Regional Centers – The Lanterman Act

Many of my clients have been members of a regional center when they were young but once they started school Parents have allowed their eligibility to lapse.  Also, Regional Centers represent to Parents that services are provided from the local school district once the child turns 3 years of age. It’s true that the regional centers don’t provide much support for a school age person, maybe just behavior support, social skills and respite.  But future thinking Parents have to understand that once a student graduates high school the regional center system can be very helpful in providing transition and adult services.

The reason not to remove your child from the Regional Centers’ system is that it is sometimes very hard to get back in.  If your child has received intensive services for their entire school lives they may present as fairly capable young adults.  This is great news but they are still in need of  wonderful regional center resources.  Under the Lanterman Act even if your child was eligible at a young age to re-qualify they must have a “substantial disability” which results in major impairment of cognitive and/or social functioning. This impairment includes significant functional limitations in three or more areas of major life activity.  This includes receptive and expressive language, learning, self-care, mobility, self-direction, capacity for independent living, and economic self-sufficiency.  This is often a difficult hurdle for our higher functioning children and regional centers are working to prevent these young adults from re-qualifying.

It doesn’t cost Regional Centers anything to determine that your child isn’t eligible.  But it costs Parents a lot money and time to fight this determination.  The system is not geared to favor Parents or young adults.  Hearings are decided by Administrative Law Judges (ALJ) who are employees of the Office of Administrative Hearings, a state agency.  The presumption that the ALJ begins the hearing with is that the Regional Centers employees are the experts so their determination of eligibility carries greater weight and the burden is on the Parent to show otherwise.

Regional Centers Map
The may represents the locations for the 21 Regional Center locations in California.

The takeaway from this is to make sure you get your child assessed and made eligible one of the state Regional Centers at the earliest age possible and definitely under the age of 18 years.  You may not take advantage of the limited services offered or available during their school years but check out what is available at every stage of their life.  You may never know what your child/adult may need.

Other questions you have may be answered here on our FAQ. All other resources can be found here. If you have any further questions you may contact us.

Autism Acceptance Month

Happy Autism Acceptance Month to all!

 

http://autismacceptancedigest.blogspot.com/

On March 27, 2017, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision, referred to as “a game changer” by an esteemed colleague

M.C. by M.N. v. Antelope Valley Union High School District.

The 9th Circuit decision in M.C. came just 5 days after the landmark U.S. Supreme Court unanimous decision to reject the low bar for students with disabilities in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District. The issue in Endrew F. was what kind of “educational benefit’ does the IDEA require public schools to provide to students with disabilities? Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote: “When all is said, and done, a student offered an educational program providing ‘merely more than de minimis’ progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all.” “The IDEA demands more. It requires an educational program reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.”

And it seems that 9th Circuit was waiting for the decision in Endrew F. as anxiously as we were, when they issued their decision in M.C. v. Antelope Valley Union High School District, which cited to Endrew F. and touched on several other significant special education issues.

Summary

Most IDEA disputes over parent participation focus on discussions during the IEP. The M.C. case makes it clear that a parent’s right to meaningful participation does not end when the document is signed. The 9th Circuit said the IDEA is just as concerned with a parents’ right to monitor and enforce the provision of special education services the student is supposed to receive. This case centers on a procedural violation that deprived parent of the right monitor the implementation of her son’s services, and therefore, the 9th Circuit held that the procedural error amounted to a denial of FAPE. The 9th Circuit was unclear as to whether the procedural violation had resulted in educational harm to the student, however, because the Parent had been forced to file a DP complaint and incur legal fees to learn which services the student was receiving, the court stated that the legal fees amounted to substantive harm and qualified as denial of FAPE. In regards to the Parents claim that the SD had failed to develop measurable annual goals in all areas of need, the District Court cited Rowley, “that a District has no obligation to maximize a student’s potential.” However, the 9th Circuit pointed out that the Supreme Court had since held in Endrew F. “that an IEP must be reasonably calculated to allow a student to make progress appropriate in light of his circumstances.” It reversed and remanded the case for determination of whether the IEP satisfied the Endrew F. standard.

Reviewing the Decision

M.C.’s parents signed his IEP, although they did not agree the IEP provided their son with a FAPE. His parents challenged the IEP by filing for a Due Process (DP) Hearing. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) decided that the School District (SD) prevailed on all issues. The case was taken to U.S. District Court, where the District Court Judge went along with the ALJ’s decision because the ALJ “questioned witnesses during a three day hearing’, and “wrote a 21-page opinion that reviewed witness qualifications and culled relevant details form the record” The 9th Circuit stated that in this case, the ALJ was neither thorough nor careful, as they didn’t address all of the issues and disregarded some of the evidence. Therefore, they found that the District Court erred in deferring to the ALJ’s findings.

Procedural

The 9th Circuit explained the history behind one of the Parent’s claims; the IEP document included a SD offer of 240 minutes per month of TVI services. The Parent’s DP complaint stated that, among other things, the TVI services were inadequate to meet M.C.’s needs. On the first day of the hearing, the Parent learned that the SD had unilaterally changed the IEP document from 240 minutes per month, to 240 minutes per week, because, according to the SD, they realized their mistake a week after the IEP, so they amended it. However, the SD did not notify Parents of the change. Parent’s claimed that the SD’s failure to accurately document the offer of services denied M.C. FAPE by precluding Parents from meaningfully participating in the IEP process.

The District Court found that Parents waived this issue during a procedural step that takes place before the DP Hearing, (in which the ALJ ‘restates’ the party’s issues to stream line the case they will address at hearing) so, the ALJ’s restatement of the issues omitted the adequacy of the services issue. The Parents did not know about the unilateral change to the IEP document until after the ALJ had restated the issues so they could not have raised that as a procedural violation. The District Court understood the Parent’s difficult position, but… still found they could not raise the issue.

But, the 9th Circuit issued a warning against ALJ’s reframing of the issues with this statement: “We question the wisdom of such a procedure…(meaning the restatement by the ALJ) A party bringing a due process complaint is entitled to frame the issues it wishes to present and should not be put in the difficult position of contradicting the presiding official who will soon be the trier of fact. In such circumstances, failure to object will not be deemed a waiver of any claim fairly encompassed in the complaint.” The 9th Circuit further stated, “While we haven’t previously recognized this practice in IDEA cases, it has often been applied in a variety of other agency adjudications, (then named, an IRS case, a Patent case, and a Department of Labor case) we see no reason IDEA cases should be treated differently.

The District judge agreed with the ALJ finding that the SD’s amendment to the IEP document merely corrected an unintentional error. The 9th Circuit said they failed to see how that can be so. An IEP is a contract. If the SD did not have Parent consent to amend the IEP, they have to re-open the IEP process and propose a different IEP. The unilateral amendment is a per se violation of the IDEA because it vitiates the parents right to participate at every step of the IEP drafting process. The 9th Circuit goes into great detail on this issue, finding two procedural violations, and gives the following direction: On remand, the district court shall determine whether this course of conduct was a deliberate attempt to mislead Parent or mere bungling on the part of the SD and its lawyers. (This is the greatest thing! The SD will have to go in front of the court and argue whether they were liars or idiots!)

When a student requires “a particular device or service” California law requires that the IEP “include a statement to that effect.” The 9th Circuit decision held lengthy discussion regarding the lack of specificity the SD gave regarding the AT devices being offered in the IEP and how, that gave Parent no way of confirming whether they were actually being provided. The district judge found this procedural violation didn’t seriously infringe on Parent opportunity to participate in the IEP formulation process. However, the 9th Circuit stated that the parents must be able to participate in both the formulation and enforcement of the IEP. Parents must be able to use the IEP to monitor and enforce the services that their child is to receive, when the Parent can’t FAPE has been denied, whether or not Parent had ample opportunity to participate in the formulation of the IEP. The fact that Parent had to incur unnecessary legal fees is a form of prejudice that denies parent and student an educational benefit.

Substantive

In this case it was the procedural violation of failing to specify the services – in kind or duration – that made it impossible for Parents to be able assess whether the services offered or provided to student were substantively reasonable. The burden is shifted to the SD to show the services they claim the student received, were reasonable. That issue was remanded for such a showing.

The case concluded with the discussion of the District court’s application of the Rowley standard that, by, “an ‘appropriate’ education, it is clear that [Congress] did not mean a potential-maximizing education,” and, the 9th Circuit states, “Recently, the Supreme Court clarified Rowley and provided a more precise standard for evaluating whether a school district has complied substantively with the IDEA, a school must offer an IEP reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of a child’s circumstances.” Endrew F. “In other words, the school must implement an IEP that is reasonably calculated to remediate and, if appropriate, accommodate the child’s disabilities so that the child can “make progress in the general education curriculum,” (id.) commensurate with his non-disabled peers, taking into account the child’s potential.” (I give them a standing ovation in my mind every time I read that!)

The case was then remanded so the District Court could apply the new guidance from the Supreme Court, Endrew F.

These issues are of utmost importance to students with disabilities and their families and while the Supreme Court decision was eagerly awaited at A2Z educational advocates for many reasons, of course most importantly was, the effect of this decision in our work to protect the legal and civil rights of students with disabilities and their families. We commended the Supreme Court’s unanimous rejection of the lower court’s ruling that schools only need to provide a non-trivial benefit, we are thrilled that our 9th Circuit clearly agreed, reiterated Endrew F.’s holding and further elaborated in their decision that our children and families deserve better.

April is the Autism Awareness Month

https://www.autismspeaks.org 

Neurodiversity 101 – An Explanation

Leaves by Pua Zhe Xuan, part of the The Art of Autism collaborative. Oil painting with green, red, and pink abstract leaves blowing across an open field with a cloudy sky above representing Neurodiversity.
Leaves by Pua Zhe Xuan, part of the The Art of Autism collaborative

What is Neurodiversity?

Lydia X.Z. Brown defines Neurodiversity as “the belief that differing neurologies are a natural part and form of human diversity; the belief that atypical or divergent neurologies are not indicative of disease, defect, disorder, or illness; and the philosophy that neurological difference should be celebrated and accepted as natural and normal.”

Neurodiversity arose out of the Autism Rights Movement, but has since broadened to include other neurotypes that are often pathologized, such as ADHD/ADD, bipolarity, and Down’s Syndrome.

Someone who has a diagnosis of Autism may identify as neurodiverse or neurodivergent. Someone who has a typical neurology and is considered “normal” by the standards of their society is often referred to as neurotypical.

The Neurodiversity Movement fights for a number of goals, including acceptance of differences, self-determination, ending discrimination, inclusion, and equal opportunity. A common slogan, used by the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, is “Nothing about us without us.” Activists push for neurodiverse people to have active roles deciding polices that impact them, such as government initiatives, education, and research.

How can allies support the Neurodiversity Movement?

Lee, a Disabled, Autistic, Chronically Ill, Queer, & Trans artist and activist, writes at Access Culture about how to by an ally to disabled and neurodiverse people.  Zes list includes:

Make events accessible

This goes beyond the typical accommodations associated with the ADA, like wheelchair ramps or interpreters, and includes sent-free spaces, sensory-friendly events, quiet spaces, and childcare options.

Embrace different forms of communication

Always ask before touching someone. Do not force someone to engage in communication, be it eye contact or verbal conversation.

Avoid using stereotypes

Lee writes “Never ever assume that it’s our role to educate you about our Disabilities.” This means to not expect someone with a disability to answer your questions regarding their life. Don’t rely on the information you see in pop culture, as it is often incorrect or missing big parts of the story. Expand your understanding by reading works written by neurodiverse authors (check out the list below!)

Check your ableist language

“Ableism” is defined as oppression, prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination against disabled people on the basis of actual or presumed disability or the belief that people are superior or inferior, have better quality of life, or have lives more valuable or worth living on the basis of actual or perceived disability.Lydia X.Z. Brown

Far too many words in the English language have origins in outdated ideas about people with disabilities and neurodivergent people. While some are obviously offensive, there are also more insidious words that don’t seem ableist at first. “Lame,” “Moronic,” and “Crazy” are all examples of ableist words. Additionally, avoid using a diagnosis as casual descriptors or insult. Saying things like “I’m so OCD” or “She’s being schizophrenic” is very harmful to individuals with these diagnoses. These phrases should be banished from our vocabulary in order to be truly inclusive and supportive.

Learn More

I am a neurotypical ally, and therefore I cannot speak for neurodivergent people. It is important to listen to neurodivergent people’s expertise, experience, and stories. There is not one consensus on how to be neurodivergent, just as there is not a consensus on how to be human. There are a diversity of voices and intersectional viewpoints that incorporate race, gender rights, and social inequality. Below is a list of amazing blogs and resources that will get you started down the path of awareness and knowledge!

Young Authors

No one is ever too young to start a professional writing career.  Nia Mya Reese (age 8) and Greta (age 11) are young writers who have put pen to paper to write about what they each believe to be important in their lives.

 

What began as a first grade class assignment soon turned into book for author Nia Mya. She writes about what she learns everyday from her interactions with her younger, ‘annoying’ brother. Her book, How To Deal With and Care For Your Annoying Little Brother, hit Amazon shelves in November of 2016 and has since become an Amazon Best Seller.

 

Eleven year old Greta, wrote an article for The Huffington Post about the importance of the Women’s Strike, which took place on March 8, 2017. Sports, entertainment and everything else in the world would not be the same if women did not exist, Greta explains in the article entitled, Why The Women’s Strike Is Important, By An 11-year-old. Her article went viral and was shared throughout all social media platforms.

 

These girls are great young role models for other children and are making sure that their voices are being heard.

http://jezebel.com/why-the-womens-strike-is-important-by-an-11-year-old-1793053406

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/this-8-year-old-girl-wrote-a-best-selling-book-on-caring-for-her-annoying-little-brother_us_58cc03bae4b0be71dcf459d6?section=us_education

Students Rights Initiative: Helping Students Learn About Their IEP Rights

Once again this year members of A2Z participated as instructors in the Student Rights Initiative (SRI) at the 19th Annual COPAA Conference in Dallas, Texas.  The students that participated in SRI learned about their rights under the law, how to participate and advocate for their needs at an IEP and how to lead a student-directed IEP meeting.

Students heard from attorneys that have disabilities themselves and learned how they navigated the world of education as students and how their disabilities shaped their career choices.

Students also heard from Selene Almazan, COPAA’s Legal Director, regarding important key court cases that led to the IDEA and how these cases shaped the rights available to them today.

Some of the students also had the opportunity to attend the COPAA breakout session “Maximizing the Youth Voice” with presenters Shiloh Carter and Olivia Hudson from  Disability Rights Texas with fellow conference attendees and participated in a lively discussion about having students attend and advocate on their own behalf at IEP meetings.

The students also discussed how a younger student might participate in their own IEP meeting.  The group determined that a younger student could introduce themselves to the IEP team so that all members were familiar with the student.  Another strategy discussed was the possibility of creating a prepared statement to read to the team about the student’s own strengths and where he or she thought she might need more help or support.

At the end of the last day the students all worked together to create a sample presentation that they could use to help them create a presentation for their own IEP meeting once they returned home.  SRI students also shared that they wanted to go home and share with their friends how they could advocate on their own behalf.

The SRI program was started to give students the tools they need to be self advocates early on in their educational career thereby establishing a groundwork for them to advocate on their own behalf at other stages of life, including at institutions of higher education and in the work place.  This year students again left the program ready to go home and get more involved in their own educational planning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jane DuBovy – Ahead of the Curve

Jane DuBovy – Ahead of the Curve

Ahead of the Curve

A2Z Educational Advocates represents disabled children under-served by their school districts.

By Renee Flannery
Daily Journal Staff Writer

 

PACIFIC PALISADES — Jane DuBovy spent 25 years practicing bankruptcy law before making a switch to educational advocacy.

“Always one step ahead of the curve,” DuBovy said, characterizing her irregular career moves. She received her master’s degree in clinical psychology from Pepperdine University before earning her law degree from the school in 1981.

She began her law career by typing out a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing for a family member. She said it was an awkward beginning but after that first filing, she went on to specialize in Chapter 7, 11 and 13 bankruptcy. At the start, “I still had to hire law clerks from Pepperdine because I didn’t know what … I was doing,” she said.

She successfully ran her practice for 20 years when in 1997, DuBovy learned her son was diagnosed with autism.

“When I got the diagnosis of my son … it was so scary to me,” DuBovy said. Read more

Autism – An Interview by Hayley McAvoy

Preconceptions of Autism

Hayley McAvoy
Hayley McAvoy is a student at UCLA

I was nervous before my interview. Up until this point, my interactions with people with autism have been among either children in a treatment setting or the speakers in an academic setting. When Casey Reilly first walks up, one of the first things he says is “I’m sarcastic and I have a weird cynical-esque view of Autism.” Then the interview began. Instead of an interview, it felt like I was just talking to a person, who happened to have Autism, about his life. I often times forgot about the questions I had meticulously prepared a day previously. Instead I just listened to what he had to say and became extremely interested in his life as whole – the aspects of his life directly affected by Autism, indirectly affected or not all. In the middle of the conversation I asked him how he identified (as an Autistic person, a person with Autism,  on the spectrum, etc.), because we had discussed it in class and I was curious. His answer surprised me because it’s not a perspective that we’ve been exposed to in class or seen in the literature; he said he identified himself as simply a person. Most of what’s written about Autism is by people who are self-advocates or are very expressive and passionate about their diagnosis. In other words, they consider Autism a salient part of their identity. However, there isn’t much writing about those who have Autism, it’s a part of their lives, but the Autism doesn’t necessarily define who they are. Casey was able to give me insight into this perspective. He admits that Autism has influenced who he is and his interests, but it doesn’t define him. Read more

Autism and Love

Recently, I’ve come across or have been sent, autism movies and stories about romance for the person diagnosed with autism.  It’s become a much larger discussion because of the number of young adults who were diagnosed early, received many wonderful interventions that helped them access neurotypicals (non-autistic diagnosed) and now want the ultimate in relationships, a person to love and to love them.  This is a giant leap from not only society’s expectations for someone with this diagnosis, but also an enormous area of concern and hope for us parents of young adults on the spectrum. The following link is just one such movie that looks into the world of love through autism eyes.

http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/blog/matt-fuller-explores-the-autism-spectrum-with-intimate-film/