Category Archives: Advice to Parents

Create Your Own Tactile Schedule

Anne M. Zachry, M.A.

I have the opportunity to work directly with an adult special education student as part of his compensatory education program, which I am designing, implementing, and supervising. It’s an opportunity to try my own ideas based on the available assessment data and see how they work. This student has autism and vision impairment, so the tools that typically would be used to teach in light of his autism do not always work in light of his vision loss.

One of the most common teaching tools used with students who experience any number of developmental disorders is the visual schedule.  Visual schedules are used to take individual students or groups of students through a routine that is expected to play out over time in a specific order of events.  It can be a daily schedule, a weekly schedule, or an activity-specific schedule.

Tactile schedule for throwing a dinner party.

Visual schedules are also good for illustrating the steps in a task analysis. A task analysis is a process in which the individual steps of a task are broken down and taught in sequence. It is a method developed by and frequently used in Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA).

A task analysis really has to be tailored to the ability of the individual who needs to understand it. I was creating a task analysis of the steps to throwing a dinner party. Throwing a dinner party was the best way for me to tie all of my student’s functional academic goals into a single activity. That way, I could concurrently instruct towards his goal throughout a given session.

I couldn’t put too many steps in the tactile schedule or it would be too much for my student to process at once and would incline him to develop more rigid rules about the activity than appropriate, but I could order the general tasks that had to be performed in sequence. Due to his autism, my student has a tendency to become ritualized to activities that are done the exact same way every time.

So, for example, we couldn’t cook spaghetti every time we met or he’d never generalize the cooking concepts to other foods. Therefore, the schedule, which is pictured here, simply says, “Cook food,” rather than specify which foods are to be cooked.

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New Video: Understanding Special Education Assessment Reports

Now is the time to start preparing for next school year’s IEPs.

Our latest video is one hour and ten minutes packed full of information regarding the purpose of special education assessment, the special education assessment process, the types of tests that can be used, and what to look for in a report’s interpretation of its data.

The low one-time purchase price of $8.99 helps cover our costs of producing parent training videos and providing services to families who otherwise can’t afford our help.

 

This video will give you important guidance about special education assessments so you can make informed decisions as the most important member of your child’s IEP team: the parent. Protect your right to informed consent and meaningful parent participation in the IEP process by educating yourself as much as possible about your child’s unique needs and the special education process. We are proud to bring you this resource and hope you find special education assessments a lot easier to understand once you’ve watched it.

Feds to Provide Technical Assistance to Ventura County HSA on Civil Rights Compliance

Complaint alleged discrimination on behalf of consumer with disabilities seeking services to overcome homelessness.

In late October 2013, I was assisting one of our adult students with disabilities with his matters involving Ventura County’s Human Services Agency (HSA). His disabilities arising from traumatic brain injury (TBI) had contributed to a 10-year spell of homelessness; it was necessary for us to help him overcome homelessness in order for him to go back to school and get trained in a vocation that would earn him a living.

This was beyond the scope of the work we usually do, plus it was a pro bono case. I only took this case on because I already knew the consumer, have been friends with his family for over 20 years, and was horrified by what I was hearing from them about their efforts to help him. I had no idea I’d end up having to file for fair hearings against every agency we turned to for services on multiple occasions just to access the basic floor of rights promised him under the law.

As bad as special education is, the Universe of adult services is even more screwed up. This is why we have people with mental illness living in the bushes under the freeway. They either have no idea where to begin to get help or are jerked around by the government when they try to get help and lack the skills to advocate effectively for themselves to see their situations resolved. This is exactly why my friend’s family was so thankful that I offered to see what I could do to help.

So, in October 2013, after a series of ridiculous encounters with HSA’s General Relief program staff, I filed a complaint with the United States Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Civil Rights (OCR), alleging violations of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). I’d had enough of the silliness and was so disgusted and offended by how our consumer was being treated by HSA that I did what I do: I wrote a letter to the authorities and narced.

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The Science of Rhymecology® as a Special Education Intervention

A colleague of mine from my graduate program in educational psychology, J. Walker, has developed a unique and powerful vehicle for reaching out to young people in the place of traditional psychological counseling, as well as developing students’ written expression skills. I had to write about it because I’ve been in love with the concept since the first time I heard J. describe it. It’s only now that I’ve known what I wanted to say about it.

What’s more, J. and I proofread each other’s papers for several classes in our graduate program. We got into each other’s heads regarding each other’s particular areas of professional focus and areas in which we each needed to research the peer-reviewed literature such that we were able to clearly recognize the overlaps between the work that KPS4Parents does and the outcomes that Rhymecology® is able to achieve. I understand the science of Rhymecology® because of that collegial collaboration.

Fully grounded in science, Rhymecology® demystifies the realities of the hip-hop/rap industry, promotes hip-hop/spoken word poetry as art rather than a fast track to riches, and helps kids express their thoughts, feelings, experiences, and ideas using a medium they appreciate, enjoy, and find engaging. Rather than forcing kids to adapt to treatment modalities or curriculum with which they cannot engage or relate, the treatment and curriculum is being brought to them via a vehicle they can more easily understand and use.

J. has conducted Rhymecology events with kids throughout Southern California, already. So far, the evidence indicates that children and youth are benefitting from Rhymecology®.

So, what is the underlying science of Rhymecology®? For those of us looking for replicable, evidence-based practices that achieve appropriate educational outcomes for children and youth challenged by learning problems, including social/emotional and behavioral challenges, this is a critical question.

To the degree that it is practicable to do so, special education must be delivered according to peer-reviewed research [34 CFR Sec. 300.320(a)(4)]. Rhymecology® achieves the end of a practicable, research-based intervention that can be incorporated into a student’s special education program in support of social-emotional, behavioral, and/or written expression goals, to the degree it is appropriate to the individual learning needs of a given special education student.

Rhymecology® is rooted in the sciences of human development, learning, and effective instruction. The researchers who significantly contributed to the underlying science behind Rhymecology® include Skinner, Pavlov, Bronfenbrenner, Vygotsky, and Piaget. Continue reading

KPS4Parents Produces Free 45-Minute Parent Training Video

We’ve been working hard over the summer to bring you new tools for this upcoming new school year. To kick things off, we’re giving parents a free 45-minute training video titled, “3 Critical Errors that Even the Smartest Parents of Children with Special Needs Can Make in the IEP Process.” Watch it now and you’ll also get links to additional resources, including a free IEP goal-writing template that you can use to prepare for your IEP meetings, as well as during the meetings when IEP goals are being formulated by the IEP team.

Best of luck in the new school year to all students and their families! We hope this tool is useful for many of you struggling to understand the IEP process and that the tools that we will continue to add to our parent education resources will help you as you continue to learn, as well.

Wrightslaw Loves our Video!

Preventing SpEd Jargon from Impeding Agreements

Click here to listen to the podcast version of this post.

Source: Bob Cotter via Flickr

All too often in special education, those of us who have been working at it professionally for more than a few years have increased our vocabularies to include terms of art, acronyms, and legally significant phrases that mean a whole lot to us, but not a whole lot to professionals new to the field and parents. I find that a lot of my job as a lay advocate is translating SpEd-Speak into plain language.

It was actually during a case I’ve been working with a family that moved to the U.S. from Thailand that brought this point home for me. I found that by simplifying my language for the benefit of the translator, who knew nothing of special education, I made it lot easier for everyone else in the room to follow the logic of what I was saying. The meeting was also attended by the school district’s lawyer, who was actually pretty awesome once she realized what was going on. It was one of the most amicable and constructive IEP meetings in which I’ve participated in a while.

What I found worked best was to use simple language to communicate with most of the IEP team members, then sum up my point to counsel for the district in language she would appreciate in light of the regulations and the applicable science, if needed. In the end, what we figured out was that our 9th grade client qualified for special education as having autistic-like behaviors pursuant to 5 CCR Sec. 3030(g) and that his speech-language impairments for which he had originally been found eligible were features of his autistic-like tendencies as well as bilingualism coming from an Eastern tonal language to English.

I already knew from experience that throwing a bunch of jargon at people during a meeting where you’re trying to make things happen is not particularly constructive if any of them are unfamiliar with the lingo. Having non-English speaking clients only made the point more vivid. But, then I ran across an article in an old issue of Entrepreneur magazine that drove the point home even more, and, combined with my prior knowledge, inspired this blog post and corresponding podcast.

Click to Tweet: Throwing jargon around in IEP meetings is not constructive if the other people are unfamiliar with the lingo. #kps4parents

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Mental Health Services for ASDs

Click here to listen to the podcast version of this post.

Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud (Source: Flickr)

Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (“ASDs”), including Asperger’s Syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified (“PDD-NOS”), are often challenged by anxiety, which is an emotional health need. Many school districts contract with county mental health agencies or other providers for forms of individual psychotherapy services that may not be appropriate for some students with ASDs. Further, they may have no other service to offer to address ASD-related anxiety issues.

To add to the confusion, many county mental health agencies have recently re-identified themselves as county behavioral health agencies, yet they do not provide Applied Behavioral Analysis (“ABA”) or any other type of peer-reviewed behavioral intervention. ABA is supported by research to be effective in not only contending with undesired behaviors among persons with ASDs but also in providing explicit instruction to teach the skills these individuals lack.

Explicit instruction in social skills such as greetings, farewells, maintaining a topic of conversation chosen by another person, initiating conversations, and other aspects of human interaction have to taught to many children with ASDs as explicit, scripted procedures. Those procedures can then be generalized into real life by reinforcing them when they occur in natural settings and pointing out to the individual, in vivo, when he/she has engaged in the steps of the procedure so that he/she learns to recognize social contexts in which each script is to be applied.  Eventually, it becomes a learned, rehearsed strategy to deal with specific types of situations.

The degree to which persons with ASDs can master various scripted procedures, or even need this level of support, varies from individual to individual. The same for the degree to which someone with an ASD can generalize knowledge from one context to another, such as from the instructional setting to real life.  It’s called a spectrum disorder for a reason. The range of severity between mild and severe is quite broad and anyone can fall anywhere along it.

Traditional “talk therapy” that promotes developing one’s insight and insight into other people’s perspectives to sort out one’s issues is not necessarily appropriate for some individuals with ASDs. Because there are so many differences among people with ASDs, it’s not fair to say that no one with an ASD can benefit from traditional talk therapy. But, it is safe to say that there are a significant number of students with ASDs who truly cannot benefit from traditional talk therapy but still have emotional health needs that require mental health services as part of their special education programs.

The matter comes down to, “What form of mental health services are appropriate for students in special education who have ASDs and require mental health services in order to benefit from their IEPs?” Well, as with anything in special education, you can’t take a cookie-cutter approach and say one specific type of program will fix everything for everybody. For one thing, no such statement will ever be true; learners with disabilities, even within a population impacted by the same condition, are too diverse for one-size-fits-all programming. Federal law requires individualized programming for this very reason.

That said, there are certain approaches that are generally known to be more effective with students who have ASDs than others. These may work with many students with ASDs, but whether or not they will be effective with an individual student really depends on that student.  The following are possible methods by which effective mental health services can be delivered to some persons challenged by anxiety associated with ASDs.

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