Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How Does Your Child's IEP Measure Up?

Is your child’s evaluation data up to date and detailed enough to show his or her current levels in all academic, communication, emotional and functional living areas?
Was the evaluation data used to then write the present levels of performance on the IEP?
Were the Present Levels of Performance then used to develop goals and objectives for what your son or daughter needs to learn in the next year?
Did you prepare a list of parental concerns and share it with the IEP team members prior to the meeting? Were they addressed and written in the Present Levels of Performance section of the IEP?
Are each of the goals and objectives SMART?  (Specific, measurable, action based, realistic and relevant, and time limited)
Do the goals and objectives represent progress from what was written for the previous year?
Do you understand all the terminology used and the methods that will be used for teaching the skills?
Is the curriculum that will be used based on scientific research and evidence that it is effective for students with the type of learning difficulties experienced by your child?
Does the IEP show how progress will be monitored and reported to you and how often?
Does the IEP show how much time your child will spend in general education, and in any needed therapy services?
Is it clear to you how it will be determined that your child has met the goals and objectives?
Does the IEP designate the person responsible for implementing each of the services that are listed and the IEP manager who will coordinate all the services?
Did the IEP address whether any supports are needed for the classroom teacher in order to carry out the goals and objectives?
Are any necessary accommodations or modifications to the curriculum, assignments, homework, or school rules listed in the IEP?
Does the IEP tell how your child will participate in state and district-wide testing?
If your child is age 14 and a half or older, does the IEP include a transition plan?
Have you talked about grading accommodations and diploma options?


If you would like help evaluating your child’s IEP, we provide free records reviews at Family Matters.  An information specialist can review the IEP and other records and determine whether any changes need to be made. An Information Specialist from our office 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.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Role of an Independent Educational Evaluation in Matters of Inclusion

originally posted on

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By Dr. Steve C. Imber
Inclusion is not in the IDEA.

Although the term ‘inclusion’ is not included within the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (2004), inclusion has become a prominent strategy for educating children and youth with disabilities with non-disabled peers within a general education setting since the late 1980’s and 1990’s.

The concept of mainstreaming connotes placing a student with disabilities in a general education setting within minimal modifications of objectives, instructional strategies, evaluation procedures and grading strategies. However, that concept will also not be found within the federal regulations pertaining to educating children with disabilities.The term ‘least restrictive environment’ can be found in various federal and state regulations that pertain to students with disabilities. In 1975, when the United States Congress passed landmark legislation, P.L. 94-142, The Education for All Handicapped Children Act in 1975, the term least restrictive environment was addressed. Congress expressed a strong preference for educating children with disabilities with their non-disabled peers.

Congress mandated that Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams include the parents and professionals with knowledge about the child. Congress also mandated that prior to exploring matters of placement in more restrictive settings than a general education classroom, the IEP team must first consider how the child might be supported through the necessary aides and supports.

To read more, click here.....

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Just Take a Bite review

The authors contradict the myths that most of us believe with regards to food.  It is the child's responsibility to eat; the parents' responsibility is to give them plenty of healthy options.

One chapter outlines what children should be able to do at particular ages, what oral-motor skills they should be acquiring and how that affects feeding

The authors also get into what environmental and behavioral factors might be contributing to the child's resistance to new foods.  For example, a child might suffer from Food Neophobia or the fear of new foods.  They then outline how parents may inadvertently be making the problem of food neophobia worse by doing things like never offering new foods.

There are chapters on sensory and motor-based problems and how they may make eating difficult, as well. 

Chapter 6 is all about designing and implementing a comprehensive treatment plan.  There is even a chapter devoted to the stages of sensory development for eating, which helps kids with sensory problems begin to try new foods.  Each stage exposes a child to the new food in non-threatening ways.  For example, in stage two the focus is touch, so the child is encouraged to play with and touch the food to get familiar with it.

Don't make the dinner table a battleground.

This book is available in our lending library for checkout for residents of Illinois.  We will mail it to you with a self-addressed, stamped envelope for easy return.

You can also buy it at Future Horizons.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Foot races and acceptance

My heart sank.

Danny insisted that I let him play outside, but that was the last thing I felt like doing.  We were visiting my mom, and her next door neighbors were having a party.  There was a gaggle of kids in the front yard playing with sidewalk chalk and laughing, and I worried that they would exclude Danny.  
Or worse, that they would reject him.

I just didn't want to face this group of kids.  I didn't want to watch them as they sized up Danny.  I couldn't stomach watching them laugh at him or roll their eyes at him.  More than anything, I wanted to convince Danny and Charlotte to go back in the house.  I just wasn't up for the possible hurt feelings.

Danny was chomping at the bit  to get outside and play, though, and he couldn't figure out why I was stopping him.  Of course, I couldn't tell him that my fear was he'd be rejected by these kids.  Danny loves other kids, but often has difficulty interacting with them.  He doesn't understand many of the playground's inherent social rules, and because of that, kids sometimes think he's weird.  He's been called all kinds of names, even the dreaded R-word.

Danny has friends, but they are mostly kids who have known him for a while--friends of the family.  His other friends are from LEGO Club, which is made up of kids who have a lot of the same social struggles as Danny.  Once others get to know him, they often discover how wonderfully funny and exuberant Danny is, but making new friends is where it's tough.  It takes people a while to understand him--his language isn't always decipherable, mostly because he almost always launches into a conversation with no background information for people.  He'll regale kids with the most arcane tidbits about LEGO Hero Factory, while his audience just stares, confused.

So, I braced myself, preparing for the worst.

Danny rode his bike up to the group of kids and announced his name and standing as a LEGO champ without ever making eye contact with anyone.  Then, he rode off.

The kids laughed, and I flinched.  Here we go, I thought.

As a tiny little girl approached me, I wondered how I could explain Danny to these kids in a way that would educate them and not sound like I was apologizing for my son.

But, Samara didn't require an explanation.  She stopped in front of me, looked me in the eyes, smiled, and said, "Excuse me, can you tell your son that if he wants to play with us, he can?"

The rest of the evening, Danny joined these energetic, but polite kids, running races up and down the block. They laughed and goofed around.  Danny made some of his trademark off-the-wall comments and the kids giggled.

But they were not laughing at him.  They were not avoiding him.  They accepted my son into their little group of cousins and siblings with no question at all.  This group was made up of at least three different ethnicities and many different ages, and with the addition of  Danny, it was even  more diverse than before.

No one batted an eye at Danny's idiosyncrasies.  No one worried that Danny was different.  They just played together, laughing, running, and making silly jokes.

These sweet kids taught me an important lesson: not all kids are cruel. Obviously, there will be those who do not accept Danny, but tonight I learned that there are some incredible people out there, people who are welcoming, inviting and accepting of all different kinds of people.

And those are the types of friends that Danny deserves.

Patty is 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

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

"Somewhere Over the Sea" Giveaway

We are giving away one copy of Somewhere Over the Sea by Halfdan W. Freihow to a lucky reader.  Read the review below, taken from Amazon:

In this deeply moving and elegantly written book, Halfdan W. Freihow takes Gabriel, his young autistic son, on a journey through the full spectrum of human experience. With great love, profound tenderness, and gentle wit, Freihow captures Gabriel’s triumphs and disappointments, his joy and frustration, while struggling to help him make sense of a world that he himself does not, and cannot, fully comprehend. A powerful, honest, and achingly beautiful narrative, Somewhere Over the Sea describes a complex, loving relationship that is sometimes fraught with misunderstanding, but always bolstered by unconditional love. A must-read for all parents.


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 pageor else I won't know to give you an entry).

~~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.

Giveaway ends Monday, October 14th at midnight.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Sticks and Stones

Last week some older boys called Danny a retard.

It was devastating. At least it was for me. Danny was more angry that the kids were not letting him use the slide; the name calling didn't seem to faze him too much. Thankfully.

But me? Well, I cried for more than an hour that afternoon.

I know no one wants to see their kid made fun of, but there is something extraordinarily painful to me about Danny being mocked for his quirks. I can't quite articulate it. I guess it is just a fear of mine that he will not be able to make friends or that other kids will be mean to him because of his differences.

I know this is a fear all moms have, but truly, this is different. Of course, I would never want Charlotte to be mocked, but I am pretty sure if she were called a retard, I would be able to brush it off much more easily and chalk it up to the stupidity of bullies.

But Danny being called that word hits home. Not because he is slow mentally or because he is intellectually disabled in any way. Actually, he isn't at all. Academically, he is right on target for his age, and above average in some areas.

Socially, though, Danny has some delays. Definitely. And he has quirks which can sometimes put others off. And having kids make fun of him for those differences makes me worry even more about Danny's future social life. I worry that he won't have friends and that he'll be lonely. And having some kid make fun of him for it just highlights that my fears aren't unthinkable.

Fortunately, that afternoon as I cried, I did something very smart. I called my sister. I knew she would understand. She loves Danny as much as anyone could--she has always been his defender.

She was as angry as I was, but then she gave me an amazing gift. She helped me not just see past it, but also how to turn this into a learning experience for Danny and Charlotte. And even for me.

Beth urged me to not allow Danny to become the victim, but to teach him that those boys were wrong. Beth tells her kids that when kids are mean to them, they should say, "You are being mean to me. When you are mean, I can't play with you. Friends are not mean." After that, they are to walk away and play somewhere else.

She advised me to point out to Char and Dan that those mean kids should never have said those things. The mean kids are the ones with the problem, and my kids should seek out friends who are nice. Friends, like A, who stuck up for Danny on the playground that day. In fact, A was the one who told me what had happened, and who actually told the mean kids' mom. A was so angry at what they had done to Danny that she couldn't let it rest.

So, that evening, I talked with Charlotte and Danny. I explained that the big kids were being mean, that they were wrong and that we should never treat people that way. I also pointed out that A, on the other hand, was a really good friend, and that she was the kind of friend the kids should seek out.

I don't know how much sank in with Danny. He didn't seem all that interested in the conversation. Still, it made me feel better. I know that this is just one of many times in which Danny will most probably be mocked for his differences. I also know that most kids get teased and have their feelings hurt many times throughout childhood. I know I sure did.

But now, with my sister's help, I realized that I don't have to just sit here and bear it. Instead, I can use these moments to empower my children, to teach them right from wrong and how to be a good friend. And I can teach them that they don't have to put up with people being cruel to them. They are not victims, no matter how badly their feelings have been hurt. They have the power to walk away and choose to make different friends.

Friends like A.

And friends like my sister.

Free Screening of "Bully"

The end of bullying begins with me. 
October is National Bullying Prevention month. 
Family Matters, in collaboration with the Helen Matthes Library in Effingham, IL will be hosting a showing of the award winning film, “Bully”, by Lee Hirsch, on Tuesday, October 8th at 6:00 pm. at the library. 
Following the film we will facilitate a discussion about how to respond to and prevent bullying in our community.  The film is rated PG-13.  “Bully” is a beautifully cinematic documentary following 5 kids and their families over the course of a school year and offering insight into the issues of America’s bullying crisis.  With an intimate and often shocking glimpse into homes, classrooms, cafeterias and principals’ offices, this is a powerful and inspiring film that every educator, parent and teenager should see.  To register, visit or you can call the library at 217-342-2464.  Please join us!

If you or someone you know would like more information about bullying and Illinois law, please contact Family Matters at 866-43-7842!

Exploring the Parent-Child Dynamic within the IEP Team

originally posted at

Listen To Your Kids

Think inclusive… about the IEP process and IEP team from the child’s perspective. Tim Villegas does an excellent job here gathering parental and professional insights on educating students with disabilities. Today I hope to add a new comprehensive layer by discussing the student viewpoint. Disclaimer, rather than providing you with answers my post aims to raise questions and stimulate dialogue.

First though, perhaps I should make a proper introduction. I’m Zachary Fenell, an author and freelance writer who enjoys exploring different disability related issues. My interest in disabilities remains personal considering I was born with a mild case of cerebral palsy (CP). In my teen memoir Off Balanced (available on the Kindle and Nook) I share how my CP affected me socially as an adolescent.

Additionally I write articles for The Mobility Resource, an organization with handicap van dealers across the United States. Plus I serve as the Guest Blog Coordinator for Handicap This Productions, a critically acclaimed group attentive on educating, entertaining, and empowering the world on disability orientated topics. Also worth noting I contributed articles to Special Education Guide, an informational website dedicated to covering all things special education.

Anyways, now you know my credentials. Shall we get to the point? Reflect on how your son or daughter’s IEP team functions. When possible, does he or she contribute? Do the IEP team members respect the ideas and notions your child brings forward? More specifically, do you value your son or daughter’s input?  Answering this last question proves especially important, given in my personal experience the parent and child influence the IEP process the most.

You see, in my situation my parents set the tone for our yearly IEP team meetings. My mother entered the room focused, ready to address her concerns with regards to the next school year. The other team members listened and the appropriate conversations proceeded. The discussions rarely if ever induced surprise from me because my parents talked to me about their concerns prior to the meetings. Still I did not always feel Mom and Dad seriously contemplated my feedback.

Allow me to illustrate. In Off Balanced I document an argument I had with my parents when preparing to transition from upper elementary school to junior high school. Despite my mild CP, I can ascend and descend steps rather easily using a railing. Such the case, I wanted to use the stairs at school like everybody else. My parents maintained other ideas. Citing safety concerns, they pretty much told me I must take the elevator at school.

To read more, click here.....