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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.

FAQ December 2018

December 19th, 2018

Dear Parent Consultant:
My son, Aiden, will be 16 in January. At his last Planning and Placement Team (PPT) meeting, the team mentioned that because of his age it is time to begin transition planning. They mentioned filling out the transition planning section (page 6 in Connecticut) of the Individualized Education Program (IEP) document. What does “transition planning” mean, and where do we begin?

Thanks,
Aiden’s Mom

Dear Aiden’s Mom:
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA 2004) outlines transition planning for students receiving special education services under an IEP “beginning not later than the first IEP to be in effect when the child turns 16, or younger if determined appropriate by the team…” The IEP must contain postsecondary goals in the areas of postsecondary education or training, employment, and independent living, if appropriate for the student. It is important to begin by understanding a student’s needs related to transitioning to adult life. This information is gathered through a variety of evaluations and assessments (formal and informal) and can even be gathered through observation, interviews with the student, family, and teachers, and situational and environmental assessments, to name a few. The information gathered from these assessments should then be reported in the Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance section of the student’s IEP (pages 4 & 5 in Connecticut) and used to create postsecondary goals, measurable annual goals and objectives, and the transition services and activities that will help the student achieve their goals.

Directors Corner December 2018

December 18th, 2018

I want to start by wishing all of you the Happiest Holiday season from all of us here at CPAC, and our hope for the best New Year in 2019.

As we enjoy this season of sharing I want to offer a suggestion; as you calibrate and move into the coming year we at CPAC hope you will share us. Over the past year I have been to many places all around the state, and sat in on many of the meetings where parents have had the chance to talk about their experiences in special education. In all those meetings the thing that struck me most strongly was the number of people who told us how much they wished they had known about us. People who had been facing challenges for years saying “I never heard of you, I wish I had.”

As you might guess, that bothers us. Our job is to educate and empower families, but we can’t do that if we don’t know about their problems, and they don’t know to reach out to us. A great deal of my time is spent trying to reach out, waving the flag and letting as many families know that we are here to help as I can. Clearly my (our) efforts are not enough. We need help.

That is where you come in. If we have been able to help you, to answer your questions, or provide you with training let your friends and acquaintances know. It’s not hard. It can be as simple as sharing our posts on social media. You never know when it will reach someone who needs help at just the right moment. If you’ve formed a parent group or SEPTO, invite us to join you. CPAC provides training and support for these kinds of groups every week, (and it’s free). Leave materials at your school. We get calls every day from teachers and administrators looking for support for families in their towns, but too many don’t know they can. It’s easy, print out a fact sheet from the website and drop off at the special ed office, or give it to the administrator at your PPT.

One more thing you can do that we can’t do well is let your pediatrician know about us. Many families begin the special education process after talking to their child’s doctor because “Something seems wrong.” The doctor can help identify what is going on, and we can help the family work with the school to design a program to help.

As always, if you have questions we are here to answer them and look forward to talking with many of you in 2019. Again, Thank You and Happy Holidays.

FAQ November 2018

November 21st, 2018

Dear Parent Consultant,
Every night is the same battle with my second grade daughter – reading. She is required to complete a reading log for school and whenever it’s reading time we battle over everything. The selection of the book, the time it takes, etc. She resents it and so do I. Do you have any suggestions to help me to engage her in this increasingly painful assignment?
Signed,
Not Dr. Seuss

Dear Future Dr. Seuss,
Ah, the reading log! The activity that sends most kids and their parents running! Here are a few suggestions that may help you and your daughter face this evening routine with anticipation and help her to become a great reader! Try using the word READ as an acronym to make it more enjoyable for both of you.
R-read aloud. As much as she may grumble, children generally like to be read to. Select books that hold both your interest or that are a part of a series. Consider books on tape as well. Allow the reader to read aloud to both of you.
E-engage her in the story. If you are reading “If you give a Mouse a cookie” for the 100th time and you just don’t think you can do it again, try changing the words around. Let her notice you said a different word. Take turns being characters in the book.
A-ask predictions. Remember, first children learn to read then they read to learn. Begin developing that skill of looking for information within the context of the book. Obviously, if it’s your hundredth run through of the same book this can be challenging so ask why the next event is going to happen.
D-discuss the book. Talk about the parts you liked and didn’t care for that much. Expand the story beyond the ending – what could happen if…imagine if…
Hopefully these ideas will help you both enjoy this time together.

Directors Corner November 2018

November 20th, 2018

While we are focused this month on the topic of literacy, I wanted to take a moment to express my thanks, and that of all of us at CPAC, for each the good things that happened this year and for all the support we receive as we work with the families of Connecticut. Over the course of a year we receive thousands of calls and emails from families who have questions and concerns about their children’s education. We provide well over a hundred training sessions around the state for families, students, and professionals.

Additionally, we could not do this work without the help and support of many friends and sister organizations through the State. Most of our training sessions are done at the request of parent groups and schools who make facilities available and help us reach out to families to share upcoming events.

We work hard to reach out to families through our website, newsletters, and especially social media. We are thankful for those friends who share the resources we provide making them available to larger audiences of families and educators.

We are thankful for our regional support center and the Parent Training and Information Centers in other states who help us with ideas and technical support to understand national special education laws. They also provide us with a continuous stream of good suggestions for ways to reach out and support the families of Connecticut.

We are thankful for the many organizations who also support families in Connecticut. No single group can reach every family in need, and by sharing the responsibility we are able to help and educate many more families than we could on our own. In this vein, we are especially grateful to our special partners, The Fair Haven Community Health Center in New Haven and St. Joseph’s Parenting Center in Stamford who provide us with space and resources allowing CPAC Parent Consultants to be physically available to families in communities across the state.

We are thankful for several opportunities we have had in the past year to work closely with educators and education professionals to share our experiences and to learn from each other. Our support for families cannot begin to work unless we have constructive dialogue with the educators who work with our children. This year has been especially productive in that area with several shared projects and very effective cooperation with district, state and regional leaders across Connecticut.

We are thankful for the State Department of Education and its willingness to work with us and listen to the concerns we present from families. We are thankful for their trust that CPAC can provide quality services and education to families in Connecticut.

And far from last, we are very thankful for those friends who continue to provide us with financial support. Being available to talk on the phone, to send out materials and to train families takes money, and the help you provide with your donations goes a long way to supporting your neighbors and to ensure that all students in Connecticut get an appropriate education.

I hope you all know how much your help and support means to everyone at CPAC and how far it goes to supporting families and children with disabilities.