Sunday, December 21, 2014

Due Process and Mediation

Meghan M. Burke, Samantha E. Goldman have an article in The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders titled "Identifying the Associated Factors of Mediation and Due Process in Families of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder."   They cite previous studies showing that families with an ASD child are more likely to push back than those of children with other disabilities. There are also differences among the families with ASD children. An excerpt:
First, families who advocated more and had weak  family-school partnerships were significantly more likely to file for due process or mediation (p’s\.0001). Because one piece of advocacy is understanding special education law (Trainor 2010), including conflict resolution procedures, parents who advocate more frequently may be more  likely to know about mediation and due process and, because of their knowledge, more likely to utilize these procedures. In addition, poor family-school partnerships may increase the likelihood of conflict because the parent and the school do not trust each other (Fish 2008). Conversely, family-school partnerships may deteriorate after a family files for due process (Mueller 2009).
Second, child characteristics also significantly related to the use of procedural safeguards. Compared to students who spent a large majority of their day in the general education classroom, families of students who were included for only 0–20 % of their time were 1.92 times more likely to enact their safeguards. This finding aligns with previous research indicating that placement is a common issue in due process hearings among families of students with ASD (Mueller and Carranza 2011). Our data indicates that families may be arguing for more inclusive settings. Parents of children with ASD who spend most of their time in self-contained classrooms may have greater concerns about their child’s quality of instruction and staff (Ryndak and Downing 1996). Child age also related to the enactment of safeguards with parents of older students being significantly more likely to file mediation or due process. Given that family-centeredness decreases with age (Dunst 2002), parents of older students may be more likely to use safeguards.
Third, parent characteristics also related to the usage of procedural safeguards. Families with greater incomes were significantly more likely to file due process or mediation. Given the high costs of hearings (Mueller 2009), families with more money may be better positioned to file for due process. However, the issue of income may represent a larger challenge of access and for whom due process and mediation can be viable conflict resolution procedures. Being unable to afford attorney representation or secure legal advocacy services, families from lower income backgrounds may feel that due process is not an equitable process (Shemberg 1997).
  • Dunst, C. J. (2002). Family-centered practices: Birth through high school. Journal of Special Education, 36, 139–147.
  • Fish, W. W. (2008). The IEP meeting: Perceptions of parents of students who receive special education services. Preventing School Failure, 53, 8–14.
  • Mueller, T. G. (2009). Alternative dispute resolution: A new agenda for special education policy. Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 20, 4–13.
  • Mueller, T. G., & Carranza, F. (2011). An examination of special education due process hearings. Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 22, 131–139.
  • Ryndak, D. L., & Downing, J. E. (1996). Parents’ perceptions of educational settings and services for children with moderate or severe disabilities. Remedial and Special Education, 17, 106–118.
  • Shemberg, A. (1997). Mediation as an alternative method of dispute resolution for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: A just proposal? Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution, 12,739–757.
  • Trainor, A. A. (2010). Diverse approaches to parent advocacy during special education home-school interactions: Identification and use of cultural and social capital. Remedial and Special education, 31, 34–47.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Obama Signs ABLE Act

Congressman Ander Crenshaw, author of the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act (ABLE Act), announced today (12/19) that President Barack Obama has signed his legislation into law. The action caps more than eight years of teamwork to create tax-free savings accounts for millions living with disabilities. These Americans and their families will now have the same financial planning tool available to others as they reach for every possible piece of the American dream.
Crenshaw, House-side author of the ABLE Act, who first introduced seed legislation to create ABLE accounts in 2006, issued the following statement:
“The ABLE Act is now law of the land, and a brighter future opens to millions of individuals living with disabilities. I am privileged to have been in a position to guide this reform from an idea into a law and never doubted we would reach our goal. Credit goes to fantastic teamwork from House and Senate Members on both sides of the political aisle and determination from hundreds of advocacy groups across the nation. Their focus and drive to educate Capitol Hill on the need for this law made a key difference.
“Positive achievements can be made by working together to improve the quality of life for those in need. The ABLE Act proves that. ABLE accounts open the door to financial peace of mind for so many. These Americans will no longer stand on the sidelines asking why can’t I use IRS-sanctioned tools to put money away for my future like others. They will be in the game and playing to win.”
BACKGROUND: Officially titled The Stephen Beck, Jr. Achieving a Better Life Experience Act of 2014, in honor of its long-time champion who passed away unexpectedly on December 8, the measure marks the first major legislative reform to impact the disabled since the 1990 passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Beck, of Burke, VA, had advocated for the reform early on. His young daughter Natalie was born with Down syndrome,
The law amends Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Service Code of 1986 to create tax-free savings accounts for qualified expenses. Benefits provided through private insurance, the Medicaid program, the beneficiary’s employment, and other sources would be supplemented, but not supplanted by the legislation. The bill passed the House on December 3 by a vote of 404-17 and was included Tax Extenders legislation which passed the Senate by a vote of 76 – 16. President Barack Obama signed the measure into law on Friday, December 19.
Editor’s Note: Go to for more information about the history of the ABLE Act.

Friday, December 19, 2014

A Different Path to a Diploma

Christina Samuels writes at Education Week:
Earlier this year, Louisiana lawmakers overwhelming approved a law that would permit some students with disabilities to opt out of the state's testing regime and instead follow a different path to a diploma.

However, implementing the new policy is turning out to be difficult, according to an article published Thursday in the New Orleans Advocate. The policy allows a student's individualized education program team, which is made up of parents, teachers, and administrators, to develop an alternate pathway to a diploma. But just how the teams are supposed to develop those plans has been a sticking point, the article said.

The U.S. Department of Education has also indicated it will be taking a careful look at how the law, which was signed June 23, is implemented. In July, Michael K. Yudin, the acting assistant secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, and Deborah S. Delisle, the assistant secretary of the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, sent a letter to White that outlined all the ways the policy could run afoul of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also known as No Child Left Behind Act).

For example, the ESEA requires that all students be given access to challenging academic and achievement standards, and the entity tasked with creating those standards is the state department of education. "To the extent the [new law] permits IEP teams to set different academic standards for some students with disabilities, those actions would violate the ESEA," the letter said. Creating a different, and potentially lower, standard for students in special education may also violate their right to a free, appropriate education under the IDEA.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Research Priorities

At Technology Review, John Elder Robison writes:
We’re sinking millions into the search for a “cure,” even though we now know that autism is not a disease but rather a neurological difference, one that cripples some of us while bringing a few others extraordinary gifts. Most of us live with a mix of exceptionality and disability. I know I do.
Research into the genetic and biological foundations of autism is surely worthwhile, but it’s a long-term game (see “Solving the Autism Puzzle”). The time from discovery to deployment of an approved therapy is measured in decades, while the autism community needs help right away.
If we accept that autistic people are neurologically different rather than sick, the research goal changes from finding a cure to helping us achieve our best quality of life.
We can make life better for the autistic people who have major cognitive and functional challenges that today’s science can’t fix. We have a duty to make their lives better through applied technology. We owe it to our most disabled brothers and sisters to do all we can to ensure their security, safety, and comfort.
So how might this change in research direction come about? For one thing, we can put autistic people in charge. The fact is, researchers have treated autism as a childhood disability, when in fact it’s a lifelong difference. If childhood is a quarter of the life span, then three-quarters of the autistic population are adults. Doesn’t it make sense that some of us would want to take a role in shaping the course of research that affects us?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Police Training

AP reports:
Scott Schuelke, who has 25 years' worth of law enforcement experience, has trained close to 10,000 people at 300 training seminars across the state [Michigan] and country in the past three years. His seminars are designed to provide details to police, firefighters and other first responders about the group of developmental disabilities that can involve language and social impairments and unusual, repetitious behaviors.
"We're teaching (first-responders) how to communicate, how to interact, how to work with a family member or care provider," said Schuelke, a retired Lansing police sergeant who now works as an autism safety specialist with the Autism Alliance of Michigan.
Mark Boody, a police sergeant in the Detroit suburb of Novi, Michigan, who has attended Schuelke's seminars, wishes he'd known earlier what he now knows about the disorder.
"After the training, thinking back, 'Wow. I bet that person (I encountered) could be someone with autism,'" Boody said. "Now, knowing that ahead of time, we're just not going to automatically assume the negative."

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Senate Passes ABLE Act

Jonathan Tamari writes at The Philadelphia Inquirer:
An unusual thing happened in Congress this month: The Senate and the House each passed legislation likely to create a law, with massive bipartisan support.
Sen. Robert P. Casey (D., Pa.), a sponsor of the bill, wound up on the same side as House Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in Congress.
The beneficiaries of this cooperation: families facing the lifelong costs of disabling illnesses such as epilepsy or Down syndrome.
If President Obama signs the bill, people with disabilities and their families would soon have the option of creating tax-sheltered savings accounts to help pay for long-term care.

The feel-good moment was five years coming for Casey, who sponsored the Senate version of the so-called ABLE Act, for "Achieving a Better Life Experience."
The measure was rolled into a package that would renew other tax policies and approved Tuesday night by the Senate, 76-16. It passed the House on its own earlier in December.
"It allows children to lead a full life, and it gives their parents peace of mind," Casey said in a recent interview. The bill builds on similar savings accounts that already exist for education or retirement. "It's not some new theory. It works and it makes sense, and that's one of the reasons why you had such broad bipartisan support."
Some have hailed the measure as the first major bill aimed at helping the disabled since 1990's Americans With Disabilities Act.

The Senate and the ABLE Act

The Senate will vote shortly on the ABLE Act, which has passed the House.

Senator John Thune (R-SD):

Senator Richard Burr (R-NC):