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Special Education Advocate

Holly Correa has been an educator for over 20 years. She has a M.A. in Educational Leadership, a California Administrative Services credential, in addition to a Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential. Her experience teaching students with spectrum challenges such as Asperger’s and Autism, combined with her experience facilitating the IEP process, make her an excellent child advocate. On a personal note, Holly is the mother of a child with high functioning autism and has advocated on his behalf throughout his life. She understands first-hand the impact having a special needs child places on the family, and is passionate about finding just the right combination of support so that everyone thrives.

Please call Holly for your Southern California Advocacy needs. 805 512-2034

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We have just completed our Advocacy School training classes and the Free School is now open to the public. The nine units cover the entire process from Eligibility to Litigation. The curriculum is perfect for attorneys, psychologists, parents of special needs children and others. Please visit our Online School .

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If you need to find an advocate for your child, try searching the COPAA database of members who represent special needs children.

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Rene Thomas Folse, JD, Ph.D.

I am an attorney at law and licensed psychologist (PSY 11415) in California.

I have had over thirty five years of experience with disabled adults and children.

I have created this site to help provide useful news and information for parents, educators and advocates. I am retired from professional practice, however if you need further information you may contact Pause4KIDS my affiliated non-profit organization here.

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It is important that parents have opportunities to enhance their knowlege about their children and the services that are available for them. Here are a few links to orgainizations that provide training.

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Please See Our Catalog of Books About Special Education for More Information Please See Our Catalog of Free Online Videos About Special Education for More Information

Special Education News as of Jul 28, 2017

Charter Schools Enroll Fewer Special Ed Kids
Thu, 21 Jun 2012 07:17:09 - Pacific Time
Public charter schools, a small but fast-growing segment of K-12 education, enroll fewer children with disabilities than traditional public schools, according to a new federal study. The Washington Post reviewed the report, released Wednesday by the Government Accountability Office which examined how many disabled students are served by charter schools as compared with traditional public schools.

About 8 percent of the students at charter schools are disabled and require special services, compared with 11 percent of students in traditional public schools, the GAO found. Differences in enrollment were seen across a range of disabilities, from autism to speech impairment. Public schools that accept federal money, including charters, are required by law to provide a “free appropriate” education to all disabled children. They cannot exclude disabled students or otherwise discriminate against them.

When it comes to children with intellectual disabilities, traditional public schools had almost twice as many as charter schools, according to the study. The findings were based on school data from 2008 to 2010. More than 2 million students attend about 5,600 charter schools across the country, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. The question of whether charter schools educate similar numbers of disabled students is significant as the charter movement grows, because critics have accused charters of “creaming,” or preferring to enroll students who are easier and less costly to educate.

The Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights is in the middle of a broad review of whether charter schools are complying with federal law regarding disabled students. The GAO report said it is unclear why charter schools are enrolling fewer disabled students. Parents of disabled students may think that a charter school won’t adequately meet their children’s needs, it said. Or some charter schools may be discouraging students with disabilities from enrolling, the report said.

About half of the charter school officials the GAO interviewed cited insufficient resources, including limited space, as a challenge. Often, severely disabled children are removed from regular classrooms and given additional help in a separate room, but charters often lack the necessary physical space.

The GAO study recommended that the Education Department update its guidance to charter schools, addressing practices that may affect enrollment of students with disabilities. It also wants the department to determine the reason behind the enrollment disparity. Read More...

Letter Spacing Helps Dyslexic Kids
Sat, 9 Jun 2012 09:10:46 - Pacific Time
Increasing the spacing between characters and words in a text improves the speed and quality of dyslexic children's reading, without prior training. They read 20% faster on average and make half as many errors. This is the conclusion reached by a French-Italian research team, jointly headed by Johannes Ziegler of the Laboratoire de Psychologie Cognitive (CNRS/Aix-Marseille Université). An article appeared in Science Daily.

These results were published 4 June 2012 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS). In parallel, the team has developed an iPad/iPhone application, available under the name "DYS." It allows both parents and children to modify the spacing between letters and thus test the benefits of these changes on reading. This will enable researchers to collect large-scale, real time data, which they will then analyze and study.

Dyslexia is a learning disability that impairs an individual's capacity to read and is linked to difficulty in identifying letters, syllables and words -- despite suitable schooling and in the absence of intellectual or sensorial deficiencies. Dyslexia, which often causes writing problems, affects on average one child in every class and 5% of the world's population.

In this study, the researchers tested the effects of letter spacing on the reading ability of 54 dyslexic Italian and 40 dyslexic French children aged between 8 and 14 years. The children had to read a text composed of 24 sentences, in which the spacing was either normal or wider than usual. The results showed that wider spacing enabled the children to improve their reading both in terms of speed and precision. On average, they read 20% faster and made half as many errors. This progress could stem from the fact that dyslexic children are particularly sensitive to "perceptual crowding," in other words the visual masking of each individual letter by those surrounding it. The results of this study show that this crowding effect may be reduced by spacing letters apart.

This finding opens interesting perspectives in the field of dyslexia treatment techniques. Indeed, reading better means reading more -- yet it takes one year for a dyslexic child to read what a "normal reader" reads in two days. This is because reading can be "torture" for dyslexic children, whose decoding difficulties cause to stumble, putting them off reading on a regular basis. The researchers have found a simple and efficient "trick" that helps these children break the vicious circle and correctly read more words in less time. Read More...

California Mental Health Parity Act Helps Special Needs Children
Wed, 6 Jun 2012 11:36:09 - Pacific Time
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision reconfirming its previous holding in Harlick v. Blue Shield that the California Mental Health Parity Act requires health plans to cover all medically necessary treatment for severe mental illnesses, subject only to financial terms and conditions, such as deductibles and copays, applicable to coverage for physical illnesses.

"This is a critically important decision that will help end unfair challenges so many families face when seeking autism treatment for their children," California Insurance Commissioner Jones said. "I applaud the court's reaffirmation of its prior decision, thus making treatment for autism and other mental illnesses more accessible to the families and children needing it. I also applaud Lisa Kantor and Elizabeth Green, the lead attorneys for Ms. Harlick, for their advocacy and determination in securing this outcome."

Following issuance of a decision in August 2011, Blue Shield petitioned the panel of three judges to rehear the case or, alternatively, refer it to the full Ninth Circuit for rehearing. Yesterday's decision makes some modifications to the court's earlier analysis, but reaffirms its conclusion that Blue Shield must provide coverage.

The plaintiff in the case, Jeanene Harlick, was a patient covered under a Blue Shield health plan. She was treated for anorexia at a residential care facility. Although anorexia is categorized as a severe mental illness under the California Mental Health Parity Act, Blue Shield denied coverage. It asserted, among other things, that residential treatment is not a specifically listed benefit under the Mental Parity Act and therefore not covered. The court rejected Blue Shield's argument.

The court's decision declares two important principles protecting patients with mental illness, including autism. First, the Mental Health Parity Act creates a mandate that insurers provide coverage for all medically necessary treatment for severe mental illness, which, like anorexia, may be life threatening. Second, coverage may be limited only by the same financial terms and conditions, such as deductibles or copays, applicable to coverage for physical illnesses. Read More...

Therapy Animals Help With Goals
Mon, 4 Jun 2012 08:50:54 - Pacific Time
Therapy dogs have brought new energy and fun to local special education classrooms over this past school year - not to mention help with the kids' developmental and academic goals according to the story in The Daily Courier

The Special Education Pet Partners Program brought the certified therapy dogs and their handlers into classrooms in the Prescott Unified School District for an hour a week to help students as they worked on their individual education plan goals, said Shari Bayomi, PUSD director of special education. "When I saw how the students opened up to Sage, Lady and Sonnet, the progress they made on their goals, and how excited they were to see the dogs each week, I knew we had something really wonderful here," Bayomi said.

Teachers, counselors and therapists designed exercises using the pet partners to help students improve communication, mobility, academic achievement, and expression, as well as social and emotional skills, Bayomi said. "You can see the students' shoulders become less tense as they're petting Lady and talking to her," said Tracey Frederiksen, a counselor at Lincoln Elementary School. "Since we've had the dogs visiting, we're seeing the students make more progress on their therapeutic goals."

During a field trip in late May, the students played with all three dogs - Jean Nichol's Sage, Starr Ladehoff's Lady, and Bonnie Barnett's Sonnet - and learned about the parrot, alpacas, and other animals at Ladehoff's home. Jarett Baisley, a Prescott High School freshman, held a secondary lead on Sage while she played with some second-graders from Lincoln Elementary as Nichols maintained the primary lead. The dogs are so "relaxed, and fun to be with. You can just sit beside them, communicate, and they listen and care," Baisley said.

After throwing a tennis ball to Sage, Timothy Sweeney said he liked playing with the dogs when they visit, while Elijah Alexander said the best thing was brushing their fur. "It's very rewarding to see the students interact with the dogs, and know it's helping them," said Ladehoff, a certified dog trainer and former animal trainer at Sea World.

Nichols said Sage and the other dogs went through a great deal of training to become certified therapy dogs. "We are there as a resource for the counselor or therapist to use as they work with the students toward their individual goals," Nichols said. Read More...

States Seek Federal Waivers to Cut Special Education
Tue, 15 Jun 2010 10:39:57 - Pacific Time
At least three states have asked for permission to cut back on the money they provide districts for special education, under a built-in escape clause in the federal special education law that is aimed at financially struggling states. Iowa and Kansas have both been granted a waiver, which under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act can be given out in "exceptional or uncontrollable circumstances such as a natural disaster or a precipitous and unforeseen decline in the financial resources of a state." South Carolina has requested a waiver, but the U.S. Department of Education has asked the state for more information before making a decision. Both the waiver requests and the department’s responses were reported earlier this year by the blog IDEA Money Watch, a project of the Washington area Advocacy Institute, which supports parents of children with disabilities. Special education advocates say this is the first time they’re aware of economic-hardship waivers being granted. The IDEA tries to insulate funding for children with disabilities from the ebb and flow of state financial woes. States generally must fund special education at the same amount or more from year to year, which in federal terminology is called maintenance of effort. There are penalties for making cuts without a waiver, and the waivers are granted only for one fiscal year at a time. After a waiver expires, a state must go back to the same funding level that existed before the cut was granted. Michael Griffith, an education finance expert with the Denver-based Education Commission for the States, said that more waiver requests may be coming. The financial outlook for states remains grim, and special education costs have grown at a faster rate than general education costs. States may not have asked for waivers before because they knew their requests would likely be denied, he said. "There are all sorts of waivers, and some are given out fairly easily. This one has been pretty clear- don’t come to us unless you’re in dire straits," Mr. Griffith said. "IDEA has traditionally been a very protected area. Even when we had the economic downturn after September 11, no one asked for it. They clearly knew they weren’t going to get it." Although the economy was in a shambles last year, federal stimulus dollars allowed states to plug some budget holes. But, Mr. Griffith added, "last year was not as bad as this year. And next year will be worse." Luann L. Purcell, the executive director of the Council of Administrators of Special Education, a group that represents district-level officials, says the maintenance of effort and waivers are a widespread topic of concern. “This is an issue everywhere I go,” she said. Read More...

CSUN Awarded Federal Grant to Strengthen Special Education Programs
Thu, 8 Apr 2010 07:29:13 - Pacific Time
Congressman Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) announced that California State University, Northridge (CSUN) was awarded nearly $8.5 million in federal funding over five years to improve the teacher quality and student achievement for students with disabilities in high-need schools. The grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Education through the Teacher Quality Partnership program. This project addresses the critical shortage of qualified special education teachers who are prepared to serve in high-need schools. The project is a partnership between the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and the Colleges of Education and Humanities at California State University, Northridge. The program will recruit a total of 150 special education teachers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, prepare them to serve children with disabilities in high need schools, and evaluate the impact of the project on new teachers and their students. The program will offer an 18- month credential or master's degree residency program in Special Education, and a 2-year induction program. "Cal State Northridge is nationally recognized for its exemplary programs to prepare highly qualified teachers and develop partnerships with high-need schools," said Congressman Sherman. "Once again, CSUN stands at the forefront in teacher preparation and training and improving student achievement in our local schools." Read More...

National Academic Standards Call For Higher Bar In Special Education
Fri, 12 Mar 2010 04:45:06 - Pacific Time
A sweeping new proposal outlining national education standards offers “a historic opportunity” for students with disabilities “to excel within the general curriculum,” proponents say. The draft plan crafted by education experts convened by the nation’s governors and state school chiefs outlines yearly curriculum recommendations in English and math for students in kindergarten through twelfth grade. The idea behind the new standards is to apply uniform, high expectations to all students, including those with disabilities, no matter which state they attend school in. Under the recommended guidelines, fourth graders should know the difference between words like “their” and “there” while eighth graders should know how to use the Pythagorean theorem, among other criteria. Special education students should be held to grade level standards in order to succeed beyond high school graduation, an introduction to the draft indicates. While students with disabilities will likely require appropriate supports and accommodation, standards should only be compromised in cases where students have “significant cognitive disabilities” and after such students are offered numerous ways to learn and express their knowledge. Organizers of the plan at the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers are accepting public comment on the proposal until April 2 before publishing final recommendations. Each state will determine whether or not to adopt the standards. Read More...

Seven Years After Accusations, Judge Orders Special Education Teacher Fired
Thu, 14 Jan 2010 05:29:32 - Pacific Time
A city schoolteacher removed from the classroom more than seven years ago for alleged misconduct -- and who continued to receive a full paycheck the entire time -- should be fired immediately, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ordered Tuesday. The ruling was the latest turn in the Los Angeles Unified School District's long battle to terminate Matthew Kim, a former special education teacher at Grant High School in Van Nuys. Kim had been accused of touching co-workers' breasts and making improper advances and comments toward students. He was removed from the classroom in 2002 and required to report to a district office every workday as his case wound through the disciplinary system. Though he continued to receive up to $68,000 in annual pay plus benefits, he was given no duties. He has been sidelined with pay longer than any other teacher disciplined by the district. L.A. Unified has spent more than $2 million on his salary and legal costs. Kim was featured in a Times series last spring as an example of the district's struggle to fire unfit teachers, even those accused of egregious or immoral acts. The newspaper found that about 160 employees had been "housed" in district offices -- most of them fully paid -- while investigations proceeded, sometimes for years. In response to a complaint Tuesday from Kim's lawyer suggesting that the district had unfairly targeted his client, Judge David P. Yaffe said the issue had become "an embarrassment" after the Times series "exposed it." The school board fired Kim in 2003, but he appealed to the state Commission on Professional Competence, which has the final say over teachers' contested dismissals. The panel ultimately ruled that the touching was accidental and that Kim should not be fired. School board member Tamar Galatzan said the case is proof that legislators need to change California law governing teacher dismissal. "Kim should have been let go a long time ago. The fact this case dragged so long is added proof the state must change the rules to make it easier to get rid of teachers who have committed egregious offenses," she said. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last week proposed that school districts, not the Commission on Professional Competence, be given final say over teacher dismissals. The move came in reaction to the Times series, according to the governor's staff. Read More...

Court to decide LAUSD battle with charters
Fri, 8 Jan 2010 05:58:45 - Pacific Time
A battle between The Los Angeles Unified School District and charter groups could be decided today when the State Board of Education is expected to rule whether charters statewide can take complete control of educating their special needs students. Publicly funded and independently run charters have argued that they should control special education funding, as they do for their general education student population. They accuse large school districts like LAUSD of controlling federal special education dollars and obstructing charters from getting their fair share. But L.A. Unified officials say charters traditionally cherry pick special education students with less severe disabilities and leave LAUSD with severely disabled students who are more expensive to teach. That was essentially the conclusion of a summer report by the Office of the Independent Monitor, set up to oversee a federal consent decree placed on the district for special education services. "There is no research that shows how (the charter) plan will better serve students with disabilities," said Sharyn Howell, LAUSD's executive director of special education. The debate, she said, is more about adult politics than improving children's education. Howell said she will ask the state board to delay its vote on a plan that she said could further cripple LAUSD's ability to meet the needs of all special education students. The issue comes as LAUSD, which already has the largest number of charter schools of any district in the country, is expected to allow more of the independent campuses to open under a new plan that lets outside operators apply to run district schools. Charter school advocates say LAUSD and other large urban districts need to understand that the independent schools have a legal right to seek federal and state special education money. "The heart of charter law is flexibility and autonomy in exchange for accountability and, if you go back to the law, you'll see that includes special education services," said Jed Wallace, president of the California Charter Schools Association. LAUSD officials though, believe that this plan could simply strip the district of more special education funding, without reducing the number of special education students the district has to serve. While federal and state law requires school districts to provide a complete menu of services to all students with disabilities, the cost to run the program exceeds available funding. At LAUSD that deficit is about $700 million. Read More...

News Archive


Rewiring brains of poor readers, dyslexics, autistic, ADHD, developmental disorders: Sat, 12 Dec 2009 08:15:58 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Professionals find their calling in special education: Wed, 9 Dec 2009 06:44:40 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Study finds teens with learning, emotional disabilities more likely to miss school, drop out: Mon, 7 Dec 2009 07:02:28 - Pacific Time: Read More...


$87.8 million in Chicago Public Schools' special education funding is questioned: Sat, 28 Nov 2009 06:47:12 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services: Who is Alexa Posny?: Fri, 27 Nov 2009 11:26:11 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Court Weighs Funding For Special Education: Sun, 26 Apr 2009 19:38:50 - Pacific Time: Read More...


Report Says Black Latino Male Special Ed Students "Road to Nowhere": Fri, 24 Apr 2009 10:31:19 - Pacific Time: Read More...


No Job, No Diploma: Recession Hurts Special Education Students: Sun, 19 Apr 2009 15:51:44 - Pacific Time: Read More...


MPUSD budget plan won't gut special education: Sun, 19 Apr 2009 15:49:08 - Pacific Time: Read More...

Please See Our Catalog of Books About Special Education for More Information Please See Our Catalog of Free Online Videos About Special Education for More Information