And now, time for a purely "good news" story: The Chicago Tribune ran a delightful article a few days ago about a young woman with Down syndrome who was chosen as homecoming queen. Now that she's royalty, Anne Jennings dances down the hallways, bursts into excited giggles and hugs her BFFs, or "best friends forever," without warning. Of course, she did pretty much all those things before being named homecoming queen at Libertyville High School, but somehow, life has become more magical. As a 17-year-old with Down syndrome, the senior "has been walking on air" since being crowned this month. "Before,...


For an observer of special education, the District of Columbia system is in a class by itself, unfortunately. It suffers from a "perfect storm" of education issues: not enough programs for students with disabilities, some demoralized staff, and a class-action lawsuit on behalf of underserved students looming over everything. The district spends millions of dollars a year on out-of-district placements for students with disabilities and is struggling to bring that figure down. Now, Richard Nyankori, the acting deputy chancellor for special education, has said what a lot of people already believe to be true: some staff members aren't paying attention ...


The Associated Press ran a compelling article this weekend about the use of "time-out" rooms for students with disabilities. After failing to finish a reading assignment, 8-year-old Isabel Loeffler was sent to the school's time-out room — a converted storage area under a staircase — where she was left alone for three hours. The autistic Iowa girl wet herself before she was finally allowed to leave. Appalled, her parents removed her from the school district and filed a lawsuit. Some educators say time-out rooms are being used with increased frequency to discipline children with behavioral disorders. And the time-outs are probably doing ...


Lots of chatter out there about last night's debate. Here's some blog entries that I dug up: Charles Fox, who writes the Special Education Law Blog (which is linked on my blogroll), has heard enough. Quote: "If Senator McCain's voting record with President Bush was not enough to disqualify him for the Presidency, then his use of children with special needs as a political tool certainly rules him out once and for all." The bloggers at MOMocrats, no surprise, aren't buying it either. Quote, from a poster who calls herself "LawyerMama:" "McCain/Palin--If you're going to help special needs children, ...


Well, finally! Senators Barack Obama and John McCain dug into the topic of education during their third and final debate last night, even devoting a little bit of time to children with disabilities. Hooray! I'll be digging more deeply into their comments in other posts, but I think that a lot of people were left scratching their heads at McCain's statements that seemed to suggest that having a baby with Down syndrome gives his running mate, Sarah Palin, special insight into autism. Early in the debate, as McCain described Palin's qualifications for office, there was this: She's a reformer through ...


Special education officials often complain about how the testing provisions of No Child Left Behind penalize schools with high numbers of students with disabilities, but the Washington Post had an interesting story on the front page today about a lesser-known problem: schools with high numbers of medically fragile students may get penalized under the law because their students don't meet the law's daily attendance standards. Stephen Knolls School suffered the ignominy of failure under federal law in 2006 and 2007 for low test scores. This year, the Kensington school finally made the grade in reading and math -- only to ...


From Patricia E. Bauer's Disability News blog, this news: On Wednesday, October 8, 2008, the President signed into law: … S. 1810, the “Prenatally and Postnatally Diagnosed Conditions Awareness Act,” which authorizes the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a grant program to collect and disseminate information regarding Down syndrome or other prenatally or postnatally diagnosed diseases and to coordinate the provision of support services for those who receive a diagnosis of one of those diseases. Bauer, a journalist who has a daughter with Down syndrome, has written that the bill forged an unlikely alliance between abortion rights advocates ...


As you can tell from the title of this post, I've temporarily put aside my habit of using "people-first" language. Not only is that our newspaper's style, it's also considered to be more respectful by disability advocacy organizations, like the Special Olympics. However, in the case of autism, I've read in several places that "autistic" is a preferred term, as can be seen in the name of the Autistic Self Advovacy Network. Autism is an integral part of who they are, these particular advocates say, and the term "autistic" reflects that. It's particular apt for me to use the term ...


After a rocky start, Congress had little problem getting enough members to sign on to the $700 billion financial rescue plan of Wall Street late last week, thanks in part to extra projects tacked on like a "mental health parity" provision that would prevent insurance companies from placing different deductibles and lifetime limits on mental health services. The bill has been championed by the mental health advocates like the National Alliance on Mental Illness, according to this article in the New York Times. As I noted in an article that ran in Education Week last month, many children aren't getting ...


I've blogged a few times over the past weeks about the presidential candidates' political stances on special education and disability awareness. Laws that affect people with disabilities, however, go well beyond the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. This month, the Ohio Legal Rights Service, an advocacy organization for adults and children with disabilities, compiled a list of the candidates' stated views on a number of important issues. They include mental-health legislation, employment, and health care. I spotted one missing element in the overview. While it does say, correctly, that Democratic candidate Barack Obama supports increased federal funding of IDEA, the ...


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