Movies and TV Shows About Special Needs Worth Watching

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In a 2013 report, characters with a disability only accounted for 1 percent of the television population, when in reality, people with disabilities make up 19 percent of the US population, or around 56 million people.  While the representation is still a long way from being representative of the true population, there are still quality television programs and films that depict special needs honestly.

Speechless

Whats it About?: The story of a family as they deal with the challenges of raising a son with cerebral palsy.

Why Its Worth Watching: While Speechless treats cerebral palsy with an informed voice, it doesnt do so with a melodramatic tone.  In fact, Speechless is actually a comedy.  Created by Scott Silveri, Speechless pulls from his childhood experiences of watching his parents care for his brother, who has cerebral palsy.

In an industry in which people with special needs are underrepresented, Speechless is one of the few television shows out there that attempts to give them a voice, pun-intended. Here are some of the newest HD movies that are also worth watching.
 

Parenthood

Whats it About?: NBC drama about the ups and downs of three generations of the Braverman family.

Why Its Worth Watching: A stalwart in NBCs programming schedule for six seasons, Parenthood never shied away from tackling tough issues that most families could relate to.  Throughout the run, they tackled everything from teenage pregnancy to breast cancer to PTSD, but one of the longest-running storylines in the show was young Max growing up and coming to terms with being diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome.

Showrunner Jason Katim based Maxs storyline, and the storyline of his parents Kristina and Adam, on his own experiences of being a parent of a child diagnosed with Aspergers.  Katims autobiographical perspective and young actor Max Burkholders commitment to the role makes Parenthood a raw and honest look at an often-misunderstood special need.

Autism: The Musical

Whats it About?: A documentary chronicling six months in the lives of five children on the autism spectrum, as they write, rehearse, and perform and original stage musical.

Why Its Worth Watching: A lot of documentaries focused on autism tend to focus on the experiences of the parents and what it is like raising a child with autism.  While the parents are involved in this film (including rock and roll guitarist Stephen Stills), the focus of this documentary is primarily the children.  Moving and inspiring, this film can make you tear at the struggles of both the children and the parents, but can also fill your heart with happiness as you see the children overcome some of the challenges they are faced with.

Whats Eating Gilbert Grape?

Whats it About?: After his father dies, Gilbert Grape is forced to take care of his morbidly obese mother and his special needs brother, while trying to make a life of his own.  

Why Its Worth Watching: Leonardo DiCaprio was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Arnie, Gilbert’s autistic brother.  In the film, Arnie is an independent person: a member of the community and a fixture in his own home.  In comparison to Rain Man, a film made around the same time, Arnie is not institutionalized and is welcomed and loved in his own community.  

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Hollywood still has a long way to go to fully represent the special needs population.  Film and television, however, have come a long way in depicting those with special needs like autism with accuracy and honesty.

 

What Is the Best Legal Plan for my Special Needs Child?

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When your child approaches adulthood and is set to go out into the world on his or her own, parents understandably worry about their wellbeing.  Did they do a good job preparing them?  Does their child have the necessary skills to support itself financially?  These concerns are even more crucial when the adult child has a special need such as autism, which is why it is a good idea to speak with a special needs lawyer and have an active legal plan that takes care of your special needs childs financial and medical situation.  Whether the child is capable of taking on all responsibilities or needs some guardianship, take the time to speak with a professional and know what your child can and cannot do on his or her own.

Assess Your Childs Capacity to Make Financial Decisions

One of the hardest things for any young adult to get a handle on when they first go out into the world on their own is the ability to make sound financial decisions; this is especially difficult for child with special needs, so it is important to take a look at how well they do making financial decisions before you make any guardianship decisions.  Its a good idea to make a checklist of how well you think they can handle this responsibility:        

  • How well did they perform in math in their classes?  What was the highest level they completed?
  • How well can your child read?
  • Will your child be employable?
  • What kind of financial skills do they already possess?  Do they have the ability to balance a checkbook?  Can they read a bank statement?  Can they make investment decisions?
  • Is your child able to make change at a store?
  • Are they employable?
  • Are they susceptible to financial exploitation?

When you take an honest look at your childs capacity to make these sorts of decisions without you, you can outline the best course of action for the future and their independence.

Can Your Child Make Personal Care Decisions?

Finances arent the only decisions your special needs child will have to make on their own.  They will have to make personal decisions that we may take for granted, but for a child on the autism spectrum, they can be difficult.  Something as simple as understanding a diagnosis can prove to be a challenge, depending on how functioning your child is.  Answer these questions for yourself in order to get a better idea of what your child will be faced with:

  • Can your child have a conversation with their doctor and understand the diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment plans?
  • Can your child drive a vehicle?
  • Can they live independently?
  • Can your child learn to vote and understand the consequences?
  • Can your child do everyday functions on their own, such as bathing, cooking, grooming, and dressing?

Once you answer these questions for yourself, talk to a special needs law attorney no later than two months before your childs 18th birthday in order to decide upon a legal plan.

Understand the Different Legal Options Pertaining to Special Needs Children

How your special needs lawyer chooses to proceed with how to handle your childs financial and medical well-being will depend greatly on your childs legal capacity. In the legal realm, capacity pertains to the ability to understand, reason, and appreciate the consequences of ones actions.  Overall, there are three ways to legally proceed:

Legal Documents

If your child is high functioning, the lawyer may be able to process legal documents for your child that will detail a financial and medical plan.

The documents you should be familiar with are as follows:

  1. a)     Durable Power of Attorney: identifies a trusted person who has legal authority to make various financial decisions when a person is incapacitated, including paying bills, authorizing bank transactions, or filing tax returns.
  2. b)    Designation of Health Care Surrogate: identifies a trusted person to make various medical decisions in the event that your child is unable to give informed consent, including authorizing a medical procedure, authorize discharge from hospital or transfer to another facility, or change residence.
  3. c)     HIPAA Authorization: states the Health Care Surrogate can access confidential health care information under the HIPAA medical privacy law.

Guardian Advocate Proceeding

Guardian advocate proceeding allows your special needs child to retain the highest level of independence in their decision-making.  The goal of this court-assisted proceeding is to assign a parent or guardian as a Guardian Advocate to assist and support a special needs child with their decisions.  The adult child retains their legal rights while the Guardian Advocate has the legal authority to assist in medical or financial decision-making.  There are some limitations to this option, however.  For example, if the adult child has another mental health diagnosis separate from their autism, like bipolar disorder, the court may prevent you from filing a Guardian Advocate Proceeding.

Guardianship Proceeding

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If your child with special needs has a lower capacity, your only option may be a guardianship proceeding.  This option appoints a legal guardian to make financial and medical decisions.  This proceeding may be right for your adult childs situation if their ability to make decisions is hindered by a physical, cognitive, or mental disability.  The adult child loses some or all rights (depending on the capacity of the individual), which are granted to the guardian.  These rights include:

  • The right to vote
  • The right to marry
  • The right to contract
  • Apply for government benefits
  • Make medical decisions
  • Determine residence
  • Seek employment
  • The right to sue or defend
  • The ability to manage real or personal property

Planning ahead and creating a plan for your special needs adult child can really alleviate worry and unneeded headaches that may come up if you havent figured out what to do.  Talking through the next phase of your childs life with a special needs lawyer will help give you peace of mind and give your child the right amount of freedom.

The Best Special Education Programs in California

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When it comes to special education programs in California, there are some schools that have set themselves apart from the pack on account of the high-quality education they provide to students.

Special needs students are a diverse group, and there is no one-size-fits-all format, so the sorts of programs that make the grade as far as excellence goes pull out all the stops to help students.

According to the Overview of Special Education in California from the Legislative Analyst’s Office, approximately 10% of California’s students have disabilities that affect their education, and this no doubt means that there is a definite need for quality special education programs in the state.

Read on to learn about the best special education programs in California. While there are more than are contained in this blog post, the list will nonetheless give you a sample of top programs.

Excelsior Academy

Situated in San Diego, Excelsior Academy is a private school that aims to provide a safe and nurturing environment where students can become independent, thinking, literate, and productive. Students from K-12+ with learning disabilities, Asperger’s, ADHD, and more attend the school that offers not only a thorough academic education, but also a transition program that it calls Pathway to Independence. With this transition program, students study various transition and independent living skills such as communication, vocational, motor/mobility, and more.

Westview School

Westview School is based in Los Angeles and, as part of The Help Group continuum of schools, seeks to provide a nurturing and supportive environment to help special needs children to achieve scholastic and personal success. Westview, a private, nonprofit institution, services students with learning disabilities, high functioning autism, ADD, and emotional issues. Westview’s approach involves providing individualized attention, small classroom sizes, extracurricular activities, and counselling services for additional academic and personal support.

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Chartwell School

Located in Seaside, Chartwell School caters to K-12 students with a variety of special needs. It aims at empowering students who have language-based learning differences such as dyslexia, and it seeks to offer students the skills and coping mechanisms they need to do well in college and beyond post-secondary school. While Chartwell offers a program that covers the same material as any other school in the state, it also adds a component that includes research-based methodologies to help students to overcome their learning difficulties. As well, it has a student-to-faculty ratio of about 5:1, which means that students get individualized attention.

Alameda County Special Education

Alameda County Special Education is a public school system in the Bay Area. While the student-to-teacher ratio of 25:1 isn’t as favorable as it is at many private special education schools in California, Alameda County Special Education nonetheless offers a quality education to its approximately 4,000 students.

Carmack Elementary School

Situated in San Bernardino, Carmack Elementary School is a public school with around 75 children from grades KG-8. Its mission is to provide instruction needed for students to develop the self-esteem, skills, knowledge, and understanding needed to achieve personal and social development regardless of handicapping condition. Its “Learning, Achieving Succeeding!” tagline underscores the school’s commitment to helping students to reach their full potential.

Again, there are plenty of special education programs in California that are geared towards serving students with special needs. While these programs offer excellence for special needs students, every school in California is required to follow your child’s individual education plan. If you need help getting your child the resources they need, an advocate can provide your family with the representation you need.

Animals as Therapy for Special Needs Families

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Whoever was the first to say that dog is man’s best friend, probably didn’t know how true that statement actually was because a canine’s loyalty, while admirable, is just scratching the surface.

When it comes to special needs families, dogs and other types of animals can offer important therapeutic benefits that can make a huge quality-of-life difference.

Animal therapy is a term that refers to the interaction between a person and a specially trained animal. This sort of therapy is used to help people to recover from or to cope with health issues or disabilities. While canines and felines happen to be the most popular therapy animals, other animals like horses, guinea pigs, and even fish can be used for this purpose. The animal type selected will depend on factors such as the therapeutic objectives of the patient’s treatment plan.

Physical Benefits

Whether young or young at heart, your special needs family member can derive physical benefits courtesy of animal therapy. For instance, horseback riding can help to strengthen muscles. In fact the North American Riding for the the Handicapped Association, which happens to recommend horseback riding for people with physical, learning, and emotional disabilities, says that the activity can help participants to enhance their muscle tone, coordination, balance, motor skills, and posture. An interesting point to make is that the rocking motion that occurs when people ride horses is akin to the pelvic motion made while walking. It has also been demonstrated that using horses for rehabilitative or therapeutic purposes can help people who have mobility issues to improve muscle tone to the point where they may be able to learn how to walk using a walker.

Motivation

Animal therapy involving dolphins can give special needs individuals the motivation to develop various skills. For instance, children in therapy sessions led by a professional might be given the chance to swim with or pet a dolphin if they properly demonstrate a specific skill. Because animal therapy is generally regarded as a fun activity by children, these children can become motivated. This can help them to complete the treatments faster and with fewer hiccups along the way.

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Companionship  

Dogs can provide important companionship benefits for all member of your family. When it comes to special needs, however, dogs can take on an added degree of importance. For instance, they can be specially trained in order to help visually impaired persons who want to maintain some independence by safely going out and about. Some experts actually insist that dogs provide the sort of companionship needed for the development of kids who have disabilities.

Emotional & Social Benefits

Pet therapy can help special needs persons to increase their self-esteem, improve their ability to interact with other people, enhance their verbal communication skills, encourage them to exercise, lessen their anxiety, decrease their isolation, and develop their nurturing skills. As a result, there are many reasons why therapy animals can play a special role in special needs families

Animals as therapy for special needs families is a good idea. If you believe that a family member could use a therapy animal, then ask his or her medical professional for recommendations and a referral to get the ball rolling.

Dealing With Food Allergies and the Special Needs Child

 

244665391If your child has special needs and food allergies, you must be extra vigilant to ensure that he or she remains safe at home, school, and play.

Food allergies among children are far from uncommon when you consider that around three million children living in the United States have the condition.

But how can you even tell if your special needs child has food allergies? Read on for the nitty-gritty on how to tell, what to do if there is a food allergies problem, how to go about meal preparation, how to keep your child safe away from home, and how to handle emergencies.

How to Tell if Your Child has a Food Allergy

Many parents find out that their children have food allergies only after seeing certain symptoms, subsequently taking their children to see the doctor, and then getting a diagnosis. One source notes that 90% of all food-related allergic reactions are caused by eggs, wheat, dairy, nuts, seafood, and soy, and they can lead to symptoms that include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Wheezing
  • Hives
  • Dizziness
  • Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is particularly troubling since it could potentially be fatal. Essentially, it impedes breathing and sends the body into shock.

In the event that you see any of the aforementioned symptoms in your child, you’ll want to take him or her to the doctor. The medical professional can conduct a number of tests, including an allergy test, to determine if your child either has food allergies or some other condition.

What to Do

The first thing you need to do if your child has food allergies is to cut the offending foods from his or her diet. This will require you to read labels carefully while shopping for groceries.

You’ll also want to equip your child with the skills he or she needs to stay safe. For instance, your child should have an epinephrine pen at all times, carry antihistamines such as Benadryl to treat slight allergic reactions, and use a medical alert bracelet.

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Meal Considerations

When cooking at home, you may have to cook separate meals so that you can accommodate both your special needs child who has food allergies and the rest of your family members who do not have food allergies. As well, be sure to properly wash up the dishes, cookware, and utensils to safeguard against possible allergic reactions.

Out and About

In addition to ensuring that your child knows about his or her food allergies and understands what to do if there is a problem, you have to involve other parties such as the school and anyone your child will be around. On the one hand, schools may have to make certain accommodations in the cafeteria. On the other hand, people at whose homes your child visits must know about your child’s food allergies, understand what the symptoms are, and know how to handle emergencies. Kids now a days are involving in many negative extra curricular activities and parents should keep their eyes keenly on them to avoid any severe reactions, such as high school kids are found to be taking some chemically composed formulas to enhance their study efficiency, in that manner they are openly marketing to buy adderall online xr pharmacy and to buy this from multiple online pharmacies. Although it is not a bad thing to do, but the wrong usage could lead to some major or minor side effects.

How to Deal with Emergencies

Kids Health recommends a five-step checklist for you in the event that there is ever an emergency. They include the following:

  1. If your child’s doctor has insisted on an epinephrine pen, you must ensure that your child always has it nearby. Also important, you have inform your child about when it should be used.
  1. You, your child, and those your child associates with must recognize the signs of a severe allergic episode — like labored breathing or fits of coughing — and take decisive action speedily.
  1. Practice makes perfect. So practice using the epinephrine pen routinely so that you and your child know what to do if the time comes to use it.
  1. In the event that your child suffers an allergic reaction and has to use the epinephrine pen, apply it straight away. Also ask someone to call the police, and get to an emergency room quickly since your child could potentially experience a second round of symptoms.
  1. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions as it relates to storing the epinephrine pen. Also, take note of the expiration date so that you can get a new one as required.

You must be diligent if your special needs child also has food allergies since the consequences of an allergic reaction can be very serious. If you adhere to the aforementioned tips, though, you can certainly keep your child safe at home, school, and play.

Why Pokemon Go is Perfect for Special Needs Children

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Pokemon Go has completely taken the world by storm.  Both adults and children have pulled out their phones to hunt Pokemon and maybe catch a fan favorite (almost always Pikachu!).  Pokemon Go may be a trip down memory lane for some or just an excuse to take the dog for a walk, it also has added benefits for children with special needs and their families. The social aspect of this new craze allows special needs children develop new skills which their families can take an active role in.  

Easy to Pick Up

Video games have gotten very complicated since the days of Tetris or Super Mario Bros., but Pokemon Go is an easy concept for anyone to pick up, whether they are children with special needs or parents that haven’t picked up a video game controller in a few decades.  You simply open the app on your smartphone and walk around; eventually, you’ll come across a Pokemon that you can toss a Pokeball at with just a flick of your finger.  This ease is one of the major reasons the game has taken off so well and a big contributor to how it helps children with special needs.  

More Social Interaction

Pokemon Go is a natural icebreaker, not just for children with special needs, but even children and adults that may naturally be shy in social situations.  Go to any public park, playground, or church and you’re bound to see a lot of people with the same goal: catching Pokemon.  The game essentially gives people a shared goal and this can help break down social walls and can get kids with special needs an aide to help them interact with others.  Players can show each other new catches or share information on where to find the more elusive Pokemon.  They can also work together as a team to take down a gym leader and claim the spot for their own team.

A Reason to Get Out of the House

When a child has a special need, especially autism, which affects how they socialize with others, its not uncommon for that child to prefer to stay within the confines of his or her room and set up a routine in which they are able to limit the amount of socializing they need to do in a given day.  With Pokemon Go, part of the fun is the adventure can be had out in the real world.  For example, in order to get more Poke Balls, a player has to visit Poke Stops, which are pre-determined landmarks like parks and churches.

Pokemon Go is the one game where it doesnt pay to sit in front of a TV all day, which can help children with special needs learn to make their schedule a little more flexible, diversified, and allow them to become more acquainted with changes in their routine.

Strengthening Family Bonds

Parents of children with special needs can sometimes find it difficult to communicate and share experiences with their children. Many of these children, whether they have autism or other needs, have a hard time expressing their likes and dislikes as well as carrying conversations with others.  Pokemon Go has actually bridged the gap between special needs children and their parents.  It has become a shared activity for children and parents to go on walks to catch Pokemon.

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Creating Attainable Goals

Pokemon Go has a built-in system of tasks that need to be done and medals that reward certain milestones.  These unlockable goals give children, especially those with special needs, a sense of accomplishment and can boost confidence and self-esteem.  These goals could be as simple as catching a favorite Pokemon or taking down an opponent in a gym battle; regardless of how big or small, it can do wonders to help a special needs child grow.

Pokemon Go can help both children with special needs and their parents.  With its social and physical aspects, Pokemon Go can help grow a childs personality and help them interact with the world in a way they havent been able to beforehand.  

How Video Games Benefit Students With Special Needs

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Video games are a big business and can be a great way to unwind after a long day or to have fun with friends.  Did you know that video games could also help develop skills in students, especially students with special needs?  Video games have shown effective in developing communication skills, motor skills, social interactions, and more skills that they will need to develop in order to grow.  Here are just a few skills that can be taught through video games. Also here is the best gaming mouse to help you play even better.    

Communication Skills

Video games have almost become interactive movies as the technology continues to advance.  The visual storytelling to todays modern videogames allows children with special needs to observe communication.  This can teach them listening and verbal skills, while giving the students a good model for language patterns in a conversational setting.  Some games go a step further; Storybook Workshop for the Nintendo Wii, for example, is a game in which the player reads fairy tale passages aloud.

Motor Skills

Motion control has been one of the biggest innovations in video games of the past decade.  With the Nintendo Wii and the XBOX Kinect, motion control games are now in the household and can help special needs students develop motor skills.  These games promote muscle memory, rhythm, and can even test their short-term memory skills.

Organization

Super Mario Maker is a literal game changer, as the Nintendo Wii U game finally allowed gamers to create their own levels featuring the Super Mario Bros. universe.  Creating levels will teach kids visual scheduling, managing tasks and time, and can help students with executive functioning.

Reading and Writing

Even though cinematics in video games have come a long way in recent games, there is still plenty of reading that has to be done in order to understand the storyline and solve puzzles.  Following the instructions given to the player by the game will help the students develop necessary reading and writing skills.

Problem Solving

Most video games have a puzzle-solving element to them, and students will need to develop critical-thinking skills in order to play them.  Scribblenauts, for example, requires creativity in order to solve a myriad of visual puzzles.  Scenarios are presented to each player and can be solved in a variety of ways.  In order to solve the problem, the gamer has to type the name of an object that they think will help them complete the task.

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Social Interaction

World of Warcraft is one of the most popular games of all-time, and one of the main aspects of the gameplay is socializing with other gamers.  Some educators have implemented the game into the classroom, as studies have shown that students on the autism spectrum have been able to learn socialization skills.  The game, and other MMORPGs like it, requires teamwork in order to accomplish some of the more complicated tasks.

Video games have been proven quite effective in developing necessary social skills for students with special needs.  Through these games, educators can help these students develop these skills while they have fun.

The Great Outdoors: Recreation Ideas for Special Needs Children

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Summer is in full force! Our children are done with school for the year, now with plenty of free time away from the classroom to hang out with friends and run around outside. This time of year can be difficult, however, for families who have children with special needs, as summer hours often mean less structure for the child. By making a few adjustments and knowing where to look, parents can ensure their kids have as fun and exciting a summer as possible no matter what.

Fun at Home

For parents who are looking to keep things simple in the safety of their own backyards, there are plenty of things to do to while away the daylight summer hours. Playing hide and go seek is a childhood staple, but it can also have practical real world applications as well. By staying close by and allowing the child to come to the adult, the child learns how to remain calm while searching around. This will help them deal with crowded or uncomfortable social settings in the future.

It is also good to break kids out of their routines every now and then to help them explore the world around them. Simply taking a special needs child to a playground in a different neighborhood can allow them to meet new children and interact with them in ways they would not have gotten to otherwise. A fresh environment will also provide new toys and jungle gyms to play, which can help to work on different sets of motor skills, which will also come in handy down the road.

Summer Camps and Sports

Of course, children do not want to spend their entire summers simply playing around their backyards or neighborhoods. When a special needs child and their family thinks they have reached an age where they can be on their own a bit more, there are no shortage of summer camps around California that cater specifically to this community. Whether a kid wants to spend time away overnight or parents need a place to drop them off while they work during the day, they will be able to find a camp that meets all of their needs. Rolling admissions are available all summer long!

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If a child has shown some interest in sports, there are recreational activities available year round, but are particularly popular in California throughout the summer months. The Autism Youth Sports League offers a sports program for kids age 4 to 18 in San Dimas, California, which includes baseball, bowling, flag football, soccer, basketball and cheerleading. Some of these activities even have sibling inclusion, so be sure to look out for ways to include all of the children in a family, whether or not they have special needs.

Special needs children can enjoy the summer just as well as other kids their age, as long as their parents take a look at the resources available to them. Summer is a time for children to get outside and enjoy themselves, whether they want to pass the time just watching the clouds float by in their backyards or feel like bouncing around the playground with others their own age

How a Special Needs Advocate Can Help Parents

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As a parent of special needs children, we have come to know unique stresses of life. We’re well-versed in how to handle many situations from personal to social. All aspects of life are, in fact, special for us. And then our children hit school and suddenly, numbers and letters are flying around, like 504 and IEP, and questions we aren’t even sure how to ask are running through our mind.

Take a deep breath.

During this tense time, we have to be kind to ourselves. We don’t have to go through this alone. Rehearsing what services to ask for while in that impending meeting isn’t always enough. The ‘what if’s abound despite all the research and reading we do.

Thinking ahead.

At the school meeting, we don’t know what will happen. For starters, what if there are not enough services being offered to our child? What if we were up all night worrying about this very meeting instead of getting a good night of sleep? What if we aren’t comfortable with how the meeting is going but don’t know how to say so in front of all those experts? What if we become emotional and need to take a moment to let all the information sink in? What if we aren’t comfortable signing the papers right there? These are common scenarios.

Consider the options.

Quite simply, the help you may need can come in the form of a more experienced person who has been in your shoes before. Do a search on the internet for the term “advocate” with your zip code and see if any local names come up. Better yet, call your local Special Services department of your school district. Tell them you would like to talk to an advocate about your child’s upcoming IEP or 504 meeting at your school. Perhaps there is a support group in town with parents of previous students who want to help people through the process. There are different types of advocates who are willing to help.

Wait, what?

But wait–isn’t OUR job as parents of special needs children to be their advocate? Shouldn’t WE know how to handle this meeting? After all, we know our child backward and forward! We already know what our child needs, right?

Well, yes and no. As with much in life, we don’t know what the outcome will be. The unknowns are many. But there are systems in place with people who actually want to help. An advocate, whether paid or volunteer, can help you through that meeting in ways you didn’t know you needed.  

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Now it’s your turn.

Many of us who have been through this experience know: Deciding to let an advocate helps take the edge off. If you are fuzzy-headed because of lack of sleep the night before, an advocate can help keep the meeting on course. Perhaps he or she has something important to add to the discussion, something you hadn’t considered. An advocate has the past experience and has learned the appropriate words to bring up the important issues. Or if necessary, they can ask for the rest of the meeting to be rescheduled if you need time to think about the services being offered, or even refused.

Accept it.

If you do decide to bring an advocate, you will need to tell the point person at the school. And not just to make sure there is a chair available for the extra person. This communication speaks volumes to the district, who may also want the head of their special services department to attend.

Don’t go it alone.

You have support as long as you ask for it. Tell all involved that you are going the extra mile to ensure your child’s future gets handled properly. Your rights as parents of special needs students are clear and you are prepared to work for what your child needs. This is about your child’s well-being, safety, social life, future and quality of education. So let an advocate support you through it.  

Tips for Visiting Theme Parks for Your Special Needs Child

Going to a theme park with family is almost a rite of passage during the summertime. But in the event that one or more of your children have special needs, you’ll have to do a bit more planning and be a bit more intentional before heading out so that your entire family can enjoy the outing. One of the reasons you need to be prepared is that children whose special needs issues are of a sensory nature may find the noise, the flashing lights, and the large crowds to be overwhelming. And this can turn what should have been a fun-filled day into anything but.

What follows is a look at how to plan before heading out, what to do while at the theme park, and which theme parks to consider visiting with your family.

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Preparation Before Heading Out

You’ve probably heard the saying that those who fail to plan, plan to fail. Truer words have never been spoken. Before heading out for a day of family fun at a theme park, be sure to do the following:

Picture Perfect: Bring a recent photo of your child in the event that he or she wanders off unbeknownst to you.

Think Comfort: Bring things that will comfort your special needs child if he or she becomes overwhelmed. These can include toys or even games that will calm your child down if need be.

Don’t Do Too Much: One of the biggest mistakes that you could make is to pack way too many activities into a single day. Doing an excessive amount of stuff can overwhelm anyone, so think quality of experience rather than quantity of time.

Bring Snacks: While many theme parks forbid people from bringing in food, they will generally waive this ban if your child has any food allergies. So be sure to let the staff know if there’s any issue.

When You’re At the Theme Park

Planning before heading out is a good idea, but you’re not home free once you get to the theme park. There are things you can do once you arrive that will help your child to enjoy the occasion.

Visit Guest Services: As soon as you arrive, you should head right over to guest services to let them know that you have a special needs child. Some theme parks will give out special access cards to special needs kids that will make for a more pleasant day out. Don’t be shy. Ask!

Time Out: If your child suddenly gets overwhelmed by all the noise and activity, you should ask a staff member which areas of the park are the quietest. This will provide your child with a place to calm down and unwind before heading back to the fun and games.

An App for That? There are apps that are geared towards special needs children, and they can be helpful if your child has a case of sensory overload. So bring games along just in case.

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Theme Parks to Visit

There are plenty of theme parks that offer special needs access passess to those who need them. The complete list features a variety of parks for the whole family. Here are three that stand out:

  1. Morgan’s Wonderland: This theme park is located in San Antonio, Texas. Even better, all of the rides that the theme park offers are suitable for people with special needs. Admission is free to people who have special needs.
  1. Holiday World: This theme park, located in Santa Claus, Indiana, offers a special pass for people who have special needs. This boarding pass, as theme park refers to it, allows a person with as many as three of his or her friends to bypass the lineup for the rides.
  1. Sesame Place: This theme park, located in Longhorne, Pennsylvania, offers a wristband and special access card to patrons who have disabilities. Such people can avoid lines at as many as half a dozen rides and three wet rides each day.

If you plan ahead, you and your special needs child can enjoy a great day out at an amusement park. Have fun!