Register for Next Week's Primers on MCPS Placements

xMindsWire February 2023

What's the Right Placement for Your Child?


Are you searching for the appropriate MCPS special education program for your child? Join us next Tuesday and Thursday, February 7 and 9, for our Primers on MCPS Placements for Autistic Students, when our special guests from MCPS will detail the programs that autistic students are commonly placed in. They'll be happy to take your questions.

This essential information can help parents make an informed judgment about the best placement for their child. When your child’s IEP team addresses the important question of placement, you will be a more effective and knowledgeable advocate for your child if you understand all the options. 

Most MCPS autistic students who have an IEP receive special education services in general education at their home school, but some autistic students will find more success in a discrete special education program that provides more specialized support. We are fortunate in Montgomery County that MCPS offers a range of special education programs, but it can be challenging for parents to know the differences among them!

What services can a child receive in their home school if they are not placed in a special education program? If a child is in a special education program, how much of their day will be spent with peers in general education, versus a self-contained classroom? What support will a student receive for social skills or executive functioning? Is the program only for autistic students or students with a range of special education needs? Learn the answers to these questions and more when you join us next week.

We’re offering three separate Zoom meetings over two evenings. Each meeting will cover MCPS special education placements focusing on a different age group: preschool, elementary, and secondary. Attend any session, and bring your questions! 

To help you get the most out of this event, we recommend that you look over our newly expanded website resource that provides essential information about all the MCPS programs for autistic students. 

Here’s the schedule for these free Zoom meetings:

  • Preschool Placements: Tuesday, Feb. 7 @ 7:00 – 9:00 PM
  • Elementary School Placements: Thursday, Feb. 9 @ 7:00 – 9:00 PM
  • Middle School Placements: Tuesday, Feb. 7 @ 7:00 – 9:00 PM (running at the same time as the preschool presentation, in a separate Zoom meeting)

All sessions are free and will be held over Zoom with simultaneous Spanish interpretation. We’ll make the recordings available if you miss any. Register here to receive all the Zoom links. 

Now Online: Updated & Expanded IEP Resources 


xMinds is thrilled to announce that we’ve updated and expanded two important resources on our website: our Guide to MCPS Programs and our Accommodations page!  These new resources will help parents arm themselves with the information they need to be their child’s best advocate. Check them out!


We’ve updated and expanded the xMinds website with the latest information about all the MCPS special education programs in which autistic students are commonly placed. You’ll find details about the type of students each program is geared toward, the learning environment, the staffing ratio, the location(s), and more. If you want to learn more about these programs and ask questions to the MCPS staff who run them, join us on February 7 and 9 for our Primers on MCPS Placements for Autistic Students.


Our Accommodations page is the most popular resource on the xMinds website, and now we’ve updated and expanded it!  This page provides a handy list of classroom accommodations that have been helpful to autistic students — everything from kinesthetic seating to frequent breaks. Check out this page and discuss it with your child if you can. Parents are important members of the IEP and 504 plan teams, so if you feel an accommodation is appropriate for your child, advocate for it!

Join Us for a Webinar on Cultural Bias and Autism

The xMinds BIPOC Outreach Committee invites you to a free webinar on “Navigating Cultural Bias with a Child on the Autism Spectrum,” Monday, February 13, at 7:00 PM. Our guest speaker, Dr. Joette James, will explore racial and cultural biases and resulting disparities in autism diagnosis and treatment. Dr. James is a clinical neuropsychologist with The Stixrud Group, a neuropsychology practice in Silver Spring, MD. She previously worked as a staff neuropsychologist at Children’s National Medical Center and as chief neuropsychologist at HSC Pediatric Center in Washington, DC.

Joette James, Ph.D.

A recent study in "Autism Research" examined data collected through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and found that as many as one in four children who have documented signs and symptoms consistent with autism spectrum disorder are currently undiagnosed, and those undiagnosed children are more likely to be children of color. In addition to disparities in the diagnosis, families of color often experience cultural incompetencies by providers and financial and transportation barriers to obtaining needed support. Dr. James will discuss this complex societal problem and what steps can be taken to reduce and eliminate these disparities and biases. The presentation will be held over Zoom with simultaneous Spanish interpretation. Register here to receive the Zoom link.

Please note that this presentation will take the place of the monthly People of Global Majority Discussion Group hosted by the BIPIC Outreach Committee.

Register Here

See You at the Open Gym Meetup, Sat., Feb. 18 


Join us Saturday, February 18, for an open gym meetup for MoCo families with elementary and preschool autistic children. We’ll meet 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM at the Glen Haven Elementary School gymnasium, 10900 Inwood Avenue, Silver Spring, MD. 

Our open gym meetups offer a fun way to get your kids moving on a winter day, and provide a wonderful opportunity to connect with other families who have autistic children. We will have balls, mats, parachutes, and other gym equipment, as well as organized children's activities. 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 if we need to postpone due to inclement weather, register here.

    Register to Receive Reminders and Updates

    Update on the Maryland Autism Waiver


    Maryland’s newly enacted “End the Wait Act” promises to cut the wait time in half for the Autism Waiver program, which helps eligible autistic children and young adults receive services that support them in their homes and communities. Join us Wednesday, February 22, at 7:00 PM for an online update on the Maryland Autism Waiver program and this new legislation. 

    Our knowledgeable speakers oversee autism waiver coordination in Montgomery, Howard, and Hartford Counties. The program is co-sponsored by xMinds and the Howard County Autism Society.

    More than 6,000 individuals are waiting on the Autism Waiver Registry; the current wait for a waiver is about eight years. Our speakers will discuss important changes coming to the Autism Waiver program, plans to reduce the wait list, and what that will mean for children and families in Maryland. There is no fee to attend, and simultaneous Spanish interpretation will be provided. Register here to receive the Zoom link.

    Register Here

    Save the Date: xMinds Webinar on IEP Basics


    Join us Tuesday, March 7, 7:00 – 8:30 PM, for our free webinar Your Student's IEP Explained, Section by Section. IEPs are long and filled with jargon, making it challenging for parents to ensure that all the essential information is included. Educational experts Stacy Ganz Kahn and Donna Sagona, directors of Educational Resources Group of Greater Washington, will guide you through each IEP section — including Levels of Performance, Accommodations, Goals, and Services — to help you best advocate for your child’s educational needs.

    Stacy and Donna have over 65 years of combined experience serving the educational needs of families in the Greater Washington DC area. They’ve worked as general and special education teachers, staff development trainers, and MCPS administrators. They’re also the parents of children with learning differences  so they have sat on all sides of the IEP table! They’ll be sharing their IEP expertise, and will be happy to take questions.  

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

    Register Here

    Now Available: xMinds Summer Camp Guide


    Now that we’re halfway through the school year, it’s time to start looking ahead to summer! Camps and programs are getting organized and gearing up for Summer 2023. To help you find the right fit, xMinds has put together a guide to summer camps and programs that autistic kids and teens have enjoyed in past years. Check out our guide to find some summer fun for your child! We’ll continue to update the information as camp details are finalized and more offerings are announced. Check back throughout the winter and spring!

    xMinds Honors Black History Month 

    February is Black History Month, making it a fitting time to reaffirm xMinds’ year-round commitment to inclusivity. The xMinds Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Outreach Committee is an integral part of the xMinds community. This committee leads a monthly online discussion group called People of the Global Majority, offering MoCo parents and guardians of BIPOC autistic children an opportunity to connect and share information. Guest speakers often join to share expertise on a topic of importance to parents of BIPOC autistic students. Please join us for the People of the Global Majority discussion group, typically held the first Monday of every month at 7:00 PM. (Note: The next discussion group will be on March 6 at 7:00PM).

    The BIPOC Outreach Committee hosts events throughout the year — everything from a fun annual get-together at the Germantown SplashPark to the important upcoming webinar Navigating Cultural Bias with a Child on the Autism Spectrum, on Monday, February 13, at 7:00 PM. Be sure to also check out the BIPOC Outreach Committee webpage for useful information and resources. 

    Farewell to Board Member Natalia Ahn 

    We bid adieu to board member Natalia Ahn, who leaves the xMinds Board after nearly two years of service. As a native Spanish speaker, Natalia helped xMinds reach out to the Hispanic community and has been one of our friendly and knowledgeable bilingual volunteers at our playground meetups for elementary and preschool families. She served a term as xMinds treasurer, provided legal insights to the board, and used her pedal power to raise thousands of dollars for xMinds as a three-time Bike to the Beach rider. We wish Natalia happy trails as she takes on new and exciting challenges as deputy chief legal officer for Maryland Gov. Wes Moore.

    Natalia Ahn

    Join the xMinds Board! 


    Are you looking to make a difference in the lives of MoCo autistic kids and their families? Please consider joining the xMinds Board or one of our committees! We’re seeking autistic individuals who are interested in special education and parents or guardians of autistic students in Montgomery County schools. Come join the volunteer team that guides xMinds as we work to improve the educational experiences and outcomes of autistic MoCo students.

    We’re looking for individuals who are committed to our mission and can represent xMinds in the community, assist in planning programs, volunteer at our events, participate in monthly board meetings, and lead one of the xMinds committees. If you’re interested or want to find out more, please email us at

    Educators: What's on Your Classroom Wish List? 


    xMinds is excited to announce that through our Winter Wish List initiative we will be awarding up to $8,000 to help educators purchase classroom materials to support autistic students and to attend training workshops.

    We're awarding individual grants of up to $100 to help MoCo educators buy items that support autistic students, including hands-on manipulatives, flexible seating, and noise-canceling headphones. We’re also offering grants of up to $250 for trainings on how best to teach and connect with autistic learners.

    Spread the word to your child's education team!  Any MoCo educator who supports autistic students can apply, including special and general educators, paraeducators, administrators, and related service providers. Apply today for a Winter Wish List grant!

    Did You Miss Our Webinars on Executive Functioning or on IEPs and Accommodations?

    Check out the xMinds YouTube Channel for our latest webinars, including our January presentation on Executive Functioning Challenges for ASD Students. If your child is overwhelmed by where to start on assignments, struggling to meet deadlines, and avoiding tasks, you'll want to watch this webinar.

    We also recently added our webinar Understanding IEPs v. 504 Plans v. Service Plans & Accommodations v. Modifications. You'll find it on YouTube along with all the webinars in our Special Education Basics Series

    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:

    Suzanne Keith Blattner and Associates

    Contact: Suzie Blattner; 301-758-4275; 

    Services: Educational Consulting; Advocacy; Academic Tutoring/Coaching

    Ms. Blattner and her associates are highly skilled and experienced professionals who have provided supports to families of students with special learning needs for over 30 years. They offer a range of supports including tailored consulting, advocacy, specialized tutoring and academic coaching. A complete description and details of the services offered through this practice are outlined on the website. Ms. Blattner offers a free 1/2 hour consultation to families to learn about their needs and to point them in the right direction to get started.

    Educational Resources Group of Greater Washington

    Contact: Stacy Ganz Kahn; 301-636-0389;

    Services: Educational Consulting and Advocacy; Academic Therapy (Tutoring); Executive Functioning and ADHD Coaching; College Consulting; Behavioral Intervention Support

    Utilizing a coordination of care approach, Educational Resources Group of Greater Washington (ERG) provides a high level of expertise and a broad menu of educational services specifically tailored to meet the individual needs of our clients. Our experienced team of certified professionals can also help you navigate the complicated processes often associated with the world of learning differences.

    Reach Every Voice

    11900 Parklawn Drive, Suite 110, Rockville, MD 20852

    Contact: Lisa Mihalich Quinn; 240-630-1785;

    Services: Augmentative & Alternative Communication (AAC) Services; Rapid Prompting Method (RPM) Provider; Communication/Educational Consultant; Academic Tutoring/Coaching

    Reach Every Voice is a multi-faceted practice created and staffed by experienced teachers. REV provides communication instruction to nonspeaking or unreliably speaking individuals, hosts in-person group programs that build communication practice and provide opportunities for socialization, offers online courses for non speakers, and provides consultation, training, and coaching for families and schools working to improve their communication practices. REV is a nonprofit organization.

    The Stixrud Group, LLC

    8720 Georgia Ave., Suite 606, Silver Spring, MD 20910

    Contact: Dr. Salya Namazi; (301) 565-0534;

    Services: Educational Testing; Neuropsychological Testing; Educational Consulting

    The Stixrud Group is a group of neuropsychologists and clinical psychologists who specialize in the evaluation of children, adolescents and adults with learning, attention, social or emotional difficulties. We are committed to the alleviation of suffering for our clients and their families by removing any blocks to their experiencing happiness and fulfillment in life. We believe this is accomplished by helping our clients understand themselves. Our goal is to use our professional knowledge and skills to help people achieve educational and professional success, emotional healing and interpersonal harmony in their relationships.

    Upcoming xMinds Events

    xMinds events, resources, & services are always FREE

    Tuesday, Feb. 7, 7:00 – 9:00 PM

    Placements for Preschool Students 

    Part of xMinds' Primers on MCPS Placements for Autistic Students. Register here.

    Tuesday, Feb. 7, 7:00 – 9:00 PM

    Placements for Middle and High School Students

    Part of xMinds' Primers on MCPS Placements for Autistic Students. Register here.

    Thursday, Feb. 9, 7:00 – 9:00 PM 

    Placements for Elementary School Students 

    Part of xMinds' Primers on MCPS Placements for Autistic Students. Register here.

    Monday, February 13, 7:00  – 8:30 PM

    Navigating Cultural Bias With a Child on the Autism Spectrum

    Webinar on racial and cultural bias and resulting disparities in autism diagnosis and treatment. Register here.

    Wednesday, Feb. 15, 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.

    Saturday, Feb. 18, 10:00 AM – 11:30

    Elementary and Preschool Open Gym Meetup 

    Meet other elementary and preschool families. See the details here

    Wednesday, Feb. 22, 7:00 – 8:30 PM

    Update on the Maryland Autism Waiver 

    Learn about changes to the Autism Waiver program, including plans to reduce the waitlist. See the details here

    Monday, Feb. 27, 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, March 1, 7:00 – 7:45 PM 

    Hablemos Educación Especial

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

    Monday, March 6, 7:00 – 7:45 PM 

    People of the Global Majority

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

    Tuesday, March 7, 7:00 – 8:30 PM 

    Your Student's IEP Explained —Section by Section

    Webinar explaining the IEP document. 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!

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