Disabled Kids, Child Advocate and Parent Coaching

"Hey, Mr. President, Don't leave the disabled kids behind!"

by Philip Matthew Stinson, Sr. Esq.

After one week on the job, President George W. Bush has proposed dramatic changes into the funding and accountability of public education for children in the United States. President Bush's proposal, called "No Child Left Behind," is designed to: · Increase Accountability for Student Performance · Focus on What Works · Reduce Bureaucracy and Increase Flexibility · Empower Parents These program priorities do not address reforms in every federal education program, and principally address a general vision for reforming the Elementary and Secondary Education Act ("ESEA") and linking federal funding to specific performance goals to ensure improved results. The President's proposal does not address any substantive details relating to the reform of federal programs relating to children with special needs, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. §1401, et seq.; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ("Section 504"), 29 U.S.C. §794; the Family Education Privacy Rights Act ("FERPA"), 20 U.S.C. §1232g; and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §12101, et seq. The President's proposal includes seven performance-based areas of reform: · Improving the academic performance of disadvantaged students · Boosting teacher quality · Moving limited English proficient students to English fluency · Promoting informed parental choice and innovative programs · Encouraging safe schools for the 21st Century · Increasing funding for Impact Aid · Encouraging freedom and accountability

The proposal is comprised of a variety of key components, many of which would be implemented during the re-authorization of the ESEA. First, the President proposes to close the achievement gap by accountability for high standards as measured by annual academic assessments in Reading and math, as well as consequences for schools that fail to education disadvantaged schools. Second, the President proposes to improve literacy for creating a new emphasis on Reading in early grades and Early Childhood Reading instruction.

Third, the President proposes to expand program flexibility and reduce government bureaucracy by allowing commingling of Title I funds with other federal and state funds, increasing funding for technology grants, reducing duplicative efforts by consolidation of grant programs, and creating a charter option to limit requirements of grants for those state and local educational agencies willing to be subjected to rigorous standards of accountability. Fourth, the President proposes to reward success and sanctioning failure by developing a system of accountability rewards through annual assessment of students in grades 3-8, "No Child Left Behind" rewards for schools that have made the greatest progress in improving the achievement of disadvantaged students, and reduction of federal funds at the discretion of the Secretary of Education for states that fail to meet their performance objectives and demonstrate results in academic achievement.

Fifth, the President proposes to promote informed parental choice by mandating access to parents of school-by-school reports on student achievement for all groups of students, federal funding for the creation of charter schools, and grants for innovative efforts to expand parental choice and to conduct research on the effects of school choice.

Sixth, the President proposes to improve teacher quality by giving state and local educational agencies flexibility in the use of federal funds so that the educational agencies may focus more on improving teacher quality, setting high standards for professional development to ensure research-based, effective practice in the classroom, and strengthening Math and Science education.

Finally, the President proposes to make schools safer for the 21st Century by empowering teachers to remove violent or persistently disruptive students from the classroom, increasing federal funding for safety and drug prevention programs at schools, providing safe alternatives for students trapped in persistently dangerous schools, and providing federal funds for development of character-building lessons and activities in the classroom. The President's "No Child Left Behind" program is silent on how the program initiatives will impact on children with special needs that are entitled under existing federal law to receive a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. In order to ensure the provision of a free appropriate public education for children with disabilities that require either specially designed instruction and/or reasonable accommodations, any legislation to implement the President's educational initiatives must include the following: · assurances that the "No Child Left Behind" initiatives do not impact on the entitlement of a "free appropriate public education" in the "least restrictive environment" under the IDEA and Section 504; · assurances that the "No Child Left Behind" initiatives do not violate the due process rights of children by allowing teachers to remove children from school without a fair hearing; · assurances that the "No Child Left Behind" initiatives do not allow teachers discretion to unilaterally remove children from class or school for behaviors that are manifestations of a disability; · assurances that the IDEA will receive full federal funding at the state and local level each year to ensure that all children with special needs are able to attend the school of their parent's choice, including charter schools; · assurances that children with disabilities are not "left behind" as the only disadvantaged students remaining in persistently dangerous or failing schools; · assurances that FERPA is not amended so as to allow for the release of confidential information relating to children with disabilities or the improper release of information to juvenile justice or law enforcement authorities relating to behaviors that are manifestations of a child's disability; · revisions to the IDEA so as to allow for parental choice of implementation of Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for children with disabilities in private schools, including religious and parochial schools, just as parents of non-disabled disadvantaged children will be able to elect to send their children to religiously affiliated school; and, · increased funding for legal representation of parents in disputes with public educational agencies relating to special education services for children with special needs, by way of grants by the Office of Special Education Programs ("OSEP") at the U.S. Department of Education to fund special education law clinics, as well as federal funding to establish special education law clinics to be staffed by legal aid attorneys employed by agencies funded by the Legal Services Corporation.

The Parent Coach: A Column For Proactive Parents

Dr. Steven Richfield

A parent writes: Our middle school twins are polar opposites in personality. One is outgoing, popular, and very interested in girls. The other boy is more reserved and not the least bit concerned about having a girlfriend. Right now I'm more worried about the popular one. His moods are too dependent upon how his girlfriend treats him on any particular day. His grades are suffering. His priorities are changing. I don't know what to do. The door to boy-girl friendships opens at different times depending upon many factors, especially personality. Once it opens the results can vary between a growth in a child's compassion and empathy to an unhealthy absorption and dependency. Personality traits play a large role in determining whether things tilt more to a positive or negative direction. Some kids become quickly submerged under the weight of intense and unfamiliar feelings, making it hard for them to set boundaries, protect priorities, and assert themselves. Fearing disappointment or rejection, and craving reassurance, the child may implicitly allow their boy/girlfriend to wield too much control over their brittle emotions. This situation leads to a host of self-defeating behaviors at home and school. Wide mood swings, avoidance of responsibilities, and angry withdrawal may signal that an unhealthy attachment is growing between the sexes. Keep these coaching tips in mind when broaching this sensitive subject with your child: †Proceed cautiously and tread lightly since this is just the beginning. One vital parenting goal is to make it as comfortable as possible for your child to discuss awkward subjects with you. Your initial approach to this subject can pave the way for success or failure in establishing a safe and trusting dialogue about such issues. Avoid lecturing, judging, or accusing as this will only lead to stilted, monosyllabic answers. Offer nonthreatening observations such as "I notice how upset you seem" or "Seems like you're changing your usual routine" rather than direct opinions about their behavior. Remember that they are often very touchy about this subject so don't offer yourself up as a target of their frustration.

Gently express your concerns about the impact you've observed. After building a safe dialogue praise them for opening up to you. Emphasize how all of us need to step outside of our strong feelings to reflect upon recent behaviors. By doing this we can mature into more thinking, rather than reacting, people. New friendships with boys or girls may effect them in ways they may not realize. One job for parents is to make their kids more aware of how they are managing changes in their lives, and the stress that comes with them. Assure them that you are on their side, and want to help them balance the many priorities in their life.

If you have a chance, educate rather than interrogate. If you sense that they are receptive to talking, suggest to them that opposite sex relationships will teach them a lot about the world of people. Understanding emotions, tuning into others, and expressing feelings are among the lifelong lessons. Suggest that the feelings between people can grow very strong and even overwhelming at times. One way to manage that intensity is to talk it out with a more experienced and trusted person, like a parent. Once the issues begin to be discussed the feelings can lessen and clearer perspectives can emerge.

Dr. Steven Richfield is a child psychologist in Plymouth Meeting. His column appears monthly. He can be contacted at 610-275-0178 or www.parentcoachcards.com

Advocates Corner

By Steve Metz

My name is Steve Metz. Many of you who have been on this site for years knows of my son's story and my advocacy. I spent the last six years of my life helping parents on this site and others, to get services for their children. I write a column, called The Advocates Corner. which is printed in Brandi Valentine's Newsletter every month. After six years of helping parents daily for 2 to 3 hours a day, it finally wore me out. I needed a break mentally from those rigors. It was affecting my business and my home life. So, I took a vacation from the advocacy, except for the monthly article and when directly contacted by individuals who needed help. The reason I am writing this today is because of the correct opinion about Mr. Ashcroft who is not a friend of Special Education and of due process. I wrote a letter to all the sites I participate in, just before the election. I was lambasted for and accused of using these sites as a political forum. Although, I advised the readers that although I don't want to become political and tell anyone who to vote for, Mr. Bush had made statements that would have direct negative affects against our children. I told everyone to vote their conscience, but at least look into the issues. Well, Mr. Bush is our President, and now we are looking at Mr. Ashcroft as the Attorney General, who is against protecting children who get into trouble in our schools. One MUST assume that he, as 99% of all politicians, know as little about ADHD as the general population, with a couple of rare exceptions. We now live in an environment that is treating children as adults in our courts. Politicians want to expel any child who gets into fights. If teachers try to break up fights, as happened to our child, all a teacher or administration has to do is claim in breaking up the fight, the teacher hurt her wrist, to get your child expelled. If you don't think that happens, read my son's story. He was not only expelled permanently, he also was charged with attacking a teacher, when I had the nerve to use IDEA as our protection. Until we know for sure, that Mr. Ashcroft will protect our kids, and defend IDEA, you as a parent must make sure that the schools follows the letter of the law (IDEA) along with all State Laws relative to Special Education. Everything must be documented, from the first meetings with your child's teachers, to conversations with the administration must be kept in a diary. Tape record all conversations when legal in your state. Send confirmation letters to the administration about items discussed and decided relative to your child. Send them by registered mail, so there can never be a dispute about who said what to who! We may be entering a time that will be very dangerous for our children's right to an education. I'm not saying it will happen, but I am saying that it might happen. And that is why you must protect your child's rights. That is why you must, keep an up to date diary, and keep track of whether your child's school, is following the letter of the law. This is not meant to demean Republicans, but all of us know what happened after Columbine. A mass movement to get children who get into trouble kicked out of our schools. School laws were written that takes away much of the protections afforded us through IDEA. Zero tolerance became the buzz word that really means expulsion for our kids. Too many times it is directed towards children with ADHD. Mr.Bush has shown himself to be on the side of education and not leaving any child behind. But he also said that we have too many rules coming down from Washington telling our local schools what to do with our kids. IDEA is the biggest of those rules. In his education package, there was nothing about children with Disabilities. I will give him the benefit of the doubt, and wait to see if he is there for our kids. If he is, I will become his greatest defender and even his biggest advocate. I don't care if our President is Republican, Democrat Green Party, or some other party. If you are for our kids, then you're my man. If not, your just another politician trying to deny our kids, their education. That would be intolerable. Please do you homework on this because we are not talking about some bodies child. We are talking about your child. Remember 50% of all schools in this nation are violating IDEA. Not one state is in total compliance. That's a statistic under Clinton, who was pro IDEA. "IF" Ashcroft and Bush are anti-IDEA what will the 50% turn into. 75% not complying, 100% not complying. What chance will our kids have, if IDEA no longer exists? I hope the day never comes when IDEA was some law that was allowed to die on the vine. Let's hope Mr. Bush keeps his promise and is there for all our kids. In the interim, be careful. We are dealing with too precious of a commodity. Our kids.

Steve Metz

"Correcting Learning/Behavioral Disorders Naturally!"

by Michelle Davis

Dear Readers: There are many of you who have children in various levels of school and are now dealing with yet another stage of learning/behavior. For a few years now my son has been doing wonderfully with taking mega vitamins therapy and taking just Espial Energetic capsules. This year my son has turned 12 years of age and has begun the sixth grade with all of the newness along with the abundance of attitudes. Initially, I consulted many of my friends about this new stage in his development to figure out how much of his attitude was the change in school status, age, and his attention deficit. The change in his grade from elementary to middle school begins the inner struggle of the little boy to preteen that for many of us parents makes us wonder whether we'll still have a full head of hair at the end of the year(or at times by the end of the week). First course of action was to write letters to the teaches requesting them to work with me to establish a working connection between child -teacher- parent . This resulted in return letters of agreement along with getting a weekly report of my son's behavior and his grade point average. Secondly, my son and I sat down and established the ground rules of reward and discipline. I strongly believe in incentives not bribery. One of the ground rules was that my son would bring home all work that needed correction, homework, and that meant bringing home his books from those classes so that mom could look at the examples. It's been a long time since middle school and the refresher also helped me to have my son take and do the steps required to solve many problems. Third of all, I had to stick to my resolutions of reward and discipline so that my son would earnestly try to bring up his grades. Also, we agreed on a weekly reward that regardless of his grades he would get if he wrote down his homework and what was requested of him from each class on a daily basis. The incentive used was stopping for donuts once a week after the five days of writing this down was accomplished. My son hasn't missed a day and his grades are improving. Last, but definitely very important, I had to look at what I might need to do as far as natural alternatives to bring about a better attention span and growth of my son. I had taken my son off the drops a few years ago and had him on the capsules and vitamins which had worked great up till this year. My new resolution of action was to get him back on the drops first thing in the morning along with taking two capsules and continue with the vitamins at night before bedtime. We all need to establish a strategy of action and I hope this has helped you to take and decide on what course of action you may need to take. After having years of success with my son it was an awakening to start yet again with a new strategy for success. I believe we should not get complacent but rise to the opportunity to learn and apply. God bless and feel free to write,

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