Thursday, August 30, 2012

Preschool Special Education Trade Group Calls for More State Audits and Penalties!- via NYT

Since I do CPSE (Committee for Preschool Special Education) work for children 3-5 years of age, with physical, learning, developmental and other disabilities, this is something to be aware of:

Confronting reports of skyrocketing costs and outright fraud in New York State’s preschool special education system, a group of companies that provide services to children with disabilities is calling for mandatory new audits, clearer regulations and a strict code of conduct with tough penalties for violators.

Connect with NYTMetro Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook for news and conversation. The preschool special education system, which serves 60,000 children annually, costs Albany and local governments more than $2 billion a year. It is far more expensive per child in New York than in other states, The New York Times reported in June. Yearly bills exceed $200,000 per child in some cases. New York City’s spending has nearly doubled in just six years. Unlike other states, New York relies almost entirely on outside contractors to deliver services to 3- to 5-year-olds with physical, learning, developmental and other disabilities. One factor in the rising costs, The Times reported, is that limited oversight has been exploited by some of those contractors, including both nonprofit and for-profit companies. Audits released this summer by the state comptroller’s office have highlighted contractors who looted millions from the program by giving employees no-show jobs or reimbursing themselves for things like luxury cars, out-of-state living expenses, weekend-home renovations or their children’s bedroom furniture.

Two companies have been shut down in conjunction with the audits, and at least four contractors have been charged criminally. The scrutiny has prompted one trade group for preschool contractors to come forward with a set of far-reaching proposals to root out malfeasance. “Even one provider who willfully violates the public trust is one provider too many,” said Steven Sanders, the executive director of the group, Agencies for Children’s Therapy Services Inc., which represents more than two dozen preschool special education and “early intervention” contractors. (Its members, however, have not been among those audited by the comptroller’s office this year.) In a letter to John B. King Jr., the state education commissioner, Mr. Sanders, a onetime chairman of the State Assembly’s Education Committee who has been a lobbyist for several years, proposed requiring that every contractor be audited every two years. Audits now occur many years apart, if at all, and critics say unscrupulous contractors view the minimal risk of penalties as the cost of doing business.

Moreover, audits are now usually limited to identifying financial irregularities, but Mr. Sanders said they should also be used to verify that children are receiving the education services they were prescribed, and from qualified teachers and therapists. “It makes it far more difficult to game the system,” Mr. Sanders said of the proposal in a telephone interview. “If every taxpayer knew they were going to be audited every two years, it would cut down to almost zero the amount of tax cheating.” Tom Dunn, a spokesman for the State Education Department, would not address Mr. Sanders’s proposal but said the department planned “to discuss the preschool special education audit findings and potential actions that could be taken to address them with the Board of Regents,” which sets education policy for the state. Mr. Sanders also proposed that contractors be assessed a fee of up to $1,000 for each audit. Though he acknowledged that such audits cost tens of thousands of dollars apiece, he called it an important step. “We’re willing to put some of our own skin on the table,” he said. Many of the group’s proposals would require state legislation. Until now, city and state education officials have complained that influential lobbyists for contractors, including Mr. Sanders, have blocked reform efforts. But Mr. Sanders said that articles by The Times and audits by the state comptroller’s office had prompted his group to take action, in part to protect the industry’s reputation from further damage.

 He also called for requiring contractors to adopt codes of conduct, and then embodying the best of those rules into state regulations with serious penalties for violators, including fines, suspension or debarment. The group’s other proposals included clarifying the state’s manual for what expenses are reimbursable; setting up a permanent advisory council to provide feedback, ideas and advice to the State Education Department; and shifting the preschool special education system onto the same computer system that the State Health Department has begun using for early intervention for children under 3, so those with special needs can be tracked from birth until kindergarten. One of the group’s ideas, though, was aimed not at curbing abuse but at achieving a new level of accountability. Mr. Sanders called for requiring “exit evaluations” of students before they leave the preschool special education system for kindergarten at age 5.

These evaluations could help gauge the relative effectiveness of the varying methods used to address children’s disabilities.

Raising the Ritalin Generation

As a behavior therapist I have worked with many children who have ADHD and some of whom are on medication. What is challenging for my job is when the family doesn't tell us about the medications their child is taking. Sometimes this could affect the data we take and how we are intervening with a behavior plan.
Just as Will's mother says in this article, it is important to do your research and take your child to the doctor for a proper assessment. Many people ask me if I feel that in today's world we are over-diagnosing to get "the pills." After reading this article, lets see what you think:

Teen Campaigns Nike To Make Sneakers For People With Cerebral Palsy

Matthew Walzer-, 16, Asks Nike To Produce Sneakers For People With Cerebral Palsy- Check out the story posted in the Huffington post:
My favorite line is at the end: “I believe everyone, no matter what their physical, economic, or social circumstances may be, deserves to call themselves an athlete,” Walzer writes, “and deserves to have a sense of freedom and independence.” To get involved in the cause, tweet Matt Halfhill's post with the hashtag #NikeLetter.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Monday, August 27, 2012

Supporting the Special Needs community!

Photo: Nancy O'Dell and DSiAM's Saskia on the cover.

Check out the Toys"R"Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids? featuring specially selected toys that encourage play for children with physical, cognitive or developmental disabilities.

Great way to support children with Special Needs:


Baked Cotton Balls! (Great Sensory Activity)

Activity: I found this amazing website that has so many creative and wonderful ideas.

I work with an 8 year old girl who has vision impairment and thought baked cotton balls would be great for her! Her favorite colors are purple and green primarily because she can consistently see those two colors. Below, you'll see I made the cotton balls green and purple for her.

What You'll Need
  • Cookie sheet or tray
  • parchment paper
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup plus 1 Tbs water
  • cotton balls
  • food coloring
  • vanilla (or other flavors) extract
  • spices

Project Prep

Mix flour and water in a big bowl. Mixing is easy, so get your child involved right from the beginning. Things will get messy so it's probably best to sit at a table or high chair with a tray, but if you're like us and play most of your games on the floor, be sure to put a towel down to collect the mess.
If you want to add color, go ahead and drop in some food coloring. For multiple colors you can split your flour mixture into separate bowls. I also added some vanilla extract and a little bit of ground cinnamon to give the mixture a nice scent. Lemon or almond extract would be nice, too. Hopefully adding the smell in will give this activity a bit more sensory input.
Next, drop your cotton balls into the flour mixture and get them all soaked up in the batter. Place the wet cotton balls on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. **I only made two colors

Bake the cotton balls at 350° for about 30 minutes. 
Let the cotton balls cool completely then smooth the edges with scissors to make sure you don't have any pokey parts that might hurt little hands. Throw your baked cotton balls into a bowl and let the fun begin!

Playing with Your Baked Cotton Balls

stretching the cotton ballsThe coolest thing about baked cotton balls is that they're hard, but super light and really easy to crush with your bare hands. Give the ball a squeeze and you'll get a satisfying *CRUNCH* and then the soft, pliable cotton ball is revealed inside! They're kind of like fortune cookies, but easier to break and the fortune is always the same... softness!
We can work on pulling the cotton balls apart and feeling how long a cotton string we can make. We can also listen to the sound of the crunch. You could also play with toy hammers and hit the cotton balls or maybe run toy trucks over them.

Older dads link to rise in autism!!

Check out this article: Older dads link to rise in autism!! Must read!!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

My First Try

After three and a half years working as an ABA Therapist with children who have special needs, I decided to start a blog. I wanted to share my wealth of knowledge and help families across the world. Since adding myself on LinkedIN I have had a lot of people reach out for advice and tips for their children. No one would know that I am a professional potty trainer, shadow to children at school, or trained to work with vision impaired students! I felt that starting this blog would give people a chance to get to know me.

Being a highly adaptable and versatile educator, I have enjoyed the opportunity to teach a diverse group of children, including those with ADD/ADHD, autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, social skill deficiencies, speech impairments, non compliant behavior, learning disabilities, physical challenges/ motor impairment and vision impairment. These experiences have helped me grow into a compassionate individual, who takes each student’s unique goals, needs, and interests into account, and creates effective lesson plans and activities to serve each child and meet their needs.

My greatest passion is helping children and working on developing multi-sensory lesson plans, while teaching new concepts and using materials that meets the needs of each individuals.