This page is from a mom, to teachers, caregivers, and aides....

1.  Describe what you think the caregivers and educators should know about children with special needs.

Please see the potential of the special needs child, see what they can become and how they can contribute – even in seemingly small ways now. like they may have a beautiful smile, a sparkle in their eyes. Then try to see what you can do to help bring out the sparkle and the smile. He/she has a heart, but their abilities to communicate or engage in skills may be limited by their challenges.

Also, many special needs children hear every word you say – even though they are not looking at you or even if they may appear to be not paying attention. And communication is so much more than just speech. They communicate with a gesture, a look, a sound.

If a child has communication challenges, please limit his/her electronic game time (includes TV and computer games).  Because a child that can’t communicate well will easily tune out people and tune in to the TV/Computer etc. The key to learning to communicate is first WANTING to communicate. The wanting to communicate starts with successful building of relationships, even just exchanging smiles, looks, laughter. That is the start of a relationship.

If you like podcasts on your mp3 player, please download some of Dr Greenspan’s excellent talk series from www.floortime.org The Greenspan/Weider books on floortime and special needs kids are also the very best.

Floortime made a huge impact for my son, I started trying to engage him with floortime play when he was 2, then received coaching when he was 3 and his communication took off!!!

Please also check the children’s Hallmark Developmental Milestones according to www.firstsigns.org/healthydev/milestones.htm  If you see any delays, please kindly and compassionately give a print out of that webpage to the parent and tell them that you are not an expert but you are wondering if they could maybe take a look at the page (of developmental milestones and then consult a professional if warranted). At 18 months of age my son’s caregiver told us that she wasn’t sure if my son was hearing her clearly, this helpfully led to us discovering that he needed early interventions. As a caregiver, you can make a HUGE different. Parents don’t see the stuff!!! Neither do pediatricians, you are with the kids for hours at  time, you see the kids objectively, You can make a difference!

More tips from an article by Gail Ewell (will add the link soon and credit the other 2 authors):

•           One of the greatest challenges is that special-needs children are more likely to be overwhelmed by crowded classes and loud noises.  To address these issues, try decreasing the class size and ensuring that the class routine is well ordered and structured.  Be sure that the classroom and bathroom are wheelchair accessible.

•           Ask if the child needs extra assistance.  Again, work with the parents to decide if another adult volunteer is needed or if a buddy system can be worked out.  For example, if the child struggles with auditory learning, a peer could demonstrate how to do activities after the teacher gives verbal instructions.

•           Is the child more eager to cooperate if given choices?  Asking a child with special needs what song he wants to sing or if he would rather cut or paste at craft time can help him feel more in control.

•           Is the child sensitive to certain substances?  Some special-needs children are “tactile-defensive.”  For example, they may be unable to use liquid glue but can use a glue stick.  Do they do better when working on colored paper rather than on white or black paper?  Are there certain foods they cannot chew or swallow?  [Also, some special-needs kids have severe food allergies.  Please respect all food instructions given by the parents.  Watch younger children closely so they do not eat other children’s snacks.  CA]

•           A child who may not excel in other areas may benefit from being given the “honor” of passing out snacks or leading the march to the bathroom.  Look for opportunities to give him a leadership role.

•           Does the child learn best with visual aids?  If so, instructions should be more “show” and less “tell.”  Memory scriptures and Bible stories can be acted out with play figures, puppets or stuffed animals.

•           What resources are available in your environment?  Occupational/physical/speech therapists, psychologists and special education teachers are a great help in designing creative ways to meet the child’s needs.


2. Describe the needs of parents of children with special needs and how child-care providers can be supportive.

Please let the parents know both encouraging news and the “needs to work on” news. Don’t just report only the bad news. We parents need to know the good parts too, to balance out! A communication book (like a small composition book) that goes back and forth everyday with the child is super helpful as you can date and add your remarks. There need not be an entry every day. The parents can write back to you too, and the therapists.

Ask questions, be interested “how is Johnny coming along in speech therapy, how can I help support the SLP’s work in the ___ setting?”

If the child is on a special diet, PLEASE PLEASE honor the special diet. There are several kinds of allergies to learn about.

1) Food sensitivities (igg type ) result in a rash, a stomach ache, an inflamed bowel, compromised immune system, etc. If the child has an infraction (eats food that they are sensitive to) and if the sensitivity is high, then the child may even regress or become ill. Please ask the parents to give you a written list of all the foods that are allowed and not allowed. Also, ask the parents what to do if the child grabs a forbidden food and eats it. And ask the parents to give you a stash of treats to keep in the classroom or care room, with her child’s name clearly written on the items.

2) ige allergies – fatal if not treated. This child will have an epi pen kit – a shot/injection to be given if they are exposed to the allergen. Most common ige allergen is peanuts. The ige allergy is VERY VERY SENSITIVE, even being in the same room as a person eating a food containing the allergen can set off the reaction. Even being touched by a person AFTER they finished eating the allergen. If you have a child with an ige allergy, letters should be sent to all parents insisting that the allergen food NOT be sent to the school ever.

3. Describe what it is like to collaborate and consult with a variety of agencies in the community.

RC in my case was helpful, but everything moved slow. Took months to start his speech therapy partly because we requested RC to increase services and secondly because Speech services had a long waiting list.

SD (School District) can be a positive experience to work with but most of the time they are challenging to work with because funds are low, staff is overworked, paperwork is bureaucratic, and decision makers are few. The parent has to be well informed and assertive to navigate and even then may experience frustration. Parents MUST read/learn about the IEP process and their rights. They MUST collaborate with other parents in their situation and/or with an advocate or attorney. The sf bay area section of www.helpingdelayedkids.com has local Northern California support groups, avocates, and attorneys. It is also very helpful to call www.php.org for the same.

PHP www.php.org is very helpful, they can answer many questions and they offer many free classes and support groups.

Hope School www.hopetech.org has been a wonderful inclusion school for my son, he started at age 4 in their preschool.

Various therapy places – often have good therapists, but it can be a nightmare to get the insurance reimbursement and their rates are extremely high for private pay and waiting lists are often extremely LONGGGG for the most popular places.

2’s special needs group class sponsored by RC was not a fit for us, some of the kids were very disruptive (behavior issues) and we switched to individual therapy instead. Emotionally it was draining for me to be around other special needs kids when he was 2, I was overwhelmed. It was a parent participation class.

What about ideas for being a good shadow aide or paraprofessional?

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/DTT-NET/message/7555  a person writing a book on this subject http://groups.yahoo.com/group/DTT-NET/message/7357  hourly rates and the school district http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Floortime/message/887  facilitating? Facilitating for a boy named Graham http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Floortime/message/2330  tips from someone who is an aide http://www.mindspring.com/~dgn/school.htm  Using A Faciliator At School http://www.mindspring.com/~dgn/school2.htm  FACILITATING FOR A CHILD IN A TYPICAL CLASSROOM 
http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/relsvc.aide.steedman.htm How to request a one-to-one aide
http://projectparticipate.org/handouts/TipsforParaeducators.pdf tips
http://www.uvm.edu/~cdci/evolve/evolvegsa.pdf - Guidelines for Selecting Alternatives to Overreliance on Paraprofessionals