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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Another Enthusiastic Testimonial (Client Names Redacted)

From an International Client Family

September 25, 2014

Hello, everyone!

I want to give a BIG THANKS to all of you for this absolutely complete and super professional report. I just checked it but not yet read it deeply …actually I stopped reading it to write this short message, since I feel so grateful and I wanted to share that feeling with you.

Kate (DellaPorta) and Kelley (Challen): you did a great job, thank you so much!!! G. and me already wrote Dr. Ann (Helmus) telling her how well we felt with you during our visit and how professional, serious and kind you are … but now I wanted to say it directly to you.

Seriously, I don’t have words to express our thankfulness. 

For sure we will be getting in touch with you when we finish reading the report deeply. I guess we will have a lot of questions and comments.

Warmest regards,



The family that sent this note traveled to NESCA from East Asia for both neuropsychological evaluation and transition assessment.  

NESCA clinicians have now evaluated children and adolescents from 23 different countries, most in our Newton offices but also in Manila (The Philippines), Istanbul (Turkey) and Eleuthera (The Bahamas).

Educating Traumatized Children: ATN Learning Center FREE Online Summit

From the Attachment and Trauma Network

September 29, 2014

Please register for this FREE online summit, taking place from September 30th through October 10th, that will bring together the leading authorities and latest information on creating Trauma-Sensitive Schools.

Register HERE.

As a parent, teacher, school administrator or child welfare professional, you know that a child’s early trauma can have significant impact on his/her ability to learn in a typical classroom. And the behaviors and struggles of traumatized children are often overwhelming. What can we do?

 ATN is presenting 22 audio interviews during our 10-day summit that will explore these topics and give examples of some very exciting programs and strategies being implemented across the United States. Listen in for FREE or buy the entire summit as audio recordings (mp3) and/or as transcripts.

Summit Speakers
  • Jen Alexander, M.A., nationally certified school counselor
  • Robert Anda, M.D., co-founder of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Study
  • Patsy Anthony, teacher and EFT practitioner
  • Robert Burroughs,Ph.D, Academic Director for CALO
  • Chris Bye, M.S., co-founder of MeMoves
  • Susan Craig, Ph.D., teacher, consultant and author of “Reaching and Teaching Children who Hurt”
  • Lark Eshleman, Ph.D., trauma therapist, former school principal, counselor and librarian
  • Heather Forbes, LCSW, Beyond Consequences Institute, and author of “Help for Billy”
  • Jenny Kendall, Head of Special Programs for
  • Wendy Klimbal, M.S.,special education advocate, teacher and adoptive mom
  • Megan Marcus,M.A., M.Ed., founder and CEO of FuelEd Schools
  • Ann McMahon, Ph.D., engineer and educator
  • Jody McVittie, M.D., founder of
  • Christine Moers, therapeutic parent and parenting coach
  • Brice Palmer, special education advocate
  • Susan Reedy, TRM/CRM trainer, Trauma Resource Institute
  • Joel Ristuccia, co-author “Helping Traumatized Children Learn” –
  • Melissa Sadin, M.S., special education consultant, school administrator and adoptive mom
  • Roberta Scherf, co-founder of MeMoves
  • Avis Smith, LCSW, Director of Trauma Smart program at Crittenton Children’s Center
  • Lawrence Smith, LCSW-C, founder of
  • Jane Ellen Stevens, founder/editor of and
  • Barb Trader, M.S., Executive Director of TASH
Topics include:
  • Trauma Sensitive Schools
  • The Impact of Trauma on the Brain’s Ability to Learn
  • How to Recognize Children with Attachment Disorders in Your Classroom
  • Teaching Self-Regulation
  • The School Counselor’s Role
  • Trauma Smart Preschools
  • Using Engineering Education to Teach Empathy
  • Is it ADHD or Trauma?
  • Virtual Schooling as an Attachment-Focused Option
  • Alternative Approaches to Teaching Those with Attachment Trauma
  • Reducing Restraints & Seclusion by Using Trauma-Informed Practices
  • Special Education Basics

VERY IMPORTANT: Please watch for and respond to the confirmation email you will receive after registering! If you do not respond to the confirmation email, you will not be registered. International (Outside the US) Participants: If selecting “not applicable” for State does not work during registration, select “Alabama” (the first state on the list), then select your Country and your registration should go through.

Buy recordings and transcripts HERE.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Bill’s View: Ten Supreme Court Special Education Cases You Need to Know

From Massachusetts Advocates for Children
Bill's View - A New Blog

By Bill Crane, Esq.
September 25, 2014


Bill Crane is Of Counsel to Massachusetts Advocates for Children. He works with other MAC attorneys on systemic special education issues, consults to attorneys representing low-income parents and students in special education disputes, and writes for the MAC blog.

Bill was a Hearing Officer at the Bureau of Special Education Appeals from 1999 to 2014.


This is the first of what I hope to be a (more or less) monthly posting on special education law and practice. In this posting, I begin by reviewing the United States Supreme Court’s first special education decision, which in many ways remains the single most important judicial decision regarding special education. I then briefly cover all of the remaining Supreme Court decisions pertaining to special education.

In my October posting, I plan to provide an overview of all of the relevant First Circuit decisions. In subsequent postings, I will discuss other important court decisions, state law and regulations that may extend beyond the federal floor, as well as practice suggestions.

I welcome reader feedback, particularly any suggestions as to how these postings could be improved, including what other areas of special education law or practice I might address.

Readers may contact Bill directly at

The Rowley Decision

In Board of Education v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176 (1982), the Supreme Court rendered its first opinion regarding the contours of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and, importantly, the “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) mandate within it.

The Court opined that the IDEA requires proposed special education and related services to be “reasonably calculated to enable [the student] to receive educational benefits.” The phrase “reasonably calculated” has generally been understood to mean that the IDEA does not guarantee any particular result—rather, the educational services proposed by a school district must only be reasonably likely to provide sufficient benefit to the student. The key remaining question, of course, is how much benefit is sufficient under the IDEA’s FAPE mandate.

In language that lower courts continue to quote, the Supreme Court explained: “Whatever Congress meant by an ‘appropriate’ education, it is clear that it did not mean a potential-maximizing education.” The Supreme Court added that a student must receive “some benefit”, and several Circuit Courts have adopted this language in a manner that tends to limit the FAPE entitlement. But, the Supreme Court also used the term “meaningful” to describe what education must be provided, and referenced a standard of meaningful access to public education.

Many courts (including the First Circuit in its two most recent IDEA decisions) have adopted a meaningful benefit standard. Importantly, the Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA) hearing officers have also adopted a meaningful benefit standard. (Occasionally, BSEA hearing officers also use a standard of “effective” educational progress—a standard found in federal special law, lower federal court decisions, Massachusetts special education regulations, and the Massachusetts standard IEP form.)

Two other parts of the Rowley decision help one understand the contours of the FAPE standard. First, the Court wrote that FAPE must be “tailored to the unique needs of the handicapped child by means of an individualized educational program (IEP)”, thereby emphasizing the critical principle of individuality. (The requirement of designing special education services to meet a student’s unique needs is also found within the IDEA’s purpose section and its definition of “special education”.)

In many situations where a student’s special education services may appear to be ineffective, an important question to ask is whether the student’s educational program has been sufficiently tailored to meet his or her unique special education needs.

Second, the Supreme Court explained the central importance of considering each student’s educational potential when seeking to determine whether a student is receiving sufficient educational benefit. I quote here extensively from Rowley because of the importance of this point:

"The determination of when handicapped children are receiving sufficient educational benefits to satisfy the requirements of the Act presents a more difficult problem. The Act requires participating States to educate a wide spectrum of handicapped children, from the marginally hearing-impaired to the profoundly retarded and palsied. It is clear that the benefits obtainable by children at one end of the spectrum will differ dramatically from those obtainable by children at the other end, with infinite variations in between. One child may have little difficulty competing successfully in an academic setting with nonhandicapped children while another child may encounter great difficulty in acquiring even the most basic of self-maintenance skills. We do not attempt today to establish any one test for determining the adequacy of educational benefits conferred upon all children covered by the Act."

Lower courts (including the First Circuit) have adopted and clarified this principle to mean that under the IDEA, one cannot determine the sufficiency of a student’s educational progress in a vacuum. Rather, educational benefit can only be understood appropriately within the context of what each particular student would be expected to be able to learn if provided an appropriate educational program.

In assessing whether educational progress has been sufficient, it is therefore essential to understand (often with the help of an expert) the student’s potential to learn.

Judges and hearing officers cite to and are governed by the above-described legal standards, as well as elaborations of these standards found in countless federal court decisions. But, what is apparent from reading many, many IDEA decisions is that a relatively subjective factual analysis is usually determinative in a FAPE dispute. This reflects the reality that each student’s educational needs, in fact, are unique.

As a result, what often becomes critical is the judge’s or hearing officer’s understanding of the educational facts and the opinions of educational experts (including teachers, service providers and evaluators) who know the student’s particular special education needs and how those needs should be met so that the student’s educational program will be appropriate.


Panel Discussion 10/7 - Register Today!
  • October 7 (Tuesday) 7:00 - 9:00pm: Stressed-Out Students: How Boarding Schools Can Help. Panel discussion with admissions officers from five schools at the Wellesley College Club. Co-sponsored by NESCA and Hunnewell Education Group. FREE and open to the public; advance registration required. Details HERE. Please call 617-658-9800 or email 

Subsequent Supreme Court Decisions

What follows is an overview of the Supreme Court’s subsequent IDEA decisions, listed in reverse chronological order. Although none of these decisions has the breadth of Rowley’s analysis, each of these decisions establishes an important principle regarding the rights and responsibilities of parents and school districts.

And, as with Rowley, a number of these decisions provide an important backdrop to the lower court decisions that have filled in much of the details of special education law.

Winkelman v. Parma City School Dist., 550 U.S. 516 (2007). The Court held that “[p]arents enjoy rights under IDEA; and they are, as a result, entitled to prosecute IDEA claims on their own behalf.” Some may find the Court’s recitation of parental rights to be useful.

Arlington Cent. School Dist. Bd. of Educ. v. Murphy, 548 U.S. 291 (2006). The Court held that non-attorney expert’s fees for services rendered to prevailing parents in IDEA action are not costs recoverable from school districts under the IDEA’s fee-shifting provision.

Schaffer v. Weast, 546 U.S. 49 (2005). The Court held that the party seeking relief bears the burden of proof in an administrative due process proceeding, such as the BSEA.

Buckhannon v. West Virginia Dept. of Health and Human Resources, 532 U.S. 598, 121 S.Ct. 1835 (2001). The Court ruled that in order to obtain attorney fees as a “prevailing party”, the party must secure either a judgment on the merits or a court-ordered consent decree.

Cedar Rapids Community School Dist. v. Garret F. ex rel. Charlene F., 526 U.S. 66 (1999). The Court held that continuous nursing service is a “related service” that the school district is required to provide under the IDEA. The Court also noted that an IDEA dispute “is about whether meaningful access to the public schools will be assured”, thereby repeating the “meaningful access” standard originally articulated in Rowley.

Florence County School Dist. Four v. Carter, 510 U.S. 7 (1993). The Court discussed the standards pursuant to which a parent may obtain reimbursement for a private educational placement. Importantly, the Court determined that reimbursement does not necessarily require that the private school meet the IDEA’s definition of free appropriate public education—for example, the private school does not necessarily have to meet the state education standards.

There are now a number of Circuit Court decisions (including a First Circuit decision that will be discussed in my next posting) that have relied on this decision to describe more specifically the requisites of a private educational placement that can be reimbursed.

Honig v. Doe, 484 U.S. 305 (1988). The Court addressed the IDEA’s stay-put provision, explaining that in enacting stay-put, Congress intended “to strip schools of the unilateral authority they had traditionally employed to exclude disabled students … from school.”

The Court also noted that the IEP is the “centerpiece of the [IDEA's] education delivery system” and explained that “Congress repeatedly emphasized throughout the Act the importance and indeed the necessity of parental participation in both the development of the IEP and any subsequent assessments of its effectiveness.”

School Committee of Town of Burlington, Mass. v. Department of Educ. of Mass., 471 U.S. 359 (1985). The Court established, for the first time, the right of parents to be reimbursed for their expenditures for private special education. This decision (together with the Court’s decision in Florence v. Carter, discussed above) generally stands for the proposition that a school district may be required to reimburse parents for tuition and other expenses related to a private school placement when:
  • (1) the IEP and placement offered by the school district were inadequate or inappropriate (in other words, where the school district failed to offer FAPE)
  • (2) the parents’ private placement was appropriate for their child’s needs; and,
  • (3) the balance of the equities favors reimbursement.

The Court also explained that in an IDEA dispute, a court has broad authority to fashion appropriate relief considering equitable factors, which will effectuate the purposes underlying the Act, and that the IDEA provides “procedural safeguards to insure the full participation of the parents and proper resolution of substantive disagreements.”

Irving Independent School District v. Tatro, 468 U.S. 883 (1984). The Court held that provision of clean intermittent catheterization was a “related service” under the IDEA and not a “medical service,” because the service was necessary for the student to attend school. The services requested did not fall within the medical exclusion because they need not be performed by a physician. The Court noted that “Congress sought primarily to make public education available to handicapped children and to make such access meaningful”.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Nearly 8 In 10 Kids Don’t Get Developmental Screenings

From Disability Scoop

By Shaun Heasley
September 11, 2014

The vast majority of American children may not be receiving recommended screenings for developmental delay, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

In a government survey, parents of 79 percent of young children reported that they had not been asked to participate in screening efforts in the previous year. This, despite recommendations that children are routinely checked at pediatrician visits for signs of developmental issues.

The findings come from an analysis of data collected in 2007 and 2008 through the National Survey of Children’s Health published this week in a supplement to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The issue includes a broad review of preventive care services recommended for children and adolescents ranging from newborn hearing tests to hypertension screening.

Parents of children ages 10 to 47 months were asked if their child’s health care provider had them complete a developmental questionnaire within the previous year. The surveys, which ask about development, communication and social behaviors, are part of the recommended screening procedures for young children.

Though most said they did not participate in screening, parents of slightly more than half of children did say that their doctor asked about whether they had concerns with their child’s learning, development or behavior, suggesting that physicians rely on more informal conversations to assess their patients.

These conversations did not appear to prompt additional screening in cases where parents expressed concerns.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that doctors use a developmental screening tool to assess all children at ages 9, 18 and either 24 or 30 months. Developmental screenings are significant, the report said, because children who are at risk for delays are more likely to receive early intervention if they participate in such efforts.

“We must protect the health of all children and ensure that they receive recommended screenings and services,” said Stuart K. Shapira, chief medical officer and associate director for science at the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

“Increased use of clinical preventive services could improve the health of infants, children and teens and promote healthy lifestyles that will enable them to achieve their full potential.”

The report did note that data was collected prior to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Under that law, most insurance plans must cover developmental screening at no cost to patients.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Book Talk 10/16 by Judy and Carson Graves: Parents Have the Power!

Sponsored by NESCA
September 26, 2014
Parents Have the Power to Make Special Education Work is an "elegantly written and wisely pragmatic" guide to navigation for parents adrift in today's storm-tossed seas of special education.
Authors Judith Canty Graves and Carson Graves "learned the ropes" by advocating successfully for their own child from preschool through high school, and by engaging extensively with many other parents and professionals along the way.
The will join us at NESCA from 7:00 to 9:00pm on Thursday, October 16th to discuss their experiences, following introductory remarks by renowned Special Education Attorney Robert K. Crabtree, who wrote the book's robust Foreword.

L-R: Carson Graves, Robert K. Crabtree, Esq.,
Judith Canty Graves

A question and answer period and book signing will follow the presentation. Copies of the book will be available for purchase. Refreshments will be served.

When:   7:00 - 9:00pm Thursday, October 16, 2014

Where: NESCA, Lower Lobby Meeting Room

                 55 Chapel Street, Newton, MA 02458

This program is free and seating is limited; reservations are required. RSVP to Amanda Renzi at 617-658-9800, ext. 0, or email

There is ample, free, off-street parking in the lot opposite the main, Chapel Street entrance to NESCA's offices.


NOTE: In their acknowledgements, the Graves cite NESCA's Jason McCormick, Psy.D. as "the best neuropsychologist we have ever worked with." 

"Turn It Off Right Now!"

From Great Schools

By Connie Matthiessen
September 15, 2014

Parents today are the first generation to raise kids in a world dominated by screens. Our parents ordered us to turn off the TV and stop yammering on the telephone — but such struggles seem easy compared to the battles today’s parents face, with TV, the internet, and the textaphone available anywhere and everywhere — and never very far from our kids’ hot little hands.

What effect does all this screen time have on kids’ academics? Many parents and experts have suspected that the effects aren’t good and now there’s hard evidence to prove it.

A three-year research project, known as “The Learning Habit Study,” identified a direct link between screen time and declining grades.

Think this study only pertains to little screen addicts? Hardly. Even just half an hour of screen time a day caused grades to fall. Four hours of screen time a day caused kids’ GPA’s to fall by an entire grade. (This seems like a lot until you consider that American kids’ average screentime diet is seven hours).

The study of 46,000 American households was conducted by a team of researchers from Brown, Brandeis, Children’s National Medical Center, and New England Center for Pediatric Psychology and published in the American Journal of Family Therapy, and in a book, The Learning Habit.

The study also found that kids who spent more time on screen were less able to persist at difficult tasks, and exhibited more emotional volatility than those who engaged in less screen time.

Now that the evidence is in, what should parents do? The study authors suggest parents make a conscious effort to balance screen time with chores, activities, and family time — dinners, game nights, and outings, for example.

Kids won’t be the only ones to benefit, since most adults I know (including me) spend a good part of each day glued to the screen, too. So make a family meal, wash the dishes together, take your kids for a walk, get out the board games, and make a night of it.

I’m right behind you (as soon as I finish this post, check my email, and return a few text messages!)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Stressed Out = Left Out? Panel 10/7: How Boarding Schools Support Anxious Students

Co-sponsored by NESCA
and Hunnewell Education Group

September 25, 2014

Please join NESCA Neuropsychologist and Anxiety Specialist Angela Currie, Ph.D., Educational Consultants Oakes Hunnewell and Chris Overbye and admissions officers from Proctor Academy, Dublin School, Cushing Academy, Brewster Academy and New Hampton School in a discussion of how they effectively support today’s increasingly anxious students.

When:   7:00 - 9:00pm Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Where: The Wellesley College Club (Directions)
                   Wall Room - 2nd Floor
                   727 Washington Street
                   Wellesley, MA 02482

                   There is ample, free, off-street parking.

This program is FREE and open to the public, but seating is limited and advance registration is required. Light refreshments will be served.

RSVP to Amanda Renzi by calling 617-658-9800, or by email to