Since Kindergarten our children are learning how to write their name, memorize their home phone and address. For some kids it is not as easy as others, especially when you have a child with cognitive or speech delays. However, think about all the times you are asked this information whenever you go out.
Last week as we were navigating any number of medical appointments it dawned on me, that my daughter’s team has been working on teaching her how to write her name, memorize her phone and address for a while. I can encourage my child to use this information consistently by “sitting on my hands” and letting her take charge. As parents, we know what our child is able of doing, and we know how to challenge them to learn new skills. We should work with our child’s team to accomplish these milestones one at a time. Likewise when going to doctors appointments our children have to engage in a variety of social interactions in order to get their needs met.
I have been caring for my friend’s four year old whenever she needs a provider. Back in February, we worked on her Valentine’s cards for her classmates. It was fun to write her name in dots so she could go back over them with a pen. The joy on her face when she showed her mom what she had done was priceless. I’m sure some of you are familiar with this technique or are doing it now with your own child. When we were in our daughter was in school, her teacher made a template our daughter’s name, sent me a copy on email and asked me to print it and use it. Slowly, we went from print to cursive and now she can do both. We still have to practice before we are going to sign a document, but she can do it.
One of our friend’s daughters was getting married and wanted her sister who is affected with Cerebral Palsy to be her maid of honor. As you know one of the jobs of the maid of honor is to be a witness and to sign the marriage certificate. Well, our young friend was beaming as she was able to do this for her sister. This goal was on our friend’s IEP and followed up at home with her occupational therapist. It was a beautiful wedding and our friend was so proud to be able to sign the paperwork.
For many children, knowing your address is a simple thing because the family has lived in the house for a long time and there are no plans for moving. When you are a military family, or a mobile family, you may be moving every three to five years and then learning a new address may be a little challenging. When teaching our child with a disability about moving to a new place we began preparing our girls before our move. We started with learning about the new State we were going to be in, then the City, then the street, then the number. I know, the address is done the other way around, however, then traveling, it was easier for my girl with a disability to visualize that we were going to another state and another city. When we finally got to the house, we went to the street and showed her the street sign and then we showed her the number of the house. My child is an audio-visual learner and I discovered this while she was watching her favorite movies and started reciting the dialog and singing the songs. So guess what I did, you got it, put our address into sing-song form so she could learn it.
Here is a great piece of everyday information, self care and self awareness we all need to know. Can our children tell their phone number to another person who needs to contact you? How about if they are away from home and need to connect with you? I know many of you are saying, that would never happen, I never leave my kid alone. Reality is, we are not going to be around for our kids forever, what happens if you get sick and your kid needs to let someone know they need help? We have been working on teaching our daughter not only our home phone number but a little bit of phone etiquette as well. These days we also have to add that our kids are super savvy with computers and cellphones. My daughter loves to Skype and Face Time with her sister and her grandmother.
I would suggest that learning the numbers is an educational goal that can be put on an IEP, however, using the numbers for personal use, like knowing one’s home phone number as well as the numbers on our house become now a functional goal that can also be put on an IEP. Talk to your IEP team, let them know what goals are important to you so they can help you achieve them.
In Case of Emergency – ICE card
Since my daughter was diagnosed with diabetes I have put and ICE card in her backpack, and now it is in her wallet, her blood glucose meter, her diabetic supply kit, and pretty much anything that might be with her or needs to be returned to us. Should my daughter have an extreme low blood sugar episode, she would be unable to talk. We got a protocol of action from her doctor of what to do should she have an episode of low or high blood sugar. The school nurses made it a point to conduct a diabetes training for the school staff that interacted with our daughter. I have had wonderful nurses that have assisted us during the development of the IEP to ensure that those medical concerns are addressed on the IEP so our daughter and the team can learn together.
I have worked with families where the child is non verbal; however this does not mean they cannot communicate. We as a team need to find a way in which we can help this child communicate and become familiar with the appropriate social behaviors that are needed to navigate life. We are the ones that are taking them to the doctor, the dentist, the specialty clinics, therapies, etc. We can use all of these opportunities to make them a “teachable moment” and fill their lives with the things they need to be independent.
My daughter is a chatterbox but she is also shy when she is just new to a situation. By modeling the desired behavior and using verbal cues I have been able to teach her step by step what I want her to do.
One of my friend’s daughters uses a communication device. She has just started the process of teaching independence skills and is working with the speech therapist in order to develop these skills for her daughter. And yes, she is going back to the IEP team to make sure that not only are then on the speech therapist’s goals, but also on the Special Education teacher’s goals as well.
By taking an active approach to the things our children need to learn in order to become self sufficient and self-advocates, we need to realize how many things we do for them on a daily basis. As our children grow up, they are the ones that give us cues and let us know they are ready to take on more responsibilities and do things for themselves. When one raises a child with a disability, we walk a fine line between doing, teaching and enabling. Help your child find their own voice, they may never find it, but it won’t be because you didn’t teach them. Who knows, they might surprise you.
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