I feel as though I’ve given you all the blog equivalent of “Someone I love went to Detroit and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.” I can do better than that. I did actually learn stuff. I did not spend the entire conference at the bar, I swear!
One of the sessions I attended was called “Maximizing the Educational Experience for Children with Fragile X Syndrome by Developing an Appropriate Individualized Education Plan.” It was presented by Vicki Sudhalter, Ph.D. She is with the NYS Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities.
First of all, she is hilarious. If you ever get a chance to hear one of her presentations, go! She would be at the top of my list of FX experts to bring into the school should we ever run into a wall that our advocate couldn’t bring down.
Her 3 main topics for discussion were:
- Accommodations for Hyperarousal;
- Appropriate Assessment Methods; and
- Appropriate Goal Creation.
I was mainly focused on part 1, we’ve had very good luck so far with our school district on parts 2 and 3.
Often schools will target behaviors such as hyperactivity, impulsiveness, distractibility, anxiety (covering eyes/ears), aggression, self-injury (hand biting), “autistic” behaviors (flapping, rocking, etc.) to name a few. Her point was that, for our kids, all of these behaviors stem from hyperarousal. The school should not be targeting these behaviors and the IEP should not have goals targeted to these behaviors. The school should be dealing with the underlying issue of hyperarousal through accommodations.
What types of accommodations? Classroom design and management are both prime areas to target to help deal with a child’s hyperarousal. The following are some of her suggestions:
- Lighting –
- Natural lighting is best unless it is too direct or too bright. You should pay attention to the lighting throughout the day to be sure the child isn’t being blinded by afternoon sun.
- Incandescent lighting is the next best alternative.
- If neither is possible there are covers that can be put over fluorescent lights to diffuse it. (Sample here.)
- Minimize or eliminate shiny surfaces that reflect light.
- Acoustics –
- Sound dampening to reduce echos.
- Dampening of fire alarms and/or loudspeakers
- Avoid classrooms near the gym, cafeteria or playground.
- Decorations –
- Avoid busy, colorful or complex wall decorations.
- Use muted colors.
- Workstation Layout –
- Provide visual and acoustical barriers to increase focus.
- Allow for side by side seating during direct instruction.
- Provide a cozy corner/safe place.
- Follow a routine, provide visuals.
- Don’t force/train eye contact. Don’t mistake looking away with not paying attention. Consider sunglasses as an option for the child to allow them to have the correct orientation (face on) but still not force eye contact.
- Have a sensory diet. The sensory activities need to be accessible to the child throughout the day.
- Consider a sensory choice board.
- Don’t use food as oral stimulation.
Then, very quickly, a couple notes on assessing a child with FX. Rather than standardized tests try for teacher observations. If your child is doing or saying things at home that he/she won’t do at school or won’t do well at school and you can’t convince the school of that…videotape it. Give the team a copy of the videotape(s) prior to the meeting.
SEE? I really did more than relieve the hotel of their riesling!