Posts Tagged ‘Gary Mayerson’

Transcript of LIVE Q & A with Gary Mayerson

August 18, 2011 21 comments

How To Compromise With Your School District Without Compromising Your Child

Navigating the IEP process can be an overwhelming experience. Join nationally renowned attorney Gary Mayerson as he answers live questions from parents and explains what parents can do to secure effective and appropriate programming.

Gary Mayerson is the founder of Mayerson & Associates, a law firm in Manhattan that was formed more than a decade ago as the very first law firm dedicated exclusively to serving people with autism. To date, Mr. Mayerson and other lawyers at his firm have helped more than 1,000 families in more than 30 states, as well as military families stationed abroad. He also is the author of How To Compromise With Your School District Without Compromising Your Child (DRL Books 2005). In addition, Mr. Mayerson is a long-time board member of Autism Speaks and serves as the Director of the Autism Speaks Federal Legal Appeals Project, a pro bono initiative at the federal level.

Hi all……I am going to be answering parents questions……..this is back to school time and there is quite a bit of anxiety as to how this year is going to go…..
Comment From TannersDad Tim 

When A school system decides it can no longer handle your child, how do you evaluate the place they want to send them?

Many parents have good results bringing in a behavior analyst or educational consultant to go into the recommended school
Parents have the right to assess the recommended placement, just as schools have the right to assess the student….this can be initially agreed to at the IEP meeting
Comment From Guest 

My little brother is starting preschool and he has PDD-NOS and we went to orination and he does not want to go. What do we do?

Transition planning is something that comes in handy, to create greater predictability…..but I am a lawyer, not a behavior analyst… this is something that really can be plotted out with the assistance of a behavior or educational consultant…
Comment From Guest 

I live in small village, my AS son is failing math and needs a tutor, i understand that the school district can/should help pay expenses, how do i encourage that to happen?

If you live in a small village….your school district is not likely to be unduly burdened with this kind of request. Your first move is an objective assessment to ascertain the extent of the “damage,” and then present the results at an IEP meeting to make the request…..
Comment From Kendalls Mom 

What happens if the school feels your child has no need for an IEP anymore? But you still think they do?

This is a recurring problem…..initially, such a move MUST be based on objective criteria…..and if you disagree and file for due process, “stay put” will protect your child in their current placement until the judge rules otherwise…
Comment From Katy 

I live in Wisconsin, where there’s massive school budget cuts. I’m concerned that it will affect the services my 3rd grader receives. Do we have legal rights to push for the same level of service, or must we accept whatever’s coming?

Budget cuts across the nation are creating fear and apprehension, and there are real budgetary realities that school districts–all districts–must contend with. On the other hand, the district cannot simply slash your IEP services because of budgetary concerns and if any IEP proposes to do so, again, “stay put” comes to the proteection of the parents who have no choice but to move formally to protect their child’s program components
Comment From Carol 

we have a 6 year old child who is not currently diagnosed with autism, but the believes the with the behaviors and patterns that he exhibits that he has aspergers. Who responsibility is it to get the testing done?

You first must REFER your child to the school distrrict for an evaluation to determine eligibility under one or more of the classification categories…and if you do not agree with the districts assessment, you can request an independent eval at district expense
Comment From Karla 

Our son turns three in November and we would like to know whether it is best , from a legal stand point, to send him to a public school first and then try to get him into a private school or not send him at all and fight the school district to send him to a private school?

This really turns on the outcome of the IEP meeting. IF the school district is offering a classroom or program that appears to be an effective to meet the child’s needs, then by all means, sign me up!! On the other hand, if it appears to be clearly inadequate, you would be moving in the other direction.
Comment From Es Mom 

I have a severly autistic son that I wanted to place in a special needs school. I have noticed that there is an extreme push by the public school for him to go there instead. Is there a reason for this? Do I not have a say?

The public school has an obligation to at least try to place your child in a public school placement before looking to private situations. You do have a say, but you need to first consider, in good faith, the public school options that are presented
Comment From Linda 

I would like to know the best way to present the need for a 1:1 aide for your child. My child bolts and is very fast. I have agreed to 2:1

A child who bolts and who is fast is a potential danger that could expose the district to potential liability. This year, we had a case of a student who bolted out of a NYC school, and was found undressing by the East River. It should not have to get that level of danger. How often does your child bolt? Is there a bheavior plan in place? These are all questions to be discussed at the IEP
Comment From Melissa in Michigan 

What is “stay put”?

Stay put is a simple description of a far more complicated statutory provision which simply means that if you bring a due process and challenge your child’s IEP, you are entitled to “stay put” in the last AGREED placement……
Comment From Jane 

Our high school contracts out for Occupational therapy for my son…what can I do to assure that he gets the service due to him, as I know that they have “skimped” on his IEP mandated time in the past?

You can test the situation by asking for service records or “session notes”….all parents are entitled to their child’s educational records…..and if there is a problem, call an IEP meeting and make sure to invite the questionable provider(s)
Comment From Mitchells Mom 

Can you request that a 504 be terminated and a IEP be initiated, if you feel that a 504 is not the appropriate measure? I don’t won’t to seem too pushy, causing the teachers to be biased towards my student.

Get pushy! Many school districts will try to give a 504 rather than an IEP because they know that it will likely be less burdensome to perform…..there is no dishonor in an IEP…..which often is exactly what the student needs (understanding that many children do just fine with “only” a 504 plan)
Comment From Meg 

What can I do if my child’s IEP is not being followed?

School districts hate having to assemble lots of teachers and administrators for an IEP….if they are not following the IEP, the “cost” is that you will demand a further meeting…eventually, most districts will ensure basic compliance rather than have to deal with your IEP requests
Comment From Melissa in Michigan 

do you have a web page?

Comment From Guest 

if my sons IEP has special instructions on transportation; can tthe school district who has now leased out their bussing to a private company refuse the IEP instructions to drop off and pick up curb to curb and make my child wait at a bus stop?

No….the school district MUST comply with the IEP mandates….and they cannot delegate their legal responsibility for compliance, even if they subcontract with another company
Comment From Andrew 

My daughter gets speech therapy for 30 mins a day in school and everytime that I ask if we can up the therapy, the response I get is, “30 minutes is enough, any more than that would be too much for her to absorb” How do I get them to at least try increasing her therapy time?

Particularly for children with autism who are often highly distractible, a 30 minute session is not adequate. You may need a private evaluation to measure this problem, and to make recomendations you can then present to the district
Comment From Karla 

Do you recommend that we bring a mediator or an attorney to our son’s IEP meeting?

I think that often, this is NOT a good thing to do unless prior statements by the school district alert you to hostility or closemindedness…..I think parents should first TRY to speak openly without attorney or mediator assistance….
Comment From melissa 

can you have a 504 and a iep also

You can technically wear a belt and suspenders too but one of them is not needed
Comment From Brittnii 

ED kids, what can i do to help so my child isnt teased?

Bullying has now become a huge issue for school districts, who are beginning to implement zero tolerance policies. More importantly, we just got a federal court decision this year that confirms that bullying is a big violation under IDEA
Comment From Guest 

Any suggestions to keep the IEP process collaborative rther than confrontational? My daughter sometimes feels overwhelmed by the “experts.”

This may sound silly, but many parents quiet the waters from the outset by bringing in cookies or something else to the meeting. It is difficult to disagree without becoming disagreeable. Peoples egos often get in the way. I also think that if you present an expert report, the dynamic changes from “this is what the parents want” to “this is what an expert is recommending”
Comment From Erika 

My daughter is starting middleschool and has inclass support mainstream, i also am wondering if theres any advice on her bullys, how to prepare teens for staying away from peer pressured things when there so volnerable, is there a book or any advice you can give us on tackling this cause this worrys me.

There is a link on my website,, to this year’s landmark bullying decision, which offers a lot of guidance as to what parents and school districts should do
Comment From Shell 

I have the same issue with ‘budget cuts’. My son has lost an excellent autism teacher and I am afraid that he will lose the 1 on 1 that he used to get. Should I address my concerns to the school or go straight to BOE w/ other parents? Thx

I would address it initially with the school and telegraph that such a move would not be acceptable and that if that were to occur, you would take action. You might well get a reassurance, as the squeaky wheel often gets the grease
Comment From Leslie G 

Children in NYS Early Intervention despite their diagnoses are receiving service authorizations that are ridiculous and similar eg. 1X60 every other week or 1X30 every other week. The service authorizations are not individualized. What can families do collectively to fight this?

Under Early Intervention, which goes only to age 3, a parent may get a lot of mileage going straight to mediation……
Comment From guest 

do kids with autism get their ears pierced????

I don;t have a clue. My daughters are the experts in our house about ear piercing
Comment From Katy 

What can you do if you do not want a particular staff member working with your child? (if you have only one example to demonstrate this person’s poor ability to adequately work with your child and you just have a “gut” feeling)

This is the weakest leg, often, that parents have to stand on. Personnel decisions are very much left up to the school district unless you can show true incompetence or worse conduct……
Comment From Guest 

Who is legally required to be at an IEP meeting?

This will differ slightly from state to state, but usually there is at least a district rep, a special education teacher, and evaluators, and if your child is attending or is being considered for regular education participation, a regular education teacher
Comment From Guest 

Good evening Mr. Mayerson. Wanted to stop im just to applaud everything your firm does to promote and protect autistic children. We have moved our 11 year old from public school to a private school that deals exclusively with autistic children through the age of 22. And thanks to the McKay scholarship, it’s free. We were so afraid of him being bullied in middle school.

Thank you for your kind words……and I am glad that your child is now in a good place
Comment From Guest 

If I’m not agree with an IEP meeting decision about related services, should I sign any paperwork?

You always should sign the “attendance” page of an IEP, but if you are not in agreement about related services, you should so indicate and communicate…..otherwise, the inadequate service levels will commence…
Comment From Mia 

When are services required to start under an IEP? I assume on the date the IEP states (the first day of school), but our district always takes a few weeks to get the schedule done and it can take 2-3 weeks until services actually begin. What can a parent do?

Each IEP is required to specifiy the start date and end date….to give parents notice of how to plan
Mia…you should write to the district and request the schedule weeks before the start of school….and I know that I just gave you impractical advice considering the time of year!
Comment From MB 

How can you address behavioral issues in an IEP? My son is currently screaming and yelling which I feel is his current way of stemming, but the teacher feels it isn’t related to Autism?

I am going to stick my neck out, but your child would appear to require a Functional Behavior Assessment to determine the function of his behavior(s). This should not be the subject of conjecture or guesswork
Comment From keli 

what is a Functional Behavior Assessment?

An FBA identifies the target behaviors, tracks and measures the frequency, duration and antecedents of those behaviors, and then, finally, hypothesizes as to the likely function of the target behaviors…and you need to know wjhat the function is before you can develop and design a proper behavior intervention plan
Comment From Maria 

Is it possible on IEP meeting to request bilingual paraprofessional or ESL services for autistic kid?

Seriously, it is not only possible, but often required….depending on the unique needs of the student.
Comment From Melissa 

Thid is my 3rd time writing this but its not going through I assume. I have a problem with my sons teacher. He is 4 and has Autism. She would only speak with me if he had a problem at school. She feels that he needs a behaviorlist which we do not have in our area that knows how to work with Autistic children. What should I do?

Ask the teacher if she feels comfortable shareing that with the district and if so, I would call an IEP and get this problem on the table
Comment From MJ 

I am a special education teacher and have several children with autism that I serve. I am sad to read about parents not feeling like they are getting adequate services or that their schools look at their children as burdens. Not all schools/districts are this way. We welcome parent input and do the very best we can with the resources available to meet each student’s needs.

Thank you for the fine work that you do. Dont be sad. Parents cannot move their children forward having a party that celebrates only all the wonderful things. Parents know that they have to move the mountains that are standing in the way of their chilldren’s progress. This is nothing personal….but a reality that all parents face. We have worked with many fine and honorable school districts that will always do the right thing…..but that is the question all parents must ask. “ARe you a good witch or a bad witch.”??
Comment From Bryce`s Mom 

Going into a IEP meeting is stressful enough but how about when my Son`s Dad brings a girlfriend in with him that has been nothing but hateful toward my son and more than I can say on here but it makes it twice as uncomfortable? …school claims there is nothing they can do? Thank you for any suggestions :}

I hear you. Unfortunately, either parent has the right to bring anyone they wish to the IEP, unless that person becomes disruptive at the meeting. That often helps parenets who bring advocates, experts, but works less well when your ex brings their baggage.
Comment From Guest 

How do the rules change for Autistic students starting college? Do colleges have to provide the student with all of the services that they had while in k-12?

This is a thorny issue but it normally is not an IDEA issue as much as an ADA issue……however, in the last few years, we are seeing many colleges and universities promoting special serrvices supports for students who need extra assistance…..its not the stigma it once was and colleges recognize that 13% of the population will have some form of disability to contend with…..
Comment From Cate Borzi 

How do I get ABA services in a region of Illinois that is still fighting tooth and nail to avoid schools here providing it?

Cate……this is less of a problem now, but obviously still of concern. If I can get ABA to come to a remote stretch of Alaska, you have a shot to import it to Illinoise. Check out the T.H. v. Palatine case, from your jurisdiction, that we won in 1998 and which supports ABA programming
Comment From PB 

Speaking of resources, are there ANY rules, (laws) about case load, number of students and the intensity of each student’s needs?

The IEP ratio limits the number of students, and some professional organizations, such as ASHA (for speech pathologists) publish caseload limits….
Comment From Lisa 

My daughter is 5. Does a school district always offer the bare minimum that is doesn’t remotely address the child’s needs to learn but just warehouses them in a large class with no support? It seems that is all they are willing to do and when I object, they say the environment is “least restrictive” because it is the closest Special needs primary class to our home.

It’s not even the “bare minimum” if the services are inadequate to create meaningful progress. The problem is assessing whether your daughter is meaningfull progressing or not.
Comment From Imelda Donato 

I moved to a different school district while my son’s old IEP was in place. The new district has decrease speech services by 50% and when I told them what was needed according to the IEP, I was told that “that” document is no longer legal. What can I do?

If you moved to another district within the same state, you have “stay put” rights to the services in the old IEP that you can invoke by filing for due process, assuming that the move was very recent.
Comment From Karen 

Can I use meaningful progress in regard to behavior issues or is this relevant only to academic progress?

It is BOTH, particularly if your child has interfering behaviors that, when occurring, are making your child unavailable for learning.
I want to thank everyone for throwing me some very interesting questions….questions that come up time and again. I hope that everyone has a great start for the 2011-2012 school year…..good luck!!

Family Services Office Hours – 8/17/11

August 18, 2011 2 comments

Office Hours, a new resource available on the web at will easily connect families to a wide variety of autism-related resources, including Family Services’ Toolkits, and the Autism Speaks Resource Guide, an online national database of autism providers and resources searchable by state and zip code. Family Services’ Office Hours is designed to quickly provide access to resources that are available and free to the entire autism community.

“Having a family member with autism can easily lead to feeling isolated without knowing where to turn. In addition, most families have little free time to search for reliable information about autism, yet they may be in need of timely information. Office Hours offers a quick connection to the Autism Response Team(ART) who can assist you in getting the information you need as quickly as possible,” states Marianne Sullivan, Assistant Director of National Outreach and Resources.

The Office Hours resource is staffed by ART coordinators who are specially trained to connect families affected by autism to resources.

In addition to Office Hours, ART is available by telephone during usual business hours at 888-AUTISM 2 (888-288-4762). You can also reach ART by email at

Here is the transcript:

Welcome to Office Hours offered by the Family Services Department at Autism Speaks. Today’s Office Hours is staffed by Marianne Sullivan, RN, MN, Assistant Director of National Outreach and resources.
Back to School for Children with Autism
What we can do to make the transition back to school as smooth as possible for our kids with autism? Over last few weeks we’ve highlighted ways to reduce the stress associated with back to school; one common theme: plan and prepare ahead of time! Do you have a tip you to share with other parents?
Comment From Guest 

I took my son to his new school several times to tour and meet important people. I started at the end of the year before his move and had at least 2 visits over the summer.

Hi there! Those are some great suggestions. How did it work out?
Making the time to meet and get to know the key people in your child’s school is a great way to start the new year!
Comment From Guest 

My child is transitioning from a private school to public this year..He is entering 7th grade. What can I do to ease this transition?

Thank you for your questions.Family Services offers the School Community Tool Kit that offers great ideas on how students can adapt in their new school
Please feel free to download all of our Tool Kits! They are FREE!
A great idea would be to gather a portfolio of your child’s strengths and and challenges as you introduce your child to his/her teacher
Portfolios can include artwork, writing, and other school related samples
This is also a great way to have a record of your child’s school life.
Comment From Erica 

My son is 3 and has ASD. He started pre-k at an integrated school on his 3rd birthday. We are preparing him for the new school year, which he has no problems with. My issue is the length of time. Is a full day of school overbearing to a child with ASD?

Hi Erica – Every child is different. It is an excellent question. Remember you are the parents and you know what is best for the child. It is a matter of making sure that you as a parents are monitoring the stresses or behaviors of your child to indicate how well they are doing. I would include the teacher in terms of getting them on board to monitor certain situations
Remember every plan can be adjusted based on your child’s needs!
Comment From Guest 

My child started high school this week – the increased student population and campus size seems to be giving him the most anxiety in this change…we will be meeting his teachers tomorrow evening…or, at least 7 of the 8…and have sent emails introducing ourselves. I’ve reminded him that he didn’t like the changes each time he ‘moved up’ – from elementary to middle, from middle to junior and to give himself some time to adjust. Any more suggestions?

You have laid great groundwork communicating with the teachers and have created an opportunity for continued interaction. Again, the portfolio is a great resource to go back to. It is important to see the progress of your child through the years.
Another thing you should check out is our Transition Tool Kit. The Autism Speaks Transition Tool Kit was created to serve as a guide to assist families on the journey from adolescence to adulthood. You can never plan to far in advance!
Comment From Guest 

I seem to be having trouble getting my sons school to understand that he needs special help at all. He has attended there for two years in the early childhood program but was just recently diagnosed with ASD. He is starting full day kindergarten and they don’t seem interested in the ideas that I have for my son such as visual schedules, help off the bus and with lunch. They have him labeled as delayed on his IEP and also don’t seem interested in changing that to a firm ASD label. How do I insist on these things?

The key is to knowing what your child’s rights are under IDEA and State law. We have a ‘Special Education and Advocacy’ Community Connections that you may find helpful.
Tomorrow we will be releasing a new Community Connections that will be targeting IEP’s as well. You can also join our LIVE Q & A tonight a 7pm EDT with Gary Mayerson as he, ‘How To Compromise With Your School District Without Compromising Your Child’
Comment From Guest 

My 9 year old son was diagnosed with HFA this summer. My question is do we allow the teacher to tell his classmates? If so, what is the best way to go about this? He attends a (wonderful) private school and they have been very helpful. Just curious if we ease some of the teasing he receives by telling his classmates?

If your child was just diagnosed, you can order an Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Tool Kit that includes ideas how to talk to classmates about ASD. You can order one for FREE.
There is a more specific section that you may find especially helpful, ‘Asperger Syndrome/HFA and the Classroom.’
You can order the kit by calling us at 888-AUTISM 2 (288-4762) or email us at
There is a specific module of the School Community Tool Kit that deals with how to talk to your peers about ASD. You may want to share this with your child
Comment From Renee 

Son is going to the same school..but they moved him to a new teacher and classroom which is going to be difficult since he had his last teacher for 3 years..He is 17 and large for his size and doesn’t talk so what can I do to make the first couple of days go smoothly for him?

Renee we want to suggest good communication right from the beginning. Can you talk to the teacher ahead of time? Youc an tell them about your son – likes and dislikes, how he communicates, etc.
We would also want to recommend the Transition Tool Kit that you can order or download for FREE!
Comment From Guest 

WONDERFUL! Thank you so very much—just pulled from the links and my printer is going nuts! The questions sheet is fantastic! Thank you!

That is great! We are so glad that we were able to help and PLEASE keep us posted!
Renee, another though – perhaps you may want to ask a former teacher to share with his new teacher what your son’s strengths and weaknesses are. Maybe they can share strategies that worked with your son and those that may not have
Comment From Guest 

My AS son will be going from full day preschool to half day K. He did NOT get the teacher he wanted but his twin did, so he’s going in with a bad attitude. I am meeting with his teacher the wk before K starts and have a little “about Jason” booklet for her. I have to wait to get any special education help, I am told. Our school district is VERY against IEPs and 504s…

Again the key to your child’s rights are under IDEA and state law. As a parent you have the right to request that your child be assessed and that services be provided.
I recommend you provide your school with a copy of IDEA.
You have to know your child rights. Your special needs child has the right to a free and appropriate education.
Tonight Gary Mayerson will be on for a LIVE Q & A to discuss ‘How To Compromise With Your School District Without Compromising Your Child’
Please feel free to join us at 7pm EDT TONIGHT!
Comment From Jenny 

4.5 boy with pdd-nos. Is there an example of a notebook that would allow his special and integrated school teachers, aids, and PT’s to communicate with eachother and me on progress/ concerns?

Hi Jenny, thanks so much for your question. Please visit our School Community Tool Kit Appendix that contains many forms and other resources.
Paula Kluth is also a wonderful resource. She has samples of personal portfolios that you may choose to model your child’s after
Portfolios can be in paper, audio, or video form. They are meant to serve as a record for past experiences so you can track your child’s progress
Comment From Anthony 

My son is 33 months and so far not showing any signs of autism… At what age can I stop worrying about regression?

Hi Anthony – it is good that you are on top of this. Continue to observe your child as he develops. Here is a link where you can learn the signs.
Comment From Jo 

We are a military family and have moved twice in the past year, resulting in my ASD/ADHD daughter going to two schools for K, and now starting 1st at a whole new school. 3 schools, in 3 different states. The original IEP call for school provide Speech and OT with additional OT after school one day a week. The second school cut OT because the provider essentially didn’t have time for my daughter in her schedule, she was the only provider in the county and serviced ALL the elementary schools. The new school is doing their assessment for what remains on her IEP, speech therapy. Can I ask them to reevaluate her needs for OT? And I’m worried now that they might cut her speech, if they do, she wont even have an IEP anymore. what can I do?

Hi Jo – Because military families move, there are special services, provided by the military that should advocate for your child. Operation Autism is a resource guide designed for military famlies
Autism Speaks is involved with autism advocacy efforts for military families as well. Please visit Autism Votes for more information.
‘Welcome to StimCity’ is a wonderful blog by a woman named Rachel. She is a military wife and her daughter has ASD. You may find comfort in reading her blog.
We were lucky enough to have her blog for us!
Comment From Diana 

My child is in a dod school. They dont seem to have the right placement for her but wont referr her to a school that does what should i do about this?

Hi Diana – Wright’s Law has specific information on meeting the needs of your child with special needs. You can learn more about it here.
Thanks so much for stopping by today for Family Services Office Hours. Please come back with us tonight as Gary Mayerson leads us in a Q & A ‘How To Compromise With Your School District Without Compromising Your Child’
We will see you next week! Remember to stay positive and have a great school year! Keep us posted on your progress!
As always you can call us at 888-AUTISM 2 (288-4762) or email us at

IEPs, iPads and Bullies: 10 Tips From a Dad Who’s Been There

August 16, 2011 25 comments

James Vaughan’s 11-year old son, Kian, is entering the 6th grade in the Weber County public schools in Utah.  Kian, who has high functioning autism, has been mainstreamed in public school since the second grade and has made great strides.  James attributes the progress to the successful partnership he and his wife have cultivated with the folks at Kian’s school.  James is one of many parents sharing his story, tips and team on MyAutismTeam.  We recently spoke with him to learn how he has partnered with his public school to create a positive and safe learning environment for Kian.   Here are 10 tips we gleaned from speaking with James.   Hopefully some of them will help you.  You can post questions and comments directly to James’ wall by clicking  here .

Please join the Family Services, LIVE Facebook Q & A, ‘How To Compromise With Your School District Without Compromising Your Child’ with Gary Mayerson, Wednesday August 16 at 7pm EDT.

(10) Get the Official Diagnosis As Early As Possible

Dr. Megan Farley of the University of Utah diagnosed Kian.  We didn’t get the official diagnosis until December of last year when he was 10 because we had been worried about saddling him with the label of autism.  In retrospect I would say the right time to get a diagnosis is “as early as possible”.  Having the official diagnosis in hand, along with some written recommendations from the doctor enabled us to secure even more services for Kian including technology assistance [see #9].  When we decided we wanted a diagnosis we had to be very persistent with our pediatrician to get a referral.  He kept assuring us that Kian would outgrow some of his developmental challenges, but in the end agreed to give us the referral when we were persistent.

(9) Be Firm, But Flexible

My wife and I always make sure that every concern we have about Kian is thoroughly understood by our partners at the school, particularly during the IEP process.  Talking about his speech delays got us speech therapy.  Talking about his challenges interacting with other kids led to social skills therapy, and so on.  It’s important to make sure they understand and address each issue.  I’m the kind of person that doesn’t take “No” for an answer, but you have to be flexible.  There have been times we’ve requested something for Kian that the school hasn’t been able to accommodate.  But rather than saying “No” they’ve always said, “I don’t know if we can do that, but here are other options we can do.”

(8) Communicate Frequently All Year, Even After the IEP  

The open communications continues after the IEP, otherwise it’s not a real partnership.  We regularly check in with Kian’s teachers and aide to make sure we are helping each other.  We also keep the focus of the communication on Kian’s development. We let them know things we are trying at home that are working, and notify them of any changes that could impact Kian’s performance in school that day.  We’ll say, ” You may see some distraction today – here’s why… .”  That helps them understand how to interact with him.  Similarly, we want them to tell us about the challenges they are having with Kian at school so we can then work on those issues at home.   The more we are open with each other on a regular basis, the better the job we do meeting Kian’s needs.  It keeps everyone focused on the goal of his development.

(7) Speech Therapy, Social Skills and 1-on-1 Aides

Before the second grade, Kian was in the school’s alternative kindergarten and first grade program.  There, he had a strong speech program and one-on-one time.  He flourished.  Now, in the mainstream curriculum, he has an aide and is pulled out of class for 30 minutes each day for either speech therapy or social skills integration. That one-on-one time has been critical, and the special attention from the aide makes it easier to accommodate Kian in the classroom.

(6) Ask If Your Child Can be Tested Differently

When the teacher stood up in front of the class and read off questions for the students to answer in writing, Kian couldn’t really respond to this normal classroom testing, but it was not due to a lack of understanding of the material.  When we asked, “Can Kian be tested differently?” the school was happy to do so.   He now gets tested on computer where he can type his answers — something he can do quite well.

(5) Seek Out Alternatives for Stressful Situations

Going out to recess was more traumatic than fun for Kian.  If that is the case for your child, ask if there alternatives.  We asked and Kian was able to stay in the classroom during recess so he could read or do some other type of project.

(4) Get Involved If You See Bullying & Teasing 

It’s not surprising that a child struggling with social interaction will get teased and sometimes bullied, but it’s certainly not acceptable.  If you see it,  GET INVOLVED IMMEDIATELY.  My wife is a spunky lady.  When she sees bullying going on she makes sure that the students and parents involved know about it and are educated about it.  But she does it in an understanding way.  She explains how kids are different from each other.  We’ve increased awareness about bullying at the PTA.  PTA is a great thing.  You’re mingling with other parents and making them aware of the issues.  When other parents become aware of the issue, they then talk to other parents, who in turn, talk to their kids.  We’ve received phone calls out of the blue from other parents saying, “I learned about the teasing my child was involved with.  You won’t have a problem with that again.”

(3) Start With The Goal of Building a Real Partnership

One of our goals from the outset was to form a strong, open partnership with the people at the school, from the Principal to the teachers and aides, to the Special Education Director.  Kian’s challenges were a lot bigger than we could handle on our own.   We let them know how much we’d appreciate their help looking out for Kian and making sure his needs were met.   We committed to be totally transparent and open with them and to help reinforce the right behaviors at home.
We certainly didn’t want our son to be a distraction to the teachers and other students, but we also wanted to make sure he had everything he needed to develop and grow.   The principal of our school recently told me why they’ve always been so open to finding solutions for Kian saying, “You cared, you really showed it was about forming a partnership with us, and you were always up front about the issues before they became a situation.”

(2) Reduce Homework and Leverage Technology
After spending a day with Kian, Dr. Farley immediately suggested a reduced homework load for Kian and suggested we use a computer or other technology to help him type his homework.  20 minutes of normal homework was taking him 1-2 hours to do (partly due to challenges with handwriting). Our school district had a special foundation that was able to provide Kian with an iPAD.  He uses the ipad to keep a calendar of his assignments and to type out his work rather than writing everything out by hand.  He also receives a reduced amount of homework.  Again, this is setting him up to be more successful each day rather than falling behind.

(1)  Reach Out to Other Parents

In the autism community, the biggest contributor to hopelessness is not knowing who to talk to and where to go for advice.   I like what MyAutismTeam is doing because they make it easy to connect with other parents near me and see which providers they recommend and what kinds of activities they are doing.  It’s a great tool to get those relationships started and then be able to expand on them.  My wife and I started a program in Utah called FAAST (Families of Autism and Asperger’s Standing Together) that meets monthly.  I posted an upcoming meeting on my wall on MyAutismTeam the other week and ended up meeting another parent that way.

– Interview Conducted by Eric Peacock, GM of MyAutismTeam 

How To Compromise With Your School District Without Compromising Your Child

August 15, 2011 30 comments

Join us on August 17th at 7 pm EST as Gary Mayerson discusses parent advocacy and answers your questions about what you can do.

Navigating the IEP process can be an overwhelming experience. Join nationally renowned attorney Gary Mayerson as he answers live questions from parents and explains what parents can do to secure effective and appropriate programming.

Gary Mayerson is the founder of Mayerson & Associates, a law firm in Manhattan that was formed more than a decade ago as the very first law firm dedicated exclusively to serving people with autism. To date, Mr. Mayerson and other lawyers at his firm have helped more than 1,000 families in more than 30 states, as well as military families stationed abroad. He also is the author of How To Compromise With Your School District Without Compromising Your Child (DRL Books 2005). In addition, Mr. Mayerson is a long-time board member of Autism Speaks and serves as the Director of the Autism Speaks Federal Legal Appeals Project, a pro bono initiative at the federal level.

Boynton Beach Grandparents Raise Funds for Autism Speaks

February 28, 2011 1 comment

This is a guest post by Autism Speaks Board Member Gary Mayerson. Mayerson is the founder of Mayerson & Associates, the first and only law practice in the nation dedicated to representing children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders.

From its very inception, Autism Speaks has recognized the importance of family support, and the role of the extended family.  Indeed, Autism Speaks was founded by two highly motivated grandparents, Bob and Suzanne Wright.

On February 15, 2011, approximately 150 Boynton Beach grandparents attended a luncheon fundraiser for Autism Speaks, raising more than $10,000 in the process.  They came to listen to Autism Speaks Board Member Gary Mayerson speak about the epidemic-like statistics, and the many ways in which Autism Speaks is addressing the problem.

We wish to thank everyone who attended and, in particular, the following committee members who organized this worthy event:  Gerri Ackerman, Elaine Baranoff, Luba Ditkowitch, Ellen Feller, Harriet Fried, Carolyn Holland, Shirley Meltzer, Mara Lee Nozetz, Rita Rosen, Patty Rosenfeld, Phyllis Spieler, Dee Silverman, Ruth Schwartz, Renee Telsey and Sylvia Zeidman (Gary Mayerson’s mother in law).

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In Memoriam: Dr. O. Ivar Lovaas (1927-2010)

August 5, 2010 16 comments

From left to right: Dr. Lovaas, Nina Lovaas, Gary Mayerson

Editor’s note: On August 2, 2010, Dr. O. Ivar Lovaas passed away. We sincerely thank Dr. Lovaas for all of his contributions to the autism community.

In 1981, with the publication of Dr. Lovaas’ pioneering work, Teaching Developmentally Disabled Children (popularly known as “The ME Book”), the landscape of the world of autism was quite different than it is today.  In 1981, the prevalence of autism in the general population was reported to be only 4 in 10,000, hardly the 1 in 100 world epidemic that autism represents today.  While considered a relative rarity at the time, a diagnosis of autism in the 1960’s and 1970’s was considered by most  to be the beginning of a countdown to institutional care.  To add insult to injury, Bruno Bettelheim and others were disseminating and perpetuating the notion that autism was caused by cold and unfeeling “refrigerator mothers” and other forms of inadequate parenting.  For much of the latter part of the last century, families of children with autism had little, if anything, to hope for.

Dr. Lovaas, who had already been working with children with autism for decades, knew better.  Dr. Lovaas knew instinctively that poor parenting was not to blame. However, finding the root cause of autism was not Dr. Lovaas’ chosen mission. Instead, Dr. Lovaas focused his energy and attention on developing effective teaching strategies. Dr. Lovaas believed that children with autism could “learn to learn.” Back in the day, this was considered by many to be an unreachable star.

Just as Thomas Edison’s numerous lightbulb failures paved the way for Edison’s ultimate success, Dr. Lovaas painstakingly identified the “serious mistakes” that he and his colleagues at UCLA had made over the course of two decades in attempting to teach children with autism and other severe developmental disabilities.  Dr. Lovaas knew that the first step to finding an effective, core intervention would be to identify and eliminate the various approaches and strategies that had been tried, but which were demonstrably ineffective. Dr. Lovaas then worked tirelessly to break down the large and general problem of “disability” into manageable and separate behavioral units. Through years of trials, Dr. Lovaas further refined his behavior modification techniques and approaches. Over time, Dr. Lovaas’ work in the field became recognized to the point that for many, “Lovaas” became synonomous with the term “Applied Behavior Analysis.”

During the 1980’s, Dr. Lovaas and his colleagues at the UCLA Young Autism Project further refined their behavioral approaches, and they were fortunate enough to receive an important grant from the NIH allowing a most unusual and intensive approach that had never before been attempted—a forty hour per week one-to-one teaching program. In 1987, the results of Dr. Lovaas’ study, entitled Behavioral Treatment and Normal Educational and Intellectual Functioning in Young Autistic Children, were published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, a respected peer review journal.

While there certainly was some controversy over the precise “design” of Dr. Lovaas’ study, there had never before been a study reporting such a favorable outcome—many of the students who had been receiving a 40 hour per week intervention program for approximately 2-3 years had recovered function to the point that they were considered virtually indistinguishable from their typically developing peers. A 1993 follow-up study appearing in the American Journal on Mental Retardation confirmed that some six years later, all but one of the children in the “best outcome” group had retained the gains reported in the 1987 study. In 1998, the Surgeon General’s Report on Autism referred to Dr. Lovaas’ 1987 study as a “well designed study” that “….demonstrated the efficacy of applied behavioral methods [ABA] in reducing inappropriate behavior and in increasing communication.”  Vindication!

In 2002, Dr. Lovaas  asked me to write a chapter on ABA litigation for his then upcoming update to The ME Book, Teaching Individuals With Developmental Delays (Pro-Ed). Dr. Lovaas told me in the charming Norwegian accent that he never seemed to lose despite living in this country for many decades that his greatest wish was that every parent, whether residing in California, New York or Alaska, would  have access to effective autism treatments. Dr. Lovaas regularly spoke of the need for insurance reform, as he  knew full well the devastating impact  autism can have upon the family.  The dedication appearing in Dr. Lovaas’ latest book speaks volumes as to his empathy and compassion for the family: “This manual is dedicated to all parents of children with developmental delays in recognition of the heavy burdens they carry, and the models they provide for all parents to follow.”

I last sat with Dr. Lovaas and his lovely wife, Nina, at the Autism Speaks’ benefit concert in Los Angeles, headlined by Paul Simon and Jerry Seinfeld. Dr. Lovaas was truly pleased to see how far public awareness of autism had come. He also has a special appreciation for Jerry Seinfeld’s jokes, ostensibly  because so many of them are based on the nuances of human behavior.

Dr. Lovaas’ pioneering work has not only helped, but has profoundly changed the lives and futures of thousands of affected children and their families. Dr. Lovaas’ work continues to have a profound impact on the professional development of today’s autism professionals. Perhaps most importantly, where once there was darkness, Dr. Lovaas brought light and genuine hope.

The autism community clearly has lost a giant.

This guest post is by Gary Mayerson. He serves on the board of Autism Speaks and is the founder of Mayerson & Associates, the first law firm in the nation dedicated to representing children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders.



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