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February 2018

Consider This…

News and information about education, research, and support for SESPs; adoptive, foster, and kinship caregivers; and child welfare and education professionals helping children with trauma and other special needs get the most from their education.

Feature Article

10 Traits of Effective Parents in Special Education

Advocating for children in the special education system can be frustrating and overwhelming for parents. It can feel like the system is against you, when all that you want is what is best for your child. The Team seems to be speaking another language, there are evaluations to be interrupted, and decisions to be made.  It can be daunting for any parent, let alone a parent of a special needs child.  Over the past decade, Attorney Jeffrey Sankey has worked with hundreds of parents to help them obtain special education services for their children. In his experience, he has found that the parents who are best able to navigate the intricacies of the special education process share a number of common traits. Read Full Article

Things to Consider…

Ensuring Educational Stability for Students in Foster Care
In January 2018, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and the Department of Children and Families (DCF) published a joint memo and guidance on the provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) foster care provisions.  ESSA requires that foster care students continue to attend their school of origin, unless after a collaborative decision-making process it is determined to be in the student’s best interest to enroll in and attend school in the district in which a foster care provider or facility is located (if different). ESSA also requires that when it is not in the student’s best interest to remain in the school of origin, the student is immediately enrolled and attending in a new school district, even if records normally required for enrollment cannot be quickly produced. Additionally, ESSA requires DCF, ESE, and school districts to designate points of contact; and also that districts collaborate with DCF to ensure that students will receive transportation to the school of origin if needed. The guidance also clarifies the new “Best Interest Determination” as well as “Transportation” concerns that face students and their placements.

The Key to Improving How IEP Teams Support Children’s Social and Emotional Needs
How often do we seen a social/emotional goal that encompasses a behavior plan? Why is this an issue? Well, most social/emotional goals look at reducing or modifying a behavior through compliance. Rather we need to look at what is happening behind the behavior.  The behavior is just the tip of the iceberg, with the emotions lying below the surface.  Compliance isn’t a reliable indicator of how a student is faring from an emotional standpoint. “Our concern should be for the child’s emotions, physiological state (calmness in mind and body) and experience of safety.  Too often we fail to recognize that a child’s maladaptive behaviors are actually stress responses – and what is being asked of the child exceeds their ability to comply.”

Breach of trust, breach of privacy
When is it okay and safe to divulge your student’s clinical information to a school team? Many mental health advocates feel that by sharing the stories, we can break through the stigma regarding mental health. But is that always in the best interest of your child? Who has access to that information and what will they do with it. This is the story about Greg and his son.  He thought by telling the school about his son’s trauma that he would create compassion.  He expected that the team working with his son would respect his privacy.  However, he learned that sometimes the risk of sharing his story can be too great.  He learned that while our stories can create powerful change, emotional safety matters too.

A prescription for … resiliency?
As parents we take our child to the doctor’s for wellness checks and get them vaccinations from things like chicken pox. What if we could also protect small children from long term adverse health outcomes? Every family faces some type of adversity at some point, but what makes one child more resilient than another.  A growing body of research has looked at this issue and concluded that one factor stands out more than others…the presence of a consistent, caring relationship early in life.  “When children feel safe, especially in the first three or four years of life, they learn that they can trust their environment. They learn from their caregivers that they can trust other people, and they see the world as a safe and welcoming place where they can learn. Part of what they learn is to self-regulate, to not panic.” Let’s take a look at how that can be supported.
 

Parents, You Can Reverse Generations of Emotional Neglect By Doing 3 Small Things
You love your child very much. But your child is still feeling the effects of being emotionally neglected, how can that be? Loving your child is not the same as being emotionally in tune with them.  This is especially difficult for parents who were raised by emotionally neglectful parents themselves, as they are literally set up to under-respond to their own children’s feelings.  In order to be in tune as a parent, one must be aware of and understand emotions in general. This article gives some practical advise on how to develop this connection and break the cycle of neglect for your children. 

Three Ways Trauma Changes the Brain
In this video, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, a leading expert in the neuroscience of trauma, speaks to three ways that the brain on an individual with trauma changes because of the adverse experience. These changes happen in different areas of the brain, the threat perception system (a very primal portion of the brain), the filtering system (a system that helps to determine what’s important and what to let go of), and the self-sensing system (the portion of the brain that is in charge of your sense of self). Understanding these changes is crucial to help us target our interventions more effectively. 

Suspensions Are Not Support – The Disciplining of Preschoolers With Disabilities
So your child received Early Intervention services and is now transitioning to Preschool. They have continued services through their IEP, so all is good right? Maybe not. Although students with disabilities and social/emotional issues only make up 12% of the Preschool population, they make up 75% of the disciplined (suspended or expelled) students!   This situation presents serious concerns over loss of learning time, loss of related services time, as well as missing out on valuable opportunities that can help them overcome early adversities. Children in preschool programs are expelled or suspended 3 times more often than school age children. This loss of learning is happening at a very important stage of neurodevelopment in young children, leading to research that indicates that these forms of discipline are not only an inadequate, but an inappropriate way to deal the presented behaviors.

Useful Tools and Resources 

What parents need to know about moving and an IEP.
Tips for making your student’s  IEP and school moving transition easier. Remember that the IEP travels with the student. Just because the placement is changing the student’s needs remain the same. These are some steps that you can take to try to ensure that the school transition is as smooth as possible.

35 measurable self-advocacy and self-determination goals for an IEP
Every child needs to develop self-advocacy skills, especially students with social/emotional goals.  Behavior plans and teacher prompting can’t last forever. It is, however, one of the most difficult goal to write on an IEP.  How to do it well, and how to make them measureable is always a challenge. Here is a list of measureable goals for self-determination to get the ideas flowing at your next IEP meeting.  

#MyYoungerSelf for Educators: Tools to Encourage Classroom Dialogue about Mental Health
The stigmas around mental health, especially among adolescents can be shameful and harmful, to the students, their families, and the community. Who better to reach students but celebrities to talk about their own experiences while encouraging young people to seek the help they need. Check out this toolkit for helping educators, which includes links to the celebrity videos.

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Featured Article Continued… 

10 Traits of Effective Parents in Special Education

Advocating for children in the special education system can be frustrating and overwhelming for parents. It can feel like the system is against you, when all that you want is what is best for your child. The Team seems to be speaking another language, there are evaluations to be interrupted, and decisions to be made.  It can be daunting for any parent, let alone a parent of a special needs child.  Over the past decade, Attorney Jeffrey Sankey has worked with hundreds of parents to help them obtain special education services for their children. In his experience, he has found that the parents who are best able to navigate the intricacies of the special education process share a number of common traits.

Effective parents are very involved in their child’s education, but find a striking balance between “hovering” and apathetic. They tend to be the first to realize that something is not right.  By trusting their instincts and sharing their concerns, they play an important role in obtaining the correct diagnosis and appropriate services for their student through a collaborative effort with the school staff.

Our next webinar will be presented by Jeffrey Sankey, the founder of Sankey Law Offices, P.C. a general education litigation firm in Braintree with a concentration in special education law. Attorney Sankey assists parents in the IEP process and works to help families obtain appropriate special education services and placements. He will be presenting this webinar on February 27, 2018.

Topics covered will include:

  1. Understanding key special education rules and regulations
  2. Maintaining accurate and complete records
  3. Facilitating productive relationships with school staff

*Disclaimer: While every effort is made to ensure that the contents of Consider This… is accurate, the Federation for Children with Special Needs makes no representations or warranties in relation to the accuracy or completeness of the information found within the enclosed articles.  The contents within this transmission are provided in good faith, and nothing included in it should be taken to constitute or imply professional advice, an endorsement or a formal recommendation.