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