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Leadership Through Art

Leadership through Art Blog

Leadership Through Art - Painting Orcas

What does painting Orca whales have anything to do with Leadership? 

Orca whales are powerful, regal creatures. 

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They can tip over a boat or lead fishermen to better waters. 

Self-advocates met in early August for a painting class where they all painted an Orca whale leaping out of the water. 

Art teacher Jessie Tear found the Orca picture to give inspiration to the artists and taught some painting techniques. 

All the participants used their unique talents and perspectives to create their own interpretations.  


















Orcas 2 For Email Hard Drive 2

The paintings were then submitted to the Evergreen State Fair

where they received a purple banner, blue ribbons and a

perfect score.





August US Congressional Recess

August Recess 2023 picture contains a line drawing of a Congressional Building

August US Congressional Recess

The United States Congress will be going into recess from July 31 through Labor Day Weekend this year. Two key issues that are going to be considered are Social Security (“SSI”) Income Limits and Marriage Penalty Act. Neither of these issues have been updated since 1989.  SSI has established resource limits in order to receive benefits. The Arc of the United States is asking for an increase in these limits from $2000/month per individual on SSDI and $3000/month for couples to $10,000/individual and $20,000 for couples. With times changing, and cost of living having increased considerably, this change is very necessary. The issue with writing and passing these bills is the cost of writing the bills. savings

social securityThese bills currently don’t have bill numbers; however, we need to raise awareness on why this is needed. In order for this to get this on the floor in Congress, it needs bipartisan support. We as advocates really need to get in touch with your Representatives and Senators to help them to understand why these Bills are necessary.    

Don’t get discouraged if you can’t speak to your Representatives and Senators directly. You can get involved by contacting their personnel, as well as by attending a Town Hall meeting that would be scheduled in their area. Share your stories. Sign up on their websites and get email alerts. You can also contact Aides to host an action day. They can help you with what to say to your legislators. Share this information with others. There is an advocacy toolkit on The Arc of US website where you can find out more. ‘Lookout Days’ are posted every Wednesday throughout August to get alerts. You also follow on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  Get involved with your local chapter of The Arc. Contact Jake at The Arc of Snohomish County for legislative updates:

The Arc of the U.S. will be hosting Advocacy Days in August. During this period, you can sign up to get email alerts in these important issues at

View the August US Congressional Resess Recording from The Arc US

Leigh Spruce is the Self-Advocacy Coordinator for The Arc of Snohomish County. She can be reached at or 425-258-2459 ext 103.

Special Education Policy Changes

Special Education Blog PostSpecial Education Policy Changes

At a Glance

We’ll say it – special education is a big deal! From curriculum modifications to assistive technology to occupational and physical therapy, special education supports and services help students with disabilities thrive. Between the ages of 3 and 21, individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities have a federally recognized right to a free and appropriate public education. In accordance with this legal commitment, Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) establish student education goals and guide the provision of special education services.The 2023 Washington State legislative session heard many different bills seeking to make changes to state level special education law and policy. This edition of Arc Amplified will take a closer look at special education bills that passed and “died,” and what you need to know about the policy changes to come.


Special Education Funding Cap

In the current 2022-2023 school year, Washington State has a special education funding cap set at 13.5%. This means that funding for special education services is capped at 13.5% of a school district’s total student population. School districts must use other funding sources, such as local levies and safety net funding, to pay for special education services when more than 13.5% of the student population have IEPs. For example, if 18.5% of the students in a school district receive special education services, state special education funding will cap at 13.5% and the district will have to use other funding for the remaining 5% of the student population.  


A Tale of Two Bills

This year, two different special education bills (HB 1436 and SB 5311) sought to make changes to the same special education funding formula. Throughout the legislative session, legislators in the House and the Senate made significant amendments to both HB 1436 and SB 5311. As the changes unfolded, so too did changes in which bill The Arc of Washington State favored over the other. The original HB 1436 would incrementally increase the special education funding cap until removing it entirely in the 2027-2028 school year, and SB 5311 would increase the special education funding cap from 13.5% to 15%. As of Friday, April 21st, the House and Senate reached a compromise with these two bills. They put the new striking amendment on HB 1436, which is now the bill moving forward. The special education funding cap is raised to 15% starting in the 2023-2024 school year. This bill also requires reviews and technical assistance for disproportionality, and adds special education ombuds, run by the Office of the Education Ombuds, to each educational service district (ESD). Additionally, it requires a specific accounting methodology through 2026-27, lowers the threshold for accessing safety net for high-cost IEPs, and provides professional development for inclusionary practices. The Senate passed this new bill unanimously and the House has signed, and now the final step is for the Governor to sign it into law!


What Passed Both Chambers?

Of this year’s education related bills, many made significant progress towards becoming Washington State law. Here are the bills that have passed both the House and the Senate:

  • HB 1207 will create new resources and policies for addressing harassment, intimidation, bullying, and discrimination in schools. The Arc of Washington State supports this bill.
  • HB 1238 will provide one free breakfast and one free lunch to students who request a meal in grades K-4 in school districts that meet certain federal poverty guidelines. The Arc of Washington State supports this bill.
  • HB 1550 will establish a transition to kindergarten program for eligible children. The Arc of Washington State lists HB 1550 as under review, meaning that The Arc of Washington State has not taken a firm stance on this bill. 
  • SB 5243 will establish new requirements and advanced planning for high school and beyond plans for students both with and without IEPs. The Arc of Washington State supports this bill.
  • SB 5315 will create standards for approval, monitoring, and investigating Non-Public Agencies serving students with disabilities. The Arc of Washington State supports this bill.


What Didn’t Pass?

Other education bills from earlier in session will not pass this year. As this year is the first year in the 2023-2024 biennium, it is possible for this year’s “dead” bills to carry over into next year’s legislative session to try again. 

  • HB 1109 died when it did not pass out of Senate Ways and Means. This bill would incentivize school districts to conduct IEP meetings during the summer. This would allow students with IEPs to start the school year with their IEP goals, curriculum modifications, and special education services in place. The Arc of Washington State supported this bill.
  • HB 1248 died in House Rules. This bill would expand student transportation funding to include various other incidental transportation costs, such as out of district transportation. Currently, Washington State school transportation funding only covers standard home to school transportation routes. All extra services are not funded by the state and instead are covered by the district. The Arc of Washington State supported this bill.
  • HB 1305 died in House Rules. This bill would improve access to the federally mandated free and appropriate public education for students with disabilities. Among the many changes to access to special education services, this bill also originally would have changed the burden of proof for denial of services from the parent to the district. This would have opened up many more special education opportunities for students who need them, and made it more difficult for districts to deny those services. This provision was removed from a later version of the bill, and this caused it to lose support from most of the IDD community. The Arc of Washington State supported the original bill.
  • HB 1479 died when it did not make it out of the Senate Committee on Early Learning and K-12 Education. This bill would completely remove student isolation from schools, and greatly limit restraint to be used only in the instance of safety for the student or others. The Arc of Washington State supported this bill. 
  • SB 5031 died when the Senate refused to concur with the House amendments. This bill would have allowed out-of-state Non-Public Agencies to apply for Washington State special education safety net funding. The Arc of Washington State listed this bill as under review.
  • SB 5174 died when the House insisted on its amendments after the Senate refused to concur. This bill would have required OSPI to cover school transportations costs and would also make changes to the transportation funding formula. The Arc of Washington State listed this bill as under review.


Want to Learn More?

The Washington State 2023 legislative session adjourned sine die on Sunday, April 23rd. Join The Arc of Snohomish County on Thursday, May 18th from 6-7 PM for our Legislative Recap event! Jake and Rachel will share the highlights from the legislative session and the important new policy changes affecting Washington State's intellectual and developmental disability community. Join us on Zoom to learn more about the bills that passed and "died," answer your questions about the legislative session, and discuss next steps for continued advocacy. Register to receive the Legislative Recap Zoom link. 

Do words matter?

Do Words Matter. Shown on black background with scattered wooden letters spelling out the word "words"

“Special Needs”  OR “Disability”...  Do words matter?


Facebook can be time-waster but occasionally someone initiates a thoughtful discussion. In one of the groups to which I belong (several groups for parents with kids with Down syndrome), a mom posted a question of whether we should use the term special needs or disability. Other moms commented with their thoughts and resources and it got me thinking why someone might choose an alternative to the word disability.


Perhaps because the word disability has been associated with negativity. The definition of disability is a physical or mental condition that limits a person's movements, senses, or activities. It makes people think that a disabled person can’t do something. So an alternate description to mean the person requires specialized services or assistance was created: special needs. However, it’s more of a euphemism which is meant to downplay something negative. 


Lately, more and more people with disabilities are advocating for the term disability to be used and the term special needs to be eradicated from our vocabulary. Lawrence Carter-Long, Public Affairs Manager of the National Council on Disability created the #SayTheWord campaign to encourage people to say disabled and acknowledge the power of disability culture and identity. In an article for USA Today in June 2021, Lisette Torres-Gerald, board secretary for the National Coalition for Latinxs with Disabilities, states "My needs are not 'special;' they are the same, human needs that everyone else has, and I should be able to fully participate in society just as much as the next person." Several actors with Down syndrome participated in a World Down Syndrome Day video in 2017 explaining that they don’t have special needs; they have human needs like everyone else. I highly recommend taking 5 minutes out of your day to watch this video!


It should be noted that the term disability is the one used in federal and state laws. The ADA stands for the Americans with Disabilities Act and IDEA stands for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Using the word disability provides an individual with protections under the law while special needs does not. Additionally, accommodations should allow those with and those without disabilities to access a venue or participate in an event. 


In an article on the online blog “The Mighty” another good point was mentioned about mocking or bullying. The term special or special needs can be used to mock and bully people with disabilities. Rarely is the term disability used to mock. 


Teddy as a babyWhy do some of us parents not like the word disability? When my son with Down syndrome was born 10 years ago, I was feeling sad, scared, overwhelmed, out of control, isolated, worried…the list goes on. For months I could not say the words Down syndrome without tearing up. To me, the words Down syndrome were extremely negative. I worried that he would not be accepted, included, loved. I worried that he would have the worst schooling, the worst job, the worst life ahead of him.


Once I got him started with the birth-to-three (Early Support for Infants and Toddlers or ESIT) program and I saw him working hard at meeting milestones, I felt more comfortable. When I met other families who had kids with Ds, I felt more confident. When I started volunteering for the Down Syndrome Center of Puget Sound (f/k/a the Down Syndrome Community), I saw what was possible. And when my fourth child was diagnosed prenatally with Down syndrome, I was happy and not the least bit sorry. 


As parents we all have our journeys learning about, accepting and even celebrating our children’s diagnosis. I wonder if that changes our word choices too.

**Courtney Criss is the Leadership and Advocacy Manager at The Arc of Snohomish County.  She is also a wife and mother of four children, two of which have Down syndrome.  She was born and raised in the Seattle area and dreams of an inclusive society for all.  Opinions expressed in this article are her own and are not attributed to The Arc of Snohomish County.

Transition Club Empowers the Next Generation of Self-Advocate Leaders

Transition Club The Arc Amplified

Transition Club Empowers the Next Generation of Self-Advocate Leaders


Why does our community need self-advocate leaders?  

There are many local committees, boards, and planning groups create programs, activities, projects, and make a difference in our community. This includes anything from Friends of the Library, to parks committees, to PTAs, to groups advising local and state policy makers. It is important that the voices of those with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) are represented.

What are Transition Clubs?

Transition services  are offered by school districts for students ages (18-21) who are on an IEP for the purpose of transitioning students from high school into the adult world. 
The program focuses on building job and life skills and encourages employment. 
The Arc partners with 10 local school districts and facilitates 21 monthly Transition Clubs.

Copy of Copy of Transition Presentation 2022

Who participates?

Students enrolled in Transition services in 10 districts in Snohomish County participate in Transition Clubs. Some districts have Transition Club's located at High Schools working with students ages 14-18.

Who leads? 

Jessie Moore, Leadership Development Coordinator for The Arc of Snohomish County, has been growing this Transition Clubs (that started with one program in 2009) for the last 7 years. She creates the games and activities, and plans the discussion topics. Jessie or another Arc staff member facilitates each Transition Club. When possible, a self-advocate (trained Arc leader) co-facilitates the Transition Club sharing their lived experience to mentor students. The Arc has 10 Transition Club leaders/Co-facilitators, 5 of them are previous Transition Club students.

What goes on there?

The Charting the Life Course tools are used as a road map for Transition Club discussions.  
Adapted games or activities such as bingo, trivia, right/left/center, etc. are meant to lead into questions and conversations about self-advocacy, self-determination, and self-awareness.
Students are encouraged to think about the supports they personally need and advocate for themselves. Students learn to identify short and long-term goals, recognize strengths, and make person-centered choices. They also practice speaking up!

What are the outcomes?

Transition Clubs teach students how to effectively communicate their needs and required supports. 
Transition Clubs are an introduction to leadership; students are encouraged to join leadership with The Arc upon exiting the transition program.

Dylan P 1

Pictured Left: Dylan Pezoldt (Transition Club Leader) sharing input at the Arlington Public Library Community input meeting

          Examples of leadership and personal growth for self-advocate leaders:

          *Building confidence to speak and present in front of large groups 
          *Facilitating a Transition Club independently
          *Educating local police and policy makers on how to support individuals with IDD
          *Advocating for services to support individuals with IDD and their families
          *Leading local service organizations and members of local boards and committees
          *Volunteering to support individuals in local community based programs and sports
          *Self-Advocating for paid employment, living independently in the community
          *Developing skills for employment, which has led to promotions and raises.


For more information about Transition Club contact:

Jessie Moore, Leadership Development Coordinator / 425-258-2459 x109

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The Arc office is open by appointment only

Monday - Friday from 10am - 3pm

127 E. Intercity Ave. Suite C
Everett, WA 98208

(425) 258-2459