2014 Special Needs Guide

. November 3, 2014.

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Hearing a diagnosis that your child has a disability can feel overwhelming. Findlay Area Family talked to local experts about the most common disabilities seen in children, what they mean and how parents and loved ones can understand and accomodate special needs.

Lori Colchagoff
Director of disability services at the University of Findlay

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

What it is:
Lori Colchagoff is the director of disability services at the University of Findlay and provides advice to parents and families who may be dealing with AD/HD in children. According to Learning Disabilities Online (www.ldonline.org), AD/HD is a neurodevelopmental disorder in which a person has difficulty sitting still, controlling his or her behavior, also called impulsivity, and paying attention.

What it looks like:
There are three types of AD/HD. Children with the inattentive type of AD/HD have difficulty paying attention, staying focused and following through. Children with the hyperactive-impulsive type of AD/HD are always on the go, have trouble sitting still, interrupt others, and have trouble waiting their turn. The combined type of AD/HD includes symptoms from both types listed above. While all children will show these symptoms from time to time, a child with AD/HD will do so on a constant and regular basis. They will exhibit these behaviors much more frequently than their peers.

What to do:
“I encourage families to work with medical professionals, school personnel and mental health professionals to get a true diagnosis and support to understand the struggles a student may be having. Some children may need a medication regimen along with counseling and a treatment plan. Some children may just need counseling and support from school. If children are suffering academically I encourage families to start asking school personnel what support can be offered. Children with ADD/HD often get support with an IEP (individualized education plan) or with a 504 plan, which spells out the modifications and accommodations that will be needed for these students to have an opportunity to perform at the same level as their peers.”

Kristina M. Trout
Doctor of Audiology at Findlay Ear, Nose and Throat

Hearing Impairment

What it is:
Hearing impairment is defined as a decrease in hearing, which can range from slight to profound. It can have an impact on speaking ability, reading and language ability, education, and everyday experiences.

What it looks like:
Kristina M. Trout, a doctor of Audiology at Findlay Ear, Nose and Throat, provides diagnostic and rehabilitative services to patients with hearing impairment and provides helpful information for families. She says some signs of hearing impairment in infants include not turning their head to a noise in the environment, and not babbling or saying words like “mama” or “dada” by one year. In children, some signs include unclear speech, frequent ear infections, difficulty in school, social isolation, turning up the television and asking others to repeat themselves often.

What to do:
Parents should have the same expectations from hearing impaired children as they would from normal hearing children. Educational outcomes should be the same as long as they are able to get sound to the brain via hearing aids or a cochlear implant. Parents can expect more medical appointments such as annual hearing tests, possible speech therapy and maintenance of hearing devices. Parents are encouraged to read out loud to children and infants, sing songs, and talk about activities throughout the day. Find a support group or talk with other parents of hearing impaired children. Be sure their hearing aids are always working and be familiar with assistance that can be provided in an educational environment. Work with your child’s school to educate teachers and coaches, and remain positive.

Findlay Ear, Nose and Throat
1110 W. Main Cross St., Findlay
419-424-1393. www.findlayent.com

Andie Trail Ryley, M.Ed.
Autism, Behavior and Educational Consultant at Blanchard Valley Center

Developmental Disabilities

What it is:
Andie Trail Ryley, M.Ed., is an autism, behavior and educational consultant at Blanchard Valley Center. She describes intellectual disabilities as one type of developmental delay used to outline limitations in mental functioning and skills along with behavior deficits, adversely affecting a child’s educational performance. According to the Center for Disease Control, developmental delays are a group of conditions due to impairment in physical, learning, language, or behavior areas. Typically these conditions start early in a person’s life and last a lifetime. Many different conditions belong in this group, including autism, spina bifida, intellectual disabilities and more.

What it looks like:
Families will want to watch “developmental milestones,” which provide a general estimate of what your child should be doing at an approximate age. Parents can go to Learn the Signs. Act Early.: www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/index.html to find a list of milestones for babies and young children.

What to do:
If your child is under the age of three, call Help me Grow for a screening or to address specific concerns you may have. If your child is over age three, talk with their preschool teacher or contact your local public school system. Parents should remember that getting help early is critical because the earlier the intervention starts, the better the outcome for the child and the family. Many times parents don’t share their concerns. It is always better to share concerns, make the referrals and be wrong than to miss opportunities for interventions.

Blanchard Valley Center
1700 E. Sandusky St., Findlay
419-422-6387. www.blanchardvalley.org

Where do you go to start an evaluation to assess special needs?

If a parent or caregiver suspects a child may have a developmental disability, the key is not to wait, as early intervention will help them succeed. Parents with children younger than three years of age should seek out Help Me Grow, a program designed to ensure a healthy and productive start to school. For children older than three years, discussing concerns with a pediatrician and teacher or principal will solidify a plan of action. Parents of homeschooled children should consult the principal from the school district they are living in for evaluation and resources as well as Blanchard Valley Center- Hancock County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

Help Me Grow

Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities

Richard Harris
Executive Director of Down Syndrome Association of Greater Toledo

Down Syndrome

What it is:
Rich Harris, executive director of the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Toledo (DSAGT) describes Down syndrome as a genetic disorder that occurs during the development process of the embryo, in which a small amount of excess genetic material gets placed into Chromosome 21. Down syndrome is hereditary in approximately 1 percent of all instances. In the other 99 percent of cases, Down syndrome is completely random and the only known factor that increases the risk is the age of the mother at conception (over 35).

What it looks like:
“It’s important to keep in mind that each person born with Down syndrome is uniquely special in their own way, just like every other child. That being said, parents should expect longer than average periods for their child with Down syndrome to reach certain milestones in the development phases of their growth. Due to a lower muscle tone, some children with Down syndrome don’t learn to sit up, crawl, or walk at the same ages as their peers. Many parents are still waiting for their child with DS to be potty trained at four, five, or six years old.

What to do:
Each child with Down syndrome should be assessed by a team of doctors, parents, teachers, and various other educators to compile an Individual Education Program (IEP) that makes the most sense for each child. Ultimately though, the decision for a fully inclusive educational environment is up to the parents.

Down Syndrome Association of Greater Toledo
P.O. Box 298, Sylvania
419-536-4321. www.dsagt.org

Dr. Susan Pneuman
Executive Director at the Center for Autism and Dyslexia

Autism Spectrum Disorder

What it is:
Dr. Susan Pneuman, the owner and executive director at the Center for Autism and Dyslexia in Findlay explains that Autism Spectrum Disorder is a range of complex neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by social impairments; communication difficulties; and restrictive, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior. A child’s experience varies greatly depending on where they fall on the spectrum.

What it looks like:
Some signs of autism in infancy include a sudden loss of language or social skills. Babies may stop smiling, babbling and pointing. Young children with autism may become extremely preoccupied with one item to the exclusion of others. Typically, preschoolers and children with autism do not pick up on social cues and have difficulty making friends.

What to do:
Early intervention is key for a child to reach their full potential. Parents will need to have a medical diagnosis from their doctor or pediatrician and an educational diagnosis in order to receive the best care and the services they need. Help Me Grow of Hancock County is a great resource for infants and toddlers. Parents and caregivers can contact Help Me Grow for an assessment. Preschoolers and older children will want to start with their pediatrician and/or school.


What it is:
Dyslexia is a brain-based causative developmental delay involving three parts of the brain that are not communicating the way that they should. It affects many aspects of the reading and writing process. The reading process never becomes automatic due to the brain synapses not working properly.

What it looks like:
Signs of dyslexia usually begin in preschool when a child may not recognize a play on words (which Dr. Seuss is famous for), have difficulty with rhyming or trouble understanding how letters are symbols to represent words. Parents may see their child struggling to decode words and they will have trouble expressing themselves in writing. Dr. Pneuman describes the dyslexia experience as, “living in a foreign language all day long.”

What to do:
A diagnosis of dyslexia involves testing of a child’s reading, language and writing skills. If a diagnosis of dyslexia is confirmed, parents will need to be their child’s advocate. Schools are just starting to learn more about dyslexia and understand how to work with children who struggle with it. Parents often need to educate their child’s teacher year after year to be sure their child’s needs are met. Children with dyslexia often struggle with anxiety, but teacher and parent understanding can help prevent those feelings. An excellent resource for parents, teachers and anyone who may be dealing with dyslexia, is The International Dyslexia Association website, www.interdys.org.

A word of advice from Dr. Susan Pneuman:
“Parents must remember that a child’s autism or dyslexia is just a small part of who they are. Children are blessed with many gifts and a parent should capitalize on their child’s strengths because there will be many. Our culture is growing and changing and beginning to learn that those who fall above and below the bell curve are creative thinkers and individuals who can think outside the box. These are often our children with special needs.”

Center for Autism and Dyslexia
7430 Timberstone Dr., Findlay
567-525-4487 www.centerforautismanddyslexia.com

Katherine Woodard
Speech Pathologist for Blanchard Valley Health System

Speech Impediments

What it is:
Katherine Woodard is a speech pathologist for Blanchard Valley Health System who provides information about speech impediments and stuttering in children. The term “speech impediment” is often used to refer to a disorder in which an individual has difficulty producing speech sounds to the point that it impacts the ability to be understood by others. Speech impediments include Apraxia of Speech, articulation disorders and phonemic disorders.

What it looks like:
Stuttering refers to a speech disorder characterized by sound and syllable repetitions, prolongations of sounds, and blocks (having the mouth positioned to make a sound with no sound actually being produced). There may also be physical signs of struggle including jaw tension, tapping hands and feet, eye blinking, and loss of eye contact.

What to do:
When parents notice their child is more difficult to understand than other children of the same age, they may wonder if a speech impediment is present. They should speak with their pediatrician, who may refer them to a speech-language pathologist. The speech-language pathologist can determine if the child’s errors may indicate a speech disorder and if there is a need for outpatient speech therapy. Having a child with a communication disorder may cause frustration for both the child and parents. Particularly for a stuttering disorder, parents should give the child plenty of time to talk without rushing or finishing sentences for the child. It is important that parents remain calm and positive around the child.

Blanchard Valley Health System
1900 S. Main St., Findlay 419-423-4500. www.bvhealthsystem.org

Special Education 101
Glossary of special needs terms:

Annual Goals: Statement on your child’s IEP that describe what he or she can be expected to accomplish in one year.

Assistive Technology Device: Equipment or product used to increase or maintain the capabilities of your child with a disability.

Behavior Intervention Plan: A plan to address a behavior of your child that is not school-appropriate.

Benchmark: A specific statement of what your child should know and be able to do at a specified time in the school year.

Early Intervention Services (EIS): Service provided from birth through age two.

Evaluation Team: A child’s individualized education program (IEP) team and other qualified professionals considered necessary.
Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA): A process that may include interviews, direct observations, and other evaluations of the student’s behavior.

Individualized Education Program: A written statement for your child that is developed, reviewed and and revised in accordance with federal and state regulations.

Paraprofessionals: Often referred to as an aide, a special-education worker who is not licensed to teach, but performs many duties both individually with students and organizationally in the classroom.

Procedural Safeguards: Procedures established in federal and state law and regulations that protect the rights of children with disabilities and their parents.

Response to Intervention (RTI): A multi-tier approach to the early identification and support of students with learning and behavior needs.

Why become a special needs teacher and what is the demand for it?

A special needs teacher has the opportunity to help children with disabilities achieve their highest potential and strive to succeed despite limitations. They have to exercise patience and understanding to maximize the potential of their students, making what they do fulfilling and integral to those students. The need for teachers in this field is growing due to the increasing numbers and high turn-over. Visit www.specialeducationguide.com/teacher-certification for more information on how to become a special needs educator.

Ohio Standards of Teacher/student Ratio in Special Needs Classrooms:

Maximum ratio for grades K-8 with cognitive and specific learning disabilities:

1 teacher 16 students

Maximum ratio for grades 9-12 with cognitive and specific learning disabilities:

1 teacher 24 students