Special Needs Parenting :: Referral to LIDDAs - TIME SENSITIVE

Team Handley at The Handley Law Office is committed to helping all families protect their loved ones now and in the future. We are especially dedicated to helping families like ours, those with a family member with Special Needs.

We believe in providing information to families that we were never given when we first began our Special Needs journey. We didn't have the benefit of Resource Fairs or even the Internet when we started our journey. Not only didn't we have the resources that are available today, we also didn't know what questions to ask nor did we know who to ask.

Because of this, things we should have known early on were delayed. Now that we know more, we can help more. To this end, we have been advocating in Austin since 2022, working to help families like ours. Our first decision was to advocate for mandatory early notification of the Texas Waiver programs. Waiver programs provide long-term services and supports for individuals with disabilities. In Texas, the waiting lists for these services are extremely long.

In our own family, since we were not notified about the Waiver programs until our daughter was 14 and in private school, we have spent 15 years on the lists, as of this writing. We are years away from receiving these services if current trends continue.

Every family has their own reasons for needing Waiver services. It could be for necessary therapies like speech, occupational and physical therapy, respite care, home health care, personal attendants or host home services to name a few. The issue we feel strongly about is that as soon as a child is diagnosed with a disability in the school district, parents must be told about the Waiver programs and given the contact information to their Local Intellectual and Developmental Disability Authority (LIDDA). Our daughter was first diagnosed by the school district when she was 2-1/2 years old. She is now 29 years old (2023) and we are still waiting because we were not notified.

The Handley Law Office has an information table at many area resource fairs where we provide information and education to families. Over the past few years, we have been asking families if they are aware of the Waivers and, if so, did they learn about them from the school district. While some districts are undoubtedly doing their best to educate families, there is no regulation at this time that states the district must inform parents about Waivers or refer them to the LIDDA until their child is 14 years old. Most of the families we speak with have not been told by their school district but rather by other parents or sources. We want to change that.

We have teamed up with The Arc of Texas which took our suggested modification to the law and had a Bill drafted with necessary wording to inform parents at first diagnosis. Within The Arc of Texas, this Bill is known as "The Handley Bill". We are proud that our name is attached to this Bill and we are just as proud to show our daughter that even one family can do their best to make a difference.

In August 2022, we attended the Texas Advocates Conference in Round Rock where we were interviewed by Jennifer Martinez, Executive Director of The Arc of Texas about our experiences. We spoke with Jennifer and Ashley Ford, Director of Public Policy & Advocacy for The Arc of Texas about our plans to contact a State Senator about this issue.

In September 2022, we traveled to Austin to meet with the staff of a Texas State Senator (chair of the Health and Human Services committee) about this issue which ended up as a 90 minute meeting so they could learn more about our family's personal story as well as how our proposal would assist the 156,000 people on these Interest Lists as well as countless more who are unaware of these programs.

We followed that meeting up with a Zoom meeting with a Texas State Representative (counterpart of the State Senator) detailing much of the same information.

As this Texas state legislative session began, the Bill was drafted and submitted to both the Texas State House (HB4716) and Senate (SB2513).

On April 18, 2023, Boyd, Carey and Caytlin Handley testified at the Capitol in Austin in front of the Public Education Committee, chaired by Rep Brad Buckley. We also met with the Bill's author, Rep Christian Manuel and thanked him for supporting this Bill that we had proposed last year. Testifying was an incredible experience because we knew we were doing our best to help many people.

The Arc of Texas has released a grassroots message on how the public can help support this Bill. Please see below for the copied text and instructions from The Arc of Texas. Team Handley (Boyd, Carey and Caytlin) and many other Texas families would appreciate your support of this important Bill.

From The Arc of Texas:

Express Your Support for School Referrals to LIDDAs
The House Public Education Committee is hearing one very important bill to The Arc of Texas on Tuesday: HB 4716 by Manuel of Beaumont. You can submit public comments on this bill now! We have drafted a sample public comment for this bill that you can use to get you started. As always, we encourage you to customize and add your personal connection to the issue the bill would address.

  • The Arc’s One-Pager on HB 4716 is here .

How to Submit Electronic Public Comments on HB 4716 

  1. Go to https://comments.house.texas.gov/home?c=c400
  2. Check the box to certify that you acknowledge and affirm the requirements listed
  3. Provide your contact information
  4. Click the “Select” box on the right next to HB 4716 Relating to the referral of certain students receiving special education services to a local intellectual and developmental disability authority for services or public benefits.
  5. Within the text box, provide your comments. There is a 3000-character limit.
  6. Click the red “Submit” box
  7. Way to go! You submitted electronic public comments! Thank you for your advocacy action.

Sample Electronic Public Comments on HB 4716
You can copy and paste the following comments into the text box to express your support. As always, we encourage you to customize and add your personal connection to the issue the bill would address.

 I support HB 4716 because families need to know about publicly available services or benefits as soon as possible for their child with intellectual or developmental disabilities – especially when you consider some services have waiting lists up to 16 years. Local IDD Authorities are the best place to refer students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) as they will provide families with the opportunity to educate themselves about ALL services for Texans with IDD. Schools are often one of the first places children with IDD are identified so by requiring that school districts refer students with a suspected or diagnosed intellectual or developmental disability to their local IDD authority, we can help ensure Texans with IDD get what they need when they need it. Please support the passage of HB 4716.

 From Team Handley: Thank you very much for helping us help others!


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