Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Democrats call on Missouri education commissioner to resign UPDATED with DESE reaction - KansasCity.com

Democrats call on Missouri education commissioner to resign UPDATED with DESE reaction - KansasCity.com

Missouri Sen. Paul LeVota has called on Missouri Education commissioner Chris Nicastro to resign.
In a statement, also signed by St. Rep.Genise Montecillo, he said:
“Dr. Chris Nicastro has demonstrated a troubling tendency to abuse power. The recent revelations concerning her involvement in overruling Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education staff to secure a more favorable cost estimate for a ballot measure being proposed by a special interest group is just the latest example...
“We believe the faith that Missourians once had in DESE has been shattered.”
LeVota and Montecillo are Democrats.
Nicastro has been accused of working with well-known conservative activistRex Sinquefield on a ballot measure related to education.
This, from Peter Herschend, president of the Missouri State Board of Education:
“Commissioner Nicastro’s review of this petition was nothing out of the ordinary. Department staff performed routine consultation on this measure just as when staff consulted on charter school legislation with Rep. Montecillo during the 2013 session.”

Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/11/26/4651393/democrats-call-on-missouri-education.html#storylink=cpy
Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/11/26/4651393/democrats-call-on-missouri-education.html#storylink=cpy

Can the School Expel My Son? - Wrightslaw

Can the School Expel My Son? - Wrightslaw

"Our son is almost 16 years old and is still in the 8th grade. He was diagnosed with ADHD when he was 5. Recently, he was evaluated by a psychologist who found that he has serious learning disabilities. He takes medication and sees a psychologist."

"The school is aware of his diagnosis but have never offered any help."

"Our son has been suspended several times this year - recently, he was suspended for 10 days. The school sent us a letter that they plan to expel him for the rest of the year."
"What did he do wrong? He did not fight or sell drugs. He went home after school with a friend in a car without getting permission first." 

"We have always supported the school but this isn't right. He is so far behind and feels so hopeless about school - if they expel him, I'm afraid he will drop out."

Can the school expel our son for this offense? Are they just trying to get rid of him? What should we do next?"

You say the school is aware that your son has ADHD and learning disabilities. He has long-standing academic problems. The school has retained him. Despite evidence that he has a disability that is adversely affecting his educational performance, the school has not offered to evaluate him nor have they provided any special education services. 

After suspending him several times, they decided to expel him. His "offense" is not related to weapons or drugs. He isn’t a danger to himself or others. You ask, “Can they do this?”

Yes, they can do this if you, the child's parents, don’t know his right and your rights or don’t know how to assert your rights. If the school has not evaluated your son or found him eligible for special education, it’s unlikely that you know these rights.

Here are some general suggestions about how to proceed. 

Get Your Emotions Under Control

Read our article, Emergency! Crisis! Help! In this article, you will learn what to do (and not do) when you are in the middle of a crisis, and how to make short-term and long-term plans.

Consult with an attorney who is knowledgeable about special education issues
An attorney can help you decide how to proceed, given the law in your state or jurisdiction.

How to Find an Educational Consultant, Advocate, Attorney offers strategies to find an advocate or attorney who represents children with disabilities.

For a list of parent attorneys, visit the Yellow Pages for Kids with Disabilities for your state and the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates website.

Talk to your son’s psychiatrist and psychologist.

To deal with the school, you need help from outside experts who know your son. Because the school retained your son and did not provide him with special education services, he has fallen far behind his peers. To master the necessary skills to succeed in life, he will need intensive educational help. What are his educational needs? How can these needs be met? 

Write a letter to the school advising them that you do not agree to the expulsion

Use the letter you sent to us as the basis for your letter. Describe the problem and your concerns about your son. In your letter, do not point fingers or blame the school overtly. More advice about letter writing and sample letters.
Learn about your son's and your parental rights and responsibilities.

Here is some general information to help you get started. 
* Read the discipline section of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Discipline is in Section 1415(k).
Our book, Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, includes the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, all implementing regulations, and decisions issued by the U. S. Supreme Court in special education cases.

* Read Frequently Asked Questions About Discipline from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)
* Read the decision in Community School District No. 93 v. John F. - this case has similarities to your son's situation. Decision in PDFDecision in MS Word
Learn how to be an effective advocate for your son.

Our Advocacy page includes dozens of articles that will help, including:
Advocating for Your Child - Getting Started. Good special education services are intensive and expensive. Resources are limited. If you have a child with special needs, you may wind up battling the school district for the services your child needs. To prevail, you need information, skills, and tools.
From Emotions  to Advocacy - The Parents Journey - Strong emotions cause parents to react, often with damaging results. Don't shoot yourself in the foot. If you are having problems with the school, use your head. 

Discipline of Children with Special Needs by William B. Reichhardt, Esq. - Wrightslaw

Discipline of Children with Special Needs by William B. Reichhardt, Esq. - Wrightslaw

Note: Bill Reichhardt presented this program about discipline of students under IDEA or Section 504 at the 2013 Institute of Special Education Advocacy.
Our starting point is children who have been identified as having a disability under IDEA or Section 504.
Students who have not yet been determined eligible under IDEA prior to the misconduct may invoke the procedural and due process protections if it is later determined that they were eligible at the time of the misconduct.
The school is deemed to have knowledge of a child’s disability if:
  • The parent has expressed written concern that the child may need special education services.
  • The school notes pattern of behavior or performance that indicates a need for special education services.
  • The parent has requested an evaluation for eligibility for special education services.
Short and Long term Suspensions
  • Short term suspension – up to 10 consecutive school days or 10 cumulative school days in a year.
  • Long term suspension – more than 10 consecutive school days.
  • Expulsion: 365 days.
Ten Day Rule
  • A special education student can be removed to an appropriate interim alternative educational setting for not more than 10 consecutive dayswithout this removal being considered a change of placement.
  • Be aware of patterns of short-term removals that act as placement changes. May be called something different – a placement that is not his placement in the IEP.
Continuation of Services
This is an area of law that continues to cause confusion. Some schools believe they don’t need to provide any instruction while the child is suspended or expelled. Or schools believe that because he’s suspended, they can change placement.
School districts must continue to provide educational services for special education students who have been suspended for more than 10 days or have been expelled.
What is a Change of Placement?
A change of placement occurs when:
– child has been removed from more than 10 consecutive school days; or
– the child has been subjected to a series of removals that constitute a pattern -
  • Series of removals total more than 10 school days in the school year
  • The child’s behavior is substantially similar to previous incidents of removal
  • Consider total amount of time/proximity of removals
In-School Suspensions
In school suspension may not be considered a change of placement triggering due process if:
– The student is afforded opportunity to progress in the general curriculum
– the school continues to provide services under the IEP
– student continues to participate with nondisabled students to the same degree
Manifestation Determination Review (MDR)
  • If the child is faced with expulsion or long term suspension (over 10 days), the school must determine whether the behavior is a manifestation of the child’s disability.
  • If a manifestation, the disciplinary suspension must end and the behavior must be addressed through the IEP process
  • MDR must be done within 10 days from the date of the suspension/expulsion decision (removal of the child from the placement)
  • MDR is done by the IEP team
Special Circumstances when a MDR is not Required
The student may be removed to an interim alternative educational setting for not more than 45 school days without a MDR if:
– The student is in possession of a weapon at school, on school premises or at a school activity.
– The student knowingly possesses, uses, sells or distributes illegal drugs while at school or school functions.
– The student has inflicted serious bodily injury on another person at school or on school premises.
Criteria for the MDR
The behavior for which the child is being disciplined was caused by, or had a direct and substantial relationship to, the child’s disability, and /or
The behavior was the direct result of the schools failure to implement the IEP.
If the Behavior is a Manifestation of the Child’s Disability:
  • The school must either – conduct a functional behavioral assessment (FBA) and implement a behavior intervention plan (BIP) or
  • If a BIP has already been developed, review the plan and modify as needed.
If the Behavior is not a Manifestation of the Students Disability
If the behavior was not a manifestation of the students disability, the student is subject to the same discipline for misconduct as children without a disability – however, the student must continue to receive education services to allow the child to progress under the IEP.
Preparing for the MDR: Marshalling the Evidence
  • Quickly obtain the discipline packet from the school – incident report, student’s statement, witness statements, teacher summaries etc. (ask about video tape).
  • Review all current evaluation material for the student (school /private testing); prior FBAs, BIPs
  • Identify potential experts – therapists, physicians etc. – get releases
Basics of Defending the MDR
  • Have a thorough understanding of the nature and scope of the student’s disability.
  • See how the school has previously described the manifestation of the student’s disability- in the IEP, FBA, BIP.
  • Objectively assess the defense of the MDR. Do not stretch credibility.
Preparing Expert Input for the MDR
  • Experts such as a child’s therapist or physician should have a clear understanding of the criteria for the MDR.
  • Give experts a copy of the incident report and student statement(s).
  • In giving written or verbal input, expert should reference specific facts of the incident and link to the child’s disability using the MDR criteria.
MDR Tactics from the Trenches
1. If you need more time to gather existing relevant evidence, offer to do a written waiver of the 10 day rule.
2. If refused, offer the waiver in writing and cite the reason. This could help you on appeal.
3. If your experts are helpful, get releases for them to speak to the school about the MDR criteria, in addition to written submissions.
4. If you have a good defense,  turn the MDR into a collaborative problem solving effort. Focus on “ direct substantial relationship.”
5. Prepare your response to the “intentional misconduct” argument by school personnel who “don’t believe in special ed.”
Behavior Intervention Plans
Should be written and should describe specific positive behavioral interventions.
Are used to help a student with behavioral problems function in the least restrictive environment.
Should be made part of the student’s IEP (but not required).
Expedited Due Process Hearing
Parent may request if:
  • Contest “non causal” MDR finding
  • Disciplinary placement decision
School may request if child is dangerous in current setting.
Common Appeal Issues in Discipline Cases
  • Findings and Procedures in the Manifestation Determination Review (MDR).
  • Denial of FAPE by extended homebound exclusion without adequate services.
  • Failure to provide FAPE in an alternative learning environment.

School Learns Lessons After "Scream Room" Investigation | NBC Connecticut

School Learns Lessons After "Scream Room" Investigation | NBC Connecticut

A year and a half after a “scream” room investigation at Farm Hill Elementary School in Middletown, the Superintendent of Schools said the staff has been completely retrained, and school policies reevaluated.
Dr. Patricia Charles said educators at Farm Hill have been working with the State Department of Education to learn how to deescalate a child’s behavior before resorting to seclusion, a process in which children are placed in empty rooms and monitored by an adult until the child calms down.
“We do still have the rooms at Farm Hill School,” said Dr. Charles, who was hired after the allegations first came to light.
In 2012, Farm Hill School parents complained of children coming home and describing screaming students being dragged into seclusion rooms in the school. Investigations by the State Department of Education, Department of Children and Families, Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities, and Office of the Child Advocate concluded that staff were not notifying parents regularly when a child was placed in the room.
The investigation found huge holes in state-mandated documentation of the use of the rooms. The investigations also revealed that of the 15 children placed in seclusion that school year, only four had individualized educational programs in which parents were aware of the use of that technique.
A federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is ongoing.
“We wanted to make sure we were doing it correctly, the State wanted to make sure we were doing it correctly, and so together, through their guidance, we've been able to put together a good plan so we don't end up with those same issues again,” Dr. Charles said.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Missing Visalia teenager with autism found dead | Visalia Times-Delta and Tulare Advance-Register | visaliatimesdelta.com

Missing Visalia teenager with autism found dead | Visalia Times-Delta and Tulare Advance-Register | visaliatimesdelta.com

A 14-year-old boy with autism who had been reported missing Monday after he didn’t show up to Valley Oak Middle School was found dead, according to Visalia police reports.
Dameian “Luke” Gulley was last seen walking to school around 6:30 a.m. Monday, and when his parents came home that night, they discovered he’d never made it to school. Miguel and Andrea Villegas filed a missing person report because they believed something had happened to the teen, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s.
His body was found Thursday, according to a news release sent out by Visalia police at 5:30 p.m. Friday.
“We are with friends and family, gathering, grieving and mourning. That’s where we’re at right now,” Miguel Villegas said.
Gulley’s body was found in the Sequoia and Kings National Parks, according to law enforcement.
“Obviously his body wasn’t found within the city limits, but we are working with the FBI very closely,” Mestas said.
Mestas wouldn’t confirm whether the body was found in the park or the forest portion of the federal lands portion of the Sequoia-Kings parks.
“We take these cases very seriously, especially because he had special medical needs and medication,” she said. “This is a very, very active case and we are getting all the facts we can.”
Investigators spent all day with the parents. The parent’s ID’d the body and the body is in the custody of the Tulare County Sheriff’s Coroner division.
The FBI was notified through computer early on in the investigation and joined actively when the body was found Thursday afternoon.
The FBI will partner with the Visalia Police Department investigating the case, and other local agencies are expected to assist. Mestas would not confirm if the death was caused by violence.
Gulley’s parents had been at odds with investigators, who labeled the teenager as a runaway. Police who searched the boy’s room found evidence they say indicated Gulley ran away. But his parents had insisted otherwise.
They said, due to Gulley having Asperger’s, he had set routines and would not have deviated from those routines, such as walking directly to school. An undated note referencing how he’d miss his family, along with some missing money, had led investigators to believe Gulley had left home of his own will, his parents said.
While he was missing, Gulley’s parents say their son’s habitual nature — he became very stressed when taken out of his daily routine — should have cast considerable doubt on the working theory that he ran away.
During the search, Sgt. Paul Esquibel said that, while the missing teen’s special needs raised significant concerns, the situation didn’t necessarily change the department’s protocol. He had also said on Tuesday that, at that time, was no evidence pointing to any sort of foul play.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Best Argument Against Autism Speaks: A Special Educator’s Perspective

The Best Argument Against Autism Speaks: A Special Educator’s Perspective

I typically do not like to write about things I am against. 
But when an organization like Autism Speaks continually misses opportunities to do the right thing and listen to the people they are supposedly advocating for…it saddens me. And if you are a special educator…it should sadden you to.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I do not wish to discount the real challenges that families face when they have autistic children. I have seen first hand how difficult it can be for my students and students’ families and I wish dearly that we could give them the support they so desperately need and deserve. But this is not the subject of this post.
As a special education teacher, my job (as I see it) is to 1) give my students access to the general education curriculum using modifications and accommodations 2) along with the Individualized Education Program (IEP) team, create an individualized plan for my students to learn and grow in independence and self-determination 3) advocate for those students who do not have a voice or for who no one believes in…because if no one does…who else will?
So why are so many people mad at Autism Speaks right now? That is an excellent question. The answer is really the best argument against this organization.
This is a statement from their “About Us” page:
Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Bob and Suzanne Wright, grandparents of a child with autism. Their longtime friend Bernie Marcus donated $25 million to help financially launch the organization. Since then, Autism Speaks has grown into the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. We are proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish and look forward to continued successes in the years ahead.
Simple right? Their aims are 1) to find the cause of autism 2) to prevent autism 3)  to treat autism 4) to cure autism 5) to increase awareness  6) to advocate for people with autism and their families.
So what is the big deal? In following through with this agenda they have forgotten to do what their slogan implores them to do.
It’s time to listen.
Numerous autistic adults have spoken out against Autism Speaks about
As of this writing, there have been no changes to their policy and with the tone of co-founder Suzanne Wright’s “Call to Action” on the eve of their national policy meeting in Washington D.C., I don’t suspect it will change anytime soon. Here is an excerpt from John Elder Robison’s post about his resignation from Autism Speaks’ Science and Treatment Board.
No one says the Cancer Society does not speak for them. No one describes the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation as an evil organization. All that and more is said of Autism Speaks every day. I’ve tried to be a voice of moderation but it hasn’t worked. Too many of the views expressed by the organization are not my own; indeed I hold very different points of view.
Autism Speaks still has a base of support among families of young children, but it has very little support from parents of older kids, or autistic adults. And the fact is, that is the majority of the autistic population. I’ve made that point in the past; apparently to no avail. I’ve suggested things the organization could do to garner support from those groups, but those suggestions have been ignored.
There you have it. If you ran an organization that ignored the voice of people who you are supposed to be advocating for…who would you really be speaking for?
Sometimes I feel like the people at Autism Speaks have the same attitude as some educators who opine about how life would be so much better if those pesky “high-maintenance” parents would just go away. Well…those pesky autistic activists are not going away…and since it is my job to speak up for those who have no voice…I am not either.
Thanks for your time and attention.
If you would like more information about organizations that are helpful to autistic people, please check out: Autistic Self-Advocacy NetworkAutism Network International, and Autism Society of America. (edited: Autism National Committee)
Short Disclaimer: I have friends and co-workers who support Autism Speaks and this post is not intended to single anyone out. If you don’t believe what I have written about Autism Speaks you might want to read this post from a previous supporter (a parent with a daughter with autism). In my opinion…it is a must read. 
- See more at: http://www.thinkinclusive.us/the-best-argument-against-autism-speaks-a-special-educators-perspective/?goback=%2Egde_99557_member_5807159921413750785#%21

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Courts quietly confirm MMR Vaccine causes Autism

Courts quietly confirm MMR Vaccine causes Autism

After decades of passionate debate, parents probably missed the repeated admissions by drug companies and governments alike that vaccines do in fact cause autism. For concerned parents seeking the truth, it’s worth remembering that the exact same people who own the world’s drug companies also own America’s news outlets. Finding propaganda-free information has been difficult, until now. Dr. Andrew Wakefield At the center of the fifteen-year controversy is Dr. Andrew Wakefield of Austin, Texas. It was Dr. Wakefield that first publicized the link between stomach disorders and autism, and taking the findings one step further, the link between stomach disorders, autism and the Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) vaccine. For that discovery way back in 1996, and a subsequent research paper published by the doctor in 1998, Andrew Wakefield has found himself the victim of a world-wide smear campaign by drug corporations, governments and media companies. And while Dr. Wakefield has been persecuted and prosecuted to the extent of being unable to legally practice medicine because of his discovery, he has instead become a best-selling author, the founder of the Strategic Autism Initiative, and the Director of the Autism Media Channel. But in recent months, courts, governments and vaccine manufacturers have quietly conceded the fact that the Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) vaccine most likely does cause autism and stomach diseases. Pharmaceutical companies have even gone so far as to pay out massive monetary awards, totaling in the millions, to the victims in an attempt to compensate them for damages and to buy their silence. Grassroots outcry It was a regular reader named Kathleen that brought this ongoing story to our attention here at Whiteout Press. When asked what her connection to the vaccine-autism battle was, the young reader replied, “I just researched it for a school project a while back and then I stayed on top of it, until I couldn’t stand it anymore. I’m not a parent, nor do I belong to any organization – a mere outside observer.” This reader isn’t alone. The news that vaccines cause autism has spread across the US despite a coordinated media black-out. She takes her concerns one step further explaining, “All I want is to see this information where the public can access it. I’ve looked everywhere, and no one gives this dire Wakefield situation even ONE small mention.” She goes on to give us another motivation for her activism, “In Washington State, where I’m from, vaccines have become mandatory for school children, which is very frightening!” Landmark rulings In December 2012, two landmark decisions were announced that confirmed Dr. Wakefield’s original concern that there is a link between the MMR vaccine, autism and stomach disorders. The news went mostly unreported, but independent outlets like The Liberty Beacon finally began publishing the groundbreaking news. The website wrote last month, ‘In a recently published December 13, 2012 vaccine court ruling, hundreds of thousands of dollars were awarded to Ryan Mojabi, whose parents described how “MMR vaccinations” caused a “severe and debilitating injury to his brain, diagnosed as Autism Spectrum Disorder (‘ASD’).”’ The Liberty Beacon went on to describe the second court ruling that month, as well as similar previous verdicts writing, ‘Later the same month, the government suffered a second major defeat when young Emily Moller from Houston won compensation following vaccine-related brain injury that, once again, involved MMR and resulted in autism. The cases follow similar successful petitions in the Italian and US courts (including Hannah Poling, Bailey Banks, Misty Hyatt, Kienan Freeman, Valentino Bocca, and Julia Grimes) in which the governments conceded or the court ruled that vaccines had caused brain injury. In turn, this injury led to an ASD diagnosis. MMR vaccine was the common denominator in these cases.’ The report echoes the exact same sentiment that our reader conveyed – Dr. Wakefield has had his career and reputation destroyed over the past 15 years, but has just been vindicated. The account reports, ‘While repeated studies from around the world confirmed Wakefield’s bowel disease in autistic children and his position that safety studies of the MMR are inadequate, Dr. Wakefield ’s career has been destroyed by false allegations. Despite this he continues to work tirelessly to help solve the autism catastrophe.’ The article from The Liberty Beacon closes with a direct quote from Dr. Wakefield himself to the independent grassroots outlet, “There can be very little doubt that vaccines can and do cause autism. In these children, the evidence for an adverse reaction involving brain injury following the MMR that progresses to an autism diagnosis is compelling. It’s now a question of the body count. The parents’ story was right all along. Governments must stop playing with words while children continue to be damaged. My hope is that recognition of the intestinal disease in these children will lead to the relief of their suffering. This is long, long overdue.” Wakefield attacked again Since the world has slowly become aware of the dangers of the MMR vaccine, parents around the globe have refused to get their children vaccinated. Earlier this year, the UK government singled out Dr. Wakefield and blamed him for the rising number of measles outbreaks in the country. In an April 2013 interview, he responded publicly. The website TheRefusers.com published both the video, as well as the written transcript, of Dr. Wakefield’s public response. Below are some excerpts of the doctor’s remarks: “The important thing to say is that back in 1996-1997 I was made aware of children developing autism, regressive autism, following exposure in many cases to the measles mumps rubella vaccine. Such was my concern about the safety of that vaccine that I went back and reviewed every safety study, every pre-licensing study of the MMR vaccine and other measles-containing vaccines before they were put into children and after. And I was appalled with the quality of that science. It really was totally below par and that has been reiterated by other authoritative sources since. All I could do as a parent was to say, ‘what would I do for my child?’ That was the only honest answer I could give. My position on that has not changed. So, what happened subsequently? At that time the single measles vaccines were available freely on the National Health Service. Otherwise, I would not have suggested that option. So parents, if they were legitimately concerned about the safety of MMR could go and get the single vaccines. Six months later, the British government unilaterally withdrew the importation license for the single vaccines, therefore depriving parents of having these on the NHS; depriving parents who had legitimate concerns about the safety of MMR from a choice; denying them the opportunity to protect their children in the way that they saw fit. The news shouldn’t be left wing or right wing, conservative or liberal. It should be the news. It should be independent – Whiteout Press And I was astonished by this and I said to Dr Elizabeth Miller of the Health Protection Agency, ‘why would you do this, if your principal concern is to protect children from serious infectious disease? Why would you remove an option from parents who are legitimately concerned about the safety of MMR?’ And her answer was extraordinary. She said to me, ‘if we allow parents the option of single vaccines, it would destroy our MMR program.’ In other words, her principal concern seemed to be full protection of the MMR program and not protection of children.” Dr. Wakefield himself reiterates the final conclusion of the courts in various countries, but censored by the world’s media outlets saying: “Now this question has been answered not by me, but by the courts, by the vaccine courts in Italy and in the United States of America where it appears that many children over the last thirty years have been awarded millions of dollars for the fact that they have been brain-damaged by MMR vaccine and other vaccines and that brain damage has led to autism. That is a fact.” Read More: http://www.whydontyoutrythis.com/2013/08/courts-quietly-confirm-mmr-vaccine-causes-autism.html | Follow us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/whydontyoutrythis

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Seeing Things as They Are: Dysgraphia

Seeing Things as They Are: Dysgraphia


My almost 11 year old son also has Dysgraphia.  This has actually been as hard to deal with in educating him as the Autism.  I keep learning about it and trying new ideas.

Dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects writing, which requires a complex set of motor and information processing skills. Dysgraphia makes the act of writing difficult. It can lead to problems with spelling, poor handwriting, and putting thoughts on paper. People with dysgraphia can have trouble organizing letters, numbers, and words on a line or page. This can result partly from:

  • Visual-spatial difficulties: trouble processing what the eye sees
  • Language processing difficulty: trouble processing and making sense of what the ear hears

As with all learning disabilities (LD), dysgraphia is a lifelong challenge, although how it manifests may change over time. A student with this disorder can benefit from specific accommodations in the learning environment. Extra practice learning the skills required to be an accomplished writer can also help.

There are many ways to help a person with dysgraphia achieve success. Generally strategies fall into three main categories:

  • Accommodations: providing alternatives to written expression
  • Modifications: changing expectations or tasks to minimize or avoid the area of weakness
  • Remediation: providing instruction for improving handwriting and writing skills

Although teachers and employers are required by law to make "reasonable accommodations" for individuals with learning disabilities, they may not be aware of how to help. Speak to them about dysgraphia and explain the challenges faced as a result of this learning disability.

Each type of strategy should be considered when planning instruction and support. A person with dysgraphia will benefit from help from both specialists and those who are closest to the person. Finding the most beneficial type of support is a process of trying different ideas and openly exchanging thoughts on what works best.

Young Students:

Encourage practice through low-stress opportunities for writing. This might include writing letters or in a diary, making household lists, or keeping track of sports teams.
  • Allow use of print or cursive - whichever is more comfortable.
  • Use large graph paper for math calculation to keep columns and rows organized.
  • Allow extra time for writing assignments.
  • Begin writing assignments creatively with drawing, or speaking ideas into a tape recorder
  • Alternate focus of writing assignments - put the emphasis on some for neatness and spelling, others for grammar or organization of ideas.
  • Explicitly teach different types of writing - expository and personal essays, short stories, poems, etc.
  • Do not judge timed assignments on neatness and spelling.
  • Have students proofread work after a delay - it's easier to see mistakes after a break.
  • Help students create a checklist for editing work - spelling, neatness, grammar, syntax, clear progression of ideas, etc.
  • Encourage use of a spell checker - speaking spell checkers are available for handwritten work
  • Reduce amount of copying; instead, focus on writing original answers and ideas
  • Have student complete tasks in small steps instead of all at once.
  • Find alternative means of assessing knowledge, such as oral reports or visual projects

Teenagers and Adults:

Many of these tips can be used by all age groups. It is never too early or too late to reinforce the skills needed to be a good writer.
  • Provide tape recorders to supplement note taking and to prepare for writing assignments.
  • Create a step-by-step plan that breaks writing assignments into small tasks (see below).
  • When organizing writing projects, create a list of keywords that will be useful.
  • Provide clear, constructive feedback on the quality of work, explaining both the strengths and weaknesses of the project, commenting on the structure as well as the information that is included.
  • Use assistive technology such as voice-activated software if the mechanical aspects of writing remain a major hurdle.

How to Approach Writing Assignments

  • Plan your paper (Pull together your ideas and consider how you want them in your writing.)
  • Organize your thoughts and ideas
  • Create an outline or graphic organizer to be sure you've included all your ideas.
  • Make a list of key thoughts and words you will want to use in your paper.

1. Write a Draft

This first draft should focus on getting your ideas on paper - don't worry about making spelling or grammar errors. Using a computer is helpful because it will be easier to edit later on.

2. Edit Your Work

  • Check your work for proper spelling, grammar and syntax; use a spell checker if necessary.
  • Edit your paper to elaborate and enhance content - a thesaurus is helpful for finding different ways to make your point.

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Study Finds High Rate of Medication Use in Children with ASD - West Palm Beach Autism & Education | Examiner.com

Study Finds High Rate of Medication Use in Children with ASD - West Palm Beach Autism & Education | Examiner.com

Prescription medications do not address the core symptoms of autism and are not be considered to be "first-line" interventions or treatment for children with ASD. At present, early, intensive, and behaviorally-based interventions are considered the most effective treatments. Nevertheless, research indicates increasing rates of psychotropic use and the simultaneous use of multiple psychotropic medications (polypharmacy) in children with ASD. Reported rates of use have ranged from 27% to 83%, with polypharmacy ranging from 10% to 20%. The most commonly prescribed medications for ASD are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil; stimulants such as Concerta, Metadate, Methylin, Ritalin, and Adderall, and atypical neuroleptics such as Risperdal and Abilify, both with FDA approved labeling for the symptomatic (aggression and irritability) treatment of children and adolescents with ASD.
Although co-occurring problems such as hyperactivity, inattention, aggression, repetitive or compulsive behaviors, self-injury, anxiety or depression, and sleep problems may respond to a medication regimen, as well as relieve family stress and enhance adaptability, there are general concerns about these medications. For example, there is a lack of evidence documenting the safety or effectiveness of psychotropic treatment during childhood. Likewise, there is a paucity of information about the safety and effectiveness of psychotropic polypharmacy and potential interactions between and among medications that may affect individuals with complex psychiatric disorders, including ASD. As a result, detailing psychotropic use and polypharmacy among children with ASD is crucial for informing families, clinicians, and researchers.
A study published in the journal, Pediatrics, examined the use of psychotropic medications and polypharmacy by using a large and heterogeneous data set of medical and pharmacy claims for commercially insured children with ASD. Psychotropic medications included: (1) anticonvulsants/antiepileptics; (2) antidepressants; (3) antipsychotics; (4) anxiolytics; (5) attention-deficit disorder medications (both stimulants and non-stimulants); (6) lithium; and (7) anticholinergic/antiparkinsonian medications. Among 33,565 children with autism spectrum disorders, 64% used psychotropic medications and 35% had evidence of polypharmacy. Older children and those who had seizures, attention-deficit disorders, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or depression had increased risk of psychotropic use and polypharmacy. In addition, the majority of children who had seen a psychiatrist had evidence of psychotropic use.
The findings of this study indicate that despite minimal evidence of the effectiveness or appropriateness of multidrug treatment of ASD, psychotropic medications are commonly used, singly and in combination (polypharmacy), for ASD and co-occurring conditions. This has important implications for practice. Because some clinicians caring for children with ASD may not be aware of the extent and effects of psychotropic use and polypharmacy, primary care providers should carefully obtain medication histories and monitor symptoms for evidence of effectiveness. Likewise, there is an immediate need to develop standards of care around the prescription of psychotropic medications based on the best available evidence and a coordinated, multidisciplinary approach to improving the health and quality of life of children with ASD and their families. Finally, additional research is needed to understand why medications are being used (for which symptoms, behaviors, or diagnoses, and by which providers)
Spencer, D., Marshall, J., Post, B., Kulakodlu, M., Newschaffer, C., Dennen, T., Azocar, F., & Jain, A. (2013).Psychotropic medication use and polypharmacy in children with autism spectrum disorders. Pediatrics, 132, 833–840.
Lee A. Wilkinson, PhD, CCBT, NCSP is author of the award-winning book, A Best Practice Guide to Assessment and Intervention for Autism and Asperger Syndrome in Schools, published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.