Preparing for my class.

I’ve been busy working to prepare my classroom for the school year. 

I will get back to posting soon after the school year begins. 

email any questions. 

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How to help your special education child prepare for school, and how to talk about Special Education

Many students in my classes feel terrible about having to attend my classes. Often I hear things like, “We are here because we are retarded.” 

The students realize that the classes they need to participate in are not typical. They are often in them with students who have lower skills than they do, but they equate their skill levels with their peers in the class. 

Because of this, Special Education teachers are often the most avoided teachers at the school. 

So how do you prepare your student to be in a Special Education class? How do you make him or her feel good about having to be in the class? 

There are a couple of things that I do to help students recognize that they are not alone when it comes to having a disability. 

1) Google: Famous people with Disabilities and search for the disability your student has. You will find tremendous references to very accomplished and famous people who also had difficulties similar to the difficulties your student has in the school environment.

2) Tell your student the truth about education. The truth is that our educational system is set up to teach people how to work well in an office environment. It is set up to make people sit for eight hours, to do paperwork and to follow through with assignments that may be given by a boss. The truth is also, that not everyone in the world is meant to do that sort of thing. That your child has gifts and personality qualities that may make them perfectly suited to another type of work entirely. WE STILL NEED THEM! Mechanics, machinists, contractors, cooks, dancers, artists and others. Work with your child to help them discover who they really are and what they really want to do later. 

3) Knowing the truth about education does not help when it comes to still being required to do the number of hours sitting in a desk that may be required by your student’s school. Your student will need skills and ideas to help them make it through the rigor. Carefully assess your own child’s ability to sit, to write, to read, to do mathematics and to apply themselves. In the areas they struggle, work with them at home to build the skills necessary for school. Parenting is hard work, but you have eighteen years to dig in and work hard for the reward of building a person capabilities to the highest possible scope. 

I know the above does not apply to all parents of children with Special Education students. 

I know some students will read at a second grade or less level all their lives, that they will not be mathematicians or cooks or bus drivers. I know some people have abilities that are mostly here to bless other lives. They give us the blessings of service and patience and boundless love. But even in that, they should be acknowledged and recognized. 

They are gifts. Gifts that we cannot get any other way. And at the end of our lives, they are the greatest gifts we have ever had the privilege of receiving. 

 

Assume, that inside, the child is completely and totally normal.

A big problem I have run into when working with students with Autism, is how often people assume that there is really something wrong with the child.

Yes, the child may rock back and forth. Yes, the child may self-stim. Yes, the child may make seemingly random noises or screams.

But consider this; because of technology, some children who present this way have learned to communicate what they are thinking.

The biggest surprise? What they are thinking is complex, exactly appropriate for their age, and NORMAL!

Because of this, when I work with students with Autism, I assume that deep inside that rocking, self-stimulating, echolalia-ing child is a perfectly normal student who would like to be treated that way.

Because of this, when a child with Autism walks into my room, I greet them warmly. I make certain I’m not faking my joy at seeing them. I talk to them, a lot.

My theory, and it’s just a non-researched theory, from a mom and a special education teacher, is that it’s hard for them to process social communication, and if I want them to learn to do it, I have to flood them with MORE talking and social communication, not less.

Much in the same way as many psychologists cure patient phobias by flooding the patient with the things that scare them until they are no longer scared of those things, I think flooding the student with words makes them learn how to decipher meaning from those words.

A lot of classrooms for students with Autism, work on being very, very quiet. I really believe this is the wrong approach. I know students with Autism very often get overwhelmed by stimuli, but I think limiting the stimuli does not prepare them for the real world and only further works to isolate them.

Think about the child being NORMAL inside. How do you feel when you walk into a room and no one greets you? Do you feel welcome? No, probably not.

On the other hand, how do you feel when someone is interested in you and constantly works to communicate with you? Talks to you in a kind voice, helps you? That all feels really good and welcoming.

Talk to your child with Autism MORE. Flood them with language and the experience of you. Train their brains, by this, to filter and not flood them with overstimulation.  It will take work and commitment, but I do believe, for many students, it is the key to them being able to learn to communicate the person they contain inside. The NORMAL person they contain inside….the one that WANTS to be here with us, participating like every other person….the one, that because of autism, can’t…..yet.

Communicating Behavior Change Information to Your Child with Autism

Autism/Aspergers, is, as you know a complicated disorder. Each child with Autism presents in similar, but very different ways and interventions created for them work at different levels for each one.

Today, I am going to present one small piece of information for working with your child/student who has Autism.

Autism presents a social disorder which presents challenges for children to interpret proper social behavior and interaction for certain environments. On top of this challenge, the person inside, the person the person with Autism IS, understands the world at a very different level of interaction than the typical person. While a typical person can interpret nuances in social behavior and expectation and choose non-reaction or a complicated set of social expectation for response, the person with Autism, very often does not have the set of tools for application of the same complex social response interactions.

That all sounded very complicated in and of itself. You are correct in thinking you didn’t understand exactly what I was saying, it’s messy.

Let me see if I can make it clearer;

EXAMPLE: In a typical social interaction (and I will do a seemly easy one), a person meets and greets another (say a checker at a grocery store) and the checker says, “Hi, how are you doing today?”

In a typically understood response, the normal and natural thing to do is say, “Fine. How is your day?” To which the other person, also responds with a pleasant and easy, “Beautiful day.” or “Fine” or “Doing well, thank-you.”

While the whole question and response is typical and just a pleasant greeting most of us use, to the person with high functioning Autism, the interaction is much more confusing.

Truth is, the interaction is one which goes on the “Bullshit we say for no reason” typical interaction timeline. When we are the checker, we don’t really care how your day is going, we are just doing our jobs to make the customers feel welcome and like we work for a friendly store. Some people may come through our line for whom we have a real interest and attachment and, for them, the question holds a greater meaning, but on the whole, it’s just an expected social interaction for that situation.

This is the truth that the person with Autism either sees, or does not see. If the person with Autism sees it, they may confront the checker rudely, “You don’t really care how I’m doing and if I went into the whole story of how I’m doing, you would probably have me arrested.”  (haha, just one possible response.)

Or the other response might be, “I’m not doing too well, I couldn’t sleep last night. My dog kept me up and I have a late homework assignment.”

Either response sets off alarms in the checker’s head that this person is not typical and they will continue to try to be polite which may have them listening to a long stream of conversation from the person with Autism.

That’s just one tiny example of how complicated our social interactions are, and a small one at that, so you can imagine how complex it gets eventually, with longer or different social interaction expectations.

Who is right? The person with Autism. They are the social honesty gurus. They react in the perfect way for a totally honest and open society. Problem is, we don’t live in that society.

So how do we teach them the set of social skills they will need in any situation? That also becomes complex, but I do have a place to begin. At least for those with high functioning Autism…and have no doubt about it, students with low functioning Autism, also need these techniques, so try them often with your child and see if it helps.

When confronted with any inappropriate or abnormal social situation, most people respond to students with Autism the way they respond to typical students. “Don’t do that, stop doing that, you can’t do that.”

This technique is DESTRUCTIVE to the interaction skills with the person with Autism.

Talking to the person with Autism needs to be done in a way that does not trigger the person with Autism to think the speaker is lying. Triggering that response in the brain of the person with Autism will have the person will Autism on a loop that will make the unwanted behavior occur MORE.

EXAMPLE: The person with Autism is touching another student on the back.

The teacher or parent says: “Don’t do that, you can’t touch so and so”

In the brain of the person with Autism, the honest response is, “Yes I can touch so and so, see, I’m doing it, see, see, see” while they repeat the unwanted behavior over and over and over and over. By repeating the behavior, they are proving that “Yes, they can touch so and so.”

So, how do you tell them to stop touching so and so? YOU GIVE THEM GENERAL SOCIAL INTERACTION INSTRUCTIONS THAT DO NOT INCLUDE THE WORDS  ‘you’ and ‘can’t.’

The proper way to instruct them to cease unwanted behavior, is a long conversation which you will have to repeat and repeat until they have the words in their own head. I.E. “People respect other people’s private space. People keep their hands off of other people when they are standing in line.”

Notice two things about this form of conversation, I did not write, “People don’t touch other people.”  The person with Autism would search their memory banks and come up with a billion examples of why this is not true.

Is this difficult to do? Yes, but it is one (just one) of many tips I have learned when working with students with Autism.

I have an example of how it was applied:

The student was a senior boy. He had a high level of Autism. He had a one on one. He was integrated, for a large part of his day, in the regular education classrooms.

One day, I’m walking down the hall and his aid comes running up to me. “So and so’s teachers just yelled at him because he has been quacking like a duck all day in class (he did this on a regular basis). I told the aid to pull him out of class and have a conversation with him that went like this, “When people are tired (quacking like a duck was something he did when he was tired) they sit up in their seats and pretend they are not tired. When people are tired, they do their best to pay attention and when they get home from wherever they were, that they could not nap, they take a nap.”

The student went back into the classroom after the instruction and sat through the lecture trying to pay attention. No more quacking.

Notice two things about the conversation.

1) I did not reference the poor behavior or discipline the student for the poor behavior.

2) I gave him specific instructions on what people do when they are tired at school. I did not say ‘you’ in the conversation.

This is crucial to your student/child with autism.

Disclaimer is: this works with many students, but as is the case with all things Special Education…each student is an individual and individual rates of success will apply.

Good luck and Thanks for listening!

Emotional/Behavioral Disorders, Theory.

I worked in an environment with students with serious emotional and behavioral disorders. A couple of things I noticed had me design a program to interfere with some of their behaviors and I did experience some success.

1) The students did not have good nutrition. Seriously, they were coming to school eating cheesy puff snacks and cola for breakfast, sent from home.

The first intervention I recommend for these students is adding fresh fruits and vegetables to their daily diet. This is done by having a big basket of apples or other fruit available for munching any time of day. Baby carrots, apples, oranges, cherries, anything you can provide, will help. If you are the parent of this child, cut out all the food that is not grown by nature. The mind on bad nutrition is a seriously malfunctioning body part. Add fresh juices (the kind made from a juicer) I recommend 12 ounces per day one at night and one in the morning. You will be surprised what the addition of this burst of nutrition will do to help your child’s brain function more normally.

2) The other thing I noticed, is that many of the students were not getting enough sunshine or exercise.

The second intervention is to take your child out to a track and run ’em. Running for at least one mile per day will help your child release positive endorphins that will make for happier brain function. Create a reward for every day the child runs the track a mile. The reward could be anything from computer time to a trip to the beach after so many times. Try to keep the rewards healthy so the effort and reward don’t cancel each other out. 🙂

3) The children often came to school with very little sleep the night before.

Sometimes the brains of these students just won’t shut off and help them to sleep. Lack of sleep creates deeper and deeper brain malfunctioning until the child may be completely out of control. Teach your child to sleep by setting a regular bedtime and putting on some soothing music (hard metal is not soothing, I mean quiet piano music or relaxation music. Use Pandora to find a relaxation station if you don’t have soothing music readily available in your home.) Teach your child to do a simple meditation. My dad taught this to me when I was young.

Start the music: Tell your child to lay down on his/her back and starting with the toes, squeeze the muscles in the toes as tight as they can, hold it for twenty seconds, then release. Next, have your child squeeze the muscles in their feet and toes and hold it tight for twenty seconds, then release. Slowly add a small area of the body working all the way up to the entire body squeezed tight for twenty seconds then released. Talk your child calmly through this meditation until they can do it for themselves. Most children will not last until the meditation is complete, most will be sound asleep far before they reach their arms.

I’m not saying that implementing the above three ideas will help every child, or that your child will be transformed entirely by the above methods. I have seen these methods make incredible changes in children’s behavior and I know for SOME children, the above ideas implemented effectively, it will be a life changing, good habit forming life changer.

Good luck, and I’m here for you.

Kim

 

Ways I can help you, help them.

I am a Special Education Specialist.

I am here to help parents navigate the difficult world of IEP’s, Disabilities and parenting a child with Differentability.

If you have a child who has been identified as Special Needs, you can contact me, either through this blog or by sending me a message.

I am here to help. What can I help you do?

1) Help you prepare for your upcoming IEP meeting by reviewing past IEP’s and helping you know what questions to ask or what goals to ask for.

2) Help you find and request research-based programs to request implemented for your child.

3) As a parent, help you brainstorm ideas for solving some very difficult parenting problems with your child.

4) Help you formulate the conversations to have with your child regarding his/her differentability and how to empower your child will skills to help him/her overcome the problems with social interaction or school/work that this may cause.

5) Ask! Let’s work it out together!