Golden doodle service dog

Update: School Refuses to Allow Service Dog

Remember the little girl with cerebral palsy that wasn’t allowed to bring her guide dog to school in Michigan? The family sued the school district and the case was thrown out because the family didn’t first try to resolve the matter administratively by filing due process under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) laws. The family argued that it was not an IDEA claim, it was an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) claim, so they should be able to go straight to court.

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Golden doodle service dog

School Refuses to Allow Service Dog: US Supreme Court Takes the Case

The US Supreme Court has decided to hear a case about a school that refused to allow a service dog to accompany a 12-year-old girl with cerebral palsy to school.  Wonder, a goldendoodle, found a home with Ehlena Fry when the girl was just five years old and is trained to help Ehlena by picking things up for her when she drops them, turning on lights, opening and closing doors, and other helpful tasks. To the family’s dismay, the Michigan school district would not allow Wonder into the building at all, initially.  When it did allow a “trial” basis, Wonder was forced to stay on the other side of the classroom and the district would not let Wonder stay with Ehlena for recess or lunch.

The family filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), and OCR found in their favor, compelling the district to allow Ehlena to bring her service dog to school.  However, the struggle had been going on for three years and, by that time, the relationship between the school and the family was too damaged.  Ultimately, Ehlena’s parents felt compelled to move her to another school district which welcomed Wonder to the classroom, thereby allowing Ehlena to again interact with her peers.

Meanwhile, the family sued the the district claiming that the school violated Ehlena’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act by denying her equal access to school programs for several years.  However, both the US District Court and the US Court of

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Two thumbs up for adaptive clothing for special needs kids

Cool Adaptive Clothing for Kids

Anyone who buys clothes for someone with special needs knows how difficult it is to find fashionable clothes that work.  The good news is that another big retailer, Tommy Hilfiger, has introduced a line of apparel that is made specifically for those with special needs! Their adaptive clothing line is just as fashionable as the rest of their clothes, except it has Velcro/magnetic closures and adaptable pant lengths. Very exciting! Nike recently came out with an adapted “cool” looking shoe too: The LeBron Soldier 8 Flyease opens up wide to accommodate braces, making it easier for those with fine motor challenges to put on their own shoes.  That’s what I call moving in the right direction!

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Special needs students in the classroom

When Is Modified Curriculum Appropriate and How Modified Should It Be?

Is your child’s IQ is well below average? Does your child’s IEP exempt your child from standardized tests or note that she should take modified assessments? Is she “pulled out” into a resource room for any academic subject, such as Math or Language Arts? Is it clear from her homework that she is unable to learn at the same depth or speed as her typical peers? If your answer to any of these questions is “Yes,” then ask the IEP Team if your child should be receiving a modified curriculum, and then ask them to identify what grade level curriculum she should be receiving.

What is a Modified Curriculum?
A modified curriculum is changing what the student is expected to learn, not the manner in which it is presented. For example, if the typical peers in 3rd grade are learning double digit multiplication, perhaps a modification for this child would be to teach (and hold her responsible for learning) only single digit modification. Modifications can be slight and they can be large– it’s all what the team decides is appropriate to meet YOUR child’s needs.

Modifying the curriculum is different from modifying the manner of presentation. The latter would be more of an accommodation. For example, if a student has difficulty concentrating for long periods or difficulty with writing, the team may decide that she should have shortened assignments, i.e. giving her only three math problems instead of 10. She is still learning the same thing, double digit multiplication, but

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Sonja’s Suggestions: Dancing

Greetings!  Warmer weather has finally arrived and folks in our reception area are feeling a bounce in their step.  So let’s celebrate the season that is providing us with some exuberant energy by dancing!  Yes, dancing.  It’s a good form of exercise, a lot of fun, and a great way to go out and socialize with your friends and family.  This winter kept many people cooped up in their homes, so this will be the perfect way to get out and shake the winter blues away.

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OH Seal 2

Accessing ABA Services Under Health Care Reform

The Affordable Care Act, as implemented in Ohio, requires covered health plans to pay for up to 20 hours per week of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) or other comparable evidentiary based services. This is an extraordinary advance for families with children with autism. While the implications and implementation of this directive are not fully realized at this point, the following provides some guidance based on information available to date.

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Universal Design: A Guide to Becoming Master of the Universe!

Okay, okay … maybe not the entire universe, or multiverse if you belong to that school of physics (no discrimination intended here), but you can be master of the most important part of the universe, your home. We all know that home is where your heart is, but what if your home is set up to make your life more difficult?

Close your eyes and imagine this: You are an adult of average height (whatever that means these days) with no physical disabilities. You walk into your home to find that your light switches have been moved out of reach. Your kitchen cabinets, microwave, pantry and all of your closet rods and shelves have been set so high on the wall you can barely access the items you store in them without asking for assistance. The door knobs are difficult to grasp and turn. The mechanisms to open your windows are even worse than the door knobs. Your windows are set so high you hardly see out over the sill. Your faucets are placed so far back from the front of the countertop that you struggle to lean over to turn them on. You find most things in a position that make them either difficult to access or just plain awkward and uncomfortable to navigate.

Does this sound like a home you would want to live in? I didn’t think so.

What most people without disabilities do not realize is that this scenario is not fictional for many individuals with

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The Face of the Future?

When I was a young girl and people asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I would respond, “The President of the United States.” I (mistakenly) thought I had what it takes to change the world…or maybe not.

A title so grand, a job so big, meant to me that I could feel ‘important’ and ‘in charge.’ I thought that, only by being in a position to change ‘everything,’ would I have the ability to make a difference.

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Sensory-Friendly Films

theater_chairsLet’s go to the movies! Participating AMC Theatres offer movie screenings especially for individuals with autism.  The theatres have their lights up, sound turned down, and audience members are not required to watch the movie silently or stay in their seats.  The sensory-friendly films are offered at participating theatres once a month, usually at 10:00 AM on a Saturday.  AMC also offers amenities for hearing and vision-impaired theatregoers.  Please visit or call 1-800-AMC-4FUN for more information and for specific theatres and show times near you.

– Posted by Amanda Buzo

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Mediation Services

handshakeAfter spending two days of advanced mediation training in San Diego last week, I was reminded once again of the importance of looking for alternative ways of resolving legal disputes.  Mediation allows a trained and impartial individual to assist the parties to identify key issues, review alternatives and search for workable solutions.  The process can save tens of thousands of dollars and countless hours of emotional strain.  The experience of the mediator provides perspective, a sounding board and the hope of finding common ground when emotions are clouding good judgment.

Hickman & Lowder is developing a mediation practice for all types of disputes, especially disputes in probate court.  Our firm has an extensive probate practice, which includes representing families embroiled in guardianship contests, arguments over wills and other intensely emotional conflicts.   Through mediation, we are able to assist people who wish to avoid complex, expensive and damaging court proceedings.  Hickman & Lowder is currently on the Probate Court referral lists in Cuyahoga and Lorain Counties.

– Posted by Frank Hickman

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Labor Omnia Vincit. (Virgil – Latin for “Hard Work Conquers All”)

When I was last between jobs, back when we were between decades (heck, between millennia!) in 2000, I remember people asking me, “What’s the hurry? Why don’t you take a break? Forget the paycheck issue. Forget the health insurance issue.”

All I know, all I’ve ever known, is that there are a lot of people who need help, the kind of help I know how to give, and time’s a-wastin’.

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