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My apologies for the lateness of this newsletter. I had surgery last week and I'm running a little behind.
Tomorrow I have an annual review of my son's IEP. Although I have mainstreamed him for most of his classes, his progress report shows some problems. While I don't regret placing my son in self contained special education during his elementary school years, I am having some difficulties with my decision to keep him there as he grows older. Clearly, thanks to medication and special ed classes, he has learned a great deal but I believe that it's time he moved on to regular education classes.
When he was young, it was important to me that he learn the basics and the skills and tools he needed to be able to study and learn. I believe that he has done that to the best of his abilities.
As he grows into a young man it is important to me that he be as much like the other kids as possible. That he learn to deal with everyday challenges with what he's learned not necessarily adjust his challenges to meet his abilities. Also, as a young man, he's more aware of who he is, that he be accepted by other children and that even * girls * like him.
Is it more important to me that James get good grades or is it more important that he just be like other kids? As a parent, I think the answer is both but as * James' * parent, I think I'd rather have him as a special needs child in a regular world than a special needs child in a special environment.
James' mainstream reading teacher told me that James is not the best student in the class but he's certainly not the worst. He participates, he's enthusiastic, he completes all his work and he does his best. I think that's the most any parent can ask for.
A parent writes, "I have a twelve year old girl who thinks she is going on twenty-one. She wants more freedom as far as going places with her friends as a group. I am questioning how much freedom do you allow a twelve year old to have? It's always a constant struggle between us lately."
Parents are frequently contending with the delicate balance that must be struck between allowing a child appropriate freedom and limiting that freedom due to concerns over safety, circumstances and overall maturity. Today's fast paced culture is especially tempting to pre-adolescents since they want so much to experience the excitement of independence. Although it takes years for a child to mature into responsible management of their freedoms, a twelve year old often wants to jump ahead since she is at the threshold of the big "t" word: becoming a teenager. Because these situations come up frequently it's helpful to have standards to guide our decision making. The following are a series of questions that I suggest all parents ask themselves when negotiating the murky waters of setting limits vs. supporting independence:
How does my child handle her present freedoms? Before granting new ones, we are wise to consider the current degree of freedom and good judgment that has been exercised. Consider how well your child displays responsibility when baby-sitting, completing chores, following through on commitments, and so on. One way to measure readiness is to offer "test drives" where you step back and allow her a degree of freedom within a situation. Review how well she does and pay careful attention to how receptive she is to your feedback. Explain that one test of readiness is how well she accepts advice about responsibility.
How susceptible is my child to group consensus? Although many parents think their child is safer in a group, they overlook the fact that children are also more prone to follow the group consensus, for better or for worse. The pressure to conform to peer wishes remains a powerful motivator on behavior. Therefore, it's important to consider how well your child can resist peer pressure when it conflicts with parental values and prohibitions. Talk with her about the times when she could have asserted herself to determine if this is a role she shrinks from or embraces. If it's the former, coach her in appropriate ways to follow her conscience without sacrificing her friendships.
How well do my child and I know the children in the "group?" One of the realities of our times is the covert nature of adolescent friendship. Aspects of personality and unsavory behaviors are covered up when adults are watching, but may emerge with surprising intensity when the group is together. Speak to your child about the possibility that she might not know her friends as well as she thinks. Explain that she can make choices about who she "hangs out" with, and that some kids are probably not good choices to go to the mall with but are okay to invite over. Arrange parties and other functions at your house so that you can make judgments about the group and then compare your observations with those of your daughter.
How well have I built a bond of trust, honesty, and understanding with my child? If something goes wrong while children are enjoying their freedom, parents expect their child will tell them about it. Similarly, parents hope that their children will turn to them for help if they find themselves in a serious problem situation. Unfortunately, sometimes children do just the opposite. If this has been the case with your child, speak with her about the reasons why. Suggest that she hasn't trusted you with the truth or has not given you credit for being able to understand how she looks at things. Show her that you can be open-minded to hear her point of view. Stress that with greater freedom comes the potential for greater problems that require parental help and notification.
Dr. Steven Richfield is a child psychologist in Plymouth Meeting, PA. His column appears monthly.
The last column I spoke of using a tape recorder at all times (when legal in your state), when you know your child's rights are severely being violated. For many of you, whose schools are not openly violating code although they are not keeping up with their word when they promise to do something for your child. Luckily, many of you do not have to deal with schools that are overtly breaking the law, as happened to my family. They are just either forgetful or feel they do not have to do everything to the letter of their promise. This lesson is meant for those parents who need to remind the school staff, to keep promises, and follow codes. It is through the use of your diary and letters.
Many of you are familiar with Brandi Valentine, whose site you are reading this on. When I was going through our family horror, Brandi was the first person to teach me about keeping a diary and writing letters. Keeping school teachers and administrators honest is done through creating a paper trail. That is, a history of documents, and diary entries showing times and dates when any dealings take place between you and the school, or your child and the school. It shows who was there, when it happened, who said what and to whom. It shows what your response was, who was there when you said it etc.
Why is this important? It is important because one day, you child may need extra help, your child may be finding it harder to do the work because the disorder is not allowing your child to advance, or because a change in public opinion about children or a change in opinion about your child takes place.
Like, what happened after Columbine. Our children were attacked because they are high risk children, who find themselves in behavioral trouble more often than other children. Not because they are bad kids, but because of their disorder named ADHD. If your school, were great to your child, until an incident takes place in your school that changes the minds of administrators, you want a record that establishes that your child was given services, or you were told they were going to be granting services, and by whom, and when you were told. If you have a teacher, that is supposed to under 504, to give your child his homework written out every day, and doesn't, you want to send a letter. First, you send the letter directly to the teacher, being highly specific about what they have not done that they are supposed to be doing. Do not be antagonistic in your tone but rather helpful in reminding them about their obligation to your child and how this is going to be a team effort between you and the teacher. If that initial letter is not successful or the teacher becomes antagonistic towards you or your child, you then step up the nature of the letters and step up the level of administrator you send letters to. You then write the Principal, coupled with a copy of the original letter you sent directly to the teacher. This shows you were not out to hurt the teacher or get the teacher in trouble and will show that all you wanted to form a team effort to help your child, but it turned out to not be successful. So, again without any anger, you write the Principal about what is not being done. I guarantee the response from the Principal will either be totally in your favor, or totally antagonistic. There almost is never a middle ground. You will them have a sense of what you have to look forward to in dealing with the school. If the Principal's response is telling you that you will not get what is rightful help, or they deny any violations of code, or violating a 504 accommodation, or the very worst, an IEP agreement, then you go up the ladder. Write a detailed description of what is being denied to your child. Remember, if legal, have tape recorders operating. Then you go up the ladder. Write a detailed description of what is being denied to your child. Remember, if legal, have tape recorders operating. This time you will be sending a new letter, again, being positive and non-threatening in nature, coupled with copies of the first two letters, and send it to your Superintendent of Schools. If that letter fails, you send a copy of all the letters to your County Office of Special Education. List times and dates of conversations meetings, a description of what has been promised or contracted under 504 or an IEP. Write how frustrated you are that your child is being denied a "Free and Appropriate Education." Write this exact phrase. A "Free and Appropriate Education." It is a legal term that all schools must follow to the letter, under Federal Law. Wait for their response. If it is positive and they get the school to help your child, all is well. They will know that they have someone who has gone up the chain of command, and has asked the proper authorities for their help, and you will not stand for being treated this way. Keep in mind, you have a diary with dates, names, discussions, who said what, to whom and when. And I hope, tape recordings of conversations you have had with all the people who have been denying help.
If this fails, you write the last letter, to you State Department of Education, Department of Special Education. This time the tone will be more demanding, and threatening. Send copies of every letter you have sent, a list of the violations of codes, and lack of your child getting a "Free and Appropriate Education," and your desire to file a formal complaint against the school. Send this letter registered, as you will do for every letter you send school officials except the first original letter sent to the teacher. What you have done is create a paper trail showing the early violations of code, going up the ladder to secure help, letters documenting what has been done to your child, your seeking help in pleasant non-threatening tones, and ultimately being denied any help.
It is at this point, you will have the beginning of a file, showing every violation of code, when it happened, your requests for help along with the denials, and most importantly a record that they will not be able to deny. The tape recordings are your assurance that if they start to try to demonize you, by calling you a liar, or a bad parent, or an antagonist, you will have these tape recordings to show that you were telling the truth. That you always remained clam, that you were not antagonistic, and all you wanted was a team effort to help your child.
This is a paper trail that can save your child, if they ever try to retaliate against you or your child. They will never like you, they will probably hate you, but they will respect you, and in the long run, they will provide the help your child requires. They will have teachers follow the accommodations they granted. If in the future, if they try to take away help, you will have these documents to prove what they are trying to do. Believe me, you will be sitting in the strong position, especially if they try to retaliate, you tell the Principal that you have tape recordings of every meeting you ever had with these teachers, and will sue if denied help. The existence of these tape recordings are the great equalizers. Keep them locked up and safe and secure.
Do not turn them over to any school official. Just let them know that they exist, and you will be able to prove that your child's rights were violated. You won't believe the feeling of power you will have. Never again, will you have to feel like you are being talked down to. You have leveled the playing field, and you them are the strongest team in town, and should win your child's World Series of Education.
If I have an impact in my lifetime, I hope it is in helping the world to make a quantum leap to the next step of parenting and teaching. Almost every book in both domains inevitably discusses and suggests the prospect of "catching your child being good". It's a wonderful thought that certainly has an impact when working with the average child. However, when the parent or teacher of a difficult child looks into the net to inspect the "catch" at the end of a day, they far too frequently find very little to report.
"Catching your child being good" in relation to a difficult child is like trying to catch a dinosaur in a butterfly net…it's far too disempowering…the net is too small.
The only way to have a powerful effect on the difficult child is too somehow find a way to have a net bigger than the room itself. It's about creating a new scenario where one has the outlook and strategies to support going beyond "catching" to a new scenario of creating successes. By going beyond catching to creating one is able to take advantage of a far greater array of opportunities to see and confront successfulness…being able to go beyond encouraging successes to a far more advantageous and powerful vantage point of creating "experiences" of success that allow children to both begin trusting that they can live their life through success and that they no longer need to go to the trouble of acting out to have adults involved, animated and excited about their lives.
Fortunately, we have much more opportunity than we'd ever believe. Our lives are composed of moments…10, 20, 30 thousand moments a day or more. And the good news is that we needn't be anywhere near perfect. Even the most conscious adults are only "in the moment" a portion of the day. However, if we can be conscious enough to create a frame of "successfulness" for our child 20-30 times a day, we can have an enormous effect on their desire to think and act from the mindset of being successful.
All it takes is jumping into that window of opportunity…that moment, so to speak...and having a way or two of essentially reflecting back "here you are being successful…and here's what I mean by that". "Here's what you are doing that's successful…and here's what your not doing that's successful." Successfulness has more than one dimension and children need to hear all sides.
As much as they need to hear "I appreciate that you are showing respect to your brother", they also need to hear "and I truly appreciate that the two of you haven't been arguing and fighting…I really love the successful choices you've been making to get along".
How else are they going to know that they are being successful in relation to the rules and how else are they going to know the "truth"…for without a doubt, if your children have had an issue of arguing and fighting, then the truth is that you appreciate when they are not fighting. And the truth is that you are appreciative when they aren't arguing. Telling them that truth will set you free. It's a great way to create successes and a great way to have a net "bigger than the room". And all of a sudden ordinary moments become windows of opportunity to generate all kinds of successes. Refuse to be disempowered…go way beyond "catching your child being good" and you'll never go back. Enjoy being powerful.
This is it for another addition of ADDed Attractions. I hope you find this issue beneficial. I started home schooling my teenage daugher a couple of weeks ago so I hope to be able to share some insight and experience with you next month.
Thank you for reading ADDed Attractions and a big THANK YOU to those who make this newsletter possible:
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My name is Nayano Taylor-Neumann, and I used to be the chairperson of ADASA (the Attention Disorders Association of South Australia).
Since leaving ADASA I have set up a team of people who are dedicated to improving the lot of kids with ADHD in the classroom.
We call ourselves ADHD Seminars, and we provide professional development for teachers at all levels. Our team includes university professors and lecturers, special education teacher, parents and psychologists. The main criterion for people we work with is that they must be passionate about helping kids with ADHD achieve socially and academically. We also have guest presenters-in 2001 Professor Bob Reid from the University of Nebraska/Lincoln will be visiting and will present a workshop on his specialty: Self-regulation of Impulsivity, Hyperactivity and Inattention. We publish print training packages, and also cassettes and video tapes. We also publish a newsletter called 'Meeting the Challenge', on-line and posted.
Parents of children with special needs are often confronted with problems relating to the delivery of nursing services while their child is at school.
On rare occasions, without the provision of such services, it is impossible for a student to attend school on a regular basis. This situation can be highly disruptive to family operations, as parents struggle to juggle the impossible burden of work obligations, while, at the same time, taking the time to personally provide the services for the child. The child with ADHD often presents significant logistic issues in terms of school nursing services, most often relating to dispensing of medications at set intervals during the school day.
On March 3, 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court addressed the issue of whether school districts must provide nursing services for a child with special needs in Cedar Rapids Community School District v. Garrett F., ___ U.S. ___ (1999). The Court held that the federal special education law (known as the "Individuals with Disabilities Education Act" or "IDEA") requires that the school district provide children with any nursing services required by the child during the school day. In so doing, the Court rejected the school district's request that any nursing services only need be provided based on a "cost-based multi-factor" test. The Court further chastised the school district for attempting to frustrate a purpose of the IDEA, that is, that Congress intended to open the doors of public education and required States to educate disabled children with non-disabled children whenever possible.The Garrett F. Court did not address how the 1997 Amendments to the IDEA impact on the issue of providing school nursing services for children with special needs (because the issue before the Court dealt with facts and law prior to the enactment of the revisions to the special education laws in 1997). In 1997, Congress amended the IDEA to clarify that public educational agencies (local school districts) are the payors of last resort whenever another public agency has a funding responsibility to an exceptional child.If a child is the recipient of State Medicaid services, then Medicaid funding must be exhausted prior to the school district incurring any funding liability. If, on the other hand, a non-school public agency - such as Medicaid - refuses to pay for nursing services at school, then the school district must pay for the services and seek reimbursement from the other public agency. The parents of children with special needs should never be put in the position of having to fight with Medicaid authorities to obtain funding for school nursing services. Congress recognized that there might be occasions when public educational agencies and other public agencies might get into a dispute over which agency is responsible for payment of special nursing services for an exceptional child. Under the IDEA, each State is required to establish an interagency coordination system to handle interagency disputes regarding funding of services. Typically, these disputes involve school districts, state educational agencies, state health agencies, mental health agencies, and insurance agencies. The most effective State interagency coordination systems are ones where a representative of the Governor's office chairs the interagency coordination meetings, such as in Delaware, because the agencies are put under intense pressure to resolve the funding disputes or suffer the consequences of letting the Governor resolve the issue.
In one recent case, a federal Court of Appeals held that a school district does not need to provide a person to administer medications to a child on homebound instruction, and that the school district's policy of requiring a parent to remain at home during in-home instruction does not violate the IDEA. See Daniel O. v. Missouri Board of Education, 32 IDELR 113 (8th Cir. 2000). It is incumbant on the child's IEP team to determine the level of nursing services to a child on homebound instruction, although the issue is not addressed directly in the IDEA. If a child is receiving in-home educational services from a public educational agencies for medical reasons, the IEP team should -- arguably - use the same analysis as outlined by the Supreme Court in Garrett F. Additionally, nursing services during the school day for a child receiving in-home instruction should be addressed through the state Medicaid system.Parents seeking at-school nursing services for a child with special needs should take the following steps:
1. Do provide medical documentation. The need for at-school nursing services should be documented by a medical doctor. Ask your child's doctor to write a letter to the school district explaining what nursing services your child needs at school. The letter should state whether the services are necessary in order for the child to be able to go to school, and should state what level of professional qualifications or training is necessary to deliver the services. The doctor should clearly state if the services can be provided by a non-nurse who is trained to deliver the services (such as non-sterile catheterization). If the services can be provided by a non-nurse with special training, the doctor should outline specifically what training is necessary. Likewise, if the services require skilled nursing services, the letter should state exactly what specialized or advanced training is necessary for the nurse. 2. Do provide access to health insurance and Medicaid coverage information. School districts are far more willing to provide expensive nursing services for a child if the school district knows that the parent is exhausting all outside funding sources to pay for the services. Provide documentation to the school district showing that you have applied for Social Security, Medicaid, and CHIP benefits for your child, even if you think that your child is not eligible for SSI or Medicaid benefits. Give the school district copies of denial letters from your private health insurance carrier. 3. Demand that the child's IEP specifically include the nursing services that you are requesting. Often, school district's try to side-step this issue by claiming that it is not proper to include services to be paid for by another public agency. Stately conversely, the school districts think that they are financially liable for the services if the services are identified in the IEP. However, you will not be able to invoke the IDEA's interagency coordination process unless the IEP specifically identifies the nursing services required for the child to access his or her educational program and placement. 4. Proceed to a Due Process Hearing if the school district does not provide the nursing services. It is time to file a request for a special education due process hearing if all of the above steps are followed by you, and the school district still refuses to provide the necessary nursing services. Ask the school district to provide you with a copy of the "Procedural Safeguards Notice."
The Notice utlines the steps to request a due process hearing. When drafting a request for a due process hearing, be sure to affirmatively state in writing that "the child is being denied a free appropriate public education pursuant to the IDEA and Section 504 because necessary nursing services are being denied." 5. Remember that the issue of whether or not to medicate a child with ADHD is a parenting decision made in conjunction with your child's physician, and not an educator's decision. Be sure, however, that relevant teacher input is solicited and received by the physcian. A teacher's input can be crucial when monitoring new medications or changes in dosage. If in doubt, ask that your child's physician be allowed to participate in the IEP team meeting via telephone conference call.
LDlearning: www.ldlearning.com Phil Stinson Esq. Special Ed Attorney: www.specialedlaw.net
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