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Diverse Thinking Different Learning

Jun 1, 2021

Are you concerned about whether your child has made meaningful progress over the last year in school? We all know that this last year has been a challenge for many, especially children. But what learning loss can be attributed to the pandemic and what needs to be looked at more closely? Today’s guest is an incredible special education attorney who is passionate about advocating for children and adults. You can hear the passion in her voice throughout this entire episode and she brings to light a lot of concerns as we begin the transition to heading back to the brick and mortar classroom environment.


Our guest, Heather Zakson, is a special education attorney.  She answers a plethora of questions in this episode, shares staggering statistics, explains legislation and federal funding, and encourages all parents to strongly advocate for their children.



Show Notes:

[3:01] - The transition going back to school is a front and center concern for a lot of families.

[3:58] - Heather shares her surprise at how well so many children did with the distance learning situation over the last year, particularly those with autism.

[5:10] - Distance learning unlocked more tools and opportunities for many students. [6:18] - Some parents are really strong at organizing and supporting their children at home.

[7:57] - Data is our stock and trade in special education. We need the information to compare data over time to see what’s working.

[8:59] - A lot of work is done on screen and not kept in a paper format. Heather recommends always taking a screenshot of work to archive a child’s progress.

[10:03] - Having formal assessments done after this time of distance learning is going to be a great indicator of progress made in that remote setting.

[11:49] - Don’t think of assessments as something dictated only by schools.

[12:46] - Just like a blood test that tells a doctor what kind of medication you need, a psychological assessment will give us information on what intervention and support is needed.

[13:44] - When seeking a private assessment, you have the control on who to conduct the testing and who to share the information with.

[14:33] - If you are unable to have a private assessment done, Heather explains how it works through the school system. You can ask for a second opinion.

[17:20] - Although we have seen the good things that have come from distance learning, there are many students who have suffered with great educational loss.

[18:25] - Heather advises that if you think there is something wrong, follow your gut. Talking to your child’s teacher is a great place to start.

[19:40] - All public schools have the ability to assess. Heather also explains that you may need to push for an evaluation to avoid a “wait and see” approach.

[21:38] - When a child is behind, moving forward without support will just make them fall farther behind. Early intervention is crucial.

[23:10] - When you are out there advocating for your child, don’t take no for an answer. 

[25:08] - There are some red flags that teachers may say to push parents away from an evaluation.

[26:29] - Heather shares a story about a client who was recently diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder sitting alone on the playground.

[27:53] - We know how to support children with social difficulties and with appropriate support, they can have a completely different educational experience.

[29:45] - Heather and Karen are concerned that the pandemic and time during distance learning will be blamed rather than looking at real underlying learning struggles.

[30:54] - Heather explains what recoupment means and how this affects the near future of special education.

[32:46] - Children with learning disabilities are legally entitled to remediation.

[34:22] - When there is a reading and/or language delay, there needs to be evidence-based targeted reading instruction. But to get that, there must be a screening.

[35:40] - Heather discusses SB 237 that needs to be voted for. What will this do?

[37:18] - Information doesn’t hurt anyone. It doesn’t put labels on anyone.

[38:07] - Heather shares statistics for kids in California who are not meeting grade-level standards.

[40:28] - Dyslexia screening should be a mandatory part of assessment early on for every student.

[41:10] - What is SB 488 and how will it affect university programs for teachers?

[42:53] - Heather shares her frustration and anger surrounding teacher standards being lowered to be more inclusive. She believes that this is an argument that doesn’t make sense.

[44:50] - The Right to Read Project and Decoding Dyslexia are highly recommended to look into by both Heather and Karen.

[46:27] - Every year is different when it comes to funding. Heather explains the push for federal funding for special education. 

[48:19] - The real test of our educational system is how we support our students who struggle the most.

[49:02] - Where the money comes from for intervention and support is not a parent’s problem. Every child is entitled to an appropriate education and remediation of learning disabilities when appropriate.

About Our Guest:

Heather Zakson represents children and adults in special education, Regional Center and discrimination cases and provides expert consultation on complex custody and guardianship matters. She is widely recognized for her creativity and tenacity on behalf of those whose rights have been violated and needs have gone unmet. She is a graduate of UCLA School of Law and Brandeis University, and has been practicing law for 18 Years.


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