Autism Votes: “Tricare ‘Turns Back the Clock’ on Military Families”

Autism VotesThe title of this post could not have been more appropriate. This policy change cracks open the door to many more insulting changes to benefits of military families living with autism.

http://www.autismspeaks.org/advocacy/advocacy-news/tricare-turns-back-clock-military-families

TRICARE ‘Turns Back the Clock’ On Military Families

WASHINGTON, DC (June 27, 2013) — Military families will face new restrictions and cutbacks obtaining applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy for their children with autism under new policies made public this week by TRICARE, the Department of Defense health benefits program.

“These policies drastically change how ABA is covered under TRICARE and will impact all beneficiaries and service providers,” said Karen Driscoll, Autism Speaks’ associate director for federal government affairs and military relations. “Autism Speaks is very concerned about the imposition of age and duration limits, threatened cutoffs for treatment, and the administrative hurdles to access care.

“Military families deserve better,” she said. “Our clinical science and advocacy teams are working on a report and plan of action to address. Please stay tuned for policy updates.”

Legal Readings For the Autism Advocating Parent!

I wanted to share a short list of the top required readings we have found invaluable in our trials and tribulations of advocating for our boys’ education within public school districts. I know there is a good amount of information on the Internet (both good and bad) and I would love to hear your suggestions of great resources! In order to be a great advocate for your own child, you first have to understand one very important rule: “No one cares more about your child’s education than you.” So, if you as the parent have the greatest responsibility and interest in making sure your autistic child gets the most proper education, then it suffices to say that you must read, research and prepare for the day when (not if) you get in a disagreement with your district. As the saying goes in when you own your own business, “It’s not IF, but WHEN you get sued”, such is the same as a parent-advocate – It’s not if, but when you are going to run into potential IDEA issues. When this occurs you have to be ready to prepare for a potential fight. I wrote a 3-part series about this about a month ago about how we prepare for disagreements. You can read the first part of the series by clicking here. I can’t encourage you enough as fellow parent with autistic children that you must do the sometimes difficult part of increasing your understanding of how to get a proper education for your child. Even if your family has enough financial resources and wherewithal to hire advocates and SPED law attorneys, if you don’t have a thorough understanding of at least the basic premises of special education law then you won’t know if the people you hired are doing all they can or truly looking out for your child’s best interest. Ignorance of IDEA and related matters is NOT bliss! Our children are counting on us to be the best parents and advocates for them that we can be!

These are must-read, got-to-have-in-your-library resources for properly advocating for your child’s legal rights! If you don’t have these books, copy and paste the title into your favorite book site, or print this out and take it with you to your local book store and order them today! The investment in your knowledge about your child’s needs will save you so much money by helping your school district avoid the mistakes and tricks they sometime play at the educational disadvantage of your autistic child!

In no particular order:

1) Autism – Asserting Your Child’s Right to a Special Education, by: David Sherman

2) How to Compromise with Your School District Without Compromising Your Child: A Practical Guide for Parents of Children with Developmental Disorders, by: Gary Mayerson

3) Every book and video that Wrightslaw.com publishes!

4) www.wrightslaw.com – this is one-stop show for all case-law related information.

5) Your state’s Department of Education website for past rulings in your state of due process hearings and state complaints.

In Advocacy,

Mike

The IDEA Restoration Act – Contact Your Rep in Congress! Final Week!

Write Your State Representative!

Have I ever shared with you that I can’t stand “minimums” or “limits”? Of course I haven’t, as we’re still getting to know each other. Minimums to me represent the least possible amount of effort or requirement on order to barely satisfy a particular stated condition. There are of course some cases where a minimum amount would be preferred, like how much you are required to pay the IRS at tax time. But, generally speaking, anyone who only chooses to achieve or provide the minimum speaks a lot to that person’s character. Limits, on the other hand, irritate me. I am of the personality that I don’t like to hear “no”, or “you can’t do that”, or “you’re not allowed to do that”. These always conjure up in me a fighting spirit. You might as well have said, “Do you wanna fight?” I don’t like limits and I don’t like minimums. When I have a headache and need to take some medicine, I prefer the one that has the greatest amount of pain reliever in it. Extra strength? Maximum dosage allowed? Long Lasting? These are the kinds I’m talking about. I prefer the medicine with the strength to kill a man, but they backed it off a few notches. Give me the strongest dosage you got!

As an advocate I am sure you do not like limits or minimums either, especially when it comes to IDEA and developing IEPs for your autistic kids. Do you only want the minimum that IDEA allows for the education of your child? Do you like limits on maximum number of ABA hours, or amount of educational interventions you can get? I am sure the answer is no. If that is the case it is not too late to join me and my friends at the Autism Society and write your congressman for your state and tell them to cosponsor the IDEA Restoration Act (S.613 AND H.R. 1208). This is bill that takes away limits. Currently, when you go to due process and need an expert witness to validate the claims you are making, you have to pay for that out of pocket. Furthermore, when you win you can’t get those witness fees back from the school district. It’s a wash and many times eats up any favorable monetary benefit you received in the judgment. This act will allow parents and disabled students to recoup those costs after due process if they receive a judgment in their favor.

Please call or write before the end of this week (May 4-7) and tell your representative in both the Senate and House your story and how important it is for them to support legislation like the IDEA Restoration Act. You can use the sample piece below when you call or for your email:

CALL CONGRESS: Call your Representatives and Senators and ask them to cosponsor S.613 and H.R. 1208, the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act. You can call 202-224-3121 (TTY 202-225-1904). If you do not know who your representatives are, you can look them up at www.house.gov (click here) and at www.senate.gov (click here). Ask for the staff member who handles education or disability. Share with them the information below:

SEND AN EMAIL MESSAGE TO CONGRESS: You can email your Representatives through their special forms on the House of Representatives website (click here to email), http://www.house.gov/writerep , and write your Senators through their Web form on the Senate website (click here).

SAMPLE EMAIL / INFORMATION TO SHARE IN YOUR CALL: Here is information you can share with Congress. You can use it for your phone call, or you can cut and paste it into an email form. If you email, it helps to personalize it with even a few sentences about your child or your legal/advocacy practice. You might add something like “We are the parents of a child with autism and it is important to us that you support this bill, so we can afford due process if we are ever forced to go.” Or write something longer and more personalized.

Dear Congressman/Senator ________________,

Please cosponsor the IDEA Fairness Restoration Act H.R. 1208 and S.613. It will restore Congress’ original intent in enacting the Handicapped Children’s Protection Act of 1986 that parents who prevail in administrative hearings and court actions be allowed to recover expert witness fees. The bill would overturn the Supreme Court decision in Arlington Central School District v. Murphy (2006).

When school districts provide an education so poor that they fail their legal obligations, parents can seek an impartial due process hearing to protect their child. In those hearings parents must provide testimony from such expert witnesses as psychologists, doctors, therapists, and educational experts. This testimony is needed to prove that a free appropriate public education was not provided to their children. Few parents can afford expert witnesses. Nearly 36% of children with disabilities live in families earning less than $25,000 a year; over two-thirds in families earn less than $50,000 a year. Without the ability to afford expert witnesses, the right to a due process hearing is not meaningful for most parents.

The bill simply gives parents the same right as prevailing plaintiffs under the Americans with Disabilities Act and other similar laws to recover expert fees. When Congress passed the Handicapped Children’s Protection Act of 1986, it intended that parents would recover expert witness fees in IDEA cases, as clearly stated in the Conference Report. But the Murphy case overrode that intent. We ask Congress to restore its original intent and provide parents with the right to recover expert witness fees if they win their case.

Sincerely yours,

Your name here

United, we all can do much good collectively for the children of our country who walk the pathways in autism.

In advocacy,

Mike

Wow, Legal is a Challenge!

Well, our rebuttal to our local district’s response is in and has been received. At this point, the state gets to look at our complaint, compare it to the response that the district provided and then subsequently weigh it against our rebuttal to their response. We feel confident that the state will accept our complaint in our favor, but we are prepared to take the matter to due process if necessary. Going to court certainly is an exhaustive and tedious enterprise, but is necessary in the life of an advocate and a family who fights for the rights of their autistic children. Please pray for us and keep your fingers crossed that things will swing in our favor!

Mike