An Autism, Asperger’s, or any other ASD diagnosis can be devastating news to an entire family. But it can also be a blessing in disguise. Many parents worry that their child will end up atypical and needing additional or “special” support in order to lead an independent life. Although the road to child-rearing just got a lot bumpier, it will definitely be more interesting and eventful with a child with a disability.
I do not have a child on the spectrum of my own, but I have taught them for years. I spent the majority of my classroom teaching career working with children with autism, among other disabilities. Even though I am no longer in the classroom, I still work with children on the Autism Spectrum and their families every day.
My first piece of advice is to celebrate, grieve, discuss, scream, plan and get out all those emotions as much as and as often as you need to. Parents process the diagnosis of a disability for their child in different ways. So, just know, however you react to your child’s diagnosis is completely normal and is the first step in coping, accepting and dealing with the difficult situation.
My second piece of advice is to have a serious conversation with any and all decision makers in your child’s life. Caregivers come in many forms and relationships, spouses, partners, biological parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. During this talk, you all must decide what you want for your child, or children, with autism.
When discussing goals, consider what life functions you would like your child to fulfill.
If your child is under the age of 5, are you wanting them to go to the bathroom independently? Is independently holding utensils, bottles, tooth brushes, and other basic self-care activities the greatest priority? Do you want to put your child on medications that will likely hook them for the rest of their life? If they have not yet developed speech, should you look into American Sign Language (ASL) or a Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) that will help them communicate through pictures and printed text?
If your child is between the ages of 5 and 10, do you want to improve their verbal communication skills or should they learn to communicate with ASL or PECS? Would you like your child to participate as much as possible with their typically developing peers? Is it appropriate for your child to be with their typically developing peers? Do you want your child to perform on or close to the academic performance of their typically developing peers?
If your child is between the ages of ten to fourteen, do you see your child going to college or trade school? Would you like your child to participate in organized sports? How advanced would you like your child to be academically and socially? What goals does your child have for themselves?
If your child is fourteen or older, what kind of job do you see them holding? What goals does your child have for themselves? Where do you see them living throughout their adulthood? Who will look after your child if you and the other caregivers are not around? Is your goal for your child to live independently with little to no assistance?
Take a deep breath.
Discussing these topics may be overwhelming and may leave you feeling dazed. That is OK. You may not need to know the answers to every single question right away, if at all. However, you do need to talk about them. Maintaining an ongoing conversation about the status and goals you have for your child with autism, or any other disability, is absolutely paramount for everyone involved in your child’s life, including your child.
Not only does discussing the questions mentioned above help shape the narrative of your child’s future, but it also helps everyone communicate their expectations. By voicing what you do or do not want, you and your caregiving team will be able to develop a game plan to accomplish the goals discussed. You will also be able to realize what goals are achievable and realistic.
For some kids on the spectrum, they are more than capable of leading a similar life to that of their typically developing peers. For other kids on the spectrum, they might need more support and encouragement. No matter what end of the spectrum your child is on, they are absolutely, 100% capable of maintaining some degree of independence. It is up to you to allow them to show off their skills through minimally assisted activities and make mistakes.
My third piece of advice, is to begin consulting with your pediatrician, call your state’s education department to get resources, trainings, and help for you and your child through Early Childhood Intervention (ECI), Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and other support groups that will help your child’s development progress. You can also consult with acupuncturists, chiropractors, and/or holistic doctors who have had experience with people with autism.
Make sure to be open with your doctors and therapists about what you envision for your child. Tell them the development, life skills, and future goals you have for your child. By openly communicating your wants, they will be able to provide their professional recommendation for an appropriate course of action.
If you are uncertain or uneasy about a particular course of action recommended by a professional, unapologetically get a second or even a third opinion by another doctor or therapist. Although these professionals hold a wealth of knowledge, they are not all knowing, especially when it comes to the intricacies and uniqueness of your child.
Autism is not an open and shut case. It takes several forms and demands an array of strategies and techniques to encourage developmental progress.
My fourth and final piece of advice (for now) is to try and give your child as many life experiences and opportunities to explore as you are comfortable with. You may not have your child go to every party or event you are invited to, but it is important to expose them to their community. Not only will these experiences help your child cope with various environments, but it will also give you the opportunity to teach your child, in real time, how to interact with other people.
Autism, although challenging and taxing at times, is beautiful. If you are willing to put in the work to help your child grow to be as independent as possible, you will begin to see the diamonds in the rough.
Wanting to get involved? Check out “https://www.autismspeaks.org/” and “https://tacanow.org/” for nation wide support, updates, and community.
If you are in Texas, check out/contact “http://prntexas.org/” for free resources and guides on your next steps.
Looking for more information and support?
Feel free to reach out to me at SpEdGrowPro@gmail.com or drop a comment below about your challenges and experiences.
Hey y’all! My name is Jasmine Habeeb and I am absolutely fired up to help students grow and prosper. Especially the ones in need of the most academic or behavioral support. I thought I’d share a little background so you all can get to know me better as a person.
I was born and raised in the great state of Texas, and basically have spent my entire life here. So, why exactly did I choose to deviate from the norm and start an unconventional education service?
My first experience with people with disabilities was my junior year of high school on a church retreat. An early 20s man with down syndrome, we’ll call him Nathan, was hanging out at the ping pong tables by himself. Nervous to approach, I asked my youth minister if I could go play with him and he encouraged me to. We instantly hit it off and developed a bond. This man was fun, witty, and competitive that he ended up changing my life!
From that moment, I decided I would pursue a degree in special education when I went to college.
I ended up graduating from The University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor’s degree in both special education and government (Hook ‘Em!). From there I went to the classroom to help build a brighter future for children like Nathan.
I chose teaching because I love watching people explore topics they never considered and ideas they might have never discovered had I not been a part of their lives. With this innate zest to teach others, I felt compelled to answer my call to support parents/guardians and children as they venture through the world of education.
However, while I loved the work I was doing in the classroom, I ended up finding myself limited by school districts to the recommendations and services I could provide to families with special needs. These restrictions on providing my students the support they needed was incredibly frustrating and left me feeling discouraged.
Outside of the classroom, I had the opportunity to work with families in different school districts, in their home, and on an individual level. By acting as a private tutor and personal advocate for these families, we were able to secure services they may not have otherwise received had they tried on their own or if I had spoken at their school as a district employee.
I became even more committed to supporting and advocating for local families with children who are having difficulties in the subjects of Math, Reading, and Writing and/or have disabilities (both learning and physical), without any bureaucratic limitations. I ended up loving this new way of educating so much that I chose to leave the classroom to pursue private tutoring and education consulting full-time. The level of impact I am making on students (academically and socially) by working with them on an individual level is much greater than the level of impact I was making as a full-time teacher.
Let me explain further; of the four years I spent in the classroom, I spent the last two of them private tutoring outside the classroom in my spare time. In those two years, I witnessed the students I worked with in-home excel at a rate of two to three times faster than my students in the classroom. Of course, like any other teacher, I began to panic and question my ability to teach. However, I soon realized that providing students with individualized academic or behavioral support simply has a greater impact.
I chose to specialize in homeschool families, although much of my work is with students in the public education system, because I feel these families are often overlooked and tossed aside by the greater education system. Since working with social, academic, and behavioral challenges is my specialty, I wanted to bring those teaching techniques to parents who may not have received explicit training in the field of education.
My goal in life and for SpEd Grow Pro is to act as the leading resource and support for homeschool and local families who are seeking guidance on the best course of action for their child. Although an in-depth assessment and strategy is included with one-on-one lessons, SpEd Grow Pro offers private consultations to give parents step-by-step strategies to help their children on their own.
Whether you are looking for guidance and help with one or two particular challenges or need a full-on intervention, I work to help you and your child make the most of their formative years and uplift them as much as possible. Please feel free to contact me if you or someone you know has a child that is struggling academically or behaviorally, and I will do my best to serve them!
Ask any parent what it’s like to live and raise a teenager, more often than not, their answer describes the hardest possible Sudoku puzzle or building a spaceship from scrap metal in a junkyard… it’s challenging (but not impossible). Teaching a teenager... fuh-get-about-it.
If you are currently raising, or have raised, a teenager, not only have you experienced your typical struggles but you have also experienced an uphill battle to develop your teens’ complex thinking and real life problem solving skills. Right? In reality, it doesn’t have to be such a pain.
So, how exactly do I encourage teens to tap in to complex thinking and support them through a journey of self-realization?
Here’s a little background:
My personal teaching style is all about empowering my students and encouraging them to take responsibility for their education, what they learn, and how long they learn about it. Since I am only with my students for a short period of time, our sessions cannot be completely self-directed, however we move more towards the idea of self-reliance with every session.
Every other week or so, I check in with my teenage students and ask them a series of questions related to the topics we cover. I always ask “which subjects do you think you need the most help in”, “why those subjects?” and “if we focus on ‘writing’ how do we want to practice it, by reading a book or by research?” just to name a few.
As time has gone on, we have typically focused on books. Reading them, discussing them, highlighting key character and plot traits, etc. During one of my recent check-ins, one of my teenagers communicated that he is tired of covering books and wanted to focus more on research.
This is where it gets interesting.
I responded with excitement and interest and we began listing a few topics that we could dive into.
As you can see, he really wanted to dive into spirits and paranormal activities. Rather than completely shutting him out and killing his creativity and energy by saying “No, that stuff isn’t real, we’re not doing that”, I gave him my opinion while still leaving the ideas open for exploration.
I told him that if he wanted to look more into those topics he definitely could and I would not mind discussing with him what he finds. However, I communicated to him that I am personally not comfortable exploring things like Ouija boards and calling spirits into my space and my reality. I also explained that although something bad most likely would not happen (i.e. us dying) I did not want to open the door to that possibility and negative energy.
He was slightly discouraged but we agreed he would look into some of the undergrad programs at his dream college, Duke University, and decide if any of those were worth researching. While he looked into those, I looked into topics that would quench his desire for “creepy stuff” and my level of comfortability.
Enter lucid dreaming and sleep paralysis!
Prior to disclosing our new research topic, he and I began to discuss consciousness, what it was like to be conscious, unconscious, and the difference between the two. We then determined if the conscious and unconscious was an area of interest for him.
Luckily for us, it was!
We then begin to read about lucid dreaming, what it is, how it feels to some people, and how we might initiate our own lucid dreams.
Needless to say, he was totally in.
If you are ever interested in venturing into the unknown and unconventional practices, lucid dreaming is definitely a topic to consider.
So, after he read more about lucid dreaming, he wanted to try it out. For two nights he attempted to initiate lucid dreams. To his dismay, he was unsuccessful. We discussed what he tried, he communicated extreme discouragement and was ready to stop our trials until… I asked more questions.
Turns out he experienced sleep paralysis, which scared him and made him associate our experiment with a negative emotion. Rather than accepting his feeling of being scared and allowing us to stop, we discussed what happened. I validated his experience by sharing with him a time where I felt scared after waking up in the middle of the night, we read about sleep paralysis, why it happens, and what we can do to prevent it.
After learning more about this experience he perceived as negative, I circled back and asked him “Do you still want to stop attempting lucid dreaming?” He said “No, I want to keep doing it!”
Two things from this snippet of learning:
First, encourage your children to learn about topics they are interested in. Be honest with them if you are not comfortable with a certain topic, and provide options for how they might move forward.
Second, remain neutral, non-judgmental, and open to different perspectives. We could have very well ended our study because of a negative experience. Had I not asked more questions using an unbiased, curious tone, he might have remained scared and insecure about his encounter with sleep paralysis.
I always fall back on honesty. In this case, with this teen, I also needed to keep an open mind. My goal is not to just teach him algebraic expressions and to be able to explain the archetypes within a novel, my ultimate goal is to increase his level of comfort and intellectual limitations.
Having open discussions about interests, unconventional topics, and how life events, no matter how big or small, impact our emotions, is crucial to developing and boosting higher level thinking.
When we ask the whys, hows, and whats, not only are we facilitating a deeper bond with our teen, but we are asking them to think beyond answer choice A, B, C, or D.
As our experiment continues, we will have the opportunity to carry on open discussions about our personal opinions that form through this project. By expanding your teen’s subject matter outside of their school curriculum, you are asking them to venture into uncharted territories that do not come with a syllabus.
I challenge you to ask your teen what they are interested in and then start a project together based on that interest. It will be no surprise that your teen has more emotional and intellectual depth than you think!
Drop us a comment below, how do you encourage higher level thinking with your teen?
As much as I would get joy out of keeping “the big reveal” for the end of this article in order to strongly encourage you to read through the entire thing, I will take the road less traveled and just tell you now… it’s CHIROPRACTIC CARE!
Some of you might be thinking what I was thinking before I learned more about chiropractic care and started regularly seeing a chiropractor...“I wasn’t in a car accident” or “I don’t want my bones being cracked”. But by the end of this article, my hope is that you will understand how crucial the care is and will be ready to seek out a doctor to service your entire family.
So, if you weren’t in a car accident and it’s not just about cracking bones, why is chiropractic care “the best kept secret”?
That’s a FANTASTIC question! We will start with some basic information about the nervous system and what happens to our bodies when we get adjusted.
The spinal cord is the primary highway of communication for our entire body. Its connection runs from our brain all the way down to the top/middle of our behind. Meaning, vital information like motor movement, visual perception, involuntary muscle movement like breathing and reflexes are all communicated through the spinal cord.
What happens when you sit, stand, or lay down for extended periods of time? Improper posture not only causes our muscles to feel tense and strained, but tiny shifts and subtle dislocation of the bones in our spine make daily life just a little more uncomfortable.
Relax, these incremental changes do not warrant a trip to the emergency room. However, it might call for a regular visit to the chiropractor.
What happens when our muscles feel tense or we feel uncomfortable? We get cranky!!! You might not, but I definitely do.
When you get adjusted, not only are you correcting and relocating the bones in your spine, you are also helping to open up that highway of communication for your nervous system… because it’s all connected.
A chiropractic adjustment is essentially a nervous system reset. By getting your body more aligned and joints moving in the way they are meant to, you are encouraging proper joint movement and muscle relaxation. With this reset, you are also supporting major organ function and boosting your immune system.
How is that possible?!
When we improve spinal alignment, we decrease the stress on our nervous system and increase the speed and effectiveness of our cells to pass information to the rest of the body. Thus, our hormones will be one step closer to homeostasis and our body can focus on other areas, like the immune system, rather than worrying about a misaligned spine.
Great, but how does this relate to my kid with autism and/or ADD/ADHD?
Another awesome question! Think about it. Kids fall, bump into things, sleep in strange positions, and participate in a sleuth of other activities that might compromise the integrity of the spine. This burden might cause them extreme discomfort that they may not be able to effectively communicate to you. What many chiropractors have found is their patients are in a great deal of pain on a daily basis and are unaware that their pain is due to subtle dislocations in their joints. I had no idea this could be the case until it was explained to me by a doctor.
So, if your kid has trouble sleeping, is constantly sick, has trouble digesting or moving bowels, seems anxious or inconsolable, there is a good chance that a simple realignment will make a world of a difference.
This is all fine and dandy, but my kid barely lets me touch them. Now I’m supposed to let a complete stranger bend and pop them?
I totally get it! Being twisted and pulled in different directions is new and scary, I have been there. I actually wasn’t even able to find one that worked for me right away. For the last two years, I have seen a chiropractor once or twice a week. In that time I have changed doctors about four or five times.
Why? As a former gymnast, my body was put through many muscular and skeletal stressors that still affect me today. It has been challenging to find a doctor that is both knowledgeable about bones and the muscles connected to it, but also how the body of an athlete functions and what resetting the nervous system can do to improve one’s overall health.
For starters, there are three major factors to consider when looking for a doctor. They are: how much success have they had with patients in a similar situations, in what areas have those patients improved, and how long have they been practicing as a chiropractor. When I finally found one experienced in working with top-performing athletes, I latched on.
And luckily for you precious readers, in my search for an experienced chiropractor specializing in children with disabilities, I came across Optimized Living Institute (OLI). OLI is located in Keller, Texas and provides chiropractic and wellness care from infants to grandparents. They have helped several families who have children with sleeping, digestive, and hormone issues.
Although Dr. Bekah Bruner and her husband will tell you every patient is different and don’t make any guarantees, I will tell you they are amazing and have been getting phenomenal results with their patients.
The Bruners are not just licensed chiropractors; they provide their patients with so much more. With each patient, they are looking to treat the entire person, not just their spine. Their private practice also offers more than just chiropractic adjustments, as they additionally provide knowledge on best diet practices, supplementation, exercise, and so much more.
It is hard to find a full service chiropractor that is absolutely on fire for the health and well being of their clients.
If Keller is too far, Well Within Rockwall is another great chiropractic clinic that has extensive experience in people with disabilities, autism specifically.
If Optimized Living Institute or Well Within Rockwall are too much out of the way to visit regularly, I recommend you take your child to one of these clinics first. This will expose them to chiropractic care in a warm and welcoming setting and make it easier to determine if this alternative intervention is right for your family (it most likely is). From there, ask for recommendations or search for a chiropractor closer to you so that you can get regular alignments and nerve resets!
Chiropractic care, is it for you or not? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
There comes a point in life, or many, when we question if we set the bar too high. Speaking from experience, I have reached for Pluto when the moon was more realistic. Once I realized my expectations might have been too high, I simply adjusted them to satisfy my ego. After many trials and errors, I have become more aware of my potential and the damage caused by lowering goals and expectations. As an adult, I would say I have developed enough logical reasoning to recover from the setbacks of not hitting my goals. But my question is, what happens when we lower expectations for our children after they didn’t meet their goal?
Think about a child’s mind and their development of reasoning. When a parent’s expectation is kept too high or lowered due to a lack of confidence in their child, what effect does that have on the child’s self-image as well as their confidence in reaching higher heights? Think about how the child processes their parent’s disappointment.
So, what happens when your expectations are not met? Do you change them, force them on your kid, or just give up and let whatever happens happen?
My advice: keep your expectations right where they are, but add some supports and accommodations to help your child get there.
What are those supports and accommodations? You have many options.
Before we develop an expectation for our child, a key question to ask is “Is this expectation appropriate?” For example, assuming your child who loves to draw, paint, and craft will naturally excel at and focus on math, computers, and programming might leave you disappointed and your budding Picasso hating math forever.
A more appropriate expectation might be for your child to create a drawing or craft by using shapes or programs like Adobe Animate, Adobe Illustrator CC, Photoshop, etc., which allows them to use their creative mind while incorporating mathematical and logical reasoning. This is a great way to provide unconventional options, or support, that promotes interest in non-preferred topics, rather than pushing subject matter they might not have much interest in.
If you have younger children who are not quite ready for computer programs, a great alternative to teaching math with brute force is to incorporate colorful paper, drawing numbers instead of only being shown them, or have them come up their own mathematical challenges to solve.
In cases of difficulty with reading or lack of interest in independent reading, rather than accepting the reality that your child will never read without being forced to, make reading a fun new norm, and family expectation. For example, part of daily family time now includes every member of your household reading a book of their choosing independently for 10 minutes. By developing an all-inclusive expectation, your child will feel a part of a team and might be more inclined to start reading on their own instead of treating it as another chore.
If that accommodation is not feasible, consider having your child read a book a level or two below their independent reading level. After they successfully read through three or four books, slowly increase the book difficulty. This gradual approach to independent reading provides your challenged reader with early successes in order to build their confidence and self-esteem.
You might ask “What if my child has a disability?” Whether it’s autism/Asperger’s syndrome, ADD/ADHD, Down syndrome, etc. there are several options for setting expectations for people with disabilities to achieve and become contributing members in their community.
Now, it may not be appropriate to expect your child with a disability to compete with and accomplish the academic goals of their typically developing peers. However, it is appropriate to help them get as close as you desire. For instance, one of our students with a disability avoids eye contact, is not as fluid in conversation, and occasionally yells in frustration.
However, after providing him with sentence starters, replacement behaviors, and allowing him to gradually increase eye contact during conversations, we are observing him grow more and more mature. He is more considerate towards his little brother and has even started initiating and maintaining brief, cordial conversations with friends and family.
You might be asking yourself, “what is appropriate?” and that’s a valid question. Personally, “appropriate” is subjective. Honestly, we never know what is truly “appropriate” until we give a child the opportunity to perform.
Our recommendation is to give your child the opportunity to perform. Provide an open and non-judgmental space for them to show what they can and cannot do. Frustration might result, but it does not have to persist. Push the limits, then back off and assist or accomodate where you can. If all else fails, consult with an academic, behavior, or social interventionist.
What are some expectations you have set for your children?
Let us know in the comment section below!
I recently had the privilege of participating in an ARD (Admission, Review and Dismissal) meeting for one of our students. During this ARD, the school shared their data, what they have observed, and their intentions for the future. The parents and I asked the school about the level of rigor her child, Riley (name changed for privacy), would be facing as well as the possibility of getting more inclusion minutes for her 8th grade student with Down Syndrome.
Background: Riley is a social butterfly who enjoys interacting with other people. He is currently functioning academically between a 2nd and 3rd grade level, but shows strong signs of growth. Socially, he is high-functioning and can participate in complex conversations.
When we requested inclusion time for reading, we were immediately given ambiguous answers in attempts to avoid doing so. The assistant principal (who I believe ran the meeting fairly well) and the other teachers communicated that ‘they could not assign a general education student to make sure Riley was following along with the class’. However, peer-mentoring like this is a common practice in public education schools and her initial refusal was not in compliance with accommodations in the general education setting for students with disabilities.
With this assistant principal’s (AP’s) clear lack of SpEd law knowledge, we simply circled back around and asked the school staff if they thought it would be worth trying to include him in a general education reading classroom to see how it goes. We also asked about giving him the opportunity to listen to the audio version of a book the GenEd class was studying and allow him to participate in the class discussions.
Initially, the AP was not accepting of our proposal. However, as we continued to suggest further inclusion opportunities like having him in a math class, or transitioning him to the GenEd PE class, reading inclusion appeared more and more appealing to the AP and other teachers present. By the end of this informal ARD, we all had a clearer idea of where Riley’s family wanted to direct his education and a plan to include him in the GenEd reading class.
After our meeting, I recommended that Riley’s mom send an email to his LIFE (Living In a Functional Environment) skills, self-contained, classroom teacher and summarize our expectations moving forward. The summary of our meeting included how we are anticipating more challenging goals to support faster growth and progress in his core subjects (Reading, Writing, Math). This email also served as a reminder to initiate and integrate Riley into a general education reading classroom to expose him to different text and discussions with his typically developing peers.
Now, you might be wanting to put your warrior-mom hat on and let this school staff have it about SpEd law, LRE (Least Restrictive Environment), and FAPE (Free and Appropriate Public Education), trust me I did at many points throughout the meeting. However, like with any group of people, there are disagreements, different interpretations and perspectives, and some feeling more ‘qualified’ than others to make decisions. For these reasons we, as non-confrontationally as possible, laid out our requests ranking from what the school might deem as least challenging integration to most challenging: reading class, GenEd PE, then math. After discussing all of these inclusion possibilities, we zeroed in on our “gateway” – GenEd reading inclusion.
Since this particular school staff eventually opened up to the idea of incorporating Riley with his typically developing peers, we did not see a need to push for all of our options at once.
By emphasizing the need for exposure to meaningful interactions that demand higher level thinking and conversation, we were able to passionately communicate the necessity for more inclusion minutes without seeming abrasive or discontent. We were also able to observe, through facial expression and body language, that Riley’s classroom teacher began seeing our perspective and viewpoint. Which, as many of you know, the classroom teacher is really the most important factor here.
The classroom teacher is often the catalyst and cavelier for any new minutes and accommodations requested for implementation; especially if they are informal and not included in the official IEP (Individualized Education Program).
Tell me more...
I’d love to! The classroom teacher is the keeper of our students’ schedules. They determine what they are working on, where they go, and for how long (besides uncompromising times like specials and lunch). Since we are wanting data on how well Riley performs in a general education classroom, we must support his classroom teacher as best we can.
As a former classroom teacher, I was able to offer Riley’s mom with perspective and understanding for how our requests might impact Riley’s teacher.
Now, many of you may say “well it’s his job”. You are 100% right. However, it is worth mentioning that our goal is not just for implementation and time served. We want purposeful interactions and relevant instruction to foster the best possible outcomes. If we bombard the classroom teacher without offering some kind of support and reassurance, we act as yet another burden; which in turn might create animosity towards us and our child.
This is only the beginning of Riley’s story and our journey to getting him included. Stay tuned to see how successful our approach is.
Have a better idea of how we might get more rigor or inclusion for Riley?
Let us know in the comments below.
Think you might benefit from an experienced special education teacher who can advocate for your child in a parent-teacher meeting?
Schedule an appointment today https://www.spedgrowpro.com/need-an-educational-consult
First and foremost, if you are not incorporating break time within your lessons, start doing it NOW! Structured breaks provide students (and teachers) the opportunity to alleviate mental and/or physical fatigue, re-focus and re-gain attention, and improves overall achievement.
Imagine working in an office in which you were unable to get up for water, go to the bathroom as you please, and only got a 30-minute lunch break in which you could not talk freely or as loud as you would like? That is the adult version of grade school for our students.
Homeschool your child? Think about how frequently, or infrequently, you ask him or her to attend to a task for 30 or more minutes before they begin exhibiting problematic behaviors.
By designating a stopping point or specific time for your students to take a break, you are agreeing that for 3 or 5-minutes, work will stop and “play” will begin. Personally, we like to use trial and error to gauge how long or short of a task our students have before a break. It is also helpful to give your students a choice of how many minutes they get. Simply ask “would you like 3 or 4 minutes?”, and let them have the illusion of choice.
For example, one of my students with autism might be having a rockin’ day and complete 5 tasks within a 45-minute time frame. However, on other days, he can barely make it through 3 tasks before he begins to melt down (yes, there are big crocodile tears). After working with him for so long, I am able to gauge when that is about to happen. When I notice things starting to get tense, we re-adjust our scheduled break time to get back on track.
I’ll say “I can tell you are feeling frustrated because your face is getting red. Remember I am right here to help you. Let’s finish this one task and take a break. Do you want to play with putty or build with blocks? Would you like 3 minutes or 4 minutes?”
At this point, we have established a foreseeable and achievable stopping point, allowing him to ambitiously complete his task and earn his break with a preferred item for a time amount that he chooses. This is especially crucial for children with special needs and students identified or not labeled with ADD/ADHD, learning disability, etc. because, they perform better when adequately motivated and provided an opportunity to control portions of their day.
What does a break look like?
Excellent question! A break looks different in every setting. My students absolutely love Orb Slimy Braini Putty, specifically Galaxium, which you can find at Michael’s. Not only do children (and some parents) love the texture, they also love the ability to create dragon eggs, snakes, and their own handprints.
Not interested in buying additional resources? No problem. There are several movement break options. Our favorite is Cosmic Kids Yoga. Cosmic kids is yoga geared toward a younger audience and offers a variety of activities. Sometimes we even like starting our time with yoga to help increase blood flow and “get the wiggles out.”
Another student favorite is GoNoodle. This free streaming platform provides countless videos that instruct the students to get up and move around. Whether it’s teaching them to dance or about the water cycle, GoNoodle definitely provides an outlet for our energy filled kids.
Hesitant to introduce new technology-driven activities your child can find on their iPad? We feel you!
If you are looking for a more low-tech option, we recommend filling a plastic bag or decorated jar with exercise, writing, drawing, or crafting options. Depending on your child’s ability, you can write things down like “complete 15 push-ups in 2 minutes and 15 sit-ups in another 2 minutes” or “draw a butterfly coming out of its cocoon in 3 minutes.”
Honestly, the options are endless and the way to implement breaks can be molded to fit your classroom and household to the best of your ability. There is no right or wrong way to do it, as long as it’s being done!
Do you incorporate break time into your lessons? Let us know in the comments below!
Still have questions about breaks or would like some guidance on how to work in breaks effectively? Send us a PM or email us at email@example.com.
Every school district, principal, teacher, and environment is different. I recommend you approach each challenge in a way that best fits your situation. Luckily, most of what you desire for your kids (and in everyday life) are both acquirable and achievable when you are determined and communicate effectively.
Before speaking to any district employee, make sure you have compiled evidence for what you believe your child needs and any accommodations you might be requesting. This step is the only step you really need.
If you are able to provide data and documentation, as opposed to only presenting a doctor’s note, the district employees are more likely to put your requested supports in place. When you have supporting details, it is more difficult for anyone else to come up with loopholes and excuses as to why those supports are not possible.
The excuse “we cannot afford to… [blah blah blah]” is unacceptable and should NEVER be taken as a matter of fact!
As stated in the 2004 IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), every child has the right to a “free and appropriate public education”. If you find that your student thrives and progresses better with speech support, as shown via deficits from CREVT (comprehensive receptive and expressive vocabulary), DAB (diagnostic achievement battery) assessment, CASL (comprehensive assessment of spoken language), etc. or simple home data collection like check boxes, grids, etc., your school will be legally required to honor your request for instructional service of speech.
In the event you come to your IEP (individual education plan) or annual meeting, which I would argue is too late, with data to support the need for related services, more minutes in an instructional area, break time, etc., the district employees cannot simply shrug off your requests.
You may find that teachers and principals can be put off by the material presented, mainly because they were not prepared for any of it. Which brings me back to “it’s too late” to bring your data to the IEP meeting.
So, now you ask, “well, when do I present my information?” I recommend you request a meeting with any and every teacher who will be present for the annual meeting. This type of meeting goes by different names in various regions, but you could call it a MDT (multidisciplinary team) meeting. This would be a pre-annual meeting where all parties can discuss their intentions with the student at hand.
More than likely, this request will be granted and a meeting will be set up. This is where you can ask how your child is doing, what everyone involved has observed, and present what you have observed.
During the MDT meeting, hold onto your data until you’ve heard from everyone else first.
It gives you the upper hand if you can get them to corroborate your narrative first and prevents them from being able to discredit, discount, or dispute your facts and the position you’re taking. After you’ve heard from everyone, communicate your observations and request the appropriate teacher begin taking data or assessing your child for a particular service. Great! Now what does that look like?
Let’s say you are wanting speech instruction. You might want to try saying “I’m noticing [your child’s name] is having a difficult time communicating what he wants and creating sentences that make sense on his own. We work on making his own sentences at home, but he won’t make them without our help. What can we do to get him speech support?” (allow whomever to speak).
The teacher or principal might come back and say “Oh, we’re working on things like that in the classroom”.
My follow-up question would be “how many minutes would you say you spend a day focusing solely on sentence development or communicating wants and needs?”
Again, the teacher/principal will respond. Maybe with something along the lines of “we don’t track that exactly, but I would say 15 minutes during reading time” or “we spend about 15 minutes/day on those skills.”
My follow-up request would be “oh that’s great! I would like him to get tested for speech services to see if that could be something he would benefit from. I’m sure y’all are doing a great job, but I feel like he would greatly benefit from explicit instruction in speech.”
At this point, you have legally requested an evaluation for speech. If anyone objects or refuses this request, this would be the time to show your data. If they continue to refuse, you can request an independent evaluation. If you get an independent evaluation, make sure you meet all of the district’s criteria so that you can push for them to pay for it. Although, it’s in the school’s best interest to simply do the evaluation if they have the staff available.
If your child were to qualify for speech services, he would then be entitled to individually specialized instruction by a licensed speech-language pathologist.
This is just one example of how to effectively support your position of increasing, decreasing, or adding a service accommodation/modification to your child’s IEP. Of course, every situation varies and it is highly recommended that you seek a knowledgeable education professional, advocate, lawyer or contact your state’s education agency with questions on how to get support for your child.
Remember, your child is entitled to a free and appropriate public education and there is nothing wrong with pushing your school district to uphold this federal law.
Jasmine Habeeb is a certified special education teacher who graduated from The University of Texas - Austin with a degree in special education. She enjoys sharing her opinions, recommendations, and current events on all things education.