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  1. DDRprovider

    Testdol Therapeutic School

    January 1, 1863 A Transcription By the President of the United States of America: A Proclamation. Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit: "That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom. "That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof, respectively, shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be, in good faith, represented in the Congress of the United States by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States." Now, therefore I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-Chief, of the Army and Navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and in accordance with my purpose so to do publicly proclaimed for the full period of one hundred days, from the day first above mentioned, order and designate as the States and parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively, are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit: Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, (except the Parishes of St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Jefferson, St. John, St. Charles, St. James Ascension, Assumption, Terrebonne, Lafourche, St. Mary, St. Martin, and Orleans, including the City of New Orleans) Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, (except the forty-eight counties designated as West Virginia, and also the counties of Berkley, Accomac, Northampton, Elizabeth City, York, Princess Ann, and Norfolk, including the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth[)], and which excepted parts, are for the present, left precisely as if this proclamation were not issued. And by virtue of the power, and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons. And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence; and I recommend to them that, in all cases when allowed, they labor faithfully for reasonable wages. And I further declare and make known, that such persons of suitable condition, will be received into the armed service of the United States to garrison forts, positions, stations, and other places, and to man vessels of all sorts in said service. And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God. In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the City of Washington, this first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-seventh. By the President: ABRAHAM LINCOLN WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.
  2. Event
    until
    It’s a night to be supported, to ask questions and share resources, and to be with other parents who get what it’s like to deal with special challenges for their kids. Parents of kids with all types of developmental differences welcome (sensory processing disorder, autism, ADD/ADHD, PDD-NOS, mixed receptive-expressive language disorder, Down syndrome, physical disabilities, medical issues, etc.). Parents/family only, please (no therapists, students or business owners). The Zoom link will be sent out about 2 hours before the meeting.
  3. Event
    until
    It’s a night to be supported, to ask questions and share resources, and to be with other parents who get what it’s like to deal with special challenges for their kids. Parents of kids with all types of developmental differences welcome (sensory processing disorder, autism, ADD/ADHD, PDD-NOS, mixed receptive-expressive language disorder, Down syndrome, physical disabilities, medical issues, etc.). Parents/family only, please (no therapists, students or business owners). The Zoom link will be sent out about 2 hours before the meeting.
  4. Event
    until
    It’s a night to be supported, to ask questions and share resources, and to be with other parents who get what it’s like to deal with special challenges for their kids. Parents of kids with all types of developmental differences welcome (sensory processing disorder, autism, ADD/ADHD, PDD-NOS, mixed receptive-expressive language disorder, Down syndrome, physical disabilities, medical issues, etc.). Parents/family only, please (no therapists, students or business owners). The Zoom link will be sent out about 2 hours before the meeting.
  5. Event
    until
    It’s a night to be supported, to ask questions and share resources, and to be with other parents who get what it’s like to deal with special challenges for their kids. Parents of kids with all types of developmental differences welcome (sensory processing disorder, autism, ADD/ADHD, PDD-NOS, mixed receptive-expressive language disorder, Down syndrome, physical disabilities, medical issues, etc.). Parents/family only, please (no therapists, students or business owners). The Zoom link will be sent out about 2 hours before the meeting.
  6. Event
    until
    It’s a night to be supported, to ask questions and share resources, and to be with other parents who get what it’s like to deal with special challenges for their kids. Parents of kids with all types of developmental differences welcome (sensory processing disorder, autism, ADD/ADHD, PDD-NOS, mixed receptive-expressive language disorder, Down syndrome, physical disabilities, medical issues, etc.). Parents/family only, please (no therapists, students or business owners). The Zoom link will be sent out about 2 hours before the meeting.
  7. Event
    until
    It’s a night to be supported, to ask questions and share resources, and to be with other parents who get what it’s like to deal with special challenges for their kids. Parents of kids with all types of developmental differences welcome (sensory processing disorder, autism, ADD/ADHD, PDD-NOS, mixed receptive-expressive language disorder, Down syndrome, physical disabilities, medical issues, etc.). Parents/family only, please (no therapists, students or business owners). The Zoom link will be sent out about 2 hours before the meeting.
  8. Event
    until
    It’s a night to be supported, to ask questions and share resources, and to be with other parents who get what it’s like to deal with special challenges for their kids. Parents of kids with all types of developmental differences welcome (sensory processing disorder, autism, ADD/ADHD, PDD-NOS, mixed receptive-expressive language disorder, Down syndrome, physical disabilities, medical issues, etc.). Parents/family only, please (no therapists, students or business owners). The Zoom link will be sent out about 2 hours before the meeting.
  9. Event
    until
    It’s a night to be supported, to ask questions and share resources, and to be with other parents who get what it’s like to deal with special challenges for their kids. Parents of kids with all types of developmental differences welcome (sensory processing disorder, autism, ADD/ADHD, PDD-NOS, mixed receptive-expressive language disorder, Down syndrome, physical disabilities, medical issues, etc.). Parents/family only, please (no therapists, students or business owners). The Zoom link will be sent out about 2 hours before the meeting.
  10. Event
    until
    It’s a night to be supported, to ask questions and share resources, and to be with other parents who get what it’s like to deal with special challenges for their kids. Parents of kids with all types of developmental differences welcome (sensory processing disorder, autism, ADD/ADHD, PDD-NOS, mixed receptive-expressive language disorder, Down syndrome, physical disabilities, medical issues, etc.). Parents/family only, please (no therapists, students or business owners). The Zoom link will be sent out about an hour before the meeting.
  11. Article
    As the doctor held up our firstborn, the feeling of joy and overwhelming love was quickly followed by a heavy pit in our stomachs. My husband and I looked at each other and without words, we both had the same feelings and thoughts: While we were so happy, we also knew that raising a Black boy in America is a daunting task. Fast-forward two years and the words, “We recommend your child receive the diagnosis of Autism,” shattered our world. All of a sudden, we now had to raise a Black autistic boy in America. My husband and I were emotionally ill for weeks. My husband, especially, had a hard time accepting our new reality. His first reaction was to not follow through with the diagnosis. As a Black man, he had first-hand experience of the stereotypes and challenges our son would face. He knew that the world may never see him for who he is as a person; he knew he would be judged by the color of his skin and his diagnosis. He knew, because of this, people may give up on him or put him in a box and never give him a chance to show how great he really is. Ultimately, we followed through with the diagnosis because, without it, our son would not get the intervention he needed. We knew that without OT, speech, or ABA therapy our son’s development could stagnate and, as an adult, this would be more harmful. It’s an important reminder: Do not let fear stop you from making the hard — yet right — decision for your child. [Related: How to be an anti-racist parent] “The Talk” Every Black person in America knows what “the talk” is. It is not about sex. “The talk” has been something parents in the Black community have been doing for years. During “the talk,” we learn about our history; we learn some people still see us as inferior, some people hate us, and some people may use their power and position to hinder us from achieving our goals. We learn that the educational, financial, and housing systems in this country were set up to keep us out of the American dream. We learn that some community helpers, like police, overreach their power and sometimes hurt or kill us. So, we wondered: should we have “the talk” with our son? He has been taught to see the police as helpers, who will be kind to him if he gets lost or is in danger. The reality is, some police officers may see the color of his skin first and view him as a threat. The reality is, as our son gets older his meltdowns will probably be misunderstood. My husband and I decided to have “the talk” in phases. We took into account our son’s developmental understanding of social dynamics. We have talked about slavery, we have talked about the Civil Rights movement, and we have talked about racism. We have chosen to leave out certain details because ultimately it may be more confusing and traumatizing. We still need him to seek out the help of a police officer if he is ever lost or in danger, so we decided to be proactive and not reactive. At age 10, we took our son to our local CAPS meetings and introduced him to some of the officers present. We have also taken him down to the local precinct and introduced him to officers, as well. Our hope is that proactively communicating his diagnosis will help just in case, God forbid, our son ever has an encounter with police. [Related: Chicago venues that cater to kids with special needs] Angry Black Parent vs. Advocating Parent One of the nuances of raising Black children in America is that as parents, we have to fight stereotypes as well. Every single ER visit, we have been met with the questions, “Does Dad live in the home?” and “Do you have the same last name?” Our answer, which is “yes” to both, has always been met with surprise and sometimes shock. I even had a nurse say out loud, “Wow, that’s a first!” We have also shocked hospital staff with our organized documentation of our son’s medical history, our knowledge of his rights as a patient, and his benefits under his insurance plans. This is very important; we never want to be in a position in which racial stereotypes prevent our son from receiving the best healthcare. Make sure you are always prepared; do your due diligence. In addition, our approach when advocating for our son has always been from a place of knowledge. Our goal is that we, as parents, can avoid being racially stereotyped as the angry Black parents and change the narrative to “strong parent advocates.” My husband and I use this approach in other aspects of our son’s life as well. Raising children is hard; raising a Black autistic boy in America is even harder. My husband and I do not have all the answers, and we take each situation as it comes. Yes, we get angry and scared. Yes, it sometimes feels overwhelming. Yes, we have shed many tears. However, no matter how disheartening, exhausting, and stressful the journey may be, we never lose hope.
  12. Whether you are just starting to consider an IEP for your child or your child has had one for a few years, it is important to understand the terms, organize your documents and know how to advocate for your child. NPN has teamed up with autism expert and special education advocate Mo Buti to educate parents on the ins and outs of the IEP process.
  13. Whether you are just starting to consider an IEP for your child or your child has had one for a few years, it is important to understand the terms, organize your documents, and know how to advocate for your child. NPN has teamed up with autism expert and special education advocate Mo Buti, to educate parents on the ins and outs of the IEP process. Your child has been evaluated and found eligible for special education services. Now, you will be attending your first Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting. During this webinar, autism and special education advocate Mo Buti discusses what to expect during an IEP meeting, how to prepare for the meeting and key points in the IEP document.
  14. Whether you are just starting to consider an IEP for your child or your child has had one for a few years, it is important to understand the terms, organize your documents, and know how to advocate for your child. NPN has teamed up with autism expert and special education advocate Mo Buti, to educate parents on the ins and outs of the IEP process. This 20-minute webinar will help parents of children with and without an Individualized Education Program (IEP) navigate what to do with reports obtained outside of school. Whether you have an assessment, a tutor's progress report, a doctor's report, or other forms of documentation, this webinar will inform you how to use this information to assist the school in determining appropriate services for your child. You will learn tools you can use right away including: Types of reports that can be used to obtain an IEP or used for appropriate modifications to an existing IEP Sample emails to school administrators The time frame schools legally have to respond to your requests How to be an advocate for your child with special needs
  15. Whether you are just starting to consider an IEP for your child or your child has had one for a few years, it is important to understand the terms, organize your documents, and know how to advocate for your child. NPN has teamed up with autism expert and special education advocate Mo Buti, to educate parents on the ins and outs of the IEP process. If your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and you have found yourself wondering if the IEP actually meets your child's needs, then this webinar is for you! Special education advocate Mo Buti joins us for the second installment of NPN's IEP series with My IEP: Red Flags. You will learn about some possible "red flags," learn how to identify them and then what to do to resolve these concerns in a proactive way. This webinar will help you address what to do when there is: No homework Feedback on benchmarks Lack of communication And, much more!
  16. As a parent, you want to ensure that your child receives every opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential. Preschool can play a significant role in achieving these goals. For children who may not fit into a standard preschool setting because of a disorder, diagnosis, or disability, a therapeutic preschool program can be life-changing. If your child would benefit from a therapeutic preschool, it is critical that you do your research. In my own experience, I found the following factors incredibly important. [Related: How to advocate for your special-needs child in CPS] Your goals as a parent A therapeutic preschool can provide support by meeting critical developmental milestones in areas such as speech and language, social skills, feeding, expanded gross and fine motor skills, and more. It is important that the program meets the unique goals you have in mind for your child. Flexibility of the program The more flexible a program is, the more it will meet your child’s needs. Does the program require you to make a year commitment or allow month-to-month? Does it offer both morning and afternoon sessions? Are you able to start at two days a week and increase if it is going well? Rigid rules and policies may not fit your child’s specific needs. Well-educated and experienced staff Top therapeutic programs tend to employ individuals with a bachelor’s or master’s degree. This additional education will manifest itself in better outcomes for your child. A multidisciplinary team This means a team of professionals with expertise in speech-language pathology, occupational therapy, feeding therapy, ABA therapy, and more. This diverse team allows children to receive the most well-rounded and comprehensive care and allows a program to treat the whole child. Student-to-teacher ratio A program with a low student-to-teacher ratio can provide more personalized care. A standard preschool program may have 8 to 10 children for just one teacher, while a good therapeutic program may have just 3 or 4 students per teacher. [Related: IEP 101 (video)] Reviews and results In my time as a speech-language pathologist, I have had a front-row seat in observing therapeutic services for children with a wide range of developmental delays. I have discovered that the gains children make vary greatly from program to program. The progress your child makes in a therapeutic program is a direct result of the effectiveness of the clinicians. Look for online reviews and references from satisfied parents so you know that your child is receiving the best care possible. Open-door policy The best therapeutic programs want parents involved in their child’s progress. An open-door policy that allows parents to drop in to observe their child’s day (such as through a two-way mirror) is the hallmark of a quality program. The results of a therapeutic preschool program can be truly transformative for your child. Ask questions. Ask around. Look online for reviews. Doing your research will pay off, as you will find the right program to become your “partner” in helping your child reach their full potential.
  17. This 45-minute webinar offers information and resources about the special education process once your child enters school. Parents will learn special needs laws, terms and acronyms, timelines and strategies for advocating for your child. Watch the above video. Whether your child is in Head Start, Pre-K or Kindergarten, you'll benefit from this overview of the processes and procedures necessary for your child’s education. Topics include parent rights and responsibilities, the special education process, special education options, and where to find resources and support.
  18. For most parents, back-to-school time means buying the kids a new backpack and shoes, and maybe taking them for a haircut. For parents of kids with special needs, however, going back-to-school can be much more stressful for both them and their children than just a shopping trip to the mall. Children who are not successful in school, either for emotional/behavioral or academic reasons, often feel happier and calmer over the summer break when they are not dealing with the demands of school. If this is your family’s situation, there are several things you can do to try to minimize the stress of back-to-school for you and your child. Review your child’s IEP Whether the IEP was drafted six months ago or just prior to summer break, it is helpful to refamiliarize yourself with the services and accommodations your child will be receiving in the upcoming school year. Check to make sure that the IEP still reflects your child’s needs or whether some aspects need to be modified due to changes over the past few months. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), an IEP meeting to review the IEP can be requested at any time during the school year. You do not need to wait until annual review time. Organize your child’s school records If you child has been in special education for more than a few years, chances are you have a lot of paperwork accumulated from the school and outside providers. Summer break is a great time to review your documentation and develop an organizational system. I use an accordian file for my own child, but many of my clients prefer a three-ring binder. Not unlike tax documents, we recommend that you maintain your child’s special education documents during the length of time they are in school. While a parent has a right to request a copy of their child’s educational records at any time under the Illinois School Student Records Act (ISSRA), it is still a good idea to maintain your own copy for comparison and easy access. Request a back-to-school IEP for the beginning of the year For both my own daughter and many of my clients, I frequently request that an IEP meeting be scheduled approximately 3-5 weeks into the school year to ensure that the services are being implemented smoothly and to review and tweak the IEP. For children undergoing a significant transition (e.g., to a new school or new placement), I would not hesitate to request a meeting to review that transition. Ideally, we recommend that this type of back-to-school meeting be included as a necessary accommodation in your child’s IEP, especially when experiencing a significant transition, but if that is not the case you can also simply contact your special education administrator and request it at the start of the school year. Schedule a special back-to-school meet-and-greet/tour for your child prior to the first day of school Many children with special needs need prior exposure to new experiences to help ease their anxiety. If this sounds like your child, we recommend reaching out the school to request a special meeting and/or tour with your child’s LBS and/or classroom teacher. This is especially important if s/he is undergoing a significant transition. However, for many kids, it is necessary even if they are just moving up a grade into a new classroom. Most Illinois school districts implement several days of institute training for school staff prior to the first day of school and it is simple for them to schedule time for your child to visit. As with the back-to school IEP meeting, it is recommended that you include this special meeting/tour in your child’s IEP accommodations in their IEP every year.
  19. As special education attorneys, we frequently receive calls from parents who want to know whether their children with special needs are entitled to any services or accommodations at private schools. Unlike students in public schools, students with disabilities in private schools are generally not entitled to an IEP under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), however, there are a few options available that parents may want to explore. Individual Service Plans: The IDEA does establish a “proportionate share” arrangement between school districts and private schools. This means that public school districts must utilize a certain share of their funding for children attending private schools within the district’s boundaries. Through the proportionate share arrangement, private schools and the local districts conduct annual meetings and discussions regarding what types of special education and/or related services they will provide. The local school district will then draft an “individual service plan” or “ISP” for the child. An ISP is less detailed than an IEP, but will document the types of service provided, as well as the location and frequency of the service. To find out what type of service a school district will be providing to a private school student, a parent should contact the district administrative office of the school district in which the private school is located. If your child is not yet eligible for special education, the district in which the private school is located is also responsible for conducting the initial case study evaluation for potential eligibility. Part-Time Attendance: In Illinois, we have a unique section of our School Code, 105 ILCS 5/14-6.01, which allows students with disabilities in private schools to also enroll part-time in their local school district of residence to receive special education services. A request for part-time attendance must be submitted by a parent to the school district where the child resides. If a parent chooses part-time attendance, the resident district of the student is responsible for all evaluations and IEP services. However, the actual IEP services depend on the amount of time the student attends the public school and is generally determined by the public school, in conjunction with the IEP team. For example, if the child needs a specialized reading class for a learning disability, the public school has the discretion to determine what class the child will attend. The public school is not required to create special classes or services to accommodate the part-time attendance schedule. Section 504/ADA Accommodations/Services: Children with disabilities in private schools are entitled to receive reasonable accommodations/ modifications through Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, if the school receives federal funding, and under the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act (ADA) even if the school receives no federal funding. While many private schools may also offer special services for children with disabilities, to attract new families and keep families together, they are not required to provide actual services under Section 504 or the ADA, just accommodations/modifications. Some private schools will create an “accommodations plan” for the child to document the accommodations, however they are not required to do so. Lara Cleary and Jennifer Hansen are partners with the law firm of Hansen & Cleary, LLC, a boutique law practice focusing on the representation of children and families, individuals with disabilities, medical and mental health practitioners, private schools, and other non-profit agencies in Chicagoland and throughout Illinois.
  20. Is your whole family about to lose their minds to cabin fever? Don’t let it get you down! There is so much free or cheap indoor and outdoor fun to be had. Here are some activities you and your special-needs kiddo can enjoy. Around town activities Free museum days Adler Planetarium, Chicago Children’s Museum, dancing with the kiddos at the Chicago Cultural Center, sensory Saturday at the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium and the Chicago History Museum. Conservatory exploration Explore beautiful plant life at the Lincoln Park Conservatory and the Garfield Park Conservatory. It’s always free and it feels like you are visiting the tropics! Live theater See a play that will accommodate those who have sensory issues at Lifeline Theatre and Chicago Children’s Theatre. Music Get out and do some serious dancing with your kiddos! Beat Kitchen has a whole kids' concert series! Indoor water parks Splash Landings Aquatic Center in Glenview, The Water Works in Schaumburg and Pelican Harbor Aquatic Park in Bolingbrook Trampoline park Sky High Sports offers discounted open play every Tuesday just for your special-needs kiddos! Obstacle and agility courses For those kiddos who crave climbing and hanging, check out Ultimate Ninjas for open-play weekends. Outreach play Misericordia offers a great play program that gives you a chance to meet and mingle with other parents while volunteers play with your child. Free play KEEN Chicago: Kids Enjoy Exercise Now! Chicago Park District's special rec programs CPD has a lot of available programs for our kiddos. You do have to sign up early as spaces fill very quickly. Sledding and skating Try sledding at one of the Chicago Park District parks. Our favorite hills are Oz Park, Horner Park, Gompers Park and Warren Park. Get skating in at Maggie Daley ice skating ribbon, Warren Park and Wrigley Field. Indoor home activities Sensory bins Create one or a few sensory bins using Insta-Snow, water beads, dried beans, shaving cream or cotton balls to hide and search for treasures. Dress up! Put those old costumes to good use and get dressed up for some pretend play. Have a very posh tea party, get rescued by your favorite little superhero or have your kiddo cure all of his or her stuffed animals boo-boos! Dance party Turn on that music and work out some serious energy! We have different genres programmed on Pandora, like Disney, Kidz Bop, Laurie Berkner, Fresh Beat Band and School House Rock, to name a few! Build a blanket fort and camp inside Make some s’mores Rice Krispies treats with the kiddos and heat up some hot chocolate! Family game day Play Twister, Charades, Old Maid, Hungry Hungry Hippos or whatever you have on hand to enjoy together! Art day Hold a painting party and drink apple cider from fancy glasses. Try re-creating a famous artist’s piece using paint, construction paper, beans, yarn or pasta! Winter can be lots of fun if you get a little creative! Enjoy!
  21. After working as a special education teacher for a few years, I attended law school with the sole intention of becoming a special education attorney who represented parents of children with special needs. In 1998—right out of law school—I was lucky enough to get a job doing just that. For years, I attended hundreds of IEP meetings involving all types of special education issues. However, about five years ago, my perspective and practice were forever impacted when my own child was diagnosed with a disability. I now better understand the emotions, including the fear, uncertainty and anguish, that can come when your child has special needs. Following my child’s last IEP meeting, held at a time when she was really struggling in school, I decided to write down my best advocacy tips to share with anyone who asked. I hope that my varied experiences at IEP meetings can help others navigate the special education world for their own children: Use private providers. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) allows parents to bring private providers to IEP meetings to share their expertise about the child. These individuals, such as an OT, SLP or therapist, can provide the IEP team with great information for the creation of IEP goals, accommodations, modifications and when discussing placement options. The IDEA also allows parents to obtain private evaluations and requires school districts to consider the information at an IEP meeting. If you are looking for an evaluator, find one that has experience with school districts and will accompany you to an IEP meeting. An evaluator who is reluctant to attend an IEP meeting is not one that you want to spend your money on. Educate yourself. Learn your rights prior to attending IEP meetings with district personnel. Know the law, the procedures, and the special education terminology (there are a lot of acronyms). The Illinois State Board of Education’s website is a good place to start as it contains hundreds of informational memorandums. You can also access both the federal and State special education laws and administrative rules on that site. In my experience, district personnel respond more positively to parents they perceive as informed, interested and involved. Begin preparing early. Most school districts are willing to provide parents with draft copies of evaluations and goals in advance of an IEP meeting. Document your request in writing (more advice: always document everything in writing) and send the letter or e-mail a few weeks in advance of the meeting. I usually ask for the paperwork to be provided to me for a client at least five days in advance of the meeting. You can also develop your own agenda and issues for the meeting. Make copies for each member of the team. Stay focused. The most common mistake we see from parents who have reached an impasse with a school district is that they try to accomplish too many things at one time. Recently, a friend who also happens to be a very successful litigation attorney asked me to review a seven-page letter to the district following her daughter’s IEP meeting. I edited the letter to 1.5 pages! Too much detail waters down your main issues. I’d have been surprised if district personnel could even get through half of the original seven pages. Parents need to determine what they really want. Other issues can be brought up later; you don’t have to worry about waiving them. Under the IDEA, an IEP meeting can be requested at any time. Do not be intimidated. The district IEP teams may, at times, seem voluminous and have a lot of varied or difficult opinions about your child. But who knows the child best? YOU! Parents should listen to the educational team and consider their recommendations, but should not be afraid to disagree. With that said, always be as kind and cooperative as possible. I have seen more parents get what they want with kindness and respect than by being rude and aggressive. Finally, if you are nervous, bring a support person to the IEP (spouse, other family member, friend) and ask them to take good notes. Lara Cleary is a partner with the law firm of Hansen & Cleary, LLC, a boutique law practice focusing on the representation of children and families, individuals with disabilities, medical and mental health practitioners, private schools, and other non-profit agencies in Chicagoland and throughout Illinois.
  22. With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, our special kiddos can get lost in the "sensory-overload shuffle" and may not feel very festive. Here are a couple of suggestions to keep parents and kids full of the holiday spirit. A sensory-friendly version of A Christmas Carol at the Goodman Theatre offers lower sound levels, the house lights left on and the opportunity for kids to walk around as much as they please. The theatre is also providing a designated area to retreat for those that need some quiet time. Dec. 30 at 2pm. Are the holidays just too much overall? Step back and just take in a movie with your kiddo to relax without all the holiday pressure. Check out AMC's Sensory Friendly Movies and Studio Movie Grill's Sensory Friendly Movies. Or take them to a museum where they can let off some steam and not be bombarded with the holiday hustle. Try The Children's Museum, Kohl Children’s Museum or Dupage Children’s Museum, all of which have sensory-friendly days. Create a holiday tradition. My daughter, Lia, loves the twinkling lights of the holiday displays so we pick one night put on her coziest holiday jammies and pack snacks and a thermos of hot cocoa and go for a car ride to see Sauganash's holiday lights. It’s become such a wonderful tradition in our family! For those kiddos who thrive on the excitement, like mine does, go all out and do Winter Wonderfest at Navy Pier (tons of rides and ice-skating rink) or the CTA Holiday Train or Bus! Lights, crowds and fun for all! Yes, it's complete sensory overload, but some kids really love this and then maybe you can get a great night’s sleep out of the routinely sleepless child. Check Groupon and Living Social for special offers. For both Winter Wonderfest and the CTA, mention to the employees that your kiddo is special needs so you do not have to wait in those long lines. It works—we’ve done this every year. Shopping is not always easy for our kiddos. Try to do the bulk of your shopping while they are in school, on a play dates or at family member's home. Don’t be shy to ask your family or friends for help. Like they say, it does take a village! Call in those favors now. You are going to need all the time you can get! Locally owned The Sensory Kids Store is a wonderful place to get your kiddos something extra-special online! Try to create an opportunity to get some much-needed alone time for you and your significant other. Check out Free Parents' Night Out offered by CST Academy. You can have three hours all to yourself! Be sure to register in advance. Don’t forget about yourself. All the running around making sure everyone is happy can kill anyone’s spirit. You need to make sure that you are taking care of yourself as well. Get a small treat for yourself every time you get something accomplished from your list. Get a mani/pedi, get a latte and sit down somewhere to read an article from your favorite gossip magazine, or take a few minutes to enjoy some of the beautiful holiday decorations around you. You get the idea. Breathe! And finally, the holidays are about being together and cherishing all we have. Remember to try to give back however you can by volunteering or donating to a worthy cause. Misericordia, KEEN, Easter Seals and Ronald McDonald House are just a few of the many wonderful organizations that help our special family members. There is always a need for volunteers at most organizations that give us all so much! Check out the volunteer opportunities near you. No matter how you celebrate this holiday season, I hope you all are able to enjoy your loved ones to the fullest!
  23. As parents to a wonderful, energetic special needs 8-year-old, my husband and I are constantly thinking of ways to enjoy our chaotic lives as much as possible. And because our lives are anything but "normal," it’s not always easy to enjoy all the typical fun things like dining out, going to live theatre, visiting a museum or taking a vacation. We are always fearful that Lia will act out because of boredom, frustration or sensory overload. If she gets upset, it is money wasted because you leave so other paying patrons can actually enjoy their experiences. But the good news is Chicago has come a long way in making life more enjoyable for those with special needs! The entertainment industry is finally listening and becoming more inclusive. Here are our favorite Chicago-area spots that are especially accommodating to kids with special needs. Restaurants: There are also some restaurants that offer a special-needs night courtesy of Autism Eats, a non-profit that partners with local restaurants to offer special-needs nights featuring buffet or family-style service and adjusted music and lighting. Hotels: Chicago Marriott Northwest. Recently we were given a certificate for a one-night stay at this hotel, but Lia has terrible sleep issues and falls out of a regular bed. We contacted the hotel and they said they would do what they could to help. We arrived and someone was waiting for us to make sure the mattress they put on the floor with rails and pillows would work out. We had the best time even when she had a tantrum in the hotel restaurant. The manager came over to us to assure all was ok. I can’t stress enough how amazing this was for us! Theaters: Lifeline Theatre Sensory Friendly Show, Blue Man Group. All lower the sound, turn up lights and let your kiddo run around and provide places to retreat for those that need some quiet. Some also offer headphones, fidgets, social narratives and parent guides to support your kiddo. Goodman Theatre offers a sensory-friendly version of A Christmas Carol! Movies: AMC Sensory Friendly Movies are on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month and Studio Movie Grill Sensory Friendly Movies are monthly. Theatre lights are turned up, sound is lowered and there are no previews! Places to play: The Playground for Everyone: Amazing park in Elmhurst created for kids of all abilities. Lia can do a mini zip line safely! Siegel’s Cottonwood Farm Special Needs Weekends: The pre-registration date has passed to gain free admission the Oct. 28-29 special-needs weekend at this pumpkin farm, but all special needs families are still welcome to attend! In addition to pumpkin picking, there's zip lines, pony rides, corn maze, train rides and more. The Field Museum Sensory Saturdays: The Crown Family PlayLab opens one hour early (9-10am) for special-needs families, then you can explore the rest of the museum for free all day. Must pre-register. Chicago Children's Museum Play for All days: On the second Saturday of every month, the museum opens an hour early for families and children with disabilities. The first 250 to register gets free admission. Kohl Children’s Museum's Everyone at Play days: Monthly Sundays from 9:30-11:30am are reserved for special-needs families. DuPage Children’s Museum's Family Night Out and Third Thursdays: See website for details. Parents, get out there and have some fun with your kiddos! We all deserve it!
  24. The transition from summer to the new school year can be difficult for any child. It definitely is for my 8-year-old special-needs child, Lia, so my husband and I have tried a lot of techniques and have found some things that work. We’ve also come across some great ideas from other parents. Keep in mind that not all of these suggestions or ideas will work for you, but it’s worth a try for kiddos that struggle getting back into the school routine every year. Keep it low-key – If you are planning to take some time off before school starts, do some low-key activities rather than high energy, wild vacations. This could ease the child’s transition. -Physicals and immunizations – Doctors’ offices get very busy at this time of the year, so schedule visits early. -Supplies and school clothes – Don’t wait until the last minute to shop! Having spent many years in retail I know firsthand that back to school shopping is one of the busiest and most profitable for retailers. There are some great sales right now! Having said that Lia HATES shopping! I suggest having a well thought out list handy with all your back-to-school needs. When you are on your way to work, on your lunch hour or on your way to the gym, stop quickly to pick up those needed items right then and there! -Picture schedules – Create a picture schedule of daily routines. This will let your kid know what to expect throughout the day. Include dressing, grooming, eating, bus rides, school, teacher and aide pictures. If you have therapy after school or you have to pick up your kiddo early, make sure you include this in the picture schedule as well. -Dressing routine – Label five stacking bins Monday through Friday with an outfit for each day. Let your child pick the outfits if able. This will give her a sense of involvement and ownership. -Bed time – Ease your kiddos into their school bedtime schedules. It’s not easy! Limit screen time at least an hour before retiring for the evening. Take long baths to relax (Epsom salts, lavender oils, favorite tub toys, etc.). If your kids have been going to bed late all summer then start their bedtime transition about a week before school starts by moving up their bedtime routine anywhere from 10 to 15 mins earlier each night and wake them 10 to 15 mins earlier each morning. -School bus - Make sure you know the bus company's name, phone, route number and pick-up time! Once you get the confirmation card in the mail call the bus company to confirm this information a couple of days before school starts. Times may change and you may not be updated. This has been known to happen! -Teacher and aides - Get to know the staff in your child’s class as well as the office. Make sure you have the teacher's email address and phone number. Be sure to let them know what type of summer you have had and the current situation with transition, tantrums, therapies, or anything you are currently working on (life skills, behavior modifications, etc.). Lastly, I always suggest getting involved in the school. Join the LSC or “friends of….” committee to get to know other parents/teachers and principals. You want to get to know as many people as possible in case you come across any concerns or issues. This also creates a network of support for you child. Remember to maintain a positive attitude about summer ending and school beginning. Let your child know the new school year will lead to seeing old friends and hopefully making new ones. Here’s to a wonderful and successful school year!
  25. I have an 8 ½-year-old little girl, Lia (pictured, above), who has been diagnosed with severe intellectual disabilities, sensory processing disorder, autism and hypotonia, and is non-verbal. I do not, nor will I ever, claim to be the resident expert in any given field except when it comes to knowing my own kiddo. With that said, I know how frustrated and bored my little darling is going to be this first week of summer vacation. My husband and I had to figure out how to keep her busy, entertained and regulated for 76 days! Yikes! Lia attends a Chicago Public School. Unfortunately, she, along with many other children with developmental differences, does not qualify for ESY (Extended School Year, a.k.a. summer school). To add insult to injury, we were too late to get her signed up for any affordable summer camps. We promised ourselves we will be more on our game next year! Our first thought was OMG we are NEVER, EVER going to survive this summer. She is already showing signs of dysregulation and frustration. Because we are not direct descendants of the Rockefellers, we had to begin researching and planning. Alas, there is some hope, not for all 76 days but we may just survive this summer yet! My husband and I have decided to sign her up for as many activities as possible that are not only affordable but that would be accepting of kiddos like Lia. We started building a list of feasible activities. We concentrated on free activities because let’s face it, why pay a lot of money for something if there is a possibility your child will have a difficult time and not stay for the activity? We also included anything we would need to pay for but felt was well worth the money. Here's our list. What's on yours? Free summer activities: The beach - We’ve been going to Foster Beach for years but recently started exploring others like Loyola Park and 31st Street Beach. Chicago Park District pools - We visit many free pools and sprinkler parks in the area. We especially like River Park pool because when the staff is on a safety check break, we play in the attached sprinkler pad while waiting for the pool to re-open. This is key! We also like Chase Park, Hamlin Park and Gompers Park. Chicago parks - Maggie Daley is our favorite! There are also a number of accessible parks for kiddos with physical challenges. Kids Bowl Free - Register on this site and your kids can bowl two free games every day throughout the summer at Waveland Bowl or Lawn Lanes. Great for those not-so-great weather days! Kohl Children's Museum (Everyone at Play) - On select Sundays, the museum is open early (and is free!) for families with children with special needs. Free museum days – Most Chicago museums offer free days, even in the summer. Lia loves the Museum of Science and Industry the most! KEEN - Kids Enjoy Excercise Now - This non-profit provides free sports and recreation programs for young people with disabilities. In July, all KEEN families are invited to Wisconsin for a free, fun-filled day of water-skiing, swimming and more! Worthwhile memberships and programs: The Morton Arboretum - The garden has a great kids' area with some membership-included fun events throughout the year. The membership is reciprocal and offers admission into other garden venues around Chicagoland. Whealan Pool – This Forest Preserve pool only costs $7 for adults and $5 for kids (3 and under are free). A membership includes three different Forest Preserve pools. Brookfield Zoo – The special exhibit "Dinos and Dragons" features animatronic dinosaurs and live reptiles—even a komodo dragon. You can also see the new wolf pups. So darn cute! M*NSAR (Maine-Niles Association of Special Recreation) – M*NSAR has many wonderful programs for our kids. We are taking swimming once a week throughout the summer. AMC theaters – This movie theater chain offers sensory-friendly films (lights are up, sound is down, kids can run around and play in the aisles) on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month. Finally, we will fill in the gap with extra therapies, potty training class, playgroups, special needs carnivals, festivals, holidays and birthdays. Our calendar is filling up quickly but we are still not there. That’s ok—we are allowed some down time. I hope this helps you fill in some free time this summer. Now go enjoy your wonderfully special kids!

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