Friday, March 27, 2015

Improving language skills

A year ago Max was official diagnosed with Autism.  He hardly spoke, but instead would cry and tantrum.  He didn't have more than 10 total words he used on a weekly basis.  He didn't have any words linked together and had a severe language delay.  Max has really had a major improvement with his language this last month.  He is starting to talk on his own without being prompted.  He has his own thoughts and remembers what he has said for future conversations. He isn't caught up to people his own age by any means, but he is making amazing progress.  And progress is progress. 
Max's conversations are 4-5 words and might even have multiple topics but he is trying on his own.  As his ability to communicate has improved his tantrums and frustrations has drastically decreased.  His understanding of the world he lives in has also increased.  He has a schedule, he has ways to cope when he gets overwhelmed and over stimulated, and he has people in his daily life that he trusts and are his safety net.

What our family is loving the most right now is how much he sings!  He sings songs he has memorized while he playing trains, while taking a bath, in the car, even at school while at recess or during a break.  It makes me so happy to know he feels comfortable using his voice.  His memorization skills are astounding.  Singing has really helped his vocabulary and speaking voice. 

The video below is Max helping Will and I sing "I am a Child of God."  It made me tear up and also make me realize how far we have come in just one year.  The next video is Max singing to the Sesame Street with no prompting. Just playing trains and singing. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Be an advocate

Ever since I can remember I have wanted to be a teacher.  I was still playing school secretly in my room in 8th grade.  I would organize grade books, make lesson plans, and even grade fake papers.  When I got to college and started to take developmental psychology classes I was convinced I wanted to teach early elementary students.  Boy was I wrong.  I adore 6th grade.  I love ages 11-12.
Fast forward 10 years and I still enjoy the hormonal 12 year old students.  They have taught me so much about my own life and I am very grateful that I am a teacher.  Teaching and understanding education has really helped me be a better mother to Max and Dexter.  I feel like Heavenly Father knew I would need this important career to help my own family. 
On Tuesday nights Will and I attend parent training for Giant Steps.  These training have been very helpful and have allowed Will and I to make connections and friends with other parents in the program.  There is about an hour presentation on many different topics and then after we get into small groups and discuss anything that we need help with.  We have been given a lot of good advice especially with eating, potty training, and dealing with meltdowns.
He tried it once, and never has liked it since. 
This past Tuesday the topic was IEP's and 504's.

What is an IEP?
An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a written education plan designed to meet a child's learning needs.

What is a 504?
The 504 Plan is a plan developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law and is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives accommodations that will ensure their academic success and access to the learning environment.

IEP's are for education and learning, 504's are for typically behavior.  Behaviors don't have to be negative.  If a child has high test anxiety a 504 can be written so that they are given extra time on tests, can be tested in a separate room, can have multiple breaks during a test etc.  I have seen so much good come from a 504.  The allow the student to reach the curriculum and help them be successful.

A TEAM helps your child.  And as your child's parent you are a part of their team.  If you are noticing something at home please inform the teacher, allow them to be a part of your life.  Good teachers want to know the WHOLE child, not just if they are passing math or not.  Good teachers want to know if the family dog dies, or if your child has been waking up 8-10 times a night and not sleeping well.  These things effect their education.  After an IEP is made you can meet with the IEP team whenever needed.  It isn't set in stone that the meeting only has to be once a year.  That is just a guideline.

When you meet to go make an IEP or 504 PLEASE be your child's advocate.  Make your feelings and opinions known.  Make sure you understand what your child is going to be working on at school.  Make sure you understand your rights as a parent.  This is so important not just for those children who are autistic or have disabilities, but for all students.  School is such a huge part of life, it is already stressful for the whole family.  If something isn't working, switch it, if you need something changed, change it, and if you are not getting answers from your child's teacher go elsewhere. 
This is something that I am very passionate about and this post hopefully shows that.  I love teaching, I love education, I love learning about each one of my students.  Max is very lucky to have teachers who feel the same.  I know he is getting a whole education, and I am hopeful that this will continue.