Children with Special Needs, need Parents with Special Skills!
Spring  2018
Spring Newsletter

So much great stuff in this newsletter, read it at the BBQ this weekend, at the pool or park, or on bus or train home for the 3 day weekend!  
Also, because so many of you appreciated our last newsletter's feature on Black disability rights activists, here a great podcast on the disability rights movement and the special places that Ed Rogers and curb cuts have in that history.   

Parent-to-Parent Leadership Institute June 1st & 2nd

We had a great turn out for Padre-a-Padre (Parent-to-Parent) Leadership Institute on May 10th and 11th at Mary's Center and are really getting excited about June 1st and June 2nd when we host our Parent to Parent Leadership Institute.

We are excited to have special guests from Charter Board Partners and the National Women's Law Center in addition to presentations from our very own Senior Staff Attorney Stacey Eunnae (on school discipline) and the Chair of our Board of Directors Molly Whalen (on transition). Please come out for this exciting even!
Contact us at or 202-678-8060 to register!
Summer is almost here - 
Swimming & the Department of Parks and Recreation

Now that spring is here, and summer is right around that corner, we at AJE are getting ready for swimming season! Swimming is an important life skill and it can be life saving too; it is also a low-impact, life-long, heart-healthy exercise.

Check out the DC Department of Parks and Recreation website for pools and other summer activities!   Also, don't forget that the DC Department of Parks and Recreation must be reasonably accessible to individuals with disabilities - look at the therapeutic recreation page for how they achieve some of that accessibility.

The Department of Parks and Recreation also serves free summer meals at some location see here for more information.
DC Supporting Families Community of Practice
AJE is a supporter of the DC Supporting Families Community of Practice (SFCoP), a group of diverse stakeholders who are working together to create policies, practices and systems that support families that include a member with an intellectual or developmental disability across the life span. We come together to learn, share information, and support each other.  At our June 14th meeting, we will learn about the Disability Reform Amendment Act of 2018, talk about the new formal complaint process at DDS, learn about supported decision-making and more!
When:  Thursday, June 14, 2018; 9:30am-3:30pm
Where:  One Judiciary Square Building, 441 4th Street, NW Room 1107S, Washington, DC 20001.

Metro: Judiciary Square (red line);
Bus: D6; Parking: on street (limited)
RSVP:  As space is limited, please RSVP by June 1, 2018 to Cheryl Bolden at or (202) 442-8411.
Accessibility:   The space and bathrooms are wheelchair accessible. To request other accommodations, including language access, specific dietary requests, etc. please contact Cheryl Bolden.
SFCoP will provide lunch. For people who are forfeiting wages, not working full time, or will have child care or transportation costs that would be financially burdensome, we are happy to provide a stipend.   

Extended School Year (ESY) 

What Parents Need to Know About Preparing for Summer for Students in Special Education

The federal law, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ( IDEA ), requires students with disabilities have access to a free and appropriate public education ( FAPE ) through specialized instruction and related services. Typically, that access is limited to the traditional school calendar.  However, ESY or extended school year, makes access to FAPE available to students who are determined by an Individualized Education Program (IEP) team to need specialized instruction and related services to avoid serious losses of critical skills over extended school breaks .
Who is eligible for ESY? In the District, any student with a disability may be eligible for ESY services. This includes students with 504 plans.
How do schools make these determinations?  In 2011, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education ( OSSE ) issued policy guidance and criteria consistent with IDEA to help schools determine when students are eligible for ESY services. Specifically, school teams must consider 
1) the impact of the break on the student's critical skills (i.e.-reading or writing)  [see note below]
2) the degree of regression of critical skill(s) and finally, 
3) the time required for the recoupment, or recovering, of critical skill(s). 

In order to make their determination, the team must use student progress monitoring data including progress notes, student work samples and classroom observations in considering the three criteria above.   At least once a year, schools must determine eligibility for ESY.  Please review your student's IEP to see if your child was determined eligible for ESY services or contact your child's teacher, case manager or the school special education coordinator .  

In the context of ESY services, the phrase critical skill refers to a skill that is essential to a student's overall educational progress. A critical skill may be an academic skill, such as reading, or a non-academic skill that has a direct educational impact, such as a fine motor skill.

AJE Staff highlights!

We are lucky to have an amazing team here at AJE, and it just keeps getting better and better!  

Senior Staff Attorney Stacey Eunnae has returned to AJE after a fellowship atthe University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law where she taught law students in the Special Education/Juvenile Justice Clinic. Stacey brings a passion for breaking the school to prison pipeline one school discipline case at a time via her zealous advocacy in and out of the hearing room. Her recent letter to the editor is a great example of her dedication to the community and all of our children!  
Many parents who have called recently would have spoken to Chioma Oruh, PhD. Chioma has been supporting AJE's mission and will be joining the team permanently in June as a Parent Support Specialist! Chioma brings a wealth of personal and professional experience and knowledge to the AJE team, especially around mental health and disability. She is a DCPS graduate and has two young children with disabilities; she is a true public servant and is engaged with multiple Board and Commissions city-wide.  
We are thankful to have Stacey and Chioma here and sharing their passions, skills and knowledge with our team and the families we serve!  

W know you probably already follow AJE on twitter at @AJEInc, but you can follow Stacey at @staceye and Chioma at @ChiBornFree.  AJE's Maria Blaeuer is also on twitter, you can find her at @MariaBlaeuer.  

Don't forget to look for our #WeeklyWin tweets on fridays, where we talk about the #SmallVictories (and some not so small victories) that sustain our work.  


AJE Eats!  Easy Recipes & Resources  

Summer time is a great time to try new recipes with kids and an awesome way to practice reading and math skills.  Click here to see some AJE staff favorites for you to try at home.  Recipes with a star(*) include two or more ingredients that can be purchased through the WIC program; a complete list of DC's WIC approved items is available here.  

Some of the very best recipes for children aren't really recipes at all - cut up fruit and vegetables are a great choice, and easy for parents too! Older children can do this for themselves too.   You can serve them with "dippers" - ranch dressing, guacamole or peanut butter and/or "sprinkles" - Cajun seasoning or your family's favorite spice blend.   

You can even make them into dessert and serve cut up fruit with pudding or yogurt to dip in. Here are some favorites from AJE staff member Maria Blaeuer's house -
  • Apples dipped in peanut butter
  • Avocado & cucumber sprinkled with Cajun seasoning
  • Raw broccoli, tomato, mini peppers and ranch for dipping
  • Baby carrots with black olives hats
  • Apples dipped in Nutella, fudge sauce or cookie butter are a popular dessert!
Just make sure you aren't serving so much of the dip that your child eats too much of it!
Did you know it takes an average of 14 exposures to a new food before a child accepts it? And, it may be longer for children with sensory concerns.  Make trying new foods fun & low-stakes for highest probability of success - pretending broccoli florets are trees and you are a giant devouring the forest can be a fun way for kids (and some adults too!) to eat broccoli.

Remember, cooking is an important life skill for everyone, 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!

Remember, cooking is an important life skill, 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!  

Partner Spotlight - the Lollipop Kids Foundation

We were thankful to have Cindy Vargas from Lollipop Kids Foundation join us at our Padre-a-Padre Leadership Institute on May 10th

Lollipop Kids facilitates parent support groups for families of students with disabilities and they also offer a lending closet for children's medical equipment and supplies.   For more information about the lending closet   see here  and to find out about the support and play groups they offer see here.

Childhood Obesity     

Childhood obesity is a real and growing problem in DC and nationwide, and can lead to long-term health problems for children as they grow up.
The American Heart association has some easy to implement suggestions here  and the Center for Disease Control has some suggestions you can advocate for in your child's school here .
Limited access to sugary drinks like sodas and sweet tea are important steps, and so is encouraging physical activity. 

Talk to your doctor about other ideas to help your child achieve a healthy body weight, and remember that a whole family approach is usually the most successful!

Special Education Thursdays Continue to Bring People Together and Empower Families

Now in it's second year, our Special Education Thursday keep on educating and empowering parents one conversation at a time. 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.
As one parent said -
"Molly (the webinar host) forced the presenter to define and explain all the acronyms she used and really made her break things down so I could get what she was saying. It was great and I feel so much more prepared for my next meeting."
Special Education Thursdays are live every first Thursday from 12:30-1:00pm. Join by phone: (202) 602-1295, access code: 399-428-506# or online at: at 12:30pm! Future sessions, archived recordings and directions for calling in or logging in online are on AJE's website !
W e have a great session on June 7th, featuring the DC Public Library!
Molly and guest Rebecca Tanen will be chatting about questions like these; What are accessibility programs in the DC library? What activities/supports does the DC library offer to students with disabilities? What is the summer challenge reading program? how can students with disabilities participate? What do you want all parents to know about the DC library? How about students with learning disabilities - what do you want them to know about the library? What is your favorite resource for students who learn differently at the DC library?
Partner Spotlight - The Family Support Council

The Family Support Council provides recommendations, assists, and advises the Department of Disability Services and sister agencies on developing person and family-centered systems of support for families throughout the lifespan of their family members with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

Public meetings are the 4th  Thursday of every other month from 12:30-2:30pm at the Department on Disability Services located at  250 E Street, SW Washington, DC 20024

If you have any questions, or would like to continue to stay informed about the Family Support Council, please contact Emily Price at 202-730-1687

Are you still looking for your child's 2018/19 school?

MySchoolDC is still a great resource after the Lottery closes and matches are announced. Also, don't forget that all DC youth have a school of right within DCPS! 

You can find your student's school of right here.  Please  contact us if you don't know your neighborhood school, and when you are looking for a school,  we have 100 good questions to ask to determine which school will be the right fit for your child.
Student Fair Access to School Act

Now that the Student Fair Access to School Act has passed the full Council, it goes to the Mayor for review and then to Congress for Congressional review. If neither the Mayor nor Congress object to it, it will go into effect during at the start of the 2019 school year for younger students (grades k - 8), and for high school students at the start of the 2020 school year. If you are wondering what our next steps are as a community regarding implementation of the Student Fair Access to School Act, please come to our next Lunch & Learn on June 4th where we will be discussing next steps!
The Student Fair Access to School Act will require that many schools re-write their discipline policies to comply with the new law. Parents and students are important stakeholders and should be a part of the conversation about the new discipline policies; this could be a great way for many families to engage in the policy creation process at the school level.
Our Parent to Parent Training on June 1st & 2nd is another great way to learn more about school discipline and be prepared for when your school re-writes their discipline policy.

If you want to learn more about school discipline in DC, or nationwide, follow @AJEInc & @DignityinSchool, respectively, on twitter. 
Nothing we do at AJE could happen without our donors and volunteers!  AJE needs to thank everyone who supported us during this 2017/18 school year!  Including those folks who donated office supplies and who have taken pro bono cases! You make us stronger, and we appreciate it.  

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, attending an attorney training and taking a pro bono case or donating needed office supplies from this list.  

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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