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When You Suspect Your Child May Have a Disability…

January 19th, 2016

By Felicia Lebewohl Rosen, Esq., Ed.M. (Edited by Marion M. Walsh, Esq., Littman Krooks LLP)

Take a deep breath … It can be emotionally difficult to accept and deal with the fact that your child has a disability. If you want your child with a disability to receive appropriate services to make his or her life (and yours) easier and more productive, you should acknowledge the possibility and consider seeking services.   First, you need a good diagnosis, to which interventions can be geared. This diagnosis can occur at any point during a child’s development, most commonly during infancy or early childhood. However, some parents only realize that their child has a disability in adolescence, when work and social demands become more difficult. If your doctor or psychologist makes a diagnosis, keep in mind that you need to share this information with your school district or preschool and determine whether your child is eligible for services.

The Law Protects Students with Disabilities and Requires Evaluations and Services

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (“IDEA”), protects children with disabilities ages birth to 21 or until a student graduates with a regular high school diploma. The IDEA requires each state and school district to identify and evaluate all children who need special education and/or related services. Related services include physical, occupational and speech and language therapy and more depending on need.

Early Intervention (EI) is a system of services, free of charge to parents, that help children with disabilities or at risk for a disability, ages birth – 3 years old, and their families. For a child to receive EI services pediatricians, other service providers and parents may refer a child for EI. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children be screened for developmental delays and disabilities during regular well-child doctor visits at 9, 18 and 24 or 30 months and additional screening may be warranted if a child is at high risk.

Once your child is school age and you suspect a disability or receive a diagnosis, parents may contact their school district and request that their child be evaluated for eligibility for special education and related services. School districts are responsible to provide educational and related services, free of charge to parents, for children with disabilities ages 3 – 21 or until a student receives a high school diploma. The law requires that school districts receive informed consent from parents before the child is evaluated by the school district to determine if the child has a disability under the IDEA. The individual evaluation must include a variety of assessment tools and strategies. A school district must conduct the evaluation within 60 days from the date that the parent consents to testing. At a minimum, an evaluation must include: a psychological evaluation, a classroom evaluation, a social history, a physical examination and other appropriate assessments or evaluations.

An evaluation is intended to address the following three questions:

  1.  Does the child have a disability that requires special education and related services?
  2. What are the child’s specific needs? and
  3. What special education and related services are appropriate for addressing those needs?

If parents disagree with the school district’s evaluations, they have a right to an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) and request that the school system pay for the IEE. A diagnosis from a doctor or psychologist of a disability does not guarantee that a child will be eligible for special education or related services. The law requires that the disability impacts the child academically.

Littman Krooks Special NeedsIn New York, a Committee on Special Education (CSE) for students in grades K-12, and a Committee on Preschool Special Education (CPSE) for students ages 3-5, are multi-disciplinary teams that include, at the very minimum, the parent, a general and special educator, a school psychologist or another professional who is qualified to interpret evaluations, and a district representative. The CSE and CPSE will convene to review the evaluations and determine if the child is a “student with a disability”, as defined by the IDEA. If the parents do not agree with the evaluation decision, they may ask for an impartial hearing to challenge the decision. Some neurological conditions, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder/Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD/ADD) and a Learning Disabilities (LD) are often difficult to diagnose because there is no medical test, like a blood test or an MRI, to diagnose these disorders. Further, many other conditions have symptoms that are similar to those of ADHD/ADD and there is a great deal of comorbidity with other conditions. For example, anxiety can mask as ADHD.

At the CPSE and CSE meetings, if a child is deemed eligible, the team will draft an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The IEP is a legal document which discusses the child’s strengths and areas of need. It specifies the special education and related services that the child will receive free of charge to the parents. If the parents disagree with the IEP or the placement recommended by the CSE, the parent may request a Due Process Hearing. In some cases, filing a complaint with the New York State Education Department may be appropriate. Parents may proceed pro se (without a lawyer) or be represented by counsel.

Personal Advice on Keeping it all in Perspective

If your child has a disability, try not to waste your emotional energy on self-blame. Disorders such as autism, ADHD, and emotional and learning disabilities can be disorders in certain regions in the brain. They are not caused by bad parenting, chaotic home environments, ineffective teachers, too much sugar in the child’s diet or the child himself. Your child is still the same child you had before the diagnosis. Love, play, engage, have fun, enjoy, hug and laugh with your child. If your child is an adolescent, give your child support along with the space he or she needs to grow at their own pace.

Take care of yourself or you will not be able to take care of your child. We are all familiar with the stewardess’ message on airplanes to put your oxygen mask on before you place one on your child. So take care of yourself so you can better take care of your child. Put on your oxygen mask by joining support groups, finding solace in supportive family and friends or religion, joining support groups, exercising and eating well and remembering to enjoy and laugh. It can be a long journey.

For more detailed information about disability laws, see www.nysed.gov/specialed.

 

Felicia Rosen is a legal intern with Littman Krooks LLP and is an attorney. She graduated from New England School of Law and Columbia University Teachers College. 

 

Learn more about our special needs planning and special education advocacy services at www.littmankrooks.com or www.specialneedsnewyork.com.


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Who Will Take Care of My Child with Special Needs When I am Gone?

January 9th, 2014


Join Bernard A. Krooks of Littman Krooks LLP and Ryan Platt of A Special Needs Plan (moderated by Keith Caldwell, founder of Failuretoplan.com) to present a live webinar for families on  special needs planning.
For details or to participate, please register by clicking here. To join the Facebook Event page, click here.

Who Will Take Care of My Child with Special Needs When I am Gone?

This is the question that kept me up one night a few years ago.  Not having an answer to this question is what started me on my journey of discovery for my family and it was the idea behind the creation of the website www.FailuretoPlan.com. I needed answers so that I could sleep comfortably knowing that if something were to happen to me that night, there was a plan in place that would take over and protect my family when I could no longer.

But, my child has autism and I have always been concerned about his future. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to plan for my child’s future because his future weighed heavily on me — I just didn’t know what to do or where to go for expert guidance and direction.  I was so busy with speech therapy, OT, IEPs, typical IEP’s for my special child and the sports leagues, practices, student government activities of my oldest child…

…Overwhelmed at times doesn’t begin to describe how I felt and days quickly turned in weeks which turned into months and, then, into years.  No long term planning was getting done with all of this activity in my life.  Can any of you reading this relate?

For me, to create a truly comprehensive plan, I had to come to terms with my own mortality and the fact of the matter is that ignoring the inevitable will not delay its’ coming.  If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail and failure was not an option for my child and my family.  Making no decision is a decision onto itself. Your little child with special needs will become an adult with special needs in the blink of an eye.

No one wants to talk about our mortality but everyone should.  Finding a team of professionals to help you navigate through the special needs planning process is a critically important task for all caregivers.  Through my own research, I learned of A Special Needs Plan – a leading expert of comprehensive special needs planning and Littman Krooks – the premier special needs planning legal firm in the country.

I spoke to both Bernard Krooks of Littman Krooks and Ryan Platt with A Special Needs Plan and  what struck me most about each of them was their sincere interest in wanting to help educate parents on the planning process.  I brought up my idea to create a series of online interviews that could help walk a parent through the key elements of preparing a plan for their special child and they both readily agreed.   We have completed several of these interviews already and you can watch and listen to them on our website.  Each one is about 25-30 minutes long.

It was important to me that what I learned on my journey, I would be able to share with other parents and caregivers.  Utilizing social media platforms makes it easy to document my learning and make it available to you through YouTube and other social media outlets.  You can watch the “live” interviews on YouTube or Google+ as they take place and ask questions of Ryan and Bernard live on the day of our interviews.

If one of your goals is to finally get your special needs plan completed in 2014, I would encourage you to listen to our previous interviews and put the upcoming ones on your calendar so you can learn how to set up a plan for your family in the new year.

Visit www.FailuretoPlan.com/video-training to watch previous interviews and find more planning resources as well as join the  Special Needs Children Community on Google+.


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Navigating the Process of Applying for Social Security Disability Benefits

May 14th, 2013

Disabled individuals who cannot work are entitled to Social Security disability benefits, but the process of applying can be lengthy and difficult. The majority of applicants are denied benefits at the outset, and they may be uncertain of how to proceed.

When we discuss Social Security disability benefits, we are talking about two different programs. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is available to people who have paid into the Social Security system through taxes during the 10 years before they became disabled. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is available for people who have not paid enough into the system to be eligible for SSDI. To be eligible for either type of benefits, one must be “unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity” – i.e. “work” – because of a “medically determinable” disability lasting one year or more or expected to result in death. The questions of whether or not an individual is disabled and whether or not he or she can work are the key factors in determining eligibility for benefits.

The first stage in the process is the initial interview. A disabled individual may contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) to set up an appointment. One must have been disabled for five months before applying for SSDI benefits; there is no waiting period for SSI benefits. An applicant should bring two forms of identification to the interview, and any medical records that provide evidence for the disability. If there are records the person has not obtained, he or she may sign a medical records release form permitting the SSA to obtain them. If an individual is not able to go to a Social Security office, he or she may conduct the interview by telephone or appoint another person such as a family member to represent the disabled person at the interview. The process of deciding on the application takes from three to six months.

The majority of claims are denied at the initial application stage, but this should not deter disabled individuals from continuing with the process. Often a denial is the result of insufficient records or information that has not been presented persuasively. The second stage of the process is a request for reconsideration, which also involves an interview and the submission of any additional evidence. If the request is denied, then the third stage is to file for a hearing before an administrative law judge. An attorney can assist an applicant at any stage of the process; at the hearing stage and beyond, such assistance may be invaluable.

At an administrative hearing, the disabled person may present the testimony of witnesses and any other additional evidence. The government may also hear the testimony of a vocational expert and/or a medical expert who will offer their expert opinions regarding whether the applicant is disabled and whether he or she is unable to work. If the applicant is unsuccessful at this stage, he or she may file a claim with the Appeals Counsel Review Board. If the appeal is denied, then the last option is a civil lawsuit in District Court.

At any stage at which the benefits are granted, they will be retroactive to the date of the original application. If it is determined that the disabled individual is not able to handle the cash benefit appropriately, then a representative payee will be appointed to handle the money for the disabled person’s benefit.

For more information about disability law, visit www.specialneedsnewyork.com.

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Domestic Challenges of Families with Special Needs

November 19th, 2012

Caring for a child or other family member with special needs presents a number of issues in areas of health, finance, and law. You need to make sure your child receives proper care, your estate is well-planned, and you are receiving all the government benefits for which you are eligible. Services abound to help you make the best decisions in these regards.

These matters, complex as they may be, may in fact seem straightforward in comparison to two issues you may face that have much deeper personal and emotional aspects. The first is the question of where a special needs family member should live. The second is the endurance of a marriage or other domestic partnership in spite of the stresses that special needs care imparts.

A moderate to severe developmental disability in a family member raises the question of whether home care or institutional care is best. You must realistically consider what is best not only for the special needs patient, but for the rest of the family as well. Objective analysis of such an emotionally challenging decision can be very difficult.

A special needs individual can become very dependent on routines; a change in their environment can cause undue stress. Family members, therefore, need to develop long-term plans and prepare for contingencies. When stay-at-home special needs patients outlive their parents, for example, they may have to deal with being relocated while at the same time dealing with losing a loved one. This can be very traumatic.

Overall divorce rates nationwide are quite high, and in families with special needs children, the rate is probably even higher. Stresses of all kinds make relationship problems harder to resolve, and special needs children are certainly no exception.

On the bright side, a vulnerable and disadvantaged child can bring out in couples a firmer resolve to stay together for the sake of the child. The prevalence of divorce means that counseling and other support services are readily available in most communities. Increased awareness of special needs families means support services tailored to your needs are also likely nearby. For instance, look for programs at local churches where your children can spend time with others like them, giving you and your partner a break and some time alone.

For more information, visit our website at www.specialneeedsnewyork.com.

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Community bands together to form company that brings high quality services to families with special needs at discounted price

November 7th, 2012

Community bands together to form a company that will bring high quality services to special needs families at discounted introductory prices!

Keesago, LLC is a new company created by parents of special needs families for other parents of special needs families. Our mission- to revolutionize the way members of the special needs community find high quality resources!

How you ask? The Keesago team has decades of experience on the front lines – with therapists, schools, summer camps, educational products and the like.  So we have pooled together our experiences and the knowledge of others across the tri state area to create a directory of “go to” resources. Also, we cut steeply discounted, introductory pricing with many.  Finally, a company that can bring you the best of the best — at a discount!

How does it work? A weekly deal will arrive in your inbox at discounts of 50% or greater. Simply pick from multiple options all across the tri-state area. Also our resource directory contains a list of providers we like most and their services or products.  Looking for a new speech therapist?  In addition, we will also have a blog and a calendar of events in the region.  And wait, there’s more…don’t miss out on a chance to win prizes, including free gift cards, classes and even more!

How do I sign up? Well that’s easy… Just visit us at https://www.keesago.com and like us at http://www.facebook.com/KeesagoLLC to become a part of this wonderful resource and virtual community.

Keesago… A world of exceptional living!

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Celebrate the IDEIA: A Global Perspective

September 28th, 2012

By Marion M. Walsh, Esq.

As we begin a new school year, we must all remember that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (“IDEIA”) is a revolutionary civil-rights statute, unparalleled in any other country or at any point in history. In re-enacting the IDEIA in 2004, Congress found that:

Disability is a natural part of the human  experience and in no way diminishes the right of individuals to  participate in or contribute to society. Improving educational results for children with disabilities is an essential element of our national policy of ensuring equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities.

A glimpse of other countries offers a different picture.  This past year, my daughter traveled in Kolkata, India to volunteer for Daya Dan, an orphanage for  children with disabilities run by the Missionaries of Charity.  My daughter tutored a boy who was approximately 11, who was just leaning his letters and to read, but had no formal diagnosis, no formal teaching, except the volunteers and the nuns.  She tried multi-sensory techniques, sang songs about the letters of the alphabet and helped him with writing and art projects.  He grasped a lot but became easily frustrated.  Yet he was one of the lucky ones, since he had attention, care, shelter and food. But an IEP?  Special education and related services provided all school year?  Not a chance.    By some estimates, only 2% of children with disabilities in the world attend school, with the remaining 98% excluded.

As Americans, while we are rightfully critical of much of our educational system, we should be proud of our progress.  The IDEIA findings note that, before the date of enactment of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, school districts were not meeting the educational needs of millions of children with disabilities because, among other reasons, the children were excluded entirely from the public  school system and from being educated with their peers or  undiagnosed disabilities.  The law has been successful in helping to ensure that children with disabilities and the families of such children have access to a free appropriate public education and in improving educational results for children with disabilities.

Of course, we have a long way to go.  Because the IDEIA represents a model for the world, we have to make sure it is working.  Appreciation of the law does not mean that we should not continue to advocate for its continued improvement or settle for less than strict compliance and meaningful progress.  Clearly, the implementation of the IDEIA has many challenges, but let us not forget how fortunate we are to live in a country that protects the educational rights of every student and sets an affirmative duty on every school district in the country to identify students with disabilities and provide a free appropriate public education to each student identified.  In fall 2010, I heard former New York State Education Commissioner David Steiner speak, who described the IDEIA as a model and envy of the world and noted that no other country went to such lengths to protect the substantive and procedural rights of its most vulnerable students.  He stated that in his view, every child should have an IEP.  This is a vision worthy of contemplation.  However, given the political environment, as exemplified by the New York State tax cap and the burdens on schools in doing so, it seems unlikely that such legislative measure would pass.  Still, the IDEIA creates a model of differentiating instruction and serving all student needs. It also important to remember that the IDEIA protects every child and every parent, because, disabilities can develop or become identified at any point during a child’s educational career and every child needs a safety net.

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The Dignity for All Students Act: A New Tool to Keep Student Safe

September 12th, 2012

by Marion M. Walsh, Esq.

Bullying can harm any student, but research shows that students with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to harassment and bullying.  Bullying can cause educational decline, anxiety, physical ailments and missed classes, among other problems. This year, a new tool and mandate exists to prevent and address student bullying and harassment.

Effective as of  July 1, 2012, the Dignity for all Students Act prohibits harassment and bullying based on race, weight, national origin, ethnic group, religion, religious practice, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex, as well as bullying based on other characteristics.  The Act seeks to provide every public school student with a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment, and bullying on school property, a school bus or at a school function. To implement the law, each school must appoint a Dignity Act Coordinator.    The Dignity Act also requires instruction in civility, citizenship, and character education by expanding the concepts of tolerance, respect for others and dignity to include an awareness and sensitivity in the relations of people based on the above differences. The Dignity Act further requires Boards of Education to include language addressing The Dignity Act in their Codes of Conduct and to amend their policies. New York State has developed excellent tools to help schools implement the law and to help parents understand it.
The Dignity Act requires school districts to adopt proactive, not just reactive, responses to bullying. The mandate of a supportive education environment should change the way school personnel address bullying—not as just a disciplinary measure, but as a school environment issue.  Thus, in addressing bullying, according to New York State Guidance, a school district should, for example, consider: peer support groups; corrective instruction; supportive interventions;  behavioral assessment or evaluation; behavioral management plans; school counseling and parent conferences.  In addition, New York state recommends  school­-wide  environmental remediation such as:

  • supervisory systems  which  empower school staff  with  prevention and  intervention tools to address incidents of bullying and harassment; school and community  surveys  or other strategies  for determining the conditions contributing to the relevant behavior;
  • adoption of research-­based, systemic harassment prevention programs;
  • modification of schedules;
  • adjustment in hallway traffic and other student routes of travel;
  • targeted use of monitors;
  • staff professional development;
  • parent conferences;
  • involvement of parent­-teacher organizations; and
  • peer support groups

The Dignity Act represents an important further step in protecting student rights and the prevention of bullying.   Federal courts  have already recognized the right of students with disabilities to be free from peer harassment and bullying, when a school district is deliberately indifferent and the harassment causes loss of educational opportunity.  In K.M. v. Hyde Park Central School District, 381 F.Supp.2d 343 (S.D.N.Y 2005), the United States District Court for the Southern District  recognized that school districts could face liability for peer harassment based on a student’s disability, in the same way as for peer sexual harassment.   In the K.M. case,  a 13-year-old eighth grade student,  was the victim of repeated instances of being called “stupid,” “idiot,” “retard” and other “disability-related insults” and acts of “physical aggression” and intimidation (all by other students) while in school and on the school bus.  He was physically beaten and his school books were thrown into the garbage in the cafeteria between 5-8 times.   The court held that “a school district’s deliberate indifference to pervasive, severe disability-based harassment that effectively deprived a disabled student of access to the school’s resources and opportunities would be actionable under Section 504 and Title II.”  In addition, the parent in this case filed for a hearing for tuition  reimbursement, based on the denial of a free appropriate public education, and the IDEA claim settled out of court.
Parents must know that they have powerful legal tools at their disposal. However, ideally, before bullying or harassment reaches a crisis point, school districts and parents should work together to prevent bullying and, if it occurs, stop it early.  Parents should expect teachers to closely supervise students and to address any bullying promptly.  Parents also play a crucial role in preventing bullying.  Particularly for students with disabilities who may not be able to speak for themselves about bullying or understand it, parents must be proactive and protective.  If you notice signs of withdrawal and anxiety in your child, ask your child about what is happening in school.  Work with your child’s teacher(s) to get to the root of the problem.

Here are six steps to take to be proactive to learn how to address student bullying:

1. Review your school district’s Code of Conduct to ensure that it incorporates Dignity Act provisions. Also make sure the District has policies to incorporate Dignity Act provisions. Students must receive a plain language summary at the beginning of the school year and receive training at an assembly.

2.  Learn who the school’s Dignity Act Coordinator is. Ask about the above environmental remediations to prevent bullying and address it when it occurs.

3.  If your school district’s Code of Conduct does not address the requirements of the Dignity Act, you should alert the Superintendent and the Board of Education and expect action.

4.  If your child is the victim of bullying or you believe bullying has occurred, do not delay in reporting this to your school district, even if your child denies it or asks you not to.  If you fear your child will be retaliated against, you can ask for additional supervision.   First, report to the Dignity Act Coordinator.  Document your concerns and specific incidents in writing   If the school does not address your concerns, follow up.  Be relentless.

5.  Keep a log and journal and any physical evidence of bullying.

6.  Most importantly, support your child and make sure he or she receives any needed counseling or other support and that you address the problems immediately

For more information regarding bullying, or education, please visit www.specialneedsnewyork.com or www.littmankrooks.com.

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Services for People with Special Needs: Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities (ECAD)

August 30th, 2012

This week, we interviewed a service organization that assists people with disabilities and special needs, Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities (ECAD).  Since 1997, ECAD has been training and placing assistance dogs to help people with disabilities to gain independence and mobility. We spoke with ECAD advocate, Lee O’Brien-Rothman, and Communications and Public Relations Manager, Patricia Robert to find out more about the services they offer to people with special needs.

I am a retired disabled Police Officer who has spent 14 years serving my community. Brady came into my life after it was turned upside down by and on duty incident and subsequent PTSD. Being trapped in the wet blanket that is PTSD I became depressed and cut off from the entire outside world. Through Educated Canines Assisting with Disabilities, ECAD, I was chosen by a smart but goofy and kind golden retriever that immediately brought a smile to my face and a spark back in my life. ”

– Lee O’Brien-Rothman and Brady graduated from ECAD in May 2011. Since then, the two have become tireless advocates for ECAD and for Assistance Dogs. Brady O’Brien-Rothman has a Facebook page with thousands and thousands of friends.

How can people find out about ECAD:

People can visit our website, WWW.ECAD1.ORG or contact www.assistancedogsinternational.org, a coalition of non-for-profit organizations that train and place assistance dogs.

Do people have to qualify for a dog? If so, how?

People who apply for an ECAD educated Service Dog are always interviewed by our co-founder and Director of all programs, Lu-Picard. After they have filled out and submitted the completed application form, they can visit the main training facility, located in Dobbs Ferry. ECAD Service Dogs are educated to assist people with a wide range of disabilities, including adults, teens, even children as young as two, who have autism. It isn’t so much “qualifying” as it is following through with the determination to learn how to train/be responsible for a Service Dog by participating in the two-week team training sessions that are held several times each year. ECAD does not educate dogs for vision or hearing alerts.

How to apply for an ECAD Service Dog:

Information about applications can be found on ECAD’s website, or by calling the main office at 914-693-0600 ext.1958 and asking for the client liaison person.

What breeds of dogs are used as ECAD Service Dogs?

ECAD primarily trains golden retrievers, and Labradors, and a Lab-Great-Dane mix, all for their good temperament and intelligence. All ECAD Service Dogs are educated to respond to 80+ commands, including the retrieval of dropped objects, the pulling of wheelchairs, turning light switches on and off, loading and unloading the wash, reminding their person to take medication, alerting people with sleep disorders when they don’t respond to an alarm, and many other things. In addition to helping with physical problems, our service dogs are also trained assist people with emotional or psychological problems that stem from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) – problems that are being experienced by many veterans in recent years.

Tell us a bit more about ECAD’s Programs.

ECAD’s mission is to enable people with disabilities to gain greater independence and mobility through the use of specially educated dogs. Our programs include:

  • Project HEAL: a program that honors and empowers veterans and service members by addressing both visible and invisible disabilities. It entails a transition program that focuses specifically to re-adapt to a civilian culture by bridging the gap through a modified Service Dog Training program.
  • Canine Magic Service Dogs: a program in which ECAD Service Dogs are trained to assist children with Autism through emotional bonding, socialization, cognitive development and safety.
  • Open Doors: Service Dogs can be found working in public and private homes, hospitals, courthouses and nursing homes to help people with both physical and emotional disabilities.
  • ECADemy: a vocational curriculum administered at alternative schools specializing in helping children and teens with emotional, behavioral and social problems. All of these Service Dogs are trained by these students.

Can People Volunteer?

ECAD is a non-for-profit organization – volunteers are ALWAYS welcome at ECAD. There are many opportunities including:

–       Assisting in the main office

–       Grant writing

–       Becoming a home handler

–       Transporting ECAD Service Dogs to in-home trainings (on weekends only)

For more information on volunteering at ECAD, contact Tara at 914-693-0600 ext.1950.


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Governor Amends New York Education Law to No Longer Require Additional Parent Member for CSE

August 22nd, 2012

by Marion Walsh, Esq.

On August 1, 2012, Governor Cuomo signed a Bill which amends New York Education Law 4402 to no longer require an additional parent member for Committee on Special Education (“CSE”) meetings. Before this amendment, New York law required for every CSE meeting (although not for subcommittee meetings), the participation of an additional parent member of a child with a disability residing in the school district or a neighboring school district.

The amended law provides, as with the current law on requesting a physician, that an additional parent member only must be in attendance at any CSE meeting if requested in writing by the parent (or personal in parental relation) to the student, at least 72 hours prior to each meeting.  The school district must provide the parents with written notice of their right to have an additional parent member attend any meeting of the CSE. The notice must include a statement, created by the New York State Education Department explaining the role of having the additional parent attend the meeting.

The amendment goes into effect immediately, but there will be some transition time, until the former law phases out and until the New York State Education Department amends the Part 200 Regulations and issues guidance for school districts.

Effect of New Law on Parent Rights

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act does not require parent members as part of an IEP team.  The amended law does not impair the rights of parents, as parents still have the right to request a parent member. More frequently than not, parents waive or decline parent member participation.    However, parents need to be aware of their right to request an additional parent member and pay careful attention to the 72 hour time period.   Parents also need to understand that parent members can serve an important function.

Parents should carefully consider whether they will need a parent member.  Parent members can be helpful to lend perspective and objectivity and, if they are from the District, can offer knowledge and help about District programs.  If you’re attending an initial eligibility meeting for your child, you will be unfamiliar with the process and the associated emotions and would likely benefit from an additional parent member.   If the CSE is considering a more restrictive placement, the parent member may also help you weigh the benefits.  Also, for particularly contentious or emotional meetings, parent members can lend perspective.   Remember, the parent member does not serve as a substitute for a good advocate and is simply participating in the meeting as an additional CSE member.

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The Supreme Court’s Affordable Care Act Ruling is Good for Families that have Loved Ones with Special Needs

July 5th, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court case Florida v. Department of Health and Human Services, which challenged the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has been covered heavily by mainstream and online media outlets. The Court heard arguments on the case in a historical three day session March 26-28, 2012.

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the individual mandate and most provisions of the Affordable Care Act. A federal penalty on states not cooperating with the Medicaid expansion provision of the law was deemed unconstitutional but Chief Justice John Roberts gave Congress a constitutional antidote with his opinion.

While most news outlets have focused on the political outcome of the Court’s decision, they have failed to cover the important issue of how the ruling will affect the lives of those with special needs. Had the Court overturned the law in its entirety, people caring for loved ones with special needs would have lost access to many benefits provided by the Affordable Care Act.

Prior to the Affordable Care Act, employer plans and individual health insurance policies could exclude children 19 and under with special needs as they were often determined to be “pre-existing conditions.”

Special needs children and adults will require more medical attention in their lifetime than other individuals. The law now prohibits insurance companies from setting a maximum lifetime benefit which means special needs patients cannot lose their health coverage because of too many claims or because they have exceeded a policy limit.

For more information on the Affordable Care Act, visit www.hhs.gov or www.healthcare.gov. For information on special education advocacy, special needs planning, guardianships or transition planning, visit www.littmankrooks.com or www.specialneedsnewyork.com.

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