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!

How To Save Over 75% on Coastal Vacations – Travel – and Entertainment

With school season almost over and the summer approaching, families from all over the country are planning what they are going to do this summer. Parents are now pondering their options to find out what activities are best for their children to get involved in while out of school. The Coastal Vacations packages offer families valuable vacations all over the world and discount membership cards for entertainment and sports activities such as golf, RVing, camps, dining, hotels, condos, and more.One of the best ways to find summer activities and vacations at a discount rate is online. The internet is loaded with great information for the traveler. Web users have found that there’s no need to pay retail for anything, especially in the competitive travel industry, when they can find amazing deals everyday online. One of the best deals out there can be found by researching Coastal Vacations and its amazing travel packages.Coastal Vacations offers three different packages. The first package is called the Resort Package, and members get $15,000 worth of cruises and bonus vacations and over 20 membership cards that can be easily used away from home as well as in the members’ living areas. All members have to do is to activate the cards, type in the zip code where they want to find dining, entertainment and/or lodging, and print out the exclusive coupon that shows up on the website. This package is sold for a lot less than what it’s worth.It is well known that a vacation away from home is ideal for relaxation and putting thoughts together. A family vacation is a great way to enjoy quality time with the family while getting away from the routine and recharge. In the Coastal Vacations packages you will find activities for the whole family and all age groups to enjoy. One of the best additions to the Coastal Vacations packages is the free cruises that come with it.On the Level 1 Coastal Vacations package, club members get five free Carnival cruises. One of these is already activated and must be taken within a year of the package purchase. The rest of them can be taken anytime. It is a lifetime membership, so there’s no expiration dates on any of the vacations or cruises. These are also great to give away to friends and family or as business incentives.The Level 2 Coastal Vacations package includes unlimited free cruises and bonus vacations for life. For the ones that just love travel and adventure, Coastal Vacations also has a Level 3 package with unlimited free all-inclusive resorts stays for life. Members just pay their room taxes plus a $6.95 shipping fee.It is important to note that these are not timeshares and members are not required to attend any presentations; just great vacations that are available from individuals and families this summer season for their enjoyment and pleasure. With the Coastal Vacations packages, anybody is sure to find activities and vacations that suit their wildest desires and needs. There’s a lot to choose from and a lifetime of vacations to enjoy!