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My Vision

Once a child is ‘labeled’ as having a disability, many parents think that is the end of the road and/or all the dreams that they have for their child are gone. But it does not have to be that way. Beyond Special Education encourages parents that there is life beyond the special education label. Whether you are a new special needs parent or a seasoned one or a homeschooling parent or your kids attend public/private school, this site is for you to learn about advocating for your child and things you can do to encourage early development. Remember, knowledge is power, but most importantly it is a piece of mind.

Nicole Bovell

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From the Blog

ESA Dogs and Down Syndome
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ESA Dogs Can Help Children with Down Syndrome

Today’s guest post is brought to us by Brad from Therapy Pet.

Down syndrome is set of mental and physical traits, which result from a gene problem caused prior to birth. Children with Down syndrome have a certain degree of intellectual disability, which will vary from one person to another but is usually mild to moderate. Children with Down syndrome will face difficulties in socializing with their family and peers, and will have general trouble making friends. However, carefully chosen emotional support dogs can meet their personality needs and offer the following benefits:

Physical Improvements

Activities like going outdoors to walk the ESA dog can help your child get plenty of fresh air, and pastime, such as playing fetch, can help strengthen muscles and also stimulates the brain.

Relaxing Qualities

A soft and gentle ESA dog can bring a calm and soothing feeling to us all. Research shows that physical contact can flood the body with feel-good chemicals. Like adults, children also feel stressed, especially at school and among the peers. Merely stroking the dog or snuggling up against it will help release stress and make the child feel happy.

Educational Tool

Children with Down syndrome may particularly have difficult when it comes to academics and learning in the classroom. However, a legally recognized therapy dog can be a massive help to children when it comes to their schoolwork. Even hesitant readers are more than happy to read to their pets if they think they are listening. Children will be more prepared to work hard and then show their progress to their furry audience as it brings them happiness.

Teaches Responsibility

Owning a dog is a big responsibility on its own, and this teaches children plenty about the needs of their animal friends. Following a routine will help the child understand its importance and is more likely to incorporate it in his/her daily life.

Encourages Empathy

ESA dogs can be a great way to teach children the importance of showing love and caring for those below them. It also teaches manners and the fact that they don’t allow kids to tug tails or pull out fur.

Boosts Confidence

As children, including those with Down syndrome, grow with their pets, they develop a strong bond sense of responsibility towards them, which in turn increases their confidence. Emotional support dogs offer encouragement and support in a number of ways, for instance, a water-loving dog will tempt reluctant swimmers to dive in the water, pushing them to face their fears and learn a new skill that they will be proud of and confident about later.

Helps with Communication

Dogs have a special way of understanding children even in absence of verbal communication. They also communicate about their needs for walks, food, sleep, to be left alone, or to be pet softly and children with Down syndrome too will enjoy having such unspoken conversations with their dogs. Dogs can also be used to assist children in opening up about their grievances and problems and an increasing number of therapists are recommending them and other pets as emotional support animals.

Teaches Life Skills

Having a dog as an emotional support animal can help children with Down Syndrome by teaching them important life lessons, such as feeding the pet in a timely manner, brushing its coat, cleaning up poop and putting down water.

Offers Companionship

Children with Down syndrome may be hesitant to interact with people, but they will certainly have a strong bond with their dog that will be based purely on love. Animals don’t judge nor complain, are great listeners and love spending hours with their owners and making them feel loved.

Selecting a Summer Camp For Your Special Needs Child
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Selecting a Summer Camp for Your Special Needs Child

Selecting a summer camp for your special needs can be quite overwhelming. From the different types of camps to the prices to whether your special needs child will get the right the experience, it is important that you take time to select the right camp. 

With summer right around the corner, now is the time to pick the right camp. Since some camps are already starting enrollment and will soon be filled to capacity, waiting to the last minute is not an option.

To guide you in the right direction, here are a few questions that you should ask when selecting a summer camp…

Questions To Ask When Selecting a Summer Camp

– What do want your child to get from a camp experience?

– Is your child ready for a day camp or a sleepaway camp?

– How does staff address behavioral problems?

– How does camp staff respond to a child’s fear of or resistance to a new or intense activity (for example: swimming, horseback riding, boating)?

– What are the staff members’ qualifications and how are they supervised?

– What is a typical day like? What are the activities? Do campers choose their activities?

– Is one-to-one assistance or instruction provided for some activities?

– What is the range of abilities and disabilities of the campers?

– Would you like your child to be included with campers without disabilities for all or part of the day?

– How does the program meet individual campers’ needs?

– How will your child get to camp? Is transportation provided?

– What type of access do parents or caregivers have once their child is at camp? Is there a visitors’ day? Can a visit be arranged on non-visitors’ days? Are phone calls, computers, cell phones, or email access allowed?

– How does the camp share campers’ progress with parents, caregivers, and/or schools after the camp season?

– What is the procedure for medication administration? Medical emergencies?

Now what?

Keep in mind that finding a summer camp that matches your child’s interests AND is experienced with your child’s disability is the most important. Other items should become secondary. Also, seek out discounts and deals as well as non profits and community colleges camp options.  

Since there are an abundance of summer camp options out there and a lot of details to get through, start early!

What summer camp options are you looking for?

If your child will be attending ESY instead of summer camp, click here

Creating an Effective IEP and Team
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Creating an Effective IEP and Team

Once a child qualifies for special education services, many parents wonder what’s next. At this point, the two most important things to think about are your child’s IEP and the IEP team. Creating an effective IEP and team is essential to the special education process. Many parents have no idea where to start, how to go about getting an IEP or what an IEP even is.

This is why as soon as you sign consent for your child to be evaluated, you need to start researching the special education process and the ins and outs of creating an effective IEP.

Here are 3 more tips to know…

Tip #1: Do Your Research

I always say that you should know the terms, laws and regulations that pertain to your child. This does not mean that you need to be an expert. There is so much to learn about special education and it can come become quite confusing and overwhelming at first. Take the process slowly and look up key terms, read over your parental rights, understand FAPE and IDEA, the components of an IEP and know the 13 categories of special education. The goal here is to have a basic foundation. Remember, you can always ask questions if you need to.

Tip #2: Prepare For Your First IEP Meeting

Once you sign consent for evaluation, the school district has 60 days (this is in most states) to complete the evaluation, write the report and meet with you to discuss the results and the possible development of an IEP. Use this time to prepare for the meeting. You should read over the IEP Meeting Checklist and create an IEP Binder. You will be receiving a lot of documents, so you want to make sure you are organized. In addition, bring with you a list of any questions and concerns that you may have. Use this time to really think about the challenges that your child is having and how this is effecting their home and/or school environment.

Tip #3: Know Who Is On the IEP Team 

After the evaluation is complete, you will meet with the IEP team to discuss the evaluation and possible development an IEP for your child (if they qualify for special education services). At this point, the IEP team will consist of the school psychologist or evaluator (whoever conducted the evaluation), speech and language pathologist (if an evaluation was conducted), other related service professionals such as an occupational therapist or physical therapist (if an evaluation was conducted), special education teacher or case manager, general education teacher (if your child is school age) and an other special education professional. When you sit down at the table with these individuals, make sure you get their names and their roles in the IEP team. It is always good to form a good rapport with these individuals from the beginning because this will generally be your IEP team in the future.

As stated before, this information can be overwhelming and this is why I created a simplified Parent’s IEP Guide to help you with the process. The guide goes through all the information that you need to know before your IEP meeting.

Parent's IEP Guide

If you have any questions and/or are in need of Advocacy Services or an IEP Consultation, please do not hesitate to contact me.