Category: Blog

Disruptive Behaviors: Using Games to Reconnect

A child with behavior problems  can rip at the fabric of a family, leaving hurt feelings, frustration, and resentment in their wake. Games can be a great way to begin to repair that damage; engaging and leaving everyone feeling more connected.   Having said that, parents of children with disruptive behaviors, whether a child with ADHD or a teen with anxiety, should use caution when selecting games so that the experience is positive for everyone.

When selecting games, it is important to consider everyone’s:

  • ability to interact for extended periods of time
  • attention span
  • cognitive abilities
  • frustration tolerance
  • response to being “attacked” by others
  • age
  • tendency toward controlling behavior

By considering information, one may choose to use games to develop appropriate skills or avoid problems depending on your goal.  By being aware, one can anticipate and not be caught off guard. For example, if one has a child who has poor frustration tolerance, one would not pick a highly frustrating game (i.e. Chutes and Ladders) if the goal is to have a relaxing game night, but one might pick a frustrating game if the goal is to develop skills to manage frustration.

The following are several general categories of games and their qualities to consider when using games to reconnect with children and adolescents with disruptive behaviors.  There are also tips to adjust house rules so that games can be enjoyed by players of varied abilities.

  1. Competitive games – These typically are races to the finish (i.e. Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, Spoons, Life, etc.).  You don’t necessarily interact with the other players but try to get to the finish line before others.  Note:  I don’t recommend “Chutes and Ladders type” games because the disappointment of going down the chute can be a bit overwhelming.  Games like Candyland can be modified so that you only move forward or take multiple cards and the player decides which order to play them.  This modification allows slightly older and younger kids still play because of the added level of complexity to a simple game.


  1. Attack games – These typically are for slightly older kids and up.  This includes games like: Sorry, Trouble, Risk, etc.  These games also have a race component, but you can also interact and combat the other players.  These games can be converted to competitive games (see above) by just having them share a space or land one space ahead of the opponent, instead of knocking them out.  I don’t recommend Attack games for people that will become upset when they feel “attacked,” because even if you avoid that player, others players will feel cheated.  Note: Some of these games have a rule that says you can only move out of “Start” when you role or draw a certain number.  Again, people that have the hardest ability to manage frustration never seem to get that number.  Of course, you can modify the game so that any number allows one to enter into the game.


  1. Attrition games – These games win over a course of time by absorbing all the resources (i.e. War, Monopoly, Ticket to Ride, etc.)  These games can be good because they require more skill and typically do not attack players directly.  They can take longer to play which can be a concern for some, because if someone isn’t able to maintain focus on playing, it can ruin the game for everyone.


  1. Cooperative games (aka co-op) – These games require a bit more strategy and are a bit complex to set up (i.e. Forbidden Island, Pandemic, etc.)  They also are prone to have lots of expansions; so make sure you know what you are buying.  These games are great because it is everyone against the game and there is a feeling of satisfaction and group comradery when/if the group wins.  They almost all come with increasing difficulty factors so as not to overwhelm players and allow them to have a greater chance of success as one learns the game. One drawback is that, more skilled or aggressive players start dictating the game and it can make others take a backseat and only move when told instead of really playing.  Note: these games almost always have a short demo video that can be watched on YouTube, which is great for everyone to watch together as part of the bonding experience.


  1. Hybrid games – These games try to blend the best of each style, but they all come with the similar aforementioned drawbacks (i.e. Uno, Exploding Kittens, Timeline, Spot It, etc.).  The major advantage is that they are quick, and nobody is really out of the game for extended periods of time.  Typically, the strategy component is rudimentary which can be good and/or bad.


  1. Interactive games – These games encourage interaction within a group, go relatively fast, and can be very exciting with a lively group (i.e. Werewolves, Mafia Games, Heads Up, Nuclear Proliferation (sounds bad but isn’t – older game, but quick and fun), Vampires, etc.).  These games typically have a great deal of interaction. Some of them encourage deceit as part of the game play (which is not necessarily good or bad, just something to be aware of).


  1. Non-board games – This category would include all non-traditional type games.  These include: hide and seek (remarkably fun for families), Sardines (Hide and Seek variant that typically invokes laughter), Wii – Bowling, tennis, etc. (need multiple controllers), Scavenger hunts (for extra fun give coded clues i.e. look in the coldest place in the house aka freezer), Truth or Dare, games that have question cards (i.e. what was the funniest moment in your life), trivia questions (use teams), and of course Charades.  These can be very dynamic, interactive and fun.  However, depending on the group and or teams it can provoke heated discussions, hurt feelings (i.e. you made us lose), etc.


  1. Personal favorites – We currently play and favor the following games:
  • Risk
  • Settlers of Catan
  • Red7*
  • Timeline*
  • Monopoly
  • Ticket to Ride
  • Robot Face Race*
  • Mastermind*
  • SpotIt*
  • Sorry*
  • Candyland*
  • Memory*
  • Yahtzee*
  • Exploding Kittens (non-explicit version)*
  • Pandemic (expansion On the Brink)
  • Chess (I know this is a 2-player game, but I highly recommend all adults and kids know how to play this classic game for strategy development along with the fun individual bonding it can provide).

*These games tend to be good for professionals looking to connect with their clients.


  1. A couple points for the advanced game players:
    • You can get everyone together in a big group or assign “stations”.  People that get knocked out or want to roam can go to a different station or just take a break.  The big advantage is for the people that don’t really want to play but like the idea of getting together.  Helpful hint: have one station be a puzzle.  It’s quiet, keeps people focused and has no pressure attached.
    • Use a leaderboard – This is helpful for people who want to play and have to wait their turn (like on a Wii).  They can keep track of the standings without being pushy to get other people off the game.  This way they have something to go up against and when the player is finished they can transition from the game to marking down their score.  Doing this in teams is a great way to keep people from being crushed by one person’s score.
    • House rules are encouraged.  These are rules that deviate from the actual instructions, but you have modified them in order to make the game more enjoyable for your group.  The only two rules I encourage when it comes to house rules is that everyone needs to know/agree with the rule and the rule applies to everyone in the game.

A few of final tips for everyone:

  • Balloons – always keep balloons on hand.  Everyone likes to hit them when they get close and they make for a great indoor volleyball game.  For extra fun…take off shoes and/or socks and play balloon volleyball with your feet.
  • When playing with smaller children you can have them participate by rolling the dice, drawing the card, moving your piece, etc.  They are helping and interacting but not necessarily playing.
  • Know your crowd, be judicious when picking games and be prepare for a quick exit (alright…let’s all go in the kitchen for some ice cream).

For more information on this topic watch our webinar Disruptive Behaviors: Reconnecting and Repairing the Damage.

Now go have fun!

Vacation Planning with Special Needs Kids

How to get from A to B without going (C)razy!

Family vacations are supposed to be fun…right?! For some of our families the opposite has been true. They’ve experienced epic meltdowns, missed flights, had to cancel planned activities and made some very unpleasant memories. WE DON’T WANT THIS TO HAPPEN TO YOU!  Here are some recommendations to help make your next trip less stressful and more memorable (in a good way).

Planning activities that keep your child busy are going to be a lifesaver.  Travel games, a tablet with new games and/or movies, books and new toys are always good options. Don’t forget headphones and make sure everything is charged.  Space out games/activities throughout the trip and save the good stuff for when you really need it.

Don’t forget to bring snacks. There’s nothing worse than a hangry child! You may be able to grab food along the way but it’s always good to have some favorite snacks as a backup.  Have your child take a break from whatever activity they’re doing to have a snack. This helps space things out so they’re not getting bored. A few suggestions for snacks: Gum is great because it lasts for awhile, but it doesn’t help with hunger. Chips help with hunger, but they go quick. Candy can definitely make them happy, but it can also hype them up. Use candy in moderation as a motivator (example: if we can make it to mile marker 105, then you can have a Kit Kat bar). Beverages can also be great motivators, but limit them if you don’t want to make frequent bathroom stops.

If you’re traveling by car and things are going well, DON’T STOP! Put off food and bathroom stops until you absolutely need them. When you do stop, have your kids get out, walk around and stretch their legs.  If your child has an issue with stealing or will become upset if you don’t buy them everything at the gas station, only let them out at rest stops. Rest stops typically only have vending machines with limited selections.

If you’re traveling by plane, pick a good travel time. If your child isn’t a morning person, don’t book a 6am flight. If they typically go to bed around 7:30, don’t book a 9pm flight. Traveling with a tired kid is never fun. Try to book non-stop flights.  It’s helpful if you can book with an airline that lets you pick your seat ahead of time. If not, sometimes it’s worth it to pay the extra money for early boarding so you can guarantee a good seating arrangement.

Lastly, if you’re following the FAIR but FIRM program, remember that TIMES can be done anywhere (in the car, on a plane, at a restaurant, in the hotel, etc.) as long as your child follows the rules of the TIME. If your child gets consequences while traveling, you can have them clean off the windshield, clean out the car, or help carry and/or unload luggage. If you run into any problems reach out to your behavioral consultant. We’re here to help you!

Managing the Stress of Having a Child with Behavior Problems

Does your child’s behavior make you frustrated, angry, resentful and hostile? Does caring for your child cause you to feel exhausted; physically & mentally? Do you feel isolated and alone? If you answered yes to any of these questions, this blog post is for you!

Parenting a child with behavior problems can be hard. Really hard. Some days are better than others, but some days are downright awful. The days when your child swears at you, argues, flat out refuses to do ANYTHING that you ask; when they hit you, kick you, call you names and say things that you would NEVER even think about saying to your own parents – those days can really take a toll. When children are being irrational, parents are often left feeling angry and resentful. You may feel like you’re constantly walking on egg shells, diffusing situations and putting out fires (sometimes literally). This can be a full time job that leaves you feeling worn out and exhausted.

The stress of caring for your child can cause problems in your relationship with your significant other, family and friends. You may feel like you don’t have as much in common with your friends because they have seemingly “perfect” children. You may be embarrassed about your child’s behavior or blame yourself. This can lead to feeling isolated and alone.

Taking care of yourself as a parent is just as important as taking care of your child. When you’re feeling good, it’s easier for you to remain calm and rational. This can make a huge difference in your interactions with your child and your ability to move past difficult interactions.

Here are 5 strategies to help you manage the stress of having a child with difficult behaviors:

1. Try your best to stay calm. It can be hard not to react to your child’s behavior in a negative way, but as you know, that often escalates the situation. The only thing you can control in the situation, is your own behavior. If you’re able to remain calm, it can be contagious. To stay calm – do something! Go for a walk, play with your pet, go for a drive, exercise, organize the pantry; anything you can do to keep yourself busy can be a good distraction. If you’re participating in the program, use Times if your child is being Defiant, Arguing or Yelling.

2. Don’t beat yourself up. If you lose your cool in a situation and you said something you regret, don’t get stuck feeling guilty. Figure out a plan to move forward. Make sure to hold your child accountable for the behaviors that caused you to lose your cool. If you’re in the program, this is why our consequences are so important! Refer to the parent question below for more information.

3. Focus on what goes right. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, it can be hard to see the positive. Try to make the conscious effort to identify 1 or 2 things that went right during the day; it can be something as simple as your child making it through the school day without a phone call home or that your child used their manners, even if by accident. This can help generate positive emotions towards your child and make you feel more hopeful. Alternative Teaching participants, don’t forget to use game nights and conversations to create the opportunity for positive interactions.

4. Forget the “shoulds”. Don’t worry about what you “should” be doing and do what works. If you want to let your child watch an extra hour of TV so you can have some peace and quiet, do it! It’s okay to make exceptions to the rule, as long as you don’t do it all the time. It can be special treat for your child with the added benefit of giving you a break. This may sound repetitive, but if you’re in the program and want help with this, reach out to your Behavioral Consultant.

5. Find support. If you already have a good support system, use it! If you have friends and family that can help care for your child, have them babysit so you can get a break. If you don’t feel comfortable leaving your child with someone else, ask your support system to help lighten your load by grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, driving your other children places, etc. If you have a significant other, discuss ways you can support each other. If you don’t have a support system, find one. Know that you are not alone. There are many other parents and caregivers who are struggling too. There are local support groups and online communities that can offer connections with other parents. If you’re in the program and feeling alone, reach out to your Behavioral Consultant. We’re here to help you!

Hang in there! Despite what your child may think, you’re an awesome parent!


Ask The Behavioral Consultants…

Parent Question: What do you do when your child says something hurtful?

Ric – I would issue them a consequence.  Specifically, I would ask them to write an apology letter. The apology letter would include three things; 1. what they did wrong, 2. what they could have done differently, and 3. the apology itself. Sometimes when they apologize we don’t think they’re sorry or we want them to show remorse. We won’t always get remorse and you can’t make them be remorseful; but the action of having them write it out, will stick with them longer than just saying it.

Parent Question: How do you keep your cool when your child is testing your patience? 

Anna – Walking away from your child and taking a 10-15 minute break can be life changing. Just like the Time works to reset kids, we can use it to reset ourselves. If you can physically leave the house (or wherever you’re at) that’s even better. Get outside for a walk, run to Dunkin Donuts for a coffee – anything you can do to put some distance between you and your child. If you’re in the program, this is a great time to use the Parent Free Zone. 

Parent Question: What do you do when you say something to your child you later regret? 

Jim – I certainly apologize.  My follow up depends on why I said it.  If it was because of my own irritability and no fault of the child, then I would try to make up for it by doing a nice deed (i.e. go out together for some ice cream, spend time specifically to play something they enjoy, etc.)  However, if my comments were due to their behaviors (not listening, provoking, antagonizing, etc.), then I tell them I’m sorry, but qualify it with something like “these are the reactions you can expect if you do this to people outside of the home” and  “I want to help you remember not to do this by having you do a small consequence and then we can move on”.  If they provoked my response, I apologize but they still do the consequence.  Them doing the consequence is their apology.

Easy Parental Control Tips

Does setting limits on electronics end in a battle? Is your child constantly negotiating for more screen time? Do you have concerns about the content your child is viewing or sharing online? Learn more about parental controls and how the Fair but Firm Parenting Program can help you.

With summer in full swing, kids have less structure and more free time on their hands. For many children, their preferred activity is screen time. Finding ways to reduce, limit and monitor your child’s devices can seem like a daunting task. There are so many different apps, routers and software; it’s hard to know where to begin.

Basic parental controls for cell phones are offered through many of the major cell phone companies. Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile all offer the ability to turn off data, block calls/texts from numbers, and reduce calls to only approved numbers.

For an additional fee, Verizon and AT&T and T-Mobile allow parents to suspend different functions on the phone, set hours of operation on the phone, set purchase limits, block downloads, limit and block web activity and track location. For no additional fee, Sprint allows parents to limit/block websites, limit/restrict downloads, restrict calls/texts and restrict camera usage. For more information about what your cell phone provider offers, click on the links below:

AT&T Smart Limits
Verizon Smart Family
T-Mobile Family Allowances
Sprint Parental Controls

If you want monitoring or parental controls that go beyond your cell phone plan, there are additional devices, routers and apps that can help you. Many of our parents have had success with Disney’s the Circle. This is a small device that you pair with your WiFi router. The Circle allows you to filter online content, set bedtimes on devices, pause or turn off the internet, set time limits on internet usage,  shut off specific websites or apps (ex: facebook, youtube, snapchat, etc.), track online usage, and kids can earn additional screen time. You can use the Circle on multiple devices and it can be controlled from an app on your phone. Many parents praise how easy this device is to use. If your child attempted to tamper with the device, the Circle cannot be unplugged or turned off. The Circle can be purchased for around $99. If you want coverage for your children’s devices that extend to other WiFi networks and cell connection, then you can purchase Circle Go which requires a monthly subscription fee.

KoalaSafe connects to your home router and is similar to the Circle. However, this creates a new & separate wireless network for your children’s devices. With KoalaSafe you are able to set individual profiles for devices and manage them through an app. You can set time limits, block apps and websites, view a weekly usage report, and pause the internet. KoalaSafe can only be used to control your home network, this does not block cell phone data or other WiFi networks. KoalaSafe can be purchased for around $89.99 and does not require a monthly subscription.

UnGlue allows parents to set time limits, but gives children more control over how they’re spending that time. For example, you may allow your child 2 hours of ‘Entertainment Time’ per day, and they can spend that time how and when they want.  They can also bank time to use later or earn extra time by doing chores. UnGlue also blocks inappropriate content, pauses the internet and provides activity reports. UnGlue is free if you have a networked desktop computer. If not, you can pay $30 for a device that you connect to your router.

Net Nanny is an app that can be used on computers, tablets and cell phones (Android & iOS). Net Nanny allows parents to filter content, block pornography, set time limits, mask profanity, check usage reports and receive alerts about your child’s internet activity. Net Nanny is a monthly subscription based service that you can pay per device.

Screen Time is another app that can be used to control Android and iOS devices. This app allows parents to set time limits and schedules for internet usage. With this app you can pause the internet, approve or reject apps, monitor web/search history, and you receive a daily report on app usage.  Through Screen Time, you can give your child tasks such as homework and chores that they can complete to earn additional time.  There is a free version of this app with limited features or you can pay $4.99 monthly for the premium version.

If you want additional information about parental controls and how children find a way around them, check out this article from NPR, A Parent’s Guide to Parental Controls.

Ask The Behavioral Consultants…

Parent Question: What if I tell my child to get off their device, and they refuse?

Don’t get into a power struggle with your child. If you follow the Fair but Firm parenting program, your child is being Defiant. Remain calm, and follow the steps of the Time. In order for your child to start their Time, they have to turn off or hand over the device. This is no longer a privilege that they have, so their Time does not start until they have turned off their device. They can’t be compliant and non-compliant at the same time. If they don’t hand over the device, don’t wrestle the device away from them. Once their Time is completed you can discuss consequences for this behavior.

Parent Question: How much screen time is appropriate for my child?

This is up to the parents and may be different for every family. Find out what limit you feel comfortable with depending on the schedule/structure of the day. Typically 1-2 hours. It can vary on vacations or on weekends.

Parent Question: Is it okay to reward my child with additional screen time for good behavior?

I wouldn’t reward them for doing what they should be doing to begin with. I’ve never been pulled over by the police for driving the speed limit and been given money for following the law. But, if you get pulled over for speeding, you will get a ticket and have to pay a fine. They can however, earn extra time by doing something extra to earn it. You can have them help with yard work or add an additional chore. This is earning versus rewarding.

How to Avoid After School Meltdowns

Do you find yourself walking on eggshells when your child gets home from school? Do you dread asking them to do anything, for fear that it will cause an explosion? Does your child seem irritable, anxious and exhausted at the end of the school day? Follow our helpful tips below to avoid the dreaded afterschool meltdown. 

The Do’s and Don’ts to Prevent After School Meltdowns 

The school year has kicked off, and for many kids, the honeymoon period is over. They are fully immersed in their classes and unfortunately, this is when things start to unravel. Going to school can be really hard for many kids; the social situations can be overwhelming and anxiety provoking, they may have difficulties sitting still and focusing, and the rules and responsibilities can be stressful. Many kids are able to hold it together all day long, and save up their most difficult behaviors for when they get home. Whether they’re refusing to do their homework, or throwing full blown tantrums, parents are often at a loss for how to respond. The good news is, we can help you make simple changes that will bring peace to your home by following our after school Do’s and Don’ts.

  • Give your child some downtime. Kids need time away from the rules and structure of the school day. Allow them to play and unwind on their own terms, before you start the after school routine.
  • Feed your child. Many children come home starving and dehydrated, which can lead to irritability and crabbiness. Get ahead of the hangry monster by having a snack and some water ready.
  • Remember that your child isn’t trying to be disrespectful or defiant. If it was easy for them to respond in a different way, they would. Understand that the school day can be anxiety producing and their feelings are being reflected in their behavior. If you’re following the Fair but Firm program, you can be empathetic, but also hold them accountable for undesirable behaviors through the use of consequences.
  • Stay rational. When you are calm, it is contagious. If you catch yourself raising your voice, it is very possible that you will unintentionally escalate an already volatile situation. If you feel like you are losing your temper, take a few minutes to give yourself a break and recharge.
  • Give Times. If you are following the Fair but Firm Program, and your child is being defiant, arguing with you or yelling – give them a Time. This will help your child reset and become rational.
  • Game Nights! Game Nights are a great opportunity to connect the family and create a positive experience.


  • Interrogate your child about their day. Delivering a series of rapid fire questions can be annoying and trigger an angry response. A simple greeting – “It’s so good to see you” – followed by some space is a good way connect and allow them to decompress. You can save the questions for later.  Better yet, have them ask you questions.  Ask your Behavioral Consultant about the skill “Conversations”.
  •  Take all of your child’s privileges away. Because you are a human, it’s understandable that you may get very frustrated with your child’s behavior. At times, you may get so frustrated that you overact and your instinct is to take away everything. This can backfire as your child may get the attitude “well, now I have nothing to lose”, which can actually make the behavior worse. You want them to see that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel if they make it through the rest of the day. This is a great time to call your Behavioral Consultant to determine appropriate consequences for your child’s behaviors.
  • Make your child’s homework your problem. Homework is an extension of what kids are already learning in school, and it’s not your responsibility to make sure they get it done. If homework becomes a battle, issue a consequence and let the school handle the rest. If this becomes a chronic problem, speak with your behavioral consultant so we can help.  If you are using the Fair But Firm Program, we have a more effective technique to get your child to do their homework. If you are not there yet, don’t fret, you will be soon.
  • Be hard on yourself if not everything goes as planned. There are going to be days where your child doesn’t do their homework, eats cereal for dinner, and you just don’t have the fight in you to deal with getting them showered. THAT’S OKAY! Remind yourself that you’re doing a great job and try to recall 1 or 2 things that went right during the day; it can be something as simple as your child letting his/her sibling sit in the front seat without a fight or you were able to share a laugh over something funny.

With increased social and academic pressures at school, it’s no wonder kid’s return home in a less than pleasant state. If you’re applying the aforementioned strategies and still struggling, reach out to us! We are here to help you.

What Colleges, Services, or Websites Exist to Support Students with Disabilities?

We received this question during our “Options After High School for Children with Disruptive Behaviors” webinar. The answer is a complicated, “It depends,” but here are a few thoughts so you are not starting from zero.


Step 1. High School Academic Advisors or Counselors

Start with your child’s school’s academic advisor or counselor. As with most things, some advisors are better than others.  We have seen very talented advisors look at a child’s field of interest (marine biology) and recommend one university over another because one program is heavy in math (the child’s weakness) while the other focuses on science (the child’s strength).  A good advisor has access to the data from your child’s high school and may be able to use that information to guide them to academic programs that play to your child’s strengths.


Step 2.  Options Fairs

The Options Fairs offer students with special needs and their families the opportunity to meet with colleges, universities, and agencies that can provide services after high school. These fairs cover areas such as:  Educational Options, Employment Assistance, Vocational Programs, Government Programs, Health Services, Legal Resources, Recreational Services, Referral Sources, Residential Programs, and Transportation Services.  All of these can be helpful when setting up the safety net for your young adult with learning and/or emotional disabilities.

Many areas have fairs now that are geared toward both college options and vocational options so that students can learn more about each.  A Google search of “Options Fair” provided a list of several in our area.  Including one that is occurring this coming April 11th in Lake County (Illinois).  Similar events happen around the country.


Step 3.  Google What You Specifically Need

A quick Google search can provide fruitful information, so you are not starting from zero.  Here are some ideas to get you started:



This also depends on what your child’s special needs are.  For example, some schools have special programs specifically for dyslexia.  Doing a Google search for schools that cater to the specific disability might really narrow the list quickly.

It is unlikely that any college is going to tout their services for students with disruptive behavioral issues.  They don’t put that in the glossy brochures, but there are colleges that are known for recognizing the importance of student mental health and have support services available for a variety of mental health needs.

Step 4.  Call the Colleges on Your Shortlist

After you narrow the list a bit.  I would call the schools and ask to speak to the “Office for Students with Disabilities”. Each college will have a different name for it, but every college will know what you are asking for.  That office will be able to talk through exactly what they offer and don’t offer.  Make sure you ask if there are additional costs for any of the services/programs they offer.


Step 5.  Educational Consultants

I don’t have one that I can specifically recommend, but again a Google search of “college educational consultants for students with disabilities” offers many options to consider.

Educational consultants visit and evaluate many schools, colleges, and programs annually. They have a deep understanding of each school’s strengths, including student-teacher ratio, staff credentials, availability of learning aids, etc.  This allows them to provide their firsthand knowledge about college options. Educational consultants also may suggest other appropriate academic and vocational alternatives, if your child is not college bound.

This is typically a service one pays for and again would depend on your child’s specific disability.  If your child had a very rare or complex disability, it may be helpful to search for a consultant that specializes in that disability as they would be more likely to deeply understand the options available.


Step 6. Know Your Child’s Rights

Your postsecondary school may require you to follow reasonable procedures to request an academic adjustment. You are responsible for knowing and following those procedures. I would make sure to ask about anything you need to do in advance to make sure that accommodations are in place (i.e. testing/retesting, evaluations, etc.). It is important to note that neither your high school or the college is financially responsible for the completion of required evaluations and testing.  This will likely be an out of pocket expense. Each state has a vocational rehabilitation agency which may be able to provide an evaluation at no cost to you if you are eligible for services through your state vocational rehabilitation agency.  Colleges are not allowed to ask as to whether an applicant for admission has a disability.  In college it is the student’s responsibility to make his or her emotional or learning disability known and to request academic adjustments. This should be done in a timely manner. A student may choose to make his or her needs known to key college personnel (dean, professor, service coordinator) on an individual basis.  For more information on the Rights of Students with Hidden Disabilities, the US Department of Education is an excellent resource.  Unlike K-12, post-secondary schools are not required to provide a free and appropriate education.  They are however required to provide appropriate academic adjustments so as not to discriminate based on disability.  This is an important difference.  If your child was receiving services through their K-12 education at a public school, many of those services may not be offered (or offered for a fee) through the school.


Step 7. Review the Policies

If your child has a disruptive behavior disorder, it is important to note that many colleges and universities have disruptive behavior policies.  They often do not tolerate any student who clearly obstructs or disrupts the academic environment this can include examples like:

Violent Behavior including any assault, with or without weapons, behavior that is interpreted as being potentially violent (e.g., throwing chairs, pounding on things, or destroying property), or specific threats to inflict physical harm (e.g., a threat to shoot a named individual).

Disruptive Behavior including yelling, using profanity, waving arms or fists, verbally abusing others, and refusing reasonable requests.

Threatening Behavior includes physical movement short of actual contact/injury (e.g., moving closer aggressively), oral or written threats to persons or property (“You better watch yourself” or “I’m going to get you”) as well as implicit threats (“I’ll make you sorry” or “We are not through”).

If disruptive behaviors have occurred at high school, it is important to understand how a potential college or university would respond if your child displayed these same behaviors while attending.

Step 8. Vocational Rehabilitation Services

If academics beyond high school is not in your young adult’s future, your state’s vocational rehabilitation office helps people with disabilities prepare for, obtain, and maintain employment. These programs are designed for each individual’s needs. Typically, your child may be eligible for services if the VR agency determines that they meet the following criteria:

  • Your young adult has a physical or mental disability. The VR agency must verify the disability through reviewing assessments and evaluations.
  • Their disability prevents them from obtaining and maintaining a job.
  • They require vocational rehabilitation services to obtain or maintain a job that matches their strengths, abilities, capabilities, and interests.

The agency’s services may include assessment, guidance, training, rehabilitation technology, independent living, and other supportive services.

Step 9. Look for Scholarships

Grants and scholarships exist for students with disabilities.  These are often specific to they type of disability the young adult has.  Some must be obtained while the student is still in high school while others can be obtained during college.  A few examples of disability scholarships include:

  • Autism Scholarships
  • Scholarships for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired
  • General Scholarships for People with Disabilities
  • Blind, Low Vision, Visually Impaired Scholarships

The DoIt website through the University of Washington provides an excellent list of scholarships for students with a variety of disabilities and provides links to additional lists for even more options. We have also received a recommendation from one of our readers that CouponFollow has developed this helpful list of financial resources and discounts for students with disabilities. It is important to note that scholarships are often based on merit.  The term “grants” might be more fruitful as you search for a student who has not excelled academically.

Start Figuring Out a Plan Early (if possible)

Alternative Teaching’s specific area of expertise is focused on supporting the parents of children with disruptive behavioral issues up to age 18 and the purpose of the webinar was to help parents start thinking about the options for the transition.  If your child is still has time before graduation, our in-home behavior management training program can be help address the behavioral concerns before they graduate.  Over the course of 6 months, a behavioral consultant will come to your home (in person or via internet) to teach you a modularized behavior management strategy that will help you address behavioral issues.


Whether your family has recently started experiencing disruptive behaviors or your family has been living with severe behaviors for years, we can help.

The benefits the family receives includes:

In home sessions

  • This means what it says, we come right to your home.
  • There is no need to fight to get your child to sessions.
  • There is no need to worry about child care for other children in the home.
  • Travel time to and from the home for each of the 10 sessions is included

10 sessions over a six-month period

  • Each session, parents learn a specific skill.
  • By the end of the program parents will have the tools and knowledge to address any behavioral issue ranging from defiance to violence. This is not never-ending therapy.
  • Behavioral improvements can be expected within the first two weeks after starting the program.

Unlimited phone support for the family for the full six months

  • Call any time your child is having behavioral issues and we will walk you through the program until the issue is resolved.
  • Our goal is to pick up the phone when you call.  If that is not possible, our policy is to return all calls and texts within 4 hours.
  • Unlimited phone support allows you to call anytime you have a question or concern. No need to wait until your next session to ask questions.  In fact, the more you call, the faster you will learn, the less you will need to call.

A customized treatment framework based on the needs of your family

  • Since our program provides skills to the parents, it can be used with all the children in the home.
  • Behavior problems affect all family members, even the ones that aren’t having problems.  We teach parents and caregivers how to get back in charge of the home and provide a safe environment for everyone.
  • Over time, you will be empowered to address your child’s behavioral issues without external assistance.
  • We can’t guarantee that our program will work for you, but we guarantee the program.  You will be able to try the program for up to 30 days to determine if it is effective for your family.  If you decide not to continue with the program, you will never receive an invoice.
  • What makes a situation scary is not when a child has behavioral problems, but when the adults don’t know what to do about it.  We will teach you how to address these behaviors effectively and with confidence.

One fixed price

  • All contact is included in the cost.
  • No charge for canceled appointments, after all, life happens.
  • We don’t have an hourly rate and you will never be rushed during your appointment.  We stay until all your questions are answered and all of your concerns are addressed.
  • No hidden fees.

The total fee for this six-month program is $3,900.

Read more about Our Promise.

Playdates for Special Needs: How to Host a Successful Playdate

Days off school are a great time for kids to get together with their friends. Playdates can help your child build and maintain friendships and be fun for everyone. Having a game plan ahead of time can help you and your child feel confident in social situations. We’ve come up with several ways to set your child up for success:

Have your child participate in the planning of activities. This allows them to pick something they will look forward to and they will be more vested in the playdate.

Have your child ask his or her friend 2 questions and report the answers back to you after the playdate. If your child is having difficulties coming up with questions you can help them along (example: “Why don’t you ask your friend if they like dogs or cats better? What is their favorite subject?”) This is a great way to encourage your child to have reciprocal interactions. We want them to learn to ask a question, listen to the answer and be able to remember the answer.

Playdates should last between 30 minutes and 2 hours. If it’s your child’s first playdate with a new friend, keep it short (i.e. 30 minutes – 1 hour). Kids have a limit for how long they’re able to manage themselves and going over that time can cause problems.

Start with a small group so your child can have 1 on 1 interaction. Once they have successful playdates with one friend you can add more children.

Always have a good exit strategy. If the playdate is going poorly, have an excuse to cut it short prepared ahead of time. Good exit strategies include having to leave to pick up a family member, dropping off a needed item at someone else’s home or running out to get an important item from the store.

And don’t forget that the Game Nights and Conversations are a great way to practice social skills at home!

IEP, BIP, and 504 Plans…What’s the Difference???

If your child is struggling in school, they may be eligible for additional supports at no cost to your family.  If you’re confused about your options and what all the acronyms mean, you’re not alone. Many parents have concerns, but they’re not sure what the best option for their child is. Whether your child is struggling with attendance, disruptive behaviors in the classroom, focusing, completing assignments, processing directions, or any other concerns that interferes with learning, your school may be able to offer a plan to help.  Read below to learn the basics about Individual Education Plans, Behavioral Intervention Plans and 504 Plans.

What is it?

Individual Education Plan (IEP) – An Individual Education Plan is a blueprint detailing the Special Education supports the school will provide when a student needs extra help. The IEP addresses a child’s specific learning issues and includes goals. The plan is developed by school staff, parents, the student and can include community providers and advocates.

Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP) – If a student’s behaviors are interfering with his or her learning, the IEP team can include a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP).  Behaviors that may interfere with learning can include, but are not limited to, oppositional behaviors (arguing with school staff, refusing to follow directions, and defiance), emotional difficulties (anxiety, depression, and fear), disruptive behaviors (yelling, swearing, destruction of property, and physical aggression), excessive tardiness and truancy.  The BIP outlines a plan for how to change the behaviors that interfere with learning.

504 Plan – A 504 plan offers supports, modifications and accommodations that are similar to those offered through an IEP. However, the eligibility requirements are different. If your child doesn’t qualify for an IEP, they may qualify for a 504 Plan.


Individual Education Plan (IEP) – In order to be eligible for an IEP, your child must be evaluated by his or her school. If you are having concerns about your child, you can request to have an evaluation completed. Your child’s school has 14 days to respond to your request and let you know if they will be completing the evaluation. The Evaluation may include documentation of your child’s disability (such as a doctor’s diagnosis), academic records, assessments completed by School Staff, classroom observations and interviews with parents or other adults who know the child well.

The IEP is guided by Federal Law under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In order to qualify for an IEP, your child’s evaluation must show that he or she has a disability that falls under 1 of the 13 categories identified by IDEA (Autism, Cognitive Disability, Deaf-Blindness, Deafness, Developmental Delay, Emotional Disability, Hearing Impairment, Multiple Disability, Orthopedic Impairment, Other Health Impairment, Specific Learning Disability, Speech or Language Impairment, Traumatic Brain Injury and/or Visual Impairment). Additionally, his or her disability must affect their educational performance or ability to learn.

Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP) – If your child is already on an IEP, and his or her behaviors are interfering with their educational performance or ability to learn, they may be eligible for a BIP. School Staff will complete a Functional Assessment to identify the problematic behaviors that interfere with learning.  The Functional Assessment is different for every child and can include assessment tools, interviews with parents and school staff and classroom observations.  Once completed, the Functional Assessment will clearly define the problem behaviors, identify triggers that cause the behavior to occur, identify anything that maintains the problematic behaviors and offer a hypothesis for why the child may be engaging in the behavior.  Once the problematic behaviors are well defined, the team will develop a plan to reduce negative behaviors and increase desired or replacement behaviors.

504 Plan – In order to be eligible for a 504 plan, your child must have a documented disability that interferes with his or her ability to learn in a general education classroom. One common disability that is covered under a 504 Plan, is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). If you are having concerns about your child, you can request that your Child’s school complete an evaluation. The Evaluation may include documentation of your child’s disability (such as a doctor’s diagnosis), academic records, assessments completed by School Staff, classroom observations and interviews with parents or other adults who know the child well.
The 504 Plan is guided by Federal Statue under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which states that a child with a disability has equal access to an education that is comparable to and education that is provided to those that do not have a disability. The eligibility requirements for a 504 allow for a broader definition of what is considered a disability. If your child does not meet the eligibility requirements for an IEP, they may qualify for a 504 Plan.

What Does the Plan Include?

Individual Education Plan (IEP) – An IEP is required by law to include annual goals that the student will be working towards. Additionally, the IEP must identify what specific special education and related services will be provided by the school (how often, for how long, location and who will be providing the service) to help the student achieve their annual goals. The IEP must also define how progress towards the goals will be determined.

Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP) – A BIP will include a summary of the Functional Assessment. The BIP will clearly define what behaviors interfere with learning and a plan for how to address this. Typically, school staff will be teaching the student a new behavior to replace the problematic behavior. The BIP outlines how the replacement behavior will be taught, who is responsible, how long it will take and how school staff will reinforce appropriate behaviors.  Additionally, the BIP will include a way to measure progress.

504 Plan – There is no standard 504 Plan that is required by law. Every school district may handle 504 Plans differently. Typically, a 504 Plan is written for your child’s individual needs and includes any extra supports or accommodations offered by the school, who will be providing extra supports and the names of the school staff responsible for ensuring that the plan is implemented.

For more detailed information about IEPs, BIPs and 504 Plans, please visit the Illinois State Board of Education Links below:
IEP Information:
BIP Information:
504 Plan Information:

Picking IEP Goals

How to Get My Child Special Education Services That They Really Need

The most difficult goal during an IEP meeting is not getting the services you want; it’s knowing what services you need to ask for.  Most people that want every service possible often just want their child to be helped, without really knowing what they specifically need to accomplish that goal.  For instance, having a 1:1 aide can be extremely helpful in managing behaviors and improving academics.  The problem is that it creates dependency for the child, teacher and school.  The child becomes more distant from their peers, the teacher pushes all instruction onto the aide, it becomes difficult to remove the aide both emotionally and behaviorally, and you may not get the aide that you want.  You must look at what benefit you will get and for what cost.  Having lots of services can be great, but for each service offered, the child will be sacrificing services in another area i.e. pulling someone out for social work may require them to miss math, music, or recess.  That is not to say that services should not be completed.  Just understand what the real costs the child may pay for those services and what specific benefits will they be attaining.

Next, we have to look at the goals.  It is my experience that most IEP’s are written the exact same way…poorly.  Every school knows that each goal in an IEP must be written in a way that is measurable with progressing outcomes. Here are a few common mistakes to look out for:
·There are no details on how they plan on achieving the goal.  If I wrote a goal stating that you will increase your household income 25% you may think this is a great goal that is measurable.  However, if I don’t write specifics about how to achieve that goal, what good is writing this goal at all.  The big mistake is thinking that every goal needs to be achieved.  Knowing what works is as important as knowing what won’t work.  Typically, the most common excuse is that they don’t write specifics because that is not where that information belongs.  What they are really saying is that we don’t know the specifics so we can just talk about it later, but that conversation never happens. Even if it isn’t included in the IEP the parents should be provided information about the various techniques they are using so we can check off what works or not.  In addition, how can parents support the goal if they have no way of understanding what the school is doing to achieve it.
·The goal is too easy.  Often this is indicative of not understanding where the child really is at.  For instance, the child will correctly identify three triggers that cause them to have problems with peers.  If at the meeting you ask them to name 3 triggers and they can do it, then they have achieved their goal before you have even left the table.
·The goal is written in measurable terms but can’t truly be measured.  For instance, you can track a child’s attendance because you can look at the total number of events (days of school) and their success (days attended).  However, if you are tracking the number of times the child controlled their impulses, how will you know the base number of events.  The child may have controlled their impulses a thousand times that day but you never saw it because they were successful.  However, you did observe that they blew up 3 times that day.  Did they achieve their goal?
·The progression is not statistically significant.  Increasing homework completion, test scores, attendance, or behavioral goals, etc. that are too small to measure.  For instance, increasing scores in math from 85% in the first quarter to 90% in the 2nd quarter might not be measurable because the percentages aren’t far enough apart to tell if it was happenstance or a legitimate increase in skills.
·Percentages and number of trials that are touted as measurable performances can be meaningless.  The trick here is to know exactly how they plan on measuring the goal.  For instance, using observations to measure percentages usually means the professionals are just guessing i.e. I think they did this about 75% of the time.  People remember the last or most prominent event which can skew exactly how accurate that percentage really is. Additionally, number of trials is just a modern version of the percentage fallacy.  Unless they are literally tracking each event, you can’t say how successful the child was in achieving their goal.  However, even if they do track it successfully…once they achieved their numbers then is the skill considered mastered at that level?  If the IEP says that the child will correctly identify ways in which their behavior effects other kids in 3 out of 4 attempts does that mean if they do 3 in a row they have mastered the skill at that point.  Even if they failed the 14 times before then.  Unfortunately, schools often write a goal like this and wait the entire quarter and then determine whether they have achieved it, even though it is written that the moment they have hit their numbers it is mastered at this level.
The important thing to remember is that the IEP goals are not written poorly because the school doesn’t care.  They just don’t know any other way.  Everyone writes them poorly so they have convinced themselves that it must be correct.  Remember, teachers are educators and not clinicians.  They are not trying to short change your child.  They just don’t know how to attain a well written IEP that has realistic goals, can be realistically measured, provides clear progress, and will identify techniques that work best with your child.  Lawyers will help you get the services you want, but we can help you determine what you should be asking for.  Once you know what you want then the schools will most likely agree.