DOES THIS SOUND FAMILIAR?  This child does not have failing grades, so this I.E.P. is fine, no new services will be added or alternative school placements considered.” All too often, I have heard this obstructionist line delivered to parents of children with underserviced special education needs at their child’s I.E.P. review meeting.  Parents familiar with the fact that their child is struggling in school are in disbelief that they must fight with the school to get their child the special education support services necessary to succeed.  So why is this systemic obstruction happening?

To be clear, it is not a sinister plot on the part of educators to deprive children of the educational supports needed. This problem of obstruction parent/advocates’ encounter when requesting additional special education support services for learning disabled children is caused by federal underfunding of school special education services. This financial pressure manifests itself in the bold faced ‘gas lighting’ of parents that is perpetuated at I.E.P. meetings by the school district’s powers that be.  Tragically for those children, budgetary concerns perpetuate the inherent cancer in the public school system that rears its’ ugly head every time schools have the audacity to assert: 1)  a 5th grader, whose dyslexia/dysgraphia has her reading/writing at a 1st grade level, is making educational progress;  2) an autistic child, who starts and ends his day in peer isolation, is making social/emotional progress; and 3) an emotionally disabled child is making positive progress’ despite that very child failing several classes and being identified as performing at a “warning level” on his MCAS testing.

Thankfully, the U.S. Supreme Court recently established a new measurement for “progress” when assessing the suitability of an IEP as it relates to each child with special education needs.  In a unanimous decision, the highest Court in the land ruled that merely “de minimus”, or negligible educational progress made via IEP services is akin to no progress at all.  Consequently, a new, higher bar was set: a child’s Individualized Education Plan (I.E.P.) must be “appropriately ambitious in light of [the child’s] circumstances” in terms of its goals for that child’s educational progress.  This new, “appropriately ambitious standard will be particularly helpful in empowering parents and/or advocates, to successfully challenge the school district’s assertion that simply because their child is not failing all courses, sufficient evidence exists to prove an IEP’s effectiveness. This “appropriately aggressive” standard will force the school district to tailor each I.E.P. to each child with special education needs AND ensure that “appropriately ambitious” progress goals are incorporated into that child’s I.E.P.  Gone are the days that school districts can justify keeping a child with special education needs in the equivalent of a holding pattern.  Hallelujah!

Since this monumental decision was handed down last month, there has been both celebration from advocates on behalf of the millions of learning disabled children with special education needs and grumblings from School Superintendents that this new caselaw will change nothing as Individuals with disabilities act (I.D.E.A.)  funding deficits limit the I.E.P. services/out of district placements the public school districts can afford to provide.

What does it all mean as it relates to our children?  It means a child’s I.E.P. must provide “appropriately ambitious” educational goals, a point that should be advocated at your child’s next I.E.P. review meeting.  Do not accept or allow status quo to be heralded by the school as progress if your child is not making effective progress.  As the Supreme Court recently proclaimed: “every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives.”  Dream big on behalf of your child.  Never forget that, as the parent of your child, you are the most important member of your child’s IEP Team:  insist that your child’s individual educational program is “appropriately ambitious” so your child makes effective progress academically, socially and emotionally.  Accept nothing less!

Divorce Stress Management Method

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In 2005, it became clear to me that my first husband and I were heading towards a divorce.  Our son was only two years old at that time. My husband and I had met in law school and started a law firm together, which we had co-operated over the course of several years.  Even though my legal practice was devoted to divorce litigation, facing the prospect of my own divorce suddenly paralyzed me with stress and fear.

Divorce stress is medically documented to cause lack of focus, chronic anxiety, worry, insomnia, weight gain, heart disease and a weakened immune system.  In short, the stress from a divorce wears a person down; and while I knew it on a professional level, I was now experiencing it first hand.

In my darkest hours, I found myself sitting on my laundry room floor, knees pulled up against my chest while I wondered: “How will I get myself up off this floor to face the train wreck that I have made out of my life?”  During this time of divorce transition, I meditated, exercised in nature (hiking/skiing) and learned to engage in creative visualization to map out a positive future.  I also learned to take full ownership of how my choices and behavior perpetuated the divorce conflict with my husband.

As the approach I took proved helpful in getting me off the laundry room floor, amicably resolving my divorce and salvaging a friendship with my ex who supports a positive co-parenting relationship for our son, I realized I had done something unique. This lead me to write my book, “Divorce the Drama“, aimed at teaching my effective methodology for divorce stress management, which became my opportunity to share the “secret” to my success.

As professionals working with clients who are stressed and unfocused due to divorce, we can use the Divorce The Drama (DTD) methodology to help teach them how to better manage stress while shifting their focus from negative to positive.


The DTD methodology teaches:

1) Self awareness

2) Benefit of a ‘Drama Detox’ where you get space from your ex and rebuild emotional independence

3) Promotes positive creative visualization that leads to empowerment and an improved sense of self and purpose.

The DTD methodology encourages the client to pivot their focus and shift their energy from negative to positive when speaking of future outcomes.  This shift is immensely empowering and stress reducing as it enlists the client to actively focus on attracting what they want for themselves, reduces indecision, anxiety, and worry in this present moment.  The result is a client who can productively help his/her legal counsel to help them get them through the divorce process successfully.

Learn more about the DTD methodology in my presentation at the ADFP Annual Catalyst Conference taking place in October.


Follow Melissa on Twitter @DivorceTheDrama

LinkedIn: Melissa Sindeband Dragon

First Time You See Your Ex

The first time you run into your ex can be really heartbreaking, dramatic, painful or angry.  A fan recently wrote this comment about his first encounter with his ex wife and his wish to stay positive.  Read on…

“Hi Melissa, Well,  just had court and saw the soon to be X-wife for the fist time since August.  She showed up with a boyfriend – ouch  it was more than awkward.  I haven’t felt that feeling in a while.  Kind of  looking for something from the heart and trying to stay positive.”

Perhaps her need to bring her boyfriend with her to Court reveals that she too feels vulnerable and exposed during this process. Try to remember that people come in and out of our lives for a time to teach us something about ourselves – whether they intend to or not, they do. Perhaps today’s lesson was that you are stronger than you thought you were; after all the sight of your soon to be ex wife and her boyfriend did not make you unglued or cause you to loose control and look to start a fight. For many people, they would not be able to contain their composure when confronted with the unexpected. YOU did and remained focused on getting through this with integrity and grace. For this you are to be commended! Stay strong, Chris and keep looking for that silver lining, it is always there if we look hard enough.”