HEIDI L. FRIEDMAN
I have three beautiful sons ages 12, 14, and 16. My sons are all on their own IEPs.
I received my Bachelors of Arts Degree (BA) in Communication from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) in 1994 and my Juris Doctorate (JD) from the University of San Diego School of Law (USD), specializing in criminal law in 1997.
I am a licensed attorney in CA, but I choose to work as an advocate. I prefer to collaborate rather than fight. I have found that much more can be accomplished by working with the schools - eliminating huge costs, lengthy time frames, and stress.
I completed the Advocacy Course and Internship through the Federation for Children With Special Needs in Massachusetts. My practice now includes an expansion of disability categories that include schizophrenia, severe behaviors, Bipolar Disorders, borderline I.Q., Fragile X, Tourette's Syndrome, Down's Syndrome, Executive Function Disorder, Anxiety, Social Disorders, as well as Autism, ADHD, and learning disabilities.
Since returning to California, I became the Founder and President of Special Needs Professionals of Silicon Valley (SNP), a business group consisting of other professionals working with families with special needs. SNP Website
My children's story:
In 2008, I was 8 months pregnant with my 3rd son when I received the diagnosis of Autism for my then 1 and 3 year olds at the same neurological appointment. I was obviously devastated. My 3 year old started getting great in-home ABA services and OT and Speech, but the school placements being offered were awful- rusty bookcases, no circle-time, and all non-verbal children while my son was very verbal. My 1 year old turned 2 and was non-verbal and very violent. His total Early Intervention services consisted of 1 hour a week of Speech. I had to go to several meetings using "esquire" after my name and finally received a good integrated placement for my 3 year old- but it was over an hour away each way with a newborn and an active 2 year old. Also, after several meetings, my 2 year old did receive 1 more hour of speech and one hour of OT. This was still not acceptable for either son.
I started to "zip code shop" around the country of where there were better services. We ended up in Massachusetts, about 20 miles outside of Boston. My 3 year old- now 4- had a wonderful integrated program with his own ABA trained aide and my 2 year old received 27 hours a week of services- ABA, Floor-time, Developmental Specialist, OT, Speech, Nutritionist, and playgroups. All of this without trying, using the same report!
My 9 month old baby began receiving services too for sensory processing and visual tracking and at 16 months when he received his autism diagnosis, his services ramped up to 32 hours a week- Hippotherapy (he learned to speak on a horse) and all the services my middle son received. We also had 22 hours a week of private at-home ABA, weekly OT, Speech, Counseling, Tutoring, and social groups. We never regretted the move as our sons made such great strides, but we were without our friends and long term family, alone on the opposite side of the country. After 6 years, we moved back to our home state of CA, hoping the boys had a good foundation for the years ahead.”
Prior to our relocation back to California, I was the Metro West Parent Representative for the Inter-agency Coordinating Council (ICC) for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. In this role, I was one of six parents chosen to represent the state of Massachusetts with regard to Early Intervention, including identification, screening, treatment, and transition. This was a four-year term appointed by the Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Within the ICC, I was a member of the Steering Committee.
I have been where you are and want to help you find an easier road than mine has been. I will never forget the day when I was 8-months pregnant and received the Autism diagnosis for my 1 and 3-year olds. I felt such devastation and anger. I turned to the internet to find the definition of autism and was more confused and depressed. I tried to learn what forms of treatment would help, where to get the treatment, and who was responsible for paying for the treatment. I quickly learned the meaning behind many acronyms such as ABA, PT, OT, SPL, NVLD, PDD-NOS, ADHD, ASD, etc.
I had to learn about the way medical insurance really worked and the fine lines to walk to get therapies covered. I looked for special diets, forms of exercise, and other non-therapy treatments to supplement the therapy I was trying to obtain for my sons. I tried to navigate through the law to find out my rights, my sons' rights, the state's responsibility, and how to fight for more services. I looked into how to get financial help from the government. I sought support groups, social groups, sports, etc. to find parents and children dealing with similar challenges.
I get it. I've been there. I am there. I know how devastating it is to realize your child has extra challenges in this world. I had to re-think the goals and dreams I held for my children. I could not see the future. But, I now realize how amazing my sons are and appreciate milestones no typical parent ever gets a chance to know. (The day my sensory defensive son let a girl hold his hand and walk together to the door to trick-or-treat was a huge celebration. No one else around me understood what the big deal was about kids holding hands, but I will never forget the pride and joy I felt.) My sons work so hard everyday to accomplish what most children just do naturally. They are my heroes.
We are back in California where the boys continue to thrive in their integrated settings with aides and a multitude of supports. We also continue to do multiple after school therapies to ensure their progress. The tough part is navigating how to get insurance companies to cover services and what takes priority. I have done it for my own kids and can help you do the same!
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