ISBE Unveils New Friendlier Website

seallogostacked_100pixelstallonwhiteThe Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) provides a wealth of information for families, teachers, administrators, and community members on their website. However, finding the information you were looking for used to involve navigating an extremely complicated series of menus and links, backing up from dead ends, and sometimes futile searches. However, right before the holidays, ISBE debuted their redesigned website with easier navigation, topics arranged in several different ways, and even a short introductory videos on how to move around and how to search the new website.

Across the top of the website are links to areas for key education stakeholders, including administrators, teachers, families, communities, and new media. The topics link at the end of the menu takes you to a grid of 21 separate topics, including:

A dozen of these topics are highlighted on the lower half of the home page. The bottom of the page provides links to the Superintendent’s weekly message and a calendar of ISBE meetings.

As the deadline for the state’s ESSA implementation plan approaches this spring, the easy access to Illinois’s draft plan and reader’s guide will be critical to families wanting to provide feedback. The third draft of the plan is currently being completed and should be available in the near future. Likewise, the information on the upcoming state assessments, including the PARCC assessment for grades 3 through 8 and the new SAT assessment for high school juniors, will be helpful for families wanting to understand the schedule for assessments and the release of their child’s results. There is also information on the new physical fitness assessments that are starting this year.

With the proliferation of misinformation circulating on social media today, it is especially useful to be able to go directly to the root source for accurate information. The new ISBE website makes finding that core information directly from the source so much easier than it has been in the past, allowing families to find out exactly what their child’s school needs to be doing to provide them with a quality education.

Helping Your Child Deal with Anxiety

anxiety-1337383_960_720-2Every parent has dealt with a child who is anxious about something, be it the first day of school, a piano recital, or meeting the new kid next door. Anxiety is certainly a part of every person’s life from time to time, but anxiety that is too strong or that happens a lot can become overwhelming and prevent a child from being able to function.

More Common Than You Think

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 18.1% of adults have suffered from anxiety in the past year, and 22.8% of those adults (4.1% overall) have suffered from severe anxiety, and the average age for the onset of anxiety was 11 years old. For children, the numbers are higher, with 31.9% having anxiety disorders and 8.3% of them with severe anxiety. Anxiety is the most common form of childhood mental illness.

Among the most common forms of anxiety (with links to information on each from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America) are:

Two Questions to Ask Yourself

Researchers studying kindergartners found that two questions parents can ask themselves about their young child that can indicate that a child may develop an anxiety disorder in the future. Those questions are:

  • Is your child more shy or anxious than other children their age?
  • Is your child more worried than other children their age?

The researchers found that parents are often tuned in to their child’s behavior, but are not able to specifically identify what the issue is. Also note that these questions target persistent behavior over time and not passing anxieties that are a part of growing up.

Knowing the Signs and Symptoms

As stated earlier, every child and adult experiences anxiety from time to time. Most, even those who live through traumatic events, don’t develop anxiety disorders. For those that do, the signs include:

  • Excessive worry most days of the week for weeks on end
  • Trouble sleeping at night or sleepiness during the day
  • Restlessness or fatigue during waking hours
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Complaining of stomach aches
  • Withdrawal from social activities

What You Can Do for Your Anxious Child

It is difficult to watch your child struggle and suffer, but attempting to anticipate your child’s fears and to try to protect them from those fears can actually exacerbate a child’s anxiety. The advice to families of children suffering from anxiety is to help them learn to deal with anxiety, not to avoid it.

The Child Mind Institute has a list of ten things to do and not do when dealing with an anxious child. PsychCentral has a list of nine things for families of anxious children to try. The two lists parallel each other, and key points include:

  • Don’t avoid things just because they make your child anxious.
  • Stop reassuring your child.
  • Respect feelings, but don’t empower them.
  • Don’t ask leading questions.
  • Teach your child to be a thought detective.
  • Allow your child to worry.
  • Try to model healthy ways of handling anxiety.

Be sure to check out both lists for more information on these and other suggestions. Don’t forget to mention anxiety issues when talking with your child’s pediatrician. Anxiety is a treatable mental disorder, but far too many children and adults do not get treatment.

Printable List Provides Over 500 Accommodations for an IEP or 504 Plan

iep-word-cloudNavigating the process of getting your child an Individualized Education Program (IEP) can be a confusing process for families. Illinois does provide a guide for families, and Illinois PTA has covered the 10 common mistakes parents make during the IEP process. The special education parent blog, A Day in Our Shoes, has a wonderful resource available for families—a printable list of over 500 Specially Designed Instruction (SDIs), strategies, and accommodations for an IEP or 504 plan.

Families new to the IEP process may have no idea of what accommodations may be made for their child. This list helps those families know what is potentially available for their child and can be used as discussion topics during the IEP meeting. Even experienced IEP families may find new ideas in the list that will better serve their child.

The list is broken down into types of accommodations, including ones that address:

  • Schedule/environmental issues
  • Transitions
  • Tools and equipment
  • Language-related issues
  • People- and peer-based issues
  • Sensory issues
  • Behavior issues
  • Testing and assignments
  • Miscellaneous issues

In addition to their own printable list, A Day in Our Shoes added links to other accommodation-related resources from:

If your family is headed into an IEP or 504 meeting, be sure to review and take the printable list with you to your meeting.

Help ADHD Students Concentrate by Letting Them Fidget

adhd-attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorderAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 11% of children ages 4 to 17 have been diagnosed with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as of 2011, and rates of diagnosis have increased an average of 5% per year from 2003 to 2011. Many of these students have 504 Plan or Individualized Education Plan (IEP) to accommodate their diagnosis in the classroom.

Recent research indicates that ADHD students concentrate better when they are allowed to fidget at their desk. This can potentially become a distraction for the rest of the class, but Edutopia has used suggestions from teachers, parents, and students to compile a list of 17 ways students can be allowed to quietly fidget. These suggestions could be included in a child’s accommodations plan. The list includes:

  • Squeeze Balls
  • Silly Putty
  • Velcro
  • Doodling
  • Chair Leg Bands
  • Standing Desks
  • Stability Balls/Yoga Balls

If you have a student with ADHD, be sure to check out the complete list and share it with your child’s teacher and intervention team to find a suitable way for them to fidget.