Free “Community Conversation Series” for Caregivers Offered by

Harford County Office of Disability Services

BEL AIR, Md., (Jan. 24, 2017) – Harford County government, under the administration of County Executive Barry Glassman, is proud to introduce a three-part “Community Conversation” series on planning for the future of a loved one with a disability. These free informational workshops, presented by the Department of Community Service’s Office of Disability Services and the Harford County Commission on Disabilities’ Education Committee, are open to the public and will be held on the following topics at the dates and locations listed below.

Special Needs Planning – How do I plan for my loved one’s future?

Wednesday, February 8, 2017, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

William N. McFaul Activities Center

525 W. MacPhail Road, Bel Air

Presented by Monty Knittle, CFA, this workshop will help families understand how to use financial planning to help save for their loved one without jeopardizing government benefits or parental retirement.

Guardianship & Healthcare Alternatives – Responsible Planning

Wednesday, March 8, 2017, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

William N. McFaul Activities Center

525 W. MacPhail Road, Bel Air

Presented by Sally Stanfield, attorney, this workshop will help participants explore the pros and cons of guardianship and determine whether a guardian is right for their loved one.

Letter of Intent Workshop – Preparing for the Future (Space Limited)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

The Arc Northern Chesapeake Region Computer Lab

4513 Philadelphia Road, Aberdeen

Presented by Sue Rattman of The Arc Northern Chesapeake Region, this hands-on workshop walks participants through the steps of writing a letter of intent to document their loved one’s wishes, likes, dislikes, history, habits, and experiences in the event that a caregiver is no longer able to care for their loved one with a disability.

“Our goal is to reach out and connect with families and individuals in Harford County who are caring for a loved one with disabilities, often without help or support,” said Rachel Harbin, disabilities coordinator at the Office of Disability Services. “Whether the caregiver is a parent, grandparent, sibling, other family member, a friend, or a staff person, one common denominator that we see is concern for the future. We hope this series offers participants peace of mind about the future of their loved ones.”

The workshops are free, but registration is required. To register and request any necessary accommodations, please contact Rachel Harbin at or 410-638-3373.


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The Voice®, the Official Newsletter of SNA

July, 2016 – Vol. 10, Issue 4

This installment of the Voice was written by Special Needs Alliance member Barbara Isenhour, of the firm of Somers Tamblyn King Isenhour Bleck, PLLC in Seattle, Washington. Barbara’s practice focuses on government benefits for individuals with disabilities and estate planning for families with children who have special needs. A board member of Full Life Care in Seattle, Barbara frequently lectures around the state of Washington on issues involving special needs trusts and government benefits for the elderly and individuals with disabilities.

SSI Rules for Students

A person who receives SSI (Supplemental Security Income) because of a disability can attend school and continue to receive SSI while a student. There are some special rules, however, that apply to SSI recipients who are students. Students, parents and trustees of special needs trusts must know these rules and how they can affect a student’s SSI benefit amount.

What is SSI?

SSI is a monthly cash benefit for individuals with disabilities of any age or individuals age 65 or older. To qualify for SSI, a person’s non-exempt resources must be less than $2,000 for an unmarried person, or $3,000 for a married couple. The home, one vehicle, household furnishings, and certain burial arrangements are exempt resources that are not taken into account in determining eligibility. The federal SSI monthly benefit amount is $733 for 2016, but some states provide a modest supplemental amount. Other income that a SSI recipient receives (e.g. wages, an allowance from parents, other government benefits) may reduce the SSI benefit amount dollar for dollar.

This article specifically addresses issues that apply to a SSI recipient who is at least 18 years old and a student in high school, college or a vocational training program.

Some common questions that arise for such students include the following:

  • If a student receives a scholarship, will that reduce or eliminate the student’s monthly SSI benefit?
  • Will financial aid be treated as income that will reduce the student’s monthly SSI benefit, or will any portion of the financial aid not immediately spent on educational expenses be treated as a resource that may put the student over the SSI resource limit?
  • If a student works while in school, will any earnings reduce or eliminate the monthly SSI benefit?
  • If the school provides student housing, will that reduce the monthly SSI benefit?

Student Financial Aid

HEA or BIA Financial Aid

All student financial assistance received under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA) or under the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) student assistance programs is excluded from income and resources, regardless of use. The resource exclusion for this educational assistance does not impose a time limit to expend the benefits. Regardless of how long the assistance is held by the student, it is excluded from resources in determining an individual’s eligibility for SSI. Interest and dividends earned on unspent Title IV HEA or BIA assistance are also not counted as income to the SSI recipient. Examples of HEA programs include Pell Grant, Federal Work-Study, Direct Loan, Perkins Loan, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, and Academic Competiveness Grant.

Other Financial Aid

Scholarships, fellowships, grants or gifts that are from sources other than the BIA or Title IV HEA are excluded from a student’s countable income if used to pay for tuition, fees, or other necessary educational expenses at any educational institution, including vocational or technical training programs. Any portion of such financial aid that is not used immediately to pay tuition, fees or other necessary educational expenses, but is set aside for such use at a future date, is excluded from the student’s income in the month of receipt and excluded as a resource for up to nine months after the month of receipt.

Any portion of the financial aid not used or set aside for allowed education expenses is treated as income in the month of receipt and the remaining funds will be treated as a resource in the following month. Financial aid that is set aside for education expenses but ultimately not used for those purposes is treated as income in the month the funds are spent for non-education expenses.

For example, Sally receives a $5,000 grant in September of 2015 from the Rotary Club for her college expenses. She pays $4,000 to the school for her tuition and sets aside $1,000 for school fees and supplies during the school year. As long as Sally spends the $1,000 by the end of May of 2016, the grant will not be treated as income or a resource that will reduce her monthly SSI benefit. If Sally uses $500 of the education grant to pay for a trip to visit her grandmother in November of 2015, that is not an education expense and the $500 will be treated as income in the month of November. When income varies for a SSI recipient, the SSI benefit amount is not adjusted until the third month from the month of receipt, so Sally’s SSI benefit will not be reduced until the month of January 2016.

The SSI program has specific rules regarding how educational benefits offered to veterans affect SSI eligibility. Due to the complexity of the veterans’ education benefits, they are not addressed in this article. A SSI recipient who is eligible for veterans’ education benefits should review applicable SSI regulations to determine if the benefit will be treated as income or a resource that can affect SSI eligibility.

How Student Earnings Affect the Monthly SSI Benefit Amount

Students often need to work while they are in school to help defray their school expenses, either summer employment or part-time work during the school term. Generally, earned income from a job will reduce a person’s monthly SSI benefit. There are specific rules that apply to students regarding how earnings affect the SSI benefit. These rules are referred to as Student Earned Income Exclusions (SEIE) and are more generous than the rules that apply to non-students.

To understand the SEIE rules, it is helpful to first review how earnings affect a non-student’s SSI benefit amount. If a SSI recipient has earned income from a job or self-employment, SSI excludes $65 plus one-half of the remaining earnings, together with an additional general income exclusion of $20. The remaining countable earnings will reduce the monthly SSI amount.

To illustrate, if Tom receives SSI and earns $615 in the month of January, this is how his earned income will affect his SSI:

Gross earned income



Minus earned income exclusion


Minus general income exclusion


Total countable earned income


Minus one-half of earned income


Countable earned income



SSI benefit amount



Minus countable earned income


Adjusted SSI benefit amount



If a SSI recipient qualifies as a student, instead of disregarding one-half of earnings, the first $1,780 of monthly earnings, up to an annual amount of $7,180, is disregarded. If a student earns more than $1,780 per month, the excess amount will be subject to the general SSI rules for earned income illustrated above.

To qualify for the SEIE, the student must be under the age of 22 and “regularly attending school,” i.e. twelve hours per week for high school, eight hours per week for college, and twelve hours per week for vocational training. (There are special accommodations if a student must be home schooled because of a disability.) The student must attend school at least one month per calendar quarter in order to claim the SEIE during that quarter. The SEIE applies to income earned during a calendar year.

To illustrate, Sally gets a summer job while she is in school and earns $1,500 in each of June and July, and $2,200 in August. She will be entitled to her full SSI benefit for June and July because her earnings were below $1,780 for each of those months, and she attended school for at least one month during each of the second and third calendar quarters. In August, $1,780 of her earnings will be excluded, along with a $65 earned income exclusion and $20 general income exclusion, one-half of the remaining earnings will offset and reduce her SSI benefit. Due to the delayed manner in which SSI tracks countable income, her SSI check will not be reduced until the month of October for the income she earned in the month of August. Sally’s total earnings equaled $5,200 for 2015, so she did not exceed the $7,180 maximum annual earnings exclusion for students.

Student Housing

The SSI benefit amount will generally be reduced by up to one-third of the maximum federal SSI monthly benefit, plus $20, if the SSI recipient receives assistance with food or shelter expenses. This rule is referred to as In-kind Support and Maintenance (ISM). So what happens to a student who receives SSI, lives on campus, and whose room and board expenses are paid by parents or financial aid?

As long as the student is over age 18, attending school will be treated as a temporary absence if:

  • The student indicates an intent to return to her permanent residence for holidays, summer, or upon graduation; and
  • The student lived in her permanent residence for at least one full calendar month before leaving for school.

As long as the student’s absence from her permanent residence is considered to be temporary, having room and board paid for the student at school during that temporary absence will not result in an ISM reduction in the student’s monthly SSI benefit amount. (In contrast, if the student receives free room and board at her permanent residence there will be an ISM reduction in the SSI amount for that reason, not because she received student housing and meals while temporarily absent from her permanent residence.)

As a final illustration, Sally lived with her parents until she started attending a school for the hearing-impaired at age 20. Her parents pay for her room and board for the nine months of the year that Sally is attending school. Sally intends to return to her parents’ home for the summers during her school program. When Sally started receiving SSI after graduating from high school, she paid her parents rent of $300 per month out of her SSI check. She will continue to pay this amount to her parents while she is temporarily away at school. Since Sally pays for her shelter expenses at her permanent residence, she has no ISM reduction in her monthly SSI benefit.

A student who receives SSI based upon disability can attend an education program without necessarily reducing her monthly benefit. However, students, family members and trustees of a special needs trust for the student’s benefit must be aware of the rules related to how financial aid, employment earnings, and student housing and meals can affect the student’s SSI benefits.

About this Newsletter: We hope you find this newsletter useful and informative, but it is not the same as legal counsel. A free newsletter is ultimately worth everything it costs you; you rely on it at your own risk. Good legal advice includes a review of all of the facts of your situation, including many that may at first blush seem to you not to matter. The plan it generates is sensitive to your goals and wishes while taking into account a whole panoply of laws, rules and practices, many not published. That is what The Special Needs Alliance is all about. Contact information for a member in your state may be obtained by calling toll-free (877) 572-8472, or by visiting the Special Needs Alliance online.

Requirements for Reprinting this Article: The above article may be reprinted only if it appears unmodified, including both the author description above the title and the “About this Newsletter” paragraph immediately following the article, accompanied by the following statement: “Reprinted with permission of the Special Needs Alliance –”

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Free Fall Webinars

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Building the Future, Now! is a series of webinars providing tools, information, and ideas for people with developmental disabilities and families to improve quality of life and effect change. 
You asked, we are delivering…
a 2016 fall series of free webinars with registration to follow. 
This series is a result of input from a recent survey askingyou about priorities for webinar topics.
Part 1: Everything You Wanted to Know about DDA but Were Afraid to Ask
Wednesday September 21, 2016 12:00 – 1:15 p.m.
Part 1 will cover the basics: Who? What? Where? How? and Why? of the DDA system. Starting with an overview of services and the organizational structure of the DDA, presenters will explain the process of determining eligibility and define the various categories/functions of the waiting list–followed by Q & A.
Cristy Marchand, The Arc Maryland
Patricia Sastoque, Developmental Disabilities Administration
Joyce Sims, Resource Connections
Part 2: So, You’re Approved for DDA Services– What’s Next?
Thursday, October 20, 12:00 – 1:15 p.m.
This session will explain how the DDA waiting list is funded and how YOU can help influence this. Presenters will also outline the process and timeline once selected to receive services, provide a family perspective on how the Service Plan and Individual Plan really work, and how to appeal DDA decisions–followed by Q&A.

Brian Cox, The Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council
Joyce Sims, Resource Connections
Robb Doub, Family member
Nancy Pineles, Disability Rights Maryland (formerly MD Disability Law Center)
Part 3: Employment First: New Opportunities, Dispelling Myths & Misconceptions
Thursday, November 10, 12:00 – 1:15 p.m.

This session will provide insight into the principles behind Employment First, explain the Employment First initiative, provide a family perspective, and answer the question, “How do we help people with significant disabilities benefit from Employment First?”–followed by Q&A.

Mat Rice, People on the Go Maryland
Family member – To be determined….
Rachel London, The Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council
Staci Jones, The Arc of Washington County
Building the Future, Now! is a collaboration between The Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council and The Arc Maryland. 
Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council
217 E. Redwood St., Suite 1300, Baltimore, MD 21202 | | 1.800.305.6441 | MD Relay: 711

Presume Competence

Dr. John P. Hussman, the Executive Director of the Hussman Institute for Autism, and the parent of a young adult with autism, truly captured what it means to presume competence in our students. Please check out this guide to successful, evidence-based principles for supporting and engaging individuals with autism.


Presuming Competence

  • Presume Competence
  • Follow the Lead
  • Make Communication the Centerpiece
  • Offer Positive Behavior Support
  • Include and Adapt
  • Accommodate Sensory and Movement Differences
  • Build Relationships
  • Support Autonomy

Tips for Participating in Your Student’s IEP Meeting

The Parents’ Place of Maryland

Parents have an equal role as a member of the IEP team. You hold knowledge about your child that no one else on the team does. Here are some things parents should do prior, during, and after an IEP meeting so that they are able to participate and effectively advocate for their child.

Before the Meeting- Be Prepared

  • Know the purpose of the meeting. Review the meeting notice and the participants. What is going to be discussed at this meeting? Are your items on the agenda? If not, send a letter than lists the topics you would like to be added to the agendy. Who is going to be at the meeting? Is anyone missing? If so, invite them and let the school know. Remember, you have the right to invite and bring others to the meeting. Bring someone for support.
  • Do your homework. Review your child’s IEP, records, evaluations, work samples. If you have reports or other information that you want to share with the team, make sure you have copies for everyone.
  • Make a list of all the key points you want to discuss. Fold a piece of paper in half the long way. On each side of the fold, write all the key points that you want to discuss. While at the meeting, write on the other side of the fold what was discussed or decided, who will do it, and by when.

During the Meeting

  • Be on time. If there are people in the room you do not know, ask for introductions and about their role. Often times this is done at the beginning of the meeting.
  • Acknowledge what’s working well. Start the meeting off on a good note by talking about what is working well for your student.
  • Ask questions about anything you don’t understand. Don’t be afraid or shy to ask people to explain words, terms, roles, and responsibilities, what is being asked of you, or what is being decided about your own child.
  • Do you best to follow the agenda. If there are issues that come up during the meeting, it may be necessary to schedule another meeting to discuss them.
  • Make sure you get a copy of the minutes or other documentation discussed at the meeting. Also, if appropriate, don’t leave until a follow up meeting has been schedule to discuss any new items or to follow up on what was decided at the meeting.
  • If at any point you get too upset or angry, ask that they meeting be stopped and reconvened at a later date, or ask for a short break.
  • Take your own notes or bring someone else with you to help. While others are presenting their reports and discussing your child’s progress, take notes on the points that you agree or don’t agree with, as well as questions, so you can discuss them later.

After the Meeting

  • Review the minutes. The minutes of a meeting are very important. Compare the minutes to any notes that you may have taken. Do they accurately reflect the conversation that took place and capture what is to be done? Are the decisions and next steps listed? If not, make them make corrections and send them back to the school with a letter asking that your corrections be added to your child’s official file.
  • Note any follow-up that should occur and who is responsible for what. Make sure that you do whatever you said you were going to do, just as the teachers will.


Free Training Series for Autism Resourc

Center for Autism and Related Disorders at Kennedy Krieger Institute


(Sharing Treatment and Autism Resources)

Where: 3901 Greenspring Ave., Baltimore, MD 21211

Time: 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

  • Getting an Autism Spectrum Disorder Diagnosis: Where do I go from here?

Date: Monday, April 25, 2016

  • What is Transition Planning for a Teen with an ASD Diagnosis?

Date: Monday, April 25, 2016

  • Mindful Parenting: Strategies for Parents of Children with Special Needs

Date: Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

Registration Information

Call Hanna Hutter at 443.923.7596