How NOT to Roar Through School Meetings in a Mack Truck


Back when my son was little, we didn’t have the internet. What a blessing it is to find resources and information. Here is some awesome advice on how to smoothly deal with school staff during an IEP.

Parent: We should be able to trust the system to do what’s right for our kids.

Pat: In theory, this sounds good. But when you are dealing with a child with disabilities, there will always be disagreements. You simply will not get agreement from the number of participants who are required to attend these meetings.

Schools are in the decision-making process for the short-term. As a parent, you are in it for the long-term.

Eventually, your child will leave the public school system. If your child does not receive an appropriate education, will the teacher, the school principal or director of special education come to his home to help him balance his checkbook?

Of course not. This is the parents’ responsibility.

It is the parents (and society-at-large) who are ultimately responsible for students with disabilities who cannot achieve a level of independence. So parents have a great vested interest.

Parents and Schools: Different Perspectives

Parents and schools invariably look at the child’s education from vastly different perspectives. Schools are only required to develop goals and objectives (or benchmarks) for a twelve month period. As parents, we need to look at where we want our children (disabled or not) to be at the end of their public education.

Parent: I don’t see why the school has to draw lines in the sand.

Pat: There is nothing wrong with disagreement. Problems come from the manner in which disagreements are handled. I have learned that there are better ways to obtain positive results than to roar through meetings in a Mack Truck.

When Disagreements Turn Into Power Struggles

Many disagreements turn into power struggles. Power struggles do not make winners look good. (For those who think I don’t know what I’m talking about, review Howey v. Tippecanoe School Corporation. I am Mrs. Howey).

Had I understood this earlier, it might have made a difference between the $20,000 in attorney’s fees we received and the $50,000 we were attempting to get.

The Law Gives Parents Power — Use Your Power Wisely

Parents need to understand that the law gives them power to use in educational decisions for their children. Parents should not be afraid to use their power.

True advocacy is about improving the lives of children, and ensuring that they become independent, productive, taxpaying citizens who belong to the community in which they live.

Parent: I’m tired of being jerked around so I said I was bringing an attorney to the meeting, I don’t have legal representation. Their response surprised me.

Pat: It’s dangerous to make threats. What if you can’t find representation? The school will decide that you make empty threats. In the future, you may find yourself backed into a corner because you “trained” the school to not believe you.

Parent: I hate going to IEP meetings. The team interrupts me, talks over me, and are not willing to respond to my questions and comments.

Pat: When this happens, it’s because parents don’t know how to take control of the situation. Parents need to use subtle psychological strategies to empower themselves and make the school members of the team respect their positions.

First, when you go to a team meeting, get there early. Sit on the right side of the person with the most power. (Often, the person with the pen, but not always). An added advantage to this is that you can often read notes that are being written, while they are being written.

Act like an equal team member! Don’t fall for the old divide and conquer trick of “us v. them” positions.

If things are going too fast, tell the chairperson that you can’t keep up. Ask them to slow down so that you can take better notes. Make this request as many times as is necessary until they comply with your request to slow down. (Most people will give in to a request after is repeated about three times.)

Be persistent. With some school people, you have to repeat your request several times. Pretend that they are your children. You know how many times you have to tell your children to do something, or stop doing something, before they comply!

The Power of Your Written Follow-up Letter

If the team refuses to slow down, document this in your written follow-up letter.

Your follow-up letter is more important than the notes you keep. Your follow-up letter documents any disagreements, procedural errors, untruths, misstatements — all the things that never make it into the summary of the meeting.

Keep your report factual, not emotional. Do not attack people.

For example, assume you are told, “If you don’t like it, then take it to a hearing.”

You might write something like this:

Written Opinion

Team Meeting


(Child’s Name)

I requested an independent educational evaluation. I was told this would not be provided and that I could request a due process hearing if I did not agree.

Sign it.

Keep a copy for your own records.

You’ll find that your written report is very powerful. It will become part of your child’s educational record. The school can never say that it did not happen because you documented it.

The written opinion above is an example of how you can document what happened, or did not happen at, at IEP meetings. Find out how to create a complete record. Learn how to write a Written Opinion, step by step.


Study Skills for Improving School Success


Study skills may sound like term from long ago. However, at some point in time, most children have difficulty with a particular class or subject matter. Children with learning disabilities often have difficulty with two very important skills, multi-tasking and organization.

The following are some general skills and strategies that you can implement at home that will hopefully help your child experience more confidence and achieve school success. These study skills are generally geared towards older children (over age 8) but you should be able to adapt them to fit your child’s academic level and individual needs. Also, remember the importance of regularly communicating with your child’s school and utilize the parent teacher conference.


Sit down with your child and talk about academic frustrations and current study skills. Really attempt to have an actual conversation. Ask them to come up with three academic goals for the semester or school year and together, write them down. These goals should be measurable and very specific. It’s best if they focus on habits that need to improve.

An example of measurable goals are: “I Will Get no More Detentions from Mrs. Baker”, or “I Will Turn in My English Vocabulary Assignments on Time.”

Post the goals in a visible place and schedule a time every month to preview your child’s progress. You may want to set up a weekly progress report with your child’s teacher(s) informing them of the areas that your child is working on. Or, maybe they are willing to email you each Friday to let you know if progress was made.

Although it’s fine to celebrate our children’s academic success, it’s best to NOT attach a direct reward like paying cash for A’s and B’s. Although tempting, this gives your child the message that only the actual grade is valued (at any cost) not the learning process itself. This can lead to cheating, plagiarism and other drastic measures. Also, your child should feel that they can make a mistake and learn from it rather than be “punished” by losing their reward.

Celebrate learning and make it a family value instead of a cash business.


Your child will benefit from having a three ring binder for each subject with five tabbed dividers. At the end of every two weeks, empty out the papers that have been graded or are no longer needed. Your child should become familiar with a hole punch machine. You can buy paper that is already hold punched.

The five sections of the binder should include:

Handouts and Worksheets
Tests and Quizzes
Blank Paper
Schedule a time once a week where you and your child can sit down and go through the binder together. Remember you are helping your child learn a new skill. Help your child organize assignments into the right sections. You should have a pocket at the front of the homework section to hold what is due the next day. By reviewing your child’s binder, you should also begin to discover their strengths and weaknesses.

For example, you may notice that your child does not seem to understand how to take effective notes. This discovery may result in bringing it to the caseworker’s or teacher’s attention, or maybe even adding it to your child’s IEP goals as an area that needs improvement.


Many schools provide students with a planner or homework assignment sheet. Make sure the space for writing down assignments is not too small. It is best to use a planner that has a full page for each day. Your child should write their extra-curricular activities in the planner as well as their schoolwork. If your school uses the Internet and has their homework posted on line, have your child copy it from the computer into their planner. Although technology is a great tool and our kids are quite savvy, it’s important that they learn the basic study skills of time management and organization without solely relying on the Internet.


To improve study skills, try to avoid having your child do their homework in their bedroom, especially if they are teenagers. There are many distractions lurking in bedrooms. T he dining room table, kitchen or home office is usually a better choice. Study time should be TV free. Also, remember to utilize your public library. They may even offer tutoring or study skills programs.


Kids of all ages respond well to a routine, especially those with specific learning disabilities. Most children need a break after school to have a snack and do something relaxing before tackling homework and projects. It’s helpful if you have a scheduled homework time of at least an hour. If your child finishes early, use the time to organize the binder or read for pleasure.


Your child needed your help when learning how to read, how to ride a bike, or when learning other new activities. It’s no surprise that they need your help learning study skills including organization and time management skills. Help your child learn to break up projects and research into small, manageable tasks instead of procrastinating and trying to do it all the night before it is due. They also need to learn the study skill of how to schedule their time into productive blocks and set daily small goals in order to finish the project on time. After a few tries, they should start to do this themselves and understand its value.

Specific Study Skills

The following are specific study skills and tutoring strategies that I’ve highlighted that may help your child with a particular class or type of assignment.

Flash Cards
Flash cards are great study skill used for learning vocabulary words. Have your child write the word on one side of an index card and the definition on the flip side. These are great for English assignments. They are easy to carry around and learning occurs while creating them. Keep the old flash cards in a shoebox for the remainder of the school year in case the material will be covered later on a final exam.
The best way to study for math tests is to create a review sheet of formulas, terms and other necessary information. Then, have your child perform practice problems, over and over, until they can be completed without mistakes. You can also create practice tests for your child. There are also web sites available like Math Problem Solving that can help you with specific strategies and tutoring information.
Print out blank maps and fill in the required information. Flash cards also work well for learning capitals and states.
Quizzes and Exams
Multiple-choice tests confuse many children, especially those with learning disabilities. If your child is really struggling with the format, ask the teacher if they are willing to offer an alternative exam that uses short answer or essay. If your child is studying for a multiple-choice exam, it is best if they think about the answer before looking at all the choices. This helps avoid confusion. Then, have them eliminate the choices that they know are false. Then, choose the one that correlates most with the answer that they first came up with. They shouldn’t spend more than 30 seconds on a question. They should answer the ones they know first and then if there is time, go back and work on the ones that were confusing or difficult.
Writing Assignments
Many students struggle with writing, especially with how to get started. Ask their English teacher if they have an essay outline or template that they use. If not, you can create on your own. An outline assists your child by having them fill in the blanks with short answers. This helps them to see the logical flow of the essay.
Reading Assignments:
Help your child understand the value of being an active reader. If allowed, have them use a highlighter to focus on main themes and storylines. They should take notes as they read, either on sticky notes in the margin of the book or on plain paper in their binder. Ask your child to tell you about the story and ask them questions about what they read. It’s important that children read for pleasure. Reading increases our knowledge of the world, our vocabulary and our ability to remember things. The more children read, the better their comprehension becomes. The critical reading skills required in high school are not something kids are born with. These skills develop as you read to your child and through continued reading as they get older.

College and Career Services Available (Regular or Special Ed)


Do you know anyone who needs help with their college selection, college applications, financial aid, scholarships, resumes, interviews or anything school, college or career related? Something I have been working on is creating my own business to help students and adults in these areas. I have been working in the academic school counseling field since 2002 (K – college level). My goal is to provide reasonably priced services to families and individuals. Most college or career experts charge $100-500 per hour! I want to keep my prices low and will be charging $49.00 for a 1 hour long group webinar session (on specific topics with time for a question/answer time) or $89.00 for a one to one-1 hour consultation (which can include research time, talk time or both). If you know anyone interested, please have them follow the blog on my website: , Facebook page: or on Twitter: Webinars sessions and individual appointments will be available various week nights and Saturdays. Availability will be posted by September 30th!

20 Incredible Colleges for Special Needs Students


While it might make things more challenging, a disability shouldn’t stand in the way of getting a college degree. These days, it’s easier than ever for special needs students to find the help they need, as more and more institutions work to understand their disabilities. Doing so allows them to provide better programs that can make the transition into college life much smoother. Students with a wide range of special needs, from learning disabilities to hearing impairment, can find schools with amazing programs that offer support, tutoring and special courses designed to make everything less stressful for enrollees and parents alike.

Here, we’ve listed some of the colleges that currently offer comprehensive or specialized programs for students who may have special needs. They range from schools focusing solely on special needs students to those incorporating specific classes and support programs into everyday coursework. This isn’t a comprehensive list, and many more schools out there offer assistance to special needs students as well. We’ve just highlighted some we think stand out.

The University of Iowa offers students with intellectual, cognitive, and learning disabilities access to the REACH program. Through it, participants get help with everything from coursework to life on campus, allowing them to build career skills, perform better academically and learn to live as independent adults. During their first two years at U of Iowa, students live together in designated residence halls, complete community-based internships and put together a portfolio of work marking their transition into college life.

Through The Learning Center on the West Virginia Wesleyan College campus, students with learning disabilities, attention disorders and other special needs can find a wide range of support options. It offers tutoring through the Mentor Advantage Program, a foundational initiative that offers help transitioning into college, test and study labs and even assistance in academic goal setting and organization. While many of the services are fee-based, students have easy access to just about every resource that could help them be more successful.

For students with an autism spectrum disorder, OCD, Tourette’s Syndrome or ADHD, Daemon College may be a good choice. The school offers a program called The Gersh College Experience, which gives students a nurturing, supportive environment in which to develop the skills necessary to succeed socially and academically. Participants do not only receive help with school, but are also taught how to live as independent adults through social outings and a one-of-a-kind wilderness program.

This community college outside of Seattle made headlines for its pioneering education program for developmentally disabled adults. Tailored to the needs of students with high-functioning autism, Down Syndrome and other disorders, the school’s Venture Program for Unique Learners offers them a chance to earn an associate’s degree with guidance from an attentive and supportive staff. Enrollees read great works of literature, practice math and gain skills that will help them find work and become more confident adults.

This liberal arts academy caters to special needs of a different kind, opening admissions largely to deaf and hearing-impaired students — though the hearing are also admitted. It is the only university in the world to specifically target and serve the needs of the deaf, and all courses are taught in both spoken and signed English. The school offers all the benefits of a traditional university, including athletics and a Greek system, while providing students with a supportive community and learning environment sensitive to their needs.

Located in Vermont, Landmark College was designed with the needs of learning disabled students in mind, and is one of only a few in the country that cater exclusively to those with dyslexia, ADHD and other learning disabilities. Class sizes stay small, so everyone gets more individual attention. A number of assistive technologies are available on campus, and enrollees are given help with time management, academics and other skills. It offers associate degrees in general studies, liberal arts or business administration, and many grads move on to four-year degree programs.

Special needs students at the University of Arizona, Tucson are served by the Strategic Alternative Learning Techniques Center, usually called — quite simply — the SALT Center. With over 500 individuals taking advantage of the services it offers, the center is a busy place and caters to a wide range of needs. Students can access tutoring and computer labs as well as workshops, to help with the transition. They are assigned a Strategic Learning Specialist, who will create a unique learning plan designed to help them succeed at a higher level in their college coursework.

Students with autism should check out Drexel’s specialized support program, which offers a number of different services. They can use the Self Advocacy and Social Skills program to find support, learn social skills and improve their approach to academic work, or engage in peer mentor training and learn from the experiences of other autism spectrum students. Additionally, the special needs enrollees at Drexel will find helpful reading materials, tutoring, seminars, meetings and more, all with the goal of making college a more friendly and accessible place for a diverse crowd.

Created only a few short years ago, the AIM program at Mercyhurst College is already making strides in helping the school become a better choice for special needs students. The program focuses on assisting those with Asperger’s and other high-functioning forms of autism adapt to campus life. Mercyhurst also offers support to students with other special needs through its Learning Differences Program. This program gives participants access to special accommodations, which can help them better cope with any learning disabilities they might have — from offering aid with physical impairments to getting additional tutoring.

Marshall University is another school reaching out to students with autism. The university is home to the West Virginia Autism Training Center, which offers a college program to individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome. Through this program, grad students help special needs participants improve their time management, complete assignments and develop better social and independent living skills. Students keep in touch with their advisors throughout the day, as well as get checked up on by professors and other professionals. While there is an additional fee for these services, it may be more than worth it for bright enrollees who just need a little extra assistance.

Beacon College is another one of the very few schools in the U.S. that cater specifically to special needs students. This private institution is fully accredited, and offers both associates and bachelors degrees in a few choice fields. The Beacon benefit is that students receive individual academic mentoring and full-time access to support services. Class sizes are small and everyone receives structured, individualized attention that can make tackling even difficult subjects much easier for anyone with learning disabilities.

Students who enroll at SIU will have full access to on-campus disability support services. Through the program, they can take advantage of various services, including study tables, tutors, professional help, taped lectures, note takers, assistive technology and supplemental materials. Students can also make use of the school’s Achieve Program. Achieve is a free academic support program for those with learning disabilities, employing specialists, grad students and volunteers to help with any needed accommodations, tutoring and counseling. Unlike many other college programs of this kind, it does not charge, nor does it limit the amount of help students can receive.

The Chicago chapter of this Vincentian school wants to ensure that all students, even those with special needs, get the help they need to excel. Participants can seek out help at the Office of Students with Disabilities, but for additional support, the school’s PLuS Program is a must. The Productive Learning Strategies Program is designed to assist with learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, Asperger’s, OCD or bipolar disorder. Throughout the school year, students in the program will get support, tutoring, advocacy and counseling time with an LD specialist.

Hofstra’s program for special needs students is called PALS, or Program for Academic Learning Skills. It helps students with learning disabilities or attention deficits by pairing them up with a learning specialist, who will aid them throughout their college career. Individual plans are created for each participant, molded to his or her unique needs, and they work with their specialist for 90 minutes each week. In addition, the school offers study skills workshops and online programs to help students develop skills that will serve them better.

Special needs students who want a top-notch tech education should check out RIT. The school offers LD and ADD students access to a learning development center and disability and learning support services, all of which provide assistance to any who need it. Participants will meet with a learning specialist several times a month to check in, improve organization, study skills and time management, and learn to become a better self-advocate. In addition to these programs, students can also take workshops teaching them to improve test-taking skills, deal with procrastination and generally get more out of their college experience. If that isn’t enough, there’s also the advantage of free tutoring.

The Disability Services Office at U of Denver offers special needs students with two different programs for help and support. The Learning Effectiveness Program provides a wide range of academic services and accommodations, including one-on-one support, tutoring, writing workshops, student activities, leadership projects and help with developing organization and time management skills. There is a fee for the LEP program. For students who can’t afford additional costs, there is also a gratis option through disability services. This program ensures that all special needs students get appropriate test accommodations, alternate formats for texts and materials, course substitutions, note takers, interpreters and any other services required.

Special needs students who want to be amongst the political action in our nation’s capital will be well-served by this university, which offers a wide range of disability services. In addition to the standard accommodations, American University also offers a Learning Services Program for college freshmen. This program is designed to help special needs students better transition by building academic and social skills. These enrollees will get focused assistance with writing and math, as well as any other learning accommodations they might need. After freshman year, students can seek out the Academic Support Center’s offerings, with free tutoring and more.

Special needs students interested in the U of Connecticut should check out the Center for Students with Disabilities. There, they can see the full range of services the school offers. Along with basic accommodations for those with learning disabilities, it also provides a number of other great programs for other types of special needs students. One is the Beyond Access Program, which offers courses (for a fee) that will train students on how to succeed in college with their disability. Focused workshops for those with learning disabilities, autism and those who need additional tutoring are available. Students still in high school can prepare early with the college’s UCPREP summer course, a six day camp that will help them build studying, learning and independent living skills.

The Learning Disabilities Program at Marist is designed to help students develop skills that will help them not only do better in college courses, but also achieve greater independence and become an effective self-advocate. Individuals work with an LD specialist for as long as they feel necessary, getting assistance adjusting to the college environment and socializing with their peers. They will also have a chance to participate in events throughout the year, which raise awareness about disabilities on campus.

One of the best resources for special needs students at Misericordia is the Alternative Learners Project (ALP). It aims to provide comprehensive on-campus support to students with learning disabilities, serving more than 60 each year. In their first year, LD pupils will take part in the BRIDGE Program to better adapt to campus life. After that, they will get help with a variety of learning strategies and work with a professional to develop an individual accommodation program. The program offers many other forms of support, and while it does come with a fee, it may be more than worth it for many students.

A Study of Cognitive Skills and the Brain


IWithin the last decade there has been an increasing awareness of the relationship between learning and cognitive skills. The term “cognitive skill” refers to any mental skill that is used in the process of acquiring knowledge, including attention, working memory, reasoning, perception, intuition, planning, and so forth.

Recognizing the required interplay of cognitive skills to the learning process has led to questions, such as (1) can improving cognitive skills improve learning ability, (2) do cognitive skill deficits contribute to learning difficulties, and (3) when learning difficulties are present, can cognitive skills be improved such that learning ability improves?

Scientific studies as well as anecdotal reports suggest that the answer to all three questions can be yes. As a result numerous cognitive skills training programs have become commercially available. Often, these programs will offer some type of cognitive testing from which cognitive skill deficits can be identified. Afterwards, a regime of cognitive exercises designed to strengthen identified deficits is provided. Similar to athletic exercise, the success of cognitive skills training programs relates to the effort put in.

The National Science Foundation (NSF), recognizing the potential benefits of improving general learning ability, is currently funding a $1 million research project designed to assess the effect of cognitive skills training programs on cognitive skill level. In part this study will also investigate if changes in brain structure and function can be seen following cognitive skills training classes.

For this study, cognitive skills training classes have been incorporated into a normal high-school curriculum such that students participate in cognitive skills training 1-hour a day, 5-days a week, and for 19-weeks. Also, two methods of administering cognitive skills training are being assessed. The first involves one to one instruction, i.e. a cognitive skills trainer instructs a student individually on the cognitive skills exercises. The second utilizes an online cognitive skills training course where students independently complete the cognitive skills exercises on a computer, however, a facilitator is in the room to ensure students are working on the cognitive exercises. To track brain changes, functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) scans, which are non-invasive and do not involve ionizing radiation, are acquired before and after participation in the 19-week cognitive skills training programs. Approximately 200 students are participating in the study. Forty of these underwent and initial fMRI scan and will complete the post fMRI scan in June.

Preliminary work by the primary investigators of this project found that in a group of middle school students studied, students with higher cognitive ability utilized parts of their brain differently than those with lesser cognitive ability. “The students who were of quote higher intelligence used the part of the brain we’re interested in differently. On the easier task, they didn’t really use their brains. On the harder tasks, their brains lit up. With the lower group, we started seeing the activation of their brain on the easier tasks.” The investigators are eager to see if cognitive skills training can actually make the cognitive tasks easier for the lower ability students and if they can do more of the cognitive testing before their brain activates.

Researchers hope to have the results of the study published by the end of 2012.

The researchers also believe this study will have implications for all learners, including those with special needs.

Games for Children with Special Needs


Games for Children with Special Needs Make Learning Fun
Research has shown that nothing helps children learn faster than having fun.

Many kids in special education classes, who struggle with learning, improve cognitive skills by playing games and other fun interactive activities. They don’t even realize they’re learning!

Discover some of our most effective games for children with special needs. Or check out the Creative Thinking workbooks and Study Skills handbooks books from Strong Learning to help kids with special needs succeed.

Reading Games for Special NeedsReading Card Games and Reading Lotto Games

Reading games are great for kids who continue to struggle with reading. Non-readers, including kids with dyslexia, benefit greatly from the Phonics Games. Games can be modified for individual differences.


Arithmetic Games for Special NeedsArithmetic Games

Math games make it easier to master basic arithmetic facts. Kids learn addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division while they’re having fun and playing. Games can be tailored for individual differences. Perfect for children with dyscalculia. Each Arithmetic Game can be played with four different variations: Go Fish, Old Maid, Memory, and War.

Creative Thinking Workbook for Special NeedsCreative Thinking Workbooks

Creative Thinking Workbooks are so much fun that kids who don’t like to read and write enjoy these books. Great for kids who have trouble writing, including those with dysgraphia. The books can even be used just by coloring, talking, and asking questions. Because there are no wrong answers, these workbooks help build self-esteem for kids who have learning challenges.

Study skills workbooks for Special NeedsStudy Skills Handbooks

Help struggling middle school and high school students master basic skills and even improve test scores with Study Skills Handbooks. Includes reading, writing, math, memory, and how to study.

See link for resources:

Homework 101


“It’s time to do your homework.”
“But Mom, Dad…”

Sound familiar? For many parents, these words are heard from the month of September and last well into June. What can be done to maximize stronger work habits and minimize frustration for you and your child? Quite a lot.

School-to-Home Organization
Eliminate the risk of forgotten books/notebooks at school by asking teachers to check in with your child at the end of the day. For those children using lockers, hang a typed list on color paper reminding your child what to ask him/herself each day when packing up homework (see box, below, for example). In addition, a small index card could be taped on the cover of your child’s planner.
Advocate for a well-established communication system between home and school.

Homework Organization
Select a specified area for homework and necessary supplies. When completed, request that your child return all materials/supplies to their appropriate places.
Help your child avoid avoiding homework. Work with your child on establishing rules on when and how homework will be accomplished. For example, should your child start with his favorite subject? Take a break after each assignment? How will your child know when it is time to return to work? (Verbal reminders, such as “Johanna, just a reminder that there are only two more minutes left in your break” and timers are very effective in reminding your child to return to work.) What stimuli is acceptable or unacceptable when studying? How homework is completed is equally important as completing it.
For weekend homework, encourage your child to begin on Friday evenings. This is invaluable. Not only is information fresh in their minds but it allows enough time to make contingency plans for forgotten books or purchasing materials for projects.
Ask yourself: “Are the teachers giving homework and instructions that suit my child best?” If not, don’t hesitate to share concerns and ideas with the teacher.
If your child misses school, help your child be responsible for finding out the next day’s homework. While there may be times your child cannot complete the homework without the classroom instruction, it is still good to have your child follow through by calling a classmate or emailing the teacher (if this option is available) during the day. This learned skill becomes very important by mid-elementary years and, certainly, by middle school. It further minimizes some anxiety when your child returns to school.
For children taking medication, ask yourself and your child if he or she is finding that the medication is working as optimally as possible. Work with your professional to determine if a change may be required.

Reinforce Learning
Become intimate with your child’s areas of need (for example, organization, inattentiveness, comprehension, decoding) and help find appropriate techniques to enhance and reinforce learning. Locate professionals early in the school year at your child’s school and/or in the private sector who can provide helpful strategies.
In general, study cards or index cards are easier than a study guide or worksheet. Have your child write words, thoughts or questions on one side and answers on the other. The act of writing out a card is one more opportunity to enhance learning by reinforcing memory.
Use the Internet to supplement and complement classroom materials.
For children having difficulty extracting ideas, build lists of words for your child from which to choose. Similarly, ask them to compare and contrast ideas. For those with writing challenges, there are several approaches: Have your child verbalize his or her ideas first. Use a word-web format or an old-fashioned outline using bullets before writing an essay. Encourage your child to refer to the list/chart/web/rubric and use a minimum of details (2–3 details for younger children; 4–10 details for older children).
Consider making board games, such as a bingo or lotto board, as another way to reinforce learning. An opened manila folder works great as a board, index cards can be used for questions and coins can be a player’s pawn. It is inexpensive, simple and a great addition to family time!
Offer to give practice tests. After a few weeks of school, you will have a sense of a teacher’s testing style. Practice tests that mirror the teacher’s style offers your child the opportunity to “experience” what could be asked.
Consider a study group. For slightly older children, a study group of two or three can be very beneficial and make learning more enjoyable.

The ultimate goal is to provide your special learner with good work habits, to prepare and anticipate, to avoid unnecessary tardiness and to stay on task. Par for the course with teaching organization, homework and learning strategies is making a long-term commitment. The foremost rule is to find the best system for your child; frequently this will mean many trials before finding the best one. Parental assistance can go a long way in making your child feel a sense of accomplishment and progress while minimizing stress for all of you.

End of the Day Reminder

Before coming home, remind or ask yourself:

To check your planner to see what homework and tests you have.

To pack everything you need to complete homework. (textbooks, composition books, study guides, library books, folders) and study for upcoming tests

What is inside the locker that should be somewhere else? (i.e., old lunches, library books, tests needed to be signed by parents)

Take home the knapsack, jacket and any other clothing/sports gear

Finding someone “who’s been there”


When my son was a baby, the internet didn’t exist. There wasn’t any way for me to get information on his condition other than medical journals. All those journals said that he would did within the first month. Well, he made it through that first month and he is now 23 years old! Back then, I started a support group. I talked to people locally and around the world. I LOVED it and supported families for about 7 years until my baby # 2 and my college school work got to be too much for me to juggle it all. Not only did I support the families, they supported me! I strongly suggest support groups. Here are some more thoughts on them…

Sometimes the hardest thing about being a family caregiver of a child with special needs is not knowing what to expect or just needing a listening ear. There are many organizations out there to help parents of children with special health care needs.

Parent-to-Parent (P2P) matches trained volunteer parents to families of children with the same condition or facing the same or similar circumstances. The volunteers have been through many of the same experiences such as diagnosis, early intervention, and transition, or are impacted by the same systems, such as education, Maternal and Child Health Title V, mental health, or child welfare, and can offer good information. They also offer emotional support when a parent is feeling overwhelmed. P2P volunteers are also geographically matched by state so they would know of many resources ranging from therapies to recreation that are available to their family match.

Disability Specific Groups
Many national and state organizations dealing with specific conditions also help families connect. Parents can get a list of organizations either through Exceptional Parent magazine or the Parent Center Hub. Exceptional Parent puts out an annual resource guide. The Parent Center Hub has a listing of disability resources. For mental health, the Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health and also the National Alliance on Mental Illness are excellent resources.

Other Matching Organizations
Friends Health Connection (FHC) matches individuals with specific conditions, or their caregivers. This is especially important as children transition to adult care and can have someone with whom to communicate. FHC also has an online community and offers free webinars. Another good option is a support group. The American Self-Help Clearinghouse lists support groups nationwide. Here, parents can talk to other families going through the same experiences.

Other Family Support Resources
Every state also has at least one Parent Training and Information Center and a Family Voices/Family-to- Family Health Information Center, staffed by families of children with disabilities and special healthcare needs. Contacting Parent Centers and F2F Centers can connect families to support as well as information and training around early intervention, education, healthcare, and transition to adult systems of care.
Parents of children with disabilities need to get information on their child’s condition and also talk to other families. This way they won’t feel so helpless or hopeless. Parents can talk to other families for information and support, making their family unit stronger.