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PALS June 2016 - Speakers Advocate Rebecca Klaw & Attorney Art Feldman

PALS Meeting Minutes

June 1, 2016 9:30 a.m.

Roots of Faith

800 Main Street Pittsburgh, PA 15211

Two very special guests, Dominic Nickel and Bill Baldwin, joined us. Dominic is the son of Sarah Nickel, PALS former president and current treasurer, while Bill is the son of Chris Baldwin, founding member of PALS. Dominic and Bill shared with us their recent accomplishments; Dominic having just finished his sophomore year at the University of Dayton studying Industrial Engineering and Bill having secured a job at his alma mater, Beacon College in Leesburg, Florida where he graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in May 2014. Dominic and Bill remind us all of why PALS is important within our community. Chris started the conversation by founding PALS, Sarah continued to the conversation by preserving PALS, and Dominic and Bill provide the rest of us with the inspiration to continue in their mothers' footsteps.

Art Feldman, Esq. - Attorney specializing in Educational Rights of Students with Disabilities

Art has worked as an attorney for 38 years, spending the last 30 years mostly on Special Education work. He is a member of the Pennsylvania Exceptional Children's committee and assists other attorneys in learning more about Special Education law.

In these years of experience, Art has found that there is a tricky balance in developing a good relationship with school teams while at the same time pushing them to do what is intended in educating all children.

Art encourages families to remember that school staff are professionals, there are always more of them in an IEP Meeting than there are of you, and they always get more speaking time than you. This situation can be intimidating, however you are just as much as member of the team as they are.

With this in mind, Art reminds families that they can be more assertive and push the school staff more than they expect. He suggests that you not hesitate in asserting what you believe to be right for your child.

Art suggests that families never narrow down a evaluation or re-evaluation to one or two areas. Whatever you believe your child's needs are is what should be evaluated. If you feel an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) is necessary, remember that the law indicates that the district must consider it, not accept it. At the same time, he reminds families of the paper trail that is created when numerous IEEs are provided to the district over time without anything within them being addressed in the child's IEP. Clearly the idea of consideration comes into question.

He believes that the better the paperwork (Evaluation/Re-Evaluation Reports, IEPs, etc.), the better the relationship, the less likely people are to head to due process. Art sees three aspects that all build on one another.

1. The Evaluation/Re-Evaluation Report: this is a critical document and generally is inadequate yet is the foundation of the IEP. By inadequate Art explains that things like diagnosis are often not included in the report. However, if you have a comprehensive evaluation, you are moving in the right direction toward a strong IEP.

2. Independent Education Program (IEP): this addresses EVERYTHING within the Evaluation Report.

3. School Placement: from the evaluation report and IEP, a school placement can be made, public or approved private school.

When you get the feeling that you are hitting a wall with the school staff members of your child's IEP Team, it is time to seek a professional. Generally this begins with an Educational Advocate and then an attorney if necessary. Art shared that he has attended numerous IEP Meetings over the years.

Contact Information for Art Feldman

1010 LaClair Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15218


Rebecca Klaw - Educational Advocate specializing in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Rebecca has worked as an trainer, consultant, and advocate for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders and their families since 1988.

Rebecca indicated families often hire her when they have exhausted the suggestions Art previously provided. She finds that families tend to be very emotional and need a voice. Rebecca becomes that voice in IEP Meetings.

Believing that the IEP is ultimately the only leg a family has to stand on, she works hard to ensure things are written in the IEP that make since, with goals that are actually measurable. If there is a breakdown in services, the family has the IEP to show as proof that services were not met.

Rebecca says NEVER waive a re-evaluation and that whether it is an initial evaluation or a re-evaluation, families should ALWAYS write in any things they believe should also be evaluated that the school staff did not include in the Evaluation/Re-Evaluation Form.

She also suggests families ensure the IEP includes two meetings to be held at the beginning of each school year. The first meeting should be held at the very beginning of the school year including all school staff members that will serve their child that year. This meeting should consist of information for the staff about the child. The second meeting should happen four weeks later to discuss any additions/changes that need to be made to the IEP.

Contact Information for Rebecca Klaw

1010 LaClair Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15218


Next Meeting: September 28, 2016, 9:30 a.m. Market District Café 933 Freeport Road Pittsburgh, PA 15238 TOPIC: What's in your child's IEP or 504 Plan? Bring your child's IEP or 504 Plan with you to this meeting!

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