Thursday, December 8, 2011
OSEP's IDEA 2004 Website can be found at http://idea.ed.gov/explore/home
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Specifically, here are a couple of their online resources that are available:
The Advocate Academy provides training opportunities for special education advocates. The Academy's trainings are offered in a webinar modality on various specific topics, and advocates wishing to participate can either access live webinars or purchase previous webinars from their archives.
The Advocacy Institute's Reports and Publications include online articles and resources on a variety of topics of interest to the special education community including topic briefs, reports on special projects, and guides for parents and advocates regarding their rights.
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Often, Parents need to seek the assistance of a special education attorney or educational advocate to represent them in IEP meetings or in legal disputes with their school district. An advocate or special education attorney can help parents through the process and provide representation when there is a dispute over placement and/or services.
COPAA's online directory is a great tool to assist parents with locating representation when they need it. You can go to the Find an Attorney / Advocate directory at this link: http://www.copaa.org/find-a-resource/find-an-attorney/
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Wrightslaw.com is a very extensive resource. The website includes articles and briefs on an significant number of topics, updates on current events and news, a newsletter, and an online "law library." In addition, you can find information about Wrightslaw's various publications and other materials, including books and DVDs.
Check it all out at www.wrightslaw.com.
Friday, November 11, 2011
Here are the details:
What: Expanding Your Advocacy Arsenal with Section 504; Webinar Presentation by Carolina Watts and Mandy Favaloro
When: November 15th at 2:00pm Eastern/ 11:00am Pacific
How to register: Go to www.copaa.org/conference-training/webinars to sign up for the live webinar. COPAA members get a discounted rate for registration. At a later date, COPAA also makes prior presentations available for purchases through webinar archives.
Thursday, November 10, 2011
Check out WOSEP's general webpage here: http://www.wosep.com/ and the online directory here: http://wosep.com/wosep/directory.php
Thursday, October 27, 2011
IDEA defines a speech or language impairment as a communication disorder, such as stuttering, impaired articulation, a language impairment, or a voice impairment, that adversely affects a child's educational performance. 34 C.F.R. section 300.8. State laws will have more specific criteria for how to determine if a child presents with such an impairment and qualifies for special education and related services.
Example of State Criteria:
In California, the Education Code sets forth the following criteria for eligibility under the category of SLI:
(c) A pupil has a language or speech disorder as defined in Section 56333 of the Education Code, and it is determined that the pupil's disorder meets one or more of the following criteria:
(1) Articulation disorder.
(A) The pupil displays reduced intelligibility or an inability to use the speech mechanism which significantly interferes with communication and attracts adverse attention. Significant interference in communication occurs when the pupil's production of single or multiple speech sounds on a developmental scale of articulation competency is below that expected for his or her chronological age or developmental level, and which adversely affects educational performance.
(B) A pupil does not meet the criteria for an articulation disorder if the sole assessed disability is an abnormal swallowing pattern.
(2) Abnormal Voice. A pupil has an abnormal voice which is characterized by persistent, defective voice quality, pitch, or loudness.
(3) Fluency Disorders. A pupil has a fluency disorder when the flow of verbal expression including rate and rhythm adversely affects communication between the pupil and listener.
(4) Language Disorder. The pupil has an expressive or receptive language disorder when he or she meets one of the following criteria:
(A) The pupil scores at least 1.5 standard deviations below the mean, or below the 7th percentile, for his or her chronological age or developmental level on two or more standardized tests in one or more of the following areas of language development: morphology, syntax, semantics, or pragmatics. When standardized tests are considered to be invalid for the specific pupil, the expected language performance level shall be determined by alternative means as specified on the assessment plan, or
(B) The pupil scores at least 1.5 standard deviations below the mean or the score is below the 7th percentile for his or her chronological age or developmental level on one or more standardized tests in one of the areas listed in subsection (A) and displays inappropriate or inadequate usage of expressive or receptive language as measured by a representative spontaneous or elicited language sample of a minimum of fifty utterances. The language sample must be recorded or transcribed and analyzed, and the results included in the assessment report. If the pupil is unable to produce this sample, the language, speech, and hearing specialist shall document why a fifty utterance sample was not obtainable and the contexts in which attempts were made to elicit the sample. When standardized tests are considered to be invalid for the specific pupil, the expected language performance level shall be determined by alternative means as specified in the assessment plan.
(Source: Title 5, California Code of Regulations, Section 3030(c))
Other states also have criteria that is based on sub-dividing this category into specific impairments that include fluency disorders, voice disorders, articulation disorders and language disorders. For a sampling, see these state's websites:
Things to keep in mind:
SLI is not just about articulation. Many school districts are good at identifying the students who strictly fall within the "articulation" category of impairment, but have more difficulty when it comes to adequately and comprehensively assessing students to identify the more subjective and complex language disorders. This is something you should look out for starting with the assessment plan itself - be proactive and make sure your school district is also looking at the broader language and communication issues including receptive language, expressive language, pragmatics / social language, etc.
Eligibility under the category of SLI versus the need for speech and language services:
Here in California, a problem that we often face is the misunderstanding amongst school district speech therapists regarding how to apply the eligibility criteria. The eligibility criteria has a lot of specificity of the criteria in terms of how far below the mean a student's scores must fall. School districts often mistakenly assert that this criteria is what must be met for a student to receive speech and language therapy as a related service. In other words, even if a student is already eligible, or is being made eligible, for special education under another category, such as Autism or SLD, a school district may say that they cannot receive speech therapy as a related service if they do not also meet the criteria for eligibility under the category of SLI. This is a mistaken analysis, as these are two entirely separate issues. One issue is whether a student is eligible under SLI as their category of eligibility. The other is whether they require speech therapy as a related services to meet their unique needs arising from their disability. Once a child is eligible for special education and related services under any category, the school district is obligated to offer and provide a program that meets their unique needs and provides them and educational benefit.
The American Speech and Hearing Association (ASHA) is a go-to source of information regarding speech and language impairments and related issues. Their article about eligibility for special education can be found on their website (click here).
Monday, October 17, 2011
I find it difficult to describe the effect this movie has on the audience. It is of course, as so many reviewers have said, all at once funny, moving, educational, inspiring. But a list of adjectives can't really sum up the experience of watching as Larry Bissonnette and Tracy Thresher go on a journey that takes them physically around the world, and emotionally through experiences that change both them and those they meet.
In my humble opinion, this is a movie absolutely everyone should see. There is something utterly beautiful about the unfiltered look into the world from Larry and Tracy's perspective. It isn't just a movie about Autism... It's about communicating with the world, making connections with other people, being understood, being accepted and loved... I encourage all of you reading this to go out and see it soon - and share it with others!
Friday, September 23, 2011
The IDEA definition of Autism:
Autism means a developmental disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and social interaction, generally evident before age three, that adversely affects a child's educational performance. Other characteristics often associated with autism are engagement in repetitive activities and stereotyped movements, resistance to environmental change or change in daily routines, and unusual responses to sensory experiences.
34 C.F.R. section 300.8(c)(1). The IDEA also notes that students who exhibit the characteristics of Autism after age 3 can also be eligible if the other criteria is met.
State Criteria for Autism Eligibility:
State special education laws have their own specific criteria for eligibility under the Autism category. Many states have criteria that is focused not on whether there is an actual diagnosis of Autism, but whether there is the presentation of characteristics associated with Autism, and because of these needs the child requires special education and related services. Here are some examples:
California defines this category as "Autistic Like Behaviors." Just this label itself is helpful for broadening the availability of special education and related services under this category to include students who may not have an actual medical diagnosis of Autism. In California, defines Autistic Like Behaviors as follows:
A pupil exhibits any combination of the following autistic-like behaviors, to include but not limited to:
(1) An inability to use oral language for appropriate communication;
(2) A history of extreme withdrawal or relating to people inappropriately and continued impairment in social interaction from infancy through early childhood;
(3) An obsession to maintain sameness;
(4) Extreme preoccupation with objects or inappropriate use of objects or both;
(5) Extreme resistance to controls;
(6) Displays peculiar motoric mannerisms and motility patterns.
(7) Self-stimulating, ritualistic behavior.
Title 5, California Code of Regulations, section 3030(g).
Another list, with more thorough explanations, is found in the Wisconsin education laws, which specifically require that two or more of the behaviors be exhibited:
1. The child displays difficulties or differences or both in interacting with people and events. The child may be unable to establish and maintain reciprocal relationships with people. The child may seek consistency in environmental events to the point of exhibiting rigidity in routines.
2. The child displays problems which extend beyond speech and language to other aspects of social communication, both receptively and expressively. The child’s verbal language may be absent or, if present, lacks the usual communicative form which may involve deviance or delay or both. The child may have a speech or language disorder or both in addition to communication difficulties associated with autism.
3. The child exhibits delays, arrests, or regressions in motor, sensory, social or learning skills. The child may exhibit precocious or advanced skill development, while other skills may develop at normal or extremely depressed rates. The child may not follow normal developmental patterns in the acquisition of skills.
4. The child exhibits abnormalities in the thinking process and in generalizing. The child exhibits strengths in concrete thinking while difficulties are demonstrated in abstract thinking, awareness and judgment. Perseverant thinking and impaired ability to process symbolic information may be present.
5. The child exhibits unusual, inconsistent, repetitive or unconventional responses to sounds, sights, smells, tastes, touch or movement. The child may have a visual or hearing impairment or both in addition to sensory processing difficulties associated with autism.
6. The child displays marked distress over changes, insistence on following routines, and a persistent preoccupation with or attachment to objects. The child’s capacity to use objects in an age—appropriate or functional manner may be absent, arrested or delayed. The child may have difficulty displaying a range of interests or imaginative activities or both. The child may exhibit stereotyped body movements.Wisconsin Administrative Code; PI 11.36(8).
As each state has their own criteria, it is important to identify what the applicable standard is for your state specifically. Remember that assessments should be done in all areas of suspected disability, and should provide the IEP team with enough information to make determinations of eligibility and need for special education and related services. Thus, when a school district is assessing for a possible eligibility under the category of Autism, that assessment should be looking at the applicable list of characteristics and behaviors, even if the assessor does not "diagnose" under the DSM-IV (see below).
Diagnosis versus Eligibility:
Diagnosis of Autism under the DSM-IV is different than a determination of eligibility under the category of Autism or Autistic Like Behaviors. Different standards, and sometimes different procedures, are used. Thus, if a child does not have a diagnosis by a qualified professional of Autism, this should not necessarily stand in the way of eligibility if the school district does a proper assessment. Here is a little bit more about diagnosis:
DSM-IV Criteria for Diagnosing Autism:
I. A total of six (or more) items from heading (A), (B), and (C), with at least two from (A), and one each from (B) and (C):
(A) Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:
- Marked impairments in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to- eye gaze, facial expression, body posture, and gestures to regulate social interaction.
- Failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level.
- A lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people, (e.g., by a lack of showing, bringing, or pointing out objects of interest to other people).
- A lack of social or emotional reciprocity.
(B) Qualitative impairments in communication as manifested by at least one of the following:
- Delay in or total lack of, the development of spoken language (not accompanied by an attempt to compensate through alternative modes of communication such as gesture or mime).
- In individuals with adequate speech, marked impairment in the ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others.
- Stereotyped and repetitive use of language or idiosyncratic language.
- Lack of varied, spontaneous make-believe play or social imitative play appropriate to developmental level.
(C) Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests and activities, as manifested by at least two of the following:
- Encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus.
- Apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals.
- Stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g. Hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements).
- Persistent preoccupation with parts of objects.
II. Delays or abnormal functioning in at least one of the following areas, with onset prior to age 3 years:
(A) Social interaction.
(B) Language is used in social communication.
(C) Symbolic or imaginative play.
III. The disturbance is not better accounted for by Rett's Disorder or Childhood Disintegrative Disorder.
Source: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders; Fourth
The qualifications for being able to diagnose a child under the DSM-IV criteria and being able to assess a child for special education eligibility may be different. Generally, if a school psychologist or other assessor for the school district is using the term "diagnose" you should ask for information about their qualifications to do so, and about whether they were evaluating in order to ascertain a "diagnosis" or a disability as defined in educational criteria.
Meaning of "Adverse Effect on Educational Performance"
The IDEA requires consideration of whether the student's Autism "adversely affects educational performance." This in turn becomes something up for interpretations, and given that many states have also not clearly defined the meaning of either "adverse effect" or "educational performance," it becomes the subject of dispute between parents and school districts. The term "adverse effect" has been noted not to require evidence of a "significant impact" on educational performance in some cases, while others have noted that it requires more than "slight impact" on educational performance. The term "educational performance," which seems pretty straightforward, can actually be even more tricky. Again, this is an area where you will have to investigate your state laws to see how "educational performance" is defined.
What may be included in "educational performance?" The obvious answer is academic skills / achievement. However, it could possibly also include non-academics such as behavior, social skills, communication skills, interactions with peers, etc. If you think about this, it makes perfectly logical sense. Ask any teacher what children are expected to learn and do in class, and the list will undoubtedly include appropriate classroom behaviors and learning to get along with others. Look at your state's educational content standards, and there are likely to be ones related to communication and listening skills. Take a look at your child's report card carefully, and you'll notice "citizenship" or "effort" scores that are likely related not to what academic skills were performed, but how your child behaved and interacted in the classroom. All of these things are part of the educational environment and expectations for kids, and there is an argument to be made that this makes them part of what should be considered in "educational performance."
Thursday, September 22, 2011
The IDEA allows for eligibility under the category of "Developmental Delay," which is a unique category with different rules than the other categories, and only applies to a particular age group.
Developmental Delay as an eligibility category is an option.
States can choose to recognize DD as an eligibility and create guidelines for determining eligibility under this category. Then, if the state has set forth DD as an option, individual school districts can choose whether to adopt DD as a category. The state cannot force the District to adopt DD for eligibility purposes, but if the state itself doesn't adopt DD, then the school districts are not allowed to use that category. (The 1997 amendments of the IDEA changed the provisions related to Developmental Delay to make the adoption of this category in the discretion of both the SEA and the LEA, rather than solely in the discretion of the SEA). If the state chooses to adopt DD as an eligibility category, then a school district that chooses to use this category must apply the state's definition of DD and the state's determination of age range. A district cannot deviate from the definition of developmental delay or the age range adopted by the state. 34 C.F.R. section 300.111(b)(3).
Definition of Developmental Delay
The IDEA: Developmental delay includes a student who is experiencing developmental delays as defined by the state and as measured by appropriate diagnostic instruments and procedures, in one or more of the following areas: physical development, cognitive development, communication development, social or emotional development, or adaptive development. 34 C.F.R. 300.8(b)(1).
Of course, as stated above, the states have the power to define "developmental delay," including adding details to the definition above, or setting the specific date range that is covered by this category. Included below is a list of the details / criteria from California's definition of DD, since that is the one I am familiar with, as well as a few others I've been able to locate.
Legal Citation: Title 5, California Code of Regulations, section 3031
Age Range: through age 4 years and nine months
Criteria: There are three ways to meet the criteria. (1) Child must be functioning at or below 50% of his / her chronological age level in any one of the identified skill areas (gross or fine motor, receptive or expressive language, social or emotional development, cognitive development, visual development); or (2) Child must be functioning between 51% and 75% of his / her chronological age in any two of the identified skill areas (see above); or (3) Child has a disabling medical condition or congenital syndrome which the team determines has a high predictability of requiring intensive special education services (i.e. "at risk" category).
Legal Citation: COMAR 13A.05.01.03B(69)
Age Range: school districts have the option of utilizing the DD category for students age 3 to 5, or for students up to any age not exceeding 9.
Criteria: There are three ways to meet the criteria - (1) Child has 25% or greater delay in adaptive, cognitive, communicative, emotional, physical or social development as measured and verified by appropriate diagnostic instruments and procedures; or (2) Child has atypical development or behavior, which is demonstrated by abnormal quality of performance and function in one or more of the specified areas, and which interferes with current development and is likely to result in subsequent delay; or (3) Child has a diagnosed physical or mental condition (elsewhere defined in the statute) which has a high probability of resulting in a developmental delay, including students with sensory impairments inborn errors of metabolism, microcephaly, fetal alcohol syndrome, epilepsy, Down Syndrome, and other chromosomal abnormalities.
Legal Citation: Wisconsin Administrative Code, PI 11.02 (11)
Age: through age 5 or "below the age for compulsory education"
Criteria: (1) First, all other suspected areas of eligibility must be ruled out; (2) Child must demonstrate delays in development that significantly challenge the child in two or more of five specifically identified "major life activities" including: physical activity in gross motor skills; cognitive activities; communication; emotional activities; and adaptive activities; and (3) These delays must be documented via quantitative and qualitative measures.
What's Important to Know about the Developmental Delay Category
It's important to realize that based on the IDEA and your state's regulations, there may be a "cut off date" for eligibility under the DD category. Some school districts interpret this to mean that a child is to be automatically exited from special education at that age. This isn't an accurate interpretation or appropriate approach. Rather, if a child's sole category of eligibility has been under DD, then the school district should reevaluate before the "cut off age" in order to determine if the child meets the criteria in another area. Remember - school districts are obligated to assess a child in all areas of suspected disability, so the reevaluation should be sufficient to identify other possible areas in which the child may have needs that require special education and related services.
Monday, May 9, 2011
100 Cities: One Night for Autism
On May 12, 2011, at 7:30pm, screenings of the movie Wretches and Jabberers will be taking place in many different locations as part of "100 Cities: One Night for Autism." The movie is about two men with Autism who embark on a global quest to change attitudes about disability and intelligence. The film follows these two men as they explore local cultures, reunite with old friends, make new friends and acquaintances, and tackle public perceptions about Autism.
Here in the Los Angeles Area, the law firm Newman.Aaronson.Vanaman will be one of the hosts for the 100 Cities: One Night for Autism screening event. NAV will play host to the screening taking place in Glendale, California. It is a great opportunity to spend an evening with others in the special education community, enjoy a great, and inspiring, movie, and show your support for Autism Awareness! We really hope to see you there!
Here's the Info:
Wretches and Jabberers
Where: Glendale Mann Exchange 10
128 North Maryland Avenue
Glendale, CA 91206
When: Thursday, May 12th at 7:30 pm
Online Ticketing at either of these two cites
(be sure you choose the Glendale screening specifically) -
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
The following is a message from the ARC and UCP CA's collaborative efforts to save the Lanterman Act in California. Please make phone calls to your state legislators today to try and save the important programs that the Lanterman Act provides to children and adults with disabilities here in California!
Action Alert: The Arc and UCP CA Collaboration
Our community's overwhelming turnout in the Capitol and numerous calls and visits to legislators, asking them to save the Lanterman Act, paid off. The Legislature so far has rejected most of the developmental services service cuts that the Brown administration proposed.
But the fight continues. We need your advocacy again -- this morning.
Here's where we stand. The Legislature's budget committees, with both Democrats and Republicans voting for us, reduced the size of the cut to community services for people with developmental disabilities by $386 million. We are all working to sustain our system within these remaining cuts but we are asking you to help us fight the Brown administration's process for achieving $174 million of the cuts in state funds.
The administration wants $174 million to come from purchase-of-service "standards," or "best practices" as the Legislature has started calling them. This idea has been rejected repeatedly by the legislature and opposed by every community advocacy group in years past. While standards and best practices sound good they are actually cost cutting measures to that will change service: (1) eligibility, (2) duration, (3) frequency, (4) rates, (5) provider qualification, etc. for everyone, establishing standard arbitrary limits as opposed to our current method of determining needs through the person centered IPP or IFSP.
The Legislature is in recess and will vote soon on the state budget and bills to cut spending to balance the budget. One of the bills, AB 98, would direct the administration (specially, the Department of Developmental Services) to develop "best practices" and recommend them to the Legislature by May 15. There are two calls I'm asking you to make before then to help head off that threat -- one to each of your two local state legislators, your state senator and assemblymember.
If you don't know who they are, go to http://capwiz.com/thearc/
If you already have talked to staff members in your legislators' local or Capitol offices, call those staff members again. Otherwise, call their Capitol offices.
Here is what you might say to each of them
- Ask to talk to someone about the developmental services budget.
- Write down the staff member's name.
- Introduce yourself, give them you address, and tell them why you care. For example, if you're the parent of someone with a developmental disability, say so.
- Tell them that you are against Section 1 of Assembly Bill 98, the developmental services budget "trailer bill" (they'll know what that means). That's the section about "best practices." Ask that the legislator try to get it removed from the bill.
- Even more important, whether or not Section 1 stays in the bill, ask the legislator to make a statement when the bill comes up for discussion today. Ask that the legislator say, when the Department of Developmental Services presents its recommendations for "best practices to the Legislature on May 15, the Legislature should consider the community organizations' alternatives for ways to make savings in the budget while doing less damage to the IPP than the administration's recommendations would likely do. The idea is to serve notice now that the Legislature will consider our community's recommendations equally with the administration's.
I know this is complicated. I wish I could make it simpler. I think that, if you stick to the five things I've suggested, your legislators will get the message. We've been working hard here in Sacramento to get this message to them since the Assembly Bill 98 came out yesterday.
Thank you for your advocacy.
Public Policy Director
The Arc and United Cerebral Palsy in California
1225 Eighth Street, Suite 350
Sacramento, CA 95814