I have added a link to the blog of my schedule of public presentations on special education advocacy and other trainings.
School districts need to reach out to parents and make sure that they know what special education services are available. This is not a statement of opinion it is a statement reflecting the child find responsibilities of IDEIA to do public out reach. Unfortunately, too many school district seem intent on keeping parents in the dark, and then complain that parents are not well informed in the IEP process or worse yet have "unrealistic expectations."
The challenges which confront siblings of children with special needs are often not well understood or fully recognized. To address these important issues, the group Special Kids/Special Families is sponsoring a free seminar (although they request contributions to defray expenses) on this topic. Dr. Richard Ney will discuss "Understanding the Siblings of Children with Special Needs" on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2006 at the JCYS Northwest Family Center, 1700 Weiland Road, Buffalo Grove from 7 to 9:00 p.m.
Special Kids/Special Families is an excellent parent's group that presents free monthly presentations, although they ask for voluntary contributions to defray expenses, at the JCYS in Buffalo Grove (address below) including this presentation from Dr. Michael Frey:
Dr. Michael Frey of Comprehensive Psychological Services will discuss, "Emotional Regulation: Helping Your Special Needs Child Cope with Frustration and Disappointment" on Tuesday, January 10, 2006. Dr. Frey will help you to understand the negative emotional states that affect children, how to respond to these challenging situations, and how to encourage your child to take positive advantage of these opportunities to learn coping skills.
Having returned from presenting at the hearing officer training, I wanted to share my thoughts. There are a lot of new hearing officers, and the overwhelming majority (all but 3) are attorneys. There is a diversity of gender, races, ages and abilities. They are all bright and inquisitive and seem to be well versed in IDEA 2004. The new hearing officers are grappling with the various issues that the new law has brought about and the current uncertainty of the law without new Federal and State regulations.
The common concern among all of the hearing officers was a focus on the child. I believe that each in his or her own way views him/herself as a person who is dedicated to the child's welfare within the bounds of the law. Of course, there is a lot of room to disagree over what is appropriate for the child. The general feeling, moreover, was that due process issues that are petty or overly technical in nature are not compelling. It must be the focus of due process to show the connection between the harm to the child or the educational loss and the issues presented. Parents, advocates and parent attorneys must avoid being seen as playing a game of "gotcha" with the school or being viewed as uncooperative at the expense of the child. Acting in a way that allows our cases to be cast in this light will be very unproductive and will likely lead to a losing outcome. We need to stay child focused, remain clear on the harm or loss to the child, and avoid an appearance of pettiness. While these observations may appear to be common sense, in the heat of the moment and in the wake of strong emotions, such strategic thinking can allude us.
There were certainly some hearing officers who worried me. Some seemed to regard school district's with way too much deference, which is a major concern for me as a parent's attorney. I can state candidly, however, that at the training, all of the hearing officers were listening and trying to hear both parent and school district perspectives.
The Hearing Officer Education Network (HOEN) has asked Charles Fox to participate in the winter training of the Illinois Special Education Due Process Hearing Officers on October 24, 2005 at the ISBE office in Springfield. In an attempt to be fair and balanced, HOEN has invited four panelists to participate: two parent/attorney advocates and two district attorneys. Attorneys Charles Fox and Wally Winter will present on behalf of parents/attorney advocates. Attorneys Mary Klemish and Jay Kraining will present on behalf of the district.
Charles Fox and Wally Winter view this panel discussion as a prime opportunity to express their views on the law, the due process system, and biases and misconceptions in special education. They are inviting all blog readers to express their most pressing issues, so that they may incorporate and synthesize a coherent "parent" perspective for the IHOs. Given the impending nature of the presentation, comments and suggestions should be sent ASAP. You may submit your comments publicly by filling out the "Post a Comment" form below, or you may email Charles Fox and Wally Winter directly by clicking on their names.
On Saturday, October 22, 2005, Charles Fox will be speaking at the annual Educational Seminar for the Fragile X Resource Group of Greater Chicago. The Seminar will run from 8:15 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Wyndham O'Hare in Rosemont, Illinois. Charles Fox will present his views on advocacy and consensus building between parents, educators, and school administrators during the IEP process. Parents, therapists, educators, and anyone else interested in learning more about fragile X syndrome are invited to attend. Continuing Professional Development Units (CPDUs) will be available.