Sunday, March 26, 2017

Parent Advocate

What is a Parent Advocate? You might find various definitions but I would say a Parent Advocate is someone who comes along side of a child's parent to help advocate for the child. I serve in this role for many parents. Here are some of the reasons people hire me for this role.


I have been a parent of a child with a disability and have advocated for years on his behalf. (I'm experienced)

I understand special education law (I served on a panel at the Department of Education in our state for 6 years and learned a tremendous amount of things about special education law. (I'm trained)

I have experience with the educational agencies and schools in my area. I know the personalities and "bents" of various personnel in the educational community (experience and knowledge of who I will need to interact)

I know other resources in the community that may have helpful resources or knowledge. (Knowledge, networks and relationships)

I can work with the child to determine needs, learning style and strengths and deficits. (My skill set is greater than Advocacy I am trained and experienced in various strategies and therapeutic remedial programming)

Finally, as a mom of a child on the autism spectrum, I know what it feels to be the parent. I can relate and help parents through the feelings, stresses and up's and downs of parenting a child with learning differences (lots of experience as a parent and as a parenting mentor/coach).

Join me next week as I explore another issue of the parent advocate.

Character

Have you started  day out feeling good saying "this is going to be an epic day."  Well, maybe not.  The idea is that you want to have a good day and make some great memories with family and friends.  Then life happens.  It comes in many forms, frustrations, accidents, difficulties and a few interpersonal conflicts.  Sound familiar?  How can a parent turn these things around?  As I was thinking about this question I thought about the character qualities that are outlined in the Bible and referred to as the Fruit of the Spirit.  We need to put on these things rather than reacting to the many things that trip us up.  




"But the fruit of the Spirit is 

        love

        joy

        peace

        patience

        kindness

        goodness

        faithfulness

        gentleness 

        self-control.


Over the next few weeks, we'll look at each of the attributes and how they can make a difference in daily relationships and our perspective on life. Please join me for this series.  It has the potential of being life changing.  



Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Routines

I love spontaneity but too much drives me crazy! I need a little bit of it along with a lot of routine.  If this is true for me as a neuro 
-typical adult, It is really true for a child who has some learning differences.  Why?  

1.  I have more life experiences than a child so I know what to expect in a variety of situations so veering away from a routine doesn't create confusion and stress.  
2.  A child with learning differences needs a way to predict what will come next.  A routine that is practiced over and over helps this child to know how to  do this.  It lowers anxiety and builds confidence.  
3.  Children with learning differences often struggle with putting events, objects and people in categories.  The ability to categorize can be seen as a file folder of information stored in the brain.  This enables working memory to work smarter rather than harder when asked to retrieve information.  Routines help a child store information of in a "file folder."

   


So let's get started!  Many children have a hard time learning routines if they are only present through verbal prompting.  A visual routine enables a child to have a lasting reminder of what to do next.  This enables the child to internalize the elements of the routine and develop independence.  

A visual routine can come in lots of forms:  a picture schedule with or without words, a schedule app, a list of words on a white board or a sticky note.  The visual routine displayed may require a response like a ✅ or pulling off a Velcro schedule piece and placing it in a "all done" compartment.  A visual routine will look differently depending on various criteria like age, communication or academic ability. 

The important thing to remember teaching a child routine is that he/she needs to understand and connect to the way it's presented.  Teaching routines requires a significant amount of effort but it does pay itself forward.  


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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Parent Advocate 101

Do you ever feel like "I need someone to help me navigate the maze of special education. 
 

Do you ever feel like this?
1. I left a school meeting and I have no idea what was decided? I didn't understand much the special education vocabulary.
2. Is there an unsettling feeling that my child is not getting what is needed in her/his school program?
3. I have lots of papers related to my child's IEP but I still don't really understand what the teachers are doing to help her on a daily basis.
4. I love my child but I feel like I'm not really effective advocating. What should I do?

It might be time to find a parent advocate. Over the next few weeks, the blog posts will explore the following questions

📒 What is a parent advocate?
📘 How do I find one?
📕 What characteristics should I look for in a parent advocate?
📙 What role do I play and what role does the parent advocate play?
📗 How does a parent really advance my child's education?

Beyond these questions, we will look at cost, right fit and ability to understand parents, children and school personnel.

Join me for this side of advocating.




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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Friends and Enemy= Frienemy!

Dear mom of learning different child:


I am so sorry you have or likely will have to deal with a frienemy! But what is a FRIENEMY? It is a friend, maybe a long time relationship, who doesn't understand your life as a mom of a child with learning differences. She not only doesn't understand but she doesn't try to understand. In fact, she makes YOU feel guilty for not being a good friend to her. Sometimes, she is subtle. Other times it is very direct. 
 

What causes the problem? Well, maybe you've grown a part with changes in life. Maybe it's a lack of empathy by is friend. She just can't see things from anyone's perspective but her own. She liked how things used to be and is mad the relationship isn't the same anymore. This happens as a mom's children grow and many moms can "get away" for girlfriend time. A mom with learning different children may not be able to do this easily. It may take a lot of pre planning to pull off some girlfriend time. This friend does't get it! She misses the way things used to be and gets irritated. When guilt tripping you does not work, anger might emerge and finally she says "forget it. I'm done with this relationship."

Let's rewind a bit. You have gone through a life altering event: discovering your child has learning differences. You thought that a friend would walk beside you and come to your aid. It didn't happen. In fact, you have felt forgotten, misunderstood and even rejected. How did this happen? We were good friends!

I posed this question to a friend who has seen this occur. She has seen this many times. Her response was the friend hasn't been through a "big thing" in her life because when that happens that will change her. I thought back on my life. I could be critical of leaders if I had not been a pastor's wife. If i wasn't a mom of a son on the autism spectrum, I could be unsympathetic to so many things. Experience teaches  so much.

What do I learn from this? A person doesn't know what she doesn't know. Difficulties change a person. I have seen this over and over again. Even though the FRIENEMY can hurt you, it's helpful to understand that she just may not of had the experiences to reach out to you. Hang in there with your Personal FRIENEMY!


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Monday, February 27, 2017

Sensory Profile

No one has a perfect sensory system.  But there are some individuals that have more struggles with a less perfect sensory system.  Difficulties are seen in a wide variety of ways.




1.  One sense may be the culprit.  It could be touch...certain fabrics just are excruciating.  Other fabrics are so preferred, the child can't stop feeling them.  Think of that soft blanket she can't stop rubbing on her face.

2.  It may be the integration of 2 or more senses.  It is so much easier to assess the social environment when the visual and auditory senses work together to integrate information that from both of those senses.  

3.  Some individuals receive sensory messages more or less intensely than they should.  Sometimes one sense is stronger and another sense is weaker.  It's hard to integrate across the senses with these mixed messages.  

4.  Another difficulty is in knowing where I am in space and body placement issues.  If I want to put on a pair of gloves, I need good messages from my brain where my hands are in space and where the gloves are if I want to slide my hands into them.  


So how do I help a child who struggles with the sensory system?  Well, the first thing is to get an evaluation from an occupational therapist to determine the exact issues.while talking with the OT, ask if she would recommend a primitive reflex evaluation.  If the answer is yes, pursue it also.  Once, these evaluations are done, do any exercises, the therapist suggests.  Seek to learn as much as you can about the sensory systems.  Some great books are:

  Sensational Kids by Lucy Jane Miller

  Raising a Sensory Smart Child by Bielefeld and Penske

  Any books by Carol Kranowitz


It takes time to develop a sensory life style but it can be done once the issues are defined.  It is important to work with a trained professional (an occupational therapist with expertise in sensory integration therapy.). Then it is important to educate yourself as well as following through daily with strategies you learn.  


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Spring Meeting

At my house, it's a couple weeks from spring break which means it's time to schedule a meeting at school.  But why?  I haven't "digested" what I heard at the parent teacher conference.  Well, if a meeting gets scheduled right after spring break, it will give you time to think about what you heard at conference.  If you want a conference in the next few weeks, it's time to email the teacher, principal and/or counselor to get it scheduled.  



There are many reasons for a meeting.  


1.  You know that changes need to occur so the "team" needs to be brought together to discuss next steps.

2. You may want to request an IEP meeting.  If may be due or it may of already occurred this year.  That doesn't matter.  A parent may request an IEP meeting at anytime.  It must happen at least once a year but may happen more often than that.  

3.  The yearly IEP meeting may be coming up this spring but you would like to have an IEP "planning meeting" ahead of time to voice concerns and what you, as the parents, are looking for when the IEP draft in written.  

4.  Communication between parents and school is always a good thing.  It may aid you in communicating what you would like to see for next fall.  It is a time that concerns and thoughts about teacher selection and next year's can be discussed.  

5.  If there is any kind of a transition such as moving to a new building next year, it is important to discuss what supports will be put in place to ease the student into the changes ahead.  Even, if there is a formal transition meeting, a preliminary meeting where  preparations are discussed is very important.  Will there be a visit to the new school before he is an actual student?  Who will the child's "go to" staff member be at the new school?  How will he meet this advocate and build a relationship?  If the child needs a break, what is the procedure and how will this be communicated?


You might have a totally different reason for calling a school meeting this spring.  No matter the reason, go ahead and request it.  It will only help you as a parent and give you a chance to advocate for your child and that's a good thing.



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