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NMPASI In the News

Thursday, October 23, 2014:

Parent fights for occupational therapy services for daughter:

A complaint filed by a father against the Public School System in July brought to light the termination of certain services as provided to his special-needs daughter. The complaint was resolved in Sept. 4 when PSS agreed to meet the proposed resolutions in the complaint.

At the heart of matter was Alan B. Vila’s daughter, Evita Tanya Vila. To begin school year 2013, she was transitioned to the “consultative model” of occupational therapy services from the “direct interventional model” she used to receive while a student of Oleai Elementary School. She is now a student of Hopwood Junior High School. The change in services was at the recommendation of registered occupational therapist Karri L. Fisher.

But Vila, in his complaint, claimed an “unjustified discontinuance” of these services, as well as other acts, as violations of the Individual with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA. He cited a change in his daughter’s individualized educational program without due regard to his input as the father or recommendations from her previous school. According to a September SY 2012-2013 OT progress report, Fisher found “good improvement” in Tanya’s frustration tolerance with tasks like handwriting and noted development in that area as well.

Tanya at that point had the “necessary foundational skills” to perform the task and demonstrated competence in handwriting eligibility, according to Fisher.
While she noted some “inconsistencies,” Fisher said Tanya could achieve standard performance level through consistent expectation across all settings—that assignments are completed at a level that matches her performance level.
She stated that Tanya did not need the direct intervention model, but rather a consultative model to review her progress.

In May 2013, a meeting was held between Hopwood’s special education teacher Ben Rayphand, Vila, and two OES teacher, according to the complaint. Villa said that he personally heard Elmie Guerrero of Hopwood recommend from a report that the services Tanya had at OES be continued at Hopwood. Guerrero is not a registered occupational therapist, as gathered from the documents.

In September 2013, an individualized education program was created for Tanya, with speech pathology services but no OT services, according to the complaint. Vila insisted that Tanya’s services be continued at Hopwood.

In October 2013, Vila was provided a copy of Fisher’s report. In April 2014, a meeting between PSS representatives, its legal counsel, Vila, and representatives from the Northern Marianas Protection and Advocacy Systems was held at Vila’s request. Vila pushed for an addendum to his daughter’s IEP to return her to the direct intervention model, according to the complaint. He also asked for documents that would justify the change in his daughter’s services.

In his complaint, Vila cited section 504 of IDEA that said an appropriate education would include an establishment of due process procedures that enable parents and guardians to receive required notices, review their child’s records, and challenge identification, evaluation and placement decisions. Evaluations and placements procedure should be set to “guard against misclassification and inappropriate placement,” according to IDEA. Vila claimed in his complaint that the opinion of Guerrero, who saw Tanya almost daily at OES, should “have carried more weight” than Fisher who saw her less frequently.

Also from direct experience as Tanya’s father, he believes that Tanya still needs OT services under the direct intervention model. He asked for a reinstatement and a reevaluation of his daughter’s condition. The complaint was resolved when PSS met some of the proposed resolutions in the complaint. With Tanya reinstated under the DI model of the OT services, a reevaluation was said to be unnecessary. PSS also agreed that information from all IEP team members be given due consideration, and access to all educational and service related records be allowed. PSS’ legal counsel office would not comment further on the complaint.

By Dennis B. Chan

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