Archive for August, 2016

The Disability Rights Movement

Americans with disabilities are a group of approximately 50 million people that today led independent, self-affirming lives and who define themselves according to their person-hood, their ideas, beliefs, hopes and dreams – above and beyond their disability. Since the mid 1900s, people with disabilities have pushed for the recognition of disability as an aspect of identity that influences the experiences of an individual, not as the sole-defining feature of a person.

People with disabilities have had to battle against centuries of biased assumptions, harmful stereotypes, and irrational fears. The stigmatization of disability resulted in the social and economic marginalization of generations of Americans with disabilities, and like many other oppressed minorities, left people with disabilities in a severe state of impoverishment for centuries.

In the 1800s, people with disabilities were considered meager, tragic, pitiful individuals unfit and unable to contribute to society, except to serve as ridiculed objects of entertainment in circuses and exhibitions. They were assumed to be abnormal and feeble-minded, and numerous persons were forced to undergo sterilization. People with disabilities were also forced to enter institutions and asylums, where many spent their entire lives. The “purification” and segregation of persons with disability were considered merciful actions, but ultimately served to keep people with disabilities invisible and hidden from a fearful and biased society.

The marginalization of people with disabilities continued until World War I when veterans with disabilities expected that the US government provide rehabilitation in exchange for their service to the nation. In the 1930s the United States saw the introduction of much new advancement in technology as well as in government assistance, contributing to the self-reliance and self-sufficiency of people with disabilities. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the first president with a disability, was a great advocate for the rehabilitation of people with disabilities, but still operated under the notion that a disability was an abnormal, shameful condition, and should be medically cured or fixed. In the 1940s and 1950s, disabled World War II veterans placed increasing pressure on government to provide them with rehabilitation and vocational training. World War II veterans made disability issues more visible to a country of thankful citizens who were concerned for the long-term welfare of young men who sacrificed their lives to secure the safety of the United States. Despite these initial advancements made towards independence and self-reliance, people with disabilities still did not have access to public transportation, telephones, bathrooms and stores. Office buildings and work sites with stairs offered no entry for people with disabilities who sought employment, and employer attitudes created even worse barriers. Otherwise talented and eligible people with disabilities were locked out of opportunities for meaningful work.

By the 1960s, the civil rights movement began to take shape, and disability advocates saw the opportunity to join forces alongside other minority groups to demand equal treatment, equal access and equal opportunity for people with disabilities. The struggle for disability rights has followed a similar pattern to many other civil rights movements – challenging negative attitudes and stereotypes, rallying for political and institutional change, and lobbying for the self-determination of a minority community. Disability rights activists mobilized on the local level demanding national initiatives to address the physical and social barriers facing the disability community. Parent advocates were at the forefront, demanding that their children be taken out of institutions and asylums, and placed into schools where their children could have the opportunity to engage in society just like children who were not disabled.

In the 1970s, disability rights activists lobbied Congress and marched on Washington to include civil rights language for people with disabilities into the 1972 Rehabilitation Act. In 1973, the Rehabilitation Act was passed, and for the first time in history, civil rights of people with disabilities were protected by law.

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) provided equal opportunity for employment within the federal government and in federally funded programs, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of either physical or mental disability. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act also established the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, mandating equal access to public services (such as public housing and public transportation services) to people with disabilities, and the allocation of money for vocational training.

In 1975, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act was passed to guarantee equal access to public education for children with disabilities. This act of legislation specified that every child had a right to education, and mandated the full inclusion of children with disabilities in mainstream education classes, unless a satisfactory level of education could not be achieved due to the nature of the child’s disability.

The Education for All Handicapped Children Act was renamed in 1990 to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which further elaborated on the inclusion of children with disabilities into regular classes, but also focused on the rights of parents to be involved in the educational decisions affecting their children. IDEA required that an Individual Education Plan be designed with parental approval to meet the educational needs of a child with a disability.

In the 1980s, disability activists began to lobby for a consolidation of various pieces of legislation under one broad civil rights statute that would protect the rights of people with disabilities, much like the 1964 Civil Rights Act had achieved for Black Americans. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, or gender, but people with disabilities were not included under such protection.

After decades of campaigning and lobbying, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990, and ensured the equal treatment and equal access of people with disabilities to employment opportunities and to public accommodations. The ADA intended to prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in: employment, services rendered by state and local governments, places of public accommodation, transportation, and telecommunications services. Under the ADA, businesses were mandated to provide reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities (such as restructuring jobs or modifying work equipment), public services could no longer deny services to people with disabilities (such as public transportation systems), all public accommodations were expected to have modifications made to be accessible to people with disabilities, and all telecommunications services were mandated to offer adaptive services to people with disabilities. With this piece of legislation, the US government identified the full participation, inclusion and integration of people with disabilities in all levels of society. While the signing of the ADA placed immediate legislative demands to ensure equal access and equal treatment of people with disabilities, deep-rooted assumptions and stereotypical biases were not instantly transformed with the stroke of a pen. People with disabilities still face prejudice and bias with the stereotypical portrayal of people with disabilities in the movies and in the media, physical barriers to schools, housing and to voting stations, and lack of affordable health care. The promise of the ADA is yet to be fully realized, but the disability rights movement continues to make great strides towards the empowerment and self-determination of Americans with disabilities.

Parent-Teacher Conference

20 Questions to Ask During a Parent-Teacher Conference

Know what to expect from a parent-teacher conference and the best questions to ask the teacher.

It’s back-to-school time! That means it’s time for new backpacks, new classmates, new teachers… and parent-teacher conferences. Get the most out of this meeting if you approach it as an opportunity to build a partnership with your child’s teacher — one that lasts all school year long.

Here, Debbie Shiabu, executive director of the Association of Private Schools; Anne Davis, education contributor for the parenting blog We Know Stuff; and Justin Baeder, director of The Principal Center, provide expert advice on effective questions to ask at your next parent-teacher conference.

Child Information
Start the conversation by talking about the most important topic: your child.

  1. May I Tell You About My Child?
    No one knows your child better than you do, so it’s your job to help your child’s teacher learn more. Shiabu encourages parents to “Provide your child’s teacher with more information on what motivates your child, likes and dislikes, special skills, strengths and weaknesses.”
  2. May I Tell You About What’s Going on at Home?
    Situations like illness, divorce or a new baby may affect your child’s school experience, so inform your child’s teacher of such circumstances.
  3. How Is My Child Doing Socially?
    According to Davis, “How the child functions socially in the class” is a topic that should be addressed at a conference, so inquire about your child’s peer relations.
  4. How Is My Child Doing Emotionally?
    It’s also important to ask about your child’s emotional health at school. For example, is your child generally happy?
  5. In What Areas Does My Child Need Improvement?
    Your child’s teacher sees him from a different perspective than you do. Ask the teacher what personal weaknesses your child needs to work on, and listen to the response with an open mind.
  6. What Do You Think My Child Is Particularly Good at?
    Find out about the good stuff, too. Ask about “personal strengths that will extend beyond school,” encourages Baeder.

Academic Performance
Now move onto more school-specific questions.

  1. Is My Child Performing on Grade Level?
    At a conference, parents should expect to see examples of their child’s work. Baeder says that parents should ask “how this compares to grade-level expectations, but don’t try to compare your child to other students.” Each child is different and has different strengths and learning abilities.
  2. What Do These Assessment Results Really Mean?
    When it comes to standardized testing and other assessment results, Baeder tells parents, “Don’t feel bad about asking ‘What does this really mean?’ Increasingly, assessments are given for school-level progress-monitoring purposes, and it’s best not to get too worked up about precisely interpreting every detail.”
  3. Is My Child Doing His/Her Best?
    No matter where your child ranks in relation to grade-level, one important analysis of his performance is whether he’s putting forth his best effort. Does the teacher get the sense that your child is slacking off or not focusing?
  4. Does My Child Need Extra Help in Any Areas?
    Your child’s teacher can tell you if your child is falling behind in a skill or a subject. Armed with that information, you can create a plan with your child to work harder in that area, before it gets too late.
  5. What Can We Do to Provide That Extra Help?
    Shiabu encourages, “Work with your child’s teacher to create a plan to help your child progress well in school.” There may be specific things that you can do at home to help, such as hiring a tutor or helping with homework.

Special Needs
If your child has special needs, ask need-specific questions.

  1. Have You Read the IEP?
    All students who receive special education or related services must have an Individualized Education Program in place, which outlines the goals for that child’s schooling and how those goals are to be achieved. Davis claims, “If you have a child with special needs, I feel like your job is to advocate for your child. It’s not inappropriate for a parent to ask, ‘Have you read the IEP?'”
  2. What Accommodations Are Being Made for My Child?
    Davis encourages parents inquire early in the school year about how the IEP is being carried out.
  3. What Is the School’s Process for Dealing With Special Needs?
    If your child doesn’t yet have an IEP, “Ask what the review and assessment process involves, and ask about the timeline. After discussing this with your child’s teacher, ask in writing to initiate that process, so you’re not put off,” says Baeder.

Tricky Situations
If your child is having problems in school or with the teacher, address them head-on.

  1. May I Share a Concern?
    If you’re worried about a situation at school, bring it up with the teacher. “The worst thing parents can do is just wait and wait and wait,” emphasizes Davis. Teachers usually appreciate when parents bring an issue to their attention, as long as it’s done with respect.
  2. Can You Fill Me in on This Situation?
    When your child has complaints about what’s going on at school, Baeder advises parents to “Ask for clarification from the teacher; often your child’s side is the only side you’ve heard.”
  3. Can You Tell Me About Your Teaching Method?
    If you have an issue with the teacher’s method, ask her to help you understand it. Shiabu explains, “Ask your child’s teacher for more information about the teaching method, how it can help your child and what the teacher can and will do if the method does not work with your child.”
  4. Do You Have Any Advice?
    If you need help with an issue your child is having, ask the teacher for input. “Teachers have worked with dozens or hundreds of students, and many have sage advice to share,” recommends Baeder.

General Information
End the conference with these useful queries.

19. How Can I Help?
Davis suggests that parents ask, “What can I do to support you in the classroom?” There might be supplies you can purchase, prep work you can do at home or other ways you can assist in the classroom.

20. How Can I Contact You?
It’s good to know how to get in touch with your child’s teacher, so find out whether he or she prefers emails, phone calls or written notes.

Get ready for a parent-teacher conference by making a list of the questions you want to ask. A prepared parent with a positive attitude and an open mind is on the right track for creating a successful, year-long partnership with his child’s teacher.

Last minute Summer Fun

Here are a few Last minute Summer Fun Things to do with your family and friends

  • Thank a Hero ~ Take a tour of your police or fire station. Since most locations don’t have set visiting hours, call ahead to arrange an appointment.
  • Take a tip from the Masters ~ Watching artisans paint, pot, and blow glass is captivating. Most cities host regular open-house art events; call your Chamber of Commerce for information.
  • Obstacle Course ~ Build a backyard obstacle course with hula hoops, jump ropes, even a hose, then time race.
  • Petting Zoos ~ Nothing piques kids’ curiosity more than baby animals, so a visit to a petting zoo (or even a pet store) is a surefire hit.
  • Game Night ~ Designate one evening a week for some friendly multifamily competition (think kickball, softball, and capture the flag). Keep things fair by designating a different parent to ref and dividing into new teams each time, like dads and daughters versus moms and sons.
  • Factory Tour ~ Many factories offer tours so kids can see their favorite products created from start to finish.
  • Make Goop ~ Mix up a bowl of Oobleck, a mysterious matter that kids can shape into balls or let ooze from their fingers. Here’s how:
    • Pour one cup water into a large mixing bowl.
    • Add a few drops of food coloring (any color).
    • Slowly stir in two cups of cornstarch (use a spoon at first, but you may eventually find it’s easier with your hands).
  • Volunteer ~ Volunteering teaches compassion and responsibility — it also keeps kids busy. There’s plenty little ones can do, like cleaning up a green space or collecting canned goods.
  • Culinary Classes ~ Little-known secret: Many grocery stores offer inexpensive culinary classes for kids ages 5 and up — seek out your store’s manager for details.
  • Museum ~ Some 120 museums across the country will admit you and your kids for free the first full weekend of every month if you flash your Bank of America debit, credit, or ATM card. Not to worry: Many museums, big and small, offer free (or heavily discounted) admission for families one day a week. Put in a call to your local museum to inquire about dates and fees.
  • Plant ~ Plant a garden or just some fresh new flowers.

Help your Kids Stay on Track

101 Back-to-School Tips for Kids and Parents

From organization to homework, here are short and quick expert tips to help you and your children start the new school year right.

As summer comes to an end, it can be hard to get back into a regular schedule — for both kids and adults. Whether you’re a parent that’s dreading the back-to-school rush, or a babysitter or tutor struggling to help children rediscover homework success, we’ve got some tips for you.

The trick is to plan ahead. Identify strategies and approaches to stay organized, to help ease your child seamlessly back into school and to manage your own stress.

Dr. Fran Walfish, a child and family psychotherapist and author of “The Self-Aware Parent,” and Christina Nichols, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist from a leading independent school in New York City and the Hallowell Center, offer 101 things you can do before school starts to help your kids stay on track — and also keep you sane:

  1. Set your kids’ sleep schedules back to “School Time” two weeks before the first day.
  2. Get your kids involved in programs that they can do after school to keep them active.
  3. Visit cultural attractions like museums to shift their brains into “Scholar” mode.
  4. Hire an after-school sitter to help care for your kids while you’re at work.
  5. Encourage your kids to read at least one book before the school year begins.
  6. Reacquaint your kids with the calendar schedule they’ll use to manage their activities.
  7. Try apps like iHomework or MyHomeWork to help your kids organize assignments.
  8. Let kids choose a planner or scheduling tool that they’re excited to use.
  9. Set up weekly meetings to review your kids’ schedules for the week(s) ahead.
  10. Create a family calendar that tracks everyone’s activities and commitments.
  11. Refresh your rules about screen time for the school year. What’s allowed and when?
  12. Establish a set “Family Time,” whether it’s during dinner or before bed.
  13. Give kids a specific day to when they can choose all the activities you do together.
  14. Determine how long it takes them to do assignments to help with time management.
  15. Use an egg timer to get your kids used to focusing for specific periods of time.
  16. Teach your kids to prioritize their assignments by making to-do lists with deadlines.
  17. Give your kids a short break after each assignment they finish, such as a short walk.
  18. Set a regular alarm each day that signals the start of homework time.
  19. Discuss what your kids can expect on the first day so they feel more prepared.
  20. Visit the school with your kids so they can get familiar with their new environments.
  21. Arrange play dates with two or three of your kids’ friends to rebuild existing social ties.
  22. Ask teachers for class rosters so you can arrange play dates with new classmates too.
  23. Get the lists of school supplies, books and technology your kids will need.
  24. Inventory last year’s school supplies before going out to buy more.
  25. Include your kids in back-to-school shopping by letting them pick out their items.
  26. Make a plan for organizing those supplies — and keeping them that way.
  27. Create a dedicated space for your kids to store their school supplies and technology.
  28. Establish a specific space like the family office as the official “homework area.”
  29. Remove distractions like TVs and video game consoles from homework areas.
  30. Repurpose and re-label plastic tubs to organize all school supplies.
  31. Help your kids develop a filing system for organizing their documents for each class.
  32. Set — and enforce — regular weekday and weekend bedtimes.
  33. Set — and enforce — regular weekday and weekend wake-up calls.
  34. Keep track of existing extracurricular activities to prevent over-scheduling.
  35. Have your kids set realistic goals for the new year, such as reading 30 books.
  36. Help your kids prioritize their activities by tying them to their year’s goals.
  37. Create a list of fun after-school activities and games to keep your kids entertained.
  38. Touch base with teachers early on to troubleshoot any issues your kids may be having.
  39. Create an after-school schedule that allows time for snack, relaxation, play and study.
  40. Establish regular bedtime routines for elementary school kids and preschoolers.
  41. Carve out blocks of fun time for your kids, whether it’s through sports or playdates.
  42. Hire a tutor, babysitter or homework helper to help you navigate homework time.
  43. Model good behavior by doing your own work/projects while your kids do homework.
  44. Encourage your kids to lay out their school clothes the night before.
  45. Use this printable checklist to establish a regular morning routine.
  46. Have your kids pack their school bags before they go to sleep that night.
  47. Have your kids also pack their gym bags the night before and leave them by the door.
  48. If your kids bring their own lunch, pack their lunch boxes before going to bed.
  49. Establish rules for where they should put lunchboxes, etc. when they come home.
  50. Revamp your home organization setup to be more kid-friendly. For example, low hooks make it easy for younger children to hang up coats!
  51. Go through your kids’ schoolwork once a month to toss the things you don’t want.
  52. File or scan assignments that you want to keep.
  53. Create an inbox for kids to leave things that need your attention, like permission slips.
  54. Designate a plastic tub as a put-away bin for anything that’s out of its place.
  55. Set a time each week to sync up individual calendars with the family calendar.
  56. Inventory your kids’ wardrobes and toss/donate things they’ve outgrown.
  57. Create a list and budget for back-to-school shopping.
  58. Let your child choose their clothes, shoes and other items they’ll need.
  59. Go through their wardrobes every 2-3 months to get rid of things that no longer fit.
  60. Set up a laundry system that makes it easy to sort and wash everyone’s clothes.
  61. Make homework caddies that can be used to carry school supplies through the house.
  62. Buy bulk packaged snacks like bags of grapes that can be easily added to lunches.
  63. Discuss the different pros and cons of bringing versus buying school lunches.
  64. Get copies of school menus in advance to discuss lunch choices.
  65. Get your kids involved in creating and preparing their daily lunch menus.
  66. Buy reusable sports bottles to increase their water consumption during the day.
  67. Keep a small emergency allowance in your kids’ bags, just in case.
  68. Organize lunch ingredients in one part of the fridge so you can make fast lunches.
  69. Purchase lunch boxes or reusable bags to help save the environment.
  70. Make a week’s worth of sandwiches on Sunday, wrap in tinfoil, and freeze. Unthaw them the night before.
  71. Use sticky notes to flag important items in kids’ that they should pay attention to.
  72. Plan supervised study dates when kids work together on projects or homework.
  73. Have a backup transportation mode planned in case your kids miss the bus.
  74. Set your clocks forward 10 minutes. This makes it easier to be on time.
  75. Schedule blocks of time to check in with each child to see how things are going.
  76. Hire a housekeeper to help with cleaning and know things off your to-do lists.
  77. Schedule at least one 30-minute block in your calendar each day for “you time.”
  78. Create a rewards system for when they meet goals like helping around the house.
  79. Shop for school supplies and clothes early. Avoid the rush.
  80. Use positive phrasing, such as “You can go outside after your homework is done,” rather than “You’re not going outside until this is finished.”
  81. Make sure your kids (and you!) have an effective wake-up alarm that works for them.
  82. Set an alarm or notification 30 minutes before bedtime.
  83. Remove things like mobile devices from kids’ bedrooms to focus them on sleeping.
  84. Use night lights, white sound machines and fans for kids who can’t get to sleep.
  85. Keep a single, easy-access file for vaccination records and other important papers.
  86. Set up the breakfast table before you go to bed.
  87. Map out a bathroom schedule to avoid family fights for bathroom time.
  88. Replace old backpacks with ones that are sturdy, ergonomic and kid-friendly.
  89. Keep a running list of supplies, clothing and food that need to be bought each week.
  90. Use a see-and-store toy rack to make it easier for kids to stay organized.
  91. Set up a hanging organizer with five boxes for clothes for each day of the week.
  92. Dedicate a rack in the garage, basement or entry way for sports equipment.
  93. Create a regular pet care schedule that outlines who does what and when.
  94. Schedule study blocks on the weekends before big tests, mid-terms and finals.
  95. Use under-the-bed storage for off-season clothes and toys that aren’t regularly used.
  96. Give everyone a shower caddy to keep bathroom supplies organized.
  97. Have a playdate caddy ready to go, with an extra set of clothes, games and toys.
  98. Figure out different ways you can be involved in the classroom this school year.
  99. Talk openly with your kids about their feelings about returning to school. Make sure to hit on these 5 Back-to-School Worries:

Can I Wake Up On Time?
A few weeks before the school year actually begins, ease your family back into the school schedule. Transition to an earlier bedtime so that waking up early isn’t an issue.

Parenting expert Jennifer Grant, author of MOMumental: Adventures in the Messy Art of Raising a Family, notes that, “It’s standard advice from educators and pediatricians, but take it seriously: Make sure kids get on a schedule for school a few weeks before it begins. After late summer nights of catching fireflies or staying up late to watch movies, getting up woken up early for school can make for ugly mornings for you and your kids.”

What Will the Bus Ride Be Like?
For a young child who may have never been in a vehicle aside from mom’s minivan, riding the bus to school could be a big leap. Parenting expert Robert Nickells, of DaddyScrubs, suggests you practice riding the bus to get your child acquainted with the idea of sharing a large vehicle with many other people.

“The school bus might be a stressor for younger kids,” Nickells says. “Take a few practice rides on a city bus with your child so they get a sense of what it’s like [safety rules, standing in line, not standing up when the bus is in motion, etc.] Ask for the route map in advance so you can drive your child through the neighborhood and point out specific landmarks/signs they should look for so they know which stop is theirs.”

Will I Make Friends?
For a child who is just starting school, moving from one grade to the next or starting a new school, it can be very stressful to think about who they’ll be friends with, who they’ll sit with on the bus and who they’ll know at lunch.

If possible, set up some playdates or fun afternoons with other children in the neighborhood who will be attending the same school and grade as your child. Knowing a few other kids before they walk in the door — even if they do not end up becoming best friends — can go a long way toward easing your child’s friendship worries.

Will I Get Bullied?
Bullying in schools has become a hot topic for parents and for good reason: No child ever deserves to be bullied. Teach your child to recognize bullying from others (including cyber bullying!) and how to interact with others in their peer group.

Tim Elmore, education expert and founder of Growing Leaders, notes that, “The return to school after a summer off can be a scary time for young kids. Early puberty, and the changes and emotions that accompany that, and the emergence of social silos in the elementary school years can become a breeding ground for bullies.”

He suggests that in the weeks leading up to the start of the school year, you “speak candidly with your children about bullying. Let them know that it happens, and that they are not alone, but that it’s important to begin to develop a strong sense of self to become impermeable against these kinds of unfair attacks.”

Can I Do All the Work?
One of the big changes from summer play to the school day is the increase in assignments and structured activities. In most traditional school environments, your child will be expected to sit still for periods of time, be quiet, listen to others and follow the rules. If they haven’t been exposed to this regularly at home, they may have a hard time adjusting.

Parenting expert Julie Nelson suggests you structure rules, expectations and consequences. “If you don’t have a regular, consistent schedule of daily activities at home, your child will have more difficulty adjusting to them at school.”

Give your child responsibilities and things to do at home, such as daily chores like clearing plates from the table, picking up toys or dressing themselves.

“Give support and encouragement as they complete these activities,” suggests Nelson. “Do as much as you can together to model it correctly. Use these as ‘teaching moments’ for life skills. Only allow privileges [like going on an outing, playing with friends] after they are done.”

100. Do something fun to diffuse this stressful time of year for all of you.

101. Take a breath!

With all this preparation, your kids will be in great shape. If you’re relaxed and calm, they’ll head off to school feeling excited and ready to get to work.