I’m proud of my piece at GeekMom today: An interview with my friend Holly Miller, who battled her school district for three years to get necessary Braille instruction for her son, Hank. Hank, like my own Wonderboy, has oculocutaneous albinism—in Hank’s case, the effects on his vision are severe. He is legally blind. But the school district considers him a sighted reader and opposed teaching him Braille. Holly and her husband Jeff took the case to court—and won. I hope you’ll click through and read the article!
In a Digital Age, Braille Is Still Important | GeekMom | Wired.com.
Wallis, Michael. (2011) The Wild West: 365 days. New York, NY: Abrams Press. ISBN 978-0810996892 All ages.
Publisher’s description: The Wild West: 365 Days is a day-by-day adventure that tells the stories of pioneers and cowboys, gold rushes and saloon shoot-outs in America’s frontier. The lure of land rich in minerals, fertile for farming, and plentiful with buffalo bred an all-out obsession with heading westward. The Wild West: 365 Days takes the reader back to these booming frontier towns that became the stuff of American legend, breeding characters such as Butch Cassidy and Jesse James. Author Michael Wallis spins a colorful narrative, separating myth from fact, in 365 vignettes. The reader will learn the stories of Davy Crockett, Wild Bill Hickok, and Annie Oakley; travel to the O.K. Corral and Dodge City; ride with the Pony Express; and witness the invention of the Colt revolver. The images are drawn from Robert G. McCubbin’s extensive collection of Western memorabilia, encompassing rare books, photographs, ephemera, and artifacts, including Billy the Kid’s knife.
This is one of the neatest books I’ve seen in a long time. The entire family will love it. Keep it on the coffee table but don’t let it gather dust!
Every page is a look back into history with a well-known cowboy, pioneer, outlaw, native American or other adventurer tale complete with numerous authentic art and photo reproductions. The book is worth owning just for the original pictures. But there is more…an index of its contents for easy reference too! Not only is this fun for the family, it is excellent for the school or home classroom use too. A really fun way to study the 19th century too and also well received as a gift. I highly recommend this captivating collection! See for yourself at the Litland.com Bookstore.
I got so inspired by all the April festivities in the Kidlitosphere that I've imported "Thirty Poets, Thirty Days" into my first-grade classroom. Of course we've been enjoying poetry all year, but now we're riding the poetry wave! On April 1 we were on Spring Break, so I had to choose the first six poems to catch us up. I took them all from Poetry Speaks to Children and have put the CD that goes with that gorgeous book in the listening center. Now, however, the children are each taking a turn to choose the Poem of the Day--a power which they deeply dig! So far Katana has shared "Covers" from Nikki Giovanni's The Sun is So Quiet and Vivian has selected "ME I AM" by Jack Prelutsky, collected in My Song Is Beautiful by Mary Ann Hoberman. I'll keep you posted on what else goes up onto our Poetry Calendar in the hallway!
Here in the D.C. area the weather has been a little extreme. Not that many weeks ago we were buried under more than two feet of snow, "proving" in the minds of some folks that global warming is a myth. Now, for the past few days the temperature has been near 90 degrees, which sounds like climate change to me (although my brief research shows that in years with 90* April days, we do tend to get more snow...I wonder how that works?). Right now in my yard are blooming simultaneously forsythia, daffodils, periwinkle, tulips, hyacinths, weeping cherry, bleeding heart, dogwood and even some of the azaleas! Makes me want to sleep outside--except for "Marlon," the suburban raccoon who's hanging around and apparently aspires to becoming our pet. It's a little creepy.
In the spirit of unpredictable weather, I offer up this poem by David McCord, which was an ideal opening for the public charter school application's section on Special Education.
Sometime this winter if you go
To walk in soft new-falling snow
When flakes are big and come down slow
To settle on your sleeve as bright
As stars that couldn't wait for night,
You won't know what you have in sight--
Another world--unless you bring
A magnifying glass. This thing
We call a snowflake is the king
Of crystals. Do you like surprise?
“Fifty years before Helen Keller, there was Laura Bridgman”–so reads the tagline for this book: She Touched the World: Laura Bridgman, Deaf-Blind Pioneer by Sally Hobart Alexander and Robert Alexander. Here are the facts about this book:
*Laura Bridgman is the subject
*Rating: This book is an award-winner!
Short, short summary: This book is the story of Laura Bridgman who is known as one of the first American deaf and blind children to get an education in English. Her teachers used tactile sign language and also words printed with raised letters corresponding to objects such as keys, spoons, and knives. The book includes several photos and quotes and spans Laura’s life from the time she is born to her death at 60 years of age.
So, what do I do with this book?
1. Before reading, ask students what they know about Helen Keller. Most children in 3rd-5th grades will have learned about Helen Keller before, but probably not Laura Bridgman. Explain the connection between the two to create interest in reading about Laura and her remarkable life and education.
2. Pioneer is a word that has many meanings, but most kids will think of it as the people traveling in covered wagons. After they finish reading about Laura Bridgman, ask them to write a paragraph with specific examples from the text of how she is a pioneer.
3. Ask students to compare and contrast a time they learned something with how Laura learns to communicate.
Brown, Bea (2011) Wally the Cockeyed Cricket. Mustang, OK: Tate Publishing. ISBN 978-1-61777-106-4. Recommended age 8 and under.
Publisher’s description: When Wally the Cockeyed Cricket finds himself trapped in Mrs. Grumpydee’s kitchen, he sings a sad song and Mrs. Grumpydee’s locks Wally in a jar. When the jar is knocked over and shatters, Wally the Cockeyed Cricket sings a different tune.
Read it—see it—listen to it! The great thing about books from Tate Publishing is that you do not need to choose between print and audio formats because books have a code that permits you to download the audio version on MP3 too! The print version has beautifully captivating illustrations. Yet the young man (ok, he sounds young to this old reviewer!) reading the audio does an excellent job at it. A great enhancement to teach reading to little ones :>)
Of course, the most important reason to consider adding this book to your child’s bookshelf is because they will enjoy the story! As evidenced by its title, Wally looks a little different than most crickets. He doesn’t think anything of this difference and is happy as can be. Until, that is, he unfortunately wanders into Mrs. Grumpydee’s kitchen! Captured, bullied and made a public spectacle, Wally never loses courage or confidence. Helped with the aid of a complete stranger, he is rescued and makes a new friend. Virtues exhibited are courage, justice and friendship. A feel-good story where the good guys win! Great parent-child sharing, Pre-3rd grade class or homeschool, bedtime reading, gift giving, therapy use, and family book club! Grab your copy at the Litland.com Bookstore.
Warren, Jill. (2011) Abe’s Lucky Day. Outskirts Press Inc. ISBN 978-1-4327-7305-2. Age 8 and under.
Publisher’s description: Any day can be a lucky day. Abe is a homeless man who lives in the alley behind a bakery and winter is coming. What will happen on his lucky day that will change his life?
Introducing us to the varied faces of distress and homelessness, Abe’s Lucky Day reminds us that , while food, warm clothes and dry beds feel great, helping others feels even better. Illustrations permit the child to imagine themselves in the story, and so can feel the heartwarming rewards of selflessness…definitely good for your Litland.com family book club or a preschool classroom. Part luck and lots of kindness, Abe’s Lucky Day infuses a desire for kindness and generosity into its reader’s mind and heart, and is sure to strengthen bonds within the family reading it as well :>) Great for gift-giving, pick up your copy in our Litland.com Bookstore!
A blog friend was curious to know why we decided to get Wonderboy’s speech therapy and audiology services from the public school district instead of through a private (i.e. medical) source. It was a tough decision, and I still have moments where I second-guess it. Navigating the system, dealing with an IEP—not to mention the IEP team—hasn’t always been easy. But most of the time I think it was the best choice, bearing in mind that no alternative is perfect.
The advantages, for us, of accessing these services are:
• close to home
• free (including ear molds and hearing aid batteries)
• no waiting time before a scheduled session
• our ST and audi are easy to reach via email or phone, are excellent at keeping lines of communication open with us, and are eager to work with us on a friendly, personal level.
These are very important factors, all of them. For therapy situations in a medical environment, such as the local children’s hospital where Wonderboy currently receives physical therapy—his PT needs are medical and involve consultation with orthopedics doctors—we must accept long travel times, difficulty finding parking, parking fees, insurance co-payments, a bit of time in the waiting room even before a scheduled session, and a more detached relationship with the therapist. Our current PT at Children’s is certainly warm and friendly and has an excellent rapport with my son, but she works in a Big Hospital System with all sorts of bureaucratic red tape crisscrossing between us. I can’t call her directly on the phone; we certainly aren’t going to be emailing back and forth. It’s a different kind of relationship.
The speech therapist (our “new” speech therapist—not really new anymore, as Wonderboy has been seeing her for over a year now—this is not the therapist who sandbagged me in the “not always easy” post I linked above) and audiologist we work with in the school district are wonderful: excellent at their jobs, very respectful of our choices as parents, and eager communicators. We are in regular contact via phone and email, not to mention our weekly sessions. Wonderboy adores them both and looks forward to ” ’peech days.”
The down side, of course, is having to deal with the whole maddening IEP process and School District Policy. I have to be constantly on guard against encroachments upon our rights—not by the individual therapists, but by the school district. The district representatives are completely frank and somewhat apologetic about their need to “cover themselves” from any possible legal action disgruntled parents might take against them. This particular district has been burned before, it seems, by parents who filed lawsuits because they felt, after the fact, that the district had not “done enough” for their children.
District reps have told me quite frankly that they “just don’t know what to do with a parent like” me, i.e. a parent who believes meeting my son’s needs is my responsibility and not the public school district’s.
One tangle we ran into this summer was over the matter of evaluations for PT and OT. Wonderboy has muscle tone issues and motor delay, all part of his neurological, shall we say, unusualness. Because he has congenitally short, tight muscles, we have had to do a daily stretching regimen with him since he was four months old. About once a year, we check in with PT to make sure we are still doing everything correctly, and to see whether there are any new areas we ought to concentrate on. Every time he has a growth spurt, his muscles get even tighter (because bone grows faster than muscle), and when that happens, sometimes we’ll do a kind of booster session with a professional PT for a few months. That’s what we’re doing right now: three months of every-other-week PT at the children’s hospital to work on some specific issues.
I scheduled an OT evaluation at Children’s as well. (Which is a whole other story in itself, one I’ll have to save for another post.) His fine motor skills seem to be developing very nicely, but his doctors thought an eval would be a good idea to look at some global sensory issues and stuff (to be technical about it).
The school district had a very, very, very hard time accepting my assertion that we would be declining their offer of OT and APE (adaptive physical education, the closest they can come to PT) evals this fall. Since I already had PT and OT evals scheduled at Children’s, and since we intended to get PT and, if necessary, OT at the hospital rather than through the school district, I saw no reason to squeeze yet more appointments into our already busier-than-ideal schedule. I declined the district’s eval offer and gave them the dates of our scheduled evals at Children’s just so they’d no we were on top of this.
As I understood the regulations, the district is obligated to offer the evaluations and I as parent have the right to decline them.
The district begged to differ. That applies, they said, to the first time evaluations are offered. But once a child is in their system, once a need has been documented, they must (so they told me) provide these evaluations.
This conversation went back and forth between us all summer—amiably, mind you. I (amiably) dug in my heels, because I guard our family’s time very carefully. Every new appointment is a drain on our time. These medical and therapy-related appointments add up. They could easily dominate our schedule if I let them. There was no reason for us to make two extra trips to the school to duplicate evaluations he has already had, especially since I had no intention of receiving those services through the school district.
Oh, this was hard for the district to accept. Finally, in one rather surprising phone call, an extremely friendly and earnest district rep told me—with immense apology in her tone—that “we were at the point where the district would normally be forced to seek mediation.” Hello! This despite my having provided the district with documentation of the PT and OT evals scheduled at Children’s. But the district really, really didn’t want things to get ugly (i.e. go the mediation and arbitration route). They decided to “compromise” (I put it in quotes because I still believe they are talking about district policy, not state law) by accepting a written statement from me in which I acknowledged that they offered the evals, we declined them, and we are aware we can ask for them at any time.
I was happy to provide such a statement and put the matter to rest. I know that many parents in other school districts are in the position of having to fight to get their children necessary services, and I’m not inclined to get too cranky about having a district all too eager to provide services to my child. But I do think it is vitally important for me, as for all parents, to stay alert and informed about what the law says and what our rights are, and to make sure not to passively cede any of those rights.
This post is third of a series of three posts written by Sarah Simons, Doula and mother of 7 about her experience having a special needs child with autism
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