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CPAC’s Review of Bills from the 2019 Legislative Session

June 28th, 2019


Another session of the Connecticut State Legislature has come to an end. All in all we think that a number of bills favorable to students with disabilities were passed by both the House and Senate and as of this writing are waiting for the Governor’s signature. We want to give highlights from some of the bills we found most important.

Before this we want to recognize the large number of parents, students and supporters who came out and gave their time to testify to committees and to reach out to their legislators in support of legislation to help students. Your contributions went a long way towards helping these bills through and you should be proud of your efforts. An addition, we want to recognize the groups that came out and worked, including those supporting people with specific disabilities, parent advocacy organizations, teachers, and school administrators. We also want to recognize the hard work and serious attention to these issues by members of the House of Representatives and the State Senate. The students of Connecticut will have better access to appropriate education because of your work.

Space only allows us to give brief descriptions of each of these Acts. If you have more questions please review the actual bills and don’t hesitate to call us at 860-739-3089 or email at cpac@cpacinc.org.

Links to each of the bills are included below each description.

The bills we were following are:

SB 1067 an Act Establishing a Task Force to Analyze the Implementation of Laws Governing Dyslexia Instruction And Training.

This bill establishes a task force to determine if current rules on teacher preparation to meet the needs of students with dyslexia are being followed, and to make recommendations on professional development and support for teachers to address the needs of students with dyslexia and other reading challenges.

The task force is to have eleven members, three of whom are parents of students with dyslexia and one who is a representative of an organization that works for such students. We were very happy to have such a significant family role in the process. While strongly supporting the bill we did propose that the task force should have included an adult with dyslexia.

https://www.cga.ct.gov/2019/ACT/sa/pdf/2019SA-00008-R00SB-01067-SA.pdf

HB 7168 an Act Concerning Transitional Services for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

This bill changes the age at which the PPT for a student who is identified autistic must begin establishing a plan for a student’s transition from school to work, post secondary education, or adult life from 16 to 14. Starting transition planning early is always a good idea regardless of the student’s disability but we are concerned about a law that separates out a service for students with a single disability classification. We will continue to encourage all PPTs to begin transition planning early enough to support the individual needs and aspirations of every student.

https://www.cga.ct.gov/2019/ACT/pa/pdf/2019PA-00049-R00HB-07168-PA.pdf

HB 7215 An Act Concerning School Climate

This bill does three things. First it establishes a state social emotional learning school climate advisory collaborative to collect information and advise schools on best practices for fostering safe school climates, to explore ways to address teen suicide, to collect information from schools and to monitor their efforts to improve school climate and social and emotional learning. CPAC is among the stakeholders appointed to the collaborative.

The bill also provides new or expanded definitions for several terms including bullying, safe school climate, social and emotional learning, emotional intelligence, and Positive school climate.

Finally it expands and redefines the role of each Board of Education to develop and implement a safe school climate plan to address the existence of bullying and teen dating violence in its schools.

https://www.cga.ct.gov/2019/ACT/pa/pdf/2019PA-00166-R00HB-07215-PA.pdf

HB 7353 an Act Concerning the Provision of Special Education.

This bill has a number of provisions over a wide range of issues related to special education.

First Section 1 prohibits schools from retaliating against educators who speak out for students during PPT meetings. For years we have heard from many teachers and parents that there is a fear among school staff to disagree with recommendations or conclusions that are presented during a PPT meeting because they might be subject to discipline or other work problems for doing so. We believe this section will be helpful in fostering a climate of collaboration, transparency, and thoughtful consideration of information by Planning and Placement Teams.

Section 2 establishes a working group to look at the issues faced by children who have left Birth to Three, but are not yet eligible for kindergarten. We see problems in this area daily and have set up our Preschool Pathfinder program to help families who have concerns in this area so we are happy that a task force will be looking at the area. Unfortunately, the bill neglects to include either parents or organizations that represent families in its membership. We hope and trust the Task force will reach out to the parents of children in this age range to help craft effective recommendations.

Sections 3 through 5 concern students who are deaf or hard of hearing and require that all students, including those on Section 504 plans have a language and communication plan included in their IEP or 504 plan. It also requires that an emergency notification plan be created for each of these students to ensure they will be made aware of a school emergency.

Section 6 requires the Department of Education to develop new guidelines to evaluate the language development of students who are deaf, hard of hearing, or who have a visual impairment and hearing loss.

Section 7 establishes a requirement for notification of parents whose child has been identified as gifted or talented,

Section 8 requires school district to reimburse magnet schools for the increased cost of providing accommodations under a Section 504 plan incurred by the districts’ students.

Section 9 directs the Department of Education to look into the issues related to having private therapists provide services for students with disabilities during the school day.

Finally Section 10 requires private schools that have students placed in them to notify the sending school districts of any complaints of mistreatment of students in the school.

https://www.cga.ct.gov/2019/ACT/pa/pdf/2019PA-00184-R00HB-07353-PA.pdf

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Jake’s Juxtaposition – “Leaders are built, not born”

June 12th, 2019

“Leaders are built, not born”.
With this said, let me explain, when you’re leading it is assumed
that you know where you’re headed. So to successfully lead yourself
and others who may be following you you’ve got to have a clear picture
of where you want to be. Do you want to forge the new paths of
tomorrow and lead to where you’d like go. Once you’ve figured this out
your 3/4 of way to leading yourself and others to the Successful life
you’ve been aiming for. So in conclusion aim for the stars. ” Just
don’t hit one they’re HOT!

Individualized Education Program Document Revision Process – by Bureau Bulletin

June 12th, 2019

Individualized Education Program Document Revision Process
by Bureau Bulletin

The Connecticut State Department of Education (CSDE) is currently in the process of revising the State’s individualized education program (IEP) document. An essential component to the provision of a free and appropriate public education to students with disabilities, the IEP document is the official record of a planning and placement team’s decisions regarding a student’s special education eligibility identification and program. As federal and state requirements have changed over the years, the document currently in use in the state has required multiple updates since its origination. As a result, the Bureau of Special Education (BSE) has determined that a more holistic revision of the IEP document is warranted. Our goal is to design an IEP document that is less complicated for practitioners to use and easier for parents and students to understand.

Since July 2018, the BSE has undertaken several activities related to this important work. In addition to establishing an internal team to lead the revision process, the main focus of the BSE has been to seek stakeholder input regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the current IEP document. Opportunities for feedback included a survey of special education directors, regional meetings for parents and educators, an electronic survey accessible on the CSDE website, input from students and the State Advisory Council for Special Education. The feedback received has informed the development of a draft revised IEP document. The BSE internal team also completed a review of statutory and regulatory requirements and conducted reviews of IEP documents used in other states.

In addition to the activities listed above, the BSE formed an external advisory stakeholder group consisting of 22 individuals representing various perspectives. This group met regularly throughout the year to provide comment on the current document and feedback on a draft revised IEP document. The input from this group was critical in the development of a new IEP document.

In the upcoming weeks, the BSE is prepared to post the Draft IEP document revision on the CSDE website for public comment. Following the public comment period, we will continue to engage with stakeholders to design an implementation plan.

It is important to note that the current IEP document will remain in use across the state for the entirety of the 2019-2020 school year.

Bureau Bulletin | June 12, 2019 at 10:54 am | Tags: IEP, Individualized Education Program Document Revision Process | Categories: Bureau Happenings, State of the State | URL: https://wp.me/p1T6gp-m8

Jake’s Juxtaposition – “Summertime”

June 3rd, 2019

“Summertime…”
Hello, this is Jake again.
As summer approaches, I find myself wanting to be out an about in a leisurely manner more and more and just breathe in the fresh salty air near the shoreline or the deep earthy fragrance of a nature trail or park. I’ve got a few of my favorites for you for this summer, so check it out. Now, you know I use a power-chair, so getting to places can have its barriers. Obviously, I would have a difficult time navigating stairs or tight corners and nooks in historical buildings and museums. I truly enjoy being on our boat, nature trails, hands on activities. My favorites are Harkness Park, Niantic Bay Boardwalk, Day Pond for fishing, Mystic Aquarium. (By the way, the M.A. went through the ADA Checklist I believe last year) With summer also comes crowded places, so be alert and aware as it may cause a few bumps. Don’t be dissuaded by the first bump, it often pushes you out of your comfort zone and hey, it helps others see and understand you better. DEEP’s website does mention a few accessible places throughout the State, be sure to check it out. I did. The great thing that it lists contact information to the places, so don’t be shy to contact them. I am confused though, as disabilities does not differentiate wheelchair accessibility…imagine all the places with disability accessible and none wheelchair accessible. (you probably just saw me shaking my head)…but we all know that is the reality. In conclusion: the more we go out in our communities this summer, be it concerts, sporting events, social events, movies, outdoor functions and so on, the more we improve these places by bringing the awareness. So pack up your sunscreens, bug sprays, styling hats and positivity filled water bottles and make the most of the wonderful adventures this season…and this is Jake’s Juxtaposition.

FAQ April 2019

April 24th, 2019

Dear Parent Consultant,

I have a PPT coming up for my son. I requested this PPT three weeks ago and it is scheduled for tomorrow. I called the PPT to formally request a test for my son in the area of math. He has dyslexia and he is truly struggling with the language in his math. I am concerned that they will do what they always do, tell me they need to think about it and will get back to me. I am frustrated as this happens all the time and there is always a delay, sometimes even when the answer is no. I have already waited to hold the PPT and do not want to wait any longer for their answer, what can I do?

Jaime’s Mom

Dear Jaime’s Mom,

I hear your frustration and have a couple of suggestions. First of all, make sure you have examples of his struggles with the language of math to explain your concerns. Bring in samples and make sure the math teacher is at the PPT as well. If you have had any correspondence with the teacher, sharing these same struggles, you may want to bring that too.

As for delaying the answer, that is actually not supposed to happen at all. If you are clear that you are making a formal request the district is required to document their answer on the page called Prior Written Notice (page 3 of CT’s form). There is a spot for each, Action Proposed and Action Refused, depending upon the team’s decision. If the person running the meeting states that they want to delay the response you can say that you would like to know how they will complete the Prior Written Notice page without the team’s response to your proposal. Additionally, when that page is filled out, it is required that the district state the data that they are using to make the decision. So for example, if they tell you “no” they do not agree with the need for a math evaluation, you may want to ask “what data will you be including on Prior Written Notice that supports this decision? I would say these are your next steps and if you get a “no” and you feel you have appropriate evidence to support your position you have some additional dispute resolutions you can try next. Good luck, hopefully your explanation and evidence of his struggles will get him the needed evaluation.
The most important elements to remember when advocating for yourself or a child are that students with disabilities must have individualized education plans (IEPs) that include offers of free and appropriate public education (FAPE), and that these students are entitled to receive their education within the least restrictive environment (LRE). These rights are guaranteed under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). These offers of FAPE come in the form of goals, based upon the present levels of academic performance and functional performance; description of services needed with time and location; accommodations and modifications; and some legally required check points.

www.specialeducationguide.com/pre-k-12/what-is-special-education/legal-rights-to-services/

Jakes Juxtaposition – “This blog is dedicated to you”

April 24th, 2019

Sundays are my favorite days. This past weekend made me think of who my pillars are and the importance of my supporters, family, friends, peers and teachers that I don’t think I acknowledge enough.
This blog is dedicated to you.
Some of my days seem downright crazy, running from point A to point B, having my mom chauffeur me around for appointments a few times a week. I don’t even know if there is a “role book” somewhere, but she sure is my role model. My father also, who dedicates the wee hours in the mornings to exercise with me, watch my healthy eating habits and encourage to stay healthy. I wish there were some donuts in the menu sometimes. (that stays for my transition program…ha-ha…no pun intended). My family is my rock, there is no way around it. The passion I have for caring and helping others come from the people who support me in everything I do. My mentors who work with me are encouraging and live up to what they do best: Mentoring. My staff at school don’t ever let me get discouraged, their diverse approaches always work, and get the best laughs and jokes ever. I am achieving my dreams because of all of them. I become a better version of myself every day (for what I remember of). My advice to you is: follow your dreams even if they may be outlandish. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, and know that the families that involved in every and any part of your success will lead to greater achievements. I believe that with passion there is purpose…. And that’s Jakes Juxtaposition

April 2019 – Directors Corner

April 24th, 2019

A lot of the information in this month’s e-News concerns Prior Written Notice. PWN is one of the most important parts of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and one of the most important parts of your student’s IEP. Changes are coming in the form that is used to record those IEPs and I wanted to discuss a little bit about why this is so important and what you can do to help make it better.

PWN is recorded on page 3 of the IEP form currently used here in Connecticut. It is supposed to include a record of every change to the services and placement of the student as those that were proposed and rejected by the team. Most importantly it should record every suggestion you made. IDEA requires the IEP to have a written record of every proposed action to “initiate or change the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of the child or the provision of FAPE to the child” or refuses any of these steps.

The written notice must also include (1)A description of the action proposed or refused by the agency; (2) An explanation of why the agency proposes or refuses to take the action; (3) A description of each evaluation procedure, assessment, record, or report the agency used as a basis for the proposed or refused action; (6) A description of other options that the IEP Team considered and the reasons why those options were rejected; and (7) A description of other factors that are relevant to the agency’s proposal or refusal.

This is all the actual language from the Federal Regulation Section 300.503 if you want to look it up. You’ll notice I left out numbers 4 and 5, I’ll get to them in a minute.

It also makes clear that you must be able to understand the notice, and it must be communicated in your native language if that is needed. This means if you need it, the page must be translated for you. Perhaps more importantly what that means is: If you don’t understand; ask questions. You have a right to know.

If you look at page 3 of your child’s IEP one of the first things you will notice is that there is not a lot of space in which to give you that notice. There are a lot of check boxes and very small spaces. Those spaces should be filled with references to the test, evaluations and other data the team used to make those decisions, and the written copies of that information should be included with the IEP.

Getting back to numbers 4 and 5 in the regulation, the notice should also include notice of your rights, and who you can contact to have those rights explained. In Connecticut that’s CPAC, and if you look very closely at the bottom of the page you will find our name and phone number.

In addition to trying to describe what PWN notice means, what I am also trying to say is that CT’s current form can be difficult for most users to follow the decision made by the PPT. “What” the decision is can and should be stated clearly, the “why” of the decision, the information the team relied on to make its decisions can be more challenging to find in the document, and is sometimes not included, making the process difficult to understand.

The good news is that is going to change. The Bureau of Special Education is in the process of completely redesigning the IEP form. During the parent forums last year parents had the opportunity to discuss their impressions of special education. One of the most common concerns expressed was how challenging it was to find the relevant information on the current IEP form.

Very soon the Bureau is going to be presenting a draft of what a review team thinks a better IEP form should look like. More important they are going to be looking for feedback and suggestions on how to make it better. You as parents will have the chance to let them know what you think, and you should do so. You have the right to understand what your child’s IEP says and the Bureau will listen to you when you tell them how to make that work.

We will do all we can to make sure you know when your opportunities to offer comments will be. Check our web page regularly for updates. Another very good way to keep up to date is to follow our Facebook page. We provide insights and information every day and notices of events that may be important to you. So if you haven’t already follow us so we can keep you informed.

FAQ March 2019

March 29th, 2019

Dear Parent Consultant,
Why am I getting notification that my daughter may lose credit or stay back due to absences when she has an IEP and a disability that prevent her from going to school some days?
Harriet’s Mom

Dear Harriet’s Mom,
Regular school attendance is important for students to learn. Absences do add up research shows that students who attend school regularly develop stronger academic and social skills, are more connected to their community and have higher graduation rates. Students who are absent as little as several times a month their academic skills decline, grades fall are more likely not to graduate.

Some students are not able to consistently attend school due to their disability. There is a difference between chronic absenteeism and truancy. Truancy is considered unexcused absences and defined as a student who has 4 unexcused absences from school in one month or 10 unexcused absences in one school year. Chronic Absenteeism incorporates all absences: excused, unexcused, suspension and expulsions.
State law requires school districts and schools to have specific policies and procedures regarding students who are truant. If a student becomes truant, their school is required to have a meeting with the student’s parent or guardian within 10 school days to discuss how the parent or guardian can help the student return or attend school on a regular basis. Just as with truancy school districts have a responsibility for adopting school attendance policies and procedures for chronic absenteeism. There are school attendance review teams that will reach out to parents to find out why the student has multiple absences. As a standard practice notification about absences is sent to the home.

If your child is absent due to a disability documentation is necessary. You need to get a letter from the doctor describing how the disability affect your child and why they may miss school intermittently. Anytime the absences are due to an appointment get a note excusing them or if they will be late to school.
For more information go to
https://portal.ct.gov/SDE/Truancy/Truancy
https://portal.ct.gov/SDE/Chronic-Absence/Chronic-Absence

Sincerely,
Parent Consultant

Jake’s Juxtaposition – “Oh, The Places You’ll go”

March 29th, 2019

Hello Friends, this’s Jake again, and this blog is focused on the accessibility of the places that should be accessible, but are they? Have you always wanted to go to a place, then you realize the physical boundaries that limit the accessibility to it? Well, let’s talk a bit about accessibility to some popular attractions and other places, like restaurant, every day appointments and gathering joints that often tickle my brain. You may already know, I am Foodie, so local restaurants play critical roles in my life. The biggest barrier for me seem to be the entry ways. (side note: I use a motorized wheelchair, I tremor often when controlling it/ driving it, and mind that I “qualify” for extended time.). Curbs, sidewalks and double doors with no handicapped door openers are my biggest enemies. You can greet me with the biggest and friendliest smile inside, but I am already exhausted of the adventure of getting in. While some places feel like an obstacle course, seldom others meet the easy access mark. Way to work up an appetite! If it isn’t the accessibility, then the staffing who often times clueless on how to approach in a proactive manner that is helpful instead of making me feel like I don’t know anything and I am helpless. Ask me questions if I need assistance. When you ask if I need HELP, it makes me feel I can’t do the task independently. Of course there are exemptions, but few and far between. On the bright side, the food most always makes the trip worthwhile in the end. I feel you can only be part of the community if your accessible. That goes for business on full scale, small or large, it won’t matter. Allow me to show you what it means to individuals like me and how big of a game changer it is to have access to all the places everyone else does. I mean really a game a changer. I am on it, friends, because “Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done!” sometimes business to take care of that is difficult to some. (me included). I feel it’s simply the lack of focus on the population and not the cost effectiveness to adjust. I am not a one-man army, and I certainly know many of you share similar experiences. “With places to explore and voices to be heard, access won’t be a chore anymore and the battle will be conquered” …and this is Jake’s Juxtaposition

The Power of Positivity by Jake’s Juxtapositions

January 30th, 2019

Hello There,
This is Jake, CPAC’s new intern. I am a TBI (traumatic brain injury) survivor, an advocate and a Public Speaker. There was a recent article in the New York Times Opinion section on how “Students learn from people they love”. This was a very interesting article, so I thought I put my two cents in this topic as it personally affected my past education and as much shaping my future. When it comes to special education or general education, there is no difference on positive, harnessing approaches between students and teachers. We are all working toward one goal: to be our best: professionally and personally. During my transition from being an all-star athlete to having to rely on assistance getting around in a wheelchair after my injury, staffing played a major role. I experienced both versions, working with the most wonderful paraprofessionals and with the “para-unprofessional”. While I was trying to figure out my life, already beaten up, angry, frustrated, disappointed and lost, the last thing I needed or wanted is to someone limit and control what I can or cannot do. This para-unprofessional made sure to make me feel like I’m nobody, just a handicapped young man in a wheelchair who can’t do anything. During this time, my performance declined, my attitude towards things plunged, and my relationships struggled. It probably couldn’t get any worse. Well, guess what…I am “handicapable”! After this episode, an entirely different person came to work with me, Chrissa. I was excited to see her every day. Learning was fun again. I could feel the potentials, the personal growth, the hopes and dreams coming back alive within me. I received sympathy and the support during tough times, the encouragement to succeed and achieve my goals. This positive relationship established and increased my sense of purpose and meaning. I can proudly say, today, I am in the same boat. Perhaps a bigger boat, since I have amazing people surround me and support me. I have a sense of belonging now. I have a voice and I am sure not afraid of using it. The positive people who enrich our lives are here to stay. When you care about people around you a “How are you?” and a smile goes a long way. The kindness and sincerity creates more kindness and sincerity, it’s like a domino effect. I can’t tell you how many bad days I had, and going into an environment where I feel comfortable, trusted and supported without any judgement is a breath of fresh air. Now I can tell you how excited I am to wake up each morning and see the faces of the people I work with every day. Exemplary positive approaches with humor and equal treatment amongst the staff and students. We know that not every day has its own rainbow and learning comes from experiences that triggers these adjustments. Know that you are capable. Where there is passion, there is possibility…and that is Jake’s Juxtaposition.