Exceptional Times
February 2015

  Exceptional Times is a monthly electronic newsletter produced by Families Helping Families of Jefferson and Louisiana Parent Training & 
Information Center, a project of FHF of Jefferson.

Can My Child with a Disability Really Graduate with a Diploma?
Act 833:  Where are we today?

by:  Mary Jacob, Executive Director

When House Bill 1015/Act 833 passed during the 2014 legislative session to give students with disabilities a level playing field in order to be promoted and eventually earn a high school diploma, I'm not sure the parents that originally sought the legislation, the legislators sponsoring the bill, or anyone else knew the fireworks it would set off when the Act overwhelming passed through the house, senate and eventually signed into law on June 23, 2014.


Anyone that has ever written to the US Department of Education for clarification on just about any education issue knows first-hand the amount of time it takes to get a response.  It is not a quick process and can often take 6 months or longer.  So, it came with great surprise when John White, Louisiana State Superintendent of Education received an unsolicited letter from Michael K. Yudin, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services for the United States, addressing concerns he had about the passage of the bill literally 9 days after the passage.  Per his letter:


"We have significant concerns that the Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) and its local educational agencies (LEAs) may implement the law in a manner that could violate provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.....  In light of those concerns, we strongly recommend that LDOE take steps to ensure that HB No. 1015 is implemented in a manner consistent with relevant federal laws, in particular in the areas outlined below......"


After receiving this letter, State Representative John Schroder wrote to Mr. Yudin for additional clarification only to receive a 4 page response that hardly addressed his specific concerns, which in part were questioning why other states are already doing what Louisiana is now poised to do. 


Where are we today?    Some might say a lot of progress has been made, while others think nothing is happening.  There has been lots of meetings and discussions about implementation and training.   Behind the scenes, work has and continues to happen.  Unfortunately, many think it's not enough.  My personal opinion is the process is a huge undertaking for anyone and the state needs to take the time to get it right.  I don't think this is something that can or should be rushed.  I believe the state does need to ensure that no federals laws are being violated - even if other states are doing it.  In saying that, I think it's equally important to find out why Louisiana is being held to higher standards, if in fact other states are violating federal law with no consequences.  Also, the state needs to develop a comprehensive training for professionals and parents on how to implement it.  


The good news is the State has signed a contract with LSU Human Development Center to create training for professionals and parents on how to implement Act 833.  Families Helping Families of Jefferson will be part of this project and look forward to our continued collaboration with LSU HDC and the other partners involved.    


This law is a huge victory for students with disabilities as long as it's implemented the correct way.   We still want all students with disabilities to achieve to their greatest potential.  I remember what education was like before No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and no accountability.  Rather you agree with NCLB or not, it was the first real accountability for children with disabilities and we do not want our children to return to the days where all they do in class is watch television and nap. 


In a nutshell, where are we today?  The state has made progress, but there is still a lot more to be done.  Students with all types of disabilities will have an opportunity to earn a high school diploma in Louisiana for possibly the first time ever.  I want to be very specific in this law doesn't guarantee a diploma.  


There is still a lot of work that needs to be done.  Be on the look out for announcements about the training modules being ready. 


To read the law in it's entirety, please click here.

To read the letter to State Representative John M. Schroeder, please

click here.

To read the letter to Superintendent John White, please click here. 


Below is a list of articles on other topics we thought you'd be interested in reading.   



Learning Opportunities by FHF
Educating and Training

FHF has a lot of opportunities to learn for the month of February. 

With the continuation of The Essential Components of an Individual Education Plan webinar series, emphasis continues to be on the critical input that parents provide in education decision making. You will learn what's working, what needs to change, and whether your child is catching up or falling further behind. How well modifications and accommodations (such as assistive technology) are helping. Join us as we discuss and review the following essential components of the IEP.  
  • What must every IEP team consider BEFORE a child is served anywhere but a general education class? Accommodations and Supplementary Aids and Services! The IEP team must be sure that supplementary aids and services and accommodations in a general education class are considered before providing services (including accommodations) to a child. Participants will receive a copy of the newly revised accommodations page of the IEP, the Supplementary Aids and Services Fact Sheet, and a list of accommodation descriptions. Click here for morning session. Click here for evening session.  
  • Learn about the variety of important information documented on The Program/Services Page of the IEP and why you should be a part of deciding what is written in each section. Click on the above title to register.
  • We will look closely at the Services/Placement Page (aka Minutes Page), because parents often do not participate during this part of the IEP, it is common for district members of the team to complete this page without parental input. We will review details that many parents may not be aware of. Click on title to register.
  • On  the Placement Page you will learn why your attention and input are still necessary even though the meeting is almost over. This page includes a lot of "wrap-up" information.  Click here for morning session.  Click here for evening session. 
  • Don't miss this opportunity to learn all you need to know to support your teen and young adult to transition into adulthood successfully. Join us in Transition Services Page: Transition Covers All of Life's Stages. This webinar is essential for parents of children in middle school or already in high school. We will discuss how to develop a comprehensive transition plan with you child's school. You will learn what and how to prepare for your child's transition meeting. Click here for morning session. Click here for evening session. 

We are also offering these additional webinars.  For the latest from the MLTSS Advisory Group meeting, join us in this session of "Ask Karen."  This session will be open to questions anyone may have on MLTSS, Development Disability Services in Louisiana or other service or health care issues.  Get the latest updates on Act 833 in, Where are they now Act 833?   Join us in What is Self-Direction? and learn about this service delivery option which allows participants to become the employer of the people they choose to hire and gives participants the most control over their supports, but also the most responsibility.   Recent revisions to state laws and policies have increased opportunities available for all high school students, including students with disabilities. To learn more about how these policies impact your child or students join us in High School Special Education Policies.

Come and learn the important questions you need to ask to ensure you choose the right Provider and Direct Support Professional for you or your loved one at our Decisions! How to Choose a Service Provider workshop. 

View our full calendar of events here  


Learning Opportunities Provided by Others
Education and Training

FHF thinks it is important for individuals to be armed with enough information to either assist or make decisions around disability issues that impact your life or that of a family member.  Therefore, we are happy to share the following training opportunities others are doing around the state.  Please note we do not handle registration for these opportunities.  

  • Cultural Competency Presentation - The United Houma Nation Diabetes Coalition and the Vocational Rehabilitation Program are joining together to offer a free 2 hour continuing education credit presentation for social workers and counselors. The purpose of the workshop is to build cultural competency within the helping field that interacts with our tribal citizens. To register or for more information, please contact Onita Harris or Lanor Curole at 985-223-3093 

Learning Links
Education and Training

If you've ever done an internet search on a topic, you know first-hand how difficult it is to sort through the thousands of links that come up with the search.  Below is a list of some of our favorite links for the month that others have shared with us. We hope you find them as informative as we did.

Cracking the Behavior Code 

Friday, March 6, 2015 is the date for the Cracking the Behavior Code Conference. This conference will include information on behavorial strategies, interventions. parental rights, schools' responsibility under IDEA, resources, and much more. The Conference will be held at the East Bank Regional Library, 4747 W. Napoleon Ave. in Metairie. 

Reservations are required to ensure we have enough food and space. Reserve your seat today!

To register call  504-888-9111

If you'd like your agency to participate, please click here to fill out a registration form.  

A 6 foot table and 2 folding chairs are provided free of charge.  Very limited electricity is available and only available on a first come basis.  

If you have any questions, please contact Bebe Bode at 504.888.9111 or [email protected] 

When:        March 1 - 31, 2015

Where:       Facebook and Twitter

What is it:  The creation of the Families Helping Families of Jefferson - Young Professional Adult Council to bring positive awareness to the wonderful things people with disabilities accomplish every day.

How can you get involved:  It's simple.  If you are currently not following FHF on social media, please do that now.  Follow us on Facebook by clicking here.   We also have a #ThinkABILITY Facebook event set up.  You can join that by clicking here. Follow us on Twitter by clicking here.  Starting on March 1st, like our posts, retweet them or write your own posts and tweet your own story.  At the end of each post or tweet, make sure you place #ThinkABILITY and #FamiliesHelpingFamilies hashtags so we can track all the posts.  

Want FHF to highlight your story:  Send us a one page story and picture in jpeg format to [email protected]  

Wednesday, April 29, 2014 - 1 PM
Rally on Capitol Steps in Baton Rouge

Tired of waiting for services?  This is your chance to advocate.  There is no place like home!  For additional information, click here.

Run Walk & Roll Against Bullying

Saturday, September 26, 2015 is the date for the 1st Annual Run Walk & Roll Against Bullying Event.

Did you know that individuals with disabilities are bullied 3 - 4 times more frequently than those without disabilities? It's time to bring awareness to this problem and do what we can to end bullying. 
You can participate as an individual, team, office, or school.  Save the date and stay tuned for more updated information.  

Lending Library Information

Families Helping Families has an extensive lending library. Books, dvds and more are here, free of charge for families and professionals to check out. You are welcome to come and browse our library during our office hours, Monday through Friday, 9 am to 4 pm.  If you cannot make it into our office, you can see a complete list of our inventory and any item can be mailed to you.  Just click here  to see a complete list of items in our lending library.

Before you buy it - check to see if we have it!

Changing Lives. Every Day.
Success Story of the month.

Every day we hear wonderful things about the work we 
do for individuals in the community. One of the things 
that keep us going daily are the success stories we hear. 

Ready to give up and think she would never find the support she needed, this mom was given a new outlook on life.


Click here to read her story.  

Developmental Disabilities Services Directory

The Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities provides supports and services through a variety of locations throughout the state to support the dignity, quality of life and security in the everyday lives of people with developmental disabilities and their families, acting as the Single Point of Entry.


OCDD Central Office

Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals
Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities
628 North 4th Street
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70802


PO Box 3117, Bin #21
Baton Rouge, LA 70821-3117


Phone: 1.225.342.0095
Toll-Free: 1.866.783.5553
Fax: 1.225.342.8823

Waiver Registry Dates

As of January 29, 2015 the following dates have been reached on the waiver registry, a.k.a the waiting list.  

New Opportunities Waiver (NOW) -  8/18/2004

Children's Choice Waiver -  3/31/2006

Supports Waiver - 11/3/2012

Not sure where you are on the registry?  Call 1.800.364.7828.

Gulf Coast Community Bank is once again sponsoring the Community Rewards Program.

Last year we were in the TOP 5 out of 393 non-profits!  Help us get there again this year.  Beginning February 25, 2015 and ending at 8 pm on March 25, 2015 you can help us win money by simply voting
DAILY for Families Helping Families.  Vote once a day with EACH email address you use.

The nonprofits with the most votes win.  
It's really just that easy.  

Go to www.communityrewards.com to vote!

Ask your family, friends, social media buddies, work colleagues and everyone else you know to sign up an vote for Families Helping Families!

Invest in the future of FAMILIES HELPING FAMILIES of JEFFERSON.   

Become  a stakeholder by supporting
ALL disabilities of ALL ages, by making a one time gift, or monthly contributions. You will be making a difference to large outcomes!

FHF is a 501 (c) 3 not for profit organization.  In addition to our grants and contracts we depend on the generosity of individuals like you.  All donations are tax deductible.  

In addition to cash donations, there are many other ways you can show your support. Click here to learn more about how you can help. With your support, we will have the strength and resources to help Louisiana residents improve their lives. 

Volunteer Opportunities

Board of Directors
FHF of Jefferson currently has openings on our Board of Directors for the following:
  • Parent of a child between the ages of 0 - 23 years old with a disability.
  • Adult with a disability.   
The ideal candidates are:
  • Passionate about FHF and the services we provide to the community.
  • Interested in the long term sustainability of our organization.
  • Willingness to support FHF in community.
  • Believers of Home and Community Based Services.
  • Understand the importance of inclusion in all facets of life.
  • Believe individuals with disabilities deserve a meaningful lives.
  • Individuals that bring their own personal experiences and expertise to share.
  • Willing to participate in fundraising.
  • Can commit at least 5 hours a month to organization.
Candidates must:
  • Reside in the State of Louisiana.  
  • Be able to attend bi-monthly board meetings (4th Monday of the Month from 6 - 8 pm) and monthly committee meetings (If you live outside the GNO area, some meetings can be attended via conference call.)
  • Attend an annual board retreat. (Saturday event)
  • Participate in board giving. 

Fund Development Committee Members
FHF of Jefferson's Fund Development Committee is searching for talented individuals with a passion for raising funds.  This committee is responsible for identifying new funding opportunities, fundraising ideas and opportunities, donor cultivation and promotion of FHF of Jefferson in the community.  

Currently the Fund Development Committee meets once a month on the 4th Monday of the month from 5 - 6 pm.   

Individuals with and without experience are encouraged to apply.  

Run, Walk and Roll Against Bullying Committee Members
Committee members are needed for FHF of Jefferson 1st Annual  Run, Walk and Roll against bulling will be held on Saturday, September 26, 2014 at LaSalle Park in Metairie.  Meetings will be held monthly until September when meetings may be held more frequently.  

Individuals with and without experience are encouraged to apply.  

For additional information or to schedule a meeting to discuss board or committee membership further, please contact Mary Jacob, Executive Director at 504.888.9111 or [email protected]

Minorities are encouraged to apply.  


Call us to help you with Financial
Assistance to Attend Trainings

FHF has limited funds to offer stipends to individuals with developmental disabilities and their family members to attend and/or participate in conferences and training events to enhance their knowledge of community-based supports and resources for persons with developmental disabilities.  If you live in Jefferson Parish and want to request a stipendplease click here for a stipend application. If you live in other parishes, please contact the FHF office in your region.  

OTHER places to find us:
Visit the Families Helping Families Booth at the following events:

A Little Lagniappe:
A little of this and a little of that - more stuff that might interest you.  

NAMI St. Tammany Announces FREE Spring Classes - Beginning Thursday, February 26, 2015. To register for any of these classes, or for more information on mental health, please contact NAMI St. Tammany at 985-625-6348 or toll free at 888-521-2297 or email at [email protected]

Jefferson Parish Human Services Authority - Regional Advisory Committee for Development Disabilities currently has openings for self advocates or parents of individuals with developmental disabilities.  If you are interested in becoming a member of the JPHSA RAC, please contact Mary Jacob at [email protected]

The office of 
Families Helping Families 
will be closed: 
February 16 - 17, 2015 

Have a Safe and Happy Mardi Gras 
Laura, Shanida & Bebe at InclusionMATTERS 2014
 Our Team

Click here for a list of Staff or Board Members

Families Helping Families of Jefferson is your one stop shop for disability information. We are the only family resource center for individuals with all disabilities, all ages and their families in Jefferson Parish. We offer services across the lifespan.


In addition Families Helping Families of Jefferson has a grant, thru US Department of Education; Office of Special Education (OSEP) as Louisiana's only statewide funded Parent Center named Louisiana Parent Training Information Center (LaPTIC).


LaPTIC serves families of children who are ages birth to 26 and (are undiagnosed) or suspected of having or are known to have a disability or health condition.  We provide a variety of services including peer to peer support and assistance, training opportunities, resources and referrals.

Two Groups You Want to JOIN!

LaCAN is a statewide grassroots network of individuals, families and advocates who have worked together since 1988 advocating for a service system that supports individuals with disabilities to live in their own homes rather than having to be segregated from their communities in a facility to receive support.  Specifically, they have advocated for implementation of Louisiana's Community and Family Support System Plan.  To join or learn more about LaCAN,   

LaTEACH (Louisiana Together Educating ALL Children) is a statewide grassroots advocacy network created for the purpose of effecting systems change.  LaTEACH promotes appropriate, inclusive education for all students. LaTEACH works to make parents, educators, the general public, and state leadership informed and supportive of research-based and effective practices used appropriately for each student.  To join or learn more about LaTEACH,   

Families Helping Families of Jefferson
201 Evans Road, Bldg. 1, #100
Harahan, LA  70123
800.766.7736 (toll free)
[email protected]

The Mission of Families Helping Families is to educate and connect children and adults with disabilities and their families to resources, services & supports to attend school, work and thrive in their communities.

Give us a call today!
Changing Lives.  Every Day.