Children with Special Needs, need Parents with Special Skills!
Winter 2017

Parent Session: How to Prepare for Life After School for your Child with a Disability

AJE is partnering with SchoolTalk and Quality Trust to host the  Parent Session: How to Prepare for Life After School for Your Child with a Disability to be held in conjunction with SchoolTalk's 8 th Annual Voices of Change Conference: Secondary Transition for DC Youth by DC Youth,  Friday, March 10, from 10:00am-2:00pm at the Washington DC Convention Center.

This free, interactive session is just for parents of students with disabilities! Learn how to prepare for life after school and how to support your student to successfully transition into employment, education, and independence. There will be an opening session, lunch and six breakout sessions to give parents resources and guidance.  You will have time to connect with resources and advocates, and other parents of students with disabilities to learn about how to prepare your child for life after school!

Take the first step to help your child to learn how to successfully transition into employment, education, and independence by participating in this session. Registration is limited and will be open at the end of this month - contact the Parent Session organizers:  Rhonda White, Quality Trust,, or  Molly Whalen, Advocates for Justice and Education,

AJE New Initiatives: Lunch & Learn and Special Education Thursdays

AJE's Lunch and Learn series continues to be a great success, providing parents and professionals a chance to hear from knowledgeable guest speakers about policy questions that are impacting students with disabilities in the District of Columbia.  Our first two events were about Mental Health Services for Children in D.C. and Health Services in Schools in D.C..  

Our next Lunch and Learn will be on February 6, 12-1:30 pm and will focus on discussing disproportionate and disparate treatment of children of color in school discipline.  This lunch and learn will feature guest speakers and AJE's own staff attorneys Patrice Wedderb urn and Maria Blaeuer presenting some of D.C.'s disciplinary data, and sharing efforts in other jurisdictions to address the issues. The discussion will include what direct service providers can do to address disproportionate/disparate treatment.    

We have re-scheduled our January Lunch & Learn for February 13, 12-1:30pm and will be hosting Laura Kaloi for a presentation and discussion on what our community can expect with New Leadership in the White House and at the Department of Education.

On March 13, 12-1:30pm our Lunch and Learn will be just in time for spring IEP meetings! The topic will be Understanding and Navigating OSSE Special Education Student Transportation with guest Speakers: Kim Davis and Shaneika Webb, OSSE, Division of Student T ransportation Community Engagement.  We are excited to host OSSE for this practical topic that is so important to so many families.

AJE's Special Education Thursdays: Offering a better understanding of DC special education in a "bite-size" format
Held every other Thursday, these 30-minute sessions, available online, give parents and professionals: information, education and a better understanding of DC special education issues in a "bite-size" format. Special Education Thursdays are FREE for parents and professionals to answer your questions about special education in DC, where to go for help, and to learn how to advocate for a child with a disability or learning need.
Special Education Thursdays launches January 26th with the topic:  "What are LEARNING DISABILITIES, and what should I know as a parent?"   Plus, discover a helpful and easy tool: . Special Education Thursdays are live every other Thursday from 12:30-1:00 pm or accessible as archived recordings on AJE's website. To sign up or for more information, email:  
These AJE initiatives are intended to provide parents and professionals with a chance to learn more about important policy questions facing our community, better understand DC special education issues and share practical information needed to navigate the system.  If there is a policy question you are interested in AJE exploring at a Lunch and Learn or a topic you want to learn about on Special Education Thursdays - please let us know! Register for these events by emailing: .

GRIT - A New Focus in Local Schools, But What Does it Mean?

"Grit" is something many schools say they think is important to encourage in students, but what exactly is it? And what does this focus on grit mean for students with disabilities? First, let's define grit.  According to Professor Angela Duckworth, grit is "perseverance and passion for long-term goals" and is associated with better academic and life outcomes for students.  Duckworth argues grit is not strictly a personality trait like conscientiousness or outgoingness, which are relatively fixed , but it is something that can be taught, like any other skill.

As a result, many schools are attempting to teach their students how to be "gritty" - how to set long term goals and persevere in the face of adversity. However, many parents, teachers and scholars are worried that the "grit" of some students is being underestimated, for example:

A student with dyslexia who turns in math homework with erasures on every problem, correcting all of her reversed numbers and digits, as she had to check and recheck her homework for accuracy and for reversals. This means that this assignment took a lot more grit to complete for her than it did for her peers who don't struggle with dyslexia.  

So when we think and talk about encouraging our students to be "gritty", we need to be mindful of where they are, and what grit they might be demonstrating already.  We also need to make sure that adults don't use grit as an excuse for developmentally inappropriate expectations, or expectation that are not inline with the student's current level of achievement.  Grit is all about a growth mindset, and teaching kids how to set long term goals and work toward to those goals (that is something that special needs parents are great at already from all those IEP meetings!).  Grit isn't about making students feel bad about not achieving their goals on the first, second or third try, it is about giving them the confidence to keep trying.  Students with disabilities can and should be encouraged at school to be gritty, and should be taught all the skills they need to demonstrate grit; however, we all need to remember that many times our kids with disabilities or other challenges are already demonstrating a lot grit, both in the classroom and outside of it!    

Parents - Be Involved, Be Advocates!  Attend the SAP or ICC Meetings

There are two active groups, mandated by the Federal Individuals with Disabilities Education ACT (IDEA), that provide advice to the OSSE (the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, which is DC's state education agency) in regards to early intervention and special education, and both groups have open, public meetings and are open to new parent members.

Interagency Coordinating Council (ICC)
The ICC advises and assists OSSE and the Division of Early Learning in the performance of its responsibilities, including: the identification of fiscal and other supports specifically for early intervention programs; the promotion of methods for intra- and inter-agency collaboration regarding child find, monitoring, financial responsibility, and the provision of early intervention services; the transition of toddlers with disabilities to preschool and other appropriate services; and preparation and submission of annual report on the status of early intervention programs for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families.    The ICC invites parents to not only participate on the Council and provide guidance and feedback on how to help the District improve the early intervention system, but the ICC aims to  be a resource to par ents as well. 

The ICC's next meeting is February 16, 10-11:30am.  Learn more, and contact Chair Raeshawn Crosson-Settles,

State Advisory Panel (SAP)
IDEA requires that each state operate a statewide advisory panel. In accordance with the law, the District of Columbia has a State Advisory Panel (SAP) on Special Education. The purpose of SAP is to advise OSSE and its Division of Specialized Education (DSE) on unmet needs of students with disabilities, including the development of evaluations, reports, and corrective action plans in response to federal monitoring, and implementing policies and procedures to coordinate services for students with disabilities.
SAP helps OSSE gather meaningful input from parents, community partners, service providers, and school administrators on local issues relative to the provision of services and supports to students with IEPs and disabilities.

The next SAP meetings (held at OSSE, 810 First Street, NE) are: 
Friday, Jan 27, 12noon-2pm at OSSE
Thursday, Feb 23, 6:15-8pm
Learn more, and contact Chair Deon Woods Bell,

Youth and Young Adults Get Back on Track Through the DC Re-Engagement Center

The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) is committed to helping students who may have dropped out or had their secondary education interrupted get reconnected to educational opportunities in order to obtain their high school diplomas or GEDs.  In 2014, working in partnership with local agencies, OSSE created the DC Re-Engagement center.  Located within the Department of Employment Services building on Minnesota Avenue, the Reengagement Center is a one-stop shop for students (ages 16-24) seeking assistance returning to school. Re-engagement Center staff help students identify educational opportunities, develop educational plans and support students throughout the re-enrollment process, including providing support for up to one year after enrollment.
To further support the Re-Engagement Center's work, OSSE launched in October 2016. A user friendly website, places the information about the variety of educational opportunities and services critical to supporting returning students at their fingertips.  Users can research program offerings including post-secondary placement, bilingual instruction or childcare availability.
For more information check-out BackonTrackDC's informational video.

PAVE - A New Way for Charter School Parents to Be Involved!

PAVE (Parents Amplifying Voices in Education)
is a new non-profit organization with a mission to connect, train, and empower charter parent leaders to give families in DC a voice and a choice in the vision for education in our city.  The goal of  PAVE  is to create an education system in DC where  parents are partners and leaders in developing a diversity of safe, nurturing, and great school options for every child in every ward and community . PAVE helps  parents understand the education system by providing  information about charter and education policy , building relationships with key decision makers such as elected officials and policymakers, and leading and organizing other families in advocating for policy change  and inspiring other parents across the city .  PAVE welcomes parents of students with disabilities in charter schools to become involved!
This month on January 25thPAVE will be hosting a series of parent-focused events with elected officials for  National School Choice Week. Parents of charter school students are invited to share their personal stories of school choice in person and through social media using the hashtag  #SchoolChoiceDC . To learn more about PAVE's success with National School Choice Week last year, please  visit the  National School Choice Week Facebook page. Follow PAVE on Facebook ( and Twitter ( @dcpave ). You can also email  to meet with a member of the  PAVE  family and get involved as a parent leader!

Looking for Support in Raising Children with Autism? These articles and stories might just help! 

Parents of children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders face many challenges that involve education, therapies, medical issues, feeding issues; all that can affect every day life.  Autism Speaks has a daily blog that provides insights, stories, resources and often, just a moment to realize that as a parent of a child with autism, you are not alone in the vast challenges you face.  Their stories include a wide range of topics, from a mother's perspective, "Five lessons I've learned from being a caregiver to my son with autism," to a store clerk's request: "I witnessed a child having an autism-related meltdown in my store - how could I have helped?" Visit the daily blog at:  

Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders (CASD) launches a study for school-based therapy

About one in 68 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), and Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders (ADHD) affects approximately 11 percent of children ages 4-17.  Finding the right supports for children with ASD and ADHD can be difficult for parents and teachers.  

In 2013, the Center for Autism Spectrum Disorders (CASD) at Children's National Health System launched: "A Community-Based Executive Function Intervention for Low Income Children with ADHD and ASD" for schools, rather than clinics, making it low-cost, accessible, and more generalizable to real-world settings.  

CASD worked with 21 Title I schools, including two DC Public Charters, to introduce interventions for kids with ASD or ADHD. CASD introduced two types of interventions aimed at improving executive functions to see whether there are differences in the outcomes they produce, including changes in children's classroom behavior, problem-solving abilities, and academics.  Parents of participants in the study were also offered training to support the generalization of the intervention.

Through this project, CASD successfully delivered evidence-based treatments to underserved communities in the greater Washington, D.C. area, and reached people who have limited access to clinic-based services. Despite exhibiting observable symptoms at home or in the classroom, over half of the children lacked a clinical diagnosis of ADHD or ASD until CASD researchers conducted diagnostic testing. Recruiting by presence of symptoms, rather than diagnosis, allowed CASD to offer treatment to children who did not otherwise have access to clinical diagnoses and services.  

CASD strives to be a national leader in improving the educational and health outcomes of low-resourced communities by identifying, and ultimately employing, the most effective evidence-based practices.  Parents are encouraged to learn more about CASD Research and sign up for the CASD newsletter by contacting: .

DC Public School Lottery - 2017 Application is OPEN

The My School DC lottery application is open NOW for over 200 DCPS and public charter schools. The deadline for high school is fast approaching on February 1 , and for PK3 through 8 th grade, the deadline is March 1

My School DC offers in-person help for parents in completing their application.  They have  field offices in Columbia Heights and Congress Heights ready to serve parents. Locations and hours are available and you can  also book an appointment with a My School DC staff member: .

AJE is hosting a special parent session in Spanish at the Petworth Library, February 21 from 11:30am-1pm to walk parents through the school lottery application process; contact Berta Mata, AJE Bilingual Parent Support Specialist, to RSVP.

Questions on the school lottery? Contact the My School DC Hotline at  (202) 888-6336 or email:
Upcoming Trainings & Programs at AJE

AJE provides FREE monthly trainings and workshops for parents and professionals in navigating special education systems and supports.  Check out    AJE's monthly training calendar at:  and to request a training - emai:  or call (202) 678-8060.

Community Resources, Activities and More!

Sensory Friendly Activities in Local Theaters & 
Museums (for children with cognitive
and sensory processing disabilities and their families) The DC Arts Access Network (DCAAN) has created a calendar listing upcoming accessible performances and events at cultural arts organizations across the DC Metro region! Visit   for details.
The Shared Horizon's Charitable Fund was created to enhance the lives of people with disabilities through the purchase of goods & services not covered by public benefits.  
If you are, or know of a person with a disability, who lives in the District of Columbia, Maryland or Virginia and can demonstrate financial need - please consider completing an  application .   The Charitable Fund Committee will accept applications through January 30, 2017

Ivymount Special Needs Resource Fair is Sunday, March 5, 2017 from 12noon-3pm at The Ivymount School.  Learn more and find out about the exhibitors representing special needs sports, camps, youth programs and more.
Are you looking for your child to get off the couch in the New Year? Or concerned about weight management? Fitness for Health serves students with disabilities in the Washington, DC area and offers a Free Health Seminar Series - learn more at: or

Parents and DC Youth can share what concerns them the most about the state of school discipline at the DC Committee on Education's Public Roundtable on February 2, 2017 beginning at 2:00pm.   You can sign up to testify at  or call the Committee on Education at (202) 724-8061 by 5:00pm Tuesday. January 31.   Learn more  and contact AJE for help - we can support parents in sharing their story:
About AJE:
Advocates for Justice and Education is the federally designated  Parent Training and Information Center and the Health Information Center for DC. AJE seeks to empower families, youth, and the community to be effective advocates to ensure that children and youth, particularly those who have special needs, receive access to appropriate education and health services.
Our passion is empowering families by equipping parents and students with disabilities with the tools they need to be their own advocates.

Have questions?  We are here to educate, advocate and empower. Contact us today!
Advocates for Justice and Education, Inc.| (P) 202.678.8060  | (F) 202.678.8062 |

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