Tag Archives: special education

Collaboration: Let’s make it happen



Collaboration: It’s not a strange word!

First, happy summer!

My good friend Tim Ruggere, a current educational advocate/consultant and former  public school administrator (including principal of what was then the largest middle school in the Commonwealth0) in quite a few districts.  He and I have always worked collaboratively; he reached out a few weeks ago to tell me he was starting an advocacy  practice. He has met with many and we met. We have communicated extensively about some systemic pros & cons of working together as teams.  We brain-stormed ideas.

What wonderful relationships can be nurtured, ideas shared, and trust built that will, in the end, help CHILDREN w disabilities, & to help them grow into young adults w disabilities (ie: DDS, MDHE, DMH, MRC). By looking at all team members’ perspectives & building trust, we support students & families, they trust us, and we see best/better outcomes.

Together, we are co-launching a new & unique venture that does not currently exist in an independent way. We seek to create a community and networking opportunity: connecting advocates, educators in multiple settings, combinations of both, retired or career change educators and administrators who have become advocates, independent evaluators, etc. w the goal of supporting all in figuring out how to best serve children, & kids as they grow into adults. No money talk, no mandates from the out of touch district folks who barely visit schools, forgetting to meet or observe children they refuse to appropriately service for the wrong reasons. We seek good, meaningful discussion & collaboration in a positive & congenial manner. No *only* SPAN, no *only* MA Administrators of Special Education Administrators, no *only* FCSN. The idea is one Tim & I see as lacking everywhere.

I have trained on this as part of a team & alone to parents and professionals alike. Tim has done amazing work in some very challenging districts in MA/NH.  As with most team members, I find his heart was already in the right place, the professional choices he was allowed to make in certain places controlled by others. and I applaud his change of focus.  That systemic expertise is so valuable. We share the opinion, as many of you do, I’d suspect, to “presume competence”.

Let’s stop this too often used language of “two sides of the table” & work together.  Get together for dinner, great conversation, and introductions- let’s start a network of humans who care about students and how we can most appropriately serve them and all get along. Administrators & SC members, former admins, advocates/attorneys, and independent evaluators welcomed. Tim and I are thinking early August.

We envision a group committed to collaboration, through relationship building.

If interested, please send me a message. If you know Tim, he is a kind, smart & dedicated professional & his wife and business partner, Debbie, is lovely.

Here is to sitting together around tables, not on opposite sides of them.


The “Turning 3” quandary

Some background:

Under Federal special education law (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act- IDEA),  services for children birth to 3 (here in Massachusetts) are provided by Early Intervention (Part C of the IDEA).  When children turn 3, they are eligible to receive services, if they meet different criteria, through their local school district (Part B of the IDEA).

Fact #1: Only approximately 70% of children receiving EI qualify for special education.

Fact #2:  The IDEA provides for a so-called “seamless transition” between the two entities.  The service delivery goes from family-focused to appropriate for the student.  Having a disability alone does not qualify a child for an IEP.

Under the guise of formal “Service Coordination”, EI is responsible for supporting families in the transition process.  They are to identify other resources than special education ones, when appropriate.

My take-away over the past few weeks… EI administrators and staff can be just as dysfunctional as school district administrators and staff.  And that is inexcusable given the family focus that EI is not only allowed to, but mandated to, have.

No one seems to hold anyone accountable for the fact many (not all) school districts receive referrals from EI and Consent for Evaluation and don’t conduct the assessments within 30 school days, or hold the initial meeting within 45 school days  Sometimes, districts hold these for months.  Finally, the district schedules the meeting so close to the child’s birthday, there is are overly restrictive limits on the time parents have to observe potential placements.  As well, parents are not always getting 30 days to review and return the proposed IEP.  Most galling, EI is told they are not allowed to provide service after the child’s third birthday at all.  So, even if you get an IEP, EI can no longer help you review it or support you in the transition process if the child has turned 3.  I actually had two EI Directors tell me this week, “It’s not my problem”.

I implore the Department of Public Health to more pro-actively work with the DESE and local school districts to ensure that “seamless transitions” can occur. Families don’t always get offered what they want for their child, but they certainly have a right to have the process completed in a timely manner which allows them to thoughtfully respond to the proposal and partially reject it, if needed.  I implore DPH to tell programs to make sure their service coordinators are providing the information about assessments (content and what to request) and timelines.  I hope EI can be told it’s ok to tell families that the district has 30 schools days to conduct testing, and not stay silent or say “this is just the way it is” when districts blatantly break the law.

On a personal note, while timelines were followed by EI and the district, we still ended up needed to seek relief from the BSEA when my daughter turned 3.  She didn’t have autism. but she did have a few areas of signifigant need.  I remain convinced the quality EI, coupled the the excellent integrated preschool services, we were able to obtain, for her helped her make progress.  In fact she did so well, she only needed  a related services IEP when she went to kindergarten.  This is another example of special education working.

Families should have to deal with advocating in EI and with their school district simultaneously.  It’s not fair and it doesn’t necessarily bode well for long-term relationships between parents and districts who could have 19 years to be working together.

It should be easier, but with both entities blaming the other, I fear nothing will get fixed.  The only people who get left behind are little kids who need services.

Why hire an educational advocate?

  • Your child needs an IEP, or more or different services than they are currently receiving
  • Your attempts to communicate and meet with the school are not successful
  • Your child seems to not be making progress, academically or socially, or perhaps is unable to maintain peer relationships
  • IEP meetings have an “us vs. them feeling”, with “them” being 10 people and you alone; you don’t feel like part of the team
  • You have independent evaluators and clinicians working with your child and you need help in how to present their feedback to the school team effectively
  • Your child may be getting good grades on their report card, but on standardized tests meant to measure grade-level skills (ie: MCAS) they are failing or not meeting standards
  • Your child needs helps with behavior at home, or may require intensive services to address skill acquisition outside of the school setting, or needs to learn to carryover skills mastered in school to home and community
  • You need a pair of experienced eyes to guide you through the confusing special education process

My job is to provide families the support they need to obtain the appropriate services for their son or daughter and to empower them in the special education process.  I offer comprehensive record review, team meeting attendance, letter writing, and, in some cases, classroom observations.  I  connect with outside providers and the school-based team and collaborate effectively to get your child what they need to succeed.

phone (781) 308-4577  or email: collinsadvocacy@gmail.com