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Monday, October 9, 2017

Free Conference Call #2 #FBA

I have found the conference calls I have been doing to be very successful so far. This is my second one about Functional Behavior Assessment and Behavior Intervention Plans. LISTEN HERE at this link
Functional Behavior Assessment and Behavior Intervention Plan

Here is the description. Enjoy and share!

October 9, 2017
The topic will be functional behavior assessment and behavior intervention plans. Many parents are struggling with what to do when the child's behavior is affecting his learning. Too many "behavior contracts" are punitive and negative in nature, instead of being reinforcing and working as an incentive for the child.
Too many functional behavior assessments do not include parents or certain professional disciplines, and do not adequately identify the function of the behavior, or why the behavior is occurring. The school team tends to identify avoidance, escape, and attention seeking as reasons for a child's behavior. How can we work together to explore sensory, communication, learning and other reasons for a child's behavior? Without the right perspective or lens to inspect the underlying issues, the fix or solution will not work.
This leads to problems with what to do about the behavior, how to intervene, and how to assure research and evidence-based practices are properly implemented.
When a child is misbehaving at school, there is often a breakdown in trust or relationship between school and parents instead of a strong partnership. Everyone is frustrated, and the child suffers. This can even lead to a change of placement to a more restrictive environment and problems in the family system.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Getting Ready for School: Become a partner with school

Starting the School Year off Right by Requesting Evaluations

A sample letter to the school that parents can use to request evaluations and get action.

Should you as a parent be starting the school year off with a request for evaluations? Keep in mind that the evaluations take 60 or more days to complete after the parent has provided consent. So if a parent waits, the evaluation process will be pushed back.

I've lost count of the times parents have told me that they have been requesting evaluations from the school for years, but evaluations have either not been done, or are out of date. Become an equal partner with your child's school team and craft a formal evaluation request. This will bring together the multidisciplinary team and get the ball rolling.

Many students struggled through the year last year, only to have a meeting at the end of the year, but too late for any real actions to occur.

Parents!  Evaluations form the foundation of any plan for your child.  Trying to intervene for behavior or academic problems without evaluations is like taking medicine without a diagnosis, like feeling your way in the dark, and like trying to do a home repair without the right tools.  It won't work.

You can find lots of sample letters in my SPECIAL NEEDS ADVOCACY RESOURCE BOOK and here is a letter you can use now, for the start of a successful school year. I wish you all the best as you advocate for your child! Good luck!

Dear Principal, Counselor and Special Education Coordinator,

I am the parent of (name your child) whose date of birth is (insert date of birth).  I am writing to formally request that the multidisciplinary team conducts evaluations and assessments in all areas of suspected disability for my child. I understand this request triggers timelines for the evaluation and that I must provide informed consent for evaluations.

I am requesting the following evaluations: (name evaluations here, such as: Neuropsychological, psychological, educational or academic, assistive technology, vocational, speech language, occupational therapy, physical therapy, functional behavior assessment, executive functioning, attention).

These evaluations are needed for progress monitoring, development or revision of my child's IEP and 504 plan, and to determine eligibility for special education and related services (select the situation that applies to your child). 

These evaluations are needed in order for my child to receive a free appropriate public education, FAPE. I understand that as a result of this letter, the multidisciplinary team will meet with me and therefore, I am available on the following dates: (provide dates). Please provide written confirmation of these dates, or offer mutually convenient date as soon as possible.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation and consideration for my child.

Sincerely, sign your name



Friday, September 30, 2016

Revoking Consent for Your Child's IEP: Good idea or terrible mistake?

Revoking consent for special education: A good idea or terrible mistake? Two Case Studies Parents Revoke Consent for IEP

Case Study 1: Suzie and the Bad Advice Advocate

Suzie is a six year old with diagnoses of High Functioning Autism, including Sensory Processing Disorder and academic deficits. She and her family lived in School District A in a state with good special education service options. At the beginning of first grade, Suzie was having serious behavioral challenges at school. Parents and school disagreed on why these behaviors were occurring. Trust broke down and the parent-school relationship was strained. School District A changed Suzie's Individualized Education Program and changed her placement. School District A wanted to send Suzie to a separate school for children with disabilities. School District A filled Suzie's file with documentation of many extreme behaviors, stating that she was removed from the regular classroom up to 5 hours per day due to misbehavior. After some homebound instruction, the parent did try to send Suzie to the special school. It was a disaster. 

Parent disagreed with the placement, and believed that Suzie's Least Restrictive Environment should be in the regular classroom with special education and related services supports. The parent could not afford a due process hearing, and School District A filed a due process hearing against the parent trying to force the parent to send Suzie to the separate school.

The parent received some bad advice by a parent advocate. The parent advocate (not me, of course!) told the parent that all she had to do is move to School District B, reasoning that County B has more of an 'inclusive' philosophy. The parent advocate said School District B would put Suzie back in the regular classroom. Why was this bad advice?

When a family moves, the student's IEP is implemented as written by the previous school district, until the new school district evaluates the student and creates a new IEP. In most transfer cases, the new school district will maintain the previous placement, since the new school district does not know the child and relies on the previous district. So, you can guess what happened.

School District B placed Suzie in a full day, special education program for children with emotional disabilities. The parent was in total disagreement. What can the parent do? Her options were:
1-File a due process hearing. 2-Ask for mediation. 3-State Complaint. 4-Revoke Consent.

Option 1 would mean that the parent would have to prove that Suzie's LRE is the regular classroom. Since Suzie had not been in the regular classroom for many months. Option 2 was off the table because the school district refused to mediate. Option 3 wouldn't be effective because the State will not change a placement over an IEP team. So Suzie's parent revoked consent all together, taking her off of her IEP and forcing School District B to educate her in her neighborhood school in the regular classroom. IT WAS A SUCCESS!

Since every child who is eligible for special education with an IEP is also automatically eligible for a 504 Plan, Suzie received a 504 Plan with accommodations and services and is on her way to a successful school experience in the least restrictive environment. Although this case study is about a family who moved to get the child what she needs, parents can revoke the IEP within the school district, and the child is automatically placed in the neighborhood school in the regular classroom. A 504 Plan should be developed along with a behavior intervention plan, as needed. 

Case Study 2 Justin, A computer Wiz Who needs Understanding Teachers

Justin is a middle school child with diagnoses of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Anxiety. Justin is also highly gifted and very capable of learning; he likes computers, coding, and someday would like to go into cyber security or designing video games. He also has a difficult time writing, staying organized, and sometimes he gets frustrated and emotional. He had an IEP for his Other Health Impairment (this list of definitions is in alphabetical order) but he was placed by the school district into a program in a different school from his neighborhood school for children with emotional disabilities. As in most states, Justin lives in a state where the parents do not have to agree or consent to a change in placement. So his parents, disagreeing with the more restrictive placement, had the same options as Suzie's parents. 

Parents revoked consent by writing a letter, and Justin remained in his neighborhood school with his friends. The school developed a 504 Plan for his condition of ADHD, provided counseling, and positive behavior supports. Justin is now successful in high school, on his way to a great career and fulfilled life. 

Revoking consent for special education: A good idea or terrible mistake? 

So revoking consent can be a really good idea and it can also be detrimental and a mistake. Some students will be suspended over and over again. Others will experience academic failure if there is no specialized instruction. Individualization is key, and each parent should seriously consider whether this is a good idea for the child. While the child can still be entitled to a free appropriate public education under a 504 Plan, most school districts will (inappropriately) refuse to provide specialized instruction under the 504. Some states are open to providing related services under the 504. The reality is that both special education and related services can be provided under the Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, as stated here is this guidance by the US Department of Education, 

"The Section 504 regulations require a school district to provide a "free appropriate public education" (FAPE) to each qualified student with a disability who is in the school district's jurisdiction, regardless of the nature or severity of the disability. Under Section 504, FAPE consists of the provision of regular or special education and related aids and services designed to meet the student's individual educational needs as adequately as the needs of nondisabled students are met."

A quick quiz. True or False? Answers below. 

1. When a parent revokes consent for all special education services, the parent has a right to request evaluations which may again lead to eligibility for special education.

2. The school district can take a parent to a due process hearing to require parents to allow the school to do evaluations. 

3. After parents revoke consent, and the school does evaluations, the school district can take a parent to a due process hearing to force the parents to put the child back into special education under the 'initial' IEP.

4. There are some states that do not allow a parent to revoke consent.

How did you do?


I hope this has helped parents and educators better understand the parent right to revoke consent. Please comment and discuss! And remember, if you need assistance, ABCs for Life Success is committed to extraordinary service! Contact us today!


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Top Ten Transition Tips for Administrators

What do Administrators need to know about involving parents in effective Transition Planning?

These top 10 tips for school administrators are designed to effectively bring parents into the transition planning process as equal partners with the school team. I’ve broken down these top 10 tips in an easy-to-remember format with the acronym TRANSITION.

Take the parents’ perspective.

Whether a student’s goal is community college, vocational training, four-year university, or other outcome, transition planning can be daunting and stressful for parents. Many parents are overwhelmed by the notion of a child with a disability becoming an adult, and ‘making it on her own’. If a student has significant disabilities, parents are worried about the child’s livelihood, ability to live a fulfilled and independent life, and are concerned about who is going to care for the adult child after parents pass away. To add to the parents’ stress, the multidisciplinary team and IEP development process requires parents to digest lots of information with which they are not familiar. Parents may have also had past disagreements or mistrustful relationships with school teams, which can make transition planning by the age of 16 (or earlier, as needed) difficult for parents and school teams alike.  Additionally, parents know the student best in settings outside of school and understand the child’s strengths, interests, aptitudes and abilities. Parents can be a valuable asset in transition planning. Ask parents what would be helpful for them as equal partners. Assigning members of the IEP team, such as a specialist in transition, counselor or social worker, can help the IEP team understand a parent’s perspective, build trust, and create effective parent-school partnerships.

Resource allocation

Be sure your multidisciplinary team has the resources, including time, it needs to assess the student, work with parents, create a transition plan, and deliver the services needed for the coordinated set of activities defined in the plan. Assign a transition specialist as case manager to coordinate transition planning.


A good transition plan will begin with assessment of the student’s strengths, preferences, aptitudes, abilities, and interests. The assessment can include interest inventories, vocational assessments, career planning assessments, job shadowing, job sampling, or a variety of other tools to guide the development of the transition plan. Assessments should be completed before developing the IEP and transition plan.

KNowledge of Transition

Administrators need to know the definition and importance of transition planning. Because adults with disabilities generally are underemployed, over-incarcerated, and participate much less in post-secondary education as compared with adults without disabilities, transition planning is designed to improve post-secondary outcomes related to living independently, schooling, career and job success, and overall independence.

Transition is defined by IDEA 2004 as:
“a coordinated set of activities for a child with a disability that is designed within a result-oriented process, that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the child with a disability to facilitate the child’s movement from school to post-school activities, including postsecondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation.”

 TIP 5
Student involvement

Involving the student is critical in transition planning, development of activities, and development of self-advocacy skills. After all, as an adult, the student will likely be in charge of advocating for herself as she navigates her way into adulthood.

 TIP 6
Individualize the transition plan.

We know that the IEP must be individualized, and the transition plan is no different. Parents and school teams that work together to create a meaningful plan, individualized to a particular student, will have the best chance to assure the student’s success in adulthood.  As a result of transition planning, the student’s IEP will contain instruction, daily living skills, related services, accommodation, community experiences, post-secondary goals, and vocational evaluation designed to allow the student to experience success in the adult world. The transition plan is part of the IEP, not a separate entity.

Trusting relationships

Parents and school teams develop a trusting partnership when parents and students understand the transition planning and transition services process. Providing parents and students with documents in advance of meetings, taking time to explain the language used in the documents, and generally understanding the importance to the family of effective transition planning are ways to accomplish effective parent-school partnerships.

 TIP 8
Invite community agencies and institutions

Businesses, colleges, vocational training institutions, agencies providing adult services, and other community partners will be the receiving the young adult into their worlds. Inviting community partners such as businesses, agency representatives and other community partners to the IEP team for transition planning will assist the parents, student, and multidisciplinary team in understanding the demands for each setting. Having these people attend the IEP meeting will also positively affect the student’s acquisition of self-advocacy skills. 

 TIP 9
Offer support and training

Administrators are key in providing support to parents and training for staff in the area of transition planning for students with disabilities. Even if the administrator assigns someone to care for the parents’ concerns or staff development, the administrator who offers support and training will provide necessary leadership to foster partnerships and empower school teams and parents working together for the student’s life success.

 TIP 10
Nurture the Team

Providing praise and acknowledgement for team members who are effective in developing parent partnerships, navigate the transition planning process with parents, provide services toward successful transition to adulthood, develop community partnerships and who are extraordinary deserve special recognition. After all, the team’s actions can make a huge difference in our communities. The student with the disability who transitions to adulthood successfully is as fiscally independent as possible, successful in a job or career, participates fully in the community, has family and friendships, contributes to others, and advocates for himself…this is something to celebrate!

Please comment and add to these tips!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Functional Behavior Assessment: Policy to Practice

Here is my presentation from the Child Mental Health Research and Policy Conference USF.

FBA Across Sectors: Perspective on Behavior Matters

My book, School Success for Kids with Emotional and Behavior Disorders,

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Prufrock Press

Emphasizes the importance of the adult perspective on a child's behavior.  If the adult sees the behavior as OPPOSITIONAL, the adult will treat the behavior as a POWER PLAY.  But if the adult sees the child's behavior as COMMUNICATION, the adult is far more likely to intervene by TEACHING COMMUNICATION. 


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My testimony-Burden of Proof in Maryland



Michelle R. Davis, M. Ed.


February 24, 2014


As an education consultant with over 25 years in the field of special education, I have worked with thousands of families in Maryland—both as a consultant and as a teacher in Montgomery County Public Schools-- as they try to navigate the special education process.  Even parents with the highest level of education and experience, even some parents who also are educators, are confounded by the special education process. Parents don’t understand the child’s basic rights to a free appropriate public education, and many feel overwhelmed at the amount of information, jargon, and complexity that is common in the special education process.


The special education process starts with evaluations.  The child who is eligible for special education receives an Individualized Education Program (IEP).  The IEP has multiple parts required by federal and state law.  It contains statistical, assessment and other technical information.  The IEP also specifies what services, accommodations, and placement the child will receive.  The evaluations, paperwork, and actions related to the process are completed by the school team members, also called the multidisciplinary team.  The multidisciplinary team contains professionals such as psychologists, speech language pathologists, occupational therapists, behavior specialists, experts in certain disability categories, administrators, and teachers (to name just a few).  As you can tell by this list, there are usually decades of experience from multiple disciplines that make up the multidisciplinary team.  


While the parents are invited to attend the meetings that discuss the actions of the team, the parents have no decision making ability, the parents cannot stop the actions or recommendations of the team, and the parents do not have a ‘vote’ or voice when it comes to disagreements.  In fact, the parents must file a request for a due process hearing to stop the actions of the team.  The way the process works now, the parent has to file the request for a hearing, but the parent would not have anticipated any disagreement, so the parent is at an extreme disadvantage at that point.  Most of the time, parents simply do nothing, despite remaining concerned about the child’s education.  As time passes and parents are more disgruntled and frustrated, parents look for options.  This is when parents begin to explore alternate placements and ask the school district for funding.  If the burden of proof in hearings is shifted to the school district, I believe the number of unilateral placement in nonpublic schools would be reduced.  I am saying this because opponents to this bill have been arguing that this bill only applies to wealthy parents who can afford to unilaterally place the child in a nonpublic school.  But this is simply not the case.  


The school district recommends the evaluations, conducts the evaluations, makes recommendations, develops the IEP and determines the child’s services.  The school district has an almost endless supply of experts, where parents have to hire experts at great expense.  The school district develops and holds the records for the child, while the parent’s right is only to inspect the records.  The school district is responsible for providing the child with a free appropriate public education, while the parent is an observing participant in the process.  


A due process hearing is an extremely stressful, expensive and complicated process in itself.  It requires legal knowledge, experience and expertise.  While I am not an attorney, I have testified in hundreds of hearings and have seen many skilled attorneys present precedent, enter evidence in the record, examine and cross examine witnesses, put together opening and closing arguments and otherwise perform tasks that are well beyond a parent’s capability.  


This is the topic of this bill.  


I believe passing this bill into law will improve the parent’s ability to be an equal partner with the school team.  I believe passing this bill shifting the burden to the school district will reduce the number of disputes.  Passing this bill will remove the school districtcommon stance of ‘if you don’t like our decisions, go ahead and take us to a due process hearing’.  


I'll give two common examples. Student A has an individualized education plan, IEP. That student receives 10 hours per week of special education, and one hour per week of speech language therapy. The school team convened a meeting with the parents, and recommends that the child no longer receives any speech language therapy, and the special education hours are reduced to five per week.


Even if the parents disagree with the team's decision, the parent must file a request for a hearing or in some cases mediation, in order to stop the recommendations from going forward.


This places parents in a position of having to navigate a legal proceeding, which usually involves attorneys, experts, and other monetary, time, and family resources. In addition, many times this sets up a situation that compromises the partnership between the parents and the school.


Student B is in the fifth grade at the neighborhood elementary school. After an evaluation, the school team decides that the child will no longer be receiving a diploma. This school team recommends that the child attends a special program, which is located in a different school. Even if the parents do not want the child to change schools, and disagree with this decision, the decision will move forward unless a parent files a request for a due process hearing.


So, the school team makes the decisions even over parent objection. And, the school team is full of educational experts, where the parent is not an expert. In these situations where parents and school teams do not agree, especially in light of Maryland law of consent, I believe the school district should have the burden to show that its actions are appropriate.


The school districts know that, as things stand now, the parent has little likelihood of prevailing in a hearing.  So the school team often tells the parent who disagrees that the hearing is available. But the parents don’t have any understanding of what the hearing entails, while the school districts hire very skilled attorneys who prevail against parents the vast majority of the time.  Furthermore, the dynamic and relationship between schools and parents who have been to a hearing against one another usually declines, and affects the performance of the child.


If the school districts had the burden of proof, it would likely spend more time and effort in the team meeting process to assure that parents understand and agree to the decisions of the team.  


If the school districts had the burden of proof, it would not have to produce any added paperwork or do anything different from what it currently does, because it already has the responsibility to provide a child with a free appropriate public education.  It already has to report progress of a child and do evaluations.  So there would not be any added actions or paperwork should this bill be passed.  


Give parents a more equal ability to be true partners with the team, as is the spirit and intention of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.  Pass SB799.  Thank you for your attention and support.  

Respectfully S


Michelle R. Davis, M. Ed.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Help! My Grandson Was Dismissed from Special Education!

Eligibility for Special Education


Here is my answer to a concerned grandmother, on  Anyone can contact me there and get a free answer as I and the other experts donate time to help concerned educators, parents, (and grandparents).

Hi Anne, Thanks so much for reaching out to me with a great question about your five year old grandson.  As I understand your question, he went to a special educaiton preschool under an IEP, but for Kindergarten this school year, he was dismissed from special education and there was a 504 plan in place.  Now he has a new diagnosis of Dyspraxia, on top of existing diagnoses of PDD NOS and ADHD.  He is doing poorly in kindergarten, and the school district is discussing having him repeat kindergarten.  You want to know if I can suggest goals for another IEP so that he can 'get back into' special education.

"Getting back into" special education means that you would like to see him become eligible for special education.  Therefore, instead of giving you goals for a possible IEP, I would like to share information about the eligibility process.  If I have this wrong, and the IEP is being developed and you would like goals, please follow up with me with another question.

In order for a child to become eligible for special education, three (3) things need to occur.  I discuss this in great detail in a chapter of my Special Needs Advocacy Resource Book,

but I am going to summarize here.

1--The child must meet one of the 14 defined disabilities under IDEA.  Here they are:

Based on what you have told me, Autism, Other Health Impairment, or another may be appropriate.

2--The defined disability must have an adverse educational affect on your grandson.  This means that he is having difficulty learning the skills or curriculum, and is not making expected progress. This seems to be the case since he may have to repeat kindergarten.

and 3--because of the disability and its affect on the child, the child must require special education.  Special education is defined as specially designed instruction to meet a child's unique needs.

It is typical for there to be an evaluation process in order to re-establish eligibility.  This can be as simple as review of information that exists, or it can be more complex and entail full and complete re-evaluation of your grandson.  The above three questions should be the focus of the evaluations.  The multidisciplinary team decides which evaluations are needed and who will do them.

Parents can have evaluations done privately instead, or in conjunction with the team.  Of course, if you are doing some private evaluations, the examiner must use the processes and procedures that the school district would use. It's useful for the examiner sometimes to participate in the evaluation discussion with the school team.  Also, if private evaluations are done, the examiner should consult in some way with the school so that he/she can speak to #2--the educational effects of the disability.

I have a service called an IEP Audit.  I would be able to craft a draft of an IEP after I review your grandson's information if you like.  But it seems to me, if I have understood the situation, the first order of business at this time should be focus on evaluation and eligibility.  Then once he becomes eligible, the IEP will be written and implemented.  It will be interesting if he becomes eligible to see if the school district treats this IEP as the initial IEP.  That would be my guess.  If so, then the parent will have to consent for special education services after the parent is sure that the document contains what the child needs.  That is also a good time to bring in someone like me, and maybe private evaluators, to review the draft and help determine if it is crafted so your grandson will benefit and recieve the appropriate services.

While I don't know your grandson of course, here are some areas that may be covered by the IEP goals:
-Reciprocal social interactions, pragmatic language, social skills, group interaction
-Following routines and school procedures
-Emotional regulation
-Fine motor or writing skills
-Attention, concentration, following directions, completing tasks, being organized

I very much hope that this response has helped you as you advocate for your grandson!  Thanks again for writing and don't hesitate to follow up with me.

I am doing a free webinar tomorrow evening, Tuesday 9 PM Eastern, 6 PM for the West Coast.  Join us!  Here is the info:
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