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How Technology Assists People with Disabilities Lead Better Lives

May 16th, 2021

Children with serious chronic illnesses face immense obstacles in education and socialization. Until recently, it was not possible for a homebound or hospitalized child to attend school. However, it is happening now, with the assistance of telepresence robots. These robots, which consist of a rolling screen with a camera, microphone and speakers, allow users to hear, see, interact and move around in real time in a faraway place. They are being used to allow students with chronic illnesses to participate in traditional school environments for the first time. A child who must be at home or in the hospital can use a telepresence robot to attend classes in different classrooms, participate in small group discussions and talk with friends. This level of participation can help chronically ill students overcome their isolation, and it provides educational and social benefits that cannot be obtained from individual tutoring. Telepresence robots hold great promise for students with serious illnesses, but there are obstacles to their use, including the cost of the technology and the fact that not all school districts permit them.

For other students with special needs, a wide variety of smartphone and computer applications have been developed to help with educational and adaptive needs. These include apps that help students with communication skills, or that help young adults with vocational training. Read about how “Technology Makes Things Possible” at Autism Spectrum News.

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Special Education Waiver Proposal Threatens Student Services

March 2nd, 2015

By Marion Walsh, Esq. and Sandi Rosenbaum, Special Education Advocate

On March 4, 2015, between 6:30-8:00, the Lower Hudson Valley Special Education Advocacy Task Force will be holding a Policy Discussion Forum at the Arc of Westchester (The Gleeson-Israel Gateway Center, 265 Saw Mill River Road (9A), Hawthorne, NY), to discuss the Executive Budget and the proposed waiver of special education requirements.   This is an essential meeting to attend to understand the effect of the budget on special education services. grad_hat_books_crop

The Governor’s proposal for his executive budget contains a proposal to allow school districts, private schools, and BOCES to obtain a one-year waiver from following requirements or providing services which are mandated by New York law, but which are not required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.   Here are just some of the services and mandates that could be affected:

  • Autism requirements in 200.13 including parent counseling and training;
  • Minimum daily/weekly requirements for home and hospital instruction;
  • Notice requirements for CSE;
  • Special Education Consultant Teachers required to have access to general education teachers to participate in instructional planning;
  • IEP must include the name of the school and whether it is BOCES, public, or private;
  • Evaluation AND implementation within 60 school days – Federal law has only an evaluation time frame, implementation “ASAP”; and
  • Evaluation team must include members with relevant credentials – Federal law doesn’t require a multidisciplinary team

The Governor is proposing this for mandate relief, as well as to enable school districts to implement innovative programs.   But there could be a significant loss of services to students.

The Governor and Board of Regents are selling this as allowing Districts to apply for waivers so that the District can implement an innovative special education program that is consistent with federal law, in order to enhance student achievement.  The District, before initiating a proposal for a waiver, would have to provide notice to parents in the District and obtain input before applying for the waiver with the New York State Education Commissioner.

The proposed provision expands existing opportunities for districts to seek waivers from NYS requirements that exceed those of the Federal IDEA, subject to notifying all affected parents and providing them a 60 day comment period, which comments would be submitted as part of the waiver application.  One downside is that only currently affected parents need be notified; since special education programs and placements are fluid, the parent of a student who has benefited from the affected program in the past, or may in the future, would not even be notified that the district received a waiver to deviate from state law in certain respects.

The proposed provision actually expands existing, though little-used, opportunities for Districts to seek waivers from the Commissioner for the purpose of enhancing student achievement and opportunities for placement in general education settings.  There has been an opportunity in place for some time for Districts to seek waivers to offer innovative special education models outside the defined continuum of service.  Any such program which has a waiver granted for three consecutive years may be granted a permanent waiver.

Become educated on this issue and contact your state legislators as soon as possible, as valuable services could be at risk.


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