Category Archives: Positive Behavior Support

IEP and 504 Plan Help

It’s that time of the year!

IEP time, that is!

If your child is in public school and receives special education services, then it is time to address needed accommodations and supports for the new year.  Often, as children grow and become pre-teens and teens, more and more accommodations are needed while previous supports are at times less necessary.  And suddenly, school begins, kids are in new classrooms, grades, even schools, with new teachers, peers, and schedules.  And you needed the new accommodations yesterday!

If you think you need a new IEP and the school hasn’t suggested one, and if you have had an IEP meeting within the past 12 months, then you need to write a request to your district and ask for an update.  Always put all IEP and special education requests, questions, and information in WRITING!  The school must respond and the WV Department of Education’s Special Education, A Parent’s Advocacy Guide to Special Education (click on the green text to read it or download your own!), states:

“If you believe your child is not progressing satisfactorily or that there is a problem with the current IEP, you can request an IEP team meeting. The district is required to grant any reasonable request for such a meeting.”

At this update IEP meeting, ask for evidence of how your child is responding to the previously established goals, and if possible, produce evidence that your child is not progressing.  (remember get it all in writing!)  If you have new evaluations of your child’s special needs or disabilities, be sure to have written evidence as well.  I encourage parents to have ideas ahead of time to include in this updated IEP:  suggest breaks from bustle if your child is becoming overwhelmed at school, for example, or suggest a small study group format for your child who needs interaction to learn.  You know your child best and so be ready to state what you want!

If schools turn down a request for an update, which they do despite the WV guidelines, then you can request a new re-evaluation of your child’s eligibility.  Schools can not refuse evaluation requests.  However, unless you have an outside evaluation, the same team members will do the new evaluation, so having new evidence from outside professionals is a best step.  Since many WV school districts are denying autism diagnoses in their IEP evaluations, contacting us at WHOLE Families for evaluation, or contacting other reputable autism agencies for evaluations, is a good idea.

However, we have certainly worked with school districts who still deny new IEP accommodations or an IEP altogether!  The schools can claim that your child’s diagnosis does not impact their education, even when they school is claiming your child has behavioral problems.  When this happens, you can immediately demand a 504 plan.

504 plans have no special education placement, but they do provide accommodations to ensure that children with disabilities get a full and appropriate public education.  If noise and bustle bother your child, that means they should get a 504 plan to provide quiet and calm so your child can learn.  If your child struggles to write in homework assignments, classroom work, or to take notes, then requesting a laptop for notes and homework can be put into a 504 plan to ensure your child can learn.  If your child gets overwhelmed at school and can’t concentrate, then a 504 plan can address the need for breaks and quiet so your child can learn.  Parents don’t get to approve the 504 plan as they do an IEP, but if parents see that the 504 plan does not assist their child to full accommodation in the school, then the parent can complain.  Schools can not deny children with special needs access to education.

And that is what I tell parents to think about.  A 504 plan is like a wheelchair ramp for a child with a mobility disability.  Schools can not build their doors in such a way that a child in a wheelchair can not get into class. Likewise, schools can not deny children with sensory or social issues in school a break or quiet space, because that is equivalent to not providing a wheelchair ramp.  Breaks, quiet space, extra time, these are access accommodations.  Schools by law can not deny them.

An IEP is a specialized individual education plan.  It should include course modifications (allowing students to do math in their head, should they prefer, instead of writing it out as teachers ask, or reading Pokemon books for book report time instead of the teacher’s choice), homework modifications (allowing students to do more or less homework, homework on a typewriter or laptop, homework that the students choose instead of the teacher), and broad curriculum adjustments (Headsprout reading on computers instead of the traditional curriculum, or Renzulli Learning modules instead of the regular text).  An IEP can include time in a special education class, time in a regular class, or both.  And an IEP must include all access accommodations of a 504 plan:  if your child needs a laptop in class as part of an IEP that does not mean your child also doesn’t get needed breaks.

Unfortunately, at WHOLE Families, we get asked into school special education procedures when the school district has broken down, the child isn’t doing well, and families are at their wit’s end.  So we see many districts denying 504 accommodations (illegally) and refusing basic curriculum modifications.  We’ve seen districts lose IEP plans and call out the police on students with 504 plans.

If you feel your district is not doing what is best for your child, then we urge you to contact help.  We do independent evaluations, meet with districts, attend 504 and IEP meetings, and participate with area social services and courts.  As written in previous posts, West Virginia’s treatment of special needs children is currently under investigation by the US Department of Justice for violating the rights of WV children, so now is a particularly hard time for families trying to get school support for children with special needs.  So get outside help!

Unfortunately, waiting to see if a limited 504 plan or small IEP is enough for your child puts you and your child at risk.  Instead of making basic and simple accommodations, too many WV schools are shipping children out of state to residential schools or sending children to juvenile detention.  If you are seeing increasing hostility or blame cast onto your child, then you need to act.

A super statewide resource is the West Virginia Parent Training and Information Project  (click on green text to go their website).  Supported by the US Department of Education, which oversees the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which governs IEP process, the staff at WV Parent Training and Information Project can be helpful – if nothing else but to tell you that yes your district is behaving illegally.  Call them at 304 -624- 1436!  And…

take their online survey about your experiences with IEP and 504 plans in your district here:

Many families we meet have a lot to say about their districts!  Add your voice!

And if you need support, give us a call.  All children in the United States deserve a free and appropriate public education.  We have helped lots of families find creative solutions that help their whole family enjoy learning and enjoy life.  Childhood is a magical time.  We want to help you enjoy it.


Better Behavior? Childproof your room!


great pic from But! you can make your own gates, too!

When working with our younger clients ( the infant to 5 year old crowd), I am often helping parents set up their home life to create better behavior.   And one key is having a childproof area where your child can be safe, where you don’t have to yell “no,” every 5 minutes, and where you can sit and actually ignore your tyke and read the mail when you wanna!

So childproofing is key.  And no, childproofing doesn’t end at age 3, when kids are more safe from choke hazards.  Limiting space for your four or five year old is important (and that is how preschool and kindergarden teachers keep sane!)

How to do this, though?

First, you do need to remove all the items from your living or playing space that are easy to break:  think pictures, fragile lamps, glass coffee tables, lovely vases with flowers.  Get those items moved out of your childproof area, and know that in a few years, the little ones will grow up and you can move them back.

Second step is to assess your space.  Cover those outlets!  Think about gates over doors and second story windows!  Get rid of long extension cords, or case them in tubes.  The more your childproof space is danger-free, the more you can read your mail!

Third step is to limit exits.  I know this is hard in some trailers, those larger living room/dining room floor plans, and in homes with lots of balconies or porches.  This is where creative “gates” come in handy.  You can go buy expensive gates at Walmart, or you can make something yourself.  Have a handy old table you can turn over as a gate?  How about some old pallets in the shed?  I chopped up my old crib and used the wooden sides to make a gate in my old house, which had one of those dining rooms that flowed right into the living room.  I used hardware to bolt my gate to the walls and to limit access to the dining room, but be creative and consider everything from rope to bungee cords.  I had a super-duper climber, so having gates that are tall is important if you have a climber, too.

Once you create your gated, danger-free and limited access space, just monitor it daily for incursions.  Did you or a loved one leave some breakable glasses near the television?  Did the dog drag in a chew toy that isn’t choke-proof?  Did a ton of coins fall out of your purse?  Check daily, and once you do your spot check, set up your gates, and close access to exits, then you can relax in your childproof room.

And that is where the fun can begin.  If kids are in a safe space in your home, they are more free to explore their world.  You won’t be yelling as much, because they can climb on the furniture you have safely selected, and they can explore toys and their free play room without worries of choking, escaping, or danger.  You can ignore them while reading This Old House, or having a cup of tea, or sorting out your sewing box or your tool bag.  Yay!

Kids having fun:

another store link! don’t forget to build your own! Much cheaper! from

If this seems hard and overwhelming, it’s not.  A few hours of setting up your space will mean hours and days of more relaxed family life for you and for the kids.

If you need help, just ask us!

Sensory Issues and Fireworks



lovely photo from:

Hey there was a brief moment of sunshine today, so perhaps here in West Virginia we will have fireworks tonight.  Yay!

But for some families, fireworks and other loud events are difficult for children with sensitivities to noise and light and crowds.  So you wanna go to the fireworks (if it doesn’t rain!), but what to do about your kid or kiddies who hate the noise?

Well, there are ways to slowly help your child build up tolerance for loud noises and busy events.  If you are just starting to build up these “tolerance muscles,” then today you will have to go slowly and take it step by step.  However, as you slowly help your child learn to deal with more and more noise and bustle, you can slowly increase how much and how close you go to a noise-event like fireworks.

I spent many of my son’s early Fourth of July fireworks on a hillside past where the really loud fireworks could startle him.  If you are just starting today to try fireworks, this is the way to do it.  Sit far from the fireworks, away from the crowds and the biggest noise.  I helped my son hold his ears when he was little if he found the noise even too much from far away.

For crowds and bustle, this is another good strategy.  Sit far away from the crowd, but perhaps invite a few people to sit with you.  Lots of kids with or without special needs find fireworks overwhelming, so there are always other families grateful to you for providing a safe space.  Build up slowly, year by year, until your children can deal with larger crowds.

I know families who use noise-cancelling earphones for events, but these are not much protection from the boom sounds of many fireworks.  So, yes, if you use them, bring them along, but I still advise not getting too close and building up tolerance slowly.

And check in with your child(ren).  Even at a distance, when he was three and four, my son could not sit through an hour of fireworks.  I was the parent who took him home early, since I can take or leave fireworks.  If you are in a couple, and one spouse/partner prefers fireworks, then the other parent can be the taker-home parent!  If you both like fireworks, then best to share this:  one year, one parent takes home, and one year the other.

What about families like mine?  Two of mine struggled with the noise of fireworks and my youngest loved them?  And what to do as a single parent?  Well, strategize!  Can you go with friends who will bring your noise-loving child home after the display?  Can you do some fireworks at home with your noise-lover while the quiet one(s) get some downtime with books or videos?  Can another family member take the quiet-loving kids home instead?  Have a plan and be prepared.  Sometimes even noise-loving kids lose it on the fourth of July!

And talk with the kids ahead of time.  If you have noise lovers and noise haters, talk about how everyone gets a little of what they need.  If you are a family who all hates noise, then maybe plan on 15 minutes and then heading home – with a treat on the way!  Tell everybody that if one of you gets overwhelmed and melts down then you as a family have to take care of one another and go home.  After all, special needs or not, we all melt down.  We all need care.  That is what family is for.

With all these ideas, the Fourth of July isn’t so difficult and overwhelming for parents!  You can plan ahead, try short outings with lots of distance to the noise, and year by year slowly build up to getting closer.  Or you may be a family that decides that the Fourth is a great day to watch a movie together, to go on hikes or camping, or to go ride bikes or do puzzles around the table.

The Fourth of July can be a lot for noise-sensitive kids (and noise-sensitive parents).  But as a family you have the opportunity to make this holiday fun for everyone, with less stress, and more emphasis on being together and successful.  I hope these ideas help!

Happy Fourth of July to all our families!


Weekly Activities: Soda Can Recycling

I love using soda cans to make crafts with kids.  They are free after you drink your soda; they are easy to cut; they last forever, and they are so CUTE!

Here is a round up of soda can crafts, some for the wee ones, and some for the older crowd!   Moms and dads find themselves liking these, too!

First of all:  How to cut a soda can for crafting!

This video uses scissors and a craft knife; I have used scissors alone to cut cans, and it works fine.  Just poke a hole with a sharp point in the scissors, and cut.  I have never been cut too much from cutting cans, but if you let the kiddies do some cutting, you might want to use gloves or cut the can up first, and then let kids do the rest!

Soda Can flowers


super easy soda can flowers from


This is the easiest soda can flower, super simple for wee ones!  For the littlest folk, mom and dad do the can cutting, and let the toddlers and 2-year-olds do the paint!


Soda Cans


Paints – for outdoor use, try acrylic, or spray clear acrylic on after the kids’ painting dries.

Cut off the top of the can, but not the bottom.

Cut down the can to the bottom, making “petals.”  Try different widths and shapes of petals like the picture.

Flatten out the petals.


You can attach the flowers to dowels for the garden, or use to decorate around the house.


More Flowers

lovely magnet flowers from



Soda Cans, with both ends cut off and the middle flattened

Paint if you want!

Brads for scrapbooking


Cut out three flowers of slightly different sizes:

detail from



Paint if you wanna!

Layer the flowers and insert a scrapbook brad into the center of all three flower shapes.



Soda Can Lanterns (for older kids)

awesome lanterns from


Take an empty soda can and fill with water.

Freeze for about six hours.

Make twelve dots with a marker around the top and bottom of your can.

Draw a line from a dot at the top of the can to the dot just behind the same one as you just drew but at the bottom .

drawing of the soda can lantern details from:


After drawing the lines, use the craft knife to cut the lines.

Let the ice melt!

Slightly twist and flatten the can to create the lantern shape.

Punch two holes in the top for a wire to hang, or use the tab if still intact!



Pop Tab Bracelets (or belts if you are inspired), for older kids





Flattened soda can portraits – super fun for all ages!

Who says you have to have perfect soda cans for art?

from blog


Take flattened soda cans.

Paint them.

In the pic above, older students then glued their soda cans onto collages they made with junk paper.  And you can do that, too!


another kid version from

Just glue the pic onto a piece of cardboard (and let the kids marker and paint it first, too)

How cute are these?

Be as wild as you want:

from the




Soda Can Dog Tags

For little ones, cut out the dog tag shapes from your soda can; for the bigger kids, let them cut their own.

Use a hole punch or your scissors (I have done both) to make a hole to hang the dog tag.

These in the picture are left unpainted.

Or paint!

Use sharpies!

Glue on them!

Soda Can dog tags, like the flowers above, are a great blank slate for kids to make art!; the original crafter used an expensive cutting machine; I find scissors work fine!


Feeling inspired!  I was at a picnic this weekend and came home with dozens of cans, and am working on flowers!  Please share any fun ideas you find.


Get out there, get your kids, and get making summer art!

Cheap Art closet!



Ok, lots of families have been asking me about art supplies, and what to buy, and what to keep on hand.  So great idea for a web post!

Here are the supplies I suggest you keep around, from the bare minimum, to some store-bought special items.  But remember, with the bare basics, you can do lots of art!


So here is the Bare Minimum Art Cabinet for a family:


Food colors ( a necessity for so many projects! )

Paper (get paper when you buy groceries and cut it into drawing and craft paper at home… also ask around for paper!  Stores often have out of date flyers and will gladly share them for your child’s art!)

Salt  (cheapest non-iodized salt you can find!)

Flour (I buy the cheapest white flour for art and save the better flour for cooking…)

Baking soda (I but the largest amount I can afford – this stuff is in so many projects!)

Vinegar (see above! get the most you can as you use this so much!)

Corn starch (another essential, so buy a big box!)

Home recyclables – any and all!  Peanut butter jars and cardboard cereal boxes and toilet paper rolls and paper towel rolls and parmesan cheese jars and margarine tubs and soda bottles and plastic lids of any shape and size!  Save junk mail for paper or for crafting!  Use #6 plastic from your veggies and fruit to use as a cheap shrink dink!  Keep this stuff and glue it, paint it, smear it, and use it to store your art supplies as well!


And there you have it!  With the above essentials, you can make all types of paint, watercolors, play dough, goop, paste, glue, slime, sensory activities, fun paintings…  So I really recommend trying to keep these supplies on hand!

fun art pic from an organized parent – not like me at all! from

Now for the extras, things to pick up when you see them on sale, or when you notice someone throwing them away (cheap!), or I have pulled things out of other people’s trash.   I especially “rescue” other people’s large boxes, those big plastic laundry jars people toss out, and any paper I see.  So don’t think “extras” means paying out big $$$.  Not at all.

Paint brushes.  These are hard to find, not always easy to make (though be creative, as flowers, q-tips, sponges and just plain old fingers also work), and for some special art projects paint brushes are nice to have.

Tape.  I prefer duct tape, which can be expensive, but then again ask all the shop guys in your life for the end of their rolls.  Also scotch tape and painter’s tape can be handy.

Q-tips.  Some families always have these, but not all, so I don’t list them as a basic.  But q-tips make great paint brushes as well as fun ways to smear any type of slime or goop.  If you have a kid who is a bit timid about touching goop, q-tips work (but so do spoons!)

Adult glue.  You can make all the paste you want with flour and water, or glue as well, but for some fun art projects having a good adult glue about is great.  I am thinking Aleene’s craft glue (nope, I’m not an affiliate) or any other kid safe glue that is strong and holds well.  No!  Don’t think crazy glue!  I have heard horror stories about some of the super glues out there, so stick to stuff that is safe, though still more for adults.

Kid glue.  I don’t use kid glue to glue – that is what homemade is for.  But if you have one of those kids who loves slime and goop recipes, then watch for a Michael’s 50% off coupon and buy kid glue by the gallon.  It comes in handy to make glitter glue paint, and is essential for some slime recipes.

Straws.  Kids’ plastic drinking straws aren’t a necessity, but they can be so much fun.  They look great on glue sculptures, and make great beads to string for necklaces.  They also work great to blow glue, or paint, and you can make some fun balloon rockets.  If you see sale straws, grab ’em.

Clear Contact paper.  This is another great fun material.  Buy it on sale at Walmart or Michael’s.  You can use it to make fun placemats, sun catchers in the window, neat paintings, and it is wonderful for kids who struggle with glue mosaics.

Shaving cream.  The all time most fun substance for some kids – gooey, wet, takes food colors well, can be used to clean the table or in the tub.  I buy the cheapest I can find, and save it for those long rainy days when kids need something really fun.

Tissue paper in many colors.  Again, don’t buy paper for drawing – too many stores will gladly share with you.  But tissue paper makes a great material for watercoloring and for glueing.  It goes on sale at Walmart regularly, so just watch for sales.

Construction paper.  This is a pretty standard thing for parents to buy, but it isn’t necessary for many projects.  But if you do want to add to your art supplies, it can come in handy.  Buy on sale or save your coupons.

Stamp pads.  Most any paint will work for stamp art, but sometimes permanent stamp pads are useful for making a special mother or father’s day gift, or for permanent art.  These require supervision, kinda like sharpie markers, so use and buy sparingly.

Crayons.  A lot of kids on the autism spectrum do not have the hand strength to use crayons well.  So I don’t really suggest buying these except for special projects.  On the other hand, old crayons are easy to buy at Goodwill or garage sales, and they are fun for things like melting into rainbow crayons or ironing in wax paper….

Markers.  Cheap kids’ markers at Walmart or Michael’s are useful for the days when you don’t want to mix up another jarful of food coloring and water.  But these can be expensive.  My solution is to buy five boxes when on sale at the back-to-school sales in late summer, when you can get these boxes of markers for $1.  Hide the boxes and try to remember where you hide them!


I’ve included a great pic from an organized mom’s blog – definitely not like me!  My art supplies are always falling out of cupboards!  But think of fun and easy places to store art supplies, and remember to fill up with the junk from the recycling bin!

Art is too important for our children’s development to NOT try fun art projects almost every day.  You don’t need lots of cash, just lots of imagination.  Share with the kids on those grumpy days when everyone has the blues.  I recommend doing some kind of art every single day – it will make a huge difference in your day, in your kids’ skills, and it doesn’t have to cost much at all.

Paint Paint Paint! May 27 – June 3

DIY bath paints from

Make your own paints and save $$$$$


So many fun pinterest kid activities require paint.  And paint at Walmart or Michael’s can cost up to $4 a bottle!  YIKES!

So here are cheap and easy, make at home paint recipes to use all year long!  Base ingredient is food coloring, so when I see food coloring on sale or have a good coupon I stock up!  When you have food coloring, you always have paint.  (For the adventurous, Discount School Supply and Oriental Trading have liquid watercolors in large bottles and great colors…  I have used both, and prefer Discount School Supply.  I have no affiliate links to either company, so just saying they make a great product.  Or try Amazon!)


So here are the recipes!


DIY Bath Paint

1/2 cup Johnson’s Head to Toe body wash

1/2 cup corn starch

a few spoonfuls of water (add slowly)

food coloring


Mix the ingredients together and add water slowly until a runny paste that sticks to the tub but is not too runny…  Then put into ice cube trays, old yogurt tubs, margarine tubs – whatever you have handy.  Finger paint or buy cheapie paint brushes.  Just give to kids in the tub and have fun.



Condensed Milk Paint


One of the easiest, creamiest, and safest to eat of all DIY paint recipes:  condensed milk paint.


Simple:  mix food coloring into small pots or tubs of sweetened condensed milk.    Keep this one covered in the refrigerator, and it will last several weeks.


Doodle Paint


Another simple paint, but be sure to wash brushes thoroughly!!!

Mix food coloring into white glue (such as Elmer’s or Rose’s).  Use in squeeze bottles (save your ketchup and mustard tubs!!!) or use with brushes, but the glue will dry so do wash everything well!  Store the glue paint in tubs and use again and again.


Homemade powdered tempera paint

Powdered tempera paint is used in SO many fun paint recipes.  But it is not cheap, and not easy to find at that.  But you can MAKE YOUR OWN!  fun fun

Get cheapie colored chalk at the dollar store or Walmart, and buy some good ziplock bags as well (you will need them).  Put one color of chalk in each bag, and then get a mallet or hammer and smash the crap out of the chalk.  This is a fun activity all by itself!  After crushing, store in plastic tubs.  When you use powdered tempera to make other recipes, be sure to wear a mask, as airborne powders are not good for your lungs!

To make a simple paint, simply add water (wear masks until mixed!) and maybe a little kool aid for scent!  Once mixed, paint away.


Kool Aid Paint

Mix water, Kool Aid, and corn starch into whatever paint consistency you need.  Lots of water makes a thick watercolor paint. More corn starch makes a thicker, tempera style paint.  Make extra thick paint and you will get a paint to put into squeeze bottles (remember save those ketchup bottles!).  Store these in the fridge, and if they separate, just stir again before using!


It looks to be a rainy week here in West Virginia, and is raining as I write today!  This is the best kind of weather for fun indoor play, and paints of all types are easy and cheap ways to get kids messy and exploring.  Let them paint and get a cup of coffee.


For a fun rainy week activity, try putting pictures made from your homemade paints out in the rain, and create neat impressionist-style watercolor prints!  Don’t forget to don rain gear and go for a rainy spring walk.  Kids and puddles don’t last forever.


Fun and Free! May 19 – 26th!

Ok, last week was fun and free for spring….  this week I add to the ideas for fun stuff with easy exploding paint, recycling crafts, and fun outdoor adventures!  Enjoy!

erupting ice chalk! easy and cheap! from


Ok, erupting sidewalk paint you make at home??  How cool!


Take 1/4 cup cornstarch

1/4 cup baking soda

some food coloring – use different colors!  have fun!

1/2 cup water


Mix ingredients together and spoon into ice cube trays to freeze!  Once done, get outside and use the melting mess to make wonderful art!  If you don’t have sidewalk, you can use cardboard boxes from the supermarket instead.  Let kids blend, play and explore melting colors.

After the coloring is done, give kids squirt bottles of vinegar and let them squirt their creations!  Instant exploding color, plus oozing paintings.  How much fun is that?  If you wanna save the resulting art work, use plain paper to print over the oozing mess, and voila!  Exploding refrigerator art!


Jellyfish in a bottle!

All the steps are here! Enjoy! from


Toilet paper tube fish kite!

Supplies are simple:

toilet paper roll

cut up colorful plastic bags (I love the bags from Sheets)

markers or construction paper or crayons

don’t try to be this clean – let toddlers be messy. Add an eye or use a marker after the fun! from


Decorate the toilet roll with cut up plastic bag fish scales – or use markers, paint, food coloring, or any fun supplies you have.  Add a white paper with black marker eye – or draw one!  Or color one!  Or use paint or anything else you have!  The fun is the goal!

Cut strips and strings from the leftover plastic bags, and glue, staple or tape the strings to the end of the roll, creating lovely fins!  You can hang these from strings, wire, yarn, or anything handy!  Let kids run about in the wind and watch their carp fly!  And when they break (which they will), make some more!


Get OUTSIDE activity!  for rainy days!

A super fun activity for outdoors in getting outside in spring showers!  Don’t think you need lots of supplies to enjoy time with your kids.

So on a rainy day when kids are bouncing off the walls, go outside and take a walk.  A definite plus for this activity is old, broken umbrellas for carrying, but I’ve walked with kids in rain gear and boots.  Or just throw on some coats and plan on doing laundry when you get home.

Rain makes for wonderful play.  Explore puddles, (do jump!), watch rain in street gutters or your house gutters if you’re in the country.  Stand under trees and see what happens to the rain – pine and spruce and hemlock give more protection than a redbud, for example!  While out there in the mud, find sticks, throw them in a stream, build stick and grass boats, watch water run downhill, and enjoy being outside!  Kids are learning so much when they are outside with you!

And don’t think this is for toddlers alone.  I have walked my church youth group around in the rain, and they loved it!  Teens like time with grown ups, even though they don’t admit it!


So there you have it:  a week of fun activities!  Get out and enjoy parenting!

“The Problem with Functioning Labels” from blogsite “From Struggle Comes Strength”

Check out Sophia, a young blogger with her own site:  “From Struggle Comes Strength.”  She wrote an awesome post for World Autism Awareness day, discussing the autism community’s use of the words “high- functioning” and “low functioning.”  Over on Facebook, the Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism re-posted the article, so check them out, too.

She wrote:

“Often, the way somebody functions can depend on the circumstance or situation. A student who excels academically is likely to be labelled ‘high’ functioning, but let’s say this same student struggles to speak on the phone, or has crippling sensory issues. It is probable that because of their ‘high’ functioning label, their difficulties may be underestimated or even ignored. Equally, those labelled as ‘low’ functioning may be underrated and their capabilities dismissed.”

Sophia’s point is especially important for families when struggling to get services.  I have seen programs turn away individuals due to their perceived functioning level:  “oh, she is too low functioning for this program,” or “he doesn’t need services, he is too high functioning.”  Service providers don’t always individually assess each person with an autism diagnosis, assuming that everyone is the same.  Likewise, when individuals transition to college or work settings, these labels continue to limit people as well.

Sophia writes from the point of view of someone labeled as high functioning:

“People with Autistic Spectrum Disorder, like myself, often experience overwhelming difficulties on a daily basis. The invisibility of this condition means that many do not recognise the extent of our challenges. By describing somebody as ‘high’ functioning, you are inadvertently implying that they do not require much support, or accommodations. After all, why would a seemingly ‘high’ functioning student require extra time to complete an examination?”

At WHOLE Families we work very hard to insure that people – no matter their label – get the services they need to be successful.  That includes working with schools, agencies, insurance companies, and state and national programs.  No label should determine the services you or your child deserves:  the purpose of positive behavioral supports – for all people – is to help everyone achieve the best they can.

For college students, we have ensured test accommodations and seating arrangements; in high school we have helped students get laptops and sensory accommodations.  We have helped two year olds transition into special education, and we work with pre-schools to provide stress breaks and quiet time areas within classrooms.

And WHOLE Families supports the words of people with autism, who are speaking out about what services are beneficial and what helped them.

If you are struggling to get services for you or your child due to labels about “high” or “low” functioning, we can help.  If you are working with other agencies, cool, but be sure to ask for the services you need.

Sophia ended her awesome article with the best conclusion:

“Functioning labels are not necessary, instead respect the individual for who they are, and what they can do, and appreciate that ability to function may change on a daily, or even hourly basis.”

Get the services you need.  Nothing more, nothing less.

The Oppositional Defiant Disorder trap: how schools and doctors ignore autism

ODD Diagnoses are a cover-up for bad interventions.


Across the state of West Virginia, we are working with wonderful children and teens with autism diagnoses, who, when stressed and angry, act out in intense ways.

Schools, doctors and other clinicians are labeling these children with ODD – Oppositional Defiant Disorder – instead of recognizing that these are kids on the autism spectrum, and that one defining feature of autism is struggling with communication.  For the higher functioning kids and teens, this struggle can mean not knowing how to communicate in the healthiest ways when upset or in stress!  (and how many of us communicate well when stressed????)  Sadly, teachers, administrators, and other clinicians start punishing stressed kids and teens, making the problem worse.  Stressed kids on the autism spectrum need SUPPORT, not punishment.

When your child or teen on the autism spectrum starts mouthing off, this is a sign of stress…  and your child or teen needs your help (or a teacher’s help) calming down.  At school, we highly recommend frequent time-out breaks for all ages:  for younger students this can be time in the classroom quiet area (which you can demand your classrooms include), and for teens we recommend a quiet break to re-group reading or online in the media center (put frequent breaks into your IEP).  At home, mouthiness is a sign your child or teen needs rest – a break from people and chores or homework, an earlier bed, a chance to unwind.  Think about time online, time reading books, time with arts and crafts or Minecraft.

The worst thing to do with a teen or child on the spectrum who is winding up and getting more upset is to confront and challenge them!  This is when things get out of hand – parents start making threats they can’t enforce; schools start threatening detention and expulsion; clinicians start suggesting meds or more restrictive environments.  If you are an adult and you find yourself getting upset and angry with your kid on the spectrum, then this is a sign that things are out of hand and since you are the adult YOU NEED TO BACK OFF.

If we want our children of any age to learn to be flexible people, then we ourselves need to meet their stress with flexibility.  Let your child finish a chore later; let your child unwind with a netflix video; give everyone a break from homework and come back to it – together – later.  And if schools can’t be flexible, it may be time for you as parent to demand another IEP meeting.

Oppositional defiance disorder is no excuse for adults who can’t support people with autism diagnoses  – whether that human is four years old or sixteen.  Parents need to stand up for their children and teens, and create safe spaces so kids on the autism spectrum get the room to grow and thrive and learn just like everyone else.

Watch out of ODD diagnoses.  If you need interventions, and your school or doctor is refusing to work with you, GET HELP.  Find a clinician or teacher who is trained in positive behavioral supports and get an ally for you and your child.  Build more family quiet time into your day, and get an IEP that supports your child.  Children and teens on the autism spectrum need help learning how to communicate effectively.  If they aren’t getting that help, don’t let professionals use any diagnostic label to cover up the real interventions your child needs.

We have worked with families and schools around West Virginia, helping classrooms include appropriate quiet areas and getting mandatory breaks for students, as well as helping families build stress-busting activities into their day.  If you need help, please contact us; we wanna support you and your family.