• A Guide to Helping Children with Special Needs Change Schools

    With a new school year right around the corner, most parents are focused on back-to-school shopping. However, as the parent of a special-needs child, you have more on your mind than merely stocking up on binders and mechanical pencils.  

    As you well know, children and teenagers with Autism Spectrum Disorder, learning disabilities, sensory issues, and other special needs have a more difficult time adjusting to changes than typically developing kids. So if you moved over the summer, or your child is transitioning from pre-K to elementary school or elementary to middle school, joining a new class could be especially stressful this year. Here’s a guide to help your child with special needs change schools successfully. 

    • Communicate: The more information you can give your child about their new school, the better. Be open about answering your child’s questions and letting them know what to expect. 
    • Focus on the positives: Reassure your child that while change makes people nervous, a new setting has lots of positives, such as getting to have fun and meet new peopleAsk family members, friends, and therapists to share examples of times they went through a scary change and how it all turned out great in the end. 
    • Tour the school: Contact the school to find out if your child can walk the halls, have a guided tour, or even get to meet their teachers before school starts. If a tour isn’t possible, you can at least visit the school and walk the grounds to get your child familiar with the location. 
    • Arrange playdates: Ask the school about other special-needs kids in your child’s class so you can contact their parents. Find out if any are interested in getting together before school starts. This gives your child a chance to make friends with classmates so they have few friendly faces to look for on the first day of school. 
    • Read school transition books with your child: Engaging titles that give young special-needs children more confidence about attending a new school include Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten by Joseph Slate; Yoko and My Kindergarten by Rosemary Wells; and I am Too Absolutely Small for Kindergarten by Lauren Childs. For soon-to-be middle schoolers, try Invisible Inkling by Emily Jenkins or The Detention Club by David Yoo. 
    • Inform teachers, staff, and therapists about your child: Write up a concise, one- to two-page letter outlining your child’s strengths, weaknesses, sensory issues, preferred reinforcersand dietary restrictions, if any. This gives school staff an important head’s up about your child’s special needs and opens up a channel of communication.  

    Feel free to modify the tips in this guide to match your child’s age, challenges, and capabilities. The compassionate team at STAR of CA can help! Our behavioral and psychological services for people with ASD in Ventura, CA can help your child more confidently tackle the upcoming school year. To learn more about our individualized programs, please contact us at 805.588.8896. 

  • What Parents Need to Know about IEPs

    If you have a child who has autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or a similar developmental disability, the prospect of sending your child to school may concern you. Fortunately, help is available. Children with ASD may be given an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), which covers all of the special services that a child needs to thrive in the public school system. Here is what all parents need to know about IEPs. 

    Who can get an IEP?  

    Within public education, if a student is evaluated and it is found that the child has one of the disabilities listed in the special education law IDEA and needs special education service to succeed in school, they will have an IEP.  IEPs are available to any children in the public school system who require them, including at both public schools and charter schools. Preschoolers starting at the age of 3 to 5 years can also have an IEP if found eligible.  IEPs are available to children through the high school graduation or a maximum of age 22. 

    What happens during an IEP evaluation meeting?  

    After a request or referral for evaluation, the school may have a meeting to discuss the evaluation.  There will be a team of professionals—which may include special education teachers, speech pathologists, and other specialists—who will be evaluating your child.  The school may decide to go ahead with the evaluation without a meeting and will obtain your consent prior to conducting the evaluation. It’s a good idea to spend some time familiarizing yourself with the laws in your state regarding special education services and come prepared to articulate your concern(s) and to bring a notebook with you so that you can document the meeting. It also may be good to bring along a friend or family member for support; informing the school ahead of time is recommended.  

    What happens after the evaluation?  

    After your child is evaluated, a meeting will be held to review the results and determine if your child is eligible for an IEP.  Like the evaluation meeting, there will be a team of professionals and anyone you may have invited to attend for support. The team will determine if your child has one of the 13 categories disabilities listed in IDEA and if the disability has adverse effects on his or her education.   If found eligible, the team will create an educational plan that is individualized for your child’s needs.  Sometimes this occurs in the same meeting or a separate meeting will be scheduled.   

    How is an IEP developed?  

    If your child is found to be eligible for an IEP, you will be able to participate in the process of developing your child’s education plan. It is critical that the plan includes clear objectives and measurable goals for your child and state the individualized educational services and supports that will be provided. The plan should also include detailed information about your child’s current educational status, your child’s educational strengths and weaknesses, and how your child’s condition affects his or her education.  

    STAR of CA uses evidence-based treatments to provide education and resources for families and individuals who are dealing with ASD and other mental health issues. We have been serving Ventura since we opened in 2006, and we are continually working to provide the best possible services for the community. If you have any questions, call (805) 644-7827.  

  • Who Is on the IEP Team?

    In order to ensure that a child who has autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can get the comprehensive, effective public education experience he or she deserves, it is important to craft a customized plan. This plan is known as the Individualized Education Plan or IEP. The team that is responsible for drafting an IEP for a child will include the parents, one or more of the child’s special education teachers, one or more of the child’s regular teachers, a person representing the school, and a person who is qualified to interpret the results of the child’s evaluation. In some cases, the child may be directly involved in creating the plan.  

    STAR of CA is dedicated to ensuring that every family we work with gets the individual plan they need in order to confront the challenges of living with ASD. To learn more about how we can develop an individualized program for your child’s treatment, call (805) 644-7827.

  • What Parents and Teachers Need to Know About Classroom Integration for Kids with ASD

    Autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, presents a unique challenge for children when it comes to school. A child may be curious and intelligent, but ASD can still make it more difficult for that child to thrive in the classroom environment. Fortunately, there are effective strategies that adults can use to make it easier for children with ASD to have a positive school experience.

    Give the child a schedule. A visual schedule has been shown to have clear benefits for children who have ASD. A visual schedule that a child can take to school provides a guide to everything that will happen during the day, presented in a reassuringly orderly sequence that helps to reduce any stress the child may be feeling. This allows children to initiate each activity on their own, which fosters greater independence.

    Make sure the rules are clear. It’s important to take the time to ensure that the child understands the rules of the classroom, and that feedback for rule following and rule breaking are consistent Have a plan for what behaviors will be reinforced, and who will deliver the reinforcement. .

    Based in Ventura, STAR of CA provides a range of important services for children and adolescents who have ASD and other developmental disorders. We take an individualized approach to each family to ensure that children with ASD get the effective guidance and care that they deserve. If you would like to learn more, call us today at (805) 644-7827.