Where Are Our Special Education Teachers?

I recently visited a popular job posting site and conducted a search for Special Education Teacher jobs in Houston, Texas. The results were amazing – 221 jobs in Houston waiting to be filled.  Why so many? Has the general population not realized the growing need for qualified people to care for our children?  Are our SpEd teachers burnt out from the extreme demands placed on them and have moved on? As I prepare to send my son back to school next week, I am relieved to know that his SpEd teacher is still at our school, but what about other schools in Texas?

In December 2015, the No Child Left Behind Act (2002) was replaced with the Every Student Succeeds Act (“ESSA”) with goals set to ensure students not only graduate from high school, but also attend college.  In order for this federal Act to succeed, states are encouraged to be innovative accountable for results.  According to their website, the Texas Education Agency (“TEA”) will attempt to fully implement ESSA by focusing on four goals: (i) improving our low-performing schools; (ii) tying high school success to a future with college and a career; (iii) getting back to basic reading and math; and most importantly (iv) “recruiting, supporting and retaining teachers and principals.”

As a parent of a child with special needs, your voice should be heard during this planning process.  Provide feedback on the key policy decisions concerning your child’s education. We need keep our SpEd teachers from leaving their professions by paying these teachers proper compensation for all that they do every day with our kids. We need to attract additional skilled professionals and paraprofessionals.

ACT NOW – The Texas Education Agency is now accepting comments on the ESSA State Plan until August 29th.

Former President Bush Signed the ADA 27 Years Ago Today

The following is a transcript of a historic event. See the link to the video clip below.

Remarks of President George Bush at the Signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Evan, thank you so much. And welcome to every one of you, out there in this splendid scene of hope, spread across the South Lawn of the White House. I want to salute the Members of the United States Congress, the House and the Senate who are with us today — active participants in making this day come true. This is, indeed, an incredible day — especially for the thousands of people across the Nation who have given so much of their time, their vision, and their courage to see this act become a reality.

You know, I started trying to put together a list of all the people who should be mentioned today. But when the list started looking a little longer than the Senate testimony for the bill, I decided I better give up, or that we’d never get out of here before sunset. So, even though so many deserve credit, I will single out but a tiny handful. And I take those who have guided me personally over the years: of course, my friends Evan Kemp and Justin Dart, up here on the platform with me; and of course — I hope you’ll forgive me for also saying a special word of thanks to two from the White House, but again, this is personal, so I don’t want to offend those omitted — two from the White House, Boyden Gray and Bill Roper, who labored long and hard. And I want to thank Sandy Parrino, of course, for her leadership. And I again — it is very risky with all these Members of Congress here who worked so hard, but I can say on a very personal basis, Bob Dole has inspired me.

This is an immensely important day, a day that belongs to all of you. Everywhere I look, I see people who have dedicated themselves to making sure that this day would come to pass: my friends from Congress, as I say, who worked so diligently with the best interest of all at heart, Democrats and Republicans; members of this administration — and I’m pleased to see so many top officials and members of my Cabinet here today who brought their caring and expertise to this fight; and then, the organizations — so many dedicated organizations for people with disabilities, who gave their time and their strength; and perhaps most of all, everyone out there and others — across the breadth of this nation are 43 million Americans with disabilities. You have made this happen. All of you have made this happen. To all of you, I just want to say your triumph is that your bill will now be law, and that this day belongs to you. On behalf of our nation, thank you very, very much.

Three weeks ago we celebrated our nation’s Independence Day. Today we’re here to rejoice in and celebrate another “independence day,” one that is long overdue. With today’s signing of the landmark Americans for Disabilities Act, every man, woman, and child with a disability can now pass through once-closed doors into a bright new era of equality, independence, and freedom. As I look around at all these joyous faces, I remember clearly how many years of dedicated commitment have gone into making this historic new civil rights act a reality. It’s been the work of a true coalition, a strong and inspiring coalition of people who have shared both a dream and a passionate determination to make that dream come true. It’s been a coalition in the finest spirit — a joining of Democrats and Republicans, of the legislative and the executive branches, of Federal and State agencies, of public officials and private citizens, of people with disabilities and without.

This historic act is the world’s first comprehensive declaration of equality for people with disabilities — the first. Its passage has made the United States the international leader on this human rights issue. Already, leaders of several other countries, including Sweden, Japan, the Soviet Union, and all 12 members of the EEC, have announced that they hope to enact now similar legislation.

Our success with this act proves that we are keeping faith with the spirit of our courageous forefathers who wrote in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” These words have been our guide for more than two centuries as we’ve labored to form our more perfect union. But tragically, for too many Americans, the blessings of liberty have been limited or even denied. The Civil Rights Act of ’64 took a bold step towards righting that wrong. But the stark fact remained that people with disabilities were still victims of segregation and discrimination, and this was intolerable. Today’s legislation brings us closer to that day when no Americans will ever again be deprived of their basic guarantee of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

This act is powerful in its simplicity. It will ensure that people with disabilities are given the basic guarantees for which they have worked so long and so hard: independence, freedom of choice, control of their lives, the opportunity to blend fully and equally into the rich mosaic of the American mainstream. Legally, it will provide our disabled community with a powerful expansion of protections and then basic civil rights. It will guarantee fair and just access to the fruits of American life which we all must be able to enjoy. And then, specifically, first the ADA ensures that employers covered by the act cannot discriminate against qualified individuals with disabilities. Second, the ADA ensures access to public accommodations such as restaurants, hotels, shopping centers, and offices. And third, the ADA ensures expanded access to transportation services. And fourth, the ADA ensures equivalent telephone services for people with speech or hearing impediments.

These provisions mean so much to so many. To one brave girl in particular, they will mean the world. Lisa Carl, a young Washington State woman with cerebral palsy, who I’m told is with us today, now will always be admitted to her hometown theater. Lisa, you might not have been welcome at your theater, but I’ll tell you — welcome to the White House. We’re glad you’re here. The ADA is a dramatic renewal not only for those with disabilities but for all of us, because along with the precious privilege of being an American comes a sacred duty to ensure that every other American’s rights are also guaranteed.

Together, we must remove the physical barriers we have created and the social barriers that we have accepted. For ours will never be a truly prosperous nation until all within it prosper. For inspiration, we need look no further than our own neighbors. With us in that wonderful crowd out there are people representing 18 of the daily Points of Light that I’ve named for their extraordinary involvement with the disabled community. We applaud you and your shining example. Thank you for your leadership for all that are here today.

Now, let me just tell you a wonderful story, a story about children already working in the spirit of the ADA — a story that really touched me. Across the Nation, some 10,000 youngsters with disabilities are part of Little League’s Challenger Division. Their teams play just like others, but — and this is the most remarkable part — as they play, at their sides are volunteer buddies from conventional Little League teams. All of these players work together. They team up to wheel around the bases and to field grounders together and, most of all, just to play and become friends. We must let these children be our guides and inspiration.

I also want to say a special word to our friends in the business community. You have in your hands the key to the success of this act, for you can unlock a splendid resource of untapped human potential that, when freed, will enrich us all. I know there have been concerns that the ADA may be vague or costly, or may lead endlessly to litigation. But I want to reassure you right now that my administration and the United States Congress have carefully crafted this Act. We’ve all been determined to ensure that it gives flexibility, particularly in terms of the timetable of implementation, and we’ve been committed to containing the costs that may be incurred.

This act does something important for American business, though — and remember this: You’ve called for new sources of workers. Well, many of our fellow citizens with disabilities are unemployed. They want to work, and they can work, and this is a tremendous pool of people. And remember, this is a tremendous pool of people who will bring to jobs diversity, loyalty, proven low turnover rate, and only one request: the chance to prove themselves. And when you add together Federal, State, local, and private funds, it costs almost $200 billion annually to support Americans with disabilities — in effect, to keep them dependent. Well, when given the opportunity to be independent, they will move proudly into the economic mainstream of American life, and that’s what this legislation is all about.

Our problems are large, but our unified heart is larger. Our challenges are great, but our will is greater. And in our America, the most generous, optimistic nation on the face of the Earth, we must not and will not rest until every man and woman with a dream has the means to achieve it.

And today, America welcomes into the mainstream of life all of our fellow citizens with disabilities. We embrace you for your abilities and for your disabilities, for our similarities and indeed for our differences, for your past courage and your future dreams. Last year, we celebrated a victory of international freedom. Even the strongest person couldn’t scale the Berlin Wall to gain the elusive promise of independence that lay just beyond. And so, together we rejoiced when that barrier fell.

And now I sign legislation which takes a sledgehammer to another wall, one which has for too many generations separated Americans with disabilities from the freedom they could glimpse, but not grasp. Once again, we rejoice as this barrier falls for claiming together we will not accept, we will not excuse, we will not tolerate discrimination in America.

With, again, great thanks to the Members of the United States Senate, leaders of whom are here today, and those who worked so tirelessly for this legislation on both sides of the aisles. And to those Members of the House of Representatives with us here today, Democrats and Republicans as well, I salute you. And on your behalf, as well as the behalf of this entire country, I now lift my pen to sign this Americans with Disabilities Act and say: Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down. God bless you all.


Senate Vote Texas Vouchers for School


All your work from years of ARD meetings, IEPs, and lawsuits will disappear once your student receiving special education services from public school uses vouchers for private school education. Private schools are not forced to follow the laws protecting your child’s education rights.

Click here to listen to the call from Filis Law Firm’s managing attorney Leona Filis to Pacifica Radio encouraging Texans to call their senators and tell them to vote NO to public school vouchers.

This segment was taken from the 7/24/2017 broadcast found at http://kpft.org/programming/newstalk/open-journal/

The Texas School Voucher proposal passed 19-12 in the state senate. The next step is the Texas House.  Please contact your representatives.

Business Summit with the Heights Go Givers

The Heights Go Givers is a small group of business owners who attend weekly meetings to discuss their businesses and to attain personal growth as a professional. Click below to see our video introducing some of the members and attendees of the Business Summit who provide tips to new business owners.


Heights Go Givers expert Tuesday Tips

Posted by Heights Go Givers on Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Thank You to Dads!

Thank You to Dads!

                We at the Filis Law Firm want to thank all of the fathers who contribute daily to the betterment of our children’s lives. Our families who have children with special needs are members of a unique group that I am proud to be a member of. This discussion is directed to you.

I was recently confronted with a statement from a client that the mothers in our unique group do all the work associated with caring for our kids with special needs. I found that statement quite exaggerated based on my own observations of many families with a child or children who have a disability, but I felt obligated to explore this generalized statement and tease out some truths.  In our society, traditionally, mothers are designated from day one as the instant child care expert. In homes with a child who is disabled, in my experience, out of the two-parent families, it is typically the mother who go to all the doctor visits and read hundreds of books/articles/blogs on their child’s condition and possible treatments, but these circumstances follow what is still the standard practice in most American homes.

Recent studies indicate that even if the mother is employed outside the house, she is still likely to take most of the household chores and child care.  An article from CNBC in April 2015[1] revealed the results from a survey by the Working Mother Research Institute where 79% of working mothers are primarily responsible for laundry, cooking, and child care. But, believe me, we want our kids’ dads in our unique community to join in the child care and be on an equal footing.  If parents are not equal participants in child care, then look at the circumstances in your household and see if there is a gatekeeper[2] who is (possibly unknowingly) keeping others at bay away from the child.

The common example of a gatekeeper parent is typically the mother in the relationship.  Scenarios display that the mother is reluctant to hand over child care responsibilities or becomes critical the father’s efforts. Studies show that the father will learn to participate in child care less, and if the father does participate, he views it as baby-sitting and doing the mother a favor. The studies I read are based in settings of households of typical families, whose households do not include a disabled or medically fragile child. In our unique group, we have  children who can truly suffer harm from certain environmental factors/allergens, or can suffer health problems for failure to take medication timely. These health risks are circumstances that are additional to other typical child-rearing issues, all of which can elevate a caregiver’s protective instincts to become reactionary and often blunt. It has been my observation that all of the caregiver parent’s patience is spent on the child.  Multiple interactions with the gatekeeper/caregiver parent can be unbearable for an “outsider” and result in pushing away some people, even family members, from the child. Gatekeeper parents can change the circumstances, welcome the other parent to join in and take over certain areas of the child’s life. Gatekeepers will need to completely remove themselves, offer no criticism, and allow the other parent or family member to participate in events with the child, even if the efforts made are far from perfection.

Give others a chance to join in and add value to your child’s daily life.

[1] CNBC, Working moms still take on bulk of household chores, Kelley Holland, April 28, 2015.

[2] Mothers’ Gatekeeping of Father Involvement in Married- and Cohabitating-Couple Families, Catherine Kenney and Ryan Bogle, paa2009.princetonedu/papers/91717.

COPAA alert about Medicaid and Students with Disabilities

As a parent with a child with autism and ADHD, I find myself joining many groups for parents of children with special needs. One such group is COPAA – Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates. From time to time, I receive notifications and articles from COPAA discussing pending legislation that could potentially impact my family. Below I am sharing such a notification/alert.


Protecting the Legal and Civil Rights of Students with Disabilities and their Families

(Please feel free to share this alert)


Dear Leona:

The U.S. Senate is currently negotiating a health care bill to replace the Affordable Care Act. There is support in the Senate to follow the House and reduce federal Medicaid spending by 25 percent by distributing Medicaid funds through a block-grant or a per-capita cap, which would shift costs to states and cut Medicaid by $4 billion each year! COPAA has advocated against these cuts and we need you to act with us.
Medicaid and Students with Disabilities

Medicaid permits payment to schools for certain medically necessary services provided to children under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) through an individualized education plan (IEP) or individualized family service plan (IFSP). Schools are eligible to be reimbursed for direct medical services to Medicaid eligible students with an IEP or IFSP. In addition, districts can be reimbursed by Medicaid for providing Early Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Treatment Benefits (EPSDT), which provides Medicaid eligible children under age 21 with health screening, diagnosis and treatment services such as vision, hearing and more. Many schools and districts rely on Medicaid to provide services and to pay for certain personnel (e.g. school nurse, aides); to purchase and update specialized equipment; and to purchase and/or provide assistive technology and items needed for each child to access the school curriculum alongside their peers


Visit our Medicaid in Schools page to learn more.


Please reach out to your Senators today! 

Have You Heard of IMFAR?

2017 International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR)

I do not consider myself new to the Autism community, however, I did not know about the autism research meeting of hundreds of clinicians and researchers from fifty countries, who met this month in San Francisco for the 16th annual meeting.  Various articles from the discussions by the panels at the conference can be found at here that include Diagnostic tests miss autism features in girls, and Alternative screen finds high autism prevalence in U.S. state, where South Carolina’s study (unpublished findings) indicates 1 in 28 children are on the spectrum. This screening used in South Carolina was modeled after South Korea’s screening process that yielded an autism rate of 2.65 percent, approximately double that of the United States.

Another article I found of interest is Doctors twice as likely to miss girls as boys on autism screen by Hannah Furfaro, May 12, 2017.  For more info, go to https://spectrumnews.org/conference-news/international-meeting-autism-research-2017/.

Veterans’ Disability Case Howell v. Howell

U.S. Supreme Court Veterans’ Disability Case
Howell v. Howell

The Court’s Opinion published today stems from an Arizona spousal maintenance case involving a disabled Air Force veteran.  In the divorce, the Howells’s Decree awarded fifty percent of Mr. Howell’s future retirement pay to Mrs. Howell as community property. Subsequently, Mr. Howell waived a portion of his military retirement pay to receive disability benefits.  The waiver reduced Mrs. Howell’s support by $125.00 per month.
Based on a Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act, 10 U.S.C. Section 1408, Congress allows states to treat veterans’ “disposable retired pay” as community property, however, excludes pay that is a result of a waiver. In contrast, the Arizona courts found the divorce decree gave Mrs. Howell a vested interest in the retirement pay and ordered that the designated share be paid, without regard for the disability, arguing that due to the waiver after the division of retirement pay, federal law did not preempt the family court’s reimbursement order. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s decision and remanded the case.

Mr. Howell will not have to indemnify his former wife for the amount of support she lost due to his waiver of a portion of his retirement pay that enables him to receive disability benefits.

For the entire text of the Opinion, click here.

U.S. House Bill for Students with Visual and Hearing Challenges

Last month the 115th Congress was introduced to H. R 1120 called Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act by  Pennsylvania Representative Matthew Cartwright.

Representative Cartwright previously introduced a similar bill in 2015; however, the 2015 bill was not enacted.

H.R.. 1120 focuses on the need to identify children who are deaf-blind, improve early intervention for affected infants and toddlers, and improve services for such children and their families. The proposed legislation would seek to serve children with a disability who is deaf or hard of hearing, with speech.  This eligibility language could be more inclusive than states’ definitions of disability.

Click here for the text of H.R. 1120.