Posts Tagged ‘school’

Transitioning from the school year to summer

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

Family walking outdoorsIf your child has special needs, the transition from the structure of the school year to that of a summer schedule can be very difficult. Even if your child is not yet in school, he may be in an early intervention program, making him used to a certain predictable routine from September to June. Upsetting this applecart to move into a different environment (new therapists, buildings or even a summer camp) can throw your child off kilter. Add to that the thought of taking a family vacation, and the whole idea of facing these transitions can give you a headache.

Here are some posts to help you get through it all. The goal is to help you and your child enjoy these summer months.

Accommodations help vacationers with special needs lists different accommodations that hotels and public places offer individuals with special needs.

Vacationing with your child with special needs offers tips on how to make this HUGE transition less scary for your little one. With some preparation beforehand as well as on the road, the whole family can enjoy time together. This post provides resources on places to go, the golden rules of travel, and the all-important list of time-fillers. A must read.

How to find camps for children with special needs is a post that lists resources by camp specialty (based on a child’s condition or disability) and location. It is a great start if you are thinking you might still want to place your child in a camp this summer. Better yet, it is a springboard for preparing for next year.

Hopefully these posts will get you started on your way to a successful summer experience for your kids and you. If you have any tips to share, please do!

Find many other posts on Delays and Disabilities: How to get help for your child.

Have questions? Send them to

Kids with special needs head back to school

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

school-bus-and-stationeryThe start of school is an exciting time for most children and their parents. Many children with special needs eagerly anticipate the start of a new school year. But lots of kids are incredibly anxious at the thought of all the unknowns: new classroom, teacher, friends or school.

If you are the parent of a child with special needs, how are you feeling about the start of the new school year?

Are you…

Scared or fearful – Will your child’s particular needs be met?

Afraid – How will your child react to new smells, lights, sounds and routines?

Overwhelmed – Is your child going to a new school? Are you wondering whether he will be able to handle the transition?

Unprepared – Do IEP meetings make you feel like you don’t know what you are doing?

Alone – Do you feel like you are the only parent with your concerns?

Worried – Is your child going to do well in a class with “typically developing” peers?

Insecure – Are you wondering when to swoop in and help your child versus sitting back and watching him and the school handle any hiccups or problems?

Nervous – Will your child make friends? Will he be by himself on the playground?

If you are experiencing any or all of the above emotions, you are not alone. There is no doubt that starting a new school year is hard on students AND parents. But, when you mix in the complications of dealing with a disability and the necessary accommodations or supports that need to be in place in order for your child to succeed, it can be very stressful!

This blog series, and all of the resources listed in each post will help you tackle whatever comes your way. By being prepared, you will calm your nerves. Hopefully, you will become excited, confident and in-control. Your little one will sense your positive outlook and enthusiasm, and it will rub off on him, too.

Check out these tips to smooth the back to school transition for your child. Learn helpful ways to make the transition from summer to school do-able and realistic, including changing bedtime hours, adjusting meds and meeting your child’s teacher.

Please share your feelings about the new school year – good, bad, up, down, and anything in between. Got any tips? Let’s hear them. We all learn from each other.


Have questions?  Text or email them to We are here to help.

Preemies and asthma – how to help your child

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

asthma inhalerResearch has shown that premature birth (before 37 weeks) can cause a baby to have lung and breathing problems such as asthma, a health condition that affects the airways.

Asthma causes repeated episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and nighttime or early morning coughing. It can be mild to severe. If your child has asthma, he is far from alone. According to the CDC, 6.8 million children have asthma, or 1 in 11 children.

Asthma can be controlled by taking medicine and avoiding the triggers that can cause a flare-up. It is important to remove the triggers in your child’s environment that can make asthma worse.

What causes asthma symptoms?

Many children with asthma have allergies. Coming into contact with an allergen can set off asthma symptoms. Common allergens are: dust mites, animal dander, mold and pollen.

Other triggers include air pollution, smoke, exercise and infections in the airways. Asthma symptoms may be brought on by a change in air temperature, perfumes and odors from cleaning products.

How can you help your child?

Understand your child’s asthma condition as much as possible. Learn how to minimize triggers and know what to do in the event of an asthma flare-up. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers ways to avoid asthma triggers or irritants.

What are common treatments?

Depending on how mild or severe your child’s asthma condition is, treatments will vary. Often quick relief medicines (such as inhalers) will be prescribed to help stop an asthma flare-up. These medicines help to open the airways making breathing easier.

Long term treatments include medications that aim to keep the lungs from becoming inflamed. These medications help prevent flare-ups, and need to be taken even when there are no asthma symptoms.

What about childcare and school?

The AAP has helpful info on the various treatments available and offers management tips for different situations such as at home or school.

The CDC has recommendations on how you can make your child’s childcare or school environment as successful and asthma free as possible. In the United States, there are laws to help your child at school. For example, a 504 plan might be needed to help your child access his education through reasonable accommodations.

What should you ask your child’s health care provider?

Ask for an individualized asthma action plan. This is a written plan to help your child avoid his particular triggers and respond to asthma symptoms. The plan aims to give you more control of your child’s condition, and hopefully, to avoid emergency situations. The plan can be used anywhere – at home, day care or school.

How can your child understand his asthma?

There are books, videos and podcasts available that you can explore with your child to help him learn about his condition (if he is old enough to understand):
How to use your asthma inhaler video shows kids using an inhaler properly.
Dusty the asthma goldfish and his asthma triggers is a downloadable fun book that helps kids and parents understand triggers.
• The CDC’s Kiddtastics podcast is another way for parents and kids to learn about managing symptoms.
• Here are other resources specifically geared towards kids. Check them out.

Bottom line

No two children are alike, and each asthma case is unique. As with any health condition, be sure to speak with your child’s health care provider about all of your concerns. With knowledge, medical advice and an action plan, your child can live a very full and active life.

Have questions? Send them to

Read more about how to help your child with a delay, disability or health condition.


Heavy backpacks hurt- how to lighten the load

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

backpacks-150x150Pain and strain. Did you know heavy backpacks can be the cause of posture and back problems? Many children with special needs have musculoskeletal issues. A very heavy backpack may add additional challenges to an already sensitive child.

Yesterday, on my way to work, I noticed a group of kids headed for the bus stop. I could not help but observe their gigantic backpacks, full to the brim, and noticeably heavy. One little girl was struggling to stay upright as she shifted the weight of her backpack from left to right, in an effort to hurry along and catch her bus.

The daily carrying of heavy packs can cause muscle strain and pain, and may lead to back, shoulder or neck injuries. The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) has designated today as National School Backpack Awareness Day. They are holding events in different areas of the country. Even if you don’t make it to a backpack event, it is well worth your time to read AOTA’s tip sheet on Backpack Strategies for Parents and Students.

AOTA offers strategies on how to lighten the load, pack the backpack properly and wear it correctly. For instance, did you know that the pack should not weigh more than 10% of your child’s weight? (If your child weighs 80 pounds, the loaded pack should not weigh more than 8 pounds.) Also, you can make hoisting a pack easier by packing the heaviest items close to your child’s back. Using both shoulder straps is also key to minimizing injuries. Learn more helpful tips on their sheet.

So, help your child “pack it light and wear it right.” You could well avoid injuries and pain with a few simple changes.

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 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.

If you have comments or questions, please send them to We welcome your input!

Back to school is hard on kids and PARENTS!

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

back to schoolIt is back-to-school time… for parents. Yes, I know your kids are the ones who go to school, but going back to school is a feat for parents, too.

First, you need to buy all the school supplies (if you have not misplaced the list), including the all too important backpack. Then, there are the school clothes, shoes, sneakers, boots, and sports equipment. If your child has special needs, you may have even more items to buy. Depending on the age of your child, there may be lockers to decorate and books to purchase. Shopping and gathering all these items is time consuming and expensive. The entire process can be exhausting and stressful. It is so important to try not to let all of these tasks get the better of you, and to keep the focus on your child in a positive way. If you are stressed out, your child will be, too.

Before your child starts school, there are fears of the unknown. The anxiety may keep your little one up at night. Then, once your child starts school, there is the huge adjustment that comes with getting used to a new teacher, new faces in the classroom and a new routine. Little things as simple as a different kind of chair, lights, sounds and smells may bother your child and cause upset. Getting yanked into a whole new environment can be incredibly unnerving to any child, but it is especially difficult for a child with special needs.

Adding to the overall stress of returning to school, is the challenge of figuring out what actually happens during the school day. One of my kids had a teacher who told parents “I will only believe half of what your child tells me about you, if you believe half of what your child tells you about school.” At first I found it somewhat alarming, but then I realized it reminded me of the game of telephone. The more a message gets passed on, the more the message changes.

As your child becomes acquainted with the new school routine, he may come home and tell you information that is slightly incorrect. Or, he may tell you absolutely nothing. (Often, just getting through a school day from beginning to end is a monumental feat for a child with special needs, and once home, the last thing he wants to do is talk about his day. Rather, quiet time is the preferred escape.) If you need to know specific information, consider emailing the teacher or the Class Parent because your child may be too overwhelmed to tell you the information you seek. And, if he does talk about his day, you may not get all the facts you need to answer your question.

If you think that you are the only parent who finds back-to-school tasks stressful and overwhelming at times, you are not alone. But, the important thing to remember is that as stressed as you are, your child is much more stressed. Try to keep a cheerful perspective and know that in time your child will adjust to the new routine, and so will you. With a little luck, you may both grow to love this new year, too.

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 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 input.

Have questions? Send them to

Apps for math and other disabilities

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

learning to tell timeIt is time to share apps about math. Last week’s post focused on apps that help kids with dyslexia and dysgraphia (reading and writing learning disabilities). By popular demand, here are links to sites that recommend or review apps for kids (and even adults) who struggle with a math learning disability (dyscalculia). These apps may be lifesavers if your child is having a difficult time learning to tell time, count money or figure out math word problems. They will also help with more advanced math skills. In addition, there are apps to help with other disabilities.

Many preemies (as well as full term babies) have lifelong learning difficulties. Often it takes more than one way to learn something. Attacking the problem from different angles may be necessary, especially if your child has learning disabilities (LDs). I think of it this way…if you can’t get into your house by the front door, use the back door, side door, and even the windows. Once you get in, it doesn’t matter how you got there – it only matters that you arrived safely.

Check out the apps on NCLD,  and Smart Kids with LD’s websites. Between all of these apps, you are bound to find something to help your child with a math disability, or any other kind of LD. You can also do an internet search for apps and will see that many more exist.

Please feel free to share apps that have helped you or your child.

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” in the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). We welcome your comments and input. If you have questions, please send them to

Summer to September

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

going-to-daycareIt is usually hard for kids to adapt to a different schedule. For kids with challenges, it can be…well…even more challenging.

Here are some tips to help you get through the transition from the more carefree days of summer to the structure of the school year – whether your child is in day care, preschool or beyond:

• Meet the teacher and visit the classroom – If your child has an IFSP, IEP or 504 plan, be sure that the teacher is familiar with the plan and is prepared for your child’s arrival. Hopefully, you and your child have already met the new teacher and you feel comfortable with the transition plan. If not, now is the time to ask for an appointment with the teacher or the IEP team. Usually kids with special needs are allowed to visit their classrooms before the first day of school, to help them become familiar with the upcoming change.

• Change bedtime hours slowly – As tempting as it is to let your little one remain outside to take advantage of every moment of daylight in the evening, start winding back his bedtime routine now. If you make changes in quarter hour chunks it will be less of a shock to your child’s system. For instance, if “bath, books and bed” usually began at 8:00 this summer, start the process at 7:45 for a night or two, and then move it to 7:30, etc. Use room darkening shades or curtains that block the light to help your child realize that it is nighttime.

• Create a “special space” – Having a quiet, secluded spot where your little one can go to decompress can be very helpful. It can be in his room or somewhere in your home. It can even be under the dining room table! Often a beanbag chair or a blanket with 2 or 3 pillows, and a few books or special toys will help to calm your child. He can learn to go to his special space to unwind and quiet himself.

• Turn off the computer – There is a time and place for everything. If your child needs help unwinding before bedtime, or when you need to leave the house to go to daycare or school, turn off all electronics. Use a timer if you need to help you with this task. When the timer goes off, then the computer goes off.

• Meds adjustment – If your child needs medication to function at daycare or school (but he was not on the meds during the summer), be sure to talk with his doc about how to start up again. If possible start the meds a few days before school begins, to help with the adjustment and to re-check possible side effects.

• A united front – You and your partner need to agree about your parenting plan. There is nothing more confusing to a little child than hearing “yes” from Mom but “no” from Dad. Try to anticipate issues and arrive at decisions ahead of time (and out of Junior’s hearing), and then stick with the plan.

• Save the worrying – You may be consumed with worry before your little one embarks on a new year in a different class.  Even day care centers may have a different teachers and classrooms each year. Kids with special needs often have extra difficulty adapting to change…but sometimes they surprise you. Your little one may embrace the newness of the classroom or providers and all that worry was for nothing. So, don’t worry until you have to. Kids tend to pick up on a parent’s anxiety. The calmer you are – the calmer your child may be.

• Cut yourself some slack – Let’s face it, even parents have trouble transitioning from summer to September! So, give yourselves a few weeks to fully adjust to the change. And, have plenty of patience (deep breathing anyone?) as you and your child struggle to say good bye to the lazy days of summer.

What has worked for you when your little one faced big changes?

Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It began in January 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

What is Prior Written Notice or “PWN”?

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

woman-reading-paperIDEA is the federal law that governs special education. An important part of this law is Prior Written Notice or PWN.   It means that if your child’s school wishes to add, change or eliminate any part of your child’s special ed program, the school must first explain why, in detail, and in writing. NICHCY has a great explanation about PWN on CPIR’s website.

Why is PWN important?

As with any process that is governed by laws, it is important that procedures be followed. Procedural safeguards help protect the process and that is what protects your child.

When should you receive PWN?

If your child is not yet receiving special education services, PWN should be given to you before the school evaluates your child. You then have the opportunity to respond to this written notice.

If your child is already in special education, PWN should be given to you when the school wishes to change her educational placement or services in any way. If you propose a change to your child’s IEP, and the school district does not agree with you and refuses to make the change, the school should provide you with PWN. If they do not, then ask for it. The PWN must explain all of the school’s reasons for refusing your request. It may also enable you to have a more thorough discussion with the school and hopefully arrive at an agreeable outcome.

Your child’s school should give you PWN within a reasonable amount of time before the school can make any changes to your child’s program.

What should the PWN contain?

PWN must be provided to you in your native language. It should be written in plain, clear language (also part of the law). In other words, parents must be able to understand the proposed changes. It should not be written in a manner that makes it impossible for a layperson or consumer to understand. IDEA provides a template of what should be included in the prior written notice. You can see it here.  Wrightslaw also has tons of information on PWN and sample forms and letters.

Can you write your own PWN?

Let’s say you don’t agree with the school’s plan for your child. You can ask the district for the PWN to understand their reasons. Or you might even write your own PWN. Wrightslaw explains how to do this so that you write it in a way that follows the PWN template. After you submit it to your school, they would then need to respond to you in writing to provide explanations.

Where can you go to get assistance?

In this and other blog posts, I have referred you to NICHCY and Wrightslaw. NICHCY’s materials are now on the Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR)  website. You will find Parent Centers located in most states. They assist parents by providing up-to-date information, and high quality resources and materials. Click on this link to find a center in your state. Take advantage of this resource – it could be a lifeline!

Bottom line

Would you ever drive a car without knowing the rules of the road first? What would you do first? How would you do it? Where would you go?  Driving without knowing the laws could be disastrous!

IDEA is there to ensure your child receives a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). It provides a roadmap to follow for a smooth process for your child in special education. But there may be times when things don’t go smoothly. This is when the law can help you.  PWN is one of those provisions in the law that is there to help you navigate this system. Educate yourself on the process and soon you will feel that you are an equal player. The end result is that your child gets the help she needs, deserves and is to which she is entitled.

Remember, you need to know the rules in order to drive the car.
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 appears every Wednesday, and was started on January 16, 2013. Feel free to go back to look at prior posts as the series builds on itself.  As always, we welcome your comments and input.

April is IEP month

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

boy-reading-in-schoolIf you have a child receiving special education services, April is a very busy month. It is the time when meetings usually take place to discuss your child’s progress and create a plan for next year.  It means that your child’s Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance (also known as PLAAFP) will be determined. This is your starting point. It provides baseline information about your child’s knowledge and skills. Then, the IEP team (of which parents are members) should work together to create a new IEP with updated goals and objectives.

How to develop a good IEP

Developing an IEP takes time and dedication. It also takes a team. You, your child’s teachers and any professional that works with your child (such as a speech therapist, counselor, etc.) should have input into creating the IEP.  CPIR has a very clear factsheet, that provides all of the details on how to create a good IEP.

In addition, my other favorite website, Wrightslaw, has tons of info for parents to help you through the IEP process. In particular, I like their page on “SMART” IEPs . They say that IEPs should be:

S    Specific (specific goals and objectives describe behaviors and skills that will be taught)

M  Measurable (measurable goals and objectives to accurately assess your child’s progress)

A   Use Action Words (words that will actively describe the goal “Crissy will be able to…”)

R   Realistic and relevant (goals and objectives that address your child’s unique needs as a result of her disability)

T   Time-limited (progress is monitored in a defined way, at defined intervals)

Please read more from Wrightslaw about creating SMART IEP goals.   I also like their page on IEP FAQs. Be sure to scroll down the page for their IEP Tactics and Strategies section.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to familiarize yourself with the information on these two websites. Knowledge is powerful and will help you to be a much better advocate for your child.

Negotiating tips

Lastly, when you are in the IEP meeting, try to remain cool and calm. This is not always an easy thing to do, but when you get all flustered, upset or annoyed, you can’t negotiate in a rational way. And, it puts the other team members on the defensive which may halt your progress. Try to stick to the facts (your child’s disabling condition and his present level of functioning as based on current evaluations), and then focus on the goals and objectives that you believe are important and within reach.

If you have been through this process and wish to offer suggestions, we’d love to hear from you.

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.