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The Arc Reacts to Startling New Bureau of Justice Statistics on Crimes against People with Cognitive and Other Disabilities

March 21st, 2014

The Special Needs Alliance and The Arc collaborate on issues of mutual interest. The Arc promotes and protects the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and actively supports their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) recently released a report on Crime Against Persons with Disabilities, 2009-2012 – Statistical Tables. Disabilities are classified according to six limitations: hearing, vision, cognitive, ambulatory, self-care, and independent living. Among persons with disabilities, those with cognitive disabilities experienced the highest rate of violent victimization (63 per 1,000). Violent crime against persons with disabilities was nearly three times higher than the rate for persons without disabilities. The rate of serious violent crime—rape or other sexual assault, robbery and aggravated assault—against persons with disabilities was nearly four times higher than that for persons without disabilities in 2012.

To read the full article, visit the SNA website by clicking here.


Diplomas and Credentials Available to Students with Disabilities and their Impact on Eligibility for Higher Education and Other Opportunities

March 19th, 2014

By Marion Walsh, Esq., & Sandi Rosenbaum

Several different diplomas and credentials are awarded to students with disabilities who complete high school in New York State. Students and their parents need to be aware of the differences between these diplomas and credentials, and how they can affect one’s ability to pursue higher learning and other opportunities.

Regents Diploma:

In New York State, a standard high school diploma is called a Regents Diploma. This is the only diploma available to students without disabilities and is earned by most students with disabilities as well. Students must complete the required high school credits and pass 5 required Regents exams with a score of 65 or higher. A Regents Diploma with Advanced Designation is awarded to students who score 65 or higher on 8 or 9 Regents exams and is desired by many competitive colleges and universities.

Local Diploma:

To minimize the impact of high-stakes testing on students with disabilities, New York State requires districts to offer a local diploma to students with an individualized education program or section 504 Accommodation Plan under the so-called “Safety Net” provisions. Students may earn a local diploma if they score 55 or higher on the 5 required Regents exams. (They still need to earn all the credits required to graduate.) Further, even a grade of 45 on one or two Regents exams (other than English or math) can qualify a student for a local diploma if the student scores 65 or higher on other Regents exams under the so-called “compensatory option”.

Although the Regents diploma is preferred by college admissions departments, community colleges and some other institutions accept students with a local diploma. The local diploma is also accepted by the armed forces, trade unions, and for all similar opportunities for which a high school diploma is required.

Even with the safety net options, some students will not be capable of earning a local diploma. Two other types of credentials are awarded to students with disabilities. These credentials are not high school diplomas and thus do not create eligibility for traditional higher education degree programs. However, alternative programs such as Think College do offer opportunities for students who are not eligible for degree programs to participate in campus and academic life.

Career Development & Occupational Studies (CDOS) Commencement Credential:

Some students with disabilities may receive a Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS) Commencement Credential. This credential signifies substantial high school level Career and Technical Education and was designed as a supplement to a Regents or local diploma. However, students with disabilities who complete its specialized requirements without achieving the required scores on Regents exams may earn the CDOS even without meeting requirements for a diploma.

Skills and Achievement Commencement Credential (SACC):

Students with severe disabilities who attend school for 12 years or more and are assessed using the New York State Alternate Assessment (NYSSA) graduate with the Skills and Achievement Commencement (SACC) credential. The SACC indicates the student’s functional level of achievement academically and in terms of occupational and career development.

Many students with disabilities are able to perform well academically in high school and advance their education at a college or university. The path a student takes depends on individual circumstances and being aware of what options are available.

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How to Use College Savings to Pay for Classes Not Covered by Financial Aid

March 12th, 2014

Young people with special needs may be looking forward to becoming full-time college students, or they may wish to take just a course or two for a specific purpose or to see whether college is the right choice for them. However, non-degree-seeking students are not eligible for federal student aid, so students and their parents may need to consider other methods of paying for college expenses. A 529 plan can be a good option.

New York’s 529 College Savings Program allows one to save for oneself or for a child, grandchild or friend. Funds can be used at eligible two- or four-year colleges or vocational schools anywhere in the country, for tuition, books and certain housing and food expenses. Qualified withdrawals are federally tax-free and earnings grow federally tax-deferred. Additionally, up to $5,000 (or $10,000 for married couples filing jointly) in contributions may be deducted from one’s New York state tax return. A range of stock investments is available, managed by Vanguard.

The additional benefit of 529 plans is that the funds may be used by students who are only taking a class or two and therefore not eligible for federal student aid. Students should check to be sure the institution where they plan to study qualifies as one where students can use 529 funds, and they should check with the school about their status: institutions may have different rules regarding undeclared majors or half-time status that affect eligibility for student aid.

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Friendship Circle: The Great Bike Giveaway 2014

March 10th, 2014

The Great Bike Giveaway: Friendship Circle is partnering with adaptive bike companies and donors to give away adaptive bikes to children with special needs.

Just about every child you’ll ever meet would like to have his or her own bicycle to ride around their neighborhood. For many children with special needs and their parents it’s not always so simple. Friendship Circle of Michigan in partnership with eight adaptive bicycle companies is doing something about this as they launch their third annual, “Great Bike Giveaway’.  Over 50 adaptive bikes will given away.

How it works:

  • Each bike page has a space where users can enter the contest.
  • Submit a picture of your child with special needs along with a short explanation of why your child needs an adaptive bike. One bike in each contest will be given away to the entry with the most nominations.
  • Nominations are received from friends and family clicking the “nominate button” on your post.
  • All the remaining bikes will be placed in a drawing.
  • To be eligible for the drawing each submission must be nominated by at least 50 friends and family members.

The contest submission deadline is March 25, 2014 ( no entries will be accepted after this time). To learn more about this contest visit:

About the Friendship Circle

Friendship Circle has been providing assistance and support for more than 3,000 families of children with special needs since 1994. Friendship Circle pairs teen volunteers with children who have special needs and together they participate in over 25 weekly and monthly programs. To learn more about Friendship Circle visit


Early Intervention Evaluations: What to Expect

March 4th, 2014

Under Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, states receive funds to make early intervention services available to infants and toddlers with disabilities under the age of three years and their families.  To be eligible for services, children must be less than 3 years of age and have a confirmed disability or established developmental delay, as defined by the State, in one or more of the following areas of development: physical, cognitive, communication, social-emotional, and/or adaptive

Early intervention services include a variety of therapeutic and support services for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families. In New York State, the Early Intervention Program (EIP) has an Early Intervention Official (EIO) for each municipality and county. Children who are showing signs of possible developmental difficulties may be referred to the EIO by teachers or other professionals, unless the parent objects. Parents may also contact the EIO directly. In order for a child to have access to EIP services, parents will then meet with an initial service coordinator to set up an evaluation that will determine the child’s eligibility.

Evaluation Process

Parents will be given a list of evaluators. Every child has the right to a multidisciplinary evaluation, which means that more than one type of professional will take part in the evaluation. Typically, the evaluators will include a professional who will examine the child’s overall development, and a professional with specialized knowledge about the area where the child is having difficulty. The evaluation team may include a speech therapist, an occupational therapist, or a physical therapist.

Once you find an evaluator, the evaluation typically takes place in the home, where the team will evaluate the child’s development and speak to the parents. Areas of development including motor skills, sensory, social, emotional and cognitive development are evaluated. If there is significant delay in two or more of these areas, then the child may be eligible for the program. The team will usually make a determination by the end of the evaluation.

Details of how the evaluation will be conducted depend on each child’s particular circumstances. The initial service coordinator and the evaluation team can answer any questions parents may have, before, during and after the evaluation.

Team will Develop IFSP if Child is Eligible for Services

If your child is found eligible for services, a team will develop an “Individualized Family Service Plan.”  (“IFSP”) The IFSP represents the main document to provide services to a child with a disability under Part C of the IDEA   The IFSP is analogous to an Individualized Education Program for school age children and provides a written plan for providing early intervention  services to an infant or toddler with a disability.

Choosing a Service Provider

Effective January 1, 2013, New York effected a major change to its EIP.   This change prohibits families from receiving services from the same center that initially evaluated them.  The State enacted the change to prevent a conflict of interest in which therapy centers could benefit from recommending unnecessary treatments.  However, advocates and parents may worry that the change will make it harder for families to find an appropriate service provider.  Waivers to this rule are available; however the EI Service Coordinator must submit a Waiver Request form to the NY State Bureau of Early Intervention (BEI) documenting that the child requires direct EI services from the same evaluator/evaluation agency due to “special circumstances related to the evaluator’s qualifications, availability, or other extraordinary circumstances in which there is a clear showing that the child will not be able to access needed services absent such authorization.”

Choosing Service Providers

Both Part B and Part C of IDEA require that agencies develop a transition process to ensure that when a child becomes eligible for Part B services at age 3, an educational program is in place.  Under Part C, the lead agency must establish a transition plan in the IFSP not fewer than 90 days before the child’s third birthday.   The lead agency must still ensure that such children receive a smooth transition from early intervention services to preschool, kindergarten, or elementary school. In addition, a transition plan must be established in the IFSP not fewer than 90 days before such a child is no longer eligible to receive, or no longer receives, continuing early intervention  services.

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Voluntary Tracking Devices Proposed for Children with Autism

March 3rd, 2014

Senator Charles Schumer has proposed legislation that would fund voluntary tracking devices for children with autism, to address the problem of wandering.

The proposed legislation is called “Avonte’s law,” after Avonte Oquendo, a 14-year-old boy with autism who was found dead after he disappeared from his school in Queens.

The law would increase funding for a Department of Justice program that provides grants to police departments and other groups that allow them to supply tracking devices for people with Alzheimer’s disease. The law would allocate $10 million to expand the program to cover children with autism. The tracking device cost between $80 and $90 to purchase and a few dollars per month to operate. Interested parents would have free access to the devices, which can be sewn into clothing or worn around the wrist.

Use of the devices would be the decision of the parents, and local governments would decide exactly how they would be implemented. The devices can be programmed in different ways, for instance to alert authorities automatically when a child leaves a certain perimeter such as school grounds, or to become activated only when authorities are notified.

Avonte Oquendo disappeared from his school by the Queens waterfront in October. He had no prior history of running away. Due to severe autism, he was not able to communicate verbally, making him more vulnerable to danger. The New York Police Department, along with the boy’s family and volunteers, searched for him by every available means. Bloodhounds were put on the scent, divers searched the East River, and neighbors and subway riders saw the boy’s face on posters and heard announcements regarding his disappearance. His remains were discovered along the East River shoreline in January. DNA testing confirmed the identity of the body, and an investigation continues into the cause of death.

According to Sen. Schumer, the tracking equipment is “a high-tech solution to an age-old problem.” Research indicates that almost 50 percent of children with autism are prone to wandering or bolting, often to get away from noises that overstimulate them. Many are drawn to bodies of water because they seem soothing, which creates a significant drowning risk.

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