When you suspect something is wrong….

Karina Richland and Nan Waldman of Pride Learning Centers are proud and excited to announce that our article “When You Suspect Something is Wrong” has been published in the Los Angeles Times Parent Reading Guide.  This guide is distributed throughout Southern California and each year provides parents and educators with useful information on literacy in both English and Spanish.  It is an honor to be included in such an important publication and tool which helps so many parents and children throughout Southern California.
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Helping Children with Organizational Problems

By Dr. Susan Cozolino / Clinical Psychologist

Children who know how to organize time and materials perform much better at school.   Their effective organizational behaviors help to simplify academic demands, which in turn, promote learning and performance.

Persistent organizational problems are common among children whose performance in school is disappointing.  Despite their motivation to change their seemingly careless ways, these children find it extremely difficult to ‘get it together’ and modify their patterns of disorganization.  Careful observation over time can offer some insight into what a child may be experiencing and helps direct parents and teachers to appropriate responses.

According to learning specialist, Mel Levine, MD, there are five frequently encountered forms of organizational difficulty:  material management, time-management, transitional, prospective retrieval, and integrative.

Common Signs of Material Management Disorganization (difficulties having in their possession the things they need when they need them):

-a tendency to keep losing things

-trouble remembering what to take to or bring home from school

-difficulty knowing where to put things consistently

-a habit of creating ‘messes’ on desks, in lockers, in closets, in backpacks, etc.

-problems organizing a notebook or maintaining an assignment pad

Common Signs of Time-Management Disorganization (difficulties in their ability to plan and use time efficiently):

-trouble allocating time

-difficulty estimating how long something will take

-problems knowing the order in which to do something

-a tendency to be late and to procrastinate

-a pattern of constantly losing track of time

Common Signs of Transitional Disorganization (difficulties with ‘shifting gears’ and preparing adequately for what is coming next):

-a tendency to rush from one activity to another

-failure to take the right books or other materials home because of a hasty

departure from school

-difficulty settling down and beginning work efficiently after changing classes or

returning from lunch

-diminished understanding of, preparation for, and compliance with daily routines

-slowness with certain routines at home, such as dressing in the morning, getting               ready to leave for a family outing, switching from play to work

Common Signs of Prospective Retrieval Disorganization (prospective retrieval refers to the ability to remember to do something):

-a tendency to forget assignments

-poor or incomplete performance on errands

-unreliability with daily responsibilities (e.g., taking out trash, feeding the dog)

-trouble following through on promises

Common Signs of Integrative Disorganization (difficulties with tasks that involve

integration of multiple components)

-difficulty organizing an art project, writing a research report, or planning an

upcoming weekend

-difficulties with multitasking—which is the ability to concentrate and attend to

various needs, activities, and priorities simultaneously (e.g., getting

chores and errands accomplished on a Saturday morning)

-the end result to such activities that involve the integration of multiple

components or multitasking is a chaotically disorganized effort.

Part of the process in helping children with organizational problems needs to occur in the home.  Disorganized children can be helped by even minor efforts to create some order and predictability at home.  In making such efforts, it is important for parents to recognize and understand these different forms of disorganization.  In doing so, they can identify and pinpoint which areas are adversely impacting their children.  Once the problem areas are identified, then more precise and effective organizational strategies can be made.

Becoming An Effective Advocate Means Knowing What To Do, How To Do It, And What Your Rights Are.

By Nam Waldman, Esq.


Children, adolescents and young adults need to learn to become effective advocates independent of their parents. Children can and do learn advocacy skills by seeing effective advocacy modeled by a parent. When parents return home discouraged after attending a school meeting, children may not be inspired to learn effective methods of dealing with their responsibility for self-advocacy. Once children leave high school, they must advocate for themselves, and IEP meetings do not continue indefinitely throughout life.
With adequate preparation, time and effort, a parent can partner with an advocate to work towards immediately change the educational environment for children with disabilities. In the long term, teaching advocacy skills is the most appropriate use of an advocate’s time: teaching the necessary executive functioning skills of advocacy to mothers and fathers is critical so that parents can teach their children. My goals, as both an advocate and a parent, are simple: (1) to educate every child, and (2) to teach every parent I meet to become a better advocate. We are always improving as advocates. I believe that once every student becomes an effective advocate for him or herself, we will see less truancy, defiant behavior, depression, and other manifestations of discontent with the failure of social institutions to provide a basic need: education and the self respect it brings.
It is especially important for students who have left or graduated from high school to advocate effectively for themselves. After high school there is no longer an IEP team to consider and evaluate a student’s academic needs. The necessary educational services and accommodations must instead be articulated and requested by the student. It is up to older students to decide whether they want to divulge to their post-secondary schools that they have disabilities, and then to take the next steps — to identify and then request the accommodations or services they will need. By then, they will have learned from their parents how to effectively get the accommodations and educational services needed.
Every parent of a child with a disability who is a student in California has the right to receive one free book annually. It is titled A Composite of Laws, published by the California Department of Education. The book is published each year and we are currently about to see the 31st edition, containing laws enacted the previous year about special education in the State of California. It contains all sorts of wonderful resources.
In my opinion, the index in the back is the best part of the book. It contains ‘searchwords’ for quick reference, much like an encyclopedia’s index. For example, if you have a question and want to read about ‘least restrictive environment,’ all you have to do is to look up the word in the index, and turn to the pages for the information you want. Using ‘flags’ to write on — and keep your place — will help you to organize your research in A Composite of Laws. Get the book by telephoning (800) 995-4099 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. PST, Monday through Friday. Be patient, and prepared to identify yourself as “a parent of a child with a disability” and tell the person who answers the name of the school your child attends so that you are eligible to receive a free copy (we don’t need to identify our children). Otherwise, the book is $29.95 plus $5.95 shipping and handling. You will need to provide an address so the book can be shipped to you.
Visit this link for more information from the California Department of Education: https://www.cde.ca.gov/re/pn/rc.

Nan Waldman, Esq. is a special education and disabilities consultant with 20 years of experience in the field. She is also a parent and primary caregiver of a child with disabilities, a teacher, an advocate and a lawyer. Nan Waldman, Esq. can be reached by email at  n.waldman.esq@gmail.com.

What You Should Know About Setting the Tone at IEP Meetings

By Nan Waldman, Esq.

It can be uncomfortable for parents to attend meetings to design an Individual Education Program (IEP) for students with disabilities. We as parents together face an IEP ‘team.’ To many of us parents, it feels like ‘us against them’ because we face an assembled team of employees of the school or school district. It can be overwhelming when a parent feels that a number of school officials are evaluating her child and her parenting skills.

To avoid feeling overwhelmed, attend IEP meetings with an objective close friend or advocate. Parents who are understandably emotionally involved will feel that IEP meetings are less adversarial when there are also capable human beings on ‘their’ side.

The first thing to do is to set the tone of the meeting. The goal is to get a feeling of ‘we are in this together for the good of the child.’ To do this, someone very familiar with the student should talk honestly, affectionately, and with passion to describe the child. Photographs at this point are very helpful. So is actual attendance by the child at the IEP meeting, even if only for a few minutes. Most adults at the IEP meeting may not know the child very well, and seeing a young face is a good reminder to all present that each is responsible for something important which is happening in the life of the child they are seeing. The goal is to coalesce positive feelings about the child – and to motivate the team to want to create an IEP plan which will be effective.

Then, parents (or, an advocate) explain that the IEP team will be deciding the education plan – as a team. It is helpful to remind those present and to note out loud that each person on the team has expertise to be respected and considered by the group.

Sometimes, after all the substance of the IEP plan has been discussed, parents receive an IEP document which does not accurately reflect their understanding of what occurred – or should have occurred — during the meeting. It is NEVER a requirement to sign an IEP document at the end of an IEP meeting. You have a right to receive a document in your primary language, and parents are well advised to bring the IEP document home and read it thoroughly to understand every part of it before signing it. There will be a place to agree with the document as a whole, but you should disagree with the parts of it which do not meet with your understanding of what your child needs.

©2008 by Nan Waldman, Esq.

Nan Waldman, Esq. is a special education and disabilities consultant with 20 years of experience in the field. She is also a parent and primary caregiver of a child with disabilities, a teacher, an advocate and a lawyer. Nan Waldman, Esq. can be reached by email at  n.waldman.esq@gmail.com.