Posts tagged with "504 Plan"

What Services Are Required for School-Aged Children with Autism in Connecticut?

Children with autism are eligible for special education and related services in Connecticut.  State and federal law does not require local school districts to provide particular services for children with autism.  These laws do require school districts to identify children with disabilities that affect their educational performance and provide them with a free and appropriate public education tailored to their individual needs.

Specific services for autistic children depend on his or her disability and individualized educational program.  This program is established by the child’s planning and placement team.  A planning and placement team is a group consisting of the child’s parents, teachers, and educational specialist that evaluate the child’s services annually.

If you have any questions related to education law in Connecticut, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. at (203) 221-3100 or e-mail him directly at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

Special Needs Trusts in Connecticut

A special needs trust is set up for a person with special needs to supplement any benefits the person with special needs may receive from government programs. A properly drafted special needs trust will allow the beneficiary to receive government benefits while still receiving funds from the trust. There are three main types of special needs trusts, but first it is important to understand how a typical trust works.

What is a trust?

A trust is really a relationship between three parties — a donor, who supplies the funds for the trust; a trustee, who agrees to hold and administer the funds according to the donor’s wishes; and a beneficiary or beneficiaries who receive the benefit of the funds. Often, but not always, the donor’s wishes are spelled out in a document that gives the trustee instructions about how she should use the trust assets. Trusts have been used for estate planning for a long time, and are highly useful tools for ensuring that a donor’s property is administered as he sees fit. One of the reasons trusts are so popular is that they usually survive the death of the donor, providing a low-cost way to manage the donor’s assets for others when the donor is gone.

What is a Special Needs Trust?

A special needs trust is a trust tailored to a person with special needs that is designed to manage assets for that person’s benefit while not compromising access to important government benefits. There are three main types of special needs trusts: the first-party trust, the third-party trust, and the pooled trust. All three name the person with special needs as the beneficiary. A “first-party” special needs trust holds assets that belong to the person with special needs, such as an inheritance or an accident settlement. A “third-party” special needs trust holds funds belonging to other people who want to help the person with special needs. A pooled trust holds funds from many different beneficiaries with special needs.

What kinds of Special Needs Trusts are there?

The reason there are several different types of trusts has to do with regulations regarding Supplemental Security Income (SSI). SSI is a government program that assists people with low incomes who have special needs. In order to qualify for SSI, an applicant or beneficiary can have only $2,000 in his own name. If the person has more than $2,000 in his own name, (typically because of excess savings, an inheritance or an accident settlement), the government allows him to qualify for SSI so long as he places his assets into a first-party special needs trust.

The trust must be created by the beneficiary’s parent or grandparent, or by a court, but it cannot be created by the beneficiary, even though his assets are going to fund the trust. While the beneficiary is living, the funds in the trust are used for his benefit, and when he dies, any assets remaining in the trust are used to reimburse the government for the cost of his medical care. These trusts are especially useful for beneficiaries who are receiving SSI and come into large amounts of money, because the trust allows the beneficiary to retain his benefits while still being able to use his own funds when necessary.

Third-Party Special Needs Trusts

The third-party special needs trust is most often used by parents and other family members to assist a person with special needs. These trusts can hold any kind of asset imaginable belonging to the family member or other individual, including a house, stocks and bonds, and other types of investments.

The third-party trust functions like a first-party special needs trust in that the assets held in the trust do not affect an SSI beneficiary’s access to benefits and the funds can be used to pay for the beneficiary’s supplemental needs beyond those covered by government benefits. But a third-party special needs trust does not contain the “payback” provision found in first-party trusts. This means that when the beneficiary with special needs dies, any funds remaining in her trust can pass to other family members, or to charity, without having to be used to reimburse the government.

Pooled Special Needs Trust

A pooled trust is an alternative to the first-party special needs trust. Essentially, a charity sets up these trusts that allow beneficiaries to pool their resources for investment purposes, while still maintaining separate accounts for each beneficiary’s needs. When the beneficiary dies, the funds remaining in her account reimburse the government for her care, but a portion also goes towards the non-profit organization responsible for managing the trust.

Anyone can establish a special needs trust and, if the trust is properly drafted to account for tax planning, in certain situations gifts into the trust could very well reduce the size of the donor’s taxable estate. As if these are not enough reasons to create a trust, elderly people who are attempting to qualify for long-term care coverage through Medicaid can transfer their assets into a properly drafted third-party special needs trust for the sole benefit of a person with disabilities without incurring a transfer-of-assets penalty, allowing the elder to qualify for Medicaid and making sure that the person with disabilities is taken care of in the future.

Of course, every person with special needs is different, which means that every special needs trust is going to be different as well. The only way to determine which special needs trust is right for your family is to meet with a qualified special needs planner to discuss your needs. If you have any questions regarding this topic, or any special education law matter, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.

What are Special Education Related Services?

Your child’s need of related services will be determined by your child’s Planning and Placement Team (PPT) or Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Services shall be implemented as part of his or her IEP. Your child’s school district is responsible for the costs of implementing related services pertaining to your child’s needs. This is part of the school’s requirement to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE). FAPE, by definition, includes related services.

The following are examples of related services:

  • speech-language pathology and audiology services
  • interpreting services
  • psychological services
  • physical and occupational therapy
  • recreation, including therapeutic recreation
  • social work services
  • counseling services, including rehabilitation counseling
  • orientation, mobility and medical services (except that such medical services shall be for diagnostic and evaluation purposes only)

If you have any questions regarding this topic, or any special education law matter, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.

Special Education and COVID-19: Impact on your Child’s Section 504 Plan or IEP

In March of 2020, many Governors across the country closed their schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  On March 21, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education (“DOE”) published guidance for local school agencies on how to appropriately handle special education and services to children with disabilities during the ongoing public health crisis. The DOE has emphasized that school districts’ compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) school districts should not prevent distance instruction.  Accordingly, special education services should continue during the period of remote learning from home as much as feasible.

During school closures due to the virus, if local education agencies (“LEAs”) continue to provide educational opportunities to general student populations, children with disabilities are entitled to receive the same educational opportunities that are being afforded to general student populations.  Specifically, children with disabilities are entitled to a free and appropriate education (“FAPE”), pursuant to Section 504 and the ADA.   LEAs must ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, each student with a disability be provided the special education and related services set forth in the student’s IEP or Section 504 Plan.  In the event of school closures, an IEP Team or PPT may, but is not required to, consider remote or distance learning plans in your child’s IEP, as long as the instruction is meaningful.

During the COVID-19 national emergency, schools may not be able to provide all services in the same manner that are typically provided to students.  While it may be unfeasible or unsafe for some school districts, during current emergency school closures, to provide hands-on physical therapy, occupational therapy, or sign language educational services, some disability-related modifications and services may be effectively provided online.  For example, extensions of time for assignments, videos with accurate captioning or embedded sign language interpreting, accessible reading materials, and speech or language services by way of video conferencing may all be successfully instituted remotely for students with disabilities.  Teachers providing special education plans may have to create more specific daily or weekly plans for a special needs child who is now at home for the rest of the school year.

Additionally, the DOE guidance includes IDEA timelines for state complaints, IEPs, reevaluations, and due process hearings and encourages school teams and parents to work collaboratively and creatively to meet IEP timeline requirements. If a child has been found eligible to receive special education and related services under the IDEA, the IEP Team must meet and develop an initial IEP within 30 days of that determination and IEPs must be reviewed on an annual basis.  However, due to COVID-19, parents and school districts may agree to conduct IEP meetings through alternate means, including video conferences or telephonic conference calls.  Of note, due to the pandemic, when making changes to a child’s IEP, the parent of a child with a disability and the school district may agree to not convene an IEP Team meeting for the purposes of making changes and can develop a written amendment or modification to the child’s IEP.

A reevaluation of a child with a disability must occur at least every three years, unless both the parents and school district agree that a reevaluation is unnecessary. However, a reevaluation may be conducted through a review of existing evaluation data when appropriate, without a meeting and without obtaining parental consent, unless it is determined that additional assessments are needed.

In regard to state special education complaints, absent agreement by the parties, a state may be able to extend the 60-day timeline for complaint resolution, if exceptional circumstances exist.  The DOE has now stated that exceptional circumstances include a large number of state workers unavailable or absent from work for an extended period of time due to the pandemic.  In regard to due process hearings, the parties can come to a mutual agreement to extend the 30-day resolution deadline due to COVID-19.  Additionally, a due process hearing officer may grant a specific extension of time at the request of either party to the hearing.

Moreover, when a child with a disability is classified as needing homebound instruction because of a medical problem, as ordered by a physician, and is home for an extended period of time, generally more than ten (10) consecutive school days, an individualized education program (IEP) meeting could be necessary to change the child’s placement and the contents of the child’s IEP.  If a child with a disability contracts COVID-19 and has to be absent from school for an extended period of time while school is open, parents or guardians may be able to make arrangements with the LEA to provide homebound instruction special education and related services.

If you have any questions about special education and related services during the COVID-19 pandemic, contact Attorney Joseph Maya at (203) 221-3100 or JMaya@mayalaw.com for a complimentary consultation regarding your matter.