Are you a parent who has a child with autism or other disabilities that receive special education services? Have you experienced parental retaliation by special education professionals in your school district, because you have advocated for your child? This article will educate you on the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil rights (OCR) definition of retaliation, and also what standard they use to determine if parental retaliation has occurred. In addition this article will discuss whether retaliation can be decreased, so that you can truly be a meaningful participant in your child’s education!Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act which is enforced by the Office of Civil Rights states that: “504 prohibits recipients or other persons from intimidating, threatening, coercing or discriminating against any individual for the purpose of interfering with any right or privilege secured by Section 504, or because the individual has made a complaint, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding or hearing under Section 504.34 C.F.R. 100.7(e).” One of the protected activities under Section 504 is advocacy, and retaliation is prohibited if you advocate for your child.The Office of Civil Rights has released information that OCR complaints have increased at a very large rate (which I believe is due to the amount of parental retaliation that special education professionals engage in). The types of retaliation I have seen are calls to Child Protective Services (CPS), banning parents from school grounds, and possibly punishment to a child. Parents need to stand up to this retaliation and gather evidence of the retaliation, so that they can file an OCR complaint.OCR uses a five point test to determine if a parent has experienced retaliation:1. “Has the parent engaged in a protected activity?”2. “Is the district aware of the protected activity?”3. “Was the parent or student subjected to an adverse action?”4. “Will a neutral third party decide there is a causal relationship or connection between the protected activity and the adverse action?”5. “Can the school district offer a legitimate non-discriminatory (non-retaliatory) reason for the adverse action, which a neutral third party will not consider to be pre-textual?”A few comments about the five point test:1. Under #1 advocacy is considered a protective activity as well as filing a state complaint or a due process complaint.2. Under #2 most special education professionals know of parent’s advocacy especially if the parent has filed a complaint or due process.3. Under #3 the adverse action means a negative action such as suspending a child or calling CPS and making a child abuse complaint.4. Under #4 the retaliation must be closely-timed to the protected activity of advocacy, or OCR could rule against you on your complaint.5. Under #5 this in some cases is what causes a parent to lose the complaint–If the school can come up with a plausible non-discriminatory reason for the action, and then the finding may be against the parent.OCR recently released a Dear Colleague letter (April 2013) about retaliation that can be downloaded at, http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201304.html. This is a great resource that can ensure successful advocacy.The only thing that will decrease retaliation is enforcement, which is usually left to the parent. I do believe that you should file an OCR complaint for ever retaliation action done by special education professionals (that you can prove of course). Work hard to secure written evidence to prove your case, as well as include the five point test in your retaliation claim, (with all of your evidence listed, and attached of course). Parental retaliation often occurs in the dark, and if light is brought to it, the situation very well could improve! Never stop fighting for your child-he or she is worth it!
Autism educational placement is done after the child has been found with an autism eligibility. In most school districts a multidisciplinary team of school staff members will review the results of the child’s testing and evaluation with the parents. The team will often explain to the parents what special education options are available to children in the school district. The staff will then help the parents to see what type of program might be best suited for the child based upon the results of the testing, assessments and observations. Each special education program will vary in regards to class size, the number of staff working with the child, the amount of time provided for support and direct assessment with the child. Some children have significant medical needs as well and may require a home based program so that medical care can be facilitated with the educational needs of the child. Some children with autism may need home support for a while and then are able to make a transition to a school setting. The educational team will work with the parent to make sure supports are in place if the school needs to provide medical care, special accommodations, dieting restrictions, allergy alerts or anything else that will help the child succeed in the school setting.The area of autism educational placement draws many questions from parents in the educational assessment process. I think placement really revolves around both the skills and abilities of the child as well as the deficits or delays of the child. Some children have multiple or severe delays and need more intensive intervention in a full day specialized autism program. Other children with autism may be placed in a half day program with children who have developmental delays. Yet other children are placed in a type of half and half program where the child may spend half the day in a specialized autism program and the other half in regular education program with special education support. This is often done to see if the child would be able to make a transition to a least restrictive type of setting. There are also students with autism who can handle a full day regular education program who only need monitoring or consultation from a special education teacher. I think since each child is unique and has individual issues autism placement can be approached from a number of creative angles in diverse school districts and educational programs.
The cognitive benefits of bilingual education are many. It gives bilingual children a great number of benefits. Many of these same benefits are not noted in their monolingual counterparts, therefore further reinforcing the decision to educate children in two languages. The benefits of bilingual education are apparent in several areas.
The first of these areas I would like to discuss is the ability for the bilingual child to outperform his monolingual peers in certain mental abilities such as distilling information; filtering out unimportant information and focusing on the important information. This leads to a bilingual child being better able to prioritize and manage multiple tasks according to research done at Penn State in February of 2011 and reported in Science Daily magazine. Prioritization, and being able to work on multiple projects at the same time, is a lifelong skill necessary for success in many different areas of life. This is one of the best benefits of bilingual education.As one can imagine, this could be very helpful in today’s world. We have so much information and so many distractions, that it may be helpful to have an advanced mechanism to be able to filter all of this information. This also aids the bilingual child when learning, as they are able to focus on the important or pertinent information and ignore the less important information. The conclusion of the above referenced study done at Penn State is very simple: being bilingual is good for you. By extension, the benefits of bilingual education are worth pursuing.Another interesting study was done by the Swedish Armed Forces Interpreter Academy as reported in Science Daily magazine. They weren’t specifically looking at the benefits of bilingual education, but we can make certain inferences from their study. At the academy, young recruits learn languages at a very fast pace. They are chosen for their aptitude and taught languages, such as Arabic, Russian, or Chinese, over a span of about 13 months; from no knowledge to advanced fluency. The pace is intense, and as such was a perfect incubator to examine the brain, and what happens to it under extreme language learning. This would hopefully serve as a snapshot of what the bilingual brain undergoes in their everyday lives.The study found that language learning actually makes the brain grow. The language learner’s brains developed in size in key areas: the hippocampus, which is responsible for learning new material and spatial navigation, as well as three other areas in the cerebral cortex.This growth lends itself to the bilingual, again, becoming a superior language learner later in life. With improved concentration, a larger and stronger hippocampus, and an increased ability to distill information, the bilingual has the opportunity to maximize further learning opportunities; even ones unrelated to language.Another of the benefits of bilingual education is that it exposes babies and young children to flexible thinking through the medium of two languages. Bilingual children learn that things and events in the world can be called two different things. They can then flexibly switch between the “labels” which gives the brain a great workout. This constant exercising of the brain is what helps the bilingual make gains in things like concentration and focus, according to a University of Washington study done in August of 2009.Covered above are a few of the benefits of being bilingual as it relates to children and their ability to concentrate and learn. Hopefully this article has done some good in helping debunk some of the myths that bilingual children are somehow lesser than monolingual children in terms of scholastic performance. While the bilingual child’s environment is a huge factor, and must be properly calibrated, the fact that a child is bilingual is certainly not a precursor to a child having a hard time in educational environments; it’s actually the opposite.Bilingual education, in a formal setting, helps support bilingual education at home. Both parts of the equation are necessary for the child to truly realize their bilingual potential. The benefits of bilingual education are greatest when exposure is realized across all channels; social and academic.Jeffrey Nelson