Thursday, August 29, 2013

Did I Say That? *Autism Edition*

This week's writing prompt from Mama Kat over at Mama's Losin' It was too good to pass up: Write a list of 10 things you have said to your kids that other moms might not say.

You know, those times when something comes out of your mouth with your super-serious parent voice and you suddenly realize how absurd you sound? (It was warranted, trust me, you just had to be there.) Yep, those. Oh, but I did modify the assignment a bit:
    • First, I enlisted the help of some friends - because think of how great it turned out when we collaborated on our list of -INATORS. (Plus, I didn't have to write it all myself.)
    • I narrowed the focus: Welcome to the AUTISM EDITION.
    • I didn't stop at 10. You're welcome.

SENSORY EXPLORATION (where licking emerged as a common theme)

To read more, click here.....

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Aloha brownies

“Autists are the ultimate square pegs, and the problem with pounding a square peg into a round hole is not that the hammering is hard work. It’s that you’re destroying the peg.”
— Paul Collins

At the end of the school year, last Spring, Danny's teacher announced they would be having Hawaii week--several days filled with tropical snacks and activities.    I was thrilled at the prospect; Danny desperately needed a break from the regular, stress-filled days of school.  It had been a really difficult year for him, so I was excited for the Hawaii unit. For once, Danny was excited to go to school, and we were both looking forward to a break from the endless worksheets.

I volunteered to make the Aloha brownies, as I particularly enjoy baking. Also, it was the only treat on the list that Danny would eat; he has a special fondness for brownies.

When Mrs. M sent home the recipe, however, I knew Danny would not be partaking of the Aloha brownies. It was filled with canned pineapple, coconuts and walnuts, then topped with a cream cheese frosting.  Mrs. M swore this was a treat that her students loved every year, which surprised me; I could think of only a handful of kids who would be willing to taste a flavor and texture combination like this, but who am I to question the teacher?

Everything that could go wrong with this psuedo-Hawaiian recipe did.  My husband couldn't find the exact brand and type of brownie mix on the recipe, so he substituted a different kind.  Not a problem, usually, but he picked a brand of Mocha-flavored brownies, not realizing this meant it was coffee-flavored. I wasn't too optimistic how coffee would taste with coconut, walnuts and pineapple, but I had no time to get another mix.

Also, the mix I used called for different proportions of oil and eggs, so I wasn't entirely sure what I should do.  The batter barely coated the bottom of the pan, so I decided I must not have added enough oil.  After scraping the batter out of the pan and adding more oil and an extra egg, I popped the pan of batter in the oven, hoping for the best.

Alas, I pulled a pan of  flat, rubbery brownies from the oven.  I figured the frosting would make up for the problems, but somehow it ended up tasting way too sweet.

Standing over the pan of mutant brownies, it struck me that this sorry excuse for a treat was a fitting end for the school year. Like the brownies, the year had been a disaster for Danny, academically speaking.  At the beginning, I had high hopes, but those hopes were soon dashed as I realized that none of Danny's teacher knew anything about autism.

I met with his teachers repeatedly. They made some very small changes, but they were stop gap measures and never got to the root of the problem, which was that Danny learns in a profoundly different way than most kids.  That shouldn't be a surprise given his autism, but somehow, none of his teachers understood this fundamental truth.

His teachers never got to know Danny. They didn't understand my son, and instead of trying to figure him out, they subtly blamed him for his struggles.  They spent the entire year trying to squeeze my square-peg kid  into the round hole, and it was harming him emotionally.  Just like I persevered with the brownies, even after they were clearly ruined, the teachers continued to teach Danny in a way that wasn't working.

But his teachers weren't the only ones to blame. I also blame myself.  You see, I didn't trust my instincts.  I let them talk me out of accommodations I knew would help Danny.  I didn't want to make waves or inconvenience anyone, so I let them convince me everything was okay.   I let them persuade me that Danny was no different than the other kids and that their teaching methods would help him eventually, though all the evidence pointed to the contrary.  I let them convince me they were doing everything possible for Danny, when in fact, they were doing very little. And what they were doing wasn't helping him.

It took me almost the entire school year to finally stand up for Danny and insist on certain accommodations, but by that time, it was too late to salvage second grade.

Just like those brownies.  After the baking fiasco, I wanted to dump the pineapply, coconutty pan of slop and make a pan of regular fudgy brownies, using my son's favorite recipe.  I knew the kids would gobble them up, but I couldn't do it.  I couldn't buck the system; I was hell-bent on following Mrs. M's orders, because she was, after all, the teacher; she must know what she's talking about.  I didn't have the courage to follow my convictions or instincts, just like with Danny and his learning challenges.

So, now those brownies have become a symbol to me, a symbol of all the mistakes I made last year.  But they are also a symbol of how I will be a better advocate for my son this year. There will be no more Aloha brownies in this house;  I am done following the rules.  I am done ignoring my instincts.  I am going to push for the services and help my son needs, no matter how much it inconveniences a teacher.  I am going to quit letting people try to fit him into the round hole.

And from now on, I'm using my own damn brownie recipe.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Patty is a  mom to three wonderful kids, all of whom have Sensory Processing Disorder.  Her oldest son is also on the autism spectrum.  She is a freelance reporter for her local newspaper and started a LEGO Social Club for kids on the spectrum last year.  She blogs at Pancakes Gone Awry..

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

"The ADHD Workbook for Kids" Giveaway

The ADHD Workbook for Kids: Helping Children Gain Self-Confidence, Social Skills, and Self-Control by Lawrence E. Shapiro, Ph.D.

"All kids with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) want to manage their symptoms in order to get along better with others, build confidence, and succeed in school, but most don't have the skills they need to get their impulsive behavior under control. The ADHD Workbook for Kids offers a simple way to help children with ADHD learn these critical skills in just ten minutes a day.

This workbook includes more than forty activities for kids developed by child psychologist Lawrence Shapiro that can help your child with ADHD handle everyday tasks, make friends, and build self-esteem while he or she learns to overcome the most challenging aspects of the disorder. Alone or with your help, your child can complete one ten-minute activity each day to learn how to make good decisions and discover easy techniques for staying focused when it's time to pay attention.

Includes activities to help your child:

  • Become a good listener and a good friend
  • Make school easier and more fun
  • Recognize his or her special gifts and build self-esteem
  • Practice planning ahead and learn responsibility"


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 copy of this book.

~~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.

This giveaway ends on Wednesday, August 28 at midnight!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

I Got Yer IEP Right Here: A Survivalist’s Manifesto


Recently, my husband and I went through a long IEP (that’s “individualized education plan”) process for our daughter. You’d think that, having done this a few times now, we would know what we were doing when it came to the IEP, right? Well, for reasons like stress, fear, worry, ignorance (but not the willful kind) and avoidance, it took us a (long) while before the light bulb in the attic finally flipped on. It also took the advice of some wonderful, giving souls who had walked in our shoes once, too. And, I promised each one of those wonderful souls we would pay their good deeds forward. So, here it is: Things You Should Know (and DO) Before Your Student’s IEP Meeting.


Educate Yourself
The IEP process is daunting to parents and caregivers for lots of reasons, but two big ones stand out for me. The first is that the IEP process is psuedo-legal. There are a lot of legal rules for what can and cannot be done to create, implement and change a student’s IEP. It is very important for you to know these rules. Make sure the school district provides you with the required IEP procedural safeguards for parents, then read it! But, don’t rely solely on district resources. Consult other reliable, parent or student-focused resources as well. I recommend the advocacy series of books written by Pam and Peter Wright. A student has certain rights, parents/caregivers have certain rights and school districts have certain rights. Every IEP team member also has obligations. Make it your business to know what those are.

The IEP process is daunting also because it involves making decisions about a student’s educational needs. If your student is newly diagnosed with a condition necessitating special education or learning accommodations, you may still be orienting yourself emotionally and intellectually. When IEP team members start talking about “generalizing” skills to the “mainstream” curriculum, using “reinforcers” to motivate performance, the “common core standards,” or providing a “slant board” for writing to assess “visual acuity,” this new, important-sounding vocabulary may reinforce feelings of inadequacy AND give the speakers an aura of trustworthy expertise. Don’t let this one-two punch take you down for the count or lull you into a false sense of reliance. There are many, many reliable resources out there — resources that don’t require a degree in cognitive psychology to read — that can help you become conversant in the vocabulary of special education and be an effective advocate for your child.

To read more, click here.....

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Preparing for your child's IEP

In most parts of the country, school will be back in session soon.  This means that IEP season is upon us yet again. 

Most people I speak to tell me that IEP meetings are about as fun for them as a root canal. I agree.  I find them particularly intimidating and often unpleasant, even when the school staff is amazing.  I have two boys with IEPs, so I have been to many of these meetings over the years.  Yet, I still find myself intimidated as I enter the school building

I have found that the best way to make these meetings go more smoothly is good preparation.

Below is a checklist we at Family Matters have compiled to help you prepare for your next IEP meeting.  Feel free to print this out and give copies to anyone who might find it helpful.

IEP Checklist

Before the meeting:

        Obtain the most current copy of your child’s records, including all evaluation data

    Collect any information from private tutors and therapists that could help the team in making decisions

    Review meeting notice and seek/review drafts and other reports for meeting

        Review progress reports

    Organize documents and have copy of the current IEP and current evaluations ready

    Compile a list of your concerns/questions to bring to the meeting

    Review IEP meeting rights

    Decide who you want to attend and make sure they are invited

    Decide whether your child should attend

During the meeting:

    Participate fully to maintain balance as a team

    Take notes

    Make sure you understand all issues and recommendations

    Ask questions—Who? What? Why? When? Where? How? How many?

    Request copies of documents in use at the meeting if they have not been provided to you

    Address all issues on the meeting notice/ agenda and on your list of concerns/questions

    Summarize decisions, responsibilities and completion dates

    Make sure decisions are documented in writing

    Ask to reconvene if you need time to think about or review information or options

    Leave with copies of all materials, including the new IEP document

After the meeting:

    Review documents for content/accuracy; address any concerns you have promptly

    Reorganize your copies of records and progress reports

    Explain any service or support changes to your child

    Think of ways you can reinforce what the teacher will be working on with your child

    Monitor implementation of your child’s services (through emails, calls, teacher notes, etc.)

Ongoing Contact:

    Observe your child’s class when necessary

    Inform school staff of independent evaluation results and private services if relevant to implementation of the IEP

    Communicate when you are pleased with, or worried about, the implementation of the IEP

If you would like help evaluating your child’s IEP, we provide free records reviews at Family Matters.  We can review the IEP and other records and to evaluate current services and goals and help you prepare for future educational goals. We can guide you through the process and help you prepare for your annual IEP meeting. Call Family  Matters at 866-436-7842 or send an email message to to schedule a time for a consultation.