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

Parent Tips for Better IEP Meetings

Parent Tips for Better IEP Meetings

It’s that time of year when parents hold their breath in anticipation of IEP meetings.  IEP stands for “Individualized Education Plan”.  An IEP is done for a student who has special needs. These meetings are held each year to update the student’s current level of functioning, progress and goal planning for the following year.

brace yourself IEP

Many parents dread these meetings. I was one of those parents who did for many years.  But after 21 years I’ve learned a few things on how to make these both productive and cooperative.  My son, Nick has Down syndrome and autism.  Here are some parent tips for better IEP meetings:

https://nickspecialneeds.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/blog-88-parent…r-iep-meetings/

Thank you for reading and sharing Nick’s world.  That’s what is in my noggin this week!

~Teresa

Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Health Issues and Special Needs Child

Cold Season Survival

sneeze achoo

Cold Season Survival

Since we are in the trenches of the cold and flu season I wanted to post some survival tips that I use with my son who has special needs. Nick has Down syndrome and autism.  So, tackling the cold and flu season very challenging.  Here is some great information on this subject that I wrote a few years back:

https://nickspecialneeds.wordpress.com/2013/01/07/blog-36-what-i…-runs-all-over/

Cheers to a healthy start to the new year and surviving the cold and flu season.  That’s what is in my noggin this week. 🙂

~Teresa

Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Fun Side of Nick, Recreation/Leisure and Special Needs

Blog #107~Dolphins and My Son with Special Needs

 

Blog #107~Dolphins and My Son with Special Needs

There is something about dolphins and Nick. The first time I noticed his fascination was on a field trip to the Shedd Aquarium when he was 6 years old. As the dolphins sprung out of the water he got so excited! The look on his face was sheer delight. I’d never seen him so joyful and mesmerized all at once.

Dolphin show

A few years later, at SeaWorld in San Antonio, my sister witness Nick’s joy.  Laura literally cried seeing Nick’s face light up.  He is so drawn to the dolphins and beluga whales.  Nick has Down syndrome and autism.  His speech is limited.  But no words were needed.  The look on his face said it all.  I knew that I had to find a way for him to get up close with dolphins as they seemed to be able to connect to Nick.

A few years ago we took a vacation down in the Florida Keys.  This was a perfect opportunity to find a program where Nick could get in the water with the dolphins.  There are many dolphin encounters in that area but I decided on a more personal experience at Hawk’s Cay Resort“The Dolphin Connection” provided this with small groups of 4 or 5 participants. I spoke with the head trainer to discuss our son and his special needs. She assured me they were very experienced with handling such. I created a social story filled with icons to support Nick in understanding the schedule of events. It was a beautiful day with the warm sun cascading over the aqua waters of the Keys.

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The first part consisted of a brief classroom instruction to go over rules and education on dolphins. Nick along with his Dad, brother and cousins were so excited to squeeze into wet suits and get down to the docks.  The experience was very hands-on where each participant individually got to touch, feed, hug and even kiss these amazing mammals.  Nick was completely engrossed. As the trainer had the dolphin roll over Nick quickly bent down to give the dolphin a “raspberry” on its belly.  The trainer remarked, “Well, THAT’S a first”.  Leave it to Nick,  I have a feeling that trainer will never forget him!

raspberry

The final portion of the dolphin encounter included interaction using hand signals. This was a huge splash as they were able to gesture and the dolphin would clap, twirl around, move backwards, and jump high in the air.  As I stood behind the camera filming, I was deeply moved.  This day was such a beautiful gift and the photo tells the story that Nick indeed was connected and absorbed in this moment.

Nick and his Dad……

Nick Kiss

Nick still likes to watch the video footage from that day. Two of his favorite movies are Flipper and A Dolphin Tale. I have to think that this unique experience will forever be one of the best things we have done for our son and together as a family.

Nick’s brother, Hank and  his cousin Anna….

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When you have a child with special needs and limited speech it can be extremely challenging to know what they are thinking, feeling and what they truly love.  I had a hunch that this experience would be a slam dunk.  Indeed, it was and then some.  My heart is warm in knowing that we could give this to him.   That’s what is in my noggin this week. 🙂

~Teresa

 

Posted in Autism, Down syndrome, Education and Special Needs

Re-Post~ Back to School Tips and Your Special Needs Child

Re-Post~ Back to School Tips and Your Special Needs Child

Back to School Mom quote

This week’s blog was written as Nick was about to start his senior year of high school.  I am doing this re-post in case some of you missed it or might be new to Down Syndrome With a Slice of Autism.  You can click here to view @https://nickspecialneeds.wordpress.com/2012/08/27/blog-19-back-to-school/

That’s what is in my noggin this week.  Thank you for reading and sharing Nick’s world! 🙂

~Teresa

 

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…….

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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……. 🙂

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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 🙂

Posted in Behavior/ ABA, Speech and Occupational Therapy

Blog #34~ Holiday Stress

Blog #34~ Holiday Stress

The holidays should be a time of joy and celebration.  This is not always the case for families of children with special needs, especially autism. The pressures we all experience with the demands of extra shopping, cooking, cleaning, decorating and the barrage of company can be daunting.  The level of anxiety you have may be tenfold for someone who has autism.  We all handle stress in different ways.

“What can I say?  Its Christmas and we’re all miserable”……Oh I love that movie Christmas Vacation. 🙂

Christmas vacation cig pic

A few weeks ago in Blog #30~ 7 Senses of the World, I wrote about sensory processing disorder.  Taking in the senses in the environment can be both over and underwhelming and Blog #30 showed specific ways to cope.  I heard from many of you on what you found aversive along with ways you handle sensory overload.  Some of you struggle with crowds and people moving into your personal space.  Another was overhead lights. My son Hank and I can’t stand them and use indirect lights as often as we can.  Aversion to color and textures was another that my readers expressed.  So Ali it’s not just you and green slimy food like olives and artichokes. One of my friends has trouble with any foods that are white (sour cream, cottage cheese, milk, etc….)  I learned so much from my readers like how the color orange bothers one along with brown which reminds her of vomit.  Isn’t the sensory processing machine fascinating? 🙂

Regarding ways to cope, many readers mentioned using quiet background noise such as soft music or fountains (my favorite) to help to stay calm.  Visual and auditory ways to cope were sitting by a fireplace or hearing the waves of the ocean. One of my friends finds that someone brushing her hair is an instant calmer.  I know whenever I get to be with my mom, I want her to stroke her fingers through my hair.  Tell me how you manage the stress.  How do you deal with those quirky sensory issues that come at you….Does anyone else avoid cranberries  because it leaches all over the food on the plate? …..That would be Al, Nick’s Dad. 🙂  I want to hear more, message me at tjunnerstall@comcast.net or leave a comment at the end of this blog.

Let’s look at some ways to navigate the holidays with a child who has autism.  It doesn’t mean you can’t partake in activities but you may need to plan better and be prepared to scale back to some degree.  Decorations might be overwhelming for some kids.  Flashing lights or musical decorations can disturb some children (not Nick, he craves it!) 🙂 Decorating might need to be done in gradual stages.  Be sure to allow your child to help out if they can tolerate it. This gives some control when they are losing some from changes in their environment.  Going out shopping and other public places can bombard anyone with a cacophony of sights, sounds, smells and ringing bells. Intense stimuli while shopping  might be too much.  Try to plan a time when the mall and super box stores are not as busy during the week.

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Changes in routines can be hard as well.  Using behavior supports like social stories and  visual schedules can help prepare for complicated days.  Be sure to prep your child by including pictures of family members and friends you will be seeing. Provide them a blueprint to follow. Whether written or in picture icon form, it will give them predictability which keeps the stress level down.  Regarding gifts, you may need to work ahead of time to teach the concept that gifts are not to be opened.  An advent calendar could be a visual cue to countdown until Christmas.  This year I just hid the gifts.  Nick has tried to open them twice already (I am picking my battles)

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Finally, know how much noise and sensory input your child can take.  Watch for signs of tension. Nick will put his hands over his ears or pinch his cheeks really hard.  Allow them a safe place to decompress that is quiet and away from everyone.  This will help to act as a grounding place amongst the turmoil.

Let there be peace, at last….. my sleeping angel, Nick 🙂

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If all else fails then take some advice from Clark Griswold’s Dad……

Griswald's Dad pic

Clark:  “Our holidays were such a mess.”

Clark Sr.:  “Oh, yeah”

Clark: “How’d you get through it?”

Clark Sr.: “I had a lot of help from Jack Daniels.”

That’s what is in my noggin this week.  May you find your own way to deal with the holiday stress and have the “hap, hap, happiest Christmas!”  Cheers to all and fingers crossed that the little lights will be twinkling. 🙂

~Teresa