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Disability Rights California, A Fantastic Resource For All Disabilities

Disability Rights California is a non-profit organization with a mission “…to advance dignity, equality, independence and freedom for all Californians with disabilities.”  It provides information and advocacy.

Receiving Help

DRC, explains on their front page, some of the services they provide:

  • Direct representation in criminal law, family law, bankruptcy or evictions
  • Personal injury lawsuits
  • Filling out Social Security application forms
  • Obtaining guardianship or conservatorship

More specific details on how they serve, and who they help, are explained on their eligibility page

For information on how to contact them at a local office, see here.

Self Advocates

If you are advocating for yourself or someone else, the website features the Special Education Rights and Responsibilities (SERR) manual loaded with information on specific rights and how they apply in different situations.  We use this site for training here at CSNLG and find it one of our top resources.

This PDF has a link to all their resources. It is a bit overwhelming though.

In general, the website is loaded with links and options and the organization of it all can be hard to follow. It takes some time to “learn” how the site is organized and the areas that are best for your situation.

Social Media

DRC has a social media presence, and if that is a preferred source for you, be sure to check out them out:

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Understanding Why Some School Districts Are Suing Parents

 

Richard Isaacs, Attorney and CSNLG Founder

With the start of the 2017-2018 school year well on its way, I have noticed more due process filings by school districts against families.

A due process hearing means either party, in this case, the districts, are asking the court system to intervene and make a ruling.

While this might sound alarming at first, it is often legally necessary for school districts to take such drastic actions. The law is clear that when parents request public funding of independent educational evaluations (IEE’s) the school district must fund the assessments or file for due process to show their own assessments are appropriate. The legal standard for assessment compliance is low and the courts are routinely finding district assessments comply with the law.

As such, school districts are filing more often.

Interestingly, and unfortunately, districts sometimes file for due process even when they know their assessments are not defensible. There is a clear strategy for them here: It helps them enter into a settlement agreement to fund the requested IEEs and thereby insulate themselves from liability. They add waiver language to the proposed agreement.

School districts are also filing more often to defend the appropriateness of their IEP offer. While the law merely states the school district may file to enforce its IEP, court decisions have recently come out holding districts liable if they do not file for due process. The ruling expects them to seek judicial intervention in overriding a parent’s lack of consent to necessary educational services. In other words, if parents do not fully consent to the proposed IEP, and the District believes the services are necessary, they are required to file for due process.

This is an unfortunate development in the law because it now elevates an IEP dispute to the litigation level. Parents are practically forced to hire an attorney to defend against the school district’s lawsuit.

Sadly, a recent court case has also called into question whether families can be represented at the administrative court level by educational advocates. For families who could not afford an attorney and advocate is a much less expensive option.

This appears to no longer be the case.

It is strange that the state of California is taking such an aggressive stance against parents who have children with special needs. With the increased filings against families, the shrinking of options parents have to defend themselves, California is moving backward.

If your school district ever files for due process against you it is important to seek legal advice on how to move forward. Regardless if you hire an attorney or not, you should at least contact an attorney who specializes in special education law and obtain a clear understanding of your rights. The Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) has a list of low cost and free attorneys you can use to find a law firm that you feel comfortable working with.

As always, we are happy to help too.

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Dyslexia and Other Specific Learning Disabilities: Is there a way to help our children?

 

 

 

Marcus, a hard-working father of four children, describes the determination of his nine-year-old son building a full-size Batmobile by dumping out all of the Legos he had accumulated over the years and designing it on his own. Despite the fact that his son was told his family could not afford the expensive kit, he persisted by deciding he could make what he wanted using photos he found online. Imagine the pride and satisfaction of accomplishing what others would not even fathom undertaking.

Now, fast forward to six years later and see that same, determined, bright, teenage boy spending countless hours every day of the week to grasp the most basic and fundamental skills in reading, spelling, and writing. Who was there to help? Did anyone, such as staff, recognize a problem or diagnosis to help him excel as he brilliantly did with those Legos? If so, was there anyone trained in effectuating this assistance? Unfortunately, this was not the case for Adam. Fortunately, he did not give up and even without proper assistance managed to complete as many tasks he could.

This story pertains to the student in California’s Office of Administrative Hearings’ (landmark decision, (July 2017)). The names are fictional. This case demonstrates the dangers of districts not providing appropriate training with regard to Specific Learning Disabilities (SLDs) by pertinent staff including teachers all the way up the principal. A lack of training withholds our children’s federal right to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).

The 2017 Guidelines (CDG) state, “Although the problems experienced by students with dyslexia may originate with neurobiological differences, the most effective treatment for these students and for those who struggle with related reading and language problems is skilled teaching. For that reason, it is critical that educators receive accurate and current information about evidence-based instructional strategies.”

In the case mentioned above, the court voted in favor of Adam, that 15-year-old teenage boy, hereby granting and ordering a long list of remedies. The Court recognizes the failures of the District but does not blame it per se. It further states that “school districts may be ordered to provide compensatory education or additional services to a student who has been denied a FAPE but … the award must be fact-specific.” Compensation may not always get to the student directly in monetary form but instead in services.

The court further states, that the IDEA can satisfy the compensatory remedy by staff training.  The decision goes on to discuss the importance of appropriate goals and services to meet Student’s unique needs in the areas of reading, spelling, and writing. For Student’s needs in this case it would be one hour per day of instruction in Orton-Gillingham, or the Slingerland method each school day or the equivalent thereof.  These are the methods most effective for dyslexia.

The CDG suggests standards for reading teachers that have been developed by the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) and the types of educators who can serve students with dyslexia and includes a list of salient personnel to obtain and use this knowledge. It emphasizes, “There is a great need for all educators and related service providers to be prepared to meet the needs of students with dyslexia, including speech-language pathologists, school psychologists, school counselors, school administrators, and paraprofessionals.”

Yes there is a way to help our children. Fortunately, in California, the decision along with CDG guidelines will help rectify wrongdoings mostly unbeknownst to district personnel. With this knowledge, now is the time to be informed and help our students overcome these tremendous barriers to an appropriate education. It is more expensive for districts not to abide by these words of wisdom. As a single mother of a 6-year-old boy struggling with similar obstacles, I feel blessed knowing that he can and will have appropriate services.

If he does not, I have the knowledge to pursue and advocate for him. With diligence, adherence to authority and guidelines, and patience we can do right by our children with SDLs and there will be no one left to blame.

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

La Jolla is a beautiful neighborhood just north of San Diego with seven miles of magnificent, curving coastline dotted with gorgeous beaches. Although it maintains a separate zip code and status as a city, it is still a part of the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) where many other valuable resources for special education can be found.

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Educational Resources for Special Needs Professionals and Families

La Jolla High School has a total of six staff members dedicated to serving those with special needs in their department. Within the SDUSD, there is also La Jolla Elementary School for the younger students, but again, more extensive and in-depth resources can be found in neighboring San Diego.

The Special Education Department of the SDUSC includes a Parent’s Resource page, which provides support to families of children with special needs that includes a parent’s helpline. There are links to resources throughout the district, calendar of events, workshops and support for parents as well as siblings. The IEP (Individual Education Plan) Parent Satisfaction Survey Form, Procedural Safeguards and Overviews are all available in several languages.

Resources and Assistance Outside of the San Diego District

The San Diego County Office of Education employs a Special Education Unit that provides specialized services for students with special needs and disabilities throughout the County. In addition to services for the students, they also provide support, coordination and assistance to the six SELPA’s (Special Education Local Plan Areas) within the County including the school districts, agencies and families.

The HOPE Infant Family Support Program offers services to infants and toddlers with special needs from birth to three years of age. Part of the California Early Start program, their no cost services provide home programs, family support, consultation services, social and behavioral support for those eligible infants and toddlers.

The Poway Unified School District, PUSD, has around two-thirds of their schools located within San Diego County to provide resources to students and parents. Their Special Education Department website has numerous links for the parents of primary and secondary students that include:

  • A parental handbook with detailed IEP information
  • Health services
  • Preschool assessment
  • A Community Advisory Committee (CAC)
  • WorkAbility and Transition Partnership Program

The PUSD also has a link to information about the exemption for students with special needs from passing the California High School Exit Examination. PUSD even has their own non-profit organization, the PUSD Special Education Foundation to help fund the gap between where tax dollars fall short and what parents can provide for their special needs children.

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 all across the state.

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Another Valuable Non-Profit for Resources and Assistance

The Special Needs Foundation of San Diego is “Dedicated to the families and professionals who care for children with special needs and advocate on their behalf.”

They have combined the many resources available in the community into a single location on their Resource List that support specific disabilities and diagnoses and also categorized by area of need. This comprehensive list of resources includes behavioral, education and health resources located in San Diego and beyond.

More than just resources and services, their website contains helpful articles, research updates and videos as well as event calendars that highlight upcoming conferences, seminars, lectures and other demonstrations. Often this information is directed at parents, professionals and other caregivers that offers data, practical advice and tips directed towards specific types of disorders, illnesses and disabilities.

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

Chula Vista, California, is one of the largest cities in the San Diego area. While the city has many resources for special education teachers, parents and students, residents can also look to nearby San Diego, about ten miles northwest of Chula Vista, for relevant organizations and agencies.

Special Education in San Jose

In addition to public education districts and offices, special education resources are offered by nonprofit and community organizations.

Chula Vista Special Education Resources

The Chula Vista Elementary School District provides links to a Special Education Parent Handbook and the IEP Process on its website. Both documents are presented in English and Spanish. Parents can also access a video about the district’s preschool special education services.

The Sweetwater Union High School District in Chula Vista has an Autism Team consisting of special education teachers, a speech pathologist, psychologist and occupational therapist. Through the school district, parents can find outpatient mental health counseling services for emotionally disturbed students. Day treatment services and a transition program are also provided.

The San Diego County Office of Education oversees four county Special Education Local Plan Areas (SELPAs), including the South County SELPA which encompasses the Chula Vista school district. The South County SELPA has a Community Advisory Committee that offers parent awareness and education workshops and conferences. The SELPA also provides training in instructional strategies, behavioral support, IEP development and inclusive classroom practices for special education teachers.

Special Education Recreational, Social and Legal Support for Parents and Students

From camps to support groups, special education parents and students in Chula Vista can find programs and other resources designed to raise awareness, provide information and help students build social skills.

Autism Society San Diego offers parent support meetings as well as numerous activities, such as swimming and camps, for autistic students. The Society provides a lending library consisting of books and videos about autism/Asperger’s at the Exceptional Family Resource Center (EFRC), which has locations in San Diego and Chula Vista.

Special Education in San Jose

EFRC also co-sponsors various support groups for parents of children with autism, ADD, Down syndrome and developmental disorders. Some of these support groups meet in Chula Vista or nearby areas.

San Diego County CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) holds support group meetings in San Diego and Chula Vista. CHADD also offers virtual conferences, online chats and blogs.

Motiva Associates, based in Chula Vista, provides in-home early and behavioral intervention programs for children with autism and developmental disorders.

Some San Diego-based organizations providing therapy services, social skills programs and parent support and mentoring groups include:

Legal advice or support for special education parents is provided by California Special Needs Law Group (CSNLG). The law firm is based in Costa Mesa but offers its services, which include conflict mediation and IEP development assistance, throughout the state.

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

Bakersfield, California, is a city found almost exactly between Fresno and Los Angeles; each are about 100 miles from Bakersfield (Fresno to the north, Los Angeles to the south).

Special Education Bakersfield

Though too far from these cities to take advantage of their special education resources, parents, teachers and students seeking special education support and information can find several organizations within Bakersfield to meet their needs. These organizations include mainly educational institutions and nonprofit agencies.

Educational Resources for Special Needs Professionals and Families

The Bakersfield City School District provides speech, language and physical therapy services to special education students. On the school’s website, teachers will find links to procedural safeguards, special education curriculum information and IEP preparation forms. Parents can access links to a special education handbook as well as information about the Community Advisory Committee, which holds meetings addressing a variety of special education topics such as intervention strategies and support services.

The Kern County Consortium Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) consists of 44 schools districts and three charter schools and is based in Bakersfield. The SELPA offers parent training through workshops and a video library. It also oversees an Early Start program. In addition, personnel development programs are offered.

The Stockdale Learning Center provides educational therapy services for children with learning disabilities. The center will run diagnostic testing and employ intervention techniques. Advocacy services and workshops for parents are also offered here.

Recreational, Legal and Support Resources for Special Education Students and Parents

From awareness programs to social skills development, a few organizations based in Bakersfield focus on support for special education families. Some of these organizations focus on specific developmental or learning disorders, while others have broad programs that encompass more than one disability.

The Kern Autism Network, an affiliate chapter of the Autism Society, hosts monthly family and sibling support group meetings and workshops to help children build social skills as well as an annual Autism Awareness Conference.

Special Education Bakersfield

Bakersfield’s Valley Achievement Center has an afterschool program and a social skills program for autistic children. It also operates an Early Start program for pre-schoolers, which includes behavior analysis and transition planning.

H.E.A.R.T.S. Connection Family Resource Center in Bakersfield offers parents support workshops, mentoring and assistance with IEP development. There’s also fun, social events for special needs children and their families, an educational program using puppets for 4th-grade students to help them understand about learning and developmental disorders, and activities for siblings of special education children.

Bakersfield is also home to the Society for Disabled Children, which supplies speech and language therapy and social activities which could include games, pasta dinners, rock wall climbing and even flying. The Society also oversees a summer camp for children with disabilities.

For legal support and advice, special education parents in Bakersfield can turn to California Special Needs Law Group (CSNLG). CSNLG can assist parents with Individual Education Plan (IEP) development and help to mediate disputes between special education parents and school systems. Their services are available throughout the state.

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

Valencia is an upscale neighborhood in Santa Clarita, California; thus, special education teachers, parents and students would find resources mainly in that city.

Special Education Valencia

Special education resources for Valencia residents can also be explored in other nearby areas, such as Burbank and Altadena. These resources are offered mainly through nonprofit organizations focusing on a specific learning or developmental disorder, such as autism or Asperger’s syndrome.

Educational Resources for Special Education Teachers, Parents and Students in Valencia

The Santa Clarita Valley Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) offers meetings addressing behavior intervention plans and strategies as well as aspects of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Parents will also find networking opportunities through the SELPA, in addition to workshops. Special education training is also provided.

The Community Advisory Committee, in addition to workshops and meetings, also oversees advocacy and outreach practices.

Through the SELPA’s website, parents can access documents containing information about parents’ rights and a glossary of special education terms.

The Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) offers counseling, mobility instruction, and speech, language, occupational and physical therapy services to special education students. LACOE also offers an Early Start program for special needs children.

Other Special Education Resources Available to Valencia Teachers, Parents and Students

The two organizations closest to Valencia that provide special education information and support for professionals and parents are found in Santa Clarita. They are the Family Focus Center of California State University – Northridge and the Santa Clarita Autism Asperger Network (SCAAN).

The former offers support groups, IEP training and parent mentoring at its Santa Clarita branch, which is located in the North Los Angeles County Regional Center. SCAAN is a networking and support service for special needs families.

Special Education Valencia

About 25 miles southeast of Valencia, the SFV (San Fernando Valley) Autism Families in North Hollywood hosts  workshops, lectures and conferences for parents. Activities designed to build social skills for autistic children are also provided.

Talk About Curing Autism (TACA) holds monthly meetings in both North Hollywood and Burbank. Burbank is about 28 miles outside of Valencia. These meetings can feature educational speakers and allow for special education parents to network with other parents.

About 38 miles southeast, in Altadena, California, Education Spectrum offers programs for children with autism, Asperger’s and related disorders and their families. Parent training sessions conducted by the organization targets behavioral management and intervention strategies and techniques. Children can attend social skills camps and individual or family therapy programs.

Valencia 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 Pasadena, the law firm offers its services, which include conflict mediation and IEP development assistance, throughout the state.

Special Education Spotlight Palmdale: Resources for Students, Teachers, and Parents

Palmdale is a city located about 60 miles north of Los Angeles. Parents, students and professionals seeking special education information and support can tap into some resources in the city, but in most cases will have to venture beyond Palmdale’s borders to find relevant organizations.

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While a bit too far from L.A. for Palmdale residents to explore special education organizations and resources provided by that city, parents, students and teachers can look to nearby Lancaster, Santa Clarita and surrounding areas for information sources and supportive services.

Educational Resources for Palmdale Teachers, Students and Parents

The Palmdale School District provides various services for special education students, including occupational therapy, counseling, early intervention and speech and language pathology.

On the school’s website, parents can find links to parents’ rights as well as a directory for youth and family services in the community. These would include support groups and mental health services.

The Antelope Valley SELPA (Special Education Local Plan Area) has its office set up in Palmdale. The SELPA has a Community Advisory Committee and offers information about parents’ rights on its website. The SELPA also provides professional development workshops for special education teachers.

Powerline Programs is based in Palmdale and has a reading program designed for students with learning disabilities.

The Palmdale location of Penny Lane Centers, which offers mental health and family services in many areas of Southern California, hosts a day school for children with developmental disabilities that runs during the school year and during the summer with adjusted hours.

The non-public Academy for Advancement of Children with Autism (AACA) is located in Lancaster, less than ten miles north of Palmdale. In addition to a specialized curriculum, AACA offers occupational and physical therapy, speech and language pathology, and behavioral analysis. Parent training services are also provided.

Other Resources for Special Education Professionals and Families in Palmdale

Though located about 35 miles from Palmdale, Santa Clarita is the nearest city with large-scale special needs resources.

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The Santa Clarita branch of California State University – Northridge’s Family Focus Resource Center is found at the North Los Angeles Regional Center. Support groups, parent mentoring and IEP development training are among the services provided by this branch. The Center also hosts an annual Special Needs Resource Fair.

Family support and networking services can be found through the Santa Clarita Autism Asperger Network (SCAAN). Special education students can enjoy playgroups to help with the development of social skills, and there are also family events and parties. Members can take advantage of a lending library that offers books and other materials on developmental disabilities.

Farther from Palmdale, about 50 miles south in North Hollywood, the San Fernando Valley Autism Families provides parents with workshops, lectures and conferences. Social skills-building activities for autistic children are also provided.

Special education legal support and advice is offered by California Special Needs Law Group (CSNLG). This Pasadena-based firm provides advocacy services, represent parents through conflict mediation and helps with IEP development.

 

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

The largest city in Stanislaus County, Modesto, California, is home to a few resources for special education professionals, parents and students. These resources can be found through educational organizations, treatment centers and nonprofit agencies.

Special Education Modesto

However, though it is a large city, Modesto has somewhat limited special education resources. Residents seeking support in or information regarding special education might look beyond the city’s limits to organizations located in nearby cities.

Education-Based Resources for Special Education Teachers, Parents and Students

Modesto City Schools provides a Community Advisory Committee offering parents workshops and meetings addressing such topics as IEP development and special education laws. The website for the school system also provides a link to a document detailing the rights of special education parents and children. Parents can also access Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) news.

The Stanislaus County Office of Education, based in Modesto, has a Special Education Department that oversees speech and language, occupational therapy and Early Start services. The office also has an intern program for teachers seeking special education certification.

Other Organizations in or Near Modesto Offering Special Education Resources

Very few organizations focusing on special needs are located directly in Modesto. Parents and special education professionals interested in workshops, support groups or other services may need to travel up to 50 miles outside of Modesto.

Behavioral treatment programs are offered to infants, toddlers, preschool and elementary special needs children through the Central Valley Autism Project in Modesto. Programs are designed to help children develop language, social and cognitive skills. B.E.S.T. (Behavioral and Educational Strategies and Training) has an office in Modesto  offering assessment and treatment plans for autistic children. Parent services include a newsletter, monthly support group and training workshops.

Based about 30 miles northwest of Modesto in Stockton and serving several counties, including Stanislaus, Family Resource Network provides advocacy services, workshops, seminars and support groups for parents of special education students. The Network also hosts an annual Early Start symposium and publishes helpful articles for special education parents in an online newsletter published four times per year.

Special Education Modesto

In Sierra Vista, about 50 miles southeast of Modesto, the Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center offers an Autism Support Group for parents. The group meets on the third Friday of February, April, June, August, October and December.

And the Sacramento Autistic Spectrum and Special Needs Alliance (SASSNA), about 75 miles Modesto, provides advocacy and case management services. There’s also events designed to help special education students build social skills, parent support groups and an email discussion group for families, teachers and other professionals.

The California Special Needs Law Group (CSNLG) is a Pasadena-based firm offering services throughout the state. These services include IEP development assistance and conflict mediation.