Tara Testimonial

Simply put, my entire world changed for the better after I hired Valerie. She applied her wealth of knowledge, persistence, compassion, and connections to obtain for my child what I honestly consider to be the special education service ‘lotto.’ I was lost and confused trying to navigate the process on my own. I had nothing. My life was a mess. My child was teetering on the margin of being able to participate in education. With Valerie’s advocacy, my child now has the best education possible along with every support and service available to assist her with reaching her potential. Working with Valerie is the best decision I have ever made.

Until I hired Valerie, the school site completely ignored me even though I had given them a formal written request for an assessment. Despite numerous telephone calls to the principal and school psychologist asking for answers and accountability, I continued to be ignored for months after my request. Within days of hiring Valerie, district staff began to complete the assessments I had requested months prior and an IEP was finally scheduled. With Valerie by my side at the first IEP, accountability was enforced and everyone was on their toes.

Since my child was nowhere near ready to participate in a classroom environment, Valerie negotiated for the district to fund a one-on-one in-home applied behavioral analysis therapy program in order to transition my child into the school setting. That daily in-home program continues to this day, not only because my child continues to demonstrate the need for it but primarily because Valerie advocates on my child’s behalf and holds the district accountable to meet my child’s needs.  This program has transformed my child to a place that we can now say her “special needs” are a mere fraction of what they used to be.

Among other services, my child was provided with a one-on-one district aide to support her at school to help with navigating difficult situations. Throughout the year, the district aide proved to be everything but competent. Even with the district aide present, my child’s behaviors disrupted the classroom and caused her to be a danger to herself and others while at recess. With Valerie’s advocacy, my child now has a non-public agency one-on-one aide with her throughout the day at school. The aide knows my child well because she is provided by the same agency which delivers her in-home program.  Having a sufficiently qualified aide means far fewer (almost none) classroom disruptions and less worry for me that my child might be putting herself or others in harm’s way.  My child is now getting the education she needs in a safe manner.  I feel victorious!

The process of obtaining services does not happen overnight. It is an ongoing process that requires cooperation, negotiation, hard work, collaboration, and patience. I knew I was not an expert and I needed help. Looking back, I am so relieved I was not too proud to ask for help. There is no possible way I would be in the fortunate position of being successful in having the district fund the services my child needs without Valerie’s assistance. Being an advocate is not just a ‘job’ for Valerie. Rather, advocacy defines who Valerie is. She is by far the most amazing person I know. I’ve done my best to absorb what Valerie has taught me. From the start, I listened to her, trusted her, and turned over my concerns to her.  She has consistently been reliable, dependable, knowledgeable, and she has never steered me wrong. My advice to anyone considering working with Valerie: don’t delay. There is no time to lose when your child’s best interest and education that leads to an independent future are at stake.

Tara, Inland Empire

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Special Education Law

If you have a child that you suspect may have a disability, you have the right to have them assessed by your school district free of charge. Please don’t be afraid to have your child identified for a suspected disability. Disabilities such as autism and ADHD can be difficult for anyone but a licensed professional to diagnose.

If your child’s disability is affecting their education, they may be eligible to receive services under the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The IDEA requires public schools to locate and identify children with disabilities who may need specialized education. These children must “have available to them a free appropriate public education (FAPE) that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs ” 20 U.S.C. sec.140(d). Children with disabilities must “to the maximum extent appropriate [be] educated with children who are not disabled ” 20 U.S.C.1412(a)(5).

However, a child may not benefit from a regular classroom if they have a disability that cannot have their individualized instruction delivered to them in that setting unless all special education supports and services are implemented. There are very specific requirements about eligibility of services, Individualized Educational Program (IEP) components and procedural requirements related to complaints and disputes that must be strictly followed.

Many parents find themselves in a situation where their child is either struggling academically or having discipline problems in school. Often times, there may be an unidentified disability causing these problems. If they do have a disability that is negatively affecting their education, they would likely benefit from specialized education services.

Depending on your child’s individual needs, modifications can be made such as preferential seating in the classroom, use of a computer, allowing extra time for tests, homework modification, books on tape, and many more.

Often, children with disabilities are misunderstood, resulting in unfair treatment of students, such as unwarranted expulsions and suspensions that violate their constitutional rights. Advocates for Angels also deals with the expulsions and suspensions that a child with a disability may be facing.

Special education law is complex; you may have many more questions that have not been addressed here. Please contact the offices of Advocates for Angels.  We are devoted to helping parents and guardians with the legal issues surrounding children with special needs.

Call 909-841-2600 to find out how we can answer your questions and begin the process of meeting the needs of your special needs child.

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Compliance Complaints

Compliance Complaints are written to the California State Board of Education when school districts violate IDEA or California Education Code regulations by failing to implement their child’s agreed upon IEP, mediation agreement or hearing decision.  Districts fail to adhere to these regulations and violate parent rights on a regular basis but parents are not aware that violations are occurring regarding their child’s IEP.  Complaints should be filed with the California Department of Education, Special Education Division, 515 L Street, Room 270, Sacramento, CA 95814.  Telephone: (800)926-0648. Fax: (916) 327-3704.

Advocates for Angels and Valerie Aprahamian write compliance complaints as a form of advocacy when school districts are unwilling to work with parents.  Often, parents find themselves experiencing IEP meetings in which IEP team members conduct themselves in an adversarial manner.  IDEA requires school districts to collaborate with parents and adhere to special education law.  A Compliance complaint is an advocacy tool in which parents can hold districts accountable to meeting the needs of children on IEP’s and respecting parent rights.

The California Department of Education must resolve the complaint within 60 days. It will review all relevant information and make an independent determination about the alleged education code violations. An on-site investigation may be conducted if necessary and a written decision will be provided to the complainant addressing each allegation.

Thirty days after the timeline for corrective action, the CDE’s Focused Monitoring Technical Assistance Unit contacts the complainant to confirm that the complaint has been resolved. Additional information regarding the filing of a state complaint may be accessed by calling the Procedural Safeguards Referral Service at (800) 926-0648.

The complaint should contain the name and address of the child, the name of the current school and school district, a description of the problem, (e.g. The District is failing to implement the last agreed upon IEP – The district agreed to provide speech and language services three times a week. The District is only providing services once a week), and proposed resolution (e.g. That the District be ordered to provide speech and language services three times a week and any compensatory speech and language services to make up for missed sessions).

Valerie Aprahamian has written numerous compliance complaints that have found districts to be out of compliance with the California Education Code.  Contact Advocates for Angels if you believe your district has violated your rights or the rights of your child.  When you hold your local school district accountable, you will begin to see significant progress in your child’s education and your IEP team will be willing to meet the needs of your child and take care in implementing your parental rights.

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Behavior Intervention Plan


When a child exhibits behaviors that impede his or her ability to learn and has been found eligible for special education services, his or her Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team will meet to discuss various behavior interventions.

Behavior Goals

As a first step towards behavior intervention, the IEP Team may begin by implementing a behavior goal in the student’s IEP. Behavior goals should be written positively to include how success is to be measured, an expected time for when the goal should be completed and how teachers and staff will help the child to achieve them.

If the behavior goal is not successful in modifying the negative behavior or the behaviors present themselves to be more serious, a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) may be done and a Behavior Support Plan (BSP) may be created.  The first step in creating a BSP is to conduct a Functional Behavior Assessment.

Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA)

A Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA) identifies why certain behaviors are occurring or rather the “function” of a behavior. For example, a child may want attention, so he or she may disrupt the classroom every time he or she wants attention. The FBA will identify that when the child is disrupting the classroom, it is to seek attention. It will also identify what the antecedents are before the behavior occurs and any subsequent behaviors that occur. Then this information is used to establish positive ways of serving the child’s needs so that he or she doesn’t resort to the negative behaviors to achieve the desired result. The goal is to teach the child more appropriate ways to manage their behavior that does not impede their education or the education of other students.  Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA), these behaviors do not have to be a manifestation of the student’s disability in order for a FBA to be done.

Behavior Support Plan (BSP)

After the FBA assessment is completed, a Behavioral Support Plan (BSP) will be developed.  The BSP will list the identified behaviors impeding the child’s learning or the learning of his or her peers. It will list the predictors of the behaviors, why the IEP team thinks these behaviors occur and what strategies need to be introduced to stop them from materializing. The plan also establishes behavior goals for the child to meet consisting of positive behaviors designed to replace the negative ones. A BSP is included with the child’s IEP.

Functional Analysis Assessment (FAA)

If behaviors prove to even be more serious, California offers an even more comprehensive assessment and plan. The Hughes Bill (Assembly Bill 2586) effective as of May 1993, outlines the requirements of a Functional Analysis Assessment (FAA). An FAA occurs when an IEP team determines that the previous behavioral approaches in the child’s IEP have proved to be ineffective and the child’s behavior continues to impede their education or results in suspensions or recommendation for expulsion. The report must be done by an assessor who is specifically trained in behavior analysis and positive behavior support and is based upon observations of the occurrence of the behavior, the antecedents, consequences following the behavior, and the settings in which the behavior occurred. The assessor will also review health and medical records to look for factors that may have influenced the behavior. A history of the behaviors will also be assessed including the previous behavioral interventions that were used. The assessor will then make recommendations to the child’s IEP Team in the FAA report.

When the FAA is completed, the IEP Team will then convene a meeting to review the results and recommendations. If it finds it appropriate, the team will then develop a Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP).

Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP)

A BIP is created based upon the results of the FAA. The IEP Team is expanded to include a behavior intervention case manager who is trained in behavior analysis to oversee the plan. The plan may include altering the antecedents, alternative or adaptive behaviors that can be taught to the student and change of the response and consequences of when the behaviors are displayed. Once a BIP is created, the case manager provides training in order to ensure that the BIP is followed by all educators, service providers and school site personnel who come in contact with the student.

Emergency Interventions

Under the Hughes Bill, emergency interventions may be used only for immediate, unforeseen dangerous behaviors and may not be used in lieu of a BIP. This emergency intervention may include “hands on” strategies or other interventions that are not included in the BIP. Once an emergency intervention is used, the parent must be notified within one school day and a “Behavioral Emergency Report” must be done. If the child does not have a BIP, the IEP team will convene a meeting to review the report and determine if an FAA should be done and if an interim behavioral intervention plan is needed. If the child does have a BIP, the IEP team will convene to determine if the BIP needs to be amended to include the behavior that resulted in an emergency intervention.

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How to Make Referrals for Special Education Assessments


The first step in the IEP process is to have your child assessed for eligibility and services.  To require that the school district does this in a timely manner under IDEA regulations you must send a written request for assessments. Make sure you send the request by certified mail, via fax, or take it to the school district’s special education office and obtain a written receipt. Keep a copy for your records.

Advocacy Note: Every communication to the school district should be in writing and make a copy for your home records.

Legal Time Lines

1. The school district has 15 days from receiving your request to send you an assessment plan. The assessment plan should be in the primary language of the parent, it should be easily understood, explain what types of assessments that will be done on your child and contain a copy of the notice of parental rights and procedural safeguards.

2. Parents have at least 15 days to approve and sign the plan. We suggest that you sign the plan immediately so the evaluation moves quickly. You should sign the plan and write on it that you are requesting copies of the assessment reports be sent to you 1 week prior to the IEP meeting.

3. The school district has 60 days (including weekends) to complete the assessments and hold an IEP meeting. This does not include holidays or vacation in excess of five days.

a. An exception exits if the parent (or holder of educational rights “repeatedly” fails or refuses to make the child available for the assessment.)

4. If your child already has an IEP, you can request an IEP meeting at any time. Your request needs to be in writing. The School district has 30 days from the date it receives your written request to hold an IEP.

5. Assessments should be conducted in all areas of the child’s known and/or suspected disability including:

1) health & development;

2) vision & hearing;

3) motor abilities & general ability & self-help skills;

4) language function & academic performance;

5) orientation & mobility skills;

6) career & vocational abilities;

7) social & emotional development and behavior.

The evaluation must be conducted in the language and form most likely to yield accurate information on what the child knows and can do academically and functionally, unless it is not feasible to provide or administer.

Advocacy note: The term “functionally” is very important. Arguably, this refers to a child’s social-emotional behavior. This is especially important with children who demonstrate behavioral and emotional difficulties. Make sure that the school district conducts a comprehensive evaluation which includes social-emotional behavior.

6. Reassessments

a. Reassessments shall not occur more frequently than once of year unless both the school district and parent agree otherwise.

b. Reassessments are to occur at least every three years, unless the parent and the district agree that a reevaluation is unnecessary.

Advocacy Note: Be careful when a child’s three year evaluation is coming up. The school district may ask you to sign a document waiving the evaluation because “it is clear that the child still qualifies for special education and an evaluation is therefore unnecessary.” REMEMBER, an evaluation is conducted also for the purposes of determining present levels of educational performance. This is very important because the present levels of performance determine the areas of need which drives the goals and objectives and support services.

Contact Valerie Aprahamian to receive assistance in understanding how to obtain accurate and complete evaluations and interpret the findings to develop the most appropriate IEP for your child.  The assessment is the most important component in the foundation of creating goals and objectives which drive your child’s supports and services.  If you are experiencing lack of progress in your child’s education, it most likely can be addressed through the assessment process.

 

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California Special Education Assessments


Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE)

A parent has the right to an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) at district expense if the parent disagrees with an evaluation obtained by the public agency. If a parent requests an IEE at district expense, the district must, without unnecessary delay, either file a due process complaint to request a hearing to show that its evaluation is appropriate or ensure that an IEE is provided at district expense.

If the school district files a due process complaint to request a hearing and the final decision is that the agency’s evaluation is appropriate, the parent still has the right to an IEE, but only at personal, and not district expense. If a parent requests an IEE, the public agency may ask for the parent’s reason for objecting to the public evaluation. However, the public agency may not require the parent to provide an explanation and may not unreasonably delay either providing the IEE at public expense or filing a due process complaint to request a due process hearing to defend the public evaluation.

Essentially, when a parent requests an IEE, a school district has two options: (1) Grant the IEE, choose an assessor with the parent, and pay for it; or (2) Take the parent to due process to defend the district’s own assessment. The district can request an explanation from the parent as to why they disagree with the district’s assessment, but the parent is not required by law to provide such an explanation, and a school district cannot make the provision of an IEE depend on the parent providing an explanation.

The elements that constitute an inappropriate assessment are very child-specific, and can be extremely difficult to know. In the development of your child’s educational program, the assessment is the foundation which goals and supports and services are built upon. Advocates for Angels have extensive experience with reviewing assessments, and are specifically trained in testing measures used by school districts and private assessors. A review of your child’s cumulative school file will show the advocate your child’s apparent needs, and also allow the advocate to review any and all assessments of your child to determine whether or not your child may be entitled to an IEE at district expense.

Your first step in meeting the needs of your child is to secure an accurate and complete assessment.  Don’t delay in making the decision to get the help you need to receive an appropriate educational program for your child.  Contact Valerie Aprahamian to receive effective and efficient advocacy assistance with the goal of improving the life of your child and give them the best chance for an independent future.

 

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Continuum of Placement Options

Each Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) must have a continuum of program options available to meet the needs of a child with a disability. This goes hand in hand with the requirement that a child with a disability must be placed in the least restrictive environment (LRE).

IDEA requires each SELPA to have the following placement options available within your local school district:

  • The general education program
  • The resource specialist program (RSP)
  • Designated instruction and services (DIS)–otherwise known as “related services.” These are developmental, corrective, and supportive services that are required to assist a child to benefit from his or her education. These include behavioral modification intervention,  health services, and school based counseling
  • Special classes, often referred to as special day classes (SDC), are generally smaller classes and are made up only of children with disabilities
  • Nonpublic, nonsectarian school services
  • State special schools
  • Instruction in settings other than classrooms where specially designed instruction may occur
  • Traveling instruction in classrooms, resource rooms, and settings other than classrooms where specially designed instruction may occur
  • Instruction using telecommunication, instruction in the home, in hospitals, and in other institutions–this includes home/hospital placements and even residential treatment centers and are considered the most restrictive education placement possible.

The most important thing to consider is your child as an individual and their unique needs which are a result of their deficits and disability. The legal mandate to have a continuum of program options available is to ensure that a program will be available to meet the needs of your child.

Valerie Aprahamian and Advocates for Angels are experienced advocates who have helped hundreds of children obtain placement in the appropriate educational setting. We are skilled at overcoming obstacles and getting your child the free appropriate public education (FAPE) they are legally entitled to.

Contact Advocates for Angels at (909)841-2600 so we can discuss your circumstances, explain your rights and begin the process for you and your child to receive the education they are entitled to under the California Education Code.

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Expulsion Hearing

If your child has been recommended for expulsion, an expulsion hearing must be held within 30 school days after the date the principal or the superintendent of schools determines that your child has committed any of the acts that violate the California Education Code. You and your child are entitled to request one postponement of the expulsion hearing, but that postponement cannot last more than 30 days. Within 10 days of the conclusion of that hearing, the school board must decide whether to expel your child, unless you request in writing that the decision be postponed.

The above circumstances are in the case of a general education student only. When a child is receiving special education services, an additional step is added into the process described above: That step is called a Manifestation Determination.

Manifestation Determination Meeting

If your child is a special education student and is found to have violated the California Education Code, a school district is required to set up an Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting which is to serve as a Manifestation Determination. A school district is also required to provide a special education student with a manifestation determination when that student has been suspended for ten or more school days within a single school year, as that is considered a change of placement.

A school district must conduct a manifestation determination within 10 school days of a decision to change the placement of a pupil with a disability due to a violation of the code of student conduct. The manifestation determination team must consist of a school district representative, the parents, and relevant members of the IEP team as determined by the parent and the school district.

Once this team has been assembled, the team must review all relevant information in the file of your child, including the IEP, any observations of teachers, and any relevant information from the parents, to determine if the child’s conduct was caused by, or had a direct and substantial relationship to, the child’s disability, or if the child’s conduct was the direct result of the district’s failure to implement the IEP.

If the IEP team decides that either of those two factors applies, then the conduct must be determined to be a manifestation of the child’s disability. If it is determined to be a manifestation, your child cannot be expelled, and the school district is required to conduct a Functional Behavior Assessment of that child in order to provide further behavior interventions in the area related to the underlying incident. If the team determines that the child’s conduct was not a manifestation of his or her disability, the district may apply to the disabled child the same disciplinary procedures, in the same manner and for the same duration, as would be applied to a general education student.

It is very important that you understand the manifestation determination process.  For most children who are students on an IEP, the decision is made that the conduct was a manifestation of the child’s disability.  If you are not aware of your legal rights, the school district may go forward and expel your child.

Valerie Aprahamian and Advocates for Angels have represented many special education students who have been suspended or expelled due to behavior that was caused by their disability, including but not limited to autism, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar disorder and depression.

If you are going to a manifestation determination meeting or your child has been suspended or expelled, contact Advocates for Angles as soon as possible. You and your child have rights you may not be aware of, and you only have a limited amount of time to address this situation.

 

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California Special Education Resources

Designated Instructional Services (DIS) or Related Services are services offered to special education eligible students to help maximize their educational benefit. Services are implemented through your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) and may be provided in a variety of settings such as the classroom, a therapy room or the home. They are provided by teachers and specially trained staff as a collaborative (group) or direct (individual) service. Parents/guardians also may be trained to provide the services in the home.

DIS Services include:

  • Speech and language
  • Counseling & Mental Health
  • Physical Health
  • Behavioral Intervention
  • Audiological (hearing and balance)
  • Physical Therapy
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Vision Therapy
  • Adapted physical education
  • Vocational Education and Career Development
  • Orientation and Home instruction
  • Hospital instruction
  • Social Skills Training
  • Organizational Skills Training
  • Specialized Driver Training
  • Transportation Services
  • Paraprofessional aide
  • Extended School Year (ESY)
  • Home and Hospital

Valerie Aprahamian and Advocates for Angels are extremely knowledgeable about Inland Empire and Orange County services for special needs children, and we counsel parents regarding which services will benefit your child. Our advocates can develop a comprehensive strategy to ensure your child is receiving the services he or she is entitled to, and if not, we will assist you every step of the way to change that.

We provide effective and efficient special education advocacy with the goal of improving the lives of the children we represent.

Contact Advocates for Angels so we can discuss your circumstances, explain your rights and begin to assist you and your child to receive the supports and services they require to be successful in their education and prepare them for independence after they leave high school.

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Justin Testimonial

UntitledJustin was judged and treated poorly at school and denied special education services as early as four years old. I fought the best way I knew how but was never successful with getting the school district to understand Justin’s needs. The school site administrators at the SST meetings would make me feel like it was my fault he had problems and that it wasn’t their responsibility to help with Justin’s inability to be successful with his education. For years my husband and I watched Justin’s self-esteem sink lower and lower which caused him to have a negative attitude and bad behavior. It got worse every year until he finally broke down in 6th grade. Because of his break down, at the end of his 6th grade year we were finally able to get him a 504 plan. Even though he had the diagnosis of ADHD and Tourettes Syndrome, the district still denied him eligibility for an IEP. We found new doctors and finally got some answers; Justin was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome.

After receiving the Aspergers diagnosis, things changed a little with the school in junior high but he still wasn’t getting the help he needed. I made sure to have annual 504 meetings but Justin was still struggling. 9th grade started out great but his grades quickly began to decline. We then started having problems with some of the teachers because they refused to help him and made Justin feel like he was choosing to get bad grades.  The 504 document never held the teachers accountable by documenting that it was their responsibility to provide accommodations. Instead, they would write that Justin had to do all the work. One teacher even treated him poorly and embarrassed him in class.

Due to the stress he felt, Justin would throw up every day before school and have melt downs almost every night. I felt like such a failure as a parent because no matter how many meetings we had we never saw any changes being made. One day, as I sat crying in anticipation of another meeting, I decided to search for help. I called the first person I found and was embarrassed as I cried during the conversation. The woman told me that even if I didn’t hire her I needed to get help, especially since my son was already in high school. I talked to my husband that night and told him about this woman named Valerie and how she was so compassionate and helpful. We decided to hire her immediately and it was the best decision we could have made! She made such a positive difference at the very first meeting!

Now I cry tears of joy because I know we couldn’t go through the IEP process without her. We still have a few years of high school left but I know we will win with Valerie advocating for our son.

Since hiring Valerie Justin now has an IEP. He goes to school with a better attitude everyday because he finally has the support he needs. Valerie knew how to ask for assessment and show evidence of why Justin should receive accommodations and services. Now he has a 3.5 GPA. He even has less melt downs at home because he has less stress at school. After being denied Speech services and going through the appeal process, we now have been successful in receiving a private Speech and Language social skills group and pragmatic intervention because of Valerie and her expertise. It was a big financial decision for us to hire her but we look at it as an investment in our son’s future. Valerie is worth every penny!

Leah, Inland Empire

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