Best Therapeutic Toys For Special Needs First Graders

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Best Therapeutic Toys For Special Needs First Graders

This week, I am highlighting some of the best therapeutic toys for first graders.  Please keep in mind that many of these toys that are and will be highlighted are not only for the grade level noted but can be carried over to many other grade levels as well.  As a parent, you always want to work on skills so the level of mastery is always present and therefore your child does not regress.  All skills can be integrated into the everyday, no matter what is being done in the moment.  By doing this, the child does not feel as though it is work but seamlessly transitions from one skill to another.

Filled with 9 different food quality herbs, this stuffed animal is FDA approved and does not contain pesticides. The temperature (whether warm or cold) can provide comfort in times of distress. It’s great at calming a child down or providing a sense of security.

Emotion flash cards are great for emotional and intelligence stimulation in addition to being a conversational and articulation tool. It’s not always possible for your child to express their feelings, but with the help of flash cards you’ll be able to better understand what they’re going through.

Made from 100% New Zealand Beeswax and food grade pigments, this set of crayons contains no paraffin wax and comes with a free PDF coloring book download. Buying safe crayons gives your child the freedom to play and yourself piece of mind knowing they aren’t smothering themselves in toxic chemicals.



For kids who are comforted with a hot, cold or nicely scented stuffed animals close around their neck, this adorable kitty collar is microwaveable with heat therapy, cold therapy and aroma therapy.  Its filler is FDA approved and free of pesticides so you can rest easy knowing something so close to their skin is safe.


Want more? Discover The Ultimate Guide To Advocating For Your Child, a complimentary email course for confused and overwhelmed parents.

Need immediate insight into your child’s situation and how to address their current issues? Schedule your Open Opportunity Session for an expert analysis and strategic plan you can implement today.


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Subscription Boxes for Hard Working Moms (In and Out of the Home)

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Subscription Boxes for Hard Working Moms (In and Out of the Home)

As parents, you all work so hard…running a household, doing the chores, running the errands, being the Uber driver for the family, whether it’s doctor’s appointments, after school activities, taking care of a loved one or just being a “mommy” ALL of you need a break and deserve to do something for yourself.  Below is a list of great items that you can purchase or have someone purchase for you when you just need to pamper yourself.   As parents, you always do for your kids however it is just as important for you to do for you.  The following items are things that I curated for you to give you that “Ahhhh” moment that you so richly deserve.

This box features vitamins, supplements and healthy snacks. There are 10 healthy products in all. What a great way to try something new!

Who doesn’t love warm, comfy, fuzzy socks? With winter coming, prepare yourself for cold feet season with a fresh delivery of fuzzy socks every month. They look great with (and under) boots. Your kids might ask to “borrow” them- if they do, order them their own box because you’ll never get them back!

Are you a fashionista? Then you might worship at the feet of Rachel Zoe, original celebrity stylist extraordinaire. Her Box Of Style is just the gift you deserve- packed with a kimono, luxurious Kopari products and accessories it will give your wardrobe some oomph. This is just a single box and not an ongoing subscription, however she releases a new box every season. So if you love what’s included in this one, you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for Fall 2018.

Need a caffeine fix every morning? Then start your day with the gourmet variety, courtesy of Bean Box. Featuring coffee from Seattle’s best small-batch roasters, seeing this box on your doorstep will put a pep in your step.

Each box contains at least 10 snacks of any flavor, variety or origin.  Each item inside the boxes are made outside the US so you are able to get an authentic flavor of where it is from. Perfect for the mom who wants to travel but doesn’t get farther than the kid’s park.

Don’t like to walk around your home in just socks or bare feet? Get 3 surprise slippers for up to 3 months with this warm and cozy subscription box. Match your new slippers to your loungewear.. or don’t. It’s Mommy Time!


Is beauty your savior? The Allure Beauty Box ships every month with free shipping, so there’s no excuse you can’t pamper yourself with a few choice products. And since they are picked by the beauty magazine itself, they are bound to be amazing.

If you want the best of the best (and let’s be honest- you deserve that and more)- there are 3 kinds of Amazon Luxury Beauty Boxes: Anti-Aging, Skin Care and Daily Beauty. As if that wasn’t enough, it’s money well spent because you receive a credit to put towards your purchase of the full-size products on Amazon.

This is a gift to yourself to make your life as a mom easier. Why run around scouring the top organic and non-toxic products when it can be shipped to your door ready to go? Being a new mom is frazzling enough, getting this box is the least you (or your spouse) can do to make your life simpler.

Additionally, please keep an eye out for my upcoming blog post featuring my Holiday List of the Best Toys for Special Needs Kids.


Want more? Discover The Ultimate Guide To Advocating For Your Child, a complimentary email course for confused and overwhelmed parents.

Need immediate insight into your child’s situation and how to address their current issues? Schedule your Open Opportunity Session for an expert analysis and strategic plan you can implement today.


I participate in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon properties such as amazon.com and affiliates. If you purchase an item with a “BUY ON AMAZON ” button, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you.

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Best Therapeutic Toys For Special Needs Kindergarteners

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Best Therapeutic Toys For Special Needs Kindergarteners

In my ongoing series of blog posts, this week I am highlighting the kindergarten grade level.  Each of these items have their own positive rewards for the children who integrate them into their daily lives.  Please take a moment and check them out.  The benefits that come from these items are worth well beyond their cost.

These are non-toxic, BPA Free and washable (a parent’s dream!).  They are also discreet and will not bother others around.  Easily transportable so can be taken to school, doctor’s office, used while waiting in line along with traveling by car, train or plane.

This game helps children identify emotions through facial expressions as well as body language.  Through this card game, children build empathy along with self awareness.  It also models ways for children to express themselves in order to express their needs.

This book is about a small white dog who goes to the hospital to visit sick children and help them recover.  For some children, reading to them is a gift in and of itself.  Animal assisted therapy (AAT) is a type of therapy that involves animals as a form of treatment.  The goal of AAT is to improve an individual’s social, emotional and cognitive functioning.  Animals such as dogs and horses are quite effective with a child’s motivational and academic levels.

 
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For children with special needs, reading can open up a world for them that they might not otherwise be able to participate in.  I love the Prime Book Box for Kids because it allows you to choose if you want a new shipment every 1, 2, or 3 months along with the choice of books that are curated for your child.  Shipping is free and you can skip a shipment anytime.  Each box contains either 2 hardcover books or 4 board books.  The age range starts at baby and goes up to 12.  

These cards are used for learning and recognizing numbers for the young child.  The font is large and easy to read. They also have bright contrasting colors.


Want more? Discover The Ultimate Guide To Advocating For Your Child, a complimentary email course for confused and overwhelmed parents.

Need immediate insight into your child’s situation and how to address their current issues? Schedule your Open Opportunity Session for an expert analysis and strategic plan you can implement today.


I participate in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon properties such as amazon.com and affiliates. If you purchase an item with a “BUY ON AMAZON ” button, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you.

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Best Therapeutic Toys For Special Needs Preschoolers

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Best Therapeutic Toys For Special Needs Preschoolers

In the past several months, I have had many parents reach out to me, including the families that I work with in regards to recommendations for “toys” that would be helpful and are available for purchase.  

Although the school may work with your child on certain skills, the key is to be repetitive with ongoing skills as well as the introduction of new skills.  The goal is always to have your child master skills as well as be challenged.   

There are a plethora of items out in the marketplace to choose from however families are at times confused and overwhelmed as to what item or items to choose.  You always want to choose items that will reinforce the skills that your child has a weakness in.  With that said, for the skills that your child has mastered also need to be worked on as well so they do not regress.  Skills that are strong do not have to be addressed as often or at the intensity as the weaker ones, but you should have at least a couple of items in the home to be visited at least once a week.  

When choosing items specific to your child’s needs, take into consideration if the item is age appropriate, addresses the skills needed  with being fun and challenging  (not frustrating). 

Ask yourself: Is it colorful? Can my child maneuver it with their hands, legs, etc?  Will this be something that will attract my child to “play” with so they come back to it again and again?

Realizing how overwhelming this process is, I have decided to have an ongoing series of blog posts that are solely dedicated to presenting you with varying choices along with varying price points.  This post will address therapeutic toys for toddlers.  The next one will address for kindergartners and so on.

Here are some great toys that are advantageous and fun as well:

Just put these in a jar of distilled water overnight for them to expand.  They can also be brought back to their original size.  These can be used to teach colors, counting as well as help fine motor skills.  They are very calming as well. 

The sand is kinetic which means it sticks to each other not to your child.  This set comes with 6 molds and a tray.  It is hypoallergenic as well.  Comes in purple as well.  Great for fine motor skills.

They are firm but squeezable and are great for sensory/tactile stimulation.

Lightweight, Easy Twist Locks, Durable, Portable.  Helps develop arm and leg muscles as well as gross motor skills.

Helps children develop coordination and balance as well as strengthen core muscles.

This is just a sampling of some of the great toys available for your toddler aged child.  

Remember:  when choosing an item for your child, you should go through an internal checklist in your mind to ensure that what you are purchasing checks off everything on your list.  


Want more? Discover The Ultimate Guide To Advocating For Your Child, a complimentary email course for confused and overwhelmed parents.

Need immediate insight into your child’s situation and how to address their current issues? Schedule your Open Opportunity Session for an expert analysis and strategic plan you can implement today.


I participate in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon properties such as amazon.com and affiliates. If you purchase an item with a “BUY ON AMAZON ” button, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you.

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ABA Therapy:  What Is It? Does My Child Need It?

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ABA Therapy:  What Is It? Does My Child Need It?

What is ABA Therapy?

ABA or Applied Behavior Analysis is a scientific methodology that applies techniques which are based upon the specific principles of learning to change behavior along with social interactions.  Some people may refer to ABA as behavior modification.  ABA Therapy is widely recognized as the most effective evidence-based treatment for autism.  ABA fosters basic skills as looking, listening, requesting, imitating as well as higher level skills such as reading, speaking and understanding another person’s perspective.  

Therapists work closely with families and education professionals in order to apply the principles of ABA to teach language, social, self-help, academic, daily living and life skills.

ABA is a type of therapy that focuses on improving specific behaviors such as communication, reading, overall academics, social skills, as well as fine motor dexterity, hygiene, job competence as well as responsibilities involving holding down a job.  ABA is effective for children and adults with varying psychological disorders that are present within a variety of settings.  Some of these settings include school, home and the workplace. 

It has been proven that ABA can significantly improve behaviors and skills and therefore decrease the need for special support services.

Who can benefit from ABA Therapy?

ABA is commonly used as a therapeutic intervention for individuals with autism.  However, ABA is a fantastic therapy to be used with individuals that also have been diagnosed with severe speech and language disorders like DAS (Developmental Apraxia of Speech).

How does ABA Therapy help?

ABA not only helps the autistic individual learn new skills and maintain positive behavior but also to improve social interactions.  ABA also helps transfer skills and behavior from one situation to another which is integral in controlling or minimizing any negative behavior.

How does ABA Therapy work?

ABA helps people to become more successful in natural settings such as home, school and community.  ABA involves ongoing data collection to evaluate whether behavior is changing in the desired direction and the goals are being achieved.  ABA manages the consequences of behavior by rewarding positive behavior and in some cases uses punishment to deter behavior (child is unable to go the park and play for that day).  The rewards used must be enticing to the child or they will not “work” for it.

ABA uses discrete trial training or verbal behavior training.  This incorporates effective teaching and reinforcement practices to help children with disabilities to learn new skills faster and more efficiently.

When should ABA Therapy be used?

In order for ABA to be the most successful, it should be applied to a child prior to the age of 3 or 4 years old with a  minimum of 20 hours per week.  ABA is applied in 2 hour blocks of time.  Anything less does not allow the individual to receive the optimal results.

Although you do not hear about ABA as much for the elderly, it can be quite helpful with individuals in this age group as it helps them cope with their memory, physical strength as well as relationships.

There are several expectations involved with ABA Therapy:

  1. You need to determine what behaviors need to be changed

  2. Goals and expected outcomes need to be set

  3. Ways to measure changes and improvements needs be set into place

  4. Evaluate the starting point

  5. Learn new skills while avoiding negative ones

  6. Review the progress made

  7. After reviewing the progress, you need to determine if and how much ABA is needed

How long should ABA Therapy be used?

There is no specific time frame as to how long an individual may need ABA Therapy.  This solely depends on the diagnosis and at what rate improvement has occurred.  For the greatest results, ABA requires the therapist to monitor and evaluate constantly.

What is Discrete Trial Training?

A child is given a stimulus or question.  The child is given the correct answer or a very strong hint as what the correct answer would be.  If the child repeats the right answer then he is rewarded for it.  If the answer is incorrect, then it is smoothed over with very little attention given to the fact that it is incorrect.  The same  question is asked of the child for 10 times.  Each time the child gives the correct answer, the clues are removed slowly until the child responds correctly and independently.  Each specific program is worked on until the child has achieved mastery of that program.  This requires 8 out of 10 times correctly and independently over 3 sessions.  The therapist will move on to the next program and trials however will always come back to the programs that have been mastered to alleviate the possibility that the child will regress or would be unable to follow through with what had been worked on prior.

It is important to note that the skills taught in the discrete trials must be practiced and generalized in natural settings.  You must reinforce the wide range of appropriate behaviors in a variety of settings until the level of reinforcement fades to a regular level.

How can I ensure ABA Therapy works?

I began my experience in the education industry 24+ years ago initially as a teacher and ABA Therapist.  Although ABA then was not as prevalent as a choice for therapy, it always worked.  I had then and continue to see now how children have turned into”miracles” from the intervention and application of ABA Therapy. 

With that said, I have had parents contact me through the years with nightmare stories about how their child was awarded ABA Therapy but the experience was nothing short of a horror story.  If you have made the decision that your child would be a great candidate for ABA Therapy, after speaking with your pediatric neurologist, please make sure that everything associated with your child’s experience is nothing short of fantastic.

Here are some things that you must be aware of:  

1. Cherish the loose leaf binder

A loose leaf binder that the BCBA provides should house all of the programs that are written for your child along with the discrete trials and results.  These programs vary however must be applicable to YOUR child.  These programs are written by the BCBA who may not necessarily be the individual administering the therapy.  However, the BCBA should meet with you, IN PERSON once a week as well as the therapist to go over the programs, how your child is doing, if changes need to be made and to answer any questions that you may have.

2. Keep Track Of The Timesheets

Within this loose leaf binder should also be time sheets that the therapist needs to fill out and that you need to sign.  However, do not sign the time sheets if they do not reflect the actual times that the therapists have been to your home! Never give in and always monitor the therapist, BCBA, the binder, time sheets and actual therapy sessions. 

I cannot tell you how many times parents have signed time sheets because they felt that they were obligated to when in fact that was not the case.  For example, the therapist was late or had to leave early or did not show up at all.  ANY AND ALL CHANGES IN REGARDS TO TIME, DAYS ETC. NEEDS TO BE NOTED AND THE BCBA MUST BE MADE AWARE OF THIS WHEN IT HAPPENS.  Only communicate via email when something has to be noted. This way no one can claim that they did not know about it.  Always make copies of every note and time sheet after each session.  When you may not expect it, the binder make go "missing" and your chance to have copies will be no longer existent.  Agencies as well as therapists/BCBA's have a reputation of business practices that are anything but professional.  Cover yourself. 

3. ABA must be done at the table

Not in the child’s room, outside on the patio, etc.  Make sure the sessions are in full view for you to listen.  Too many times, parents have explained to me that the therapist was in the child’s room to do the therapy.  Absolutely not!!!  There must be accountability.  

4. The Therapist Needs To Be Great

Too many times I have heard from parents that the therapist and or the BCBA is not educated and most importantly not experienced.  This therapy like any other MUST be administered by an experienced and effective individual.  If they are not, then they are wasting everyone’s time, especially your child’s. 

Remember: Your child has a window of time and opportunity to gain the skills needed to be successful.  Why would you allow any individual to take that away from them?

 

5. DO NOT BE AFRAID TO COMPLAIN TO THE SCHOOL OR AGENCY THAT IS PROVIDING THE ABA STAFF

It is extremely difficult to find a great agency and even more difficult to find great ABA staff.  As a parent, do not give in and believe when the agency or school says we have no one else.  There are always other options.  There is too much at stake when it comes to your child. 

DO NOT LET OTHERS BE IN CHARGE OF YOUR CHILD’S DESTINY.  THEY HAVE NO RIGHT!!


Want more? Discover The Ultimate Guide To Advocating For Your Child, a complimentary email course for confused and overwhelmed parents.

Need immediate insight into your child’s situation and how to address their current issues? Schedule your Open Opportunity Session for an expert analysis and strategic plan you can implement today.

 

 

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Introducing: Private Therapeutic School Selection

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Introducing: Private Therapeutic School Selection

As your family liaison, I can research, vet and tour private therapeutic schools on your behalf so you can make the right choice for your child with special needs.

As a parent, there are many situations and hurdles you must address and overcome.  Whether it be a family issue, academic issue, professional issue or just the day to day goings on.  Being a parent is one of the hardest yet most important jobs one could have.  We all assume when a baby is born healthy, we are grateful and expect that the child will grow up like every other child.  However, when you notice something as a parent that is not right, Step 1 of this arduous process begins.  Not knowing all the twists and turns that life will bring to the family, it is a situation presented that MUST be addressed and addressed correctly.  There is no room for error as your child’s future is depending on you and all that you do for the betterment of their life.

Placement of your child in the proper school and the proper classroom is imperative. 

If your child has been placed, in what you believe is an incorrect setting then you need to be proactive to either have their classroom placement/staff member changed within the school that they are currently attending or placing them within a different district that could offer your child the appropriate fit or decide to place your child within a private school whereby the environment is the exact fit for your child for not only the academic piece but for the social and lifestyle piece as well.  I look at the situation as a puzzle that has many different pieces or facets to it.  In order for it all to work correctly, ALL the puzzle pieces MUST come together correctly and seamlessly.  If this does not occur then any strides and progression that your child may make will be at a much slower rate than what it should be.

Trying to find the one and only placement where positive outcomes are plentiful and set a standard for everything else can be daunting. The questions are endless..

  • What type of schools do I look for? 
  • What should their curriculum include?
  • What is their classroom ratio? 
  • What type of support do they offer?

The questions are endless but equally important.  You must have all of your questions answered and feel 100% comfortable with your decision.  If you don’t then your doubts will carry over to your child which in turn will effect their outlook, mindset and results.

That’s why I’m excited to introduce my latest product the Private School Search, concierge-like assistance in researching, vetting, touring and evaluating the perfect private therapeutic school for your child.

 

If your public school isn’t meeting their needs and placement in a local district that might be better suited for your child is out of the question, your child’s pubic school might pay for your child to attend a private school that is more equipped to handle their issues. This is common in districts that are unable to offer adequate support. This means that your child can attend a local private school and you don’t have to pay a thing.

Or you might opt to forgo your local district and pay for a school yourself if you have the means.

If you are located outside the United States but in search of an appropriate school to place your child in America, I act as your family liaison in the states who can complete the school selection process virtually with you in your home country.

I have had many requests from families to assist in the selection of the perfect private school and I’m happy to announce this is now a package that can be purchased.

Wherever you place your child, ideally they will be there for many years to come as they make great strides in a supportive environment tailored to them.

Why outsource your therapeutic school selection?

  • You can stay home, without interrupting your normal routine.
  • Having personalized support and guidance can be the difference between making the right choice the first time or having to go through the process again in another year when you realize the school you selected actually isn't a good match.
  • You can save time by not traveling to the schools yourself. Be there without actually being there.
  • The numerous perks that come with having a seasoned advocate as your voice, like asking the right questions at the right time.

There are several steps that I go through in order to find you the perfect placement for your child, no matter where you live.

If the school does not match the child’s needs no matter how nice the people are, then progress will be minimal or not at all.  Being nice or having staff tell you that everything is rosy, sweet and fantabulous does not get the job done.  You want results!!!  Clearly, you want the individuals that are working with your child to be nice and caring and feel as though they are invested in your child’s progress however, you DO NOT want someone to sugar coat things and not tell you the way they really are.  Honesty will only help them as well as well as yourselves to work on what is necessary while continually to encourage the details that have been mastered.

 

Research

A great deal is given to this first step as it is what builds and creates the necessary school to educate, empower and support your child.  After speaking with you in depth in regards to your child during an Open Opportunity Session, I research and compile a proper list of therapeutic schools that are specific to your child’s needs.

Once you have read through and gone over my list, YOU decide which schools would be the most appropriate for your child, with my assistance.  Many things need to be considered including proximity.

One of the most important questions you need to ask yourselves is if you want your child to attend a school that offers a day program only or you would like them to attend a school where they are further from home and board at the school.  Once the list has been narrowed down, I contact the schools directly to set up a day and time for a tour.  These tours that I schedule are one on one with either the Director/Clinical Staff or Head of Admissions.  In some cases, it can be all of these individuals.  I do not tour schools with other individuals (parents)  as I require all the attention to be on my inquiries and my interests on behalf your child.

 

Personal Tour

With the permission from the school, I will conference you in to see the school first hand.  I also speak with admissions and clinical personnel on your behalf so I am able to ask questions that are pertinent to your child.  I also request prior to the tour that I would like to meet with staff, therapists, classroom teachers  and more. 

By doing this and speaking with these people, it gives me as well as yourself a sense of what the academic and social life on campus is.  My position within this is not only being your liason but advocate for what your child needs and to ask the tough questions directly before a decision is made.  The last thing that you want is to choose the the wrong school for your child and have to change at some point because the school is not the “right fit" for your child and family. 

As you know, change is very difficult for children with special needs in so far as becoming a detriment to their progress.  Change in many instances can cause a child to regress, which no one wants especially the child.  This disruption  can cause greater frustration, anxiety and additional behavioral problems or the beginning of some.

 

Photos and Video

Within each school, I will take photos and video of the school.  Again, this is pending the approval from the school.  My main  reasons for doing this is so you can get an inside look at some of the classrooms, study areas, library, gym, amenities and more.

 

Evaluation

Once the tour is completed, I sit down and evaluate how well the child’s needs would be met at each school.  I provide a formal evaluation of my professional opinion.  I include a list of pros and cons along with recommendations so you can move forward and make the decision as to when and if you would like to apply to this academic setting.  

 

Prep For Admissions

After discussing all the pertinent information, the next step would be to prepare for the admissions process.  This is a very important part that needs to be discussed when touring the school as it is imperative you know what is expected and what the school is requesting within what timeline.

Although all the support services are extremely important, school placement is paramount! 

Having your child placed in a school and or classroom that is not appropriate and does not offer the least restrictive environment in order for them to learn at their optimal level is wasting everyone’s time especially your child's.  Don’t you get tired of having to contact the school, the teacher, the therapist, etc. because there are problems, things are not working, your child is not learning, your child is being bullied and nothing is being done about it, etc.?  You know the drill.  YOU are the only one who can change all of that. 

Don’t waste another moment of your child’s future with all this nonsense.  Make every moment count with a perpetual wheel of progress.  Don’t let the schools take advantage of you and your family. 

Don’t let the schools tell you what they think you want to hear. 

Don’t let the schools continue to waste your time.  Time is a very valuable commodity and for those who do not respect one’s time, then they have no respect for people. 

Why would you want to spend another moment trying to convince the school and staff what your child needs when they blatantly don’t care? 

How many times are you going to allow the school and staff to have you be on that wheel going to nowhere?  You keep moving but nothing is changing for the better or for that matter, changing at all.  Your child deserves the world and you are the only ones who can give it to them. 

Your child did not ask to be born with these difficulties.  As a parent, it is your job to be there and come through for them.  

Unfortunately, the school and staff can be that weak and/or broken piece of the puzzle that is responsible for the whole puzzle to disintegrate with no opportunity to become whole.  Why give them that power over you and your child?

Be proactive.  Your child is counting on you!!


Want more? Discover The Ultimate Guide To Advocating For Your Child, a complimentary email course for confused and overwhelmed parents.

Need immediate insight into your child’s situation and how to address their current issues? Schedule your Open Opportunity Session for an expert analysis and strategic plan you can implement today.

 

 

 

 

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The Best Amusement Parks for Children with Special Needs

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The Best Amusement Parks for Children with Special Needs

Summer is in full swing and as parents, you are always looking for new and exciting activities to engage your child in.  The following list encompasses some amusement parks throughout the United States and one just over the border in Canada, that offer accommodations to children with special needs along with their families.  Although I have highlighted many aspects of each park, I advise you to visit their website and even call to speak with an individual who can answer any questions that you may have in addition to provide pertinent information so you are well prepared should you decide to visit.

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Disneyworld - Orlando, Florida


They offer many services for guests with special needs.

  1. Advanced Ticket purchase
  2. Stroller and Wheelchair rental
  3. Strollers that can be used as wheelchairs
  4. Rider Switch
  5. Assistance in accessing attractions
  6. Break Areas
  7. Companion Restrooms
  8. Attraction Guides
  9. Dietary Accommodations

 

Universal Studios and Sea World Orlando will assist guests who are visiting the park.  If you are a family with special needs, the park suggests that you go to the customer service desk at the entrance to each theme park and notify them of your situation.

 

 Source: Morgan's Wonderland

Source: Morgan's Wonderland

Morgan’s Wonderland - San Antonio, Texas
 

This amusement park is the only one in the world where all the rides are fully accessible and sensory friendly.  The park is based on inclusivity and fun. 

One example of of a ride is an off road adventure where guests sit in vehicles designed to accommodate wheelchairs while they travel the rocky terrain and all the twists and turns that are associated with it.  Additionally, the park includes a sensory village, a lake for fishing and a garden that has calming music and art.  They also offer wristbands that are enabled with tracking devices that allows parents to know where their child is at all times.  Admission is free to visitors with special needs, but everyone else entering the park pays $5.  Reservations are required.

Some areas will include heated water for individuals sensitive to the cold.  Attractions include a boat ride through a jungle setting complete with animal sounds as well as waterfalls, pools, geysers, jets, water cannons and tipping buckets.

 

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Legoland - Carlsbad, CA

 

Most attractions are accessible to guests with special needs along with detailed health restrictions that are posted at each ride. Legoland also has special hearing and vision accommodations for guests who have issues with sight and sound.  If you plan ahead, and contact Legoland 2 weeks ahead at the least then you will receive specialized care and attention.  Additionally, you can download an "Access Guide" from their website which outlines all the areas of the park that are wheelchair friendly.

 

 Source:  Holiday World

Holiday World - Santa Claus, Indiana

 

This park has been named the cleanest and friendliest theme park in the world time and time again.  Holiday World has an annual special day called “Fun Day” when it opens its doors to 2,500 special guests all of whom have some form of mental or physical special need.  The admission is discounted and all the proceeds are donated to organizations that advocate on behalf of children with special needs.  If you like, you can download their “Rides Guide & Information for Guests with Disabilities” online before you plan your visit.

 

Sesame Place - Langhorne, Pennsylvania

 

This park is 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia and is popular among families with children of all ages and special needs.  When you enter the park, families with children with special needs can sign up for the "Ride Accessibility Program."  This program matches the individual abilities of the child to the requirements of each ride.  At that point, riders can choose 6 dry rides and 3 tower water rides they would like to go on.  Additionally, they can bypass the line.

Sesame Place also offers accommodations for children with vision or hearing impairments as well.

Sesame Place is the first theme park in the world to be designated as a Certified Autism Center

Sesame Place Team Members receive specialized training to ensure they have the knowledge, expertise and the temperament to work with all children especially special needs children.  The training that the team members go through focuses on sensory awareness, motor skills, program development, social skills, communication and emotional awareness, just to name a few.

 

 

Darien Lake Theme Park Resort - Darien Center, New York

 

This amusement park is located between Buffalo and Rochester, NY.  Not only do they have roller coasters and many attractions, they also have a 10 acre water park.

Darien Lake offers accessible parking which is conveniently located close to the park’s entrance as well as Priority Access Entrances to the rides that are most popular.  Children with special needs can bring up to 5 family members or friends with them to the front of the line.  There they will be assigned a riding time.

 

Six Flags - There are many locations for these parks throughout the US

 

Guests with special needs can receive an “Attraction Access Pass.”  This pass is available at all locations.  The purpose of this pass allows riders who are unable to wait in line for an extended period of time to sign up for a riding time and enter through the EXIT line with 3 family members or friends.  In order to take advantage of this great accommodation, the family MUST obtain a note from the child’s doctor that indicates the individual has a disability or other qualifying impairment under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and/or any applicable state law that prevents the individual from waiting in a standard line.

 

 

 Source: Marineland

Source: Marineland

MarineLand - Niagara Falls, Ontario

 

This park is known for their attractions that include shows featuring dolphins, beluga whales and orcas.  They also offer discounted admission for individuals with special needs as well as a ride wristband for one rider and caregiver so they can skip waiting in line.

They also offer accommodations to individuals with special needs such as able to park in an area that is closest to the entrance.  This especially is helpful to individuals who may require a wheelchair or assistive devices.  Additionally, at the entrance, you are able to rent wheelchairs and therefore enjoy accessible friendly areas for shows, rides and restaurants.

 

Knoebels - Elysburg, Pennsylvania

 

Knoebels is located a few hours from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  They feature games, attractions, gift shops, rides and food stands that are accessible for individuals with special needs.

Admission is free.  Guests coming to the park can purchase individuals tickets for the rides they would like to go on.  Guests with special needs can receive a “Courtesy Pass” from the First Aid Station.  This pass allows the individual and up to 3 family members or friends to bypass the lines and enter the rides through the exit gate.  Additionally, wheelchairs and ECV’s (Electric Convenience Vehicles) are also available to rent at the park should a family be in need of one.

 

 

SeaWorld - San Diego, California

 

This park provides "Special Access Passe! for guests with disabilities.  Once you sign up prior to your visit, you will be give a pre-scheduled time for each ride.  Additionally, prior to your visit if you fill out a Ride Accessibility Questionnaire, you will receive a list of rides and attractions that are personalized to the guests interests and needs.  SeaWorld also offers sign language interpreters for guests with vision or hearing impairments.  This accommodation is offered for their marine life shows and tours however you do need to contact the park at least 2 weeks in advance of your trip.

If you are planning to visit any of these parks or any other similar ones, make sure to check out the section of their respective web sites that are devoted to accommodations for guests with disabilities.

As with everything else, do your homework!  Leave no stone unturned so there are no surprises when you arrive.  Your focus is on your child and their experience along with making great family memories.  Most importantly - Have a Great Time!!!


Want more? Discover The Ultimate Guide To Advocating For Your Child, a complimentary email course for confused and overwhelmed parents.

Need immediate insight into your child’s situation and how to address their current issues? Schedule your Open Opportunity Session for an expert analysis and strategic plan you can implement today.

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It's Never Too Late To Change Your Child's IEP/ 504 Plan!

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It's Never Too Late To Change Your Child's IEP/ 504 Plan!

Now that the school year is coming to an end or in some areas have already ended until September, all hope is not lost.

By this time, you have had your child’s IEP/504 Plan meeting in order to put into place all support services and placement for the 2018-2019 school year.  Perhaps the meeting went well and you received everything that you have asked for at the time.  Perhaps the school was only willing to concede on certain items that you asked for and not others.  Perhaps your child will receive nothing that you had asked for and the meeting was a negative and draining experience.  It is not too late to go back and change things.  

Most parents feel as though once the school year has ended and a new IEP/504Plan has been drafted then their child is “stuck” with what the document states. 

Nothing could be further from the truth. 

Yes, you did sign off on what was discussed at the meeting but be aware, NOTHING is set in stone.  The summer is a great time to go over what was discussed, what you signed off on and prepare your case for August/September when school is back in session.

I hear from many parents prior to contacting me that they felt intimidated and pressured into agreeing with what the school set forth even though they knew in their heart, it was not the best decision for their child. 

If after your meeting you felt defeated and taken advantage of, then use the next 10 weeks or so to build your case so you can present it with strength and determination. 

Do not just roll over and accept what the district has forced onto you.

The summer is a great time to hire an advocate if you have been thinking about it or even if you have not.  A good, strong advocate will use the time to go over the entire case.  He/she will ask questions about the reports, school interactions, family interactions, testing results, social skills, academic standing, etc. 

This time is a gift.  If you have waited and thought about needing an advocate but never moved to the next step in regards to this, then now is the time.  Time is on your side.  An advocate can build your case, organize everything needed to represent your child and what is in their best interest. 

Although school is “closed,” administrators and secretarial staff do work.  Additionally, if your district has a summer enrichment program then some of the teachers are working as well.  Therefore, if you are in need of specific documentation that you do not have, these can be furnished to you. 

Summer is a slower time for the school districts as they do not have the full attendance of students to address, however the office staff is usually busy preparing for the upcoming school year so they are focused on that particular task.  Reports from support staff (OT, PT, Speech, etc.) may not be available to you during the summer if those individuals are not working and administration does not have them in their possession, although they should. The CPSE/CSE Chair should have each individual result applicable to your child.  This individual does in fact work during the summer excluding the time they are on vacation. 

In the case where the school will not prepare the information over the summer that you are asking for, you would have to wait until school begins again to have those given to you.  But everything else can be put together. 

Out of the entire year, the summer is the best time to write down concrete wants and needs for your child that usually, up to this point, have not been met if you have not done so during the academic year. 

Also, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS ask for a copy of everything in your child’s file along with any additional documents.

Maybe, you had a communication log in place for the year. Request from the staff the actual log and if they state that they need to keep it, then tell them that you would like copies of the entire log. 

My suggestion to parents in regards to a log: each and every time it is sent home, make a copy of any entries.  This way you will have kept up with it during the entire year and will not feel inundated towards the end.  This will also ensure you have copies of everything and nothing has been ommitted.  Additionally, you may need to reference this log during the year when you need to call a meeting. 

This same rule holds true for the ABA binder. 

If your child is receiving ABA, either in the school environment or at home, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE COPIES OF EVERY PAGE IN THE BINDER! 

This will include the programs, notes, time sheets and any other communication that the therapist has added.  This will provide you with “proof” of what programs your child has mastered and which programs they are still working on.

If the time that has been recorded by the therapist does not match what you have kept track of, then DO NOT sign the time sheet!  Contact the agency or school that is providing the therapy and put in a formal concern.  This is a ongoing problem whereby therapists are recording hours that have not actually occurred.  A therapist sitting in your child’s room listening to music with them does not constitute ABA unless it is integrated into a specific program. 

BE AWARE OF ALL THE PROGRAMS THAT HAVE BEEN WRITTEN FOR YOUR CHILD AS WELL AS THE CHANGES THAT TAKE PLACE, IF ANY! 

I can’t tell you how many times parents are unaware as to what is going on in regards to ABA with their child.  This therapy, IF done right by a highly skilled individual who is effective, can be  a make or break when it comes to the IEP/504 Plan meeting.

As a parent or caregiver of a child with special needs, time is never on your side. 

In fact, time is critical to secure the appropriate support services and have them administered properly by an effective teacher and/or therapist.  Although there are many services not affiliated with the schools, it requires research and homework on your part to ensure that your child’s needs are being met completely and correctly. 

An advocate can help you with this tedious and laborious task as well.  An advocate can make phone calls, reach out to programs on your families behalf in addition to visit the programs (if geographically feasible) in order to get a first hand look as to what is being offered and if it would be a great fit for your child.  

 

Never give up. Always be proactive.

If you are being told something and you do not believe it is right for your child, then reject it and do your research so you can obtain that validity as to “what is right” for your child!  You are your child’s first line of defense.  An advocate is your “partner in crime” to make sure your child comes out not only ahead but can soar above all else!


Want more? Discover The Ultimate Guide To Advocating For Your Child, a complimentary email course for confused and overwhelmed parents.

Need immediate insight into your child’s situation and how to address their current issues? Schedule your Open Opportunity Session for an expert analysis and strategic plan you can implement today.

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Can I Hire An Advocate To Just Go With Me To A CSE Meeting?

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Can I Hire An Advocate To Just Go With Me To A CSE Meeting?

Many parents feel as though they do not want to attend a CSE meeting alone, which is more than understandable.  The CSE, unfortunately creates an environment of intimidation and in some instances hostility. 

Therefore, hiring an advocate who knows the case backwards and forwards can only be an asset. 

Hiring an attorney to attend the CSE turns the environment into an adversarial situation which you do not want.  The district will have it’s back up and more likely than not, will not work with you to attain the goals that you have set forth for your child. 

Additionally, if you hire an attorney to attend the CSE meeting with you then the district will also have their attorney in attendance.  If you have not attended a CSE meeting at all or not with any representation, such as an advocate, then I would not advise having an attorney at your meeting.

The CSE schedules meetings with a sizable amount of notice. 

If you feel as though you cannot attend the meeting alone and need an advocate then PLEASE contact one immediately.  If your child has had difficulties and there have been red flags prior, then you are going to have to play catch up.  This is not fair to the child. 

My one question is "Where have you been?!"

I have had many parents contact me last minute (within 1 week of the meeting or less) to attend their child’s meeting.  This will do a tremendous disservice to your child as the amount of preparation involved is substantial. 

The CSE is something that is to be taken very seriously. 

Your child’s future is contingent on the outcome of the meeting.  DO NOT dilly dally when it comes to your child’s future.  They are counting on you.  Please keep in mind as well, if the advocate is top notch then they may not be available as their calendar will book up quickly.

 

  1. If your child has had problems either recently in school or for a while, then hire an advocate immediately.

  2. If you have had an advocate and that individual has not been effective, then don’t be wishy washy, find someone else who is qualified.

  3.   If you have never gone into a CSE meeting before, then absolutely hire an advocate to attend.  This sets the tone for the relationship you will have with the school moving forward.  If they see that you are being proactive, then they are less likely to take advantage.  Of course, this is not a guarantee but in all my years of working as an advocate, the school takes a family far more seriously when they see that are totally invested in the child and are on top of things from the beginning.

More times than I can recall, I have had parents contact me to JUST attend a CSE Meeting. 

There is a feeling from parents that if they have the presence of an advocate then that will be enough for the district to stand up and take notice and therefore agree to what the parents are requesting. 

NOTHING could be further from the truth!  If you contact an advocate and they are more than willing to attend with no information or very little (perhaps based on what you tell them as a parent), BEWARE!

Personally, I do not JUST attend a CSE Meeting.  My business has a process to follow whereby all the information is gathered from the parent during the Open Opportunity Session and then if advocacy hours are needed, they can be purchased and implemented.

For instance, if you were in a car accident and as a result became injured, would you expect the attorney to represent you in court against the defendant with only the information that they gathered from a conversation with you? 

Of course not!  They would have to do a great deal of reviewing documents (discovery) from physicians, hospitals, therapists, police report, etc. in order to put a case together.  If the attorney did not do this then he/she would not able to represent you properly and your case would be very weak.  Therefore the chance of you winning would be quite minimal.  Why take a chance with your child?  There is no difference between this scenario and hiring a great advocate who will represent your child as if their practice depends on it.

A phenomenal advocate requires the following to be fully papered to attend a CSE Meeting. 

These items are non-negotiable and if they tell you otherwise, then find someone else immediately.

  1. The child’s file from any schools that they have attended or currently attend.
  2.   The child’s file from any  physicians that they have seen or currently see.
  3.   The child’s file from any therapists or mental health professionals that they have seen or worked with. 
  4.   Any notes that are available from outside sources where the child may have attended, been enrolled in (extra curricular activities, etc.)
  5. All testing results from all individuals or facilities when the child began the process (diagnosis, medications, etc.)

In order for an advocate to truly take on a case, these items must be furnished.  There are many hours involved to prepare for the CSE meeting.  The advocate needs to read through all files, look at all testing and diagnoses as well as, in some cases, speak to specific individuals in order to get a first hand look as to the child and why they are at the point they are now (while taking notes to refer to during the meeting). 

Additionally, if the case is to be handled properly, emails need to go out to specific individuals, communication needs to become a part of the pre-CSE meeting along with forming a “relationship” with the individuals that will be seated at the meeting.  This information will form a design of where the child is and where they should be going.  This design will encompass what is needed for the child to move forward and progress therefore allowing him/her to attain their pinnacle level while doing so in the least frustrating way.

I implore you! As a parent, do your homework.  This is your child’s present and future.  You have an obligation to do the right thing for him/her.  Do not let your child down!


Want more? Discover The Ultimate Guide To Advocating For Your Child, a complimentary email course for confused and overwhelmed parents.

Need immediate insight into your child’s situation and how to address their current issues? Schedule your Open Opportunity Session for an expert analysis and strategic plan you can implement today.

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Does Your Special Education Advocate Need To Be Local To Your Geographical Area?

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Does Your Special Education Advocate Need To Be Local To Your Geographical Area?

The answer is a resounding NO!

 

In the 18 years that I have worked as a Special Education Advocate, many families have contacted me and asked if I could help them even though I am not close in proximity to their home. 

 

The answer has always been YES!  Fast forward 18 years, my business serves families from all over the United States.

 

Parents are under the belief that an advocate that they hire has to be local for meetings but that is not the case.  I have been conducting meetings via the phone for the entire time that I have worked as an advocate and not only has it worked but it has worked well.  The most important point to remember is “proximity does not guarantee quality.”

 

Having an advocate sit next to you at a meeting, does not guarantee that the individual is knowledgeable, well spoken and most importantly, effective.

 

Let me give you a couple of examples:  

 

If you have been using a tax accountant for many years, built up a rapport with that person and they have done an incredible job for you since you have used them but they or you move - does that mean that you can no longer use them as your accountant?  Of course not! 

 

With the way our lives are built now - technology being everywhere, all information can be sent to the accountant that is needed in order for him/her to do the job.  Whether they or you live in the same state but hours apart, a different state, a different coast or even a different country; this should not deter you from using their services because nothing has changed in regards to their exemplary knowledge and work ethic. 

 

Think about it:  If you have been using them, feel comfortable with them as a person and are over the moon with the job that they have done for you then why would you not use them anymore?

 

Let’s say that you or a family member has been seeing a therapist and have built up a wonderful relationship of comfortability and especially trust, why would you not see that therapist any longer if you or he/she has moved?  Just because you cannot physically sit on their couch for the sessions does not diminish their capability, knowledge or effectiveness. 

 

There are many, many more individuals who are becoming a digital nomad when it comes to their business.  These individuals have an online business and continue to run their business from wherever they might be.  Don’t  discount them because they are not physically next to you at a meeting or sitting across from you at a session or beside you to interpret and prepare your taxes.

 

I have been calling into meetings for my entire advocating career and it works well.

 

As a parent, I understand and have been told time and time again that walking into a meeting is very intimidating. 

 

Although parents feel a great deal of trepidation walking into a school meeting, there is some level of comfort when an advocate is by their side. 

 

However, did you know that you too, as a parent, can call into a meeting? 

 

I can’t tell you how many conference calls I have had when it comes to either a CSE meeting or just a follow up meeting.  By doing this a parent can participate in the meeting from home or work, whichever works best for them, but is able to minimize the anxiety that they would feel when attending in person.  Of course, if your schedule does not allow to attend in person or you are just unable to do so for varying reasons, as long as the district approves you attending via telephone then there is no difference in regards to the information presented, the questions asked and the changes, if any, that need to be made.

 

Remember: you as the parent are in control. 

 

If you are unable to attend in person, the district MUST provide you with a CSE meeting for your child.  It is the law.  Therefore, if you contact them once you have been given a date and explain that you are unable to attend the meeting however you can and will attend via telephone, they are in a position to accommodate you.  Remember, you are legally entitled to a CSE meeting whether you are attending in person, calling in over the phone, working on your swing from the golf course or sending smoke signals while toasting your marshmallows.

 

Additionally, by not attending in person, you do not feel the physical pressure associated with making split decisions or signing documents requested at that time. 

 

Let’s face it, going to a CSE meeting makes you feel as though you are the target on a firing line.  Why put yourself through that?

 

Another aspect to think about is the cost.  For an advocate to appear in person, it costs far more than an advocate calling in.  For the calling in, you are charged for the time on the phone.  For the in person scenario, you are not just paying for the time attending the meeting but for the travel time associated with each way (coming and going).

 

In my opinion, the advocate that you choose should be a very well thought out decision.  You are putting your child’s future in their hands and it should be handled as such.  An advocate with an indifference to your child’s situation and to you as the family needs to be handled with thought, emotion and downright caring.  The decisions that you make today will impact your child not only tomorrow but every day moving forward.  The advocate is an integral part of your family and should be looked at as one.

 

As I stated earlier, “proximity does not guarantee quality.”  Plain and simple.


Want more? Discover The Ultimate Guide To Advocating For Your Child, a complimentary email course for confused and overwhelmed parents.

Need immediate insight into your child’s situation and how to address their current issues? Schedule your Open Opportunity Session for an expert analysis and strategic plan you can implement today.

 

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Is Your Special Education Advocate a Fraud?

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Is Your Special Education Advocate a Fraud?

For the last 24 years, I have worked in the education industry in varying capacities. I started off my career as a teacher and then worked as an ABA Therapist. However, my greatest love has been working as an Educational Consultant and Special Needs Advocatefor the past 18 years.

You may ask, why make the change?

The answer is quite simple. During my time in the classroom teaching, I saw firsthand the huge disconnect between what services a child desperately needed and what support services they were actually receiving. This disparity was the catalyst for me seeking the change. Not only were the children’s needs not being met but it was the pure disregard on the part of the individuals that worked in the education industry. The children were treated as a number and as disposable. This not only frustrated me but disgusted me as everyone has capabilities. Everyone has something positive to bring into this world and everyone can make a difference for the good!

The fact that these educators had a “I can’t be bothered” attitude was inexcusable.

Having children in the classroom who learned differently put more pressure on the teacher. I can’t tell you how many times I had heard (while teaching) from other staff members, that it was easier just to push the child with special needs through. They complained that they only had so many hours in the school day and if they had to address each child’s needs then they could not stay on their schedule in order to get the curriculum taught.

I agree that the school day is only so long, however if the staff and administrators would work with parents to ensure that their child is placed in the correct classroom as well as receives the proper support services, then things overall would move along much smoother for everyone. Most importantly, the child would receive everything that they should and therefore they would be set up for success.

Many, many schools teach to test so the actual time that is spent on each topic within the curriculum is far shorter than it had been in the past. If a child cannot “keep up” their success rate will drop significantly.

This is where an advocate comes in.

Parents and their children are frustrated: They do not know if the child’s placement is correct, their support services (if any) are correct, and most importantly if their diagnosis is correct.

To go one step further, if the child is in fact receiving support services then the question becomes: are the services being administered as they should be? For the correct frequency? Is this information being recorded properly?

In the 18 years working as an Educational Consultant and Special Needs Advocate, I have had many, many families contact me because what they thought what they were doing was the right thing, turned out to be a nightmare. I can’t stress enough that if as parent you have decided that you need to hire an advocate, PLEASE do your homework before choosing one, no less paying one.

Here are a couple of situations that occurred to families I’ve worked with.

Case #1

A mom contacted me to ask some questions. She explained that she had hired an “advocate” to help her when she needed to attend her child’s IEP meeting as the school was not following through with support services.

The mom told me that although she paid this “advocate” the fee required, the woman showed up to the first IEP meting but stayed quiet for the entire duration of the meeting. She said nothing! She did not advocate at all, left all of the talking solely for the mother to do. It was a very short meeting as the school rolled over the mother while the “advocate” just sat there.

After walking out of the meeting, the mother asked the advocate why she didn’t say anything and the advocate’s response was “The school had valid points.” The mother then went on to ask if the advocate even looked at the testing results, classroom tests, notes from staff, etc. prior to the meeting. The advocate admitted that she “glanced” at the paperwork that the mother had given her but did not feel the need to read it in depth.

This behavior is not professional, to say the least. The advocate was paid to provide a service which was not provided.

This is fraud!

Although this nightmarish situation took place, the mother requested another IEP meeting. Knowing full well that this “advocate” did nothing but took her money, she contact her once again to represent her at the meeting. When I asked her why, her response was the she did not know of any other advocates to contact so she thought having her there would be better than nothing.

Oh my goodness! NO! The advocate clearly had shown she did not know what she was doing and sadly, could care less. However, once again the mom paid her to attend the meeting. This time, the “advocate” called the mom the morning of the meeting and said that she could not make the meeting as she had laryngitis and could not speak.

I do not know where this mom got this “advocate” from, but this woman should NEVER work in this industry again. I explained to the the mom that there are many resources out there where one could find special needs advocates and attorneys however, BUYER BEWARE! It is a slippery slope and unfortunately, individuals like the one above gives the industry a bad name. Sad to say, this seems to be the norm from what parents tell me.

Case #2

A mom contacted me because she needed clarification about her son’s situation. Remember, each child should be looked at and considered on a case by case basis. No two children are the same and therefore the handling of the case is “custom made” to that child. If an advocate handles each child the same, then that is a red flag and you may want to find a different advocate.

This mom had hired an advocate for her son. She paid her and spoke with her briefly on the phone. However, after that, the advocate was nowhere to be found. The mom said she had continually tried to contact her via telephone but to no avail. All she received was a message on the voicemail stating that she (the advocate) was not working at this time due to a family issue.

Without asking any other questions, I knew that the advocate took the money and ran with it and most probably she was not the only one.

My only question was this: “How long have you been trying to contact the advocate?”

Her answer: “A few months.”

What? The mom went on to tell me that she called her son’s pediatrician to ask him if he knew anything since he was the one who recommended her. The pediatrician communicated to the mom that he had recommended this advocate to many other families that were in his practice and they too were calling him to inform him that they paid money to this advocate, to never hear from her again.

This is fraud!

In speaking to the mom, she had given me the name of the advocate. I was not familiar with who she was however after hanging up with her, I looked up the advocate. Her website was not up and by all accounts, she was longer “in business.”

As of our conversation, she was still hoping against hope that this woman would contact her. I called the mom back and informed her that the website was not in working order. The mom responded “I didn’t know that.” I was hoping that this particular information would be a turning point for her to become proactive but quite frankly it made no difference at that time.

As a parent, how you handle every situation is your business however when it comes to a child with special needs, time is of the essence.

Time is a precious commodity that cannot be wasted as you are playing with your child’s future and success.

The more time that is wasted until a decision is made, the more you push back any gains that your child may make. Think about all the time that this mom wasted waiting around for the “advocate” to contact her. She didn’t know what to do yet did not inquire either and now that child has been pushed back that much further.

Having a child with special needs is not a situation that can be taken lightly. I cannot implore you enough how you do not have time on your side.

Things to Look For And Remember When Hiring an Advocate:
 

  • The longer you wait to do something, the more detrimental it can become for your child.
     
  • If something is wrong, address it immediately. Don’t think it will get better, because it won’t.
     
  • If you need an advocate, find a great one. It will pay off in the long run. Remember, you get what you pay for.
     
  • You cannot be wishy-washy. Make a decision and stick to it.
     
  • The advocate is on your side. A good advocate will be honest with you and tell you if your wants and expectations are valid and within reason. If the advocate, says yes to you on everything or almost everything then they are ill-informed, ill-equipped and not on your side.
     
  • If you have decided to hire an advocate, they are on your side and should not sit by and let the school run the show. This is YOUR child and as a parent, YOU know your child best.
     
  • Vet them! Check to see that they have a working website, working email, and working phone number. Check to see if there are any reviews.
     
  • An advocate MUST respond to you via phone or email within 24 hours, at the most. This amount I am giving is very liberal. I have been known to be up at midnight sending emails out to parents and school staff and administrators because my day was so busy with meetings, conference calls and school visits. This is my job and my responsibility. Especially, as a parent, you deserve that extraordinary service and every advocate, in my opinion, should be held to this standard. If they do not possess this mindset, then you need to speak with them and explain what your expectations are. This should be discussed prior to you hiring them.
     
  • Find out what their process is. For example: The first thing that I do upon working with a family is I send out an introduction email to all school staff (teachers, administrators, therapists, etc.). I explain who I am and that I will be representing the family and child. I give them my contact information and communicate that they can reach out at any time for any issue (positive or negative). My goal is to always to keep the lines of communication open. This allows for a constant collaboration between home and school.
     
  • As an advocate, you become fully immersed with the family and most importantly the child. My philosophy is that your child is counting on me to do the best I can for them while working with you (the parent) and everyone else that should be on his/her side.
     
  • Unfortunately, many people advertise themselves as advocates. Buyer Beware. Just because a mom or dad has a child with special needs and went to school to get their child services, does not make them an advocate. More times than not I have seen people advertise themselves as an advocate and upon looking into it, there is no working website, phone number (if there is one listed at all) along with no degrees or experience.
     
  • Just because you have a child with special needs, does not mean you are an advocate. This is a very important job that should not be taken lightly. Unless an individual has a proven track record, do not hire them.
     
  • Although you should advocate for your child, there is fine line between being their mom or dad and being their advocate. You should ALWAYS be your child’s parent first. Leave the advocating to a professional.
     
  • Be very careful when choosing an advocate. There are very few out there that know what they are doing, are truthful and truly want the best for your child. This is not something one should do as a hobby out of their basement.This is not something one should do because they want to feel important.
     
  • If in your search for an advocate, you find an individual that has an email that is gmail, yahoo, verizon, hotmail or any other free non-branded email address then they are NOT running a business or taking it seriously. Any professional worth their salt has a branded email address. Like ilene@ilenemiller.com.

 

This post was written to help you as a parent — to inform and empower. I can’t say enough how important it is that you do something now for your child. Don’t waste another moment as your child is counting on you. Don’t let them down. He/she did not ask for these struggles and frustrations. Be your child’s hero. They will thank you for it and it will mean more than you can imagine!


Want more? Discover The Ultimate Guide To Advocating For Your Child, a complimentary email course for confused and overwhelmed parents.

Need immediate insight into your child’s situation and how to address their current issues? Schedule your Open Opportunity Session for an expert analysis and strategic plan you can implement today.

 

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Why Should I Have My Child’s Classroom Placement Changed?

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Why Should I Have My Child’s Classroom Placement Changed?

It is a long and arduous process trying to enlist all the individuals that are needed to diagnosis, test, meet and come up with a plan when a child is special needs. With that said, when everything is in place, everyone provides the therapy and help that is needed and agreed upon, the situation runs like a well oiled machine. However, when things do not play out as they should, the situation can become frustrating, anxiety ridden as well as what seems to be hopeless.

I can’t tell you how many times, families have contacted me for varying problems on varying levels. However, the one problem that seems to be a common thread is that their child has been placed within a classroom setting that is not considered to be the least restrictive environment or anywhere close to that.

If after all the doctor visits, the diagnosis, testing (from the physician as well as the school) and meetings, your child is placed in a classroom that you, as the parent, feel is not appropriate then you need to be proactive in ensuring that a change takes place immediately. Early intervention is the key but moreso the intervention needs to include the right decisions made for your particular child. 

For instance, if the child is receiving all the support services that are listed on his/her IEP but your child is placed in a classroom that is inappropriate, then only part of that child’s day is going to be helpful. 

The child’s IEP is like a puzzle. There are many different facets and when they all come together correctly, they work in unison for the goal of improving and teaching the child so they can move forward with skills that have been mastered.

 

Let me give you an example:

I had a mother contact me about her son. It was one week into the beginning of school so she was very proactive and caught things quickly before they had a chance to become a whirlwind. Although her child had an IEP with many support services to target different areas, the classroom placement was all wrong.

The teacher sent home a picture of the child, with his head down on the desk, sleeping. Her son was so bored in this class that he fell asleep. She contacted the teacher right away and asked what the scenario was behind the photo. The teacher explained that the class was working on a project and her son had completed it before any one else. Because of his boredom and the teacher not giving him another task, the child fell asleep. 

Honestly, I could not believe that the teacher even sent this photo home because it validated that she was unable to discern if the child actually belonged in her class. Basically, it made the teacher look questionable.

The mom contacted the CSE Chairperson to call a meeting as she wanted the child to be moved out of this inclusion classroom and put into a mainstream classroom. She was accommodated with a meeting and at the meeting she brought up her thoughts and concerns as to why her son should be moved to a class that was more appropriate for him. We received 1 answer and that was from the principal. 

The CSE agreed that he could be moved but the response from the principal took me by surprise. She said “We can move him but it will take awhile. I will have to see where I can place him as all the classes do not have room and are filled to capacity.” This was a stall tactic and very upsetting to the mom. 

My question then became this: “If a family just moved into the neighborhood and came to the school to register their child, would you tell them that the child could not start school for awhile because all your classes are filled to capacity and you do not know where you will place that child?” The response to my question was met with a blind stare from the principal along with no response from the CSE Chair or anyone else for that matter.

We ended the meeting with ”I’ll be in touch and will let you know when we plan on changing the classroom placement.” This response was from the CSE Chair. 

Not only was this response upsetting but the school was not following the law and placing the child in a least restrictive environment whereby he could learn and benefit from an appropriate education. 

This was unacceptable. 

For the following 3 days, I emailed the CSE Chair 2 times a day. Once, first thing in the morning and once at the end of the school day inquiring about the status of changing the child’s placement. 

My thought process was twofold. 

One - I was always kept top of mind. 

Two - She would get tired of seeing an email from me in her inbox and address the situation quickly. Well, it worked. The child’s placement was changed into an appropriate mainstream classroom yet all of his support services stayed the same with a combination of pull out and push in services.

What I tried to explain during the meeting was the fact that the child was bored because he was at a higher functioning level than the other children in the class. Although you always want your child to be with a variety of children and levels, they should always be in a class with some children that are on a higher level than your own child. 

The higher functioning children serve as a role model so the other children can learn from them. This learning is not structured but organic. They learn from the other children’s social skills, learning styles, listening to directions, completing a task, etc. The children that may be on a lower level of functioning are able to look to your child and use them as a model. This way it is a wonderful and productive way for children to try, address and master different skills with not only the assistance of the teaching staff and support staff but with their peers as well. 

Many children feel as though they are judged by the staff but feel less intimidated when being helped and working with their peers. Many, many times children will succeed further and quicker when looking to their peers for assistance. They are able to not only understand their struggles but see the struggles of others.

The moral to this story is ALWAYS place your child in an environment with children that are on their level but the class must also have children that are on a higher functioning level than themselves as well as a lower level. It gives the child a goal and when they are able to grab that brass ring (the goal), the accomplishment and self-esteem raised from that, skyrockets.  

 

If you feel at any time your child’s classroom placement is incorrect, speak up immediately. 

Don’t let the school tell you to give it some time. The more time you wait for the change to happen, the less likely it will. If your child is communicative, then ask them questions about their day all the time in order to get a sense of what the environment is like. If they are unable to communicate to you in regards to this, start a communication log with the school and invite them to write you a quick note as to what your child did, how they did and whether or not your child is proactive in forging friendships with those children. 

A child not having any “friend” in their class could indicate that they do not feel comfortable with anyone. This could be for a multiple of reasons - you need to try to pinpoint why. All children should feel that they have a “buddy” in their class. This lessens the feeling of isolation.

Your child spends a great deal of time within the classroom that they are placed. Not everything is perfect in regards to school,but placement needs to be!

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Want more? Discover The Ultimate Guide To Advocating For Your Child, a complimentary email course for confused and overwhelmed parents.

Need immediate insight into your child's situation and how to address their current issues? Schedule your Open Opportunity Session for an expert analysis and strategic plan you can implement today.

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Summer Programs For Children With Special Needs

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Summer Programs For Children With Special Needs

The school year is coming to a close within a few short months and as a parent, decisions need to be made as to what your child’s options will be for the summer months.

The purpose of this article is to highlight what options are out there.  This does not include every possible activity but certainly touches upon many that you may feel would be appropriate for your child.

 

Children with special needs should be enrolled in at least one program during the summer months, as this time can become an opportunity for regression. 

 

The progress that your child hopefully has made during the year should be built upon during the summer while addressing all if not most of the skills that were learned.  Transitioning to the summer is difficult for children with special needs as they get accustomed to the same schedule during the school year and therefore are aware of the expectations and the order in which they occur. 

Remember, any change for a child with special needs is that much more magnified in difficulty than that of a regular education child. 

However, the transition does not have to be so traumatizing as there are many programs out there throughout the country that allow for the skills learned in school to be continued.  Additionally, these programs have individuals who are trained educationally to work with these kids and work with them well.  

 

1. Equestrian Therapy

 

This therapy is also known as equine therapy or equine-assisted therapy.  This therapy uses horses to  help children grow emotionally.  Equestrian therapy is used for many different diagnosis. It is particularly helpful with individuals who have been diagnosed with autism, dementia, down syndrome, behavior, mental health issues, delays in mental development as well as brain injury patients. 

Therapeutic riding contributes to many positive aspects in regards to the emotional and social well being of individuals with specials needs, no matter what their age is.  Just because an individual has difficulties, it does preclude them from horseback riding.  The rhythmic motion of riding is extremely beneficial as it mimics an individual walking.  It is has been shown that individuals with special needs, specifically, physical disabilities, have improvement in flexibility, balance and muscle strength. 

If you decide on placing your child in this type of program, please ensure, especially for new riders, that the establishment provides a horse leader as well as 2 individuals who walk along the horse on either side.  These individuals are usually called sidewalks or a derivative thereof.  This not only makes it safer but it will cut down on any anxiety associated with participating in a new experience.

 

2. Summer Enrichment

 

This is recommended by your child’s teacher for a number of reasons.  If your child is not up to grade level, this could be a “catch up” time to better prepare them for the upcoming school year.  It also serves as a review for work that already has been introduced but perhaps your child had difficulty within certain areas. 

Additionally, it serves as a piece to address the cohesiveness of the academic year.  A break during the summer months, unfortunately for many children with special needs becomes a time when they regress.  Their schedule has changed not only in regards to the academic piece but for the socializing piece as well.  Their “routine” has been disrupted and for children with special needs, any change is detrimental.  This can cause regression academically, behaviorally and socially. 

Keep in mind, change for many of us young and older individuals, can be difficult to come to terms with however for a child with special needs that difficulty is magnified exponentially and therefore anything that can be done to help the transition move as smoothly as possible is especially important.

 

3. At-Home Summer Services

 

 In my many years of working as an Educational Consultant and Special Needs Advocate, I have found that although a child needs summer services, Summer Enrichment is not the correct fit. 

Let me offer an option that has worked and fits well with the many children and families that I have worked with.  Your child may be lagging behind and not up to grade level however sending them to the school building may be frustrating for them over the summer months.  It may feel as though it is a continuation of all the demands that are put on them during the formal school year. 

However, I have found that if the CSE approves this particular option, it has far exceeded the positives when correctly administered.  Ask the CSE if a teacher can come to your home for a specific amount of weeks (I recommend 6 weeks) for 4 days a week.  I would request that the teacher comes 2-3 hours a day.  This allows for the child to receive intensive help in areas that are weak and therefore better prepare them for the upcoming school year. 

If your child is doing well and is performing on grade level but just needs some review from the school year that was just completed, then the teacher could focus on those areas.  In addition to working on this, they can pre-teach the materials that will be covered for the upcoming school year.  This allows the child to be introduced to the curriculum prior to September. It allows them to practice the topic so when it is introduced within the classroom at the beginning of school, it is not as foreign and they are able to tackle the curriculum with pride and hopefully with a reduced amount of anxiety. 

Although many teachers do work during the few weeks teaching the Summer Enrichment Program, there are teachers who are willing and actually prefer to go to a child’s home to teach. 

Additionally, it allows the child to be in their familiar surroundings, feel more relaxed, secure and less anxious which in turn provides for a substantially positive learning environment. 

Not only does the teacher work on the academics but they should reinforce all of the concepts via games, manipulatives, music, etc.  This piece the child will remember the most and when they are asked in school to pull from their existing knowledge, these are the concepts that will stick out in their mind.

 

4. Art Classes 

 

There are many activities covered with different instruments (paint, brushes, markers, etc).        

        Here are some activities that you can do at home with your child:

            Crayons:  Allows children to express themselves with drawings and coloring

            Spray Paint: If the weather is warm, a great activity 

            Popsicle Stick: Spreading Paint with a Popsicle Stick

            Tissue Paper Butterflies: Children create a butterfly with tissue paper

            Fruit and Veggie Prints: Cut fruit in pieces (half, quarter, etc.) and dip in paint

            Hands: Use handprints to make personalized objects

            Sponge Painting: Children can use sponges as painting tools

 

5. Music Classes

 

Most kids love music, whether it be to dance to, play to, sing to, etc.  It is fun and allows the children to express themselves without judgement.  Additionally, it helps with coordination, listening skills as well as allowing them to be silly and show a side of themselves that may not be seen very often as so many demands are always placed on them.  These classes allow them to say “free to be me.”

 

6. Sports

 

Whether it is soccer, baseball, basketball, hockey, etc. these sports give the child a time to show off perhaps their strong skills in a certain area.  There are many programs that allow children with physical and mental disabilities to play baseball in a non-competitive and supportive environment. There are soccer programs that use buddies to assist the players as needed.  There are also programs that give people with physical and developmental disabilities the chance to play ice hockey in an environment that is non threatening.  The environment is adapted to the individuals level and ability.

 

7. Swimming

 

Swimming lessons provides children with vital skills to help with survival.  Swimming is a great activity, especially for children with special needs as it allows them to have fun in a non-competitive environment.  Swimming is also a great activity because it lets the child feel as though they are “equal” to others in the water.  It is a great family activity as everyone can share in the day. 

Swimming consists of many benefits however some of the most important is that it boosts physical activity level, helps to develop self-confidence, build self-esteem and it teaches a life saving skill.  Each time a child kicks, it builds muscle tone and strength.  It also helps with balance, coordination and developing motor skills.  Swimming also helps with range of motion as being buoyant in the water reduces the restrictions on the body.  Learning to swim helps develop spatial awareness well.  Drowning is the one of the leading causes of death for children with autism.

 

8. Karate

 

The benefits are immeasurable in regards to enrolling your child within a martial arts school.  It teaches not only structure but discipline as well.  Martial arts provides a competition within the child not with others.  Other benefits include the consistency and repetition of learning the “moves.”  Additionally, it helps with and works on focus, concentration, balance, tone, awareness, self regulation, core strength, reduced anxiety and spatial awareness.

Depending on their level of ability, children will be able to  attempt many activities.  As their parent, you are the best judge, as you know your child best, as to what your child is capable of.  One of the most important things to remember is to have patience and always encourage your child to do as much as they can and to do it on their own.  There is a great amount of satisfaction that an individual gains with being able to complete tasks on their own.  Another important point is to always keep in mind that the level of ability should match the child.  

Do not place your child within an activity that far exceeds what they are able to accomplish at that particular point in time. 

 

This will only cause a great deal of anxiety, frustration, behavioral and mental anguish. 

That is not to say that you should not place your child within a level that is slightly higher than what they are used to.  You always want your child to be challenged, not frustrated.  Also, placing your child within a level slightly higher will allow them to benefit from modeling of the other children that are able to succeed.  These other children can help your child not only with the task at hand but can provide a great socialization piece that may last beyond the activity. 

Always be supportive! 

For children with visual impairments, tactile activities are a must!

 

The most important advice that I can offer youis - do your homework! 

 

For any activity that you decide to enroll your child in, ask a lot of questions.  Make a list so you don’t overlook anything.  Bring that list with you.  Also, I have never come across a program that did not allow the parents to come and visit one time to see exactly how it is run.  You should also request to meet the staff of the class that you will possibly enroll your child in so you can get a “feel” as how things will go.  Bring your child with you so they can meet the individuals that they will directly have contact with as well as become familiar with the surroundings so the first day will not be so intimidating.

Most importantly, have a wonderful summer!


Want more? Discover The Ultimate Guide To Advocating For Your Child, a complimentary email course for confused and overwhelmed parents.

Need immediate insight into your child's situation and how to address their current issues? Schedule your Open Opportunity Session for an expert analysis and strategic plan you can implement today.

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18 Must Have Therapeutic Toys for Children with Special Needs

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18 Must Have Therapeutic Toys for Children with Special Needs

Whether your child has been diagnosed on the autistic spectrum or with any other disability that impairs their learning and life skills, it is important to teach children skills at an early age.  Early Intervention is the key to raising a child with special needs. 

Regardless of a child’s ability level, practicing life skills now can best prepare them to be successful currently as well as moving forward throughout their life. Basic self-help skills, such as dressing, socializing, eating, and grooming are an essential part of daily life along with fine motor and gross motor skills. These skills should be taught at a young age so that children can continue to develop them through the years as they grow.

 

Fine motor skills allow children to perform actions using small muscles in the hands (like writing, tying shoelaces, holding and manipulating eating utensils), while strengthening hand-eye coordination and isolated finger movements.  Fine and gross motor development involve using both small and large muscles.

 

The following is an abbreviated list of items that not only will help children address their difficulties but will strengthen their weaknesses in order to master a specific skill.

Please note: the age-appropriateness for each toy is determined by the manufacturer. I've stated my suggested age range for reference here, but you should always default to the manufacturer's instructions.

 

Special Needs Toys: www.specialneedstoys.com

(images courtesy of Special Needs Toys)

They have a one-year guarantee on everything and ship all over the world. Their toys range from mobile multi-sensory to swings to trampolines and other sensory-integration kits as well as small sensory toys.

 

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Rainbow Numbers

Encourages Fine Motor and Writing Skill Development
ages 3 and up

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Musical Cuboid

Encourages and Inspires Creativity
all ages

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Scented Play Clay

Embraces 3 senses (sight, touch and smell)
ages 4 and up

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Magic Moves Electronic Wand

ages 3 and up

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Glitter Bead Sensory Ball (set of 3)

ages 4 and up

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Therapy Bead Pack

ages 3 and up

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Jeliku

builds fine motor skills
ages 3 and up

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Koala

helps to build a child’s balance
ages 5 and up


Therapy Shoppe: https://therapyshoppe.com

(images courtesy of Therapy Shoppe)

A great resource for all types of learning tools.  They have been in business for 24 years and they carry a wide array of items that include sensory integration products, educational toys, special needs for learning and much much more.

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Finger Poppers

ages 5 and up

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Bi-Color Teaching Shoelaces

ages 5 and up

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Dressing Vests

ages 3 and up

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The Art of Conversation Cards

ages 5 and up

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Kanoodle Visual Perception Game

ages 3 and up


Learning Resources: https://www.learningresources.com

(images courtesy of Learning Resources)

A global manufacturer of innovative, hands-on educational products. The company has 1100+ products that are sold in more than 80 countries.  These products  serve children and their families ages preschool through middle school.  Currently, Learning Resources  has 25% off with free shipping on $50 or more with code Hop2It.  They also have some great items on sale as well.

 

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Equivalency Set

ages 6 and up

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Smart Snacks Rainbow Color Cones

ages 2 and up

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Magnetic Money

ages 5 and up

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Super Sorting Pie

ages 3 and up

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Speaker’s Box

grade 1+

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Big Time Mini Clock

ages 5 and up

although these come in a set of 6, it allows you to leave one at perhaps a grandparent’s home, babysitters’s home etc.

 

Children with Special Needs have a wide range of skills and abilities, no two children are exactly alike. These listed items along with many others on the sites assist with the social interaction and communication skills, sensory processing problems, etc. that children are struggling with.

Kids have different learning styles and abilities, so it’s important to support their individual needs. 

The products you choose should help your child to learn at their own pace along with giving them the guidance to reach their fullest potential.


Want more? Discover The Ultimate Guide To Advocating For Your Child, a complimentary email course for confused and overwhelmed parents.

Need immediate insight into your child's situation and how to address their current issues? Schedule your Open Opportunity Session for an expert analysis and strategic plan you can implement today.


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How Do I Choose Classroom Placement For My Child?

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How Do I Choose Classroom Placement For My Child?

Once you have had your child seen by the pediatrician and pediatric neurologist and have a clear and concise diagnosis, your next step is to request a meeting with the CSE (Committee on Special Education) in order to have an IEP put in place so your child can learn within the best environment along with the proper support staff.

An integral part of the IEP is the correct classroom placement. 

Everyone learns differently and therefore one environment that may work for one child may not work for another.

Some families feel that their child should be mainstreamed, no matter what.  Some families feel as though an out of district placement would serve their child best.  The one thing that needs to be kept top of mind is what makes the most sense for YOUR child at this very moment in time.  Over time, this will change due to the progress that your child makes.  The only goal is for the child to be placed in an environment where they will learn, be successful, gain confidence, become independent, minimize anxiety, if any and most importantly to achieve their goals set before them.

 

The following are different options that as a family you need to look into and decide upon.

 

Self-contained Classroom

This option means that your child would be removed from the general school population for all academic subjects in order to allow them to work in a small setting that is controlled by a special education teacher.  Students that are placed in this type of setting may be at different levels of learning along with learning different curriculum with different textbooks.  This type of placement is appropriate for individuals who require structure, specific and set expectations along with daily routine.

 

Resource Room

This option would be for a student who needs to keep up with a specific grade level subject matter.  The Resource Room is equipped with a special education teacher who works with a small group of students with techniques that are targeted and specific to the special needs population.

 

Inclusion Class/ Mainstream

The child is placed in a regular education classroom with his/her peers who are his/her age.  This classroom has a regular education teacher along with a special education teacher whose purpose is to adjust the curriculum to your child’s needs.  A very strong positive to this placement is that it enables the child to stay in the classroom with his/her higher achieving peers.  This modeling affords the special needs child not only to be challenged but is in a great environment for learning and picking up social cues.  The negative that is associated with this placement is that the teacher would not be able to provide the intensive help that the child may need.

 

Out of District

This placement will put your child in a specialized school that will address his/her academic and/or behavioral needs.  As with everything there are positive and negatives to this placement.  The positive is that it provides the most structure, consistency and routine within your child’s day. 

For children with learning disabilities, these factors are the most important.  Being in an environment where these factors are absent would cause a great deal of anxiety and/or behavioral problems.  Children like to know “what comes next.”  Without this knowledge, although a child could succeed, the absence of this particular piece of their day could make their day counterproductive. 

On the flip side, the negative in regards to this placement is that the child is removed from interacting with regular education students.  The modeling that the regular education students could provide is priceless as sometimes this is all the child needs for his/her learning to become cohesive.  Additionally, school districts are not quick to provide this learning environment as it is extremely expensive.

 

As a parent, ask yourself these questions when it comes to the most effective placement for your child:

 

  1. Does your child have friends within the mainstream environment?  

  2. Is the mainstream environment helpful, not hurtful?

  3. What environment does your child learn best in?

  4. What environment would be the least or most productive for your child’s learning?

  5. Does your child need structure and routine? (If so, to what degree?)

  6. Does your child flourish when they are amongst different staff (regular and support) as well as different children?

  7. What areas does your child struggle with? (For example: if math is extremely frustrating and causing a great deal of stress, you may want to consider having your child go to Resource Room for that particular subject so they can receive more targeted assistance)

 

If your child is old enough to verbalize to you what struggles they are having in school and what they would like to be changed, then listen to them.  They are the ones that are going into the school building to spend a great deal of time on a daily basis.  You only want their experience to be a positive one.  

 

Please remember: when you decide on a placement, it can always be changed.

Nothing is set in stone.  However, as a parent you need to stay on top of things and monitor the situation.  Unfortunately, you need to police your child’s day to day to ensure that they are learning at their optimal level and the help that has been agreed upon during your CSE meeting is actually being implemented. 

I have always thought of each child and family that I have worked with as a part of a construction plan.  We all have a place and a purpose to help the child.  We want to build them up within every aspect of themselves.  Children are a work in progress and the goal is to be in awe as to the person they will  become from all aspects: academic, behavioral, emotional and social.  Although it seems very hard at times, maybe even impossible, your child is depending on you and YOU CAN do this.  Mistakes may be made along the way, but those mistakes can be fixed. 

Stay focused and your family will achieve what may seem to be the impossible!


Want more? Discover The Ultimate Guide To Advocating For Your Child, a complimentary email course for confused and overwhelmed parents.

Need immediate insight into your child's situation and how to address their current issues? Schedule your Open Opportunity Session for an expert analysis and strategic plan you can implement today.

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Why doesn’t my child respond to me?

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Why doesn’t my child respond to me?

In my new advice column, I'll be answering your questions about raising and advocating for a special needs child.

Q: Why doesn't my child respond to me?

 

In this particular situation, there are a few things that may be going on:

  1. The first thing I tell parents is to take the child to the pediatrician.  Communicate your concerns.
  2. After a visit to the pediatrician, make an appointment with an audiologist to check to see that there is not a problem with the child’s hearing.
  3. After testing the child, if the audiologist finds that there is no problem with the child’s hearing then your next step would be to take him/her to a pediatric neurologist.

Be aware:  Not all pediatric neurologist are the same and there are some very ineffective ones out there.  Additionally, based on the many stories from families that I have worked with, they have included that the pediatric neurologist is very quick to prescribe medication.  At this point in the process, medication should not even be brought up or considered.

  • Not making eye contact could be that the child hears you (hears the words) but is unable to process what you are saying.
  • The child may speak however their expressive language could be more mature than their receptive language and hence no eye contact when spoken to.
  • The pediatric neurologist, after testing has been completed should give you a diagnosis and explain what can be done to address this particular problem.  
  • If the pediatric neurologist does not find any problem from his area of expertise then perhaps the problem could be behavioral.

Behavioral problems can be addressed in several ways at home.  By using a rewards chart (you determine what that reward is).  Make sure that you make it clear to the child what they are working towards.  Unknowns for children with disabilities (especially) can cause a great deal of anxiety.  Using privileges (or taking them away) speaks to the child. Making an appointment with a Behavioral Therapist can also be used. 

Be aware: Although there are many individuals that work in the education/behavioral field and have the proper credentials, this DOES NOT mean that they are the consummate professional and most importantly know precisely what needs to be done and how to carry it out.


Have a question you want answered? Discover The Ultimate Guide To Advocating For Your Child, a complimentary email course for confused and overwhelmed parents. If you still have a question after the course, just let me know!

Need immediate insight into your child's situation and how to address their current issues? Schedule your Open Opportunity Session for an expert analysis and strategic plan you can implement today.

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School Tour: The Community School

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School Tour: The Community School

As an educational consultant and special needs advocate, I periodically visit special needs schools to tour in person because I only recommend schools to my clients that I have personally visited and vetted. This blog post series highlights the top special needs schools in the United States I’ve had the pleasure of visiting and gives an inside look at what makes them so great.

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School

The Community School

 

Location

Teaneck, New Jersey

 

About the School

The Community School, Lower School consists of children grades Kindergarten through the Eighth (8th) grade.  The school teaches their students how to learn with learning disabilities and attention issues which in turn encourages independence and confidence.

 

 

Ideal Students

Children with learning disabilities and attention issues. 

 

 

Programs

The Community School offers a departmentalized program.  The students do not stay in one room all day, but they do stay with the same group all day.  The school day is from 8:20 AM to 2:50 PM.  Students start the day in homeroom for 15 minutes where they get organized for the day.  The students have eight (8) forty (40) minute periods within the school day plus a forty (40) minute lunch.  The school day ends with a 15 minute block in homeroom where students organize their materials in preparation to go home.

 

Program Description - Group 1 (Grades  2, 3, and 4)

  • 15 periods per week of ELA - Students are grouped according to their instructional level.  The ELA programs are based on multi sensory methods.  Students that require more intensive reading instruction are offered the Wilson Reading System.  This system is taught by certified Wilson instructors either in individual or small group settings.  Vocabulary, spelling, punctuation and learning to write expanded sentences, paragraphs and book reports are taught using specialized methods, strategies and techniques.  This is performed in the Language Arts classes.  Assistive technology, including the Kurzweil program is offered as part of the program.
     
  • 5 periods per week of Math - Math is taught in small groups according to level, instructional needs and learning style.  The math program is based on a multi-sensory approach using manipulatives, if appropriate.  Problem solving and the language upon which math concepts and processes are based are introduced, defined and reviewed frequently along with reinforcement.  Technology and computer programs are included in the program when appropriate.
     
  • 3 periods per week of Social Studies - Grade appropriate Social Studies is taught in a group.  Students develop skills in note taking and research when appropriate.
     
  • 3 periods per week of Science - Science is a hands on subject, therefore students work on projects and experiments on grade appropriate topics.
     
  • 1 period per week - Class Meeting - Social Skills/Problem Solving are taught by the school counselor and/or certified teacher
     
  • 5 periods per week of Physical Education
     
  • 1 period per week of I.C.E. (Innovative Challenging Experiences) - this class focuses on balance, coordination and fitness.  These techniques are taught by the Physical Education staff
     
  • 1 period per week of visual motor - this includes practice with graphomotor and fine motor skills
     
  • 1 Health class per week
     
  • 1 Technology class per week - this class includes keyboarding skills and practice activities for word processing , PowerPoint presentations, graphic arts, multimedia, internet research and more
     
  • 2 Art classes per week

 

 

Program Description - Group 2, 3 and 4 (Grades 5, 6, 7 and 8)

  • 15 periods per week of ELA - Same as Group 1
     
  • 5 periods per week of Math - Same as Group 1
     
  • 5 periods per week of Social Studies - Same as Group 1.  Additionally, students also learn to develop/strengthen skills in note taking, test preparation and research, when appropriate
     
  • 3 periods per week of Science - Same as Group 1
     
  • 1 period per week - Class Meeting - Same as Group 1
     
  • 5 periods per week of Physical Education
     
  • 1 period per week of I.C.E. (Innovative Challenging Experiences) - Same as Group 1
     
  • 1 Health Class per week
     
  • 1 Technology class per week - Same as Group 1
     
  • Art classes - will vary
     
  • 1 Art class per week (groups 3 and 4)
     
  • 2 Art classes per week (group 2)
     
  • 2 periods per week of homeroom (groups 3 and 4)
  • 1 period per week of homeroom (group 2)

 

Assistive Technology, Smart Boards and individualized techniques and strategies are used throughout the curriculum as needed.  The Community School also offers Speech and Language Therapy as mandated on your child’s IEP.

 

 

My Experience

the-community-school

My meeting and tour was with Donna LaTour (Admissions - Lower School).  The children seemed happy within the classroom and the learning was a no pressure and a non-competitive environment.  The school was small enough to feel homey yet large enough to give the feeling of a public school building.  Transitioning was smooth and event free as the children knew what they needed to do and how to reach their goal.  The environment was very calm and quiet which assists with the learning process and therefore does not provide any distractions.

 

In addition to The Community School, there is the Community High School which houses grades 9-12.  In 2002, the Kaplen Family Field of Dreams. was added.  It is a recreational complex adjacent to the lower school and across from the high school.  The Field of Dreams is used for it’s baseball and soccer fields, jogging and walking track, fitness areas and stations, playground, tree and garden compounds, sitting areas, game tables, sculpture gardens, outdoor classrooms and picnic tables.  This area is used for the school’s physical education program, athletic programs, recreational groups, intramural athletics as well as for school events such as Field Day, assemblies, barbecues, carnivals and graduation.

 

I want to thank Donna LaTour for taking the time in order to show me around The Community School.  If you think that The Community School would be a good fit for your child, please feel free to contact them.  You can schedule a tour and speak with Donna directly. 

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Educators:  Are they in the industry for the paycheck and summer’s off OR Do they genuinely care about the special needs child?

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Educators: Are they in the industry for the paycheck and summer’s off OR Do they genuinely care about the special needs child?

I often ask myself this question even though I worked in the classroom for years prior to starting my own business as an educational consultant and special needs advocate.

This is the reason why I left teaching. I was tired of the politics and quite honestly the nonsense that was very prevalent within the school and even on a wider scale, the district.

Educators Actually Make Fun Of Your Child In Private

I can’t tell you how many times, I would take my lunch and sit in the teacher’s lounge during my break and walked out disgusted at the behavior that I witnessed. The staff would take this opportunity to talk about the students, make fun of them and just plain demean them. 

These are not people that care about the children.

This was not just in one school but in numerous ones as I initially worked as a substitute teacher and therefore allowed me to be in many schools in many districts. In my 24 years experience, 18 of those working for myself, I am disgusted each and every time I see how the children with special needs are treated and looked upon by the very people who are supposed to be in place to help them.

They All Say The Same Things To Placate You

How many times have you heard from your child’s school, more specifically their teachers: “Your child is a pleasure” or “Your child is doing so well” or “Your child is progressing nicely.” These statements from “educators” run rampid. They are meant to placate you, as the parent. In speaking with teachers, administrators, therapists, aides, etc. I hear the same exact verbage. 

It seems as though they have all been given a script to follow.

When you ask your child’s teacher questions, do you get a straight answer or do they “sugar coat” a response?

When you ask your child about a particular subject and what they learned, are they are able to answer correctly or at all, after you were told that they are progressing nicely and doing so well? 

Are you being told that your child has no socialization issues but the way your child acts outside of school would denote anything but? 

Are you told that your child does not have any behavior issues at school, but the reality is they do but will not admit it because it would shed light on the fact that the staff can’t handle your child which would be a direct admission of quite frankly, them being inept. Perhaps the staff has not been trained, perhaps after training they still don’t get it or perhaps they just don’t care OR it is a combination of them all.

They Don't Care.. At All

When it comes to teaching the special needs child, educators are overwhelmed. There are not enough hours in the day to focus on each child and their particular needs. Additionally, because districts do not want to pay, schools are short staffed and therefore many times the child is not receiving the support services that they are legally entitled to (per their IEP/504 Plan) or the individuals administering the services are not qualified and do a sub par job, at best.

Unfortunately, in order to help a special needs child properly, all of the pieces need to fit correctly. I have always thought of this process as a puzzle. There are many pieces that are required for a particular child. Each piece needs to be addressed separately first. 

Once this is done then each piece needs to be looked at as to how it fits in with all of the other pieces in order to yield a cohesive finished product. 

Unfortunately, when you work with many different individuals, not all of them are on the same level as to education, qualifications and just downright an attitude of engagement in order to make a difference for your child. 

Again, in my opinion and experience (this is what I have seen first hand) most educators look at the special needs child as a nuisance. One that is causing them to do more work and where there is an accountability factor. Everyone pushes the responsibility on the other and ultimately the situation becomes, as I compare it to, a dog chasing it’s tail. In this scenario, which is all too common, nothing gets done. 

The child is not receiving the help at the level and intensity that they should and therefore any progress, if at all, is slow and lackluster.

You Know Your Child Best... They Don't (no matter what their credentials say!)

It is very easy for school staff to sit at a conference table and tell you, the parent, what their opinion is. Quite frankly, if the information that you were being told was coming from a credible source who genuinely was invested in your child, then I would say that they would be worth listening to.

However, the bottom line is as parent, you know your child best and for some stranger to tell you what to do, how to do it, when to do is quite infuriating and crosses the line of being disrespectful towards you, your family and more specifically your child. 

Educators look at themselves as what they say is the gospel when in reality, they are blowing smoke in the wind. 

Educators look at each child and the assistance that they need as a “cookie cutter” industry. 

As you well know, each child is an individual and should be looked at and addressed that way.

Yes, each child may have an IEP or 504 Plan but is it followed and are the services administered, as the law states within these documents? 

Unfortunately, educators are lazy and don’t want to do their job, therefore it is easier for them and detrimental to your child when they look at your child within a group versus as a “special individual” with specific needs.

Evaluate Everyone.. Trust Few

My experience has brought me to the realization that a very small percentage of educators nowadays actually love their job and care about the kids. 

Very few individuals, nowadays, decided to enter into the educational realm for the pure love of helping the children. It is not just about helping the special needs children on a short term basis, but teaching them and providing the skills that they need to become a productive member of society.

When looking at a special needs child, everything should be looked at for the long term.  All of us can and should be productive members of society. 

We all are special in our own way with our own disabilities and an educator needs to find and tap into that special component of each child. Their job is to nurture and to help, not to dismiss who these children are, no matter what their difficulties are.

As I have said to parents many times in regards to their children: “You should not try to fit in when you were born to shine.” Everyone deserves the same chance to shine. No one has the right to take that away!


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School Tour: The Westfield Day School

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School Tour: The Westfield Day School

As an educational consultant and special needs advocate, I periodically visit special needs schools to tour in person because I only recommend schools to my clients that I have personally visited and vetted. This blog post series highlights the top special needs schools in the United States I’ve had the pleasure of visiting and gives an inside look at what makes them so great.

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School

The Westfield Day School

 

Location

Armonk, New York

 

About the School

The Westfield Day School is a therapeutic school for the underachieving student.  The school and staff is dedicated to helping students overcome difficulties and personal issues.  This is done through designed programs that are carefully created for individual achievement.  
 

The Westfield Day School was formerly located in Rye, NY which is located in Westchester County.  Presently, they are located in Armonk, NY where they have been for a little over a year.  The location is new for them as well as the building.  The school has all state of the art technology with a perfect layout that is conducive for the students to move through the building seamlessly.  The students currently attending are from Westchester County, Rockland County and Connecticut.  The new location of the school, although in New York, is very close to the Connecticut border.
 

 Westfield Day School's welcoming reception desk. Photo by Ilene B. Miller

Westfield Day School's welcoming reception desk. Photo by Ilene B. Miller

Westfield is a co-educational school for grades 7 through 12 with traditional school subjects and a standard curriculum.  The school offers rolling admissions so students can enroll any time during the year.

The Westfield Day School is based on 3 Principles:

  • An integrated support experience
  • A corrective learning environment
  • A comprehensive approach

The school’s approach is psycho-educational and supportive.  This includes individual and group therapy along with specialized instruction.

Westfield enables students to experience what is called a “corrective emotional experience.” This allows for the students to have the opportunity to handle school life under more “favorable circumstances.”

 Lauretta Haugh, Special Education teacher. Photo by Ilene B. Miller

Lauretta Haugh, Special Education teacher. Photo by Ilene B. Miller

 Julie Suchman, History teacher. Photo by Ilene B. Miller

Julie Suchman, History teacher. Photo by Ilene B. Miller

Classes are small with no more than 5 students per teacher. 
 

Staff and faculty create an atmosphere of acceptance and encouragement.  This helps keep students focused on their work, fosters personal growth, social development as well as encourages self-discipline.
 

A curriculum is developed that is based on the student’s application, prior evaluations and/or consultations with mental health professionals that have had an integral part of being involved with the child.  The curriculum developed includes a learning and therapeutic strategy.  All of this pertinent information is gathered in order to provide the Comprehensive Educational Plan.  This plan addresses each student’s psychological, educational or behavioral objectives, goals and needs.

 Foreign language classroom. Photo by Ilene B. Miller

Foreign language classroom. Photo by Ilene B. Miller

 

Ideal Students

The “typical” student who attends Westfield have the following difficulties:

  • Underachievement even though the student is intelligent
  • AD/HD
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Social emotional problems
  • Additional Special Education classifications

 

Westfield starts later in the morning (9:30 AM) in order to allow students to begin their day at their best instead of very early when they may not be as productive.

 

In addition to students working on projects, attending seminar style classes, participating in gym and the Creative Arts program, they attend regularly scheduled group counseling sessions and individual meetings with the school therapist.

 A quiet reading room for students. Photo by Ilene B. Miller

A quiet reading room for students. Photo by Ilene B. Miller

 

Programs

The core courses that Westfield offers include:

  • English
  • Global History, US History
  • Government, Economics, Psychology
  • Biology, Chemistry, Physics
  • Algebra, Geometry, Pre-Calculus
  • Health, Physical Education
  • Spanish, French
  • Art, Music

 

The Interim Placement Program

Westfield offers an intensive program for students who are unable to remain in their current school during the academic year for various reasons.  The IPP (Interim Placement Program) can accept students at any time during the the school year for a minimum of 2 weeks.  Possible reasons for a student to attend could include needing a medical leave of absence, need an extended break from the private of public school they are currently attending or are in need of mental health or psycho-educational evaluations.  Once the student is accepted, they can continue their regular study toward their degree until they are ready to return to their original placement.

 

The Summer Program

This program is offered in the same way as the regular program, however it is for 3 - 1/2 days per week.  The summer program runs for 6 weeks.

For those students who need to maintain academic consistency throughout the summer, Westfield offers enrichment classes in language arts, creative arts, health and fitness.

The classes included are:

  • Academic remediation/enrichment
  • Regents review and preparation
  • SAT tutorial
  • Creative Arts Program
  • Westfield Book Club
  • Fitness series
  • High school preparation for middle school students
  • Young Writer’s Workshop

 

 A social studies classroom. Photo by Ilene B. Miller

A social studies classroom. Photo by Ilene B. Miller

Some common questions that are asked:

 Westfield Day School's lunch room. Photo by Ilene B. Miller

Westfield Day School's lunch room. Photo by Ilene B. Miller

Will my child be able to meet the New York State Regents Exam requirements?  

Yes.  A regents exam preparation track is available for all students, who may take the state exams at Westfield.

SAT’s?

Westfield offers SAT preparation by qualified instructors, and the ETS (Educational Testing Service) has also approved Westfield as a testing site.

Is Westfield approved by the State?

The Westfield Day School is part of the New York State educational system.

How long do students stay at Westfield?

It varies.  Students may stay for a brief period, to finish an academic semester or as long as needed in order to graduate.

 

 A quiet hallway. Photo by Ilene B. Miller

A quiet hallway. Photo by Ilene B. Miller


My Experience

I had the pleasure of meeting with the Academic Director, Pamela Heldman, who was kind enough to open the doors of The Westfield Day School in order to give me a tour of the school and educate me on what the school offers. 

The tour was not only informative but extremely comprehensive.  From walking through their doors and meeting the receptionist to meeting some of the children and staff, the environment is one of relaxation, non-judgmental, helpful and truly one of success.  EVERYONE that works at Westfield is totally engaged in the curriculum and most importantly with the students.  Each and everyone wants and strives for the children to succeed at their highest level possible. 

The staff have invested themselves and treat the children like they are their own and works tirelessly to help, teach, mentor and listen. 

Pamela was absolutely fantastic.  She explained everything in extreme detail and opened up the whole school to me in order to take photos and converse with multiple individuals. 

 Harlee, the school's therapy dog. Photo by Ilene B. Miller

Harlee, the school's therapy dog. Photo by Ilene B. Miller

A great addition to the school is Harlee, the therapy dog.  She is the sweetest little dog who brings a smile to your face from the moment you see her.  Harlee followed Pamela and myself around the whole time I was there for the tour and as you can see from the picture I took of her, she is a real ham!  She loves the camera.

 The conference room. Photo by Ilene B. Miller

The conference room. Photo by Ilene B. Miller

 A colorful classroom. Photo by Ilene B. Miller

A colorful classroom. Photo by Ilene B. Miller

 

If your child fits into any of the categories in regards to the population that Westfield addresses, please feel free to contact Pamela for a tour.  It will be well worth your time.  I was very impressed with this school and all that it has to offer the students presently enrolled as well as any students that enroll in the future.  Time touring this school will be time well spent.  

 Westfield Day School. Photo by Ilene B. Miller

Westfield Day School. Photo by Ilene B. Miller

I would like to again personally thank Pamela for all of the time she spent with me.  My visit was nothing short of fantastic. 

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  School Tour: The Harbor School

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School Tour: The Harbor School

As an educational consultant and special needs advocate, I periodically visit special needs schools to tour in person because I only recommend schools to my clients that I have personally visited and vetted. This blog post series highlights the top special needs schools in the United States I’ve had the pleasure of visiting and gives an inside look at what makes them so great.

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School

The Harbor School

 

Location

Eatontown, New Jersey
 

About The School

Harbor School is dedicated to providing a nurturing environment for students with a wide range of physical and academic challenges.  The programs that they have provide support in different areas.  These areas include social, life skills, transition as well as a wide range of therapy services.  The therapy services are Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, ST Counseling as well as BCBA.  Additionally, the school uses a variety of technology tools in order to serve the students.
 

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Programs

The academic programs at Harbor School include:

  • Literacy and Reading: An individualized approach is the way they work with the kids.  The school maintains the integrity of the New Jersey Learning Standards.
     
  • Language Arts: The curriculum is catered to the individual need of the student, therefore no two curricula are the same.  All the students  are exposed to a wide variety of language arts material.  The school is aligned to the Common Core Standards.
     
  • Handwriting: All students are encouraged to write and participate using the most appropriate model that fits their needs.
     
  • Math: All students partake in functional skills math.  Once again, an individualized plan is based on the need of each student.  This part of the curriculum is also followed by the New Jersey Learning Standards.
     
  • Social Studies: This part of the curriculum at Harbor not only teaches history but functional life skills as well.  Students are encouraged to go out to the community in order to put into practice what they have learned in the classroom.
     
  • World Language: Harbor teaches a variety of cultures.  They implement a whole school approach using Core words.  They also use the iPad, verbal speech as well as American Sign Language.
     
  • Science: A variety of topics are taught.  These topics are in accordance with the Next Generation Science Standards.  Science is approached using multi modes as it encourages students to use a hands on approach in order for them to learn at their highest potential.
     
  • Computers: Harbor uses a variety of computer based learning including Vizzle, Brain Pop as well as Learn 360, just to name a few.  Additionally, the students use tablets, iPads and other communication devices that allow for them to interact with their peers, family and staff while they are in school as well as when they are at home.
     
  • Health: The health curriculum is based on the age group as well as the individual needs.  The curriculum is developed in conjunction with their adaptive physical education program.  The program focuses on hygiene, healthy eating, advocating for yourself as well as requesting appropriate medical assistance.

Certified teachers are assisted by trained paraprofessionals who provide individualized as well as small group instruction within a small class setting.

 

Ideal Students

Challenging students who need to have their academic, functional, social, behavioral and transitional needs met.

 

 Occupational therapy room

Occupational therapy room

My Experience

I was lucky enough to meet Anne Gunteski, Principal of Harbor School.  From the moment that I met with her, the love of the children and why she is at Harbor came shining through.  During our extensive tour, she acknowledged each and every child that we passed in the hallways as well as met in the classrooms.  She knew every child like the back of her hand.  The children felt comfortable in their surroundings, whether it was talking to Anne, learning in the classroom with their teacher or partaking in a special class like art or music.

Harbor School is a welcoming environment for any child whose needs fit their particular curriculum.  The children are very comfortable and happy with the environment that Harbor provides.  The learning skills that they are able to perfect while being at Harbor allows for them to carry forward once they graduate and therefore to become a productive member of society.

Harbor School is definitely a school that shines above in regards to what they provide academically as well as socially.

 

 

 

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