Saturday, December 29, 2012

2013 Community Autism Conference

Arizona Autism United presents:
2013 Community Autism Conference
for Parents & Professionals

3rd Annual Community Autism Conference
Fri, February 8, 2013, 12am – Sun, February 10, 2013, 12am
5025 E Washington St. Phoenix, AZ 85034

ESY article in Special Ed Connection

Special Ed Connection:Key points:
· Take data before, after breaks to uncover regression-recoupment issues
· Convene IEP meeting to discuss parents' ESY request
· Alert parents to summer programs, camps available in community
Follow 3 tips to respond to parents' requests for ESY services
Holiday and winter breaks are fast approaching and now is the time to collect data to inform ESY decisions.
Data collected before and after school breaks helped the district in a recent Rhode Island case appropriately determine that a student with ADHD, pervasive developmental disorder, and behavioral difficulties did not need ESY services.
In East Providence School Department, 59 IDELR 240 (SEA RI 2012), the student's mother asserted that her child needed ESY services to avoid behavioral regression. But the regression the mother observed while the student was on breaks did not appear to jeopardize the child's progress at school, the independent hearing officer noted.
The student's occupational therapist explained that the district considered the student's need for ESY by looking at his progress after school vacations and long weekends. She asserted that there was no evidence of regression.
Moreover, the IHO noted, the student was identified as having an average rate of learning and quickly adapted to school. The mother claimed the student often became dysregulated and did not want to attend school. However, district documentation reflected teacher observations that the child regulated himself within a few minutes of being in class and had mainstreamed himself with peers without support. Finally, noting that none of the student's service providers recommended ESY services, the IHO concluded the district's decision could stand.
"The family in the case was arguing that the child needed ESY services because he was having problems at home," said Sara Woolverton, director of special education for the Santa Monica-Malibu (Calif.) Unified School District. "I understand that families are in distress and they are looking for whatever help they can get. But schools do have to limit themselves to what the child needs for FAPE and look at whether the child's problems are impacting him in the school environment."
Use data to drive ESY decisions, sources say. When data do not indicate that a child needs ESY services, talk to parents who are looking for help over the summer about what other options are available.
Consider these three tips:

1. Collect data before, after school breaks. Ask staff to collect data a day or two before vacation and a day or two after vacation to uncover regression-recoupment difficulties. "A three-day vacation might not make a huge difference, but pay attention to those one- or two-week vacations," said Woolverton.
The key is to look at whether the student has regressed so much over the school break that it takes longer than the break itself for him to recoup the skill, said Woolverton. For example: On Dec. 21, before the two-week holiday break, Sara was reading 90 words per minute. On Jan. 7, when Sara returned from holiday break, she was reading 85 words per minute. On Jan. 14, Sara was reading 90 words per minute. In this example, Sara would not have regression-recoupment problems because she recouped her skills in an amount of time that was shorter than the break, said Woolverton.
Also, make sure to consider a child's behavioral problems when determining the need for ESY, said parent attorney Hope Kirsch of Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch PLLC in Scottsdale, Ariz. "ESY isn't just about academics," she said. "I see more students who have regression-recoupment difficulties with behavioral goals than academic goals, mostly because school provides a very structured environment. It's common for students to regress at home." The question IEP teams must ask is: How quickly does the child recoup his skills, particularly after long school breaks?
Keep in mind that ESY services are for children who need such services for FAPE. "Even if a child has a difficult time at home during school breaks, if he recoups his skills shortly upon returning to school and readapts to the school structure, he likely won't qualify for ESY," said Kirsch.

2. Be sensitive to parents' requests. Parent requests for ESY services can spike during hard economic times, said Woolverton. "I think some of them want a place for their child to go," she said. Nonetheless, IEP teams should always meet to discuss a parent's request for ESY services, even if staff members don't think that the child will qualify, said Kirsch.
"A lot of times, parents end up in my office because there was a breakdown in communication or because they have a feeling that school staff don't care about their child," she said. Show parents that you respect them by convening an IEP meeting to discuss an ESY request, using data to make informed decisions as a team, and discussing their options if the student doesn't qualify for ESY, said Kirsch.

3. Discuss other available options with families. If the district determines that the child doesn't need ESY for FAPE and believes that the parents are looking for help, talk with them about other options that are available, sources say.
"You have to take a firm stand on what the district's limitations are. At the same time, be compassionate and do your best to find resources for parents who do need something additional," said Woolverton.
Alert parents to any summer programs that your district runs. "Our district runs a program that is fee-based, but they don't charge more than it costs to run it," said Woolverton.
There are also free or low-cost summer camps and programs in many communities, said Woolverton. Explore what's available in your area and share your findings with parents. Some options may include summer camps; events hosted by park services, community centers, and public libraries; and programs at local universities. City park services and community centers often offer activities and day camps that are little to no cost, she said.
Public libraries often have story hours and book clubs, or allow kids to come in and read or work on the computer. "I don't recommend that parents leave their children unsupervised if they are too young, so make sure you refer parents to age-appropriate programs," said Woolverton.

December 17, 2012

Monday, December 17, 2012

Empowerment Scholarships

The Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) is a scholarship established to provide an education for "qualified students," and must include reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies and science. ESA 2013-2014 applications are now available.  If you have a child with special needs and are interested in additional education options, assistance may be available through an Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA). The Empowerment Scholarship Account law went into effect on July 20, 2011.

A qualified student must be an Arizona resident who is identified as having a disability either by a Section 504 Plan or deemed eligible to receive special education services by a school district. Also, your child must have done one of the following:

  • Attended public school full-time for the first 100 days during the prior school year
  • Received a scholarship from a Student Tuition Organization that receives contributions to provide scholarships to students with disabilities pursuant to ARS 43-1505
  • Received an Empowerment Scholarship Account in the prior year
Prior to receipt of funding, parents must agree to provide an education in at least reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies and science. Furthermore, parents must not enroll the child in a school district or charter school, and release the school district from all obligations to educate the qualified student. Finally, parents must agree not to accept a scholarship from a School Tuition Organization.
Upon completion of the
application and other required forms, the state treasurer will deposit 90% of the state support level each individual student would have received into an Empowerment Scholarship Account. The amount varies by student and school district.

ESA funds can be used for the following:

  • Tuition and fees at a private school
  • An online learning program serving preschool through secondary school students
  • Educational therapies or services from a licensed or accredited practitioner
  • Tutoring services
  • Curriculum
  • Fees for standardized testing, Advanced Placement exams, or any exam related to postsecondary admissions
  • Contributions to a qualified College Saving Plan (529 Plan)
  • Tuition or fees at an eligible postsecondary institution
  • Bank fees charged for the management of the ESA
ESA 2013-2014 New Applicants
ESA staff  will begin accepting applications for the 2013-2014 school year beginning January 1-May 1, 2013. (Do not submit your application until January 1, 2013.)
ESA enrollment for 2013-2014 school year will only be offered one time.
The application process time is January 1-May 1, 2013 by 3pm.
The sooner that you submit your application along with required documents, the sooner ESA Staff will send out your Award Letter with the total award amount for 2013-2014 school year and your quarterly disbursement. 
Visit for the information you need to determine if your child is qualified for the ESA and how to apply.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Asperger's syndrome dropped from DSM-V manual


The American Pscychiatirc Assocation (APA) does not include Asperger's syndrome in its most recent edition of the psychiatrist's "bible," the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-5.
The DSM is the manual that doctors use to diagnose patients with mental disorders.  DSM-5 is the first major rewrite to the DSM in nearly 20 years.
The familiar "Asperger's," along with some similar disorders, will be lumped together under autism spectrum disorder (ASD). 
Other changes include entries for new disorders such as "hoarding disorder" or "disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD)," the latter characterized by abnormally bad and frequent temper tantrums. "Dyslexia" and other learning disorders remain.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Training for Parents 12/10/12: Know Your Educational Rights Under the Law

SARRC'S Lunch & Learn Series -  

Know Your Educational Rights Under the Law

Bring a Brown Bag Lunch & Please Join Us!
Guest Presenters: Hope N. Kirsch, Esq. & Lori Kirsch-Goodwin, Esq.

The presentation will begin with an overview of the federal special education law, “Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act” (IDEA), state law and notable case law decisions interpreting the legislation.

The presentation will also address:
• The rights of students with special needs in public and charter schools
• Whether a student is entitled to IDEIA protections at private schools
• Requirements of FAPE (free and appropriate public education)
• LRE (least restrictive environments)
• Evaluations and reevaluations
• Placement
• The IEP itself
• Timeline and discipline procedures
• Other laws (No Child Left Behind, FERPA)

Helpful hints will also be provided that most parents do not know about and schools might not clearly inform the parents about.
When: Monday, December 10, 2012

12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Campus for Exceptional Children
300 N. 18th Street
Phoenix, AZ 85006

Cost:$15 per person

Arizona Autism Coalition Parent Members: You are eligible for a 20% discount using a discount code provided by the Coalition. For more information about the Coalition and this discount program, please visit their website at or contact them via email at
For purchase order payments, please send P.O. to

Contact & Registration: 

For additional details, please contact Sheri Dollin at (480) 603-3284
or email

Deer Valley's restraint and seclusion of little children

The mother of a seven-year-old boy in Phoenix, Arizona secretly videotaped the padded room in her son's school after he had been left there for the better part of a school day. She says she later learned he had been held in the room 17 times – though the school disputes that number, saying he was there three times.
"I was disgusted," said Leslie Noyes, the boy's mother. "There was one time that I know he was placed in the room a little after 10 a.m. He was there until the school day ended at 3:30 p.m. They brought him lunch in there. He ate it on the floor. He had urinated on the floor. They wouldn't let him out to use the bathroom."
Read ABC TV's investigative report of the dangers of restraint and seclusion.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

ABC News profiling restraint & seclusion rooms

Our clients were interviewed for this piece.  See the heartbreaking report about little kids being locked up at schools.  The report from ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross airs Thursday, November 29 on “World News with Diane Sawyer” and “Nightline.”  In addition, it will be featured on, Yahoo!, ABC News Radio and ABC’s local affiliates.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Quick tip: data for ESY eligbility

As we approach the holidays, email the SPED teacher and SPED Director and ask (if you have not already done so at the last/most recent IEP meeting) what data will be used for determining ESY eligibility.  You ought to know what, if any, date the school is using to assess if your child is regressing over school holiday breaks, and then the rate of recoupment.  Remember to ask for this data to support the school's ESY determination. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Procedural Safeguards - What are they? What rights do you have?

Parents and legal guardians of a child with disabilities have certain rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act 2004 ("IDEA") as well as under Section 504.  These rights are embodied in the Procedural Safeguards notice (PSN) that all of you reading this Blog probably have received.  It is the booklet that is presented to you at almost every IEP meeting.  The IDEA requires school districts and charter schools to provide parents and legal guardians notice of the Procedural Safeguards once a year, and additionally:  upon initial referral, upon request for evaluation, upon the filing of a due process hearing complaint, and upon request by a parent or legal guardian.  You are urged to read the booklet.  Despite its seeming complexity, read it.  Knowledge is power.  You do everything to advocate for your child, and this is one more powerful tool to inform you of your rights to secure a Free and Appropriate Public Education for your child with a disability. The procedural safeguards informs you of  rights you have as a parent or legal guardian of a child with a disability, including:
  • your right to access your child's education records
  • your right to participate in groups and meetings where decisions are made about your child’s education
  • your right to receive prior written notice (PWN)
  • your right to independent educational evaluations (IEEs)
  • your right to resolve disputes, including the time period in which to file a complaint (one year for State complaints, two years for due process complaint, 180 days for OCR complaints)
  • your right to mediation
  • your child's placement during the pendency of any due process complaint
  • the procedures if your child is subject to placement in an interim alternative educational setting
  • your notice requirement if you intend to unilaterally place your child in a private school at public expense
  • your right to civil actions, including the time period in which to file those actions
  • your right to attorneys' fees.
This list is not inclusive of all your rights, and there are certain specific steps you must follow for relief in certain circumstances. 
Procedural Safeguards, 34 C.F.R. 300.504.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

VIDEO: KGK files bullying suit against Dysart Unified School District

Valley school ignored complaints of ongoing bullying
Sybil Hoffman investigated one valley school that turned a blind eye to ongoing bullying.  Hear from the parents and the boy who now has the scars to show for the school's refusal to take any action to protect him.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Bullying in valley school: Tonight on 3TV @ 9:45 PM

 3TV Bullying Special:
Valley school district accused of turning a blind eye on repeated bullying

Upcoming Presentation: The Intersection of Autism and Family Law: What the Bench and Bar Should Know

KGK's Hope Kirsch will be one of the presenters and panelists of this Maricopa County Bar Assocation sponsored CLE for attorneys and judges who have cases involving children with autism.  Thursday, November 1, 2012; 1.5 CLE credits.  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Tonight at 9PM: 3TV looks at restraint and seclusion in Arizona schools

In a special report, tonight, 3TV investigates what Arizona is doing -- or rather, NOT doing -- to address the dangers of restraint and seclusion in our public and charter schools.  Tonight, at 9 PM on 3TV.  Sybil Hoffman went behind the scenes, uncovering the failings of our legislature and the schools to protect our children.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Doctors Discuss use of Pharmaceuticals to Treat ADD

Today's New York Times story on ADD and some doctors' thoughts about drugs, is creating buzz and discussion.

Free Training: Positive Behavior Supports to Prevent Restraint and Seclusion in Schools

Positive Behavior Supports to Prevent Restraint and Seclusion in Schools
Free training for parents and teachers on practical information that leads to the reduction of the use of restraint and seclusion and/or removal of a student with challenging behavior from the education environment.

1)     Thursday, November 8, 2012
9:00 am - 4:30 pm
Disability Empowerment Center,
Nina Mason Pulliam Conference Center
5025 East Washington Street,
Phoenix, AZ 85034
To register online go to:
To register via phone or email, please contact the Center at (602) 274-6287 (voice/TTY) 1-800-927-2260 (toll free) or e-mail

2)     Friday, November 9, 2012
9:00 am-4:30 pm
Viscount Suite Hotel, 4855 East Broadway, Tucson, AZ 85711
To register online for this Tucson training, go to Eventbrite:
To register via phone or email, please contact the Center at (602) 274-6287 (voice/TTY) 1-800-927-2260 (toll free) or e-mail

Presented by the Arizona Center for Disability Law & Institute for Human Development - Northern Arizona University. For more information, visit, and

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

New Research Study Calms Some Concerns of Parents of Austistic Children-New York Times

A new study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry says the original figure of 45% of children not being diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum under the new proposed guidelines, says that figure is closer to 10%. This study gives parents a little more comfort in knowing the system has been modified to allow more help for their children. Today's New York Times reports on the issue.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A seclusion room by any other name is still a seclusion rooms

Cool-down room’ or padded cell?

Restraint and seclusion at Deer Valley elementary school

Deer Valley faces lawsuit over its restraint and seclusion practices

Thanks to Carey Pena and Channel 3 for bringing attention to the issue of restraint and seclusion in Arizona.  Hopefully this news feature will raise awareness of an otherwise hidden problem in our schools.  That is what our clients in this story hope to accomplish so that other children do not have to endure what this little boy did.

This continues to be a national epidemic, but a hidden epidemic.  Parents need to be vigilant to assure this is not happening to their own children.  Non-verbal children are most at risk, but verbal children as well can believe that they're "bad" and that this is "ok" and they may even be afraid to tell their parents.  There may be no signs or symptoms, or there may be bruises and scratches (from the restraint or from the child self-injuring while in seclusion).  Note any changes in your child's usual routines and behaviors, any new founded fears, and just ask the school - ask your child's teacher, the school principal, a trusted staff of the school - if the school has a seclusion room, a room - although the school may call it a "cool down" room, or any other less punitive sounding name.

Here, Deer Valley has a restraint and seclusion policy -- on paper.  It failed to abide by its own policy.  Words don't mean much on paper, without the intent to actually implement the policy as written.

For more information, see Huffington Post article.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Intersection of Autism and Family Law: What the Bench and Bar Should Know

KGK Attorney Hope Kirsch will be presenting to the Family Law Section of the Maricopa County Bar Association, along with Dr. Linda C. Caterino, Ph.D., A.B.P.P., Psychologist in private practice and Professor at Arizona State University and Thomas Alongi, Senior Staff Attorney, Family Law Unit of Community Legal Services:  The Intersection of Autism and Family Law: What the Bench and Bar Should Know.  Nicole Siqueiros, Attorney at Hallier & Lawrence, PLC, will be the moderator.  The presentation is geared toward family law attorneys and and judges given the likely increase in family law cases involving children diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorders. 

Date:  November 1, 2012
Time: Noon to 1:30 P.M.
Location: Maricopa County Bar Association
                 303 East Palm Lane
                 Phoenix, AZ 85004
Pricing:  MCBA members: $62.50            MCBA Paralegal & Public Division members: $40
            MCBA Family Law Section members: $55
            MCBA Student members: $10
            Non-members: $102.50

To Register:  http://www.maricopabarpdf

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I Can't Do This, But Can Do That: Understanding learning differences

Great HBO film about learning differences from the child's perspective, I Can't Do This But I Can Do That.  Watch heartbreaking stories from the children themselves about what it feels like to be different in school.  They describe their struggles with dyslexia, ADD, ADHD, dysgraphia, dyscalculia.  Get a glimpse into some great interventions by sensitive and knowing educators and schools helping these students to learn alongside peers.

Monday, September 10, 2012

SECLUSION: A trerrifying way to discipline children

This is a great article from the NY Times that discusses seclusion.  It is a terrifying way to discipline children.  Who knew students were being placed in seclusion rooms, isolation rooms, closets, all in the name of discipline?  Ask your child's teachers and principal if the school has a seclusion room, isolation room or
"cool down room," and if so, request to see it.  Ask the school for its policy on restraint and seclusion.  Schools too often use these rooms for routine punishment.  Don't let that happen to your child.  If the school is placing your child in isolation, then the school needs to meet with you to determine what is triggering your child's behaviors, and then the school needs to develop a POSITIVE behavior intervention plan.   

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Welcome to Holland - Raising a child with a disability

Emily Perl Kingsley

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this......

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."

"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Girls with ADHD more likely to self-harm, attempt suicide

study out of the University of California at Berkeley conducted over a 20-year period and funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, researchers and psychologists found that girls who have ATTENTION DEFICIT HYPERACTIVITY DISORDER (ADHD) show higher rates of self-inflicted injury and suicide attempts than girls who do not have ADHD.  Researchers found that of the girls in the study diagnosed as both ADHD-inattentive and ADHD-impulsive, 22% reported at least one suicide attempt by the 10-year follow-up mark; of the girls diagnosed as only ADHD-inattentive, and 8% reported at least one attempt at suicide at some point, compared to 6% of the control group.  In the category of self-inflicted harm, researchers found that 51% of the ADHD-combined group reported instances such as scratching, cutting, burning, or hitting themselves as compared to 29% of the ADHD-inattentive group and 19% of the control group.  The study tracked 140 girls diagnosed with ADHD and 88 girls without ADHC from childhood to teen and young adult years.  The study's lead researcher concluded that "ADHD is a highly genetic condition with a strong biological basis."
If your daughter has ADHD, you ought to bring this study to the attention of the school, 504 and/or IEP team, and ask them to be vigilant and note any concerns of such behaviors. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

New to Arizona? What you need to know about INTERSTATE TRANSFERS

When a child with an IEP in effect in another state moves into Arizona, the new Arizona school district (or charter school) is responsible for providing the student with FAPE.  That means that the new school must provide services comparable to those described in the existing IEP from the former school until such time as the Arizona school district conducts an evaluation (if it determines that is necessary) and develops a new IEP, if appropriate, consistent with federal and state law. 20 USC 1414 (d)(2)(C)(i)(II).  The new school must take reasonable steps to obtain the child's records, including the IEP and supporting documentation, from the previous school in compliance with FERPA. 34 CFR 300.323 (g)(1). To facilitate the transition, you as parents should provide the last/existing IEP and any other school records to the Arizona school district.  Typically, the new school will schedule an IEP meeting within thirty (30) school days of your child's entry into the new school, but you may also request an IEP meeting.  If a parent requests an "emergency" IEP meeting, it must be held within fifteen (15) school days (not calendar days) of the request.  NOTE:  The new school district must implement the existing IEP (the IEP from your out-of-state school) on the first day your child enters school.  Of course, practically speaking, you should have provided the school with the IEP in advance of your child's first day of school so that all services, or equivalent services, could be in place.  And make sure all communications with your new school are followed up with confirming emails.  

Friday, August 17, 2012

Autism Awareness in Iraq

 A new center for children with autism has opened in Baghdad, a positive step that the world is working towards understanding those with special needs. This CNN report gives hope to those who are in need of services and support. Bravo!

Cheat Sheet of Acronyms

Print this out and use as a guide when reading through the special ed records (the REDs, METs and IEPs) and at RED, MET and IEP meetings:
ADAAA            Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act
ALJ                   Administrative Law Judge
BIP                   Behavior Intervention Plan
ED                    Emotional Disturbance
ESY                  Extended School Year
FAPE               Free and Appropriate Public Education
FBA                 Functional Behavioral Assessment
FERPA             Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
IAEP or IAES   Interim Alternative Educational Placement/Setting
IEE                   Independent Educational Evaluation
IEP                   Individualized Education Program
IFSP                 individualized Family Service Plan
ISS                   in-School Suspension
LEA                  Local Educational Agency
LRE                  Least Restrictive Environment
MDR                Manifestation Determination Review
MET                Multidisciplinary Education Team
OAH                Office of Administrative Hearings
OCR                 Office of Civil Rights
ODD                Oppositional Defiant Disorder
OHI                  Other Health Impaired
RED                 Review of Existing Data
SEA                  State Educational Agency
SLD                  Specific Learning Disability
SLI                   Speech and Language Impaired
SPED               Special Education

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Presentation August 15, 2012: Overview of Special Education Law

In this overview of special education law, a school attorney alongside two “parent attorneys” will present the framework and concepts of federal and state special education laws (IDEA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, NCLB, FERPA, the Rowley S. Ct. decision) and discuss defenses in special education litigation and how to avoid litigation in the first instance. You will gain perspective from both sides of the aisle, and learn the legal avenues available when students’ educational rights have been violated, and how schools can avoid violations in the identification, evaluation, eligibility and placement of students with disabilities, and disciplinary procedures when a student has an IEP or 504. 

Who should attend: Attorneys who defend public, charter and private schools, including nursery and pre-schools and colleges and technical schools; Judges who may have special education students appear before them.

Earn 1.5 CLE credits.  

Wednesday, August 15, 2012, 4:30 PM to 6:00 PM

Lewis and Roca LLC, 40 N. Central 15th Floor 

To Register:


Denise Lowell-Britt is an equity partner at the law firm of Udall, Shumway & Lyons where she heads the firm’s education law practice group.  Her practice is devoted entirely to representing school districts, charter schools and other public educational institutions in matters that include:  special education, student disciplinary hearings, employment and personnel, student records, governing board liability and open meeting issues.  In November 2006, she was named a “Top Education Attorney” in Phoenix Magazine. In 2007, 2008 and 2009, she was selected by her peers as a “Best Lawyer in America” in the specialty of Education Law.  Ms. Lowell-Britt is a member of the National School Board Association, Arizona School Boards Association and Arizona Council of School Attorneys.  She has also been an adjunct faculty member for Arizona State University, teaching graduate level Education Law classes for the College of Education, Division of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies.  She has been on the steering committee for the Arizona School Administrators “Principal and the Law” conference for approximately 14 years.  In March 2009, Ms. Lowell-Britt was presented with the Laura Ganoung Award, which is the Arizona Council of Administrators of Special Education’s (CASE) highest award recognizing leadership in the area of special education.

Hope Kirsch and Lori Kirsch-Goodwin are the founding members of Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch, PLLC, which has an education practice devoted to representing students and their families in disputes with public, private and charter schools, and secondary education institutions.  Hope is a 17 year veteran of the New York City Board of Education where she was a special education teacher, Crisis Intervention Teacher and Unit Coordinator in self-contained classes, public special education day schools and psychiatric hospitals before embarking on law, and earned her B.S. and M.A. in special education and completed post-graduate work in in educational supervision and administration.  Lori has navigated the special education system first-hand as the mother of her now teenage son who is “on the spectrum.”  Hope and Lori have worked collaboratively with Denise for the past several years in the due process arena and with disciplinary matters. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Attorney Hope Kirsch Obtains Arizona Department of Education Certificate in Special Education (Emotional Disturbance)

KGK is pleased to announce that attorney Hope Kirsch has obtained a Special Education Teaching Certificate from the Arizona Department of Education in Emotional Disturbance, grades K-12.  This is in addition to the several special education teaching and supervisory licenses she had obtained in New York.  KGK represents special needs students and their families in special education disputes.  Hope has an understanding of the IEP process, having worked the school side; Lori's understanding of the IEP process is as a parent.  Together, they know how to work with parents and the schools to obtain the education to which students are entitled.     

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Upcoming Presentation at SARRC, July 23, 2012

  Lunch & Learn - Know Your Educational Rights Under the Law
Guest Presenters: Hope N. Kirsch, Esq. & Lori Kirsch-Goodwin, Esq.

The presentation will begin with an overview of the federal special education law, “Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act” (IDEA), state law and notable case law decisions interpreting the legislation.

The presentation will also address:
• The rights of students with special needs in public and charter schools
• Whether a student is entitled to IDEA protections at private schools
• Requirements of FAPE (free and appropriate public education)
• LRE (least restrictive environments)
• Evaluations and reevaluations
• Placement
• The IEP itself
• Timeline and discipline procedures
• Other laws (No Child Left Behind, FERPA)

Helpful hints will also be provided that most parents do not know about and schools might not clearly inform the parents about.

When: Monday, July 23, 2012

12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.

SARRC Main Campus
300 N. 18th Street
Phoenix, AZ 85006

Cost:$15 per person

Contact & Registration:

For additional details, please contact Sheri Dollin at (480) 603-3284
or email

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What child prodigies and people with autism have in common

Child prodigies evoke awe, wonder and sometimes jealousy: how can such young children display the kinds of musical or mathematical talents that most adults will never master, even with years of dedicated practice? Lucky for these despairing types, the prevailing wisdom suggests that such comparisons are unfair — prodigies are born, not made (mostly). Practice alone isn't going to turn out the next 6-year-old Mozart.

So finds a recent study of eight young prodigies, which sought to shed some light on the innate roots of their talent. The prodigies included in the study are all famous (but remain unidentified in the paper), having achieved acclaim and professional status in their fields by the ripe age of 10. Most are musical prodigies; one is an artist and another a math whiz, who developed a new discipline in mathematics and, by age 13, had had a paper accepted for publication in a mathematics journal. Two of the youngsters showed extraordinary skill in two separate fields: one child in music and art (his work now hangs in prestigious galleries the world over), and the other in music and molecular gastronomy (the science behind food preparation — why mayonnaise becomes firm or why a soufflĂ© swells, for example). He became interested in food at age 10 and, by 11, had carried out his first catering event.

All of the prodigies had stories of remarkable early abilities: one infant began speaking at 3 months old and was reading by age 1; two others were reading at age 2. The gastronomist was programming computers at 3. Several children could reproduce complex pieces of music after hearing them just once, at the age most kids are finishing preschool. Many had toured internationally or played Lincoln Center or Carnegie Hall well before age 10.

Six of the prodigies were still children at the time of the study, which is slated for publication in the journal Intelligence. The other two participants were grown, aged 19 and 32.

The study found a few key characteristics these youngsters had in common. For one, they all had exceptional working memories — the system that holds information active in the mind, keeping it available for further processing. The capacity of working memory is limited: for numbers, for example, most people can hold seven digits at a time on average; hence, the seven-digit phone number. But prodigies can hold much more, and not only can they remember extraordinarily large numbers, but they can also manipulate them and carry out calculations that you or I might have trouble managing with pencil and paper.

Working memory isn't just the ability to remember long strings of numbers. It is the ability to hold and process quantities of information, both verbal and non-verbal — such as, say, memorizing a musical score and rewriting it in your head. All the children in the study scored off the charts when tested on measures of working memory: they placed in at least the 99th percentile, with most in the 99.9th percentile.

Surprisingly, however, the study found that not all of the prodigies had high IQs. Indeed, while they had higher-than-average intelligence, some didn't have IQs that were as elevated as their performance and early achievements would suggest. One child had an IQ of just 108, at the high end of normal.

Other unusual parallels: prodigies and autistic people are more likely to be male (though that finding may be due in part to the failure to recognize girls on the autism spectrum and, perhaps, girls’ outsized talents) and both are associated with difficult pregnancies, suggesting that uterine environment may play a role in their development. In the math whiz's case, for example, his mother "started labor nine times between the 29th and 37th weeks of her pregnancy and required medication to stop the labor. During the 35th week of her pregnancy, her water broke and she had a 105-degree fever from an infection in her uterus. The child prodigy did not have a soft spot at delivery," the authors write.

There was something else striking too. The authors found that prodigies scored high in autistic traits, most notably in their ferocious attention to detail. They scored even higher on this trait than did people diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism that typically includes obsession with details.

Three of the eight prodigies had a diagnosed autism spectrum disorder themselves. The child who had spoken his first words at 3 months, stopped speaking altogether at 18 months, then started again when he was just over two-and-a-half years old; he was diagnosed with autism at 3. What's more, four of the eight families included in the study reported autism diagnoses in first- or second-degree relatives, and three of these families reported a total of 11 close relatives with autism. In the general population, by contrast, about 1 in 88 people have either autism or Asperger’s.

When Asperger’s was first described in 1944 by Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger, he referred to children with the syndrome as “little professors” because of their prodigious vocabularies and precocious expertise, and because they tended to lecture others endlessly without being aware of their own tediousness. Poor social skills and obsessive interests characterize the condition.

Yet, despite the obvious similarities, very little research has been done on the connection between autism and extreme talent. One previous study, published in 2007, did find that close relatives of prodigies — like close relatives of people with autism — tended to score higher on autistic traits, particularly in problems with social skills, difficulty switching attention and intense attention to detail. Other than that, however, the issue hasn't been studied systematically, beyond the observation that autism is often seen in savants, or people with exceptional abilities who have other simultaneous impairments.

Prodigies, in contrast, appear to benefit from certain autistic tendencies while avoiding the shortfalls of others. On a standard assessment of traits associated with autism, the prodigies in the current study scored higher than a control group on all measures, including attention to detail and problems with social skills or communication. But they scored lower than a separate comparison group of people who had Asperger's — except on the attention-to-detail measure, in which they outshone everyone.

“One possible explanation for the child prodigies’ lack of deficits is that, while the child prodigies may have a form of autism, a biological modifier suppresses many of the typical signs of autism, but leaves attention to detail — a quality that actually enhances their prodigiousness — undiminished or even enhanced,” the authors write.

In other words, these children may have some genetic trait or learned skill that allows them to maintain intense focus, without compromising their social skills or suffering from other disabilities that typically accompany autism spectrum disorders. Comparing these children with those who have full-blown autism or Asperger's could therefore potentially help pinpoint what goes wrong in those who develop disabling forms of autism and what goes right in others with similar traits who simply benefit from enhanced abilities.

The current study doesn't tread that ground, but its findings do fit in with the intense world theory of autism, which posits how the disorder may arise. The theory holds that certain patterns of brain circuitry cause autistic symptoms, including excessive connectivity in local brain regions, which can heighten attention and perception, and diminished wiring between distant regions, which can lead to a sort of system overload. In both animal and human studies, this type of brain wiring has been associated with enhanced memory and also with amplified fear and sensory overstimulation. The former is a good thing; the latter may cause disability.

The intense world theory propounds that all autism carries the potential for exceptional talent and social deficits. The social problems, the theory suggests, may ensue from the autistic person's dysfunctional attempts — social withdrawal and repetitive behaviors, for instance — to deal with his heightened senses and memory.

It's possible, then, that the wiring in prodigies' brains resembles that of an autistic person's, with tight local connections, except without the reduction in long-distance links. Or, their brains may function just like those with autism, but their high intelligence allows them to develop socially acceptable ways of coping with the sensory overload.

Although some researchers — and much of the public, influenced by popular books like journalist Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers — argue that prodigious expertise can be acquired with sheer effort, 10,000 hours of practice to be exact, the current findings suggest that natural talents can blossom in far less time. “[Many prodigies] displayed their extreme talent before reaching 10 years of age, undercutting the nurture-based theories that credit contemporary training techniques and upwards of 10 years of deliberate practice as the root of all exceptional achievement,” the authors write.

That doesn't mean all is lost for the rest of us, notes Scott Barry Kaufman, a cognitive psychologist at New York University. “There is research showing the positive benefits of working memory training,” he wrote on his blog on Psychology Today's website, suggesting that practice could take us closer to perfect.

The current study is a small one, and much more research needs to be done to elucidate the connections between highly gifted children and those with autism spectrum conditions. But the findings strongly suggest that such connections exist. They also caution against characterizing the genetic roots of conditions like autism — or other potentially disabling problems like mood disorders, which have been linked with exceptional creativity — as wholly negative. If the same "risk" genes may lead to both debilitating autism and great intellectual gifts, we need to understand them far better before we label them as unwanted.

The IEP Team - who is a required member and who is not?

Who is required to be on the IEP Team and who is not?  What rights do Parents have about who is on the child's IEP Team? 

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA" at 20 U.S.C. 1414[d][1][B]-[d][1][D]) describes the IEP Team as including the following members:
The IEP members are required to attend each IEP meeting, unless excused by the Parents.  Each IEP Team member should attend the annual IEPs, but Parents may excuse any IEP Team member who is not particularly involved in an issue that is to be discussed at other IEP meetings, including emergency IEP meetings.  Parents may object to any "other individual" who does not know the child, and Parents may and should object to the school's attorney attending an IEP meeting unless the attorney for the parents/child is also attending.  We encourage Parents to include an educational advocate and/or a relative or close friend for support.   

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Upcoming presentation at SARRC to get you ready for the new school year

Lunch & Learn: Know Your Educational Rights Under the Law
Guest presenters Hope N. Kirsch, Esq., and Lori Kirsch-Goodwin, Esq.  
Hope and Lori will begin with an overview of the federal special education law, “Individuals with Disabilities Education Act” (IDEA), state law and notable case law decisions interpreting the legislation. Their presentation will also address:
  • The rights of students with special needs in public and charter schools
  • Whether a student is entitled to IDEA protections at private schools
  • Requirements of FAPE (free and appropriate public education)
  • LRE (least restrictive environment)
  • Identification
  • Evaluations and reevaluations
  • Placement
  • The IEP itself
  • Timelines
  • Discipline procedures
  • Other laws (No Child Left Behind, FERPA, ADAAA and 504)
Date: Monday, July 23, 2012
Time: Noon-1 p.m.
Place: SARRC Campus for Exceptional Children, 300 N. 18th St., Phoenix
Cost: $15 per person
To register:  call (480) 603-3283 or e-mail

Monday, June 25, 2012

Call to Action: Keep All Students Safe Act


To:             All Committee Members
                        Title:         Beyond Seclusion and Restraint: 
                                           Creating Positive Learning Environments for All Students
Date:          Thursday, July 12, 2012                                     
Time:          10 a.m.
Place:         TBD
§  Dr. Daniel Crimmins , Director, Center for Leadership in Disability, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia
§  Ms. Cyndi Pitonyak , Coordinator of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, Montgomery County Public Schools, Christiansburg, Virginia
§  Dr. Michael George , Director, Centennial School, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
§  Ms. Deborah (Debbie) Jackson , parent, Easton, Pennsylvania
Let Congress know that now is the time to pass federal legislation that provides protections for every child in school. Even if you have told them before, tell them again – and urge everyone you know to do the same!  Many school, parent and national advocacy organizations  have been actively working  towards the passage of federal legislation that raises the bar of protection and safety in schools for all students.   All students must be safe in the schoolhouse.  Insist that Congress pass federal legislation without delay. 

Senator Tom Harkin (Chair, Health Education Labor and Pension Committee) introduced S. 2020, the Keeping All Students Safe Act on December 16, 2011 to protect students from dangerous restraint and seclusion. A bipartisan hearing, “Beyond Seclusion and Restraint: Creating Positive Learning Environments for All Students,” cosponsored by Senators Harkin and Enzi is scheduled for June 28th

Representative George Miller (Ranking Member, House Education and Workforce Committee) introduced H.R. 1381, the Keeping All Students Safe Act in the House on April 6, 2011. The bill currently has bipartisan support, thanks to Rep. Gregg Harper with 42 cosponsors.

Representive Miller and Senator Harkin must be applauded for their staunch and continued leadership on this critical issue. 

The Keeping All Students Safe Act will promote a shift toward preventing problematic behavior through the use of de-escalation techniques, conflict management and evidence-based positive behavioral interventions and supports. This shift will help school personnel understand the needs of their students and safely address the source of challenging behaviors – a better result for everyone in the classroom. In many cases, the use of positive supports and interventions greatly diminishes and even eliminates the need to use restraint and seclusion. For example, the Centennial School in Pennsylvania, which serves children in 35 school districts, has cut the use of restraint and seclusion from well over 1,000 occurrences per year to less than ten through the use of positive supports. Reports and studies have also shown that students and staff are safer when positive interventions and supports, rather than restraint and seclusion, are used in schools. Worker's Compensation costs even decrease significantly.
Other critical provisions of the bill include:
§  Ensure the safety of all students and school personnel
§  Promote positive school culture and climate.
§  Protect students from being locked in rooms or spaces from which they cannot exit.
§  Promote of effective intervention and prevention practices, emphasize training, de-escalation, conflict management, and evidence-based practices shown to be effective in prevention.
§  Restrict physical restraint to emergencies posing a serious threat of physical harm to self or other.
§  Prohibit use of these dangerous practices to punish children, coerce compliance, for behavioral infractions, or as a substitute for positive behavioral support or proper educational programming.
§  Prohibit the use when less restrictive measures would be effective in stopping the threat of harm.
§  Require that the imposition end when the emergency ends.
§  Ban restraints that are life threatening (including those that interfere with breathing), mechanical and chemical restraints, aversives that threaten health or safety, and restraints that interfere with the ability to communicate or which would harm a child.
§  Require that parental notification occur within 24 hours and require staff and family to debrief so as to prevent use in the future.
§  Require that states collect data, make it available to members of the public, and use the data to minimize further use.
§  Protect teachers, staff, and parents from retaliation when they report violations of the law.
§  Prohibit including restraint as a planned intervention in Individual Educational Programs or other individualized planning documents. 
§  Preserve existing rights under state and federal law and regulation.
Existing laws alone have not protected students against such abuse and injury, though many do offer important protections.  Creating a national floor of protection will ensure that children are protected in every state.
Urge Arizona's elected officials to co-sponsor and pass H.R. 1381 and S. 2020.   Email Senators Jon Kyl and John McCain and your Congressional Representative.  Ask them to co-sponsor and pass the Keeping All Students Safe Act.    Ask your friends, family members and colleagues to do the same.
·         Arizona's Senators are Jon Kyl and John McCain
·        Look up your Representative:
·         Give them your message, then pass this alert along to others!
Call, write a letter or email: “I am contacting Senator ___________/Representative _________ to move legislation to end the use of seclusion in schools.  Restraint should only be used in emergencies threatening the physical safety of the student or others.  The Keeping All Students Safe Act will create a baseline of protections to ensure the safety of all students and school personnel.   I urge Senator ___________/Representative __________ to address this national problem and move the Keeping All Students Safe Act now.”
Please, call, write or email this week. Children’s lives depend on it.