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The Big Island of Hawaii – a Photo Essay

The Big Island of Hawaii is known for volcanos, lush land of the east bordering the desert of the western side. Small towns and villages with coffee that is AMAZING! But, to really enjoy this island one must either experience it in person or take a view through the lens of another.

Below you will find a few different groupings of photos and a video. The first is a slideshow of the Kona area, including the coffee farms and “shacks” that make it extra special.

Next you will see a carousel from the Volcano National Park- yes there are ACTIVE volcanos on the Big Island.

Historical sites are throughout the island, but many are in the upper west and north quadrant. Don’t miss them. Enjoy this carousel feature, too.

Charming is how I would describe Hilo! Small town vibe with excellent beaches, shops, and restaurants. Don’t miss this part of the island or the photos in the last carousel.

The Rainbow Falls are highlighted in a serene video below. All photos and video are property of moi- Louise Sattler and not for duplication or “snatching”. Thanks!

KONA, The Big Island’s home to tourists and coffee!

THE BIG ISLAND – VOLCANO TIME!


Historic Sites (north and west shore)



The Rainbow Falls are serene and lovely – stop when visiting Hilo.

Grief? Anger? Relief? Bewilderment? Welcome to the special-education emotional roller-coaster. (Part 4 of the From Both Sides of the Table series)

Determination of Special Education Eligibility: From the School Psychologist’s perspective:

There is no band-aid big enough to cover the broken heart of parents when they find out that their child has a serious learning or developmental disorder. As a school psychologist, I would rehearse the words that needed to be delivered to the parents waiting for me – across “the table”.

I knew that “Bad” or unexpected news needs to be carefully and eloquently given versus blurted out like guesses for Jeopardy.  You owe them that much.  They trusted you with their child.  

I gave hundreds, perhaps thousands, of parents “the news”.  Usually starting my “spiel” with some glowing remarks about their child – “Such a great worker”, “Really motivated and tried so hard”, or “Fabulous ability to stay on task”. Then came the description of what transpired over hours of one-on-one evaluations, observations, interviews, and discussions with staff.   Finally, arrives the moment that many await – the results.

“As you know “your child” and I worked together for many hours over a course of several days. He was alert, responded to my requests without any problems, and seemed to enjoy most of our activities. He was very good at ___ (fill in the blank) and a joy to get to know. With that said… based on the findings from this comprehensive psychoeducational evaluation your seven-year-old child currently has the developmental level of a child younger than himself. That means that his cognitive (intellectual) ability to complete tasks combined with his academic skills, and skills for his daily living – appear also to be delayed for his age and grade. (This is where I pull out a chart that shows visually what I mean – such as the one below

I stop. I look the parents in the eye. And then ask if it is OK to continue with the meeting or if they have any questions about the evaluation process.

I then continue as if I am doing a “big reveal” – but without the cheering and happy faces … “I need you to know that these results allow for our team to discuss options for eligibility and possible programming within special education as I am recommending that your son meets the eligibility qualifications as a child with Intellectual Disabilities. “

This is where a few parents will ask me to repeat – EXACTLY – what I just said. They need to hear it twice as to help with the understanding. It is not uncommon for people to ask questions that seem “basic” but are very important. One parent asked a question that would seem very politically incorrect by today’s standards – “Is my son retarded?”

I respond, “Yes, that is a much older term but the definition probably is the same.  However, I need you to know that he is young and we use strategies and programs that have not been introduced to him yet.  So, please know that these results may change by the next time we re-evaluate him.  We need to keep an eye on your son’s educational programming – monthly – school year by year. We do not have a crystal ball – but I am very hopeful that consistent intervention and programming can only help him to developmentally and academically grow”  

THEN I WAIT. With this news or any other “heavy news” I wait. I need to press pause right here and now as I just dropped a potential “heart bomb” and I owe it to the parent(s) to have a moment to process it. I ask if there are any questions. And, if they need a moment to privately discuss or regroup?

By the way… This is where some psychologists fail parents. They simply drop “the news” and then move on because they are thinking of their next appointment, meeting, or even lunch. They fail because they don’t know what it is like to sit at the other side of the table and the immense need for that moment of allowing the messaging they just received to sink in.

“Are you surprised by what I just said?”, I will ask. 

Sometimes the response is “not really”.  Other times the parents go through the Kubler-Ross stages of grief at record speed with ANGER being where they stop.  “NO WAY, he is just like me and I learned just fine!”, announced one very demonstrative father to me.  (How do I respond to THAT?) 

Or the sobbing begins.  This is so hard.  I almost rather have the anger.  Sobbing means that the dreams they had for their son are now being reformulated as we sit in this too formal setting. News like this should happen on comfy chairs over tea and with boxes of tissues.  Not in a room of strangers who just altered your world in a blink. 

So, begins most parents’ initial journey into special education. 

Please keep in mind that I am using this scenario as one of my scenarios that could happened – just as an example. But, as I have mentioned in prior blogs – special education encompasses a large number of eligibility categories – from needing speech therapy to those with multiple impairments who may need intensive services. The process is almost the same with each category – meetings, reviews, possible evaluations, and/or eligibility meetings and perhaps writing of an IEP.


The Parent Perspective:

It hurts. Hearing any words of concern and describing the most precious and beloved person in my life as less than perfect – hurts so much! But, I recognize that our son needs support with his learning – his talking – his muscles – etc. He is perfect to us- but in the “eyes” of the special education process – he is another “qualifier”. This means special classes and therapies as a child under the age of 3. He will have home visits and I will need to bring him to special centers for infants and toddlers. I will meet other parents and we will share our ‘war stories”. This is helpful to some degree. To others it is not. We decide to supplement his structured learning by placing our little fella also in “regular” daycare. He doesn’t do well the first go-around. He cries too much. Seems a bit lost until recess. Doesn’t want to sit or follow-directions. He is a “handful”. But, in time – with both special and regular preschool – he “graduates” from all of the services except for speech. He can’t pronounce correctly a few sounds and speaks very fast. That seems “do-able”. But, our time in special education isn’t over – we are just “on hiatus”.


When Dreams are Altered.

Dr. Ken Moses is quoted in an article saying these wise words which helped me as a parent:

Parents attach to children through core-level dreams, fantasies, illusions, and projections into the future. Disability dashes these cherished dreams. The impairment, not the child, irreversibly spoils a parent’s fundamental. heart-felt yearning. Disability shatters the dreams, fantasies, illusions, and projections into the future that parents generate as pan of their struggle to accomplish basic life missions. Parents of impaired children grieve for the loss of dreams that are key to the meaning of their existence, to their sense of being. Recovering from such a loss depends on one’s ability to separate from the lost dream, and to generate new. more attainable, dreams.

Dr. Ken Moses, Childhood Disability: A Parent’s Struggle (read more)

I recall going to a conference when our son was young with Dr. Ken Moses as the key presenter. Gosh, it was great! But, I was emotionally drained by the first break. He started the session by having us do an exercise that brought us all to tears. We were to envision our child – before they were born. And then we were to think of our hopes for this child. What we dreamed for their future. These thoughts were to be mentally placed in “thought bubbles”. Then Dr. Moses asked us to reflect on our reality of the challenges this child has endured. Which bubbles are now burst? Which remained? He then went on to discuss how we can make new and attainable dreams with our child – and that hope is a good emotion.

Break out the tissues. This life lesson was extremely powerful.

But, it taught me a huge lesson as a parent. And a psychologist. Dreams are only dreams that sometimes can become reality – or just need adjustments. Regardless, you can DO this!


Being a parent in the digital age

I have learned as a parent and professional to be careful of what information I read and absorb on the internet. And yes, I am keenly aware that my website is chocked full of “suggested resources”. But, please note that when I offer an article or video I do with this caveat – please use your due diligence to be sure to check the content for accuracy and application to your life. With that said, here is a resource that I found helpful on this topic:

PARENT COMPANION

From Both Sides of the Table: Special Education and the Psychoeducational Process – Parent Perspective (Part 3, continued)

From Both Sides of the Table is my chronicle of what special education may look like through the lens of the School Psychologist and the parents of the child referred. I have been in both roles. So, please feel free to refer to the last few blogs if you missed them.

So we continue…

The process of psychoeducational evaluation is very overwhelming. Shorthand seems to be the norm and for many parents – this is just too much. As a parent, you may feel like you need a translator for all the terms. Then there is the time spent on the part of the parents – mostly completing forms and attending meetings. The forms seem quite personal, too.


questions answers signage
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

ASK QUESTIONS!

You also may be wondering about these questions/topics, too!...

Why do they need to know about my pregnancy on the survey I received? And any health and mental health issues with MY parents or siblings. Isn’t it enough to get information about hubby and me?

Why do they need to know about what we eat at home? If we have a consistent work history? If there are “stressors” within our home – doesn’t every family have their own share of stress?

Why am I asked to complete questionnaires that seem redundant? The speech and language evaluator is asking me the same or similar questions as the psychologist – don’t they share documents?

My child seems worried about this testing- but no one seems to give me any advice on how to prepare her for the evaluation. I would like to have some clue as to what to expect to help her feel better about “what is to come”.

How come it takes FOREVER to get the results? I am feeling anxious and would like my child to start getting help pronto! But, it appears that we are in a holding pattern for at least another MONTH or MORE!

And now I am in a meeting getting the results and it sounds like a foreign language is being spoken. The professionals are talking so fast and even though I am asked if I have questions it seems like we are too rushed to really get answers. Plus, I would like to make some clarification of what I wrote or said during a survey- can they amend the reports?

I am not sure I like the results – don’t I get a say as to what happens in, the meeting?

Will my child get better? Improve? Be “normal”? Ever have friends? Stop biting? Start talking? and the list goes on and on…


In reality, as a parent, I found the need to and did ask questions along the whole process. When there were terms or tests being offered that I didn’t know (or hubby didn’t know) we asked. I understood the reason for all the surveys and personal questions, but other parents may be interested in knowing that many times contractors are used who are from independent companies and they don’t talk. Not usually.

I also made sure that I requested a time during the day that I knew my child would be “at his best”. I also made sure that I had the reports prior to any meeting so I could review, and take notes. And, when possible I talked to the evaluators before any meetings. I didn’t like surprises when it came to the welfare and education of my child.

As for the meetings I made sure hubby and I both attended. (Suggestion: bring along another trusted adult during the formal meetings to help you recall information or take notes.)

And yes, there were times I disagreed with the conclusions. But, in lieu of due process, we decided to work WITH the team to come together to create a plan. Being on opposite sides of the table doesn’t mean you are on opposite sides with the approach. Working together – respectfully- is something I strive for as a parent and a professional.

Terms that may be useful to know:

LRE: Least Restrictive Environment

FAPE: Offer of free and appropriate publicly provided education.

Due Process: When you disagree there is a system to have your grievances heard via a third party.

IEE: Independent Educational Evaluation – requesting another “do-over” evaluation in the event that a party on the IEP team (usually the parent) does not agree with the outcome or feels something was overlooked.

Related Services: These are services that are outside the usual- such as occupational or physical therapy. Counseling also can be a related service.

ERMHS – a California term (usually) for Educationally Related Mental Health Services. Some states refer to this as a related or adjunct service. The student must have an IEP to obtain these services and go through a process.

Educational Advocate: Someone who works with the parent to explain the IEP process and also to advocate for eligibility or services for the child via the IEP or 504 process.

See WrightsLaw.com for more terminology and about Due Process, etc.


I couldn’t do this alone…

Many parents feel very isolated when their child starts special education. it could be because their child is not included in the neighborhood or school events like the other children? That hurts – big time! Perhaps, that is when it may be a good time to seek support groups of like-minded people. Schools often have such groups as do local community centers. I remember joining the local and national chapters of CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder). Through these groups, I learned that I wasn’t the only parent not sleeping due to a child who only required four hours a night. I also felt comfort and validation. Sometimes my son’s actions were misunderstood and I was glad to see that he was “accepted” among this “group”.

I also felt the need to advocate for my child, actually children, in their classrooms. You see I have been discussing my son and his traumatic birth and infancy. But, little did I know that lurking in my home was the dyslexia gene and it was about to come for a visit in my daughter’s classroom!

So now I am the parent of two children who need special programming due to a variety of unique challenges. So, I start to recite a mantra that has stuck with me til this day…

A parent is a child’s number one advocate and resource for unconditional love, support, and guidance. Be that parent.


More from the series BOTH SIDES OF THE TABLE:

PART 1 – intro

PART 2– let us start the process

PART 3, psychologist’s perspective

Coming soon – Part 4.

Please share your experiences in the comment section below – respectfully, of course.

Thank you for reading this series and any other articles on this blog.

From Both Sides of the Table: The Psychoeducational Evaluation Process – From the Lens of the School Psychologist (Part 3 in the series)

Your third-grade son is not reading the way your nephew who is in the first grade is reading. He seems to be “stuck” and his frustration with learning is starting to result in behavioral issues- such as making excuses to not go to school and acting out when he is there. You talk to his teacher and she recommends that you submit a written letter (or email) to the school administrator to request a meeting to express your concerns. This starts a formal “timeline” of the special education process. Typically the meeting happens and there are fifteen days to develop and submit an assessment plan if one is determined to be needed.

The assessment plan is like a roadmap as to what comes next. First, the concerns are spelled out and what is the reason for the referral? Statements may be as follows:

Jane has been demonstrating challenges with her reading on grade level – the second grade general education curriculum. Her teacher and parent have noticed her struggling and have the most difficulties with letter- sound relationships (phonics) and writing her letters correctly. She also has been interrupting other students during group instruction. Lastly, she seems easily distracted and often needs redirection to stay on task. The SST meeting members recommend that your child have a comprehensive psychoeducational evaluation to gather information about his present abilities in the areas of ____ (fill in the blank) and to see if he/she meets eligibility for services in special education. “

Then there is a whole bunch of “legal stuff” to explain the process and what laws are involved. A case manager is usually assigned to be the parents’ “point person” and will ask for signatures.


EVALUATION TIME

A psychoeducational evaluation can take an hour to many hours or days. There are several factors. 1) The age of a child. Younger children take less time. 2) The reason for referral. This drives the number of evaluators and the depth of the evaluation. 3) The cooperation and behavior of the child – some kids are easier to test than others. Some need more breaks or shorter sessions. That is fine. I let the students drive the schedule. 4) Availability – sometimes a school can only release a child from class for short spurts of time or parents are only available for a chunk of time. Psychologist often needs to be flexible. 5) The child’s health and ability to sustain attention 6) Availability of a helper- such a personal assistant if the child is in a wheelchair or an interpreter 7) Schedule of the psychologist… to name just a few.

The testing usually starts with rapport building. A game. A fun discussion about random topics that is relaxed. Drawing. An interview comes next for me (other psychologists may have a different order to their assessments). Then comes the “meat and potatoes” – tests for ability, academics, memory, motor skills, social -emotional functioning – etc. To list the number of tests psychhologists are trained to use for assessment would be a very long list – and boring! Thus, publishing them here would not be wise. However, here is an excellent link to the evaluation process (from referral to feedback) and a list of common psychoeducational measures used.

Another article written just for parents from an association for school psychologists (NASP) NASPonline: Psychoeducational guide for parents to understand


Feedback from the testing can be very emotionally draining for the parent(s)

There is no band-aid big enough to cover the broken heart of parents when they find out that their child has a serious medical or developmental disorder. As a school psychologist, I would rehearse the words that needed to be delivered to the parent waiting for me. “Bad” or unexpected news needs to be carefully and eloquently given versus blurted out like guesses for Jeopardy.  You owe them that much.  They trusted you with their child.  

I gave hundreds, perhaps thousands, of parents “the news”.  Usually starting my “spiel” with some glowing remark about their child – “Such a great worker”, “Really motivated and tried so hard”, or “Fabulous ability to stay on task”. Then came the description of what transpired over hours of one-on-one evaluations, observations, interviews, and discussions with staff.   Finally, arrives the moment that many await – the results.

“Based on the findings from this comprehensive psychoeducational evaluation your seven-year-old child currently has the developmental level of a child much younger. That means that his cognitive (intellectual) ability to complete tasks, known as adaptive behavior, around the house, in school, on the playground, and in other places is more like a three-year-old than a boy of seven.  The results of the physical therapist, speech, and language therapist, etc. are very similar to my results.” 

 This is where I stop.  Look directly at the parent and wait. Some will start to cry. Some will look confused.  Regardless, I need to drop the next “official statement” in their lap.  

Then I continue… “I need you to know that these results allow for our team to discuss options for special education as I am recommending that your son meets the eligibility qualifications as a child with Intellectual Disabilities. “

This is where the parent usually asks EXACTLY what this means.  Some parents have not heard this terminology and then ask if I mean that their child is “retarded”.   

I usually respond, “Yes, that is a much older term.  However, I need you to know that he is young and we use strategies and programs that have not been introduced to him yet.  So, please know that these results may change the next time we re-evaluate him.   We will be reviewing your son’s progress on a regular basis.”

Now it becomes tricky.  A lot has transpired in so few sentences.  Their world is now upside down. It is awkward.  Often sad.  I continue…

“Are you surprised by what I just said?”, I will ask. 

Sometimes the response is “not really”.  Other times the parents go through the Kubler-Ross stages of grief at record speed with ANGER being where they stop.  “NO WAY, he is just like me and learns just fine!”, announced one very demonstrative father to me.  (How do I respond to THAT?) 

Or the sobbing begins.  This is so hard.  I almost rather have the anger.  Sobbing means that the dreams they had for their son are now being reformulated as we sit in this too formal setting. News like this should happen on comfy chairs over tea and with boxes of tissues.  Not in a room of strangers who just altered your world in a blink. 

So begins most parents’ initial journey into special education.  (An upcoming blog in this series will cover the special education “emotional roller coaster.”


Psychologists’ “toolbox” of resources:

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A List of Frequently Asked Questions that Psychologists Ask Parents New to the Special Education Process during their Initial Meeting

  • Birth History (and if the child was adopted or placed in foster care – any known history of the parent and child)
  • Medical History
  • Developmental Milestones (see addendum)
  • History of medical difficulties or learning disorders in the immediate family or with close relatives
  • The child’s current sleeping, eating, and toileting behaviors. 
  • Language acquisition – how does this child communicate with the parents?  Has there been a steady growth in language development or any decline?
  • Ability to be flexible with changes to food?  Environment?  Temperature? Sound?  Lights?
  • Emotional responses from the child daily basis.   Overall happy?  Responds appropriately or seems to have challenges with emotional regulation?
  • For older children, questions will center around play, sharing, and educational skills (reading, math, and written language.)

EXAMPLES:

This is an example of a bell curve with ranges reflected from a student’s evaluation. This chart helps to visually demonstrate the child’s abilities for a range of expected skills. The average is considered within the 85-115 range.


Psychoeducational Report Components – sample




From Both Sides of the Table

Part 1- intro

Part 2- starting the process

ALLEGRO! An enchanting interactive book about classical maestros and their musical masterpieces! (Includes video, Beginner readers)

I can’t say enough positives about this enchanting juvenile literary work – ALLEGRO! Mostly because it introduces classical music to youngsters in the most engaging manner! David Miles (author) and Anita Barghigiani (illustrator) mesh to form the perfect duo to produce quite simply – a masterpiece!

Your early reader can learn about classical music through the story of a child discovering his passion for the arts through the great masters. This book is CLEVER with necessary repetition that is not at all tedious. For example, the first time a composer (such as Beethoven, Mozart, Debussy, etc.) is introduced is via a short biography on the inside cover then once more as an illustration that appears embedded in the story itself. The same composers are seen again on the back pages with explanations about each maestro . This additional content is a very unique instructional extension that allows a child to go more in-depth with learning and vocabulary building. Lastly, on the sidebar, a child can press samples of musical compositions over and over again. There are many to choose from and each one has a very soft melodic sound vs. the cheap “tin” noise often hear in audio books for kids.

as an interactive musical piece

I could go on and on about this book. But, I won’t. Why? Because it is INTERACTIVE and I believe it best to describe ALLEGRO not with words but with a video. Please watch and consider this the perfect gift to inspire the children in your life about the beauty of music. And for our children who are Deaf or have hearing loss, the illustrations are magnificent and the accompanying stories are very much worth having the book, sans the audio. Also, there is some vibration through the speaker.

(Side note: Classical music has been proven to help learning and concentration in young and older students!.)

To learn more the about the authors and how to obtain a copy of this fantastic book: ALLEGRO: A Magical Journey Through Musical Masterpieces go here.

The official description by the publisher:

Classical music comes to life like never before in this magical journey through 11 timeless compositions. Meet Allegro, an ordinary boy who can’t stand practicing the piano. Those black dots on the page drive him crazy—until the music itself whisks him away on a breathtaking journey. Each beautifully illustrated scene on Allegro’s journey is accompanied by a famous classical theme that can be played with the press of a button. Hear Grieg’s “Morning Mood” while meandering through a misty meadow, Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” while exploring uncharted lands, Debussy’s “Claire de Lune” while pondering a shimmering night sky, and 7 more! Beautiful gold foil, lavish illustrations, and high-quality sound make this a musical masterpiece to treasure forever. 

Suggested retail price$24.95

Amazon link


Legal:

I received a copy from the publisher FAMILIUS. However, the opinions are my own and absolutely no monetary compensation was received. #Ambassador

You May Want to Gift These Books with a Suitcase!

I love it when a preschool – early reader series can teach basic skills, such as counting or the alphabet by using an engaging method – thanks to colorful illustrations and interactive storytelling! Add the bonus of an early geography lesson or two and I declare this series a winner! Yes – the ABC PRIMER and LET’S COUNT compilations of books offered by FAMILIUS publishing indeed were winners!


I received a number of books from Familius’ catalog – focusing on the Southwest and Pacific Northwest of the United States. The first thing I noticed was the quality of the books. They were very sturdy and the bright colors really caught my eye. Inside the authors used clever associations of letters and alphabets to highlight fascinating places within the states of Utah, Arizona, California, and Oregon. Readers can learn about prickly pears that adorn Arizona, the avocados and redwoods of California, the arches and other land formations such as Zion, in Utah, and the Portland Rose Festival and seashores of Oregon. Yes indeed – fundamental skills are taught within the pages of these primer readers.

For the slightly older reader, the publisher offers 10 Little Monsters series with many state titles available. I asked to review the California book and they obliged. The author, Jess Smart Smiley must love to travel the Golden State as she picked many locations that are my California favorites, too! From the Redwood Forest to the San Diego Zoo- this book includes many interesting facts that families’ can read and learn – TOGETHER! Plus, maybe it meets the California curriculum requirements for learning about state history and geography at the elementary level?!

As an educator, I truly enjoy these books and I bet many teachers will immediately love them, as well! The authors and illustrators have taken great care to present the materials. I predict that many educators will use them as resources to create interactive learning opportunities within their classroom and virtual setting!

For example, I can imagine a teacher assigning each student a different state book to read. Then they are given an opportunity to share by playing the role of “teacher”. Or extend student learning with videos from National Geographic or state-promoted websites such as VisitUtah.com. I would love to see the artwork that students create after learning about the Grand Canyon or other natural wonders in the United States!

(See below for more educational websites that would be great supplements to learning for younger children about the United States).


Are you a roving home educator who uses the highways as their classroom – “RV Style”? These books are worth the room in the vehicle and super for sharing and trading with new friends you meet on the road!

And, for all parents and educators who love to travel – consider these books as a perfect gift (just add a suitcase!)

Happy Reading!

Supplemental information:

VisitTheUsa.com

National Geographic Interactive Learning kit: https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/united-states-mapmaker-kit

NPS.gov – The National Parks system in the United States

I received complimentary copies of the books that will be shared with others. I was not given any monetary compensation. The views expressed within this blog are my own.

From Both Sides of the Table – Part 2: The Beginning of the Special Education Process

From Both Sides of the Table is a series of blogs dedicated to presenting different points of view about the special education process. In case you missed the first part – here is the link.

Special education is filled with tons of terms and acronyms- often confusing to professionals and parents alike. In an effort to help decipher the “special education code” I am going to focus this blog on basic terms, what they mean, and the most often asked questions at the beginning stage of this process. Also – what is the difference between an IEP and 504 Plan?

What is Special Education?

Special education is based on the Individual With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In essence, public schools need to offer special education services (instruction and ancillary programs) if a child meets the criteria of at least one of the eligibility categories. (See below for these categories). Keep in mind that your child being behind in reading may not result in him or her receiving entry to special education. There are many steps that need to be checked off before the first scheduled special education assessment can be conducted.

An interesting side note: The Department of Education reported that during the 2020-21 school year, 14. 5% of all students between the ages of 3-21 years of age received special education.

IDEA: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). A common definition for IDEA is as follows: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is a piece of American legislation that ensures students with a disability are provided with a Free Appropriate Public Education that is tailored to their individual needs. IDEA was previously known as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act from 1975 to 1990. (Wikipedia)

SST meetings (Student Study Team) – This is a formal meeting where concerns and information are shared about a child’s abilities and current status in education. Parent’s often are the ones who make a request for the SST meeting.

FAPE | Free appropriate public education – The legal right of a child with a disability who has qualified for special education services to receive intervention as determined by federal law.

IEP – Individualized Education Plan– A plan of instruction (with or without related services) created for a child who has been identified as eligible for special education.

IFSP-  Individualized Family Service Plan: An intervention plan, that includes the family, of a child who has been identified for special education before the age of three.

LRE – Least Restrictive Environment – Another legal statute where a child must receive special education services in an environment that is determined to be the least restrictive. The goal is to start with services within the general education classroom setting, if possible. If not the setting for the child’s education can then become “more restrictive”. The most restrictive would be a child who is in residential care for their educational needs.

Related Services – Services ancillary to instruction. Examples of related services could be mental health counseling, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, and/or physical therapy.

Transition Services – Services afforded to a child in special education to help with the transition from school to adult or post-secondary life. Sometimes, it refers to a child who is transitioning from an IFSP to an IEP program.

Due Process: When there are disagreements with special education eligibility or how services may or may not be delivered, the parents and school district have the right to conduct a “due process hearing”. This is a very long and involved procedure that is best explained by Wrights Law – an excellent resource for “all things about the legal aspects with special education”.


How does the special education process begin? Usually, a referral for special education consideration starts in one of three ways:

  1. A child has been referred to the special education team for early childhood programs. Each state or region may have a different name for these programs but they usually share many of the same elements that I will elaborate on a little later. The referral is commonly through an agency or program like “Child Find”. (This video discusses the Child Find program in Virginia. The information shared is pretty much standard throughout the United States.)
  2. Your child has entered the public (or private) school and the teacher has referred the child for special education consideration due to concerns with the child’s learning abilities or speech/ language skills, for example.
  3. A parent or parents are concerned that their child is lagging with development, such as not reading like others their age or having challenges with math skills. Sometimes they are concerned with behaviors that they feel may be atypical – maybe even alarming.

Commonly asked questions about the special education process (Click on the box to see the response)

How do I start the process for my child to be considered for special education help if they are younger than the age of three?

The process can be started by contacting your local Child Find or Early Intervention Team. A phone call, email, or personal request at your local elementary school or school district office can get the process started. Also, you can ask your pediatrician for information or to help make the referral.

How do I start the process for my child to be considered for special education help if they are older than the age of three?

Again, reaching out to the local school district, your child’s teacher, and/or the school administrator in writing (or by email) would be the first step. Sometimes, you can make the request verbally (such as at a parent-teacher conference) – but please follow up with a written request.

What are the steps of the special education process?

The process starts with a referral. The referral leads to an initial meeting – called an SST or another term such as ARD. This also starts the timeline – a legal punching of the “clock” for how efficiently and quickly the process must be completed. There are a specific number of days/ weeks for each portion of the process. From the initial referral to any signatures needed for an IEP (if one is offered).

What does the term “psychoeducational evaluation” mean?

A psychoeducational evaluation is comprised of a very comprehensive set of assessments, observations, surveys, interviews, and more that gather much information about the way a child is developing. The most common elements of this portfolio of tests include cognitive or general developmental assessments and the processes that are involved with learning (such as memory or auditory processing). We also use tests that measure achievement (reading, written language, math). Furthermore, visual perceptual motor skills are assessed, too. Then there are rating scales/measures that look at the social-emotional development and adaptive behavior of a student. These tests are the “basics” and often the standard for most psychoeducational evaluations.

What is an IFSP?

This is the Federal program afforded to children birth to three who are in need of intervention due to developmental delays, medical disorders, or sensory deficits (such as blindness or deafness).

What is an IEP?

An IEP is an acronym for Individualized Educational Plan. It is a legal document. The IEP is a very lengthy document that has many purposes. First, it documents the current educational status of the child and measurable goals on how the child will receive assistance. This assistance must be in the least restrictive environment and be given in good faith. For example, a child may receive instruction within their regular education classroom but with a special education teacher providing resources and support. Or they may be invited to another classroom for part of the day to hone in on skill development for a specific subject or set of subjects – such as reading and written language. Ancillary services also are part of the IEP – such as any behavioral goals or programs that will be employed. Check back for another article that takes a deeper dive about creating and implementing an IEP.

Who decides if my child receives an IEP (or not)?

The IEP team consists of many people, including the parents if they are they have educational rights to the child and the student, if appropriate. Also, the team may include the classroom teacher(s), a special education teacher, a school administrator (or designee), a school psychologist (if requested), an occupational therapist (if requested), a speech and language therapist (if requested), a physical therapist (if requested), and other providers – such as a mental health counselor. Read more here.

What is a 504 plan? How does it differ from an IEP?

The 504 Plan is technically… “Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, is American legislation that guarantees certain rights to people with disabilities. It was one of the first U.S. federal civil rights laws offering protection for people with disabilities.”.* It basically allows your child to receive accommodations to their program in the general education program – such as preferential seating or extended time while taking a test.

Many parents (and professionals) often confuse the 504 Plan with an IEP. They are not the same, but share many of the same “ingredients”. Both are legal documents. And, both are meant to support the student in the least restrictive manner possible. There are subtle and not-so-subtle differences, however. This author spells out the parts of both the IEP and 504 by comparing them here.

*wikipedia

What happens if your child is in private school, including parochial school? Are they eligible for special education? The short answer is that a child in a private school environment is not covered by IDEA law. However, if a public school has asked a private school for a student to be placed in their environment – then the child is covered by IDEA. But wait – it is even a wee bit more complicated as Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act does not exclude private schools from providing reasonable accommodations for people who need them – such as, building a ramp for students who use a wheelchair or providing an interpreter for Deaf pupils.

I am going to take a bet that if you are new to education, let alone special education, then the information I just presented might feel very overwhelming. Even I felt overwhelmed when we entered the special education process. In fact, let me share our very personal experience in an effort to let you know – if you are starting your special education journey – you are not alone.

—–

Fall 1993

I remembered making the call to start “the process” going. 

 I carried around the district phone number for the developmental “child find” office for weeks before I had the guts to call.  Crazy, right?! 

I knew the person who would answer.  I knew the drill of what came next.  But I didn’t want to find anything wrong with our precious baby – just wanted some reassurance that he would be OK.

It was a gamble.  Make the call and get some support and potential help for your child.  Don’t make the call and try to “do it on your own”.   

I made the call and that is when the reality started to sink in. 

Rich, my colleague, and the kind voice on the other end of the phone call listened to me unwrap the story of our son’s birth and first year of development.  He then started to speak, using his well-known empathetic tone.  

He quietly said, “You know what comes next?   Our Child Find team will evaluate Bubba over the next month or so.  Then we will convene with the results and go from there.

“And go from there… “  

It would have been somewhat helpful for my nerves if I didn’t know what “there” meant.  Would this be the beginning of me going through the stages of grief?  In some respect, I already was “there”.  

After several weeks of evaluations with an assortment of service providers – the meeting was scheduled for “the results”. 

So, we arrived at the meeting and as parents, we took our places on the “other side of the table’.  It would appear that not only were we now in “Holland”, but, hubby and I also were parents at the threshold of the world of special education.  Bubba was their newest member. 


PHEW! So much to learn – so stay tuned for the next installment of FROM BOTH SIDES OF THE TABLE?

From Both Sides of the Table: The World of Special Education as Seen Through the Lens of a School Psychologist Who ALSO is a Parent (Part 1)

I originally was going to write a book titled, “From Both Sides of the Table”. It was to be a chronicle of my experiences with the special education process as both a parent and a school psychologist.

In truth – the task of writing a book just seemed too overwhelming. Plus, by the time I finished the book, the information may have become outdated. That happens when you are writing about education, especially the “special” side of this arena. So, instead of writing From Both Sides of the Table as a single book, I am going to write it as a series of blogs. Not as a weekly series – but dolled out over the course of a few months or perhaps a year. I want to start by introducing my story, actually our story. So, this first blog may seem familiar to some as it contains reprinted materials from previous entries. So without further adieu the first entry starts now…


Hello and welcome.   First and foremost, this series of articles are written from my heart to all who are seeking support or guidance as they enter and learn about the world of special education.  I know a lot about this world as both a parent and a seasoned psychologist who works in schools (or virtually with school districts and charter programs).  In essence, I have put my “tush” in chairs on both sides of the special education table.  Depending on what role I am in at the time – I have learned, listened, cried, and offered my best expertise. I have ridden the emotional roller coaster known only to those who have parented a child with special needs. 

It is to those parents and hard-working professionals I dedicate this series

And so it begins…


Books. Lectures. Listening.

In 1984 I completed all the necessary requirements to receive my certification as a School Psychologist.  I was one of the youngest graduate students in my class, if not the youngest. So, to say that I had limited “life and family” experience was an understatement.  But, I studied, watched a lot of interactions between parents – teachers – and children, and, became the ultimate observer of child development.  After a few years, equipped with a hefty dose of “book knowledge” and my heavy testing kits, I ventured to my first permanent paying position at the Delaware School for the Deaf (aka “Sterck”).  A dream position that combined my School Psychology expertise with my sign language skills.   It wasn’t until years later that I truly valued what I learned between the covers of all those books and in the various university lecture halls. But my expertise was most garnered sitting around a table listening to parents and other professionals, as well as watching children when they played, learned, and even struggled. But, my BIGGEST lesson arrived a bit after I started my career. It started in all place – “Holland”.

   Our Trip To Holland?

(Previously published on this blog – but with new information below)

The poem written by Emily Perl Kingsley was cut out and pasted on the refrigerator from February of 1992 until we moved to a new home in 1995. It was titled, “ Welcome to Holland”. In essence, it was a snapshot of what it is like to be unprepared when you give birth to a child who has challenges, such as medical or cognitive disabilities.

There is one section of the poem that I read over and over again, “After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.” “Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.” But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.”

My husband and I wanted to go to “Italy” but ended up in “Holland” on February 7, 1992. I should have known that our trip to second-time parenthood would be bumpy as we were told that our second born was to be another girl. “Two girls, so nice”, my OB-GYN told me. Guess what? –  We had the first boy born in 28 years in my family as he arrived over a month early via an emergency c-section!  

“We need the scan for the Sattler baby” I heard being yelled at by the attending physician across the labor and delivery recovery suite.  “What? ” I yell back – “I need to talk to a doctor – NOW.  That baby is MINE! ” So, the nurses came rushing over to remind me that I just had surgery and to lay back down.  “Nothing serious” they try to assure me – just that our little guy was not quite breathing as expected and a “few other things”…

What?

Where is my husband?  Did I hear that right?  Our hour-old baby is sick because he is not breathing right.  AND his sugar too low?  Plus his heartbeat too high?  I could already feel the plane veer off course.

Days later we were allowed to go home only to notice that our little “fella” was turning the color of a Sunkist orange. Not good. Not good at all. Rushed back to the hospital to be told it was simple “jaundice”. Nope, nothing in this child’s life would be simple, I found out. Days go on and before the first actual tulip bloomed that year we were in intensive care with our young guy. Jaundice ended up being a “liver problem” – not yet determined, but possibly very serious and could lead to severe developmental delays.

Let’s just say when you hear this kind of news you take a moment for a big pause.

“Mental Retardation” were words I heard the medical staff use. WOW. This was a term used back when our little fella was born and before.  Now there are “softer” words, more palatable.  Such as developmental disabilities or cognitively delayed.  Doesn’t really matter. The result will be the same if our little fella does indeed have any or all of the disorders that the doctor is preparing us for.  The list seems endless. My head is ready to explode. But, I know I have to stay calm and rational. Plus, we have another child who needs her parents to be present and steady. But, you can’t always be the “present and steady parent”… so we were about to find out.

We blinked, it seemed, and we really found ourselves flying the hell away from Italy and nearly on a crash course… Our little guy was diagnosed with Respiratory Syncytial Virus/ RSV. This nearly claimed his life. 

What did that mean? Well, he was really sick – with a serious flu-type illness compounded with reflux that choked him every third breath. Our nightmare continued. You know you have a very sick baby when you can’t find room to stand in the isolated PICU suite because of the number of doctors, nurses, and respiratory therapists working with your child to keep him alive. You also know your baby is very ill when the nurses come and ask you questions such as, “Is there anyone we can call for you?”  

Does God have a hotline, I wonder?  But, I respond – “No thank you.”

For any new parent who has a baby in distress, you know the worst part of this scenario is waiting. You wait to see if the tests are positive for illnesses that are unimaginable. You wait to see if the insurance will cover the rare and complicated blood work, machines that are helping your child stay alive, or special therapy sessions ordered. You wait to see if you will ever have a “normal” life again for yourself, your family, your work, etc. Will your child walk, talk, eat normally, have friends, etc.? You truly begin to HATE Holland with every fiber of your being.

Then little by little, the waiting ends. 

Test results come back. Therapies begin. Hospitalization stays end and you go home.

But, for many of us, this is when we start a new journey into the realm of Special Education

Here is the most ironic part of this story and the reason I am writing it for this blog. I am a special educator. I am a full fledge, certified School Psychologist that is trained with helping parents and children with special needs. All my training flies out the friggin’ window as my mind is trying to process the months of evaluations, reports, and recommendations from specialists. 

Ironic indeed. I have now changed teams! 

Instead of being the intervention specialist I now am the one calling our local school district asking for help from the Early Intervention Team! And I am so grateful when they appear at my door. But, I still have problems with paperwork and understanding all the information. How can this be? I do this job every day and I am still wading through it because my head is so full of grief and confusion. The team helps me. Every day gets a little better. Clarity arrives with every meeting or visit from a team member. 

Now fast- forward, our son improves with therapy as he starts to talk, walk (actually run) and become quite sociable. He has more hospital visits but he is deemed fairly healthy. His liver has a benign disorder and we are told he shouldn’t go without food or enter the military. We can live with those two stipulations to have a benign liver disorder vs. the alternatives. But, no worries – he will be ok. He will just need a little “special education” for his speech and language development, perhaps. And maybe when he is older he may need additional support (That saga we will save for future articles).

I give thanks that he will survive. And, I am ready and willing to take my seat comfortably on the parent’s side of the table. We will be OK.


Here is your “Introduction Guide” to Special Education – Starting with a few questions and answers.

What is Special Education?

Special education is multi-faceted. In essence, this term refers to when instruction is specially designed to meet the unique needs of a student eligible to receive special education services.

IDEA has much to do with special education as we know it. That is because IDEA is short for the  Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Special education services, including instructional and related services, are deemed the public school’s responsibility for students who are eligible by meeting the criteria of at least one of the 13 categories. By the way, a child who is struggling is not necessarily eligible for special education. There are many processes necessary to determine eligibility. . (More about this later!)

How old does a child need to be to receive special education?

You may be surprised to find out that special education eligibility can start as young as birth through the age of 21.

What are the categories for special education eligibility consideration?

These are the 13 specific categories*

Autism
Deaf-blindness
Deafness
Developmental delay
Emotional disturbance
Hearing impairment
Intellectual disability
Multiple disabilities
Orthopedic impairment
Other health impairment
Specific learning disability
Speech or language impairment
Traumatic brain injury
Visual impairment, including blindness

*Note it is possible to meet the criteria for more than one category. I will delve deeper into each of these categories in future articles – so keep checking back!

Are there other supports for a student who is struggling that are not special education?

Yes, there are. We will be covering items called “504 Plans” and also “Response to Intervention (RTI)”.

How do I get the process started?

Keep reading this blog – I promise to cover that soon! Simply- it starts with a written request.

What to expect during the special education process?

You can expect many forms, formal papers, and meetings. But, most of all I hope you receive support and your child receives help, whatever form it is offered, that will assist your child.

Are there suggested resources?

Yes – there a many resources. I always ask readers to do their “due diligence” as not every resource is legitimate or accurate. (Careful of misinformation). Here are some trusted resources for you:

National Organization for School Psychologists (use the search bar)

Center for Parent Information

IDEA resources – guidance from the Department of Education


In closing, this is just the first of many, many blog entries regarding special education and so much of what it entails. You will find out that special education is a very broad world and there are many, many facets. You also will discover that “our little fella” grows up to be an honor student and successful in his chosen career that involves helping others.

Have a question? Want to share your experience? Respectful comments are always welcome.

Thank you for reading!

~Louise

Using Furniture Transfers to Create a Special Look!

Yes, this is another blog about my love of refinishing furniture and what I have learned using designs known as “rub-on transfers”! I promise I’ll try to make it both instructional and funny…

A year ago I didn’t know a “furniture rub-on transfer” from a “train transfer ticket”. But now I am well versed (maybe) with creating art on furniture by using an assortment of furniture transfers and techniques. None of what I am about to show you is very costly or difficult. So, feel free to try it yourselves!

BLUSHING FLORAL

While I prefer to create a simple look with words and quotes interspersed among an interesting modern design, many of my “customers” like to have a virtual garden popping from their furniture. Below you will find examples of the most recent designs I have created – many by special request. Also, a few hints and links. Want a closer look? Just click on the images!

A simple 5 drawer dresser- painted blush pink with Benjamin Moore paint didn’t last long in the garage. I spotted it all tattered looking at a resell store. I knew I had to have it! The shape alone! The dresser is so unusual that I wanted to leave it without much “redo”. An uncomplicated “shabby chic” look. This piece sold to a family and was a gift for their daughter. Apparently, she likes everything “pink”.

A little deeper dive into this piece. The floral designs in the drawers and on the side were just enough to make it extra special and are becoming a “signature” of my refinished items. To create the floral design in the drawer I had to cut the flowers out from a much larger design on the transfer sheet that I purchased off Amazon – called Pressed Flowers by Thymeless Designs. Honestly, this set of transfers is one of my favorites and the ease with which they go on and stay embedded is fabulous! If we were giving scores this brand would easily be a 9 out of 10.

This is what the three panels of the THYMELESS DESIGNS look like when they arrive. Each panel is an individual sheet with a backing that needs to be removed or portions cut away.

Under the Sea!

Yellow, teal, and lots of sea creatures and sea shells make this look VERY popular. I have made chairs, two small dressers, a desk using this design available from Re-Design (again) found on Amazon. My only wish was that there was less “rope” in the package and more fish of different colors. I also mixed on one of the dressers a second design by PRIMA resulted in a rather interesting look and I think it will be a winner. My score would be a 8/10 for ease of applying but a 9/10 for the final look they help to create!


Let’s hear it for the color teal!

For as long as I can remember, teal and shades of aqua have been my favorite. Perhaps it is because I am a Pisces and my birthstone is aquamarine? Regardless, I find myself dipping into various shades of these colors over and over again (pictured Tropical Teal and Hummingbird). Oh- and items made with these colors usually sell like hotcakes! They are part of their Coastal Palate (and no I am not an ambassador for them – oh how I wish!) The transfers pictured are a mixture of some of my favorites. The “Cottontail Bunnies” on the child’s chair are paired with the Polish art designs. The picture frame’s art and some of the large expansive designs on the desk came from Maika Daughters via Etsy.

The floral transfers can be tricky to apply if not careful and the words also are a challenge from time to time. So, I give these transfers a 7.5/10 for ease but a 9/10 for the look and response from others!


Helpful Hints!

When using furniture transfers you need to be CAREFUL. I have yet to meet a design that doesn’t rip if not given lots of TLC during the transfer. Be sure that your surface is clean and dry. Do not transfer onto surfaces with gloss or semigloss unless the transfer is made for those finishes. Some are. Some are not.

Transfer with the support of a flat surface – so use a strong table or workshop bench when transferring to smaller objects (like boxes) or dresser drawers. If transferring directly to a piece of furniture make sure it is secure and kept steady.

Practice on something you don’t care about first so you can get used to how much pressure is needed and the type of instrument to use. The “sticks” they often send in the kit are in my humble opinion not very helpful with larger designs. I tend to improvise with other objects such as paint stirrers.

When I am working on a very large design I cut it into pieces. This helps to keep it manageable and also to create some interesting designs. You can overlap by completing one portion of the design and then cutting and laying on top of another portion. Be sure to complete the transfer of the first part before starting the second.

The hardest of all transfers for me to apply involves quotes or letters. These tend to be very delicate and need much patience. I tend not to have a lot of that – so I often goof. I have learned to be better – but again – patience, patience, patience!

If you goof, try adding a “surprise” element. It is amazing how handy a butterfly transfer can be when you goof! Or a fun flower! I buy packets of butterflies just for this reason!

Oh and buy a big container of baby wipes to get the “oops” of designs off your fingers. You will thank me later.

Keep unused portions clean and tucked away for another day! And lastly…just have fun and let your creativity flow!

Thanks for reading!

~Louise

p.s. Feel free to pop a link to your furniture refinishing projects in the comments!