Children with Special Needs, need Parents with Special Skills!
April 7th, 2020
Connecting with AJE and Community during COVID-16

We know it is important for families to stay connected during this COVID-19 response, and AJE wants to make that easier for families by hosting a series of informal Zoom chats for families.   However, we need your feedback to make those chats work for you!

Can you answer our  3-question-survey so we can make sure we are meeting your needs as best we can?  

While you are waiting for us to get these chats going, stay connected with us by tuning into two upcoming Facebook live events!  

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Our Parent Support Specialist LaJoy Johnson-Law will be talking to families this Wednesday, April 8th at 12:30 pm, about effective communication with schools during distance learning.

On Thursday, April 9th at 12:30 pm, AJE's Maria Blaeuer (Director of Programs & Outreach) will be talking about navigating telehealth as a parent and as a client.

We are also on Instagram and Twitter, and have a blog where we share timely and useful information for families.  

Social Distancing doesn't have to mean Socially Disconnected - take our survey and connect with us today! 

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AJE COVID-19 Update & Resources
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We at AJE hope you are well and have what you need to to take care of yourself and your family during this challenging time.  

We are taking the recommended precautions for the safety of our staff, families, and partners, and to help minimize the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), by changing how we work and serve DC families. 

As of Monday, March 16, 2020, until further notice:
  • All AJE staff is working remotely.
  • AJE intake sites at Mary's Center and the DC Office of Administrative Hearings are closed.
  • All in-person scheduled trainings are canceled. 
During this time, our staff remain available to assist and support families and professionals by phone and email.   For assistance, please call 202-678-8060, press 1 to reach our intake line and leave a detailed message.   We are returning calls as soon as possible.  You may also email us at  

We are working on providing new trainings and workshops online and will provide a schedule of our virtual trainings as they are developed.  In the meantime, please view our recorded webinars  here  to continue to build your knowledge base.

For questions about distance learning during school closures, accessing meals and other assistance, please see available resources below.

We will continue to monitor and assess evolving events and will update you on new developments, resources, and changes to our operations.  To obtain updates, follow us on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram ) and look out for our e-News & Updates: 

We hope the information we provide in this email will help you make it through this challenging time.  
We are making sure that the needs of students with disabilities and special health care needs are considered in DC's response to COVID-19

AJE is working with local and national coalitions to make sure that the needs of students with disabilities and special health care needs are considered in how schools, health care providers and government agencies respond to COVID-19.  As part of the Every Student Every Day Coalition and the Special Education Advocacy Coalitions we have made sure that policy makers and elected officials understand the unique needs and concerns of the families AJE serves.  

You can find three examples of that work here, in a letter to OSSE about graduation requirements and related issues, in letters to the Mayor and Council about digital access, and about  nondiscrimination in health care access .  
Where to find  OSSE's Guidance and Updates about COVID-19 and Four Federal Resources for Families about Students with Disabilities & COVID-19

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) & the Office for Special Education Programs (OSEP) at the U.S. Department of Education have released clear guidance to the states that school districts like DCPS and the individual DC public charter schools do have to comply with IDEA and section 504 of the Rehabilitation act when they return to providing instruction (either online or in person).  

The Department of Education also made it clear that failure to comply with IDEA and section 504 may entitle the child to compensatory services.  What all that looks like in real life is still a moving target, for all schools in DC and the rest of the country.   This guidance is found in four communications from the Department of Education that parents and advocates thinking about students with disabilities ought to know about.    

First is  OCR's  webinar on ensuring web accessibility for students with disabilities for schools utilizing online learning during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.  Second is a   fact sheet also from OCR for education leaders on how to protect students' civil rights as school leaders take steps to keep students safe and secure. Third is  OSEP's Q&A and speaks directly to the FAPE obligation of school districts.  Finally,   OCR issued a second fact sheet on March 21st specifically about the rights of students with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.    You can also find all this information on our blog!

OSSE has also released guidance to local education agencies like DCPS and the individual DC public charter schools about how schools should respond to COVID-19.  You can find some of the some relevent guidance from OSSE on our blog, and all of it is available on OSSE's website where it will be updated as new information and additional guidance is provided.   
Making a Plan for Self Care

AJE is happy to share these resources and suggestions for making a self care plan from Family Voices.   Just like the IEP or health care plan you might have created with your child's school or care team, effective self care requires an individualized plan.  Self care isn't a one-size-fits-all strategy and your self care plan will need to be customized to your needs.   Family Voices shared this resource to help you think about what YOUR self care plan is.

Part of self care is planning for when you aren't well yourself.  Make a plan for if you get sick and can't care for your child(ren).  Family Voices created this checklist for families who are facing deportation, but the questions they ask parents to think about apply equally as well to thinking about who will care for your children if you are ill.  
Council Update: COVID-19 Emergency Legislation

The Council passed emergency legislation on March 17th,  the full bill is available here , and a summary is  available here.   The legislation prohibits  utilities from shutting off services, stops evictions and extends FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act), unemployment compensation and other benefits.    First Shift Justice Projec t has a  very helpful breakdown of what all this means for families.  

The Council is also considering a second piece of emergency legislation.  A complete copy is here, and a summary is here.  

Of most interest to AJE families is that this second piece of emergency legislation currently under consideration by the Council waives the community service requirement for students on track to graduate this year.  As currently written it also waives  both the requirement that schools hold 180 instructional days for the duration of the public health emergency, and the requirement that students in grades 9 to 12  attend credit-earning classes for a least 120 hours (the so-called "seat time requirement"). 

The Council is expected to consider the second piece of emergency legislation on Tuesday, April 7th. 
Mental health help, internet access and other resources

The DC Department of Behavioral Health (DBH)  has set up a "Warm Line" 1-888-793-4357 for individual mental health support during this uncertain time.  Please know that this is NOT a hotline and that you may experience significant wait-times if you call.

The Children and Adolescent Mobile Psychiatric Service (CHAMPS) provides on-site immediate help to children facing a behavioral or mental health crisis whether in the home, school or community. Services are geared toward children and youth 6-21 years of age.  Phone: 202-481-1440.

You can find out more about DBH's operations during COVID-19 here and on our blog

Two Resource Pages
The Children's Law Center (CLC) has a  great list of resources, including mental health resources, government and agency information, and resources for meeting basic needs like housing and food.  PAVE is also compiling  resources for DC families here. Both the PAVE and CLC lists are being updated as new information is available.  

Talking with children about COVID-19
These two resources are available to help families support children and help them process this information.  

Talking to Children About COVID-19 (Coronavirus): A Parent Resource  (Available in English, Spanish, Amharic, Chinese, and Korean)

Supporting Kids During the COVID-19 Crisis  (Available in English and Spanish)

Internet Access
To support families during school closings, Comcast is offering 2 months of free internet service and increasing their internet speed from 15 Mbps to 25 Mbps for all of their Internet Essentials program participants.
You may qualify if you:

(1) Live in an area where Comcast Internet Service is available;
(2) Are eligible for public assistance programs like the National School Lunch Program, housing assistance, Medicaid, SNAP, SSI, and others;
(3) Have not subscribed to Comcast Internet within the last 90 days; and
(4) Have no outstanding debt to Comcast that is less than one year old.

The fastest way to take advantage of the two-months free offer is to sign up from smartphone, tablet or computer at  

Spectrum is also supporting DC families and students by offering families access to reduced fee services via Spectrum Internet Assist, opening access to its hotspots and a providing a 60 days of free internet and WiFi via the Remote Education Education Credit
Where to find emergency food and free meals for youth

We know it is important for DC children to maintain access to meals they would have received at school and share this  resource from the DC Food Project.   

This website will be updated as new information is available.  The website also includes information about grocery store hours, meals for seniors and non-school locations serving kids.  While it is DC-focused, it does have resources for families in Virginia and Maryland as well.  

DCPS will open several schools to serve FREE meals on weekdays from 10 am - 2 pm.   ALL DC youth (including those not registered at DCPS) who are not quarantined are welcome. This Emergency meal service will be using a "grab and go" model. Participants may not consume meals inside; this is a take-home service only.   The list of DCPS schools is available here.
Many charter schools are also providing meals, you can find your school here.

Also, DC WIC has temporarily expanded its approved food list during the COVID-19 emergency in response to food shortages at grocery stores.   Participants should use the expanded food list   along with the  food list in their WIC ID folder  when shopping for food at the store.    
Do you wish you received our emails more often?  

Well, while you wait for the next email, did you know that AJE has a blog? We are on Twitter and Facebook too!   Following us on social media is a great way to get our latest news and make sure you don't miss a thing.  

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Stay informed about upcoming events in the community, Council hearings, important news and parent trainings.  Follow us today! 

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Finally, for some perspective....  

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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