The Special Ed Advocate Newsletter
June 14, 2001

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Issue: 118
ISSN: 1538-3202

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Highlights: New article about parent advocacy; federal judge allows lawsuit for damages in special education case; Mailbag - Pete and Pam answer questions.

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1. New Article: Advocate for Your Child - Getting Started

Good special education services are intensive and expensive. Resources are limited. If you have a child with special needs, you may wind up battling the school district for the services your child needs. To prevail, you need information, skills, and tools.

On the journey from emotions to advocacy, you need to learn about your child’s disability, educational and remedial techniques, educational progress, Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), and how to artfully advocate.

You need to learn how to present your concerns and problems in writing, prepare for meetings, and search for win-win solutions. You need to use your emotions as a source of energy and power, and how to focus on getting an appropriate education for your child.

Download: Advocate for Your Child - Getting Started

NOTE: This new article is based on From Emotions to Advocacy: The Special Education Survival Guide by Pete and Pam Wright (to be published by Harbor House Law Press, Summer 2001).

2. Federal Judge Allows Lawsuit for Damages in Special Education Case (Hawaii)

"In what may be a landmark decision, U.S. District Judge David Ezra ruled Wednesday that parents of special needs children may be entitled to millions of dollars in damages from the state for out-of-pocket money spent on their children, lost income and even emotional distress."

"This is a terrifically significant decision that could affect probably thousands of families in the state of Hawaii," attorney Carl Varady said. Varady represents families of special needs children."

"But Wednesday's decision was rooted in the case of 6-year-old Amber Nahale. Amber needs two-to-three hours of therapy a day to overcrome autism. The Nahales also have an autistic son."

"While the state is legally obliged to pay for the therapy, it didn't for several years, forcing Amber's parents to pay thousands of dollars for therapists."

Will a judge force a state to be accountable? Read about this important case.

3. Mailbag: What Do You Want? How Can I Get Services?

Here are two questions that came in this week from parents who asked for advice.

QUESTION: "My son's due process hearing is scheduled later this month. My attorney sent an email and asked: “Is there anything else you want in a settlement?"

"I hired an attorney who specializes in Due Process Hearings because of this attorney's expertise. Do you have any suggestions about what I should ask for?"

ANSWER: It is normal for your attorney to ask you what you want. Attorneys assume you know your child better than they do. And they are right.

Attorneys should ask clients what they want. If they don't ask, they won't know and you are likely to be disappointed in the outcome.

Since we are not familiar with your case, we are not in a position to give you advice about what your child may need.

If you are not sure what you want, ask the experts who are involved in the case for their suggestions about what your child needs. They will be able to give you some guidance and perhaps specific recommendations.

For more help, visit our new Topics page

* * * * * * * *

QUESTION: "Although I read your newsletters I am still at a loss about how to represent my child in getting the services he needs and is entitled to. He is is nine years old and has been diagnosed with ADHD, Tourettes Syndrome, and Bipolar Depression."

"I am fighting a losing battle with the special educators about providing my son with the services he is entitled to. After many confrontations and persistent insistence, he was placed in an self contained class for emotionally disturbed children for one hour a day. The teacher disagrees that he needs services. His IEP has not been reviewed, nor have I received any reports about his success or efforts."

"I am extremely frustrated. I have been told on by friends that my son's rights are being violated. What should I do?"

ANSWER: You need to get out of the loop.

Have your child evaluated by an expert in the private sector who is knowledgeable about your son's neurobehavioral conditions AND special education. Ask the evaluator to provide recommendations about your son's educational needs. Ask the evaluator to attend the next IEP meeting to explain what your son needs.

About the statements that your son's rights are being violated: Complaining that your child's rights are being violated is not the way to get better services. Read our articles about how to write letters. First, read the "Letter to the Stranger."

Next, read "The Art of Writing Letters."

Relations between you and the school are polarized. The harder you push, the more the school digs in. Most school personnel believe they know what's best for children -- including your child. If you disagree with them, they believe you are wrong. This happens whenever there is conflict and is not unique to you, your child, education, or special education.

Our new book, FROM EMOTIONS TO ADVOCACY: THE SPECIAL EDUCATION SURVIVAL GUIDE, describes these issues and what to do. The book will be published later this summer. For more information, please visit our Publications page


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Wrightslaw: Special Education Legal Developments and Cases 2019, by Pam and Pete Wright
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Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, by Pam and Pete Wright
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Wrightslaw: All About IEPs
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Wrightslaw: All About Tests and Assessments
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Surviving Due Process: Stephen Jeffers v. School Board
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