Inspiring Hope-Filled Living for Children with Disabilities Fri, 11 Nov 2016 11:43:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 32 32 AHAVA! Tue, 12 Apr 2016 22:40:07 +0000 [...]]]> I spent this past weekend in Brooklyn, New York. It was an exciting time. I was invited to conduct a presentation series under the theme: “Different Perspective – A Peek Into the World of Autism”. I prepared for the weekend as I would have prepared for any other academic or professional conference (powerpoints, interactive activities, etc), but this conference was different. It changed my life. I’m a clinician. It’s what I do. It is part of my job to say to parents “Your child has autism”. I spend only a few hours with these children and then I can shut it off and go home. But parents? They live with their children’s screams, pain, poor eating and insomnia, their temper tantrums and the uncontrollable anger that emerges from their frustration with the complexity of life. It is the parents who live with a daily sense of helplessness and guilt.

This past weekend, I listened to cries about the looks of scorn in churches and in the park when people don’t understand when a child runs away or is so overwhelmed that he hits and bites and screams uncontrollably.  As each parent described their journey of pain, confusion, anger and acceptance, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of inadequacy for the task I was given.

On that first night of the conference, before I took to the podium, I listened to their stories, and I remember feeling a deep sense of unworthiness to even open my mouth as the invited  ‘autism expert’. It quickly became clear to me that these parents are the REAL experts. They are soldiers on a never ending battlefield.

One lady described her experience as “grieving for the child [she had] not lost”. Another parent shared that having a child with a severe disability is like having a miscarriage…except it happens every day. The intensity of the emotions in the room was overwhelming. It is a pain to which those of us who live ‘regular’ lives absolutely cannot relate. There were cries to the audience for compassion, acceptance and deep, DEEP love….my heart grew heavy.  I felt terrible and I realized that my job (simply by nature of being the bearer of bad news) makes me one of those people who breaks a parent’s heart.

These stories changed me. I want to do more. I want my work to be filled with AHAVA (the Hebrew word for a self-sacrificing love that nurtures, nourishes, sustains and protects). I want to be the psychologist who sees the heart of not just a child, my client, but of his entire family. I want to find ways to breathe new hope into hearts that are stronger than anyone could ever imagine. I want say to every parent of a child with autism and other disabilities everywhere…I’m here for you. Teach me how to support you. Share with me your needs, and let’s journey together to inspire hope filled living for OUR children. Let’s never ever give up!

keep calm


Why I do what I do… Fri, 25 Mar 2016 10:35:36 +0000 [...]]]> Shanter H Alexander, EdS, NCSP 

My earliest awareness of the concept of disability came when I was about 8 years old and my favorite aunt contracted a severe case of rubella (german measles), when she about twenty (20) weeks pregnant.

I remember over hearing conversations about whether or not the baby would have been able to survive the treatments.

However, 18 weeks later my cousin Dexter was born. He failed the hearing screening at birth. He was deaf and mute and exhibited numerous sensory challenges. Dexter was years later diagnosed with autism. My aunt was devastated. I watched her cry bitterly over time as she battled the guilt of ‘causing’ her son to be disabled.  It was there that my empathy for the parents of the children with special needs was birthed.  I became immediately aware of the anguish that parents of children with disabilities experience.

This early experience contributed significantly to the shaping my approach to my work as a school psychologist.  The children that I deal with as a professional become my children. I share in their families’ pain. I saw how my aunt felt helpless and hopeless about her son’s future and I desired to offer other parents hope. I didn’t know it then, but I wanted to be an educational psychologist and autism specialist.


School Psychologists – Who are they? Fri, 25 Mar 2016 10:34:11 +0000 [...]]]> The School Psychologist is a member of a team of caring professionals who are here to support you through the journey of our children’s learning and their general life success. This includes the education of all learners. From the average learner to the gifted, struggling, and disabled….we believe that ALL children are SPECIAL.

School Psychologists employ the most current tools and strategies to determine intellectual, academic and social-emotional capacities, and to design plans for educational success. We have a strong background and intensive clinical training and experience in both the fields of education and psychology. In fact, many school psychologists began their early careers as classroom teachers and then transitioned to psychology. We understand the science and art of teaching/learning and are well-trained to assess the intricacies of a child’s learning abilities and personal academic and social skills. We monitor individual students’ progress in core subjects like reading and math, and work with teachers and instructional aides to design interventions and individualized education plans from Preschool through 12th grade—and in some cases young adult programs. School psychologists work closely with classroom teachers, social workers, counselors, school administrators, parents and community personnel. We work hard to determine the best means of helping each student attain full learning potential.


Sometimes school psychologists have the very difficult job of telling parents that their child is ‘not developing as normally as other children.  “It never becomes easy!” These are the words that come from the lips of hundreds of school psychologists as they describe the burden that comes with breaking news of some kind of impairment to parents.   However, the job of the School Psychologist is far greater than being the bearer of sad news, School Psychologists have the expertise to help provide recommendations specifically designed to help children of all ability levels meet their potential.  Knowing that we have the ability to help children flourish is what balances the difficult parts.

School Psychologists care!

One Size doesn’t fit All Fri, 25 Mar 2016 10:33:19 +0000 [...]]]> Can you imagine if you walked into a shoe store and all of the shoes came in just one size? It would be quite disturbing. Some of us may simply resign ourselves to walking around with bare feet and others might opt for tripping over themselves because their shoes are too large, and yet still others might be in frequent pain because they would have chosen to wear shoes that are way too small. For years, many students and their families have been heard saying: “I am special ed.!” What does that mean? Is it some kind of closed group? Does one size fit all learners?

Special education is a school system’s way to ensure that all of our children are receiving instructional supports that are tailored to meet their individual needs. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law enacted in 1990 and reauthorized in 1997 and 2004. It is designed to protect the rights of students with disabilities by ensuring that everyone receives a free appropriate public education (FAPE), specifically tailored to that individuals abilities.

Children between the ages of 3 and 21, who meet the eligibility criteria in one of thirteen qualifying disabilities and who require special education services because of the disability can qualify for services under IDEA. Special education is definitely NOT one size fits all. The categories of disabilities are as follows: autism, deaf/blind, deafness, hearing impaired, cognitive disability, multiple disabilities, orthopedic impairment, emotional disability, specific learning disabilities, speech or language impairment, traumatic brain injury, blind and low vision and other health impairment.

To be eligible, for special education support services a student must have a disability that adversely affects her or his educational performance; and has been determined through psycho-educational evaluation to need special support services in order to receive an appropriate education. Educators are available to answer your questions about special education. Talk with school officials today about your concerns regarding your child’s education. Each child is unique, and so when it comes to developing individualized education plans, they are carefully tailored to meet each child’s learning needs. Special education means “one size does not fit all”.



“One size DOES NOT fit all”.



That Dirty little S Word Fri, 25 Mar 2016 10:31:59 +0000 [...]]]> Kids whisper it in the hallways and don’t want anyone to know. Even parents are afraid to say it, yet school officials talk about all the time. It’s that dirty little ‘S’ word—Special Education!


For too long parents and students have thought of ‘special education’ as the dirty little secret that is kept amongst family members or whispered into the ear of the classroom teacher at the beginning of the new school year. Special Education is not something to be ashamed of. It is a school system’s way to ensure that all of our children are receiving instructional supports that are tailored to meet their individual needs. It’s as if we were all going on a journey, some of us run, others are only able to walk, while still others have someone else to carry them to the end.  Special education involves “a wide variety of instructional services that are based on a child’s individual needs. Special education is not a place or a class”, but rather it is a description of the type of support that a student requires to ensure that he/she succeeds.


Some students are very gifted…geniuses even and they get pretty bored with the regular classroom curriculum. In such a case a different education plan would need to be appropriately designed to meet this student’s needs. Although each school district may use a different approach, in general, a gifted student may receive higher level or advanced classes that are more appropriate for his/her abilities and skills.


Similarly, if a child is struggling in the areas of reading writing or math and the educational professionals realize that this child may require additional and more intensive learning supports. A ‘special’ educational plan tailored for this individual will be developed. This student will receive these support services as a student with ‘special needs’. It is this group of students that will receive extra tutoring in the area of difficulty, for example, math, reading, writing or sometimes in terms of behavioral and emotional support services. There is a team of specially trained teachers, paraprofessionals, psychologists, speech pathologists, occupational and physical therapist that all work together to ensure that our children achieve their educational goals. For example: special provisions are made for children who are blind and have low vision or are deaf and hard of hearing, by using audio books, and FM systems in the classroom to assist learning. The idea is to ensure that every child has the best available opportunity to achieve educational success.


The No Child Left Behind Education Act 2001, (a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act), outlines that “children have the right to receive education in the ‘‘least restrictive environment.’’ That means that children who have disabilities should remain included with students without disabilities to the greatest degree possible while still receiving those services that allow the child to make progress toward his or her individual goals”. Special education services are designed to help all of our children succeed.


So the next time you hear someone whispering the words “special education…” (insert creepy theme music here) like it’s a bad or shameful thing, let them know that these words aren’t so scary after all. Special education involves a whole team of professionals who work to ensure that they offer the supports needed to ensure that all of our children receive the best educational experience possible. Special education shows that our educators care!