ABCs for Life Success

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Thursday, December 28, 2017

He's in College Now

So many parents feel hopeless when the child with a disability is struggling. There is hope! Too many parents are told that the future of a child is bleak, when in fact, it is bright. 

I remember the day I first saw this young man in third grade. He was being expelled for choking a teacher. The teacher would yell at him and he couldn't take it any more. After his parents and I advocated for him, he received the right services.

Not only did he complete college, his essays have won awards, and he has been acknowledged for his work in college with disability support services. #selfadvocacy

Brent's parents were disheartened, to say the least. In 3rd grade, he was recommended for expulsion. He had a very deep interest and knowledge of cheese. Cows, grass, process for making cheese, and all things cheese. His third grade teacher yelled at him once again to 'stop talking about cheese!'. Brent attacked her. Eventually, he received the right school setting. He wrote, produced and starred in a school-wide play about cheese. The characters, Princess Provolone, Sammy Swiss (who was so holey that he was able to squeeze through the jail bars to rescue the Princess) and others were so compelling, he received a standing ovation. Here is Brent's award-winning essay in college. 

Essay by Brent Olsen, winner of the Edward M. Spath, Jr. Award

Emotionally a Refugee

  I was diagnosed with Asperger’s when I was six years old.  Asperger syndrome is
a disability on the Autism spectrum, although not as severe.  Asperger’s is a learning disability,
people with it are known to have difficulties socializing, and also happen to have repetitious
personality traits, such as a one track mind, although that’s not the case with each individual.  
 I didn’t feel the emotional effects until I got into 3rd grade.  On occasion I would try to
make new friends, but my ability to make friends was atrocious.  I walked up to a complete
stranger and with a dumb look on my face, I said, “Hey man!  Want to be my friend?”  Most
would laugh and walk away.  I later learned that you must get to know the individual and build
your relationship on that.  All throughout Elementary School I was singled out as “that kid.”  I
was the kid no one wanted to hang out with.
 It was a miserable feeling knowing that no one wanted you, that you were the most
unwanted person in the whole school.  There was also the crushing loneliness, feeling lost in
studies, and behind in every class that I had to get through in Elementary School.  Not to
mention, the teachers wanted nothing to do with students like me, and didn’t care if I needed
help to get caught up.  All of this caused stress, which after a year or two builds up.  I have never
felt more uneasy, useless, and homeless in my life.
 Eventually, I was sent to the Harbour School where my uselessness, hopelessness, and
feeling sorry for myself completely turned around.  When I first attended Harbour it was difficult
to adjust to the new surroundings.  This place was a lot different than Baden Elementary, the
previous school I went to.  Unlike Baden, people at this school were nice and non judgmental. 
Within the first week I felt more welcome than I have in school for a long time.  Luckily, I
wasn’t “That Kid.” anymore.  The longing to socialize with people not out to get me was finally
fulfilled.  The crushing loneliness had subsided.
  After a while, I began to make friends, got the educational help I needed, and I started to feel
 Throughout the nine years I attended Harbour, I grew up physically, but mostly
emotionally.  Teachers always told me that I have the personality and traits of a leader.  In High
School, I became the Manager of several shops that were opened up on Fridays, one was the
book store and the other was the literary magazine.  The teachers told me that I was best for the
job because I could make quick decisions under times of pressure.  Both Businesses I ran made
the most money out of all the others in the school.
 In FACS class I learned to become more independent.  I learned to balance my finances,
cook, organize, and pay bills.  Although it was my least favorite class, it was the most effective.  
 The credit of my success does not go completely to Harbour, but also to my church.  The
conservative morals and values I was taught in church shaped me into the man I am today. 
Unfortunately, those values got me in trouble on regular bases at school.  I was told that I am too
honest.  My Asperger Syndrome is probably a contributing factor to this.  
 For example, one day I went to Algebra, my teacher began collecting the homework.  Her
name was Mrs. Reichel.  She was a short stubby woman that had the figure of a tea kettle.  She
approached me and asked, “Brent, did you do your homework last night?”  I just stared.  She
asked again, “Brent, did you do your homework?”  I smiled, “Mrs. Reichel, I did not.”

 She closed her eyes and exhaled, “Why?” she asked.  I replied, “I didn’t feel like it.  There were
other things less dull that I felt like doing.”  She smiled, and later gave me homework detention. 
Most students would come up with a lame excuse, but not me.
 When senior year arrived, I was a little disheartened that this would be my last year.  I
was more pleased that I could move on and meet new challenges.  The anticipation of walking
across the stage was so overwhelming that year that my time as a senior was as long as an
eternity.  I must say, even though it was a pain at times Harbour was there for me.  It was a light
in a sea of darkness.
  Unfortunately, I still struggle with my social skills.  I still struggle talking to people I
really want to get to know, especially women I happen to like.  Luckily, that has not kept me
down.  I’m tired of feeling like a refugee.  My disability should not and will not determine
whether or not I’m socially acceptable.  Only I can determine that.
 I still try to better myself socially.  Instead of sitting on the sidelines, wishing I could talk
to someone, I get out on the field and play the game myself.  Sometimes I cannot help but feeling
like an outcast or a refugee because as hard as I try to hide my Asperger’s, it always seems to
surface at the worst time possible.  For example, when I make new friends and we start joking
around, my Asperger comes out and I say something dumb or something blatantly obvious
related to the joke.
 Luckily, within the last few years I have learned to ignore what people think of me.  I
have also learned not to let what I say by accident affect what I think of myself.  I learn from
what I blurt out.  So once again I feel on top of the world!



Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Academic Assessment: The time is now!

Let me conduct a comprehensive academic assessment for your child. 


  • Find out how your child is reading, writing and doing math.

  • Learn whether your child is making academic progress.

  • Find out if your child is on grade level. 

  • Help developing 504 or Individualized Education Plans.

  • Ample time spent processing findings and recommendations. 

  • I am an independent examiner. 

  • Empower yourself to be an equal partner with the school team. 

  • Bring new information to the school for decision-making.

  • Use results for school placement. 

  • Recommendations are specific and evidence-based.

  • The school district will take longer, and may refuse to test.

  • The school district may not have experienced examiners. 

  • The school district will only use tests purchased by the district. 

How am I qualified?

  • University professor instructing how to conduct assessment.

  • Master's Degree in Special Education.

  • Highly qualified by test publishers. 

  • Over 30 years of assessing student skills and performance. 

  • Provide accepted tests by schools, with many options of tests.

Reading Tests:

  • Weschler Individual Achievement Test (III).

  • Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing .

  • Grey Oral Reading Test.

  • Grey Silent Reading Test.

  • Informal Reading Inventories.

  • Woodcock Johnson Diagnostic Reading Battery. 


  • Oral and Written Language Scales.

  • Test of Written Language. 

  • Curriculum Based Assessment of Writing.

  • Weschler Individual Achievement Test (III).


  • Key Math 3.

  • Weschler Individual Achievement Test (III).

  • Curriculum Based Assessment of Calculation, Problem Solving.


  • Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales.

  • Bender Gestalt Visual Motor Integration.

  • Social Responsiveness Scales.

  • Gilliam Autism Rating Scales. 

  • Functional Behavior Assessment.

  • Classroom Observations.

  • Teacher Interview.

Independent assessment is a great way to help you feel empowered to help your child, put into place the right interventions and make a difference for your child's education.

Let's get started!

Call me 301-526-8512
Email me
I will tailor the assessment plan to your child's needs, and schedule at a convenient time and location. 

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.