Tag Archives: Autism

Federal Government Moves to Protect Students with Disabilities

In two recent situations, agencies of the U.S. government are defining the protections offered to students with disabilities. In one instance, the Supreme Court has accepted a case that will better define what are minimum expectations in special education. In another, the Department of Education has asked a Texas agency to respond to allegations that they limited the number of students who could receive special education services.

Picture of a lightbulb glowing in the sky.
The IDEA Act is a law protecting students with disabilities. Once a federal law is approved, federal government agencies continue to define it in courts of law. photo credit: Domenico Mascagna (@memmettovich) COSA ASPETTIAMO via photopin (license)

Education Law in the Supreme Court

Disability Scoop reports that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case, Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, which will address “the IDEA’s mandate that public schools provide children with disabilities a free appropriate public education, or FAPE.”

According to its website, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, is “a law ensuring services to children with disabilities throughout the nation. IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education and related services to more than 6.5 million eligible infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities.”

The Supreme Court case revolves around parents who withdrew their child with autism from public school and put their child in private school, the sought reimbursement from the public schools. Lower courts ruled in the school district’s favor for not having to pay. The parents have escalated the case, asking for a definition of what level education is acceptable for children with disabilities.

“This court should hold that states must provide children with disabilities educational benefits that are meaningful in light of the child’s potential and the IDEA’s stated purposes. Merely aiming for non-trivial progress is not sufficient,” the U.S. solicitor general indicated, according to the report.

Picture of a variety of students playing in a classroom.
Under the IDEA Act, all students have the right to a “free appropriate public education, or FAPE.” photo credit: U.S. Army Garrison Japan 4th-graders practice mindfulness in classroom via photopin (license)

Education law in a State

Meanwhile, the Houston Chronicle published an investigative report by Brian M. Rosenthal alleging that the Texas Education Agency limited special education enrollment in schools, a move that caused districts and schools to further limit special education identification of students and kept “tens of thousands of children out of special education.”

In a follow-up article to his investigative report, the Chronicle’s reporter Rosenthal said they sent a copy of their report to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.

The department responded swiftly with a request for more information from the Texas Education Agency within 30 days.

According to the letter shared in the report, the federal agency “ordered Texas state officials to eliminate an 8.5 percent benchmark on special education enrollment enforced in the state’s 1,200 school districts unless they can show that it had not kept children with disabilities from receiving appropriate educational services.”

The agency letter, like the Supreme Court, questions whether the IDEA Act is being observed in letter and in spirit.

Federal actions will continue to define how states and their schools should observe federal disability laws, in this case, the IDEA Act.

 

 

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10 Tips for Including People With Disabilities in Your Party 

Have you ever been left out of or not invited to a party? I hope not.

This happens to many people during the holidays, especially if their needs aren’t met and they can’t participate in part or all of events. Accommodating people with disabilities isn’t as difficult as people think.

The Two-Step Party Aid

When preparing to include people with disabilities in a celebration or party, planners should Seek and Ask.

Party invitation
Have you posted invitations or verbally invited people with disabilities to your party, according to their ability? photo credit: Clover Invitation via photopin (license)

Seek

Seek to make sure that people with disabilities are invited and feel welcome to attend and share their accommodations needs. Party emails can indicate for guests to call ahead with their needs.

Checklist says "ready, finished, listo, lista...think of a checlist or to-do list: items on the list get checked off when they're ready or finished."
Creating a checklist with guest needs is a way to remember important details. photo credit: #231 – ready, finished – listo, lista via photopin (license)

Ask

Then planners should Ask individuals what their needs are and be creative with problem solving for special situations.

Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, President of RespectAbility USA, an organization that seeks to “reshape the attitudes of American society” about people with disabilities and “empower people with disabilities to achieve as much of the American dream as their abilities and efforts permit,” wrote an editorial in The Huffington Post about ways to include people with disabilities at your party.

What’s her first tip for including people with disabilities in your event? Ask.

According to the article, “If you know someone has a disability, use a simple strategy — ask the person what they need to be fully included.”

Needs Vary by Person

Each individual is specific.

Buffets bother many people with disabilities. People with wheelchairs sometimes can't reach items or serve and hold their plate while navigating their wheelchair. People who are blind or have low vision aren't seeing what's there or how to serve it. People who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing have difficult understanding food preparers asking questions about their preferences. photo credit: abschluss-2009-buffet-1 via photopin (license)
Buffets bother many people with disabilities. People with wheelchairs sometimes can’t reach items or serve and hold their plate while navigating their wheelchair. People who are Blind or have Low Wision aren’t seeing what’s there or how to serve it. People who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing have difficulty understanding servers asking questions about their preferences. photo credit: abschluss-2009-buffet-1 via photopin (license)

One time, a friend told me that the buffet tables were too high for her to reach from a wheelchair. Other users might be able to reach the table, but need help plating their food.

Woman uses portable ramp to lower her wheelchair.
Stairs and big steps hinder wheelchair access. Portable ramps are one solution. photo credit: 1H7A1145 via photopin (license)

Many people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing want some quiet spaces where they can speak with others without competing noise. Some members of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing community like loud music so they can feel the beat. They might appreciate important song lyrics ahead of time so they will know what is being said in the song if it has an important meaning to your event.

A particularly beautiful way to enjoy events is through the use of sign language interpreters, who can add words, the beat, and the feeling of the song to their interpretation. Not everyone knows sign, so it’s important to ask.

People stand around talking at a party with low lighting.
While romantic, low lighting isn’t friendly to people trying to read lips or to see when they have low vision. photo credit: Disney – Blue Bayou Restaurant via photopin (license)

People with Low Vision often appreciate more lighting. They also may appreciate time to get to know the area before everyone arrives, as do many people who are Blind.

An Autism self-advocate told me loud noise bothered him and he needed ear plugs, and no strobe or flashing lights because they trigger headaches.

Many bright lights extend from a large stage.
Flashing or strobe lights can cause headaches or trigger epileptic seizures for some. photo credit: ///////// via photopin (license)

For people with Epilepsy, strobe or flashing lights (even police or ambulance lights) can bring on a seizure.

Parties that include everyone and make them feel welcome extends a warmth to all guests that enriches your party.

Source: 10 Tips for Including People With Disabilities in Your Party | Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi