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Hi Bart,

I've been reading your screed for years now and I've come to toss a personal story in your lap 
in my Quixotic attempt to raise money for my developmentally disabled child. Perhaps your 
internetconnectedness can help this reach viral proportions. 
 Joe.
 

Subject: Our son, Matthew, is disabled

    Our son, Matthew, is severely developmentally disabled. He is 8, doesn't speak but has over 
150 signs at his command. He has great receptive language but can exhibit aggressive behavior.

    He was placed in a special ed. program at Wailuku Elementary, on Maui, in 2005. We went to regular monthly meetings and advocated for him, 
obtaining needed modifications and support services in our attempt to educate him and overcome his disabilities. 

    By March of 2009, his behavioral interventions exacerbated his behaviors and Matthew ended up being fully isolated in a room with a half door locked 
on the outside and 2 EA's outside. His room was bare, had a boarded up window, a small desk and two un-upholstered cushions on the dirty floor. 
"Specialists" were considering restraints for Matthew, we were told we had no choice, and there was talk of "injections to calm him" The situation was 
intolerable, the department inflexible, his behavior escalated, so we decided to place Matthew in the only private school on Maui for DD kids, Horizons 
Academy, and sued the state for violations in his IEP (individualized education plan) and reimbursement. 

    We lost our case. It is obvious that the hearing Officer seems to have purposely avoided the legal questions we raised and ignored the relevant law.

    After 3 months at Horizons, Matthew is integrated with the general population, has a friend, his negative behaviors have declined by more than 90%
and he is learning, staying on task and moving in the right direction. (Public testimony by Horizons school staff under oath), however:

    Even though the state education specialist, Leslie Alexander, stated that private placement would cost the state less money, the school principal 
agreed that Horizons was the best placement for him (off the record of course), and we had a psych evaluation that agreed with us, the DOE wants to put him back in isolation.

    A May 19, 2009 GAO report  found hundreds of allegations that schoolchildren have been abused, and some even died, as a result of inappropriate 
uses of seclusion and restraint in classrooms. These abusive practices were used disproportionately on children with disabilities. Horizons Academy has 
never used restraint or seclusion with Matthew or any of its students and has achieved results the DOE can only dream of.

    While we appeal to the Federal District Court what is a very strong legal case, the private school, Horizons Academy, has agreed to cover Matthew's 
considerable education expenses. The appeal process can take up to a year. We feel that the state's plan is to bankrupt Horizons.

    While direct donations to Horizons would be great, we are also putting together a publicity campaign in order to:

    1) Raise funds for Horizons through individual donations, foundations, grants and the like.

    2) Put pressure on the hawaii DOE, through publicity of this case, to settle.

    3) Find new clients for Horizons

    I am currently putting together a facebook page.

    Your help in getting the word out would be greatly appreciated and have a profound effect on the lives of developmentally disabled children,
including my own. You may know some people who would be interested in championing a cause like this one and raising the much needed funds 
to keep Matthew and kids like him from being abused by the public school system.

    The money we need to raise is substantial. Horizons would spend $80,000 to $100,000 on Matthew's program but remember, The State education 
specialist told us Horizons was CHEAPER than keeping Matthew at Wailuku Elementary. This sum is attainable and will keep Matthew out of isolation
until we can win the appeal and force reimbursement from the state.

    Horizons can be reached at: (808) 575-2954. Donations are welcome.

    Matthew's case number is DOE-SY0809-100
      Joe D'Alessandro
 

Joe, does Matthew have access to a computer?

I saw an autistic boy on 60 Minutes who was so frustrated that he couldn't speak but then 
he got on the computer and connected with other kinds like him and he got tons better.

You've got little to lose by trying to get him online.

I wish you luck - I can't imagine what you're going thru.
 
 
 

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