Children with Special Needs, need Parents with Special Skills!
Winter 2018 (the Valentine's edition)
Highlights & Quick Links 

Besides starting with C, what do Cannellini beans, Carrots, the DC Council & the CIEP office have in common?   

Well, they are all featured in AJE's Winter newsletter!   This edition has some great information, including:   
And don't forget to send AJE a Valentine!  Remember, AJE is available for parent training; call us at (202) 678-8060 or email us at to schedule a training for your school or community group.  We are also always available online via our archived Special Education Thursdays webinars!  
Save the Date for Parent-to-Parent! 

Our Parent Leadership Institute  is coming up soon!   Save the date and get ready to be the best advocate for your children you can be.   Learn how to make your IEP meetings more positive and productive, and learn how to support education city-wide!   We are planning on a ½ day session on Friday, March 23rd and a full day session on Saturday, March 23rd.
Talking to your Doctor about Medication Options

Are you thinking about psychotropic (mood altering) medication for your child to help them with ADD/ADHD, anxiety, depression or other mental health need, but don't know what questions you need to ask?  Or maybe you are wondering if you should think about psychotropic medication for yourself, but don't how to talk to your doctor about it?  Many people find that they don't how to start these conversations with their health care professionals, but once they do start them, the conversation is easier then thought it would be!  Here are some good ways to start -
  • I would like to talk about medication options to treat my/my child's ADD/ADHD, anxiety, depression or other mental health diagnosis. 
  • I am concerned what I am doing to treat my (or my child's) condition isn't enough, and would like to think about medication options.
  • Non-medication inventions have been effective in the past, but progress seems to have stopped, and I know we have a lot of space for improvement. 
Now that you have started, here are some good questions help you have a more productive conversation with your doctor.  Also, if you think this conversation will take longer than a typical visit, let the office know when you make your appointment so you won't feel rushed. 
  • What benefits do you think a psychotropic medication might have for me or my child?
  • What are the risks or side effects of this medications? 
  • Are there long term side effects?
  •  How can we manage those risks or side effects.
  • What are the risks of not using psychotropic medication?
  • How closely do you need to monitor me/my child?
  • How will we know this medication is the right one?  
Also, make sure that any mental health professionals and other health care providers working with your student are aware of any medications your child is taking, and talk to them about what they are seeing as you, your child's doctors and your child are thinking about adding or adjusting medication.  Teachers can often provide valuable insight well that can help you make good decisions about medication.  

Our friends at have a lot of great resources for families looking at ADHD medications.   NAMI is an invaluable resource for individuals who are accessing mental health care services and their  families.  They have a user friendly medication guide and offer a wide variety of programs, including a 24 hour text line - just text 741-741 to text with a crisis text counselor anytime.  


Remember - you and your doctor are part of a team, and teamwork requires open and honest communication to allow you to have the best possible health outcome!
AJE Eats:  Recipes & Resources!  
Two Easy, Heart Healthy Soups 

Winter is a great time for soup!  Try these smooth Carrot Curry Soup, and Cannellini & Rosemary Soup.   Both can be can made vegetarian or vegan, and freeze well!

Cooking with kids is an awesome way to practice reading and math skills.  Cooking is an important life skill for independent living and adulthood, and knowing how to cook allows young people to make better food choices and exercise more control over their diet.  It can also save you money!  
How does DCPS support students who are Homeschooled or who are enrolled in private schools by their parents?  

Did you know that homeschooling is legal in the District of Columbia?  And did you know that homeschooling families must register their intent to school their children with OSSE?   Check out OSSE's page for homeschooling families for more information! 

Students who are homeschooled and students who are parentally placed in private and religious schools (including those funded by the DC Opportunity Scholarship Fund, also known as the voucher program) are still covered by IDEA's Child Find mandate.  This means that if your student is homeschooled or attends a private school, and you suspect they have a disability, or some other unmet need that is impacting their learning, you can contact DCPS to have them evaluated.  This is true even if they are NOT a student enrolled in DCPS.  

DCPS's website has more information about how DCPS supports homeschooled students via the CIEP (central individualized education plan) office and students who are parentally place in private school, and their handout is available here!CIEP


According to the Domestic Violence Awareness Project, approximately 1.5 million high school students in the United States experience physical abuse from a dating partner. One-quarter of parents don't talk to their teens about domestic violence.

That is way AJE is encouraging families and youth to talk about healthy relationships in February, which is also Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Parents can support healthy and appropriate peer relationships by modeling what respectful and loving relationships (of all types) look like, and by talking to young people about what abusive relationships look and feel like.
Visit  and  for conversation starters and resources. Another resource, which focuses on what men can do to prevent abusive relationships and sexual violence, and encourage healthy self-identifies for themselves, is   Men Can Stop Rape .   

Like everything else in the human experience, healthy relationships are something that individuals with disabilities need to think and about too.  SchoolTalk, Edlavich DCJCC and DCASE are hosting a  Convening on Sex Education and Creating Healthy Relationships for DC Youth with Disabilities .  The convening will cover these topics - 

Sexual Health/Physical Health & Sex Education
Online Safety
Healthy Body Image (Self Awareness and Self Esteem)
Social-Relationships-Dating and safe places for independence
Family Engagement (parents and siblings)
Workplace safety (sexual harassment)
All stakeholders are invited and welcome to participate in the World CafeStyle conversation, details and registration are below!

Lunch will be served.  

Send AJE a Valentine!  

Send AJE a valentine and donate today!  Our services are provided free of charge to families all across the District of Columbia, and we love that we can support families during what is usually a stressful time in their life.  For example,  AJE attorneys recently represented a family through the student's disciplinary matter and later in a complex mediation with a local district - we were able to obtain additional evaluations, compensatory education and a new, more appropriate placement for the student, all at no cost to the family.   If the family had to pay for that in the marketplace, their cost for a private attorney's time alone would be well over $20,000; out of reach for many families!

Your support helps us in other ways too!  For example -
  • A $24 donation would allow AJE to buy a case of copy paper for outreach and resource materials for families.  This means that an anxious parent will be able to go to an IEP meeting with those resources at their fingertips and be better advocate for his/her children. 
  • A $48 donation allows AJE to provide a workshop to educate youth on options for life after high school and $124 would provide one training for parents on how to be an effective advocate.  A gift of  $240 provides one-to- one support and coaching to 16 parents on navigating the special education process.
  • Lastly, $420 allows AJE to combat the school to prison pipeline by providing Advice and Counsel from an AJE attorney to 10 students who have been excluded from school. 
We are proud of the work we do and we love doing it; we ask that you show us that same love and support with a donation today!  

This Black History Month - Spotlighting African American who are also Advocates for People with Disabilities!

Did you know that one of the original plaintiffs in the Olmstead decision was Lois Curtis, an African American woman with a disability? The landmark Supreme Court decision in the Olmstead case paved the way for Ms. Curtis and others with disabilities across the country to live in the community rather than in institutions.  

Lois Curtis presenting President Obama with a piece of her artwork
For more inform ation about Lois Curtis, including her meeting with President Obama in 2011, click here .  You can read and interview with Ms. Curtis  here , and learn about about the Olmstead decision here .  For other amazing women who have a disabilities, see here and here .

Donald Galloway a social worker and long-time DC resident and DC native, played an important role in making sure that people who were blind, like Mr. Galloway, could not be automatically excluded from jury duty.

After being told he could not serve as a juror, he sued the District government to enforce his right to serve on a jury and won.  You can read the decision here.   Mr. Galloway also worked for the District government for many years in a variety of roles advocating for the rights of residents with disabilities.  He also worked with the Center for Independent Living in Berkeley, CA and later in Washington, DC.    

Don Galloway, then manager of Blind Services, and Ed Rogers, Executive Director of the Center for Independent Living in Berkeley, CA in 1974.  
His work and interests were not limited to disability rights however, he also served as Program Director for the Peace Corp in Jamaica and as a young man, was a folk singer! 

You can read Mr. Galloway's obituary in the Washington Post.

The DC Center for Independent Living , where Mr. Galloway worked for many years, is a private non-profit that help DC residents with significant disabilities live independently in their homes and in their communities. 
For more information about the disabilities rights movement including Mr. Galloway and many, many others, the book What We Have Done is an excellent resource.  


Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that's related to changes in seasons.  It is very treatable, so don't brush off a yearly feeling as simply a case of the "winter blues" or a seasonal funk that you have to tough out on your own.   GET HELP!
Signs of depression (any time of year) include:
  • Feeling depressed most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Having low energy
  • Having problems with sleeping
  • Experiencing changes in your appetite or weight
  • Feeling sluggish or agitated
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless or guilty
  • Having frequent thoughts of death or suicide
Symptoms specific to winter-onset SAD, sometimes called winter depression, may also include:
  • Oversleeping
  • Appetite changes, especially a craving for foods high in carbohydrates
  • Weight gain
  • Tiredness or low energy
People with bipolar disorder may also find that depressive episodes in increase in the winter.  Talk to your doctor if you think you or a family member might be depressed.
You can find additional resources by calling t he Access HelpLine at 1(888)7WE-HELP or  1-888-793-4357  is the easiest way to get connected to services provided by the Department of Behavioral Health and its  certified behavioral health care providers . This 24-hour, seven-day-a-week telephone line is staffed by behavioral health professionals who can refer a caller to immediate help or ongoing care. The Access Helpline can activate  mobile crisis teams  to respond to adults and children who are experiencing a psychiatric or emotional crisis and are unable or unwilling to travel to receive behavioral health services.
You can also call the  National Suicide Prevention Lifeline!    Call 800-273-TALK (8255) if you or someone you know is in crisis - whether they are considering suicide or not - please call the toll-free Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) to speak with a trained crisis counselor 24/7.
Do you need help finding and affording healthy food? Are you interested in Food Policy?

DC Greens the  Produce Plus Program, which is a farmers market nutrition incentive program designed to connect DC residents with healthy food.  Participating  DC residents who receive: Medicaid, SNAP, WIC, TANF, SSI Disability, Medicare QMB, or Senior Grocery Plus can visit any of the District's 55 farmers markets and automatically get $10 twice per week to spend on fresh fruits and vegetables on a first come, first served basis.  

They have also created maps by ward of places where you can apply for food assistance, farmers' markets that participate in the Produce Plus Program, food pantries and other resources.  

If you are interested in food policy; DCPS is recruiting members for the School Food Advisory Board and the DC Food Policy Council is a great way to learn more about food issues in DC!

Agency Budget & Performance Oversight Hearings  

For parents who love the nitty-gritty you can find all of the agencies (including DCPS, OSSE , DME and the PCSB) responses to the Council's questions, and their budgets, here .  
If you are interested in testifying at any Education Committee related hearing, you can sign up here .  AJE's Executive Director Rochanda Hiligh-Thomas testified at Tuesday's Performance Oversight Hearing for the Deputy Mayor for Education and the Public Charter School Board.  Her testimony is  here , she shared the experiences of several families we have worked with this year, but don't forget, ANYONE can testify before the Council and you can tell your own story better than any of us ever can!  

If you would like to testify, remember AJE can help you with your testimony, including making copies.
Out of School Opportunities!  

The Anacostia Watershed Society's Saturday Environmental Academy (SEA) offers a FREE outdoor educational opportunity for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders who live in and near the Anacostia River watershed. Through this eight week program, students learn about their river and local environment, while developing skills in team building, critical thinking, and scientific investigation. Learn more and apply here
The Georgetown Juvenile Justice Initiative, in partnership with Rights4Girls, is pleased to announce the launch of the L.O.U.D. Brown Girls (LBG) initiative. LBG is designed to empower girls of color who have touched the juvenile or criminal justice system, through their own experiences or that of a friend or family member. During the program, we will inspire youth to become policy advocates and to consider advocacy careers in the future. In a society that often stereotypes young girls of color as loud and bold, LBG will show that these characteristics are needed skills for passionate system reformers. We hope that you will consider discussing this amazing opportunity with the girls that you work with and share information about LBG with your networks. Please see the attached application for details. Girls may nominate themselves or be nominated by someone else. Handwritten applications will be accepted. All submissions will be reviewed on a rolling basis and must be received by February 20, 2018.

Little Miss Precise: One Autistic Woman's Journey of Self-Discovery
A talk hosted dosted by Xminds:  Thursday, February 15 ; 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Silver Spring Civic Building, Spring Room, One Veterans Place, Silver Spring, MD 20910
Cost: Free for members; $15 for non-members and registration is recommended
Annie, will talk about growing up on the spectrum and learning to thrive as an autistic adult. Hear how she finally discovered the reason for her intense creative interests, social and sensory struggles, and precise attention to detail - and what she wishes her parents and teachers had known when she was younger. Please come with any questions you might have for Annie as we'll be saving time for Q & A.

And don't forget about the  World Cafe style Convening on Sex Education and Creating Healthy Relationships for DC Youth with Disabilities on  Wednesday, February 21, 2018!  Details above in newsletter!!

Nothing we do at AJE could happen without our donors and volunteers!  AJE needs to thank everyone who supported us as part of the holiday campaign and #GivingTuesday, everyone who donated office supplies and who has taken pro bono cases over the past 4 months!  You make us stronger, and we appreciate it.  

Laura Draper
Tara Emory
Ernestine Pierce
Claire Blumeson
Nigel Atwell
Eduardo Ferrer
Molly Whalen
Jane Brown
& Pizza
James Fisher
Shayla Harris
Melissa Garcia
Shannon Harley
Michele DeSando
Marianne Vakiener
Ernestine Pierce
Melanie Perron
Fannie Mae
Dhill Professional Services
Joanne Skerrett
Mary Ann Stein
A. Jumaine & Dafnette Jones

You too can support our work by donating here, signing up for Amazon Smile so that a portion of all your purchases goes to AJE, or attending an attorney training and taking a pro bono case

Thank you again for all you support!   

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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