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September 29, 2021 Meeting Minutes - Snacks, Sensory Help, Anxiety, & Advocates

Updated: Oct 6

PALS Meeting Minutes

September 29, 2021 9:30 a.m.

Virtual Meeting using Zoom


Open Forum

Open Forum is an opportunity for participants to come together and discuss a variety of topics, offer resources, and ask questions related to special education.


Accommodation for Snacks

There are a variety of reasons why a student may benefit from having a snack(s) accommodation written into their IEP or 504 Plan. Previously, accommodating a snack within the classroom to reduce the impact on instructional time was more feasible. Now, with mask mandates snacking in the classroom can be difficult, requiring the student to leave the room and lose instructional time. Whether students are required to leave the classroom to eat their snack due to mask mandates or the dispensing of medicine with the snack, there should be two goals;

  1. have the least impact as possible on instructional time

  2. be done in a manner that does not appear or feel punitive

Time outside the classroom adds up; 5 - 15 minutes a day adds up to 25 - 75 minutes a week. Students often associate being asked to leave the classroom, go out into the hallway or to the office when someone has done something wrong. Work with your child's IEP team to plan the snack time so that it has the least amount of impact on instructional time and the student is comfortable with how they leave the classroom.


Sensory Helpers

As some teachers ban "fidget devices" in their classrooms, the question is what to do to help students who benefit from such strategies. Here are a few ideas that should not detract other students or bring attention to the user:

- placing velcro strips on the underside of the student's desk

- placing felt dots or strips on the underside of the student's desk

- kneaded erasers, they're like play-doh with a purpose

- rubbery finger springs, the same as a rubbery key chain just smaller

- stress balls

- marble maze

- squish panel


Evaluation Timelines

Always a hot topic, we talked Special Education Timelines again, focusing on the Evaluation process. The original question was whether or not the timeline was 60 calendar days or school days since we knew summer break is not included. The Evaluation section of the timeline from PaTTAN states it to be 60 calendar days. We also discussed the reality that most LEAs (Local Education Agencies a.k.a. School Districts) take the allotted 70-80 days from start to finish.

Our conversation then went on to include whether or not the LEA is required to have a meeting with the family to review the Evaluation Report IF the student is found to be ineligible for Special Education services. When reviewing the timeline chart below it is easy to think that the LEA would invite the family to a meeting ti review the report. However, upon further investigation by our Cindy Duch at The PEAL Center, we discovered that is not the case. PaTTAN gives the Special Education Question and Answer Compendium, in which the following question and answer offered;


"Does the LEA need to issue an Invitation to Participate in the IEP Team Meeting or Other Meeting to review an Evaluation Report or Reevaluation Report?

LEAs often invite parents to review the results of an initial evaluation or reevaluation, and the Invitation form can be used for this purpose. Parents must receive the Evaluation Report or Reevaluation Report within 60 calendar days of parental consent. However, there is no requirement for a meeting to discuss the report."


Cindy recommendations families receiving an ineligible notification who would like a meeting to review the report ask for one in writing, offering some dates and times that work for them.


Working Together to Break the Cycle of Anxiety Inducing Occurrences

Students suffering from anxiety is nothing new. The intensity of the anxiety might be more so this year than in the past, especially if the student is re-entering the classroom for the first time since March 2020. Suffering from anxiety on its own is difficult, it can also interfere with a student's learning. Figuring out what type of anxiety a student is struggling with can provide the insight needed to come up with accommodations that can relieve the stress, unlock the brain, and help a student get back on track. Some students may struggle with:

  • Separation anxiety: When children are worried about being separated from caregivers. These kids can have a hard time at school drop-offs and throughout the day.

  • Social anxiety: When children are excessively self-conscious, making it difficult for them to participate in class and socialize with peers.

  • Selective mutism: When children have a hard time speaking in some settings, like at school around the teacher.

  • Generalized anxiety: When children worry about a wide variety of everyday things. Kids with generalized anxiety often worry particularly about school performance and can struggle with perfectionism.

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder: When children’s minds are filled with unwanted and stressful thoughts. Kids with OCD try to alleviate their anxiety by performing compulsive rituals like counting or washing their hands.

  • Specific phobias: When children have an excessive and irrational fearof particular things, like being afraid of animals or storms.

Some students anxiety may be so heightened that they suffer from School Refusal. Rachel Busman, PsyD, ABPP states, "School refusal, the extreme pattern of avoiding school, is distinguished from normal avoidance by a number of factors:

  • How long a child has been avoiding school

  • How much distress she associates with attending school

  • How strongly she resists

  • How much her resistance is interfering with her (and her family’s) life

Including all these aspects is important, because a child can still have school refusal even if they attend school most days. I’ve worked with kids who have missed only a day or two of school, but they’ve been tardy 30 times because their anxiety is so extreme it keeps them from getting to school on time. Kids with school refusal might also have a habit of leaving early, spending a lot of time visiting the nurse, or texting parents throughout the day."


Remember to document your observations by collecting data on attendance, how often and when your child expresses, or you notice, they are anxious, amount of time spent talking about going to and staying in school, missed assignment, grades, and the history of both, etc. Be ready to present this data to your child's teachers and school administrators when requesting an evaluation, or re-evaluation for an IEP or 504 Plan.


Here are a few articles you may find helpful:

Classroom Accommodations for Anxiety

What to Say When Your Child Doesn't Want to Go to School

How Does Anxiety Affect Kids in School?

When Kids Refuse to Go to School

5 Ways Anxiety Harms Learning and 8 Things Parents Can Do to Help

Impact of Anxiety/OCD at School

When Anxiety Interferes with a Student’s Ability to Learn: IEPs, 504 Plans, and the Limits of District Responsibility

Sample 504/IEP Accommodations

{Anxiety} 43 Helpful IEP and 504 Plan Accommodations


Hospital/Homebound

While discussing the needs of students who have school related anxiety, we thought about Homebound Instruction;


"The purpose of homebound instruction is to keep students on track academically while the student is temporarily out of school. Homebound instruction is school-supplied one-to-one tutoring for a limited time. These students are counted in both the school membership* and school attendance**. See 22 Pa Code § 11.25(b)."

in addition,

"There are a number of educational options that sometimes are referred to as "homebound instruction" although they do not fit the legal definition of homebound instruction. The following are NOT categorized as "homebound instruction"

  • Instruction conducted in the home: for special education students for whom an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) team determines that the instruction of the student is to be conducted in the home; students are counted in both the school membership and school attendance; this is not homebound instruction."

School districts are charged with creating a Homebound Instruction policy that follows State and Federal guidelines. Find an example of such a policy here; the FCASD policy including required physician statement.


Educational Advocates / Educational Lawyers

We discussed the need for educational advocates and/or lawyer specializing in education and education civil rights. Educational advocates can help families better understand the special education process and support families during IEP meetings. There are times when a lawyer is better suited for the situation. Here are some pro bono options:


Achieva

For 70 years, Achieva’s disability advocates have been working with families and self-advocates to ensure that:

  • Families have access to information, support, and advocacy

  • People with disabilities have access to quality education and community services

  • Policymakers and legislators are informed about disability issues

  • Ideas of self-determination, inclusion and person-centered planning are the foundation of individual's supports

Allegheny County 412.995.5000 x486 Toll-Free 1.888.272.7229 x486


Education Law Center

The Education Law Center is a legal advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring all Pennsylvania children have access to a quality public education, including early childhood and early intervention services from birth through age 21. Offers legal support to community organizations seeking state and local policy reform to improve schools and provides technical assistance and support for pro bono attorneys working on matters of public education. Formal legal representation is also provided at no cost to students and families on cases involving public education reform.

Public Contact:

Education Law Center 702 Law & Finance Building 429 Fourth Ave. Pittsburgh, PA 15219 412-258-2120 412-391-4496 (fax)

Next Meeting: October 27, 2021 9:30 a.m. Virtual Meeting using Zoom. Currently scheduled as Open Forum.

**Log-in and Password for this and all upcoming meetings will be sent in all upcoming newsletters. Become a subscriber in the footer of this web page.

SPECIAL NOTE

All meetings will be held virtually until further notice.

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