EDU Healthcare Blog
15 Tips To Prepare Your Child With Special Needs For Winter ...
The holiday spirit is in the air. The commercials for toys bombard us every day. The cards and invitations for gatherings arrive in our in-boxes and mailboxes. All of this means the winter break is right around the corner.
Here are some survival tips to help make winter break a little easier and exciting for your child with special needs.
As much as educators do their best to maintain structure for their students, the excitement of the holidays and a couple weeks off is hard to contain in all the children and staff. There are concerts, plays, toy drives, and special events for your child to process. Lesson plans tend to change as there are usually special activities and games.
The meaning of the holidays can be abstract and difficult for a child with special needs to comprehend. Here is what you can do to make it easier.
1. Prep your child ahead of time about the updated school schedule and special events.
2. If possible, have pictures or social stories about what your child can expect.
3. Practice and rehearse what is going to happen, especially if your child is going to be a part of a presentation.
4. Talk to the teachers and assistants about how your child is going to participate and confirm that supports are in place to help your child succeed.
5. You may want to plan for a quieter evening after the event, so your child has a chance to decompress from the excitement.
Schedules and Calendars
The holiday season brings a big break in routine taking a child with special needs out of their comfort zone. Try and compensate by:
1. Relying heavily on visuals. This will help your child understand what is going to be happening
2. Count down the number of days before school ends and when school is about to start back up again. This gives your child an awareness that there will be a change in schedules.
3. A daily calendar can be very helpful during the winter break, especially to help your child anticipate any parties or family gatherings that you may be going to.
It is understandable that the family routine changes during the holidays. Bedtimes are later, naps may not be on schedule and there is no set schedule. Make sure you start getting back into your daily routine a few days before school starts so that the adjustment in January is a little easier.
Visiting Friends & Family
Visting friends and family will always pose a challenge. Some parents insist on hosting instead of visiting a place that is unfamiliar to there child.
If you are going to a relative’s house:
1. Prepare a social story so your child knows exactly what to expect.
2. Make sure you prepare your child with special needs to travel.
3. Bring activities that your child is familiar with and enjoys doing. This will give him/her a sense of comfort in unfamiliar surroundings.
4. Speak to your hosts and arrange a quiet spot for your child to retreat to if the activities are too overwhelming.
5. If your child is weary of large groups and attention, give relatives a heads up about approaching your child all at once.
6. Arrive early to set up and get comfortable or slip in quietly through the back before letting your family’s presence known.
7. Give yourself some permission to leave early if needed.
Holidays can be a wonderful and memorable time for children. It is important for all children to feel included and excited about the experiences during this time. Hopefully some of these ideas will provide ways to create special memories as a family. Wishing you an enjoyable and a stress-free December!
Services Beyond the School Year for Students With IEPs...
If your child receives special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), did you know he may be eligible for a program of special education and/or services beyond the normal school year? Such services are commonly referred to as extended school year (ESY) services. Read on to learn how ESY might help your child, the types of services it might include, and how his Individualized Education Program (IEP) team would determine if he’s eligible.
What Are Extended School Year (ESY) Services?
ESY services are individualized special education and/or related services (such as speech/language therapy or occupational therapy) that are uniquely designed to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to a student with disabilities (as mandated by IDEA). Need for ESY services is determined by the student’s IEP team. ESY services are provided beyond the normal school year of a school district — that includes both the days of the school year and the hours of the school day. ESY services must be provided at no cost to the parents. It’s important to understand that ESY services are not the same as:
- summer school
- compensatory services
- enrichment programs
ESY services are not limited to the summer break. While this is generally the longest break from the normal school year, ESY services may be needed during shorter breaks (such as winter and spring holiday breaks) of one or two weeks in length. ESY services can even be an extension of the student’s normal school day, such as a special tutoring program.
ESY services are not necessarily a continuation of the student’s entire special education program. Some students may need only certain instruction and/or related services (such as reading instruction or speech/language therapy) outside of the normal school year.
IDEA Regulations and Extended School Year Services
The IDEA regulations define “extended school year services” as special education and related services that:
Are provided to a child with a disability…
- Beyond the normal school year of the public agency (typically the school district);
- In accordance with a child’s IEP;
- At no cost to the parents of the child; and
- Meet the standards of the State Educational Agency.
Who Is Eligible for ESY Services?
Any student who is eligible to receive special education and related services may be eligible for ESY. A student’s need — or eligibility — for ESY is determined by his IEP team, including the parent(s). The decision is based solely on the individual needs of the student.
While federal IDEA regulations provide little specific guidance about how to determine a student’s eligibility for ESY, they do offer a few general requirements. These are:
- All school districts must ensure that ESY services are available as necessary to provide FAPE to eligible students. This doesn’t mean that every school district must provide the services, but rather, each district must ensure availability. So, for example, a district might provide ESY services to eligible students by contracting with a nearby district or a private provider.
- The student’s specific type of disability does not determine eligibility. School districts are not allowed to limit ESY services to particular categories of disability. So, for example, a school district cannot have a policy that prohibits ESY services for all students with learning disabilities.
- School districts may not unilaterally limit the type, amount or duration of ESY services. So, for example, a school district may not have a policy that restricts ESY services to the same period of time that it conducts its regular summer school program for all students.
- A school district may not use a lack of resources as a reason for not examining a student’s possible need for ESY services or for not providing ESY services to an eligible student.
How Is Eligibility for ESY Determined?
As noted earlier, the federal IDEA law and regulations provide little guidance on how to determine the need for ESY services. Therefore, the eligibility procedures and considerations have evolved from case law — the body of law created by judges’ written opinions in cases involving ESY services.
Determining a student’s need for ESY services must be part of the IEP process. Ideally, the IEP team should consider the need for ESY services at the initial IEP meeting for a student who is newly eligible for special education and at each IEP meeting thereafter — generally annually. This makes the consideration of ESY an integral part of any IEP meeting. However, if necessary, an IEP meeting can be called for the express purpose of considering the student’s need for ESY services.
Criteria Used to Determine Eligibility
The most widely used criteria for determining the need for ESY services are regression and recoupment. This involves two findings:
- The IEP team must determine if the student is likely to lose critical skills during the time when services are not delivered — called regression.
- If the likelihood of regression is established, then the IEP team must determine whether the time the student will require to re-learn the skills lost — called recoupment — is excessive, particularly when compared to the time it takes a nondisabled student to regain skills lost during a school break.
Many students lose some skills over school breaks, and then must relearn those skills when back in school. This applies to short breaks like holidays as well as the traditional long summer break. The important distinction is whether the student with a disability will experience significantly more regression and will take significantly more time to recoup lost skills than the student without disabilities.
Determinations about regression and recoupment can be either retrospective (looking back at documentation of a student’s previous rates of regression and recoupment) or prospective (looking forward at the potential rate of regression and recoupment based on such information as expert judgments and observations regarding the student’s performance after very short breaks such as long weekends). It’s not necessary for a student to demonstrate previous regression in order to be eligible for ESY services. However, the determination should be based on objective data from a variety of sources.
Several states continue to use a regression and recoupment model for ESY eligibility. The U.S. Department of Education has clarified that states have the option of using recoupment and retention as their sole criterion in ESY eligibility decisions, but do not have to do so. Many states have established additional criteria based on cases in their respective circuit courts.
Along with regression and recoupment, the IEP team might consider:
- The nature and severity of the student’s disability. While the student’s type of disability alone does not determine whether or not there is a need for ESY services, the IEP team should examine whether the nature and severity of his disability are likely to significantly jeopardize his ability to benefit from the instructional program if he experiences a lapse in instructional support.
- The student’s degree of progress toward IEP goals. How quickly is the student progressing from year to year without ESY services? Will the loss of services during the school break significantly jeopardize the student’s progress toward the goals? Failure to achieve one or more IEP goals does not necessarily mean that the student is eligible for ESY services.
- The student’s emerging skills and breakthrough opportunities. Is the student at a breakthrough point in a critical skill or skills, such as reading? Will the interruption of services and instruction significantly jeopardize the educational benefit the student is receiving from the specialized instruction or related service(s)?
- The student’s behavior(s). Does the student exhibit interfering behaviors — such as aggressive, violent or self-injurious behaviors – that prevent him from receiving education benefit from the instructional program during the normal school year? If so, he may need ESY services to keep the interfering behaviors from significantly jeopardizing the educational benefit he can derive from his instructional program during the next school year. Management of such behaviors should be part of the student’s current IEP.
- Special circumstances or other factors. Are there other special circumstances or factors that will significantly jeopardize the student’s receipt of educational benefit during the normal school year?
These factors might include:
- The student’s opportunity to interact with children without disabilities in what IDEA calls the “least restrictive environment.” In other words, will a break in services set him back so much that, once school resumes, he’ll need to spend less time in the general education classroom and more time receiving intensive/specialized instruction elsewhere?
- The specific areas of the student’s curriculum that need continuous attention.
- The educational structure in the student’s home (e.g., having parents who are willing and able to give the child adequate learning support and reinforcement).
Several types of information should be reviewed, such as:
- Current and previous IEP goals
- Classroom tests and grades
- Classroom observations (by qualified professionals such as a school psychologist or social worker)
- Standardized tests, including statewide assessments in key academic subjects such as reading and math
- Student work samples
- Progress monitoring data
- Attendance information (e.g., frequent illness that has kept the student out of school, causing him to lose ground academically)
- Parent interviews and input
- Expert opinions from professionals outside the school
Some additional factors to keep in mind are:
- The determination of whether a student is eligible for ESY should not be made so late in the normal school year that the family would not be able to exercise its due process rights to challenge the decision.
- Eligibility for ESY services one year does not guarantee future eligibility. The determination is made every year — preferably as part of the student’s annual IEP meeting.
- Eligibility for ESY services includes the provision of transportation to and from the location of the services. If the IEP team determines the student needs specialized transportation from home to the location where the child receives ESY services, such transportation must be provided.
- ESY services are not required in order to maximize a student’s potential. Just as students without disabilities do not have a right to an education designed to maximize their potential, neither are school districts required by IDEA to maximize the potential of students with disabilities.
What Might ESY Services Look Like?
As noted earlier, ESY services are not necessarily a continuation of the same instructional program and related services the student receives during the normal school year as prescribed by his IEP. IEP teams have flexibility in determining what ESY services might be needed. For example, ESY services may take the form of teachers and parents working together by providing materials for home use with progress monitored by the teacher. Independent service providers or agencies – such as those used by the school district to provide supplemental educational services (SES) under Title I of No Child Left Behind — might be used to deliver ESY services, such as individualized reading instruction.
Once the IEP team agrees upon ESY services, specifics about those services, where the student will receive the services, and how his progress will be measured and reported should be included in the student’s IEP.
Action Tips for Parents
- Obtain a copy of any ESY determination guidelines issued by your school district and/or state. Most states have policies or guidelines regarding ESY. These should be made available to you upon request. Familiarize yourself with the guidelines and ask questions. Contact your state’s Parent Training and Information (PTI) Center for additional assistance.
- Don’t wait until late in the normal school year to discuss your child’s potential need for ESY services during the summer break. If necessary, request an IEP meeting specifically for the purpose of determining ESY eligibility for your child. Be sure to put this request in writing to the school principal or school district special education director and specify the purpose of the meeting. Make certain that important school personnel – those who know your child best – will attend the IEP team meeting.
- List all of the factors you think should be taken into consideration when determining your child’s need for ESY services. Refer to the types of information listed earlier to help compile your list. Take your list to the IEP team meeting. Remember that the determination should be based on a broad range of factors and an array of information.
Ensuring Accommodations in Non-ESY Programs
Many parents take advantage of school offerings outside of the regular school year, such as summer school and enrichment programs. Parents may be required to pay an additional fee for such programs. While such programs aren’t ESY, schools are required by non-discrimination laws such as Section 504 to provide any accommodations a student with an IEP may need to fully participate in them. The student may need a Section 504 Plan to ensure that needed accommodations are provided.
10 Ways to Help Your Grade-Schooler Manage Stress...
Grade school is full of challenges, especially for kids with learning and attention issues. Here are some tips to prevent your child from feeling stressed.
1. Help them figure out how their feeling.
Kids with learning and attention issues might not be aware that they’re feeling stress. Try to keep your questions low-key. Drawing together is a good way to get conversation flowing. Mention you’ve noticed something has been bothering her. Help her put a name on what it might be. “Are you feeling scared about reading out loud in Ms. Smith’s class?” Simply talking about feelings can be a relief.
2. Take homework apart.
A whole page of word problems can seem overwhelming, especially for kids with attention issues. Break the problems down into chunks—groups of three, for example. That can make the task more manageable. Promise fun breaks in between—she can FaceTime with a friend or take the guinea pig out to play. Praise her for each set she completes.
3. Help them prepare for new things.
If your child is going to start a new activity, such as karate, visit ahead of time. Let her meet the lady at the front desk, check out the bathroom, and see the dojo. Ask the teacher to describe what she’ll do the first day of class. If the new activity seems familiar, your child won’t feel nearly as much anxiety about participating.
4. Celebrate even the smallest victories.
Most kids feel some stress when facing a new challenge. But they eventually dive in because past success gives them confidence. Kids with learning and attention issues need that same motivation—but success is often harder to come by. Watch for opportunities to praise accomplishments. It could be as simple as finishing three word problems without getting up. Knowing what success feels like may help her feel less overwhelmed and panicked when facing bigger challenges.
5. Help them create a “can do” mantra.
Suggest phrases she can repeat when facing stressful situations. “I am not afraid to try” or “I can do this” are two good examples. These thoughts will crowd out negative talk (“I’m too stupid to do this!”) and repeating the words over and over can be soothing.
6. Make sure you have rituals and order at home.
Coming home to an organized place and rituals that stay the same can give your child security after a busy day at school. When possible, stick to a routine. Maybe it’s an afternoon snack, a walk with the dog, and then homework. On days with afterschool activities, try to have a regular routine too. Create some structure for weekends as well. Too much time without a schedule can make kids antsy.
7. Blow off steam!
Stress can build up like steam in a locomotive. Give your child plenty of opportunities to release some of the pressure. Make exercise a part of everyday life for her and the whole family. Sign up for a membership at your local Y and go together. Show her how to jump rope, sing out loud or dance to her favorite song between homework assignments.
8. Find balance with afterschool activities.
For the child who struggles in school, being good at something like karate can be a big boost. Afterschool activities also give structure to the afternoons and stress-busting release. But don’t go overboard or you’ll make your child's stress worse. Ease into activities carefully, and do your best to leave some days open.
9. Be clear and reasonable about what you expect.
You may simply want her to do the best she can on spelling tests. But she may think she has to get “100%.” Tell her what you actually expect—that will lessen her stress. Or, for example, you might want her to clean her room on her own. But is that big task realistic? She might need you to break it into steps or keep her company.
10. Consider outside help.
Find a class where your child can learn yoga, meditation or deep breathing. Mental health experts who specialize in treating children with learning and attention issues can also help with stress management skills.
Research Shows Full-time School Nurses Improve Student Healt...
Study shows full-time school nurses improve student health and learning
What happens when you put a full-time school nurse in a school that hasn’t had one before? What impact does the school nurse have on student health? On attendance? On academic achievement?
In late 2006, the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford approached San Jose Unified School District in California with these same questions. They proposed partnering in a demonstration project to evaluate what really happens to children’s health and academic outcomes when there is a full-time school nurse at the school.
San Jose Unified already had a team of nurses who were each responsible for two to three sites within the district’s 40 schools, but the project grant—$2.65 million over five years—provided funds for two elementary schools and two middle schools in low-income communities to each have a full-time school nurse. The project also formally linked the full-time school nurses to a nurse practitioner. The nurse practitioner was hired specifically for this project and stationed at a school health clinic close to the four schools and operated by School Health Clinics of Santa Clara County, which serves as a medical home to children.
The project, which concluded last year, demonstrated what many teachers, principals, parents and school nurses know intuitively: a full-time school nurse can improve students’ health and academic performance.
Today, we’re excited to share some of this project’s most significant findings:
A full-time school nurse improves student health.
Students with access to a full-time school nurse are less likely to visit the emergency room. Parents whose children attend schools without a full-time school nurse reported twice as many emergency department visits for asthma as did those in schools with a full-time school nurse. (The numbers: 26.68 emergency department visits versus 15.15 emergency department visits per 1,000 students).
Students are more likely to visit an appropriate health care provider if they have a medical referral from the school nurse. By year four of the study, in schools with a full-time school nurse, 98 percent of students who were referred by a school nurse for a suspected vision deficit were evaluated by a vision specialist, compared to only 58 percent of students who received referrals in schools without a full-time school nurse.
A full-time school nurse improves student achievement.
Students are less likely to miss school due to illness when they have a full-time school nurse in their school. On average, students in schools with a full-time school nurse missed 3.03 days of school per year due to illness, while students in schools without a full-time school nurse missed 3.51 days per year due to illness. The reduction in absenteeism due to illness in the four demonstration schools was equal to a total savings of $48,518.62 in Average Daily Attendance (ADA) funding during the first two years of the project.
A full-time school nurse can help reduce the achievement gap that students with chronic health conditions face. By year three of the study, the academic achievement gap was eliminated between students with asthma and students reporting no chronic health conditions. Fifty percent of asthmatic students in the schools with full-time school nurses had significant gains in either their math or English-language arts scores.
Melinda Landau, manager of health and family support programs for San Jose Unified School District, has played a key role in this project from the start and we commend Melinda and her team for their successful work.
Just last month, Melinda presented at the launch of the National Collaborative on Education and Health to share the results of this project and highlighted the key role school nurses can play in meeting our country’s health and education goals.
We look forward to working with the collaborative to identify strategies for ensuring that more students across the country can realize the full benefits of having a full-time school nurse in their school.