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Government Estate Planning

Repost from Autism Attitude: ABLE 2.0

In 2014 Congress passed the ABLE Act enabling families of disabled children to save for long term care expenses for their children without penalty. ABLE qualifying accounts are tax exempt and do not count against individuals when applying to government programs. As expected the ABLE Act 2014 comes with some strings attached. There are saving and spending limits for qualifying accounts as well as penalties for funds used for unapproved expenses.
Now a bipartisan update to the original 2014 version of the ABLE Act, called ABLE 2.0 is in the works. The idea of ABLE 2.0 is to transform the current ABLE Act 2014 into what would essentially be government run estate planning. The ABLE 2.0 package includes three bills. The ABLE to Work Act allows individuals and families to save more money — up to the federal poverty level — in their accounts if the beneficiary works and earns income. The ABLE Financial Planning Act allows families to roll over savings in a …

School Violence School Discipline

Some big news around here the last few days is the story of a Syracuse City School District (SCSD) substitute teacher stabbed breaking up a fight between students in local high school. People are predictably outraged saying all manner of vile things about not only the students involved but all students in the district. Even Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick has weighed in on the matter declaring the school district must drop its current approach to discipline.
The SCSD Code of Conduct has been a hot topic of late. It frustrates families, students, and staff. There is plenty of room for improvement. But people seem to have forgotten, or don’t care, how we got to this point.
Families first recognized the problem with discipline in the schools. The Assurance of Discontinuance details just how bad the problem was. High rates of suspensions of students, minority students disproportionately suspended, failure to notify families about referrals and suspensions, students wit…

Law suits, student behavior, and school supports

A Michigan special education teacher has filed suit alleging that she was wrongfully terminated for bringing sexual harassment by her special education students to the attention of administrators at Bay City Western High School. Teacher: Special ed students sexually harassed me, then I got firedMelissa Sawicki, 36, filed a lawsuit in US District Court in Bay City in September, alleging sexual discrimination and retaliation for protected activity on behalf of Bay City Public Schools and the district’s board of education, MLive.com reported on Tuesday.Sawicki claims special education students began making crude and lascivious comments to her — some even directing obscene gestures to her — shortly after she started her job in the district at Bay City Western High School in 2013. Two, no three, things went wrong if Sawicki’s allegations are proven to be true. First this teacher was not adequately prepared for what she would face in her classrooms during her teaching career. Lack of proper…

Thankful Thursday: Perseverance

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Thankful Thursday! Perseverance can turn "it can't be done" into "it it finished." What are you thankful for?



Poor Planning and Mediocrity

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Arresting children with disabilities and learning disorders when the adults around them fail to meet the children’s needs is a triumph of poor planning and mediocrity. The latest example of this, that we know about, occurred in a school in Dallas, Texas.
April Obin says her son has attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and tends to disrupt class at Gabe P. Allen Elementary School several times a week. But he has trained counselors that help him cope with the mood disorder.On May 9, Obin says her son had an episode that turned violent and he began to bang his head against the wall.Obin's attorney, Amar Dhillon, says the school was having standardized testing that day. The boy's counselor wasn't available, so they called his mother in for assistance.
Now you might be wondering why there was no one else at the school able to help April Obin’s son without the situation allegedly deteriorating the way it did. I know I am. Did anyone think, hmm, we should have a plan in…

Repost: All the parenting hats

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Re-posting from my other day job.

All the Parenting Hats

Some days it feels like being a parent requires me to be a general education specialist, a special education expert, a psychologist, a neurologist and neuroscientist, a geneticist, an education law specialist, a diplomat, and a hunting dog all at the same time. It is exhausting. But it’s what you do. Will there be a time when I’m not going to advocate for my children and others like them? When I’m dead maybe.

My kids want to go to college. That means it’s my job to make sure everyone does their job to give my children that opportunity. Sometimes that means holding my children to a higher standard than others have for them. Sometimes that means cutting them some slack. It’s a delicate balance that requires knowing the child in question and what best motivates them.

Mostly it requires being present and aware of my child and their needs. It means setting in my mind that they can achieve their goals and working alongside them to make s…

Medicaid Morass

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The Medicaid system is byzantine. There is no way around that fact. Issues with Medicaid have plagued those of us living with disability for decades. But it’s nice to see that others are beginning to notice problems with Medicaid to wit, “The new healthcare bill could worsen the stigma of special education.” Of concern here is the possibility of a loss of $4 billion over the next 10 years earmarked for schools to help children with special needs. Without Medicaid, support services as well as educational outcomes for children with disabilities may suffer. In a report from January of this year, AASA, the School Superintendents Association, made clear how dire the situation could get. Health and wellness, therapy, and nursing services will be on the chopping block, as will the jobs of staff whose salaries are paid either in part or in full by Medicaid reimbursements.In a letter sent to top lawmakers on May 2, a non-profit organization comprised of members from the nation's school dis…

Town Hall Fun

I appreciated the opportunity to take part in the live broadcast town hall on Monday, May 15, 2017 with my congressman John Katko. The event wasn’t earth shattering or game changing. It was a good start for a new way to do public dialogue with elected officials. I’d love to get state and local elected officials in that kind of format.
Here are the questions I had prepared for the evening but did not get a chance to ask. (News coverage here, here, and here. Plus protest coverage here, here, and here.)
Medicaid Medicaid fraud prevention measures do a poor job of preventing fraud. Instead they make it harder for people who need services to get them. How would you address this problem at the federal level? Medicaid reimbursements to service providers are notoriously low. This leaves people with limited options for care. It is a perennial problem for people with disabilities who need specialized care. Central New Yorkers are currently faced with a limited number of providers forcing families t…

The Death of a Child: Blame shifting and lack of transparency

8-Year-Old’s Suicide Leads Cincinnati School to Release Video Showing Bully Attack
This is the stuff of parents’ nightmares and it hits close to home for me. I had a similar experience with one of my children. It involved school staff rather than another student. My child is alive and well but I understand the outcome for my family could have been what Cornelia Reynolds is now experiencing. The school made no mention of the incident to the boy's mother, Cornelia Reynolds, only telling her that he fainted, said Jennifer Branch, an attorney representing Reynolds, adding that they learned about the surveillance video months after the attack in January.But because the mother didn't know what happened, the doctor at the hospital didn't either, which changed the nature of the medical examination, she said. "If she had known he had lost consciousness for over 7 minutes, that is a critical detail for a medical professional to know," she said.Reynolds found out about the bu…