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Articles About Special Education Advocacy

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Successful advocacy depends on having accurate information and knowing how to use it. The Special Education Advocacy Library includes these sections:

You are in the Articles section. If you are looking for articles about special education law and litigation, go to Special Education Law Articles.

You wil find laws, regulations, and cases in the Special Education Law Library. Get specific information about IDEA 2004 and NCLB. 


If you cannot find the information you need here, check the Sitemap, master topics page, or use the search box on the top of every page.

10 Tips: How to Use IDEA 2004 to Improve Education for Children with Disabilities by Wayne Steedman. Learn how to include research based methodology in the IEP and how ensure how that the IEP goals are comprehensive, specific -- and measurable. Learn about pitfalls to avoid, how to resolve disputes without a due process hearing - and what you should do if you cannot resolve your dispute.

10 Strategies to Fight Mandatory Retention & Other Damaging Policies - Sue Heath explains how you you can find answers to questions in the law and provides strategies you can use to fight mandatory retention and other damaging policies.

Accommodations and Modifications: Pete Answers Questions About Word Banks and Calculators. Pete Wright answers questions about accommodations and modifications, discusses the teaching of skills v. providing accommodations and modifications, Diana Hanbury King and Helen Keller, and his "Big Gripe" about special education.

Anatomy of a Special Education Case.
Parents, advocates and attorneys have questions about due process hearings and special education litigation. This article describes special education litigation on behalf of a young child with autism from due process hearing through appeals.

Art of Writing Letters. Learn how to write effective letters that gain positive results. We introduce our "Letter to the Stranger" concept that is a trademark of our clients.

Attention Deficit Disorder in Children: Developmental, Parenting and Treatment Issues. Pam Wright describes the challenges and rewards of parenting children with ADD/ADHD.

Attention Deficit Disorder: Joint Policy Memorandum. 1991 Memorandum from the U. S. Department of Education; children with ADD/ADHD may be eligible for special education services under several existing categories (including LD, OHI, ED); circumstances under which schools must provide services and supports under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.Joint Memorandum from U. S. Department of Education.

Attention Deficit Disorder: Schools Must Evaluate Children Who May Have ADD/ADHD. 1992 Memoradum from Office of Civil Rights clarifies that schools must evaluate children who are suspected of having ADD based on parental request

Attorney Manual: Representing the Special Ed Child. A manual for attorneys and advocates who represent children with disabilities by Pete Wright.

Blame Game! Are School Problems the Kid's Fault? Describes five reasons why kids have learning and behavior problems, what school personnel don't tell parents, and what you can do about it. Learn about school culture, beliefs, evaluations and consultants, and how to negotiate.

Burriola v. Greater Toledo YMCA. Many parents find day care centers unwilling to accept children with disabilities. The doors to day care centers
opened wider for children when a federal judge issued an injunction under the ADA on behalf of Jordan Burriola, ordered the center to reinstate him and train their staff. This article includes links to pleadings and an article by Tom Zraik, Jordan's attorney.

Carter, The Untold Story  - Pete describes preparing for oral argument before the U. S. Supreme Court in Shannon Carter's case.

Your Child's IEP: Practical and Legal Guidance for Parents. Comprehensive article that describes Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) from legal and practical perspectives. Learn how to write measureable IEP goals and objectives. Read this article in conjunction with our Tests and Measurements article. The article includes:

    Present levels of performance Is IEP Adequate? Is the IEP Sufficient?
    Measurable goals and objectives Educational Benefit and FAPE
    Measuring educational progress  Appendix A: A Valuable Tool
    Objective Testing v. Subjective Teacher Observations The Parental Role
    Grade Inflation  Sample IEP Goals

Circuit Finder - When you read about a new decision that was issued by the Eighth Circuit, do you know how this affects you? What is your circuit? Click to find out!

Compensatory Education Is an Appropriate Remedy for Failure to Provide a Free, Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) and Unilateral Graduation - After twelve years of special education, Kevin's reading, math and writing skills were at the 3rd to 5th grade levels. His IQ dropped nearly 20 points. Despite his deficient skills, the district graduated Kevin with a regular high school diploma. In Kevin T. v. Elmhurst Comm. School District No. 205, a federal District Court found that compensatory education was an appropriate remedy for the district's failure to provide FAPE and ordered the district to pay for Kevin's education at a private school until age 22.

Crisis! Emergency! Help!  Learn how parents damage their credibility and their child's case by assuming that they must DO SOMETHING! If you are in a crisis, this article is a "must read" for you, and for parents who want to avoid school crises.

Starting a New IEP Advocacy Year: Back to School Tips. For parents of children with special needs, “back to school” means the start of a new IEP advocacy year. Here are some tips to help you monitor, evaluate, and document your child’s year at school from attorney Lisa Krizman.

Employment Law Protections for Parents of Disabled and Ill Children. Attorney Loring Spolter describes The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) that provides important job protections to parents who take time off from work to be with children receiving medical and psychiatric care or are recuperating from serious health concerns.

"Enemies List"  The verdict in the Whitehead case caused us to think about retaliation against parents.  In California, school districts maintained and circulated the names of special ed parents who were viewed as "enemies" of schools because they advocated on behalf of their children.

Evans v. Rhinebeck: Roadmap to FAPE. How do judges determine if a child is receiving FAPE? Learn about procedural and substantive issues, educational benefit, and how to use test scores to show educational benefit.

Exit Exams Can Be Optional - If You Plan Ahead. Research editor Sue Heath describes a strategy to eliminate the state exit exam as an obstacle, and allow otherwise qualified kids to graduate with a high school diploma.

FAPE, Unilateral Graduation & Compensatory Education. Court finds that school district did not provide a FAPE, attempted to unilaterally graduate child, orders compensatory education. Download decision in Kevin T. v. Elmhurst (very large pdf file)

FAPE? Schools Must Provide Education That is Appropriate -- and Free. Court rules that a disabled child is entitled to appropriate education that is also free; orders school district to reimburse parents for child's tuition at private school.

From Emotions  to Advocacy - The Parents Journey. Strong emotions cause parents to react, often with damaging results. Don't shoot yourself in the foot. If you are having problems with the school, use your head.

Functional Behavioral Assessments: What? Why? When? Where? Who? School districts are required to conduct functional behavioral analyses of problem behaviors. In this article, Dr. Stephen Starin describes problem behaviors, functional behavior assessments, environmental manipulation, and qualifications and training of evaluators.

Gerstmyer Case: Parents of Dyslexic Child Reimbursed for Tuition at Montessori School - After the decision in Carter, Courts began to reimburse parents for private placements - even at non-special ed schools.

High Stakes! Can the School Use a Single Test to Retain My Child? Research editor Sue Heath answers questions from parents about high-stakes testing and mandatory retention.

How to Get Good IEP Goals and Objectives Pete answers questions about IEPs. What can parents do to get good goals and objectives in a child's IEP? What can parents do when the school wants to use subjective "teacher observations," not objective testing, to measure the child's progress? How and when should parents use a consultant to help with IEP goals and objectives. How can parents avoid "methodology disputes?"

How to Disagree with the IEP Team Without Starting WW III. Pete answers questions from parents about how to disagree with the IEP team. Learn about the Rules of Adverse Assumptions, how to use tape recording and thank you letters to clarify issues; and how to deal with an IEP team bully.

How to Handle Disagreements at IEP Meetings (or Playing 20 Questions with the Devil)
. Frustrated at IEP meetings? IEP team does not answer your questions? Parent attorney Sonja Kerr devised an approach to deal with the IEP meeting quagmire.

How to Deal with a Hostile Environment at School. School told child's aid that she may not tell parents about things that happen in the classroom. Can the school order the aid to keep silent? What rights do parents and aid have? How should parents deal with these situations?

How to Resolve Special Education Disputes: Negotiate, Mediate or Litigate. Learn how to use negotiation, mediation and litigation to resolve disputes - and the pros and cons of each strategy.

How to Start a FETA Study Group. Article describes nuts and bolts of starting a FETA study group, how to get the word out, how to manage emotions and stay on task.


IDEA Requirements: Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) & FAPE. IDEA includes two fundamental requirements: that the child receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). What does least restrictive environment mean? What is mainstreaming?

Legal Research Primer by Stacey Stern of FindLaw. The Internet is becoming a great law library, with vast amounts of information only a mouse click away. New tools help with online research. Learn basic approaches for finding legal information on the Web.

Handling a Special Education Case - Minnesota lawyer Sonja Kerr provides advice about tactics and strategy to the lawyer who is handling his or her first special education case.

Letter to the Stranger: James Brody- Read the letter that James Brody's parents sent to request a special education due process hearing, then read the Brody decision in the Law Library.

Letter to Stranger: Joe James. In this Letter to the Stranger, Joe's father describes Joe and Joe's problems learning to read. Pay attention to your emotional reaction as you read this letter. Do you see Joe through his father's eyes? What is happening to this happy child? What do you believe should be done to help Joe?

Original Letter to the Stranger by Janie Bowman and Pete Wright. Original Letter to the Stranger posted on the CompuServe ADD Forum in 1994. Later, this article and other information from the ADD Forum became part of a Smithsonian Exhibit about online culture and communities.

McCarter Case: $250,000.00 Settlement. In case about sexual abuse by a classmate and failure to provide an appropriate education, the state, school district and parents entered into a settlement agreement of $250,000 for damages, attorneys’ fees and expenses, vocational and rehabilitation services, and state-wide policy changes.

Mediation - FAQs,Standards of Practice from Academy of Family Mediators. IDEA encourages the use of mediation to resolve disputes. In disputes between parent and school, a child is involved, the stakes are high, and emotions run strong. It's important for parents to learn about the mediation process, what mediation can and cannot accomplish, and how mediators should be trained.

Mediation: An Educational Session with Pete and Pam Wright. Parents complain about the high cost of resolving special education disputes. School districts complain about skyrocketing legal fees. IDEA 97 includes a new provision that encourages parents and school districts to use mediation to resolve disputes. What is mediation? How does it work?

Play Hearts, Not Poker: Eight Steps to Better IEP Meetings. In this article, Jennifer Bollero (attorney and mother of a child with autism), describes important differences between advocacy and parenting and explains why you need to learn the rules and strategies - when you learn the rules, you reduce the risks when you negotiate for your child.

Power Struggles, Meetings, & Follow-Up Letters. Parent advocate Pat Howey teaches you how to avoid power struggles, deal with IEP meeting frustrations, use follow up letters to get answers to questions - and how to use your power wisely.

Retaliation! Inside Story of One Million Dollar Verdict for Special Ed Teacher. Learn about Pamella Settlegoode's case from the beginning; article includes links to the Complaint, pretrial order, jury instructions, and the decision from the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Santa Clara (CA) Supervisors decided to hire legal staff - and may sue their own schools. Find out why the supervisors decided to take such drastic action. 

IDEA v. Section 504. Many parents and educators are confused about rights and benefits under Section 504 and the IDEA. This article describes the purposes of these laws and differences in legal rights in several important areas: eligibility, procedural safeguards, impartial hearings, access v. educational benefit, and discipline.

Section 504, the ADA, and Education Reform Describes key concepts under Section 504 and ADA: comparable benefits and services, criteria and methods of administration, reasonable accommodations; and maximum feasible integration. Describes use of standards as a strategy for education reform.

Seven Steps to Effective Mediation (from TRIAL magazine, reprinted with permission from authors.)  "Since each party wants to mold any settlement to its own benefit, the actual process can combine elements of show-and-tell and poker.

SMART IEPs. Draft chapter from our book, Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy.

Spaulding Case. Why did a West Virginia jury award the parents of an autistic boy more than $300,000? Read the "story behind the story" too.

Support for School Personnel and Parent Training: Often Overlooked Keys to Success by Susan Bardet. To help children succeed, IEP teams can use the tools provided by IDEA, including support for school personnel and training for parents.

Teacher Says, "I Don't Care if He Has an IEP," - Mother Asks for Help - Background of the story; two questions; excellent advice about IEPs, IEP meetings, goals and accommodations, and one-on-one paraprofessionals from Suzanne Whitney Heath.

Three Generations of Orton at The Supreme Court  - The International (Orton) Dyslexia Society had a significant role in Florence County School District Four v. Shannon Carter. The seeds were first planted in the early 1950's.

To Promote or To Retain? Many school districts offer two "solutions" to children's learning problems:   retention and referral to special education. All too often, schools fail to offer the critical third "R" - remediation. What are the FACTS about retention?

Tests and Measurements for the Parent, Educator, Advocate & Attorney. Your child has received three years of special education for reading problems. Has the child caught up with the peer group? Has the child fallen further behind? How can you tell? What do standard scores, percentile ranks, subtest scores, and age and grade equivalents mean?

This article is required reading for our clients. To successfully negotiate for services that provide educational benefit, parents need to know how to interpret test scores. To ensure that you have the graphics in this article, print the article from the screen (rather than download it).

Learn More About Tests and Assessments: Educational Progress Graphs - Our New Slide Show Will Show You How to Do It!

Download Tests & Measurements Slide Show as a PowerPoint Presentation (204kb)

View from the Top: How Principals View Learning Problems. Article examines school culture and beliefs from the perspective of school principals. Finds that ". . . principals shared the prejudices and stereotypes of mainstream society. The principals confused achievement with ability. Most claimed that children with learning problems were "disadvantaged."

What You Need to Know Before Filing a Complaint - Advocate Pat Howey describes the pros and cons of filing a complaint with the state.

What You Should Know About Evaluations. Attorney Bob Crabtree explains, "As a parent, you must make sure that all areas of possible need are assessed as quickly as possible. While some parents would rather not allow their school system to evaluate their child, a refusal to cooperate at this stage of the process can backfire . . . "


When Parents & Schools Disagree. Dr. Ruth Heitin, independent educational consultant, describes common areas of disagreement between parents and schools and offers suggestions and strategies to handle these problems.

Whitehead Case: The Inside Story. The famous $600,000 jury verdict against the Hillsborough Florida school district - what was this case really about? Laura Whiteside, attorney for Andrew Whitehead and his parents, tells the "inside story."

Whitehead Case: Jury Awards $600,000 Damages to Parents - In Whitehead v. Hillsborough, a Florida jury took less than 2 hours before deciding that the school system retaliated against the parents of a child with Downs Syndrome.

Winds of Change - What will the future bring for our children? Judy Heumann, Assistant Secretary of the U. S. Department of Education, tells her own story. As a public school student in a wheel chair, she was viewed as a ":fire hazard" -  and she was not allowed to attend school. Judy Heumann offers a roadmap about the future. Are we making progress? Have we gotten sidetracked?

Wrightslaw Circuit Finder - When you read about a new decision that was issued by the Eighth Circuit, do you know how this affects you? What is your circuit?

Supreme Court Decision in Zelman v. Harris-Simmons: Discussion by Pete Wright. Are vouchers here to stay? If Congress acts to overturn impact of this decision, how will it address vouchers for private schools that have no religious affiliation? Discussion of U. S. Supreme Court decision that a voucher program for public school students is constitutional and does not violate the Establishment Clause.

$133,000 Settlement to Missouri Parents in the ABA-Autism case.  
Daniel Asbury is a six year child with autism who receives ABA therapy. In ABA therapy programs, the autistic child receives intensive one-on-one therapy, six hours a day, seven days a week, for two to three years. Before the due process hearing, his case settled for $133,000. 
Update on the Asbury case from the Asbury's attorney

Settlement Agreement Between Parents and the Special School District in St. Louis Missouri, for $133,000.00.

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