Thursday, 17 September 2015 17:10

Obama Administration Makes Push For Preschool Inclusion

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Federal officials say that all children with disabilities should be able to attend preschool alongside their typically-developing peers.

Nearly four months after requesting public feedback on the issue, the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services are jointly issuing guidance to states, school districts and early childhood providers urging them to make a place for kids with special needs.

“As our country continues to move forward on the critical task of expanding access to high-quality early learning programs for all children, we must do everything we can to ensure that children with disabilities are part of that,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in announcing the effort this week during his annual back-to-school bus tour.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015 13:57

Charter Schools

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Charter Schools Owe a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to Special Needs Students

What is a charter school? Most people know that charter schools are alternatives to local public schools. Charter schools are public schools, but are operated independently of local boards of education. They usually receive federal money as well as additional private donations or grants.  Unlike their local public school counterparts, charter schools are privately managed by their own charter school Board of Trustees.

Charter schools have leeway in determining their policies and programming. For this reason, they can be attractive to parents seeking an alternative learning environment. However, charter school boards are not free of government regulation. In fact, for the most part, they are bound by the same rules as all other public schools when it comes to identifying and serving students with special needs.


Food bullying is not to be taken lightly. For a child with a life threatening allergy it can mean serious illness or death--not to mention the anxiety and other psychological consequences from experiencing both bullying and a physical response to a life-threatening allergen. We now know that fifty percent of children with food allergies who are in grades six through ten report being the victim of food allergy bullying. Fortunately, food allergy bullying law has evolved. Education will take more time, as schools, children with allergies, their peers, teachers, administrators and health care professionals work together to implement the law and keep children with food allergies safe in school.


United States District Court Upholds SGW Victory Against Summit Schools

SGW lawyers

Sussan Greenwald and Wesler together with co-counsel Connell Foley prevailed over Summit Schools in a case that proves that "meaningful education benefit" is a concept that has teeth in  New Jersey. On July 27, 2015, in T.O. et al v. Summit City Board of Education, the United States District Court affirmed the July 2, 2012 decision of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).  The A LJ had held that Summit failed to provide a free, appropriate public education to a child, J.O., who suffered from apraxia of speech and dyspraxia. Jayne M. Wesler, a partner at SGW, tried the case before the ALJ for  J.O.'s parents.

Thursday, 30 July 2015 14:35

Schools Warned On Speech Services For Kids With Autism

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Federal education officials are reminding schools not to skimp on needed speech and language services for children with autism.
In a letter to states, officials from the U.S. Department of Education say they’ve heard that an increasing number of kids on the spectrum may not be receiving services from speech-language pathologists at school. Moreover, such professionals are frequently left out of the evaluation process and are often not present at meetings to determine what services a child should receive under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the department said.

Wednesday, 07 September 2016 23:34

Independent Educational Evaluations

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I Requested An Independent Evaluation and the District Said “No”: Now What?

One of a parent’s most powerful tools is the right to request an independent educational evaluation at public expense. An independent educational evaluation (or “IEE”) is an evaluation performed by someone other than the local agency responsible for the child’s education. Such evaluations supplement child study team evaluations by providing further information about the child's suspected disabilities and potential need for special education and related services. Parents frequently ask when they can request an IEE, how an IEE can help them advocate for their child, and what to do if a district says “no” to a parent’s request for an IEE.

Starting with the 2016-2017 school year, parents in Texas will be able to request that video cameras be used to monitor their children’s special education classrooms. (Thinkstock)

In what’s believed to be a first, a new law in Texas will require schools to install cameras upon request in classrooms serving students with disabilities.

A new study is validating the long-term success of an early autism treatment.

The Early Start Denver Model is a nonmedical treatment for children age 12 to 48 months who show symptoms of the developmental disorder. While autism is usually diagnosed in children between the ages of 2 and 3, a growing body of research suggests that diagnosing it early and intervening with one-on-one, parent-led treatment can reduce symptoms in the long run.

In the most recent study, funded by Autism Speaks and the Autism Center for Excellence, a group of researchers followed up on a group of 39 children two years after a prior study they conducted when the children were about 2 to about 4. At that time, the 39 Seattle-area participants were split into two groups — one to receive the Early Start Denver Model and one to receive whatever autism intervention treatment was available in their community — over a two-year period.

Chance Mair’s Path To Success Took Special Guidance And Perseverance.


For Chance Mair, sometimes emotions are hard to express.

And it was certainly an emotional night at Marysville Arts and Technology High School’s graduation Monday, where the students filed into the auditorium in black gowns and royal-blue stoles.

Not only was Mair graduating with the 50 seniors in his class, he was the class valedictorian. And he would be giving the valedictorian address, a momentous occasion for a student who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at an early age.

Mair had never told most of his classmates he has Asperger’s. Never told them he had started his schooling in a special-education classroom, or that he received social therapy treatment when he was younger.

“It’s one of those things that for the longest time I didn’t want to tell people,” he said earlier in the day. “But now that I’m graduating, I don’t want to hold it back. I want people to know me for who I really am.”

Grandparents of children with special needs are often unsung heroes in their family’s lives. They are often tremendous advocates for these children. They provide incredible support to both their grandchildren and their parents who often face many challenges outside the home. When a special needs child comes into a family, grandparents, like parents, need time to go through the stages of blame, sadness, anger and acceptance as they adjust to how their expected roles may have changed. Once grandparents are ready to embrace the gift of special needs grandchildren and roll up their sleeves, there are many ways for them to help. The following suggestions come from the parents of special needs children.

  1. Learn about your grandchild’s special needs. The best way to help special needs children is to learn about their disabilities. Parents are often extremely grateful when grandparents take the time to research the childs conditionwhether it is emotional or behavioral (like Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD or Tourettes Syndrome), physical (like epilepsy) or developmental (like autism and Down Syndrome). Sources of information for grandparents include books, trusted online sources, educational presentations and support groups. Grandparents who are armed with information are also likely to have a more positive relationship with their grandchildren because they have a better understanding of the childs needs, strengths and weaknesses.
  1. Communicate with the child’s parents and offer support. For parents of special needs children, knowing that grandparents understand the childs disability can provide parents a sense of relief. There are other ways that grandparents can be a great source of strength and support to parents of special needs children. Grandparents who are willing and able to be present in their childrens and grandchildrens livessuch as by attending doctorsappointments and school eventswill be better able to speak openly with the parents about the grandchilds needs. If parents are willing to be open about the childs disability, grandparents may be open about it, too. Grandparents can further support parents by helping out with the familys hectic schedule or offering babysitting so parents can have respite.
  1. Help advocate for the special needs grandchild. Advocating for a child with special needs is difficult. The journey is emotional, time consuming, and there is a lot to know. Grandparents often take an active role in helping parents advocate for their special needs children. Grandparents can become educated about their grandchilds rights to special education and related services. Federal and State laws, including the Individuals with Disabilities Act, provides many rights for children with special needs enabling them to receive special education and services, often before the age of three. Grandparents can help parents focus on important issues during the ongoing process of advocating for a special needs child. A grandparents involvement can be tremendously helpful, especially since they know first-hand the emotional challenges that the parents face as the family navigates the special education system.
  1. Offer unconditional love. Special needs children receive a great deal of feedback from teachers and professionals who correct them. Parents report being inundated with information about what they shouldand their grandparents, alikeneed unconditional love and acceptance most of all. There is much grandparents can do to show this love. They can learn about their grandchildrens special interests, spend one-on-one time together, and develop their own special rituals with the child, such as simply taking a regular walk around the block. All of these shared experiences can help to create that prized grandparent-grandchild bond. Special needs children need that bond, perhaps even more than typical children.

Grandparents of special needs children have a lot to give, and they contribute meaningfully to the lives of special needs children every day. Special needs children benefit from having involved, nurturing grandparents. In return, grandparents get to experience the amazing discoveries and fulfillment that go along with loving a child with special needs and gifts.

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