Wednesday, April 16, 2014

AIMS information for parents of 3d graders

Third grade parents/guardians:  
Did your child not pass AIMS?  
Is your child not being promoted to fourth grade as a result of not passing AIMS?  
Do you think that is a mistake?  
You should know that there are other considerations that could allow your child to be promoted even if he or she did not pass AIMS. 
This is the first year that third graders may be held back because they did not pass AIMS.  But success on that test should not necessarily prevent them from promoting to fourth grade.  Know your child's rights.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Another win for KGK

Following Lori's Due Process win against Pointe Educational Services, a charter school, Pointe's attorneys appealed to the United States District Court for the District of Arizona.  The District Court Judge remanded for clarification the Administrative Law Judge's Order with respect to tuition and transportation costs to be paid by Pointe. Another hearing was held on the sole issues to clarify the amount of tuition to be paid by Pointe and the manner of calculating transportation reimbursement.  A hearing in this matter was held on January 9, 2014.  Lori won again.  The Judge found that Pointe must pay the full tuition rate, not a discounted rate, including past tuition, and transportation at the standard federal mileage rate of $.056, not a lower rate as Pointe's lawyers requested.  See the Decision here.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Top 10 IEP Tips

 From Hope Kirsch's presentation on Top 10 IEP Tips at AZA United's 2014 Transciplinary Conference:

10. Organize, organize, organize
9. Read notice
8. Know who is on your child's IEP Team
7. Prepare
6. What to expect at the meeting
5. Placement vs. Location
4. Helpful hints
3. Participating, consensus, predetermination
2. Consensus & What if I don’t agree?
1. What now?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What are parents' rights?

The Jewish News asked Hope Kirsch questions for its series on special needs.

Hope Kirsch, a special education attorney with the law firm of Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch, PLLC, represents students with disabilities and their families throughout Arizona in school-related matters, including individualized education programs (IEP), due process, 504 plans, disciplinary matters and bullying. She was a special education teacher and school administrator for nearly 20 years and has a B.S. in special education from Boston University, an M.A./M.Ed. in special education from New York University and a law degree from Brooklyn Law School. Jewish News asked Kirsch about what parents need to know when first learning that their child has special needs.
What are the first steps a parent should take when they find out that their child is having difficulty in school?

Parents should submit a request via e-mail to the school district or charter school that the child attends. I advise parents to email the child’s teacher, the special education director for the school district or charter school and the school principal  or headmaster, stating they are requesting a complete assessment to determine the full nature and extent of their child’s disabilities and the impact of the disabilities on their child’s education. They should state their concerns and note that the email should be deemed as giving their “consent” to evaluate. (Giving consent triggers deadlines.) Parents who home-school their children, or who place their children in a for-profit private school – or whose children are in preschool or are ages 3-5 – should submit the evaluation request to the school district in which they reside (email the special education director and at least one other person, such as the superintendent). The schools have their own obligation, called “Child Find,” to evaluate, with parental consent, any child they suspect of having a disability that may require special education. 
What are the parents’ rights when it comes to the evaluation?
The school (home-school district or charter school) has 60 calendar days to complete the evaluation from the date parents give consent, which is why I suggest parents state in the email requesting the evaluation that they are giving consent. Parents can submit their request any time during the year, not just during the school year.
The school is required under the law to assess/evaluate students “in all areas related to the suspected disability” including, if appropriate, social-emotional skills, behaviors, etc. If, after the evaluations, the parents do not agree with the findings, they have the right to an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) with an evaluator of their own choosing at the expense of the public education agency (PEA). If the school refuses, the school must file a due process complaint.     
What is the difference between a 504 and an IEP and how do they affect the student?
A 504 Plan provides accommodations, services and/or aids to students with a disability (as that term is defined under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act) to afford the student equal opportunities to participate in school activities and receive the same instruction as nondisabled peers, but they do not require special education. Accommodations may include extra time for the same assignments as their peers, a separate quiet room to take the same test as their peers, large type for reading the same instructional material, or ramps to physically access the same classroom. An IEP is for a child who requires special education – instruction that is specialized, or modified, for that child. A ninth-grader reading at third grade can be given "Romeo and Juliet" modified from Shakespearean language to their reading level. Also, an IEP has goals written into it; a 504 does not. A student does not have an IEP after graduating high school, whereas a 504 plan continues into post-secondary school, and a student who had an IEP in high school can have a 504 in college.
To what degree can a parent expect schools to provide services and supports for the special needs of their child?
In order to answer these questions, it is important to understand that the federal law governing IEPs, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), does not require that schools maximize a child’s potential; the maxim is that students are only entitled to a Chevy, not a Cadillac. That said, the IEP must confer an “educational benefit” standard for a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) within the meaning of the IDEA by providing personalized instruction with sufficient support services to permit the child to benefit educationally from that instruction.
If parents believe their child is not receiving a sufficient amount or the right kind of services and supports (such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, behavior intervention, one-on-one), or they believe goals are too high, too low or there is insufficient progress, or if they have any other concerns, they should notify the school and request an emergency IEP meeting. The school has 15 school days after the date of the request to conduct the meeting. Parents should prepare a list of their concerns and explain why it is they believe the IEP is not appropriate, what they think their child needs, and go through each item with the IEP team. After exhausting their efforts, parents’ options include mediation, state administrative complaints and, in limited circumstances, due process.     
Visit, call 480-585-0600 or email A closer look: special needs is a series focusing on special needs in the Jewish community. Visit for additional content.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Updated info on restraint and seclusion

How Safe Is The Schoolhouse? An Analysis of State Seclusion and Restraint Laws and Policies, updated January 20, 2014, contains information updated through January 2014 about state restraint and seclusion statutes, regulations, and policies. 

The purpose of How Safe is the Schoolhouse is to analyze and compare state restraint and seclusion laws and guidance and provide information on trends (e.g. the number of states with a particular feature and exceptions to that feature).  Seclusion and restraint are highly dangerous interventions that have led to death, injury, and trauma in children.  They stand in sharp contrast to positive behavioral support programs and de-escalation techniques that resolve most challenging situations.  More states adopted statutes and regulations restricting use of restraint and seclusion in 2013.  The report examines how the majority of states still operate under weak laws and laws with loopholes that undermine seemingly-strong protections. It also analyzes features of strong laws and proposals that would protect children and create positive learning environments.

How Safe is the Schoolhouse uses 51 "states" to include the District of Columbia.  The report finds that as of January 2014:
  • Only 19 states have laws providing meaningful protections against both restraint and seclusion for all children; 32, for children with disabilities.  
  • Only 14 states by law require that an emergency threatening physical danger exist before restraint can be used for all children; 18, for children with disabilities.  Restraint must be limited to these emergencies because it is dangerous; the GAO documented the deaths of 20 children from restraint alone.  Many state laws have loopholes that circumvent protections.
  • There are 34 states that in their laws or guidance would define seclusion as a room a child cannot exit (door is locked, or blocked by furniture, equipment, child-proofing, staff, etc.).  There are 11 states that protect all children from non-emergency seclusion; 17 protect children with disabilities.  By law, only 1 state bans all seclusion for all children; 4, for children with disabilities.  Another 10 have statutes and regulations applicable to all children that limit seclusion to emergencies threatening physical harm.  13 apply this standard to children with disabilities.  Seclusion is highly dangerous.  Students have died, attempted suicide, and been injured and traumatized.  Students have been secluded for hours each school day and repeatedly.
  • Only 17 states by law require that less intrusive methods either fail or be deemed ineffective before seclusion/restraint are used on all children; 23, children with disabilities.  By contrast, in school districts and schools where positive behavioral support programs are used, restraint and seclusion use is minimal, if at all.  Behavior improves and more students spend time learning--rather than in confinement rooms and restraint.
  • Restraints that impede breathing and threaten life are forbidden by law in only 21 states for all children; 28 states, for children with disabilities.  Mechanical restraints include chairs and other devices that children are locked into; duct tape, bungee cords, ties, and rope used to restrain children; and other devices.  Only 15 states ban mechanical restraint for all children; 19 for students with disabilities.  Only 15 states ban dangerous chemical restraints for all children.  Children locked and tied into mechanical restraints and confined in seclusion rooms at particularly grave risk.
  • In 20 states, schools must by law notify all parents of both restraint and seclusion; in 32, parents of students with disabilities.  The vast majority of states favor notification in 1 day or less, either in their laws or recommended policies.  (See Parental Notification Laws at a Glance, p.38).  It is important to notify parents quickly, so they can seek medical care for injuries (hidden or obvious) and trauma.  Notification also enables parents to work with schools to implement positive supports and prevent further use of restraint or seclusion.
  • Data collection is very important.  In its 2009 report, the GAO found that state data collection varied significantly.  Only 12 states collect even minimal data for all students; 19 for students with disabilities.  More states require data keeping at the state, local, or school level, indicating that keeping such records is not burdensome.   Data gives schools benchmarks to measure themselves against and enables public oversight and sunshine.  
Arizona adopted a new statute providing some limited protections from seclusion, Arizona House Bill HB 2476, signed by Governor Janice K. Brewer amended A. R. 5. § 15-843.  Thank you to Rep. Kelly Townsend for introducing the legislation, and Hope Kirsch for speaking before the House and Senate in support of the legislation.

How Safe is the Schoolhouse is updated twice a year. The next update will be in Summer 2014, when several state legislative sessions end.  The report is available free of charge at 

For people who simply want to quickly see very brief highlights their own state law or policy, there is a sister report, My State’s Seclusion & Restraint Laws (

Friday, January 17, 2014

10 Things Every Parent Needs to Know About Special Education and IEPs

Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch's Hope Kirsch and Lori Kirsch-Goodwin will be guest speakers at East Valley Autism Network (EVAN) on Tuesday, January 28, 2014 from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM, discussing "10 Things Every Parent Needs to Know About Special Education and IEPs." In addition, they will provide an update on "Legal Rights Concerning Restraint and Seclusion."

For more information, contact the wonderful moms who run the group:

Melissa Van Hook
(480) 231-4214

Holly Reycraft
(602) 703-6500

Katie Wride
(480) 252-1577

East Valley Autism Network
Check EVAN out on facebook:


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Upcoming Autism Conference

KGK's Hope Kirsch will be a guest speaker at AZA United's annual conference on March 7th & 8th, 2014 TRANSDISCIPLINARY AUTISM CONFERENCE. Please join her along with other leaders in the field.

Arizona Autism United's 4th annual Transdisciplinary Autism Conference is a community event for parents and professionals of all kinds who work with and care about people with autism.  This year's conference includes an exciting and informative lineup of nationally renowned speakers and local experts. Presentations include a wide range of topics for parents and professionals of all backgrounds, with practical strategies to assist children and young adults of all levels

The Transdisciplinary Autism Conference features more than 20 expert speakers from a range of fields and disciplines.  A wide variety of topics is included to help individuals with autism of all ages, at all levels of the autism spectrum.  Presentations are available for all audience levels, from beginner to advanced concepts. Speakers include:

  • Behavior Analysts (CEUs available)
  • Speech Therapists
  • Special Education Professionals
  • Parent Leaders
  • Psychologists & Counselors
  • Advocacy Specialists
  • Holistic Health Practitioners
  • Siblings and Family Members
  • Adults with Autism
  Keynote Speakers:

KEYNOTE:  Dr. Greg Hanley,
Western New England University
Dr. Hanley is well regarded for his highly successful work in treating sleep problems and challenging behaviors in autism, and is also known for his easy to follow and entertaining presentation style.  On Friday, March 7th, Dr. Hanley will deliver his keynote presentation: Meaningful Solutions for Some Extraordinary Problem Behaviors Associated with Autism.

KEYNOTE:  Rupert Isaacson
Creator of The Horse Boy Documentary
Rupert is a father, a journalist, and the star of this award winning film that documents his family's trek across the globe to find help for his son.  On Saturday, March 8th, Rupert will tell his story with messages of hope and possibility for all families. Based on a method he has created called Horse Boy Learning, this presentation will include practical techniques, beautiful images, fun anecdotes, and a host of good tips for all.

Special Guests:
Adam Larsen, Filmmaker
Creator of the Documentary: Neurotypical
Adam's film premiered this year on PBS and provides an unprecedented exploration of autism from the point of view of autistic people themselves.  Through in-depth profiles and interviews capturing toddlers, teens and adults, viewers are challenged to question the concept of "normal."  Join Adam for a meet & greet, Q&A session, and live screening of the full-length version of Neurotypical.

Wolf Dunaway, Adult with Autism

The Autistic Werewolf
Wolf Dunaway was featured in the recent documentary airing on PBS, Neurotypical.  He is an adult with autism, an advocate, and soon to be a published author.  As a speaker at schools, organizations, institutions and universities, Mr. Dunaway provides unique perspectives and insights to explore the unique challenges of the Autism Life Experience.

Breakout Session Speakers:

Amy Kenzer, Ph.D., BCBA-D

Clinical Services Director
Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center

Joe Gentry, Ph.D., BCBA-D
Licensed Psychologist & Clinical Director
Gentry Pediatric Behavioral Services

Raun Melmed, M.D.
Developmental Pediatrician & Clinical Director
The Melmed Center

Jim Adams, Ph.D.
ASU Autism/Asperger's Research Program

Nicolette Piano, M.S., CCC-SLP
Director of Speech & Language Services
Arizona Autism United

Debbie Weidinger
Executive Director

Carey Burgess, M.S., BCBA/LBA
Director of Behavioral Consultation Services
Arizona Autism United

Hope Kirsch
Special Education Attorney
Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch, PLLC

Ehren Werntz, M.S., BCBA/LBA
Program Director
Arizona Autism United

Christopher J. Smith, Ph.D.
Vice President & Research Director
Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center

Amy Maschue, M.S., CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist
Author of "10 Minutes for Talking"

Abby Twyman, M.Ed., BCBA/LBA
Owner and Director
BASIC in Arizona

Linda Kraynak, M. Ed.
Peer Autism Awareness Trainer
Arizona Autism United