You walk into a room with an entire staff looking at you. They go around the room stating their name, title, and expect you to feel welcome. I don't know about you, but sometimes I feel as if I'm on trial and they are a slew of attorneys. It's slightly intimidating. They ask you to offer information about your child, ask you questions and expect you to have the answer fairly quickly. Someone is usually typing the entire conversation. Sometimes, later to find out they misinterpreted what you said. They also ask everyone to put in their three cents about your child's strengths and weaknesses. If this is the first year for your child, mostly they will listen to what you have to say. At the end, the ask if you have any questions. This is a basic IEP meeting. IEP stands for Individualized Educational Program. It's a document designed for each child who attends a public school and needs special education and services. We all know the necessity of this document, but maybe need a little help being better prepared.
If this is your first year, find out as much about the school as you can. I will have a check list available in another blog soon. You can still ask about their credentials, training (what program), what intervention/techniques they use, how long they have been doing this, and other pertinent information that might put your mind at ease having your child enter their school.
You will want to have goals outlined for each of them. Usually, the meeting will consist of an Occupational Therapist, Speech Therapist, Principal, Teacher, school Psychiatrist/Psychologist/Counselor , Intervention Director, and maybe even a Special Educational Director from the board. Not only have the goals, but also information about behavior and techniques that work at home. You might want to ask how your interventions differ from theirs.
Please understand your rights and responsibilities when it comes to IEP's. You have more than you probably know. Please have a look at this PDF. http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/pubs/504001Ch04.pdf
Below, I have posted the letter I wrote for my son's IEP. Use this as a tool only. Your child will have different goals and behavior management plans. At least you will be better prepared.
I don't know how many times I had to say, "Please refer to the 6 page letter I wrote." You would be surprised at the amount of times I heard, "Oh I still have to read that." That should've been my sign that the school had issues, but what can I say, I was hopeful.
I hope this helps all those that need it. Much love and big hugs. RBD
Dear Mr. White & all those concerning the education of my son,
My child, Chris Frey, is an awesome, Autistic 9.5-year-old boy. His diagnosis was originally PDD-NOS from a neuropsychologist in 2012. A neurologist, Dr. Mott, diagnosed Chris with High Functioning Autism and possible Comorbid ADHD, with high sensory issues. Dr. Bader’s testing has shown possible Autism through genetics along with a rare disease called KBG syndrome. More testing is being done in January 2017 to get a better understanding of Chris’s conditions/disorders/diseases/disabilities.
My child has many developmental and behavioral milestones to overcome. Since we are to work together in attempting to provide Chris the best educational experience he can receive; I am providing a list of my child’s needs and parental concerns to assist with the development of an appropriate educational program for my child.
Although we have held an IEP meeting and will continue with the 2 hours for school and previous IEP until more testing is done, I feel this letter will provide aid in which was not covered during the meeting.
To learn social and friendship skills so he or she can develop peer relationships
To learn to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people
To learn reciprocity, the give and take relationships & interactions with others.
Although Chris is very friendly and enjoys giving hugs/helping; Chris also has trouble making/keeping friends. Sometimes, things can be one sided. We have been working on this at home and with neighborhood children. I remind Chris that friendship is a give and take: Guests go first on turns and having choices. Asking if another would like to participate in the activity of his choice. We also have been working on when other’s say No, or seem uninterested in participating/being friends with him. This seems to be a huge issue that can lead to a meltdown.
COMMUNICATION AND LANGUGE
To develop spoken language
To learn to initiate and/or sustain a conversation with others
Chris’s language skills are improving greatly. He once used to speak “at” others as opposed to “with” another. He used to have repetitive phrases but seems to have dissipated since being home schooled. He does tend to continue talking/asking same question, if no one responds to him. In my opinion, this is a natural/normal aspect. He does not feel as if the feedback was appropriate. Unfortunately, conversations seem to be one sided, still. He can ask questions and listen to responses, but he can lose focus easily.
RESTRICTIVE AND REPETITIVE PATTERNS OF BEHAVIOUR, INTERESTS, AND ACTIVITIES
To pay attention to what others are doing and things others are interested in and/or to expand attention and focus to different areas.
To expand his areas of attention and focus, and/or to enjoy different activities with other children.
Even though Chris has branched out in areas of his enjoyment, he can still have issues with participating in events/activities/work in which he is not “thrilled” with. He will be defensive, say “it’s boring” (without knowing this), be obstinate, act out with annoying tendencies (slam door/laugh obsessively/hand claps/talk about his wants/likes, and will eventually say ALL the things he supposedly “hates” (we call this “sour grapes” because he actually doesn’t have an issue with those things until this time). His focus has expanded from 5 minutes to 30 minutes for different subjects.
As we all know, Autism can harbor other issues. Two of the biggest issues Chris has is listed below.
HIGH SENSORY ISSUES
He can be sensitive to lights, sounds, and chaotic environments. He works well in natural light and cannot focus if there is a lot of commotion. Transitions are exceptionally hard especially with too many at one time. It seems to pull on him physically and emotionally to transition from room to room multiple times a day. When doing work, he works well in quiet environments and we have used headphones to dull out noise. If other children are acting out, he tends to either be reserved or will act out once the other child’s meltdown has consummated. He does well with comforting blankets and vests on “bad days”. Sometimes, even having his alligator toy, Mr. Jack, (squishy and rubber) seems to help during episodes. We have overcome many smaller issues like food and clothing, but will still prefer no tags and soft clothing. He still smells everything before eating or picking up and that can hinder him at times. If something smells “bad” he will not only say something about it, but tends to stay away from whatever “smells bad”. He will not allow others to drink /eat off his plate-out of cup (exception mother) and will refuse to eat/drink if someone has.
Chris will have issues beginning tasks. Once he has begun, things seem to run smooth. When he refuses or says “no”, I generally apply/utilize one or more of the techniques listed below.
Chris will have annoying behaviors towards others. This could be from sensory issues, but mainly out of boredom.
Chris can have meltdowns for reasons not understood by others. Can be from paranoia, too much stimuli, other’s aggression towards him, too many transitions, tiredness, hunger, or not feeling understood. Meltdowns are best soothed by asking why he is upset or offering a “cool down time”.
Chris will lash out at everyone/anything when angry. Although, he has yet to be physical (unless provoked by another), he will stomp/kick/knock things over/hit walls/slam doors/be destructive with items surrounding him. Chris will also say, what we call, “negative words”. Say he hates himself and/or others as well as anything he can think of. He will even threaten to do physical harm to himself or others (but has yet to ever do it). This is his attempt at showing his frustration and anger. Why he feels this is the way to do it, I do not know. I explain how I handle this. Sometimes, the more you try and console him (don’t hate yourself/you are very smart) etc. seems to worsen the effect. Ignoring the words but stopping the physical behavior is the best option. I ask questions when he is being destructive, “Is this helping or hurting the situation?” “If you break your tablet, will you be able to play on it?” “Are you supposed to hit the wall/slam the door etc?” Chris will generally stop the destructiveness but continue with the “negative words”. I then, continue with the steps listed below to stop with the words. Once out of time out, I refresh the phrase he is supposed to use, “I’m mad/angry/hurt because (what was bothering him).
Defiance is something that can be seen when attempting at diverting Chris’s attention. He will try and still do activity he is wanting even after being told no and reason(s) why. Example: If Chris was playing legos during free time, and it was time to clean,” Chris, we need to pick our station because art class is in a few minutes.” If he wanted to continue playing, he would do so. He might walk away from it to line up but not clean. This is plain defiance when he does one thing like lining up for the next class, but not picking up the mess. I use the “take away privilege” for future uses to provoke him to adhere to the task. “Well, for your next free time, you will not be able to play legos.” If he says he doesn’t care, and continues defiance, I moved onto the “time out phase”.
For chores, he does around the house, we do a reward system. This is in the form of money, candy, or ice cream. I have also used candy to have him concentrate in math, saying, “If you do these three problems correctly, you will get a piece of candy.” He tends to lose focus frequently in math and it’s frustrating for him. I do not do the “reward” system for any other subject or use.
Chris enjoys helping most times. He also likes to have games made to ensure more fun. For example: Cleaning up-I’ll make a game of who can clean up faster. I explain subjects in a fun way or in a comparable measure in his life. He is a visual learner and does not do well with just verbal.
Chris likes the phrase, “not yet” compared to the word “no”.
Chris enjoys playing Roblox, Minecraft, watching YouTube videos on how to fix cars, dinosaurs, science, riding a bike, Legos, playing on the tablet/laptop, giving hugs, talking about his likes/dislikes, and the library.
Overall, Chris is a very intelligent, analytical, and special boy. He wants to play/make friends and enjoys play time more than learning. He has an awesome ability to have things locked into his brain forever, once he understands/knows it. He can remember people’s names like no one I’ve ever met. He can also be very determined. Sometimes this is a pro and other times a con. I call it the “train that can’t be derailed”. Chris doesn’t always take things literal anymore and can understand tone/nonverbal communication to a higher degree than most. He’s very sensitive to things at times, but can also seem aloof when paying attention. He observes everything and very understanding child on his “good days”.
SIGNS CHRIS IS ABOUT TO HAVE A MELTDOWN
He will have improper reactions/facial expressions when asked a basic question “how are you doing?”
He might hand flap/throat clear/blink excessively
He sometimes does things to annoy others/hand clap near people’s ears/scream loud for no reason
Cannot sit still
IF SIGNS ARE MISSED AND HE HAS A FULL MELTDOWN
There is no reasoning with Chris at this point
Telling him to go to his designated “cool down spot” is needed
He might walk around/avert going there, but if you grab him at that point, Chris will lash out even worse than before. It’s best to block him from going anywhere but the “cool down spot”. Continue walking towards him but standing far enough away to allow arm’s length. He will eventually walk to the area if you don’t let him walk past/around.
He does need to be in an area where nothing can be destroyed/or should have constant supervision. It’s best not to look directly at him during this time.
The only time one should restrain Chris, is if he is self-harming (hitting himself/banging head against wall) or hitting another person without being provoked. He might put up his fist or act like he will do something, but only once have I ever witnessed him hurt another without being provoked. That was me disciplining him. He kicked me, trying to get me off the bed, as I sat on there when he was in “cool down phase”.
The only restraint technique I’ve ever had to use is with his arms folded across his chest gently. I wrap my arms around the front while my body is in the back (his back is against my stomach). I do this sitting down and keep my head to the side because he has tried to whip his head back. He will yell, say he can’t breathe, and tell you to get off him. I ask him, “If I let you go, will you remain calm on your own? Not hit/kick or hurt anyone?” He will say yes, and I release. Yet, he still must keep in the cool down phase until time is up.
Yelling will only provoke him to be worse and he reacts to other’s nonverbal cues more so than verbal.
If Chris ever gets to this point, attention to his “tale tell signs” didn’t happen and he is possibly amidst the “PMS” time I spoke of earlier.
He is doing great with the dexterity of his hands and strengthening them greatly. The fine motor skills are at level, however; doing anything that requires more than 2 steps is difficult. I suspect this is from the delay. When tying shoes, we still are working on moving past the criss-cross, loop, wrap and pull through. He tends to forget and needs constant reminders and being told each step after the second one. Chris has managed to tie the shoe once and only while facing it. He cannot do past the first step if the shoe is on the foot. Which leads me to believe he is mirroring the steps and it gets confusing to him. He does not do well watching videos and doing as he sees, in this case only.
As per soothing techniques, we worked on, but not limited to:
Breathing through the nose and out through the mouth. He has trouble doing this when a meltdown is about to occur or even during.
Chris can sometimes know when he is about to feel “bad” (meltdown) and say he needs time to himself. This is only when provoked by questioning, although amidst an easier meltdown, Chris will say “he wants to be left alone”. We use this for times that he feels he will begin destruction due to high stimuli situations.
We have done playdough, fidget toys, and legos as an alternative to destructive tendencies or when feeling “weird” as he calls it. It truly deals with too many transitions, could be lights, or too much commotion.
We attempted Yoga, Karate, and other sports, but the only one that he seems to enjoy is bike riding and swimming.
Vests and blankets (his specific one) can offer comfort previous or after a meltdown, but not during. Having an animal, something soft such as a plush toy or big pillow has comforted him during a meltdown, once he is in cool down phase.
Rubbing the back lightly, using a hand-held massager, or pressing thumb into palm pressure point alleviates stress/anxiety and used in the middle of the day (during many transitions/etc) can help to calm for the rest of the day.
Head phones used to work during loud noises, but now he wishes to have music to listen to. He has specific songs he enjoys that are uplifting and tend to make him forget he is mad. No sad tones/etc. can be used now. To find music that will not make him more sad/angry/excitable it’s best to have him listen on a “good day”. Chris will tell you the songs that make him feel happy or sad.
BOOKS USED FOR HIS CIRRICULUM LAST YEAR
Scott Foresman :
Social Studies People Places Grade 2
Reading: Reading Street Grade 2
Grammar Grade 2 (He still needs reminded of basic grammar rules, what an Adj, noun, etc is)
Spelling Grade 2.5
Phonics Grade 2
Science -A closer Look Grade 2
Math is his worst subject. He is still in K, 1st grade phase. He still needs the use of blocks, tablets, links, and visual aids in order to help him add/subtract. He can understand patterns. He knows how to count by 10’s, was learning 5’s (Only by seeing them written), and cannot understand any other mulitples. He can subtract better than adding, and does not seem to understand “all together” even after multiple repeats.
Chris cannot write and think at the same time. Even short words such as cat cause him problems. Even though he understands the letter (such as pointing out the alphabet), something gets lost when attempting to write them down. Even when working on single letters, he will constantly have to look at the letter, attempt writing, look again, and complete. His spacing and sizing is getting better, but over extended amounts of time, he tends to forget, lose focus, and cannot keep structure of letters.
When having spelling tests, I allowed him to use notebook or word on the laptop. He can number them and write the words, and will constantly look for gratification after each one. Chris has to be reminded when something is a test vs. practice work.
I never had him read the directions because it seemed to take away from actually being able to see what he understood. If he had to read directions, he tended to forget what it was he was to do on the paper. Again, he will look for constant gratification.
For testing, it is always best to test after he learns a subject. Doing it this way, seemed to help him receive information, can apply what he learned, and allowed it to resonate with him completely. It also ensured me what he knew/or didn’t understand. This was done through the computer and generally a visual and verbal test. He could work on his own without being told, but supervision was needed to keep him focusing and motivated.
For any additional questions, please feel free to call/email/text any time. If need be, I will be happy to come in (if possible) or even talk with him directly via phone to calm him down. Sometimes, just hearing my voice has helped calm the situation.
I thank you for taking time to read this and look forward to working with everyone to advance my son to his next possible level in education and social interactions.
With Warmest Regards,