March 2012 Archives

March 27, 2012

Family History Indexing for iOS

Family History is something of a passion in our family.  My grandparents were dedicated to finding family connections, and found several lines that connect through the Royal registries, who, if you believe their genealogical connections, trace their families back through the Bible.  But it seems that sitting in the library and pouring through books can be a bit tedious.  Genealogists can spend years looking up family names in census records, parish baptismal and christening records, etc., all hoping to find that family member and discover their history.But, luckily, many websites have sprung up that take archived data that is indexed within a database to make it easier for people to find their family tree.  That's great, but the majority of the world's records are not indexed within a database.  They are not searchable, and therefore make these websites less than useful once their limited data has been exhausted by the enterprising online researcher.Well, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, in their efforts to make the records of the world more accessible through http://familysearch.org, has created an indexing process in which anyone can take part.  In fact, you don't need to be a member of the Church to participate.  The results of the indexing process provides free genealogical records for all to use, regardless of faith.The main indexing software is provided as a Java app for Windows, Mac, and Linux, and can be downloaded from http://indexing.familysearch.org.  You will need to log in with an account, which you can create at the website or use an existing LDS login.  Once you log in, you can then download batches of records to work on, in various languages if you so desire.  In fact, if you have an expertise in languages such as Spanish, Portuguese, Hungarian, or several other foreign languages other than English, then you would be very welcome to participate in the project!The software is easy to use, but it's geared to a desktop.  That's all well and good for those who are using laptops while traveling, or sitting down and working on their projects at a desk or table.  But what about those days you are sitting in line and waiting?  Here you have a powerful smartphone that can do anything from compose a musical composition to destroying various constructs by pigs with your "Angry Birds", surely there is something you could do that would assist with the indexing project, right?Well, there is!  In both the Android Marketplace and in the iOS App Store, you can download the Family Search Indexing app.  It allows one to run through the indexing process by interpreting names from typed records.  I say interpreting, because you are looking at names from various pages, where typewriters have often had poor kerning sets (putting the letters too close together), ribbons have been over-inked (making the letters blurred), or the ribbons haven't been inked enough (making the records almost unreadable).  If you can't interpret a name, then you can skip it and move on or add question marks to letters that are otherwise unreadable.  The good news is that should you make a mistake (and we often do, being human), the records will be reviewed by another volunteer.  If there is a discrepancy, then a professional arbitrator will asked to review the record to determine who is right and who is wrong.The goal of the indexing process is to get as many records available for free to the public to use as quickly as possible.  An army of volunteers can accomplish that faster than a handful of professional indexers, and can also be more accurate than many attempts by software text readers could even hope to achieve.  The goal of the iOS and Android indexing app is to make it that much easier for someone on the move to take a little time while waiting for the bus, riding the train, standing in line, or sitting in a waiting room to accomplish something for the benefit of all those interested in their family history.  Perhaps it's just me, but that sounds a lot more interesting than seeing how many birds it takes to knock down a building.If you haven't tried indexing, give it a try!  It's easy to get started, and is amazingly addictive.  You can earn points with each archive you complete successfully, and there are levels of difficulty.  You can use it on any mobile device that uses iOS or Android (I'm not sure about WebOS or Windows Phone 7, check your markets for Familysearch Indexing to be sure).  If you need exact instructions, here is what was posted back in 2008 when the program was in beta, which is still accurate today:
FamilySearch indexing is now compatible with Apple iOS (which includes iPod, iPad and iPhone) and on many Android devises, however due to the diversity of applications available, not all have been tested by FamilySearch. Individuals interested in indexing who cannot do so on Android can send feedback by going to FamilySearch, or from within the Android application.Although indexing is available, the program is still in beta testing. The work completed in the program is a mix of previously indexed and not yet indexed data. All of the information gained from the mobile applicatoin is going to be used on familysearch.org.Installation/Registration1. Install the application to the mobile device.2. Register for a FamilySearch Account or LDS Account–On the indexing website,or the sign in screen for the app, click Register or Register Here, and then fill out the required information.3. Individuals who already have a FamilySearch Account or LDS Account but have never indexed can download the app from:the iTunes market (iOS App Store)the Android market(place)direct download linkOnce the app has downloaded and installed, open the program and begin.Index Batches1. Learn - Learn about indexing by reviewing the Guide tab.2. Index - After the application opens, complete the next steps to index an image:Click the Indexing tab. An image downloads to the devise.Type requested information - Type the requested information into the field provided.Submit - When indexing is complete, the indexer clicks the Submit button.

March 22, 2012

Autism Support Without Insurance Mandate

Article first published as Autism Support Without Insurance Mandate on Technorati. Two boys with Autism comforting each other at the supermarket.The Salt Lake Tribune posted an article about a new program being piloted within the coming weeks by the state of Utah and area businesses: Providing funds through voluntary donations from local businesses and others to provide autism therapy at the critical ages between 2 and 6. The idea is amazingly simple, particularly since prior to this the only way parents with children on the spectrum could get any support was to petition insurance companies to cover autism.The debate is not new: insurance companies have cried foul over the possibility of needing to raise rates in order to keep their shareholders happy. Parents cry foul because insurance doesn't cover a biological condition. Insurance companies counter with doubts to that research, and parents become more desparate in trying to find some support. All the while, children with autism go without critical intervention during the formative years, and become further distanced from society. Eventually, these children will grow up, and perhaps end up Wards of the State, as they would likely be unable to care for themselves.Something needed to happen, and happen fast. Many States have passed insurance mandates to provide autism therapy. Many people cried foul at this for fear of having to pay even more for healthcare insurance, soon to be mandated itself (or face crippling penalties). Utah had a similar bill, which was effectively killed on Capitol Hill by many who shared these same fears.But Representative Menlove (Republican from Garland), saw an opportunity. Several businesses, while not wanting to face increased insurance costs, were willing to donate funds for autism therapy. The benefit is clear: Not only do the charitable funds help them come tax time, but none of the funds are lost in administrative costs (as they would be in an insurance mandate). The funds are not acquired through a mandatory tax either, so no taxes are being levied against businesses or individuals.And the best bit? Children will now get support where they previously didn't have any hope. The initial running through the pilot will be small, with only about 350 children being treated, yet it's a good start. It's a testament to the generosity of local businesses, and the recognition of the Utah Legislature of the need for autism support.Intrigued by the report in the Tribune, I looked up the bill on the state website, and reviewed the voting record. In the past I have voiced my concern for children on the spectrum to both my house representative and my state senator. I received no reply from either (seems to be growing concern with local representatives, no replies from anyone).My representative, Democrat Susan Duckworth, voted for the provision, which won in the house with an overwhelming majority of 67 to 5, with 3 absent or not voting. This is not surprising, as she has been supportive of autism bills in the past.I then checked the senate vote, which won with an overwhelming majority of 21 to 8. Interested in which way Senator Daniel Thatcher, my senator, voted, I found that he voted nay. Needless to say I was very disappointed, though not surprised. Senator Thatcher has voted against any autism support bills that has come up before the Senate. I have tried calling three times, twice to let him know that I, as a constituent of his, would like to see autism supported in some form by the State and once to ask why he voted against the autism bill I supported. I sent him multiple emails, both as a follow-up to the calls and as initial contacts, to let my Senator know how autism affects my family and why I support it. But all these contacts have seem to fallen on deaf ears.Prior to this non-mandated autism support bill, I had only seen Insurance coverage as the way. But even when given a bill that had so many positives and no funding impact, he voted nay. While I can't do anything about his voting record (and he clearly doesn't seem to be too interested in my vote), I can at least be thankful that other representatives and senators were more understanding.This is a revolutionary bill, and one that could help autism families in states that refuse to vote for Insurance mandates. I look forward to the day when autism therapy is provided in some form or another to all children in the state of Utah, where currently 1 in 77 8-year olds have been diagnosed as being on the Spectrum. Perhaps it could become a model of corporate and government cooperation that benefits Wall Street, Main Street, and everywhere in between.Oh, and Senator Thatcher, know this: you have lost at least one voter over this policy of silence, and that's me.

March 20, 2012

Siblings and Autism

Article first published as Siblings and Autism on Technorati.A Kermit the Frog doll dressed for school, next to a Kermit without clothes. On Thursday, March 15th (the Ides of March), our school district held another seminar on Autism. The topic this week: siblings of a child with Autism, and how they deal with their situation. With more children being diagnosed with Autism, and many within a family where several children are neuro-typical, it’s raised some questions on how these children feel about their sibling with Autism taking more time and attention from their parents.We started with a panel of siblings, and they fielded questions about what they were expecting, and how Autism has influenced their lives. And then we had a presentation from Utah Family Voices about how siblings have expressed their concern. The presentation was very informative, and doesn’t just apply to siblings, but for any children that feel “neglected” by additional attention being given to a child with Autism.Dating One question that came up was how having a sibling with Autism affected dating. Most of those who answered the question said they haven’t seen a problem, as they tend to look for someone that is more compassionate and find their sibling as a perfect test. Others have said that it has changed their dating experiences, but often they were not “serious” relationships that were affected. What the director from Utah Family Voices shared is that most siblings want to find someone who is understanding of their family, including their sibling with Autism, and want someone that is supportive. Personally, having grown up with a brother who was undiagnosed but has Aspergers, I found that he was a very good judge of character in many of the young women I was dating.The Role of Caregiver This was a big one: the Role of the Eldest Child in taking on responsibilities of the Parent when they are gone. The reality of many children on the spectrum is their dependence on others to live. They require care at some level, and parents will not generally outlive their children. It’s difficult for many parents to think about that eventuality, but it is nonetheless true. And often, parents assume that their oldest child will be willing to take care of their sibling once they are gone. For the sibling, they often resent this assumption.Of course, this doesn’t change the reality, and many siblings just deal with that requirement. But the time to talk about the responsibilities and how it will affect their lives is early on: they need to know when they are in their early teens what is expected, and what they want to do with their lives. It helps them have that responsibility in mind, and perhaps give them the chance to decide if they want to be a care-giver, or just a support. It’s a tough discussion to have for all concerned, but one that needs to be had as early as possible.Explaining Autism to Friends, Family, and Strangers This was a big topic as well, because it’s something with which we have all had to deal at some point or another. It was focused on friends of a sibling, but it became more of a discussion on how others perceive Autism, and how we can educate them. Autism is a genetic rewiring of the Brain that we are just starting to understand. As such, those with Autism behave differently than others, but don’t have any outward differences that distinguish them as “special needs”. During the 1960’s, it was believed that Autism was the result of bad parenting, and that has somehow stuck. So we talked about how we can educate others to the realities of Autism.There have been a number of different responses. Some talked about cards with details and websites that explain Autism listed. Others talked about various t-shirts that exist that say “I have Autism, be nice to my Mom”, or “You can stare all you want, but I still won’t acknowledge you”, or my personal favorite, “If you stare hard enough, you may cure me, and then we can work on your social issues”. We found that the best response to the criticism of Autism is to handle it with humor, and then find ways to educate others. For family, often it’s a good documentary on Autism (found on most PBS stations, websites, and video stores), or a news piece. For friends, the News or websites that outline what Autism is, and how it affects the lives of those around them. For everyone else, websites that outline research generally helps, particularly for those healthcare and education professionals that seem skeptic as to the realities and extent of needs children with Autism have. That is where the cards come in handy.Siblings Siblings often get angry, resentful, and frustrated that their lives are changed from “normal” because of a child with Autism. And while we would like to think that our children are completely supportive because they understand how important it is we help our children with special needs, they have a natural reaction of wanting more attention. They therefore find ways to act out, sometimes even to the extent of declaring their hatred of their sibling.What we as parents need to understand is that our children are reacting normally, and that these feelings are real and need to be discussed. Sometimes our children will not want to discuss their resentment, because they know it’s wrong and feel guilty about those feelings. But while they may not be what we expect, they are still very real feelings that need to be addressed.How do you know your child is resenting their sibling with Autism? They will often react in one of the following ways:

  • Mimicking behavior: they will start to act like the child with Autism in hopes of getting the same sympathy and attention.
  • Rebellion: common for many children wanting attention, rebellion against their parents is a way of getting attention, even if it’s negative attention.
  • Vocal about Resentment: often, particularly the younger children, will declare their “hatred” of the other child. The younger they are, the more truthful they will be in the moment. It doesn’t mean they really hate their brother/sister, but they may hate the situation for the moment.

So what can we as parents do to help our children deal with their feelings?

  • Acknowledge their feelings: let them know they are important by letting them vent. Sit down and talk with them about their feelings, and let them be heard. It may not be immediate, but it needs to happen without any judgement. Your children need to feel comfortable coming to you with these feelings, even when they know it’s wrong (and especially when they know it’s wrong!).
  • Don’t use Autism as the Reason: Never tell your child “We can’t do because your brother/sister has Autism”. That immediately breeds resentment. Instead, talk to them about limitations, and ask them what they think would happen if their brother/sister were put in that situation. How would they feel? How would their brother/sister feel? How would others react? How would the family feel?
  • Keep it in Perspective: make sure your children understand the impact that special needs place on everyone’s life, including your own. They need to know what you are experiencing as well, to put their feelings in perspective.
  • Not Equal, but Fair: Often children feel they are not getting equal treatment, and think it’s not fair. The story that the director from Utah Family Voices shared was a child who felt they were being neglected because their parents were always having to take care of her brother with Autism. Her parents turned to her and, after acknowledging her feelings, pointed out that she was more than welcome to take care of her own brother. At that point, she realized all that her parents managed for her, and she didn’t want it. She realized that it may not be equal, but it was fair to her.

We as parents worry a lot about our children, whether they have special needs or not. And the good news is that most siblings of a child on the Spectrum tend to be more compassionate people, and go into the compassionate fields like teaching and medicine. And as such, they look for those who are like-minded, regardless of with home they think they are in love at the moment.

March 16, 2012

The Dark Side of Parenting a Child with Autism

Article first published as The Dark Side of Parenting a Child with Autism on Technorati.Child with Autism with a Santa Hat on.On Thursday, March 15th, Philly.com posted an article about the hard questions of Autism. The writer, a father of a child on the Spectrum, talked about the two most difficult questions that we are parents of a child with a disability face: what is in store for our child in the future? His son mentioned how he worries about what his future will be like, and worries about what to do when his parents are too old to take care of him. Both questions are good ones, and often questions we as parents try to avoid asking, or even thinking about. They are legitimate worries that don’t have any easy answers, and the outcomes are completely out of our control. Within our own homes, we can create an environment that will help our children develop, progress, communicate, and succeed. At school, with an IEP, we can help our children learn in an environment that is optimized for their needs. But with all these special requirements, what employer will be willing to invest in such a bright, intelligent child with so many special needs? Usually I just try not to think about the future of both my sons, knowing that worrying now will not help them or me. Instead I focus on what I can control, which is his education and what help I can give them. I focus on the IEP, the steps for helping communication and social skills, building those basic life skills needed to survive in the world. I can see my oldest take something apart and put it back together again, have it work, and then inspect each part, and I immediately see him as a brilliant engineer. My youngest I see play on many of my instruments and see him as a brilliant musician. I have my hopes for my kids, but I don’t know how to unlock those futures for them. That’s the frustrating thing about being a parent of a child on the Spectrum. If you get a chance to read the article mentioned before, I would highly recommend it. It’s a very good read, though you may have to suffer a few tugs at your heart strings.

March 13, 2012

What the IEP Gives You: Services and Transitions

Article first published as What the IEP Gives You: Services and Transitions on Technorati.Child with autism panning for "gold" in an artificial stream. So to date we have covered the IEP and what to do when you get one assigned. But what happens once you get it? What does the IEP give you?Well, first and foremost, the IEP gives you the ability to develop your child's educational program (until 18, but we will talk about that). But it also gives you access to related services. Let's first talk about the related services, because they often determine where you would like your child to be, and which classroom setup should be made available for your child.Related services are services that are not directly involved in your child's education, but are required in order to supply an environment that is best dedicated to your child's education. These include developmental, corrective, and supportive services as well as transportation to and from class.

  1. Speech and Language Pathology and Audiology: If necessary you can get a speech and language specialist to help guide your child through their education by developing their language skills. This is pretty common with non verbal and semi-verbal children with Autism.
  2. Psychological services: if your child requires counseling or any type of psychological support, the IEP allows for that support to be provided. Not often required for children on the Spectrum, it may be necessary for any child who has had a tramatic event in their life and it gets in the way of their education.
  3. Interpreting Services: For those children who need an interpreter, generally for those who are deaf, one can be provided. This may also be an aspect of your child's language services, if your child's therapist determines sign language is the best way for them to communicate.
  4. Physical and Occupational Therapy: Very common with children on the Spectrum, these therapies are designed to help them perform common tasks. But they can also be used to find ways to calm a child down when they feel too stressed and are unwilling or unable to attend to the learning task at hand.
  5. Recreation: Every child needs to blow off steam when stressed, just like the rest of us. Recreation, and even therapeutic recreation is an essential part of the child's daily routine. That should be provided for your child's educational success.
  6. Social Work Services: Again not very common with children on the Spectrum, but if a social worker is necessary, those services are available.
  7. School Nurse Services: If your child has other health problems, a school nurse may be necessary. The IEP will outline those requirements and require the school to have a nurse on staff.
  8. Counseling Services: Great for those who need them, including rehabilitation services.
  9. Orientation and Mobility Services: Sometimes it's necessary to require ramps or other mobility aides be available for your child.
  10. Medical Services: Sometimes just a nurse on campus isn't enough: your child may need full diagnostic or evaluation services for their medical condition. The IEP will outline those requirements to the District and School, and provide you with a way to address the issues.

All these services are provided when needed, and that need is determined by the IEP team. If you as a parent feel that your child has a specific need, address it with the team. If you as a team agree it needs to be fulfilled, it will then be the team's responsibility to see it done. If you don't agree, have some evidence or reasoning to back up your need. Keep in mind that while you are the parent, your child will likely act differently in class than at home, and teachers will only see what your child does in class.Okay, so you have your requirements, and the class is going swimmingly. You have a regular communication schedule set up with your child's teacher, and you get updates. You or your teacher finds that a change is necessary in your child's IEP in order to increase the child's performance: what do you do? You will, as a team, meet to discuss your child's progress and evaluate any changes you may need to make to the IEP. Some teachers are great at this, others are not. Our son's teacher if fantastic at keeping up with his IEP, and will even send us a copy a couple weeks in advance of a meeting so we have time to review it.Transitions Okay, so now it's at the end of the year, and your child is moving up to the next grade level. Normally this isn't a problem, as most "registration" happens in the late fall, and most children just get assigned a new teacher. But for your child on an IEP, this can be scary. I remember wondering what was going to happen once my child moved from Preschool to Kindergarten, and then to 1st Grade. It was scary, and if it wasn't for the IEP meetings, I would have been panicking come the end of August.Every transition period will have an IEP that focuses on five essential goals: 1. Training: What can your child do, and what can he not do? What type of class will he need to attend when it comes to the next grade, and will the staff be available to meet his need? 2. Education: How is your child performing in school, and at what grade level? Again, this is where having a general education advisor is handy! 3. Employment: At some point, what employment skills does your child have? This ties in to later-life occupational therapy. Currently I don't have to worry about that too much, but I still do (and my son is only 7). 4. Independent Living Skills: This is a critical skillset that we as parents need to give our children. My goal in life, actually, is to have both my children living indepentently when they graduate, and be able to function. I would like them to have jobs that will let them live on their own, contribute to society, and have them be productive. These are taken into consideration as part of the occupational and physical therapy sessions. 5. Transition Services: If your child is moving from one classroom to another, such as my son did when he moved from Kindergarten to 1st Grade, then you need to have a plan in place. The goal is to mainstream your child so that services are no longer necessary, and often that can mean transition services. These include evaluating what services are necessary to move from one classroom level to another, or what skills have been met that will allow a child to move from one classroom to another.For instance, when our son went from Kindergarten to 1st Grade, his teacher, though she wanted him to stay in her class another year, felt his needs would be better served in a more advanced class that would cater to his academic achievements. So, instead of staying in the same class for another two years, he got moved into a more advanced class. It was stressful for him at first because of the change, but in the end was the best thing for him.One last thing to say on transitions: age. Once your child has reached the age of 18, that child is now considered an adult and can refuse an adult's presence at their IEP team meetings. A way to guarantee that you as a guardian can continue to attend would be to obtain guardianship of your child. This might sound rediculous, but keep in mind that schools need to comply with the law, and the law does not treat adults with Autism any different than adults without Autism.When your child is about to reach that age of maturity, you should receive a letter (about a year in advance) to notify you and your child of that responsibility, and what is expected of them.

March 9, 2012

The New iPad Announcements: Impressions

On Wednesday, March 7th, Apple held their iPad launch event, and announced their new iPad, as well as their new Apple TV.  The pundits have had a chance to have their voices heard, and I've had a chance to watch the Keynote by new CEO Tim Cook, so now I think I'll offer my view of the new device. What I LikeApple came through with the new Retina display, which was my biggest hope, and last hold-out I needed to get an upgrade for my first generation iPad.  I wanted something that would make it easier on the eyes for reading, and the new resolution is exactly what I was looking for. 4G LTE was a big draw for me as well, not to mention the hot-spot support that would be made available.  I'm still not sure which network I would like to use, but I've got some time to think about it before I get one.  The speed was clearly a plus for what we wanted while traveling, and we seem to travel a lot lately as a family.  And add in the hot-spot capability, and it will make it useful for everyone in the family while traveling. Now, granted, I could probably get a MiFi hotspot from AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, or T-Mobile, but I like having as few devices as possible to keep track of when I travel, and I like the "temporary" feel of the 4G account, just pay by the month (unlike my iPhone). The new processor and RAM upgrade is killer, particularly since the battery life has been preserved.  That's always been a killer feature of the iPad, and one that I continue to tout as the best feature of all.  To keep that kind of battery life while increasing the processing power makes it OK that a quad-core processor (or at least a quad-core graphics processor) was added when I honestly didn't see an immediate need.  iPhoto was unexpected, and is a great start: except it doesn't do everything I wanted.  I was hoping Apple would allow the creation of their printed Calendars with iPhoto and their printed photo albums.  Right now it's only available through iPhoto on OS X, which still requires a desktop or laptop to publish and have printed.  They released Cards with iOS 5, so perhaps I just need to wait until iOS 6 for them to release the other two apps.  Garageband upgrade was killer with Jam Session, and something that I am thrilled to see!  I've loved playing with it (as have the kids, I might add), and the idea that we could play together and record a song (or an attempt at a song at any rate) is just killer.  Other than what was available, I would have to pull out my old mixing hardware that, quite frankly, seemed to be a little antequated in this digital age.  And, I might add, Jam Session is really easy to set up and use in my experience.  Great job!iMovie was cool, and I like the way they set up the storyboard for iPad.  It looks just awesome enough that I'm now thinking of purchasing it (with the new iPad, it makes more sense to have it).  Dictate is awesome, and something that has been long needed on iOS.  I've used Dragon Dictate, but it's limited in the amount of audio that it can convert at a time.  I'm not sure how long your dictate duration will be accepted, but I'm hoping it takes more than Dragon Dictate.  We shall see on that. It wasn't announced but I like the Apple Configurator app that was made available for mass-configuring up to 30 iOS devices for Education and Enterprise users.  It's a great complement to OS X Lion Server and it's Mobile Device Management services.Apple TV upgrade!  The hardware isn't that critical to me, though I'm thrilled it supports 1080p now!  It's almost enough for me to purchase a new one, though we just got our current one a little less than a year ago.  I do like the new interface on the software upgrade, though my wife is a little dubious about it.  I think it bodes well for future third-party apps that may eventually come to the Apple TV, and make it easier to find them.  Perhaps, even, it will include a gaming section in future?  Time will tell!Finally, I liked the fact that the rumored price increase was false.  I didn't think it would be increased, and it's nice to be relieved at the same price for the new iPad.  And for those that don't quite want to make the jump, the iPad 2 is now $100 less!  What I Wanted To SeeI've already mentioned it, but the lack of a print calendar project and a photo album project in iPhoto was something that disappointed me.  I'm hoping they pull that in later, or create independent apps for those features found in the desktop version of iPhoto. There is still a lack of a coding platform for Objective-C on the iPad, and that's something I would like.  The iPad is powerful enough to develop on, though I'm not sure it would be a good platform to test those apps in a simulator.  Not sure how that would work out, but it would be nice. I'm still waiting for Apple's Server management software to come to iOS.  Granted, Server is perhaps a small contingent of the Apple revenue stream, but for some of us it's a great package that we use quite often.  I'd like to see management happen easily from an iOS device, and creating server software for iOS would be a huge benefit for system administrators. I would like to see Apple Remote Desktop for iOS come out here soon.  I don't expect advanced services like the Task Server, but I would like to see ARD being used as a VNC/Command Line client for quick access to troubled computers and easy management.  A full ARD client would still be useful for the Task Server and reports, so I don't see it taking a lot of revenue, just making it easier for the administration team to help someone on the fly. Well, that's about it!  I'm looking forward to the purchase of my new iPad here in the coming months, and I'm thrilled to enjoy the benefits of the new Apple TV software now.  What were your impressions of the Apple Keynote on Wednesday?  What did you want to see, and didn't?  What did you see that took you by surprise?  

March 6, 2012

The Individualized Education Program: IEP

Article first published as The Individualized Education Program: IEP on Technorati.Child with his Special Education Teacher. The IEP, or Individualized Education Program, is a tool used by educators to keep track of your child's progress through their disability. The process involves a lot of people, but is there for one purpose: to help your child get as close to mainstreaming as possible, and keep them educated with their peers. But the process can seem a little scary, or perhaps a bit intimidating, and a lot of parents seem to feel lost when they meet for their IEP with their team.An IEP is generally generated after the school system has evaluated your child and determined there is a significant learning disability of some sort. Autism falls in that category, as does any kind of hearing, sight, speech, or developmental delay. Once the team has determined a disability or delay is obvious, they look for reasons behind it. It should be noted that language barriers or "bad teachers" are not reasons for an IEP, just actual disabilities that impair a child's ability to learn.It should also be noted that the IEP process is different with each State, though just about every State Board of Education has the IEP process, and it should cover just about all the same services. If you have any questions regarding your specific State's IEP process, contact your school district's Special Education office. They can give you all the details you need.Once you have a confirmed reason for an IEP, the process starts. At this point it doesn't matter what the school's determination is for the reason, because the IEP is not standard for each "diagnosis". Rather, it's designed to be customized to the needs of the child, as determined by the IEP team.So who is this team I keep talking about? First and foremost, it is you as a parent, and your child. In addition, your child's Special Education teacher should be present, a representative from the school's Administration team (principal or delegated representative), any General Education teachers involved in your child's education (including any that advise but don't teach directly), and someone that interprets any evaluations given the child (generally a school psychologist).The first three are pretty obvious: you, your child as the student, and the Special Education teacher. But why have a member of the administration there was well? Well, IEP's are conducted by State regulations, and has the ability to allocate funds if necessary. They are often called Local Education Agency (LEA) Representatives, though they are generally from the Principal's office.Also, why have a general education teacher if your child is only in special education? Well, a general education teacher is there to represent the requirements expected of mainstreamed children. They know what the required educational goals are for typical students, and can help the Special Education teacher set goals that will bring the child closer to being mainstreamed. Because that is the goal of every IEP: to bring the child up to their grade-level expectations, and keep them there.So now you have your team, but what do the do? Well, they start by having written statements about present academic achievements and functional performance. These are done through either direct or indirect assessment (tests or observation), and evaluate where the child is currently performing. It forms a foundation on which the team can plan how to build your child's education program. Another way to look at it is a road's starting point.Next, your team will write down measurable goals for both academic and functional performance. Measurable means that your child will need to accomplish certain tasks X number of times, or attend to an activity for X number of minutes. Percentages doesn't mean anything in the measured world of your child's education, so don't let anyone get around you by adding that as a "measure". Focus on achieved results within specific time-frames and X number of times. If you have any questions on how something would be measured, it's not clearly measurable, at least to you. It may also help if you ask how it will be evaluated and assessed, that way you can do the same things at home to build on what your team has in store.Next comes written statements on whether or not your child should attend to specific activities (for the sake and safety of the child), any needed accomodations for measuring academic achievement (someone to read questions to the student that can't see or read, for example), and when the services will start, stop, and how long they will last. All this should be in your child's IEP, and you should recieve a copy! Interestingly enough, our oldest son's teacher will send us a copy of the IEP ahead of the team meeting, so we have a chance to review and come in prepared for discussions. It's unusual, but definitely welcome!So what should you as a parent ask when you meet with your team? Well:

  1. Are the IEP goals measurable? I focused on this quite a bit, and for good reason. Make sure you can measure your child's progress, and then you know your teachers can as well.
  2. Is my child in a regular education environment all or part of the day? Why or why not? If you feel your child should be allowed into a mainstreamed classroom, voice that concern! This is your opportunity to make sure you are heard.
  3. Does the IEP list your child's accomodation needs? That includes any State-side and district-side testing needs, not just the teacher's testing needs. That way you know when they get their Standardized Testing done, they have the accomodations and modifications necessary.
  4. Are the goals realistic for my child? Is the school listing goals YOU feel are attainable for your child? This is a tough question for everyone concerned, because you want to set goals that can be reached, but not so simple as to not challenge your child. The good news is that if the goals are reached "too soon", then they can easily and quickly be revised!
  5. Is my child expected and able to meet graduation requirements? Graduation is something that every parent looks forward to, and every child should as well. But you need to make sure the goals are working your child toward that point, even if their disability makes it seem almost impossible now. Always push for that point in your child's future, and look for ways to help make it happen. That's the whole point of the IEP anyway!
  6. When will the IEP be reviewed? This is a tough question. The State of Utah requires a review at least once a year to once every three years, but the review frequency is really up to the team, and that means you. If you are seeing significant improvement in your child's performance, or have any questions that need to get addressed, don't hesitate to contact your team members and request a review.

So now that you have gone through the IEP process, you are going to be asked to sign the IEP. Most States see this signature as an agreement to the document. But not Utah. In Utah, it means that you were present at the IEP process, and even if you don't agree with the IEP you can sign without binding yourself or your child to it's goals and guidelines. I've never had an IEP for my child with which I didn't agree, so I don't worry about it too much. If you do have any concerns and you are not in Utah, don't sign until they are addressed. Of course, that also means that the IEP can be implemented without parental approval in Utah, but there are safeguards for that, though that is another post.So that is the process of going through an IEP! I would like to thank the folks over at the Utah Parent Center for their presentation they offered to the few of us there on Thursday night! It was a great deal of useful information that was definitely needed.I'll post more on the IEP process later, so as to not overwhelm you all with posts.

March 5, 2012

Growing Expectations for iPad 3 Launch: Killer Software and the Apple TV

There are a lot of people who cannot wait for the new iPad 3 to be released this coming Wednesday (March 7th).  There's a lot of hype and excitement that is buzzing about the hardware.  But should there be?  Granted, if the rumors are true, the retina display for the iPad will be awesome (and the reason why I haven't upgraded yet, I might add), but beyond that, the iPad has always just worked.  That's been it's beauty, and I don't see any significant changes to the hardware taking away from that experience. So that being said, what get's me excited about the iPad 3 launch?  Software.  That's right, I'm looking for some new killer software that will continue to relegate my laptop to "workhorse" status, while I use my iPad for everything else.  I'm looking to take all the fun design work out of the laptop and place it on my iPad.  What do I mean by design work?  I mean anything that doesn't require writing code, which is tedious at best with the built-in keyboard for the iPad.  Of course, that could change with a few minor keyboard changes (see Gusto for iPad, or iA Writer for iPad for ideas), but in general that is the useability point against using Xcode for iPad.  So what software would I be looking for?

  1. Photoshop:  Already released, Photoshop for the iPad is a killer idea.  I've used Photoshop Express for a while now, and fell in love with it. 
  2. iPhoto Calendars:  I've mentioned this before, and I think it's really important for scrapbooking families to be able to create printable calendars (perhaps using dates and events from a Calendar in iCal?) from their iPad, and send them off to Apple for professional printing.  We use this in iPhoto every year for Christmas presents to relatives, and it would be very nice to be able to do this from an iPad. 
  3. iOS 6:  I know we won't have it by Wednesday, but I would like to see the preview of iOS 6 as it is coming down the pipe.  In iOS 6, I would like to see some of the features that have been native to the Mac for years show up on the iPad, like maybe a Dashboard for widgets (a great way to get stocks, calculator, and weather on the iPad without blowing them up!).  Sometimes having a full blown app for something isn't really that necessary, but having a page with widgets would make sense.  
  4. Siri:  Yes, I want Siri for the iPad.  I'd also like to see Siri taken out of Beta and released for the iPhone 4.  Perhaps with iOS 6?

So that's pretty much it for the iPad.  But I'm also hoping the rumors that an upgrade to the iOS-based Apple TV would be announced as well.  Why?  Because the Apple TV is a great device, and has been slowly replacing my need for Cable television.  With a few upgrades, it could also completely replace a number of other consoles that are hooked up to my TV.  

  1. Streaming TV Show Subscriptions:  Right now you can stream any television episode you have purchased from iTunes to your Apple TV, and that's great.  And a pet peeve of mine about Cable has always been the need to purchase whole banks of channels I'll never watch, just to get the few shows that I do want.  Couple that with the restrictive nature of when what show is on, and I'm losing interest in watching television completely (perhaps that's not a bad thing).  But there are a few shows that I would like to keep up with, and allowing me to watch that streamed show when I want for a subscription fee would be just dandy!  After all, it's not that far from going to the network's website to watch the show, so why not provide it as a streaming channel?  
  2. Games:  Since iOS has been used for the Apple TV, the populace has been waiting with baited breath to see if Apple would turn it into a gaming console.  With other gaming consoles turning into video streaming devices, it makes sense that Apple could go the other way.  And with the vast majority of iOS developers ready to jump in to this area, I see it as a foregone conlusion.  
  3. Streaming Movie purchases:  TV Shows have it, why not movies?  With more of my movie purchases going to iTunes then ever before, I would like the peace of mind in knowing that I can get that movie again should my computer crash.  
  4. 1080p:  720p video is great, and it looks great on the screen.  But when my TV can support up to 1080p, I'd like the Apple TV to support it as well. 
  5. Cable Replacement:  Perhaps this is part of the show subscriptions, but I would like to have the option of using my Apple TV to watch television, and be my cable box (should I decide to keep it).  The less I have to hook up to my TV and plug into the wall, the better I feel.  

So that's my wish list for the announcement on Wednesday, March 7th, 2012.  Anyone else want to chime in?  

March 2, 2012

New Look and a Safer Website (I Hope!)

Some of you may have noticed that my website looks a little different, at least assuming you are still returning to my site.  It turns out that in the not too distant past there was a compromise on several of the Wordpress websites on my hosting page, and mine was one of them.  As such, code was added to my site to redirect the first visit for the day to various websites, some of them not very good, and definitely not safe for work.  The options given to me by my host weren't ideal, so I decided to reinstall Wordpress from scratch, and then restore the database.  It took some doing, but everything is now up and running, and no bad code to be seen.  It will take me some time to restore a lot of the previous plugins that made my site useful, but that's a small price to pay for a clean site and URL.  After all, if you can't trust my website, why would you visit?  If anyone still has trouble with my site, please let me know!  

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This page is an archive of entries from March 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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