Making Sure Your Special Needs Child Gets the Education They Need

To the uninitiated, the world of special education may seem like a maze or like learning a foreign language. As a parent you see your child struggling academically, behaviorally, or socially and you just want to make sure s/he receives the educational services needed in order to succeed in school and in life. When it comes to providing services for special needs children, not every school district is the same. Some are more likely to provide services while others are stingier about providing services or even recognizing that services are needed. Special education identification and service delivery are guided by federal and state laws; sometimes these laws can be misinterpreted by districts, schools, or individual educators. It is important to keep in mind that all school systems have a law firm on their side when it comes to interpretation of the laws. As your child’s primary advocate this may seem daunting; however, if you remain calm, do a little research, and document your concerns and communications with the school your child will receive the services s/he needs.Prior to services being delivered a referral to determine whether an evaluation needs to take place needs to be made by a parent/guardian, teacher, or pediatrician. An initial individual education plan (IEP) meeting takes place that documents the reason for the referral and it should specifically outline what questions the IEP team wants answered. It is important for you to voice and outline your concerns during this initial meeting because your input is important to what happens next. Evaluations need to be conducted by various members of the team depending upon the area(s) of concern in order to assess you child and determine what type of services s/he needs. With recent changes to how learning disabilities are legally identified in public schools, sometimes IEP teams will use data from Response to Intervention (RTI). This data usually provides information on how well your child progressed on interventions received (if any) prior to the referral. It is okay and legal for schools to use this type of data as it is very informative about how the child responds to more intensive or more frequent instruction. As a parent, you want to leave this meeting secure in the knowledge that your child will receive an appropriate evaluation that answers your concerns and that will provide specific recommendations as to what services your child needs in school.A second IEP meeting will occur after the evaluation process is completed in order to review the results of the evaluations, determine eligibility for special education services, and determine what services, if any, your child requires to progress in school. In order to prepare for this meeting you should:
Insist that you receive written copies of the evaluation reports five days prior to the meeting.
Read through the reports, highlight or underline anything that stands out or concerns you, and jot down questions about anything you don’t understand. Reports are sometimes full of unnecessary professional jargon and you should ask for explanations about anything you need clarification on. Every profession has its own terminology and no one expects you to get a degree in education in order to advocate for your child.
Ask that the professionals who conducted the evaluations to call you to review and explain the results after you receive the reports.
Write down any questions that you have that haven’t been answered and bring them with you to the IEP meeting.
At the second IEP meeting, the team will review the evaluation results and determine eligibility for special education services. An individualized education program will be developed if your child qualifies for services. Remember, this program should be individualized to your child and his/her unique learning, social, or emotional needs. Some questions to ask include:
How is that different than the regular curriculum?
What is going to be done to ensure that my child catches up/is ready for the next grade?
What individual modifications and accommodations are going to be implemented?
How is success/progress going to be measured and who measures it?
How often will I be informed of my child’s progress?
Who is going to be in charge of managing the plan?
How will other teachers be informed of my child’s needs?
When the team is able to answer these questions to your satisfaction you can be reasonably assured that they will provide services to meet your child’s needs. It is important that you take notes during the meeting because five days after the meeting you will receive your child’s Individualized Education Plan. This is a legal document that outlines the services that the district has agreed to provide to your child. The services in this document should correspond to your understanding of what took place during the IEP meeting. That’s why it is always good to take meticulous notes at these meetings. You should call the school and speak with your child’s case manager (this will be documented in the IEP, usually on the first page) and ask for clarification of anything that doesn’t match what you wrote or heard during the meeting.If your child does not qualify for services and you are still very concerned that they need services in order to succeed, you can ask that the school provide RTI services, often this is already in place, will continue, and may be the reason why your child didn’t qualify for services, or you can ask for an independent evaluation. This independent evaluation is conducted by a professional who is unaffiliated with the school district and who is usually mutually agreed upon by you and the district.What do I do if the school refuses to listen or just doesn’t seem to get my concerns?In this case you have a few options. The first thing you should do is bring a digital recorder to IEP meetings and record them. The team is usually more careful about what they say and how they say it when they know they are being recorded. Keep a copy of these recordings. Secondly, you can call your state department of education and speak with an educational consultant. Most are eager to help parents and answer questions. Many states have a helpline that you can call that provides answers and gives directions on how to contact specific state and local agencies that will help you. You can call an advocate or educational lawyer who will review your concerns and child’s records, provide you with information and direction, meet with you, and attend IEP meetings with you. This last option will cost you money but is often very helpful in extreme cases.Remember: as a parent you know your child best and you are her/his best advocate. S/he is counting on you to be her/his voice when s/he struggles and ensure s/he receives the appropriate services in order to succeed.

An Introduction To The Art Of Garden Design

This article is the first in a series that will explain the many facets of garden design and provide you with the knowledge required to plan a functional and aesthetically pleasing garden. In these articles you will find the necessary information required to undertake your own garden project from conception through to completion.Every garden benefits from good garden design. Whatever your expectations are, planning and design are essential. One of the first questions I ask a client (as a design consultant) is “what do you want from your garden?” The planning will focus on these needs and create a personalized garden that can be enjoyed by everyone for years to come.To provide a definitive guide on garden design I would need to be writing a 500-page book, so we will only look at the absolute basics in this article. One thing I have learnt over the past twenty plus years as a garden designer is that few of us are totally content with our gardens. Despite the immense pleasure we derive from them, there is always something that could be better.Many long for a larger garden, a few for something smaller and more manageable, but the vast majority will make the best of their existing plots. Improving our garden spaces, coaxing the maximum impact from them is an enjoyable challenge that most avid green thumbs would rise to. The trick of course is knowing how!Gardening is essentially about growing plants, but the setting in which we place them is probably the single most important element that makes a garden appealing or otherwise. Personal tastes in garden styles vary as much as in other aspects of living, and what appeals to one person may not appeal to another. The true test of good garden design is whether the result appeals to you. As a garden designer I have always seen my role as a facilitator, aiming to assist my clients to create a garden that reflects their taste and personality.A good garden designer will open a magic box of inspiration and imagination. We show you what other enthusiastic gardeners have done, and how others have made the most of potentially insurmountable plot issues.Your own level of interest is the key factor to consider when making a decision to have your garden designed and constructed by professionals or taking on the project yourself. It will cost you a great deal of money and the chances are that it won’t give you as much satisfaction as having created a garden through your own efforts.Engaging a design consultant to explain the basic techniques and perhaps provide some inspirational ideas may be all you need to get the ball rolling. In the end only you can decide what is right for your garden. Tastes in gardens vary as much as in interior design and preferences for art or music. The true acid test of whether your new garden design has worked is only gauged by the pleasure that it gives you.Make use of a professional designer by allowing them to suggest ideas and explain the techniques they use. Have faith in your own ability to soak up their inspiration and experiment on paper. You will soon develop skills that will enable you to design your garden with confidence.The best gardens are carefully planned. The most important elements include:
Creating your wish-list
Surveying and measuring
Drawing your plans
Creating patterns
Choosing a formal or informal layout
Understanding garden styles and themes
Using shapes – both geometric and unusual
Overcoming gradients
Front versus back gardens
Creating Illusions
Preparing a planting schedule
Maintenance – high or low
Understanding these facets of landscape design will enable you to create a 3-dimensional image in your mind of the desired end result.In future articles I will look at some of these specific elements of sound garden design in more detail, and provide you with the information required to tackle a design project yourself. A little knowledge goes a long way and I have no doubt that you will surprise yourself by discovering exactly what you can achieve.As always… Happy gardening!

Finance Online Help – How to Manage Your Personal Finances Using Online Services

Finding Finance Online Help is possible if you need help in dealing with money troubles or other financial difficulties. You can find a great deal of financial help for your household finances, online loan applications and even applying for a personal loan online with online finance help sites, without paying the cost of high fees.Dealing with financial planning is not something most of us enjoy, particularly if there is not so much coming in to actually plan with. However, it is necessary to properly manage our personal finances otherwise it could be too late once a downturn or emergency hits us.Most of us turn to credit and bank institutions to help us through, which can compound the problems. Seeking out help from online financial help sites, blogs and services is a good  place to start to discover valuable ideas to consolidate debts in order to lessen your payments or how to manage your tight budget as well as how to bring in some extra money from other sources.If you want to seek out free finance online help websites you will be surprised to find you can organize your household finances and personal money issues for wealth building without paying a cent. It has never been easier to get help online and there are a ton of tools and articles that can help guide you to success.The type of help you can expect to find with online finance sites will come in the from informative articles on managing your personal loan online, household budgeting, free personal accounting software downloads, to advice on debt consolidation, refinancing and getting financial aid, household finances and online loan applications. You’ll even find budgeting spreadsheets as well as free software to download as well.Let us cover a few of the best online help services for managing your personal finances:•    First is YouTube. There are plenty of resourceful people giving so much advice and how tools on all sorts of money issues.•    Second is the Mint.com. It is a completely free website to help with personal finances, budgeting and expense tracking that includes a number of helpful tools and suggestions for reducing your expenses and tracking you’re spending.•    And of course there is always Google Search: This search engine contains millions of sites that give a wealth of information on just about anything from experts covering on topics from investing in gold to bad credit repair.The benefits of getting online financial help means you don’t have to sit through presentations, waste your gas, pay for parking, or worst, waste your time and money, getting the wrong type of advice.Improving your personal finances is a lifelong and rewarding journey. With all the completely free personal finance online help resources available today you can take hold of your financial life back from your creditors.