Visual Supports

By: Laura Bueche, MOT/OTR

Visual supports are concrete cues that provide your child with information about a routine, activity, behavioral expectation, or how to learn the component of a new skill. They may include pictures, symbols, written words, objects, visual boundaries and schedules.

Goals that can be addressed by using visual supports include:

  • Increase frequency of smooth transitions.
  • Decrease amount of time to transition.
  • Increase predictability.
  • Reduce inappropriate behaviors associated with a task or transition.
  • Increase independence.
  • Minimize teacher and adult support (e.g. prompts and reinforcement).
  • Increase understanding of expected task or activity to complete.
  • Maximize understanding of environment.
  • Decrease distractions.
  • Reduce self-injurious behaviors.
  • Increase social interaction skills.
  • Increase demonstration of play skills.
  • Increase understanding of behavior expectations.

There are three types of visual support: visual boundaries, visual cues, and visual schedules.

Visual boundaries are a helpful way to help your child make sense of the world around them. It will help your child to stay on task, understand personal space, and stay organized. Visual boundaries can include:

Floor tape


Spot markers


Visual Cues are helpful for a variety of different applications. For example they can help with:

Breaking down the steps of a task.


Organizing concepts and ideas.


Assisting with communication.


Organizing materials.


Time Management.


Visual Schedules – Visual schedules can increase your child’s understanding of expectations and provide support for transitions in between activities.

When developing a visual schedule, there are a lot of components to consider:

  • schedules-jpgForm of the visual (picture, photos, words, phrases).
  • Length of the sequence (one item, two items, half day, full day).
  • Presentation (left to right, top to bottom, technology based).
  • Manipulation of the visual (child carries object to next activity, “all done” pocket, marks).
  • Location of the schedule (on a wall, desk, notebook).

Be sure to work with your child’s speech and language pathologist, occupational therapist, or special education teacher to determine what the most appropriate type of visual schedule is for your child.

For more information on occupational therapy services including helping children and adults with sensory-processing abilities, coordination, peer interaction, play and self-care skills to participate in daily life activities, visit



Pilates for Kids

By: Laura Znajda, PT, C/NDT

A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine last month ranked United States children among the least fit in the world—the US ranked 47th out of 50 countries in physical fitness of our children!   With a sedentary lifestyle linked to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, it is more important than ever to get our children moving and instill healthy behaviors that will last a lifetime.  It’s been shown that children whose parents exercise regularly are more likely to exercise and be active as adults.  Exercising together is fun and more motivating for both parents and their kids.

A good physical fitness program includes a variety of exercise and movement activities.  Pilates is just one of many exercise methods that is gaining popularity among adults, and with its focus on core strength, stability, and body awareness, this exercise method can be used with kids too–and with great benefits.  And since many Pilates exercises use body or limb weight for resistance strengthening,  little to no equipment is needed.  So  grab a piece of floor and perhaps an exercise ball, and have fun while being active with your kids!

Pilates Bridge is an exercise that strengthens gluteal (buttock) muscles and hamstrings, while providing a stretch to flexor muscles across the front of the hips.  It requires core muscles to work together, leading to good posture and balance for all future dancers, gymnasts and sports enthusiasts. To make it fun for kids, help them place feet (and lower legs if more support is needed) on an exercise ball and lift hips and spine off the floor.  Weight should be on the shoulders and feet.  You can stabilize the ball if needed, or have the child wedge the ball in a corner before starting.


Swimming Exercise strengthens extensor muscles of the back, hips, thighs and calves that kids need for running and jumping.   Lying flat on the tummy, have the child lift one arm at a time, keeping the legs straight and long.  As the child gets stronger, cue him to lift one or both legs off the floor , always keeping them stretched as long as possible.


Younger children might need help stabilizing one arm against the floor while they lift the other.  Make it fun by pretending to be an alligator chomping on his dinner or reaching for small objects.


Pilates Leg Circles are hard for many adults, and even harder for young kids who lack abdominal strength to stabilize the trunk while moving their legs above their body.  But working on the starting position for this exercise will help kids learn to engage abdominal muscles prior to moving their legs when climbing or kicking a ball. Ask the child to lie on his back and lift his feet above his body (hips at a 90 degree angle).  Make it fun by placing small bean bag animals on his feet or ask him to squeeze the animals between his feet.pilatesblog2

Plank strengthens core muscles that are critical for a stable, balanced body, whether your child likes to exercise on the playground or by playing a competitive sport.  The key with plank is to only hold the pose for as long as you can keep good form.

Give your child the support of an exercise ball to start, bringing her forward onto her hands.  Keep the ball positioned under the hips if needed; move it to the lower legs as the child gets stronger.  She should be able to keep her tummy lifted and the back straight (not arched or sagging).  As soon as the trunk starts to lose its form, take a rest and try again after a minute or two.  Make it fun by singing a song while holding the plank position.

Proof that Pilates exercise can be used by everyone, many Pilates moves have been adapted for use in rehabilitation.  Pilates is used to rehabilitate orthopedic injuries in adults as well as to strengthen and improve body awareness for children with neuromuscular disorders.

Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley therapists are expanding their knowledge of using Pilates in therapy with a continuing education course taught by Sara Koveleski Kraut, DPT,  on January 21-22, 2017.  The course is open for registration by adult and pediatric therapists at

Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley is also a teaching center that provides innovative continuing education courses that promote therapeutic excellence for speech and language pathologists, physical and occupational therapists, educators and other professionals.  To be added to the course email list, please email us.



Speech and Language Evaluation: What to Expect

By: Jennifer Tripoli M.S.Speech Language Pathologist

You and your child may wonder what to expect when participating in a speech and language evaluation. Many children (and parents!) feel less anxious when they know ahead of time what they will be doing. Of course, the outline of a speech and language evaluation depends on the age of the child and the areas of need. Below is a general outline for a speech and language evaluation:

1. Parent Interview

Parents are the best reporters of their child’s development. They know their child and can paint a clear picture of their child before the speech pathologist begins the formal assessment. A formalized assessment does not always “pick up” everything that should be known about a child. A caregiver or parent’s role in a pediatric speech and language evaluation is crucial in helping the speech pathologist determine your child’s needs. During this interview, the therapist will usually ask you why you have come in for an evaluation, and ask about your concerns and goals for the evaluation.

2. Case History

A case history usually includes a medical history and developmental history. Typically, the speech pathologist is able to review provided information prior to the evaluation, but often there are additional questions that need to be answered.

A medical history includes any medical issues that your child has encountered since birth or before birth. Often this includes, but is not limited to pregnancy/birth history of the mother (e.g. complicated pregnancy, premature birth, complicated delivery), major surgeries, procedures or tests (e.g. tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy, ear surgeries, brain surgeries, hearing screenings/tests, MRI/CT, etc.), significant illnesses, infections or injuries (e.g. chronic ear infections, chronic congestion, respiratory illnesses) and/or hospitalizations.

It is also important for the speech pathologist to be aware of any specialty physicians your child has seen such as otolaryngologists, gastroenterologists, neurologists, etc. A developmental history is taken in order for the therapist to understand your child’s developmental progression. Developmental histories include all areas of development; not just speech and language milestones. They can include when your baby first sat unassisted, crawled, walked, babbled, etc.

3. Speech and Language Concerns

During this part of the evaluation, the therapist will ask more detailed/specific questions related to your child’s speech and language skills. The types of questions will depend on your child’s age and the type of evaluation. The therapist will ask you questions related to your child’s expressive language skills, receptive language skills, social/pragmatic language skills, oral motor skills, and speech sound production.


4. Discussion of Previous Therapies

It is important that your therapist knows what services your child has participated in previously. Has your child received early intervention services? School based services? Other private therapies? You should be prepared to explain the other therapies your child has participated in including occupational therapy, developmental therapy, physical therapy, or behavioral therapy. Please be specific in the goals of each of the therapies if applicable.development

5. Formal Assessment

01_Lucas_VasquezThe point where the therapist begins the formalized assessment can vary significantly depending on the age and deficits of your child. For a young toddler, this part of the assessment may be play based. The clinician will likely be observing your child’s current communication skills in a play setting while administering a standardized or norm referenced test. The therapist may ask to observe you playing with your child.

For a preschool or school aged child, a standardized/norm referenced test would likely be administered depending on the abilities of your child. This would yield a score that will compare your child’s skills to other children his/her age. A standardized test will likely be your child looking/naming pictures in a book and answering questions.

The clinician will also interact with your child in a less structured way by engaging in conversation or asking questions related to his/her life. The therapist may also take a language sample, which will analyze your child’s expressive language skills and speech intelligibility (ability to be understood by others). Additionally, the therapist will likely complete an oral motor assessment if appropriate in order to examine your child’s oral structures. An oral motor assessment usually asks the child to do certain movements with his/her lips, tongue, jaw and face. The therapist may also have your child eat/drink something. Though this is not a feeding evaluation, it is often difficult to separate speech and feeding skills.

6. Discussion of Results and Recommendations

Toward the end of the evaluation, the therapist will discuss your child’s results and make recommendations for any further evaluations needed. If your child would benefit from therapy, a recommended frequency would be given (e.g. weekly therapy, twice weekly, monthly, etc.) At this time, you can ask questions regarding the evaluation or your child’s prognosis.

Think your child may need a speech and language evaluation? Learn more about speech and language services provided at Easter Seals DuPage and Fox Valley here.



Motivation Comes From Seeing Your Future Self

By: Jessica Drake-Simmons M.S. CCC-SLP

We all have a range in abilities of executive functioning.  Kids and adults alike can struggle with organization, memory, focus, managing time, initiating a task and completing a task.

Being able to visualize the future is an imperative skill for moving from event to event and showing up on time with the needed materials.

Some of our kids who struggle with executive functioning may seem distracted, disorganized and struggling to keep up with the pace of the day.

Additionally, some of these kids can be perceived as being unmotivated.   They might be smart kids that simply don’t appear driven to work up to their potential.  Executive functioning guru, Sarah Ward, asserts that these kids have difficulty imagining their future emotions.  They don’t intuitively imagine what they will feel like or what they will look like when they complete a task or achieve a goal.

first-blog-picturesecond-blog-pictureJorge on bike.jpg

What I need to look like now.                                   So that I can look like this later.

We want kids to be able to see the future, say the future, feel the future and plan for the future.  So how can we facilitate this skill of ‘future imagery thinking’?

  • Have your child make an image by helping them talk through the following:
    • What will the environment look like?
    • Who else do you see being there?
    • What will I look like?
    • What will I feel like?
  • Ask questions that encourage future imagery thinking.
    • Ask:  “When you walk into class tomorrow, what do you see yourself handing to your teacher?”
      • Instead of:  “What do you have for homework tonight?”
    • Ask: “What would you look like if you were standing by the door, ready to leave for soccer?”
      • Instead of: “Go get ready for soccer.”

Making a mental movie of the future requires us to actively think through the necessary steps in order to complete a task.  It enables us to envision and play a ‘dry run’ of a task without the risk of error.  Seeing the future helps us to persist through the present challenge in order to achieve our goals.

To learn more about Easter Seals DuPage and Fox Valley programs, visit


Featured image by: Lauren Sims


Getting Ready For Fall by Teaching Your Child to Dress a Coat

By: Maureen Karwowski, OT

As the leaves begin to turn, it will soon be time to break out those sweaters and coats. This is a great time for your child to practice dressing their coat independently.

As an occupational therapist, I am always looking for ways to help my clients reach their maximum independence. As children become more independent, they develop more confidence and are more likely to try other challenges as well. For my clients that have fine motor difficulties, practicing dressing skills is a natural and routine way to help them develop their fine motor abilities.  Independence with dressing occurs one step at a time, so we can start with dressing a coat as the first step.

Once a child is able to stand securely, or sit securely if they have postural difficulties, it is a good time to start. Here is the “over the head” method that I would start with:

  1. Place the coat on the floor or a low table
  2. Lay the coat flat with the inside facing up
  3. Stand facing the top or collar of the coat
  4. Bend over and place the arms in the sleeves
  5. Lift the entire coat up and overhead
  6. When the arms come down you are all set!

Zipping up a coat requires more precise fine motor skills and strength. I would start by having the child zip up the coat once you have engaged the zipper. When assisting your child with any fasteners, always stand behind them to give them perspective on how their hands should work. You can use a zipper pull to make it easier for your child to grasp the zipper. A quick online search yields many cute options, but you can also use a key ring that you have at home. A magnetic zipper is also a nice alternative while your child is working on manipulating a zipper. Several clothing companies offer this.

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It is important to assist your child, while not jumping in too soon. Be sure to leave extra time, and focus on one step at a time. Once they are independent with this, then you can focus on promoting another dressing task. Good luck and stay warm!

To learn more about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley occupational therapy services, visit

Nutrition Therapy

Help children receive the nutritional therapy they need!

By: Cindy Baranoski, MS, RDN, LDN – Pediatric Nutrition Therapist

Excellent nutrition is one of the most basic requirements for a child to grow and thrive. A study published by Pediatrics found that diagnosis-specific, structured approaches to nutrition issues among children with developmental disabilities significantly improved energy consumption and nutritional status. Yet, nutrition disorders and compromised nutritional status are very frequent among children with developmental disabilities. fun-with-food-054

Research shows that as many as 90% of children with a developmental disorder have at least one nutrition risk indicator. Nutrition problems can include failure to thrive, obesity, poor feeding skills, sensory disorders, and gastrointestinal disorders, to name only a few. Individuals with special needs are also more likely to develop co-existing medical conditions that require nutrition interventions.

Thanks to two significant grants from Hanover Township Mental Health Board and Special Kids Foundation, Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley can now offer nutrition services for children, regardless of insurance, in areas currently underserved immediately north and west of DuPage County. This includes full financial support for those uninsured, underinsured or on Medicaid; and partial support for those in Early Intervention or with insurance. Children who qualify will receive a nutrition evaluation and follow up nutrition therapy as needed.

Qualifications for children (birth to 21 years of age) to receive this service include:

  • Eligible medical diagnosis or identified eating concern  AND

Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley Nutrition Therapy provides care that is difficult to find elsewhere in a community or medical setting. Training and specialties include assisting children with improved oral and digestive tolerance, modifications to help improve growth,  adjusting diet for improved variety, volume and complexity of foods and fluids, balancing the diet of those with food allergies or sensitivities, help with transitioning (off of or onto) a tube feeding, and homemade blenderized formula and diet modifications.
Evaluations are performed at the Center, in the family’s home or community setting. Our goal is to provide optimal nutrition care to children with developmental disabilities through an inter-disciplinary approach, addressing their nutrition risks and disorders and helping them to lead healthier lives.

Please refer parents, other specialists or anyone else with questions about the program to our Nutrition Therapy intake coordinator, Mary Beth Scholtes, who can be reached at 630-261-6287 and

Learn more about Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley nutritional therapy and feeding clinic at


New Models of Patient Care

liuBy Dr. Ingrid Liu, D.O.

Who can keep track of all this? How are the independently insured going to get medical care?

Doctors are not happy and neither are patients. I have colleagues that have decided to stop patient care completely, changing to new careers in consulting, research, entering early retirement (if that’s an option), or any number of non medical options.

Unfortunately there are only so many hours in a day and insurance plans only pay so much for each office visit (no matter how much premiums cost or how much doctors beg and plead). A physician has to see on average 30 patients/day in order to succeed. This therefore translates to 10-15 minutes per patient in a 8 hour day. This, as we know, is not good for either the physician or the patient.

When physicians spend more time with each patient, we get to know them each individually and thoroughly, allowing for better decisions and treatment plans as well as guidance on preventive measures.

wellcomemdPrimary care physicians are changing their practices to offer patients options.  I am a family medicine physician and I switched my practice to a membership model 2 years ago. This has been called concierge medicine but I prefer to call it old fashioned medical care in today’s healthcare system. By limiting the number of patients under my care, I am not only able to address more questions from the patients, but my office staff also assists with coordinating care from specialists. We also assist in navigating this complicated insurance maze.

Because the health insurance policies are so complicated, another model that now exists is called Direct Primary Care, or DPC. This type of practice charges a small membership fee and does not accept any health insurance contracts, charging patients a set fee for services, similar to a menu at a restaurant or items at the auto repair shop. There are only a few of these practices nationwide but are growing in numbers.

Especially in this election year, health care reform continues to be a hot topic and I’m not writing to express my point of view other than that change needs to happen and is happening. There is growing concern over a shortage of primary care physicians. Please ask your family physician or pediatrician how he/she is doing. You may be surprised to hear the answer. I know the question would be welcomed and appreciated (as long as there’s time during the appointment to ask it)!

Editor’s Note:
Dr. Liu has provided family medical care for thousands of patients of all ages over two decades. She is board-certified in family practice and licensed without restrictions. She currently serves on the board of Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley and is also a member of the Illinois Academy of Family Practice Committee on Mental Health. Dr. Liu is proficient in all aspects of primary care, but holds special interests in women’s health and travel medicine. Learn more about her practice in the video below.


Occupational Therapist Recommended iPad Apps

By: Laura Bueche, MOT OTR/L

No one can deny the powers of the iPad. The back lit animations, sound effects and interactive games make apps a great tool for kids to learn. Kids and adults are drawn to the technology?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting the amount of screen time a child has to “high-quality content.” They recommend children and teens should engage with entertainment media for no more than one or two hours per day and that television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2.

But what games or content are high-quality? As a pediatric occupational therapist, I use iPad apps during therapy as a therapeutic tool to help kid’s develop skills.  Below are my favorite quality iPad apps.

Fine Motor Skills



Dexteria By: Binary Labs, Inc.
Price: $3.99

Dexteria turns your iOS device into a therapeutic tool that improves fine motor skills and handwriting readiness in children and adults.

dexteria jr

Dexteria Jr. By: BinaryLabs, Inc.
Price: $2.99

Set of hand and finger exercises to develop fine motor skills and handwriting readiness. The activities are specially designed for kids age 2-6.


Dot to Dot Numbers and Letters Lite By: Apps in My Pocket Ltd By Apps in My Pocket Ltd
Price: Free

Trace through dot-to-dot puzzles for visual motor skills and visual tracking.


Bugs and Buttons By: Little Bit Studio, LLC.
Price: $2.99

18 mini-games and activities that make learning fun. Count colorful buttons, recycle with marching ants or dainty ladybugs, recognize letters, solve bug mazes, and more!


Letter and Number Formation

letter&number2 letter&number

Letter School By: Letterschool Enabling Learning B.V.
Price: $4.99

Play to learn how to write all letters of the alphabet: abc – xyz and the numbers 1-10 with LetterSchool.


Letter Workbook Home Edition By: BigCleaverLearning
Price: Free

Letter Workbook is an interactive educational app which teaches toddlers and children how to form and write letters. Through the simple, interactive guide children will learn how to write their ABC, improve vocabulary and have fun along the way!

myfirst number trace

My First Number Trace By: Neutre
Price: $1.99

Easy tracing for little fingers. Trace letters 1-10.


iWriteWords By: gdiplus
Price: $2.99

iWriteWords teaches your child handwriting while playing a fun and entertaining game.


Visual Perception


Little Things By: KLICKTOCK
Price: $2.99

An innovative seek and find game. Search colorful collages built from thousands of little things. Randomized searches ensure a different game each time you play.


Rush Hour Free By: Thinkfun Inc.
Price: Free

The original sliding block Traffic Jam puzzle, works on visual perception, problem solving, and attention.


visual attention
Visual Attention Therapy By: Tactus Therapy Solutions Ltd. Price: $9.99

Visual Attention Therapy helps brain injury and stroke survivors, as well as struggling students, to improve scanning abilities. It also helps rehab professionals to assess for neglect and provide more efficient and effective therapy for attention deficits.

Cause and Effect Apps


Peekaboo Forrest, Barn, or Fridge By: Night & Day Studios, Inc.
Price: $1.99

If you see something moving, tap on it to find out who it is!


Ilovefireworks lite By: Fireworks Games

Price: Free

Create beautiful fireworks display by easy tap operation! Touch on the screen, you immediately see breath taking fireworks in 3D graphics and real sounds.


Touch of Music By: gamegou

Price: Free

Enjoy the freedom to play songs at your own beat while never missing a note.


Self Care Skills 


Price: Free

Learn the most common personal hygiene daily activities (teeth brushing, shampooing , hand washing, toilet training, taking a shower , public bathroom, etc.)


T-Rex Toothbrush Timer By: PCAppDev Limited
Price: $0.99

Encourage your kids to brush their own teeth properly by following Dino brush his teeth!!

To learn more about Occupational Therapy at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley visit

Family Support Services - William D'Arcy

Gross Motor Play- Why Some Kids Won’t Participate

By Laura Znajda, PT, C/NDT
Manager of Community Based Therapy and Continuing Education

Summer is the ideal time for outdoor play, and children who love to run and climb are in their element. But children with very mild developmental challenges– or even no diagnosed problem at all— can have a great deal of difficulty learning new motor skills and keeping up with their peers on the playground.  Some children are mistakenly thought to be “clumsy” or “lazy” when they don’t try the advanced motor skills other children their age are mastering.

Physical and occupational therapists sometimes receive referrals to work with these children to strengthen their bodies so that they can gain skills more easily and keep up with their peers.  However, there is more to motor skills than just strength.  Pediatric therapists must analyze a child’s performance and consider all factors that might be impacting their success:Hannah_T

:  We all need normal range of motion in our joints to perform daily tasks, but outdoor play can require extreme ranges of movement as kids stretch their limbs to make that great play of the game or to access new parts of a play gym.  A restriction in range of motion at the hip or shoulder might make climbing the slide ladder difficult.  A neck range limitation could make it challenging for a child to scan the playing field for a teammate that is open for a pass.

Motor Planning:  Paraphrased from Jean Ayres, PhD, motor planning is defined as the act of planning movements inside the brain to complete a series of actions in the proper sequence.  Before a child even starts to move, the sequence of action is planned out in the brain.  When the child lacks experience with a particular skill, like pumping herself on a swing or hitting a ball with a bat, she might hesitate in order to give her brain time to make a plan for this novel task.  Typically, the time it takes to get started will decrease as the task becomes more familiar, but for some children this motor planning component does not come naturally and needs assistance.

Emmett_T.jpgBalance:  Children need to be able to balance on one leg long enough to lift the other leg to a raised surface or to kick a ball.  Even more importantly, they need dynamic balance—that is, control of their bodies while they are moving and balanced on one limb in order to reach out to the side to catch a baseball or make a soccer save.  A child with balance difficulties will seek out stable objects to hold when he has to lift a foot for any length of time or will avoid these activities altogether.

Coordination:    According to CanChild, a research center at McMaster University that organizes clinical  research concerning children with developmental conditions, coordination is a sequence of muscular actions or body movements occurring in a purposeful, orderly fashion (smooth and efficient).  We often think of coordination as the ability to use both sides of the body at the same time.  We need coordination to make the same movements with both arms and legs when we do exercises like jumping jacks.  And we need coordination to do different things with each body part, but all at the same time, such as dribbling a basketball while walking or running.  A child with coordination difficulties might need these advanced motor skills to be taught in a more graded manner before she can master them.Robbie_T.jpg

Motivation:  It might seem obvious that a child must be interested and motivated in an activity in order to be successful with it, however this important component of motor skill performance is sometimes overlooked.  Although research is inconclusive as to exactly how many repetitions are needed, we do know that a new skill requires at least hundreds of repetitions in order to become proficient.   If a child is not motivated to play a particular sport, he will not have the determination to practice a skill over and over and will not see the success that comes from that critical repetition.

Finally, strength is important. Just as necessary as all of these motor skill components; but not the only factor to consider when a child is hesitant or unsuccessful with outdoor play.

Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley therapists are expanding their ability to get to the bottom of why children don’t participate in outdoor play and develop new strategies to help them through a continuing education course taught by Lezlie Adler, OTR/L, C/NDT and Jane Styer-Acevedo, PT, DPT, C/NDT on September 22-23, 2016 at our Villa Park center.  Registration is open to all therapists at:


Can Child, Institute for Applied Health Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8S 1C7

Ayres, A. Jean, Sensory Integration and the Child, Western Psychological Services, 2005.


A Checklist for this Year’s IEP

By: Sharon Pike, Family Services Parent Liaison

As one of the Parent Liaisons at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley, I have experienced many years of not only my own children’s IEP’s, but countless families from our centers.   Here are some strategies that have helped our families feel like a true member of the team and confident that this year’s IEP is a well written plan that will meet their child’s needs.

Prepare for the meeting

  1. Make a list of your child’s strengths and needs. Bring it with you to review during the meeting to insure they are covering things that are important to your child’s success in school. Think about and write down strategies that work at home and with your private therapist to share with the staff.
  2. Know what the law requires. Section 614 of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) sets out the process and elements of what needs to be explored to develop and revise and IEP.  States and local school districts add their own policies on top of what is required under the federal law. That being said it doesn’t mean you need to know the letter of the law.   Bottom line… the more you know and understand the easier the process is.
  3. Never attend this meeting alone. It’s important that you and your spouse attend if possible.  If not then ask a grandparent or a friend. Their role is to be support for you and another set of ears!  Often at these meetings we can get stuck on something one member of the staff said and miss important information.  Make sure you inform the school that you are bringing someone with.
  4. Start the meeting with a positive statement about your child even if you’ve had a difficult period there is ALWAYS something positive to say… he has the best smile, she is caring and kind, he loves other children!
  5. When talking to the team, focus on your child’s needs and NOT your wants! Take the I out of IEP. Avoid, I want him to work on, I want her to be in this class, I think she needs….  Rephrase everything. He needs to have these supports in order to be successful. She needs to have sensory break before being expected to do table top activities, as it helps her focus.  The goal of special education is to meet the child’s needs, not the needs of us parents.
  6. Placement is not the first decision. This is determined after the team has decided what services and supports are needed.  This is hard; as it is often the first thing you want to know!
  7. 01_Mason EsquivelTrust your gut. If a piece of the IEP doesn’t feel right, and you can’t reach an agreement with the school, make sure it is documented that you do not agree.  Remember, just because you disagree doesn’t mean it will be changed.  The whole team has to agree to change it.  But I always say, ask for the moon and hope for the stars!
  8. Think about your child’s future! Aim HIGH.  Don’t wait until high school to start planning for what your child can do as an adult.  Every skill your child achieves in elementary school will help him or her be an independent adult.
  9. Establish a clear and reasonable communication plan with the school and your child’s teacher. Stick to the plan.  You and the school are partners in your child’s development and learning.
  10. Remember the IEP is a fluid document and can be amended at any time by requesting another IEP meeting.

After the IEP meeting

Pat yourself on the back for another successful IEP under your belt.

Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley Family Services provide information, education and support that address the concerns and stressors which may accompany having a child with special needs.  Our parent liaisons are highly trained parents of children with special needs.  They provide parents and caregivers with support from the unique perspective of someone “who has been there” in both informal one-on-one and group settings. For more resources and information click here.