With 2014 on our doorstep, it’s a good time to set goals for the New Year. This year our respite worker, Rebecca, wants to work on time management with my daughter Sara. For Sara and her peers with developmental disabilities, time is a difficult concept—it’s an abstract thing! Just reading a clock makes it seem easy, but this year we will focus on how to use time. This goals aims to support Sara in a way that makes her prepare before an event rather than simply knowing what time something starts. We’ll focus first on what to do in the half hour before she takes her lunchtime medication—like having something to eat and finding her pills in her purse—so  that she can be healthier and more independent in 2014.

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In your home, are there higher goals you could be setting for your children? Are they as independent as they can be? Do you need some assistance from the school to add ADLs (activities of daily living) to your child’s education plan? This is where we can translate setting real life skills for your child into something you can ask your school for.

Schools like to keep things more binary than we’d like for our special needs children. If you allow them to set goals for your child, chances are they will want to focus on things like math or writing. Though well intentioned, maybe your child with autism needs help understanding how to get dressed in the morning and what constitutes appropriate attire for school versus what’s appropriate for gym class. Perhaps your special needs teen could use some help navigating how to use social media appropriately, and what’s not okay to talk to strangers about. Maybe your child can’t follow rules at home—the school can add these things into your education plan. Think about what you struggle with daily, and utilize the challenges you face at home to set educational goals for your kids.

 If we wanted to apply the time management skills we are struggling with for Sara to the school annual review calendar, winter break would be a good time to collect our thoughts before it’s time to really sit down and start planning for the next school year.  Here are my two favorite things to focus on before annual review:

 

Do you have a lot of information about your child from your classroom teacher or therapists?

Now would be a great time to get in and see your professionals before all the decisions about the next school year are made. Get in to see your child’s teacher. Request a classroom observation which is a great way to look at what the other children are doing in the class and if your child is keeping up with them.

 

Do you need to ask your doctor questions before annual reviews begin?  

Doctors can tell you how your child’s disability is affecting them and what kind of therapies they need. Keep your doctor up-to-date about any behavioral shifts, obstacles, or cool things your child has accomplished. They’re professionals who can help you dictate what’s best for your child. Use them as the resource they are. A school may not offer you services you could really use without a doctor’s recommendation. Remember, everything costs them money and it’s impossible they aren’t considering their bottom line.

Let’s make time management be the goal for 2014—for us and for our children. Getting ready for annual review can take a lot of time, so start preparing now to become well informed. When you attend your last meeting of the year, you will be glad that you started to focus on it now.

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