xMindsWire March 2023

xMinds Webinar Guides You Through the IEP


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 information needed to support their children is included. Educational experts Stacy Ganz Kahn and Donna Sagona, directors of Educational Resources Group of Greater Washington, will cut through the jargon and guide you through each IEP section, including Levels of Performance, Accommodations, Goals, and Services. This is foundational information that we need to understand when we advocate for our children in IEP meetings.

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 share 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

xMinds Advocates for Legislation to Level the Playing Field for Parents in Special Ed. Hearings

When there’s a legal dispute between a school and a family about whether a student is receiving the “free and appropriate public education” (FAPE) that federal law requires, parents lose an astounding 85% of the time in Maryland. There is a harmful imbalance in these “due process” hearings that makes it extremely difficult for families to ever win.

xMinds headed to the Maryland Capitol in Annapolis last week to advocate for a new law that will help level the playing field in these hearings. Currently, if the IEP team disagrees on important matters such as eligibility, services, or placement, the family carries the burden of proving that the school is NOT providing a FAPE. This is despite the fact that schools have access to more information and more resources to pay lawyers, experts, and witnesses.

The good news is that both the Maryland House of Delegates and the Maryland Senate are considering bills that would shift the burden of proof — making the schools prove in due process hearings that they ARE providing a FAPE.

In the two states that have already shifted the burden of proof in this way, New York and New Jersey, there have been fewer law suits and more cooperation between schools and families of special education students, because the schools know they no longer have a guaranteed win if it goes to court.

This legislation could be a game-changer for families who are not receiving the special education support they are entitled to under law. We encourage you to show your support of HB 0294 and SB 0926. To make it easy for you, we have created sample letters and instructions on where to send your email letters.

Let your representatives know that this matters to you! Sending these emails will take you no more than a few minutes, and your support can make a difference!

xMinds board members Daria Hall, Flor De Amelia Lizette Hoffman, and Melanie Carlos at the Maryland Capitol on February 22 for “Developmental Disabilities Day at the Legislature,” where they advocated for the rights of families in disputes over a student's IEP.

Enjoy a Good Laugh With xMinds  


Have a good laugh while supporting a good cause! Gaithersburg’s new Give A Hoot Comedy Club will donate a portion of the proceeds from its shows on Friday, March 10, and Saturday, March 11, to xMinds. Shows start at 8:00 PM both evenings, with doors opening at 7:00 PM.

Comedian Greg “Judge” Poole, who has toured with comedian/actor Martin Lawrence, will be the headliner. He's also appeared on BET's "Tell Me Something Good" and Donnie Simpson's "Morning Show."

 Greg “Judge” Poole

Give A Hoot is located in La Mexicana Restaurant at 16143 Shady Grove Rd., so come when the doors open at 7:00 PM and enjoy dinner and drinks before the show fajitas, tacos, margaritas, and more! Invite your friends for a fun evening!

There are only 80 seats per evening, so don’t delay. It may sell out. Purchase tickets here.

Understanding Neurodiversity-Affirming Care


Join xMinds on Wednesday, March 15, at 7:00 PM for an important webinar on “neurodiversity-affirming care.” This approach embraces neurodiversity, supporting individuals for who they are, rather than seeking to change them to fit a neurotypical mold. Supports are guided by the individual’s wants and needs, taking into account their strengths and vulnerabilities. We’re excited to have the opportunity to hear about this approach, which may be a good alternative to Applied Behavior Analysis for many individuals on the spectrum.

We’ll be joined by three mental health professionals who use this approach in their work with neurodiverse individuals, and identify as neurodiverse themselves. Jaclyn Halpern, Psy.D.; Laura Morlok, LCPC, LPC, RPT-S; and Max Lamm, MA, LRIC, will provide an overview of the neurodiversity-affirming paradigm, help families understand the importance of this approach, and identify both what to look for and what to avoid while seeking neurodiversity-affirming care. They’ll also discuss how parents and other caregivers can create an affirming and supportive atmosphere at home.

The webinar will be geared toward parents and caregivers with recently diagnosed children and is also for anyone who wants to learn more about affirming support. There’s no fee to attend, and simultaneous Spanish interpretation will be provided. Register here to receive the Zoom link.

Jaclyn Halpern

Laura Morlok

Max Lamm

Get Ready for a Fun-Filled Morning! 


Join us Sunday, March 19, for some family fun at our 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. We will have balls, mats, parachutes, and other gym equipment, as well as organized children's activities. (Please note that this meetup is on Sunday, not Saturday as the previous meetups.)

Our open gym meetups provide a wonderful opportunity to get your kids moving, and 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 if we need to postpone due to inclement weather, register here.

With the weather warming up, we’ll move the fun outdoors next month! Mark your calendars for our playground meetup, Saturday, April 22, 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM at the playground behind Ivymount School, 11614 Seven Locks Rd., Rockville, MD.

    Register to Receive Reminders and Updates

    Join Team xMinds for Bike to the Beach


    xMinds is excited to announce that we will be participating in the 2023 Bike to the Beach fundraiser on Friday, July 28. 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!

    Here’s how you can support this critical xMinds fundraiser, whether or not you bike:

    If you want to “bike to the beach,” sign up here to join Team xMinds and ride with us on July 28. You can invite friends and family to support you with a donation — but you’re not required to raise a particular amount. To help you prepare for the ride, join other team members for our optional training rides throughout the spring. It’s a great way to meet other xMinds families. Our first training ride is Sunday, April 2, 9:00 AM, at Ken-Gar Palisades Park. Drop in and give it a whirl; no commitment required. Find out the details here.

    If you want to volunteer, find out the details here. We need non-biking volunteers to help us host a rest stop along the ride route. You can donate snacks and drinks beforehand, reach out to your friends for donations, or staff the rest stop on ride day. It’s fun to be part of the excitement and to cheer on the bike riders. 

    If you’re unable to help with the actual event but want to show your support, consider making a donation. You can support Team xMinds by donating here.

    Find out more about this fundraiser on the xMinds website, where we spell out all the details about this fun and important event.

    Team xMinds reaches the 2022 Bike to the Beach finish line!

    Check Out the xMinds Summer Camp Guide


    Spring starts this month, and summer isn’t far behind! To help you with your summer planning, xMinds has put together a guide to summer camps and programs that autistic kids and teens have enjoyed in past years.

    We’ve updated the guide over the last month with new additions, including a free soccer camp for kids with disabilities and a nature occupational therapy camp. There’s something fun for everyone! We’ll add new listings as we hear about programs, so check back throughout the spring!

    xMinds Resource Eases the College Search

    Do you know a teen on the spectrum who is considering college? Check out xMinds’ Postsecondary Education resource guide.

    You’ll find resources to help select a school that supports autistic students — whether you’re looking for a bachelor’s degree program, a community college, a certificate program for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, or some other option. 

    You’ll also find information about college accommodations, support services, scholarship opportunities, college prep resources, as well as advice on how to thrive on campus. Check out our resources to find the right fit and to prepare for the big transition!

    If you’re looking for more information on transitioning to adulthood, consider joining our Let's Talk Transitions online parent discussion group, the fourth Wednesday of every month at 7:00 PM. The group meets next on Wednesday, March 22, at 7:00 PM. Register here to receive the Zoom link. New participants are always welcome!

    Identity-First vs. Person-First Language


    What’s the more respectful term: “an autistic student” or “a student with autism”? While there are strong opinions on the subject, the community is split.

    Many in the disability rights community believe that person-first language —such as “a student with autism” — is the most respectful way to refer to individuals who have disabilities. Person-first language, in their view, recognizes individuals as human beings first, and their autism as part, but not all of them. Many parents of children who have an autism diagnosis prefer person-first language for their children.

    However, many autistic self-advocates prefer identity-first language, using terms such as “an autistic student.” They explain that their autism is integral to who they are, not something separate from them; it's the way they perceive, understand, and experience the world. It is similar to how an individual might identify herself as a Black woman rather than a woman who is Black.

    xMinds respects every individual’s right to choose the identifier they prefer, and will use the preferred identifier for any specific individual. When we refer to individuals in general, we have debated whether to defer to what we perceive to be parents’ preference for person-first language or the autistic self-advocates’ preference for identity-first language. Out of deference to the diversity of views on this issue, and until there is a clear consensus within the autism community, xMinds will continue to intentionally use both person-first and identity-first language interchangeably. Visit our website for links to essays and posts from autistic individuals and others expressing a range of perspectives on identity-first and person-first language.


    Get Ready for 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 each of us unique in a neurodiverse society.

    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. Start planning now to get Autism Acceptance Month on your school’s calendar!

    Also, save the date for the countywide Shine Brighter Together family friendly-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.

    Did You Miss xMinds’ “Primers on MCPS Placements for Autistic Students”? 

    Over the course of three recent webinars, MCPS staff explained the full array of its programs that support students on the autism spectrum. Now you can watch the webinars on demand and download the presentation slides here.  Presentations are available in English and Spanish.

    You’ll find separate webinars on preschool placements, elementary school placements, and middle/high school placements. Armed with this information, parents can become more effective and knowledgeable advocates for their children’s educational needs.

    For more information, check out the xMinds Guide to Special Education Programs for Autistic Students. You’ll find information about the programs where autistic students are most commonly placed, including details about the type of students each program is geared toward, the learning environment, the staffing ratio, the location(s), and more. You’ll also find an interactive map where you can search for locations of specific programs and schools. It isn’t easy to find this information on the MCPS website; this guide is a convenient way to see all the MCPS offerings in one place.

    xMinds Partners with MCPS Liaisons

    At the invitation of MCPS administrators, xMinds board and staff presented information about our organization at the monthly meeting of MCPS Parent Community Coordinators (PCCs) and Pupil Personnel Workers (PPWs) on Thursday, February 23. These two MCPS teams support families and students impacted by poverty, language barriers, or other challenges. They act as liaisons between the school system and local community and government services, removing barriers so families and students receive the extra attention and services they need.

    xMinds Vice President Melanie Carlos, Executive Director Sue Keisler, and board member Flor de Amelia Lizette Hoffman shared information about how xMinds supports families with autistic children. Many of the PCCs and PPWs help families with an autistic child, and now they know they can connect those families to xMinds to find free parent support groups, in-person family meetups for younger children, and individual IEP consults. Partnering with MCPS in this way was exciting — opening up new avenues to reach families with autistic students, and in particular parents who are non-English speakers.

    Now on YouTube: Navigating Cultural Bias

    Dr. Joette James

    Did you miss last month’s webinar on Navigating Cultural Bias with a Child on the Autism Spectrum? The presentation is now available to watch on demand on YouTube. Clinical neuropsychologist Dr. Joette James explored how racial and cultural biases can lead to disparities in autism diagnosis and treatment.

    Check out the xMinds YouTube channel to see our full library of webinars, including related topics like Racial Justice in Special Education.

    Now on YouTube: Update on the Maryland Autism Waiver

    In case you missed it, last week xMinds partnered with Howard County Autism Society to bring you Sheri Weissman and Daniel Hammond, autism waiver coordinators for Howard County, Harford County, and Montgomery County. These speakers presented our community with clear information about the Autism Waiver and answered a flood of excellent questions. You can find the video recording on the Howard County Autism Society YouTube channel here. The recording in Spanish and the slide show will take a few more days. Check back here for them. 

    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:

    Matthew B. Bogin, Attorney at Law

    5454 Wisconsin Ave., Ste. 760, Chevy Chase, MD 20815


    Contact: Matthew Bogin; 301-656-1755; matthew.bogin@boginlaw.com

    Services: Financial/trust management

    Matthew B. Bogin has been helping families with special needs members throughout the DC metropolitan area for over 35 years. He is well respected for his championing the varying rights of special needs clients. Currently his particular focus is ensuring that families with special needs members complete and review planning to ensure a successful future for these children. Because that calls for specialized knowledge and expertise, Matthew is ideally suited to assist clients in the area of special needs trusts, estate planning, and guardianship.

    Center for Communication & Learning

    6266 Montrose Road, Rockville, MD 20852


    Contact: Randi Rosenblatt; 240-883-6731; info@ccl-md.com

    Services: Speech/Language Therapy; Social Skills Therapy; Parent Education

    The Center For Communication and Learning is a comprehensive pediatric speech and language private practice that provides evaluations and therapy to children diagnosed with communication challenges secondary to autism, social pragmatic language disorders, speech and language delays, apraxia and oral motor/feeding difficulties. Staff collaborate with educators and therapists in order to provide an integrated approach to services for your child. Family participation is welcomed. The dynamic Be Social Kids programs assist children in developing social thinking skills to enhance their ability to navigate the social world at school and at home.

    MOCO Movement Center

    5268-A Nicholson Lane, Kensington, MD 20895


    Contact: Andrea Santman; 301-770-5437; info@MOCOmc.com

    Services: Occupational therapy; Physical therapy; Speech-language therapy; Behavioral therapy; Social skills therapy; Athletics/recreational support; Coaching

    MOCO Movement Center is a fully inclusive pediatric therapy practice and athletic movement center. We offer movement classes for children of all ages and abilities and provide therapy services to support their function. MOCO's proprietary method, Applied Functional Therapy, takes evidence-based physical, occupational, and speech therapy out of the clinic and integrates it into real life activities to help your child achieve better functional outcomes. MOCO Movement Center is committed to excellence and puts our patients and families first! That means staying on the cutting edge of medical research and education, truly understanding your child’s goals, and adapting therapy to meet their specific needs. Showing families how to interact and grow in a real-world environment is our way of showing you that MOCO’s commitment does not end at our doors.

    Rooted: Nature OT in DC


    Contact:  Mya Zavaleta Ford; 202-930-3965; admin@rootedindc.com

    (bilingual in English and Spanish)

    Services: Occupational Therapy, Social Skills Support, Recreational Support, Executive Function Support, Wellness Support

    At Rooted OT, we have a strengths-based approach to help kids learn and grow. They become empowered with understanding how their brains and bodies grow best while playing and exploring in nature. We take kids outdoors individually, in groups, and camps to develop their coordination, connection, and calming skills. Our young clients love their time in Nature OT. Great news: Summer Camp registration has just opened!

    SpeechKids, LLC

    DC, MD, VA


    Contact: Gabriele Nicolet; 202-306-0505; info@speechkids.com

    Services: Speech-language therapy; Educational consulting; Coaching

    Speech Kids provides holistic, developmental, attachment-based pediatric speech therapy serving DC, MD, and VA. Raising Orchids is the parent education division of SpeechKids that offers parent education and parent support groups for parents of neurodiverse children (global, online), along with a monthly subscription service that past participants can opt into.

    Upcoming xMinds Events

    xMinds events, resources, & services are always FREE

    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 detailing the parts of an IEP document. Register here.

    Friday, March 10, and Saturday, March 11, 8:00 PM (doors open 7:00 PM)

    Give a Hoot Comedy Weekend

    Comedy night benefit for xMinds. Purchase tickets here.

    Wednesday, March 15, 7:00 – 7:45 PM

    Understanding Neurodiversity-Affirming Care 

    Webinar on this supportive approach, which embraces neurodiversity. Register here.

    Sunday, March 19, 10:00  – 11:30 AM

    Elementary and Preschool Open Gym Meetup 

    Meet other elementary and preschool families. See the details here

    Wednesday, March 22, 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.

    Monday, March 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, April 5, 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!

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    For more information, call 301-444-5225, email info@xMinds.org or visit xMinds.org.