Preparing Special Needs Students for the First Day of Class

The first day of school can be a terrifying and exhilarating experience for the child and parent alike. It can be especially nerve-racking when a child with special needs is attending school for the first time or going back for another year. However, fear not. With some preparation before the big day, you can ensure a smooth first day for you and your child.

Even before the first day of school, visit the campus early, such as during the summer time, to get a feel for the place and to know where important facilities are located such offices, restrooms, and the nurse station. You can also check out the child’s classroom so you can prepare your child for what s/he is to expect on the first day of school.

It is always important for you and your child to be surrounded by a supportive, understanding environment so that your child feels welcome into the new school community. Introduce yourself to your child’s teacher, and make sure to inform them as necessary about your child’s needs. Introduce yourself as well to other member’s of your child’s school such as the principal, school nurse, counselor, and school aides, who, aside from the teacher, could be working very closely with your child.

If possible, help your child with the transition by explaining to them what to expect or even giving them a printed schedule of what the first day will look and feel like and where s/he will be at certain times– ask their teacher for help with this information beforehand. Purchase a special folder for your child’s teacher to keep in the classroom and one for you to keep at home of school activities and any pertinent paperwork about your child.

Even before the new school year begins, be active in school – PTAs are a great way to meet other parents and stay in the know about school activities and issues. You can collect phone numbers of your child’s classmate’s parents. PTAs can also be your opportunity to advocate for more seminars teaching school staff about working with special needs students.

While children with the same special needs may share similar characteristics, every child is unique. Although faculty members may discover on their own your child’s beautiful personality, as reinforcement to what you explain to your child’s teacher and other faculty members, write a letter to the teacher introducing  your child. In it you can include details such as:

  • A photo of your child
  • Your child’s physical/mental/emotional strengths and challenges
  • Likes and Dislikes
  • Toileting needs
  • Any food/medical allergies
  • Medical/medication information
  • Emergency phone numbers

Talk to your child as well so you are kept informed about what is going on in their day-to-day life to know if there are any concerns you may need to bring up with the teacher about the classroom setting.

If you have time to spare, volunteer in your child’s school during the school year and the days leading up to the first day of school. Teachers in younger grades will often request parent volunteers to help with work in the classroom, and if your child is older you can help around the school in other ways, such as being a playground monitor or organizing fundraisers.

With a little preparation on your part, that of the school staff, and your child for his/her first day of school, your child can focus on what matters: their academic, personal, and interpersonal development.

 

Fun, Friendly Apps For Helping Young Special Education Students

When raising or teaching a special education student, there are many variables that you need to consider in order to get a child to perform well in the classroom setting. Depending on the level of disability the child might need aid in anything from speech and motor control to learning how to adapt to verbal and social cues.

For many children these abilities are within their reach, and providing them a helpful resource like fun educational apps can encourage them to develop and understanding of and grasp these concepts on their own.

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 These apps feel more like games, and will be fun in both appearance and engagement. Different apps address different issues, such as trouble with auditory changes, social situations, non-verbal communication and other areas related to special needs. As your child plays the game, they’ll learn to improve in the areas that they’re struggling with.

Picking the right game for each child is also very important, but here we provide a list of some of the exceptional apps that meet a wide range of student’s needs.

1. ArtikPix

Designed for children with speech and sound delays, ArtikPix uses flashcards and matching games to help kids improve and develop in these areas. The app also uses child-friendly language, however it can be used in conjunction with a speech pathologist.

2. Proloquo2Go

This app is expensive, but it’s highly advanced and worth every penny if you have a child who can’t speak or who has trouble speaking.

Using images, symbols and typed text, even children with severe disabilities can communicate and improve their ability to speak using this app. They’ll be given words with symbols and characters that they can use to quickly communicate what they’re thinking and how they’re feeling.

There’s less of an educational aspect to this app, but it’s still highly effective in terms of improving quality of life and helping children with speech disabilities have the chance to communication.

3. Phonics Genius

This is simply one of the most comprehensive and detailed phonics apps available, and is all about helping kids decipher words by their sounds. The app breaks words down into several pieces and goes through the sounds one at a time.

4. Speech with Milo

With fun characters and a game-like user interface, Speech with Milo takes kids through animated sequencing exercises that are designed to improve speech and build social skills.

The typical format of the game is to give the child a series of cards that show different things happening, both in words and picture and then let the child rearrange the cards in the correct order.

5. The Social Express

This app is designed for those with high-functioning aspergers or a similar condition and is incredibly detailed and effective in its approach. The interface uses 3D characters to portray certain social scenarios and then allows the user to interact and make decisions in those situations.

Like Proloquo2Go, the app is a bit pricey, but is certainly worth the investment if your child’s condition applies.

Therapy Supplement

While you can’t replace therapy with an iPad app, you can effectively supplement it by getting your child involved with some of these tools. They’ll view the game aspect of it as fun and will teach them key social and academic tools without them even realize they are being taught.

Utilizing technology is a great way to get in touch with your child and help them develop, which will only enhance their performance in the classroom.

Top 10 Books on Special Education for Educators that Parents Might Want to Read

As a parent of a special needs child, you have a lot of responsibility when it comes to making sure your child gets the education that they need. This means that when it comes to the school system, you’ve got to have a direct and intimate involvement with the process and the accommodations that are being made for your child.

Since school districts are restricted by their budget and are usually slow to give individualized attention to one child, parents of kids who need a specific type of education will often need to advocate and fight for their child, to ensure that their education is administered properly.

If you find yourself in that battle, the best thing you can do to help you and your kid’s cause is to be informed about the topics you’re conversing with the school system about.

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One of the best ways to achieve this is to be well read in the area of special education, and to read from multiple perspectives. Here are ten books on special education that are mostly meant for educators, but can prove to be a great resource for parents looking to be effective advocates for their children.

1. Wrightslaw: Special Education

As referenced in our earlier article, Wrightslaw is an amazing resource both on and offline. Wrightslaw: Special Education is released in succeeding updated editions, bringing together the most complete and updated information about laws and policies of the special education process. It details everything an educator or parent would need to know in dealing with special education and the law.

2. Better IEPs

This book is completely devoted to the legalities and the law as it relates to special education. It is something that many special educators look for when they need to comprehend or create their special education programs. It takes an actional, education-oriented approach to the material, making it a great resource for parents who are in a dispute with their school district over their child’s education.

3. How the Special Needs Brain Learns

David A. Sousa gets into the thought processes and learning methods that are typical for special needs children. Not only is this book helpful for parents looking to understand how their children learn, but it’s something teachers should look to when creating lesson plans.

4. The Complete Guide to Special Education

This book is resource for teachers which covers not only special education policies as well, but also how parents experience the special education process. Whether or not the book directly relates to your personal experience, it aims to teach teachers how to deal with parents, and as such can be great diplomatic guide when in talks with a school district.

5. The IEP from A to Z

This is another book that encourages special education teachers to work with parents, and thus is something that parents can look to when trying to understand the perspective of the educator during due process. Working together will make sure that your child is getting the best and most individualized education that will help them succeed in school.

6. Including Students with Severe and Multiple Disabilities in Typical Classrooms

If your child has severe special needs and you want to them to be included in a mainstream classroom, this book covers the ways in which inclusion occurs in different classroom settings and strategies for successful inclusion. Inclusion can be a great challenge, especially if a school district has not accommodated this process before, but understanding what both a school, educators, and students go through during inclusion can provide you with a better ability to negotiate.

7. The Mislabeled Child

Written by two doctors, this book outlines the varying learning disabilities and discusses how to approach them in terms of teaching strategy. A useful tool for educators in diagnosing and teaching children, it can also help you as a parent understand what style of teaching might work best for your child.

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8. Lost at School

Ross Greene delivers a more pointed discussion about behavioral issues and how these issues affect classroom performance. He also provides strategies for dealing with disruptive or even harmful behavior in the classroom which can be employed by teachers and parents.

9. Case Studies in Assessment of Students with Disabilities

Practicality and real-life examples are the centerpiece of this book, which helps show teachers how certain training and strategies have worked in actual classroom situations. As a parent you can look to this book to see how other children with disabilities have fared in certain situations; it even includes questionnaires to assess your knowledge of special education.

10. Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnoses of Gifted Children and Adults

This one is particularly helpful for parents as it highlights the emotional factors and behavioral issues surrounding special needs kids and how to deal with those occurrences. When it comes to IEPs this book can help you better grasp how your child is being diagnosed and how that will affect their education.

Learning as a Parent

When you know your child is going to have a difficult time getting a proper education, even under the best circumstances, you’ve got to learn as a parent and become a student of your child.

If you can better understand what they are and will go through as a student with special needs, you’ll be far more able and qualified to speak on their behalf, encourage them, and advocate for them, both at home and in the classroom.

What To Ask Your Special Education Consultant

If you have a special needs child in the school system, hiring an independent special education consultant can help ensure your child’s future. Disagreements between you and your school district over how best to meet your child’s schooling and needs may arise over the course of your child’s education, and having a consultant to guide and assist you can make a significant difference in your child’s education.

Rather than fumbling around on the Internet and poring over legal details, retaining a consultant can eliminate the mistakes parents typically make when they go about it alone.

Word-of-mouth is a typical way of finding an educational consultant. Friends, relatives, your child’s doctors are all excellent resources for recommendations. Special education lawyers who have training and expertise are another great resource for consulting.

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Here are key points to review and important questions to ask when you are interviewing potential consultants.

Credentials and qualifications. While you may be able to find this information online with some research, it’s a good starting point in getting to know the educational consultant better.

As he or she will be interacting with your child, providing you with advice that impacts your child’s future, and possibly representing your child’s interests, it is important that you can trust his or her judgment and training. Knowing the details of his or her education, professional affiliations, certifications and associations can serve as a baseline of his or her credentials.

Ask:

  • What degrees, certifications, and licenses do you and the members of your company hold?
  • What professional associations do you and members of your firm (if applicable) belong to?
  • Have you written any books or articles that I can read to get a better sense of your philosophy?
  • What conferences or extended education do you seek out to stay abreast of current policy and research?

Experience. While schooling and certification provide a good reference point, experience is a better gauge of the consultant’s competence and fit.

Many years of practice in areas of specialty that fits your child’s needs would mean that this consultant would be a better fit for your family. With schools and programs constantly changing, a breadth of experience means the consultant can adapt easily to the fluctuations. Also, you should get a sense of how many cases they handle a year, to ensure that while they have ample experience, they also have plenty of time to focus on your case.

Ask:

  • How many years have you been a special education consultant?
  • What areas of special education or clinical issues do you or your firm focus on? How many years have you been specializing in this field?
  • What is your on-going caseload? How many new cases do you take on a year?
  • Have you (or members of your company) visited any special-needs school/programs in the past year? How many? What was the visit regarding?
  • Have you previously participated in special education committee meets, impartial hearings, etc.? How many such incidences? What was the outcome?

Services. Once you’ve gotten a sense of the educational consultant’s education, training and experience, you can begin to review the services the firm provides and the costs associated.

While you can get an idea of what the consultant offers through online research, asking details about the services and cost ensures that there will be no surprises later on.

Ask:

  • Do you have an itemized list of your services and costs? What does a retainer cover?
  • How do you follow-up on cases after placement? How long do you follow-up? Is there additional cost associated with follow-up?
  • Are you available for post-placement care? Is that an additional cost?
  • Are you or someone from your firm likely to visit our child at his or her new school?
  • How accessible are you during office hours? Are you available after hours? Is this an additional cost?
  • Who covers for you when you are unavailable?
  • What is your preferred method of communication? How quickly do you reply to voicemail/email/etc.?
  • Are there any additional services that you or your firm can assist us with?

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Placement Process. Find out how the consultant reaches his or her conclusions, recommendations, or advice. You will be relying on the consultant to educate you on the options, so ask questions regarding his or her methodology.

Ask:

  • How do you determine the needs of the child? What methods do you use?
  • What factors do you take into consideration when considering placement options and schools?
  • How will you help us choose amongst the recommended options for our child?

You may have additional questions to ask, but this is a good starting point to help you vet potential educational consultants for your child.

Suggested Reading: 5 Essential Articles on Special Education

Whether you’re the parent of a child with special needs or you’re a teacher working in a special education classroom, the subject can be confusing. There’s certainly no shortage of information out there for you to reference, but unfortunately most people don’t have time to wade through the thousands and thousands of articles on special education to find the handful of ones that can really teach you something valuable.

That’s why we’ve compiled five of the best articles on special education, each of which succinctly and competently cover the essential cornerstones of the special education process. Whether you’re just learning the basics when it comes to special education or you’re a seasoned professional, these articles are a valuable resource.

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1. An Overview of Special Education: “Special Education Law and the IEP”, on NOLO.com

Written to help parents understand their child’s educational rights under the IDEA Act, Special Education Law and the IEP was first published NOLO website.

The IDEA act is of particular importance to parents of children with special needs because it guarantees all parents the right to have their children assessed to determine educational eligibility, inspect schools and voice concerns and disputes with the school district.

Special Education Law and the IEP is a must-read for parents trying to understand IDEA Act

2. On Categorizing Disabilities: “Categories of Disabilities Under IDEA”, on NICHCY.org

This article, published on National Dissemination Center for Children With Disabilities website, is designed to help parents of children with special needs understand categories of disability under the IDEA Act. Understanding these basic categorizations is important for parents whose child was recently diagnosed with a disability.

Understanding how disabilities are categorized according to the IDEA Act can also help parents prevent discrimination in their child’s education that could negatively affect them.

3. On Evaluations: “What You Should Know About Evaluations”, on Wrightslaw.com

First published on the Wrightslaw website and written by Robert K. Crabtree, Esq., What You Should Know About Evaluations is a guide that parents and teachers can use to understand how special education evaluations are really conducted.

For parents, What You Should Know About Evaluations is important because the information presented can keep children from being evaluated and re-evaluated without parental consent, which could hamper their educational standing at their school.

The article also provides information on how to choose an independent evaluator and how to work with an evaluator once chosen.

4. On Being An Advocate: “Advocating For Your Child”, on Wrightslaw.com

Advocating For Your Child is an article that was originally published in the book “Wrightslaw:  From Emotions to Advocacy – The Special Education Survival Guide” by Pamela Wright and Peter Wright, the owners of Wrightslaw.com, which is a huge resource database  for many special education law articles.

The article is especially important for parents of children with special disabilities, as it talks about how to fight for your child’s rights in all facets of life – from school to your child’s emotional development. Click through Wrightslaw’s “Advocacy” topic page for similar articles.

5. On IEPs: “How to Prepare for Your Next IEP Meeting”, on SpecialEducationAdvisor.com

How to Prepare for Your Next IEP Meeting is published on the Special Education Advisor website, designed to help prepare parents for Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings. It provides a dated checklist of preparations to undertake during the 90 day period between the scheduling of an IEP appointment and the appointment itself.

Understanding how to prepare for IEP testing is important because IEP testing allows you to seek additional help for your child or strive to increase their classroom involvement and skill level.

Having a child with special needs can be confusing at first, but as a parent, it’s your job to make sure you fight for your child and learn everything you possibly can so you can stand in their corner. These five articles are a good first step, but as a parent of a child with special needs, your work is never done.