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Carter v Westford Public Schools – BSEA# 05-0621

<br /> Carter v Westford Public Schools – BSEA# 05-0621<br />



BSEA# 05-0621



This decision is issued pursuant to M.G.L. c.71B and 30A, 20 U.S.C.§1401 et seq ., 29 U.S.C. §794, and the corresponding regulations. A hearing was held at the Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA) in Malden, MA on November 4 and 5, 2004.

Those present for all or part of the hearing were:


Mother’s Friend

Jon Pike Program Director; BIP Program, LABBB Collaborative

Donna Vanderlinden Teacher; BIP Program, LABBB Collaborative

Brad Brooks Teacher; Merrimack Special Education Collaborative (MEC)

Dennis Trombley TEAM Chairperson/School Psychologist; Westford Public Schools

Alexander Pratt Attorney for Parent

Thomas Nuttall Attorney for School District

Joan Beron Hearing Officer, BSEA

Thomas Houton Court Stenographer, Catougno Court Reporting Office

The official record of the hearing consists of Exhibits marked J1-J38, Parent Exhibits marked P1-P5,2 School Exhibits marked S1-13 and approximately 7+ hours of oral testimony received on November 4-5, 2004. The record closed on December 10, 2004 after written both Parties filed written closing arguments. 3


1. Does Westford’s current IEP and IEP amendment proposing a program at the Merrimack Special Educational Collaborative (MEC) provide Carter with a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE)?

2. If not, can the program be modified to meet Carter’s needs?

3. If not, does a FAPE for Carter in the LRE require Westford to develop an IEP for a residential program?4


1. Carter (d.o.b. March 14, 1986) is an eighteen and one half year old with dark brown hair and pretty green eyes who enjoys listening to oldies5 music, shooting baskets, eating pizza and steak and cheese sandwiches, playing with water and manipulative objects and exploring the outdoors on walks (P1, P6, S3, Mother, Vanderlinden). Carter resides with his mother and younger brother in Westford, MA. He sees Father every other weekend and on Wednesday evenings (Mother, see also S3). Carter has received special education services since he was approximately three years old to address severe to intensive cognitive delays and autism; see e.g . (J1, Mother, J27, J28). In June 1993 Carter was diagnosed with diabetes (Mother). He receives insulin shots at 9:30 a.m., after lunch and at 3:30 p.m. (P2, Brooks). Carter’s current medical plan calls for him to have a nurse available to him while he is in school (9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.) who will check his glucose levels each day before lunch, give him his insulin shots and travel with him on trips where he would be eating; see (P2). Mother has had guardianship of Carter since August 4, 2004 (P3).

2. Westford’s February 2004 testing6 shows Carter to have skills in the 28-41 month range with scattered scores ranging from the 6 th to 8 th month range (in speech and social interaction skills) to 5-6 years (60-72 months) in motor and perceptual development and some daily living skills (J38). Carter’s receptive language skills were evaluated in February 2004 to be at approximately the 20-month level with expressive skills at approximately 11 months. Carter generally recognizes pictures and understands two stage directions. He generally communicates through gestures and about four to six signs or sign approximations, and does, with prompting, use a picture exchange (PECS) communication book in a field of three to four (J38). He is generally nonverbal although he does utter and imitate speech sounds and has on occasion uttered words like ketchup and pizza (J38, J23, Mother). Carter’s socialization skills range from the 6-22 month level with most skills falling at the year level. He does not generally interact with peers or adults on his own; however he will wave hello and goodbye with minimal support, does respond to peers’ attempts to interact, shows interest in the same object as a peer and can use the same or similar object simultaneously. He also demonstrates the ability to make choices and take turns (J38). Carter’s daily living skills range from the 2 ½ to the four-year level. He can generally dress and feed himself but often puts his shoes on the wrong feet. He can also brush his hair with assistance and brushes two of his teeth independently. Carter is generally toilet trained but needs assistance with wiping after a bowel movement and is, on the rare instances when he has an accident, able to indicate that his clothes are wet or soiled (J38, Mother). He is also, in his vocational program, able to do many vocational tasks independently, including sorting, collating, copying, assembling and matching and is generally cooperative (J38). Carter can imitate a horizontal line with visual cues and can trace his name with maximum assistance. He has shown hypersensitivity to loud or unexpected noises and bright light and to grooming activities at home and stimulates himself by slight rocking. He also has difficulty in motor planning in unfamiliar activities (J38, J25). Carter also mouths objects (J24, Mother, Vanderlinden). Gross motor skills are a strength for Carter with skills in the 4-5 year level (J38). Independent testing conducted between November 2003 and May 2004 show similar achievement levels; see e.g. (J26-J29, J31-J33). Former testing done using the Callier-Azuza from March 2001 assessed Carter’s postural control at 38-48 months, locomotion at 48 months, fine motor at 48-72 months, visual motor at 18-25 months, visual development at 18 months, auditory development at 24 months, tactile development at 24 months, dressing and undressing at 48 months, personal hygiene at 32-48 months, feeding skills 48 months, toileting 60-70 months, cognitive development 18 months, receptive communication at 18 months, expressive communication at 14 months, development of speech at 8 to 16 months, interaction with adults at 6 to 12 months, interaction with peers at 6 to 12 months and interaction with environment 24 months (J24).

3. Carter currently attends school at the LABBB7 Collaborative’s BIP (Behavioral Intervention program) located at the Arlington High School in Arlington, MA. He has been at this program since January 1997 under accepted IEPs (Mother, see also J1, J2, J3, J4 S9). Before attending BIP Carter had been at the May Center since kindergarten; see (Mother, J1, J2, J3, J28). Beginning in approximately March 2003, Westford has proposed that Carter transition to the Merrimack Educational Collaborative (MEC) so that he can participate in community experiences closer to his home in Westford and more easily transition to adult based programs upon turning twenty-two (22) (Vanderlinden, see P4). However, Mother, after visiting the MEC program in March 2003, concluded that MEC was not appropriate because the class she observed was too advanced and student/teacher ratio too high (Mother). Mother agrees that he should move from the BIP program but has been recommending that Carter attend a residential program.

4. Mother revisited the MEC program in September 2003 (Mother). Prior to her visit she phoned Brad Brooks, an administrator at the program proposed for Carter (Mother, Brooks). Based on the conversation Mr. Brooks believed that Carter required a nurse with him at all times that he was in a school program and told Mother that it did not currently have such a program and would have to create one (Mother, Brooks). However, Mr. Brooks had not at that time had an opportunity to read Carter’s records (Brooks). Mother saw one child who was lower functioning than Carter and another with behavioral issues (Mother). Mother also did not think that MEC was appropriate because she believed that Carter would be off site for two full days per week without access to a nurse. She was also not able to personally view a vocational site pursuant to MEC policy (Mother, Brooks) but did view a video. The video showed higher functioning students than Carter and a higher teacher/student ratio. Mother continued to conclude that MEC was inappropriate because it was too vocationally oriented and did not provide appropriate services to address his diabetes (Mother). Mother began to explore other placement options for Carter; see (J22-J36). Between November 2003 and May 2004, Carter received thirteen private evaluations8 ; see (J22-J36, S-7). Mother did not share these evaluations with Westford until May 2004 because she wanted all the evaluations completed (Mother). However, Mother and the school used his communication notebook to exchange daily information regarding his diabetes; see (J18).

5. Carter was seen by Dr. Elizabeth Caronna at the LADDERS9 program on November 17, 2003 (J28) and November 24, 2003 (J29). He was also seen for an office visit at the Harvard Vanguard Somerville office on November 20, 2003 (J22, J23, J24).10 Harvard-Vanguard and LADDERS personnel talked to Mother and observed Carter but did not talk to Carter’s teachers or to Westford; see (J22, J23, J28, J29). Mother told Dr. Caronna that she was dissatisfied with Carter’s current program at BIP because the summer program was cut from eight to five weeks and his teacher was on leave during the summer until November, with Carter only taught by the teacher aids (J28, see also J18, Vanderlinden, Mother). She also told Dr. Caronna that she was dissatisfied with BIP’s implementation of Carter’s communication program. She also told the evaluator that she did not think that the MEC program would be appropriate for Carter because it was not a full year residential program and she did not think that MEC could provide the speech therapy, occupational therapy, leisure skills or nursing coverage Carter needed to address his diabetes (J28). She also told Dr. Coronna that although improved with Clonodine and Tenex medication, Carter, while at home, often banged his mouth on the wall, sometimes damaging the wall or his teeth. She also reported that Carter has occasionally had tantrums throwing himself to the floor and/or biting or hitting himself and, had on one occasion during a walk, pulled her into the street to look at something. She also reported that on some nights Carter has difficulty settling down and may stay up until 1:00 in the morning playing with toys or flushing the toilet (J28, see also Mother). Dr. Caronna reviewed the March 2003 to March 2004 IEP, a BIP occupational therapy report from September 2003, a BIP speech and language therapy update from October 2003 and a psychological evaluation and results from a Callier-Azuza scale conducted in March 2001 (J28). Dr. Caronna also generally assessed Carter’s adaptive behavior through interviewing Mother using a Vineland Adaptive behavior scale (J28). She recommended that Carter attend a very structured full day, full year program that has behavioral and communication programs that could be carried over to a home setting. She also recommended sensory integration therapy from an OT, immediate transition planning between the school district and the Department of Mental Retardation (DMR), and a physical fitness component to manage his diabetes; see (J28, J29). A residential setting would be indicated if his current program could not provide the services he needed (J28). The Harvard-Vanguard staff recommended consultation from a gastroenterologist, to rule out a medical cause for Carter’s frequent intermittent coughing at school and at home and an augmentative communication assessment (J23, J24). Harvard-Vanguard’s social worker also made a referral for a personal care assistant (PCA) to help Mother with Carter (J23). It also recommended that Mother obtain a guardianship and a psychological evaluation from the School District to assist in transition planning (J23). Harvard-Vanguard also concluded that the current educational goals appear somewhat appropriate, but that given Carter’s age and complication of insulin-dependent diabetes he would need an educational setting that would address his behavioral, social and medical needs and a residential setting that would facilitate his transition into adult life, because residential care would be vital for health, safety, growth and development (J22, J23). The Harvard-Vanguard doctor did not indicate whether a residential setting would be indicated for educational reasons and did not testify; see (J22, Record). Westford was not given the Harvard-Vanguard or the LADDERS recommendations until May 2004 (Vanderlinden, Mother).

6. Carter received a speech/language evaluation from Spaulding’s Wellesley office (Spaulding) on December 23, 2003 (J26).11 Westford was not given this evaluation until May 2004 (Mother). The speech/language pathologist (SLP) interviewed Mother but did not talk to Carter’s teachers or Westford or review the speech/language therapy progress report done in October 2003; see (J26, J18). The SLP was not able to conduct formal testing with Carter and thus concluded that the evaluation did not fully reflect his current functioning or future potential; Id. Mother however did feel that the evaluation was a good representation of Carter’s skills; Id. The SLP found that Carter was able to understand routine one and two-step commands, occasionally pointed to an object in a field of two and pointed to preferred items. He inconsistently answered yes/no questions and occasionally pointed to the correct letter when asked, but did not demonstrate an understanding of numbers or the ability to identify his name despite reports that he was able to identify some letters and numbers at school; Id. Carter communicated mainly through gestures and did not attempt to look at his communication book, consistent with Mother’s report that he only used it for highly motivating activities (J26, Mother). He did however sign more and all done and occasionally used single words when prompted (J26). The SLP recommended that Carter continue to receive school-based speech therapy at its current level and recommended that Carter receive a home program incorporating his communication book. She opined that Carter may have difficulty generalizing skills from home to school and recommended that other placement options such as residential programs be considered; Id. She also recommended that Carter receive an augmentative communication evaluation; Id.

7. Spaulding conducted an occupational therapy evaluation on December 30, 2003 (J25). Westford was not given this evaluation until May 2004 (Mother). The occupational therapist (OT) conducted a parent interview, a short sensory profile, clinical observations of Carter’s functional fine, visual and sensory motor skills and formalized grip and pinch strength measurements (J25). The OT was not able to conduct other formalized testing with Carter (J25). The OT did not speak to school staff or review the OT progress report done in October 2003 or other school records; see (J25, J18). Carter did not follow one-step directions consistently and required frequent paired verbal and visual cues to participate in activities. The OT noted that Carter rocked and touched both familiar and unfamiliar objects but could be redirected. He also mouthed unfamiliar objects but did not display adversity to touch or hypersensitivity to unexpected noises or bright lights that sometimes occurred at home (J25). The OT recommended continued OT at school but did not recommend outside OT because Carter learned best in more natural environments including school and home. She echoed the SLP’s recommendations for consideration of residential programs; compare (J25, J26). The OT also recommended a home program while placement options are explored (J25). Westford was not aware of Spaulding’s recommendations because it did not receive the evaluations until May 2004 (Mother).

8. In December 2003, BIP issued a quarterly progress report (J19). Carter’s teacher reported that inappropriate behaviors, such as coughing in class, were occurring at low rates in school and in the community and that he was able to follow classroom rules with only occasional verbal reminders 92% of the time (J19). She also reported that Carter was able, with gestural cues, to retrieve his communication book and use it to identify wants and was making slow but steady progress in answering “wh” questions using pictures in a field of two. Carter was also beginning to use a stamp to sign his name with point cues. The teacher reported that Carter was able to complete a grooming sequence and with a visual model, excelled in performing classroom jobs such as table washing and clearing, emptying the trash and stocking a cabinet with supplies, and was sorting clothes and food with increasing accuracy; Id. He performed his vocational goals with 85-90% accuracy; Id .

9. Carter was reevaluated by the school district in February and March 2004 (J38, S6). Westford was considering recommending a vocational program at the Merrimack Educational Collaborative (MEC) and arranged to have its then lead teacher Brad Brooks conduct a vocational observation at BIP (J38).12 Mr. Brooks found that Carter performed his job appropriately with verbal prompts and reported to work with minimal prompts, made eye contact with each customer and smiled but was not always able to work without the help of others, did not always check for accuracy and did not always return to work after a temporary interruption (J38, Brooks). Mr. Brooks recommended continued acquisition of skills in a variety of settings, participation in a variety of vocational contexts to insure skill generalization, use of a picture schedule and exposure to vocational settings where the beginning and end of the task are evident (J38).

10. Westford’s school psychologist conducted an evaluation, spoke to Carter’s teachers and reviewed records. He noted that Carter has exhibited limited behavioral difficulties in the school setting but that Mother had recently told them of increasing concerns regarding repetitive behavior and noncompliance at home (J38). The school psychologist observed Carter in his classroom for one hour adequately performing a vocational activity. He was able to transition well into his OT group and was cooperative, motivated and compliant during OT. He also transitioned well to the school store demonstrating good ability to follow the teacher’s verbal directions. He was also, with a visual cue, able to retrieve a box of candy from the store cabinet and with verbal cues able to take money from a student and match it with the correct coins or dollars in the box (J38, see also Vanderlinden, but see Mother). Westford’s school psychologist also administered the survey form of the Vineland Adaptive Behavior scale; Id. Carter’s communication skills were measured at the 1 year 3 month level with receptive language skills at a 1 year 10 month level and expressive skills at an 11 month level; Id. His daily living skills were measured at the 2 year 4 month level with personal hygiene skills at a 2 year-2 month level, domestic (household) at a 3 year 6 month level and community skills (time, money and job) at a 2 year-2 month level. Carter displayed socialization skills at a 1 to 1.5 year level. Motor skills were assessed at a 2 year three month level and fine motor skills at a 2 year-4 month level. Westford’s school psychologist recommended continuation of a supported program that would provide him with opportunities to live and work in the community with as much independence as possible in the vocational, home and community settings. He further recommended continued use of Carter’s communication book and development of a behavior plan to target the specific behaviors that may be impacting his educational and adaptive functioning (S38).

11. Carter’s teacher (Lori Legnon) assessed him using the Callier-Azuza scale (J38, Vanderlinden). In school Carter was able to bounce and catch a large ball after demonstration and could throw a small object overhand five to seven feet earning him a score of 48-60 months (4-5 years) in postural control. He was able to walk downstairs using alternating feet while holding onto a railing and going upstairs and could easily walk backwards (48 month/4 year level). Carter’s ability to pick up, hold and use a pencil or crayon and use separate hands for tasks put him at a 36-72 month (3-6 year) level in fine motor tasks with visual, auditory and tactile development at an 18-60 month (1 ½ -5 year) level. His dressing skills were at a 44-60 month range, personal hygiene skills at a 36-48 month range, feeding skills at a 44-60 month range and toileting skills at a 60 month (5 year) range. His cognition skills were assessed at an 18-32 month range with the ability to recognize cause and effect and pictures as representations of objects. Carter’s ability to recognize two stage directions put him at a 20-month level with expressive language at 14-month level and speech at an 8-12 month level (J38). His social development with peers was in a 6-12 month range, with adults was in a 6-22 month range and his ability to socially interact within his environment was in the 24-36 month range; Id. He was able to perform his vocational tasks at least most of the time; Id.

12. BIP also administered OT, speech and language and behavioral evaluations in February and March 2004 (J38). From October 2003-March 2004 Carter had only two tantrums, one occurring in November 2003, the other in February 2004, with both incidents lasting a short period of time (J38). BIP also reported that despite reports of frequent mouth banging behavior at home, Carter had engaged in touching the wall with his teeth on two occasions for a 1-5 second period. BIP was not able to collect data at home because Mother had not returned the data sheet for analysis (J38). BIP also reported that Carter followed classroom rules 93% of the time and that, unlike home, his coughing behavior occurred only on rare occasions; compare (Mother, Vanderlinden, (J38).

Carter was extremely cooperative and attentive throughout his school OT testing. The OT administered the Gardner test of Visual Motor Skills, conducted a clinical observation, interviewed staff and reviewed Carter’s record (J38). She concluded that Carter had made excellent gains in OT with significant progress tolerating sensory stimulation. He was able to replace six missing pieces of a puzzle independently, place and remove pegs with good force and eye hand coordination, cut and open packages with scissors and paint and color with increasing visual attention. He had difficulty copying shapes and designs on the Gardner test indicating deficits in motor planning and at times needed to quietly rock to organize himself; however during the year Carter had made excellent progress in processing vestibular information, trying swings and uneven surfaces. The OT recommended consultation from an OT to address future areas of need (J38).

The SLP conducted informal testing over a one-week period in the classroom and in speech/language therapy sessions. She also interviewed teachers. Formal testing was discontinued when Carter was unable to reach the basal ceiling (J38). The SLP found that Carter had made steady progress in his receptive and expressive language skills in his speech and language sessions. She noted that Carter understood short two to three word phrases and familiar sentences, could respond to gestures and picture cues to follow routine commands, discriminated between two and three pictures with 70-90% accuracy and had added twenty+ words to his receptive vocabulary in the last year. She also noted that Carter will exchange a picture for a desired item in a field of three to four with minimal support but continued to need assistance to use his communication book. The SLP also noted that Carter’s understanding of cause and effect had increased over the past year and that he was much more aware of his surroundings. She recommended continued speech/language therapy twice per week (J38).

13. A TEAM meeting occurred on March 26, 2004. At that time the TEAM reviewed the school’s special needs assessment, vocational assessment, Vineland, OT, speech and behavioral assessments (J5, J6). Westford recommended that Carter attend the Merrimack Educational Collaborative (MEC). Mother did not want Carter placed in MEC. The TEAM meeting was continued and an additional TEAM meeting occurred on April 13, 2004 (J5, J6, Mother). A final TEAM meeting occurred on May 7, 2004. At that time the TEAM reviewed the private neurological, educational, speech/language and OT evaluations conducted in fall and winter that were recently received from Mother; Id . The TEAM also discussed an observations conducted by Stuart Whittle done on March 22, 2004 and March 25, 200413 ; see (J6, J30). Ms. Whittle found that neither the BIP nor the proposed program at the Merrimack Educational Collaborative as configured were appropriate for Carter and recommended extended day and extended year programming in a residential setting with a staff ratio of 1:2, home/school communication and behavioral intervention to promote generalization of skills and an augmentative communication evaluation (J30, Whittle).14 The TEAM did not discuss the Easter Seals augmentative communication assessment conducted on April 30, 2004 or the March 11, 2004 communication consultation at Children’s Hospital’s Communication Enhancement Center because Westford was not aware that these evaluations were done (Vanderlinden, see (J5, J6, J32, J33, S5).

14. On May 11, 2004 Westford sent Mother an IEP that proposed that Carter continue at the BIP until the end of the school year and start at MEC’s program in the summer of 2004 (J5, J6). The IEP included behavioral management across the school day along with functional academics and vocational services for 2.5 hours per day, functional daily living skills for 1.5 hours per day, speech/language therapy for two half hour sessions per week and gym for 45 minutes per day. It also proposed ½ hour of speech/language consultation per week and OT consultation and consultation from a behavioral specialist as needed (J5, J6).

Mother felt that the school members of the TEAM did not consider her opinions or any other options other than MEC for Carter (J6). She rejected the IEP on June 17, 2004 because it did not include a residential program for Carter (J5, J6, Carter). She also rejected the IEP because it was not specific enough regarding many of the goals and objectives. She also did not agree with other portions of the IEP such as Westford’s conclusion that his program focus on vocational rather than ADL skills because the teacher and evaluator conclusions regarding Carter’s ability to work in a vocational program did not match her observation that Carter mixed coins in the money slot and required assistance to complete vocational tasks (Mother). She also felt that the communication system recommended for Carter was not specific to his needs; (J6, Mother). Mother also specifically rejected the MEC program as a placement for Carter because she believed that the program was too large, most of the students were verbal, had limited on-site exercise opportunities, the nurse was not on site at all times and instruction was at most at a 1:5, rather than a 1:2 ratio (Mother, J6). Mother also rejected the IEP because there were no goals and objectives to provide carryover of appropriate behavior in out of school settings. However, Mother also felt that Carter’s daily living skills should be addressed during school hours and not relegated to a non-school based program in the home setting (J6).

15. Lucie Dufresne (a private behavioral specialist from Behavioral Development & Educational Services) visited Carter at Mother’s home on May 3, 2004 (J31). She visited Father’s home on June 2, 2004 (S3). She also visited the school (J31). Ms. Dufresne observed that Carter mouthed objects such as the wall, stair railing, rug and floor, 55 times during a fifteen minute period while at home with Mother (J31). He also engaged in this behavior a few times while with Father (S3). Ms. Dufresne also noted that he engaged in coughing at his Father’s house and had recently started sleeping on the floor there (S3). She also observed Carter engage in toilet flushing a few times at Mother’s and although she did not observe this at home, did note that his teacher had seen Carter pinch the inside of his arm on one occasion (J31). She also did not observe the thumb pressing behavior that Mother observed but did see that Carter pressed his thumb into his cheek hard enough to cause an indentation (J31). Mother also reported that Carter had also engaged in tantrums, paper shredding and throat gagging while at home and had on one occasion urinated outside the bathroom at Father’s house15 (J31, S3, see also Mother). These behaviors did not occur at school. The school however did agree that Carter engaged in rocking and humming when a work task ended and during transition times where he was required to sit and wait without an activity to engage in (J31).

Ms. Dufresne also noted that Carter was able to ask for things he wanted (i.e. food) or needed (i.e. the toilet) and could use pictures, symbols and gestures to request but was passive in his attempts to communicate, leaving others to infer his wants especially when the communication book was unavailable to him (J31, S3). She also concluded that Carter was at risk because his understanding of potentially dangerous situations was limited and although physical aggression or significant self-injurious behavior was not an immediate concern, Ms. Dufresne did note that Carter was bigger than Mother and the possibility did exist that Carter could overpower Mother if his desire to engage in an activity was greater than her ability to stop him (J31).

Ms. Dufresne recommended that language spoken to Carter be simplified; that his communication book be available and accessible at all times at both Mother’s and Father’s house and at school and that Carter be required to communicate instead of others guessing his needs (J31, S3). She also recommended instituting a picture schedule to reduce the free time Carter has available for mouthing objects or other interfering behavior and to get Carter to associate the picture with the routine (J31, S3). She also recommended that once picture schedules were in place, that a behavior plan be implemented that would reward and reinforce appropriate behaviors (J31). Ms. Dufresne also recommended, due to the disparity between the ADL skills he could complete independently at school, a skills assessment of Carter’s ADL skills (J31, see also (S3). She also recommended that standards for independent functioning be established and coordinated between home and school and that skills mastered at school, such as sorting and matching be incorporated into activities at home (J31, S3). She also suggested direct teaching of play and leisure activities to reduce “down time” and self-stimulatory behaviors and that items be kept in consistent locations. Ms. Dufresne felt that much of Carter’s behavioral issues could be eliminated by environmental changes and by establishing structure and routine. She also concluded that implementation of the plan would require a significant amount of time working with Carter and his family at home (J31). Mother agrees with the recommendations but does not feel that she is capable of carrying out the recommendations because she does not know how to teach Carter what he needs to know (Mother).

16. Carter was seen for a follow-up appointment at LADDERS on June 21, 2004 (S2). Dr. Coronna received updated information from Mother and her friend but did not see Carter’s evaluations because they were unavailable for her to review. She did not speak to any school staff; see (S2). She continued to recommend that any educational program selected for Carter focus on ADL, rather than vocational skills, with a strong behavioral component that can deal with behaviors that occur 24 hours per day, medical/nursing services to keep him safe and a strong communication component (S2). She noted that the opinion of an educational consultant would be invaluable since she did not have the opportunity to see Carter functioning in a classroom setting (S2).

17. Carter was also seen for follow-up appointments at Harvard-Vanguard on September 9, 2004 (J34, J35). Two Harvard-Vanguard staff met with Mother who relayed her concern about MEC program’s not having appropriate nursing coverage and her concern that MEC focused more on vocational skills rather than developing toileting and other ADL skills (J34, J35). Both evaluators also observed that Carter, during their conversation with Mother and her friend, repeatedly picking up and dumping blocks. He did not engage in language or engage socially frequently engaging in repetitive coughing spells and rocking back and forth in his chair.16 Both evaluators agreed that Carter needed intensive services with a 1:1 or 1:2 student to staff ratio and that his low level of cognitive and adaptive functioning as well as his need for intensive nursing care to manage his diabetes and his behavioral issues indicated a need for a residential program that focused on ADL skills and behavioral programming (J34, J35). Harvard-Vanguard did not talk to school staff, see Carter in his home or school setting and did not review records; see (J34, J35).

18. On September 14, 2004, the TEAM Chairperson (Dennis Trombley) sent Mother a letter because she had not responded to the May 20, 2004 letter offering a home program and he had not heard whether Mother wanted to pursue the ninety minutes of daily programming to address behavioral concerns (S1). Mr. Trombley also informed Mother that he had received the Easter Seals Augmentative communication evaluation and wanted to schedule a TEAM meeting to discuss those results as well as meet with the behavioral program staff to discuss recommendations for home programming (S1).

19. The TEAM met on October 6, 2004 to review the April 2004 Easter Seals Augmentative Communication evaluation, the March 2004 Communication Consultation from the Children’s Hospital Communication Enhancement Clinic (CEC)17 and the recommended home consultation behavioral program (J6A). It did not review the September Harvard-Vanguard reports because Mother did not give them to Westford until after the meeting (Mother). At CEC, Carter demonstrated the ability to match photographs of objects to appropriate items with minimum prompting; however his ability decreased as the activity progressed due to attention difficulties (J33). CEC recommended pairing visual and verbal information, use of scene cues and topic boards to aid in comprehension, incorporation of Mayer-Johnson symbols, adding symbols and photographs to the communication book to reflect school and home based activities, breaking down activities using a visual schedule and home/school recording of unwanted behaviors and responses to aide in substituting appropriate communication for inappropriate behavior and development of a consistent behavior program between home and school (J33). A follow-up evaluation was scheduled for September 23, 200418 (J33). Easter Seals observed Carter in school in April 2004 and consulted with Mother. It recommended that Mother and Westford consider a home consultation program to address behavior, reorganization of his PECS communication book into categories, trial of a low end speech generating voice output device for a six to eight month period to see if he could effectively communicate with the device and be upgraded to a more sophisticated system (J33). Although Westford recommended that Applied Behavioral Associates provide the home services, it agreed that Mother could contact the May Center to discuss possible home services there (J6A, Mother). The TEAM also agreed that the IEP be amended to change his current speech and language goal. Mother accepted the amendment but rejected the lack of specificity in the IEP and the failure to include use of the voice output device and the Mayer-Johnson software in Carter’s program (J6A, Mother).19 She also rejected the current IEP for proposing the same program (Mother).

20. A hearing occurred on November 4-5, 2004 at the Bureau of Special Education Appeals. At that time Mother further clarified her position regarding her concerns regarding a placement at MEC and her desire for Carter to attend a residential program. At the time of the hearing Mother had not contacted the May Center or allowed Westford’s proposed behavioral specialist to begin a home program (Mother). She indicated that Carter has not had a tantrum in the past couple of months and no longer has tantrums where he cries, screams, hurts himself or throws himself on the floor; however, there have been occasions where Carter has banged his hand and mouth hard enough to break skin or the wood around the door. At home Carter continues to cough for one to two minute periods at a time to the point of getting all red and sweaty and repeatedly flushes the toilet and at times cannot be redirected. He also occasionally pinches or tries to gag himself. Although Carter has never hurt her or his brother or father and can usually settle down after a couple of minutes, is getting bigger and she is afraid that she cannot keep him safe. Mother is also afraid that she will no longer be able to take care of Carter when Brother goes to college next year because he requires help in dressing himself and in finishing toileting and requires constant supervision because he mouths everything, even things that are dirty or unsafe (Mother). Carter is eligible for DMR services and receives approximately $600 of flexible funding per year (Mother). Mother has a DMR social worker but has never met her and does not know her name (Mother). DMR has also offered Mother a Personal Care Assistant (PCA) to assist Mother in helping Carter with daily living skills. Mother does not want a stranger coming into her house and as such has rejected the PCA. DMR has also offered respite care. Mother looked into respite but did not have success with respite when Carter was younger and does not feel that a respite care provider could deal with Carter’s diabetes. She has not asked DMR if it could provide a respite worker that is trained to give Carter his shots or if the respite could be supplemented with nursing care. Mother was also told that DMR could offer home services but has, as with the offer of home services from Westford, rejected them because she does not think that they would work (Mother). She was also told that Carter would be eligible for a DMR/DOE initiative, however Carter would have to live in a home setting (Mother). Mother wants Carter to be able to be in some sort of group home and be successful there and to be able to be more independent in his communication, daily living skills and leisure time (Mother). Mother was told by DMR that it could not offer Carter a group home before he is twenty-two (Mother, but see Whittle)20 . She believes that Carter should be in a residential placement because he can do so little for himself independently and she does not know how he is going to learn what he needs to be successful without a placement that is more intensive (Mother).

21. Mother also feels that Carter has not made meaningful progress in a day program and believes that this lack of progress is reflected in the Callier-Azuza evaluation done by Ms. Vanderlinden in March 2001 (J37) and by Ms. Legnon in February 2004 (J38). These reports show that in daily living skills. Carter scored at 32-48 month level in personal hygiene in 2001 and scored at a 36 to 48 month level in 2004; compare (J37, J38). Ms. Vanderlinden scored Carter at a 60-70 month level in toileting skills in 2001. Ms. Legnon scored Carter at a 60 month level in toileting skills in 2004; Id. His dressing skills in 2001 were at 44 months, in 2004 at 48-60 months. His receptive communication skills in 2001 were scored at 18 months and at 20 months in 2004. Expressive communication skills in 2001 were at a 14 month level, and at a 14-18 month level in 2004; Id. His social development with adults and peers in 2001 was at a 6-12 month level. His interaction with peers remained at the same level in 2001 and 2004 with interaction with adults scoring at a 6-22 month level in 2004; Id. Carter’s interaction with his environment was at a 24 month level in 2001 and a 24-36 month level in 2004; Id. Mr. Trombley’s March 2004 evaluation showed even lower scores with expressive language at an 11 month level, daily living skills at a 28 th month level and interpersonal relationships at an 8 th month level (J38). In addition, school records show that Carter continues to rock and smell objects in 2001 and 2004 and still requires assistance, prompts and reminders to wash his face and hands and cues to respond to yes/no questions at a 70% level21 ; compare (J10, J11).

22. Stuart Whittle testified on Carter’s behalf on November 4, 2004, to further expand on her recommendations as a result of her evaluation of Carter done in March 2004 (Whittle, see also J30, J30A, Finding 13). She explained that prior to the observations, she reviewed the past IEP and the prior private evaluations that had been conducted and talked to Mother and school staff (Whittle). She explained that she rarely recommends residential placement but does so for students who have difficulty generalizing across environments, and who need professional instruction by trained personnel to learn those skills that they have been unable to learn in less restrictive environments. She also recommends a residential setting where a student’s behaviors are so difficult and challenging that the parents can’t handle them. She felt however that behavioral issues weren’t a primary issue in Carter’s case. Ms. Whittle liked the MEC program but felt that most of the students were higher functioning and would not be appropriately grouped with Carter. However, she did find that there were three or four other students on Carter’s level that could potentially be grouped with him and that the vocational training and leisure time activities could be fitted to Carter’s level (Whittle). She did not talk to the speech/language pathologist but did note that the communication piece of the program may need to be more intense. She continued to recommend residential for Carter because he was still in need of developing basic skills and he requires coordination between a home and school program.22 However when asked if the MEC program paired with the home program could meet Carter’s needs, Ms. Whittle replied that it could if there was intense programming, carryover with the school and a follow up consultation to review how the program was working (Whittle).

23. Donna Vanderlinden testified on November 5, 2004. Ms. Vanderlinden was t he lead teacher in Carter’s class in the 2001/2002 school year (SY), his co-teacher in the 2002-2004 SY and again the lead teacher in 2004-2005 SY.23 She has seen Carter in the classroom and in community settings on a weekly basis and has seen him transitioning between classes and in the cafeteria (Vanderlinden). She has seen Carter progress in all areas (Vanderlinden). For example, when Carter came to BIP he would tantrum by screaming, crying or punching the wall or table and/or would toss things away. He now protests by using a quick foot stomp; Id. His coughing behavior has cycled up and down however, at the time of the hearing, BIP had recently implemented a program where they had given Carter a water bottle and told him to take a sip of water upon coughing. This has reduced the coughing to a zero level for the month period it had been implemented at the time of hearing; Id. Carter has also improved in his ability to establish eye contact and has generalized this skill with more people in more settings and from a farther distance away than he used to be able to do; Id. He also has exhibited an increased ability to answer yes/no questions and has increased his ability to discriminate picture icons from fewer than 20 icons to over 30 (Vanderlinden, see also (J15, J17, J18). He has also increased his use of signs, adding signs like book and music to his generalized use of signs of eat, drink and more, and has increased his ability to approximate signs instead of using gestures; (Vanderlinden, also compare (J10, J15, J19). Carter has increased his ability to follow a verbal direction and has increased his ability to attend, starting from 20-25 minutes during the 2001-2002 SY to currently working 45 to

50 minutes per session (Vanderlinden, also compare e.g. (J10, J12, J15, J17, J19, J20). Carter also requires less prompting to complete a task progressing from hand over hand assistance to visual or at times only verbal prompts. His on task behavior has increased from 75 % during the 2000-2001 SY (J10) to 80% during the following SY (J12, J13) to 85 % during 03-04 SY and current SY (J19, J20)(Vanderlinden). He has now generalized the sorting, coin identification and stamping skills learned in the vocational setting into other settings with more accuracy and has also generalized his use of coins from the classroom to the cafeteria using coins to buy himself a diet soda with a coin card (Vanderlinden). Carter has also progressed from identifying coins and other objects from a field of one to correctly identifying objects in arrays of three and four in a classroom setting (Vanderlinden, see also (J12, J15). Carter is also identifying his name and his picture in increasingly smaller arrays beginning with identification in a single setting to arrays of two or three (Vanderlinden). Carter is also improved in his ability to identify peers and peer photos; Id . He also has become less tactile defensive, and was not, when he entered BIP, receptive to activities such as stapling, hole punching, hand washing or tooth brushing, but can now, with visual and verbal cues, brush his teeth, wash his hands and face and engage in stapling, stamping and hole punching; (Vanderlinden, see also (J15, J17, J19, J20). He has also progressed from sorting 1-2 pieces of mail or objects to packaging 3-5 items and 2-3 piece mailings and assembling 2 piece brochures; compare (J11, J15, J20).

Ms. Vanderlinden, agrees that comparison of the 2001 and 2004 Callier-Azuza (Callier) tests show similar scores or small increases (Vanderlinden). However, based on her experience with the Callier and her experience working with students with severe special needs, use of such summary scores to objectively measure progress is inappropriate because the Callier is designed as a developmental scale that incorporates many sub-skills within a given area, and relies upon the subjective observations of two different evaluators and the performance of the student on a given day. It is not a normed evaluation with standard scores and percentile rankings. Carter has severe developmental delays. Although the month score as measured by the Callier may not show a large jump in a domain, Carter’s individual skill levels in each area have increased and constitute meaningful progress for him (Vanderlinden), see also (J10-J20).

24. Ms. Vanderlinden feels that the MEC program would be appropriate for Carter because it would give him an opportunity to transition back to a community closer to his home and he would have an opportunity to be involved in a wider range of vocational programs than he currently has available at BIP. She observed that the proposed class at MEC would provide Carter with peers with similar needs to his and observed that they were working on communication, cognitive and vocational activities that would be appropriate for Carter (Vanderlinden). She also observed appropriate use of visual and verbal cues. Ms. Vanderlinden did not see any gym or exercise equipment but was told that the program had access to a gym walking distance from the school that was used with the students. She also did not observe any ADL work in her observation but felt that the 1 ½ hours per day of home programming would be appropriate to address these issues because the ADL skills could be taught in an environment where they naturally occur and that the school program can reinforce the same skills if they are naturally occurring there (Vanderlinden). Ms. Vanderlinden also asked about nursing coverage and was also told that a nurse was available for Carter in the school, would go on long community trips and was available for shorter trips by Nextel (Vanderlinden). She feels that a residential program would be a huge transition for Carter and that he should not be placed in a residential program until home services are attempted and other support services given to Mother (Vanderlinden). She strongly feels that a program at MEC would provide him with vocational opportunities that he would enable a smooth transition to adulthood (Vanderlinden).

25. Brad Brooks also testified on November 5, 2004. Mr. Brooks currently supervises the two programs at the Merrimack Educational Collaborative (MEC) and previously served as a teacher in the program (Brooks). The two programs consist of 45 students, two certified teachers, 12 job coaches and five teacher aides (Brooks). Carter would be placed with the lower functioning group of students in the SCOAP (Supported Center of Occupation and Placement) program. This program currently has 12 students. The students in the SCOAP program are instructed vocationally at a one teacher to two student (1:2) ratio with a 1:2.5 teacher/student ratio in the classroom. Both lead teachers in Carter’s program are certified in intensive special needs, one with prior experience at the New England Center for Children. If Carter attended the program, his aide on his all day vocational program would be an RN or LPN who could give Carter his insulin shots and monitor him as required by his health plan (Brooks). Six of Carter’s potential peers have a diagnosis of autism, four of those six are non-verbal, with two more students have limited verbal communication. Some of the students use sign language to express themselves and three of the students use a picture communication book individualized to their needs (Brooks). Carter falls cognitively and expressively in slightly lower than the middle of the group; Id.

If Carter enters the program he would begin by visiting the program a few times with either or both parents. Mr. Brooks would also visit Carter’s current program with a few of his new peers to get Carter comfortable. Mr. Brooks would also have Carter go to his new classroom for lunch and increasingly longer periods of time for a number of visits before he fully transitioned into the program. He would then begin the program with two days of vocational training to further ease his transition into the program (Brooks). Each day Carter would receive life skills, applied life skills, functional academics and social skill training daily. On Carter’s classroom days would start his day with a morning meeting to learn the schedule of the day. In the classroom Carter would work on sequencing, coin identification and social skills (to encourage the students to interact with each other). On each of the classroom days that Carter was there he would participate in an offsite24 community activity that would typically start after Carter received his insulin shot and last anywhere from one to two hours, arriving back to MEC around lunchtime (Brooks). This would give time for the nurse to check his blood glucose level prior to lunch and give him his insulin shot; see (P2). Each of these community activities would incorporate skills such as sequencing, sorting, social skills, language and exercise. Additionally, all students participate in a weekly group health/fitness activity, using the facilities of two (2) local schools, as well as walking and engaging in scavenger hunts along the trails at the Paul Center, where the horticultural program is located. MEC could also provide additional physical activity for Carter if he required it to address his diabetes (Brooks). There would also be coordination between the home and school program through consultation between the school and the outside behavioral specialist to ensure that there would be carryover in the school where ADL skills could naturally be carried out (Brooks). Mr. Brooks also recommends that there be speech/language consultation and home services where the SLP would work with the Parent to coordinate the use of an expanded communication system within both the school and home environment, in addition to providing direct services to Carter in and out of the classroom (Brooks). Carter’s transition plan should also include coordination of community and health services with the Department of Mental Retardation (DMR) and the Department of Public Health (DPH), who would be invited to Carter’s TEAM meetings (Brooks).


The Parties agree that Carter has autism, multiple developmental delays and diabetes, and requires a program that addresses his developmental needs and his health needs and provides appropriate transitional planning for adult living. At issue is whether the program and services that Westford offered to Carter at the MEC program in its current IEP and the amendment provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). A subsidiary issue is whether, in the event Student does require residential services, if those residential services are needed for educational reasons.


Under the federal FAPE standard, an educational program must be provided pursuant to an IEP that is tailored to the unique needs of the disabled child and meets all the child’s identified special education and related service requirements. This includes academic, physical, emotional and social needs; 34 C.F.R. 300.300(3)(ii); Lenn v Portland School Committee , 910 F. 2d 983 (1 st Cir. 1990), cert. Denied, 499 U.S. 912 (1991) and Burlington v Mass. Dept. of Education, 736 F. 2d 773, 788 (1 st Cir. 1984). In addition, the IEP must be reasonably calculated to provide a student the opportunity to achieve meaningful educational progress. This means that the program must be reasonably calculated to provide effective results and demonstrable improvement in the various educational skills identified as special needs; Roland v Concord School Committee , 910 F. 2d 983 (1 st Cir. 1990). In Massachusetts, the IEP must also enable the student to progress effectively in the content areas of the general curriculum; 603 CMR 28.02 (18). Massachusetts has defined “progressing effectively in the general education program” as “mak[ing] documented growth in the acquisition of knowledge and skills, including social/emotional development, within the general education program, with or without accommodations, according to the chronological age and expectations, the individual educational potential of the child and the learning standards set forth in the Massachusetts curriculum frameworks and the curriculum of the district”; Id.


In addition to meeting the above standard, special education and related services must be provided in the least restrictive environment. This means that to the extent appropriate, students with disabilities must be educated with children who do not have disabilities. Programs and services can only be implemented in separate settings when the nature and severity of the child’s special needs is such that the student can not make meaningful progress in a regular education setting even with the use accommodations and specialized services; see 20 U.S.C. 1412 (5)(A).


An IEP designating a residential program is appropriate only if the severity of the student’s special needs is such that he can not educationally progress effectively in a less restrictive environment, even with the use of supplementary aids and services; see 603 C.M.R. 28.06(f). The courts have approved residential educational placements, for example, for students who need a comprehensive, 24-hour, highly structured special education program that would address students’ social and behavioral needs in a consistent manner. David D. v. Dartmouth School Committee, 775 F.2d 411, 416 (1st Cir. 1985).

The courts have also recognized that, in an appropriate situation, residential educational services may be provided by combining a day educational program with a group home, where the group home meets “specific educational criteria.” Abrahamson v. Hershman, 701 F.2d 223, 229 (1st Cir. 1983). The IDEA however does not require local school districts to finance foster care if the need for such care is solely noneducational in nature and a student can progress effectively in a less restrictive environment; see Abrahamson at 227-8. Westford however, is not absolved of providing Carter with residential services if he needs them in order to learn simply because Carter is severely cognitively impaired and also eligible for DMR services and possibly DPH services due to his insulin dependent diabetic condition. If Carter requires a residential program in order to learn Westford must provide such services under an IEP even if Carter also needs the same type of placement for safety or other reasons. See Abrahamson v. Hershman , 701 F.2d 273 (1983); David D. v. Dartmouth School Committee , 775 F2d 411 (1985), Mohawk Trail Regional School District v. Shaun D. , 35 F. Supp. 2d 34 (1999).


A careful review of the testimony and documents presented in this case shows that Westford’s proposed program at MEC will offer Carter a FAPE in the least restrictive environment. Mother contends that Carter is not making effective, meaningful educational progress and is not receiving educational benefit because at 18½ years old he is still working on basic ADL skills, has limited nonverbal communication and has problematic behavior at home that compromises his safety, including mouthing objects and the ability to pull an adult into the street due to his lack of awareness of his environment. She believes that Carter does not generalize across environments and she is concerned that she can no longer handle him when Brother goes off to college next fall. She believes that a residential program would be a more intensive program and that it is the only way, at least for the time being, that Carter can progress towards functional independence. She further believes that placement at MEC would be inappropriate for Carter because it cannot implement the health plan Carter requires and does not place not enough emphasis on ADL skills. She further believes that Carter lacks the life skills, communication skills and behavior controls he needs to succeed in a vocational program. She further maintains that comparison of Carter’s skills in 2001 and 2004 as measured by the Callier-Azuza scale show him to be at or near the same level, suggesting a lack of progress in a day placement and a resulting need for a residential program. She further believes that she would not be able to implement a home program and does not feel that it would be successful.

The evidence however shows that Carter has made progress, albeit slow to even extremely slow progress in some areas. However, Mother has offered no evidence that this progress is not commensurate with his cognitive ability nor have any of the many evaluators that Carter has seen indicated that the need for residential is related to the lack of educational progress in a day program. The one evaluator who testified on Mother’s behalf and did see Carter’s current and proposed school programs (Stuart Whittle) indicated that the MEC program paired with the home program could meet Carter’s needs if there was intense programming, carryover with the school and a follow up consultation to review how the program was working. Progress reports are consistent with Ms. Vanderlinden’s testimony showing that Carter has improved his behavior in school through displaying his frustration with a foot stomp instead of a tantrum, has improved eye contact, an increased ability to answer yes/no questions, an increased ability to discriminate picture icons from fewer than 20 to over 30, an increased use of sign language, an increased number of signs to communicate, an increased ability to follow verbal direction and ability to attend beginning from 20-25 minutes in the 2001-2002 school year to a current rate of attending for 45-50 minutes per session. Carter has also progressed from performing tasks with hand over hand assistance to using only visual prompts and for some tasks using only verbal prompts. He has also increased his ability to handle more complex and longer tasks and has increased his ability to identify objects, symbols and pictures in increasingly larger arrays. He has also become less tactile defensive and more willing to be included in social situations; compare (Vanderlinden), (J7-21). It is noted that comparison of the 2001 and 2004 Callier-Azuza scale shows small to in some cases no gains. Again however, Mother offered no evidence that Carter’s gains should have been larger given his autism and cognitive ability. In addition, Ms. Vanderlinden’s testimony that the Callier is a subjective test that may not accurately reflect smaller gains especially when done by two different evaluators is credible.

Carter’s behaviors at home warrant attention. Westford agrees that the behaviors at home need to be addressed in his IEP even though they occur with less frequency or do not occur in school. If Carter required a 24-hour, highly structured special education program because he could not generalize the skills he learned in a less restrictive environment, then Westford would have to provide residential programming pursuant to his IEP; see David D. v. Dartmouth School Committee, 775 F.2d 411, 416 (1st Cir. 1985). However, the record shows that Carter has been able to generalize what he has learned within various settings. For example, Carter has worked on establishing eye contact with the teacher and the SLP and has generalized this skill with more people in the school, therapy and vocational settings. He has generalized the sorting, coin identification and stamping skills learned in the vocational setting into other settings and has also generalized his use of coins in the classroom to the cafeteria using coins to buy himself a diet soda with a coin card (Vanderlinden). He has also generalized his increased tolerance for auditory and tactile contact into the home setting; see (Mother).

Mother feels that a home program will not work because she would not be able to implement it. She is afraid that she will not be able to handle Carter now that he is getting older and Brother will be leaving the home in the fall. Mother’s concerns are understandable. Carter functions at a toddler level in most areas and is 18 ½ years old. While this Hearing Officer feels for Mother, at this juncture, there has been no evidence that the use of supplementary aids and services such as implementation of a home program or use of DMR/DPH wrap around services such as respite, a personal care attendant or other services and consultation would not enable Mother to access and implement the services Carter needs to improve his skills. This Hearing Officer cannot mandate that Mother access DMR, DPH or other agency services. Nor can a state agency be mandated to provide services that Mother chooses not to access. However, a local educational agency is not obligated to provide residential services because group home services have not been pursued or offered by DMR25 .

The IEP however must provide appropriate transitional planning through consultation with DPH and DMR to ensure that Carter is able to transition successfully when he leaves the special education system. Westford must also investigate, and if accepted, coordinate wrap around services so that Carter can receive educational services in a less restrictive educational program.26 Westford should also reconvene the TEAM to include a transition plan from BIP to MEC and to discuss the amount of consultation that should be added between Father and the behavioral specialist, and MEC and the behavioral specialist to aide in carryover and consistency between the school and the home settings of both parents as recommended by Mr. Brooks. In addition the IEP must, as recommended by Easter Seals, include consultation with the SLP and if appropriate, some home services with both Parents to ensure consistent use of the communication book. In addition, Easter Seals recommendation for a low-end speech generating voice output device should be tried for a 6-month period to see if Carter he could effectively communicate with the device and then be upgraded to a more sophisticated system (J33).


Westford’s IEP, with additional home services for Father and MEC staff and consultation services with the SLP and with DMH and DPH will provide Carter with a FAPE in the LRE. As such, Mother’s request for a residential program is denied. Westford will reconvene the TEAM to amend the IEP to conform to this decision.

By the Hearing Officer,

Joan D. Beron

Date: December 22, 2004


Carter is a pseudonym used for confidentiality and classification purposes in public documents.


The Parent’s binder also contained a slot for P6-7; however those exhibits were left blank.


At the conclusion of testimony both Parties requested that the matter be postponed to allow them to receive the transcript and draft written closing arguments. The joint motion was allowed.


A residential program over two hours away has accepted Carter; however Mother would like a residential program closer to Westford and has requested an order for Westford to locate a residential program if she prevails.


Carter especially loves Bill Haley and the Comets. His music choices are tolerated but are not shared by his classmates (Vanderlinden).


Westford evaluated Carter with the Callier-Azuza scale and the survey form of the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale (observational scales) (Vanderlinden). Westford staff also observed Carter in his classroom and vocational placement and administered an observational MCAS alternative assessment. Carter also received speech and language, OT and behavioral evaluations (J38). Formal speech and language testing was attempted but discontinued because Carter was not able to meet the basal ceiling. The OT however was able to assess Carter using the Gardner Test of Visual Motor Skills (J38).


LABBB stands for Lexington, Arlington, Bedford, Burlington and Belmont.


On September 23, 2003 carter went to see his local physician who wrote a handwritten note that Carter was diagnosed with autism, mental retardation, a tic disorder and insulin dependent diabetes mellitus and that he would never be able to live independently and requires constant supervision. The record is unclear as to the circumstances that led to this note or if Carter received an evaluation at this time (J36). Carter received a neurological examination at Franciscan Children’s Hospital on October 2, 2003. No neurological deficit was found (S7).


LADDERS is an acronym for the Learning and Developmental Disorders Education and Rehabilitation Services Unit in Wellesley, MA; see (J28).


Exhibit J24 indicates that the evaluation was conducted on December 10, 2003. The exhibit indicates that the visit occurred on November 20, 2003 but was typed on December 10, 2003; see (J24).


J26 is dated by the author as December 23, 2004. This is a typographical error.


Brad Brooks is a certified Masters level teacher (S12). He is now an administrator of the COAP program (Brooks). At the hearing Mother asserted that she did not know that Mr. Brooks conducted an observation and was not given a consent form for him to do so; however, Mother did acknowledge in her May 2004 comments that she disagreed with Westford’s assessment of Carter’s strong vocational skills due to Brad Brook’s observation that he needed prompting to stay on task and was not able to always work without the help of others; compare (J6, Mother). It does not appear that Mr. Brook’s observation report was given to Mother prior to the meeting; see (J38). The general rule is that evaluations require consent; however observations by school personnel may not; see In Re Steven A (Sherwood), 2 LRP 9679. Mother asserted that she did not give consent but did not object to the testimony or ask that it be stricken from the record and as such is included.


Stuart Whittle is a Master’s level educator certified in Moderate Special Needs with approximately thirty years of experience in education (J30A). Ms. Whittles areas of expertise are in learning disabilities, and developmental disabilities including autism and mental retardation; see Whittle (J30A).


Ms. Whittle testified at hearing but was not part of the TEAM. Her opinion will be expanded in further findings.


Father reported that the door was unintentionally locked and Carter, lacking the communication skills to tell Father, urinated on the floor. This behavior has not occurred since that occasion (S3).


It is unclear whether the evaluators attempted to engage Carter or just observed him while they were talking with Mother and her friend. The record does not indicate any attempts to interact with Carter other than asking him to wave hello; see (J34, J35).


Westford asserts that Mother asked it to reexamine the CEC report. Mother asserts that Westford has not reviewed the report prior to that time (J6A). The record shows that Westford had not reviewed the CEC report prior to the October 4, 2004 TEAM meeting. The record is unclear when Westford received the CEC report; see (J33).


In March 2004 a follow-up appointment was scheduled for September 23, 2004 with school personnel encouraged to attend. Westford received the Easter Seals evaluation on or about September 14, 2004. It is unclear when it received the CEC report or if Westford knew about or attended this meeting.


By agreement of the Parties the IEP amendment resulting from the October 6, 2004 TEAM meeting, together with Mother’s comments was inadvertently omitted and admitted after the hearing as J6A.


Ms. Whittle testified that she is working with a twenty year old who attends a vocational program and living at a facility funded by DMR. Ms. Whittle does not know the details of the arrangement (Whittle). Mother has not pursued this option (Mother).


The reevaluations indicate that Carter responded to yes/no questions at a 70% level in 2001 and responded to yes/no questions at a 70% level with verbal, visual and tactile cues in 2004; however, Ms. Vanderlinden’s testimony that the progress report should have been written more precisely is credible; see (Vanderlinden, compare (J10, J11).


Mr. Brooks testified that Ms. Whittle made some “off the record” comments regarding her recommendation for residential. However, fundamental fairness dictates that remarks that are communicated “off the record” and are accepted by the listener with silence constitute an agreement to remain off the record and as such will not become part of the record in this case. In addition those remarks are cumulative of Ms. Whittle’s direct testimony in this matter.


Ms. Vanderlinden is a licensed, certified teacher in the areas of moderate and intensive special needs.


Offsite community experiences include working in a food pantry, shopping at Home Depot for materials to complete woodworking and horticulture projects at the Paul Center in Chelmsford and participating in percussion lessons (Brooks).


Mother has indicated that DMR has told her that it does not provide group homes until Carter is turning 22; however Ms. Whittle indicated that she has a twenty-year-old client in a DMR group home.


Westford is not required to provide a social worker but must investigate services and benefits offered by DPH and DMR, invite these agencies to TEAM meetings and look into whether consultation and carryover services may be required. It must also investigate whether referring Carter’s case to EOHHS’s interagency service team and DPH’s medical review team would be appropriate.

Updated on January 4, 2015

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