What's New

Director’s Corner

September 21st, 2017

Since school has started we have gotten a surprising number of questions from parents who are getting contracts from their school calling for them to be financially responsible for damage to any assistive technology provided for their children to use out of school. This is what we think:

First, it is clear that the IDEA requires that your child receive a Free Appropriate Public Education. That means assistive technology must be provided for your child at no cost to you BUT, you CAN be expected to exercise a reasonable amount of care for property that is in your control.

The contract we have seen most often seems to be adapted from one issued by CABE to cover the Ipads and Chromebooks that are being issued to all students in some schools. They include language about neglect, misuse, theft and abuse of the equipment. Many parents of children with disabilities are rightly concerned that a student with a disability can be expected to do things that might be considered abuse of the device because of her disability. So the contract seems to put them on the hook for the cost of repairing or replacing the device because their child does things as the result of his or her disability.

Our suggestion has two parts. First reach out to your team leader or special education contact and explain your concerns. It is often the case that a form like this is issued from a business office where the people may not understand its implications for kids with disabilities. We suggest that you provide some language to amend the contract acknowledging that everyone knows that many children with disabilities are going to expose equipment to more stressors than their typical peers.

An example of language that might work is:

My son or daughter is a child with a disability and may, as a result of that disability, subject the device to actions that might be considered abuse if they were performed by a child who does not have the same disability. I am asking THE Board to confirm it understands this and that it must accommodate the limitations imposed by his disability and that it will not seek to obtain reimbursement for the cost of damage caused as a result of his disability.”

The second issue we see is language limiting the use of the device to your home. Again, particularly for communications devices this is probably not a reasonable requirement. If an AT device is being provided for home use by your child’s IEP, any limitations on where it can be used should also be spelled out. A contract written for a device that might be used at home for homework could reasonably be expected to be used only at home, but one that a child uses to communicate is going to be needed in many places from the grocery store to the doctor’s office and hundreds of others.

Again, the IEP is going to be the answer. So, if your child’s IEP calls for the use of AT to learn and support communication in typical situations clearly it is intended to be used everywhere he or she can be expected to be able to use expressive language. So contact your special education director or team leader to make sure the actual use of the device is documented.

There are always going to be twists and unusual situations so if you have further questions we hope you will call us at (860)739-3089, or email at cpac@cpacinc.org. You chan also check out the website for more information.

Director’s Corner

August 28th, 2017

As I am sitting at my desk in Niantic I am noticing that the number of folks walking by our office on the way to the beach is starting to slow down. It’s a sure sign that we should be starting to look forward the beginning to a new school year. As with any new beginning we can look forward to new opportunities, and to prepare for new challenges.

Calls to CPAC tend to slow down some during the summer, but many of those that do come in are from families concerned about the upcoming year. They tend to come in two varieties: “We had such a good year last year, and now we are moving to a new teacher. How can we make sure the good work continues?” Or “Last year was pretty rough, what can we do to make next year is better?”

Among the best things you can do in either case is to make sure everyone involved has as much information as they can get about your child and her challenges and her strengths. An IEP can be a pretty dry document, and it generally doesn’t convey the little things last year’s teacher did that worked well, or poorly. You have the chance to reach out to the new professionals, not to tell them “You must do this or that”, but “Mr. A tried this simple little thing, and it make a surprising difference.”

Let the professionals know that you are available and interested, that you are looking forward to a very good year, you want to hear how your son is doing, that you and are eager to answer questions that come up about your daughter. It really does take a team to provide an appropriate education and you have a chance to try and set the tone and make everyone involved be eager to be a part of that team.

As usual, we at CPAC want to be part of that team if you need us. Our parent consultants will be working hard to answer the questions that come up and to help you be the best advocate for your child that you can be.

We will be providing group training in towns across the state. Last year we did more than one hundred parent and professional trainings and are always happy to do more. If you would like to have CPAC come and do a training in your school it’s easy, just call us and we’ll tell you how.

We also have changes coming. Early this fall we will be rolling out or completely revamped website with a new look and even more materials and information to help you through this process. We hope you like the new look, and more importantly we want to be sure it works for you. If there are materials you’d like to see, let us know. We want to hear.

Here at CPAC, we are gearing for another successful school year working with you to ensure your children receive the education that is their right. But before that take time to get the best from the rest of the summer. On behalf of myself and the staff at CPAC we offer our best wishes for a great new school year.

John M. Flanders
Executive Director

Congressional Internship Program for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities

August 14th, 2017

Established by Rep. Gregg Harper in 2010, the Congressional Internship Program for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities is a unique program designed to give students with varying intellectual disabilities an opportunity to gain congressional work experience.

Working in conjunction with George Mason University’s LIFE Program – a postsecondary education program for young adults with intellectual disabilities – Harper launched the internship program with three Mason LIFE students and six House offices. To date, 150 congressional offices from the House and Senate have participated.

Additionally, the participating interns receive stipends for their work on Capitol Hill through a grant provided by The HSC Foundation. The grant, part of HSCF’s Youth Transitions Initiative, is an important way to acknowledge the interns’ important contributions and helps to achieve the common goal of guiding these students towards permanent, professional employment.

Today, Harper continues to expand the program to accommodate additional students so that they are given the same exciting educational and enrichment opportunities typically afforded to congressional interns working here in the nation’s capital.

Each participating office will host a Mason LIFE student and his or her work coach for one two-hour session each week. During the two-hour sessions, which are held Monday, Wednesdays, and Friday mornings and afternoons, the interns will work with their congressional office and their work coach to complete various office tasks as assigned.

In addition to fulfilling their weekly office responsibilities, the interns will have an opportunity to enjoy various enrichment activities coordinated by the program administrators. Some of the prior enrichment activities have included Capitol tours and trips to one of the many Smithsonian museums nearby.

The upcoming Fall internship program runs from Monday, September 11, 2017, through Friday, December 8, 2017.
Click here to sign up for the 2017 Fall Program!

If your office is interested in participating in the program, or for more information, please contact the Committee at (202) 225-8281. Each participating office is asked to host a student for one two-hour session each week on Mondays, Wednesdays, or Fridays.

Feds Find Fewer States Meeting Special Ed Obligations

July 22nd, 2017

Less than half of states are meeting their obligations to appropriately serve students with disabilities under the nation’s special education law, federal education officials say.

In an annual review, the U.S. Department of Education found that only 22 states deserved the “meets requirements” designation for the 2015-2016 school year. All other states were placed into the “needs assistance” category.

The findings issued this summer come from a mandatory assessment of state compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The ratings are based on how well states meet their obligations to serve students with disabilities ages 3 to 21.

Federal officials look at student performance and functional outcomes for kids with disabilities as well as how well states follow through with procedural duties like completing special education evaluations.

If a state fails to achieve the “meets requirements” level for two or more consecutive years, IDEA stipulates that the Education Department take enforcement action, which can include redirecting or withholding funds, developing a corrective action plan or mandating other changes.

This year’s determinations reflect a drop in the number of states found to meet requirements. Last year, 24 states received that designation.

States receiving letters indicating that they met their obligations under IDEA include Alabama, Delaware, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

The remaining states were labeled “needs assistance.”

No state received the more extreme designations of “needs intervention” or “needs substantial intervention.”

Read more from disabilityscoop.com.

Director’s Corner

June 28th, 2017

On Wednesday, June 14th, I was really pleased to have the chance to attend the recognition ceremony for the parents who participated in our New Haven training program. What a great group of parents. For the past year, we have worked with the New Haven Board of Education to provide a year long series of parent trainings in English and Spanish throughout schools in the city. Over forty parents participated, with many attending every session. CPAC provided sessions on topics such as understanding the IEP, how to deal with challenging behaviors in children, and building self-advocacy skills.

The parents were justifiably proud of their learning and all of us at CPAC are happy to have had the chance to help them learn about the process. We are also very happy that New Haven Public School District was so willing to play an important role in this. The NHPS provided rooms for us to meet, food to eat, transportation and reached out to families to inform them about the program. While we still have a way to go, this is a very positive step and we are very proud to have been a partner.

I am also very proud of the parent consultants who worked so hard to provide the trainings. In particular, Kiomary Sotillo, who did much of the training including all of the sessions in Spanish. It was very clear that all the parents were tremendously grateful for her work.

CPAC provides a lot to training. Well over one thousand people attended our sessions last year. We offer programs both to parents and to education professionals. Many of our training sessions are for ten or twelve parents at a program offer by their local SEPTO, but we also present to statewide conferences with hundreds of attendees, to 80 plus paraprofessional, and even to the State’s training program for IEP Chairs. We have programs on a wide range of topics. But we are always willing to design new programs to meet the needs of groups looking for our help.

The jewel of our work is a program we call Next Steps. This is an eight-week intensive program aimed at training parents who are interested in being leaders and helping others in the special education process. We offer Next Steps three time a year at locations around the state. We are planning our fall session now and announcements will be coming soon.

I want to invite all our parents and professionals to take advantage of these programs. If you would like us to come to your area, please call us at 860-739-3089 or drop us an email at cpac@cpacinc.org. We will be happy to work with you. Our sessions are open to all and always free for parents. Again, congratulations to the whole group of New Haven trainees.

John

2016-2017 Special Education Parent Survey Update

May 30th, 2017

The Connecticut 2016-2017 Special Education Parent Survey will be going out to families on or after May 31st! If your child attends any of these school districts be on the lookout for the survey and be sure to fill it out and submit! It will be mailed and emailed if the district has your email address. The district’s marked with * will be sampled so not every parent will receive one. Please feel free to call CPAC if you have questions. 860-739-3089 (for help in Spanish 203-776-3211).

School Districts:

Ashford Branford Bridgeport* Bristol* Brookfield Brooklyn Canaan Canton Chaplin Colchester Cornwall Coventry CTHSS* Derby DMHAS East Hartford* Easton Ellington Farmington Griswold Hamden* Hampton Hartland Kent Killingly Ledyard Manchester* Mansfield Monroe New Britain* New London* North Canaan North Haven North Stonington Oxford Plainville Redding Region 01 Region 06 Region 09 Region 11 Region 19 Salem Salisbury Scotland Sharon Shelton* South Windsor Sprague Stratford* Suffield Thompson Trumbull* Vernon Waterford Watertown Westbrook Weston Westport Willington Wilton Winchester Windsor Locks

* Parents Sampled

2017 Guidelines for Occupational Therapy in Connecticut Schools

May 15th, 2017

In a May 10, 2017, memorandum to Connecticut Special Education Directors, it was announced that the 2017 Guidelines for Occupational Therapy in Connecticut Schools is now available. Please review this memorandum which contains the Web link leading to this guidance document.

Memorandum 2017 Guidelines for Occupational Therapy in Connecticut Schools

U.S. Access Board Issues Guidance on the International Symbol of Accessibility

May 2nd, 2017

The U.S. Access Board has released guidance on the International Symbol of Accessibility (ISA) to address questions that have arisen on the use of alternative symbols. Some cities and states have adopted a different symbol that was created to be more dynamic and suggestive of movement. The Board’s guidance explains how use of a symbol other than the ISA impacts compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Standards issued under the ADA require that the ISA label certain accessible elements, spaces, and vehicles, including parking spaces, entrances, restrooms, and rail cars. Similar requirements are contained in standards issued under the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) for federally funded facilities. The ISA, which is maintained by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), has served as a world-wide accessibility icon for almost 50 years.

“Consistency in the use of universal symbols is important, especially for persons with limited vision or cognitive disabilities,” states Marsha Mazz, Director of the Board’s Office of Technical and Information Services. “In addition to the ADA and ABA Standards, many codes and regulations in the U.S. and abroad also require display of the ISA.”

While the ADA Standards do not recognize specific substitutes for the ISA, they do generally allow alternatives to prescribed requirements that provide substantially equivalent or greater accessibility and usability under a provision known as “equivalent facilitation.” However, in the event of a legal challenge, the entity pursuing an alternative has the burden of proof in demonstrating equivalent facilitation. Under the ABA Standards, use of a symbol other than the ISA requires issuance of a modification or waiver by the appropriate standard-setting agency.

“The Board understands the interest out there to revisit the ISA but strongly recommends that such efforts be directed to the ISO to ensure consensus in adoption and uniformity in implementation,” says Mazz.

The ISA bulletin is posted on the Board’s website along with other issued guidance on the ADA Standards and the ABA Standards. For further information, contact Dave Yanchulis, yanchulis@access-board.gov, (202) 272-0026 (v), or (202) 272-0027 (TTY).

Testing for Students Enrolled in Out-of-State Facilities or State Non-Approved Schools

May 2nd, 2017

Connecticut public school districts are now responsible to test students in the Public School Information System (PSIS) who are enrolled in out-of-state facilities or are enrolled in state non-approved schools. Please see the following important previously published documents for information.

Students in PSIS who attend Out-of-State Facilities or In-State Non-Approved Facilities
http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/pdf/student_assessment/smarter_balanced/Out_of_State_and_Non_Approveds_2_14_17.pdf

Connecticut Alternative Assessment System Participation Guidance for Planning and Placement Teams
http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/pdf/student_assessment/special_education/Alternate_Assessment_Participation_Decisions_Flowchart.pdf

Parent Input Needed for IEE Task Force

March 29th, 2017

In February a number of parents and organizations, including CPAC, filed a petition with the State Board of Education to amend the State’s regulations on Independent Educational Evaluations, (IEE) and on parents’ rights to observe their children in school. The Board responded by establishing a task force to study the issue and to report back in July with recommendations on how things can be improved. This means you have the chance to have your voice heard.

Two changes to the regulations are being considered, but first a little background. Whenever a parent disagrees with an evaluation done on their child, or when they request and evaluation and the school has denied to conduct an evaluation the parents are entitled to request an IEE. An IEE is an evaluation performed by a professional who does not work for the school, either to see if there are errors in the one performed by the schools, or the get the information the school does not believe it needs to obtain. When a parent makes a request for an IEE the school has two options: They can take the parents to a due process hearing to prove the information they have collected is correct, or they can provide the parents with the qualifications required for the person to perform the IEE.

The petition was made because sometimes the list of necessary qualifications tends to vary depending on what town is being asked. More importantly, in many towns the list limits the parents’ ability to find a professional to do the evaluation.

The other issue is parent observation. Some schools put unnecessarily strict limits on the amount of time that parents, or professionals hired by parents can observe their child during the school day. Some totally refuse to allow parents to observe at all. This can mean that the parents are unable to get a full picture of their children’s programs, or how those programs are working.

We know many families face one or both of these problems because many of you call us for help. If you have experienced one or both of these problems there is an opportunity for your voice to be heard, an for you to make a deference for all our kids.

The Task Force has set aside two hours of it meetings on April 7 and April 17 to hear from parents and school personnel on this. The meetings begin at 10:00 at the Connecticut State Department of Education’s offices at 450 Columbus Avenue in Hartford. If you have run into problems on either of these issues we urge you to make the time to testify so parents’ voices are heard. For more information please call us at 860-739-3089 or email at iee@cpacinc.org. If you are unable to make it and would like to tell your story in writing or in a video or voice recording please call and we will tell you how to do that as well.