San Diego Education Law Blog | The Law Office of Meagan Nunez
San Diego Special Education Attorney mission is to assist parents with disabled children navigate through the educational system and determine what would be best for their child. This Education Law blog discusses legal issues relevant to San Diego, California.
Reading is an essential skill for navigating life. At this point, you probably don’t think about how often you use reading. Your child is beginning to understand this now that they’re getting further into their education. Yet, not every child learns to read at the same pace and conditions like dyslexia make learning to read more difficult.
If you’re child has difficulty reading and are concerned they’re falling behind, you should know the signs of dyslexia:
Reverses letters and letter shapes within words.
Has trouble spelling and learning the alphabet.
Struggles to learn new words.
Despite these troubles, research indicates dyslexic children may have higher reasoning, critical thinking and problem-solving skills than non-dyslexic children. These are valuable life skills, just like reading, that are important to develop.
Who can diagnose dyslexia?
A healthcare professional can test your child for dyslexia, but it is not required to receive special education services in California. If your child is of reading age and is showing signs of dyslexia, it’s best to get an assessment done as soon as possible. This allows you and your child’s school to develop an education plan that places them in a position to succeed.
It can be frustrating for you to watch your child struggle to learn to read. Having dyslexia doesn’t mean that your child is less intelligent or disinterested, it just means that they learn differently. The first step towards helping your child learn in a way that suits them best is to have them complete the dyslexia assessment.
For some children with special needs, staying active can be difficult. However, it’s important for children to learn how to take care of their body and mind.
Here are just a few of the ways students with disabilities should be staying active at school.
It’s common for children with special needs to have mobility restrictions. Whether your child uses a wheelchair, is blind or has low muscle dexterity, they may not be able to participate in the same physical exercises as other children.
Yet, it is still within your child’s rights to a meaningful education to learn about and benefit from exercise. School officials should establish unique programs and activities that can help your child improve their physical education.
For example, a student that is blind may be able to use a treadmill or elliptical machine to run the same number of laps as other students. Children with mobility issues may be able to explore hydrotherapy or yoga with the help of an aid.
Staying active also means keeping up with a child’s participation in school. Teachers may need to establish alternative challenges for children whose disability prevents them from participating in activities.
For example, children with an intellectual disability may work on following directions while other students learn to solve math problems. It’s important that your child doesn’t have too much “free time” at school. Instead, they should be learning and practicing skills that will help them in the future.
It can be frustrating for all children to stay cooped up inside a classroom all day. However, most kids are able to get exposure to new environments during recess and on field trips.
Children with special needs should have an equal opportunity to gain exposure to new environments. This may require more attention from teachers and school officials to look for ways that a child with a disability can still explore. If you feel your child is not getting the attention he or she deserves, learn more about your child’s rights and what you can do to protect them.
You want the best care and education for your child just like any other parent. So, you may be wondering whether choosing public or private school will impact their education for the better or worse.
Here are a few of things that are and are not so different between the two.
Your child’s rights
Children with a qualifying disability have a federal right to an education that is appropriate for them. Whether you choose to place your child in public or private school, they should still be getting the care, attention and challenges they need to succeed.
If you believe that your child’s needs are being neglected, you can take action to address the issue — whether he or she is in public or private school. Your child’s needs include their physical safety, emotional well-being, education goals and social opportunities.
Differences to consider
There are still differences between public and private schools. Public schools, for example, oftentimes have a larger student body. This may help your child develop social skills by teaching them about working on a team, different perspectives of different students and different skills and interests among a diverse student body.
On the other hand, private schools may claim to offer your child more individual attention. Although your student has a right to an appropriate education in a public school, a private school may claim that they’re able to go above and beyond in a more intimate setting.
Other big differences to consider is the curriculum between the two types of schools and any special interests in sports or clubs that your child may have. Private schools do not need to follow certain staples in the education curriculum that the state has set. This may mean certain subjects are censored or it may allow instructors to teach on other texts and subjects.
Private schools and public schools may also differ in the rigor and type of sports, clubs and activities they offer to students.
Get an expert’s opinion
To weigh out the two options appropriately, it may make the most sense to seek the guidance of a child psychologist. This expert may be able to advise you on what sorts of environments your child may thrive in depending on his or her disability, personality and background.
However, neither environment should cause your child to suffer because of the disability. If you have found that this is the case, you should seek the help of another type of professional. Meagan Nuñez is on the board of the Disabled Services Advisory Council and is passionate about standing up for the rights of these kids.
All children act out at one point or another. However, children who are coping with a disability may experience more behavioral issues in school because of the disability itself or as a reaction to their disability.
As a parent, it can be difficult to be informed of these struggles without being offered a resolution. It’s important to know that your child has a right to their education, despite the challenges their disability may present.
Setting behavior goals
All children have a federal right to receive an education that sets appropriate goals, given their capacity. One education goal that is central for all students is practicing good behavior. For most students, that means adhering to etiquette standards, such as standing in line and raising their hand to speak.
Students with intellectual disabilities, ADHD or autism may have difficulty recognizing and practicing some of these behavior standards. Other children with disabilities may act out to gain social acceptance from peers or out of frustration with their disability. It’s important that teachers recognize the behavioral issues a student is experiencing and respond by helping the child set and reach good behavior goals.
Responding to bad behavior appropriately
Teachers should set goals for good behavior or reward students for reaching them. However, school officials often struggle with knowing how to discipline bad behavior. It’s most common for them to fall back on standard types of punishment.
However, the penalties that other children receive may not be appropriate for a child with disabilities. Instead, the school’s staff should learn to recognize why the child is resorting to this behavior within the context of the child’s situation.
By discovering why the behavior is being triggered, teachers can help students work through the root of the issue.
For students with a qualified disability, it’s usually the case that suspension or expulsion is a violation of their right to an appropriate education. If you find yourself in this situation, the law office of Meagan Nuñez can help you fight for your child’s right through a manifestation determination hearing.
Many of us consider special education as a program used to help children with intellectual disabilities learn and grow at a different pace than other children.
However, special education is a right for any child with a qualifying disability under the IDEA. If you’re seeing disability symptoms in your child and he or she is struggling at school, it’s important to consider how special needs education might help.
Special needs education is for many disabilities
Qualifying disabilities under the IDEA may not necessarily impact a child’s intellect. For example, children with conditions such as blindness, deafness, autism and mobility restraints, may all be able to achieve academic success without special help.
However, students with these conditions have a right to a helping hand. A bit of extra help in overcoming the challenges they face can make a huge difference in their social and academic success at school.
Is special education helpful or hurtful?
Parents who discover that their child is on the spectrum for any given disability often worry that by entering their child into special education, they may be removing their child’s opportunity to fit in with other children.
The laws which define and ensure special education lend each child the right to an education that’s appropriate for them, given their circumstance. That means each child’s special education should be tailored to fit the child’s potential.
If, for example, your child was blind, the special education aspect of the child’s overall education may only be Braille lessons and the use of an assistant for taking tests and navigating the halls, bathroom or lunchroom.
Ensure you know your child’s options
To learn more about your child’s rights or to ensure they are being met appropriately at school, you can speak with an experienced education attorney for free by contacting us online or meeting for a consultation.
Attorney Meagan Nuñez has experience in education and is on the board of the Disabled Services Advisory Council. She is dedicated to ensuring that each and every child with a disability has the meaningful education they deserve.
Parents with children who have special needs sometimes have to fight to ensure that school remains a nurturing environment.
There are laws in place that serve to protect your child from being neglected or bullied in school. Knowing these rights is the first step in taking action against those who threaten your child’s success.
A meaningful education
All children have the right to a meaningful education. What makes an education “meaningful” may vary between children.
For example, education goals for those with an intellectual disability may focus more heavily on certain behavior skills. Similarly, children who face challenges presented by ADD or Dyslexia may require a teacher to adjust their techniques to accommodate a different learning style.
Federal law specifically protects each child’s right to be educated in a manner that helps the child improve their skills proportionately to the child’s situation. That means teachers should be helping your child achieve goals that are challenging, attainable and useful.
Safety at school
Because adversity often leads to bullying, children who have a disability can easily become a target. Harassment that denies a child with a disability an equal opportunity to a free appropriate education (FAPE) is against the law.
Specifically, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act provide legal protection against harassment for students with disabilities. Emotional, cyber or physical bullying cannot legally be tolerated and should be appropriately punished.
In addition to making your child’s education meaningful, teachers must also record your child’s progress and communicate with you about it. Testing or monitoring mechanisms should be in place to help parents understand how their child has or has not progressed toward certain goals.
If a teacher has neglected to work with your child or communicating with you about your child’s progress because of his or her disability, it’s time to take action. An attorney with experience in special needs law can help you secure the education your child is entitled to.
If your child has an intellectual disability, also known as mental retardation, it can be challenging to know what type of education he or she should be receiving in school. Every child — no matter their challenge — deserves a meaningful education.
Here are three types of skills that help make an education meaningful for children with intellectual disabilities.
Children with special needs often struggle with reading and/or speaking skills. Because children with intellectual and learning disabilities range in their progress, abilities and needs, a special education teacher should monitor your child closely to identify which language skills to focus on.
For example, those who cannot sound out words to read may improve reading skills by memorizing important words and signs. To improve speaking skills, some children may learn sign language to help communicate their needs, while others may practice the pronunciation of words.
The collective goal for improving language skills in children with an intellectual disability is to improve their potential to communicate basic needs with others and to better navigate the world around them by understanding signs, directions and functions.
The main function of school is to give children the tools they need to work in the real world. Adults with special needs carry out important roles in businesses too, such as stocking the food we eat in grocery stores, welcoming incoming shoppers or tidying up spaces to keep them safe. As with all young children, learning to be respectful and follow directions is the first major step in learning how to work with others and carry out tasks independently.
Special needs teachers should set behavioral goals, such as pushing in your chair, waiting patiently in line, saying please and thank you, raising your hand to speak and more. However, certain behavioral skills may require more attention for children with special needs, such as learning to be gentle with objects and coping with upset feelings.
Establishing appropriate and expected social queues to children with an intellectual disability may help them feel more accepted and avoid hurt feelings. This is when school is most fun! Games and activities can help these children interact with each other.
A teacher should focus on improving social skills by showing children when physical contact is acceptable and in what way, how sarcasm, figurative language and humor works, what body language may indicate, the types of conversations that are appropriate and more.
What do I do if a teacher is not invested in these skills?
If your child's teacher is failing to address these skills or to help your child progress in them, they’re not following the law. The Supreme Court has established that special needs students are entitled to an education that helps the child progress at a level that is appropriate according with the child’s circumstances. Talk to a special education lawyer to learn more about taking action against this neglect. A special needs attorney can help you fight for your child’s right to a proper education.
2017 proved to be a banner year for the education prospects of children with learning issues. The Supreme Court of the United States ruled unanimously establishing a new definition of what "appropriate" means in the context of the free and appropriate education that federal law requires for each child in the country.
In many school districts, what was appropriate for many children with learning or other disabilities was providing the bare minimum. The high court said that effectively meant a child could receive no education at all and said that to be meaningful, education plans must encourage students to progress.
This should come as good news for any parent who suspects their child has not received the education they're entitled to. However, it would be a mistake to think that the ruling alone means school districts and schools will deliver without prodding.
Every year requires a new round of advocacy
Ensuring that a child with mental or physical impairments gets necessary help has always required a great deal of advocacy on the part of parents. Obtaining accommodations that acknowledge a disabled child's needs can be difficult, as can making sure that the school does an adequate job of evalutation to set a proper individualized education program. Very often, school systems have simply taken a child's initial goals and objectives and plugged them in to each subsequent year's IEP.
That won't do under the new regime, but to foster accountability, many experts offer some recommendations:
Know the baseline: You can't get somewhere if you don't know where you are. Confidence that you have a comprehensive assessment of your child's current state of ability is crucial to setting appropriate new goals each year.
Pay attention to developmental cues: If handwriting or speech is not developing as expected, occupational or speech therapy services might be appropriate. Behavioral concerns might warrant special services, as well.
Review your student's work: Keep an eye on progress reports, test scores and homework through the school year to track signs of progress.
The Supreme Court ruling puts school districts on notice about what the law expects. But parents remain key to ensuring their children get the education they deserve. And in the face of questions or frustrations, parents have the right to seek counsel from skilled special education law attorneys.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a condition that causes uncontrollable and long-lasting thoughts, feelings and fears – also called obsessions. The obsessions cause a person to feel anxious, and to relieve the anxiety they will adopt behaviors called compulsions, or rituals. These compulsions are repeated over and over.
But what does OCD look like in children? Their fears may not have the same complexity as an adult, but they are no less real or consuming. Their fears might include the following:
They or someone else will get sick, become hurt or die
They said a bad word, had a bad thought or made a mistake
They have done something bad
Something is dirty or clean
Something is straight or placed in an exact way
Something is lucky or lucky; good or bad; safe or harmful
The rituals a child may adopt to cope with these fears could include:
Washing or cleaning, or frequent bathroom requests
Erasing or retracing things
Redoing things over and over or getting stuck on tasks
Repeating phrases or questions more than needed
Going through doorways several times in a row
Checking and rechecking things, such as locked doors or schoolwork – reassurance seeking
Touching or tapping something a specific number of times or in an exact way every time
Having things in a specific order or doing things symmetrically
Counting to good numbers or avoiding unlucky numbers
Regular complaints of fatigue
OCD in the classroom
According to research by the University of Cambridge, adolescents with OCD can have widespread learning and memory problems, which contributes to difficulties with homework and concentrating at school. This can lead to low self-esteem and possibly increase the compulsions as a coping mechanism
However, identifying OCD early can help parents give their child the support they need, and allow them to be advocates for their child’s classroom environment. Children with OCD have just as much of a right to a meaningful education as any other student, and with the right care from parents and educators, it can be possible.
Raising your deaf or hard-of-hearing (DHH) child proves both challenging and rewarding. Your child will soon begin his or her first year of school, but you worry that they won’t receive the same education as their classmates.
In California, laws establish both equality and special aid to children who suffer from a lack of hearing ability. As a parent, you are not alone, nor is your child in their development. Know that, by law, your child should receive care and teaching that fits their exact needs.
Classroom development and DHH students
According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office of California, the state serves over 14,000 DHH students each year. Students affected by hearing impairments see difficulties in:
Responding to teachers or other students
Lack of problem-solving development’
Social understanding and queues
Identifying and changing the curriculum and classroom aids your child in benefitting in a California classroom.
California Department of Education and DHH children
In September 2016, the Senate Bill 210 committee passed a bill to expand on the support that California school districts gives DHH children. The bill stated that education departments must provide existing tools or assessments that educators can use for the:
Assessment of the language and literacy development; and the
Tracking of the linguistic development
For children to make progress, without the inclusion of normalized classroom activities or standardized tests, special assessments must occur to understand a child’s progress. The state of California understands that if DHH children are taught and learn differently, teachers cannot assess them through the same methods as other children.
Know that California government works to aid your child in school development throughout their educational path. Depending on your child’s exact needs, a school may assign a sign language professional or designate times throughout the day for one-on-one learning.
The state concludes that normalizing your child’s day, yet fitting his or her educational needs, proves to be the most beneficial mesh of skills for you, your child and their education.