Monday, February 28, 2011
We've written a bit about COPAA before, but it is such a helpful resource that we want to spread the word about the information and supports it offers. The scope of issues COPAA deals with range far beyond the learning issues faced by the families with whom we work. They include children with physical and emotional difficulties, as well as those on the autism spectrum. But the laws that govern all of these students are the same -- the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
COPAA members communicate with one another through two separate listservs -- one for attorneys and one for parents and lay advocates. The listservs allow parents, advocates, and attorneys to seek guidance about specific issues that they are facing and to offer information about best and worst practices they have encountered in their local area. New court decisons impacting education are quickly shared, and COPAA maintains an archives with forms, court cases, and legal briefs that can be accessed by its members. This is not an organization for school attorneys or school employees; COPAA specifically excludes such individuals from membership.
One feature we often utilize when working with families from far flung parts of the country is the "find an attorney" feature, which lists attorneys throughout the country who focus on special education law. Take a look at the COPAA website and bookmark it for future reference. And if you will be anywhere near Texas this coming weekend, you might find the COPAA Conference a good way to spend your time.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
Should We Pay Kids to Study? (NPR)
Hyper One Day, Calm the Next (Scientific American)
Students With Disabilities Often Targeted by Bullies (On Special Education)
Where Digital Natives Roam, Paper and Pencil Have Place, Too (Gotham Schools)
Study Warns Against Energy Drinks for Kids, Teens (Washington Post)
Photo used under Creative Commons from striatic
Monday, February 21, 2011
Friday, February 18, 2011
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
The New York Times’ recent article on approaches to early literacy instruction in New York City private schools (“Reading at Some Private Schools is Delayed,” February 14, 2011) has touched off much conversation about different schools’ approaches. Parents often seek our guidance in determining which schools would make the best fit for their child, as well as assistance in understanding what kinds of outside support would be most beneficial, so we are deeply interested in the different teaching approaches to reading – and also to ensuring the development of well-rounded children with an awareness and appreciation of how their individual minds work.
Dr. Yellin, the Director of The Yellin Center and an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine, believes that there is not a simple right-or-wrong answer to the question of which approach works best. “The take home lesson here is that there is no one-size that fits every child. Different schools have different philosophies, approaches, cultures, and environments. Each child has his or her own needs – needs which will likely change over time. As parents and clinicians, we must continuously assess each child’s needs and use available information to make choices that, in our best judgment, best meet that child’s needs at that particular point in time. The key is to begin from the perspective of understanding the child — and then finding the best fit.”
Friday, February 11, 2011
A new study by Alejandro Lleras and Atsunori Ariga at the University of Illinois found that when given the same task, subjects who took brief breaks performed better than subjects who did not take breaks. This is consistent with the notion that change signals a heightened alertness in the brain. “We propose that deactivating and reactivating your goals allows you to stay focused,” Lleras said.
Teachers may wish to consider these findings when designing their daily agendas, scheduling breaks along the way for prolonged tasks. Similarly, students should try to schedule short breaks into their study time regularly.
Photo Credit: robstephaustralia via Flickr Creative Commons
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
- Planetarium –an interactive star map for kids (or adults!) interested in astronomy
- Google Books – millions of free e-books in a plethora of subjects
- 3DTin – A realistic 3D model-maker
- MathBoard – a math learning tool appropriate for elementary and kindergarten students
- MeeGenuis! Children’s Books – personalized, “enhanced” web books for younger students
- LucidChart – a collaborative diagramming tool, not unlike Inspiration or MindManager
- Picnik Photo Editor – web-based photo manipulation a la Photoshop
- 20 Things I Learned about Browsers & the Web – a great introduction to how the internet works
- Springpad – note-taking tool that can incorporate assignments, photos, to-do lists, etc.
- Bomomo – an innovative illustration and drawing tool
- A variety of flashcard-based apps which can aid memory, vocabulary, math skills and more
Friday, February 4, 2011
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Families of children with learning challenges should be aware of some tax deducations available for special education and related services. A good starting point is IRS Publication 502, Medical and Dental Expenses for 2010 Returns. This publication outlines the key principal behind deducting these expenses -- they need to be considered as medical expenses. As the IRS notes,
"You can include in medical expenses fees you pay on a doctor’s recommendation for a child’s tutoring by a teacher who is specially trained and qualified to work with children who have learning disabilities caused by mental or physical impairments, including nervous system disorders.
You can include in medical expenses the cost (tuition, meals, and lodging) of attending a school that furnishes special education to help a child to overcome learning disabilities. A doctor must recommend that the child attend the school. Overcoming the learning disabilities must be a principal reason for attending the school, and any ordinary education received must be incidental to the special education provided. Special education includes:
• Teaching Braille to a visually impaired person,
• Teaching lip reading to a hearing-impaired person, or
• Giving remedial language training to correct a condition caused by a birth defect.
You cannot include in medical expenses the cost of sending a problem child to a school where the course of study and the disciplinary methods have a beneficial effect on the child’s attitude if the availability of medical care in the school is not a principal reason for sending the student there."
While the IRS Publication can serve as a starting point for exploring this issue, much of the nuance in what is deductible and what is not can be found in IRS Rulings. One terrific resource for understanding both the tax law and understanding how it might -- or might not -- benefit your family can be found in a lengthy article on the helpful website LDonline. Note that this was prepared in 2009, but little has changed in this area of the law since then. Of course, deductions for special education services are subject to the same limits as other medical expenses and may not be fully deductible for that reason.
It is important to remember that only your accountant can give you tax advice applicable to your personal situation, and that none of us here are tax experts. But whether you do your own taxes with pencil and calculator, or use tax preparation software, or hand over your year's information to your accountant, remember to keep in mind that there may be tax benefits from some of the expenses your family has encountered as you have dealt with your child's learning difficulties.