In my previous post A GOOD START I made mention of a letter I had written requesting certain accommodations to be considered for my son’s 504 plan as well as an introduction letter to the teacher on his first day of school. I received an email shortly after asking me about the details of what I had included in both.
A year ago I could have written that email myself making the same request. When it came to attending our first CSE (Committee for Special Education) meeting a few years back, I had no idea what to expect. I did my homework and looked up various articles explaining the process, and while they were plenty helpful, the one thing I did not find was how to or even what to ask for. All I really wanted was an example to follow. I was at a loss.
Last year, the parent trainer assigned to us by the school suggested I check out FAPE’s Accommodations and Modifications Publication for ideas on what I would want included in Leon’s IAP (Individual Accommodations Plan). It was really great advice. I read through it and pulled from it what I needed and wrote a letter specifying my wishes. I used Leon’s name often and personalized my requests and then at the end of the letter I included a photos of Leon. I did not want my son to be just another name in a file. I wanted them to know his smile and see the twinkle in his eyes.
When Leon started his first day of 3rd grade i put a copy of my request in an envelope with a letter of introduction to his new teacher.
I remember reading an article somewhere about how to make the first day of school a bit easier on your child; and one suggestion was to write a letter to the teacher introducing yourself and your child, along with some interesting info about your child; their likes, dislikes, hobbies, etc…
I took this advice back when Leon started kindergarten and have been doing it ever since. Not only do I think it helps the teacher to understand Leon, but Leon is a bit more at ease when the teacher acknowledges not just him but something that is of interest to him. He warms up a lot more quickly and is more engaged. I love this idea for any student, but for Leon who has special needs because of his ADHD/ODD and emerging sensory issues, I love it even more. And to make things even more personal I have always added a picture, either one he drew or a photograph of him.
Below is a copy of what I sent Leon to school with on his first day of 3rd grade. It’s very lengthy, and chock full of info. Perhaps too much so but it’s what has worked for me. As far as I am concerned I really believe that when it comes to my son and his issues; the more a teacher knows, the better things will go.
September 7, 2010
Dear Mrs. L,
I would like to introduce myself, my name is Jill and I am Leon’s mother. Leon’s father, Ron, and I look forward to meeting you and working closely with you this school year in an effort to make Leon’s experience in 3rd grade a good one. I wanted to give you a little insight about Leon that you may find useful. It is my hope that this will be helpful to you.
Leon is a terrific yet challenging child. His mind just works differently than the rest of us. He thinks differently, he sees things differently, he hears things differently, and he does things differently.
Leon was diagnosed with ADHD-combined in May 2008 and also more recently with ODD (July 2009), I suspect he is also SPD-proprioceptive. Currently we are working together with his pediatric neurologist to stay up to date with the best medication plan for him. At this time he is taking Concerta 54mg in the mornings and Clonodine 0.1mg in the evenings. Side effects you may want to be aware of include dry mouth, headaches, stomach aches, dizziness, drowsiness, anxiety, irritability and blurred vision. Please let me know if you notice any of these side effects.
Leon has a wonderful personality and is so full of life that it bursts out of every pore in his body; he is loving, caring, and sensitive to others. Leon is highly energetic, and is always looking for an adventure, he’s very inquisitive and resourceful. He is curious about everything around him; he’s got an amazing imagination and can be very inventive. He is also full of ideas and loves telling stories. He loves to create and invent ‘stuff’; he is an artist and an inventor. He has a thirst for knowledge and is way too smart for his own good. Leon loves to read and wants to know everything about everything, He’s fun-loving and very expressive. He’ll keep you on your toes and keep you laughing. Leon is also a master negotiator. He will try to talk circles around you. He yearns to please and to be accepted and will go that extra mile (sometimes too far) to get someone’s attention, He always seems to notice things that others take for granted, he has a great capacity to remember the oddest things (as long as it is ‘not boring’, to him). Leon is an extremely bright child with a mind of his own and he is not afraid to use it. He is the most well-behaved when he is engaged and interested in what he is doing, when his needs are being met with immediacy, and when he is being recognized and praised not only for a job well done but also for his effort.
I have attached some helpful hints about Leon, as well as; the request that I had submitted to Mrs. N back in June 2010, for specified accommodations and/or modifications to be considered and included in his 504.
Please contact me at your earliest convenience to arrange a time that we can meet, to discuss a plan for Leon this year.
Some helpful hints about Leon :
Leon does much better in a structured environment. In less structured environments (i.e. gym, lunch, and recess) he tends to lose some control and can give in more easily to his impulses if not frequently redirected.
Immediate feedback, reward, and praise go a long, long way with Leon, re-enforcing good behavior and his self-esteem. He is very self-critical, which often results in bad behavior or is reflected in his work.
A clear understanding of the consequences for undesired behavior will help Leon stay on task, as will frequent reminders of possible rewards for attaining certain goals.
Leon needs very specific, detailed instructions and rules given to him frequently and step-by-step throughout his task. It helps to have him repeat the instructions back to you, so that you know he heard and understood them.
Checking in with him often and encouraging him while he works will help him stay on task. He will need reminders to not rush through his work, just as much as he will need reminders to keep working, as he gets distracted and bored very easily,
Leon does yearn to please, so allowing him to participate often and giving him something active to do (i.e. handing out papers or supplies, running an errand to the office, line leader, etc.) can help channel his hyperactivity while improving his self-esteem.
Leon gets very easily frustrated with himself and certain situations, because he has yet to fully master control over his impulses and doesn’t always know why he does the things he does. It will often be expressed in the form of anger, whining, or tears. Occasionally he lashes out physically at objects around him.
Leon gets very easily overwhelmed when he perceives things to be “too much” (i.e. too many problems on one page, too much homework, too large a mess to clean up, etc.)
Extra time and patience may be required to listen to what Leon has to say. He is very expressive but it can take a bit longer for him to get his sentence and his thoughts out.
Reminding him and preparing him in detail for what comes next will give him time to adjust his behavior as needed. He will need a few reminders of what the desired behavior is.
Leon has quite a bit of difficulty keeping his hands to himself. He does not recognize personal space or social cues. This can create friction with his peers if not re-directed and watched carefully.
Keeping his hands busy with something constructive and keeping a watchful eye on him is key. He often takes things he should not have and uses them inappropriately. (i.e. Scissors to cut his clothing). Keeping such objects out of his reach is important to keeping him out of trouble.
Leon gets extremely hyper-focused. This is quite often a good thing but it is just about equally as much a problem when he hyper-focuses on something negative. He will grab on to something and get stuck in it. Getting him to let go of something he is truly hyper-focused on can take some doing.
Leon is a Terrific Kid with tons of potential to go very far in life! He is deeply loved and has a huge support system behind him all the way.
Revised September 7, 2010
To Whom it may Concern;
On behalf of our son, Leon, DOB 00/00/00, we are requesting the following accommodations and/or modifications be considered and included into his Section 504 plan for the school year 2010-2011.
- Specify and list exactly what Leon will need to learn and do to pass. (this includes – completing his assignments and taking pride in the work) Review frequently.
- Allow Leon to work on problems or assignments that are slightly more challenging when he is bored.
Leon needs to be reminded of where he stands and what is expected of him regularly. He has difficulty with things he finds boring or too easy, conversely he has a fear of failure and therefore is resistant to things that he deems, too hard or overwhelming.
- Provide Leon with, or allow him to bring in reading material that is at or slightly above his reading level to read in between assignments if time allows.
- If available provide a second set of textbooks for Leon to keep at home.
Leon is a veracious reader and has an incredible thirst for knowledge. Allowing him to read in between assignments may keep him from disrupting the rest of the class. Leon also often forgets to bring home the appropriate materials to complete assignments.
- Give repeated reminders to Leon to keep his work space clear of distractions and unrelated items.
- Seat him away from windows or doorways, and other distractions
- Keep extra supplies of classroom materials available, in a separate location (pencils, erasers, paper,etc)
- Allow for fidgets, to feed his need for movement yet helps to keep him focused (spinner ring, bendaroos, Velcro strip on the underside of his desk)
- Take away items that are used inappropriately or that become a distraction.
Leon can be easily distracted when a lot is going on around him. He also has a need to touch and hold things that are within reach. Allowing him, with limitations, to have something to manipulate with his hands gives him a bit more control over himself. Leon should be observed carefully when using scissors, He has a tendency to use them inappropriately (i.e. cutting his clothes, books, folders, etc.)
- Give clear and precise instructions to Leon in small steps. Remind him not only of what he must do, but also what he must not do. (“Leon do not begin until I have finished giving my directions” or “take out only one pencil”)
- Have him repeat the directions for a task back to the teacher, aide, or for the whole class.
- Give reminders to stay on task and check his work.
Leon has a tendency to shut off (and often walk away) in the middle of what is being said to him. He needs reminders to listen all the way through. Repeating the directions back insures Leon has not put his own spin on what he is supposed to do.
- Let Leon know that certain tasks require a certain amount of time and should not be rushed through.
- Remind him to slow down and take his time, to avoid careless mistakes
- Let him know a few minutes before a transition from one activity to another is about to take place, give several reminders.
Leon often rushes through everything. He needs repeated reminders to slow down and take his time. Leon also has the tendency to get hyper-focused; in which case transitioning from one task to another becomes a challenge.
- Provide a print copy of assignments or directions written on the board especially for home assignments.
- Allow use of computer for longer written assignments such as short essays or book reports.
- Provide visible acknowledgement based on Leon’s progress and effort for handwriting (to be reinforced at home with reward).
- Allow Leon to rewrite illegible answers, or answer orally for a better grade.
- Remind Leon to write with pride and care, and not to rush
Leon rushes through his work, his thoughts come and go quicker then his hands can move. He has the ability to write very clearly, when he takes his time. Leon is motivated by praise and reward.
- Allow Leon to rewrite illegible answers, or answer orally for a better grade.
- Provide Leon with reminders to take his time and to recheck his work before handing it in.
Leon often makes careless mistakes when rushing or overly confident.
- Pair Leon with a student who is a good behavior model for class projects.
- Use nonverbal cues to remind Leon of rule violations
- Minimize the use of consequences; provide positive reinforcement as well as negative consequences.
- Increase the frequency and immediacy of reinforcements
- Develop a reward system that can be carried over in the home as well as at school.
- Develop a system or code word to let Leon know when his behavior is not appropriate. Allow him to correct himself.
- Develop interventions for behaviors that are annoying but not deliberate (i.e. the use of fidgets)
- Be aware of behavior changes that relate to medication or the length of the school day; modify expectations if appropriate.
- Create a checklist for Leon so he may self regulate and be in control of himself.
- Remind Leon to speak in a respectful and friendly tone. Praise him for expressing himself appropriately.
- Remind Leon that he must not chew on inedible items (pencils, staples, clothing, etc)
- Remind Leon to speak slowly and clearly, and with a friendly tone.
Leon has a strong need to be independent and do things his own way. He responds very well to praise and positive reinforcement that is immediate and frequent. Leon’s emotions run very deep, when they get the best of him he has a very difficult time expressing himself in a tone and or manner that is respectful and appropriate.
- Make use of a daily or weekly communication journal to keep the lines of communication open with parents.
- Inform Leon’s parents of any allowances or consequences that have changed.
- Inform parents of any changes in behavior that may be associated with Leon’s medication so adjustments can be made.
The communication journal allows us to stay informed about Leon’s progress and monitor if his medication is working or needs to change as he gets older. It also gives us a clearer prospective on what behaviors he needs to work on, in school and/or at home.
Thank you for your time,