The Dark Horse

I saw this movie last night.  It was so great and inspiring, and based on true facts. THE DARK HORSE is based on the true story of Genesis ‘Gen’ Potini (Cliff Curtis), a Maori speed-chess champion seeking redemption and a new purpose in life despite his struggles with bipolar disorder.

It’s raw and real and worth the price of a ticket. Here in Los Angeles it’s playing at the Laemle’s Royal Theater in West Los Angeles.  Unfortunately, you won’t have to fight the lines.  It’s not as crowded as it should be.  There are no special effects just real human interest.


Shifting Focus

The shifting focus of ADD reminds me of the shifting sands on the beach—in constant motion. At last year’s ADDA conference, John Ratey, M.D. said the inability of people with ADD to maintain focus is a key factor in their not improving, even after getting medicine. At least that is what I thought he said!
For me the concept of not being able to stick with something long enough really struck home. I think we sometimes shift focus because we have lost interest in what we are doing, and our focus gets attracted to something more interesting. However, other times, I think we are interested and committed to what we are doing—get called away to do something else—and then just forget to return to what we were earlier so focused on and committed to.
This problem of forgetting and losing focus comes graphically to mind when I recall setting up a behavioral medication program for two of my children. This was years ago. We were in family therapy, trying to improve the behavior of our two, undiagnosed, children with ADHD who had a mother (me) with undiagnosed ADD. Under the therapist’s guidance, I had established a wonderful behavior modification program that worked wonderfully for the first three weeks. When we returned to the therapist on the fourth week, he asked how the program was going. At first, I didn’t know what he was taking about!—and then I recalled the program. I had no idea why we weren’t doing it any more. One day I woke up and forgot the program—and then I forgot it forever after.
I have heard it said that it takes 30 days of practice to acquire a new behavior—and that for those with ADD—it can take 60! What can you do to maintain your focus on acquiring the new habits and behaviors you wish to have? I suggest that before trying to acquire a new habit, you first figure out how you are going to stay focused on the habit for the next 60 days.
Best wishes—and here’s to your success.
~~~~Cynthia Hammer, MSW, Director, ADD Resources


ADD & ADHD in Children

ADD & ADHD in Children and how to Recognize the Signs and Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of ADD / ADHD

It’s normal for your child to occasionally forget their school work, daydream during math class, act silly without thinking, or get fidgety at the a restaurant. But inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity are also the warning signs or symptoms of ADD or ADHD.

ADD / ADHD can lead to difficulties at home and school, and may affect your child’s ability to learn and socialize properly with others. So it’s important to know what the signs and symptoms are and get help if you recognize them in your family.

For help with services for a child with ADD or ADHD please contact our Special Education Law Firm

Call 888-433-2232 now for help!

We all know children who have difficulties sitting still, who rarely seem to listen, who don’t easily follow instructions no matter how clearly you present them, and whom blurt out inappropriate words at inappropriate times. Sometimes these kids are labeled as troublemakers, or criticized for being lazy and undisciplined. However, it is possible they may have ADHD.

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a disorder that sometimes appears in early childhood. Also known as attention deficit disorder, or ADD. ADD / ADHD makes it difficult for people to inhibit or control their spontaneous responses – everything from movement to speech and attentiveness. The signs and symptoms of ADD / ADHD often appear before the age of 7. However, it can be difficult to distinguish between ADHD and normal children’s behavior. If you spot just a few signs, or the symptoms appear infrequently, it’s probably not ADD / ADHD. On the other hand, if your child shows a number of disruptive ADD / ADHD signs and symptoms that are present across all the time take a closer look.
Our goal is not only to provide parents with representation, but also to empower parents, and ultimately the child, to become better advocates themselves.

A2Z Southern California Special Education Attorney – we now have cases searchable by disability including ADHD


Recent ADD Cases

Return to main Cases page and search again.

Autism Society America

N. Jane DuBovy
A2Z Educational Advocates
16712 Marquez Avenue,
Pacific Palisades CA 90272

Dear Jane,

Thank you so much for bringing your Parent Advocate Liaison Training to our 2nd Annual Back-to-School Conference on Saturday, October 15th. Your presentation was a cornerstone of vital information that will help both families and professionals collaboratively develop thoughtful, appropriate and effective IEP’s. We truly appreciate the support you’ve shown ASASB.

The Autism Society of America works tirelessly to serve individuals with autism and the family members who support them, as well as professional caregivers, researchers, policy makers, government regulators and educators, who are all participants in the world of autism. Your contribution will be used to advance this work.

Again, thank you for your strong commitment to bettering the lives of those living with autism. It is only through your generosity that we can continue being the voice and resource of the autism community in Santa Barbara County.

Warm regards,


Marcia J. Eichelberger

Patti Gaultney

The Autism Society of America, Santa Barbara Chapter is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization (33-0599454). Unless otherwise noted, no goods or services were provided to you in return for your contribution. This letter is your receipt and should be kept with your tax records.

New Roads Autism

Innovative High School Education for the Autism Spectrum
In September 2004, New Roads School opened its doors to the Spectrum Program, an innovative high school program for students with social-cognitive learning disabilities such as high-functioning autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, NLD, and the like.

Our program takes a fresh approach by reordering traditional academic expectations to give priority to the true needs of our students in the areas of social, communication, and life skills. To this end, and with the cooperation and collaboration of renowned professionals from the community, from UCLA and from Yale, we are developing and implementing a unique curriculum, aimed not just at teaching our students a set of isolated “skills” but rather focused on improving the coherence of their thinking, their understanding of others and the world around them.
The Program
To the extent of their individual abilities and desires, our students participate in the mornings, in a fully inclusive manner, in the regular academic program offered at New Roads. They are supported in these endeavors by our two fulltime, highly trained Spectrum Program teachers who provide academic assistance, help with organization, and additional interface with other New Roads faculty. Every afternoon, during the time allotted for electives at New Roads, our students are immersed in our unique narrative-based curriculum designed to help them improve the coherence and fluidity of their thinking and behavior.
Our narrative curriculum relies on some “traditional” reading and writing, but more often employs non-traditional modalities such as drama, film, community outings, etc. to encourage the students to attend to verbal and nonverbal signals, nuances of setting, context, plot, and character; in effect, the “storyline” of day-to-day life. We film the students ourselves, on a daily basis, both as part of their own activities and also as a means of monitoring the effectiveness of our interventions and measuring student progress over time. In this we are assisted by graduate students at UCLA who are “coding” our video footage in an attempt to gather valid, objective data.
Board of Advisors
David Bryan, MS, JD, Ph.D. (New Roads, Head of School), Paul Cummins, Ph.D. (New Visions Foundation), Stanley Greenspan, M.D. (George Washington University), Lorie Humphrey, Ph.D. (Private Practice), Martha Jura, Ph.D. (University of California Los Angeles), Connie Kasari, Ph.D. (University of California Los Angeles), Ami Klin, Ph.D. (Yale University), James McCracken, M.D. (University of California Los Angeles), Daniel Siegel, M.D., (University of California Los Angeles), Jeff Wood, Ph.D. (University of California Los Angeles)

information, please contact:
Nancy London
Program Coordinator310-828-5582 (Tel. 1)
310-828-6561 (Tel. 2)

Cure Autism Now

Subject: Cure Autism Now – Kids Drawings Needed

Hi Everyone,

Natalie Hamilton in our Orange County Chapter has found a gift bag manufacturer that has offered to develop a line of bags featuring art from children with autism and donate a portion of the sales to CAN.   So I am writing you to ask that you give us drawings that your kids are making this holiday season.

What we needs are pictures drawn on 8 1/2″  X 11″ pieces of paper.  It doesn’t matter if the drawing fills the page or not, but must be colored. They may use crayons, markers or paint.   At the bottom of the page, have the children write their name and age (for example Joel, 8).  Jean Marie Creations, which makes high end gift bags will transform your children’s drawing into gift bags.

Primarily, we are looking to develop a line of bags for next Christmas, so have your kids draw what ever comes to mind – snowmen, Santa Claus,  reindeer, Christmas trees, nature scenes, stockings.   But Jean Marie is also interested in developing a line of Everyday bags, so if you have good drawings of flowers or families, or pets, or whatever, send those as well.

I like the potential for these bags to show people the talents that our kids have.  It also gives your friends and family a chance to show their support by using bags with art from autistic kids.

Please mail your drawings to:

Natalie Hamilton
15927 Overton St.
Fountain Valley, CA 92708

The art transfers better if you do not fold the drawings.  So please send your drawings unfolded in a 8 1/2″  X 11″ envelope.  We need them as soon as possible.

Thank you,

Elizabeth Kilpatrick

Autism Poem


I smell

Burlap, sweet and dusty, like old hay;

Sandalwood, jasmine, and cedar

Burning as harsh incense;

Pink rose petal candles;

Musk perfume of the person next to me;

Lotion on my hands.


If I just sit here quietly…If I hold my

body tense…

If I don’t move or talk…


I see

Hundreds of papers covering the walls,

Flyers announcing projects and events,

Pictures, assignments,

A large paper Easter Bunny;

Pink ruler, blue paint, green paint,

Bright colors dancing across the

teacher’s clothing,

Purple, orange, red, blue;

Green dangling from an ear;

Red moving lips, telling me something

I can’t hear


What color is this?


What color is this?


What color is this?

…Blue? Um…Royal Blue?

What color is this?



I feel

Coarse, abrasive burlap on my skin,

Itching, moving, tickling,

Irritating my arm, my back, my chest;

My hair falling in my face,

Touching my cheek;

Cold air draft on my exposed feet,

And coming through the thin burlap;

Harsh smoke from the incense

burning my eyes

Sharp, splintering thorns on my fingertips


Stop moving around, you’ll distract the

others…It’s only your clothing…

I hear

Voices, from a speaker behind me

An intercom announcement

Tick, Tick, Tick

Loud sounds of a construction site

Conversations of the people beside me

Angry yelling of the woman

from the back row

Tick-Tick, Tick-Tick, Tick-Tick


Listen carefully,

there’s going to be a test.

Why can’t you hear the video? The volume is up

It must be something wrong with you…


Loud noises won’t stop

I can’t hear what I am supposed to

“Don’t fidget, place both feet on the ground”

Is that bottle really blue?

I don’t know the answers anymore

My head hurts

Itching, can’t help scratching,

Want this abrasive burlap off my skin

“Stop thinking about it”

Bright, florescent, glaring

Just focus, focus

Why can’t those people stop chatting?

Burning, itching eyes

Harsh, everything’s jarring

I need to get out of here

Think about nothing


Retreat… Shut Down


I don’t hear the sounds from the other students.

I don’t hear the story from the video.

I don’t smell the incense, see the colors.

Time passes, and the “class” continues around me.



Leaving the room…Out of the chaos…

Back in a safe environment…

My body reemerges from the place

my mind had sent it; my senses reawaken.


Tears – as my emotions being to live again, and I am overwhelmed.


Calm – a world without the tick-tick, tick-tick,

the sounds of the intercom, the conversations

of people behind me;

Without 5 separate and distinct smells;

without burlap for clothing.


But I still feel it, hear it and smell it all.


It was only an hour.

An hour in a world of overwhelming

input of smells, sights, sounds and feelings,

where I could not rely on my intellect

to solve the problem.

I only had an hour, not day after day,

of the chaos.


I learned

I am less adaptable than I thought.

My behavior, and the behavior of others

in the room, surprised me. When bombarded

with input and chaos, our minds and bodies

did whatever was necessary to cope

with the situation. At that point,

it is not about processing. It is about getting by.

I see and admire

Strength – to face that world of chaos

every day;

Power – to cope when overwhelmed;

Spirit – that keeps going, even when the body

and mind must retreat into shut down.

Austism Bill

Here is a letter to fax to Senate Majority leader, Bill Frist and Tom Daschle. It should be easy for parents to use most of this letter and cut out my legal cast and paste in your own personal one.

I think faxing is more effective right now because most senators have staff that reads and responds to email which is easier for them to delete and ignore.
SENATOR BILL FRIST (R-TN) November 17, 2003
461 Dirksen Senate Office Building T 202-224-3344
United States Senate F 202-228-1264
Washington, DC 20510 Re: SB1248
My name is Jane Doe. I am the mother of an autistic 3 year old.

There is much to applaud in Senate Bill 1248, especially when compared with H.R. 1350. There remain provisions which I am unhappy about. I respectfully ask that you do not ALLOW any limits on families’ ability to find legal counsel to represent their children.

My agenda is clear. I have a son with a severe disability, which entitles him to a free, appropriate, public education. Even though my son’s rights are set forth in federal and state law, negotiating his special education plan (IEP) has been a frustrating, time-consuming, and overwhelming process.

My son’s school district, Cambrian School District, San Jose, CA, made several procedural violations and did not adhere to the law set forth in IDEA-implementing a free, appropriate, public education by his 3rd birthday. Therefore, I was forced to hire a special education attorney and filed a due process request.

Currently, I am paying for my son’s education because I refuse to accept the unacceptable. I am confident that we will prevail with our due process hearing but it could take a year before I get reimbursed for my son’s education expenses and for our attorney’s fees, which in total will likely cost me and my husband somewhere between $70,000.00 and $90,000.00 just for 2003 – 2004. I would like to remind you that many families must file due process hearings year after year in order to continue getting their school district to comply with an appropriate education plan.

To date my son’s school district has spent 100% of my hard-earned tax dollars toward fighting me in a due process hearing, including charging me $40.00 for copying his school records. Since my son’s third birthday, 5/9/03, my school district has not spent one cent on educating my child, yet they have racked up quite a legal bill at the public’s expense-fighting me and my son because we attempted to hold them accountable to John’s civil rights as a disabled person.

The autism rate in the public education system has jumped 1,354% in the period from 1991-92 – 2000-01. Autistic students being served in the public schools has increased at a rate almost fifty (50) times higher than the rate of all disabilities combined during the eight year period from 1991-92 – 2000-01. (U.S. Department of Education’s 2002 Report to Congress on Individuals with Disabilities Education Act-IDEA).

Inappropriate special education programs lead to increasing legal and administrative costs to deal with the disagreements between parents and school districts through due process hearings. IDEA and state education codes ensure nothing. School districts are notorious for noncompliance and many families must hire attorneys just to scare school districts into compliance.

The parents, grandparents, friends, relatives, and professionals serving special needs children represent a population exponentially greater than the 6.5 million special needs students in the US-a bipartisan “voice” that must not be silenced or ignored. Senators running for re-election must know that we will not forget if we are ignored and limits are placed on our ability to find legal counsel for our children.

On behalf of the 100,000 autistic students being served in the public school system, I thank you in advance for not allowing any limits on families’ ability to find legal counsel to represent their children and for expeditiously getting this bill to the floor for a vote.


Jane Doe

Autism Study

UCLA Functional Brain Imaging Study of Autism

UCLA Functional Brain Imaging Study of Autism — Research Study
Help us gain a better understanding of children with autistic spectrum
disorder (high functioning autism or Asperger’s syndrome) by having
your child participate in a study of brain structure and function conducted by
Dr. Susan Bookheimer in collaboration with Dr. Marian Sigman. [Normally
developing children are invited to participate to form a comparison group.]

Your child must be in good health between the ages of 7-18; have a
previous diagnosis of autism or Asperger’s [or be a normally developing child];
must not wear braces.

Children with autism or Asperger’s will receive a diagnostic evaluation
to determine if they qualify for the
study. Children that qualify will have a functional magnetic resonance
imaging scan of their brain during a
second visit. Participants will be paid $25 per visit.

[Normally developing children will receive a brief language assessment
and have a functional magnetic
resonance imaging scan of their brain during one visit and earn $25.]

Call for more details: 310-825-3478.

Autism Disillusioned

To Whom It May Concern:

I am an Occupational Therapist currently working in the educational setting. I have been a pediatric therapist for 16 years and have spent equal time in the clinic and in the school setting. I am currently developing some policy and guidelines for my District and inadvertently came across publications of due process hearings on the internet. While reading through a number of articles I became extremely disturbed by some of the decisions made. In many cases, parents were suing the school district for violation of FAPE. In one case, the parents were demanding more services to address their child’d deficiencies in the areas of pragmatic language and social skills; apparently the child was unable to decifer the subtelities of social situations and was having difficulties establishing special peer relationships. Well, what a surprise, the CHILD IS AUTISTIC!! I feel an increasing amount of resentment toward these parents that are demanding that school districts fund endless amounts of ABA, or now RDI, OT, Recreational THerapy, Music Therapy, seemingly futile hopes of making their child NORMAL. I feel all the negative energy of “going after” the school districts has become an unfortunate coping mechanism for parents who cannot accept their children for who they are. I beleive the focus should be on the child’s strengths and supporting the child by loving him/her for who he/she is!

It would be extremely helpful to me as a therapist, and as always an advocate for EVERY child I work with, to understand the logic behind some parents expecting/demanding the school systems “fix” their children or pay…
Thank you for your time.

Jane Doe, OTR/L

Dear Concerned Occupational Therapist:

I do feel that it is important for professionals to understand where parents are coming from, and therefore wish to respond to your concerns. Our website is geared towards educating the public, primarily parents but also others, including those, like yourself, who work with these children.

First of all, I want to clear up your misconception that parents want the school district to “fix” their child. Certainly all the parents I know and represent, including the one that I work with and whose child I love as my brother, love their children for who they are and are not trying to “fix” them. In fact, in this day when so much focus is on “finding a cure,” there are still many parents out there who celebrate the unique gifts that their children have that may also be connected to their autism. For examples of that, I hope that you will come back to our site soon and see our article on our 4th of July parade float, where the unique talents of many kids were celebrated.

Having said that, while parents are not seeking a “fix” they are certainly entitled to seek services, supports, therapies and accommodations to give their child the opportunity to make progress, have friends, and one day be an independent and productive parts of society. This means not only focusing on their strengths, as you put it, but also on supporting their weaknesses. For kids with autism, it is true that a social communication deficit is at the heart or core of the disability. But I disagree that that means a parent should accept this and not ask for services or supports which could enable the child to make progress in these areas. This is what they are entitled to – a program that meets the unique needs arising from their child’s disability. It is not only about academics. Because the larger world is not only about academic skills. It is about becoming socially, emotionally, behaviorally, and academically prepared to face the world after school.

If you are looking for further information, I suggest you go no further than the very beginning of the law itself – the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (2004). You’ll find an answer to your resentment right there in the congressional findings – where Congress found the following:

� Disability in no way diminishes the right of individuals to participate in or contribute to society.
� Improve educational results for children with disabilities is an essential element of our national policy of ensuring equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities.
� The implementation of appropriate services for students with disabilities was “impeded by low expectations” for children with disabilities
� 20 years (now 30 in new law) of research and experience has demonstrated that the education of children with disabilities can be made more effective by having high expectations for such children, strengthening the role of parents, ensuring the special education is a service and not a place, providing appropriate special education and related services and aids and supports to children.

After making such findings, Congress enacted the IDEA, which guarantees the right of children to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) based on their unique, individual needs. If you read this act, you will find that many of the services you refer to as “seemingly futile,” such as Recreational Therapy, were specifically identified by Congress as related services to be provided for kids with disabilities.

Then lets look at the research. In addition to the research on which Congress based its findings, years of research has confirmed that early intervention works, and that the prospects for kids with autism, learning disabilities, and other disabilities is much better if they have intensive intervention. Start with, for example, the book Educating Students with Autism, which was published in 2001, and based on significant research. Or read “Overcoming Dyslexia,” by Sallie Schaywitz. These and numerous others support the need for early, research based interventions for these kids. You mentioned RDI (relationship development intervention), and certainly Dr. Gutstein’s work is of the more recent research on this topic. Dr. Gutstein’s findings support that interventions make a positive difference on the prognosis for the child.
The days when Autism is seen as a sentence to a life without friends, without meaningful communication with others, are over. No, we are not trying to “fix” the child, but we are certainly trying to give the child all of the strategies and tools that could help that child function in the world.

What you seem to be the most concerned about is funding – which is probably the source of your “resentment.” On this too, I ask you to do further research before you develop such strong feelings. First, funding for special education programs is specifically set aside according to federal and state laws, so it is not coming out of what $ could be used for other school programs. Second, children with disabilities become adults with disabilities, and we as a society are either going to spend money on them earlier or later. If we educate our kids appropriately, provide services in their areas of deficit, and support them into the transition into adulthood, there is a greater likelihood that they will be able to be productive members of society. If we give up on them because they have a disability, so we think it is useless to expect them to learn these skills, then we are guaranteeing the need to provide for these individuals for the rest of their lives, because they will not be successful independently. And yes, this even applies to the subtleties of friendships and peer interactions. Because they not only have to learn job skills, but how to survive in a workplace, where interactions with others are necessary. Research also supports that people who have positive relationships in their lives are healthier.

But beyond the law and the research and the funding, what we are talking about is children. And, with all respect, if you don’t have an autistic child close to you in your personal life, it is probably difficult for you to understand what it is that parents are seeking.

I don’t know of many parents who are in denial about their child’s disabilities. I’m sure that there are some out there, but typically the ones to come to us for help have fully accepted their child’s condition, and have accepted what the child’s unique needs are as a result. Typically, what they are seeking first and foremost from the school district is their acknowledgement of the child’s needs. Unfortunately, there are many people who do not understand what is currently known about Autism – that the spectrum encompasses a full range of capabilities, strengths, deficits and needs, that early intervention increases the chance of a higher level of functioning, that yes, even Autistic kids can learn the “subtleties of social situations” and have peer relationships. And if that is possible –and far from “seemingly futile,” why shouldn’t any parent want that for her child?

I hope that you will not stop with what little exploration you have done. Please talk personally to parents who have kids with disabilities. Read the law, read the research. It is sad to me that persons who are in this field – providing services to students with disabilities – have such strong “resentment” towards these families. And I know that you are not the only one. There are many persons in our society who do not, as you say, understand the perspective of these parents, and see what they are doing as “futile” and wasteful of resources. It was one of the initial goals of the IDEA to eliminate the prevalence of such misunderstandings. For me personally, it is part of why I do what I do… I am an optimist and remain hopeful that with each kid that is supported and becomes an asset to society, with each kid who makes friends with “typical” or “normal” children and therefore broadens their understanding of the world, with each teacher who learns the subtleties of autism… we are closer to a better understanding in society in general, and only then can we start to talk about acceptance.

Thank you,
Carrie Watts