Friday, September 01, 2006

Home Update

Here it is, Labor Day weekend already! Where did the summer go?

The kids start back to school on Tuesday, meaning that new shows will be easier to produce, and I have an exciting list of guests and topics upcoming.
This past week, I spoke with Paige and Gretchen of Mommycast and we recorded a show together! This will be posted as part of their World Education Summit, and will be cross-posted on the LD Podcast feed! I am so excited!
I spoke with Paige and Gretchen about what are the first steps you need to take once a diagnosis is in hand to find services. This is not a straight-forward and easy question to answer because:

1. If a public school did the testing, then they pretty much automatically decice what services you are eligible for, and tend to make placements, although you as a aprent are certainly entitled to ask for other services- the testing determines placement.

2. If you had outside testing done, the school can or cannot accept the results, and may want to do additional testing themselves. Then, this information is used to determine placement for services.

In private schools, very little extra help and services are offerred. This means finding private services, which can be both challenging and expensive. In a future show, I will have Michelle Jones, an occupational therapist who works with children and runs a handwriting group, talk about how the doctor-insurance-school triangle works, and how you can make it work for you.

What services are usually available?

This varies district to district, but every child is enetiled, under the IDEA to a free and appropriate public education, meaning that the education given must "work" for the child and let them move successfully from grade to grade. (Now, remember, successfully is not defined as "A's" or even "B's" in all subjects, but just passing each course.)
Typical services might be occupational therapy for children needing help with coordination, handwriting, or other issues that are effecting their classroom performance. Speech therapy is provided for children needing help with articulation, prosidy or other forms of speech and expressive language issues.
Children might get pull-out help, or spend part of their day in a special classroom, sometimes called a resource room, where they get more individualized attention to work on their areas of need in a much smaller group setting. Sessions might even be one on one, but that is often unusual.
Some children, with more intense needs, may qualify to have an aide with them in the regular classroom, to help them with communication, keeping behavior in check, and otherwise help them on an individual basis within a larger classroom setting.
Which services a child receives depends alot on what your child needs, and what you, as a parent, specifically ask for. Before any meeting for an IEP or looking for classroom accomodations for your child, you should have a checklist of things you think your child needs, such as:
1. Specific extra help in one or more areas (therapy, classroom support, etc.)
2. Extra time on tests or for assignments as needed
3. Ability to complete assignments in alternate format, ie,. typing rather than handwritten, or even orally, if acceptable to the teacher.
4. Think about the unusual, and what may unfairly penalize your child.

For example, James has bad handwriting. For standardized testing, he has a formal accommodation for a scribe, where he writes the essay, and then it is re-written by the scribe to it is legible, and he is not down-graded for his handwriting. They do not yet have accommodations so he can type the standard essays, but perhaps in the future. In the meantime, this accommodation also holds for the classroom, although in practice, it really is not needed, since many of the "in class" assignments allow the use of word processing programs.

Some children with similar handwriting issues use portable keyboards, like Alphasmarts, where they can type almost all of their assignments and take notes with the keyboard in the classroom. Often these are provided at no cost by the school district. When I tried the Alphasmart approach with James's 5th grade teacher, and even offerred to provide one so the school district did not have to spend the money, they insisted that it really wasn't necessary most of the time, and that the scribe accommodation was adequate. 95% of the time, it worked out great.

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