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Guest Blog: A New Way for Parents to Create a Letter of Intent

May 2nd, 2014

By Michael Pearce, Special Needs Attorney, Founder, Vestidd.com

A new Application solves one of the biggest problems facing every parent of a child with special needs.

How can I continue to provide for the protection well-being of my children after I am gone?  How can I make sure that my child with special needs will be safe and continue receiving the best of care?  Every parent who has a child with special needs seeks answers to these questions.  In response, parents are advised to prepare a “Letter of Intent” that will provide guidance for caregivers into the future. However, through no fault of their own, parents are rarely able to complete this vital task.

Here are the Top 5 reasons preventing parents from creating their Letter of Intent:

#1.   Getting organized.
There are hundreds of constantly changing details to organize.  Many parents simply don’t have the time or energy to organize the myriad of details of their child’s life, let alone putting them down on paper.

#2.   Formatting.

Your Letter of Intent is a “road map” to guide others, so it must be comprehensive, yet easy to follow.   Finding no practical tools to help format a Letter of Intent, many parents simply abandon the task.

#3.   Updating.
Your child’s life is constantly changing, so the document must be constantly changed. Word-processed documents are cumbersome and not easy to update (even if you can remember where you saved it!).

#4.   Saving and sharing.
Your updated Letter of Intent must be shared with others after you are gone. You will select different people to fill key roles over time. Mailing out updated copies yearly to different people during your lifetime is a nearly impossible task to manage.

#5.   Getting Started.

Facing this daunting task, many parents are simply frozen by “writer’s block.”  How much information should I include? How much info is too much? How can I not lose it?  How can I easily update the document? How can I share my Letter of Intent with the right people after I am gone?  With so much to think about, there is no clear place to start.

Parents will be relieved to know that an Application is now available that solves all of these problems: Vestidd.

What is Vestidd?

Vestidd is an application that lets parent create a Vest for a child with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (Vest i d d).  Your Vest is where you store, remember, find and connect everything and everyone that matters in your child’s life.  Just like a life-vest, Vestidd will help keep your child safe and protected into the future.

How does Vestidd work?
To create a Vest and get started on your Letter of Intent, go to www.vestidd.com to sign up.    Vestidd is organized by Sections and Pockets.   Sections cover each major area of your child’s life.  Pockets are where you fill in specific and unique information about your child.  Vestidd has pre-organized everything, so you don’t have to.  You can jump right in and go.

Everything in One Place.
Say goodbye to post-its, binders, and email chaos.  All of the information that used to be spread out across your house and your brain will now have a single home.  Vestidd lets you remember, find and connect everything and everyone that matters in the life of your child with special needs.

Easy Updates.
Vestidd is a Cloud application that works from any device –   iPhone, iPad, tablet, android, mac, pc – they all work with Vestidd.  This means you can get to your Vest from any device and easily update information as the need arises.  Your Vest is always there, keeping key information available at your fingertips.

Sharing.
Vestidd lets you connect family members and your child’s support team with just the information they need. When you update your Vest, team members are kept current with automatic update notifications.  You can revoke sharing privileges at any time.  You can also share Vest information by printing out a hard copy.  Vestidd’s sharing tools allow you to pass on current and comprehensive information about your child to future caregivers, so that they can continue to update your Vest, for your child’s lifetime.

Superpowers.

Vestidd has many other features that help families with special needs. You can take a tour and learn more at www.vestidd.com.
My wife, Sue, and I created Vestidd to help parents complete the special needs planning puzzle.

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Innovative Ways of Reaching Children With Autism

April 2nd, 2014

By: Giulia Frasca, Esq., Littman Krooks LLP

There are an estimated two million people with Autism Spectrum Disorders in the United States.  Over 500,000 of those diagnosed are children.  The incidence rate of Autism increased to one in 68 children.  There is a five-to-one prevalence of Autism in boys over girls so that the incidence rate of Autism for boys is one in every 54 boys.  E ach child diagnosed with Autism and each case of Autism is unique such that there is not one particular treatment, program, or methodology that will work for all children diagnosed with Autism.  Recently, an article published in the New York Times titled “Reaching My Autistic Son Through Disney” by Ron Suskind discussed how watching Disney movies and relating to the characters in those movies helped one child diagnosed with Autism break through and communicate verbally, in writing and through art with other members of his family.

Today, school districts use several different, innovative methodologies for teaching children with Autism.  Most schools teach children with Autism using Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), which has been proven to work for children with the most severe cases of Autism.  ABA focuses on changing the environment around the child in order to help the child achieve a task rather than simply telling the child what to do.  ABA aims to build a direct relationship between desirable outcomes and the environment the child is in.

Another methodology called Naturalistic Teaching Strategies involves creating an environment in which children are motivated to communicate a specific need or want by, for example, placing a favorite toy on a shelf, out of reach so that the child will be motivated to ask for it.  Children with more advanced language skills will be prompted to ask a question or speak a full sentence.

Yet another, newer methodology, Social Communication, Emotional Regulation and Transactional Support (SCERTS) combines several different treatments and identifies and builds on a student’s strengths, then creates strategies to improve the student’s weaknesses.

Autism Spectrum Disorder teaching methodologies are constantly evolving in order to address the broad spectrum of needs and the different ways in which children develop.  Littman Krooks LLP’s special education attorneys strive to keep abreast of new developments in these areas in order to be the strongest advocates for families with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

The seventh annual World Autism Awareness Day is Tuesday, April 2, 2014. Learn more about events in your area by visiting the Autism Speaks website or visit our blog at: http://www.littmankrooks.com/blog/ Was this article of interest to you? If so, please LIKE our Facebook Page by clicking here.

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Smart Pens, Tablets, and Word Prediction Software: Utilizing Technology for High School & College Students (part 1 of 2)

February 7th, 2014

Our latest guest bloggers are Casey Schmalacker, Academic Coach and Samantha Feinman, MS.Ed., TSSH., Program Director at New Frontiers in Learning. This is part one of a two-part series.


Utilizing Technology for High School and College Students: Part 1of 2

As we move through this digital age, students in high school and college are increasingly using technology as a mechanism to support learning. Technology can be used in a multitude of ways, ranging from electronic organizational systems and digital reminders, to supporting more complex academic tasks through the use of computer software. Assistive technology, specifically, has been infused into the daily schedules of students with disabilities to support the removal of learning barriers that some individuals may face. Among students utilizing assistive technology to improve academic learning, high school and college students diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in particular have increasingly incorporated the use of technology into the learning environment.

Assistive technology consists of services and devices that provide equal education opportunities to students with disabilities by providing supports that focus on individual-specific needs. Assistive technology has been used to improve skills in areas such as note-taking, reading comprehension, and expository and narrative writing. Such tasks are integral to the academic experience, in that a student’s ability to excel in these areas most often is directly related to their level of success. This article will discuss why assistive technology is necessary for students with ASD transitioning from high school to college, as well as outline three forms of effective assistive technology, and how one would incorporate such technology into the learning environment.

Research has demonstrated that the use of computers has resulted in the improvement of the skills of students with ASD in a variety of different areas, such as attention, fine motor, and generalization (Habash, 2005). Improvement of skills is many times the desirable goal, and therefore technology can act as a means to accommodating specific deficits that prevent goal attainment.

In order to achieve success in the high school and college arenas, students need to be able to access supports to successfully comprehend large amounts of reading material and class lecture and discussion, as well as write at a much more independent and sophisticated level. When students demonstrate weaknesses in these areas, they are unable to demonstrate their maximum potential, and their work may become an inaccurate representation of their true capabilities. Assistive technology can begin to bridge the gap between student obstacles and the execution of their academic responsibilities.

Developing strategies and systems for use with assistive technology is important to master during high school so students can effectively deploy the technologies at the college level. The college work environment has a few fundamental differences from high school that can increase the difficulty level, especially for students with ASD. Class time at universities is devoted to many more lectures, requiring vigorous note-taking on course content that, many times, is important to know for exams, class projects, and discussion. Sometimes the material covered in class is not covered anywhere else (i.e., textbook, PowerPoint slides, handouts, etc.), requiring techniques to ensure all material is accessible by the student. Outside of the classroom, reading materials tend to also become more taxing, covering abstract topics that can be difficult to understand. As opposed to reading simply for content, there is an increased emphasis of being able to analyze readings. Further, while high school classes tend to provide guided questions to lead the student through the readings, college classes tend to rely on the student to identify key topics and themes.

The fundamental changes above can seem hard to manage; however, by establishing assistive technology supports while still in high school, such transitions can be managed in a much more efficient manner. Creating a course of action is important for students with ASD because environmental changes may lead to high levels of stress that can drastically affect a student’s ability to participate and succeed in the learning environment.

This two-part blog series will include examples of how technology can be used to support students with ASD in the learning environment with a focus specifically on supporting students at the high school and college levels. Look forward to spotlights on Tablets and Computers, Smart Pens, and Word Prediction Software.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Samantha Feinman, Program Director, New Frontiers in Learning at sfeinman@nfil.net.

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The Differences between 504 Plans in Public Schools vs Colleges & Universities

January 31st, 2014

It is important for students with disabilities who plan to attend college, and their parents, to understand how their legal rights related to their disability will change in a post-secondary education environment.

In public elementary and secondary schools, students with disabilities may receive services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The IDEA does not apply in the workplace or in post-secondary education, so services available under IDEA, such as an individualized education program (IEP), are not available in college. However, services under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act may continue at the post-secondary level.

First, it should be noted that while Section 504 only applies to schools that receive federal funding, most colleges and universities do, and private post-secondary schools that receive no federal funding are still required to provide similar accommodations to students with disabilities, under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Section 504 prohibits discrimination based on disability, meaning that the needs of students with disabilities must be met as adequately as the needs of students without disabilities are met. Colleges and universities must provide accommodations for students with disabilities. As a practical matter, this may include accessibility of classrooms, dormitories and other buildings; additional time on tests; substitution of some course requirements; interpreters or readers; adapted computer terminals and other services. Such services must be provided unless a fundamental alteration of the program or an undue financial or administrative burden would result.

Students with disabilities going from high school to college will need to advocate for their own needs more than ever. If the university has a disability support office, the student will need to make contact with that office to explain his or her needs. If a student has a history of accommodations in high school, then documentation of this should be provided to college or university officials. Most of all, students will need to be persistent, keeping a record of who they talked to, and continuing to press the matter until the needed accommodations are received.

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How Special Needs Families Can Save Money and Plan for Their Financial Future

January 21st, 2014

Parents of a child with special needs know that there are many expenses for their child and sometimes seemingly not enough resources to attend to them. Financial planning is definitely more complicated for special needs families, but planning carefully and taking advantage of certain money-saving strategies can make the task easier. Here are ten suggestions for how special needs families can save money and plan for their financial future:
1. Remember to Take Care of Your Own Needs

The logic of the airplane oxygen mask applies here: flight attendants instruct parents to affix their own masks first before assisting a child, because you cannot help your child if you are not protected. Likewise, parents are not actually helping their child if they spend money incautiously on the child’s care without also doing the necessary planning for their own retirement. Special needs children are more likely to be at least somewhat dependent on their parents as adults, so it is a help to them for their parents to be financially secure in retirement.
2. Consult with a Financial Planner or Special Needs Attorney

All families can benefit from assistance with financial planning, and this is all the more true for families with special needs. Navigating the complexities of public benefits, taxation and estate planning is not something that should be attempted without guidance. Spending money really will save you money.

3. Make Use of Public Benefits

Many families with significant resources or with higher-functioning special needs children may balk at taking advantage of public benefits such as Supplemental Security Income or Medicaid. However, these benefits are not just for low income families. The programs represent one way our nation takes care of its citizens, including people with disabilities. Just as one would not hesitate to take advantage of any legal tax breaks available, so one should access any public benefits that one has the right to.

4. Create a Special Needs Trust

A special needs trust allow families to set money aside for a child’s special needs without giving the money directly to the individual, which would trigger disqualification for needs-based public benefits. Proceeds from a life insurance policy can be directed toward a special needs trust, and the funds can be used for such things as out-of-pocket medical expenses, personal care aides, education and recreation.

5. Plan Your Estate

Estate planning for special needs families should involve the whole family. Grandparents should be informed that leaving money directly to a special needs grandchild may adversely affect eligibility for public benefits and should therefore be directed to a special needs trust instead. Guardianship in the event of the death of both parents is particularly important and should include a care guide communicating a special needs child’s individual care needs and personal tastes.
6. Be Prepared to Advocate for Insurance Coverage

Treatments for children with special needs may or may not be covered by health insurance. For example, speech therapy should be covered, if the need is medical rather than behavioral. However, getting the insurance company to pay may involve careful and persistent communication with doctors, therapists, and one’s insurance provider. If your child needs respite care, be prepared to advocate for coverage.

7. Find and Make Use of Community Resources

Seek out any and all resources available for special needs families in one’s local community. Nonprofit organizations often provide their own resources or assist families in finding the help they need.
8. Coordinate with Other Special Needs Families

Families with special needs should not try to go it alone. Companionship with other special needs children can be supportive and fun for kids and parents can benefit by sharing resources. Group activities are more economical and provide crucial moral support for families.

9. Make Use of Tax Deductions and Credits

The Internal Revenue Code provides for several tax deductions and credit available for special needs families. Deductions may be allowable for medical and therapy expenses, specialized foods and legal expenses. Tax credits that are particularly useful for special needs families include the child and dependent care credit and the earned income credit. Consult a tax professional in order to make the most of these advantages.

10. Plan Ahead for Your Loved One’s Adulthood

Just as parents plan for their own retirement, so must they plan for their loved one’s life as an adult. Will the child remain living with the parents? If so, will in-home support be needed? If a young adult with special needs is planning to move into a group home or other independent living arrangement, then research should be done well ahead of time in order to be placed on any necessary waiting lists and to budget appropriately.

This post was first contributed by Marion Walsh to Friendship Circle.

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Guest Post: 2013 Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions, From MyAutismTeam Parents

January 17th, 2013

This post was featured on the blog for myautismteam.com.

With each new year, this is a time to take stock of your accomplishments, or ponder those projects that will make it to the “to-do” list in 2013.

And no New Year is complete without resolutions. Resolutions can take many forms; from the above mentioned project list to personal improvements in ourselves. At MyAutismTeam, we wanted to hear from the parents about their own resolutions. We surveyed over 35,000 parents on MyAutismTeam about their resolutions and what they are envisioning for 2013.

One of the resounding resolutions for parents this year will be to take a moment for themselves. From making an effort for laughter to making time for spouses and exercise, parents recognize that they give their best to their children when they are at their best. While simple in theory, such small acts go a long way, as a study from the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders has shown that parents (mothers in particular) are prone to feeling a sense of chronic stress that is similar to that of soldiers in combat.* This stress can often translate into health issues leading to additional stress, etc.

However, parents are taking note. In an effort to avoid and reduce stress, parents are choosing to focus on the positive. Concentrating on their children’s strengths and new therapies, parents are choosing to make 2013 a time to learn. In a year when autism was front and center, parents are also taking action and vowing to be stronger advocates for their children and more engaged in their progress. The top ten resolutions from the survey are listed below.

Top 10 Resolutions for 2013 by Parents with Children on the Autism Spectrum

  1. I will develop my child’s areas of strength.
  2. I will take things one day at a time.
  3. I will be a stronger advocate for my child at his/her school or with healthcare providers.
  4. I will explore new therapies for my child.
  5. I will be part of a strong social network for emotional, social, and informational support.
  6. I will make more time for my spouse and myself.
  7. I will exercise more.
  8. I will start looking at things from my child’s perspective.
  9. I will manage my own anxieties about social situations with my child.
  10. I will be vigilant in monitoring and managing my child’s progress.

In the busy days ahead, don’t forget your resolutions to help you get through to the next. Did your resolutions make the list? If not, share them with MyAutismTeam at http://www.myautismteam.com today.

To follow MyAutismTeam on one of their social media platforms, click below:

  • Blog: http://blog.myautismteam.com

For more information on special needs planning or special needs advocacy, please visit www.specialneedsnewyork.com.

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Early Intervention Aids Children with Developmental Disabilities

November 14th, 2012

Developmental disabilities and delays in children used to be largely ignored before the age of five. Today, it is widely understood that important learning milestones occur well before then, and early therapy can do a great deal to help children.

In 1986, Congress established the Early Intervention (EI) program as part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). EI provides a variety of services for children from birth to the age of three to help with their mental, physical, emotional and social development. While not federally mandated, EI is implemented in all 50 states due to strong federal financial incentives.

When parents suspect their child may not be developing properly, a pediatrician can prescribe a full evaluation of the child’s faculties. If tests indicate that the child’s development is not optimal, the family meets with professionals to develop an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). At subsequent annual or biannual meetings, the child’s progress is assessed and the plan is modified as necessary.

Here are some examples of services provided through EI:

Occupational therapy assists in the development of self-help skills, adaptive behavior, and sensory and motor development.

Psychological services include conducting and interpreting psychological tests and planning counseling programs.

Family training assists parents in understanding their children’s unique needs and promoting their development.

Audiology and vision services identify and help correct sensory disorders and mitigate their effect on learning abilities.

Fifty years ago, a developmental problem, left untreated, might have destined a child to be institutionalized, whereas today, early intervention can help that same child integrate well with children their age by the time they reach grade school.

If you suspect your child may have a developmental disability or delay, talk to you pediatrician about testing and the EI program. If you disagree with your doctor’s opinion or the results of your child’s EI evaluation, and believe your child needs EI services, you may want to talk to a special needs advocacy lawyer.

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New Proposed Regulations Thwart Allocation of Burden of Proof in Impartial Hearings in New York

October 26th, 2012

The New York State Board of Regents is considering amendments to Part 200 Regulations which will effect how special education impartial hearings are conducted in  New York.  When parents of students with disabilities disagree with the placement or services for their child, they have the right to initiate a due process complaint for a  hearing, in front of a trained Impartial Hearing Officer (“IHO”).  As advocates for students with disabilities, we have concerns that that the Proposed Regulations make settlements more difficult and make the process of a hearing more cumbersome, particularly for pro se litigants.

The Proposed Regulations mandate pre-hearing conferences even in cases in which the parties inform the IHO that they are engaged in settlement discussions.   Even more significantly, this imposition of a pre-hearing conference has the potential to thwart the allocation of the burden of proof in New York State.   New York Education Law clearly places the burden of proving a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) on the school district.  Parents initiating a complaint have the responsibility to frame the issues and the proposed problems.   However,  if the law now mandates a prehearing conference that requires the IHO to review the issues framed in the complaint and empowers him or her to modify the issues before the school district has meet its prima facie burden, this will interfere with the parents’ responsibilities in framing the issues and the school district’s in responding to it.  For example, in an impartial hearing request, suppose a parent claims that a school district denied her child a FAPE by failing to provide ABA services.  In the hearing, the school district would have the burden of proving that it offered a FAPE and that the child was receiving educational benefit from the existing program.  But it is possible that an IHO could “simplify” the issues and essentially override the burden of proof and frame the issues to simply to determine if the child needed ABA services to progress.  Legally this would be reversible error, but many parents cannot afford a costly appeal.

Thus, we recommend that parents and students advocate against the adoption of the Proposed Regulations. The Regents will make a final decision on SED’s latest attempt at their meeting on November 5 and 6.  It is important to get to the Regents prior to that meeting in any way possible but at least send/email your comments directly to them.  Individuals can go to http://www.regents.nysed.gov/members/ for contact information.  Here is a statement to consider sending to the Board of Regents:

I oppose the adoption of the proposed amendments to the Proposed Regulations on governing impartial hearings at this time, on prehearing conferences. I believe that they should be withdrawn for comprehensive review in light of the law’s principals which favor settlement and support pro se litigants.  I am particularly concerned that the proposed amendments could allow an Impartial Hearing Officer to frame the issues in a hearing in such a way as to thwart the proper allocation of the burden of proof in impartial hearings in New York.  Thus, I am respectfully requesting that the Board of Regents not adopt the proposed regulations on prehearing conferences at this time. Thank you for your consideration.

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U.S. Department of Education and New York State Issue Reminder on Keeping Students Free from Abuse, Restraints and Seclusion

August 14th, 2012

By Marion Walsh, Esq., Littman Krooks LLP

Restraints, seclusion and aversive interventions against students with disabilities are not just part of a dark past.    A May 2009 U.S. Government and Accountability Office Report, on Seclusions and Restraints, reported on hundreds of allegations of harmful, restraints and seclusion.  Almost all of the allegations involved students with disabilities. For example, a 17-year-old boy reportedly died from an asthma attack while being restrained by a counselor at a private school for emotionally disturbed teens.  The father of an 8-year-old student with autism reported that his son suffered from scratches, bruises and a broken nose after being put in a prone restraint by his public school teacher and aide. A special education teacher allegedly fractured a 12-year-old girl’s arm when she put the student in a “therapeutic hold,” described as being similar to a “bear hug.”
On August 13, 2012, the New York State Education Department sent a directive to remind schools in the state to follow federal and state policy on restraint and seclusion in schools. The directive referenced a U.S. Department of Education publication:  Restraint and Seclusion: Resource Document, which emphasizes 15 Guiding Principles for states, schools and staff. The Resource document serves as an important reminder for school districts on how to keep all students safe.

15 Guiding Principles

The 15 Guiding Principles state:

1.   Every effort should be made to prevent the need for the use of restraint and for the use of seclusion.

2.   Schools should never use mechanical restraints to restrict a child’s freedom of movement, and schools should never use a drug or medication to control behavior or restrict freedom of movement (except as authorized by a licensed physician or other qualified health professional

3.   Physical restraint or seclusion should not be used except in situations where the child’s behavior poses imminent danger of serious physical harm to self or others and other interventions are ineffective and should be discontinued as soon as imminent danger of serious physical harm to self or others has dissipated.

4.   Policies restricting the use of restraint and seclusion should apply to all children, not just children with disabilities.

5.   Any behavioral intervention must be consistent with the child’s rights to be treated with dignity and to be free from abuse.

6.   Restraint or seclusion should never be used as punishment or discipline (e.g., placing in seclusion for out-of-seat behavior), as a means of coercion or retaliation, or as a convenience.

7.   Restraint or seclusion should never be used in a manner that restricts a child’s breathing or harms the child.

8.   The use of restraint or seclusion, particularly when there is repeated use for an individual child, multiple uses within the same classroom, or multiple uses by the same individual, should trigger a review and, if appropriate, revision of strategies currently in place to address dangerous behavior; if positive behavioral strategies are not in place, staff should consider developing them.

9.   Behavioral strategies to address dangerous behavior that results in the use of restraint or seclusion should address the underlying cause or purpose of the dangerous behavior.

10. Teachers and other personnel should be trained regularly on the appropriate use of effective alternatives to physical restraint and seclusion, such as positive behavioral interventions and supports and, only for cases involving imminent danger of serious physical harm, on the safe use of physical restraint and seclusion.

11. Every instance in which restraint or seclusion is used should be carefully and continuously and visually monitored to ensure the appropriateness of its use and safety of the child, other children, teachers, and other personnel.

12. Parents should be informed of the policies on restraint and seclusion at their child’s school or other educational setting, as well as applicable Federal, State, or local laws.

13. Parents should be notified as soon as possible following each instance in which restraint or seclusion is used with their child.

14. Policies regarding the use of restraint and seclusion should be reviewed regularly and updated as appropriate.

15. Policies regarding the use of restraint and seclusion should provide that each incident involving the use of restraint or seclusion should be documented in writing and provide for the collection of specific data that would enable teachers, staff, and other personnel to understand and implement the preceding principles.

New York Regulations

As confirmed by a recent memorandum by the New York State Department of Education, New York Regulations are aligned with the 15 Guiding Principles.  Notably, New York Regulations require the use of positive behavioral supports and interventions and require a behavioral intervention plan for those students with disabilities whose behavior interferes with their education or the education of others, as confirmed by policy guidance.

The Regulations also generally prohibit aversive interventions and restraints for all students, with an important caveat:  The Regulations allow the use of reasonable physical force for the following purposes for school staff. (8 NYCRR § 200.22(d)).

    • to protect the staff member from physical injury;
    • to protect another student or teacher or any person from physical injury;
    • to protect the property of the school district or others; or
    • to restrain or remove a student whose behavior is interfering with the orderly exercise and performance of school functions, powers and duties, if that pupil has refused to comply with a request to refrain from further disruptive acts (8 NYCRR§ 19.5).

Pursuant to New York Regulations, schools must provide staff with appropriate training in safe and effective procedures. A school also must document the intervention and notify the parent of the student.  School supervisory personnel must review the documentation of emergency interventions (8 NYCRR§ 200.22 (d). For child specific exceptions to the use of aversive interventions, New York Regulations have essentially eliminated any exceptions to use aversive interventions, except that if a student’s Individualized Education Program ( “IEP”)  included aversive interventions as of June 30, 2009, the school district may seek an exception with the Commissioner. (8 NYCRR § 200.22(e), 8 NYCRR§ 200.22(e)(11)).

In addition, New York Regulations specifically prohibit the use of locked, secluded time out rooms.  The Regulations allow the limited use of appropriate time out rooms for students to deescalate. The space must have adequate light, ventilation and space and staff must supervise and monitor the student. (8 NYCRR §200.22(c).

What to Do

If your child is subject to any type of restraint, seclusion or physical force in school by a staff member, you have the right to seek answers and redress.  Ask for documentation, an investigation and an explanation of what happened.   Every child has the inherent right to be treated with dignity and respect and to be free from harm and abuse, no matter how challenging the situation.

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Changes Ahead for Special Needs Students in New York City

May 25th, 2012

This fall, New York City schools are launching a program that will move special needs students into general education classrooms, limiting the use of “self-contained” classrooms that cater only to students with special education needs.  Education officials say that the move is intended to boost students’ performance by bringing them into closer contact with their peers, and also make life easier for families by bringing students closer to home.  For the first time, all New York City schools would be required to accept special needs students.

Critics of the move suggest that the real intent is to save money, since self-contained classrooms for special education students are smaller and require instructors with additional training.  Under the new plan, these self-contained classes would no longer have the guarantee of full funding.

In addition, these critics say, the change may not be in the interest of students, as two problems may arise: special needs students may not be able to have their particular educational needs met, and the change may cause disruption in general education classrooms, affecting the performance of all students.

Department of Education officials denied that the move was motivated by financial concerns, saying that it may end up costing more in the long run.  The goal, according to officials, is to offer better educational opportunities to special education students, fewer than 31% of whom graduate from high school in four years.  Officials said that special needs students who spend their entire school career in self-contained classrooms have only a 5% chance of earning a diploma.

Department of Education officials said that although the change is large-scale, it will be rolled out gradually.  In the 2012-13 school year, only children enrolling in kindergarten, or sixth or ninth grade would be affected.  Most special needs students would spend only part of their school day in general education classrooms.

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

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