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As a Hudson Valley Parent I can personally attest to the importance of having trustworthy and reliable childcare. However, what happens when your work schedule doesn’t fall neatly into a 9 to 5 template? Thankfully, there are facilities like Hunny Bee’s Daycare to help pick up the slack.

Hunny Bee’s Daycare is run by Anne Monahan, who is just about the warmest person you could ever hope to meet. In addition to boasting a well-trained, caring, and family oriented staff, Hunny Bee’s can accommodate your ever-changing schedule with weekend and overnight care available upon request. Her kind and caring staff also offers a Pre-K curriculum which includes instruction in American Sign language.

Hunny Bee’s Daycare was established in 1994, and has been an important part of the community ever since. For more information or to make an appointment contact Anne at (845) 569-8665 or

Monroe-Woodbury  High School has been rocked by two student suicides which occurred nine days apart. As grief counselors fan out to help students and families cope, they’re also scrambling to prevent copycat cases from occurring.  A high-profile teen suicide can cause others to follow suit. In fact, in some countries, teen suicides are not reported, in an effort to keep other teens from getting any ideas.

School officials say they don’t believe the two deaths were related. A 14-year-old freshman killed himself on Tuesday. The 16-year-old junior who committed suicide earlier was on the school’s football team. Friends and families have been left asking why, especially since the cases are not isolated. There has also been an attempted suicide by one student and a suicide threat by another.

Studies show that suicide is the third leading cause of death among teenagers. Experts say that the onset of winter poses a dangerous time for those susceptible to depression. Combined with the fact that teenagers can be impressionable; mental health specialists have plenty cause for concern.  Parents who think their child is at risk, should look for warning signs, such as depression and changes in behavior. The school is planning to hold sessions with parents this week to explain risk factors in detail. It’s important to seek counseling quickly.

Friends of both teens have set up Facebook pages in remembrance of them. One page posts a reminder to visitors about the importance of telling others if they’re considering suicide, while the other makes reference to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and the Jason Foundation, which is another suicide prevention organization. If you know of someone who is at risk, contact Orange County’s 24-hour mobile mental health clinic at 888-750-2266, the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK or email AFSP at

It’s no secret that education is a hot topic in the news. Local test scores are down, they just got rid of the “D” grade, and schools are still slashing budgets left and right. Things have to change. NBC News recently announced that it is “convening its own summit with education and political leaders in September to talk about ways to improve schools in light of statistics showing the U.S. lagging in student achievement.” Do you think the summit will improve things?

We are delighted to invite bloggers to join our site and blog topics that are of personal interest.

 We are asked how often you should blog. As often as you like is the answer, but the more often you blog the more times people will return to read your information.

 It is important to note that a blog is not an article. An article is a one-way conversation – you share information. A blog, when successful, is a two-way communication – you state an idea and other add to your ideas. In a blog, when done well, the whole is better than the original blog because additional information has been added.

 Here are some blogging tips

  1. Make each blog 150 to 200 words, no more.
  2. Include your main points up front;
  3. Use sub-head in sections of your blog to make the piece easy to read.
  4. Use short paragraphs
  5. Create a blog using lists like:  3 Best Ways to…,  How to find…., Best Resources include…
  6. Develop a catchy headline (If you need help with this let us know)
  7. At the end of your blog elicit response from your readers. Ask a question, like “What resources would you suggest?” or “How did you find…” You want to encourage people to respond to your information.
  8. Last, when people respond to your blog you should respond to the blogger. That will encourage them to come back.

 If you would like to blog on our site, send an email to Include the name of your organization (if you want to do it as an individual, just give us your name.), the address, phone number, the topic you would like to blog about, and the email you will be blogging from. If appropriate, we will invite you to blog through WordPress, which is the blogging site we are using. When you get your invitation, you will be asked to sign up for your own blog or for a blog name only. Sign up for a blog name and then let us know when you have completed the setup. We will then include you on our site as a contributor. Our blog administrator is notified of all blogs and posts them.

 Do you have blogging tips that you think should be added to this list?

Patricia S. Phelan runs The Law Office of Patricia S. Phelan – a practice dedicated exclusively to the field of special education law and advocacy.  Ms. Phelan has been practicing law for eighteen years and is an experienced litigator as well as a parent of a child with a disability.  For guidance about your child’s rights under the law, please contact Ms. Phelan by email at or telephone at 914-629-4707.  For more information about The Law Office of Patricia S. Phelan, go to

Summer is approaching.  Many parents and their children are looking forward to weeks of no school, and the freedom to play, swim and not be on any schedule!  

However, for the child with special needs, and his or her parents, the anticipation of summer can bring about unwanted anxiety and fear. 

Over the years, through my advocacy on behalf of other parents of children with special needs, as well as on behalf of my own child with a disability, I have learned to dismiss some common myths about summer services for children with disabilities.


FACT: Down time is not necessarily relaxing or a good thing for many children with disabilities.  Indeed, most children with disabilities are used to and comforted by the structure and predictability of their routine during the school year.  The sudden change brought about by the summer months is often very challenging for children with special needs. 

Depending upon your child’s particular disability, just anticipating two months of no school and the absence of familiar structure, can be debilitating.  You may see signs of this anxiety building around this time of spring, and continuing throughout the summer.  Indeed, your child may appear more inflexible, controlling, aggressive, intolerant and moody.  These are common signs that your child’s anxiety is increasing as he contemplates the next few months of less structure and new transitions.  His schedule will be filled with less predictability.  As a result, he will feel more out of control, and less sure of what to expect and what is expected of him each day.  Of course, as parents of these increasingly anxious children, our anxiety naturally increases.

Also, down time, particularly for younger children with disabilities, is often not constructive. It is a loss of crucial time in the small window of opportunity that the youngster could be working on gaining important skills. 

Accordingly, many children require a continuation of education, structure and predictability beyond the school day and beyond the 10 months of the typical school year.   The law refers to such services as “extended school year” (“ESY”). 

Most commonly, ESY services refer to services through the summer months.  Keep in mind, however, that if appropriate under the law for your child’s individual needs, special services can be had for twelve months – – including during other school vacations, and even after school (also known as “extended school day”).

There is a broad range of types of services that can be obtained for the ESY.  For example, such services might be a full or part day, school-like program.  Alternatively, such ESY services might be a part-time, special educator (known as a SEIT) who accompanies your child to camp or another activity, or provides intervention in your home.  ESY services can also simply be related services (such as speech, occupational or physical therapy).

As you may know, the primary Federal Law which guides special education is the Individual with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, better known as the IDEA 2004 (“IDEA”).  Under the Federal Regulations interpreting the IDEA (see 34 C.F.R. §300.106), ESY services for a child classified with a disability expressly include special education and related services provided at any time beyond the normal school year, according to a child’s IEP, and at no cost to the child’s parents. 

Consider whether your child might need ESY services.  Discuss this issue with your child’s teachers, doctors, and any other professionals working with your child.

Dispelling Myths – Part II

Patricia S. Phelan runs The Law Office of Patricia S. Phelan – a practice dedicated exclusively to the field of special education law and advocacy.  Ms. Phelan has been practicing law for eighteen years and is an experienced litigator as well as a parent of a child with a disability.  For guidance about your child’s rights under the law, please contact Ms. Phelan by email at or telephone at 914-629-4707.  For more information about The Law Office of Patricia S. Phelan, go to YOUR CHILD IS AUTOMATICALLY ENTITLED TO SUMMER SERVICES IF HE/SHE RECEIVES SPECIAL EDUCATION SERVICES DURING THE REST OF THE SCHOOL YEAR. 

FACT: Unfortunately, under the law, there is no automatic guarantee to summer services.

The IDEA does not set a standard for ESY services.  However, the Federal Regulations which interpret the IDEA grant ESY services “only if a child’s IEP Team determines, on an individual basis … that the services are necessary for the provision of FAPE [a free and appropriate education] to the child.”  34 C.F.R. §300.106(a)(2).

Keep in mind that the law does not permit a school district or other public agency to limit ESY services to only certain categories of disabilities.  They also cannot limit such services by type, amount or duration.  However, ESY services will only be provided if deemed appropriate under the law.

Eligibility for ESY services differs slightly among the states.  In New York State, a child with a disability is eligible for ESY services if necessary “to prevent substantial regression” [see 8 NYCRR §200.6(k) for the other factors involved in the ESY determination].

What is “substantial regression”?  “Substantial regression would be indicated by a student’s inability to maintain developmental levels due to a loss of skill, set of skill competencies or knowledge during the months of July and August.”

Indeed, typically, there is an ordinary period of time that children take at the beginning of the school year to catch up to where they were developmentally at the end of the preceding year (before the summer vacation).  NYS defines this accepted period of review or reteaching as ranging from 20-40 school days.  IF a child needs more than that – – a review period of eight weeks or more to re-gain the skills that they have lost over the summer – – under the law, he or she has substantially regressed, and therefore would be entitled to ESY services.

The determination as to whether your child qualifies for ESY services is ultimately made by the IEP team.  Remember that you, as the parent, are an active member of this team. If you feel your child might be eligible for ESY services, discuss this with your child’s teachers and other members of the educational team even before the IEP meeting.  In advance of the IEP meeting, request that one or more of the professionals working with your child (from school and/or privately) write a “Regression Statement.”   This would show why your child would need special services to catch up at the beginning of the next school year, to where he or she was functioning before the summer began.  Either before or at your child’s annual review IEP meeting, present this information to the other members of the IEP team in an effort to establish your child’s eligibility for ESY services.

Please do not hesitate to contact The Law Office of Patricia S. Phelan for help in analyzing your child’s appropriateness under the law for ESY services.


FACT: If your child is entitled to ESY services under the law, and your school has no programs to offer your child, your school district must look to other possible schools – – even those located outside of your district – – for an appropriate placement for your child.


FACT: With a little creativity, and hard work, even if your child is not entitled to ESY services, during the summer and other school breaks, you can still keep your child active and provide him or her with some fun and well needed structure.

Here are some general (and at times, low or no-cost) suggestions to explore, beyond ESY services, which you might consider for your child:

  • Participate in library summer reading programs
  • Attend story time at the library, book store, etc.
  • Day camps
  • Swim clubs (which often have smaller camp-like groups for their members to sign up for)
  • Art or music classes
  • Arrange for play dates
  • Periodic reinforcement of academic skills [Before the end of the school year, get some ditto sheets or other activities for reinforcing some of your child’s math, handwriting, spelling or other academic skills.  Then build in some educational activities within your child’s day
  • Make a visual/picture schedule with your child, and then use this over the summer

For some very useful local information about summer activities in and around Rockland County for your child with a disability, log onto: and

Understand your child’s IEP

 Patricia S. Phelan runs The Law Office of Patricia S. Phelan – a practice dedicated exclusively to the field of special education law and advocacy.  Ms. Phelan has been practicing law for eighteen years and is an experienced litigator as well as a parent of a child with a disability.  For guidance about your child’s rights under the law, please contact Ms. Phelan by email at or telephone at 845-398-3273.  For more information about The Law Office of Patricia S. Phelan, go to

Once you have read your child’s IEP, follow these simple steps to better understand the IEP. First, copy the IEP. File the original in a binder you have set aside for that purpose.

Working with the copy, highlight each heading, separating the eight categories. Then look to see if the IEP says one thing in one place and the opposite in another. Highlight any inconsistencies. Also highlight anything that seems different from your recollection of what was said at the IEP meeting. Write notes in the margins.

Other areas you might want to highlight include:

  • Any reference to parent training.
  • Anything to be done by the parent.

It is crucial to a child’s educational success that parents are on board with what is occurring at school. Parents must also take steps outside of school to carry over what their children learn in school.

Summarize your IEP

Once you have reviewed the IEP in this manner, take out a plain piece of paper. You are going to summarize your IEP for a quick-reference guide.

  • Services and Programs

Make a list of all services and programs your child will receive according to the IEP. Include how often your child will get this service (frequency). Write down how long the service will last each session (duration). Say how many children to teachers will be in your child’s group (ratio). (For example: speech and language – 2 times a week x 30 minutes; 3 students: 1 therapist). This will give you a simple list of what services your child should be getting.

After school starts, you should speak with the teachers to make sure your child’s services are actually taking place as directed in the IEP.

  •  Parent Responsibilities

Make a list of any specific tasks that you are given. These might include parent training, reviewing homework, etc.

  • Child’s Goals

Write a brief description of each goal your child will work on. Mark down which teacher is supposed to tell you about your child’s progress toward each goal. Number these goals consistently with the numbers in the IEP so they are easy to correlate.

This brief list gives you a quick reference to what your child should be working on at school.

You can communicate from time to time with your child’s teachers.

You should have an open relationship with them. Be careful, however, not to be too intrusive. Balance is important. Ask the teachers for any information they may have to help your child meet his or her goals outside of school.

Let the teachers know if you have any questions or concerns about how your child is doing. This approach will help you make sure your child continues to advance on each goal even before you receive formal progress notes.

If your child does not seem to be advancing, you should ask to meet with your child’s teachers. If necessary, you can also ask for a formal IEP meeting to review the educational plan with the team.

Summarize the PLOPs

If you have not done so already, when you prepared for your child’s IEP meeting, make a list of his or her Present Levels of Academic Achievement, Functional Performance and Individual Needs (PLOPs).  As you learned in an earlier Part of this Series, this is a summary of your child’s academic, social, physical, and management needs (supports needed to help your child learn). 

In order to help you to record your child’s PLOPs, download a PLOPs tracking form from my web sight (

This is a valuable tool to use not only to determine if your child’s IEP is accurate, but also to hand to people working with your child to summarize your child’s strengths and needs.

Determine whether your IEP is Accurate

The IEP was created at a team meeting. That meeting probably happened weeks or months before you received the document in the mail. It is important to make sure that the recommendations the team made during the IEP meeting are correctly stated in the written IEP.

Parents should take the following steps:

  • Review any notes you took during the IEP meeting.
  • Compare the notes with the written IEP.
  • If you taped the meeting, dig out the tape, review it, and compare it to the written IEP.
    • Be aware that you are allowed to tape in many states. There is nothing under either Federal or New York law that says you cannot openly tape an IEP meeting.
    • Check with your school district, however, to see if they have a policy about taping.  If they do, politely ask for a copy of the policy, in writing.  Even if your school does have a policy against taping, they still must allow you to tape if their policy does not let you sufficiently participate in the IEP process.
    • If you do tape, give the school district advance notice.
  • After the IEP meeting, you may have wisely written a “thank you” letter politely explaining what was agreed to. Now is the time to compare your copy of that letter with the written IEP. If you did not write a letter, remember to do so next year! Always say thank you.
  • Consider speaking to others who were at the meeting. Ask them what they remember. Compare their recollections to the information in the written IEP.
  • Compare the PLOPs form you created with the description of the PLOPs on the IEP.

If you are completely happy with the IEP at this stage, write a short note thanking the chairperson of your meeting. It is a good practice to document successes as well as problems.

On the other hand, if you have any concerns about the written IEP, you must explain them in a letter to the school district. Your concerns might focus on whether the IEP is written correctly. You might also be concerned about the level of services recommended.

Letter to the District

Here are some guidelines for a letter, should you need to send one:

  • Explain that you received the IEP.
  • Thank the school district for its attention to your child’s educational needs.
  • State that you hope to continue to work together with the district on your child’s needs.
  • Explain that after reviewing the IEP, you have some concerns.
  • Specify your concerns.
  • Suggest a solution for these problems. You might request that the district simply correct mistakes in the written IEP. But you also might need another meeting to change the services recommended.
  • Ask that this letter become part of your child’s educational file.
  • Address the letter to the chairperson of the meeting. If the director of special education did not chair the meeting, address it to the director, as well.
  • Make plans to deliver this letter by hand to each recipient.
  • Before you deliver the letter, copy it. The duplicate is your “file” copy.
  • On the back of your file copy, write the day and time of delivery.
  • Try to personally hand the letter to each intended recipient.
  • If you must give it to someone else, make note of the name of the person who receives it and keep it for your files. (Also describe what this person looks like and what he or she is wearing.) Be sure to ask this person to give your letter to the person for whom it is intended.

The goal is for you and your school district to be able to quickly fix any concerns you have. If obstacles arise, ask yourself whether your concerns are significant to your child’s special education program. If they are, you might consider consulting with a special education attorney. An attorney can effectively help you figure out your options and advocate for your child’s needs.

In my next blog, I will address some organizational strategies to help you keep good records of your child’s performance.

For additional resources, including helpful books and links to other web sites, I encourage you to access my web site at             

  *I would like to thank Pete and Pam Wright for their assistance in editing certain portions of this blog.

bout me:  Sharon MacGregor I am a freelance writer and columnist living in Sulllivan County.  My husband and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary last year and are raising our two man-cubs with both old-fashioned and modern parenting styles.  Another member of our family is our one-year old, yellow Lab, Maddy.  I look forward to sharing a slice of our family life and family related news with the Hudson Valley Parent community!  

It has become more common for parents to look into or set-up college funds, though what that consists of is as varied as choosing a family vacation.  If you have a child, and college is on the list of things to do, start saving now!  If your child is raised to believe that saving for college is simply something that must be done rather than an option they can pass over, they will contribute. 


Think the idea of saving the thousands of dollars one child may need for even a two-year associate’s degree at a community college sounds a bit daunting?  You and your child can do it over time with some help and planning.  The sooner you start, the less painful it can be!


I just learned you can partner with companies you are already patronizing, such as Exxon-Mobil and Hannaford’s Supermarket and participate in their college savings programs.  For example, a small portion of your total at the gas station can be set aside for your child to use for their education.  The same theory is used for Hannaford’s Upromise program.


Think about the cash gifts your child is given over their first 18 years.  Birthdays, holidays, special achievements and celebrations may all be reason for friends and family to give your child monetary gifts and these can be divided between a purchase and college savings.  As your child grows and earns money through part-time jobs, a designated amount should be put aside for college and with as little as $25 or $50 you can open a 529. 

 What is a 529? “It is a tax-advantaged savings plan designed to encourage saving for future college costs. 529 plans, legally known as ‘qualified tuition plans,’ are sponsored by states, state agencies, or educational institutions and are authorized by Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code.” (Source: Smart Saving for College, FINRA®

According to, “Withdrawals for qualifying education expenses are tax-free. This tax-free status was set to expire in 2010, but Congress made the benefit permanent in 2006. Also, 529 plans are treated as parental assets when it comes to financial aid. (Parents are expected to kick in just 5.6% of their assets while students are expected to contribute 20%.)


Here are other reasons to consider a 529 plan:

 They’re simple. State 529 plans are easy. Choose an investment option and make contributions and the plan does the rest. Sit back while the state or a third party, such as an investment firm, manages your funds.  They’re portable. Depending on the state, you can choose from a number of different investing options. You also can switch investment tracks within the plan once a year. And if you don’t like your state’s plan, shop around. Plans are open to residents and nonresidents alike. You also can roll your savings into another state’s plan without penalty. 

There are no set annual contribution or income limits. Contribution limits vary by state, and some states do not limit contributions at all — a good option for grandparents looking to transfer assets through estate planning.  You can pay by check or set up monthly contributions through payroll deduction (yours and/or your child’s) or automatic withdrawal from a designated bank account. 


You can roll savings bonds in to a 529 plan without tax penalty.  Cash out the bonds and reinvest the money in the savings plan. At tax time you’ll want to file IRS Form 8815 to exclude the savings bond interest from income taxes. You also must make sure that the savings bond rollover conforms to all the rules and that your income doesn’t exceed the limit.”



You can start as soon as the child is born with a little at a time, which will hopefully add up to a huge difference.  The options are endless, and the few ideas mentioned here will allow you and your family to start saving for an educational investment in a number of virtually painless ways.  In speaking with friends and family, with children of

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