Tag Archives: Special Education Advocacy

Special Parents Confidential 51 Michigan Alliance For Families

Michigan Alliance For Families.

Find out how the Michigan Alliance For Families, and other similar organizations around the United States can help you negotiate special education services for free.

What Is The Michigan Alliance For Families?

Trying to get help with the special education process can be very difficult, and potentially expensive. There are dozens of advocacy service businesses and legal firms that specialize in handling IEPS for families. There are hundreds of books you can buy. Seminars you can attend. Personal counseling services. The list goes on.

But did you know that some of the best help for negotiating special education services is available for free from your own State government? Every State in America has what’s known as Parent Information and Training Centers that offer help in everything from early intervention, to writing an IEP, to legal support, transitioning issues, and beyond.

Free Is A Nice Price.

Here in Michigan, the Parent Center is called the Michigan Alliance For Families. They offer parent-mentors… these are parents of special needs children… who have been trained to coach other parents to work with schools and get the help that their children need.

Our guest for this episode is Kelly Orginski, who is the executive director of the Michigan Alliance For Families. She explains how the Michigan Alliance came together, how the parent-mentors are trained and work with families, and how they can help. She also talks about what parents can do to help themselves with the negotiations, and where to find help from similar organizations in other States.

Links Mentioned In This Podcast

Michigan Alliance For Families 

Center For Parent Information and Resources – National parent information center site.

Find Your Parent Center – Directory from the Parent Information and Resources website that links to all State Parent Information Centers.

Reminder

Please share Special Parents Confidential with everyone you know to help us continue these podcasts. Use the social media buttons right here on our website.

Thanks for your support!

Revisiting Special Parents Confidential Episode 06 Special Education Advocacy

Revisiting Special Parents Confidential Episode 06 Special Education Advocacy.

It’s IEP Season and we’re revisiting older episodes that offered information to help with the IEP process. Today we’re Revisiting Special Parents Confidential 06 Special Education Advocacy. Learn about the role of the Special Education Advocate and how they help parents negotiate the Individualized Education Plan, as well as the 504 Special Education Plan, and what the difference is between these two options.

Special Education Advocacy.

As parents of special needs children we hope that our kids will have every opportunity to get a good education, and get assistance when they need it in school. Special Education has changed over the past couple of decades. Special needs children are spending more time in mainstream classrooms and spending only limited time out of the class with their special education teachers for whatever assistance they need.

But what exactly is Special Education? We know that our kids are supposed to get help. Where can we get good advice or assistance when facing the task of getting the educational help for our special needs children? Do we have to see a lawyer? Can we just expect the school to handle it properly? What are the standards? What’s an “IEP” (Individual Education Program), what’s a “504”, and what kind of educational help can we even reasonably expect our children to have in the first place?

Our guest on this episode of Special Parents Confidential can answer a lot of those questions. Kathy Holkeboer is a Special Education Advocate in West Michigan. Advocates for Special Education work with families on understanding what kinds of educational assistance their special needs children are entitled to have, based on need.  They can even go with the parents to meet with school officials to put the special education plan in place for each school year.

Links To Websites Mentioned In This Podcast

Pacer Center The National Parent Training and Information Center for children with disabilities. They offer publications, workshops, and other resources to help parents make decisions about education, vocational training, employment, and other services for children with special needs.

Parent Technical Assistance Center Network Directory of regional (State by State) special education advocacy centers for parents of special needs children.

Michigan Alliance for Families Special Education Advocacy for families in Michigan. Note: for non- Michigan residents, you can search similar websites for your state in the PTAC directory.

Wright’s Law Special Education Law and Advocacy, created by two lawyers, Peter and Pam Wright (husband and wife), providing legal assistance and information for parents of special needs children.

Contact Information for Kathy Holkeboer – (note: Kathy is a special education advocate in the State of Michigan, and works primarily in the West Michigan region. Residents of other States or regions in Michigan should consult the PTAC directory for Special Ed Advocates in their area). Holkeboer Advocacy -Facebook page.

Revisiting Special Parents Confidential Episode 17 When Schools Say ‘No’.

Revisiting Episode 17 When Schools Say ‘No’.

It’s IEP Season and we’re revisiting past episodes on the Individualized Education Plan. Find out what you can do when schools say ‘no’.

Special Parents Confidential Episode 17 When Schools Say ‘No’.

In 1990 Congress passed IDEA, or Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which entitles each student with a disability to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to meet his or her unique needs. Originally titled Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (EAHCA), it was based on Congress’ finding that the millions of children with disabilities had educational needs which were not being met due to a lack of services and inappropriate public school placement. IDEA set down guidelines for how schools and states were to implement special education procedures.

Unfortunately, there is a wide disparity across states as to how those guidelines should be implemented, or even interpreted. Similarly, school districts can even have differing standards for services they offer in special education. Simply put, IDEA allowed States and schools a lot of leeway in special education implementation, based on numerous issues including need, population, local economic factors, and other considerations.

The problem for parents is, this leeway in the implementation of procedures can sometimes allow States and school districts to restrict or even deny extra help for students who don’t fit the exact definition of a particular disability or learning disorder. School Districts and States are also cutting certain aspects of special education support from Education budgets as cost-saving measures. While districts and States aren’t outright eliminating Special Education, they do cut budgets for support programs, assistant teachers or para-pros who help in the classrooms, and other accommodations. The result is many parents are finding out that their children will perhaps get minimal help (the least allowed under regulations), but more often than not they hear the word ‘no’ when asking for additional help or support for their child.

So what can you do when your school or State says ‘no’?

Our guest in this episode has some answers. Suzanne Wilcox is the co-owner of Hope Educational Consulting, LLC a special education advocacy service based in Ohio and Michigan. She is also the mother of four children, two of whom needed special education support in school.  She explains how IDEA works, and how schools and states interpret those regulations. She also explains how ‘best practices’ can sometimes be overlooked due to budgeting, or availability issues.

During the time when she and her family lived in Ohio, she and her partners were instrumental in creating and passing legislation that allowed Ohio to become one of the first States in the country to recognize Dyslexia as a learning disability, and implemented official regulations on the kinds of therapies schools must offer to help students with Dyslexia. She has worked with parents, teachers, school districts, and legislators on numerous issues with special education.

Suzanne offers some great advice and information that all parents of special needs children need to know.  Please feel free to share this episode with everyone you know who has a child with special needs or works with children who have special needs.

* Note: first paragraph attribution to Wikipedia article on IDEA, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. For more information on IDEA, visit http://idea.ed.gov

Revisiting Episode 21 Special Parents Confidential IEP And The Law

Revisiting Episode 21 Special Parents Confidential IEP And The Law.

It’s IEP Season and we are Revisiting Episode 21 Special Parents Confidential IEPS And The Law.

Individualized Education Plans. IEPs for short. Possibly one of the most stressful times for parents of special needs children. IEP meetings are those annual events when parents meet with schools to plan out the kinds of help and services their special needs children are going to receive for the next school year.

IEP meetings are very long, sometimes taking two hours or more, and usually filled with terminology that can sometimes be overwhelming. Parents are expected to understand a huge amount of information and make decisions on what kind of educational support their child will receive in the next grade year. The problem is for many of us, we don’t even know how our kids are going to do from week to week, much less three or four months later, after the entire summer break.

Typically the schools bring in the teacher, the special education teacher, any school therapists, the school social worker, and the Principal or Vice Principal of the school. Sometimes the school or district psychologist will attend, sometimes the district’s Director of Special Education will also attend. There can be as many as ten to fifteen people representing the school in these meetings. It is very easy for parents to feel ‘ganged up on’ or intimidated, especially when there is often only one or two parents in the room.

This is where Attorney Advocates can help. Lawyers who work in special education advocacy and mediation are trained in all areas of special education law. They can be the parent’s voice in the room and they know exactly what the laws are in what the school should be doing for your child and whether your concerns are being addressed.

Our guest on this episode of Special Parents Confidential is Attorney Randi Rothberg who’s firm, Thivierge & Rothberg is a Special Education Law Firm based in New York City. She and her partner, Christina Thivierge focus exclusively on representing families of children with special needs, including attending IEP meetings, mediation, Due Process, and, when necessary, litigation in the State and/or Federal Courts. She talks about some of the problems that can arise when parents face an IEP meeting, how to prepare for those meetings, what to watch out for when you’re faced with things you don’t agree with in an IEP, and how to look for an advocate in your area. Randi also does advocacy work for issues of bullying in schools and discusses addressing those situations.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER:

Some of the legal issues Randi discusses are general, however some points, such as the “Parent Member in IEP meetings” are specific to New York State and may not apply in your State, or Country. Please consult a Special Education and Disability Law Attorney or Special Education Advocate in your area for complete information on your State laws and your rights.

Here are the links mentioned in the podcast:

Thivierge & Rothberg PC – Representing children and adolescents with disabilities in New York & New Jersey

COPPA – Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates

Wrights Law – Special Education Law and Advocacy

Special Parents Confidential 43 Special Education Rights

Special Education Rights.

For many parents of special needs kids, special education rights continue to be the main cause of concern and worry. Are our kids being given the right accommodations in school? Are the schools being held accountable for special education services, and who is supposed to be checking to see if they are? 

Further, with a push in this country to seriously consider doing away with public schools and instead moving into privatizing the public education system into a for-profit model, where does this leave special education and what rights will parents of special needs kids have if it happens?

What Are Your Education Rights?

Back in October of 2016, I attended a rally for Special Education that was held in Lansing, Michigan. Among the speakers at the rally was our guest for this episode, Kristen Totten. She is an education attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ACLUMich). Kristen spoke at the rally about the special education rights that the ACLU is working on to help our kids. I asked her to be a guest on the podcast and she agreed.

For this episode we talked about the current state of special education rights in Michigan and across the United States, how some states, like Michigan, allow Charter Schools to reject special education students even though they are required to accept them, and what parents can do to get involved to make sure the education rights of their children are being met.

Update: A Major Victory.

One of the issues we addressed in the podcast is the work that the ACLU of Michigan has done along with Lt. Governor Brian Calley in eliminating the use of restraints and isolation on children in schools. And I’m pleased to be able to say that within 24 hours of our interview being recorded, the Michigan State Senate passed the bill that ends the use of those in all schools.

Links Mentioned In The Podcast.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan

ACLU Michigan: Ehlena and Wonder’s Supreme Court Case

What’s Up With Lead Levels in Flint (Michigan) Schools?

ACLU Local Affiliates Directory Connect with your State’s chapter of the ACLU.

Remember to share Special Parents Confidential with everyone you know. Simply use the social media buttons below this post.

Also be sure to sign up for our email list. We have news and articles coming up next year that won’t always get mentioned in the podcast episodes, but if you are on our email list, you’ll get that information delivered right to your inbox (along with each new episode when it’s posted online). 

 

 

Special Parents Confidential Episode 33 Lt. Governor Brian Calley Returns

Lt. Governor Brian Calley Returns.

What a difference a year can make. In December of 2014, the Michigan Joint Committee on Administrative Rules was going to approve some changes to the Michigan Administrative Rules for Special Education (MARSE) that would have severely impacted parent participation in their children’s education. However, during the only Public Comment time the committee allowed, Michigan’s Lieutenant. Governor, Brian Calley asked the committee to suspend the meeting and take no further action, because he felt that there had not been an adequate amount of time to allow parents to have input into the rules changes.

What followed next, in 2015, was an unprecedented listening tour undertaken by the Lieutenant Governor. He traveled around the State, holding public meetings where he listened to parents of special needs children talk about their concerns. These meetings were up to two hours in length, during which the Lt. Governor said very little and allowed every parent who attended to speak.

I was privileged to attend the meeting the Lieutenant Governor held in Grand Rapids, and had a chance to ask him if he would be a guest on Special Parents Confidential to talk about his efforts. That interview took place in June and you can listen to it here – Special Parents Confidential Episode 24.

In November of 2015, Lt. Governor Calley completed his listening tour and compiled a report summarizing the key points from parents for Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, who then appointed Lt. Governor Calley to head a Special Education Reform Task Force, which would take the Lt. Governor’s report and make a recommendations strategy for the State Board of Education. That report was presented to the Board of Education in January of 2016.

We are very pleased that Lt. Governor Brian Calley has taken time from his schedule to talk to us on Special Parents Confidential about the Special Education Reforms that the Task Force has recommended, and what Michigan families can do to help. Lt. Governor Calley also talks about a new project that he and Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein (who I interviewed in August of 2015 – Special Parents Confidential Episode 30) are working on together, called the Hidden Talent Tour.

As always a reminder that if you like this episode of Special Parents Confidential or any episode we’ve done, please share our site with your friends, family, and all your connections on social media. You can do this easily with the social media buttons located right below this paragraph. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, add us on Google Plus, Tumbler, Linked In, Pintrest, Stumble Upon, Reddit, or other social media sites that you use. You can also sign up for our email service and have new posts and podcast episodes delivered right to your inbox the moment they’re available online. That form is located to the right of this text. We’re also on iTunes, Stitcher, and Poddirectory as a free subscription and if you have a moment, feel free to write a review about our podcast on either of those sites. Anything you can do to help spread the word about Special Parents Confidential will help us be able to continue these podcasts.
Thanks for your support!

Links mentioned in the podcast:

Michigan Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley’s Website

Summary of the Special Education Reform Task Force Recommendations

Full Report of the Special Education Task Force (.pdf form)

Information on the members of the Special Education Task Force

Information on the Michigan Hidden Talent Tour 

Michigan Senate Website – including the Find Your Senator link

Michigan House Website – including the Find Your Representative link

 

Special Parents Confidential 06 Special Education Advocacy

Special Education Advocacy.

As parents of special needs children we hope that our kids will have every opportunity to get a good education, and get assistance when they need it in school. Special Education has changed over the past couple of decades. Special needs children are spending more time in mainstream classrooms and spending only limited time out of the class with their special education teachers for whatever assistance they need.

But what exactly is Special Education? We know that our kids are supposed to get help. Where can we get good advice or assistance when facing the task of getting the educational help for our special needs children? Do we have to see a lawyer? Can we just expect the school to handle it properly? What are the standards? What’s an “IEP” (Individual Education Program), what’s a “504”, and what kind of educational help can we even reasonably expect our children to have in the first place?

Our guest on this episode of Special Parents Confidential can answer a lot of those questions. Kathy Holkeboer is a Special Education Advocate in West Michigan. Advocates for Special Education work with families on understanding what kinds of educational assistance their special needs children are entitled to have, based on need.  They can even go with the parents to meet with school officials to put the special education plan in place for each school year.

Links To Websites Mentioned In This Podcast

Pacer Center The National Parent Training and Information Center for children with disabilities. They offer publications, workshops, and other resources to help parents make decisions about education, vocational training, employment, and other services for children with special needs.

Parent Technical Assistance Center Network Directory of regional (State by State) special education advocacy centers for parents of special needs children.

Michigan Alliance for Families Special Education Advocacy for families in Michigan. Note: for non- Michigan residents, you can search similar websites for your state in the PTAC directory.

Wright’s Law Special Education Law and Advocacy, created by two lawyers, Peter and Pam Wright (husband and wife), providing legal assistance and information for parents of special needs children.

Contact Information for Kathy Holkeboer – (note: Kathy is a special education advocate in the State of Michigan, and works primarily in the West Michigan region. Residents of other States or regions in Michigan should consult the PTAC directory for Special Ed Advocates in their area). Holkeboer Advocacy -Facebook page.  Kathy’s phone #: (616) 218-2395.