Have an ARD Meeting Soon? Be Prepared.

In the next week weeks, many parents of children who receive special education services under the federal IDEA Act will be invited to their child’s public school to attend an Admission, Review and Dismissal (“ARD”) meeting.

At this meeting, the ARD team will review the current Individualized Education Program (“IEP”) for the student and propose recommendations for the child’s education plan –

To ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living. – IDEA (§300.1) 

At the ARD meeting, parents can agree or disagree with some or all of the proposals. If there is a disagreement with the proposed IEP, the ARD team can take a recess, negotiate terms, and reconvene (in ten days typically).

Preparing for such a meeting can be stressful for parents based on fear and anxiety for possibly failing your child by not protecting their rights or not demanding proper education services.

Parents who are engaged with the IEP process can find success by reading up on the following:

  • school records (including daily reports),
  • assessments from school and private sources (and knowing which new assessments should be requested), and
  • education laws.

U.S. Supreme Court provides guidance in the recent  Endrew F.  case that a student offered an educational program providing “merely more than de minimis” progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all, setting the floor for the application of the holding in the Rowley case that the school must confer an IEP reasonably calculated to enable the child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.

At the ARD meeting, show up with your questions and notes and if you are considering agreeing to a new service or the removal of a service that you are not comfortable with but are willing to try out the situation temporarily, agree to try it out and have a follow-up meeting in a month to re-assess the situation. Under IDEA, the ARD meeting can occur annually or a often as needed allowing a parent to request a meeting in writing.

Take your time at the ARD, listen to suggestions, and stay on track with your goals for the meeting.

Have an Upcoming ARD?

Fall semester school obligations have begun. Parents of students in general ed have probably had their 15 minute one-on-one meeting with the teacher. For the rest of us, we are preparing for upcoming ARD meetings. ARD stands for Admission, Review and Dismissal. For my son, I am at the review stage of the ARD process. We have an individualized education program (“IEP”)  in place from the last school year. The IEP is a contract and all the services described in the IEP must be provided by the school district.

In my situation, at the next ARD meeting, there will be a review of the prior IEP terms and suggested revisions based on my son’s new education needs. One example of what will probably be discussed is the reduction of support. Some members of the ARD committee have informally signaled to me that they will be requesting less paraprofessional in-class support time for my son during his inclusion in his general education classes. When I first heard of this potential change, I was frightened.

Parents involved in the ARD process may suffer an emotional toll.  In my situation, I have a concern that once I agree to reduce in-class support, my son may never get the support back when he really needs it. In contrast, I do want my son to gain independence and have an opportunity to blossom without the support of a SpEd professional. Will my decision short-change my son’s educational experience? To make an informed decision, pre-ARD actions need to be taken. I will review my son’s daily reports, his classwork and homework grades, and interview the special ed professionals that observe him in the general ed classroom.

As my son’s advocate, preparation for the ARD meeting is time-consuming and sometimes frustrating. To assist with organization aspect of the preparation, I will update my IEP binder with daily reports, progress reports, copies of communications with the school, therapist and doctor reports, and previous IEPs. For those of you who are preparing an IEP binder, if you discover that you are missing school records, give your school a written request for the records, as you are allowed under Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”).  The IEP  binder will help you decide on IEP goals and provide you with evidence to support your arguments during the ARD meeting, if needed.

Being a present and contributing member of the ARD team can be hard work, but your child will need your involvement to get the most out of his or her public school experience.

Tired of Being Denied Government Services – Sign Your Child Up For Medicaid Waiver Programs

Texas Department of Aging and Disabilities (“DADS”) was the agency that, for many years, parents with children with disabilities reached out to for government assistance of support and services. Texas programs were administered by DADS until its abolition on September 1, 2017.

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (“HHS”) is now charged with protecting vulnerable Texans. HHS administers programs formally serviced by DADS, including:

Community Living Assistance and Support Services (“CLASS“)

Deaf Blind with Multiple Disabilities (“DBMD“)

Home and Community-based Services (“HCS“)

Medically Dependent Children’s Program (“MDCP“)

A common complaint I hear from parents who are in search of help from the government is that their family fails to qualify for support due to household income.  Although income is not necessarily a factor for eligibility for benefits from these Medicaid Waiver programs, waiting on an interest list for can take years.


As of July 31, 2017, tens of thousand of Texans are on interest lists. HCS has 86,989 people on its interest list, CLASS has 61,926 people on its interest list, and MDPC has 18,867 people on its interest lists.  Parents should contact HHS and their local benefits provider, such as the Harris Center, to begin the application process.


More Children in Need, Less Resources?

Although the Center for Disease Control issued their assessment in 2014 that 1 in 68 school-aged children are on the Autism spectrum, federal funding for the care of these Americans is in jeopardy. A person diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, or diagnosed with any of the many other related conditions may qualify to receive disability-related Medicaid benefits.

Analysis from Avalere predicts that Medicaid, which provides supports and services to  disabled children and adults, could see a reduction funding of up to $215 billion should the Graham-Cassidy bill be passed.

Three Republican senators and all Democratic senators vowed to vote against the latest attempt to repeal and replace the ACA, stalling the vote. The effort to change healthcare laws is not over. Parents and advocates of children and adults with special needs must get educated and involved in the healthcare debate. The Affordable Care Act has many problems that need to be addressed, but if you or a loved one is the recipient of Medicaid benefits, speak out to block a disaster and offer a solution.

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Was Your House Damaged by Hurricane Harvey?

If your home was damaged by Hurricane Harvey, start registering with government programs to get assistance.

Carpet from flooded house now in the front yard

For our neighbors who have property damage from #Harvey, 1st – register with FEMA; 2nd – look at qualifying for loan through the Small Business Administration even if you are not a business; and 3rd – contact Texas Health and Human Services (Other Needs Assistance 1-800-582-5233) for help with expenses like moving and storage.

If Hurricane Harvey damaged your house, you might be eligible for rental assistance. Check the following:
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, 1-800-525-0657
US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): Affordable Apartment Search, 866-641-8102
US Department of Agriculture

Documents for FEMA claims

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FEMA has identified the following list of documents that your insurance company or FEMA may request that you produce in order to prove your loss:
¨ Your insurance policy and its declarations page;
¨ A copy of everything you sent to your insurance company or to FEMA about your claim;
¨ A copy of the notice you sent to the insurance company or to FEMA that notified them that you had sustained a loss;
¨ A copy of everything your insurance company or FEMA has sent you about your claim;
¨ A copy of the insurance company’s written denial or disallowance, in whole or in part, of the claim;
¨ A copy of the signed, notarized Proof of Loss submitted to the insurance company or to the National Flood Insurance Program, as required in the policy;
¨ A copy of any proof of transmittal of the Proof of Loss. This can be a certified mail green card (return receipt), copy of a fax transmittal showing that the document was successfully transmitted, etc.;
¨ Room-by-room itemized estimates from the adjuster (including contractors’ estimates), detailing unit costs and quantities for the items needing repair or replacement;
¨ Replacement cost Proofs of Loss;
¨ Adjuster’s Preliminary Report;
¨ Adjuster’s Final Report;
¨ Detailed damaged personal property inventories, including approximate ages of the items, purchase price, and replacement cost;
¨ Completed Mobile Home Worksheet;
¨ Mobile home title, including salvage title;
¨ Real estate appraisals, excluding land values
¨ Advance payment information;
¨ Clear photographs (exterior and interior) confirming damage that resulted from direct physical loss by or from flood and loss due to other causes;
¨ Proof that prior flood damage has been repaired;
¨ Elevation Certificate, if the building is elevated;
¨ The community’s determination concerning substantial damage;
¨ Zone determinations;
¨ Pre-loss and post-loss inventories;
¨ Financial statements;
¨ Tax records, lease agreements, sales contracts, settlement papers, deed, etc.;
¨ Emergency (911) address change information;
¨ Salvage information (proceeds and sales);
¨ Condominium association by-laws;
¨ Proof of other insurance, including homeowners or wind policies, and any claim information submitted to the other companies;
¨ Waiver, Letter of Map Revision (LOMR), or Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) information;
¨ Paid receipts and invoices, including cancelled checks, that support your out-of-pocket expenses pertaining to the claim;
¨ Underwriting decisions;
¨ Architectural plans and drawings;
¨ Death certificates;
¨ Last Will and Testament;
¨ Divorce decree;
¨ Power of attorney;
¨ Current lienholder information;
¨ Current loss payee information;
¨ Paid receipts and invoices documenting damaged stock;
¨ Detailed engineering reports specifically addressing flood-related damage and pre-existing damage;
¨ Engineering surveys;
¨ Market values;
¨ Documentation of Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) dates;
¨ Documentation concerning substantial improvement, including documents that reflect date(s) of construction;
¨ Loan documents, including closings and settlement sheets;
¨ Evidence of insurability as a Residential Condominium Association;
¨ Franchise agreements;
¨ Letters of representation, i.e., attorneys and public adjusters;
¨ Any assignment of interest in a claim; and
¨ Any other pertinent information that your insurance company or FEMA may request in processing a claim.
Obviously, not ALL of these documents will apply to your claim. But as you go through the list you should recognize those that do apply to your claim, and should be aware of those documents that are in your possession. Gather all of the documents that you have that are on this list and keep them together in one file for use as your claim is being processed. It is better to collect them now and put them in a safe place where they can easily be retrieved. It is much better to set them aside now, rather than having to search for them in a panic the day before a hearing or deposition.
Please keep these documents where you can easily get to them in case they are needed on short notice in connection with proving your claim.

Flood Questions

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The following are questions presented by lawyers trying to help victims of the Hurricane, along with my answers:
Questions presented:
1. Does insurance, specifically FEMA, or the government, recognize a difference between flooding naturally vs. flooding induced by government decisions outside the homeowner’s control, basically picking some homeowners over others through reservoir releases?
Answer to question 1. No.
2. When does FEMA decide to buyout property or issue specific relief for home renovation obligations associated with a natural disaster? A $30k allowance cannot being to cover the cost of damages and many cannot carry a mortgage plus a renovation loan. Any other options out there?
Answer to question 2. FEMA does buyouts whenever it decides to do so. There is no set plan in that regard. The $30,000 figure is for what is called increased cost of compliance benefits. ICC comes into play if the City Engineer issues a written finding that the building was more than 50% damaged due to flood. If so, that triggers an extra $30,000 in benefits payable under the policy to pay toward raising the home to an elevated state. But the $30,000 must still be within the policy’s maximum as stated in the policy. And a maximum policy benefit amount is $250,000 on the building. The policy will cover a detached garage up to $25,000, but that amount covering the garage is included in the maximum policy benefit. In other words, tack on an ICC claim or garage claim, and the maximum amount payable is the policy limit amount. And the maximum policy limit sold under flood insurance is $250,000.
There are no good alternatives, except charity.
3. Many homes cannot be repaired and may be completely gone due to the reservoir releases, not the hurricane. Is there a legal difference for people who planned correctly for a hurricane but could have never anticipated what the reservoir releases would do?
Answer to question 3. For people whose homes flooded not at all due to the storm, but solely because the floodwaters were released from the reservoirs, these people still need to make a flood claim if they have flood insurance. I am discussing the matter with some other lawyers as to whether there are viable claims against the Corps of Engineers for releasing the floodwaters in the manner in which they did. Do not hold your breath on that one. My research on it says NO. But I will get back to you on that. In the meantime, those people whose home flooded solely because of the reservoir dump should just get on with the cleanup and document everything they would anyway for their flood claim. Some top notch lawyers are researching this matter and I will post what their research reveals.

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