Exceptional Times
March 2016

  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.
Parental Knowledge is Critical to Student Success

By:  Mary Jacob

Lately I've been thinking a lot about generational differences.  I look around my home and office and realize just how dependable we've become on technology.  I find it rather fascinating to think about how far we've come over the past few decades. Different generations depend on different things to accomplish the same goal.  Tools for my first job included a Selectric II typewriter, a few extra font balls, white out in a few different colors and a 10 key calculator.  Fax machines eventually crept into the work place within 5 or so years later and computers didn't come around for another 10 years.   I actually know what a floppy disc is and used a dos operating system.  

Think about a washing machine.  My mom's first washer wasn't even electric, while mine was electric - it certainly didn't have a computer in it.  I look at my daughters in amazement and think you need a technology degree just to operate it.  

Needless to say, the way we learn has also evolved over our lifetime too.  One thing that is static though - children with disabilities that succeed the most in school are backed with at least one knowledgeable parent.  It's great to understand reading, writing and arithmetic, but the knowledge I'm referring to is understanding their child's rights under IDEA - The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and The American's with Disability Act.  

As a parent you shouldn't be expected to be the teacher.  However, you should know your child's rights to make sure your child is receiving the most appropriate education. This is the ONLY way your child will reach his or her's full potential. After all, isn't that why we send out kids to school - to reach their full potential?   

Ask yourself this question - Are you your child's best advocate?  How do you know if you are?  Ask yourself these questions?  Do I take advantage of all training opportunities?  Do I attend workshops or webinars that teach me how to advocate for my child?  Do I call an advocate when I'm unsure if something is right?  

What will happen if you become more knowledgeable:
  • Level the Playing Field - Have you ever been to a committee meeting or other school meeting for your child and been told by the district "we cannot do that?" Did you ever wonder whether what they were saying is true?  Level the playing field by educating yourself on your child's special education rights. 
  • Alphabet Soup - In order to be the most effective advocate for your child, you must understand the lingo.  It's almost guaranteed that acronyms will be flying at meetings and if you don't know what they mean - you'll be at a disadvantage. 
  • Understand Testing - Professionals go to school for years to understand testing. However, parents can also learn about testing and how to interpret scores and their meanings.
  • Did the district forget anything? - Do you think your child would benefit from Assistive Technology?  Is it time to start thinking about transition planning? Has your child been exhibiting any new behavior challenges?  Is your child eligible for Extended School Year services?  Sometimes things fall through the cracks, but because this is YOUR child - there's a chance you won't let them slip if you have the knowledge. 
  • Goals - Your child's goals are one of the most important part of the IEP - yet, often the most overlooked.  Goals need to be meaningful and not the same year to year, and should be individualized.  Additionally, goals should be created with parental input.
  • The IEP Document - Did you ever receive your child's IEP and it did not accurately reflect what occurred at your meeting? Your IEP is your "contract" with your school district.  If something does not appear in the IEP then it does not have to happen whether it was discussed at the IEP meeting or not.  You need to understand this document.
  • You Have So Many Roles - As a parent of a child with special needs you have many roles in life in addition to parent.  You need to be an advocate, researcher, communicator, listener, questioner and active team member on school teams, community teams and medical teams.  It's important to understand how to manage these roles and not become overwhelmed.  
  • You Do Not Agree - In a perfect world we would all come out of an IEP meeting with everything our children are entitled to.  Many parents wrongly walk away without needed services when they are initially denied. If you feel that your child is not receiving all of the appropriate services from your school district, it is extremely important to speak to Families Helping Families.  If you do not know what your child is entitled to - you should be participating in training opportunities at Families Helping Families.
  • Your Child is Not Making Meaningful Progress -  As a parent you know your child better than anyone else.  You may feel that your child is not making progress in their current program.  If this is the case, it is important that you know when it's time to call Families Helping Families for support. 
One thing I hear all over the country - no matter where I visit.  Parents are still fighting for the same services others fought for decades ago.  Effective special education services are still hard to access for many parents.  

When my daughters were young finding resources was a lot more difficult than it is today.  The public library had very few up to date and useful books that were parent friendly.  The internet didn't exist yet - at least not like today, so information wasn't at your fingertips.  Going back another generation and I can't even imagine how our parents learned about disabilities.  However, today's generation has it much easier and much more convenient.  Because of technology, information and learning opportunities is easier than ever.  

Families Helping Families offer you opportunities that the previous generation didn't have.  Did you know we offer at least 10 webinars a month?  We offer numerous training opportunities every month via webinar and in-person workshops.  In order to be the best advocate you can be - you need knowledge? How do you get knowledge? Register and attend some of the many training opportunities FHF offers monthly.  Because we recognize that different generations like to learn differently, we are excited to announce our new E-Learning Modules.  These modules, still in the testing stages are available on line now by clicking here.  These modules are each approximately 10 minutes long and are meant to be a mini lesson on topics like Basic Rights of Special Education and Least Restricted Environment or answers to burning questions like, "What do I do when the school calls me to pick up my child?"  Please review them and evaluate them.  This will help us move them from the testing stage to permanent stage.  

Don't forget, parental knowledge is critical to student success!

Check out these other great articles we've provided for you this month:

Learning Opportunities by FHF
Educating and Training
- March Workshops -

Graduation Pathways for Students with Disabilities, Tuesday, March 8, 2016, 10:00 am - 12:00 pm, East Bank Regional Library, 4747 W. Napoleon Ave., Metairie, La. 70001: Louisiana now provides pathways for all students with disabilities to earn a high school diploma.  This session will provide an overview of these new opportunities and will include time for questions and answers. Click here for more information! 
To register, call: 504-888-9111 or toll free 1-800-7736 
Self-Direction & Waiver, Tuesday, March 22, 2016, 10:00 am. - 12:00 pm, East Bank Regional Library, 4747 W. Napoleon Avenue, Metairie, La. 70001: Come and learn current and informative information regarding Self-Direction services for yourself or your loved one with a disability.
To register, call: 504-888-9111 or toll free 1-800-766-7736 

- March Webinars -

ACT Test Accommodations for Students with Disabilities: Tuesday, March 1, 2016, 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm - ACT Test Accommodations staff will provide information about the accommodations request process for the ACT, including policies for supporting documentation, types of available accommodations and application procedures.

Supports, Modifications, and Accommodations for Students: Wednesday, March 2, 2016, 10:30 am - 11:30 am - For many students with disabilities and for many without the key to success in the classroom lies in having appropriate adaptations, accommodations, and modifications made to the instruction and other classroom activities.  Join us as we explore and discuss various options and examples of support available to help your child become successful. 

Section 504, The OTHER Service Option: Thursday, March 3, 2016, 11:00 am - 12:00 pm What do parents need to know about Section 504? It is important for parents of students with disabilities and special needs to have information and an understanding of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Understanding the provisions of this important law can help parents be effective partners in working with schools to meet the educational needs of their student with disabilities. 

Basic Rights in Special Education: Friday, March 4, 2016, 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm: Whether you're new to special education or have been involved for a while, this workshop is for you. This presentation provides families with an introduction to their rights and responsibilities as parents of children with special needs under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act. Parents begin to identify dreams and goals for their children, understand laws and learn advocacy strategies that will help them help their children reach those goals.  Parents of classified children and children who are having difficulty in school, but may not be classified, will benefit from this training. 

Accommodations for Students who are Deaf, Deafblind, & Hard of Hearing while in High School, Tuesday, March 10, 2016, 10:30 am - 11:30 am - Parents should be aware about the effectiveness of the accommodation in an educational setting since it is not a "One Size Fits All" mode of communication. Students should be empowered during the IEP process and be able to communicate any issues regarding their accommodations. 

Transition from High School to Adulthood for Youth with Disabilities: What Lies Ahead - Part Two in a series of Three: Session Two "Working with Louisiana Rehabilitation Services (LRS), Social Security Administration (SSA) and Community Rehabilitation Programs (CRPS) to obtain WORK." This session will provide training participants an overview of the process from School to Work transition including how to select a service provider, what services to expect and how employment services are delivered. Presenter will also provide a brief overview of the impact of earnings on SSI, SSDI and other federal benefits. 
Extended School Year (ESY), Wednesday, March 16, 2016, 10:30 am - 11:30 am - 
Extended school year services are required special education and related services provided beyond the limits of the school term, in accordance with the child's individualized education program (IEP), and at no cost to the parents. These services are necessary in order to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE). This webinar will be an opportunity to learn more about the federal regulations that specifically address ESY services. Additionally, it will provide parents with the information on requesting these services and how IEP teams determine the need for ESY services. 

Choosing a Bayou Health Plan, Thursday, March 17, 2016, 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm - 
What to consider and how to narrow down your choices. Whether you are considering a Bayou Health plan for all your health care services or just for behavioral health and non-emergency medical transportation, this workshop will show you how to narrow down the field of possibilities to make an informed choice.

Progress Monitoring: What Does it Mean and What do Parents Need to Know? Tuesday, March 22, 2016, 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm - Progress monitoring is the process of evaluating student performance using assessments on a repeated basis to determine how well a student is responding to instruction. Information gained from progress monitoring is essential to developing quality IEP goals, and planning and delivering effective intervention. Specific examples of progress monitoring will be shared. 

Transition Between Early Intervention and School Age Programs: Wednesday, March 23, 2016, 10:00 am - 11:00 am - At age three, everything changes. If the child will need continued support once he or she moves on to preschool, it's very important to plan ahead so that the transition is smooth.  This presentation will help you with the transition process and learn about the key components of special education services under IDEA. 

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.

LASARD Project Online Workshop Series: The LASARD Project will be hosting a series of two online workgroups addressing social interaction for students with ASD.  Each workgroup will be held live online via Adobe Connect from 2:30 to 3:30 on the designated date. 
Part 1: Social Smarts: The complexities of social interaction for students with ASD
March 1, 2016
In the first of a two part series, we will explore the complexities of social interaction challenges for students with ASD across ages.  This basic level workgroup will answer the following questions to guide development of a social instruction plan: How do I assess social skills?  Does the absence of the social skill manifest due to a skill acquisition deficit or a performance deficit? How do I write a "social goal" to adequately address the students' current performance level AND use typical peers within the instruction? 
Part 2: Social Smarts: Can you help me? - March 8, 2016
In the second part of a two part series, we will dive deeper into the complexities of social interaction for students with ASD.  In this workgroup, the participants will be challenged to make a plan and plan the path.  Evidence-based strategies for supporting social interaction will be discussed.  Using case studies, the learner will be guided to define the current level of performance, write a goal, and devise a plan of support to address the social interaction challenges for a student with ASD.

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.

ABLE Accounts May be Coming Sooner Than Expected - A tweak to federal law is poised to greatly expand choice and speed up availability of accounts allowing people with disabilities to save money without risking their government benefits.

The Importance of Inclusion in the Workplace 
Most corporate leaders focus on inclusion only in terms of making sure their workplace is one that's comfortable for employees of all backgrounds, but what they don't realize is the benefits can go beyond simply having happy employees.

Supporting Undocumented Students: Resource Guide -  The U.S. Department of Education published Supporting Undocumented Students: A Guide to Success in Secondary and Postsecondary Settings to help educators, school staff, and community organizations support the academic success of undocumented youth, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. The guide clarifies the legal rights of undocumented students, shares helpful information about financial aid options open to undocumented students, and describes how to support youth in applying for DACA consideration or renewal.

was created specifically for families of children ages 4 and under to make the best possible use of the 100 days following their child's diagnosis of autism.

Dyslexia and Accommodations - New ADA Guidelines 2016 for School and Work - The US Department of Justice just released final regulations regarding the implementation of the American for Disabilities Act. "These rules clarify and refine issues that have arisen over the past 20 years and contain new and updated requirements."

Culturally Responsive Differentiated Instructional Strategies - Differentiated instruction is an approach to teaching and learning for students with different abilities in the same classroom

Occupational Therapy Tips for Homework Success - Back-to-school time is a good opportunity to review work and study habits that promote academic success. Occupational therapy practitioners are a valuable resource in schools to support students, teachers, and parents as classroom routines and demands are established.

A Guide to Disability Rights Laws - A 21-page booklet that provides a brief overview of ten Federal laws that protect the rights of people with disabilities and provides information about the federal agencies to contact for more information. 

Speech or Language Impairments: Second Most Prevalent Disability Category - According to the recently released 37th Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 2015, "speech or language impairments" was the second most prevalent disability category in 2013 for students ages 6-21 served under IDEA, Part B. 

Self-Advocacy: A Valuable Skill for Your Teenager With LDIf your teen has a learning disability, self-awareness and self-advocacy are keys to her future success.

Keys of Success for Teenagers with LDThis is an article written to encourage parents let go a little bit to let their teens learn and practice how to advocate for themselves. The more self-knowledge your child has, the better they can be at self-advocating. 

Families as Primary Partners in their Child's Development and School Readiness - This tool kit aims to help communities partner with parents to enhance child development and school readiness. Its two-part approach involves: 1) developing parents as their child's first teacher; and 2) engaging parents as decision makers and leaders. Both sections are jam packed with resources, references and tips and drive home a simple refrain: We must act today to help prepare our youngest students for success in the classroom tomorrow.

National Rehabilitation Information Center: Information for Independence
The information specialists at NARIC use these resources every day to help our patrons find agencies, organizations, and online resources for treatment, benefits, and services. These pages are organized by subject. Please note: Inclusion in the NARIC Ready Reference does not constitute endorsement of any product or service listed on the websites we link to. This resource is provided as a courtesy to our patrons.

What is #ThinkABILITY Month?  #ThinkABILITY month is a social media campaign to highlight great stories of people with disabilities doing something extraordinary. 

Extraordinary is defined as something that most people would perceive not possible for the individual with a disability.  It's a time to demonstrate to the world that people with disabilities can in fact do lots of things successfully.  Some of these things may not seem extraordinary to a person without a disability - but in fact is often consider nearly impossible for a person with a disability.  

Help make our 2nd Annual #ThinkABILITY month a huge success by sending us stories. Send all stories to Mary Jacob at [email protected]

great events 
you won't want 
to miss. 

Families Helping Families of Jefferson, Families Helping Families of Greater Baton Rouge, Families Helping Families of Southeast Louisiana and Northshore Families Helping Families are once again joining forces to win the grand prize of $25,000 to help us provide support to individuals with disabilities and their families.

You can help us win by voting for us daily, with each of your emails.  Ask your friends and family to vote too.  Help us bring home $25,000 on our 25th Anniversary Year!  

Vote for Families Helping Families daily from February 25 to March 25, 2016!

March 15, 2016

11:30 am to 1:00 pm


Elmwood Storage Facility

1004 S. Clearview Parkway, Elmwood, LA  70123


Join the staff of FHF for this great event!


For only $15 (Advanced Registration) or $20 at the door,  you can come to this great event and enjoy the wonderful taste of Elmwood's restaurants and caterers.  Proceeds will benefit Families Helping Families. 


Sponsorship opportunities are still available.  

Magnolia Physical Therapy is offering a 2 hour chair massage for your office valued at $300 to the first company to sign up and commit to the Heroic Level ($2,000).


Click here to download a Sponsorship Form.

Click here to download a Restaurant Vendor Form.

Click here to download an Event Flyer. 


Tickets for the event may be purchased at www.elmwoodba.org or call 504.733.8900


This is a collaboration between:







  Bella Ridge Apartments      


If you need transportation to attend Disability Rights Day in Baton Rouge, please call Liz at FHF at 504-888-9111 before the end of February.  


Extensive Lending Library

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.

Read how FHF provided Diana Lanzas with resources and information to help her get the support and services needed for her family members. 

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 February 26, 2016 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 -  6/20/2006

Supports Waiver - 12/31/2014

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

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

Saturday, March 13, 2016, The Esplanade's Caring Bunny Event, 8:30 am - 11:00 am, Esplanade Mall, 1401 W. Esplanade Ave., Kenner, LA 70065: This event gives children with autism and other special needs the ability to visit with the Easter Bunny at their own pace.

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

Brain Injury Association of Louisiana and United Spinal Association of Louisiana presents: 9th Annual Conference Technology in Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation, March 4th and 5th, 2016, Doubletree Hotel New Orleans Airport, 2150 Veterans Blvd., Kenner, LA 70062.  Click here for more information! Registration form!

Magnolia Community Services - Swing by Seafood Fry - Friday, March 4 and March 18, 3:00 pm - 7:00 pm: Fish and Shrimp Plates and Po-boys.  

Following Sundance Win, Autism documentary to Hit Theaters - Life Animated: Imagine being trapped inside a Disney movie and having to learn about life mostly from animated characters dancing across a screen of color. A fantasy? A nightmare?

Autism Navigator is a unique collection of web-based tools and courses that integrate the most current research in autism with an interactive web platform and lots of video footage showing effective evidence-based practices. It's intended for professionals as well as families. Families can start with the short video About Autism in Toddlers (you have to register first, but it's free) to learn more about diagnostic features of autism, the importance of early detection and intervention, and current information on causes. Close-captioning is available in English and in Spanish.

The Louisiana Rehabilitation Council was established in compliance with federal regulations governing the Rehabilitation Act (P.L. 102-569). The LRC works with Louisiana Rehabilitation Services (LRS) to ensure the involvement of individuals with disabilities in the development and delivery of vocational rehabilitation services to Louisianans with disabilities. The Louisiana Rehabilitation Council Meetings are held quarterly in different areas of the State. Please take note all meetings are open public forum. The 2016 meetings scheduled are: 
January 28-29, 2016 - Baton Rouge
April 28-29, 2016 - Baton Rouge
July 28-29, 2016 - Baton Rouge
October 27-28, 2016 - Baton Rouge 
If you would like to be considered for membership on the Council or would like more information about the LRC, you can contact Paige Kelly (225) 219-2947 or toll free at 1-800-737-2958. E-mail:[email protected]. 

The office of Families Helping Families will be closed on March 25, 2016 in observance of Good Friday. 

We wish you a blessed Good Friday and Easter Sunday! 

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.

Our New Team Members

Raquel Casteneda, Youth Information & Training Specialist is a person who has a passion for individuals with disabilities.  This passion grew in her when she became aware that her younger brother had Down Syndrome.  As a sibling, she knew first hand how tough but rewarding it is to care for someone with a disability.

Raquel comes from El Salvador and currently is a Senior at the University of New Orleans majoring in International Studies with a concentration in Peace and Justice.  She is a member of the Hispanic Christian Church, Verbo, in which she is a youth leader.  She serves predominately Hispanic and immigrant youths in her community to promote volunteerism and a life of good morals.  She is fluent in Spanish and became very aware of disabilities at an early age as she frequently served as an interpreter for her non- English speaking parents.  She knows the struggles faced by those who are commonly ignored or discriminated against because of their differences.  Through her new position at FHF, Raquel hopes to reach out to as many youth with disabilities as she can, to promote self-advocacy and see them prosper and live productive lives.  Raquel can be emailed at [email protected] 

Janice Watsky, Fund Development and Communication Director
comes to us with decades of experience in various position at other health related non-profit organizations.  A lifelong resident of the Greater New Orleans area, she attended Isadore Newman High School and graduated from U.N.O. Janice has always worked in a medically-related field, primarily raising funds for education and support services for children and adults with disabilities.  

Janice has already hit the ground running by working on a number of fundraisers and  would welcome your thoughts, energies, and contacts.  If you would like to join our Fund Development Committee or one of our fundraising event committees, you can email Janice at [email protected] 

Louisiana Parent Training and Information Center (LaPTIC) is a program  of Families Helping Families of Jefferson and a grant from the US Department of Education; Office of Special Education (OSEP) as Louisiana's official and only statewide federally funded Parent Training   and Information Center. 
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,    

FHF of Jefferson
201 Evans Road, Bldg. 1, #100
Harahan, LA  70123
800.766.7736 (toll free)

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.