Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Education and Special Needs, Parenting Special Needs

Blog #213~Back to School Tips for Special Needs Parents

Blog #213~Back to School Tips for Special Needs Parents

There are a few more areas to consider when sending a child with special needs back to school.  Children with intellectual and developmental disabilities may not be able to understand change and transitions related to school.  The student’s language skills may be limited and they might have difficulty expressing emotions.  This can all lead to anxiety which can result in behavior problems.  You can help your child by planning ahead, getting organized and putting visual supports in place for the new school year. Here are 5 tips to ensure a smooth start to the new school year for your child with special needs.

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5 Back to School Tips for Special Needs Parents:

1. Look over your child’s IEP (Individualized Education Plan) before school begins. The IEP outlines academic and functional goals, supports needed, accommodations and services. Reach out to your child’s case manager/IEP coordinator or Support Teacher, and ask specifically how these will be implemented, and how data will be tracked.  If there is a Behavior Support Plan (BSP), review it, and make sure that all staff members working with your child have as well.  Note anything that might need to be tweaked in both plans, and share with the school staff. Summer and holiday breaks can often lead to regression in behaviors that may need to be addressed.

2. Arrange a visit to the classroom before school begins.  Provide a profile/resume sheet about your child for the staff, containing any information that will help them understand their likes, dislikes, behavior and communication concerns.  Look for visual supports and a schedule posted in the classroom to enhance learning and understanding.  You can request that a social story (pictures or video); be made of the settings that your child will be in at school, (classroom, lunch room, gym, sensory area, etc.).  It also helps to include pictures of support staff and classroom peers (if possible), in the social story. If a child with autism can see it in picture and/or written form, they will better understand it.  Visual supports, social stories and schedules all act as blueprints to help your child navigate their day.  This will help them understand what is expected and occur, leading to reduced anxiety levels for your child.  The support teacher/ case manager can make these for you to read with your child before school starts.

Social Story for Back to School:

 

 

3. During the classroom meet and greet, arrange a mode of communication with your child’s teacher.  In the past I have used both email, texting and a communication notebook which goes back and forth.  My son, Nick has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism.  His verbal language skills are limited.  The communication notebook gives the child a voice that describes what their day has been like at school, and how they are doing at home.  This is especially helpful, if your child didn’t sleep well, and you can give the teacher a head’s up, to incorporate more breaks in the day if needed.  In addition to a communication notebook, the teacher can create a custom daily report to share with parents.  Depending on the skill level of your child, words or pictures can be used and looked at together at home after school each day:

Daily Report Charts:

4. Start Early! Get school supplies, clothes and shoes shopping done and haircut at least a week before the start of school.  Having a child with special needs often means a lot of angst over haircuts. For Nick the stress of getting a haircut use to affect him for several days afterwards.  Fortunately, now that my son is older the haircuts are much easier.  Maturity and a good set of clippers have made haircuts successful.  I’m super excited to share with you the new hair clippers that are a GAME CHANGER!  The Remington Short Cut Pro Self-Haircut Kit is cordless, smooth, quiet and quick as it takes more hair in a single pass.  It’s the most sensory friendly clippers we’ve ever used on our son.  5 Minutes and no tears!

 

The night before school starts, have your child help lay out the clothes, organize the school supplies and pick out lunch/snack choices.  This will help to set the tone for  a smooth start to the day and this helps especially at six o’clock in the morning. One thing that was NEVER EARLY; the school bus. Make sure you have carved out your schedule accordingly and have something for your child to do while you wait. On average, we’ve waited 30-45 minutes for the bus to get to our house the first few days of school.

5. Consider doing volunteer work at your child’s school. It is fun and you can see firsthand how your child is doing in the classroom.

Here are a few school volunteer ideas:
*Holiday Parties
*Art Awareness Presenter
*Chaperone Field Trips
*Field Days
*Picture Day
*Work book fairs
*Library aid
*Special Olympics Practices
*Assist Case Manager/ Support Teacher- Making copies, laminating, helping to create classroom supports.

Taking a few extra steps to get organized, familiarizing yourself with the IEP/ Behavior  support plan, visiting the classroom, and providing visuals for your child will lead to a smooth start to the new school year.  Getting involved as a classroom volunteer is rewarding and a great way to interact with student peers and school staff.  Careful planning, organization and providing visual supports will make things easier for your child starting back to school.  Do you have any back to school tips or tricks for your child with special needs? I’d love to hear them.

That’s what is in my noggin this week!
~Teresa 🙂

back to school bus

Follow Nick on Social Media:

Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram @nickdsaustim

Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

Posted in Autism, Behavior/ ABA, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Feeding, Personal Hygiene, Toileting, Speech and Occupational Therapy

Blog #18~ A Cut Above The Rest

Blog #18~ A Cut Above The Rest

Haircuts are no fun with Nick, period.

I can still remember the first time they started to bother him.  It was right before we moved to California in 1998.  He was around four years old. I took him in on a Sunday morning hoping the churchgoers would be worshipping and the salon would be empty.  We walked in and there was only one lady who sat relaxed in her chair and getting a perm.  I sat him on my lap and as soon as the scissors came out, he began squirming and yelling.  Next thing you know he set off the car remote I had put in my pocket.  I couldn’t get out of the salon quick enough. I slapped a twenty down on the counter and got the hell out of there.  That was one of the last professional haircuts he ever got.

Nick’s first haircut in 1996, this one went well……

Nick the early years. His hair was so soft and silky…..

It got to the point where we decided to get some clippers and just give him a home haircut.  Nick’s new look became the buzz cut.

The older he got, the stronger Nick became. Nick has Down syndrome and autism.  His behaviors became more challenging as he got older. He started putting up a big fight.  In fact, if you ever wondered why his tooth is chipped it was from him flailing his body and hitting his face on the floor during a haircut.  Al and I began to dread them as much as Nick did.  Bribes, oh I mean rewards such as a Sprite and a shower didn’t seem to help either.  He began to pitch even bigger fits and we had no choice but to pin him down.  The worst haircut was sitting on the floor of the bathroom with my legs around him and my arms holding his in a basket hold. We were covered with sweat and his fallen hair felt like needles jabbing at our skin. Nick flailed and then peed all over the floor.  We sat there in a puddle of warm urine and fallen hair sticking to us.  Worst yet, we were only half done.  Picture this,  a buzz cut front in the front and mullet in the back.

As I mentioned earlier the bigger the fight, the more traumatized he became (and the longer it took him to de-escalate).  We would finish these sessions and he would be shaking, red-faced with tears streaming down his cheeks.  It broke my heart. 😦

As Nick got into his teen years, I worried that we were going to have to go to extreme measures.  Then, there was another area of hair removal to be addressed. He was starting to grow facial hair, nooooooooooo!

Now it was already impossible to give him haircuts and clipping his toenails was no walk in the park either.  It’s much easier after being in the hot tub or a long shower so that the nails are a little bit supple.  How could we possibly get a razor to his face.  Luckily I had a good team of teachers and aides in high school who offered both visual supports and tips to tackle this next hurdle.

I have to give a lot of credit to Rob Trefil, Nick’s aide in high school.  He was able to get Nick to tolerate an electric razor and actually get in there at his chin and mustache area.  We found the roller top razor worked much better than the rotary one.  Introduce shaving a little bit at a time.  Then, increase the time with each session and lots of praise.  Having a male to model this helps a lot.

Mr. T rocks…..

Big guy shaving……

Last weekend, we geared up for another haircut session.  I was worried because we had waited too long and his mop was out of control.  It was going to be like cutting the lawn two weeks too late.

Pre-haircut Nick, it’s a bit scrappy? 

To my surprise, Nick did outstanding.  In fact, it was the easiest haircut we had ever given him. He didn’t cry or get too upset at all. Hallelujah 🙂

Post haircut Nick….. *A cut above the rest!

I think a couple of things have happened to tone down the level of anxiety and how he tolerates haircuts.  Puberty has passed along with the severe aggressive meltdowns.  I see a maturity about Nick now that he is a young adult.  As parents, we have learned more about behavior management, and use visuals to guide him through the process.  We also figured out that it’s easier to cut his hair first thing in the morning before being bombarded with sensory overload.  Finally, investing in a good pair of clippers makes the cuts go smoother. Nick even helps some with it.  I am so glad the days of holding him down in a basket hold and shearing him are gone.  That is what’s in my noggin, until next Monday may every day be a good hair day!

~Teresa 🙂

*A cut above the rest…. It is originated from the saying “you and I are cut from the same cloth” (being the fabric of life) and that the cloth, from which you were cut… was or superior quality.