Getting to Know the Acronyms in Special Education


I know the school year has ended, but I thought it would be a good time to become familiar with some terms and acronyms in the field of education. Some of you may have recently completed developmental screenings and are in the middle of evaluating your child’s need for services.

Sometimes these acronyms get used and we forget to explain what they are or what they mean to families.

IDEA: Individuals with Disabilities Act

This is the United State’s special education law that dictates how all of these special education services should be accessed and delivered.

The two main points of IDEA are that children receive needed special services for free in their LRE (Least Reatrictive Environment)
⤵️Scroll to see the definition of LRE.

At the IEP meeting you will be asked if you would like a copy of the procedural safeguards. This is a requirement that is part of this IDEA law. Parents have specific rights and protections throughout the special education process.

A great resource describing IDEA is:

IEP: Individualized Education Program

This is a written plan that shows shows the special education services the child will receive and what goals/objectives the child will work on through the year. An IEP is used for children ages 3-21 years that qualify for services (have gone through screening and evaluation).

FAPE: Free Appropriate Public Education

This is one of the tenants of the IDEA law.

FAPE means that children ages 3-21 years have the right to FREE education, special education, and related services (preschool children fall under this law if they have an IEP in place). This education should be APPROPRIATE for the child, meaning that the child with disabilities should have an IEP or a 504 plan that gives equal access to learning. Equal access looks like provision of related services to help the child grow in the school setting.

We will talk about related services in the next few posts!

LRE: Least Restrictive Environment
This is a fancy way of asking where the special services will occur.

If possible, children should remain and be included in the environment that their same aged peers are. This is the LEAST RESTRICTIVE. If instruction is not possible in this environment, the team needs to write where services will occur and how much time the child will spend outside of the environment that same-aged peers are.

One child’s LRE may look very different from another child’s LRE. It should! It is part of an individualized program (IEP).

ARC: Admissions and Release Committee

If you live in Kentucky, you’ve heard the term “ARC meeting.”

The ARC is the IEP team. It must consist of the parent, general education teacher, special education teacher, the chairperson, and possibly the student. This team (regardless of what you call it in your state) meets together to review the child’s needed services and to develop goals and objectives to work on through the year.

RTI: Response to Intervention

Response to Intervention is a system of targeting teaching to help children who are struggling with skills. Including in RTI is progress monitoring, meaning that data is collected to see how a child is doing.

RTI is not special education, but it can help general education teachers identify children who should be referred for special education services.

My Kentucky peeps, here is a free acronym for you...KSI. Kentucky calls their RTI Kentucky Systems of Intervention (KSI).

ESY: Extended School Year

Extended School Year services can be written into the child’s IEP (Individualized Education Program) when the IEP team has determined that the child will regress or lose skills when not provided with specially designed instruction while school is not in session.
Not every child will qualify for ESY services and the provision of ESY services vary based on the state you live in. It should be a discussion at each IEP meeting and there is a field on the IEP that records the team’s decision.

SLP: Speech Language Pathologist

A SLP is the person who provides speech language services.

Children can receive these services due to a delay in speech or language skills.  SLPs can also provide feeding, swallowing, and voice services.

PT: Physical Therapy

Children can qualify for physical therapy services to work on core strength, mobility, and access to the environment. Physical therapists also provide training on how to use different types of equipment.

OT: Occupational Therapy

Children can qualify for occupational therapy services to help with fine motor skills, eye hand coordination, sensory processing, and help performing basic life skills.

Dear Schools, we needed the chance to play


Dear Schools,

We needed the chance to play. I want to apologize for my grumbling and complaining the last week or so as I set out beach towels, sunscreen, and water bottles for “yet another /special day” at the end of this school year. I am ashamed to admit that I’ve been a part of conversations saying, “they aren’t even doing anything this last week of school, can’t we just stay home?”

I, of all people, know better.

Children of all ages need to play. Elementary to high school. They need the chance to socialize. They need the chance to learn outside of the classroom walls.

Field days, special trips, kickball tournaments, and water days are NOT easy for teachers, administrators, and volunteers to plan. There are so many logistics. I want to apologize. Thank you for ensuring my children have had these opportunities.

My only suggestion is that spread these days throughout the school year. Let’s have more opportunities to play each quarter. More practice to get along with our peers.

The news every day shows us the vital need for children and adults to have opportunities to build strong, healthy social-emotional skills throughout their lives. These special days...the chance to play...are a step in the right direction.

Dear schools, thank you for the chance to play. We needed it. And we need even more. Please do not stop.

The Time I Referred my Child for Preschool Special Education Services

 Practicing what I preach.

I referred my 4.5 year-old for preschool special education services. A few weeks ago, she went in for a developmental screening.

I began noticing some articulation errors in her speech or the way she said certain sounds in words. She particularly has trouble with the /c/ sound and /g/ sound.

I contacted our school district’s preschool program. Children who are older than 3-years-old are served through their local school district if they qualify for special education services. If you have concerns, call your school and ask who you need to contact for a preschool special education referral. All districts have different people in charge of this process.

Our school used the DIAL-4 screening. I have made a video on this screening tool! It looks at children’s skills in the area of motor, concepts, and language. It was a series of little games for Quinlan to complete. While she did this, I filled out a parent questionnaire. The preschool teacher and the speech language pathologist scored her screening and told me the results.
She also had her vision and hearing screened by the school nurse.

For her age, Quinlan should be able to say the /c/ sound in words like “cat” and the /g/ sound in words like “girl.” She has not yet had any targeted instruction on these sounds, so they want to see if she will make progress if she is given just a little more help. She has started RTI or Response to Intervention services. She will do this for a few weeks to see if a little extra attention to those sounds will help. If she doesn’t make progress during RTI, she will complete a speech and language evaluation.

It seems like a long process, and it is. But the intervention specialists are trying to make the best decisions for Quinlan. This is why it is so important to make a referral today if you have concerns. It starts the process sooner.

Many state-funded preschools will be conducting open developmental screening days during the spring. Be on the look out or call your local school district for more information! You do NOT have to wait for a screening day!

Are you nervous to make a call? Don't be! Read this now to find out the two possible outcomes!

Bring on the Clay!


One of the things that struck me about my visit to the schools in Reggio Emilia, was that no matter the age of the child, there was clay available every day.  Clay is a natural material. There are no harsh chemicals. There are no artificial dyes.  But this art medium can be intimidating if you have never explored it before.

You can purchase clay from your local craft store.  I buy the air-dry clay.  I have bought the white, gray, and terra cotta colors.  I do have to say that the terra cotta clay is messier on clothes :(
This type of clay does not need a kiln.  I have not had great luck at preserving large pieces of work that children have created.  They often become brittle when they dry.

Key Things to Know to Get Started

1. Clay needs to remain moist to stay pliable.

You should store your clay in a plastic bag with a wet paper towel to ensure that it does not dry out.  Do not store in a very dry, warm area.

2. It may be easier to make creations on a piece of wax paper or even white paper. This will allow the child to move the clay from one play to another to dry.  If you make it right on the table, it will get stuck.

3. You can cut slices of clay using a string.  These slices are called slabs.  Slabs are great first way for children to encounter clay.  They can stick things into the clay.  Carve pictures using tools. 

4. You can "glue" one piece of clay to another piece of clay by wetting the clay.  This is called slip.

Suggestions For Introducing Clay to Children

Many children have only had experience with home-made or commercial play dough.  Clay takes more hand strength to manipulate.  It can also feel a little bit messier depending on how new your clay is.  

I definitely suggest setting out slabs of clay with materials to press into the clay.
You can use: popsicle sticks, sea shells, pasta, rocks, birthday candles, etc.

For the next encounter, set out slabs, balls, and coils (when you roll the clay to make a snake).  See what the children make!

As children become more and more familiar with clay, they will begin to use it as another way of expressing thoughts and testing ideas.  Some children may prefer to draw, while others prefer to construct using clay. 

You can even begin to offer clay as an extension to drawing.  See the self portraits play invitation!

Color Mixing with Liquid Watercolors

 Have you tried liquid watercolors yet?  They are a playgroup staple!

One of the simplest, yet most intriguing way for children to explore this medium is to use droppers.  

Children explore the scientific concepts of color mixing, while dropping small amounts of the paint onto paper towel, fabric, or water color paper.

What you need: 

-Liquid watercolors

- Droppers (you can use small ones to promote fine motor control, or large ones for younger children who are just gaining hand strength)

-water color paper, fabric, paper towels, or coffee filters

-Cups to pour the paint into (I dilute the paint with water.  I put just a few squirts of paint and fill the cup the rest of the way with water)

-A tray to work on (this will keep the paint from running all over your table)

-Old clothes or a smock

Why this play invitation is good for children:

It promotes scientific inquiry.  Children can engage in cause and effect investigations.  What will happen if I mix the yellow and the red paints together? What will happen if I fill the entire dropper?

Children will use eye-hand coordination and their pincer grip when operating the droppers. 
The invitation is open-ended.  This means that there is no right or wrong way for the children to interact with the materials.  The value is in the process and not the product.  However, you can turn those beautifully painted pieces into creations of their own once you finish.

Music Play: The 4 Best Toys

 In honor of the Week of the Young Child, we are celebrating 5 main themes this week!  Today we are celebrating Music Monday! 

I love to watch how children respond to music!  Music includes creative expression, fine and gross motor skills, and rhythm.  This post includes affiliate links so you can find your own music toys!

Here are my favorite music toys that I think every play room should include:

1.Melissa and Doug Caterpillar Xylophone

I love the wooden xylophone look.  Children can explore the cause and effect of hitting each key. More advanced players can follow the color patters to create songs, or can write their own music!

2. Musical Instrument Set


Start your own parade with this set of percussion instruments!  If the thought of these inside your house gives you a headache, head outside!

3. Dancing Scarves

Children will love moving these scarves slow and fast to match the music.

4. Bluetooth Speaker

I like using a Bluetooth speaker when playing our favorite music from YouTube or Apple Music.  This way children are not fixated on the screen and can instead watch each other or the teacher.  In my experience, children are more likely to participate in fingerplays and songs if they are not watching a video.

Nervous to Refer your Child for Special Education?

 Are you a little nervous to make the call to seek out intervention services?

That is completely understandable. Most parents are. The people on the other end of the phone will know that and will be ready to help.
There are 2 possible outcomes to the entire process:
1. Your child will be assessed and the team will decide that your child qualifies for intervention services. You and the team will write a plan and your child will get the help he/she needs.
2. Your child will be assessed and the team will decide that intervention services are not needed at this time. They will give you suggestions on how to continue to support your child.

Either way it is a win-win! Nothing is lost!

How to make a self-referral for intervention services I got to you :) You are ready to make the call to seek out intervention services for your child! I'm proud of you!

If your child is under the age of 3, you are seeking early intervention services. Early intervention services serve children birth up to the child's third birthday. These services are very family focused and often are conducted in your own home.

Here's the kicker, every state calls their early intervention program something different. You can probably find yours by searching for
"[your state]+early intervention services"

Here are links to Kentucky and Ohio early intervention services.

You do NOT need a physician to refer you. YOU can call today! Just call with your calendar ready. Tell them about your child and which developmental milestones you have concerns about.

You got this!

If your child is 3 or older, you will have a different phone number to find now that you are ready to seek out intervention services.
Once your child is 3-years-old, they can qualify for services through the school district. Children ages 3-5 years are eligible for preschool special education services and children kindergarten and older are eligible for school-age special education services. Your local school district is in charge of providing both of these services.
Here is the really confusing part...some school districts partner or contract with other agencies to provide the preschool services. Calling your local school district and asking to talk with the director of special education will get you in contact with the correct people.
If you need my help, let me know!

If you are still nervous read this post!

5 reasons why NOW is the time to seek out intervention services

You have heard me say before that intervening early is so important! The majority of brain development occurs within the first 5 years, making this the perfect time to support young children with services.
I’m sharing 5 reasons why you should seek intervention services (early intervention or preschool disability) NOW versus later. If you need help finding out who to contact, let me know!

REASON #1 to seek out intervention services NOW for your child...
Intervention helps your child build a strong foundation of skills BEFORE life becomes more demanding in elementary school.

REASON #2 to seek out intervention services NOW for your child...
Services will help your child develop skills that are needed in social situations.
So much of early learning occurs within peer groups and social settings. When children have a delay in communication, motor, self-help, social, or emotional skills, research shows that they have a more difficult time interacting or playing with children their age.
Intervention services will teach children the skills they need to interact and play with friends

REASON #3 to seek out intervention services NOW for your child...
Increased self-esteem through competence!
You know how great you feel when you can finally do something you have been working towards?! Children feel this, too! 👏
Imagine being a child who has found a way to communicate her wants, needs, and ideas to others.
Imagine being a child who has gained control over the small muscles in his hands so that he can now hold a paintbrush and make a beautiful painting.
Imagine being a child who has learned how to ask to play, running through a playground playing tag with her new friends.
Skills build confidence.

REASON #4 to seek out intervention services NOW for your child...
It will improve family relationships.
Let’s be honest, nothing happens in a vacuum. A child’s development affects EVERYONE within your home. With more skills, your child will be able to interact with everyone in a more positive way and will be able to engage in more family activities (mealtimes, game nights, trips, etc) in more meaningful ways.
Intervention helps families support the child at home. It gives families realistic expectations and teaches them how to practice the skills at home.

REASON #5 to seek out intervention services NOW for your child...
It is a process, but the sooner you start...the sooner your child will get help!
Depending on your child’s age, it could take up to 45-60 days for evaluations to be completed and an intervention plan to be created.
If you are wanting evaluations outside of the education field, waitlists can sometimes reach 18 months long 😳
All that to say...don’t wait any longer. Once you make the decision to will have some waiting to do.


Sleep Anxiety and Children


It is not unusual for one of my children to end up on my floor during the night. Sometimes I actually leave extra pillows out for them. It seems like it might be our youngest, maybe our oldest, or one of our middles.

Anxiety at night is normal. Your amygdala (the part of the brain that is in charge of fight or flight) reacts to being tired. So, it is usually in overdrive by the time night arrives. 

Wonder why it is so scary to hear a bump in the night versus a noise during the day? Your amygdala is to blame.

 Instinctually, it is just trying to save you from predators. And instinctually, our brains tells us we are safer when we are with our caregivers. Our ancestors used to sleep in packs. Sometimes my kids still do 😆

Do your children have nighttime sleep anxiety?

Try these tips:
  • Validate their feeling even if the worry isn't rationale.
    • "I know you are scared.  I don't like to feel scared either.  You are safe.  We are safe."
    • Have the child draw or talk about their worry. 
  • Teach the child mindfulness techniques.
    • Tell me 5 things you can see in the room.
    • Tell me 5 things you can hear in the room.
    • Tell me something you can smell.

Mindfulness employs different parts of your brain, which means your amygdala (remember the fight or flight part) is not in control.
  • Offer attention before your child seeks it. Bonus points if you give a choice.
    • "It will be bedtime in 5 minutes. Would you like to sit on my lap and read a book or lay in your bed and listen to two songs?"
  • Shift the child's focus to the future.
    • "Pick out a game we can play in the morning when you wake up."
    • "Do you want to find a book we will read in the morning?"
  • Make bedtime a SAFE time.
    • This means letting the child associate their bed with positive feelings and letting them feel some control over it.
    • "When your clock says five minutes have passed (you may need to write this on a sticky note), you can leave your bed and come lay on my floor."

You can continue to extend this time gradually.  The goal is that over time, the child may fall asleep on their own while waiting.  If the child is not able to make it the set time (say 15 minutes, try saying "Okay, we didn't quite make it to 15, let's see if you feel brave enough to make it to 12 minutes."

For my children, the rule is they can come to my floor as long as they do it quietly.  I just want them to start in their own bed.  We are at the point that they usually fall asleep and then come down in the night occasionally.  They know where to get pillows and blankets :)