New Blog About Section 503 of Rehabilitation Act

Folks,

In March an amendment was made to Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act. This is the section about employment and non-discrimination. While people with disabilities who are looking for work and not finding any are at 15% of the population, people without disabilities experience an 8% rate of unemployment.

This update to Section 503

of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 offers advantages to people with disabilities, including those who are eligible to receive free employment services through Social Security’s Ticket to Work
program.

Section 503 requires that federal contractors and subcontractors – companies doing business with the federal government – take affirmative action to recruit, employ, train and promote qualified individuals with disabilities (IWDs). The changes, which went into effect March 24, 2014, strengthen the affirmative action provisions of the regulations to aid contractors in their efforts to recruit and hire IWDs.

So go here to find out more:
What You Should Know about Section 503

By Guest Blogger David Weaver, Associate Commissioner, Office of Research, Demonstration, and Employment Support, Social Security Administration

Even if your child is not graduating, federal contractors and subcontractors may have temp jobs, summer jobs, or internships that can fall into this category of employment.

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Prepare For Your Child’s IEP Review in May, Pt. 1

Hello, Parents, Grandparents, Guardians,

It’s April 22, which means it’s almost May.  May means IEP reviews and 504 Plan reviews.  (For this series, IEP will also mean 504 Plan since 504 plans meet the same academic needs as IEP Plans.)  Whether you think your child’s IEP is fine as it is and can just take a rubber-stamp to keep things going well or you think your child’s current IEP stinks like yesterday’s fish wrappers, there are a few things to consider.

A.  Some students will be changing to bigger, more challenging schools – middle school, high school and may need help with the transition.  We will address this issue today.

B.  The sheer number of special education students in some districts can make it nearly impossible to review all IEPs in May.  However, many school districts will do it anyway and may use methods that violate your child’s and your family’s right to privacy under Family Education and Right to Privacy Act (FERPA).  That’s for tomorrow.

C.  What should be done to address academic failure?  Social promotion is NOT acceptable, and neither is retention.  So….what to do?

D.  Is your child one who needs success is something at school to prevent him or her from giving up altogether?  Is that something a non-academic activity such as sports or drama/theater which require grades better than your child can get with an inappropriate IEP?  Or just better grades?  There IS a way to use IEPs and 504 plans to make these activities available to special education students despite lower grades than required by The Almighty Rules.

The topic for today is that bumpy ride between two levels of academics–elementary school to middle school, middle school to high school.  At this point in life, the majority of students are making huge strides in personal development and learning school that make such large changes reasonable and necessary.  Is your child ready for such momentous changes?

1.  Is your child at the transition point between academic levels–moving from elementary to middle school, middle school to high school?  If so, arrange a conference with your child’s teachers before scheduling the IEP/504 Plan meeting.  Ask if teachers and/or staff see anything about your child, the effect your child’s disability has on his/her education, and your child’s maturity that should be taken into account on the IEP for the next academic level.  What should you be considering?

a.  Many children with disabilities lag behind their peers in social or personal development. Middle school students are beginning to socialize more away from home and the pressure to fit in somewhere becomes intense.  Students who can’t succeed socially are at risk for depression and ostracism – two main ingredients of Columbine and similar events.  Students who are not ready for the leap in greater academic demands are at risk for failure without prevention of failure or immediate remediation.

b.  Middle school brings a change of classroom along with change of subjects AND a change of teacher.  Some children may not really be quite ready for that many changes all at once in September.

c.  In high school, those changes are in place, but the academic intensity increases.  Homework demands soar.  The building is larger, and there will be lost children at first.

d.  Sports and clubs loom large in the social atmosphere and a teenager’s life can become a constant popularity contest if a teen doesn’t perceive his individual value outside that context.

There is an answer when we ask how we can help with this transition.  Summer school.  (Eyes rolling, sighs, OMG, someone says.)  Summer school is held with far fewer students, so hallways are not jammed, classes are small, almost intimate, and students have a chance to start school with new friends already in place.  They already know their way around the building, so they don’t get lost and panicked in crowds.  They already know some of the teachers.  They already know the cafeteria, its rules, its perks.  This is an item for the child’s IEP that will give a jumpstart to what could have been a rocky transition full of potential failure.

If your child does not handle change well,

If your child is somewhat or very socially immature,

If your child is directionally challenged even in a space the size of a lunch bag,

If your child has fears of the bigger, new environment that is coming,

If you think these aspects of your child may interfere with his or her ability to succeed academically during the Fall semester or the entire first year, then summer school is a very reasonable and needed accommodation to request for your child’s IEP or 504 Plan.

If your school denies summer school for reasons that have nothing to do with your child, such as

–we reserve it only for children who failed the academics this year;

–we aren’t babysitters for immature children, find a club for him/her;

–we don’t have the funding for it; or

–there’s a waiting list. . .

grab your local education advocates and make some school administrators realize your child truly NEEDS summer school as a foundation for academic success in the Fall.  You can find advocates at your state’s Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) http://www.parentcenterhub.org/find-your-center/  and at Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) http://www.copaa.net.

There are no excuses for denial of FAPE for a child with disabilities.  Legislators with pet projects in mind for campaign money donors have cut our education budgets to unreasonably low levels, but there is money to meet special education needs when the alternative is to fill out about a thousand pages of paperwork to respond to a legitimate formal complaint to OCR or to lose all special education funding in the district for refusal to serve.  Sometimes services are not provided just because parents don’t know how to insist or because administrators can deny them.  Summer school does cost money–plenty of it.  It’s a convenient item to cut from the budget if no one complains loud enough. None of these reasons to deny summer school is permissible.

Don’t feel guilty because your child’s education costs more and don’t let anyone make you or your child feel “inferior.”  Don’t let anyone dismiss your child’s needs by saying his/her costs take money away from others.  (Our legislators do that just fine, thank you.)  We don’t flip out OCR complaints every 90 days, only that one time that something absolutely critical was denied and there was no other path to peace.

Because we only get to live each day once and learning is the most important work anyone does for the first 18 years of life, it’s important to give each child appropriate support to achieve success.

 

 

Free Webinar on Statistics of Disability

Parents, Grandparents, Guardians,

If you want to know how things are going in the world of disability in the US, this is your chance to get the latest and greatest of reports.  Cornell University has been in our corner for years, and after intensive research, surveys, etc., there is a new report on disability status coming out and you can get your copy.  This is their entire announcement.  Read on!
\\”Disability Status Report
Free Webinar  – Register now!

Cornell University’s Employment and Disability Institute (EDI) will host a free online webinar on April 1 from 1:00-2:00 p.m. EDT to present the findings of the 2012 Disability Status Report.  This presentation will explore the Census Bureau’s December 2013 release of data from the 2012 American Community Survey (ACS) related to disability and employment, education, poverty, household income and labor earnings.

WHO: Cornell University’s Employment and Disability Institute
WHAT: Free Online Webinar on Disability Statistics
WHEN: Tuesday, April 1st, 2014 from 1:00-2:00 p.m. EDT
WHY: Cornell University researchers will present the latest information and issues associated with disability statistics and the circumstances that people with disabilities face.
WHERE: To register online for this free webinar, please go to: http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/edi/register/index.cfm?event=4794

Cornell research found that in 2012, 33.5 percent of working-age (21-64) people with disabilities were employed, compared with the 76.3 percent of people without disabilities. Moreover, researchers found that 28.4 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities lived in poverty, compared to 12.4 percent of those without disabilities. These dramatic discrepancies are longstanding and continue to separate Americans with disabilities from their peers without disabilities. The relevance of these statistics to the process of developing and maintaining policies that relate to people with disabilities in the United States cannot be overstated.

Event will be captioned for people with hearing impairments.

The Cornell University Disability Status Reports is produced and funded by the Employment and Disability Institute at the Cornell University ILR School. This effort originated as a product of the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Disability Demographics and Statistics (StatsRRTC) funded to the Employment and Disability Institute in the ILR School at Cornell University by the U.S. Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (grant No. H133B031111).”

Why should we be concerned with the statistics about disability?  Because our place, our child’s place, is within those numbers.  They help explain why things are as they are and sometimes they point the way to solutions.   We don’t like to know that our children face 76.3% risk of unemployment due to disability, but if we know that, we also know that we MUST advocate ferociously for schools to meet our children’s education and vocational needs.  The only “default” for adults with no employment skills is unemployment and poverty; statistics like these light our fire!

3 Ways To Your Child’s Dream

Hello, everyone.

Today I want to talk about our children’s dreams for their future.  Whatever age a child is, he is aware that there is a future, and he assumes he will be in it.  Some children decide very early in life – age 8, 10, 12 – what their career will be, and that is what they achieve.  Some children have not decided later in life -28, 29, 30 – what career path to follow, and they are just taking whatever comes.  Life happens for both, but those who choose and contol their lives often feel they are more successful and have greater satisfaction.  We can nudge our children into a path of choosing a career by exposing them to  occupations, by helping them find hobbies, volunteer work doing things they love, and mentors whose careers pique their interest.

1.  I was a Girl Scout and earned over 100 badges.  Doing so introduced me to the basics of many occupations, various arts, sports, cultural aspects and affairs, study of what makes people and things “tick”, community involvement, and a variety of enjoyable things to do.  I can’t remember ever being bored, really, because my mind was always digging into something new or deeper into something intriguing.  Boy Scouts does the same for boys.  Many youth organizations achieve similar results.  All but one of the pastimes I love stem from those youth activities.  I frequently use something I learned back then.

Children with disabilities are often isolated from their peers by their differences at school, but parents who find these opportunities for them in the community help them develop a sense of belonging in their neighborhood, other people’s lives, and in their larger society.  It is this sense of belonging that will allow a child to reach out to build a supportive team at school and work so he can be successful at what he does.  This social participation sometimes creates the new advocates for our social needs–you know– the ones who keep reminding us that yes, we ARE our brother’s keeper.

2.  Volunteer work serves many purposes beyond helping other people or non-profit organizations.  Children who learn to enjoy volunteering also learn teamwork, selflessness, cooperation, empathy, social responsibility, improved social skills, and often, leadership.  Some find jobs this way.  It’s an excellent way to try a new work skill, expand a hobby, explore new ideas, make new friends. Some children who become fully engaged in a specific type of volunteer work they enjoy may use that experience as the springboard to their future career.

3.  Older children who have shown interest in specific vocations or careers can benefit from a mentor who is in the same field.  A child who is interested in accounting could be mentored by a bank employee, an accountant, a statistician, a software developer who specializes in the numbers of our lives and businesses.  A child who could sell you your own smelly socks would benefit from exposure to people in sales, retail, wholesale, and online, and if he’s good at writing, exposure to advertising and marketing people.  Is your child an animal lover?  Got a zoo?  Match!  Vet?  Match!  Animal breeder?  Match!  Biologist or biological industry?  Match!

You get the idea.  Our children’s job is to grown and learn.  Not all learning is done at school.  Parents’ job includes showing our children how to get out from under our wings.  Look around you.  It’s a big, wide world.  What does your child dream of doing in it?  What can you do to help him achieve it?

Coaching for College Prep – ACHIEVE COACH

On January 15, 2014, I will be starting ACHIEVE COACH, presenting online College Prep/College Readiness webinars for parents of  students with disabilities in grades 6-12. Currently 80% of these students are destined to start college but never get the degree no matter how high their grades or SAT/ACT scores.

I am a parent of 2 disabled children with a total of 11 different diagnoses. I have 25 years of education and disability consultation/advocacy experience. I KNOW children with disabilities can obtain college degrees from all kinds of schools. After working in the disability services center of Florida International University and finding out what made it possible for those students to succeed, I know it is far MORE THAN ACCOMMODATIONS or IEPs or 504 plans and it should begin in 6th grade.  Success for college students with disabilities began with informed and determined parents.

While writing a book on the subject, I found out why we parents have never had a place to go to learn what we need. We need to know 34 things other parents don’t and all that “stuff” comes out of 8 professional fields.

I will be coaching, offering professional speakers, resources, sample letters and advocacy skills and parent training. We will cover the rights and roles of parents in providing FAPE for a child.  I don’t care how many people are around a computer at school or at home while you do this. I will coach families and their professional support team (doctors, therapists, teachers, etc.) so children with the potential to become college students can also become college graduates.

If you want online coaching to help you become a stronger, positive and successful advocate and case manager for your child, if you want to know how to teach your child to be his own case manager — (successful, YES!),  leave your e-mail address in a comment for this post.  Your privacy will be respected.  No post with an e-mail address in it will be published unless the writer specifically requests it.  Space will be limited, so sign up now!

The Homework Organizer, a Very Good Friend

I do not normally endorse a product for which parents must pay. However, there is one planner which is so effective that people will even buy them used if they cannot afford them new. (There are some available through Amazon.com right now.)

Dr. Gail Mengel, Ph.D. is a public school psychologist who designed a planner called “The Homework Organizer” that addresses many of the issues I have brought to your attention. It contains a master copy page of a Grade Saver where students can record the grades for class assignments and tests to help them realize how their course of study is working for them (or not). I have examined and evaluated many organizers and this is my favorite.

You can examine it for yourself at http://www.homework-organizer.com to decide if it fits your student’s needs. While you’re there, read all of it for a good lesson in executive functioning and why we must address the development of this crucial skill set. Many disabilities that affect learning also impair a student’s ability to set priorities and achieve goals. Doing homework with the guidance of this tool helps reinforce organization, time management, and goal-setting with every small step that must be taken to arrive at academic success.

Here’s to our student with the most improvement!

Shutting Down a Nation – What Chance Does a Child Have?

Dear Everyone,

Today our elected Republicans played Dirty. They wanted to eliminate funding for our new “Obamacare” healthcare program, so they refused to authorize funding for essential governmental functions because the two authorizations are together. It is an awesome show of power, a grand display of how ignorance can be used to hurt an entire nation, how personal self-aggrandizement and ego and raise itself up above an entire nation to seek fulfillment. It makes me sick at my stomach.

Our children are the most dependent of all. Their education depends upon funds from various governmental levels to be sufficient to pay for meeting their needs. For years IDEA has been clarifying what must be done to provide FAPE for our children with disabilities, and for all those same years, legislators with more ego than brains have been cutting funding until some school districts can offer only 4 days of school per week, students must share books and therefore can do only half the learning and homework. Parents do NOT agree with this level of funding or kind of educational services, but our legislators’ children usually attend private schools and they don’t have a clue what goes on in public schools. When parents vote, it is their prayer for appropriate education, but it is getting harder and harder to achieve that.

Today we see that there are elected representatives who represent only themselves and not their constituency. The reality is that they want what they want so badly they are willing to shoot an entire nation of people down the toilet rather than compromise. There probably is a word for that kind of person in the English language, but I am a Christian and I’ve never heard it. At least I’ve never heard a word that describes my shock and horror that anyone – or any group of people – would care so little about their fellow humans that they would treat us this way. I don’t have words to describe the depth of loathing, the despair for our future, the futility of belief their actions make me feel. It just doesn’t seem human to behave in such a manner.

Seeing that there are legislators who think nothing of actively working against what the nation needs, how do our children with disabilities stand a chance? How does an individual child stand a chance?

Nobody stands a chance unless we all SPEAK UP. We can’t afford to roll over and let it happen around us. It will take us down with it. Now we have to GET OUT OF THE HOUSE AND SPEAK UP.

WRITE AND CALL your representatives and senators and let them know you support them if they fought this shutdown and let the others know they can’t be so smug about getting your vote in the next election. I’m going to ask my Republican naysayers to give me the procedures for their impeachment. (They have to do it–or they won’t get my vote.) What are you going to ask your elected representatives and senators?

Call. Write. Join the efforts of your local groups that are protesting. Make some noise. What would happen if we all drew a bullseye on our foreheads to represent how they’ve shot us all down? What if we wore that bullseye until that funding is given?

Our public officials have publicly shown us they don’t care much about their public supporters, and it’s time we publicly show them we don’t care much for their public failure to do the job. It wouldn’t hurt to say it once for yourself and repeat it in your child’s name.