Who Should Be At An IEP Meeting?

This video tells parents who has to be at an IEP meeting. They also go over other possible attendees for the meeting. They tell you who each person is and why they would be included.

Running time: 4 minutes, 53 seconds

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6 Tips of what NOT to do in the IEP process

Here are 6 Tips of what NOT to do in the IEP process from Carol Shrand. Carol is from just outside Boston, Massascheusetts, and the mom to Jason Shrand who is now a university student. She has supported her son throughout his educational career to ensure that he got what he needed as child with Aspergers. In a recent interview she gave me 6 great tips on the IEP process:

1. Don’t be afraid to ask around – When filling in the IEP paperwork you need to take it seriously ands also acknowledge that you won’t know it all. Carol suggests attending local government workshops on completing IEP’s (if they run in your area). Also consult other professionals involved in your child’s care, for example a therapist, for their input on particular sections of the document.

2. Don’t miss the key part of the document – Out of the whole IEP document the “service delivery” section is the most important, and the part that the school will take most notice of (so you should too). This is the “who, what, where, when section” that outlines exactly what is going to be done – and who is responsible for it.

3. Don’t sign at the meeting – Carol suggests strongly that parents don’t sign the IEP at the end of the meeting, when they are asked to do so. Instead take it away – and get chance to think about it, and take other advice if needed. You are well within your rights to do this – so don’t be rushed!

4. Don’t be short of ideas – One thing that Carol did to prepare for IEP meetings was look in various places for ideas. She would visit other schools, talk to parents, attend work shops, and meet with professionals in order to get an idea of what may be helpful for her son. So if a school in the next town had after school social skills clubs, she would point this out and ask that Jason have such access in his school.

5. Don’t get caught up in the emotion – It is important to try to de-escalate the emotion in an IEP meeting. You want the best for your child, and the education department are often constrained by budgets and resources. Unless you are very unfortunate, this is nothing personal against you and your child, just a fact of life. So try to see the meeting from their viewpoint as well, to keep things more logical and less emotional. Try to keep it focussed on a positive dialogue about what everyone can be doing to help your child. And try to emphasise how services would help other children at the school, and not just your own child.

6. Don’t be in a hurry to give up your IEP – If the school or local education department suggests that your son no longer needs an IEP be cautious. The framework and legality of the IEP makes it a powerful weapon in ensuring your child’s educational needs are met, without you may find it more difficult.

You can hear much more from Carol Shrand in my upcoming expert interview series.

Thanks for reading,

Dave Angel

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How do I get school to accept my son with Aspergers educational needs and his emotional and sensory needs?

Aspergers Syndrome is a very complex condition. Each child with Asperger’s has his own complicated condition. Children with Asperger’s are very intelligent and many have areas of educational talent. For instance, a child may have great difficulty learning to read while being extremely advanced in mathematics. Uneven skills accompanied by high intelligence cause some teachers to doubt medical diagnoses as the reason for school problems.

Public school educators are trained to educate typical children unless they have completed a concentration in special education. Because of this, it is unfair to expect all teachers to understand all of the various developmental and neurological issues that can occur within the classroom roll.

There is a great need for Asperger’s Syndrome education among the public as well as public school educators. More importantly, there is a need for your son’s school to be educated about how Asperger’s specifically affects your son at school.

Here are some tips to aid in this education.

* Local Autism support group printed information-Provide information about Asperger’s Syndrome and the symptoms it causes. Use information that is direct and to-the-point. Highlight the areas in which your son has weakness. Also, highlight his strengths.

* Medical records: Neurological testing, proof of physical health, psychological testing, and any medications used (and why) are important facts that the school should consider. Have your son’s doctors write letters explaining any physical or emotional problems for which he is treated and how they may affect him at school.

* Occupational therapy evaluations-These documents will contain your son’s sensory diet, which is what he needs to combat sensory issues on a daily basis.

* Physical therapy evaluations-These documents will contain information on physical issues you son needs to work on and how the deficits will affect his school day.

* Speech/Language therapy evaluations-Speech therapy is so much more than articulation. These documents will contain a plan that tackles language processing issues and social skills needs, in addition to many other possible issues.

Your son’s educational team will perform educational evaluations that may or may not agree with your evaluations. As your son’s advocate, you must follow the necessary legal steps to ensure his educational success. His individual education plan or IEP should address every issue that causes problems at school, whether they are educational or emotional. It is up to you to decide what is best for him and how far you are willing to go to make sure the issues are addressed at school.

Thanks for reading,

Dave Angel

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The Story Of Adam, Aspergers and College

Today I want to tell you the story of Adam (not his real name!) who was a seventeen year old lad with Aspergers that I used to work with a few years back; and his problems at college.

Adam lived at home with his parents and older brother in a small town.

He had a very keen interest in snakes and what he didn’t know about snakes probably wasn’t worth knowing!

He had done OK at school and was now at the local college for 16-18 year olds, where he was doing a vocational course about animals and enjoying it pretty well (although it wasn’t quite “snake focussed” enough for his liking!)

The college were doing such a good job that he was even joining in after school sports activities like 5 a side soccer (and this kind of physical activity was pretty much unknown of in his school years).

But unfortunately this seemingly positive activity quickly turned into a big problem for Adam and threatened his entire future at the college…

You see the college had been working well with a basic plan to meet his needs; part of which was that if he was feeling distressed and likely to get upset he was to show a yellow card to the teacher.

The teacher would then automatically allow him to go off to a designated “quiet spot” to calm down for a few minutes, before beginning to engage him back into the activity again.

This had worked well in lessons when it was needed… But no-one had told the physical education instructor.

So Adam was taking part in the 5-a-side soccer game when a young man on the opposing team deliberately handled the ball (which is against the rules).

Adam was outraged and stopped playing immediately waiting for the referee (the physical education instructor) to stop the game and award a free kick to Adam’s team.

But play continued which further exasperated Adam. So he grabbed the ball and kicked it way off the pitch and showed the teacher his yellow card.

The teacher then got very close to Adam and started to verbally berate him and went to grab him as Adam walked off to his “designated quiet spot”.

WRONG MOVE….!

Adam turned around and head butted the teacher in the face – and then Adam was quickly restrained by the teacher and two of his colleagues.

This then led to Adam being suspended from school for 2 days and being brought with his parents to see the college principal.

Which you can imagine caused a great deal of problems for Adam and his family, and Adam took some persuading to actually return to the college at all.

And the worst thing was that it could all have been SO EASILY avoided.

If the physical education instructor had just followed the guidance, instead of thinking that “I know best”.

Sadly this is by no means a unique story; and I’m sure you can think of similar frustrating situations that have happened in your own child’s schooling.

And this story also just emphasizes the need for parents to take a proactive approach when it comes to ensuring that the school (and ALL the staff who may interact with your child) are on board with the plan.

But because if you don’t keep pushing your own child’s agenda in the school – it’s unlikely anyone else is going to do it.

Thanks for reading,

Dave Angel

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The Key Aspergers Syndrome and Education Issues that Parents Need to Know

Whether the choice is public school, homeschooling, or a specialized Aspergers education center, you will find that there will always be circumstances and incidents that the parents must manage. A positive outlook and a little effort can go a long way in developing well-adjusted and well-rounded children with Autism. Here are a few things parents need to know about Aspergers and education.

  • Know the child’s learning style and ability. Many children with ASD are natural learners when education is presented with their interests in mind. Other children struggle with every aspect of learning. This must be taken into account when choosing the educational setting.
  • Know that success means learning to incorporate the child’s therapy and academic goals in natural settings outside of the educational environment. Fifteen minutes of group speech therapy, twice a week will help, but the child will come much closer to meeting those goals if the parents practice at home. Ten minutes while dinner is cooking or ten minutes during bath time can make a huge difference. Keep physical therapy goals in mind during outside play and kick or throw the ball a few times, walk up and down the stairs, or practice walking on a line in the sidewalk. These ideas are simple, yet highly effective for children with Autism.
  • Know the child is in good health. For children with Aspergers, education can be cut short by poor health. Children on the Autism spectrum tend to eat and sleep poorly. Vitamin supplements and the healthiest food choices possible are important. Talk to the child’s doctor about Melatonin as a sleep aid if necessary. Regular doctor and dental appointments are necessary for children with ASD.
  • Know the child’s social ability. Children with Autism are usually very introverted. They come across as shy or even aloof. Since social situations are difficult, they can easily force isolation, becoming depressed and anxious. Parents can gently ease the child into appropriate social situations. A trip to the library or zoo can easily lead to social interaction with the guidance of a willing parent. Recreation league sports are usually not as competitive as school sports and offer exercise, fun, and chances to make friends.

Parents must be aware of all areas of development in children with Aspergers. Education and learning opportunities are not limited to school hours. Working with the child’s strengths and weaknesses at school and at home will increase the child’s chances of growth in physical, social, and academic ability.

Thanks for reading,

Dave Angel

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Aspergers Syndrome and Education-What are the Options for my Child?

Parents faced with finding the best educational setting for a child with Autism are discovering a wide range of options thanks to the demand for such. For children with Aspergers, education involves much more than academics. The very structure of the learning situation must be a match to the student’s particular strengths and weaknesses. In addition, therapy needs must also be addressed. Here are the most common options parents of children with Autism have for education.

  • Public schools are obligated to provide a free and appropriate education for all student s within their enrollment. The goal is education in the least restrictive environment for all students, meaning more chances for peer interaction. Students with Autism will most likely have IEP contracts. They may be mainstreamed in classes called inclusion classrooms. They may be in regular classrooms for some subjects and pulled out to a resource classroom for others. In more severe cases, students may spend most of the day in a special education or resource classroom. Individualization determines the best approach.
  • Autism focus schools are popping up as the cases of ASD multiply. These schools require students to have an official Autism diagnosis before enrollment. The child’s academic program is planned with his strengths and weaknesses in mind, allowing time for the assortment of therapies common in the treatment of Autism.
  • Residential/boarding schools for children with Autism are especially helpful for older children and teens with Autism or Aspergers. Education includes academics, therapies, and basic living skills. The students are encouraged to pursue on campus extracurricular activities and social training opportunities. The goal is the child’s future independence.
  • Homeschooling is gaining ground as a popular choice of education for typical and special needs children. Parents become teachers, therapists, coaches, and mentors for their children. You cannot beat the one-on-one attention and instruction a parent is able to give a child with Autism. Homeschooled students may learn in a strictly scheduled environment, eclectic style focused on the child’s interests, or completely child-directed, delight learning sometimes called unschooling. Of course, students with ASD usually thrive in an organized environment on a set schedule.

In many cases of children with Autism or Aspergers, education via the local public school special education department is by far the most popular choice at this point. Parents must search locally for the best possible option for their child with Aspergers.

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6 Key Tips For The Child with Aspergers In The IEP Process

Mary Romainec has a pretty unique way of negotiating the IEP process for children with Aspergers and Autism. She has been through the process with her own son and her own perspective was in part formed by her employment history. That’s because Mary has worked in business for many years as a buyer for a large company.  So she views the whole process of the IEP as a business negotiation and she’s had some pretty impressive results from taking this point of view.

Firstly she discovered that the school district representatives, whilst generally supportive of her son, were not actually the best people to advocate on his behalf. When it came to “The Company” (Mary’s son) the best negotiator was Mary herself (whom she described as being the CEO of her son’s company). Because in actual fact the school district had to consider its own needs in the negotiation (which relate to funding, finance and the like) and it’s clear that they are not exactly the same as Mary’s sons needs.

So with that in mind Mary feels that it is really important to treat the IEP meeting as you would a business process such as a meeting or negotiation. And here are 6 key tips for doing this:

1. Don’t bring donuts and coffee – Mary has known parents to take this homely approach in an attempt to keep the process “all friendly”. But this is not appropriate in the IEP arena – the aim is to be firm and polite, but making friends is not the point of the exercise. So don’t try to make friends it’s not necessary, and can be counter productive.

2. Leave emotion at the door – Without doubt the IEP process is hugely emotional for parents, as is the raising of all children. They are OUR child and of course it is driven by emotion. However this emotion needs to be “turned off” at the door when entering the meeting. So that negotiations can be open but matter of fact.

3. Be prepared – This means doing your “homework” on what your child needs and what you want from the IEP. It can also mean talking with outside professionals for help. For example Mary paid for a 20 minute session with a local Special Educational Needs attorney who was able to advice her on the  IEP proposals she had been sent by her son’s school. It also means talking with the school ahead of the meeting – to get their findings and reports (as often this is just left until the meeting).

4. Dress to impress – As you want to be taken seriously in a professional meeting it’s important to not just turn up in dirty t-shirt, ripped clothing etc. It is important to project an air of professionalism.

5. Be forceful and not aggressive – Mary was clear that she is always very clear, firm and consistent in what she is asking for, and what she’ll agree to. However personal name calling and verbally aggressive outbursts can undermine parents and what they are trying to achieve.

6. Make the school district aware – Another really interesting tip that Mary shared with me was that she wrote 9 letters over the course of 3 weeks notifying the school district what her son’s needs were. She advocates physical letter writing as a great way to get noticed and also for the audit trail it leaves. Verbal conversations and meetings do not have a clear audit trail and can be misinterpreted or even denied. And you want a very clear of trail of communication about your child.

I hope these 6 tips were really helpful. You can find out more about Mary at her website www.maryromaniec.com As well as in my upcoming interview series (more on that soon).

Thanks

Dave Angel

P.S. Please add your comments and questions below this article.

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How should I help my son with Aspergers who I suspect is victim to bullying at school, but school officials are not saying too much about it?

As a child with Aspergers Syndrome, your child is very susceptible to bullying by others.  Being just a little different can be devastating in the school setting.  Your son is an intelligent person, but those struggles with sensory issues and social skills make him stand out.  The other kids do not understand what this means, so they take advantage.

Fortunately, most school systems have strong anti-bullying policies.  Unfortunately, these policies are difficult to enforce.  In your case, you suspect the bullying and the school is taking the common neutral stance. In some instances, teachers and coaches tolerate bullying, even with these policies in place. Therefore, sometimes the people, who could lend validity to your claim-teachers, students, and your son-are unwilling to admit what’s happening or that they have allowed the bullying.

Even so, you should step in and voice your concerns.  The way you handle things can with your son’s school officials will determine the results.  Here are five tips to get you started.

1. Request a meeting with your son’s teachers to discuss the matter at hand.  You have placed your son’s education in the hands of these people.  You must trust that they will bring professionalism and care to the table, as you will.

2. Make your concerns known in writing.  Follow up your meeting with a letter so you have tangible proof of the meeting and the results.  Better yet, make the meeting an official IEP meeting.

3. Keep a calm demeanor and a team mindset.  State your cause of distress without anger or accusation.  You all have one thing in common-the education and best interests of your child.

4. State your reasons for believing there is a problem.  Your son’s physical and/or emotional symptoms will give you insight on what is happening at school.  His teachers should be made aware of the effects.

5. Never give up; never surrender!  If you feel these steps have been unsuccessful, move up to the next tier of control.  Do not stop until you feel the matter has been handled properly.  You can do this without malice or ill will and you can involve local law enforcement if necessary.

A big part of parenting a child with Asperger’s Syndrome is advocacy.  Bullying negatively affects your son and your family.  You must be the advocate your son needs to guarantee his personal safety.

Thanks for reading,

Dave Angel

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How To Help Your Child with Aspergers Out of The Special Interest Trap

I recently interviewed Joan Nash (a School Psychologist and creator of a number of social skills games) on a whole host of topics relating to the education of children with Aspergers. One topic that really stuck out to me was Joan’s view on children’s special interests and how to successfully work with them. Now the title of this article is “How To Help Your Child Out of The “Special Interest” Trap” and I just want to clarify this, as it may sound negative to some. Now special interests can be hugely useful for children as a source of pride, achievement and the foundation for future success in education and employment. But (and there’s always a but…) it can actually stop children from ever successfully managing to gain meaningful friendships if not negotiated carefully – hence the “trap”.

Now in Joan’s experiences when children with Aspergers have special interests that they continually talk about; this is often a source of comfort too them. They are often afraid to talk about new topics as they know little about them and so are fearful of getting it ”wrong”. So instead of taking a risk the child will “play safe” and discuss their own special interest again and again. Joan gave me a great example of a boy who was really into dinosaurs – so that he would spent most of his time chasing the other kids around and roaring at them like a dinosaur. And as you can imagine that did not help him to build many friendships!

So Joan took several steps to help him. She worked with him on games that involved him talking and discussing new topics with others. The particular game “Let’s Talk” (seewww.childrensucceed.com)  involved picking cards that determine the type of topic, and how many points the child had to discuss on the topic. This helped to make him realise that it was OK and safe to discuss other topics outside of the strong knowledge area of dinosaurs.

The other thing that Joan did was to pair him up with another boy in his class to give a talk to the 5/6 year old class in school about dinosaurs. The main knowledge and teaching was done by the boy with the dinosaur interest, and the other boy was his assistant. The talk went really well and the boy with the dinosaur knowledge did a great job. He felt really positive and happy about the experience. This really helped to empower him in the school environment, and to be seen in this new positive light.

The upshot was that the dinosaur chasing and noises began to reduce significantly and then virtually stopped. Joan asked the boy about this and he told her “I still think about dinosaurs at home but I don’t need have to talk about them at school now because I feel safe enough talking about other subjects too”.

And Joan said that the boy was then more of a “risk taker” when it came to conversations (i.e. exploring topics he was not 100% comfortable with) which makes him much more likely to strike friendships through conversation. In fact she said that the boy was sat with another quite sporty boy who said he’d been playing baseball at the weekend. In an attempt to join in and take that “risk” the boy who liked dinosaurs said “how many goals did you get playing baseball this weekend?” So he clearly didn’t have the knowledge of the topic to know that baseball doesn’t have goals, but took the risk of talking about it anyway. And Joan said that the other boy mater of factly just expolained that baseball has runs and they continued the conversation. Which was another interesting point – that Joan said other children can be very empathic and understanding of other kids with Aspergers, so peers can become great “teachers” in themselves.

I really enjoyed these insights from Joan and you can find out more about her work and her games at www.childrensucceed.com And more great insights form her in my new interviews series (coming soon…)

Thanks for reading,

Dave Angel

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Five Things You Need to Know about Aspergers Syndrome and Education

For parents of children with Aspergers, education can be a difficult puzzle to resolve. At times, it may seem that there are too many pieces to the puzzle, at other times; it may seem as if vital pieces are missing. It is important for parents to investigate and make informed decisions when it comes to the child’s education. Here are five things every parent of children with Aspergers must know about Asperger’s Syndrome and education.

* Every child has unique strengths and weaknesses when it comes to academics. Children on the Autism spectrum vary widely in academic ability. Delays in all areas of academics can be common in children with Autism. For the child with Aspergers, education may come easy throughout all areas of academics. Involved parents will know their child’s strengths and weaknesses.

* Academics are a major component of education. However, parents must realize that education is much more than academics. A child’s physical abilities, such as gross motor skills, can definitely affect learning. Fine motor skills are necessary for skills like writing, as well as self-help, such as buttons, zippers, and eating utensils. A child’s social abilities are equally important. Behavioral therapy and social skills training, for example, are areas that must be addressed along with academics.

* Understanding the IEP process is crucial. Most Autism or state disability organizations offer training workshops for parents of children with Aspergers. Education plans can be very effective when parents and teachers work together to develop appropriate IEP goals.

* Learn about the different types of educational settings available in your area for children with ASD. As the need for Aspergers education choices grow, it is getting easier to find special schools, residential schools, and Autism centered special education programs in public school. Locating the educational setting that is best for your child can make a huge difference.

* Parents must realize that they share educational responsibility with their child’s school. Often, parents expect the school to pick up all of the child’s therapy and educational assistance needs. In truth, the school system cannot possibly offer the maximum for each child. Teachers and school therapists are overloaded. Parents of children with ASD can help by working on therapy goals at home and by obtaining private therapy.

Informed and involved parents can make education a pleasant and successful experience. Working as a team for the child is optimal when Autism present. Being proactive in these five areas will help parents complete the Aspergers education puzzle for their child.

Thanks for reading,

Dave Angel

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