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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Can a Student Get Suspended for a Snapchat Post?

Social media is something I did not have to worry about as a kid, but it’s a very different story today. Every silly, embarrassing or inappropriate thing that a kid posts on social media can be instantly shared with hundreds, sometimes thousands or millions, with the tap of a finger. It immediately becomes part of their permanent record that could come back to haunt them when they’re looking to get a job, get accepted into college, and it can get them into trouble at school.

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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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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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