Thursday, March 28, 2013

Assessment 101: Types of Evaluations

originally posted on Wrightslaw
Types of Evaluations
by Aida Khan, Ph.D.

Assessments Provide a Roadmap
Assessment professionals try to understand how your child thinks, reasons, and processes information. A formal evaluation should give you a clearer understanding of your child. An evaluation should also offer strategies for addressing your child’s needs. A good evaluation creates a road map about what to anticipate as your son or daughter gets older and expectations increase at school and elsewhere.

Assessment or testing are other terms for evaluations. In an assessment, the evaluator works with a student using paper and pencil tasks and other activities to figure out your child’s skill levels in different areas. The evaluator’s observations of a child’s behavior and problem solving style also provide information about individual difficulties and strengths.
The larger goal of the assessment process is to provide a big picture view of your child’s vulnerabilities—and resources. This information helps guide your decisions about education, behavior, and other areas.

Neuropsychological Assessments
Neuropsychological evaluation is the most time-consuming and comprehensive of the assessment options. A neuropsychological assessment will provide a snapshot of your child’s functioning and developmental profile today.

This evaluation describes your child’s strengths and weaknesses as a thinker and learner. It tells you how your child’s skill levels compare to his peers.

Neuropsychologists are specialized psychologists with a doctoral degree in psychology or a related field. You may see Ph.D., Ed.D., or Psy.D. listed after their names. They usually have done a postdoctoral fellowship in clinical neuropsychology after getting their doctoral degree.
What do neuropsychologists do? They try to understand how a child’s underlying temperament interacts with life and school experience. These experiences shape a young person’s learning style, personality, and overall functioning.
To read more, click here......
If you live in Illinois and have questions about assessments or you need help getting your child assessed, please call our office at 866-436-7842!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Crazy Little Thing Called Love

written by Bec Oakley from

Many parents wait with bated breath for their child to say 'I love you'. It’s one of those moments that we’re promised in the Happy Family brochure, so we all hop on the parenting train with those three little words as one of the destinations.

But you know what?

Not hearing 'I love you' is not a tragedy.


Some autistic kids find saying 'I love you' difficult, and this often causes a lot consternation amongst their parents. Why won’t they say it? When will they say it? WHAT IF THEY NEVER SAY IT?

Well, let’s take a look at why and maybe the rest will work itself out.

How do you feel?

We don’t come pre-packaged with labels for our emotions. As a kid all you know is that you get a hot noisy feeling when something pisses you off, for example. It’s only when someone says ‘you look angry’ or ‘don’t get mad at me’ that you start to understand what that feeling is, to give it a name so you can recognize it when you feel it or notice it in other people.
To read more, click here....

Monday, March 25, 2013

Teaching Self-Calming Skills

originally posted on Special Education Advisor

By Jessica Minahan, M.Ed, BCBASpecial Education ArticlesAdd comments

“You need to calm down.”

This is something I hear a lot in my work as a behavior specialist when a student starts to get agitated– answering rudely, refusing to work, making insulting comments or whining. A teacher might tell a child to “go sit in the beanbag chair and calm down” or simply “relax.”

The problem is, many students don’t know how to calm down. This is especially true for children who display chronic agitation or defiance.

When a child behaves inappropriately, I find that it’s almost always due to an underdeveloped skill. If we don’t explicitly teach the student this skill, their behavior is unlikely to change for the better.
All children will benefit from learning self-calming skills, but for some children, learning this skill is so essential to their success at school that it’s important that classroom teachers focus on it as well as specialists, such as counselors and special educators.

What’s the best way to teach self-calming skills to a student? Here are three simple steps to take:

1. Teach the student to identify emotions.
Students who exhibit anger in the classroom are often described as “going from 0-to-60 in a split second.” In reality, however, the student’s emotions probably grew more gradually from calm to frustrated to anger, but the teacher (and the child) didn’t notice the build-up.

Teaching a student to identify this escalation is essential if she’s to learn how to catch herself on the way up. A helpful tool to use is an emotional thermometer. When the child is calm, share the graphic with her, explaining how emotions often grow in intensity from calm to frustrated to angry. Give the child a copy of the thermometer and ask her to pay attention to where she is on it at different times of the day over the course of a few weeks, checking in with the child as needed to discuss what she is noticing.

Another way to teach a student to identify emotions is to do a “body check.” When you notice signs of frustration first beginning, label it for the child and explain how you know: “Your shoulders are hunched and your fists are clenched, so I can see you’re frustrated right now.” Over time, the child will learn to identify when she’s frustrated without your cues.

To read more, click here.....

If you live in Illinois and need help dealing with behavior issues in your child, please contact Family Matters at 866-436-7842.  We have resources on behavior issues and we can help you work with your child's school in developing a behavior plan. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sexuality Education for Students with Disabilities

Handsome smiling adolescent.
March 2010
Resources updated, February 2013

from NICHCY (National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities)
In the natural course of life, we humans can be expected to grow and change. We develop and mature over time–our brains, our bodies, the sense of who we are and who we want to be. Development is a beautiful thing, really, exciting and creative, and it makes parents, friends, and teachers look on in awe.
This resource page addresses one aspect of development that’s important not to ignore with children with or without disabilities—the development of sexuality. There’s so much to know and consider on this subject–what sexuality is, its meaning in adolescent and adult life, and the responsibilities that go along with exploring and experiencing one’s own sexuality.

To read more, click here....

***If you live in Illinois and you would like more information about sexuality and individuals with disabilities, call 866-436-7842.***

Monday, March 18, 2013

What's The Deal With Eye Contact?

by Bec Oakley, author of

A reluctance to make eye contact is one of the most recognized features of autism, and yet it’s also one of the most commonly misunderstood.

What is eye contact?
There’s so much more to eye contact than just looking at someone’s eyes.

Besides being tools for basic survival, our faces are designed for reciprocal communication - for both giving and receiving information so that we can share in a mutually understood message with others. Eye contact helps us to do that in a number of different ways, like monitoring the interest and reaction of the other person when we speak and letting them know that we’re paying attention when it’s our turn to listen.

Contrary to popular belief, a lack of eye contact isn’t actually a requirement for the diagnosis of autism. What the DSM does say is that eye-to-eye-gaze can be just one of the areas in which there’s an impairment in the way nonverbal behaviours are used in social interaction, along with other things like body language and facial expressions.
So it’s not just about whether eye contact is being made, but how it’s being used - knowing when and how to initiate it, how long to maintain it, when and how to disengage, understanding the social rules that govern all of these and then using that knowledge to control social interactions. In other words, an overly intense and unrelenting gaze is just as significant as no eye contact at all, and being able to use eye contact doesn’t mean that a person isn’t autistic.
That being said, many autistic people do find eye contact to be challenging or uncomfortable, with some even describing it as excruciating.
Click here to read more....

If you would like more information about autism or social skills, please contact 866-436-7842!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Tips for Parents of Children with Special Needs Applying for Disability Benefits

Originally posted on Special Education Advisor

By Molly Clarke

Applying for Disability Benefits for Your Child
Caring for a special needs child can be a full time job—at home research, medical appointments, and finding trustworthy supportive care may cause parents to reach unexpected financial and emotional obstacles. If you or a loved one can no longer financially support a child with an illness or disability, it may be time to explore the Social Security Disability options available to you.

Supplemental Security Income
The Social Security Administration (SSA) controls two separate disability programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSDI is an adult disability program in which basic eligibility is at least partially based on employment history. SSI, on the other hand, is based on financial need and is available to disabled individuals of all ages. If you are the parent or guardian of a special needs child, you will need to apply for benefits through the SSI program.

Below you will find tips to help you complete the application process and to increase your chance of receiving disability benefits for your child.

To continue reading, click here....

If you live in Illinois and would like more information about applying for disability benefits for your special needs child, please call Family Matters at 866-436-7842!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Doing Your Homework: Making the Transition from School to Work & Future Education

by Sue Whitney, Research Editor

"I want my son to be prepared to enter the workforce when he leaves school. How can we we combine No Child Left Behind with vocational goals?"

Parents need to start thinking about the transition to adulthood when their children are toddlers. Schools are not required to address this issue or develop a transition plan until the child is 16. IDEA 2004 states that a transition plan may be developed earlier than age 16.

Although schools exist
primarily to provide academic instruction, they must also address the transition needs of children with disabilities. Look at these issues separately, starting with these definitions, then we will move on to how you can use No Child Left Behind.


Read the legal definition of transition services in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA):

 The term `transition services' means a coordinated set of activities for a child with a disability that--

(A) is designed to be a results-oriented process, that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the child with a disability
to facilitate the child's movement from school to postschool activities, including post-secondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation;
(B) is based on the individual child’s needs, taking into account the child's strengths, preferences, and interests, and

(C) includes instruction, related services, community experiences, the development of employment and other postschooladult living objectives, and, when appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation. (20 U.S.C. Section 1401(34))
(Note: underlined words were added to IDEA 2004)
If the school is not providing services that meet this definition of transition services, they are not providing your son with transition services.

Click here  to read more....

If you would like more information about transition services, please contact Family Matters at 866-436-7842.  We can help you devise a helpful transition plan.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Transition Planning: Setting Lifelong Goals

posted on Wrightslaw
by Jennifer Graham and Peter Wright, Esq.

As we enter the second half of the school year, many parents hear the clock ticking louder and louder as graduation nears.

We hope you have been working closely with your child’s IEP team through high school to ensure that appropriate transition goals have been established and your child's progress toward these goals has been measured and documented. IDEA 2004 requires Transition Services to be “results-oriented” to “facilitate the child’s movement from school to post school activities . . .” [1] The law requires that the IEP Transition Services be in place by (before) the child’s 16th birthday.[2]

In this article, we provide you with two checklists and some advice to help your child make a successful transition from school to employment or further education.

IDEA 2004 Transition Checklist

IDEA 2004 describes the required components of the transition plan. During your child’s high school years, it is essential that the IEP team adhere to these requirements.

  • The student must be invited to participate in IEP meetings to discuss his/her goals for life after high school.
  • You may request several IEP/Transition Planning meetings during the school year.
  • You may invite representatives of local agencies to these IEP meetings to discuss transition goals and services to support those goals.

To continue reading, click here...

***If you would like help preparing for your child's IEP meeting, please contact an Information Specialist at Family Matters at 866-436-7842.  We can also look at your transition plan and other records to help you ensure that the goals and plan are the best possible.***

Thursday, March 7, 2013

If you Give an SPD Kid a Pancake

Originally published on Pancakes Gone Awry

If you give an SPD kid a pancake, he'll probably ask you for some syrup to go with it. When you give him the syrup, he might spill some on the table and begin playing with it. When you see the mess he has made all over the table, you'll realize that he needs some tactile input, so you'll pull out your stash of dry rice and beans. You'll have to wash his hands so he doesn't get everything all sticky. He will scream bloody murder when you wipe his mouth and hands.

After covering your floor in beans and rice he might break into your cabinets when you're not looking and pour an entire box of cornstarch on the floor. While dancing in the cornstarch, he will raise up clouds that will impair your vision.

This is when you might decide he needs to play in the sandbox, so you'll have to take him to the park. At the park, he'll accidentally sit in a puddle and will scream until you manage to locate some extra pants for him to wear.

When you change his pants, he might want to run around naked for a while, even though you say he can't. As you try to catch him, you might notice other parents giving you nasty looks. Those nasty looks will be repeated when your kiddo runs into some kids to get some deep pressure. It feels good to him, so he doesn't understand why the kid he ran into is crying.

Next, your SPD kid will decide that he wants to go on the merry-go-round, but as soon as someone pushes it and it starts spinning, he'll fling himself off and bloody his knees. Once you clean him up, he'll probably head to the swings. Swinging for upwards of a half hour should calm him down.

As it's nearing lunchtime, you will warn your SPD kid that it's almost time to head home for lunch. You might give him warnings at 15, 10 and 5 minutes, but he will still probably act surprised when it's time to leave. He may throw a tantrum and refuse to get in the car.

Bribing him with extra computer time might get him to cooperate. Then again, it might not.

By this time, you're probably worn out, so you decide to get lunch from a fast food joint. Once inside McDonald's your SPD kid might freak out and cover his ears when the timer for the French fries goes off. As you proceed to your table, he might accidentally bump into other tables because of his poor body awareness.

Once at your booth, he will probably have to be reminded to sit on his bottom a few dozen times. Instead, he will repeatedly stand on his seat and jump. If you happened to order him the wrong number of chicken nuggets or the wrong drink, you can bet all hell will break loose.

Because it's so loud and distracting at the restaurant, he probably won't eat a whole lot, and most likely you will wonder why you didn't just go through the drive thru.

When you finally get home, exhausted, you will plop him in front of a Thomas the Train video so you can have a minute's rest. When you hear him jumping on the couch, you rouse yourself to turn off the TV. You realize it is almost time for therapy, so you start to get him ready to leave.

Since your SPD kid didn't eat much lunch, he will declare that he is hungry. You offer him every snack you can think of: applesauce through a straw, pretzels, apples and popcorn for crunching, but he insists on a pancake--the only thing your kid has willingly and happily eaten all week long.

And chances are......

If you give your SPD kid a pancake,

he'll probably ask for some syrup to go with it.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Records Keeper Giveaway

If you're like most special needs parents, you have reams of paperwork to keep organized: evaluation reports, IEPs, pregress reports and report cards, etc.   If you're looking for a way to keep it all organized, you have come to the right place.

We have two of these filers to give away.   They each have separate folders in which to keep the variety of records you have.   Included in the filers is some information on the laws about records.

Take a minute and leave a comment here to enter the give away!


There are a few different ways to enter the contest. You are able to get up to four entries per person!

~~One entry for leaving a comment here telling us why you would like a set of In-Sync Activity Cards

~~One entry for liking us on Facebook:!/FamilyMattersPTIC?fref=ts
Just click on that link and hit the 'Like' button. (Please mention in a comment on this post that you have liked our FB page).

~~One entry for blogging about our giveaway. Share your link here in the comments.

~~One entry for sharing this post on Facebook. Share the link in the comments.

***Due to shipping expenses, this giveaway is only for residents of the US.

The deadline for this giveaway is Wed. March 13 at midnight.

Monday, March 4, 2013

17 Things The Princess Bride Taught Me About Autism Parenting

by Bec Oakley

Originally posted on

Never interrupt me while I'm climbing the Cliffs of Insanity

1. Affection doesn’t have to mean saying I love you
Reading a story to someone who’s sick in bed, saying “as you wish” or playing rhyming games that annoy your boss... there are many more ways to show love than just those three little words.

2. Optimism can get you through the fire swamp
Just because you haven’t tackled a problem before doesn’t mean there’s no solution, even for POUS’s (Problems of Unusual Size).

3. Having a target will help you stay focused
You don’t have the energy or resources to tackle every challenge that’s in front of you. Find your six-fingered man - prioritize your goals, work out which of those you can tackle and then pursue them with everything you’ve got.

4. You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles
Be patient. Change and growth takes time, and there are no corners to be cut here. Every kid is working to their own schedule and developing at their own rate.
Continues reading this article here...
***If you have a child with autism and would like more information, please contact Family Matters at 866-436-7842****

Friday, March 1, 2013

Building Sensory Friendly Classrooms

BuildingSensory Friendly Classrooms  by Rebecca Moyes has been on my reading list for quite some time now. As a former teacher and as a mom of two kids with Sensory Processing Disorder, I knew this book would provide valuable insight for me. I was interested in reading advice from a special education teacher who so clearly understands SPD. Moyes has taught over 9 years and is an autism consultant, but she also happens to be the mother of a child with Asperger Syndrome.

I was sure this unique combination of experience would lead to insightful strategies for helping kids in the classroom. I was not disappointed. Building Sensory Friendly Classrooms is a book for parents and teachers alike.

Moyes dedicates the first two chapters to explaining in detail what Sensory Processing Disorder is, who it affects and what it might look like in different students. She demonstrates why it is important for all teachers to be aware of this disorder and why they should be adept at building classrooms in which kids with SPD can be successful.

This book should be required reading for all teachers, not just those who specifically work with special needs kids, because as Moyes explains research states that 5-10% of students are affected by SPD. Not only that, but the book outlines very important advice on data collection that every teacher should follow when presented with challenging behavior from students. Her ideas on tracking students and behavior issues can be extrapolated onto just about every possible challenge. I love that she emphasizes over and over again that teachers should collect concrete data to prove whether their interventions are helping a child and to determine what might trigger undesirable behavior.

In subsequent chapters, Moyes gives strategies to address SPD symptoms and describes how to create a sensory room within a class. Her chapters on self-stimulatory and self-abusive behavior and teaching stress management were eye-opening and gave me several wonderful ideas to try with my own son.

While this book’s intended audience seems to be teachers, it is definitely beneficial for parents as well. The advice Moyes offers teachers is important for parents to know about. Not only can parents implement many of her sensory strategies or data collection tips at home, but they can also share this same advice with their child’s teacher.

Also, the chapters on IEP and 504 Language and behavioral support plans for children with SPD are must-read material for any parent of a school-aged child with SPD who is navigating the world of special education.

Over the years, I have read many books about Sensory Processing Disorder, but this book, Building Sensory Friendly Classrooms, has by far offered the most complete information for kids and school. Teachers and parents can both benefit greatly from reading this book. More importantly, SPD kids everywhere will have a better chance at succeeding in school if the adults in their lives apply these principles and creative solutions in the class and at home.

If you would like more information on Sensory Issues and the classroom or how to address sensory issues in an IEP or 504 Plan, please contact Family Matters at 866-436-7842.   We can help ensure that your child's sensory needs are being addressed at school!
Building Sensory Friendly Classrooms is available at Future Horizons.  If you use the code PH when ordering, you will receive 15% off and free shipping on anything you order.  They have a lot of great resources on special needs and education!