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.

Exceptional Times 
April 2017

Huge Victory for Students in 
Special Education!
From:  Mary Jacob, Executive Director
Free. Appropriate. Public. Education.  These 4 words are the cornerstone to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.  For years we've heard our children are not entitled to the BEST education, but appropriate education.  What exactly is appropriate?  Who determines appropriateness?  Can someone draw me a picture of this?  At times it seemed like every time I asked about something or requested something different, I was reminded that my child is not entitled to the Cadillac version of education - just a Chevy. Personally, a Chevy would have been fine - but often the reality was my child was getting a "rent a wreck" version.
Word of the day is de minimis - a Latin expression meaning "about minimal things". According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, de minimis means lacking significance or importance; so minor as to merit disregard.  This apparently is the "rent a wreck" version of education that the U.S. Supreme Court has finally acknowledged isn't enough. 
In an 8-0 victory in the decision of Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District the U.S. Supreme Court has issued a ruling in favor of a 5th grade student with Autism and ADHD that de minimis is not enough.  Students with disabilities must have a chance to make meaningful "appropriately ambitious" progress.  What exactly does this mean?  It still doesn't mean that children are entitled to the Cadillac version - but at least they should get the Chevy.  Considering we had no where to go but up, some have reported that it won't make a huge impact.  I would rather think that parents that are savvy advocates can get more blood from this proverbial turnip.   
So what is the case about?  It's about the parents of a 5th grade student with Autism and ADHD getting frustrated because their son's academic and functional progress appeared to have stalled.  His IEP wasn't addressing this and they felt the annual goals were very minimal.  Ultimately, his parents removed him from his public school and enrolled him in a private school that specializes in educating children with autism where he made significant progress.  The public school then offered him a new IEP - but still not addressing adequate annual progress.  His parents decided to sue for reimbursement of tuition. Their claim was denied by the Federal Court and the 10th Circuit Court of Appeal.  The lower court rulings were based on the fact that the student was making some progress.  In other words, as long as he made any progress, regardless of how minor it was, because of his Autism - that was good enough.
The Supreme Court decision stated "A child's IEP need not aim for grade-level advancement if that is not a reasonable prospect. But that child's educational program must be appropriately ambitious in light of his circumstances, just as advancement from grade to grade is appropriately ambitious for most children in the regular classroom. The goals may differ, but every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives." 
What I love about this case is the parent's didn't accept any of the lower court decisions and had the fortitude to see this thing all the way to the Supreme Court - which often takes years and lots of money. What I hate about this case is the fact that the parents were forced to put their child in a private school that specializes in Autism for their son to make adequate progress, which without a doubt was the proof the court used to determine their son did have the ability to make more progress than the public school anticipated he could make - which probably cost them a lot of money - just basing it on what the Autism schools in Louisiana cost. The reality is most parents can't afford to do this.  Louisiana is not rich in educational civil rights attorneys providing pro bono work or a robust list of "for hire" attorneys that specialize in this field.  This means parents will need to be stronger advocates for their children by expecting and demanding their child have access to a higher quality of education with a higher level of successful outcomes.  Period.  No exception.  This is a huge learning curve for everyone.
The good news is the decision was unanimous - which means both sides of the aisle believe children with disabilities CAN learn AND should have expectations to make more than de minimis progress.  This alone is a huge victory for all children with disabilities. Thank you Endrew F's parents and the U.S. Supreme Court for recognizing every child does have value and can be educated! 

To read the entire U.S. Supreme Court Ruling, please click here

Upcoming Trainings 

FHF April In-Person Workshops -

High School is Happening is NOT just about high school! Setting the Stage for Success for Students with disABILITIES - Friday, April 7, 2017, 9:00 am - 4:00 pm, East Bank Regional Library, 4747 W. Napoleon Ave., Metairie, LA 70001: This mini-Conference will take you through the stages of planning during each level of education including the elementary, middle and high school years. The focus is on key elements of planning, strategies and evidenced-based practices that will spotlight their journey to success.  If you want your child to be successful in high school - you must start planning way before high school.   Free lunch and CEU's for certain disciplines.  Click here for more information!
To register, please call: 504.888.9111 or toll free 1.800.766.7736

A Smooth Move to Adulthood Transition Health Care: Information for Youth with Special Health Care Needs & Disabilities - Thursday, April 27, 2017, 11:00 am - 1:00 pm, West Bank Regional Library, 2751 Manhattan Blvd., Harvey, LA 70058: The transition from pediatric care to adult health services is a critical time for YSHCN and can be challenging for families and youth alike. The Smooth Move to Adulthood Workshop explores tools and strategies that can help families get ready for this important transition. Click here for more information!
To register, please call: 504.888.9111 or toll free 1.800.766.7736

- FHF April Webinars

Leveling the Playing Field with Accommodations  -   Thursday, April 6, 2017, 10:30 am - 11:30 am: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (Title II), prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability.  Although both school districts and postsecondary schools must comply with these same laws, the responsibilities of postsecondary schools are significantly different from those of school districts. This webinar will provide participants with an overview of the differences of supports as well as, the responsibilities of both entities.
Audience: Parents, Caregivers, and Professionals of School-Aged Children/Students

Healthy Louisiana Plans: What does my plan cover?  - Wednesday, April 12, 2017, 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm: Join presenter, Karen Scallan and learn more about services that are available through Medicaid Healthy Louisiana plans including dental benefits, vision and more!
Audience: Parents, Caregivers, and Professionals of School-Aged Children/Students

Special Education Services for Preschoolers with Disabilities  -  Wednesday, April 18, 2017, 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm: If your child is receiving early intervention services and it is suspected your child will continue to need services beyond age 3, he or she will be evaluated  by the local school system.  Learning and having a better understanding of the transition process has proven beneficial for myself and parents alike. Join me as I discuss The Early Childhood Transition Process to help prepare you for a smooth  and effective transition. 
Audience: Parents, Caregivers, and Professionals of School-Aged Children/Students

Extended School (ESY) Year Services - Summer IEP Services  -  Thursday, April 20, 2017, 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm: This training provides an overview of the ESYP process for children with disabilities. Some questions (and answers) that will be discussed include: what is ESY, how does a child qualify, and what are the options?
Audience: Parents, Caregivers, and Professionals of School-Aged Children/Students
Easy Behavior Tracker  - Friday, April 21, 2017, 11:00 am - 12:00 pm: Data is the cornerstone for creating Effective Behavior Intervention Plans. However, finding the time to collect data and manage it can be quite daunting for teachers and parents. Luckily there are several free and free to try iOS apps and websites that can record, analyze, and graph student data. Some programs even facilitate class-wide management plans with daily parental updates.
Audience: Parents, Caregivers, and Professionals of School-Aged Children/Students

Accessing Medicaid Services for Children with Disabilities and Special Health Care Needs  -  Tuesday, April 25, 2017, 10:30 am - 11:30 am: Was your child recently diagnosed with a disability or special health care need?  Confused about the various Medicaid programs available for children and whether or not your child would qualify?  Join presenter Karen Scallan and learn more about accessing Medicaid services for children with disabilities and special health care needs.
Audience: Parents, Caregivers, and Professionals of School-Aged Children/Students

Special Education 101  -  Wednesday, April 26, 2017, 10:00 am - 11:00 am: This presentation provides a brief overview of the special education process with an emphasis on the parent's role in the process, dispute resolution options for parents, and the importance of building good relationships.
Audience: Parents, Caregivers, and Professionals of School-Aged Children/Students

How to Know If Your Child's Making Progress Toward IEP Goals - Tuesday, April 27, 2017, 11:00 am - 12:00 pm: This workshop will introduce participants to the importance of reviewing data provided by the school to determine whether or not a child is making progress.  Participants will learn how to use the IEP and other tools to determine what data should be collected and how to utilize it to ensure that a child is making continuous progress.
Audience: Parents, Caregivers, and Professionals of School-Aged Children/Students

View our full calendar of events here. 

FHF e-Learning Mini Modules

e-Learning Mini Modules are formatted for all devices so even if you are at a ball game, dance practice or waiting for your dinner to arrive in a restaurant, you can log onto our website and watch one of our e-Learning Mini Modules in approximately 10 minutes.  That's right - you only need about 10 minutes!  The following e-Learning Mini Modules are currently available:
  • What do you do when the school calls to pick up your child?  
  • What transportation services are available to my child with a disability?
  • How can I prepare for my child's Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting?
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Basics
  • What is Least Restricted Environment (LRE)?
We hope these are useful to you and happy to be able to add additional ways for families to learn relevant information they need in order to get their child the most appropriate education they deserve.   Click here to go to our website and learn more about the e-Learning  Modules!

Trainings & Webinars provided by others

Louisiana Autism Quality Indicators Autism Training Modules:  Self Guided Trainings:  LSUHSC Human Development Center has created a variety of on-line trainings.  The topics are:  
  • Preparing for Transition:  Evidence-Based Practices to Support Young Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder after High School
  • Addressing Behavior
  • Roadmap to Success:  The Case for Inclusive Education
  • Social Smarts:  Addressing the Complexities of Social Interaction for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Related Disabilities
  • Augmentative and Alternative Communication
  • Fundamentals of Communication
  • Collaboration Rules and Tools
  • Curriculum and Instruction
  • Environment Supports for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Related Disorder
Sensory Deficits along with Hearing, Vision Loss - What you should know! Tuesday, April 4, 2017, 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm, Lafayette Main Public Library, 2nd Floor meeting room, 301 W. Congress Street, Lafayette, LA:  Vision impairments may affect your child's general development in the following areas: Motor skills, Sensory Development, Communiction and Social Skills, Self Help Skills and so much more! RSVP @ 337.984.3458 or 855.984.3458

My Families Experience with Self Direction.  Monday, April 10, 2017, 10 am to 12 pm, Jefferson Parish Library, 4747 West Napoleon Avenue, Metairie, LA.  Do you have questions about how to self direct your waiver services?  Come hear one mom, Carmen O'Mara share how and why her family does self direction.   This training is sponsored by the Louisiana Developmental Disabilities Council.  

Autism Spectrum Disorder Parent Workshop - Saturday, April 22, 2017, 8:30 am - 11:30 am - First Grace United Methodist Church, 3401 Canal St., New Orleans, LA 70119: This workshop will focus on Trust building to create a strong, supportive group; Identifying and releasing negative emotion; Sharing challenges parents face at home and in the community in order to identify commonalities; and Assess skills and coping strategies to honestly locate areas of improvement.

Expanding MTSS/RTI and Ensuring Results:  April 27 & 28, 2017: Conference being provided by LSUHSC Human Development Center will convene in New Orleans to work with school leaders and practitioners to provide state of the art information on best practices. 
This is YOUR section of the Newsletter!  

This section will feature trainings and resources specific to youth between the ages of 16 - 26 years old.  

- FHF April Youth Webinars - 

How to Ask for What I Need - Wednesday, April 19, 2017, 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm: 
Whether you are in school, work, a doctor's office, a restaurant, or store; you have the right to have your needs met. Having your needs met is called having accommodations. You may have heard your parents talk about it. Now it is time for you to learn how to get your needs met.
This webinar will give you basic information about your rights to accommodations and how to ask for them. We will also provide everyone a list of common accommodations you can use when your needs are not being met. 

- Youth Featured Resources - 

A great fact sheet giving details on how to stay safe on the web and social media platforms. 
Source:  ConnectSafely.org 

Top 10 tips for teens on how to prevent cyberbullying.
Source: Cyberbullying Research Center

Top 10 tips for teens on how to respond to cyberbullying.
Source:  Cyberbullying Research Center


Save - the - Date

New Options in Participating 
New IT company
$10,000 Agency Goal
Champions Needed NOW to Reach Goal!


Just off the Press - Hot Items

Louisiana's Draft ESSA Plan to include students with disabilities counting equally in the school accountability system
For a few years LaCAN has been advocating for all students with disabilities, to count equally in the school accountability system.  Two years ago, after passage of Act 833 of 2015, some positive movement was made in the accountability system with the recognition (i.e., counting) students who earned a high school diploma through an alternative pathway.  There was, however, a catch.  Only the Strength of Diploma Index counted all students diplomas, even those assessed on alternate standards (LAA-1).  Schools do not earn any points in the Graduation Cohort Index for students assessed on LAA-1.  So students assessed on LAA-1 are not considered in 25% of current high school scores.  And that matters when it comes to administrators valuing ALL students and the outcomes achieved by each student.
The LDOE ESSA presentation pertaining to Special Education clarified that Louisiana's draft ESSA plan counts the diplomas of students assessed through the alternate standards (LAA-1) in both graduation indices for the year the student exits!
We still need to advocate for the addition of School Climate Indicators in the ESSA plan.  School Climate Indicators are non-academic areas that need to be counted for overall student success.  These include discipline, suspension/expulsion rates, absentism/truancy and social and emotional learning standards.  

Additionally, BESE has decided to submit the draft plan this month instead of taking advantage of the delayed deadline date in September.  

Links You Want To Check Out

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.

Checklist: Questions to Ask When Evaluating Summer Camps: Some summer camps have more experience than others when it comes to kids with learning and attention issues. That's why it's important to find out in advance whether a camp is willing to accommodate your child and, if so, how it plans to meet his needs. Here are some questions to ask before signing up. There's a Spanish version, too.

Discover Camp is a resource for parents of children with disabilities selecting a camp for their child for the first time.

Far from the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity - Author Andrew Solomon tells the stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children but also find profound meaning in doing so. Stories include families living with autism, dwarfism, Down syndrome, dwarfism, schizophrenia, deafness, and transgenderism. All the stories are made into YouTube videos which are also translated in a multitude of different languages including; Spanish, Chinese, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, German, and more.

Songs and Ideas for Honoring Social Struggle with Young Children - A small selection of songs from We Stood Up: Reflections on the Civil Rights Movement. The songs selected highlight the importance of love, the value of education, and lyrics to inspire children to believe they can achieve great things in their own lives. 

Helping Your Child Write a Book ReportBook reports are a great way to encourage your kids to try new books. They might be assigned to write reports on fiction, nonfiction and biographies. You can help them through the book report process with these tips.

Autism Speaks is dedicated to promoting solutions, across the spectrum and throughout the lifespan, for the needs of individuals with autism and their families through advocacy and support; increasing understanding and acceptance of autism spectrum disorder; and advancing research into causes and better interventions for autism spectrum disorder and related conditions.
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 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.

Like many parents and guardians, Mingo was confused about the system and how to get started. What made it even more difficult for him was the language barrier.

This section will give you information on events FHF of Jefferson will be attending, waiver waiting list info, other community events you  might be interested in attending and anything else that doesn't fit in one of the above sections.

CARD and Chuck E Cheese (CEC) have partnered together to bring families in the community a sensory friendly event. Sensory Sensitive Sunday's at CEC! will begin on April 2, 2017. Click here for more information!

LSU-HSC Human Development Center will be conducting needs assessment focus groups across Louisiana.  These focus groups will assist with their next five year grant proposal.  The focus groups will center around a variety of special education topics. Currently they are looking for parents and professionals that are interested in participating in a focus group around behavioral support for students with developmental disabilities, chronic absenteeism and drop out rates.  If you are interested, please send an email with your name, address and phone number to [email protected]  Currently they are looking for people in the Shreveport and New Orleans area.  

Louisiana Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) is recruiting graduate students, family members, self-advocates, and practicing professionals to become future leaders in designing and implementing services, policies, and research addressing the needs and priorities of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and other neurodevelopmental disabilities (NDD) and their families.  The LEND program is part of the LSU Human Development Center.  Click here for a link to the registration.   The Lend program is also looking for family mentors.  The family mentor experience is a program in which families like yours help train professionals who work with children and youth with disabilities and their families.  To read more about this opportunity, please click here for the family mentor information.  

Active for Autism 8th Annual Run Walk and Fun Fest -  Saturday, April 22, 2017, Louisiana State Police Headquarters, 7919 Independence, Baton Rouge, LA:  Join Families Helping  Families of Baton Rouge - Resource Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders at their 8th Annual Run Walk and Fun Fest.  This fun event will be held between 8 am and 12 noon.  There will be food for sale and great auction items to bid on.  

Run! Walk! Sign! 5K - Saturday, April 22, 2017, Highland Road Park in Baton Rouge is a fun experience for the whole family to share in the joy that the Deaf community brings. Celebrating the power of giving while also learning about a culture so often unrepresented is the goal of Run! Walk! Sign! The team here at Deaf Focus would love for everyone to get involved, get moving and enjoy the power of Sign Language!  Click here for more information!

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.

Waiver Registry Dates - As of March 31, 2017, 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

LaCAN (Louisiana Council's Advocacy Network).  LaCAN will now keep you informed about opportunities to advocate for systems change in home and community-based services, employment, and education.   Click here to join!

Down Syndrome Association of Acadiana is proud to have spearheaded and succeeded in a Down syndrome awareness license plate for Louisiana.  Now is the time to make the change and show your advocacy on a daily basis by showing off our new license plate.  To order your awareness plate click here.  For additional information, call 337.234.3109.
FHF 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.

Families Helping Families of Jefferson is proud to celebrate our 25th year providing support to families throughout the State of Louisiana! 
 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. 
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

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