Join us for our webinar on How to Write SMART IEP Goals, Tues., April 18


xMindsWire April 2023

Learn How to Write SMART IEP Goals


Join us on Tuesday, April 18, at 7:00 PM for a free webinar on How to Write SMART IEP Goals.  Educational experts Stacy Ganz Kahn and Donna Sagona, directors of Educational Resources Group of Greater Washingtonwill show us how to develop goals that are "SMART," an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-oriented or Relevant, and Time-bound. Stacy and Donna have over 65 years of combined experience serving the educational needs of families. We're fortunate to have them share their expertise on how to craft IEP goals.

Our kids’ IEP goals commonly extend beyond academics to include goals for executive functioning, social-emotional growth, and self-advocacy skills — all areas that can be difficult to detail and measure. Stacy and Donna will teach us how to apply the SMART approach to these challenging areas, and will share examples of SMART goals. They’ll also be happy to answer any questions.

The webinar will be presented over Zoom, with simultaneous Spanish interpretation. Register here to receive the Zoom link.

Register Here

Celebrate Autism Acceptance Month!


xMinds is thrilled to be participating in Autism Acceptance Month this April! We are working toward a society that accepts autistic individuals as they are and views differences as part of what makes individuals unique in a neurodiverse society.

Join us at the countywide Shine Brighter Together family-friendly inclusive event to celebrate Autism Acceptance Month, Saturday, April 15, 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM at Wheaton Regional Park. xMinds is excited to partner with a host of agencies and organizations from across the county to offer this fun and important event. Activities will include sensory-friendly story times, face painters, roving characters, arts and crafts, exercise demos, performances, and more. Stop by the xMinds table to meet our volunteers and get a photo with Chummy, a service dog in training who will be eager for a cuddle!

Check out the xMinds website for four fun ways that schools can participate in Autism Acceptance Month and spread the message of understanding and inclusion.

See You at the Playground on April 23! 


Now that the warm weather has arrived, we’re moving our family meetups outdoors! Join us Sunday, April 23, for a playground meetup for MoCo families with elementary and preschool autistic children. We’ll meet 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM at the playground behind Ivymount School, 11614 Seven Locks Rd., Rockville, MD. (Please note that this meetup is on Sunday afternoon, not Saturday morning as the previous playground meetups have been.)

Our playground meetups provide a wonderful opportunity to connect with other families who have autistic children. We will provide snacks, and we always have Spanish-speaking volunteers!

Everyone is welcome, including siblings, and there’s no cost to attend! Registration is not required, so feel free to just show up. If you would like to receive event reminders and an email notification in case we are rained out, register here.

Mark your calendar for our May playground meetup, Sunday, May 21, 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM at the playground behind Ivymount School.

    Register to Receive Reminders and Updates

    Team xMinds Gears Up for “Bike to the Beach”


    There’s still time to join Team xMinds as we gear up for this summer’s Bike to the Beach. xMinds relies on this event to provide more than half our annual budget — money that goes toward hosting speaker events, developing online resources, offering volunteer advocacy services, providing educator grants, and more!

    It costs us money to provide all these events and resources, but we made a commitment two years ago to make our offerings accessible to everyone who needs them, and that means providing them for free. Now we rely on donors more than ever. If you have the financial means to contribute to xMinds, please make a contribution to this fundraiser at whatever level is comfortable for you. 

    If you want to contribute financially, donate here. Every gift is appreciated and helps us to continue to provide the resources and community that you count on!

    If you want to join the team as a biker or as a volunteer, we welcome you! Sign up here to join Team xMinds and ride with us on Friday, July 28. It’s a very friendly group, and we span the full range of biking abilities. You can choose a 25-, 50-, 70-, or 100-mile route. To help you prepare for the big event, xMinds offers optional training rides throughout the spring, which are a fun way to meet other parents. Your teens are welcome to ride too! Join us next on Sunday, April 16, 9:00 AM, at Hains Point/East Potomac Park in Washington, DC. Find out the details here for riders and non-riding volunteers.

    Team xMinds at our first practice ride of the season. Join us for our next training ride, Sunday, April 16, at Hains Point in Washington, DC.

    Legislative Update: The Campaign to Shift the Burden of Proof Continues

    A big shout out to all of you who called your Senators, wrote emails to your Delegates, or sent us testimonials to help our effort to pass the Burden of Proof bill in the Maryland General Assembly. We are very grateful for the outpouring of support, but we're sorry to report that the legislation did not come to fruition during the legislative session that ended April 10.

    Currently, when schools and families disagree over whether a student in Maryland is receiving the placement, services, and accommodations required by federal law, the family has the burden of proving its case during a due process hearing. The proposed legislation would have shifted the burden of proof from families to schools, helping to give families a fair chance at winning these disputes.

    While schools have extensive resources to pay lawyers, experts, and witnesses, they have no responsibility to prove that they are providing an appropriate education. Instead, families have the burden of proving that the school is failing to provide the required "fair and appropriate" public education. Because of this imbalance, currently families lose 85% of the time when they can afford a lawyer, and 100% of the time when they can't. 

    While it’s disappointing that the Burden of Proof bill didn’t become law, we’re proud that we made our voices heard and raised awareness about this inequity. We made impressive progress — the Maryland House of Delegates unanimously passed this bill (HB 0294), but unfortunately, it died in a Senate committee and never made it to the Senate floor for a vote. Often it takes a few tries before a bill passes both houses, so this is not the end!

    There’s also some good legislative news for families of special education students. A separate bill (HB 1237) passed the Maryland House and Senate that authorizes courts to award reasonable attorney's fees and related costs, such as expert witness fees, to the families of children with a disability when they prevail in certain special education proceedings. These costs can be very high, so this is meaningful. That bill now goes to the Governor for his signature.

    The General Assembly also passed a budget bill that appropriates funds to hire a special education ombudsman to serve as a resource for information and support to parents, students, and educators regarding special education rights and services. Unfortunately, this one ombudsman is designated to serve the entire state, so it's hard to see how this can have a significant impact. 

    While we’re happy to see some progress, it’s not enough. We will continue advocating for a law that will shift the burden of proof so that families will have a fair chance to get the special education supports they are entitled to by law.

    Autistic Self-Advocates Panel: Starting a Career


    It’s common to worry about whether our kids will eventually find a fulfilling career and adjust to the work world. Join xMinds and Howard County Autism Society on Tuesday, May 23, at 7:00 PM for an online panel discussion featuring several adult autistic self-advocates who have recently embarked on their careers.

    Panelists will discuss how they chose their career path, what challenges they have encountered, and what insights they’ve gleaned from their employment experiences. The self-advocates will offer the valuable perspective that can be gained only through lived experience, and we will reserve time for your questions. Whether your autistic student is just starting their education or has already graduated high school, this is a presentation you won’t want to miss!

    Zosia Zaks, M.Ed., C.R.C. (Certified Rehabilitation Counselor) will moderate the panel. An autistic self-advocate, Zosia has more than 20 years of experience supporting hundreds of teenagers and adults on the autism spectrum to live and work in their communities. 

    The presentation will be over Zoom, with simultaneous Spanish interpretation. Register here to receive the Zoom link.

    Zosia Zaks

    This event is co-hosted by xMinds and Howard County Autism Society, which sponsors a hiring program for autistic adults in Montgomery County. 

    Learn About Restorative Justice in MCPS, May 16


    Join us on Tuesday, May 16, at 7:00 PM for an online presentation hosted by the xMinds Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Outreach Committee. The presentation will focus on MCPS’s restorative justice program and how it impacts special education students. As of 2019, Maryland law requires school systems to incorporate “restorative approaches” to discipline. Restorative approaches may include mediation, community circles, social emotional learning, and more.

    Floyd Branch III

    MCPS has embraced a restorative justice approach, which it views as a way for students to:

    • Actively engage and problem solve physical, psychological, social, and disciplinary issues that affect themselves and the community.
    • Take responsibility for their actions.
    • Work with those affected to restore and/or repair the members and community who were harmed as a result of those actions.

    Floyd Branch III, an MCPS restorative justice instruction specialist, will update us on this approach, which has received mixed reviews from students and families. He’ll also discuss disciplinary policies and their impact on students in special education, including the disproportionate impact on students of color. And, he’ll offer guidance on how parents and caregivers can best advocate for their kids within the restorative justice paradigm. Also, there will be time for your questions. 

    The free presentation will be offered over Zoom with simultaneous Spanish interpretation. Register here to receive the Zoom link

    Register Here

    Connect with xMinds on Instagram

    We’re thrilled to announce that xMinds is now on Instagram! We’re excited to have another avenue to connect with the xMinds community, where we can share information about upcoming events, inform you about resources to help your family, and update you about the latest news related to our mission of improving education for MoCo autistic students. Follow us on Instagram at xminds_moco_autism.

    Free IEP Advocacy Help Available

    Did you know that xMinds provides free consultations to help families navigate the special education system in Montgomery County? If you need help preparing for an IEP meeting, finding the appropriate placement for your child, or any other aspect of advocating for your child's special education needs, our volunteer advocates are at the ready.

    Volunteer advocates provide guidance and support and can connect families with resources, including educational consultants and lawyers. (Note: Our volunteers cannot provide legal advice.) Consultations are available in English or Spanish. Click here for more information and to submit a consultation request. Click here to submit a consultation request in Spanish.

    Check Out the xMinds Summer Camp Guide


    Summer camps and programs are filling up quickly! Check out the xMinds Summer 2023 Camp Guide to find some summer fun for your child. Our guide features offerings that autistic children and teens have enjoyed in past years. There’s something fun for everyone! This year we’ve included overnight camps as well as day camps.

    We’ve been updating the guide as we hear about offerings, so take a second look if you’re still searching for the perfect fit for your child.

    Now on YouTube: Navigating Cultural Bias

    If you missed our March webinar "Your Student’s IEP Explained, Section by Section,"  you can catch it on the xMinds YouTube channel . Stacy Ganz Kahn and Donna Sagona, directors of Educational Resources Group of Greater Washington, guided us through the IEP, setting the stage for our April 18 webinar on How to Write SMART IEP Goals.


    Also new on YouTube is our recent webinar on Understanding Neurodiversity-Affirming Care. This webinar offers a wonderful introduction to this approach, which embraces the child's neurodiversity, supporting them for who they are, rather than seeking to change them to fit a neurotypical mold.

    All of our webinars are also available in Spanish on the xMinds YouTube channel.

    Professional Member Spotlight

    As a benefit to both our families and professional members, xMinds publishes information about our professional members here in the xMindsWire as well as on our website. Inclusion does not constitute our endorsement. This month, xMinds would like to highlight the following new and renewing professional members:

    Jean Hickey, M.Ed.

    Kensington, MD

    Contact: Jean Hickey;; 240-460-5306

    Services: Individual educational therapy; academic tutoring/coaching; educational consulting; parent training and support

    Jean Hickey has worked with children and adolescents with significant learning needs for more than thirty years. Jean works with individuals ages 3–21, and her experience covers the range of academic skills in addition to community, vocational, and life skills instruction. For the past 25 years, Jean has worked one-on-one with students to build skills in all areas of learning. Jean values the role parents play in their child's education and welcomes parents and caregivers to sit in on all sessions. Jean works primarily from her Kensington office or via virtual Zoom sessions. Jean has experience working with children on the Autism Spectrum as well as children with Fragile X, Down Syndrome, and rare genetic disorders. Jean develops a hands-on, fun, and individualized approach for each student and provides parents with information and skills to support their child. In addition to individual instruction and parent support, Jean also consults with team members and coordinates the focus of support among school-based and private therapists and teachers. Jean also develops home-based instruction for a team approach and has experience developing and supporting home-school plans. Jean has delivered presentations and led workshops for the xMinds community and has presented at the Fragile X International Conference and the Learning Disabilities Association of Montgomery County. Jean is a special educator with both a bachelor's and master's degree in special education. Jean is also trained in Orton-Gillingham IMSE and completed the S.E.A.T. 1.0 course through COPAA (Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates).


    Naomi Rubinstein LLC

    North Potomac, MD

    Contact: Naomi Rubinstein;; 301-509-9181

    Services: Direct developmental support services, parent coaching, collaboration with schools and outside practitioners, case management, inclusion support, special education navigation, and professional development. Serving infants through 12-year-olds.

    Naomi Rubinstein, M.Ed., partners with parents, schools, and outside practitioners to support children as they develop the tools to be resilient, social, independent, and cognitively flexible teens and young adults. She spends time with the child and family in multiple environments — home, school, social settings — in order to understand the whole child and family dynamics. She guides parents to identify and prioritize the appropriate combination of treatments and/or approaches to best support their child’s goals. Naomi takes a holistic view of the child’s development in order to create and execute individualized developmental plans. This approach assists children as they utilize their interests and strengths to develop the building blocks necessary to thrive in various social and academic settings. She problem solves with parents and schools and provides them with individualized, research-based tools to support the child in all situations. In addition, she works directly with the child to explicitly teach skills and meet goals. She often promotes the attainment of goals during individual and/or parent coaching sessions and then scaffolds these skills in real time, thus, promoting generalization across settings.

    Through this process, parents better understand the needs of their child and are able to think flexibly about how best to support their child during challenging times. Naomi’s collaborative approach ensures strategies are in place throughout the week — from school to play dates to daily routines at home — thus setting up the child for success. Areas of support: Social/emotional development, executive functioning, play, behavior, cognitive flexibility, and sibling relationships.

    Shefter Law, PA

    110 N Washington St., Suite 350, Rockville, MD 20850

    Contact: Frances Shefter;; 301-605-7303 

    Services: Special education law; Educational consulting

    Shefter Law, PA is a law firm dedicated to helping families have a Stress-Free IEP experience. Parents of Children with Special Needs have a ton of demands on their time and energy. Learning the complexities of how to get your child’s school to meet his or her unique needs is just one more thing you do not need on your plate. As a former Special Education teacher, Frances Shefter is uniquely able to mix Education and the Law to help take the stress out of the IEP or 504 process. She aims to empower families with the knowledge and resources needed to help bring peace and harmony to their home.

    Dr. Jamell White

    Services primarily provided in offices located in Rockville and Bethesda; Community-based support and virtual sessions also offered.

    Contact: Dr. Jamell White;; 301-613-1766

    Services: Psychological counseling; Social skills therapy; Behavioral support

    Dr. Jamell White is a therapist specializing in working with children, adolescents, and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other (neuro)developmental disabilities. She has over 20 years of experience providing individual and family therapy, social skills intervention, and care coordination and consultation for individuals and their families. Dr. White is also a PEERS Certified Provider.

    Dr. White has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Maryland, a master’s degree in social work from The Catholic University of America, a master’s degree in special education from Johns Hopkins University, and a doctorate in Human Development and Quantitative Methodology from the University of Maryland. Dr. White is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry (Child and Adolescent) at Georgetown University School of Medicine as well as a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

    Upcoming xMinds Events

    xMinds events, resources, & services are always FREE

    Saturday, April 15, 11:00 AM

    Shine Brighter Together

    Family-friendly event to celebrate Autism Acceptance Month. xMinds is an event sponsor. See the details here.

    Sunday, April 16, 9:00 AM

    Training Ride for Bike to the Beach

    Come bike with us as we train for this summer's fundraiser. See the details here.

    Tuesday, April 18, 7:00 – 8:30 PM

    How to Write SMART IEP Goals

    Webinar on how to write IEP goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-oriented or Relevant, and Time-bound. Register here.

    Sunday, April 23, 2:00 – 3:30 PM

    Elementary and Preschool Playground Meetup 

    Meet other elementary and preschool families. See the details here

    Monday, April 24, 7:00 – 7:45 PM

    Small Steps Together 

    Online discussion group for MoCo parents/guardians of an autistic elementary or preschool child. Register here.

    Wednesday, April 26, 7:00 – 7:45 PM

    Let's Talk Transitions 

    Online discussion group for MoCo parents/guardians of an autistic child in middle or high school. Register here.

    Sunday, April 30, 9:00 AM 

    Training Ride for Bike to the Beach

    Come bike with us as we train for this summer's fundraiser. See the details here.

    Monday, May 1, 7:00 – 7:45 PM 

    People of the Global Majority

    Online discussion group for MoCo parents/guardians of a BIPOC autistic child. Register here.

    Wednesday, May 3, 7:00 – 7:45 PM 

    Hablemos Educación Especial

    Online discussion group for Spanish-speaking MoCo parents/guardians of an autistic child. Register here.

    Community Calendar

    Our community calendar is FULL of great offerings not only from xMinds, but from professional service providers located in Montgomery County. Check out the programs and events posted on our Events Calendar.

    Plan Ahead!

    Note: Our Events Calendar shows events on their start date, but some programs require you to apply before the start date, so please look ahead!

    Did you receive this from a friend?
    Subscribe Now

    Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to read about current news stories and upcoming events. Participate in discussions in our Google Group. Subscribe to our YouTube Channel. Support us by shopping with Amazon Smile

    For more information, call 301-444-5225, email or visit