August 23

New York State Legislative Alert

The New York State Assembly and Senate passed a bill (A8262/S6581) requiring the Commissioner of Education to issue a guidance memorandum to school districts about “dyslexia, dyscalculia or dysgraphia” and “inform them of the unique educational needs” of students with these disabilities. The guidance will inform New York’s public school districts that they can include these terms and recognize these disabilities in IEPs.

The net effect of this bill will be to force New York’s public school districts to acknowledge language based learning disabilities. If they don’t, the parent can ask for compensatory education and/or private school tuition reimbursement in a due process proceeding. The guidance will give parents in New York State support if their public school districts denies the existence of language based learning disabilities (that happens) or if the public school district fails to put supports to provide the kind of instruction that a child with language-based learning disabilities needs.

This legislation does not guarantee that public schools in New York state will suddenly be able to accommodate a child with a language based learning disability. Any teaching methodologies delivered to students with language based learning disabilities must be delivered “with fidelity.” Children may end up spending significant time being pulled from instruction for remediation. the pace of general education classes may remain too fast for the child with a language based learning disability to keep up, causing anxiety, which is no small thing. Parents still need to keep records and constantly communicate with the school district about struggles the child continues to experience, like organization or anxiety from being overwhelmed. And, as always, make sure that you communicate with your child’s teachers and the public school district in writing.

This legislation has been long awaited and was championed by Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon, who represented Dr. Marilyn J. Bartlett in her fight for accommodations from the New York State Board of Bar Examiners, which was won in 1998.

August 21

Getting to Know You in the New School Year

Some of you may already have started the 2017-2018 school year, but others are still enjoying the last days of summer. Either way, it’s the right time to start creating this year’s record. Sure, the teacher has read the IEP. But a friendly letter of introduction is more personal. Here is an outline:

1. Introduce yourself and introduce your child. Acknowledge that you have no doubt that the teacher has read the IEP, but that you wanted to reach out in person.

2. The bad news: Tell the teacher your view of your child’s difficulties. Give brief examples, like Charlie has a hard time organizing the work he has to bring home. Share those things that will absolutely shut the child down. Share the warning signs and how to avoid them. Briefly state your concerns for the new year. Bullet points or numbered points are fine.

3. The good news! Share your child’s strengths and how to help motivate your child to respond positively. Explain the areas where the child thrives. Perhaps your child can’t organize for love or money, but they are a star athlete or artist. Explain how your child feels about their weaknesses (probably awful) and how emphasizing strengths helps your child feel like a winner.

4. Let the teacher know that you hope to work as a team. Ask her to set up a way to communicate so that problems are dealt with swiftly. Let her know when you want to be alerted. For example, when our hypothetical Charlie fails to hand in homework. Communication should be in writing as much as possible.

This letter gives the teacher the inside scoop from the person who knows the child best. It doesn’t guarantee an awesome year, but it sets up a written record from day one and you may (or may not) need that as the year continues, especially if you don’t see progress in your child’s academic, social or emotional development or ability to organize and meet homework demands. Wishing everyone a wonderful year!

July 16

A Short Summer Note About Crisis Text Line: 741741

Crisis Text Line is a fast way to get emergency help for mental health issues including anxiety, suicidal thoughts, substance abuse, eating disorders. They also accumulate data to identify mental health crisis trends. Issues covered include anxiety, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders and the like. Go to www.crisistextline.org to learn more. And let people know, because you never know who needs help or when the need will arise.

May 20

Three Crucial Negotiation Skills for Effective Advocacy

This week, I attended the WIN Summit focusing on Women’s Insights on the Art of Negotiation. Strong negotiation skills are essential for parents involved in the special education process. I hope these tips will help you prepare for future meetings:

1) Be confident, says Michele A. Roberts, the Executive Director of the National Basketball Players’ Association. That’s difficult when you are facing a group of professionals who are conversant in the language and terms that are foreign to you, the parent.

2) Face your fear fiercely, advises Beth Fisher-Yoshida of Columbia University’s Negotiation Conflict and Resolution Program. Fear and intimidation will not enable you to engage in all of the steps necessary to advocate for your child. Engage in self-reflection to figure out what you are telling yourself that undermines your confidence.

3) Prepare. Greater familiarity with your legal rights, evaluation terminology and the language used by educators will increase your confidence and will permit you to be a stronger advocate. Understand your school district’s position; whether they are adversarial or seemingly collaborative, the priority for school districts tends to be preserving resources, personnel and money. For you, it’s personal. For the district, it’s business.

4) Remain calm! Emotional or heated exchanges will not serve your advocacy goals.

There are ample resources on the internet and retaining a trusted advisor can help you navigate the process and reduce your stress.

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