Mom Shark blog

Special Education Does Not Mean Less Education

Assistive Technology — January 31, 2020

Assistive Technology

Teachers need to integrate technology seamlessly into the curriculum instead of viewing it as an add-on, an afterthought or an event. – Heidi Hayes Jacobs

What is assistive technology?

Assistive technology (AT) is any item, piece of equipment, software program, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities.

  • AT can be low-tech: communication boards made of cardboard or fuzzy felt.
  • AT can be high-tech: special-purpose computers.
  • AT can be hardware: prosthetics, mounting systems, and positioning devices.
  • AT can be computer hardware: special switches, keyboards, and pointing devices.
  • AT can be computer software: screen readers and communication programs.
  • AT can be inclusive or specialized learning materials and curriculum aids.
  • AT can be specialized curricular software.
  • AT can be much more—electronic devices, wheelchairs, walkers, braces, educational software, power lifts, pencil holders, eye-gaze and head trackers, and much more.

Assistive Technology is much like a spectrum itself and I say that because it can help so many with so many different disabilities or challenges that they are facing. Since assistive technology is such a broad spectrum I can only talk about my experience with it and how it has helped and impacted my son in terms of academics. I hope to provide helpful information to you so that you may dig deeper if it is a topic that interests you.

I have always viewed Assistive Technology as a life jacket to help the individual not only function and grow but to be included. I had heard about assistive technology but did not know much about it until my son had his thorough assistive technology evaluation performed by Communicare and my eyes were opened to how much he was been held back and excluded. They evaluation was two parts first observed Clinton in the classroom for about two hours which included obtaining work/handwriting samples from the teacher and also speaking with the teacher. The second part was a three hour one-on-one evaluation in which they not only tried out different software with Clinton but gained further insight into his challenges with one on one testing. The evaluation showed that Clinton could benefit from twenty-two different assistive technology tools/strategies and I have listed below what Clinton currently uses:

  • Chrome Book with touchscreen no external mouse.
  • Head Phones with a Boom Microphone
  • Co: Writer (word prediction software)
  • Speech-to-Text (dictation)
  • Text-to-Speech
  • Graphic Organizer
  • Grammarly
  • Read & Write for Google
  • Word Banks
  • Microsoft Office
  • IXL
  • Bookshare
  • Visual Schedule

Technology is ever evolving which makes it very important to go slowly so as not to overwhelm the student and it is very crucial this is a TEAM effort meaning what is done at school needs to be done at home and vice versa or you will not see the true benefit of assistive technology. In the coming months and years the technology that helps Clinton will need to be modified, it is an evolution of sorts but one that must be done at the students pace not the parents or teachers. It is easy to get excited anticipating all the ways your child will benefit from Assistive Technology but let us remember there it is not just as simple as turning the computer on, it takes time, effort, patience especially when the child is receiving other services such physical, occupational or speech therapy. I never want Clintons learning to be strictly technology/screen based or strictly paper based, I believe in reaching for a balance where he gets a little bit of both.

Below are some books and links I hope can guide you if you believe Assistive Technology is something you or your child needs:

Thank you for reading!

ADHD — November 29, 2019

ADHD

They say a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind. What then is an empty desk a sign of? ― Albert Einstein

I believe at times the seriousness of the neurodevelopmental disorder that is Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) is often minimized as though everyone has it which just is not true. Yes, we all have our occassional moments where we are scattered, forgetful, disorganized, late for work or absent minded and those moments shouldn’t be confused with actually having the diagnosis of ADHD. ADHD if untreated can and will interfere will daily life and activities of both children and adults. Let us dive a little deeper into the signs and symptoms of ADHD so we can better recognize when we should seek further help and support.

It is normal for children to have trouble focusing and behaving at one time or another. However, children with ADHD do not just grow out of these behaviors. The symptoms continue, can be severe, and can cause difficulty at school, at home, or with friends.

A child with ADHD might:

  • daydream a lot
  • forget or lose things a lot
  • squirm or fidget
  • talk too much
  • make careless mistakes or take unnecessary risks
  • have a hard time resisting temptation
  • have trouble taking turns
  • have difficulty getting along with others

Types

There are three different types of ADHD, depending on which types of symptoms are strongest in the individual:

Predominantly Inattentive Presentation: It is hard for the individual to organize or finish a task, to pay attention to details, or to follow instructions or conversations. The person is easily distracted or forgets details of daily routines.

Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation: The person fidgets and talks a lot. It is hard to sit still for long (e.g., for a meal or while doing homework). Smaller children may run, jump or climb constantly. The individual feels restless and has trouble with impulsivity. Someone who is impulsive may interrupt others a lot, grab things from people, or speak at inappropriate times. It is hard for the person to wait their turn or listen to directions. A person with impulsiveness may have more accidents and injuries than others.

Combined Presentation: Symptoms of the above two types are equally present in the person.

Clinton is predominantly inattentive and I feel as he has gotten older he has gained a certain personal awareness of the inattentive part of himself. While he does struggle staying on task, organizing himself, following instructions and is often easily distracted we continue to strive to find ways to help him and more importantly help him help himself in age appropriate ways. Medication is personal choice between parent, doctor and child that being said Clinton does take medication and I do not feel it is something to be ashamed of or looked down apon. Clinton is not forced, is always included in the discussion about medication and he knows at any time if he does not want to take it he does not have to. I bring up medication because it is something that is used to treat the symptoms of ADHD and I believe it is important to keep an open dialogue about it.

Medication can help children manage their ADHD symptoms in their everyday life and can help them control the behaviors that cause difficulties with family, friends, and at school. Medications can affect children differently and can have side effects such as decreased appetite or sleep problems. One child may respond well to one medication, but not to another. It took us a couple different tries with different medications to find the right fit for my son, but I believe it was worth it as Clinton has voiced how Ritalin LA helps him especially through his school day.

  • Stimulants are the best-known and most widely used ADHD medications. Between 70-80% of children with ADHD have fewer ADHD symptoms when taking these fast-acting medications.
  • Nonstimulants were approved for the treatment of ADHD in 2003. They do not work as quickly as stimulants, but their effect can last up to 24 hours.

Tips for Parents

The following are suggestions that may help:

  • Create a routine. Try to follow the same schedule every day, from wake-up time to bedtime.
  • Get organizedexternal icon. Encourage your child to put schoolbags, clothing, and toys in the same place every day so that they will be less likely to lose them.
  • Manage distractions. Turn off the TV, limit noise, and provide a clean workspace when your child is doing homework. Some children with ADHD learn well if they are moving or listening to background music. Watch your child and see what works.
  • Limit choices. To help your child not feel overwhelmed or overstimulated, offer choices with only a few options. For example, have them choose between this outfit or that one, this meal or that one, or this toy or that one.
  • Be clear and specific when you talk with your child. Let your child know you are listening by describing what you heard them say. Use clear, brief directions when they need to do something.
  • Help your child plan. Break down complicated tasks into simpler, shorter steps. For long tasks, starting early and taking breaks may help limit stress.
  • Use goals and praise or other rewards. Use a chart to list goals and track positive behaviors, then let your child know they have done well by telling them or by rewarding their efforts in other ways. Be sure the goals are realistic—small steps are important!
  • Create positive opportunities. Children with ADHD may find certain situations stressful. Finding out and encouraging what your child does well—whether it’s school, sports, art, music, or play—can help create positive experiences.
  • Provide a healthy lifestyle. Nutritious food, lots of physical activity, and sufficient sleep are important; they can help keep ADHD symptoms from getting worse.
  • Meditation: At its most basic, meditation gives young children the feeling of being quiet and still. It gives them time to breathe and imagine, and lets them know that it is okay to have feelings. In fact, through meditation children learn that it is okay to be whoever they are and feel whatever they feel. I have found that meditation is very beneficial especially in Clintons sleep routine and not only that its a great time for us to relax and unwind together. There are numerous free childrens meditations on YouTube, Spotify, Pandora or my favorite Insight Timer

Further Resources and Support

American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP)

Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA)

Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights (PACER)

National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH)

This is by no means a comprehensive look into ADHD and I am by no means an expert on the issue I am merely a mom hoping to help others and I hope you have read or found something here that helps you.

Topic Tuesday — August 7, 2019

Topic Tuesday

Every Tuesday is going to be Topic Tuesday and today’s topic, Dyslexia is a topic very close to my heart. While I do not have Dyslexia, my son, Clinton and his Father, Charlie both have Dyslexia. I have seen the challenges,the frustrations, the sadness, the disorganization, the confusion and at times tears that comes with having Dyslexia, but I have also seen the creativity, the artistic talents, the curiosity, the genius, the problem solving and the smiles.  When Clinton first received his diagnosis of Dyslexia at the age of 5 I was overwhelmed and felt enormous pressure to get the proper resources and supports in place for him both at home and in school. I am by no means an expert on Dyslexia, but I have been fortunate enough to come in contact with some wonderful people who have led me to some helpful and insightful resources which I will share with you.

1.) Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz came out in 2005 and turned the world of understanding Dyslexia upside down. This book is written for the lay person and is a treasure of information well-grounded in science.

2.) Dyslexia 101: Truth, Myth and What Really Works by Mariane Sunderland. It is the parents quick-start guide to understanding the world of Dyslexia. Get up to speed quickly with Brief, to-the-point Chapters on everything ranging from reading instruction that works to how to navigate the public school system.

3.) https://www.wrightslaw.com/ Wrightslaw is an organization that exists to educate parents and teachers about special education law and advocacy. They have thousands of articles, case resources and offer training  programs on advocacy, special education law and understanding test scores.

4.)http://www.understood.org A web site built for parents of kids with Dyslexia and attention issues.  With state of the art technology, personalized resources, access to experts, a secure online community, practical tips and more.

5.)http://www.decodingdyslexia.net A parent-led grassroots movement for promoting the rights of people with Dyslexia.

6.) The Dyslexic Advantage by Brock Eide and Fernette Eide. With inspiring testimonials, this paradigm-shifting book proves that dyslexia does not have to be a detriment, but can often become an asset for success. Includes extensive coverage of accommodations (like speech-to-text software and digital books) 

7.) The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan by Ben Foss. After years of battling with a school that did not understand his dyslexia and the shame that accompanied it, renowned activist and entrepreneur Ben Foss is not only open about his Dyslexia, he is proud of it. Packed with practical ideas and strategies dyslexic children need in school and life.

8.)https://gibbybooth.com Host of Podcast Dyslexia is a Superpower  Gibby encourages a powerful dialogue about the learning difference that is Dyslexia. As a coach and advocate, Gibby talks about real life experiences as well as the triumphs and challenges that go along with it. Gibby believes dyslexics can connect  the dots and solve problems differently. However, society has put a standard on activities like writing, reading and solving Math which makes it hard for Dyslexics to cope. Gibby believes in empowerment for the dyslexic and the parent. Check her out!

9.)http://mommyspeechtherapy.com is a great web site with a lot of great resources started up by a practicing speech-language pathologist and most importantly a mom. She started this website because she believes no one can make a bigger difference than the parents. There are great tips, techniques, apps, speech therapy activities and articles all written for the lay person.

10.) www.readingrockets.org  Learn about the common signs of dyslexia, how parents can support their child and celebrate their strengths, the role of assistive technology, how the latest brain research can help kids with dyslexia and more.

11.) Your local library is a not only great resource for  books, movies and games but a lot of library’s fund guest speakers and workshops for children and adults. It is also a great safe place for kids and adults to interact. 

This is by no means  all the resources that are available but are some of my favorites that have been very helpful to me. I encourage you to check them out little by little and take what you feel you need and leave the rest.  I say that because there is a lot of information out there and do not feel you have to absorb it all at once. I encourage you to find support in your community, reach out to other parents within your community, talk to your child’s pediatrician, search Facebook for online support groups and my favorite…ask questions…lots and lots of questions. 

“If you have kids who are struggling with dyslexia, the greatest gift you can give them is the sense that nothing is unattainable.” – Orlando Bloom