Friday, August 2, 2013

Goofy's Introduction Letter: First Grade

It's that time again. I'm getting e-mails and letters from school sending me information on the new year.

The Regular School has this awesome new thing going on their website where you have an account to sign into and you can get news from each child's school and from each teacher for each child. and, the best part, the staff members set up profiles! That means I can totally check out each person with no more public status update/tweet stalking :) AND, some of them tell you what they went to school for!

I got bus schedules, school calendars, and checked out the new assistant principals. I don't like either one of them. I want my Mystery Man back. but that's not happening so I think I'm just going to ignore these two this year. The elementary principal is cool. She's not even afraid to tell me (nicely) that I'm insane. That earns points with me. Honesty. Gotta love it. I know I can be a bit much, I count on the people around me to let me know when I've gone too far. My husband thinks I always overreact so his opinion doesn't count. anyway, the middle school principal is cool. He hasn't found out yet that I can be... *cough*difficult*cough* ...because he only has Walter and Walter is awesome but he talks to me when I e-mail him. I like that. I also like that he makes good use of social media to connect with the students and their parents about school news. So, who needs assistant principals? Not me.

And, I already picked out Goofy's first grade teacher. I think it's the same one the principal picked out at the 504 meeting but I'm not sure. If it isn't, I'm totally asking to trade. This one has a degree in special education and speech pathology. That is awesome because even if he doesn't end up with SSD services, she'd probably be most likely to be more understanding and open to accommodations which also means she'd probably be most likely of the bunch to follow his 504 with little to no trouble. I really like that.  Plus, if she has any knowledge of special education, it makes me feel a whole lot better about throwing down in our first communication of the year.

Which brings us to the point in this post. I've had several requests for the boys' introduction letters so, here ya go... This year's letter:

Goofy's 504 lists many ways that he can be helped to achieve success in the classroom. I would like to discuss them with you and ask for an addendum.
Repeated Instructions
Clear Instructions
Written or Visual Directions
Goofy has trouble following multistep directions, mostly oral. At home we use visual charts made with Picto Selector, a free downloadable program, for routines. We use a lot of first, then and numbered lists. When he needs to do something that has many steps, such as taking a shower, I label his supplies or line them up from left to right in the order they should be used which gives him the visual cues he needs to do it on his own.
One thing you can try is to attach Velcro strips to his desk for step by step instructions on one side and the allotted time for each step on the other on each assignment.
He has trouble transitioning from step to step. Helping him list both each individual step (cut, color, paste, write, draw) and the amount of time to be spent on each step in minutes and seconds (3:00, 5:00, 10:00) will allow him to set his own timer to mark transition time, giving him ample warning and teach him to independently manage executive functioning skills that will be essential later. You can read about executive functioning here and here.
Another thing that helps my older boys is color coding their supplies by subject. Their folders, notebooks, and book covers (small stickers on the spine work, too) each have a coordinating color so they know with a glance which they need.
 Preferential Seating
Goofy is easily distracted and very distracting. Depending on the layout to your classroom, a seat that is close to both your desk and the instruction area, and not surrounded by kids (on the corner/edge) would be the best. If there is someone who can sit beside him to set examples on how to do the work and remind him to stay on task (buddy system/teacher's aide), it would help him a lot.
Clear Rules
Positive Feedback
Immediate response to misbehavior in a positive manner
Classroom Behavior System
Goofy needs to know exactly what the rules are and exactly what they mean, he takes things literally and doesn't generalize. He needs to know when he does something right because if he doubts his ability, he doesn't want to try. The classroom behavior system will not work for him because it's long term (full day), he lives life minute by minute, not day by day. He needs the classroom behavior system broken down into steps and goals and assessed frequently. Once he bottoms out and knows the chances for a good behavior grade for the day are not good, the rest of the day will be a free for all.
Positive Feedback
Shortened Assignments
Work will be broken down into smaller parts
He has the attention span of a gnat, even on medication. If the work looks too hard or there is too much of it, he'll freeze. Breaking the work into smaller sections- even if it's just folding or cutting the paper- helps. When he does it right, he can move on. When he does it wrong, he doesn't even want to try again and needs lots of encouragement.
Frequent breaks
Stand to work
Goofy has sensory issues and hyperactivity. he needs to move.
Part of Goofy's trouble with writing is the fine motor skills needed. I ordered him jumbo pencils instead of the standard no. 2s. Mr *** suggested trying shorter pencils to arrange where he grasps it, a rubber band wrapped around the pencil may work just as well.
A few things that I would like to add his 504 are:
Group Work
Every time Goofy brought home a note that they did group work, he had a low behavior grade attached to it. Bec has some awesome ideas listed here that could help.
Missing/Incomplete Work
If you can get Goofy to stay on task and complete every assignment given to him, I will be pleasantly surprised. If not, I would really appreciate it if you would send those assignments home as homework with an extended deadline.
The National Institute of Mental Health lists having trouble finishing tasks, as well as disorganized work habits and difficulty paying attention to details, as symptoms of ADHD, the diagnosis that qualifies him for a 504 plan. Section 504 is an anti-discrimination, civil rights statute that requires the needs of students with disabilities be met as adequately as the needs of the non-disabled are met and defines discrimination as failing to provide aids, benefits, or services to the person with a disability that are as effective as those provided to non-disabled persons and notes that "equally effective" means equivalent as opposed to identical. To be equally effective, an aid, benefit, or service does not need to produce equal results but must afford an equal opportunity to achieve equal results.  In this case, modifications to help him stay on task, and sending unfinished work home to be completed 1:1 when there is no 1:1 help available at school.
I understand your time is valuable and you have more than one student to attend to, I am more than happy to help at home when possible.
Posts to Read:


  1. You rock Mama! Thanks for the links! Checking them out now as I am compiling resources for my back to school newsletter for my support group <3

  2. This is awesome! Now I'm second guessing my strategy to just wing it and refer the boy's 2nd grade teacher to my blog. LOL! You really are amazing, Mac! <3

  3. This is great. Thanks for the help, again! Also, I have to vent about this. When we went to the open house for my son, his seat was very close to the front, pretty much right in front of the teacher. I was all, "Yay, this should work!" We came back the next morning for the first day of school, and his seat had been moved all the way to the back of the class by the door. What the what?! Seriously, lady? So, I'm already going to have to ask her to change something she's doing!

  4. Your letter sparked my creative juices to write James's for the 4th grade. I also provided the same links for Snagglebox as well as and I will likely post my letter about James on my blog because it has been a long time since I blogged. Hard going back to work full time and pack for moving! No time to do the things I really want to do.

  5. I love this!! Definitely worth developing one for the kiddos as they are getting older and their needs are not as easy to identify as before - even with an IEP. Thanks for sharing!!