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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Waiver 101

If you’re in the disability-world, you’ve probably heard rumblings about waivers or the new waiver waiting list.  But what exactly is a waiver and how could a waiver help your family?  Here’s a quick overview.

Waivers are administered through the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD) and county Boards of Developmental Disabilities. In order to be eligible, you must have a developmental disability and be eligible for Medicaid.  Waiver rules on financial eligibility are different in that a parent’s assets and income are NOT counted as income/assets of their children.  Therefore, as long as there are no assets in the child’s name, the child can qualify for a waiver even if their parents are wealthy.

Your county DD Board will conduct a needs assessment in order to determine whether you qualify for one of the three waivers they offer.   The DD Board will determine if you have no need for a waiver, an immediate need (where there’s a risk of substantial harm if action is not taken within 30 days), or a current need (meaning you’ll need it within the next 12 months).  Even still, there is no “entitlement” to a DD Waiver because the number of waivers available is limited by funding availability.  The DD Boards’ goal is to give the waivers to those who need them most.  You can only get one waiver at a time and they have varying levels of support.  The different types of waivers available are:

I/O Waivers (Individual Options Waiver) pay service providers

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Care Advocacy Services: A Case Study

Donald and Shirley engaged Hickman & Lowder to draft their estate plan with special needs considerations in the early 1990s.  At that time, their daughter, Angela, who has a developmental disability, was living with them and receiving minimal benefits from the government.  Donald and Shirley put a trust in place to provide for Angela after they both were gone.  When they put the trust in place, they wanted their estate to be divided equally between their three children, with Angela’s share to be held in a third-party discretionary trust.  They named Angela’s older brother, Kurt, as the Trustee and they designated Angela’s sister, Katy, as her “beneficiary advocate,” which is someone who is designated to look out for Angela and her personal needs.  After Donald and Shirley signed their trust, life moved on for the family.  Angela qualified for SSI and Medicaid, grew up, and eventually moved out on her own into an apartment, where Donald and Shirley provided her with all the support and help she needed.  About the same time, Angela qualified for a Medicaid Waiver, which provides aides and services administered in her own apartment.  Kurt moved to Chicago, where he is an accountant, and Katy got a job as a teacher in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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Going through a Divorce? Have a Child with Special Needs? Watch Out!

Determining whether or not you or a loved one is entitled to Social Security Income (SSI) can be tricky. SSI is a needs-based program that looks at income and assets to determine eligibility. In fact, income reduces or eliminates SSI payments. One way to ensure our clients keep their SSI is by using an assignment to a Medicaid payback Special Needs Trust. We often do this with child and/or spousal support. However, there can be traps and pitfalls with this approach.

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Our Girls

Girls who struggle with mental health issues, including but not limited to: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, conduct disorders, and panic disorders, are being stigmatized even further in the educational system.  They are not qualifying for the specially designed instruction they not only need, but deserve and have a right to receive at their schools.  These girls are able to lean-in, show up, or simply make it through the day and a more clearly defined system of who qualifies for specially designed instruction will help girls, in the long run, both academically and mentally.

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Certain gifts not subject to Medicaid five-year rule

Certain Gifts Not Penalized for Medicaid Eligibility

It’s almost common knowledge that Medicaid imposes a “five-year lookback” to identify gifts made by a Medicaid applicant.  In most circumstances, if an individual who is applying for Medicaid has given away their assets within the last five years, Medicaid will penalize that individual, even if they are currently out of funds, by not paying the nursing home for a period of months determined by the size of the gift.  (Generally speaking, for every $6,570 given away, Medicaid will impose a one-month penalty.)

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Oregon Class Action Lawsuit Defends Right to Full Day of School for Children with Disabilities

Oregon Class Action Lawsuit Defends Right to Full Day of School for Children with Disabilities

Quite a few of my clients have come to me for help when their child’s school day is made shorter than their typical peers.  Sometimes, it is a matter of a bussing situation where the kids in special ed are on a bus that leaves 10 or 20 minutes before their typical peers.  Other times, schools are sending their kids home, day after day, because they can’t control the child’s behaviors.  Parents want to know, can the school do that??

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