I was excited to see an article about disability advocates' view of No Child Left Behind in the Washington Post earlier this week. It offers an interesting perspective about what the federal law has meant for children with disabilities. One of the articles featured source-extraordinaire Ricki Sabia, the associate director of the National Down Syndrome Society Public Policy Center. I've had the pleasure of interviewing Sabia several times. An accompanying article asked whether a push toward inclusion by a local school district has, indeed, left some children behind who might be better served in "special schools" with other children who ...


I admit it: I am a habitual Web surfer. But trolling the Web leads to some fascinating places, including this blog by a 24-year-old teacher of middle school students with behavioral disorders in Newark, N.J. The writer, who goes by the delightfully random name of "liquidwafflegirl," doesn't post half as much as I would like, because I'm always looking for commentary by teachers. But when I read her blog, I understand why she doesn't write often. She really seems to be struggling with demanding students (in one post she said she broke her thumb trying to stop a fight) ...


Lawmakers in Missouri are considering following the lead of four other states that offer vouchers to parents of students with disabilities. I wrote about this issue about a year ago. Now, as then, I wonder: Even when such bills pass, are there enough schools available to accept these children? The Missouri bill would be specifically for children with autism, and the lawmakers for and against vouchers in Missouri make familiar arguments. Those in favor say that such programs are a necessity for parents who don't have good options available to them in public schools. Opponents think it's a ploy to ...


Wow! Well, that was fast. With today's resignation of New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, Lt. Gov. David A. Paterson now becomes not only the state's first black governor, but the nation's first blind governor. The New York Times has a profile of Paterson today, which talks about his refusal to learn Braille as a child, his parents' determination to forgo special education for him, and his subsequent high achievement. However, he has been actively involved in disability groups, including serving on the American Foundation for the Blind's board of trustees for nine years. The board has released a statement saying ...


The biggest problem for teachers these days? Overbearing parents, according to a survey of teachers in a well-to-do suburb outside Baltimore. A Baltimore Sun article cited a soon-to-be-released survey of teachers in Howard County, Md., a district of about 48,500 students. The survey reports that 60 percent of teachers have reported harassment, primarily by parents. Those working conditions make it particularly difficult to retain special education teachers, according to the Howard County Education Association, which conducted the survey. The association is an affiliate of the National Education Association. An official with the Carroll County Education Association, the NEA affiliate ...


John McCain has been busy lately--clinching the Republican nomination for president, visiting the White House to receive an official endorsement from President Bush. Not too busy, however, to wade into one of the most controversial issues roiling the autism community. According to a recent New York Times article, McCain said during a campaign stop in Texas that “It’s indisputable that autism is on the rise among children." He continued, "The question is, what’s causing it? And we go back and forth, and there’s strong evidence that indicates that it’s got to do with a preservative in ...


Kudos to Rachel A. Holler, the principal of Stewart Middle School in Norristown, Pa., and go-to special education law expert Perry A. Zirkel of Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., for a recent research article that attempts to take a crack at quantifying just how many "section 504" kids are in public schools. Their work has been published in the March issue of the National Association for Secondary School Principals Bulletin. But first, a quick primer on "Section 504:" Section 504, a part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, actually predates the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act by two years. It ...


The National Center on Educational Outcomes, a federally funded center that provides "national leadership in the participation of students with disabilities in national and state assessments, standards-setting efforts, and graduation requirements," is promoting a number of new reports available on its Web site. I'll be examining these reports more closely for potential story ideas, but here are a few that jumped out: States’ Alternate Assessments Based on Modified Achievement Standards (AA-MAS) in 2007: NCEO doesn't try to assess the quality of these tests, which can be given to 2 percent of students who are capable of learning grade-level content, but ...


Among the most well-attended sessions at last year's huge Council for Exceptional Children convention were talks on co-teaching: bringing general education and special education teachers together in one classroom to focus on the instruction of children with special learning needs. Educators in co-teaching arrangements stressed that in order to work well, such partnerships require focus, planning, even a little chemistry. I saw this in person when I visited co-taught classrooms in San Antonio; one pair of teachers I met worked so well together they were practically able to finish one another's sentences. They were up front in saying they were ...


Perhaps the question mark betrays my reporterly skepticism. I must admit that when I heard about an ABC World News story on a nonberbal 13-year-old girl with autism who was now using a computer to express herself eloquently, I thought, hmm, is this "facilitated communication?" I know that assistive devices can be tremendously helpful for children who cannot speak. But facilitated communication, where a helper in some cases supports the hand of the person who is disabled, has had a rockier history. A critical 1993 Frontline story on the issue said that in at least some cases, the facilitator was ...


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