Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Don Peek - Gift Giving and Special Needs Children

This post is authored by Don Peek, a former educator and past president of the training division of Renaissance Learning. He now runs The School Funding Center, a company that provides grant information and grant-writing services to schools. To learn more, or to subscribe to the School Funding Center Grant Database, go to schoolfundingcenter.

Gift Giving and Special Needs Children

While it’s true that many people who have a mild disability come much closer to being hindered rather than incapacitated, I can assure you that for most disabled people, their disability is much more than a hindrance.  Many live lives that revolve around their disabilities, and whether they are limited either physically or mentally, they are ashamed of their limitations.  I didn’t say they should be.  They will seldom admit that they are, but trust me on this one, they are.
It doesn’t matter if you are the last to be chosen in a pick-up basketball game or the worst oral reader in your class, being below normal hurts, and it typically hurts deeply.  

I mention all of this to give you a word of caution when you purchase or make gifts during this holiday season.  Giving gifts to people with disabilities that draws attention to those disabilities can be extremely hurtful.

I guess the best example of this would be buying board games, toys, or video games for a mentally challenged middle school student when it clearly states that it for ages 3 and up.  True, that student might not be able to handle Monopoly or Risk (at least without hours and hours of help and explanation), but he can certainly read that small signal for age-appropriateness on the box and be highly offended by it.  To him it is a “baby’s game” and far beneath his dignity, especially when opened in front of others.

You can certainly make a mistake on the other side by buying gifts that are obviously too advanced for a mentally challenged person.  When you buy a really neat magic set for a young girl who likes Harry Potter, but she can’t read the directions well enough to even get started or doesn’t have the eye-hand coordination to begin to do the simplest sleight of hand, your gift will be a real ego crusher.

Living every single day of your life with a disability is tough.  Don’t make it tougher on the person by giving gifts that draw attention to that disability or make them feel worse than they would had you given them no gift.

What would be my gift suggestions?  I’d try to concentrate on gifts that are popular within the person’s age group and yet totally appropriate for the disabled person.  You might give the girl who likes Harry Potter the complete set of Harry Potter DVD’s, or at least her favorite ones.  You could give the boy who doesn’t want Candy Land either Jenga or Electronic Battleship.  Be sure to let him know that these are some of your favorite games, and you want to play them with him as soon as he likes.  I can assure you that the time you spend will be worth far more to him than the gift itself.

It’s always nice to give people gifts during the holidays.  For the most part, they are appreciated for the effort if not the content.  Just be especially careful when giving to children with disabilities that you don’t draw attention to their disabilities or embarrass them in any way with your gift.

Grant Notice:
Grant Name:  USGA Alliance Grants
Funded By:  National Alliance for Accessible Golf
Description:  Grants support organizations which provide opportunities for individuals with disabilities to learn and enjoy the game of golf and its inherent values. The Alliance and the USGAshare the belief that the game of golf is exceptionally well-suited to allow individuals with disabilities to participate in a recreational or competitive activity with participants who have various types of disabilities as well as those who do not have disabilities. We encourage inclusive programming - opportunities that allow participants with disabilities and participants without disabilities to learn and play the game side by side.
Program Areas:  Disabilities
Recipients:  Public School, Other
Proposal Deadline:  None
Average Amount:  Up to $20,000.00
Telephone:  812-320-1126
Availability:  All States

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Personalized Placemats

This post is authored by Anna Reyner, a registered art therapist and licensed marriage and family therapist. Anna is a nationally recognized arts advocate that has conducted over 500 hands-on art workshops for learners of all abilities. Follow Anna’s blog at Art and Creativity in Early Childhood Education.

Special Needs Application:
In addition to fostering imaginative and symbolic thinking, enhancing motor skills, and providing an opportunity to manage sensory issues, art activities support a full range of social emotional benefits particularly as they build self esteem. And what better way to build self esteem than “framing” a child’s work of art!

I stopped in my tracks when I saw these super adorable placemats at the Hollywood Los Feliz JCC. They gave me such a smile! What is it about these clever placemats that draws you in to take a closer look? Is it the playful expression on the children's faces? Or the colorful freestyle painting behind each photo? Or is it the solid construction paper background that frames it all and makes it pop out from the page? I think it's "all of the above"! By using a laminator or clear contact paper to cover each picture, you can use your placemats for the whole year.

Try this sometime and you'll discover a clever new way to identify each child's place setting for lunchtime or snacks. A big thank you to the creative preschool staff of Hollywood Los Feliz Jewish Community Center in Los Angeles.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Don Peek - How Good are IEP's?

This post is authored by Don Peek, a former educator and past president of the training division of Renaissance Learning. He now runs The School Funding Center, a company that provides grant information and grant-writing services to schools. To learn more, or to subscribe to the School Funding Center Grant Database, go to schoolfundingcenter.com

How Good Are IEP’s?
IEP, as most of the readers of this blog will know, stands for Individualized Education Program.  IEP’s were mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  Educators and parents who are involved with students in special education know that every single child must have an IEP on file and that each child must be evaluated and the file updated at least once each year. 

IEP’s have been in place long before the latest IDEA legislation in 2004.  I don’t think anyone could question the need or the benefits of having an Individualized Education Program for each student found to have a disability.  In fact, the idea is so good, schools probably need to develop IEP’s for every single student in attendance.  That, however, is not likely to happen for a couple of reasons.  The first is that schools don’t have the money to put such a process in place.  The second is that IEP’s in and of themselves don’t guarantee any improvement in the teaching and learning process.

It is true that a good IEP describes how a student learns best, how the student best demonstrates that learning, and what educators can do to help the student learn more effectively.  Unfortunately, some IEP’s are drafted, agreed upon, and then placed in a drawer where they are seldom viewed until it is time for a yearly evaluation.  I know this may seem strange to the teachers and administrators who use IEP’s properly, but believe me when I say that it’s true.

An IEP should be a well-worn document by the end of the school year.  Teachers should review them often and should prepare lesson plans based on the IEP’s of students in their classrooms. Although special education classes tend to be smaller than mainstream classes, special education teachers still must have a separate IEP for every single student.  Some lessons can cover multiple IEP’s.  Others do not.  Individualized instruction is difficult.  It has been tried time and again in mainstream classes and often proves to be overwhelming to the teachers.

That’s why special education classes are smaller, tend to have more help in the form of aides, and often have more equipment to deal with various disabilities.  All are in place so that teachers can individualize and meet IEP requirements.

If you are a teacher who reviews IEP’s regularly, uses them to develop daily lesson plans, and makes sure you are doing everything necessary for your students to meet their IEP goals, I applaud you.

If you are a teacher who is not using your IEP’s properly, I suggest you begin to do so immediately.  If you are a principal, it is your responsibility to make sure IEP’s are developed and used properly.  If you are a parent, I suggest that you be familiar with your child’s IEP.  Look for progress reports that reference the IEP and monitor the papers and information coming home to you to make sure the IEP that was filed is being followed.

An Individualized Education Program may be one of the greatest rights of the disabled child.  Unfortunately, it is no more valuable than the paper on which it is written unless it leads both teacher and students to the accomplishment of the goals it contains.

Grant Notice:
Grant Name:  Walmart Foundation Grants
Funded By:  Walmart Foundation
Description:  Giving to K-12 Public Schools/Districts, Charter Schools, Community/Junior Colleges, State Colleges and Universities; Private schools and colleges with current tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code; and Churches and other faith based organizations with propose projects that address and benefit the needs of the community at large. See the website for eligibility requirements and additional information. The grant maximum depends on the facility to which you are applying. The Community Involvement Coordinator or manager at the facility nearest you will be able to advise you as to the grant maximum for their location.
Program Areas:  Adult Literacy, After-School, Arts, At-Risk/Character, Community Involvement/Volunteerism, Disabilities, General Education, Health/PE, Homeless, Reading, Safe/Drug Free Schools, Science/Environmental, Social Studies, Special Education, TAG, Technology, Vocational
Recipients:  Public School, Private school, Higher Ed, Faith-Based, Other
Proposal Deadline:  12/31/11
Average Amount:  $250.00 (depends on individual store)
Telephone:  800-530-9925
Availability:  All States