Friday, February 28, 2014

What Does A Meltdown Feel Like?

Originally posted on

Image courtesy Gabriela Pinto

What is a meltdown?
Why do people have meltdowns?
Why do I have meltdowns?
What happens when a person has a meltdown?
Can adults have meltdowns?
How do I know if I’m having a meltdown?
What should I do if I'm having a meltdown?

I get a bunch of people coming to the site looking for answers to these questions, and it's one of the reasons that I talk about meltdowns a lot - like explaining what a meltdown iswhy you need to teach your kids about them and why they're not the same as tantrums.

It's important that the answers to these questions are easy to find, because understanding why and how meltdowns happen can have such a huge impact for the person experiencing them.

Today I thought it might be useful to write about what a meltdown feels like for me. So here goes.

The beginning

My overall day-to-day ability to function is a balance between the input coming in and my ability to process it. This is the way it is for everybody, but the difference is that for people with sensory processing disorders and autism that balance can be a lot more delicate.

To read more, click here.....

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sexuality Education for Students with Disabilities

posted on
March 2010
Resources updated, February 2013
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.

Click here to read more and to access links to some really valuable resources.....

Monday, February 24, 2014

Dyslexia: The deconstruction of school testing

By Kelli Sandman-Hurley, Ed.D.

This may come as a surprise, but most school psychologists do not know how to identify dyslexia, and if they do identify a reading problem, it is usually mislabeled as an auditory processing disorder. To further complicate the problem, the report may do an excellent job of describing the reading and writing issues and then fall absurdly short in the recommendations section.  Recently, I read a report that did a beautiful job of explaining a young girl’s difficulty with decoding, spelling and fluency. The tests showed a clear deficit in phonological awareness, so what were the recommendations that got my blood boiling and provoked me to throw my arms in the air? Student needs to improve reading. Yes, that’s right. That was the recommendation to the IEP team. So, what is the underlying issue and what do parents and teachers need to know about the testing in order to make appropriate recommendations? Read on for answers.
Problem #1:One size fits all – or does it?
If you have seen one psychoeducational report conducted by a school psyschologist, then my friend, you have seen them all. And herein lies one of the biggest roadblocks to appropriate intervention. When presented with a student who is struggling with reading and writing, most schools will test the following areas: I.Q., Visual Processing (usually TVPS-3), Auditory Processing (usually TAPS-3), academics (usually the Woodcock-Johnson), and an observation that usually does not include a description of what was actually produced during the observation. This sounds good, it looks thorough, it looks complete, but when it comes to assessing a child with dyslexia, there usually are three things missing: a test of phonological awareness, phonological memory and rapid naming (such as the CTOPP-2), oral reading (such as the GORT-5), a spontaneous writing sample and appropriate interpretation of the scores.
To read more, click here.....

If you would like more information about Dyslexia or other learning disabilities, please call Family Matters at 866-436-7842.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Extended School Year (ESY)

Some children who are eligible for special education services will lose skills if their instruction is interrupted during a lengthy school break.  Some may take an extensive period of time to regain skills previously acquired when school resumes.  Extended School Year services are those services provided beyond the typical school year for these children.  The services are provided at no cost to the parent. 

Extended School Year services are not the same as summer school services.  Summer school is an optional program a district may choose to offer.  ESY services are different in that they are provided to ensure that a student receiving special education services will maintain and enhance the generalization of learned skills.  The services are not meant to teach new skills. 

All students who are eligible for special education services must be considered for ESY eligibility annually.  The IEP team must decide if the student needs ESY services in order to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE).  A district may not limit ESY eligibility to students with a particular category of disability. 

Factors in the Consideration of Extended School Year Eligibility include:

1-nature of child’s disability

2-progress on goals/objectives

3-emerging Skills

4-behavior Issues

5-regression and recoupment

6-physical / health issues

7-availability of alternative resources

8-vocational issues

9-social skills / peer interaction

 A child need not have demonstrated regression and/or slow skill recoupment after a break before ESY eligibility can be determined.  The decision should be based on data collection, parent input, expert opinions, and consideration of the child’s progress and needs.  Non-achievement of IEP goals cannot be used as the sole criteria for eligibility.

Parents and teachers should collect documentation pertaining to the child’s skills, behaviors, functioning, and rate of progress throughout the year.  The determination of the child’s eligibility for ESY needs to be made in a timely manner so that parents who disagree with a school’s decision not to provide services have time to appeal the decision before the school break begins. 

The amount of ESY service a child receives must be determined on an individual basis.  ESY services may be, or include, “related services” such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy.  Transportation to ESY services must be provided if necessary for the student to benefit from the special education services. 

Educational placement options are limited when peers are not in attendance and schools are not required to create an integrated program for ESY services.  Services may, however, be provided in a variety of environments in the community or in the family home.  Schools may choose to contract with outside agencies to provide ESY services.  A school’s summer school program COULD be one means of providing ESY services to an eligible student for the purpose of maintaining skills, but the student’s services must be individualized and not limited to the services offered to other summer school students.  (Summer school programs cannot discriminate against children with disabilities, so children who are receiving special education services may be eligible for a school’s summer school services although not eligible for ESY.)

ESY services must be provided by qualified and certified staff or persons who are supervised by such staff. 

 A child’s IEP should indicate what goals will be reinforced during ESY service provision.  The IEP should also indicate:

-the beginning date of services

-the ending date of services

-the minutes per week of each service to be   


-the location where services will be provided

January 2011

If you would like more information about Extended School Year, please contact us at Family Matters.  Our phone number is 866-436-7842.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


 Summer may seem far off, but it's just around the corner, and if you are interested in getting Extended School Year Services for your child, here are some things you might need to know.

When an IEP considers whether a student is eligible for ESY, they should consider more than just regression and recoupment.  Check out the considerations that should be made:

1)         Nature of child’s disability

            Due to the severity of the disability, will the school break prevent the child from   

            receiving educational benefit when the regular school year resumes?

2)         Progress on Goals/Objectives

            By evaluating the rate of progress the child is making toward meeting IEP

            objectives, will the school break prevent the child from receiving educational

            benefit when the regular school year resumes?

3)         Emerging Skills

            If the child is at a breakthrough point in learning a new skill that is crucial for

            reaching self-sufficiency and independence, will the school break prevent the

            child from receiving educational benefit when the regular school year resumes?

4)         Behavior Issues

            If a Behavior Intervention Plan is being implemented for the child on targeted

            behaviors that prevented educational benefit in the past, will discontinuing the

            programming during the school break prevent the child from receiving

            educational benefit when the regular school year resumes?

5)         Regression and Recoupment

            Will the child experience a substantial loss of a critical life skill or be unable to

            recover a loss of a critical life skill in a reasonable amount of time when the

            regular school year resumes?  Can the parent maintain the child’s level of

            performance during the break or does the complexity of the need or other factors

            mean the child can be expected to regress without ESY services?

6)         Other special circumstances

            Are there special circumstances that will mean an interruption of services will

            prevent the child from receiving educational benefit when the regular school year


Additional considerations:

1-physical/health issues

2-availability of alternative resources

3-vocational needs

4-social skills/peer interaction

If you would like more information about Extended School Year, please contact us at Family Matters.  Our phone number is 866-436-7842.

Monday, February 17, 2014

"No More Victims" Review

It seems that everyday I read news reports about kids being cyber-bullied or targeted by online predators.  The Internet, though filled with fantastic information and important resources, can be a dangerous place for children.  Some days, I just want to ban my kids entirely from ever using the World Wide Web, but I know that this is not an option.

In No More Victims: Protecting Those with Autism from Cyber Bullying, Internet Predators & Scams , Jed Baker points out that because children with autism tend to enjoy spending time on the computer, they can fall victim to cyberbullies, predators, and online scams.  He says, "Individuals on the autism spectrum may be particularly susceptible to these types of scams because of challenges with being able to gauge and understand others' intentions, isolation, increased time online and difficulty with developing assertive communication skills."

It's enough to make a parent panic, isn't it?

Well, rest assured, a moratorium on all technology is not the only solution to keeping your child safe.  Baker's book is an important resource; he gives advice and information that is critical in protecting your children.

Baker starts the book with descriptions of the various types of internet victimization and discusses who is more likely to fall prey to them.  The second chapter, one I was especially interested in, covers how to prevent cyber-bullying.  In this section he covers the things school staff, teachers, and administrators should do to prevent bullying in school or among students.  He then talks about what we should be teaching kids to protect them, but also to prevent them from becoming bullies themselves.  He also lists rules that parents should establish surrounding Internet use, like never give away any passwords, for example. The final section of this chapter covers what to do if you or your child is bullied via the internet.

Next up is the chapter entitled "How to Protect Kids from Online Predators" and it covers topics like game-rating restrictions, filters, Netiquette, and rules to establish for your children's safety.  The chapter on Internet Scams gives salient advice on how to spot a scam and information on the most common scams out there.

Chapter 5 is called "An Insider's View of Keeping Safe in the Digital World" provides great tips and online resources from Jennider, girl with Asperger's Syndrome.

This book is short and extremely accessible.  Written in very easy-to-understand language, Baker is careful not to use jargon that can confuse those of us who are not computer experts.  After reading this book, I feel a lot more comfortable about my children's online safety; I recommend adding this book to your home libraries.  It's a must-read in this era of the internet.

You can find this book on Future Horizons' website here.  If you use the code PH, you can get 15% off all orders AND free shipping no matter how large or small!

Family Matters Parent Training and Information Center has a copy of this book in our lending library.  If you live in Illinois and would to borrow this book, please call us at 866-436-7842.  Or you can request the book yourself on our website:  You can borrow resources for a month and we send you a self-addressed, stamped envelope for easy return!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

I am the Master of My Emotions free webcast

Pyramid Educational Consultants is pleased to announce the launch of our newest webcast, I am the Master of My Emotions! This webcast was developed and presented by Andy Bondy, Ph.D., the co-founder of Pyramid Educational Consultants, creator of the Pyramid Approach to Education™ and co-creator of the Picture Exchange Communication System™ (PECS).

Join Andy as he discusses how effective lessons regarding emotions can be designed and implemented, as well as why these lessons are difficult to teach. The information presented is an overview of our full day talk, The Language of Emotions. Andy presents the information in a simple and conversational manner, enabling even the novice to grasp the concepts discussed.

I am the Master of My Emotions webcast for FREE!

This webcast is appropriate for all members of the educational team, including speech-language pathologists, parents, teachers, paraprofessionals, behavior analysts, psychologists, social workers and/or other professionals providing services for individuals with autism spectrum disorders.

What You Will Begin To Learn:
 To describe how children typically learn to comment about “private events”
 The type of information adults respond to when teaching children to tell us about their emotions, and what may be missing for children with autism
 Why traditional approaches to teaching “the language of emotions” may not be effective and how they can be improved
 How to take advantage of existing emotional displays and how to create situations that are likely to induce such feelings
 Why it is not really easy to teach “really”

Interested in more information about the I am the Master of My Emotions webcast? Contact Alexis Bondy, Marketing Manager, at More webcast titles are set to launch in April 2011. Future webcast titles include The Pyramid Approach for Parents and Professionals and A Clear Picture: The Use & Benefits of PECS.

Interested in learning more about the Language of Emotions? Attend or host our one day talk, The Language of Emotions! Go to for more information.

Monday, February 10, 2014

10 Promises Every Special Educator Should Make To Their Students’ Parents


1. I promise to stop calling parents who have high expectations and advocate for their children “high maintenance” and I will equally try to discourage the term “high profile” if due process is involved.
2. I promise to presume competence (always assume that your child can learn and is interested in learning) even if they are unable to communicate to me what they know (yet!)
3. I promise to never use the “R” word and to speak up against it when I hear it used in private or public.
4. I promise to ask your input on the educational goals for your child BEFORE the IEP meeting and realize that without your collaboration we have no team.
5. I promise to remember that YOU were your child’s first teacher and YOU are an expert on your child…not me.
6. I promise to stop using “what is he/she going to get out of this?” or “they’re not ready” as an excuse for not including your child in general education.

To read more, click here.....

Thursday, February 6, 2014

How to Reduce Fear For Autistic Kids

Originally posted at

It’s often said that fear is the number one emotion for autistic kids, because the world around them is a confusing, unpredictable and threatening place to be. But that’s only half the reason why they experience fear so often - it’s not just that they feel more threatened, but that their reactions to those threats are very often misunderstood.

Autistic kids don’t always experience fear in a way that most people expect or understand. This can result in three very common situations in which their fear is overlooked:

It’s not recognized
The behaviours don’t look like fear and are misinterpreted as something else.

It’s not expected
The situation is one in which kids don’t usually experience fear, so carers aren’t prepared or watching for a fear reaction.

It’s not acknowledged
They seem afraid but the object of that fear is not something that most people find scary.

The result of all this confusion is that these kids tend to miss out on receiving protection and comfort when they need it most. Misunderstanding their fear means that they have to experience so much more of it, which is not only detrimental to long term health but also to the trust they feel in the people who take care of them.

Let’s take a look at these situations in more in detail.

To read more, click here....