Accessing Autism Services (Applied Behavioral Analysis) in the United States

Years have passed since the federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare announced that states must offer Behavioral Health Treatment (Applied Behavioral Analysis or ABA) for children with autism under 21-years-old on Medicaid.

In many states Autism services are currently available on paper but there is an inadequate network of care (very few providers) and as a result very long wait lists (sometimes years) and in many rural areas there is no access to ABA at all. Families need to know their rights especially around insurance companies' legal responsibility to provide an "adequate network of care". An adequate network of care includes timely access to services (including evaluations) within a reasonable distance provided by qualified personnel in the patients/clients primary language.

Please contact me at or 505-471-4505 if you have any questions about autism specific services and/or how to access them. 

Here is to Bright Futures for All Children!

Best, Zoe

 #Autism #BrightFutures #ABA #Advocacy


 #Autism #BrightFutures #ABA #Advocacy

Weekly Update: Word of Mouth - Resources Network for Autism

Word of mouth...Wrights Law has a great website and it updating its resource network. If you need services or know someone who is a fabulous provider take a look at this link to the website.

In my practice supporting children with autism and their families I find that the two biggest challenges to getting the supports needed is knowledge of available services and knowing how to access them. The Wright Law website helps overcome both these challenges.

Here is to Bright Futures for all children!

Zoe Migel, MS, LISW, LSSW





Zoe Migel, MS, LISW, LSSW

The Horrible Myth of Chlorine Dioxide (CD) otherwise know as Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS)

When I get any information about autism that is just out and out incorrect I generally deleted it. It has been my experience that passing these myths on somehow validates them and justifies a conversation. It is also my fear that the information could get into a parent's hands that is just desperate enough to try it.

When I recently received a Facebook posting regarding the use of Chlorine Dioxide to cure autism and something about autism being caused by parasites in the brain I was horrified and profoundly saddened. The claim made by these people who prey on the vulnerabilities of others is that if you give your child who has autism this toxic liquid, which is essentially bleach, it will kill the parasites and cure your child of autism. I deleted it.

Then, one of my clients asked me about it. She explained that her cousin also had a child with autism and asked what I thought about autism being caused by parasites in the brain. I explained that it was untrue. She then told me that her cousin was giving her son Chloride enemas to rid him of the parasites and autism. My heart fell...

SO here I am writing about this horrible myth in the hopes that people will pass this on and stop caring, desperate parents from hurting their children.

Here is to a Bright Future for all children!


A few words from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

FDA Cracks Down on False Claims
According to Gary Coody, R.Ph., FDA’s national health fraud coordinator, the agency has warned a number of companies that they are facing possible legal action if they continue to make false or misleading claims about products and therapies claiming to treat or cure autism. Some of these so-called therapies carry significant health risks and include:
  • “Chelation Therapies.” These products claim to cleanse the body of toxic chemicals and heavy metals by binding to them and “removing” them from circulation. They come in a number of forms, including sprays, suppositories, capsules, liquid drops and clay baths. FDA-approved chelating agents are approved for specific uses, such as the treatment of lead poisoning and iron overload, and are available by prescription only. FDA-approved prescription chelation therapy products should only be used under medical supervision. Chelating important minerals needed by the body can lead to serious and life-threatening outcomes.
  • Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy. This involves breathing oxygen in a pressurized chamber and has been cleared by FDA for certain medical uses, such as treating decompression sickness suffered by divers. It has not been cleared for autism, among other conditions.
  • Miracle Mineral Solution. Also known as Miracle Mineral Supplement and MMS, this product becomes a potent chemical that‘s used as bleach when mixed according to package directions. FDA has received reports of consumers who say they experienced nausea, severe vomiting and life-threatening low blood pressure after drinking the MMS and citrus juice mixture.
  • Detoxifying Clay Baths. Added to bath water, these products claim to draw out chemical toxins, pollutants and heavy metals from the body, falsely offering “dramatic improvement” for autism symptoms.
  • Coconut kefir and other probiotic products. These marketed products claim to treat autism and gastrointestinal illnesses associated with autism. They have not been proven safe and effective for these advertised uses.
Coody offers some quick tips to help you identify false or misleading claims.
  • Be suspicious of products that claim to treat a wide range of diseases.
  • Personal testimonials are no substitute for scientific evidence.
  • Few diseases or conditions can be treated quickly, so be suspicious of any therapy claimed as a “quick fix.”
  • So-called “miracle cures,” which claim scientific breakthroughs and secret ingredients, may be a hoax.
The bottom line is this—if it’s an unproven or little known treatment, talk to your health care professional before buying or using these products.
This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.
April 25, 2014


Weekly Update: If English is NOT your Primary Language?

If you are headed for an IEP for your child and English is not your primary language request an interpreter. This request must be given by you with enough time for the administration to accommodate your request and the request must be in writing (always keep a copy for your records). It is your legal right to have a professional interpreter paid for by the school. At times it is necessary to stress that the interpreter cannot be a teacher or other school staff unless he or she is licensed as an interpreter. The logic behind this request is not to be difficult but it is to ensure that your words are communicated clearly and in their entirety without editing. It also ensures that everyone is in the conversation.

For more information on autism contact me or call 505-471-4505 to schedule a consultation.

Here's to Bright Futures for all children!

Weekly Update: Making Time for The IEP


Just a reminder to all of you with IEPs (Individualized Education Programs) coming up. Remember to take the time you and your child's IEP team need to create and complete the process. For children with a diagnosis of autism this can take at least two or more hours. Often the school will only schedule for one hour and that is generally not enough time. If you think you will need additional time write a nice note (make a copy for your records) and give it to the principle or special education director at your school. If there is not enough time in your first IEP meeting to complete a satisfactory IEP do not rush through just politely ask to reconvene within the next two weeks. Do not sign the IEP as this may give the impression that you agree to it before it has been completed. A completed IEP should include at the very minimum an eligibility determination, current levels of functioning, annual goals, recommended services and placement that all meet criteria for Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE) and Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). For more information contact me at or 505-577-9515.

Here is to Bright Futures for All Children!

Best, Zoe

Self Funded Insurance Plans and Applied Behavioral Analysis


There have been some very exciting developments in the area of autism specific service, especially Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). In New Mexico, any person under the age of 21 with a medical diagnosis of autism may receive ABA through their private insurance or Medicaid. However, if your child is covered under insurance that is self funded (a policy that is funded by your place of employment), ABA may not be covered. If your child needs ABA services and it is not covered through you company's self-funded plans, you might look into purchasing an individual plan for your child on your New Mexico's Health Exchange which is covered by the Affordable Care Act/Obama Care. All plans on the New Mexico's Health Exchange must cover all autism specific services including ABA if they are medically necessary.





When to Talk to Your Child About Autism

Here are two good videos about when and how to talk to your child about being on the autism spectrum.

For more information on how to talk to your child about being on the autism spectrum send me an email at or give me a call at 505-471-4505 for a free consultation.

Here is to a Bright Future for all of our children!


#Autism #BrightFutures #ABA #Advocacy

#Autism #BrightFutures #ABA #Advocacy

The Key to Your Child's Future: Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) services on IFSPs and IEPs

One of the keys to a bright future for children with a diagnosis of autism is 20 - 40 hours of applied behavioral analysis (ABA). I continue to struggle with the fact that, in my community, applied behavioral analysis at a high intensity (20-40 hours a week) is rarely if ever talked about at IEPs and never talked about at IFSPs as an/the evidence based/best practice for teaching children with a diagnosis of Autism. ABA and interventions developed, at least in part from ABA, such as the Early Start Denver Model (ESDM), are the models shown to most significantly impact the learning of children with autism. I am not saying it is the only key to a successful future; every and child and family is unique and has unique needs. However, ABA should at least be part of the discussion at every IFSP and every IEP of a child who has a diagnosis of autism.The question of who is going to pay for it is irrelevant. If the child requires ABA to be successfully function in the home, community and/or school it has to be provided at no cost to the family. The cost of such a program may never legally be a deciding factor as to whether or not a child receives ABA. The big question for the IFSP/IEP team is does the child with autism need ABA to be able develop age appropriate skills or to access his/her educational environment. See case in point below..

For more information on how to talk about ABA at IFSPs or IEPs please send me an email at or call at 505-471-4505. 

Here's to bright futures for all children!


Analysis of Zachary Deal v. Hamilton County Department of Education
by Gary Mayerson, Esq.

Using excoriating language such as "appalling," "evasive," "closed mind," "combative," and "untruthful," Administrative Law Judge A. James Andrews has held in a 45-page decision that the Hamilton County (Tennessee) Department of Education (HCDE) repeatedly violated federal law in failing to provide an appropriate education to Zachary Deal, a seven-year-old Chattanooga boy with autism.

Judge Andrews found that in violation of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal statute which guarantees an individualized educational program to children with disabilities, the HCDE embraced and perpetuated an illegal policy of refusing to consider the very autism intervention--- intensive one-to-one Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)--- which Zachary needed to make educational progress.

ABA - Lovaas Programs: Long Track Record of Success

The efficacy of the "ABA" intervention for children with autism was first documented and published by Dr. O. Ivar Lovaas, a UCLA professor, in 1987 after decades of research.

Dr. Lovaas' 1987 scientific study, which utilized experimental controls, reported that with approximately three years of intensive, one-to-one ABA, nearly half of young children with autism were able to succeed academically in mainstream educational settings and be considered asymptomatic and "indistinguishable" from their same age, typically developed peers.

The 1987 ABA study also showed measurable, post-treatment IQ gains that advanced many of the children in the study into the range of "normal" intelligence. As reported in the Court's decision, the evidence at the trial showed that current replication efforts largely have been tracking the outcomes reported in the 1987 ABA study.

Surgeon General Report Supports Intensive ABA

In 1999, as Judge Andrews found, the Surgeon General of the United States published a report which endorsed intensive ABA, and which called Dr. Lovaas' 1987 study a "well designed study."

Judge Andrews found that "the Hamilton County Department of Education consistently rejected providing ABA to Zachary or any other student [even though] Hamilton County does not even have a methodology for educating autistic children." Judge Andrews also stated that "Experts on both sides testified that selecting the wrong methodology for an autistic child can mean the difference between an independent adult life and a lifetime of dependency and support."

Zachary Made "Tremendous Progress" in ABA Program

Judge Andrews found that "the Deals made a correct and legally defensible choice when, in the face of the school system's unbending intransigence, they opted to continue [and fund] the successful ABA program Zachary had been receiving."

In his decision, Judge Andrews found that Zachary had made "tremendous progress" as a result of receiving intensive ABA and that "Zachary's greatest gains occurred when he received no services from HCDE". Although the ABA intervention can be costly, Judge Andrews found that ABA "may be cost-effective over time by allowing a higher percentage of autistic children to become normal functioning, productive adults."

School Witnesses: Lack of Credibility

After viewing their demeanor, responsiveness and whether or not they were forthright in their answers as opposed to evasive or combative when testifying, the Court singled out a number of Hamilton County functionaries for pointed criticism.

The Court expressly held that Hamilton County's autism consultant, Ann Kennedy, was not credible, and "showed an appalling lack of knowledge…"

The Court also found a psychologist newly-hired by Hamilton County, Scott Hooper, to be "not credible," stating "Mr. Hooper demonstrated that he would go to any length to testify favorably for HCDE."

Other HCDE functionaries expressly found by the Court to be lacking in credibility include Paula Wiesen, a special education teacher/speech language pathologist who had been Zachary's teacher and speech pathologist in the year prior to the lawsuit, and Jane Dixon, an HCDE exceptional education supervisor who served as the HCDE's main contact with the family.

In his order, Judge Andrews stated that Ms. Dixon testified "that she had never told the Deals that cost was a factor involved in HCDE's decision to deny Lovaas style ABA to Zachary even though the Deals produced a tape recording of a meeting they had with Ms. Dixon in which Ms. Dixon clearly announces that cost is a factor."

School Rebuffed Parents' Requests for Information

The record reflected that contrary to law, the HCDE did not allow Zachary's parents to ask any questions at some meetings that were scheduled to discuss Zachary's educational program.

In one meeting, the HCDE "informed the Deals that the 'powers that be' were not implementing ABA programs." In this connection, an internal HCDE memorandum surfaced during the trial that reflected the HCDE had flagged Zachary's case as "a sensitive case with regards to school program and/or Lovaas" before his parents even requested ABA from HCDE.

School Refused to Provide ESY Services

Judge Andrews also found the HCDE erred in not providing Zachary summer services [ESY] for 1999 and 2000. Judge Andrews stated that "Summer services…are intended to address the child's needs. The concept is even labeled 'extended school year' not 'extended school program'…HCDE is in error when it maintains that the purpose of ESY is to continue an existing IEP and that, if there is no agreed upon IEP, there is nothing to continue.

The purpose of ESY, like the rest of the IDEA and its implementing regulations, is to educate disabled children. The need for and design of an ESY program begins with an assessment of the child's needs, not the level of cooperation between the school system and the child's parents."

27-Day Due Process Hearing: Conflict Between Science & Status Quo

Zachary's hearing, which began in March of 2000 and involved 27 days of testimony from over twenty witnesses and tens of thousands of pages of documentary evidence, took nearly a year to complete. There also were extensive pretrial and post-trial proceedings.

Judge Andrews remarked in his decision that "Neither side left a stone unturned or un-thrown in attacking the efficacy of the educational approach advocated by the other side."

Judge Andrews likened the litigation to being a classic conflict between science and the status quo, stating "Science and innovation have warred with orthodoxy at least since Galileo was forced to recant in the shadow of the rack."

Judge Andrews found, in direct violation to IDEA, that "money" was a prime motivating factor in Hamilton County's refusal to provide Zachary with the ABA intervention.

However, according to previous reports and filings, Hamilton County apparently has already spent in excess of $300,000 in legal fees to litigate against Zachary and his parents. HCDE may now be statutorily liable to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in statutory attorneys' fees to Zachary's attorneys. This is in addition to the reimbursement and funding relief which the Court ordered for Zachary covering a three-year time frame.

Zachary and his parents, Phillip and Maureen Deal, were represented by Gary S. Mayerson, of New York City and Theodore Kern of Knoxville. The HCDE was represented by Gary D. Lander and the Chattanooga law firm of Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel.

Decision in Word and pdf from Mayerslaw

Decision in pdf from Wrightslaw

Gary Mayerson, Esq.
Mayerson & Associates

Phone: 212-265-7200

- See more at:

#Autism #BrightFutures #ABA #Advocacy

Anatomy of A Special Education Case By: Pete Wright, Wrights Law

Anatomy of A Special Education Case...  

What happens in a due process hearing? To answer your questions about due process hearings and special education cases, we [Wrights Law] wrote Anatomy of a Special Education Case. This article tells the story of Stefan Jaynes, a young child with autism. As you read this article, you will learn how Stefan's case unfolded, from the due process hearing to the final decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.  Anatomy of a Special Education Case includes links to all decisions in Stefan's case (due process, review, federal court, court of appeals) and the complaint filed in federal court by Pete Wright, the attorney who represented Stefan.

Background of the Case  Stefan Jaynes was diagnosed with autism soon after his second birthday. Stefan's pediatric neurologist advised his parents to get early intervention services through their local school district. But when Brian and Julianna Jaynes went to the school and requested early intervention services for Stefan, they ran into a wall of resistance.   

Eventually, the school developed an IEP for Stefan – but they did not involve the parents in the IEP process. After developing this IEP, the school district failed to implement the IEP for several months. During these months, the parents continued to request services for Stefan. These delays had tragic consequences for Stefan.   

Although Stefan had autism and needed intensive early intervention services, the school district placed him in a typical preschool program for about 12 hours a week. Because this program was not designed to meet Stefan’s unique needs as a child with autism, the child regressed.    When the parents realized that Stefan was regressing, they withdrew him from the preschool program and began an intensive home-based ABA/Lovaas program.

In this home-based ABA program, trained tutors worked one-on-one with Stefan for several hours a day. Later, the parents learned that they had a right to a due process hearing.   Due Process Hearing  After Brian and Julianna retained Pete Wright, they requested a due process hearing to resolve issues about their son's special education.  Their due process hearing was held on December 9 and December 10, 1998.   

On June 11, 1999, the Hearing Officer issued a decision in favor of Stefan and his parents. He awarded the parents $117,979.78 to reimburse them for the cost of their son's ABA program.  The Hearing Officer found that Stefan was damaged by the acts and omissions of the public school staff: "The mishandling of this case by Newport News Public Schools is inexcusable and tragic." Read the Hearing Officer’s decision at: (File size: 682kb) 

When you read the Hearing Officer's Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, you will learn about tuition reimbursement, legal requirements for the continuum of alternative placements, the requirement to involve the child's parents in the IEP process, appropriate IEP goals and objectives, “loss of educational opportunity,” and damages.    

The next chapter began when the State Review Officer affirmed the Hearing Officer's decision -- but reduced the award of reimbursement by half.    The State Review Officer found it "obvious" that school personnel "predetermined that Stefan be placed in a self-contained classroom and receive the PEEP program." He found that the preschool program was "little more than a nursery school" and that the school personnel showed "woeful disregard" of Stefan's needs as a child with autism.    The Review Officer also found that the school's IEP was deficient and that the school made no attempt to involve Stefan's parents in developing his IEP.

Why did the Review Officer reduce the award? You will have to read the Review Officer's decision to find out. (File: 290 kb)   

School District Appeals to Federal Court  On December 6, 1999, the case was appealed to U. S. District Court. You can read the Complaint filed in Stefan's case: (File size: 30 kb) Judge Awards Parents $103,000  On September 7, 2000, U. S. District Court Judge Henry Coke Morgan, Jr. issued a favorable decision in Stefan’s case and awarded the parents $103,000. He found that the Newport News IEPs contained many deficiencies and that the district unilaterally “eliminated numerous programs from the IEP [and] provided no explanation or justification for striking these programs.”    He discussed the importance of procedural safeguards. He found that the district failed to notify the parents of their rights including the right to a due process hearing. He discussed the need for “meaningful parental participation in the formulation and implementation of the IEP . . .”     He ordered the school district to reimburse Stefan’s parents for his educational expenses from July 1, 1995 to the present.  Judge Morgan's decision is at: 

School District Appeals to Fourth Circuit  Newport News appealed Judge Morgan's decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.  Oral argument in Jaynes v. Newport News was heard on June 7, 2001.  On July 10 2001, the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued a favorable decision in Stefan's case.  The school district decided not to appeal the case to the U. S. Supreme Court.  Update on Stefan  For an update on Stefan and ABA therapy, read Autism Therapy Called Effective, But Rare by Laurie Tarkan (New York Times, October 22, 2002). 

This article describes the problems many parents face in getting appropriate services for their young children with autism, including the failure to use effective educational methods. "A vast majority of children with autism are not getting the intensive early intervention that experts say is both essential and effective." Read article  About Pete Wright  Pete Wright represented Stefan Jaynes in this case. 

Pete also represented Shannon Carter before the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and the U. S. Supreme Court in Florence County School District Four v. Shannon Carter, and received a unanimous decision in Shannon’s favor.  Pete also represented Danny Lawyer in Lawyer v. Chesterfield Sch. Bd., Joe James in James v. Upper Arlington Sch. Bd, and James Brody in Brody v. Dare County Sch. Bd.  Pete and Pam Wright are co-authors of the best-selling law book, Wrightslaw: Special Education Law and the parent advocacy book, Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy (both books published by Harbor House Law Press) - See more at:

#Autism #BrightFutures #ABA #Advocacy

Holiday Tips for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Holiday Tips for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders  Autism Speaks

The holiday season is a joyful time of the year, but it also can be stressful for kids with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Preparing and planning early for the holidays can help you relieve some of the holiday stress. Here are some ideas to help you and your child enjoy the holidays this year and every year.

Before a Holiday Event

  • Practice sitting at the table with the plates, lighting and music before the holiday gathering.
  • Draw pictures about the holiday to help your child prepare for the events.
  • Eat holiday foods in advance to determine what your child does or does not like. Help them become more comfortable with the food selection.
  • Reflect on your holiday traditions and your child’s sensory and behavioral profile and how your child will interact with these traditions.
  • Prepare for the family environment. Will you be at grandma’s house? Another family member? Consider preparing an area for your child to play, or a space for your child to decompress if they become overwhelmed by the sensory stimulation. Encourage other children or adults to join your child.
  • Prepare an activity for your child, if you know they have an aversion to a holiday tradition, like watching football on Thanksgiving Day. Your child may not like loud noises, so take your child outside to play or have the children play familiar games in another room.
  • Talk to your therapist(s) for recommendations on how to prepare your child to handle the noise of the holiday season. 
  • Take your child to a small holiday-themed store so they can look at lights prior to setting up a Christmas tree.  Here are some things to think about:
    • Are they attracted to the lights?
    • Do they have an aversion to the lights? If so, do not use lights and add ribbons, paper chains and other festive touches.
    • What is an alternative to having lights on your tree if your child has an aversion?
    • Is your child allergic to pine?
    • If your child likes to pull pine needles off the tree and eat them, consider an alternative, like an artificial Christmas tree or place a small real one on a high table, out of reach.
    • Do you have glass ornaments and is your child safe with these?  If not, consider only plastic ornaments.
  • If your child doesn’t have fine motor skills, practice opening gifts. For example, have your child wrap little fun objects and open them.
  • Put pictures on the gifts instead of names because your child might not recognize everyone’s names.
  • Make a calendar so your child knows when the tree is coming and going to the recycle bin or getting discarded.
  • Count down when the gifts will be opened, “Ten days until we open gifts!”
  • Consider hiding gifts until it’s time to open.
  • Practice any expected behaviors in advance, like shaking hands with a guest, placing a napkin in a lap, etc.

Day-of Holiday Events

  • Prepare your child’s favorite foods and snacks in case the child doesn’t like the holiday meal. If you are going to another home, take your child’s favorite foods, music and snacks with you.
  • Schedule an early dinner or eat in advance to a family get-together.
  • Reward your child throughout the event and reinforce positive behaviors.
  • Use visual or verbal cues: “First, we will do this,” “Second, we will do this,” etc.
  • Assign tasks that you feel your child can manage, so they can participate on some level.
  • Keep your eye on your child for signs of anxiety or distress. If your child is very active take them to the park or a place where they can freely move to help them calm down.
  • Take great care to be sensitive to your children’s sensory issues.


Best wishes for the Holiday Season!!!!




Autism: Connecting with other Parents

I was at the bank yesterday making a deposit. The teller asked me what I did at my clinic. I said that I work with young children with autism. She replied in a whisper, "But what do you do?" I realized this was not polite chit chat; this person had someone she cared about who needed support. That someone was her 3 year old son who had just received a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). As she spoke to me tears welled up in her eyes and she said she felt so alone.

Hello, my name is Zoe Migel. I am the director and founder of Bright Futures: Autism and Early Intervention. I believe that some of the best support a family can receive is from other families and with 1 out of 64 children receiving a diagnosis of ASD no one should feel alone in his or her experience. In the hopes of connecting families with each other, I created two private/secret Facebook groups, one in English and one in Spanish, solely for family members and caregivers who support a child/children on the autism spectrum. The conversation can only be seen by those in the group and the only ones who can comment are people who have been added by me or a member of the group. Please let me (Zoe) know if you want to join and I will add you. Contact me at or

For more information or support go to, drop me a note or call to schedule a free consultation.

Here's to bright futures for all children!


When IEP Services are NOT Delivered by Robert K. Crabtree, Esq.

Article from Wrights Law website:

Question: What should parents do when services in their child's IEP are not being provided?

Answer: When services are not delivered under an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP), there are steps parents can take both to enforce the IEP and to obtain compensatory services to make up for the lost services. As always, you should approach this kind of situation with respect for your child's teachers and a sense of proportion. A day or two without a service may warrant only a comment or note to the teacher. Ask if there is likely to be a long-term or recurring problem that the TEAM should address before it gets out of hand. Continuous or repeated loss of a service for several weeks may call for more formal action.

Once you accept an IEP, the school system must provide all the services described in that plan right away, unless the IEP states that some services are to commence at a later time. Unfortunately, parents cannot always assume that this will happen. They cannot even assume that the school will tell them if services are not being delivered.

Check on Service Delivery: You need to find ways to check on service delivery and keep a journal to record days when services are not delivered. Depending on her cognitive and communication abilities, your child's own reports of his/her school day provide one source of information. Other ways to check on services include: regularly asking the teacher or other service provider how things are going; personally observing your child's program from time to time; using a notebook to communicate back and forth with the teacher and/or other service providers; and talking regularly with the parents of other children in your child's program. In the more formal discovery procedures that apply when a dispute is in litigation, parents can obtain specific documentary and other information to determine exactly how much service the school has not delivered.

What Can You Do? If you believe that a service is not being delivered, you should first see if the school agrees with you. School personnel may believe that the service is being delivered because they have a different concept of what the IEP requires. Determine what the IEP requires. For example, if the IEP states, ambiguously, that a student will receive speech/language therapy in "individual/small group settings" the school might think that a therapist's occasional visits to the classroom fulfill that requirement even if she never directly works with the child. If you don't agree with the school system's interpretation, and the issue is important enough, you may want to formally challenge both the school system's interpretation of the IEP and its position that the service they are delivering is sufficient. In some cases you will need an educator or other professional who will state that the services being delivered are not consistent with the IEP.

State Complaint or Due Process Hearing: In cases that warrant formal action, you will need to find out where and how to bring a complaint about noncompliance in your state. You may be able to have the situation investigated by a state-level office responsible for handling such complaints, or you may have to ask for a due process hearing. You should be able to find the appropriate route by calling your state's Department of Education, a local parent advocacy agency, or an attorney who concentrates in special education law. Families often find that asking for a due process hearing is the most effective way to resolve issues of noncompliance.

Replacing Lost Services: If the school agrees that the service has not been delivered, then the only question is how to make up for the lost service effectively. If you can agree on how many hours of services have been lost, they could be made up in any way that fits with the student's needs and learning style by, for example, doubling weekly services temporarily or providing services during vacation periods. If you have "covered" the missing services by hiring a private service provider until the school begins to deliver the service, you can seek reimbursement from the school system for that expense.

In some cases you need to be more creative. For example, if a child's time and learning capacity are already "maxed out," simply adding more hours of service in her ordinary school schedule probably won't work. In such cases, perhaps, you could agree to "bank" the lost services to use at a later time when there might be disagreement about the need for ongoing services. In cases involving larger issues, such as when a child is provided no services at all for a significant period, you may consider having the school agree to continue providing special education services for a period after she reaches the maximum age of eligibility for special education in your state.

An argument can also be made in some cases for an award of damages (the law is just developing in this area). Be sure to monitor implementation of your child's IEP. The longer a child goes without a service, the harder it is to correct the situation effectively. It's easier to prevent non-compliance at the beginning than to fix it months later.

Autism Spectrum Disorders: Ten Tips to Support Me By: Joaquin Fuentes, MD

10 things2.jpg

The tips begin:

1. I am not “autistic.” I am first, foremost, and always a person, a student, a child, and I have autism. Do not confuse me with my condition. And, please, do not use the term in a negative or inconsiderate way. I deserve to be respected.

2. I am an individual. Having autism does not make me the same as other people with autism. Make an effort to know me as an individual, to understand my strengths, my weaknesses, and me. Ask me—and my friends and my family, if I cannot reply— about my dreams.

3. I deserve services, just like all children. Services for me begin early. Autism is—or it will be, when recognized—a public health issue in many countries of the world. There are instruments to screen it. They should be applied in the framework of screening for other developmental disabilities. If you start soon, my life will be different! And remember that about one quarter of my siblings will have autism or other problems. Help them; they are an important part of my life.

Read all ten tips – and Dr. Fuentes introduction – here

Full Paper & References: Also found written in Spanish, French and Basque...

August 26, 2014.

Dr. Fuentes is with Policlınica Gipuzkoa, San Sebastian, Spain.

Correspondence to Joaquin Fuentes, MD, Policlınica Gipuzkoa, Child

and Adolescent Psychiatry, Paseo de Miramon, 174, San Sebastian,

Spain; e-mail:



Full Paper & References:

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For more information on autism go to, drop me a note or call to schedule a free consultation.

Here's to Bright Futures for all children!


#Autism #BrightFutures #ABA #Advocacy

What is the Access Pass?

What is the Access Pass?

For those of you who love the outdoors and love to road trip with family this is very cool!  The Access Pass is a free lifetime pass to over 2000 federally owned parks in the USA. For parks that charge admission per vehicle, everyone who is in the vehicle with the Access Pass holder is admitted for free (for individual tours and campsites, there may be discounts, but fees still have to be paid).

This includes sites operated by:

  • The National Park Service (includes all National Parks, National Monuments, National Historic Sites and more)
  • USDA Forest Service
  • Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Bureau of Reclamation
  • Bureau of Land Management

How to Get an Access Pass

  • Visit any federal recreation site that charges a fee. Look at this .pdf list of federal recreation sites where Access Passes should be available, listed by state. Be sure to bring your ID that proves you are a U.S. Citizen or permanent resident, and documentation from a licensed physician, a Federal agency, or a State agency, that shows you have a permanent disability (autism). The pass is free and there are no processing fees. To be safe, call ahead of time to make sure they have passes available.  Note that showing a State motor vehicle department disability sticker or a hang tag is not acceptable proof of a permanent disability.


  • Apply through the Mail. Complete this application form for the Access Pass and mail it along with photocopy proof that you are a U.S. Citizen or permanent resident, and documentation of your disability. Note that applying through the mail will cost you a $10 processing fee.

Additional Perks of an Access Pass

On top of granting free entry, some sites also offer Access Pass holders a discount on expanded fees, such as camping, swimming, boat launching and guided tours.

Want more information? Visit the Access Pass FAQ page.

For more information on autism go to, drop me a note or call to schedule a free consultation.

Here's to Bright Futures for all children!


Schools Out: Trains, planes and automobiles! Tips for Travel

Trains, planes and automobiles! Pack your bags and head on out... Easier said than done! Travel and vacations can be great fun but they can also be a source of tremendous anxiety. There are a few things that can make a huge difference. The first thing is ask for help. When flying call ahead and ask for assistance with boarding the airplane, with transport between terminals and with finding a quiet place to pass time during a layover. If you are going by train call Amtrak and see what accommodations they can make. They will be happy to help!

It is also a good idea to bring a bag of things for your child. What parents have expressed works best is a variety of favorite foods plus a mixture of favorite toys/activities and new toys/activities. Make sure you call ahead to see what you can bring through security. If you have medications get a doctor's note that verifies what it is and why it is taken. It is also helpful (if you have time) to do a rehearsal by going to the airport and just hanging out and seeing the sights. This can reduce everyone's anxiety and make a huge difference! If you can't get to the airport, here is a link to some information and a social story for traveling by plane.

Here is a quick video on some other good tips...

Good luck and keep breathing... Safe travels everyone!

For more information on autism go to, drop me a note or call to schedule a free consultation.

Here's to Bright Futures for all children!



Autism: Hard Things and Good Things About a Diagnosis

Okay, you are headed for an evaluation to rule out autism...

Your thinking, "Is this really happening? What the *(&(*&^%O*&(*???"

Yes, this is really happening and this is part of the really hard part. The process of realizing your child is having a very difficult time and may have autism is different for everyone. This is a personal process that has no time limit, or one “right” way but there are some universal emotions that come into play in the search for peace and hope. First there is denial and isolation... Then there is anger that moves into bargaining. When bargaining fails depression sets in... If depression is overcome there is sense of being at peace and being hopeful about the future.

How is a diagnosis going to help any of this???

The main good that comes from a diagnosis of autism is that it will provide you with helpful information and will open doors to support for you and your child. Support may include early intervention, educational services and private therapies. Most of these are entitled services and can be paid for through public funding or insurance. You do not have to take advantage of all the services. You can pick and choose. But with an autism diagnosis the services are there if you want or need them and chances are you are going to need them at some point.

It is a hard road to accepting that you and your child are in need but good comes of an autism diagnosis. A diagnosis of autism brings with it the supports your child needs to flourish and reach her or his highest potential. There is so much the world can offer a child on the autism spectrum. So much that will help him or her have a happy, fulfilling, productive, wonderful life. That life is possible!

My wish is for every family to have the resources they need to reach a place of peace and hope. My wish for every family is they have good information to find their way.

For more information on autism contact 

Here's to Bright Futures for all children!


#Autism #BrightFutures #ABA #Advocacy #Diagnosis


Does my Child have Autism?

“Can you just start from the beginning? What if I'm concerned about my child. Or, what if I take my kid in for his well check and POW! the doctor hits me with AUTISM? What the *&^*&^*^^ do I do?"

Great question! Let's begin at the beginning... 

So, you have a beautiful, wonderful, exceptionally magnificent child but something does not feel right and you're concerned about autism. What should you do? First and foremost, trust yourself. You know your child best. Don't wait - early intervention is critical! Support can make a huge difference at any age but getting it as early as possible is the goal and a good place to start is with your pediatrician.

Call your pediatrician right away and make an appointment to talk about your concerns. Lighten the load and get some information. One of the parents I work with in my private practice gave me a good tip to pass along - write your specific concerns down so you don't forget them under the stress of the doctor's visit.

Now if your doctor says, "Boys are just late bloomers... You're just being paranoid. He's fine!" Don't be tempted to let go of your concern. Unfortunately, not all pediatricians are knowledgeable about autism and often parents are told not to worry and to wait it out. In general this is a bad, bad, bad idea! Over 80% of parents whose children have autism knew something was going on in the first year of their children's lives!

Hopefully your pediatrician hears your concern and is prepared to do an autism screening (usually the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers, Revised with Follow-Up (M-CHAT-R). On the other hand, if your doctor doesn't offer to do a screening or you have not had any concerns and all of a sudden POW! the doctor brings up autism I recommend you ask her to complete an autism screening. This screening should give you good information to move forward.

Okay, so you and your doctor completed the autism screening and it confirms your child does show signs of having autism. Remember a positive screening for autism is not a diagnosis of autism. The next step should be a referral to your local early intervention agency (for 0-3 year olds) or public school system (for children over 3) and a referral for a thorough evaluation to provide a medical diagnosis of autism, if appropriate. 

All communities are going to have an early intervention program and a public school system. The quantity and the quality of services provided to children with autism varies a lot but at least basic services are going to be free and are available to everyone, even if you are not a citizen! A good evaluation by a medical team and therapists maybe harder to find, but your pediatrician can give an initial diagnosis to allow your child access to medical and school based services

This video follows one child with autism until he is 7. It is a great example of early signs and the power of early intervention! If it doesn't play properly just click on the video page find the picture of the two boys playing and you'll be ready to roll.

Contact your local early intervention or public school for information and services. It is their job to help you! 

For more info on early signs of autism, early intervention and/or the public schools contact

Here's to Bright Futures for all children!


#Autism #BrightFutures #ABA #Advocacy

Autism: The Right to an Education!

I have a long list of things parents have asked me to write about and one of the big things is simply access to educational entitlements. So, let's talk a bit about educational entitlements for children 3-21 years old. An entitlement is a right to benefits specified especially by law or contract.  Your child does has a legal right to an education; it is the law. And, if you know these laws, you will get the services your child needs. 

The Federal Government defines your child's rights in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and these rights are overseen by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) The two of the most important pieces of IDEA are the right to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) and the right to a FAPE in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). These two pieces say that it is the law that all children with autism must be given an education that is free and meets their individual needs, and this education has to be provided in the school and classroom that they would be in were they not to have a diagnosis of autism.

Federal law says the public schools, starting at age three, have to teach children with autism in a way that the children can learn and it has to be free! The Federal Government goes on to say that, as much as possible, children with autism have the right to be in their neighborhood school in a class of their peers and have the right to all the supports they need to do so successfully. 

So, it is critical that once your child has medical diagnoses of autism, you let your school administration know you want a meeting to develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for your child’s Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) as defined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or your going to call the federal Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)!

For more individualized information and support go to

Here's to Bright Futures for all children!


#Autism #BrightFuturesASD