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October is National Special Needs Law Month

October 11th, 2017

The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) has designated October as “National Special Needs Law Month.” Special Needs Law attorneys throughout the country contribute a great deal to their communities by educating those with special needs, their families, and caregivers about their legal needs. 

The program is part of a nationwide observance of National Special Needs Law Month during the month of October, sponsored by the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA). Headquartered in Washington, DC, NAELA was formed in 1987 in response to the growing needs of older adults and people with disabilities in coping with the legal problems of aging and special needs.

Other programs throughout the United States will include: seminars in financing long-term care; seminars in legal tools for financial management, such as powers of attorneys and trusts; seminars in understanding Medicare and Medicaid; discussions of special needs trusts and a student’s right to an independent educational plan; discussions of public entitlements such as Social Security and Supplemental Security Income; discussions of housing options; and other issues with which local special needs planning attorneys feel the public should be familiar.

Membership in NAELA has grown to more than 4,300 members since its inception in 1987 commensurate with the continuing national advocacy for people with special needs.

Unlike traditional lawyers, special needs planning attorneys focus on with their clients “holistically” – helping with the issues that affect a particular segment of the population rather than a particular area of law.

When clients visit a special needs planning attorney, they generally present problems beyond the need for a will or a power of attorney. Special needs planning attorneys are familiar with the multifaceted aspect of this complex area of the law, as well as a network of services and providers who assist clients effectively.

NAELA devotes much of its resources to education of its members and the public. Special needs planning attorneys must constantly monitor the ever-changing statutes and regulations to which people with disabilities are beholden for their daily existence.

Littman Krooks managing partner, Bernard A. Krooks, Esq., is past President of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), a Fellow of NAELA, past Chair of the NAELA Tax Section and past Editor-in-Chief of the NAELA News. 

 

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


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House Passage of American Health Care Act Requires Monitoring, Attention and Advocacy

May 5th, 2017

By Marion M. Walsh, Esq.

The United States House of Representatives, by a vote of 217 to 213, on May 4, 2017, approved legislation—called the American Health Care Act–to repeal aspects of the Affordable Care Act and replace them.   The House bill must still pass the Senate to become law.  If approved, the new legislation will impact every American citizen, particularly those who have not had insurance before, those who have pre-existing conditions and those who rely on Medicaid.  According to The New York Times, the House bill would eliminate tax penalties for people who go without health insurance. The bill would roll back state-by-state expansions of Medicaid, which covers millions of low-income Americans.  The Congressional Budget Office estimated  that the bill would cut Medicaid spending by $880 billion.  School districts will face cuts in funding and children with disabilities could receive less services.

We will keep you apprised on important developments and the changes in law will have a significant impact on vulnerable adults and children with disabilities.

 

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


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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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WIHD LEND Program Recruiting Family Specialist Trainees

March 25th, 2015

Littman Krooks special needs

The Westchester Institute for Human Development (WIHD) is recruiting leadership trainees for its Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) training program. Trainees will have the opportunity to develop the skills necessary for a career focused on helping children with special needs and their families.

The program includes three overview courses, clinical experience, and public policy and leadership activities, including community training and family advocacy. Trainees will have the opportunity to earn a certificate from New York Medical College in “Children with Special Health Care Needs.”

Trainees may be health and education professionals or graduate students, or parents or siblings of children or adults with disabilities. Trainees may have earned or be working toward a masters degree in a health or education discipline. A wide variety of disciplines are represented among the trainees, including child psychology, pediatrics, social work, health advocacy, nursing and law. Trainees may also be Family Specialists (parents or siblings of a person with a disability). Trainees should be able to participate in a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. program on Thursdays from September to May at the Westchester Institute for Human Development in Valhalla, New York.

If you are interested in this opportunity, you may learn more at this link to the WIHD website.

 

Learn more about Littman Krooks 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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The Greatest Gift

December 12th, 2013

By Marion Walsh, Esq., Littman Krooks LLP


As the holiday season approaches, our firm thanks those who have trusted us with their children and their education.

For most of our families, the need to learn and to do well in school is as essential as the need to eat and breathe. When a child is struggling in school and unable to learn or attend, as parents, our worlds fall apart. All parents, no matter what their background, want simply for their children to have a better life than they have. The greatest gift any parent can ask for is a healthy, engaged child who is able to attend school and make progress.  While this sounds simple, in some cases, it can be extremely complex. In some cases, years of litigation and heartache can result from the wrong placement for a child who just cannot access the public school environment. These situations often seem hopeless, but with patience and tireless advocacy, we have helped parents and students find their way. Remember though, as Dr. Temple Grandin noted, often, in helping children with their struggles, “there is no single magic bullet.”

But fortunately, in some cases, there is a magic bullet. For some of our students, a new school placement has made all the difference. We have represented, among others, children who were bullied and threatened suicide in school but who are now engaged; children for whom school made them physically ill but who are now healthy in a new placement, and children who were having violent meltdowns frequently but who are now receiving support in residential settings.  For each of these cases, we worked on a solution and in the best situations, worked with the school districts so that all understood the student’s needs a bit better.

An appropriate placement can change a life.  Conversely, in a few cases, the wrong school can be life threatening. Struggling parents and students must not give up.  The legal process can be difficult and onerous, but children with disabilities in the United States have the right to a free and appropriate public education and the school must work for the child.

At the holidays approach, take the time to appreciate the greatest gift—children who are healthy and able to attend school and to learn.   Do not take normalcy for granted. As for those in your life who are struggling, take the time and effort to truly understand them and make every effort to make sure your school district understands your child also. Never give up and continue to cherish your children.

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How to Help Children Who Have Difficulty with Executive Functions

August 30th, 2013

Children with special needs often struggle with executive functions. For parents whose children face these challenges, it is important to understand what executive functions are, the common warning signs of problems with them, and how learning specialists can help children who face this difficulty.

Executive functions are cognitive processes that control other cognitive processes, connecting past experience with present action. Executive functions are crucial to children’s daily activities like dressing themselves or doing chores, and difficulty with executive functions will especially impact a child’s schoolwork. We all use executive functions for such actions as making plans, keeping track of time, making corrections while thinking, reading or writing, and engaging in group discussions. Executive functioning is what permits us to keep track of more than one thing at a time, holding on to information until it is appropriate or useful for it to be applied.

Children who struggle with executive functions will often seem to be disorganized. Thy may have trouble planning projects and have little understanding of how long they may take. These children may have trouble memorizing information, and when telling a story may have trouble keeping events in sequential order. In addition, a child may have problems with working memory, for instance being unable to remember a phone number while dialing it. There is no one test to identify problems with executive functioning. Educators, psychologists and others may use a variety of methods to identify such problems, including careful observation, tests and trial teaching.

If a difficulty with executive functions has been identified, there are many learning tools that educators and parents can share with children to help them with organizational skills.

Four Learning Tools Available:

  • Checklists: One tool that helps with executive functions is using a checklist. If a child has trouble conceiving of or keeping track of the steps necessary to accomplish a complex task, then a checklist can be a tremendous help. Instead of struggling to understand what step should be done next, a child can simply move through the list. Checklists can be useful at school or with the tasks of daily living, such as getting ready for school in the morning. It can be especially helpful to set time limits for each task on a checklist, as children with executive dysfunction will often not be able to judge how much time each step should take.
  • Calendars and Plans: Because struggling with executive functions make planning difficult, it is all the more essential for children to be introduced to the importance of writing down a plan. Frequent use of a calendar and writing down homework assignments are habits that should be encouraged, and that will take time and energy.
  • Encouragement: Children who find organization challenging often do not understand why being organized is important and may become frustrated with planning. However, encouragement and repetition can help children develop these skills, and establishing a reward system can help them see the benefits.
  • Routines: Developing a routine is also important for children with executive function problems. Doing homework at the same time every day is an especially useful routine, especially with older children who may prefer to do homework when they feel like it. This leads to procrastination and problems with the work. A child who has trouble planning and getting organized may not see that putting off a task will have bad results, and encouraging a routine is one way to help.

Difficulty with executive functions is a common problem for children with special needs, but if the challenge is identified and addressed, then there is a lot that parents and teachers can do to help. If you believe your child’s executive functioning difficulty is becoming debilitating, be sure to discuss this with his or her teacher or section 504 or IEP team and document concerns in writing.

For more information about our legal services for families with special needs, visit www.specialneedsnewyork.com.

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The Great Bike Giveaway

April 22nd, 2013

Our friends over at Friendship Circle, a non-profit organization that provides programs and support to the families of individuals with special needs, will be holding their second annual Great Bike Giveaway (April 15 – May 12) — a national contest that donates adaptive bikes to children with special needs. Winners will be drawn on May 13, 2013.

The Great Bike Giveaway is partnering with adaptive bike companies (click here to read more about these bike sponsors) from around the country to donate top of the line adaptive bikes to children and young adults who need them the most. The

How to Participate:

1. Browse through the five types of bikes available and select a bike that will best fit your child’s needs, from there you can also choose the bike drawing you would like to submit for.

2. The bike pages have a space where you can enter the contest. Submit a picture of your child with special needs along with a short explanation (250 character maximum) about why this child needs an adaptive bike.

3. Once the submission has been approved, the participant must be nominated by 50 friends and family members to be entered in the drawing. On each bike page, the name and picture of all submitted entries will be listed. From here, you  can click on the picture and nominate them or share the page amongst your own contacts to encourage more nominations or votes.

4. A drawing will be held to determine the winners. Only those with 50 nominations will be eligible. An additional five special Director’s Choice winners will be chosen by a panel of judges based solely on the content of their submission.

Additionally, non-participants can donate money towards adding more bikes to raffle off. On each bike sponsor page there will be an option to donate towards adding an additional bike to the giveaway. Every time the sum reaches the top of the meter another bike is added.

For rules and regulations about this giveaway, click here. To read more about the Great Bike Giveaway, visit their official website at: https://friendshipcircle.org/bikes/.

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Financial Security for a Family Member With Special Needs

December 6th, 2012

Adults with disabilities are increasingly at risk as the U.S. considers cuts to public funding. While the debate rages on concerning how the U.S. will continue to fund Medicaid and Social Security benefits, where cuts should be made and whether the systems are at all sustainable, millions of people with disabilities rely on the programs for a significant portion of their basic needs.

According to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, as of 2009, more than 5.5 million adults with disabilities living in the U.S. have their health care covered under Medicaid. Approximately 6.9 million  individuals with disabilities get regular Social Security payments via the Supplemental Security Income program.

In addition to navigating the complex systems of medical care and education for persons with disabilities, family members often are faced with the issue of how to ensure adequate financial assets to pay for these expenses without disqualifying the person with disabilities from government benefits. Families often begin a special needs trust, which can have money placed into it on a regular basis for future needs, like a college savings plan. Others have the trust designed so that any proceeds from specific life insurance policies will be directed to the trust when they pass.

Many estate planning attorneys who specialize in special needs trusts suggest judicious planning. Rather than piece together a plan that may have significant holes, work with an experienced special needs trust attorney to help with financial planning. The family members of someone with a disability should ensure their own financial needs are also secure; if parents use all of their funds and go bankrupt, an entire family can be devastated. View the special needs trust attorney as an informational resource about other support systems; there may be outreach programs and other benefits available though Medicaid, such as art classes and drop-in programs. Work with other family members in developing a plan for trust administrators so they stay informed about plans for the special needs individual and the proper role of the administrator.

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Funding Helps Inclusion Education For Special Needs Students

October 11th, 2012

As part of the overhaul process of special education in New York City public schools, one of the goals is increased student inclusion, both in individual schools and system-wide. Though inclusive classroom placement for students with disabilities has been the national education policy for some ten years, in New York City public schools, of the approximately 165,000 students with disabilities, some 40 percent of them currently spend all or most of their school day in separate classes from students without disabilities.

According to numerous studies, children with disabilities who are educated with their peers without disabilities in inclusive classrooms show a variety of academic gains, including mastery of  IEP goals, improved standardized test performance, increased motivation, and better on-task behaviors. [1]  In contrast, students with disabilities who are educated in separate classes show a graduation rate of 5 percent, which is far below the citywide overall graduation rate of 65 percent.

Now, as part of the overhaul process, New York City schools will begin incorporating students into inclusive classrooms for grades kindergarten, sixth and ninth. Administrators, including principals, teachers and aids, have been training to work with all levels of learners, their families, and individualized education plans (I.E.P.s), and teachers with special needs students in their classrooms. [2]

Prior to 2012, rather than have every school able to accommodate every student,  New York City students with special needs would often be transferred from their neighborhood school, or even their district school, to attend a school with special needs services in place. These reform plans are one part of a push to comply with the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 for all 1,700 New York public schools. And while advocates and parents have been working for a broader acceptance of students with special needs in the public school system, some have voiced concern that mainstream educators do not have the necessary resources and training to meet students’ needs effectively, and that some special needs students will be placed in inclusive classrooms when they would be better served working with education specialists. [3]

This past May, The Panel for Education Policy voted to alter New York city’s financing formula to help restructure the city’s special education program by allotting money to the students rather than to special education classes. [4]

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

  1. http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/lre.incls.rsrch.whitbread.htm
  2. http://schoolbook.org/2012/05/24/city-panel-approves-special-education-inclusion-plan
  3. http://www.nytimes.com/schoolbook/2012/08/09/special-ed-reform-brings-city-more-in-line-with-national-trend/
  4. http://eservices.nysed.gov/sepubrep/
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