Oct 13, 2022
A key component to public education is that it should be FREE! This includes special education. But what if you can't get the special education your child is entitled to? What happens when your school says "no" to you? There are no special education police to force schools to comply or even just tell them they are wrong. Usually, the only way to enforce your rights is to hire back up - an private service provider, non-legal special education advocate, or special education attorney.
Being able to hire a special education advocate or attorney, however, is as much a privilege as being able to "evacuate" on a moment's notice. It sounds easy, but it's not easy and it's not free. Especially post(ish)-pandemic, most families do not have the funds required to hire the professional help they need to access their child's "free" rights.
Christine Lai is the parent of a child with special education needs who had to fight her school district to get what her child was entitled to. Christine has experienced first hand the strain this puts on already struggling families. That is why Christine founded the Special Education Legal Fund, or SELF.
SELF provides grants to parents of children with disabilities to help fund the professional advocacy families need. The grants SELF provides can provide payment towards legal services, a year of non-legal advocacy, or a combination thereof. Today Christine meets with me to discuss why and how families seek out SELF grants, trends in family needs, and the successes they have seen with this program. Maybe you need a SELF organization near you!
Want to seek out Christine? You can find her here: https://spedlegalfund.org/
You can always message me at Dana@SpecialEd.fm
FLASHBACK: Christine has joined us before! You can check out our last episode together here
Transcripts are added shortly after episode is published and can be found at SpecialEd.fm
TRANSCRIPT (not proofread)
parents, pandemic, special education, families, attorney, child, school districts, people, support, school, process, absolutely, clients, special ed, advocate, years, law, kids, advocacy, evaluations
Christine Lai, Dana Jonson
Dana Jonson 00:08
Today I'm here with Christine Lai. I'm so excited. Thank you for coming back. And joining me at special ed on special ed Christine Lai is the director and founder of the special education legal fund, which I will explain in just a second. Hi, Christine. Thanks for joining me. Hi,
Christine Lai 00:24
Dana. I'm so happy to be back.
Dana Jonson 00:26
I know I love having you here. Let me play my disclaimer, and then we'll get started. Let's do it. The information in this podcast is provided for general informational and entertainment purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction at the time you're listening. Nothing in this episode, create an attorney client relationship, nor is it legal advice, do not act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in or accessible through this episode without seeking appropriate legal or other professional advice on particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer or service provider license in your state country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction. So Christine, first, let me explain to people what special legal fund is, I should probably maybe you could do that. Because your background, you're not like a special ed teacher or you don't provide services, right?
Christine Lai 01:04
No, I mean, we are, you know, as we've spoken about in the in the past, we are a Grants making organization, we provide grants to families in need, who have children in the special education process. We provide grants to people who need an attorney, we provide grants to families who need an advocate. And we also provide, you know, some informational resources through our parent webinar series, for parents that are just, you know, really dipping their toe in the process and, or are fully immersed in the process and are just trying to figure out, you know, what the next step is, you know, so that's basically what we do, you know, we were founded in 2018, to provide those resources, the grants, the knowledge, the support, since that time, you know, this is our fifth grant cycle this year. And we have been so blessed with the support of attorneys like Dana to have provided grants of over $550,000, to, you know, almost 200 families in 60 school districts across Connecticut, and Westchester County, New York. And that's been a real blessing for us, we've been really thrilled, because those grants, you know, in total, in that time, have yielded over six and a half million dollars in educational improvements for those families, whether you're talking about better support, better evaluations, out placements, transportation, compensatory education, all of those things kind of roll into that big number, we've been really, really pleased to be able to provide that support for families.
Dana Jonson 02:33
And we are we in the advocacy world are thrilled that you can provide that support to families, because one of the things I hate about what I do is that families have to have money to access me. And I can apologize for making a living. And I you know, I'm not going to, but I do recognize that that is a pretty strong barrier. And I think that your program allows a lot of us to give help to parents that we otherwise wouldn't have, wouldn't have access to us. And that's a little bit of what I wanted to talk about with you. Because you're dealing with families who don't have the funds don't have the resources. And oftentimes those families don't even know getting an advocate or an attorney is an option. I know sometimes people call my office and we say you should call self and go that process. But as a rule, people don't usually call you and say I'm calling because I can't afford you and I want information. Although when they do I do still talk to them and give them information. So I'm okay with those phone calls. I don't turn those phone calls away. But I was curious. And we've been through a lot since 2018. What kind of trends do you see with families who can't obtain lawyers because I I'm finding post pandemic and I don't think we're post pandemic, but you know what I mean? Yeah, pose the pandemic closures. Yeah, we're seeing that school districts don't have the resources to handle anybody. Yeah. And I'm finding that it's even harder for parents to get anything without some form of representation or support. No, that's
absolutely right. We as an organization, the support we provide is to families who are below 300% of the federal minimum poverty line, it was important for us to have a little bit of a range in the families that we support, because I realized that you know, for families that are very, very under resourced, there are other resources that exist, you know, like legal aid or, you know, sliding scale advocacy services or whatever. I know that you don't have to be below the poverty line, to not be able to afford an attorney. You know, that is absolutely, you know, 100% the case, this Fund was established for those families who were maxing out their credit cards, really taking their 401k down, you know, like those families are sort of the core of the group that we envisioned when we started the fund. This doesn't really answer your question. Your question is, yeah, have you seen have we seeing changes in the families. And since it's since the pandemic, since we reopened for the pandemic, I mean, the most significant change that we saw, after the pandemic, after, you know, and I want to say this, going back to like October of 2020, we didn't really know what was going on was going to go in New. And I remember that first month, we had had a virtual fundraiser, we weren't sure, if we were still going to be alive. You know, it was a very, you know, sort of difficult time, you know, in the nonprofit world, and obviously, in all worlds, and we had been running before the closure, you know, maybe five or six applications a month, we had traditionally given three grants per month. So, in a good in any given month, you know, we'd see four applications, we'd decline one, we'd see five, we declined to in October of 20 2015, right off the bat 15 1617. And that was kind of when I knew that this had been a real game changer, not only for the education world, the world in general, but specifically for these families. Because what I was seeing, we're not just, you know, and I don't mean to say just this, that's not what I meant to say. But prior to the payment pandemic, we would see a child who had been in the special education system for years was 14 and couldn't read, you know, very, very dire situation, post pandemic, we would see that same child, but that child would have then also been hospitalized one, two or three times, and then dealing with a crippling anxiety and depression and all of the other kind of ancillary comorbidities that come with, yeah, the predominant learning disorder, and the inability of the school to support that learning disorder. So that's really what we saw as the main difference. The other difference that we saw was as as as to your point, the schools are not able to support what they were able to support four years ago. You know, a few years ago, we would say I'd have a family come and they'd say we'd look we're looking for an outplacement, and I'd say, Okay, why don't you go back and get an IEE? You know, you just had your triennial, you just had an evaluation, go to ask the district for an IE get an independent, neuro Psych. And then after you've gotten that, come back to me, and we will go through this process. And you can go through the outplacement and they would be like, right, and they would go and do that. And they would come back to me and the process would proceed. Now. I don't know of any school district that's like, yeah, here's your IE, you know, go ahead. Yeah. Yeah, fighting everything. And that is, that is a real change that we've had to deal with over the last, you know, especially the last couple of years is when that's
Dana Jonson 07:40
yeah, that's what we're seeing too. And, and the I II, for anyone listening who doesn't know, we just I just talked about that my last episode is an independent educational evaluation. And for any matter to move forward, you know, the whole IEP,
it is the linchpin, it is so Lynch is the linchpin, nothing happens without it, you know, exactly. It's like the roadmap, you know,
Dana Jonson 08:03
everything from the from everything stems from the event. And as you said, you know, parents have a right to ask for it. They don't have an automatic right to get it. Yes, that's right. And I am finding that school districts who historically would have always granted it
exact are now fighting them. Exactly. And that's as well. Yeah. And it's not, because it's the you know, as you know, yeah. It's like one of the most important protections that parents have, yeah, process, it is a second opinion, it is so important. And, and if
Dana Jonson 08:41
the school is not, if the school is seeing one child, and the family is seeing another child, how are you going, if reconcile is gonna evaluate that child, but that child is behaving differently in school than they are at home? You know, it's not giving you the information that you need. Absolutely. To program. And, you know, and we also see, and I say this all the time post pandemic, every case in our office is mental health and or reading. Yeah, those are both that's, that's, that's exactly. That's what one stem from the other? Yeah, you know, and, and so those evaluations are critical. And we are finding them. I'm a little worried for special education, because I'm finding them being ignored more and more and more, you know, we get the ice in the school district looks at it and says, This is all great new information that we already had were already addressing. Right, right. And you know, it's not successful. Do you find that when parents come to you? Are they coming to you having like, exhausted all their options, or are they coming to you because they don't understand or know what their options
are? It's a combination. I would say that the number one reason for a family or parent Come to us is if they feel that trust has been broken with the with the school, it doesn't have to do it can have happened over the course of eight or nine years, you can have happened over the course of eight or nine months. But really the common link is that broken faith is that broken trust. And, and that's really I mean, I could see that in a, in a parent of a four year old, and a parent of a 14 year old, same exact situation. And the knowledge of the system, on the parent level, you know, can vary a lot in that. But that isn't really the driving force of what brings a parent to call us. What it really is, is they feel like trust is broken, and they have nowhere else to go.
Dana Jonson 10:48
Yeah, that is a very hard thing to fix. That is really is a very difficult thing to fix. And one of the things that I find does fix that are outside evaluations. And that's, it's really hard to get right now. It is really hard. I
mean, for years, you know, I couldn't drive by my son's elementary school, I would take a different road, you know, because there were so much, you know, anxiety. So, yeah, in that, in that situation, it was really difficult. So I get it, you know, and it seems, you know, counterintuitive for me to say, collaboration is really, you know, sort of the name of the game. But, you know, for most of these families, you know, I mean, I look at a lot of families, and I say to them, you know, you are going to be in the special education system for what, 15 years, 16 years, you know, however old your child is, you know, versus, you know, 18 or 22, or when you see them coming out, you know, that is a long time, you know, you have to think about really long, really long time, you have to think about the long game, you know, and sometimes the long game is not served in the long run by being very combative. It's served by, you know, sort of getting the right advice and figuring out what your goal is, and whether it's realistic, and whether it is like within the scope of the law. You know, lots of times people want things that are not in the scope of the law, you know, I mean, that's yes, you know, that's definitely something. And it's a different issue, figuring that all out, it's not necessarily in your best interest to blow up your relationship with the school, when your kid is seven, you know, to get another decade, you definitely
Dana Jonson 12:29
have to think long and hard before you make that decision. And that's a really good point. Because I say that to parents all the time is you have the right to privately educate your child any way you want. But if you want something from the public school district, if you want them to pay for any of it, if you want them involved in any way, shape or form, there's a process we there's a process. That's absolutely right, broken process, but it's the only one we've got,
I mean, I'm not gonna call it a crime, but it is, you know, a shame that, you know, this is a civil right, you know, special education is a civil right. But it is a right, that requires resources, in many cases, to enforce, you know, the enforcement of this is 100% on the parents, which is not fair, despite all of you know, the protections that are built in the law, that is just the way that it plays out sometimes. So, you're right, it's 100% of process, you know, my 16 year old, went to the DMV yesterday, and was not able to take his driver's test, because we did not have a certificate from the driver school saying they had completed Driver's Ed. And they were like, boom, it's done, we've, you know, we've closed this out, can't take the test today. And that's a little bit like the special education process, you know, it's, that process has to be followed, you know, step by step by step by step by step, you have to get in that line and get another line and get the other line and nobody at the DMV is going to tell you how to do it. Right. And you better have all your, like ducks in a row before you get there. It's a difficult process. And parents a lot of times struggle with that, you know, with with having to have all that together, it requires a lot, a lot.
Dana Jonson 14:06
It takes a lot of energy, first of all, just in general. And then if you don't know exactly what you're looking for what's important, then you don't know what to document or Right. Right. And, you know, it's funny, because a lot of times people assume that hiring a lawyer will make things worse, like right off the bat. Right. And sometimes they do sometimes and sometimes in a way that it has to, you know, like you're not getting anywhere. So yes, it's going to be a little bit aggressive. But the other piece is we are personally invested. Yeah, we I look at it and I say they're not following the process. And so I go to the other attorney and I say your client is not doing what they're supposed to do. And if it's a decent other attorney, you know, they might not say to me, you're right, they screwed up. In fact, they definitely won't say that. But they will likely go back to their client and say You guys gotta clean this up. Yeah, You need to fix it. Yeah. And that's I mean, a lot, not all board attorney, some are some there are some out there that will fight just for the sake of fighting for, you know, where I have to tell my client, I can tell you right now they're going to fight us at every step of the way. But as a rule, you know, when attorneys get involved, sometimes things get resolved very quickly. Yeah.
Because there's a clarity and a structure that is applied to the process. And also, you know, I mean, it doesn't matter how, like, good you are, you know, as a parent advocate, or, or even if you're an attorney yourself, it is your child. So, that element of worry of care of emotion that can distort the way that you react, you know, you know, I mean, I had an attorney, kick,
Dana Jonson 15:50
my PPTs. And my husband was in agreement. So like, that's a whole different issue.
No, I mean, it's, you know, it's, it's really, so I mean, I
Dana Jonson 15:58
can't be objective when it's your kid, no, you can't, I mean, just can,
you can't, and I do think though, you know, kind of getting back to your original thought, it's very difficult. If, you know, you don't know the process, it's very difficult if you don't know what to do, or what to ask, the first thing that I tell because I get a call every day from someone, not necessarily a self client, but someone who's kind of, you know, not unsure and doesn't know what's going on, and what should I do, and you know, and the first thing I always tell them to do, is to make a timeline of what has transpired with your child, it can be on a notebook, it can be in your iPhone notes, you can get super, you know, OCD and do an Excel spreadsheet, whatever. But you need to write down in a chronological order, with the years with the dates, what exactly happened, and when. And if you have backing, you know, documentation of that incident, if there was a communication, all of that should be in there, too. And once you can look at that was I mean, I don't think that anyone should go to talk to a professional attorney or advocate without doing that first, that's the first thing that they should do. Because you cannot have a coherent conversation with a professional without having done that. That's the first thing when clients hire, I've failed that both times. I mean, I've failed to do that. Just you know, in general, like when I, when I'm granted and billing parents what to do not following my back and doing it myself now. But yeah, no, but that's the first thing we do. And we work with our clients to create that timeline and attach any documents that are related to it, because it's astounding. Well, I
Dana Jonson 17:38
mean, we've all heard them all, I don't know, if we have it there, these studies were four people observe the same car crash, and they see different of course, different thing, of course, and that's just a real thing, you know, so it's so critical, to have that documentation to keep yourself, you know, to keep it for yourself, so that you don't get out of control, too. Because sometimes we just get so as parents, it's our children.
Yeah. And there's also when you look at a list like that, and you and you look at, like, the experience that your child has had, you know, or not had, or whatever it is you're looking at, it's always important to remember that sometimes stuff is bad, but it isn't illegal. Sometimes things have happened, and they're bad. But yeah, like, no law has been broken, you know. So, you know, doing that allows you to kind of like really just get organized about you know about the process. And the other thing I always tell parents, you know, I used to do a little workshop of this is to create a binder of your documents, take your three inch, three ring binder, punch holes in it, get a set of subject dividers, and divide and put everything in the binder, label it with the year and have all the stuff in there. Because you know, if you go to a meeting, or you know, or have a Zoom meeting or whatever, and you don't have everything in front of you, you're definitely going to feel, you know, and this is regardless of whether you have an attorney or an advocate or not, you're definitely going to feel like out of place and out of control.
Dana Jonson 19:04
If you were part of it, is they somebody at that table? Has your file in front of them? Absolutely. So somebody at that table can access anything in your file and pull it out for just
at any time. Yeah, anytime at any time. And there's nothing worse than sitting there. And thinking, you know, like, where's that document and not being able to find it? Or, you know, alternatively being in the meeting and saying, you know, oh, this thing that happened in you know, last fall, rather than saying, Charlie, on September 15 said this, you know, yeah, which statement is more powerful, you know, the first one or the second, you know, so all of these things, anything that you that a parent can do to make and this is like this is before you even start going on the internet and Googling things about special education and gray boxes and stuff like that. It's like you know, half of the game is Figuring out where you are, and getting organized. And then, at that point, you know, there are great resources online, there are great training resources that parents can use. But sometimes you can do all those things. And you're still not. You're still stuck. Yeah. Where an attorney or an advocate can be a lifesaver in the process?
Dana Jonson 20:22
Well, yeah, I mean, knowing the law, unfortunately, isn't enough that that helps you know, enough to be dangerous. Yeah, absolutely. Because what parents don't understand in the law is that there's a lot interpreted through cases through hearings. Yeah, case law. And, you know, if you aren't familiar with that, then your version of what's appropriate may not be the courts version of what's appropriate, fighting the wrong thing. And I've, I've had that happen, where parents are like, here, I've got the smoking gun, and they start explaining something to me that is so irrelevant, and has nothing to do with special ed. But then something they say, I'll be like, wait, wait, let's ask about that. You know, and it's something else that they didn't think was important. And I think, you know, going back to whether parents have the understanding, or the knowledge, I mean, self does a great job to providing those of those workshops, I mean, the virtual revolution, webinars, thank you. That's what I was looking for the virtual webinars, I redo everything virtually now. So it gets confusing, you know, on educating parents, and I do you think that those, though, I always tell parents, though, online, anything, support groups, workshops, so helpful, so supportive, take it all with a grain of salt.
It's not, as we say, in our disclaimer, a replacement for the advice of a qualified special education attorney, it just has a specific one on one about knotted, it is it is not a replacement for that, you know, you can ask all the questions that you want in the online forum, and make your question as specific as possible. But it is not the same thing. And that is challenging it that is very challenging and difficult for families. I mean, I think that, you know, I mean, for my specific cohort of families, you know, my specific cohort of families is an under resourced population, this is a population that, you know, does not have the funds readily available to hire an advocate or an attorney. This is a population that by and large, doesn't have the, you know, the the time resources to be online googling things, and going to parent trainings and stuff like that. And this is very often a, you know, a population where English is not the primary language, where, aside from English not being the primary language, which makes it difficult to advocate the understanding of this system, that is the United States and the United States education system, that understanding is not there, you know, putting aside the special education, you know, piece of it, I had a call with a parent recently. And she had been going back and forth with her school district for quite some time. It was like four or five years, I don't remember exactly. And she finally out of a sense of frustration called the State Department of Education. And they said, you know, have you heard of this thing called Special Education? And she had not, no one at any point? Oh, my God, you know, she's a first generation immigrant. English is her second language. And no one at any point in the five years previous to that had thought to say to her, what about special education? You know, does your child need special education, and until she called the State Department of Education, and they told her, and then they instructed her, you know, good on them, of you know, exactly what she had to do to make a referral and to get into the system. But because this is a system that is, you know, unique to the United States, and it's very likely that if you emigrated from China or Namibia or you know, whatever. Exactly, with a vastly different legal system, with a vastly different structure, you wouldn't know education system, you wouldn't know that this is even a thing that you can ask for.
Dana Jonson 24:10
And then add to that, that even different districts handle different things differently. You can't guarantee that you're gonna walk into a school and have it go one way, right. I think it's really important that people understand that our most vulnerable population really needs money to access their rights. That's absolutely right. And, you know, I get frustrated because it's also the only civil rights we negotiate. It is absolutely, you know, it's the only civil rights that we say, okay, you were supposed to do this, but I'll settle for that. Right. And we do it all the time. And so that's very frustrating to see but also, as you know, as an attorney, it's hard because we also, it is a civil right. I mean, it is hard Do you charge for your time? Yeah, I do, I do it,
all of you, every single person that practices this field of law, doing it, because they want to make millions, because obviously, you will be doing something else. If that were the case, you all do this, you know, I mean, very similar to the reason that that I got into this, most of you, attorneys and advocates, the ones that I know, have entered this field, because you've been touched in some way by this process, whether it be as a, you know, school administrator in your, you know, on your, you know, on your end, or as a special, I think you were a special ed teacher, as well. And, and, you know, about a variety of kids with disabilities got a variety of kids with disabilities. And exactly, so most of the attorneys, you know, and I try to, you know, say that to my clients when we have this conversation, or maybe I don't say it enough, is, you know, I'm always very frank about what my experience it has been, and why I do this, and why this is something that, you know, is very important to me, it's also equally as important to almost every attorney and advocate that I know, that feels that this is a civil right, that they're that it is a civil right, and that they've been touched by it in some way.
Dana Jonson 26:15
Yeah, well, and that's why organizations like the special legal fund are so important, because as you said, there is a category of people who don't qualify for some of the free advocacy that's out there, but can't afford the advocacy they need. And it is a barrier, and it is something I wish we could make more accessible to parents, which is why I do this podcast is why I absolutely speak it's why we all answer the phone even when someone starts with I can't afford to pay you. Yeah. You know. So it's interesting to me, though, to see that you're kind of seeing the same things we are as far as you know, with your, the clientele coming to you. Right. So versus the clientele that comes to me first, we're seeing a lot of the same things. And I think that goes to disabilities don't discriminate?
No, they do not, they absolutely don't. And we've in the last couple of years, a lot of things have bubbled up to the surface, because of the pandemic, if I if I could think about, like, what the, the aggregate impact of that pandemic has been on my families, it's like a lot of kids were kind of getting by, they had a, you know, a modest amount of support, they were kind of eking it out on a daily basis. And then the pandemic came, and what was sufficient, in a quote unquote, normal environment became very insufficient, in that pandemic postponed very fast, and very fast. And then all kinds of other you know, comorbidities, as we say, started to pop up, you know, maybe they had been maybe the anxiety had been managed, maybe the depression, had, you know, not been debilitating, all of these kinds of things that come because you are not successful in an environment, right began to rear their ugly heads. So instead of seeing a child with one, you know, predominant issue, you're seeing a child where, you know, they have a predominant learning disability, but they also have significant case of school refusal, because of the anxiety and depression that has developed over the last 18 months. Yes, I get it. It's all brand new, you know, it's like an iceberg. You know, it's another part of the iceberg that's peeking above the surface or barrier.
Dana Jonson 28:31
It's just another barrier.
Dana Jonson 28:34
Yeah. And I think that it is, you know, you're right, that schools aren't, that's something I would like to see as a change is is more mandatory education to parents. On some level? Absolutely. A lot of my clients are attorneys even. Yeah, no. And actually, sometimes attorneys are the easier clients because they know they don't understand it. Like, right, so they're like, do they do this? Yeah, they're like, you know, yeah, you know, I'm not gonna do it over to you. So yeah, exactly. So sometimes they're actually the easier clients. It is hard when it's something you think you understand. And you think that, you know, and there are no special ed police. So no one's going to the school telling them what to do, unless you do something. Yeah. You know, and that's, that's really it. You're the gatekeepers. Parents are the gatekeepers, they are the only people who can hold schools accountable. What I don't understand is why school districts spend so much money fighting parents when they should be spending their money lobbying to be better funded. That's that's that's
educating parents at a very early level. Yeah. You know, like I spoke a little bit earlier about broken trust. And what happens, you know, with families is, you know, they go to you like the case of this family, you know, this mother that I recently spoke to, you know, so you go to your school and you say, I think my child's having difficulty and Maybe you do this at pickup, or maybe you do this, like, you know, outside of the classroom? Or maybe you happen to run into them when you're doing lunch duty, or whatever it is, you have that conversation that teachers like, oh, yeah, you know, let me look into it, I, you know, haven't noticed that, but you know, maybe I'll look into it or whatever. And then they forget, or they don't move forward with that request. And it's not because the teacher doesn't care. It's because in a lot of cases, the teachers managing 25 children, and the request was not made, the way that it has to be made in order to
Dana Jonson 30:30
move forward. Right? It wasn't made in a way that triggered an obligation Exactly.
And then the parent does that three or four times gets no response. And then they're angry, because they feel like they've made this request three, four or five times, and that the school is not listening. Well, the school is not listening, because the request wasn't made in a way that triggers a response. One of the first things I say is like, like you need to stop having conversations in the hallway, everything you do, should be asked, don't text, anybody Don't you know, everything you should do, even if you have a conversation in the hallway, go back and send an email summarizing what you said, in the hallway to all the relevant people. But, you know, but that's not well understood. You know, none of that is well understood, because parents, broadly speaking, feel that schools are their friends, and they want them to be their friends, they want to look at the school as another person that cares about their child, when what the school is, is an institution, it can be, and you have to do things in a specific way, in order to get the response that you need. When the communication piece breaks down, because the parents not doesn't know how to ask, and the school isn't responding. That's where I see a lot of like, you know, I mean, there's there's a lot of headway that can be made there. You know, I
Dana Jonson 31:48
agree. And that's clarifying something. Yeah. I mean, that's something that I will see. Is this all broke down over miscommunication? Absolutely. Now, and that's exactly
now one person feels they've been lied to. And the other part, you know it, right. Yeah. And then you then it's like, how do you get back from that?
Dana Jonson 32:04
Right? Or, you know, like, if you look at perspectives from teachers and parents, you know, I've had parents that say to me, Well, you know, they never give me data unless I asked, and the teachers perspective is, but I give them the data every time they ask, they're
right, right, exactly.
Dana Jonson 32:19
The problem? Is the problem. Yeah, the ask is what's missing? Right, the parents would like you to give them the data without the masking. So that has not been expressed clearly. And I do hear that a lot from parents when they call me they're like, but that should be clear. And yes, it should be. But it isn't. And it just doesn't trigger the responsibilities. And, yeah, I mean, that I would love to see
better and better parent training at an earlier level, better understanding of like, a parents, you know, a parent, a child's rights, better screening at a younger age, you know, most of the stuff that we see where a kid has been in the system, you know, for four or five years, and it's not making progress and reading or whatever, it's like, better screening at age like, you know, five, six, yes, would have made huge differences in the outcome, rather than what it devolves to.
Dana Jonson 33:15
Well, and it's often more expensive to not provide services, because 100% of the time, oh, hard. Yeah, I mean, it's, it's more expensive to not do that. Because if you can get things done early. And the problem we're having schools didn't do a lot during the pandemic, very few schools even met their minimal obligations during the pandemic. And so we have a lot of that left over.
If you have a kid that can't read at the age of 12, and they have to be outplays, to a school that costs $100,000 a year, like you have not saved anything. And if you manage the school, to push that child off to graduation without producing a functional reader, guess what, you've pushed the cost of that on to society, because a person that can't read and is functionally like not able to read and use mathematics cannot have a productive life, or job. And then you're talking about like, crime, and you know, and the things and what keeps up his yacht. Exactly. And they
Dana Jonson 34:17
need to be supported by somebody and exactly a healthy problem that needs to be paid for by somebody by somebody. That's all coming out of our taxes. And, you know, that's a lot. They were disservice to at a very young age. And, and, you know, we're, we're seeing a lot more come out since the pandemic and just going back to something you said earlier, which was about people seeing the reading and stuff like that. I've had a lot of parents call me who genuinely felt like Special Ed was just a money stuck, and then saw the issues in their children. Yeah. And we're like, I and they were at home looking at their play. Exactly. Yeah, because You know, I know for me, I got through high school dyslexia I got through high school without reading a book, and nobody knew. So, you know, because I had all these clues, if you'd put me at home, in my bedroom to work on a laptop, I would not have had any of those clues. And, you know, I would have fallen apart. So that's what happened to a lot of kids. And, you know, I've had parents, it's just an interesting because when the pandemic started, and people were saying, but our kids aren't getting educated, there was part of me that felt like, yep, that's how we feel.
Yeah, yeah, exactly. Exactly. Our kids have never been educated. Right, exactly. And, you know, it's like, whatever gaps, you know, like, I'm like, the pandemic learning gap. It's like, whatever gaps existed for our kids, before the pandemic are worse now by a factor of like, five. And yes, there's a learning gap. But the learning gap is greater, and more severe, and much more difficult to overcome. For kids who are in special education, before the pandemic, and after?
Dana Jonson 36:01
Well, there's some windows for skills. So some kids at a certain age won't learn the skill. Yeah, so we missed the window. For kids who say, Aren't diagnosed with autism until they're 14. Yeah, you know, you've missed
a significant window. Because, you know, the early years are when the brain is most plastic and most able to change to grow and to, you know, and to accept, you know, new behaviors and new conditions and all that other kind of thing. And that's what we missed. For a lot of kids, a lot of those kids were at home, you know, not turning on the computer screen now. And not, not at all, you know, and not getting services and not or not even being identified, you know that right?
Dana Jonson 36:45
Oh, that was that was big to the big one. Yeah. Well, I think it sucks that we've gotten to a place where for people to access their civil rights, they have to have an attorney at least an education, or an advocate of some sort. And I'm, I don't see it getting necessarily better. But I do love that we have organizations like self out there to help parents. So if somebody's listening to this, and they were like, Oh, my god, that's amazing. I need to give a huge donation to Sal, how would they find you,
they should visit our website, which is www dot SPE D legal fund.org. And they can make a donation on the website, you can also visit our website, if you are a parent, that that is in need of support. Our webinars are online, and our application process is accessible online now. So if you are interested in, you know, starting the application process for either an advocacy grant or legal assistance grant, you visit our website, you you know, find the page, I think it's I think it's apply now, I mean, I used to be programs, but now it's so it's pretty direct, and then you start the process that way, you know, we review cases on a monthly basis, all of the applications, you know, the application deadline is the 15th of each month, we interview every client by the 22nd. And we render a decision by the end of the month for each family throughout the academic year. So that's kind of the the way the you know, the system as it is for us works.
Dana Jonson 38:14
It's amazing. And it really has made a difference in a lot of people's lives. And if you're out there, and you're a motivated parent, and you want to help other parents and put together a fund like this in your state, please call Christine and Oh, absolutely, I'll leave you how to get I'm
happy to tell the story of my throwing spaghetti against the wall. Because that's what it was. But absolutely, because it is an it is definitely a need in every state, every state is different. But what every state has in common is that children are slipping through the cracks. And that is what you know, self is meant to do is really, I can't change, you know, the system. I'm not smart enough to rethink you know, what is exactly wrong with the special education system as it is today. But what self does is it, you know, helps to catch families that are slipping through those cracks. That's really the mission as a whole.
Dana Jonson 39:05
That's amazing. And I think you guys are pretty successful. So thank you so much for everything. And
I love this podcast. I will come back anytime. Thanks. Thanks for having
Dana Jonson 39:16
me. I'm having you. So I know you'll be back. Yeah.
Absolutely fantastic. And happy to talk about anything and everything. But yeah, it's been great. And thanks for having me today.
Dana Jonson 39:29
Thank you so much for joining me today. Please don't forget to follow this podcast so you don't miss any new episodes and leave a review and you have a chance. If there's anything you want to hear about or comment on. Please go to my Facebook page special ed on special ed and find me there. I'll see you next time here on special ed on special ed. Have a fabulous day. The views expressed in this episode are those of the speaker's at the time of the recording and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency organization, employer or company or even that individual today.