Saturday, October 15, 2016

October Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness 2016

Time to come of the shadows and stigma of pregnancy and infant loss.  Though it hurts me to talk about my daughter I would not have it any other way.  She was here, she was alive, and she deserves to be remembered. I love you my sweet baby Martha.  

Friday, October 7, 2016

Why Does It Take So Long For Special Education Services?

I had to enroll the children into an online public school.  I needed to do this to take advantage of my of state's program called the Empowerment Scholarship.  It is a program where parents basically waive their rights to FAPE so parents can get a pot of money to send their child to private school or homeschool. We will be going back to homeschooling after our short visit to public school.

Being in the public school has definitely showed me areas where my children are weak academically!  I submitted the request for special education testing within the first week of school (first week of August). The way my state works is that you have a MET (Multidisciplinary Evaluation Team) I meeting to discuss educational concerns and for the parent to turn over any information on your child to show a disability.  I had been writing the blog posts on neurocognitive domains just so I could better explain my children to the team.  First round went to me since the MET group said my kids were suspected of having a learning disability. They decided that there was more testing they needed/wanted to do so the team could appropriately classify them for special education.  That meeting happened on August 17th.

So the days passed and I waited to hear from the school specialists. I heard from the one by one.  I set appointments with them and took the kids to be tested or specialists come here.  Two weeks the kids went though various tests. The MET II meets were set for October 4th and 5th.  I took Joseph and James's together and the next day was Margaret's meeting.  I asked for a copy of the meeting materials that any of the other team members would have access to before the meeting.  This allowed me to be on even ground.  I was able to read the reports the say before.  Is it bad to say I laughed?

Why did I laugh?  Because the reports pointed out SO starkly many of the things I knew to be "wrong" with my children.  Here are some comments from James's report... From the psychologist, "Mom managed the full schedule of the home very well."  Why thank you!  I try though I often wonder how I really do. "He (James) presented as friendly, helpful, talkative, and was a bit of a squirrel/tease at time, which is reportedly not unusual for him."  I have to admit I found this funny.  Yes, James is talkative and he often plays around which makes it hard to tell sometimes when he is being serious. "He was fidgety throughout both sessions, moving about his chair, twisting his shirt into a variety of positions, even lifting it over his head a few times and once taking it off."  ROFL  This really got me! I see James pull his shirt over his head quite often lately.  He reminds me of the character on Bevis and Butthead.  LOL  His shirt was bothering him so much he pulled his shirt all the way off!  Yes, my baby still has sensory issues and has a problem being still due to sensory and ADHD issues.

During his testing for speech she talks about how he turned backwards in his chair several times and only turned around to look at pictures as needed.  "Depite the busy-ness of his body, he still presented as having a calm demeanor. Ja attempted to peek between the barriers this SLP had set up to block his view of the test booklets, when the SLP adjusted them to close the small crack, Ja responded by smiling, chuckling, and saying "Darn it!""  This is James and his perfectionist attitude.  He has anxiety if he thinks he is doing something wrong. "Ja does become "stuck"  on topics of high interest..."  Yes, yes he does!  This is part of his autism and lack of cognitive flexibility.  "Eye contact was appropriate at time, but fleeting to non-existent at other times."  Very much a typical autism trait.  "He was quite verbose and frequently used tangential speech; he required ongoing verbal cues to limit the number of his extraneous comments and keep on-topic."  LOL   Yes, James has a LOT to say but only 50% of the time would I say he is on topic.

You can see how these things are both hard to hear yet funny because you know these professionals are seeing your child for the first time.  I know all these things about James and in the homeschool environment I can build the environment to suit his needs.  I can do some of that in the online public school but his inattention, internal dialog, his dysgraphia, his sensory issues, and his math calculation problems, and I am sure I missing other things, are ALL issues that impede his learning, even online.   I could only imagine if I sent him to a regular brick-and-mortar school what would happen to him with his inability to sit and pay attention along with his general disruptive behavior.

Margaret and Joseph had worse results in their reports.  After about four hours discussion there are a couple of things I forgot for James.  I think James may have a specific learning disability in math calculation (dyscalculia) and I know he has a specific learning disability in written expression (dysgraphia).  We will need to cover this on or before his IEP is formulated.

In the end the MET II team has decided these special education eligibility categories belong to the children so far...

James: Primary: Autism; Secondary: OHI - ADHD (I need to see about adding the SLD: math calculation and SLD: written expression)

Margaret: Primary: Autism; Secondary: SLD: math calculation, SLD: math problem solving, SLD: written expression, OHI - ADHD

Joseph: Primary: Multiple Disability with Severe Sensory Impairment (Autism and Visual Impairment fall under here along with Joseph's problems with math and writing); Secondary: OHI - Ataxic Cerebral Palsy

Do these things shock me in any way?  No.  It is a bit hard to read in a report where everything is written so starkly in black and white. I am thankful the school has identified most, if not all, the children's needs.  Now we are waiting (and it can be up to 30 more days) to work on developing the IEP for the children.  Then the fighting will really begin.  LOL  Once our 100 days are up in public school, near the end of January, I will look at how the kids are doing in school.  I highly suspect that I will be pulling Margaret and Joseph back out of public school for homeschooling once again.  I cannot wait!  The pace of public school is just too fast for them.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Did you know 65% of the population are visual learners? Now, what do you do when you have a child that has vision loss in one eye, reduced peripheral vision in the other eye, BUT is STILL a visual learner?  Think about that for a minute.  Yes, Joseph, my son with only one "good" eye, is a visual learner. Joseph has problems with visual-spatial reasoning among other visual processing issues.  As it turns out, all my children have visual-spatial problems. They all score in the 5 to 18 percentile in visual-spatial reasoning.  So how does an issue with visual-spatial reasoning impact learning?  I hadn't a clue so I wrote this post to understand!  Hopefully you, dear reader, will find it helpful too!

In a paper by Franceschini et al., there is a strong correlation to visual-spatial attention and learning to read. The children who had the most difficulty with visual-spatial discrimination had most difficulty in learning to read and often went on to be diagnosed with dyslexia.  Mayer et al., found a correlation in visual-spatial reasoning, along with cognitive ability and problem-solving skills, were the deciding factors in determining the scientific reasoning skills of elementary school students. What I really found interesting was the paper by Tosto et al., which studied the visual-spatial abilities of several sets of 12 year old twins. By 12, a bit over half of your visual spatial skills you got from your parents (genetics) but the rest is learned (this was true for both boys and girls).  The part of the paper I found interesting is that the same pathways in the brain for visual-spatial reasoning is used for math and science. Who knew?  This explains a lot as to why children with developmental dyscalculia have issues with processing visual-spatial information.

What are the signs of Visual Processing Disorder?

There are EIGHT types of visual processing disorders. These are:
Visual Discrimination
  • Can't match clothing, socks, or cutlery, especially when the differences are subtle
  • Doesn't noticing the similarities and differences between certain colors, shapes and patterns
  • Will not see differences between similar looking letters and words (eg b / d, b / p, 5 / S, won’t / want, car / cat)
  • Will have a hard time reading maps
Visual Figure-Ground Discrimination
  • Struggles to find information on a busy blackboard
  • Finds it hard to copy work from the board as the child keeps losing his place when copying
  • Loses his/her place on the page while reading
  • Has poor dictionary skills
  • Struggles with map work
  • Struggles to find personal items in a cluttered place
Visual Sequencing
  • Has difficulty using a separate answer sheet
  • Cannot stay in the right place while reading a paragraph. Example: skipping lines, reading the same line over and over
  • Problems reversing or misreading letters, numbers and words
  • Has difficulty understanding math equations
Visual Motor Processing
  • Has difficulty writing within lines or margins of a piece of paper
  • Struggles to copy from a board or book
  • When moving around often bumps into things
  • Has problems participating in sports that require well-timed and precise movements in space
Visual Closure
  • The inability to know what an object is when only parts of it are visible
  • Not recognizing a picture of a familiar object from a partial image. Example: A truck without its wheels
  • Misidentifying a word with a letter missing
  • Not recognizing a face when one feature (such as the nose) is missing
Spatial Relationships
  • Difficulty getting from one place to another
  • Has a problem spacing letters and words on paper
  • Cannot judge time
  • Reading maps and giving directions are difficult
  • Difficulty in math
Plus there are other vision processing disorders like Irlen Syndrome, visual dyslexia, and visual dyspraxia.

Who Diagnoses Visual Processing Disorders and How to Treat It?

This is hard to determine.  Visual Processing Disorder is NOT a learning disability be itself.  It is only a learning disability IF it interferes with the learning process.  Ah, the fun of public education! If you homeschool it is easier because you can implement the accommodations and modifications at home to see if academic function improves.

If you are looking to pursue a diagnosis look for an opthamologist, vision specialist, vision therapist, or a neuropsychologist. One of these professionals should be able to run the psychometric tests needed to make a diagnosis.

There are three kinds of therapies that are important to be aware of as you’re considering ways to help your child with visual processing issues.

Optometric vision therapy: It’s important to note that there is more than one kind of vision therapy. Optometric vision therapy has been proven to help with vision problems that involve eye movements or eye alignment. These eye coordination issues are different from visual processing issues. Visual processing issues involve the way the brain processes the information the eyes take in.

You may hear some kinds of optometric vision therapy referred to as “orthoptic vision therapy.” Both can help with eye muscle and eye alignment. These kinds of therapy can help with vision problems such as convergence insufficiency (when the eyes don’t work together properly when trying to focus on a nearby object).

Optometric vision therapy doesn’t “cure” learning and attention issues. But if your child has vision problems in addition to dyslexia and other issues, resolving vision problems can help him devote more energy to finding strategies that can help with the way his brain processes information.

Behavioral vision therapy: This is different from optometric vision therapy. Behavioral vision therapy involves eye exercises that are designed to improve visual perception. These eye exercises are also designed to improve visual processing skills. But there is no scientific research that shows this kind of therapy helps the brain process visual information. For that reason, behavioral vision therapy is considered a controversial treatment for learning and attention issues.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that it may help some children. But be wary of any treatment that claims to “cure” learning and attention issues. Learn more about how to know when a treatment is reputable.

Educational therapy: Children with visual processing issues may benefit from educational therapy. This type of therapy teaches kids strategies for working around their weaknesses. Learning how to approach problems can reduce frustration, increase self-confidence and lead to greater success in school.

What are appropriate accommodations or modifications? 

  • Use books, worksheets and other materials with enlarged print
  • Read written directions aloud. Varying teaching methods (written and spoken words; images and sounds) can help promote understanding
  • Be aware of the weakness but don't overemphasize it. While helping a child work on the weakness is important; it is just as important to build other skills and function in any setting
  • Break assignments and chores into clear, concise steps. Often multiple steps can be difficult to visualize and complete
  • Give examples and point out the important details of visual information (the part of a picture that contains information for a particular question)
  • Provide information about a task before starting to focus attention on the activity
  • Allow student to write answers on the same sheet of paper as the questions or offer opportunities for student to explain answers orally
  • Provide paper for writing and math work that has darker or raised lines to make the boundaries more distinct
  • Organize assignments to be completed in smaller steps instead of one large finished product
  • Use a ruler as a reading guide (to keep focus on one line at a time) and a highlighter (to immediately emphasize important information)
  • Provide a tape recorder to supplement note-taking
  • Color code important information
  • Have a proof-reading buddy for all written materials
  • Use a tape recorder when getting important information
  • Before writing letters or essays, create an outline to simplify and organize ideas
  • Have a proofreading buddy for notes and essays

I hope you found this post helpful.  I had initially started this post just to discuss visual-spatial processing but as I started to research the subject I found there was so much more to cover!  I think I did a decent job overall to cover everything in a broad way. If I missed anything please let me know!  I you have any questions you can contact me on the blog or though Facebook.