“The Look” And What It Silently Says to Me From A Sibling Of A Child With Special Needs

Last week I got the opportunity to speak at career day at my daughter’s school.  I drag my big therapy ball, some thera-band and thera-putty, my anatomy coloring book, a baby doll, and other interesting goodies that I play with every day into the school every time I am asked to do this.  The “regular grown ups” (aka lawyers, mortgage brokers etc.) laugh kindly.

 Last week, I had 20 minutes to share what I felt was most important about the profession I love. And then I did it again 3 more times. 100 4th graders and me. I gab on and on about how Physical Therapy is repetitively listed as one of the “happiest” professions, how great the job outlook is in coming years, and what I love about my job. I share that interested students need to like sciences, can’t be repulsed by touching people, and need to enjoy social interaction with many kinds of people.  I am a total nerd, but I get misty eyed sharing about how I love the teaching part of my job and what a blessing it is to motivate parents who get such satisfaction and joy when they get to be the ones who teach their child to roll, crawl, or walk!

I’ve done this for years for elementary, middle, and high schoolers. Without a doubt, when I ask for questions at the end, I get the same ones every single time – no matter the age.

“Did you ever work with an NFL player, NBA player…Professional Wrestler?”

“What’s the grossest thing you have ever done?”

“How much do you get paid?”

“You dissected a real human in school? Ew. Were they alive or dead? Was there blood? Did you cry? Ew.”

As consistent as these questions are, I am always ready for them. And there’s another one that happens every time as well. Usually when we are almost out of time, a child will somewhat sheepishly raise a hand and when I call on them will ask…

“Have you ever worked with someone with Downs Syndrome?”

 

or

 

“Have you ever worked with someone with Cerebral Palsy?”

 

or

 

“Autism?”

 

No other comments. But none are needed. I get the look and I know. This is the sibling of a child with special needs. No words are needed because the look is enough.

The look says, “I know you get it.”

The look says, “Someone like you has been to my house every week and knows us.”

And, “You know how hard my family works for small things that people take for granted.”

And, “You know how sad it is for us when people make hurtful comments.”

And, “You know that I am often expected to be more patient that most kids my age, and that that isn’t easy, and sometimes I’m resentful, or wish for more attention, and jealous. And you know that I feel bad about that but I still can’t help it.  And you know that despite these sometimes “yucky” feelings, nothing makes me feel more proud than when my sibling overcomes and obstacle or learns something new…because they don’t do it alone…my whole family does.”

Career day is a joy. It’s a day that recharges me with excitement about my job and my calling in this world. But, the sibling “look” gets me every time. 

Sometimes I wonder if those kids can silently read my “look” back to them. If they can, I hope they read,

“You are brave. And strong. And important. Not just because of the kind of sibling you are, but because of who YOU are. All alone. As YOU.”

And I hope they hear, “What you are learning from your sibling experience is compassion, and empathy, and a patience, and an awareness, and gratitude greater than average people will ever even know. And it is a gift. And it will make you do great things in your life.”

And I hope they know, “Your parents love you for you. Not because of what you do to help but for who are you are. Are for the special gifts you yourself have.”

And finally, I hope my look back says, “I get it.” And even though I don’t know you, “I’m proud.”

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the kid that asked that question last week and the kids who have asked that same question in the years before.  April is a month dedicated to Autism Awareness, Child Abuse Prevention, Mesothelioma, Children’s Footwear Awareness, National Minority Health Month, and Genocide Awareness & Prevention among others.  All are so important.

But I’m here to say, let’s let every month be awareness of siblings with special needs month….awareness of their own special needs. 

How can you celebrate?

Do you know a sibling of a child with special medical or health care needs?

       Take them out for a special day celebrating just them..doing something they love and often can’t do.

       Better yet, volunteer to watch their sibling so their own parent can do the same.

       Make a donation to the many camps that offer attention and love to these super siblings so that a child can attend. Financial costs are often a struggle for families. Sharing your resources to help a sibling attend camp, or play a sport would be a gift!

       Simply be aware of the challenges with families you know or don’t know. Offer help if you feel comfortable. Offer a smile. A “we are all in this together” wink. All can go a long way.

       Teach your child compassion and friendship by modeling it. Siblings of children with special needs have their own special needs – quality friendship is one!

 

Do you have a child with special medical or developmental needs? How do you feel their siblings are best supported? What are their needs? Join our conversation!

 

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BIG INSPIRATION IN A tiny PACKAGE- how a little girl with CAS taught me to believe and persevere.

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I received the phone call after recently rejoining the workforce from  maternity leave with my second child.  I remember exactly where I was when the service coordinator called to ask if I would consider joining the team of a  2 year old diagnosed with Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) whose parents are both special educators.  Whoa!  Talk about pressure!  The family was requesting me because of a recommendation they had received from another family I worked with whose son had CAS.  I had recently developed an interest in the speech disorder after serving two other children with suspected CAS.  I took a couple of courses and settled on a therapy kit to address CAS but like they say, “experience is the best teacher” and I wanted some of that.  So I agreed to be Camryn’s speech therapist, anxious to learn more about CAS through my treatment of her.  Although I didn’t know it at the time, Camryn would end up being  MUCH more to me than just experience.

I first met Camryn one Spring evening at her home.  She was a pint-sized toddler full of spunk and cheer.  Our first interactions let me know it was going to be a long road for her.  I explained to her parents that her speech therapy would be more like a marathon than a sprint.  They asked me questions like, “Will she ever talk ‘normal’?“ and “Will this be something she will struggle with for the rest of her life?”.  All valid, good ‘concerned parent’ questions, all of which I could not answer.  And so began my journey with Camryn, me teaching her-her inspiring me!

ASHA (American Speech-Language and Hearing Association) defines Childhood Apraxia of Speech (CAS) as a motor speech disorder where children have difficulty saying sounds, syllables and words in the absence of muscle weakness or paralysis.  The brain has difficulty planning the movements required of the tongue, jaw, lips, etc. needed for speech production.  The child knows what they want to say but are unable to get their mouth to move in a way to produce the words.  These children require frequent, intensive speech therapy to improve and sometimes CAS co-occurs with feeding difficulties and/or cognitive delays/learning difficulties.  There is little data available reporting the prevelance and incidence of CAS however, some sources suggest that 1-10 in 1000 children have the disorder.

When I started with Camryn she could say /s/ and /ah /.  That was it.  Because of her sweet, laid back personality she wasn’t yet experiencing much frustration.  Plus her mom had been very proactive in teaching her sign language, which gave Camryn a way to express her immediate desires.  We started with 2 sessions per week and continued on with this schedule for a few years.  Her improvement was slow and steady with some bursts of progress here and there.  While me being there was important to guide her therapy along, the biggest job was left in the hands of her family.  I stressed to them that her progress would be hugely dependent upon them practicing with her EVERY single day.  Their dedication was obvious when I would come week to week and witness her saying new sounds and syllables with less effort.  Each sound, syllable and word Camryn said was earned.  Repetition, practice, dedication, perseverance and determination were required for her to do something the rest of us take for granted.  Camryn’s challenges were huge.  What I was asking her to do week to week in therapy was extremely difficult but she didn’t give up.  When I think of the challenges Camryn has faced over the years I am ashamed to think how quick I am to give up on much less challenging tasks.  She has never backed down, only risen up.  And her progress and successes are proof of that!

 

It’s been 5 years since I had the pleasure of meeting Camryn and her family. Today she is an aspiring gymnast who attends kindergarten, speaks in 5 word sentences, ask questions and carries on lengthy conversations.  She has inspired me and challenged me beyond my expectations.  She is my success story; my proof that hard work and a positive attitude can only lead to awesome achievements!  Camryn will go far in this world inspiring others to rise up to whatever challenge they may be facing.  I am proud of her, and her family!  And Camryn will forever remain one of the strongest, bravest, FIERCEST girls I know!

 

If you are concerned that your child, or a child you know, may have CAS, contact a speech-language pathologist to request an evaluation.  For more information on the disorder visit:  www.asha.org and www.apraxia-kids.org.

Can you feel the LOVE tonight?

It’s February.  The month of love! Is love in your air?

Love is on my mind. I’m not talking “romantic sweep me off my feet hubby love” (although I do love that kind!) Also not talking about “stare at my beautiful sleeping children in awe and adoration and forget how crazy they made me today love” (yep, guilty of that sometimes too.)

I am talking about love of life.

I had planned on blogging about magnet play today. We’ve been collecting and playing with some really cool magnets (and I promise that post is to come), but the thoughts of loving one’s life has been right in front of my face no matter where I turn for the last few weeks.

I’ll share a few examples.

A few weeks ago, our church took a turn hosting WATTS guests. WATTS is a brilliant idea of love turned into action – that helps churches in our community take turns housing the homeless through the coldest nights of winter. But “housing” seems like a generic word because what people do is much more – they cook, sweat, share, sleep, eat, and visit with guests. In a simpler explanation – they become vulnerable to what happens when we allow ourselves to have deeper exchanges than a casual “hi” as we walk by someone on the street. You know what happens when we open ourselves up, right? We usually get scared, but we also usually receive more than we anticipated. Example #1 – Lulu – with her megawatt smile, who shared the most soulful version of “This Little Light of Mine” with us in the kitchen as a thank you gesture for the meal we shared. As you can guess – not a dry eye.  Example #2 – another guest – we’ll call him “Jim” who was brave enough to show up for our fairly traditional church service for weeks after his stay with us and sit next to a majority of fairly well dressed folks. He beamed as he smiled with pride and shared with me in the hall that this was his “second week here.” He was so proud.So happy.

LOVE.

That same week my husband Brent came home with tears in his eyes.   He is a home health Occupational Therapist and had just left the home of a family where the husband has a terminal illness. He is fed through a feeding tube and kept alive by breathing with the help of a ventilator. That night before Brent left their home, the wife was preparing to tube feed her husband, but first they stopped to say grace and say thank you. They stopped to say thank you.. for a feeding tube – because it help sustain his life. This week, while we all complained about the never ending cold, snow, and ice, he was late coming home because he helped prepare her to use a generator that their friends had gifted them with in case the electric went out – so that she could keep the ventilator going, and he could keep breathing.

LOVE.

 

I talk and write often about the love of my patients and the many gifts they have given me. One special little person I have written about in the past is a friend of mine with Spinabifida. You can read more about his incredible journey HERE. When I first met him, through referral to the early intervention program that I work for, I also met two other little boys with various forms of Spinabifida. They were all born within 4 weeks of each other and all were referred to me at the same time. I knew it wasn’t a coincidence. (side note: in the 5 years since then, I have only had 1 referral for a child with Spinabifida). 3 Families with 3 different initial levels of acceptance to their sons’ diagnoses, 3 different sets of questions, expectations, hopes, and dreams. I could go on forever about this and all they taught me, but what stands out most today is the memory that one of the fathers had a long list of blunt questions regarding his then 4 weeks old infant – Will he walk? Drive a car? Play baseball? Date?.  Of course, I did not have all the answers, but promised we’d do our best together to make him as independent as possible. Fast forward 5 years. These boys are school aged. Many peers their ages are starting activities and sports, and while some activities (like music, art etc) and wonderfully accessible, all sports are not. These sports loving dads did not throw in the towel. They did not accept limitations. They are starting a wheelchair basketball league. They are recruiting, finding practice space, and even finding old adult chairs so they can play with their sons.

LOVE.

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These 3 examples are some of the purest forms of love.

Love of sharing any gift you have. Love of being welcomed and looked at as a person for the first time in a long time. Love that comes from sticking with something for the first time in a long time. Love strong enough to care for another full time. Love of a child in the highest form – acceptance.

Many kinds of love that all have one thing in common – LOVE OF LIFE.

Love of their lives.

Right where they are.

Without complaint.

Without hesitation.

Sure, there might be a wish for something different – permanency, stability, or health – but those wishes don’t threaten that intense love of life.

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It’s been cold, and icy, and snowy here for weeks. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen the sun. We’ve been inside – allll together – for a reaaaaalllly long time. It’s easy to fall into winter blues and want for more. Or different. Look around. Find the bright spots  – like Lulu, and “Jim,” and Brent’s patient and his wife, and my brave Dad friends.   In my twenties, looking at these examples would make me feel bad or guilt ridden. I won’t lie – the day he came home, I thought, We can’t even remember to say grace every night for our healthy, warm, homemade food, that we have the luxury of chewing, tasting and swallowing….and they remember to be thankful for a feeding tube.  The difference is – that in my 30’s instead of feeling bad, I feel inspired. I look to those who are bright spots to me and to my family and instead of hearing “You should do better,” I hear, “I want to try harder” and “I want to love like they do.”

As parents, and grandparents, and teachers, and therapists…like it or not…we are the example that has been given to our children. Will we choose to teach them through example to wish for more and hope for different than what we are fortunate to have? Or will we find favor with each day and be the bright spot they will remember to model after?

Go Shine friends! Spread the LOVE!

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You Really Are What You Eat & So Are Your Children: The Effect of Nutrition on Development

This article was originally written & published for Child Guide Magazine, which provides excellent resources and activities for families. The January 2014 issue can be found in it’s entirety HERE.

You are what you eat. How many times have you heard that? As adults, we certainly have considered this when considering our own food intake, but what about our children?

One local family has been considering every bite of what enters their son’s mouth.  Finn Csordas is 2 ½ years old, who is affectionate, silly, and quite the charmer to his 3 older adoring sisters, but this was not always the case. Shortly after his birth, his parents, Jennifer & Alex, noticed how frequently Finn was fussy. His original pediatrician initially felt this was simply colic, but as Finn grew older, his parents’ concerns also grew. Finn spit up more frequently than other babies.  He had frequent hives in many places on his body that the family was told were eczema patches. He was fussy more than he was content and could not find a way to self-soothe or to be soothed by his parents. More concerning, Finn seemed “spaced out,” and had significant delays in social, language, and motor skills that became more noticeable the older he became. The most alarming observation though, was head banging.  It started at night when Finn would bang his head against his crib to fall asleep but progressed to banging throughout the night, and then even during the day, while playing.  Finn would find the corner of the wall and bang his head until a bald spot appeared and didn’t seem concerned by the discomfort.

 

Jennifer & Alex persisted in their belief that these symptoms had to be more than eczema or colic – but their journey wasn’t an easy one.  After switching pediatricians, they began a search for what was going on with Finn. He started medication for acid reflux, which helped somewhat with spitting up, but not with other symptoms. Because he did have a history of reoccurring ear infections, he had tubes placed in his ears.  Shortly after this procedure, he did start to walk, but the communication and social skills continued to become more delayed and the head banging intensified.  The Csordas’ worked with a team of early interventionists from West Virginia Birth To Three, including speech, physical, and occupational therapists that offered strategies from sensory integration and balance activities to teaching basic imitation skills during play as a basis for eventual language development.  A developmental specialist with experience in behavior observed Finn and worked on providing self soothing options and deterring techniques for the head banging. A service coordinator helped link the family to specialists to help find a solution. When sensory strategies weren’t very successful, an MRI of Finn’s brain revealed no concerns, and he passed a detailed screening for Autism at Children’s National Medical Center, the team called on a registered dietician through the West Virginia Birth To Three Program.

 

Finn was evaluated by a gastroenterologist to determine if he had an allergic inflammatory condition of the esophagus called Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EE). When it was clear that he did not, a final referral to a pediatric allergist was made. After blood testing and 3 days of extended patch testing, the Csordas’ finally got their answer – Finn is allergic to soy, wheat, dairy, oats, and has a significant phenol intolerance (Phenol is a chemical found in many natural foods and in common artificial preservatives).

 

While some of their larger fears were put to rest, Jennifer & Alex had a whole new world to learn about.  Finding foods that were safe for Finn and that he would actually eat while maintaining the required calories and nutrients for his age is no easy task, but was one that they took on without reservation. Jennifer shares, “To be completely honest, I wasn’t sure that I believed all the diet changes would help, I prayed that they would, but deep down I was skeptical. To think a handful of goldfish crackers or a couple grapes could cause him to struggle for days and completely alter the course of the entire family is something I would have never thought possible, had I not lived it! “

 

After 2 weeks of eliminating the foods Finn was allergic to, there was a dramatic change in his demeanor and development. His mother recalls, “We had food journals and had to document everything he ate, all his skin reactions, behaviors, and try to make sense of all the parallels. About two weeks after we had changed his diet, he went from having about 5 words to over 70 words, and no longer needed weekly speech therapy!” Within 5 months of changing his diet, Finn has made over a years worth of progress with development.  He is walking, running, and climbing, talking in complete sentences, initiating social greetings, and is most importantly – he is a happy 2 ½ year old. While his speech is still slightly behind for his age and the head banging still remains in smaller amounts (it is likely more a learned behavior, which was originally caused by the allergic reactions), Jennifer and Alex are thrilled that they can finally get to know the little boy he actually is and not the one who could only react to pain & discomfort.

 

Finn is not alone in his diagnosis of food allergies. According to a study by the Center for Disease Control, food allergies increased 50% from 1997-2011. And while the number of people who have a food allergy is growing, there is no clear answer as to why.  And while many “traditional” allergic symptoms, such as facial swelling and hives, are well known and well recognized, those such as the ones that Finn experienced are often misdiagnosed as something other than a food allergy or intolerance.

 

Georgeann Freimuth, MS, RD, LDN, is the Registered Dietician who spearheaded solving Finn’s developmental puzzle. Freimuth, a Licensed Dietician Nutritionist and a part time professor at Shepherd University, works with children and families through the West Virginia Birth To Three Program and privately through consultations.   She sees more and more children having behavioral and developmental consequences from what they eat. When people question the relationship between the two, Freimuth jokes, “Think there’s not a gut to brain connection? Come have a glass of wine with me!”  In all seriousness, the connection of nutrition’s affect on the body should not be ignored. Freimuth says, “The gut to brain connection should not be overlooked when dealing with a child who is sensitive to emotion anger, anxiety or who has behavioral concerns. This is important because the brain and the gastrointestinal system are intimately connected. Certain foods and food intolerances or allergies can adversely affect a child’s behavior and attentiveness, while certain nutritional deficiencies can cause aggressiveness disorders and behavioral disorders as well as subtle and occasionally dramatic effects on the child’s behavior.”

 

Some food allergies are severe with defined noticeable reactions, like Finn’s, but others can be subtler.  Either way, nutrition should be included in the complete list of possibilities when assessing a child’s well being. Freimuth says,  “Food allergies or food intolerances can affect the nervous system causing the brain to have alterations in brain chemistry which then can affect a child’s behavior. Understanding if a child has food allergies and/or food intolerances along with nutritional imbalances could be helpful when trying to help a child’s behavior or development.” Often elimination diets (where certain foods are removed one by one) are suggested to determine what is the potentially offensive food.  However she cautions, “It is recommended if a parent wants to try a trial and elimination diet at home to see if their child’s diet is related to their behavior they should consult a Registered Dietitian. The caution used with trial and elimination diets are sudden nutritional deficiencies when certain food groups are removed.”

Jennifer Csordas agrees. “Before we knew all Finn was allergic too, it was like having a toddler with colic. He was always unhappy and no matter what we did, we couldn’t change that. Now he smiles all the time, laughs and plays, things that I took for granted when my girls did them. It takes a lot of planning and can be a challenge at times keeping up with his diet, but to know he isn’t in pain is a huge blessing. “

While eliminating aversive foods can be helpful in some cases, increasing particular nutrients and minerals that are lower than typical are necessary in others. For example, in some cases, increasing zinc levels can improve symptoms associated with ADHD.

As the trend for extremely busy families continues in America, so will the market for convenience foods, which are often full of too many ingredients to count and enough preservatives to frighten any parent. While it does take pre-planning and self-packaging on the part of parents, ensuring children have whole foods (ones your great grandmother would recognize. Yes to the apple. No to the bright orange cheese puff) is a great place to start.  Remember that whether your child has a diagnosed condition or developmental concerns or not – foods that we all eat certainly affect us in some way.   The effect of nutrition on an individual is certainly more far reaching than allergies alone. An individual can have developmental or behavioral concerns from intolerances to certain foods or reactions to the chemicals and preservatives found in many foods children are fed, or from low levels of essential vitamins and nutrients.  Freimuth advises, “Intolerances to foods, food additives or looking into food allergies may have a crucial role in your child’s behavior. Behavior and cognition in children and adolescents can be influenced by what they eat and their nutritional statuses.”

While nutrition is not the culprit for all developmental or behavioral concerns, it certainly is a possibility. If you have concerns about the role nutrition is playing with your child, speak to your Pediatrician or a Registered Dietician who specializes in pediatric care. Prepare for the conversation by logging 3 days worth of everything your child eats to share specific intake (including medications) and list frequently observed behaviors or developmental concerns for discussion.  Each parent may have individual standards for what they are able and comfortable to provide their child to eat, but all parents wish for happiness and health for their child. Let’s help our children live out “You are what you eat.” We can do this first by remembering that what they put in their bellies has a huge impact on their brains.  We can also start with small changes to provide nutrition that helps them to be happy and healthy for many years.

 

Georgeann Freimuth is dedicated to helping families learn more about the gut to brain connection and how it could be affecting their child. She can be reached at: georgeann.freimuth@yahoo.com The author thanks her and the Csordas family for their contributions to this article.

 

Nicole Sergent, MPT is a Pediatric Physical Therapist & co-author of 1-2-3 Just Play With Me. Her favorite processed food is a Reese Cup, but she feels happier & knows she is smarter when she eats her many favorite non-processed foods – especially nectarines & brussel sprouts!

 

 

Navigating Special Education in the School Setting: What Parents Need To Know

Child Guide Magazine is a great source for information and to find fun activities! Milestones & Miracles is proud to team with this great FREE publication by writing a column geared toward the Special Needs/Differently Abled Population.  The article below is our contribution to the FALL 2013 Issue which is filled with great “Back To School” Information. Grab yours today or view online at: http://issuu.com/childguidemagazine/docs/septoct2013cgweb

 

Are you a visual learner or auditory learner? Do you learn best by actually doing? Do you need a quiet room to retain what you are reading? Each one of us learns in unique ways. Many good teachers recognize learning styles, strengths, & challenges and accommodate the children within their classrooms. But what happens when simple modifications aren’t enough? Some children need additional supports and services to make the educational experience a positive one. And while learning about and implementing those services can seem very intimidating for parents, the process does not have to be.

Students 3 years of age and older that need supports and services in the public school setting receive them under Part B of the Individual’s With Disabilities Act (IDEA). This is a Federal Law that ensures special education services. If you are having concerns that typical classroom strategies are not meeting your child’s needs, speak to his/her teacher early. Sometimes, simple changes to a daily routine (such as changing seat location or providing a check list to stay on task) can make a huge difference.

If simple changes are not adequate, you or your child’s teacher may request testing to further identify strengths and challenges. The results of testing are reviewed at an eligibility meeting, usually held at the school, with parents, teachers, and other professionals (therapists, coordinators etc.) in attendance. If your child is found eligible for special education services, you can consent to move forward with an Individualized Education Plan or IEP. Parents, teachers, and others who have knowledge of your child’s specific needs such as therapists, nurses, psychologists and other professionals help create the IEP. You can invite others who know your child well and might help with the process. An IEP is a legally binding document that includes specific goals for your child, services and frequency of those services to support goals, & any additional materials needed to support your child (examples include special classroom materials, customized seating, or communication devices).

The IEP serves as the “map” to guide your child through the educational journey. It must be reviewed yearly, but can be reviewed more frequently per your request as your child changes, progresses, or new challenges arise. It is important that parents understand IDEA and their child’s rights under it. Seek out the assistance of an IEP advocate (counties hire these individuals) and ask to schedule a meeting to learn more and review policies that protect your rights. Each state develops a policy that outlines procedures for defining child find (how the state finds children that need to be tested), eligibility, and services as well as outlining parents’ rights and responsibilities. Refer to your own state’s Department of Education for more information on your specific policy or for support on learning more about individuals and organizations that serve to support parents through special education.

It is also important to understand that the IEP serves to meet your child’s EDUCATIONAL needs vs. MEDICAL needs. For example, if a child with Cerebral Palsy has tight hamstrings and an atypical walking pattern but can get around the classroom efficiently and safely, he/she would benefit from physical therapy, but would be served in a therapy clinic vs. a school setting in most cases.

Someone who knows both sides of the special education world in the public school arena is Tracey Parks. Parks is a 5th grade teacher at Tomahawk Intermediate School in Hedgesville, WV. While she has taught students of all learning styles and abilities for 18 years, she has first hand experience being a parent navigating the IEP process with her 9 year-old daughter Jordyn. She offers these wonderful tips to parents:

• COMMUNICATION IS KEY: Communication early and often. Request a meeting with all teachers who will be interacting with your child very early in the year (before the first conference) to share what works best for your child. Use a simple communication journal (could even be on a number system, such as 1= good day). Teachers have little time to write daily lengthy notes, but sharing simple information daily can be helpful to both parent and teacher. Parents might also consider sharing important things daily such as deviations to sleep routines, digestive issues, changes at home, or illnesses as they might impact the child’s day.

YOUR CHILD NEEDS YOU TO SHOW UP: IEP meetings are your chance to learn about your child from the people who spend hours with him/her! Make arrangements if possible to be there so that you can listen and learn, share your opinion and ideas, and brainstorm as part of the team. Your participation shows your child’s team that you are sincere about working with them for the benefit of your child. If you can’t attend in person, request a phone conference.

• ASK QUESTIONS/MAKE SUGGESTIONS: Don’t be afraid to ask questions regarding your child’s education. A good teacher should be willing to take the time to explain and answer. An example is asking for a second set of books so you can help your child at home. If you know of something that benefits your child at home or in other settings, such as during private therapies, don’t hesitate to share with your child’s team.

• BE PATIENT & POSITIVE: Remember that teachers are responsible for many children besides yours. While your concern or question may be incredibly important to you, try to allow reasonable time for the teacher to respond. Go into meetings or conversations with a positive attitude. Your disposition can be contagious and can make these exchanges more productive and pleasant for both you and the teacher.

It is important for the success of each child that parents and professionals work together on common goals. Successful IEP’s do just that. While the process might seem daunting at first, it is important to remember that there are many people who care about your child and want to support you. Seek out their experience and help, lean on parents with similar experience, and keep yourself focused on your priority – your child being learning successfully!