Archive for the ‘Special Education’ Category

How to Make the Most of Parent-Teacher Conferences

October 3, 2008

The parent-teacher conference is an important opportunity to develop a strong partnership with your child’s teacher. Most schools schedule regular conferences, but if they don’t, you can request them. To make the most of each meeting with your child’s teacher, follow these tips from the National Parent Teacher Association and the National Education Association:

Getting Ready

• Call or write a note to set up an appointment to discuss your concerns.

• Briefly state your reasons for the meeting so the teacher can prepare.

• Find out in advance how much time you will have. If you feel that you need more time, let the teacher know.

• Talk to your child ahead of time to find out if there is anything she would like you to discuss during the meeting. Assure her that you and her teacher are meeting to help her. Consider including your child in the meeting if you think that is appropriate.

• Make a list of questions and don’t be afraid to ask them. Give some thought to the goals you may have for your child and share them with the teacher.

The Conference

Begin the conference on a positive note. Tell the teacher what kind of progress you’ve noticed and what your child enjoys. Be sure to thank her for meeting with you.

Here are some questions you may want to ask:

• How much time should my child be spending on assigned homework each night?

• How much help should I give my child on homework?

• How are you measuring my child’s progress? Through tests? Portfolios of his work? Class participation? Projects? A combination of these?

• Does my child participate in class discussion and activities?

• Does she complete and hand in all homework assignments?

• What future projects are planned?

• Is my child getting along with the other children?

• What are the classroom rules and how do you enforce them?

Develop a Plan and Initiate It

If your child is having difficulties, either socially or academically, this is the time to find out if they are school- or home-related, what the teacher can do to help and what assistance you can provide at home.

• Make notes of the teacher’s specific suggestions for helping your child at home.

• Before you leave the meeting, agree on a specific plan to help your child.

• Set up a way to check your child’s progress. Let the teacher know how to reach you and make sure that you know how to report back to the teacher.

• Review what you have discussed and restate your action plan.

• If you do not agree with the teacher, respectfully tell her this and let her know that you will continue to explore the issue further with her.

• Discuss the plan with your child.

• Follow through at home, as you have agreed to do.

• Stay in touch with the teacher to discuss your child’s progress and, if necessary, plan a follow-up conference.

From United Parenting Publications, October 2003.


Famous People with Aspergers Syndrome

September 26, 2008

NOTE: Also included are famous people for whom there is a lot of speculation that they have or had Aspergers Syndrome, but who may not have (or have had) Aspergers at all.


Albert Einstein provided the theory of relativity and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for the work he did with photoelectric effect.  Characteristics, which may indicate that Einstein was a fellow Aspie:  Einstein could not speak fluently at the age of nine (Botham, 2006, p. 16), language delays are common in children with high functioning autism.  His parents suspected that he might actually be mentally retarded (Botham, 2006, p. 16).

Often, children with Autism are labeled Mentally Retarded or Behaviorally Disordered.  At the ceremony of induction as an American, Einstein attended without socks (Botham, 2006, p. 16).  Children and adults with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome often have peculiar habits, extreme sensitivity to textures (Attwood, 2006, p. 3), and are often rated “high” on scales measuring atypicality, demonstrating odd behaviors, and seemingly lost in their own little world (Fattig, 2007).    Frequently, children with Asperger’s struggle with finding socks that “feel right” or with a line at the toe that doesn’t not bother them.

Isaac Newton dropped out of school as a teenager (Botham, 2006, p. 15).  A person with Asperger’s may not be able to accept rules in school if they appear illogical, pursuing a point or argument “as a matter of principle,” which can lead “to a significant conflict with teachers and school authorities,” (Attwood, 2006, p. 11).

Benjamin Franklin was considered to be one of the most important of the founding fathers of our country.  He was a theorist, author, politician, scientist, activist, and diplomat.  His scientific contributions included physics, discovery of electricity, and theories regarding electricity (Wikipedia, 2007).  He was also the first head of the post office.  Indicating the potential need for rigid rule and order, with sorting tendencies.  “Benjamin Franklin’s peers did not give him the assignment of writing the Declaration of Independence because they feared that he would conceal a joke in it,” (Botham, 2006, pp. 17-18).  Aspies are notorious for an extreme or different sense of humor.


Napoleon Bonaparte was reportedly afraid of cats, favored mathematicians or physical scientists, and tended to exclude humanists from his inner circle.  He believed humanists were troublemakers.  He also required his servants to wear his boots, breaking them in for him, before he would wear them (Botham, 2006, p. 17).  Napoleon may have exhibited a social deficit, leaning towards others with similar intellectual and personality traits.  He may have been preoccupied with perseverative or unfounded fears, with a hypersensitivity to textures on his feet or person.

George Washington, the first president of the United States of America.  Aspie signs:  George grew marijuana in his own garden (Botham, 2006, p. 2).  Many adults with undiagnosed or misdiagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome or Attention Deficit Disorder, self medicate in order to “soothe their restless brains and bodies,” (Richardson, 1998, p. 1).  He was extremely terrified of being buried alive, therefore, he dictated that he be “laid out for three days just to be sure he was dead,” (Botham, 2006, p. 2).  Perseverative fears and bizarre adherence to seemingly ineffectual rules or rituals are common in people with Asperger’s Syndrome and autism.  People on the Aspie team, perceive or think about the world differently than others (Attwood, 2006, p. 2).  George reportedly had to borrow money, in order to attend his own inauguration ceremonies (Botham, 2006, p. 2).  Difficulties with money management, pack rack tendencies, and/or impulsively giving possessions away are common traits in the Aspie race (Fattig, 2007).

John Quincy Adams, also a president of the country, owned and kept a pet alligator in the East Room of the White House (Botham, 2006, p. 3).  Again, atypicality is a common thread for our people (Fattig, 2007).  He reportedly took his “last skinny dip in the Potomac on his seventy-ninth birthday,” (Botham, 2006, p. 3).  No further comment needed.

Andrew Jackson maintained the belief that the world was flat (Botham, 2006, p. 3), indicating rigid concrete thinking, without the ability to see another’s perspective (Attwood, 2006, p. 2).  May be he, too, was on our team?

Andrew Johnson taught himself tailoring, and made his own clothes and clothes for those in his cabinet (Botham, 2006, p. 3).  Tailoring may have been a means of self-medicating the “gut wrenching feelings that accompany ADHD,” (Richardson, 1998) and Asperger’s Syndrome.  Often, people with Asperger’s, like people with true ADHD, feel nervous or fidgety inside and cope through leg bouncing, gum chewing, crafting, knitting, steepling their fingers, knuckle popping and other behaviors (Garnett & Attwood, 1995).

Abraham Lincoln had a nervous breakdown, and before his election to the presidency in 1860, he lost eight other elections (Botham, 2006, p. 4).  Asperger’s is often first misdiagnosed as depression, anxiety, bipolar, or a breakdown and running repeatedly for office may be indicative of perseveration, ritualistic need for routine even when it doesn’t appear to be working, and rigidity (Fattig, 2007).   Also, Lincoln’s mother reportedly died after drinking milk from the family cow, after it ate poisonous mushrooms (Botham, 2006, p. 4).  Not a sign or characteristic of Asperger’s, but weird nonetheless.

James Garfield was able to write in Latin with one hand, and in Greek with the other hand…at the same time (Botham, 2006, p. 4).  Evidence of savant skills?

After being shot, Teddy Roosevelt refused to accept medical assistance, until after completing a speech he was delivering (Botham, 2006, p. 4).  Rigidity of rule and routine,  with a touch of obsessive-compulsive behaviors?  He also wrote 37 books (Botham, 2006, p. 4).  Repetitive, stereotypical behaviors with perseverative tendencies perhaps?

William Taft got stuck in his bathtub on the day of his Inauguration, and “had to be pried out by his attendants,” (Botham, 2006, p. 5).  Eating disorders are often a part of Asperger’s Syndrome and autism.  Hyper reactivity to gustatory, olfactory, or textural can lead to under eating, refusal to eat all but just one or two foods, or malnourishment.  Hypo reactivity to gustatory or vestibular, can lead to bored eating, compensatory eating, comfort eating, and obesity.  “Unfortunately, professionals as well as concerned family members and friends mistakenly blame parents of children with autism spectrum disorders for their child’s poor eating habits. Sometimes parents’ concerns are ignored and they are told not to worry since most children go through stages of picky eating and food fads,” (Wheeler, 2004, p. 1).

Harry Truman’s middle name remained just an S, because “his parents could not decide between two different names beginning with S,” (Botham, 2006, p. 6).  Although not technically associating characteristics to Harry himself, parents of children with Asperger’s frequently exhibit characteristics as well.  The core characteristics of Asperger’s Syndrome include limited or restricted social awareness and understanding; difficulty or inability to maintain reciprocity or give and take conversationally; and intense or restricted interest in a subject (Attwood, 2006, p. 2).

Royalty with Asperger’s Characteristics

Louis IV, who was the kind of France, reportedly had a stomach that was twice the size of a normal stomach, and he only bathed one time a year (Botham, 2006, p. 10).  Hygiene issues and failure to acknowledge or dress in trendy fashions can be notoriously difficult for people with Asperger’s, especially those with extremely high IQ’s and a hyper reactive olfactory response.  Soaps and perfumes can be overwhelming to their olfactory system.

Catherine the Great relaxed by being tickled,” (Botham, 2006, p. 10) which could be a result of the characteristic sensation seeking of light to moderate touch, of those Apies with Hypo reactivity to touch or proprioceptive feedback.

Reportedly, Cleopatra and other female Egyptian rulers wore a fake beard (Botham, 2006, p. 11).  In our brains, neurons are the transmitters for perception, thoughts, feelings, and emotions.  Research has demonstrated “massive neurological effects” hormones can have on females during the different stages of life and maturation (Brizendine, 2006, p. 3).

Females are considered to be superior in empathy skills and males are traditionally found to be superior systemizers.  If a woman with autism is better at systemizing, with extreme attention to detail, and less compelled to demonstrate typically ‘female characteristics’ in relationships (e.g., valuing altruistic, reciprocal relationships, cooperative engagement, strong friendship bonds, nurturing, and smoothing or resisting conflict); but rather favors task specific activities, aggression, solitary activities, or other “male characteristic” behaviors, (Baron-Cohen, 2002, p. 2), she may become ostracized, envied, or socially isolated.  This emotional “maleness” may lead to relational conflicts and a lack of intimate relationships, gender confusion, wanting to dress like the opposite sex, or become the opposite sex.

Peter the Great reportedly killed his wife’s lover, and then “forced her to keep her lover’s head in a jar of alcohol in her bedroom,” (Botham, 2006, p. 11).  Excessive and unpredictable moods, irrational outbursts, or tantrums are not uncommon in people on the spectrum.

Wilhem II reportedly had a withered arm, that he often hid by posing with it resting on a sword or holding a glove (Botham, 2006, p. 11).  People with Asperger’s become masters of masking our differences.

Alexander the Great experienced seizure disorder (Botham, 2006, p. 11).  Seizure disorder is present in a percentage of people with autism.


Leonardo da Vinci took twelve years to paint the Mona Lisa’ lips, and could write with one hand while drawing with the other (Botham, 2006, p. 13).  Perfectionistic tendencies, with moderate cross over discrimination deficits, and savant skills?

Vincent van Gogh committed suicide (Botham, 2006, p. 14).  Depression sometimes accompanies people with Asperger’s and in extreme cases can lead to thoughts, talk of, or suicide attempts (Attwood, 2006, p. 15).


Beethoven was such a poor music student, that his music teachers decided he was hopeless as a composer and each time he sat to write music, he reportedly “poured ice water over his head,” (Botham, 2006, p. 30), indicating the potential inability to “show” what he could do and a potential preoccupation of sensory experiences (Attwood, 2006, p. 4), or need for unproductive idiosyncratic routine.

Elvis was a notorious over eater, failed his music class in school, never ever gave an encore, and had ten distinctly different drugs in his body when he died (Botham, 2006, p. 34).  He may have been compulsive with food/sensory perseverations, school failures, rigid need for routine and control, and self-medicating?


Jeremy Bentham left his estate to a London Hospital, so long as they allowed his body to continue to preside over board meetings.  “His skeleton was clothed and fitted with a wax mask of his face.  It was present at the meeting for ninety-two years and can still be viewed there,” (Botham, 2006, p. 15).  People with Asperger’s can maintain vivid or complex imaginary worlds, often with imaginary friends (Attwood, 2006, p. 15).

Socrates committed suicide (Botham, 2006, p. 16), indicating potential depression stemming from difficulties with understanding social conventions, a development of “compensatory thoughts and attitudes for feeling alienated, socially isolated and not understood,” (Attwood, 2006, p. 14).  The suicide rate in people with Asperger’s is higher than that of the neurotypical population.


Henry Ford reportedly believed history to be bunk, and he firmly believed in reincarnation (Botham, 2006, p. 18).  Concrete thinker without the ability to understand or tolerate another perspective, rigid belief system?

Bill Gates has long been suspected of demonstrated Aspie traits, and where would we be without his contributions?  His first business, Traff-O-Data, involved the creation of a machine recording the number of cars passing a point on a road (Botham, 2006, p. 18).


Robin Williams was voted least likely to succeed in high school (Botham, 2006, p. 27).  People with Asperger’s are noted to have “an unusual prosody” affecting tone, rhythm, pitch, and speed of speech.  And egocentric preoccupation dominates their thoughts, and they often need more assistance in self-help skills and organization (Attwood, 2006, p. 3).  Kindergarten through 12th grade is particularly difficult for our team, and we often can not “show” who we are or what we can do, until post high school education.

Tom Hanks is reportedly related to Abraham Lincoln (Botham, 2006, p. 22), and genetic ties are strong in our people (see above regarding Abe Lincoln).

Marilyn Monroe had a history of emotional instability, depression, and suicide.

Clark Gable used to take more than four showers a day (Botham, 2006, p. 26), indicating potential obsessive-compulsive characteristics, frequent in the Aspie population.

“Every episode of Seinfeld contains a Superman reference somewhere,” (Botham, 2006, p. 40).  I will say no more.


Author, Virginia Woolf, would only write her books when standing (Botham, 2006, p. 59), and she suffered from depression, social isolation, and eccentricities.

Shakespeare reportedly spelled his own name in several different ways (Botham, 2006, p. 60).  Hans Christian Anderson was word blind and he never learned to spell correctly (Botham, 2006, p. 61). Written language difficulties often accompany Asperger’s Syndrome and ADD/ADHD.

Goethe reportedly hated the sound of barking dogs (Botham, 2006, p. 60), which could indicate hyperactivity to sound or noises; and he “could only write if he had an apple rotting in the desk drawer,” (Botham, 2006, p. 60).

Isaac Asimov has a book included in each Dewey decimal category (Botham, 2006, p. 61), which could indicate compulsivity or perseverative need for control or ritual.

The novel, Gatsby, written by Ernest Vincent Wright, has a word count of fifty thousand with no word containing the letter e (Botham, 2006, p. 60). Phobic?

Charles Dickinson dropped out of school and suffered from insomnia.  He believed that if his bed was facing north, and he was in the center, he might be able to sleep (Botham, 2006, p. 61).  Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, nightmares or night terrors, is common in people with Asperger’s.   Creating odd rituals and routines as a coping mechanism is also frequent in our people.

Without Asperger’s, Where would we be?

Many children, who are diagnosed at a very young age with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), may in fact have Asperger’s Syndrome (Brunett & Williams, 2005).  Asperger’s Syndrome is typically characterized by average to above average intelligence, poor social communication, poor social skills, lack of eye contact, rigid need for rules and routine, anxiety and/or depression, pedantic speech, sensory processing difficulty, and perseverative thought processes. Persons with high functioning autism or Asperger’s tend to rely heavily on rigid internal rules and struggle with the unwritten social rules of social interaction.  Failure accompanies a student with AS, like a close companion, and we may need much reassurance during stressful periods.

A psychologist, and friend, stated, “You have to remind them that for every criticism, it can take upwards of hundreds of complimentary comments to undo the extreme embarrassment or humiliation,” (Caton, 2007).

This article is taken from

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What’s your Learning Style?

September 26, 2008

There are three basic types of learning styles. The three most common are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. To learn, we depend on our senses to process the information around us. Most people tend to use one of their senses more than the others.

It is not unusual to use different learning styles for different tasks. That’s why people can respond so differently to the same thing.

Visual Learners

  • take numerous detailed notes
  • tend to sit in the front
  • are usually neat and clean
  • often close their eyes to visualize or remember something
  • find something to watch if they are bored
  • like to see what they are learning
  • benefit from illustrations and presentations that use color
  • are attracted to written or spoken language rich in imagery
  • prefer stimuli to be isolated from auditory and kinesthetic distraction
  • find passive surroundings ideal

Auditory Learners

  • sit where they can hear but needn’t pay attention to what is happening in front
  • may not coordinate colors or clothes, but can explain why they are wearing what they are wearing and why
  • hum or talk to themselves or others when bored
  • acquire knowledge by reading aloud
  • remember by verbalizing lessons to themselves (if they don’t they have difficulty reading maps or diagrams or handling conceptual assignments like mathematics).

Kinesthetic Learners

  • need to be active and take frequent breaks
  • speak with their hands and with gestures
  • remember what was done, but have difficulty recalling what was said or seen
  • find reasons to tinker or move when bored
  • rely on what they can directly experience or perform
  • activities such as cooking, construction, engineering and art help them perceive and learn
  • enjoy field trips and tasks that involve manipulating materials
  • sit near the door or someplace else where they can easily get up and move around
  • are uncomfortable in classrooms where they lack opportunities for hands-on experience
  • communicate by touching and appreciate physically expressed encouragement, such as a pat on the back

Autistic spectrum disorder

September 19, 2008

Also known as autism, this is a condition in which a child has problems relating to people and situations and may show an obsessive resistance to any change in routine. Autism varies from mild to sever and typicaly appears within the first 3 years of life. It is four times more common in boys than in girls. It used to be thought that autism was caused by emotional deprivation or some negative aspect of the child’s background or upbringing. We now know that it has a physiological origin and results from an abnormality in the brain. There may be a genetic basis.


Because autism is a developmental disorder it may take a while for you to realize that your child is different from others. You may notice that your baby is un-communicative in the first year of his life, bu tyou may not attach any significance to this until later, when other signs become apparent. Most parents know that their child is autistic or that “something’s wrong” by the time he’s about three.

Effects of autism

Children autism vary considerably in their abilities but there are three main tratits that all autistic children share: problems with social interaction, communication problems, and impaired imagination. Many also display repetitive behaviour, and some have very sophisticated memories.

Social interaction

If autism is severe, your child will be indifferent to other people. In babies this manifests itself as crying that can’t be appeased by holding and cuddling, quietness, poor eye contact, and failing to return or respond to gestures such as smiling.

In other autistic children, it manifests as a lack of interest in interacting with other people, particularly children.

They do not make friends and, when they do approach people socially, they may behave inappropriately: they may repeat snatches of conversation that have just been spoen, they may be aggressive, or they may use confusing language. In less sever forms of autism, your child may accept social contact, but will not be very responsive or respond in a silted, repetitive way.


From an early age most children show a desire to communicate with other people. Even before they can form words they will communicate non-verbally using facial expressions and body language.

Autistic children seem to lack this desire. Even if your child does speak he will tend to speak at people, rather than with them, or his speech may be restricted to conveying his immediate needs. Your child may exhibit echolia (repetition of words that he has just heard), and he may use specific words or phrases in a repetitive or inappropriate way. It is common for autistic children to be confused about when to use “I”, “you”, or “he”.


An autistic child doesn’t use his imagination when he’s playing with toys and rather than perceiving things n their entirety, he may become overly interested in a small details of a toy, person or object.

Some autistic children do engage in activities that use the imagination, such as reading but these tend to be repetitive and stereotyped.

Repetitive behaviour

Repeated tapping rocking head-banging, teeth-grinding, grunting, screaming finger-flicking, spinning objects, and standing up and jumping from the back foot to the front foot, are some of the behaviours that can occur in autism.

He may also like repetitive routines to be observed without fail.


Some autistic children are able to store a memory and retrieve it exactly as it was first percieved and the results can be very impressive. An autistic child may for example fraw perfectly from memory.

Helping a child with autistic spectrum disorder

You will probably find that your child’s behaviour is most problematic between the ages of two and five, and there may be an improvement between the ages of six to twelve. As he grows up, your child will probably become more responsive and sociable. Although no cure for autism exists, there are many different therapies designed to improve the behaviour and adjustment of your child.

Behaviour modification

This therapy concentrates on replacing dysfunctional behaviour (tantrums, head-banging, aggressiveness, and so on) with desirable behaviour, using a system of rewards.

Relaxation and massage

The child is taught how to relax using massage, music, touching, and verbal cues. Later the verbal cues can be used on their own when the child shows signs of tension; because he associates them withfeeling relaxed, they should dissipate the tension. Massage helps autistic children bond to people through touch.

Holding therapy

This involves giving the autistic child plenty of hugs and cuddles, regardless of his indifference. The theory is that if you insist on holding your child, he’ll be comforted, and reassured without the problem of having to initiate the interaction in the first place.

Speech therapy

Some cases of autism are diagnosed by speech therapists, because poor language development if oten the first sign. Speech therapy can also improve your child’s communication skills. If your child doesn’t speak or his speech is very limited, it may help to teach him a sign language such as Makaton which complements rather than replace speech.


This involves working with all the family so that parents understand the behaviour of the autistic child and its consequences. In some cases the child himself might receive individual psychotherapy.

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Dyscalculia, and Dyspraxia

September 19, 2008

Dyscalculia, and dyspraxia are related conditions.

Dyscalculia is rarer than dyslexia but shares many of the same features. The child’s core problem is in handling numbers and mathematical concepts. Common signs of dyspraxia are cluminess, poor posture, awkward gait, and confusion about which hand to use to perform a task. The child may also have difficulty catching a ball, poor body awareness, and find it difficult to hop, skip, or ride a bike. Both conditions are treated in the same way as dyslexia.

Dyspraxia is also treated with occupational therapy and physiotherapy, and the benefits of treatment will have a knock-on effect on problems with specific learning difficulties.

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