Childrens’ Special Needs Advocacy Groups In California

Children with special needs, their families and friends, face many obstacles beyond their specific disorder, disability, medical and/or physical challenges. Luckily, there is support available for their unique and individual struggles through the form of advocacy groups.

While parents are the most important advocates for their special needs children, there is still plenty of help available in California, here are just a few of the many:

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TASK (Team of Advocates for Special Kids) is based in Southern California with six locations from Anaheim to Riverside and all across the Greater Los Angeles area. Initially their primary focus was serving those age three to twenty-one, but they have expanded to include those from birth up to age twenty-six.

In addition to a wealth of connections to special resources, events calendar, technical assistance, articles and newsletters, TASK also has a video page that highlights, amongst other things, a touching piece from a young woman suffering from Aphasia, who offers tips on how to communicate with people who have speech disorders.

Parents Helping Parents (PHP) is located in the San Francisco Bay Area, specifically in San Jose, but services all of the region. Complete with a library on location, their downtown office is conveniently located right off Interstate 280 and is a unique resource for disability-specific conditions.

On their website, you’ll find a vast listing of services available all across the Bay Area, which provides searchable returns according to topic, location, keywords, services and different conditions. They also offer an events calendar, a special education section with even more resources and link to special interest groups.

UCLA, University of California Los Angeles, has an Education Advocacy Service through their Civil Rights Project on their website under Resources and Community Tools. Here they offer an extensive list of agencies in the Greater Los Angeles area that provide a variety of services for children with special needs.

They ask parents to have their child’s latest report card and IEP  (Individualized Education Plan) available before contacting agencies that provide assistance with:

  • Assessments and educational planning
  • Healthcare and benefits
  • Mental health issues, problems and concerns
  • Disability rights
  • Parent resource network

Most of these programs are designed and geared towards those families with low incomes.

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Advocacy Associates, Inc. is a private company that assists those in San Diego and San Bernardino as a paid, active advocate for your child’s educational assessment, planning and placement. They are available for:

  • Special needs assessment and review
  • Classroom observations and consultants with staff
  • Consultation and coordination of services with agencies
  • Attendance at school and regional meetings
  • Review of IEP’s and 504 plans
  • Development of plans and strategies to improve learning

While this type of aggressive approach may not be affordable, they do have an excellent resource page with associative FAQ’s available on their website.

The California Special Needs Law Group (CSNLG) is based in Costa Mesa, but they offer their legal assistance specific to those with special needs all across the State of California. Since they specialize in this practice, they are very well-versed in IEP’s advocate for special needs education and appropriate legal advice. Their mission is guided by three, important principles that the maintain:

  1. Providing excellent legal services
  2. Building solid and trusting relationships with their clients and children
  3. Providing affordable and cost effective legal counseling and representation.

Their primary focus is on providing children with the FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education) that the deserve from their LEA (Local Educational Agency).

Spotlight on Special Education in Lincoln: Resources for Students, Teachers, and Parents

The City of Lincoln, just outside Sacramento, is one of the fastest growing suburbs not only in California, but in all of America, rising almost 300% in population from 2000 to 2010. Home to a number of local wineries and beautiful sprawling golf courses, Lincoln also hosts a local Indian gambling venue, the Thunder Valley Resort and Casino. For those with special education needs, the city of Lincoln, located inside of Placer County, has a great deal to offer students, parents and professionals of those with special needs.

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Educational Resources for Special Education in Lincoln

The Western Placer Unified School District emphasizes the importance of accessing a child for special education needs, convening an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting and that parents are an integral part of that team. The director of their special education program invites and encourages parents to contact any member of their staff for assistance.

On their website, they publish their calendar for Community Advisory Committee (CAC) meetings and SELPA (Special Education Local Plan Area) training, and also offer:

  • Assistance from the school’s SST (Student Study Team)
  • Assessment advice and planning
  • Special day classes
  • A Resource Specialist Program for IEP (Individualized Education Program) assistance

They also have designated instruction and services that offers specialized programs such as adaptive physical education and speech/language services.

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Additional Educational Resources Outside of Lincoln, State County and Non-Profit

The California Department of Developmental Services (DDS), is based in nearby Sacramento, and although they are not directed directly towards children, they still address the needs of those with intellectual disabilities, autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy and other related conditions. Service and support is provided through a combination of federal, state, county and local government services, private businesses, support groups and volunteers.

Placer County also offers a network of care that assists those with special needs and disabilities such as early intervention programs, disabled student services, educational therapy, health and disability prevention. For parents there are also support groups, education and understanding available from the County.

WarmLine Family Resource Center has an office in Sacramento and an even closer location in neighboring Rocklin that provides resources and support for families with special needs children from birth to twenty-two years of age. They offer recreational activities, workshops for siblings and early intervention programs. Additional programs include behavioral support, parent social activities, play dates, training and assistance with IEP (Individualized Education Plans).

WarmLine supports and has partnered with First 5, a Placer County Children’s and Family Commission, that provides assistance to children with special needs and disabilities through the age of five. They offer a number of different services including developmental screenings.

Alta California Regional Center is committed to a community where individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities are valued members who are treated with dignity and respect. Alta assists persons with developmental disabilities, including infants and children, by choosing services and support groups through individual lifelong planning as a means to achieve healthy and productive lives in their own community.

Lincoln parents of special education children who might need or be interested in legal advice or support can turn to California Special Needs Law Group (CSNLG). Though based in Costa Mesa, the law firm offers its services, which include conflict mediation and IEP development assistance, throughout the state.

Children with Special Education Needs and the Law

Special needs children are loosely defined as those whose disability, physical or mental condition or other type of impairment, requires extra, or in some cases more individualized, specialized attention and care. In the case of adoption, those who are more difficult to be placed, often they are older children, but most of them face some of these challenges mentioned here, and therefore, they are also considered to be special needs children.

In any event, back in 1975, the United States Congress enacted IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Plan, to ensure that children with special needs and disabilities would be afforded the same free appropriate public education (FAPE) as other children.

According to the law, schools must provide special education in a least restrictive environment (LRE) and is to be provided to eligible children from age three through twenty-one, or graduation from High School, whichever comes first in a school environment, although IDEA covers those from birth through twenty-six.

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ELIGIBILITY

In order to be eligible for special education programs and services through IDEA, a child must have one or more of the following conditions (the statistics of those served follows each):

  1. Specific learning disabilities (including dyslexia and others) – 36%
  2. Speech or language impairments – 21%
  3. Other health impairments – 12%
  4. Autism – 7%
  5. Mental retardation – 7%
  6. Developmental delay – 6%
  7. Emotional disturbance – 6%
  8. Multiple disabilities – 2%
  9. Hearing impairments including deafness – 1%
  10. Orthopedic impairments – 1%
  11. Deaf-blindness – less than 1%
  12. Traumatic brain injury – less than 1%
  13. Visual impairments including blindness – less than 1%

EVALUATION

If the child is suspected to have a covered disability, the school is required to perform an evaluation. This will determine if the student does, in fact, have an eligible disability, and that as a result of that disability, they need special education in order to continue to progress in school. Children who are not eligible for coverage under IDEA may still qualify for support under other laws as provided for in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Plan.

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IEP (Individualized Education Plan)

Following the evaluation, if it is found that a student is eligible for special education, parents will work with a special team from the school to provide an IEP specific to the child’s needs. This legal document will list the student’s specific disabilities, educational goals, services and support that the school will provide.

Remember, that during every point in this process, the law gives parents and children specific rights and protections. If you feel you need legal assistance, contact an agency that specializes in special needs and IEP planning, such as the California Special Needs Law Group (CSNLG). These types of firms are very well versed with special education laws and advocacy for children.

Also remember, that as the parent of a special needs child, you are their most important advocate. Sometimes it may seem that you are getting lost in a sea of acronyms and a mountain of paperwork, but as time goes by, you will become more familiar with the process and learn about the rights and protection available to you, and your child, under the law.

Spotlight on Special Education in Costa Mesa: Resources for Students, Teachers, and Parents

Costa Mesa is just one mile north of Newport Beach off the Pacific Ocean in the heart of Orange County. It is often called one of California’s most vibrant and eclectic cities. Their school district is shared with neighboring Newport Beach and has a special education program with a branch of Autism programs and resources.

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Costa Mesa Special Needs Educational Programs and Resources

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District (NMUSD) office is located in Costa Mesa serving both communities and strives to provide each child with a disability the right to a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE).  NMUSD believes it is their collective responsibility to support special education students and, “Understand the essential role parents and guardians have in student educational progress and are committed to fostering effective parent/school collaboration toward the best interests of students.”

After defining disabilities in their special education department, there are a vast amount of resources and services available on their website, everything from Alternative Dispute Resolution to Transitional Services and much more.

NMUSD also has an extensive Autism Program including a behavioral education series for parents, trainings and preschool programs. Their newsletter highlights conferences, community programs, local fairs and fundraisers.

Based in Costa Mesa, the California Special Needs Law Group (CSNLG) offers legal advice and support for parents of children with special needs. Most notably, they provide assistance with conflict resolution and Individualized Education Programs (IEP) not only in Costa Mesa and Orange County, but across the state.

Orange County Special Needs Resources

The Orange County Department of Education offers an Early Education program for special needs children up to five years old on their website. There are many other links that provide additional resources for:

  • Assistive Technology
  • Autism
  • The Deaf and Hard of Hearing (D/HH)
  • Early Education Programs
  • Language and Behavior Classes
  • Orthopedically Handicapped (OH) Classes
  • Parental Rights
  • Presentations and Conferences

For teachers and other caregivers, they provide training that includes a System of Support (SOS) from an extensive professional learning community (PLC) that can train and support staff. Their SOS training model is designed to provide the most current, research based information related to the best practices that are available.

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Nearby Irvine Special Needs and Education Resources

Kids Institute for Development and Advancement (KiDA) has the largest center for Autism in all of Orange County. They offer a K-6 school that focuses on social skills development and behavioral management. Other services include occupational assistance, social groups, speech and language therapy.

The non-profit organization TACA (Talk About Curing Autism) is located in Irvine and offers resources for the newly diagnosed, mentorship programs, scholarships, parental support groups, diet and nutritional information. They hold regular meetings in Irvine giving information on upcoming events, share important updates and news stories.

Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD) is a national organization with chapter #455 in the Greater Orange County. They hold monthly meetings in Santa Ana, Irvine and the city of Orange. At CHADD, you can sign up for important updates and information at their website and receive immediate assistance if necessary from the ADIHD National Resource Center.