Sunday, January 25, 2015

Inside That Special Needs Village: the educators

I have broken down the professionals in your child's village into three groups: doctors, therapists, educators. This post will concentrate on the educators.

To begin read the CDC's comprehensive website on development disabilities HERE.

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There are any number of classroom configurations for your child. Go HERE for a past discussion. Inclusion; self-contained(resource room, out-of-district); homeschooled

Special education teacher  1) Defined; 2) Defined

Regular education teacher (includes professors in post-secondary education)  Defined: remember that a general education teacher is not specifically taught how to handle special education issues. that is why those interested in becoming special education teachers go for an advanced teaching degree. In college it is important to remember as well, that the professors so not provide special education services. The college only provides accommodations so the student can access the education. Considering the boys' multiple issues it was why our "special needs village" decided it was best for all considered to place a para/educational consultant with the boys in their college and graduate school classes.


Special education director (both k-12 and college/graduate school. In post secondary education this person will help decide what is the best accommodations your child will need in college and graduate school. To this extent if there is a problem in college or graduate school you may also have to work with the Dean of Students as well.) Defined


Para professional  Defined; it is important to remember that each school district has their own requirements for para professionals. It is best if these individuals are college graduates with an interest in education. It is also important that these people, who generally have no background in special education, be trained properly by the special education teacher or administrator in the school. They must be taught how to handle your child, what behavior interventions are important as well as appropriate, in addition  to helping your child with their educational issues. They are not babysitters. (When I hired the para/educational consultant for the boys in college I put an add in the listsev of the school of education in order to find an appropriate person.) Wrightslaw outlines the basic legal requirements.

Educational consultant  Defined; in our situation the para is now being called an educational consultant. You will find at different levels of education that certain titles will change. They afterall are terms of art, but at the same time important to connote what type of service is being provided. At the college level, what our educational consultant does is to provide support for the professor. Many of the boys' professors were quite reticent about teaching a person on the autism spectrum. Not because they didn't want to educate them, but they had never been trained how to manage the information for persons with disabilities. That is when the consultant steps in and offers his guiding hand. Lets them know that he is there for that reason and he will guide her if the need arises. At no point, have we ever experienced anything but relief on the part of the professors when given this extra support.

Tutors  a modern technological reality is that if you cannot find a tutor nearby that can work with your child, find one that can tutor using Skype/Facetime. We found a calculus tutor for CM2 who I would email the homework and he would then set up his whiteboard on Skye. He would then do the problems with CM2 right then and there on video chat. It was on-line education at its best.

Religious instructor and/or Youth Group leader (yes this is important for inclusion)

Sports coaches There are any number of recreational groups that are geared towards those with special needs (this is not about Special Olympics). If your child would like to play little league, town soccer, etc it is important that you find out who the coach will be and if they are amendable to having a special needs child on the team. While group activities are good for social skills, it may actually be better to give them private lessons or find smaller groups. It will also depend upon the number of adults present and the support services if available.

After-school activities teachers, in and out of district (anything that your child enjoys doing that will add to their overall happiness and well-being, such as a piano or guitar teacher). This is simple enough. If the program is school based and your child has one-to-one support, they should get that support for these activities as well. If it is private then you seek out understanding people. We were always able to find those who were happy to work with the boys no matter the activity, except when it came to the town chess class. Grand masters may be able to play chess at a high level, but their ability to deal with special needs children is none existent. The people that ran the program were no better. Again do your research. In truth the town should have provided support since it was a community based program and inclusion is mandated through the ADA, but it really wasn't that important at the time and I didn't have the patience to sue or fight with the town either. 

Now, on the other hand, one of the better programs we requested be developed through the town was the inclusion program for the town based summer camp. Since the boys received ESY, we asked the school district to provide support for the town camp program. While there were summer programs for special needs, none of them were appropriate for our children. Hence, the school district, inconjunction with the town, created a joint camp-inclusion program for our children. Today there were upwards of 40 children enrolled in the program. The boys got to go to town camp with the children they went to school with and the school district got to show the school board and the taxpayers how they were able to save money, but still provide a quality special education. The boys enjoyed their summers very much. It ended up being for the nursery school camp through the middle school traveling camp. Something I call a win-win.

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Again if you would like to share another type of educator that you have found helpful you can add them in the comments. But remember, I will not post "educators" that have practices outside FDA, AMA, NEA, or recognized national organization approval. While you may have found them helpful, I feel it would be irresponsible on my part to include questionable practices.