Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The IEP Meeting

This past week we had Ellie's IEP meeting (that is an ARD for all you Texas folks).  I have written about the IEP process last year here,  here (guest blogger), here, and here so this is more of a personal Ellie Bear IEP post rather than general IEP information.

Because Ellie has a mid-September birthday, her IEP meeting was held after the start of school as the IEP is valid for 1 year.  I brought baked goodies and I wore mascara.  And a skirt.  I sort of figured that jean shorts and a tank top didn't scream "team member".

It went well.

I learned this year just how much I didn't know last year.  How I didn't know about the inner-workings of Ellie's school.  I was completely clueless. I asked questions, but not the right ones. You see, I blindly listened to Ellie's Early Childhood Therapist when she told me that Ellie's program was inclusive--kids with special needs and some of the teacher's kids all in the same classroom. Last year, a few months into the school year, I discovered that her class was not inclusive, but rather all the kids have special needs.  I did not ask the right questions. Mama fail.

This year, I thought it would be great for Ellie to spend some time in the typical Pre-K classroom.  I brushed up on IDEA and read about LRE [least restrictive environment].  Ellie's ABA therapist sent me many articles to help build Ellie's case.  I learned that "IDEA's least restrictive environment directive requires the inclusion of children with disabilities in the general education program to the maximum extent appropriate".  Of course "maximum extent appropriate" can be translated in many ways, but this basically means that pre-k aged children with disabilities should be placed in typical early education classroom if possible.  As in Ellie should spend time in the typical Pre-K at her school.  Or so I thought.

I mentioned my idea to the teacher about 1.5 weeks prior to her IEP meeting.  The teacher looked uneasy and told me that she didn't think it would happen.  The teacher contacted the principal and the teacher of the Pre-K.  About 1 week prior to her IEP meeting, I learned that this was not possible.  You see, the Pre-K at her school is for children who turn 4 years-old by the end of August.  Ellie has a mid-September birthday.  She was not old enough.  The teacher tried and for that, I am grateful.  If they waived the age requirement for Ellie, they would have to do so for all children.

However, the typical Pre-K shares activities in Ellie's classroom.  They may spend time in social play, circle time, music time, and during other activities.  Recess is shared.  In a way, Ellie is not in a completely secluded classroom environment.  She did/does have activities with typical peers.

Back to Ellie's IEP meeting.  Ellie's teacher and I had something called a Pre-ARD.  This is where we spent over 2 hours discussing Ellie's learning behaviors, her strengths, her weaknesses, as well as her progress and regression over the summer.  We truly were a team trying to come up with attainable, but challenging goals specific to Ellie.  I learned, but was not truly surprised, that Ellie has a lot of behavioral "issues".  These issues really relate to her ADHD.  The inattentiveness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity are greatly affecting how she learns.  Actually, they impair her learning and her social interactions.  She has several behavioral goals such as "Ellie will sit in her chair during circle time for 2 minutes" [30 seconds is a challenge] or "Ellie will hang up her backpack upon entering the classroom with 1 prompt".  Ellie can hang up her backpack.  She knows to hang up her backpack.  Yet, she gets distracted by other people's backpacks.  Or she needs to hang from the hooks in her cubby.

We developed several goals that build on last year's goals such as Ellie will take 3 turns with a peer and a teacher.   Last year's goal only included a teacher and so we added a peer this year.  At the actual IEP meeting, we also discussed speech therapy [ST] and occupational therapy [OT] goals.

Finally, Ellie's teacher spoke with the typical Pre-K teacher and hand selected two peers to serve as role model's for Ellie.  These peers will help Ellie learn social skills and hopefully improve speech and behavior.  Pairing typical peers with a child who has a disability helps children learn new skills--both for the child with a disability and for the child who is typically developing.  This is called Peer-Mediated Intervention/Instruction and has been proven to be an effective strategy in promoting learning and social and communication development.

I am excited about this upcoming school year.  I feel like Ellie has people who are truly interested in her and that Ellie is going to accomplish great things.

Yes, I know this pic was in the last post but I just love it so much!

Harris, K., Pretti-Frontczak, K., and Brown, T. (2009). Peer-Mediated Intervention. Young Children, 43-49. 

Including Children with Disabilities in State Pre-K Programs. Education Law Center/Standing Ip for Public School Children. (Feb. 2010).

IDEA The Manual for Parents and Students About Special Education Services in Texas. (2012) A joint project of The Arc of Texas and Disability Rights Texas.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Happy 4th Birthday, Ellie Bear!

Four years ago today, Ellie came into our lives.  How we survived before her diva presence is beyond me as I cannot imagine my life without her.   More pictures next week as she is having her Minnie Mouse Bow-tique Birthday Bash next weekend.

Ellie turned 3 years-old:

Ellie turned 2 years-old:

Ellie turned 1 year-old:

Ellie was born:
September 16, 2009


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

My daughter is the mean kid

Exasperated is what I am feeling right about now.  I had been so worried about kids being mean to her because she is different that I never thought about Ellie being the kid hitting and shirt pulling.  I was so worried that kids wouldn't want to be friends with her because of her Down syndrome that I never thought she'd have her aggressive, grabby behaviors would prevent her from forming friendships with kids in her class.

My daughter, while her intentions are innocent and are not maleficent, is not very kind to her fellow classmates, therapists, or her own mother.  When she doesn't want to do something, she lashes out with her hands.  Slapping at us.  She doesn't want to wear shoes, I get hit.  She doesn't want to work on that book with her therapist, the book gets hit and shoved violently away.

She has something the school and I call the "arm sweep".  It isn't exactly shoving, but rather a sweep of an arm to move a child away from her.  Some of these kids are up in her personal space (although Ellie has no concept of other people's space--sure, let me climb all over you and sit in your lap) and she performs the arm sweep to move them away.  A child may be on top of the slide waiting to go down, but my impulsive little angel performs the arm sweep and goes barreling down the slide.

Then there is the shirt pulling.  It used to be she grabbed a kid's shirt or hoodie if it was brightly colored.  Or sparkly.  Especially if it was sparkly. Now she does it to physically pull the "friend" to her. It is her not-so-very good way of saying "play with me".  What child wants to be strangled with their shirt by a grabby little 4 year-old?

If you are an adult, hold onto your glasses.  Many times Ellie steals glasses to perform a "trade".  An, I give you my necklace, hat, or sunglasses for your glasses or hat.  She likes to use my glasses for a trade.  She also likes to remove my glasses in a huff because she is angry at me.  She knows it irks me so I am trying to be much calmer and use a nice soft voice.  It may or may not be working.  I cannot tell.

Yes, she has communication difficulties.  Yes, she has social deficits.  Yes, she has a naughty temper.

I have the mean kid at school.  The kid that "arm sweeps".  The kid that is "grabby" and "can't keep her hands to herself".  The kids that pulls shirts and slaps at adults.  I have the child that will have trouble making friends because who wants to hang out with the kid that might hit them.

I have learned that immediate consequences do not change her behavior.  Immediate scolding.  Immediate time outs.  These do nothing.  She repeats the undesired behavior. . . immediately.  We are working with Ellie's ABA therapist and have started a Social Story on the iPad.  This story has sad and happy pictures of Ellie and myself.  It has audio that goes something like this "hand are not for hitting.  hands are for eating.  hands are for drinking. hands are not for hitting.".   We are also showing her how to use "soft hands".  The school and I worked together to find a PEC that Ellie can use to say "I want to play." rather than shirt pulling.  The kids at school are told to say "Ellie, hands down".  I do not know if any of this will work, but my heart is broken.  I want my daughter to have friends and to be loved.   Plus, I am tired of getting beat on.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Ellie Antics

That's right folks!  It is time for another edition of Ellie antics.  A blog post that will probably embarrass my little Bear when she is a teenager.

  • Curtain rods are not as sturdy as they appear to be.  When Bear was boycotting bedtime, I went in to check on her.  I discovered Ellie, naked from the waist down clutching her PJ bottoms.  Her diaper was in the middle of the room.  Her curtains. . . well that obnoxiously pink cupcake fabric was pooled on the floor and the curtain rod was bent in a such a way it looked like modern art.  Me thinks the Bear tried to hang from the curtains again.

  • Ellie only cares about fashion.  She inherited this obsession from my niece Haleigh and most definitely not from me. 

    • I bought these boots back in the day for the whopping 3 days of cold weather we have in Austin during "winter".  Ellie refused to wear them.  There were tantrums.  And kicking.  And crying. And "nooooo!!!".  Now that we have lovely weather in the triple digits, these boots are the most stylish accessary ever.  These "Boooo" must be worn for every occasion.  Remember, black goes with everything.  As does yellow.  Who cares that they are almost too small.  We must make small sacrifices for fashion.

    • It is important to coordinate.  When one is watching Sofia the First, one must wear the Sofia dress while holding the plush Sofia doll.

  • The Bear is a big fan of the Monkey Mouse.  I mean, Mickey Mouse.  In the beginning, Ellie only signed "monkey" for Mickey Mouse.  Andrew and I were confused and were trying to figure out what books / TV show had a monkey in it.  When we finally figured it out, Andrew would sign "mouse" and say "Oh you want to watch the mouse!"  Ellie started to sign "mouse", but would then look back at us and adamantly sign "monkey" afterwards.  It was as though she was humoring us by adding in "mouse".

  • Juice, I mean Sofia.  Ellie is trying hard to communicate.  The thing is, she makes up signs and I am left trying to decipher them.  Sometimes, it takes me a month to figure it out and in that time, Ellie gets rather agitated.  I tried to teach Ellie the sign for princess as in the character Princess Sofia of Disney's Sofia the First.  Some how, Ellie started to sign a slight variation of juice (which does not look like princess at all) and say "ah".  Bear would become rather annoyed and then frustrated when I would give her juice.  I would get rather frustrated and annoyed when she wouldn't accept the juice that she requested.  I wanted to throw a tantrum.  I finally figured out that when she says "ah" she is saying the end of So-fee-AH.  Why she signs juice is beyond me.

I have no explanation.

  • A little TMI here.  Someone prefers to poop after going down for the night.  Seriously, children will do anything to delay bedtime.  

  • A potty training update: I think the Chunky Chicken is making some good headway.  Either just before she pees or right as she is peeing, Ellie grabs her diaper.  The problem is that she hasn't learned about privacy yet.  Ellie, it is NOT appropriate to remove your diaper while at the bottom of a slide at the indoor play scape.


  • The trash.  We have been trying to transition Ellie from a high chair to a regular chair in a restaurant.  Ellie does okay provided we go when she is really hungry and we have the iPad.  I used to be one of those high and mighty people who said "when I have kids, they will never sit at a table with an electronic device".  Then I became a mom to a hyperactive Tasmanian devil.  Anyway, at home, my little girl is learning all about the sink vs. trash.  Apparently, this life lesson extends to restaurant settings. We have to hide straw wrappers and empty splenda packets from Ellie because she thinks it is imperative to run them to the trash can then and there.  It can not wait! Little Miss runs to the trash not worrying about who is in her way.  When she goes to return to her chair, she saunters on back like the Queen of Sheba and then gets distracted by every BABY!


A mask for kids with Down syndrome

Do you hear crickets?  Yes, we are here!  We are alive!  We are safe and healthy!  We haven't been inside a restaurant or store since m...