Your support results in change.

The success stories below illustrate how your support, and our advocacy directly impacts families. For a comprehensive overview of our legislative and administrative advocacy successes, please visit the Legislation section of our website. Please use the navigation below to learn about our successful advocacy efforts.

Having a teacher tell me that I was never going to amount to anything just made me feel like a failure.

Andre Atkins, student

 

Children suffer when schools see behavior as a choice rather than the result of a disability

David is diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome (AS), learning disabilities, and depression. His school saw his behaviors as a choice rather than as a result of disability. He was continuously penalized due to his processing challenges, and his difficulties with executive functioning, both symptoms of his AS. Unfortunately, David’s family was unable to access attorneys or paid advocates due to their income.

As MAC staff and the medical professionals tried to work collaboratively with the school, David sank deeper into depression and had to be hospitalized twice in a four month period for suicidal ideation. During this time the school district kept him in the same program, stating the program was appropriate. Finally David was unable to attend the school’s program because the staff was unable to recognize the etiology of his behavioral issues. They increasingly became more restrictive and punitive rather than addressing his language based disability.

With persistent and detail oriented advocacy, and a willingness to work with the medical professionals and with David’s parents, MAC staff prevailed at getting the school district to agree to an appropriate placement for David. Without MAC assistance, David would still be in that school’s program, or worse, in the hospital or at home unable to attend school.

This past year we were faced with a very serious educational situation requiring the skills of a highly trained legal professional. I truly began to think we had finally reached a point in time where I would not be able to insure my son received the support he desperately needed… The answer came unexpectedly during a phone call to Mass Advocates for Children… Without your help, I’m not sure my family would have survived this crisis. Not only did you commit to helping my family resolve this issue, you replaced hopelessness with empowerment. Thanks to your efforts, my son is once again in an educational set- ting with the support and structure required to meet his needs. He is focused on the future and looking forward to a successful life.

Christine M. Kelly, parent

 

Services from Children’s Autism Medicaid Waiver make a world of difference for former soldier’s two children.

Suzanne’s children have received services from the Massachusetts Children’s Autism Medicaid Waiver Program (the Waiver Program), which provides intensive, community-based in-home therapeutic services for low income children with autism who are at risk for institutionalization. Each child who is enrolled in the Waiver Program is eligible for considerable services. As a result of MAC’s extensive legislative advocacy efforts, the Waiver Program helps hundreds of low-income families in Massachusetts.

Suzanne is a single mother of twin boys with autism named William and James. Prior to her sons’ diagnosis, she had a job that she loved in the United States Army and was stationed in Iraq for eleven months. Everything changed once her boys were diagnosed with autism. As the years progressed, her boys began to display dangerous behaviors, including aggression. Suzanne sought a discharge from the Army and moved back home to Massachusetts.

The Waiver Program has made a world of difference to her family. Suzanne’s children are making progress for the first time.

Independent experts knowledgeable about trauma are key to proper placement for Sara

Mary is a single mother who adopted Sara when she was ten months old from China. Upon returning to the United States, Sara was evaluated and diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder and other delays. Sara received intensive individual services and therapies through Early Intervention and began to progress.

It is difficult to imagine where Sara would be today had Mary not sought legal assistance from MAC. Although Sara was properly referred to her public school district for special education evaluations before her third birthday, the Team initially found Sara ineligible for special education services. This turned out to be the beginning of a number of battles Mary would have with her school district in order to obtain the services Sara desperately needed rather than the bare minimum services the district offered to provide.

Mary eventually sought legal help from MAC when Sara was being suspended on a nearly daily basis from her regular kindergarten classroom for behavioral outbursts she could not control. Sara’s IEP at the time had 2 goals, almost no services, and no behavioral plan. MAC’s attorney was able to obtain independent evaluations for Sara by experts knowledgeable about trauma. These experts made a number of recommendations for changes that could be made to Sara’s program to help her successfully access the curriculum. Despite these recommendations, and Sara’s strong attachment to her kindergarten teacher, by spring of her kindergarten year the Team instead opted to propose a substantially separate therapeutic classroom in the building for Sara. Because Sara seemed to be suffering emotionally, feeling like a failure in kindergarten, Mary agreed to try the new classroom although she was reluctant to transition Sara so late in the year from her beloved teacher and without having tried some of the experts’ suggestions.

MAC assembled a group of service providers and doctors to meet again with Sara’s special education Team. Each expert compellingly explained that Sara was in crisis and now required more intensive full day and full year therapeutic educational services. Sara’s school Team again insisted they could appropriately educate her in the same therapeutic classroom without any changes. MAC filed a Hearing Request and then negotiated a settlement so that Sara is now finally receiving the full day and full year therapeutic services she requires and is beginning to learn and progress.

Reversing a Disciplinary Expulsion

Reginald is a 14 year-old African-American student who was a seventh grader at a middle school in an urban school district in Massachusetts. Despite Reginald’s disability, his school principal imposed a one-year disciplinary expulsion from the middle school. When his IEP team proposed to place him in the district’s alternative school for emotionally disturbed students, his mother objected and obtained legal assistance from MAC.

Representing Reginald’s mother, the MAC attorney appealed the expulsion to the district’s superintendent of schools. He argued to the hearing officer that the alleged offense did not violate the provision of the discipline code cited by the principal, and that the principal gave no reason why he imposed the code of discipline’s maximum one-year school expulsion.

The superintendent of schools agreed with his suggestion that Reginald be permitted to immediately transfer to one of the district’s other middle schools for the remaining few weeks of the school year and to return to the original middle school in September. Reginald successfully completed the school year at the middle school to which he had been transferred, and is looking forward to his return to the middle school from which he had been expelled. His mother has obtained an updated evaluation of Reginald, which should result in the appropriate special education services for him as soon as possible.