Parent-Teacher Conferences: GO!

Many of you are probably getting notices about parent-teacher conferences approaching.  We know it’s yet another thing to add to your already busy schedule, but we highly encourage you to participate! Even if the parent-teacher conference is a virtual planform it still can be productive.

Conferences are your opportunity to gather data and feedback in between progress reports, which typically come out every nine weeks. Nine weeks is a long stretch if things aren’t going well.  You’ll want to discover problems sooner rather than later so that changes can be made.  COVID has made school more difficult for sure, but the school is still obligated, under IDEA law, to meet your child’s needs and make sure that he or she is making adequate progress in light of his or her unique circumstances.  Keep your eye on your child’s progress!

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Young girl examining red ball

Resolve to Plan

We are 28 days into the new year… have you maintained your New Year’s Resolution? It’s tough to form new habits! Well, if you haven’t kept your resolution and you’re looking for a quick way to redeem yourself and feel productive, I have an idea for you: resolve to make a plan for your family through special needs estate planning. This can include a will, special needs/family trust, powers of attorney, and other related documents.

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New Special Education Term: Recovery Services, What Is It? Is Your Child Eligible?

The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) has latched on to a new term: “recovery services.”   This term is being used to describe services they’re giving students to help bridge educational gaps in learning caused by COVID-related school closures.  How is this different from compensatory services?  I was quite confused by ODE’s explanation, but I think this is what they’re trying to say…

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Masks Required at School – What About Kids with Disabilities?

Recently, we have been receiving inquiries from parents who are worried that their children with disabilities won’t be able to go back to school because of the new mask mandate issued by Governor DeWine.  The order requires all students in grades K-12 to wear a mask at school.  But, as we all know, there is a fairly small group of students who, because of their disabilities, simply cannot wear a mask all day, if at all.   Governor DeWine’s mandate specifically exempts these students:

  • any child unable to remove the face covering without assistance,
  • a child with significant behavioral/psychological issue undergoing treatment that is exacerbated specifically by the use of a mask,
  • a child living with severe autism or extreme developmental delay who may become agitated or anxious due to the mask, and
  • a child with a facial deformity where a mask will cause airway obstruction.

There is a lot of talk about masks for persons with asthma, but you’ll notice that asthma alone is not a qualifier.  In a joint letter from Ohio Children’s Hospital Association and American Academy of Pediatrics, which the Governor references, it states, “Specifically, asthma, allergies and sinus infections are not a contraindication for using a face covering/mask.”  That is not to say that someone with asthma couldn’t qualify for an exemption based on one of the scenarios itemized above.

If you believe your child falls into one of the exemptions provided by the Governor, reach out to a school administrator right away.  Tell them

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Soon, the School May be Able to Change Your Child’s Placement Without Your Consent – Act Now to Prevent This Proposed Change to the Ohio Rules

The Ohio Department of Education has proposed a slew of revisions to the Ohio Administrative Code (OAC), several of which will negatively impact students with disabilities.

The most alarming change proposed is the removal of a school district’s obligation to obtain parental consent before changing a student’s educational placement (OAC 3301-51-05). If the rule is adopted as written, a school district can transfer a student to the more restrictive environment of a private school, even if the parents oppose that decision. The school district can also remove a student from an outside environment, bringing them back to their home school, a much less restrictive environment, without parental approval.  Change of placement does not always involve a separate facility; it can also include moving a student from general education classes with supports, to a self-contained classroom in the same building, with no typical peers.   This is a big deal!

A second, huge change is the addition of the term “Educational Agency”(OAC Chapter 3301-51-01).  It looks as though all “Educational Agencies” are now responsible for much of what used to be the exclusive responsibility of the school district:  child find, evaluations, IEPs, etc.  The term “Educational Agency” does include school districts, but it also includes Educational Service Centers, DD Boards, open enrollment school districts, juvenile justice facilities and potentially multiple other agencies that “provide or seek to provide special education.”  The definition itself is very unclear as to which agencies it encompasses, and the substitution of this definition for school district in

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What’s It Going to Be? Yes or No?

It is the question that’s been on my mind as summer quickly skates by, are these kids going back to school in August? Yes or No?

It’s much easier to manage life when we know exactly what we’re dealing with, and, as parents, we want answers. If our children are going to be at home, schooling remotely, we have to rearrange our own work schedules or find someone reliable who can care for them. It’s frustrating to not have answers, and we want to know so we can come to terms with it and P L A N!

Keep in mind that as overwhelming as it may seem for our little families, of three or five or even seven people, imagine the logistics involved in planning for an entire school district of thousands of children, families, staff members, teachers and unions. All with different needs, health backgrounds, belief systems and political affiliations. With all the moving parts and an endless barrage of opinions being thrust about on social media, the long-awaited guidance from the Ohio Department of Education, the Ohio Department of Health and even the American Academy of Pediatrics has been reduced to writing. It still leaves a lot of leeway for each district to make its own decisions based on their own circumstances and our school administrators have a tough job ahead of them for sure!

We can share our opinions with the decision-makers, but the bottom line is that we don’t have control over what this

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Guardianship Can Be a Helpful Tool

With all the changes that have taken place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including social isolation and broken routines, we are finding that some people who were once “stable” and able to manage their daily affairs safely are now unable to do so.   They may be eloping, refusing food or medication, or maybe even having thoughts of suicide.  For some people, guardianship is a helpful tool.

Guardianship is necessary when an adult is incompetent to manage his/her own affairs, perhaps due to mental health issues or some type of cognitive impairment.   If the person over whom guardianship is being sought (also called the Ward) needs help managing money, then you could seek Guardianship of the Estate.   If the Ward needs help making daily, personal decisions, such as housing, food, clothing, medical care, etc., then you could seek Guardianship of the Person.  If the Ward needs help with both, you may request both.

The process is fairly simple.  Someone who knows the Ward, typically a family member, files an application for guardianship with the Probate Court in the county where the Ward resides.  The application must include a Statement of Expert Evaluation, which is a written report from a physician or clinical psychologist who has evaluated the person and believes that he/she is incompetent and in need of a guardian.  The Probate Court sends an investigator to meet with the prospective Ward, to give notice of the impending action and ask if he/she wants legal counsel. The court investigator also prepares

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What?! Now Graduation is Cancelled??

The Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Department of Education have issued a joint statement which basically wipes out the idea of a traditional graduation ceremony for our high school seniors, and college seniors as well.  We feared this might happen, but now it’s real.  I named my children for this moment…their high school graduation when the principal carefully annunciates their full name – first, middle and last—so regal-sounding,  in front of their peers, teachers, administrators, and proud family members who are hooting and hollering (just like all the other families, despite being told to hold all applause!).  Okay, well maybe I didn’t pick their names just for graduation, but I definitely thought about how it would sound as they crossed that stage.  When else do we use their full name other than when we’re yelling at them?!  And now, due to the pandemic, that long awaited moment will not come to fruition.  Instead, we may be attending a virtual graduation or watch a masked, gloved administrator hand them their diploma through the car window like an order at McDonalds (minus the fries).   As the mom of a current high school senior, the graduation cancellation hit hard.  I was particularly looking forward to my son’s graduation because, for the first months of his life when he was in the NICU, I wasn’t sure he would graduate.  And for the first few years of elementary school, when he needed loft strand crutches to walk, I wasn’t sure he’d be able

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Defining a Student’s Legal Rights to Special Ed During COVID-19

This is an unbelievable time. We are embarking on uncharted territory as COVID-19 affects everything from small businesses, to taxes, elections, sporting events, and even the supply and demand of toilet paper. With mandated school closures across Ohio and much of the country, families, administrators, and lawmakers are scrambling to put procedures together and are trying to figure out what this means for our special education students. As with most important social issues, there are strong voices on both sides.

US DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION’S GUIDANCE
The US Department of Education has issued several documents, regarding the applicability of a public school’s obligation to provide a FAPE and deliver IEP/504 Plan services during the pendency of this global crisis. Here are some of the main points:

  • If a school closes and is NOT providing ANY educational services to any of its students (general education or special education), then they are NOT required to provide services to students on IEPs/504 plans. If a student with disabilities doesn’t receive services for “an extended period of time,” the team must determine if compensatory services are appropriate.
  • IEP/504 teams are NOT required to meet in person while schools are closed. 
  • Evaluations that must be done in person should be delayed until school reopens. If the evaluations don’t need to be done in person, they can take place during school closure if the parent consents. 

Click here for USDOE’s fact sheet.

COPAA’s OPPOSITION
The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), a non-profit group whose

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Check Your Voting Location – It May Have Changed!

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose has issued a directive to all county Board of Elections to move voting locations where seniors reside due to COVID-19 concerns.  There are 36 Cuyahoga County voting locations changing as listed on the Board of Elections site.  If the change affects you, you should receive a postcard from the Board of Elections letting you know your new voting location.

Not registered to vote? Click here.

Keep in mind that you must register or update your voter registration no later than 30 days prior to an election. Unfortunately, it’s too late to register for the primary election on March 17th, 2020, but here are the upcoming voter registration deadlines::

  • February 18, 2020 for the March 17, 2020 Primary Election (You’ve missed this deadline)
  • July 6, 2020 for the August 4, 2020 Special Election
  • October 5, 2020 for the November 3, 2020 General Election

Looking for an absentee ballot to vote from the comfort of your own home? Click here.

 

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Using an ETR When Drafting an IEP

In formulating an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for your child with a disability, a good Evaluation Team Report (ETR) is crucial. The ETR drives the IEP, which allows your child to succeed in their educational environment. The following are some tips on how to use that ETR as your guide throughout the IEP process.

Category of Eligibility Isn’t Everything: Sometimes, there is a lengthy discussion with the team as to which category of eligibility will be listed on the ETR to qualify the student for services.  When the team doesn’t agree on the category, parents worry that the “wrong label” will prevent their child from getting the appropriate services.  They assume that the category of disability on the ETR determines what services their child will receive; fortunately, that’s not true.  For example, a student might qualify under specific learning disability but still have identified fine motor needs that can also be addressed in the IEP. There is no cookie-cutter IEP or one set of goals for each category of eligibility.  Each child is unique and therefore has his own unique needs.  The category of eligibility just gets them through the door toward an IEP.  It’s the needs identified in the ETR that are going to drive the IEP, not the category.

Review that ETR:  A good ETR will identify all of the student’s disability-related needs.   Before the IEP meeting, you should go through that ETR with a highlighter marker and highlight all identified areas of need in the

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