The Special Ed Advocate
The Creative Solutions Contest
On September 9, 1999 we introduced a new feature on the Wrightslaw web site. We decided to harness the "power of the Internet" to devise "Creative Solutions" to problems experienced by people whose lives are affected by the often-confusing world of special education. Click here to read the announcement at the end of this webpage.
The people who visit Wrightslaw have the creativity and expertise necessary to generate solutions to complex problems. Faced with a problem, we thought that some of you would jump in and offer a solution. We posted The Problem to subscribers to our newsletter. Within two days, we received more than 30 excellent Creative Solutions. We posted these Solutions on the website and asked you to vote.
Winning Creative Solution # 2 by John Willis.
The winning Creative Solution is by John Willis. Creative Solution # 9 by Becky Milton was a close second. In third and fourth places are #30 and # 19.
To read all Creative Solutions, go to http://www.wrightslaw.com/creative/creatv1.htm . Each Solution is preceded by a #.
The Problem from Georgia Mom
"How Can I Get the School District to Transport my Son To School From Home?"
To read the problem, go to
The WINNING CREATIVE SOLUTION by John Willis
Date: Thu, 9 Sep 1999 15:41:05 -0400
From: "John Willis"
Locate a friend with a video camera. Have the friend tape two minutes of you and your child struggling down your road. Go to your doctor and tape a one-minute plea from the doctor. Then add 45 seconds of the substitute driver cheerfully driving in your road and 45 seconds driving out in bad weather. Tape a one-minute testimonial from the driver that the drive is no problem. Take last year's final report card to a store with a photocopier and enlarge the part that lists absences. If there are any nasty comments about the absences, include those in the enlargement. Film a close-up of the enlargement for 30 seconds while you explain that this shows the child's absences from school last yea, caused by the lack of transportation.
You should now have a six-minute documentary videotape. Make an appointment with the superintendent of schools, explaining you want to meet in a room where you can use a videotape player to show a six-minute tape. When you have the meeting, explain your problem in three calm, polite sentences, show the tape, and give the superintendent copies of the letters from the doctor and the driver and of the whole report card. Then ask the superintendent to schedule you for ten minutes at the next school board meeting with a videotape player available.
John Willis Peterborough, NH
Background information about John -
John O. Willis, Ed.D., SAIF, began his career in special education as a volunteer at the Rockingham School, Exeter, NH, and the Special Children's Center and Cayuga Heights School in Ithaca, NY.
He is Senior Lecturer in Assessment at Rivier College, where he has taught part-time since 1981. Since 1974, he has been Assessment Specialist at the Regional Services and Education Center, Amherst, NH, where he was also Director of Psychoeducational Services for ten years and Acting Executive Director for one.
He was a teacher, administrator, and evaluator at the Crotched Mountain School, Greenfield, NH, from 1969 to 1974. Dr. Willis is co-author, with Ron P. Dumont, Ed.D., NCSP, of the Guide to Identification of Learning Disabilities (1998 NY State ed.) (Acton, MA: Copley, 1998), author of "Diagnosis: Developing informed reading assessments and interpretations" in S. Brody (Ed.), Teaching Reading: Language, Letters, and Thought. (Milford, NH: LARC Publishing, 1994), and author or co-author of several articles.
He has taught courses for the University System of New Hampshire and Antioch/New England Graduate School and presented numerous workshops to teachers and psychologists.
2nd Place CREATIVE SOLUTION by Becky Milton
Date: Thu, 09 Sep 1999 18:36:58 -0500
From: Becky L Milton <firstname.lastname@example.org>
As a fellow Georgian and a mother of a child with disabilities in special education for 10 years, below are my suggestions:
1. Write a letter to the Director of special ed indicating you will no longer be able to walk your son to and from the bus stop.
2. Attach a letter from your personal Doctor indicating your own disability and your upcoming surgery due to carrying your son.
3. Attach the letter from your son's Doctor indicating the trauma this has created for your son.
4. CC: Copies to Paulette Bragg, Executive Director, Special Education for the State of Georgia.
5. CC: Copies to Learning Disabilities Association of Georgia, Att: Vickie Hansworth
6. CC: Copies to Superintendent of the County in which you live.
7. CC: Copies to Parents Educating Parents, Att: Linda Shepherd, Executive Director (indicate my name for the referral)
8. Also, indicate in your letter that you expect a written response from the director of special ed within 10 days.
9. Finally, keep your letter brief and to the point. Do not go into personal feelings.
Note: You may contact me directly at email@example.com and I can help you draft the letter if necessary.
Background Information About Becky Milton
Becky Milton is the parent of a child with a disability. Her journey began 10 years ago when her son was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder at age 5. She and her son are walking down a very rocky road. To read Becky's story about shame, humiliation, and the process of empowerment, click here.
The 1st and 2nd place winners of the Creative Solution Contest win a free copy of Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, our new book that contains the complete text of IDEA 97, the regs, and landmark U. S. Supreme Court cases. Becky's copy will go out on Monday morning. We will need to find a different prize for John - he already has two copies. When we decide on a suitable prize for John, we'll post it on the site.
The URL for the page that contains all Creative Solutions is:
Lessons Learned From First Creative Solutions Contest
We received solutions from parents, educators, directors of special education, school psychologists, doctors, and grandparents.
Solutions ranged from offers of help in writing letters, legal advice, use of videotapes, letters, knife fighting skills <g>, and how to turn a private road into a public road.
We will sponsor more Creative Solutions Contests, when time permits.
After we posted the Creative Solutions and called for the vote, we received more emails from parents who had similar private road transportation problems and had resolved their problems successfully. Their Solutions and how they resolved their problem tracked other solutions that were proposed.
We learned that some states have regulations that mandate door to door travel, while other states do not.
We learned that changing a road from private to public would be an easy task in some jurisdictions. Some people solved their problem by using video cameras. Others used letters. Some had personal visits by school staff to the road site.
What You Thought About the Creative Solutions Contest
Here is a sample of emails to Wrightslaw about the contest.
This certainly is a tough decision because there are so many great suggestions here. It is especially wonderful to know of the support that is out there when many of us probably feel like this advocacy path is a pretty lonely path. I applaud you at Wrightslaw for bringing us together.
Mark and Tammy wrote:
My vote number is 2, I have found that if you give a face to a name then you get a lot more. Then your child isn't just a number and name but a little boy or girl that needs their help. It works every time!
Mom of an AS high schooler wrote:
I feel that all the individuals have valid points. This poor mom will have to read over all the suggestions, and start following them one at a time. Of course the highest priority should be on those that are from her same state, especially if talking about key individuals to contact. But none of these ideas should be just cast aside. She should keep copies of all of them, and gradually check off those that she has tried. You and I don't know which one will be the one that works for her--that will only come with time.
I congratulate you about opening this up on the internet. This is a wonderful method of brainstorming, and that is exactly what we need in these instances. There are no cut and died answers to any of our problems—we need to think creatively (beyond the lines)--and the creative process is at its best when it has more people contributing, and building on each others solutions. From the responses you got, about a week is max, or you will get too much input to be worthwhile. You have really started something good. Thank you.
ARC Lawyer wrote:
I like the idea of short "shame on you" documentary. I would not only share this video with the school Board but also the local media (they may even be willing to help make the video).
A California Director of Special Education wrote:
I like your site. I find it helpful to check in on issues from the "other side." Actually, we are both on the same side trying to do what is best for kids. I am responsible for over 1300 special ed kids in a very nice California district. In 30 years of work, this is the most challenging job I have ever encountered.
M family wrote:
Many of the solutions were excellent ideas but first and foremost, this mother needs help in advocating for her son. The list of Georgia authorities should be a great resource for this mother. Engaging the media for help may get her help, but will also "brand" her as a troublemaker in her district. She wants answers and help. Hopefully, the state agencies will help to implement the law for her.
I believe #9 will get results quickly without burning bridges with the staff who work with the child day-to-day.
R Morin, MD wrote
Video documentation sounds like the best idea to me - short and sweet.
All were excellent but #19 hit the heart.
You have no idea how much your site has helped me. I do a lot of advocating for families who have special needs children and I refer them to your site often.
Document, document! I had so much documentation with "thank you letters" and notes to teachers and administrators that the school's own attorneys told the special education. director "you don't want to go Due Process with this or you will lose." They had very little supporting documentation.
I also charted his reading tests they had given and used their own evidence of progress against them.
The kicker was the testing that a “para-educator” did without our consent. I walked in as she was doing testing and prompting the answers. I documented this event. The school attempted to use this testing as the measure of his progress. The district insisted that it was valid testing and refused to budge.
So I did what I learned from your site – use the law creatively and put our son in a win/ win situation.
I said if this testing was valid, then there was a significant regression between that test and the one at the end of summer. Therefore they would have to provide summer services. They decided not to use the testing as a measure of his progress.
Thanks again for being a friend in the trenches
Fred, my cousin, wrote
The contest is a fantastic idea!
Frederick Allan Fay, Ph.D. is the Chair of Justice For All, an Internet and email network to defend and advance disability rights and programs in Congress. JFA works with national and state organizations of people with disabilities to get the word from Washington D.C. out to the grassroots.
I vote for Number 20. Number 20 because this mother is ill and has limited energy to advocate and the advice giver provided some concrete decision makers who can influence real solution.
My second favorite solution is #1. The problem is I know the energy required to advocate can be more than a parent who is ill with a high maintenance child realistically has. In this mother's case the email letters solution seems to be the best idea.
My family lives on a private road. I had to overstep the community association members who wanted to maintain it as closed street. Three or four neighbors worked together to close the road. They parked a semi-trailer cab, planted trees and placed debris in the middle of the street - thus closing the road to thru traffic and blocking bus access for my special needs child. When the county zoning people learned why I needed the road open, they were most supportive and the road problem is resolved.
Which solution does the mother who is ill with the disabled child find the most useful? In the end her vote is the only one that matters.
Creative Solutions Contest Announcement (in the September 9, 1999 newsletter)-
1. NEW! THE WRIGHTSLAW “CREATIVE SOLUTIONS CONTEST”
Some visitors to our site write about problems with their child's school. Other visitors write about their creative "win-win" solutions to school problems.
To SOLVE school problems, you must learn to think creatively. Don't allow yourself to get bogged down in anger, resentment, helplessness, and other negative emotions. Don't waste your energy debating about the unfairness of the situation.
(We know this is tough but this advice is the essence of our next book, FROM EMOTIONS TO ADVOCACY. )
Wrightslaw is sponsoring a CREATIVE SOLUTIONS CONTEST. Here is how it works:
if you have a Creative Solution that may help this parent solve her problem, send your Solution to firstname.lastname@example.org/
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