Special Education Funding in the 2012 U.S. Budget

Education is a hot button topic as the U.S. government begins negotiations on the 2012 budget. President Obama’s budget calls for a moderate increase in funding for teacher training, research and early childhood education for an education budget total of $77.4 billion. House Republicans are simultaneously promoting a budget that slashes $5 billion from the current budget and specifically cuts special education, including $1.1 billion from Head Start that would eliminate services for 200,000 children and cut more than 50,000 jobs.

Here are two articles from the NY Times and Education Week that further explain and break down the proposed budgets:

Obama’s Budget Proposes a Significant Increase for Schools

Obama Seeks to Shelter Education in 2012 Budget

Where do you stand on the proposed budget for education services?

Congress To Consider National Special Needs Parent Day

A resolution calling for the establishment of a national day to recognize the parents of children with special needs is expected to be considered as early as Tuesday in the House of Representatives. Parents, you deserve this and so much more for all that you do.

There is some criticism of this resolution claiming that a day of recognition isn’t what’s needed as much as research, financial support and better services. What do you think?

Thinking About All the Parents Out There…

With the holidays approaching we all know that gift giving will soon be in full swing.  This undoubtedly means that your families will be generously bestowed with electronic cause and effect toys.  These types of toys help to stimulate development as your child discovers the function of the toy and how to elicit certain responses from the object.  Children with special needs tend to have a longer relationship with these types of toys as they often serve as powerful reinforcers, meet ongoing sensory needs and continue to provide opportunities to address language and motor development.  Additionally, it may take a special needs child longer to master this type of play before moving onto more imaginative and creative play.  What I’m getting at is that these toys are going to be in your house longer and some of them are LOUD.  So when I came across the following post on Apartment Therapy the other day it jumped out at me as a piece vital information for all of you special needs parents out there.  We are always thinking about adaptations for toys and games for the kids but what about the parents?  A former sound engineer for children’s sound books shares a secret on how to turn down the volume on these toys.

Check it out and Happy Holidays!

Bringing Down the Volume on Electronic Toys

Children helping children!

I am always moved to learn about inventive developments in the fields of education and intervention for children with autism.  But how often do you hear about interventions being designed for children BY children?  Well that is exactly what Zak Kukoff did when he developed Autism Ambassadors.  Zak, a typically developing 15-year old, created a curriculum that “will engage typical children and children with ASD’s in a mutually beneficial relationship.” There is research that supports the efficacy of using peer models to facilitate observational learning with children with autism but how often have you seen examples where it has been successfully implemented?  We would love for you to share your stories regarding peer modeling or your experience with Autism Ambassadors!

Have A Listen

I am a HUGE fan of the Radiolab program on National Public Radio (NPR) and just had to share this one.  I’ll admit that the Radiolab podcasts are usually my escape from work and a time to think about something different.  However, the podcast ‘Words’ focuses on the role language plays in our thinking.  It offers several interesting perspectives on language development and non-verbal individuals that really moved me.  There is no  mention of autism but so much of what is discussed felt relevant to this population.  I hope you will listen in…

http://www.radiolab.org/2010/aug/09/.

Dublin Schools Using iPad As Educational Tool

This is an interesting article about a school district in Ohio that is using Ipads with students with developmental disabilities. We were particularly struck by the way they’re using it to appeal to students by engaging all of their senses and providing reinforcement.

The MotivAider

The MotivAider is consistently one of our top sellers here at Different Roads to Learning. It’s a versatile and helpful tool that can be used for anything from prompting a child to engage in play to toilet training. The MotivAider vibrates at timed intervals to prompt an individual to engage in a specific behavior. This is an interesting article about how it is specifically used with children with ADD. Have any of you used the MotivAider as a way to teach or change certain behaviors? How have you used it and for what?  We’d love to hear your experiences.

Back to School Basics

You know it is officially back to school season when the grill in my backyard has been cool to the touch for days and I’ve had my yearly medical exam (PPD titer and all!). I hope it has been smooth sailing for you and your little ones as classes begin. If it hasn’t been, this is what I always try to keep in mind, for all people, big and small:

PREPARE!

It is best to join forces with your child and prepare for the year by making sure you cover what I like to call the 3 S’s.

SPACE

Make sure everything in your child’s work/play space at home is organized and equipped. Play continues to be an important part of learning even when school is in session so take this time to go through toys and arts and crafts supplies and weed out things that are broken or no longer developmentally appropriate for your child. Make sure there is a spacious and uncluttered work space stocked with all of the supplies your child will need to complete homework and school projects. It is also a good idea to keep a space near the work area for a visual schedule to help foster independence during homework time. Lastly, designate a spot near the entrance of your home where your child’s backpack, important papers and your keys can go each afternoon. The last thing you want is to add undue stress to your morning routine and risk missing the beginning of class.

SCHEDULE

We all know that with this population transitions can be especially difficult.  First, take care of as much as you can the night before. Pack bags, sign paperwork, pack lunches, and pick out clothing.  Also, don’t think that a a parent you are the only one responsible for this prep work. Incorporate as many of these things into your child’s evening routine as you can. Having your child participate will foster independence and build confidence. Again, visual schedules and token economies help facilitate independence and provide motivation respectively.  Structure benefits children so it is good to develop a general school year routine and stick to it as much as possible.  Predictability is helpful when it comes to transitions but also remember to build in components that have some element of change to them so that you can facilitate flexibility.  One part of the schedule that shouldn’t change is the sleep schedule.  Keep it as consistent as possible, even on the weekends.  I suggest building a calming activity into the schedule before bedtime and using a timer to help with the transition to bed.

SOCIAL

Sometimes, people find it surprising when I suggest preparation for social interactions but there are a lot of creative ways to help children familiarize themselves with conversational topics, common games and salient information about their peers and teachers.  I encourage all of the families I work with to print photographs of family outings or events that can be used as visual prompts for conversational topics.  Especially good are things that happened over the weekend.  If the picture book is reviewed Sunday evening they will be fully prepared to talk about what they did over the weekend. Additionally, you can find out what schoolyard games are popular with your child’s peer group and practice them at home with siblings or playdates.  If it is an athletic game you might also spend time with your child making a book about the rules that can be reviewed periodically. Lastly, I like to construct a “friend journal” with a child at the beginning of each school year.  You might need to enlist teachers or other parents to help with this but it is such a useful tool that it is worth the extra effort.  Start by obtaining photos of each classmate and pasting them individually into different sections of the journal.  On a daily basis you can help your child fill in something they have learned about their peers.  This could range anywhere from favorite cartoon or tv show to their age or their family members names.

Going back to school can be a fun and exciting time.  With a little preparation and creativity maybe it will be the best school year yet!

The TimeBuddy Clock is here!

We’ve been waiting since February for the TimeBuddy to arrive and it’s finally here!
This wonderful and customizable clock is designed to help young children with daily routines and time management. TimeBuddy is a battery-operated 24-hour activity clock with alarm settings. The alarm can be set for up to three different activities. The clock dial points to visual icons which consist of reusable stickers that are placed at actual times throughout the day by the parent, giving children cues on when to start and stop certain activities. You can also set the clock to literally speak three different phrases in your choice of three languages (English, Spanish, and French). There’s even an option for a user-recorded message of up to 15 seconds to allow parents to record a personalized message and you can insert the child’s name into the pre-programmed messages.

How Do I Get My Kid To Eat?!

I couldn’t even begin to count how many times I’ve been asked this question. It is an issue that I love to tackle in collaboration with the families that I work with mostly because when progress is made, it makes such a dramatic difference in the well-being of the entire family.

Behavioral and sensory issues of a child with special needs can further complicate the ordinary mealtime struggles of a parent of a small child. Parents are often torn between the interventions outlined for them by therapists and the reality of everyday life. This usually means that at the end of the day, just getting the child to eat anything and by any means necessary. No one is happy when mealtime becomes a battle zone. Use of a token economy or escape extinction is most common and can work if implemented consistently. However, I am always impressed when I come across new and creative approaches to food and feeding issues.
One such example of creativity comes from my experience with a great family and their two young boys that I worked with for several years. Their mother was a force to be reckoned with when it came to approaching the introduction of new foods and organizing play dates. I don’t remember how it started, or if it was a conscious plan but the weekly play dates she organized for socialization quickly evolved into preschool foodie events. The children were much more likely to try new foods and like them when their peers were trying them too. It was also a great opportunity to work through sensory aversions and begin to enjoy getting messy. I was recently reminded about these special food play dates when I came across a post on http://special-needs.families.com about a food centric play group started by some parents in Texas.
Currently I am experimenting with new ways to expand the diets of the children on my caseload as well as improving my own health through my food choices. My own mantra for health is to “Eat the Rainbow” so that I make sure I get a nice mix of fruits and vegetables. In my research I came across a great book for one child who has a strong interest in letters. The book is “Eating the Alphabet” by Lois Ehlert and it has inspired a new token economy type system for him and his siblings. Check out the template for the chart in the DRL Downloads! All you have to do is add your child’s picture and a picture of anyone else in the family wanting to participate, laminate, start checking off new foods with a dry erase marker and let the eating begin!
What have you tried?