Social Storytelling

Written By Jess Urcuyo

2014-9-29-social-storytellingWhat really gets your social nerves a-fluttering? What about landing the final interview for your dream job? Flying by yourself to an exotic travel destination where you don’t speak the language? Going to your significant other’s work Holiday party?

What do we do in those situations? We research interview preparation advice, we review travel blogs to read up on the local culture, we practice our elevator pitch to answer the inevitable “so, what do you do?” question. We plan for what we expect to happen and we prepare for the unexpected. It’s a story we tell ourselves where we are the main character. We tell and retell ourselves the story until we think we’ve captured all potential situations that might happen. We rehearse our story until we’re comfortable that we’ll be successful.

That’s a social story. Almost…

Social stories are a technique created by Carol Gray, Director of The Gray Centre for Social Learning and Understanding in Grandville, Michigan in the early 90’s. The technique was first used with children with autism, but the approach has since been found to be successful across the lifespan and with many other diagnoses, as well as individuals who don’t have a diagnosis.

Social stories are designed to provide personal preparation for a challenging situation. Typically written in the first person, present tense, social stories are a script for appropriate behaviour and assist in understanding the perspective of others. Social stories are often a combination of pictures and sentences at the appropriate level of complexity for the individual.

Social stories are used by therapists, teachers, and parents alike to work through social challenges from dealing with fire drills, to accepting losing a game, sharing toys, or even understanding why it’s important to make eye contact.

Read a social story (PDF) that was used to help Emma overcome her debilitating fear of dogs.

School Suspensions: Good or Bad?

Written by Dr. Marie-Eve Dubois

school-suspensionsWe’re now a few weeks into the school year, and while we’d hope things would be settling by now, this is not always the case. Children who had been doing well for a few weeks are now testing their teacher’s limits, while parents of other children have already started receiving calls saying their child might get suspended. One way or the other, these phone calls are distressing to many parents. Aren’t suspensions bad? Or is there any positive to them?

School suspensions are one of the consequences used in hopes of helping students regulate their poor behaviours. However, as a psychologist, this strategy has always boggled my mind. Essentially, the strategy involves having a student stay home for a given amount of time (a day or more) for displaying poor behaviours in school. For most children, this will feel more like a reward than a punishment, which was the initial intention. As a general rule, in-school suspensions or other more appropriate consequences should be chosen. For example, if the child misbehaved in a class on multiple occasions and has led the teacher to miss out on teaching time, the child should have to ‘give time’ to the teacher to ‘repair’ their misbehaviour (for example, helping the teacher prepare other activities outside of class time).

However, as with any good rule, there are always exceptions. School suspensions could be argued as a ‘good’ thing for children with special needs. Parents of children with special needs tend to get more calls than other parents to come and pick their child up from school for poor behaviours. However, parents should refuse to simply pick up a child. Ideally, what would be needed is a plan for the school to handle such behaviours. Otherwise, parents should ask whether their child is being suspended, in which case they’ll come to pick them up. Seems unusual, right? It turns out that whenever a child is suspended, a note in their record is made. Many school suspensions in a child record could then be used to argue that the school is not meeting the child’s need, and that the child needs additional services.

What have your experiences been with suspensions? Good or bad?

 

How Can an IPRC Help Your Child?

Written by Diesje Hiltemann

how-can-an-iprc-help-your-child1Your child has a diagnosis, you’ve informally discussed their needs with their teacher, and the Principal has agreed to provide support when it’s available. Seems like a smooth start to the school year, right? Right…everything is great until the support isn’t available when your child needs it.

Did you know that you have the right to formally identify your child’s needs and have your school commit to the support that is appropriate for child to receive? That’s what an IPRC can do for you.

An IPR–what??

The IPRC is the Independent Placement and Review Committee. It’s a vital step for all children who have an exceptionality, whether they are gifted, have a learning disability, or have another diagnosis such as autism or ADHD.

Only two people can ask for an IPRC meeting to be called – the parent or the school principal. The IPRC is where you, the parent has a voice. Don’t pass up on your right to be heard. Request it in writing to your principal.

What does the IPRC do for my child?

There are three main decisions made at an IPRC:

  1. Is the student exceptional?
  2. What is the exceptionality?
  3. What is the appropriate placement?

How do I know if my child is exceptional?

If their diagnosis impacts one of the following areas, they may be considered exceptional:

  1. Communication
  2. Behaviour
  3. Intellectual
  4. Physical
  5. Multiple categories

how-can-an-iprc-help-your-child2What placements are available to my child?

  1. Regular classroom with indirect support
  2. Regular classroom with resource assistance
  3. Regular classroom with withdrawal assistance (at least 50% of the day in a regular classroom)
  4. A special education classroom with partial integration (your child can go into the regular class for up to 50% of the day)
  5. A special education class on a full time basis

I’ve decided to request an IPRC – what else do I need to know?

  1. Read your school board’s Special Education Plan
  2. Understand the Special Education Laws
  3. Understand how to work with the system to get what your child needs
  4. Have a realistic sense of what is possible
  5. You have the right to bring an advocate with you – it could be a therapist working with your child, a professional educational advocate, or a family member/friend.

For more information, consult the following:

Halton District School Board Special Education Plan:

http://www.hdsb.ca/BoardroomTrustees/SEAC%20
Downloads/Special%20Education%20Plan.pdf

Halton Catholic District School Board- Special Education Annual Plan:

http://www.hcdsb.org/Programs/SpecialEducation/
Documents/HCDSB%20Special%20Education%20Annual%20Plan.pdf

Visual Schedules

With the new school year begun, many of our little ones are showing difficulty adjusting to their new routines. Some children can be disorganized as they attempt to complete their morning routine. Others experience stress at school with not knowing what activities will come next, and the comfort of knowing when it’s home-time is a mystery. Visual schedules are a simple, easy to make item that parents and teachers can create, to support these children. Here is an idea for morning routines!

visual-schedules1-2

Simply, take clothes pins, and write the morning tasks on each one. Tasks may include; brush teeth, eat breakfast, and kissing parents’ good bye. Your child can hang this schedule on his or her bedroom door, and remove each clothespin as each task is completed.

Here’s another idea for a school routine:

visual-schedules3

Parents and teachers can find pictures online to print, laminate and affix with Velcro on their backs. Pictures should include all activities that occur at school, so parents are encouraged to connect with classroom teachers about events of the day. Typically, you will find recess, circle time, gym, assembly, table activities, free play, lunch and home time as part of most school routines. Simply have a bag or basket to hold the pictures displaying activities for the day. The classroom teacher can place the pictures sequentially in place within view of your child to refer to throughout the day. Pictures can be ripped off and returned to the basket as each task is completed!

My tummy doesn’t want to go to school!

Has your child suddenly started having tummy aches right before going to school? Or better, feeling nauseous, causing you to cancel work for the day at the last minute? Maybe junior is even calling you from school because he’s in horrible pain? You’ve visited your family doctor or pediatrician, maybe even went through a few blood tests or other exams, and EVERYTHING is fine?

Seems like your child is suffering from the oh-so-common ‘My tummy doesn’t want to go to school’ phenomenon…which is more commonly referred to as Somatization. Soma-what?! What this means is that your child is expressing some underlying psychological distress, typically anxiety, through physical symptoms. What happens when we’re anxious is that our autonomic nervous system, which regulates our breathing, digestion and heartbeat, goes into overdrive into a fight or flight response. Our breath and heartbeat grows faster and faster, and our muscles get ready to get into action. Except, there’s no lion to fight, so that response which was adaptive for our ancestors is not so helpful. That tension will then lead to stomach aches, nausea, headaches, etc.

Here are a few tricks to deal with the daily tummy pain:

1)      Acknowledge your child is in pain. It’s not ‘in his head’. His or her anxiety is ACTUALLY creating physical symptoms…like when you have to give a presentation at work and your hands get sweaty, but worse.

2)      Practice ‘belly breathing’ twice a day for 5 minutes. If you’ve done any yoga, this is essentially how you’ve been taught to breathe. The goal is to have your child breathe in (from his/her nose) for about 3 seconds, then breathe out (from his/her mouth), for another 3 seconds. Only the belly should be moving (not the chest). Once your child has mastered this strategy in non-stressful situations (for example, when coming back from school and after story time), encourage him to use this strategy when the tummy ache manifests itself.  Here are some ways to make this more enticing:

  1. Ask your child to imagine a balloon of his favourite colour in his tummy. He is to then inflate and deflate that imaginary balloon.
  2. You can also take a small stuffed animal or toy and place it on your child’s stomach when he is lying down. The goal is to have the toy move up and down.
  3. Pretend to blow bubbles, or blow real bubbles! This will force your child to breathe out slowly from the mouth.

3)      DO NOT REINFORCE AVOIDANCE! Establish a rule that your child will have to go to school even with a tummy pain, unless he or she is having a fever or vomiting. Explain to his teacher and/or school secretary that you will not pick your child up from school unless he is having a fever or vomiting. Letting your child stay home or picking him up from school will only reinforce the idea that school is anxiety-provoking and dangerous…why else would your child feel so great when he gets home?

4)      Make sure to try to figure out what it is that is making your child nervous about going to school. Is He noticing he’s not on par with others? Is he getting bullied?

If you’ve tried this at home and are not seeing any improvements, consult with a qualified professional. Cognitive-behavioural therapy is a great way to help!