Cheney Free Press
light on special needs education
By John McCallum, Editor
July 3, 2009
Eastern Washington University and Northwest Autism Center host Wrightslaw
law can be difficult especially education law and particularly
the rules and regulations surrounding special education.
why the staff at the Northwest Autism Center has teamed with Eastern
Washington University and other area organizations to bring a powerful
legal tool to Cheney. Wrightslaw is holding its nationally acclaimed
special education law and advocacy conference at Easterns Showalter
Hall Auditorium on Thursday, July 16.
NAC executive director Dawn Sidell views this conference as a must-attend
event for anyone who is involved, or could be involved, with special
needs children and not just children with autism. You can end
up being related to someone with a disability at the drop of a hat,
its part of the life experience, Sidell said, adding the
entire community benefits from knowing something about special needs
education, the methods and the legal responsibilities that go with
Founded by the husband and wife team of Pete and Pam Wright, Wrightslaw
is a legal practice dedicated to helping families of children with
disabilities. Pete Wright is an attorney who specializes in representing
children with special needs, and has successfully argued cases involving
such clientele before a variety of courts, including the U.S. Supreme
Pam Wright is a psychotherapist who has worked with families since
the 1970s. Besides Wrightslaw, they are also adjunct professors of
law at William and Mary Law School in Virginia, teaching a course
about special education law and advocacy while assisting with the
Law Schools Special Education Law Clinic. They have authored
several books on these subjects.
The conference at Eastern will focus on special education law, rights
and responsibilities; tests and measurements to determine progress
and regression; smart IEPs (Individual Education Plans); and tactics
and strategies for effective advocacy. Sidell said all are crucial
to special needs childrens educational experience, an experience
that is the biggest part of their lives from ages 2 through 21, and
which can hugely impact how they live thereafter. We need to
make it as productive as possible, she said. Its
essential to making the rest of their lives better, and achieving
independence and quality. For one child, independence could mean navigating
a hallway to get something to eat. For another, independence is being
able to hold a job and get married.
Sidell said anyone who is an educator should attend the conference,
as should family members of special needs children, childcare providers
and legal professionals. Effective special needs education boils down
to three basic tenets: Accurate assessment and evaluation through
proper testing; building appropriate, effective IEPs; and following
The conference will address these within the complex legal structure
surrounding fair and appropriate educational opportunities for children,
along with providing effective implementation and strategies for teamwork.
Breakdowns in teamwork can lead to confrontation between parents and
educators, and potential legal challenges. Its a relationship,
its a dance. You cant do it alone, Sidell said.
If both sides arent working together, the child is going
The conference runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and costs $50 per
person for family members and students, $75 per couple and $70 for
professionals. Fees include lunch and accompanying books and materials.
education credits are available at additional cost to participants,
and a limited number of family scholarships and tuition reductions
are available by calling Jill Ide at 328-1582. People interested in
attending are strongly urged to call the previous number and register
as quickly as possible. Sidell said registration is going well, with
people coming from as far away as Ohio.
Sidell said the conference was made possible through NACs relationship
with Eastern. The university provides space and special equipment
for Domino Project Preschool, a lab school at Martin Hall that specializes
in developing and implementing education methods for autistic children.
Sponsoring the conference with NAC and Eastern are the Arc of Spokane,
Region One Division for Developmental Disabilities, Autism Society
of Washington and Inland Center for Autism and Related Disorders.
Northwest Autism Center is hosting, but its not all about
autism, Sidell said. Its for special needs education.
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org