Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Update, or hope is not a plan...

Or you might be told something that appears to be contrary to the law (theoretically something that unilaterally limits the type, amount and duration, as in "the only ESY you can have is our ESY and our ESY is 4 weeks and is only appropriate for lower functioning autistic children"), in which case your choices are:

  • take an inappropriate placement
  • design and fund your own appropriate placement
  • find a lawyer

Lovely options, eh? And supposedly BCPSS really doesn't need the consent decree anymore because they are doing such a great job at Special Education. Right.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Useful Information

Has anyone ever told you about limits in ESY (Extended School Year) services for a special needs student? You might be suprised by this quote from Federal Regulations Section 300.309:

"each public agency shall ensure that extended school year services are available as necessary to provide a free appropriate education "FAPE", consistent with paragraph (a)(2) of this section."


"in implementing the requirements of this section, a public agency may not: (ii) Unilaterally limit the type, amount, or duration of those services."

I'm not a lawyer, and I would never advise someone that they don't need a lawyer, nor would I give legal advice. But maybe, if you're very lucky, and the IEP gods are smiling upon you, it's possible that just knowing your rights is all you need...
...keep your fingers crossed.

There's a website with great information about legal rights as related to special education for autstic children at There's also a page there specfically about ESY.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

How to organize a family of 5

Warning - totally geeky post, not really about schools or school systems.

I'm usually pretty happy to try new computer tools. Generally they can be fun to play with, but few keep me using them over the long term and fewer still can I say have no downside. I started blogging about a year ago, and usually I enjoy blogger, but I feel guilty about not posting enough and I often wonder if anybody actually reads what write. More recently I started using Facebook. It's been a way to find old friends and facilitate communication, but I feel uncomfortable asking people to be my friend and I'm really not comfortable with being "friends" with my my skater-dude teenage nephew. I started twittering and I've got to say that I can't imagine anyone wanting to keep up with any status I can provide. I could continue with fitness logs, newsgroups and the like.

But I have found the best web-based tool ever - at least for my life. Google Calendar. Initially I was unimpressed since I already had a calendar on my PDA. Once I started using it though, I changed my mind. Finally there is a place for DH and I to jointly keep track of the insane schedule involved with three kids and three schools, a kid getting significant services under the autism waiver, PTAs, TWIGS, scouts, the occasional night out... all in one place that can be accessed at work, while watching TV on the net book, or at the coffee shop. DH no longer has the excuse of "having to ask my wife for permission" about any invitation he gets. And how about a shared calendars for the scout troop? And since one of the schools uses a Google Calendar, I can just copy over events onto my calendar. Absolutely no downside, except maybe the visual reminder of how chaotic my life is... but I'll trade that for no last minute questions about "what's happening this weekend?" that leads to realizations of conflicts and disasters.

Sometimes my own geekitude astounds me, but I'll take small, no-cost joys whereever I can find them.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A different awarness of autism

Some facts that you won't hear on most "Autsim Awareness" TV blurbs (stolen from Spectrum Siblings, but he says it so well I don't want to change it):
  • There are autistic people employed in every imaginable profession.

  • Autism is not a synonym for stupid or retarded. In fact, many autistics have average IQ’s, and some have IQ’s far above the normal range.

  • Autistics fall in love, get married, and even have children.

  • With proper support, most autistic adults can live independent or semi-independent lives. However, the majority of states have little to no support for autistics above the age of 18.

  • Autism is incurable. But when asked, many autistics respond that they do not want to be cured.

  • Autistic children have a profound effect on their families. Their siblings are more empathetic, nurturing, and accepting of other’s differences than their peers. Their parents learn to enjoy life’s small joys, and celebrate each new development.

  • Although their expression may be atypical, autistics can still feel emotions. Autistic or not, it hurts when someone stares at you, calls you names, or belittles your existence.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A step in the right direction indeed

I've got to say I'm pleasantly surprised by this court outcome. I'm hoping that every person who interacts with someone on the autism spectrum is paying attention to the story of Alex Barton and Wendy Portillo. In summary - abuse a kid, get suspended and lose tenure. Appeal if you want, but this type of cruelty has consequences. As Alex's mom commented, “It’s a step in the right direction."

I think the majority of people out there are good and kind, but if you're not, or if you're feeling overwhelmed by your situation there is a lesson to be learned. It is not OK to be abusive towards an autistic person just because you have the power to do so. This case establishes a precedence of pretty severe consequences.

I'm also hoping that others who see this type of abuse take heart in this ruling. There is a reason to object to cruelty that is happening to your kid or that you see happening in your work environment. Your complaints can make it stop. Woo-hoo!