Two Great Resources for Connecticut Parents of Children with Special Educational Needs

Nov 15, 2014 by

Yes, you can borrow from my extensive home education law library!  (Cat not included.)

Mingus guards my education law library.
Image by M. Dunn 

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything directly pertaining to the work I do with families of children with disabilities. I am a special education attorney who represents parents trying to obtain an appropriate educational program, known as an IEP which is short for Individualized Education Program, for their children with disabilities. This past week, I had the pleasure of speaking to parents of children with special needs, as well as other professionals who work with public school students with disabilities, about my work as well as some tips about special education advocacy.

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Common Core, DRA, MAP, Standardized Testing: What it All Means to Me

Mar 27, 2014 by


It is school conference and report card time and with 3 children in the public school system, there are a lot of numbers coming at me.  Reading test scores, math test scores, and everything in between.  Some of these numbers have been listed as “above average” and some have been listed as “below average”.  There was a time when these scores would  have meant a lot to me, but now I try to keep all the percentages in perspective.

You see, I was a strong student.  I remember taking standardized tests in school, performing well on them, and taking a great deal of pride in that.  I thought those numbers on the paper said something about who I was.  But now? In my 30’s with a beautiful family, happy marriage, and successful career? I don’t think those numbers had any bearing on where I am today.  Sure, good test scores got me into a good college and then a good graduate program…but then I landed in a job that doesn’t use one iota of that education.  What got me where I am today are not things that standardized testing could measure.  Perseverance, confidence, determination, analytical nature, an open heart and mind, and an ability to hear, read, and understand people…these are the qualities I see in myself that have allowed me to grab onto a rewarding life.

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Parent-Teacher Conference

Dec 31, 2013 by


Parent-teacher conferences were scheduled for the end of November this year. Even though it was a crisp fall day, I soaked through my blouse before I walked through the front door of school. No matter how organized I feel, these meetings are the most stressful part of parenting school-aged children.

One of the most influential moments in my life was my fourth grade parent-teacher conference. I knew I wasn’t Mrs. R’s favorite student, but that moment confirmed it. In front of my mother, she essentially dismissed my performance for the first marking period and really didn’t have many practical suggestions for how I could improve. I was invisible; and without overty saying the word, “lazy”. It was a wake up call and a challenge that gave me purpose.

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So grateful

Nov 26, 2013 by

Time to give thanks!  I know how fortunate and blessed I am, and give thanks every day in my mind to whatever higher power has brought me this amazing life.  But sometimes it’s good to say it out loud.

I am thankful for (in no particular order):

  • Healthy children who have grown up to be wonderful, accomplished young men.
  • An amazing stepson who is the third child I always wanted.
  • My husband, in so many ways that I don’t have room to spell them out.  He’s the kindest person I know.  Over the last 8 years, he has made such an effort to get to know himself and to change damaging thinking that kept him from appreciating and enjoying his life.  He continues to evolve and that’s what makes our relationship interesting and exciting.  I have fun with him no matter what we are doing — even grocery shopping.  Sometimes I think about what my life would be like now with my 2 sons grown up and out on their own.  I’d be a crazy dog lady hoarder if good fortune had not brought my husband and my stepson to me.
  • 22 years in a job I love.  The work gets me revved up every day.  I get to make a difference in people’s lives and change the world, and they PAY me for it.
  • Skype!  Just learned to use it and now I am visiting with my dear sister every Friday when my grandson is here.  So much fun and way better than a phone call.  I also got to see my Rhode Island son last night via Skype — a real treat for thirsty Mom eyes.
  • Financial solvency.  Spent a lot of time in scary fingernail-biting scenarios with 3 mortgages, bankruptcy, utility company workers coming to shut off the electricity, garnished wages and other stuff I’ve repressed.  Slowly (after excising the source of the trouble) I rebuilt my credit rating and my finances.  I never take this for granted and always have a heart-pounding moment when someone is considering my credit rating, remembering being embarrassed in lots of public settings.
  • My adorable healthy grandson and the privilege I have been given to see him every week.  I have never felt as much joy as I have since he was born.
  • My dogs.  Mischief and unconditional love, wrapped in 2 cute puppy suits.
  • A home that is warm, dry, safe and comfortable.  I really love my house and can’t believe I’ve lived here 30 years, because I still get excited when I drive up the driveway and see it.
  • My education.  Amazing academic public high school for girls only (and I am still in touch with many of them — thank you, Facebook!), a true liberal arts education at a fine university, and a law degree from another fine university.  I did it with financial aid and lots of student loans, and when I look back now, I am amazed at how lucky I was to attend such wonderful schools without having any money.
  • My relative good health.  There are some issues here and there in the old body, of course, after 61 years of constant usage, but I can walk and think and hear and see, and that is a huge blessing.  I know so many people who can’t do these things.
  • Growing up without restrictions being placed on me because I was female. My parents were pretty old-fashioned so I am not sure how I escaped their commanding me to be a nurse or a teacher (fine professions, of course), but maybe I just wasn’t listening to them, which happened quite often.
  • The Internet.  It’s a blessing and a curse, because all the information in the world is available to me but at the same time, all that information is so seductive that I have trouble stopping!
  • Good friends and colleagues who have been so helpful and loving to me.  I have become less and less social as the years go by, preferring my own company to that of anyone else’s, but there are still a few people who can make me laugh out loud and with whom I can enjoy a cozy cup of coffee.
  • Freedom from oppression, freedom to speak my mind politically and intellectually, freedom to vote as I choose — our country may have its problems, but it is still a great stroke of luck to have been born an American.

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Advice to My Daughter: How to Enjoy School

Sep 25, 2013 by

Walking into school

Entering the great unknown.

Please try not to eat your friends’ lunch. Thank you for opening up and telling me that is what you did the other day. I know your friend’s rainbow yogurt is staring you in the face saying “eat me” and the person sitting across from you is happily devouring a tempting bowl of mac ‘n cheese while you eat almond butter & jelly for the second day in a row, but please, PLEASE stop trying to steal their lunches. This does not score points with the teacher who has to pry said rainbow yogurt out of your hands, nor will your friends want to eat with you if they are constantly looking over their shoulders waiting for you to move in on their spaghetti and meatballs. Mommy promises to get a little more creative with lunch. I think you’ll like the leftovers I packed for you today. Just a few more years until you will be served school-provided hot lunch, then you’ll have the same food as your friends. Mommy is counting down the days!

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