Posts Tagged ‘Help for your child’

From NICU to EI services

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

preemie hand in adult handIf your baby was born prematurely or at a low birth weight, chances are he or she may benefit from Early Intervention (EI) services. EI services are designed to help your baby catch up developmentally. They can include speech, physical or occupational therapy, as well as other kinds of treatment.

Usually, the hospital NICU staff will give you the information to have your baby screened or evaluated so that services may begin soon after your baby gets home (if they are needed). But, parents – you should know that a doctor or hospital referral is not needed to start the process of requesting early intervention services. You can contact your state’s agency yourself. Although it is very helpful for hospitals to give parents all of the information they need to get services started early, a hospital referral is not a requirement for a screening.

Read this post on Early intervention for babies and toddlers to learn how to request a screening. In many cases, a phone call to your state’s early intervention program is all you need to initiate an evaluation (which is free of charge to you). EI services are available in every state and territory of the United States.

Don’t delay with delays. The sooner your baby gets help, the sooner he can start catching up. If you are concerned about your baby’s development, make the call, get the free screening, and put your mind at rest.

See other topics in the Delays and Disabilities series here.

What is a Child Psychologist?

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

psychologyA Psychologist is a professional who specializes in understanding why people do what they do. They examine the relationships between brain function, environment, and behavior.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “Psychologists study both normal and abnormal functioning and treat patients with mental and emotional problems. They also study and encourage behaviors that build wellness and emotional resilience.” A Child Psychologist focuses specifically on children and teenagers.

Are there different kinds of psychologists?

Yes. There are many subspecialties within the field of psychology. Here are a few kinds of psychologists that might be particularly helpful to a child and family:

• Clinical psychologists – they diagnose and treat a range of mental, emotional and behavioral disorders.  They offer psychotherapy (talk therapy) to work through problems and issues.
• Developmental psychologists – they specialize in the many changes that occur with aging, especially developmental issues in childhood and adolescence.
• Neuropsychologist – they specialize in the relationship between the brain and behavior. They may use imaging techniques to help with their work (such as PET, SPECT and fMRI scans). They diagnose and treat a wide range of disorders.
• Rehabilitation psychologists – they help individuals with developmental disabilities, CP, epilepsy, autism, intellectual disabilities and those negatively affected by a trauma or accident, to adapt and improve their lives.
• School psychologists – they work in pre-schools, elementary, middle and high schools. They provide testing for children with learning or behavioral issues, counsel students and work with families and school staff to help children learn and socialize effectively.

To learn about the other kinds of psychologists, see the APA’s descriptions.

What kind of problems do psychologists treat?

Psychologists may specialize in different areas and treat issues from mild to severe.  Here are some examples of their areas of expertise:

• Developmental delays and disabilities
• Behavior problems
• Conducting psychological and educational testing
• Diagnosing and treating conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, ADD and ADHD (attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity), autism, PDD (pervasive developmental delay), OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), learning disabilities, phobias
• Parenting challenges and family issues
• Stress, trauma and PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)
• Sleep disorders
• Self abuse
• Domestic violence
and many other issues or mental illnesses.

What kind of training do psychologists have?

Psychologists earn a doctorate degree – either a PhD or a PsyD (which is why they are called “Doctor”). This means that after 4 years of college, they go on for graduate study for 5 to 7 years. Then, states require a one or two year internship to obtain a license to practice psychology.

Is a psychologist different from a therapist?

A person can practice psychotherapy without a doctorate degree  (PhD or PsyD). For example, a clinical social worker (CSW) is an individual who completes a master’s degree and at least 2 years of additional training to become a licensed psychotherapist.

How is a psychologist different from a psychiatrist?

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (MD) who has then gone on for several years of additional training to specialize in the field of psychiatry. As a medical doctor, a psychiatrist can write prescriptions for drugs. A psychologist is not a medical doctor, so he is not able to write prescriptions (although some states are beginning to allow psychologists to write prescriptions after additional training in pharmacology).

Both a psychiatrist and a psychologist offer psychotherapy, although there are some psychiatrists who primarily limit their practices to medication management. Many psychiatrists, psychologists and psychotherapists work together to provide a comprehensive treatment plan for a child.

Where can you find a psychologist?

To find a psychologist in your area, ask your child’s health care provider for a referral. Or, go to the APA’s Psychologist Locator where you can search by location as well as area of specialization and ages served (such as a child psychologist).

Bottom line

A psychologist can be a lifeline to your child in diagnosing and treating different conditions or disorders, and an enormous help to you and your family in managing the associated challenges.

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January and appears every Wednesday. Go to News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” on the menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date. As always, we welcome your comments and input.

Have questions? Send them to

Delays and disabilities series – a recap

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

babiesHere is a list of all blog posts to date with links, grouped by topic. You can go back and see what pertains to you and get caught up. This post should help you to make sense of this series which started in January 2013 and appears on News Moms Need every Wednesday.

Intro – Why this series? How it will help you

A new blog series is here 

First things first – Is your child’s development on track?

Developmental milestones and delays 

Getting help for free  – the evaluation

Early intervention for babies and toddlers 

Early intervention for children ages 3 and older 

Figuring out the language of special needs

Learning the lingo

Words and terms – a whole new world 

Delays, disabilities and the law 

Navigating the early intervention and special education systems

What is an IFSP? (for kids from birth to age 3)

What is an IEP? (for kids ages 3 and up)

IEP or 504 – that is the question 

April is IEP month 

IEPs and LREs – the nitty gritty 

What is Prior Written Notice or “PWN”?

Keeping track of your child’s records –useful tips

An easy way to find resources for kids with special needs

Different diagnoses (there will be more diagnoses added to this part of the blog in the coming weeks)

Did you hear me?  The child with auditory processing problems

Different kinds of therapies

What are Related Services? 

What is Speech Therapy?

What is Physical Therapy or PT?

What is Occupational Therapy or OT? 

What are Recreation Services?

What are Hippotherapy and Therapeutic Riding (THR)?

Summers, vacations and transitions

Vacationing with a child with special needs 

Re-entry: life after vacation 

A transition tip – how to help your child go from activity to activity, or place to place

Parenting suggestions and caring for YOU

Caring for the caretaker – put on your oxygen mask  

Emergencies – Preparing for disasters when you have a child with special needs 

Delays and disabilities worldwide

International focus on children with disabilities 

Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started on January 16, 2013 and appears every Wednesday. Go to News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” on the menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date. As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions for future topics.

Have questions? Send them to

An easy way to find resources for special needs kids

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

computer-mouse_thmFinding the right resource to help your child with special needs is so important for a parent. It can be a lifeline. I would like to introduce you to one resource that is a sort of clearinghouse to multiple resources. NICHCY, the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities is no longer in operation, but their information has been migrated to the Center for Parent information (CPIR).  Here you will find tons of information that should be bookmarked on your computer.

On this page you can find a gateway to resources are specific to a particular topic. There are dozens of topics which will bring you to desired resources. Exploring could not be easier.

So, let your mouse do the clicking and find many organizations and resources that are on target for your particular question.  Simplify your life with this tool and perhaps you will find a gem or two that you did not know about, which will make a difference in your child’s life…and yours.

Have questions? Send them to

Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started on January 16, 2013 and appears every Wednesday. Feel free to go back to look at prior posts as the series builds on itself. As always, we welcome your comments and input.

What is an IEP?

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

foldersAn IEP is short for “Individualized Education Program.” It is both a process and a written educational plan for a child with a disability. It is a document that lists all of the educational services that your child will receive, if he qualifies. In a prior post I told you all about the IFSP (for babies and toddlers). Well, the IEP is a similar document but it is for children ages 3 – 21.

The IEP is supposed to be just what it says – INDIVIDUALIZED, which means that it is specific for your child’s needs. It is not one size fits all. It is also supposed to be EDUCATIONAL, which means it should look at three main areas of your child’s life:  the general education curriculum, extracurricular activities and nonacademic activities. Lastly, it is a PROGRAM or PLAN, where all of the services your child will receive are laid out and detailed in writing.

In a sense, the IEP is like a roadmap. It shows you where you are now, where you plan to go, and the roads that you will take to get there. It sounds simple, but it is actually more challenging to write and put together than you might think. This post is just a quick overview to help you understand the basics.

Who gets an IEP?

In prior posts, I explained how to have your child (from birth to age 3 or ages 3 – 21) evaluated for free if you suspect that he has a developmental delay or problem. Once the team (evaluators, school officials and parents) has met and discussed the results of the testing, you will learn if your child is considered eligible for services (if he fits one or more of the categories of disability.) If your child is eligible, the team will develop an educational program (the IEP), that will be specific for your child’s needs.

What’s in an IEP?

The IEP may include special education, related services and/or supplementary aids and services. The IEP is first based on your child’s “present levels” which is a snapshot of your child’s current level of academic and functional performance. In other words…what he is able to do now as compared to his non-disabled peers. Then, based on his present levels and his delay or disability, the IEP sets measurable annual goals. The goals should specify:

• Who will provide the service (eg. the regular ed teacher, special ed teacher, reading specialist, physical therapist, etc.).
• What kind of service will be provided, such as curriculum modifications or adaptations, the types of related services or aids- (eg. specialized reading curriculum, speech therapy etc.).
• Where the service will be implemented (eg. the regular ed classroom, playground, counselor’s office, etc.).
• When parents will receive reports on how well your child is doing. By law, you need to receive progress reports at least as often as children without disabilities. Often a school system will send home the IEP progress reports when Report Cards are sent home for all children.
• When the goal will be achieved (eg. by the end of the marking period or by the end of the year).
• How the goal will be measured and how you will know the goal has been achieved (eg. a benchmark, such as a test score that shows if the goal has been reached).

An IEP is a living document that can be changed or updated by the IEP team, of which parents are members! It must be reviewed by the IEP team at least once a year, but it can be reviewed and updated more often if necessary.

Where can you get more help with IEPs?

A great place to go to understand your options, how to prepare for IEP meetings, and to understand the process of creating a great IEP is the Short and Sweet IEP Overview on the Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR) website. In particular, they provide guidance on how an IEP team can write effective goals. Another great resource is Wrightslaw. They go into even greater detail which will help you with every aspect of the process.

Why should you learn about IEPs?

The more you know about the law and the special education process, the better you can help your child. Knowledge is powerful!  If your child has a delay or disability, be sure to check out CPIR’s and Wrightslaw’s information (above). It will help you understand the process to become a more effective advocate for your child and to feel more in control of your journey.

Have questions?  Send them to

Note: This post is part of the new weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started on January 16, 2013 and appears every Wednesday. Feel free to go back to look at prior posts as the series builds on itself. As always, we welcome your comments and input.

Learning the lingo

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

worried-womanthmOne of the most challenging aspects about having a baby or child who needs early intervention or special education services is understanding all of the terms that you hear. This blog post is dedicated to helping you learn the lingo of developmental delays, disabilities, early intervention and special education.

Unless you know the language, you will not know what is going on. At the very least, you need to know the acronyms or abbreviations for some of the more common words or terms, so that if you are at a meeting, or in a doctor’s office, you can understand the conversation. It will also help you to make sense out of the reports and evaluations you will read about your child. So, here is your official cheat sheet. I suggest you print it out and keep it handy.

First, I list common terms in the early intervention and special education world; then, I list acronyms and abbreviations for common diagnoses. Any term in bold is explained in more detail in another blog post in this series. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list but it will definitely get you started.

Common terms:

ABA      Applied Behavioral Analysis Therapy
ADA      Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
ADLs     Activities of Daily Living
ASL       American Sign Language
AIT       Auditory Integration Training
AT        Assistive Technology
BOE      Board of Education
BRS       Bureau of Rehabilitation Services
CA        Chronological Age
DOB      Date of Birth
DOE      Department of Education
ECE       Early Childhood Education
EIS        Early Intervention Services
ESD       Extended School Day
ESY       Extended School Year Services
FAPE    Free and Appropriate Public Education
FERPA   Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
GE         General Education
IDEA     Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
IEE        Individual Educational Evaluation
IEP        Individualized Educational Program
IQ          Intelligence Quotient
IFSP      Individual Family Service Plan
LEA       Local Education Agency
LRE       Least Restrictive Environment
MA        Mental Age
NCLB    No Child Left Behind Act
OCR      Office of Civil Rights
OT        Occupational Therapy
PLP      Present Level of Performance
PPT      Planning and Placement Team
PT        Physical Therapy
RS        Related Services
RTI       Response to Intervention
SAS      Supplementary Aids and Services
SEA      State Education Agency
SPED   Special Education
SI         Sensory Integration
SLP      Speech and Language Pathologist
SSDI     Social Security Disability Income
SSI       Supplemental Security Income
VR       Vocational Rehabilitation
WIC     Women, Infants and Children (food program)
504      Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504

Common diagnoses:

ADD      Attention Deficit Disorder
ADHD    Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
ASD      Autism Spectrum Disorder
BD        Behavioral Disorder
CAPD    Central Auditory Processing Disorder/Deficit
CF        Cystic Fibrosis
CP        Cerebral Palsy
DB        Deaf-Blind
ED        Emotional Disturbance
FAS      Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
DD        Developmental Delay
ID         Intellectual Disabilities (formerly Mental Retardation)
LD        Learning Disability
MD       Muscular Dystrophy
MMR     Mildly Mentally Retarded
MR       Mental retardation (now referred to as Intellectual Disability)
ND       Neurobiological disorders
NLD     Nonverbal Learning Disability
OCD     Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
ODD     Oppositional Defiant Disorder
OHI      Other Health Impaired
PDD      Pervasive Developmental Disorder
SB        Spina Bifida
SLD      Specific Learning Disability
SLI       Speech/Language Impairment
TBI       Traumatic Brain Injury
TMH     Trainable Mentally Handicapped
TS        Tourette Syndrome
VI         Visual Impairment

There are tons more acronyms, so if you have heard some that are not on this list check out this list of acronyms from NICHCY on the CPIR website. The more you understand the language, the more confident you will feel as you advocate for your child. Don’t be put off by the lingo – embrace it and soon you will be a pro.

Have questions? Send them to

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and Disabilities – How to get help for your child.  As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions.

Updated November 2015.

Delays, disabilities and the law

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

law-books-and-gavelWhether your child was a preemie or not, the good news is that our federal laws provide the means for your child to get help if he needs it. If your child needs early intervention, special education or related services he is not alone. More than 6 million children with delays or disabilities receive special education and related services in schools in the U.S. every year!

Children may need services for any number of reasons, including medical conditions related to prematurity. Children born preterm will often need extra help in a number of developmental areas. A recent 2012 study in Pediatrics noted that about 45% of children born with an extremely low birth weight were in special education programs at age 14 compared to about 10% of children born with a normal birth weight.

Know the language

Learning the lingo can be the hardest part of navigating the early intervention and special education system. You may feel as if you just got a new job but when you arrived at work on your first day, everyone was speaking a different language. You feel lost and often foolish asking basic questions, to which everyone already seems to know the answers. If your child has any kind of need, it is important that you know the language, or at least know the basics. Let’s start at the beginning.

What is IDEA?

IDEA is the federal law that governs how states provide early intervention and special education services. It is short for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This law has been revised several times since it was first passed in 1975.  It spells out what your child is eligible to receive and what your state is responsible to provide. It is also a bit vague sometimes, which may leave details and interpretations up to individual states  and local school districts. However, on the whole, it is the roadmap for you if your child needs services, and it is essential for you to know that it is there to support your child.  Most parents will never need to refer to the actual law (officially referred to as Public Law 108–446 which is very, very long), but in case you ever have trouble falling asleep at night, you can find it here.

What is FAPE?

Did you know that in the United States, every child is entitled to a free and appropriate public education? This is commonly referred to as FAPE. According to IDEA, FAPE “means special education and related services that—(a) Are provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charge…” and are provided along with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) in an appropriate school setting (eg. preschool, elementary or secondary school). Learn more about IEPs in this post.

What is Special Education?

According to IDEA, special education is “specially designed instruction, at no cost to the parents, to meet the unique needs of a child with a disability…” That is a powerful sentence – go back and read it again. Now, here is what it means…Special education can include an incredibly diverse set of services and is individualized to meet the needs of a specific child. This education might include specific classes, programs or services, such as tutoring, provide an aide or assistant, special adaptive or computer equipment, a different curricula, etc.  By the way, SPECIAL ED IS NOT A PLACE!  It is a specially designed instructional program, particular to your child’s needs, to enable your child to access the general curriculum at school. It can be put in place in your child’s classroom or anywhere else that is decided by the IEP team, as long as it is in the “least restrictive environment” or (LRE).  Wrightslaw has more information about the different options that may be included in the LRE.

What are Related Services?

Simply put, related services are all of the other services and/or therapies that a child may need. This may include (but is not limited to) speech and language, physical, occupational and recreational therapies, psychological counseling, guidance, social work, and transportation. Click here for details and examples of many related services. According to IDEA, in addition to special education, a child can receive “such developmental, corrective, and other supportive services as are required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education.”

What are Supplementary Aids and Services?

IDEA says supplementary aids and services are “aids, services, and other supports that are provided in regular education classes, other education-related settings, and in extracurricular and nonacademic settings, to enable children with disabilities to be educated with non-disabled children to the maximum extent appropriate…” NICHCY (now CPIR) helps to explain this part of the law. They say: “Speaking practically, supplementary aids and services can be accommodations and modifications to the curriculum under study or the manner in which that content is presented or a child’s progress is measured. But that’s not all they are or can be. Supplementary aids and services can also include direct services and supports to the child, as well as support and training for staff who work with that child. That’s why determining what supplementary aids and services are appropriate for a particular child must be done on an individual basis.”

Visit the CPIR website to see NICHCY’s long list of possible services  that may be included under the umbrella of supplementary aids and services.

Take a breath – don’t get overwhelmed

This post contains a lot of information. But, the important thing to remember is that there are laws in place to help your child. As a parent, it is important to know about them and become informed. (You wouldn’t drive a car without first learning the rules of the road…right?) But don’t get discouraged. No one learns all of this overnight. Be patient with yourself.

In my next post, I will give you a long list of common terms and diagnoses to help you learn more of the lingo. So stay tuned.

Note:  This post is part of the new weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child.  You can find all of the posts in the series, here.  As always, we welcome your comments and input.