Ask An Attorney: How can I help my child with special needs thrive?

Question
I am a new mom of a son with Down syndrome.  Our pediatrician’s office gave me some information about resources available to our family and I have become involved with our local Down Syndrome Association chapter.  I met some other parents who have shared some suggestions, but I want to make sure I do everything possible to allow my son to thrive.  What should I be considering as he grows up?

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The Family Story Process

Before Sharing Your Concerns with the School District, Create a Non-Emotional Timeline

Different family members have different versions of the same story. Grandma may tell a
very different tale from Mom or Dad. My job is to listen for the underlying thread, and pinpoint
the base of the concern, helping them to see things through each other’s perspective. Then, I give
families the assignment of going home and creating a Non-Emotional Timeline.

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How To Use Funds From a Special Needs Trust

Special Needs Trusts are in place to protect the benefits of an adult or child with special needs and are exempt from Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). A properly drafted special needs trust gives (you) the trustee, or someone you appoint, the sole discretion to use the funds for the benefit of your family member. A question I get asked often is what can I use the funds for, and are there any limitations?

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Show Me the Money! – Ohio’s Autism Scholarship Amount has Increased

Ohio’s new budget, signed by Governor DeWine this summer, includes a long-overdue increase in the Autism Scholarship amount. Currently a qualifying student can access $27,000 in scholarship dollars under the Autism Scholarship, but that amount will climb to $31,500 in October and $32,455 in 2022. It is not a huge jump, but every dollar helps.

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COVID Guidance for the 2021-2022 School Year

The Ohio Department of Health just revised its COVID Guidance for the 2021-22 School Year. Here are some of the big-ticket items stemming from this 13-page document:

  • Vaccinations for staff and students are “strongly recommended” and should be encouraged
  • Masks (indoors) for unvaccinated staff and students are “strongly recommended”
  • Masks on buses are required for everyone, regardless of vaccination status (this per CDC)
  • Continued social distancing (3 feet is ok now), hand washing, sanitizing and increased ventilation is still recommended
  • Limiting non-essential visitors is recommended
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Organizing and Planning in the Summer

It’s summer – finally!  The stress of driving the kids to school, preparing their lunches, helping them with homework, and getting them out of bed in the morning is behind you, at least for this year.  Summer is a great time to get organized, analyze your child’s progress and develop a plan for the upcoming school year.

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Advocating for your Child in the School System

Special Education Advocate Mary Jo O’Neill wrote a feature article in the April issue of Autism Advocate Parenting Magazine: Advocating for your Child in the School System, where she provides advice on how to create an effective Individualized Education Program (IEP), how to form positive working relationships with your child’s educators and how to advocate for a successful school year for your child.  “You know your children best.  You know their strengths, their weaknesses and their capabilities. Although the school system can be difficult to navigate, it’s imperative for parents to advocate for their children, because they deserve a program that can give them the opportunity to thrive in education.”

Link to the full article: Advocating for your child in the School System 

 

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Preparing for College for a Student with a Disability

Graduation season is nearly upon us as high school seniors across the state are making plans for their next adventure. If you have a disability and choose to go on to college, there are additional steps required, both in choosing the right university and in seeing that your needs are met.

I’m talking to you, the student, not your parent. You’re likely 18 now and a legal adult, so it’s your turn to take the lead and pave the way to the future you’ve dreamed of. The college will be communicating directly with you, not your parents, from now on. If you want your parents involved, you’ll need to forward them all the information along the way. That may be a big change for you because, up until now, your parents had the power to make decisions about your education and the school had a legal obligation to see that your needs were met (follow your IEP or 504, ensure that you made progress, etc.) College is different – you must ask for what you need, and provide proof, before they’re required to provide it.

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