I have seen a disturbing trend in public schools. Though I am at a loss to explain why some public schools are laboring under the misconception that their after-school programs are exempt from accommodation requirements for disabled students. Administrators are informing parents that their student’s IEP doesn’t carry over to the after school program. That is somewhat true but highly debatable.
What is not debatable, however, is federal ADA law. Section 504 of that law applies specifically to the educational setting. It states that child care programs (including after-school programs in public schools) are prohibited from discriminating against a child with a disability by denying admission into the program or by denying requests for reasonable accommodations. Individual states have additional variances supporting this law but ADA is the federal guideline. It’s non-negotiable.
So, what should you do if your child is not receiving accommodations, has been refused entry into the program or been booted from it? First, send a letter to the principal, superintendent and school board members advising that you are invoking your child’s rights under section 504 of the American with Disabilities Act. Then clearly define what accommodations you are seeking for your child. Provide a date (I suggest a couple of weeks so they have the opportunity to get with their attorney) in which they must respond to your request. Also, make it clear that you will only accept their response in writing. If you are having to go this far to secure your child’s rights nothing they verbalize should be trusted and if you have to pursue it further proof in writing is worth its weight in gold.
If for some crazy reason they still do not relent, your next step should be a letter to the state board of education. Be certain to include a copy of the letter you sent to your local board of education. Since you can likely email them I would allow only a week for them to respond.
If all attempts have failed it’s time to call in the big guns, so-to-speak. ADA will fight for the rights of your child at zero cost to you. You will not have to hire an attorney to go to battle because the war is already won. It’s just the little generals on the ground who haven’t fully understood their role that cause the problem. You can file a discrimination complaint with ADA online. You will be required to jump through a lot of hoops, fill out mounds of paperwork and possibly pay to have papers notarized. But once that is done so are you. All you need to do is sit back and enjoy someone else caring enough to fight for your child.
Science has proven that a multi-sensory environment improves brain function, language, social interaction, coordination and much more. Just as you arrange your food intake for maximum nutritional benefits, the same should be done for your sensory diet. The majority of us can exist in a day and get enough input to all of our senses to keep us balanced without having to actively search for ways to increase one sense or the other.
Individuals with sensory processing disorders, are on the autism spectrum or have other special needs, lack sufficient sensory input. The lack of an incomplete sensory diet can wreak havoc throughout our physical, emotional and intellectual state. With millions of nerve endings sending messages to the brain about even the smallest tactile (touch) sense it is extremely easy to have a few crossed wires. Most of us can sift through the multitude of tactile stimulation without giving it much thought. Those with processing difficulty cannot. They either perceive too much stimulation or not enough.
Regardless of whether it’s a child with an over or under sensitive tactile system all children can benefit from a little tactile processing practice. Halloween is the perfect time introduce your child to a sensory bin. The bin can be filled with sand, rice, water, flour, shaving cream, and even jello. Just go with the substance that your child will tolerate delving their hands into.
To keep the project affordable I purchased my bin and the contents at my local Dollar Tree. You can use any size or shape container you prefer. Mine is rectangular with a lid so I can safely store it away for reuse later. I filled the bin with rice then buried some plastic treat bag items in it.
The goal is to have the child blindfolded, close their eyes or turn their head as they dig into the bin for the items you request. You want them to work on the sense of touch alone. Show your child an item then have them sift through the contents of the bin to find it. I recommend having a couple of items that are easily identified. The ping pong eyeballs are easily recognized as are the tiny skull rings. Allowing the child to either start with one of the easy items or switch to them after missing an item or retrieving one that was particularly difficult gives them a much-needed confidence boost.
Only do as much as your child can tolerate. We want to push them a bit beyond their comfort zone but not to the point of a meltdown or where the activity isn’t enjoyable. The more fun they have they less they care about the therapeutic aspect. As always, forget about the mess and enjoy the bonding time between you and your special one. Happy feel-o-ween everyone!