The Special Ed Advocate Newsletter
September 10, 2001

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Issue: 129
ISSN: 1538-3202

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Highlights: Links to free books and newsletters; new decision in case of child with autism; learn more about autism and advocacy.

Subscribers on September 9 2001: 29,818

1. Download Free Books From Wrightslaw

One obstacle in advocating for a child with a disability is finding time to do research. We spent hours collecting information so you can spend your time learning, not searching.

At Wrightslaw, you can download free publications about -

  • IEPs & Transition Plans
  • IDEA & Special Education
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Reading
  • Retention & Social Promotion
  • Autism & Children's Mental Health
  • Harassment
  • Assessment and High Stakes Tests
  • Discipline and Zero Tolerance Policies


  • Educating Children with Autism
  • The New IDEA Survival Guide

"Educating Children with Autism" (2001) is published by the National Academy Press.

This 276 page book is being used as evidence in due process hearings on behalf of children with autism. Includes research findings about effective educational programs for children with autism, early intervention, components of effective treatment programs.

You can download this book free from National Academy Press (one page at a time) or you can purchase it from the NAP.

"The New IDEA Survival Guide" (2000) is published by the National Education Association (NEA). This book is designed to help teachers understand their responsibilities under the IDEA. If you are a parent, we encourage you to read this book - you will get answers to your questions too.

This guide is written in a Q & A format, includes typical scenarios, what the IDEA says, and discusses myths and reality. For example:

*As a general education teacher, what is my role?
*Is it fair for a student to receive special treatment, then be graded the same as other students?

*How can I protect myself from retaliation if I disagree with the administration over a student's IEP?
* How can special education and general education teachers get support we need to actually implement IEPs?
* Can staff training can be written into a student's IEP? Who does the training? Do paraprofessionals get training too?
* A child with a tracheotomy was transferred to my class. The principal says I must suction his tracheotomy tube. Do I have to do this?
* A child in my class has a 'do not resuscitate order.' Do I have to comply with this?
* One student's parents want constant updates on their son's progress - weekly lesson plans, weekend homework, progress reports, and more. Do I have to do this?

For download links to these and other Free Pubs.

2. Free Newsletter From FEAT

Families for Effective Autism Treatment (FEAT) publishes FEAT Daily Newsletter, a free newsletter about neurobiological disorders. If you are interested in autism, special education, advocacy, IDEA, genetic research stem cell research, medical imaging, ADD/ADHD, or learning disabilities, subscribe to FEAT Daily Newsletter.


Learn more about FEAT

3. Beliefs and Fear Fuel Due Process Hearing

After a 27-day due process hearing, a Tennessee Administrative Law Judge issued a 45-page decision in "Zachary Deal v. Hamilton County Department of Education."

Zachary is a seven year old child who was diagnosed with autism at age two. His school district evaluated him, then placed him in a generic preschool class with developmentally delayed children.

When Zachary's parents learned about Lovaas-ABA educational programs, they implemented a home-based ABA program for their son. This program included intensive one-on-one instruction, highly structured teaching, and comprehensive data collection and analysis.

Zachary made significant progress in this home-based program so his parents asked the school district to pay for these services. The district refused. The parents asked for data that supported the effectiveness of the district's approach to teaching children with autism. The district had no data to support the effectiveness of its approach.

Intuition & Beliefs v. Scientific Data & Facts

"Notwithstanding the fact that it had virtually no scientific data to support the services it offered for Zachary, [the district] rejected the Lovaas based methodology . . . "

"The evidence showed that the HCDE actually cobbled together various components from other methodologies, primarily TEACCH . . . based on the experience and preferences of individual IEP team members . . ."

"If their intuition and experience were telling them that their choices for autistic children were as good or better than Lovaas ABA, they were misleading themselves."

Witness Credibility

In his decision, the judge found that several school witnesses were not credible. Witnesses were evasive, confrontational, "demonstrated a closed mind and steadfast adherence to preconceived notions."

One witness ". . . took very strong positions favorable to [the district] in areas and on subjects where he had little or no knowledge or expertise."

Cadillac v. Chevrolet Issues

The judge wrote, "Science and innovation have warred with orthodoxy at least since Galileo was forced to recant in the shadow of the rack . . ."

"The IDEA may not mandate a Cadillac for Zachary Deal. It does, however, require the HCDE to make sure whichever vehicle they propose is fully gassed and capable of arriving at an appropriate destination."

Conclusions of Law

The school district was cited for procedural violations and substantive violations:

* The school district failed to offer a methodology ". . . because they had no such methodology to offer."
* The home-based Lovaas ABA program is a recognized methodology
* The school district refused to provide Zachary with needed extended school year services

The parents were entitled to reimbursement for the costs of educating their child. Zachary and his parents were represented by Theodore Kern of Knoxville, Tennessee and Gary Mayerson of New York.

Website: http://www.mayerslaw.com

You can download this new decision in Word or pdf from Mayerslaw or in pdf from the Wrightslaw site.

4. Analysis of Zachary Deal V. Hamilton by Gary Mayerson, Esq.

Gary Mayerson, attorney for the parents, reflected on the costs when school districts cling to outmoded programs and fight to retain the status quo:

"What is incredible, other than the length of the hearing (27 days) and the tens of thousands of pages of evidence, is the crushing cost to the County which is in excess of $600,000, no matter how you slice it."

"They have already paid their counsel at least $300,000 . . . They owe the family more than $110,000 for prior ABA services and [for] the balance of 2001-2002 and any "pendency" relief if there is a further dispute. And they owe our attorney's fees."

"Considering that the family would have settled for far less at the outset, this was an unfortunate roll of the dice for Hamilton County, particularly now that many of their key administrators have been branded as untruthful liars by the judge's decision."

What is the inside story of this case? What led this school district to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend an indefensible position? Will Hamilton County throw more money into an appeal? What do the taxpayers of Hamilton County think?

Read Gary Mayerson's analysis of "Zachary Deal v. Hamilton County" at the Wrightslaw site.

5. Learn About Autism & Advocacy

Autism is a developmental disorder of neurobiological origin that affects the child's ability to communicate ideas and feelings, use imagination, and establish relationships with others. No single behavior is characteristic of autism, and no single known cause is responsible for its onset. Currently there is no cure.

All available research strongly suggests that intensive early intervention makes a critical difference to children with autistic disorders. Without early identification and diagnosis, children with autism do not learn with the skills necessary to benefit from education.

For articles, cases, and resources about autism, please visit our new Autism page at the Wrightslaw site.

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