Wordy Wednesday…Data!!!


I was having one of those days yesterday where I just needed some feedback. Well, let me be more specific. I needed some feedback that wasn’t negative. It seemed like all I was hearing back from my kids’ (nonABA-therapists and teachers was all that they couldn’t do, weren’t doing, and should be able to do but aren’t. That’s not the message you want to hear when you’re running yourself ragged trying to make all the different appointments, jamming snacks down your kids’ throats in the car so they don’t get to therapy on an empty stomach after a long day in school.

After the third day in a row, I asked my son’s BCBA (board certified behavior analyst) for something positive. She very happily produced the following graph in mere minutes:

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That’s one of the things I love about ABA. Since they are constantly taking data on kiddo’s progress they can pull up graphs like the one above that literally show day by day how kids are doing. That way if they are having an “off” day, the therapist knows it. Unlike in more traditional assessments when my son has an off day and fails a test and then it looks like he doesn’t know the material.

So, thank God for data. It gets me through these tough spots when I wonder, ” is it all paying off?”

When I can look and see visible improvement I see that it is. Thank you ABA!

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Wordy Wednesday…RTI(squared)


It’s hard for me to believe it, but it’s Wednesday again!  This week, I’m tackling an acronym I heard for the first time yesterday.  I was at a meeting put on by my school district for parents of special needs kiddos in the district.  They called it “Special Education 101.”  We meet at the main office of the district in the board room and they tackled topics like the different sections of the IEP, how the district’s new progress reports will work, what to do if you can’t come to a consensus at an IEP meeting, and different resources that the community offers.  It was great since we are still new to the area.  It would have been easy for me to have skipped the meeting, thinking, “I used to be a classroom teacher, I’m sure I’ve heard it all before,” or, “I’ve been attending IEPs for my kids for over two and a half years now, I’m sure it will be nothing new.”  But I’m so glad I didn’t because I got lots of great information.  If you have kids of your own in your school district’s special education program I would be definitely encourage you to attend a similar type meeting if one is offered.  If not, ask for something to be put together.  That’s how the meeting I attended came about.  Parents had come forward and asked for something that would give them a basic overview of what special ed. in the district looked like.  Possibly, something similar could come about where you are if enough interest is shown.

One of the most exciting parts of the meeting yesterday was hearing about RTI2 (that’s supposed to be a 2 like an exponent).  Here is some more info about it:

Response to Instruction and Intervention is a framework for teaching and learning. Helping students succeed is the fundamental mission of the Tennessee Department of Education, and Response to Instruction and Intervention is a significant priority towards that end. This work is about empowering districts to give every student the opportunity to meet high expectations and the support to reach them. The work described in the RTI² Manual matters to every academic division in the department.
The Tennessee State Board of Education has approved Special Education Guidelines and Standards regarding Evaluations for Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD). This change in current standards from use of a discrepancy model of identification to a Response to Instruction and Intervention (RTI) model becomes effective July 1, 2014. This change will require all districts and schools to use RTI² to determine eligibility of students to receive Special Education services in the category of Specific Learning Disability. RTI² is a path to providing instructional opportunity to any student struggling to succeed and should not be viewed as a path to special education eligibility.

The way it was described to us yesterday, it’s a way of determining specific needs of special ed students and responding to those needs with proven instructional methods.  They may be modifications to curriculum, accommodations that improve students’ success, and specific methods of instruction.  The environment that a student is placed determines their success to such a great extent. As a mother of two boys with ASD I have especially noticed this, and am so happy to see the district developing new ways of assessing student need, ways to track their progress and constantly growing to help them achieve their goals.  Please check out the above post and link for more info.  What are some things that your district does that you are happy about?  What are some things you wish were different.  Have a great day!

Tricare/Therapy Thursdays: My Child is Diagnosed with ASD. Now What?


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When Bug got diagnosed with PDD-NOS I was completely ignorant to the types of therapy that might help him. I of course had heard of ASD and all its components, but I really didn’t know what there was in types of assistance to help them. My misinformation and misunderstanding was there were none.

I pictured a family with an ASD child like this:

Screaming child…everywhere. Screaming in the house, at the park, in every public location he went to. All his screaming was unintelligible (no, I did not think they were all stupid) because I thought not many of they could actually talk. I thought they went through life in a normal school environment just with the understanding that the child has ASD and there is nothing you can do for them; because there is no cure right? Then I pictured the parents and them crying every night after the child goes to bed because they are beyond tired, worried and stress. They are smelly (the parents not the kids) because they are so busy giving 24 hour attention to the ASD child, they don’t have time to take a shower. So they also have stock in Old Spice and Dove deodorant and their stock portfolio looks amazing. The parents are also so skinny they look like Ethiopian children because their intake of calories isn’t enough compared to the use of calories in a day chasing around an ASD child who can’t speak but sure as heck can run. Lastly, are the siblings. They are druggies, or don’t even live at home because they have run away. If they do live at home, they are never given attention and often are at the receiving end of the abuse from the ASD child, who can’t talk, can run and is violent when he can’t express what he needs; which is all.the.time.

After we got home from the doctors I looked at us and our home. No telling when Bug actually got ASD, but we looked average. I was over-weight, personally well taken care of. Our daughter was happy and healthy as well. Bug could tell us what he needed to a point and our bank account did not reflect income from stocks, since we didn’t even have a portfolio. So I waited. I waited for that shoe to drop. I waited for him to stop talking, for him to start running and for us to wither away to nothingness. But we never did.

Instead, Bug was given an IEP and started at a special education preschool. He thrived. He was the only verbal child in his class and because of that he was a amazing model for his peers. The doctors soon wrote prescriptions for therapy and the influx of therapists started entering our homes and our daily lives. I quickly learned what they all did in terms of helping ASD children. However, it took me some time to get it all down.

When faced with a new diagnosis, it is always overwhelming, even the second time around. With two ASD children, I felt in control and prepared when handed her diagnosis. But I wasn’t. I was less prepared actually. I quickly feel back onto Bug’s therapists for advice and help. And soon I was maneuvering the road down ASD again like a pro. So I thought I’d share some of the foundations of therapy that are often prescribed with a ASD diagnosis. Remember every child is different. I have two ASD children and besides them both receiving ABA, they receive different services.

OT– Occupational Therapists (OT) Autism Speaks describes OT as “brings together cognitive, physical and motor skills. The aim of OT is to enable the individual to gain independence and participate more fully in life”.

PT– Psychical Therapists (PT) “focused on any problems with movement that cause functional limitations,” as stated by Autism Speaks.

Autism Speaks lists speech – encompasses a variety of techniques and addresses a range of challenges for children with autism.

ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis), to me, is the most important type of therapy a child with ASD can receive. Autism Speaks states that “Since the early 1960’s, applied behavior analysis, or ABA, has been used by hundreds of therapists to teach communication, play, social, academic, self-care, work and community living skills, and to reduce problem behaviors in learners with autism.”

All this information and more can be found by visiting Autism Speaks.

Oh, Mommies, Tomorrow I Have a Fight to Win


Oh, mommies, tomorrow I have a fight to win.

I will be positive and optimistic.

I will win.

It is a fight most of us have to battle monthly or even weekly. It’s an IEP meeting. Ugh, just the mention of an IEP meeting sends my blood pressure up and me full force into battle plan mode. This meeting tomorrow I know will be a vicious one.

My son’s school occupational therapist wants to pull his OT from his IEP. You want to know what is funny? She is only on his IEP as consultation only; which means she is only called in to help when there is a problem. So why does she feel she needs to remove herself from it?

My guess is it is mainly due to just removing him from her case load. She is the only OT at the school and the school refuses to let private therapy onto school grounds. Furthermore, she had an issue when he got OT added to his IEP. At the last IEP meeting said she wanted to make a verbal deal with us in regards to his care. Wait, what?! You want me to believe you will help us if there is an issue because you tell me vs. having it in writing? Yea, that’s funny and I’m not stupid.

Her problem is she feels he no longer needs OT because of the wonderful progress he has made. Um, yea…it’s called repeating kindergarten. Of course he has had no behavioral issues. What type of environment does a kid with ASD do best? One that he has already experienced and knows the set routine.

What worries me and why I will fight to keep his OT on his IEP is because 1) next year when he enters first grade it will be a new environment with a new routine, and we all know how unproblematic that is going to be and 2) if/when we move, he will once again encounter an new environment and new routine. What did I just repeat myself?

Either possibility will create upheaval and newness for him that will impact his behavior which has already proven to impact his education (hence why he had to repeat kindergarten!!!!).

When will educators stop worrying about paperwork and start worrying about the student?