Register for our FREE overview of special ed law and the IEP process

xMindsWire October 2022

Join xMinds for an Overview of Special Ed Law


Join us Tuesday, November 1, at 7:00 PM for an overview of special education law and the Individualized Education Program (IEP) process in Montgomery County. If you’re not sure whether your child needs an IEP or a 504 Plan, how an IEP is developed and monitored, or what’s the “least restrictive environment” for your student, then this session is for you. 

In this virtual presentation, special education advocate Monica Martinez will cover all the basics, with an emphasis on MCPS programs and processes. Please join us, whether you are new to special education or just need a refresher on how to be your child's best advocate. After the presentation, Monica will be happy to take questions. This event is FREE and will be held over Zoom, with simultaneous Spanish interpretation. Register here to receive the link.

The presentation is part of xMinds’ new “Back to Basics” series, which is designed to provide foundational information about how to navigate MCPS’s special education services. Presentations will be offered throughout the school year on the first Tuesday of each month at 7:00 PM. Save the date for our next two programs, tentatively scheduled for: 

  • Tuesday, December 6: Assessments
  • Tuesday, January 3: Diploma vs. Certificate Track

See You at the Playground This Saturday!


Join us this Saturday, October 15, 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM, for a playground meetup for autistic preschool and elementary school kids and their families. We'll meet at the enclosed playground behind Ivymount School, located at 11614 Seven Locks Road, Rockville, MD. This is a great opportunity to connect with other local families with autistic kids. The whole family is welcome — bring siblings even if they're not elementary or preschool age. xMinds board members and volunteers will be there to provide snacks and to welcome you in English or Spanish.

We're hoping for sunshine, but if it rains, we'll postpone to Saturday, October 22. For more information, and to receive an email if we need to postpone due to the weather, register here. We will post any changes due to weather by Saturday at 9:00 AM here and on the xMinds Facebook page.

Save the date for our November playground meetup, Saturday, November 5, 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM.

Register Here for Reminders and Updates

Get Free Help Navigating the IEP Process


Did you know that xMinds provides free consultations to help families navigate the MCPS special education system? We’ve recently added eight new volunteer advocates to our team to help serve more families who need help advocating within the IEP process, whether they’re requesting services at their home school or seeking an appropriate placement. 

Our new volunteers completed advocacy training over the summer led by special education advocate Monica Martinez, and they are eager to help families. Volunteer advocates provide guidance and support, and can connect families with resources, including educational consultants and lawyers. (Note: Our volunteers cannot provide legal advice.) Consultations are available in English or Spanish. Click here for more information and to submit a consultation request. Click here to submit a consultation request in Spanish.

New Law Cuts the Wait for Autism Waivers

Newly-enacted Maryland legislation aims to slash the long wait for Medicaid waivers that help children and adults with disabilities receive the services and supports they need to live at home and in their communities. This includes the Autism Waiver, which supports autistic children and young adults, helping them get intensive individual support services, physician and hospital care, mental health services, and more.

Because of limited funding and a system backlog, families currently wait about eight years after they sign up for the Autism Waiver Registry before they can start to receive benefits. Almost 6,500 children and young adults, ages 2–21, are on the Autism Waiver Registry, which acts essentially as a waitlist. Eligibility for benefits is not determined until a child or young adult is about to come off the registry.

The End the Wait Act requires the Maryland Department of Health to develop plans by January 1, 2023, that will reduce the wait for waivers beginning in fiscal year 2024. This includes creating a plan for conducting earlier eligibility determinations for children and young adults on the Autism Waiver Registry and providing services to at least 50% of the individuals on the registry who are determined eligible. The Act also requires a plan for reducing the waitlist by 50% for several other waiver programs, including those operated by the Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA),  which helps fund services for adults and children with autism and other developmental disabilities.

For information on how to apply for an Autism Waiver, click here; to apply for DDA eligibility click here.

xMinds Awards $5,200 to MoCo Educators 


xMinds is thrilled to announce that, so far, we have awarded nearly $5,200 this fall to help MoCo educators support autistic students. Our second annual Cash for Classrooms campaign provided 71 educators with grants of up to $100 each to purchase classroom supplies geared toward autistic students. Many teachers bought sensory materials like weighted lap pads, fidgets, hammock chairs, and noise-cancelling headphones to help their autistic students self-regulate. Others bought games that promote conversational and cooperation skills. Also popular were materials that help students develop organizational and life skills. Another six educators received grants of up to $250 to attend educator trainings on how best to teach and connect with autistic learners. For example, two educators are using the funds for Language Acquisition Through Motor Planning training, which strives to give nonverbal individuals a method of expressing themselves.

Given teacher/substitute shortages, COVID-19 challenges, and rising inflation, some educators are stretched more than ever this year. xMinds is happy to help! We still have funding available. Please spread the word, and encourage educators to apply here.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, which celebrates the contributions of America’s workers with disabilities and promotes inclusive employment policies and practices. xMinds applauds autistic individuals who play an important role in the diverse American workforce.

To learn about opportunities for autistic individuals to engage in career exploration, job training, internships, and workplace readiness programs, see the Employment section of xMinds’ online Transition to Adulthood resources. Programs start as early as high school to prepare individuals with disabilities for productive and fulfilling work.

Sunflower Bakery in Rockville, MD, prepares young adults with learning differences for employment in pastry arts, baking, and related industries.

Thanks for an Enlightening IEP Clinic!

It was great to see so many of you back in person at the xMinds Annual IEP Clinic on Saturday, October 8. Our two panels of parents and students presented information about the most common   MCPS special education programs in which autistic students are placed. We are thankful that these parents and students shared their firsthand experiences. They candidly answered all the questions from the parents in attendance. 

During the clinic, 35 families received free 20-minute IEP consults to discuss their most pressing concerns with an education advocate. Thank you to the six local advocates who generously volunteered their time: Monica Martinez of Suzanne Keith Blattner, Ed.S. & Associates, Inc., Sumaiya Olatunde of H2D Counseling, Kimberly Glassman, Esq. of the Law Office of Brian K. Gruber, P.C., Sheila Iseman of SCI Educational Consultants, Susana Barrios of Disability Rights Maryland, and BCBA Flor Lizette Hoffman the last two offering consultations in Spanish. We are grateful that these consultants shared their expertise with the xMinds community!

Farewell to Board Member Bonita Williams

With deep gratitude and appreciation, the xMinds board bids adieu to Bonita Williams, who is leaving the board after two years of service. During her time on the board, Bonita helped launch the xMinds Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Outreach Committee, which provides resources, information, and fellowship to the families of BIPOC autistic students in Montgomery County. She served as chair of the BIPOC Outreach Committee, during part of her term, and initiated the People of the Global Majority monthly online discussion group for MoCo parents/guardians of BIPOC students. 

Bonita Williams

We thank Bonita for her important work in expanding xMinds’ inclusivity and for all her other contributions.

xMinds Discussion Groups Offer Valuable Info


Our free online discussion groups offer a great way to connect with other parents/guardians of autistic children. This month our groups are being   joined by a special guest, Julia Abate, Administrator of Respite Coordination for The Arc Montgomery County, who will share information about respite care available to primary caregivers of a child with a disability. 

Julia joined us earlier in the month for our Hablemos Educación Especial discussion group for Spanish-speaking MoCo parents/guardians of autistic students and for People of the Global Majority, our discussion group for parents/guardians of autistic students who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. 

She’ll also be speaking at the two remaining xMinds discussion groups this month. 

Small Steps Together  Monday, October 24, 7:00 – 7:45 PM. We're excited to announce that our discussion group for MoCo parents/caregivers of autistic elementary and preschool students has a new name, "Small Steps Together." Register here to receive the Zoom link.

Let’s Talk Transitions — Wednesday, October 26, 7:00 – 7:45 PM. For MoCo parents/guardians of autistic children in middle or high school, approaching the transition to adulthood. Register here to receive the Zoom link.

Upcoming xMinds Events

xMinds events, resources, & services are always FREE

Saturday, Oct. 15, 10:00 – 11:30 AM

Elementary and Preschool Playground Meetup 

Meet other elementary and preschool families. See the details here(Rain date: Oct. 22)

Monday, Oct. 24, 7:00 – 7:45 PM

Small Steps Together 

Online discussion group for MoCo parents/guardians of an autistic elementary or preschool child. Register here.

Wednesday, Oct. 26, 7:00 – 7:45 PM

Let's Talk Transitions

Online discussion group for MoCo parents/guardians of an autistic child in middle or high school. Register here.

Tuesday, Nov. 1, 7:00 – 8:30 PM

Navigating Special Education for Autistic Students in Maryland 

Virtual presentation on special ed law. See details above. Register here. 

Wednesday, Nov. 2, 7:00 – 7:45 PM

Hablemos Educación Especial

Online discussion group for Spanish-speaking MoCo parents/guardians of an autistic childRegister here.

Saturday, Nov. 5, 10:00 – 11:30 AM

Elementary and Preschool Playground Meetup 

Meet other elementary and preschool families. See the details here(Rain date: Nov. 12)

Monday, Nov. 7, 7:00 – 7:45 PM

People of the Global Majority

Online discussion group for MoCo parents/guardians of an autistic BIPOC child. Register here.

Community Calendar

Our community calendar is FULL of great offerings. Check out the programs and events posted on our Events Calendar.

Plan Ahead!

Note: Our Events Calendar shows events on their start date, but some programs require you to apply before the start date, so please look ahead!

Professional Member Spotlight

As a benefit to both our families and professional members, xMinds publishes information about our professional members here in the xMindsWire as well as on our website. Inclusion does not constitute our endorsement. This month, xMinds would like to highlight the following new and renewing professional members:

Feig Mediation Group, LLC

10411 Motor City Drive, Suite 750, Bethesda, MD 20817

Contact: Erik Feig,; 301-785-8972

Services: Parent/family mediation

Feig Mediation Group provides mediation for parents and adult family members in neurodiverse families who are dealing with important decisions but aren't on the same page — yet.

We help parents have solutions-oriented dialogue so that they can shift from trying to win when they disagree to creating solutions together. Issues we mediate include: managing logistics and task sharing; medical decisions and evaluations; school and educational decisions; financial planning and budgeting; managing supports, therapies, and services; addressing clutter and sharing space; parenting roles and decision making; divorce and integrating blended families; and staying in step.

Guiding Exceptional Parents, LLC

4711 Sheridan St., Riverdale Park, MD 20737

Contact: Sarah Wayland,; 301-768-8503

Services: Social Skills Therapy; Behavioral Therapy; Educational Consulting; Behavioral Support; Coaching

In addition to co-authoring the book "Is This Autism? A Guide for Clinicians and Everyone Else" (due for release in Spring 2023), Sarah Wayland, Ph.D., is a parenting coach, certified RDI consultant, and a special needs care navigator at Guiding Exceptional Parents, LLC. Her work as a parenting coach involves working closely with families to figure out which parenting strategies are best suited to their family taking the profiles of both the caregivers and the child into account.

As an RDI™ consultant, Dr. Wayland works with parents to show them how to teach their children the essential skills that make relationships work. She teaches them how to identify problems, and through a highly customized program that takes both their profile and their child’s profile into account, they learn how to teach the missing skills. She also works with teens and adults to help them learn the skills necessary for making and maintaining meaningful relationships.

Her Special Needs Navigation Services are designed to help parents learn how to access resources and knowledge so they can confidently and effectively help their children. She knows how to effectively navigate clinical care and educational systems, how to evaluate reports, and how to help prioritize.

Personalized Career Services, LLC

P.O. Box 915, Laurel, MD 20725

Contact: Viktoriya Selden,; 240-704-4449

Services: College placement assistance, Coaching, College assistance

Personalized Career Services provides career services to young adults with autism and other disabilities. The services are personalized to each student’s needs, abilities, and goals. Students can participate in career exploration, assessment, or coaching to identify specific career goals, acquire job seeking skills, and learn about workplace professionalism. Students can also learn about self-advocacy, disclosure, and accommodations as it relates to their needs. Students pursuing postsecondary education can learn of suitable programs, college majors, and schools.

Washington Behavioral Medicine Associates, LLC/

SOAR Program for Psychotherapy & Testing

5480 Wisconsin Ave #223 Chevy Chase, MD 20815

Contact: Jaclyn Halpern, Psy.D.,, (301) 576-6044

Services: Medical/medicine management; Psychological counseling; Social skills therapy; Behavioral therapy; Educational consulting; Educational testing; Neuropsychological testing; Academic tutoring/coaching

We believe in providing empathic, personalized science-based treatments and supports. Our providers seek to accurately identify strengths, vulnerabilities, neurodiversity, and diagnoses. Our supports and treatments rely upon a thorough understanding of each individual’s medical and developmental history, and identified needs. They may include the integration of medication, neuromodulation (TMS, eTNS, tDCS, and others), comprehensive psychological testing, a range of supportive psychotherapies, expressive arts therapies, coaching, psychiatric genetics and pharmacogenetics, personal and family-based care, diet and supplements, and adequate sleep and reasonable exercise. Treatment and support plans are based on each individual’s needs.

Our practice is unique in its integration of traditional psychiatry and psychology, genetics, neuroscience, and holistic, whole-person approaches to care. We help you achieve your treatment goals through our collaborative wellness model. We know reaching out is not easy, and we are dedicated to creating the most helpful path toward wellness for each and every person and family. Our patient population is diverse, we are neurodiversity affirmative, and we are inclusive and welcoming to all. Telehealth available.

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