April, 2012 | Littman Krooks, LLP
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How are Service Animals Helping Children with Autism?

April 26th, 2012

Heeling Autism is a program of the nonprofit Guiding Eyes for the Blind, based in Yorktown Heights, New York.  The group has found that service animals can assist children with autism, as well as sight-impaired individuals.  Service dogs help keep autistic kids safe by discouraging them from bolting when frightened.  They also provide companionship, encourage autistic children to be more independent and social, and increase social acknowledgment by other children.

To mark April as Autism Awareness month, children at Lincoln Avenue Elementary School in Pearl River, New York learned about autism, and got to meet one of the service dogs in a program to assist autistic children.  The name of the program?  Heeling Autism. Many children with autism are assisted by service animals.

If you believe that your child with autism would benefit from the assistance of a service animal, or if you would like to volunteer to help train service dogs, contact Guiding Eyes for the Blind at www.guidingeyes.org.

For assistance with questions regarding your child’s special needs visit our website at https://www.specialneedsnewyork.com/.


What Do I Need to Know About New York State’s Amended Special Education Rules

April 13th, 2012

The New York State Education Department (NYSED) has amended the regulations governing individual evaluations given to preschool and school-age children to determine their eligibility for special education services.  The rule changes were approved by NYSED’s Board of Regents and went into effect on April 11, 2012.

One rule change affects preschool children with disabilities.  Now, when a parent has consented to a child’s evaluation to determine a need for special education, the initial evaluation must be completed within 60 days, unless the parent fails to produce the child for evaluation.

Another change in the regulations clarifies a rule regarding evaluations for children who may have a disability.  The rule now makes it clear that the 60-day timeline to complete an evaluation regarding a need for special education refers to the initial evaluation only.

Finally, NYSED has altered the requirements for school psychologists in determining whether an individual psychological evaluation is necessary.  At the initial evaluation stage, if the school psychologist determines that a psychological evaluation is unnecessary, he or she must still prepare a written report stating the reasons for the decision.  At the reevaluation phase, a written report is no longer necessary.

The rule changes amend sections 200.4 and 200.16 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education Relating to Preschool and School-Age Individual Evaluations.

To sum up the rule changes:

  • Initial evaluations for preschool children must be completed in 60 days
  • For all students, the 60-day timeline applies to the initial evaluation only
  • School psychologists are only required to provide a written report of their determination of the need for an individual psychological evaluation at the initial evaluation stage, not at the reevaluation stage

For assistance with questions regarding your child’s special needs visit our website at https://www.specialneedsnewyork.com/.


What Should I Know About Autism Awareness Month?

April 9th, 2012

April is Autism Awareness Month, a time to raise public consciousness about autism and autism spectrum disorders.  You should be aware of what is happening this month to raise awareness, and new facts that have just been reported about autism diagnoses.

One of the most prominent signs you may see – or wear yourself – indicating the significance of this month is the Puzzle Ribbon, produced by the nonprofit Autism Society.  This ribbon featuring multi-colored puzzle pieces is an internationally-recognized symbol of autism awareness.  Wear it with pride and thank others when you see them wearing it.

If you noticed an iconic building in your city illuminated in blue on Monday evening and wondered why, it was in honor of World Autism Awareness Day, sanctioned by the United Nations and initiated by the nonprofit organization Autism Speaks.  From the Empire State Building to Brazil’s Christ the Redeemer Statue, from Tokyo Tower to Graceland in Memphis, a blue light of awareness shown on close to 3,000 structures in more than 600 cities throughout the world.

A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control reveals a sharp increase in the rate of autism diagnoses. In the United States today, one in every 88 children is diagnosed with autism or an autism-related disorder.  While the diagnosis rate has been rising for years, the recent numbers represent a large increase: since 2006, there has been a 23% increase, and since 2002, a 78% increase.  One difficult question is whether this increase in diagnoses actually represents an increase in autism.  Public health officials say that the increase may be partly accounted for by more successful efforts to diagnose autism in younger and minority children.

What autism events and facts do I need to be aware of:

  • The Puzzle Ribbon is a recognized symbol of autism awareness that benefits the Autism Society
  • April 2 was World Autism Awareness Day, initiated by Autism Speaks and marked with their Light It Up Blue campaign
  • Autism diagnoses have risen sharply: now one in every 88 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with autism or an autism-related disorder

For assistance with questions regarding your childs special needs visit our website athttps://www.specialneedsnewyork.com/.


How Does this Recent Court Case Shed Light on My Child’s Ability to obtain a Free Education at a Specialized Institution

April 2nd, 2012

An important New York Court of Appeals case recently determined that a school district cannot be forced to pay for an education if the child is a non-resident of the school district. In Board of Ed. of the Garrison Union Free School District v. Greek Archdiocese Institute of St. Basil, the St. Basil Academy had tried to enroll 26 students tuition free. The academy is a residential institution where children reside because of various issues involving the inability of children to remain in their homes.  Although the children reside at the residential facility, the school does not have legal guardianship of its residents.

Thus, the appeals court ruled that simply because the children lived there did not qualify them as being residents of the district. State education laws, including Education Law §3202, show that residency is established by where the parents or legal guardians live.  The court case established that local school districts are not responsible for absorbing the cost of the tuition for the children living in these types of institutions.

Furthermore, “…a license to operate a child care institution does not change the residence of the children living there.” That said, the court did explain that school districts are required to pay for education for students who are placed in orphanages by a state or family court judge. St. Basil’s residents are mainly referred to the educational institution by Greek Orthodox priests, the court noted.

A child’s last permanent residence, not a temporary foster placement residence, is what sets their school district eligibility. This recent case follows previous case law in New York whereby public schools are free to resident students and non-residents must pay tuition.

For assistance with questions regarding your child’s special education needs visit our website at


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