Show cover of Special Ed on Special Ed

Special Ed on Special Ed

Enlightening. Empowering. Supportive. This engaging podcast hosts special education experts to discuss special education topics for special education parents. I would if I could ensure every parent has all the information they need before stepping into their child's IEP meeting. While that may be a lofty goal, I hope this podcast helps you prepare to advocate for your child. If you have a child with disabilities and special education needs, congratulations! You have just become the CEO of your child's education! There are acronyms galore, terms of art that are counter-intuitive, and completely new rules for school. This podcast will provide straightforward information about your rights, information from other professionals, and tips and tricks for working with your school. I'm a special education attorney, parent of 5 children with disabilities, and former special education teacher/administrator. I have seen special education from many angles. In fact, I have ADHD and Dyslexia myself, and I grew up in school systems that didn’t yet know how to identify or remediate these challenges. Each episode aims to build a bridge between knowledge and action, empowering you to become the most effective advocate for your child. Thank you for joining me on this journey.

Tracks

Revolutionizing Cognitive Skills with Video Games: An Interview with Dr. Steve Gullans
Shortly after publication, a transcript of this episode will be published on SpecialEd.fm Gaming and Cognitive Enhancement with Dr. Steve Gullans Summary In this episode, Dana Jonson interviews Dr. Steve Gullans, a trailblazer in biotechnology and cognitive enhancement. Dr. Gullans discusses his journey from academia to pioneering brainwave technology and video game-based cognitive training. He elaborates on Think Better's innovative approaches, exemplified by the EEG headset and the video game "Skylar's Run," designed to improve mental focus and cognitive skills in both children and adults. This episode is particularly insightful for parents and educators in the special education community. Key Topics Discussed Introduction to Dr. Steve Gullans: Background, including roles at Harvard Medical School, Excel Venture Management, and authoring "Evolving Ourselves." Think Better's Mission: Utilizing brainwave technology and video games to enhance cognitive skills. EEG Headset Technology: Explanation of how the headset works by measuring brain signals to improve focus and attention. "Skylar's Run" Game: A video game designed to train 13 cognitive skills through engaging gameplay. Clinical Trials and Real-World Impact: Discussion on the promising results from clinical trials and real-world applications. Accessibility and Ethical Considerations: Ensuring access to technology for all socioeconomic groups and maintaining data privacy and safety. Future Directions: Expansion into different cognitive skills training and broader applications in education and professional training. Resources Mentioned Think Better Website: thynk.com Book by Dr. Steve Gullans: "Evolving Ourselves" Key Takeaways Personal Connection: Dr. Gullans shares his motivation, driven by personal experiences with neurodegenerative diseases and a passion for science and technology. Technology Application: The EEG headset provides a non-invasive method to measure and improve brain function, focusing on real-world skills like attention and impulse control. Education and Training: Think Better's technology complements existing educational tools and has potential applications in various fields, including sports and professional training. Real-World Results: Parents, teachers, and clinicians have observed significant improvements in children's behavior and academic performance through the use of this technology. Ethical Implementation: Efforts are being made to ensure the technology is accessible to all communities, maintaining high standards of privacy and safety. How to Get Involved Join the Mailing List: Visit thynk.com to sign up for updates and be among the first to know when the technology becomes available to the general public. Contact Think Better: For those interested in implementing the technology in tutoring programs or other settings, reach out through the Think Better website. Connect with the Guest Dr. Steve Gullans: For direct inquiries, use the contact form on the Think Better website.   Feedback and Reviews: Please leave a review on your favorite podcast platform and share your thoughts on this episode! Disclaimer: The content of this podcast is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
52:20 6/3/24
Designing Spaces of Hope with Mark Ostrom
Shortly after publication, a transcript of this episode will be published on SpecialEd.fm Host: Dana Jonson Guest: Mark Ostrom, Founder of Joy Collaborative Introduction: In this episode of "Special Ed on Special Ed," host Dana Jonson welcomes Mark Ostrom, the founder of Joy Collaborative, to discuss how his organization uses compassionate design to create life-changing spaces for youth with life-limiting conditions. Discover the power of design in transforming the daily experiences of these young individuals and their families. Memorable Quotes: "You showed us how to live in our space." - Feedback from a family helped by Joy Collaborative. "We fill the gap between a make a wish and a Habitat for Humanity, creating lasting environments." - Mark Ostrom. "We gotta stay high... we're only here for a short period of time, we're going to leave you something that you're going to be living with for a long time." - Mark Ostrom, discussing the commitment to high-quality solutions. Discussion Highlights: Mark's Background and the Founding of Joy Collaborative: From organizing neighborhood kids to leveraging a career in architecture for social good, Mark shares his journey to founding Joy Collaborative. The impact of his experiences at the University of Minnesota's cleft palate clinic and his architectural projects on his approach to helping families. The Impact of Joy Rooms: Detailed discussion on how Joy Rooms are designed with the needs of children and families in mind, focusing on functional, joyous spaces. Real-life project examples, including the transformation of Hans’s living space into a multifunctional area conducive to medical care, family activities, and personal comfort. Community and Support: The role of partnerships with architects, builders, interior designers, and contractors. How these collaborations facilitate the creation of specialized environments tailored to the unique needs of their beneficiaries. Broader Applications and Future Projects: Introduction of the "Joy Mobile," a traveling multi-sensory environment designed to reach schools, clinics, and community events, offering adaptable and therapeutic spaces. Discussion on future research collaboration with the University of Minnesota Nursing School to evaluate the benefits of Joy Collaborative’s work. Resources Mentioned: Joy Collaborative Website - Explore more about the organization, their projects, and ways to get involved. Crescent Cove - Palliative care provider for young children, collaborator with Joy Collaborative. Firefighters for Healing - Partner organization providing transitional housing connected to health services. University of Minnesota School of Nursing - Upcoming research partners focusing on the impact of designed spaces on health outcomes. Call to Action: Engage with Joy Collaborative by visiting their website to learn more about their mission, view project galleries, and find out how to contribute through donations or volunteering. Your support can help extend the reach of their transformative projects to more children and families in need. Note to Listeners: This episode provides a deep dive into how thoughtful design can significantly improve the quality of life for children with severe health challenges. Join us in spreading the word about Joy Collaborative's mission to transform spaces into sources of comfort and joy.
46:33 5/20/24
Harnessing Creativity and Adaptation in Education with Michaell Magrutsche
Shortly after publication, a transcript of this episode will be published on SpecialEd.fm Host: Dana Jonson Guest: Michaell Magrutsche Introduction: A fascinating exploration of creativity and systemic thinking in education, featuring insights from Michaell Magrutsche, an advocate for integrating human-centric approaches within educational systems. Discussion Highlights: The importance of recognizing and nurturing individual uniqueness within educational and systemic frameworks was emphasized, with Michaell sharing insights from his personal experiences as a neurodiverse individual. Michaell advocated for a human-centric approach to education, critiquing traditional systems that prioritize rote learning over creativity and individual strengths. The conversation covered societal constructs like gender and age, advocating for an educational approach that sees beyond these labels to the individual underneath. Michaell's journey highlighted the limitations of traditional education systems in accommodating diverse learning needs and the need for systemic change. Resources: My Hub: https://MICHAELLM.com The Smart of Art Podcast: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/michaellart    LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michaellart   Instagram: https://instagram.com/thesmartofart/  Threads: https://www.threads.net/@thesmartofart Twitter: https://twitter.com/michaellart YouTube Videos: https://goo.gl/gPM7cq  Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Michaellcoach My Music:  www.soundcloud.com/michaellart  My Books: https://goo.gl/tpDQk3  Call to Action: Spread the Word of the Podcast Share the Episode on Social Media: Utilize your platforms to share the episode or key takeaways. Whether it's Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram, your share can spark interest and bring this valuable content to a wider audience. Use hashtags like #EducationInnovation, #CreativityInLearning, and #HumanCentricEducation to increase visibility. Discuss the Episode in Online Forums and Communities: Join discussions in relevant online communities, such as educational forums, creativity workshops, and social media groups focused on education reform or personal development. Sharing your insights or how the episode influenced your thoughts can inspire others to listen and engage. Recommend the Podcast to Friends and Colleagues: Word-of-mouth remains a powerful tool for spreading ideas. If you found the content impactful, discuss it with friends, family, and colleagues who have an interest in education, creativity, or personal development. Personal recommendations can encourage others to explore the episode and potentially introduce them to new concepts and perspectives. Note: This episode serves as a call to embrace creativity and individual uniqueness in education, challenging conventional norms and advocating for a more inclusive, adaptive learning environment.
58:02 4/1/24
Exploring Photobiomodulation for Children with Autism and other Disabilities with Dr. Kyle Daigle
Soon after publication a transcript will be posted on SpecialEd.fm Host: Dana Jonson Guest: Dr. Kyle Daigle Introduction: This episode of "Special Ed on Special Ed" features Dr. Kyle Daigle, an expert in neurological rehabilitation and child development. Dr. Daigle discusses the fascinating world of photobiomodulation, its impact on neurological disorders, and its application in treating children with disabilities such as ADHD and autism. Memorable Quotes: "Photo bio modulation means changing life with light." ~ Dr. Kyle Daigle, explaining the essence of photobiomodulation during the podcast. "We're not treated from a nutritional deficiency standpoint." ~ Dr. Kyle Daigle, discussing his personal health journey and the shortcomings of traditional medical treatments in addressing nutritional deficiencies. "Different colors have different benefits... Red light therapy is phenomenal for just basically even helping out with sleep." ~ Dr. Kyle Daigle, describing the benefits of red light therapy in the context of therapeutic applications and its impact on various health conditions. "Primitive reflex integration work on myself was completely life-changing." ~ Dr. Kyle Daigle, sharing his personal transformation after integrating primitive reflex work into his own life, highlighting the profound impact it had on him. Discussion Highlights: The significance of light therapy, or photobiomodulation, in neurological rehabilitation. The relationship between light exposure, brain function, and childhood developmental disorders. Dr. Daigle's personal journey from struggling with ADHD and allergies to becoming a pioneering therapist. The critical role of primitive reflexes in child development and their impact on conditions like autism and ADHD. Insights into Dr. Daigle's innovative approach, including the development of NeuroSage, a software that combines therapeutic exercises with engaging video game elements. Specific Resources Mentioned: Books: "Cracking the Code of Autism" by Dr. Kyle Daigle: A guide for parents to understand the neurological aspects of autism and find strategies for support. Websites: Dr. Kyle Daigle's personal website: Dr. Kyle Daigle.com - A comprehensive resource for information about his work, photobiomodulation, and access to his book and NeuroSage software. Neuro Solution LLC: A clinic offering innovative therapies for neurological rehabilitation. Social Media and Online Platforms: Instagram & Facebook: Dr. Kyle Daigle's active pages for updates and insights. YouTube: Dr. Kyle Daigle's channel for educational content. Contact Information: Phone Number for Neuro Solution LLC: +1 337-499-3162 Call to Action: Share the Episode on Social Media: Share this episode link on you social media platforms to spread awareness about the benefits of photobiomodulation and Dr. Daigle's innovative approaches to treating neurological disorders. Leave a Review: Leave a positive review on your podcast platform if you found the episode informative and helpful.  Engage with Content Online: Follow Dr. Kyle Daigle on social media, subscribe to his YouTube channel, and visit his website for more information. Engaging with his content online can provide ongoing support and promote the dissemination of valuable resources and information to a broader audience.   Note: The conversation delves into the cutting-edge area of neurological therapy, emphasizing the importance of non-traditional approaches to treating complex conditions. Dr. Daigle’s dedication to advancing treatment options offers hope and new possibilities for children and families navigating the challenges of disabilities.
56:54 3/18/24
Parent Advocacy Insights from School Psychologist and Special Education Director Diana Fannon
Shortly after publication, a transcript for this episode will be posted on SpecialEd.fm Advocacy Insights with Diana Fannon Host: Dana Jonson Guest: Diana Fannon, Special Educaiton Director and School Psychologist Introduction: Dana Jonson introduces Diana Fannon, a Director of Special Education and a former school psychologist. Diana shares her personal journey with epilepsy and how it has influenced her approach to advocacy and education. Resources Mentioned: Disability Ed Pros Website: www.disabilityedpros.com Free Webinar on Demystifying the Path to Eligibility: www.disabilityedpros.com/webinar Instagram: @DisabilityEdPros Call to Action: Share the Episode with a Friend: Help spread the valuable insights from this episode by sharing it with friends or family members navigating the special education system. Leave a Review: Support the podcast by leaving a review on your favorite podcast platform. Your feedback helps reach more listeners and provide support to more families. Follow Disability Ed Pros on Social Media: Stay updated with the latest resources, tips, and support by following Diana Fannon's initiative, Disability Ed Pros, on Instagram.   Note: This episode serves as a comprehensive resource for parents and guardians in the special education process, offering Diana Fannon's expert insights and personal experiences to guide and empower families.
46:49 3/4/24
Neurodiversity Unveiled: Beyond the Should Storm of Parenting with Dr. Alison Escalante
Shortly after publication, a transcript of this episode will be added to the show notes on the podcast website https://SpecialEd.fm. Host: Dana Jonson Guest: Dr. Alison Escalante INTRODUCTION: In this enlightening episode, Dana Jonson is joined by Dr. Alison Escalante, a board-certified pediatrician renowned for her innovative approach to parenting and child development. With over two decades of experience, Dr. Escalante shares invaluable insights on overcoming the challenges of parenting, particularly within the neurodiverse community. The conversation delves into the intricacies of ADHD, sensory sensitivity, and the societal pressures that shape parenting practices. MEMORABLE QUOTES: "Just because they can do it sometimes doesn't mean they can do it all the time." - Alison Escalante, on the expectations placed on neurodiverse children. "Everything I try as a parent, everything I start, is a learning opportunity." - Alison Escalante, discussing her approach to parenting and learning from mistakes. DISCUSSION HIGHLIGHTS: The importance of understanding neurodiversity and its impact on children and their behavior. Strategies for managing sensory sensitivities and meltdowns in neurodiverse children. The role of societal expectations in shaping parenting practices and the challenges they present. An introduction to the "Sigh, See, Start" method developed by Dr. Escalante, aimed at empowering parents to better meet their children's needs amidst the "parenting shitstorm" of criticism and anxiety. RESOURCES MENTIONED: Book: "Sigh, See, Start" by Dr. Alison Escalante. A science-based, three-step method to overcome the overwhelming pressures of parenting. Website: https://seesighstart.com - For more information on Dr. Escalante's work, additional resources, and access to a free chapter of her book. CALL TO ACTION: Share this episode with a friend or two Write a review for us Subscribe so you don't miss an episode
51:13 2/19/24
Transforming Parenting Attachment, Neurobiology, and Thriving Children with Dr. Tamara Soles
Shortly after publication, a TRANSCRIPT of this episode will be added to the show notes on the podcast website https://SpecialEd.fm. Join host Dana Jonson and Dr. Tamara Soles, a renowned child psychologist and parent coach, for an insightful conversation on "Transforming Parenting - Attachment, Neurobiology, and Thriving Children." Dive into the world of parenting neurodivergent children, the importance of attachment in parenting, and the role of parental self-reflection. Dr. Soles shares her wealth of experience in early childhood mental health, highlighting the impact of attachment and neurobiology on child development. Key quotes from Dr. Soles emphasize understanding neurodiversity and the essence of attachment beyond physical closeness. Listeners are encouraged to explore Dr. Tamara's website for valuable resources. This episode offers a comprehensive understanding of modern parenting techniques, focusing on neurodiversity and psychological child-rearing aspects. Guest: Dr. Tamara Soles (Child Psychologist, Parent Coach, Founder of The Secure Child Center for Families and Children) Host: Dana Jonson Discussion Highlights: Attachment in Parenting: Dr. Tamara discusses attunement and responsiveness in developing secure attachments. Parenting Neurodivergent Children: Strategies for understanding and supporting the unique needs of neurodivergent children. Role of Parental Self-Reflection: Emphasizing parents' need to reflect on their upbringing and emotional responses. Early Childhood Mental Health: Exploring mental health's impact on long-term development in early childhood.   Memorable Quotes: "Children are wired differently, and we need to identify their needs for effective parenting."  - This quote is from Dr. Tamara Soles, discussing the importance of understanding neurodiversity in children for effective parenting. "Attachment is about connection and responsiveness, not just physical closeness."  - This quote, also by Dr. Tamara Soles, addresses common misconceptions about attachment parenting, emphasizing emotional connection and responsiveness. "Our own inner children often come up in our parenting journey."  - In this quote, Dr. Tamara Soles speaks about the significance of parental self-reflection in the parenting process.   Call to Action: Visit Dr. Tamara's website (https://drtamarasoles.com/freebies/) for free resources on parenting and supporting neurodivergent children.   Other resources:  Website https://drtamarasoles.com Free PDF 4 Hidden Reasons Your Child is Melting Down https://drtamarasoles.com/meltdowns/ Instagram https://www.instagram.com/drtamarasoles LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/dr-tamara-soles/   Note: This episode offers a comprehensive understanding of parenting techniques that cater to neurodiversity, with Dr. Tamara's expertise providing fresh perspectives on nurturing thriving children.   [After Publication Note: A transcript of this episode will be available at https://SpecialEd.fm]
60:58 2/5/24
Giftedness and Beyond: Navigating Neurodivergence with Dr. Matt Zakreski
Shortly after publication, a TRANSCRIPT of this episode will be added to the show notes on the podcast website, https://SpecialEd.fm. Episode Title: Giftedness and Beyond: Navigating Neurodivergence with Dr. Matt Zakreski Guest:  Dr. Matt Zakreski Host: Dana Jonson This episode offers a deep dive into understanding and supporting neurodivergent children. Dr. Matt's expertise and empathetic approach make this a must-listen for parents, educators, and anyone interested in neurodiversity. Introduction: Dana Jonson introduces Dr. Matt Zakreski, a passionate advocate for the neurodivergent community. Dr. Matt's unique approach combines personal experiences with professional expertise in psychology. Memorable Quotes: "Labels are powerful. It matters that you're a zebra, not a weird horse."        ~ Dr. Matt on the importance of understanding and embracing neurodiversity. "If I ever got the chance to do this work, I wanted to work with kids like me."        ~ Dr. Matt discusses his motivation to help neurodivergent children.” "It's like everybody else got the script, but you didn't."      ~ Dr. Matt on the challenges neurodivergent individuals face in social settings. "Kids survive, but not all of them do."        ~ Dr. Matt highlights the urgent need for appropriate support for neurodivergent children. Discussion Highlights: Performance Cliff: Discussing the challenges gifted children face when academic demands exceed their capabilities. Masking in Neurodiversity: Exploring the concept of neurodivergent individuals hiding their true selves. Educational Strategies: Emphasizing the need for individualized education to cater to neurodivergent students. Dr. Matt's Mission: Co-founder of The Neurodiversity Collective, which offers therapy, IQ testing, coaching, and consulting specifically for the neurodivergent community. Advocates for practical strategies to aid in the development and learning of neurodivergent children. Call to Action: Encouraging listeners to learn more about The Neurodiversity Collective and its services by visiting their website: https://www.theneurodiversitycollective.com/ FLASHBACK: Check out a blast from the past: How Exceptional Are You? In this episode I speak with Cheryl Viirand, super-mom and co-founder of Cajal Academy, a private special education school in CT designed for 2e children. We discuss the unique challenges and gifts of twice-exceptional (2e) children, exploring strategies for educating them in a way that addresses both their high intellectual capabilities and their individual learning needs. We also delve into the role of neuroplasticity in developing programs tailored to 2e children, highlighting the importance of creating an educational environment that nurtures their gifts while supporting their challenges. 
52:07 1/22/24
Mastering Essential Social Skills: A Guide for Teens and Young Adults with Kirt Manecke
Episode Show Notes Shortly after publication, a transcript of this episode will be added to the show notes on the podcast website https://SpecialEd.fm. Topic: Essential Social and Career Skills for Teens in Today's Digital Era This episode delves into crucial social and career skills that teens and young adults must navigate in our highly digitalized world. Kirt Manecke's insights offer invaluable advice on developing these vital competencies. Guest: Kirt Manecke, Award-Winning Author of "Smile & Succeed for Teens: Must-Know People Skills for Today’s Wired World" Host: Dana Jonson Introduction: Dana Jonson introduces Kirt Manecke, an expert in teen social skills development and author of the critically acclaimed guide for improving interpersonal abilities in the digital age. Discussion Highlights: Fundamentals of Social Skills: Kirt discusses the core social skills every teen should master, emphasizing the power of smiling, proper greetings, and the importance of face-to-face communication, even in a digital world. Career Preparedness for Teens: The conversation turns to how teens can apply these social skills to secure and excel in their first jobs, highlighting interviewing techniques, customer service essentials, and the significance of first impressions. Volunteering as a Skills Laboratory: Kirt advocates for volunteering as a practical way for teens to practice and enhance their social skills in a real-world setting, fostering personal growth and community contribution. Adapting to Digital Communication: The nuances of applying traditional social skills in digital platforms and how teens can maintain genuine connections online are explored. Memorable Quotes: "Mastering social skills is your ticket to personal and professional success." - Kirt Manecke on the importance of interpersonal skills. "A smile is the universal language of kindness and confidence." - Kirt on the simplest yet most powerful social skill. "Every interaction is an opportunity to practice and polish your people skills." - Kirt on the importance of everyday engagements. Call to Action: To find Kirt Manecke, visit his website (www.SmiletheBook.com), where he has more information on his books, online courses, and free resources designed to help teens thrive in social and professional settings.  
38:45 1/21/24
Maximizing Independence for Students with Autism: A conversation with Julie Swanson, The Life Skills Lady
A TRANSCRIPT of this episode will be added to the show notes on the podcast website: https://SpecialEd.fm shortly after publication.   Life skills are the biggest predictor of adult success for individuals with Autism. Yet, many parents and school teams misunderstand the full breadth of life skills, and they often take a back seat in special education planning.  We discuss the 3 domains and 10 categories of life skills and their importance to increasing quality of life, how to incorporate life skills into the IEP early, and how to navigate transition and the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act).   My guest for this episode is Julie Swanson, a.k.a. The Life Skills Lady. She is the parent of an adult with an autism spectrum disorder and a non-attorney special education advocate.  Her career as an advocate grew out of her own advocacy efforts for her son.     Julie is the founder of lifeskillslady.com, a website devoted to increasing quality of life and independence for students on the autism spectrum.  You can follow her @lifeskillslady on all social media platforms. Julie is also the co-author of Your Special Education Rights: What Your School District Isn’t Telling You.   You can find the Life Skills Cheat Sheet Julie discusses here: https://lifeskillslady.com/resources/life-skills-cheat-sheet/   You can find the IEP Discussion Guide for Life Skills here: https://lifeskillslady.com/resources/iep-discussion-guide-for-life-skills/   You can reach out to Julie here: https://lifeskillslady.com/contact   If you liked this episode, share it with a friend and on social and leave a review here: https://podcastsconnect.apple.com/my-podcasts/show/special-ed-on-special-ed/aaf5305a-7592-403f-950a-7a60dc4914be/ratings-and-reviews   FLASHBACK Go back and listent to the episode, Should they stay or should they go?, where I discuss transition skills with transition specialist, Muncie Kardos, Ph.D., OTR/L, ATP: https://specialed.fm/?p=1187   A TRANSCRIPT of this episode will be added to the show notes on the podcast website: https://SpecialEd.fm shortly after publication.   TRANSCRIPT (not proofread) SUMMARY KEYWORDS skills, child, parents, advocate, alex, disabilities, school district, teach, attorney, kids, autism, iep, school, functional, find, adult, academics, special ed, dana, assessment SPEAKERSJulie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady), Dana Jonson   Dana Jonson  00:09 Hello and welcome to Special Ed on special ed. I am your host, Dana Jonson. And I have a wonderful guest for us today. Miss Julie Swanson, who is the life skills lady and she is going to talk to us about her passion project for Life Skills lady.   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  00:26 The Life Skills lady is all about increasing quality of life and outcomes in autism and other developmental disabilities through life skills beautiful.   Dana Jonson  00:37 And that's what we're going to talk about today. But I can't do anything without my disclaimer. So let's hear that first. Information and this podcast is provided for general informational and entertainment purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction at the time you're listening. Nothing in this episode creates an attorney client relationship. Nor is it legal advice. Do not act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in or accessible through this episode without seeking appropriate legal or other professional advice on particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer or service provider licensed in your state country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction. Thank you for being here. Julie. I'm so excited. You're here. Let me tell my audience a little bit about you. Julie Swanson is a parent of an adult with autism spectrum disorder and a non attorney special education advocate. The career as an advocate grew out of her own advocacy efforts for her son, which we're going to talk about a little bit. And she's the founder of life skills. lady.com, which is a website devoted to increasing the quality of life and independence for students on the autism spectrum. You can follow her at Life Skills lady on all social media platforms. And she's also the co author of the very popular book, your special education rights, what your school district isn't telling you, which you can find on Amazon, which is a great reference for parents. And all of this information will be in my show notes. So if you're driving and you can't write anything down, then just go back and read it a little bit later. So Julie, thank you for being here. I would love to start with how this all came to be for you. You're a mother of a child with disabilities. So what was your path that brought you from that to advocacy to the lifeskills? Lady?   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  02:14 Right. Thank you for having me. You know, my son, Alex, who is an adult, was diagnosed with autism in 1997. Just almost three at that time.   Dana Jonson  02:27 That's really early for that time, isn't it? Yes. So   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  02:30 that was right when I didn't even I barely knew what the word autism was, I had to look it up in a never forget it a set of red encyclopedias down at my laptop, which were from the 1950s. And let's just say I went home and cried for four days. And I had a very dark period, because you do not want to read about autism from a set of 1950s. People don't even know what encyclopedias are if people   Dana Jonson  02:57 can't even imagine that being the primary resource anymore. But yeah, that sounds scary, right.   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  03:03 And so autism was just on the rise at that point. But when he was diagnosed, I felt like I was the only person on earth who had had a child with autism. But as time went on, he went through the purpose of three system and then went into the school system. And I had developed a home program for him before going into the school system out of my basement using the principles of applied behavior analysis. And there were no board certified behavior analysts BCBAs in the state of Connecticut, where I live. So we had to get a BCBAs from Rutgers, which was a big epicenter of applied behavior analysis and such. So I had asked going into the school system, you know, he requires a program and we had evaluations and recommendations from professionals who said, Yes, he requires a program using the principles of applied behavior analysis. And of course, the answer was no school system didn't even know what ABA was or what   Dana Jonson  03:59 it be back then they were still considering it a methodology. Right. Right. It wasn't considered scientifically proven. No.   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  04:05 In fairness, nobody was tooled up back then at the school systems were not tooled up. So why was the second due process case in the state of Connecticut, asking for program using the principles of ABA? Wow, it is a podcast in and of itself to go but was my hearing. But we ultimately prevailed. And the word got out that this woman named Julie Swanson was successful getting an ABA program in her school system. And by now you know, time is going on and the the the incidence of the disorder is on the rise and people started calling me and of course you go through a hearing all the way through you have gone through a boot camp and understanding the IDE a the Individuals with Disabilities Education. So I without knowing it had come to learn the skill set. I really know Ever wanted to have? Yeah,   Dana Jonson  05:01 it's true. Because it's not just about knowing the disability. I mean, you are going through, like you said, a boot camp of special education law. And let is important and what isn't important, and not everything that's unfair is illegal, right? So that's right. We're learning everything from scratch.   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  05:18 I was fortunate enough at the time to be able to stay home with my two kids. But I as time went on, like, Okay, I need to go back to work now. And in my previous lifetime, I had sort of two tracks that I was on. I was intelligent production, and I was in public relations. And I was ready to go back to work. But by this time, so many people are calling me and asking for advice that I was giving out freely and taking a lot of time and energy from me, I thought, I think I have a business. I think this is a need. And you know who the players were at this that time there were only three advocates in the state.   Dana Jonson  05:58 Not Alone people. Right.   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  06:00 We know who they are. Well,   Dana Jonson  06:01 and to point out your attorney for your due process hearing was your co author, correct? Absolutely.   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  06:07 I met attorney Jennifer Laviano because her father represented me. Yes. So yeah. So that's that's how I met Tony Laviano. So anyway, that's how I fell into this. And I've been doing it ever since 20 plus years. Johnson.   Dana Jonson  06:25 Wow. That's amazing. That's amazing. Because I think I met you about 20 years ago. I   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  06:31 Oh, probably. Yeah. Yeah.   Dana Jonson  06:35 That's insane. As Alex grew up and went through the different phases, I mean, just because you want your due process hearing and got a placement. Yeah, that wasn't the end of it. Right. It wasn't like no veiling from then on. And eventually he became an adult and no longer under the purview of a school district. Right. So and I remember that transition for you as well, it was very difficult. So yes, let's talk about life skills. Lady, when did that happen to be   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  07:04 a thank you. And you know, it's, it's an answer that I hope will help people, right. And the whole reason that I started the life skills lady, which by the way, I did over the pandemic, it had been brewing in me for years. But when do we have time doing what we do, I know, I'm not an attorney. But we essentially do a lot of the same thing, a lot of the same stuff, to secure appropriate programming for kids with disabilities in school systems. And obviously, different levels of us will ever be without a job. That's right. I, I'd love to be out of a job. But it would be wonderful, I would be wonderful. So in over the years of doing this, and I work with kids with all disabilities, but I do do a lot of autism, because that just happens to be one of the things that I'm known for, but I do all disabilities. And in working with kids who have autism and other significant developmental disabilities, I have seen this, it's more than a trend. It's a practice, I suppose, for the lack of a better word, where people start thinking about transition and adulthood in what I call the 11th hour now, and it really is too late. Strands transition to adulthood, begins when your child enters the school system. If that's a preschool, it's in preschool, I think that's in the third grade, because many people have different paths, right? So kids come from private schools or whatever, it starts immediately. Because it takes a long time to build up these 10 areas of life skills, and most people think of life skills. In my opinion, I don't think there's ever been a study, but in my own organic research that I've done, people think of life skills as skills you have in the kitchen, and skills you have taken care of yourself with hygiene and dressing and all that stuff, end of story. That is one area of the 10 areas of life skills. And so from the beginning, there's a misunderstanding of what life skills are. And so I just thought that, combined with the very poor statistical outcomes we have for our kids who have neuro diversities, and autism spectrum disorders, and by the way, they're worse than any other of the disabilities. Great. We've got to change this. And we can change it now we're, we still need so much research. Because think about it, all these kids are just becoming adults in the last five or so years, 10 or so years. And so we're in catch up mode to do the research of what it takes to improve these outcomes. But everybody can agree that By increasing life skills, you increase the likelihood of increasing outcomes and quality of life   Dana Jonson  10:10 well, and that's we want them to be as independent as adults as possible. And if we wait until they're adults to work on those skills, right, nothing's gonna happen. I heard Peter Gerhart speak once, and he's the best he is. And I and what he said, I've really changed my view. And I got it because I'd worked in a very severe escalation. And he said, When adult men go into a public bathroom, yeah, the environment there is vastly different than an adult woman going into the bathroom, right? We talk to people, we chat out of the blue, you'll comment on someone's shirt or their lipstick with no prompting, right? Because training these young boys to use a public bathroom, women, primarily the teachers are women. And I've recalled having that happen with one of my students, I had to take them to the airport, and we're at a public bathroom, and I couldn't go in. And they were in there with their communication book going up to people and pointing and talking to them. And I remember thinking, Oh, my gosh, this is not okay. Like, thank God, there were there was somebody there who was very kind, and he's like, I'll watch the door you can go in and now that sort of thing, but, but I realized, like, Oh, this isn't appropriate, this is something we have to work on. That kid was 18. So we were going to start then. And so to your point of starting very early, it's things like that, that we're not even contemplating, right, until a later age.   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  11:37 And then there are barriers within the system of why parents are told that we don't have to teach life skills. I mean, there are a myriad of reasons why you may get pushback as a parent incorporating life skills into VIP early. And let's face it, look, you're in school, primarily. It shouldn't, you know, it's not just primarily, but we're there to learn the curriculum, right? Or if you're in special education, to, to be as close to that curriculum or something. Right, you know, appropriately designed in sync with it. And so there, there's just this thinking of, we're not there for life skills. Right. So I did I answer your question? Well, yes.   Dana Jonson  12:19 But I think to your point, aren't we though, because if a child wants to have disabilities, right, right, you're expecting them to learn the skills to interact with adults, you're expecting them to learn the skills to be able to handle a job interview, that's why they have a guidance counselor or their interview for college. So we are providing those life skills to children without disabilities, right. And so to say that a child with disabilities doesn't get that same kind of training, maybe they're not going to college, but they need to know how to interact in a work environment, or in a school environment or further training or whatever environment that is, and also for living purposes, the more independent a child is, the better their living situation will be post high school and post public school. Right? Yeah.   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  13:10 And you know, in the IDE, A is you know, itself, it says the transition from a federal timeline is by 16, right. And in our state is 14, and every state is different, because you could move that up. But it also says if earlier earlier if the team deems that right, if necessary. And so what I like to try to do is to say to teams know, we need to start it early, earlier. There are things in the system that also probably inadvertently create barriers to parents incorporating the skills earlier.   Dana Jonson  13:46 So what are those barriers? What are you looking out for?   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  13:50 Right? So one of them the law? Right, right. And right, but the obviously the law is designed to work for us and protect us. But many parents don't even know what it is. Right? So here's the scenario that typically happens. Even when I'm involved, right? You say, well, we'd like, let's, let's say it's, we'd like to teach Susie, how to cook macaroni and cheese. And what the team will say is, but she doesn't need that skill to access the general education curriculum. And why do teens say that? Because the definition of an IEP states and oh, by the way, I'm going to read it. Oh, good. For those who can't   Dana Jonson  14:33 see this. I will tell you that Julie is reading from printouts that are on the life skills lady.com So she has some wonderful printouts so go check those out.   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  14:42 Right? Yes, free. Thank you, Dana. So I am I was so bothered by the answers that are given when asking do incorporate life skills into the IEP earlier. I did this print out so that parents can bring some Think to the team with them and say, Hey, I've got this, this guide here, can I go through with the team, the definition of an IEP, according to the IDA, and this is an abridged version says, is a statement of the child's present levels of academic achievement, and functional performance. There's the big one for life skills, including, and this is what everybody quotes, how the child's disability affects the child's involvement and progress in the general education curriculum. However, Dana, as you know, the statute goes on to say that it is also designed that an IEP is designed to meet each of the child's other educational needs, that result from the child's disability. And it goes on to say, to make progress, in addition to making progress in the general education curriculum, and to participate in extra curricular and non academic activities. Okay, and to be educated and participate with other children with disabilities and non disabled children in the activities. So my point there is and why I put this guide together, is it gives parents something to go in to their team with to say, This is what the actual law says, No, it doesn't have to be just that it's to make involvement and effective child's involvement in progress in the general ed curriculum. Right. Does that make sense? Yeah,   Dana Jonson  16:36 there's more to it. And I find that in many of these meetings, there's a lot of language that's left out, for example, I, you know, just popped into my head, least restrictive environment, we always forget the part that says that is appropriate. Right. It's not just automatically the least restrictive. It's the one that's appropriate. And And yes, that we are looking to involve children in the general ed curriculum. But there's more to it. That isn't the only goal of the statute.   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  17:03 Right. And so the other barrier to that to finish answering your question is, in order to show that your child has deficits in their functional performance, which we will get into after this, you have to assess their functional performance. Right. So there are assessments such as the Vineland, this assesses the 10 areas of adaptive skills. There's the a bass, which is the adaptive behavior assessment scales, there's the Abels, the assessment of basic language and learning skills, the A falls, the assessment of functional living skills for some of our kids on the spectrum, there's the VB map, which the verbal behavior, milestones assessment, I know, there's other words that go with that. I always forget what the map itself stands for, but, but   Dana Jonson  17:55 it isn't gonna cut   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  17:56 it. Right. So when you have your triennial testing, with a lot of our kids with developmental disabilities, they'll miss assessing their adaptive skills. So now, if you assess the adaptive skills, which by the way, on my website, I have a whole area of listing all of the assessments, you can ask for your now once you've assessed them, now you have the data, and the list of deficits. And while it's so important to talk about what our kids can do, let's remember that we have IEP s to teach them the skills that they don't have. Right, so here are the things that my child can't do according to the assessment. And so I'm asking for their special education programming to include where their adaptive skills adversely impact their education. So there's all these different things that come together, to present to your team to say, we need to include this in my child's IEP. And   Dana Jonson  19:00 we can start early, right? That doesn't have to be right, they can reach the young child, they can say we want to start assessing the adaptive skills now. But what age Needs Assessment start?   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  19:10 That's right, right away, and what people have to what parents need to remember. And of course, people who work in school districts is that an IEP is to address academic achievement, and functional skills and functional skills are generally known to be those skills, we need to meet the demands of everyday life. The IDE doesn't even define functional skills, because they can be so widely interpreted.   Dana Jonson  19:38 Well, and I always like to point out is that in the IDE, it does state education is not just academics. So when you're hearing we only how are we tying this to academics? How is this academics has nothing to do with math. Education is not just academics,   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  19:56 right? You know, I remember one of the stories that I'd like to Tell because it was so mind blowing to me. And it was actually, one of the catalysts for me to want to start the life skills lady is I was working with a family whose child was higher on the spectrum had lower support needs, but was still not functioning well. So that's why I don't like to use the term high functioning autism. Because academics do not predict how well we do in adulthood.   Dana Jonson  20:24 I feel like high functioning and usually means they're not doing anything to bother me.   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  20:30 It's so good. Dana, that is so good. I love that. I might have to start using that. Yeah, it's that's how i. So there was this one young man in high school. And I asked the team to assess his life skills, his adaptive skills for transition programming. And the school psychologist, and I am not exaggerating, became completely undone. And basically said to me, You are insulting this young man's intelligence, how dare you ask to have his life skills valuated. You are, this is this is below his dignity. Now meanwhile, the mother, who is my you know who I am her client, and she is my client wanted to assess the life skills, they absolutely refused. Of course, eventually, attorney, an attorney did have to get involved. The school, it's a long story, but let's just say that he never really got exactly what he needed. Yeah. And she called me after his mom. And and has said to me, he's not doing well, in adulthood. I mean, he, he's doing well. But there are so many areas that he's he just never got the instruction that he needed. Yeah.   Dana Jonson  21:57 Well, and I think that that is something that parents will hear when they don't have an advocate, or they don't have an attorney with them. And somebody who's coaching them or explaining this to them, and they hear this is that they're so smart. That's an easy thing to grasp onto. And what how do you define smart, you know, if you don't have the social skills to navigate a room, but you can do theoretical math? Where's that getting you?   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  22:24 Right? And it's great to be smart. But it's not the only thing that can carry us into being as successful as you can possibly be given? Your, your set of circumstances. academic art, everything that is very correct.   Dana Jonson  22:41 Absolutely. When parents are in these situations, like you just said, a lawyer had to get involved. When, from your perspective, as a parent and an advocate, what are the red flags where parents should be saying, you know, what, maybe I need a professional like, maybe I need to go beyond my advocate. Because, you know, sometimes advocates are great, but they may not be, well,   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  23:00 we can't practice law. Right? Exactly. Right. So it's when you're in a dispute with your school district that can't be resolved through the IEP process, right. And that's what I always tell parents, I, I'm, you know, I'm not a miracle worker, I'm, I'm, I will try my very best to resolve this issue. But at the end of the day, we may not resolve it. And you may be in a dispute. And you you know, so you either have the mediation process you can go through or a hearing. And I will often get involved with mediations for parents who may not be able to afford an attorney. And but of course, I can't advise them on what the agreement says. But yeah, that's when I say then then I will set you up for need, you know, the next step. Yeah. And,   Dana Jonson  23:48 I mean, that's that mean, that's totally accurate. You know, it does make me crazy, I think. And I also like to tell parents, that there's not an attorney out there worth their salt, who isn't going to speak to you, right? And tell you, you don't need me yet. Or you do need me now, I at least find in our state, you know, there aren't even enough of us to do this. So it's not a competitive issue. It's about do you need me or not? And maybe I'm not even the right attorney, maybe this person does more of that stuff. And they might be better equipped to help you with that. Do you have because people always ask this, and I actually just had someone asked me this the other day, should my child be in the public school or not? Should I be fighting for a private program? Or should I be fighting for them to be in the public school? And in this particular matter? I said, we don't know yet. We don't have an evaluation. We need more information. But I'm curious what you know, how do you answer that question? When parents come to you,   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  24:45 that's a really tough one because, uh, you know, from being a parent, that I'm not going to be able to live in your home and understand your child like you do, right. And so at the end of the day for me how to answer that question is, What benefit are they getting from being with the typically developing peers? Now, trust me when I tell you my own son was not in a public school, my Alex has not only autism, but he has an intellectual disability and he's nonverbal. Okay. So for me, as my mother used to say, some decisions make themselves, it was pretty obvious that for Alex, his least restrictive environment, was a center based program, not in the public school. For many kids who are higher on the spectrum, right? They may benefit greatly from being with those typically developing peers. And when are you with the typically developing peers? And when are we pulling you out into more of a resource setting? And so that balance may be perfect for your child. But I think when the balance tips, right, and your child is perhaps so far behind, and perhaps so disconnected to the the regular education population, that maybe the benefits outweigh the risks, or the vice versa, the risks outweigh the benefits, right? Then it may be time to say, My child needs more of a senator based out of district placement. But I never liked to be the person who makes that decision for a parent, I really believe as a parent, you've got to have some sort of gut feeling about that. Do you agree, Dana,   Dana Jonson  26:33 I do. Actually, I usually say to parents, if something in your gut says something's wrong, there's probably something wrong, right? Go with your gut. And that doesn't mean you know what's wrong. Or sometimes your eye might be on the wrong ball. But if in your gut, something is wrong, something is wrong, and trust your gut. And I think that parents get from a very, very early in the process are being told not to trust their gut, they're being told to trust other people. And that can be very difficult because you know, you're not an expert, you're not an autism expert, you're not a certified teacher, you're not no tea, whatever it is, that you're feeling like, well, these are the experts. Yes, they are. But there's only one person who spends all their time with your child. Right. And that's, so something's wrong, something's wrong. And yeah, I also mean, I have five children, all the APS with drastically different needs, we've gone the whole spectrum. You know, we've been in separate Special Ed schools, and we have been in fully without, you know, barely any services in public school, so and everything in between. So there is no one size fits all. And I totally agree with that. And I think it really, as you said, I can't make that decision for a parent, I can tell them. This is what a school district can do. This is what your school district can do. This is what this program can do. But it's not up to me whether they belong in one place or the other, I can assess how easy or difficult it will be to get one program or another. Yeah,   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  28:03 I do love it when you know, and obviously, that's one of the reasons to get a an independent evaluation. And I do love it when independent evaluators say, hey, school district, here are the components of programming you need to put in place for this child. If you can't do that, yes, then we need to think about the out of district, right, and give the school district the opportunity to build the program, the child requires to have an appropriate program at the school district. And if that can't happen, that's also another way to say, All right, well, now it's time. Right? So do you want to know what the 10 areas of life skills are for your listeners? I   Dana Jonson  28:47 do, but very much. Okay. I was hoping we'd get there.   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  28:53 And by the way, I'm holding up my cheat sheet.   Dana Jonson  28:59 That's on your website to write Oh,   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  29:00 certainly is. And so all you have to do to get these free things is give me your email because you'll get my newsletters, you know, which is very   Dana Jonson  29:09 helpful and very informative. Yeah. Without a doubt like getting spammed. No,   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  29:14 no, I don't believe me, trust me when I tell you, I will not inundate you with email. I wish I had more time then. Okay, so the life skills cheat sheet for IE planning. IEP planning is what I'm reading from, okay. And I've made it visual. I've made it as a graphic because, listen for me, I want people to bring stuff down to the fifth grade level for me. Yes, I love visual, me as a user make this as simple as possible for me, please. So that's what I've tried to do. And I have three circles. And each circle has the there are three domains of life skills. One is conceptual skills, social skills, and practical skills. And then under those three domains are subcategories, which there are a total of 10. So I'm going to start with the conceptual skills. And the first conceptual skill is communication. Oh, by the way, conceptual skills are really what can be the most challenging for many of our kids with autism, developmental disabilities, and other neurodiversity is because it includes applying insights into situations, right. It's judgment, it's higher level thinking, right? This can be very difficult for many of our kids. So the first one is communication. And that's understanding, you know, using verbal and nonverbal language, then there's functional academics that's using reading, writing and math skills in everyday life. This is not calculus, functional academics are those the math we use in everyday life tipping percentages, you know, all of those things. And even just writing an email or leaving your your parents a note on the kitchen table. Yeah, functional academics, then we have self direction, this is one of my favorites, because it's one of the most difficult and we hardly hardly include these skills in IEPs. self direction is problem solving, exercising choice, initiating and planning activities, skills needed for independence, responsibility, and self control, including starting and completing tasks, keeping a schedule, following time limits, following directions and making choices. Yeah. Hello, executive functioning.   Dana Jonson  31:33 And not only that executive functioning, but I think a good basis on that is if you would not leave your child alone for the day. Right? They probably don't have the skills.   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  31:43 Right. Right. That's one of my favorites, right. And it's for someone like my son, Alex, that's very difficult. And he can't do a lot of these, but we've taught him to the highest degree possible for his circumstances,   Dana Jonson  31:59 to do some of these things, right? Well, that's what I also love. And I wanted to mention that with that, a lot of times the bar is low. Well, there, this is a good example. They'll never independently shave themselves. So why bother? And I know, I've seen the video of you with Alex shaving, and he does participate in that activity. He can't shave himself independently, but you have taught him some of the steps and the ones that he can do, and he does participate. And that is huge. That is important. That is him being part of the process. And I think that you don't just stop the whole activity because the child every single step independently, right, but what they do, absolutely, and for some kids, it might even be just tolerating it. Yeah. Learning to tolerate it. Okay, so   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  32:45 now we're on to the next domain, which is social skills. And there are two subcategories, the first being social skills, and of course, maintaining interpersonal relationships, understanding emotions and social cues, fairness, honesty, using manners, and obeying rules and laws. Well, you know, so many of our kids are at risk for victimization. Do we? Do we teach that? You know, I spoke out in Utah, recently at an ABA conference. And it was all on sexuality and autism. And the very first thing that they were saying is, how do we teach to keep kids safe, from you know, people who may be nefarious, and that is to start teaching choice making at a very young age. So that when somebody for the very first time says, you know, let me do this to you, right. They've practicing know. Yeah, right. Yes. But we don't typically think of these things. Right. And obeying rules and laws. I mean, you know, you how many of our kids Dana, you know, you have them on your caseload with disabilities who have been arrested? Yeah. Right. Yeah. Right. So we have to teach them. This is the law, my friend, you will get arrested if you do this. Yeah. Right.   Dana Jonson  34:06 And I find a lot of that, what impairs that somewhat? Is that concrete thinking? And if something doesn't seem consistent, right, they don't understand. And it's a lot of teaching that some things you will never understand. And you have to understand. But then there's this other part where we want to teach them choice. And I had this issue with one of my own children, which was how to teach them the difference between what is mandatory and what is not. And when they do have a choice, because that was very confusing to them. They didn't have a sense. Who was the authority in the room?   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  34:40 Right? Well, that requires a lot of judgment, right? A lot of higher level thinking. Yeah. Okay, so the next one, and this is also one of my favorites, leisure skills, and that's taking responsibility for one's own activities and having the ability to participate in the in the community. Now what I'm doing right now is I'm using my hands still look like I'm on the computer and on a Gameboy or whatever they call them today. It's not a Gameboy. That's how old it's the switch. Okay. But so many of our kids have a not just kids with disabilities have, I would say, an overload for technology. Yes, I would concur. I concur. Right? Right. So you know, it's really important to teach, whether it's bowling, swimming, walking, puzzles, I don't care but having a nice, as robust as possible menu of leisure activities for our kids to be able to participate in. Yeah, and last area is practical life skills. And there are five of these self care is the one that we all think about when we think of life skills, right? skills needed for personal care, including eating, dressing, bathing, toileting, grooming, etc. Now, here's another thing. How many times do many of our kids with autism or diversities, developmental disabilities have challenges as when it comes to eating and the variety of foods we eat? And oh, no, we can't teach that at the public school system. But we can, because it is a functional life skill. And you have to assess it to be able to prove to your school system, this is an area of need, you know, home or school living, these are the skills we need to take on basic care of our living space, laundry, housekeeping, food prep, you know, property, maintenance, etc.   Dana Jonson  36:33 One response I hear to that a lot is well, there are a lot of kids this age who don't do it. That isn't the point.   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  36:39 Yes, you are going to hear that. And that is where you say, you know, I like to say, look, we've got the Vineland here, we've got the a bass here, we've got all of these assessments that include this. It is part of it is part of functional performance. And but my child has a disability and an IEP and God bless that other child. But we're not talking about that other child. Yeah. So then we have community use. And that's the ability to be involved in the community going shopping, using transportation, community services, health and safety. Again, one of my favorites. And this is the ability to protect oneself, medication management, responding to health problems, you know, and in today's world, keeping ourselves safe includes keeping ourselves safe on the internet. Yes, you're right. I've had situations with clients of mine, who have met up with people they've met online, and it hasn't ended well. Now, you know, these are all things that we need to explicitly teach today. And the last one is work. And that's not only the ability to get a job, but keep a job. Yes. And for many of our kids like my son, Alex, he will never be competitively employed. And he is a 24/7. Kid, he as an adult, in Connecticut, it's called the Department of Developmental Services, and he has a budget to help support him because he has a level of need that that drove that decision to be made. But even though he doesn't work, and I'm doing air quotes, right now, he goes to a farm every day, and with his support person, and changes the water for the horses. And so he gets up, and he's able to do something meaningful every day of his life. And his day is his dance card is full every day. And it's with things that we know he loves, and that are meaningful. It's not work. But it's a different kind of work. Well, I   Dana Jonson  38:45 like to think of, it's important for them to be contributing members of society. And that is not dictated by a paycheck, right? If you're capable of being competitively employed, or even with a job coach of some kind, great, but if you're not contributing to the community, or Well, I guess the community, you might be a contributing member of society, right. And to the greatest extent that we can have children be contributing members of society, it is better for them as well. Not just for us as a society, but everybody benefits from that. And   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  39:19 it's a sliding scale as based on your child's individual needs. What all of this looks like in adulthood, right? Yeah. So yeah, so I just wanted to sneak in the 10.   Dana Jonson  39:30 to No, I love that. That's very important. And I think parents need to, to understand all of those areas. And that, as we said at the beginning, a lot of those areas need to be started early on, like you said, the concept of choice making the ability to say yes and no to things. It doesn't mean that you give free range, but Right, they need to have some concept of control. Right? Absolutely. In order to understand that. And for children who have I haven't. And I've seen that happen as later teenagers for children whose lives have completely been controlled. That's where they don't have a sense of their own voice. They don't know that they can say no.   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  40:12 And I think as school teams and as parents, we inadvertently, and I am guilty as well inadvertently support our kids. And we don't really know until school is over just how much support they had. Right? And you know, listen, I'm a mother, you're a mother, we all do it. But we just we don't realize that we're doing it. And I have to remind myself every day, because Alex lives at home. And you know, he does have support folks who come in, but and bring them out to the community every day. But I have to remind myself every day, you know, I'll give you an example of problem solving. Alex is not the kind of guy we're going to say, here's this math problem, or here's this problem, we'd like you to solve and tell us how you would solve it. But what we did teach him to do, right, is we realized, I realized that he had become a little prompt dependent, okay. And I wanted him to be less prompt dependent. So I worked with somebody where we taught him problem solving. So as an example, we stopped saying things like, Alex, put it over there, right? Put the fork there. And we would change that to where does that need to go? Okay, don't those are very different ways of, and then giving him the time. Now we would have to teach, right? If he didn't, he didn't know what to do, we would then give them time and say, it goes here, buddy, great job. And he's learning that and then you just keep doing that and shaping it and continuing to step back. So we taught him problem solving, by giving him enough time to figure it out on his own. And when he couldn't we help him? Yeah, but there's an example of, you know, Alex is lower on the spectrum, if you will, right. And that's his need is greater, but we still taught him how to problem solve.   Dana Jonson  42:17 But I think that teaching how to problem solve at any level on the spectrum, because, as you said, as parents, we do that a lot. And you know, as as an example, I realized that this was actually kind of funny. I thought it was funny, okay. My kids figured out that if they told if they acted like they didn't know how to load the dishwasher, they could eventually get my husband to come over and show them how to do it.   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  42:42 Doing air quotes, yeah, doing aircraft.   Dana Jonson  42:46 Dishwasher, and so setting it up and putting it in properly and saying, Okay, that's how I started to realize this was happening more and more. And in his mind, he's like, but I'm showing them how to do it, and not realizing that they have become dependent on him just doing it. Yeah, I'm saying so they weren't learning. They weren't even paying attention. And this has nothing to do with neurodiversity. It's pretty, I think we as parents often do too much for our children thinking that we are teaching or helping. And the reality is, the more we back off, often, the better. Absolutely. You know, so especially when you're talking about a child like Alex, who needs to learn that that is an option, figuring it out is an option. Absolutely. And you know, that's how we all learn, right? Yeah. Hopefully,   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  43:35 I literally, if you have a listener, who wants to start incorporating life skills into the IEP early, I literally did a step by step on my website. Under the tab getting started. As the first step, you can take the second step. And no, is this stuff easy? Is it a pain in the neck? Is there any luxury in it?   43:58 No.   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  44:03 It's the investment you make in your child. Yeah. And the last thing I want is for people to be in the little the 11th hour in Dana, I'm sure you've gotten these calls. You know, my son is a senior, and he's about to graduate in a couple of months. I just learned that he might be able to stay on past his senior year.   Dana Jonson  44:26 Oh, my God. Yeah, that makes my head want to explode. Yeah.   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  44:29 But I'm sure you've gotten those calls. Oh, not only   Dana Jonson  44:32 have I gotten those calls. And this is partially on me. I had a client who said, Well, I don't think I need you anymore. Because, you know, after the senior year, they really can't do much can they? And I'm like, where did I fail? You know, wait stops Yes, you can still fight your school district and get what you need. And you know, I put that one on me. But I got services, don't worry. I think there is trepidation to quote them. fighting your school. And I'm not asking people to fight their school, I'm asking them to advocate for their child. Right? And if unfortunately, that turns into a fight. Yeah. Not something that we can help here and try and be collaborative. Right?   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  45:16 Right. And I always think of guilt, because I'm sure you have listeners who aren't parents and they work in school this Yes. Right. And we don't want to be fighting with them. They don't fighting with us. No, but we're you have to advocate for your child. And you know, like my mother used to say, there's no one waiting in line behind you to do this job. Exactly.   Dana Jonson  45:37 And I say that to parents all the time, you know, you can't wait for somebody else to step up and do this. It has to be you, you are the parent. And it is overwhelming because as a parent of children with disabilities or a child with disability, you are overwhelmed. You are overbooked overschedule, out priced everything and, and it is overwhelming to then think you have to go do this. And but there isn't anyone else who's going to do it for you. And some people are very lucky, very fortunate. And they end up in a situation and it can be the same school district, I will have one family with a situation where everything goes smoothly. And I'll have another family the exact same situation and nothing goes smoothly. And I can't tell you why yet, right? It just it does happen both on both ends of the spectrum. But as the parent, you have to know, you have to know what your child is entitled to and you have to know what your child needs. And if you don't, you have to know where to find that information. Right. And the life skills lady is a great place to start. Oh,   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  46:38 aren't you nice? Oh, no, you know, and I always say to parents to you know, if this is overwhelming for you, work with a local advocate, work with an attorney, bring somebody in to help you. You know, it doesn't mean it has to be forever. But you know, you don't know what you don't know. Right. And I know when I first started, I right off the bat, I worked with an attorney, because I knew I was in over my head. And I made that investment. Because I knew it was that important.   Dana Jonson  47:11 I as an attorney have had to hire an attorney, I can't I can't be my own attorney. I can't be my own advocate. I've had to hire advocates and hire attorneys because I couldn't do that myself. And so there's no level of you know, can I do this myself? Well, if you don't need to do anything legal, maybe. But you've got a lot going on. So sometimes, as you said, having a local advocate who's familiar. And actually there's a great question, what questions would you tell parents to ask an advocate when they are looking for an advocate? Because it's not? It's not a regulated field? Right?   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  47:46 Right. I wish that it were. And we're both members of COPPA Council of parent advocates and attorneys and advocates. We wish that it were the here's what I say to parents. I have the reputation that I have. Because I hope it means I've done something right. And I think unfortunately, as advocates, we have to depend on our reputation. And get out there and talk with other parents. There are chat rooms today, there are groups that you can belong to talk to other parents. And look, we all have to start somewhere. I don't know, there's got to be hundreds of advocates in Connecticut now. I think there are now. Yeah. And great. There's plenty of work to go around. But and I had to start somewhere, right? I didn't always have 20 plus years of experience, right? But the person does need to know their stuff, right? And you need to find somebody who has a confidence level in this. And of course, you have to talk to many people. And at the end of the day, you have to rely on your gut as to what your it's like when somebody calls up the phone and talks to you, Dana, and they've probably talked to another attorney. You know, they probably took me to say they've talked to four people, but they liked you the best. Right? So they hire you. So you have to do that. You have to do your homework. Ask other parents. I think that is one of the best ways. Yeah, right. Get into these chat groups, and just say, you know, who have whose everybody had? Who's had you've had a good experience with? Is that a good sir?   Dana Jonson  49:25 No, I think it is. I think it's important. I also always say that, you know, COPPA, which is CO pa.org is a national organization. And they do have a training process for advocates. It's called their feet program. So I do always think that if someone's been through that process, it's not regulated. It doesn't mean that they're great, but that they have graduated successfully from that program, you know, that they've gotten a certain level of education on being an advocate. Right. I think most of us there. Most of us in this field. Were either former Special Ed teachers or teachers or parents and that's What got us into this field? Right? Wrong or both, and I was actually special education, teacher, attorney, then parent, started backwards. But everybody has their own path here. But it is important to understand what somebody's style is like, and you're gonna find that out from other parents, what some what is someone's nature, maybe somebody only does inclusion. Maybe somebody only does, you know, processing disorders, I don't know. But but you know, and some people do everything. Like when I did this field, my background was primarily autism and ABA. So I did a lot of that, but again, was 20 years ago, I brought it right, I do everything now. But everyone has a niche. And, you know, Are they familiar with your district? I always find the question, you know, what have you quote unquote, one to be a very difficult one to answer? Because it's, are you familiar with the players? Do you know, the district? Do? You know, are you somebody who goes in with guns blazing? Or are you very collaborative? And either is right or wrong? Right?   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  51:07 And there's really no good answer to that question. Because there's so many factors going into the personality of the director of special education, exactly the pressure that person is under from the Board of Education. How much money do they have in the budget? You know, I mean, there's, there are so many factors at   Dana Jonson  51:26 play, that are out of everyone's control. So finding an advocate that you are comfortable with, that you feel gets you gets your child, and that you have heard really good things about, right, whose style you feel comfortable with. And like you said, I think word of mouth is always better than pretty much anything else. Right? Right. Other people's experience experience. I think this has been tremendously helpful. I've learned I love it, I love the life skills, lady, website. And I also and I refer people to it all the time. And I also love your videos that you do. A lot of times, Julie will put out videos with her son, or about her son, my favorite ones are the ones who have his best friend, I absolutely love those because the two of them are so beaming just to be around each other. Like you can't not be happy in a video. But no, it's great, and showing live examples of all this stuff. You're talking about, you know, and demonstrating how it works. And I think that there is something to that, to be able to look at that and say, Oh, that makes sense. It's not theoretical, right? And, you know, give a real life application of the life skills there.   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  52:38 So that's, you know, social skills, right? Alex and his friend, their best friends. But in order for that to happen, right, Alex is nonverbal. And his friend also has autism is verbal, but really doesn't speak. So, one might ask, Well, how do you know they're best friends? Well, in our situation, we as the parents have become very good friends, right? And we we as parents have to put them together because they're not going to call up each other and greet something to happen. So there's a lot of orchestration there, right. But when they're together, we know that they love being with each other. If I say, Oh, you're gonna get together, you know, with him, and she says, Oh, you're gonna get together with Alex. Or he might go to the calendar and say, Alex, you know, because she'll be on the calendar. I can see Alex's face beaming. I love being near each other with each other. So it's an orchestrated social situation. And as parents, we call them best friends. Because in our hearts, we know they are. Yeah.   Dana Jonson  53:49 Well, and that's what I love. You can see it. You know, it's not, it doesn't it doesn't feel orchestrated. I know, there's a ton of work that went behind that, right, like, when you see it, that's what I mean, by seeing that practical application, like you can see it in them. When you mentioned one name to the other, or when they show up together, you can actually see that and feel that and if and as you said, it took a lot of work on your guy's part and on their part. Right. And but this is the relationship that they have and nonverbal doesn't mean you don't have those relationships in your life and that they don't thing. And what do we do when we get together? Leisure skills, Dana. Yes. That's why they are so important. We thank you so much for joining me today. Is there anything that we haven't covered that you think we need to let parents know? Oh, Lord, what are maybe that'll be our next episode. Yeah.   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  54:49 You know, you just you have to be you have to, you have to show up and do the work. And, and it's not there's no luxury in it, but no one You can love your child more than you. Right? And they're worth it. They are. They're absolutely worth it.   Dana Jonson  55:07 Thank you so much. I I so appreciate all the work you do as an advocate as a life skills lady, as a mom, as a friend, you're just I don't know when you sleep.   Julie Swanson (The Life Skills Lady)  55:19 Well, right back at you, though,   Dana Jonson  55:23 thing. Oh my God, I want to find Julie, you can go to life skills lady.com. And you will find her website and all her information. And I will also have it all in the show notes. Thank you so much for joining us. And we'll see you next time on special ed on special ed. I thank you so much for joining me today. Please don't forget to follow this podcast so you don't miss any new episodes and leave a review and you have a chance. If there's anything you want to hear about or comment on. Please go to my Facebook page special ed on special ed and find me there. I'll see you next time here on special ed on special ed. Have a fabulous day. The views expressed of this episode are those of the speakers at the time of the recording and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency organization, employer or company or even that individual today.
56:17 1/19/24
Demystifying Psychological Evaluations: Insights from Dr. Diana Naddeo
Shortly after publication, a TRANSCRIPT of this episode will be added to the show notes on the podcast website https://SpecialEd.fm. Introduction: Welcome to our enlightening episode, where we delve into the world of psychological evaluations with Dr. Diana Naddeo, a seasoned Licensed Clinical Psychologist. Known for her comprehensive approach to pediatric psychological assessments, Dr. Naddeo integrates emotions, personality, learning, and behavior to offer a holistic understanding of her patients. Her expertise spans psychiatric diagnosis, educational assessment, and a myriad of treatment approaches aimed at crafting effective plans for patients and their families. Guest: Dr. Diana Naddeo - Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Owner of the Center for Assessment and Psychotherapy (https://newtowncap.com/contact/) Host: Dana Jonson Discussion Highlights: The Importance of Private Educational Evaluations: Dr. Naddeo explains how these evaluations offer insights beyond standard school assessments, focusing on cognitive, academic, social-emotional, and behavioral aspects. Components of Psychological Assessments: An exploration into the various components of a thorough psychological evaluation and how they contribute to understanding a student's needs. Collaborative Planning: Insights into how Dr. Naddeo collaborates with families and schools to create individualized educational plans that leverage each student's strengths. Culturally Sensitive Approaches: Dr. Naddeo's commitment to understanding her patients within their cultural contexts ensures assessments are both meaningful and respectful. Memorable Quotes: "We're not just assessing; we're understanding the whole child within their world." - Dr. Diana Naddeo "Every child's learning journey is unique, and psychological evaluations are key to unlocking their full potential." - Dr. Diana Naddeo "Collaboration with families and schools is not just beneficial; it's essential for creating plans that truly support the child." - Dr. Diana Naddeo Call to Action: Listeners are encouraged to learn more about Dr. Naddeo's work and the transformative power of psychological evaluations by visiting the Center for Assessment and Psychotherapy's website at Newtown Center for Assessment and Psychotherapy. Discover resources, insights, and how to schedule a consultation to support your child's educational journey. Note: This episode provides a deep dive into the significance of psychological evaluations, offering invaluable perspectives for parents, educators, and professionals in the field. Join us as Dr. Naddeo shares her expertise, shedding light on these evaluations' critical role in supporting students with disabilities.
48:33 11/28/23
The Long Term Impact of School Shootings with Deb Del Vecchio-Scully, LPC, NCC, BCN, DCMHS
On the 10th Anniversary of the Sandy Hook Shooting, I speak with Deb Del Vecchio-Scully, a trauma specialist, about the long-term impacts of school shootings.
37:35 12/14/22
Social Skills Training rooted in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA): a conversation with Justyna Balzar, M.Ed. BCBA LBA (CT)
When people hear ABA, they usually think of Autism. However, social skills training is a component of applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy that can help students with social skills deficits. ABA social skills training offers a set of techniques designed to strengthen an individual’s social skills. Neurological, emotional, and developmental disabilities are often marked by a lack of social intuition. Most people learn social rules and conventions naturally, but they are foreign to individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and other developmental disabilities. Some students find it impossible to master even seemingly simple social interactions. They are identifying social cues, understanding other people's intentions, and knowing when and how to respond and interact with others in social situations are not innate abilities. Individuals often referred to as 'socially blind' lack inherent skills in interacting with others in social situations. Justyna Balzar, M.Ed. BCBA LBA (CT) joins me today to discuss social skills rooted in ABA. Justyna Balzar is the Co-Founder & CEO of The Hangout Spot (https://www.thehangoutspotllc.com), a center that offers specialized play and social skills instruction based on Applied Behavior Analysis. They offer thoughtfully structured, experiential small-group learning through on-site programs and remote teaching. Justyna has over 15 years of experience working with learners of varying profiles between the ages of 3 and 18 across multiple settings. She received her Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA) certification in 2014 from the Florida Institute of Technology, her Master's in Curriculum and Education in Applied Behavior Analysis from Arizona State University, and her BCBA certification in 2016. Her publications include Behavior Science of the 21st Century blog posts and articles for Autism Parenting Magazine. Driven by a passion for educating others about the wide-reaching applications of ABA, Justyna founded @Behaviorchik, an online persona intended to disseminate behavior analytic resources. She also created the @Theabaadvocacyproject, an initiative spearheaded by The Hangout Spot founders and a fellow BCBA that unifies the advocacy practices of parents and professionals using ABA. You can reach Justyna here: Justyna@thehangoutspotllc.com You can reach me here: Dana@SpecialEd.fm FLASHBACK: I’ve spoken with Justyna before! She and Hangout Spot Co-Founder, Meghan Cave, joined me previously to discuss the benefits of teaching social skills through the ABA lens. Check that episode out here! https://ntkwdj.libsyn.com/wanna-hangout-i-know-just-the-spot
34:24 11/30/22
Social Emotional Learning (SEL) with Dr. Judy Grossman
This is an essential episode because Social Emotional Learning is not just for students with special education needs - everyone needs social-emotional learning skills! Social-Emotional Learning, also called SEL, is an integral part of education and human development. It helps students and adults develop healthy identities, manage emotions, and feel empathy for others. SEL gives students the skills they need to build supportive relationships. Students learn the skills, attitudes, and knowledge surrounding social-emotional learning to make responsible decisions. By establishing trusting and collaborative relationships, rigorous and meaningful curriculum and instruction, and ongoing evaluation, SEL helps schools, families, and communities achieve educational equity and excellence. Through SEL, we can help address various forms of inequality and empower young people and adults to create thriving schools. It's helpful to start with a clear definition of Social-Emotional Learning (SEL). A school-wide SEL program equips students of all ages with skills to achieve their own unique goals. It includes understanding and managing their emotions, nurturing positive relationships, making informed decisions, and feeling empathy. Learning SEL is critical to students’ success, both in and out of the classroom. Dr. Judy Grossman joins me today to discuss what social-emotional learning is, why it is important, and why it is for all students! Dr. Grossman is the Associate Director of the Center for the Developing Child and Family at the Ackerman Institute for the Family. She is also an Adjunct Professor at NYU. Previous academic appointments include Yale School of Medicine and SUNY – Downstate Medical Center. Dr. Grossman has conducted special education policy research for the NYS and NYC Departments of Education and school districts in Fairfield County. She lectures nationally and internationally on the topics of family resilience, mental health consultation, and special education family-centered services. Dr. Grossman is an occupational therapist, public health educator and consultant, and she maintains a private practice in couples and family therapy, specializing in neurodiverse children. She is also a member of the Smart Kids with LD Board of Directors. TRANSCRIPT (not proofread) SUMMARY KEYWORDS child, parents, social emotional learning, children, feelings, piece, school, understand, kids, feel, terms, iep, regulate, grossman, special ed, episode, people, academic, learning, behavior SPEAKERS Judy Grossman, PhD, MSW, Dana Jonson Dana Jonson 00:09 Okay, welcome back to Special Ed on Special Ed, thank you so much for tuning in today. I'm very excited for today's episode, because we have Dr. Judy Grossman, who is the Associate Director of the Center for the Developing Child and Family at the Ackerman interests Institute for the family. I got it all out that time. And we're gonna talk about social emotional learning. So stay tuned, I'm going to run my disclaimer before we say a word. And then we'll jump right into it. The information in this podcast is provided for general informational and entertainment purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction at the time you're listening. Nothing in this episode creates an attorney client relationship. Nor is it legal advice, do not act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included and accessible through this episode without seeking appropriate legal or other professional advice on particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer or service provider licensed in your state country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction. Great, Dr. Grossman, thank you so much for joining me today, I was able to get out your very long title. But I would love it if you would give us a little background on you and why you are the one that I need to have teach me about social emotional learning. Judy Grossman, PhD, MSW 01:19 Okay, first of all, thanks for having me thrilled to be talking to the parents that are listening or whomever actually started my career as an OT. And then went into academia and did some policy research in special ed and became a family therapist. I mean, like I've had many, many different experiences, my area of focus has always been family resilience, even before we we use that term. You know, years ago, we only talked about risks and deficits. But you know, there's been a change a long time coming, and looking at strengths and resilience. And I started a project for family therapists to work, specifically with families with neurodiverse children. And that's because all my experience has taught me that there are layers to the work. So you may be a very competent family therapist, or a maybe an excellent educator and special ed. But you need the whole package. So if you're doing clinical work, that's more than the area of mental health, you have to understand the IEP and the different diagnoses. And on top of interested in family resilience, very, most of my work deals with the parents, because parents are so significant. And situations can be so stressful. And they often search for skills or strategies to help them manage their child's behavior, or even keep themselves regulated when they're getting upset. So social emotional learning, and I'd say it's a term that's been around since the 90s. There's a consortium, researchers, policymakers, educators, clinicians, everybody that's interested in evidence based practice, in terms of social emotional learning. And after the pandemic, or I shouldn't say that we are still in the pandemic, actually, right. We're not sure how it's over yet. I'm actually getting up at COVID. Right now myself. So we are, Dana Jonson 03:45 I think we're over the initial shock of the pandemic, maybe that's what we're thrilled with the initial shock. Judy Grossman, PhD, MSW 03:51 That's the one thing we've learned a couple of things. One is children are struggling with anxiety and depression. And for some even PTSD, this has been very challenging and continues to be very challenging for students. Second thing we learn, which I know, the past 40 plus 50, long time is that parents are so important in supporting their child's total development, but particularly the social emotional development because you're the model. You're the coach. A lot of it has to do with your own development of social emotional skills. And I think that the pandemic has raised awareness that it's so important for schools to partner with parents. Dana Jonson 04:47 Yeah. And I think that's, I mean, that's how I sort of came to it was I had an older child who was neurodiverse, who was not able to identify her own emotions and feelings. And so as a family, we sort of had to learn to talk in this way of explaining ourselves and explaining our emotions and our feelings as they were happening in sort of a way to help educate her. And what I learned was I have three of my five children are have a traumatic background, and they're adopted. And and so but what I learned through this process was, it was significantly benefiting my bio, no typical child. And I mean, I don't know that anyone in my house is neuro neurotypical, but whatever you get, the idea is that these pieces, these pieces that I was putting into place for a specific reason for a specific disability for a specific need, actually applied to everybody in the house. And that's how I started to sort of identify that and now that as you say, the pandemic brought much more awareness to the forefront. And, and I agree with you, I think it's critical that we, as parents understand our role in that. Because when you tell a child you need to be doing this, but you're not doing it yourself. That's always my favorite when parents like Well, I'm definitely getting them into therapy. And I'll say, Well, do you have a therapist, and parents will say, Well, no, I don't need one. Judy Grossman, PhD, MSW 06:21 So you've made a couple of really good points, then that one is, this is universal. Every child and adult will have better live success, if they have good social emotional awareness. They understand can live with our own feelings, they can begin to identify feelings and others and develop empathy. They have good relationships, and most importantly, particularly with neurodiverse children that the child can regulate. So emotional regulation, meaning, you know, that don't have these uncontrollable outbursts, but they can find ways to self soothe, and cope. And another piece of that is CO regulation. So children who aren't able to do that, the parent has to sort of be their prefrontal cortex and help them regulate. So there are a lot of different dimensions to social emotional learning. But the way that the state of the art so to speak is that there are many curriculum, and many of them are endorsed by Castle, which is this consortium for collaborative social, emotional educational learning, and their school wide. So you know, a school might be interested in paying more attention to social emotional learning, and we can talk about what the research says, and more and more schools are adopting different curriculums. So it's helpful for parents to know, you know, what is your curriculum, and social emotional learning? Dana Jonson 08:05 The why would that be important for a parent to understand the specific curriculum? Is it that the language is different depending on the curriculum? Or how does that fit into what's going on at home? Okay, Judy Grossman, PhD, MSW 08:17 so it actually is less about which one, but knowing that they have one. Okay. I think that what goes on at home should complement the language that they're using in school. So there's not a disconnect, in many, many ways to do this. I mean, I often do, training people to do groups with parents and their children to learn these skills. And the earlier the better. I mean, you can, you know, start social emotional learning, with infants. Yeah. In terms of how you help them. And your narrative, your storytelling always includes failing words. So in terms of the steps in social emotional learning, the the, I would say the first step is just labeling feelings, yours, their husbands or partners, the other children in the family, and, you know, take advantage of 24/7 teachable moments. Oh, wow, we see those people there. They're having an argument. They, they look like they're so angry at each other. Are you watching a movie, when he's still kind because he keeps trying to help his friends, so forth and so on. So this is something that can be done, woven into family life. If you have a child and has difficulty labeling feelings, you become curious. And let's say you're watching your child doing homework and they're having a hard time. You can say I'm wondering if you're frustrated. I mean, you're looking frustrated to me, then how are you feeling? So you don't tell the child, how he or she is feeling. But you probe who has a question. And eventually children will be able, there'll be more in touch and be able to name how they feel. And once you have a name, there's a terminal name entertainment, that helps you feel more in control. You know, if they just have this amorphous, let's say you feel anxious, but you don't really know that that's anxiety. Right? You're uncomfortable, you might have bodily signals, and you don't know what they mean. And you might say, every night, my tummy hurts, my tummy hurts. And well, that might be the signal for that child that that means that you're worried that you're just Dana Jonson 10:54 yeah, there's there's that goal responses that it's not, I think that's an important piece, too, is to understand, especially for kids in school, when you see a child, when I see a child who visits the nurse a lot. My first thought is okay, that's anxiety. That's, you know, they're fearful of something, they're worried about something they're escaping from something like that, to me is the first sign right? That that they've removed Judy Grossman, PhD, MSW 11:20 themselves, actually, they, they may want to avoid something, or escape, or they may just be overstimulated. And they don't understand that. They just know they need a break. So that's really the first step. I mean, until someone has some self awareness. And when I work with parents, I always encourage a lot of self reflection, because there's a term meta emotion. how people feel about feelings. Yeah, so so people are not comfortable with angry feelings that are not express them. Some people have a lot of trouble handling when their child seems sad. Feelings are feeling, Dana Jonson 12:08 I think that's our natural response, right? Our child is that I want you to feel better. So I'm just going to immediately try to make you feel better. And Kelly, you you feel better. And that's not a big deal. It's not upsetting. Don't worry about it. But what I'm saying is your feelings don't matter. And that's where you'll have to parent right, that's Judy Grossman, PhD, MSW 12:23 dismissive, which is unethical. Because either say, your feelings don't matter, or this feeling is like a feeling that we want to talk about or notice. Dana Jonson 12:35 And I find for parents, sometimes it's hard to see when it wasn't our intent to harm a child, it's really hard to acknowledge that what we did, because they think in the back of our mind that So the worst thing we could do is harm a child. That's that's like our natural reaction is to not do that. That concept is so overwhelming, that our first response is to be like, no, no, I didn't mean that. So it didn't happen well, Judy Grossman, PhD, MSW 13:01 right? That's right. But the other piece to it is harming a child is a strong word, no parent ever gets it all right all the time. So sometimes it's about the repair. So you know, if you're learning some of these skills yourself about our how to label your carrier feeling and help your child label how he or she was feeling, it's, the parent becomes more skillful. And if you recognize that you did something that retrospectively feel you didn't handle, well, you can be transparent. And say, you know, I was just thinking about what happened this morning. And I'm really sorry, because you are looking so sad, and I didn't really give you a chance to tell me more about it. Would you like to do that? And the time, I'd say yes or no, yeah, the thing is, a very important piece of social emotional learning is this self regulation. And some parents are not well regulated. And it my work, and my work includes research and clinical, academic teaching and so forth. I always start with helping the parent regulate, because if the parent gets triggered by the child's behavior, and then they get upset, and they sort of get aroused and Rabat, that's only gonna create this child's dysregulation, essentially. So no matter what the first step is for the parent, to stay calm. And I think it's very helpful for parents to be explicit about it. Like let's say, you know, you ask your child 10 times to do something, they didn't do it and you're getting annoyed and you know, you're just sort of going up the scale. You can say, you know, yeah, I'm going up the scale or I use the monitors, killing thermometers, but whatever we want to talk about. And I don't want to start yelling, you know, that's not going to help us. So I'm gonna take a minute because I know it helps me, if I take a few deep breaths. So you are you're modeling for the child that you are working on controlling your reactions. So rather than being reactive, you want to be responsive. But you're modeling that. And, you know, you have to have a strategy. One, one part is noticing when you get aroused, or the parent, being able to monitor and knowing what's the point of no return, so to speak, and at some point, forget it. They can't really talk about it in a logical way. But then you have to know what to do. And so, you know, I usually have family activities, where everybody talks about the different ways they control themselves, or calm themselves down, or cope with stress. That's a very, very important piece Dana Jonson 16:13 is a parent understanding themselves and being able to control and regulate? Yeah, and it's, it's, it's, I find almost impossible for me to identify myself, I have to be able to rely on, we have this thing, and I'm very, like, I'm loud. My hands are always going I'm all over the place. And my husband's like, super chill. And so my yelling and his yelling are two different things. I remember he wants raised his voice once, and the kids don't yell at Mommy. And he his response was she yells at me. And they said, Yeah, but that's how she talks. And it was funny for me to be like, Oh, they so differentiate between us, like how I am compared to myself, not how I am compared to him. And I just thought that was fascinating to me that they had picked up on that little bit that they they were aware, they didn't think I was yelling all the time, you know, because there has been my personality. And I just, to me, that was showing me how in tune. Judy Grossman, PhD, MSW 17:19 The kids are. Exactly. Kids are incredibly attuned to the parents, emotional state. And like even toddlers, you could see a toddler, if he sees the mom looking sad, go over, and you know, sort of comfort the parent. Now, they don't even really understand what they're doing. But it's, it's in the air. It's an exquisite skill that children have. And, you know, parents might try to mask it, which is hard. I mean, I'm working with a very depressed mom right now. You know, she's doing her best to function normally. But I can't imagine her children don't pick something up. Dana Jonson 18:11 Yeah. And I hear that a lot too, with parents when they either they have something major to tell their kids, whether it's a divorce, or separation or move or what have you. And they've been waiting to tell them for some reason. And I always ask them, like, did they know? Like, did they know where they have set? And, you know, a lot of the time it's like, oh, they had a sentence, or they were relieved that whatever was was said, because they knew something was coming. You know, like, they're just, I think we as adults like to pretend that we're tricking them, but we're really not. You know, we've we've trained them to tell us what we want to hear. Judy Grossman, PhD, MSW 18:46 Yeah. And, you know, we we want to protect them. Yes. That's just an instinct. Can always, you know, that doesn't mean that you can help them deal with, I often say anxiety is catching. You know, it might be situation where were you just a word about it? And say, you know, yeah, you know, you recognize that, you know, this is normal behavior for mommy, which is different than normal behavior for daddy. And that's fine. People are different. You know, the thing about social emotional, oh, join us. Good question. I'm sorry, I Dana Jonson 19:36 was I was muted. I was just saying I think it's important for them to be able to distinguish between personality and emotion and feeling and my oldest is neurodiverse as nonverbal learning disabilities so so it's very difficult for her to identify any of those social cues that we take for granted. You know, but so to be able to distinguish between them That's your personality, you're fiery, and you're loud versus someone who's fiery and loud as me, or mad or angry or right. however you define it, it's much more complicated than we think. And we still take it for granted. I'm curious, how do you approach families, because sometimes I run into this where families say, they just need to suck it up. They just need to get through, they need to get a tougher skin. And I've been that parent, where I said, Oh, my God, my kids are snowflakes, what is happening, but at the same time, I think about the pain that I experienced, not being able to share my emotions with somebody or not being able to identify them myself. So I'm coming from that perspective. But how do you reach a parent who maybe doesn't see that the benefit necessarily they know their kid needs it, but they're not internalizing it? Judy Grossman, PhD, MSW 20:58 Well, that goes back to the research of what we're learning. So social emotional learning, which is the title that have sole users this consortium, it could be called Emotional intelligence, or emotional literacy. It's also referred to as non cognitive skills, and in our schools are all about academics, and cognitive development, language development, and achievement, which all plays into it, right. But if a child is not regulated, the child is distracted. If a child is in a stress response, if a child is feeling anxious, they're not taking in the information. They're not absorbing, and integrating what the teacher is saying. So there have been over 20 years of research, I mean, way more short term and long term studies, showing that there is a relationship between better social emotional skills and academic performance. There is relationship between social emotional skills, and relationships, and self awareness, and behavior, in school and at home. So I consider it What should I say, I never said this before the word just came into my mind, like a nest, ah, this is social emotional learning. And then you build all the academic cognitive skills. But if you're not pressing, right now, you're not really learning optimally. Dana Jonson 22:51 Yes. And I, we actually experienced that as well, one of one of my children, who, between evaluations, their IQ went up, and I'm using air quotes that you can't see right now went up 16 points. And at her age, that's not your IQ doesn't make that kind of lead BNL in that short period of time, and she had gone from an environment that was not safe to her in her mind, and had to spend not just to enter into a safer environment, she had to spend a great deal of time in that safer environment, before she became available for learning. And that's how we looked at it because I was like, there's not suddenly this, what was I, what I was thrilled about her educational environment at the time is that it was meeting those safety needs. And that was my only priority for her at the time. And the academics came, you know, like, everything went up when we only focused on making sure she felt safe. And that was our only priority. That's when she did well academically. Judy Grossman, PhD, MSW 24:03 Well, you're you're exactly right. And, you know, safety is. What could I say? Without that? Yeah, any of this is not going to develop. So you know, children that experience a lot of trauma. Number one need safety and trust in relationships. Another thing about you know, trauma and how it relates to this. I think we underestimate the amount of trauma people have in life. I mean, there's a lot of studies about this now from trauma informed cares, like the name of the game. It's a cat two days, it's the buzz phrase, right? But let's just say your child has ADHD, there's a separate from trauma, the extra energy that they need to pay attention to stay seated to, especially if they're have the hyperactive pace to modulate their body It is exhausting. And so even that takes away from Dana Jonson 25:05 learning. Right. And I think people forget that when kids are exhausted, they don't roll over and go to sleep, they tend to have a fit, you know, they tend to keep going in their exhausted state. They're not aware enough to rest. And I think we forget Judy Grossman, PhD, MSW 25:23 that. Yeah. And also, we see it in the transition from school to home. Because, you know, the teacher will say, here's a behavior problem, and we've been doing fine, and he has some friends, you know, and then the child comes home and opens the door, and he has a temper tantrum and totally escalates. And the parents thing that's going on? I mean, is this different kids? In my family child that's in school, very common number that I hear that all the time? Dana Jonson 25:56 How do you help schools bridge that gap? How do your parents and schools how do you, you know, I have that happen a lot. Obviously, with my clients, I have my clients or children with disabilities, and a lot of the time they are holding it together to the best of their ability from morning to dismissal, and then they get home. And there's nothing left. There's, you know, emotional control, there's no making the child happy. There's no nothing like they've just been pushed over the edge. But the school is seeing a great kid that's being social and talking to friends and doing their work. And I'm in the parents are seeing a kid that's about to blow, how do we help bridge that gap? Judy Grossman, PhD, MSW 26:41 Well, a couple of ideas. One is, because this is so common. One knows what you can do at home. So to be articular Babbitt and then have maybe a transition ritual with the child, because you're anticipating, and you make that obvious and you know, the ritual might be what's the most common thing you can do with the child at that moment? Is it to give them something to eat? Or is it to have them do some kind of physical, aerobic kind of activity, whatever it is, but make it over and think about, this is just what the parent can do think about creating a coming home ritual. As a therapist, when I work with families, everything is a suggestion, because we never really know what's going to work. A lot of it's trial and error. But for some families that works in terms of the school. And I've been doing this work a long time, I mean, training related service providers, because I'm also rotate training related service providers and training, special educators and changing psychologist and you know, people from different domains in this area with different perspectives. Yeah. And the, there are so many more opportunities for parents to get information that could help them. I always say, don't pass the OT what she's doing to help the child regulate in the classroom, because maybe she has some ideas for you. I mean, there's not enough transparency and communication between well, some parents and some schools do this very well. I mean, you know, I did some studies in Fairfield County, and there are some school districts, some districts, but there's some communities that do it very well. I was still my work was in New York City, and Dana Jonson 28:53 different animal in New York City. Judy Grossman, PhD, MSW 28:56 And so, sometimes there's absolutely no communication and cancer or our have a right to information. And they would benefit a great deal because they want other ideas. Are there strategies? Is there something that's working in school because there's a behavior plan seemed to work in schools, that's something we should try it at home? Dana Jonson 29:23 Right. And from a, you know, from a specialist attorney perspective, I would also look at that as you know, parent training from a school perspective. Another thing that I often recommend for parents is evaluations. And if they think that they are seeing a completely different child than their school district, and they're not able to bridge that gap, that either bringing in the private therapists that they're working with to give their input or collaborating with the school to get an outside evaluation, maybe somebody who isn't in school because of people in school aren't seeing But the parents are staying and the parents aren't seeing what school is seeing the maybe we need somebody completely separate, to come in and tell us where all these pieces connect. And I find that to sometimes be the hardest thing. And once we can make that connection, and everyone can see how all those pieces work together and how home is impacting school and vice versa, then we can start putting pieces into place. How would you advise parents or teachers who think you know, we have a gap, we need to bridge bridge this gap? Where can we get the information we need? Who should they be going to for that assessment or Judy Grossman, PhD, MSW 30:40 instruction? Well, you're talking about quite a few different things. So that's probably, so let's see if I can answer it in a way that's helpful. Schools are mandated to every child has an IEP to decide on placement and services to enhance their academic performance. That's as a threatened. I'm suggesting academic performances is not as narrow a lane, as they say, I did special ed policy research for a decade. And, you know, there's such variability in terms of a school district partnering and believing in strength base, partnering with parents in understanding what the parents concerns are, what their priorities are, as opposed to, you know, let's look at the IEP and look at the various specifics skill. Now, sorry, think about all the trial, right. So parents have a right to request a meeting, if a child has an IEP, parents have a right to have the child evaluated, if they feel there's a problem. Usually it comes from the school, suggesting to the parent, however, I know, parents instinct, lets them know something's not quite right. And so they need the validation. They may feel for years. I just think there's something that he he's not getting. And then grade three, you still can't read. He's very frustrated. And he has a lot outburst in the parent knew, right and we are diagnosing earlier and earlier or diagnosing. I mean now, where it is approved to diagnose children as young as four with ADHD, which was not the case before, but I know into a preschool and look in the classroom and identify two to three children that are neuro diverse. And yeah, I'm a preventionist. I mean, my doctorates and a couple of Cal, but I'm all about prevention. And if a child has a neurobiological disability, you really can do prevention work in terms of his emotional life, and not feeling I'm not good enough. I'm a bad boy. You know, I hear those things from children all the time, and they're devastating for parents. Dana Jonson 33:30 Yeah. But I think we don't realize too, that by calling a child a good boy, indicates to the other children, then they are bad. Like, I think they're little pieces of language that we we've become very careless with our language, I think. And I think that is part of our social emotional problem. Because when you're careless with your language, you're sending messages that maybe you didn't intend to send. And, and I think it's in my lifetime, that we've actually as a society started to acknowledge that kids have feelings. You know, I know, when I was little that was at the forefront of the conversation, you know, and even my mom talks about when she was pregnant, there was only one patient. Yeah, it was the mom. Right. So it started right from there. So, you know, I think that we are definitely coming into a new understanding even though these ideas and concepts and knowledge have been around forever. I think as a society, we have not been taking it seriously. Judy Grossman, PhD, MSW 34:31 Well, I think you're absolutely right. The power of language. Good, bad, you know, really, you want to describe behavior, you know, Oh, you did you finish that assignment very well. And you know, that was great because you're being a good student or whatever. You you talk about the behavior. I had an experience in 1971, which gives A little bit of indication of how long I've been in the parenting field. And we were doing a prevention program in Spanish Harlem with little kids. And everything was about the children know that colors, they know, shapes, and it was all conquer cognitive and language. And I have worked in mental health. And so this was a research project that really funded until I started saying to the parents, what do you like about your child? I'm telling you, they struggled with answers. So this piece of recognizing someone's emotional life and how much that impacts performance and relationships. I mean, even I do a lot of work and Headstart programs, and 1965, the purpose of Headstart was to help children develop social competence. It was an academic readiness. Because if you think about right, you know, what do you need to be a successful adult? Well, you may not need algebra, as much as getting along with your co workers are having a decent round. Dana Jonson 36:18 Yes. And I had that conversation, an IEP meeting the other day for a kid who's super smart. And I thought, yeah, he is. But he also can't make eye contact. If he doesn't like how you look, he will tell you like, there are things that are not acceptable in society that this child does. And regardless of the cognitive abilities, they won't be successful. And that is what we're looking at when you talk about education being much more global than academics. And it is, and that's something that I remind IP teams of all the time, you know, for a middle school, we're talking about a middle schooler, and this kid does not have any friends, that is not typical. And that is going to be more important to that student than anything else. So if we're not taking seriously what kids take seriously, then we're not acknowledging their feelings, their thoughts, what's going on in their lives. And I mean, they're human too, right? They this is their brains are developing to what they're going to be as adults, now's the best time for them to learn how to do all that stuff. I just don't believe that kids have to be in pain to learn what makes it hard to learn. Yes, I think we have that, right. Like if somebody if a kid is enjoying their class, there's this question like, are they actually learning anything? They seem like they're having too much fun? You know, we have to think that's sort of a weird thing. Well, thank you, I so appreciate all of this information. I think it's so important for families and schools to understand that this this social emotional learning piece, and you did touch on it, but it's also a little different than emotional IQ, or those pieces like how will you know yourself. It's more about social emotional learning, it builds, these things can be learned skill develop, to Judy Grossman, PhD, MSW 38:11 be modeled back to be practiced. I think the good takeaway for whoever's listening to this is becoming more comfortable with emotional coaching. And that's a term comes from John Gottman, which really means no matter what's going on, you connect emotionally with the child first. So you say, you know, I say you're really angry because you're raising your voice, and I get it, because your sister keeps taking your toys. So you're validating how the child feels, no matter how they feel a feeling is the feeling needs to be respected. So before you say, but don't hit your sister. First, say, you know, label of feeling validated. If you don't really understand if you can't make the connection say, but what what's going on? Tell me what I don't understand why you're so frustrated. And then you can give the couldn't give guidance, you can make a demand, you can make a request. It just means that the child feels understood, and they will listen to you. And this goes for all relationships. Dana Jonson 39:36 It takes them off the defensive. Yeah, Judy Grossman, PhD, MSW 39:39 I mean, everybody wants to feel understood. And Oh, Mommy gets it. Yes. And, you know, mommy's that. I should. I can't hit her. Okay. That doesn't mean it's not going to hit her. It means that he has to substitute right a different action for demonstrating has Question for just sister. Dana Jonson 40:02 I love that the way you phrase that it's it's about finding a different way to express it. Right? You're identifying. I see you feel that way I get it. That's valid. But doing that when you feel that way is not how we do it. When you feel that way, you've got to do something different. Let's figure out what that something different is. And yeah, so it's looking at what's, what's the outcome? I've said that to you before I do want the child to feel bad about themselves? Or do you want to change the behavior, which is the goal? And thinking of it that way? Because I think sometimes we feel like that's character building as an adult, right. Going through those tough things and toughing it out. But, you know, wouldn't it be better to have the tools to get through it rather than have it out? I'm not too proud to use, though. Judy Grossman, PhD, MSW 41:01 It's complex, but it is Dana Jonson 41:03 it is. So So Dr. Grossman, tell me if somebody is listening to this, and they're saying, Oh, my gosh, you speak my truth. You're the only person who gets me and I need to talk to Dr. Grossman, how are they going to find you, and reach out to you and find your world, Judy Grossman, PhD, MSW 41:18 I am only practicing on Zoom. Now. Since the pandemic, I gave up my office in the city and I had to have an office here. I'm taking select cases, because I also teach and so forth and so on. But I can be reached at Judy.Grossman928@gmail.com Dana Jonson 41:43 Great. And I will have that information in the show notes along with the other other links to some things that we've discussed during this episode. And I can't thank you enough it really this is such an important a hot topic. And I came across it because I was I attended a presentation that you gave and and I think that was well attended as well. I really think that social emotional learning is on the swing. Thank God in our community in our on our society. So thank you so much for all the work you do, and for sharing this information with parents. Judy Grossman, PhD, MSW 42:16 Oh, my pleasure. My pleasure. I'm happy to do it. Dana Jonson 42:20 Thank you so much for joining me today. Please don't forget to follow this podcast so you don't miss any new episodes and leave a review and you have a chance. If there's anything you want to hear about or comment on. Please go to my Facebook page special ed on special ed and find me there. I'll see you next time here on special ed on special ed. Have a fabulous day. The views expressed in this episode are those of the speaker's at the time of the recording and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company or even that individual today.
42:51 11/16/22
Special Education Due Process Hearing, and a side of IEEs
[iframe style="border:none" src="//html5-player.libsyn.com/embed/episode/id/24802530/height/100/width//thumbnail/yes/render-playlist/no/theme/custom/tdest_id/2148560/custom-color/61ce70" height="100" width="100%" scrolling="no" allowfullscreen webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen oallowfullscreen msallowfullscreen] A Due Process Hearing is just one of the dispute resolution options available to parents of children with special education needs. But what is a Due Process Hearing? In special education, Due Process Hearings are not often fully adjudicated, because the issues are resolved through some form of settlement. In fact, I'm pretty sure special education is the only civil right we negotiate away. For those fully adjudicated, parents rarely win. The school has significantly more resources (from their administrative staff to their on call attorney). Parents simply don't have the same legal, financial, and emotional ability to pursue and complete a full due process hearing. And that is why it is so exciting when a parent wins!!   Today, we look at due process hearings through the lens of one specific case in Connecticut in which the Parents prevailed. Meredith Braxton is a special education attorney in private practice in Greenwich, CT (bio below), who recently prevailed in an interesting due process hearing right here in Connecticut. We discuss the process, the facts, and the final decision as we break down this special education due process hearing.   Meredith C. Braxton, Esq., has been practicing law for 32 years, with a primary focus on special education for 20 years. After spending time in general and business litigation in "big law" in New York City and two smaller Connecticut firms, Meredith started a solo practice and began representing students and parents in their efforts to enforce their civil rights by having their children identified, securing appropriate services, and enforcing their rights to appropriate placements, whether via PPT, negotiation, an administrative due process hearing, or appeal to the federal courts. Her office is in Greenwich. Meredith is also a partner in a companion practice with her colleague Liz Hook (Braxton Hook) to represent families in New York in special education matters and individuals in both Connecticut and New York in education-related civil rights and tort cases as well as employment matters.   The full decision can be found here.   You can find Meredith's contact info here.   FLASHBACK: If you are curious about other dispute resolution options, you can check out the episodes What's the Deal with Mediation, State Complaints, and Special Ed 101!   Check out this episode!   TRANSCRIPT (not proofread) SUMMARY KEYWORDSwitnesses, hearing, decision, officer, felt, parents, child, school district, case, board, argument, student, attorney, people, meredith, thought, footnotes, understand, works, remedy   SPEAKERS Meredith Braxton, Esq., Dana Jonson   Dana Jonson  00:08 All right. Welcome back to Special Ed on special ed. Thank you for coming back and joining me today. Today I am meeting with Meredith Braxton one of my favorite Special Ed attorneys from Connecticut. Hello, Meredith. Thank you for joining me.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  00:21 Good morning.   Dana Jonson  00:22 Good morning, we're going to discuss a case in which Meredith prevailed and discuss the components of a due process hearing, or decision, or pleading or all of that, through this one case, in which Meredith prevailed. But before we say one word, I'm gonna play my disclaimer for you all. The information in this podcast is provided for general informational and entertainment purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction at the time you're listening. Nothing in this episode, create an attorney client relationship, nor is it legal advice, do not act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included and accessible through this episode without seeking appropriate legal or other professional advice on particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer or service provider licensed in your state country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction. All right, Meredith. First of all, congratulations. This is awesome. You're welcome. This is a 54 page decision. There are four issues at the beginning that you raised 176 findings of fact, about 36 conclusions of law. And at the very end, there are nine orders. So that's a little overwhelming. And this is a final decision and order. And I'm a lawyer, and I was so excited when I got this when we all heard that you had prevailed, and we got to read it. And even I'm overwhelmed with 54 pages. So I want to start by, I want to read the actual issues that are listed in the decision. And then I want you to sort of tell us how we got here, if that works. Okay, so the first of the four issues in the final decision in order are, has the board denied the student a free appropriate education or a faith for the previous two years by habitually failing to record the PPT decision in prior written notice? We're going to come back to that one, too. Does the current IEP and placement deny the student faith? Three, should the hearing officer place the student in a residential therapeutic school for students with CP or cerebral palsy? And if necessary, order the board to hire an educational consultant to identify a placement for the student? And for is the student entitled to compensatory education, which would be education to make up for education missed? So those are some pretty loaded issues. Why don't you take us back to the beginning and tell us what happened.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  02:54 First of all, this client is an amazing kid. And I actually spoke to her recently, she's really happy at man's two right now. So great, really thrilled. So I'm really glad we got there, I was actually brought in after the kiss was pretty well set up. There was a lay advocate involved who did a really good job, got some amazing ies, you know, independent educational evaluations from I mean, some of the most qualified people I have ever run across, they were really, super, she also has a super medical team, you know, all of whom, even though some of them were out of state, they weren't totally willing to testify, you know, and give me not very much time, but some time to educate the hearing officer about the student's conditions.   Dana Jonson  03:46 And that's an important component is that there's a difference between what is a medical responsibility and an educational responsibility. And as you and I know, a lot of times those responsibilities overlap, correct, making it incredibly difficult to get anyone to provide.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  04:03 Yes, yes, but these medical providers were very well able to connect what was going on with her medically to what was going on with her educationally. So that's amazing. They were really, really helpful. But when this case first came to me, I wanted to file for due process, but I was always until the very end, I was always really concerned about the remedy, right? Because you don't know which hearing officer you're going to get. And if you're not able to put specific remedy out there you just don't know where that hearing officer is going to go with it. So we have not found a placement for this student yet. She's very difficult to place because she has you know, high cognition, but her physical disabilities are profound and urgent Communication Difficulties are profound. So there's just not a lot of places, you know, for that profile.   Dana Jonson  05:06 And that's an important piece to understanding what you want. Because we run into that problem a lot with families where they know something's wrong, they know it's not working, but they don't know what will work or what they do want. And that makes it really, really hard for us. Because and I explained this to clients a lot. You could go through a due process, hearing, and win on every single issue, and not get the remedy you wanted, right. And I think the example I use is, you could go into a hearing, asking for an out of district placement, go through the entire hearing, and have the hearing officer say, you are right, the school didn't do anything they should have done. But I think that school can create a program. So I'm going to order them to do that instead of residential, and now you've gone through the entire expense of winning a hearing. Right, and you're not getting any remedy. So that is a very concerning component that I don't think people   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  06:05 realize, and I really wasn't willing, you know, I advised my client that I just didn't feel comfortable filing until we had better direction there. So but as time went on, first of all, she was able to eke out a little money to find an ad consultant. And this ad consultant was really great. He was wonderful to work with. And I couldn't stand it anymore. I felt like Greenwich was torturing this, like literally torturing this kid, because, you know, I was on the back end of every email, and phone call, and what they were doing to I couldn't take it anymore. I really just I couldn't take it anymore. So I was like, Okay, we just have to file we have to get this hearing going. And hopefully, by the time we get to the end of the hearing, we will have a remedy in mind and we won't have a placement. We almost got there. Not quite but you know, it turned out okay. But that was a little bit of a, you know, risk that we took, but what was going on was so unacceptable, that that you know, as a moral proposition.   Dana Jonson  07:17 Right. Right. And I think that's where school districts don't realize they really messed up is when they one of us off? Yeah, is you know, when one of us is even in the grand scheme of everything we've seen and experienced if we get off, we're like a dog with a bone. Yeah.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  07:34 Yeah.   Dana Jonson  07:36 Don't do this. Don't get out of my way.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  07:37 Yeah, yeah. That's how we sort of got to filing the various issues that wound up being presented. Actually, we didn't even really address the faith based on not recording PVT decisions appropriately, even though they did not I was gonna ask   Dana Jonson  07:55 you about that. Because now in the in the new IEP, which I've yet to see, in case you're wondering, every school district I'm dealing with is like, yeah, we'll deal with that later. I gotta get back to school right now. So talk to me after Christmas.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  08:11 What I'm what I'm hearing from them is it's taking them six hours to fill out the new form exactly this new   Dana Jonson  08:17 convenient form that was going to take less time. But there's no prior written notice in it now.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  08:23 But I thought the prior written notice was supposed to be a separate document, but I have a separate one here.   Dana Jonson  08:27 But we haven't seen any documents yet. So I think that this is a really interesting point about the prior written notice. Because what that means in that issue, for those who don't understand is that decisions were made in the IEP meeting that need to be documented in the IEP, because they were either accepted or refused. And when a school does,   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  08:51 the more the even more important piece of that is they're supposed to record why they did right. Or important part and the data they relied on to get there, right, which is usually how you can point out how freakin absurd their decision was. Right? Exactly. Because   Dana Jonson  09:09 this is my favorite is on I had one where they made the decision based on grades and performance. And the child had modified work and modified grades. So it was like, Well, wait a second. understand all of this.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  09:26 My favorite is where they deny, like a residential placement. And they say it's based on the independent evaluation, you gave them that recommended residential place.   Dana Jonson  09:36 Fabulous. Yeah. So it's based on that because we read it. And that's how we read it. And we rejected all of it. Yeah. So actually, that leads me to my next question, which is, you know, after you read the issues, and the piece on why the hearing officer has jurisdiction, we get to your 176 findings of fact. And so the findings of fact, are sort of the meat and potatoes, is that right of the   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  10:03 of the you don't you don't get to conclusions of law without those findings of fact, they're the   Dana Jonson  10:08 evaluation of your due process demand, right? findings of fact are what you base everything else on. So how does the hearing officer determine what the findings of fact, are? Like? Do you provide those in your brief or your due process demand? Or how does the hearing officer come to determine which facts are actual facts?   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  10:29 So the post hearing brief is, is always proposed findings and facts and conclusions of law. And, you know, I can track through this decision the places where he definitely adopted, you know, what I wrote in my brief, but there's a lot of it where he had his own thing going and this particular hearing officer, who unfortunately has been picked off by virtue Moses, since then, he listened so carefully works for birch and Moses now, yeah, they hired him right after his case.   Dana Jonson  11:00 Sorry, I can't help but laugh.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  11:01 I know. It's so upsetting. Speaking of absurd, yeah. Anyway, so he listened really carefully to all the witnesses and clearly was focusing on their credibility. And I could tell I was landing the punches, you know, as I was going on, and he was getting them. And the one that was really telling was, you know, there's a principle in examining witnesses for trial lawyers where, you know, if you've got a hospital, first of all, he did go with the school district employees who I called, on my case, were hostile witnesses who I was allowed to ask leading questions. Great. So a lot of our hearing officers won't go there. And it makes it harder, because you have to do direct examination with non leading questions, right, anyway.   Dana Jonson  11:52 Right, I mean, that's getting a little in the weeds. But for parents who don't understand that, as attorneys, when we examine a witness, we are bound by certain restrictions, we can't just ask them anything, we can't just suddenly blurt out stuff, right. Like, we have to have a foundation, we have to lead them to a certain place, we have to have demonstrated certain things and have specific items and evidence. And there's a process and if you don't go through the process, you don't get your information across. So one of the ways in which we ask questions is, we ask leading questions all the time in our day, across the day, and you're not allowed to do that, unless they're, especially with your children, especially with your children, right, we're trained to write to ask leading witness. And that's why children shouldn't be witnesses, because you can lead them. So we really have to be cautious about that. And so then it depends on the hearing officer as to what they will allow, and they have a significant amount of leeway in what they will allow or not allow. So it sounds like this hearing officer was really focused on understanding the issues   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  12:58 he really was. So one of the principles for examining witnesses from the other side, is, if you land your point, you don't go on to ask like the ultimate question, because then that clues them in that they just messed up, and they will go back and they'll fix it. You instead use that nugget in your argument later on. So that's how we roll I got one of the school district witnesses to say that she made all the decisions in the PPTs. And so I'm sliding away from that, because I'm like, hopefully, like guaranteed, and, of course, returning picked up on   Dana Jonson  13:35 that. But whatever. That's kind of a mess.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  13:38 I'm going on, going on to the next thing. And the hearing officer goes, whoa, whoa, whoa. And then he starts questioning her and she doesn't fix it. She doubles down on it. And then I'm cross her attorney tried to save her and she didn't go for it. So she basically got predetermination. That's amazing lack of parental participation. So the hearing officer in this case, he really listened. And he was sort of going through issues in his own head clearly the whole thing about you know, in his findings of fact, in his conclusions of law, he talked a lot about how the school district had the wrong primary disability for this child and that how it drove an inappropriate IEP. Now you and I know that's actually true. Most of the time, if you have the wrong primary disability, it does, to some extent derive. You know, services. Absolutely. Schools always say is no, we give whatever services are needed, no matter what the primary handicap is, blah, blah, blah. I felt like that was just a loser of an argument for me like when I didn't want to spend a lot of time on. I had so many other issues that I thought were really compelling and really important, and that would win the case. It was funny because he kept bringing it up. During the hearing, and I was like, Yeah, you know, and I didn't really press it with witnesses, but he did. You know, he would ask witnesses his own questions,   Dana Jonson  15:09 and I find that fascinating about hearings is that the hearing officer can and will just stop everything and be like, I have some follow ups. I need you to clarify that. Yeah. I love it when we hear a hearing officer ask questions, because all that says is, oh, they're listening. Yeah, do get it because not all hearing officers really do get it. Not all of them have been doing what we do our whole lives. And we have to not only explain to them the process, the law but the disability.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  15:35 Right, right. And this one is very low incidence. So it's particularly difficult to convey what it's like, like I said, we had a, especially her physiatrist was really great at describing what it was like to be, I'm allowed to use her name, she doesn't care. Okay. So you know what it was like to be Sydney. And that really got to the hearing officer. So did the videotapes of what was going on on the bus ride. Wow, I thought, did you get those? Well, they're an educational record. They're a four year record. And I was like a dog with a bone. And I did when I filed, I also served an Administrative Code document request. And so at the very beginning of the hearing, when you're sort of like, what housekeeping items do you have, I'm like, I'm asking for these documents. And these videos, they haven't given them to me, I can't do this hearing without it, and I got him to order them to be given to me. So I find   Dana Jonson  16:36 that I don't always get everything in a FERPA request. There's never I get everything. Shocking, really. It's shocking, really, but and in my FERPA request, I have a laundry list of things I would like included, and then I just hope I get most of it. You know, videos, and particularly bus videos, I think have to be the hardest things to obtain. That's just my experience. It's just a lot of red tape to get your hands on those videos. So that is huge. Yeah. So you provide your findings of fact, the board attorney is going to provide there's right. So what the hearing officer chooses is going to be based on the testimony. Right. Right. And so that's your point in your testimony is to demonstrate what actually happened, right, I presume you had good witnesses and parents for this? Because I know for me, anytime I contemplate whether this is something that would go to due process or not. The first thing I think of is Who are my witnesses? Yeah. And my first thought is can either parent be witness, and that sometimes makes the decision?   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  17:49 You know? Yes, I had one due process where, I mean, the hearing officer literally hated my client. And he was difficult. He was a difficult person. He was a difficult person, like, I liked him. But you know, I'm weird. But she ruled for us anyway. And I was a little I mean, she even dropped a footnote about how she didn't believe that I love that. Yeah, yeah. So it's very important. The parent is very important. Sometimes, like, in this case, I had the parent, but as a backup, I also had her sister who had quit her job to help Sydney, you know, during COVID, and was, I mean, had basically been in her life the whole time. So it was very, sort of a corroborating witnesses if I needed it. Or it could be the primary witness about what was happening during remote instruction, and stuff like that. So yeah,   Dana Jonson  18:45 and I see you guys had 11 witnesses, and the board only called to it looks like,   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  18:50 Yeah, cuz I called all her witnesses on my case.   Dana Jonson  18:54 You called them all first, so that you could get that done with   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  18:56 in this, you know, in this particular school district, I find that the attorney, if you do this, if you if you call her witnesses on your case, and she often hasn't glommed on to what your their themes are, and doesn't really prepare her witnesses. Well got it. Well, I can tell my stories through them. And they're the people I had first, and the hearing officer had a little issue with it. He was like, aren't you gonna call them? And I'm like, Oh, get there?   Dana Jonson  19:27 Yeah, well, because mom's usually number one, right? Yeah, I don't like doing like that. Well, good. That's, that's great. You should talk to my lawyer about that, because she was working really, really hard to figure out how to not put me because for all of those parents out there who've heard you wouldn't be a good witness and make and took it personally and felt bad. I was informed I would be a horrible witness. So I'm an attorney who does this every day. So you know, don't feel bad about it. So you called everyone that you needed for your case and the hearing officer allowed you to treat the school personnel as if they were hostile. So that is huge. You know, it sounds like we got a really great hearing officer and then a board firm just snatched them up immediately.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  20:12 It did save money, how that works about that   Dana Jonson  20:16 money how that works. I wanted to touch on the timeframe to because you filed on October 12, in 2021. And your briefs were due in March 28 2022. And that is actually only five months, I was actually thinking for a hearing that went through so many witnesses that you would conclude this and only five months, I was kind of impressed. And to tell   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  20:43 you the truth, this included a month or two of me foot drag. Oh, wow. Because I was I was foot dragging. Because we didn't have that placement. Right. I was like, you know, Brenton, come on. So I delayed things a little bit. And then I decided I gotta go, Yeah, this has got to get going. Right, the hearing officer made it really clear that he was feeling pressure from the State Bureau of Special Education, to move these hearings along faster. You know, they're getting very concerned about their timeline issues as they should, as they can. Absolutely. He assured me and I felt with, you know, after we'd been going at this a little bit, I felt like I could believe him about this, that I could always just refer to an exhibit, and he would read it. And I felt like he would read. Okay, so some hearing officers, you really have to have every single bit like presented orally to them, or they focus on it. But in this case, I felt like I could rely on him to read the exhibits that were admitted. I sped through some of this stuff. Yeah, I mean, the medical people, I probably had a an average 30 to 45 minutes with them, half of which I seated to the other side. Right, wow. Yeah. And so I was like, bang, bang, but I had one day when I had like six witnesses, I blew through six witnesses, that's insane. I then laid down on the floor of my office and made it like an IV of vodka, but it was intense. But it made the hearing officer very happy, they do appreciate it. And I kind of liked it, because I was able to get all the really important stuff in and then the other side was kind of limited and what they could do with it. You know, they were also limited. The you know, in the end, I kind of liked it, even though I ordinarily would,   Dana Jonson  22:43 yes. Where are you for this matter? It worked for this matter for this hearing   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  22:47 officer, you know, so much depends on the hearing officer get and what their style   Dana Jonson  22:53 is. Yeah. And I hear that a lot from parents, do you have experience with this district? Do you have experience with this lawyer? And all of those things do matter. But I feel like the experience matters more in knowing how to shift because all those players change all the time. And I've had evaluators where I felt like I could just leave the room and they'd be fine. And then the next tvip meeting, I go to them, I'm like, Who is this pot person? Like what did they do to my evaluators? So you just never know, there's a lot up in the air,   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  23:26 you don't know. And that's what I try to convey to my clients about due process. It's a high risk situation, because you don't know which hearing officer you're gonna get. You don't know what pressures they have on them, because they are getting pressure from above, you don't really know how the evidence is going to come in. You don't know whether some of the board people who you think are charlatans are going to come across as believable. You don't know if you're going to be able to get in every document that you think you need to get in. I got a lot out of those board witnesses that have they been better prepared and probably would not have. Yeah, and that   Dana Jonson  24:03 preparation is big. I mean, the prep is big for your clients, too. I remember a colleague telling me I mean, when you're talking about how is someone going to present colleague was telling me they had a client and the school had really messed up. But this was an exceptionally wealthy client who came across as exceptionally wealthy when she walked in a room. And so she was asked to dial it down. So she walked in to the hearing and her kids dinner, blue jeans and a T shirt and no jewelry. And the board almost dropped dead. Really, because they were relying on this person to walk in and look like an extremely wealthy person and present the way she normally does and hoping that that in and of itself would sway the hearing officer. But then she walked in and they're their philosophy has gotten now a good attorney doesn't rely on just that. Right. But to your point, people can present as anything when they walk in that door. Yeah, and they can Say anything. So, like if you if you have someone on the line on the stand and they are flat out lying. What do you do?   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  25:08 Well, I mean, it depends on whether I have documentary evidence that I can confront them with that shows they're flat out lying. If this is where a lot of times you do want to have at least partial transcripts of various meetings and recordings. So they can't claim they said something other than what they did. And it's a problem, because in my experience, almost I would say 95% of board, witnesses lie under oath. Yep. And have no problem with it. Yeah.   Dana Jonson  25:38 And it's shocking, sometimes to parents. Right.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  25:41 And absolutely, I mean, honestly, when I first started practicing law, many, many, many moons ago, I was shocked, I assumed that everyone who was put under oath would tell the truth. And then I learned that actually a minority and people put under oath will tell the truth. It's not just in special education. Yeah, just board witnesses. It's pretty rampant,   Dana Jonson  26:04 pretty rampant. And it's I do think that people take it have a different level of respect, being under oath. I do believe that, as a rule, and I do think that that anxiety is heightened in the person when they are lying under oath versus just in a school meeting, I, I absolutely can see that I can see the change in their body language from lying in the IEP meeting to lying on the stand. They're way more uncomfortable. But that's another reason why I like going to the IEP meetings, because they may be more comfortable there. But you do get a sense of who you can trip up and who you can't. And if the school has bad witness, you make sure they know that.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  26:43 Also, I prefer due process hearings to be in person, because if you've got that body language going on the other side, you can start drilling into it. And sort of push them. Yes. completely out of their comfort zone.   Dana Jonson  26:58 Yes. And that's more difficult on the screen. Oh, it's   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  27:01 impossible.   Dana Jonson  27:02 Have you done any hearings on the screen?   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  27:04 Well, this one was completely virtual,   Dana Jonson  27:06 Oh, this one was virtual? I don't think I realized that maybe I must have I mean, maybe just because it's so normal now that I didn't think of it. So that must have been really hard, then I didn't even realize this was virtual.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  27:18 Yeah. It was very hard. That's really hard.   Dana Jonson  27:21 Amazing. Your experiences you would still prefer in person, right?   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  27:26 Yeah, for that very reason. Just looking through the screen at someone, you can't hold their eyes, you can't sort of judge their expression. You can't figure out how to destroy them. You can't pick   Dana Jonson  27:42 them apart to the degree that you would like to.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  27:47 So bad, you know, so you're when you're a litigator, you just have to admit that you have a dysfunctional personality. Right? Yes. So that's why we do this, right? Yes, exactly. We got paid for being like completely not the social norm. So   Dana Jonson  28:01 I always say that I do that I'm a lawyer, because I think this way, I don't think this way, because I'm a lawyer isn't the only place that that I fit in. So let's talk a little bit about the remedies. Because from the remedy in the decision, it doesn't look like you ever found that one place, did you?   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  28:20 Well, no, we found it afterwards. So may Institute was one of the ones that our ED consultant found that he thought was the leading candidate. Ironically, also, the neuropsychologist who did an independent evaluation had put that out as a recommendation as well. So I was able to direct the hearing officer to an email from him saying, you know, this would be a good place. And also ironically, that particular neuro psychologist, I just, you know, I wasn't in love with his evaluation. And I was very concerned about him as a witness, because I've actually seen him under oath before. And so I elected not to call him interesting. Yeah,   Dana Jonson  29:03 that's a risk. Huge risk, right? Like, because, I mean, at first thing you're gonna hear from any attorney is you want to go to a hearing, you need an expert.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  29:12 Yeah. Well, so but we had all these other experts. And but that's usually the one that we want, right? It's the neuro Psych. Fortunately, he had spoken to that entire medical team, and incorporated what they said in evaluation itself. And then all of those medical experts wrote follow up letters saying we agree with that neuro psychologist, this is what she means. So I called every one of those medical experts got it. And that's how I got it. I mean, and this is what happens in a due process hearing like, I had him on my witness list, in case I had to I had to put them on. As things develop, you have to make decisions about what you're going to do and what's the whole in your case, you know, then I was like one of the holes My case is, what's the remedy? And I don't usually call Educational Consultants, but I did with this one. Also, because he's got lots of bonus CDs, right? He's, he's run a therapeutic school. He's been, you know, he's   Dana Jonson  30:15 got credentials that you can defend. Yeah, I love that. When I get stuff from parents who say, you know, this is the expert. And I'm like, well, they don't have any credentials. No one's ever heard of them. They're in a different country. I don't know that I'm going to get anyone on board.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  30:32 He worked really hard for this placement. I mean, yeah. Beyond what he ever has to do with anyone. I was on a low fee. On this case, he did a low fee on this case. So we've sort of felt like, Okay,   Dana Jonson  30:45 we're gonna do we're in it together. Yeah.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  30:47 And, and one of the things we got as a remedy was that he got paid his full fee.   Dana Jonson  30:54 Oh, good. Yeah. So that's what I was going to ask you about was the remedies, because one of the remedies is when you win a hearing is that you're entitled to your legal fees? Right. So what I'm curious about is when you submit that legal fees Bill, what is that going to look like after 11 witnesses and five months? It was   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  31:15 close to 100,000. It was like 98,000.   Dana Jonson  31:19 There were a few things in terms of parents listening to this just passed out. Yeah. But   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  31:26 that's what I tell my my clients, it's between 50 and 100,000, for average due process. Yeah. And on top of that, you may have to be paying experts. And that's not reimbursable.   Dana Jonson  31:37 Right. So you're not going to get back and that I can't risk, you know, but right, we can always risk our fees, right? Because we can try and get them back. So that does put give you more skin in the game, I guess.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  31:49 I mean, they pushed back on a couple of things. One of them is definitely legitimate. I put it in there and hope it would just slip by but it didn't, you know? And then there were a couple that were like, arguable. Right? Right. So I just rolled over on that, because I'd rather get it paid. Right. So I want to be reimbursed 92,000?   Dana Jonson  32:11 Well, and I mean, you know, say it's the only civil rights that we negotiate. So parents are always negotiating way their rights. And we as attorneys are always negotiating away our fees. Yeah, we do nothing on the parents side, but negotiate against ourselves from from the beginning. I don't know of very many of any attorneys who have gone through a full hearing and actually received their full BS, they just don't I also find it when when sometimes I hear people say, Oh, well, litigation fees are so much more than, like, we're never seen. No calm down. Take it down a notch. Uh, yeah, I found the remedies really interesting because one remedy said to find the placement and a consultant is ordered. If you can't find a placement, so the the hearing officer did order that consultant as well, correct?   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  33:02 Absolutely. But and the thing with may Institute is they are not going to accept anyone unless they're fully funded, right? Because it's a very expensive place. Yes. So the day this decision came out, the ad consultant got on the phone with them with two words fully funded. And within a week, we had an acceptance, but they had to do a little bit of hiring to bring her on, started right after labor.   Dana Jonson  33:27 Right. And I think that's important too, for parents to understand that not a replacement is ready to take your child that day. There usually an acceptance usually means that they can prepare to do that. So if you come, they will then start preparing. They're not going to staff for a student who's not there yet. That's very typical, then that's great. So now is this child going to be there for too long this is placed there   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  33:53 now. Yeah. So as their stereo slave foot and everything else? I don't see them after that horrendous decision. Yes, coming back and saying no, you're ready to come back to Greenwich, right.   Dana Jonson  34:04 And school districts have done that they have a year after a hearing decision said, Well, we gave it a year, and now they're all ready and everything's back together. But you have that hearing decision under your belt. And that is something you can pull out and use. And it would be foolish to do that, at this stage. And particularly given given how many fights are going on between parents and school districts at you know, there was a time where fighting every hearing decision was worth their time and energy. I don't think it is anymore.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  34:34 But then so there was a significant amount of time between when the decision came out and when she was able to go, you know, in the meantime, he ordered remedies for while she was still in the British school system. And I actually had to get down this state's throat to get them to enforce this decision. Really, I did what happened. They were ordered to have an aide in the home for 30 minutes before the ride to school to help the mom get her ready, and they just didn't do it. And I had to go to the state. And they eventually got to st Greenwich Get your act together, you know, and do it and they finally did. And it made a huge difference. Then she was supposed to have a medical taxi instead of the bus that was so torturous for her never got that I was on the state's case, like every two days. And Greenwich kept giving them a spreadsheet showing all the contacts they made to try to arrange a medical taxi. And I was like, this is just baloney. I mean, I'm literally there was one point where they were like, Okay, well, the legal director Mike McCann and Mary Jean Shugborough, who, unfortunately, was the person assigned to the enforcement part of this. The retired. She's retired, isn't she? Yeah, except she's still a part time consultant for some things. I'm like, Why did you assign us to a part time retired consultant? You know, it's   Dana Jonson  36:04 pretty significant. Yeah.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  36:05 So at one point, they were like, well, we're gonna be on the phone with graduates about this on Monday. And we'll let you know. And I'm like, I want to be on that phone call. But I'm on vacation. And they're like, I'm like, do it on Friday, when I'm not on vacation. Oh, well, we can talk to Friday, and then we'll talk to them on Monday. I'm like, No, I will just be on this call during my vacation. So I'm hiking in Maine and losing a signal every three seconds, and I am yelling my butt off. And my husband's like, Oh, my God. And I like I keep losing the signal dialing back in angrily, and on top. So because anyway, never got the medical text, even though I'm, I'm busting a gut. Then on top of that in between, yeah, when I started getting down on their case, and this phone call, they had finally posted this decision, you know, I got it by email. But then they post all of their decisions, right? And the decisions are written. So there's no identifying information the student has called student parents called parents, etc. But it identifies the witnesses, aside from the parent, and the school district and all that, while they put this one on, and they've blacked out everything that would identify the school district or the school district witnesses. And I was like, Okay, so while I'm on the phone screaming, I'm like, who did this? Which one of you did this? You know, what are you doing? They're like, Oh, we thought it might be too specific. And you know, have identifying information. I'm like, you know, if that was your concern, you would have called me or the parent to ask if we had a problem with it, but you didn't. So it seems to me that you were just trying to not embarrass Greenwich, which should be completely embarrassed about how they treat   Dana Jonson  37:54 my dogs going nuts. No, that's exactly what I was gonna say. Which is that, you know, that seems like protecting the district. Were?   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  38:03 Absolutely, yeah. In the meantime, I had gotten a written consent from my clients saying you can put it up on redacted and I was like, I have that. And they put it up on redacted after that. But, you know,   Dana Jonson  38:14 I've seen that before, though, that the school district personnel and school are redacted. Is that a thing? No.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  38:20 If you look on every single other decision, there's not a single redaction. Not one. So who decided to do that? Mary Jean Chabot, she admitted? Did she say why? Because she was afraid it would identify the child's that's a lie. I think so.   Dana Jonson  38:43 I feel like that's a lie. But that sounds interesting. Well, you know, and it really is frustrating, because I always feel like when people say, Oh, but these poor teachers, and you know, it's not really there. I feel like I'm with you on that. And I feel as a former teacher and a former administrator, admittedly, I spent about 10 minutes in each role, but I didn't have a problem being honest in the meeting. Now, that was me. Perhaps I didn't have as much at risk as some people by doing that. And I respect and understand that. But I go nuts. When parents say, well, the teacher told me this, but they won't say it in the meeting. And I always say, well, then I don't trust that teacher. No, I just don't, it's great. You're getting inside Intel. But how do you know? They aren't turning around and saying the same thing to the district about you? Exactly. You know, and they're protecting their butts.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  39:39 Yeah. If they're not willing to say it in the meeting, it's useless. It's absolutely   Dana Jonson  39:42 useless. You can see it when people are scripted. In the meetings, you can tell. And I you know, look, it's not my intention to embarrass anyone. But if you have made a conscious decision to toe the party line, then you are making a conscious decision to take the consequences of that action,   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  40:06 this child's speech and language pathologist basically said that she agreed to include oral motor goals to help Sydney learn how to talk, which she could do, right. Basically, as a favor.   Dana Jonson  40:22 Oh, it's an accommodation to the parent.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  40:24 Yeah, cuz she wanted to talk. But you know, she didn't really need it for accessing the general education. Oh,   Dana Jonson  40:29 why do you need language for that narrative? I know, I'm sorry, I just get flip. I can't stop myself. I love that when it's an act as an accommodation. I'm   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  40:38 gonna call out that I'm gonna call it call that speech pathologist out on that? Yep. You know,   Dana Jonson  40:44 accommodation is what the child needs. And you know if that I found that frustrating during the pandemic, too, when people were like, well, I don't want to be on tape or on screen or what have you. And I do understand that there is something to being under a micro microscope and people taking things out of context. We've all had that happen to us at some point on the internet, right? Or in a text, something has been taken in the wrong tone. And I just feel like, Haven't we all been using the internet long enough that we should know that. And you know, that tone gets lost and things get lost in translation. But knowing what happens, and being able to reflect on that and make changes that that's important if we're not willing to do that. And that's where I feel like we are right now in schools. I feel like no one's willing to reflect. Yeah, because everyone's so afraid, even more so than before, to look back and say, Yeah, we messed up. And I understand because there are legal ramifications to saying that, so I get why they're not announcing it to the world. Yeah. But maybe their inside voice like in the back of their head, maybe could say, We screwed up, and we gotta fix this. You know,   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  41:58 honestly, I find that the better board attorneys manage that, right? Yes, by having a good relationship with you giving you a call saying, can we talk about some solutions? Right? It doesn't have to be an explicit, we messed up, it can be willing to make it better. Right? Right. Good board attorneys. manage that.   Dana Jonson  42:19 Right. And some board attorneys, you know, when when the parent calls you, I'll say, you know, what, I know, we can get X, Y and Z, which will help bring everyone back to the table and and start the conversation over. And then there are some board attorneys where I have to say, look, I hate to tell you this, but we're going to start off fighting, because that's where you are. And that's unfair to it depends on who represents your district as to what kind of what access you will have to that due process, and whether you will be able to fight them or not. And not every parent has access to us. No, you know, and I was just talking to Christine Lai on my last episode about self in the special legal fund and how they've allowed for so much access for parents afforded us I've you know, regardless, look at this, this is a like I said, it's, you had 11 witnesses, it took five months, this took up a significant amount of your time, most of which you were not paid for at the time. Like that's something else people have to realize we get paid when we work, right. Like I'm not on a salary over here with fabulous benefits.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  43:26 What we eat what we kill, as they say, exactly, we   Dana Jonson  43:29 eat what we kill. Yes. I   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  43:30 mean, I had restricted cash flow for a few months there because it took time,   Dana Jonson  43:35 it takes a tremendous amount of time for us to have even one full blown.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  43:40 If I win, I'll be fine. If I know, I'm gonna be second run for a little bit, you know?   Dana Jonson  43:45 Exactly. So I mean, yeah, I mean, it's tough all the way around, and you have to have the bandwidth to do it. And you have to not be afraid of creating bad law because you have to look at if I lose this. Yeah, the way that I have asked this question, if I lose it, what will that do to other families? Exactly.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  44:04 And this decision, I felt like I got more good law out of this, than expected. So tell   Dana Jonson  44:10 us what you think the main takeaways are that you got from this this decision that you think are solidified that are helpful for parents?   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  44:18 Well, the blasting of how the school district treated COVID and learning during COVID? Yes, and the failure to implement the IEP at all, really during COVID. And he runs through that was he on the legal side, the support for you were supposed to do what you needed to do and you didn't do it that leads to combat. So I thought that was good. I thought the way he treated the requirement for residential placement when there were mixed issues of because here we had mental health issues, but also medical issues. But those medical issues were very much intertwined with ability to be educated. Yeah, right. So the way he merged those things In talking about the requirement for a residential placement and the board's duty for that residential placement, I thought that was very helpful. Yeah. So those, those were the two takeaways that I really enjoy.   Dana Jonson  45:15 Now, those are great. And those were great for the rest of us. Thank you. Here. I say, the combat peace to the combat peace is great.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  45:24 Yeah. So that was good, because he talked about how you don't need to have gross violation to get combat if you're not in a aged out situation. Right. And he kind of blasted the whole equities argument, which I was like, I didn't even understand the board's argument. I'm like, this isn't the unilateral placement case. Right. That's third prong about the equities. Right. Yes. So but he turned that around to Well, maybe it's, you know, relevant to combat? Well, and   Dana Jonson  45:56 that's I mean, to explain to parents who don't understand really what we're talking about. No, no, it's good. It's good. Because what what that means is there are specific arguments we have to meet. So the first question I have to ask is, did the school district provide an appropriate program? And if the answer to that is yes, then nothing else matters, right? So there are different prongs of these different arguments. And some of them get to the point of equity. And this one doesn't. So it was unclear where he was going when he went down that road. But what he was doing was taking that equity argument and, and putting it towards compensatory education and saying that, for these reasons, this child does require compensatory education, which is meant to bring the child back up to where they would have been had they had that service. So that's an that's a big win, especially post COVID. Where that's a lot of the arguments is whether it's compensatory or not. So that's, that's a tough argument. And so that was a great win for parents. Yeah. And the last thing I want to ask you about, though, is the quotes throughout the decision, because I started reading and I thought was this a quote from the transcript? So at the beginning of every section, the hearing officer wrote a little quote, and the chapter and pages that it was from so I put that into my trusty Google search, and discovered that he was quoting Helen Keller throughout the whole thing. Can you talk a little about   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  47:24 could have looked at the footnotes, or I could   Dana Jonson  47:27 have looked at the footnotes that would have required this dense dyslexic woman to look at every footnote in this 54 Page decision.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  47:37 Okay. We won't do that to you. He basically took the I guess it was the autobiography of Helen Keller, and took various clubs, this kid touched his heart. And she's touched mine as well. She wants to start a school for kids with disabilities. She's she's just, she's an amazing kid, right? Before she went to me. I went and had dinner with her. And she finally had the new communication device that had actually been recommended and like managed never did. Wow. And we sat and had a really long, pretty fluent conversation about how do we get to the point where she gets to go to May? What was the hearing? Like? Who did I call? What did they say? You know, do I have to go back to Greenwich public schools for like three days to the school they have before I go to make? No you don't, I can see her really doing something in the world. Her physiatrist testified very clearly that he expects big things from her. And the hearing officer clearly felt that this child had a lot of potential and could make some change in the world. I think putting in those quotes helped bring it to like, we need to liberate this kid from her, the confines of her body, right? And let her be the person she can be. So I just about cried when I was reading through the decision with those quotes sprinkled throughout. I talked to a board lawyer afterwards. And she was like, Oh, that was quite a decision, like, I guess was just like, you know, the quotes from having Helen Keller were a little bit of overkill on like, this is run through your veins,   Dana Jonson  49:22 right? And by the way, not if you were there, if you were there. These fit in perfectly. And I did I mean I did read a couple of footnotes narrative, but I liked how he he did talk about while this student is not deaf and blind, they are bound by these disabilities in a way that we can't comprehend. And that it wasn't until, you know Helen Keller, somebody taught her how to communicate that she was able to share herself with the world and that those comparisons he felt applied to this student as well. And I think that just added to the impact of those quotes. And you're right, you could tell that this was a very emotional matter. And this is one of those matters where you read through it and you think, well, it's a slam dunk, right? You read this and you're like, of course, you're gonna win. But that just simply isn't how special education works, you know,   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  50:31 and back to what we were talking about at the beginning, you can win, and the remedy can wind up being useless.   Dana Jonson  50:39 Exactly. So there's a lot of risks, but it's decisions like this, that are the reason why we continue to do it, and move forward. And also, make sure that your attorney moving forward and a hearing has the experience and background necessary to and resources. You know, if you don't have experience, you can get experience, right, you can learn, you can get experience, you can get mentored, you can do all those things. But you can't pretend you know what you don't know. Right. And it's important to make sure that your attorney does practice special education law, that is their primary, that they are not doing something else, and are not distracted by other laws that may conflict with the ID EA, which people don't realize there are a lot of educational rules and laws that actually conflict with the ID EA. So if you're more familiar with those than the IDA, then you may not be giving the right advice.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  51:44 It's ironic that a lot of that was passed in order to be parent friendly, and increase parental participation in the education of disabled kids is so non parent friendly.   Dana Jonson  51:56 It's not parent friendly. It's not free to access. No. Because if you want to access it, you need an attorney or an advocate. And those are not free. Just think about the professional development that parents do just to understand how to talk to their attorneys. I mean, to their sorry, to their school districts, you know, like, just to get the vocabulary to advocate for their child, they spend a tremendous amount of money on professional development and all of those pieces.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  52:24 So back up for a second. The other thing I thought this decision was Brown was LRE least restrictive environment.   Dana Jonson  52:31 Oh, yes. Talk about LRE for a second. So   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  52:34 least restrictive environment means that your disabled children are supposed to be educated to the maximum extent possible with non disabled kids. My argument here was because they were screwing up so much. And they really did not include her appropriately in general education things. She was isolated from her peers. And it's even as much as like the chair they were using, they were having her in a wheelchair in her classroom, which separated her and put her on a different level than her peers. And the physical therapist, do   Dana Jonson  53:07 you mean physically, like height wise?   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  53:10 Yeah, so she's not even at the table, right. And they were like, you know, the IES were like, You need to get this kind of chair and play her here. So that she's with her peers. And they never did any of that. It was stuff like that. And then she would have total meltdowns, especially Shan Maxon, or whatever, and be removed from the classroom because of her meltdowns, and then be removed to go to the bathroom and spend all sorts of time on there. The general education setting for her was more restrictive than one that was designed for kids with similar disabilities. And he went for that argument, which I really appreciate it.   Dana Jonson  53:51 And that's an amazing argument. And I I make it all the time. It's, like all my philosophical, yeah, argument of what's least restrictive, right. And I had a student once who were arguing over Villa Maria. And in the public school, the student had to be in the sub substantially separate room all day, including lunch, including everything, but at Villa Maria, they could roam the halls, they could have lunch with   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  54:16 their peers. And from my perspective, that is absolutely and Hillary argument in favor of Bill Murray. Yeah,   Dana Jonson  54:22 exactly. Exactly. You know, and so, you know, fortunately, that didn't have to go to a hearing at that point in time, because I don't know where that would have landed. But I do think we are getting closer to understanding that that may be a more a less restrictive environment for that student. It looks restrictive to us,   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  54:41 but if they have no peers to relate to, right, exactly, and they're not being educated with the same materials, you know, if they're sitting in the general education classroom, everyone else is working on, you know, XYZ, but they're working on a different on a different level on a different skill on their own little worksheet. with their pero right here, that's not the least restrictive environment for that child. Now, they're being they're other, they're separated.   Dana Jonson  55:08 Right? They're substantially separate from everybody else, even if you physically sit them in the room and kids do not learn independence through osmosis. No, it's not by sitting near typically developing children that you become typically developing. The goal is to become independent. Right? And what does this child need to become independent? And sometimes what a child needs to become independent is more children like them?   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  55:36 Right. Right. So I thought that his ruling on that issue was helpful for this argument.   Dana Jonson  55:43 Yes, yes. That's very helpful for this argument, because it gives us a little something with some meat on it. Yeah, too.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  55:51 When I when I was bringing it up, you could see him going like, that's an interesting point.   Dana Jonson  55:57 Yeah. And now I really hate for to Moses for taking him out of the hearing officer, Bill. I'm hotline.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  56:07 He was he was previously I think he was in a judge advocate corps. Okay. He was a Jag. Um, you could tell you know, he have plenty of litigation experience. Right. Okay. So he was it was sort of easy that way for me, because my litigation arguments like right in a place where he understood them.   Dana Jonson  56:28 Right. That was good, good. Friend, now he's gone. And so this is the this is his swan song, which we will have framed up in many offices around Connecticut. This was incredibly helpful narrative. And thank you so much for coming on. And talking to me about it. I really, I don't think parents really understand everything that goes into due process. They just here fight the school district, I will put the link to your decision in my show notes. So anyone who wants to geek out like the one right? Yes, the unredacted one, so you can see everybody's name and all the footnotes. And she could just click on them and they pop up. So I'll put the link to that there. But if someone's listening, and they're like, Wow, I need to hire Meredith clearly, because she's the only attorney who who can understand me and my child. How do they reach you? How do they find you?   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  57:25 Well, it would be great if I had a website, but I just haven't over the last 20 years have the time to put Yeah, really   Dana Jonson  57:30 had a need. Hmm.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  57:33 Really? I'm gonna do it soon. No, I swear.   Dana Jonson  57:36 Okay, I got I have a good name for you.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  57:40 I've had it in process for a long time. You can look me up on the internet, probably. I don't know some I'll put a link to how you can find this. Sometimes when you put in Meredith Braxton. There's some Meredith Braxton some like soap opera or something.   Dana Jonson  57:54 Awesome. So you show up in the soap opera star? Yeah, I think that's great.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  57:58 No, it's the name of a character.   Dana Jonson  58:03 Even better. All right, I will put a link to Meredith in the in the show notes as well. If you feel you must reach out to Meredith and find her. And thank you so much, Meredith, for coming on and talking to us and talking about your case. And thank you for taking it all the way. Because I think that that is not easy for any of us to do. And   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  58:22 you know, I had not had a case go all the way in like two years. So I was also sort of chomping at the bit. Yeah, because I am a litigator at heart. And I like to go to hearing occasionally. And I was like it was sort of killing me. So I was happy to bring it all the way and I got a few more going into the can this week, then. I think at least one will my gold way.   Dana Jonson  58:49 That will be amazing. Yeah. Well, thank you. And that, that it makes a huge difference for the rest of us. And it definitely helps. helps all of us. You know, when   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  58:58 we talk he's, I was about as pleased as one could be with that decision. It's amazing, even better than I had hoped.   Dana Jonson  59:05 And that's amazing. And the family must've just been beside themselves.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  59:10 You know, and Sydney. She's, she's happy as a clam of May.   Dana Jonson  59:14 I'm so happy and validation. Yeah, it wasn't her right that.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  59:20 Yeah. Oh, but she always knew that.   Dana Jonson  59:22 Yeah, she she's smarter than they are.   Meredith Braxton, Esq.  59:24 She is. She really is.   Dana Jonson  59:27   That's often the problem. Well, thank you so much. Meredith. Thank you so much for joining me today. Please don't forget to follow this podcast so you don't miss any new episodes and leave a review and you have a chance. If there's anything you want to hear about or comment on. Please go to my Facebook page special ed on special ed and find me there. I'll see you next time here on special ed on special ed. Have a fabulous day. The views expressed in this episode are those of the speaker's at the time of the recording and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company or even that individual today.
60:01 10/26/22
Barriers to Special Education: Special Education Legal Fund
A key component to public education is that it should be FREE! This includes special education. But what if you can't get the special education your child is entitled to? What happens when your school says "no" to you? There are no special education police to force schools to comply or even just tell them they are wrong. Usually, the only way to enforce your rights is to hire back up - an private service provider, non-legal special education advocate, or special education attorney. Being able to hire a special education advocate or attorney, however, is as much a privilege as being able to "evacuate" on a moment's notice. It sounds easy, but it's not easy and it's not free. Especially post(ish)-pandemic, most families do not have the funds required to hire the professional help they need to access their child's "free" rights. Christine Lai is the parent of a child with special education needs who had to fight her school district to get what her child was entitled to. Christine has experienced first hand the strain this puts on already struggling families. That is why Christine founded the Special Education Legal Fund, or SELF. SELF provides grants to parents of children with disabilities to help fund the professional advocacy families need. The grants SELF provides can provide payment towards legal services, a year of non-legal advocacy, or a combination thereof. Today Christine meets with me to discuss why and how families seek out SELF grants, trends in family needs, and the successes they have seen with this program. Maybe you need a SELF organization near you! Want to seek out Christine? You can find her here: https://spedlegalfund.org/ You can always message me at Dana@SpecialEd.fm FLASHBACK: Christine has joined us before! You can check out our last episode together here Transcripts are added shortly after episode is published and can be found at SpecialEd.fm TRANSCRIPT (not proofread) SUMMARY KEYWORDS parents, pandemic, special education, families, attorney, child, school districts, people, support, school, process, absolutely, clients, special ed, advocate, years, law, kids, advocacy, evaluations SPEAKERS Christine Lai, Dana Jonson Dana Jonson 00:08 Today I'm here with Christine Lai. I'm so excited. Thank you for coming back. And joining me at special ed on special ed Christine Lai is the director and founder of the special education legal fund, which I will explain in just a second. Hi, Christine. Thanks for joining me. Hi, Christine Lai 00:24 Dana. I'm so happy to be back. Dana Jonson 00:26 I know I love having you here. Let me play my disclaimer, and then we'll get started. Let's do it. The information in this podcast is provided for general informational and entertainment purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction at the time you're listening. Nothing in this episode, create an attorney client relationship, nor is it legal advice, do not act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in or accessible through this episode without seeking appropriate legal or other professional advice on particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer or service provider license in your state country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction. So Christine, first, let me explain to people what special legal fund is, I should probably maybe you could do that. Because your background, you're not like a special ed teacher or you don't provide services, right? Christine Lai 01:04 No, I mean, we are, you know, as we've spoken about in the in the past, we are a Grants making organization, we provide grants to families in need, who have children in the special education process. We provide grants to people who need an attorney, we provide grants to families who need an advocate. And we also provide, you know, some informational resources through our parent webinar series, for parents that are just, you know, really dipping their toe in the process and, or are fully immersed in the process and are just trying to figure out, you know, what the next step is, you know, so that's basically what we do, you know, we were founded in 2018, to provide those resources, the grants, the knowledge, the support, since that time, you know, this is our fifth grant cycle this year. And we have been so blessed with the support of attorneys like Dana to have provided grants of over $550,000, to, you know, almost 200 families in 60 school districts across Connecticut, and Westchester County, New York. And that's been a real blessing for us, we've been really thrilled, because those grants, you know, in total, in that time, have yielded over six and a half million dollars in educational improvements for those families, whether you're talking about better support, better evaluations, out placements, transportation, compensatory education, all of those things kind of roll into that big number, we've been really, really pleased to be able to provide that support for families. Dana Jonson 02:33 And we are we in the advocacy world are thrilled that you can provide that support to families, because one of the things I hate about what I do is that families have to have money to access me. And I can apologize for making a living. And I you know, I'm not going to, but I do recognize that that is a pretty strong barrier. And I think that your program allows a lot of us to give help to parents that we otherwise wouldn't have, wouldn't have access to us. And that's a little bit of what I wanted to talk about with you. Because you're dealing with families who don't have the funds don't have the resources. And oftentimes those families don't even know getting an advocate or an attorney is an option. I know sometimes people call my office and we say you should call self and go that process. But as a rule, people don't usually call you and say I'm calling because I can't afford you and I want information. Although when they do I do still talk to them and give them information. So I'm okay with those phone calls. I don't turn those phone calls away. But I was curious. And we've been through a lot since 2018. What kind of trends do you see with families who can't obtain lawyers because I I'm finding post pandemic and I don't think we're post pandemic, but you know what I mean? Yeah, pose the pandemic closures. Yeah, we're seeing that school districts don't have the resources to handle anybody. Yeah. And I'm finding that it's even harder for parents to get anything without some form of representation or support. No, that's 04:06 absolutely right. We as an organization, the support we provide is to families who are below 300% of the federal minimum poverty line, it was important for us to have a little bit of a range in the families that we support, because I realized that you know, for families that are very, very under resourced, there are other resources that exist, you know, like legal aid or, you know, sliding scale advocacy services or whatever. I know that you don't have to be below the poverty line, to not be able to afford an attorney. You know, that is absolutely, you know, 100% the case, this Fund was established for those families who were maxing out their credit cards, really taking their 401k down, you know, like those families are sort of the core of the group that we envisioned when we started the fund. This doesn't really answer your question. Your question is, yeah, have you seen have we seeing changes in the families. And since it's since the pandemic, since we reopened for the pandemic, I mean, the most significant change that we saw, after the pandemic, after, you know, and I want to say this, going back to like October of 2020, we didn't really know what was going on was going to go in New. And I remember that first month, we had had a virtual fundraiser, we weren't sure, if we were still going to be alive. You know, it was a very, you know, sort of difficult time, you know, in the nonprofit world, and obviously, in all worlds, and we had been running before the closure, you know, maybe five or six applications a month, we had traditionally given three grants per month. So, in a good in any given month, you know, we'd see four applications, we'd decline one, we'd see five, we declined to in October of 20 2015, right off the bat 15 1617. And that was kind of when I knew that this had been a real game changer, not only for the education world, the world in general, but specifically for these families. Because what I was seeing, we're not just, you know, and I don't mean to say just this, that's not what I meant to say. But prior to the payment pandemic, we would see a child who had been in the special education system for years was 14 and couldn't read, you know, very, very dire situation, post pandemic, we would see that same child, but that child would have then also been hospitalized one, two or three times, and then dealing with a crippling anxiety and depression and all of the other kind of ancillary comorbidities that come with, yeah, the predominant learning disorder, and the inability of the school to support that learning disorder. So that's really what we saw as the main difference. The other difference that we saw was as as as to your point, the schools are not able to support what they were able to support four years ago. You know, a few years ago, we would say I'd have a family come and they'd say we'd look we're looking for an outplacement, and I'd say, Okay, why don't you go back and get an IEE? You know, you just had your triennial, you just had an evaluation, go to ask the district for an IE get an independent, neuro Psych. And then after you've gotten that, come back to me, and we will go through this process. And you can go through the outplacement and they would be like, right, and they would go and do that. And they would come back to me and the process would proceed. Now. I don't know of any school district that's like, yeah, here's your IE, you know, go ahead. Yeah. Yeah, fighting everything. And that is, that is a real change that we've had to deal with over the last, you know, especially the last couple of years is when that's Dana Jonson 07:40 yeah, that's what we're seeing too. And, and the I II, for anyone listening who doesn't know, we just I just talked about that my last episode is an independent educational evaluation. And for any matter to move forward, you know, the whole IEP, 07:54 it is the linchpin, it is so Lynch is the linchpin, nothing happens without it, you know, exactly. It's like the roadmap, you know, Dana Jonson 08:03 everything from the from everything stems from the event. And as you said, you know, parents have a right to ask for it. They don't have an automatic right to get it. Yes, that's right. And I am finding that school districts who historically would have always granted it 08:23 exact are now fighting them. Exactly. And that's as well. Yeah. And it's not, because it's the you know, as you know, yeah. It's like one of the most important protections that parents have, yeah, process, it is a second opinion, it is so important. And, and if Dana Jonson 08:41 the school is not, if the school is seeing one child, and the family is seeing another child, how are you going, if reconcile is gonna evaluate that child, but that child is behaving differently in school than they are at home? You know, it's not giving you the information that you need. Absolutely. To program. And, you know, and we also see, and I say this all the time post pandemic, every case in our office is mental health and or reading. Yeah, those are both that's, that's, that's exactly. That's what one stem from the other? Yeah, you know, and, and so those evaluations are critical. And we are finding them. I'm a little worried for special education, because I'm finding them being ignored more and more and more, you know, we get the ice in the school district looks at it and says, This is all great new information that we already had were already addressing. Right, right. And you know, it's not successful. Do you find that when parents come to you? Are they coming to you having like, exhausted all their options, or are they coming to you because they don't understand or know what their options 09:52 are? It's a combination. I would say that the number one reason for a family or parent Come to us is if they feel that trust has been broken with the with the school, it doesn't have to do it can have happened over the course of eight or nine years, you can have happened over the course of eight or nine months. But really the common link is that broken faith is that broken trust. And, and that's really I mean, I could see that in a, in a parent of a four year old, and a parent of a 14 year old, same exact situation. And the knowledge of the system, on the parent level, you know, can vary a lot in that. But that isn't really the driving force of what brings a parent to call us. What it really is, is they feel like trust is broken, and they have nowhere else to go. Dana Jonson 10:48 Yeah, that is a very hard thing to fix. That is really is a very difficult thing to fix. And one of the things that I find does fix that are outside evaluations. And that's, it's really hard to get right now. It is really hard. I 11:04 mean, for years, you know, I couldn't drive by my son's elementary school, I would take a different road, you know, because there were so much, you know, anxiety. So, yeah, in that, in that situation, it was really difficult. So I get it, you know, and it seems, you know, counterintuitive for me to say, collaboration is really, you know, sort of the name of the game. But, you know, for most of these families, you know, I mean, I look at a lot of families, and I say to them, you know, you are going to be in the special education system for what, 15 years, 16 years, you know, however old your child is, you know, versus, you know, 18 or 22, or when you see them coming out, you know, that is a long time, you know, you have to think about really long, really long time, you have to think about the long game, you know, and sometimes the long game is not served in the long run by being very combative. It's served by, you know, sort of getting the right advice and figuring out what your goal is, and whether it's realistic, and whether it is like within the scope of the law. You know, lots of times people want things that are not in the scope of the law, you know, I mean, that's yes, you know, that's definitely something. And it's a different issue, figuring that all out, it's not necessarily in your best interest to blow up your relationship with the school, when your kid is seven, you know, to get another decade, you definitely Dana Jonson 12:29 have to think long and hard before you make that decision. And that's a really good point. Because I say that to parents all the time is you have the right to privately educate your child any way you want. But if you want something from the public school district, if you want them to pay for any of it, if you want them involved in any way, shape or form, there's a process we there's a process. That's absolutely right, broken process, but it's the only one we've got, 12:55 I mean, I'm not gonna call it a crime, but it is, you know, a shame that, you know, this is a civil right, you know, special education is a civil right. But it is a right, that requires resources, in many cases, to enforce, you know, the enforcement of this is 100% on the parents, which is not fair, despite all of you know, the protections that are built in the law, that is just the way that it plays out sometimes. So, you're right, it's 100% of process, you know, my 16 year old, went to the DMV yesterday, and was not able to take his driver's test, because we did not have a certificate from the driver school saying they had completed Driver's Ed. And they were like, boom, it's done, we've, you know, we've closed this out, can't take the test today. And that's a little bit like the special education process, you know, it's, that process has to be followed, you know, step by step by step by step by step, you have to get in that line and get another line and get the other line and nobody at the DMV is going to tell you how to do it. Right. And you better have all your, like ducks in a row before you get there. It's a difficult process. And parents a lot of times struggle with that, you know, with with having to have all that together, it requires a lot, a lot. Dana Jonson 14:06 It takes a lot of energy, first of all, just in general. And then if you don't know exactly what you're looking for what's important, then you don't know what to document or Right. Right. And, you know, it's funny, because a lot of times people assume that hiring a lawyer will make things worse, like right off the bat. Right. And sometimes they do sometimes and sometimes in a way that it has to, you know, like you're not getting anywhere. So yes, it's going to be a little bit aggressive. But the other piece is we are personally invested. Yeah, we I look at it and I say they're not following the process. And so I go to the other attorney and I say your client is not doing what they're supposed to do. And if it's a decent other attorney, you know, they might not say to me, you're right, they screwed up. In fact, they definitely won't say that. But they will likely go back to their client and say You guys gotta clean this up. Yeah, You need to fix it. Yeah. And that's I mean, a lot, not all board attorney, some are some there are some out there that will fight just for the sake of fighting for, you know, where I have to tell my client, I can tell you right now they're going to fight us at every step of the way. But as a rule, you know, when attorneys get involved, sometimes things get resolved very quickly. Yeah. 15:21 Because there's a clarity and a structure that is applied to the process. And also, you know, I mean, it doesn't matter how, like, good you are, you know, as a parent advocate, or, or even if you're an attorney yourself, it is your child. So, that element of worry of care of emotion that can distort the way that you react, you know, you know, I mean, I had an attorney, kick, Dana Jonson 15:50 my PPTs. And my husband was in agreement. So like, that's a whole different issue. 15:55 No, I mean, it's, you know, it's, it's really, so I mean, I Dana Jonson 15:58 can't be objective when it's your kid, no, you can't, I mean, just can, 16:02 you can't, and I do think though, you know, kind of getting back to your original thought, it's very difficult. If, you know, you don't know the process, it's very difficult if you don't know what to do, or what to ask, the first thing that I tell because I get a call every day from someone, not necessarily a self client, but someone who's kind of, you know, not unsure and doesn't know what's going on, and what should I do, and you know, and the first thing I always tell them to do, is to make a timeline of what has transpired with your child, it can be on a notebook, it can be in your iPhone notes, you can get super, you know, OCD and do an Excel spreadsheet, whatever. But you need to write down in a chronological order, with the years with the dates, what exactly happened, and when. And if you have backing, you know, documentation of that incident, if there was a communication, all of that should be in there, too. And once you can look at that was I mean, I don't think that anyone should go to talk to a professional attorney or advocate without doing that first, that's the first thing that they should do. Because you cannot have a coherent conversation with a professional without having done that. That's the first thing when clients hire, I've failed that both times. I mean, I've failed to do that. Just you know, in general, like when I, when I'm granted and billing parents what to do not following my back and doing it myself now. But yeah, no, but that's the first thing we do. And we work with our clients to create that timeline and attach any documents that are related to it, because it's astounding. Well, I Dana Jonson 17:38 mean, we've all heard them all, I don't know, if we have it there, these studies were four people observe the same car crash, and they see different of course, different thing, of course, and that's just a real thing, you know, so it's so critical, to have that documentation to keep yourself, you know, to keep it for yourself, so that you don't get out of control, too. Because sometimes we just get so as parents, it's our children. 18:01 Yeah. And there's also when you look at a list like that, and you and you look at, like, the experience that your child has had, you know, or not had, or whatever it is you're looking at, it's always important to remember that sometimes stuff is bad, but it isn't illegal. Sometimes things have happened, and they're bad. But yeah, like, no law has been broken, you know. So, you know, doing that allows you to kind of like really just get organized about you know about the process. And the other thing I always tell parents, you know, I used to do a little workshop of this is to create a binder of your documents, take your three inch, three ring binder, punch holes in it, get a set of subject dividers, and divide and put everything in the binder, label it with the year and have all the stuff in there. Because you know, if you go to a meeting, or you know, or have a Zoom meeting or whatever, and you don't have everything in front of you, you're definitely going to feel, you know, and this is regardless of whether you have an attorney or an advocate or not, you're definitely going to feel like out of place and out of control. Dana Jonson 19:04 If you were part of it, is they somebody at that table? Has your file in front of them? Absolutely. So somebody at that table can access anything in your file and pull it out for just 19:16 at any time. Yeah, anytime at any time. And there's nothing worse than sitting there. And thinking, you know, like, where's that document and not being able to find it? Or, you know, alternatively being in the meeting and saying, you know, oh, this thing that happened in you know, last fall, rather than saying, Charlie, on September 15 said this, you know, yeah, which statement is more powerful, you know, the first one or the second, you know, so all of these things, anything that you that a parent can do to make and this is like this is before you even start going on the internet and Googling things about special education and gray boxes and stuff like that. It's like you know, half of the game is Figuring out where you are, and getting organized. And then, at that point, you know, there are great resources online, there are great training resources that parents can use. But sometimes you can do all those things. And you're still not. You're still stuck. Yeah. Where an attorney or an advocate can be a lifesaver in the process? Dana Jonson 20:22 Well, yeah, I mean, knowing the law, unfortunately, isn't enough that that helps you know, enough to be dangerous. Yeah, absolutely. Because what parents don't understand in the law is that there's a lot interpreted through cases through hearings. Yeah, case law. And, you know, if you aren't familiar with that, then your version of what's appropriate may not be the courts version of what's appropriate, fighting the wrong thing. And I've, I've had that happen, where parents are like, here, I've got the smoking gun, and they start explaining something to me that is so irrelevant, and has nothing to do with special ed. But then something they say, I'll be like, wait, wait, let's ask about that. You know, and it's something else that they didn't think was important. And I think, you know, going back to whether parents have the understanding, or the knowledge, I mean, self does a great job to providing those of those workshops, I mean, the virtual revolution, webinars, thank you. That's what I was looking for the virtual webinars, I redo everything virtually now. So it gets confusing, you know, on educating parents, and I do you think that those, though, I always tell parents, though, online, anything, support groups, workshops, so helpful, so supportive, take it all with a grain of salt. 21:41 It's not, as we say, in our disclaimer, a replacement for the advice of a qualified special education attorney, it just has a specific one on one about knotted, it is it is not a replacement for that, you know, you can ask all the questions that you want in the online forum, and make your question as specific as possible. But it is not the same thing. And that is challenging it that is very challenging and difficult for families. I mean, I think that, you know, I mean, for my specific cohort of families, you know, my specific cohort of families is an under resourced population, this is a population that, you know, does not have the funds readily available to hire an advocate or an attorney. This is a population that by and large, doesn't have the, you know, the the time resources to be online googling things, and going to parent trainings and stuff like that. And this is very often a, you know, a population where English is not the primary language, where, aside from English not being the primary language, which makes it difficult to advocate the understanding of this system, that is the United States and the United States education system, that understanding is not there, you know, putting aside the special education, you know, piece of it, I had a call with a parent recently. And she had been going back and forth with her school district for quite some time. It was like four or five years, I don't remember exactly. And she finally out of a sense of frustration called the State Department of Education. And they said, you know, have you heard of this thing called Special Education? And she had not, no one at any point? Oh, my God, you know, she's a first generation immigrant. English is her second language. And no one at any point in the five years previous to that had thought to say to her, what about special education? You know, does your child need special education, and until she called the State Department of Education, and they told her, and then they instructed her, you know, good on them, of you know, exactly what she had to do to make a referral and to get into the system. But because this is a system that is, you know, unique to the United States, and it's very likely that if you emigrated from China or Namibia or you know, whatever. Exactly, with a vastly different legal system, with a vastly different structure, you wouldn't know education system, you wouldn't know that this is even a thing that you can ask for. Dana Jonson 24:10 And then add to that, that even different districts handle different things differently. You can't guarantee that you're gonna walk into a school and have it go one way, right. I think it's really important that people understand that our most vulnerable population really needs money to access their rights. That's absolutely right. And, you know, I get frustrated because it's also the only civil rights we negotiate. It is absolutely, you know, it's the only civil rights that we say, okay, you were supposed to do this, but I'll settle for that. Right. And we do it all the time. And so that's very frustrating to see but also, as you know, as an attorney, it's hard because we also, it is a civil right. I mean, it is hard Do you charge for your time? Yeah, I do, I do it, 25:03 all of you, every single person that practices this field of law, doing it, because they want to make millions, because obviously, you will be doing something else. If that were the case, you all do this, you know, I mean, very similar to the reason that that I got into this, most of you, attorneys and advocates, the ones that I know, have entered this field, because you've been touched in some way by this process, whether it be as a, you know, school administrator in your, you know, on your, you know, on your end, or as a special, I think you were a special ed teacher, as well. And, and, you know, about a variety of kids with disabilities got a variety of kids with disabilities. And exactly, so most of the attorneys, you know, and I try to, you know, say that to my clients when we have this conversation, or maybe I don't say it enough, is, you know, I'm always very frank about what my experience it has been, and why I do this, and why this is something that, you know, is very important to me, it's also equally as important to almost every attorney and advocate that I know, that feels that this is a civil right, that they're that it is a civil right, and that they've been touched by it in some way. Dana Jonson 26:15 Yeah, well, and that's why organizations like the special legal fund are so important, because as you said, there is a category of people who don't qualify for some of the free advocacy that's out there, but can't afford the advocacy they need. And it is a barrier, and it is something I wish we could make more accessible to parents, which is why I do this podcast is why I absolutely speak it's why we all answer the phone even when someone starts with I can't afford to pay you. Yeah. You know. So it's interesting to me, though, to see that you're kind of seeing the same things we are as far as you know, with your, the clientele coming to you. Right. So versus the clientele that comes to me first, we're seeing a lot of the same things. And I think that goes to disabilities don't discriminate? 27:05 No, they do not, they absolutely don't. And we've in the last couple of years, a lot of things have bubbled up to the surface, because of the pandemic, if I if I could think about, like, what the, the aggregate impact of that pandemic has been on my families, it's like a lot of kids were kind of getting by, they had a, you know, a modest amount of support, they were kind of eking it out on a daily basis. And then the pandemic came, and what was sufficient, in a quote unquote, normal environment became very insufficient, in that pandemic postponed very fast, and very fast. And then all kinds of other you know, comorbidities, as we say, started to pop up, you know, maybe they had been maybe the anxiety had been managed, maybe the depression, had, you know, not been debilitating, all of these kinds of things that come because you are not successful in an environment, right began to rear their ugly heads. So instead of seeing a child with one, you know, predominant issue, you're seeing a child where, you know, they have a predominant learning disability, but they also have significant case of school refusal, because of the anxiety and depression that has developed over the last 18 months. Yes, I get it. It's all brand new, you know, it's like an iceberg. You know, it's another part of the iceberg that's peeking above the surface or barrier. Dana Jonson 28:31 It's just another barrier. 28:33 Yeah, exactly. Dana Jonson 28:34 Yeah. And I think that it is, you know, you're right, that schools aren't, that's something I would like to see as a change is is more mandatory education to parents. On some level? Absolutely. A lot of my clients are attorneys even. Yeah, no. And actually, sometimes attorneys are the easier clients because they know they don't understand it. Like, right, so they're like, do they do this? Yeah, they're like, you know, yeah, you know, I'm not gonna do it over to you. So yeah, exactly. So sometimes they're actually the easier clients. It is hard when it's something you think you understand. And you think that, you know, and there are no special ed police. So no one's going to the school telling them what to do, unless you do something. Yeah. You know, and that's, that's really it. You're the gatekeepers. Parents are the gatekeepers, they are the only people who can hold schools accountable. What I don't understand is why school districts spend so much money fighting parents when they should be spending their money lobbying to be better funded. That's that's that's 29:37 educating parents at a very early level. Yeah. You know, like I spoke a little bit earlier about broken trust. And what happens, you know, with families is, you know, they go to you like the case of this family, you know, this mother that I recently spoke to, you know, so you go to your school and you say, I think my child's having difficulty and Maybe you do this at pickup, or maybe you do this, like, you know, outside of the classroom? Or maybe you happen to run into them when you're doing lunch duty, or whatever it is, you have that conversation that teachers like, oh, yeah, you know, let me look into it, I, you know, haven't noticed that, but you know, maybe I'll look into it or whatever. And then they forget, or they don't move forward with that request. And it's not because the teacher doesn't care. It's because in a lot of cases, the teachers managing 25 children, and the request was not made, the way that it has to be made in order to Dana Jonson 30:30 move forward. Right? It wasn't made in a way that triggered an obligation Exactly. 30:35 And then the parent does that three or four times gets no response. And then they're angry, because they feel like they've made this request three, four or five times, and that the school is not listening. Well, the school is not listening, because the request wasn't made in a way that triggers a response. One of the first things I say is like, like you need to stop having conversations in the hallway, everything you do, should be asked, don't text, anybody Don't you know, everything you should do, even if you have a conversation in the hallway, go back and send an email summarizing what you said, in the hallway to all the relevant people. But, you know, but that's not well understood. You know, none of that is well understood, because parents, broadly speaking, feel that schools are their friends, and they want them to be their friends, they want to look at the school as another person that cares about their child, when what the school is, is an institution, it can be, and you have to do things in a specific way, in order to get the response that you need. When the communication piece breaks down, because the parents not doesn't know how to ask, and the school isn't responding. That's where I see a lot of like, you know, I mean, there's there's a lot of headway that can be made there. You know, I Dana Jonson 31:48 agree. And that's clarifying something. Yeah. I mean, that's something that I will see. Is this all broke down over miscommunication? Absolutely. Now, and that's exactly 31:57 now one person feels they've been lied to. And the other part, you know it, right. Yeah. And then you then it's like, how do you get back from that? Dana Jonson 32:04 Right? Or, you know, like, if you look at perspectives from teachers and parents, you know, I've had parents that say to me, Well, you know, they never give me data unless I asked, and the teachers perspective is, but I give them the data every time they ask, they're 32:17 right, right, exactly. Dana Jonson 32:19 The problem? Is the problem. Yeah, the ask is what's missing? Right, the parents would like you to give them the data without the masking. So that has not been expressed clearly. And I do hear that a lot from parents when they call me they're like, but that should be clear. And yes, it should be. But it isn't. And it just doesn't trigger the responsibilities. And, yeah, I mean, that I would love to see 32:43 better and better parent training at an earlier level, better understanding of like, a parents, you know, a parent, a child's rights, better screening at a younger age, you know, most of the stuff that we see where a kid has been in the system, you know, for four or five years, and it's not making progress and reading or whatever, it's like, better screening at age like, you know, five, six, yes, would have made huge differences in the outcome, rather than what it devolves to. Dana Jonson 33:15 Well, and it's often more expensive to not provide services, because 100% of the time, oh, hard. Yeah, I mean, it's, it's more expensive to not do that. Because if you can get things done early. And the problem we're having schools didn't do a lot during the pandemic, very few schools even met their minimal obligations during the pandemic. And so we have a lot of that left over. 33:39 If you have a kid that can't read at the age of 12, and they have to be outplays, to a school that costs $100,000 a year, like you have not saved anything. And if you manage the school, to push that child off to graduation without producing a functional reader, guess what, you've pushed the cost of that on to society, because a person that can't read and is functionally like not able to read and use mathematics cannot have a productive life, or job. And then you're talking about like, crime, and you know, and the things and what keeps up his yacht. Exactly. And they Dana Jonson 34:17 need to be supported by somebody and exactly a healthy problem that needs to be paid for by somebody by somebody. That's all coming out of our taxes. And, you know, that's a lot. They were disservice to at a very young age. And, and, you know, we're, we're seeing a lot more come out since the pandemic and just going back to something you said earlier, which was about people seeing the reading and stuff like that. I've had a lot of parents call me who genuinely felt like Special Ed was just a money stuck, and then saw the issues in their children. Yeah. And we're like, I and they were at home looking at their play. Exactly. Yeah, because You know, I know for me, I got through high school dyslexia I got through high school without reading a book, and nobody knew. So, you know, because I had all these clues, if you'd put me at home, in my bedroom to work on a laptop, I would not have had any of those clues. And, you know, I would have fallen apart. So that's what happened to a lot of kids. And, you know, I've had parents, it's just an interesting because when the pandemic started, and people were saying, but our kids aren't getting educated, there was part of me that felt like, yep, that's how we feel. 35:29 Yeah, yeah, exactly. Exactly. Our kids have never been educated. Right, exactly. And, you know, it's like, whatever gaps, you know, like, I'm like, the pandemic learning gap. It's like, whatever gaps existed for our kids, before the pandemic are worse now by a factor of like, five. And yes, there's a learning gap. But the learning gap is greater, and more severe, and much more difficult to overcome. For kids who are in special education, before the pandemic, and after? Dana Jonson 36:01 Well, there's some windows for skills. So some kids at a certain age won't learn the skill. Yeah, so we missed the window. For kids who say, Aren't diagnosed with autism until they're 14. Yeah, you know, you've missed 36:14 a significant window. Because, you know, the early years are when the brain is most plastic and most able to change to grow and to, you know, and to accept, you know, new behaviors and new conditions and all that other kind of thing. And that's what we missed. For a lot of kids, a lot of those kids were at home, you know, not turning on the computer screen now. And not, not at all, you know, and not getting services and not or not even being identified, you know that right? Dana Jonson 36:45 Oh, that was that was big to the big one. Yeah. Well, I think it sucks that we've gotten to a place where for people to access their civil rights, they have to have an attorney at least an education, or an advocate of some sort. And I'm, I don't see it getting necessarily better. But I do love that we have organizations like self out there to help parents. So if somebody's listening to this, and they were like, Oh, my god, that's amazing. I need to give a huge donation to Sal, how would they find you, 37:16 they should visit our website, which is www dot SPE D legal fund.org. And they can make a donation on the website, you can also visit our website, if you are a parent, that that is in need of support. Our webinars are online, and our application process is accessible online now. So if you are interested in, you know, starting the application process for either an advocacy grant or legal assistance grant, you visit our website, you you know, find the page, I think it's I think it's apply now, I mean, I used to be programs, but now it's so it's pretty direct, and then you start the process that way, you know, we review cases on a monthly basis, all of the applications, you know, the application deadline is the 15th of each month, we interview every client by the 22nd. And we render a decision by the end of the month for each family throughout the academic year. So that's kind of the the way the you know, the system as it is for us works. Dana Jonson 38:14 It's amazing. And it really has made a difference in a lot of people's lives. And if you're out there, and you're a motivated parent, and you want to help other parents and put together a fund like this in your state, please call Christine and Oh, absolutely, I'll leave you how to get I'm 38:27 happy to tell the story of my throwing spaghetti against the wall. Because that's what it was. But absolutely, because it is an it is definitely a need in every state, every state is different. But what every state has in common is that children are slipping through the cracks. And that is what you know, self is meant to do is really, I can't change, you know, the system. I'm not smart enough to rethink you know, what is exactly wrong with the special education system as it is today. But what self does is it, you know, helps to catch families that are slipping through those cracks. That's really the mission as a whole. Dana Jonson 39:05 That's amazing. And I think you guys are pretty successful. So thank you so much for everything. And 39:12 I love this podcast. I will come back anytime. Thanks. Thanks for having Dana Jonson 39:16 me. I'm having you. So I know you'll be back. Yeah. 39:21 Absolutely fantastic. And happy to talk about anything and everything. But yeah, it's been great. And thanks for having me today. Dana Jonson 39:29 Thank you so much for joining me today. Please don't forget to follow this podcast so you don't miss any new episodes and leave a review and you have a chance. If there's anything you want to hear about or comment on. Please go to my Facebook page special ed on special ed and find me there. I'll see you next time here on special ed on special ed. Have a fabulous day. The views expressed in this episode are those of the speaker's at the time of the recording and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency organization, employer or company or even that individual today.
40:00 10/13/22
IEE = Independent Educational Evaluations
Today Diane Wilcutts, a special education advocate from Connecticut, joins me to talk about Independent Educational Evaluations or IEEs. Evaluations are a critical piece of the special education process, as the evaluation is where it all begins. But what if you don't agree with your school evaluation? That is where IEEs come in. You can find Diane's website here: http://www.educationadvocacyllc.com/ Diane's email address: http://www.educationadvocacyllc.com/ You can always find me here: dana@specialed.fm FLASHBACK: Did you know Diane has joined us before? Yup! To discuss extended school year, or ESY. You can find that episode here https://five.libsyn.com/episodes/view/14855723 Transcript for this episode will be posted shortly after publishing. You can find them at https://specialed.fm  
48:52 9/28/22
State Complaints, and a little on IEEs too
State Complaints are just one dispute resolution options available to Parents of children with special education needs. Our favorite advocate, Stacey Tié, joins me to break down the State Complaint process, why we use them, and how they can help. A little on Stacey: What Stacey loves most about advocacy work is giving parents the opportunity to breathe. Often parents know something’s not right but don’t know how to advocate for what their child needs. She listens, helps them organize their thoughts, documents their needs, and makes a plan. Stacey ensures that parents are viewed by all parties as valued members of their child’s special education team. And, during the key meetings, Stacey’s clients don’t have to worry about the process, preserving the record, or reading the room. She’s got that covered. You can find Stacey at Stacey@SpecialEd.Law You can find me at Dana@SpecialEd.fm FLASHBACK: In the episode "How independent are you?" I speak with Dr. Erik Mayville, clinical psychologist and Board Certified Behavior Analyst, to discuss the components of psycho-educational evaluation and what role independent evaluators play in the special education realm. You can find that episode here https://ntkwdj.libsyn.com/how-independent-are-you TRANSCRIPTS for this episode can be found at SpecialEd.fm shortly after publication.
34:30 9/14/22
Who's on your BOE?
Knowing your child’s IEP team isn’t enough.  To be the best advocate for your child, you need to know who makes the decisions, how, and when.   Your local Board of Education (BOE) consists of lay representatives who live in your community and are selected by you (in some areas there are appointed school boards, which are selected by either the mayor or county freeholders, who are selected by you). Your BOE members are your neighbors, parents & grandparents of local children, local business owners, and other ordinary citizens. Your BOE members are non-partisan and receive no pay or benefits for their public service.  They work for you, so you should know who they are and what they do. Stacey Tié and Julie Best are two parents running for their local BOE in Darien, CT.  Today they join me to discuss the role of BOEs, how they and their children have benefitted from their involvement, and why they have decided to actually run for seats on their BOE.  Tune in to hear how you can use your BOE to your advantage.   You can find Stacey & Julie at  https://julieandstaceyforboe.com/ You can find me at Dana@SpecialEd.fm FLASHBACK: We touch on the important issue of students who still require remote learning for the 2021-2022 school year and you can hear last week’s episode on this issue here  https://ntkwdj.libsyn.com/why-we-need-learning-options TRANSCRIPTS for this episode can be found at SpecialEd.fm shortly after publication.
48:13 8/18/21
Why we need learning options
Going back to school in person shouldn’t be a choice between a family member and an education.  But for some families, it is just that.  For children living with immunocompromised family members, going back in person really isn’t a choice at all.  It’s not even one of the options. This episode isn’t about special ed, it’s about education and why we need learning options for children who can’t attend school in person, disability or not.   Today I talk with Dr. Marney White, both a professor at Yale School of Public Health and parent to an elementary school child who can’t go back in person.  While her district provided an outstanding remote program during the COVID pandemic (yes, there are a few schools out there who rocked it), they are refusing any kind of instruction for her child next year even though his in-person attendance could kill his mother. Not a fair burden to put on a 5th grader.  Because the State won’t mandate a remote option, schools are refusing to offer it.   Special education attorney Andy Feinstein also joins us to discuss the legal components of this discrimination issue and how he is helping Dr. White get her child the free public education to which he is entitled.   We discuss why it is NOT a choice to go back, why schools are refusing to help, and what other families in this situation should do. You can find Dr. Marney White in the Facebook group CT Families in Need of Remote Learning:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/connecticutremote You can find Attorney Andy Feinstein at The Feinstein Education Law Group:  https://www.attorneyfeinstein.com/ You can find me at Dana@specialed.fm Thanks for tuning in! Transcripts for this episode will be available on SpecialEd.fm shortly after publication.  
42:45 8/12/21
Hanging Out and Going Back
Justyna & Meghan from The Hangout Spot join me today to discuss how kids are adjusting to “back to normal” back to school! While I wouldn’t necessarily call it “normal” we are going back and most kids haven’t had an opportunity to flex their social muscles in a while.  They will need time and patience while they acclimate. Justyna & Meghan talk about skills students will need and what you you and your kids can starts working on now.   Justyna & Meghan were on a year ago, right after they opened The Hangout Spot to talk about how they are using ABA methods to help kids learn how to "hangout":  https://specialed.law/wanna-hangout-i-know-just-the-spot/ In 2020 Justyna & Meghan opened The Hangout Spot, a behavior analytic social skills development center where all children have a right to meaningful relationships with others. They strive to eliminate barriers to friendship and empower children to be socially successful across the lifespan using the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis. Everything they do is rooted in research, empirically validated, and proven to work. They conceptualize critical, previously considered “tricky to teach” skills through a scientific framework. In doing so, they achieve socially-significant change for kids by providing the support they need to develop real connections with other people beyond the walls of The Hangout Spot.   You can find Justyna & Meghan and learn more about The Hangout Spot here:  https://www.thehangoutspotllc.com/ TRANSCRIPT for this episode can be found at specialed.fm shortly after the episode publishes.
42:11 8/4/21
End of year wrap up
My office mates join me to sum up IEP season, discuss the trends we saw, and postulate on what we should expect for '21-22.  You can reach us all at SpecialEd.Law A transcript of this episode can be found here shortly after the episode is published:  https://specialed.law/end-of-year-wrap-up/
41:32 7/1/21
Summer isn't just a courtESY
Summer's coming!  So today, special education parent and advocate, Lisa Lightner, founder of A Day in Our Shoes, joins me to discuss Extended School Year services.  What are they?  Who gets them? And do you need them?   Check out ADayInOurShoes.com A transcript of this episode can be found here shortly after the episode is published:  https://specialed.law/summer-isnt-just-a-courtesy/ TRANSCRIPT (not proofread) SUMMARY KEYWORDS parents, child, ies, extended school year, iep, school, school district, hear, social skills, students, program, summer, services, lisa, special ed, offering, camp, regression, week, disabilities SPEAKERS Dana Jonson Dana Jonson  00:02 Hello, and welcome to need to know with Dana Jonson. I'm your host, Dana Jonson. And I'm here to give you the information you need to know to best advocate for your child. I'm a special education attorney in private practice, a former special education teacher and administrator, a current mom to four children with IPS and I myself have ADHD and dyslexia. So I've approached the world of disability and special education from many angles. And I'll provide straightforward information about your rights and your schools obligations, information from other professionals on many topics, as well as tips and tricks for working with your school district. My goal is to empower you through your journey. So please subscribe to this podcast so you don't miss any new episodes. And I want to know what you want to know. So like, follow and drop me a note on my need to know with Dana Jonson Facebook page. Okay, let's get started. Hello, and thank you for joining me today. I'm very excited to talk about the extended school year today. We are in mid June, which is the end of the school year. And so hopefully if your child requires Yes, why you've already established that in your IEP. But what we're going to talk about more is why do we have it? What is this? Why? Why do we have it? Why do we want it? And do we really want to use it. And I have with me Lisa lightner, who is a parent, and advocate and the founder of a day in our shoes, which is an amazing resource for parents a website with an amazing resource. And we'll get into all of that in a minute. But I wanted to first touch on the fact that if you have not heard yet, I will repeat myself I am going through a transition or not I am not my podcast is need to know with Dana Jonson is going through a transition. And next week will be the final episode as need to know with Dana Jonson. And then I will relaunch again in August as special ed on special ed, it will be special ed experts talking about special ed topics. So basically the exact same content. I'm just changing the name and the logo, because what I learned is that when you search for a special education podcast, need to know doesn't necessarily pop up on your screen. So I have a wonderful and solid loyal audience. And I love you all. And I want to reach more people. So we're just going to change do some cosmetic changes. But I'll be back in August with all the same great content. So I do hope to see you there. Now back to Yes, why? Hello, Lisa, thank you so much for joining me today. Yay. I want to talk to you because you have a lot of experience with special ed and also with helping parents and with going through the process yourself. So I was hoping you could give me a little background and maybe introduce yourself and how you and a day in our shoes came to be because that website is so amazingly full of information for parents, and probably teachers and administrators as well. I'm going to guess a few of those peruse your site. 03:03 Yes, I know that I do get a lot of school staff traffic, especially for my lists of IEP goals and the various disciplines or areas of need. So yeah, so it's good for both parents and school staff. Although my main goal from the get go and you know, as it continues to be today, as always been to help parents understand the IEP process. Actually, in March, the site just turned 10 years old, which is a little crazy. I know, I can't believe it. Prior to that I actually did have a different I had a separate site and I was working as a teacher, I used to teach a vocational program. And I had a sight completely unrelated to anything disabilities. But I did have a baby with disabilities, his preschool sent home a flyer to take training to become a special ed advocate. His school did. Yeah, he went to an arc preschool. Dana Jonson  03:55 Okay, that makes more sense. I'm envisioning the public school sending you out a flyer. I 04:02 know you went to an ark preschool. So they sent home a flyer to do this special ed advocacy training. And I did it merely because he was a toddler. And I said, you know, this seems like a lot. And I already understood that like, Whoa, this is pretty overwhelming because people were always coming to my house and explaining things to me and paperwork was just, you know, phenomenal. Dana Jonson  04:25 It Anyway, during the lab work and special ed. 04:28 But during the last recession, I lost my job during the 2008 recession. I lost my job, I was already in the training. So suddenly, I had a lot more time on my hands and became you know, was still going through the training, started volunteering, merge that into working part time for the arc as an advocate and then went on, you know, went off on my own started the website. And it's funny because I started the website actually with another friend who is also an advocate and we were like, oh, we're gonna like this website's gonna be about everything special. needs and like we live near where we live in Philadelphia. And we're like, we're going to list camps. And we're going to list programs and support meetings. And I mean, for Philadelphia alone, that amount of information is completely overwhelming. And what I, what I had learned early on is that parents really weren't just coming to the site for the IEP information. And, you know, some of my earliest posts are on things like what to do when your child's suspended manifestation hearings, and just because no one explains that to them and in language that they can understand and kind of walks you through the process. So you know, really, it was the parents who told me, this is what we need to hear, this is what we want to hear. So it's just grown since there. Dana Jonson  05:44 I love it. Because I feel like as you said, it breaks things down in a way that is consumable. You know, that makes sense. And I even find, for me, when I go to look something up, if I go to another attorneys page, sometimes about something in the law, and even I get bored, you know, like, this is so dry. So it's great to have that translation, you know, in what I call real, you know, I 06:07 do read Ida off and in the procedural safeguards, and the Federal Register that goes with it. And you know, it's those paragraphs, you have to go through them three and four times and the sentence at a time and well, then there's case law that defines it afterwards. And it's not really clear cut or black and white as we'd like it to be Dana Jonson  06:25 let's talk about is why does your child heaviest? Why did you have to have this battle at some point? 06:29 Well, first of all, let's let's just clarify, because I do this to ies y means extended school year. Dana Jonson  06:35 Yes. Thank you for slowing me down. I talked so fast. And sometimes I completely forget that. I'm just talking in my own language. But you're right, we're talking about extended school year services, not summer school, not camp, it's very specific service, that children who qualify are entitled to from their school district. And it's an extended school year. That's exactly what it sounds like. It means that your school year will continue beyond when the typical school year ends. So how do we get there? Lisa, why do we want it? What is it? 07:08 Right? Well, so first of all, you said, Did you ever do that battle? And I'd have to say No, I've never had to fight that battle with my child. That's great. Pennsylvania actually does have one case, he's in what is known as the Armstrong group. And it was based on a case you know, Armstrong versus someone I don't remember who it was. But the Armstrong group is kids whose needs are, you know, they're pretty high needs pretty severe autism, intellectual disability, situations like that. So it's kind of like says kids in the Armstrong group are always going to qualify for Yes. Why they're always going to need it. So he's in he's in that group. So it's not thankfully, that's one battle, I don't have to fight every year. Dana Jonson  07:54 Well, that is a good point. And and to start right off the bat, let's talk about why a student might need Yes, why. And I think that there is a misconception, there are several misconceptions about it. One is that it is only for regression. So right, only if you're going to regress, now, all students regress, right? So let, let's just start there, all of them regress over the summer, it's called the summer slide. That's why we have those silly packets, we have to force them to fill out and do over the summer. And you know, in the first month of school is really teachers trying to get kids back into the swing of things and caught back up and figuring out where their slides were. And for children with disabilities, if they are going to regress even more than that typical amount, then that's when we're looking at extended school year services. But what you're saying about this arm strong group in Pennsylvania, which is specific to your state, but we also argue here in Connecticut, which is and everywhere else is that if the nature of the disability is so severe, that the student requires those additional weeks or months to meet their goals and objectives, because that's what they require. They're continuing to work on those pieces, then they might also qualify for extended school year. 09:09 Yeah. And they're actually you know, as you know, there are other criteria, as far as is the child on the verge of an emerging skill, how long it takes them to recoup lost skills, and things like that. So I think that that is probably the biggest myth out there that, you know, he he doesn't regret he's not at fear, or he's not at one of the standard line that I hear from parents is that he's not at risk for regressing, so he doesn't qualify. Dana Jonson  09:34 Well, I think that's how do you define regression? Because as you said, if you're on the verge of an emerging skill, and if you wait till September to continue it, and you will lose that ground, that's called regression. I mean, I think that's how I look at it anyway, you know, so I think we have to look at it from a lot of different places, and sometimes I hear well, they're fine on Christmas break. So we don't have regression, 09:57 right? And that's where I tell parents that you know, It's you have to stay engaged in the process, you know, year round. And because a lot of kids, I mean, a lot of kids do regress, even over Christmas break, but the parent doesn't necessarily document that or it's not the things aren't as visible. And I have to remind parents all the time that, you know, teachers in schools only see what happens at school. So if you're seeing additional things at home, you need to start documenting that. Right. Dana Jonson  10:24 And that's been a neat change over COVID. Right, is that I think parents voices are getting a little louder. Yeah, because they're actually seeing this progression or understanding what regression is. And, and I think that's a good point, because maybe, as you said, an emerging skill. And I'm saying, I see that as regression. But if the parent doesn't know that emerging skill is happening in school, then the parent isn't going to know to document the regression either. Right? So a lot of that comes back to communication and understanding what's in the IEP and what your child is working on. 10:54 Yes. And I believe, and I, sometimes I get confused in my head, I'm like, is this Pennsylvania specific? Or is this Ida, but I believe it's in Ida that no single factors should decide whether or not the child gets Yes, why. So even if that alone, if you're saying, well, the child doesn't regress enough to get Yes. Why? Well, Ida says, it shouldn't be any one single factor, Dana Jonson  11:16 right? There should take in a whole bunch of components. And as we know, every child is different. And we individualize. So how do you find ies wise typically provided when you're advocating for students? And you're looking for extended school year programs? How do you find that that is typically provided to families? 11:35 Yeah, so one of the other tenets of ies why is that it's supposed to be individualized? No. Dana Jonson  11:45 I heard a rumor. 11:48 But that is honestly I would say, and I get it, I get that only certain teachers agree with their contract to work over the summer, certain therapists, things like that, and busing and, you know, bus, what's the word? I'm looking for contracts and therapist contracts, you know, because a lot of these things, therapies and you know, like bcbas, and transportation, mostly, you know, a lot of schools don't have their own they contract out. So I get that, from an administrative standpoint, it makes a lot of sense to just say, Hey, we're doing four weeks in July, Monday through Thursday, nine to one See you there. But around here anyway, that's getting to be just the norm. You know, hey, we'll see in July, Monday through Thursday, nine to one, Dana Jonson  12:32 right and less if it depending on when the Fourth of July falls? Yes. Right. Because that could add or eliminate a whole week, 12:39 right? And then we have a whole other situation where in the city, if the buildings aren't air conditioned schools get canceled. And a lot of you know, because I live in an old area. I live near Philadelphia, and a lot of these buildings aren't air conditioned. So then that throws in a whole other. Dana Jonson  12:55 No, yeah. And Connecticut schools can't go past the end of June because no schools are mandated to be air conditioned. And it's hot here. You know, we had a heatwave the other week, I was surprised, no schools closed. Because you need air conditioning in Connecticut in the summer. 13:10 Right. And they did actually, that was just You're right. That was just like last week, and Philadelphia schools did dismiss early they dismissed at lunchtime each day, because it just got too hot. So yes, I would say the biggest trend and but it's also the biggest concern is just that that whole individuality piece, as far as eBay just gets tossed out the window. And I think parents need to engage more and investigate. Like, I think they spend so much time focusing on whether or not their child qualifies. And oh, I just want them to get as why that they're not digging deep and saying, Okay, I gotta Yes, why now what's going to happen? Because it's to be based on your child's IEP. And if they're going to do you know, two hours of La each day and two hours of math and then send your kid home, and your child doesn't necessarily have needs in those areas, then you know why, you know, nobody wants to go to school in the summer, right? As Americans, we're just we're programmed to not think about school to not go to school in the summer, and nobody wants to do it. So if you're going to get your child in ies why let's make it meaningful, right? Let's, you know, if they're going to go and you're going to do that, let's make it meaningful. Dana Jonson  14:15 I hear that as well, that, you know, we want as why we want as why, and then, you know, maybe I get EMI for my client. And later they say, Well, that wasn't really what they needed. I have to remind clients that that you are the parent, and they're all these experts around you. And you know, I'm using air quotes for experts that you can't see. But there are all these experts around you telling you what it should be. And at the end of the day, as you said, if if it's focused on math and reading and your child's issues, their social skills, and schools can't mandate typical students to attend summer programs or ies. Why then is that program really benefiting your child? You have to figure that out. There's no one else around is going to do it for you. 14:55 The flip side of that is that parents who are fairly certain that their child is going to get the Guess why they some of them jump right to the so I found the summer camp. mean, I found the social skills summer camp, and I'm going to make the school pay for it. Meanwhile, social skills isn't even an identified area of need in the IEP. So right, you know, again, it has to be individualized. But it also has to be defined as an area of need in the IEP. And as you said, they cannot force non IEP students to attend Yes, why to enable that LRE. Dana Jonson  15:26 That's a very good point, because I have had parents call me and say, You know, I think my child really needs the social skills piece. But there is no social skills, as you said, in the IEP, that's a red flag, right? If, if you're looking for a service that is not in your child's IEP, it should be, then we need to revisit that whole component. Because, you know, some children, if they go the whole summer, and they don't have friends, their parents can do their level best to get those interactions, but they're not getting that peer interaction, like they get at school. And that's a really long time to go without that. 16:02 Right. It is, and especially this year, you know, because many had at least a year gap, if not more, you know, some stayed home through May or June and are not going back until the fall. So they haven't been there since last March. You know, and I know a lot of schools have been in the fall and it gradually more and more throughout the school year. But yeah, I mean, it's that is a long time. Dana Jonson  16:22 Did you find where you are or where you are now? Do you find that schools are opening up ies wise and or summer school and or recruitment programs? Not recruitment Brit re yeah recoup recoup not recruit programs to help students who had that that huge gap because I find there are some some schools around where I am that are doing that that are being more proactive and saying like last year, they said anyone who wanted to go to ESRI could 16:51 Yeah. So Laura. And I actually know Laura, who works for those of you missed it on Laura did was gracious enough to do a facebook live with me. And we talked about comp services due to COVID and getting the services. Because what another issue you know, of course, keep in mind, nobody ever comes to me when things are going well, they only come to me, right? things aren't going well, right? I have to constantly remind myself of that. But a lot of parents are inquiring about comp services like hey, my child missed a year of this and you know, you're have that. And then it's Oh, well, he can go to ies Why then he can go to ies Why? And again, it's about that digging deeper and saying well, but this is what he missed. So what is ies? Why, and and what's going to happen there? And is that sufficient? Because yes, I do see a lot of schools being more generous with offering EFI to students. But again, just bring them in for a couple of hours to do some reading and some math. Dana Jonson  17:47 Kids don't progress through osmosis. Right? Right, just appearing in the school, 17:53 they're not getting that pull out, or they're not getting their therapy, or whatever it is, because I hear all kinds of crazy stuff like, well, we don't do OT and E s y. And like, I don't you know, Dana Jonson  18:02 any any statement that starts with we don't, is usually incorrect. 18:08 The only thing the only one that I will say applies this time is that for as why the school cannot guarantee LRE. But other than that everything apply. Dana Jonson  18:18 And that's fair, because you can't compel typically developing students to go to a summer program. Right? I do hear that argument, though, for students who really require interaction with typically developing students that truly is what helps their progress and their success in the classroom or the environment that they're in whatever that may be. And so, you know, I often have situations where parents say, Well, why can't they do their ies? Why at a camp? Why can't they do that? And my responses they can, we can absolutely do that, if that's what's necessary. And how do we set that up to make that that argument that that is what your child requires. But that goes back to what you're saying about the individualization. And I think a lot of parents are trained to understand that are taught that this nine to one July program is actually what he is why it is, right. Yeah, you know, that they actually believe that's what it is. So because that's what it's called. And so, you know, when we're looking at extended school year, you know, programs and I hear schools say, well, it's really just about regressions, so we don't have to add anything new. So we're okay here. How do you go about working with parents to come up with creative ways to identify and and obtain those different kinds of extended school years? 19:43 Okay, so first of all, it depends. I have to tell you, it honestly depends on what time of year they come to me because the parents who are coming to me now and it is happening now, sometimes time is just not on your side, right? It just isn't, and so to Come to me, you know, Memorial Day or June 15, and say, Oh, well, I'm not happy with this ESP program from a time factor, there's usually not a lot I can do, because what I have always always preached is, you know, look at the present levels, present levels is what drives the IEP. And if this need is not in present levels, it's, then there's not going to be a goal for it. And if there's no goal for it, there's not going to be any supports and services for it. Right. And so that's, that's usually at the core of the issue is that there's an identified need. So then, okay, well, let's get it identified. Well, that takes time. And that's the kind of thing you know, like, he's, like you said, going back to their social skills example, if mom and dad are seeing that the child's struggles with social skills, but he's able to get through school day, and it's not an identified need on an IEP, you know, again, you can't go to the school and say, Well, this is the social skills camp is what he needs for EAS, why? What his child needs is some evaluations to show that he lacks social skills. And that's going to take time, and on June 15, you know, I can't necessarily help you there. So from the school's point of view, what I do always do say to parents, as you know, like, look at these camps, most of them are nonprofits, look for scholarships, look for, you know, go to your Lions Club, though, to your co Ana's club, your rotary and see if they do sponsorships for, you know, children in the community with disabilities. And if they would sponsor this camp for you, if you cannot afford it. And also, you know, if you, I get it, we're guaranteed faith, and that first word is free. But just because our kids are guaranteed fate doesn't mean that if you have a disabled child that you're never ever going to have to pay for anything for them ever again. So you know, some good point, yeah, and some parents are in a position to pay for these things. And that is, you know, what I call the path of least resistance. If I can't help you demonstrate this week, you know, that your child needs social skills, then I just don't really think that's going to be an option for you. Like, we can go through the motions and we can get things started. But the school is under no obligation in most cases to evaluate for this camp starts and things like that. Dana Jonson  22:09 I've seen that there was like a, as a plan on school districts part is that they make it a little difficult. So for parents who can pay for ies why they just do they just find something and pay for it. And again, the path of least resistance. And I do get that as well. But then I also find that what ends up happening is the people who can't afford to place are stuck and fighting their district. And the district is playing the same game with them. So they're having to push back and they can't afford to push back or to unilaterally place. And that's where we run into trouble. A lot of times, too, when I get that call, I also have to remind parents that hiring me to get the school district to say yes to Yes. Why may cost you more than the EMI program. 22:55 Right. A great example is several years ago, I had a family and they wanted this 15 $100 s y program, and we ended up going to mediation. And yes, the girl got it, the female student got the program in mediation that that we wanted. But I mean, I'm sitting there in mediation, looking at this table of like, seven or eight school staff. And it was this time of year. I mean, it was summer had already started school is out. And I thought you know, here, we have a superintendent and me, you know, they're paying me and all these people and to challenge us on a 15 $100 program. So and yes, I certainly acknowledge that, you know, of course, I go off on tangents and talk about this stuff all day. There certainly is a gap in a you know, in public education, certainly between the haves and the have nots. And having a parent pay for a program that they can afford, can exacerbate that gap. And I'm not I don't want to come across as that I'm comfortable with that, like, Oh, well, too bad for you. If you can't afford it, you know, again, that's how I understand Yeah, you can look into, you know, you can try to look into scholarships and things like that. But for the parent who can afford it, like I said, you know, you and I will probably still get one or two more calls this week, from parents. Yeah, from parents who are looking for EMI. And you know, in some cases, when you come to us at this time of year that if you want that program, they're like, well, it starts June 21. Like I These are your options, you sign up and pay for yourself or you know, Dana Jonson  24:22 well until that point, and I want to be really clear that neither Lisa nor I are giving any legal advice here. Lisa is not an attorney, but I am and I'm not giving legal advice and I don't know your your students situation. But to that point, if a parent were to do that, and go pay for their program themselves, and I always want to make this clear to any parent anytime. If you expect any money back from a district that you spend, you have to go through a very important legal process and document and note it properly. And the most, the most important part is you have to give 10 days notice so Before your child leaves the public school, not before they start the new program, before they leave the public school 10 days beforehand, at least, you must have given notice in writing that the school district did not offer an appropriate program, that you're in disagreement with their program, that you believe this is an appropriate program. And that you will be placing your child there, and that you expect to get reimbursement later that you're preserving your rights to reimbursement. That's very important. I also usually mentioned to parents, if you're spending money, you want to get back, talk to a lawyer, it's that simple. talk to a lawyer is the best way to make sure you've covered your ground. But so for those of you who are listening to us right now and thinking, Oh, I didn't get ies why yet I got to figure that out. Make sure that you talk to somebody, so you're doing it the right way. But for people who already have it in their IEP, and the issue is a dispute of where it is, you know, yes, there are a lot of options. So that kind of brings me to another question that Lisa, which is through your child does qualify and you do get it? Do you have to go? And I get that a lot from parents too, who say I don't want to say no to anything. I don't I don't want to say no, because you don't you don't want the IP to be weakened because you're going to visit grandma for the week. You don't want to not have it in there. So how do you advise parents who asked that question? Do I have to go to ies wire does my child have to 26:21 go? I know it's parents spend so much time and it is such a fight some time to get services that they're so they just don't want to decline? Anything that's offered to them. And I get it. I Dana Jonson  26:31 never did either. I mean, I bore kids with IPS. So I totally understand. 26:37 I mean, first of course, ask the special ed director or ask whoever's running the EFI program, you want to know what's going to happen there. Because as I said earlier, you want to make it meaningful, right? If you are going to send your child to school during the summer, which is going to affect you know, the entire household, right? You want to see what's going on? And is it appropriate for your child? Is it going to be meaningful? It's not talked about a lot, but school districts are not actually permitted. And it's not legal advice. But school districts are not permitted to retaliate against parents for refusing services. So in a perfect world, no, that shouldn't be held against you, as we all know what what the statute says and what happens every day is not necessarily the same thing. But no, they're not supposed to retaliate against you are not permitted to retaliate against you for refusing a service. That being said, I haven't This isn't an area where I would necessarily expect to see a lot of retaliation because they the school district has planned their ESP program. They've hired X number of teachers and X number of Paras and they do kind of have a cap on, you know, yep, this is how many kids we're going to offer. Yes. Why to? So being able to cut those numbers back, I wouldn't necessarily expect retaliation in this area, because it is going to save the district money, right? If five parents say no, that might be another pair that they don't have to hire for ESXi. So I wouldn't necessarily be afraid of that. I would you know, Dana Jonson  28:04 I also find that as wide disputes, and as soon as I say this, it's going to change. I'm going to jinx myself. But I tend to find that because yes, why programs, as you said you're fighting over a 15 $100 program, oftentimes as Why is not as cost prohibitive as a program during the school year. So I find that those disputes are often easier to resolve, because they're short term, they're short lived, and they're not tremendously expensive. So I see the bigger fights for ies wise, when you have a child who really requires a 12 month program, that's usually where we have like the more major disputes, and we don't have that in place. Or for students who require two months of extended school year, not just one, 28:47 right, that I that you're right, and that, you know, if they're offering where I see the disputes is the parents who are trying to buck the school with the you know, this, this nine to one monday through thursday camp program isn't appropriate for what my child needs. So and in fact, that 15 $100 program was just that we wanted something at the local university, which was completely appropriate for what this girl needed. And the camp program that the school was offering was not appropriate. So like he said, that's where I see the issues is when parents don't want to do the camp program, and they do want the summer camp or the something else, which in many cases may be really appropriate. You know, if social skills is your biggest is your child's biggest need, you know, but again, it's going back to getting that documented, and is that a you know documented area of need and all that Dana Jonson  29:34 I often recommend the parents if they are sending their child somewhere else that they explained to the school district how that will address some of the issues for us Why? Because a lot of times going to that summer camp. It's not a special ed camp. It's not providing those educational components, but it will address the special education needs of the child and that's what we're looking for. right we're looking for to address the special education needs of the child. And I think that oftentimes that puts the district at rest to Okay, well, you're doing your thing, but we know that at least that they're getting some services. So when we come back to the table in September, we're still on the same page. You know, school isn't going to say, I can't teach your kid because you didn't send them to us why, right? That's not gonna happen, right? Yeah, I 30:21 was for EFI, or for any really, you know, I guess, an alternative si program is really an out of District placement, right? Because you're not doing with the district, in district for any out of District placement, I say, go there, ask them or talk to them read the website, what are they doing at that placement that your child needs, that they are possibly, they're just never going to get that in what the district is offering, right. Dana Jonson  30:47 And a lot of times, it's the typically developing peers, the role models, the social skills, and I've had school districts send a para to the local camp, if a student was maybe going to the local camp, and the parent was paying for the camp, but maybe the school sent the para, that's not typical. So don't get excited about that. But I have seen it happen that way. I've also seen ies y in the form of like some one on one tutoring. 31:12 Yep. Oh, yeah, I've seen a lot of you know, some kids don't need nine to one every day. But they do need to keep up on some things. So once or twice a week might be you know, and now every school district in the country just about is set up to do things virtually. So if your child's needs are strictly academic, you know, maybe they don't need to leave the house, maybe they do only need an hour, a day or an hour a week of some online tutoring, or some you know, instruction or something like that, working with his teacher. Yeah, I mean, just, you know, like you're talking about an out of District, but they sent the para, you know, be creative and think about everything, you know, think about what you can offer them and because it is you know about being collaborative, Dana Jonson  31:51 and I find that the more options a parent comes to the table with and also though, to your point, understand what your school is offering going in and saying I know you're Yes. Why is canned? And doesn't do anything isn't an argument. Right? It's definitely not a legal argument. But it's also not an argument and you don't have a really good ground to stand on. You know, if you're and I think other parents are great resource, and we need them, and they help you. But you have to get the information yourself. 32:21 Yeah, I would ask to see like curriculum or lesson plans or something, because what I've found is a lot of parents will call an IEP meeting to talk about this. And then they say, Well, my child needs this and they go, okay, we do that. And they go, Well, my child needs this. Oh, yeah, we do that they do everything. Right. They do everything in these four hours, right. So it's, it's getting some not just verbal reassurance, but something else that like, you want to know what they're doing each day, I've found that a lot of them are just a lot of fun time to you know, a lot of outdoor games and, and I get it, it's summer, you want to keep things light, but you know, I'm not going to send my kids every day to go play in the playground for four hours, either, you know, because that's not helping him or anyone else. So Dana Jonson  33:05 right. So yeah, so I think, you know, understanding very thoroughly what the school district is actually offering and what that looks like, it's hard because parents can't observe the ESA, during the school year, because it's not there. So that's a bit challenging. So you do have to rely on other parents and their experiences. But yeah, going to your team and asking them to pull out specifically, what are we working on, I hear a lot of well, it's only to prevent regressions. So it's going to be a lot less, it's going to be minimal. It's going to be all these things. I actually this year had a an PPT or in Connecticut, we call them ppts. But an IEP meeting, where they said the formula we use is and I thought, okay, thank you for sharing, we're going to revisit that. You know, there's no one formula for ESP for every child on the planet. And that is really the key part. And I do believe that a lot of the ESP programs that schools have can address a lot of students needs, but not all of them, right? Not every child and not every need. So we do really need to take those those ideas and those thoughts and think outside the box. I also caution parents that a lot of times I find schools, at least I have found and again, I don't come in unless there's a problem. And there's another attorney at the table. So usually we're there to try and fix the problem. That's the goal. But I find that we can be very creative, and in a way that school districts can't always be at the IP table. So to also be a little flexible with the IEP team. Yeah. Could we could we maybe come to a better agreement outside of this meeting? Because I think we can resolve the issues. You know, if there's an issue and an easy way to resolve it, why wouldn't the school want to 34:51 Right, right. I think also, you know, obviously the internet and social media has been a complete game changer for IEP parents, right like One of my mentors has a disabled son who's my age. And so she tells me about in the 70s standing by her mailbox, like literally waiting for this newsletter to get to her home, you know, because that's was the 70s. Right? So it's been a complete game changer, the Dana Jonson  35:13 fact that she could find a newsletter in the 70s and 80s. I'm really impressed with. 35:19 But I think that it's it's been a mixed blessing because I think parents see other parents getting things doing things, and then they think, Oh, my gosh, I have to be doing that. And not every child with an IEP gets ies Why? And not every child with an IEP needs is why and you kind of have to go with your gut, I, you know, go with your gut instinct, and then work on defining that gut instinct, you know, with your IEP team, but it's okay, if your child doesn't need ies Why? Just because you see all these other parents doing it. And I feel like it has become kind of like the latest, like buzz word are out there like, Yeah, do you have Yes. Why do you have vs? Why? What do you know? And it's okay to not go to ies why it's okay. You know, again, it's okay to tell the school No, but it's also okay, if Dana Jonson  36:04 you can also get your accommodations for your summer packet, you know, so, so your child might not need Yes, why, but if they had that summer packet that everybody else has, you can be requesting things through their, their IP that they may need to assist them through that packet. And that may even include touching in with a teacher, or, or something like that, without necessarily being an extended school year. 36:29 And I but I see a lot of I think parents, IEP parents, we are so fists up ready for battle all the time, that as soon as we hear no, we're prepared to fight for it, you know, and so you're in your IEP meeting in January, February? And they say, okay, yes. Why we don't think your child qualifies. And just because they were told no, like, the parent automatically thinks, well, they told me no, so I better fight for this. And again, not every child needs it. And that's okay. Dana Jonson  36:57 You know, and I also like, when they say that in October, I usually say can we reconvene, and let's just reconvene and like may and talk about it again, we get a little closer. But I agree with you, just because it exists doesn't mean you have to have it or that your child can get it, you know, your child truly may not qualify. Right, right. And then you're fighting a losing battle. And I do see that because I think that if you feel like you're not getting everything that you need, or your child is not getting everything that they are entitled to over here. And then you see this other thing over there. And like, why can't we get that? And I try to remind parents to keep the focus, what is it that you want, just because you're not getting this thing over here doesn't mean we want to distract our efforts to fight for all this other stuff over there that maybe we don't really need. Let's stay here and get this piece here that we want. And I think that's a good point. You know, not everybody qualifies for it. And it's it's not the end of the world, 37:53 right. And also that I see a lot of parents put their hopes into, they think that in the summer program that their child is going to catch up, well, that's great, I'm going to send him to ies wine, he's going to catch up to his peers, I have never seen that happen. I mean, never Dana Jonson  38:07 well. And I like to say if your child didn't catch up with their peers over the school year, there's a good chance, they won't catch up in four weeks from nine to one, you know, so it's and it's not meant for that it's not summer school, it's not you fail the class. And so now you're taking it again, or you're improving your grade. it's specific to the IEP, and it's specific to the child's needs, and to ensure ongoing progress and a lack of regression. So you know, as we said, I do hope that everybody out there who wants to swipe either has it or has it lined up. But keep in mind that you don't necessarily require EMI. And if you don't require it, or if you don't like it, you don't necessarily have to go to it. The other piece I like to tell parents is you can disagree with it and send your child that's another one you have to remember, if you disagree with it, but you don't have an option. You can tell them you disagree with it to preserve your rights for later on down the road. If something else comes up, you can say I disagree with it. I don't think this is appropriate, but I am going to send them. So that's sort of a another piece to consider. Because I also know sometimes parents don't speak up because they're afraid if they say they don't that it's not appropriate. There won't be any other options. 39:17 Yeah. And it always goes back to what I've preached for 12 years is that all parents need to stay engaged in, you know, an IEP is not just an annual meeting, you have to stay engaged all the time. And yes, in Ida it says that you're supposed to be notified of the school's ies why decision with enough time to exercise their procedural safeguards. So, you know, again, I tell parents, if you're if you haven't heard anything by March or April, you know, it's okay to send an email, you know, look at your IP, see what it says and send an email and ask, you know, because you do need time to exercise your procedural safeguards, Dana Jonson  39:53 but don't wait for the school to come to you. Right, right. Exactly. It's sort of like if your point of my teenage I have three teenagers driving right now. And I told one of them, I was like, oh, look out for that. And they're like, oh, if they hit me, it would be their fault. And I thought, Well, yeah, it would be their fault. But you wouldn't have a car, or you might have broken bones. So a little bit of an extreme example, but you know, if you want, yes, why, and you're waiting, and you know, the school district hasn't done it, and you're waiting, then, you know, you're you're hurting yourself. It might be their fault. And they might be wrong, but your child won't have this. Why? 40:30 Right. And it's June 15. So it's June 15. You hire me or or Dana, you know, it's gonna take us weeks to you know, even get going on that. Dana Jonson  40:41 I mean, it would take me two weeks to even establish probably a first call with an attorney. Yeah, you know, cuz no one has time to breathe right now. So now, that's a good point. Thank you, Lisa. Is there any last points on eBay? I feel like we kind of covered it all. You 40:55 know what, I just want to ask you one question, because it's your house. I've only had one family in 12 years. Have you ever successfully, you know, with or without your services? Maybe they maybe they resolve it on their own? Or you heard it from another attorney colleague, you know, forever? I've been told that he is why is not just for summer. It's anything that goes above and beyond the school year. Have you ever been successful with like weekend or holiday Christmas holiday? Yes. Why? Things like that? I've only ever had one? Dana Jonson  41:24 a great question. I have not actually argued that. That is not in 15 years, I've been practicing as an attorney for 15 years in special ed. And I have not argued that. But that is a great question. Because you're right. Yes, extended school year is extended school year, we're trained to believe that extended school year is nine to one in July. Right. Right. That's how we've been conditioned. But it's not. It's an anything above and beyond that same as extended day. 41:55 There are advocates around here who preach that and they say, well, you can ask for stuff on Saturdays. And you can ask for stuff on Christmas break and things like that. I've never, like I said I've had one. But we have a we have a weird thing in pa where most kids with disabilities can get wraparound behavioral health. So we can get home services. And those folks are permitted to do community based instruction and go out in the community with your child. So we can go about it the Medicaid route and get that. Now mind you, that's nothing academic, it's only behavioral. Dana Jonson  42:27 But if it's impacting their education, it's educational right here, it's 42:30 not really even an issue because like, well, this is my wraparound services Dana Jonson  42:34 students I've had who require that level of intensity are usually in our placements. When I'm involved. That's usually my experience. So I haven't argued for that or really seen that as a problem. But it is a really good point. And I think the good piece about the vagueness of VSI is what if you want a service that you can only get on a Saturday, you know what, if there's something out there, then it really shouldn't matter when it's offered? Does that make sense? 43:02 Yeah, no, because we do have a university around here that does a lot of behavioral stuff, and a lot of social skills and executive functioning clinics and camps and sessions and, and they're all on Saturdays. Dana Jonson  43:14 So it shouldn't matter that it's on a Saturday, it should be you know, and if it's during the school year, you could argue it's extended school year, because it's additional school days, or extended school day. You know, I've had students where they say, Oh, well, if the student you know, they have to attend the homework Hall, if they have to attend it, that sounds like an extended school day to me, you know. So I think there there are definitely ways to argue that I just I have found typically when I have had students in cases where they required that level of intensity, they're already in a program that probably provides it and, and in Connecticut, we also have other agencies that provide Home Services, depending on your situation, depending on your disability, depending on your insurance, depending depending depending so many things. So but again, that goes back to individuality of the child. 44:03 And I was just curious, because I've just heard it exists, but it's like a unicorn. I've Dana Jonson  44:06 never really seen it in action. But if if anyone out there has seen this, please reach out to me. I would love to hear about it. If you have obtained extended school year services and in a unique manner. I would love to hear about it. Lisa, thank you so much for joining me today. This was really wonderful. I thoroughly enjoy all of your resources and your website and your video casts and your live streams. So I strongly recommend you check out a day in our shoes. And if you're listening to this, you can go back to the show notes. I will have all of Lisa's information on her website in there. If you feel like Lisa speaking my truth. She's the only person I can talk to. I'll ever contact information. And you know, hopefully everybody is set up and ready to go into summer God willing. Thank you so much for joining me today. Please don't forget to subscribe to this podcast so you don't miss any new episodes. And if there Anything you want to hear a comment on, go to our Facebook page and drop me a note there. I'll see you next time here on need to know with Dana Jonson have a fabulous day
45:13 6/23/21
What's the deal with mediation?
What's the deal with Mediation?  Mediation is a wonderful tool for resolving disputes with your school district.  It is voluntary, free, and offered by your State, so today we are going to check it out.  We will discuss the entire process, all the players, and how you can prepare.   NEWS: I also have exciting news about the re-brand of Need to Know with Dana Jonson.  Listen to the episode to hear the details, but, in a nutshell, I will publish 3 episodes in the month of June, then I will take July off, and will return in August with a new, improved, and re-branded podcast!  The new name will be Special Ed on Special Ed; Enlightenment from special ed experts on special ed topics.  It will be the same RSS feed, so you don’t have to do a thing.  Just be patient, and in August, Special Ed on Special Ed will pop into your cue.   In this episode, I also mention Christine Blackburn and her podcast Story Worthy, which I highly recommend you check out! A TRANSCRIPT of this episode can be found here: https://specialed.law/whats-the-deal-with-mediation/
37:23 6/3/21
We're going to SuperD!ville
Today we head to SuperD!Ville where children who learn differently (and their peers) find out about how their brains work and social emotional learning.  We talk with Peggy Stern, Founder and CEO, and Diana Correa-Cintron, COO, about how SuperD!Ville came to be and how it is helping children everywhere! https://superdville.com SuperD!Ville is a forward thinking and unique multimedia resource that combines videos with real kids and lessons plans for a broad range of social and emotional issues.   Created by Academy Award winner Peggy Stern, SuperD!Ville empowers the 1 in 5 children who learn differently.   Research shows that it helps all students: Develop SEL skills (self-esteem, resilience, empathy, etc.) Identify their strengths and challenges as learners Acquire useful self-advocacy tools for school and beyond In addition, all of the kids who act in the videos have learning differences like dyslexia and ADHD! Peggy Stern, Founder and CEO Peggy Stern is an Academy Award-winning film Producer/Director with more than 30 years experience. Her dyslexia led her to filmmaking and animation at a young age, and in March 2006 Stern won the Oscar for Best Animated Short. Stern has produced for PBS, HBO, Teachers College at Columbia University, The National PTA, and National YWCA among others. She received her BA from Harvard University and her senior thesis film STEPHANIE, was turned into a PBS documentary special and broadcasted nationally. SuperDville is a family affair, as her dyslexic daughter Emma has been a key advisor! Diana Correa-Cintron, Chief Operating Officer Diana is an attorney by training, educator and Latino rights activist. She has worked as a public interest lawyer, policy analyst, development officer and consultant for a range of non-profit and educational institutions such as FIU, Columbia University School of Law, Hispanics in Philanthropy, the Bronx Children’s Museum and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and was also awarded a Fulbright Fellowship. As the COO for SuperDville, Diana works in partnership with Peggy Stern on strategic planning, outreach and cultural competency. She is the proud mother of two sons with dyslexia. You can reach both Peggy and Diana through the SuperD!ville website: https://superdville.com/contact/ Peggy and Diana also discussed SuperD!friends in this episode, which can be found here: https://superdvillefriends.as.me/schedule.php Full TRANSCRIPT of this episode can be found at https://specialed.law/were-going-to-SuperDville
50:11 4/28/21
A Day in Our Shoes on COVID and Comp Ed
Happy IEP season!  Today, special education attorney Laura Henneghan joins Lisa Lightner and A Day in Our Shoes to discuss Compensetory Education for services missed due to the global pandemic.  She covers what comp ed is, who qualifies, and how to ask for it.  You'll gain tools with which to advocate for your child in your spring IEP meetings. Check out ADayInOurShoes.com You can reach Laura at Laura@SpecialEd.Law A transcript of this episode can be found here shortly after the episode is published: https://specialed.law/A-Day-in-Our-Shoes-on-COVID-and-Comp-Ed/
72:10 4/17/21
We're college bound!
Is your child with special education needs college bound?  What do they need to get there? And where is there?   Today, Special Education Attorney Laura Heneghan shares her journey helping her children navigate transition skills for college and what questions to ask.     You can find both Laura and me at   https://SpecialEd.Law   and you can reach Laura directly at Laura @SpecialEd.Law   The TRANSCRIPT for this episode can be found in the show notes at https://SpecialEd.Law/were-college-bound   TRANSCRIPTS (not proofread)   SUMMARY KEYWORDS college, child, brogan, student, learning, school, high school, kids, accommodations, disabilities, people, classes, absolutely, professors, parents, skills, learning disabilities, capable, dyslexia, campus SPEAKERS Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney, Dana Jonson   Dana Jonson  00:02 Hello, and welcome to need to know with Dana Jonson. I'm your host, Dana Jonson. And I'm here to give you the information you need to know to best advocate for your child. And a special education attorney in private practice. A former special education teacher and administrator, a current mom to four children with IPS and I myself have ADHD and dyslexia. So I've approached the world of disability and special education from many angles. And I'll provide straightforward information about your rights and your schools obligations, information from other professionals on many topics, as well as tips and tricks for working with your school district. My goal is to empower you through your journey. So please subscribe to this podcast so you don't miss any new episodes. And I want to know what you want to know. So like, follow and drop me a note on my need to know with Dana Jonson Facebook page. Okay, let's get started. Hello, today I am speaking with Laura Hannigan. Hello, Laura. Thank you for joining me. Thank you. Laura has been with us before she works with me in my office. And the reason Laura that I wanted to have you on again, is to talk about taking her children from learning disabilities and other disabilities in school to college, because that is a step that I find very difficult for typically developing students forget disabilities. And it's it's complicated enough as it is, but I know you have some in depth experience with it. So why am I asking you? Why are you the person I'm coming to to talk to me about getting kids with disabilities into college? Let's start there.   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  01:37 Okay, well, aside from professional experience I've personally experienced in this area, I have three children, and the oldest, my son Brogan has dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia. And he is currently in his last semester of college. So I feel like I'm here. So I can talk a bit about the journey and some of the things I've learned and would be happy to share with your listeners.   Dana Jonson  02:01 That is awesome. So when can we start worrying about college, I have one student, I have one child, I shouldn't say student, one child of mine, who was adopted an older age, so I didn't get to know her until she was 13. But at 13, I was told she would not go to college that was not her trajectory, and that we should be looking at something else. And then I have my own biological children who from the very beginning, I presumed that college would be the end goal no matter what. And you know, I've had to adjust that perspective from time to time. And now I'm back on College Track for some of them. But when we make that decision,   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  02:38 as I said, Bergen is my oldest three children, two of them are in college, and one is currently a junior in high school. So I always did look at freshmen and sophomore years, kind of the free years where they could just enjoy school, I could have them enjoy school, and not worry about things until that, you know, critical junior year. But I found one Brogan was in 10th grade was when I really started thinking about it because like you I wasn't sure if he would be capable of handling college going away to school what our options were. In addition to his learning disabilities, he had a lot of social anxiety. So we didn't know what he was capable of. And as we all know, kids continue to mature well into their 20s. So looking at somebody at 10th grade is a totally different thing than what they're going to eventually end up to be so   Dana Jonson  03:28 but I think and I just want to jump in because what you said is really great is you're not just talking about academics, right? Oh, yeah. I they're talking about learning to live by college. And and that experience in and of itself is something it's monumental. I mean, it's really big.   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  03:45 Absolutely. So, you know, in the way that I work is usually I like to research things. So if you're old enough, you probably recall the back of the big Barron's book of colleges. And I love flipping through that and they actually have an addition that's for programs with colleges and universities with programs for kids with learning disabilities.   Dana Jonson  04:05 And they just updated it, they just updated it, it came out in February, I know cuz I've ordered it.   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  04:10 So really not involving him yet, because of the anxiety issue. I got that and kind of flipped through to get an idea of what the options would be. And one thing I was glad I noticed at that early stage was that many more schools became even a possibility if you have two years of a foreign language, so for them to even to consider admission, they want those two years almost despite how your child does in the class. Like many kids with dyslexia, Brogan had a foreign language language waiver. So he had not taken Spanish or French or whatever they were offering and as freshmen and sophomore year so we did end up enrolling him in his junior and senior year solely for the ability to open up that kind of extra level of colleges based on the requirements   Dana Jonson  04:58 and I found that in our in our high school. Anyway, they don't require it. So I struggled with that, because I was saying My child is going to need two years of language. And they were saying, nope, No, they don't. And then I was like, well, I need a language waiver, because I have one child with nonverbal learning disability and learning a foreign language is next to impossible. So, and they wouldn't give it to me because if not required to graduate from high school. So right parent, yeah, so I want to talk about that, at some point, how we address those barriers to?   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  05:29 Well, it's funny, I think colleges are becoming more aware of the two because more are offering things like ASL. Because if you American Sign Language, if you have a kid who struggles with reading and writing in English, and you're requiring them that they take a foreign language, you're just asking for failure for them, which is, it's just not really, you know, fair to the kid. And I know, when Brogan started taking Spanish in his high school, he was running into a lot of issues. And we kind of, you know, step back and look and and it turned out he wasn't getting the same accommodations in Spanish, like a word bank. He was not he was being penalized for spelling and things that in English, he was not being penalized for. But he wasn't Spanish. So we kind of had to get, you know, the whole team on board that the combinations carry across. Yeah, I wouldn't have even thought of that. Do that. And everyone, it was kind of a lightbulb moment for everybody. It was like, Oh, yeah, that that totally makes sense. We had just never thought of that. Yeah. So we were fortunate that his high school took a bunch of students on a college tour in the summer between sophomore and junior year. So he was able to be exposed to different campuses, different cultures on campus size locations, kind of without the parental lens being on it, which I thought was great. And it was a really good opportunity. I grew up in New York State and basically had the choice of any new york state school, I could get into sight unseen. So I wasn't really a true believer in needing to visit colleges, it was like apply to them get into the best one, you can and go there. Because Brogan has seen schools, we were able to kind of limit it to he didn't want to be urban, he didn't want to be an engineering, he didn't want to be that far away from home. So then we kind of drew a, you know, three hour radius around where we were, and figured we'd start looking at programs that had learning disability programs, kind of an official program. And just as an aside, there's kind of three main levels. So there are, every college has to have a disabilities office to address any accommodations for any students disabilities. And with that, they can sometimes offer some tutoring services or some accommodations that like extra time, then you've got kind of a middle level tier where you could maybe pay for some tutoring, or the school has like a peer tutoring section or something that the kids can go to for a little extra help. And then you've got kind of the full blown, usually additional tuition learning program that's a little more structured, we started visiting those high level, you know, learning structured ones. And it was really interesting to me, because I wouldn't have believed the benefit in the visit. Until one day, we were on a campus that on paper was a perfect fit for him. And we took our tour and the program was great. The people were great. But he and I walking around the campus, he said, I don't see any other Bourbons here. And that was a really high impact moment for me both his awareness of that and that he needed to feel like he fit wherever he was going. So that really changed my perception of what it was to visit a college. And honestly, there were some that we pulled up to and he was like, nope. And we just kept driving. And I found the exact same experience with my daughter, Kylie, there were places that we'd pull up to and it didn't feel right. Or there was something that just didn't feel like it was a place that she wanted to be. And I realized kind of how important at least in our situation with my kids that it was a really important piece.   Dana Jonson  09:08 Yeah, yeah, definitely that fit and, and getting a vibe for it too, because I was presumed not unlike high schools and other schools, just because they have a program on paper that appears perfect for you. Doesn't mean it it. Absolutely. We run into that all the time with students in elementary or middle or high school. Like Yes, well, this program may be great for a lot of kids with disability or with dyslexia, but it's not working for this kid with dyslexia. So we have to look at something different. So I think that's a great point that that individualizing doesn't change just because they're going to college. It still needs to be an individual is because if the child doesn't buy in or doesn't feel comfortable, you're not going to get out of them their best.   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  09:54 Exactly. And I think for different kids, the level of that might be different, but for him it Was it was really important. And we came across his current university where they don't have a specific program. But we went in, and we talked to his the Learning Support Group. And we presented his current testing and his IPS. And they really felt that they could support him. And it was a, it was a campus that felt good to all of us. So we identified another campus that was a good fit that had an additional PE program. And we decided he would apply to both of those early but non binding so that if we needed to continue the application process, we could, but for him applying to too many schools would have been overwhelming. So we kind of picked his top two choices, and did the early application for those. And he ended up getting into both Yeah, he broken. He actually liked the one with the less formal program. And that worried us a little bit. So his high school support teachers actually got on the phone with the university and talked about the services that they could offer to him and got us all comfortable that it was a really good fit. Most importantly, was he felt like that university wanted him. And in the end, the decision was his Yeah, it was he really felt like they wanted him to be there. I think in in going through the process, there are a couple things that were really helpful, you know, we went and visited and we spoke to the people that run the disability offices and, you know, going with a list of prepared questions to ask and write down the answers. Because once you visit more than two colleges, you forget what somebody else said, you know, and bring the list of accommodations your kid is currently getting so that you know what works and what doesn't work. And you need to go in making sure that your your child knows what their strengths and their vulnerabilities are. And if they're not sure help them to kind of figure it out because it at the college level, whether they're 18 or not, when they go to college college is going to treat them like an adult. And they're going to have to advocate a bit more for themselves and know their profile as a learner. So that they can ask for help during the process. And they need to really notify their professors, each professor of the accommodations they need. Now, if they want to struggle with that, there's people that can facilitate it and support them. But it's kind of good to know going in that they've got to be a little more responsible for that kind of stuff.   Dana Jonson  12:22 When I think that's an important skill that we say all the time. Kids need to learn how to self advocate and we talked about it, we talked about it. But what does that look like? And what does that look like in real life. And what that looks like is being able to find that learning center, if that's the school that you're going to one where you have to seek it out yourself. Because as you're talking about these three tiers, what I'm understanding is there some that just offer whatever the federal law makes them offer, right, you have to offer certain level of accommodation reasonable accommodations under the ADA, then you get to the next step where they found the services, but you have to seek them out and get them yourself. And then the third level would be an integrated program.   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  13:03 Correct. And one of the things we found really helpful was he set up weekly appointments, because left to make the decision in the moment about Should I go get help or not was something that was difficult for him. But when he had an appointment on his schedule, he would go every single time. So that was really, really helpful. The other thing I found really helpful, which my kids absolutely hated, is when you're on the campus, stop other students and ask them what they think about the school, and about the food and about the professors and about the dorms. And all of those parts that we you know, refer to earlier all part of the experience. And who better to tell you but somebody who's currently there, because it's really not all about the academics. It's a change in where you live, what you eat your friends, how you maintain your hygiene, it's, you know, you've probably never shared a bathroom with 20 other people before. So it's really different. And Brogan joined the ultimate frisbee team as a freshman. And that was a great choice for him. Because it kept him busy. It gave him exercise, and it kind of gave him a built in social group. And that was one of the things that I contribute to his success at school. And personally, I made the decision to not obsess about grades. And to this day, I actually don't know what any of his college grades are. I know he attends class. And we'll get to how I know that. And I know he's not failed any classes. And he's graduating in four years. So grades. You know, when I talked to him, I asked, Are you happy? Are you working hard? Are you doing well? And those are the things that I chose to focus on. Because for him the accomplishments in all of those areas were so huge.   Dana Jonson  14:40 Yeah. And I think when you're going to college, either you're in or you're out, right. So when when you're when you're looking at high school grades, you're worried about those grades because of what they bring you to NES and in college, at least my personal philosophy is you made it right you're there now. Can you stay there and make it through, because unless you are planning to do something very specific, many times your class rank doesn't actually matter. your GPA doesn't actually matter. Obviously, if you're failing or an academic probation, those are different stories. But as a rule, you know, you're not looking for that next competitive school. I mean, if you are going to graduate school, sure, but there are also other paths to graduate school. So it's a little I find it takes the pressure off a little Did you find that through your experience, or Absolutely,   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  15:32 and I think that's why it enabled me who I'm a pretty detail oriented person, to just not focus on it at all, like, as long as he receives his diploma, he's good. And it doesn't really matter how he got there. Like you said, he's passed all his classes, and he hasn't been on probation. And I think you don't know how your kid's gonna respond. When they get there, I was really worried about him and the friends and the dorm situation, because the high school that he went to was a really small High School, and he was absolutely fine. Now, my next one, my daughter, she went to college, and she had some anxiety and the dorm was really a tough thing for her, she got put in triple and that was not working.   Dana Jonson  16:15 They should never group girls in threes. I really, like we all learn that early, let's just not do it.   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  16:23 You know, as an accommodation, we got her move to a single room. And that was helpful, but then she wasn't socializing really at all. So eventually, we got an emotional support dog for her that lived with her in the dorm in her single, and that provided kind of the comfort to her. And also a talking point for people like who doesn't want to go up to a dog and you know, talk to the person that's, that owns the dog. So it helps her socially to, but it wouldn't have anticipated that when she was going. But I really want to I want to circle back to the How did I know he was attending classes? Yeah, most, one of the most important things I think, as a parent you can do. As I said earlier, your kid is an adult, they make the decisions at college, you can't find out about if they went to the infirmary, how you know what happened or anything like that, unless your child tells you or they give you specific permission. So FERPA is the law that covers you know, student information. And it's true in the elementary and secondary schools. And it's true in college. So you can have your child sign a waiver that gives you access to their academic information. And I found that really helpful because I didn't have to get on the phone with or FaceTime or whatever it was with Brogan and asked him about, are you going to class? Are you going to tutoring? I could contact this other person and say, I just want to ensure he's doing what he's supposed to be doing. And as long as that answer was, yes, I could focus on all the positive things that he was experiencing at school. So I really did find that that to be helpful. And I fully recommend and your child has to agree. So that's a conversation you want to have, before you get there. And you ask them to sign something, you know, they I think depending on how much support you give your kid throughout the years, they may or may not agree to that. So it's a conversation well worth having before you get into the situation.   Dana Jonson  18:20 But I think to that point, it's also it's an age where they are supposed to be growing away from us, right? They're supposed to be developing themselves. And we as parents have been so involved in everything, particularly if their disabilities, I know when my eldest went to a transition program, which is to transition to a college is for children who are college capable, but not ready. It was actually a huge relief. It was absolutely nerve wracking until she got there. And then I was like, oh, here's someone else.   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  18:54 What do you think I want him to stay there for grad school.   Dana Jonson  18:57 Right, but keep going. But it is, I think, hard to imagine, as a parent of a child who's heading towards college, that you might be okay with not having full access to everything that that that might be an okay thing. But you're right, you have to get the consent. And I think that there's a way to do that without your children feeling like you're still on top of them, because they don't want that feeling either. And I think just like you said, you know, this will prevent that, you know, I have somebody else I can call and say, you know, did this happen, or did that happen that I'm not bugging you,   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  19:33 right? And I have to say I saw tremendous growth, I'd say between junior and senior year in high school, where even going into junior year, I was uncertain whether he would go away whether he you know, wanted to be in college, whether he was capable of the workload. And there was this really, you know, maturation that happened in those years and then continued in college. Which I think we all kind of know now that your brain continues to develop till you're, you know, 25 or so. And I really saw a lot of evidence of that just in his even with the tutoring, he did have set appointments every week, he would go for help. And by the time he hit his senior year, he actually had the woman call me and say, he really doesn't need to come anymore if he doesn't want to, because he's, he's good. He's doing fine. And I thought that was great that he was able to know he had access to it at that point, there's no way he would have done that as a freshman. And that's why we set up the you know, the weekly appointments. But for her to get to the point where she could say, he knows I'm here, he knows how to access me. He doesn't need this regularly. I really was just tremendously proud of them.   Dana Jonson  20:47 What do you say to I hear this all the time with parents, I don't want the stigma of special ed or I don't want the stigma of that diagnosis. I don't want it to follow them to college. And my response is usually what do you want assistance? Do you want them to have the support they need? Because it's To me, it's not a stigma, I get where that comes from, I get that position. And I know that there are people out there who still feel that way. But in general, I see all of these schools opening these tutoring centers or additional programs within their college program. And I don't see the stigma, do you see that at now that you have children in college going through the process? Do they feel stigmatized,   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  21:32 they don't. And I have to say I have always looked at things like anxiety or learning disabilities, or those things like I have high blood pressure, I take medication for high blood pressure and I ever everyone listening now knows that I have high blood pressure. So Brogan has dyslexia, he knows he has dyslexia, he, for whatever reason is confident enough that he will say, How do you spell this and he'll ask anybody in a room, he he acknowledges he doesn't spell Well, he uses the tools available to him. And I think the fact that he is open to the fact that he has his disability makes it not a stigma for him, you do have to let your professors know that you have it. And I think that there are students that are hesitant to do that. But it doesn't go any further than that. It's it's not even like public high school where everybody in the office might know like, you really need to tell each individual professor, the combinations that you want. So if you're a strong math student, and you're taking a calculus course, and you don't feel like you need any accommodations, you don't have to go there. You can kind of, you know, tailor it to where your needs are. But I think two people needs to realize that, you know, autism, learning disabilities, all these things, there's so much more information about them. Now, colleges are seeking out kids with these things, because they recognize that there's so much more to them, and that they're absolutely cognitively capable. And in some ways, their brains work a little differently in a really good way that make them more creative or more responsive to different things, that there are more and more programs tailored to some of these students. So it's never been my position to want to hide it. I understand it's still out there. And I would just say there's so much more awareness now that it's not something that needs to be hidden.   Dana Jonson  23:23 And I feel that if the school is going to think differently of your child because of this, should your child go there? Do you want to send your child somewhere where they don't think they're capable? Because they have dyslexia? For me? The answer's no. Because to me, that's, that's just a that's an institution that's ignorant to what's transpiring in the world, and the fact that my child is intelligent and capable of the work. I also hear that argument of, well, if you can't read, then, you know, how are you going to survive in the real world and tell me if I'm wrong, I said, Well, this is school. This is how they learn to be in the real world. So we don't need to blindside them here and make it more difficult. But I think one of the things that students are learning is that self advocacy piece is learning what they're good or bad at, you know, I mean, my mother never was good at math. At no point has she done anything when she owned her own business, she had a bookkeeper, she does not do math, never done that she's not diagnosed with any disabilities. She's not, you know, none of that she just never going to do a career in math. So if reading is a real challenge to you, then perhaps once you've learned everything you need to learn in education, you may not choose a career where you have to read or if you're, you know, crazy like I am, you might decide to go into a field where you do but then you know how you have to do it.   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  24:44 Right? Well, and especially this generation is so technologically driven, that I have to say I think it was when Brogan was probably 17 or 18. He had a sign something and he looked at me like what do you mean? I said, Well, you put your signature down. It's like I I don't have a signature, what had he possibly signed before? You know, you don't people don't use checks anymore, you don't really sign you can digitally DocuSign things. And I was like, make one up right now. And there's so many, you know, ways to get around so many challenges with disabilities now. And I handwriting is a big one, because I'm sure you remember we hand wrote papers and things in high school and college and potentially law school. And if that happened now, there's no way you could read a lot of these kids handwriting because they grew up typing or text, you know, voice to text or whatever it is. So   Dana Jonson  25:41 look at it the other way, when we were growing up, the kids who couldn't write did have an alternative didn't go to college. Yeah, they just didn't go to college, because there was no alternative. So they couldn't get their thoughts across, you know, because of that handwriting components, or if it was a processing speed issues, so that they, you know, the thoughts were in their head, but they couldn't get them out, those kids just didn't go to college. Absolutely. And so we were just eliminating a whole population of students who were completely cognitively capable. Absolutely.   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  26:11 And, you know, I think to the, the fear that we didn't have was, this isn't going to work. The the attitude that we took was, well, if this doesn't work, there's other options. And I think you it's not a pass or fail, college worked or didn't work, you know, there's a lot of options, even going in community colleges, for to start are a great idea. If your kids not independent enough to live far away, or we had a backup plan, if if he went and he was not happy, he could transfer and that was, you know, that was a free pass, we weren't going to judge or have an issue. It's pretty common. And it's pretty easy to transfer between colleges at this point. So the fit, luckily, was a really good fit. And he's been happy there for four years. And as I said, I hope he stays there for graduate school. And just to be clear, the same type of accommodations would go into graduate school as the same process, he would have to notify professors, but he would have access to, I just want to talk for a minute about the type of accommodations that you can get, because some of them are a little different than than high school. Yeah, one of the nice things in college, you can generally get a note taker, which is an anonymous student in the class who volunteers to take notes and share them with another student, they don't know who the student is, and the student doesn't know who they are. But you get kind of a clean copy of fully taken notes, because a lot of kids can't take notes and concentrate on what's being heard at the same time. So those are things they don't really like recording classes. So that's kind of a way around it. But you still have things like extra time, you can potentially have a different environment.   Dana Jonson  27:51 Well, and also, I just want to set a put a plug out there for how that works in the real world. I was on the board of an organization, I was the secretary and I'm one of those people, I can't listen and write at the same time. And I shouldn't say I can't do that. Obviously, you do that a lot in meetings. But it as a rule that really keeping those detailed notes is always a challenge for me. And they very happily did the same place like it was, you know, somebody else who always took notes would just I'd get an email, and then I would take that combined with mine for what I had just to make sure and to make sure that I covered it. So if that was a real life, easy, easy thing, and no one had a problem with it at all, I was still able to carry out my duties as a secretary, I had this accommodation. It didn't, you know, it was very reasonable. It was not unreasonable things. So I also think that we sometimes say, Well, how is this gonna play out in real life? exactly the way it does in school sometimes?   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  28:44 Absolutely.   Dana Jonson  28:44 Absolutely. You know, so what are some of the other accommodations? I liked the notetaking? One, I've heard that one before. And I have heard that works? Well. What about Do any of your students have extra time for you count AMS?   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  28:59 Yeah, you can potentially get extra time. Sometimes you can take it in the Learning Center, an exam, the professors will work with the Learning Center and get the tests to the Learning Center. So the student is taking it their professors are people. So I am a proponent of really having an open conversation with a professor. And sometimes you might need the Learning Center to coordinate that or to facilitate that, because you might be a little intimidated. This is your professor but I have found both of my college kids have really been able to approach their professor or email a professor and have a conversation about things that would help them and the professors in all the cases have been more than willing. They recognize you're not cheating if you're, you know, taking something in a different environment that it's required for you to do your best. So, you know, I really encourage you to have those conversations. Yeah,   Dana Jonson  29:51 I think that's a good point here is the stigma that we talked about often is a stigma for the parents. It's not for the world. That's going on. Now, I mean, that was the case when I was growing up, right? There were things that were going on for me that my parents thought were like, Ooh, that's, that's taboo that really, you know, they weren't by the time my generation came around. So, you know, it's the same thing. Now we talk about that. But I find that at least with my children, the more we've talked about it, the more open we are about it, the less they see it as a stigma or as a concern or as a barrier. And I think that's really important. And it goes back to knowing yourself as a learner, and where your strengths and weaknesses lie. And the first time you're having that conversation shouldn't be when you're applying to college, you should be having that conversation all along with your child about where they may struggle, and then it doesn't make them weak, that it just makes them vulnerable to learning differently. But they're perfectly capable of learning if they're taught in the right way. But they're not going to be taught in the right way if they don't know how they need to learn. Exactly. So because at that point, let's go back to high school where and when do we start thinking about that? And, and I know, there are different philosophies. As an attorney, I don't always recommend that parents bring their children to the IEP meetings that I attend, because they're usually contentious. And we're focusing on what a child can't do. And I don't want the child there for that, because I'm the attorney. So we're obviously in a fight. But if I'm not there, or we're at a place where the adults are getting along, then I do support very strongly a child going to their IEP meetings and discussing their disabilities and understanding where they are. And in fact, when they finished high school, if they're going to college, they should have a summary, they should have a tangible piece of paper that says, These are my strengths and my weaknesses, this is what I need and what I don't need. And this is what I need to be successful in my next location, wherever that is. So what stage do parents ask schools to start considering transition? Because I know that depending on the state, you're in, somewhere between 14 and 16, is when your school's obligated to discuss transition, right? I think a lot of transition skills are focused on vocational components. And and it's much more we do focus more on college now than we did before. But I think for a long time, there was this misconception that transition services meant vocational pieces, but it's actually meant to for whatever you're doing next. And I think that for children who are going to college, there was a misconception that maybe they didn't need transition skills, but they do and for some kids that needs to start sooner than 16. So when and how can parents figure out when to do that? Or how to approach that topic?   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  32:46 Well, I think it's becoming more clear in schools that the responsibility lies in seeking opportunities for both post secondary learning and vocational skills, depending on the student and exploring both of those. And if your child is, you know, 1415, whatever the ages in your state, you should be seeing those goals and objectives in your IEP on how they're going to start looking for colleges, how are they going to start determining what their where their interests lie, there are a couple other, you know, kind of solid rules, like generally colleges want testing, that's within three years. So you're generally getting tested every three years if you're on an IEP, but that three years may not coincide with the college three years, and that in fact, that's what happened with us. Brogan had his testing and his freshman year of high school. So then when we were going to college, his testing was more than when we were applying to college, his testing was three years old. But when he would be accepted, it was more than that. And that just took a conversation with the college to say, do we really need to put him through all of this testing again? Or is this sufficient information and they said, it's sufficient. So even when you see a rule, like question it, or see if there's, you know, any flexibility in that kind of thing. But your your high school team should be driving the conversation at the PPT meetings when your child is of that age. But as a student and a parent, you want to have a lot of ownership of that. And, you know, start thinking about where your child's strengths and vulnerabilities are and what what they're interested in what they potentially could do with what their skill set is.   Dana Jonson  34:30 I think what's also important to note is that some states require that you have both vocational and post secondary education goals and objectives. So you also want to make sure that if you have one objective, or one goal in your child's IEP for transition and one is will seek interests in careers in the future, and the other is we'll look into colleges. Those aren't objective. That's not that's not okay. If you're questioning goals and dreams As you can go back to last week's episode where you know, Stacy and I pulled apart some transition goals and objectives and, and I see that a lot, the student will meet with their counselor three times and identify five schools in their range and what classes they need to take. Now that sounds to me like something that every high schooler does, at some point, they meet with their guidance counselor, they determine what if any, post secondary education would be appropriate for them, and then they start taking classes towards that goal. So putting that in a child's IEP junior year sounds a little late and not enough?   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  35:40 Absolutely.   Dana Jonson  35:41 Where should we start? What what kind of skills are we looking for? If a student is going to college? What kind of transition skills do we want to work on?   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  35:49 I think that's it's a really good question. And I don't have a definitive answer. But it to me, it comes. We're going through this right now with my youngest two, as I mentioned, as a junior, and trying to figure out she does want to go to college, she has no idea where or for what she kind of knows, she doesn't want to go too far. And the rest of it is, you know, talking through there's, there's so much on the internet now about how to how to choose a college, how to pick a college, what questions you should ask yourself. And I would encourage people to look at those and do some self reflection on what you need. Because it's a balance to me, because as I said earlier, my son was not ready to go to college when he was a freshman or sophomore, but we had to start thinking about it. And part of the thought was, he's not going to be ready. So how do we get him there? And part of him was some more independence, some social anxiety, and how do we address that, because again, you're you're putting a kid where every aspect of their life is different, not just the way that they're about to learn, they are going to have vast amounts of free time that they need to allocate toward the different things they need to get done. And they've never really had to do that before. So these are skills that I think every kid needs, in being able to develop those skills of time management and the kind of self motivation, if they're not motivated to do the work, the work is not going to get done, and they're not going to be successful.   Dana Jonson  37:19 Yeah, I ran into that with my oldest where, as I said, when I met her at 13, I was told she was going to be vocational. And that's just the way that we are planning things. So I just asked her and she said she wanted to go to college, and I really didn't know what whether she'd be capable or not. But I did know that if she wanted to go to college, we couldn't decide junior senior year that we had to start her on top of college geared classes, right? I mean, now there's facts when I was in high school, everyone, if you want to go to college, you went to college, or you didn't, but there weren't, at least I don't remember there being two distinctly different tracks of classes. Right. So, you know, there are pieces like that. I also I just spoke with a family not that long ago, where they felt that their child got into middle school, and the goals and objectives suddenly got functional, and not like academic. And I suggested in that situation that we do get a transition evaluation that early. And I think it's important for parents to know that you can assess transition skills at any age. Yes, and there are some skills that need to be addressed at a very young age. And my favorite example is a child learning to use a public restroom if they're a very impaired child, and most of the staff are women, right? The environment and a female bathroom is vastly different than that in a male bathroom. So these boys are being taught how to use a public restroom, five women, and you have, you have to think about how that impacts them and how it will down the road. And that's just a small example of how, you know everything ties into everything down the road. But it's never too young to assess those transitions skills. So even if you think your child is college bound, if you're unsure of what they need to know or learn, then that needs to be addressed. And as you said, maybe it's leisure skills. There's some kids who don't have hobbies who do not know what to do with themselves when given six blank hours. And that can be really stressful and it can create really bad ideas. Write them into trouble.   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  39:26 Absolutely. If you're if your child doesn't know how to be social and make friends and now they're in a room by themselves. And the only way they're going to go out and make friends is to put themselves out there. Those are hard skills as an adult to to use if you have any kind of social hesitation or anxiety for those situations, you know, talking through those things with your child and the school team and how to address them. It's really important.   Dana Jonson  39:53 And I think that's a key piece as well. Having that group of people you can find how do you find your people   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  40:00 Hmm, absolutely, yeah. And there's so many options, clubs and sports and, you know, academics, any area of interest is generally, there's something available for somebody,   Dana Jonson  40:11 students have to understand that it isn't interest, right. And that that's okay. Because I also find that sometimes kids in high school who have very past schedules, because they have a lot of learning disabilities, or what have you, I have one child who doesn't have a lot of free time in the evening, because it takes her longer to do her work, that she doesn't have the same level of time to be social. So she may not develop the same level of the hobbies or interests and get to college and not be accustomed to joining groups. And because we've removed those in order to get the surfaces that she needs. So we haven't, you know, it's like, No, you won't do that after school thing, because, you know, she wants to focus on a class, it's really difficult. But she's not learning that skill. She's not learning the skill of seeking out a group of like minded people, and then inserting yourself into that group. And I think we need to address that as well. And I go back to when I worked with a nonverbal population and teaching them leisure skills, you know, teaching the child, you know, do you enjoy doing the puzzle, then let's teach you how to sit here on task and do the puzzle for a period of time, so that you have that time to you know, that downtime, and that leisure skill that I think we take so for granted, and we're always still pushing our children to do better and better, sometimes we forget that they need to be good at that, too. They do. And it's funny, you say that, at the same time.   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  41:31 I mean, I think every podcast, you say this, or I say this, and you know your child better than anybody. And obviously, your child knows themselves better than anybody. And my middle child who was at college was very much into theatre. So we encouraged her and she loves to write. So it was like, during the journalism during the school paper, get involved with the musical. And she finally had to say, it's enough of an adjustment to be here. I can't put that additional pressure on myself right now. And it was a really good moment for her to advocate to us for herself and kind of showed us that we needed to back off and pushing her there, that she was happy. She was comfortable. She was successful in school. And she was doing that at her own pace, which was great for her.   Dana Jonson  42:19 Right. And I think that is the hardest piece. We are so used to micromanaging our children and their education. Because we had to write there wasn't there was nobody else doing it. And and it is, you know, they talked about that college cliff. I think parents hit it too. I know we, we fall right out like Wait, what am I going to do now? What am I going to do with all my free time? I don't have anyone to micromanage. Unless you live in my house. There's always somebody else. There's, there's no problem there.   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  42:46 Well, I also found that with each child that left for college, I got a new dog. Not that they're a one to one replacement. But I think emotionally I needed to replace that. You know that somebody needs me.   Dana Jonson  43:00 I just have What do I do now? I love it. I can do dogs. So what I'm hearing I'm hearing a lot of things I'm hearing that preparation and looking into the types of programs that schools have is really key. I think we need to get out of our mind that here's the list of schools that are good. And the rest are not right. College doesn't have to be done in four years. It doesn't have to be done. The second you finish from high school. It doesn't have to be done at the school, you were told you had to go to college. It's just there's so much availability now. And for better or worse. Now with COVID there's even more opportunity. Absolutely. Because for students who don't necessarily want to be in that environment, or can be in that environment, that social environment for a variety of reasons, are able now to fully access a college education. Yes. And I think that is that's a huge piece that has come to the forefront during COVID, which I think is a good thing. But we want to be careful to not fully isolate ourselves either. You know, I have a child who who loved it COVID hit and she was like I'm in I don't have to leave the house. I don't have to talk to people. My schedule is on the computer. This is brilliant, but she craves social interaction and she doesn't know how to do it, which is why that was so good for her. So we have to remember that just because we found one outlet for her that's really good doesn't mean we let everything else go. Absolutely.   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  44:22 I mean, I had one kid who my daughter was fairly happy with the remote learning she was home for a while. They did go back in person but she had the option to learn remotely and she does well with that mode. My son missed his ultimate frisbee team he missed the exercise he you know he was craving being on campus with his friends and his classmates and he also knows as a learner he needs that in person connection and experience. So luckily he would did go back mostly in person and they were they the colleges have done I think a really good job of controlling COVID and kind of locking down campus and running testing and from the beginning, a lot of them have. So they were both able to be successful, despite the circumstances.   Dana Jonson  45:11 You know, I think that there are a lot of components to this. But what I'm hearing is that colleges really do have a lot of what kids need, and we shouldn't be afraid to look for it. It's really about preparation, as with anything else, understanding what your child requires, and understanding what the school has to offer. Because if the school doesn't have to offer what your child needs, then it's not the right school. Absolutely. And I thought, even if they can get in,   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  45:40 I would not have thought that we would end up with him at a school that does not have an official pay to learn additional Learning Support Program, I've been very happy with the program that they've put together for him. And it was not something that I would have expected until we got in there and started talking to them about how they could support him.   Dana Jonson  46:01 Yeah, yeah. So I mean, that level of investigation and looking into it. And I also think, looking at a young age, you know, starting Middle School, that's what I say, you know, in middle school, you're not going to know what your children are going to do, or what they're going to be capable of. But it is when everybody else starts preparing, even if they don't realize that's when they're preparing it is when they are preparing, that's when they are starting to think about what classes their kids will take, that's when they start signing them up for sa t classes, that's when they start, you know, all of those pieces, a lot of kids are starting around Middle School. So you know, if you have a child who's going to be overwhelmed by taking the SH T's, then maybe they don't, there are so many schools now that they don't send them in, right, we're not, we're not even going to look at them. So don't bother, because they they don't measure your child's abilities. That way, if the school is going to measure your child's ability based primarily or solely on sh T's, and your child's can't do that, or won't, won't be able to show their full potential that way, then that's not the school for you. That's, that's the hardest piece to get through is which one is right for you.   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  47:11 And in both my college students went to test optional colleges, and did not submit any a CT or a CT scores, because they did not feel they were an accurate reflection of their abilities. And they're both highly successful colleges.   Dana Jonson  47:27 So and that's funny because I have one in an alternative school that doesn't, you know, require any of that, and she wants to take it, because she wants to show that she's doing the same stuff other people are doing, but I don't think she's gonna look at colleges that will take it. So I'm wondering like, what are we doing with these sh t? shirts? Were they gonna go? But you know, if she wants it for her own self assessment, then we'll do it.   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  47:51 Exactly my youngest just took them and who knows when it's necessary or not. But she wanted part of the experience. So she had the experience.   Dana Jonson  47:59 Yeah. So there you go. Take the shgs It's always a good time. Well, thank you, I really can't thank you enough. I think this is a lot of really good information. For other parents, I want people to hear this and realize that, you know, it's easy for us to focus on the barriers that our children have, and how challenging education is for them. And it is challenging for them. But they got through high school, they will get through the next level, if that's what they want. And if we can find the right fit. If it's like work sometimes, how many people have had a job that hated and quit?   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  48:30 Yes. And the reality is, if it takes you more than four years to get through college, in the end, it's not that big a deal. It's the gala, it's really not, it's more important that you're able to complete it, then you do it in. I know my son felt pressure to complete college in four years. And I don't know where it came from, because   Dana Jonson  48:51 he wanted to write no rush for him to get out. He wanted to right, that was his goal. That was his goal.   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  49:00 It related to his disability, and that he wanted to prove to himself that he could do it.   Dana Jonson  49:05 Yeah. Meanwhile, my daughter could care less. She could be there for like the next seven years, and she'll be fine. She's living her best life. And that's all good. We'll just stay here and this will be my life for now. But three years ago, would never have thought she'd be on a college campus. So to your point of maturing. And I think you know, that's actually a really good point, because I think we see many children developing a little later than we realize that children with a lot of learning disabilities, often they mature even later. So it's not unusual for us to have that concern earlier on or that you know, it's easy to say my kid does not seem mature enough to be doing what these other juniors are doing yet. That's okay. That doesn't mean they won't be junior year is not the end of developmental process.   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  49:51 Right. Right.   Dana Jonson  49:53 We keep selling. Wonderful. Well, thank you any parting tips any questions parents should keep in their mind To while they're going through high school with their kids that you can think of,   Laura Heneghan, Special Education Attorney  50:04 I think I realized that it's such an individualized process that even having my older two were back to back years. And it was a completely different process, because they're completely different kids. And what we were looking for and what they were looking for was unique to them. And that was a really important lesson that I learned, and is what's driving. Now my third look at college is what, what's important to you? Where do you feel like you'll fit and will be successful? And that, again, may change over the course of time? And that's okay.   Dana Jonson  50:38 Yeah, I feel like by the time I get this right, I'm going to be out of kids. That Well, thank you so much for I really appreciate you sharing your experience and all of this knowledge with us, because I think the more parents hear how typical This is, yes, it's a typical experience in many, many ways. Your experience is not different. You said do a little more detailed investigation. But I think, you know, this is this is doable. It's not as scary as it sounds. And I think our kids are way more capable. And schools are way more accepting than I think we recognize and and they understand the the importance of focusing on strengths at the same time as mitigating those deficits. Absolutely. If you need to find Laura, you can find her in my office on our websites, special ed dot law. And thank you for joining me I will have you back again. Thank you for not thank you so much for joining me today. Please don't forget to subscribe to this podcast so you don't miss any new episodes. And if there's anything you want to hear a comment on, go to our Facebook page and drop me a note there. I'll see you next time here on need to know with Dana Jonson have a fabulous day.
51:57 3/24/21
How SMART are your goals?
With IEP season comes IEPs and with IEPs comes Goals and Objectives, the heart and soul of your child's IEP. So it is critical that your child's goals and objectives are Smart, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Today, Special Education Advocate Stacey Tié and I talk about what you need to know to make sure your child has SMART goals and objectives! We discuss what SMART means, pull apart examples from actual IEPs, and offer questions for parents to ask in their IEP meetings to help drive those SMART Goals and Objectives. Join us! You can find both Stacey and me at https://SpecialEd.Law and you can reach Stacey directly at Stacey@SpecialEd.Law The TRANSCRIPT for this episode can be found in the show notes at https://SpecialEd.Law/how-smart-are-your-goals  
46:47 3/17/21
Beware the Ides...
With March comes IEP season and it's time to prep! Around the middle of March, schools start holding IEP meetings to plan for the following school year. School districts are slammed trying to schedule all the meetings, students are at the beginning of the end of their school year, and parents need to prepare to advocate on behalf of their child. So how can you be best prepared? Today I speak with special education Attorney Laura Heneghan and non-lawyer special education Advocate Stacey Tié about what parents can do to put themselves in the best position possible to be an equal member of the IEP process. Join us! You can find both Laura and Stacey at: https://SpecialEd.Law Laura@SpecialEd.Law Stacey@SpecialEd.Law
61:54 3/10/21
Now You're the Advocate
Today I'm speaking with John Flanders, a special education attorney and former Executive Director of Connecticut Parent Advocacy Center (CPAC), about why learning how to properly advocate for your child is so important. We talk about the importance of understanding not just your child's disability but the special education process and law! John tells us where parents often get confused, take missteps, &/or go down the wrong path when advocating for their child. We also talk about how parents can educate themselves, get the best results, and know when to reach out for help. Join us! How you can reach John: john@flandersgroup.net 860.559.4706
39:53 3/3/21