Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Another Set of Links

I know I promised to get to the health insurance topic, but I want to try to upgrade my blog before I start that conversation. In the meantime, I am saving another group of links that I want to post so I can close all of these windows and get some speed back to my computer.

The Supreme Court handed down a decision last week that affects parents of special ed students that are seeking reimbursement from the school system for a private school placement. The decision is here. An easy explanation is here. ABC News broadcast a report that we in the DC area did not get to see as it was the same night as the Metro crash. Here is the link for the ABC report; it is titled "Public Pays for Private School." Finally, here is a response from a fellow blogger about the broadcast.

CBS News had a Leesburg family on their broadcast recently as they reported on the lack of health care benefits for children with autism in Virginia.

I've been keeping up with events in Iran on Twitter; here's a link to one of the groups that is providing information.

If all goes well, I should have this blog upgraded this afternoon and will start on the health insurance question! Wish me luck!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

While I continue to gather my thoughts about the health insurance topic, I keep running across interesting articles on education and special education. This one is about learning to read using phonics: Child Development Institute.

And here's one on the possible genetic link between autism and anorexia: Time

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Have a few interesting links to post. The first is a blog by Jennifer Laviano, a special ed lawyer in the state of Connecticut. Find her blog here: special ed lawyer.

And here is a link to a Leesburg Today article about the FBI investigating LCPS regarding the Wheatland land deal. Interesting reading, if you follow the links in the article. If you have trouble, here is one for The Center For Public Integrity article on Wheatland.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

More on SEAC and ASL

Went to the Special Ed Advisory Comm (SEAC) meeting last night. I wanted to be impressed, but I wasn't. I think that good work is done and good information is distributed, but I expected a more professional atmosphere. Maybe I'll attend some other advisory committees so I have a better comparison. The results of the Town Hall meeting were not available yet, a real disappointment as that means that the school year will end without a public airing of the findings. Approximately 10% of the parents of special ed students took the online survey, about 655 as I recall. This was deemed to be a good response. I didn't mention that I started the survey three different times, but didnt finish it once as it seemed either to vague or asked me to identify myself if I was willing to be more involved (which I am) thereby nullifying my privacy.

There is always talk of parents and/or students rights being violated at special ed meetings; there is also a lot of re-inventing the wheel. But the most disturbing thing I heard was once again about American Sign Language. The specialists for the hard of hearing and deaf students are at Frances Hazel Reid Elementary. The deaf & hard of hearing students attend specials (art, music, PE) with the hearing students of their grade level, but the hearing students have received no instruction in ASL so they cannot communicate with their classmates. Parents and grandparents were at the meeting last night to ask that the hearing students receive instruction in ASL to improve this situation.

Looking forward to continuing with this group and working as a PTA rep for Little Dude's school.


Am trying to follow events in Iran through Twitter. Wish I could read this blog.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

National Health Policy

Would like to start a series of posts on national health policy. But I've recently read the following post from The New Yorker and am still digesting it.

Feel free to post your comments.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Odds and (Loose) Ends

I don't want to leave yesterday's post about the declining rate of mental retardation among African American students hanging out there with out some comment. First of all, I think the fact that the rate is declining, especially among misdiagnosed students, is of course a very good trend. But I admit to being very surprised that this was an identified problem at all. I know that I can be naive, even at my age ;), but after watching the School Board debate grade weighting, it's easy to think that our highly rated school system has to only make some minor adjustments to provide ALL of our children a world class education. Clearly, I wouldn't spend so much time here talking about special education if there weren't serious improvements that need to be made for this group of students. There is another advocacy group for minority student achievement, the Minority Student Achievement Advisory Committee. I am not a part of this committee, but support their efforts to improve achievement among the students that they are working with. But now I wonder if the SEAC (special ed advisory committee) and the MSAAC might not both benefit from a joint sub-committee. I know I want more data about the mental retardation rates stated in the goals. How old are these students? What were the conditions they did have if they were misdiagnosed? Is there data that also relates the rate to income level? Are the MR rates of white students from the same planning zones also increased? How did the rates come down? Have they identified nutrition, lead paint, lack of appropriate medical screening or some other potential cause? We need more information about this.

We are getting a new principal who is currently an assistant principal at a Leesburg school. Our current assistant principal is also leaving to become the principal at a small school in the county. So, we will have all new administrators when school begins in the fall. Will be interesting to see what changes are made.

Summer Programs
Talked to the OT this morning about summer activities for Little Dude - more cursive writing. Actually, I'm going to start with capital letters this summer as this is a specific area that needs practice. Bought a copy of the Type to Learn program that the resource teacher is using for keyboarding and we will continue this also. Going to sign him up for "math camp," which pretty much leaves writing content. Need a variety of methods for this to continue to be interesting over the summer. Most of all, I need to set up a schedule to accomplish this work that starts soon after school is out!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

This Is Disturbing

Copied from page 65 of School Board Goals Status Reports 2008-09

(available on Board Docs under Superintendent's Evaluation)

G. Programs and practices will be in place to eliminate the disparity in achievement among identified racial, ethnic, and socio-economic groups.

  • The overrepresentation of African Americans identified with mental retardation (MR) requiring special education was further reduced. Among MR students, the percentage of African-American students decreased from 16.67% in 2007-2008 to 15.42% in 2008-2009.
  • The Virginia Department of Education certified in the 2008-2009 school year that LCPS no longer has significant disproportionality in special education and in specific disability categories.
  • According to the most recently published Virginia Special Education Performance Report, LCPS was not identified as having disproportionate representation of African-American students in special education or in specific disability categories that was the result of inappropriate identification.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Epiphany! A possible solution to the coloring dilemma: use Power Point! The purpose of the map coloring should (a tricky word, I know) be to enable the students to learn the content, as we are not training our children to be illustrators. And fourth graders learned how to do power point presentations this year, so why not do a power point presentation instead of tracing and coloring a map? I don't anticipate this accommodation for Little Dude being a problem with our team, but it seems to me that this is a change that needs to be made for all students. Can you imagine Dr Adamo and his staff not doing the boundary maps electronically and literally coloring maps instead? I sure can't. So, I just need to figure out how to advocate for all of the students, not just Little Dude and not just other special needs students who need this modification.

Meanwhile, Little Dude's resource teacher is already working with the tech resource person to see about scanning forms into his neo-alpha smart and she's talked with the OT about working on the specific fine motor tasks we identified he'll need for MS. I'm going to meet with the OT and Little Dude during one of her final sessions with him this year to go over his summer program. Still need to find out about using a flash drive/memory stick on the neo to hold all of the data.

So, those are the two steps forward. Now for the one step back.
Went to the Volunteer Breakfast at school and chatted with the President of the PTA, especially about the Special Ed Advisory Committee PTA rep position. I like our PTA president; she has set a very nice tone for the school this year. I haven't noticed the gossip that has been present in previous years. We talked about the educational aspect and providing a safe, quiet space during PTA activities for students and families to use at their discretion. And then she mentioned that she thought it was nice that the special ed teachers worked with all of the students in the classroom as a way to ensure the privacy of the students getting special ed services. I. Wanted. To. Scream! This is exactly how Little Dude was denied his 30 minutes of special ed support for writing in first grade. HE needed 30 minutes of intervention; he got a walk by with a "how's it going" instead. And every single minute that the resource teacher was performing at the level of a parent volunteer, some child was not getting the services that they not only needed, but that the district was legally bound to provide. (insert scream here) This is NOT good. And this is why I'll never know if he would require the level of services that he currently receives if he had had the opportunity to benefit from the intervention that he DID NOT RECEIVE. And citing privacy as a reason to not do your job is inexcusable; any decent parent volunteer can pick out 80% of the special ed students in the first month of school.

(cool down period entered here)

I've finally learned one other lesson: least restrictive environment and most appropriate environment are not the same. It is not always beneficial to provide a child's intervention in the classroom. Writing support when the class is actually writing is the most advantageous and is not disruptive to the teacher or the other students. The OT services that should have been provided when Little Dude was in 1st and 2nd grade were not appropriately given in the classroom and I am sure that the same walk by took place resulting in no improvement. Amazing how long it takes to learn the correct questions to ask.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Middle School Visit

Well, I've been busy living my life and haven't had time to report on it! But I have to relay my experience at the middle school last Friday.

I met Little Dude's case manager/special ed teacher at the middle school Friday afternoon. I think she had been there for a meeting or two, but hadn't had the whole tour. With the two older kids, I've been to Farmwell Station, Harper Park, Eagle Ridge and Belmont Ridge, so the layout of the building was familiar. We met with the 6th grade special ed teacher/department chair to get an idea of what to expect in sixth grade so we could make any changes in fifth grade that would allow for a smooth transition to middle school. Personally, I wasn't interested in eliminating the stress that all students have when they first go to middle school and have lockers and change classes, I wanted to see what could be done to eliminate the stress of having accommodations or modifications that might not be effective in a totally different environment. I think the MS special ed teacher was probably initially wary about our visit a year in advance, but by the end of our visit I know she was our convert to our way of thinking!

There are, of course, some fine motor tasks that we have to attend to in the coming year: using a combination lock, tying shoes, and I finally admitted that he can't actually snap his slacks - he's skinny enough to slide them on and off. With the necessity of changing clothes for gym, we will have to work on these. But we had some other opportunities present themselves. One of the easiest to add to our "let's see if he can do this" list was the use of the middle school agenda. It's smaller and not particularly easy to use for a student who writes about the same size as a second grader. We're going to get an extra one from the middle school at the beginning of the year and see if, after a few months of use, he should write in it or type out his assignments and glue them into it.

The MS has some alpha smart machines in the language arts rooms, but Little Dude has his own Neo-alpha smart that will stay with him through his schooling, so we are trying to figure out how to best use this keyboarding/notebook device. If we can scan forms into it (like science experiment forms) then he can just fill them out electronically and print them off (it's wireless to the printer in his classroom now).

As we were ending our time together, we made out way back to the MS special ed teacher's office to review our list of action items. Somehow we made our way to the topic of map coloring and the MS teacher showed us a project that is typical for MS: a poster sized, colored map of North & South America with an attached report of just more than one page. This is precisely why I have required the accommodation of no grades for coloring to continue to be included on his IEP. The MS teacher expressed some frustration regarding getting teachers to modify these type of assignments for the many students that the resource teachers work with that are unable to appropriately complete the tasks required to finish these projects. I was reminded of Ms Giggles coloring maps in high school and the necessity of finding a way to modify these projects for years to come.

But we finished with all three of us realizing that our time had been well spent; we can spend fifth grade trying different strategies that will give us good information to relay at our joint elementary/middle school IEP meeting next year.