Bourbon Street to host 4th annual “Mardi Gras for Autism” event

A crowd of more than 2,000 people is expected to attend  the 4th annual “Mardi Gras for Autism” event on Saturday, February 9, 2013, for 10 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. The free, family-fun event is scheduled to occur at Bourbon Street Bar and Grill and outside in the adjacent Fullerton Train Depot parking lot located at 110. E. Commonwealth Ave.

Larry Houser, the co-owner of Bourbon Street and the founder of Fullerton Cares, an organization founded to raise money, awareness and acceptance for autism in the Fullerton community, is hosting and sponsoring the event. Speaking about the event, Mr. Houser says, “The way we’ve designed Mardi Gras for Autism, families can come out and enjoy a good time together, whether they have children on the spectrum or not.” Houser became involved with autism and special education after his four year-old son Boyd was diagnosed with autism at age two.

The family-friendly free event is designed to encourage families to enjoy the fun of Mardi Gras while raising money for Fullerton special education programs and will feature many activities appropriate for children of all ages and abilities, including:

Aquarium of the Pacific — Joining Mardi Gras for Autism for the first time is the Aquarium of the Pacific and their “Aquarium on Wheels.” Some of the creatures that can be seen include sea stars, sea cucumbers, anemones, and sharks.

Medieval Times — Buena Park’s own Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament will join Mardi Gras for Autism for a second year to bring out some Knights and Kings, some freebies for the kids, and the Knights will be doing a mini-show.

MMA Demonstrations by — a national fitness outreach program for kids, partnering with gyms across the country and supporting physical fitness, will offer MMA demonstrations for attendees.

Custom Hats by “Artists Against Bullying” — The local tattoo community will volunteer time to create custom artwork on trucker-style hats donated by Liberty Board Shop. Participating tattoo shops will include Beyond Kreations, All Hallow’s Ink, Action Tattoo, Good Fellas Tattoo and Platinum Ink.

Face Painting by Gymboree — In addition to handing out Gymboree play items and blowing bubbles, Gymboree will provide two face painters who are volunteering their time for the cause.

Swipe4theKids — Bourbon Street exclusively uses S4TK to process their credit cards, and the funds are given to Fullerton Cares in order to further autism programs throughout Fullerton.

Autism Speaks U-CSUF — The Cal State Fullerton chapter of Autism Speaks U is designed for college students to promote awareness and advocacy and raise funds for Autism Speaks.

Information Booth by Talk About Curing Autism –TACA will be on hand at Mardi Gras for Autism to offer an information booth and answer questions that visitors may have about autism.

A.Skate — A.skate Foundation encourages the social interaction of children with autism through skateboarding. A.skate will be conducting skate demos throughout the Mardi Gras for Autism event.

The Complete Package –The Complete Package is the official printing partner of Mardi Gras for Autism and was created to give the daughter of the owner, who has autism, an opportunity to work, be productive, and give her a sense of purpose.

The Dixiedelics — A fixture in the Downtown Fullerton music scene, the Dixiedelics are the featured musical guest of Mardi Gras for Autism.

DMA Insurance — The title sponsor for Fullerton Cares’ annual charity golf tournament, DMA Insurance Services, Inc. is a full service insurance agency with three branches located in Southern California.

Miss Fullerton Scholarship Program — A 100% volunteer, not-for-profit organization, the Miss Fullerton Scholarship Program prides itself on representing the Fullerton community with service, style, scholarship, and success.

CF Dance Academy — Returning for their fourth year with Mardi Gras for Autism, CF Dance Academy has been a fixture in Orange County for 28 years.

Fullerton Union High School Circus Club — Joining Mardi Gras for Autism for the fourth consecutive year, the FUHS Circus Club provides the perfect entertainment for the evening.

ONEHOPE Winery — ONEHOPE Wine donates half of its profits donated to benefit a variety of causes, and is pleased to support the fight against autism.

Bourbon Street — Pleased to be the presenting sponsor of the fourth annual Mardi Gras for Autism, Bourbon Street has a close tie with not only the City of Fullerton, but also those directly affected by autism.

Chef Cody Storts — Chef Cody Storts is returning for his second year with Mardi Gras for Autism. With past endeavors including many creations with The Lime Truck and Bourbon Streets California Cajun cuisine, Storts will be serving up Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Cajun Dogs, Chicken Gumbo, and Biegnets on behalf of Bourbon Street.

Heroes Bar & Grill — A proud supporter of Mardi Gras for Autism, Heroes will be serving hot dogs and chips for the kids.

The Olde Ship British Pub — Serving up British pancakes as part of the traditional way to honor the British holiday of “Shrove” or “Pancake Tuesday,” as the day before lent is known in the United Kingdom.

Fullerton Cares — Founded in order to raise money, awareness, and acceptance of students with Autism within the Fullerton community, Fullerton Cares works tirelessly to promote and fund programs for students with autism within the Fullerton School District.

Please come out and join the festivities. You will be sure to have fun and also help support special education students in Fullerton.


4th Circuit case illustrates FAPE considerations

 A recent 4th Circuit case, Lexington County School District One v. Janet B. Frazier, shows the factors that a court looks at in determining whether a district has offered FAPE, a free and appropriate public education.  In the case, the court held that for one year, FAPE had not been offered based on the contents of the proposed IEP, but that in the following two school years, the district had offered FAPE when its proposed IEP contained new elements designed to meet the student’s unique needs.

Case Facts: D.K. is an Asperger’s Disorder identified child who suffered a number of difficult life changes during the 2006 school year. During this time, his father passed away, his mother, Janet Frazier,  remarried, and the family moved to anew city. Part of Asperger’s is difficulty in dealing with change.

Prior to the move, D.K. was already exhibiting resistance to attending school. In fact at one point court records show, he completely refused to go despite the best efforts of his mother. Because of this, the then home district made counseling services available to D.K., although the services showed little effect.

In the spring of 2007, the family moved toLexington,South Carolina. The district, Lexington County School District One, there proposed an IEP for D.K. that did not offer counseling nor include an attendance goal. Instead, the district focused on the academic setting with the hope that this would positively impact D.K.’s attendance. It did not. Once again, despite Frazier’s efforts and the academic program proposed by the district, D.K. continued to miss a large number of days due to refusal to attend.

After numerous IEPs where Frazier requested counseling services but was denied, she unilaterally moved D.K. to a private, residential school in Michigan, Montcalm School for Boys. In that setting, D.K. made progress. He did refuse to attend classes on three occasions, but afterward, the school’s counseling and intervention was successful in getting him to return to class. Part of the curriculum offered through Montcalm is on-going counseling, both individual and group.   During the year at school, D.K. progressed two years in reading and math.

Prior to the 2008 school year,LexingtonCountyagain had an IEP with Frazier. This time around though, the IEP proposal contained a provision for a psychologist to perform an evaluation of D.K. to determine if counseling was necessary. In addition, the IEP offered preferred activity time to help D.K. decompress and “virtual” classes, classes conducted through the internet. Despite this offering, Frazier elected to move her son to a new private facility located closer to their home.

Court’s ruling and logic: The court here held that for the 2007 school year, D.K. had not been offered FAPE, but that after that, due to the changes made to the proposed IEP, that he had. The effect of that ruling is thatLexingtonCounty must reimburse Frazier the cost of D.K.’s Montcalm tuition for 2007, but not tuition for his subsequent placement at the new private facility.

When a parent unilaterally, meaning without the district’s permission, places their child in a private educational facility, the parent can file with the court to require the district to pay. It is a gamble though, because if the parent is wrong, then she is on the hook for the cost. Parents may be reimbursed only if the program and institution where they place the child will provide an “educational benefit” and the student would not have received benefit under the proposed district IEP.

Here, the court determined that during the 2007 school year at Montcalm, the student did in fact receive benefit, as evidence by his academic progress and his regular attendance. While academic growth alone is not sufficient for such a determination to be made, the court can give weight to such a finding, which here it did. Under the standard above, D.K. receiving educational benefit is not sufficient though. Frazier was required to show thatLexingtonCounty’s proposed IEP would not benefit her son.

In support of its case,LexingtonCountyargued that the reason why D.K. would not attend school was unrelated to his disability but rather anxiety stemming from the many changes that had occurred in his life, from his father’s death to his relocation. The court rejected these arguments though, looking to the fact that these events had happened more than a year prior to the on-going attendance issues. The court further noted that there was…

“ample evidence in the record to suggest that the anxiety D.T. experienced in school, while it may have been exacerbated by life events , is a common symptom of Asperger’s and was a major cause of his unresponsiveness.”

Having ruled in Frazier’s favor for the 2007 school year, the court then turned its attention to Frazier’s claim that the district should also reimburse her for the subsequent school years, a claim the court rejected.

The court applied the same test to determine if the district should be responsible, but under this analysis, due to changes in the proposed IEP rejected Frazier’s claim. The court noted that in 2008, D.K. was not in the same position as he had been in 2007. His attendance had been normalized, he had made significant educational progress, and was showing reduced signs of anxiety.

Probably more importantly though, the district was no longer offering a proposed IEP that did not attempt to deal with the emotional issues that D.K. had evidenced. The district proposal now included stress relieving time built into D.K.’s schedule, virtual classes, and the opportunity for counseling should a need exist. Over Frazier’s arguments to the contrary, the court held that the IEP did not need to include counseling, only an opportunity to determine if it was necessary. With these elements in place, the district’s offer in 2008 and 2009 was an offer of FAPE, in that it was reasonably calculated to offer educational benefit.

This case does an excellent job of illustrating how a court will examine FAPE where a parent decides to place their child in a private setting without a district’s consent. In such cases, parents must meet a high threshold to obtain reimbursement. They must prove that the placement they chose provided an educational benefit to the child, usually the easier part, and second, that the district’s offer would not provide their child benefit.

Gregory Branch is an educator and educational attorney who practices inSouthern California. He can be reached at

Parents of autistic most likely to sue school districts

 School districts should expect even more litigation in coming years as more students are diagnosed with autism. A just released comprehensive study by Perry A. Zirkel, Ph.D., J.D., L.L.M., shows that parents of autistic children are ten times more likely to bring suit against their home school district than are parents of children with other IDEA recognized disabilities.

Check out the rest of my article here.

Autism onset being prenatal supported by preliminary research

A recent preliminary study in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that autism originates prenatally. In the study, doctors examined the brain composition of seven boys with autism and six typically developing males ages 2 to 16 who had died

Researchers found that the autistic children’s brains outweighed the typical children’s brains by 17.6% and that this excess weight was attributable to to the autistic boys brains containing 67% more brain cells in the prefrontal cortex. How do these excess brain cells show that autism is prenatal though? According to the researcher, Eric Courchesne, the lead author of the study and the director of the Autism Center of Excellence at the University of California, San Diego, the neurons in this area of the brain are produced before birth and do not continue to grow afterward.

These findings are very important information if substantiated by further research for a number of reasons.

  1. If the researchers can pinpoint why the extra brain cells develop, it could lead to treatment advances in autism.
  2. If the brain development is significantly impacted in utero, then environmental factors and vaccination trauma can be eliminated as causes of autism.
  3. It narrows the period of time during child development when brain abnormalities related to autism begin to occur.

The study’s author notes limitations in his study though. Because neurons can only be counted after death, it is difficult to attain adolescent brain donors. Thus, the study’s results are based on only the thirteen brains mentioned above.