Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Removing Barriers to Learning

Students on the autism spectrum and other disabilities may have barriers to learning that you can help identify through changes in behavior at home. Learn the signs and steps to make sure your child is getting the supports and services needed.

Signs to look for that indicate your child is having trouble learning:
  • An escalation of destructive behaviors.
  • Suspension from school.
  • Extra hours spent helping your child with homework with little or no progress.
  • Emotional meltdowns that happen as soon as your child returns home from school.
Document What You See
Any sign that your child is not learning is data that can be gathered to show that your child needs help. The school may say they don’t see these things, but you know your child and what is disrupting his/her ability to learn and participate at school.

Ask for an Evaluation
Evaluations can identify services and accommodations to help your child learn and participate in school. There are many types of evaluations besides an initial evaluation. Here are a few examples of ones to ask for:
  • Sensory. Indicators include an increase in challenging behaviors related to the environment (sounds, movement, touch, colors).
  • Social Emotional. Indicators include: lack of peer interaction with classmates; lack of understanding social cues; not developing friendships.
  • Academic. Indicators include problems with one or more subject areas (math, reading, language arts, etc.)
Evaluations can be requested whenever you see that a disability-related need is not being met or hasn’t had adequate evaluation.

Address Service/Support Needs in the IEP or Section 504 Plan
Based on evaluations and/or your observations, services to ask for may include: speech, language and occupational therapy, physical therapy, counseling services, and transportation.


Child Find requires that school districts locate and serve all children with disabilities in their jurisdiction, under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and IDEA

IDEA has specific regulations regarding time frames, parental participation, and formal paperwork requirements, including an annual IEP that addresses support and service needs. Students who are not eligible under IDEA may still be eligible for services under Section 504, which has broader eligibility criteria.

Section 504, as with IDEA, grants students the right to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). A student does not have to go through a “special education” evaluation process before being referred to Section 504. If a student has a disability which impacts their ability to benefit from or access programs or activities in school, an evaluation under Section 504 must take place. Most districts follow IDEA processes to comply with Section 504, but may have separate timelines and procedures.

IDEA and Section 504 both require educational plans to address a student’s support and service needs.

If you would like your child to be evaluated for special education and/or Section 504, clearly state your concerns and request an evaluation in writing to the school psychologist.

PAVE (Partnerships for Action. Voices for Empowerment.)
Parent to Parent (P2P)
Office of the Education Ombudsman (OEO)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

AT&T Connect Ability Challenge

Call for Volunteer Feedback

Connect Ability is a three‐month AT&T global design competition for developers to leverage everyday technologies to create mobile and assistive technology solutions for people with disabilities. 

The challenge aims to accelerate innovation of smartphone-­‐based assistive technologies, and rewards developers for engaging people with disabilities to imagine, create and test new solutions. 

To ensure developers address tangible needs, AT&T, together with the ABILITY Lab at New York University, recruited four volunteers to describe on camera their lives with disabilities and their vision for technology solutions— these compelling two-­‐minute stories are directed at an audience of engineers and makers. Please see one for yourself.

Connect Ability’s four NYU volunteers are among several tech-­‐savvy people with disabilities who will host one-­‐on-­‐one virtual and in-­‐person meetings with developers to provide feedback on technological works-­‐in-­‐progress on track to be submitted before the June 24th deadline. These “collaboration sessions” will take place during the first week of June.

Do you know people with disabilities who might be interested in volunteering?

AT&T and the Connect Ability team will help individuals interested in volunteering use their Skype or phone to meet a developer and provide feedback during a pre-­‐scheduled session. In most cases, developers will describe their ideas or prototype during the collaboration session. Some developers may ship a phone in advance for a volunteer to use an app in real-­‐time or simply email a link for the volunteer to download and test a solution on their own. The collaborations sessions will run approximately 20-­‐minutes and will be facilitated by a Connect Ability competition organizer. AT&T will provide volunteers with orientation prior to meeting.

Groups and team events: 
Organizations home to three or more people with disabilities interested in volunteering to give feedback can contact AT&T about hosting a “collaboration workshop” that consists of a presentation by AT&T on assistive and mobile technologies, and confidential one-­‐on-­‐one break-­‐out sessions with people with disabilities volunteering to give live feedback. Like the individual sessions, feedback will be provided over Skype or phone, and may include prototype technologies provided in advance. AT&T will structure, facilitate and produce group events. 

To learn more, contact Neil Giacobbi, AT&T Executive Director for Public Affairs at or 212-­‐803-­‐2626.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Enrollments to Open Soon in Key DDA Programs: Part Two

The 6 Steps of Transitioning to New Programs

The Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) is beginning the process of transitioning to two new programs: Individual & Family Services (IFS) waiver and Community First Choice (CFC). Before the new programs take effect and enrollments begin for thousands who have been waiting for services, a few things have to happen first:

1. Federal Approval
The federal government must approve our state’s application for an Individual & Family Services (IFS) waiver, as well as the Community First Choice (CFC). If this happens (and it looks like it will), the transition will begin in May of this year for IFS and July for CFC.

2. DDA Transitions to New Programs
IFS: Existing IFS recipients will be transitioned at their annual assessment or earlier if they are already eligible for SSI. New enrollments will be added beginning May 2015.
CFC: Transitioning from personal care to CFC will happen automatically on July 1st. 

3. DDA Goes Through Service Request List
Individuals who have requested IFS services, but who are not receiving it (aka, on the wait list), will be contacted by DDA. Individuals who have not yet requested IFS or other waiver services can contact DDA to request services. 

4. Assessment for Services & Service Planning
An assessment will determine the amount of service. During the person-centered services planning assessment meeting, case managers will discuss available supports and work with individuals to identify which available programs and services will best meet her/his needs (such as respite, personal care, assistive devices, behavior support, skills acquisition, specialized medical equipment, skilled nursing services, etc.)

5. Waiver Eligibility Determination
A determination of functional and financial eligibility for the waiver will take place. DDA will send waiver eligibility paperwork to individuals who are approved for Basic Plus or IFS Waivers.  It typically takes about 60 days for a client to be active on a waiver after submitting this paperwork. NOTE: Because it’s a waiver program, the parent’s income for minors is waived. Only the individual’s income is considered. 

6. Services are Approved
Once an individual is approved for either the IFS waiver or the state CFC personal care plan, case managers will work with individuals and families to identify providers and/or services needed as quickly as possible.

Friday, April 24, 2015

SSP: A Cash Benefit Alternative to Individual & Family Services

One of the lesser known programs at DDA is a cash benefit alternative to Individual & Family Services. It’s called SSP (State Supplementary Payment) in lieu of IFS. For many, it’s a great way to pay for services and supports without being limited to approved services and contracted providers. To be eligible for SSP in lieu of IFS, an individual must be:
  • a client of DDA;
  • income-eligible for SSI; and,
  • eligible for Individual & Family Services.


How Is SSP the Same As IFS?
In addition to having the same functional eligibility requirements (including living in the family home), SSP has the same funding levels as IFS. The amount of funding is based on assessed need.

How Is SSP Different Than IFS?
The monthly benefit is delivered in the form of a monthly payment, either by paper check or direct deposit. No receipts or reporting to DDA are required. The money is for the benefit of the individual’s needs beyond what SSI pays for. In this way, it’s more flexible and easier to use than the IFS waiver program, which is limited to contract services only and does not cover reimbursements. 

Does SSP Affect Other Benefits I receive?
It should not impact the client’s SSI amount, but it could impact food benefits because the Community Services Office takes that resource into consideration. Clients and their families should always include this unearned income whenever they are asked about the resources available to them.

Can I Move from IFS to SSP?
Yes, as long as s/he is income eligible and there is capacity on the program (i.e. funding is available). DDA currently has capacity on SSP, but funding is always subject to change. Once SSP enrollment is filled, funding will only be available as other clients leave the program. Clients wanting to switch from IFS to SSP can request to do so at their annual assessment.

Can I Move from SSP to IFS?
Yes, if there are enrollment openings in IFS (i.e., funding is available). Right now, as thousands of enrollments are about to open up in IFS, being able to switch from SSP to IFS is possible. Once enrollment is filled, there is no guarantee that this will always be the case. Clients wanting to switch from SSP to IFS can request to do so at their annual assessment.

Can I Stay on the State-Only IFS Program?
Everyone who is currently on the state-only program will be transitioned to the federal IFS waiver at their annual assessment. A very small number of individuals (those who are ineligible for the IFS waiver program) will remain on the state-only program. If you are income-eligible for SSI, then the SSP program will give you the flexibility (and more) of the state-only program that is being phased out. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Enrollments to Open Soon in Key DDA Programs: Part One

What to Expect
We’ve been talking about this for close to a year, and it’s almost here: several thousand new enrollments will open for individuals on the No Paid Services Caseload. A couple of program changes are taking place that make this possible. Each has a different process and timeline, but both are likely to affect most individuals who are applying for these new programs.

Individual and Family Services (IFS)
Beginning May, 2015, IFS is moving to a federal waiver, which brings in federal funding to double the program’s enrollment. It also comes with more regulations and less flexibility than the existing IFS program, but will basically offer the same type of services, plus a few more. Clients who transition to the IFS Waiver will receive Medicaid coverage in addition to any other insurance they already receive.

Personal Care & Community First Choice (CFC)
By the end of uly, 2015, personal care services are moving into a program that includes additional services to enhance independence, such as assistive technology and skills acquisition. The new program is called Community First Choice. A refinancing of the current personal care program brings in new federal funding that will add capacity to DDA’s Basic Plus waiver and the new planned Individual and Family Services waiver.

What to Do if You’re on the No Paid Services Caseload

Start Planning
My Life Plan, a new online tool created by the DDC and The Arc of Washington State, can help you start thinking about goals and support needs at home, school, work, and in the community. As enrollments open at DDA, you’ll be ready to see where services might fit into life’s bigger picture, making sure your son/daughter’s interests, skills, and needs are at the forefront.  Begin your journey at My Life Plan.

Raise Your Hand for Services
If you are not on a wait list for DDA services, call the DDA NPS caseload number in your region and request the service you feel best meets your son/daughter’s needs. For service descriptions, visit DDA's website.

Toll-Free No Paid Services Caseload Numbers:
Region 1
Spokane: 800-319-7116
Yakima:  866-715-3646
Region 2
Seattle: 800-974-4428
Everett: 800-567-5582
Region 3
Tacoma: 800-735-6740

Olympia: 888-707-1202

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Social Emotional Learning: Building Blocks of Success

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is helping students gain skills to manage their emotions, communicate, and resolve conflicts. SEL benefits all children at any age, including infants and toddlers; however, students struggling with behavioral and/or mental health issues can especially benefit from social emotional skills learned in school and reinforced at home.

Social Emotional Competencies*
  • Relationship Skills
    Communicating, listening actively, cooperating, resisting inappropriate social pressure, negotiating conflict, and seeking and offering help when needed. 
  • Self-Management
    Regulating emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different situations. This includes managing stress, controlling impulses, motivating oneself, and setting and working toward achieving personal and academic goals. 
  • Responsible Decision-Making
    The ability to make constructive and respectful choices about personal behavior and social interaction.
  • Self-Awareness
    The ability to accurately recognize one’s emotions and thoughts and their influence on behavior. 
  • Social-Awareness
    The ability to understand social and ethical norms for behavior.
*Source: Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL)
Social Emotional Skills and Your Child’s IEP

Learning how to recognize and practice healthy interactions with others, manage emotions, be part of a team, make good decisions/recover from mistakes and show respect for other people—these skills are just as important for success in the world as any academic achievement. 

In planning ahead for your son or daughter’s Individual Education Plan (IEP), ask yourself what success would look like at the end of the school year. Which social emotional skills will help your child reach her/his goals along the way? Consider building those skills into the IEP and brainstorm with the IEP team how to best achieve those goals and the kinds of supports needed.


Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL)
Department of Early Learning
SEL for Washington


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

by David Maltman, Guest Contributor

I have found the articles posted to this blog too often demonstrate the challenges that individuals with developmental disabilities and their families experience in participating in the social, economic, cultural lives of their community. We all know that personal relationships and community networks are often the place to start when looking for a job or ways to better connect with neighbors and other members of our communities.

In response to this situation, the Developmental Disabilities Council (DDC) has crafted a project intended to assist individuals and their families be more involved and included in community activities.  Inclusion, we believe, results in relationships with other people outside of the DD Silo who share common interests. In turn, communities will learn to utilize the gifts, talents, and skills of all citizens.

The DDC is working with Friendship Adventures to provide small grants to promote inclusion and innovation in building relationships. The "micro-grants" range from $100 to $500 and can be used to purchase goods, services, or pay certain fees. The application is simple to complete.  The only catch is that the purpose for seeking the grant must involve and benefit Washington residents with developmental disabilities in an integrated setting—it really is that simple..

If you have an idea about an activity or event that will promote inclusion, go to the Micro-Grant website for information and an application at:

The website explains who may submit an application, the award process, and how the micro-grants can be used to promote inclusion in the community. The website includes a tab for Frequently Asked Questions. Most ideas about ways to initiate or participate in community events or activities that create relationships between individuals with developmental disabilities and their families and their community, would be considered.

David Maltman, Policy Analyst 
Washington State Developmental Disabilities Council

Click here for a printable one-page fact sheet on Inclusion & Innovation Micro-Grants.