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Federal judge strikes down quick transfers of Philly students with autism

By Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks on May 7, 2014 04:56 PM

Parents of children with autism in the Philadelphia School District are celebrating a victory this week.

In a preliminary decision, U.S. District Court Judge Legrome Davis ruled that the School District can no longer transfer autistic students to new elementary or middle schools without giving parents an opportunity to understand and discuss the decision.

Transfers are often necessary because not every school in the Philadelphia School District has classrooms and teachers designated to providing autistic support for every grade level. Some schools, for instance, may be able to serve kindergarten through 3rd grade, but lack resources for grades 4 and 5.

When this happens, the District's "automatic autism transfer policy" shuffles students to another public school that can serve their needs. The problem, though, according to a class-action lawsuit filed in 2011, is that the District has been acting with little to no input from parents, often at the last minute.

Parents and advocates say that this hurts autistic students who rely on structure and routine.

"One of my little clients thought he had been expelled," said Sonja Kerr, special-education attorney with the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia. "A teacher sent home a note saying, 'I just found out you're not coming to school next year,' and the little boy didn't understand and cried for a week." 

The law center, along with Dechert LLP, filed the suit against the District on behalf of 1,600 students with autism. After three years of arguments and deliberations, District administrators have agreed to cooperate with the preliminary settlement ruling made this week. A follow-up hearing is scheduled for June 3.

"What this sets in place is a process to ensure that parents know more formally, as quickly as possible, that their child may be moved," Kerr said.

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks

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Comments (3)

Submitted by isonprize (not verified) on May 8, 2014 2:31 pm

"Some schools, for instance, may be able to serve kindergarten through 3rd grade, but lack resources for grades 4 and 5."

The question is - WHY don't the schools have the resources that are needed in grades 4 and 5? Why don't the administrators who make over $100,000/year care about making sure the schools and teachers have what they need to teach all students?

This ruling is a victory, yet doesn't get to the root cause of the problem. Public schools are supposed to have what they need to educate all students. All students - not just the easy ones.

Submitted by Carlos Smith (not verified) on May 13, 2014 9:34 am

This really hurts the autistic child because a sudden replacement of a set up which has already been in their mind for a long time and they are usual about, make them mentally upset.
It is very harmful for them and push them 1 step ahead towards mental retardation.

Transfer of autistic child can't be the one and only solution. The schools can bear HBOT (Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy) treatment under inspection of some physicians or pediatricians.
OxyHealth made a revolution with their invention of different hyperbaric chambers. One of them is "portable hyperbaric chamber" http://www.oxyhealth.com/portable-hyperbaric-chamber.html. which is designed specially to fit in office, clinic and even at school with it's safety and effectiveness.
This therapy with 100% pure oxygen supply with "flash-through" system give oxygen at its saturation level to whole body fluids, tissues and neuronal cells. It may not cure autism but can improve autism with an enormous improvement of cognitive disabilities.

If these schools try HBOT for their students from an initial stage like, from 1st grade, then after 3rd grade most of students can behave like other normal students (non-autistic). Then there must be no question will arise about the replacement of autistic child.

Submitted by Renae Tesauro for WebTeam (not verified) on May 13, 2014 2:02 pm

The challenges faced in the Philadelphia School System are not unique. Unfortunately, school districts around the country and throughout the world face similar changes due to lack of funds and faculty trained to work with autistic students.

Since 2007, Somerset, NJ-based WebTeam Corporation has collaborated with education and healthcare experts to develop innovative integrated solutions for autism management that 1) Unite stakeholders in a synchronized holistic manner and deliver intervention that is more individualized, consistent, accessible, measurable and cost effective. 2) Provide school districts with a cost-effective method for meeting special education needs. 3) Extend classroom training into the home. 4) Offer autistic individuals a higher degree of independence. 5) Help reduce the costs of lifelong care with early diagnosis and intense intervention.

WebTeam’s award-winning technology, used by therapists and BCBAs, hospitals, school districts, private schools and parents across mobile and wireless platforms, includes 1) the only mobile screening app that helps parents and pediatricians detect signs of autism in infants as early as 8 months 2) the iLearnNEarn series of mobile apps and kiosk-based programs that utilize evidence-based Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) methods to help education and healthcare professionals engage more students and help parents extend classroom training into the home. 3) iAssessNTeach apps to help parents and professionals involved in the education of infants and toddlers with autism (Home Series) and school-age children (School Series) systematically assess skill areas in all domains and set learning goals.

At the 2014 International CES, WebTeam’s innovative autism management technology received global recognition, when Verizon awarded the company $500,000 in its Powerful Answers Award Contest.

The company's mission is to increase the bandwidth of the educational bodies and service providers to accommodate the increasing demand of autism intervention along with helping children with ADHD, autism and Asperger's to improve their lives by making them independent.

You can learn more about WebTeam’s collaborative initiatives, programs and apps, by visiting http://www.webteamcorp.com.

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