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Newsletter Archive - "Thrive" from A is For Apple

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Thrive - September 2016 Issue

by A is for Apple, Inc. | Aug 31, 2016

Advocating for Your Child in the IEP Process

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Last February in our “Ask A is for Apple” section, we talked about advocating for your child in setting up an IEP.

But what about after that?

You can (and should) continue to advocate for your child while the IEP is underway, and when it’s reviewed. That’s the topic of this month’s “Thrive.”

How to Keep Track of IEP Progress

IEPs are re-evaluated once per year. In a re-evaluation, the IEP’s current goals are discussed, and reviewed for progress. If your child needs new goals, they’re proposed here.

IEPs are also reviewed once every 3 years. During these reviews, your child’s service providers (speech/OT therapists, teachers, ABA therapists, psychologists) give your child a full reassessment. These reviews may set a whole new group of goals.

This is an important point: An IEP has goals built into it. We always say, “Goals drive services.”

The goals in your child’s IEP determine which services your child gets. They also determine how your child’s progress is measured.

In an IEP report, goals are matched to skills deficits. Skills deficits are areas where your child is developmentally delayed or disabled. (For example, speech impairment.)

Each goal should have a Time Period assigned to it, as well as Benchmarks to mark progress. For example, let’s say your child has the following goal: In 1 year, their skill level in Skill X is at 80%.

We’d set the benchmarks at 10% every 3 months—first 50%, then 60% in 3 months, then 70% in 3 months, and finally 80% at 1 year. This way you can track your child’s progress over time, from the feedback school officials write into the IEP report.

In an IEP review or re-evaluation, you must check these benchmarks. Make sure they are written in, and addressed during the meeting. Make sure numbers are included in the feedback. You’ll need these numbers to measure how well your child is (or is not) doing.

What You Need to Do

  1. BEFORE THE REVIEW/RE-EVALUATION MEETING: Request an up-to-date copy of the IEP report from the school. Look for the goals’ benchmarks. Do skill deficits have a goal attached? How much time is allocated to each goal? Is it enough?

    If this is a Reassessment Year, ask for a copy of each service provider’s assessment at least 1 week before the meeting date. That way you’ll have plenty of time to read through them carefully.

    (You may get “kickback” here; some service providers don’t want to complete assessment reports early. But it is within your rights to ask for them, to better prepare yourself for the Reassessment meeting.)

    Note any questions, concerns, or confusion you have. You can (and should) quote the IEP when asking for clarification on these points.
  2. ATTEND: Attend the reassessments and re-evaluation meetings. You are there as your child’s voice, and to receive feedback from school officials.
  3. ASK QUESTIONS: Bring questions with you. You want to ask about your child’s progress, how good a job the IEP is doing for him/her, and if changes are needed.

Here’s a checklist of topics to check, and questions you can ask based on them. We’ll use Speech Therapy as an example service here, but you can substitute whatever services your child needs.

  • “Can you explain why the time period for Speech Therapy (ex. 4 hours/week) is sufficient to help my child’s speech impairment/intellectual disability?”
  • “Do all my child’s skill deficits have a goal attached?”
    • Does the goal include a time period?
      • If not, why not?
  • [If there’s a number in a goal] “Is there a number assigned to the progress my child has made on this goal?”
    • Is it accurate?
      • Can you explain why?
  • Can I see my child’s work?
  • When a service provider discusses the child’s ability level (usually referring to a benchmark), you can say, “Show me the data.”
    • This means you want to see the scores or data generated from your child’s progress.
      • This may follow your request to see your child’s work.
  • You can also ask to see the data when someone recommends that a current service be reduced or denied.
    • You should receive a concrete reason why, with evidence.
      • If you don’t see a reason in the report, or evidence, insist on seeing the data.
  • “Can you explain why you feel Goal X is met?”

What to Do If the IEP Goals Are Not Met

If you find out before or during the meeting that one or more of the IEP’s goals are not met, you have options to choose from.

Re-Evaluation. Request a Re-Evaluation (in writing). Like we discussed in February, you can request a re-evaluation of your child if you disagree with the IEP’s placements.

Bring an Advocate. Have an independent advocate come in with you and push for more focus on the child. They can be a specialist, a friend, an AIFA supervisor, even a pro bono attorney.

Don’t Sign IEP. If you don’t agree with the IEP…don't sign it! An IEP cannot go into effect if you, the parent, do not agree to it.

(You or the school district may initiate a mediated meeting – called a “due process proceeding” –to resolve the issue.)

Sign with Exceptions. If you choose to sign, but you don’t agree with everything in the IEP report? You can sign with exceptions. Essentially you sign the parts of the IEP you agree with, which are implemented. The parts you don’t sign are not implemented.

For signing with exceptions, this document from DisabilityRightsCA.org will help you. It contains details on how to sign with exceptions, as well as elements within IEP reports and what you can do concerning each one.
Special Education Rights and Responsibilities: Information on IEP Process (PDF)

Advocating for Your Child Helps Them Continue to Grow & Thrive

An IEP review or reassessment is not meant as a difficult process. Sometimes it can be though, and it’s best to be prepared. Just in case. We hope this information helps you continue to advocate for your child’s needs.

If you need help with the IEP process, please talk with your A is for Apple supervisor.

See you next month!





Local Events

IEP Workshop on Sept. 10, and a Safety Fair on Sept. 17

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As if Back to School isn’t busy enough, September is a big month for events too!

FIRST:  Do you want to become a strong advocate for your child in the IEP process?  Support for Families is hosting a workshop in San Francisco on Saturday, Sept. 10. 

Titled, “IEP Development & Dynamics: Make Sure Your Voice is Heard,” the workshop will help you learn more about your IEP rights and procedures.

There is no cost to attend.  If you register before Sept. 3, free childcare and interpretation services are provided.  

NEXT:  Autism Speaks is holding a Safety Fair!  Come out and meet the people and services available to keep you & your child safe.

The Safety Fair will have local First Responders and Service Providers.  You can get a Safety Tool Kit for your home, meet other parents’ groups, and even talk with the San Andreas Regional Center.






Autism Tips

How To Get Your Child To Sleep

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For many parents, sleep can sometimes feel like a luxury!  But sleep is critical to everyone’s health and quality of life.  In fact, it’s the primary activity of the brain during early development.  

For kids in particular, sleep factors heavily into their ability to develop and function mentally, psychologically, socially, and physically.  A long-term lack of sleep can cause difficulties in learning, shorten attention spans, and even lead to increased aggression or depression. Basically, everyone is at their best after a good night’s sleep.

At A is for Apple, we recommend behavior-based training to parents wanting to get their child to sleep regularly and soundly.  These include Behavior Extinction and Increased Behavior Extinction.

  • Behavior Extinction – This means placing a child in bed at a specific time, and ignoring any and all crying throughout the night.
    • Effectiveness – Positive results in 3-5 nights, with long-term treatment gains
  • Increased Behavior Extinction – This means placing a child in bed at a specific time and 'checking-in' on a schedule that systematically increases over time. For example:
    • Step 1: the child is 'checked-in' in every 10 minutes for the first 3 nights
    • Step 2: then every 20 minutes for the next 3 nights
    • Step 3: then every 30 minutes for the next 2 nights, etc.

Helpful Tips

Foods
  • Avoid giving your child anything with caffeine within 6 hours of bed (e.g., chocolate, soda).
  • Avoid feeding your child a big meal right before bed.
    • If your child has a snack before bed, be sure it contains tryptophan. Sources of tryptophan include cottage cheese, yogurt, bananas, eggs, turkey, seeds, and nuts.

Environment

  • Make the child’s bedroom conducive to sleep.
    • Set the temperature at a comfortable level (not too hot, not too cold).
    • Draw blinds or curtains to create a darker room.  A small night light can be used, also.
  • In the mornings, expose the child to natural sunlight soon after awakening.  This helps set their circadian rhythm.

Stimulation

  • Limit overstimulation like television, video-games, or reading an especially exciting book before bed.
  • Avoid naps during the day, unless it is developmentally appropriate.

Waking

  • If the child exits their bedroom, redirect them back to their bed without making any comment or eye contact with the child.  Parents should simply guide the child back to bed with the reminder, "It’s bedtime."

The A is for Apple team wants you and your child to have a good night’s sleep.  Check in with your program supervisor and/or Clinical Director for additional support and recommendations. 




Ask A is for Apple

Digital Tools for Learning: Too Noisy

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“Dear A is for Apple,

Do you know of any apps that could help my child learn when to keep their voice down?”

One app many educators use is Too Noisy Pro from Walsall Academy. The app uses your phone’s/tablet’s microphone to monitor noise levels in classrooms, at home, and most settings. By visually tracking a specific time frame you set, the app rewards children with stars for keeping the noise level down.

The star rewards appear along the top of the screen.  At the bottom, a timer with an active needle monitors the noise level.  The teacher or parent can set the noise level and the duration of time between each star reward (anywhere from 1 to 15 minutes). This will allow the user to increase time frames as children get better.

The app allows you to pick from nine vibrant and fun backgrounds, and even control sensitivity levels based on four settings (Silent, Quiet, Group, and Class).

Want more personalization?  You can also:

  • Select different dial themes
  • Change time settings between each star award, from 1 minute to 15 minutes; allowing you to increase duration of lower noise levels
  • Choose from preloaded alarm sounds or record your very own
  • Add sounds when stars are rewarded and trigger an alarm when stars are removed
    • One star is removed when noise level goes above the set criteria.
  • Enable a screen cracking effect with alarm noise when noise levels are too high

Too Noisy Pro costs $3.99, is available in the iTunes App Store and Google Play for Android.  Try it out!