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LAPARENT.COM

SPRING 2013

Advocating For Your Child At School

Canine Companions Make Family Life Easer

HOW

Books and Toys: Build Skills and Awareness With These Great Picks

HORSES

HEAL

Equine Therapy offers a special connection for kids with special needs

Resources, Tips, and Expert Advice


South Central Los Angeles Regional Center for persons with developmental disabilities, inc.

LLearn earn How We Can Support Your Child With Special Needs ices l Serv a r r e Ref s roup ort G p p u n S eno nterv I y l r Ea vices n Ser o  i s Tran

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SCLARC Family Resource Center Calendar

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Education Training

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contents spring 2013

departments 6 Editor’s Note Horses and Doggies and Toys and Books

8 In the Know People who matter and news you can use

34 Resources

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38 Chat Room Autism advocates Karen Shapiro and Navah Paskowitz

features 14 Horses and Healing

Equine Assisted Therapy offers promise for children with a range of special needs.

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18

Canine Companions

20

Special Books For Special Kids

24

Toys As Tools

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Advocating For Your Child At School

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Accessing Services For Your Child

Service dogs make life easier for special-needs families.

Share insight and start conversations with these great reads.

Play is a super skill builder – and an easy sell for kids.

Be polite, know your rights, and don’t give up the fight.

Building the right connections can make all the difference in your child’s development.

Your Child With Special Needs | 2013

o n th e co ve r 28 18 14 20

Advocating For Your Child Canine Companions How Horses Heal Books and Toys

Our horse and boy cover models share the same name, Chance. They were photographed by Rena Durham (www.renadurham.com) at Shadow Hills Riding Club.


15th Annual Say N’ Play Summer Speech Camp For children with ASD and other diagnoses 3-15 yrs. After Camp Childcare Available

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Exposure to Dancing, Acting, Singing, Costume/Makeup Design  Weekly Field Trips  Social Skills  Final Musical Production

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editor’s note

By Christina Elston

5855 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Suite 150 Woodland Hills, CA 91367 Tel: 818-264-2222 Fax: 818-264-2220 Visit us online at LAParent.com PUBLISHER Ron Epstein

Horses and Doggies and Toys and Books

W

hat do you think of when someone says “special needs?” I can tell you what I didn’t think of until we started working on this special publication: playgrounds, horseback riding, healing dogs, stories about owls or musical instruments that you can play hands-free. And yet, you’ll find all of those things in the pages of this first edition of Your Child With Special Needs. I would like to say it took a tremendous amount of hard work to dig up details on all the nifty stuff you can read about here, but in fact it didn’t. It seems the moment we said “special needs magazine” to any of our fantastic freelance writers, anyone on our staff, or anyone we met in the community, they couldn’t wait to share their ideas. And so we have a potpourri of fun – but still useful and helpful – information ready for you to explore. Our “in the know” section (page 8) profiles a Special Olympics athlete, guides you to inclusive places to play, offers a heads-up on free kids’ museum days, and includes updates on doctors working to help kids with hearing impairments and Fragile X Syndrome. We have features on how four-legged creatures big and small (horses on page 14 and dogs on 18) can change kids’ lives, toys that can build a range of skills (page 24), books that educate and inspire (page 20) and tips for partnering with your child’s school (page 28). And we wrap the book up with a handy resource section (page 34), and a profile of two wonderful L.A. moms who channeled their children’s autism diagnosis into a drive to raise awareness and funds (page 38). Not bad for our first effort, right? We hope you think so! And it won’t be our last. But as we dedicate ourselves to serving the special-needs community, we could use your help. Get in touch with comments, criticisms, requests and ideas so that we can make our next edition of Your Child With Special Needs even better than this one. Thanks for reading!

– Christina Elston Christina.Elston@LAParent.com @LAParentMag

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Your Child With Special Needs | 2013

DIRECTOR OF CONTENT & STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS Elena Epstein EDITORIAL Editor: Christina Elston Calendar Editor: Michael Berick ADVERTISING SALES Account Executives: Sharon Beauregard Ly French Cheryl Wolfe Sales Administrator: Cindy Hadash

NATIONAL SALES Cate Sanderson 7 Purdy St., Ste. 201, Harrison NY 10528 914-381-7474 PRODUCTION Art and Production Director: Joshua Gonzales NAPPA General Manager: Julie Kertes NAPPA Coordinator: Annette Covarrubias

WINNER

L.A. Parent (ISSN 0740 3437) is published monthly by Epstein Custom Media. Please note that the advertisements in this magazine are paid for by the advertisers, which allows this magazine to be free to the consumer. Limit of one free copy per reader. Additional copies may be purchased for $4 per issue. Call 818-846-0400 to request additional copies. Unless specifically noted, no advertisers, products or services are endorsed by the Publisher. Editorial submissions are welcome. L.A. Parent copyright 2013 by Epstein Custom Media. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or part without written permission is prohibited.


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in the know

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The school bus had dropped Matthew Raymundi, 9, off near his home in Orlando, Fla. and he was walking on the sidewalk toward his apartment complex when his life changed forever. A driver lost control of her car and swerved into him, breaking bones, damaging his brain, and sending him into a 40-day coma. “The entire left side of his body was shattered,” says his older sister Julie Baxter. “The doctors told us he most likely would never walk again.” Raymundi had other plans. A year and a half after the accident, he took his first steps. And six months later, he was participating in track and field events through the Special Olympics. Encouraged and coached by Baxter, a Special Olympics volunteer since the age of 14, Raymundi started to thrive. He went on to bowl and play softball, basketball, golf and bocce. “The more sports he participated in, the more he came out of his shell and we could see him ER XT BA starting to find his E LI JU voice,” says Baxter. “He has really transformed.” Today at age 26, Raymundi lives in Sun Valley with his sisters and mother. He attends Mission College, participates in a work-training program, writes plays and short stories, and excels as a shortstop in softball and a forward in basketball through the Tri-Valley Region of Special Olympics. He mentors younger athletes, tells his story at schools and community events, and revels in the joys of the friends he has made through the years and the thrill of competition. “Once you start to participate in Special Olympics, your teammates become your family,” he says. “You never want to stop.” – Elena Epstein Above, Matthew Raymundi excels as a basketball forward in the Special Olympics.

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Your Child With Special Needs | 2013

PHOTO COURTESY VICTORIA CARLIN

Special Olympics Offer Play Plus Healing

Luke Carlin does a little painting during Open Door Days at the Zimmer Children’s Museum.

Opening the Door To Stress-Free Fun Luke Carlin, 5, donned a red dinosaur costume and declared himself a Tyrannosaurus rex as he starred in his one-man show at the Zimmer Children’s Museum’s Mann Theatre. He also flew a plane at the Discovery Airport and cooked lunch at the Blue Bagel Café. Seeing Luke, who is on the autism spectrum, so engaged and happy made the drive from their Santa Clarita home to the Zimmer in Los Angeles worthwhile for the Carlin family. During Zimmer’s Open Door Days, the museum is closed to the general public and children with special needs and their families are admitted free. Background music is turned off, the lights are lowered, and specially trained staff members are on duty. This allows kids with special needs to explore the museum at their own pace, offering a rare opportunity to run, jump and let their imaginations soar without being over-stimulated. “Our goal is to be a warm and welcoming environment to every family, every day,” says Julee Brooks, museum director. “The Open Door Days are designed to create a low-pressure environment as an another option for a family’s visit, as well as to serve as a bridge to other programs.” “We’re an active family,” says Luke’s mom, Victoria. “But new, busy places can be a challenge. Luke can easily get over-stimulated by noise, people, even colors, and act out because of it. Sometimes our outings end up in some type of tantrum where everyone else is staring and wondering what’s going on. At the Zimmer, we were all so relaxed. It was a rare and magical afternoon for our family.” Upcoming Open Door Days are scheduled for 2-5 p.m. July 15 and 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Nov. 11. – Elena Epstein


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in the know If your child has autism, Fragile X syndrome (FXS) might sound like a “bonus” diagnosis – an underlying cause that doesn’t make much difference in a child who has other, more apparent problems. Developmental pediatrician Gary Feldman, M.D., urges you to have them tested anyway. “In some cases, a child is given a diagnosis [such as autism] and that’s where they stop,” says Feldman, medical director of the Stramski Children’s Developmental Center at Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach. Finding out if Fragile X syndrome is the cause can be important, he says. “It has implications to the individual and the family.” FXS is the most common inherited form of intellectual disability and autism, and around 5 percent of children Dr. Gary Feldman talks with a patient at the Stramski Children’s Developmental Center with autism have FXS. This at Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach. genetic condition gets its name from the “fragile” “These kids are phenomenally afraid of social appearance of the X chromosome where the defect situations,” says Feldman, who sees patients at the occurs. Symptoms are generally more severe in boys, who Stramski center, Southern California’s only Fragile X program. “I’ve had a number of patients who refused have only one X chromosome (and one Y) than in to leave the car and come into the office.” Physical girls, who have two X chromosomes – one of which symptoms include narrowness of the face, flat feet, might be normal. About one in 130 women and one crossed eyes and cupped, prominent ears. in 250 men are Fragile X carriers, and can pass the Making trips out to a child’s car for exams when condition along to their children. necessary, Feldman and other Stramski center physiThe ‘Bouncer’ Protein cians work with a consortium of clinics around the The brains of people with FXS don’t make country – in partnership with the National Fragile X enough of a protein called fragile X mental retardaFoundation and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control tion protein (FMRP), which Feldman describes and Prevention – gathering information, working on as a “bouncer protein” that prevents “uncontrolled treatment models and leading drug research. signaling” within the brain. Without this bouncer The Fragile X Premutation to control brain development, people develop a But not everyone carrying a Fragile X defect host of problems including intellectual disability, has symptoms as a child. Some people have what is motor and speech delays, epilepsy, hyperactivity called a “premutation,” rather than full-blown Fragile and anxiety. 10

Your Child With Special Needs | 2013

PHOTO COURTESY MILLER CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL

If Your Child Has Autism, Test For Fragile X


X syndrome. The Fragile X premutation can lead to problems that often aren’t discovered until adulthood. Women with the premutation can have Fragile X-associated Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (FXPOI), causing early menopause (usually before age 40). Around 40 percent of men with the premutation develop Fragile X-associated Tremor/Ataxia Syndrome (FXTAS), which causes balance problems, tremors, memory loss, dementia and symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease. People with the premutation can also have some subtle FXS characteristics such as anxiety, depression, migraine headaches and connective tissue disorders. Parents of children diagnosed with FXS are often dealing with symptoms of their own Fragile X premutation. “When we are treating a child, we generally ask the parents how they are doing. And the mother will often burst into tears,” Feldman says, because she is struggling with depression and anxiety. “We actually end up treating the parents, too.”

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Genetic Counseling Can Help For this reason, the Stramski Center has a genetic counselor on site who talks with families of children with an FXS diagnosis, delving into family history to pinpoint other family members who might need help. For instance, the child’s mother or her sisters might be carriers and plan to have other children, and testing can help determine their risk of passing on the disorder. “Part of our treatment is to demystify the diagnosis,” Feldman says. “The multitude of problems these children have is akin to a bowl of spaghetti, all intertwined and complicated. You have got to basically untease all the issues in order to address each one adequately.” The Stramski Center has staff on site – including behavioral pediatricians, geneticists, psychologists, occupational therapists and social workers – to design the best possible plan for each child and their family. Referrals to other specialists are made as necessary. “Every individual is treated as an individual,” Feldman says. All it takes to diagnose the Fragile X genetic mutation and start the “unteasing” is a simple DNA blood test. But because awareness of Fragile X among pediatricians is still building, getting that diagnosis can sometimes take persistence on the part of parents. Feldman’s message: “If you are concerned about your child’s development in any way, have your child evaluated until you are satisfied that your child has been evaluated appropriately. Parental intuition cannot be discounted.”

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in the know

Watching children born deaf hear everyday sounds, learn to talk, and thrive at school among hearing peers is the most rewarding part of Dr. John Niparko’s career. A father of two sons, Niparko is a leading authority on cochlear implants, electronic devices that stimulate the auditory nerve to help deaf people recognize sounds. These inner-ear implants are a surgical alternative to traditional hearing aids and are used only for those with severe hearing loss or deafness. As the new professor and chair of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, Niparko brings with him a National Institutes of Health-funded study examining the effects of cochlear implantation on language, behavior and societal outcomes in children. The study involves 62 investigators from six universitybased clinical sites and two data coordination centers. More than 200 children enrolled in 2001-2002 have now been followed for more than 10 years. “One of the most important findings we are discovering is how critical parents’ involvement and interaction is to their children’s ability to expand their language skills after surgery,” says Niparko, who comes to Los Angeles from Johns Hopkins University. For children who are born deaf, early placement

PHOTO COURTESY DR. JOHN NIPARKO

Parents As Important As Technology For Kids With Cochlear Implants

Dr. John Niparko examines a young patient with cochlear implants. Parental interaction is key in taking advantage of the technology.

of the implant – as young as 8 or 9 months of age – is important. “They need sound in the first year to stay on schedule with listening and speaking,” Niparko explains. After a children receive implants, they and their parents receive therapy so children can learn to attach meaning to the sounds they’re hearing, and so parents can help expand their child’s language skills. Children whose parents are engaging, nurturing and talk to them a lot have a higher level of language development and are better able to function in the world at large. “Our research is showing us that there are very important environmental factors that influence how much children benefit from the implants, “ says Niparko. “It’s not just about the technology.” – Elena Epstein

Digging for treasure in a sandbox, going on a “space” adventure, flying on tandem swings – these are the hallmarks of Shane’s Inspiration playgrounds. Located throughout Los Angeles, these universally accessible playgrounds create a safe place for kids of all abilities to enjoy outdoor play. The first Shane’s Inspiration playground in the Western United States opened in 1998 in Griffith Park. There are now 32 sensory-rich playgrounds in Los Angeles, each uniquely designed to accommodate children with wheelchairs, leg braces, crutches and other barriers. They also feature sound and visual stimulation for children with hearing or vision loss. Toddler parks designed for ages 5 and younger will open in Howard Finn Park in Sunland, Jaime Beth Slavin Park in North Hollywood, Mason Park in Chatsworth and Ritchie Valens Park in Pacoima this year. In 2014, additional toddler parks will open in Pacoima, Sun Valley and North Hollywood.

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Your Child With Special Needs | 2013

Shane’s Inspiration playgrounds are designed to be universally accessible. Four new toddler parks will open in Southern California this year. “Play provides so many benefits for young children, not only socially, but also for their cognitive and motor-skill development,” says Marnie Norris, director of programs for Shane’s Inspiration. “The toddler parks will give families another option to connect with their community early on.” For a complete list of Shane’s Inspiration playgrounds, see our Resource Guide on page 34. – Elena Epstein

PHOTO COURTESY SHANE’S INSPIRATION

An Inspiring Place To Play


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Horsesand

PHOTO BY WHITNEY MCGOWAN

Healing

Equine Assisted Therapy Offers Promise for Children With a Range of Special Needs By Susan Kelejian

I

t’s a clear, crisp day at Shadow Hills Riding Club. A 12-year old girl, Mary, waits for her instructor to fit her with a helmet. The instructor can see that she obviously doesn’t want to wear it, though she must if she is going to ride the horse. The instructor, Johnny, takes Mary by the hand and leads her to the mounting block, talking to her along the way. He has a calm, low voice as he places her hand on Bella’s back, explaining that this is the horse she’s about to ride. She touches the horse and her focus shifts. She allows Johnny to put on the helmet and he helps her mount. With a person on each side of her and one to lead the horse, Johnny stays close and uses a variety of techniques to keep her engaged. “When Mary was born at 25 weeks, she weighed one-and-a-half pounds, as did her twin brother,” says Lee Ann, Mary’s mom, watching the lesson from a nearby gazebo. “She has never had sight, and has been diagnosed with intellectual disability and displays aggressive behavior.” As the horse is walking, Johnny tells Mary to raise her right hand as he counts. Then he tells her to raise the left. She does. “These activities aren’t just about riding,” Lee Ann 14

Your Child With Special Needs | 2013

says. “What she’s doing now, we incorporate at home, as it’s helped her get dressed in the morning. Equine therapy has given us, as parents, more freedom, and [Mary] feels good about herself, I really believe that.” Next, Mary’s instructors turn her around on the bareback pad to ride backward at a walk. Lee Ann laughs, watching her daughter move enthusiastically with the rhythm of the horse. “When we leave, she has a great rest of the day,” Lee Ann says. “At first we thought this would be recreational, just something to do. We now know that this is something that builds her life skills, and that was clear from the get-go. This gives Mary followthrough and discipline as she gains listening skills and self-confidence and independence. I can see that Johnny doesn’t pacify her, but pushes her to be the best she can be. This is record breaking.”

How Horses Heal Although most “horse people” through the centuries have understood the profound and sometimes unexplained healing that horses have given them in times of need, equine assisted therapies (EAT) have only been recently recognized by the world at large as viable treatments.


Left, at Shadow Hills Riding Club, children with a variety of special needs connect with the healing power of horses.

Horses have an ability to mirror people’s true emotional states, helping them iron out contradictions between their feelings and the way they act. Also, a child riding on a walking horse moves her body along with the horse’s gait, and this motion helps open pathways in the brain that increase thinking skills and calm hyperactive behavior. EAT can help children dealing with a variety of mental, behavioral and emotional issues: ■ ADD ■ Autism spectrum disorders ■ Down syndrome ■ Eating disorders ■ Learning disabilities ■ Abuse or substance abuse in the home ■ Parents who are divorced or divorcing ■ Bullying ■ Grief or loss

Equine facilities have large overheads, due to the costs to maintain their specially trained horses. Paid staffing is often limited, but they can have large numbers of volunteer personnel. Most facilities are nonprofit organizations that rely on charitable contributions from individuals, foundations and grants. Some accept insurance and some do not. Be sure to inquire ahead of time. Typical costs for therapy range from $45-$250 per session, depending on the facility, length of session and type of program the child needs. Be prepared to fill out an assessment form and to provide a note of approval from your child’s physician. And before your child’s first lesson, have a conversation with the instructor about your concerns, your child’s challenges, and your short- and long-term goals for the therapy. Ask if you can audit a class to see the instructors working with other children.

What Happens During Therapy Physically, a horse’s walking gait provides similar movements to a human’s, so working with horses can also help children improve their motor control and leg strength, and help correct problems with core body strength (truncation challenges). Thus, EAT can help children with physical challenges as well: ■ Cerebral palsy ■ Paralysis – either partial or paraplegic ■ Down Syndrome ■ Spina bifida ■ Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Finding a Program Virtually anyone can claim to be a horse trainer or riding instructor, and many do. It is important for parents to do their homework regarding instructors and facilities. Make sure instructors in programs you are considering have the necessary certifications, and that the facility meets industry standards. There are two major international bodies that set standards in the U.S. for equine therapies. These are PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship, www.pathintl.org) and EAGALA (Equine Assisted Growth And Learning Association, www.eagala.org). Both organizations certify instructors, and PATH has also created standards for facilities. A major difference between the two organizations is that EAGALA uses horses as a “tool” for therapeutic purposes, and exercises in EAGALA facilities are “on the ground” only. PATH facilities also offer “astride” therapies, where children ride the horses.

There is really no such thing as a “typical” equine therapy session, because each class is designed to meet the unique needs of the individual. Instructors create specific plans to help children meet the physical, mental and emotional challenges they face. There may be an occupational therapist, physical therapist, or other health professional in attendance for your child’s development during a session. Children coming to Shadow Hills Riding Club first get to meet their horse partner by grooming, learning to lead and petting. They identify colors, sounds, textures, and learn new skills. Other ground activities can involve working closely with the horse in a small pen, getting the horse over physical obstacles, “joining up” exercises to teach trust and partnership between horse and human, saddling and bridling, or exercises in the arena with horses at liberty. When riding – with a certified instructor, two side walkers (for safety) and a person leading the horse – students can learn basic controls for riding, strengthen specific muscles with isolation exercises, improve strength and balance, and bond with the animal. By placing rings on poles, turning through and/ or over obstacles, and identifying items in the arena or out on the trail, they strengthen their hand-eye coordination, verbal and cognitive skills and physical strength, and improve their behavior. EAT instructors have to be creative and flexible. To help change things up for a child who is high functioning on the autism spectrum and gets bored easily, Johnny asked her to design and build her own obstacle course on foot and then get on her horse and ride it. 2013 | LAParent.com

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This made her feel empowered, and it was easier for her to remember the course when she built it. On the other hand, some clients (teenagers in recovery, for example) need specific boundaries and rules. Equine therapy empowers them, gives them a feeling of self-sufficiency, and broadens their desire to learn, ask questions, feel more trusting with authority figures, and take risks. In one group exercise, there are four horses loose in the ring. Students are instructed to pair up with another person, catch a horse without touching it and bring it inside a specific area in the arena. The partners can use anything inside the arena to help them move the horse. As they work, each team observes how others navigate the horse, and what “tools” they find (a stick, a pole, a rope, etc.) in order to complete the task. After the activity, there is group feedback (at least one mental health professional and an equine professional are always present) and students often marvel at how a task they thought at first was impossible became doable. We stress that the process is the most important part of the exercise, and to let go of the outcome. Students leave with a sense of accomplishment, having used cognitive skills, critical thinking, trust and communication skills, and overcome personal fears. The results of all of these exercises carry far beyond

the riding arena. “I was trying to think of a way for [my daughter] to foster her love for animals and give her something to focus on that would give her life skills,” says Annaji Sailer, parent of a student at Shadow Hills. “Her sense of self-worth has skyrocketed, and it’s been a really big thing. It shows in her school work, it shows in her relationships with friends, home life – it’s given her an outlet for her passion.” Though there may be a limited amount of clinical evidence for the effectiveness of equine therapy, more and more studies are being conducted. You can find links to existing research and information about planned studies through the Horses & Humans Research Foundation, www.horsesandhumans.org. Horses have provided us with extraordinary gifts of courage, partnership, patience and love. They offer themselves in a way that can allow our spirits to soar. They see no difference between a child who cannot walk and a child who can. Equine assisted therapies heal not only the children, but all of us who are privileged to be a part of this magical world. ■ Susan Kelejian is a PATH-certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor, Equine Specialist, Mental Health Therapist and Operations Manager at Shadow Hills Riding Club, a program located at the Shadow Hills Equestrian Center owned and operated by Johnny Higginson, Advanced PATH certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor and Program Manager.

Resources ■ Denim ‘n Dirt EAGL, Santa Clarita; 626-792-8922, ext 15; www.denimndirt.com. ■ Dream Catcher of L.A. Therapeutic Riding Centers, Marina Del Rey; 310-350-1311; www.dreamcatcherla.com. ■ Equine Destinations, Simi Valley; 805-235-5959; kstar2003@hotmail.com. ■ EquiTherapy, Valley Village; 818-231-0707; www.EquiTherapy.US. ■ Kathy J. MacLeay, Ph.D., Sylmar; 818-825-3908. ■ Move A Child Higher/MACH 1, Pasadena; 626-7981222; www.moveachildhigher.org. ■ New “Heaven On Earth” Ranch, Lake View Terrace; 818-890-6844; lamikec@yahoo.com. ■ Queen Of Hearts Therapeutic Riding Center, Jurupa Valley; www.queenofheartsranch.com. ■ Ride On LA, 10860 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Chatsworth; 818-700-2971; www.rideon.org. ■ Ride to Fly, Palos Verdes; 310-541-4201; www.ridetofly.com.

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Your Child With Special Needs | 2013

■ Ride with Pride Therapeutic Horsemanship, Inc., Chatsworth; 818-516-0302; www.ridewithprideth.org. ■ Shadow Hills Riding Club, Shadow Hills; 818-3522166; www.shadowhillsridingclub.org. ■ Special Equestrian Riding Therapy, Moorpark; 818776-6476; www.SERT.org. ■ Special Spirit Inc., Shadow Hills; 323-428-5005; www.specialspirit.org. ■ SRD - Straightening Reins, Santa Clarita; www.srdstraighteningreins.org. ■ Stand InBalance, Malibu Canyon; 818-714-1740; www.inbalancewithhorses.com. ■ Still Standing, L.A.; 310-281-7375; www.stillstanding.us. ■ The Reflective Horse, L.A.; 310-880-7384; www.thereflectivehorse.com. ■ Dr. Laura Trask, L.A.; 310-452-2890; www.drlauratrask.com.


AUTISM SERVICE DOGS Why an Autism service dog? With the ever-growing number of children diagnosed with autism comes a need for well-trained "Certified Autism Service Dogs". We at Tackett Service Dogs have witnessed how these dogs can be calming to children with autism and help to minimize the tendency toward "outbursts" and "running away". A “CERTIFIED AUTISM SERVICE DOG” CAN PROVIDE THE FOLLOWING: • Increase safety and helps alleviate the bolting behavior common in children with autism • Improve a child’s socialization and behavior skills • Create freedoms for the child and family members to go out of the house safely and confidently • Expand a child’s capabilities to experience more of life and flourish • Calming children thereby giving them an increased attention span and a greater aptitude for learning For more information, please contact us

714-608-1077 • www.tackettservicedogs.com SHADOW HILLS RIDING CLUB

THERAPEUTIC

HORSEMANSHIP

AHEAD With Horses Inc is a non-profit Developmental Therapeutic Vaulting Program that specializes in working with children 12 & under who have multiple and severe disabilities, including autism.

AWH has an over 40-year history of providing unique, highly motivating and effective therapy, education and recreation through horses and related experiences to disabled/disadvantaged/special-needs children and has earned recognition educationally, medically and scientifically. Through vaulting (gymnastics on a moving horse), even severely disabled children learn and achieve.

Shadow Hills Riding Club offers: • Therapeutic Riding • Equine-Assisted Activities and Therapies • Summer Camps • Children’s’ Parties • Horsemanship Classes 10263 La Canada Way Shadow Hills, CA. 91040

info@shadowhillsridingclub.org • 818-352-2166 Shadow Hills Riding Club (SHRC) is a P.A.T.H. Int’l Premier Accredited Riding Program.

• WWW.SHADOWHILLSRIDINGCLUB.ORG •

10157 Johanna Ave., Shadow Hills, CA, 91040 (818) 767 – 6373 phone (818) 767 – 6231 fax Locations in: Shadow Hills & Brentwood

www.AWHLA.org 2013 | LAParent.com

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PHOTO BY STACEY WEBB, SCOUT PHOTOGRAPHY

PHOTO COURTESY TACKETT SERVICE DOGS

Canine

Companions Service Dogs Make Life Easier for Special-Needs Families By Christina Elston

C

ole Massie was 11, and surgeons had just finished making many tiny cuts to the tendons in his legs to help his muscles – tightened by cerebral palsy – stretch and lengthen. He woke up in the recovery room in tremendous pain. “He was just screaming,” says Cole’s mom, Michelle. Busy trying to comfort her son, she completely forgot there was someone else in the room with them: Cole’s dog, Ilia. Michelle finally heard Ilia whimpering in the corner and called him over to Cole’s bed. “He darted in and put his two paws up on the bed and started licking Cole like crazy,” she says. “And Cole totally calmed down.” He was still in pain, but the distraction was enough to make it more manageable. While most four-legged friends can be a comfort, Ilia is no ordinary dog. He is a “canine companion” and one of thousands of dogs in the U.S. specially trained to make life easier for humans.

A Doggone Big Help Katie Malatino, spokesperson for the southwest regional branch of Canine Companions for Independence (CCI, www.cci.org) – the organization that trained Ilia – says their typical client has limited mobility due to things like cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy. But they also train dogs for children with hearing impairments, developmental disabilities 18

Your Child With Special Needs | 2013

Left, Matt, who has autism, met his pal Romeo through Tackett Service Dogs. Right, Vico Giammatteo and his mom, Moira, feel like “ambassadors for autism” thanks to Vico’s dog, Navarro.

such as autism and Down syndrome, and conditions like Fragile X syndrome and the immune disorder Guillain-Barre syndrome. Dogs can also be trained to assist teachers, doctors, therapists and others who work with children with special needs. Though they can’t man the leash or give commands solo until they are much older, children can begin working with service dogs as early as age 5. Moira Giammatteo was originally just looking for a pet for her son, Vico, who is 16 and has autism. When she first learned about CCI, she was concerned about taking a dog who could be matched with someone with greater needs, maybe someone in a wheelchair who needed a dog to open doors or pick things up. “But then I realized Canine Companions was really training these dogs specifically to be companion dogs,” says Giammatteo, whose family was matched with their dog, Navarro, in 2010. Vico, like many children with autism, is prone to repetitive movements called “stimming,” which help them manage anxiety, anger and other emotions. Vico’s stimming often took the form of rapid-fire


PHOTO COURTESY CANINE COMPANIONS FOR INDEPENDENCE

years to complete and involves pats delivered to the backs interviews, home visits and a and shoulders of family doctor’s referral, and then two and friends – until Navarro weeks of live-on-site training at came along. “Frankly, it was their facility in Oceanside. The annoying. But all of that waiting list at Dogs For the behavior transferred to the Deaf is eight to 18 months, foldog, and the dog loves it, and lowed by a week of in-person, it’s stopped completely with in-home training for the family humans,” Giammatteo says. For Cole, now 15, who uses and dog, and then regular a wheelchair and sometimes follow-up reports once the dog walks with the aid of a walker, is placed. Tackett has regular, Ilia can pick up dropped items, in-person sessions with dogs pull open the refrigerator, and and clients at his facility for put cash up on the counter six months to a year or more Cole Massie and his dog Ilia have been together since Cole was in first grade. in the store. And he has been before sending a dog home there for surgeries, difficult permanently with a family. The training process for the dogs also varies, physical therapy sessions, blood draws and other tough though most organizations have their pups raised by procedures. volunteers for the first 18 months before formal trainService dogs also help children connect socially. ing begins. Dogs that pass muster are matched with When Giammatteo and Vico go out, she holds Navarro’s leash and Vico holds a special leash attached qualifying families. The breed of dog often depends on the needs of to Navarro’s vest. “We are now kind of ambassadors for autism,” she says. “Vico loves introducing people to your child and the organization providing the dog. Dogs For the Deaf rescues all of its dogs from shelters, his dog, and that’s been huge for him.” Navarro, with and trains and places all breeds. CCI breeds its own his service-dog vest, also helps clue people in to Vico’s labs, golden retrievers, and crosses of the two. Tackett otherwise-invisible condition. “It softens people,” says trains dogs of all breeds, but prefers Labradoodles for Giammatteo. “I feel like he just brings a smile.” Tom Tackett, who owns and operates children with autism. Tackett Service Dogs in Orange County A Friend For Life (www.TackettServiceDogs.com), says that dogs can Well trained as these dogs might be, they are still help calm and settle children with autism, and also a big responsibility. “They’re still dogs,” Giammatteo bring them out of their shell. He recently helped a says “We have to make sure the bathroom door is couple introduce their 5-year-old, who has autism closed because Navarro will go through the garbage.” and refuses kisses and hugs, to a dog named Wally. Robin Dickson, president and CEO of Dogs For the “He kissed Wally the first day,” Tackett says. “Dogs Deaf, advises doing your homework and making sure the break the ice real quick.” trainer or organization providing your dog has proper How Much Is That Doggie? accreditation. And don’t even consider a dog unless you The price tag for all of this help and love is not like them and are willing to care for one. “It’s a lot of work,” what you might expect. While it costs tens of thouDickson says. “Does it pay off in the end? You bet!” sands of dollars to raise and train service dogs, CCI Still, you don’t need any dog-training experience provides dogs to qualified applicants free of charge. to bring a service dog into your home. “Don’t be Dogs For the Deaf (www.DogsForTheDeaf.org), afraid of it,” says Massie. “These dogs are so brilliantly which is based in Oregon but also places dogs in trained that it’s not as hard and complicated as you California for the hearing impaired and children with might think.” autism, charges nothing more than a $50 application Also, be prepared for your new dog to be way more fee. Tackett is in the process of setting up a foundathan just a pet, says Giammatteo. “Navarro ended up tion to raise funds so that he can provide dogs free of being this amazing member of our family who has charge as well. brought a lot of other people into our lives.” ■ But do plan to invest some time. The application Christina Elston is editor of L.A. Parent. and training process at CCI takes six months to two 2013 | LAParent.com

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Special

Books Kids for

Special

Share insight and start conversations with these great reads

By Ronna Mandel

I

f you have a child with special needs in your life, one thing you probably work hard on is educating – educating yourself about your child’s particular needs, educating your child about their differences and special abilities, and educating others about how important it is to be tolerant, inclusive and respectful. The books highlighted here can serve as important starting points for conversations. Parents of children with ADHD may recognize their own child in Kevin of Kevin Keeps Up (Holiday House, ages 7-10) by Ann Whitehead Nagda. Kevin, a likeable elementary school-aged lad, is distracted as his classmates are ready to research African mammals for a project at the school library. With characters including a compassionate teacher, librarian, and PE instructor, and a less-understanding substitute teacher, the book offers a strong sense of the daily frustrations a student with ADHD experiences. Kevin’s alarm at being seated up front, his inability to follow instructions or complete work on time, and his fidgeting

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Your Child With Special Needs | 2013

or blurting out will make Kevin feel like a kindred spirit to kids with ADHD. The keen sense of humor woven throughout the book – and Kevin’s pet snake Striker and the school cat Munchkin – will keep even reluctant readers engaged! There are many marvelous children’s books dealing with Autism Spectrum Disorders, so I’m Here (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, ages 4-8) written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds is in good company. Feelings of being alone, disconnected or just different are perfectly captured in this simpleyet-compelling picture book with heartwarming artwork. While other kids are off playing together and making lots of noise during recess, a nameless young boy sits apart from his peers. He has learned to entertain himself with his vivid imagination, but it’s a stray piece of white paper he folds into a perfect paper airplane – and the little girl who returns it from its flight across the sandy lot – that brings the promise of friendship. “She brings it to me. My airplane! Friends. ‘I’m here,’ says the plane. ‘I’m here,’ says the girl’s smile.”


The intro to Nathan’s Wish: A Story About Cerebral Palsy (Albert Whitman & Co., ages 6-9) by Laurie Lears with illustrations by Stacey Shuett explains cerebral palsy – including the fact that more than 50 percent of children with CP have no impairment in their thinking or learning. Nathan, the main character, walks with the help of a walker and attends a public school. He is friends with his neighbor, Miss Sandy, who helps rehabilitate injured owls and other birds of prey. The story focuses on a screech owl who Nathan names “Fire” and who has a broken wing. When Nathan and Miss Sandy realize that Fire will never heal completely enough to fly, Nathan identifies with the frustrated bird. “I know just how it feels to wish for something that can’t come true,” he says. An especial strength of this story, told in Nathan’s own words, is its ability to make us care about Nathan and get inside his head. Nathan’s determination to help Fire feel useful and fulfilled leads him to research. And, with Miss Sandy’s aid, they put a plan into action that helps Fire’s spirit – and Nathan’s – soar. Looking Out For Sarah (Charlesbridge, ages 5-9), words and pictures by Glenna Lang, resonated with me because my friend Deborah, like this story’s main human character, lost her eyesight to diabetes as an adult. Sarah’s guide dog is an extraordinarily welldisciplined black Labrador retriever named Perry who was trained as a puppy to be a guide dog for the blind. Your child will marvel at Perry’s skills and admire his devotion to Sarah. Based on an actual dog and his owner, Sarah Gregory Smith, this picture book has boldcolored, almost collage-like gouache artwork that reflects the same “can do” attitude

apparent in Sarah’s and Perry’s day-to-day activities. With Perry’s assistance, Sarah safely navigates her neighborhood. Her faithful companion’s also in tow when she visits schools to share her experience of blindness. This feel-good story demonstrates how many things a blind individual is capable of doing. Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy (Lee & Low Books, ages 6-11), by Bill Wise with illustrations by Adam Gustavson, takes us back to the late 1880s when William Hoy played center field for the Washington Nationals. His spectacular skills made him the first player ever to throw out three runners at home plate in one game! Hoy lost his hearing after contracting meningitis at age 3. As a young boy, Hoy couldn’t understand why many people couldn’t accept him for who he was, and it wasn’t until he attended Ohio School for the Deaf that he finally fit in. There, his experience playing on the school team nurtured his dream of becoming a professional ball player. Meanwhile, his father was pushing him to become a shoemaker, a trade common amongst the deaf. Hoy took pride in his work but still harbored a passion for baseball, playing with the locals whenever time permitted. During an impromptu game, Hoy was recruited by an amateur team and went on to have a distinguished baseball career. I Can, Can You? (Woodbine House, ages birth-4), written and photographed by Marjorie W. Pitzer, is a cheerful board book featuring more than a dozen children with Down syndrome enjoying daily activities. There are little ones playing patty-cake, taking a bath, learning sign language, playing ball and 2013 | LAParent.com

21


happily discovering the world. The question “Can you?” with each action photo will pull youngsters right in along with you, encouraging interactive play and loads of smiles.

Vista School Specialized Private School

A therapeutic learning environment for children and adolescents with emotional, behavioral and learning challenges RESOURCES AND PROGRAMS ™Speech / OT therapy ™3:1 staff/student environment ™Sports program ™Arts & Theater ™Behavioral specialist ™Vocational support services ™Independent living skills ™Individual and family therapy at the Vista Clinic ™WASC-accredited FOR MORE INFO ABOUT VISTA SCHOOL AND OTHER SERVICES OFFERED geninfo@vistadelmar.org 310-836-1223 x571 www.vistadelmar.org 22

Your Child With Special Needs | 2013

Becky The Brave (Albert Whitman & Co., ages 6-9), by Laurie Lears, illustrated by Gail Piazza, is an inspiring book for children with epilepsy. Many, like my friend’s daughter, Addie, hold onto the book well into their teenage years. “What I most like about the book is that Becky wasn’t afraid of anything,” says Addie. “She never gave up on herself. That’s the way I am, too, because I never gave up on myself even when my epilepsy was so severe. I kept on trying to learn to speak, read and write. And now, after a lot of work, I can do them all.” Becky, a plucky young girl who can face most anything except the thought of having a seizure in class, does not want to return to school once she actually has one. Her loving sister finds the strength to help her. Back to Front and Upside Down! (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, ages 4-7), written and illustrated by Claire Alexander, is a gentle and assuring introduction to dyslexia and dysgraphia. Young Stan the dog and his classmates are asked to write birthday cards for the school principal, but as the illustrations aptly show, Stan struggles with the task. “His letters came out back to front and upside down and some didn’t look like letters at all!” With minutes quickly passing, Stan contemplates how embarrassing it would be to ask for help. But after encouragement from a friend, Stan talks to his teacher, Miss Catnip, and gets the help he needs. Visit LAParent.com for an extended special-needs reading list. ■ Ronna Mandel is the mother of two children. Find more reviews of children’s books, plus contests, on the “Good Reads With Ronna” blog at LAParent.com, and on Twitter @goodreadsronna.


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Vista Hills is a top choice, offering programs, resources and a staff that encourage social and educational success. Equine Assisted Growth & Learning (EAGL) and Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) are excellent therapies for:

ADHD • Anxiety Depression • Parenting Support Individual, Couples and Family Therapy For information call 626-792-8922 x 15

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www.starradvocacy.com • StarrTaxman@gmail.com 2013 | LAParent.com

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Toys As Tools Play Is a Super Skill Builder – And An Easy Sell For Kids

By Ellen Metrick

P

arents are busy, and parents of children with special needs often feel like they have even more to juggle in their lives than other parents do. One of the things that tends to get little priority in the parental juggle is play, and that is unfortunate because it holds such incredible potential to improve the lives of all kids. Research has verified this, and educational and academic scholars and health organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics are promoting the play experience as an essential element of childhood. So parents, rejoice! Unlike other things that are good for your children – green vegetables, dental hygiene and early bedtimes – this one is an easy sell. The innovative, imaginative and entertaining new toys available now make play as appealing to children as a spoonful of sugar, only this fuel is really, really good for them! Toys are the tools children use to improve their skills and to push them into new levels of accomplishment. Children with special needs should be connected to toys that they can access and be successful with, and that can help them work on skills they need to develop. Having just come back from Toy Fair 2013, we were amazed at what creative offerings toy manufacturers have to offer kids of all abilities. Here are some highlights:

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Your Child With Special Needs | 2013

My Horse Scooter

Toys That Develop Physical Skills ■ My Horse Scooter ($259.99-$499.99, www.myhorsescooter.com) by Magic Prince Toy Company is appropriately named because kids straddle the saddle and use their muscles to scoot around and get as close to a real horseback riding experience as a toy can give. Scooters are a great way to encourage physical activity and build core strength while galloping into the sunset. Giddy up! ■ Beamz (from $149.95, www.thebeamz.com) has re-invented music making with lasers and hand movements. The many ways to play this device coupled with the many modes of music it offers make this a true 21st century instrument. The beauty of this experience is that any way the laser beams are interrupted – with any body part – creates music. No presBeamz sure, no grasp, no refined movements necessary. ■ Augmented reality products like the Fisher Price Little People Apptivity Barnyard (www.fisher-price.com), where your own iPad becomes the farm complete with mud puddles for pigs and tire tracks from tractors; and WowWee’s ArtSee Studio ($39.99, www.artseestudio.com),


where children can create art masterpieces without the need for pressure or grasp, are two great examples of how apps and tablets are incorporated into play. ■ AbleNet has products especially designed for children who have special needs. The All-Turn-It Spinner ($119, www.enablemart.com/all-turn-itspinner) puts the control of a board game into the hands of a child who has physical limitations. ■ The PowerLink 4 Control Unit ($234, available through www.especialneeds.com) can get kids participating in such activities as making their own smoothies with a blender plugged into the unit, or powering on and off a light at bedtime.

Toys That Develop Cognitive Skills ■ Hello Sunshine ($19.99, www.thinkfun.com)

by ThinkFun helps even the youngest kids learn directional words through play by making a game out of finding the plush Sunshine “under the chair” or “behind my back.” This helps solidify the meaning of the words Hello Sunshine because they are taught in a tangible, fun way. ■ Safety Buddy ($29.99, www.safetybuddy.net)by MNM Creations, LLC, is an interactive plush bear that teaches and reinforces fire and stranger safety lessons. Kids learn best through repetition, and by playing with Safety Buddy, they hear and can then recall the messages when and if they need them.

Safety Buddy

■ NogginStik ($22.99, www.SmartNogginToys.com) by SmartNoggin Toys is a rattle-like developmental toy that uses lights, sounds and textures to stimulate visual tracking, grasping and other skills, and help children reach developmental milestones starting in infancy.

Toys That Build Communication Skills ■ Learning Resources offers a set of five Talk Blocks ($72.99, www.learningresources.com). These small, recordable blocks play up to 30 seconds of sound, and have a removable, clear top so you can insert your own pictures. This is a great augmentative communication tool and can be used to practice and play back words, say good-morning to a teacher or request help. Uses are only limited by your imagination.

Talk Blocks

■ Time Tracker ($39.99, www.learningresources.com), also by Learning Resources, is a perfect tool for children who have difficulty transitioning from one activity to another. Stop light colors of green, yellow and red give children a visual cue when one activity is winding down. Sound effects can accompany the lights to further reinforce the ending time. ■ Boogie Board LCD eWriter ($30 and up, www.improvelectronics.com) by Improv Electonics is a technologically advanced magic slate board. But instead of pulling up on the clear cover to erase, an easy button clears your screen for another Time Tracker message, a new drawing or the next equation. This is 2013 | LAParent.com

25


perfect for children who have difficulty verbally saying what they want, but have the need to communicate.

Toys That Help With Sensory Issues ■ Small fidget toys are great for kids who have attention or sensory processing difficulties. They keep hands busy and minds focused. Squinkies ($3.99 and up, www.squinkies.com) by Boogie Board LCD eWriter Blip Toys and The Trash Pack ($1.99 and up, www.trashpack.com) by Moose Toys are small and rubbery so kids can fidget without distracting those around them. Tangles ($12.48 and up, www.tangletoys.com) by Tangle Creations are smooth or textured hard plastic twisty connected segments that provide endless finger frolicking. ■ Playaway Toy Company provides Rainy Day Indoor Playground doorway swings ($39.95, www.playawaytoy.com) to help children self-soothe and get the balance and motion input their bodies crave. Different accessory swings range from the all-encompassing net swing that cocoons a kid in comfort to other versions that can transform a simple doorway into a kid’s play park. ■ Scented Ice Cream Cones by Begin Again ($30, www.beginagaintoys.com) put the air of an ice cream parlor into play with aromas of chocolate-, vanilla- and strawberry-scented scoops. This olfactory addition mingles with the look and feel of the cones to invite imagination to merge with the realities of play.

Toys That Build Social and Emotional Skills ■ My Mood Memo (approximately $30, www.plantoys.com) by Plan Toys is a set of 24 wooden discs with 12 facial expressions to help children identify and match emotions that can open the door to awareness of their own and others’ emotions and the language surrounding feelings. This is a wonderful resource for children who are on the autism spectrum. ■ Kimochis ($2.99 and up, www.kimochis.com) by Plushy Feely Corp is a system for learning about how to understand, relate and respond to emotions using plush characters and feelings pillows. With their feelings guide, Kimochis is the perfect pack to help kids jump-start their emotional development.

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Your Child With Special Needs | 2013

Kimochis ■ Hasbro’s Furreal Friends Cuddles, My Giggly

Monkey (www.furrealfriends.hasbro.com) is the pet, playmate and companion you always wished for! Interactive, with more than 100 sounds and phrases, she responds to a child’s care and touch. If she’s ignored, she will vie for attention, teaching children about awareness of others’ needs and supporting and nurturing a friend. So, parents, put more play into the daily recommended diet for your children. It is fun, enriching, and worthwhile. Join in the fun to make it a family experience that can help everyone relax, relate and reap the benefits together.

Where To Turn To For Help Several online resources offer information on toys and play for children with special needs. ■ www.ableplay.org provides ratings and reviews of many products that include skill development, play and adaptation ideas. ■ www.lekotek.org has specific informational packets for different types of play and different types of special needs. ■ www.friendshipcircle.org/apps whittles down the thousands of apps on the market to provide a concise list, organized by categories that can be helpful for children with special needs. ■ www.learningresources.com has a “Special Needs” tab on their website indicating products they carry that have benefits for children of varying abilities. ■ www.fatbraintoys.com enables consumers to shop by skill. ■ www.melissaanddoug.com enables consumers to shop by skill. ■ www.toysrus.com/differentlyabled is a guide to products that have been evaluated and have beneficial qualities for kids with special needs. ■ www.bellybumboutique.com has a separate section called “Sensory Kids” with products that reinforce learning and processing the different senses. ■ Ellen Metrick is Director of Industry Relations and Partnerships for the nonprofit National Lekotek Center, a leading authority on toys and play for children with disabilities. Lekotek is dedicated to providing children of all abilities access to the benefits of play experiences. Visit them at www.ableplay.org, and find them on Facebook for the latest updates!


If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s development, contact Lanterman, or the regional center that serves your area of residence, to learn more and set up an appointment to have your child assessed free of cost.

Lanterman coordinates prevention and early intervention services and supports for eligible young children birth to 3 with developmental concerns, delays or disabilities and their families. The Center also provides lifelong services and supports from the school-age years through adulthood, including service coordination, individual service planning, education-related advocacy, and training. Lanterman’s Koch♦Young Resource Center has a large special needs library collection, toy lending and play program for eligible children, support groups, and offers information and referral.

Lanterman serves the following areas: Central Los Angeles, Hollywood-Wilshire, Glendale, Burbank, La Cañada and Pasadena. To find out exactly which of the seven regional centers in Los Angeles County would serve your family, visit www.dds.ca.gov/RC/RCzipLookup.cfm.

FRANK D. LANTERMAN REGIONAL CENTER 3303 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 700, Los Angeles, CA 90010 ♦ 213.383.1300 ♦ kyrc@lanterman.org ♦ www.lanterman.org

BEVERLY HILLS SPEECH & LANGUAGE CENTER

CHILDREN

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27


Advocating

ForYour

Child

at School Be Polite, Know Your Rights, and Don’t Give Up the Fight By Kim Karelis

S

chool districts sometimes treat parents who vigorously advocate for their special-needs children differently than parents who simply go along with what the school district proposes at the individualized education program (IEP) team meeting. As a parent of two children with special needs, I have witnessed such treatment firsthand. When my children were very young, my wife and I objected to many of the school district’s proposals for them because it appeared that the district was skimping on services that independent consultants believed were essential for the development of children with autism. The assistant principal’s attitude seemed to be “take it or leave it.” She ignored our input and we were forced to repeatedly file legal claims to obtain the services we believed our children needed. The tone of these meetings remained civil, possibly because my wife and I are both attorneys and we were tape recording the meetings. However, as an attorney representing other special-needs students, I have heard stories of assistant principals telling parents things would not go well if they disagreed with the IEP offer. Such attempts at intimidation predictably happen when the parents are not legally knowledgeable. Some districts threaten to withhold services from a child unless the parents agree with the district’s proposal. In one case, children whose parents agreed with the district were given candy, while children whose parents disagreed with the district were not. Preparing thoroughly for the IEP team 28

Your Child With Special Needs | 2013

meeting and taking a few simple actions can disarm administrators who might be tempted to become overbearing. Well before the IEP team meeting, inform the district in writing that you intend to tape record the meeting. This alerts meeting participants that they will be “on the record,” which is a very strong motivator to keep the conversation civil and to follow the law. Request, in writing, copies of all school district assessments of your child, and provide all non-district assessments to the IEP chairperson so they can be adequately considered. Finally, ask that the district provide you with a “draft” copy of the IEP document the day before the meeting. These documents may later be evidence that the district actually decided on a “take it or leave it” proposal before the “team” meeting, which is a violation of federal law that requires team cooperation. At the meeting, be courteous, but don’t stand for any disrespect. This means making your best effort to maintain self-control in an emotionally charged situation involving your vulnerable child. Even if you feel the district is trying to intimidate you, maintain the “high ground” by disagreeing politely yet firmly with the district’s position and asserting your own views. Remember that the meeting is an opportunity for all members of the team to discuss the child’s proposed program, and each member is entitled to be heard and to have his or her opinions given due consideration. Again, having a tape recorder running goes a long way toward discouraging inappropriate behavior.


At the conclusion of the meeting, inform the IEP chairperson that you need a few days to consider what is being proposed in the IEP document. This is a complicated, legally binding document, so don’t be rushed into agreeing to its provisions “on the spot.” Read the IEP document carefully at home and consider whether its proposals are right for your child. Don’t hesitate to contact other independent consultants for a second opinion if you are unsure of whether or not to agree. Keep in mind that the IEP team meeting is just the first step in determining the help that your child will receive. If you disagree with the district’s proposals, consult with a special-education attorney to find out whether you should file a due process complaint. Some attorneys provide consultations and legal representation at little or no cost, so fear of the high cost of legal services should not prevent you from seeking what your child needs. Even if the district believes you are overly litigious, it has an obligation to follow the law. In a case last year where a school district relied on an obsolete IEP document for a special-needs student because they said that repeated legal complaints filed by the parents made developing an updated version impossible, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the parents. The court held that school districts must update a student’s IEP at least once a year, whether or not the parents cooperate. Do be aware, however, that federal law does not require school districts to provide “state-of-the-art” services. So the best plan is to cooperate with the school district during the IEP process and attempt to resolve differences cooperatively. And if you find yourself in a standoff, do not hesitate to confer with a special-education attorney to see if there are legal grounds to file a due process complaint. ■ Kim Karelis is a partner in the Los Angeles office of Ropers, Majeski, Kohn & Bentley APC, where his focus is special education law, attorney fee dispute matters, and insurance coverage. He has two special-needs children in elementary school. Find him online at www.rmkb.com.

IEP Meetings: 10 Tips for Parents By Carolina Watts, Mandy Favaloro and Jane DuBovy

1. If you need help, ask for it. IEP meetings can be overwhelming, even for parents who have been through them before. Don’t be shy about bringing someone along. It doesn’t have to be an attorney or advocate. A friend or family member can provide an extra set of ears and support.

2. Learn the lingo. The world of special education is filled with its own acronyms and terms. Do some research ahead of time about common terminology so you understand the discussions.

3. Keep and organize all your documents. Bring the most recent ones with you to meetings so that you have access to information about your child’s needs.

4. Learn to share. While your instinct may be to keep private reports and assessments to yourself, giving the information to the school district – which triggers their obligation to consider it in developing the IEP – is the best practice.

5. Kill them with kindness. Strive to be “nice” in meetings. Be “assertive” without being “aggressive.”

6. Be the squeaky wheel. If you want an independent evaluation, ask for it. If your child isn’t making progress, request an IEP. A school is much more likely to address your concerns if you share them on a regular basis.

7. Don’t over rely on technicalities. The law is filled with procedural rights that are meant to protect parents and children. You should use them to your advantage when needed, but if you get caught up in legal technicalities you could lose focus on the big picture – what your child needs to make educational progress.

8. Use the right language. Always remember that you don’t want “the best,” you want “what is appropriate.” Whenever a parent says “best” at an IEP, the district is immediately going to counter, talking about the “basic floor of opportunity.” Stay focused on what is appropriate, and you will diminish their ability to steer the conversation toward lowering expectations for your child.

9. Never sign anything without reading it completely. Just because something was said in the meeting, doesn’t mean it is recorded in the IEP document. Read, reread, then have someone else read it before signing it.

10. When in doubt, write it out. Take notes during IEP meetings. Write out your concerns after meetings, and send a follow-up letter to be attached to the IEP document to preserve your concerns and disagreements. Education Advocate Carolina Watts, Attorney Mandy Favaloro and Attorney Jane DuBovy work with A2Z Educational Advocates, a team of attorneys and advocates who represent students with disabilities and their families throughout Southern California.

2013 | LAParent.com

29


For

Your

Building the right connections can make all the difference in your child’s development

30

Your Child With Special Needs | 2013


By Linda Boulton

I

f your child has special needs, there are services available to help build her or his social, emotional and learning skills and chart the course for a better future. But the system can be fragmented. Learning to navigate health care services, school systems and regional centers can be daunting, but so necessary. One great place to start is to connect with others who understand what you are going through. “As a parent, getting involved in your community and building networks is key to accessing services, staying on top of changes to special-education law, and creating a source of much-needed support,” says Victoria Berrey, program manager of the Family Focus Resource & Empowerment Center at CSU Northridge. “Family Focus Resource Center’s core mission is all about parents helping other parents – building those relationships and creating positive outcomes for the child,” Berrey says.

What Is a Disability? The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) – the nation’s special education law – lists 14 different categories of disability. ■ Autism – symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder ■ Deaf-blindness – concurrent hearing and visual impairments ■ Deafness – a hearing impairment that prevents a child from processing linguistic information through hearing ■ Developmental delay – a delay in physical, cognitive, communicative, social or emotional, or behavioral development ■ Emotional disturbance – unexplained inability to learn, maintain interpersonal relationships, or behave appropriately ■ Hearing impairment – an impairment in hearing that affects a child’s educational performance ■ Intellectual disability – intellectual functioning that is significantly below average ■ Multiple disabilities – simultaneous impairments ■ Orthopedic impairment – a physical impairment that affects a child’s educational performance ■ Other health impairment – limitations in strength, vitality or alertness that affect a child’s educational performance ■ Specific learning disability – a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written ■ Speech or language impairment – stuttering, articulation problems, or a voice or language impairment

■ Traumatic brain injury – a physical injury resulting in total or partial functional disability or psychosocial impairment ■ Visual impairment, including blindness

Under IDEA, every child with a disability under the age of 21 is entitled to a “free, appropriate public education” (FAPE) in the “least restrictive environment” (LRE). The National Dissemination Center for Children With Disabilities website at www.nichcy.org is a wealth of information on specific disability terms and special-education law. Another good resource for parents is the Wrightslaw: Special Education Law Expert website at www.wrightslaw.com. IDEA’s terms and definitions guide how each state defines disability and who is eligible for a services.

Access to Services Where do you go to access those services? And what types are available? If your child is 3 years old or younger, you’re looking for early-intervention services, which are in place to identify and treat developmental problems as early as possible. This sets the stage for positive outcomes and growth specific to the unique needs of your child. Numerous studies show that children’s earliest experiences play a critical role in brain development. High-quality early-intervention services can change a child’s developmental trajectory and improve outcomes for children, families and communities. For school-aged children with disabilities, specialeducation and related services can be an important piece in addressing their educational needs. In California, both types of services are accessible through the California Department of Developmental Services (DDS) and the Regional Centers. The DDS is responsible for creating and coordinating a wide variety of services for residents of California with developmental disabilities. Regional Centers help plan, access, coordinate and monitor the services and support. Seven Regional Centers serve Los Angeles County, providing assessment and diagnosis, counseling, family support, advocacy for legal protection, information and referrals. Often, parents don’t know about the centers until they are referred by a healthcare provider, their school or a social worker, so that they can find out whether their child qualifies to receive special-needs services. Through the website www.ResourceCenters.org, you can find out about the Regional Center nearest 2013 | LAParent.com

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PROTECT

A JOURN EY

G

IN

H

BE

FA

T H AT

M I LY

IS FE LI

SA

N D EN DS W

IT

WHAT’S

IMPORTANT

ERIC J. GOLD, ESQ. ESTATE PLANNING Member of the California Bar since 1999

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Northridge 818-677-6854 Santa Clarita 661-294-9715 Lancaster 661-945-9598

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NEED MONEY TO CARE FOR A CHILD WITH SPECIAL NEEDS?

J

FLA’s Ruth B. Ziegler Loan Fund for Families of Children with Autism & Special Needs offers interest-free loans of up to $10,000 to families of all faiths in L.A., Ventura and Orange Counties for: • Diagnostic expenses and therapies • Behavioral supports or shadows • Home improvement expenses • Durable medical equipment needs • Therapies • Educational reimbursement info@JFLA.org waiting periods www.JFLA.org

For more information or to schedule an appointment, please contact (323) 761-8830 ext.107 or (818) 344-1072 (Valley Office).

32

Your Child With Special Needs | 2013

you, get referrals to special-needs service providers, and learn about your child’s diagnosis and your legal rights. You can also learn more through the DDS at www.dds.ca.gov. These two agencies will give you a jumpstart, but you may also want to load up your resource basket with school-based and independent organizations that can also help with assessment, education, referrals, and advocacy. These include: ■ The LAUSD Division of Special Education, sped.lausd.net: Provides services and support to students in the Los Angeles Unified School District found eligible for special education, and their parents and families ■ Special Needs Network, www.SpecialNeedsNetwork.org: A nonprofit, grassroots organization dedicated to addressing the needs of children with autism and developmental disabilities in underserved communities ■ Reiss-Davis Child Study Center (A Service of Vista Del Mar), www.vistadelmar.org/reiss-davis-child-study-center: Offers diagnostic testing, counseling and psychotherapy ■ Family Focus Resource & Empowerment Center, familyfocusresourcecenter.org: Provides referrals, support and education to parents of children with or at risk for developmental delays, developmental disabilities and Individual Education Plans in northern L.A. County ■ First Signs, www.FirstSigns.org: Dedicated to educating parents and professionals about autism and related disorders ■ First5LA, www.first5la.org: Established through revenue from taxes on tobacco products, this statewide organization is dedicated to early childhood health and education

Browse the websites, reach out, and learn all you can about your child’s special needs, the types of services your family is entitled to, and the organizations that can help you connect with top service providers. Getting access to early intervention, accurate assessments, resource referrals and long-term help for your child is the bottom line. The goal is to immerse them in a nurturing, supportive and fruitful environment that helps them grow cognitively, emotionally and physically. ■ Linda Boulton is a Southern California freelance writer.


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SPECIAL NEEDS RESOURCES

Special Needs Resources CAMPS

ART DEPARTURE 19932 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills; 818-992-4604; www.artdeparture.com Come DEPART through Art in our unique and diverse summer camps and art classes! We specialize in teaching creativity during weekly camps offered for all abilities, ages 5-17, in a multitude of themes and art mediums. Instructor has years of experience working with children of all abilities. Call for brochure.

LOS ANGELES SPEECH AND LANGUAGE THERAPY CENTER 5761 Buckingham Parkway, Culver City; 310-649-6199; www.speakla.com The Say N’ Play Summer Speech Camp, now in its 15th year, is our most popular program. Our camp is an intense speech-and-language-based program taught by licensed speech-language pathologists (SLPs). Also included are behavior interventionist support staff who assist with our children who present behavior challenges. See our ad on page 5.

LEGAL SERVICES

A2Z EDUCATIONAL ADVOCATES 881 Alma Real Drive, Suite 309, Pacific Palisades; 310-573-1430; www.A2Zedad.com Legal services for special-education students and their parents. See our ad on page 35.

LAW OFFICES OF ERIC J. GOLD 23901 Calabasas Road, Suite 1072, Calabasas; 818-279-2737; www.egoldlaw.com I am committed to helping clients achieve their goals while providing protection to their families. The law provides options for dealing with various financial and family issues. In establishing your estate plan for your family (with a special-needs family member), you will want to consider a special-needs trust. See our ad on page 32.

THE LAW OFFICES OF GEORGIANNA JUNCO-KELMAN 15260 Ventura Blvd., Suite 1200, Sherman Oaks; 818-386-2800; www.SpecialKidsAttorney.com Our practice is exclusively dedicated to the protection of the rights of children with special needs. We cover a broad range of services from IEP to due process representation, Regional Center assistance with IFSP and IPP meetings, fair hearings, state compliance complaints and state and federal court representation. See our ad on page 9.

MEDICAL-DENTAL

SMILE ANGELS OF BEVERLY HILLS 8500 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 709, Beverly Hills; 310-201-9001; www.mychildrendentist.com Our practice philosophy is “A Gentle Approach for Little Angels.” Dr. Bruce Vafa and his dental team have specialty training in comprehensive dental care for infants, children of all ages (including those with disabilities), and teenagers. It is our sincere desire to make every child’s dental

34

Your Child With Special Needs | 2013

experience an enjoyable one. See our ad on page 27.

RECREATION

AMERICAN YOUTH SOCCER ORGANIZATION – VIP 19750 South Vermont Ave., Suite 200, Torrance; 800-872-2976; www.AYSO.org/VIP The VIP (Very Important Player) Program provides a quality soccer experience for children and adults, supported by trained volunteers, whose physical or mental disabilities make it difficult to successfully participate on mainstream teams. Our VIP Program provides a team experience where players learn soccer while having fun. See our ad on page 13.

SHANES’ INSPIRATION PLAYGROUNDS • Shane’s Inspiration, Griffith Park, 4800 Crystal Springs Rd., L.A. • Aidan’s Place, Westwood Park, 1350 South Sepulveda Blvd., L.A. • Lake Street Park, 211 North Lake St., L.A. • Lincoln Park, 3600 North Mission Rd., L.A. • Parque de los Suenos, 4274 Union Pacific Ave., East L.A. • Prado Regional Park, 16700 Euclid Ave., Chino • The Neil Papiano Play Park, Los Angeles Zoo, 5333 Zoo Dr., L.A. • Brandon’s Village, Gates Canyon Park, 25801 Thousand Oaks Blvd., Calabasas • Hansen Dam Park, 11770 Foothill Blvd., Lakeview Terrace • Playa Vista Sports Park, Playa Vista Dr. & Bluff Creek Dr., Playa Vista • Orthopaedic Medical Center, 2400 S, Flower St., L.A. • Martin Luther King, Jr. Park, 3916 Western Ave., L.A. • Renee’s Place, Pan Pacific Park, 7600 Beverly Blvd., L.A. • Hazard Park, 2230 Norfolk St., L.A. • Beilenson Park/Lake Balboa Park, 6300 Balboa Blvd., Van Nuys • Stoner Park, 1835 Stoner Ave., West L.A. • South Park, 345 E. 51st St., L.A. • Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park, 25820 Vermont Ave., Harbor City • Benny H. Potter Memorial Park, 2413 Second Ave., L.A. • Sycamore Grove Park, 4702 N. Figueroa St., L.A. • Fairmount Park, 2681 Dexter Dr., Riverside • Shadow Ranch Park, 22633 Vanowen St., West Hills • Glen Alla Park, 4601 Alla Rd., L.A. • Dearborn Park, 17141 Nordhoff St., Northridge • Van Nuys Sherman Oaks Park, 14201 Huston St., Sherman Oaks • Brookside Park, Reese’s Retreat, 400 N. Arroyo Blvd., Pasadena • Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, 4650 Sunset Blvd., L.A. • Westside Park, 2777 Clyde Ave., L.A. • 4th Avenue Park, 14105 Don Julian Rd., La Puente • Valley Glen Community Park, Erwin St. & Ethel Ave., Van Nuys

SPECIAL OLYMPICS OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA www.sosc.org Empowering individuals with intellectual disabilities to become active, physically fit and productive members of society through sports training and competition.

ZIMMER CHILDREN’S MUSEUM 6505 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 100, L.A.; 323-761-8984; www.zimmermuseum.org


ey provide such a great service to families and children with special needs and speech so happy we found & Associates. The warm and professional. With the individual treatment and care my son received, he has now found his voice and the words to speak to us! We are so grateful...” ~ Google Review

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Westmoreland Academy The Institute for the Redesign of Learning Now Open: Serving Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Leaders in Special Education since 1974, IRL’s new Westmoreland Academy (NPS) employs evidence-based practices and innovative approaches to empower students with Autism Spectrum Disorders to become competent, caring and contributing members of their communities. 5 & 6 Westmoreland Place, Pasadena, CA 91103 (626) 356-1500 www.redesignlearning.org

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SPECIAL NEEDS RESOURCES

While the Zimmer welcomes all children every day, Open Door Days are exclusively for families with children with special needs. Visit as part of an understanding community without the typical ‘busy-ness.’ Admission: FREE. Reservations encouraged. Open Door Days 2013: 2-5 p.m. July 15, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Nov. 11.

REGIONAL CENTERS

www.westsiderc.org Westide Regional Center serves individuals with mental retardation, cerebral palsy, epilepsy and autism if the onset was prior to age 18 and if the condition is substantially disabling. Westide Regional Center serves more than 7,000 people with developmental disabilities. See our ad on page 39.

For a complete list of regional centers, visit the California Department of Developmental Services at www.dds.ca.gov.

SCHOOLS AND EDUCATION

EASTERN LOS ANGELES REGIONAL CENTER

Serving Southern California; 818-914-1659; www.starradvocacy.com We assess current and long-term needs; refer resources for children’s diagnosis, educational eligibility and treatment; build collaborative treatment and education teams and develop action plans with quantifiable goals and timeframes. We prepare for and participate in IEP and 504 meetings, and interaction with schools, universities, hospitals and treatment facilities. See our ad on page 23.

1000 South Fremont, Alhambra; 626-299-4700 Serves eastern L.A. County including Alhambra and Whittier

FRANK D. LANTERMAN REGIONAL CENTER 3303 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 700, L.A.; 213-383-1300; www.lanterman.org Lanterman coordinates prevention and early intervention services and supports for eligible young children birth to age 3 with developmental concerns, delays or disabilities, and their families. The Center also provides lifelong services and supports from the school-age years through adulthood, including service coordination, individual service planning, education-related advocacy and training. See our ad on page 27.

HARBOR REGIONAL CENTER 21231 Hawthorne Blvd., Torrance; 310-540-1711 Serves southern L.A. County including Bellflower, Harbor, Long Beach, and Torrance

NORTH LOS ANGELES COUNTY REGIONAL CENTER 15400 Sherman Way, Suite 170, Van Nuys; 818-778-1900 Serves northern Los Angeles county including San Fernando and Antelope valleys

SAN GABRIEL/POMONA REGIONAL CENTER 761 Corporate Center Dr, Pomona; 909-620-7722 Serves eastern Los Angeles County including El Monte, Monrovia, Pomona, and Glendora

SOUTH CENTRAL LOS ANGELES REGIONAL CENTER, INC. 650 W. Adams Blvd., Suite 200, L.A.; 213-744-8800; www.SCLARC.org South Central Los Angeles Regional Center (SCLARC) is a private, nonprofit, community-based organization. SCLARC believes special needs deserve special attention. We are committed to the provision of culturally sensitive services that enhance the inherent strengths of the family and enable consumers to lead independent and productive lives. See our ad on page 2.

WESTSIDE FAMILY RESOURCE AND EMPOWERMENT CENTER 5901 Green Valley Circle, #320, Culver City; 310-258-4063; www.wfrec.org We provide information, support and resources to families with children who have developmental, health or special learning needs. Our services are at no charge. See our ad on page 39.

WESTSIDE REGIONAL CENTER 5901 Green Valley Circle, #320, Culver City; 310-258-4000;

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Your Child With Special Needs | 2013

STARR CHILDREN’S ADVOCACY AND INVESTIGATIVE SERVICES

FAMILY FOCUS RESOURCE CENTER 18111 Nordhoff St., E109, Northridge; 818-677-6854; www.csunfamilyfocus.com Family Focus Resource Center serves families of children with special needs in the San Fernando, Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys by providing parent-to-parent support, system navigation, resources and referrals. Free IEP preparation assistance, email newsletter, lending library and support groups. We are a nonprofit sponsored project of CSUN. See our ad on page 32.

THE HELP GROUP 13130 Burbank Blvd., Sherman Oaks; 818-779-5262; www.thehelpgroup.org The Help Group serves children with special needs related to autism spectrum disorders, learning disabilities, ADHD, developmental delays, abuse and emotional problems. The Help Group’s nine specialized day schools offer pre-K through high school programs for 1,500 students on seven campuses in the Los Angeles area. See our ad on page 7.

THE K&M CENTER, INC. 1454 Cloverfield Blvd., Ste 210, Santa Monica; 310-582-1563; www.kandmcenter.com The K&M Center, Inc., is a learning center that makes learning fun! Our diverse programs range from the most time-tested to the newest techniques available, so every student receives an individualized treatment plan with the programs best suited to his or her learning needs. See our ad on page 9.

VISTA SCHOOL 3200 Motor Ave., L.A.; 310-836-1223; www.vistadelmar.org Vista School, WASC accredited, offers children who have struggled an opportunity for academic success. We provide children identified with learning disabilities, developmental challenges, or experiencing social problems, emotional problems, behavior problems or other mental health issues, with classes that can meet their needs while encouraging them to grow emotionally and academically. See our ad on page 22.

WESTMARK SCHOOL 5461 Louise Ave., Encino; 818-986-5045; www.westmarkschool.org The leading independent school in Los Angeles for children with languagebased learning differences in grades 3-12, Westmark School has provided


WESTVIEW SCHOOL 11801 Mississippi Ave., L.A.; 310-478-5544; www.westviewschool.com Westview School is a nonprofit, nonpublic secondary school serving high-potential students in grades 6 through 12 who benefit from a small, supportive learning environment. Westview’s unique W.A.S.C.-accredited, college preparatory program strives to prepare its graduates to successfully transition into higher education and meet the challenges of adult life. See our ad on page 11.

TREATMENT AND THERAPY

QUEEN OF HEARTS THERAPEUTIC RIDING CENTER, INC. 6405 Dana Ave., Jurupa Valley; 951-734-6300; www.queenofheartsranch.com Located near the Ontario Airport, Queen of Hearts Therapeutic Riding Center, Inc. is a PATH Int’l Premier Accredited Center. Year-round activities include therapeutic horseback riding and equine-assisted psychotherapy/counseling. Sessions are designed to develop personal strengths while physical, mental and emotional disabilities are offset through the association with horses.

SHADOW HILLS RIDING CLUB 10263 La Cañada Way, Shadow Hills; 818-352-2166; www.shadowhillsridingclub.org Strengthen, regain, heal. Shadow Hills Riding Club (SHRC) provides thera-

AHEAD WITH HORSES INC.

peutic horsemanship for emotionally, physically and cognitively challenged

10157 Johanna Ave., Shadow Hills; 818-767-6373; www.AWHLA.org AHEAD With Horses is a non-profit developmental therapeutic vaulting program that specializes in children who have multiple and severe disabilities, including autism. AWH has over 40-years of providing unique, highly motivating and effective therapy, education and recreation through horses to disabled/disadvantaged/special-needs children and has earned recognition educationally, medically and scientifically. See our ad on page 17.

children and adults.

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of peer pressure, being undervalued by peers, a target of bullying, drug/

2100 W. 3rd St., L.A.; 213-353-7005; www.houseresearch.org Does your child have a hearing loss? House Research Institute’s CARE Center has unmatched leadership and experience in treating pediatric hearing loss. By combining renowned hearing loss research knowledge with comprehensive clinical care, we offer leading-edge treatment options for infants, children and teens. Call or visit us online! See our ad on page 35.

JUSTINE SHERMAN & ASSOCIATES 55 Auburn Ave., Sierra Madre; 626-355-1729; www.justineshermanslp.com Justine Sherman & Associates serves the speech-language and educational needs of clients throughout the San Gabriel Valley and Los Angeles County. They provide their clients and their families with a customized therapy plan and the support programs necessary to achieve their maximum potential within a caring and supportive environment. See our ad on page 35.

See our ad on page 17.

SRD~STRAIGHTENING REINS 30255 Quail Trail, Santa Clarita; 661-263-9371; www.srdstraighteningreins.org We provide equine therapy for children ages 8-18; individual, family and group counseling. Classes and workshops focus on facing the challenge alcohol use, eating disorders, underachieving, overcoming obstacles, recognizing boundaries and grief and loss.

TACKETT SERVICE DOGS P O Box 2461, Orange 92859; 714-608-1077; www.tackettservicedogs.com As the number of children diagnosed with autism grows, so does the need for well-trained certified autism service dogs. Tackett Service Dogs has witnessed how these dogs can be calming to children with autism and help maximize and expand their capabilities to experience more of life and flourish. See our ad on page 17.

THE NEURODEVELOPMENTAL LEARNING INSTITUTE 8055 W. Manchester Ave., Suite 720, Playa Del Rey; 310-384-5159; www.nliprograms.com

KIDS THERAPY MADE SIMPLE

Our team of specialists provide a comprehensive approach to improving

9911 W Pico Blvd., Suite 990, L.A.; 310-365-0500; www.kidstms.com Kids Therapy Made Simple offers a variety of therapeutic services including individual and group occupational therapy, psychotherapy and Grown Up & Me developmental groups to facilitate successful social, emotional, physical, behavioral and cognitive development of young children and their families. See our ad on page 39.

brain function. Combining neuroimaging studies (QEEG) with neurocogni-

PEOPLE’S CARE AUTISM SERVICES Arcadia; 626-380-2310; www.peoplescareautism.com People’s Care Autism Services offers ABA behavioral therapy for children with autism and related disorders ages 2-12. Our program offers Behavior Assessments, 1:1 therapy in the home and school, social skills groups and parent training. All of our services are directly supervised by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. See our ad on page 23.

tive testing to identify core issues contributing to brain-based deficits. Highly effective treatments for children and adolescents with learning disabilities, auditory and language processing deficits, attention deficit disorder, spectrum disorders, and behavioral issues. See our ad on page 40.

VISTA DEL MAR 3200 Motor Ave., L.A.; 310-836-1223; www.vistadelmar.org For over 100 years, Vista has continually evolved to serve the changing needs of children and families in the community by offering high-quality treatment programs for children with emotional, behavioral, social problems, and those with developmental difficulties. Since its establishment, Vista remains one of the preeminent social service agencies. See our ad on page 23. 2013 | LAParent.com

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SPECIAL NEEDS RESOURCES

an exceptional, mainstream and college-preparatory environment with specialized instruction for over 30 years, allowing students to grow and succeed not only in the classroom, but in all areas of life. See our ad on page 3.


chat room

Karen Shapiro and Navah Paskowitz: Walking For Autism aren Shapiro and Navah Paskowitz are two moms fueled by an extra dose of purpose. Both have channeled their sons’ diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) into an unrelenting drive to educate, inspire and demystify a condition that now affects one in 88 children.

PHOTO BY REX SANCHEZ

K

Surf, Sand and Healing Paskowitz grew up with eight Karen Shapiro, center, with son David Sharif, Navah Paskowitz hits the pool with brothers and a physician father left, and husband Syud Sharif. son Edwin. who started the Paskowitz Surf Camp in Mission Beach in 1972. another parent on an airplane, Shapiro, an L.A. television and Her family motto was, “If you have an issue, bring it to film producer, takes every opportunity to help educate others the ocean,” she says. about what autism really is. “Not only do I want David to do “The beach has always been such a huge part of our lives,” well in society, I want society to do well with kids like David. says Paskowitz, who caught her first wave at the age of 3. We need to speak up and make people aware,” she says. So when her youngest son, 4-year-old Edwin, was For his Bar Mitzvah, David wrote a speech about having diagnosed with ASD last year, the Sherman Oaks mom autism called “My Name is David.” A claymation video of did what came naturally – she took him into her pool the speech featuring David’s actual words and voice received and started to teach him how to balance on a surf board. more than 500,000 views on YouTube in one week. Edwin’s tantrums became less severe, and he started to “Don’t ever underestimate your child,” says Shapiro, verbalize more and seemed happier. who credits her husband, Syud Sharif, and her older son, Paskowitz went on to co-found Surf Therapy Rx with Benjamin, with providing the strong family support and her father Dorian Paskowitz, M.D., and psychologist, love David needs to face the challenges of autism. “Give your child every opportunity possible,” she adds. applied behavior analysis therapist and music therapist “David loves Legos, so my husband cleared out the garage Rey Carungcong. The surf camp is designed specifically for children with special needs, and received the Autism for him and David built New York City with his Legos.” Becoming involved with the community through Speaks Chapter Grant in 2012. “It’s so rewarding to see the kids having fun and devel- different organizations is another great way to help oping a love for the water,” says Paskowitz. “Every child is children find opportunities to excel, explains Shapiro. different. Our goal is to celebrate these differences.” David has given his speech to Autism Speaks groups and to his mainstream camp group. He will also be traveling Family and Community Support to Israel with his camp in the summer. Karen Shapiro says she has learned many important “By getting our children involved in the community, lessons from her 15-year-old son, David, who has by giving them opportunities,” Shapiro says, “we allow autism. “I’ve learned patience and acceptance,” she says. them to live their lives to the fullest.” ■ “I’m a better person thanks to David.” Elena Epstein is Director of Content & Strategic Partnerships at Whether she’s at a large gathering or sitting next to L.A. Parent.

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Your Child With Special Needs | 2013

PHOTO COURTESY NAVAH PASKOWITZ

By Elena Epstein


5901 Green Valley Circle, Suite 320 Culver City, CA 90230 (310) 258-4000 www.westsiderc.org

Committed to Providing Support and Services to People with Developmental Disabilities

Westside Family Resource and Empowerment Center www.wfrec.org

providing pediatric clinic-based, in-home or in-school Occupational Therapy assessments and therapy with focuses on: Autism Spectrum Disorders

Down Syndrome

Early Intervention

Delayed Social Skills

Attention Deficient / Hyperactive Disorders

Complications due to Premature Birth

Sensory Processing Disorders

Behavioral Feeding Issues

Comprehensive Development Assessment

Intellectual Disabilities / Mental Retardation

Fine Motor Delays

Cerebral Palsy

Gross Motor Delays

Handwriting Skills

Kids Therapy Made Simple 9911 W. Pico Blvd. Suite 990 Los Angeles, CA 90035

(310) 365-0500 www.kidstms.com info@kidstms.com


LA Parent Your Child with Special Needs  

March 25 issue

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