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

Blog #230~Book Review: Scoot Over and Make Some Room

Blog #230~ Book Review: Scoot Over and Make Some Room 

My recent summer read– Scoot Over and Make Some Room: Creating a Space Where Everyone Belongs, by author and Instagram star, Heather Avis is a must read. She is the mother of 3 adopted children, two with Down’s syndrome and one of color.  Here is one review from her book that speaks volumes:

“In a world of divisions and margins, those who act, look, and grow a little differently are all too often shoved aside. Scoot Over and Make Some Room is part inspiring narrative and part encouraging challenge for us all to listen and learn from those we’re prone to ignore.”

Each chapter in the book Scoot Over and Make Some Room extends the challenge to make room for not only individuals with Down syndrome but way beyond to all individuals with different abilities, ethnicities, race, viewpoints and perspectives. Heather’s book is filled with humorous stories, challenges and lessons she has learned raising her 3 children, navigating IEP’s, inclusion and acceptance. But this book dives down much further, by challenging the reader to look into their own lives and broaden your understanding and compassion towards people who may be different from you.

My son Nick is 26 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). In my book A New Course: A Mother’s Journey Navigating Down Syndrome and Autism @ https://amzn.to/2W3Un6X  there are many stories about times where I would brace myself in public. Countless times I would apologize for my son’s seemingly inappropriate behavior, and yes like Heather have a moment where the pants have gone down, 🙂

Heather tells about the “pants down in the park” episode that was highly inappropriate (and a one-time occurrence) with her daughter Macyn. I can attest to the need to be on high alert and cringing at times. Macyn is a very spirited and outgoing girl who likes to engage with strangers by waving and sometimes asking “WHATCHA NAME?” This happened once at a hip LA restaurant. This raises a good question: Is this behavior inappropriate or just different than the social norm? Why are we so fearful to interact with individuals who have an intellectual or developmental disability? Often it is fear of the unknown and being uncomfortable around someone who may speak or act differently.

Heather writes this powerful message in her book:

“We fear the unknown. And unfortunately, until we create space for people with physical and intellectual disabilities to show up exactly as they are and give them permission to interrupt our social norms, they will continue to be unknown and we will continue to be fearful,”–Heather Avis

What a profound message this is to society and lesson about acceptance. Personally, I feel that the world could use more kind interactions like saying “hi” and “WHATCHA NAME.”  Obviously, we can all agree that “pants down in the park” is an inappropriate behavior. But as Heather writes in part:

“all of us have a responsibility to shift the way we react when faced with uncomfortable social situations. All of need to scoot over and make some room for people to respond in a way we’re not use to.”–Heather Avis

One of my favorite parts of this book is the chapter entitled “Make room for the Wildflowers.” Much of what we do in life is like a garden– planted in nice, neat rows. Take for instance inside school classrooms where the desks are all lined and in sync. Is there any space for the wildflowers to grow in these tidy rows? This metaphor opens up the dialog about inclusion and different abilities working alongside in the same classroom. Can we scoot over and make some room to let the wildflowers grow amongst the seamless rows and see the value of inclusion and all abilities?  I can speak from experience that my son, Nick brought great value and taught lessons of patience, compassion and unconditional love to his peers while in the inclusion classroom setting. He continues to do so as a young adult with his interactions out in the community and at his adult developmental day training program.

There is so much more to this book and you will have to read it to find out for yourself. Scoot Over and Make Some Room is a call to action to shout the worth of people who are left out and misunderstood. Every parent, extended family member, physician, educator, pastor and others will gain a deeper understanding of how to do a better job to adjust, sit and listen in order to learn how to find a way to make room for everyone to be valued, accepted and included in our society.

That’s what is in my noggin this week.

 ~Teresa 🙂

Follow Nick:

Facebook-Instagram-Pinterest @Down Syndrome with A Slice of Autism

Twitter @tjunnerstall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heather Avis writes from the heart about all the things she wishes the every day person knew about inclusion. This book applies to teachers, parents, siblings and simply everyone who wants to change the way we see inclusion in the world around us.

Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Dual Diagnosis Down syndrome and autism, Education and Special Needs, IEP (Indivdualized Education Plan)

Blog #157~Making Inclusion Work

Blog #157~Making Inclusion Work

Is inclusion right for your child?  That was the question I addressed in last week’s post.  Inclusion simply stated, means that a student is supported in the general education classroom setting with given supports outlined in the IEP.  The IEP is an Individualized Education Plan, is a document for special education students.  This document identifies how the student will learn, what services the school will provide, and how their progress is measured.  My son Nick, was in an inclusion classroom during his elementary school years. He has Down syndrome and autism, and benefited greatly from the experience.  How do you make the inclusion setting work for your child with special needs?

The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), amended version 2004, does not actually list the word inclusion. The law actually requires that children with disabilities be educated in the “least restrictive environment appropriate” to meet their “unique needs.” The “least restrictive environment” typically means placement in the regular education classroom which typically means ‘Inclusion’ when ever possible. (Source taken from about.com)

The IEP team works with the parents to determine the least restrictive environment and builds the placement around this concept.  What will the child need to be successful in a regular education classroom?   The IEP team and parents should collaborate to identify supports needed.

Classroom Supports:

*Modified Curriculum:  (Regular education teacher and support/case manager) work together to adapt the current assignments for the child.  Make a plan to address what will be learned in the regular classroom, and how will the student will learn that similar information?

visual work board

*Staffing:  Does the child need a paraprofessional (classroom aide)?  What is the ratio? What additional training will be needed?

*Equipment:  Physical environment (modified desk, chair, adaptive equipment/school supplies, sensory supports)

*Assistive Technology:  Communication (Alternative Augmentative Communication “AAC” device, Picture Exchange Communication System “PECS”, Sign Language/Interpreter), or other devices using apps for to navigate schedules and assignments.

alphabet tracing  ipad-touch-chat

*Sensory Breaks: What space will be provided, is there a sensory area in the school?  How will the student request a break (need a break icon, button on AAC device)?  What equipment is needed, (noise cancelling head phones, figit toys, nubby cushion, music, weighted vest or blanket, bean bag chair, swing, trampoline)?

figit toys   nubby therapy cushion

In addition to identifying classroom supports, the team should address these questions at the IEP Meeting:

* What are the student’s strengths, and how do we build a plan around them?

*How does the student learn best?

*What behavior support is needed to help the student learn the best, and operate comfortably in the general education classroom?

Identifying supports needed and how to best accommodate the student will set a good foundation to success in the inclusion classroom setting.  The student will benefit by having access to the general curriculum and build social relationships in this community in the least restrictive, inclusion environment.  That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa

Follow Nick:

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Facebook and Pinterest @Down Syndrome With A Slice Of Autism

Instagram: #nickdsautism

Twitter: @tjunnerstall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Education and Special Needs

Blog #87~Special Needs Parent Checklist for Visiting a New School

Blog #87~Special Needs Parent Checklist for Visiting a New School  

It’s almost spring…… that time of year when the scent of IEP’s are in the air.  IEP stands for Individualized Education Plan.

brace yourself IEP

The team as a whole looks at the student’s current level of functioning and together design goals and supports needed to provide appropriate education for the student.  The placement of a child with special needs should always be in the least restrictive environment possible.

Nick has Down syndrome and autism.  He uses a visual schedule to navigate through the school…….

APE swimming 006 (4)

Parents with a child who has special needs can arrange to visit schools and see what the classroom environment looks like.   Here are some tips and helpful questions that should be asked on the tour.  I would suggest designating one notebook to take to any meetings and trainings related to your child with special needs.

My trusty, battered notebook……. 🙂

IMG01

Questions to ask on school visit: 

*What are the location, size and physical layout of the classroom(s)?

*How many students are in the classroom?  What is the ratio of students: adults?

*What instructional methods and materials will be used?

*How will the curriculum be modified for a student with special needs?

*What assistive technology is available?

*What behavior techniques and plans will be used?

*What does the school day look like?  (Ask for a printed schedule and to sit in on classes.)

*What kinds of inclusion opportunities do children in special education classrooms have to interact with general education students? 

Observation of class and school:   

*Watch the dynamics of the classroom.  How does the teacher interact with students?  Does the teacher individualize instruction? 

*What activities were children engaged? Would they be appropriate for your child?

*Do the classrooms and staff seem cheerful?

*Is student work displayed and is the classroom organized or would it be too distracting for your child?

*Are the curriculum, equipment, technology and educational supports up to date?

*How well are the facilities maintained? (Clean bathrooms, lighting, safe grounds, etc…)

*Is there a sensory room available in the classroom or school building? 

Once a school and classroom placement decision is made be sure and get pictures or do a video of the new setting for your child.  This social story should include the entry, locker, classrooms, lunch room, gym and any other relevant areas the child will be using in the school.  Review the social story or video several times before the first day of classes.

Here’s Nick visiting the middle school back in 6th grade. He was skeptical about this new environment as indicated by not wanting to remove his coat and keeping it zipped up to the top……..

Nick at Granger

As a parent of a child with special needs, remember that you know your child best.  You have the right to get in there and see what the classroom environment looks like in order to make an informed decision at your child’s IEP meeting.  That’s what is in my noggin this week.

~Teresa 🙂