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Fwd: Re: CDCAN NEWS CLIP: LA Times Column on Special Education and Father's Efforts for his Son

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  • Debra Marasco-McNulty
    Marty Omoto (Director - CDCAN - California Disability Community Action Network) wrote: To: Date: Mon, 08
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 9, 2007
      "Marty Omoto (Director - CDCAN - California Disability Community Action Network)" <martyomoto@...> wrote: To: <CDCANreportlist01@...>
      Date: Mon, 08 Jan 2007 16:16:29 -0800
      From: "Marty Omoto (Director - CDCAN - California Disability Community Action Network)" <martyomoto@...>
      Subject: Re: CDCAN NEWS CLIP: LA Times Column on Special Education and
      Father's Efforts for his Son

      CDCAN LogoCalifornia Disability
      Community Action Network
      Advocacy Without Borders: Connecting People With Disabilities, Mental
      Health Needs, Seniors, Traumatic Brain and other injuries, Families,
      Workers, Providers, Organizations, and Advocates to Rights and Unified

      January 8, 2007 Monday
      Edited/Written By: MARTY OMOTO, Director/Organizer
      To Respond to THIS email report reply to: martyomoto@... CDCAN
      website: www.cdcan.us

      The Los Angeles Times published today in its California Section a Bob
      Sipchen "School and Me" column on the struggle of a father in getting
      his young son the special education he desperately needs. Over 650,000
      children with special needs are enrolled in California special education

      Comment by Marty Omoto on column:
      The issue of special education for a child of special needs might seem
      to be uncomplicated for those who never had to deal with the sometimes
      bending and twisting road to either getting it or in providing it.
      * With limited and precious time to make a difference in the lives of
      their children with special needs, many families often face school
      districts in a relationship that is often adversarial and confrontational.
      * Enormous barriers exist for thousands of families who do not
      understand their children's rights to special education that is free,
      appropriate and as inclusive as possible, and tremendous obstacles often
      remain even when they do know. This is especially true for families of
      different cultures and languages.
      * For schools, there are thousands of good administrators, special
      education program staff and teachers across California who work enormous
      hours to stretch sometimes limited resources and funding. And there are
      some who don't.
      * The consequences for children who cannot get the special education
      they need and have a right to is enormous - as it is for children
      without disabilities. A good education and interventions at a young age
      can make all the difference in the world in whether or not a child with
      special needs is able to live a more independent life as he or she ages
      into adulthood. It can mean the difference of someone who can actually
      be employed and be paid for work. It can mean the difference in living
      on their own and making their own choices. It can mean a difference on
      whether or not a family member needs to stay home or is able to return
      to their careers.
      * No story in any article or column can possibly be complete. There are
      many stories. The story in this column by Bob Sipchen tells of one
      father's struggle for his young son. who says "I will never give up". In
      the last analysis, that is a feeling we all should share - the good
      parents and families who are struggling to find hope and answers and
      those good special education people who are trying to make a
      difference. That's why families fight so hard sometimes. We can't give
      up on our children.

      Where to go for more information:
      Reprints of Column:
      * For reprints of the column, go to the Los Angeles Times (local news)
      website at www.latimes.com (it will be also posted on the CDCAN website
      at www.cdcan.us).
      * CDCAN will be focusing a CDCAN Advocacy Without Borders Townhall
      Telemeeting on special education issues in the coming weeks, and also
      education for adults with special needs.
      Contacting Columnist
      * You can contact the columnist, Bob Sipchen, directly at
      bob.sipchen@... the column or on the question "do schools
      do enough to help special needs students?" [note this is a question he
      is asking of the general public]
      * You can call him at (213) 237-5000 (LA Times main number)
      Letter to Los Angeles Times Editor
      You can write a letter to the Los Angeles Times by:
      * Call: (213) 237-4511.
      * Fax: (213) 237-7679.
      * E-mail:letters@...
      * Letters should be brief (250 words or less) and are subject to
      * They must include a full name (initials and pseudonyms will not be
      used) and a valid mailing address and telephone number.
      * Unpublished letters cannot be acknowledged.

      Date: January 8, 2007, Monday Where: California Section B Page 1
      (left side, below fold and on newspaper website)

      Bob Sipchen LA Times ColumnistBob Sipchen:
      School Me
      Dad devotes himself to son's special education

      Emotions best described as fatherly push at Alfredo Reyes' face.

      He is among two dozen or so parents gathered in a hotel conference room
      for an L.A. Unified School District-sponsored "Training for Parents of
      Students With Disabilities." Most, including Reyes, have children who
      have just entered or are about to enter public schools, and these
      anxious moms and dads have reason to think their child is somehow
      different from other students.

      They want to know what's wrong. They want to know what can be done.

      Reyes, 28, is still trying to sort out where his 3-year-old son, Lenny,
      fits on the spectrum of human behavior. He's also struggling to
      understand where he, himself, fits into the parallel universe of special
      education parenting. The fact that he came out on this rainy Saturday
      morning offers a pretty good clue.

      He and his wife, Miriam Covarrubias, 29, noticed early on that Lenny was
      not like his cousins. The boy loves Thomas the Tank Engine. But whenever
      Thomas toppled off his tracks on TV, Lenny would topple onto the floor.
      The sound of a passing motorcycle or television static terrified him. He
      was slow to speak. He learned some things then quickly forgot them.
      Covarrubias, who packages frozen foods, speaks no English. Reyes, a
      metal cutter, has been working hard on his, in part because it's the
      language of so many of the people who hold keys to his son's future, he

      About a year ago, Reyes had district specialists assess his son. The boy
      began receiving weekly speech therapy at his preschool, but the father
      still has lots of questions. As he asks the district representatives
      about options and the inconsistencies in his son's diagnosis, I can
      almost see Reyes envisioning his enthusiastic, difficult son in
      classrooms two, five, 10 years from now.

      He looks worried. A bit puzzled. That's understandable.

      Until about 50 years ago, schools tended to exclude students who were
      too far out of step with their peers. Today, laws require public schools
      to educate kids with disabilities while treating them, as much as
      possible, like any other student.

      L.A. Unified was slow to embrace such reforms, and for a decade the
      federal courts have exerted pressure on the district to do a better job
      of complying with the myriad rules concerning disabled students. For
      once, I have a measure of sympathy for what the bureaucrats are up against.

      About 84,000 L.A. Unified students receive some type of special-ed
      intervention. About three-quarters of them have relatively minor
      problems processing what they see or hear, says Donnalyn Jaque-Antón,
      the district's associate superintendent for special education. The rest
      have more severe disabilities, such as Down syndrome or total blindness.

      All are entitled to some services, ranging from, say, a few visits with
      a speech therapist to full-time enrollment in specialized nonpublic
      schools at district expense -- including, in some cases, specialized
      residential programs in other states.

      Tensions arise when parents and the district have different ideas about
      a child's abilities or how much help a school should offer. Given the
      fuzziness of diagnoses, the range of professional opinion concerning how
      to educate these students, and the fact that there's not really a magic
      ATM with an infinite supply of cash atop the district's Beaudry Street
      headquarters, full agreement isn't all that common.

      A couple of weeks after that Saturday morning, I stop by Reyes' neat
      two-bedroom home in South Los Angeles.

      With Lenny and his younger sister, Melanie, alternatively climbing onto
      Reyes' shoulders and playing with a box of blue Thomas the Tank Engine
      tracks, the father opens an accordion file and pulls out his son's
      24-page Individualized Education Program.

      An IEP is the document that determines how a child will progress through
      the system, and Reyes has clearly spent many hours going over this one.

      Although no one can seem to fully agree on a diagnosis, the current
      consensus is mild autism, he says.

      As it happens, one of my Times colleagues has a son with a similar
      diagnosis. For years she has struggled on two fronts: to raise a boy
      whose behavior problems seem all too obvious and to persuade the
      district that the child has problems and is entitled to additional help.

      Those all-important IEPs are done annually, and she now has a small
      stack of the intricate forms. Thumbing through, she points to a page
      listing all the people -- therapists, an attorney, a psychologist, etc.
      -- who attended one meeting on her son's behalf. This one cost $300,
      this one $150, this one $50, she says, running down the list. So far,
      she figures her head-butting with the district has cost her well over
      $20,000, not counting the days of missed work.

      My colleague's a journalist, adept at sorting through complex
      information. Her ex-husband is a Harvard-educated attorney. They find
      the process daunting, frustrating, infuriating, befuddling.

      Reyes, who came to the U.S. from Mexico 11 years ago, remains
      determined. He has been researching autism, along with all the other
      possibilities of what could be wrong (schizophrenia causes the greatest
      concern, he says, gazing again at the grinning boy). He has joined a
      support group down the street. Eager to share what he has learned, he
      talks to every parent of a special needs child he can find. He stays in
      touch with his son's doctor and preschool teachers. A while back he quit
      his second job to spend more time trying to understand how to get the
      help Lenny will need to live the best possible life.

      I watch him try to stoically suppress the intensity of emotion on his
      face, and believe him when he says: "I will never give up."

      About the Columnist Bob Sipchen:
      * To discuss this column or the question, "Do schools do enough to help
      special needs students," visit latimes.com/schoolme. Bob Sipchen can be
      reached at bob.sipchen@....
      * Bob Sipchen writes the Times weekly "School Me" column and oversees
      the "School Me!" blog. Among many writing and editing positions at the
      Times, he served as editor of the Sunday Opinion section, later renamed
      Current, he created, launched and edited the Times Outdoors section, and
      served as senior editor at the Times Sunday Magazine.
      * As Associate Editor of the Editorial Pages Sipchen won the 2002
      Pulitzer Prize and the Sigma Delta Chi award for editorial writing (with
      Alex Raksin) for a series of editorials about people with mental illness
      and addictions living on America's sidewalks and in its alleys. As a
      staff writer he shared in the Times 1992 Pulitzer Prize for its team
      coverage of the Los Angeles riots.
      * In 1995-1996 Sipchen ranged the country covering the presidential
      campaign and in 1997 he loaded his wife and three children into a
      27-foot motor home and traveled 22,000 miles through 46 states writing a
      series of twice-a-week columns colleagues still refer to as "The Sipchen
      Family Summer Vacation Scam."
      * In addition to his work at the Times, Sipchen freelances for such
      publications as Playboy, National Geographic Traveler and Men's Journal.
      * The New York Times Book Review called Sipchen's Baby Insane and the
      Buddha (Doubleday, 1992, Bantam 1993) "first rate," adding, "Mr.
      Sipchen's supple, muscular prose gives the book the sweep and narrative
      pacing of a novel."
      * An adjunct professor at Occidental College since 1997, Sipchen teaches
      news writing in the fall and narrative non-fiction in the spring. He is
      a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and 2006 recipient of the university's
      Distinguished Alumni Award.

      * Please take just a few moments to fill out on your computer a very
      easy CDCAN information survey (being done in partnership with USC
      University Center for Excellence in DD Research, Education and Service)
      * We ask that everyone - persons with disabilities, family members,
      workers, state or federal government employees, media who are familiar
      with the work and advocacy of the California Disabilitiy Community
      Action Network, to complete this brief survey.
      * This survey, completely confidential, will be of tremendous help to
      increase and improve advocacy efforts for hundreds of thousands of
      people with disabilities (including developmental), the deaf, the
      blind, people with mental health needs, people with traumatic brain and
      other injuries, people with MS and other health issues, seniors, all
      their families, people who work in the field as support staff or
      advocates, people who work in state or federal or local government
      policy making, media .
      * The results from the survey can be very helpful in supporting the work
      of CDCAN in terms of funding proposals. .
      * Everyone can and should take a few moments to help CDCAN and fill out
      this brief survey. It will take just a minute or two. Have each person
      click on the website below and fill out their own survey.
      * Future Surveys! CDCAN plans to issue surveys on specific issues
      connected to scheduled CDCAN Advocacy Without Borders Townhall
      Telemeetings to help raise awareness on critical issues in communities
      across California and the nation. This includes access rights,
      healthcare (including Medi-Cal), special education, affordable and
      accessible housing/transportation, supportive services (including
      in-home), mental health needs and other critical issues.
      * Thank you very much for your help and support.
      1. Click on this website link:
      2. Follow instructions - The first page has the CDCAN logo and an arrow
      that says "Start Survey". Click on that.
      3. There are a total of 13 questions. Except for question number 10
      (about townhall telemeetings) you don't have to answer any of the
      questions or make comments. But it IS helpful to let us know what city
      and zip code you are from.
      4. The last page has the CDCAN logo and a "thank you" link that can take
      you to the CDCAN website OR you can just exit the survey site by
      clicking on the red "X" box on the top right corner of your screen.
      5. Any questions or problems regarding the survey, please contact CDCAN
      at 916/446-0013 or send email to martyomoto@...

      CDCAN News Reports and Alerts -
      These CDCAN Reports are partially funded by a small grant from the USC
      UCEDD, Grant #90DD0540 from the Administration on Developmental
      Disabilities. The opinions expressed or content in these reports do not
      necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the USC UCEDD. But more
      contributions are needed to continue these reports, alerts and the CDCAN
      Townhall Telemeetings and other efforts! Please send to:
      1223 8th Street Suite 480
      Sacramento, CA 95814
      The California Disability Community Action Network is a non-partisan
      link to tens of thousands of Californians in every community, including
      people of color, people of every type of disability, including people
      with physical disabilities, people with developmental and other
      disabilities, people with traumatic brain and other injures, people with
      mental health needs, seniors, people with MS, Alzheimer's and others,
      and all of their families, community organizations and providers, direct
      care and other workers, and other advocates. These action alerts and
      news reports is for all of them. If you would like to get on this
      distribution (and conversely, get off of it) please send an email with
      that request to: martyomoto@... OR sign up via the NEW CDCAN
      website at www.cdcan.us Sharing information is part of our organizing
      effort. Please feel free to forward or copy this (attribution is nice
      but not necessary). We're all in this together!
      MANY THANKS to Training Toward Self Reliance, UCP, California NAELA,
      Californians for Disability Rights, Inc (CDR), CHANCE Inc, Parents
      Helping Parents, Arriba, Strategies Toward Empowering People, Parents
      Helping Parents, Asian American parents groups, Resources for
      Independent Living and many other Independent Living Centers, several
      regional centers, People First chapters, IHSS workers, other self
      advocacy and family support groups, developmental center families, and
      hundreds of individuals. Thanks also to partnerships and the good
      people with the State Council on Developmental Disabilities, and also
      the Department of Health Services, the Department of Developmental
      Services, Department of Social Services and the CA Health and Human
      Services Agency and other agencies, and the State Legislature and staff,
      the Legislative Analyst Office. Good people who do good things can make
      a difference together.

      fn:Marty Omoto (Director, California Disability Community Action Network or CDCAN)
      org:CDCAN - California Disability Community Action Network
      adr:;;1225 8th Street Suite 480;Sacramento;CA;95814;USA

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