologist, a neuropsychologist or a pediatrician? Exactly what qualifications do you have to determine if a student should have a special education certification? Do you think parents enjoy taking countless hours off work to attend numerous school meetings only to listen to the so-called professionals pick apart their child and his or her abilities and make the statement, “He needs try harder”?

Do you think any parent makes the decision to place a “special education” label on their child lightheartedly? Because I can tell you damn well that I did not.

Do you think parents are really that manipulative — that they would go through the more often than not hellish process of an IEP to gain some sort of accommodation for their average child to position them for better grades?

Lady, let me tell you, I’ve attended approximately 24 IEP meeting in the past 14 years, just as many REEDs (Review of Existing Evaluation Data) and countless appointments for educational assessments and medical testing. During each one, at some point I felt as if I was being judged as an overprotective/overreactive mother. Trust me when I say, the IEP process is not for the faint of heart. This I know.

There has been many a night when I’ve held one or both of my children in my arms as they cried because they felt completely lost and alone at school, and I’ve cried right along with them. As their mother, I promised them I would do everything in my power to make it better. I’ve kept that promise. Yes, they still have challenges, but they’re now growing academically and socially. In fact, it’s recently been said that they’re thriving.

They finally see themselves as students and more important, they see themselves as worthy and they feel accepted. But they would not be where they are today if I didn’t take that time off work to attend IEP meetings, research and learn the special education laws, take them to the educational and medical assessments and be their advocate.

Please know this: I’ve learned a lot over the past 14 years, being the mom of two medically fragile children with special needs. I’ve learned to follow my gut, to always listen to those little red flags because they’re usually right on, and I’ve learned that sadly, money is a factor in determining if a child receives the appropriate special education services they so desperately need.

I’ve also learned that general education teachers most of the time have not received any special education training, and yet their classrooms are full of children on the autism spectrum, have a physical disability, live with a chronic illness or who are deaf or hard of hearing.

But the most important thing I have learned — a lesson my two children taught me — is that no child ever wants to feel like a failure. Children naturally want to succeed, and I believe it’s our responsibility as adults, as parents, as teachers to work together to make sure each and every child has the resources and accommodations they need to reach their fullest potential.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Supporting the Emotional Needs of Kids with Learning Disabilities

From the Child Mind Institute

By Rachel Ehmke
August 11, 2015

Signs your child might be struggling with low self-esteem, anxiety, or depression, and how to help.

When kids are diagnosed with a learning disability we naturally worry about how it will affect their school performance. What we often don't think about, but should, is how having a learning disability may affect children emotionally.

Not all kids with a learning disability become frustrated, sad, or anxious, but it is pretty common for kids to go through at least some period of emotional struggle. It isn't easy for children when they see themselves falling behind their peers at school. Even if they pretend that they don't notice or care, struggling in school can be a demoralizing experience.

Here are some signs that kids might be struggling emotionally:
  • Lowered self-esteem
  • Increased anxiety, particularly in academic situations
  • Increased sadness or irritability
  • Acting out
  • Physical symptoms like headaches or stomach aches
  • Reduced motivation
Some of the signs, like crying or worrying, can be obvious, while others, like acting out, are more frequently misunderstood. Laura Fuhrman, Psy.D., a neuropsychologist at the Child Mind Institute, explains the dynamic.

"Sometimes kids would rather be the 'bad' kid than the 'dumb' kid, or they'd rather be the class clown. They're either trying to divert attention away from their academic struggles or they're trying to have the 'I don't care' attitude as a way of saving face."

In addition to getting kids help for a learning issue—strengthening skills and finding strategies that play to their strengths—parents should think about what emotional support kids need, too. If you see signs that your child is struggling, try to understand what specifically is troubling him. Below are the three most common reasons why kids with a learning disability might feel bad, and what to do about them.

1.) Kids think they are "dumb."

This is a particularly big one during the period before a child has received a diagnosis. Children often notice if they aren't learning at the same pace as other kids, and assume it is because they just aren't smart. Unfortunately kids can keep believing they aren't smart even after they are diagnosed with a learning disability.

What to do:

Make sure your child understands what a learning disability is. "Kids might not know, but by definition a learning disability means that a student is of at least average intelligence," explains Dr. Fuhrman. In fact a learning disability is identified when an expert recognizes that a child is not performing up to her natural ability in a particular area. Hearing explicitly that a learning disability has nothing to do with intelligence can be very meaningful to kids.

Talk it through. Ideally you, your child, and whoever is working with your child should talk about the learning disability together. Sometimes parents think kids won't understand, but a learning expert can help you find developmentally appropriate language to use.

Think about the messages you are sending. Children are very sensitive to their parents' emotions, and if they sense that you are uncomfortable with their diagnosis, or that you think that having a learning disability is a bad thing, they will probably feel the same way.

Examine your own feelings. Because learning disabilities can be genetic, sometimes seeing a child struggling can also bring back difficult memories for parents, or make them feel guilty. You may want to schedule a separate appointment to discuss any questions or concerns you have with your child's provider. The best way to help your child feel more positive is if you start feeling positive, too.

2.) Kids feel like they stick out in class.

The last thing most kids want is to look different from their friends. So when kids get pulled out of class for tutoring or called on by the teacher for something they're afraid they can't deliver, they may feel embarrassed and singled out. These experiences day after day can damage a child's self-esteem and make them dread going to school.

What to do:

Ask teachers to be sensitive to how kids are feeling. Dr. Fuhrman says that she sometimes works with schools to help teachers understand how a particular student's learning disability is impacting him emotionally.

When a child is very anxious about reading, for example, she has advised teachers to wait for him to raise his hand and offer to read instead of calling on him blindly. If his teacher needs to assess his oral reading because it's part of the curriculum, it might be better to do that privately.

Students and teachers can also work out a subtle signal the student can use when he needs help or feels himself getting too frustrated.

Single kids out for praise, too. Kids who are struggling in school may feel like they are mostly getting negative attention. When teachers make a special effort to give kids positive attention for the things that they are doing right—even little things—it can improve their mood and confidence. Dr. Fuhrman notes this is also a powerful technique for teachers to use with a child who tends to act out to divert attention.

Find the right academic environment. Sometimes kids feel like they stick out because they need more assistance than they are currently getting. Work with the school and your child's provider to consider what his needs are and if they are being met. He may need more accommodations, a different kind of tutoring, or even a change of school.

Dr. Furhman notes that there are some specialized schools that offer remedial support in school as part of an individualized curriculum rather than making it a separate after-school activity. These schools may also be better prepared to support each child's specific social, emotional, and behavioral needs.

3.) Kids are worn out.

Unfortunately having a learning disability means that kids often need to work harder than their peers. This might mean spending more time on homework, going to tutoring, and working with an educational therapist.

Spending so much time focusing on something that is challenging for them can leave kids feeling frustrated and resentful. It can also lead to waning motivation in school.

What to do:

Remember that success breeds success. It is important to set kids up for success—not failure—as much as possible. Teachers, therapists, and parents should consciously set modest, achievable goals that children can work towards meeting. When a child sees proof that she is making progress she will be more motivated to continue putting forth that extra effort.

Find their talent. This is possibly the most important thing you can do for a child who has a learning disability. You don't need to find her "passion," or the thing she will do for the rest of her life—most kids won't end up being professional athletes or ballet dancers—but every child has a talent.

Find something that your child feels good about doing, and that gives her a sense of mastery and accomplishment, and give her time to practice it. As her talent grows so will her confidence, self-esteem, and overall happiness.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

And Now, Mandatory Summer School for Some Kindergartners

From The Washington Post's Education Blog

July 13, 2015

"We can’t continue to make school such drudgery for kids and then scratch our heads when they do poorly or fail."

It isn’t enough, apparently, that many kindergartners today are subjected to test after test, homework, little or no play, little or no rest time, and sometimes, no snack. Now, a Florida school superintendent is recommending a new treat for kindergartners who are not reading as well as adults want them to be (even if they aren’t developmentally ready to): summer school. Where they can do even more academic work and get less time to be kids and play.

The Florida Times-Union writes in this story that Duval Superintendent Nikolai Vitti has urged the School Board to consider sending kindergartners — as well as first- and second-graders too — to summer school if they aren’t reading well enough.

As it turns out, half of the county’s third-graders don’t read on grade level, he said, which is a problem given that in Florida, third-graders who are not proficient enough in reading are held back a year, a practice that began years ago when Jeb Bush was governor from 1999-2007. The county, in fact, used to require that young students go to summer school if they did poorly on a reading test, but, that stopped in 2013 when he ditched the FAIR test, saying it wasn’t student or teacher friendly, the story said.

(Incidentally, the state of Florida in September, 2014 at least temporarily stopped using the FAIR testfor students in grades K-2 after a teacher publicly blasted the exam, saying it was inappropriate for very young students.)

“We’ve got to make sure our kids are reading at grade level. If our kids are better prepared at the primary level, then they’ll be prepared for third grade and beyond.”

Some board members were less than convinced, and discussion will continue. The Times-Union quoted one parent, Shamane Thomas, a Northside mother of three, who succinctly explained why putting kindergartners in summer school specifically for more reading instruction is a bad idea:

“I have a 5-year-old. You can’t force a 5-year-old to focus. They still have a playful mind-set.”

No, you can’t, although plenty of schools now try, given that curriculum has been pushed down so much that kindergarten is no longer a time for kids to learn and socialize through play but rather for a lot of desk time with academic assignments.

Sure, some schools break up the time so kids don’t sit there hour after hour, but the pressure on young children to learn to read and do math — even if they aren’t developmentally ready — and on teachers to ensure that they do learn — has become extraordinary.

Providing quality summer programs for young children is a laudable goal — and something school systems and city governments should offer. But requiring 5- and 6-year-olds to go to summer school so they can labor over academics is something else entirely. Some kids just aren’t ready to read at 5 years old. Forcing them to sit in summer school class sounding out words isn’t going to much help.

Chip Wood is the author of the seminal Yardsticks: Children in the Classroom Ages 4-14,” which says that 5-year-olds are active and receptive, take things in through their senses, and love to play. In fact, he wrote, play “is the five-year-old’s primary occupation.” Just not in kindergarten today.

As for 6-year-olds, Wood wrote that they “take on every activity, at home and at school, with unbridled enthusiasm,” “love jokes, silly songs, and guessing games,” and “love to be outdoors.” Not much time for that in many kindergartens today.

Duval certainly wouldn’t be the first school district to require very young students to go to summer school if they aren’t reading and computing well enough for the grown-ups. In 2014, for example, the Middletown school district in New York’s Lower Hudson Valley required about 600 students from kindergarten through second grade to go to summer school for five weeks, according to the Journal News and lohud.com. They were chosen because their scores on a computer-based test called MAP were deemed insufficient to give them a relaxing summer.

The MAP, incidentally, is the same exam that sparked protests in 2013 by Seattle teachers who refused to give the test because they said it was a poor instrument for evaluation. The teachers won some concessions.

Back in 2012, the superintendent of schools in Hartford, Connecticut wanted to mandate that some kindergartners at the lowest-performing schools attend school 11 months a year working on academics. This post quoted from a story in the Hartford Courant that said some kindergartners were already going to school from 7:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. — with no time for naps and no time to play. It quoted Immacula Didier, the principal at Betances Early Reading Lab School, as saying,:

“Play? No. No, no, no. This is no longer the case. Even in pre-K, for us, it’s no longer the case.”

For years now, we’ve been pushing down curriculum so that kindergarten is the new first grade and kids who can’t read by the time they leave are already considered behind. Maybe the answer isn’t forcing kids to go to summer school but to provide enriching summer activities that spark a child’s curiosity and creativity, allow them to learn to socialize with others, and then give them the time they need to read in a developmentally appropriate manner.

On his Education Matters blog, educator Chris Guerrieri wrote about Vitti’s recommendation:

"School has become drudgery for kids and that has crept both into the younger grades and into the neighborhoods where the kids can least afford to hate school….I have no problem with kindergartners going to summer school if it is done right with lots of play and art activities sandwiched around learning blocks, unfortunately I don’t believe that is what the super has in mind. We can’t continue to make school such drudgery for kids and then scratch our heads when they do poorly or fail."